Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rustic Roads Project: Continued

Yesterday was a productive day for me, Rustic Roads-wise. I managed to hit 7 more Rustic Roads. (see photos below) That puts me over the 10 required minimum to win the first Rustic Roads patch. There are 108 dedicated Rustic Roads now. I don't think I'll ever get them all, but when I feel like going for rides and don't have any ideas, I think that's what I'll do. Just try and hit them here and there. In the photos, the shot that is not by a numbered sign is #30. The signs are missing on both ends of this one. I hope I can still get credit for it! Also, you can tell that those are not my usual quality photos. I forgot my camera and had to use my cell phone camera. Bummer. I guess they'll do for evidence purposes.

One thing I'm wanting more than ever these days is a proper GPS for motorcycling. With maps and a compass, one is able to do the same things one can do with a GPS, but frequent stops are needed to change maps, get bearings, etc.

After doing some research, I think I'll probably go with a Garmin 60Cx when I can scrape together a few hundred dollars. This is a handheld GPS, one that has a basemap built in, but also has all the features of a handheld GPS.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Received the Wolfman Expedition Lite Tankbag Today

It was delivered today at work. I slept in this morning. Missed the last train, so I had to ride. I took Burgertime, since it gets better gas mileage (60 mpg vs. 52) and since it is better in traffic. I didn't realize the tankbag was coming today, or I might've taken the KLR.

I took a few available shots of the tankbag on the bike. ISO 800 on the Elph is very grainy, but here's a trick to make the shots usable at those high ISO settings: Take the photo at the highest quality and highest resolution. Then, when you reduce them in size to 800 x 600 or 640 x 480, they don't look terrible. They still don't look great, but at least they don't look terrible. Good enough for a blog at least, hehehe.

The funny thing is that I haven't really needed the extra storage so far. The thing I missed most about having a tankbag was the map pocket.

I'm all set for the annual STn Region 4 meet in a couple weekends.

In other news, Kate got a basket for the handlebars of her bicycle, so that she can take Floyd for bike rides. Here's a short youtube video of it in action. If you (or your wife) has a small dog and might like to try this, it is called a Snoozer buddy, and we got it on ebay for $50.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rustic Roads Project

The state of Wisconsin has 108 designated Rustic Roads. They are old-fashioned country roads, but all of them are a little more scenic than usual. They are either embedded in scenic landscapes, rolling hills, twisty bits... something interesting for the motorist.

The state gives a patch to each motorcyclist who sends in a photo of himself or his bike at the numbered sign. If 10 are sent in, a certain patch is given out. If 25 are sent in, another one is given out. They have even introduced a special one for 100! I don't know if I will get that many, but it will be fun to try.
Here are a couple of shots I got while I was out hitting four of them today:

This one started it all out. Another motorcyclist even showed up just in time to fill in the empty road.

Here's the start of another one I hit today.

Later on, it got very hilly; a nice change from the Chicago suburbs.

Sailor Dan's bar was along one of those, I think it was #11.

Now that I have a KLR and occasionally call myself an "Adventure Rider," I have to take opportunities like this from time to time. It looked to me like an access road for the utility company to get to the power lines. I didn't see any signs that said "No Trespassing" or "Private Property," so I went ahead and explored a bit. I stopped and deflated my tires from 30 psi to 15 psi, so I would have enough traction in the grass and dirt.

A bit further in, it got rougher and rougher, until it looked like this:
...and finally, like this. I wound up in some farmer's back yard. I had to turn around so as not to be rude, riding across his property uninvited.

When I got back to the road, I re-inflated to ~30 psi.
It was a little sad to have to ride home again. It was a great afternoon. The summer here in the midwest has been pretty weak. There were only a few days where the temperature got above 90°F. Most of the summer, it has been in the 70s, which is fine with me!
I kept an eye on oil level at the sight glass. After this ride of around 170 miles, I don't seem to have burned any more oil. I assume this is because I was nearly always below 4500 RPM.
I can't wait to get started on the Schnitz 685cc big-bore kit. I think it is a little ironic that my four stroke motorcycle burns more oil than it would if it were a two-stroke. At least if it were a two-stroke 650cc bike, it would make a ton more power and weigh a lot less!
The BeadRider seat pad is great. Again, not as comfortable as an aftermarket saddle, but I didn't get Monkey Butt either, so it is doing its job.

Yerkes Update

As it turned out, I swung by Yerkes again today. Here are some better photos, as promised:

Here's the main doorway.

These are the little busts above and to each side of it. I like the details like this. Modern designs don't spend any time or effort on embellishments that make the buildings look so nice.

Here's what the columns look like.
Here's the view from the back.

A couple shots from the front:

Here's one of the smaller towers, and the lion guarding it.

Here's the tower with the large refractor.

Visiting "The Birthplace of Modern Astrophysics"

This is pretty late, but I'm just getting through some of my pictures now. This was the first ride more than 10 minutes I took when I got the new KLR.

It is my favorite local place to go, and I highly recommend visiting if you're in the area. It is located in Williams Bay, WI, and it is called Yerkes Observatory. It is home to the world's largest refracting telescope and was built in 1897. Wikipedia has a nice entry on it.

The part about selling the land to a real estate developer is absolutely heartbreaking. They would surely ruin it. Read the details in the Wikipedia article above.

The photos above were taken on my cell phone, and as such, are not up to the usual standard. I apologize and I promise to add better ones at a later date. As a side note, when you are shopping for a cell phone, I highly recommend that you ignore the number of megapixels that is advertised. It doesn't really matter. The sensor is tiny, the lens is tiny and the quality will never look good anywhere except on a cell phone's screen. One of the best uses I've found for it is snapping pictures when I don't have a camera on me when I would otherwise have nothing. Another good application is when I have to part between cars, I'll use that camera to take photos of the license plates of the cars between which I parked. That way, if I come back to find my bike knocked down, I'll have a VERY good idea of where to start looking.

A country ride to the farmstand

A lot of my compatriots from pride themselves on what rugged terrain they take their bikes on. I'm pretty jealous of the beautiful scenery they have in other parts of the country: Mountains, miles and miles of trails through the woods, desert.

But I guess we each have our own thing. Here in the midwest, I have to try pretty hard to even find a gravel road, much less dirt trails that actually go somewhere. But, one of my mottos is that there is a bright side to most things.

Living in the middle of the Corn Belt this time of year, I can ride 20 minutes to a farm stand and get sweet corn that was just picked this morning for $4 per dozen. This is very very good. Kate and I eat a lot of it every year around this time.

One day when I was out for a ride I saw one such sign for sweet corn at a ma 'n pa farmstand. As soon as I saw the tractor mailbox, I knew it would be good. The Givi V46 topcase has been the single wisest addition to my last two bikes. Not only does it give 46L of storage space, but also a great backrest for my wife when she joins me.

I stopped to get some. The father (farmer apparently) let his two little girls set up and run the farmstand, probably keeping the profits for themselves. As I show closer photos, see if you can spot any signs the stand was set up by little girls.

Well, I thought it was pretty well-done anyway, and those were the best apples I've ever had.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My new KLR650 is an oil-burner

I had read on and on that the 2008 KLRs burn oil for some reason or another. I had also read that Kawasaki fitted a larger piston ring for the 2009 models.

Assuming they had fixed the issue, I bought myself a 2009 KLR650. For the first 1500 miles, it didn't burn any oil. I was going easy on it, keeping the throttle below 4000 RPM for the first 600 miles, then below 6000 RPM for the next 400 miles. (per Kawasaki's break-in instructions)

Nevertheless, my KLR is now an oil-burner. On a recent 450 mile day to central Indiana and back, I went through a quart of oil on the expressway. At least I didn't burn my engine up, like this poor sucker. On the above-mentioned fora, there are a couple theories. One theory runs that Kawasaki has used some cheap cylinder liner, that soon goes out of round. Once it becomes even slightly oval-shaped instead of round, oil of course gets by the piston rings.

The other theory is that the oil is "aspirated" out of the crankcase somehow.

Over the years, there have been several suggested modifications (as opposed to farkles) for the KLR650:

- 685cc big-bore kit
- "Doohickey" modification (cam chain tensioner)
- Thermo-Bob (bypass thermostat system, for more constant engine temperatures year-round)
- PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) valve addition

Some folks have reported that the insertion of a $4 PCV valve in the crankcase ventilator hose was enough to stop the oil consumption. Others said that after several thousand miles, they burn oil anyway.

After exhaustive research, I have decided to install the Schnitz 685cc big-bore kit. My good buddies at and have all reported that this forged piston kit resolves the oil burning issue once and for all. Not only that, but it yields a 6 hp gain and some torque as well. It is going to involve a pretty extensive engine tear-down, but I'm game. After all, that was part of the reason I bought the KLR in the first place: it is friendly to home mechanics. Today, I called them up and ordered it. I spoke to Ryan Schnitz (son of owner) and Shana Schnitz (daughter of owner) in the process. The mother also works there. Very nice. Not only am I supporting an American company, but a proper Ma 'n Pa store! I'm pretty excited about that. They also carry a lot of the other recommended mods for the KLRs.

Over the last couple of days, I have bought both the Kawasaki manual and the Clymer service manual. If you're shopping for service manuals, do not bother looking for the Clymer manual on ebay. It is over 100% more expensive than it can be found at other retailers.

I'll post more about the progress of KLR mechanical mods in the near future. I am going to the regional meet in a couple weeks. I won't be starting the install until after then.

Time to start the farkling!

Czesc Kuba i Malgorzata. Bardzo sie ciesze ze czytacie moj blog, dziekuje. Postaram sie czesciej umieszczac nowe informacje oraz zdjecia. Moj polski jest coraz lepszy, nie sadzicie??? hehehe

(That part was for my international readers)

For those of you who don't know, "farkling" is the act of adding features to a motorcycle or scooter, which are not required, but increase comfort or convenience.

Last week, I added two farkles to the KLR650:

a) A tap on the battery for Slime's "Powersport Inflator", and
b) A Beadrider saddle pad

Here's a shot of the beadrider pad installed on the KLR:

As many professional drivers will tell you, putting one of these on the seat of one's car, bus, or truck makes a long time on a seat more comfortable. Why? Because otherwise, after a while, no air gets to one's butt. When that happens, it is only a short time until Monkey Butt sets in. (Monkey Butt is when one's butt goes numb, and makes one feel like it is bright red and painful, like the Japanese Snow Monkey or Macaque) With this simple seat pad, I'm able to ride hundreds of miles without Monkey Butt. My wife tells me that her dad used to use these pads in Poland. I think they originated in India.

This was intended as a temporary attempt at long distance comfort. If it worked, I would save myself $600 that is required for a Russell saddle. If not, I've only lost $40.

The KLR has tubed tires. All dirtbikes have tubed tires because the spoked wheels will not hold air like the wheels of tubeless tires. This is the reason I bought some equipment with which I could fix a flat at the side of the road or in the middle of the woods. The first item was the Slime inflator mentioned above. If you click on the link, you can see that the inflator itself is about the size of 4 cell phones. It fits in a little case. Last weekend I used it when a buddy and I went down to an all terrain park. We deflated our tires to 15 psi for better off-road traction, and were able to quickly reinflate them before getting back on the road home. This little inflator worked very well.

While I was at Slime's website, I noticed that they have a high-end inflator too. The ones that are available in the USA are usually very cheap, low quality ones that are made in China. On one visit to Poland, my father-in-law, Kuba, bought a high-quality tire inflator that looked similar to this one. I think I may get one of those for the car in the near future, along with some Slime.

The next episode will discuss the oil burning that the KLR650 has become famous for. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Time for an update

Well, after much deliberation, I've traded in my trusty FJR for a humble KLR. Lots of folks think I'm nuts, including my wife. I went from 140 hp to 40 hp. From 90 ft-lbs. of torque to 38. From fuel injection to mechanical carburation. From strong, fantastic antilock brakes to adequate non-ABS. From full wind protection to only chest and some upper leg wind protection.

Why did I do it? I was just done with the FJR. Even bikes like that have weaknesses. For the FJR, it was engine heat. I could not bear to ride it most of the summer because it quickly became hot and uncomfortable. For me at least. Kate just loved it, didn't feel any heat, and thinks I just created a reason to get a new bike. To address the heat concern, I bought a Kawasaki KLR650. Its 650cc single cylinder engine, even when it makes its maximum heat, is hardly noticeable. The suspension travel is double what the FJR had, so it just glides over our potholed and frost-heaved northern roads.

It all started when I visited my sister a couple years ago in LA and rented one of the new KLRs on which to enjoy southern California. I just had a blast on those mountain roads, even with only 40 hp. It was just quick enough to be fun, and had a very smooth ride. I had been thinking about it ever since.

Now, I have one of my own. Here are a couple of crappy cell phone pictures of the new bike:

After yesterday's 400+ mile ride to the all terrain park, I'm just over 2000 miles on it now. So far, there are only two things that concern me:
1) If I get a flat, it is going to be a pain in the butt to fix it, as this bike as tubed tires.
2) It burns oil if I cruise any faster than about 63 mph. (70 indicated)
Item 1) is common to any bike with tubed tires, including cruisers and all dirtbikes. That doesn't make it any easier to cope with though. Also, when an inner tube gets punctured, the air leaves very quickly, as opposed to gradually, as on tubless tires. The bright side is that the bead doesn't need to be super-tight, as on tubeless, so changing one's own tires can be a lot easier.
Item 2) really bothers me. A modern, well-designed engine does not use oil. Kawasaki made some upgrades to the engine of the KLR with the release of the 2008 model year. Why they didn't also fix this problem is a complete mystery to me. It was well-documented in the 2008s, so I held off. They supposedly fitted a larger piston ring for 2009, which supposedly would solve the problem. I'm not sure just how much it uses, but my first guess is about 1/2 qt. per 100 miles, at 72 mph. (80 indicated) I'll keep an eye on this. If it keeps up past about 4,000 miles, I'll either fit a 685cc aftermarket upgrade kit or get rid of the bike and get a V-Strom 650, Triumph Bonneville, or even a BMW boxer. It'd be a shame though, as I really like the character of the thumper engine.