Archive for the ‘Wheels’ Category

2010 BP MS150 = Completed

I survived! Next year, I’ll definitely be doing it again.

Right now I’m too busy to type a blog-specific post about the event, so I’ll just link in what I wrote over on Google+ here (pics included)

Click It!

MS150 – Houston to Austin

This coming April, I’ll be joining several thousand other cyclists on a charity ride in support of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Over the course of two days, we’ll pedal the 150 miles between Houston and Austin. Anyone interested in donating to my fundraising efforts for this cause may do so by clicking here. I have set a personal goal of $1000. As of this posting have already raised $425. With 151 days to go, I hope to break my goal. Any support is greatly appreciated.

My training for the event has already started, with my completion this past Sunday of the 62-mile Bike the Bend for Literacy. The wind was a major factor in that ride, more of a factor than the steep climbs I encountered in Little Rock back in September, and I’m going to have to get out there to battle the wind some more to make sure I can survive two days of more than 60 miles of riding. Having gone between Houston and Austin by motorcycle at least a dozen times in the last year, I know there is plenty of wind between here and there. Hills have tops, but wind can blow strong for days.

More cycling stuff

The rides through George Bush Park, and Terry Hershey Park, combine quite nicely. It is not quite as far as I thought it would be, but 45 miles is a good ride. I may look for a way to add a dozen or so more miles to that ride on Fridays.

A friend talked me into going downtown for another ride on Friday, even though I’d already done my 45 mile ride in the morning, with a ton of people for “Critical Mass.” While I am sure much of the automobile-bound traffic in and around Houston while we were doing this ride were far less than appreciative of the traffic hold up it was a good time. It was not until after the ride ended that anyone tried to run over me. When I was with 100+ cyclists ignoring red-lights and everything else there were no close calls. The moment I went off on my own to ride back to my car, and thus started obeying all traffic lights, I got to exercise my reflexes and halt myself just before an SUV tried to make me its hood ornament. There were probably fewer than five inches between the Ford and my front wheel when I stopped. Reflective strips and a headlight did nothing for me.

One thing that became readily apparent on the Critical Mass ride was that I need to carry some tools on my bike. The Fens does not weigh much, and I could quite probably manage to carry it home on my back if I break anything on a ride. Why I would want to do that when it is pretty easy to fix a flat or replace a tube is beyond me. Last night, I went ahead and ordered a seat bag, tire patch kit, some emergency boots, a CO2 inflator, and a headlight/tail-light combo pack. I’ve already got a cyclometer and a multi-tool on the way. At some point I might actually add a spare tube or two to the list.

Picture me Rollin’

Thursday night I bought a new-to-me ’84 Mercedes Benz 300D. If past experience with old W123 body diesels this thing will probably still be running long after I’m too old to drive. The car isn’t perfect, it smokes some, drips some, and rattles some. It also rides very smoothly, and starts every time. On the hierarchy of important things a car should do the most important ones seem to be well in order. I’m not going to throw a lot of money at this vehicle. It doesn’t really need a lot of money thrown at it. The body certainly is good enough that if I were to trip, fall, and land in a large sum of money I wouldn’t consider it totally insane to actual restore this car. That’s far from the plan though. The plan is to drive this thing until the wheels fall off. The best part? It cost me less than I got for selling my truck and the insurance is far less expensive.

'84 300D

'84 300D

'84 300D

'84 300D

Breaking News: Crashing a motorcycle is not fun

Right around noon yesterday I broke my record of crash-free riding. 5yrs and somewhere around 50k miles without any accidents more involved than my motorcycle just falling over was a nice record to have. It’s gone now. In the parking lot of Lamar Institute of Technology’s Multi-purpose Center, I somehow managed to t-bone an ’08 F-150. I was not going very fast, so I didn’t fly over the truck. The truck was going fairly fast and did manage to spin my bike around about a vertical axis… at least until it hit the ground and proceeded to slide (with me under it for a bit) across the parking lot.

I definitely checked to the right before I continued with my left turn, and saw no reason not to continue. Sure, there were some SUVs in the way – but I’d think an F-150 would be apparent anyway. I looked up when I saw a blur that didn’t look right and got the bike upright while grabbing and handful of brake. That’s when things got all bullet-time (The Matrix) on me. I heard his engine rev up. I heard the sound of two vehicles colliding. I heard MY engine rev up. Sky. Ground. Sky. Ground. Sky. Thud. Scared the hell out of both of us. I just stayed on the ground looking up at the sky wondering how the hell that just happened, while the guy I hit was begging me to stand up because I was freaking him out. My mental check of my appendages didn’t really sound any alarms, so I moved to the curb and took at look at the only place I could feel pain. Just a scrape and a little swelling. EMS arrived and said I was good so I waived them off and went about my day.

I’m a little more sore today but that’s to be expected. I think I’ll go ahead and try not to ever do this again.

It Lives!

After three full years of sitting in the garage, my Dad’s Galant lives. He took it apart right after I got home from Iraq the first time, in 2006, to change the timing belt. This was supposed to be a father-son project, but it just didn’t happen like that for various reasons. Now that I live at home again, it was time to get the car out of the garage. Sooner was better than later, since I’m pretty sure my Mom was ready to set fire to the garage.

Putting things back together was not nearly as difficult as I’d feared. A few things were annoying, but that’s to be expected when working on a Japanese vehicle. It fired up with the first turn of the key, and ran quite well for a vehicle that hadn’t had a drop of gas in the tank for years. Today, I flushed out the radiator and everything seems to be working well. Even the AC still works, which is all kinds of impressive. My truck won’t hold R134a for more than a month, the Galant held a seal for several years.

The Galant is running again

Finally running again.

Kawasaki Ninja EX250 – “Death Rattle”

My friend Colby bought a barely-running EX250 to tinker with, and ultimately turn into a bike for care-free track days. Since I have absolutely nothing else to do right now, I invited him over to spin some wrenches. Spin them we did. For many hours. In vain.

Long story short, something screwy was going on with the spark plugs. They’d been changed already, but apparently they needed to be changed again. A new set I picked up today, fired the bike right up. The noises coming out of the engine are not supposed to come out of an engine, unless you just put a round of .50BMG through it.

Looks to me like Bumblebee needs a new engine.

Hutto Pie Run

Wet Motorcycles

Wet Motorcycles

Another of my better late than never posts. Back on November 21 members of the excellent Texas motorcycling forum Two Wheeled Texans saddled up and rode from all corners of Texas for a monthly event that revolves around two things: motorcycling and pie. Though I have been a member of TWT for quite some time, I have only managed to make it to two such events. Hurricane Ike was kind enough to be very near landfall for the first, and cut my enjoyment short. This time was not without its trials either.

The morning started bright and early, with the group from Katy intending to be kick-stands up no later than 0800. As the meeting place is but a few short miles from my house, I figured leaving around 0740 would make for plenty of time. I fed my dog and let him out to handle his business before heading out to the garage to get the FJR on the road. I would be riding on to Arlington after the pie run, to enjoy a Dallas Cowboys game at the new stadium, so my cases were loaded down appropriately.

As I always do, I thumbed the starter while I finished getting my gear on and the FJR buzzed to life. All was well so far. A lunge forward from the rider’s seat brought the warp-drive powered beast down off its center stand, and I started to walk the bike out of the garage. Something was not right. At more than 600 pounds wet, the FJR requires more effort to move than my old SV – but not so much I ever had to strain. I was straining. Back up on the center stand she went, and I discovered the reason for my struggle – a flat rear tire. My inspection revealed no nails, or obvious holes so I inflated the tire and went about my merry way.

My arrival to the meeting place was a few minutes late, but the rainfall made everyone want to wait a little longer. After maybe half an hour, we decided the pie was getting no closer and the rain did not seem to want to go away. Off we went. It rained basically the entire way. Where there was no rain, there was still plenty of road spray. Cold and wet, every motorcyclist’s dream ride.

When we finally arrived in Hutto, most of the other TWT folk had consumed their main course and moved on to the pie. Cold and hungry, the Katy group sat down for some good, hot, food. We were not disappointed. One of the Dallas area TWT members (Chuck), whom I met when I flew home on R&R in 2007, picked up my tab and offered to hold up the Dallas group so I wouldn’t have to ride alone on a suspect tire all the way to Arlington.

The ride to Arlington was longer than I’d anticipated, but the backroads proved fun. This ride, while colder, was dry. No more problems graced me that day, and I made it to my friend’s hotel room in Arlington just in time for a late dinner and some pre-game drinking of the official beer of the Dallas Cowboys (one I generally never consume, Miller Lite).

A good day, all in all, for some pie.

FJR Farkle Chronicles: Mounting a Givi.

Back in July, I bought a very lightly used 2006 FJR1300A for an excellent price. Since then, I have put roughly 6000 miles on the motorcycle and have started a list of things I will add to the bike. Up at the top of the list was the installation of a rear case. The FJR already had side cases, but I commute on my FJR and added space cargo space is a plus in my book.

Google, and a few helpful motorcycle forums brought me to the Givi V46 and SW-MOTECH mounts. After spending a hair less than $440, the UPS man brought me the mounting hardware, and the V46. Once the UH Cougars were finished losing to UCF, I headed to the garage to mount the case. It took very little time, and very few tools. Anyone could install this setup, with ease.

A rainy commute on two wheels.

Rain has decided to visit Texas after taking nearly a year of vacation. Considering how much I enjoy being outdoors, rain is hardly something about which I am going to complain. We need the rain, and we need it in a bad way. Many of the places I enjoy visiting, as well as many of my hobbies, are directly threatened by the lack of rainfall over Texas in 2009. There is one thing, however, that is rather soured by the rain. That one thing happens to be my primary mode of transportation to and from UH. Motorcycles and rain just do not get along very well.

A rain cloud loitering in downtown Houston, TX

A rain cloud loitering in downtown Houston, TX

When I made the decision to move back to Houston and attend UH, I assumed I would move into a place closer to the school. This assumption was based on the ridiculous hope that the change in the G.I. Bill would provide me with sufficient funds to get a place without the need to be employed while finishing my engineering degree. No payments have been made thus far, so I stay with my parents and commute 360 miles per week to and from school. Parking permits for four-wheeled vehicles (to be referred to as “cages” henceforth) are so expensive I would not even remotely consider their purchase. As a result I get rained on, and I get rained on for many miles.

Ask any experienced motorcyclist what one must do to maximize one’s safety when riding amongst the cages, and the likely response will be something along the lines of “Ride as if everyone is trying to kill you.” Sage advice indeed. Today, no attempts were made on my life. I should likely purchase a lottery ticket, as days such as today are a rarity. Yesterday, on relatively dry concrete, I was forced to use the healthy application of both steering and throttle to avoid the absent-minded drifting of a woman in a late-model Nissan Armada more focused on painting her nails and talking on her phone than she was with driving her large automobile. Had the same thing occurred today, on a wet road, things might not have turned out so well.

Rarely do cagers see you on a motorcycle even on the clearest of days. Motorcyclists concerned with safety tend to deal with this by wearing bright colors and emitting (directly, or by reflection) as much light as possible. When it rains and visibility goes down the effectiveness of these tactics are, in my experience, reduced greatly. Things can get downright scary when riding in the rain.

Fortunately, a good riding suit, or even your regular riding apparel covered with a decent rain suit, can keep you reasonably comfortable and dry. This gives you the freedom to pay attention to the added dangers of riding in the rain. As an example the many on-ramps in the Houston area that are, for whatever reason, several feet below the level of both the freeway and the access road, happen to turn into mini-lakes when it rains for more than five minutes at a time. In a truck, you can just plow through these puddles and reasonably expect all to be well. On a motorcycle, you could quite literally kill yourself if you fail to traverse the pond slowly. Even then, as many of these ramps have lovely road paintings (that just so happen to get slick as ice when wet) to tell you exactly which freeway you have just entered, you are not sure to make it through without a mishap.

If you do not ride, or maybe even if you do, you are probably thinking I am insane by now. If you know me, there is a good chance you already thought so anyway. I love to ride, even if it is mostly limited to commuting on the super-slab of I-10. The risks are understood, and I do everything I can to mitigate those risks. If you plan accordingly, most weather you can handle comfortably in a cage does not present too insurmountable a problem on a motorcycle. Besides, I can ride the HOV by myself, go from 0-60 in a hair more than 4 seconds, and still get better fuel economy than a Prius (henceforth “smugmobile”, courtesy of @wildbill). Rain or shine, if I’m not already on it, I probably wish I was on my motorcycle.

My FJR covered in water drops

My FJR covered in water drops

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