Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Just When You Thought It Was Spring

Just when you thought that it was Spring then Bam! It was a slippery ride in this morning since I had removed the studs from the tires. I guess the state isn't confident since they changed the last day for studded tires for the second time. Usually, it's April 15th and they had already moved it to May 1st. Now it's May 15th. Needless to say, this weather is a little unusual.

I don't think that this is the weather that Dom had wanted to see but since he's waiting for parts, the weather probably doesn't matter much as long as it clears up later in the week. Some folks here at the University mentioned that the road was pretty treacherous coming in from North Pole and Chena Hot Springs. Probably since folks had gotten used to clear roads and were driving a bit too aggressively.

This morning after a couple of audioconferences, I went down to College Coffeehouse to meet with a couple of other riders and Dom. Talked sidecars with George almost the entire time. It's pretty wet out now but not very slippery at all anymore. This is one of those times when reverse sure would've been nice to have as I needed to pull the bike in using the rear rack on the sidecar through the snow.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Look what I spotted this afternoon while wandering through cube land. The green spool is raw material being fed to the print head where it's melted and deposited on the flat surface. Just thought it was interesting. Not as fancy as the 3D printer that Coop mentioned in his post but still pretty cool. Enough to distract me and made me forget where I was headed. I'm easily distracted.

The printer came with models of it's own spare parts so you can make them ahead of time. They are the small white pieces next to the putty knife (which is needed to remove the output from the print surface).

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Another Sidecar Convert

Here is a much happier Dom after fixing one of the issues with his ride. A little dab of silicone and the front cover is a bit more waterproof. At this point, we believe that we figured out and were able to replicate the rough running problem on the Ural and the fix would allow him to continue to use the upgraded, aftermarket ignition system.


Yesterday, I got a call from Ken, another Fairbanks Airhead, who picked up a used Cozy sidecar last Fall. The last time I talked to Ken was at the Fairbanks airport, he was thinking of hanging the Cozy off of his K75. Now, he is considering his /6 and wanted to look at the subframe and mounts I was using. George Rahn has a Dauntless subframe that might fit his bike but he has never seen the mount installed. Ken stopped by around 3:00pm and just like anytime you get several riders together, you end up talking a lot. Here he is studying the front mount on my Beemer. I think that he has also been thinking of a Ural so this was a good opportunity for a little comparison shopping, so to speak.

It has been really nice having Dom here. I know that he probably would prefer to be on the road. The weather hasn't been very welcoming these days and I saw 3°F this morning. The tire studs may have been removed but the heated gear isn't ready to be packed away just yet.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

More Beemer Maintenance

Today was a maintenance day on the Beemer. I hadn't changed drive train fluids in a couple of years. 350ml in the final drive, 150 ml in the drive shaft housing and 800 ml in the transmission. All 90 weight. The drained oil was relatively clean with the exception of the drive shaft housing which had evidence of water. Two years ago, I had removed the driveshaft boot at the transmission to look at the U-joint and hadn't gotten the boot fully back in place for a couple of weeks. No evidence of metal on the magnetic drain plugs so, no problems.

When we set the toe-in and lean a few days back, I used a magnetic clinometer on the rear brake rotor and we measured the angle that the bike was leaning away from the sidecar at 2°. While riding yesterday morning, it almost felt like I was tilted toward the sidecar. Yesterday afternoon, I checked the level of the garage floor and it wasn't level which threw off our measurement. Today, I put an "old school" steel carpenters square against the rotor and floor to check the lean. It was vertical or 0° lean. We adjusted the struts until there was a sliver showing between the square and the rotor guessing about a degree or two. Now when running down the road, it could be hands off the bars. Another huge improvement. It's wonderful to have someone so knowledgeable about sidecars around.

I also figured that it was finally about time to remove the front studs. As you can see, they were pretty worn but lasted three times longer than the rear studs. Next year, I'm going to try the GripStuds with the tungston carbide core. They should be more durable. I also tried out Dom's tire chains for fit and the Beemer has even less clearance than the Ural between the rear tire and the driveshaft housing. If I wanted to use them I would need to find a 3.75x18 rear tire.

Today, Dom is at Frozen Motorworks going through some testing procedures with Jon, the owner, on his Ural's fancy new ignition system. Jon thought that he had figured out the cause of the rough running and when we rode down (with Dom as the monkey again) his rig sounded as bad as ever. They both looked pretty frustrated. Intermittent electrical problems are a real challenge to solve.

Tomorrow afternoon, another local Airhead wanted to stop by and look at my sidecar mounts. He as a R90/6 and the Cozy sidecar I took pictures of last Fall in George Rahn's shop area. The last time I talked to him he was planning on attaching it to his K75 but has since changed his mind. I think that either would make a great tug but he feels more comfortable with the /6 since it has a conventional frame.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Raspberry Pi

Absolutely ZERO moto content in this post. (Well maybe a little)

And, no, not that kind of pie

I like it when boxes arrive in the mail. I had been interested in these small single-board computers since they came out last year but couldn't think of a good use. I noticed that Amazon had "kits" available which includes the Raspberry Pi Model B and some popular options. In this case, a plastic case, 4G SD card, USB charger, micro USB cable, and an HDMI cable.

I have a use for the tiny computer in Barrow to drive the conference room projector and installed XBMC running on Linux. Here is the board installed in the case showing most of the interfaces which include Fast Ethernet, 2xUSB ports, analog stereo audio out, composite video out and HDMI out. Underneath is the SD card slot. On the top there is an port for  expansion boards.

I opened the box at 10:30am and by 11:30am, I was searching for an display with a free HDMI port. XBMC was installed and running and this will be a great, simple solution. And the entire kit was about $80 including the wireless 802.11b/g/n nano USB adaptor.

There is also an Arduino microcontroller sitting on my desk tempting me to see what I can do with it.

To add a little moto content, right after I had XBMC running, I got a call from a Ural rider about 100 some miles down the road. You know me, any reason for a road trip!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Passengers

My son, Kyle, went for his first sidecar ride this morning when Charlie6 (of redlegsrides.blogspot.com fame) needed to warm up the engine on his rig before changing the oil. After returning, Kyle's response was "it wasn't as scary as he thought it would be". And that is with an experienced sidecar pilot.

Much of today was spent on maintenance and adjustments on both of the rigs. When I had last checked my setup, I thought the toe-in was about ¼" but when we checked it today, it was toed out almost 2"! The 2x4 that I was using as a straight edge wasn't as straight as I thought it was. After a lot of fiddling, I think we have it set to ½". I'll ride it for a while and see if there is a difference.

My birthday present from my wife, Bridget, was that she would try riding in the sidecar. Dom documented the event and posted the video. Here, after testing out the Sena intercom, we are leaving the house. This is the first time I carried a passenger in the sidecar and I need to work on smoother shifting. The sidecar yaws left when the clutch is pulled in and right when the clutch is let out and you start accelerating again. This also occurs to a lesser degree without a passenger but it is more pronounced with a passenger.

And here we are arriving back home after a short ride down Farmers Loop Road. Note the death grip to the sides of the sidecar. The seat area is on the shallow side.

After we get back, Dom explained to Bridget why the passenger is referred to as the "monkey".

Monday, April 22, 2013


We rarely get visitors especially those that travel up the Alaska Highway, and even fewer that venture up before the tourist season "officially" starts on Memorial Day. Last year it was Chris from everydayriding.org and this year its moto-blogger and adventurer, Charlie6 from redlegsrides.blogspot.com. He arrived yesterday evening after an uneventful ride on a typical Alaska Spring day. If you want to hear what really happened, you need to check out his blog.

Today was maintenance day and a fellow rider, Solarmoose on ADVrider helped change several well worn tires in his shop. Later in the afternoon, I got my first sidecar ride (as a passenger) during a test ride to "make sure the wheels didn't fall off". The Ural has a much lower first gear than my Beemer and I was impressed by the acceleration and comfortable ride. More maintenance needed tomorrow.

I also took the opportunity to remove the screw in studs from my rear tire. They were really worn down again and some of them were pretty difficult to remove.  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Blog Post 750

I was originally asked to start this blog by our public relations group in 2004 as a place to log my walks around campus. They were attempting to get staff more interested in getting some sort of exercise and walking is a great place to start. Originally, it was on a University of Alaska host then they asked everyone to move off to some other provider such as Blogger. People complained that it was an inappropriate use of university resources. Out of all of those that started back then, this may be the only one still around though I don't mention walking or exercise very often though it is still an important part of my life.

Yesterday, it was above freezing and the mess known as breakup has begun. This morning, the rivers flowing through the parking lots have re-solidified and I am again reminded that my rig doesn't have reverse while pulling it into the parking slot while trying to keep my own footing. I was originally considering removing the tire studs a few days ago but installed a fresh batch on the rear instead. Now I'm glad that I did.

Having the hard pack removed has done wonders for our driveway. Now I don't really have to worry whether our front wheel drive Prius will be able to get out once we remove the studded snow tires. The traction control cannot be turned off on this car so if a wheel starts to spin, forward motion comes to a complete stop. Toyota claims that it's that way "for your safety".

You can see how much snow has melted as the snow on this hill was few feet thick only last week. The clear sidewalks are a lot easier to walk on. You don't have to pay much attention to where you place your next step. On the exercise front, I still have managed to continue walking almost every day with a goal of 15 hours per week. I am part of a virtual team here on campus and, as a group, have managed to average just under 14 hours per week. Sunrise is now before 6am and sunset is almost 10pm. Lots of opportunity to get out and do something.

My new challenge with the sidecar rig is to figure out a way to put on the external steering damper. Even with the stock friction damper turned up all the way, there is an instability at about 10mph where the bars want to swing back and forth. I originally attributed it to snow and ice on the road but it is more pronounced with clear, dry pavement. There is a some vibration at speed (over 60mph) with the fairing and windshield. I can't feel it at all through the handlebars. This morning, I stood up on the pegs and looked over the windshield at the front wheel and there was no shaking evident. With the one lower fairing removed for the front sidecar mount, the fairing is less solidly mounted than originally designed. Maybe I will try and remount the lower to see it that resolves the vibration. All this means is that I need to drill a large hole in the upper part of the lower fairing for the front upper sidecar strut to attach. This is one of those measure twice, cut once. Or maybe measure more than twice...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hard Pack Removal

Hopefully this should take care of the difficulty getting vehicles out of our driveway. The studs on the rear tire are getting pretty worn again from all of the snow-free pavement. Most of the main roads are in pretty nice shape. Normally it would take weeks for all the ice and packed snow on our driveway to melt and turn to slush. The ice in front of the garage takes even longer to melt since it shaded by the house. This is the first time I've ever had someone come in to remove the hard pack.

I think that Spring really is here this time. Temperatures are venturing above freezing this week and most of the snow has disappeared fro the roads. This is the view from the 5th floor conference room of the International Arctic Research Center looking south. The building with my office is the one on the left of the frame past the parking lot.

I've been able to ride everyday since I've been back from my last trip and this morning, it was an almost tropical 16°F. I didn't even need to turn on the heated gear...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Running Errands

Kind of a boring post today but at least is has a little moto content. It has warmed up considerably though we are getting a dusting of snow today (Sunday). I needed to run a couple of errands and couldn't help but stop and take a picture of this sculpture. It is bare steel and at Creamers Field Bird Sanctuary. I noticed that they had started clearing the field in preparation for the first arrivals. I think that Canada Geese are usually the first up here.

This has been the first week that I've been able to ride daily and only had to resort to the "spare battery" once after the rig sat all day at sub-zero temperatures. (°F) On Friday evening, I finally installed the 50 watt silicone pad heater on the oil pan and a 25 watt silicone pad to a steel plate positioned next to the battery. I didn't want to attach the pad directly to the battery since I didn't know how warm it would get. If the temperature drops below zero again, I can try plugging things in to keep the engine warm. And there is still one more outlet available in case I want to plug in the battery tender. I ran all of the cords to the dashboard of the bike as a reminder to not take off with it still plugged in.

Yesterday, George Rahn, the local airhead guru took a look at the rig and pronounced it as good and solid. He has built a number of BMW sidecar rigs over the years and currently pilots a Royal Enfield with a Cozy sidecar. I had just checked all of the mounting bolts and found the front upper mounting bolt a little loose. I guess I need to check on a more regular basis. I'm still thinking that I may want to make more solid mounts where the struts attach to the sidecar frame. Right now, I am still using the Cozy supplied bolt on mounts and they look very lightweight compared to the DMC hardware.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Worn Out Studs

Wednesday Evening - Just as I figured, the screw-in tire studs have worn down again on the rear tire aka the pusher. It only takes about ten minutes to remove and re-install the 52 studs using my 1/4" impact driver and the cost for the 52 studs is about $4. Not bad for being able to ride through the winter though the studs are starting to wear out faster due to more dry pavement.

Aerostitch has screw-in carbide tire studs of a more conventional design listed in their catalogue and I will be trying those next winter. The front tire still has the ones I put in a couple of months ago. Right now, we have fresh snow on top of ice and that is a treacherous mix. At times it's hard to stay upright even while walking.

Thursday Morning - The replaced studs made a huge difference not only in getting up the driveway but made for a much more solid feel on the road. This may be the coldest I've ridden the rig in so far. As always, with the heated liner and gloves it's no problem at all staying toasty warm though I could really start feeling the cold after arriving on campus. With the engine basically just off idle through campus, I turn off all the heated gear to avoid running the battery down.

I must admit that when I first woke up this morning and saw -18°F, I seriously considered taking the bus. But it was only -3°F at our house so I went ahead and rode in. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sunny and 3°F

After getting dumped on for the last couple of days with maybe 8" of fresh snow, Spring has returned. The weather guessers were projecting bitterly cold temperatures for today but it didn't happen (big surprise). In Alaska, there seems to be a fascination with weather and I guess I'm no different. I hear that it is still snowing in Anchorage with almost 2' of accumulation just in the last week.

This image is from a webcam at the local newspaper looking south towards the Cushman Street bridge and downtown Fairbanks.

It did take four attempts to get the rig up the driveway due to the fresh snow but once that obstacle was out of the way, it was fairly smooth sailing. I think I may have worn down the studs on the rear tire again. With all the clear pavement, they really wear out quick. The ones on the front tire are still doing great possibly because they only touch the pavement when the bars are turned.

The parking lot has been cleared at least once as yesterday the snow was about 6" deep when I left. I think the only reason I still park in the motorcycle parking is out of habit as the sign suggests that riding season starts on May 1st. These are days where a 2WD Ural starts to look pretty attractive though I'm not sure I want to take on the additional maintenance and repair issues that even the new ones seem to have. Plus, this is the bike that I already have.

Just for comparison, this is what the parking area looked like last year in mid-April.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Back Home Again

With all the blog titles celebrating the arrival of Spring, I thought I should do a quick update from the interior of Alaska.

This is a shot from Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks of Mt. Mckinley. If you look carefully, you can see the highway and the railroad track. Much of the snow along the roads have been pushed way back into the ditches to try and eliminate water running across the highway and freezing. For us in Alaska, DOT actually going out to move the snow all the way off the highway is one of the best indicators of the arrival of Spring. I got in some riding Sunday morning along the Farmers Loop - Goldstream Valley loop and some fresh snow on ice made for a few exciting sections of the road. The bike continues to run wonderfully smooth though the 800 rpm idle seems low compared to what I am used to. It was a dreary, snowy day so I didn't stop to take any pictures.

Since I didn't post too many food pics from my Maryland trip, I thought I should at least add one of my favorite dinner in Annapolis. An assortment of three different kinds of oysters with just a little horseradish and lemons. Fresh seafood like this is just not available in Alaska contrary to what you may be led to believe. During the summer, salmon and halibut are readily available but all of the shellfish would be frozen at the cannery so what we get here isn't any different than you can find anywhere else in the country, I was kind of disappointed in the different crab cakes I tried in Maryland. I guess I must just prefer king and dungeness to blue.

And this one is for bobskoot. They served salmon Eggs Benedict on the flight from Chicago to Anchorage. Pretty decent hollandaise for a pre-prepared dish.

Today, it was -17°F and snowing so I opted not to ride in to work this morning. But it promises to be above 0°F tomorrow. And, I know it's hard to believe but no travel planned for a while except to Barrow later this month. How's that for a change.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

USNA Short Tour

Today was the last day of the Polar Technology Conference with most of the presentations dealing with stations such as Summit in Greenland or the South Pole. Lots of work being done with solar and wind due to the incrediby difficult task of shipping fuel for generators and those same generators having a negative impact on what the scientists are trying to study. Our host, LCDR John Woods, took the handful left at the end of the meeting on a short tour of the academy. This is the main entrance to Bancroft Hall, possibly the largest university dorm as it houses all 4,200+ students. I don't remember the main entrance to any dorm I've been to looking like this.

This is the room at the top of the stairs in the upper picture. It is Memorial Hall and honors all midshipmen killed in action. Below this room is the dining hall which can seat 4,500 people. One of the phrases that kept coming up during the meeting was sequestration as it related to new and continuing funding of polar projects. It seemed rather ironic given the almost lavish environment with the buildings and landscaping.

This is the main entrance to Bancroft Hall, aka student housing. The University of Alaska has a long way to go to meet this standard. Everyday at 12:05, some percentage of the student body assembles here with a drum and bugle corp then before they head off row by row to lunch.


Since our guide was an oceanographer, he showed off some of their facilities like this wave tank to test hull designs. Quite an impressive facility for an undergraduate university. He also showed off their fabrication shop, the lab where their CubeSats are designed and built and some other science and engineering labs. He is trying to get the USNA to enter the Clean Snow machine Challenge.

One of the last talks was about the NSF funded clean snow machine competition. The winning electric snow machine will be shipped to Greenland with team members to be used in the field at Summit. This year, the winner was McGill University from Montreal with the University of Alaska Fairbanks coming in second.

And I may as well show another ship model in the engineering building.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Annapolis - Ship Models

Just a few shot of some of the many ship models on display. Like I mentioned in yesterday's post, these aren't recent models of old ships but very old models of current ships. There seemed to be a several purposes for the models but one of the most common reasons seemed to be a way to show construction details to others.


I don't have any detail of what ships they are or even the year. There must have been maybe 60-100 on display and after a while, they all looked alike.


I don't know what they were thinking in the painting below. There was no explanation. Any thoughts?


This is one of the main academic buildings for the 4000 midshipmen at the academy. Everyone graduates with a Bachelors of Science even if their major was not science or engineering due to the number of mandetory math/science classes. I did run into Department of Engineering and Weapons. Not your normal university major.


There was a section on navigation. I used to know how to use one of these. I don't remember much.