Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hoverboards and Flying Cars

2015 is just around the corner and according to Back to the Future 2, hoverboards and flying cars should be all over the place. I guess there is still another year to get them invented, tested and marketed. But I don't have a lot of hope. Bob Leong's passing at the end of August seems to have affected a lot of people within the moto-blogging community and I must admit that I'm one of those really affected. Many of our conversations over the years have revolved around retirement. Things that we wanted to do, places to go and motorcycle trips that needed to be taken. I must admit that thoughts of retirement have floated around in my head for the last year or so.

Last month, I just passed 30 years at the university. THIRTY YEARS. That not only sounds like a long time to be at the same place but it really is a long time. Thirty years ago, the concept of a career was nowhere to be found in my thinking but got a job at the University of Alaska Fairbanks business office to develop a telephone billing system. I was grateful for the job since I was looking at being unemployed shortly and working for the universty was way better than being unemployed. So I took it with though there were a few obstacles such as it had to be done on a computer made by a company that I had never even heard of (Wang) in a language I had only heard horror stories of (Cobol) but never seen. And on top of that, the only programs I had ever written to date were scientific data analysis, image processing and developing hardware interfaces in either Fortan II, PDP11 macro assembler and PDP8 assembler. And even those were done after the programmer quit. Zero experience in financial software, databases, user interfaces, or even structured programming.

Two weeks later, the new system sent out the first set of monthly bills and I was told that my funding was for at least a year so maybe I should look for something else that needed doing. Enter networking, personal computers and the Internet and that year turned into thirty. Initially, the idea was to keep the job just long enough until I made enough to move somewhere else. I guess that never happened as soon there was spouse, kids, mortgage, car payment, and so on. (Not in that exact order)

This isn't a "carpe diem" post as some have suggested. I don't really agree with the current, self-centered interpretations of the latin phrase. It's just that maybe it's time to take some of those trips and not just talk about them…

Friday, September 26, 2014

Raceway Ural

This is the showroom of Raceway Ural in Salem, OR. There was a minor piece missing from the crankcase vent that I had picked up on Thursday. So on Friday morning, I headed back to Salem. It isn't that far from Corvallis and it was nice to get out on the non-interstate roads. As a plus, they had a blue & white model that looks very familiar that I could show to my mom. Though the truely observant individuals will see that it is a 2013 model. Drum brakes on the sidecar but common sense fasteners for the tonneau cover.

One of the accessories (not very sparkly so it isn't a farkle, right?) I picked up is a sidecar "door". Bridget commented that a lot of cold air came in through the door opening. I'm thinking that this may resolve the problem. The little plastic bag holds a common sense fastener that needs to be installed on both the sidecar and the "door" once it is fitted into place.

This is the aluminum tank and hoses to replace the stock crankcase vent. The tiny air filter goes under the seat above the battery and the tank gets installed on the left side of the frame using a nicely machined aluminum bracket not shown in this picture. The little valve on the bottom is to drain the tank. They said to drain it every week or so during the winter and even more often if there is ethanol in the gas. This does have some shiny parts so it's a farkle. The goal is to eliminate the moisture and oil getting dupmped into the air cleaner housing. Especially after each cold start.

The last accessory are replacement air intake tubes that run between the air filter housing and the carburators. The stock air tubes are three pieces with four hose clamps for each side. Lots of adjustability but kind of a hassle to get everything just right. I'm told by a very credible year 'round rider that these will dramatically simplify the process. I doubt that there will be any performance difference but there is less chance for leaks to develop due to fewer joints. They are made of heavy duty silicone-like rubber.

This is the minor piece that I was missing from the parts I picked up yesterday. A small plastic plug that goes onto the air cleaner housing when the existing crankcase vent hose is removed. They offered to mail it for free but since I was in town, it created an excuse to get my mom out of the house. And it was a beautiful day. More pictures when this stuff gets installed.

One last picture for this post, not moto related at all. The R/V Sikuliaq was just heading into Gatun Lock this evening and it was caught on the Panama Canal webcam. It is the white boat in the upper right corner of the frame. The Sikuliaq is the new research vessel for the University of Alaska Fairbanks on its way to Alaska from the shipyard in Wisconsin. The picture is really noisy since it was starting to get dark. I looked a short time later and it was really dark.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

MN to OR

On Wednesday afternoon, my meetings were over but my flight out of MN wasn't until Thursday morning. Doug, aka Coopdway, of Coop's Corner, who was in St. Paul for the day, stopped by the hotel and took me to a wonderful restaurant called Q. Cumbers. Huge salad bar, wonderful soups and tons of fruit. They pride themselves as one of the healthiest restaurants in Minnesota. We have so few places with salad bars in Alaska that it was a real treat! It was great to re-connect with Coop since we initially met him last November at their motorcycle group's Saturday coffee. A good opportunity to get to know him a little better.

I headed to the airport very early Thursday morning for a 7 o'clock flight to Seattle. At least I got a complimentary upgrade so I was able to get at least a little sleep. It was just a short hop on a commuter turbo-prop to Portland. After picking up a car and a diner lunch (no pics so it didn't haappen, right? 0 Cal lunch!), I stopped at Raceway Ural in Salem, OR. They had some bits and pieces and I figured that I could save shipping costs by picking stuff up in person. Plus, look around. They have quite a collection of rigs in their show room. Both EFI and carburated versions.

I got a few tips and asked about rain getting in the air cleaner housing and gathered that it wasn't, at least for them, a common complaint. One of the tips from Raceway is how to increase the spring tension on the reverse shifter to help it stay in reverse. Now, if I pause while in reverse, it drops back into neutral on its own. One of the tips from ChrisL from is the part number for a Napa tractor air filter that fits the Ural housing and is a small fraction of the price. On Amazon, you can find them for about ⅛th the cost of the Ural part.

The air cleaner housing on a converted diesel Toyota pickup that I used to own had fins inside the air cleaner housing that guided the air in a circle before being drawn through the filter. This allowed a lot of the particulates and water to not get sucked in through the filter and fell to the bottom of the housing where it ended up in an easily emptiable cup.. The advantage, in addition to the element not getting wet, was that it seemed to last forever. After 100k miles, the air cleaner element was still clean. Another reason it was clean is that I didn't have the engine crankcase vent connected to the air cleaner housing. One of the things that I picked up at Raceway was a different crankcase vent system.

I'll be here in Oregon visiting family and friends into the beginning of next week.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bloomington, MN

When the travel for this trip was being worked out, the arrival choices I was given were 5:38am or 11:30pm. Not much of a choice. So I arrivved at MSP at 5:38am and, fortunately, the hotel had an empty room so I was allowed to check in really early and get some sleep. The hotel is only a little over a mile from the Mall of America so off to find some lunch. I returned to the mall later on to meet ChrisL from for dinner. One of the few benefits of the mall is there are a variety of restaurants available. He was shocked to hear that I've never been to Chipotle and thought that I needed to turn in my "IT" membership card as it is a real favorite food choice within that industry. And it's just another one of those places that aren't in Fairbanks.

It's wonderful to meet other moto-bloggers and especially when they also ride a Ural in the winter! (I appreciate all of the tips!)

In case you have never been to the Mall of America, it is a huge shopping mall surrounding a small amusement park. The last time I was here, it was a copy of Camp Snoopy from Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA. I didn't spend much time walking around the amusement park but did manage 7 miles of walking yesterday. And I only walked through two of the four floors and didn't find anything I had to buy…

I should mention that Fall has barely arrived here in the Twin Cities with only a little bit of color showing on some of the trees and temperatures in the 70s (°F). Pretty nice! Since I didn't rent a car, a huge thank you to Chris for riding out to the mall to visit.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Water in the Intake

While riding in the rain on Saturday morning, I noticed a slight loss of power after about 30 miles of running around. No stumbling or missing. When I got back home I pulled out the air cleaner housing as it felt like maybe water may have clogged the air filter or something like that as it felt like it was running rich. The tubes the carry air to both carbs were wet inside and there was still a puddle on the inside of the air cleaner housing. Right now I'm unsure whether it is getting into the housing through the air intake on the bottom of the housing or through the engine breather. The breather hose has some evidence of moisture as there is some milky water/oil mix but only right at the air cleaner end of the hose. No evidence of water in the engine.

I'm thinking that since this only happened while riding in the rain, it must be from the air intake. For now I just cleaned everything up and put it all back together. Maybe I'll look into routing the breather hose somewhere else besides the air cleaner. I've noticed several homemade air cleaner housings that others have built. I don't know if this is a common problem or not. Maybe this bike needs a snorkel.

By the time this posts I'll be on my way to Minneapolis, MN, for the first half of the week for a couple days of meetings. The flight from Fairbanks to Anchorage was on one of the Horizon turbo-prop planes that some are complaining about. I think the flight was ten minutes longer but the plane was quieter. Probably what most are complaining about is no first class cabin…

The Anchorage airport had a couple of new displays such as this moose. I so rarely get to see other parts of the airport as I'm usually on Alaska Airlines. This time the MSP flight is on Delta.


Friday, September 19, 2014

New Winter Tires

Okay, I had mentioned that I was going to install the Heidanau K37 tires on Saturday but Thursday is close enough to Saturday, right? Anyway, the old spare and the old sidecar tire are being discarded as they are really worn out. The pusher is now the spare and, BTW, very little perceptible wear after 2500 km. The Heidenau K37 tires are a square profile, dual sport tire designed for "classic military bikes and Urals". Both of the new tires only required about 1 oz to balance which is significantly less than the old tires. I greased the drive splines with a mixture of axle grease and Honda Moly 60.

I am still amazed at how easy it is to change the tires on the Ural compared to the Beemer. The Baja No-Pinch tool made short work of mounting the new tires with the hardest part of the whole job was getting the old tube back into the new tires. I need to find a valve stem tool that threads to the inside of the stem.

On the ride in this morning, absolutely no more vibration. It was from the sidecar tire being so far out of round. This was probably caused by the alignment being so far off. This evening, I'll change out the front tire.

The trees around our house still have some of their leaves so it isn't all drab. This is the view from our rear deck looking towards the southeast. The forecast for tonight and tomorrow is rain. Combined with the near freezing temperatures, it could be fun riding tomorrow.

This evening I put on the third K37 onto the front wheel. Since I didn't take any photos of the process yesterday here are a few. Here is the new tire on the rim before the first bead is installed. After the first bead is on, the tube is partially inflated and put into the tire and the valve stem fished through the hole in the rim strip and the rim.

The second bead is started and while holding it in place on one side, the Baja No-Pinch tool (shown here) is used to slowly push the bead over the edge of the rim. This is a shot right before the last little bit of the bead is pushed on. Very simple and very quick. Tire changes are getting faster and faster. I then balanced the tire and it took 1 oz. I am still using stick on steel weights though I should pick up some spoke weights. Less mess.

Front wheel is back on. These tires look pretty aggressive compared to the Heidenau K60 tires I used on the Beemer. It looks like there is plenty of material for the GripStuds. These tires look like they will be noisy but based on having them on the pusher and sidecar, minimal noise.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Few Holdouts

There are still a few leaves refusing to let go of their branches. This is one of my least favorite times of the year, the brown and grey before after all of the leaves fall. While walking between meetings on campus, I noticed that a lot of trees have already lost most of their leaves and initially, I thought that it was bit early for all of the leaves to have dropped until I realized that over ½ of the month has already passed. The equinox is rapidly approaching. This morning was approaching heated gear weather at 32°F but the heated grips were tested. Much nicer than the ones on the Beemer which are installed inside of the bars. A lot more mass that needs to be heated.

I'm getting ready to head out of town again this weekend. I have a couple of days of meetings in Minneapolis next week then stopping off in Oregon on the way back. I suspect that we may have snow while I'm gone so this Saturday I am going to switch out all three of the Ural tires with the new Heidenau K37 tires that I picked up from Adventure Cycleworks. It'll be interesting to see if the vibration I've been seeing at above 50 mph goes away with the new tires. No reason to install the GripStuds yet but maybe by the time I get back to town. Mickey suggested I try it without them first.

I think that I should've taken a picture but with the Prius in the shop today, Bridget rode in the sidecar last night and today. She likes her Gerbing jacket but mentioned that a lot of cold air comes in through the sidecar door opening.

Lately, I've been feeling like one of the holdouts. Even more so after the shock of hearing about Bobskoot. More thoughts in a later post.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Good Bye Bobskoot

The moto-blogger family just found out that one of our virtual family members has passed away. And it was a big blow to me as it was completely unexpected. Bob was still near the beginning of his grand adventure travelling the country in is red Corvette when he passed away in his sleep in Nashville, TN.

I only had the pleasure of meeting Bob in person two times, the first at the first was a short IMBC blogger meetup in Bend, OR, in 2010 and the second at IMBC 2012 in Baker City, OR. We had communicated frequently about some of his passions such as cameras and photography, and some of his frustrations such as Microsoft Windows, Google and other Internet services. Occasionally, motorcycles made their way into the conversation. Up until the end of August, he was sending about a photo a day from his phone during their trip whenever there was wireless Internet available. I think this was his way of letting folks know that everything was fine.

Bob's hard past is part of what made him the outgoing, sociable person that we had gotten to know and love. I wish I had gotten to know him better and to meet his family. Bridget mentioned that he was one of those that she was really looking forward to meeting as he was planning a motorcycle trip to Alaska after retirement.

Bob, you are going to be really missed. Bridget and I both offer our sincere condolences to Yvonne and his family.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Sunday Afternoon Ride

An Indian summer is a heat wave that occurs in the autumn. It refers to a period of above-normal temperatures, accompanied by dry and hazy conditions, usually after there has been a killing frost. It occurs in the Northern Hemisphere between late September and mid November.

From Wikipedia

Okay, for some it's still summer but here in Fairbanks, the "killing frost" has already occured so it sounds like Indian summer. This definition is from the fount of all knowledge known as Wikipedia.

After the weekly grocery shopping was done, it was too nice of a day to not go for a little ride. I headed out on the Old Nenana Highway to Henderson Road. Followed that to St. Patricks Road. Somewhere along the way, we lost pavement. I then headed up to the top of Ester Dome where the next two photos were taken.

This is the view looking towards Murphy Dome to the northwest. One of these days I'll make it up there. There were quite a few people enjoying the view from the top of Ester Dome. Some were on foot maybe trying to get in some last minute training for the Equinox Marathon next Saturday. But more on bicycles enjoying a downhill run after getting a ride to the top.

This is the view looking towards Fairbanks to the southeast. I was looking for views with lots of leaf color but it still looked kind of drab to me even with the blue skies and bright sunshine. I then headed through Goldstream Valley towards Fox and headed towards home on Skyridge Drive. The loop through the Goldstream Valley and Skyridge used to be one of my favorite rides when I had first started riding. But this summer, the entire route was messed up by road construction. It's looking pretty good now.

One last photo on Skyridge Drive as you can never have enough pictures of the fall colors. Maybe it's my imagination but the rig really did seem to run better after modifying the exhaust system last night. Less intake noise as you don't seem to need as much throttle. Time will tell.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Post #1000

The Ural was out of commision for 24 hours while the glue was drying on the new heated grips so I took the Beemer out today. As you can see, I put the sidecar back on. The two rigs are distinctly different. There is more engine vibration with the Beemer, more clutch slipping is needed to get going as first gear isn't as low but it has much better acceleration. For those that care, the Beemer has a better (though not noisier) exhaust note. The Ural has a really noisy air intake and, currently, more wheel vibration but the steering is oh so much lighter with none of the low speed shimmy of the Beemer. I think that new tires are in order as the front and sidecar tires are really worn and that is the reason for the vibration.

The leaves are all changed and are starting to fall. But we are having a real warm spell with highs in the 70s (°F). I didn't ride the Beemer at all while the sidecar was detached beyond the test ride. I didn't remove the sidecar subframe and was afraid that it would scrape the ground on right turns. It hangs down pretty low. But only four bolts and the rig was back together again just as before. Maybe half an hour including the wiring.

I was able to remove the broken heated grip on the Ural with some carefully hand sawing. I didn't even nick the plastic throttle tube. The new heated grips came from Ural Northwest and were the same brand as the failed installation (ShowChrome). The diameter of the left handlebar is 22mm (as opposed to ⅞") and the throttle tube is exactly 1". The new grips matched both of these measurements and even when test fitting them, they were nice and snug. A perfect fit. BTW, I did test them before installation to make sure they both worked. The new grips also came with a handlebar mount for the controller so I moved the controller from my mini-dash to a spot near the left grip. The hardest part of the whole installation was getting the throttle lock re-installed on the new grip.

The Ural has a crossover on the gas tank which passes underneath the top tube of the frame. This makes removing the gas tank a very messy job as the crossover line needs to be disconected from the tank. I ordered a quick disconnect from Crawford Sales in SE Michigan. They also had a used throttle tube in case I wasn't able to salvage my old one. And they ship USPS! I removed the gas tank spilling gas in the process and installed the quick disconnect. When disconnected, both sides are shut off and you spill just a drop. Now it won't be a hassle to remove the tank for easy access to the wiring.

Also, based on the strong recommendation from the Anchorage based Ural expert, I removed the cat factory installed obstruction from the pipe between the exhaust header and the muffler. Especially after rejetting the carbs. The richer mixture could clog things up quickly. The right one was already pretty black. Plus, probably less back pressure.

When I started this blog, I had no idea that I would have ever reached 1000 posts. The first couple of hundred posts are now long gone as the services I was using (before Blogger) are now long gone. I didn't really expect Blogger to continue long once it was purchased by Google.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Beautiful Morning

The sun was shining under the clouds on my ride in but it only lasted for a couple of minutes. I don't think I will ever get tired of this view of the Alaska Range. Especially in the morning sun.

The mornings have been cool in the mid 40s (°F) but the days have been spectacular. Near perfect riding weather for leaf-peeping. To me, the fall leaves have been looking a bit dismal. Many seem to have gone from green to brown and somehow skipped the expected brilliant yellow. I'm told that it's the weather, or the light, or just me...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

WInter Farkles

Over the weekend in addition to "participating" in the Ural National Rally, I did a little more work on the rig getting it ready for winter. Some positive, some negative. First the positive. I added a tiny Kuryakyn LED voltmeter. The Ural really doesn't have anything resembling a dashboard so I stuck it above the speedometer with double sided tape with the wiring running through a small hole into the headlight bucket. After that, it was simple to tap into a switched circuit. I used the one for the tail lights. The voltmeter is just a series of colored LEDs with the number of LEDs (and color) corresponding to battery voltage. As long as you see at least one green LED then things are doing fine. I know that at 800W the Ural has a decent charging system especially when compared to the stock (280W) or even upgraded (450W) system on the Beemer.

The second positive addition was a small aluminum "dashboard" installed on the now unneeded friction damper knob. The knob and attached threaded rod was replaced with a length of all-thread with a coupler on top where the knob used to be. I then made a small, 4"x2", aluminum plate that I fastened to the coupler with a stainless allen head screw. The idea was not mine but came from a post on the SovietSteeds forum. The original poster went really fancy and powdercoated the pieces but mine is the low dollar version with the aluminum cut with a sawzall. Good enough for now. The need for this small "dash" brings up my failed installation.

I had ordered some heated grips for ⅞" bars from Amazon instead of the ones sold by Ural Northwest due to what I felt was an exorbitant shipping charge of $43. Especially when compared to "free shipping" from Amazon. I removed the original foam and chrome plated plastic grips with a knife and dry fitted the new grips and tested them to make sure they both worked. The left hand grip was really loose on the bar and the right hand grip was extremely tight barely fitting over the throttle tube. I used the supplied glue to install the left grip and left it to dry hoping that the glue would "fill the gap". I then put a tiny bit of glue about ⅓ of the way from the throttle housing and the end of the throttle tube. After lining up the grip, I pushed it on and with much effort, it went on just past the glue then stopped with about another 1¼" to go. I then brought out the rubber mallet and tapped it into place. The control unit was installed onto the new aluminum dashboard. But in the process of tapping the right hand grip the plastic within the grip broke. I now have one working and one broken heated grip. Not a good situation.

Heated Grips from the UralNW website

This morning, I bit the bullet and ordered a replacement throttle tube from Holopaw Ural and heated grips from Ural Northwest. I got a pleasant surprise in my email when Ural Northwest sent a $35 refund for a net shipping charge of $8. Very reasonable. I guess I'll be ordering from them again. Their explanation was that shipping on their online site is based solely on dollar value of the items and not on the size or weight. Or maybe it's because I complained in a note attached to the order.

One last thing, when looking at the bike, it seemed like it was leaning too much away from the sidecar. I had checked the lean earlier using an inclinometer held against what I saw was the only vertical location on the bike. The frame just in front of the rear wheel. I checked it again using the raised edge of the rear wheel hub (averaging measurements taken on both sides of the hub) and the lean was closer to 4° or over double what would be "normal". I shortened both upper struts by about 5 threads and after reinstalling, lean was about 1½°. The rig is noticeably less tippy on right turns and no change in steering.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

2014 Ural National Rally Day

This virtual rally is an excuse to ride around and take pictures. After registering, you are assigned a number and download a scoresheet with a number of tasks. I began at 9:00am with a couple of quick stops. Here is the Large Animal Research Station and if you look closely, you may be able to see a couple of musk ox behind the fence.

One of the items on the list were roadside attractions. This plane on the roof is listed in the Roadside America website so I guess that qualifies. This is a candy and snack shop attached to one of the hotels across the street from the airport. As you can see, they are now closed for the season.

Another quick stop at the northernmost Harley dealer in the U.S. Their tee shirts don't mention the U.S. part. At a Cisco class I attended a number of years ago, I met someone from Norway who mentioned that there was a Harley dealer north of the Arctic Circle over there. It is also a Honda, Polaris, BMW, Stihl and Victory dealer as well as a Harley dealer.

Just a quick shot by the front of the University of Alaska Museum of the North. It was pretty quiet on campus even though classes began last Thursday.

I then got sidetracked to the College Coffeehouse to meet with the other Airheads that generally get together there.

Bridget and I then went to a diner in North Pole on our way to the Santa Claus house. Apparently, the organizers don't want people dropping off by the side of the road due to starvation as you got extra points for stopping for lunch as well as bonus points for having pie...

Another popular roadside attraction is the muffler man sized Santa Claus at the Santa Claus house in North Pole. They are open year 'round and do a lot of business during the summer tourist season.

Another stop at the Chena River. The water is really high due to the record rainfall for the month of September. I believe a new record was set on the first day of the month. What a way to begin the month.

Another roadside attraction listed on the website is the Alaska pipeline on the Steese Highway north of town. A "must see" for anyone visiting Alaska.

Not really an attraction but a popular place for locals. This is the Fox Spring near the beginning of the Elliott Highway. This is the road that heads north eventually ending in Prudhoe Bay.

One last stop was at the northernmost Denny's. I guess we could have picked almost anything and it would be the northernmost. Home Depot, Lowes, Macdonalds, Walmart, Silver Gulch all list themselves as being the northernmost. Fairbanks is also listed as the northernmost Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States. I had a lot of opportunities to kick start the rig (extra points!) so I did it 10 times. At most but not all of the stops.

All in all, a beautiful day to ride around the area taking pictures. 817 points total for the day. Not a bad way to spend the day.