Sunday, February 24, 2013

My new commute...

♫ My Flat Spot Has a First Name... it's Highway34 ♫ 

♫ My flat spot has a second name it's 34 some more 

- A parody tune by Polarbear

My new job has me commuting 22 miles each way, so fortunately I'm back on the bike. Unfortunately, my commute isn't as leisurely as it once was and now consists of riding the boringly straight, highly despised, four lane, death trap known as Highway 34 east of Corvallis. 

So now with so many miles clicking away on such a straight road I must take into consideration joining the darksiders

Relax Irondad, I'm kidding ;)
One saving grace is that the highway is nearly empty at 5 o'clock in the morning and most of the traffic is headed in the opposite direction come 4:30 in the afternoon. I do get to wave at both Polarbear and SpartanBabe on the the way home, when I recognize their vehicles in the mass of zombie commuters.

It is also dark at 5 am which brings a new level of awareness or lack thereof and riding to work Wednesday morning a dead raccoon jumped right out in front of me. I was concerned with a semi-truck gaining on me from behind so I kept checking on him in my mirrors. "So where are you not looking when you're looking in your mirrors?" In front of you. "And where do most accidents occur on a motorcycle?" In front of you.
Now I've hit suicidal squirrels and bold birds before, but they're pretty small and don't stand much of a chance against 700 lbs of bike and rider at speed. Unexpectedly hitting an already deceased raccoon the size of a medium dog will pucker your butt and upset said 700 pounds in a heartbeat. I didn't have time to slow, brake or swerve and surmounted the obstacle nearly slamming the bars out of my hands,  I certainly appreciate Newton's Law thus keeping her upright. Needless to say, I was no longer concerned with my mirrors the rest of the ride in. Thoughts of self preservation took over.

An early morning commute means colder temperatures, however I have been able to beat the few degrees of temperature drop at sunrise. I've been using my heated grips and heated liner but lately at a higher setting than normal, this of course demands more from Lucy's electrical system.... can you guess where this is going? Tigers don't have a robust charging system so on the way home I experienced deja vu all over again with a dead battery at the gas pump. No way was I going to try and bump start her this time and made a phone call to Trobairitz to come save me instead. A quick jump start from the car battery and I was headed home to put Lucy on the charger. 

I spent Friday morning calculating power draw and my options. The easiest option is to disconnect or switch one headlight off, but I don't want to do that due to the afore mentioned raccoon. Nor do I want to mess with HIDs, wiring or ballasts... KISS. However, I do have the other lights to consider.

I'm of the mindset that electricity, like water, flows downhill so please feel free to correct me if I am wrong thinking out loud here, I may be missing or overlooking something.  

The taillight and brake light require two 1157 dual filament bulbs which draw 21 watts each for the high filament and 5 watts each for the low filament. 
The 5008 signal light bulbs are 10 watts each and with a Kisan Signal Minder which not only self cancels the signal lights  but also run the signal bulbs as running lights. I estimate these four bulbs are constantly drawing 5 to 7 watts each.
This equates to a draw of 30 watts just cruising along, the numbers jump when braking and signaling. At a stop, the taillight filament remains lit while the brake light filament ignites too, drawing a combined 52 watts (nearly the same draw as one headlight). Add the running lights and the numbers jump to 72 watts. Turn on the signal lights and the numbers jump again, albeit intermittently, to 82 watts!!!  

Watts a guy to do?

A quick Google search, a hop to and a skip to confirm... the answer may just be LED baby! I jumped over to  and placed an order for six bulbs.

Two taillights:
The two 1157 LED bulbs only draw 1.5 watts each. I can't find the wattage for the four signal lights but they can't be higher than the brake lights so I figure maximum draw from all six lamps to be 9 watts. A significant drop from the 82 watts I'm using now.

Four signal lights: 

I hope to receive the bulbs in the mail this week and get them installed  right away. I'll write up a report and post before and after photos and of the install. In the meantime, I'll turn my grips down and keep my liner on low. 

The rampant raccoons however, are on their own.

Friday, February 1, 2013

An Old Dog and Some New Tricks...

Some say that it is fruitless to attempt to indoctrinate a superannuated canine with innovative maneuvers, or more succinctly, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Okay, so I'm not that old and I already know such tricks as sit, stay or roll over. That doesn't mean I can't learn something new.

This has been a busy week for me, a very good week but busy. I started a new job on Monday and all week I've been sitting in class learning, being trained and tested and believe me... my whiteboard is full.

I have been in a shipper/receiver position throughout most of my working life, my last job a logistics coordinator and now I am fortunate to have found a position in supply chain. This brings shipping and receiving to a whole new level.

So what does this have to do with motorcycles? I've ridden motorcycles since I was 12 years old, self taught before finally taking some formal training... which led me to becoming an instructor. Now I teach both students who have never been on a motorcycle before and students like myself who have been riding for years. I know the new riders are nervous and we do our best to calm their nerves letting them know that there will be plenty of coaching, that we will be with them the entire weekend.

Then there are the experienced riders, I was one of them when I took my very first Advanced Rider Training class with Irondad as my instructor. I knew how to ride and I went in with an open mind and a willingness to learn. I ended up learning something new and became a better and safer rider.

Now I've driven forklifts as long as I've been driving a car. I know the tricks and nuances of operating these bad boys and can hold my own. Standard, sit down, forks forward, counterweighted, rear steering forklifts with a conventional steering wheel.

Online photo

My new ride however, is a Crown RC 5500 similar to the picture below but with a squeeze attachment. I've seen these units before, but never operated one. How hard can it be really? The only difference is the operator is standing instead of sitting, right?

Online photo from - (mine has the clamp attachment)
During training we watch a couple of videos, discuss, we are tested on the material then shown how to do an equipment inspection. This involves the usual visual inspection, check the cage, guards, wheels, sound the horn and operate the hydraulic functions to make sure everything is operating properly and safely. I got it, this is easy peasy... but not so fast there hotshot.

Then came time to check the steering and now all of a sudden this is a whole different animal.

(My good friend Polar Bear of Adventures with Bud E. is a lift truck technician and I'll bet dollars to donuts he is laughing pretty good right about now and if not, he's about to).

Wow! Talk about touchy! Instead of a steering wheel I have to master the tiller type steering, which would be okay except I'm standing sideways traveling in an unnatural way... sideways!

Whoa! Brake! Brake!

Overview of the "cockpit" - photo

This is where all that bravado I discussed earlier takes a back seat. I now know how our students feel when they hop on the training bikes. All I could think of was squeeze and ease, squeeze and ease, get used to that friction zone. Back and forth, back and forth, squeeze and ease. All day.

Online photo from
Something else I'm not familiar with is that there isn't a gas pedal, this thing operates via an Atari joystick. I've discovered a whole new respect for all the drivers zipping around the warehouse on these things. It took me nearly all day of practice to get the hang of it and it still hasn't 'clicked'. The tiny rear wheels are centered, making for a very tight turning radius and any subtle input sends the thing into.... well, anything within striking distance. We all know about target fixation, this thing puts it into a whole new perspective. There is no push more, lean more... I swear it goes where it wants to.

My instructor was very patient with me and I'll get it, but most of all the training certainly helped me understand what new riders go through and how easy the professionals make it look.

Not an easy task to operate this equipment for 9 hours a day.

This old dog not only learned several new tricks but a valuable new perspective.

Ride with Seriousness of Purpose but Lightness of Hand - Dan Bateman