Thursday, October 28, 2010

A late October ride on the Peak to Peak Highway

The sometimes unnervingly strong and gusty winds that had been hitting the Denver Metro Area the last three days finally eased and temperatures were predicted warmer for today.

I rode out of the house at 9:45 AM seeking to find some snow-capped mountain peaks along the Peak to Peak Highway.  Here was my route:

I made my way out of town using US285 as usual, taking C-470 up towards the intersection with US6 and Golden.  From Golden it was US6 or Clear Creek Canyon Road towards the gambling towns of Central City and Blackhawk where I would pick CO119 and the Peak to Peak Highway.  Though the roads were clear up to this point, traffic was a bit heavier than expected so it was slow going along US6's rocky canyon walls.

Once past the gambling towns, traffic eased up considerably and I was able to ride smartly along the Peak to Peak Highway northwards towards Rollinsville.

My first view of snow-capped mountain peaks, just south of Rollinsville on CO119

A short detour at Rollinsville, heading along the Moffat Tunnel Road didn't pay off in terms of pictures as I ran into snow early on and had to turn around.

Proceeding again north on CO119 from Rollinsville, it was continued smooth roads with the occasional patch of wet pavement where snowmelt had flowed across the road.  I tended to slow at these wet patches, since I didn't want to chance hitting some ice, even though the temperatures were in the low to mid 40s by this time.

I continued on CO119, now heading towards Nederland where I would pick up CO72 towards Estes Park.
Just before Nederland however, once comes upon the Los Lagos Reservoir area:

I turned Brigitta to point southwards for this picture, I was still heading North

Soon I was on the outskirts of Nederland, traffic remained light even in town and chose to take a quick break near the town's main traffic circle where their mining museum is located.  Here's a picture of Bucyrus, one of the last remaining steam shovels that helped dig out the Panama Canal:

Proceeding North out of Nederland, now on CO72, I kept making stops to catch the different views of Mount Meeker that are visible from the Peak to Peak Highway.

Approaching Allenspark


Getting closer to Mount Meeker and Allenspark

Getting closer to Allenspark, now on CO7

 Mount Meeker from Allenspark

The sun was in the wrong position for the rest of the ride to Estes Park so I just kept riding past Longs Peak View.  I'd catch it on the way back.  I made it to Estes Park and debauched onto the valley it sits in with pretty light traffic conditions.  I wandered about for a bit but then decided to get back on CO7 and head out of town.  

I got stopped by one of the police officer on CO7 but squeaked my way out of a ticket as I was going 14 miles over the limit (I swear I missed the dang speed limit sign that said it was a 35 mph area); and fortunately for me, the officer's policy was to write for 15+ above the limit.  

A view of Long's Peak

I slowly left Estes Park and got back into the Peak to Peak Highway to make my way down to Lyon and from there get on US36 to Boulder.  I was feeling a bit tired and cold by the time I went past the junction of CO72 and CO7 so didn't get much enjoyment from the twisty turns provided by the St. Vrain Canyon Rd which leads one to Lyons.

The rest of the ride was slab riding in ever increasing traffic.  I hit Boulder at 3:00PM and I guess that's when their rush hour starts since it was pretty much stop and go traffic through the town.  Finally clear of it, I made good time on southbound US36 which got me to US270 to the I-70 Super Slab heading east.  I got off at the Tower Rd exit and from there it was my regular work commute home.

237 miles in about 7 hrs of saddle time, my butt's out of shape for touring apparently, must ride more!  Temperatures had soared in the afternoon into the mid 60s for the Denver Metro area and felt quite nice as I neared my home.  It was a good day to ride, hope you got some riding in.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A windy ride to visit Natasha

Yesterday and today proved quite windy in terms of riding a motorcycle. I thought it was bad yesterday afternoon when I went for a short ride, I was mistaken.  Today as I rode to Golden, CO to visit Natasha while she's partly dismantled, would prove to be a day of stronger winds with temperatures in the low 40s.

I was riding Brigitta, my '87 R80 Beemer and there were times when the wind tried to toss us around in our lane as we slabbed it to Linden Engineering for pictures.

I got to Golden with no issues, just a few adrenalin-generating moments due to the wind but that's it.

I met Anthony, a Colorado School of Mines student who works as a mechanic for Dennis at Linden Engineering.  He seemed quite enthusiastic to be working on Natasha and he looked forward to getting her fixed so he could take her out for a test run.

Here's Natasha with Anthony working on mounting the seal on the final drive unit

We chatted for a bit as I took pictures, and he showed me the valve guide which had failed:

It appears the metallurgical quality of the Russian made valve guide was "lacking"

I can readily believe now that the failure of valve guides is apparently as common as Dennis had alluded to

As Anthony described it to me, the valve guide above had broken and come loose from the channel in the head of the right side jug.  This allowed compression to escape resulting in the loss of power I experienced along with oil seeping past multiple seals in the engine.  Not only that but now the valve was "loose" within the head and caused some damage to the rocker arm assembly:

Overhead view of the right jug, the two rocker arm assemblies are in the lower middle
That's the replacement cylinder head with good valve guides.

A closeup of the intake side rocker arm assembly, the circled area is where the damage is.
The damage was caused by the valve being "loose" within the channel

Here's a view of the old cylinder head of the right side jug and the valve cover.  Note the burnt coloration on one half of the valve cover itself.

To the right of the above picture, are parts of the Russian 35amp alternator that Dennis is trying to resuscitate,  he believes he can do it anyways.  Long run, I do see a need for an alternator and Dennis assures me he can mount it not only correctly, but mark it so I can check on it periodically.

Anthony also showed me the rubber seal for the final drive which turned out to be fine.  However, he'd found the screws on the retaining plate for the seal to be loose!  He could turn them with his fingers!  So, the old seal is going back on and they'll be applying some loctite to the screws.

Here Anthony demo's where the seal goes, and the mounting plate that holds it there.
You have to make sure to line up the holes correctly, there's one specifically for drainage.

I spotted this poor old Ural tug, with what appears to be a 650cc engine on it.  Anthony told me they were not going to repair it, just use it for parts apparently.

 Note the older 14 Amp Generator mounted on top of the engine.

So, I came away from Linden's with the conviction that things are well in hand for Natasha.  The cost estimate is a bit higher than I expected but hobbies have their prices don't they?

I also learned that I had been right, they had to disconnect the upper sidecar supports and loosen the forward mounting point to enable them to push the sidecar away from the engine to unmount the right side cylinder head.  I'll know next time that it's not necessary to remove the whole sidecar.  Note: ensure you don't remove the cotter pin, it's apparently a pain to put back in, just loosen the bolt which allows the parts of the ball joint to "spread".

I made my way back home, still riding in pretty strong winds though temperatures had soared into the upper 40s.  I even spotted two other motorcycle riders on the way, one was a motor cop on the job and the other rider just out enjoying a day without snow in the front range.

As I write this, there's reports of 1-2 feet of snow over the mountain passes.  I am feeling much better about having not taken the option of riding Brigitta over the passes somehow and try and make the Utah trip work out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vacation becomes staycation, Natasha experiences minor Chernobyl

There I was this past Saturday, riding along C-470 westbound, going for the junction with the I-70 Super Slab and points west, destination for the day: Moab, Utah.  The day was sunny, the passes were clear with a snow storm coming in, and temperatures were in the 50s in the front range.  Perfect!

We didn't even make it out of the Denver Metro area!

I started losing speed shortly I transitioned from the E-470 to C-470 slabs and found myself unable to maintain even 60mph!  When I reached the point where even 50mph was a problem with the throttle twisted wide open, I pulled off onto the Platte Canyon Road exit to assess the situation.

There was lots of engine oil pooling on top of the right side engine jug, some of it had been caught by the airstream and had sprayed the right side carburetor and my leg with a nice coating of engine oil.  Not good.  She ran like crap and I had troubles keeping the engine going until I could park her.

I called my loving wife who'd passed me in the minivan and she turned herself along with my two sons around and joined up with me.  I called a co-worker friend of mine, Oscar, and he headed my way with his trailer.  This was the trailer we decided not to use as we'd last minuted doubts about the minivan being able to tow it and Natasha without straining the transmission.

Oscar arrived soon after I had unloaded Natasha's sidecar of trip luggage/tools etc.  The owner of the house at the side of which I'd parked came out to see what was going on.  He nicely gave me permission to use his driveway and we got Natasha loaded up easily enough.

From there, Oscar towed Natasha home with the initial intention of myself and Oscar doing the repair work.  We thought, based on the symptoms, that the rings on the piston had failed.

Once Oscar got me and Natasha home, he went off to Conifer as originally planned for a day with his in-laws.  Thanks Oscar!

I started tearing down the right-side jug but was brought up short by a small pile of fine metal shavings laying in the right side valve cover.  Not good.  I was now looking at either having to remove the engine from the chassis or the sidecar from the subframe in order to have room to work on removing the jug.  At this point, I gave up and put Natasha back on the trailer, tied her down and took her to Linden Engineering for a diagnosis.

The minivan really felt the effect of towing the trailer with Natasha on top.  So I wonder how badly we would have strained the transmission while trying to climb the Continental Divide both at the Eisenhower Tunnel and Vail Pass!

Got a call from Dennis of Linden today, the good news is he expects to have her all fixed up by the end of the week.  He found the following repairs needed:

1.  The valve guides in the right jug had come loose and had to be replaced.  This was causing all the engine compression to be blown out of all oil seals, hence all the oil coming out.

Picture from Bill Glaser's site, 
shows the valve(where finger is pointing) being slid into the valve guide 
on his Ural's cylinder head. 

As I understand the operation, you somehow heat the jug till it expands enough for the new valve guide which gets inserted and when the jug cools down, is locked into place.  Apparently not something I could do at home.

2.  He found some damage on one of the right jug's rocker assemblies and it will be replaced.

Again from Bill Glaser's site, a picture of what a rocker arm assembly looks like

3.  He's trying to figure out if he can resuscitate the Russian 35amp alternator.  He and the mechanic at Wagner's Cycle, Mike, both say the alternator is a good thing IF you mount it correctly.  Jury is still out with me on putting it back on, will see what Dennis finds upon further tearing down the adapter that mates the alternator to the timing gears.

4.  The leak I'd had in the final drive is caused by a failed seal, that'll be replaced tomorrow.  I'd had that leak for a while now and had been leery of tearing apart my final drive to get at it, now it'll be fixed.  Link to procedure on Bill Glaser's myural site.

I'll know for sure if the above is the seal that failed when I pick up Natasha at the end of the week.

5.  Lastly, he's going to check my clutch lever assembly to see what's going on with that, probably replacing the clutch lever assembly would be my guess.

So, not a great start for a week long vacation planned among the massive rock formations of Utah and Arizona's Monument Valley.  Oh well, at least she broke on this side of the continental divide, logistics to recover her would have been much harder on the west side of the divide.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Loveland Pass, before the first major snow storm

We here in the Denver Metro area enjoyed a beautifully sunny and cool day today, with temperatures barely reaching the mid to upper 60s and a low of 40°F for me on the summit of Loveland Pass.

I had decided today to take pictures of the scenery of Loveland Pass before Mother Nature hit us with the first snow storm of the season.  We usually get the first one during the third week in October so this was the weekend to do it if on two wheels!  This is not to say that the pass is covered with snow all winter long, far from it, but sometimes it's better to be on three wheels when at that altitude.

I rode out of town using US285, I was riding Brigitta, my '87 R80 Beemer and the air was crisply brisk as we motored along the highways to Morrison where I filled up her tank.  Then it was the twisty curves and turns on Bear Creek Canyon Rd, through the towns of Idledale, Kittredge and Evergreen.  I was a bit pressed for time today so I took CO74 up through Bergen Park and settled onto westbound I-70 for another 30 minutes or so before I got to US6 and the east entrance to Loveland Pass.

I am happy to report the roads were nice and dry, no sand to speak off in the curves and traffic was pretty light.  By 11:00 AM I was nearing the summit of Loveland Pass and paused at my usual spot for a shot of the lightly snow-covered mountain tops visible from the road:

Sitting at the first big hairpin turn as one climbs up from I-70 towards the summit

That's a brief view of I-70, way down there...

Brigitta at the last big curve before one arrives at the summit

I reached the summit soon after the above shot and parked Brigitta near the summit sign for the requisite shot of one's motorcycle by the sign:

Loveland Pass, OCT 2010

I walked on over to the small hill on the south side of the road and took this panoramic shot of the view from the top of the summit, overlooking the west side of the pass.

Panoramic view to the west from the summit of Loveland Pass
(warning: big file)

I got back on Brigitta and motored across the Continental Divide and made my way down the road for perhaps a half mile or more.  I wanted to get a better shot of the mountains the the background of the above panoramic shot you see.

A somewhat closer view of the mountaintops to the west of Loveland Pass

I elected not to continue on US6 which eventually takes one to Dillon, CO.  Instead I raced back towards the summit and made my way down the curvy road back towards I-70, getting on it heading eastbound now towards Denver.

On a whim, I took the Bakerville exit which is shortly after one gets on I-70 from Loveland Pass.  Not much there except a small parking lot and a very tempting dirt trail with a sign:  Grays Peak.  I wandered up the trail for a little bit but soon had to turn back due to ice and snow.  I'll have to return with the Ural soon and see what there is to see!

There was a frontage road from the trailhead to Grays Peak so I rode parallel to I-70 until I got to Silver Plume.  Here I decided to stop and get one more "color" shot depicting the aspen leaves as they continue to change into their Fall colors.

Aspen Trees near Silver Plume, CO

The Georgetown Loop Railroad Station at Silver Plume

From Silver Plume, I basically stayed on the I-70 Super Slab in order to make good time back to the house.  Not much to report, Brigitta did great and struggled not one bit to not only keep up with the fast moving traffic but at times passing the slow vehicles with alacrity.

I was home by 1:00 PM and errands had to be done, electronics exchanged (bad cable modem) and installing a new HD DVR as the previous one had given up the ghost.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures I took, there's precious little time left if you wish to ride your motorcycle up to Loveland Pass!  It's the time of the year when it pays to check road conditions on before heading into the mountains!

Bonus: Here's a link to Steve Farson's video of his ride up Loveland Pass, same day I was there:  LINK

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Still here....

Yes, it's been a while since I posted anything.  Just spent last week as primary oncall network engineer for work, now working my way through a week of backup oncall network engineer.  Happy Happy Joy Joy.

It means I can't stray too far from Internet access in case there's network issues at work.  Sure, I was issued a wireless data card but coverage is a bit spotty in the mountains and I can't miss a call.  So I stayed near the house during the weekend.

Still, some stuff got done:

Kept working on tuning the carburetors on Natasha, my Ural sidecar rig.  They've been giving me some trouble in terms of the idle going slowly down at stops until the engine quits.  So I cleaned them out, replaced the pilot jets with new ones and she seems better now.

Adjusted the clutch cable to truly engage the clutch when at stops, it was hanging a bit before; a contributory issue to the "dying at idle" situation.

Added a cargo rack that mounts to the spare tire on the sidecar, bought it and a sidecar tarp from Ebay for a fraction of the dealer cost.

example picture of the new rack, from, he's an Alaska-based Uralista

Re-routed the crankcase vent hose to go elsewhere rather than venting excess oil from the front of the engine and into the air filter box.

Adjusted the front drum brakes to truly help stop the motorcycle when needed.

Took receipt of a Kenda 335 tire for the Ural, it'll replace the present DURO tire that's working as the pusher tire on the rig.

Kenda 335, image source

Can't wait for this coming weekend to get her, I'll be off of oncall, and can ride to see how much snow has collected in the mountains.