Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Almost honkin' there

It's only been since forever that Black Betty has been under the... well knife is not quite apt... wrench is more to the point.

It's amazing how slowly I can get a couple of simple projects done.  A cynic would say that as a lawyer I have a lifetime of charging large amounts of money, by the hour, and so the work expands to biblical proportions.  Or maybe I'm just not that good at the arts mechanical (as Hercule Poirot might turn that phrase).

There will be disgustingly detailed and meticulous project reports, in the fullness of time.

In the meantime, I can tease, can't I?

... and after...
... but there is still no voice because... the wires aren't connected, plus there are some other little things to button it all up and make it pretty.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

First commute of the 2015 season

Commuting got off to a late start this year.

I've been working on the bikes, not riding them.

All that changed this morning.  The weather is nice enough that the defective heated grip couldn't keep me off the road.  The Vespa was the only riding choice I could make.  I worked on the Shadow until about ten past ten last night and managed to complete the horn circuit, and re-install the neck covers and gas tank.  There's still a horn bracket to fashion and the horn to install, then the saddles, rack and sissy bar to install.  I want to change the exhaust too.  Once all that is done, it's still not a great commuting choice for lack of adequate storage.  In time, in time, the Shadow will commute, I promise.

The first commute of the year is more like flying a plane than driving a car.  I had a checklist as long as my arm:
  • Check and adjust the tire pressure
  • Gather all the gear
    • Helmet
    • Jacket
    • Down liner
    • Boots
    • Gauntlets
    • Neck protector (buff)
    • Earplugs
    • Sun glasses
  • Install the GPS and power supply
  • Install the power supply for the iPhone
  • Adjust the Termoscud lap apron
  • Stow the odds and ends on the bike
    • Briefcase
    • Sunglass case
    • Multi-tool
    • Lunch
Riding all comes back pretty quickly.  I am so much more focused and alert as a rider than a driver.

In spite of it all, there were things that I missed:
  • The power supply for the Garmin was out of sorts so the GPS came on, went off, came on, went off, beeping loudly each time, and eventually, and mercifully, died.
  • I forgot to charge the Sena.  Ten minutes into the commute she announced "Battery level is low... Goodbye"
  • My right mirror was just off a tad because the mirror stem was mis-aligned.
With those features out-of-whack the commute was just a tad unsettling, particularly the mirror issue.  I re-adjusted it when I got to the office.  I plugged the GPS and the Sena into a portable power supply for the day.  Those little irritants will be gone in a few hours, and be banished for the season.

And just because not everything that should screw up does screw up, the right grip limped along and kept my hand comfortable all the way to work.  Ha!

The commute was glorious.  It didn't even bother me that when I got to my usual spot in the garage, I found a Ducati Monster had parked across the designated moto spots, selfishly taking up as much of the three spots as a Ducati Monster can.  Fortunately, there's always room for one more Italian.  I was tempted to roll the Monster back a foot or two, but didn't.  We Vespa riders are adaptable, and courteous to a fault.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The sun's won...

... so Dale Chihuly's 'Sun' is slowly emerging from the Museum's warehouse...
... and the Italians are here for the season!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring sprang

Today is a beautiful day and it was a joy to get out for a stroll over lunch.

Much as we may sometimes curse the climate, on a day like today, there are nothing but good Montreal vibrations wherever you turn.

All is forgiven.
It looks deserted, because every square inch of sun drenched seating was taken.  The shade enjoyed no such popularity.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Stuck in neutral

No Sonja, not Black Betty. That would be troublesome.

Although BB is in the operating theatre, undergoing some electro-bionic implants, and the operation is going at a snail's pace, so BB is in no condition to hit the road. Sonja, if you have eagle eyes, you can see that the handlebars are sporting dual outlets, and RAM mounts. Sadly, BB has lost her voice: she is in the middle of a horn transplant, which is no small trifle.
It's really the persistence of winter that has me stuck in neutral.  Witness this morning's view from the kitchen window.
It's true that there are some hardy folks out and about on two wheels, mainly young'uns on small displacement scoots. In my case, I'm thoroughly spoiled, will no longer ride in cold temps without heated grips, and my "/$%?&?%/#!??! Oxford Heaterz failed on the throttle side. Never buy anything where a "Z" stands in for an "S". I have returned the favour a) by posting a warning on my Heaterz project report (click here), and b) by going to certain lengths to get my hands on a pair of Hot Grips. The problem is that I haven't had the time to tackle the task of ripping off the "/$%?&?%/#!??! Oxford Heaterz and installing the Hot Grips™.

This weekend something, something is leaving the garage in tip-top condition. Will it be Black Betty, or the Vespa? Time will tell, time will tell.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dilettante to professional in 50 easy steps

All bikes leave the showroom ready to roll.

But there is rolling, and then there is rolling.

I can't say the last time that I added anything to a car. Adding a GPS unit doesn't count.  I wouldn't call that adding anything, really.  Sticking a suction mount on the windshield or plopping a friction base on the dashboard doesn't cut it as an addition.  Nor does plugging the unit into the 12 volt outlet in the console, or stuffing the excess wire into the glove compartment.

Stock bikes are fine for leisurely cruising on local streets.  But once there is a higher calling, there is little choice but to get cracking and make some changes.

Take my Vespa for instance.

Daily commuting along a 30 kilometer route each way, and doing it with the blessing of the security goddess, has meant adding an Admore Lighting light bar, convex blind spot mirrors, a Stebel Nautilus horn, and ScooterWest LED driving lights.  The god of convenience dictated RAM mounts for a GPS and iPhone, dual 12 volt outlets to power them, and a top case.  Comfort insisted on a windscreen, Tucano Urbano Termoscud apron and heated grips.  Vanity asked me to install a chrome rack on the top case, to match the chrome crash bars.

When touring seemed like a good idea, a Classic Racks floor rack, an SAE power outlet, and saddlebags were demanded by the camping god (actually, having met him, I'd say he's more of a minor wood nymph, much less imposing than say, the parking god).

If I add to that list the stuff I carry to placate my inner Boy Scout (being a disciple of lord Baden-Powell is a life sentence),  there are tools, a compressor, fuses and a tire repair kit, rain gear, extra gloves, locking devices, a tire pressure gauge, two ridiculously powerful flashlights, a multi-tool, ROK straps, and other odds and ends. Really, I'm not kidding.

The Vespa has everything it needs for commuting, and touring.  Peace.

Now the Shadow, on the other hand, is, aside from the unhelpful Cobra exhaust system which will soon revert to stock, basically a showroom virgin.  In fairness I must say, when I was poking around in its nooks and crannies, I found the well-supplied Honda emergency tool kit, and an SAE outlet.  I'm almost positive the former owner didn't know they were there.

The first wave of accessories has now landed: RAM mounts, a Stebel air horn, and an Eklipes handlebar-mounted dual 12 volt power outlet.

Sonja is presently shopping for a windshield, and together we are working on some really nice saddlebags.  Then there will be Hot Grips heated grips (nothing but the best), wind deflectors, crash bars, maybe some engine guard mounted driving lights (I find the triangular headlight pattern much more noticeable than a single light)... oh dear...

As you can see, I've got my work cut out.  There's that, and because simply installing this stuff is not enough, everything needs to be documented in a series of project reports.  That takes a little more time and effort, but I'm reasonably sure one of you out there will appreciate the effort.

So keep an eye on this space folks.  Shadow mods are coming.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Black Betty's homecoming

The long anticipated arrival of the Honda Shadow VT 750 ACE happened today with the weather gods barely cooperating.

There was constant snowfall from Friday through Saturday morning with temperatures reaching down to -12C.  This morning we woke to sunny skies and -10C with a promise of +6C.  The promised high suffered a substantial discount because so far +2C is as much clemency as the sun could muster.

My poor Civic has been evicted. It's a case of one Honda making way for its two-wheeled cousin. Getting the bike into the garage meant riding through the snow that persists on the driveway.
The ride was uneventful, relatively speaking, and here are the numbers:
  • Kilometers ridden: 24
  • Times I stalled the bike: 6
  • Times I forgot to cancel the turn indicators: 2-3
  • Times I forgot to shift all the way to first: 0
  • Number of frozen fingers: 10
  • Times I needed to open the visor to dissipate fogging caused by nervous heavy breathing: 2
  • Times I dropped the bike: 0
  • Times I grinned ear to ear: 5
  • Times it occurred to me to listen to music on the Sena: 0
First ride impressions for the Honda Shadow:
  •  Nice torque at low revolutions, though I still managed to stall it more times than I should have.
  • Comfortable seat, stable ride at all speeds as far as I could tell.
  • Decent acceleration.
  • Balky turn indicator switch (got to check that, it might not be push-to-cancel).
  • Very loud exhaust, tolerable with earplugs, maybe not so nice for neighbours and bystanders.
  • Very good-looking, to my eye at any rate, though I could still do without the flames.
  • Good braking, front and rear.
  • Definitely needs a windshield and saddlebags to become a touring bike.
  • In my view (shocker alert), the Vespa GTS 300 i.e. beats the Honda Shadow hands down in the following ways:
    • Acceleration.
    • Comfort.
    • Highway performance.
    • Protection from the elements.
    • Suspension and ability to handle potholes, dips and bumps.
    • Ease of handling.
    • Overall fun.
And so the adventure continues, and a new chapter begins with the promise of great things to come.
PS: It looks like a managed to grab a narrow window of opportunity: Monday morning and it's snowing like mad. Sheesh!
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.