Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Constitutional Right, Plainly Stated

I recently heard something about the mayor of Greensboro, NC, Nancy Vaughn.

Ms. Vaughn says she recently had a conversation with her daughter, a high school student, about the Florida school shooting.

Now that is a topic of discussion in many families nowadays, unfortunately, because mentally deranged people go into places like schools where the occupants are defenseless, and open fire on them.

Ms. Vaughn's discussion was certainly an opportunity to explain to her daughter, who at her age, is formulating her views of the world, why these shooting are happening with alarming frequency, and what would be effective in preventing them. 

Unfortunately, instead of using logic, she took the shallow-thinker route and announced that she and the entire Greensboro City Council are in support of canceling a gun show scheduled for August 25th and 26th at the Greensboro Coliseum.  

That is what her daughter, with her limited understanding of the world, would probably believe to be an easy way to prevent such crimes -- ban the sale of firearms.  Her daughter would also likely believe that this effort should begin right there in Greensboro in late August at that gun show.

Her daughter would certainly feel good about that move -- that she had done something

But would it have any real effect on preventing that type of crime? 

Listen to what this Greensboro resident has to say:

His name is Mark Robinson.  He does not own a gun. He understands the United States Constitution clearly, especially its second amendment. 

I agree with his points in their entirety.

Ms. Vaughn, should stop listening to her child, and instead, use actual logic, not feelings, to put forth real-world solutions to major problems.

It is plain as day -- and should be to Ms. Vaughn -- that leftists like her, apparently, want to take guns away from law-abiding citizens, resulting in our having only those with criminal intent or those who are deranged to posses weapons.  They are certainly not going to turn in their weapons no matter what the laws say. 

Those defenseless school children in Florida were less well protected than the money in a Brinks truck or the jewels in a fine jewelry store because there is a sign on the door like this one:

Those children are sitting ducks for violence against them. 

By the way, the proposal by the Greensboro City Council is a regulation of the sale and purchase of firearms and components by an action of a municipality and, as such, is a direct violation of North Carolina law. 

Now read about a town in Georgia -- one of six nationwide -- that requires households to own a firearm.

I would think twice -- no at least three times -- about going there to shoot up a school or commit some other crime.

That is a good way to stop school shootings, and, indeed, almost all other kinds of crime. 

Oh, and reopening mental institutions to treat those with troubles like that instead of "mainstreaming" them into society is another facet of an effective solution.  

Nevertheless, Democrats and other leftists are working their hardest to further restrict the ability to own firearms.  Think about the misguided, naive Ms. Vaughn, her daughter, and the City Council of Greensboro. 

I am with Mr. Robinson.  How about you?

Write to your government officials, show up at their meetings, and visit them in their offices to tell them what you think about this serious matter. 

Here is where you find out how to contact them:  

Check the Internet to find your state and local politicians. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Droopy Rear Turn Signal Fix for Kawasaki Ninja 650R

If you own a 2006 through 2008 Kawasaki Ninja 650R, then you are probably wondering what to do about the rear turn signals -- or as the Brits would say -- indicators. 

If you don't own one of these bikes, here is what happens: 

See the right signal hanging down?  Droopy, I'd say. 

The reason why they fail is that they are made with a rubber piece so that they have some flexibility and don't get broken off by a careless boot when mounting, or when they get crowded by a set of side bags,

or when you have a minor tipover. 

That rubber piece deteriorates with age and sunlight until it becomes cracked and broken.  ...and you can't buy the rubber piece by itself.  You have to buy the whole assembly. 

I have fixed mine using Dap 18384 Flexi-Clear Elastomeric Sealant (UPC code: 70798 18376),

along with a stiff wire covered in rubber tubing to support the lamp from the side reflector. 

Rubber-covered wire beneath signal lamp,
supported from reflector mount.

Underside of fender view.
The wire support has a loop that wraps around
the screw and under the nut on the back of the reflector.

Be sure to apply the sealant into the cracks and then smear some on the outside to smooth out the cracks.  It is very messy, but solvent removes it from your hands. 

This holds up fairly well, is inconspicuous, and is very inexpensive. 

If your signals are in much worse shape, then an alternative is needed.  New signals cost about $70 each. 


I have been unable to find a set of used ones that are in any better shape than mine, and I won't spend that kind of money to get new ones. 

You can buy a set of Chinese LED lights that look almost like the originals, but since the originals are incandescent, you do have to install a different flasher or install parallel resistors to make the lamps flash at the correct rate with this option.  It is also not certain that those meet DOT light output requirements. 

Most of the other cheap aftermarket LED signals are very weak and almost invisible in daylight. 

You could also install an integrated LED tail/stop/turn signal.  The disadvantage is the flasher replacement issue above and the fact that the separation distance between the tail light and the signal does not meet DOT requirements.  In other words, a following driver may not be able to distinguish the brake light from a turn signal because they are so close together. 

One other solution that looks factory is to replace the signals with some from a later year bike.  The ones for the 2009-2011 are a different shape, and have a different rubber piece, but they fit the same opening and use the same mounting hardware and electrical sockets. ...and you can be sure that they meet all DOT visibility requirements. 

Here are some pictures for comparison:

2006-2008 signal showing mounting hardware.
Top, 2009-2011.
Bottom, 2006-2008.
2009-2011 signal shown mounted on 2006-2008 rear fender flap.
The later year rubber piece is of a different design, it does not appear to deteriorate as fast as the older design, and it fits the openings in the rear fender flap properly.  You can find them used for a fairly low price (certainly well under the $70 each retail price new). 

I bought my set on ebay from
seller mxnmama (Sooner State Cycle in Tulsa, OK) for $4.90 + $5.00 shipping each. 

Here is a rundown of part numbers and current retail prices to help you find what you need:

  • 23037
  • 23037A
  • 23037
    23037-0235 (was 23037-0161)
  • 23037A
    23037-0236 (was 23037-0162)
Mounting Hardware for either 2006-2008 or 2009-2011 (one of each part number required for each signal.)
  • 92200
  • 92200A
  • 224
Here is an exploded 2009-2011 parts diagram:
OK, so now you have no excuse to run around with those droopy turn signals.  

See you on the road soon!  I'll signal 'ya.  

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Pumpkintown Loop: Get Lost!

Back around 2007 through 2009, a local graphic artist with an interest in motorcycles by the name of Norm Blore brought out a nice glossy magazine called Motorcycle Lifestyle.  The magazine featured motorcycles and motorcycle-related events, accessories, news, and other information.  In fact, I wrote an article for the magazine about washing leather motorcycle clothing yourself at home.

The magazine was certainly not dependent on my little article, though I also don't think that is what caused its demise.   Rather, small independent publishers have a very difficult time making money in their endeavor.

One thing Mr. Blore included in many of the issues was a ride map.  These highlighted roads and attractions that are interesting to motorcyclists in the upstate of South Carolina and the bordering states of North Carolina and Georgia.  He also occasionally wrote about further-away trips, some on the other side of the globe.

One of these local ride maps was called Get Lost!, because it is a fairly complex route from which is it easy to do just that -- get lost.  Incidentally, that is one of the neat things about riding, I think.  Just go down a road that looks interesting either in person or on the map to see where it leads, and what borders it.  It is especially encouraging, nowadays, that almost no matter how lost you are, you can press the "home" button on a GPS and it will (usually) get you back to that by the shortest route.

Anyway, the Get Lost! route appeared in the Early Spring 2009 issue of the magazine, and was actually called "The Pumpkintown Loop, GREAT ROADS YOU'VE NEVER RIDDEN".  He goes on to describe the route in more detail:

56 miles of two-lane as they zigzag through our upper South Carolina rural landscape.  Some roads are pretty tight.  All have farms and old country homes and interesting sights to see.  I almost like it better in winter because I can see what is normally hidden behind the trees.  Ride slow, ride careful and have a great afternoon.  This should take about two hours if you don't get lost.  This is a complicated one.  A great route for a scavenger hunt.  
Copyright 2008, Norm Blore.

By the way, Pumpkintown is a crossroads just about in the center of this ride map, though you don't go through it while following the route.  I tried the route out with the help of my GPS.  You can download the GetLost.GPX file here, by clicking the Download button on the page the link takes you to, then selecting Save File, and entering the desired location on your hard disk or GPS.  The GPX file was created by the Harley-Davidson Ride Planner website using the Motorcycle Lifestyle magazine map.  I wrote a posting about using the Ride Planner website here in case you want to give it a try.


All information given here is thought to be correct, however, it is YOUR responsibility to make certain that it works correctly, works with your GPS, works with your computer, and so on and on. 
Routes generated in various ways may cause you to be routed in the wrong direction -- maybe the wrong way or off a cliff.  That, too, is YOUR responsibility. 

The contents, usability, accuracy, and suitability of any files referenced are not warranted in any way.  YOU must determine whether to use any information in the files or in this posting, or referenced by this posting. 
Do not fiddle with your GPS while riding. Always stop in a safe place before attempting to manipulate your GPS screen.
There are no warranties on anything here whatsoever, express or implied.

I use an earphone plugged into my GPS so I can hear its verbal directions.  That helps avoid having to study the screen while you are riding along, that being a potentially dangerous activity. 

If you use the GPS route, ignore any instructions to make a U-turn.  Those are apparently caused by slight errors in selecting the waypoints in Ride Planner.  Look at the paper map to see where it is taking you, and follow the paper map when in doubt.  You will get back onto the GPS route, usually in a minute or two. 

A letter "F" on the map indicates that fuel is available there (though there is no fuel at Pumpkintown, but there is a restaurant).

And so I start out on my way to getting lost. 

February 22, 2018
The weather is good today -- temperate, about 60 degrees, with quite a few clouds -- as I head northward on SC-135 to my starting point on the route where it crosses Earl's Bridge Road.  I plan on riding the route clockwise today.  From that starting point, the route takes me up and down, hither and yon.

Most of these roads are gently curving, but occasionally there is a tight turn -- not necessarily marked as such, I might add.  I did find that there were quite a few places where there was mud on the road, washed out of unpaved driveways onto the road by recent rains,

...and from a couple of logging operations.

Fortunately most of the mud is dry and thin, so it is easy to avoid trouble.  There is a little gravel in places, but not much, and there are a few significant pavement heaves that I take the brunt of along the way. 

I ride along, following the GPS instructions and the paper map.  I am going pretty slowly, so I can look around at the pretty scenery. There are a lot of old barns and outbuildings.

After a few trips west to east and back west, I find myself on Tater Hill Mountain Road.  I don't see much of a mountain, but it must be a place where they grew potatoes.  An old red dog lying in the road looks at me sleepily as I pass by.

I hope drivers coming from the other direction see him in time to swerve around him. 

In a few miles, I am on Carrick Creek Road.  Just north of where it intersects with Table Rock Road is the Amelia Falls Event Venue.  This is a place that is available for weddings and other gatherings.  They advertise: "Our picturesque setting provides opportunities for distinctive ceremonies, receptions, reunions, and picnics."  The main attraction is a small waterfall that is visible from the road.  There is a narrow pulloff on the road from which you can view the falls.

That's the bike parked way up there.

After I drink in the view of the falls, I continue northward on Carrick Creek Road, keeping a sharp eye out for a gargantuan St. Bernard dog that chased me the last time I rode through here.  He runs like a gazelle, and that time I was saved only by an oncoming car that the dog had to avoid before intercepting me.  I don't see him today, fortunately.  

I continue across SC-11, known as the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway that runs along the southern edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, and continue onto Back Park Road.  Table Rock State Park has an entrance just south of here on SC-11; a nice place to picnic, hike, and enjoy the views.  There is a picturesque barn with a quilt pattern on the side and an old truck peeking out the far end here.  I stop to snap its picture. 

Back Park Road comes out near Aunt Sue's Country Corner, "
Where families can still be families!"  It is a good place to stop for lunch, or a scoop of ice cream, and they have some other shops there to buy souvenirs.  They are closed in winter, unfortunately. 

From there, I go up South Saluda Road, which turns right onto Table Rock Road (not the same as the previously-mentioned road of the same name), which changes into River Road.  I pass the makeshift helicopter landing field they used during the forest fire back in November of 2016.  It is a campground in the warm season. 
Further along, the road parallels the South Saluda River with many shallow picturesque shoals.  There are a few places to stop if you want a closer look at them. 

I come out onto SC-276.  If you want, it is only about seven twisty miles to the north from here to reach Caesars Head State Park.  The road is a little rough in places, and watch for the vendor at Bald Rock selling honey and other touristy items in one place about a third of the way up along the right side of the road.  Coming back down you can't see it from around a bend, and there might be cars stopped or turning there.  I didn't go up this time because it is cloudy, but the view is excellent on a clear day.  You can walk out onto the very large, aptly named Bald Rock if you like. 

I turn to the south on SC-8 and again cross SC-11 onto Talley Bridge Road.  At the Greenville County line, there is a bridge that passes over some pretty shoals in the river on the left side. 

There are remnants of an older highway bridge on the right side, and calmer waters.

I continue on a short distance and turn sharply right onto Moody Bridge Road.  Around the first left-hand sweeper, look for a pulloff on the left side on the shore of Tall Pines Lake.  Kill a few minutes to take in the view of the miniature lighthouse on an island in the lake.

A little further still, I run across the Causey Tract public dove hunting field on the right, at 1776 Moody Bridge Road.  It is only open Saturdays after noon, and there is a limit of 50 shells or 15 birds, whichever comes first.  I don't stop to shoot.  It isn't Saturday, after all. 

Moody Bridge runs into Pleasant Grove Road, then into Liberia Road.  There is a church on the left side called Soapstone Baptist Church and cemetery.  There is a large outcropping of soapstone near the church, and they have a monthly fish fry supper that I'm told is quite good.  The cemetery just to the south has many very old gravestones. 

I finish out the route, coming back to SC-135.  I follow it back to Easley, then go a little further south, meander around the countryside some more, do some low speed practice, than go home to my garage. 

All along as I ride today, I have seen views and glimpses of the mountains, both near and far.

I got lost from the intended route a few times, but managed to recover and get home all right. 

I also am not so good about remembering to turn off my GoPro when I stop someplace.  I inadvertently got my picture taken many times during this trip.  Some examples:

Try out this route for yourself when you have a little time.  I think you'll like it. 

By the time you read this, the dogwoods, Bradford pears, redbuds, and forsythias will have begun flowering, so get out there and Get Lost!

Let me know how you liked this route in the comments section. 

Other maps from Motorcycle Lifestyle Magazine:
  • Lake Country -- Fall 2008 issue.  Explores two of the lakes in Upstate South Carolina, Keowee and northern Hartwell.  120 miles. 
  • A Two Hours Afternoon's Jaunt -- Spring 2008 issue.  Covers and area centered on Tigerville, SC.  82 miles. 
  • Spartanburg, Saluda, Rutherfordton Route -- Summer 2008 issue.  This route goes into North Carolina, and includes the twistiest road I know of.  98 miles. 

A clever ad that appeared in Motorcycle Lifestyle Magazine:   

4-bike garage!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Flashy, Flashy, Kerflooey! ...and Fixed

Back in 2015 I wrote about having installed a Comagination brand headlight modulator on my Ninja 650R shortly after I bought it in late 2007. It has probably protected me from some vehicles that would otherwise not have seen me coming if it had not been for the flashing of the high-beam headlight.  In other words, my conspicuity is higher with the modulator than without. 

How much higher?  Nobody knows, but I have seen several drivers who looked as though they were about to start out or turn in front of me, and who then did not after all.  That might be because of the modulator. 

On my bike, the low-beam stays on whenever the engine is running, so there is not only a constant light but the modulating light as well when it is light outside.

The other day, I had occasion to go riding and went through a tunnel.  The modulation is supposed to stop when in a tunnel or when it gets dark.  This is so you can have the high beam on continuously to see by its wider pattern of light.  The unit knows when it is dark by way of a photo sensor that points to the sky. 

I did some diagnosis, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.  The most likely failure was a faulty photo sensor or its wiring.  I examined the sensor closely, and removed the potting material around it.  I resoldered the wires running to it, and I substituted a potentiometer for the sensor to try to cause the unit to stop modulating. 

Nothing worked to stop the modulation.

Since the modulator is potted in a plastic shell, there was no way to do any diagnosis inside.  That meant that if I rode at night or went through a tunnel, I would have to use the low beam only to turn off the modulation. 

That is not a good idea, because there are times when the added light of the high beam is necessary. 

I decided to replace the unit complete.  So into the trash can it went:

After some research online, and visiting the Comagination website that doesn't work any more, I found that they are likely out of business.  I researched other brands on webBikeWorld and decided that Kisan might be a good alternative. 

The Kisan P75-W would work, is easy to install, and costs $69.95.  Another one that would work is the P115W-H3 at $109.95.  I wanted to pay less. The old one was $55.98. 

So I looked at Amazon and ebay.  I found an open box Kisan pathBlazer P115W-H3 Z option for use with BMW CAN-bus motorcycles for $50 with free shipping from ebay seller rwbmwparts (BMW Motorcycles of Seattle).  The Z option doesn't prevent its use on other electrical systems, so I placed my Buy-It-Now order.  It came in a few days, and was as described.  

Essentially, you wire it in series with the hot wire leading to the bulb you want to modulate -- in my case the high beam -- and connect the ground wire.  I tidied up the wiring with some wire ties, and Velcroed the module to the back of the meter bracket.

The photo sensor must point upwards at the sky.  It is about 3/8" diameter, so it is not easy to hide.  You can wire tie it to something, but that didn't look very good.  I settled on positioning it through the meter cowling under and near the base of the
windscreen.  Since the meter cowling slopes downward toward the front, I made an angled adapter out of an aluminum bushing so the sensor would point upward, then used silicone to hold it in place.  

Cockpit view.
Still a little dusty from the drilling.
The sensor is not obtrusive, and works fine under the slightly tinted windscreen.  The sensor cable plugs into the module. 

The sensitivity of the photo sensor is adjustable.  You turn on the high beams three times in rapid succession when the light conditions are such that you want the light to begin modulating. 

Reminds me of clicking these things together three times to get your wish: 

There is a problem with this method of changing the light sensitivity, however.  The modulator sometimes begins the programming mode when you start the bike due to changing voltage going to the headlight.  This happens even on my Ninja that does not turn on the headlight until it senses that the engine is running.  Kisan recommends that you only start the engine with the high beam turned off.  That certainly works, but I am forgetful and don't do that or I forget to turn it back onto high beam so the modulation works. 

Fortunately, the unit is easy to set back to the as-received sensitivity, but it would have been better if the circuit designers had built in a delay so the programming mode is not initiated so easily.

So, I am back to a working headlight modulator again -- day or night, it now works right. 

Flashy, Flashy! 



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Quick Test Ride, and A Glamour Shot

As you know if you read the last posting, the weather here in South Carolina has been cold and snowy.  That, however, made for a great time to do some wrenching on the bike.  I take it slow and follow the service manual to help ensure that I don't made a mistake, so the downtime is usually more than for a crack mechanic.  I also like to test tings after I think I am done, just in case I have committed a blooper. 

So last Thursday I ventured out in cool, clear, and dry conditions to do just that.  The roads up to Whitewater Falls are good ones with sweepers that are usually clean, so that's the way I went.  There wasn't much traffic, so I could move along at a good clip.  After a tour of the Falls parking lot, I diverted onto the Wigington Byway to the overlook on Lake Jocassee and the other lakes to its south.

Here is the view, first of the crystal clear sky as a background to the old girl that had recently undergone some internal work and some external cleanup... 

Pretty girl, eh?
...then a panorama of the view from the overlook.

Click image for a larger view. 
Everything on the bike seemed to be working fine after the surgery, so I must have done it right.  The serviced items should be good for several more miles now. 

...and I thoroughly enjoyed the test ride, too.  

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I Actually Picked a Good Week to Do It!

Yes!  I did pick a good week.

[To do what, Bucky?] 

To work on my 2006 Ninja 650R.

I had a bunch of things to do that I had been putting off because I didn't want the bike to be down and I had other things going on.  Here's the list:
  • Check and adjust valve clearance.
  • Clean and adjust chain.
  • Change spark plugs.  
  • Clean air filter and air box.
  • Change oil and filter.
  • Drain, flush and refill coolant.
  • Check brake pads.
  • Lubricate clutch and throttle cables. 
  • General cleaning and lubrication. 
The valve clearance checking takes the most time because you have to remove the windshield, meter housing, most of the cowlings, the fuel tank, and the air box to get at the top of the engine.  Then you have to get the camshaft cover off and get it out of the way. 

Further, I don't have a valve shim kit, so I have to do the measuring and calculating to determine which shims need to be changed, then send away for any shims I don't already have from the previous adjustment.

That sending away takes several days, so the bike is down for at least that period.

[OK, Bucky, why was this a good week to do all this?]  

This is why:

Recall that when we get snow in South Carolina, everything comes to a complete halt.

And this is another reason why:

Yes, it was under nineteen degrees overnight.  

So, it turned out to be a good time to work on the bike.  I dressed warmly and started to work in my garage. 

The valve clearance adjustment was last done back in January of 2012 at 30,837 miles.  The bike has almost 62,000 now.  Back then, I put together some tips on how to do the job a little easier.  The only thing I did differently this time is to bring the cam cover out the left side of the frame instead of out the top.  It was much easier that way. 

This time, three of the exhaust valves were near the tight side, though still within spec.  They almost always get tighter with use, you know.  All of the others were almost exactly where I set them previously.  That's pretty good for better than 31,000 miles of operation, though remember that I am an old guy, and never redline or go to full throttle, so the engine isn't stressed as much as it could be.  I exchanged one of the shims with another valve and replaced the other two shims to bring the three back to the center of spec. 

The spark plugs were replaced at the same time as the last valve clearance work.  They looked a little worn, but they were a nice gray-brown color as they should be.  One of them had a thin thread of something between the center and the ground electrodes.  I have never seen this before, but the cylinder did not seem to be misfiring.  I bought the replacements on Amazon. 

The rear brake pads were a little thin, so I put on another set of EBC HH sintered pads.  Last time was in May of 2013 at 37,192 miles, so these have lasted about 25,000 miles.  They have a nice, predictable grip and were an improvement over the originals. 

The clutch and throttle cables needed to be lubed, so I got out my aerosol can and my cable luber.

BikeMaster Cable Luber
I use Yamaha Performance Cable Lubricant.  It made a world of difference, especially on the clutch cable.  

As I got further into the job, I found some other things that needed attention.  For example, the throttle cable was frayed at the throttle-body end, so I replaced the cable with a nearly new one I had bought almost a decade ago to carry as a spare. 

By the way, prices on parts have really gone up.  The valve cover and spark plug gaskets are $35 all together, and the shims are $10.99 each.  With shipping, it was almost $70.  It was about $40 last time. 

The lowest price I could find for NGK CR9EIA-9 Iridium Spark Plugs is almost $10 each.  They were $7.50 last time. 

I changed the oil and filter, cleaned, lubed, and adjusted the chain, cleaned up the air box and cleaned and reoiled the air filter, drained the refilled the coolant, and a few other odds and ends. 

In case you wonder, I do try to use mostly OEM parts on the bike, and I replace seals when the manual recommends doing so.  I suppose I could get by without going by the book, but I don't want to have to tear things apart a second time for the cost of a new seal or two.  I figure that Kawasaki engineered the bike to be reliable. Gaskets, seals, spark plugs, shims, and oil filter are all OEM.  Oil is Mobil 1, racing 4T 10W-40.  Brake pads are EBC HH.  The chain cleaner is kerosene, and I use Maxima Chain Wax lube from Cycle Gear.  It is clear and doesn't fling off a much as some others. 

Anyway, I think I picked the best week of the winter to do the work.  I have a few cosmetic things to put back together, and by then the weather should be cleared up.

Ah, the beauty of living in the Carolinas.  You can ride [almost] any time of year. 

See you on the roads soon!