Monday, July 22, 2013

Oh, Deer

Remember, a few weeks ago I installed all new brake pads?  Well, they need to be broken in for maximum braking and for maximum consistency.  I recently went on that long weekend trip, and got them well broken in on a variety of roads and many braking situations.

Meanwhile, I am still getting a good feel for their stopping ability.  One way I do this is by doing maximum-effort stops without skidding a tire.  I am not yet certain just how much maximum effort is, but I keep probing to try to define it on my bike.

I was doing that on the way back from my trip on a road with no traffic behind me.  I had done four or five practice stops from around 55 miles per hour, and felt as though I was gaining a little bit of that feel for their stopping power.

I had just about decided that I was done with the braking practice for the day, so I could just enjoy the rest of the trip home. 

That is when I spotted something. 

In the road. 


At 10:30 in the morning. 

In full daylight.

A deer. 

Standing in the road.
(Not this deer.)

I applied my brakes gently for a second, then firmly, as I had been practicing, coming to a stop while edging over to the side of the road in case another vehicle came up behind me and didn't see me or couldn't stop as rapidly.

About that time, another deer came from the embankment on the other side of the road and they both paused for a bit, then bounded off to my right and disappeared into the undergrowth.  

David Hough, in his book Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well, recommends that you come to a stop when animals are in or near the road because they are so unpredictable. That seems like good advice to me. 

It wasn't a close call, but could have been if I had not aggressively slowed to a stop.  I am glad I had been practicing.  ...and the brakes were certainly warmed up for that stop! 

The lesson: It pays to practice your technique.  You never know when an animal of one kind or another might cross your path.  This time, I needed to use one of the techniques right after some practice.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Mirror Image

For any of you who ride a sportbike, the rear view mirrors are many times not very effective.  My Kawasaki Ninja 650R has this problem: I can see my arms pretty well, up close on the sides, and a little of what is behind me, but that is not really sufficient. 

There are a few fixes to this problem, including installing mirrors on the controls like a Kawasaki Versys,

adding a bar-end mirror,

putting in a hinge extender available from Twisted Throttle,
or putting a spacer between the factory mirror mounting location and the mirror base. 

The stalks of the first option may be effective, but they don't look so good on a sportier bike, and they would interfere with my Hippo Hands or the Ducks Unlimited hand warmers  The bar-end mirrors might be better, but the Hippo Hands are similarly in the way, and the bar weights would have to be turned down or removed to mount this style mirror.  The hinge extender works well, but it costs north of $70.00. 

I chose the last alternative, the spacer at the base, because it preserves the original look and costs less, at around $43 including shipping.  

I looked through ebay to see what I could find.  Seller rrbarna in Canada lists spacers for several bikes, one of which is the 650R.  Buy-it-now set the transaction in motion.  Gotta love ebay. 

A little while later, I received an e-mail saying they were out of stock in the U.S., but that they would send them from their manufacturing facility in Hungary.  Yes, Hungary, over there in the former eastern Europe.  I had concerns.  Despite the shipping distance, they arrived in about a week.

The spacers are nicely CNC machined from solid black, hard, slippery plastic.  The color matches the mirrors nicely.  They come with four stainless steel extension studs, so the original nuts can secure them to the instrument stay from beneath the cowlings.

Although there were no instructions, I managed to figure out how to put them on.  That engineering degree has come in handy a number of times, now! 

The most direct route to reach the nuts would be to remove the windscreen, the instrument surround, and some other plastic.  Instead, I elected to try to reach up under the cowlings above the front wheel with my 1/4" ratchet and 10mm deep socket.  I had to do this by Braille because you cannot see the nuts from anywhere I could find down there.  Also, you have to be ambidextrous, since you must reach in with your right arm to reach the right mirror and the opposite for the left. 

After some fumbling, I was able to get the mirrors off.  I threaded the extension studs onto the existing ones and tightened them snugly.  Then I slipped the plastic spacers over the studs, matching the contour of the spacer to that of the base of the mirror, and reversed the removal process to reattach them.

The mirrors will be spaced out 1-3/8" further than stock. 

This was easier said than done.  Working blind, and trying to thread the nuts onto the studs was a challenge.  Nevertheless, the method worked and I lived to tell about it, with some cuts and abrasions and a little dirt to mark my battle. 
Don't worry, I'll live. The sacrifices we make for our scooters! 

The finished product, just before a test ride. 

Proper adjustment of the mirrors on a bike is vital.  It is not as important to see directly behind you as it is to see vehicles to the sides.  Of course, lane changing relies both on the image in the mirrors and on a head check.  Scanning for other traffic is also critical so you can react should there be a need.  This includes behind us, to the sides, as well as in front.

I have my mirrors set so I can just barely see the bar-end weights in the lower inside corner of the mirrors for reference.  The rest of the view is of the adjacent road.  I also position them so they are not pointing down at the road or up into the sky.  This gives me a wider view of what is going on behind me. 

A head check (looking to the side and partially behind you by turning your head) is difficult to perform for some people, and you must look rather than use your peripheral vision to check what is around you or where you are about to go.  One trick I have learned is to swing my head down and toward the rear.  That technique gives me more visible area directly behind me.  I also find this method faster and easier on the neck, and reduces the need to twist the shoulders and the resulting effect on the handlebar position. 

When I first got this bike, I was surprised to find that the rear view mirrors are convex, giving a wider view, but making the objects in the mirrors seem closer than they actually are.  I couldn't find any reference to this fact in the literature I received with the bike. 

[Well, how's the mirror image, Bucky?] 

Oh, yes.  I took a short ride to get the mirrors adjusted properly, and I think the mirror extenders are a good solution to the limited view offered by the original Ninja 650R mirrors.  I can now see further behind me to the sides, so that the mirrors, plus head checking, plus peripheral vision covers all of the area I should see.  It is much better than before. 

What is your solution to this issue?


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Motorcycles and Freedom

I found out something recently.  It relates to our freedom -- and to motorcycles in a small way.

What have I discovered?  That my bride's father, who served in the Navy in World War II, rode a motorcycle while serving in a far-away land.  He is one of so many who sacrificed to win the war in the Pacific.

During his earthly days, he spoke little about his time of service, but piecing together some information from his bride and from others, and his notes on a few old photographs, it turns out that he saw action between 1944 and 1946.  Recall that the United States was drawn into the war in the Pacific on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and ended on August 14, 1945, when the Japanese Empire formally surrendered.  

Born in 1926, my father-in-law graduated high school in 1944.  He entered the Navy in mid-1944.  He wanted to serve in Underwater Demolition, but his family and girl friend -- later his wife -- talked him out of it, along with his eyesight that wasn't good enough to meet the standard.  Instead, he trained for a Naval Advanced Base Unit (NABU) at Naval Training Station Great Lakes, joining NABU-12.  The NABU was designed to set up mobile and fixed bases in the event of major landing operations within, and beyond, the territorial United States. 

He landed, under fire, on the third largest island in the world, Borneo, near the town of Balikpapan.  The battle there took place in July of 1945. 

View Larger Map

As a heavy equipment operator, he helped prepare the island base.

He also buried the enemy dead to prevent disease, an unspeakable duty of his job.

The island was in the wet, sweltering tropics.   

Christmas of 1945 was spent there.

Among the Navy equipment they had there, was this 27-foot motor launch with a V-8 engine in it. 
He seemed particularly interested in that big engine.

The motorcycle I spoke of earlier was a BSA M20, probably manufactured in the last half of the 1930s, though he identified it as a 1929 model on his photographs.  The M20 was not manufactured that early, so he was probably mistaken.  Here is a video describing the M20. 

That is Dad sitting on the tank in front. 

Here is the same bike, ridden by another young sailor. The bike was said to have been nicked -- maybe borrowed -- from the Australian military personnel on the island. 
Looks like a great way to travel on wonderful roads -- not!  I suppose that it provided some basic transportation, and a little fun along with it. 

And here is another bike with a sidecar.  This one is a Harley-Davidson, judging by its front suspension. 

When troops left the island in 1946,they destroyed any equipment they were not taking with them.  Among this was that motor launch with the big V-8 engine Dad liked so much.  He spoke many years later about hating to see it scuttled. 

The natives here posed for the camera.  Dad related that the women of the island tended to be bare-chested most of the time, so the service men gave them tee shirts to wear. 
Caution: Adult content
However, for convenience, the ladies cut openings in the tee shirts in strategic places.  (Not shown here.) 

Despite the horror of war, there was humor.  Amongst the items in Dad's photo album was this:

Thank you Dad for helping ensure our freedom and making the world a safer place. 

That precious and hard-won freedom forged by the blood and sacrifice of soldiers like Dad is being lost now, squandered away by traitorous politicians.  May God keep His hand on our country, as He has since its founding, and not forsake us to our evils ways. 

More on Pearl Harbor: