No Highways

Leaving for a three-night camping expedition to the Delaware Water Gap National Park area in northern New Jersey. It’s sort of the flip side of the trip I took to Maine a while back. 180 degrees in the opposite direction, but about the same distance.

I’m wearing my three season Sedici jacket here and insulated underwear. With a cloudy, 60-degree ride down, the heat gradually drained out of me and around Brattleboro, VT I was needing a place to warm up. I got rained on three times. Coming back was hot and I wore the summer RevIt jacket which lets the air right through.

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If I set the Google Map options to “Avoid Highways” I get the following route:

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It’s a nice, direct scenic run out through the Green Mountains, loosely following the Appalachian Trail down to the park.  The AT passed about 1/2 mile from our campsite, and we were able to hike a few miles on it. Perfect.

I had plugged a USB power outlet into the connector I normally use for the Battery Tender, straight connection to the battery. Bought a $10 phone mount and mounted the iPhone 7 on the handlebars with the charging cord coming out from under the seat. This worked great. I was able to navigate all the way and the phone stayed charged at 100%.

As you are passing through a complex intersection of roads, you can just glance at the screen and see your path through. You don’t have to read all the signs. I think it’s safer.

But there are some quirks to “No Highways”. It apparently computes the quickest route, which is good, but it will often avoid the center of towns. That can be good or bad. If you are sort of looking for gas or food, you might not go by any stations, stores, or restaurants. I wound up in the middle of the national park with very little gas and had to specifically go out and find some. I had started looking at 100 miles on the odometer and was approaching 150 when I finally filled up. Normally, I fill up around 125.

It does seem to like sending you by lakes and rivers, which is nice.

It seems overly averse to construction zones. Just leaving Laconia, it sent me on an unnecessary detour. On the way back from the DWG it dumped me into downtown Albany, NY, apparently looking for a non-highway, no construction way to get across the Hudson River. That’s not the way I went on the way down.

Also, using the navigate mode tends to leave you in the dark about where you are, exactly. You know how far it is to the next turn, how far it is to your destination, but you don’t have an overall sense of where you are and what is around you just beyond your vision.

Finally, it is too strict about “no highways”. On one occasion, I felt like I was riding through people’s back yards right next to the highway. Better to take the highway if all you are going to do is parallel it on much, much slower roads.

By the way, it was my wife and I making the trip, but she drove her Infiniti G37X, cruising in air-conditioned comfort while blasting Amos Lee on the Bose. We each got what we wanted.

 

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Stowe, Vermont

If you are going to Stowe to attend a wedding, I recommend riding your motorcycle. I took the occasion to do just that and try out my new Saddlemen TS3200 rear bag.  I had recently adjusted the valves, changed the coolant and put in the 20W50 summer weight oil. The bike was loaded and I ran 32 psi in the front tire and 34 in the rear.

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Saddlemen TS3200 bag with the bike rain cover on top of it.

The bag sits on the passenger seat and just clears my back. I can lean back onto it or not. Pretty much ideal in that respect. I have to help my leg bend enough to clear it when getting on and off. I can still open the top box enough to get at the contents pretty well. The bag hangs down over the sides of the seat, but is still well above the exhaust, and it sits just in front of the rear directional lights. It’s held securely with quick-disconnect straps, sort of pulled back against the top box, conforming to the shape of the available space.

The bike is more top heavy when loaded this way but it handles fine once you get rolling.

I was headed to the Field Guide Inn there and got Google Maps to cook up this 123 mile “back roads” route through the mountains northwest of Plymouth, NH and into Vermont. It was a sunny, 70 degree day. Perfect. I wore my Revit Wind summer weight armored jacket my wife recently bought me. Very comfortable all the way up.

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Bridge over the Connecticut River between Piermont, NH and Bradford, VT

The roads typically follow small rivers flowing towards the big Connecticut River and I leaned into a lot of curves on the way to Stowe.

I arrived at almost the same time as my wife, who prefers her Infiniti G37X over anything with only two wheels.

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The newlyweds

In addition to a great wedding, great food and company, we enjoyed hiking in the area, visiting Moss Pond Waterfall and Bingham Falls in Smuggler’s Notch.

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Moss Pond Falls – about 60 feet top to bottom

Stowe is a wonderful place to spend some relaxing time.

On the way home, though, the iPhone radar was showing rain approaching from the west. It was 42 degrees. I layered up and wore the Sedici three-season jacket that I had squirreled away in the TS3200. Also the down mittens with wool liners. Got on I 89 for the short run from Waterbury down to Barre, but the bike felt so good with little wind that I decided to cover some quick miles by staying on the interstate down to New London and then taking NH Route 11 east. I was comfortable running 65-75 mph with an occasional unintended streak near 80 mph. The bike always runs silky smooth in 5th gear and the torque peaks by design at 70-75. I only passed a few vehicles because I was mostly just keeping up with traffic in the right lane.

Stopped for gas and then again for a quick snack. Pulled into the driveway just ahead of some heavy rain. I love radar!

2012 G650GS

I enjoyed taking a spin on a 2012 BMW G650GS, essentially the latest and final version of the F650 line that started back in the early nineties. My own bike is a 1997 F650.

The engine is pretty much the same with the notable exception of fuel injection. I looked for the enrichment lever to start the bike and didn’t find one. Give it a little gas, press the start button and it fires right up!

It has the same characteristic big-single vibration in the 4000-4300 rpm range although a bit more subdued. Nothing in the bars, a little in the pegs, nothing in the seat. I think it has slightly more power in the 3000-5000 rpm range. I rarely use anything higher than that.

The sound is different with more of a growl. The exhaust pipe feeds into what appears to be dual mufflers, but they are connected in series and the exhaust exits from the one on the right.

The geometry and dimensions of the G are identical to the old F, but it felt a bit more nimble, maybe because the fuel tank is under the seat. Or maybe the rear tire had less of a worn flat center section than my Metzler Tourance tires with almost 8000 miles on them.

The suspension is identical as far as I can tell and, by the way, having gotten used to 6.5 inches of travel front and rear, I don’t think I would be happy with the couple inches you typically get on something like a Sportster.

The gnarly headlight works for me and I like the idea of running tubeless tires on the cast rims. It was a cool day and I enjoyed the luxury of heated grips.

Overall, the G has that contemporary BMW feel of substance. It’s a great bike and could last a lifetime with the remarkable support BMW has for older bikes. But this one is essentially brand new with less than 6000 miles on it.

The G650GS got me to the local SlashBurger restaurant very nicely, but I felt like riding it further.  Say, to Deadhorse, Alaska.

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A borrowed 2012 BMW G650GS and Bell helmet and my new Sedici jacket

 

Cold Weather Riding: Part 6

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Some people drive up from Boston to go skiing at Gunstock. They look over as an old BMW pulls in with a pair of snow shoes strapped on the back. “Whaaaaa?”

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It’s alarming. No one rides a motorcycle to a ski area in February.

“What does that guy know that I don’t know?”

For one thing, it’s only 1/4 mile from my house to the ski area. I don’t get cold on a three minute ride.

I disappear into the woods.

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Steep Part

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Half way up Cobble Mountain, I notice some critters have been sharing this section of the trail. But their tracks veer off towards this shelter:

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A warm south facing rock overhang, dry pine needle floor, no mortgage.

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Snow-coated Alton Bay in the distance.

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Gunstock Downhill Ski Runs

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Panorama High Speed Quad running full capacity in the distance.

Back home an hour and a half later. Hot tea. Then, more hot tea.

Last Ride

It’s  just after Christmas, sunny and in the mid forties. That’s right. Time for a motorcycle circumnavigation of Lake Winnipesaukee. Quite likely the last such ride in 2016, by anyone.

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Alton Bay, already frozen over.

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The F650 loves cool weather.

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Route 28 north to Wolfeboro. White Mountain National Forest in the distance.

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Big lake house under construction. Just the top of it visible.

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A bay on the big lake, north of Wolfeboro

There are actually some guys in those bob houses. Recovering from Christmas.

Flashing Blue Lights

I have a problem with 35 mph speed limits.

Why?

The traffic is typically moving at 40-44 mph and my ’97 F650 doesn’t like that range. In 3rd gear, there is enough of a buzz to notice. In 4th gear, I am lugging. Uphill at that speed 3rd is better with a little load on the engine and 4th is not possible. Downhill, 4th is doable. But on the flat at 42, the ride is just not as pleasant as it is at other speeds.

If there is no traffic in my lane, I can run slow in 3rd or fast in 4th. And until a few days ago, I got away with the occasional fast 4th. That’s right, the flashing blue lights, embedded in a string of oncoming cars.

I immediately pulled over and removed my full face helmet in a mental bid for the “harmless geezer gaff” scenario.

49 mph. Born in 1944, right there on my license. Officer in his twenties chuckled and gave me a warning. And then a little more chuckling. Didn’t even require me to retrieve my registration from under the seat.

I don’t like that the geezer gambit worked so effortlessly.

New F650 Seat Cover

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The seat had suffered some cosmetic damage way back in the late 1990’s. Also, the cover had started to crack in a couple places. A new seat from BMW is $376. A custom seat from Corbin or Sargent is even more.

I bought a new cover from Northwest Classics in Canada (via eBay) for about $70 including shipping.

The seat foam is supposedly attached to the original cover so it is recommended to install the new cover over the old one, which is what I did. You can use staples or pop rivets, but I didn’t have a suitable staple gun and I thought the rivets would work better. The plastic seat shell is about .080″ (2 mm) thick so I bought some rivets what would squish down to about .125″ (3mm) in length. They seemed to work well. Drill a .125″ hole through the cover and the shell, insert the rivet and collapse it with the tool.

I taped a metal spacer onto the drill bit and chuck so that only about 1/4″ was exposed. I didn’t want to drill through the old cover, the shell, the seat foam, the old cover again and (game over) the new cover.

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The cover had a white chalk line on it where it should align with the edge of the plastic shell. I attached the cover at the front and back and then stretched it side to side and riveted it at the ends of the seams. Then stretched and riveted as needed to get the cover tight against the old one.

I used a heat gun to make stretching easier, but it would have been better to do it in the sun on a hot day, I think. Also, the stretch for the first of the side rivets later became insufficient as I had to gradually stretch it more to get the cover tight. The cover seems to perform just fine, but I can imagine needing some flat washers to prevent critical rivets from tearing out.

After the seat was on, I had to clean and wax the rest of the bike to match the new look.

Success!