Sunday, October 28, 2007

172 mile ride to get coffee

Sounds fun, eh? Believe it or not, this kind of thing is pretty commonplace among my Region 4 Buddies from STn.

The meeting place was Cedarburg, WI, 10 AM. It was 33°F when I left home, so I had to bundle up pretty seriously. I decided to take the back roads there, thinking that not only would it be more scenice, but perhaps less cold because I'd be going 25-65 mph instead of 60-80 mph.

I was wearing: long johns, a T-shirt, a thick fleece sweatshirt, a ski jacket, (it has a full collar and my motorcycle jacket doesn't) ski gloves, riding pants with liner, Gore-Tex Oxtar Matrix boots, and SmartWool socks. It was almost exactly 80 miles there. By the time I got there, it had warmed up to about 46°.

I stopped in the meeting place, Cedarburg Coffee Roastery, but it was packed, and they didn't have any food aside from bagels & pastries. So I went next door and got a sandwich and a tea.
Here's the roastery:

A half hour later, my buds started showing up, right as I was finishing breakfast.

We hung around for about 2 hours before I got bored of not riding and headed for home. Also, the wife wanted some quality time together, so I thought this was a good way to oblige her. Going home, I took the interstate, and was pleased to note that BurgerTime had no objections to maintaining 80 mph for about 70 miles straight. Heading home, I managed 61.6 mpg, in the 60° temperatures.

Here is the thread about this trip. On Page 3 of that thread, I posted some photos of my STn buddies.

On the way home, I realized that I needed a half inch torque wrench to torque the rear axle nut onto the FJR when I put the rear wheel back on. So I stopped in Home Depot, and they relieved me of $167. I did get a few other things; the torque wrench was only $70. It came in a blow-molded case. One surprise was that it also ratchets! The other surprise was how long it is; the case is 28" long, the wrench itself is only a couple inches shorter. It is one of the preset-type torque wrenches. To use it, one sets the torque, in either foot-pounds or Newton-meters, send the direction of the ratchet, and tighten until it clicks. Very nice.

Aside from the torque wrench, I got a Master combination key box, for when Kate or I locks ourself out of the condo or garage. I'll screw this to some piece of wood trim outside. Alos, I picked up I got a bunch of the high efficiency fluorescent bulbs that are a direct replacement for the incandescent bulbs that are so inefficient. They only draw 13 W, yet the put out the same amount of light as the 60 W bulbs they replace. Home Depot finally is carrying some that don't have mercury in them, so I bought two six packs of them. We replaced the vanity bulbs in our bathroom with these, and Kate says these are way too bright for 5 AM. They have some 9 W ones that supposedly put out the same amount of light as a 40 W incandescent bulb, but that's going to have to wait a while. I don't dare venture into the Depot again soon.

I also got a sweet pair of Fiskars utility shears that are titanium-nitride coated. They advertise that they can cut small wires and such. They should come in handy around the house for cutting open those god-forsaken plastic clamshell packages.

I just love this patch. I want to join the police too!

Not a bad turnout, at the coffee meet; I'd guess 20-25 bikes.

Friday, October 26, 2007

It's raining and I'm happy anyhow...

"How can this be?!" one might ask.

Well, today is the day I decided to remove the rear wheel from the FJR. I was in the (relative) comfort of my garage instead of shaking my fist at the heavens. The tire is worn out, after 7,500 blissful miles, mostly two-up. The tire was an Avon Azaro AV46. It was a dual compound tire, meaning it's softer rubber on the edges and harder in the middle. (good mileage AND handling)

On with the story.

I visited FJRTech and printed up the instructions. After making sure I had all the tools, I printed up the pages on rear wheel removal from the Yamaha service manual. Next, I brought the boombox down to the garage and stoked it up with Mozart's early piano sonatas. The job took two CDs, and I managed to get through the job without beer, and without bleeding. Yikes! I have cursed myself. No mechanical job in the garage is complete until blood is drawn.

I really had fun. I didn't realize how much I've missed getting my hands dirty, and getting intimate with my electro-mechanical fun machines. The key is to have the right tools, and to have plenty of time for the job. By taking one's time, one noticed little things about one's bike that need attention. These things are mostly hazed over by mechanics other than the one who rides the bike. The hardest part was getting the bike on the centerstand on those blocks; I needed Kate's help.

After I get the rear wheel with new tire back on, I'll do the front. Also on the maintenance schedule for this winter is new sparkplugs, change of coolant, check front brake pad wear, and change of oil. (Amsoil 10W-40)
I've found that the shifting action immediately became slicker after I changed to Amsoil synthetic. Also, Amsoil seems to be the only oil company with the guts to admit that you can double your oil change interval by using their oil compared to petroleum-based oils. The other companies are so anxious to sell us more oil that they don't admit it. Their loss. I prefer to support the little businesses whenever possible anyhow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Earplug Usage

Well, it's just about all been said on this thread at BurgmanUSA

You know the difference in the wind noise between wearing a helmet and not when riding? Well, when you wear earplugs, it is like making it that much quieter again.

The Ear Plug Superstore has some great deals. Try the Howard Leight -33 dB models. After about 10 minutes of riding with plugs, you'll not want to go back. Wind noise is attenuated, but after your ears adjust to the newfound quiet, you can still hear everything else just as clearly. As one poster pointed out in the thread linked above, I want to be able to hear my grandchildren.

If this is too much of a commitment, buy a smaller package of them from the local drugstore.

Sorry to seem bossy, but I have this odd vision that maybe one non earplug user will listen, be open-minded, give them a try, and not be deaf, all thanks to me.

It's my weird little way of trying to be a hero. ^_^

Latest Moto-Lust: talk me out of it!

A couple weeks ago, the new Cycle World magazine arrived, with a review of the new Kawasaki KLR650. I am drooling. I have always been kind of fascinated by dual sport bikes. It seems like they do so many things so well:

  1. Tall suspension soaks up potholes without rattling the rider's teeth
  2. Modest torquey engine output makes lots of useful torque, but without so much horsepower that it's hard to stay out of trouble.
  3. Ever been on a nice ride, then have the road suddenly change to dirt or gravel and have to either turn around or continue on scared? No more!
  4. Tall seating position gives the rider a birds-eye view of traffic. Also, if you get hammered by a car, it is more likely to be at knee level instead of chest level. Better to have a wrecked leg than a wrecked ribcage, in my opinion.

The problem is that I just bought a new maxi-scooter, a Suzuki Burgman 400. (see previous posts) There aren't many dirty roads around here, but for some reason, I still lust after a new KLR. I love the scooter, and I also love the FJR. My wife also loves both of them, and we're still paying for both of them. What's a guy to do?

In the back of my mind, I'm considering selling the FJR in favor of the KLR. I'll be much less likely to get speeding tickets, for one thing. Much less likely to go 130 mph for another. (it is soooo tempting on the FJR, since it is so able to do it. Oddly, they seem to get about the same fuel economy. around 45 mpg. How is this possible, when the KLR's engine is half the size and less than half the power of the FJR's? I thought they did quite a bit better than that...

I'm having fantasies of riding on a pohole-stricken stretch of road and smiling the whole way. Of riding through the turn that would be perfect if not for the bumpiness, but not having the bumpiness ruin it for a change.

Sadly, I'm the kind of person who will sit here and stew about it all winter. Ready to jump and do something rash next spring. Talk me out of it fellas. That, or talk me into it such that I won't regret selling the FJR to make it happen. ;)

Well, Burgertime has over 1500 miles on him now. I am still digging it quite a bit. The bike is just so relaxing to ride.

I figure a lot of people may read this blog having other riding experience, and they may wonder what it is like to ride a Burgman 400 compared to their current ride. Luckily, I have had riding experience on a lot of different bikes, so I can give you a good frame of reference here.

Compared to smaller scooters:
My first scooter was a 2006 Honda Metropolitan. It was a great little scooter for around town transportation and even grocery shopping. It handles as easily as a bicycle. Easier in some ways, since the seat is so low and it is a step through.

Compared to the Met, the Burgman is big & bulky. U-turns require much more skill & balance. Swerving the Burgman cannot be accomplished as quickly, so you're more apt to hit potholes on the Burgman. The Burgman's ride is much smoother, due to the larger diameter wheels and longer wheelbase. Comfort wise, the Burgman offers a bit of back support where the smaller scooters do not. Also, the Burgman gives real wind protection. It isn't such a big deal at speeds less than 30 mph, but above that, it is a godsend.

Economy is much worse on the Burgman. On my Metropolitan, I got about 105 mpg. On the Burgman, I get around 63 mpg.

Aside from handling, the main difference is in range. I have access to all roads on the Burgman. I can go out of town, on the expressway. Surprisingly, acceleration from 0-15 mph is similar between the Burgman and the Metro. You see, the Burgman's clutch is spinning up to 15 mph. After 15 mph, the variable pulley system engages on the Burgman and it becomes a LOT quicker.

Lean angle is better on the Burgman, but since the Met had such a short wheelbase, it turned quicker anyway.

Compared to Midsize Scooters:
After I got wanderlust and sold the Metropolitan, I bought a Genuine Scooter Co. Buddy 125. This bike was actually quicker than the Burgman 400 from 0-30 mph. The handling is much more nimble than the Burgman's, but not quite as nimble as the Metro's.

To be honest, I kind of miss this bike. It was a very good mix of around-town useful and fast enough to hit most roads. (all local roads) I still had the occasional car on my tail on the 45-55 mph local roads with this bike, and it was quite tiring to ride more than about 40 minutes on it. The wind just wears you out. Many midsize scooterists will alleviate this problem with a windshield.

The ride on the Burgman is much smoother, and the wind protection is better. In high speed turns, the Burgman is much more stable. When I was leaned over say 45° on the Buddy or Metro and hit a bump in the road, it got pretty scary. I started pogoing around. The Burgman's suspension just sucks it up.

Compared to Midsize Motorcycles
The Burgman is much more stable than midsize sporting motorcycles. The bulk of my experience on these bikes was from my 2000 Suzuki SV650, which I put 35,000 miles on. The wheelbase is shorter on the motorcycle, so it is more nimble in corners. This is mostly due to the longer wheelbase of the Burgman. However, even though the Burgman has a longer wheelbase and less aggressive steering geometry than the sporty midsize bikes, it transitions from side-to-side just as quickly. You see, the Burgman has a much lower center of gravity. The engine is just above the ground and is at about shin/knee level instead of thigh/hip level. On motorcycles, one has to balance stability against nimbleness. If you gain some of one, you lose some of the other. With the Burgman, you keep them both and just lose some power instead. BurgerTime weighs about as much as my SV650 did; right around 400 lbs. The SV was blisteringly quick in comparison. Once I got a windshield on it, it got about 55 mpg, so fuel economy is about the same, even though the bike is 250cc bigger. The brakes on the SV were a little better too. Fun-wise, they are about the same, but it takes a more mature rider to appreciate the Burgman fully. Nothing compares to throwing a light, quick motorcycle around in the twisties. Leaning my torso to bias the weight, going to the edges of the tires. Coming out of a turn and applying the throttle and accelerating past the speed limit...What fun! However, it is hard to stay out of trouble, I've found. On BurgerTime, I've found that it isn't so hard to stay out of trouble. I can lean almost as far on the Burgman as I could on the SV, but since acceleration is good instead of great, I didn't get up to "go to jail" speeds before I realized it. Also, on the Burgman, I don't feel the need to lean so far over in every corner. I'm satisfied with a moderate lean most of the time instead of a deep lean.

In the long run, the Burgman is more comfortable than midsize motorcycles, because of the variety of seating and foot positions that are available to the Burgman rider. I can stretch my legs out and keep them there with the Burgman. I can sit up straight or slouch. I can scoot back and forth on the seat to vary my arm positions.

Compared to Small Motorcycles
I had a Ninja 250 and a Nighthawk 250 in the past. Fun little bikes. The Ninja was more fun than the Burgman. It is so light, and I could use all the engine all the time. Shifting up through the gears, leaning way over, and not even speeding! (much) it got about 65-70 mpg. I plan to have another one of these some day. The Nighthawk was more upright, and more fuel efficient, but not as much fun. Plus, the damn thing took forEVER to warm up, so for cross-town type trips, it wasn't even worth the trouble. It was hesitating all the time when I gave it gas.

For cross town trips, the Burgman excels vs. the small motorcycles. The motorcycles seemed to take longer to warm up. Maybe it was just that the Burgman is fuel-injected, so the warm-up is computer-managed. Also, the Burgman has a huge, locking, inherent storage space, where the small motorcycles need to be adapted. When I arrive somewhere on BurgerTime, I put my helmet, jacket, and gloves in the trunk under the seat. I arrive as if I came by car. No dirty or wrinkled pant legs, and no drama. There is no need to wear a backpack, which is good. You see, if you carry a backpack, you need to be careful what you put in it, because there is an outside chance that you'll be landing on that, and right against your spine. Wouldn't it suck to break your back because you landed on a can of Coke when that old lady left-turned into you? I actually use a backpack quite a lot, but it goes in the trunk when I'm riding.

Compared to Large Motorcycles
In the past, I have ridden an 1800cc Honda Goldwing and a 1200cc Harley Sportster. My current big bike is a Yamaha FJR 1300 ABS. The Burgman seems about as stable as any of them, with two exceptions: A) With a passenger, the big motorcycles are more stable. B) in a high speed turn, the big motorcycles are slightly more stable. Since the Burgman has a low center of gravity and a stepped saddle, adding a passenger drastically changes the center of gravity, and a lot of the stability is lost. Big motorcycles already have a higher center of gravity and are already over 600 lbs, so adding another 200 lbs. does not make as big of a change to the handling characteristics.

Economy: The Burgman is more efficient. I get 63 mpg on the Burgman in all around riding. I get 47 mpg on the FJR.

Carrying Capacity: About the same, for tour-oriented bikes. On my FJR, I believe the included saddlebags carry about the same amount of luggage as the Burgman's trunk. But the luggage is better integrated into the Burgman, as it doesn't have all that useful room taken up by the mechanics of the bigger engine. Touring bikes have saddlebags sticking out into the wind, whereas the Burgman retains is smooth profile. The idea of ruining aerodynamics for luggage is a compromise I was never really comfortable with, so I wound up buying a Givi topcase for the FJR, which I use 90% of the time instead of the saddlebags. I can put this same topcase on the Burgman and have double the luggage capacity without ruining the aerodynamics of the bike.

Wind Protection: The bigger touring bikes tend to have better wind protection than the Burgman, but a big cruiser's will be far inferior. The FJRs wind protection is probably 20% better than the Burgman's.

Hot Weather Riding: The Burgman winds against all comers. The engine is under your butt and behind you, not between your legs and in front of you. Whatever heat the engine makes never gets to the rider. On the FJR, on an 80°+ day, it is sweaty and uncomfortable, as that 1300cc engine makes a lot of heat that comes right back to the rider. The new FJRs have addressed this to a large extent, but I bet they are still much hotter than BurgerTime. For summertime riding, nothing beats a scooter.

I'll take one each of the big touring bike and touring scooter. They compliment each other so well! The scooter's better in the summer, for shopping, and for commuting. For outright cornering fun and long distance touring, even two-up, the big touring motorcycle wins. If I could also have a small scooter, it would be ideal. But that is always the case, isn't it? It always seems like more is better. For all-around "grab and go" riding, nothing beats a scooter's convenience & versatility.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Last Saturday's ride (Oct. 6th)

Last Saturday, I went on a group ride with some of my homies from STn. It was a good time. (click the link for pix, towards the end of the thread)

Kate and I did 361 miles Saturday on that ride. Kyle really knows how to pick the roads.

Sunday, I did the Slimey Crud Run on BurgerTime. It was also a good time, and it was 367 miles. The saddle pad from Wal*Mart is brilliant.

Tomorrow is a "Pizza Meat".

This Sunday is the Reina Scooter Rally in Milwaukee. Should be a good time!

Keep the shiny side up!


Monday, October 8, 2007

Honda has developed a new automatic transmission; it is hydraulic. Of course, Honda has given it a buzz name instead of just calling it a hydraulic automatic. HFT --> Human Friendly Transmission. Because apparently, previous transmissions were human-hostile...

Anyway, here's the article:

This could change the face of motorcycling & scootering, but it could also fail, if Honda charges too much initially. (as they are prone to do)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Airy accessory seat cushion

... this should completely cure Monkey Butt. What's Monkey Butt? That's when you're riding for more than about half an hour, and your butt starts to go numb. It isn't caused because your seat is too hard. It is caused because the skin on your butt isn't getting any air. You're sweating and it has nowhere to go, so somehow, it just makes your ass numb. It's caused mostly by the fact that factory saddles are covered with vinyl, which doesn't breathe at all, but is waterproof.

So, I saw
this post over at BurgmanUSA and my hopes were up. After all, a simple sheepskin saddle pad at aerostich costs $67. The AirHawk saddle cushions that everyone raves about cost $167!!! So $19 sounded like it was worth a risk. It seems very good so far.
Here's a shot from the thread over at Burgman USA, so you know what to look for, if you're so inclined to try one out for those longer trips:
I'm sure I'll report more on it later. I wouldn't want my readers to go and waste $19, hehehe.

A Foggy Ride to Work Today

Normally, I take the train to work. Today, I wanted to bring a Spektrum DX7 RC transmitter to a coworker who is buying it off of me. Also, I was up at 3 AM for some reason, and I figured I may as well get to work, so I can get out early and maybe take a nap.

Anyhow, the forecast was for dense fog. Boy, they weren't kidding! It was so thick that I actually was wet in some areas by the time I got to work. (30 miles)

At first, I was worried; if an animal was in the road, there's no way I would see it in time to avoid it if I was going 45-55 mph. I figured the smartest thing to do was to catch up to the guy in front of me and just go however fast he's going, keeping relatively close behind. This way, if an animal was there, the car or SUV would plow through it and it wouldn't be so bad for me. Unless the animal was a deer, and it went flying over the car and landed on me. But let's not think of that grim possibility. Hopefully, I've met my deer quota for this year already.

Below is a snapshot of my cubicle at work. Can you spot the evidence that I rode to work in a super-dense fog? ^_^

Monday, October 1, 2007

BurgerTime is Mysteriously quicker after first oil change...

I changed the oil on BurgerTime Sunday. (701 miles) I noticed that there was much more oil in it than is prescribed by The Powers That Be at Suzuki. It was well above the 'F' line on the sight glass.

That got me to thinking:

Did Suzuki do that at the factory to somehow help with break-in routine, or did some ham-fisted mechanic at the dealer do it?

Anyway, after the oil change, I noticed that BurgerTime didn't have to spin so much before (finally) taking off. I used Castrol GTX 10W-40.

Anyone Burgomeisters experience this phenomenon?