Friday, February 27, 2015

Rockets and Misc Reviews

The Geophysical Institute and constructed this rocket from salvaged pieces and parts from their rocket program. The University of Alaska Fairbanks is, I believe, the only university that has a rocket launch facility. It is about thirty miles north of Fairbanks. It is used to launch sub-orbital experiments in support of auroral and possibly atmospheric research. The display was under construction last summer but I hadn't stopped by and taken a photo of it yet.

This is the tail bag that I had selected to review from Motorcycle House back in the middle of November. I did an initial review at that time and said that I would do a followup after using it for a while.  I've used it every day that I've ridden since then and that has been just about every day. I am still using the bungee cords attached to the bottom of the bag to attach it to the pillion hand holds below the seat and that seems to be working out alright. Still not as convenient as a top box or some other fixed luggage. I still plan on replacing the bungee cords with some nylon webbing and quick release buckles for quicker and more secure attachment.

So far, I've only forgotten to attach the bungee cords once. Fortunately, the bag didn't fall off on the road.  It isn't quite as convenient as a tank bag but it makes up for that in storage space. I haven't needed the extra storage provided by expanding the sides out just on my commutes. After all, if it doesn't fit, it just gets thrown in the sidecar. When I get to my office, I just unhook the bungee hooks and carry it into my office. The handle makes it much easier to carry than my tank bag.

It holds quite a bit and the one thing that I would add would be a ring or clip to carry keys. For now, a carabiner on a zipper pull works well enough but I suspect that long term, the zipper pull will fall off. It holds my laptop in a padded case, the GoPro camera and all of it's assorted pieces in the blue neoprene bag, lunch and Micro-Start XP-3 battery which I'll cover in a bit. In the small side pockets I carry things like tire pressure gauge, multitools and paperwork. In the upper pockets are the Skidoo face mask filters and rubber tubes, and some other bits and pieces that would easily get lost in the Ural trunk. And, if I need to run an errand the bag comes off easily enough to lock in the Ural trunk if I didn't feel like carrying it around.

This is the Micro-Start XP-3 battery that I had mentioned. It's one of those "almost too good to be true" items. I had heard about these but had a hard time believing the claims until I read a post by some skeptical folks that I knew on AdvRider. This bag holds a small (10.2 oz) Li-ion battery that has enough current output and capacity to jump start a car. The case holds the battery, wall and car chargers, jumper cables and a USB dongle so you can use it to charge your electronic gadgets.

After charging it up using the small wall wart rated at only 1 amp @ 12v, I took it out to the garage, disconnected the battery from the BMW which is now conveniently in the sidecar. And connected this tiny battery up using the supplied cables. It started the bike repeatedly as in start the bike then immediately shut it down, repeat. After 10 times, it would still spin the starter easily and start the bike. Good enough to convince me. The unit is rated at 200 amps with a peak of 400 amps. Not too bad from a package that barely weighs over a pound. After this test it took quite a while to recharge. This is the second smallest of five models and has found a home in my tool bag.

How about that, a post with no videos!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Snow Video

Mid-morning on Tuesday, we started to get some large snowflakes. It seemed like a good time for another short video and I needed to pick up an air filter for the Ural. The last couple of days, the idle speed would be lower than usual after the engine warms up. And the exhaust smelled like it was running really rich.

This is just a short video of the ride with the large snowflakes. The doubled the speed of the video to shorten it. Riding in the falling snow is really relaxing. The fresh snow dampens sounds including the sound of the engine and exhaust. I'm not using the GoPro recorded audio due to clicking from something loose on the camera mount. It was gone for a while but now it's back again.

Wednesday morning - Things are getting back to normal here as far as weather is concerned. 10°F this morning which meant that the heated liner was used again.

ChrisL from had mentioned that he has been using a Napa 2373 air filter in his Ural so I picked one up at the local Napa store and installed it yesterday evening. There was a lot of oil on the air cleaner housing including near the air intake so I suspect that the filter had picked up some oil and when it was snowing, it would clog.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Drab and Dreary Day

The temperature on Monday was once again floating above freezing with predictions of doom and gloom from the weather types. In fact, school was cancelled and the university allowed employees to use a sick day as there was not yet a category for "administrative leave". Most areas have "snow days" but we have the inverse. No problem with snow but major problems with rain.

Since I didn't think the roads were that bad, I went ahead and rode in. There was a lot of side to side movement of the rig as it went down the road but that was due to the grooves the road grader had cut into the surface of the ice rather than slipping. It kind of felt like you were crossing a metal grate bridge.

Right now, the predicted snow has finally arrived. Fresh snow on top of ice. Should be a good day tomorrow.

Here is a image capture from the ArcticCam looking south towards downtown Fairbanks. I was curious as to how much snow fell on Monday evening. It looks like maybe only a couple of inches. But by morning, things were looking pretty dreary again. A thick blanket of fog.The second short video is the beginning of the morning commute but the lens was pretty wet after a short distance.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Global Warming?

Today was unseasonably warm again and that means that there is a lot of frost on the road surface from the road being colder than the air. To make matters worse, there is even talk of freezing rain. I had a number of errands to run and went back and forth across town a couple of times starting at College Coffeehouse. This picture is from the nice lounge area at the credit union. You can even use their free wi-fi as you sit in front of the fireplace enjoying their free coffee.

The warm weather is supposed to continue for the next week or so making the roads kind of treacherous. The studded, skinny tires on the Ural don't seem to have any problem with these conditions but you can see tracks all over the road where cars and trucks had ended up in the ditch.

I spent a little time on Saturday evening doing some piddly things with the Ural. All winter, I haven't been able to reset the trip odometer as the reset knob was extremely difficult to turn when cold. The knob used to be to the right of the speedometer behind the windshield. This meant the cable had to make a "U" to get into the back of the speedometer. I drilled a new hole on the right headlight bracket and repositioned the reset knob there. Much easier to reach and now the cable only makes a 90° turn. I'll put a waterproof pushbutton switch in the existing hole to enable a 4-way flasher.

To power the GoPro and recharge electronics, I had picked up a water-resistant dual USB outlet. It is only water-resistant when the cover is closed. For now, I just wired the dual outlet to a SAE connector until I figure out where to mount the outlet. For now, the outlet can just sit on the seat.