Thursday, January 30, 2014

To Anchorage

This morning, I'm in Anchorage for a couple of days. I hear that the weather will be pretty nice and probably a little warmer than Fairbanks. This is the slightly doctored view of the Alaska Range as the flight passed over. Just increased the contrast and exposure using the Snapseed iPhone app. There is a hint of color from the sunrise but this is before the sun actually appeared above the horizon.

I'm on the 13th floor so there's a pretty good view to the north east. Downtown would be behind me and the Cook Inlet is several blocks is to the left. 

Over the last few weeks, I've been watching all these videos on nutrition and diet. I knew that I needed to do something and not just assume that things will get better on its own. I started with Forks Over Knives based on a recommendation from Chris L from and moved on to Fat, Sick and Almost Dead. Plus a few more thrown in for good measure (isn't Netflix and Amazon Prime wonderful!). I suspect that there will be some challenges during this trip. I'm not completely convinced of the "juicing" thing though it has become a tasty addition to my diet. 

Thursday Evening Update - The view on the opposite side of the hotel. ProHDR iPhone photo. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Morning Sky

We've had some wonderfully nice days since our last warm spell w/rain. The roads are a little icy but traction is decent and everyone seems to be behaving themselves. This photo was taken yesterday morning about half an hour before sunrise. Of course, I had to get the rig into the photo somehow but the highlight was definitely the sky.

Today, the waning crescent moon looked pretty cool on the southern horizon while riding in. Since I didn't have a tripod, it took quite a few attempts to get an acceptable shot especially low light, handheld with a modest telephoto. I really like these southerly views with showing the profile of the Alaska Range. And we have great visibility today. Venus was a bit further to the east out of the frame.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Normal and a Little Green

Happily, the roads are passable again. Only a couple of days of misery before the temperature dropped nicely below freezing. There doesn't seem to be too much ice on the road after this last warm spell maybe because we had some bright sunshine yesterday afternoon to evaporate a lot of the liquid water. We are now officially over six hours of sun being actually above the horizon. Barrow's first sunrise this year was four days ago and they are already over two hours of sunshine. Change comes quickly.

It was a beautiful morning for a ride and I had just a couple of errands to run. When going by the University, I noticed a fire on the horizon. It looks like a building in University Park somewhere. Never a good thing to happen especially in the middle of winter.

My new green for a while and I must admit that it tastes really good. Fresh kale, apple, celery and lemon. Plus I get to play with a new appliance in the kitchen. After years of never feeling very well especially after eating. And I'm partially convinced that maybe improving my diet may help. I am already pretty light on carbs due to my type 2 diabetes and the shift now is to dramatically reduce protein and increase vegetables. We'll see how this goes, I'm really looking forward to it...

Friday, January 24, 2014

It's Even Worse Today

I thought it was bad yesterday. Last night it rained and just about everything is closed. All classes are cancelled at the school district and the university and the police are warning everyone to stay home. Of course, the university said that they were still open for business. This was to avoid having an administrative closure and having to pay everyone for the day. Now, if you can't make it in you need to take vacation or leave without pay. 

Just for reference, here is the view from the newspaper webcam today. Pretty grim. I don't think I'll take the rig out today. In fact, I may not even walk outside today. On a positive note, in the first photo you might have noticed that sunrise will be at 10:02am today. The days are quickly getting longer. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

More Upside Down Weather

We are experiencing very "unJanuary-like " weather these days much to the dismay of the eastern seaboard. I read an article yesterday that said that the average temperature in the lower-48 was 22°F and the average temperature in Alaska was 24°F. I can't complain too much about that especially after paying my last fuel oil bill. It's supposed to rain tonight which is never a good thing in the middle of winter.

As would be expected, I rode in again this morning but I think many are opting to try and work from home due to the forecast of slippery, wet roads. Normally, there would be a lot more vehicles in the parking lot. Last night, I had noticed that my messing around with the carbs have gotten them somewhat out of sync and this has made for a little rough running at low RPM. I don't have the tools to do a proper carb sync so I just loosened one of the throttle cables a couple of turns until it felt a little better. I don't know why anything I did would have affected the sync but maybe I'll look into it a little more. Syncing the carbs is making sure that the throttles blades open at the exact same time. Kind of a challenge when the linkage is a couple of steel cables.

Just for another perspective, here is a capture from the webcam at the local newspaper office. Note the lack of traffic at what would normally be our "rush hour". You'd expect to see at least a couple of cars. As the article says, "This is not the kind of weather most Alaskans like," "We'd be happy to swap.".

Monday, January 20, 2014

Back on Three Wheels

Finally. on the road again. It really felt good to get out and about after almost two weeks. This was the road test after performing the maintenance and replacing the alternator and it was a beautiful morning to be out and about. It was a very warm 26°F but just for testings, turned on the heated grips, had the heated jacket liner and gloves on max and the battery voltage while running never went below 14.2 volts. This seems to have been a great upgrade.

On Saturday afternoon, I went to an Airhead tech day to see what was involved replacing the head bearings. He had invested in all of the bearing pullers to simplify the job. It turned out that the simplest way to get the bearing races in was the old fashion brass drift and a hammer. It was challenging to use the tool since it was an RT with the large "barn door" fairing and windshield. When I returned home, the box arrived from Euro Motoelectrics with my new alternator system. I had previously spent Friday night removing all remnants of the original alternator including unused wiring. The old rotor popped off easily from the front of the crankshaft using the special tool provided. Since one of the other local Airheads wanted to see what was involved with the installation, I spent the remainder of the evening putting the rest of the bike back together.

Here is the newly installed rotor and stator and note that there are only two wires from from the stator and out of the top of the engine, No slip rings or carbon brushes to energize the rotor as it is a permanent magnet. I believe that simpler is better and I hope that translates to more reliable. I had to remove a bunch of stuff again as I had forgotten to put one bolt that supports the back of the starter. The most difficult part of the installation was installing the stator (the steel plates wound with copper wire) with the aluminum rings as it kept wanting to "stick" to the permanent magnets in the rotor. The rectifier/voltage regulator is heavily finned and needs to be installed where it has a chance of staying cool. It is pictured below installed in the recommended location behind the battery next to the rear wheel. Just to the left is the triangular plastic side cover right under the seat. In fact, this post covers part of their warranty documentation as you need photos of the installation.

All that was left was the wiring. All of the pieces were included and I took advantage of the opportunity to cut all of the wire ties under the tank and reroute all of the wires, old and new, to clean things up. With all of the things added, it had become kind of a mess and even the original wiring wasn't routed correctly. Now it is much cleaner. All the new wires are now housed in plastic split loom and securely tied to the top tube. For the alternator, two wires were run from the stator, one from the hot side of a coil, one for the GEN light on the dash, ground and a fused connection to the battery. I'm still using the positive battery post on the Odyssey battery for all of the connections and there seems to be a lot of them, perhaps too many. It's probably time for a fuse box or some sort of power distribution solution.

Anyway, except for a quick functional test last night, this morning was the test ride. There was some initial concern when the battery voltage ran up to 14.5v shortly after starting but it settled down to about 13.5v at idle. With the stock system it was usually south of 12v at idle as nothing was coming off of the alternator. I rode around a bit including a stop at the turnout at the university of the first photo and after arriving back home and shutting everything off. I was still seeing 13.0v. Before, I was lucky to see 12.5v indicating a 75% charged battery. This is closer to 100% and even the starter sounds better. Maybe its imaginary but I think that this is a worthwhile upgrade for anyone with an old airhead. I had been thinking of doing this upgrade for about 5 years but as long as the original alternator worked, couldn't justify it.

On another note, I just heard from Aerostitch and they are waiting for the grey material for the bulk of the suit. I am surprised to hear this as I thought it was made in Southeast Asia and they just imported it. If I wanted a different color they could get it completed earlier.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Riding Withdrawal?

Just as you would expect, broken bike brings wonderful riding weather. Since I've been back from Barrow, it has been between -10°F and +28°F just about everyday. So warm that I expected to see Cheyenne taking Conchscooter for a walk among the palm trees that seem to be sprouting up everywhere.

This morning, I was looking for some other locations for sunrise photos plus I really wasn't feeling too good so I went for a walk. And wanted to post something other than a torn down bike. This is looking southeast from the lookout between upper and lower campus. And this photo is using the built in HDR setting in the standard photo app. Much more subtle than the ProHDR app that I have used in the past.

This is from the middle of the long metal staircase which drops you from the hill the campus sits on back to the less lofty area of town. I went down to College Coffeehouse after stopping for a meeting on lower campus and talked a bit with George Rahn, the local airhead guru. He mentioned that based on his experience the life expectancy of the rotor is around 80k miles so the failure wasn't unusual or unexpected. He did add that  maybe the larger battery might have accelerated the failure since full output was required for longer periods of time. But that would be speculation. On long trips many airhead riders carry a spare rotor. He has never installed one of the Enduralast systems but has heard a lot about them and is curious to hear of my experience with it. He also mentioned that he probably had a replacement rotor in his inventory of spare parts but it would be at BMW prices.

I think that maybe the walk has done some good as I'm feeling a little better. 12,049 steps after lunch. Hopefully the alternator will arrive in today's mail as I seem to be going through some sort of withdrawal after not riding for the last eleven days. I don't remember this ever happening in previous years or maybe it did but I didn't recognize it as such. There's hope as the USPS tracking site claims "Out for delivery" but around here that doesn't mean much.

As far as the photo, I really like the frosty look the trees along the roads. I think they pick up a lot of frost from the water vapor in vehicle exhaust. 

Opportunistic Spline Lube

Airhead Beemers use a dry clutch and the spline on the transmission input shaft needs to be greased every couple of years. I believe that I did it last year since I had gone on my road trip the previous summer. Since all the other parts and pieces were removed, it was a simple task to remove the clutch throw out lever, two transmission/engine mounting bolts and the two rear swing arm pivots. Then the whole transmission/driveshaft/rear wheel assembly was moved back until there was about an inch of space between the transmission and the engine.

This is the view looking at the transmission input shaft n.b. the shiny areas and how it seems pretty dry. No major wear but this maintenance was needed. The splines shown fit into the clutch disc located on the left. Kind of dirty but not too bad for 31 years and 75k miles. The front of the transmission is on the right.

According to "experts" on the forums, the preferred lubrications is Honda Moly 60 though I mix it with some arctic grade grease to make it a little tackier. I brush it on the transmission input spline with a disposable brush stuck on the end of a chopstick. I picked up this tube in 2008 and have used about a quarter of it since then. It is also used on the rear wheel splines and the gear drive for the throttle cable.

This is after the application. Not much is needed. The transmission is simply slid back into place and the transmission mounting bolts reattached.

The swing arm pivots were cleaned and reinstalled taking care to re center the rear swing arm in the frame. Since it is very difficult to actually measure the gap between the body of the swing arm and the frame, I simply stick a fingertip into the gap and measure by touch. Then double check by eye before torquing the pivot lock nuts down. Total time for this entire maintenance task was 15 minutes due to all of the other pieces already having been removed. The first time I performed this task it took the better part of a day.

The new alternator did not arrive yet though the USPS tracking site says it left Anchorage Wednesday morning. I'm expecting it today. This was another attempt at blogging directly from the phone. The only negative is the pictures link into some Google+/Picassa no-mans-land with pages and pages of all of the pictures that I've used on the blog instead of the specific photo. I modified the href tags but it is still not what I want. After all aren't these fascinating photos that you HAVE to see in vivid detail ;-)

Maybe blogging directly from the iPhone is an unrealistic goal...
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Current State of the Bike

Just thought I would post a couple of shots of my mess… uh repair. This is the front of the engine centered on the rotor. I pulled off the rectifier bridge assembly also referred to as the "diode board". It still had the stock rubber mounts which commonly fail when they deteriorate with heat.There are multiple, exposed plates on the diode board that are "hot" so any contact with the engine case wouldn't be good. The contacts were so corroded that some of the spade lugs pulled right off when the connectors were removed.

The mess in front of the bike where most of the work is being done. I pulled off the stator, the stationary part of the alternator, but removing the rotor requires a hardened steel tool which has been shipped with the alternator. All of the plastic insulation on the wiring in this area seems brittle. Probably from numerous heat/cool cycles over the last 31 years. All of the wiring has been removed with the exception of the ignition wiring. The new alternator has only two wires that will be run to the regulator/rectifier. The oil on the floor is from a few too many screws being removed.

Since I had dug this far into the bike, I went ahead and removed the starter. It made it easier to access the back of the diode board. It turns out that I have the less desirable, sluggish Bosch starter instead of the newer Valeo model with gear reduction in it's drive train. The change was made in 1983, the year that my bike was manufactured. The starter seemed clean, i.e. no oil or grease in the nose and the nose bushing isn't worn excessively. The sluggish starter behavior is just the way it is with the Bosch unit and it will be upgraded at some point either with the Valeo or the aftermarket Nippon Denso model. The wiring to the starter was corroded and will be replaced with some of the O AWG arc welding cable that I have been using for battery cables.

To get to the starter, the battery and airbox need to be removed and this would be a good opportunity to dress out the wiring. Since I have the battery, airbox and mufflers removed, it will be trivial to pull the transmission enough to renew the grease on the input shaft of the transmission. Just a couple of bolts between the transmission and engine, the clutch cable and the rear swingarm pivots. I think that this is also a bi-annual maintenance item but since it's easy enough to do now, I may as well.

Just a few more of the removed parts and pieces from the bike. The scratches on the side of the tank are from the magnetic mount tank bag. Dirt collects between the flaps with the magnets and the tank.

There is a lot of dirt and grime caked onto everything and I've been toying with a way to clean some of it out. One of the disadvantages of a fairing as it hides all of those areas.

The new alternator is supposed to be delivered today. It's a long weekend so I'm expecting the rig to be back on the road next week! Probably sans cleaning…


Monday, January 13, 2014

Debugging the Charging System w/More Pictures

Updated photo of the
alternator with labels
I finally dug into the charging system problem that I mentioned a couple of posts ago. To summarize, when leaving the Silver Gulch Monday evening, I noticed that the GEN light did not light up when getting ready to start the engine. This means that the charging system was not working and the problems could range from a burned out indicator light to a failed rotor and everything between those two points.

Exhaust Nuts
To reach the alternator, I needed to remove the fairing front lower, the mufflers, the exhaust headers, the rear engine mounting bolt, the oil cooler and finally the front alternator cover. It turns out that I didn't need to remove the exhaust system as the alternator cover is separate from the front cover. But I needed to renew the high temp anti-seize on the exhaust nuts anyway.

Alternator brushes and
slip rings
I removed the plug from the "DF" connector on the alternator which provides power to the rotor through the brushes and connected the plug to ground. After reconnecting the battery, I turned on the ignition and lo and behold the GEN light is on nice and bright. Darn, this means that the problem is more major.

Schematic of the BMW
airhead charging system
I then used an ohm meter from the DF terminal to ground and it was open (bad). DF terminal to the forward most slip ring on the rotor and 8 ohms (the brush was good). DF terminal to the second slip ring, open circuit (very bad). This means that the rotor has a broken wire somewhere within the windings. Major problem.

Original Enduralast aftermarket
charging system
I have multiple options at this point. Look for a replacement rotor preferably new. Or upgrade the alternator to one of the two aftermarket options. Since I have been looking at the aftermarket options for a couple of years, I decided to go with the original Enduralast system which replaces the alternator, the diode board and the voltage regulator. The other aftermarket option produces slightly more amps but at a much higher RPM and still uses all the other parts.

Diode Board
The stock system generates 24 watts at 1050 rpm and 280 watts at ~4000 rpm. So until you hit at least 3000 rpm, the battery is not being charged. The Enduralast system produces 100 watts at 1000 rpm and it max of ~450 watts at 2000 rpm. So even running around town, the battery will still be charging. And I don't really need to be worried about heated gear or auxiliary lighting. As you can see, there are very few parts to the new system.

On the Enduralast system, the rotor uses a permanent magnet so there are no slip rings or brushes and the stock problematic diode board and discrete voltage regulator is replaced with the integrated rectifier and voltage regulator. I have been wanting to upgrade to this system for a couple of years but it was hard to justify since the old system still works. I am still wondering if the addition of the larger battery and charging load contributed to the failure of the old system.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

So, Why Did I Return to Fairbanks

A humorous note in one of the research labs in the older part of the NARL facility in Barrow. The truth of the matter is most of the thermostats in that building are now non-functional. After someone had left the window open and turned the thermostat way down, the valves were changed to ignore the thermostat and just keep the room too hot. On Saturday, it was a fairly mild -9°F in Barrow with a slight wind.


I flew back home to Fairbanks on the Saturday morning flight and this is what I was greeted with. I'm thinking that I should've stayed in Barrow and enjoyed their balmy, coastal weather. It has been getting colder hour by hour throughout the weekend. I still haven't worked on the bike's charging system as the "heated" garage is pretty near freezing even with the heater fan running full blast. I think so much heat is lost each time the garage door is opened that it takes quite a while for the heater to catch up. The forecast is for much nicer temperatures throughout the week.


Maybe this is a good reason to return to Fairbanks. The sun actually appears above the horizon making the snowy landscape really bright. I took a walk this morning as it was too cold to take the sidecar rig out especially with a non-functional charging system. This is the view off our back deck looking south. You may notice a couple of moose tracks passing through the back yard.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Fuzzy Clouds and More Google Issues

When I tried to create a new post using the Chrome browser, I got the "Compose" screen like usual but when I clicked on the icon to add a photo, I was prompted to log into Google+  to access my online storage. There was no way to close the window or do anything except click the login button. But since I was at the "Compose" screen already, you'd think that Google already knew that I was logged in. After logging in (again!) I was presented with a blank window and no way to exit besides closing the browser. I think something is broken. Do others have problems with Chrome and Blogger? This also happens with Firefox but Safari seems to work fine….

I really liked the appearance of the clouds in this picture. This was taken about 3:15pm with some nice color on the horizon hinting that the sun was still around. The fuzziness in the clouds suggesting that there were still some wind higher up but it has died down somewhat. It was really feeling cold earlier with gusts up to 20mph and lots of blowing snow.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


As my last post mentioned, I'm back in Barrow again. At -9°F, the temperatures are a little colder than Fairbanks but possibly warmer than some other locations along the eastern side of the continent. There is wind which makes it feel a lot colder than back home. I really liked the quarter moon rising over the radar site about a mile to the east of the science facility. In addition to the radar, there is a variety of other instrumentation to measure things like airborne particulates and pollutants. This is a fairly accurate representation of the color of the sky and you can see the glow from the southern sky on the right of the frame.

The next actual sunrise will be at 1:48pm AKST on January 22, 2014 so not for a couple more weeks. This photo was taken about an hour before "solar noon" so it isn't quite as bright as it'll get today. But it does point out the even though the sun never makes it above the horizon, it's far from dark. This is looking due south from the and the sky was this beautiful shade of blue and pitch black when you looked to the north.

I'm up here to address a couple of network problems. Some things were moved or disconnected over the last couple of months and I'm starting to be concerned about the life of the metro wireless network.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Charging Problem

Yesterday evening was the monthly meeting at the local micro-brewery. Someone commented that this was some motorcycle group as there was only one bike parked out front. It was a wonderful ride out there (about 14 miles) and when I reached down to turn off the heated gear, I discovered that I never turned any of it on. You gotta love the barn-door windshield and fairing on the RT. It was about +12°F when I left the house. No problems with water in the gas but I have changed gas stations.

I noticed a problem when I started the bike to head home. With the ignition on and the engine not running, the GEN light should be lit in addition to the OIL pressure light. BMW has this weird wiring for the charging system where the GEN light is wired in series with the voltage regulator to the brushes and grounded through the rotor. If there is a break anywhere, no charging. Once the alternator is generating electricity, there is a second bridge of small diodes to convert the three phase AC output of the alternator to DC, route it back to the voltage regulator which is on the ground side of the GEN light. So the bulb is lit by the difference between battery voltage and the alternator output.

Hopefully, it's just a blown out bulb but it could be voltage regulator, brushes or the rotor. The lack of charging was verified by the digital voltmeter. No problem riding home as there was plenty of battery capacity even with the heated gear turned on. The battery voltage was still 12.2v after the trip home. Odd that BMW chose the indication of a problem was the indicator not being lit.

No opportunity for any troubleshooting as I'm on my way to Barrow for at least the rest of the week maybe into the beginning of next week. Another experiment, this post is being written on my iPhone during the flight. We'll see how it looks…

Update Tuesday afternoon - Like every other iPhone app I've tried that works with Blogger, Blogsy for the iPhone is garbage as evidenced by Martha's comment. I believe that it isn't that no one knows how to write software but Google keeps changing the way they do things.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Anchorage Visit

On Thursday morning, we flew down to Anchorage to visit family and just to escape from Fairbanks for a couple of days. We went to the Anchorage Museum as we had never been there before. I am thinking that this may be the sculpture that the University of Alaska Fairbanks logo is based on.

There was a lot of art and sculpture at the museum though not all of the artists were from Alaska. I had thought that this was the entire museum but was surprised at the variety of displays and subjects. There were whole floors dealing with art, weapons and clothing from the different indigenous groups around Alaska as well as recent history such as the gold rush or the pipeline project.

The children's museum used to be located in another location but it was moved here. It is a "hands on" science museum kind of like a miniature version of the Exploratorium or OMSI. In addition the the normal science displays there were a few aquariums with some hands on areas with fish and king crab.

Most of the interactive displays that required museum staff were closed as they were getting ready for a "First Friday" event with live entertainment, food and some special exhibits.

There were some animals on display such as this musk ox and a grizzly bear but not really a natural history museum. I'm glad it was good as I had recommended it to some visitors at a Northern Tier meeting I had hosted about a year and a half ago. If you ever find yourself in Anchorage, it is definitely worth a visit.

This is the view to the east from the 7th level of the parking garage in downtown Anchorage. If it were clear, there would have been a great view of the mountains. Not so good today. It snowed lightly most of the time that we were there.

We had a nice visit with family and discovered a new place to stay called Maria's Creekside B&B. It just opened last August and is in a beautiful location and very nice rooms.

And finally a post without a single weather or temperature reference!