Wednesday, July 30, 2014

More Ural Farkles

This is as close to a sunny morning as we've had in a while. The Alaska Range isn't visible due to the clouds but nice crisp shadows. This was taken using an iPhone HDR app as the original photo looked very bland and monotone. This is at the same turnout at the university overlooking the farm.

It's almost time for the next service on the Ural but it can probably wait until the next round of travelling is done. L.A. and Barrow. How about that for contrasting locations? Not really a farkle since it isn't shiny but is functional, I added a headlight on/off switch. The switch is waterproof and is the black bump above the high beam light. It is connected into the wire running from the non-existent headlight switch on the right grip to the high-low switch on the left handgrip. All connection soldered with heat shrink tubing. I will probably leave the switch on all of the time but if I need more current from the battery in the winter, I like the idea of being able to turn off the headlight. And since I was in the headlight anyway, I fixed to shorted speedometer light that was tripping the fuse a couple of weeks back. It was a just a poorly made light socket that I bent into the proper shape to hold the bulb. The next task is getting the fog and driving lights installed on the sidecar.

Last Sunday evening, we took my step-son to dinner as he was up visiting from California for about five days. This is the cheese soup at the Silver Gulch made famous by an appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network with Guy Fieri. I hadn't tried it before nor had I tried their hot wings before. Both were tasty though the cheese soup was a bit saltier than I like. But the best part of the meal was the pretzel roll.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Arctic Circle & GoPro Testing

On Saturday, we went up to the Arctic Circle with Bridget's brother. He wanted to pick up a couple of geocaches north of the Arctic Circle. It seemed like a good opportunity to play with the GoPro again. The first video was taken with the camera mounted to the top of the truck windshield using the suction cup mount. It was taken on the Dalton Hwy as we were returning from the Arctic Circle. The first couple of clips were at 1 frame per second and the rest were at 1 frame per 2 seconds so you will notice that the video seems to speed up. You may also notice that the road is pretty nice gravel or pavement at least to the Arctic Circle.

The road was just a little muddy. Not as bad as it could be. My son offered to clean the truck after we got back home so it is all clean and shiny again. Thank you Kyle!
This second video was with the camera attached to the left turn signal mount on the Ural. Still trying to find a good place for the camera. This was my regular commute into the university with a few of the buildings highlighted. Ignore the invalid title near the beginning. I'm still getting used to the GoPro Editor...
Update - Mike Saunders is back from his trip to Prudhoe Bay on his 49cc Ruckus. Read about his adventure!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ural Ride to the Monderosa

A small group of us rode out the the Monderosa again. I think this was the third time this summer. I think it is the only place that is a "convenient" distance away from Fairbanks. By "convenient" I mean somewhere handy to ride out, have lunch and return without having to fill up the bikes. Or for this group around 45 miles each way. This photo was taken looking to the west towards the flats but does show what blue skies that we had. The gas cans are now empty but I think it looks odd with just the gas can mount so for now, I'll leave the empty cans in place.

On this day, there was a R1200GS, Harley Road King (I think), two 200cc-ish dirt bikes and the Ural. One of the dirt bike riders was a new rider and has only ridden around 400 miles and this was by far her longest trip. I was the last to arrive (big surprise) but only by a couple of minutes. 55mph is a real comfortable speed on the Ural for me though I think I may need to balance all of the tires. There was some vibration.

This was taken on the way back at my usual photo spot, the Parks Highway Monument. The temperature on this trip was a very comfortable 60°F for most of the trip. The first and last photo were taken using the HDR app on my iPhone otherwise the colors looked really muted. I was originally planning on riding the Beemer on this trip but I haven't had time to remove the sub-frame. Saturday was spent driving up to the Arctic Circle looking for geocaches and I need to process the Go-Pro video so, next post…

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ural Upgrades

I don't think this is a farkle but more an necessary upgrade. The stock headlight is a 7" sealed beam halogen bulb. Not a bad choice but it does make it less convenient to carry a spare headlight. This is a shot of the back of the stock headlight and you can see that the bulb itself cannot be replaced. ChrisL mentioned in a blog post that he replaced the stock Ural sealed beam with an H4 light. A little searching on Amazon produced a Hella H4 unit that is DOT approved for street use in motorcycles.

One screw at the bottom of the headlight freed the trim ring with the headlight held in with 3 spring clips. Simply popped of the clips, replace the sealed beam with the Hella unit and re-install the clips. It came with a 60/55W halogen bulb and is probably at least a good as the stock headlight. I'm not expecting magic just prefer being able to replace just the bulb and not the entire unit when it burns out. And I still plan to move the LED fog and driving lights from the Beemer. I'm waiting for some brackets. All I need to do now is aim the light.

After this week's chilly morning rides (40°F and rainy), I wanted to install the outlet for the heated gear. I had previously picked up the Gerbings outlet to install on the Beemer last winter but I lost it. It surfaced this spring while straightening up the garage. The Ural doesn't really have a dashboard besides the speedometer surround so it was kind of difficult to find a place to install the outlet and switches for the headlight, fog and driving lights.

Friday, July 25, 2014

First Sidecar Ride

My grandson finally got his sidecar ride a couple of evenings ago. We went down to the church parking lot since it was nice and flat (and paved). He seemed to have enjoyed the ride and was working on his wave. I think he got it down.

After the short ride, he then explained what went on to anyone that would listen. In the background is Bridget's brother and my Talon's mom. He and his mom were getting ready to move to the lower-48 the following day.

A very sad moment as we said goodbye. Here is Talon in their heavily loaded Cube as they head out for their first trip down the Alaska Highway. An adventure for both but he knew that something was amiss and wasn't very happy about it. We got and update last night and on the first day, they got as far as Haines Junction. Almost 500 miles. They are both going to be missed.

We are still getting record setting rainfall. A new record was set last month and we are only about a ¼" from the July record. The water in the Chena river has been running high but it is being controlled by the Corp of Engineers flood control project that was constructed after the 1967 flood. The rainfall is still short of that year but there's still another month. This isn't a real road covered by flood waters but the winter road used after the river freezes. I took this while we were out and about with Bridget's brother finding geocaches. A very wet afternoon...

At 43°F this morning, I'm ready to install the wiring for the heated gear this weekend.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

True Adventurer

This morning at College Coffeehouse, I met Mike Saunders who had stopped in Fairbanks to pick up an new rear tire for his 49cc Honda Ruckus before he heads up the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay. If you check out his blog, he headed out from D.C. near the beginning of May, headed down to Key West before turning north exploring the country along the way at 30mph. Unlike most of the riders passing through Fairbanks on their way to Prudhoe, there is very little "extra" on the Ruckus, partly because there is very little room. He has primitive camped (i.e. not at campgrounds or RV parks) just about the entire way claiming to have only spent $4 on lodging so far on the trip.

If you check out the first couple of posts, he lists the mods to the Ruckus and the gear he was taking. I hope to be able to visit again on his way through Fairbanks after his trek up the Dalton to get an update. He has been riding for quite a while as evidenced by his well worn Roadcrafter jacket and even though he has an R1150GS, this is the bike he chose for his trip. That says something about him.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Someone Wants a Ride

I think someone really wants a sidecar ride as he will hop in whenever the tonneau cover is off of the sidecar. It doesn't matter which one but I think he likes this one better. Then again, everyone seems to including me. We don't have a helmet his size and at two and a half, probably still on the young side to really go for a ride. Maybe just around the driveway.

I still haven't finished taking the subframe off of the Beemer. No incentive as the Ural is still more entertaining to drive.

On this day, we were getting ready to go for a short ride to visit some friends visiting from Oregon. One of them really wanted a ride in the sidecar and after a short ride, she said to her husband that they really need to get one of these. They currently ride 150cc scooters.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Well, it's done. I took the Cozy off of the Beemer for the first time in a year and a half. I also changed out the Heidenau sidecar tire on the rear for an old Shinko rear tire that I had installed in Corvallis, OR, during my 2012 road trip. It still has some mileage left on it as I had removed it when I installed the Cozy. I am going to try leaving the subframe installed though I'll need to be conscious of it when leaning to the right as it hangs a bit lower than anything else.

After swapping out the rear tire, I took the Beemer out for a test ride. This is the first time I've been on two wheels in almost a year. The last time was the demo rides at the Salem MOA rally last July. It really felt weird, for lack of a better description. It took a few miles before I felt comfortable with the leaning and countersteering. To add one more thing, the bike seemed to stumble a couple of times before I looked at the trip odometer and realized that I was running out of gas. Once I switched to reserve, no stumbling. As you might have guessed, the bike accelerates much faster without the sidecar and the steering seemed odd until I turned off the steering damper. After getting back home, I felt much more comfortable on the Ural.


Friday, July 18, 2014

"Feels Like" -124F

We went out to celebrate my youngest son's birthday at a local restaurant called the Turtle Club. As you may guess, they have quite the collection of decorative turtles. I think that they have one of the best salad bars in town and really, I should've called it quits after that as most of my dinner came home in a box. No bike related things going on but it was nice and sunny until around 1:00pm when the rain started up again. June brought record breaking rainfall and July is almost another record. Just the normal commute and some running errands around town. The trunk on the Ural is extremely convenient for storing my helmet or the Roadcrafter but not both.

Maybe it's a requirement for being a Ural or Airhead owner but I always feel compelled to go to the garage and work on something. This weekend, I'm thinking or taking the Cozy off of the Beemer for the rest of the summer. I'll need to change the rear tire but I still have the Shinko that I picked up in Corvallis a couple of years ago. It shouldn't take me that long to swap it out.

While browsing on the Internet this afternoon, I ran across this weather page for Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. For anyone thinking of complaining of their local weather I should send them the link. -90°F without wind chill and "feels like" -124°F. I'm not sure I ever want to know what that feels like. N.B. The wind speed was only 8mph.

Which reminds me that I need to put an outlet for the Gerbings somewhere on the Ural. Last Tuesday it was cold enough to need the liner with morning temperatures below 40°F and raining. Not for my short commute but all the running around that occured during the day.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rode the Beemer Again

Yesterday, I rode the Beemer again for the first time since picking up the Ural. When I started the Ural in the garage, I noticed that the headlight wasn't lit and glanced at the tail light and it was out as well. Hmmm, check the fuses and one of them (third one down) was blown. Tried another one and it blew immediately so I needed to look for a short that evening. Fortunately, there is now a spare bike. I rolled the Beemer out of the garage and it started immediately so off to work I go.

A brief comparison, the Beemer has higher gearing so the clutch needs to be slipped a little going up the hill out of the driveway. Once on the main road, getting up to and slightly beyond the speed limit happens quickly and effortlessly compared to the Ural. Shifts are quieter and smoother and even though it was raining, the RC is almost completely dry after arriving at my office. This is in sharp contrast to the Ural with only a windshield and no fairing. After riding in the rain, the RC is pretty wet (but completely dry on the inside!) especially the legs. Right turns are much faster with the Beemer when hanging off the seat the same amount. I think that the extra 6" in the width of the rig makes a big difference. There is no intake noise at all with the Beemer whereas you can really hear it on the Ural. More baffling within the air cleaner housing as well as different materials. Plus the Beemer has a clock. I hadn't realized how many times I look at the clock.

Anyway, after getting home that afternoon, I focused on looking for the short and thought it was in the tail light (or presence light) circuit. I disconnected the sidecar to split the system in half, removed the seat, disconnected and removed the tail light assembly, propped up the gas tank and the pulled the headlight. And there was still a short evidenced by my ohm meter even though every light was disconnected. Hmmm, pinched wire? After looking at the wiring itself, I noticed that the wires leading to the third fuse were grey (head light) and not yellow (presence light) which meant I was looking in the wrong place. I disconnected the high/low beam switch and the short was still there. I then disconnected the right switch assembly and the short went away. I then tested the wires within the switch assembly to see if the short was within the assembly and it tested good. I'm not at all sure why the wiring even runs to the right hand switch as there is no switch installed. Maybe there either used to be a headlight switch or something in other markets.

I then tested the output wires from the non-existent headlight switch as it splits to power the dash lights and the high/low beam switch. It turns out the there was an intermittent short in one of the lights illuminating the speedometer. Simply unplugging the wiring from the light eliminated the short. It looks like the bulb socket may have gotten damaged when the tach wiring was added as there are two wires spliced in to provide power and backlight to the tach. So can't blame this on Ural. Easy fix!

I did not follow this directive in the repair manual

I did learn how to remove the seat and lift up the gas tank. There is a crossover tube that runs from the left to the right side of the tank and would need to be removed if you actually wanted to remove the tank completely. I just lifted the tank to see if I could spot a pinched wire but now need to look into some sort of valve or fitting to put on that crossover line. And the tail light bulb was burned out but, fortunately, I had a spare in the Beemer. I think I will be adding a relay to cut power to the headlight when the starter is engaged or simply a headlight switch. Not too important now but it may help with cold weather starts.

Just to add something else that needed looking at, while at work today, I noticed that the rear brake light on the bike wasn't working. The sidecar worked just fine so I knew that the switches were working. It turned out to be glue, probably from the assembly process, between the eyelet on the brake wire and the light socket. Not sure how long it wasn't working as I thought I had checked the lights right after picking the rig up. One oddity is that both the brake light and the tail light are wired backwards from "normal". I.e. ground is the center conductor of the bulb. It'll need to be re-wired if I ever want to use LED bulbs.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Steering Damper Upgrade

Based on a lot of things I've heard, the hydraulic steering damper on the 2014 Urals are a lot more effective than the older friction damper. Ural offers the hydraulic damper as a kit to retrofit onto older models. I picked one up from Heindl Engineering, a Ural dealer in Ohio, and it came with no instructions. Fortunately, there were postings on ADVrider and SovietSteeds that showed the install. Both slightly different and just to throw another wrench into the mix, Ural New England posted a video that showed yet another permutation.

The first step was to remove the original friction damper. The original damper was attached to the triple tree with a ½" pin. Removing the pin was supposedly the most difficult part of the installation as it is pressed in and the end mushroomed to keep it in place. Ten second with an air hammer and the pin was out. So much for that challenge. In place of the pin, an allen head bolt, a washer and a lock nut us used to hold the new bracket in place. The other anchor for the triple tree plate is the long bolt used to apply tension with the original friction damper.

Another bracket is attached to the sidecar upper strut bolt. The hydraulic cylinder is then attached to this bracket. Heim joints are used on the damper to prevent binding as the front forks are moved and the cylinder is centered by moving the forks lock to lock without bottoming out at either end. The damping force is adjusted by turning the knob on the end of the rod and there are sixteen clicks or levels of damping available. As an initial setting, I am starting out on the eighth click or about half way.

Here you can see the attachment of the other end of the damper to the triple tree bracket with a bolt through the hiem joint. Total time for the installation was about ten minutes or less than half of what I've read on the forums. This included pausing to take a picture or two. Maybe most folks don't use pneumatic tools.

The Ural NE video had you leave the pin installed and modifying the bracket to fit over the pin and relying on the original damper bolt to hold the bracket in place. This would have worked just fine but I opted to remove the pin and use the provided bolt, washer and lock nut.
Not that it's bad or even annoying but there is more yaw with the Ural than the Beemer/Cozy rig. By yaw I mean a change in direction when accelerating, decelerating, braking, shifting, etc. The hydraulic steering damper is supposed to be much more effective dampening this than the older friction damper. Is this a farkle?

Tuesday Morning Update - With the steering damper set at the middle point, there is still more damping than there was with the friction damper. I can also feel the resistance in the steering. Definitely much less yaw almost to the point of not being there at all. I'm surprised at how well it works. It was pouring rain this morning and even with the Beemer I would feel a strong pull to the right when going through large puddles on the road at 50mph. With the Ural I could still feel a slight pull but it's pretty mild. All in all, a great upgrade.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Back in Fairbanks

On Saturday afternoon, my son and I went out to Camp Liwa, a local church camp, to help set up a couple of large tents for a picnic tomorrow. This was his first trip in the Ural and he agreed with Bridget that it was a really nice ride compared to the Cozy. I had put the sidecar windshield on last nght as Bridget wanted to go for a ride. The rig does handle differently when there is a passenger. It also does pull slightly to the right with the sidecar windshield installed. I took off the lower leg guards for the summer. Much nicer to feel the wind on these warm days. This was the first time that I needed to use the parking brake. You can't really tell in the picture but I am parked on a hill and just having the transmission in first wouldn't hold the rig.

Afterwards, we went into town to Alaskaland aka Pioneer Park, to meet up with some friends visiting from Oregon. No pictures but this rig really is nice to drive around even on the highway. I'm slowly getting used to the heel and toe shifter but really like having a brake on the sidecar wheel.

RickS, the previous owner as well as Mickey, the Anchorage Ural dealer, had suggested changing the carb jets as the stock ones usually had the engine running too lean. The first step was to check the color of the plugs. To the right is the left plug after the engine has had plenty of time to warm up. It doesn't look like it's running too lean to me. In fact, it looks like it's a little on the rich side.

Rather than try to guess what size may be needed, I just ordered a set of jets from Heindl Engineering, a Ural dealer in Eaton, OH, and the only one I found that list the USPS as a shipping choice. Everyone wants to ship UPS since it is more convenient for the shipper but 4x as expensive to Alaska. I also ordered a (paper) repair manual, the new 2014 steering damper and the all important coffee mug. From what I read online, the hydralic steering damper is much more effective than the older style friction steering damper. Just the fact that it is hydralic would mean that the damping force would be non-linear (proportional to the velocity) instead of a constant.

This is the right plug and it looks better than the left side with a tan electrode. Maybe the plugs were just changed since it just had the non-start issue pointing to an ignition problem. So maybe I will leave it alone for a while.

There is some "popping" in the morning when the enricheners are turned off when the engine is cold and I've read that it is a symptom that things are running too lean. With an aircooled engine, you generally want to run the engine on the rich side as it runs cooler.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

SledShed Wireless

This is one of the buildings on the edge of the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO) and for a long time, it has not had any network access. This morning, we installed a tiny antenna on the side of the building (upper left corner) and it now has ~45 Mbps access to the network in the main building. Not too shabby. All of the webcams were installed several years ago when we were testing a 700MHz wireless system and the cameras provided a great data stream.

Here is a better look at the antenna and mount. Pretty straightforward installation. The other end of this is the 60° panel that I showed in the previous post. The building is called the SledShed as it is built on steel runners allowing it to be readily moved around. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Ice is Out

Back in Barrow for the rest of the week. It was foggy when the plane landed mid-morning and for most of the day. But it cleared for a couple of hours in the afternoon. The ice finally moved away from shore last week so now there is a cold, damp wind instead of just a cold wind. I still thought the view of the ocean was pretty nice. The chunks of ice had looked drab until the sun had burned through the cloud. I heard that it was sunny & warm for the 4th of July festivities.

This is the view to the northwest from the BARC facility. The old NARL power plant is the yellow building on the left side of the frame and beyond that is the Arctic Ocean. There is still remnants of snow whereever the snow fences are. This afternoon, we were going to be setting up another antenna on the roof of the BARC. Hopefully the wind will have died down by then.

Wednesday afternoon update - The wind didn't die down but we only had to come in to warm up a couple of times. The wind was blowing pretty good on roof of the BARC. The diamond antennae are for the old Alverion radio system and the vertical panels are the new sector antennae. The one closest to Sam is the 90° sector that I had installed last month and the other is a new 60° sector 21db antenna we just installed. It is aimed due south to cover the Barrow Environmental Observatory aka the BEO. We will be installing a small flat panel antenna at one of the labs within the BEO maybe tomorrow morning after I get a few more things configured.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

First Ural Mod

I don't think qualifies as a "farkle" but at $2, the price was right. While picking up some groceries this afternoon, I stopped at th hardware store and picked up this lightweight spring for the clutch throwout arm on the Ural. When I was checking the clutch adjustment, it seemed "vague". I am used to pulling in the clutch lever and feeling the contact of the throwout bearing and the clutch. On the Ural, there isn't a light spring to pull the clutch arm away from the mechanism. Plus, while the engine is running you can see the arm vibrate a lot. Nothing that a $2 spring can't solve.

The bigger challenge was finding a light enough spring at the hardware store as it doesn't take much force to pull the arm back. One end is simply hooked over the clutch throw out arm and the other is hooked on the backside of the battery mount. Not much of a mod but the clutch lever no longer has that vague feeling as you can now easily feel how much free play you have. I remember that Dom had also added a spring and it's one of those things that make a lot of sense.

I doubt that other Ural mods will be as reasonably priced. A few items have been ordered ;-)

The weather today was on the warm side. Almost too hot. All I really had time for today were some local errands and some shopping to pick up something to throw on the grill later in the afternoon. Bridget hired a painter to prep and paint the dining room but there was a lot of junk to move and sort through. Cabinets to come down and a wall mounted desk to remove.

Here is my grandson helping to pull off the multiple layers of old wallpaper and paneling that have probably been there since the house was buiilt in the mid-70s. What a mess.