Thursday, April 30, 2015

A New Ural in Town

Back in January, I met up with another Airhead, JedR, who had just put a deposit on a new 2015 Ural. He sort of wanted to know what it was like to not have a dealer handy. This was before my experience with the defective lifter and speedometer so I really didn't have much to add except to relay some others experience (Dom). After four, long months, a huge crate was dropped off by the freight forwarder at the local Harley/Honda/BMW/Polaris/Victory dealer.

Jed brought plenty of tools to disassemble the box. Here was his first peek after the top was removed. Three internal braces and about 70 screws later, it was ready to be untied and moved off of the shipping pallet.

Here is Jed's new pride and joy. A 2WD Patrol complete with powder coated engine and driveline, retro style lights, shovel, a huge automotive battery in a vented aluminum box, tractor seat, small Givi windscreen and twin shift levers. After adding about a gallon of gas, it fired right up within seconds. The clutch lever had zero play so I adjusted that and checked all of the fluid levels before he took off for the gas station. I think he's thrilled with his purchase and has been looking forward to this day since it was shipped around the beginning of April.

I'm still in the process of trying to bring things home from my office. Yesterday, it was the mountain bike and today it was the x-country skis. They fit really nice on the rear rack.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"First Ride of the Season"

Today was the "official" first ride of the year for those on the Fairbanks BMW Google group. I usually forget to send out an announcement but this year I actually remembered. It is a very informal group but mostly made up of BMW owners or riders. This year, the other brands were represented by George on his V-Rod and my Ural. George suggested that I may need a 30 minute head start for the 40 mile ride. Temperatures were around 55°F and pretty sunny though it looked like it may rain later this evening. As is the "tradition", we rode out to the Monderosa Bar & Grill just north of the village/town of Nenana.

I'm not sure of the exact number but I'm guessing that we had at least a dozen bikes ranging from an R60 through a brand new R1200RT with only a few hundred miles. Of course, the Ural was at the back of the group as it took nearly full throttle to maintain 55 mph for most of the trip. Maybe the 122 main jet is a bit on the small side plus the CHT were 400°F and higher while climbing the hills. A too high for comfort.

GeneK sent this picture that he took this afternoon before heading back to town. The other gentleman is JedR, another future Ural owner. His 2015 Patrol is supposed to hit town around the end of this week after being shipped from New England. Can't wait to see it in person. Video below...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Too Long?

Even less moto content than usual in this post.

I skipped the longevity awards ceremony at the university system office that was held yesterday afternoon. It was a choice between that and a board meeting. The board meeting won. Anyway, they dropped off my awards this afternoon. The first was this engraved plastic thing that is required somehow by the IRS and the second was a painting that I was allowed to choose. The painting is called "Wild Lake - Looking South" by Lynn Larson. Wild Lake is on the south side of the Brooks Range just outside of the boundary of Gates of the Arctic National Park. I've never been there but have always wanted to go hiking in the area.

I do wonder how thirty years could have gone by without being laid off, asked to leave or fired...

BTW, from the FrogzSkin installation on the air cleaner housing, the CHT are back down to left-350°F right-325°F right about where they should be. These are OAT corrected temperatures. Still waiting for rain or snow...

Monday, April 20, 2015


All winter I have been having an issue with the Ural whenever it was raining or snowing. Not snow on the road but actually while it was falling and the engine was running. Moisture would get ingested into the air cleaner intake and the water would clog the air cleaner causing the engine to run really rich. By really rich I mean won't idle, has a really rich smell in the exhaust especially after shutting down the engine.

This was one possible solution suggested by others on SovietSteeds, a Ural forum. FrogzSkin is a fine mesh that is designed to keep snow and water out of the intake on snow machines and four wheelers. The Ural seemed like a natural fit and if this works, then I won't need to go through the trouble of making a new air cleaner housing.

The first step is to thoroughly clean the air cleaner housing where the FrogzSkin will be attached. I used the solvent tank to remove the oil, grease and grime then rubbing alcohol on the surface where the FrogzSkin attaches. It hasn't been this clean in a long time.

The mounting area isn't a perfectly smooth surface as there are two welds where the air cleaner element top bolts on but I think it is good enough. I wasn't looking to keep out fine dust or other small particles just snow flakes and droplets of water. I installed this fine mesh screen on the bottom of the air cleaner housing. There is a baffle that covers most of the screen surface though I'm not really sure what Ural was thinking it would keep out. It does protect the mesh.

This is the view from the inside of the housing after the baffle was reinstalled. The mesh is about ⅛" larger than the air cleaner opening but being a fine mesh, I suspect that it may inhibit the air flow of air into the air cleaner housing. This could richenen the air mixture. Since I had changed the main jet from 130 to the original 122, the CHT has risen about 50°F indicating leaner burning. This mod may richen the mixture just enough to bring the CHT down a little. I'll see tomorrow. The instructions of the FrogzSkin says to let the adhesive cure overnight.

Now I need some rain or snow...

Just to add some riding content, here is a short double speed video showing our wonderful Spring weather.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

No Longer Winter and Summer Plans

I returned from Barrow this afternoon to 50°F temperatures. Quite a change from -9°F this morning. It seemed like time to remove the studs from the tires. I was originally thinking of just keeping these tires for winter use, I changed my mind when I saw the condition of the studs. They were pretty worn out. So would need to be replaced anyway. I had expected that the studs in the pusher would be the most worn but it turned out that the sidecar studs were the most worn.

The same tool used to install the studs is used to remove them though in some cases, the notches were almost completely worn away making it difficult to seat the tool. This is a picture of the pusher. i.e. the rear tire, showing the fairly minimal wear. These tires have about 4200km on them or 2600 miles. Not a lot of miles for having ridden through most of the winter. The front and the sidecar tire have even less wear. I'm thinking of just leaving these tires on for the summer. Heidenau has released the K28 sidecar specific tire but availability is kind of limited at this time.

I have a couple of trips to Anchorage in May and planning on going to the non-rally in Dawson City known as D2D (Dust 2 Dawson) on the Top of the World Hwy just before the Summer Solstice. I am thinking about just continuing to make my way slowly down towards Montana. We have a family reunion in Oregon in the middle of July and a wedding in northern California near the beginning of August. Other than that, no plans.

I had asked Chris from Everyday Riding and Dom from Redleg's Rides about my sanity in taking the Ural on a road trip. Chris' answer was
"I think it may be asking for trouble
and Dom's was
"do you want the rig to break down in the wilds of BC where there's not much for miles?"
Both are excellent (confidence inspiring) statements and provoked a lot of thought over the last few months.

My original plan was to take the Beemer sans sidecar down and leave it in Oregon to be used on future road trips. But after the Ural lifter failure last January, I like the idea of having a spare sidecar rig in Fairbanks. Plus, there is only about four months left on the extended warranty and I'm thinking that I may want to put on as many miles as possible during that time. Plus, I don't have many time constraints on this trip.

I'll see how it goes on the trips in May. The second trip is down to Talkeetna over Memorial Day weekend for the United Sidecar Association campout.

Friday, April 17, 2015


One of the groups working out of the BARC (Barrow Arctic Research Center) had asked the logistics support staff about muktuk. Aka, the skin and blubber of the bowhead whale. One of the staff members brought some in so the visiting researchers can get the full Barrow experience. Here, it is still thawing out on the table in the break room. Later on, they cut in into small pieces for them to sample. I believe that it was easier to slice when partially frozen. Pretty generous of the staff to share but it is an example of their desire to share their culture with the visiting researchers. In this case, I believe it was a film crew.

One of the staff members mentioned that some time ago, a Japanese researcher was anxious to try some. After trying a taste, he verbally apologized to the whale as he didn't like the taste. I tried some in the past but didn't care for the strong fish flavor. For many, whale is an essential affordable protein source and a very important part of the culture here in Barrow.

On Thursday evening, I put the GoPro on the passenger window of the truck when I drove to town. I wasn't too sure how well it was going to work looking sideways but id wasn't too bad. Maybe i should've used the rear passenger window to avoid the side view mirror. In many places the snow berms are so high that you can't really get a good view of the sea ice. The video was kind of disappointing as it looked pretty good "in person". Too much of the texture and shadow detail is lost with the super wide angle lens of the GoPro. Some of the titles are messed up as well but I don't really want to upload another copy to YouTube. It took quite a while given the modest bandwidth available. I went ahead and uploaded the fixed version. It took about an hour, not too bad. Most of the video was at double speed as the speed limit in town is 20 mph.

The sun seems incredibly bright especially with the snow. Sunset was at 10:50pm. On May 12th, the sun will be above the horizon all day.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Maybe the Last Snow...

We got another reminder that winter isn't over yet. Just a few inches overnight and most of it was gone by late afternoon. Another update from all of the messing around with the carbs I've been doing. With the change to the smaller main jets (122 down from 130) there was no popping when the engine was cold. That was what made me change the jets in the first place back in August. The CHT (cylinder head temperature) was higher with the smaller jets as expected. About 375°F for the left and 325°F for the right. This is the corrected temperature with OAT of 33°F. It's really cool when things work the way you think they should!

The wet air filter returned when I was riding while it was snowing yesterday. By the time I arrived home from a relatively short 10 mile ride, the engine wouldn't idle and you could smell unburned fuel from the exhaust. CHT were both really low in the 200°F range. I quickly pulled the air cleaner element (it was wet) and the engine ran just fine. I'm having a hard time believing that I'm the only one with this problem. A search on the Ural forum, SovietSteeds, mentions this as one of the reason for home fabricated air cleaner housings. If I'm going to be taking this rig to the lower-48 this summer, I need to do something to keep the rain out of the air cleaner. The Napa paper filter I tried last month didn't help as it took even longer to dry out than the Ural air filter.

I couldn't tell any change from drilling the slide. Though the wet air cleaner probably drowns out any other change. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Drilling the Slides

A couple of days ago, I finally got around to picking up the 7/64" drill needed to drill the slides on the Ural CV (constant velocity) carbs. The picture on the left shows the slide removed and the small drill bit. The actual difference between the existing hole and new is on the order of 1/64". This is a common modification on other engines that use the Kiehin carburetors such as the KLR 650. It is described as a minor. safe modification that should improve throttle response.

Last Sunday, I mentioned that I had added some shims to the needle. Here is the picture that I didn't take at that time showing the needle and the 2xM3 washers that I added to each needle before dropping them into the slide. Not in the same hole that I drilled but one right next to it (just below the drill bit in the first picture).

Also, as an experiment, I put the original 122 main jets back in replacing the 130 jets I installed last August. Just curious to see what the CHT will be with the smaller jets. It may have to wait a while as I head up to Barrow on Monday afternoon.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Ural Tour of Downtown Fairbanks

Take a look at the text for today's high temperature. I thought that it was pretty warm today...

A while back, there was a request for a video of Fairbanks proper. I had an appointment at the clinic and since it borders on the downtown area, it was an opportunity to make a video. I start from the university and head down College Rd towards REI which is just northeast of the downtown area. The initial part of the video is at 4x speed since that part is a repeat of what I had posted in earlier videos. I then sort of travel around and through the downtown area including 2nd Ave which had quite a sleazy reputation back in the pipeline days. These days, I find that there is little reason to ever go downtown. I don't find it a pleasant place to visit. I'm not sure what tourists and visitors think when they visit Fairbanks.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

CHT Installation

After my recent experience with the cracked compliance fitting and the resulting lean burning, I picked up a dual CHT or Cylinder Head Temperature gauge. The thermocouples are installed under both of the spark plugs in place of the normal gasket. Since I had to remove the plugs to install the thermocouples, I got a chance to check for evidence of rich or lean burning. Both of the plugs showed no signs of either and were a darkish tan. Thermocouples generate a voltage proportional to the temperature of the wire junction (dissimilar metals) which is attached to the ring now installed under the spark plug.

I ordered the gauge with a handlebar mount and the thermocouples from Aircraft Spruce, a mail order company specializing in small aircraft accessories and instrumentation. This gauge shows the temperature of the right cylinder on the right scale and the left cylinder on the left scale. The gauge requires no power as it simply measures the thermocouple voltage. It is a non-temperature compensated gauge which means that the scale is only "correct" when the ambient temperature is +75°F. For other temperatures, you simply need to add or subtract. E.g. at 0°F the gauge will read 75°F high and at 100°F it will read 25°F low.

Another use would be to determine if I really need to use 91 octane gas. Once I establish a baseline temperatures, try lower octane gas and see how much the temperature increases. Now it's time to get some baseline temperatures. I.e. go for a ride...

Thursday afternoon update - After quite a bit of running around this morning, the right head is consistently about 25°F cooler than the left side. Also, I usually upshift if I'm just cruising at a constant speed as the engine sounds "busy" just running at 4,000 rpm in second or third gear. But you can see the head temperature slowly start to creep up if, for example, you are going 30 mph and upshift to third (about 2900 rpm) from second (about 3900 rpm). In second gear, the head temperature is below 300°F. After upshifting, it'll slowly creep up to 400°F. So the lesson learned is to keep the revs up even though the engine sounds "better" at the lower rpm.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Evening Ride to Fox

The combination of repairs and minor mods to the intake side of the Ural has made a world of difference. The idle speed is now consistently around 1000 to 1100 rpm, the exhaust doesn't smell overly rich after pulling into the garage and mid-throttle response is dramatically improved. Now, instead of just more intake noise, the rig actually accelerates better. There must've been a small air leak for quite a while and I didn't notice it until it got a lot worse. And I would have never expected such a change from 2 tiny little washers in the carb.

Yesterday evening was the monthly get together of the Airheads at the Silver Gulch microbrewery in Fox. This is a photo that was taken back on January 5th when it was -30°F but I hadn't asked for a copy until yesterday. We had quite a group show up yesterday and the Ural wasn't the only bike there. Quite a few in the group are planning to attend the BMWMOA rally in Billings, MT, this coming July. Unfortunately, I have a family reunion scheduled for the exact same dates. I am planning on meeting some of them in Helena, MT, before the MOA rally. Only a few are actually riding out from Alaska as many have bikes stashed at various places in the lower 48 just to avoid having to ride through Canada every time they want to go somewhere.

In the following time lapse video of the trip out, you can see that we still have some snow on some of the roads and along the side of most. But then again, it's only April.

BTW, this kinda looks like Spring!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Shimming the Needles

I didn't take any pictures while I had the carburetor partly disassembled. I removed this metal cover (originally held on with phillips head screws) and removed the vacuum controlled slide and needle. There is a mod listed on the Soviet Steeds forums saying that putting two M3 flat washers on the needle controlled by the slide will slightly richen the mixture at mid to upper throttle opening. The rig has some hesitation at around 50-55 mph so I tried this to see if it would help. My gut reaction is that throttle response is improved. It now readily accelerates from 50mph to 60mph. The phillips head screws were upgraded to allen head screws at the same time. I was going to drill the slide enlarging the vacuum port to 7/64" but I couldn't find the correct size drill bit.

Tomorrow evening is the monthly Airheads get together at the Silver Gulch so that'll be a good opportunity to see how it performs on the highway. While at the hardware store, I picked up three grease fittings, a 1/4"-28 tap and drill bit. This is to install grease fittings in the drive shaft splines and the rear brake pedal shaft. All require regular maintenance and the grease fittings will dramatically reduce the time and effort required. But like most things, installing the fittings will take some time and effort. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

What am I waiting for?

About a week ago, I finally sent in my application to retire from the University of Alaska. If I didn't screw up my application, my first day of retirement will be June 1st. My hope is that the university will let me continue on the Barrow IT support project on a part-time, temporary basis.

This decision did not come quickly or without a lot of anguish. I qualified to retire with full benefits almost four years ago and, believe me, I've given it a lot of thought. I must admit that one of the biggest "shoves" came last September after hearing of Bobskoot's passing. He and I had talked many times about retirement with me asking "what are you waiting for". So many things that he wanted to do were put off until he felt comfortable to retire. I've been asking myself the same question. (Plus I figure that it's better to leave than be told to leave!)

I had moved to Fairbanks from Southern California as a physics graduate student in August, 1982. In May, 1984, I transitioned to a staff member in the business office with the intent of working just long enough to make enough to move somewhere else. I guess that never happened. Except for several months when I was at GVEA, the local electric co-op, I've been part of the staff at the University in Fairbanks. Thirty years, seventeen different offices, four reorganizations, eight departments. It'll be a big change.

So eight more weeks or forty more days as an employee. But maybe ten of those days will be spent in Barrow and I still have fifteen days of vacation left. So many things I still need to get done.

I'm still working on planning a summer Ural speed road trip. Hmmm, this is post 1111....

Something else I was waiting for came in today's mail. The "compliance fittings" and "perch rings"that I had just ordered from Raceway Ural in Salem, OR. The compliance fittings are shown in the lower part of the photo and are fastened onto the intake port of the head (with copper anti-sieze on the two bolts). They provide mechanical support for the carburetors as well as functioning as the intake manifold. These are made by Mikuni, a Japanese company well known for their carburetors, and are not the stock Ural parts. Dom had asked if I had ordered the intake gaskets and I hadn't. It turns out that the Mikuni version has a raised ring cast into the rubber on the base that seals against the surface of the head kind of like an "O" ring.

The perch rings are friction fit onto the intake horns of the carburetors and provide a lot more surface area to attach the branch pipes from the air cleaner. I've found them loose more than once over the winter probably from getting kicked. The branch pipes provide the other half of the mechanical support for the carburetors.

Here is the damaged compliance fitting. The cut is about where the edge of the clamp is. When the air cleaner to carb branch pipes come loose the compliance fitting is supporting the full weight of the carburetor. The weight and vibration just cut through the soft rubber. The rubber on the aftermarket Mikuni ones seem much thicker. I replaced both and the undamaged one from the right cylinder is now the spare. The danger with a leaking compliance fitting is a lean mixture which could cause severe engine damage.

One last mod for the day was pretty trivial. After moving the trip odometer reset, I was left with a hole in the dash. I had previously installed a headlight on/off switch on the other side of the speedometer so I already had a matching switch for the other side. I installed the waterproof pushbutton switch and wired the two terminals to each side of the turn signal indicator right above it on the panel. Since there is only one indicator for both directions, both of the positive or "hot" wires for the both directional signals are run to the indicator light. When the pushbutton switch is "on", the wires for both turn signals wires are shunted together and all of the lights flash and, obviously. the indicator light doesn't blink. This was a simple mod that I had intended to do a long time ago but I finally got around to it. The washers were necessary as the hole for the reset knob was a 9/16" and the switch only needed a 3/8" opening. Four way flashers, works like a charm...

Friday, April 3, 2015

Commute #41

It was a beautiful morning except for some clouds on the horizon that blocked the sunrise. We had a little dusting of snow later on in the day. Compared to many in this country, I really can't complain about my commute. The video was from yesterday so that was commute #41. Today was #40...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

MS@W Challenge

Chris over at EverydayRiding challenged other bloggers to try and catalog how much motorcycle stuff at work (MS@W) there is in our workspace.
  • Ural ceramic mug
  • BMW airhead ceramic mug
  • GoPro camera and battery charger
  • Sierra Designs tent
  • Nolan tinted visor
  • HD keychain
  • Power Trip denim riding jacket
  • Eleven issues of the BMWMOA magazine
  • Four issues of the Airhead magazine
  • Touratech sticker
  • Revzilla stickers
  • BMWMOA stickers and rally patches
  • Two Dirt Track Productions DVDs
  • American Borders (Carla King's book)
  • Lois on the Loose (Lois Pryce's book)
  • Ural owners manual
  • Ural service manual
  • Clymer service manual for BMW
  • Team Oregon keychain
Plus some other non-moto items:
  • Specialized Hard Rock bicycle
  • Fisher x-country skis
  • X-country ski boots
  • Lots of water bottles, misc. tools,