Fun

First rule: save all the parts


So, after carefully disassembling major portions of my motorcycle so that I could install BMW’s add-on trip computer, I discovered that the dedicated socket it’s supposed to plug in to isn’t there.

Not in the mood to run out to the store for a splitter, nor to assume that I should split off the cable that powers the heated grips, I called a nearby dealer and scheduled time to chat with the one person there who has experience with this particular part. No doubt he’s the one who originally told me it was a piece of cake to install…

Update: They were overbooked for service, so they’ll install it for me next week.

Update: Sigh. There’s a new data harness for the ’05 bikes, and they didn’t have it in stock. Naturally, this took three hours to discover (partially because BMW hasn’t shipped all the service manuals yet, and they had to play phone tag). It’s now on order, and when it comes in, I can finish up the installation myself. At least I was right about where it was supposed to plug in, although I apparently traced the other end of that cable to the wrong thing. :-)

Things I like about my motorcycle


  • Heated grips.
  • 60+ miles per gallon (they claim 55mpg at 75mph and vice versa, I've measured it at 62), 4 gallon tank.
  • Terrific headlight, brighter and with better coverage than many of the cars I'm out on the road with. The high-beam is rarely necessary, but still fun to use.
  • ABS brakes.
  • Smooth throttle response across the usable rev range (apparently a big improvement over the pre-2004 CS bikes (which some owners have found a cheap fix for)). The service loaner I rode yesterday had the problems described in these links, and it was not a fun ride.
  • Stuff bay. I'll have to put up some pictures of this, but basically, the place where most bikes have their gas tank is a storage area on the CS, sized to fit a large helmet, tank bag, locking hard case, or powered speaker system. I've got the helmet spider installed on mine (as shown in my first baby picture), which hides under the tank bag when riding, and provides reasonable security for a helmet when parked. I'm not planning to buy the speakers.
  • Nimble. Hard to quantify, but compared to most of the other bikes I rode while shopping, it feels "sportier". The low-mounted gas tank definitely contributes to this.
  • Comfortable riding position. My ride to work is about seventy miles of highway, with a strong crosswind most afternoons and evenings. The upright body position creates a stronger sail effect than a sportbike crouch (especially with the boxy Samsonite Moab backpack that's holding my laptop and other accessories), but I don't get blown around too much, and my back approves.
  • Ergonomic controls. All the buttons and switches are well-placed and sized, and easily operated with a gloved hand.
  • Accessory socket. The BMW battery charger plugs right into this, as does a heated vest. Yes, it sounds a little odd to make a fuss about electric heating in California in June, but the wind coming in off the Pacific is cool and damp, and when you're zooming around on a motorcycle at 3am, you want heat.
  • Comfy seat. It could use a bit more padding for long trips, but the aftermarket has that covered.
  • Looks. Okay, it's... "non-traditional," but I think it's rather attractive. The mirrors took some getting used to, but combined with the dual headlights they contribute to a bug-eyed monster effect from the front, and that's a good thing. And I love the color.
  • Logo on side panel just the right size to replace with laminated printout of anime character. The leading candidate for this small customization is still Steel Angel Saki, but I'm exploring the options. Phil Foglio's Buck Godot: Zap Gun For Hire series includes a small goofy-looking alien race that would look good on a round portrait. It's not a sexy anime chick, but it seems appropriate: it's called a Beemah.

What don’t I like? The current lack of support for hard luggage. BMW’s top case has been delayed due to mounting problems (and now that I’ve seen pictures, I understand why; the added “support brace” bolts onto the plastics, not the frame!), and is pretty small. The Happy Trails mounts for a full set of Givi cases look quite sturdy, but even if you just buy their side-case mounts, you have to take off the stock luggage-rack mount, which changes the lines of the bike. The Krauser side cases still look ugly to me, and Riderhaus seems to be in the middle of switching their online sales to Twisted Throttle. Hepco & Becker have mounts for side and top cases that look nice, but not only do you have to relocate your turn signals for the side mounts, there’s also just enough of a design change in the ’05 bikes that only one of their side-case styles will fit.

So, if I give up on the side cases for now, there are two basic options: Hepco & Becker and Givi. Unlike the current mount for the BMW case, both of these have supports that bolt onto the frame, and the cases you can mount are a lot larger (up to a 45 liter Givi scooter case or a 48 liter H&B). The price is about the same. I’m leaning slightly toward the Givi.

What’s the problem with side cases and bags? The gas cap. It’s located on the right side, below the passenger seat (where the logo is on the left side). All the standard products cover this space; many soft saddlebags would also extend through the space occupied by the luggage rack. The Happy Trails and Krauser side mounts partially obscure the rear turn signals; the H&B relocates them. Of course, the F650GS has the same design, but everyone’s worked around it; the CS seems to be the redheaded stepchild in the current BMW lineup.

Update: Still looking for a good Saki or Beemah graphic to use, but for now, I think I’ll go with this image from the free Girl Genius Holiday Gift Tag collection:

Mimmoth

Of course, if someone else pops a mimmoth, he’d add mine to his collection, but that joke will only make sense to people who’ve played the Girl Genius card game.

Baby pictures


Rode into work this afternoon (through ridiculous winds), and took advantage of the late afternoon sun to get a few pictures of the bike on campus. More coming, once I coax Photoshop into doing batch conversion of Olympus ORF-format raw data files. And buy a bigger CompactFlash card to hold them…

2005 BMW F650CS

Voices in my head


So, after my Thursday riding plans were cancelled by a database crash, and my group scheduled an all-hands meeting for Friday afternoon, I decided to take the bike into work to show it off. Officially, I’m on vacation, so I was really just riding 70 miles, hanging out for an hour, and riding back. Hopefully getting past San Jose before the southbound traffic got too heavy.

It worked, too, but I didn’t get away quite soon enough to avoid the slowdown around Morgan Hill. Coincidentally, I needed to stop for gas, so I figured I’d cut over to Monterey Road for a few miles, then get back on 101. This worked out reasonably well, but when it came time to get back on the highway, I went into the turn too fast on the on-ramp, and the bike started edging closer to the yellow line and the end of the pavement.

Suddenly, I heard the voice of one of my MSF instructors, Jim Pereyra:

"What do you do? Lean more!"

I pushed on the low grip, the bike leaned over farther, and my turning radius tightened up. One of the many reasons I’m glad I got professional training before I bought my motorcycle.

Ride report


I put 150 miles on my new motorcycle today. No pictures, yet, because I was too busy improving my skills.

Kind of embarrassing, really. I made it through the MSF Basic RiderCourse with no problems, and a bunch of test rides on different bikes, but when I rode out into traffic on my own bike, I stalled it at least a dozen times trying to get into first gear. That’s why yesterday’s ride primarily took place in a parking lot down the street.

Today was fine, though. Drove around the neighborhood for a few minutes to convince myself that I was past that little shifting problem, then headed up to BMW of Santa Cruz County in Watsonville, to pick up a Wunderlicht rear-seat bag. The F650CS comes with a decent-sized tank bag, but I wanted a little more storage while I figure out what sort of hard luggage I’m going to install (BMW has a top case, but it’s been delayed; Riderhaus has a very sturdy-looking mount for Krauser side and top cases, but they’re ugly; Happy Trails seems to be the best of the bunch, with a custom mount for Givi side and top cases).

Next stop, the Borders in Seaside, which was an uneventful trip down Highway 1. Picked up the obligatory copy of the Return of the King DVD, then decided to find out if I was up for something a bit more twisty, Carmel Valley Road. Early on, some clown in a pickup truck decided that the van ahead of me was moving too darn slow, so he passed us both on a double yellow. Never saw him again, and the van turned off soon, so I pretty much had the road to myself. I went a little wide on one turn, the sure sign of a novice rider, but it wasn’t until about a minute later that a Miata came zooming along in the other direction, so I got the lesson without the adrenalin or the damage.

Around 3pm, the wind really picked up, so I decided to cut over to 101 at Greenfield. Same wind, and faster traffic, but on a road that I know well, with no surprises. Besides, it gave me an excuse to see how fast I could go without exceeding the 5000rpm limit recommended for the break-in period. The bike claimed 80mph, but my GPS insisted I was only going 75. Top speed is supposed to be in the 110 range, but I think I’ll wait a bit to test that.

Tomorrow? Well, I sort of took half the week as vacation, so I can do whatever I want. There’s an MSF course layout painted on a parking lot down at the rodeo grounds, so I’ll stop there for some quick-stop and tight turn practice, and then I think Point Lobos would make a nice backdrop for pictures of the bike.

Oh, yeah; my throttle hand is cramped, my butt is sore, my left calf is hurting from the effort of keeping the bike upright when I tried to walk it through a tight u-turn on a dead-end street at the top of a hill (novice, remember?), and I really need to pack the earplugs next time, but I can fill the gas tank for less than $9, and I had fun. Guess there was something to that dream after all.

Coming soon to a parking lot near you…


2005 BMW F650CS

After much thought, tire-kicking, and riding, I’ve settled on a 2005 BMW F650CS as my first motorcycle. I’m sure this will disappoint a certain Ducati-loving Lion, but that’s the way it goes.

Why the CS? Comfortable riding position, good balance, some interesting features, terrific mileage, and the friendly sales support of California BMW. Lots of pictures to come, as soon as the bike finishes its cross-country trek to the dealership.

Why not a bigger bike, something I was seriously considering? Because I decided that I’d rather have two very different bikes than one compromise. That and I decided that while you can learn to shoot with a .45, you’ll be able to practice longer and more effectively with a .38 (just don’t take either one out on the highway…). I could carry that analogy farther, but I spent two days riding a 250cc mini-cruiser for the MSF class, and it just doesn’t have the continuing appeal of a good .22. :-)

Under the rust, I found…


…more rust.

Spent the weekend at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic RiderCourse. After an oddly compelling dream and the subtle prodding of a certain Mr. Lion, I felt the need to at least investigate riding a motorcycle again.

more...

The Triumph of Saint Hubble


If the Fundies are going to insist that science is just another religion, I think it’s only fair that we have our own religious art.

Bug Nebula

Update: hubblesite.org finally has a page up with details and more images, so I updated the link.