Sunday, May 28, 2017

Project SideCamper: Part Three

Project: SideCamper is now in the man cave, on the lift, ready for work. 

My starting list of items to address:

1). Replace fuse block and organize the wiring
2). Wire in winch direct to battery with removable plugs
3). Install LED driving lights on SideCamper nose
4). Add USB port on handlebars for GPS/cellphone
5). Install new horn
6). Repair turn signals
7). Remove and repair or replace instrument cluster, fuel gauge not working, check float inside gas tank.
8). Remove top steering yoke, refinish rusting collars then relocate all cables and wiring to back side of yoke.
9). Install handlebar risers
10). Install foot peg lowering adapters
11). Remove fuel tank to install bulkhead fitting for aux fuel inlet, check float inside tank
12). Order parts and install plumbing fixtures to gravity feed fuel from aux tank to main tank
13).  Remove front wheel to mount new front tire and replace wheel bearings
14). Replace frozen front brake calipers
15). Install new rear brake line 
16). Put Ride-On in all three tires
17). Remove 8 gal fuel cell. Powder coat larger fuel cell and mount on swing out table
18). Re-work dual pannier mount for solo left side pannier
19). Rework seat for height and seating position
20). Mount top case and wire in USB port for charging batteries while riding
21). Bleed both front and rear brakes
22). Change the motor oil and oil filter
23). Check & clean air filter
24). Grease fittings, lubricate chain
25). Install chain oiler
26). Add reflective stickers for night and day safety
27). Decide how and where to store table leg extension 
28). Replace old windshield 
29). Organize interior space for clothes, bedding and cooking items
30). Install interior camper outlet for LED reading light and charging station
31). ...

And the list grows as more items needing attention or replacement are found. As it sits right now, it cannot pass state inspection to be licensed in Texas. 

And the work begins by removing seat, body panels, fuel tank...

With the instrument cluster out and the top yoke off, the testing and de-rusting can happen.

The steering compartment is being reworked 

The two steering collars were rusting badly.  In the photo below they are being treated against rust and painted.  

The eight gallon aux fuel cell was removed. A larger cell will be installed.  Am estimating a 25 mpg average fuel consumption when pushing that flat front into the wind.  The five gallon main tank and the eight gallon black aux cell only give me a 325 mile range. That is not enough. I want a minimum 400 mile range in case I have trouble finding gas in remote areas.  Carrying an even larger fuel cell will most likely reduce my 25 mpg estimate even further. Peace of mind knowing one has enough fuel to explore a side road and still return safely is more important than the extra weight. 

 The Suzuki Vstrom 1000 fuel system does not have the normal fuel return line though it is a fuel injected engine. Where to tap into the main fuel tank in order to refill from the aux cell was a major decision. After many questions were posted on Vstrom web sites, seems not many people have plumbed in an aux fuel cell on this bike.  One man stated that tying into the fuel vapor line was a mistake. Said he ended up with a lap full of gas when he tried that. 

The only solution then is to drill a hole and install a bulkhead fitting. BUT... where to drill the hole? In the $1600 steel main tank, OR in the $850 steel fuel pump mounting plate?

The mounting plate won. 

Carefully drilled a 3/8's inch hole in the only spot on the mounting plate a new hole would fit. Then threaded in a 1/4" hose barbed fitting. JB welded it in place.  Here is the outside view of hose barb.

Here is the inside view of the fitting on the mounting plate. Will give it 36 hours to completely cure before installing. 

The aux fuel will be gravity fed into the main tank which is why the aux fuel cell is mounted so high. Not having to deal with and worry about a fuel transfer pump and it's associated wiring failing is in keeping with the theme of this build. Keep it simple and reliable. 

This SideCamper was not designed or built for speed, but for reliability and endurance. 

The work continues, new parts being ordered, visits to the hardware store, waiting on packages and working until midnight.  Right now it seems more pieces are coming off than going on. That should change soon.

To be continued... in Project SideCamper:  Part Four

Later, CCjon

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Project SideCamper: Part Two

Claude finally made the call I had been waiting for...
Come and get it. Your rig is ready!!

Quickly I organize for a 3000 mile round trip to Pennsylvania to pick up Project SideCamper. 

Claude's crew is rightly proud of the rig they have created for me. 
  John, Bob, Claude, Angie and Ron with my "un-named"rig.  

Are they glad to get that monster out of their shop or.... what? 

Let me tell you about the SideCamper. It is wider than most sidecar rigs due to the width of the camper body. It has a heavy duty frame, 15" car tire, exposed shock and a swing out platform with an eight gallon fuel cell.  Am not sure what kind of mpg the rig will get but I need a riding range of at least 350 miles for where we are going. We added a custom made aluminum tool box up front to make it a more aerodynamic in deflecting wind. The tail lights are wired into the bike's lights. A sway bar was added to stabilize the rig on twisty curving roads.

The quality and durability of the work that Freedom Sidecar produces is impressive. 
Am very glad I selected them to build this rig.

Due to its position up front and outside the triangle of sidecar stability, the locking box is for lightweight rain gear, jacket, gloves and parts only.  Driving lights will be mounted on the box nose. 

The weight of the auxiliary fuel cell is mainly over the sidecar axle, within the triangle of stability. 
Am not sure yet about the eight gallon auxiliary tank, it might not be big enough.

The remote operated winch can be moved from the front to the back

To open the camper, the table with the fuel cell unlatches, then swings out with an adjustable leg that drops down to support the weight of a full tank of gas. With the top open, the rear camper door allow access inside. The door cannot be opened when the camper is closed.  A nice security feature when away from the rig.  It takes a little over two minutes to swing out the table and set up the camper. 

The aluminum box between the bike and the camper contains a car battery.  A battery that can be found at any Walmart world-wide, as can the auto tires.

For me the bed is short, but I can stretch out diagonally.  Good thing I travel solo.  The bed can also be set up as a bench with a back rest for those rainy days when you would rather stay in and read a good book.

The zip open windows on front and back have screens if you want a breeze coming thru. The dry space under the bed is for bedding, clothes, food, cooking gear, etc. 

Claude was told to not worry about the bike, its wiring and fuel plumbing hook ups. I plan to finish that part of the rig myself. That way I can familiarize myself with the Vstrom and the sidecar. This is my first Vstrom so this would be a learning experience.

By doing all my own wrenching and maintenance, if I have a problem on the road in the middle of nowhere, I will be better prepared if I am familiar with all the bikes systems and add-ons.  It also lets me discover which tools I must carry to tighten loose nuts or make repairs on the go.

The rig is 80% complete as you see it here. There is a long list of final adjustments, wiring, add-ons, upgrades needed before it is ready to go rogue.  

Claude and his crew finished their part of the build, now my work starts. 

Claude says the rig handles great. Eight miles into a forty mile test ride the bike loses the rear brakes.  Brake fluid was smoking on the exhaust. Seems the rubber hose was touching the hot exhaust.  Over time it burnt a hole in it.

Looks like I better plan on doing a complete service and inspection on the bike before taking any long trips.

We load the rig on my trailer to haul back to Texas. 

More to come in..... Part Three.


Project SideCamper, Part One

Several years ago I saw this photo of a sidecar rig that captured my attention.  Egads1, an AdvRider in Georgia had mounted a pop up camper in place of the chair as a sidecar on his motorcycle. Immediately I thought what a great idea for exploring Canada and Alaska. One can stop and spend the night wherever they desire. Sleep up off the cold wet ground and easily carry all of their clothes, camping, cooking,  photography gear with them. 

It would be a bit crowded for two people, but I travel alone. Would have a weatherproof storage space for all of my gear, sleeping bag, cook stove, etc. The ceiling height inside is 6'2", a little short for my 6'5" height, but much better than a 4' tall tent.

Knowing how expensive motels are once you head north, one can save money to buy more gasoline. Plus one has the freedom to sleep anywhere, be there for sunrise or sunset photos in the wild.

For months I researched the various models of lightweight motorcycle camper trailers, only to arrive at the same conclusion as Egads1, the Kwik Kamp Mini-Mate camper is the only model that would work as a sidecar. The top is hinged on the right side so when opened, the top is folds out over the sidecar wheel. Some other model's tops open to the left or both to the left and the right. With the motorcycle handlebars on the left, any top that opened left would not work.

The Mini-Mate feature that really caught my attention was, it can be set up in two minutes. Putting up a tent can take ten - twenty minutes. That may not sound like a big difference, but if it is raining, you and your gear are getting soaked while setting up a tent on the cold wet ground. Then to unload your gear, storing it in the tent, and finally crawl yourself inside. Then if you set up your tent in the wrong spot, you could have water running thru it and sleeping bag in the middle of the night. All of that can avoided with the Mini-Mate.

With the research done, now to find one. The Mini-Mate is sold as a pull behind camper, small and lightweight, easy to pull by motorcycle or small car. Tried looking locally and on various internet sites but none showed up on any of the motorcycle travel camper sites or internet auction sites. 

Finally I ordered a new Mini-Mate direct from the Pennsylvania factory. Had it shipped to Texas where I bolted on the axle and tongue so I could wheel it around in the storage area.  It is quite large and takes up space. 

With the camper in hand... what motorcycle do I mate it to? I did not have a motorcycle or sidecar rig that would be a good match for this camper. Egads1 told me that riding the camper rig was like pushing a wall of air with that flat front so your motorcycle better have power and torque.

Back to searching the internet, for a strong reliable motorcycle. I finally located a heavy duty adventure sidecar on AdvRider already set up for world travel: a 2007 Suzuki Vstrom 1000 converted to ride on three automobile tires and a winch. The Vstrom 1000 has a reputation of reliability and strength with its 100 horsepower engine. Freedom Sidecars in Pennsylvania had originally converted it to sidecar duty.  SLACKER, the owne, had the rig for sale in Baltimore, Md. He and his wife had just returned from spending several months touring around Mexico on it.

Off then to Baltimore for a test ride on Big Blue, the rig. Quickly a deal was struck. From there I trailered the Big Blue and the Mini-Mate camper to Claude Stanley of Freedom Sidecars in Pennsylvania to make the modification from a sidecar to a SideCamper. 

The blue sidecar was removed and sold to someone who had been waiting for a rig.

Claude was great to work with in designing a new sidecar frame for the Mini-Mate. Late into the night Claude and I drew out sketches and ideas on scrap paper until we finally agreed upon a plan. He and his crew had never built a sidecar camper before but were excited about the challenge. 

Now the building process began in earnest.  

As the build progressed, we introduced, discussed, accepted and rejected many ideas before arriving at the final product.

Always in the back of my mind were those nagging questions:

Would the new set up be ridable? 

Would it be reliable with that huge sidecar load?

Would the Vstrom have enough power to move the rig at highway speeds?

What kind of gas mileage would it get?

What would the final result look like?

More to come..... in Part Two


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

East Texas Beall Ranch life

Had the opportunity to visit the Beall Ranch near Milam, Texas last week.  Tom and Kelley have worked hard to build a beautiful tranquil country oasis in their busy business lives. For most people, just keeping up the ranch would be a full time job. Not for the Beall's, they also have several other businesses besides the ranch.  Am always impressed with people who are not afraid to work and work hard to build a good life for themselves and their family.

Two paint horses roam the ranch at ease. Before you say anything, 
Tom assured me they are both paint horses.

The cattle head back toward the barn at sunset.

This little fellow was orphaned at birth.  Kelley is having to bottle feed it. 
Having raised five daughters, Kelley is very experienced with bottle feeding.

Kelley and two young friends, a pup who wants all of her attention and the calf named Orphan.

Tom says to return next year as he thinks one of the mares might be pregnant. The gestation period for horses is eleven months, so next year there might be a new foal to photograph. Will mark my calendar to return.

On the sidecar front, the beautiful BMW K1200LT rig has come and gone from the ol' Man Cave.  Was a great road going rig, could get up to 80 mph on the highway in a flash but, the cave was getting too crowded with a new addition that rolled in last month. Something had to go.....
More news on that soon.

Gene, who bought Da'Mu the Goldwing sidecar rig from me, rode over to East Texas for a day ride.  We had lunch in San Augustine, visited one of the first log houses built in Texas. Is the dogtrot style with open breezeway between the two enclosed cabins. One side was used for cooking and daily chores while the other end was living/sleeping quarters.  Each cabin had its own fireplace.

Ride safe y'all