Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Honda Element + Digression ...

I heard from a friend a few weeks ago that Honda was going to stop manufacturing the Element. Sure enough, a Google search confirmed that 2011 is going to be the last year.


It's sad because there's no substitute for the Element. We bought one in 2007 because it could be had with a manual transmission, the rear seats can be easily and completely removed, and it could easily be equipped with a class 3 hitch.


The Element is a no-bullshit vehicle. It's heavy and completely non-aerodynamic. But it has nothing to hide - in turn for those problems it exposes an unadulterated void to fill through huge, b-pillarless openings.


Ten minutes is all it takes for me to remove *and* carry the rear seats into the basement. After that I can treat the cargo area like a truck bed because the interior absorbs nothing.


And after I fill this thing with _fill_in_the_blank_, I can enjoy my twisty roads the way I like to. The Element may be heavy, but you can still throw it into turns as Honda did an amazing job suspending the awkward-looking body.


I'm sad to see a truly utilitarian, general-purpose vehicle fall by the wayside. Worse, we are losing an option that's fun to drive and came in stick.

It costs gobs of money to get a vehicle approved for sale in these United States. Since the likes of the Element appear to satisfy few, I don't plan on seeing more like it. Here's hoping regulations stay away from motorcycles. Otherwise, I'm guessing the cost to enter will stifle uniqueness and innovation. And really, NHTSA, how are you going to help us if we decide to ride to work exposed on two wheels? Maybe you can start with traffic lights that actually sense us and put off stupidities like mandated ABS? Huh?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I want to get excited...

...about the Progressive International Motorcycle Show coming to DC next month, but it's nearly impossible. Why? Well, for starters, the very same show in Long Beach, CA is so significant that it warrants its own article at motorcycle.com. But if last year was any gauge, Washingtonians get a watered-down version of the show. Avi and I went on Friday last year and it was a pretty weak experience.


Off the top of my head, here's why the event sucks:

  1. It's winter.

  2. We have to pay? Are you kidding? It's an advertisement fest.

  3. None of the reps seemed all that interested in talking it up.

It's pretty awesome to have a motorcycle show land near your door. But give us a good reason to go! I mean seriously, I'm seeing pix of Keith Code's gadgetry on that review of the Long Beach show. Nicky Hayden, Ben Spies - any chance they're gonna make it out to the Washington Convention Center next month? I have my doubts...

I think the video from the International Motorcycle Show's website sums it up:


Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I don't know, maybe I don't go out much. But a short, 40-mile round tripper to a Dr. appointment today exposed me to two of the most insane, near-accident situations I've seen in the passed few years.

The oblivious
Not even a block away from the Old Town Alexandria practice I visited, we were following an Outback through a string of green lights when lo-and-behold, some one going way over 25 MPH comes flying through an intersection perpendicular to us (running a red that's been red for quite some time). I had more than enough following distance to slow comfortably while the Outback stopped short and turned to the right as the oblividiot slammed on the brakes and came to a halt. Both cars remained a still life photo of near disaster, inches between them as everyone looked on and waited to see how the suspense would end. 30 seconds later, both cars drove off.

The indecisive
Then, on 495 North we took the left exit for 66 West behind an 8th Gen Civic, who decided after exiting that he was going to veer back onto 495N. In the middle of his violent dash to the right, immediately in front of the water-filled crash barriers, he decided to undo his nearly complete veer and turn back to the exit lane for 66 West. The suspension never settled from his initial veer to the right, which made for some very active body roll in a car I rarely see move at all on its struts. If it was an SUV this confused highway driver would have rolled it.

WTF?! Pay attention to what you're doing on public roads, PLEASE!

Monday, November 22, 2010


For the third year in a row, we made it down to Kershaw, SC to ride Carolina Motorsports Park with Sportbike Track Time.


I was just reviewing the notes I took after each session, and confidence is the word of the weekend. I was carrying more speed into corners, getting on the throttle harder and earlier on exit, and reaching higher speeds on the straights. I think I finally get it, though raw speed and hard braking are still my biggest mental challenges. Of course, my accolades this week came after much coaching from the experts!

By the end of this 2-day stint, track days went from being a challenging experience for me to being fun in its most extreme, thrilling form. As the fear dwindles, the positive excitement just gushes.

As usual thanks to Megan for shooting (even though I didn't bring the heavy optical artillery)!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CMP 2010 prep complete!


Thank goodness. I'll refrain from sharing the laundry list, but all that remains are a few minor to-dos and this train is ready to leave!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Off Topic #1

Thought I'd take a minute to rant about some cool, off-topic stuff that's been making my world a happier place the last few months...

Field Notes

Contrary to popular belief (Megan), I got into Field Notes after RetroThing retweeted a video link about how these little notebooks are produced. After seeing the vid, I just had to try them out. I use small, cheapo, spiraled notebooks to keep records for our vehicles (maintenance, repairs, etc. - my Dad taught me to do this). Those notebooks suck, and the more you flip through them, the more they suck. Eventually, the pages start falling out.


So I decided to see how much better little notebooks could get. To put Field Notes to the test, I recorded notes after each session last weekend at CMP.

It feels good to use a product that performs well and has a neat story behind it.
Field Notes perform well and the production story behind them is neat.
:. Field Notes make me feel good.

The Impossible Project

I've learned to love all image recording technologies, but I have a soft spot for black and white film. I'm a year out of practice developing film, though I'm always aiming to get back in gear. My need to capture stills with style was kept at bay when The Impossible Project released their PX 600. I bought a cheap Polaroid camera off Craigslist so I could give this stuff a whirl. And it was fun!


It's not the same as shooting Neopan in my N75, but it allowed me to experiment with monochrome film and reminded me how magical analog photography is. All I had to do was substitute money for time spent developing! Impossible's PX 600 comes out to ~$2/image, and because it's a bit experimental you won't get the image you want every time. But there's a place for experimental, instant, analog photography, and I plan to visit that place when I can...

The AeroPress


It takes an addiction and turns it into a connoisseurism. It uncovers the flavor that people used to have to work hard to extract, and does so in a simple, repeatable fashion. It's the coffee brewer you've been waiting your whole life for and it's made by the same company whose frisbees flew over the horizon when you were a kid. It is the AeroPress by Aerobie (say wha?!).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday thoughts

Sometimes the sustainability of this activity comes to the forefront of my mind. Gas, electric - it doesn't really matter.  It's the spirit of the activity - complete, individual control of high-powered machinery that is grossly unnecessary...

...but there is so much value in the practice and discipline required to skillfully operate these machines.  It's mentally and physically challenging.  It satisfies a need to live on the edge, but your comfort envelope forces you to earn that exhileration...

Are there others, non-motor-powered ways to achieve whatever end I'm after?  Probably...

-- Pixi says

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I found an e-mail in my inbox one evening - something to the tune of:

Mycroft has subscribed to your YouTube channel

My what? I have a YouTube account? More alarming, I have my own channel?! I had two natural reactions to this event...

  1. I must reciprocate - chances are this Mycroft has a channel as well.

  2. Holy crap, I need to get a video up there - my surprise channel has nothing to watch!

So that night I decided I was going to record my morning routine starting with my 6:30am alarm.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tail light disintegration


I'm sure smart buyers are well aware of the lesson I just learned for the millionth time. I'm willing to wager these smart buyers actually apply what they've learned when buying a used motorcycle and aim to bag a bone-stock machine. Why? A previous post comes to mind. Unfortunately, I'm still learning to learn from my mistakes, and my beloved ZX had it's share of customizations performed by the previous owner.

These customizations included an integrated tail light/turn signal. I guess it cleans up the bike and makes for a sleeker tail section. But it also decreases visibility (since the LED cluster in the aftermarket part is sub-par when compared with the LEDs from the factory unit) and it makes it harder to telegraph your intentions to the driver behind you. Right and left turn signals encased within a single, 5-inch light fixture - in the middle of the vehicle. This makes me less than confident that my turn signal is getting the point across to the half driving, half teleconferencing motorist to my aft.

Laziness kept me driving with this language barrier until it actually began to fail. First a handful of the brake-purposed LEDs fell silent, then a handful of the left turn signal-purposed LEDs. This pathetic excuse for a light had to be replaced.

So replace I did. Some soldering and some resurrection of factory parts (which the previous owner was kind enough to include) gave me clear-as-can-be tail lights and rear turn signals. Communication restored!


However, now there's a gaping void within the stock rear turn signals and the body work they come attached to. The previous owner fitted a Cobra aftermarket exhaust. The rear of the motorcycle looks pretty hideous right now, but I think I can live with it for a while knowing I'll be seen. Now to find a stock exhaust...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cold. Track. Gloves.

Gluttons for punishment! Or maybe it's just that everyone's always available the weekend before the official Giving of Thanks? Or maybe it's the dash - the *last* track day of the year. It's now or never (never == Spring). But we're rocking CMP once again this November for the 2-day weekend of high speed activity.

Why gluttons for punishment? Because for the past 2 (three?) years, it's been *freezing*. Racing around the track with all the layers you can fit under your leathers and then camping out in the paddock in less-than-freezing temperatures isn't exactly the most convenient way to do a track weekend. There's been talk of over-nighting in a hotel, but I dunno...I want the full experience. So we'll see :)

Back to the point - Mike made clear his disappointment that I considered it acceptable to ride the Smokies with this, and so I've been forced to deal with an expensive problem I've been pretending I didn't know about:


So confronted with another track day and the knowledge that it's time to replace my most track-appropriate gloves, I've been searching. Because of the yearly visit to CMP in the cold (and sometimes wet), I believe these are the best solution:

The Alpinestars Storm Rider. Not only does newenough.com have good things to say about them, but there are comments sprinkled about the intertubes that claim this glove provides warmth without sacrificing protection (which seems to be rare). Gore-Tex FTW! Now to stare at the price for a few more days (weeks?)...

So speaking of the Smokies, I'll cover that in a different post. It's hard to sum up a week out there - and where the Dragon trips started out as get-as-many-miles-in-as-possible-on-the-awesome-roads trips, they've turned into a mix of seeing the sites/hikes as well as conquering some amazing roads. I like the change, but I always leave wishing I spent more time on the roads...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Good coffee near the Dragon!


Stucco House Coffee Roasters near downtown Murphy, NC.  They roast their own beans and bake their own pastries.

This is reason enough to stay in Andrews from now on!

-- Pixi says

Monday, September 6, 2010

En route to Andrews, NC

Some unexpected rides turned the Civic rescue weekend into a mini moto vacation!

Now it's off to the Smokies - another early morning...

-- Pixi says

Sunday, September 5, 2010

DIY Fail.

So our 1st stop on our road trip was Suffolk to rescue a rejected Honda Civic. My bro-in-law got reamed at inspection for both front lower control arms and a front motor mount (among other things), so we thought we have a repair party since the labor costs were going to be...high.


Step one: remove the sway bar links.
Anyone who's removed sway bar links on a car with more than 10 miles on it knows that you put your sockets back in the toolbox and grab a hacksaw. After expending way more energy than those little bastards are worth, the front suspension was free of the sway bar and it was time to start undoing the lower control arm mounting bolts. Oh yeah, add new sway bar links to the parts store list.

Step two: remove control arm bolts
Our longest breaker bar with the jack handle slid over it gave us enough leverage to turn the front mounting bolt on the control arm. Wonderful, progress! Yeah, not so much. The bolt had frozen to the metal sleeve of the bushing, so we were turning the whole bushing. I'll avoid the gory details and just say that I'm pretty sure we'd have needed a cutting torch of sorts to beat this one...

Step three: drive your broken sh*t to a mechanic.
So we reattached what we could, tied the sway bar into a fixed position, and drove it to the professionals (who said things like, "they're just not fun to work on anymore" and "that's the risk you run when you try it yourself").

Step four: saddle-up!
So there we were, feeling beaten. Adam's got a bike; we had a trailer with two motorcycles on it...


Chalk up one more Saturday in Suffolk.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Locked n' loaded...


The Suzaki duo is strapped-down.


Megan squeezed in a few hours of work before her telecon, which went quite well!


Just got the locomotive packed-up.


Closing this all with a short glass and some internet time. Tomorrow morn we just back the E to the coupler, hook up, and wave g'bye to the cats! Time to rock the Smokies! Well, after a preliminary waypoint...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Leaning-off in a left-hander

Right leg wrapped around; joining centripital force to keep you but inches from the ground.

Right arm pulling, left pushing.

Push/pull eases to equilibrium as the asphalt straightens; not without your legs and torso returning weight to your right peg.

Head, shoulders, waist complete half an arc demanded by the ess, whose second half awaits as you mirror these actions.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pelicans pelicans pelicans...

Hard bags turn a bike into something useful. Sure, there are a bunch of soft bag solutions out there that can join forces to create a Voltron-esque container to store your belongings. But in my opinion? Soft bags suck. They aren't really lockable, they are annoying as hell to fiddle with when you're looking for something you packed toward the bottom. And before you know it, you've deformed your pack job to the point where you need to start all over again. UGH!!!! With a hard bag, you just smoosh everything back in and latch it. No deformation.


If I'm stuck on a bike without hard luggage, I consider myself to be using an inadequate tool of transportation. So it was with great pleasure today that I was able to place my Almax chain, backpack, and lunch into a Pelican 1550 (as opposed to a Joe Rocket tail bag that was hardly up to the task).

When I bought the ZX, the seller gave me one of those slick seat cowls that match the contours of the bike and replace the pillion seat. So I unbolted the frame from the cowl and reattached it to one of Megan's Pelican saddle bags. Much to Megan's satisfaction, this gave us the excuse to finally buy a matching orange Pelican and now her bike looks more presentable in all its VT colors!

That black Pelican 1550 started out on the SV650S, was moved to the SV650, and now has its home on the rear of the ZX. The bottom of the case is starting to look like Swiss cheese, but it's still holding strong and here's hoping it serves me well on the 636!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Trailer, 2010

Usually I get the trailer back in action in the Spring, but this year took a different course and here I am spinning the trailer up in August. Better late than never, yeah?


Every year brings a different list than the last, and this one included a license plate/tail light bracket that sheared, a failed right-hand tail light, and some rewiring. That's in addition to the yearly repacking of the wheel bearings. It appears the Harbor Freight trailer mediocrity exists outside my social circle:

How to fix Harbor Freight’s 48 x 96″ 1150lb trailer with 12″ wheels

James's post above is priceless - I'm sure I'll be referring to that a few more times. Thanks to the broken pieces of information on the blogs, forums, and parts suppliers that lace our intertubes, we continue to hobble along with HF Model 90154.

September will see us down in the Smokies for our 2010 taste of the twisties. And I'll be damned if Old Red isn't the 1st thing I see every time I check the rear view.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday thoughts...

Tat tags?


What's a tat? Oh yeah, that's right. I forgot that all motorcyclists have tattoos. Well, since they do, of course they will like sheet metal cut into recognizable shapes! How ...creative.

Moving right along, I've been testing this new GPS logger application on my WebOS-based phone. I dig! I'm thinking it will prove useful in the future for capturing awesome routes I stumble upon (more on this in a future post).

While I was sitting at a red light today, thinking about the logger recording my whereabouts, I spotted a sedan with a big 'ol Papa John's wart half attached to the rear passenger side window. It was a knarly thing with its tentacles reaching in through the cracked-open window and two big, nasty suction cups holding it on from the outside. Oh yeah, and a tail wrapped around the frame that came to an end with a cigarette lighter connector. Ugly.


I'm sure PJ figured that this was a great idea - get the name out there so people will call in for orders. That's a shame, because when I see it, these are the things that come to mind:

  • Wow, PJ's too cheap to buy delivery mobiles and lets employees rack up the miles on their own machines.

  • That's the ugliest contraption I've even seen.

  • Let me get 2 lanes away from that thing before it falls on me.

  • I wonder if that cord can even reach the cigarette lighter.

  • Do those appendages have to be DOT approved?

Those are probably not the kind of negative, doubtful thoughts you want your name to inspire. Hell, after writing this post, Papa John's is embedded in my head as a big nasty thing that finds and attaches itself to your car when you're not watching. Look out!!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Downsides of my ZX

So I've been recently questioning the choice I made back in December when I replaced my 2001 SV650S with a 2006 ZX6R. Some of the benefits I've always attributed to riding a motorcycle actually don't apply to this 636cc supersport. Let me explain...


First of all, don't get me wrong. The ZX is bleeding-edge performance packed into a gorgeous flat-blue paint job. It's just jaw-dropping to operate this thing. But I've come to the realization that the additional costs of owning and driving this bike are frustrating.

Take, for example, insurance. I actually don't insure the bike with any collision coverage - way too expensive. However, I do have comprehensive coverage. Guess how much: $118/year. Okay, maybe that doesn't sound like a whole lot, but let me put it in perspective: comprehensive costs $28/year for Megan's 2007 SV650.

And then there's fuel costs. Sure, it gets better gas mileage than a car, but its 12.9:1 compression ratio requires the highest octane available at the pump. So far, it costs as much per mile in fuel to drive the ZX as it does to drive our 2004 Toyota MR2.


I had my eyes set on a supersport 600 after our last track weekend at CMP. I felt I was beginning to exceed the capabilities of my SV's suspension, and wanted to upgrade. I'm sure my next visit to the track will remind me of this. However, I'm learning there's a price to be paid if you want high performance on hand.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I was quoted!

I had a fun conversation with Patrick May of the San Jose Mercury News about Tesla's Model S.  And he quoted me!


Rock on with the Tesla coverage, Pat!

-- Pixi says

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Review: Genesis Track One

I mentioned previously that I solicited Wal Mart for one of their fine products - the Genesis Track One fixed-gear bicycle. Being a completely inexperienced cyclist, I'm going to go ahead and review the non-motorized machine. A friend wanted a review and, well, to be honest, I wanted to write one. So here goes.


...was easy! Just attach the handle bars, front wheel, pedals, and seat. The rear wheel and crank came assembled. And surprisingly, the assembled parts weren't full of rounded nuts from assemblers that didn't give a sh*t and used adjustable wrenches. I mean, they may very well have used adjustable wrenches, but the evidence wasn't grossly overwhelming.

I had to flip the rear wheel around as it came ready for riding as a single-speed free-wheeler. But I wanted to jump right into fixed-gear riding. So now my directional tire is rotating the wrong way. Wonder if that's slowing me down...

Anyway, to conclude assembly, let's just say I spent more time removing stickers than I did actually assembling the bicycle!


...is eh. From 10 feet away, the bike looked like it consisted mostly of paint (and minimally of decals). But alas, they actually used decals to blend the different colors together on the frame. I still tore all the decals off, though, because I hate stickers. And thankfully, they weren't too difficult to remove. I was disappointed because I thought the bike was black and white when I saw it on the website, but it's actually sparkly midnight blue and white.


The bike shipped with a chain guard on the crank sprocket. *Removed*. Also came with a kickstand! *Removed*. Why? I don't know - poking around on the internet taught me that cool people remove these things. And I wanted to be cool.

Anyway, after trimming, the bike looked simple, clean, and respectable (as if I even had something to compare it to). I will note that I'm impressed with how nicely the handle bars were wrapped. It's not coming apart or anything. Sure, it hasn't been very long. But it just seems like it was done well.


...is respectable? Gosh, I don't know - I mean, it rolls pretty good. The brakes are a little disappointing, but I think that's because I'm use to dual front disks with opposed-piston calipers. This wheel-squeezing stuff is for the birds, I tell ya. I've looked into putting disc brakes on this thing, but it appears the hub needs to support that. And these JoyTech hubs surely don't have a mount for brake discs.

Anyway, I've probably put about 20-30 miles on the bike and I find it is particularly solid. I really like riding it around - it's easy to use, and it feels like maintenance will be almost non-existent for this bike (aside from chain cleaning). The gearing seems reasonable, and only the worst of hills and reasonable downhills cause me to run outside my pedaling capabilities.


You got shocks, pegs... lucky!

Well, I don't got that, but I do got a few other upgrades! The most significant of which is a lighter front wheel! I swept Craigslist for any goodies I could use to improve my new two-willer, and I found a guy selling a brand new Forte Titan front wheel! So that saved me a pound. Dumb wheel was made for a presta valve though, and the tube that came with my bike was shrader-valved. My friend Dewalt and a 21/64" bit helped me remedy that problem. And believe it or not, the tire that shipped with the Track One managed to mount on the narrower, 13mm Titan. Score!


Otherwise I added a water bottle holder (for which there are existing holes on the diagonal frame tube). And a slick little bar end mirror. Now I can see Megan trying to pass me with all her gears! Grrr...


I didn't expect much from the second bicycle I bought from Wal Mart. But it's acting like it wants to hang around for a while. And I'm loving the simplicity and silence of fixed-gear action. So if you're curious, and you want to try it, my experience so far says you won't be mistaken with the $150 Genesis Track One.


For what it's worth!

PS - pictures to come when I get some time...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Concerns from behind

I love the track because you rip your mirrors off and you give the asphalt in front of you all you got. It's simple (though difficult). We're all out there trying to do exactly the same thing, so predictability is on our side. And we don't have to be concerned with what's going on behind us.


If only the street was the same way. But it's not, and the safest drivers, in my opinion, are 360-degree aware. Concerned with who, if anyone, is tail-gaiting; sure of what's behind when considering an unpredictable maneuver, etc. And particularly on the motorcycle, considering the rear view before chopping the throttle or braking hard.

That last point is worth expanding-upon. Chopping the throttle and braking. I'm sure I'm the billionth person to recognize that throttling-off on a motorcycle can often take the place of braking. There is a relatively violent deceleration on most of the motorcycles I've ridden. It's nice because you can spend less time on the brake and use one input control to regulate your speed - both for corner entry and exit in addition to simply managing your speed. However, in traffic you may slow from 15 MPH to 5 just by cutting the throttle (in a very short amount of time). Most vehicles would require the driver to apply the brakes to achieve such rapid decel. And they'd advertise that action with bright red lights for all behind them to see. But the motorcycle that shed 10 MPH just by cutting the throttle did no such thing - lets hope the driver behind has kick-@$$ depth-perception! Or lets just hope they're paying attention at all.


But like I said, I'm the billionth person to recognize this. I'm pretty sure I was told at my MSF course, some 10 years ago, to apply the brake lever when "engine-braking." Just so that the drivers behind are aware that you're slowing down. In the interest of minimizing risk, it's probably a good idea. Maybe not always convenient, but putting on this show for the cars behind you scores you extra visibility points. I consider this every time I'm on the road. I don't always employ it, but I consider it almost every time I slow down for a red light.

It takes thought - split seconds of thought that could go somewhere else. And while I never cared about those lost brain cycles before, I'm contemplating them now because I recently learned that the Tesla Roadster fires the brake lights on throttle-off.



Yep. Weird, right? My initial reaction was that it's a bad idea, that it misrepresents what's really going on, and that I don't like it. But after I shook-off the self-imposed insult to my person, I reconsidered the whole idea with a bit more of an open mind. Think about not having to think about that brake lever when you chop the throttle on a motorcycle. I kinda dig it. One control to accelerate, slow down (even violently), and notify your tailgaiters that you're decelerating. I think that would be a nice feature.

However, there appear to be negative sides to this feature of the Tesla Roadster, as described by VFX on teslamotorsclub.com:


I think his points are valid, and they center around the fact that many drivers assume that a vehicle is decelerating significantly when the brake lights fire. Now how do we define significantly? I think we can do it with a value. And if we can determine a value at which deceleration becomes significant, then we can simply employ an accelerometer to turn the brake lights on and off, right?

I like the idea of linking brake lights to more than just the brake pedal. I think it can be done smartly, safely, and it can afford me one less thing to think about while slowing down. What do you think?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Don't take it lightly

There is everything serious about operating a motor vehicle on a public road. Do it like you mean it, and watch this to remember why.

Cars and motorcycle videos

I have my gripes about some of the acting and cinematography, but their intention is clear and they didn't mind going raw. Well done.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New steed, no motor

A recent visit to my mother-in-law's totally resurrected my interest in bicycling. She's a hardcore cyclist with a few bikes on hand, so she was able to outfit us for a 16-mile round-tripper. Fun stuff!

The whole experience brought a back-burner curiosity to the front of my conscious: fixed gear bicycles. So to the internet I went to learn what I could.

Most of my newfound knowledge came from Sheldon Brown's site. There's a lot of good information there, but it led me to realize that finding an existing fixed-gear bike or converting one myself was probably not going to be cheap.

So I continued to insert-coin at Google, and came across a fixed-gear offering from Walmart. I determined that this was the cheapest means to an end, and sold out.


For about $3, Walmart happily shipped the bike to our doorstep in a box. It assembled rather quickly and as soon as possible, I gave it a whirl. I've never ridden a bike that felt so solid, though I'm not exactly a frequent cyclist. There are less tolerances to be tested with a fixed-gear setup it seems, so everything felt firm and aligned and I had an absolute blast scooting around on it.


I'll have to brush-up on the fringe skills that seem to come in handy while riding a fixed-gear bike. But I look forward to the challenge, and can't wait to take it for a spin again!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Regulations get in my way

We bought a used set of alloy wheels for our Honda Element. The stock steelies that came on our LX started to surface-rust, and we wanted something that looked more presentable.


Rock on! We get to sport new shiny wheels, right? Well, it’s not that simple. Our Element came with TPMS radios in those rusty steel wheels. So until we move those TPMS valves to our new shiny alloys, we have to stare @ an annoying TPMS light on the dashboard. Hopefully our carputer’s discontent has no adverse affects aside from the dummy light.

In the basement was a set of Eibach springs I’ve been waiting to install, so I decided to go the whole nine yards - install the springs, the new wheels, and finish it all off with new tires (both the steelies and the new alloys have old rubber) and get an alignment.

The TPMS annoyance follows us all the way to the tire shop because we need to pack all 4 steelies into the car (since they contain the TPMS units). The shop will remove and dispose of the steel wheel tires (which will cost me) to gain access to the TPMS radios. Then, the shop will move the TPMS units to the new alloys (which will cost me). And then they can finish the task I’m really interested in, which is to install new tires on the alloys and align the Elements new kicks.

So what has government-mandated TPMS done for me? It has complicated car maintenance and added to my costs. What’s TPMS done for you?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

If you don't need it...

...then get rid of it! I decided to operate under that principle when I recently had to replace the rear windshield wiper blade on our Honda Element.

After cleaning off the car countless times during this brutal winter, we discovered that the rear wiper was swinging some loose rubber around. To avoid leaving gashes in our rear glass, we stopped using it until I made it to AutoZone to pickup a replacement.

Long story short, the rear wiper blade on the Element is atypical. None of the commonly-available wiper blades can attach to the rear arm. Sure, you can buy a replacement blade or insert through the right outlets (particularly the Honda dealer), but those places don’t fall within my network of oft-traveled roads.


Do we need the rear wiper?

I said, “hell no.” Megan shook her head in the negative. So now the rear wiper motor is in the basement, along with it’s stupid one-of-a-kind arm and the pathetic, damaged wiper blade.

In its place is a faucet plug (typically used to blank-out unused holes in sinks), which came as a recommendation from a thread at the EOC:


So next time you have to replace something that’s not easily attainable - piece of trim, tire valve cap, clutch master cylinder, who knows - ask yourself: Do you need it?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Getting antsy...


Just got a roll of film developed that's been sitting in the N75 since November. What do you know, it had a few freshly-developed frames from our November excursion to Carolina Motorsports Park!


The recent spell of cold temperatures and unusual blizzards has put me in a state of blah for a while now. But these pictures have me excited for the warm temperatures that are on the horizon.


So yeah, the next track day can not come soon enough...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lock it down

I felt I didn't have to worry about motorcycle theft. Until my most recent acquisition, my 2-wheelers have been bikes that wouldn't attract theives (or at least I believed this). A Ninja 250, a Honda Shadow VLX, a Triumph Thunderbird, and an SV650. I mean, these are way-cool machines, don't get me wrong. But anyone I know who's had their motorcycle stolen lost a 600 supersport.

So the ZX-6R came with a bit of baggage: theft paranoia. I did a lot of reading to uncover that magic trick for securing your motorcycle. You know, that simple thing that doesn't cost much yet ensures your bike will be there every morning when you wake up? Yeah, I don't think there is such a thing. I instead came to the following, common-sense conclusion:

If you don't want your bike stolen, chain it to an immovable object.

Obviously, the conclusion above assumes an impenetrable chain. A chain you can't cut through. The chain of all chains. The Almax.

Checkout how easy it apparently is to break most chains:

...and how apparently impossible it is to beat an Almax chain:

I read about the Almax chains in Motorcyclist. A few issues ago, there was a short blurb about chains and bike security. After digging up these videos, I was convinced that if you want a chain you could trust, you buy an Almax. Is an invincible chain really necessary? Is the Almax even invincible? I don't know, but I think so :)


The chain is ridiculously heavy (and the links are huge!). I didn't weigh it, but its gotta be 5-10lbs. It fits in a tail bag, so size is not a problem. But my opinion is that it's a stretch to call this chain portable. However, after the price I paid for it, this chain's coming with me on the road one way or another!

Immovable object
Chain? Check. Immovable object? Hmmm...I wanted to chain it to one of our cars. I figured a parked car to be rather immovable. But I couldn't trust myself or someone else to throw the Element into reverse after considering that a motorcycle might be tethered to it. So opted for a dedicated ground anchor.

Almax sells a ground anchor made by Hardie-Secure. It's a neat, flat, presentable-looking ground anchor. I wanted something tough, but as low-profile as possible for aesthetics. Plus, this thing's so flat I can run the motorcycle over it while parking. Since we constantly have to get creative when extracting the parked-in bikes, the shallow anchor is almost a necessity.

Installing the ground anchor was...interesting. It requires drilling a 20mm diameter hole, 100mm deep. That's a big freakin' hole to make in concrete. Thankfully, the anchor comes with a huge masonry bit to use. You have to supply the hammer drill. And I'm thinking you probably need a hammer drill for this one. It took about 30 minutes to get 100mm down. And it was quite a workout.

It's fun to call an Almax the best chain and to assume they make and sell the best products for securing your motorcycle. But it's not fun to look at the bill after placing your order. I converted the GBP value to USD once, forgot the number, and have decided not to think about it again.


They are expensive products that will only be worth their cost if you use them constantly and correctly. I welcome the challenge.

Insurance rant
I called Progressive to see if they'd lower my comprehensive insurance rate since I will now be chaining my motorcycle to a ground anchor. They said that they'd only lower my comprehensive insurance cost if I get lojack, which is ridiculous in my opinion. Sure, maybe lojack can disable the ignition - but we're talking about a motorcycle here. 3 guys and a vehicle can pick up a bricked motorcycle and be done with it. And sure, Lojack might assist in motorcycle recovery. But my guess is that theives will find and disable the lojack. It's a freakin' motorcycle. Where the hell can Lojack hide things? If their product is outside the crankcase, then I'm sure I could find it if I wanted to.

As far as recovery goes, that's the last ditch hope, in my opinion. If my bike is gone one morning, Lojack or not, I don't expect to get it back. Priority #1 should be keeping the theft from happening in the first place. Progressive doesn't appear to think so. Always reactionary, never preventative...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Keeping a remote machine (legally?)

My job has me traveling out to the West Coast an estimated once per quarter (no complaints). Being human (or maybe just being me?), I can't seem to look a good thing in the face and indulge. I've got to make it better! And how do you make it better?

Exactly, I want an arrangement where I have a motorcycle at my disposal each time I touch-down at LAX. There are a lot of reasons a motorcycle is desirable out there (even if only 4 times per year):

  • Great weather

  • Independence

  • Awesome canyon roads

And of course, the last item above is the real reason to incur the cost and inconvenience of keeping a machine out there. But my initial research leaves me with many questions...

  • Can I register a vehicle in California as a Virginia resident?

  • Where will I store it?

  • Which road should I try out first (still got that Mad Map, T?)

Legality and logistics represent the major challenge. Updates to follow...