Sunday, December 14, 2014

Highway Dirt Bikes DS Rallye Fairing Lite

Been fitting the pieces together and tinkering with a few other things.  No rush since the weather is shitty these days. Slow but steady progress.

I still have yet to decide what I'll do for lights.  As much as I'd like to get a pair of Cylops Optimus Long Range LED lights with Euro beam lens filters, or maybe Rigid D2's, I really don't want to attract the attention of the cops. To that end, I've decided to search for a lighting solution that is compliant with European standards.

One light I'm considering is this one made by Shin Yo. It's a single projector beam light that does double duty as a low and high beam, and it even has the silly parking light built in. Cheap, and I don't expect it produces awesome light...but for farting around the city, it's not likely to get me in trouble with the law. That would leave the other hole in the fairing available for something like a Cyclops -- which I would use when I'm not in the city. Just ideas at this point in time. Still looking.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Winter farlking

Winter's on the way! Time to stock up on farkles to keep me busy during the cold weather. Look what arrived in the mail:

Highway Dirt Bikes kit:
∙  Ultimate Hand Guards
∙ SXdx top clamp with holes for
2 push-button switches and
4 red LED indicators
top clamp bolt pattern is 90mmx38/40mm
∙ 2 1/8" lower clamps
∙ Computer/dash mount guard
∙ Rallye Lite DS fairing kit
∙ The whole package was $490 USD
+ $45 for shipping to Germany

Motio Pro oil filter magnets to trap metallic debris in the oil filters
Motion Pro RimShields II to help protect the rims from nicks 
and scratches when changing tires

∙ Canyon Dancer tie-down hooks 
fasten them to the fork clamps for when you need to strap the bike down

∙ Atlas neck brace
I saw one of these in a store about a year ago, and I liked it 
much better than the popular Leatt and Alpinestars offerings.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Helmet refresh, and shaved melons

Freshening up the helmet interior

As much as I really like my new Shoei GT-Air, I still consider my favourite helmet to be my 4 year old Shoei Hornet DS (size L). The GT-Air is great for road use and the Hornet is better for offroad. And while the fit of the GT-Air is excellent, the Hornet fits my head even better. It's not as quiet, or as light, but it just fits my big melon like a glove.

I've worn the Hornet for a million miles and I love it. But I've also sweated in it... a lot. The foam liner material and cheek pads are pretty disgusting. I have removed and washed the all of the interior pieces several times, but even still -- this helmet is full of stink.  The flip-up visor was also scuffed in a few places, so I recently replaced it also.

For  $122 USD, I was able to pretty much refurbish the entire helmet. Looking back, I should have bought the PinLock shield, but I didn't know a PinLock model was available until it was too late.

  • clear face shield/visor (C-49)    $50
  • cheek pads(35mm thick)          $40
  • center pad liner (size L)         $32

The packaging / part numbers for the 
center pad liner, and cheek pads

The old cheek pad on the right is compressed, smelly, 
and filled with disgusting bacteria.

New vs. Old

All nice and new again.

Skull cap head liner

I have been shaving my head bald for about 20 years. Because of this, the bare skin of my scalp touches directly against the inside of the helmet, making a perfect environment for transferring germs and bacteria from my sweaty noggin to the helmet liner --.especially in hot weather. To minimize the filthy effect of sweating inside my helmet, I like to wear some sort of cloth layer between my head the the helmet liner -- usually some kind of bandanna, skull cap, hanker-chief or similar cloth. I've always been on the lookout for something specially-made for bald folks to wear under a helmet. After lots of online reading, I ended up at CrownWear.  

I would definitely not recommend this shop. They make a shit product, and their customer service is even shittier than their shit product.  After perusing their website for a while, I bought the Ultra-Thin Comfort Liner.  In reading the description, it sounded exactly like what I've been searching for. I'm not looking to keep my head warm, rather, I want a thin but absorbent and moisture-wicking layer between my scalp and the helmet. They market this item as a helmet liner -- to be worn under a helmet. For this reason, I say it's a shit product. Not so much a reflection of the quality or craftsmanship, but it doesn't take a fucking genius to know that a liner designed to be worn under a helmet should NOT have thick, bulky sewn seams. Now I'm not a seamstress, but for a helmet liner, I would think that the seams --if it must have seams at all--  should be small, flat and not noticeable.

When it arrived in the mail, I was immediately disappointed: the thing is sewn together from 4 panels of thin fabric -- which is fine. The problem is that the seams where the 4 pieces are sewn together are very quite bulky and pronounced. This is going to be a problem if you wear this under a helmet! 

I didn't even bother to try it on. Instead, I emailed the company immediately. Five days later, no response. I wasn't rude, I thought perhaps they sent me the wrong item. I emailed again, still being reasonably polite. No response. My third email may not have been so polite, but again it proved to be another waste of my time. They're not interested in responding because they have my money. Mind you, it's only $17 so it's not like I'll be declaring bankruptcy over this.  I'll just keep looking. I just hate when a company advertises something that is a big fucking lie.

I did eventually try it under my helmet and the result was exactly as I expected:  4 deep grooves carved into my scalp. Fucking awesome!  As a consolation, I tried wearing it inside-out. The grooves it pressed into my scalp were somewhat reduced -- but still completely unacceptable and uncomfortable.

Decent quality cap but definitely 
NOT for wearing under a helmet.

Fuck you, CrownWear !

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Test ride: 2014 KTM 1190 Adventure R

My German riding buddy, Carsten. has a 2011? BMW R1200GS Adventure -- loaded with goodies and upgrades. He's been thinking about a second bike -- something a little lighter and more nimble, one that might be better suited for offroad riding. He's been interested in the KTM 690 Enduro since before we met earlier this summer. He's asked me lots of questions about my 690, and I've had lots of questions about his big GS. Funny how he's got the kind of bike I want, and I've got the kind of bike he wants. But neither of us want to give up our current bikes.

He very recently returned from a 16-day roadtrip around Greece. And with the riding season soon to end, he arranged for a test ride of a 690 Enduro at the local KTM dealer and he invited me to come along. So, this morning we met up at the dealer, and I inquired if they had an 1190 Adventure R available. It was my lucky day. Not so much for Carsten: it happens that the very demo bike he was to be riding had been sold (yesterday). Although the buyer wouldn't be picking it up for a few days, and Carsten had arranged his test drive appointment before the bike was sold, they were still willing to let him test the bike, but naturally, they wanted him to be extremely careful, and they wanted the test ride to be very short.  "Fuck that, I said. Take my 690 and we'll go for a proper test ride." 

I was handed the key and registration papers for the 1190 Adventure R demo model. Carsten hopped on my 690, and we were off.

After having ridden the new liquid-cooled 2014 BMW R1200GS last week, I was eager to try the big KTM for comparison. The BMW was so exquisite -- a truly impressive machine. I can't say enough about how amazing that bike was. So refined, so smooth, so powerful, and so loaded with luxury features.  The BMW is a complete package, and hard to beat.

As we pulled away from the dealer, with Carsten leading the way on my 690, we puttered along slowly for a few minutes, then we got stuck in traffic. To escape, we lane-split and made our way to the front and 10 minutes later we were on quiet rural roads.

The 1190 was incredibly smooth. Maybe not quite as smooth as the BMW, but almost. The fueling is amazing -- spot on accurate. Once we got to the deserted back roads, I gave it generous amounts of throttle. Holy shit, this thing hauls ass. It's shocking how mild mannered it can seem when you're winding your way around busy traffic in the city, but Jeezus Christ, when you crack the throttle it's a whole different animal.

Ergonomics are perfect while sitting. When standing, I found the reach to the bars a little low. Not sure if I would want to increase the bar height, or drop the footpegs a wee bit, but 1/2" would be ideal. I'm just a wee bit less than 6ft tall.

The KTM's suspension is better than that of the BMW -- and the BMW has wicked suspension. Same thing for the brakes. What an outstanding machine.

Overall, the BMW has a more polished feel. It is extremely refined. It scores excellent points in every category. The KTM is close behind, but comes up a little short when you start looking at small stuff.  The BMW has a few features that are very nice, like electronic cruise control and heated grips. Nonetheless, the KTM puts a bigger grin on your face when you whack the right hand grip, which makes up for any shortcomings when compared directly against the BMW. Sounds immature and juvenile, but I don't care. The KTM made me smile and giggle like a little kid (the BMW did too, just not as much).  With that scientific proof [the grin factor] my decision is made. In fact, I'm not even going to waste my time arranging test rides on the other 2 bikes that had been on my short list: the new Suzuki V-Strom 1000, and the Triumph Tiger 800XC. The KTM has the most awesome handling, brakes, and acceleration of anything I have ever ridden on the street. While I didn't ride the BMW on anything but paved roads, I'm quite certain the KTM is far more capable offroad.

I've been contemplating a big adventure bike for quite some time. Reading reviews, perusing forums, watching videos, and the like. I decided a long time ago that when I finally choose the bike I intend to buy, the price tag would not enter into the decision-making process. I don't care how much it costs: I'm going to buy the bike that will put the biggest smile on my face. I'm not getting any younger and I deserve it.

As for Casten, he said he was very impressed with my 690's engine performance and that he enjoyed the bike a lot. I'm not sure how serious he is about buying one, but at least now he has a good idea of what a 690 Enduro feels like to ride. While we only rode a few short Kms of some easy sandy two-track, he noted that the 690 is far more manageable in the dirt than his GS with its loaded Touratech aluminum panniers. 

After the test ride was done, we chatted over coffee and enjoyed 
a very sunny, summer-like day (a real treat considering today is November 1st) 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Test ride: 2014 BMW R1200GS

A few days ago, I arranged for a test ride of a 2014 BMW R1200GS through Riller & Schnauk, my local BMW dealer.  The weather was a cool 8 Celcius (46 F) and quite damp/humid -- a pretty typical morning for late October in Berlin.

They gave me the key to a model from their rental fleet. It had about 9,000 Kms on the odometer, and it was in excellent condition. I went straight to the highway and headed out of town. Within 20 minutes, I had reached a stretch of the autobahn where there are no speed limits. I set the electronic cruise control at 175 Km/h and kept it there for about 10 minutes. Rock solid ride for gobbling up highway miles. Very comfortable, too, although I would make small adjustments to the handlebar position and levers. The stock seat is very comfy, although I suspect the wider ass rest found on the Adventure model is even more plush. I also thought the footpegs were a little close to the seat, with my knees bent a little more than I would like. This would be solved either by raising the seat, or lowering the pegs. I had no trouble to reach both feet flat on the ground, so raising the seat my be the better option.

The new liquid cooled engine is superb: no shortage of power, and the delivery of all 125 ponies is extremely smooth and linear. I didn't fiddle around with the fuel injection mappings. In "normal" mode it was excellent. The brakes: also excellent. Suspension: excellent again.

Overall, this is one exquisite machine. Everything about it was top notch: handling, performance, comfort, build quality. 

Minor annoyances were the heated grips, and also the hand guards.  The heat from the grips was fine, but the diameter of the grips felt small. I would probably consider finding fatter grips. Yes, it's a minor complaint. The hand guards is another minor complaint: they certainly wouldn't provide any protection for the expensive hydraulic clutch/brake control and electronic switch gear in the event of a tip-over, and they don't provide much in the way of wind protection since their surface area is quite small. I'd install a beefy set of aluminum-framed hand guards (à la HighwayDirtBikes). The windscreen is quite functional, and sufficiently adjustable via a large knob on the right side -- although, it would make more sense to have the knob on the left so you don't have to remove your throttle hand while riding. The German mentality when they designed it was probably such that you should not be adjusting it while you are moving anyway.

All in all, this bike is a very sophisticated piece of engineering with an outstandingly refined and precise feel. All of these qualities are reflected in the price tag.

I was gone for a total of 2 1/2 hours, and I returned the bike with 195 Kms added to the odometer. I rode in city traffic, and some 40 minutes or so of modest commuter highway riding, about 30 minutes of missle-cruising autobahn stretches, and probably 45 minutes of twisty rural roads. A very well rounded mix of various riding scenarios.

Over the last few months, I've been thinking a lot about a new GS (among other bikes). The GS has been at the top of my short list, and today's test ride has pretty much sealed it. The likelihood of me putting down a deposit on the new 2015 model is very high, but I'll wait a few weeks before taking the plunge. I may arrange a ride on the KTM 1190 while I'm thinking about it.

A short video from the test ride


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fuel consumption

For the last few weeks, I've been keeping track of my fuel consumption, just for curiosity's sake. Very pleased to report that he 2014 KTM 690 gets terrific fuel economy.

An afternoon of spirited riding on rural paved roads (mostly 5th & 6th gear) with a few occasional Kilometres of two-track forest roads yields very impressive results.

235 kms (146 miles)
8.8 Litres (2.35 US gallons)

= 3.74 L/100 Kms (62.89 mpg)

Now let's compare with fuel consumption in the city. I live in downtown Berlin, and I like to accelerate hard and frequently loft the front tire with a good whack of the throttle. I routinely see results like this:

195 Kms (121 miles)
8.6 Litres (2.27 US gallons)

=  4.4 Litres/100Kms (53.46 mpg)

Those are pretty respectable numbers in my opinion, especially considering I often use a very heavy throttle hand.

The engine is bone stock, and the only modification that has been done which could possibly impact performance and/or fuel consumption is a Wings slip-on muffler. Everything else is original: stock airbox, stock air filter, stock ECU mapping.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall riding

When the weather cooperates --especially on the weekend-- you need to take advantage of it and ride.  23 Celcius and not a cloud in sight today: a great day for a ride. Too bad I don't know any places to ride, and too bad I don't know anyone to ride with. No worries -- a few minutes scouring  BestBikingRoads and I was able to find a route that looked interesting.

The route I chose appeared to be ~250 Kms and looked like it would take me far enough outside the city to feel like I was getting away from it. From downtown where I live, about 40 Kms riding South-East of Berlin to reach the start point of a 175 Km loop made up of rural roads passing through several small towns, villages and farmland.

An unusually nice weather day in mid-October brings everyone outside. There was plenty of traffic, but not excessive. Lots of bikes: cruisers, sportbikes, sport tourers, baggers, and scooters. This loop seems to be very popular among all sorts of bikers. I played with a dude on a Tiger 800 for about 100 Kms: we kept a brisk pace and took turns passing each other, as well as slowpokes. We did get passed by several supersports.

a Garmin GPX track is available here if you're interested.

About 7 or 8 times, I ventured off the road and into the woods. 
Not deep into the woods, just a few hundred yards at a time. Exploring.

Stopped for a few minutes at a wind farm.

OK, well this photo was from a ride last weekend. This was about 
an hour West and a little North of the city.

And here's a boring video I put together, showing the highlights in 2 minutes.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Shoei GT Air - time for a new helmet

Over the years, I have found that only Shoei helmets seem to fit my head properly. I've tried all the brands, all the styles, all the price ranges. This time, I did make a point of trying lots of the European brands that are not popular on the other side of the Atlantic, where I come from. None of them seem to fit my funny shaped head like a Shoei.  I've owned a few other brands over the years but was never very happy with them.

I've been using two helmets lately. Both are a few years old, and both are due for replacement. My Shoei TZ-R was a very bargain, and it has lasted very well. In fact, it still looks awesome from the outside, and the original face shield is still in near perfect shape. The interior liner padding and cheek pads, however, well they're pretty worn and they smell pretty funky.  I wash them regularly, but they are well past the "best before" date. And my Shoei Hornet DS? Same thing. The cost of refurbishing the inside of the helmet is rather pricey, and even after you spend the cash to do that, you've still got an old helmet.

So, I've been looking around, and I found a very good bargain on select models of the Shoei GT Air. It seems that a handful of the solid colour models are being phased out, and prices knocked down. Funny, because the GT Air line has only been around for 2 years.

Everywhere I looked, this helmet was €529. For the same helmet with flashy graphics, €579. That's a lot of coin. How much did I pay?  Well, the giant Louis store just north of Tegel airport had solid colours on for €399 (red, yellow, or silver). To compare with Canadian/American prices, Revzilla has the identical plain silver GT Air for $549 USD right now.

This is a premium helmet with a clear face shield and an integrated Pinlock insert to prevent fogging. This fancy helmet also has built-in, spring-loaded, drop-down sun shades like a fighter pilot's helmet. Way cool.

OK, enough with the keyboard diarrhea, let's get to the point:


  • By far, this is the quietest helmet I have ever worn. It's seriously quiet. Really. Can't emphasize this enough. Well done, Shoei. 
  • The fit is excellent. But this is subjective. It fits my head, and that is key.
  • Ventilation is very good. Not awesome, but very good. There are two intake vents: chin and forehead. There is one exhaust vent at the top, rear of the helmet.
  • The Pinlock visor is awesome. No fogging at all.  I did notice that when I wear my glasses (I don't always wear them as my vision isn't that bad) my glasses fogged up a little one particularly cool morning this week. Note that it was my glasses fogging, not the visor. I removed the chin skirt though, and no more foggy glasses! I may try the chin skirt again as the weather gets colder.
  • The Euro-version of this helmet uses Shoei's quick-release mini-ratchet locking clip mechanism to fasten the chin strap. It's pretty cool in that it's easy to fasten and unfasten. There's a con, though. See next section.


  • The mini-ratchet locking clip mechanism seems to be positioned too far back -- what I mean is that it digs into my throat rather than hugging under my jaw/chin. It's like they mounted the anchor points too far back on the sides of the helmet, so that the buckle is sitting against my Adam's apple. I find I am leaving it adjusted rather loose just so that I can slide it forward to keep from choking me. I think I prefer the old fashioned, tried-and-true long strap with double D-rings. Maybe I'll get used to it eventually.
  • Aside from the comfort issue with the chin strap buckle, I really can't find any real fault with this new helmet. 
  • If I wanted to really nitpick, I might say that the lip for raising the visor is a little small. Pretty minor annoyance. However, the visor itself is very, very good with excellent feel through the movement during opening and closing. Top quality visor all around.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kouba lowering link, Rally Raid shock collar, and other farkles

Some parcels arrived in the mail this week. A box from, and a box from Rally-Raid-Products-UK:

While there were a couple more items in the packages, I only had time today to install the items listed above. The rest will have to wait until next weekend.

Over a beer last evening, I started to think and plan the work required to install these pieces. Since I would need to remove the rear shock to swap out the flimsy aluminium collar for the very beefy stainless steel piece from Rally Raid, and since I was also planning to switch out the suspension lower link for the Kouba unit, I first thought it would be good to remove all of it at once... to gut the entire rear suspension. Then after thinking about it for a while, I figured it might be smarter to do the jobs separately. Probably didn't matter much, but I decided to do the shock collar first, and not remove the lower link until the shock was all done and re-installed.  Once that was done, I then proceeded to remove and swap out the lower linkage. My plan worked out well enough and everything went together nicely. The end result is that the bike sits about 1" lower than before. For my 32" inseam, I'm still on my tippy toes, but not as much as before. I notice the seat is more level now. Previously, the rear of the seat was significantly higher than the middle part of the seat, causing me to slide forward all the time because of the sloped geometry of the seat position. Now the seat feels flat and level, and my feet are touching the ground a little easier. The side stand is noticeably lower, but does not need to be shortened.

The seriously rugged Rally Raid shock collar on the left,
the flimsy OEM collar on the right.

I used these super heavy-duty zip ties to keep the spring 
compressed a little (put them in place before removing the 
original shock collar, while the spring is still compressed). 
This helps to get the spring seat off without too much swearing 
or cuts on your knuckles.

The shock with the new collar and lock ring in place

Now the shock is back together, and the spring is 
compressed a little so I can now cut the zip ties.

OEM linkage and Kouba side-by-side

The 1" lower Kouba link is actually a little longer than 
the OEM linkage but the end result is that the bike sits 1" lower to the ground.

Linkage removed - left side

Linkage removed - right side

I hung the bike from the ceiling using a pair of tie-down straps.

Kouba link installed.

With the suspension mods finished, it was time to swap out the 
temperature sensor switch for the radiator fan. The OEM sensor 
activates the fan at 105 degrees Celsius. This unit from KTMTwins 
causes the fan to kick in at 88 Celcius. Yes, the fan will be on more
 frequently but the engine will run cooler.

The new sensor switch installed.

I used my ninja skills to swap the fan sensor switch in just a 
couple of seconds, but somehow I still managed to lose about 
1/2 cup of engine coolant. No sweat, I had some of this 
$900 a bottle stuff from Motorex.

Rally Raid UK sells a bolt upgrade kit for securing the fuel injector. 
£11.34 (nearly $20 USD) is pretty steep for two little metric bolts and 
two aluminium spacers but I definitely have more confidence in this hardware 
that the OEM crap. Fortunately my bike is practically new and I didn't have 
any real trouble removing the Philips head bolts. If the bike was old and dirty, 
you'd easily muck up the heads of those cheap bolts and you'd have a nice time 
trying to get them out.  I could feel them getting hacked  up even using my good 
quality screwdriver. Soft metal Philips-head junk.  The Rally Raid pieces are nice 
quality. Piece of mind if I ever need to remove the injector.

The injector held in place with the cheap OEM Philips-head bolts

Injector removed

New sturdy hex bolts holding the injector in place now. 
The aluminium sleeves just slide down inside for a perfect fit.

***** OBSERVATIONS:  I'm no mechanic but I have wrenched on bikes for ~35 years. While I do love this bike and I really admire all of the technology that makes it what it is, I can't help but say nasty things about the fucking engineers who designed this bike. What I'm saying is that it's not the easiest bike to work on.  In order to remove the shock, you need to practically strip the whole bike down to the bear frame. First the rear luggage rack, then the rear fender, the seat, side panels, voltage regulator, the airbox (yes, the fucking airbox on the 2014 model must be removed before you can pivot the fuel tank upward and out of the way), lower fuel tank mount, muffler.  And that's just to get the damn shock removed. For fuck's sakes...  It's times like this that I really miss having my trusty old Suzuki DR650. That bike truly was an easy machine to work on. It's a good thing that I actually enjoy working on motorcycles -- almost as much as I enjoy riding them. I like hanging out in the garage with a cold beer and tinkering late into the evening hours. Relaxes me after a long week in the office. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Profill fuel filter sock

Cheap insurance to protect against dirt in the fuel injection system is to make sure you've got good filtration. I've always thought having one of those sock filters would be a good way to catch any debris or other shit that might come from the underground storage tanks at the gas station, or other ways crap can find its way into your tank.  As I was filling my DR650 one day a few years ago, a clump of mud fell from the visor of my helmet into the fuel tank. Nice.

Anyway, for $30 plus a couple more bucks for shipping, I ordered one from from Profill-Australia: Specifically, I bought part # MK3 KTM0002 which states that it fits "under" the billet aluminum filler neck that they sell. I have a similar aftermarket filler neck (mine is made by CJ Designs) but it basically mounts the same so I figured it should work. This would not work if you are still using the junk OEM fuel cap. Throw that shit away.

Just under 2 weeks to arrive in the mail. Not bad considering it traveled 1/2 way around the world.

Installation was pretty simple: I removed my aftermarket fuel filler neck, dropped the sock down into the tank, and re-installed the filler neck. The plastic collar around the sock wiggles around a small amount but it can't fall inside the tank, so there's no danger of going anywhere. Total installation time: 5 minutes. 


The next day, I learned that I had grossly underestimated the annoyance factor in the extra time required to fill the fuel tank. Holy fuck! Ten minutes to get 10 litres into the tank. If I try to squeeze the gas pump nozzle to flow any more than a small dribble, not even a trickle, the result is gasoline spilling everywhere. I expected it to be slow -- but it's beyond ridiculous. Filling up using an eye dropper would be faster. That being said, I do realize I'm whining about first world problems. I'll have to accept extra time at the gas station to keep the fuel system clean.

This arrived in a small bubble-wrap envelope. 
Fabric looks and feels like sating or silk.

Here's my aftermarket filler neck, made by CJ Designs, 
with Acerbis screw cap.

Here I removed the filler neck, and dropped the sock inside the tank. 
The plastic collar on the sock prevents it from falling inside the tank.

Now the filler neck has been re-installed. The sock is sandwiched 
between the top flange of the fuel tank and the billet filler neck.