Saturday, May 31, 2014

Camp Stove Comparison

Being sort of prompted by Bobskoot's post about his camping gear, I decided to compare the performance of some of my camp stoves by heating 1 litre of water from 60°F to 200°F. The first one to be tested was the tiny MSR MicroRocket at only 2.6oz was by far the smallest one. It heated the water in 5' 40". Not too bad at all. I had just recently picked up this tiny stove for short trips. The negatives are stability with a heavy pot and, I'm told, low temperature performance.

The second stove to be tested was the MSR WhisperLite International. I had picked up this stove about three years ago before my road trip to California as a replacement for my old MSR XGK. This is without the included aluminum wind screen. Using standard pump gas (regular unleaded w/o ethanol), it heated the 1 litre of water in 4' 50". About what I expected. Being able to burn car gas is the biggest attraction of the multi-fuel stoves.

The next stove to be tested is a multi-fuel Coleman single burner stove that I found in the middle of College Road about five years ago. I think it may have slid off of someones car after they filled it up with pump gas as it had a full tank. It heated the water in 6' 25" but would have performed better with a larger diameter pot due to the larger diameter burner.

The next stove to be tested was my 35+ year old MSR XGK multi-fuel stove. I remember this being a very hot stove and has been used on numerous trips. Using the same unleaded pump gas as the second MSR stove, it heated the litre of water in 4' 05" but it covered the bottom of the pot with soot in the process. One of the convenient features is the flint striker next to the solid fuel line. The solid fuel line means that it won't fold as compactly but the fuel tank adds to the stability of the unit.

The final stove in my comparison is a one-burner, table top model that we picked up at an asian food store in Los Angeles. We used it on a road trip after getting frustrated with the instability of the Coleman one-burner model tested above.It uses a butane/propane mixture probably very similar to the MSR IsoPro cartridge though the fuel is sold in a different form factor and is available in quantity at Costco/Sam's Club type of stores. I've seen these single burner portable stoves used commercially at restaurants outside of the kitchen. It heated the litre of water in a very quick 4' 30".

All of the tests were done with a 1.5 litre MSR pot. And the water temperature measured with a remote probe cooking thermometer. The results are consistent with my experience using the different stoves. Even though the 35+ year old MSR stove puts out the most heat, I'll probably retire it due to the soot on the bottom of the pan. It is the only true multi-fuel stove as it came with a different jet for burning kerosene (aka #1 diesel or Jet "A"). I've only used diesel once as it also covered the bottom of the pan with soot. But back in 1980, diesel was only 11¢/gal in Mexico and I was not even charged for filling my one litre fuel bottle. I have used this stove for numerous other tasks besides cooking such as starting campfires and wood stoves and preheating chimneys.

You just can't beat the cartridge stoves for convenience but the non-refillable cartridge is a real negative for me. If I run out of liquid fuel, I can just pop off the fuel line on the bike and fill up the fuel bottle. Also, gas in the fuel bottle could be added to your gas tank if you run out and get you a few more miles down the road. This was not meant to be an exhaustive test but I just happen to have these lying around today. Untested is the two burner Coleman camp stove.

Can you tell that today was a slow day? I think that I have too many stoves…

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

All Better Now

Just one day later and all is good with the world, or at least the smoke is gone. This morning is was cool and very sunny before these clouds moved in. This is our typical Summer weather. I'm not sure what's in the forecast but I'm sure it really matters. As long as it's not snowing, it's all good.

On my trip to Talkeetna last weekend, I noticed that the Gerbings heated liner wasn't working though the gloves worked fine. Back in February, I had the same problem with the wiring for the heated gloves. The connector hanging out of the bottom of the jacket liner failed at the junction with the strain relief. Since the Radio Shack replacement plug (size "N" 5.5mm O.D x 2.5mm I.D.) came in packages of two, I already had a replacement. I used a double layer of heat shrink tubing to reinforce the connection to the replacement plug. Hopefully, this will work for a while.

The heated gear wasn't needed but I brought it along in case I ran into extended wet riding. As it was, it was only rained  for a couple of hours and the heated gear was never needed though I did test is since the connector felt questionable.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More Smoke

I'm not really sure where all of the smoke is coming from but it looked kind of grim this morning. Not at all like it was yesterday. From what I'm hearing, the smoke is from the Funny River fire down on the Kenai Peninsula some 300+ miles to the south. Rarely does smoke get across the Alaska Range but I guess there are some pretty strong winds from the south. This is the same fire that was filling the air with smoke in Talkeetna over the weekend.

I did take some video on my trip last weekend but didn't process any of it until today. Here are a couple of short clips starting at Healy Canyon and the bridge over the Nenana River. Note the windsock when halfway across the bridge. After a short time, I noticed the battery on the GoPro remote was dead and it was too long of a reach to the camera. It is mounted on a Ram mount fastened to the upper sidecar strut. The Ram mounts seem much more stable than the regular GoPro mounting options. I'm still looking for a better camera location.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

2nd Annual Alaska USCA Campout

This weekend was the 2nd Alaska get together of the U.S. Sidecar Association (USCA) in Talkeetna. I had gone down last year and it is a very unstructured, Alaska type of non-event. Just an opportunity to sit around the coffee pot and talk. In this case, much of the conversation would be centered around motorcycles and sidecars. This photo is from the Parks Highway Monument again just outside of Fairbanks.
At the McKinley View turnout at the southern end of the Denali State Park, I stopped to see if the mountain was visible. All except the peak could be seen but some of the closer peaks are just as spectacular. Plus it was a good opportunity to stretch out and relax my arm and back muscles. Even though the alignment is pretty good, the rig still takes quite a bit of effort to turn expecially the sweeping left turns when cruising at the speed limit.

While parked here at the turnout, a number of tourists were looking at the rig when I returned from picture taking. They had all sorts of questions about sidecars and many had quit riding once they got older. After about 15 minutes, their bus started it's engine and they rushed back so they wouldn't be left by their tour group.

When I arrived late Friday afternoon, there was only one other sidecar there. Dan, the Alaska USCA rep with his Yamaha Venture and enclosed sidecar. We spent the evening being entertained by his daughter and her friend setting up their tent and other activities. And the music from the next campsite which continued into the night. Thank goodness for ear plugs.

The next morning, I went on the search for a coffee stand and walked all through the small town of Talkeetna. There were lots of tourists getting off of the train and tour busses at the edge of town as well as locals attracted to the craft markets, art shows, live music, softball tournament and other activities going on in town during the holiday weekend.

Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day for wandering around town and stopping in the shops. I managed to not buy anything (except coffee) and even managed to ignore the home made ice cream and fresh baked pastries. There were lots of bikes rumbling through town. I think that many came up early for the ride to the Alaska Veterans Memorial on Sunday.

Shortly after returning to the campground, two more sidecar rigs joined us. Bob and Sharon on the R1200GS with DMC sidecar (with all of the options!) and Dieter and Karen on their BMW which redefines the work "hack". We went into town to have lunch at the Wildflower Cafe and do a little more wandering with the tourists before returning to camp. Be sure to follow Bob and Sharon's trip this summer along the Pacific coast with their GS rig. They posted quite a few photos of the get-together on their blogpost.

Here is the 4th side car rig. The frame is from an R60/2 with engine and transmission from an R90S and though you can't see it in this shot, the side car is a Ural. Other items are Harley mufflers an a modified leading link front end. It was modified to clear the front of the engine as the R90 engine and transmission is a bit longer than the R60 it replaced. I think the conversion was very nicely done though he mentioned that the BMW purists cringe when they see the rig. The /2 is the last BMW that came with side car mounts from the factory.

It had rained most of the way back to Fairbanks on Sunday so no pictures and I had forgotten to charge the GoPro remote so no additional videos either. I'm not sure that I would survive a long road trip with the sidecar as after only 250 miles on the road, my arms, fingers and upper back were pretty stiff and sore.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It's Back...

The weather in Barrow is always changing. Last night at 10pm, the sun was shining brightly without a cloud in the sky. This morning, it was snowing. Oh well, not the best day to be out and about working outdoors. I am testing a replacement outdoor point-to-multipoint wireless network for interconnecting buildings that house research. This includes some that are several miles away.

The first step was to install the base station and a panel antenna (90° horizontal, 4° vertical, 20db gain) on the roof of the Barrow Arctic Science Center (BARC). The diamond shaped antenna right above it is the eight year old system that I'm looking at replacing. I roughly aimed the antenna horizontally and used a bit more care for the vertical axis. There was a 20+ mph wind and it felt pretty cold in the time it took to install and adjust the antenna. I then drove around the NARL campus to measure signal level and throughput. I was pleasantly surprised that it worked just about everywhere I tried it taking very little care with antenna location. I even used it last night from my "hut" with the antenna hanging on the curtain rod in the kitchen (no line of sight to the base station).

After that successful test, I reoriented the base station antenna due south towards the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO). I drove south as far as the road was open and reran my tests. This picture shows how much care I put into antenna positioning. With this setup 5.6km from the BARC, the system was still reporting 60 mbps of throughput.

This is the wonderful view from my test location looking due north with the BARC around ⅓ of the way from the left edge of the photo. Out here, the wind was really blowing so I didn't spend too much time outdoors. I was able to run the radio off of a small UPS and could have easily converted it to run off of the truck 12v outlet. Hmmm, new afternoon project.

For the true geek types, the radios even have a spectrum analyzer function so you can see what other radios are out there. Here, the upper section of the band is lightly used so that is what the system selected for its own use. Pretty cool!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Endless Sunshine?

Yesterday morning was the Heart Walk. There were about 3,000 participants for the three mile walk to raise money for the American Heart Association. Even though the weather initially looked ominous, it turned out pretty nice. I was part of the UAF/Fire Dept team and UAF was "competing" with the hospital. I think the hospital had more participants though the university raised more money. So I think everyone won.

This morning, I headed north to Barrow and just noticed that as of May 11th, no more sunsets for a while i.e. 24 hours of sun above the horizon. Of course this didn't mean that things are warm and green. It was snowing when the plane landed in both Prudhoe Bay and Barrow. I've showed this graphic before. The orange line shows the path of the sun including its elevation relative to the horizon. The edge of the yellow circle is the horizon with zenith in the center and the local time along the orange line.

Here is a shot from the front porch of my hut. It is definitely "mud season" up here. There are still large piles of snow, the ocean is still frozen, and the roads have so many potholes that all you can do is try and minimize the number and try and avoid the ones that threaten to swallow the wheel. In this picture, you can get a good look at the overhead utilidor since there are no buried utilities. And I don't think that I've seen the sun since arriving in Barrow.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Middle the Week Blog Fodder

Another passenger in the sidecar today, though semi unwilling. My middle son had an appointment today and he was less than thrilled that he had to ride in the sidecar. He said that "motorcycles were not his thing". He didn't complain much beyond that and after his appointment, I dropped him off at Wood Center on lower campus. He even put up with me taking a picture and asked if it was for the blog. BTW, there was only a slight pull to the right at highway speeds so the alignment seems pretty good.

Wednesday was "Staff Appreciation Day" for the Fairbanks campus of the university. It was a day for recognition for longevity, training opportunities and some fun classes such as photography, beekeeping and composting. The campus administration not only fund this day but actively support their support staff to take part. They even provided breakfast and lunch.

Since I was going to be parked on lower campus for the entire day and didn't want to carry around my gear, I used my old HJC modular helmet as it fits into the right side case. I also wore my Kilimanjaro jacket as it easily fits into the top box. I had forgotten how uncomfortable and noisy the old helmet was compared to the N104. The FirstGear jacket is still hanging up next to the bike and gets regular use if I'm just running down to the church or to College Coffeehouse. The Roadcrafter takes some effort to roll and tie and and with the back protector in place, won't fit into the top box. At College Coffeehouse it claims it's own seat. Yeah, I could just leave it all in the sidecar but I guess I lived to too many years in southern California to feel comfortable not being able to lock things up, especially if the gear is going to be left out of sight for a while.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Oh Joy Fire Season Has Started

My eyes were burning this afternoon and I couldn't figure out why. This picture was taken on Monday afternoon around 3:45pm and shows the reduced visibility from the first wildfire of the season. At 1:30pm, it was still clear so it has just started. Supposedly it's pretty modest but that doesn't really lessen the impact. I didn't smell any smoke so I had not expected to see evidence of a fire especially this early in the season.

There was also a "controlled burn" at the Creamer's Field Wildlife Refuge today. i wasn't looking forward to that as it is the greenspace to the southwest of our house. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Farmers Market is Open!

Saturday was the first day the local farmers market. No fresh produce but there were plenty of vendors selling garden related stuff like seed potatoes and small plants. Plus plenty of art and food vendors.

I ended up riding the rig to the market twice both times with different passengers. The first trip was with Bridget and the second with my son, Kyle. It was obvious when my son was standing on the sidecar step that the soft spring on the sidecar dramatically changes the tilt of the tug. This would really affect the handling.

So, I messed around with the sidecar alignment some more and violated the primary rule of debugging, I made a whole bunch of changes at one time. Initially, I had removed the sidecar windshield and got back the neutral handling with no passenger. With a passenger, it was still much better than it was on Sunday. I'm amazed at the difference the sidecar windshield has on handling. I then swapped out the sidecar spring over shock from the Progressive unit with the one that originally came with the sidecar. I had installed the Progressive unit since it has a much softer spring and I thought that it would ride better. The original one is much, much stiffer and even with a passenger, it doesn't compress very much. This shock is also about 1" shorter than the Progressive unit that I had been using so it reduced the lean of the tug slightly even with no load. I increased the length of the upper struts by two turns and restored the lean to around 2°. With these changes, I gave my son a ride to the farmers market and the steering only pulled to the right during acceleration but was relatively neutral. And is still neutral without a passenger. Maybe I'll put the windshield back on for another test.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Clear, Blue Skies!

It was a beautiful morning though only 31°F on the ride in. No more sunrise pictures for a while since today's sunrise at 4:46am which is a bit earlier than I care to be awake. Sunset today will be at 10:46pm so we just hit 18 hours of sunlight but counting dusk and dawn, we really don't have any real night as its dusk/dawn for those other six hours.

I really couldn't tell any difference in the handling of the rig after the to-in adjustment. Though I haven't tried it with a passenger yet. Maybe tomorrow. The high temperature for the weekend is supposed to be in the mid-70s.

I don't think I will ever get tired of the view from the little grassy area next to our building. For a while they was some discussion of a demonstration solar farm on this hillside. I heard it got derailed somewhere due to complaints about aesthetics. Unfortunate as the demonstration was going to have a capacity of about one megawatt. Not insignificant.

BTW, I still have motorcycle parking to myself. The beautiful weather hasn't been enough to lure folks out.

Instead of lunch, I rode out to the Parks Highway Monument to get a photo of the Tanana Valley. Plus this gave me an opportunity to see if the pull to the right of the rig has changed after the toe-in adjustment. The view was well worth the trip out. The visibility wasn't "unlimited" and the clouds enhanced the view. I has only warmed up to 46°F but didn't need any heated anything.As far as handling, it still feels the same and is probably due to the sidecar windshield as much as anything else. I will continue to monitor tire wear as too much toe-in could increase tire wear. And I will probably be removing the sidecar windshield this weekend.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Side Car Alignment

That is George Rahn standing next to his Royal Enfield with Cozy sidecar. He thought that the high steering effort that I felt on Sunday's ride was a unusual and wanted to check the toe-in. Last year when Dom was visiting Fairbanks, we set the toe-in to about ½". George feels that it should be about 1.1" to 1.25". He then brought in a BMW factory service manual which covered the installation of a sidecar onto a /2. The BMW manual explained how to measure the toe-in (which is the same procedure that Dom and I used last year). And it listed the spec as 1.1" to 1.25".

Today's measurement was ½" so it hasn't changed at all over the last year which by itself is excellent news. We also measured the toe-in on his RE rig and it was 1⅛". This evening after returning home, I measured the toe-in again using my equipment and it was still ½". I adjusted the front lower heim joint in by 4 turns which increased the toe-in to 1.1". This also required the front upper strut to be shortened by one turn. I'll try it at this setting for a while to see if it makes a difference. The lean out is still 2° measured at the rear disc.

When you use a similar procedure to measure the toe-in on a car, you would take the measurement and divide by 2 to get the to-in spec. This is because the toe-in is specified relative the the center of the wheel.

In case you have never met him, George is acknowledged to be the local BMW guru and has been riding and repairing motorcycles longer than just about anyone around here. George is very generous with his tools, knowledge and time and is well known in the riding community. He also used to own the BMW dealership in Fairbanks, Trails End BMW, but is now the Royal Enfield dealer.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

All Alone (Still)

In motorcycle parking. After the beautiful weekend, we are again down to freezing weather in the morning with some rain/sleet/snow. Last night was an Airhead "meeting" at the Silver Gulch microbrewery. There was quite a large turnout with the majority arriving on two or three wheels. There was even another twin shock RT with a Velorex sidecar that Ken, another College Coffeehouse regular, had recently picked up. I didn't have a chance to get a good look at it but I'm sure I'll see it again soon.

The first picture is kind of a lie as it is an HDR photo using an iPhone app. It doesn't look that bright green. The grey in this second photo is more accurate. Quite a few errands and appointments to run this morning and at just about every stop, people would come by and ask about the rig and some would mention that they had seen me around town this past Winter.

On Sunday's ride, when the rig was under more load than usual i.e. trying to accelerate while going up a steep grade at well over 60mph, it felt like fuel starvation. Additional throttle would not result in more rpm but possibly even a drop. The small fuel filters between the tank and the carbs are at least seven years old and over 25k miles so I picked up some new ones at a local bike shop. They are aluminum with brass filter and it can be disassembled and cleaned or the element replaced (and the element is available from Amazon). Another rider friend had picked one up a few weeks back and really liked the design. According to the filter manufacturer, they are suitable for any application of 300hp or less. I think that they should work fine. ;-) 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Monderosa (Again)

As I had mentioned before, there are very few places in Fairbanks that motorcyclists like to ride. The Monderosa is one of these places. The loosely, non-organized BMW riders group went there yesterday for lunch and today, riders from our church rode out. As you can see, it was a mix of bikes with the majority being cruisers. The assistant pastor did have his new R1200GSW which he says is as nice as he had read about. He has an ADV bike rental business and this is the newest addition to his rental fleet.

Another "first", Bridget joined the group and rode in the sidecar. This is the longest trip we've taken together with the bike. Since the bike was set up for no passenger in the sidecar, it pulled to the right and with no steering mods, I got a pretty good upper body workout on the trip. She indicated that it was a little bumpy and kind of cold. The weather wasn't quite as nice as yesterday (61°F and partly cloudy) and the rain just caught us for the last mile. There were a lot of cross-winds trying to blow us around.

I set the GoPro to take a photo every 5 seconds and used the GoPro Studio software to put the photos together into a video. The 55 minute trip is reduced to a 22 sec video.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

First Ride Out of Town

An email from the loosely organized BMW riding group here in Fairbanks mentioned a ride out to the Monderosa for lunch. Seven of us headed out from College Coffeehouse with the temperature around 70°F and rising. Pretty hard to pass up an opportunity like that. Two years ago, I rode to Anchorage around mid-May and ended up riding through snow and sleet for around 150 miles. The Monderosa is a popular spot for motorcycle rides as it's convenient for a lot of riders at about 50 miles. I know that when I first started riding, this felt like a really long trip. Today, not so far. But it is still my first trip outside of Fairbanks this year. The rig had no problem cruising up and down the hills at 65mph though I usually downshifted to 4th on the uphill sections. I took some boring video but haven't had a chance to look at it. But I need a more solid camera mount (less vibration) and a better location for the GoPro remote.

Yesterday was the "greening" of Fairbanks. This is when the leaves first show up and the hills take on a greenish hue. By late afternoon, some of the south facing slopes had a lot more than just a hue. The ground on south facing slopes are usually the first to warm up. This, obviously, wasn't my "first ride of the season" but it was the first ride out this year out of Fairbanks. I didn't stop at the Parks Highway Monument like I usually do as there was a lot of haze. It wasn't that nice of a view.

Added a little bit of the video. Edited the GoPro video on an old 11" MacBook Air. It did surprisingly well!