St. Patrick’s Day Ride

The morning’s weather looked a little sketchy, but the rain held off and it turned out to be beautiful here in Central TX. I was itching to try out my new tires on some dirt but didn’t want to ride too far, so I decided to just wander and hopefully I’d run across some nice dirt roads. With that in mind I went north from my home in Cedar Park, up Reagan Blvd. and then took some back roads to Florence. I was a tiny bit worried about the front tire since I changed it myself, but it felt pretty good at highway speeds. When decelerating, the Heidenau K60 tire was a bit louder than the Tourance and there was a some vibration, but nothing crazy.

Sharp Cemetery Road

I continued up Highway 195 north and saw a sign for Sharp Cemetery. The road looked like it might be interesting on the GPS so I pulled off the highway and almost immediately there was a cattle guard and Sharp Cemetery Road turned into hard-packed dirt. Just what I was looking for! The road looked well traveled and smooth and the views were very nice. The sun was coming through the clouds and overhanging trees making it almost perfect riding, for me at least. The tires are well suited to this kind of road and I didn’t feel much wiggle. I have nothing to compare the tire’s performance to, but the reputation of them did instill some confidence.

Sharp Cemetery Road

I followed the road until it ended at the cemetery itself. I spent a few minutes there reading the historical marker and taking a break, then headed back the way I came. The weather was perfect, about 76F on my theremometer and a nice combination of sun and clouds. I flipped up the chin of the modular helmet and enjoyed the fresh air and smell of wildflowers. This was the kind of riding I really enjoyed! I wish the road went on for several miles, but I’ll take this little bit of heaven anytime.

Sharp Cemetery Road

Back on the pavement I headed west along FM2670 and then took a right on Maxdale Road. I rode over a cattle guard and the road turned to gravel/dirt and I saw a huge military transport plane gaining altitude in the distance. It occured to me that I might have ridden into Ft. Hood and that I should probably turn back. So I made a u-turn and headed back south. I guess it was ok for me to be in that area as I found out later that it is the Killeen airport area. At any rate, I continued along Maxdale Road to Oakalla and then I saw on the GPS what looked like a fun road that headed off north. CR223 was another little gem of a road which wound past ranches and farms, then met up with the Lampasas River. There were a couple teensy water crossings (just enough to get your feet splashed) and lots of gorgeous scenery.

Lampasas River

CR19 turned into hard-packed dirt again, and I enjoyed more of the perfect riding. The combination of weather, light dirt, and scenery was awesome and I was stoked.

76/366 - Somewhere Along CR4390

But all-too-soon, the road met up with Highway 190 and I sped on into the town of Lampasas, then rode back home along 183, then across to Andice and back south along Reagan/Parmer and home. I have to say, this was one of the best rides I’ve ever had. Might not seem like anything special to anyone else, but I do remember letting out a couple “woohoo’s” along the way. :)

3/17/2012 - Ride-Route

Odo: 135.11 Miles
Moving time: 3H 12M

Motorcycle Luggage Upgrade

74/366 - North Face Duffel

One of the things I really enjoy about owning a motorcycle is the modifications and farkles you can add on to it and one of the more functional things you can add to the bike is storage. Why would I want storage on the bike? Well, I like to carry some basic tools and spare parts, including inner tubes. It would also be nice to carry the warm gloves (and balaclava/neck scarf), an extra light jacket that I can wear under my riding jacket, and the alternate face-shield in case I am riding when it is getting dark.

For a dual-sport, there are a few popular options including tankbags, top boxes, and saddlebags. The pinnacle seems to be a set of aluminum panniers. These have the advantage of being lockable and waterproof. (They also make nice places to slap stickers onto!) The problem with these panniers is their initial cost. Not only do you need to buy the boxes, but you’ll need a rack to mount them on. I’d say that a decent set would cost $500 at the bottom end, and the sky’s the limit at the top end. For now, there’s no money in the budget for a set of hard panniers. In the meantime, I am going to go the way of upgrading my makeshift Quiksilver backpack that is mounted to the pillion/rack with a larger duffel.

New Duffel

In all honesty, I don’t see myself going on a long moto-camping trip anytime soon where a set of panniers would be key. I do see myself taking a weekend or 3-day trip out somewhere though. When doing some research, it seems like a 50-70 liter duffel would be a good option. This would be way more than enough space to fit what I am stuffing into my backpack-tailbag right now and I could also put in a change of clothes and more camera gear. Plus, in the future I can still use the duffel in addition to any panniers I might get. Since I ride solo, I can run the duffel lengthwise from the pillion seat to the rear rack. There’s about 24 inches of space back there.

The choice of duffel came down to two candidates. First is the Ortleib Duffel. This is a tough, waterproof bag that is hard to beat. It comes in a bright yellow color and has four lash points for securing it to the bike. The second candidate was the popular North Face Base Camp duffel. This one is not 100% waterproof, but has a bunch more lash points to attach other items to the bag itself. It also has straps for using the bag as a backpack, although this would only be useful for short hauls. I decided on the North Face, and chose the 69-liter medium size in yellow. The small size would have probably been ok too, but I saw a video where the traveler recommended getting the bigger size since you can always collapse a soft bag in the case where you don’t completely fill it with gear. The medium is 24 inches long, and 15 inches wide and fits nicely onto the rear seat/tail rack.

New Duffel

We’ll see how the new bag works out over time, but I’m confident that the bag will last for many, many miles!

Motorbike Podcasts

I enjoy listening to podcasts while commuting to work, and especially motorcycle-related ones of course! The three that I really like are Sidestand Up, The Wheel Nerds, and The Pace Motorcycle Podcast.

Sidestand Up: This is my absolute favorite. Tom Lowdermilk and his team of correspondents put on a great show, with excellent guests, regular (or semi-regular) features, like racing news, AMA news, etc. Although they talk about all kinds of motorcycling, they tend to have on a lot of “Adventure” rider and world-touring type guests. For instance, Jay Kannaiyan, Ted Simon, The Striking Viking, etc. The show is on every Tuesday evening, and they have a fun chatroom going on when the show is live. I make sure to download the episode on Wednesdays if I miss the live one.

The Pace Motorcycle Podcast: I’ve just begun listening to this one, but already I am hooked. They are pretty low-key and very intelligent. Really good subjects and fun guests. These guys really know their stuff!

The Wheel Nerds: These two are a lot of fun! They have a great time with their podcast and have a fresh outlook on motorcycling. Their segment where they talk about various Wanted Ads is hilarious! I really like this podcast, but sometimes they are so energetic that I need to take a break from listening. I really enjoyed their interview with Ted Simon. Well done!

New Tires

I finally got my tires mounted on my wheels. The original Metzeler Tourances lasted 10,600 miles which I hear is pretty good for Texas roads. I opted to have the motorcycle shop mount the new Heidenau K76 to the rear wheel since this is notoriously difficult to do by yourself. It’s possible, but takes a lot of muscle. It has to do with the shape of the wheel which doesn’t have such a deep channel in the center. Anyways, the place I took it to charges only $26 if you bring in the wheel by itself. I really enjoy working on the bike as much as I can. I think it’s fun to figure out how stuff works; many times things turn out a lot simpler than originally thought. That’s the case with the way the wheels mount to the swingarm on the little GS. It’s very similar to my old Honda C70.

New Rear Tire Mounted

The Heidenau K60 Scout front tire I decided to mount by myself since it is supposed to be easier. I also wanted to make sure I knew how to do it in case I needed to on the road. Even though it is easier than the rear, the front still takes a bit of elbow grease, but there’s nothing magical about it. It’s just a matter of using the tire irons and getting leverage. Speaking of tire irons, I have on 16-inch Motion-Pro tire iron, and two smaller 8-inch generic tire irons. The 16-inch is excellent and helps a lot. I highly recommend having at least one. I might get another one if I can find one for cheap.

I also use a lubricant on the tire called Ru-Glyde. It makes the job much easier! The tire will slip over the rim easier saving you a lot of time and power. I also heard that a warm tire is a bit more pliable than a cold one, but it was about 50 degrees today and I didn’t feel like putting the tire in the oven! But I finally got the tire on. Woohoo! The most difficult part was fishing for the valve stem!

Ru-Glyde and ATF

The next thing I need to do is balance the tire as best I can. I actually didn’t know that the tires have markings on them to show you where to line it up with the valve stem to get it closer to balanced. I might need to break the bead again and shift the tire a bit, then rig up a homemade tire-balancing solution. There is a guide on the f650.com site which seems to work well so I will give that a shot.

New Front tire Mounted

I can’t wait to try out the new tires on some dirt. It should be a bit more stable than the Tourances. They won’t last as long as the Metzelers, but I’m expecting to get about 7-8,000 miles out of them which I will be happy with!

*Update*

I bought a 3/8-inch rod from the hardware store and used it to balance my tire. The BMW wheel has flat (non-tapered) bearings inside which supposedly make using a plain bar possible. Sure enough, it worked great. The tire easily rotated around and it wasn’t difficult to find the heavy spot on the tire, then affix the proper amount of weight on the other side. BTW, I went to CycleGear to buy some weights, but the guy there just gave me a strip of them for free!

CBOA Tire Balancing