Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lois Pryce Visits Minnesota

The Twin Cities was lucky this past Sunday as a couple of the local motorcycle clubs were able to convince Lois Pryce to come back and talk to us about her trips. Over 250 people showed up to listen to Lois talk. As in 2009, it was standing room only for those who didn’t arrive early.

She was last here in 2009 and told us about her Americas trip where she rode from Alaska to the Southern tip of South America solo. This was my first introduction to her. I bought her first book “Lois on the Loose” which chronicled her 20,000 mile trip across the Americas. A great read, and I recommend you find a copy if you haven’t read it.

During her 2009 talk in Minnesota, she also talked about her second solo trip riding from London to Cape Town in South Africa. She also wrote a book about that trip. It’s called “Red Tape and White Knuckles” and it was much more tense than the first, and another good read.

Lois Pryce talking about her trip across the usa on a ural in 2009 with austin vince

I was lucky enough to get her to sign my copy of her first book today which I managed to get as a hardcover in 2009. She only had the paperbacks today. My fantastic wife bought me the second one, and had it autographed for me too!

In 2009, Lois and her husband Austin Vince (of Mondo Enduro fame) rode a 2009 Ural Patrol 6000 miles from Richmond, VA to Washington. They took the slow scenic route and only rode back roads. It took them about 2 1/2 months. They made made short film about the trip which Lois played for us – “Ural USA”. It was quite entertaining, and made in the typical Austin Vince style. If you saw Terra Circa or Mondo Enduro, you’ll probably like this one too.

Lois is quite entertaining to listen to. She is a witty and charming brit not unlike a certain other brit I know. If you get the chance to read one of her books or see her in person, I would recommend it.

Ural 3/3 at lois pryce talk

I smiled during her talk as she explained their experience of riding a sidecar for the first time. It reminding me of December 2009 when I first learned to ride a sidecar. I had a bit of a chuckle as she admitted, “I’ve been riding for a few years, how hard could it be?” Funny we both had the same hard learning experience.

She also experienced the same UDF (Ural Delay Factor) that every Ural owner quickly grows accustom to. It’s the delay you should factor in to answer the questions from the swarm of people that appears every time it stops. Whether at a red light or a gas station, they will come. They even went so far as to add a sign on the front that read “It’s a Ural”. It didn’t seem to help much.

Ural 2/3 at lois pryce talk

It was also nice to hear that they rode 6000 miles and only put gas and oil in the Ural even with all of their shenanigans off-road. They didn’t have any other troubles. I’m envious.

The other part of the talk I liked is when she explained about how a couple riding in a sidecar together is a nice test of the marriage/relationship. Each of them was used to riding and controlling 100% of their own destiny. As a passenger, they had to give up that control. She talked about how they both had to learn to shut-up and not comment as the rig flew into the bushes or narrowly missed a truck. Sage advice.

After the talk it was fun milling about with all of the other riders and fans. I was surprised how many people showed up that I had met at other events.

Outside there were three Urals that made the trip to listen. I was sad mine wasn’t there to join them. It was a fun time. I look forward to reading about her next big adventure which might be somewhere in Asia.

Ural 1/3 at lois pryce talk

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ural Trailered to Service

Kevin from Scrambler Cycle showed up this weekend to tow my Ural back to his shop. Ural agreed to replace the final drive as an entire unit under the warranty. The downside is that they are on backorder and are awaiting a shipment from the factory in Russia. Ural FDs are not known to fail in this manner. It seems like just bad luck. It did get me all the way home (and the winter), so maybe not SO bad of luck.

Scrambler Cycle trailer to haul ural too be fixed

There isn’t an ETA on the part yet, but I’m going to guess a month based on my experience with the wheels last summer which also came from the factory. The extended warranty is looking mighty inviting right now.

Last year, my wheels were breaking spokes left and right because the place I bought it didn’t have the alignment setup correctly even after “checking” it twice! It’s been fine now for several thousand miles since Kevin set the alignment properly.

I spend a bit of time this morning emptying out the trunk and sidecar,

Ural trunk emptied and read for transport

and getting it ready for the 100 mile trailer ride. I covered the grips with my old handlebar mitts to keep the salt and grime out of the switches. I might want to re-use the awesome hippo hands on another bike while I wait for the Ural to return.

Ural grips wrapped and ready for transport. This should keep the salt out of the switches

It was a bit sad to see it hauled away. There is a big empty space now in the garage. Kevin promised to keep me updated as things develop.

#ural trailering to scrambler cycle to wait for a new final drive

If the weather cooperates, I should be back on two-wheels in a few days, so I won’t mind waiting a while for the part. Hopefully we won’t get too much more snow. It’s supposed to be spring right?!

In the meantime, my wife has been awesome driving me around. I’m enjoying spending the extra time together each day (she is too).

Thanks Kevin for working with me to get it towed back to your shop!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ural Final Drive Fail

Last night the rain turned to sleet and then snow. The roads were covered in nearly two inches of hard packed ice. A couple inches of snow on top of that made the morning commute exciting.

Cars were all over the place struggling to get grip, but the Ural didn’t have any problems with the snow once I engaged 2WD. It didn’t shift modes as easy as normal, but I didn’t think much of it.

When I left work the roads were wet, but clear. I switched it back to 1WD. It didn’t want to switch, but eventually it did. I didn’t think much of this as that’s kind of normal behavior for that lever. I have found it to be a bit fiddly and sometimes requires rocking the bike back and forth to get it to switch.

On the way home, I smelled something unpleasant. What’s that smell!? Is that the Ural? It turned out it was. It smelled a lot like final drive oil. I recognize the odor as I’ve changed my final drive oil several times and it has a very distinct aroma.

Ural Final Drive Housing Fail

The pivot point in the middle of the photo is where the 1WD/2WD lever attaches to the final drive housing where it looks like it’s being ripped off. Not good! The bike can still move under it’s own power both forwards and in reverse.

Ural Final Drive Housing Fail

On the plus side it’s quite easy to add final drive oil now. There is a nice gap to see inside.

Ural Final Drive Housing Fail

I called Kevin at Scrambler Cycle. He was impressed with the photos. He’ll be picking it up in a couple days, and then we can begin the long wait to get parts. Hopefully they will come from Washington state and be here in a week or two, and that they don’t have to come direct from the factory in Russia which will take a month. Until Kevin can take it apart, we won’t know what else is wrong or what caused it.

On the positive side, the Ural is still covered under the factory warranty until December 2011. This will also give Kevin an opportunity to work on another issue.

Monday, March 21, 2011

First Day of Spring

Today, is the first day of spring. This last week has been full of “firsts”. A week ago I rode the SV650 to work instead of the Ural for the first time in 2011. I’ve ridden it every day since, but it looks like snow tomorrow, so it’ll be in the garage for a few days. Back to the Ural.

On Friday, I received my first motorcycle wave in return. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first bike I’ve seen this year. It also rained on Sunday for the first time. It washed a fair amount of the salt away, but there is still plenty of sand to catch out the unwary.

Today, was the first time I put gas in my R1150GS in 2011, and the first time I’ve started it up this year. I’ve been working on it for several weeks getting it ready for riding season.

I was excited to finally be able to start it today. I had drained the tank when I removed it, so the fuel gauge showed empty. I put a little gas in, turned the key, and pressed the starter. Nothing. The display showed an “E” next to the fuel. I guess it needs more gas. I rode the Ural to the gas station and got a couple gallons. The sidecar makes it an easy task to haul stuff.

Back home, I added two gallons, turned the key, pressed the starter, and nothing. My thoughts started racing. What did I do wrong? Did I forget something when I put it back together? I turned it all off and tried again. Nothing. I checked the battery since I’d been playing around with the electrics. It still had a good charge. I tried everything again, and still nothing.

Oh yea, I had put it into a higher gear when was doing the valves, so I bumped the gears back down from sixth to neutral. Ah, yes, I have a gear indicator on this bike. I only rode it for a week, and I don’t have the owners manual. The display now shows “0” and the green neutral light is on. I guess “E” is sixth. The time is off now too from my battery antics. Hopefully google can sort that out for me. I felt very silly once I realized my mistake.

I turned the key and thumbed the starter. The bike choked and died. Oh right, the choke/advance needs to be cranked open. I did that and the bike roared to life. After letting it warm up for a bit, I took it for a very short ride to celebrate. We did some figure eights in a parking lot, and tested the ABS.

I’ve done a lot on the bike this winter. I installed LED aux lights, replaced nearly all of the auxiliary wiring, installed a fuse block, replaced the spark plugs, alternator belt, air filter, fuel filter, adjusted the valves, replaced some plastics, added a rear rack for my top case, and fixed the throttle grip. I still need to sync the throttle bodies (idling a bit rough), install the engine guards, install hyper-lites, and order a better windscreen. The stock screen makes way too much noise, so I took it off. I’m excited it’s running again. I have some big plans for it this year.

Below is a photo of one of the St. Paul snow dumps. It covers the entire parking lot of midway stadium, home of the St. Paul Saints. All that brown stuff in the background is snow. The little round mound, is also all snow. It is quite impressive.

Massive snow pile at St. Paul Saints Stadium

It was nice to ride three bikes back to back. I think the SV may have some competition from the GS even if they are completely different. The downside of riding three bikes back to back, is it highlighted the Ural’s faults and made it seem more like a Russian lawn tractor than usual with it’s vague brakes and wimpy throttle.

More snow and rain the rest of the week. Spring in Minnesota!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Winter Commuting

It snowed a couple inches last night which made the ride in this morning slightly more interesting than usual. I enjoy sliding the Ural around in the snow. My worn K335s tires in the rear made it easier than usual. I will have to replace them in a few hundred kilometers. I have a couple Duros standing by ready to go into service.

Snowy commute #ural

The snow looked fantastic clinging to the evergreen trees, so I had to take a photo. The temps for the last few weeks having been hanging around in the mid 20s F. Today, was no exception as the bank’s thermometer read 23F when I rode past. I twisted the knob on my heat troller slightly to the right to further enjoy the warmth provided by my Gerbing coat. The heated grips on low kept my hands toasty warm.

Snowy commute

I took one of the scenic routes home along Lake Como. I’ve taken so many pictures of this lake in the past, I rode around looking for a vantage point I hadn’t used yet. This is the result.

Winter commuting

It’s the road that winds around the north side of the lake. It’s quite fun to ride on even if the speed limit is 25mph. The sun tried to peek out just as I got home. It was another fun winter commuting day.

PS: Just finished some gas tank work on the R1150GS. I hope to get the fuse block installed this week.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SV650 LED Turn Signal Install

In my quest to make my 2001 SV650 more visible to other road users and to the future pleasure of my riding companions, I upgraded my turn signals to bright LEDs. One of the signals was also burned out and the bulb is not removable. The previous owner of my bike replaced the stock signals with the little orange ones below which people had a tough time seeing during the day.

The indicators are these 15 LED Single Circuit Amber Lights.
new LED signal new vs old
I used the following tools to do my install:
turn signal tools
Here are some photos of the signals and bike before the upgrade:
IMGP6375 IMGP6388IMGP6389
As with the brake light upgrade, I took a lot of extra pictures of the hardware than normal. There are many bolts and screws of different sizes, and I wanted to remember where they all went since I did this work over many days.

1) Remove both of the seats. Use the 4mm allen wrench for the side panels around the main seat then use the 6mm allen wrench for the main seat.
2) With the 12mm socket, remove the grab bar
3) Use the philips screwdriver to remove the screws on the rear cowling between the seats.
4)Remove the six screws that hold the rear cowling.
5) My SV650 has a custom undertray:
with two screws and two 8mm bolts with 10mm nuts.
IMGP6399IMGP6400 IMGP6424IMGP6425
6) Remove the two screws holding the pillion seat lock
7) Twist the cable for the lock out of the grove and then remove it.
8) Now, the rear cowling can be removed. There are two rubber posts shown below that sit firmly in the rubber grommets. Carefully pull to the sides and remove.
tricky rubber nub on each side of rear cowling
9)Rear cowling removed:
All of the plastic removed, and the bike is ready to work on.
everything removed
10) Unplug the existing connectors for the signals and pull the cable out the bottom
11) I loosened the bolts on the old signals with the 14mm wrench and removed them from the bike. It took a while to remove all the old electrical tape.
12) I cut the stock connector off the old signals and wired them into the new ones. SV650 black with white stripe = new signal black SV650 black = new signal yellow. IMGP6464
13) I marked each signal, so I wouldn’t mix them up. The black stock connector is the right side and the grey one is the left. I also covered the all the wires in heatshrink tubing before mounting.
14) I mounted the new signals to the existing bracket on the top of the license plate
new signals mounted
15) I cleaned up the bottom with some zip tipes and some extra heavy duty electrical tape to provide some extra support to the wires and heatshrink.
16) Plug everything back in and test. The old signal is on the left and the new on the right. The pictures don’t show it very well, but the new ones are much bright (at least in my garage). Since I did this most last winter, and am now just posting. I can also comment that others say they are much easier to see too.
old bulb signal new LED turnsignal
17) Now move to the front of the bike and remove the headlight to get at the stock connectors behind the bulb.
18) The connectors on the front are the same as the back. The black stock connector is the right side and the grey one is the left.
19) The finished signals installed:
IMGP6524 IMGP6525
20) Reinstall the cowling, headlight, seats, etc.
21) Go for a ride!
They flash faster than the old bulbs did. I did purchase a flasher relay to slow them down, but I like them flashing faster as it is more eye catching.
I’ve had them on the bike for over a year now, and I still like them.