Checking the Oil

FrontTire1024The F650 has a dry sump system. Most of the oil is stored in the oil tank cavity in the frame just behind the steering head. There are two oil pumps. The first pumps the tank oil into the pressurized oil delivery channels to the valves, bearings, etc. This oil eventually falls down into the sump where the second pump returns it to the tank. I’m not sure how the oil gets to the transmission gears and the wet clutch, but the “dry sump” seems to preclude any splash lubrication. I’m guessing it’s a combination of pressurized lubrication and the flow of oil returning to the sump pump.

When the oil in the bike is cold, it takes longer to flow into the sump and get pumped back into the tank, so the tank level will be lower than it is when hot. That’s why you need to check the oil when the engine is hot. Put the bike up on the center stand. The dip stick is just behind the handlebars at the top of the oil tank. Unscrew it, wipe it off and stick it back in without screwing it in. For my F650 I like to keep it at least half way from min to max. If it gets towards the min, the tank can momentarily run dry when accelerating in a left turn with a cold engine. The engine oil light comes on and immediately goes out. That’s with 20W50 oil in the fall when the temp goes near freezing overnight. For the winter, I run 10W40.

Why does the oil get low at all? On my last oil change I didn’t replace the crush washer on the sump plug and it leaks ever so slightly. If I park the bike nothing drips off it, but the plug is wet with oil if you wipe it with your finger. From now on I’ll always replace the crush washer.  Also, motorcycle engines typically use a small amount of oil.

So don’t let the oil get near minimum unless you are going to fully warm up the engine before riding. There will be scenarios in which you are obliged to accelerate in a left turn while revving the engine a bit.


Kankamangus Highway

Nearing the end of September, the good days are dwindling down to a precious few, especially with the reliable two weeks of fall rain still ahead. So I set off for another loop up north. My last loop was the Sandwich Notch Road, and the next northerly loop is the Kancamangus Highway, which runs from Conway, NH west to Lincoln 32 miles through the White Mountain National Forest.

Map1024It can be difficult to lay yours hands on an actual paper map these days, at least one that has a usable scale, so I had picked these up knowing I would be travelling the White Mountain roads at some point.

It would get into the low seventies today but I put on some thermal underwear anyway. I took my maps and a bottle of water and walked over to get the bike. I packed up some tools to repair a flat tire if it came to that. I started up the F650.

SpeedoStart   It had been a little cold in the night so I sat there idling and took a shot of the gauges. 10:23 am, 8881 miles on the odometer. It felt good to have the day ahead of me. I set off towards Alton Bay.

AltonBay    The southerly end of Alton Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. Looking north where I was headed. I gassed up in Wolfeboro and spent some time looking at houses on Sewall Road and thereabouts.

Sewall Road1

Here’s one that’s probably worth 500K instead of 5 million:

NearSewall Road

I left Wolfeboro on route 28 and headed northeast towards Ossipee to pick up NH 16 , the highway up to Conway.


Out in the middle of nowhere, I pulled onto the shoulder, left the bike running, pulled out my phone and took a few shots including the one above. Then I realized there was a man standing about two feet behind me. I shut the bike off.

He said, “I saw you taking photos and was wondering what you were seeing out there. We have a lot of wildlife in here, but I don’t see any.

I said, “I just liked the colors.”

“Oh I see. Sorry to interrupt.”

He got in his truck and backed up about 50 feet so I could see anything oncoming as I pulled back into the lane. It’s wasn’t really clear to me what had just happened.


Rural scene above is on Route 16.

Chocorua Village SignMountChocorua

Mount Chocorua in the distance.


Covered Bridge in Conway.

I rode a few more miles up 16 to North Conway and bought a sandwich. Came back down and looked for a motorcycle accessory distribution center on Rt 302 but didn’t find it and rode back into Conway.

Conway Library 2Conway Library 1

I like libraries and this building in Conway is one of the best you’ll see anywhere.

From Conway, I started up the Kancamangus Highway and saw this sign:


Another covered bridge a little ways up the Kancamangus, over the Swift River.


I climbed for about 15 miles and reached Kancamangus Pass at 2850 feet:

Kankamangus PassKank Pass 2

I started down and eventually got behind a Porsche, following two guys on motorcycles. I watched the bikers up ahead moving through the forest colors, cool air, warm sun, and I imagined them roaming carefree on the planet, enjoying the fun of it. Since I was also riding, it sort of applied to me as well and I momentarily felt lifted out of the normal press of life. A good feeling.

I rolled into Lincoln and took NH 3 down to Plymouth, staying off the 93 Interstate. I gassed up again near Plymouth State University. Bought a snack and rested a bit.



Stopped by Squam Lake in Holderness and took another library shot.


Back to Lake Winnipesaukee, I stopped at the Weirs and took this picture of the Mount Washington cruise ship with the Doris E next to it and the Sophie C nearest the camera. These last two are both US Mail boats servicing the island summer homes on the big lake.


Back home after about 6 1/2 hours and 176 miles.

The F650 is just about the ideal bike for cruising the roads of New Hampshire. It’s very nimble, effortlessly swerving around road hazards and bumps. I can stop and turn it around easily and slip into any little spot to park, so exploring and looking at things is easier than in a car. It takes the unavoidable bumps on the frost-torn back roads and I can smooth it out even more by momentarily leaning forward. The front of the seat rises up under the rear of the fuel tank and if I grip that part of the seat with my thighs my butt comes up off the seat as I lean forward. The bike has plenty of power and the mild vibes tell me what the engine is doing. It ran flawlessly, as usual.

Sandwich Notch Road

I needed a ride on my motorcycle.

My wife was targeted for special security search in Madrid while I waited to board the flight to Boston, pointing to the security closet she had disappeared into when a burst of Spanish included her name. After that, the flight annoyed me, which turned out to be nothing compared to the disdain I felt for the entire re-entry process in Boston. It was just too much regulation, inconvenience and bureaucratic arrogance for me. Hopefully, I won’t be flying for a while. I needed some space that I could deal with on my own terms.

The F650 started a little hard after sitting for three weeks and me forgetting to turn the petcock back on. I tried to buy a map at Walmart and failed so I headed up through Meredith, Holderness, past Squam Lake (On Golden Pond) to Ashland where I stopped to buy gas. They had some maps but the scale was too small for my purposes. I got on 93 North and ran up to the Thornton exit and stopped at the information center with a lovely barefoot woman about my age sitting outside: Chamber1024 She followed me in and found me looking closely at her maps. I asked about the Sandwich Notch Road and she said it was “three miles up the road by the Smokey The Bear sign. The road is very rough. I used to take it to get to the Sandwich Fair.”

I said I thought I would be okay on my manly motorcycle, added my dollar to the donation box and was on my way. As I pulled past on my way out, she was sitting as before and we waved to each other. Already, the world was getting more pleasant.


Sure enough, there it was. I got off the bike and took this picture. A guy in an old pickup stopped and yelled something about the road being too rough. I think he was coming down the road. I finished my shot and went over to see what he was saying.

“Did you hear me?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“I said the road is too rough. You don’t want to be taking that bike up there. And the cell service is not too good. You don’t want to get stuck in there.”

“Well, the bike is an old F650, a dual sport.”

“Oh, well, that’s a bit more reasonable. I have an old Honda CB350 and I’ll take it up a mile or so but that’s it. Where are you trying to get to? There are other ways to Sandwich.”

“I just wanted to take this road for the fun of it.”

“Don’t think you’ll have much fun.”

“How long is it?”

“Nine mile.”

“Well, I can always turn around. Thanks for the tip.”

I got the feeling the guy didn’t want me on his road. It’s a common sentiment in rural New Hampshire and I can’t say that I blame him. Who wants more people, regulation, rules and bureaucrats?





The road was bad but no worse than the road into our camps near Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Bullet holes in the sign didn’t bother me. About halfway to Sandwich I passed the only house. In front of it were three Deliverance guys. I waved and got back a wave and a decayed Jack O’Lantern smile. These north woods characters are down to earth and I like them for that.

You couldn’t do it in a car,

A big new cruiser wouldn’t get you far,

A four wheel drive might do just fine,

But on the F650 that road is mine!

I rolled into Sandwich, on to Moultonborough, Center Harbor, back to Meredith and home. Took me about three hours. The F650 ran flawlessly. The Labor Day weekend weather was perfect. I feel a lot better now.

Motorcycles in Chamonix

We’re in Chamonix, France to support John and Luciana in the UTMB 100 mile ultra trail race and as usual the local motorcycles are attracting my attention.

Imagine narrow roads switchbacking up through one mountain valley to a saddle and then down the next. The pavement sits adjacent to a lethal dropoff, often with no guard rail. Buses, trucks, fast cars, and motorcycles careen along with an occasional awkward negotiation when the road is too narrow to pass.


Starting at Chamonix, France, you can head north past Vallorcine over the Swiss border to Trient, then Martigny, up to Champex Lac and over to Orsiege. From there, get into Italy and on to Courmayeur, and then take the long tunnel through the mountain back to Chamonix in France. You will have just ridden around Mont Blanc and enjoyed some of the most spectacular alpine views in the world. Unfortunately, I had left my F650 back in New Hampshire. 

We used a venerable VW California diesel van to supply John at some of the aid stations along the second half of the race route, and in the process got a chance to see a lot of motorcycles in action.

There are bicyclists on these roads, making cars execute often tricky passing maneuvers, so I would want a motorcycle that will at least keep up with traffic going at 50 mph up a steep hill. (There are some straight stretches where the speed picks up.) Well, I think it’s good etiquette not to be endlessly in the way and unable to pull off the road to let traffic pass.

At the low end, we saw a scooter (I’m guessing 150cc) working its way along some winding sections, but would likely be underpowered for the longer straight uphills.

A couple who were also supporting a runner had arrived on a retro Kawasaki W model. The guy had a BMW back home and the W was his wife’s bike. While we were admiring it, he offered to sell it to us. I think three times. I like the look of it, but I am not quite a fan of modern versions of old designs.IMG_1129

If you think the BMW R1200GS would work well, you would be right and perhaps the big dual sport is nearly the ideal for this type of riding. I saw a lot of them on the road and also parked on the streets of Chamonix.

Yamaha is a popular brand in Europe and several Super Tenere models were noticeable alongside the big GS presence. Here are a couple:IMG_1125


This bike looks like a Ducati Multistrada:IMG_1124

I noticed several of the older V-Twin Honda Transalps, but didn’t get any local pictures. Instead here is a European Honda model that I’m guessing is an updated, streetier version of the V-Twin Transalp.IMG_1130I’m not yet converted to the new parallel twin TransAlp, maybe because the old one is so appealing:

With Chamonix so near Italy, I wasn’t surprised but nonetheless immensely pleased to see this Augusta Brutale with a huge tank bag.IMG_1120

Practical motorcycles here are fast, reliable, stable, great in corners and able to carry a substantial load, and they all have some luggage cabability installed. Even though the days are hot, riders all have the protective gear you would expect. I think motorcycling is taken seriously here. The roads are that demanding.