Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Review: Jack Riepe's Conversations with a Motorcycle

Sitting here, having just finished reading a preview digital version of Jack Riepe's second book:  Conversations with a Motorcycle, I am inundated with the vivid mental imagery painted before my eyes by Jack's writing.

This book, written to describe his ascent and transformation from a self-described douche to fulfilling the very image he'd imagined possible through the acquisition of a motorcycle is a fast-paced and deeply entertaining read.

Quite the evolution I must say, from callow young man fixated on trying to not be the last virgin in New Jersey at 18 years old.  The trials and tribulations of learning to survive riding a known widow maker of a motorcycle; his coarse friends and their environment forging his development are laid out in front of your eyes, as if you'd been fortunate to sit on the bar stool next to Jack.  I swear I smelled stale cigarette smoke as he wrote of the times he spent in the many bars his motorcycle took him to.

His motorcycle is his companion, it is his worst enemy and best friend in one speeding package.  The motorcycle is his transportation and his destination is the ride.  The women he sought and failed to impress, the ones he won over and then lost, the woman he regained only to lose again are grand reflections of what all males have experienced at one time or another; though for some of us, only in our dreams.

The experience of riding in the elements, at speed, something known only to a motorcycle rider are described in this book and one is reminded of why one rides.  The trials and tribulations of riding are recounted and true riders will chuckle in the shared misery and the shared elation of these experiences.

Remember your "great moments" on your motorcycle?  Perhaps the first close call while riding, or the first night ride in a full moon's light, or maybe finding that special spot where fleetingly, all was right in your world?

Relive those moments as Jack finds them for himself and then refreshes your memory of those moments through his writing.

If you're a regular reader of his moto-blog, Twisted Roads, you'll find echoes of tales told but now with the enriching back story details which make said tales that much more real and engrossing.  Jack also writes the humor column in the monthly publication for BMW Motorcycle Owner's Association where he has a huge following as well.

In sum, the book is Jack and his motorcycle's journey, initially to get laid by trying to assume the rough and dangerous image of a biker, to his eventual piercing of said mythos and the reality behind the illusion. It is, perhaps, a journey all real riders have shared.

If you're a motorcycle rider, aspire to be one, wonder what makes a motorcyclist "tick", or enjoy reading well written motorcycling adventure content....get this book!  It'll be out September 15, 2012 and I can't wait to get my own hard copy of the book!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Look Behind You

Just a short ride on dirt county roads to clear my mind from a particularly nasty day at work.  I rode till I thought no more of the idiocy, the failure to have a common technical language understood by both sides, the selfishness of project managers and the frustrations endemic with my present contract.

Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol worked her soothing magic upon me as usual and soon I was enjoying the ride and not obsessing about work.

The skies even brightened as I reached calmness, the motorcycling gods must have been kind or at least empathetic to my day......

Gray lighting illustrated my mind's mood at the start of the ride above

The heavens clear and the sun breaks out, as my mood improved with the riding above

Continuing the analogy, my work-related issues are left behind in the stormy looking clouds behind me.

I returned home a happier man, to a family who has seen me in worse states.....good therapy, this riding.

Guest Rider: Alaska by URAL - Part 3

Here's part 3 of fellow Uralista John Sharp's ongoing bucket list ride to California by way of Alaska.

Click Here

Monday, August 27, 2012

Guest Rider: Alaska by Ural, John Sharp

Fellow Colorado Uralista, John Sharp, has graciously permitted me to post his emailed ride reports on his ongoing Alaskan adventure on

Please click the links below to get to the actual articles and slideshows.

John will eventually ride down to California for his High School class reunion and to continue promoting Cancer Awareness.  He's battling prostrate cancer and this ride is part of this "bucket list".

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Learning to "Krytox" the Russian Coupler for the Denso Alternator on a Ural

Things have come a long way from the days where Ural Sidecar Rigs came with what was "affectionately" known as the Russian Hand Grenade.  This was the Russian made alternator used in the '90s models until they were replaced by Nippon Denso Alternators.

The coupler assembly, which mates the alternator gear to the timing gear at the front of the engine, which in turn is driven by the cam shaft gear was the weak point then.  Although the new coupler is better it still one known issue.

The Denso alternators enjoy a newly designed coupler assembly, with something similar to the cush drive rubber blocks on my Suzuki's rear wheel assembly providing some "cushioning".  Still a noisy device but its weakness really has been the grease in the two bearings on which the alternator output shaft used by the alternator gear is mounted.  At high temperatures, the grease in these bearings tends to liquefy and leak out!

The solution, among the Uralisti community, has been to replace the bearings with bearings which have had Krytox Bearing Grease applied.  The Krytox grease just deals with the heat better than whatever grease is in the bearings that Ural bought for use in the coupler.

Trouble is, to get a the bearings, you have to remove the alternator from the engine, unmount the coupler from the alternator, remove the drive shaft, the bearings, replace the bearings with krytox'ed versions, then put it all back together!  Note, yeah I suppose you could re-use the old bearings but at $4 each, why not just get new ones and Krytox them?

I rode Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol, with Patrick my oldest son over to Darrell's home where he was going to Krytox his wife's rig's alternator coupler and fellow Uralista Nick's coupler which had been dropped off earlier in the week.

 Here's Nick's Alternator before disassembly
The gear you see is the alternator gear which mates to the top timing gear

 Nuts removed, the coupler is ready to be lifted off the alternator
Hint: Make a red dot mark as above to ensure you put the
coupler back on same as it was.  For those sharp-eyed observers
who note the circular plate under the alternator gear 
appears off-center; it is....apparently on purpose!

 Coupler removed, you can see the alternator's cush-drive 
rubber blocks

 Next, you pull off the alternator gear using a three-pronged gear puller. 
The one depicted above proved "inadequate" and we ended up driving
over to AutoZone to borrow a smaller one with thinner jaws.  
The borrowed gear puller worked marvelously!

 Alternator gear removed, fully exposing the bearing retaining plate
which is secured with RPOC slotted screws.
I hate these cheap pot metal screws, my '96 Ural had plenty of them and I 
ended up replacing them all!  Not many of them anymore on the new rigs.

 I managed to break off one of the slotted screws on Piper's alternator
while unscrewing it from the retainer plate.
Darrell then tried to extract it with a screw extractor and the
screw was in so tight that it broke the tip of the screw extractor!
He'd read this had happened to other Uralisti, and that two screws is enough to
hold this bearing retainer plate, so all was not lost.  We used the two unbroken screws, drove over 
to Ace Hardware and got stainless steel allen headed screws as replacements.

 Bearing plate removed, you can see the first of two bearings to be replaced.
Note all the melted bearing grease on the surface of the coupler.
First though, we had to press out the shaft.

 Putting the castle nut back on to provide a strong pushing point,
we put the coupler in a vise and slowly pressed the shaft back into the
coupler's body.  Once halfway loose, it was a simple matter of upending the coupler, 
sitting it on the vise and tapping the shaft past the second bearing.

 This is Nick's alternator drive shaft, note how the melted grease 
had sprayed out with the shaft's rotation.

 The old bearings, note the spacer between them, this item is key!
Don't lose it and damn sure don't forget to put it back with the new bearings.

Here's one of the two new bearings, which we'd pried the plastic covers off of,
you can see the small beads of fresh Krytox.

 The inside of Nick's coupler housing

 The coupler housing, cleaned up.  Note the crude casting defect?!
Both Piper's and Nick's coupler housings had these.

 Putting in the new bearings is pretty simple.  Use a rubber mallet to get them 
into position and flush with the coupler body first.

 The use a flat punch to tap along the edge of the OUTER bearing
race, slowly but surely driving it down till it seats.
Then, put in the spacer, keeping it aligned with an appropriately sized deep socket.
Next comes the second bearing, mounted right on top of the spaced and driven
in the same manner as the first bearing.

 Both new bearings in place, remount the bearing retainer place
using the new allen-headed screws with a dash of Blue Loctite to keep 
them in place.

 We used appropriately sized sockets to push the drive shaft back
through the two new bearings.  Ensure you press the shaft assembly
fully into the coupler's housing so it just just sits off the bottom.

Now, press in the alternator gear in the same manner using 
more right sized sockets.  We pressed things until two threads
showed above the edge of the alternator gear.

We measured a gap on 8.5mm between the bottom of the alternator gear and the coupler housing before disassembly, ended up with 8.3mm when finished.  We ended up closer to 8.6mm on Piper's alternator gear, we figured it was close enough in terms of Russian tolerances and the un-calibrated caliper we were using.

We both remounted the coupler onto our respective alternators.  Note, due to the small cavity molded onto the coupler's housing, you have to lift the coupler off the base, put the nuts on.....THEN....turn the nuts to tighten them down.

That was it!  Two alternator coupler assemblies Krytoxed, only one buggered screw and the satisfaction of knowing we've got the best grease possible in the bearings!  The old bearings, though seemingly without much grease in them, had spun smoothly in my hands but I think the new bearings will last a long time for both Piper and Nick.

Nick showed up some time after we'd finished work on the alternators and just in time to see Darrell fire up his wife's rig with the krytoxed alternator.  Sounded great!  Nick had shown up on his new-to-him KLR 650 motorcycle and will be mounting his alternator once he gets it home in Loveland, CO.

I'll probably be doing Valencia's alternator coupler once she reaches about 20,000 Km or so.  Good learning experience!  Thanks Darrel for letting me get my hands dirty working on both Piper's and Nick's alternators.

Patrick, who'd been playing video games with Nakari, Darrell's stepson all this time....then rejoined me and we rode off into the sunset and back home with no issues.

A good day of wrenching.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Uraling to the O'Dell Brewery

A cool Saturday morning under sunny skies gave my loving wife and I a nice and brisk ride to Fort Collins, Colorado where we were to meet fellow Uralisti and check out the O'Dell Brewery located there.

The ride up was smooth and unexciting.  Martha and I used secondary highways most of the way there with a brief 15 mile sprint on northbound I-25.  The meeting location was Unique Rides, the Ural dealer in Fort Collins.  We got there a little bit after 11:00 AM and found Tim and Dan already there with their rigs.  Tim has a 2011 Green Patrol and Dan just picked up a 2010 GearUP with the green camouflage pattern.

Introductions made, we were standing around chatting as Nick and Darrell showed up on their two rigs.  More chatting, introductions and catching up later, we picked up some minor maintenance parts from Randy and Tammy and then we all headed out to the O'Dell Brewery.

The brewery was just minutes away and soon we were ensconced in a corner table outside the tavern/store that is part of the brewery.  Not sure if you'd call it luck or not, but the brewery was hosting a "Corn Hole Festival" next door.  Now, before all the jokes and raised eyebrows occur, it was some kind of bean bag tossing contest/event.  Not sure on the details but it definitely wasn't what you initially thought!  Kind of a weird choice for an event but hey.....

We all had a small cup of selected offerings from the brewery and after some nice conversation we got ourselves some souvenirs such as T-Shirts and Beer Glasses with the Myrcenary Beer logo on them.  Here's the logo, printed on a pub "tacker".

This particular beer has a bold flavor and a higher than usual
alcoholic content.  Very Tasty.

As we all had seen the inside of breweries at one time or another in our lives, we skipped the 1:00 PM Brewery Tour and instead headed into downtown Fort Collins to have lunch at a Mexican restaurant known by Tim.

Parking was not too difficult in spite of the crowded streets downtown.  Lunch was quite enjoyable as we worked to resolve the world's problems and got to know each other a bit better.  Tall tales were told, adventures recounted, experiences share and good food consumed.  

After lunch, the guys headed off to the "Big Beaver" Brewery in Loveland, Colorado.  Martha and I however had to split off from the group so we could get home in time to attend the neighborhood party at the park.

 Nick, Tim and Dan

Nick and Dan lead the way out of the downtown area

Darrell and Tim

I'll have to go some other day to the Big Beaver Brewing Company, they got such interestingly named brews such as "Shaved Tail Ale", "Sweet and Sour Booty", "Whisky Dick Stout" and "Wonder Wiener Wheat", you just have to go see for yourself, don't you?

The ride home was US287 southbound till we got to the Northwest Parkway/E-470 superslab which we took home as we were running out of time to get to the party in the park.  Valencia did great all day, no problems and Martha appears to have had a good time, so it's all good!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Mountain Passes Weekend

Due to technical difficulties with my regular point and shoot camera, I didn't leave the house til after 12:15PM this Saturday.  I was headed into the mountains, destination Leadville, CO to try and reach the summit of Hagerman Pass.

The ride up was via the super slabs, which were quite clogged with westbound traffic for whatever reason.  Perhaps it was my late start and this was the usual condition of traffic on I-70, who knows.    I left westbound I-70 at the CO9 exit near Dillon, I was looking for a peninsula that projects onto Dillon Lake which looked like it might provide some good scenic shots.  It was not to be and I had to content myself with this shot of the town of Frisco:

Overlooking Frisco, CO

Next was some more I-70 riding westbound, this time to take the CO91 exit towards Leadville, CO. The weather, which had been mostly overcast until then, become just partly cloudy and the sun's welcome presence made things a bit warmer.

One of the mountain peaks visible from CO91 on the way to Leadville, CO

Once at Leadville, I tanked up and had a snack while checking in with my loving wife.  I next found County Road 4 which I knew would take me to Hagerman Pass Road.  Trouble was though, there was some bike race going on and what with the bicyclists being all over the road and the event organizers "attempting" to direct traffic, I missed the turn for Hagerman Pass Road.  Much time was lost dodging bicyclists and pretty much going all the way around Turquoise Lake!

Finally, I found the turn for the beginning of Hagerman Pass and thankfully was able to get away from the bicyclists in short order.

 Riding on Hagerman Pass Road, the easy part, one can see
views of Turquoise Lake

There was plenty of car and bicycle traffic on Hagerman Pass Road, the road itself was packed dirt with gravel all over.  Very easy road up until I reached the 4WD portions, then suddenly, I was alone!  The road became steep and heavily embedded with rocks poking out of the dirt ranging in size from a large fist to ham-sized and bigger!  There was nothing else but to gun the throttle, keep Valencia in first gear and launch her upwards up the narrow rock-strewn path!

Valencia did magnificently, I was jounced around severely, being reminded of the rocky conditions on the Argentine Pass Road and also Rollins Pass Road.  One had to dodge and weave the large rock formations for long stretches which tested Valencia's suspension and my ability to hang onto her handlebars.

I finally stopped near where I could see the timberline finally stopping.  It was time to give Valencia's clutch components a chance to cool down and for me to "gird my loins" for further upward travel.  As you can see below, things got narrower and the rock content on the road didn't diminish, although now there were water filled holes to contend with as well!

 Rest break on east side of Hagerman Pass.

One of my fellow Uralisti, who'd been up to the summit on his GS, had rated the eastern side of Hagerman Pass as much more "technical" than the western side.  I now well believe him.  Holy Crap.  Still, as I neared the top, things either got a bit "easier" or maybe I was getting used to conditions.  The sky overhead darkened as I reached the summit and things were a bit chilly.  Still, I didn't care, for I saw the sign announcing the summit.  We'd made it!  If I ever ride this pass again, it's going to be in the company of other Uralisti, it's remote and the conditions were tough at times.

Mosquito Pass, which is nearby, is now officially off my "to do" list of mountain passes.  Another fellow Uralista who's done it, Dana aka DirtyDR on advrider, rates it ten times worse than Hagerman Pass.

 Valencia the summit of Hagerman Pass

We now started descending down the western side, and while it "seemed" easier, there was still plenty of rocky stretches to negotiate and negative camber spots to deal with while slowly weaving my way past the larger rocks and boulders.

I was more than ready for when I'd reach a low enough elevation that the road became part of an old railroad roadbed.  Now the slope was never more than 3% and conditions were packed dirt at most with some gravel here and there.  Easy stuff when compared to the stuff I'd just negotiated!  The picture below shows where I stopped after hearing some rocks hitting the underside, I wanted to make sure there was no damage.  Thankfully, there was none.

 On the west end of Hagerman Pass Road, I think this is actually part of 
Frying Pan Road at this point.

As I positioned myself to take the above picture, I looked down to make sure I didn't step off the edge of the road and spotted this:

Yep, an old railroad spike!

Now before you think to yourself: "Now there's a lucky souvenir".....I managed to ride off from the above spot with my parking brake engaged!  I dragged the pusher wheel's brakes for several miles!  By the time I noticed, there was smoke coming out of the rear hub and it had gotten hot enough that grease had melted out the side of the wheel hub!  It had gotten so hot, that some of the Final Drive fluid had spit out of the venting cap!  Damn.

Of course before I noticed all the above, I'd motored along Frying Pan Road, past the reservoir near Meredith, heading towards the town of Basalt, CO.  Along the way I saw two deer by the side of the road, thankfully in plenty of time to slow way down before passing them.  I was going much faster though, perhaps 40 mph when the bear and I saw each other.  The bear had been sitting by the side of the road next to some bushes so I didn't spot it till we were both even with each other, perhaps 10 ft apart.

He looked at me, I looked at him as I kept moving and he quickly turned and ran back into the forest!  Sorry, no pictures, I chose not to stop and try and get one!

 I stopped here, near what remains of the town of Thomasville, the
two huge ovens/furnaces had caught my eye.
I used this time to let the rear wheel hub/final drive cool down and I added
some final drive fluid to replace that which had boiled out.

Frying Pan Road eventually turned from dirt to pavement as the sun dropped lower and lower down into the western mountains.  I had kind of hoped being able to get to Aspen and the Maroon Bells Recreation area before sundown but that also was not to be.

It was dark as I exited Frying Pan Road into the town of Basalt.  The police were for some reason detouring traffic around main street so I ended up on CO82 and thought I might as well head to Aspen and try to find lodging.

20 miles or so later, now quite dark, I was in Aspen and finding to my dismay that there were either no rooms anywhere that were affordable or some places didn't even bother answering the phone!  Much dithering and consultation with Martha later, I was back on the road heading towards Glenwood Springs, almost 50 miles away.

I checked in the towns of Basalt and Carbondale, no room at the inn!  Apparently, I'd picked the one weekend where all the hotels/motels in the area were full with folks trying to squeeze in some summer vacation time before school starts later this month!  Aaarrrgghh.

Shortly before 11:00 PM though, I entered the town of Glenwood Springs and the second motel I spotted, the Cedar Lodge Motel, had one room left!  It was affordable but it was small and a smoker's room.  Well, like I told the night clerk, beggars can't be choosers!

I hit the rack shortly after midnight after a late meal of fast food.  The smell of cigarette smoke in the room was quite overpowering at first but some time with the AC on full blast, and doors and windows opened helped a lot.

After a fitful night of sleep, I woke at 6:00 AM and hurriedly packed up my gear and hit the road back towards Aspen.  I was hoping to catch some nice early morning light in the area of the Maroon Bells.  The ride was in light traffic on CO82 and it was a bit chilly but not too bad.

I got to the Maroon Bells Recreation Area in good time, paid my $5 to get into this US National Forest Fee area and after a bit of wandering around got these shots.

 Posing Valencia on the approach to the Western end of the Maroon Bells
Recreation Area.  No, I don't know why they call them Bells, they look like
your typical mountain peaks to me.

 Maroon Lake Views

I left the Maroon Bells behind me soon enough, cruised through the small mountain tourist town of Aspen once again and pointing Valencia on eastbound CO82 towards Independence Pass.  The ascent went smoothly enough, I kept pulling over to allow the cagers "racing" their way to the top to get past me.  Not sure why they were in such a rush.

 It was a very hazy morning on Independence Pass Road

 You can see how the road hugs the side of the mountains on
it's way to the summit from Aspen

 A view of the western valley, Aspen is a few miles to the west 

 The requisite picture of the summit sign

 You get some nice views of neighboring mountain peaks as you
descend down the eastern side of  Independence Pass Road

Did I mention it was very hazy?

I motored down Independence Pass Road till it ends at the town of Twin Lakes.  I like to take pictures of these lakes with the massive mountains that seem to come almost down to lakeside.  The ongoing drought's effects on the water level were quite obvious as there were people and ducks walking about where I remembered there had been water!

 See what looks like sandy flat areas?  There used to be water there.

Further to the east, there's still water on this part of the Twin Lakes.

Valencia and I continued south now on US24 from Twin Lakes and soon were were within the borders of the town of Buena Vista.  I found my way onto CO306 and headed west of of town towards the next pass on the list, Cottonwood Pass.

It took about 30 minutes with some really steep, twisty hairpin turns finally getting us to the summit of Cottonwood Pass.  This road is apparently pretty easy and a favorite of RV Campers and trucks pulling trailers laden with ATVs to get west to the Gunnison Area.

 Part of the view from the summit of Cottonwood Pass,
looking westward

The eastern portion of Cottonwood Pass Road is very nicely paved.
The Western Half is nicely packed dirt.

After a snack, I headed down the western part of the road for a bit, I wanted to get a bit closer to the peaks I'd seen from the summit:

Turning back towards Buena Vista, Valencia and I transited this town and continued south for a few miles to the junction with US285.  Turning east, it was time to tank up one more time, a quick energy drink and then almost three hours more of riding to get home.

Valencia went over 10,000 Kilometers somewhere near Buena Vista and I must say, the predicted "loosening up" of the engine has happened!  She pulls stronger on the uphill portions and she now holds an indicated 65 MPH without too much trouble, the tachometer indicating around 4300-4500 RPM.

Heck, I didn't have to shift into third gear to get up most of the hills between Buena Vista and home!  In some hills, fourth gear was enough to keep Valencia going above 50 MPH and there were times I even managed to accelerate while going uphill!  That is a novel thing for this Ural rider!

Heck, I even managed to pass a couple of slow trucks while on an uphill!

Tomorrow, it'll be time for Valencia's 10,000 KM service, I also want to "inspect" the bearings on the pusher wheel, perhaps add a bit of grease to these sealed bearings.  I had been checking the temperature of the hub during stops, and it was just warm to the touch, which is good.  There's also a vibration seemingly from the tires, when at over 55 mph or so...hmmm.

Quite the weekend for Valencia and I.