Friday, December 27, 2013

2014 HD Ultra review

The lovely spouse rented one for me yesterday and I got a chance to put a several hundred miles on it.  Sad to say, I'm not an upright seating position rider anymore.  My back started hurting at the couple hundred mile mark and never let up.  My goal was to get to Key West for a photo op with the bike.  Leaving Ft. Myers, I logged some slab miles to get a feel for the bike and play with all the doo-dads.  The GL1800 has nothing on the new Ultra for knobs and buttons.  The nav system was nice to have up front and easily visible without much eye shift.  The whole electronics package was a bit much to learn with just a short time to do it.  I managed to figure out how to change stations, adjust the volume on the fly and do simple routing inputs.

Riding the bike - it's a handful to move around under a couple mph.  Once rolling, the weight simply disappears like every other good touring bike.  Being bone stock (sans loud pipes :)), it had a pleasing tone without being overwhelmingly obnoxious.  I had issues with foot placement and adjusting to the heel/toe shifting thing again.  Front brake pedal was too far forward to my liking with a 30" inseam.  The highway pegs?  Totally useless to me.  I couldn't reach 'em!  Handlebar positioning was great for me.  Just enough pitch back and wide enough to not torture the shoulders.  The windscreen was totally wrong for me.  The top of the screen was right at eye level - a serious distraction.  Wind management was decent.  It was cool for Florida, but I don't consider 75* cold.  Since all my gear was back home, I was relegated to a HD half shell and NOTGATT.  Shortly after the obligatory Waffle House breakfast break, I tossed the half shell into the tour pack and said screw it.  Too annoying and loose to be of any use.

Rain management was good except for the windshield height tossing all the water right to my face.  I barely got wet in several typical rain showers for the area.

The engine was nicely set up for low end grunt, but it could use a new fuel map.  It pinged horribly under load at speed when power was rolled on to pass.  There was a noise present that sounded like rockers clattering at all speeds.  The trans had an interesting rattle when slowing for a stop, sounding like a driveshaft u-joint going bad.

The seat was good for a stocker.  I put nearly 400 miles on and could see doing a SS1000 with no problem.  A backrest would be a good idea for me, though.

Heat management compared to the older Ultras I've ridden is MUCH improved.  My legs never felt a bit of heat, but dropping my hand down, I could feel the radiator heat blowing outside my thigh.  Kudos there for sure.


Would I own one?  Nope.  Did I enjoy it?  Yep.  I'd like to try a Fat Boy or a Road King like Don's to see if the slow speed stuff is more manageable.


I didn't make it to KW.  When I got to Miami via US-41 from Marco Island, the storm clouds were menacingly horrific, so I ducked north instead.  I took US-27 north to Lake Okeechobee, hoping to get some pics of the bike at the lake.  There's a 20' berm around it, so that also didn't happen.  I rode west across Route 80 back toward Fort Myers and meandered locally for a bit.  There are no "twisty bits" here to test the agility of the lumbering beast.



In the Waffle House parking lot.



Looking south to Key West.





Shots from the casino parking lot in Miami.  Fugly skies.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Adding a classic dirt bike to the garage

Relearning how to do the dirt dabbing thingie

September 20, 2013

It's a done deal.  I've purchased a 1990 Suzuki DR350S to get back into the trail riding and off-roading stuff.  One of the techs at my local cycle shop was selling off all his superfluous dirt rides and made me a good deal.  The bike had 3611 miles on it, new tires and is very clean for a 23 year old dirt bike.  It's going to be adapted for longer riding trips around the country, avoiding the freeways and high-speed roads.  

Pick-up day!  


After getting it unloaded and taking Phil's trailer back to the shop, I gave it a good bath and starting plotting out mods.


Remembering there were some really sweet left-over foot pegs in the locker from my R1150GS days, I rummaged around in the parts bin and, sure enough, there they were.  They required a bit of grinding to make them fit in the peg mounts, but a die grinder made quick work of it.  Branded Pivot Pegs, they are a much wider base for your foot and tilt about 10* fore and aft to ease the foot angle when standing on them.


Oh, yeah - these were a part of the sales deal.  I picked them up a couple weeks after I got the bike home.




A good friend mentioned to me that Cabelas had a sale going on for the Garmin Oregon 450 trail GPS. Thanks, Scott.  Since they were recently discontinued, it was a really good deal I shared with a few friends.  Right, Mark?  lol  Added a RAM cradle and hardwire power supply, so there's no need to worry about battery life anymore.


Over the past month, I've put nearly 500 miles on the bike 

Late September, we did a local ride that is written up here.  It showed some of the minor weaknesses to be addressed.  It needs more range.  140 miles is just not acceptable for woods riding.  A new Acerbis 4.25 gallon tank will be installed.  I've also come to the firm conclusion I need a new seat before spring.  Seat Concepts gets the nod when the money pit refreshes.

October, 27, 2013

Today, it was remove as much incandescent lighting as possible to reduce power drain on an anemic stator, freeing up power for heated gear to be used.

I got on eBay last week and ordered these things:

Turn signals for front
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&vxp=mtr&item=151151829734

Tail/brake/turn signals for rear
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&vxp=mtr&item=151151792146

Dash LED bulbs
http://www.ebay.com/itm/290673025542?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649


And the flasher unit off ADV Rider forum from a vendor there
http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=920826


The front signals are a direct replacement in wiring. Plug and play. Rear signals have wiring directions in ad. I cut the long pigtail off the stock tail light and used it to ease the install. Later this morning, I'll get the wiring schematic up and post the splicing. I also cut the ends off the old rear turn signals and used them. The only tricky part is grounding. One ground coming off the tail light. I wired the grounds for all the rear lights onto that one wire. Turn signal and tail light ground are black with white trace on bike. The flasher unit on my 350 was on the inside of the left ear headlight mount. Pull the headlight cover, dig it out and replace to make the signals flash properly.
The gauges only had the wedge bulbs replaced with the red LEDs and they're directional install. If they don't light up, pull and reinstall the other way.
Total wattage for incandescents replaced - 93 watts. Total for LEDs? Less than 2 watts. Nice power savings!







Total investment?  $60 for everything.  Oh, yeah - check out the custom plate  :)



11/03/2013

TIme to start making it mine.




The exhaust has been removed for sandblasting and ceramic coating.  I like the quiet of a stock exhaust.  No sense in disturbing the wilderness with that from which I'm trying to escape.



The bike's going down to the frame, getting powder coated, suspension rebuilt, wiring harness totally examined and some modifications made.  New longer range gas tank, freshen the suspension, address the weak points, rebuild the seat for comfort, totally go thru the carburetor to fix the off idle bog and all the bearings checked/cleaned/greased or replaced if bad.

That's the end of the work for today.  I'm in need of a dirt bike stand to remove the suspension.  Harbor Freight has one for $30 to be picked up tomorrow.


Jan 3, 2014


Updates to date:

Front and rear suspension rebuilt.




Carb cleaned and rebuilt






New black Clarke 4.25 gallon tank ordered and received



New CR high handlebars and grips ordered and received

New tubes, Tusk rims and spokes ordered and received because of the corrosion found





Plenty of black spray bomb painting done.




Exhaust removed, sand blasted and repainted












Starting the wheel rebuild today.






Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Riding the Void 8 as my first rally finish



How to Rally Like a NOOB!


Signing up in June, it was one of those "what the hell did I just do?" moments.


After realizing it was just another long, themed scavenger hunt type game, I settled down to wait for the fun to begin.  Two weeks before the rally, the emails from the rally masters started.  When the bonus list hit, it was heavenly.  I could actually sit down, figure out what we were required to do and how long I really wanted to go.


Playing with all the options before the rally book hit the table, the route was pretty much set.  I was riding a bunch in scenic country and planned to enjoy it.  Yeah.  The rally book shows up a few days later.  Going thru the listings, it becomes apparent that reading comprehension is definitely required and a sharp mind can make up quite a few points just by paying attention.

And then, it was time.  As a full time college student, I cut my Thursday evening class with instructor approval (he knew where I was off to and doing).  Got a good night's sleep, up at 3AM at home in White Lake, MI with a full 600 miles to the start on the table.  I headed out the door at 4, intent on missing ALL the traffic in Detroit, Toledo and Cleveland.  It worked.  I flew east until about two hours into Pennsylvania on I-80 to Clearfield when the rain started.  And kept on.  As State College appeared, it was more than time to stop and relax with some food.  It was about 1PM with just a few more hours to Pottstown, so I killed an hour drying out and rehydrating well.  Time's up - lets get to the motel and dry out.





Arriving at the Comfort Inn and walking in to the lobby trailing a huge stream of water, the check in process went quick and I was in the room stripping from both ends.  <grin>  Everything went into the dryer, including the now empty tank bag.  It took two cycles to get everything dry enough to consider wearing again.  Hammy had set up dinner at the mexican restaurant just across the parking lot to honor the Pootstown riders and let us unwind a bit.  Good food, great company and some really interesting conversations.  It helped ease my tension for the first goal - have fun.  Second goal - finish.





Sharing a room with Bruce was a great thing too.  We chatted about this and that, then got everything squared away for the morning.   The pillow was a wonderful thing and I barely remember hitting it with my head.


Up and at it on Saturday, the internal tension started again.  Don't screw it up, dummy!  I made a few last minute additions to the route by adding the YMCA and Motel 6 in town, then dumped the stop in Harrisburg after seeing the traffic snarled the day prior on my way east.  No way in heck was that an option anymore for me.





Instead, I cut SW to Winchester and snagged three bonuses there, including the Cracker Barrel restaurant double pic.  A very nice young lady was obliging when asked to take my picture with the towel in a rocker.

Sample Bonus Listing:



Bonus ID: CKB Available: After 10 a.m. Saturday Lat: Long: Points: 51 
Alan Jackson
An American country music singer raised in Newnan, GA, he is known for blending traditional honky tonk and mainstream country sounds and penning many of his own hits. Alan Jackson has 2 Grammys, 16 CMA Awards, 17 ACM Awards, is a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and in the Georgia Music HOF. In 2009, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. started to carry the "Alan Jackson Collection" which included a special release CD available exclusively at Cracker Barrel, cowboy style shirts and t-shirts, baseball caps, home goods including an old-fashion wooden rocking chair that has a metal plate of Alan's autograph on the headrest; toys, spices and BBQ sauces/rubs and a replica of his own personal cowboy hat. This is a 2 picture requirement: Take a picture at ANY Cracker Barrel Restaurant with you sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch (helmet must be removed not just flipped up) and a picture of your motorcycle with the same Cracker Barrel Restaurant in the background. Submit a business card from the Newnan, GA Cracker Barrel in addition to the required pictures and double the value of this bonus. 



The other two bonuses were stops at the Patsy Cline Memorial Tower and the Rainbow Road.







Bonus ID: RBW Available: 24 Hours Lat: 39.193 Long: -77.92 Points: 31 Sweet Dreams Rt 340 Rippon WV
'Sweet Dreams' tells the story of the passionate, fun-loving, soft spoken, loud-living life of one of country music's - and one of popular music's - greatest singing stars, Patsy Cline. This film covers the years 1956 through 1963, from her rise to fame and the top of the charts through TB talent shows and country bars - through her turbulent marriage to Charlie Dick and the demands of touring which would lead to the fatal plane crash. Take a picture of the Rainbow Road where Patsy had performed and the movie was filmed. 



From there, it was a long run south to the Pink Cadillac Diner in Natural Bridge, VA and a picture of the pink Cadillac in front of the restaurant for my next points.





Filling up, I prepped for the fun riding upcoming thru the Smokies.  It's one of my favorite areas to play.  Nabbing several of the pre-planned stops without a hitch was a calming thing.


They included pictures of:

  1. the Hank Williams Plaque at the Herbert Jones Library in Oak Hill, WV
  2. the "Home of Country Music Star Kathy Mattea" sign located on the "Welcome to Cross Lanes, America's Largest Unincorporated City" sign fence
  3. the Paramount Theater, where the "Achy Breaky Heart" video was filmed
  4. the Ashland Central Fire Station so you can read "Ashland" on the building above the garage door. 
  5. the "Welcome to Olive Hill", KY sign. The entire sign, to include "Hometown of Tom T. Hall" must be visible in the picture. 
  6. the Keith Whitely statue in Sandy Hook, KY
  7. Butcher Hollow, home of Loretta Lynn.  At the Van Lear Coal Miners' Museum, take a picture so the words "Van Lear" and "Coal Miners" are visible       

I was falling behind on time however, ending up getting to my rest bonus nearly two hours late.  I shut the bike off in their parking lot at 12:30AM.





Walked into the Super 8 in Prestonburg, KY, requested a room and a wakeup call for just four hours later, the clerk just gave me "the look".  All you regular rally riders know it for sure.  You really are only staying for that short a time???  Getting the basics up to the room, I got dried off (did I mention it was raining again?).  Hung up the 'stich, stood the boots on end and set my phone alarm.  Riiiiiight.  Hitting the pillow, I dropped right off and slept uninterrupted by the long wakeup call and found a dead phone - for SIX hours.  AUGHHH!!!!  Panic mode.  Toss the stuff in the Givi case, grab the gear and make a dead run for the bike.  I had just enough time to make it back to Fredericksburg without incurring penalties.

I dump the rally routing, set my destination as the host hotel and, sure enough, the Garmin says arrival at 2PM.  Damn, damn, damn.  Mmm-hmm, I made up nearly 45 minutes on the way north and east, enough to stop for a whopping two bonuses just outside Fredericksburg:



  1. Every musician has to start some where and this could very well be one of those places for a star we haven't seen shine yet. Take a picture of the hanging sign that reads "Orange Music Instruction and Supplies" in Orange, VA
  2. Take a picture of the sign at Billy Cooper's Music that reads the same in Orange, VA.  Sign is behind the white van.


Hit the host hotel, got my finishers envelope and set off to figure out the paperwork.  Remember, this is the first rally I'm actually finishing!  Toss the receipts in the pile, make sure the name and rider number were on all the rally book pages and finish up the bonus log.  Every picture/stop must have an entry with date, time, odometer mileage and what you're logging.  If you forget to log it, you lose the bonus aka leaving points at the table.  It looked like nearly 1300+ points as I counted it.  Woo-hoo!  I won't be last, my third possible goal.  Turned in the rally pack and began the wait for scoring while trying to stay awake.  It wasn't too long before I was seated before my scorer, Rick Miller(?).  He set me at ease and we went through the list.  Frack!  I knew that picture at the Kentucky Fire Station was dark, but it didn't pass muster, losing me the 67 points for it via the double live album credit.  Oh, well.  My Tom T Hall picture?  No log entry.  Grrrr.  Stupid rookie error.  My extra three plus hours of rest more than made up for it.  lol!!!  I also screwed up the TXT bonus where we were supposed to send a text to the rallymaster between 6:15 and 7:15 pm on Saturday.





I had a room reserved at the Motel 6 down the road, but wasn't feeling like getting on the bike again.  Sooo, I head for the front desk and see about a room.  YIKES!  They only have suites available, but you only live once.  Pass the card over, ride back to the other side of the motel and get settled in.  The 45 minute shower was wonderful.  Muscles relaxed and freshened up, it was time to go socialize with the gang.  Dinner was stupendous, the other riders delightfully entertaining and the Rally Masters hilarious.  All too soon, it was done.  Back to the room, settle in for the best night's sleep in quite a bit and no deadlines to meet.  The only thing left for the weekend was the ride home and I had a doozy of a fun time planned.





Just 4 miles on I-95 and then it was secondaries all the way to Martinsburg, WV.  From there, over the low mountains via I-68 to Morgantown, then off on Route 250 thru Ohio.  It was a relaxing ride, taking over 12 hours out of my day.  The dog went crazy as he heard the garage door open.  The wife?  All I got was, "it took you longer than you said."  hehehe


Yeah, when I go for a ride, it usually does.


Added today:  the results.  Not first, not last, had tons of fun, ate a lot of Aleve over four days and made bunches of new friends.




And a quiet thanks to the very polite State Trooper in VA that just wanted to see what the grey haired old guy was up to (other than his speed) so early on a Monday morning.  That's my story and I'm sticking with it.  


10/26/2013

Finally getting around to repairing the bike today.  On the way home from the rally, my rear brakes announced they were totally worn out and a rear wheel bearing started to talk too.  I ordered all the parts off eBay for under $75 to do both sets of wheel bearings and all the pads.  Brakes are under 30 minutes work, but the bearings will be done at the college shop on Monday morning when I finally get back on the horse.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Detroit Combat Enduro Touring September 28, 2013


Riding in an abandoned factory can be fun!

Over on ADV, a couple guys suggested an enduro tour of Detroit.  My initial reaction?  HELL, YES!  Today was the day.  Up and moving by 6AM, I got the early morning chores done and the dog fed and walked.  Loaded up the camera, phone and personal protective device into the tank bag.  Routed myself via the local twisty stuff and let it rip.  At 7AM on a Saturday morning, there was no traffic.  I, ummm, made good time.  Yeah, that's what I need to say.  Filled up the tank at the meetup point - 13 Mile and Woodward, then ducked around the corner to the parking lot gathering spot.

M'kay, lets get to the story telling and photo showing.

We left the gathering point 16 bikes strong, a great mix of dirt, street and dual sports.





Our first "stop" was a tour of Palmer Park, a community of mansions in NW Detroit. As we just rolled thru, I didn't get any pictures of the really big, beautiful old houses.  From there, we went south on Woodward to the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.  No tour, but we did get some pics.





Leaving the church, up next was Henry Ford's first plant where he introduced mass production, the Piquette Plant, a National Historic Landmark.  The museum crew were very friendly and, umm, old.  Like might have worked there at one time old.  :D  We helped them push a Model T into the freight elevator to be moved downstairs and outside as a display.  The displays are very cool.  Well worth the visit!











Now, the highlight of the tour for me.  Packard Plant.  Pictures are the story.  Yeah, we rode up on the roof via the large ramps in the plant.




































What a HOOT of a ride.  They're still going, but I cut out early to get some work done at home.