Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day


This Memorial Day, remember that only two forces were willing to die for us;
Jesus who died for our souls, and
the American soldier, who is willing to die for our freedom.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Got My Goat

The other day, I went out on a quick ride of only sixty or so miles to break in a set of new brake linings and a new rear tire.  It had been raining for several days and it threatened rain in the morning, but I went out anyway, taking my rainsuit, glove covers, and boot covers along just in case.

I wanted to go on a route that would not put too much braking stress on the new linings until they have around 250 miles on them.  That new rear tire could also be a bit slick.

I laid out a tentative route that was augmented by some wandering around on roads near Pickens South Carolina.  I wanted a few mostly sweeping curves and quite a few places to apply the brakes to get them accustomed to the old disks.

To my surprise, at an intersection stop sign, I came across a man and two goats.  One goat was within a fenced field near the road, but the other was loose and became very interested in me as I came to a stop.  He came across the road and happily ambled up to me, almost as though he had a smile on his face, having just spotted an old friend. 

I was concerned that I was about to witness goaticide aided by a fast car coming on the cross road.  Fortunately, that didn't take place. 

Well, I am not the old goat's old friend, but I must have looked enough like one to suit him.  The farmer came across the road toward me, grabbed his errant charge by a horn, and led him back to his pen.

I didn't think to get the camera out to record this momentous event, and I went on my way.  

A few miles further, I was putting along on Old Saluda Dam Road, and was rounding a gentle right hander, when I spotted something: 

More goats.  This time, congregated in the road in front of me! 

I wasn't going fast, and I was rounding the curve near the centerline, as I should have been for best sight distance.  This little herd had come from a dirt driveway on the right beyond the curve a short ways.  Of course, I was startled to see this sight, and had to take action.

I didn't think too much about it, but I applied the front and rear brakes, gently at first, then straightened up the bike and headed into the opposite lane before I braked the bike a bit more aggressively.  Fortunately, I could see far enough ahead, and there was nothing coming the other way, so there was little drama. 

The point is, though, that anything can turn up on the road just around the next curve or over the next rise.  Today, it was some errant and curious goats.  Tomorrow it could be a pile of sand washed across the road, or a pile of -- well -- excrement, wet leaves, a bird lacking navigational skills, or one of many other hazards

Worse, it could be another vehicle or a downed tree.  You just never know. 

So, even though it was not a close call, I am glad I pulled on my best crash costume this morning, and was riding within my sight distance.  I might have needed that crash gear today, what will all these things potentially trying to get my goat. 

Happy riding, and ATGATT rules!  See the difference here


Friday, May 3, 2013

Time to Re-Tire and Take a Brake

No, I am not yet old enough to retire, and I'm not going into a hiatus from the bike, but my front tire wore out and my back tire was close behind it. 

Most of you know that I am not a very aggressive rider.  My last two front tires, Michelin Pilot Road 2s, lasted 15,000 and 12,000 miles, while the rear average about 11,000, not including one that got punctured during my trip down the gravel Musterground Road at 8,500 miles.

Don't you sportbiker hoodlums make fun of my tire life that's three times what yours is.  I like to make things last a long time, you know.  [Now, if I could get some wear on the sides of the tires, too....]

I noticed something I had not previously seen on that last front tire.  It was slightly more worn on the left side than on the right.  I attribute this to higher speeds and lean angles on left-hand curves than on right.  I suppose this is because of the greater sight distance on left handers.
Edit: One of my blog readers, rc5695, pointed out in his comment below what should have been obvious to me: That the wear is caused more by the crown of the roads.  That makes sense. 

I sent away for a new Michelin Pilot Road 3 front at Jake Wilson, and had it put on at the Powersports dealer on Wade Hampton Boulevard in Greenville.  They almost always have time to do it while you wait, and they use the proper clip-on balance weights.  Some other places use stick on weights that are functional, but leave a sticky mess when removed.
Oh, by the way, the Cycle Gear store is right next to the Powersports dealer, so you can kill two birds with one stone, drooling over all manner of bikes and accessories.

I have noticed that there is a surprising contrast between these two stores.   The sales people in the Powersports dealer have never asked if they could help me, despite my milling around the showroom while waiting for tire changes.  By contrast, the Cycle Gear store clerks always ask, but don't push.  I would think that with such rotten sales over the last few years, the Powersports personnel would at least ask.  Who knows, maybe I could be persuaded to buy some of their two-wheeled wares.  (Don't tell my wife that I could be tempted, though.) 

My last rear tire finally wore out, too after a little over 9000 miles, so I looked around and found that STG had the lowest price on a Pilot Road 2.  That previous tire, a Pilot Road 3, lasted about 2000 miles less than the Pilot Road 2 before it, so I went back to a 2.  Powersports also mounted this one. 

Look here.  Nice and shiny.  Hasn't touched the road yet. 

By the way, do you know where the phrase "Time to Re-Tire" in my title comes from?  It is the slogan of the Fisk Tire Company.  Actually, the entirety of the slogan is "Time to Re-Tire. Get a Fisk."

1951 Fisk Tires original vintage advertisement.
It features the Big Boy tire with white sidewall protected with scuff guard.
Manufactured by United States Rubber Company.

The little Fisk Tire boy first appeared in 1907 when Burr Giffen, a young commercial artist working for Fisk Tire Company, sketched a figure of a yawning boy wearing pajamas. His right arm encircled a tire, and his left hand held a candle. Fisk management was enthusiastic about the sketch, and the clever slogan "Time to Re-Tire" was inked in below the figure. The drawing was copyrighted in 1910 and was registered as a trademark in the U.S. Patent Office in 1914.

While I was changing the tires, I noticed that the brake linings were getting a little thin -- not worn to the indicator grooves, but probably worthwhile replacing.  I looked at OEM replacements, but they are quite expensive.  Then I looked at Blue Ridge Performance, a shop that caters to the Ninja 650R. They sell EBC brand HH linings.  Being the miser I am, I continued to search for a low price.  Ebay to the rescue.  I found a complete set of four front pads for $50, and a set of two rear for $25.  I hit Buy It Now, and had all of them in my hands within three days.

The pretty new ones, and the dirty originals:

I have the bike's service manual, so installing the brakes was straightforward.  I am always careful to adhere to the proper installation torque of fasteners on my bike, so the torque wrench comes out frequently during servicing. 

How many of you recognize the bending beam style torque wrench I am using here? 

I decided to flush the brake lines while I was at it, so I got out my very sophisticated bleeding rig -- a hose submerged in some brake fluid in a jar.  Brake fluid is hygroscopic, so it pays to flush out the old occasionally, say every 30,000 miles or so. 

The procedure is simple, if a little tedious.  Just apply light brake pressure on the lever, open the bleeder screw, squeeze slowly not quite to the end of stroke, close the bleeder, then release the lever.  Do this over and over until new fluid comes out of the hose.  Keep the brake master cylinder reservoir full, though, or you will introduce air into the lines that is very difficult to purge.  Keep the brake fluid off the paint and plastic too.  It tends to eat them up. 

You can see that I have also removed the Hippo Hands for the summer.  I hope it stays warm now. 

Now this is something you don't see very often these days, on the back of the new linings:

Here are the new rear linings snuggled into their proper places. 

Hmmmm.  New tires and new brakes.  Pretty soon, this will be like a new bike: I've replaced the chain, adjusted the valve clearance, cleaned and spruced up the outside, and changed the oil and filter. 

I'll report on the brake performance difference once the new linings are well worn in.  Rain is predicted this weekend, so it may be a while.

So, if you see me on the road, it'll look like I'm riding a new scoot that goes, stops, and turns almost like it just rolled off the showroom floor.  Wave when you see me!  I'll do the same.