Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fixing Things

With the truck out of service for a bit, some chores just have to get done such as hauling the household trash. I had done this last week as well but neglected to take a picture. See how easily a trash can fits in the sidecar? It. obviously, takes multiple trips to get the same job done but it's easier than trying to do it with the car. The 25 watt silicone pad that I'm going to be installing under the Ural battery came in this week from Amazon. That will be an easy afternoon project.

The weather around here made a brief foray down to -20°F last night (so I'm told) but it had warmed up again to -6°F by mid-morning. Ran a couple of errands this afternoon on the Ural and it is still running great. It seems to like cold temperatures. My attempts to start the truck eventually succeeded after 2 quarts of Diesel 9-1-1 fuel supplement and replacing the fuel filter. The original filter had a lot of wax caked on it. Hopefully, sitting in a warm garage will allow the fuel to re-liquefy and let the anti-gelling additive to do its job.

This seemed to be the weekend when things decided to stop working. Besides the truck, the Kitchen Aid mixer decided to stop working (micro-switch needed cleaning) and the kitchen faucet ended up needing to be replaced. I liked the way the new faucet looks and it works better than the old one where the hose pulls out.

I'm glad that we didn't have anyone over to celebrate Thanksgiving. It would have been more stressful when things stop working. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


We finally got some snow. Granted only a couple of inches but it's better than nothing. I had several errands to do today and I must admit that riding on fresh snow is in the "fun" category. The only place I needed 2WD was returning home up our road. When in 2WD, you do a lot of steering by shifting your weight on the pegs. I suspect that by tomorrow there will be a lot more gravel on the roads.

I needed to pick up a 1⅛" 6-pointed socket to remove the fuel filter on the truck. I had neglected to run the summer fuel out of the system and get some winter fuel. Summer fuel, aka #2 diesel, has a gel point of 10°F to 20°F and the last week or so of below zero temperatures meant that the fuel no longer flows. I have spare fuel filters so the current plan is to clear out the garage enough to park the truck (motorcycles get to live outside for a while) but I need to get the truck running long enough to move it. I'm hoping that replacing the fuel filter and filling the housing with anti-gel chemical and kerosene will enable the truck to run and start enough to move it. With a curb weight of over 7000 lbs, I'm not going to be able to push it.

The other errand was to pick up and return a "dishwasher installation kit" that the salesman said was essential. All of the parts were included with the new dishwasher so 5 seconds after signing for the part, I returned it for a refund. When asked for a reason, I put down "stubborn salesman selling unnecessary accessories".

BTW, this post is being done on an Acer C720P Chromebook. Much faster than the Samsung Chromebook I had picked up a couple of years ago. The key feature is the addition of a touch screen. After years of using an iPad, you get used to simply touching the screen. On this Chromebook, it actually does something. With 4GB of memory, 32 GB SSD and an Intel dual-core processor based on the Haswell architecture, it feels fast enough. The 720p display is much nicer than the older Samsung Chromebook.

Adding photos from the Nexus phone is in the "trivial" category.

Wednesday Morning Update - Our regular November temperatures have finally returned as well though the Weather Channel is still predicting a low of +3°F for today. This is a screenshot from the Nexus 4 Android phone and to add it to the blog, you just select the "From your phone" tab from within "Insert image" popup window. Couldn't be easier. Though I did have to google how to do a screenshot.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Winter Commute

I played around with the GoPro this afternoon and made a short video of my ride home. As you can see, not much snow. The camera is mounted to the turn signal stalk so there is a lot of glare from the left signal. This was shot about 20 minutes after sunset. I have a pretty low stress commute...


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Camera Test

Just a quick post to try out the camera on the replacement Nexus 4. The original phone has a broken microphone which makes it less than useful as a phone. It has a Barrow number to allow it to be reached from the toll restricted VoIP phones in the BARC. The replacement was ordered on Friday afternoon from Amazon and it arrived on Monday using "Standard Shipping". Impressive.

The new phone had to go through a long update process as it came with Android 4.4.2 installed and now has 5.0 aka "Lolipop". I like the Nexus line of phones as it has the true "Google Experience" without all of the junk software that cell carriers install on their Android products. Plus, Google controls the software update process not the carrier. It is also is carrier unlocked.

As you may notice in the snapshot, we have not received any additional snow. The roads have a thick layer of frost this morning left from the warm, foggy night. Hopefully, it won't get too much warmer. Last year we had rain the week before Thanksgiving and it pretty much shut down Fairbanks. Rain on top of cold roads made a thick layer of ice that hung around all winter.

The camera is supposedly 8 megapixels the same as the iPhone 5s but the pictures don't seem as sharp. I still haven't found a convenient way to transfer pictures from Android to the Mac or iPad nor have I found a decent blog posting app. Any suggestions?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Weather, Android and Gearing Up

Another beautiful morning. This is around 9:00am on Sunday morning which is about 40 minutes before sunrise. At -5°F, it's a bit cooler than was originally forecast. Lot of errands that needed to be run as I am in the process of installing a new dishwasher. The original builder must have not been sure where the dishwasher and sink were going to be installed as the hot water supply line for the dishwasher and the cold water for the sink came through the floor underneath the dishwasher. The new dishwasher has no room for such things. But after an afternoon of playing amateur plumber, the pipes are all rerouted. I still need to run a new hot water line for the dishwasher, maybe later today.

On Saturday morning, I had ridden to College Coffeehouse and it felt kind of chilly. When I returned home, I checked on my Nexus 4 (the "Barrow phone") using the Google "Weather & News" app to see what the local temperature was and it claimed 18°F. I then checked on my iPhone and got the more realistic temperature of 1°F. Even though Google puts up the Weather Channel logo, that must not be where they are getting their data as the Weather Channel app agrees with my iPhone. I think I like Google's temperature better...

The Apple iOS app, by the way, also claims to use the Weather Channel indicated by the logo on the lower left. The university temperature sign claimed -4°F at about 10am.

A few comments about Android. I had not even powered on the Nexus 4 since it was returned to me at the end of the summer field season. After charging, it updated itself from 4.4.2 to 4.4.3 to 4.4.4 to 5.0. I thought that the iPhone went through a lot of updates. The only problem with the phone is that it doesn't work well as a phone due to a non-working microphone. I think I heard that it went on a short trip through a washing machine a couple of summers ago. The tech last summer used it with a Bluetooth headset. I think I'm just going to replace it as the price of the unlocked phone on Amazon has dropped considerably since the Nexus 4 had first came out. And there are no 4G data services in Barrow. BTW, Android 5.0 aka "Lolipop", is pretty nice. Almost nice enough to convince one to switch from iOS. But battery life still seems to be lacking.

Inspired by Steve Williams of Scooter in the Stickspost about how much hassle it was to get ready to ride in colder weather. This morning, I timed the ritual of getting ready.

  • Head out to the garage already wearing the Gerbings liner
  • Put on Roadcrafter Light
  • Plug in Gerbings controller into the liner
  • Put in earplugs
  • Put helmet on either the Nolan 104 or Bombardier Modular 1 depending on temperature
  • Open the garage door
  • Start the Ural
  • Optionally turn on the heated grips
  • Plug in the heated gloves to the wiring built into the liner
  • Plug controller into the coiled cord that I leave on the bike
  • If it's below 10°F, put the breath mask on for the Bombardier helmet
  • Back out of the garage - total elapsed time 1 minute 45 seconds without rushing
  • If it's cold, I'll usually let the Ural warm up for a bit
I think the key difference is the use of the heated liner. Instant heat, no layering needed and the glove wiring is built in. The collar of the heated liner is tall enough and is also heated so my neck is toasty warm. I've never needed a balaclava. If it's below -10°F, I'll add a fleece liner over the heated liner. We'll see how well this works this year as I feel the cold more on the Ural than on the Beemer.

If I'm just going on a short ride, I'll usually dispense with the heated gear and Roadcrafter and just wear a riding jacket such as my old Kilimanjaro or a denim riding jacket over a fleece liner and insulated gloves. Not due to time but more hassle dealing with the bulk of the Roadcrafter when I reach my destination. Carhartt lined jeans are worn for most of the winter and they seem to do a good job of blocking the wind.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Clear, Sunny & Warm

It looks like we have a great week coming up (weather wise) with clear or mostly clear weather and relatively moderate temperatures. Unlike some other areas of the country, folks here are praying for snow. Without the insulating layer of snow, water and sewer pipes may freeze. I think that we are in good shape as our pipes don't pass under any area where the ground would get compacted. Compacted ground is a better heat (or cold) conductor.

I know that I mention this every year but I still find it interesting. The last appearance of the sun this year in Barrow, AK, is less than a week away. Wednesday, November 19, 2014, will be the last sunrise/sunset until near the end of January. Daylight hours is shown on the blue line on the graph. Sunrise is yellow and sunset is red. The two lines converge in November.

The graph for Fairbanks isn't as interesting. On the shortest day of the year, we still have almost four hours of sunshine.

The only moto-mod that I've done to the Ural over the last couple of days has been the addition of a relay mounted above the battery that switches on with the ignition and provides switched power for the heated grips and heated gear. There has been a couple of times when I found that I had left the heated grips on for an hour or so. No problem starting the engine but I figured that one of these days I'll come back to a dead battery. Many choose to run the heated grips through the ignition switch but I figured that the switch didn't need the additional current. Since the relay will handle 30 amps I could also move the sidecar power to the same relay or add an additional relay later. The seat mounting plate above the battery has a lot of space for things like relays. The stock starter relays are mounted there already.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Spring-like Weather

While the midwest and the northeast brace themselves for a winter storm, interior Alaska is warming up. There was a Chinook wind in the forecast earlier but that's been removed from the forecast. There was a breeze from the south but not really "Chinook worthy". As you can probably guess, the roads have been on the slick side as the surface of the road is still below freezing. A hazy layer of frost builds up on the road.

Last week, I had blogged about a new gadget for two factor authentication. I went ahead and picked up another device for two factor authentication made by the same manufacturer, Yubico. It is much smaller and is designed to be left in the USB port and sticks out only about 1mm from the port. Once the token has been added to your account, you simply log in as usual, select "U2F Token" from the list of second factor methods, the token blinks and you simply tap. This is the Yubikey Neo-N and like the Yubico Security Key, it is only supported on the Chrome browser with the appropriate extension.

The Neo-N supports other authentication methods besides U2F (Universal 2nd Factor) such as one time passwords (OTP) but the additional functionality is limited by the browser. Once the browsers have the capability, additional capabilities are planned to be added. Or more accuratly, you can enable multiple methods to be active at the same time.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Winter Maintenance

There is no cold temperature oil recommendation in the Ural manual, at least not that I can find. The airhead owners manual (pictured on the left) has oil recommendations down to -20°F I figured that the BMW recommendation is probably close enough. Now that winter is sort of here, I finally got around to changing the Ural engine oil from the normal 20w50 to something a little more winter friendly. Looking around the garage, there was a 5 qt bottle of 10w40 dino oil. I would have preferred a synthetic blend but since this was handy, it seemed like a reasonable option for the next couple of months. I don't really plan on riding much below -20°F anyway.

I'll change the transmission oil and do the rest of the maintenance at the 22,500km mark. There was evidence of moisture in the engine oil so maybe I need to take the scenic route more often to burn off the moisture. I drained the aluminum crankcase vent canister again and there was almost a cup of water and a little bit of oil. It needs to be emptied with every tank of gas.

It was -4°F this morning and the newly repaired Gerbings heated liner and gloves felt pretty nice. I had forgotten that there's heat along each finger and thumb. Today, I also made a slight modification to the Arctic Cat handlebar muffs and sewed a buttonhole for the mirror stalk to run through. I installed the 50 watt silicone pad heater that I had initially picked up for the airhead battery. There wasn't enough flat area on the oil pan so I attached it to the left side of the engine just above the oil pan. A bit of heat should help the engine turn over when it really gets cold. This afternoon, someone commented about the cord hanging out the back of the bike.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Viking Sport Tail Bag Review

Like many other moto-bloggers, I was contacted by a representative of Motorcycle House to review an item from their current catalog. The initial request was for a guest post and that I declined. I was skeptical of followup inquiries since they came from a Gmail account rather than a company email address. But that issue was resolved. The only lingering issue was that there seemed to be quite a few customer service issues in some forums but most of those rants weren't very recent.

I had originally asked about battery powered heated gloves but was told that they were not available for review at that time and was asked to look for something in the Viking bag line. The Viking Sport Tailbag (AXE-23) was one of the few items that would work on the Ural. When I wrote back, I was told that they were out of stock and could I pick something else. I mentioned that there really weren't many things on their site that would fit on a Ural as most of their inventory seems to be targeted at the cruiser market. Now that I received it, I believe that it is the same bag that Doug reviewed in September.

On the airhead, I used a tank bag to haul things back and forth to work every day but over the last seven years it has made a real mess of the tank (lots of scratches in the paint mostly on the sides where the magnets stick). Plus, it was too small to fit a laptop or even an iPad. This bag seemed like it would be large enough to haul what I need on a daily basis, fits the Ural and includes a shoulder strap and a waterproof cover (I won't need that for a while!).

The sides of this tail bag expand an additional couple of inches or so on each side when needed or they can be collapsed with a zipper. The bag easily holds my 11" MacBook Air, Chromebook or Lenovo Helix inside of a protective sleeve, the iPad, winter hat and gloves and still has room for lunch and snacks. I did try an older 15" Macbook Pro and it would only fit without the sleeve. Less than optimal. All seams are covered with bias tape so there are no raw edges showing. This should add to the life of the product. There are side pockets though I'm not sure what I would use them for as there is a stiffener on the outside to help the bag keep it's shape but it makes it difficult to fit anything in them. The zippered pockets on the inside of the top flap would be useful for receipts, pens and such. The only thing that I would add on the inside is some sort of D-ring or clip for keys. Unlike most tank bags, there is no pocket for holding a phone and there is no provision for a power feed. Something that would be easy to add.

The tail bag simply sits on the seat and the built-in bungee cords hold it in place. The passenger grab handles make for an obvious place for the bungee hooks though, for me, the bungee cord mounting is a weak point. Usually, when bungee cords get really cold, they tend to lose their elasticity. I will probably be replacing them with some sort of clip and strap setup in the near future. It only takes a few seconds to mount or dismount the bag from the seat. That could be good or bad depending on your perspective. I don't think I will use it for anything heavier such as camera gear until I can switch out the bungee cords for a more positive strap.

The tail bag isn't as convenient as the top box on the Beemer for throwing junk into but I like it better than the tank bag. It is big enough without being overly large and bulky and has the convenient carrying handle. The Ural does have lockable storage in the sidecar but this is much more convenient for the daily running around that I tend to do especially in the winter. For long trips, I'm thinking that the shape and size may be a good fit for the front of the sidecar. Maybe on top of a front rack that some Ural dealers sell as an accessory.

Overall, I'm satisfied with the construction and utility of the tail bag and I foresee it getting a lot of use. Especially for commuting.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cold and Clear

Another beautiful morning. It's still around an hour before sunrise, but it's still dark for my commute to the university. Much warmer today at +9°F compared to yesterdays -9°F. The repaired heated gear from Gerbings has still not arrived. I guess it's being shipped on the very slow version of FedEx. A week after the tracking info was sent to me, all the FedEx site says is "Label created". I believe that this is more Gerbings than FedEx as it took them almost two weeks after they received the items to even call and acknowledge that they were doing anything.

I had also tried an HDR version at the same time as the first picture but I don't really care for the color of the sky. Not very realistic and since two pictures are taken, there's a little more blur.

Thursday Evening Update - Gerbings told me on the phone that they ship FedEx or UPS and the tracking number they sent was a FedEx number. The package arrived today via USPS priority mail. I guess they tried FedEx and balked at the shipping cost and looked for another option. USPS priority is a great option when shipping to Alaska. So I shouldn't have given them flack earlier in the post.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Brief Trip to Anchorage

Just a quick post if for no other reason than to document for myself that I am in Anchorage. I am here for a meeting on Barrow support and I screwed up on the dates of the meeting. It actually started yesterday morning but I didn't catch that until yesterday morning. Anyway, this is the view of Anchorage from the hotel room window. Nothing too spectacular and since it is before sunrise, you can't see the mountains. Maybe I'll post another shot later.
The is the view in the other direction that I had taken last night looking towards Cook Inlet. Again, the mountains on the other side of the inlet aren't visible. I head back to Fairbanks this evening so it really is going to be a short trip.

I had considered riding down but the airfare was cheap compared to the driving cost...

Update Tuesday Afternoon - A shot from terminal C at the Anchorage airport. It is a pretty nice, sunny day with temperatures above freezing and blue skies. In addition, the meeting was useful and productive.

Monday, November 3, 2014

New Gadget

Not at all moto-related though you may be interested if you use the Chrome browser and use Blogger to host your blog. On October 21, 2014, Google added support for tokens as an additional factor for authentication. Hopefully you already have two-factor authentication enabled which means that you need something you know and something you have to log into your account. Typically this has been a password (something you know) and your cell phone (something you have).

The cell phone component is typically the Google Authenticator app which gives you a six digit code that you would type in on the web page to complete the login process. The "problem" is that the authenticator is time based and if the time on your phone is not synced properly, the code displayed would be wrong as they are only valid for about one minute. This has happened to me more than once such as whenever I am out of the country (including Canada). Google does provide a backup process involving text messages, phone calls or pre-printed lists of one-time use codes.

The device pictured is the FIDO compliant U2F security key made by Yubico that I picked up on Amazon shortly after I saw the announcement. Now when logging into Google, after entering my password, I just insert the key into a USB port and tap the circle then remove the key. Pretty straight forward. The downside is that, at least for now, you have to be using the Chrome browser. U2F stands for Universal 2nd Factor and now that it has been adopted by Google it may speed up adoption. Using this device doesn't mean that I can disable the Google Authenticator as it is still needed for mobile applications (no USB on the phone) or other browsers.

I also use Duo Security for second factor and they also support the security keys but I haven't had an opportunity to set it up.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Welcome Home

After 10 hours of actual time in the air yesterday, I arrived home from nine days of travelling. This morning, I rode to College Coffeehouse to meet with whomever chooses to show up. In addition to George Rahn and Sandra, about half a dozen of the other regulars were there. As would be expected, the Ural was the only bike out front.

Yesterday, while sitting in DFW (Dallas Fort Worth), I got a call from Gerbings asking for payment for repairs and shipping. Both connectors and internal wiring on the gloves needed to be replaced as well as the connectors on the jacket. About $70 including shipping but it'll be nice to get them back. With the heated grips, bar-end mitts (or whatever the HippoHand like things are called) and new winter riding gloves, I'm plenty warm for running around town for now.

Speaking of new winter riding gloves, based on reviews, I had ordered a pair of insulated gloves from Aerostitch. When I was there last year, I tried on a bunch to see what size I would get if I had ever decided to get a pair. I've been using them ever since the Gerbings gloves were sent in for repair and I must admit that I like them. Initially a little stiff but easy to put on/off, they seem sturdy, and with the heated grips, more than warm enough at sub-freezing temperatures. Plus they were on sale last month with $5 shipping. The website didn't come up with the $5 shipping option but I received an email a couple of days later that my order was shipped via USPS and they refunded the difference. Pretty good customer service.