Sunday, January 26, 2014

Valencia is sidelined again.....dammit.

Yesterday afternoon, after lunch, Valencia and I motored out of the neighborhood to try and get some pictures of Mount Evans as we were having a bright sunny clear day here in Colorado.

Turns out, the crisp views of the nearby front range mountains that I'd glimpsed while running errands in the morning, were obscured slight by haze in the afternoon.  I had been in a cage in the morning, so no camera with me.

Still, one must make do:

At the Rocking Horse Subdivision

While meandering about the nearby eastern prairies...

Mount Evans

Valencia's motor started exhibiting what I thought were "ignition missing" issues, basically it felt like the ignition would cut out for a second.  Thinking perhaps it was the PowerArc sensor disk having gotten loose again, I headed for home to check.

On the way home, I started hearing and worse, feeling metallic clanking noises.  Some were hitting hard enough I could feel the impact through the foot pegs.  Damn.  I even stopped to check the oil level thinking perhaps it was too low, but no, it was fine.

Luckily, I was within a couple miles of home when the noises appeared and I nursed Valencia back to the barn.

Once in the garage, I checked the PowerArc sensor disk but no, it was nice and secure, so it wasn't ignition "misses" causing issues.

The metallic noises led me to remove the left jug's valve cover, to see if the nuts holding the heads had worked loose or something similar.  Nope, all secure, but then I noticed a lot of metallic shavings, shining brightly in the small amount of oil one usually finds in the valve cover!  There were also metal shavings all over the inside components of the valves.   Damn.  (Sorry, no pictures, I went into "get it to the dealer" mode at this point as it was late Saturday afternoon).

At this point, it was flashback time to when the engine basically seized on me in Oregon as I was making my way back to Colorado from Alaska.  Not taking any chances, I buttoned Valencia up and put her on the trailer.  

Less than two hours later, I was dropping her off with Randy, at Unique Rides in Fort Collins, the nearest URAL dealer and known good mechanic.  We discussed the recurring engine issues Valencia has experienced and Randy said he wanted to talk to URAL and see about sending the engine to them for full analysis.  He also told me he was hearing sounds I couldn't hear (my high frequency hearing is shot from my days in the Army) and he was sure if I'd kept running the engine, that it would have eventually seized up.

As it was the weekend, he won't get a chance to talk to URAL till Monday or Tuesday at the earliest, we'll then see what the plan is to fix Valencia.  She's still under the URAL warranty so she should be covered.

Me, I'm hoping that the entire engine is replaced.  Most if not all of its "innards" had already been replaced by Raceway Services in Oregon, and I would like to have Sergey of URAL to check out the engine on Valencia to determine why it's had so many issues.  Sergey is regarded as the Mechanical Guru, at URAL.

It's looking like Valencia is out for this year's Elephant Ride.  Yoshie could do it, if I swapped her rear pusher for a dedicated snow tire but I'm not feeling up to it.  Damn.

More to follow.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pre-Snow Sunset and Post-Snow Lunch Ride

Ah, Colorado.  Where the weather can change suddenly and temperature shifts involving changes of 20-40 degrees farenheit are not uncommon.

Yesterday, as I rode home on Brigitta, my '87 BMW R80 Airhead, the forecast of snow in the late evening was on my mind as temperatures held in the low 40s.

After running an errand to the post office after I got home, the setting sun painted the southwestern skies is vivid hues of orange fading later to pinks.  Though I hurried (should have skipped the errand) I only managed to catch the closing act of a truly gorgeous sunset.

Colorado Sunset, that's Scraggly Peak in the distance.

We woke to about four inches of snow, maybe a little more, in my neighborhood.  I wasn't worried as I had a fresh tire on the pusher wheel in preparation for the upcoming annual Elephant Ride.

I took this picture of the driveway as I backed Valencia
out of her spot, its about 4 inches deep.

Valencia had no issues with the snow as we motored out of the neighborhood.  The main roads were plowed so there was just snow/ice packed onto the road surface.  It made for some slick conditions at times but nothing major.  

Today, I had work planned at Encana's Denver area data center in the Tech Center.  It was a short commute, though Arapahoe Road remains a nerve-wracking experience when things are slick.  Still, managed to get to work with no issues.

A bit before Noon, I took Valencia out for a short ride to see the sights.  All the snow was gone from the roadways, and the melted stuff was evaporating in front of my eyes.  Very strange to me still, watching wet pavement steam away when temperatures are in the low teens.

I spotted a row of satellite dishes belonging to DirecTV so I stopped to pose Valencia:

As the sun was out, it didn't really feel cold at all.  I was of course all geared up but didn't have the layers I'd worn for the morning commute.  Got to love living here, snow in the morning, clear if wet roads in the afternoon.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Review: Templar Codes

The book does contain a smidgen of motorcycle content.  It even has a mention of a URAL sidecar rig!

That being said, here's my review of my friend Lee Sweetapple's latest book:

The third book in a series featuring main character Jim Stillwater, action-oriented veteran of the US Intelligence community and his small but tightly knit community of friends who like Jim have been tested and proven in America's less publicized struggles with varied enemies.

As is his writing style, Lee Sweetapple moves the reader along at a fast pace, providing location details and references to keep the reader oriented. The story line took a few unexpected plot twists and turns which kept this reviewer guessing and very engaged. Some books, you can almost guess from the title and previous works how the story will go, this book will not disappoint in that manner!

In this book, long lost records created by the Knights Templar are recovered by Jim and his friends, initiating gun battles and successive attempts by rogue agents to steal said artifacts, artifacts which prove in the end to have impressive historical significance.

The story line takes the reader from the Mediterranean ocean through Europe ending in an explosive finale in Scotland. Folks who've traveled Europe will feel they're back as familiar locations are described and local cuisines consumed by Stillwater's team.

Plenty of action, enemies at every turn, and even a gourmand's appreciation of food to keep things moving along.  It's available in paperback and Kindle version.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

URAL Tech Day

I hosted a gathering of Uralisti to hold an informal tech day for anyone who wanted to show up.  Seven fellow Uralisti showed and we had a great time, changing tires, balancing carburetors, lubing and greasing splines and u-joints, learning about cool new tire tools, exchanging tech tips, ride stories, and generally having a great time!

My HarborFreight tire changer got quite the workout, with my Mojo Lever emerging as a good tool for the removal of tires from wheels, but it was very much eclipsed by the tool brought by Dan K.  It's quite the tool, makes the mounting of tires very easy and impressively fast.

I only managed one photo the whole day, and that was the group shot below, shot by my loving wife Martha.

 The Star of the Tech Day
All who saw it operate came away impressed.  I believe
I'll be part of the next group buy for this tool.
LINK to product site in Estonia
Photo courtesy of Spat

 From right to left:
Greg P., Dave S. Steve C., Spat, Liz S., Dan K., Tim L., and yours truly

 Showing Dave S. the operation of the Harmonizer Carb Balancer
I bought from Darrell S.
Photo courtesy of Spat

Here's me injecting some grease into the main driveshaft's u-joint.
I also made sure the drive splines were greased and I am happy to
report both the driveshaft and coupler splines were well lubricated.
Photo courtesy of Spat

 Spat and Dan K. work on Dan's tire
Photo courtesy of Tim L.

 A view of Valencia, sans pusher wheel, and final drive on the floor.
Photo courtesy of Tim L.

Dave S. ties down his rig in preparation for trailering it
back to Colorado Springs.
Photo courtesy of Tim L.

A great day of camaraderie, re-connecting with friends, meeting new ones with a little bit of wrenching on the side.  Martha had left us a pot of chili that was completely consumed for lunch.  Spat had brought burritos for breakfast.  Coffee flowed and there were no injuries caused by the wrenching, which is always a plus.

My thanks to my fellow Uralisti for your attendance, good cheer and helpfulness where needed.  

Note:  I discovered before everyone showed up, that I am missing the tool roll that contains my extra set of large wrenches and more to the point, my tire irons.  For the folks I stayed with  during my trip to Alaska, if you see the below, please let me know.

The image above is not the actual tool roll I am missing, but shows you how it looks like.  Thanks.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: Tourmaster's Synergy 2.0 Heated Gloves

This week, the folks at came through with my first item to be reviewed.  It was a pair of Tourmaster Synergy 2.0 Electrically Heated Textiles Gloves with a single heat controller.

The fit of the gloves, always an iffy thing when ordering things online, was nice and snug; the way you'd want them to be when buying gloves.  Their sizing chart was accurate at least when it came to my hand size.

The gloves are made in the gauntlet style where they're designed to fit over the ends of your riding jacket sleeves.  The gloves even come with a waterproof  extension sleeve of sorts, extending from the end of textile gauntlet to prevent water from coming in via the gauntlet I think.

The gauntlet style at first caused me some issues as I am used to wearing gloves over which I can zip up the ends of my riding jacket's sleeves.  Once I got over that, all was well.

The wiring harness was easy to hook up to my motorcycle's battery and was color-coded and pretty straightforward for the most part.  It only required a brief glance at the accompanying user manual to figure things out and less than 30 minutes later, my motorcycle was wired up and ready.

The wire harness leading from the rheostat heat controller to the gloves is inserted into the sleeve's of one's riding jacket and I didn't find it too cumbersome, though I still loathe wires for the most part.  Note: These gloves, per the user manual, draw 24 watts of power.  There is a temperature sensor that keeps the glove's temperature consistent.

The gloves are also nicely lined with 40 grams of Thinsulate, and the website says the gloves have 100 grams of Polyfill, making them pretty warm gloves without the power being on.  The heat is provided by flexible steel fibers woven into the glove.

Some things I found out as I tried these gloves over several commutes:

1.  You have to remember to hook up the gloves BEFORE you put either one of them on.
2.  You have to remember to hook up the heat controller to the wires in your jacket and then to the red connector on the motorcycle AFTER you start the motorcycle, otherwise a power surge could damage the heating elements.
3.  Don't forget to unhook the heat controller from the motorcycle when you arrive at your destination or get off the motorcycle enroute.  If you forget, the connectors should come apart, preventing you pulling on the part of the harness that is hooked up to your battery, or worse, pulling the motorcycle itself!

source: LINK

Heating Capacity: B-

All the trial commutes were done on a '86 BMW Airhead R80 with no windshield or hand guards, the gloves fully exposed to the wind.  The alternator on this motorcycle puts out only 280 Watts.

In above freezing temperatures (my commutes never got warmer than 37°F and I didn't turn on the heat when temperatures were above 40°F on the way home from work.  

The gloves felt warm at first, and this was at their Max setting by the way.  They never really felt very hot and by the end of the 45 minute in above freezing wind chills, my hands and fingers were fine but starting to feel the cold slightly.  

In below freezing temperatures, the lowest temperature was 26°F during these trials, the gloves didn't do as well.  Given a wind chill factor that approached 5°F at times, the gloves kept my hands mildly warm at the beginning of the 45 minute commute but towards the end of the ride my hands were starting to get chilled; and my fingertips were beginning to tingle with the cold.

Grade for heat: B-.   I kind of expected the heat put out by the gloves at the max temperature setting to be uncomfortably hot and it never even got close.  Sure, without the heat they put out, my hands would have probably been icicles after only a few minutes but that was my experience.

Fit and Finish: A.

The textile material was nicely crafted and sewn together, nice snug fit and once I got used to the gauntlets, they went on just fine with minimal hassle.

The wiring/connectors are well put together, color-coded for easy identification of function and should be long enough for any type of motorcycle.  They connect together very snugly and securely, requiring a mild pull to pry them apart from each other.

The heat controller comes with a plastic clip to enable you to clip it onto your riding jacket for ease of use and to monitor the red LED that tells you the system is on.  The controller has six settings, with the first being off and sixth being max output.  I only used #6 when riding.  The manual says the gloves should have been putting out 163.4°F of heat, I didn't feel it.  

Some tests:

Using the motorcycle's onboard battery, engine NOT running, ambient temperature 58°F in garage.

Low after 5min 80°F
High after 5min 95°F

Using a 180 Amp Hour Marine Deep Cycle Battery:

Low after 5min 86°F
High after 5min 105°F


Hooked up the system to my 2011 URAL Patrol sidecar rig with its 700 watt capacity alternator and went for a ride with the ambient outside temperature of 52°F.  Note: My URAL has a full windshield which  blocks most of the wind chill from the gloves.

Low after 5min 85°F
High after 5min 95-100°F (barely).  

This to me was evidence that the temperature sensor was indeed regulating the heat output as the manual states that in the High mode, temperatures can reach 163.4°F, but the sensor prevents that.  I am guessing here, but I don't think the sensor will permit the heat to exceed much above 100°F.


The gloves came with a tag stating they used Rainguard technology, using a waterproof yet breathable barrier to keep a rider's hands dry.  To test this, I submerged my gloved right hand in water up to the wrist, for fifteen minutes, my hands remained dry.  Water was absorbed as I could wring it out of the glove, but the water didn't reach my hand.


As stated before, I rode with the gloves turned on, in ambient temperatures well above freezing (52°F) and while my hands felt warm, they never overheated or sweated.  I guess that's proof that the waterproof barrier allows excess heat to exit, as claimed by the product literature.


Overall, these gloves should be a nice option for folks who ride in mildly cold weather and don't mind dealing with wires while getting on and off their motorcycle.  Tourmaster, per the user manual, warranties their stuff with a limited warranty for three years.

Based on my personal experience, these gloves probably won't be enough when riding in below freezing temperatures for long periods of time, but then again, there's so few of us known to do this.  I'll add to this review next time there's snow riding to be done in sub-freezing temperatures while on the URAL sidecar rig.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dawn Patrol with Yoshie

This morning, headed away from home as usual in the pre-dawn darkness of 6:00AM.

Today, I was with Yoshie, my 2006 Suzuki V-Strom DL1000/Dauntless Sidecar Rig as she'd not been ridden in quite a while and she needed the exercise.

The roads were dry once I left my neighborhood, yesterday's snow remained on the roads there but everywhere else, it was gone.

I was meeting my co-workers at an Encana Storage Yard north of the metro area, near Fort Lupton, CO.  We were going to survey some mobile fueling sites with the new project leader and logistics kind of dictated everyone use their own vehicle to meet up there.

On the way, near the junction of Quebec and 136th Street, the colors of the breaking dawn were just too much to ignore, truly the tints and hues were eye-catching.  I had to stop to pose Yoshie for pictures.

At the beginning of the photo taking session, the foreground had 
to be heavily "dodged" to make Yoshie visible, sorry about the "noise".

2-3 minutes later, the skies were brighter and the clouds were 
being painted with rosy and slightly orange hues

This was looking towards the west, as you can see the mountains.
As the sun rose in the sky in the east, the hues went from light
pink to the deeper tints you see above.

I managed to miss my turn so I was five minutes late for the meeting.  No one seemed perturbed, I think the sight of me showing up on Yoshie distracted them.  :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pre-Dawn Cityscape view from new parking spot.

Just before Christmas last year, I got official notice from the property management people of DPW Parking.  They're the folks who own and manage the parking space at 1670 Broadway, under the UMB building.  They'd decided that motorcycles with sidecars would not longer be permitted in the motorcycle-only parking sections and that sidecar rigs would be charged the full car rate of $16/day for parking.

Prior to that, I tried to argue my case, the fact that in winter weather sidecars would probably be the only motorcycles using said spaces, all to no avail.  Oh well, its private property so I had to find other parking for the days when a sidecar was in order.

I found a spot three blocks from work, so now I get a brisk 5-7 minute walk from the rig, to and from the office.  Exercise right?  It's $2.50 more than regular motorcycle parking at the old spot, but it beats paying $16.00/day or worse, finding black ice while on two wheels.  Been there, done that, got the t-shirt and slightly separated AC Joint on my right shoulder as a souvenir.

Sadly, I believe it was whining from some fair weather motorcycle owner(s) at the old parking garage that drove the decision by the property management folks.  Apparently they didn't like the fact sidecar rigs took up two spaces.  Whiny bastards.

Anyway, bitterness aside and moving on.

At the new parking spot, one does enjoy a nice view of part of the Denver downtown cityscape.  I mentioned I get about 14 minutes of walking exercise a day so it's all good.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

First Sunset Post for 2014

After a snow-covered weekend, things are starting to clear up around the Denver Metro Area.  This morning's commute to downtown Denver showed me clear if wet main roads, with just patches of snow remaining here and there to keep on on their toes when walking.

My neighborhood streets remain snow-packed of course, so it'll be Valencia again tomorrow for the ride in to work.

I give you, my first sunset picture post for 2014.  I'm still getting over a cold so I'd not been out and about the last few days when it was late in the day.

A Colorado Winter Sunset

On a separate note:

Before, when I would find out about some new farkle or piece of riding gear that seemed like it would fit my riding habit, I would contact the seller and ask to review it on the blog.

In a turnaround of this process, I was recently approached by the folks at to do reviews of some of their offerings.  After several emails, due to logistics, the only items available for review at this time were their leather jackets and leather saddlebags and assorted leather goods.

Their main website at also offers many other items and I requested to be shipped a set of raingear and some electrically-heated gloves for review.

Logistically, they're out of stock on these items and so I must wait.  I explained to them that as I only wear my custom-made Motoport kevlar riding jacket and pants, I wasn't a suitable candidate for their leather riding jackets.  Also, their saddlebag offerings didn't have something suitable for Valencia, my 2011 URAL Patrol sidecar rig so that was out.

Still, it's a promising start I think.  More to follow once the items I requested arrive.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Photo Insets - Denver's 16th Street

While nowhere near as cool or well done as the photos shown in this previous posting: LINK; or even as well done as the pictures show on; I give you my rendition of vintage photos of Denver's 16th Street.

Back in the day, it was apparently a main parade route for events and celebrations.  I found several photos in the Denver Public Library's archive; and using photoshop, merged them into photos I took just the other day of the same location (mostly).

I will show the original photo first, then the merged version.  I hope you enjoy them, I found them actually pretty easy to make.  The call number is listed below each pic as sourcing information.  Just use the archive link above or try the call number link below each photo.

16th Street and Tremont Place, 1979, 
before it was made into a mall.

16th Street looking north towards the Daniels and Fisher Tower

Armistice Parade, November 1918 

Decorated for Christmas 
Circa 1930-1940
16th and Arapahoe Street

Denver Police and Firemen's Parade
May 21, 1921

Policeman standing in Tramway Loading Zone, 1928
16th and California Street

16th street looking south from Stout Street 
Circa 1935-39

I know, not a single view of my motorcycles.....private vehicles are not permitted on the 16th Street Mall these days, just official vehicles and the buses.

Do you have a street similar to Denver's 16th Street in your town?  

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Testing the Snow Chains

Another snow storm, and we woke to snow falling on the Denver Metro Area.  Accumulations would only be about 4 inches, tops, in my neighborhood area.

After a sumptuous lunch of chili, I installed the snow chains on Valencia's pusher tires and headed out to give them a slight workout.

The chains did fine on the unplowed neighborhood streets, I even made it a point to go on the deeper accumulations of snow and there was no drama, just steadfast traction.

The main roads were "kind of" plowed by then, and I had to keep my speeds under 20 mph to avoid damaging the snow chains where the pavement showed through the snow-packed streets.  I stopped numerous times to ensure the chains were tight and that I still had eight of them.  :)

It was quite enjoyable, as usual, watching folks reaction when they see a sidecar rig motoring by them as they cleared snow from their driveways.

 Near Timberline Elementary School, where both my sons went.

As you can see, the snow was not very deep.

On Berry Street, the main road leading out of my neighborhood.

Overcast skies and still falling snow made for rather monochromatic pictures, so the above pictures have been tweaked a bit for effect.  

I went about ten miles of wandering about in 20°F temperatures, wasn't ever cold as I had one my layers.  I even left the heated grips on their low setting.  The chains did great, no issues that I could see with clearing the drive components, a more careful examination to be done once all the snow melts from Valencia.

PS: As a slight poke to scooterinthesticks......Snow equals riding, assuming a sidecar rig is handy.

Update: 05JAN14, Sunday.

Miles and I rode over to the mall to get him some new jeans.  Here's Miles and Valencia once we returned after dodging all the idiots who had come out of the woodwork.

Friday, January 03, 2014

A View of Longs Peak

One of the larger mountain peaks visible from the Denver Metro area, laying almost directly west of it, is Mount Evans.  It's claimed to be country's highest paved highway, CO5, which takes one to its summit at over 14,100 feet.

Mount Evans has been the subject of many of my postings, today I would like to show you views of the other large peak visible on a clear day from Denver:  Longs Peak.

Lying more to the North/NorthWest of Denver, its one of Colorado's Fourteeners

It is named after Major Stephen Long, who explored the area in the 1820s. Longs Peak is one of the most prominent mountains in Colorado.  More here on wikipedia.

Popular with mountain climbers and hikers, it's not climbable by motor vehicle that I know of.  You get great views of it when riding the Peak to Peak Highway on the way to Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Today, I was in Northglenn picking up a Harmonizer Carburetor Balancer tool from my friend Darrell S, a fellow Uralista.  He sold it to me as he's trading in/selling both his 2006 URAL Patrol sidecar rigs in order to finance the purchase of a 2014 Ural Patrol, the one with fuel-injection and many other modern improvements.  I can't wait, for him to get it, so I can get a first hand look at one of these rigs!

Anyways, I was north of the Metro Area, the weather was pretty clear, and the views I'd seen of Longs Peak while going to Darrell's house had set my pictorial objective of the day.

I rode NW from Darrell's house, ending up on 160th Street heading west till it junctions with Sheridan Parkway.  From there it was a dirt road to a nearby construction area which unobstructed views of Longs Peak.

 Above and below pictures taken with my Nikon AW110 camera.

 Above and below pictures taken with my old and mostly
non-working Panasonic Lumix ZS8.  I use it for long focal length shots
as its optical zoom is greater than the Nikon's for such shots.

What do you think of the clarity of the last two pictures?  I think it's "acceptable" after some tweaking with's online tools.  The Panasonic never did recover from the big rains we had weeks ago, that led to the big floods which made the national news.

Hope you're getting some riding in this new year.

Update: Just noticed that URAL's Facebook page is sporting one of my pictures!  :)

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year, New Snow....a Good Start.

New Years Day, 2014

It snowed overnight and we woke to about an inch or so of new fluffy snow, a nice little present from the motorcycling gods I thought.

I'd been fighting a cold though, drugged up on the "good" Sudafed, so it took me a while to geared up in my freshly laundered riding gear and headed out onto the fresh snow.

The temperatures were in the low 30s °F, although it was overcast skies hiding Valencia's and my view of the front range mountains.

It's going to be time soon to replace my pusher tire on Valencia, the thread is worn down and there were some fishtailing motions on some of the hilly portions of the ride.  I had my tire chains with me so I wasn't worried.

Valencia looks forward to what the new year will bring.

Here's hoping you got a ride in on New Year's Day.  Wishing you great riding conditions and opportunities.

It's a brand new year ahead of us, let's see what we can make of it eh?