Wednesday, November 7, 2018

2018 AER Sabbatical Motorcycle Trip

2018 AER Sabbatical
1976 Motorcycle Trip (10K miles in 7 weeks)
Grand Canyon 1976

Westbound route
Return route

Rainy on the way out
Montana is big
Only saw one bear

Saw some glaciers

Stayed in some strange motels

Has some tasty vittles

Saw a lot of transportation history

Saw a lot of wind turbines

Caught up with long lost relatives

Columbia River Gorge
Western Oregon wheat
First nuclear reactor in Idaho (400 watts in 1951)
It's hot in here..
Smelly diners out here..
Dusty beautiful Utah
Pit stop in Boulder CO for July 4th
Wyoming wind turbines
Vast BLM land (crappy roads)
Bear Tooth Pass
Eastern Montana and North Dakota

New best friends
Where the gas  & oil comes from
Indian reservations in Minnesota / Ontario
First Nation ferry / Ontario
Solar trackers in Ontario
Father Daughter reunion on the Erie Canal
Home Sweet Home


Monday, July 16, 2018

July 16 - Monday - Bike & Packing details

I get asked a lot of questions about my 12K mile trip on the Versus X, the bike, how everything worked, etc. So I am creating this blog entry to answer those, and also to remind me next trip what I took and what to bring or not bring next time. Kinda disorganized but I'll tweak it as I remember stuff or get asked more questions. I also provided an equipment list at the end with links to where I got stuff (some stuff I just had laying around).

My old bike:
You can see the Versys in the foreground and my old Beemer in the background. It is a 1998 R1100RT and has been my faithful companion for the last 20 years on numerous cross country trips, Still runs great but getting a little long in the tooth, not just the 106K, but some expensive maintenance is coming up, it has put on weight as I have gotten older (62 and also put on weight), it does not like gravel, and refuses to go up goat paths. I also have a 1996 R1100RT with 122K I bought as a local bike when the 1998 was parked in New Mexico for a couple years.
I have a Yamaha TW200 which is a fun "mud season" bike, and loves goat paths, but does not do anything faster than 45 mph(OK 50 if I beat it). So you can see, the Versys X can do all of these things. I am thinking it is time to simplify my life and boil it all down to one bike. This last 12K mile trip on the Versys was the test and it passed with flying colors.
My son got his license and bought this bike last summer in June and after breaking it in and riding it around, he left in August and returned in a snowstorm in October with 16K miles on it. I started riding this spring and thought, "what the heck, maybe this could go cross country". When I was 20 years old, my buddy and I circumnavigated the US in 6 weeks and covered about 10K miles. SO at the tender age of 62, I thought maybe I could do it again. And did. The last 40 entries of this blog are about that trip and now I just want to review all the equipment.
In general it all boils down to 4 bags.
1. The Giant Loop Great Basin bag (grey and black) underneath)
2. LL Bean bag (red bag) on the back, my "motel bag) with everything I need to take into a motel at night.
3. Double ended Dry Pod (yellow) with all my weather gear.
4. Tank bag with all that stuff you need during the day.
Helmet, earbuds, phone, shoes, mesh jacket, and motorcycle pants.

I design products for  living and I am a minimalist so I don't like a lot of crap, but just enough crap. So here is what I added to the basic Kawasaki Versys X:
1. Centerstand - Absolutely got to have or you get lazy with the chain, you can't really check or change the oil properly.
2. Power jack - I use this to charge a battery pack in the tank bag. Kawasaki charges too much for it, but I paid it, and you need the relay kit as well (turns power jack on and off with the ignition switch). If you are camping, this is your only way to charge your phone and Bluetooth headset.
3. Madstad windhshield - the original is not too bad but the Madstad lets you get the geometry just right.
4. Compass ball - This is the most useful thing I added to my Beemer years ago. It is like a security blanket you check constantly to be assured you do not end up in Cucamonga when Google girl goes on the fritz. Dumb and cheap but awesome.
5. Thermometer - Kawasaki did not include one so I added one, sealed it up with E-6000 adhesive so it can get rained on. Nice to know what temperature it is.
6. Kickstand pad - I just found a 2-1/2" flat washer and a bolt that would go through the kickstand hole and a Nylock nut (so it does not come loose, and voila, kickstand pad. This is fantastic because I can park on gravel beside the road, or soft pavement and get on and off the bike "cowboy style" and not worry about tipping over. Simple, rugged and cheap.
7. Flippers - ok, these are cool. About three days into the trip I had gotten the MadStad adjusted just about right and I still had some helmet noise going on. I noticed if I held my glove up to the mirror the noise went away. So I stopped at a Wally World (Walmart) and got some bright orange duct tape and just taped it up where my glove was. The helmet noise was gone. The best part is, people always ask what the heck that is all about, real conversation starter.
8. Throttle Rocker - he dumbest cruise control you can imagine. The little plastic do-hickey just slips on the throttle and it takes the pressure off your wrist muscles. My first road bike was a Triumph 650 Bonneville and by the end of the summer I would have this Charles Atlas knot of muscle in my wrist from pulling those two carburetor slides up. There is another simple one I tried to find before coming back across the Dakota's but the bike shops were all closed.

OK, that's it for farkles, now lets tear the bags apart.
Dry pod:
  I used to keep dry stuff in the left pannier on the beemer and warm stuff on the right side. This dry pod setup is quicker and easier. It sits right there so when the drops start, you just pull over, unroll the end of the bag, pull out the rain stuff and roll it back up. A down jacket is in the right side and I ended up not needing it, but it is one of those things you put under the motorcycle jacket on cold mornings. I have a Frogg Togg high visibility jacket that goes on over my mesh jacket if the temps are below 65 and comes off when the day warms up. It keeps me warm and dry. I have used "waterproof" motorcycle clothes before and I end up with "seepage". So I buy Frogg Togg stuff, patch it if it ever leaks and throw them away if they wear out (or I lose them). In a pinch you can go to Walmart and get them (cheaper ones). They scrunch up in a ball, are cheap, and I usually get a few years out of them. The more expensive Frogg Togg pants take up more room, cost more, and the zippers all failed, so I stick with the cheap pants, but the better jacket.
The Givi tank bag cover goes in the dry pod and gets put on when it starts to rain. It came with the tank bag.
I have really wide kinda screwed up feet so I have to buy 6EE shoes. So no go on motorcycle boots. I found these boot covers on Amazon that work really well (see equipment list below for link). They slip over, zip up and my hiking boot sticks out the bottom. I have comfy shoes, never get too hot on nice days.
The last wet items are my Aeorstich lobster claw over gloves. I use them on cold mornings and wet days. I have a light pair of gloves for hot weather and my old lined leather BMW gauntlets for cooler days. These three give me all the combinations I need. And a note about heated grips. I had them on my BMW for 20 years, and am not a fan. They can cook the inside of your hands but the outside are still popsicles.
The other item is a fleece neck warmer that goes with the down jacket on really cold days, which I did not need this trip.
The cargo net goes over the top to hold it on and doubles as my clothes line. The pressure release thingie in the dry pod keeps it from sliding back and forth under the cargo net. Perfect.
So there you go, all the wet/cold stuff in the dry pod.
LL Bean bag:
This bag is not waterproof, but everything in it is. I love ziplock bags because they keep stuff dry, compartmentalize stuff (toilet stuff, electronic stuff, etc) and they are clear so you can see what's inside without opening them. So the LL Bean bag is just the shell, which gets wet, but who cares.
The water tight black bag inside has all my clothes and my laptop inside. The green bag is my coffee bag (stove and coffee) so I can watch sunrises while sipping a nice hot cuppa. I have a ziplock bag full of receipts that otherwise clog my wallet and pockets, a ziplock with all the bathroom stuff, a ziplock with all the chargers (laptop & phone, earbuds), a headlamp (never used it), and a couple extra dry pods in case I find a smoking yard sale deal (never used them).
Clothes bag:
The laptop gets rolled up in the jeans and I brought an extra pair of jeans but will only take one pair next time. I used to ride all day in jeans with the nagging thought that all my AC/DC tattoos might get ground off if I ever went down, but I realized that motorcycle pants can be worn all the time (dooh..) and if it's hot, wear shorts under them. If it gets cold I wear jeans under and wrap the laptop in t-shirts.
I take 2 extra pair of socks (lost a pair this trip, probably crawled off and died from stinkiness), 2 underwear, 1 boxers and t-shirt for sleeping, and a couple extra t-shirts. I usually wash out what I wore each night and then hang them on the mesh net to dry the next day. Doesn't work on rainy days, hence the other extra pair. I do smell manly at times..
Coffee bag:
I love coffee so I bring my own. Now I did not say I was a coffee snob. I have come up with a mix of Folgers instant coffee, vanilla coffee creamer, and cocoa that is to die for, in my opinion. So my little tin cup (wrapped with duct tape just in case I need a piece), my coffee mix (in a cool container with built in spoon I found at Bed Bath & Beyond), and my Jet Boil stove, I can have a steaming delicious cup in just a few minutes to enjoy while watching the antelope graze across the open prairie..
Tank bag:
  This is all the stuff I have to pull out during the day. Passport, motorcycle manual, small notebook, pressure gauge, small tire pump (40 pumps with this little sucker is about 3 psi), Dewalt safety glasses (clear pair and shaded pair) with 2.0 reading glasses built in so I can read my phone, battery pack and cables (charges battery or phone or earbuds while I am moving), extra reading glasses, water bottle (double walled to keep water cold), my other set of gloves cold or warm, and a ziplock with foreign money (Canadian or USA).
In the right side pocket is a small spray bottle I keep soapy water in and a micro fiber rag to clean the "entomology sampling plate" (windshield), my mirrors, my helmet face shield, safety glasses and the instrument face(speedo, etc). Soapy water is also good for finding leaks in tires (used it on the way out on Jeff's BMW).
In the left side pocket I keep sunscreen (stick form) and two Master Lock retractable cable locks. I use these if I want to take a hike or go into a store in a sketchy neighborhood. I run one through my helmet, tank bag zippers and handlebars. The other I use to secure the LL Bean bag (zippers to frame rack). Not high security but it might keep that kid who sees something just sitting there from getting in trouble. Dry Pod might walk..
Giant Loop Great Basin:
This bag is like a massive cave on the back of your bike. It has two side tubes going down either side where you put all the heavy stuff. I have my tent/poles/flysheet/groundsheet/stakes, Sleeping bag and pad, a sleeping bag liner (cotton) a camp towel, my tool bag, the chain bag (grunge brush, chain lube), and a supply bag with all kinds of extra stuff in it. The Giant Loop gets opened every night when I lube the chain and completely unloaded if you camp (I only camped once).
It attaches to the bike with a simple carabiner on one side and a combo lock carabiner on the other. Kawasaki very nicely left a couple attachment points just for this purpose.
A single bungee cord pulls the Giant Loop back toward the rack on the back using the hooks back there. (shown here on top of the LL Bean rack I made from a piece of plastic board I had laying around.
The zipper is not so great and I stopped at their factory in Bend Oregon and they already got rid of the zipper and replaced it with a roll top design, which would make this a perfect bag. I put stuff in it that I do not need during the day. Anything heavy goes down in the two legs to keep the center of gravity low. They do collect water inside which I talked to them about and they said they may change the design to add a small drain/vent hole for that reason, but I could do it myself as well with a hot soldering iron. Pops on your shoulder (like the saddles and cowboys in those old western) so easy to carry (and cool ass looking) when you strut into the motel.

Tool bag:
I have all the Kawasaki tools that came with it plus a few more. Tire irons so I can fix a flat (never happened), tools to do an oil change, adjust the chain tension, and enough variety that I might be able to cob something together if required. Truth is, this bike is so boringly reliable I didn't have to tighten anything. You will also see some tape, zip ties, some wire, couple hose clamps, a sort of mini junk drawer.
Supply cabinet:
  This is just a gallon zip lock bag full of stuff. Extra fuel canisters for the stove, extra lighters, crush washer for the oil change, oil filter (got used so it's not in the picture), extra master link for the chain, extra batteries for the headlamp, E-6000 glue for gluing anything to anything (great stuff!), seam sealer for the giant loop or tent, zip ties, toothbrush for cleaning stuff (not my teeth), rope, extra microfiber cloths, first aid stuff, tire patch kit, and extra business cards (to share my blog with interested folks).
Chain bag:
I have not owned a chain drive road bike for a long long time and the shaft drive guys all cringe at the thought, but I gotta tell you, I am some impressed with what I have here. I put a new chain (DID X-ring chain) on 13K miles ago and researched chain lube. The DuPont stuff got crappy reviews until I discovered the one guy who figured out you need to leave it for 30 minutes after application so the volatile stuff goes away and leave a wax coating with some Teflon to boot. So I started with the new chain and did nothing other than spray it at the end of each day when I stopped riding (warm chain).
All I can say is I check the slack (1" to 1.4") and when it gets more than 1.4 I adjust it back to 1", and I have had to do that exactly once in 13K miles. I just checked and it is at about 1.4" right now. And it is always pretty clean compared to my TW200 chain and regular sticky chain oil. I brought the grunge brush and use each night before I spray the chain. Some little bits come off, but nothing much. And they sell this stuff in a lot of Walmarts. I am just about at the end of the first can so one can in 13K ain't bad.
Toilet bag:
Toothbrush, couple tubes of toothpaste, floss, electric shaver, band aids (also got some in the supply cabinet), bug spray (never used), antiseptic, nail clippers, deodorant (this stuff melts when it gets hot so next time it gets it's own ziplock or I smell bad (worse?)).
Castille soap (peppermint) I use for everything, hair, dishes, clothes, and soapy water mix for the windshield.
Electronics bag:
The stuff on the left is for my netbook so I can write this blog each night. The middle is the charger for my phone. All my cables are micro-USB so I can use the cables for everything. They are all the same.
The white thingie on the right is an Arduino computer I write programs for to relax. Nerd..

Back tire (Kenda K761)
My son put the first 16K on this bike last fall and consumed one IRC stock tire on the front and two IRC stock tires on the back. I put two new Kenda K761 tires on front and back and replaced the front one, not because it did not have much rubber, but because it was a 70/30 tire and all the road miles made it start cupping.
The only tire they had when I stopped for my 1 hour drive by tire replacement in Michigan was a Dunlop D404F which I know nothing about except that it had enough grooves in it that I would make it home safely, especially if it rained.
  OK, we gotta talk about the seat, everybody talks about seats. It is a stock seat, no modifications, no extra stuffing, no Corbin, pure stock. But, my son circumnavigated the US and Canada last fall and I gave him one of those Amazon $20 ATV seat pads I had on the TW200 and he did the whole trip with that, no complaints, no medical procedure required. I was about to get an AirHawk, but saw a review of Sit&Fly on YouTube by a Canadian guy that liked it better than the AirHawk. So I bought two of them, cut one up to form a first layer right under by behind and then pulled the other one over that one, giving me two layers of Sit&Fly. All I can say is I have been on that seat, 300 miles a day for 39 days and it seems ok, no medical procedures, sex life is still ok, it's fine. The other nice thing is rain goes right through it so you never have a wet seat. And air always goes through it so you get a nice cool rear end all day. Nice solution for 20-30 bucks.
My nephew is a big bicycle nut and I remember researching bike seats, leather vs padded, thin, thick, etc. And I called for his experienced advice and he said "It's not so much the seat Uncle John, it's your ass. Stop researching and start riding". So I guess breaking in your butt is a big part of it.
The fact that this bike is so easy to stand up on also might be helping. I actually lost weight on this trip (could have had more beer and BBQ, damn) and I was doing squats on the bike to get a little exercise, so maybe that is part of the equation.

OK, that's all I can think of. I'll update this if I think of more.

  0  - flat tires
  11,942=  total miles traveled on this trip (19219 km)
  30,231 = miles on the odometer (48652 km)
  60.5 mpg = worse fuel mileage on a tank (calculated from miles traveled and gallons used
  72.5 mpg = best fuel mileage (hot day, tail wind)
  4-5 mpg = how many mpg high the Kawasaki mpg display reads.
  1 = how many gallons you have left when the reserve light starts blinking (best guess)
  4.3 = most gallons I put in the 4.5 gallon tank (that was close!!)
  0 = least # of miles I put on (July 4th, time to relax)
  180 = fewest miles on a travel day (spent wonderful afternoon with my daughter)
  477 = most miles on a travel day (Google girl dumped me in a cow pasture in the woods!!)
  39 = days spent on the trip total
  306.2 = average miles per day
  0 = near misses (near accidents)
  13,000 = miles before the front tire cupped so bad I had to replace it
  13,631 = miles on the back Kenda K761 tire (doesn't look worn out but maybe?)
  13,631 = miles on this chain with only one adjustment (might need a second one now)
  Kenda K761 = tires I started the trip with
  Dunlop D404F = front tire I replaced the Kenda with (Only one the dealer had on the shelf)
  0 = number of times the bike fell over (I'm either good or lucky)
  1 = number of times a Harley guy dropped his bike on mine waiting for customs(I did not fall down)
  16,000 = how many miles my son put on it on his North America trip before I bought this bike
  0 = how many front tires he put on it (IRC Trail Winner GP210 - stock)
  1 = how many back tires he put on it (IRC Trail Winner GP210 - stock)
  1 = how many chains he replaced
  2017 Kawasaki Versys X motorcycle purchased June 22, 2017 by my son
  Kawasaki center stand
  Kawasaki power outlet
  MadStad 18" windshield (I am 5' 9")
  Kawasaki relay kit (gotta have it or the power outlet doesn't work)
  Giant Loop Great Basin saddlebag ( they make a better one now!)
  Givi 15 liter Tanklock tank bag
  Dry pods (I only used the double end one)
  Aerostitch Lobster Claw rain overgloves (awesome!)
  LL Bean Adventure bag (had it lying around)
  DuPont Chain Saver (some Walmarts have it)
  DID 520VX2 - NATURAL X'ring (750cc rated) chain
  DID Chain 520 VX2 Master Link ( I opted for a master link instead of rivet)
  Compass ball
  2-1/2" fender washer used for kickstand pad
  BMW leather lined gloves (had them for 20 years)
  Home Depot work gloves (lightweight)
  First gear Mesh high visibly jacket
  First gear riding pants
  Ink'd Bluetooth ear buds
  E-6000 glue
  Throttle Rocker
  Frogg Toggs
  OxGord Boot covers
  Master Lock Retractable Cable Lock