Saturday, 27 December 2008

Buell & Pazzo; A Good Fit

I have only three major niggles with the Buell Ulysses XB12XT at the moment, first being the exhaust, second being the front mudguard (or lack of) and third being the brake/clutch levers. I have started to address these little issues, starting with the the levers.

Pazzo Levers - 01

OK, the levers will not be a problem for everyone but I have small paws and then add to that the thicker grips because of the heated grips means that when commuting in slow traffic my hands soon start to ache. Other Buell owners pointed me in the direction of Pazzo Racing for a solution which soon had me looking at the UK distributors website, Speedycom Performance ltd. I knew they would be at the NEC so I held off my purchase until then. Met the guys at the stand, they 'built' the levers in front of me with my colour and length preferences and I left happy...until my better half hid them until Christmas.

Pazzo Levers - 31

So 3pm on December 25th I was in the garage with mug of tea in hand and my shiny new Pazzo levers all ready to be fitted...I know, it would have been sooner but had family duties to attend to ;-) So here is a brief run through of what I did to get them fitted though please note that following anything I say may not be the wisest of options.

First thing that had to come off was the hand-guards, this is very easy using a 'Philips' screwdriver and removing the top and bottom screws from each hand-guard.

Pazzo Levers - 06

Next the parts which the hand-guards are mounted to are also the bolts that run through the respective levers. I took a size 12 wrench and gently started loosening the upper bolt while holding onto the lower one. Soon the lower one had come off followed by a small nut, this process was the same for each lever.

Pazzo Levers - 09

Now for the brake lever the process is very easy. I just pulled out the bolt I had just loosened while holding the lever. I then gently removed the lever from its position. Cleaned out the slot, then greased it up and slide in the new Pazzo brake lever. Making sure everything was sitting were it should I got a drop of loctite onto the threads. Then I took the bolt and slid it back into position, attached the nut, then the lower part of the hand-guard mount and tightened it all up.

Pazzo Levers - 15

The clutch lever is as above with the exception of the clutch cable. This is no mystery though! As I removed the old clutch lever just looking underneath I saw that a slight turn and then pulling it downward had it off. Then clean up, grease up and slid the new Pazzo lever into place the exact same way. NOTE that the actuator pin had to be pressed in and then released when the lever was in place as it would not sit right otherwise. I then tightened everything up.

Pazzo Levers - 17

The last thing to go was to replace the hand-guards, tidy up and then admire what I had done. If I had not been stopping to take pictures then the whole thing would have only taken 20mins at a relaxed pace. Very simple and they have made a world of difference. I took them for a couple of runs...I even went to look for the traffic heading for the sales to see how they were and I did not get a single twinge. The clutch lever I have set to the number 1 position and it is very comfortable, while the brake I have on 3 which is more then ample. The glossy black with the red selector looks great with the bike and a nice extra detail.

Pazzo Levers - 23

In comparison the original levers looked crude, the clutch does not even have adjustment which is a shame. But then again it is little details like these that help make each motorcycle individual and help us bond that bit better. These are superb quality items which I highly rate, simple to fit and look the business. For more photos head over to my Flickr page!

Pazzo Levers - 28

Pazzo Levers - 29

As always, keep the rubber side down.

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Pilgrimage 2008 Review

You have been warned

The big number first, we took some 700+ photos at this years NEC Motorcycle Show and you should find some 424 uploaded on my flickr page. To make things easy they are in alphabetical order, so have a skim through or just look for your favourite motorcycles.

So what news from the show? Well, the most noticeable piece of information missing from most manufactures were retail prices for next year, while the general consensus is that they are all going to go up in price. The reasoning is straight-forward, while money was readily available they could sell more units at a lower price, while now they will be selling less units so the price will have to go up. Some (like Honda) have already announced that they are cutting production next year, I already saw this earlier this year when I bought my Buell, manufacturers just are not going to risk keeping large 'reserves' of motorcycles sitting around. So try and get your deals this year, because they may not be that easy to get from next year onwards.

Hall 1 of 4...yes, the show is popular

While on the topic of Honda, I got to meet Neil Tuxworth (Honda Racing manager) briefly at the show and got a chance to ask a few questions. He is very positive about the BSB season coming up, while he quickly dismissed the rumours of going to WSB earlier this year as just inventions by the media. He was extremely pleasant to talk to and was happy to make some time to speak to a fan. The V4 Concept bike was of interest and while talking to a few dealers they insisted that the VFR will not become a V5 when it is updated. Instead they want to keep the V4 and similar engine CC. The V5 project will be an entirely new model and not a re-imagining of the VFR or Blackbird, they will either continue as separate models or cease altogether. While on the VFR the only colour option next year will be white in the UK (as in my flickr pics).

Neil Tuxworth & Myself

The BMW stand was probably my surprise favourite of the show. They now have an option to make virtually all their models lower with a new factory option that replaces the rear shock and adds a lower seat for less then £100. Trying out the motorcycles was like a real eye-opener, models which I previously thought of as uncomfortable/unwieldy (like the R 1200 RT or R 1200 GS) were now easy to get on, feet down and very confidence inspiring. The only catch with this option is that you loose the option of fitting the ESA (the electronically adjusted suspense option), but there are still the usual adjusters on the motorcycles. So for those of us who have not used the ESA before, then there is nothing to miss. BMW even had a demo area to try out all the low model options to further convince those who are still unsure. I can confidently say that the R1200GS and R1200RT are now on my wish-list of motorcycles.

The BMW R1200GS, the seat height can go lower!

Being a Buell owner I was expecting great things from the Buell/Harley-Davidson stand. Especially since in the states owners were being given free T-shirts and after last year were my partner and I got loads of goodies. Well this year this was the most disappointing stand. The people manning the Buell stand had little interest in the brand or little knowledge. The only person who did want to chat spent all his time telling is about his Honda Accord! That and there were nothing to purchase even though they had clothing and accessories on display. Well, that was their loss and I spent my long saved money on other stands. Hopefully this will be addressed in the future or at least by the Irish Motorcycle Show in February.

The Suzuki was very brightly lit! One felt that they were in some sort of dust-free room. They also had the best feature of any other Tea/Coffee! You were asked to leave a donation and they had big comfy couches. The staff were very friendly and good to have a chat/laugh with. We also got to see if the complaints about the Bandit 1250GT topbox were true. Sadly it is, the topbox is fitted in such a way that it uses up a few inches of the pillion seat. With both my partner and I on board (without gear) I found myself almost sitting on the tank. This is a shame for such a well priced/specified motorcycle. Fix that and it is a proper GT contender.

Nick Sanders 'fresh' from his 60,000km ride...

Ducati was the nothing away! Still, my partner has a soft spot for them and purchased some gear from their clothing stall. The new 1198 was the main draw and it is very impressive looking. While the Multistrada is probably the only model of interest to me, but it does have a face that only a mother could love. Rumours have it they will be fitting the 1198 lump to it and giving in a fresh redesign for 2010 to really go up against the BMW R1200GS, so maybe we shall see that next year.

KTM was the stand I was most looking forward to visiting as the new 990 SMT had me excited. The 990 Adventure has always been a favourite of mine, but its sheer size has always made me hesitate. The new SMT though is much more comfortable and feels much more manageable for a shorty like me. I would recommend that anyone looking for an interesting Sports/Adventure/Tourer type motorcycle have a look at it. The Buell XT's plush seat has really spoilt my partner and I as the only complaint we had about the SMT was the seat, yet that is soon fixed with a look at an aftermarket accessory catalogue.

James Toseland wows the crowds

For my Buell Ulysses XB12XT I bought a pair of Pazzo clutch/brake levers from the Speedycom stand (though the partner has impounded them until xmas...). They are the 'shorty' in black, with a red clicker. The current levers become a pain to use when commuting and my hand soon start aching from reaching, the current clutch lever is not even adjustable. So expect a review and fitting guide in the near future. Also I spoke to some people from Quill exhausts (mine is already badly rusting) who offered a stainless steel exhaust for a very reasonable price and would even fit free of charge if I rode in. So If I visit the UK on the Buell that will be a priority. I have also found that I can buy my tires from the UK and have them shipped over for half the price as they cost here in Ireland. All I would have to pay for is fitting. This is why I love going to shows!

We also got to see James Toseland performing live, his band 'Crash', would be joining him for the weekends. He was very good and was happy to have a laugh, he had nothing to hold his music sheets on so had to resort to using a tea was a very 'Frank Spencer' moment. We also got to see Chris Walker, James Whitham, Niall Mackenzie and talked to a whole range of 'personalities'. If you ever get a chance to call into the Nolan Racing stand be sure to ask the lads about their experiences on the road and on the MotoGP grid (my lips are sealed).

Of course we have to mention the show is sponsored by Carole Nash

Once again it was a great event with loads going on. We even got to see the 'Batpod' from the latest Batman movie 'The Dark Knight'. I hope you got to see the show yourself, if not then our photos should give you a taste, but try to make some space on the calendar for next year. With the money we saved on gear and accessories the show almost paid for itself.

So one last time, to see all the photos head to my flickr page!

As always...keep the rubber side down.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Olympia Gear Review (Update)

Ever since I posted my initial review (Click Here) of my Olympia Moto Sports suit it has become the most visited post on this blog, month after month! So now that I have been using the stuff for about 18 months I thought it only right to update you on how things are going.

To start, I have two main suits and various other bits at the moment. The Olympia was the first new suit I got in years and it has also become my firm favorite, something I can depend on when the weather goes south. So just to remind you I wear the following:

Olympia Moto Sports Voyager Sport Touring Jacket
Olympia Moto Sports Men’s Ranger 2 Over Pant

The kit is well made, fits well and feels sturdy. It has never leaked (& I have spent hours in some nasty downpours) and when the temperature is below freezing it is the only stuff I reach for. Note also that I wear this stuff all day long, I usually stow the jacket in one of the Ulysses's side cases and stay in the pants all day long. If it is cool I bring the thermal lining with me as it is effectively a second jacket.

Now it can not be all good and so here are my few issues. First I prefer having a long 'round the waist' zipper for connecting the jacket and pants together, it feels more secure and stops the jacket from riding up. In an accident this would also prove very useful. Maybe this would hep with my second issue, which is, if you are not careful or paying attention the jacket can ride up slightly at the front, just enough to let the rain sneak under. This has only happened to me on 2 or 3 occasions and so I watch for it now and correct as necessary. The last thing is the armour, I will not buy gear that does not come with decent armour, just not worth it in my opinion. The armour supplied meets all the requirements but in the pants it could be shaped a bit better for the knees and some armour for the hips would be welcome (comes with foam padding). I usually wear the Forcefield Shorts under the pants and will soon probably start wearing strap on knee pads and take out the fitted armour altogether.

As you can tell, the items above are not major problems but if they were addressed they would make an already excellent suit into an unbeatable package. I was going to mention the short width of the back protector, but this is something that would vary from customer to customer. My jacket is fairly dirty looking at this stage as it is hard to get the road sludge out of the high viz colour. I use Nikwax products to wash and waterproof on a regular basis and with this sort of care I foresee this suit lasting me many years to come. The black pants still look brand new.

Just a quick word on the lining for the jacket and pants...they work! They work really well! Layering is the key to keeping warm and these do an excellent job of keeping the wind and cold away. I ride a Buell, I do not have a vast touring fairing to keep the elements off me. My only hesitation with putting the liner in the pants is knowing that once I get off the bike I will be just too warm in them, but to be honest, in the depths of winter that is not a bad thing to have to worry about.

If nothing else, I was so impressed by the specification originally that I ordered the suit direct from the U.S. and even took the hit with customs. I can also say without hesitation that I would happily do it again if Olympia released an updated version of the jacket. Note that on average I cover 25,000 - 30,000 km per year and ride all year (I DO NOT have a car license!). I commute, tour and have fun all with my motorcycle and with this gear. Considering the cost of the suit and the quality I am highly impressed and have yet to find something that can outperform it for the money.

If you have any specific questions feel free to comment and I will get back to you when I can!

As always, keep the rubber side down.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Warrior Bunny Is Coming!!

Just in case you have not heard, Ubuntu 9.04 'Jaunty Jackalope' is on the way! The important dates for anyone who wants to help out in development are:

November 20th - Alpha 1
December 18th - Alpha 2
January 15th - Alpha 3
February 5th - Alpha 4
February 26th - Alpha 5
March 12th - Alpha 6
March 26th - Beta
April 16th - Release Candidate
April 23rd - Final Release

For a much more detailed breakdown have a look at the official Jaunty Release Schedule which also have links for you to add to your calendar.

What should we expect from the warrior bunny? Well here is Mark Shuttleworth's plans, Introducing the Jaunty Jackalope. Much more will surely follow on the Ubuntu website while wikipedia has the following:

Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope), to be released sometime in April 2009 will be Canonical's tenth release of the distribution. It will be supported until October 2010. Intended features for procurement include faster boot time and integration of web services and applications into the desktop interface. It will also mark the first time that all of Ubuntu's core development will be moved to the Bazaar distributed revision control system.[48]

The desktop installation of Ubuntu 9.04 is expected to include, among other programs, GIMP 2.6, GNOME 2.26, Mozilla Firefox 3.1, 3.0, and Pidgin 2.6[33]. The server installation may include MySQL 5.1, PHP 5.2 and Python 2.6. Ubuntu 9.04 may use Linux 2.6.30 and X.Org 7.5. GNOME 2.26 is expected to include support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 in Evolution[49].

Every Ubuntu release has been a significant improvement and what has gone before and I am once again getting giddy over what is to come, especially since so little has been officially confirmed. So let the Ibex shine for the the time, but the Jackalope is coming soon.

Ubuntu, linux for human beings

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

RSA Annual Report 2007 - A Brief Overview

The RSA have released their Annual Report for 2007 and it makes for some interesting reading. To download the pdf Click Here

First of the RSA (Road Safety Authority) came into force back in 2006 their main duty being "tasked with improving safety on our roads in order to reduce death and injury resulting from road collisions" and the legal basis being set out in the Road Safety Authority Act 2006. So with only one year of operation before these figures were collected it is debatable how much of an impact they could have had, but here are some of the figures and we can see how things are going for motorcyclists specifically.

First off some 31 motorcyclists were killed on the roads in 2007, the 335 deaths are broken down as follows:

Drivers 138
Pedestrians 82
Passengers 70
Motorcyclists 31
Pedal Cyclists 15
Other 2

On the positive side the amount of road users between 1997-2007 went up by approx 1 million, while deaths per year have dropped from approx 450-335 over the same period. The RSA aims to get this down to 252 by 2012, in line with EU targets.

So how do we compare with the rest of Europe? These are rated by road deaths per million and Ireland comes in at 9th place with 79. Though 1st place is Malta with 34, while the Sweden (considered one of the 'best practice' states) is 4th with 53. The UK is 3rd with 51.

Some other figures of interest, the average waiting time for a test was 18.9 weeks, of which 54.8% (or 197,866) of applicants would go on to pass. While there are just over 2.5 million licensed drivers, of which some 427,724 are provisional drivers!

They do mention that a consultation regarding the introduction of the CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) but no date is referred to regarding the end of this process. Though I am very disappointed to note that % wise motorcyclists faired worse in the driver theory test with just 60.24% passed, compared to cars at 63.92%, Buses at 66.74% and Trucks at 67.31%.

It is good to see a Road Safety Transition Year Programme for secondary school students but to be honest this really needs to become a mandatory for all second level students as road transport will be just an important part of their lives. Never mind here at home but when trying to travel abroad and so on. This would be an obvious key life skill. There is a third level programmes too but DCU (Dublin City University) is not a member of the USI so I can not provide any first hand experience, which is a real shame.

So that is the guts of it, there is loads of other miscellaneous figures but I think I picked out some of the more interesting. They have a series of publications upcoming, including a comparison between provisional drivers and full license holders which should proves interesting!

Again, head over to the RSA website for more information and to keep up-to-date.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Pilgrimage 2008 - Preview

Here is a quick taste for what is in store at this years Motorcycle & Scooter Show, thanks to MCN

I will be following this up with my own review and photos soon!!!

Keep the rubber side down

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Winter Is Here

Has been bit of a rush around lately, loads of deadlines and the like BUT while that was going on winter arrived with a vengeance. Getting up in the mornings in the dark and everything covered with frost, coming home in the evening and it is dark and the frost is returning.

So for those who are wondering what it takes to be a winter warrior and keep that bike on the road all year round here are two links to get you started:

Moto Today: Winter Riding Tips
MCN: Top 10 Textile Suits

They will give you a taste at what you should be looking for. Keep in mind that if the air-temp is 5C or less and you are riding in it at 80km/h+ then you are in danger of hypothermia if you are not wearing the right gear. Rule of thumb is that you keep something close to the body that wicks away sweat, a nice breathable fleece, a windproof top then my motorcycle jacket. My hands are lucky since I have the hand-guards now and the heated grips, while the warmth from the engine keeps my legs snug.

End of the day, if you feel the cold you are wearing the wrong stuff!

Keep the rubber side down

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Wireless Computing

The 'Mugen Power' 9-cell battery pack arrived for my Advent 4211 (MSI Wind 'clone') just over a week ago. I had to wait until the weekend before getting to try it out since I wanted to put her though at least 3-4 charge/discharge cycles...which I did!

Over the week I have been using daily and on average I seem to be getting 6.5 hours out of the fully charged battery. Most of this will be with either wireless turned on or my USB modem plugged in. So far, so good as it is performing as expected.

The battery is substantial and is of excellent build quality. In fact they have even added some rubber 'bungs' to the base of the battery since the original development photos (see previous post) to make sure it is a non-slip as it can be. The battery fits into the original battery slot perfectly...frankly I have yet to find anything wrong with it.

The extra angle it adds has really aided in in using the Advent, while the extra airflow under the Netbook can only be beneficial.

So I highly recommend this add-on for anyone looking for a respectable amount of freedom when out and about. For me in university all day in and out of lectures and then when out on the motorcycle, being able to just use the Netbook whenever I want without worrying too much about conserving the battery life has just meant a whole new lease of life!

Head over to Lion Battery to find out more.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Buell is Back

My Buell XB12XT Ulysses is back! For the earlier part of this story Click Here!

What did Dublin Harley-Davidson do? A new wiring loom, new fuel pump & they replaced anything damaged in the off. All under warranty, so they did not charge me a cent. One of the dealers had been riding the bike for two day's to see if all is ok and they were happy to call me in to collect her.

What was the fault? They found a shorted wire in the fuel pump, though they believe that this was a symptom and not the cause. They were not allowed to touch the wiring loom. H-D UK told them to box up and send it to them to be examined from top-to-bottom. All they could say was that the ends looked fine.

So I collected, took home and a week later I came back in for the 2nd service (8,000 km) and to update them about the bike. Said all was fine and that she felt like when I first picked her up. Hopefully the problem will not return. While in for the service they also carried out some recall work on the screen. They wanted €286 for the service, but I managed to haggle a discount after telling them they had given me the wrong top-box with the bike (i.e. mine was at home!). In hindsight I was probably better off putting the top-box on ebay and that could have paid for two services...but I am a honest man.

They also found a nasty cut in my tyre, I am surprised I had not seen it. They said €270 for a new rear (Pirelli Diablo Strada, 180/55), I asked if that included fitting but they wanted the hourly rate on top of that...I said I would get back to them. So tomorrow I am calling into Megabikes for the tyre & fitting for €240! Not cheap, but better. I am also having them throw in some Philips Motovision bulbs, which they are not charging me for doing. I used the motovision on my last bike and they make a significant difference. The lights on the 08 XT are a let down, but the 09 model has had the lights improved.

So for the time being everything seems to be back on track. The Buell is back herself and as long as the electrical issues do not return then all should be fine. Though the exhaust is already showing some major signs of rust. This seems to be a norm on all Buell's, shame Erik does not realise that the 'trilogy of tech' can apply to a nice stainless steel exhaust, 1 - No rust 2 - No painting 3 - Looks good!

Just to note, after 8,000km the bike feels much more 'settled'. The gearbox is much slicker and finding neutral happens first time now. The engine is much smoother and the oil consumption is now very predictable, as is the fuel range. There are a few quality issues, like the electrical problems I had, the rusting exhaust and the odd nut that works itself free. Many owners say this is part of the character and the bike gets better with the more miles you get under her. This is my first time owning a 'non-Japanese' motorcycle and so expected a change, but now I feel like I have been spoilt the last 10 years!

As always, keep the rubber side down!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Pilgrimage 2008

Flights Booked...CHECK!
Show Ticket...CHECK!

Everything is in place for the 2008 NEC Motorcycle & Scooter Show being held in Birmingham, UK. Last year they changed the layout and squeezed more in and it was GREAT, but we did not have enough time to get around and get as many photos as we wanted...or deals...or see the shows...or (you get the point).

Yamaha Racing MotoGP (003)
So close yet so far, the 2007 machine, see the MotoGP winner at this years show

So this year we are heading over for 2 day, I know, living on the wild side as the credit crunch takes hold. Then again, I am not a drinker or smoker or...lets just say that I REALLY like motorcycles. So this year will be a very special treat.

I do promote this and do bang on about it every year, but it is an great experience with a great atmosphere with such a wide demographic. Add to that the chance of running into some of your two wheel heroes then the excuses not to make some time to do a few shows go out the window.

Yamaha YZF-R6 (001)
What bikes??

Of course if you can not make it then as always expect me to be posting a 'few' photos on my Flickr page, 2006 there were 79, 2007 that jumped to 223 so this year may be even better!!!

Keep the rubber side down

Friday, 7 November 2008

If I Didn't Have Bad Luck...

Well, there has been a drought of blog posts lately, mainly due to me hoping that things would improve or sort themselves out, but alas they have not. So what is the story? Well here is the long version:

Tuesday 21st October I left the house as per normal in the early hours of the morning, not 2km from the house the engine starting stuttering and losing power BUT the engine management light did not come on, the 'high beam' light came on (& no high beam light). Then the bike lost all power and coasted to the side of the road.

Switching the ignition to 'off' then turned 'on' all the dash lights! Turning on the ignition turned off all the dash lights except for the high beam light on the dash. The bike would not turn on, nothing was responding.

After about 5mins I tried to turn her on again, this time she started but the alarm had gone into 'garage mode', as if the battery had been disconnected. I disarmed and turned around to go home, I wanted the Buell assistance to come out to me. Problem is, the bike lost power in a bend and we went down...DOH!

So after pushing the rest of the way home called Buell and the bike was recovered. Having spoken to the dealer and talking them through all the electrical problems that we have gone through they seem to think the wiring loom needs replacing and after having a look they have also ordered a new fuel pump.The guys are saying they will repair all the damage under warranty.

The only downside is that they still are not 100% what the cause is and HD have a guy over from the UK today (7th November) to look at my bike and to sign off on the work. They had promised me a demo XT to keep me on the road but they sold it leaving me stuck with lifts/buses/trains. Why on earth anyone would endure suffering on public transport with the smells, drunks and noise is beyond me!? Now I know why they resent motorcycles so much, with us rubbing freedom in their faces ;-)

Well hopefully things will change soon because the current situation is bordering on ridiculous. Brand new & very expensive bike breaking like this. Then again I have just seen photos/specs of the new KTM 990 SMT...if only they could do something about the seat height!

As always, keep the rubber side down.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

AAI 2008, Year End

AAI Presentation - 001
Meeting up at Xtreme45

So what began with the mini fun run earlier this year and registration for the Annual Across Ireland main run on the last weekend of August has finally been wound up with a presentation on the 19th October with details of the final funds raised.

So how did we do? The BIG number first...over the course of the AAI's 9 year history we have now broken the €1,000,000 mark. While the total raised this year came to €177,592 which easily beat all previous amounts raised. The final number of bikes taking part this year was approximately 1000 together with 14 traffic police and 20+ marshal's.

AAI Presentation - 017
The €1,000,000 Cheque!

AAI Presentation - 018
This years total, €177,592

The presentation was kept brief and just meant as a thank you to everyone involved, from the organisers, the sponsors and those who make it all happen through the fund raising. The great news is that some 98% of the money raised will do straight to the children who benefit from the Make-A-Wish foundations activities. There was also a minutes silence for the participant that lost his life on the run this year and for prominent members/supporters of the AAI that are no longer with us.

Following the awards and thanks given the organisers went at lengths to stress that none of this would be possible if it was not for the effort put in by everyone who signs up to take part in the ride-outs. So Xtreme45 & Bridgestone had provided a couple €€€€'s worth of goodies which were raffled off, though those you raised the most funds in sponsorship were given first pick. They also had a certificate for everyone who had registered to say they had taken part, a very nice touch I thought.

AAI Presentation - 011
Some of the people that make this so successful

What started out as an idea has grown into Ireland's premier motorcycle run which will be going into it's 10th year in 2009. Thus the organisers intend to do something 'special' to commemorate this milestone! If you keep an eye on the AAI website it is due for a redesign in the coming weeks while a DVD of the events that took place this year will also be made available with the money going to charity. Also for those who want to start signing up for next years event the AAI have stand M12 booked at the Irish Motorcycle & Scooter Show 2009 due to be held between February 27th to March 1st 2009.

AAI Presentation - 007
The real stars...

Below you should find a map showing the route we took on the day from Xtreme45 to the City North Hotel. It was very straight forward with us all going two-by-two. The marshals were once again working hard while we passed through streets of onlookers with people waving and cheering at us. The positive response we seem to get from every town we pass through is great to see.

View Larger Map

So point your browsers to the AAI website from time to time or simply keep coming here, I will update with information as soon as they get in touch!

As always, keep the rubber side down.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Lightning Strikes

Buell Lightning XB12S - 001

While my Buell Ulysses XB12XT was in the dealer for some tweaks I was given the Buell Lightning XB12S to keep me on the road. The dealer wanted me to give it a go since this specific version of the Lightning is being discontinued for 2009, being superseded by the lower XB12Scg version and longer wheelbase XB12Ss version. So after transferring my insurance over I went out to meet my new ride for the next 24 hours.

The first thing that strikes you is that is looks tiny! Literally just two wheels, a seat and that 1203cc Thunderstorm engine holding it all together. Pillion pegs are provided but if I owned one I think all pillion provisions would be the first things to go as comfort must be negligible except for the tiniest of grid girls! Looking over it further I can only have appreciation for what a tidy package this is. I got to use the Kawasaki Er-6n for 5 weeks earlier this year and that is 'supposed' to be a naked bike, compared to the Buell it really does not factor especially when you remember that this has a 1203cc V-Twin lump from Michigan wedged in!!

Buell Lightning XB12S - 003

Starting the Buell I am met by the now usual thunder from the engine, it then settles done as it warms up. Straddling the bike only further unnerves me as I try to get my head around the compact size of this beast. This forces me to keep reminding myself that there is 104bhp on tap and some 104nm (77 ft lbs) of torque so respect is due. Being a Star Trek fan I can not help draw parallels with one of the TV shows most popular vessels, The Defiant. It too was a tiny little ship...but also arguable one of the most powerful!

Back from the realm of fantasy I twist the throttle and get rolling. Out on the road I am introduced to something even more surprising, that this thing is nimble! Filtering (lane splitting) takes on a whole new dimension as the Lightnings maneuverability allows me to put the bike anywhere there is a gap big enough to take some points I think I am defying physics. The Ulysses is a very fun bike but the lightning is even more extreme and brilliant fun.

Buell Lightning XB12S - 005

Out of the commuter traffic and on the motorway I can not stop grinning, because as you lean yourself forward into the wind you are struck by this sense that you are flying down the road, there is no fairing in front of you, nothing but road disappearing beneath at a rapid pace. This is totally thrilling and only the rumble from the engine reminds you that you are still a mere mortal.

24 hours was never going to enough time with the Lightning, it is a terrific piece of engineering. The compact dimensions mated with the big V-Twin engine was perfect for me, you get the flick-ability of a small sportsbike mated with the cruising ability of a large displacement cruiser. This is utterly fantastic and is a highly recommended experience for all. I appreciate this combination over speed any day, though do not get the wrong impression as this bike can reach at least 210 km/h (130 mph) according to the various motorcycle news media.

Buell Lightning XB12S - 002

Now the only question that matters...would I buy one? As a standalone bike my honest answer is no. This is based on my needs which are a everyday commuter who needs the luggage, I also take off with my partner for weekend breaks/touring when possible so the Lightning simply does not fit this. But most 'bikers' these days do not fit this profile so do go and check these out if you are in the market for a naked bike which is genuinely built for the real world! A BIG thanks to Dublin Harley-Davidson for the chance to try out this motorcycle.

Keep the rubber side down.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Power for the (Mobile) People

All images form Lion Battery

Well the good news is in, a 9-cell battery for the Advent 4211 has been made available by the very good people at Lion Battery. Earlier last month (September) they became resellers of the official MSI Wind 6-cell battery, this 9-cell creation they have developed themselves and in theory should provide up to 7 hours off the mains.

This is a tremendous achievement and will give the MSI Wind family of 'netbooks' a whole new level of mobility, in many cases allowing users to go all day without having to plug-in. This is what I (and many others) have been waiting for and I have already placed a pre-order with Lion. Note though that the release date is the end of October so realistically it will be early to mid November before I finally get my hands on it.

From looking at the images on the site the battery is obviously very large looking though a major advantage will be having the keyboard angled towards the user. The Advent 4211 also has the tendency of falling away from the user rather easily, the shape of the battery should virtually eliminate this. My only concern is that in a few lecture rooms were the desk is angled towards you this could lead to an excessive angle. Though you can not have it all and it would seem the advantages more then outweigh the disadvantages.

For full specs CLICK HERE (there is a white version too)
I also recommend the MSI Wind forums

Naturally once the battery has arrived and I will give a review of what I think.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Farewell Feisty Fawn

Has it been 18 months already? Seemingly so, as Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn reaches the end of its supported life. This may not be a huge deal as the releases that have come since have just been better and better. Now we are just a few weeks away from the release of Intrepid Ibex at the end of October.

Feisty Fawn was my first experience of Ubuntu and it made a convert of me from the instant I inserted the Live CD all that time ago. I installed it as my sole OS and have never looked back, never have I had a major issue that could not be fixed quickly, any loss of information, any freezes, any virus's...nothing to make me want to go back to propriety, insecure, buggy & over priced alternatives.

So farewell to Feisty Fawn & thanks for the memories.

Ubuntu, Linux for human beings.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Ubuntu Remixed

Maybe it is because I am bored? Maybe because I have not had a decent nights sleep in over 2 weeks? Maybe I just want something to tie me over until Intrepid Ibex goes into the RC period? Whatever the reason a few mornings ago I added a two new repos and downloaded the required bits & pieces that make up Ubuntu Netbook Remix onto my Advent 4211.

UNR Advent Screenshot 01
Ubuntu Netbook Remix, The Desktop

For the uninitiated Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) is basically an 'add-on' to the current release of Ubuntu (in my case 8.04, but 8.10 is available too) to tweak Ubuntu for the much smaller netbook (UMPC, micro-laptop...whatever) screens. “How nice of them”, I hear you proclaim, but do not worry there is a larger agenda to this as manufacturers of netbooks are being targeted to install this as a standard OS. I believe Dell already have one on the way.

UNR Advent Screenshot 02
Desktop again, but with some personal tweaks

Installation is fairly straight forward but you are warned that this is still relatively buggy. The screenshots I had viewed have already been changed. I thought something was wrong and reported a bug but it turns out that the developers had just tweaked the appearance.. So for a simple guide to install just Click Here, this will take you to the MSI Wind forums/guides and the packages are not large so soon you will be logging into your new look desktop. The official information can be found by Clicking Here, you can also help to develop by filing bugs and look for answers to any questions.

UNR Advent Screenshot 04
Browsing the applications menu

So first impressions are that it is different. I like a desktop with nothing in front of me except the upper and lower bars, something has to be very special to earn a place on it. With the Ubuntu Remix though the desktop is filled with your 'application' list on the left and your folders on the right. Now if you have lots of applications then you may need to scroll down to the bottom to see the 'preferences' and 'administration' tabs. Though I would certainly not consider using this on a larger screen laptop or desktop PC this does make sense on this and it is starting to grow on me.

Saying that, the first thing that jumped into my head was “this would be perfect for my Mum”, you see, she is 60+ and only getting into computers now. She mostly uses my oldest laptop with Hardy installed and the UNR environment might be much more 'user friendly' for her on the bigger screen. I will try this out later on once I am happy there are no bugs left. That said I have not found any bugs on the Advent yet, nor have I had any breakage. My only complaint is that the desktop is not very customizable, you are stuck with the installed settings for look and folder options. I really miss the 'add / remove applications' and now have to rely on synaptic for my tweaking (and of course the dreaded terminal...).

UNR Advent Screenshot 05
Browsing the inter-web with UNR & me & me too!

I do not miss compiz, UNR has some nice little features that suit the small screen. Also without compiz the Advent is obviously much quicker to respond as you navigate through the desktop. I have no doubt that things will get better as the development team add more features and further tweak the appearance. Once Intrepid Ibex is released and I have it installed and stable I have a feeling I will soon install the UNR package on top of it. As I said, the only aspect it is missing is better customization features for the end user. Other then that it has so far been a stable and good lucking package.

Ubuntu...Linux for human beings.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Royal Aspirations

Royal Enfield Bullet Electra (001)
Royal Enfield Bullet Electra

Well, I must confess that I have always had royal aspirations, do not get me wrong I have no problem with what everyone else is into but for me there are times when I just want that little bit more and in this case I find myself very excited by the upcoming Royal Enfield C500.

OK, I hear the cries roar out, but for some reason I have always loved the look and sound of those thumping singles. Admittedly the bhp on them will never be arm wrenching but that it not what draws you in. These motorcycles are all character with a great sounding thumper of an engine, true modern classics. So over the last few years the single longest motorcycle that has been in production has undergone a number of changes to bring it in line with current emission regulations. The standard bullet had its relatively untouched engine brought into the 21st Century with the aluminum Electra engine and subsequent range of models.

Royal Enfield Bullet Electra Woodsman (009)
Bullet Electra 'Woodsman', the last Electra model

Now the Electra finally gives way to the latest incarnation of the Bullet, the Royal Enfield C500. Essentially a brand new engine complete with an EFI as the Electra can not meet the latest round of euro emissions regs. This new model is due out in January 2009 with the bike being officially unveiled at the NEC Motorcycle & Scooter Show 2008. Last year we got a good look at the new engine which is called the UCE (Unit Construction Engine). EFI Royal Enfield's are already available in some parts of Europe, via India, but the UK importers Watsonian-Squire insist on high quality standards and thus are holding off.

Royal Enfield UCE (002)
The Unit Construction Engine

Indeed the Electra was such a success that they are now all sold out! You can no longer buy a new one. While there are ever dwindling stocks of the original classic engined bullets still available but you better be quick.

So believe it or not while last year the motorcycle that had be most excited was the latest Suzuki Hayabusa, this year my first stop will probably be Royal Enfield...though it is a close call between that and Buell.

As always, keep the rubber side down.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Advent 4211 SD Card...Solved!

Advent Screenshot - 008
SD Card proudly displayed on screen

If you read my previous post on setting up the Advent 4211 you would note that the only little problem left to fix was the issue with the SD Card reader not mounting the the media when inserted, well with a bit of tinkering I have finally put this to rest, so here is a quick step-by-step.

NOTE I am no Linux guru so please make sure to back-up everything before tinkering!

Firstly, the problem seems to be with Ubuntu thinking it is a CDROM, to correct this open your fstab file, via terminal, with:

sudo gedit /etc/fstab

you should see a line like this at the bottom:

/dev/sdb1 /media/cdrom0 udf,iso9660 user,noauto,exec,utf8 0 0

Edit out that line and replace with the following:

/dev/sdb1 /media/MMCSD auto user,auto,exec,rw 0 0

Now save the file and close.

We now need to tell Ubuntu what to do with this MMCSD thing, so open terminal and type the following:

sudo mkdir /media/MMCSD

Now the media has somewhere to mount. Close terminal and try inserting your SD Card, if all has gone to plan then it should automount. It worked for me straight away, I had photos on the SD Card so F-Spot started to import them while the 1.0GB Media appeared on my desktop. I have yet to experience a problem with this fix, but hopefully a future release will patch this up.

Advent Screenshot - 009
F-Spot automatically detected the new media

For more information and advice on the MSI Wind & Advent 4211 family of netbooks head over to the MSI Wind Forums. While as always more Ubuntu specific issues can be usually sorted at the Ubuntu Forums (I am victor9098 in both).

Hope that is of some use to you all!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Ireland Said "No" - But Why?

Ireland said no to the Lisbon Treaty earlier this summer but everyone wanted to know why...OK...not everyone but I did anyway.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs has published the findings of the research they undertook after the No vote. So if you want to get your own copy of the findings (an exhaustive 5 page executive summary) just go to the homepage and scroll down to the bottom for the latest news.

Optionally try clicking this link and hopefully a copy should start to download:

Post Lisbon Treaty Referendum Research Findings

The official comments so far on what this means have been vague with a sort of "we will see" attitude. Many expect a second go at the treaty, a few even think we can renegotiate (I personally doubt that), others want Ireland to be punished and pushed out to the fringes of the EU but the least likely option is that nothing will happen.

Just to add, there is a very good breakdown of the Treaty results and some comments from ministers here:

Lack of information was top reason for Lisbon No vote - EUobserver

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Announced - 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope

This has just jumped out at me from the RSS feeds, Mark Shuttelworth has just announced that the next version of Ubuntu, following the not yet officially released 8.10 Intrepid Ibex, will be called the "Jaunty Jackalope".

To read what Mr Shuttleworth has to say about this just Click Here. What I understand of Intrepid Ibex is that it is hoped that it will make it easier to connect to the internet no matter where you go via better networking functions. In essence giving the user true mobility. The new Jaunty Jacklope seems to be building on this with faster boot time, "weblications" & making it easier for developers to further enhance the available packages.

I am always excited when I hear about up and coming Ubuntu releases and this has never been truer. The days of the the 'home computer' seem to have come and gone. Our lives are much too dynamic and fluid to be anchored to a single device with all our software/applications located on it. Personally I want a machine that acts as little more as a 'terminal' to my applications and information. With a substantial battery life and enough capacity for some 'eye candy' effects. My latest addition, the Advent 4211, just lacks the battery life to make it perfect.

I have voiced my doubts over the Ubuntu 6 month release cycle, saying it would be better to make it 12 months and have a much more in depth alpha/beta testing period. But I was a new convert and using the latest LTS (8.04.1) I realise that those wanting stability can happily stick with that. Technology moves on so quickly now that it probably would not matter if it was 6/12 months as compatibility issues will always emerge. Not even Microsoft can get it right! No, 6 months does make sense and I can not wait to blog about 9.10 and its successors.

I recently ordered and received the Edubuntu suite and installed it onto my partners nieces laptop, some old Dell laptop with a broken screen. It all installed perfectly and everything worked straight away including the wireless keyboard and mouse. While the niece was soon playing with the various Tux software and even getting onto the net with Firefox, all this by a 5 year old.

Ubuntu is more then linux for human beings, in time it should hopefully be the OS for human beings, not yet, but hopefully by the next LTS release no excuses should remain.

Yamaha 09 Range Revealed

After a glitzy unveiling in Las Vegas over the weekend with all 4 of Yamaha's MotoGP riders present their 2009 Range was officially revealed to the public. You can read all about it & see some pictures thanks to MCN by Clicking Here

So for you Yamaha Fans you can get more information by Clicking Here.

While just to keep things in perspective you have compare your favorite motorcycles specs against the machinery that the current MotoGP championship leader, one Valentino Rossi, rides by Clicking Here!

Keep the rubber side down.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Advent & Ubuntu, A Perfect Partnership?

Advent Screenshot - 002
Screenshot of Ubuntu on the Advent 4211

No. Sadly not perfect, but it is a close call. I recently purchased an Advent 4211 from PC World, this had not been my original intention as the MSI Wind was what first turned me onto the world of UMPC/Netbooks. The Asus 'effect' never got my attention, it was a lot of money for a fairly basic machine while its strongest attribute was also its smallest, the diminutive SD harddrive. Reliability and long life are assured, but I have hauled laptops all over the world over the last 10 years and via many different modes of transport and have yet to have a 'standard' harddrive fail. Screens and screen hinges seems to have failed on every machine and the harddrive died on my 7 year old Sony Vaio (bought in 1999), so no complaints.

Advent Screenshot - 005
Compiz 3D effects

It is the specs that grabbed my attention with the MSI Wind as it seemed to be a genuine full-featured mini-notebook with a mini-price tag. The only item missing is a CD-ROM/DVD drive, but that is a given for this market. Lets face it, no 7”-10” screen will do a Hollywood blockbuster justice! Anyway, back to the story, After researching the MSI Wind and following it on the net and the various retail sites I noticed a worrying trend, the price kept going up and soon it seemed to be a no better deal then other offerings, I was dismayed and once again turned away from the netbook effect until I read something in the RSS feeds about a rebadged MSI Wind selling in PC World for the price we originally wanted. Off shopping I went and did not look back.

A MSI Wind/Advent 4211 Comparison

Also of note, while has the MSI Wind for some €491, I purchased the Advent 4211 for €380. I also got 3 years insurance cover at €75. Then a wireless card and 1GB RAM from Dimension4 for €50 delivered. So my final total was €505, now keep in mind no need for anti-virus/firewall/ software subscriptions and I think you have to agree it is excellent value.

First off let me make it clear, I have no interest in Win-doh's being an Ubuntu convert so my first task would be to install Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS Hardy Heron. Now the following should be noted:

1st – The wireless will not work. I have bought an Intel card (detailed below) to get around this
2nd – Upgrading my RAM at the same time, might as well!
3rd – Live CD will have to be from a USB stick or external cd-rom drive. I went USB stick.
4th – Tweaks will have to be made, but tiny ones to make it just right
5th – Everything you need to know is laid out step-by-step on the net. SWEET!

Installing Ubuntu

My main source of info to convert the Advent 4211 into a Ubuntu loving netbook has been the MSI Wind User Wiki. This is an excellent source of information and everything you need to know is linked from there. Just follow the steps like I did and you too can be blogging (or whatever) on the web within no time at all. Seriously, it is pretty straight forward. I elected to install via the UNetbootin method, this worked perfect first time. The only hair-raising stuff will be tearing apart your brand new piece of kit to install the wireless card and ram, while these are optional things, though recommended. Be sure also to go to the 'tweaks' page for loads of tips on how to get the most out of your new OS.

RAM & Wireless Card Install

Installing the upgrades

Installing the RAM and wireless card is rather painless but take note that this may invalidate your warranty. I notice that some machines have a sticker covering some screws but my Advent 4211 does not. Accessing the machine is just a matter of flipping it over, removing the battery, then carefully unscrewing all the screws with a Phillips screwdriver. To make things easy I just left the screws in place as I removed the cover.

Once the cover is removed I found myself staring into the heart of the machine. A screw holds the wireless card in place, the screw is not of great quality so I took care not to round the head. Once out the wireless card popped up towards me. With the wires removed the card pulled away easily. I then took the new Intel (R) PRO/Wireless 3945ABG and slotted it into the empty slot. The wires snapped into position easily, tidy it all up so it looks neat then move over to the RAM.

This is very quick and painless I took the Kensington 1GB PC2-5300 CL5-PIN SODIMM and slided it in at a 45ยบ angle. Then pressed the back of it down and all was done when I heard a satisfying 'snap'. With that I put the case back on and tightened up all the screws. Booting up the computer the wireless was working straight away and a quick look at system monitor saw the new RAM figure (2GB).

Advent 4211 (1)

Advent 4211 (2)
What Was I thinking? Note, top left original wireless card and in the center an empty RAM slot

Advent 4211 (4)
Everything Installed...time for a brew

Advent Screenshot - 006
Extra RAM and the new total memory of some 2GB

Webcam Woe

The webcam failed to work under Ubuntu so I was forced to compile the necessary software. This was the first time I had to compile code so was slightly concerned, but once again the members at Ubuntu forums had already come across this problem and an useful guide can be found here:

NEW Notebook, Fujitsu Siemens Si 2636, Webcam Problem!

This thread had me up and running in no time. Bare in mind though that I had to use Synaptic to download some compliling software.

SD Card Reader

I got an error when I tried to use the 4-in-1 card reader. So back to Google and I began searching for solutions. I have yet to get this working just right. It seems that there is some confusion about the location of the CD-ROM drive, which obviously does not exist. Some have offered the suggestion of editing out the CD-ROM option but I have tried this and has not made a difference. This is not a major issue and not something I will use often on this laptop. It also helps that my SD Cards can also plug into USB slots so certainly no panic.


All-in-all I have really enjoyed my first week with the Advent 4211 running Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04.1 LTS. Note that the earlier 8.04 does not seem to run on the Advent so be sure to install the latest. As updates come along the above process will get easier and some people are already running the Alpha Intrepid Ibex 8.10, though with some bugs, while others are trying the new Ubuntu Netbook Remix, again this is buggy and only recommended for experienced Linux users. I intend to try out 8.10 after it is officially released and once I hear that people have the Netbook Remix running relatively trouble free I will also give that a sample! So early days yet but much can be done. I look forward to making this my daily workhorse and keeping the Sony Vaio as a permanent work station at home.

Advent Screenshot - 003
Normal internet browsing view

Advent Screenshot - 004
Pressing F11 gives you full-screen mode

No, not perfect, but I am very pleased and excited at what is in store. Ubuntu, linux for human beings!