Monday, 31 March 2008

Karma Touring

At last, my first touring trip two-up with Karma (my Kawasaki ER-6F). On Friday 28th my partner & I set off on a 115 mile (185 KM) ride down to Cahir, County Tipperary for a are the details:

What I wore:

Nolan N102 Helmet
Olympia Moto Sports Voyager Sport Touring Jacket
Olympia Moto Sports Ranger 2 Pants
Teknic Cyclone Gloves
Alpinestars SMX-04 Boots

My Partner:

Schuberth C3 Helmet
Halvarssons Furia Jacket
Halvarssons Cobra Pants
Dainese Sprog Gloves
Dainese Mig-Touring Ladies Boots

The ride down was basically 3 different sections. The first 20 miles (32 KM) were Irish country roads, followed by 35 miles (56 KM) of motorway riding, then a final 60 mile (96 KM) run of a combination of bypasses, small towns and twisty roads. On the way down it was late evening with us not arriving in Cahir until mid-night, with damp roads after rain all day and a cool 3C (37F) before wind chill. Needless to say, when we pulled in at the half way point for tea and to stretch our legs we were cold. My fingers were worse off, while my partners hands and feet were suffering!

But what about the bike? Karma was great...not a bother. She was fully loaded with Givi V35 Side Cases, Monokey E370 top box and a Baglux Minea tank bag (look at My Flickr for photos). In these were a suit, dress, casual clothes for 2 days, toiletry bags and all they other usual bits and pieces you would need (phone chargers...). All that and still room for my bike cover and a few presents.

How did she handle fully loaded? Slowly when we were moving slow through towns and back roads, but once at speed on open roads there was little noticeable change. As always, when you have any weight on your bike you need to keep watch your lean angles (as your centre of gravity has moved) and your breaking distance (as it is now longer). So going around bends and roundabouts need a bit more thought and preparation. Yet at no stage did we have any incidents (down to my riding skills anyway). The weather was bad all weekend, with plenty of side winds, but at no stage did I feel much from the front which I have to thank the MRA Vario Touring Screen for.

Though you did notice that the acceleration suffered, so quick overtakes were out and thus required much more planning. Generally I found myself running 12 mph (20 kph) slower then I would expect myself to be. Yet even with the extra weight and the slower acceleration she would still get up to normal cruising speeds and sit there with little noticeable difference in the rpm other then at 'higher' speeds, so for average all day riding, no problems or complaints.

Back to her manoeuvrability at high speeds. While on a section of the M8 motorway just after Kildare town a chap in an Opel decided to pull out, not in front of me, but into me. He was stuck in a line of traffic moving at around 62 mph (100 kph) while I was overtaking at 78 mph (120 kph). I was in a relatively good position with room to my right to swerve, apply my brakes and 'indicate' to the driver of the car that I was there! Once he noticed my existence, he moved back to the left, turned on his indicator, then tried to move into the lane again!?! As if he wanted to finish the job. He then thought better, moved back into the left lane and turned off the indicator. My partner told me he did not look up as we went by... All this happened in a matter of seconds and Karma never felt bothered, even while loaded up.

The only real complaint was from my Teknic gloves. I had bought them at the BSB round in Mondello last year and have been my favourite gloves, covering the vast majority of Karma's 5,600 miles (9,012 KM) in them. Only to put them on Sunday afternoon for the ride home only to watch the left hand glove disintegrate! A finger tore away from the glove while the lining came out with my hand! My partner allowed me to wear her Dainese gloves for the ride home while she suffered with what was left of the Teknic. This was the only let down...other then the weather!

The only other gear issues were that my partner was finding it impossible to get a good waterproof seal on her Schuberth C3, except from getting off the bike and both of us having a go getting it to sit right. While for some reason my Voyager jacket kept running up at the front, hence leaving me with a wet patch when I got off the bike. This is the first time this has happened so maybe it was user error more so then the gear.

The ride home on Sunday was wet...rain from start to finish, ranging from light showers to downpours! With the temperature no higher then 7C (44 F) (without wind chill) and wind speeds from 17mph-26mph (30kph-43kph). The joy of touring eh? I know, selfish me just thinking about comfort on the bike, what about the happy couple trying to get decent wedding photos! Well, they could have picked a better month.

While I did learn one thing, I do not believe I could live with a motorcycle with a seat height any higher then Karma's (about 790mm/31 inches) especially when you have a pillion mounting/unmounting the bike and slow traffic manoeuvres. So that should cover everything, there were no other issues that come to mind and I am very impressed with the performance by Karma two-up and fully loaded. Not once did she complain and I am seriously looking forward to the summer, better weather and for a few more weekend adventures.

Keep the rubber side down!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Evolving Ubuntu, The Intrepid Ibex

I have only just heard...Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Hardy Heron) is not here in its final release version yet but the next version has been announced:

Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex

As you can guess, it will be released in October 2008 (hence 8.10)...or I should say it is planned to be 8.10 as anything can happen between now and then. I have little other information yet as I still await the official release of 8.04 so I can not comment on what features one would like to see improving.

Also worth noting is that this proposed release will be the 4th anniversay since the release of 4.10, that should be an milestone worth marking.

More information is available at Full Circle Magazine

Sunday, 23 March 2008

A Hardy Heron Is Inbound

Ubuntu 8.04 'Hardy Heron' is on the way!

The clock is ticking and we will soon have the latest and arguably best operating system available! It is only up to the user how it looks and feels. No 'required' upgrades of your hardware to run it. No strings unless you want them. No contracts. No complications. While you have the help & support from the Ubuntu community, friendly forums prepared to answer and help the smallest to biggest problems.

OK, enough with the gloss. The guts are if you do not want to be paying for upgrades or constantly worrying about virus's infecting your system, but want a fully functioning operating system with the option to have it look and feel as you like then this is the way to go.

The only thing you have to invest is time and the learning curve depends on how much tinkering you want to do with the system as almost everything can be done without reverting to the command line/terminal. Also most major internet companies (Yahoo & Google) offer almost all their toolbars and software in linux form, so no need to go without anything if you have the vast bulk of your world hosted on the web...which seems to be the direction we are going in, but that is for another day!

So dig out an old machine you have lying around or maybe you are tired of annual software subscriptions...or just want to be a bit more freedom in this Big Brother world? There is plenty of support and plenty of people to guide you in the right direction!

OH...and Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron is on the way!

Monday, 17 March 2008

It Came & Went

Well, it is unlike me to forget anniversaries but I forgot this one...a whole year of keeping a web log has come and gone! February 27th to be exact.

My little experiment started over on Yahoo but I swapped over to blogger because it gave me a bit more freedom in layout and features. Since then I have never looked back and much has changed.

I took a little hobby I had in an unhealthy interest in world and now I am studying for a BA in International Relations. While my affair with motorcycles has just got more passionate with every mile of two-lane blacktop that I get under the wheels.

So all-in-all it has been a mostly positive experience. A few set-backs along the way and I am sure a few more bumps in the road ahead, but as they say, some will get back up, some won't and some can't!

This would not be still going if it was not for the massive support I have had from regular visitors and new so expect more of the same from a very interesting year ahead, while as always please try to keep your software open source, with Ubuntu being my recommended flavour. While out on the roads keep the paint side up and the rubber side down...

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Still Going Forward

5000 miles and service number 2 completed. How is Karma fairing?

Not a problem is the answer! Nothing wrong, everything is as it should be and just keep doing what I have been doing...which has been just enjoying the bike. To put into perspective, in 4200 miles I have not have to top up the oil or even adjust the chain. Items which had been weekly regulars on my previous (second hand) bikes. Other then a regular covering of Scottoil FS365 and cleaning there is little I have had to do in way of maintenance.

The joy of owning a brand new bike then. I will hazard a guess that whatever you save in the constant fettling of an older bike is balanced out by the regular service costs of a new bike. I have promised myself that while she is under warranty I will be a good boy and let the Kawasaki mechanics keep her internals in good upkeep. Fuel injection and little black boxes under the seat are new to me, but so is having a 24 month 'safety net'.

Whatever they do though, just like after the 1st service, once I pulled out everything was smoother and crisper. The levers, gearbox and I could swear she was more responsive! In fact I even took the long way home down a few dark and twisty roads, after which my face was sore from the smile that was on it. Everyone has their vices, mine seem to be motorcycles, strong black coffee and (of course) my lady...

Come on the summer, when my timetable is a bit lighter, then I will be able to pick a direction and ride!

Rubber side down.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Baglux Review

After a few weeks with the Baglux Tank-Protector and Minea Bag I thought it is about time to give a review of how I have found it.

The procedure for putting it on is pretty straight forward but I would like to see much more specialised instructions put on the Baglux website (much like what Scottoil do) as the instructions provided are very broad trying to cover all makes and models so making for much unnecessary reading. Other then that little complaint, all else it very easy.

I would follow the recommendation to gently warm the tank protector over night, say in a hot press, so that it will be much more pliable and easier to fit. You should remove your seat and the two black plastic side panels that run below the tank. This will make fitting much quicker as the straps need to be hooked onto the lip on the tank. Then another strap goes around the head stock, making sure you trap no wires, while the rear one will go under where the seat clips into.

Once all the straps are loosely fitted slowly start tightening until the fit starts to look snug. Now do not try to get it perfect as it can take up to two weeks for the protector to mould correctly to your tank. But at worse it will look slightly 'baggy' in spots. Also, you will have to periodically check the straps to makes sure nothing is getting loose.

The bag itself is even more straight forward. Just slip the loops on at the front and then clip the buckles at the back. Simple! Always makes sure that the backpack straps are nicely tucked away, just for appearance and safety of course. The bag may look small, but it takes my Nolan N102 very easily when extended to the full 21ltr. While even when full the view of the dash is unobstructed. Though it is weird not being able to lean forward, you find that you gain some weather protection. So no complaints.

There is a water proof cover for the bag. This is very stiff at first but after a few uses goes pliable. It is not a 'quick' operation as the bag needs to be lifted off to put the cover on, so a minute or two at most. Also, while it is on you loose quick access to the bag so change for the toll goes back into the pocket (or blutack on my handle bars!).

All in all an amazingly straight forward idea that incorporates a full tank cover and tank bag. The quality is excellent, though I would like to see more heavy duty zips as the company progress's as these would add an extra sense of durability and ease the access for gloved hands.

But all my niggles are small ones and this is a highly recommended bit of kit for your bike. Especially as it can mean keeping your bike slim and 'traffic busting' with a top box and tank bag without needing panniers. While also giving excellent protection to the tank and the obvious use of those long touring trips.

You will find 21 photos on my Flickr page!

Keep the rubber side down...

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Lisbon Treaty - Coronation?

Last week we had Joe Higgins and Joe Costello attend DCU to give a chat on the Lisbon Treaty due to the upcoming referendum here in Ireland.

I refer to it as a chat because the substance was lacking. At no time would one have been fooled into calling this a debate. I have spoken out before in previous postings with regards to the EU Constitution in it's current form but I should clarify my own personal stance. I do support the idea of a Europe based on the United States of America model. A series of states coming under the banner of a "Federal European Union", and this treaty does take us a good way down this road. Giving the EU substantial influence over public goods, a full-time President and Foreign Minister. I guess we will see another treaty within a few years adding on the aspects which were dropped from the EU Constitution, if not more.

But what of the debate? Well, my annoyance came from any real attempt to address the widespread democratic deficit within the EU. Though it was alluded to on several occasions people tended to concentrate on the idea of an EU armed forces. I have little issue with that aspect. My main concern is the fundamental problem that citizens are simply not involved in this process. In fact from listening to the speakers I was convinced that they have confused the terms EU Citizens with EU "Customers", as the 500 million citizens within the EU only seem to count in relation to economic affairs.

Hence my concern. With an EU centralising more power with each treaty and states prepared to yield their sovereign power recognising it is in their best long term interest it seems that the people uninvolved in this process are the 500 million EU 'customers'. The governments have managed to dance around the issue of having any more referendums as the minorities that do come out to vote in EU matters will most likely shoot this down at some stage. Yet with Ireland being the only EU state to hold a treat with can feel the 'peer' pressure upon us to not let the side down.

But here is the crunch? Do we do what is best for the EU or do we do what is in the best interest of the EU citizens? This is Ireland's chance to decide which is of greater importance.

By undermining democracy and pushing forward with these required reforms we are denying the average citizen the right to be involved in deciding their future and the EUs place in the global order. As I stated, I back the idea of creating a stronger, more flexible and secure EU. But not at the expense of right to choose...or as the ERC would say "right to decide". It will be a sad day when EU citizens wake up and find themselves within a Federal State that they did not want or be involved creating. If the USA history is anything to go by, even democratic countries can risk ripping themselves apart.

More true then ever: "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote" - Benjamin Franklin, 1759