Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Crash bars and skid plate

I am slowly preparing for a trip to Alaska (Prudhoe Bay, specifically) and part of that preparation is equipping my bike to handle the trip. The V-Strom is a very capable motorcycle and can be accessorized in many different ways - relatively inexpensively - half the cost of equipping a BMW with equal or better reliability. It can be equipped to handle pavement as well as off-road riding. When I head North, my bike will need to handle both.

The underside of the engine of the 650 is relatively unprotected. I extended my front fender ("Fenda Extenda") to reduce road spray and rocks flying up against the engine, but sometimes that's not enough. I decided to add a skid plate to protect the engine even further.

Through a scratch-and-dent sale, Twisted Throttle offered discounted prices on crash bars that were shipped improperly from the factory, some of which had minor blemishes (hence the discount). I jumped at the deal and ordered a pair as well as a matching skid plate, both made by SW-Motech. After the parts arrived I inspected them but couldn't find a single flaw or blemish. I really only wanted the skid plate but it requires the crash bars for installation and extra protection is a good thing.

I laid out all the parts, inspected the instructions, and noticed that although it described all of the parts used during installation, it didn't give any directions describing what order installation was to occur. Because the skid plate attaches to the crash bars, I had to install them first.

Installing the crash bars is a relatively easy process, and the only thing I had to remove were two black plastic fairing pieces from the sides of the engine. A single hex head screw was all it required. The instructions said to only remove and install one side at a time to prevent the engine from shifting. Easy enough. The Suzuki factory uses Loctite on its screws so it took some torque to remove them, but once that was done the crash bars installed fairly easily using the hardware provided.

I noticed a problem with the instructions once I had started the skid plate installation. The bracket that joins the two crash bars in front of the engine can be installed one of two ways; with the mounting nuts facing forward or backward toward the engine. The crash bar instructions show the nuts facing backward toward the engine. Once you install the skid plate, however, the instructions show the nuts facing forward. Because of this I had to remove one crash bar and flip the bracket around once I began installing the skip plate.

The skid plate installation was a little bit more difficult, in part because it's on the underside of the motorcycle, but also because some of the bolts that have to be removed are much more difficult to access. The mounting bracket on the right side of the engine was easy to get to, but the two mounting bolts on the left side - which are used to attach the kickstand - were very difficult to remove. The rear bolt is difficult to get to. Perseverance solves many things, however, and eventually I got the skid plate mounted successfully.

These protective accessories, once added to the bike, increase its weight slightly but offer a great deal of protection when riding off road. I think they add a little bit to the ugly beauty of the bike as well. After riding the bike a bit afterward I can tell it turns into corners a bit quicker than it used to, presumably because of the added weight.

Here's the full view, showing several other farkles as well (see my 'Gear' page for the complete list):

[caption id="attachment_694" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Fully farkled"][/caption]

Monday, December 13, 2010

The gaps between clouds

It rains a lot in Western Oregon. Not in terms of accumulated precipitation -- I think Dallas, Texas actually gets more annual rainfall than Portland -- but in frequency of days where precipitation occurs. Fortunately, if you're flexible, you still find windows of dry opportunities to ride even in the middle of December.

Sunday morning was overcast but dry, with the forecast of rain not coming until early afternoon. I took my V-Strom on a trip to Eagle Creek, Barton, through the Carver Curves, and across the swollen Clackamas River. It looked like swirling milk chocolate. Once I was on the southern bank, I headed southeast on Springwater Road where I joined up with Highway 211 and looped back home through Estacada. It's a fun loop and provides a nice change of pace over my usual routes.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Chilly ride through the Willamette Valley

It was dry but cold and windy Saturday morning. Riding opportunities are rare this time of year so I bundled up and rode despite the chilly conditions. I headed south on a very familiar route through Estacada, to Mollala, then to Silverton and Sublimity where I turned around and retraced my steps back home. At one point a woman driving a mini-van with a Christmas tree strapped to the roof pulled out in front of me. Fortunately I was able to go around her via the oncoming lane, otherwise I would have been faced with the choice of slamming into the back of her or running off the road.

She got a decent blast of my horn.

My bike performed great as usual and despite having very cold toes and fingers when I returned, I really enjoyed the ride. 140 miles was far too short of a trip but this time of year I take what I can get.