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.

 

Putting numbers behind the “Whoaaa!”

Just a quick follow up to the previous post. I did measure the difference between the stock light bulb and the Narva +50 Longer Life, much as the limitations of a mobile phone allows it.

ilum.png
Picture is from advrider.com and not related to my testing.

 

The stock bulb measured at four meters distance on the brightest spot as 2350 lux, while the Narva +50 Longer Life measured as 3010 lux. Finally the numbers are showing +30% (with a bit of a round-up) brightness for the Narva bulb.

Always take numbers and measurements from manufacturers with a pinch of salt.

Let There Be Light

A burn out light bulb made me think about the lights on my KLR. There are two main points when lights and the electric system coming into the subject.

Saving energy for other devices and see and be seen better.

Practically the electric system of every vehicle consist of three main parts.

  1. A generator
  2. A storage device (battery)
  3. A control system to provide consistent voltage for the system

To minimise the use of electricity is a generally good idea. Lights and gadgets can run longer when the engine is not running and more gadget can be powered. I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of replacing the headlights with LED bars or such to save energy yet. Fortunately the KLR charging system is providing plenty of power in the stock setup.

nar2

I first changed the headlights. The daytime/running light has been replaced with a Narva Plus 50 Longer Life and the high beam with a Narva Plus 100. Amazing results! Much better visibility during daytime and after dark with the high beam on, the whole countryside looks like being lit up.

nar1

At the same time, I need to mention, as the brightness increases the lifespan of the bulb is shortens. The stock headlight bulb lasted for two years and the Narva +50 Longer Life could take the beating on the gravel roads for one year only. There is no problem with the Narva Plus 100, but thanks to the stronger daytime light, I don’t use the high beam that much anymore.

phi1

I could lay my hands on a Philips X-tremeVision LED tail/break light during the Christmas Holidays. The main problem with the cheap Chinese made retrofit LED lights is the heat. Those lights can become very hot and cause some damage to the mirror or the housing of the bulb. There is no such problem with the Philips LED. At first look it is evident, the engineers at Philips put a really good effort into the development and design into this LED bulb. The massive design and the large heat sinks will make sure, your motorcycle will not melt. As I mentioned it is a retrofit LED light, so you can just pop-out the old incandescent bulb and pop-in the Philips.

According to my limited testing, the running/tail light is almost twice as bright than the stock, while the break light is 1.5 times brighter than the original. Is the mission completed? I am not 100 percent happy. While both state of the tail/brake light are significantly brighter, the difference between the running light and the brake light is not keeping up with the increased power of the running light. But there is nothing to worry. My KLR just passed the WoF this week with flying colours, and the inspector assured me not just everything are within the legal limits but definitely bright and safe.

phi2

Next round of the revamp of the lighting would be the indicators, but I did not get into this trouble.

The indicator flasher unit is sensitive to the resistance of the light bulbs and changing the lights to LED means, you need to change the flasher unit as well. It is further complicated on the KLR, because the resistance of the indicator light bulbs are counted in into the indicator feedback light operation as well.

The LED bulbs are passing through not just too much current, but can operate on a way less power. It means, the original idea to separate the two indicator circuit with the help of the resistance of the light bulbs is eliminated, and does not matter which direction do you indicating, all four indicator will flash. You will need to fit two diodes into the wiring to make sure, stray electricity does not go into the wrong direction. This is way too much hacking for me, and decided to leave the indicators alone for now.

The below diagram suggest a solution to this four ways indicator light problem.

indi1

 

 

 

Lost and found (Part 2)

In the first part, I was writing about, how can you be found if you are lost somehow. In the second part I would like to write about what I am doing to avoid being lost.

Back in 2013 I was looking for a GPS navigation unit to use on my motorcycle. Since my budget was limited, I wanted a unit which can be used on the motorcycle and, at the same time, suitable for hiking as well. After some “research” the Garming GPSMAP 62s got into my basket.

62s

It turned out to be a very good choice.

  • It is compact, easy to find a place to mount it on the motorcycle and can be carried in a pocket on your cargo pants or on the backpack, but still enough large to read it when mounted on the handlebar. There are a huge variety of mounting hardware and solutions for the 62s.
  • It has a good battery life. The 62s can last for 12 hours on rechargeable AA batteries with the screen on all the time. If you set a timeout for the screen it can last much longer. I love the AA battery option. You can just swap teh batteries to new ones on the middle of novhere if needed. It is much more difficult if a built in battery runs out of juice and the unit is not wired to the electrical system on the motorcycle.
  • It doesn’t have a touch screen. Personally I don’t like touch screens. On a well designed user interface, you can get everything done easily with four direction and one enter/select button. The 62s has more buttons, but the design of the user interface meets my expectations. The buttons are relatively small, but still easy to handle, even with winter riding gloves on.
  • The screen isn’t the highest resolution, but you don’t need full HD picture to read out way point information, distance or compass heading. The screen also easy to read under direct sunlight.
  • One thing what I like the most in it, it just does the job you set on it to do. Although it helps you to navigate from A to B, it does not try to be smarty pants and not telling you all the time what you should do.
  • Very easy to import and export data from/to the device

Before rides, I always put together a route or just set a few way points what I want to visit on my trip. I am getting this done with QMapShack. I am not following these routes dot-by-dot most of the time. A routable full New Zealand map helps me to navigate even if I am off the planned track. A good quality and free map for Garmin GPS devices can be downloaded from the website of the NZ Open GPS Project. This map is updated roughly once every month which keeps it well ahead of commercial products.

Once you have a GPS unit and a map, the next important thing is how do you configure your device and the screen. I am sure we could argue or have very long discussions on the setups, but let me just show you, how do I use it most of the time. I am not saying this is the best way to use your Garmin, but this works the best for me.

Being an older fella and coming from the world of road books, I prefer a road book like setup.

62sscreen

On the top left corner of the screen there is the distance to the next way point. Right to it is a pointer, which is pointing to the direction of the next way point. The second row starts with the name of the next way point and the fourth field is showing an estimated travel time to the way point. The remaining space on the screen is used in the same fashion as a Tulip diagram.

If I am in the hurry or need to get somewhere in the city, the auto routing function still can be useful. If you let the GPSMAP 62s to do the thinking, it will show additional instructions on navigation at the top of the screen, just like on the above screenshot.

The Garmin GPSMAP 62s has a loads of options and data fields to customize the screen or create completely new ones.

What is my verdict on the Garmin GPSMAP 62s? I love it. But keep in mind, I got it almost 3 years ago and there are so many new GPS navigation units out there, and some designed specifically for motorcycle “adventure” riding. Very likely today I would chose something else, but I have no idea what. Fortunately the 62s is still serving me well and I hope, there will be no need to look for a new unit for a long time.

 

 

Lost and found (Part 1)

When you are riding a motorcycle alone and on the back country roads most of the times, better if you make sure, you can call for help or signal someone in any kind of emergency.

New Zealand is a fairly big country with many uninhabited remote parts. When you are out on the sea, you still can get good mobile phone coverage a few km away from the shore.

coverage

Inland it is a completely different story. Thanks to the grassy hills, valleys and mountains everywhere, technically very challenging to make not just good but any mobile phone coverage inland. Since some areas are uninhabited, as I mentioned it above, there is even not an try to give mobile coverage at some places.

coverage-inland

So, how do you will call for help or just let your loved ones know everything is OK when you are riding in those areas?

After some research, for me, the Spot service seemed to have the best service/performance/price ratio.

The below video is nicely summarize the features of the Spot Gen3  satellite messenger.

So far not just I am happy with my Spot satellite messenger, but more importantly my loved ones too. This is a highly recommended “gadget” if you are, just like me, riding remote gravel roads alone.