Saturday, May 17, 2014

Best donuts

Out for a ride in the Almonte area? For a special treat, seek out the delicious donuts at Healthy Food Technologies, located in a little building on Industrial Ave. behind the Your Independent Grocer. HFT has invented a cooking process and recipes that bring back an authentic old-time donut taste but with much less fat than typical mass-produced donuts from your local chain. The catch is that they only sell donuts on Fridays and the occasional Saturday. Well worth the trip for a dozen.

As a bonus, owner Ed Atwell is an accomplished dual sport and MX rider, and long-time riding buddy of Woody at Woody's Cycles near Perth.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Who fits the Alpinestars Bionic 2 jacket?

After buying a Leatt neck brace a few months ago it was frustrating to discover that it doesn't work with the Fox Titan jacket that I use. The Titan fits me really well, is comfortable, gives CE-1 arm protection and CE-2 back protection, and replaces the armour in my outer jacket. But the design of the chest protector interferes with the front support of the Leatt, so different armour is needed.

Scouring various internet forums uncovered the Alpinestars Bionic 2 as one of the few jackets that works with a neckbrace and offers both CE-1 and CE-2 protection like the Fox Titan. So I ordered an XL. Although I heard they fit tight, I was at the bottom of the XL sizing range according to the measurements indicated by Alpinestars.

Now, I'm not a big guy--6'-1" and about 190 lbs--but there's no frickin' way I could fit into that XL. The arms were painfully tight, the stitching was stretched to the point of ripping, and I lost sensation in my hands after about a minute. Also, the chest was weirdly shaped and seemed to leave half my torso exposed. Riding was out of the question. The 2XL--largest size offered--was equally bizarre. The chest protector didn't cover my lower ribs, the shoulders were painfully tight and dug in to my arms, and the arms were still numb-inducing tight through most of the length although the wrists were floppy. I didn't even bother trying it with the Leatt. I really wanted to like the Bionic 2, but there's no way I could get it to fit. Unless mine were labelled incorrectly (didn't seem to be the case) it's really puzzling who it's designed for.

Now I'm back to square one looking for a jacket. The Clover Crossover would likely be a strong contender if budget allowed.

Tubliss update

A few months ago I converted my front and rear wheels to the Tubliss system to eliminate the need for inner tubes. Although I haven't had much time to ride (and the weather hasn't exactly cooperated either), so far the system seems to be working well.

One issue has been balancing the wheels. There was a lot of vibration with the bare Tubliss setup, particularly in the front. Stick-on wheels weights did little to help, and there's not much of a flat space on the WR250R rims for them anyway. So I ordered an additional two 30g spoke weights for the front. Combined with most of a bottle of Slime, this seems to dynamically balance the front  OK, although testing with the wheel off the bike still shows the Tubliss valves area to be heavy. It's frustrating, because I don't want to clamp a whole bunch of weights to my wheels. Haven't attempted to balance the rear. I don't notice any rear vibration at the sedate 80-90 km/hr max that I typically ride.

Tire and inner liner pressure has held up remarkably well from week to week, losing nothing noticeable from the tire and only a pound or two from the 100psi liner. That's pretty impressive considering my road bicycle tires (which normally run around 100-120 psi) lose far more than that. There's a bit of Slime leaking out from around the valves, but only a drop or two. It's probably just some of the juice I squirted in there while mounting the tires.

Still keeping my rides close to home for now until I can be sure the Tubliss was mounted correctly and is reliable.

Update July 21, 2014: Tubliss removed.

Fenix F4 Hyper LED lights review and installation on WR250R

After looking at about a dozen options for LED driving lights, the Fenix F4 from Motorcycle Innovations seemed to offer the best combination of quality, features, and price. They appear to be custom units made exclusively for this vendor, as I wasn't able to find them anywhere else although they did look similar to another brand. (Probably made in the same factory in China.)

New to the Fenix F4 lineup (as of April 2014) is the "Hyper" option, which incorporates four 10W (edit: not 5W!) Cree LEDs at 3300 lumens per head, compared to 2200 lumens per head for the regular F4's. I ordered the Hyper floods (40 degree). If you doubt their intensity, having just tested these babies I can assure you their ample light will punch a large, smoking hole through your body if you accidentally walk in front of them.

Of course, this much light is just insanity unless you're alone on a backroad somewhere. So I also ordered a Skene IQ-175 light controller. The Skene allows you to keep your LED lights on all the time for conspicuity, with up to three programmable light levels (pre-set to 10/20/50% --these values work fine for me) while your main light is on low-beam. Then, when you switch on your high beam, the Skene switches the LED lights to run 100%. All you need to do is rig the Skene with an auxiliary three-position switch to selecting the low-beam intensity, and the rest is done automatically using your existing high beam switch.

Out of the box the F4s are much larger and heavier than I expected. Any thoughts of maybe rigging one pod on my mountain bike were dashed. It wasn't even clear where to mount them on my WR250R. The original plan was to mount them near the fork reflectors, but there's no way the pods would clear the space inside the shrouds when turning the bars. It's also a vulnerable area for mounting any light. The alternate plan was to see if I could rig a mount on the Barkbusters somehow, but it wasn't clear if that would achieve a good lighting angle to the road.

As it turns out, mounting the pods to the Barkbuster bolt hole is the perfect solution and dead simple. Just replace the Barkbuster mounting bolt with a stainless M8-30mm hex head and stainless fender washer, and you can run right through the F4 mount and into the Barkbuster mount. Fortuitously, the vertical angle for the lights is almost perfectly achieved at the best angle for the hand guards. I haven't experimented with lateral angles yet, so I left them about a degree or two walleyed. The fender washer and drop of blue Loctite are more than enough to keep the lights from rotating.

See how neatly that pod connects to the Barkbuster?

Once the lights are mounted, you need to sort out the electrical. The F4s come with a relayed wiring kit that will get you lit in minutes but was too bulky and redundant given the Skene and my Eastern Beaver switched power module. So I opted for making a custom harness using bits cut from the supplied harness.

Wires. Wires everywhere:

The first step is to mount the Skene. It fits perfectly out of the way on the bottom of the WR's headlight shroud and is held in place with two zip ties. Also, drill a small hole as shown so you can pass a zip-tie through later to hold the wiring in place and act as a strain relief. I opted to run the power down the left side of the bike frame, since it's easier to feed the wires on this side. Whichever side you choose, think about where your wires end up so you can orient the parts the right way for zip-tieing. (Edit: the wires for the Skene are pretty skinny. They should really up the gauge to something more appropriate for a few amps draw.)

Here's the hole for the zip tie:

Half of the harness in place:

All my connections were twisted, soldered, an covered in heat-shrink tubing. Make sure there's enough give in everything so it's easy to pop off the headlight assembly.

The white wire sticking up from below is the highbeam connection for the Skene. I added a bullet connector so I wouldn't need to disconnect the wire tap. The weird looking wiring assembly above the pigtail is my headlight relay (also from Eastern Beaver), mounted on a custom bracket. 

The barswitch takes three wires, including +12V and Ground. I just spliced these off my harness. Light gauge wire is fine since it's only carrying signal, not LED current. Motorcycle Innovations sells the switch mount and matching SPDT Centre Off switch. The supplied crimp-on blade connectors are crap though and I had to solder the wires to them to get a good connection.

Here's where the three-position switch (red) goes. The switch holder has an extra switch hole which I will find a use for some time. 

It's a good idea to cover all wiring subject to mechanical wear in protective tubing. I found a deal on 4' lengths of heat-shrink tubing which were perfect. Also, ensure you have enough slack in the right places to allow your bars to turn fully without catching or pulling the wiring. As you can see here, the wiring tucks away quite nicely.

 And these are the leftover bits from the supplied wiring harness.

Everything worked perfectly the first time I fired up the bike. I haven't had a chance to ride at night yet, although a quick night test in the driveway shows how formidable the F4's are. Even in daytime at 10% they create a much more noticeable presence for my small bike. And it's nice having the Death Star on call to flash drivers who are about to cut you off.

Big thanks to Matt Dynes at Motorcycle Innovations who patiently answered all my emailed questions.

Update June 19, 2014

Night-riding with these lights is awesome. No problem seeing the deer and other critters. While I don't ride fast at night (can't anyway on my little WR), having these lights sure removes the stress of feeling the need to hurry before the sun goes down. The stock headlight is a joke by comparison.

Update June 30, 2014

Here's a pic of the F4's on high at dusk in the woods, shot with my iPhone. It was fairly gloomy in there. The pool of light on the ground doesn't really do justice to the broad wash of light these things project. (For comparison, the stock highbeam barely illuminates the foliage.) The colour temperature of the LEDs is quite white, and doesn't detract from my night vision or depth perception like older LED tech with more of a blue cast does.

There's hundreds of kilometers of riding like this in my area. Lots of fun, and having the lights makes it so much more accessible.

Update October 5, 2014

Lots of bumpy kilometres in wet, cold, and hot conditions this year--and the lights have worked flawlessly.