Monday, August 25, 2014

Uraling to near the Top of Rollins Pass (Eastern Route)

Yesterday was a great day to be Uraling here in the great state of Colorado, sunny skies, mild temperatures and good riding companions.

Back in June of 2010, a group of Uralisti had tried to ride up to the top of Rollins Pass, using the eastern route; we didn't quite make it all the way.  The pass is divided into two sections because the narrow railroad tunnel at the top, known as Eye of the Needle, had been closed so you can't really ride a Ural sidecar rig or car through.

Three Uralisti, including yours truly would attempt this same route once again.  I met Dan K. and Scott M. at the Last Shot Diner near Blackhawk, CO and after some chit chat we headed off towards Rollinsville and Rollins Pass Road.

We made good time and soon we were motoring our way up Rollins Pass Road.  We weren't the only ones on the road today, there were 4x4 trucks, mountain bikers, hikers and even cars that really didn't have the ground clearance.  I wonder how many of them would go home with new dents?

Rollins Pass road was as rocky as I remembered it, with some sections that threatened to shake my fillings in my teeth loose as well as cause parts to come off my 2014 URAL sidecar rig, Scarlett.  Some minor issues, both Scott and I had our respective rig's left muffler knocked loose by rocks.  No problem, but I think I should start packing heat resistant work gloves to hold the hot tubing in place in order to bang it back on.

There were many steep sections as well but not very steep as this road was once a railbed for a narrow gauge train which went over Rollins Pass.  Still, there were some sections that had us all wondering what we were thinking at times!

 At Yankee Doodle Lake
Quite a scenic location

 You can see the western end of the Eye of the Needle 
tunnel way up there on top of the mountain

 The furthest point motorized traffic can go, its at least 
another 15 minutes of walking to get to the eastern end of the
Eye of the Needle tunnel.

source: googlemaps
Red Arrow #1 points to tunnel entrance visible from Yankee Doodle Lake
Green Arrow #2 points to tunnel entrance visible from furthest motorable point
which is indicated by the blue arrow #3

 Jenny Lake, a view while standing on the other side of the 
obstructing rocks.

 As you can see, quite the walk to get to the tunnel and you can't
get in anyways.  Below you can just make out the 8ft tall barriers
just inside the entrance to the tunnel.

source wikipedia
pic of inside of Eye of the Needle tunnel circa 2006

 Panos on the way down

 Pano of Yankee Doodle Lake

 Nearing the valley where the small settlement of Tolland is located.

 You can see the eastern entrance to the Moffat Tunnel 
in the distance.

Looking west at the Continental Divide.
Three rigs went up, three rigs returned.

Tired and famished, we rode back to the Last Shot Diner near Black Hawk and had us a late lunch, good timing on our part too, as a large group of Harley-Davidsons (mostly) were leaving at same time that we arrive.

A good day of riding once again, finally checking off the eastern portion of Rollins Pass Road from the "to do" list.  Got my left muffler knocked loose once on the way up and once on the way down, other than that no issues with Scarlett besides having to re-glue the heated grip on the throttle hand side.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A New (to her) Speedometer for Brigitta

Brigitta, my '87 BMW R80 Airhead, had issues with the odometer shortly after she went over 100,000 miles a few months ago.  It would accumulate 17 miles for every actual mile ridden!

Since then, I'd been tracking mileage with a cyclometer and had been putting up with a wonky reading on the odometer.  Then a couple of weeks ago I noticed the tripmeter was not reporting accumulated miles between gas fillups accurately.  Now it was getting annoying, since I need that to ensure I don't run out of gas!

I started half-heartedly searching around the usual spots online for a replacement speedometer, and soon found I would not be buying a new one from the BMW dealer: $440!  Tried craigslist, ebay and such to no avail, or the units I found were over $150 and I was unwilling to spend that much.

Then, I tried googling for W-1078.1 which is the speedometer ratio stamped on the speedometer that came with Brigitta.  Google found this webpage listing just the speedometer I needed and for $85!

Some emails later, I agreed to ride up to Longmont, where Jon the speedometer's owner lived.  I left the house today at 13:00 and was delayed due to construction on I-70, a car/truck accident on I-25 and one of the more violently windy rain storms I've ridden through in quite a while!

The wind was so strong, it threatened to blow me off the side of the road several times!  Couple the wind with driving rain, and the last few miles on I-25 before the exist for CO 119 were "interesting".

I gladly got to the exit and slowed my speeds which made the driving wind and rain much more manageable.

I headed west on CO119 and soon was in the city of Longmont.  I found Jon's house easily enough I got ready to swap out the speedometer right then and there.  Jon was kind enough to lend me the use of his workbench and advice as I took apart the instrument cluster and swapped out Jon's speedometer for my broken one.

I did a quick check of the lightbulbs and Jon generously gave me one he had on hand when I found the speedo's light bulb burned out.

I re-assembled the instrument cluster and plugged it onto the wire connector from the wiring harness.  I then geared up and took Brigitta out for a short tide to test the new speedo and to get some beers for Jon as payment for the light bulb and assistance he'd rendered.

I got back from the short run to the liquor store and was happy to report that the odometer/tripmeter and speedometer worked just fine!  Trouble was though, the turn signal indicator wasn't working!  Dammit.

Jon offered to help troubleshoot the issue and once again the instrume cluster came off Brigitta and was taken partly apart on Jon's workbench to expose the circuit board for the lights.

We first tried using a small air powered "sand blaster" using aluminum oxide powder to thoroughly clean all the connectors.  Pretty cool actually, and it sure did a better job than a wire brush or sand paper!  Took the re-assembled instrument cluster back to Brigitta, connected up the plug, turned on the ignition and started checking for turn signals.  I noted though, lots of smoke coming from somewhere and a burning smell!


The burning smell and smoke turned out to be the connectors for the switch that controls the heated grips.  It had grounded on the handlebar and with power applied, got really hot!

After that little scare, the turn signal light indicator still didn't work!  Off came the instrument cluster again and once again it's innards were exposed for examination.

Some checks with the multimeter later which gave us no real clues.  However it was then that Jon spotted a broken contact tab for the turn signal indicator light!  The turn signal light indicator had been a bit "sticky" to remove to check the bulb and I think it had probably broken a long time ago and only held in place by the light bulb socket.

Above is a view of the circuit board that hold the dash lights underneath. 
You're looking at the exposed back side of the instrument cluster.
The two rows of metal tubes connect to the motorcycle's wiring harness plug

 Here's the problem Jon found, the socket where the turn indicator bulb mounts.
As you can see, the portion of the metal tab had broken off and disappeared
so no circuit could be formed with the light bulb socket in place.

 Jon handed me an x-acto knife and had me cut/peel away
the blue insulator material and scrap lightly to remove
the oxidation on the copper tab.

 Jon then deftly placed a bit of copper tape that had an
adhesive side, heated up the bits with a soldering iron and 
put a drop of molten solder to hold the tape in place
and form an electrical connection.

Voila, a new tab for the light bulb socket to make 
contact with and form a circuit when the turn signals are operating.

Took the newly repaired instrument cluster and hooked it up to the connector plug, the turn signal indicator worked!  Smiles all around.

Here's Jon on Brigitta after the successful repair of the turn signal light indicator.

 Check out the Luftmeister saddle bag gas tanks on Jon's BMW RS
motorcycle, it gives him a total of 8 gallons of fuel for a range of
about 400 miles he says.

It was a little bit past 5:00 PM by now, skies were clear and temperatures had cooled off a bit from the warm weather that had followed the rainstorm.

I geared up, did one last check for the turn signal light and bid goodbye to Jon.  Truly a helpful and friendly fellow Airhead rider!

As I motored away from the city, I noticed though that my speedometer wasn't working!  Doh!  Then I realized I forgot to hook up the speedometer cable, pheew!  I got to I-25 and pulled into a gas station to fill up and to hook up the speedometer cable.

Pulling out onto the highway, I then noticed that while the speedometer was working again, now the tachometer wasn't working!  Doh!

I continued riding on home though, taking the super slabs all the way to the Quincy Avenue exit off the E-470 Tollway and was home without incident by 6:30 or so.  A quick check of the instrument cluster's connector revealed one of the plugs had gotten pushed in too far, so I pulled it forward so it would contact the corresponding connector on the instrument cluster and voila, I had a working tachometer again!  Yay.

For record.

The replacement odometer had 95,218 miles on it when I put it on today.  The cyclometer reports I have accumulated 4095 miles since the 100,000 mile mark on the previous speedometer.  The replacement odometer now reads 95273.5 miles. Brigitta's 5000 mile service is due when the odometer reads 96,178, 905 miles from now.

I am now debating whether to hook up an electric drill with suitable connector to the speedometer and move the odometer forward to 004095 so it "matches" the recorded mileage I have for Brigitta.  Or just write down the mileage on the odometer and allow for the differences in order to track service interval mileages and total mileage.  Any opinions out there on this idea?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Uraling to Jones Pass, almost.

Welcome to post #1366, a calendar reminder popped up this week, seems I started blogging on the 13th of August 2006.  It's been quite the ride and the steeds have come and gone, but whether on two wheels or three, it's been quite the adventure at times.

Today I rode out of the neighborhood shortly after 8:00 AM, the sun was shining, temperatures were in the high 60's but it was forecasted to be a hot day today.  All the more reason for today's destination, the nearby mountain trails near the small town of Empire, Colorado.

I slabbed it through the Denver metro area, and took the I-70 Super Slab westbound all the way to the exit for the small village of Dumont where I tanked up.  Then it was a short stint on frontage roads until I reached the junction of US40 and I-70.  I took US40 northwards, through the small town of Empire and turned south off its main street to see the start point for Empire Pass.

The first time I took a sidecar rig onto the gnarly start point for Empire Pass, it was my '96 Ural Sportsman: Natasha.  Her alternator gear would shear off the next day, but that day, she did fine.

Empire Pass, 2009

I show you the above picture because the pictures I took today of Scarlett, my 2014 Ural Patrol, somehow didn't make it into the SD card.  Weird.  

The ascent, on the rock strewn and rutted steep trail to the right went fine, though I thought I was going to get stuck a couple of times.  The EFI powered the rig on through though and after some major bouncing by both rider and rig, we made it to the top.

At the top, there's a small clearing past the rock gate, and no further evidence of a road that follows the side of the mountain.  There is a small rocky trail heading towards the west and upwards but I'd been on that trail before and to call it a goat trail would be too kind.  I did happen upon the entrance to a cave however, almost tall enough to stand in but I didn't go in, maybe next time when I've a fellow rider along.

Dark looking cave located past the start point of Empire Pass,
near the clearing past the stone gate.  

Turning Scarlett around, it was time for a few pictures from the lofty heights of Empire Pass.

 Looking east, you can see I-70 far below

 The Rock Gate

 Looking west, I-70 once more show below, Georgetown Lake 
in the distance.

Zoomed in view of Georgetown and its lake

image courtesy DPL: WHJ-593
circa 1882-1900

I retraced my route back to the town of Empire and took US40 out of town and towards Berthoud Pass.  I chose not to go all the way to the summit, no challenge as there was no snow of course.  I stopped near the summit for:

On US40, the road to Berthoud Pass, looking towards the west.

I descended back down US40 a couple of miles and took the exit for the Henderson Molybdenum Mine and Jones Pass Road.  Soon I was making steady progress up Jones Pass Road, slewing the rig around on the hairpin turns and keeping up the momentum.

 The scenery and views as one motors up Jones Pass Road

On a URAL Sidecar, with its dry clutch and lack of low gearing, one must keep momentum or one risks over-heating the clutch.  I would end up making it all the way to the motorable top with only one stop to cool the clutch plates; and that was because this tourist in a pickup truck was going too slow and I caught up to him with no flat spot to rest the rig.

I did mention making it all the way to where it was rideable right?  Turns out, even in mid-August, there was still a band of snow blocking the way to the very summit of Jones Pass.  Drat.  But, no big deal, it was a short climb up some steps previous visitors had hacked into the snow and there was the view from Jones Pass:

 Looking west, if you look close you can see the faraway peaks 
of some of the mountains visible from Jones Pass' summit
Altitude a bit over 12,000 feet.

 This band of snow blocked the road to the summit, you can
see where cars are parked on the other side of the snow bank

It was pretty slick walking on the snow bank blocking the road.
I ended up sliding on my butt down to the road!

After carefully turning Scarlett around on the narrow shelf of a road, we made our way slowly back down the mountain.

A view of the Henderson Mine Complex, that straight line cut
near the peak is man-made it seems.  Take a look via the satellite
view of Red Mountain (search for Henderson Mine, Colorado on

This is a screen capture from google earth, showing Jones Pass
summit (red arrow) from the straight line cut near the peak of Red Mountain
in the previous shot.

I took US40 back towards I-70 and rode via frontage roads all the way back to Idaho Springs.  From there it was the I-70 Super Slab all the way back down to the metro area.  Boy, I sure am glad I rode up when I did this morning, it was a slow moving parking lot on the westbound lanes on I-70, for miles!

Made it to the metro area with no issues though I did notice the temperatures rapidly climbed from the enjoyable 60s in the mountains to the high 80s and low 90s in the city!  Still, as I was staying on the slabs, the wind kind of made the heat bearable.

That is, until I spotted this FJ Cruiser with unique stickers and a couple of red gas tanks mounted on top.  It was none other than Scott M. out for ride.  He's a fellow Uralista and he was enroute to Pikes Peak for an afternoon drive.  We spotted each other at about the same time and through hand signals we took the next exit and parked on the side of the road to chat.

Scott M and his FJ Cruiser, quite the off-road beast it is too.
It performed rescue duties for two rigs during this year's trip to Moab.

We chatted about this and that and he agreed to post something soon for a group ride, perhaps to California Pass or perhaps I think to Rollins Pass via the west side which starts in Winter Park.  We shall see.

I was quite sweaty just standing around talking to Scott so it was quite the blissful cool down when I started moving again.  Still, I couldn't get home fast enough to get out of the heat!  Made it home with no issues, a great day of riding with Scarlett.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Brigitta's turn for a Sunset Ride

I've not ridden Brigitta, my '87 BMW R80 Airhead for over three weeks now, basically ever since I've not had to commute anywhere to get to work.

I had been feeling a bit guilty about this but weather and some needed test riding on Scarlett, my 2014 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig had prevented a ride on Brigitta until yesterday evening.  We'd had rains off and on all day it seemed, and the clouds formed a nice backdrop for the setting sun's golden rays.

Shooting pictures of one's motorcycle from a low frontal angle really does help make it look better, doesn't it?

Previously, a Sunset picture with Scarlett.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Pre-Sunset Clouds

I was riding Scarlett yesterday evening, chasing a rainbow which had appeared after a brief rain storm...I wasn't able to get near enough or in a good spot to shoot a picture of it though.

As I headed back towards home, the sun was occluded behind a large cloud formation and I stopped to see if the sun's rays would poke through.

Too bad I didn't have a wall behind me, painted white, to reflect some of the setting sun's light back at Scarlett to fill in the foreground light.

Previously: Scarlett's First Tire Change

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Scarlett's First Tire Change

Changing out one's tires on a motorcycle involves time, tools, and on a hot Colorado morning, a lot of sweat by yours truly.  I had the bright idea of just using the tools I would have on the road, to swap the worn down tire on my pusher wheel (8965km).

Still a "bit of meat" left you say?  This was the best looking portion of the old tire.

Actually, despite the heat, it wasn't that difficult once I figured out the angles once again on using tire irons to remove the old tire.  The inner tube came out without problems and mounting the new tire was easier than dismounting the old one.

I must say, the use of the Baja Tool No Pinch tool was key to mounting the Duro 308 tire I had on hand.  I love this tool, makes things so much easier.

Now, the whole thing (I took many breaks due to the heat), took a bit less than three hours.  Sure, one could argue that I could have taken the wheel off, schlepped it to the shop where they swap out tires for you for about $25, a bit more if you didn't buy the replacement tire from the shop....but then, where would my present sense of accomplishment be?

New Duro 308

Oh, and based on previous times when I did have someone do it, about same amount of time involved due to travel and waiting at the shop; just much less sweat on my part!