Monday, September 30, 2013


Updated title due to comments...

This was the view from our building on Friday morning. Another beautiful Fall sunrise with nice sunshine on the changing leaves. The photo is an iPhone HDR photo but the colors and brightness seemed just as bright. The weather through the weekend has been equally nice. There was an Airhead tech day scheduled for Sunday afternoon but other issues had me running around (not on the sidecar rig). Maybe I can catch up a bit this week.

On one of the Saturday errands, they had a bunch of old comics taped to their glass counter and this is an old favorite. It seems to accurately portray my impression of Fall in Fairbanks. This year, not quite this bad but sometimes it seems close. I wasn't able to find a source of the comic so you may have to settle for an pbone picture.

This morning, one of the facilities guys mentioned that the rig is really visible in the dark and the asymmetric arrangement of lights did make him wonder what it was coming down the road. The LED lights and the car battery have been good upgrades to the rig. I still haven't changed the front tire but the weather and roads haven't been an issue. They are predicting a dusting of snow tomorrow.

On Friday, UPS made a late evening delivery that gave me something to play with over the weekend. My old iPhone4 was getting slow as iOS and the apps get more and more resource hungry. I ordered an iPhone 5S complete with TouchID, 64-bit A7 processor but in a "normal" color and not the snazzy gold color that seems to be really popular. That is, if you consider "Space Grey" a normal color. At 112g, it's 20% lighter than the old phone. The TouchID is an incredibly convenient feature as I have always used complex passwords on the phone. Press the home button to turn on the phone, release pressure but leave your finger there for a second and you're in. No passcode or password to enter. The jury is still out on how secure it is but casual testing with others have demonstrated that it's probably secure enough. After I think 5 failed fingerprint authentications, you then need to authenticate with your password before the touch sensor will work again. was willing to give me ¾ of the cost of the new phone for my old iPhone so it seemed like a reasonable thing to do for now. Gazelle buys old electronics with the value based on the condition. Since my old iPhone has lived inside of a sealed case for the last three years, it's pretty much in pristine condition. So I got sucked into another two years of AT&T.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Other Other Bike

A few years back at a garage sale up the hill from us, an elderly couple had a couple of old mountain bikes for sale. Both of them had under 20 miles on them as they were ridden only once. Shortly after getting the bikes, they rode down the hill towards town and part of the way back. When they finally got them all the way back up the hill to their home, they sat in the garage for 25 years or so. Done in by the hill. They eventually decided to get rid of them at a garage sale. I picked up one of them for $35.

It is a Specialized Hard Rock with a few nicks on the pearl white paint from the years of storage in the back of the garage. Nothing fancy but I thought that it would be more than adequate for running around. I put new tubes inside the original tires, replaced all of the cables and housing, replaced the pedals, and replaced the cantilever brakes with a more modern set that I had laying around. It had sealed bearings in the wheels and bottom bracket. Cleaned and greased the headset, adjusted everything, trued the wheels and had essentially a new, old bicycle.

In December 2011, I picked up a set of Nokian studded tires from the Anchorage REI store and finally replaced the cracked tires. I've ridden it only a handful of times during the last two winters and it has essentially lived in my office. Today, I rode it down to lower campus for a meeting and discovered that I am woefully out of shape. Riding in heavy boots didn't help but still winded after a short ride back up the hill. This picture of the front tire is from 2011 when I first installed the studded tires. Maybe I'll start riding the bicycle when I get coffee as well as to lower campus meetings.

I do need to get a rack as this morning, I was sort of at a loss on how to carry my iPad down to the meeting. While on lower campus, I did ask the parking authorities if I would get ticketed if I parked the sidecar rig in motorcycle parking. The signs say "Motorcycles Only May 1 to Sept 1" but all of them have red curbs. They were surprised at the question and said that I won't be ticketed and the red curbs were so cars and trucks couldn't park there. The date restriction was there so they didn't have to bother to clear snow from the spots.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Another beautiful morning

The snow hasn't quite disappeared everywhere as yesterday afternoon didn't get as warm as the weather folks were predicting It was 25°F on the ride in this morning with dry roads and what may eventually be a beautiful sunrise in the rearview mirrors. Yes, it's starting to be dark during my morning commute and I am satisfied with the additional LED lighting that I added. I'll try to take a picture showing the light on the road.

The additional weight in the sidecar from the car battery makes right turns a breeze and there should be no more problems starting the engine once it gets cold. And it sure is nice to to have to worry about turning off accessories when slowing down. I may have to try and figure out a more permanent location for the car battery as it's nice to have the additional amp-hours (estimated at 2½ times the Odyssey PC925). Plus, it's a whole lot cheaper than replacing the charging system with one of the aftermarket Enduralast 450 watt systems.

These are just a couple of photos from walking around West Ridge, the area of campus housing most of the research institutes. The first and last were taken this morning and the middle two were taken during an afternoon walk. I think it kind of odd that some of the leaves are still green while other trees have dropped most of their leaves. The pictures were taken maybe 100 m apart. I have been trying to get out and start walking again. I can't complain about the miserably warm weather anymore though I do need to find my hat and gloves again. In spite of the cooler temperatures, this is a wonderful time of the year to be in Fairbanks.

Monday, September 23, 2013

"Second Last Ride of the Season" Not

It was advertised as the "Second Last Ride of the Season" but I was the only one to show up ready to ride. Others showed up in four wheeled vehicles to see what fools would show up for the ride. I didn't disappoint them. The other name for these rides are FOG or Friends of George. But even George (Rahn) showed up with his truck. His bike didn't start and he figured that was a sign to not ride.

It ended up snowing for most of the afternoon but no accumulation on the streets. Originally, I was thinking of sending out an email for next Sunday afternoon but there is an Airhead tech-day already on the schedule.

Monday Morning -  It finally stopped snowing sometime in the middle of the night and it was a cold, beautiful morning. The weather guessers are claiming that it'll be well above freezing again for the rest of the week. I think that walking across the parking lot was the most treacherous part of my commute. No slipping or sliding with the sidecar rig and due to the conditions, everyone was driving pretty cautiously. I left a little early to avoid being on the road at the same time as kids rushing to the local high school.

On Saturday, I put the Arctic Cat foam hand covers on the handlebars and even though it was 21°F this morning, no additional heat was needed. They do a great job of blocking the wind and since the back is completely open, the controls are still easy to see. I believe that they are designed for use on snow machines or ATVs.

I just talked to Adventure Cycleworks to see if they had any left over inventory and it sounds like they may have a 100/90-19 Heidenau K60 front tire in their inventory. That'll resolve my front tire not having enough tread to stud. Too bad that I will be swapping out the front tire as it still has a few miles left just not enough rubber to stud.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Replacing the Pusher

Friday evenings motorcycle maintenance task was replacing the rear tire. As you can see, it is worn out and near the end of its useful life. I didn't expect it to last as long as it did at almost 4,000 miles. This was also an opportunity to try out the tire levers that I had picked up last winter. The first step after jacking up the bike was removing the left muffler. Supposedly this doesn't need to be done but it makes it much easier to get the wheel off. After removing the wheel, I used the bead breaking setup that I had made up last winter using a couple of 2x4's. Removing the old tire was surprisingly easy and only took a few minutes.
My new rear tire is another Heidenau K60. It has a really stiff sidewall and I expected it to be difficult to get on the rim. The first bead was no problem and after inserting the tube and putting in a little bit of air, I attacked the second bead. With the help of a little water and dish soap, my son, Kyle, and I got the second side on. This is a really stiff tire and it took a lot of weight to get the bead on one side to drop down into the center trough of the rim. But once it did, the rest of the bead popped right on. I was careful to align the paint dot on the tire with the valve stem as it is supposed to mark the heaviest part of the tire. It took about 40 psi to seat the bead with a couple of satisfying "pops" and I aired it down to 38 psi.
I dug out the tire balancer and ended up removing all of the existing weights and adding only ½ oz to the other side. This is a far cry from the 5 oz that the sidecar wheel and tire needed and this is by far a much heavier tire. Once the weights were added, it was a simple matter of reinstalling the wheel on the bike, putting the caliper and muffler back on and bolting everything together again.
The final task of the evening was studding the rear tire. Last winter, I used some screws with hardened heads but they needed to be replaced every couple of hundred miles on the rear tire. This year, I am using carbide GripStuds that I ordered from Aerostitch. I hear that they will last through multiple winters. I installed 52 studs for now and will see how they do. According to the weather guessers, our next snowfall will be on Monday. It probably won't stick but I want to be ready for it. I'm still trying to figure out what to do on the front as there isn't enough rubber on the existing front tire. There is still plenty of tread left but not quite enough for the 11mm studs.

Relocating the Battery to the Sidecar

The sidecar tub has a couple more holes in the body as of yesterday evening. I relocated the battery to the sidecar for the winter. Or more accurately, removed the wiring from the stock battery and added in a larger one. I removed the seat in the sidecar since no one would be riding in it in the winter anyway. It is only held in with a couple of wing nuts to bottom of the sidecar. A couple of ¾" holes were drilled into the body where they would be below the bottom of the seat if it were put back in.

The ground wires were removed from the battery and relocated to a bolt installed into an unused hole in the frame behind the side panel. Fairly flexible 4 AWG cables were threaded from the positive battery terminal and the new ground post to the sidecar through rubber grommets. I believe the cables were sold for use with high power car stereo installations as the cables were made from numerous fine strands of copper wire. This would explain the flexibility and should be very low resistance. The original battery is no longer in the circuit and will be removed at some point once I figure out a better positive terminal.

The new battery is a group 24 automotive flooded lead acid battery which is rated at 800 CCA. Quite a bit more than the Odyssey battery at 330 CCA. Either should be more than enough for the bike. My old airhead only has a 280 watt alternator and it had difficulty last year keeping the battery charged especially during the winter commute. With the larger battery, I shouldn't need to worry about it and use the heated gear and grips with impunity. I'll just plug in the charger periodically.

The maintenance free battery is in a plastic battery box held down to the floor with a nylon strap. I believe the box was designed for use in boats and RVs. I mounted it close to the sidecar wheel to take advantage of the additional weight as ballast to help keep the wheel planted during right turns. No battery heater installed yet as I needed to see if there was room for a battery blanket inside the plastic box. I will be adding a piece of closed cell foam under the battery as insulation. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like ...

It was inevitable though it is on the early side, especially when you think about our unseasonably hot temperatures this summer. The leaves still haven't dropped from the trees so hopefully it wan't be a repeat of Fall of 1992 when an early snow knocked down trees all over Fairbanks causing extended power outages all over town. As you may notice, I still don't have the studs installed in the tire and due to the additional tire wear over the Summer, I may need to put on a new front tire. I already have a new rear tire but not a front. Replacing tires may be the weekend or evening activity.  Today the roads are still above freezing so there is little danger of ice and the next couple of days are forecast to be nice and sunny.

Not the view folks were looking forward to around here. On the ride in this morning, the drivers were treating the new snow with a little respect as most still were on their Summer tires. Yesterday, my son graciously agreed to take Bridget's Prius in to have the tires swapped out. It was a couple of hours wait but that's one less thing to worry about when this time of year rolls around. I suspect that the snow will be gone by this afternoon but it is our first of the season and a reminder of what's coming.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"Last Ride of the Season"

The day started out clear and cold at 28°F but by the time we left from College Coffeehouse at 1 pm, it had warmed up to the mid-40s. This ride was dubbed as the "last ride of the season" though many plan on riding next Sundays last ride as well. Six bikes left one was two up and one person turned around at about 43 mile Chena Hot Springs Road do to another commitment. This picture shows the wonderful yellow color of the leaves looking down the gravel runway that separates the resort buildings from the RV campground. The place was pretty full with a lot of foreign tourists walking around.

We stopped at the Granite Tors trailhead on the way out since is is a good place to regroup and more wonderful views. I thought it was interesting that 3 of the bikes were early 80s R100RTs just like mine though the others were in mint condition. The white one is immaculate with really well done mods such as powder coated wheels. Right in front of my bike is one of the new water cooled R1200GS models. Very little traffic on the road so it was a wonderful ride out an back. We had lunch at the resort but no food pics. Sorry.

I found that I was able to easily cruise in fifth gear most of the way out so I don't think long trips is out of the question for my rig. Steering still takes quite a bit of muscle since I have not done any steering modifications to reduce trail and I think this qualifies as strength training. When comparing my bike to the other airhead RTs, we noticed that my front suspension is sagging quite a bit. Sag is measured by jacking up the front end of the bike and measuring the length of the telescoping forks. I measured from the bottom of the triple tree clamp to the bottom of the fork lowers. Then the bike is lowered and with me sitting on the seat, the measurement is repeated. The sag was 3½ inches. It is supposed to be 1" to 2" with the airhead gurus preferring 2".

On the way back, I stopped at the Bob's (second from the right in the photo) home since he had extra spacer material (¾" schedule 40 ABS pipe) and offered to show me how it's done. He had done the procedure on his airhead RT earlier. We used 1½" lengths of tubing on top of the spring. It was quite the task to push the new spacer into the fork tube compressing the fork spring and trying to get the threads started on the fork caps to hold everything together. But we got it done and now the front end of the bike is about 1½" higher than before. More suspension travel on compression would be good as I remember it bottoming out on my trip last year. I did learn that the fork springs are aftermarket made by Progressive and the upper fork cross brace is aftermarket machined aluminum. And the springs are the correct length according to the specs. What was missing were factory spacers to compensate for the weight of the fairing on the RT and RS models. The previous owner probably couldn't get the spacer put in when he installed the aftermarket springs as it took three of us to get them in. Now I probably need to realign the sidecar since it is no longer level front to back.

The only other issue that showed up was an odd engine speed related vibration. It felt like unbalanced carbs or an ignition problem. One of those things to work on when it's too cold to ride. Several of the others mentioned that the rig seems pretty visible with the addition of the fog lights. The light pattern looks odd which may help them to take a second look (assuming they see me at all).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Gooseneck Hitch and More Lights

This must be my week with dealing with heavy boxes. The last time I drove to Corvallis, I had picked up a gooseneck hitch for the truck. It has been sitting in the garage getting in the way for about 3 years and at 140 lbs, the boxes were a pain to move around. Last night, I finally bit the bullet and installed the hitch. The delay was partly having to drill a 4" hole in the middle of the truck bed. This was one of those "one chance to get it right" things. After measuring several times, the hole was cut with a 4" hole saw using a battery powered drill. I was somewhat surprised that it not only had enough power to turn the hole saw but that the battery wasn't drained in the process. Once the hole was drilled and the cut metal painted, my youngest son and I started installing the heavy pieces between the frame and the bottom of the bed. These were very heavy steel parts as the hitch is rated at 30,000 lbs with a 7,000 lb tongue weight. More than the truck is rated for (I like having plenty of headroom). We used a hand winch hung from a beam in the garage to support the main hitch plate through the hole in the bed. Fortunately, the truck is high enough to sit upright under the bed while bolting things together. Better than lying on the concrete.

The ball drops into the socket and when it isn't being used, you can flip it over so there isn't anything in the bed to trip on. I don't have anything to pull with it but the plan was to pick up a fifth wheel trailer some time and a fifth wheel hitch is available to fit the same socket. The silvery things at the bottom of the picture are spring loaded loops for the safety chains. These are also attached to the same heavy steel parts under the bed and attached to the frame and not just to sheet metal.

I picked up a pair of Piaa 530 LED fog lights and for now, installed one on the front of the sidecar fender. Hopefully, this will make me a little more visible. These lights draw only 6 watts each so you don't even need a relay. I'll have to wait until dark to aim it and see if it makes any difference. I haven't figured out where to install the other light. Ideally, it'll be on the left side of the bike somewhere. Or I might try and figure out some sort of light bar for the front of the sidecar. This location puts the light pretty far back and the sidecar body reduces visibility to oncoming traffic so it's not optimal.


Another shot showing the leaf colors. We have been getting rain pretty steadily for the last week or so. There is a "last ride of the season" scheduled for tomorrow afternoon out to Chena Hot Springs resort. I haven't made it out there yet this Summer so I'm planning to go on the ride.

Update Saturday Evening - Mounted the other fog light to the front lower sidecar mount. I think that I'm more visible now! And no glare to oncoming traffic.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Standing Desk

Yesterday, a large, heavy box showed up at my office. I had requested a standing desk a few weeks back. I think that there is still some controversy on whether there are really any advantages to these desks but I have been wanting to try one out for a couple of years. I would normally be sitting at my desk for the majority of the day but, fortunately, I am right off the hallway so it's easy to get up and walk around. This is the desk at the sitting height and there are motors in each of the pedestal legs that move it up and down using a small control panel.

You can set presets for up to three different heights. To the right is shot of the standing configuration. The desk is made by NextDesk and has a laminated bamboo top with a light finish. It took yesterday afternoon and most of the morning getting things cleaned up enough to disassemble the old desk and set up the new one. Even with the multiple monitors, it moves up and down very smoothly and quickly.

BTW, pictured here is my normal desktop layout with the Macbook Pro on the left with a 27" monitor. The 24" monitor on the right is connected to a Mac Mini running OS X Server. I use that for streaming multicast video (continuously) as well as a backup server. It has a Drobo with 4x2 TB in a pseudo-raid  configuration. The phone on the left is the normal campus-issued phone. The phone next to the desk lamp is connected to the VoIP system in Barrow. Barely visible under the desk is an old Sun AMD system that I use for a performance monitor periodically checking throughput and latency to Barrow and to a couple of other points within the Internet2 layer 3 network.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Low Mileage Summer

Yet another sign of the arrival of Fall (as if I needed yet another). This morning, I arrived at my office before the sun actually appeared above the horizon. I really like it when the sunlight illuminates the bottom of clouds. At a balmy 50°F this morning and no fog, it was a very pleasant ride while enjoying the sunrise in my rear view mirrors. I can use a few more days like today.

Yesterday would have been a great riding day as well and I was tempted to take an additional vacation day and ride somewhere. But that would be irresponsible, or at least that is what I kept telling myself. This has been a pretty low-mileage summer at only 3500 miles. The only motorcycle trip was the sidecar meet-up in Talkeetna over Memorial Day weekend.

The leaves are just starting the change on some trees with others almost completely yellow and ready to fall. I'm not sure I'm ready for Winter this year. I did manage to get the sidecar sorted out and I think I learned the basics of riding the rig safely and that was my riding goal for this Summer. I had hoped to get in a few more local trips within Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Rainy Weekend

Another wet weekend with cool, foggy mornings and maybe a little bit of clearing later in the day. The leaves are just starting to change but we don't get the incredible display seen in other parts of the country. Just yellow and brown. No shades of red or orange. Construction activity had this particular road closed to the public for a couple of years and I noticed that it has been reopened.

There was a ride scheduled for last week but only two of us showed up and we rescheduled it for this week. This time, I was the only one who showed up. I'm sensing a trend here. I was asked if I was going to announce a "end of the season ride" on the local BMW riders email list. I wasn't sure as it isn't the end of the riding season just yet.

It really is starting to feel like Autumn these days with morning temperatures in the high 30s to 40s (°F). There is a lot more traffic these days on my morning commute since the university is now in session. But the good thing is that, with the exception of my building, motorcycle parking is almost always empty and available so it's easy to run errands on campus. This was just a phone pic from our deck showing the remaining fog over the weekend. When it wasn't raining, it was foggy.

Saturday evening was spent at a geocaching "event" at Pioneer Park, aka Alaskaland, run by a local cacher. He set out numerous caches, scavenger hunts and kids activities. It took us a while to figure out that these stickers were the caches set out. Bridget and I teamed up with two other folks and before the last challenge, we were in first place. We ended up in third place but only because we "bet" half of our points on the last question. There was a good turnout with maybe 25 people there. Someone asked me if I was lost since I was wandering around with a gps.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Battery Replacement

As I had mentioned in an earlier post, the battery in my iPhone4 only has about ⅔ of the original capacity and would barely last through the work day. After a quick search on Amazon, showed that I could get a replacement battery and the toolkit for about $12. They arrived on Tuesday and after watching the short video on, I disassembled the phone, replaced the battery and reassembled everything. Total time was maybe five minutes. I don't have any photos of the disassembled iPhone as the phone is my point and shoot camera and it was sitting disassembled on the desk. So here is just a photo of the toolkit and the battery. I hope the battery will at least last through the day again. If I knew that the process was this simple I would've replaced the battery a long time ago.

Still no signage on the artsy piece next to the parking lot. Maybe so you can target trucks/cars parked in motorcycle parking (the spaces across the parking lot). The sign states that it is only valid motorcycle parking until September 1st. After all, who would be crazy enough to ride after Sept 1? I chose not to park there since the parking lot was deserted when I arrived this morning plus I sort of take up a whole space anyway. And I've ridden (driven?) the sidecar rig every time I've gone to work since May 1st.

One other task that I have been putting off until I was fairly sure of the positioning and alignment of the sidecar has been to cut off the excess tubing from the 70° mounting bosses. I wrapped them with painters tape and cut them with a reciprocating saw. I then filed down the sharp edges and finished the cut off with some gloss black paint. When comparing the before and after pictures, you can see how much extra material there was.

Without the excess tubing, I think the mounting looks a little cleaner. I also pulled off the front strut and finished painting around the hole I drilled in the lower fairing last week. I had accidentally picked up dark blue paint last winter and in the dark garage, I couldn't tell the color that I had painted the lower mounts until some sunshine returned in the Spring. I repainted those parts of the sidecar frame gloss black not that anyone besides me would ever notice.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Skyridge Drive

On the first Monday of the month, the Airheads group meets at the Silver Gulch microbrewery. If I happen to be in town, I generally try to make it out there for the get together. During the Summer, we get visitors at the meeting who are passing through town usually on there way to/from Prudhoe Bay along the haul road. Not many riders going through town these days. On the way back, I stopped on Skyridge Drive which follows the ridgeline between the Tanana Valley and Goldstream Valley. It is near sunset but I couldn't get a good view to the west. Too many trees. This is the view looking north into the Goldstream Valley towards Fox.

This road used to be one of my favorite routes and part of my "scenic route" during the warmer months. There has been quite a bit of road construction lately resulting in this nice pavement. This road is pretty treacherous during the winter and even the AWD cars with studded tires have issues with this road going downhill.

After looking at this photo, I'm more convinced that I want to add yet another light to the side car near the front of the fender for more visibility. I will probably remove the small white LED lights on the side car as they don't seem to help much.