Preparing for summer

We are at the middle of the winter here in New Zealand and many of us, apart from the occasional weekend day trips, are preparing for the spring and summer time multi day tours.

It takes time to learn from our own mistakes, or from other other people’s mistakes, and plan and prepare more or less perfectly for the “big” summer trip.

I have collected a few ideas what worked for me. I hope these can help you as well.

  1. Have a packing list for every trip and save it for the future. I am an extreme example, I have all my packing lists back for almost ten years. When I am going to somewhere, I pick the last list from a similar trip and going through on it critically. What did I use from the list? Pack it again. What I did not use? Leave at home this time. Was anything I missed during the trip? Do not forget this time.
    plist1
    Stuff for 4 days

    By know I don’t really need to think much about packing. Most scenarios were played over a few times and packing is brought down to the essential. You can ask, why I am not sharing my list? Simply because everyone are different. What works for me, maybe doesn’t work for you. I am sure, you will figure out things quickly on your own.

    plist2
    Everything from above loaded
  2. Choose the right trip for the motorcycle you have. Yes, you can ride through gavel toads on a Kawasaki ZX10R, but there is a very slim chance, that you will actually enjoy it. Experts say, choose the motorcycle for the most challenging part. If you ride 5000 km and 1000 km is off-road and single track, you are better off with a 600 or 400 cc light dual-purpose motorcycle than a Versys 1000LT. At the same time the opposite is also true. For a 7000 km road trip a 250 cc single cylinder bike is not the best choice. I hear the voices saying, “I did it.” and “Yes, you can.” and it is true, but how much will you en joy it? Do you want to remember, and recall later the struggle from one day to the other, or the joyful riding?
    right
    The right motorcycle for the right trip. (everide.org)

    Many of us are having one motorcycle only and we don’t want or can’t change it frequently. I am certainly belonging to this group, and I rather plan my own trips to suit me and my ride than follow others’ path.

  3. Wrong riding gear. I am talking about “adventure riding” only now. Leathers are great on the track or on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but on a week long trip it is questionable. Here in New Zealand, you need to be prepared to all 3 seasons (1), in every season. Make sure your gear is layered and have sufficient protection all times.
    bad
    Atrocious situation, atrocious riding gear

    What works for me is a textile jacket with removable lining or a thermal jacket, MX body armor, long sleeve t-shirt or turtle-neck, t-shirt and a rain jacket what I can pull over all of this. These layers can be combined and changed easily even at the middle of a trip.

  4. Gadget mania. Do not take too much gadgets withbetween you. Multitude of special containers and boxes, phone, tablet, laptop, compact camera, SLR camera, action camera, 8 different charger, drone, etc. Are you going to use all these enough frequently to worth carry it? I see the point in using a drone at a certain spectacular spot, but worth it carrying it for 7 days? Do you really need a laptop and tablet?
    overload
    Gadget overload

    You are supposed to be busy with riding and at the end of the day enjoying the location and/or nature and not doing business, editing videos and photos. For me a smartphone is enough. Anyway, very likely on the country side you have no phone coverage and Internet connection on most places. On the other hand, if you can’t leave work behind for a few days or even for a couple of weeks, don’t go. Your mind will be constantly occupied with thoughts around your work, and can take away not just the pleasure of riding, but also present a safety concern if you are not turning 100% of your attention to the betweenbetweenriding on the road.

  5. Connected to point 4, too much weight. A lot of small things will come together to a humongous weight at the end. Be practical. On an adventure ride, it is really matter if you need to lift a 250 kg motorcycle, or one which weights “just” 200 kg. An overloaded motorcycle will be only “pain under your backside”. You don’t need 3 pots and 2 pans.
    pan-lid
    Deep pan with a lid – universal

    One deep pan with a lid and a metal mug always served me perfectly. Be critical of your gear. There are very few things what is a must to carry. The rest will be maybe missed, but you can go on without it. Since you have your packing list, you can add the dearly missed stuff to the packing list of the next trip.

  6. Riding too much or too little in one day. It is hard to tell how much you should ride one day. It is depending on the rider and the road/terrain you travelling through. Know your limits, have frequent breaks and you will figure out what works for you. A good idea to keep your riding plan flexible as possible. If you need to rush to catch a plane, train or ferry, your holiday will turn into a crazy cannonball run.

(1) If I want to be honest, the NZ weather is going around an early spring – summer – late autumn, early spring again cycle, at most of the North Island.

OsmAnd tutorial

In connection with our March ride, one of the recommended GPS mapping applications was OsmAnd. On the May ride, I have been asked if we can get it working instantly on a phone for the ride. Since I am using a Garmin 62s for a long time now, I am out of touch with the changes of OsmAnd and embarrassingly, I could not get the downloaded GPX file loaded in the map on the spot.

Finally I had the time and could put together a quick tutorial on how to use OsmAnd on our ride. So here we go….

  1. First step is to download and install OsmAnd from Google Play or Apple App Store. After starting the application, you need to download the country specific map to the phone. The map is about 170-200MB, so better to get it done when you are connected to a Wi-Fi network.
    010.pngI like OsmAnd because it is a good quality software, free to use (including the maps)  and can work off-line, without phone or data coverage, relaying only on the built in GPS in the phone. You even can switch the phone to flight mode to save battery power by disabling cellular and data connection.
  2. Once you have OsmAnd running and you have the map, go to the KLR Ramblers website and download the GPX file for the ride.
  3. Start OsmAnd, touch the menu sign.
    020
  4. In the menu, select My Places.
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  5. In  “My Tracks” select the “+” sign and find the GPX file you just downloaded.
    040
  6. When the GPX file is loaded, it will be found in the My Tracks list and you are good to jump to the next step.
    Go back to the main screen and touch the “Navigation” symbol.
    050
  7. In the navigation option, select the “Settings” sign.
    060
  8. Roll down to the “GPX Route” option.
    070.png
  9. Touch the “Select GPX” option and you will see the list of GPX routes you have uploaded.
    080
  10. Select the route which you would like to follow, and on the next screen immediately un-select the “Calculate route between points” option.
    Even the most expensive GPS is still unable to read our mind (fortunately), and will take you to places with auto-routing where you did not want to go.
    In my opinion, better to do the research and put your route together by yourself than making extra miles on crowded, boring highways, wasting time and petrol instead of riding on the pleasant tiny gravel roads of the country side.
    090
  11. Going back to the main screen, you will see the route displayed on the map. Remember, a route in a GPS means a series of way-points connected with straight lines to indicate the order you are planning to pass through those points. Here is a post about way-points, routes and tracks and how these are working. You still need to find the way between those points, but all this laid down over a map, it is rather easy.
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On the June ride we have a GPX file with the route only. I made this tutorial for that ride. On other rides we provided the track as well. If you are loading a GPX track into OsmAnd, you will get a couple of different options when you lay it over the map, but I am sure If you got through this tutorial without trouble, you will deal with that successfully as well.

Take care on the road, and see you on out next KLR Ramblers ride.

 

MC mod

There is a mod from Eagle Mike, dubbed as the MC mod. In this mod, the exhaust cam has been advanced with one tooth (counter clockwise). They are claiming 7%-10% torque and horse power increase thanks to this mod and no downsides. No more oil or petrol consumed.

This last statement is a bit strange for me, because you cannot get extra performance out of thin air. This made me curious about what is in the background of this mod technically.

The engine is going through the four strokes as:

  1. Exhaust
  2. Intake
  3. Compression
  4. Combustion

4StrokeEngine_Ortho_3D_Small

Looking at a camshaft, the sequence would be as follows:

  1. The exhaust lobe pushes open the exhaust valve and the piston comes up to push the exhaust out, then starts to close.
  2. The intake starts to open, just as the exhaust is closing, piston goes down, and the intake valve closes.
  3. Then both valves stay closed for the compression and combustion strokes.

This means that the first lobe to come through the rotation will be the exhaust lobe, immediately followed by the intake lobe.

camtiming

Overlap is the point where the exhaust valve is closing, and the intake valve is just opening. To increase overlap, you have to RETARD the EXHAUST, and/or ADVANCE the INTAKE.  To reduce overlap, you have to ADVANCE the EXHAUST, and/or RETARD the INTAKE.

In our case, the MC mod is reducing the overlap between the operation of the exhaust and intake valves. In cam tuning it is known to increase low RPM power, and causing no change or reducing the high RPM power.

From the point of an outsider (me), looks like when the exhaust valve closes earlier, no air/fuel mixture can escape through the exhaust valve and also, maybe, a bit higher pressure will be present in the cylinder when the piston starts to move upwards.

For me, seems that there is no “negative” effect of this mod, because the extra power is earned from saving a bit of air/fuel mixture by not letting it escape through the exhaust valve, but I don’t have real experience in internal combustion engine tuning. If you find my logic faulty, please let me know and we can discuss it and I will update the post accordingly.

Here is a video of guys doing the MC mod.

 

Meet-up

Finally I had the time to process all the pictures from the ride on 08/04/2017 and put it here on the blog. Technically it was not a KLR Ramblers ride, I just tagged along. We had a loads of fun and I am sure, everyone learned something useful there. We did all sorts of exercises like breaking, safe cornering, down-hill, up-hill riding and so on. A big thank you going to Joao for organizing this ride.

Click on the circles for the full size picture.

Skills for fun

“Adventure” or “Dualsport” riding is fun on more than one way.

I would put shopping in the first category because that is the easiest one. Reading different forum posts and websites in the topic and browsing through online stores or stroll down to your local motorcycle stores and picking up gear and gadgets is definitely a fun way to spend time (and money).

In the second category, I would put mods and farkle. Very often these things does not cost much but requires time, tools and a place to apply them. Without some skills in motorcycle mechanics or at least the willingness to learn it on the go, do not get into this category. Changing anything on your motorcycle cannot just improve it, but if it is done on an incorrect way, can make your ride a danger to you and your fellow road users. You must always know, how things supposed to be done and you must get it done on the proper way. If you are in any doubt, please seek professional advice!

The third category on my list is riding and the riding skills. Riding skills are something what you cannot buy, but only earn it with spending time and a great deal of effort on it. Riding skills will improve linearly with the miles and time you spent with riding. Money or technology cannot make up for the missing experience. The only way to build-up skills faster is spending time with practicing.

There are a loads of “exercise” what you can do somewhere in a carpark, an empty lot or on the country side.

For some basic ideas on off-road / gravel road motorcycle handling exercises, check out Everide’s short video tutorial. It is filmed brilliantly and covers some very basic skills.

Slightly more theoretical and through is a PDF guide from the Best Rest Products website. David Petersen is covering most area of adventure riding, from the question of “why”, through “what”, and finishing with the “how-to”. I would say it is a must read for every beginner or rider who is not entirely sure in the how.

Click here for the PDF document

Armed with all the knowledge, just team up with one or more of your riding buddies and head out to practice. Believe me, it will be fun with the reward of new skills at the end of the day.

I left the usual warning to the end because I expect it to be obvious for you by now. Don’t go out for practicing alone! If you are committed to your practice, you will drop your bike. This is a fact. Have someone around who can help lift your bike, maybe lift it off from you or get help if any emergency arises.

Art of noise

Don’t worry, I am still writing about motorcycle riding and not taking a side trip to discuss the 80s’ synthpop group “Art of Noise”. :-)

I have always seen motorcycle riders wearing earplugs. For a long time I attributed it to loud exhaust systems, but the real reason to wear ear plugs on the motorcycle is to block out the wind noise.

A good road helmet can be really quiet while adventure and off-road helmets are way much noisier thanks to the design which did not keep the low noise levels and aerodynamics as a priority.

Some research revealed a set of ear plugs being promising, which was narrowed further down due to the very limited selection available on a reasonable price on New Zealand. I am not questioning the superiority of some custom moulded earplugs but the $200+ price for a pair seems excessive even with built in earphones.

After a visit to the local motorcycle shops and the DIY stores nearby, I ended up with three sets of ear plugs.

  • Moldex pocket pack
  • 3M Tekk 25 dB corded
  • DeWalt 33 dB corded
plugs
Moldex, 3M, DeWalt

 

The Moldex is the cheapest in the line-up. $2 for the two pairs in the carry case. These foam plugs does not have any rating on the package. I found the noise reduction performance below my expectations and the foam a tad too hard for me.

Experts recommends not to be exposed to noise louder than 85-90 dB for an extended period of time. Considering the average motorcycle muffler sound being around 90-100dB plus the wind noise, depending on the helmet, I was looking for at least 20-30 dB noise reduction rate (NRR) to stay on the safe side.

The 3M earplugs showing a 25 dB NRR on the packaging, but it was also bearing a sticker saying it meets only 18 dB by New Zealand standards. Since I do not know what is the NZ standard in details and how it is applied on earplugs, I took the 25dB with a pinch of salt and bought this pair. While I  did not like the material and the performance of the Moldex ear plugs, it is absolutely subjective and can be questioned, but the 3M is a total failure for me, not suitable for motorcycle riding. It is way too hard and the core is sticking out too much from the ear, which made it impossible for me to wear under the helmet. It was impossible to insert or take it out from my ear without causing pain. Since the 3M plugs failed at the very first steps of the test, I cannot report on how it is reducing noise. $6.90 was wasted (for one pair), and with this pricing the 3M is the most expensive participant in the test.

The DeWalt earplugs are cost the same as the 3M but you will get two pairs and a carry case. These plugs are made from a very soft memory foam which gives a high level of comfort. I  cannot complain about any discomfort after wearing these for an extended period of time. The advertised 33 dB NRR did sound correct by my subjective judgement. It made the “high speed” ride in the off-road helmet pleasant. It took a bit of time to get used to the less engine/road noise but I could adjust quickly. On the other side, the gravel ride was way less enjoyable with the ear plugs. On longer gravel rides, I will take out these ear plugs since there is not much wind/engine noise around 50-60 km/h and the feedback on the ride, in the form of the noise from the motorcycle, the tyres and the road, is important for me. Another plus for me is the plastic cord connecting the ear plugs. It gives confidence to me to push in the plugs far as I can into the ear canal for maximal performance without the fear of not being able to get it out again without medical help. The cord also protecting these ear plugs from being easily lost or the need to stuff it into pockets with questionable cleanness when you stop for a short break or a pit stop for petrol.

As the result of this limited and very subjective test, I can recommends the “RADIANS DeWalt DPG65 BELL SHAPE CORDED DISPOSABLE FOAM EARPLUGS” for motorcycle riding.

winner
The winner

Route logging

Lately we have been talking about GPS devices, GPX files and route logging a lot. All these are easy if you have a GPS device, but what if you don’t?

Smartphones are ubiquitous these day and spending a little effort on it, you can find an application for free which suits your needs and runs well on your device.

mobnav

In my experience the following three applications are doing a good job and I can recommend you to try it. Although, I haven’t used these for a while, so you will need to test, if all the features you want is still present and working in these applications.

osmAnd
http://osmand.net/

osmand

My personal favourite. It did everything what I wanted. Offline maps, track logging, route planning, navigating with GPX files, exporting tracks to GPX files. Available for Android and iOS, free.

Locus Map
http://www.locusmap.eu/

locus

Very similar to osmAnd, but uses free topographic maps. Having offline maps in this application is a bit more complicated than in osmAnd, but still easy to deal with it. Available for Android, free.

Runtastic
https://www.runtastic.com/

runtastic

Made primarily for running, but worked well for me. This is a fitness tracking and stats application, but will work just fine for you on the motorcycle. Available for Android and iOS, free.

There are still ample time to download and try these applications before the March ride to make sure you can have the GPX track logs to send me for the lucky draw after the ride.