What Do You Do When It Rains?

I get asked, “What do you do when it rains???”

“Get wet.”

 

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Okeechobee Ride #1

June 1st, 2016, 1:48 pm

Took a long ride with about 9 friends from work last Saturday, we went up to Lake Okeechobee and back. Good times.

My little bike is the orange one, 2nd from the right.
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The Ducati Monster 821 got a lot of attention at all the rest stops.
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Patriot 9/11 Memorial, Wellington FL.
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Homebrew GPS Route Mapping

Howto:

1. Create route in Google Maps “My Maps” section. You can create waypoints, notes, alternate routes, etc.

2. Share the map and copy the URL link to your clipboard.
3. Convert that URL to a GPX file at GPS Visualizer:
http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/convert_input
3.A) – click the download link there, it saves a GPX file on your computer.
4. Email that GPX file to yourself.
5. Install OsmAndMaps on your iPhone or Android phone.
6. Check email on your phone. Open the email, tap the attached GPX File.
7. Choose “Open with OsmAndMaps application”

Enjoy. Once the map is loaded into OsmAndMaps, you can follow it even with no cell signal, anywhere.

Hat tip to the pace podcast, and their listener Chris Duffey, for this method.

Manracks Luggage Rack & Blinker reloc Installed, New Mirrors, Too

April 11, 2016

I ordered the over-fender luggage rack and turn-signal relocator kits from Manracks a week ago.

Shipping was very prompt, I think Mike had them out the same day.

The luggage rack is very sturdy. Solid. The paint job is even and looks thick. The bolt location was perfect.

The turn signal relocator bracket attaches at the same location on the rear grab-bar as the luggage rack. They can fit one on top of each other.

Before:

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After:

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One of the rear attachment points, the forward hex head bolt, is directly under a bar on the luggage rack, making it more difficult to install than it needed to be – there is no room for socket so you are left using an open ended wrench instead. Trying to do that while holding the bottom nut still with a different wrench, while trying to keep the parts from falling off the bike, all really requires two sets of hand – one of them preferably very small. I had an 11-year old help, his smaller hands really worked out well.

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I found it was easier to install the bolts after taking the brake light assembly off, otherwise it was way too tight a space to work down there on the rearward bolt.

Only one negative comment: I will say that the hex head bolt included in the kit were garbage. The hex head was soft, it did not fit my metric wrenches correctly, was just a crummy piece. Do yourself a favor and replace them with quality stainless fasteners. (The washer and the nylon-insert nut was fine.) I opted for a replacement philips-head bolt instead of a Hex because if I need to take it off on the road I am likely to have one screwdriver and one wrench with me – not two wrenches the same size. But it was a little tough to get to from above, maybe there was a better way than what I did. The space was so cramped, I was just glad to be done with that work. Your choices may vary.

Mike’s service was excellent, he got back to me quickly when I had a question (whether I could combine both products) and seems like a nice guy.

However this is a fairly small complaint, overall, and it’s not a reflection on the manufacturing of Mike’s products – just the hardware included.

I still need to move the turn signals to the new attachment points. I intend to use the stock indicator brackets as a way to hold some small boxes (ammo boxes, actually) that I’m going to bolt on there.

I also picked up a pair of bar-end round mirrors. I really liked the look of Robbo’s mirrors in this thread. I found a similar pair on Amazon. They went on very easily, using the existing bolt with the bar-ends still in place (only after I learned about how the expansion plug works in this thread I created. Mistakes were made, and corrected, and lessons learned). The replacement mirrors have a wider view, are much less prone to vibration, and look the way I want. And I don’t have a view of my shoulders anymore – I can see behind me.

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Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge

Feb 15 2016

I did my 1st scheduled service yesterday, it was a few miles early of 600 but it was going to be my only available Saturday for a few weeks so I went ahead and did it. Afterwards I wanted to drive with the good oil in (wow what a difference, shifting is so smooth now) so I spun her out to the southern point of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge (link 1) (link 2) in western Broward/Palm Beach County FL.

It’s a pretty spot to look out over the Everglades, and folks use the boat ramp to put in airboats.

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First Bike

January 15th, 2016

I went over to a dealership day before yesterday and closed a deal on an orange one – the 2016 model.

This is my first bike, ever. I took the MSF course last week (and we used the TU in that class too) and that was what sealed the deal for me that the TU was the bike for me. Quick, nimble, not too powerful but spry. Quoting Obi-Wan, the TU250X is an elegant weapon … from a more civilized age.

Taking it easy here, not trying anything flashy or crazy. Got the dealer to throw in some merchandise so I have gear now. I have a grand total of 50 miles experience under my belt (counting 11 in the course) so I’m staying away from any crazy traffic. Basically, I know that right now I’m officially qualified to ride around in a parking lot.

This will be my main transportation, a commuter for work and it’s how I’ll get around town all the time. I live in South Florida so the riding season is year round. I expect to get wet sometimes (been rained on three times already.)

Enough with the jabber, here are some pics:

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iPhone Wallpaper-sized:
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Parked next to my buddy’s Harley … the colors are identical. It looks like his bike had a baby:
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Unfortunately, South Florida seems to think it’s the middle of summer, with several inches of rain on tap:

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The Blue Highways

I love this feature in Google Maps, you click “Avoid Highways” and see what comes up.

These alternates add about time to your trip, but they add character, too.

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They used to call these the Blue Highways. William Least Heat-Moon wrote a book about them. He had coined the term to refer to small, forgotten, out-of-the-way roads connecting rural America (which were drawn in blue on the old style Rand McNally road atlas).

More About the MSF

A bit more about the MSF class.
The class itself was an eye opening experience. There were 8 students –  two 40-somethings (of which I was one,) two 30-something cops getting their endorsements because they were applying to be motormen for the city of Sunrise Police Department, and four Millennials who all just liked motorcycles or scooters and wanted to learn. It was refreshing to see so many young people wanting to learn to ride. I have been told that motorcycling is dying out, but based on the demographics in my class, that isn’t the case. Millennials are (generally speaking) interested in experiences, and motorcycling provides that.
The first 30 minutes or so was paperwork – signing releases, filling out forms, etc. We went around the room and introduced ourselves and told why we wanted to learn, which was cool. Then, out to the bikes. We picked up helmets and struggled to figure out how to operate those D-rings in the blind, then walked over to a row of Suzukis and picked one out for ourselves. They were all identical so it really didn’t matter, but each one had a license plate on the back with a girl’s name on it, so you were meant to remember which bike was ‘yours’ by that. Oh, an dthere were two 250cc cruiser-type bikes from Kawasaki, which went to the girls. Oh, did I mention there were a couple of ladies in the 20-something group?
Finally, we got on the bikes, put kickstands up and started walking the bikes in neutral around the parking lot. This gave us a feel for the weight of the bikes, and got us familiar with the front brake’s response.
It was a big moment when we all got to start the bikes up, what a great sound. We sat there revving our 250cc engines like little kids, grinning like goofballs. SO COOL! 
Then it was time to concentrate – we put the bikes in 1st gear and got to know the friction zone. We just rolled the bike a foot or two forward, then braked, keeping both feet on the ground. This went on for a good 5 minutes or so, then it was time to get the bikes rolling, still in first gear, and we went back and forth across the parking lot in straight lines. It was a cool feeling when we finally got both feet up on the pegs. I know this sounds ridiculous to seasoned riders, but that was the moment it really felt like we were learning to ride motorcycles – when we had both feet planted and let the bike go fast enough for gyroscopic action to keep the bike upright.
What followed is a little bit of a blur. We would get off the bikes, walk over and talk to the teacher (or “rider coach”), discussing a new skill and have it demonstrated for us, then we would go out to the bikes, start them up, ride around the course accomplishing that skill over and over, then bikes parked, discuss what we learned and what we felt. The constant parking and starting and parking and starting was ingraining the process of turning off the bike and parking it safely and then starting it up again. We didn’t know this, we just thought it was all fun.
After a break for lunch, we returned to the riding range for a series of increasingly complicated tasks, like the double-U-turn figure-8 box, learning how to coordinate both brakes, weaving through small cones, handling a mid-turn stop, learning how to upshift and downshift (and what downshifting does to traction,) and ended the day with a discussion and a video.
At that point, end of day one, we were offered and all opted to take our written tests, since if anyone failed they could take it again the following day. Two folks got perfect scores, the rest of us each missed one question. This meant a passing grade for everyone on the written test, it was nice to have that out of the way.
We were invited to come back early if we wanted the next morning, so I arrived at 6:30 and did some laps and some cones and the double-U-turn box a few times. Then the class started up with more complicated driving tasks. The rain was absolutely POURING by this point, and the instructor gave us about a 30 minute break to wait for a break in the rain, which never came. We all agreed we would skip the lunch break and try to power through the rest of the course without any breaks. We were all completely soaked all the way down to our skivvies, and it was chilly (early January in Florida means 50-60 degree weather), but we powered on.
Finally it was time to start our ride testing. There were something like 10 or 12 tasks we had to complete, some of which were done two-tests-at-a-time. For example, “Demonstrate you can drive a half circle staying in your lane, then come to a stop within this box”  Each person did their task while the rest of the class watched, then we all moved on to the next test. When the tests were over, we parked the bikes by the shed, helped fill them back up with gas for the next class, and put them away. My trip-odometer said 11 miles total for the two days of class. Finally, we were all done and we went back inside, wondering how we did.
In the classroom, the rider-coach let us fidget for a while, then smiled and let us all know we had all passed, and after a collective sigh of relief he told us each how we did and where we had a point or two deducted. No one was anywhere near failing. With a round of applause for ourselves, we packed up and headed home – or, some of us to the DMV, where our test results had already been transmitted – to get our license endorsements.
We were now legal riders!

First

I blew up (don’t ask) my MINI Cooper in August of 2015 and had been looking around to replace it with something that was small and light and fuel-economical again, and started thinking that maybe a little scooter would be fine for commuting the 9 miles and back to work. But as I started to look into those I realized that the price of a scooter gets you almost all the way into the price of a motorcycle, and scooters are just too slow.
So I started thinking maybe I need to be a motorcycle owner for the first time in my life. The problem was, I didn’t know anything about motorcycles and the idea of even riding around without a seat belt seemed terrifying to me.
So I did what every red blooded American male does – I got on YouTube and started watching videos about how to ride a motorcycle. I bet you’ve seen some of the same ones I saw. Some of them were terrible, and some of them were actually very good with experienced riders taking time to show exactly what is involved in even the basics, like starting a bike and just moving slowly around the parking lot. I started to get the idea that maybe I could do this.
I started listening to motorcycle podcasts and following popular YouTubers and bugging my rider-friends about everything I can think of.
I watched Long Way Round and Long Way Down, watched Charlie Boorman’s Dakar Rally movie, and started learning everything I could about motorcycles in general.
I bought a copy of Precision Motorcycling by David Hough for three dollars online at a Goodwill, and started reading through that and realized that there’s a lot more to motorcycling then hitting the gas. Several of my coworkers ride, and when I brought up this topic they immediately told me I needed to take the MSF class before they would even discuss it with me.
So I used some Christmas money to sign up for the class and took it two rainy weekdays in early January 2016. It was pouring rain for that class but maybe that’s a good thing. I’m not afraid to ride in the rain, that’s for sure, and Florida gets more rain then anyone in the US – except Washington state. Those people get drenched.
Over the protestations of my friends, I decided I wanted to start on a very small displacement motorcycle since the class had basically qualified me to drive around in a parking lot. That’s not a bad reflection on the class, it does a great job of teaching you everything you need to know about a motorcycle from the beginning. Before I went to the class I didn’t even know how to start one, I didn’t know how to shift, I didn’t know how the clutch responded, I didn’t know a friction zone from a freak show. The class is an excellent beginning introduction and confidence builder. It does a good job of warning you of the dangers enough so that you can take them seriously when you do get out on the road.
But nothing is a substitute for actual traffic experience. I think it would have been foolish to leave that class and go out and buy a 1000cc bike.
A funny thing happens when you tell your friends you’re shopping for a motorcycle – they start shopping vicariously through you. I had guys recommending 1200cc Harleys, an FZ9, and all kinds of crazy stuff that I really don’t think would be appropriate for someone who had never driven over 20 miles an hour or above second gear.
I ended up settling on a 250cc Suzuki – The exact same bike I was using in the class – and have been having a good time driving around town, gently staying out of peoples’ way and watching out for left-turners of all types. I’ve owned it right at two weeks now and have about 250 miles under my belt right now, less than 1% of most of the people I know who ride bikes.
But I’m going on an adventure!