Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A few passes with a can of spraypaint

     Measuring and maths!  I've been reading a lot the past few days learning sidecar mechanics so I can hopefully get this thing bolted up safely.  The GS is going to be a bit of a pain since it lacks a lower frame.  So today I wheeled everything out and placed it close to where the math says it needs to be.  I took a few pictures since everyone that's seen the last one has commented negatively about that horrible shark graphic.  Yes, its gone.  Back in the garage I started cutting tubing for the subframe.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Not Dead, New Project

     Well I'm still alive and still riding.  I just haven't felt like posting recently because its mostly just been solo trips.  I go. I see.  I go home.  Mostly I don't even bring the camera.

     A few years ago I decided that it would be really neat to have a sidecar.  It would be nice to have the option of taking the family around with me and let's face it, they just look cool!  So today I picked up a used Dnepr sidecar.  Its ugly as hell but that's easy enough to fix.  We'll see how this goes...

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Concede

Adventure bikes.  Ok, they have their merits...

So maybe my Moab trip made me realize that trucking a pure dirtbike a couple thousand miles just to ride trails a sportbike could do wasn't the most fun option.  Sure I did hard stuff in Moab, but I had the most fun on the easy trails.  So queue the BMW (and excuse my recent discovery/interest in HDR photography):

She's a bit rough around the edges but solid where it counts.  Here's the specs:

2009 BMW F800GS
35k miles
Mirage 2 Fairing
Caribou Panniers
Rekluse Clutch
Few other bits of kit...

Stay tuned...
Death Valley?   Soon.
Baja?  A bit later...

Added a few bits:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ever Heard of a CEO Doing This?

How's this for amazing customer service?

I just ordered a Kuberg Cross a few weeks ago for the wife to ride around on.  Took a few weeks to make it over on the boat and clear customs (most of these bikes are sold before they even make it on the boat).  Anyway it arrived so I assembled, charged, and did a quick test with it on the stand to see that the tire spun when throttle was applied.  I loaded it up and we went on a 4 day trip to the desert.  2 minutes into her 1st ride on it my wife says its acting funny and keeps limiting her speed to about 5mph.  I check it out and reset the speed to the maximum and she gets back on.  Few minutes later she comes pushing it back to camp.  Won't run and some brief diagnostics tell me its either a faulty throttle or bad speed controller - neither of which I can do anything about out there.  So we park it the rest of the trip.

I went ahead and shot off an email to Kelly Knipe, the US distributor explaining the problem.  He replies back within the hour and says that I may have gotten one of the old relays by mistake and he's sending me the upgraded one today.  We got home a few days later and the new relay still wouldn't work.  I had a few emails with Kelly and we confirmed that it was the speed controller.  He told me he was working with Kuberg in Czech to figure out the fastest way to get me a replacement.  A few days later I got an email asking if I could meet him at a local hotel that weekend to swap controllers - apparently they have had a few controllers over the last several months that went dead and wanted to get some back to the shop for examination. 

A few days later I met with Kelly and surprise, surprise:  CEO Michal Kubanek.  Apparently he'd decided it would be easiest to just fly over to California with replacements and swap them out there.  So for the next 30 minutes Kelly and Michal pulled the entire electrical assembly out of my wife's bike and replaced it with a new one.  Despite knowing it was a faulty speed controller causing the issue, they wanted to ensure there wasn't a contributing factor from some other part of the system - plus have the full assembly for testing back at the shop.  Apparently at least one other customer in the area was getting a new electrical system as well so that explained the trip.

Anyway just wanted to post because I've never seen customer service like this.  Bike is working great and is a whole heap of fun!

Apologies for the awful and backlit cell phone pic (especially to Michal and Kelly).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kuberg LiPo Install - The Easiest Mod Ever Done

     Sorta stuck on kid's bikes at the moment.  Apologies.  As I mentioned in my review of the Start, I was going to swap the stock lead acid batteries for LiPo's.  Did it, and spent a whopping 30 minutes doing the conversion.

     I got the idea from the Oset owners over on TrialsCentral so I owe them all the trial and error.  I ordered two 5000mAh batteries for about 20% more range than the stock ones.  My Start had 8Ah SLA batteries even though the Kuberg website says that the Start comes with 9Ah.  Oh well no matter.  Anyway the Kuberg already uses XT-60 connectors so all I had to do was solder XT-60's to the batteries toss them into some LiPo charge bags and drop em in.

     LiPo's are a bit more maintenance than SLA's and require special chargers so don't undertake this if lack of maintenance is your favorite aspect about an e-bike.  They don't last as many years, require special chargers, and they can catch fire if used improperly - mostly just during charging but it is possible to start a fire if the battery is shorted or damaged.  I spent just under $200 including chargers and a power supply to run them and ordered everything from Hobby King.

You'll need:
Tool kit that came with the Start
2x XT-60 female leads
XT-60 Parallel connector
2x Zippy 5000mAh 6S LiPo batteries
2x LiPo safe small charging bags
2x battery monitors (optional, but a good idea to prevent excessive discharging of the batteries)
2x XK balancing lead extensions for monitors
Misc solder and heat shrink supplies

     Remove the seat and plastics and the upper bolt to the rear shock.  Prop the bike up on a stand and let the swingarm drop to the floor.  Disconnect the battery leads, release the battery strap, and slide the batteries out the back where the shock used to be.  Pop the new batteries in their bags and slide them in.  Use the battery strap to hold them in place.  Plug the batteries into the parallel connector.  Plug the speed controller into the parallel connector.  Connect the battery monitors to the balancing leads (if you bought monitors).  Bolt everything back up.

     For now I just shoved the monitors in the back next to the bags.  I'll mount them more permanently if needed but they're rather handy there - just a bit ugly with all the wires from the balancing leads exposed.

     With a slightly higher voltage the bike is a tiny bit quicker, although with my kid still on speed setting 2 its maybe 1/3 mph so hardly noticeable.  With the larger 5000mAh batteries I gained 20% more range, but didn't save as much weight as I could have - only 7.7 lbs including wiring, bags, and monitors.  But still, that's a nearly 18% reduction in weight over stock.  That would be the same as shaving 45.5 lbs off my KTM for $200 so that's extremely significant!  Aside from that the bike performs the same as before so nothing really to report.

     I bought 2 chargers and a power supply big enough to run both so that I could charge both packs simultaneously.  Charge time is about an hour although I could have reduced this to 30 minutes if I'd opted for a larger power supply.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Teaching Your Kid How To Ride A Motorcycle

     Following in the tire track left from my review of the Kuberg Start, I started to think that maybe some folks might stumble onto here searching for information after having their kid tell them that he wants to ride motocross.  I say 'he', but girls are just as capable at riding so don't feel like you should have bought more dolls when your daughter expresses an interest.  Now I only have one kid and he's 3, so some of this is geared toward a really young rider, but a lot will apply to any age child.  So here's a few tips that I've learned so far:

    How old can my kid start riding motorcycles?  It depends on the kid to be honest.  Mine is intrigued by all things with wheels so we got him a Strider balance bike when he turned 2.  A balance bike is one of those things that you say, "now why didn't I think of that?"  Its really nothing more than a stripped down bike - no brakes, no pedals.  Just 2 wheels, a seat, and a handlebar.  I'll admit I thought the whole idea was a bit gimmicky but when we saw a display at a motorcycle show, my son jumped out of my arms and onto guessed it - PINK Strider!  They had a little obstacle course set up and he spent the next 30 minutes navigating the ramps and turns.  He was pretty clumsy and we had to help him a lot, but I could see this was something he enjoyed.  We bought one and took it around the neighborhood on our daily walks.  Within a few months of owning a balance bike he was already coasting down hills with his feet up.  We graduated to the dirt hills around our house and he would bomb down stuff with an ear to ear grin while dad was chasing behind with a nervous grimace.  So in answer to the question, if your kid is pretty comfortable on a bike and is big enough to reach the controls, give it a shot!  Worst case it sits in the garage for a few months until he feels ready to try it.  Your kid will want to ride it if both you and the bike don't scare him, so therefore a few general rules apply: 

1) Keep it light - a heavier bike is harder to control so they'll fall more and its harder to pick back up. 
2) They will be more confident if they can touch the ground with both feet.
3) Give them a positive reason to ride.  Don't say "if you don't ride it we're going to sell it".  Instead try "Lets go for a ride. I'll take my bike, you take your motorcycle and lets see how it runs".  Figure out what works with your kid and go from there.  With mine its usually "lets go ride your momo and find some sweet jumps!"  -Mind you my kid has never had even one wheel off the ground but he still calls it jumping, and therefore so do I.

     Which brings me to the most important part of this post.  If you take nothing else away from this read, remember this:


     I've been riding moto's for 23 years, and of course I've been picturing myself exploring the trails with my child since before he was born.  Its tempting to try to "train" them how to ride so you can get to the good stuff.  Don't!  Remember that you started riding because it was fun.  If you take that aspect away, your kid isn't going to want to ride anymore.

     So how do you keep it fun but teach him at the same time?  I try to let him go at his own pace.  Error on the side of expecting less from your kid and it will be more fun for everyone.  We don't go out to practice.  Instead we ride his momo (as he calls it) to the local park.  I bring toys in a backpack so when we get to the park he plays on the swings and throws Hot Wheels down the slides.  There's a big dirt lot on the way so we ride across that as part of our trip to the park.  Sometimes he wants to go explore the dirt hills and other times he just wants to ride to the park - with maybe a few doughnuts on the way.  I let him pick the path and I'll just ask things along the way: "Do you wanna go down the hills?" "Want to go off that jump?"  I bought a cheap BMX bike so I can ride along with him and lead by example.  This has been by far the best method in getting him to try new things.  When I say "Watch daddy!" I know he's gonna be right on my tail.  When we go out to the desert we follow the same routine.  His bike is there when he wants to ride it and we let him explore on it - with me or mom following.  When he wants to play in the dirt with his cars, that's fine too. 

     This brings up one of the best reasons to get an electric motorcycle: Ride time.  Nothing is going to make your child improve their confidence and abilities on a motorcycle more than riding a motorcycle.  My son is a pretty good rider because he rides nearly every day - and this is in a highly developed urban area!  He's not even allowed to drive a Power Wheels car around our neighborhood, but nobody complains about his Kuberg.  He gets as much time riding in 2 weeks as most desert family kids in Southern California get in a year.  Even if your kid has a 50 that he rides in the desert, I'd highly encourage parents to get an e-bike for around home.

     Keeping them safe:  Gear is readily available for ages 5+, but not-so-much for a barely 3 year old.  Most online guides will tell you to make sure a helmet is DOT and SNELL approved - I actually think that weight is a more important factor.  I've seen plenty of kids that ride their motorcycle whichever way their helmet is leaning - I'm not sure why their parents can't see it.  You're better off putting your kid in a good bicycle helmet than a heavy MX helmet.  They'll crash less and have more fun.  We found an off-brand helmet (THH) on Amazon that's pretty light and its full-faced.  Even better, it is DOT approved.  Boots and gloves are the next big thing you want.  Fox makes a pee-wee line of gear, which includes boots for kids size 10 and up, but they discontinued their gloves.  We bought XX-Small youth gloves and he MIGHT be able to wear them in another year.  If he grows a lot.  I mean a lot!  I'm still on the hunt for some tiny gloves so if anyone has a suggestion let me know and I'll add it.

     The extra stuff:  Just like everything else you do with your kid, there's more stuff to bring.  At 3, mine doesn't venture far from home or camp, but I still bring a few supplies.  Snacks, some water, and maybe a juice box can make the difference between riding back and carrying a kid while pushing a motorcycle back to camp.  Also, a couple cars and a plastic shovel can add some extra fun to a ride.  Remember us adults usually ride to a destination.  We might ride 50 miles to get to a burned out house just so we have a destination.  Your kid is wired the same way.   You'd be surprised at how much more your kid will ask to ride when he gets to build a mound of sand 150' from camp and call it a "jump".  Better yet, get him to help you build a race track in camp and watch him wear the knobs off.  Make it just large enough that you can try it too and he'll be beaming as he goes around "just like daddy!"

     Which brings me to my last bit of advice: Encouragement.  You're going to hear "Dad watch this!" about 54 million times over the next few years.  Watch.  Every. Time.  And don't follow it up with a canned "good job buddy".  Pull one from Crush and get into it: "DUDE YOU TOTALLY ROCKED THAT!!"  And pay attention to him while he's riding - 2 reasons for this.  Motorcycles have moving (and hot) parts that can actually injure your kid so you need to actually be a parent when he's on it.  And then when he rides down a 6" tall hill and looks at you grinning, take a knee and give him 5 - congratulations you just made that kid's day.