Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Resistance is Futile (if < 1 ohm)

I have been huddled away in the garage playing electrical engineer the past couple of weeks. Although the Tiger came with many an aftermarket farkle it did not come with heated grips and of course, we all know that once you have heated grips that this would not do. It started with a discussion on the forum regarding heated grips, what works what doesn't. I have Hot Grips on the America, which heat well enough but they lack any sort of grip, padding or comfort. These are very hard plastic, ugly and expensive; I was up to $150 for the grips, the relay and switch. I would not recommend these nor buy again.

I installed the SPI heated elements on Trobairitz's TU250. These came highly recommended, most Google searches for anything remotely related to motorcycle electrics leads you to Tbolt's page. Don't believe me? Try it, and if you're going to steal photos from online you may as well take hers.

I personally haven't ridden the TU since installing these but I understand they do work well. The element kit is quite inexpensive, although I replaced the big old switch for the Radio Shack micro switch, I still came in under $40. We even mounted a set on Rick's bike.

Knowing I'd be riding off road and wanted better grip and padding than the stock grips could offer, discussion on the forum got heated and I was reluctant to dish out another small fortune for the crappy Hot Grips I put on the America.

Amongst our group we all value and respect Daren's opinion and several of us heeded his recommendation of the Oxford Sport Grips he installed on his beloved Misty.

I think there are four of us that bought and installed these grips including Josh and Erik on either side of Daren in the photo above, myself and Bluekat.

What sold me was the aggressive grip...

(online photo)

and the control module, all for just under $80.

(online photo)

Install is easy peasy, hook them directly up to the battery and you're good to go, the rest is plug and play. Unless you're me, then you have to make things difficult.
The Tiger has an accessory plug behind the fairing for heated grips, I'll just hook them up to that and I won't have to fish the wires under the tank to the battery. Easy enough, there are three wires to the plug: ground, constant power and switched power. Although the module will shut off if the battery drops below 11.4 volts I thought it'd still be nice to have them wired to the switched power. A Sunday afternoon later I was all wired, or so I thought. My Monday morning commute to work had the grips shutting off at idle whenever I was stopped at an intersection. This can't be right.

I was back in the garage taking off the fairing and dragging out the multi-meter. Now I know just enough about electricity not to shock myself and as long as I stand upstream it all flows downhill, right? Hmmm, ohms, amps, volts, resistance...can't be that hard.

I discovered that the switched power I hooked into was also stepped down, a resistor perhaps, probably the low power wire for the factory grips, but I figured it out only after I went roundy round consulting forums and Google trying to see if it was the battery, stator or regulator/rectifier causing the problem. An evening shot, I wired into the constant power and called it a night still fretting over the charging system.

I Googled motorcycle voltage monitor and who's site should appear? It's scary, I swear she owns Google stock.

Blatantly stolen from Bolty.net

Now I had another electrical farkle on order...this can't be good.

That night I was thinking, the previous owner only put 1000 miles on the bike in 3 years, maybe the battery is shot? Rolling the bike out of the garage the next morning confirmed my suspicions, good thing I had another bike to ride.

That evening we ran up to Salem and I bought a new battery with a lifetime warranty, if I was going to cook a $90 battery due to a bad charging system I was going to protect my investment.

The next day the bike seemed to run better and with a new battery, the grips worked, I was happy.

I should have left it at that....but noooooo, the voltage monitor arrived and I still had to hook it up to be sure that everything on the bike is doing what its supposed to be doing at any given moment.

Back to the garage again, off comes the fairing, a tap into power and a tap into ground, test, all is good, the new battery is in and another evening is shot.

Did you know that when a brake light is not lit, it makes a fantastic ground? However, when you leave for work the next morning and touch the brakes it causes the voltage monitor to dance all pretty colors. This will drive a person completely bonkers after a 13 mile commute.

Another evening of removing and reinstalling the fairing I had it hooked up, solid ground, ready to go...

I did mention I knew just enough about electricity to get myself in trouble and the next morning the voltage monitor was dancing pretty colors again. I pulled over and pulled a piece of electrical tape from my visor (makes a great sun visor) and taped over the light, I'll fix it when I get home.

I took inventory of my leftover electrical supplies then went to Radio Shack and bought a 30 amp relay, a distribution block, some wire then used a 20 amp inline fuse and a jumper strip I had at home to wire everything correctly.. I used Canyon Chasers website as a reference guide to wire everything up, but if you prefer, Google "motorcycle distribution block", evidently Tbolt has a pretty good write up.

In the end, the grips work, the monitor light stays green above 2k rpm, turns red at idle, flashes red at idle if the heated grips are on and then back to green at speed. The glare from the little LED light is terribly distracting but a fresh piece of electrical tape solved that problem. Sometimes I'd just rather not know, besides, I have AMA roadside assistance if need be.

Note to self: If I ever need to wire an electrical farkle again, call Stacy first.


Friday, October 15, 2010


I post a comment on my blog and my captcha word verification is this:

Will someone please tell me how he does that?


Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Tiger...offroad

Wednesday night was Bike Night and mutterings of an off road ride were made near the end of the table. There was talk about tires, gravel roads, routes and when was I going to get the Tiger dirty?
Saturday seemed as good a time as any, except that is was forecast to rain. By the time Friday came around there was 1.49 inches of rain forecast to fall throughout the weekend. That should get the bike good and dirty.
Daren offered to take a couple of us gravel newbies for an offroad ride with about 70 miles of gravel, on logging roads, over the Coastal Range and back through the countryside. Daren rides "Misty" a VStrom 1000 and invited Erik on his Triumph Scrambler and me on my Tiger. Knowing Daren does offroad rides all the time and has ridden from Alaska, all over Eastern Oregon and goes for weekend camping trips on a moments notice, we were in good company. Daren is a great guy, very knowledgeable, experienced and a former scuba instructor so he has the patience to teach our motley crew. I invited Josh to tag along on his WeeStrom knowing he was wanting to explore the wonderful world beyond the pavement.
I learned to ride on gravel and dirt roads but that was twenty five years ago on a little 80cc Yamaha enduro, then a bit here and there over the last 10 years or so on my step-dad's dirt bikes.

I knew the basic principles and it didn't take me long to get right back into it, the Tiger was just a bigger bike than I was used to riding offroad and I was running on street tires. As long as we didn't get into deep mud, I'd be okay.

The route took us through clear cuts, over hill and dale of tall conifers into valleys of blushing vine maples, all hanging heavy with rain. We never got into anything that one couldn't take a car over and passed many little cabins, small retreats and camping spots. Most of the day I had no idea of where we were but had complete faith in our fearless leader, we'd pop out on a road somewhere I'd recognize then after a few miles we'd turn off onto another gravel road to disappear for thirty more miles.

This is Erik at our first stop, Erik and I have the same riding suits which kept us dry all day so we were happy and enjoying the ride in the rain.

Daren is in the hi-vis jacket with his beloved Misty

We didn't stop much for pictures as it was raining most of the day and it is not always easy to take off and put on wet gloves over wet hands. We did make it into Newport and stopped in at the Chowder Bowl for some of the best chowder on the Oregon coast. (We have yet to make it down to Barnacle Bistro in Gold Beach).

The rain had stopped, so after fueling up I switched to an extra pair of dry gloves and we were off again for adventure. We rode up and over Sams Creek and into Logsden, Nashville and stopped at Ritner Creek Park.

We were nearly home and it was getting late. We stopped at Ritner Creek covered bridge before one more gravel stretch and home.

My loving wife was waiting patiently for me. I hosed off the topsoil and hung up my gear to dry. What a fantastic ride, I am hooked on dualsport.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Aging Aquarius

I sure have been enjoying the Tiger lately. I went out for a 350 mile ride Saturday before last and a shorter 200 mile ride last Saturday. Anything over 300 miles I affectionately call a toothbrush run as it usually takes all day and one should pack a toothbrush for a trip that long. I have declined many toothbrush rides as I could never handle that distance on my America, but with the Tiger a whole new world has opened up.

We ran up Hwy 20 then down 126 over the McKenzie Pass to Sisters for lunch.

Trobairitz sat this one out, it was too far and too many passes for her little 250.

So it was back over McKenzie pass the other way and up to Cougar Reservoir and Aufderheide Drive.

It was on the Aufderheide and about 200 miles into the ride when the aches started. A new bike and an aging body makes for a long afternoon. A couple of Aleve and my Throttlemeister throttle lock got me through the rest of the ride. I was enjoying the bike so much, my aching knees and my right elbow didn't matter.

But it did get me thinking and wondering what other riders do to keep in shape to ride. I'm considering dusting off the bicycle hanging in the garage.

So what is the best exercise or fitness regimen for motorcyclists and what do you do to keep in top riding shape?