Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lunchtime Errands

Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig and I took advantage of a gorgeous day here in the Metro Denver area.  Though the snow remains still covering grassy areas, the roads were just mostly wet to dry due to the bright sunshine we got today.

More snow forecast for the next couple of days so we headed out during the lunch hour to run some errands.

As I reached the junction of Orchard and Parker Road, I stopped for a few minutes to get these shots of Mount Evans from the southern end of Cherry Creek Park.

After dropping off the paperwork for the tax accountant, we rode over to the parking across the street from the entrance to Westlands Park in the Denver Tech Center:

Next, it was a ride over to PerformanceCycles where the replacement summer boots I had ordered after the gas-soaking incident were ready for me to pickup.  They were reported by reviewers to run small so I wanted to make sure my feet fit even though I'd ordered one size up from normal.

Fox Racing Comp 5 Shorty Boots
image source: google

They're classified as ATV Boots, short version of the full-up MX boots used by dirt bike riders.

The boots fit fine, I even wore them out of the store and homewards, no issues to report in terms of shifting gears.  I did feel some pressure from the inboard support cushion that had been reported by reviewers but it should go away after a few more hours of wearing the boots.

No zippers to have fail later on, just buckles and one small patch of Velcro at the top of the boots.

It was 44°F (6°C) on the way home, not exactly hot but not warm either and I was just starting to feel vague tendrils of cold inside the new boots as I approached home.    This is good, I don't want them to be cold-weather boots!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Not Quite the Snow-apocalyse Here, yet.

The storm system forecasted for us here in the Metro Denver area had everyone talking about the "snow-apocalypse".  Some of us, a bit more jaded due to the regular over-hyping of these events, had our doubts.

Yesterday in the early afternoon, I went out for a small bit of riding and was quite disappointed with the amount of snow to be had:

The dirt roads of the  ranching neighborhood I like to go to for pictures coated poor Scarlett in icy mud and I had to hose her down when I got her home.

Of course, about an hour after I got home, it started snowing in earnest and we all held out hope for a decent amount of snow to fall on us overnight.

We woke this morning, Sunday to about six inches of snow, more of less.  Not only that but for the first time since we've live in this cul-de-sac, the city had actually plowed the streets of the neighborhood!  Nice.

So, after a nice breakfast provided by my loving wife Martha, Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol and I headed out to see what we could see.

We once again motored our way through snow-packed streets to the ranching neighborhood we had been at yesterday; and yes, there was a satisfactory amount of snow.

Skies were again overcast though, so no view of the front range mountains.  I would say visibility was less than a mile at most.  The distant scenery and houses looked shrouded in fog, which was apparently a light snow falling.

Temperatures hovered around the 10°F (-12°C) range so it was a bit "brisk".  However, my riding gear, warming layers, and Kolpin grip covers keep me nice and warm.  I would have to remove my right glove to manipulate the camera controls so I made sure to leave the glove itself resting on the engine's left side jug.  Ah, nice and warm when I put it back on!

I got home after about 90 minutes of wandering about and taking pictures.  A more satisfying snow ride today than yesterday.  Traffic was light, no idiot cagers riding too close behind me on the main roads and I verified the Go-Pro camera still takes decent video.  No video today, nothing exciting filmed but snowy roads.

It's supposed to snow the rest of today, so it should make for a messy and slow commute for cagers tomorrow.  Glad I don't commute anymore, not so much for having to ride on snow (that's fun) but for wondering which idiot cager would drive stupid and cause everyone trouble.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Review: The North45 Face Mask

In my continued search for ways to deal with how glasses and visors fog up on you while motorcycling in cold weather, I stumbled upon the North45 face mask for skiers using goggles.

Now, they don't market this product for motorcycle riders but I thought it might work; so I asked the manufacturer for a review face mask and he happily obliged.

Please see their website for full details and other pics on how the mask works for skiers wearing goggles.  LINK

Regular readers known, that I wear glasses and have been using a Skidoo Snowmobile Helmet with accompanying face mask when temperatures are below 20°F (-6°C).  It does the job 95% of the time but is very constrictive and sometimes uncomfortable to wear for prolonged periods of time.

The Skidoo Helmet's rubber face mask

It could be because I probably need the next size larger helmet to allow more room for the face mask that comes with the helmet.  Also, due to my small/flat nose, I've had to add insulation materials where the top of the rubber face mask hugs my nose.

Now, with the North45 face mask, it being basically a scarf one puts on over one's head and around one's neck and lower face area, it doesn't take up a lot of room under a motorcycling helmet.

There's a magnet, to help lock it in place with goggles but in my case I just used it to center the scarf on my face.

The sides of the helmet help hold it in place once you position the face mask.  In my case, I positioned the top edge of the face mask as close to the lower edge of eyes as possible, using the lower edge of my glasses to try and hold it in place.

Once you things lined up, the face mask does pretty good at keeping your exhaled breath from rising up and fogging up your glasses while wearing a helmet, with the visor down.  The face mask you see, is really two parts (see the website for full details).  The part that goes over your nose, is open at the bottom, allowing most of the hot, moist air coming out of you to be directed downward.


1.  Very comfortable to wear on face and even just as a neck scarf.  The merino wool material is not scratchy and is quite warm.

2.  Doesn't take up much room within the helmet, unlike the rubber "fighter pilot" type face mask that came with the helmet.  Much more comfortable!


1.  I would say it does pretty well, perhaps 85-90% good job, in my case, at keeping my breath from fogging up my glasses.  If I let the top edge of the face mask slip much lower than the edge of my glasses, it doesn't do as well.

2.  I did, sometimes, have to crack the helmet visor open while stopped at lights and such to prevent fogging of my glasses.  Once I started moving again though, the glasses if fogged, would clear quickly.

3.  Unlike using the rubber face mask, any kind of physical exertion on my part resulted in fogging of my glasses, whether visor was up or down.  Of course, physical exertion while wearing the rubber face mask results in shortness of breath very fast.

Overall, I like this face mask a lot.  It provides as warm, if not better wind protection as the neck gator I usually wear and the material it's made of appears to be much more long lasting than the neck gator.

The "drier" the cold, the better it performs, in my opinion.  Higher humidity in the air, seemed to lower its effectiveness as a water vapor barrier.

I wore this face mask in temperatures down 18°F (-7°C) so far, and it's done well enough for me to consider it part of my cold weather riding gear.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Communispace is recruiting Riders!

I was recently contacted by Kasey, a consultant with Communispace, an outfit who's forte is the creation/facilitating of private and focused online discussion communities.

What makes them different from say the myriad of brand-specific online discussion forums that exists on the Internet you ask?  While they do seem to use the regular mechanisms such as discussion threads, surveys and such, they're different in that they coordinate/facilitate the participation of business leaders in the focus industry.

For instance, in my case, Kasey was inviting me try out for a slot in a motorcycle riding focused communispace forum.  It'll be limited to about 300 members, and they are seeking:

This particular online forum is a place for motorcycle enthusiasts to express their opinions and be rewarded for their time with e-gift certificates, it’s a robust and engaging exercise in qualitative research. Members who participate will have their ideas heard directly by our sponsor, decision makers in the motorcycle industry.

In these communities, people can share their opinions of brands and products with members similar to themselves. The communities are private password protected sites and we don't ever use them for solicitation, so no one will ever be asked to purchase anything.  (the bold text is my doing)

Participating members will receive a $10 Amazon gift code for joining, as well as Amazon gift codes often for their participation.  Members can stay in the community as long or as little as they like, what matters is the impact they make with their experience and contributions.

This is an unbranded community. It’s focus and importance is the riders in it, not the brand sponsoring

Not seeing a downside to this, I took their survey (brief and to the point), and they said I qualified to be considered for membership.  I am now awaiting to see if I made the cut.  So yes, if asked, I will join!

If you've had a yearning to express your opinion on motorcycling subjects, and would like to see that opinion read and perhaps responded to by folks in the motorcycling industry, I invite you to take the same survey as I did.  Just click the ad below or the link.

Full Disclosure:

Even though I am intrigued by the discussion/interaction forum offered by Communispace, I am being given an Amazon Gift Certificate for posting this.  Call it a win/win.  I let readers know about this opportunity to be heard and the effort is compensated.

Bonus: We had us a pretty good sunset today, enjoy the pictures below:

 Sunset Mode on the camera

Sunset Mode again

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The 2015 Elephant Ride

Today, four URAL Sidecar Rigs attempted to reach the gate about three miles from the summit of Guanella Pass.  An annual event since 1989 I think, held on the Sunday of the second full weekend of February, the Elephant Ride is an attempt to ride on the snow-packed packed road from Grant, CO to the gate barring further access to the summit,  in Winter.

The challenge is you see, is negotiating what is usually several miles of snow-covered, uphill sloping roadway, crossing the "big drift" of snow and getting one's picture taken at the gate.

This year?  Not a lot of snow but there was the big drift, which stopped the three attempts, by three separate URAL rigs, to get past it.  We didn't feel too bad though, not many two-wheelers made it past without much help from bystanders and fellow riders.

There was such a dearth of snow this year, that it was clear dirt road all the way to the hairpin turn where folks usually stage for the run up the hill where "the snow drift" is located.  From here, there was dry paved roadway until the last 100-200 feet before the snow drift.

Road conditions then became rather slippery, rutted, ice....then packed snow/ice....then the big drift.

Since I've been riding this event, I've only gotten my rig past the snow drift twice, and both times there was assistance required in terms of pushing by bystanders.

So, on to the pictures.

 Tim L. and I motored in after meeting at Morrison, turns out that
Jim K, with his 2012 Patrol showed up a few minutes after we left and 
arrived shortly after we did, to Grant.

 Shortly before 10:00 AM, Roy N. and his friend Dave showed
up on his asphalt gray GearUP.

Roy and Dave were raring to go and took off up Guanella Pass Road first, with the remaining three rigs following shortly afterwards.  It was boring packed dirt road all the way to the pavement near the snow drift as I mentioned before.  The only mildly "interesting" on the dirt portion were the narrow one lane portions which had become rutted while in a muddy state.  

We came upon Roy and Dave as they waited their turn at the snow drift.  I positioned myself to take pictures of the stalwart duo but as you can see, the rig bottomed out pretty quickly.

 Dave and Roy, the first Team URAL attempt 

Jim K would next give it shot on his 2012 Patrol, with me as the monkey hanging off his sidecar's step for dear life.  Jim tried a bit further to the right of where Roy entered the drift but the results were about the same.  The rig sank to its belly, became high-centered, and lost all traction.

Jim K's Patrol, the second attempt by Team URAL
source pictures courtesy of Tim L.

Roy, Dave and I helped push/pull Jim K's rig off the snow drift and finally get her pointed downhill again, back to the parking/staging point.

That's Roy and Dave aiding Jim
Picture courtesy Tim L.

Then, several other riders tried on their two-wheeled rigs, even a small sidecar rig tried it and eventually did make it across the drift (with much help).    I'm pretty sure that rig didn't weigh as much as the URAL rigs!

Picture courtesy of Tim L.

Then, it was Scarlett's and my turn at the snow drift.  Jim K. played the role of the monkey, hanging onto the sidecar as I gunned the engine towards the snow drift.  I am told we got two feet further in than Roy's rig but still we ended up high-centered on Scarlett's belly pan with wheels spinning uselessly.

Third and last attempt by Team URAL
source pictures courtesy of Tim L.

With assistance, I got the rig turned around and headed back to the other rigs in the staging area.   All that remained now was for Tim L. to try  it on his rig, but the consensus was quickly reached that his results would not be any different and so we elected to turn around and head back down the mountain.

 The above and below pictures should give you an idea of the slippery
conditions one had to gain speed on, and the size of the snow drift
to be traversed!  Note also the off-camber on the snow drift, which
required a monkey hanging on the side of the tub!  Otherwise, that snow
drift has been known to upend URALs onto their left side, spilling the
driver onto the steep hill to the left!


Here's a video of Craig H. and his URAL rig, back in the 2012 Elephant Ride, when the snow drift
was actually much smaller than this years's snow drift:

Again from the 2010 Elephant Ride, here's Nick trying to get across the snow drift but was caught by the off-camber and took a spill:

Back to today:

Once we got to Grant, we noted that Jim K. had elected to go home on his own which made sense since he'd ridden in all the way from Berthoud!  He had a long way to go before the incoming snow.

Roy and Dave, Tim and I headed back north on US285 towards the town of Pine Junction, then we took CO67 South from there towards the town of Pine and the Zokas Cafe for a bite too eat.  As we chatted and ate, the weather moved in on us and soon we were gearing up in the parking lot with snow flakes falling gently.

Goodbyes were said, hands were shaken, and Dave and Roy headed South towards Sedalia while Tim and I headed north back to Pine Junction and US285.

The snow stayed light for us all the way till we reached Conifer then got worse by the second.  Soon I was covered in snow, along with Scarlett, as we motored along at a safe 30 mph on roads that were becoming snowy/icy with the temperature in the low 20s.

Near the junction of South Turkey Creek Road and US285, I saw a sea of red lights in the hill up ahead.  It was an accident and both Tim and I slowed to a stop along with the cars near us.  Conditions were slick, I could feel the back wheel on the tug trying to slide to the right at the slightest over-application of the rear brakes!  Front brake usage was just asking to lose control so was avoided at all costs.

The snow was really falling pretty heavily by now, in big fluffy snow flakes which covered our helmet visors.  Tim and I could see it would take a while to sort out the accident up ahead on US285 so we elected to turn off along with other cars onto South Turkey Creek Road.

Road conditions on South Turkey Creek Road were slick.  I don't think we went over 15 mph and probably was closer to 10 mph during the entire transit of this road, around the accident on US285. Fortunately the car behind us kept their distance, as we slowly negotiated the icy roadway.  For such a small amount of snow, it was truly quite slippery.

Reaching the northern end of Turkey Creek road without incident, we got back onto US 285 and conditions were much better, and got even better as we neared the Metro Denver area where the ambient temperature soared into the low 30s!

The roadways became merely wet and we were able to pick up some speed.  Tim L. peeled off towards Morrison, planning to take CO93 to Golden and then make his way to his home in Longmont.  We waved goodbye and I headed into Denver on US285.  Conditions became warmer with ambient temperatures in the mid 30s and dry roads for the most part.

I'll admit I was glad for the drier road conditions within the metro area, I didn't like the slick conditions in the foothills.  Got home with no issues, adjusted the idle on Scarlett since it felt a little low and found the balance off by enough that I re-balanced it.  Gosh I like having the Harmonizer and vacuum ports on the EFI throttle bodies.

I am glad to report all URAL riders made it to their homes safely.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Protecting Scarlett's Fuel Rails

Though the incidence rate of fuel rails being broken is rather low, less than four reported to IMWA besides mine, I figured it wouldn't hurt to add some protection to the fuel rails on Scarlett.

Background: Somehow, the right fuel rail on Scarlett was broken while I was out riding with a fellow URALista this past weekend: LINK.

 Here's the right side Fuel Rail
Showing the piece that connects to the injector

Same fuel rail, but now showing the piece
onto which one connects the fuel line
The old one broke right at the base of the tube.

Yesterday, while digging about my pile of bits leftover from other projects, I found two metal strips that I thought might do the trick of protecting the fuel rail.

 I've no idea from what project this piece, and it's twin, came from.
However, I am glad I tend to hoard such things....

 A bit of grinding off the end, it fits just right with the mounting screw!

 A little judicious bending/hammering with a vise and vise grips...

Now the metal strip protects no only the vulnerable base where
the fuel line connects, but also the body of the fuel injector.

It took me a bunch more hammering and bending for the right side, not quite the same fit it turned out but I made it work.

 Right side fuel rail and injector

Since I introduced the metal strip, I went ahead and procured slightly longer mounting screws: going from M4 x 12 to M4 x 14 screws.  They worked beautifully, holding the metal strip tightly.

Hopefully, I've added some protection to the fuel rail.  Time will tell.  I might end up bolting on a second metal strip, to provide some overhead protection for the injector but I think it's the base that I needed to worry about.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Replacing the Throttle Body Plates on Scarlett

Back when I had installed vacuum ports on Scarlett's EFI Throttle Bodies, we'd discovered a seemingly inability to balance the idle at lower than 1200 RPM.  It "appeared" that there was a small leak on the left side throttle body.

That was the theory anyways.  Some more examination in following days, I ended up shining a light through one end of the throttle body and sending the pictures to Randy, the dealer at UniqueRides in Fort Collins, CO.

He didn't like the distribution of light and ordered a replacement set of the plates that regulate how much air flow's through the throttle body.  There had been reports from other riders, that some of the initial run of plates on the early 2014 motorcycles had bent, since they were made of aluminum.  The new plates are still aluminum, but thicker, laser-cut and anodized, by Eletrojet...the company that designed the EFI throttle bodies.

I rode up to Fort Collins, today, arriving shortly before Noon and Randy got right to work on replacing the throttle plates.

 One of the original throttle plates, note the slight bend upwards on the right
Randy could get the old plates to wobble slightly!

 The new thicker, laser-cut plate, both sides were replaced by Randy.

The new plate in place, before being secured by provided screws.

Randy buttoned everything up and hooked up his laptop to Scarlett's EFI diagnostic port to check and balance the throttle bodies.

We encountered several issues.  

For quite a while, the laptop would intermittently lose connectivity with the ECUs on the motorcycle!  Very frustrating since you can't make adjustments while the tool keeps cutting out!  This caused some delays as the program had to be re-started, and at one point we ended up restarting the laptop.

We were getting inconsistent readings while trying to adjust/balance the idle to around 1000-1050 RPMs, and finally Randy ended up re-flashing the EFI mapping to "clear counters" as it were.  This seemed to help.

We found it very difficult, nigh impossible to balance the throttle bodies at an idle of 1000 (recommended by factory).  After many attempts and troubleshooting, Randy set it at 1100-1140 and things stabilized and the idle was balanced!  Weird.  Note: I probably should have taken the rig out for a warm up run, we just did the balancing by running the engine for a few minutes.   An email discussion with Jason of URAL indicated that by not doing the warmup run, the EFI was running in "open loop" mode probably.  Doh!

Then we checked things at 1800 RPM and some adjustments of both throttle cables were required.  So glad I decided to ride up and have Randy do this, I would have been thinking it was my experience and technique but Randy was having lots of trouble getting things balanced as well!

By the way, we also cross-checked by having my Harmonizer hooked up and the RPMs were very very close!

Finally, everything seemed balanced and I went out for a test ride.  All seemed well.  Interestingly, now the engine was idling at around 1060! 

 I got some more spare parts from Randy and shortly before 4PM left Fort Collins and right into the teeth of evening rush hour for the Metro Denver area!  It was a long slog of slow-n-go traffic once south of 104th Street but made it to Gun Club Road and Quincy Avenue just in time to capture the sunset's aftermath.

Randy and I both agreed that Scarlett seems to "like" running at 1100 RPM (indicated by dealer tool), 1080 indicated by my cheapo tachometer.  She sounds good at 1100!  We both also agreed that she was difficult to get balanced!  (Note to self, next time: warm up ride first!)

More riding to do, but she ran well all the way home.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Uraling with Scott M.

Beautiful day here in the great state of Colorado.  Scott M, a fellow Uralista with a 2010 GearUP and I arranged to meet at 10:30 AM at the gas station outside of Morrison to do some riding together.

We headed out shortly after 10:30, heading north on CO 93 towards Golden.  At Golden we headed west on US6, enjoying the twists and turns of this canyon road as it takes one up into the foothills.  Scott was really enjoying himself, electing to fly the chair on the curves whenever he could, I imagined a big grin on his face as I was entertained each time I glanced at him in the rear view mirrors.

We went through the casino town of Blackhawk soon enough and then it was time to stop the rigs for a picture along the Peak to Peak Highway, aka CO119.

 Along the Peak to Peak Highway

Near junction of Golden Gate Canyon Rd and CO119

Scott then suggested we double back a bit and take what turned out to be County Rd 4S to get some off-road riding in, I quickly agreed.

We got onto this dirt road but didn't get very far past the junction with County Rd 4N due to steep snow-covered trails but it was fun exploring.  Heading in a southerly direction along whatever trails came along, we ended up coming across a small dam/reservoir called Gold Metal Water.

 Scott fooling around....

Gold Metal Water Reservoir

Continuing along the dirt roads, we eventually surfaced near Central City's cemetery.  Scott spied an FJ Cruiser parked nearby with other 4x4 vehicles and immediately headed in their direction to chat up the FJ's owner.

Scott drives a pretty beefed up FJ Cruiser you see, and apparently its quite the friendly community. We spent a few minutes in their company while Scott chatted with the driver of the FJ and compared notes and such.

After leaving the 4x4 group, we encountered yet another small and old cemetery, this one with the sign: Rocky Mountain 2, IOOF Cemetery 1865.  Cool.  More info here on the IOOF

I was trying to find the trail to the "Oh My God" road to lead us back towards I-70 but missed the sign, instead we surfaced near the ghost town of Nevadaville:

 Nevadaville's City Hall and Fire Department

Trading Post

Failing to find the "Oh My God" road, we ended up on the Central City Parkway.  I then spied a sign for the "Hidee Gold Mine" and we turned off to explore some more.

Scott rode down this small trail and we ended up near a spot with a nice view of distant mountain peaks.

photo courtesy Scott M.

After some discussion, we decided to pose our rigs on the small mound perhaps 30 ft from the dirt trail.  This would involve a bit of off-road riding in rocky/lumpy grassland, but no big problems.

Video snippet showing the terrain we were riding on to pose the
rigs with the mountains in the background.

It was very windy at this spot, gusts of wind would blow us around sometimes!

Pictures done, I mounted Scarlett to get her back onto the trail.  The starter would crank the engine but it wouldn't start!  Did this several times, checked for fuel in the tank and there was plenty, weird.  I then look down towards my right foot and saw a small stream of gas dripping off the EFI throttle body!  Oh Oh.

Turns out, the plastic coupler which mates the right side fuel line to the right side fuel injector had broken off at the base!  Dammit.

photo courtesy Scott M.

I used a vise grip plier to cut off the fuel flow and assessed the situation.  Initially, it looked pretty grim since the plastic part that had broken, I didn't have a spare of.  I did have a spare of the left side plastic coupler though and after a brief examination; Scott and I determined it should work even though it wouldn't be fully secure via the mounting screw going into the throttle body.

This is the left side coupler, on the right throttle body....note the
tab with the screw hole can't be used in this position.
photo courtesy Scott M.

I managed to remove the broken plastic piece from within the fuel hose, mounted the plastic coupling (you just snap it off and on, rubber gaskets hold it in place, along with the mounting screw.

Fingers crossed, I thumbed the ignition button and Scarlett sprang to life like nothing had happened.

I put my tools away, secured the plastic coupler with a zip tie and rode Scarlett back onto the dirt road and back onto the Central City Parkway.

photo courtesy Scott M.

Scott and I rode down to I-70 and we sprinted along the slab to the Bergen Park exit where we went to get gas.  After tanking up, Scott and I split up as it seemed the repairs were holding and Scarlett was running fine.

I would stop less than a minute later as I remembered I had not re-tightened the hose clamps holding the right side air tube to the airbox and throttle body!

I made my way back to the metro area via the I-70 Super Slab and elected to take the C-470 Slab back towards home.  As I neared the Yosemite Street exit, Scarlett suddenly lost power!  Looking down, I saw the fuel was actively spraying my right boot with gasoline.  Doh!

I swiftly drifted my way onto the side of the highway and shut off her engine.  A quick look and I was relieved to see the fitting was fine, the hose had just come loose!  You see, I'd failed to install a small hose clamp to hold it in place.  My fault, now I had a gasoline soaked right foot but the rig was once again running.

I dug out the appropriate hose clamp from my spares box and installed it.  I motored on home, feeling a burning sensation beginning to build on the top of my right foot within the fuel-soaked boot.  It got pretty bad, had to stop to spray down my boot with all my water bottles.  This helped a tiny bit but I still felt quite the burning sensation as I neared home.  

I parked Scarlett and hurriedly doffed my riding gear and ran cool water on my right foot once I'd removed the boot and gas-soaked sock.  Arrrgh.  It felt like a bad sunburn and looked quite red for a bit.

Martha, my loving wife, got me some Aloe Vera lotion and it helped soothe the pain away eventually; along with the ingestion of some ibuprofen for the inflammation.  She said I had a first degree burn irritation due to the 30 minute + soaking in gasoline.

So, quite the adventure today.  Had a great outing, riding with Scott, playing on the dirt roads and fields.

Previously: Warm Friday Sunset