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.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ural Power Dilemma

In my last post, I described my frustration with the Ural and upon initial inspection believed the battery to be at fault. Last night, I had time to diagnose the problem further. I expected to confirm the failed battery by testing it with my multimeter, and then scavenge the battery from the R1150GS to get me back on the road while I waited for the replacement to arrive later this week.

When I tested the Ural’s battery with the multimeter, it read 12.59v. A healthy battery. Huh? The other voltmeter I had said 8.5v, and none of the lights worked. Dang. I was hoping for an easy fix. The new battery is still on its way and will be here tomorrow. It would be prudent to replace it anyways since the Harley battery in there now is near the end of it’s expected life. I guess my other voltmeter needs to visit the trashcan.

Ural Electrical

I checked the fuses next still hoping for an easy fix. They all appear to be in-tact. Next I looked at the relays. One of them was corroded like last time, so I clean it up and put it back. Still no difference.

Ural Electrical

After a sigh and a shake of the head, I started removing the fairing to get at the headlight and the rats nest of wiring behind it.

Ural Electrical

While I was in the rats nest of wiring, I found a couple red hearings. A couple of the wires for my heated grips were loose in their connectors, so I reattached them. I also sealed up some of the loose heat shrink that appears to have been forgotten about during that install. I was disappointed to see that. I hadn’t looked in this area since they were installed to see the quality of the work.

Ural Electrical

The Ural last worked flawlessly Sunday, but when I tried to start it on Monday morning. I turned the ignition key, and watched all the lights light up including the headlight. After pressing the starter it made a short “grrr… clunk” noise as the bike went dark and the power died. It seemed to lose power mid-crank which is what the clunk sounded like. Thinking back I had an issue like this a couple times earlier this year, but a reset of all the switches brought it back immediately. Not this time.

Ural Electrical

The above led me directly to the ignition switch since the fuses and battery checked out. It was getting 12.5v from the battery, but nothing after going to the “on” position. Maybe a bad switch? I spent some time looking on the Ural forums on how to hotwire a Ural. Ural ignition switch below with five different contacts – two blue which I should be ground and three red which are hot in various switch positions.

Ural Electrical Ignition Switch

The main method is to connect a wire from the positive side of the battery to a wire coming out of the top of the engine. It is supposed to have a spade connector. On my Ural, there are three wires in one, and no spade connector. The connector is also jammed under the gas tank, and not accessible without removing it. I’ll try that next. If I do that, I will bypass the mess in the headlight bucket, and I should be able to kick start it. I also tried connecting the main hot wire from the ignition switch to the “on” wire. Nothing happened. Darn. Maybe I used the wrong wire.

I’m a bit stumped right now. I think it might be the ignition switch or right hand grip unit, but I’m venturing out beyond my electrical troubleshooting experience now. My attempts to bypass the suspect parts has failed to produce actionable results. It may be time to hire a trailer, and bring it to a professional which means taking time off work. Bummer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dead Battery on the Ural #2

Low Voltage Ural Battery

It was the coldest day of this winter at 15F, but my garage was still in the 40s for some reason. I put on my gear very methodically making sure to seal out all the usual draft areas: neck, zippers, wrists, etc.

I opened the door and went into the garage. The Ural looked ready to go. I had just ridden it two days earlier, and it ran fine. I tossed my laptop into the trunk, and closed it with a clang. I do enjoy having such a large luggage area. It really makes things easy.

I began my normal starting ritual. Remove the battery tender cable. Shift the transmission from reverse to neutral. I moved the kick starter several times to lube up the engine. Pull out the choke on the left carburetor, and then on the right side. Turn the ignition key to the run position while noticing the green and orange lights normally on the dash. Thumb the engine stop switch to on, and press the starter while squeezing in the clutch lever. “grrrr…. “ then darkness. 

No headlight, no dash lights, no life it seemed was in the beast. I turned everything off and reset all the switches and tried again. Nothing. No lights. Damn. I grabbed my voltmeter and saw the battery was at 8.5v, and not the normal 12.x. Not enough juice to kick start either. Not good at all. I’m a bit sweaty now; I’m dressed for riding at 15F not for standing around in 40F. I played around some more, but to no avail.

My wife stepped into the garage to leave for work. I asked her for a ride. I’m now late. I stripped off my riding gear and leave it in a heap as I dashed out the door. Now we’re both late.

Could it be an electrical short like the last time I had battery trouble? Maybe it’s a dead battery like when I first bought my Ural? There is an HD battery in there is now three years old, and unfortunately has been deep cycled a couple times. I have a new Odyssey PC680 on order. Ural dealer isn’t going to warranty an HD battery. Sure I could have gotten another battery to fit, but I want a reliable brand like Odyssey in my Ural. They make robust, reliable batteries.

I need some free time to figure it out which I hope I will have tonight. I checked, and it looks like the R1150GS battery is the same size as the Ural. I might swap those tonight. I guess the GS might be useful after all.

I’m very thankful I have a wonderful wife who can chauffer me to work while I fix the Ural.

Related Posts:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Winter Riding Has Arrived

1st Ural Snow Ride

It’s amazing how much can change in a day. In my last post, I mentioned how it was sunny and in the high 60s. A rare thing indeed for Minnesota in late November. When I woke up yesterday, it was still in the 50s. As the day wore on the temp withered away. It began to snow just after lunch, and by dinner there was two inches of snow resting on the ground. For my ride today, the temperature crept towards 30F, but never made it. Winter has arrived.

I spent some time getting reacquainted with the Ural in an empty parking lot. Just like I do in the spring when I switch my primary riding to two-wheels, I spend some time practicing emergency maneuvers in the winter when I switch to three-wheels. Swerves, quick stops, and flying the chair. I’m a bit rusty with the later one, the first two came back quickly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sunset on a Lake

SV650 at Lake at Sunset

Amazingly, the temperature was in the high 60s (F) today. The warm air and clear skies made for a great commuting day. I HAD to take the long way home past a half dozen different lakes. I managed to work in every twisty road I could find. It was nice.

I can hardly believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Have a great holiday weekend!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Winter Sidecar Prep

It snowed just briefly this morning which encouraged me to finish getting the Ural ready for winter. The two-wheeled riding season is about to come to a close, and the three-wheeled winter fun is about to begin.

Ural Tire Rotation

I put the main fairing and lower leg guards on last weekend. Today, I jacked the Ural up and rotated the back tires. I am still using the K37 Snowtex from last winter.

Ural Tire Rotation

The pusher (motorcycle rear) tire wears out the tires the fastest, and conversely, the cart (sidecar) wears them out the slowest. Since the K37 are not directional tires, I just swapped the wheels. A very easy procedure requiring about 30 minutes. It could probably be done in 10-15 minutes, but I was taking my time.

The photo below shows the cart (left) vs the pusher (right) over the same mileage. The cart tire is practically new.

Ural Tire Rotation

I also took the time to put on the hippo hands. The last time they were used was on my SV650 during my Everyday for 7 Weeks trip. Riding to work in the cold recently has reminded me quite strongly of riding through the Canadian Rockies. I find it interesting how the similar weather reminds me of that trip when I am on the SV. No other motorcycle trip has had such strong memories.

Ural with Hippo Hands

I should probably change the oil too, but I am otherwise good to go for winter.

Bring on the snow!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Motorcycle First Thursday–November 2012

First Thursday - November 2012

Yesterday was First Thursday at Dulono’s Pizza in Minneapolis. Earlier in there year this event would have drew in over a thousand motorcycles, but now the number of bikes matched the temperature. It was in the low 30s (F).

First Thursday - November 2012

This was the first one I’ve been able to make in several months. It was nice to visit with friends and catch up on summer adventures.

When I left, it was dark and there was only three bikes counting my SV650. I was happy to have my heated coat for the brisk ride home.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

RiderCoach Track Night at DCTC

RiderCoach Track Night

This past Tuesday night was the monthly RiderCoach night at Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) Driving Course aka the track. It’s a time for us to get together and talk. Mostly about bikes sometimes about coaching. The “track” is about one mile long and in the normal configuration has about 17 corners. Last night it was more like 14 with some of the tighter stuff straightened out. Most of the ridercoaches rode their street bikes there, but a few trailered race bikes to play with.

It was a good time chatting and riding. I was a bit too tired to properly enjoy myself on the track, so I spent most of my time chatting instead. It was nice to finally attend. I missed the first two this year due to my big trip, and then the most recent two because it was 100 degrees both days (or close enough).

I rode my trusty SV650. Two other coaches brought their SV650s too. Nice! There was a surprising amount of BMWs there as well.

RiderCoach Track Night

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Weekend in Duluth

Duluth Harbour

My wife and I spent this past weekend in Duluth, MN. Since we were apart for the Indy weekend, we thought it’d be nice to get away together. Because of the construction on I-35, we ended up getting up there a couple hours later than expected. We missed the sunset over the harbor, but still had a decent view as night fell for our evening walk near the lake.

In the morning, we stopped by Aerostich, and I spent a pile of money on a new Roadcrafter Light.

Aerostich in Duluth, MN

My Tourmaster Epic coat is falling apart as the seams disintegrate. I don’t feel particularly safe wearing it anymore because I don’t think it will hold up in a crash. It’s only 30 months old; I’m disappointed in the durability.

My new Roadcrafter Light is in the queue to be made, and I should have it in my hot little hands in about a month. It’s not the most stylish thing out there, but I am looking forward to easy on-off (in 30 seconds!) and the complete waterproofness in one piece of gear. No more rain suits for me when commuting!

We spent the rest of the day eating tasty food and playing tourists. It was a lot of fun.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Moto3 Moto2 MotoGP Sound Differences

A short video of the sound differences between Moto3 (250cc), Moto2 (600cc), and MotoGP (1000cc). The camera ended up clipping a little audio because they are so loud, but there is enough to show the general idea. This was from the IndyGP 2012 at turns seven and eight.

I like the sound of the Moto2 bikes when they are in a pack.

Video: Moto3 Moto2 MotoGP Sound Differences

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

IndyGP–Le Claire to Indianapolis

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

Excited to get to Indy, I left Le Claire early. There was a beautiful sunrise over the Mississippi River as I rode into Illinois. I would be slabbing it on I-74 all morning to save time. It wasn’t very exciting.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

When I arrived in Indy, I got a bit turned around. I had been given GPS coordinates for the north entrance of the track, but mis-entered them so I ended up in the wrong part of town. Eventually, I figured it out and found the speedway.

While sitting at a stop light a few blocks away, I could hear the howl of the MotoGP bikes. The sound brought a giant grin to my face. They have a very distinct sound that I immediately recognized after watching so many races on TV. I was going to see them live!

I made my way around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the north side where they have free motorcycle parking. It was surreal to be riding in. I followed the waving arms of the local security dressed in their yellow shirts. Following their direction, I entered the Indy oval between turns three and four and start riding the back part of the track towards the oval turn two. There were already several hundred, if not a thousand, bikes already parked on the back part of the track.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

As I approached the security guys tossed a puck down, so my side-stand didn’t damage the track.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

A shot of the bikes on Friday afternoon. I like this picture.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

I wandered around looking at the bikes as I made my way to the track. I could hear that the MotoGP bikes had left the track, so I wasn’t in a rush.

A nice pink bike.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

A very shiny Ninja

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

I thought this was too ugly not to take a photo.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

A well prepared BMW rider. Notice the little rain covers on the boots.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

The free gear check was just a short walk from the parking. They had large bags to put all your riding gear in. Very nice. My cases were mostly empty, so I could pack all of my gear into my bike.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

By the time I made it to the track over looking turns 7 and 8, Moto2 was practicing.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

The pros got to stand with a clear view of the track. Those lenses look heavy! (but I want one) haha.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

View of turn 9 from the bridge. This is the start of the back straight.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

I wandered around the infield for a while looking at the vendor areas. I think Yamaha had the nicest setup with bikes to climb on and take photos of in addition to the large store of memorabilia and their new models.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

They also had a custom bike contest. This is a 1980 XS650. It looked very slick.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

Yamaha also had a learn to ride track setup for kids. Watching little kids ride is enjoyable. My wife gave a little squeal when she saw this pic. She thinks little kids in helmets are cute.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

The Honda NC700X. Notice anything missing? After I sat on it my left foot was pawing the air looking for the shift lever. It’s an automatic...

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

Cycle World had a vintage bike contest. They all looked alike to me, so I didn’t spend much time gawking. First Thursday here has more variety.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

I had two brushes with greatness. Ben Spies on the back of a scooter just leaving his autograph session. I missed it by minutes. Dang! I also saw Dani Pedrosa on his scooter zipping around.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

Ducati had a massive set of tents and stuff.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

I liked their line up of bikes.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

There was a charity auction later for Lorenzo (left) and Spies (right) put up a signed t-shirt and photo.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

The wheelie truck. So cool. They have a bike setup in a pretty safe manner to try doing wheelies. It was fun to watch, but the line was a bit long to do it myself. Maybe next time.

Indy GP 2012 - Friday

At the end of the day, they let ticket holders ride around the track in a parade lap (Video here). I’ve done several track days before, and this wasn’t that. It was just to see the layout of the track from the rider’s perspective at slow speed. Nice to do once.

I was happy I brought good walking shoes. Lots of walking, but a great way to spend Friday afternoon. More MotoGP fun Saturday and Sunday in the next posts.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

IndyGP–Minneapolis to Le Claire

2012-08-16 Minneapolis to LeClaire

I packed the night before, so I could make a quick escape to the south and avoid rush hour. I didn’t want to fight traffic after work to get home and then again to get out of town. When the church bells started chimed three times, I suited up and left on Thursday afternoon. I wanted to make Indy, a short 640 miles way, by Friday afternoon.

2012-08-16 Minneapolis to LeClaire

It was a chilly ride to work. The night before I was too hot riding home in my tourmaster gear, so I decided to wear my mesh for the trip. On the way to work it was in the mid 60s, and even with the liners in I was very cold. MY SV650 offers no wind protection. When I arrived at work, I realized I forgot to grab a walking around coat. I was on the fence if I should run home on lunch and get it or not. I decided to. Man it was cold on the way home! It felt even colder than the morning. When I got home, I switched back to my tourmaster gear.

Here is a top tip for all of you thinking of doing a motorcycle trip: only have one set of gear; when you have more, you spend time uselessly considering which to wear.

2012-08-16 Minneapolis to LeClaire

I escaped the rush hour traffic by blasting south on US52. It worked well. I got snagged in a small road construction project, but otherwise the traffic was flowing freely. The shortest way from Minneapolis to Indianapolis is via Chicago on I94/I90. I’ve gone that way several times, and I wanted some new scenery. The road south through IA along the river and then over on I-74 looked promising.

2012-08-16 Minneapolis to LeClaire

As I rode south, I became colder and colder. The heated grips were the first thing on. There was a strong wind from the NW that was clawing at my coat and pushing the bike around. The chill it brought with snuck into all the gaps and cracks in my riding coat causing me to shiver. The first stop, I put on my walking around coat. It is windproof and helped a lot to seal out the drafts. At the second stop, I put on my Aerostich wind triangle to help keep my neck from getting so cold. I already had all the vents closed on my helmet. I stopped regularly to warm up and eat a snack.

2012-08-16 Minneapolis to LeClaire

52 is a four lane road up north, but dissolves into a twisty two-laner as it weaves around farms and river bluffs along the Iowa/Minnesota border. It was enjoyable. I had been on several parts of the road two years ago when my wife and I rode the Great River Road down the entire length of the Mississippi.

2012-08-16 Minneapolis to LeClaire

The weather forecast had called for PM thunderstorms, and luckily I missed them. I was watching them in the distance as I approached, but luckily avoided getting wet. The sunset near the river was awesome. Bright red and purple clouds filled the sky. I didn’t get a picture, I only got glimpses of it myself between the trees and hills.

2012-08-16 Minneapolis to LeClaire

In Dubuque instead of a Starbucks across from a Starbucks, you can get a BP across from a BP…

2012-08-16 Minneapolis to LeClaire

Just after Dubuque, I was riding in darkness. It has been a while since I’ve ridden at night. I usually get tons of practice in the winter on the Ural since the days are so short my commute ends up being in the dark both ways.

2012-08-16 Minneapolis to LeClaire

The darkness was relaxing. My single headlight on the SV bravely trying to illuminate the road. It didn’t do very well, so I used the high beam. That worked much better until other vehicles showed up. It was a short, cold hour to Davenport from Dubuque. With the sun down, the temperature was starting to fall fast. By the time I reached my hotel along the IL/IA border, it was almost 60F. The overnight low was supposed to be 48F! I had a dream about my heated coat. Unfortunately, it was resting at home in the closet.

2012-08-16 Minneapolis to LeClaire

I finished the day in Le Claire, IA with 6.5 hours on the bike and 329 miles ridden.

2012-08-16 Minneapolis to LeClaire

2012-08-16 Minneapolis to LeClaire

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