Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Commuting & Snow Pics – December 30th

snowy downtown st. paul, mn

It didn’t feel very cold this morning, but apparently it was 12F. The new gloves were working very well. They were working so well, that I nearly got a slight burn on the back of my hand. I think I had them on for only a few minutes at a time. I plan on investing in an actual dual-temp controller versus the on-off switch I have now at the Motorcycle Show in Feb.

I took these photos of downtown St. Paul, MN during my lunchtime walk. It was snowing slightly with just under an inch of snow (about 2cm). The first photo is looking east on East 5th Street with a couple of the skyways visible.

snowy downtown st. paul, mn
Looking North along St. Peter Street.

snowy downtown st. paul, mn
Landmark Center with a small park on St. Peter St. The park has a temporary free ice skating rink setup which was surprisingly busy for a weekday.

snowy downtown st. paul, mn
South on Minnesota Street

The Ural is working great, but I still need to buy a new tube. The one that failed has a slow leak; it looses all of it’s air in about 8 hours. I also learned that the axle pinch bolt is supposed to be a 14mm/17mm combination and not a 17mm/17mm; I’m guessing when it was assembled someone made a mistake.

I also practiced changing the tire a few more times and greased up the axle at home. It only takes me about 15-20 minutes now instead of an hour.

Thanks to Charlie6’s advice, I can now put the Ural on the center stand by myself too. Thanks! Taking the 100lbs of sand out of the tug makes it much easier to get on the stand too. :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My first flat tire of 2009

Just this weekend, I was telling a friend how amazing it was that I hadn’t had a flat tire in 2009. This weekend I also purchased a tire repair kit for my SV650 (the ural has a spare tire onboard and the WR250R has a set of spare tubes).
This afternoon a couple co-workers came over to my cube and let me know my rear tire was a bit low and that I should check it out. When I got outside, the rear tire was completely flat.
flat ural tireInstead of being upset, I was actually excited to change the tire! I was too eager to change it, and I forgot to take a picture until after the tire was nearly off. I watched the maintenance videos last week and felt confident I could do it. I grabbed the manual and read the page through again on changing tires. I also watched the video again on my phone; it seemed easy.
I first tried the Ural air pump to just put air in the tire thinking, somehow, it had leaked out. This is when I also had my first RPOC moment… the tire pump didn’t fit on the tire correctly and it wouldn’t lock in and just leaked air instead.
ural on the center standLets see, step one in the manual is “lift the motorcycle onto the center stand.” The center stand doesn’t have a nice lever to hold with your foot. I wasn’t strong/smart enough to figure it out, so I grabbed two co-workers to help me lift the bike onto the stand.

I set about removing the cotter pin with the supplied pliers, and then took the axle nut off. So far so good. When I got over to the other side, I found I needed two 17mm wrenches to remove the axle pinch bolt.
why doesn't it come with two 17mm wrenches??No problem, I thought, I’ll just grab them from the supplied tool kit… hmm… only one 17mm wrench here… lemme double check… yes only one… lemme check the toolkit list in the manual… yes, only one 17mm wrench is supplied (second RPOC moment). I tried the one 17mm wrench and the supplied pliers – no go. I ended up going back inside and asking around the building until someone came up with some vice grips which worked great.
take the black plastic thing off first!After I removed the pinch bolt, removing the axle was easy. The tire also came out rather easily. It took another check in the manual to figure out I needed a special tool (in the kit) to remove the spare. Spare removed, I tried to mount it on the bike, but it wouldn’t fit. I tried for a while and then took it out to compare the two tires.
That’s when I noticed the black plastic ring on the inside on the spare… I removed that and it went right on. The rest was pretty easy. Re-inserting the cotter pin was slightly annoying.. apparently they work better when completely straight.. who knew? Inserting the cotter pin before tightening the axle pinch bolt makes things easy too.
ural after tire change
I put the tools away and went back inside to put my gear on. I stopped by Sears on the way home and purchased some extra tools to make the next tire change a bit easier.
new tools for the ural
1) a pair of needle nose pliers
2) a pair of vice grips
3) a small bottle jack
4) a metric socket set (with a 17mm)
I also put my bike pump into the tug (sidecar) until I can buy a smaller one that fits in the trunk. I also need to add a light of some sort. A 12V light with a cigarette adapter would be perfect.
When I got home, filled up the flat tire to 40psi, and am currently waiting for it to go flat again. I can’t find any nails or anything else wrong with the tire, and I can’t hear any hissing. I’m stumped. I might just replace the tube with a heavy duty tube for good measure and call it done.
The ride in was very comfortable with my new heated gloves despite it being 2F. The ride home was also nice with a 500% increase in temps (10F)! I’m happy I had the opportunity to learn in the parking ramp rather than on the side of the road. I’m also very thankful to have such helpful co-workers!

UPDATE: I found the problem with the tube. The tube was pinched by the spoke bolts.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Commuting & Heated Gloves – December 28

My left heated glove failed and the temp was 18F. Over the last few days my left heated glove hasn’t been working consistently. It has been producing far less heat than the right. I tried swapping cables, but that didn’t seem to help.

They finally quit, and I pulled out my unheated winter riding gloves instead. My hand was cold by the time I made it to work, but not nearly as cold as it would have been wearing the failed heated glove. The Tourmaster heated gloves only have 40gm of insulation, and they get cold very quickly without heat.

From previous experience with my vest, I knew I had to return the failed item to the place of purchase to use the three year warranty. Unfortunately for me, I purchased these gloves from Motorcycle Superstore. I called them to see if we could speed up the process. Like a broken robot, they kept repeating it would be six to eight weeks -- I ship them the gloves, they ship them to Tourmaster, Tourmaster sends them back to them, and then they ship to me.

Their solution for my current needs was for me to purchase another pair of gloves. I told them I would, but it wouldn’t be from them. I had been researching other heated gloves over the weekend in preparation of the impending failure. I decided to get Gerbings this time around (lifetime warranty directly with Gerbing).

I called around and found a local place 35 miles away that had gloves in stock and in my size. The sun had finally come out by the time I left work, so I was able to enjoy the blue sky as I rode down on I35. Since the sun was low, every time the road twisted to the southwest, everyone on the road was momentarily blinded and slowed down. The frequent slow speeds helped my unheated hands make it.

I finally settled on a pair of medium G3 Gerbing gloves. They are all leather with a microwire heating element. I almost purchased a small pair of the new T5 gloves, but the G3s fit my hands better. The sizing on the Gerbing gloves is a bit off compared to other major brands (I normally wear a large), but the sizing chart is surprisingly accurate.

In the parking lot, I tried to install the battery harness in the 16F dark, but I forgot to bring my 8mm wrench for the battery posts. I tried my leatherman and some pliers, but it wasn’t working – I couldn’t properly grip the nut and the bolt separately. I rode home with the new gloves on, but without heat (my vest was on high).

My feet were more cold than my hands by the time I rode the 35 traffic-free miles. The new gloves have 100gms of insulation and seemed warmer than my regular winter riding gloves. I need to get some Nik-Wax to treat the leather of the new gloves.

I enjoyed my riding today, and am looking forward to the –6F predicted in a few days! I have added two 8mm wrenches to my on-bike tool collection.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Commuting – December 23


Another balmy day with the temps at 25F! The Ural is getting quite dirty as you can see from the photo despite my best efforts to keep it clean.

The snow-pocalypse is scheduled to begin tonight and continue until Saturday. We are supposed to get 20 inches (50cm for you metric people) over the next three days. The weather people have lost their minds saying it will be the worst storm since ‘91 when we had 36 inches (91cm) of snow in 24 hours. I don’t see how the two compare…

Overnight we got six inches of snow, and by 8am the roads were all cleared. I will have to take the Ural out later and practice my donuts.. uh.. I mean emergency winter maneuvers.. yea, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

snow-pocalypse has begun!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Commuting, Maintenance, and Books - December 21

Ural In Snow 20091220The Ural has been running great since it's first service just over one week ago. The ride today was pretty normal for Minnesota winter: 16F in the morning and 22F on the way home.



The bikes before winterizingI finally finished winterizing the rest of the bikes in the garage this weekend. It was good to finally finish the process. I just needed to put some marine stabil in the tanks and let them run for a bit to get it into the carbs and injectors. It also reminded me how much work I have to do.


The WR250R needs new handle bars (they are really bent), new levers (bent), and new handguards (bent!). I guess I need to quit crashing in the forest, but then my friends wouldn’t get as much entertainment.

The SV650 needs a carb sync and the valves checked out. I was nervous about doing both, but after watching the Ural service videos, it doesn't seem that tough. I also want to replace the turn signals and brake lights on the SV. The previous owner put tiny little turns signals on. They look good, but no one can see them during the day. I should also flush all the radiators and change all the plugs to get the bikes ready for an early spring ride.

Since I purchased the Ural, I have been reading "Driving a Sidecar Outfit" by David Hough. It has helped me understand some of the unique sidecar dynamics. I think riding a sidecar is much more work than a regular bike, even a dirt bike.

There are some excerpts from the book on David also wrote one of my favorite motorcycle books: Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mavizen TTX02 - on video

I found this video on BrammoFan's blog: Mavizen TTX02 - Low Speed Tests... on video

It shows the new Mavizen TTX02 electric motorcycle in action. I am looking forward to the day when you can buy an electric bike locally and it can compete with a regular gas one. They are great for short distances, but can't really go more than 40 or 50 miles right now which isn't much fun outside of a track.

He was also nice enough to make this google map of the TTXGP events for 2010. There are three in the US, and I hope to make it to at least one.

View TTXGP in a larger map

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ural Cartoons

I regularly read Redleg's Rides since he has similar taste in bikes and riding in general (and he likes mountains). He also has the same passion for riding year round that I do. He shared his favorite Ural cartoon on his blog, and it is perfect! It is also my favorite.

Which is yours? You can check out the rest here.

Click the image to watch the video.


I also liked this one:


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Uraling Around – December 12

I took the Ural out for a ride today. Minnesota is currently experiencing a heat wave as the temps peaked at 32F. The bike ran great today, and it was a joy to ride.

I took it on a tour of some of the local parks and took the shots below. I also practiced my Ural donuts with the 2WD in some of the unplowed parking lots. I was able to do them both ways, but much prefer the left.

After the ride yesterday and today, the bike was nearly white with salt and road grime. I gave it a quick bath with the garden hose in the driveway, and let it air dry in the garage. I need to figure out a better way to wash it in the future.


Friday, December 11, 2009

First Ural Service – December 11

My first 500km service was scheduled for today. I had talked to the dealer Thursday to get some advice on how to ride the bike out there since I could barely keep it running. Changing the spark plugs didn’t help.

I left the house around 7:30am to hopefully arrive at 9am at the dealer in New Richmond, WI about 50 miles away. I took the slow scenic route to avoid cars and to stay warmer by not having to deal with so much wind. The temp when I left the house was –10F which is now my new record for cold! –10F is cold riding.

After talking with the dealer last night, we decided the bike was running lean because the temps were too cold and the air more dense. They suggested running with the enricheners on all the time when the temps were around 0F. This solved the popping and stalling while I was moving, but created a new problem: it stalled when I stopped moving. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal, except the battery was defective and not taking a charge, so I’ve been kick starting it. Kicking a stalled bike in traffic is not fun.

The ride to the dealer was amazing. The sky was clear blue and the sun was shining bright. Everything except the road was covered in snow. I especially enjoyed riding past the many bodies of water we have in Minnesota. Most were frozen over, but some had some open water in the middle that had steam/fog coming off it. Looked amazing in the sun.

I tried to take some photos, but my camera was frozen. Apparently it was designed to work below zero. I will need to find a way to store it inside my coat, so it will stay warm enough to work.

It took me about an hour to get to Stillwater, MN along the St. Croix River. My toes were pretty cold, so I stopped at the local Cafe for some hot tea and oatmeal. They couldn’t believe I was out riding.

When I took off my glasses, I noticed I had about 1/8” of ice on the left lense. I have to ride with my visor about 60% open so my glasses and visor don’t ice/fog up. I’ve tried antifog stuff, but it just ices over. The Arai solution is to buy the pinlock visor system. I’ve also looked at Snowmobile helmets, but they have very soft flexible shields that aren’t DOT approved. They seem like a rock would go right through them.

The rest of the ride to the dealer was great with rolling hills and more beautiful blue sky. The service manager was pretty shocked when I walked in all dressed up.

They did the 500km service and changed all the fluids. They found the battery was completely defective, an exhaust leak (new gaskets), and the clutch needed work. All was done under the warranty. I also had the carbs richened up to run better in the cold tems.

All in all, I was there about four hours. I was again very impressed with the high level of customer service and professionalism at St. Croix Ural aka St. Croix HD. Everyone I interacted with was extremely friendly and helpful.

The ride home was again amazing and beautiful. I did have some excitement when I prematurely ran out of gas after 110km and had to go on the reserve tank. Running with the enricheners uses a lot of fuel!

The bike seems to be back in good running order and by the time I got home, there was a brief heatwave: 18F!

A great day of riding.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Commuting & How Not to Start a Ural – December 9

The ride to work yesterday was quite cold and broke my record of coldest riding by bringing it down to 7F (-14C). My previous record was a few days ago at 13F. The ride home broke it again with 5F (-15C).

Riding to work was a fun, but required a lot of concentration with all the ruts and ice. The ruts would grab one of the wheels and pull the rig left or right requiring constant corrections. There was more snow on the road than the night before too which put the 2WD to work nicely. I still had a great time; it felt like off-roading to me more than anything else.

The ride home was more interesting. The bike started up on the second try after sitting all day in the frigid temps, but because of the inexperienced owner it didn’t stay that way for long. I didn’t appreciate how long it wanted to warm up when sitting in that kind of cold. I’m guessing it should have been closer to five minutes.

When I tried to back out of my parking space, it wasn’t warm enough so it died. I grabbed the clutch and thumbed the starter and began trying to move again. It died. I grabbed the clutch and thumbed the starter, and made the mistake of giving it a bit of throttle. I didn’t know it then, but I flooded the engine.

I tried for some time to start it, but it wouldn’t. I even tried kick starting it. I ended up pushing it back into the parking space, and to get out of the way and to give me time to think. I didn’t know what was wrong, and I didn’t have anyone to call to get advice from.

After a brief moment of panic, I got off the bike and took the owners manual from the trunk. I found the section on starting and read through it again. It warned about flooding the engine and fouling the plugs; it also had the cure for a flooded engine. Open the throttle wide open, and give the bike ten swift kicks on the kick start.

Around kick six it started to sputter, and at kick seven it fired up with a huge roar that echoed in the parking ramp. The happiest noise I’ve heard all week. I let it warm up a few more minutes before heading home.

The rest of the ride home was pretty uneventful until I was about two miles from home. The Ural started sputtering and seemed like it had no power. It nearly died when I tried to shift up to third gear. When I stopped at the next stoplight, it died. After four or five frantic thumbs to the started, it seemed to go again. Another mile down the road, it did it again. Then another half mile it died. Then it died again just two blocks from my house on a slight up hill. I was eventually able to start it again and made it into the garage.

I arranged a ride and made a tour of the local auto parts stores looking for a new set of spark plugs. I didn’t find the NGK plugs I needed, and had to settle on some Autolite 275s alternatives. I will get some spare NGK plugs when I do my first service on Friday morning.

After gapping the new plugs, the bike started up just fine. I rode it to the gas station and put almost four gallons in (five gallon tank). I also added some seafoam for good measure. The old plugs were fouled and one wasn’t gapped enough (040).

I’m thinking and hoping all the drama was just due to the plugs and not a sign of something else more serious. I’m leaving for work shortly today, so I guess I will find out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Uraling in the Snow – December 8

ural in snowWhile I was working, it started to snow. There was only about two inches on the road, but there was also lots of ice under the snow.

I was quite excited to finally ride the Ural in the snow, but at the same time I was nervous the other road users wouldn’t be as alert or excited as me.

I had little excitement as I crept out of downtown St. Paul with the wall to wall cars. I started in 1WD which served me well for about the first mile or two. Then the snow was deeper and I was encountering more ice at the intersections. After the second time of barely making it through an intersection, I stopped and engaged the 2WD by flipping the lever.

Wow! 2WD is like AWD in a car. Amazing amount of forward ability, so much so, that I was able to break the front wheel free and just push it sideways. With 2WD engaged, it also pulled quite strong to the left which made my shoulder pretty tired by the time I got home.

It only took me about 10 minutes longer than usual to get home on the tertiary roads. The temperature was around 19F, so not very cold yet.

Here are some pictures I took of the Ural under a street light with various settings (night, flash, auto):

ural in snowural in snowural in snowural in snow

I’m sure I was the only one who enjoyed the commute home. I had a grin on my face the whole way. There is more snow predicted for Wednesday too!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ural Ride – December 6

Rough RouteSunny, blue sky, and shiny new bike in the garage is a great excuse to go out and ride. The map to the left is roughly the route I took. I didn’t have a plan when I set out, I just turned the corner and went North until the road ended. Then I went West until that road ended which was near the Mississippi.

I followed the river north for another hour and wound up in Elk River, MN where I took these photos at a small roadside park on the Mississippi River – Babcock Memorial Park.


After the quick break at the park, I road West and South and stopped again at Baker Park in Maple Plain, MN.


The road ended again, so I went East which brought me to Plymouth and Parker Lake.


I stopped just West of downtown Minneapolis for this one


and then rode past the new Target Field stadium. I hadn’t seen it yet, and unfortunately I couldn’t find a good place to pull over and get a picture of it.

After downtown, I headed for home. I don’t have my Ural riding muscles built up yet, so about three hours is my limit right now. I put another 150km on today, and it was between 16F and 20F.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Commuting – December 4

commuting on the ural in the snow 2009-12-04

Today was my first day commuting to work on my new Ural Patrol. It was a blast! I also have set my new low temp riding record at 13F (–10C). I am amazed how much more comfortable I am with a fairing and windshield as none of the rest of my bikes have a windshield.

When I was riding my SV650 to work at 25F, I had my heated vest and gloves on high. With the Ural I am, only at low on the vest and high on the gloves. My hands did get a bit cold on the way to work, but then I mounted my hippo hands after work and I had to turn the heated gloves to medium or low! I hated the hippo hands on my scooter, but they work really great on the Ural.

I went for a long ride around town after work. It took a few hours and I went just over 100km. I was quite warm and comfortable. My visor kept fogging, so I kept it open slightly which seemed to solve the problem. My feet also started to get chilled after about an hour, so I bumped the heat up on my vest from low to medium which solved the problem.

After a couple hours, my shoulders and upper back were getting quite tired, so I headed for home along the river. Pushing the hack around corners is quite tiring! The pic below is of the new 35W bridge over the Mississippi. I had never seen it at night from below. I l love the blue lights. The top is also covered in blue light when on the freeway.

35W Bridge over Mississippi River at Night

In total, I spent about three hours riding around in 20F! I put just over 100km on the Patrol during that time. I now have about 170km with just another 230km to go. Then I can ride it the 100km to the first 500km service.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

First Thursday – December 2009

First Thursday @ Dulono's - Dec 2009

I took the Ural to first Thursday today at Dulono’s Pizza. There were only about eight to ten bikes there including mine. It seems most people wimped out and took their cars. It was only 20F with some light snow coming down. My Patrol is on the lower left side of this pic.

Downtown Minneapolis near Park & Washington AveI was nervous about riding the Ural in heavy traffic, so I went straight into the heart of downtown Minneapolis at 5pm to get over it. With cars as far as I could see backed up in every direction, I quickly got over my nervousness.

This month there were two world travelers visiting Minnesota on their way around the world. Their website is here: The Dumb Way Round. I like how they make fun of the other trip with a similar name. Their blog is here. They are riding 1939 Nimbus sidecars around the world. I tried to get some pics of them below. Thankfully someone else took better photos here.

1939 Nimbus Sidecar Traveling around the world 1939 Nimbus Sidecar Traveling around the world
1939 Nimbus Sidecar Traveling around the world 1939 Nimbus Sidecar Traveling around the world

On the way home, I took the scenic route along the river. It was great riding. I was the only car for a number of miles with only a couple people out walking their dogs. The photo below is of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi in downtown Minneapolis, MN.
Hennepin Ave Bridge over Mississippi in Minneapolis

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My new 2009 Ural Patrol has arrived!

2009 Ural PatrolMy new Ural was delivered today by St. Croix Ural! I’ve been eagerly awaiting it since I purchased it on Saturday. I quickly snapped this photo and put on all my riding gear. I spent the next hour riding around practicing turning, stopping, and shifting. Before I knew it, it was dark and an hour had gone by. The windshield and leg fairings did a great job keeping me warm. I’m sure my slow speed helped too!

I managed to put about 15km riding around the neighborhood and empty parking lots. I hope to have the 500km break in period complete by next week. 

It was pretty dark before I had to head home, but I snapped a couple more shots with the night mode setting. I didn’t have my tripod with, so I put the camera on my knee.

2009 Ural Patrol2009 Ural Patrol2009 Ural Patrol

I am very excited for more riding tomorrow!