Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Rocky Mountain Test Grounds

Since Da'mit the KLR is being set up to explore South America that means crossing the high Andes Mountains.  Flat land riding and pavement are not a real challenge. A test run with some real life obstacles is in order. The closest familiar testing area are the Rocky Mountains in Northern New Mexico. How will she perform at 11,000 foot elevation on rocky out crops and loose rock climbs?

The test road will be FR 76, a Carson National Forest Jeep trail crossing from Angel Fire to Tres Ritos, NM that I have been wanting to ride for several years now. Google Maps says the distance is only 31.6 miles but allow 2 hours to travel it.  Starting at 8500 foot elevation in Angel Fire, the trail climbs up to 10,000 + feet, following ridges in the Sangre de Christo mountains.

Before I either did not have the right bike or the time of year was not right to explore this trail. Once the snow falls, this road is closed until the next spring thaw. 

Taos at 6400 foot elevation is in the upper left hand corner of the map. Route 64 across the top of the map goes from Angel Fire to Taos,  a distance of 25 miles with 110 curves.

What exactly are we testing for?  Questions that need answering:

 1). How does the engine breath in the higher altitudes? Thin air makes breathing harder on both humans and internal combustion engines. Both will lose power. Does the air intake need to be opened up more for the thin air? Change carburetor jetting?  Run too rich and the spark plug can foul and quit. Run too lean and you risk burning a hole in the piston.

2).  How is the gearing for climbing long stretches of loose rock and stone when carrying a load. If the gearing is too low, it will climb fine but lose too much top end speed for flat land cruising. If too high, it will cruise fine but bog down whenever the road gets too steep or the rocks too big and loose.

3). What is going to vibrate loose when bouncing over miles of unpaved terrain. What needs to be mounted more securely?  Is the sidecar load well balanced for this type of riding?

4).  Adequate ground clearance for going over rocks and logs was part of the design, but is it enough? Or is the rig too high and unbalanced?

5).  Will the suspension, steering and seat be adequate for riding rough terrain.  Flat road riding is easy and forgiving, but to ride miles and miles of rough bouncing terrain is a challenge and wearing on both machine and rider.

Let's find out how she does...

Stopping to rest on a flat spot after the first long climb. Gearing is perfect for this type of riding. Da'mit thinks she's a mountain goat. Drop into first gear, pop the clutch and climb. She chugs along bouncing off rocks and outcroppings. No hesitations, no bogging down. Great!

The 49 tooth rear sprocket on Da'mit now is perfect for mountain climbing, but is geared too low for flat land riding. On the flat, Da'mit is happiest cruising at only 45 mph. That is too slow. The best solution will be to carry a sprocket for each riding situation: a 49 tooth rear sprocket for mountains and a 45 tooth mid-range sprocket for flat land. The stock 43 tooth is much too high a gearing for a loaded sidecar. There you run the risk of burning out the clutch prematurely. It is an easy swap to change sprockets at the beginning of the day, so a 49/45 combination should be perfect.

 Because of the sidecar load, have upgraded to a heavier duty 525 drive chain from the stock 520.

Question #2 - five stars with an extra sprocket.

Met only two other vehicles on this lonely road, both Jeep Wranglers.  These photos don't do justice to the reality of the climb. There are no photos of the rough spots as my hands were full keeping her climbing and on the trail.  Many times standing on the pegs to shift my weight forward. 

Question #1 - four stars for now as I need to check the plugs when back home. 

In several spots one can see where other vehicles hit the embedded high rocks or scrapped across them. Da'mit's ground clearance is right on. We did not hit anything with the underside of the sidecar and only banged the engine skid plate twice.  On pavement, she does not sit too high.  

Question #4 -  five stars.

Looking north toward Chacon, kept an eye on the rain clouds moving our way.  
Because of the recent rains, there were several deep mud holes from the run off. We were able to successfully navigate around those or blast our way through when needed. The dual sport 244 tires were perfect for this type of riding. We were off the mountain and back on paved road heading up to Taos when the rains caught up with us. 

Yes, that is one STEEP  drop off behind Da'mit. Luckily we didn't meet another vehicle in these tight sections. Keep your eyes on the road and steady on the throttle. We didn't lose anything and nothing vibrated loose. With the new sidecar layout, the rig felt balanced, so...

Question #3 - five stars.

Handing was controllable and precise, but by the end of the ride my hands were numb from the constant vibration and pounding. Something to absorb the vibrations is needed. Will look into several different cost effective solutions.  

On Question #5 - only three stars

Overall am very pleased with how Da'mit performed.  Da'mit likes the mountains, climbs with little effort, is controllable and comfortable. She took to mountain trails like a honey bee to candy. In town she turned quite a few heads too. Got her share of thumbs up!


Monday, August 17, 2015

"The Road"

A good riding buddy, Jerry, said this song reminded him of me. Said I was either planning a long ride, on a long ride or just returned from a long ride. Beautiful Bride opines I must have been a truck driver in another life. Truth be told, I do love the fresh air of an open road. Never gotten tired or bored of seeing new places, meeting new people, breathing the new air out there.

Maybe a theme song for persistent riders.

"The Road" by Frank Turner

To the east, to the east, the road beneath my feet.
To the west, to the west, I haven’t got there yet.
To the north, to the north, never to be caught.
To the south, to the south, my time is running out.

Ever since my childhood I've been scared, I've been afraid,
of being trapped by circumstance, of staying in one place,
and so I always keep a small bag full of clothes carefully stored,
somewhere secret, somewhere safe, somewhere close to the door.
Well I’ve travelled many countries, washed my feet in many seas,
I've drunk with grifters in Vienna and with punks in old DC,
and I've driven across deserts,
driven by the irony that only being shackled to the road could ever I be free.

To the east, to the east, the road beneath my feet.
To the west, to the west, I haven’t got there yet.
To the north, to the north, never to be caught.
To the south, to the south, my time is running out.

I've felt old before my time
but now I keep the age away by burning up the miles and by filling up my days.
And the nights, a thousand nights I've played, a thousand more to go,
before I take a breath, and steel myself for the next one thousand shows.

To the east, to the east, the road beneath my feet.
To the west, to the west, I haven’t got there yet.
To the north, to the north, never to be caught.
To the south, to the south, my time is running out.

So saddle up your horses and keep your powder dry,
because the truth is you won't be here long, soon you're going to die.
To the heart, to the heart, there's no time for you to waste,
and you won't find your precious answers by staying in one place,
by giving up the chase.

To the east, to the east, the road beneath my feet.
To the west, to the west, I haven’t got there yet.
To the north, to the north, never to be caught.
To the south, to the south, my time is running out.
To the south, to the south, my time is running out.
To the south, to the south, my time is running out.

I face the horizon, everywhere I go.
I face the horizon, the horizon is my home.
I face the horizon, everywhere I go.
I face the horizon, the horizon is my home.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Da'mit 2.0 gets worked over

Time to set Da'mu the Gold Wing aside and finish getting the Kawasaki KLR650 Da'mit ready for South America.

Last time we had her out, this is what Da'mit 2.0 looked like.

Several very knowledgable people commented that the two gas cans in front of the SC wheel would be too much weight too far forward. I tested their thinking and they were right.  Need to reconfigure the sidecar layout.

While at the USCA Sidecar Rally in South Dakota in June, gathered several ideas for mods. One was to install a PVC Tool Tube and aluminum mud guard in front of the engine, down low.  Tools, tire irons and other heavy long objects will be carried down there. I cut it long enough so that it sticks out and will also serve as a highway peg so I can stretch the left leg. 

Next is to upgrade from the small Kawasaki factory battery to a larger battery by relocating it to the sidecar. 

Since a new base layout is needed to relocate the gas cans, will also include a place to mount the new  battery.  First we strip everything off the sidecar frame.

Here is the old base #1 removed,  showing the shape.

Here is new base #2, 3/4" treated plywood with the new layout. With the new configuration, weight is more balanced on the SC frame. 

 While the stain was drying, removed the old battery. Using heavy duty wires from a set of jumper cables connected to the old battery wires, ran it to the sidecar frame. Here you can see the red jumper cable wires  going thru a hole in the bottom of the old battery box. Will use the old box space to store an air compressor for emergency inflating of tires.

Is hard to see with the protective wrap, but there are three heavy duty wires coming from the bike., two red and one black. The black is negative and the reds positive. One of the red wires is to feed the auxiliary fuse block that powers all the add ons: iPhone, GPS, electric jacket, air compressor, etc. The other red goes to the bike starter.

Now what to put the new battery in? Decided an Army ammo box would be durable, weather and waterproof. The original battery had a 220 CCA (Cold Cranking Amps, how batteries are rated), the new lithium battery has 400 CCA. Plus it is about a third of the weight of the Old battery.

Drilled a hole in the from of the box for a 90 degree connection to feed the wires up through and into the box. Then sealed this entry point so water doesn't get in.

To keep the new battery from bouncing around and vibrating, packed red foam around it. All finished, wired up, ready to close. Must have done something right as the KLR fired right up when I touched the starter button.

On to the gas cans. This time the cans will be located one in front and the other behind the SC wheel to balance the weight. Eyebolts will be installed in order to secure the cans while riding and a bicycle cable to lock them on when parked for the night. 

Now for a few mods to the toolbox itself. A section of discarded aluminum ramp was adapted and mounted to be used for a luggage rack on the front lid.  Footman loops were added on the sides as tie downs.

The raw plywood board on the left lid is a base to spread the weight load of the new spare tire. 
But first to paint the board to seal it.

Here is the spare tire/wheel ala URAL mounted and secured. One of the features of the URAL sidecar rig was having a fully mount rear tire ready to go when needed. It is easier and quicker to swap out rear wheels than trying to repair a flat tire on the side of the road in the rain. Since we will be carrying replacement tires anyways, why not have one ready to go. 

Once reassembled, here is what Da'mit 2.0 looks like. Better balanced now with a fews new features.
The white disk on the spare tire covers the rear brake rotor from rain and damage.
Besides bungee cords holding the gas cans in tight, at night will threaded a steel cable through the hoops and padlocked.

Test rode Da'mit twenty miles to visit John Klein. John is the expert welder in Hockley I call upon to fab up anything I need for my bikes.  Whenever the ultralight aircraft people need critical repairs to their aluminum frames, they come see John. He is the best in the area for welding all types of metal.

In his youth, John rode an old Harley across the United States, working when he could in order to buy enough gas and food to get to the next town. He is a midwesterner like myself.

Replaced the cheap LED lights on the toolbox for a better pair. Here she is again after the workover. Maybe change her name to Da'mit 2.2. 

Next week I take her to the mountains of northern New Mexico for a shakedown run on some national forest trails. What will break, see what works and find out what needs changing...

Ride safe my friends,