16 September 2012

Farkle Time Again

It's that time again ... we have most of our longer trips for this year done and I'm getting the things I wished I had for those trips. Oh well. Better late then never I guess. 

Traxxion AK-20

The first one is hard to capture in photos and even harder to describe why wanted it:

Traxxion AK-20 Top Cap

You have to look to the right of handle bar riser - the thing were there fork leg comes up through the upper triple clamp. That's the top cap of my new Traxxion AK-20 fork cartridge.

I finally bit the bullet and "fixed" what Triumph should have done in the first place - the really crappy front suspension of the Tiger 800 Roadie. The OEM suspension has an overly pre-loaded, weak (0.6kg/mm) spring, with way too much compression damping and way too much rebound damping (though still not in balance with the massive amount of compression) and no adjustment options at all. What that means is that the Tiger Roadie has a tendency to "bounce". It pushes the front up way too much when going over slight bumps, it's not very comfortable and especially not very confidence inspiring on curvy but bad surfaced roads. 

To cut it short: this is the first bike I ever owned where the suspension is crappy enough I felt the need to spend serious money to fix it. Bummer, but true. I never had a bike that had such an unbalanced front suspension. Some were way to soft, other's to harsh, but none was ever so completely broken.

And let me tell you: it was soooooo worth the money! 

The OEM suspension is not adjustable at all, therefore there was no way to get it less bad without opening it, getting a new spring and a re-valve kit at the least. This would have meant another compromise as though it would have been much better, but it would still not be adjustable at all. Therefore I decided to go with a cartridge kit from Traxxion, the AK-20, which has full pre-load, compression, and rebound adjustment. 

Right adjustment cap

In the photo above you can see the right fork leg cap. The black allen socket is for pre-load adjustment (available on both fork legs), the little red socket is for rebound (right, red, rebound - easy to remember). The left fork leg has the compression damping adjustment. The cartridges also came with springs selected for my weight (0.875kg/mm).

After installation the values were set to what Traxxion recommended and they were spot on. The rider sag was exactly where it should be for the 180mm travel forks: at 55mm. 

Now the Tiger is 
  • more comfortable,
  • more stable,
  • way more compliant on large and small bumps, sharp or soft,
  • way less "bouncy".
I'm very, very happy with the results and can only say "Shame on you, Triumph, for delivering such a nice bike with such a crappy front suspension".

The rear is not quite as bad and not quite as far off as the front, therefore this has time for a later re-visit. I might still do it but will give the market some time to come up with nice adjustable rear shocks. 

Btw: the front cartridges can be taken out again, sent to Traxxion, and re-worked for a different bike if that's necessary at some point. Pretty good!

Jesse Odyssey II Luggage

Our trips lately have become longer and more involved. We were looking for luggage solutions for a while where we could just lock the cases and leave the bike alone at least for a short time without worrying too much. 

I am totally aware that anybody who wants to steal will still easily get into the cases with just a bit of force but it follows the idea of "out of sight out of mind". Hard cases hide the fact whether they are loaded or not, they look "closed properly" and are at least a little bit harder to steal from than a duffle bag strapped to the rear of the bike.

I looked at most solutions out there and really wasn't sure what to do. Again, quite a good selection, at least when you also start looking outside North America as some of the available options are just too expensive when bought here.

In the end I settled on Jesse Luggage this time around. They have fairly large sized boxes without getting overly wide (97cm right now, can be brought in about 3cm with a narrower exhaust). These boxes have some benefits I really liked:
  • They are not too wide for the volume they have (94cm min with a listed volume of 105 liters). I really don't believe the volume is really over 50 liters per box, but I'd say there are probably about 80 to 90 usable liters and that's more than good enough for me.
  • The boxes can be moved forward or back depending on whether you need space on the passenger footpegs or not. That brings weight lower and more forward in the cases where I ride alone with luggage (99.9% of the time so far).
  • Opening is from the top, so stuffing them with all the bits and pieces for a trip is simple. Getting stuff out from the bottom is easy, too, as long as I use stuff bags or liners.
  • They look okay.
  • They weren't too outrageously expensive.
  • The racks look fairly nice, even with the boxes off.
Once I have used them a bit, I'll do a full review and will also outline some really nice details that I had not known before buying them. 

Here are just some pictures with them on the bike for now:

Jesse Odyssey II - Rear


Side view

This setup isn't nearly as narrow as what I had on my R1200GS, right now it's actually 15cm wider, but it is still within a reasonable limit. At some point I might get a smaller after market exhaust and pull the right side another 3cm in which makes it pretty much the same as the handle bar width. That I can live with.

Overall capacity with the setup you see above is somewhere between 135 and 150 liters, about the same my Mazda MX-5 had as trunk space ... this will likely work for Andrea and me for short to medium length trips. For longer ones we might add capacity to her bike, too, but a longer trip is likely far in the future. This setup easily works for a week or two for the two of us.

Wine Country - Three Day Ride

Again, I'm about two weeks late with writing. Over the first September weekend, a long weekend with Monday being a holiday, we took off North this time. We hadn't been anywhere beyond San Francisco with the bikes together before and therefore it was about time to explore that area a bit more.

Saturday started super early as we wanted to be through SF and over the Golden Gate Bridge before the "normal" traffic started. Weather was so so, chilly here in the South Bay, cloudy on the way up the Peninsula, foggy in San Francisco and North on Highway 1. Nevertheless, it's always an experience going over Golden Gate Bridge, the first time on a bike for Andrea.

We didn't stop until it warmed up a bit and we were along the coast. I'm not totally clear where this photo was taken, but very likely somewhere around Bodega Bay.

Somewhere on HW1, North of SF

Tiger Tamer

GS Tamer

"The Bird" (we were near Bodega Bay where the movie was filmed)

Lunch break along the coast

Enjoying the great weather

The route was basically just going North on Highway 1 up to Point Arena where we took a look at the Lighthouse (they wanted $7 per vehicle to get closer so we decided it's not worth it, took some photos and were off again).

Point Arena Lighthouse

Near Point Arena we turned East and headed over to Ukiah on some seriously twisty roads. Very nice riding, not much traffic, most of the traffic actually pulled over and let us pass. Thanks for this, if you ever read this!

We finished this day with a dinner in a small diner in Ukiah where we stayed in a Best Western Hotel. Dinner was a monstrous Chef Salad for Andrea, and a reasonably sized steak for me. Both were excellent.

Dinner in Ukiah

Enjoying myself with a glass of wine after a long day

During the next day (Sunday) we explored a little bit of wine country, of course we didn't do any wine tasting and we stayed far away from the typical tourist roads, and so it was an excellent day on the road. Just very, very hot.

East Shore of Clear Lake

At the spot you see in the photo above on the shore of Clear Lake there were mosquitos the size of small cars. They tried to carry us away as soon as we stopped, tried to force their way into luggage, helmets, gloves, wherever. Wow, they were annoying. It was a very short stop ... makes me rethink the idea of a lake shore property - I'd rather settle for something at the coast. Cold but free of mosquitos.

Another lake along the way

From Sunday to Monday we stayed in a Hampton Inn in Rohnert Park where we got a decent room and a very good breakfast for a reasonable price - even over the long weekend.

Next day brought us back to the coast where we finally found the famous home from "The Birds":

Potter Schoolhouse, Bodega, CA

Along with the church that can be seen in the same movie:

Saint Teresa of Avila Church, Bodega

Making perfectly clear who's allowed to park here

The rest of Monday was riding home - South on Highway 1 again, over Golden Gate Bridge (make sure to have $6 per vehicle in cash), through San Francisco, then again on HW 1 along the coast to HW84, quick coffee at Alice's Restaurant, and home.

It was a great trip and we had loads of fun again.

Btw: I'm thinking of creating a page (and subpages) where I put all the GPS routes I recorded on these days. These could be downloadable and could be used as a base for trips. Is there any interest in that? Leave a comment!

09 September 2012

Going Down the Coast - Day 3

The last day of our three day trip started in Cambria and went up along Highway 1. The morning was chilly and foggy, but when we got further North it cleared up a bit.

We still had the some fog.

Highway 1

We had decided to ride Nacimiento-Ferguson Road back inland towards 101 and come back through Carmel Valley Road to finish the ride on 1 and 17 towards home.

It was a great decision as Nacimiento-Fergusion is beautiful, coast side as well as inland and Carmel Valley Rd. is a motorcyclists dream. Not too slow, not too fast, twisty and fun.

Surreal Lighting on Nacimiento-Ferguson

I want one of these on my bike! Only way to teach car drivers.

Tank and Tiger.

"Pull here to eject driver."

Overall it was a super nice trip. We had lots of fun, some burning behinds, but overall it was just plain great.

Things to say about the trip:

  1. Book in advance if you're going to wine country during summer vacation time.
  2. Bring CamelBaks - it's easy 40 degrees Celsius over the day inland.
  3. Bring warm clothes for along the coast.
Things to say about the bikes:
  1. Same as last time: seats could be better, though Andrea had a sheep skin which seemed to help.
  2. Oil the chain before getting out of the motorcycle pants, the knee pads are great when doing something low to the ground. Did I mention that I hate chains?
  3. The F650GS can be ridden without working tachometer - though it doesn't help.
  4. The triple settles more and more over time and produces less vibration.
  5. Hard luggage is ordered, so we have an easier time leaving the bikes alone when sight seeing.
Things to say about riding and riding skills:
  1. It's unbelievable how quickly Andrea's riding experience has improved. We were sometimes going at a really good pace! We now have nearly the same travel pace.
  2. Days between 300 and 500km (~180 to 300 miles) on backroads are pretty decent.
  3. Long days still require adjustments to us and the bikes. Working on that though.
It was an awesome trip and there are more to come! I still have to report from our trip to the wine country and the coast North of San Francisco and will do this over the next few days.

08 September 2012

Going Down the Coast - Day 2

It's been crazy. Lot's of work. Lot's of general craziness. Therefore I'm not days behind with my posts, I'm actually trips behind.

As I still have too much work and not enough, I'm keeping the next posts a bit shorter but at least I'll try to get them all out ...

After staying in San Luis Obispo for the night, we decided to ride inland in the area, just explore the local small backroads and to be back at the coast for the night. As it was Sunday we figured it shouldn't be a problem to find a room for the night and did not book in advance.

Pozo Rd - it was about 40 degrees Celsius or so

We continued on, although we turned around when the road became a small dirt road with loose rocks and some deeper gravel. Didn't want to drop the bikes and we plain don't have the dirt riding experience to just go on an unknown road.

When we continued on, we found these little guys ...


On the right: Black

There were super cute. First they were careful but also very curious. Slowly the brown donkey came over and sniffed my hand and of course, a friendship started right there.

Super friendly!

Typical donkey - loves to get the ears scratched

The grey one was a bit more careful, did more sniffing and (very careful) nibbling on my jacket. I think he liked me in the end though.

Careful nibbling on my jacket

After spending about 20 minutes or so in the incredible heat with the three donkeys, we desperately needed air flow from riding again, so we reluctantly moved on.

We headed towards the coast and took some loops there, too, and found some really incredible small backroads that were sooooo much fun. And virtually no traffic.

Santa Rosa Creek Road - Very beautiful

Much better temperatures here ...

Our preferred type of road

Andrea having fun ...

We arrived at the coast again in Cambria and found a nice room in a motel there. As we hadn't properly celebrated our 10 years anniversary the night before we decided to find a good restaurant and get an appropriate dinner. We found "Robin's", a restaurant in Cambria that also has life music on the weekends.

They had an international cuisine, very nicely done as you can see.


Main course - possibly the best duck I ever had

Cheese and dessert

And we got even some Espresso! It was really delicious and I can only recommend the restaurant. We sat outside, it was a beautiful evening, the music was great (celtic music, think Loreena McKennitt), the food incredible and the wine was very tasteful, too.

It was a very fitting evening!