Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last Ride of 2014

Happy New Year!!!

Given the forecast for frozen drizzle, I didn't expect to do any riding today. But by noon, the temperature had dropped into the mid 20s (°F) and the gravel trucks are making their way around town. Just a short ride to and around the university and back. Only 13km but that was still long enough to make another PBC video!

I still haven't turned around the air intake on the air cleaner housing so the Ural ran poorly after the the first couple of miles. Moisture is getting into the air cleaner.  On another note, I had changed to a smaller pilot jet (low speed jet) a few weeks back and the gas mileage has climbed up into the high 20s. Much better than the low 20s that it was. That wasn't much better than the 8,000 lb curb weight one ton truck. Kinda sad...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Almost Tropical

The earlier trend of warmer and warmer weather continued. This morning, it was 30°F here in interior Alaska when the normal would be well below 0°F. Whenever it gets really cold in the northern states (such as ND, MN or WI) it really warms up around here.

I did manage to get in another PBC video in as it was still below freezing when I had left the house. I started to head up the Ester Dome road but the rear wheels (not plural) were spinning a lot. But still went 59km of not really going anywhere except wandering around Fairbanks. This morning, there was a temperature inversion where it was warmer at higher elevations and cold in the valley. I considered restarting the video when it was 20°F (10°F cooler than it was at home) but thought that that would be pretty petty. On the way home, I could feel the frozen rain drops hitting my visor.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Santa Clause House, Weird Weather and +2x PBC

Today was another "day off". The quotes are due to the university just sort of declaring that they will be closed and staff can either use vacation days or leave without pay. A hardship for many especially those who have been with the university of a shorter time. Granted, it's an easy way to stretch 6 days of annual leave into two weeks off. Anyway, we went out to the Santa Clause House in North Pole, AK. Here, it's Christmas all year around. Lots of tourists and other visitors. Maybe I need to ride the Ural here tomorrow.

The temperature here in Fairbanks has been all over the place as anyone who have been watching my PBC videos. On Christmas Eve, it was -11°F then on Friday, it was up to +21°F. On Saturday, it was back down to -20°F followed by +15°F on Sunday. This is a screen capture from the Weather Underground app showing the dramatic 41°F temperature swing.

Below are two more PBC (Polar Bear Challenge) videos.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Pioneer Park (Yet Another Video)

Saturday was clear and cold with fog in the low lying areas. When i left the house it was somewhere between -11°F and -15°F depending on who and where. One of the (dis)advantages of having time off at home is there is more time to ride around during daylight. And that means more PBC videos. This is the view looking towards town from the next subdivision to the west. The hills are a lot steeper so they haven't lost their view to trees. This iPhone photo was taken just a little after noon on my way home.

The previous video qualified me on the Polar Bear Challenge site and I earned a checkmark (see left) as a "Polar Bear~ and also on being the first official Arctic Bear for 2014-2015 season". The battery in both the remote and the camera didn't last very long today probably due to the cold temperatures but I did get some video driving through Pioneer Park. This is a touristy site within Fairbanks that has things like a salmon bake, gift shops, a playground, train ride, etc.

Last year the coldest ride was -23°F so that is sort of my goal. I figure there are plenty of opportunities to match that.

Friday, December 26, 2014

2015 PBC #3

Since I am not working for a while, I did another Polar Bear Challenge (PBC) video this morning. It had snowed last night and snowed a bit during my ride as well. The temperature was a very pleasant 15°F due to the overcast skies and the trees looked especially nice when covered with frost. Today's ride was 50km starting from the University of Alaska Museum and ending at the Dog Musher's Field with a stop at College Coffeehouse in the middle. Sorry for the long video but I thought that I had edited out a lot of material but apparently not enough. I think maybe over ⅞ of the video was discarded. Today, I discovered that the GoPro remote actually works with the warmer temperatures. I messed up on the spoken date (wrong date). I'm just not very good at this video stuff.

The bike really ran well and the engine sounded even quieter than normal after the oil change. And I actually ended up running with 2WD engaged on the back roads at the university. Having 2WD and reverse is really a luxury!

According to the rules on the PBC site, one needs to complete three "approved" rides below freezing to qualify. I figure that every day will be below freezing for the next couple of months. I won't do a blog post for every single PBC video. Right now, I'm waiting for the video to render then have to wait for the upload to YouTube. Maybe one post per week with multiple videos per post...

Ural Maintenance 22,500 km

Pretty sorry trend shown here. After all of the walking around in San Francisco, I'm not doing very much now that I'm back in Fairbanks. Especially when I spend the time sitting around messing around with videos. I just need one more PBC video to "qualify" and they mentioned that they may need to create another category. I must admit that getting around with the Ural in the winter isn't anywhere the challenge that it would be on two wheels.

Since I'm closing in on the 22,500km service, I went ahead and started with some of the simple things. I had picked up several oil filters the last time I had visited Mickey's Mufflers in Anchorage. After removing the filter and disassembling it, there were no traces much of anything to be concerned about so I may skip the next filter change. At the last oil change, I didn't change the filter and used some 10w40 dino oil that was lying around the garage and it was only 1½ months ago. As you can see in the next photo, it had picked up quite a bit of moisture. I've been meaning to switch to a full synthetic before it got cold. At -40° 10w40 is has the consistency of honey where a full synthetic 5w30 will still pour.

The transmission oil was completely clean with no moisture evident. I replaced the engine oil with 5w30 full synthetic and the transmission with 20w50 full synthetic. Colder weather will be coming soon as January and February are usually our cold months. Singles and opposed twins are more susceptible to moisture in the crankcase than other designs as they both suck in their full engine displacement worth of air with every revolution through the crankcase vent.

Here is the checklist for the 22,500 km service. All I have left to do is checking the steering column bearings and the wheel bearings. In addition, I'm also planning on lubing the transmission input spline and both drive shafts. There is a mod to install a grease fitting in the drive shaft. It won't work on the main drive shaft but it will on the side car drive. Plus it'll take a while to check all of the fasteners.
  1. Change engine oil.
  2. Check final drive oil level.
  3. Inspect air filter element.
  4. Check fasteners for proper tightening.
  5. Check steering column bearings.
  6. Check adjustment of wheel bearings

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Ride and PBC #2

Went for another PBC ride this morning with a starting temperature of -14°F. I had ridden to College Coffeehouse to meet with some of the regulars and the place was almost deserted with it being Christmas Eve. The PBC video began at College Coffeehouse heading west and north on Sheep Creek Rd. Then north on Miller Hill, west on Yankovich Rd, north on Dalton Trail, north on Goldfinch Rd, south on Ballaine Rd. Then east to the Dog Mushers Hall on Farmers Loop Rd which is where this high noon photo was taken.

The first PBC video was accepted so this is my second submission. Finding royalty free music continues to be the challenge as well as trying to edit down the videos. The GoPro remote doesn't work very well at colder temperatures and the battery in the GoPro camera seems to only last for about 15 minutes. It would be nice if they had someway to power it externally.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas and Another PBC Video

Merry Christmas!

Things around the house are pretty busy. A birthday, an anniversary, relatives are visiting and some decorations are going up. Here, the cat is checking things out. After today I have about a week and a half off. All that I have planned is some Beemer and Ural maintenance so you may hear about some of that in subsequent posts.

My first Polar Bear Challenge post wasn't accepted by the site due to several deficiencies. First, it was too short. The videos themselves need to be longer than 3 minutes. My interpretation of the rules is that the ride needs to be longer than 3 minutes but apparently the video itself needs to be between 3 and 7 minutes long not counting introduction and credits. My time lapse video was only 48 seconds long. Second, I need to speak the temperature and odometer readings in addition to showing them clearly in the video. The thermometer used must be a mercury or alcohol with allowances for digital.

I tried an electronic thermometer but the display started to fizzle out after only a few minutes outside so that wasn't useable. The aircraft OAT gauge mounted on the bike isn't a qualifying thermometer. So today after purchasing a thermometer, I tried again. The initial and final video recordings were made with my iPhone instead of trying to use the GoPro. At least that way I could see that the digits were in focus. The GoPro video was actually pretty long and boring so I cut it down to just under 7 minutes. In fact, I had recorded long enough that I needed to change the GoPro battery halfway through the ride. I left the University shortly before sunset, headed west and north on Sheep Creek Rd, west on Goldstream Rd, south on the Old Steese Hwy, south on McGrath Rd then finally east on Farmers Loop Rd. This used to be my scenic route home when I had first started riding and is 40 km or 24.85 miles.

By the time I came home, my left boot had oil on it that was pushed out of the engine at the valve covers and push rod tubes. I suspect that maybe the breather was frozen shut and pressure was building up in the crankcase. I drained almost 6 oz of liquid from the crankcase vapor recovery canister. I think that it may have been completely full and water and ice were blocking the hose.

Monday, December 22, 2014

PBC 2015 #1

Inspired by ChrisL at, I decided to submit videos to the 2015 PolarBear Challenge. Thus is my first submission. A time lapse video with no music of the short ride to work with a short loop around campus thrown in at the end. Temperature was -13°F and total distance was only 11 km. I was originally going to add a much longer loop (as you get additional points for distance) buI had to switch to reserve just before I stopped by the university temperature sign. I didn't have a handy outdoor thermometer at the beginning of the ride, I may have to pick something up. According to the rules, the temperature and mileage at the start, and I assume the finish, needs to be spoken and shown at the beginning and end of the video. I forgot to do that. Oh well, plenty of other opportunities.

I tried to use the GoPro to log the mileage at the beginning and end of the ride but that turned out to be a mistake. Not having an LCD or viewfinder to frame the image or see if it's in focus was a problem. I'll try cell phone video next time for the beginning and end. Also, the camera started to slip in it's mount during the short gravel road portion of the loop.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Flight Delay

Friday was a travel day. I walked to the Civic Center BART station at 10 in the morning. Then BART to the San Francisco Airport and find out that my flight was delayed, then delayed again, then again. We finally left for Seattle at 6:15pm. Of course this meant that I missed my connection to Fairbanks. The delay was not related to weather but the airline not having a pilot available. While in line for rebooking, I called the airline and rescheduled so all I needed to ask about was my checked bag.

Once in Seattle, everyone on the flight received a little gift with some gourmet food items and a 2200 mAh USB cell phone charger as they got off of the flight. Pretty cool gift. Especially since I put all of my chargers in my checked bag. The battery in my iPhone is 1570mAh so this is more than a full charge. I stopped at customer service before heading to baggage claim to make sure that my return flight reservation was in place. It was and they gave me a hotel voucher since the delay was caused by the airline. Pretty phenomenal customer service. Kudos to Alaska Airlines!

The hotel was the Hilton Doubletree. Far better than what I would have picked on my own off of My mom is flying up to Fairbanks tomorrow so I rescheduled to be on the same flight from Seattle to Fairbanks. Note that it's a corner room! Dinner in the lounge was delicious. More so since I hadn't had any food yesterday besides the complimentary pretzel snack on the plane. I thought that the San Francisco airport would have a decent selection of restaurants but was wrong. Besides a smattering of fast food, there was only pizza.

I was thinking about taking the light rail into Seattle but it has been raining pretty steadily all night and doesn't look too much better today. My flight out of Seattle isn't until 11pm so I have some free time today. This is a look from the balcony of the hotel room.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

More From AGU

I stopped by the Latitude booth to take a closer look at their UAV. It has a payload of 5kg and can cruise for 12 hours. The battery life for vertical operation, i.e. take off and landing is about 5 minutes. This could be extended but at the expense of payload or fuel for the gasoline engine. In case you can't tell, I am fascinated by their design.

The design is for autonomous operation though you are required to maintain a radio link in case it need to be deliberately brought down, i.e. another aircraft enters the flight area. This is larger than the typical UAV so it should help it being seen. The company also has an unmanned Cessna 172. As you might imagine, the instrument payload is pretty impressive once you eliminate the people. But it is not designed for VTOL so you would have to have a convenient runway. The mentioned that they are planning to be in Barrow in the summer of 2016.

The gasoline engine should look familiar to anyone who played with model airplanes. It is essentially a horizontal twin, two cycle, compression ignition engine (i.e. diesel) with glow plugs for starting only. Those are the things looking like spark plugs in the heads.

I also stopped at the Spectral Evolution booth just to sort reminisce a bit. They manufacture and market a visible-near infrared portable spectrometer modeled after an instrument I had worked on some 40 years ago. It has lost 90% of it's weight and volume, higher resolution and, I suspect, is much more reliable. They even had some pictures of the original unit.

There were a number of presentations on modeling the future of multi-year sea ice in the Arctic and the projection hasn't changed much. Somewhere between 2030 and 2050 was the estimate of when the sea ice coverage drops below 1 mil sq miles. That's the threshold that some have come up with for complete thawing of the North Pole. Another interesting tidbit of information is that the Greenland ice sheet holds enough water to raise the sea level by 7m. What is also significant is that recent times have the entire ice sheet melting at the same time.

This is the Umiaq booth, the science logistics provider in Barrow, with one of their staff members doing a demonstration of an Inupiat yo-yo. There are normally five people in their booth but they are standing back for the demonstation. Sorry about the vertical form factor on the video. In addition to the Umiaq booth the other Alaska booths are UAF research and Toolik Field Station. The Toolik booth had extra comfy seats for resting and I know this is a stretch, but the Toolik manager rides an R65 airhead. How's that for getting some minimal moto content into this post.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

San Francisco (part 3)

This evening, I had dinner with some colleagues at an Italian restaurant on the other side of Chinatown. They had a delicious mushroom risotto. Like I've said before, I don't think there is bad food anywhere in San Francisco. It did make for a long walk back to the motel but did get me to Union Square and Powell Street. This is the area where I have stayed in the past and it is very busy and touristy with lots of expensive stores selling things that no one really needs. I did end up stopping at the Apple store as my iPhone had zoomed the screen and I didn't know how to turn it off. In case it happens again, the solution is triple tap with 3 fingers to bring up a zoom menu assuming that the zoom feature is turned on within accessibility.

With all of the walking around today at Moscone West, going to the Whole Foods store for breakfast and lunch, and through Chinatown for dinner, it added up to a lot of steps. I hadn't walked this far in a while. This screen is from the pedometer app on the iPhone. That's almost enough walking to offset dinner. I had gone by the Piston & Chain storefront but there was some sort of private party going on by the time I had gotten there so I didn't stop.

There were several UAV vendors showing off their wares as well as quite a few presentations and posters where they have been used to collect data. I gather that there are some real challenges to using UAVs to collect data but in many cases the lower cost still make it pretty attractive option. I found this model interesting as it has 4 electric motors for vertical lift and a twin cylinder gas engine for flying. The gas engine gives it a lot of time in the air and a large payload but still retains the important benefit of vertical take off and landing. Pretty slick. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

San Francisco (cont)

No rain and a nice walk from the motel to Moscone West where most of the presentations were occurring. The sun was even breaking through the clouds. Most of the presentations I attended were within the Cryosphere program and focused on snow and ice in the polar regions. The Moscone Center wi-fi is pretty pathetic as you might expect with some 20,000 attendees. But I arrived with no shortage of connectivity options. The iPad has Verizon LTE, the iPhone has AT&T LTE and the Nexus 4 has T-Mobile HSPA. All have connection sharing via Bluetooth, wi-fi and USB. Right now, I have been using the iPad as the Verizon service is fantastic. AT&T isn't too bad this year either. The hotel free wi-fi is barely functional and is there just so they can advertise that they have free wi-fi.

After a morning of listening to talks, I went out in search of lunch. There was a decent selection of ethnic food at the Metreon food court across the street From Moscone West. I ended up getting lunch at the Inay Filipino Kitchen not because the food sounded good but because the line wasn't too long. I've never had garlic fried rice and it was fantastic. Wonderful flavor. That's something I'm going to be trying to make. The photo is one from the Internet. I think you will be hard pressed to find bad food in San Francisco. I had an audio conference this afternoon and just used one of the comfortable meeting alcoves at the Marriott Hotel for several hours. GoToMeeting using Verizon and audio-conferencing using AT&T.

Here's a little bit of moto content. On the way back to my motel, I passed an interesting store front. It is the meeting place of Piston and Chain, a local motorcycle club. The have bike lifts and tire machines available for rent to their members as well as an assortment of tools. Some of the bikes were for sale (lower group) and some were just on display (upper group). A couple that I had never heard of like a Laverda. One of the members came by to chat and it looked like an inviting place.

There's an open house every Wednesday evening. I may stop by since it's less than a block from the motel. The "Nice bike" card is one that they leave on someone's bike that they see parked inviting them to attend. Kind of nice.

Something interesting that I just noticed is that Verizon is IPv6 enabled. I have this Chrome extension called IPvFoo that shows the IP addresses for the content on any web page and as you can see, connections to most of the servers are via IPv6. For the real geeks, my guess is that Google has an /40 allocation with addresses beginning with 2607:f8b0:40, that is 40 bits of network address assigned to Google and 24 bits of subnet that they allocate followed by 64 bits of host address. And they are manually addressing their servers. The only times I usually see this kind of IPv6 connectivity is either in my office or at Internet2 events. Way to go, Verizon! (I'm an IPv6 champion) 

Monday, December 15, 2014

San Francisco

On the road again in San Francisco for the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. This is the one non-technology conference that I regularly try to attend. I missed it last year since I opted to attend Educause in Anaheim. All of the hotels near the Moscone Center seemed to have really jacked up their prices this year so I'm a little over a mile away. In the past, I've usually stayed somewhere around Union Square but this time I'm near the Civic Center south of Market Street.

My flight left Fairbanks at 1:15am and the 1½ hour layover in Seattle turned into 5 hours due to miserable weather in San Francisco. After a damp walk to Moscone, I found a nice Irish pub for lunch a couple of blocks away.

On Sunday, I was running errands again and could actually ride during daylight. What a concept. I attached the GoPro to the passenger assist handle on the sidecar. This is yet another perspective. The sunlight was kind of a surprise as it has been overcast and snowing for the last couple of days. And warmed up from -4°F yesterday to +21°F this afternoon. I didn't get as much video as the memory card filled up about half way through the ride.

Note the position of the sun at high noon. We are just a week away from the shortest day of the year. Today, sunrise was at 10:51 and sunset was at 2:39 with both sunrise and sunset happening in the southern sky. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Another Video and REI Return

I moved the camera to a different location. I tied a monopod to the front of the rear rack with the camera about two feet above the sidecar. There is a more vibration with this mounting location. Not too thrilled with that. But kind of like the perspective. There hasn't been any "nice" days lately. Lots of overcast and snow flurries. This is just another commute video though I did edit it down to about a minute and went around the back of the West Ridge research facilities. Right near the end you can see the overlook parking spot where I've taken pictures of the rigs.

Today, Saturday, I ended up doing a lot of running around town and by the end of day, my feet were starting to feel the cold. It was about -3°F. One of the stops was REI to return a tent that I had picked up last May. It was a 4 man tent and after setting it up once in the garage, I thought that it was just too big. I hadn't returned it earlier since I couldn't find the receipt but the sales clerk said that I didn't need it and could return it anytime within a year. Pretty impressive return policy.

No drivability changes from changing the pilot jet from 45 to 42. Still no "popping" when first started. The enricheners get turned off after ~15 seconds versus under 5 so I'd say that it is running a little bit leaner. Hopefully, the gas mileage will improve. According to the Internet, the pilot jets provide the fuel from idle to about ¼ throttle. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ural First 4K km

I just filled up the Ural and noticed that I passed 4,000 km of ownership. And thought that an update may be appropriate. Gas mileage has been worse than expected. The really low point of 20.38mpg on Dec-1 is an anomaly since I added the contents of one of the gas cans and guessed at the amount it contained. I am changing the pilot jets (low speed) in the carb to something a little smaller, maybe 42 from 45 as the enricheners only need to be "on" for starting and maybe 5 sec when cold. Even after sitting outside at -12°F only a few sec longer. It may be running a bit too rich most of the time.

Maintenance to this point has been fairly minimal:
  • Changed the oil twice and the oil filter once
  • Rear drive oil once
  • Transmission oil once
  • All tires at least once
  • Adjusted the drum brakes twice
  • Greased pusher hub splines
  • Greased sidecar hub splines
  • Changed carb jetting
  • Valve adjustment
  • Adjusted wheel bearing
  • Repaired instrument lighting
  • Replaced tail light bulb
  • Reduced toe-in and lean

Added a few accessories:
  • hydraulic steering damper
  • Headlight on/off switch
  • LED voltmeter
  • Heated gear outlet
  • Heated handlebar grips
  • Arctic Cat grip covers
  • Grip-Studs and Heidenau K37 tires
  • Piaa 530 LED fog lights
  • Fog light handlebar switch
  • RAM mount for gps
  • Relay to provide switched accessory power 
  • H4 headlight
  • Air intake tubes
  • Re-routed crankcase ventilation 
  • Sidecar "door"
  • Gas tank crossover quick disconnect
  • 50w engine silicone heat pad
  • 25w battery silicone heat pad
  • Tail bag

A few more time intensive maintenance items are being saved for the upcoming holiday break:
  • Transmission input spline lube
  • Drive shaft grease fitting install
  • Sidecar drive shaft grease fitting install
  • Rear brake lever grease fitting install
  • 22,500 km service

The only driveability issue at this time is the air filter plugging up when it gets wet. One possible suggestion is covering the air intake with silk to keep the snow out of the air cleaner housing. This has solved the problem on snow machines. Most snow machines don't have air cleaners either as they really aren't needed in the winter (no dust). That may be another solution.

The engine oil needs to be changed a lot more often due to moisture building up in the crankcase. This may be less of a problem if I kept the rig outside instead of the garage. Otherwise, no problems, no complaints. I've only needed 2WD a handful of times.

Tuesday Evening Update - Changed the pilot jets from 45 to 42. We'll see it that has any impact on the gas mileage.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Slow Weekend

This has been a pretty slow weekend. On Saturday morning, I had offered to bring a portable workbench and a couple of battery powered drills down to the church for a dad-kid "build a manger" event. We supplied pre-cut materials and nails. Twenty three were built that morning with most of the nailing done by the kids. No injuries not even a smashed finger. I suspect that once these get to their homes some drywall screws will be added for additional strength as box nails were used since they are easier to nail. We then went to a Christmas concert put on by the Sweet Adeline's and Greatland Sounds, a mens singing group made up of several barbershop quartets. The two hour show had lots of singing including inviting the audience to join in. My cough and cold prevented me from really enjoying that part of the show.

After the concert, we stopped by College Coffeehouse for George Rahn's surprise 80th birthday party put on by his daughter. As you might guess there was quite a crowd there. Apparently, when George drove into the parking lot, he saw all of the cars and started to turn around and leave. He didn't want to deal with a crowd. But he looked like he was really enjoying himself by the time we arrived. There were lots of pictures and I should have taken a picture of the photo of George towing a truck with one of his sidecar rigs.

My son pointed out that the Ural is so trouble free that I don't have anything to post (whine) about. I may have to come up with another blog theme. Year 'round riding has become routine,

Friday, December 5, 2014

Gerbings Rant and Nexus Repair

I had the opportunity to break out my iFixit tool kit this afternoon. The replacement microphone/usb circuit board for the older Nexus 4 arrived from somewhere in China (ordered off of Amazon). After cracking the case open (2 screws), removing the plastic motherboard cover (9 screws), speakers (2 screws) and the battery (2 screws), I was able to pry out the tiny circuit board. Pry as in components were taped into the case. Then reassemble and test. A whole lot more screws than the iPhone 4 I took apart earlier. (2 screws)

It worked like a charm and it looked like there was one small "fried" component after it's trip through the washing machine by someone who shall remain nameless. Total cost for the repair was $6.98 with free shipping. Plus I got to play with my toolkit and now have a spare, unlocked GSM phone.

On Tuesday morning, there was up a foot of fresh snow on some of the roads. The main roads were mostly clear as long as you didn't need to change lanes. The Ural had no problem though it was running really rich by the time I arrived home yesterday afternoon. I suspect the air filter was soaked from all of the fresh snow getting sucked into the air cleaner. This rig really needs some sort of snorkel to keep snow out of the air filter. Maybe I just need to cover the rig when it is sitting at the University to keep snow from building up.

After a week of longer rides, the bottom started to drop and winter was threatening to return. From +15°F on Thursday morning to -11°F by the end of the day. It was time for the light fleece over the Gerbings liner.

Speaking of Gerbings, I had sent in my liner and gloves in to Gerbings for repair and specifically mentioned the left glove not working right (higher resistance which suggests that one circuit had a broken wire). They repaired the broken wire in the heating circuit of the glove and it worked maybe once. Then the wire broke at the fragile connector (I had mentioned that as well) Rather than deal with them again, I just cut off the broken connector and replaced it with a part from Radio Shack and now it works fine. I should've just fixed it myself in the first place as they didn't even test their work. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Just another short video showing a normal winter morning ride.  This is a little after 7:00am on Monday, about -3°F, and about the normal morning traffic. The snow from a couple of days ago still hasn't been cleared and the video starts down our subdivision road. Unlike the last video, I cut out it down to a couple of minutes. The music is from Google's royalty free music site.

Monday evening was the monthly get together of the Airheads at the Silver Gulch microbrewery. I made another GoPro video of the trip out there as the roads are even darker (no streetlights). I was also hoping to see another moose cross the road in front like I did over the weekend but no such luck. As you can see, there isn't a whole lot of snow removal being done. The traffic just sort of packs it down.

Nothing very exciting or new. Just playing with the camera. The video does show the lighting in front of the bike. Between the new H4 headlight and the Piaa led fog lights, I'm pretty satisfied. I don't really feel like there is a need for the Denali D1 driving light like I did with the Beemer rig.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Back to Normal

With the truck out of the garage things now seem back to "normal". After sitting in the garage for a couple of days, the fuel is back to it's un-gelled state and it started and ran like it has for the last nine years. Completely reliable. I took the opportunity to remove bug screen over the radiator and put on the winter front. This is a snap on fabric cover with a zipper in the center that completely covers the front of the radiator/intercooler to help retain engine heat during really cold weather operation. The zipper in the center allows you to allows some airflow through the radiator in warmer temperatures.

The additional 4" of snow last night meant that 2WD was needed on the Ural just to get out of our driveway this morning as well as returning up the hill in our subdivision. Being able to just shift into 2WD and not having to battle my way through the snow is wonderful and it is why the BMW has not been ridden since August. Even with the fresh snow, we are far from the normal two feet of snow that we usually have by this time of year.

The only minor Ural mod I've done over the weekend is slipping a small 25W silicone pad in under the battery. I didn't even bother removing the battery but did have to remove the seat and the seat plate to get to the battery clamp bolt. A quick test of the heater at 0°F had the battery a little above ambient temperature so I'm not too concerned about "cooking" the battery.

This evening, I replaced 27 of the carbide studs in the pusher because they were worn out after only 1000 miles! It's kind of hard to see in the photo but the one on the right was installed back in the beginning of October and the center and left one were installed today. I've noticed that traction on ice was getting a bit worse so I assumed that the studs were wearing out. Not very good life. I thought that they would last at least as long as the tire. The front and sidecar studs are still in good shape. In addition to the 27 replaced studs, I added 27 more for a total of 81 in the pusher. Almost 50% more than originally installed. Now that we have more snow, maybe these will last a bit longer. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fixing Things

With the truck out of service for a bit, some chores just have to get done such as hauling the household trash. I had done this last week as well but neglected to take a picture. See how easily a trash can fits in the sidecar? It. obviously, takes multiple trips to get the same job done but it's easier than trying to do it with the car. The 25 watt silicone pad that I'm going to be installing under the Ural battery came in this week from Amazon. That will be an easy afternoon project.

The weather around here made a brief foray down to -20°F last night (so I'm told) but it had warmed up again to -6°F by mid-morning. Ran a couple of errands this afternoon on the Ural and it is still running great. It seems to like cold temperatures. My attempts to start the truck eventually succeeded after 2 quarts of Diesel 9-1-1 fuel supplement and replacing the fuel filter. The original filter had a lot of wax caked on it. Hopefully, sitting in a warm garage will allow the fuel to re-liquefy and let the anti-gelling additive to do its job.

This seemed to be the weekend when things decided to stop working. Besides the truck, the Kitchen Aid mixer decided to stop working (micro-switch needed cleaning) and the kitchen faucet ended up needing to be replaced. I liked the way the new faucet looks and it works better than the old one where the hose pulls out.

I'm glad that we didn't have anyone over to celebrate Thanksgiving. It would have been more stressful when things stop working. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


We finally got some snow. Granted only a couple of inches but it's better than nothing. I had several errands to do today and I must admit that riding on fresh snow is in the "fun" category. The only place I needed 2WD was returning home up our road. When in 2WD, you do a lot of steering by shifting your weight on the pegs. I suspect that by tomorrow there will be a lot more gravel on the roads.

I needed to pick up a 1⅛" 6-pointed socket to remove the fuel filter on the truck. I had neglected to run the summer fuel out of the system and get some winter fuel. Summer fuel, aka #2 diesel, has a gel point of 10°F to 20°F and the last week or so of below zero temperatures meant that the fuel no longer flows. I have spare fuel filters so the current plan is to clear out the garage enough to park the truck (motorcycles get to live outside for a while) but I need to get the truck running long enough to move it. I'm hoping that replacing the fuel filter and filling the housing with anti-gel chemical and kerosene will enable the truck to run and start enough to move it. With a curb weight of over 7000 lbs, I'm not going to be able to push it.

The other errand was to pick up and return a "dishwasher installation kit" that the salesman said was essential. All of the parts were included with the new dishwasher so 5 seconds after signing for the part, I returned it for a refund. When asked for a reason, I put down "stubborn salesman selling unnecessary accessories".

BTW, this post is being done on an Acer C720P Chromebook. Much faster than the Samsung Chromebook I had picked up a couple of years ago. The key feature is the addition of a touch screen. After years of using an iPad, you get used to simply touching the screen. On this Chromebook, it actually does something. With 4GB of memory, 32 GB SSD and an Intel dual-core processor based on the Haswell architecture, it feels fast enough. The 720p display is much nicer than the older Samsung Chromebook.

Adding photos from the Nexus phone is in the "trivial" category.

Wednesday Morning Update - Our regular November temperatures have finally returned as well though the Weather Channel is still predicting a low of +3°F for today. This is a screenshot from the Nexus 4 Android phone and to add it to the blog, you just select the "From your phone" tab from within "Insert image" popup window. Couldn't be easier. Though I did have to google how to do a screenshot.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Winter Commute

I played around with the GoPro this afternoon and made a short video of my ride home. As you can see, not much snow. The camera is mounted to the turn signal stalk so there is a lot of glare from the left signal. This was shot about 20 minutes after sunset. I have a pretty low stress commute...


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Camera Test

Just a quick post to try out the camera on the replacement Nexus 4. The original phone has a broken microphone which makes it less than useful as a phone. It has a Barrow number to allow it to be reached from the toll restricted VoIP phones in the BARC. The replacement was ordered on Friday afternoon from Amazon and it arrived on Monday using "Standard Shipping". Impressive.

The new phone had to go through a long update process as it came with Android 4.4.2 installed and now has 5.0 aka "Lolipop". I like the Nexus line of phones as it has the true "Google Experience" without all of the junk software that cell carriers install on their Android products. Plus, Google controls the software update process not the carrier. It is also is carrier unlocked.

As you may notice in the snapshot, we have not received any additional snow. The roads have a thick layer of frost this morning left from the warm, foggy night. Hopefully, it won't get too much warmer. Last year we had rain the week before Thanksgiving and it pretty much shut down Fairbanks. Rain on top of cold roads made a thick layer of ice that hung around all winter.

The camera is supposedly 8 megapixels the same as the iPhone 5s but the pictures don't seem as sharp. I still haven't found a convenient way to transfer pictures from Android to the Mac or iPad nor have I found a decent blog posting app. Any suggestions?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Weather, Android and Gearing Up

Another beautiful morning. This is around 9:00am on Sunday morning which is about 40 minutes before sunrise. At -5°F, it's a bit cooler than was originally forecast. Lot of errands that needed to be run as I am in the process of installing a new dishwasher. The original builder must have not been sure where the dishwasher and sink were going to be installed as the hot water supply line for the dishwasher and the cold water for the sink came through the floor underneath the dishwasher. The new dishwasher has no room for such things. But after an afternoon of playing amateur plumber, the pipes are all rerouted. I still need to run a new hot water line for the dishwasher, maybe later today.

On Saturday morning, I had ridden to College Coffeehouse and it felt kind of chilly. When I returned home, I checked on my Nexus 4 (the "Barrow phone") using the Google "Weather & News" app to see what the local temperature was and it claimed 18°F. I then checked on my iPhone and got the more realistic temperature of 1°F. Even though Google puts up the Weather Channel logo, that must not be where they are getting their data as the Weather Channel app agrees with my iPhone. I think I like Google's temperature better...

The Apple iOS app, by the way, also claims to use the Weather Channel indicated by the logo on the lower left. The university temperature sign claimed -4°F at about 10am.

A few comments about Android. I had not even powered on the Nexus 4 since it was returned to me at the end of the summer field season. After charging, it updated itself from 4.4.2 to 4.4.3 to 4.4.4 to 5.0. I thought that the iPhone went through a lot of updates. The only problem with the phone is that it doesn't work well as a phone due to a non-working microphone. I think I heard that it went on a short trip through a washing machine a couple of summers ago. The tech last summer used it with a Bluetooth headset. I think I'm just going to replace it as the price of the unlocked phone on Amazon has dropped considerably since the Nexus 4 had first came out. And there are no 4G data services in Barrow. BTW, Android 5.0 aka "Lolipop", is pretty nice. Almost nice enough to convince one to switch from iOS. But battery life still seems to be lacking.

Inspired by Steve Williams of Scooter in the Stickspost about how much hassle it was to get ready to ride in colder weather. This morning, I timed the ritual of getting ready.

  • Head out to the garage already wearing the Gerbings liner
  • Put on Roadcrafter Light
  • Plug in Gerbings controller into the liner
  • Put in earplugs
  • Put helmet on either the Nolan 104 or Bombardier Modular 1 depending on temperature
  • Open the garage door
  • Start the Ural
  • Optionally turn on the heated grips
  • Plug in the heated gloves to the wiring built into the liner
  • Plug controller into the coiled cord that I leave on the bike
  • If it's below 10°F, put the breath mask on for the Bombardier helmet
  • Back out of the garage - total elapsed time 1 minute 45 seconds without rushing
  • If it's cold, I'll usually let the Ural warm up for a bit
I think the key difference is the use of the heated liner. Instant heat, no layering needed and the glove wiring is built in. The collar of the heated liner is tall enough and is also heated so my neck is toasty warm. I've never needed a balaclava. If it's below -10°F, I'll add a fleece liner over the heated liner. We'll see how well this works this year as I feel the cold more on the Ural than on the Beemer.

If I'm just going on a short ride, I'll usually dispense with the heated gear and Roadcrafter and just wear a riding jacket such as my old Kilimanjaro or a denim riding jacket over a fleece liner and insulated gloves. Not due to time but more hassle dealing with the bulk of the Roadcrafter when I reach my destination. Carhartt lined jeans are worn for most of the winter and they seem to do a good job of blocking the wind.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Clear, Sunny & Warm

It looks like we have a great week coming up (weather wise) with clear or mostly clear weather and relatively moderate temperatures. Unlike some other areas of the country, folks here are praying for snow. Without the insulating layer of snow, water and sewer pipes may freeze. I think that we are in good shape as our pipes don't pass under any area where the ground would get compacted. Compacted ground is a better heat (or cold) conductor.

I know that I mention this every year but I still find it interesting. The last appearance of the sun this year in Barrow, AK, is less than a week away. Wednesday, November 19, 2014, will be the last sunrise/sunset until near the end of January. Daylight hours is shown on the blue line on the graph. Sunrise is yellow and sunset is red. The two lines converge in November.

The graph for Fairbanks isn't as interesting. On the shortest day of the year, we still have almost four hours of sunshine.

The only moto-mod that I've done to the Ural over the last couple of days has been the addition of a relay mounted above the battery that switches on with the ignition and provides switched power for the heated grips and heated gear. There has been a couple of times when I found that I had left the heated grips on for an hour or so. No problem starting the engine but I figured that one of these days I'll come back to a dead battery. Many choose to run the heated grips through the ignition switch but I figured that the switch didn't need the additional current. Since the relay will handle 30 amps I could also move the sidecar power to the same relay or add an additional relay later. The seat mounting plate above the battery has a lot of space for things like relays. The stock starter relays are mounted there already.