Monday, December 24, 2012

Ural to the Rescue

Ural to the Rescue

My friend John, seen above, started having car trouble the other day on his way to work. He managed to limp it over to my house, and into the garage. His alternator appeared to be failing. Fortunately, I have a well stocked garage from working on my own bikes and occasionally my wife’s car. In the warm, well-lit space, he was able to remove the alternator. The next problem was to find out who had one.

He said he’d call a mutual friend to give him a ride. I offered up the Ural as an alternative to waiting. Ural to the rescue! He’s about my size, so he fit in my older riding gear. My wife’s old helmet fit him perfectly as well. John rides a VFR and has been riding since he was a kid. His coldest riding day on the VFR was 11F. He almost broke that today with the Ural, but it was only 13F.

We piled into the Ural and rode over to Napa to get a new alternator and have them test the suspected bad one. One we walked in, they asked if we were riding snow mobiles. I have no idea why people in the middle of the city think folks are riding snow mobiles in winter. There isn’t any snow on the roads. They confirmed the alternator was bad, and during the test we could smell a slight burning smell.

About to leave Napa, we got UDF’d, Ural delay factor, by the guy walking in the background of the photo. All the usual questions: “what is it”, “where’s it from”, “where’d ya get it”, “how old is it”, “No really, how old is it”, etc, etc. Nice to see John getting the full Ural experience.

On the way home, he experienced one of my favorite Ural experiences. A woman out jogging with her dogs gave a huge way and a big smile. We waved back in unison.

John enjoyed his ride in the Ural. He said it was just like riding in a car. With the new alternator back in place, his Jeep was working great. It was a fun way to help a friend.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Video: PBC 2013 #1

December 1st is the beginning of the Polar Bear Challenge (PBC). A motorcycle challenge to ride below freezing. Score is kept for the most rides, most miles, and lowest temp. There is also an overall score that combines temp and miles: 1 point per mile at 32F and another .1 of a point for each degree lower.

Since this is my fourth winter of riding and third year of participating, the PBC isn’t very challenging. This year, I decided to see if I could ride each of my bikes below 32F since the weather was cooperating and we had a lack of snow and ice.

Video: PBC 2013 #1 (SV650)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Riding in a Snow Storm

Uraling in a Snow Storm

One of the things that makes winter fun for me is riding in the snow. It makes all the gloominess from the cloudy gray days almost worthwhile. Lots of people worry and fret over it, but the snow turns all the roads into off-road trails. Fun! The snow also dampens all the sound around, so it becomes very quite. Almost something reminiscent of the middle of the Yukon kind of quiet or so I will pretend.

The Ural doesn’t do many things well, but I think it does well in the snow. The narrow tires and high ground clearance work well, and the torque from the 2WD provides some surprising traction as the tires cut through the snow rather than plow it like a wider tire would. You can see I was having a bit of fun this morning.

Uraling in a Snow Storm

It was snowing when I woke up, and it is still snowing now. It looks like it’s snowed over twelve inches today. I wonder how much we’ll get.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Motorcycle First Thursday–December 2012

First Thursday - December 2012

Last night was Motorcycle First Thursday. Since it was surprisingly warm, there were about twenty motorcycles in the parking lot. I rode my SV650 down. It was funny to me how many riders were wearing Aerostich gear. It looked to about half.

First Thursday - December 2012

The whole area has lights setup. Looked quite nice.

First Thursday - December 2012

Even another SV was in the lot when I went to leave hiding behind the Royal Enfield.

First Thursday - December 2012

It was a good time seeing friends and talking about motorcycles as usual.

Monday, December 3, 2012

What’s Your Plan?

It’s dark, and you’re riding in heavy traffic. You’re in the right lane with three lanes to your left and traffic merging from the right. This is a commonly congested area because an exit is approaching and people don’t want to merge nicely. Everyone is fighting for space on the road with the cars trying to merge into the people trying to exit. There are a lot of brake lights ahead. You’re keeping your two second following distance. Other people aren’t paying attention, and soon the sound of screeching tires pierces the air. It’s coming from the vehicles in front and then from behind. What’s your plan?

I’ve rehearsed this exact scenario almost daily in my head. With my lane-sharing experience earlier this year, my plan is to squeeze between the cars to avoid becoming the filling in a car-motorcycle sandwich. Without thinking, my SV650 swerved onto the dotted line and darted out of the situation. It’s sometimes faster to swerve rather than try to stop. This was one of those times. I’m glad I practice. 

The blue car behind me stopped within a few feet of the car I was following. It would have been a bad day had I stayed in my lane. After passing a few cars, I got back in my lane and exited the road as planned.

The most shocking thing about the entire experience was my reaction after the fact. I was surprised how calm I was. Where was my shot of adrenaline? How disappointing. I made up for the lack of it on the twisty road a few miles ahead. The SV is quite a fun bike!

I was fortunate it was unseasonably warm and in the 50s today, so I could ride my SV. The Ural wouldn’t have been able to pull off the swerve. There wouldn’t have been room. With the Ural, I leave a much bigger stopping distance since it doesn’t do anything quickly: accelerate, turn, or stop. Well, I suppose that isn’t entirely true. The only thing it does quickly is attract attention and a crowd.



URAL Update:

I replaced the battery and the starter relay, and it’s running again. It took way too many hours of fiddling around to figure it out. I also disassembled what felt like half the bike. The new battery was a tad larger than the old, so I had to remove the airbox to get it into the spot where it just barely fit. While I was at it, I also changed the spark plugs and air filter. It runs nicely now.