Thursday, April 30, 2015

Saint Augustine Loop

I wrapped the month of April up with an outstanding two-day, 627 mile ride over to and around the Palm Coast, Space Coast and Treasure Coast, all on the east coast of Florida.

Being on the West Coast, I decided to shoot over to Daytona Beach on Monday. Tampa to Daytona in normally a little over 2 hours to cover 140 miles on Interstate 4. However, I have a mapped out track in my possession that covers 81 back roads starting in the Tampa Area and drops you off right on International Speedway Boulevard in Daytona 210 miles later. I didn't make this track. Rather, it was from a charity coast-to-coast ride that I did a number of years ago. It's a great track that takes about 6 hours. Much better than the Interstate.

So, Daytona is the lower section of the eastern coastline that we call the Palm Coast, with runs north up to Saint Augustine. With some riding time left Monday, I rolled up to Ormond Beach and picked up the scenic Route A1A along the Atlantic shoreline and rode the 50+ miles up to Saint Augustine.

Saint Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. It's really a cool place with lots of things to see and do. The two main attractions are the Lighthouse (aka, the "Haunted Lighthouse") and ...

...and the San Marcos Fort. Dating back to the late 1600s, it's the oldest serious military fort in the US.

Saint Augustine is a great place to tour on two wheels. It's full of old shops. Lots of stuff to see and do and they're very motorcycle friendly.

After messing around for awhile in Saint Augustine, I rode back to Ormond Beach to spend the night. Then Tuesday morning I ventured out to the south along the Space Coast, which runs Daytona to Titusville and is where Kennedy Space Center is located.

From there I was going to hit a few nice riding spots on the Treasure Coast, which runs from Titusville down to around West Palm Beach, including picking up some more A1A time, but as I was leaving Titusville the rain really started coming down. It had been overcast and somewhat drizzling since early Monday, but at that point it really started coming down.

After about 75 miles along US1 in the downpour I decided to start heading west around Vero Beach. I hopped on State Road 60, but still didn't get out of the rain until mid-state. But that's just the way it goes in Florida. You're gonna get wet at some point.

The 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT performed brilliantly. It did great navigating the gnarly back roads getting across the state and then handled the drenched roadways on Tuesday. No problems.

Plus, I got some good time behind my new Puig Touring Screen (see previous post). That was definitely worth the money I paid for that accessory!

I logged a couple of fuel stops into my Fuelly Page: 47.1 mpg on 213 miles and 45.6 mpg on 219 miles.

In two weeks I have a pretty big trip planned. Perhaps we'll find some other local roads to play around on until then. However, looking back, I think April was a hell of a first month on the new Versys.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Puig Touring Screen 5999F

As mentioned in a previous post, I decided to replace the stock screen on my 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT. The stock screen was right on the border of being acceptible and, thinking about the many touring miles I have planned, I ultimately decided that an investment in some more coverage would be worth it. In addition, I threw in the criteria of a smoked screen for better appearance on my burnt orange Versys.

I reviewed a number of screens and the short list comprised the Puig Touring Screen and the CalSci Tinted Shorty. Both of these screens seemed to fit my needs; both are tinted, both have a reasonable, and not excessive, size. I've noted that some screens (that I won't mention) are so big that they take away from the great appearance of the Versys. Also, the pricing was very reasonable (Puig = $138, CalSci = $125).

Ultimately, it came down to the basic structure and the dimensions (discussed below) and I went with the Puig, Model No. 5999F. I bought it from Revzilla. After applying a $5 credit, the total price was $133 with free shipping.

Actual dimensions for the Puig Touring Screen (Stock Screen Comparisons) are:
  • Material Thickness = 3mm
  • Screen Angle = 63 degrees (66 degrees)
  • Height of Total Screen, Top to Bottom = 19.5 inches (14 inches)
  • Width at Widest Point, side to side = 19.5 inches (16 inches)
  • Width at Top = 12.5 inches (9 inches)
  • Width at Mid-point, top of side flares = 15 inches
  • True Screen Height, distance the screen rises above the bike's dash/crown/cowl:
    • At lowest screen setting = 13.5 inches (8.75 inches)
    • At highest screen setting = 16.5 inches (11.75 inches)
    • Net increase in Puig over the Stock Screen = 4.75 inches
Actual comparo:

True Height (Actual Protection) Measurement:

Screen Angles:


Replacement of the stock screen is a simple <5 minute exercise. There are only six allen bolts requiring a 4mm hex key. Four of the allen bolts are above and directly below the two level-adjusting knobs on the front of the screen. The other two are under plastic caps inside of each of the knobs. The caps pop off with a flat head screwdriver and from there you can access the allen heads.

The knob is threaded to the base, so once the allen bolt inside the knob is removed, turn the knob to loosen and remove or tighten and reinstall. It may require two hands to loosen the knob while holding the bracket, so another pair of hands at this point to hold the screen on both removal and installation may be in order. Don't over torque any of the bolts; they're only situated in rubber well nuts. Rather, tighten firm and then keep an eye on tightness over time (p.s. there's a 4mm hex key in the stock tool kit).

Viola! There you go ... the screen is installed.

Once the new screen is installed on the brackets, removal (for cleaning) is accomplished by (i) removing the bolts inside the locking knob and then (ii) unscrewing the locking knob.

Addition of the Puig Screen to the Versys 1000 is a first-rate modification to establish the motorcycle as a true touring model. The dimensions are preferable to both the stock screen and the extremely large screens for both the look and feel riding down the roads and highways. Plus, Puig is known for its great quality and this screen is no exception.

The "dark smoke" screen option that I purchased is the darkest of the two smoked offerings. Of course there's a clear screen offered by Puig as well as a total blackout screen. The dark smoke model is not as opaque as it may appear in some photos. Rather, I'd liken it to a pair of dark sunglasses. The photo below gives an indication of what the rider sees from the saddle with the screen in the lowest position (13.5 inches above the dash crown). It can be raised another 3 inches to 16.5 inches above the dash crown.

Overall, I'm very happy with the Puig Touring Screen. Money well spent to get the Versys 1000 ready for the open road.

P.S. I know you'll be in a big hurry to get the big sticker off the top/front of the Puig Screen. It provides cleaning instructions. It essentially says to clean the screen with a light soap (like car wash solution) and a soft sponge. Do not use amonia based products like windex or any glass cleaner, do not use dish soap that your mom uses on dishes, do not use fluids at gas stations, do not use paper towels to dry the screen, clean bugs off after every ride because some, like Aliens, have acid for blood. Just remember, like all plastic screens (including your visor) there's a plastic coating that once removed by abrasive towels or chemicals will result in scratching and deterioration. It's a great looking screen ... keep it that way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tank Bag

I picked up another needed item for the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT today ... a tank bag. It's just a simple, but decent sized 10L Sedici bag at CycleGear with a map window. It has the main compartment and a smaller compartment on the back for my cell phone. This particular model came in a magnetic and a strap mounted solution. I went with the magnetic mounting for convenience. Like most other tank bag, the Sedici is not waterproof, but also like most others it comes with a rain cover. The dimensions are 6.5H x 12L x 9.5W and it cost about $60.

One of the little maintenance items I do on zippered bags and gear to prolong the lives is apply some paraffin (candle wax) to the zippers. These things tend to acquire a lot of dust and road grime so keeping them clean and lubed is a good measure. I grind the wax right into the links so the zipper continues to operate smoothly then I reapply the wax every six months or so.

Tank bags are handy resources, especially if, like me, you use printed maps and printed directions in addition to Nav devices. Personally, I go for the magnetic mounts (over straps) because it's much more convenient to fuel up. Some argue that they're more suseptible to theft. True, so don't leave it on your motorcycle. Mine has a little handle to convert it into a nice Man Purse. :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Accessory Outlets

My new 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT has a couple precut ports in the dash for accessory outlets, switches, gauges, or whatever you'd want to do with them. One of the ports (left side) is specifically for an accessory outlet and the other (right side) is for a gear indicator. While not interested in a gear indicator, I do want an accessory outlet for my GPS (Garmin Nuvi 550), cell phone and perhaps a low-wattage power inverter.

Kawasaki offers an Accessory Outlet, but they want a whopping $85. That's simply a ridiculous price, so I started a search for some reasonably priced alternatives. The main thing that we look for in our motorcycle accessories is how they stand up to weather. I landed on a place in California called 12vtechnology that sells waterproof, marine-grade accessory outlets, powerlet-type outlets, USB outlets and related accessories. While 12vtechnology has a wide range of accessory outlets, the model I purchased were $5.99 each. I bought two and with shipping the total came to under $16.00. That's quite a bit cheaper than Kawasaki's offering and these seem like very good quality outlets.

First thing that I needed to do was get the caps off the ports in the dash. These caps are held on by brackets under the dash. Prior to purchasing the two outlets, I removed the left cap that revealed a 1 1/8 inch (28mm) hole. While the caps on each side of the dash are the same, I found that the port under the right cap was 1 3/8 inches (35 inches) when I removed the cap today. I'd assumed that both ports were the same sized; obviously not, and that port is too big for the outlet ... a problem I was able to address and will describe later.

On a positive note, Kawasaki pre-wired the left accessory outlet so I didn't have to do any special wiring back to the battery. I decided to use that power source for both sides of the dash. The pre-wired connectors are simple snap connectors that are tucked way up in the left corner under the front cowl above the subframe. It was very difficult to both find them and get them wired, but I was able to do it without any major dismantling of the front. Here's a photo looking up from under the left-side of the bike along the fork tube. It looks cavernous in the photo; trust me, it's not.

I first ran the pre-wired snap connectors into a common two-pin connector. The reason I did this was because I wanted to build a discrete harness for the two dash outlets and have the powersource available for other types of accessories without dismantling everything. I don't have anything specific in mind; just trying to keep the solution as flexible as possible.

Then I finished the harness to support both the left and right accessory outlet. This harness will also allow me to change the types of outlets that I use in the ports. 12vtechnologies also has a USB outlet and even a voltmeter that I might like to put in the right port.

The next steps were to connect the spade connectors to the outlets and install the outlets in the ports. The left side was fairly simple. Both port diameters needed to be 1 1/8 inch (28mm). The left port was just a fraction smaller and that was adjusted with a light amount of Dremel grinding. The right port, on the other hand, was way too big at 1 3/8 inch (35mm). As mentioned earlier, I'd made a bad assumption that the port diameter would be the same as the left side considering that it had a cap the same size as the left. Wrong.

The solution was to make a base plate and a securing plate, each with the proper 1 1/8 inch diameter hole. For the material, I found an old CD-Rom case that seemed to be of the proper thickness. From there I measured and cut the plates. 

That pretty much completed the accessory outlet install. The outlets are a very good quality and the plug for my GPS plugs in with a secure little snap. We'll see how they hold up out on the road, but overall I'm very satisfied with these products from 12vtechnology.

Tire Repair

As part of my adventure touring regimen, I got in the habit of carrying a wider variety of tools and a tire repair kit to be more self reliant out on the road and trails. That tire repair kit came in handy once as I was leaving a cross country adventure challenge in Junction, Texas. While filling up at a gas station, I noticed a big nail sticking in my rear Heidenau K50 Scout. I'd picked it up somewhere in the Texas deserts between Junction and Del Rio.

I was carrying a very simple tire plug kit, such as you'd find at any auto parts store, and a Slime air compressor. So I pulled the nail, plugged the hole and inflated the tire, which got me all the 1,300 miles back to Tampa where I had my dealer replace it.

While I don't carry as much stuff today as I did hauling through the deserts and mountains on adventure-class dual sports, I still have my tire repair kit on hand. It includes my old Slime compressor and a fresh set of tools and gummy plugs that I got at Advance Auto Parts for around $6.00.

To power the compressor, I wired a simple 2-pin flat connnector directly to the battery with a large blade fuse holder. As these units have a considerable draw, I carry some spare fuses in case one blows. Always mount your lead on the side opposite of the side stand so it's more easily accessible. This lead can also be used as a battery tender cable.

Everything fits neatly under my seat, so I'll always be ready to fix a tire puncture on my travels.

Monday, April 20, 2015

New Screen

Yup, the OEM screen needs to go. I gave it 1,000 miles and it ain't gonna cut it. These things happen.

Coming soon in dark smoke ...


Mad Maps

We blew past the 1,000 mile marker on the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT today tracking a loop from the Florida Edition of Mad Maps. The specific loop was No. 11, Crystal River. Tacking on the mileage to and from the loop, we rode over 300 miles today.

I have a number of State Editions of Mad Maps mostly for southeastern states; always a good source of ride information.

One of the nice parts of this loop is the Ocala National Forest. Although the loop has you running in the forest and then back out, there a number of outstanding forest roads (marked FR) to play around on. So if you want to dilly-dally on this loop, do it in the forest. :)

We added a few entries to our Fuelly page today with 45.09 and 45.08 mpg. That's a little lower than the last two fill ups. However, these tanks were out of the running in period where we locked in a 4,000RPM max, and are probably more indicative to what the big versys is going to do.

On another note, I've been in Florida since 1986 (almost 30 years) and I've never seen a bear. Saw a Florida Panther once, but never a bear.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hope Rider

So what ever happened to my 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere? Well, after clocking 25,000 miles in under 12 months during 2011-2012, including a round trip to Deadhorse, Alaska, I sold it to a gentleman who told me that he would be using it for a worldwide tour.

Today, I got a link to that gentleman's FaceBook page called Hope Rider. He's apparently well along on his worldwide tour. Amazing! I wish him luck.

The bike's looking good, too.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ear Protection

Well, I wasn't paying attention to my supplies and this morning I find that I've allowed myself to get down to one set of disposable ear plugs.

Except on the shortest of trips, I always use ear plugs while riding motorcycles because they protect from hearing damage that is caused by riding motorcycles. The damage is not caused by street noise; rather, is caused by the high frequency wind noise that riders encounter. Helmets and wind screens do not reduce the damaging noise. There are countless articles on this topic and they all seem to point to the same conclusion. That is, hearing protection is a must for the motorcyclist. Here is a LINK to a good article in BikeBandit regarding ear plugs.

There are many types of ear plugs on the market, but fitment and the Noise Reduction Level (NRR) should be considered first and foremost. I've used disposable Hearo Ear Plugs for many years. They are a bit larger than most brands and, therefore, seem to fit in place better. They also have a considerable NRR of 33dB. To put that in perspective, 33dB reduction is the highest reduction level that you can get in ear plugs while 31dB is the highest reduction level that you can find in ear muffs. I know this because I frequent the rifle range with my NRR 31dB ear muffs and with my NRR 33dB Hearos plugged in for added protection.

Can you hear everything you need to hear while wearing ear plugs? The answer is yes. Ear plugs do not eliminate ambiant, low frequency sounds. You'll still hear the cars and horns and sirens. Plus you're able to carry on a conversation with your riding buddies while wearing plugs.

There are also many permanent solutions for ear plugs; some with custom fitting. I'd support that, but in my case I'd lose them ... and the fitted plugs are naturally more costly. I'll stick to the disposable Hearos, which just cost me $5.49 for 14 pairs. So as not to run out again, maybe I should buy them in this sized container.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tail of the Gecko

Another popular Florida ride is Tail of the Gecko that runs just under 20 miles north from State Road 62 (east of Bradenton) to County Road 672. No, there's no comparison to the Tail of the Dragon in the west North Carolina Smoky Mountains and Tennessee with its 318 curves in 11 miles. The Gecko is more Florida backroads with their rough surface and tree canopies with a lot of 90 degree left and right turns and a few nice sweepers.

Round trip from North Tampa was 95 miles including 25 highway miles on the way down. Normally I try to stay off highways, unless I'm on a long trip, but I'm still getting used to my new 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT and want to feel it on the highway. One thing I wanted to play around with was the screen height at high speeds. I placed it in the middle range and it was fine, even with my helmet that has a visor. More and more, this new Versys is really looking like the great touring motorcycle that I'd hoped it would be.

The first thing you're going to do on the Tail of the Gecko is blow past the first road. It's Bunker Hill Road and it's a pain to find almost every time I go down there. 

Yeah, there's a sign there, but it may be better to keep your eyes peeled for the blue Baptist Church sign.

The curves start after you turn on to Taylor Grade Road from Bunker Hill, right at a Vinyard. 

Like I said, it's not so much sweepers and hair pins as it is very sharp, 90 degree turns one way or the other.

Then when you get to Grange Hall Loop, the road turns into something I'd liken to a bike trail. It's one lane, no lines, and the traffic is still two-way.

Not only are the turns tight, there is a lot of sand in them. You can't push it too hard.

Oh, and where does all that sand come from. There aren't a lot of hills around to block the wind so once it's kicked up by wind or farm vehicles, it seems to go wherever it wants ... which is everywhere.

Well, so much for Tail of the Gecko. It's been about two years since I last rode it and suspect that it'll be two or more before I go back. However, it a little over a month, I'll be heading out on a Smoky Mountain motorcycle trip and will ride the real Tail. It's actually been two years since my last trip to the Smoky Mountains; far too long. Here's me and my Yamaha Super Tenere on the Tail of the Dragon in 2012.