Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Farkling the F650GS - Round 2

Today was like an early birthday! The F650GS and I got presents!

My ZTechnik windshield arrived from A&S Motorcycles around noon. A few hours later, the Quest RAM cradle and Widder battery hookup showed up from Whitehorse Press. I stayed late at work helping a coworker with a project, but hit the garage as soon as I got home.

The windshield install was super easy.

The unmolested GS with my long-ignored CB350 in the background (yeah, I need to sweep the leaves out):

The windshield kit'o'parts: sheld, u-shaped plastic spacer, screws, washers, and simply! good instructions:

GS sans stock fly-shield (3 screws removed):

New windshield installed. Easy Cheezy!

Sitting on the bike, this windshield is fairly tall. At 5'-4", I'm definitely going to need to keep the windshield clean, but I can easily see over it. I don't think I've had a shield this high since I sold the GL650. I have high hopes for it's effectiveness battling wind at higher speeds.

Next on deck was the RAM cradle for my Quest2 GPS. I'd been toying with the idea of fitting it with conduit hangers (like I did on the R1200ST). In the heat of the moment, I decided to simplify my install (and avoid scrounging through my *boxes of stuff*) by pulling one of the RAM balls off the ST and installing it onto the mirror of the GS. I found a diamond shaped plate with a ball attached in one of my spares boxes, along with a short RAM arm to connect it all to the bike.

Visible in this picture on the left side handlebar is my old Formotion glow-in-the-dark thermometer. I got pissed off at it's unerring inaccuracy last year and removed it from the R1200ST. I've decided to give it another chance.

You can also see the switch for the heated handgrips duct-taped (silver) to the left side of the cockpit. I still haven't made it over to my parent's house for a larger drill bit.

Finally, I connected the Widder vest battery connection to the BlueSea fuse box (clear cover, yellow latch, colorful fuses) that got installed two weeks ago. The F650GS now has full cold-weather capability.

The red line running along the subframe toward the rear of the bike (top-right side of the pic) is the switched wire from the tailight. I'm really trying to keep this install tidy.

If I can get my act together tomorrow morning, I'll give the new windshield a whirl. Watch for a review in the next few weeks.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tripled my Dirt Experience!

I met Rebecca in Brookshire on Sunday afternoon for my first *Easy* dual sport ride.

Rebecca assured me that she would turn around if any of the roads were iffy because the rear-tire on Wilbur, her V-Strom, was almost bald. She gave me a quick refresher pep-talk on how to handle dirt and we were off!

Perhaps 20 miles of the 70-mile route to Fayetteville was on unpaved roads. Slightly damped down dirt with a little bit of gravel on top, it was very scenic and mostly one lane. There were even a few paved twisties that I would never have reached on the R1200ST.

I had one slight pucker moment when the rear tire fishtailed a little while I was downshifting for a turn, but for the most part the ride was easier than any of the scary gravel construction that I've experienced in my travels. I found myself mostly keeping to about 40mph on straights, much faster than I've ever gone on dirt with the R1200ST.

During our late *lunch* at Orsak's in Fayetteville, I joked to Rebecca that the ride had probably at least "tripled my dirt experience!"

It was after 4pm when we got back on the bikes for the ride home, so we decided to take the most direct route, avoiding unpaved roads. My shoulders and back were pretty sore. I think that I was so focused on staying loose on the bars that everything else tensed up!

It's my hope that these kinds of rides will build my confidence on dirt so that it won't be so scary to encounter road construction on the R1200ST. I won't say that I was having fun on the dirt roads, but I am optimistic for the future. The F650GS is just beginning to earn it's keep.

My camera was buried in my tank bag the entire ride, but Rebecca took a few pictures. I'll steal them once she posts them.

Farkling the F650GS

Farkling the F650GS has been an exercise in procrastination. I've had the initial main parts (fuse box, grip heater kit) sitting in my garage for weeks now, but haven't quite gotten around to doing the installation.

With the winter cold that Houston has been experiencing, this has led to a decreased desire to actually Ride the bike.

I resolved to spend this weekend taking care of it, finally. After work on Friday I ran around to a couple of hardware and auto parts stores, stocking up on stuff for my install. I bought an automotive relay, an inline fuse, 12 and 18 ga. wire in red and black, and various electrical connectors. I have acquired a good sized collection of crimp-on electrical connectors through the years, but I've also learned that when doing an install, I always seem to have insufficient quantities of the connectors I need most.

My first order of business on Saturday morning (after feeding Cali and giving Sorscha her dried cranberries) was to pull the existing grips off the F650GS. I've helped with heated grip installs on 3 bikes at this point, so I had the grips off quickly and prepped the surface for the stick on heaters.

Note: Heated grip kits are often available locally from stores like Cyclegear, but I've always preferred the Symtec kit with attractive OEM-looking round rocker switch offered by CAsporttouring.

Some people swear by insulating the clutch side with duct tape or even insulation, but the Symtec kit is specifically made to not require that measure. I stuck it right onto the painted metal of the handlebar, confident that it would provide the right amount of heat. The throttle side was a little harder, with little ridges on the moveable tube. I wound some electrical tape around the sticker to hold it in place and pushed the OEM grip back on.

An air compressor hose stuck under the grips is supposed to make it easier to get the grips back on, but I found that my little electric tire inflator did next to nothing. Elbow grease got the job done. I routed the wires to the desired switch location with some small black zip ties.

Next I needed to provide a power source. I had bought a 6 circuit Blue Seas fuse box at Academy Sports (~$28) a few weeks earlier. Now I needed to find a place to put it. Rooting around in my under-seat area, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my GS had in fact come with the OEM tool roll. The previous owner said that it he didn't have it! Apparently the very complete tool roll hadn't been used in the life of the bike! I relocated it to the locking compartment under the rear *rack* and fit my fuse box into the tool roll slot.

The F650GS is unique in that the gas tank is under the seat and the battery is up inside the faux *tank*. The FAQ at F650.com gives easy instructions for removing the center tank panel to access the battery without having to remove all the fairings (as is described by the BMW owner's manual).

Using my 12 ga. wire and yellow connectors, I created a harness running from the battery back to the fuse box. The ground wire is black, with a ring connector at each end. The hot wire is red, with an inline 30 amp fuse and female spade connector on one end to plug into the relay. Another 12 ga wire goes from the relay to the fuse box. I tucked the wires away under the *gas tank* fairings. To switch the relay, I used a scissors to scrape away at the electrical tape around the tail light wires and put a *vampire* connector onto the gray/black wire of the tail light. I ran a red wire from the tail light to the relay. Another black wire to the fuse box grounded my switched connection.

My fuse box ready to go, I ran a red/black pair of wires to the heated grips switch location, put a 5 amp fuse on the circuit, and hooked everything up for a test. The grips quickly heated up, so I buttoned up the bike.

Early Sunday morning I drove to the hardware store to pick up a 13/16" drill bit to make a hole for the switch, but the store wasn't open. In hindsight, I'm not even sure that my little 9-volt Makita could handle such a large bit. I might have to run the bike over to my parent's house to drill the hole. Dad will definitely have everything needed.

The grip heater switch is duct-taped in place for now. The fuse box is ready to go for easy install of additional electrical farkles. A heated vest connection and XM radio will probably come soon.

I also have a ZTeknik windshield on order and am waffling over which luggage rack to go with.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Looking Ahead

My touring schedule for the year is starting to shape up.

I've decided to forgo my usual two week trip in favor of a couple of shorter tours.

If I can get the GS outfitted for distance riding (windshield and luggage rack) by the end of February, there is a big Dual Sport event near Big Bend. There is one unpaved road that I'd like to try, but I don't want to go overboard on DS riding just yet.

I'm planning an 11 day southwest tour in the first week of April. This trip will coincide with the Santa Barbara, CA wedding of a very good friend from college and the STN Region 2 meet in Alpine, TX. I'm currently routing to hit Death Valley and various national parks in Utah. I'm also hoping to schedule a meet up with some Bay Area friends during this trip.

The STN national meet is in June in Eureka Springs, AR. It's mid week, but only a day's ride away. I'm thinking that I'll probably work either monday or friday of that week. I definitely want to attend, but I don't want to take a lot of time off for this event.

In Fall (possibly September) I'm planning a one week (9 day) trip to New England. This may or may not include my attendance at CSTN (Central STN meet).

I'm in tentative talks with a few friends from STN to possibly do a fly/rent to Alaska in June or July. We'll see if that happens.

I'd also like to do Femmoto this year after missing last year. We'll see how finances work out when October rolls around.

As usual, nothing is set in stone until I'm out the door and on the road.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

First rides of the year

Last weekend was pretty busy, riding-wise.

I went over to Motorcycles Unlimited on Friday to pick up the R1200ST with new Ohlins shocks installed front and rear. Patrick had us up on a lift setting up the suspension for my weight + the luggage.

On Saturday morning, I rode up to Huntsville for a ride instigated by JacknTexas.

We followed Debbie out to Colmesneil via twisty backroads. Lunch was homestyle cooking at the Texas Star Cafe.

After lunch, Rebecca, Debbie and I decided to continue east for a few more rarely traveled twisties. About 20 minutes after leaving Colmesneil, we hit rain.

We shrugged it off and continued on, running FM777 and FM1414 in the downpour. We stopped in Burkeville, a stone's throw from the Louisiana border to regroup before slogging home via 190.

As Rebecca put it, "None of us wanted to ruin the others ride by turning around!" I think we were all pretty miserable on tight curves in the rain.

On Sunday I took the F650GS out for our first unpaved....ummm... road?

Ara (Beemerchef) was in town on his way to Georgia. His host was holding a BBQ in his honor at an acreage southwest of Houston. The driveway was long and unpaved, but the GS (or should I say *I*) had no problems.

I took no pictures. All pictures stolen from others, but hosted on rocketbunny.