Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Spark Plug Service Interval

I missed the factory 7,600 mile spark plug replacement interval by about 2,400 miles. First go round I usually try to keep with or better the scheduled maintenance (that I can do) but being on the road between 5,500 and 10,000 miles made it a little difficult to fit it in. So I got on it as soon as I got back. In process of changing the plugs, I also replaced the air filter element which is about 1,400 miles before the factory 11,400 service interval. My thinking there is that I was close enough to the service interval to avoid having to rip the tank and air box off again in such a short period just to put in the filter.

Anyway, the bike was running perfectly fine going into this maintenance, as well as after. The thing runs like a dream. So far this summer I’ve had many 500+ mile days in triple digit temperatures and the bike just keeps rolling smoothly without a hiccup.

Here’s a look at the plugs removed at 10,000 miles. They are NGK CR9EIA-9 Iridium Plugs. They look like they could have gone another 10,000 ... and I have no doubt that they could have.

Here’s a look at the air filter element removed (bottom) and new one (top).

The service intervals on these maintenance items seem pretty short, but they’re consistent with the little 650 Versys that I had previously (perhaps a Kawasaki thing), which also used the CR9EIA-9 Iridium Plug. However, they’re way shorter than my Yamaha Super Tenere and several other models that I had before that, which was 12,000 miles for the plugs and 24,000 miles on the air filter element iirc. 

Personally, I’d thought that these Iridium plugs were supposed to be harder to provide longer lives and be more tolerant of leaner run engines. They certainly cost more. I paid $9.99 each for the Iridiums where a typical plug may cost $2.50 -- $3.50, and these particular plugs are not fully Iridium. The three components are Center Electrode=Iridium, Ground Electrode=Nickel, and Core=Copper. In addition, we know that motorcycles run much leaner (which equates to hotter) and under much more compression (also equates to hotter), which taxes spark plug life.

Irrespective, it's fairly clear that the 7,600 replacement interval is extremely conservative. The plugs that were removed at 10,000 miles indicate minimal wear during the hottest and most demanding time of the year. I've had many triple digit temperature full-days and am running my higher viscosity oils. I suspect that doubling the factory cycle (around 15,000) is probably a better interval and will likely be going with that. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Rox Risers

There are an endless number of great places to ride and great things to see from the saddle in this country, but getting to those places and things (and back) can be a long and tedious (and backbreaking) journey. During my most recent road trip covering 15 states and over 4,500 miles, I spent a great deal of time on highways trying to keep to a decent daily total of 500 miles at least. The more miles you can knock out in a day, the more time you can spend at your destinations.

On this most recent cross-country trip, I had plenty of time to think about adding some accessories to help improve comfort on those long hauls, particularly in my wrists, neck and shoulders. Surprisingly, of all things, my back does well on this bike. But I still thought about the effects of bar risers and highway pegs on the rest of the parts.

Having a set of Rox Risers on hand, I've decided to give them a try. Yup, some time ago I'd purchased a set of Rox Low Pro 1 3/4 Inch Risers from RevZilla and installed them. These risers have both a 1 1/8 inch Stem Clamp Diameter and a 1 1/8 inch Bar Diameter; necessary fitment for the 2015 Versys 1000.

Riser Installation Review:

Riser installation is generally one of the more simpler accessory add, but you do want to make sure that there is no interference with cables, lines or hoses. In addition, you want to make sure that all lines are not taxed too much when the bars are turned fully side to side. We'd had some reports from other owners that the 2 inch Rox Pivot Risers fit so, naturally, the 1.75 inch Riser slipped right into place.

I've initially set the pivot fully forward (as allowed) and set the bar consistent to where it was situated in the factory top clamp. That's the starting point that produced the full rise of 1 3/4 inches and what appears to be 1/2 inch of additional pullback. From that position I need to ride the motorcycle under the same conditions that gave rise (no pun intended) to my desire to install them and make whatever adjustments are necessary to alleviate the conditions. A great reason to make another run up to the Smoky Mountains this summer!

As mentioned, I'm also considering a possible highway peg installation. However, I need to defer that until I get a new belly pan that I've ordered from PowerBronze installed. That belly pan may end up obstructing anything I come up with on the highway pegs so it's best to wait. Shouldn't be long ... stay tuned!

Riser Performance Review:

After installation of the risers, I logged a good number of miles on a trip up to the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. That provided plenty of opportunity to test the risers on highways, city riding and on twisty roads.

On the highways, the risers did an outstanding job correcting my ergos to produce a much more comfortable and pleasant experience. My back, shoulders, wrists and neck felt great by the end of the first day when I tracked about 350 miles up to Savannah, Georgia. I'm convinced that my fatigue level was substantially reduced, as well. Ditto during the second day when I tracked about 300 miles up to Walhalla, South Carolina and during my ride back home to Florida.

Conversely, the handling performance of the motorcycle on the twisty curvy roads in North Carolina was remarkedly worse. I tested the risers on hundreds of miles of twisty roads including the Dragon, Cherohalla, Blue Ridge and Little Switzerland loop. Specifically, I found that the bike with risers installed seemed to wobble and weave off my line in a fashion that I'd not experienced riding those same roads a couple months earlier. This required a harder lateral push from me to keep on line or get back on line. In addition, I felt that the increased height of the bars was interfering with the riding by increasing the frequency and significance of steering inputs that were necessary on these highly technical roads.

Bottom line, I didn't like the risers in the twisties one bit. I've ridden this bike through thousands of miles of twisty roads and it performs admirably. Sure its sister bike, the Ninja 1000, with it's tighter rake is better and quicker in the turns, but the [unmodified] Versys 1000 holds it's own in my view. What a quandary!

Well, here's the simple answer. We're talking about an accessory that attaches with four bolts and takes a whole five minutes to install and remove. I like the risers on the long hauls and I don't like them in the tight loops. It's easy enough to carry a ratchet with a 6 mm allen and remove/reinstall the risers as needed.



After studying my installation a little more, I found that the bolts provided with the Low Pro Risers are too long and abut with the factory top clamp bolts. This condition (i) won't allow full forward pivot of the riser and (ii) may interfere with torquing of the Rox bolts. Below is the same photo as the last photo above, but I've highlighted where the interference arises. In this photo you can see the Riser bolts abutting the top of the factory top clamp bolts. That's a problem.

My solution was to change the bolts. The bolts provided in the Rox kit are M8 x 30mm with a 1.25 thread pitch. I replaced those bolts with M8 x 25mm and they're flush with the bottom of the riser clamp. Whether all Rox Risers have these bolts that are too long isn't known, but definitely something to take a look at during installation.


I got a great tip to check the play on the hydraulic brake cable with the wheel off the ground. I previously did all my work on the center-stand with the front wheel on the ground. Certainly, there was a little compression in the fork as the front wheel rested on the ground. Perhaps there is a little rebound bump on rough roads too. So after giving it a check with the wheel up I actually felt that the hydraulic cable may become a little too extended and stressed. To alleviate the stress I removed the plastic clamp/bracket on the hose located near the hose/cable retention ring. This extended the play that exists below the retaining bracket all along the hose. I'm now cautioned to keep an eye on the development of any wear on the hose as it may contact the retention ring.

Sticker Power

So, I was in the souvenir store up on Pikes Peak and a biker pointed me to the stickers. Ovals, small ones, large ones, bumper stickers ... all different kinds. Problem is, I don't normally have a lot of stickers on my motorcycle and wasn't interested in a Pikes Peak Sticker.

I do have some, though. At the moment, I've got two: Dragon decal (one on each side) from my last trip up to the Smokys and a Greek, Molon Labe decal, which means different things to different people.

I know many people like to sticker up their bikes for all their worldly travels, but, personally, I don't see the point. Maybe there's a special Sticker Power I'm missing out on.


New sticker! Florida State Flag. Don't ask me why, lol!

Friday, July 24, 2015

And the winner is ...

... the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT.

Rider Magazine's 26th Annual "Motorcycle of the Year" Award. Article.

A great deal of research goes into selecting a motorcycle. In a lot of respects, I think it's safe to say that I put more into my motorcycle selections as I do my car* selections. After 10,000 miles in under four months, I think the V1000 is a winner. However, it feels good to get some confirmation on that from folks who presumably know what they're talking about.

* My current car is a 2007 Toyota Rav4. Very basic, no-frills model, except that I got the more powerful V6. As of today, 8 years after buying it, I have under 32,000 miles on it; averaging 4,000 miles a year of use. I'd rather hop on my motorcycle (whatever I'm riding at the time) over the cage any day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

BILT Explorer Helmet

I have a Bilt Explorer Adventure Helmet that I picked up at Cycle Gear perhaps a year and a half ago. It has a visor and a drop down, internal sun shade. It fit well and the price of  $200 was pretty good for a low end, but DOT approved helmet. The Arai equivalent is over $600! Anyway, to continue the story, a day or two into my recent 15 state trip, the drop down sun shade in the BILT wouldn't lock down and I was without it for the remainder of the trip. Bummer, as I really like that feature.

So today I took the helmet apart to see if I could fix the drop down shade. The bad news is I can't fix it myself. The good news is that its fully warranted and Cycle Gear has always been good about fixing/replacing their products. I'll take it in tomorrow and turn it over. That will be that.

However, I had an interesting observation during the breakdown that I wanted to share. The helmet has two vents on top, two vents on the back and a vent in the chin guard. The vents directly on top with an open/close lever ... looks like this.

When I took the visor assembly and top off the helmet, this is what I found; a square indentation in the helmet shell, but no conduit to channel air to the inside the helmet. In other words, it's just a helmet shell and the top vent is fake.

We'll call that the "Vent to Nowhere!" I wonder how many times I opened/closed it thinking it was a real vent. LOL!

I guess the saying "you get what you paid for" applies here. I'm sure ALL the vents on that $600 Arai work perfectly. I do like the helmet, will get it fixed and will continue to wear it. However, I think I'll slip this observation in a review over on Cycle Gear's website so other potential buyers will know that the top vent is a fake.


Cycle Gear replaced the helmet on the spot, no questions.


The drop down shade has now similarly broke on the replacement helmet (10/2015), right in the beginning of a long road trip too.

Cycle Gear replaced it again. :)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pikes Peak

Just wrapping up an eleven day, fifteen state, 4,555 mile road trip. I launched the trip with a ride from Tampa to Lexington, Ohio to attend the AMA Vintage Days. From there I headed west to Colorado with a plan to make a long-past-due run up Pikes Peak.

Back in 2012, I ventured to Alaska on a Yamaha Super Tenere. On the way back, I'd planned to see a number of sites out west, including Pikes Peak, but I bombed out in Moab, Utah after 36 days and nearly 12,000 miles and headed back to Florida.

The moral of the 2012 story perhaps is to take these things in smaller, bite-sized doses.

Ascending Pikes Peak, in Cascade, Colorado, near Colorado Springs, was one of the greatest experiences that I've had on a motorcycle. I'm glad to check it off my bucket list.

The summit of Pikes Peak sits at 14,110 feet above sea level. Considering that I live somewhere in the vicinity of 100 feet above sea level, making a mad dash up the mountain when I got to Colorado could bring about Altitude Sickness (occurs when you can't get enough oxygen from the air at high altitudes; becomes a threat at 8,000 feet above sea level). So rather than do something so stupid, I chilled out in Colorado Springs (about 6,700 feet) for a day letting my body acclimate.

When I was ready, I headed over to Cascade to pick up the Pikes Peak Highway, which is a toll road to the summit ($12.00 per person). The Gateway onto Pikes Peak Highway is at 7,800 feet above sea level. Accordingly, at the Gateway, the summit is somewhere around 1.20 miles straight up. However, it's a 19 mile highway to get up there!

It took me quite awhile to ascend to the top, but I stopped quite a number of times. Every corner you turn (and you turn a lot of them) you turn into a magnificent view or scene that requires a few minutes. The whole ride, top to bottom, was over three hours!

I would say that all was well and good until about 11,000 feet when it started to get really cold and really windy. Fortunately, I was warned that it would be cold and wore my base layers. The wind was another story. Starting at the Gateway, the road is mostly tree lined as you can see from the above photos. Yeah, you're on the side of a mountain but there's a good deal of obstruction between you and the bajillion foot drop off down the mountain side.

Then, around 11,000 feet, there aren't any more trees  ... no shoulders .... hardly any guardrails ... snow ... and the switchbacks are so tight you have to actually counter balance through them! Man, you are out there ... in the wind! A "white knuckle" experience, indeed.

When I finally got to the Summit, I got a cup of coffee and a couple freshly made donuts in the Summit House Cafe/Gift Shop and then proceeded to become extremely ill. Oh yeah, the signature indication of altitude sickness is nausea ... a fairly good indication that I might want to head down the mountain, which is exactly what I did.

I was really glad that I took my time heading up Pikes Peak to see the sights it had to offer because I was in somewhat of a rush getting back down. The good news was it wasn't long after arriving at the Gateway that I felt perfectly fine and ready to continue on my journey. But first I pulled out the Bucket List and checked off a big one!

TomTom Rider Update 4

I've now had my TomTom Rider GPS for a little over three months and 8,100 miles. Not much more to report beyond my previous four reports (linked below) that I think cover most everything. However, having just wrapped a 4,555 mile trip through 15 states I have a few more "closing" points.

Planning on the Fly: Unlike my old Garmins, you can plan routes while on the fly with the TomTom. You can cancel a current route or initiate a new route/address/waypoint. You can also load an itinerary. The TomTom functions just as if you're standing still, but on the fly. Of course, I do not recommend doing that as it would seem to be kind of dangerous, but you can.

HOV Lane Avoidance: HOV stands for High Occupancy Vehicle. You will typically see HOV Lanes in high traffic, metropolitan areas where they provide a dedicated lane for vehicles with more than one passenger and, in some instances, motorcycles. What is and isn't allowed in HOV Lanes is dependent upon the city or state.

The issue I found is when the TomTom plans a route that contains HOV Lanes it specifically asks you if you want to avoid them or not. My initial thought was "why would I want to avoid a HOV Lane?" I can either ride in it ... or not. However, what TomTom is really asking is "Will you/can you ride in the HOV Lane; if so, it will be included in the route planning." So when you plan you're route you need to know if you can and will be riding in the HOV Lane.

Where I caught this was in Atlanta, Georgia. When TomTom planned my route that took me through Atlanta, on my way to Lexington, Ohio it advised that there were HOV Lanes on the route and whether I wanted to avoid them. At the time of writing the route I did not know exactly where the HOV Lanes TomTom was referring to actually were. However, when I almost to Atlanta, I noted that the route was not pushing me over to the Atlanta ByPass (I-475). Then when I got into the Atlanta Area, while still on I-75, the TomTom Lane Guidance kept trying to push me over into the HOV Lane. Unfortunately, the Atlanta HOV doesn't provide for motorcycles. Not a huge problem on this trip, but it would have been had it been rush-hour traffic. Knowing the area, I would have just taken the ByPass; others may not.

So ... when TomTom advises that there are HOV Lanes on the route and asks if you would like to avoid them, the correct answer is "Yes" if you don't specifically know that you can ride/drive in the HOV. At that point, TomTom will plan a different route that will keep you out of the busier areas where HOV Lanes are more prevalent.

Low/Dead Battery Start Up: Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries naturally lose their charge over time when not in use. I have determined that when the TomTom Rider Lithium-Ion battery has lost its charge, it will not automatically start up when locked into the powered cradle. Of course, this may cause you panic, wondering if a wire has come undone or there's something wrong with the SatNav ... probably not the problems. What I've found is that it takes about one minute while cradled for the unit to draw enough power and then the TomTom will turn on with a touch of the on/off button on the top-right. After that, the automatic on/off functions from the powered cradle work properly. This all seems fairly natural and isn't a problem once you know what to do.

Time Zones: The clock and all the associated features (including estimated arrival times) do not change with the changes in time as you move through Time Zones. Of course, you can adjust the time, but that's rather a pain.

Past Updates and Information on TomTom Rider:

TomTom Rider Update 3
TomTom Rider Update 2
TomTom Rider Update 1
TomTom Rider


I've now added Update 5 during October 2015 that discusses breakage/replacement of the docking station on a recent road trip. LINK.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Trip Planner

On Wednesday morning (July 8), I'll be kicking out of Tampa on my two-day run up to Lexington, Ohio for the AMA Vintage Days, one of the premier vintage motorcycle events in the United States! Vintage racing, the world's largest swap meet, thousands of vintage motorcycles ... it's gonna be great!

After spending a couple days at the Vintage Fest, I'll be heading out west to catch up on some sights that I missed on a previous trip back in 2012. During the summer of 2012, I rode a Yamaha Super Tenere from Tampa to Prudoe Bay Alaska. On my way back, I ventured out west with plans to spend time in Utah (specifically Moab), Colorado and Arizona. While I did make it to Moab, 36 days and over 11,000 miles had taken their toll on me physically. I barely made it home.

Now I have the time (and a great motorcycle) to catch up on the 2012 plans I missed out on. Here are a few: Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs > Meteor Crater in Winslow Arizona > Petrified Forest National Park > and Superstition Mountains/Apache Trail in Mesa, Arizona.

I should be able to handle the 5,400 mile trip without too much trouble. How well I handle the 14K elevation of Pikes Peak is a whole 'nuther story. Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Barber Vintage Fest

The Florida Summer is starting to wear on me big time so I'm naturally looking forward to hitting the road to Lexington, Ohio next week for the AMA Vintage Days (July 10-12). I'll take the two-day beeline up to Mansfield, where I'll be staying. Coming back I plan to work over to and down the east coast. I don't have the return route quite mapped out at the moment.

The AMA Vintage Days are one of two of the premier vintage motorcycle events in the United States. The other premier event is the Barber Vintage Fest in Leads, Alabama (near Birmingham), which runs only a few months away in October. The Barber Fest seems to get better every year. If I had to choose between the two it would be Barber. The place is immaculate and the Vintage Motorcycle Museum is worth the trip alone.

Info and tickets on sale HERE.