Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Osram headlight on Honda ST1300

I recently installed a new set of Osram H4 60/55W lights on my ST1300. The overall experience was pretty miserable. I didn't want to remove the fairing so I spent a lot of time reaching up through the bottom of the fairing and down-through the top of the fairing.

The end-result though was a very, bright set of lights.

It's important to point out that I needed to purchase a couple of brackets for the lights to fit correctly in the ST sockets. I used the tin snips below to clip two of the posts on the lights and the bracket fit nicely over a tab on the light.
Cutting to the chase, it was hard for me to put these lights in the ST as there is very little room for large hands to maneuver in. Having a loose bracket on the lights only exacerbated the problem.

To secure the bracket to the light, briefly, while I got it into the light housing I used some Elmer's spray adhesive I had around. I sprayed the bracket carefully and quickly seated it around the base of the light. While a bit like playing the game Operation so as not to touch the light. The glue worked great. The glue sets fast and really isn't made to hold the bracket for more than a few minutes but I just needed it for about 1 minutes to get the light back into the socket. Again, the glue may have saved my sanity and allowed me to put the light into the socket correctly.

If you would like more information about doing this job or the final quality of the lights just post a comment and I'll follow-up.

Lines and ridges on my fingernails - gone!

Executive summary:

I had horizontal ridges on my fingernails that looked unsightly. The diagnosis of various Internet blogs/sites was that I was malnourished or lacking in one or more vitamins. I found one site though that had a simple solution: stop picking your cuticles and wait a few months for the nail to start growing back normally.

Common sense
With this in mind I made it my mission to stop my nervous habit of picking at my cuticles and see if there would be any difference after six months.

The difference was dramatic. The nails were growing back heathy and the horizontal ridges completely gone. The moral of this story is: there's no quick fix, I need to change my basic bad habit of picking at my nails. That it was really, really, hard to change. I need to constantly remind myself to not pick at my cuticles but that's what it took to make my nails look good again.

Here's the difference after six months using a side view.
To the left you can see the sheer amount of nail growth I was losing when I was picking my cuticles. The old nail is thin and has the horizontal ridges in it (seen in the picture above). The new, lower section, of the nail looks heathy and has no ridges.

In conclusion, I didn't need to buy any herbal remedies, vitamins, minerals etc. I just needed to stop picking at my nails. If you have horizontal ridges in your nails, and want to see if you can 'heal' them, try not picking at your cuticles/nails for a few months. It's tough but the difference was definitely noticeable for me after about four-months. Good luck.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"I'd rather leave than suffer this"

I just returned from a approx. 1000 mile motorcycle ride where the temperature was, on average 95 degrees. A souvenir from my trip was a pretty bad case of "Monkey Butt."

Monkey Butt is a painful rash condition that is due to butt perspiration and lack adequate wicking so the skin can't breath properly. Did I mention it was painful? The last hour of the ride was really, really, uncomfortable, detracting from the pleasure of the ride, decreasing the safety, and forcing me to stand every 15 minutes or so on the pegs to get my butt off the seat.

I sweat a lot and the high temperatures along the ride exacerbated the condition. My daily commutes, approx. 45 minutes each way, were not long enough to flush out the problem but the long, hot, rides definitely did.

This problem isn't new is just been rebranded with a more catchy name that tough guys can associate themselves with. It's more common name is: Diaper Rash. The symptoms and cause are basically the same: lack of airflow over the skin and inadequate wicking of moisture.

Note: It's important to point out that I ride with Pearl Izumi bike shorts under my riding suit which does a lot to mitigate the problem but even the great shorts break down after about two hours sweating in the hot 95 degree sun. On a bicycle I've never had the problem which is probably attributable to the fact that the air is flowing better and effectively wicking the moisture.

"One last thing before I quit"
I found a cure and it's simple and effective: Talcum Power otherwise known as Baby Powder.

I purchased the Johnson and Johnson brand and liberally sprinkle the Talcum Powder into the shorts and the rash and pain quickly healed.

While the way to really prevent Monkey Butt is to keep your butt dry. Sometimes due to excessive temperatures and lack of good ventilation it's not easy. To assist keeping your butt dry Talcum Powder, and some of the additives to Talcum based products: corn-starch, zinc-oxide, kaolin, etc. are cost-effective, widely available and solves the problem effectively to reduce adult diaper rash or Monkey Butt.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Suzuki V-Strom DL650 Oil change

Changing the oil on a Suzuki V-Strom DL 650 is pretty easy. I commute about 60 miles round-trip per day and this puts a lot of miles on the bike. I follow a few rules:

1. Use reasonably priced good oil and good oil filters
  • Shell Rohtella T Syntheic 10w-40w (Blue container)
  • Mobil 1 5w - 40w Synthetic
  • Puralator Filters or Suzuki stock filters
Oil in my DL 650 takes a lot of punishment since I'm on the freeway a lot, ~5-6k RPM's while cruising, as well as up and down hills in San Francisco (Wet Clutch in the DL650).

Therefore I have found the either of the two-oils above work well in the DL650. Puralator filters (ML16818) are available from Amazon and are around $11 for two filters . I have had very good results with the Puralator filter and have used it many times. Many people report that the stock Suzuki filter is also good, just a bit pricey ($?).

2. Change the oil frequently around 3.0k - 4k and always change the oil filter
I change the oil pretty often since I am running at such high RPM's, freeway, much of the time on the bike. My ST1300 does not break down oil as fast since it aveage freeway RPM's are around 3.8k-4.2k. This high RPM from the Strom breaks down the oils viscoity a bit faster. When the vicosity of the oil begins to break down the lubricating abilty of the oil dimishes and engine damage begins. I have around 39k miles on the bike now following this oil change period and expect to get 100k from the bike as long as I keep it maintained.

3. You'll need a small funnel, an oil drip pan, a fiter scocket and have a scocket set on-hand.
You're going to need to pour the oil into something. I purchased a inexpensive oil drip pan at Pep Boy's (big auto store). An invaluble tool for taking off the oil filter is the filter scoket. It fits over the filter and allows you to twist off the filter. I read heard horror stories of the strap style filter remover and have always used this tool with great sucess.

4. Center stand or center risers and bungie to keep front brake engaged

Let the games begin...
1) Unscrew the oil filter one turn, while the engine is cold, to get it started. No oil will be dripping unless there is a crack in the gasket. Note: this "pre-turn" will make removing the filter later a bit easier.
2) Turn over the engine and let it warm the oil. Let the engine heat up to the first bar then turn the engine off.
3) Put the oil pan under the drain bolt and carefully remove both drain bolt and washer. Be careful as the oil will be a bit warm and the washer may stick to the engine.
4) Wait about 10 minutes for warm oil to drain.
5) After 10 minutes I then remove the oil filter letting the majority of the oil drain from the engine.
Note: Some people turn the engine over a couple of turns to get 'all' the oil out. Not me, I don't mind a little bit of old oil with the new oil. The risk/reward of turning over the engine without oil in the engine just never made much sense to me so I don't do it.
6) Put the drain bolt, with washer, back on.
7) Put a few daps of fresh oil around the new oil fliter gasket to help it seal. Screw on the new oil filter and tighten it pretty tightly. Remember you'll need to take it off again (About 12-13 ft/lbs).
8) Put oil back into the engine and check to make sure it goes to the 'TOP' of the window.
9) Cover the oil fill port.
10) Start the engine and look for leaks - fix as necessary run about 3-5 minutes.
11) Let engine cool and oil drain back into reservoir - about 10 minutes
11) Add a bit more oil if the engine oil doesn't return to the center mark. Note: the new filter will absorb some oil.
11) Confirm oil level is correct before taking off center stand.

To summarize:
1) Start with good oil and a good filter (always change both)
2) Use the right tools, namely oil wrench, and take your time.

The cardinal rule is: safety first. It's important to not do this job on the side-stand as if the bike fell on you it would make for a very, very bad day. But rather a center-stand (or what I use, center risers).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lane Splitting

I commute to work on my motorcycle. Since I drive into San Francisco each day, the traffic can be, and often is bumper to bumper (especially bad Tuesday around 8AM). In California, lane splitting on a motorcycle in not illegal. According to the California Highway Patrol's website:

"Can motorcycle riders "split" lanes and ride between other vehicles?
Lane splitting by motorcycles is permissible but must be done in a safe and prudent manner.

Reader please heed: Lane splitting can be dangerous to your health
Cars are generally not expecting bikes to be zipping past them at 10 - 15x their relative speed on the freeway. I have been cut-off, turned into and blocked on several occasions. I'm not sure it was deliberate or just being unaware. Either way - it's dangerous.

Ways I found to make splitting less dangerous:
  1. Ride like your invisible - I grew up in San Francisco and rode my bicycle everywhere, day/night rain or shine until I finally purchased a car when I was 26 years old for work outside the city. My rule for riding was, "ride like I was invisible". I would assume nobody could see me and drove very, very defensively in city traffic.
  2. Scrutinize each car you pass as a threat - On my bicycle when I was passing cars, parked in parallel, I tried to look through each cars back window, or/and each side view mirror for a driver. If there was a driver in the car, I assumed they were going to open their door into me and gave them a wider berth (or slowed down for an potential emergency stop). On my motorcycle I do the same when traveling next to parallel parked cars: slow down and look for drivers in each car. If there is a driver, prepare to brake and give them a wide berth moving farther than the arc an opening door would be.
  3. Be seen - I wear a bright yellow suit by Olympia Phantom Suit. I'm often the brunt of jokes, "big banana man", "CalTrans guy" even mocked by a guy on a Vespa in the city but it helps with safety. It increases my visibility in both day and night as well as keeping me dry in winter. Both my motorcycles have lots of 3M reflective tape all over them to increase their visibility.
  4. Slow down - Some guys split at 50-60 MPH. This is just a death wish; it gives very little time to emergency brake, or find an outlet if cut-off. I split at around 30 MPH. If another rider queues up behind me, I pull over let them by. I then look for another biker that might be coming down the split lane, and if clear, head back into the split lane. Repeat as necessary. The fact is that when I usually split, traffic is pretty much a parking lot screeching along at 2-3 MPH. My relative speed combined with my visibility gives drivers fair warning I'm coming through so there are few surprises as I approach and pass them.
  5. Some freeway lanes are narrow - During my commute there are a couple of stretches where the freeway lanes narrow and the split lane is too narrow for a safe split at any speed. Normally most considerate drivers will move over a bit if they know you're coming. When moving slowly through the split lane I feel it's important to be considerate of other motorcyclists which may still want to barrel though it. Ergo: I periodically scan my mirrors for other bikers and if getting close move over to let them roll through.
Dealing with jerks in cages:
Sometimes I encounter the pick-up with extra-wide mirrors or the shiny BMW that is blocking the split lane with their car and/or mirrors. I try to identify these vehicles as early as possible and if necessary to, slow, signal and transition into another lane. Switching lanes can increase risk, since other drivers are expecting consistency. I believe driving consistently is important since it helps our brain calculate when an object, at a fixed velocity will arrive. Our brains do a great job of this calculation but the accuracy is based on consistency. Changing your line or speed influences the effectiveness of this mental calculation. If I need to move to another lane I always use my turn signals and try and clearly communicate my intentions to other drivers. Sometimes the driver is on-the-phone, doing their make-up or just spaced in traffic. Either way communicate your intentions clearly with by signaling, and slowing-down, before changing lanes.

Splitting lanes is a fact-of-life in the daily Bay Area commute for a motorcyclist. Before attempting this you need to have a very good feel for your motorcycle: be able to emergency stop well and be prepared to do double-duty with defensive driving. Slow-down, be very observant and consistent in your driving and you'll save some time in traffic and come out the other side.

Be safe.

Friday, May 22, 2009

ST1300 oil change

After reading about the pain of changing the ST1300's oil. I decided to document my first oil change.

A bit of background: I commute 60 (roundtrip) to work each day and that ends up putting around 13k on a bike each year. I was commuting on my V-Strom DL650 but upgraded to a used 2005 ST 1300/A with 19k miles on it. I was told the oil changes were done every 2k miles.

Changing the oil my DL650 was quick and simple and I have done it many times. I try and change the oil every 3k miles with Mobil 1 Synthetic since the bike takes a lot of wear and tear during the commute into San Francisco. I have read a lot about motor oils used for motorcycles and either use Shell Rotella T Synthetic 5/30 or Mobil 1 Synthetic 10/30. I find that the Shell Rotella T is readily available at Kragen for about $26 and the bike runs real smooth for about 2.5-3k miles.

Whenever I change I oil I always change the oil filter, it just seems sensible. Since this is a new bike, for me, I want to be sure all oils are fresh so I will also be changing the Hypoid gear oil as well (Mobil 1 Synthetic Gear Lubricant 75W-90)

This site provided a good walkthough.

Here's my plan before I get started:
  1. Use some aluminum foil to protect parts underneath the bike that might get oil dripped on them.
  2. I will loosen the oil filter a bit, with my oil filter cap wrench(OEM 25404 Oil Filter F Cap Wrench 65/67mm ), while cold, since it is usually easier to remove cold. I used a similar Cap wrench on my DL and it worked wonderfully.
  3. Similar to how I changed the oil on my DL I will then run the engine for a couple of minutes, to warm the oil before draining.
  4. I will keep the ST on it's center-stand to get the filter loose (but before oil leaks out).
  5. Put the drip pan under the drain bolt and remove the drain bolt.
  6. When finished dripping from drain bolt remove oil filter and finish draining.
  7. Screw the Purolator PL14610 PureONE Oil Filter onto the bike. Tighten to around 14 lbs/ft. Honda recommends 22 lbs/ft but this seems ridiculous, but I'll document what value works well and can be removed without to much pain.
  8. Put the drain bolt back on.
  9. Put in 4.1 quarts of Shell Rotella T Synthetic 5/40 (Kragen Auto Parts: $26.00/gallon).
  10. Turn over the engine and let idle until warm - 1-2 bars on engine heat indicator.
  11. Check oil is at level mark. I am especially concerned oil is not overfilled as it increases pressure on the cylinders heads, gaskets etc..
Hypoid gear:
  1. Using same oil drain pan from engine oil:
  2. Remove Hypoid gear drain bolt.
  3. Drain gear oil into drain pan.
  4. Put drain bolt back.
  5. Put the bike on the side stand, open Hypoid Fill-bolt and fill to where gear oil is about to come out and then close (This gives me a bit more oil in the gear case.)
  6. Put the fill-bolt back on.
  7. Examine for leaks.

My 2 cents on the oil change and ST1300 maintenance:
Oil change interval: ~3k miles (probably too few miles, for a synthetic oil, but commuting through San Francisco, several good sized hills for the clutch, is a bit tough on the bike).
Hypoid gear oil change: ~20k miles (I feel the Mobile 1 75W-90 gear lubricant can take 20K miles as there is only light-friction from the Hypoid gears, and no real heat to wear down the viscosity).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

ST1300 / Bestem top-box installation

I have a 2004 Honda ST1300. It was purchased used with around 19,000 miles and I use it to commute into my office in San Francisco (about 30 miles each way).

I have a Givi Top-box on my V-Strom which I like very much. It is high-quality, and rugged, made for the daily grind.

The Bestem is not. It is a low-cost, cheap, top-box. It cost $87.58 including shipping and handling. I purchased the blue Bestem top-box. It matches the 2004 ST blue very nicely. This purchase was predicated on
  1. Price, it was inexpensive for a ST1300 top-box
  2. Backrest, for the pinion rider
  3. Storage, for longer trips.
A significant issue is that this box requires a bit of work to get to fit on your ST. It's not difficult but does require some tinkering (about 4-5 hours for me).

The box itself is about a 8x cheaper than the Honda-line top-box with light. The Bestem box comes with a light built-in which, surprisingly, the Honda-line box does not; It is an option.

It took about a week to get the Bestem box and upon opening it I found a very noticeable scratch on the top of the case. Not a good start.

This box is about value, quality is sacrificed as the plastic is thin and pretty flimsy. The mounting bracket is also thin metal. This turns out to be helpful since it made it 'really' easy to drill though. More on this...

To get this box to work on the ST is not a bit deal, but does require a bit of work:

1) Take off the four plastic screws on the back rack of the ST and remove the black plastic piece (above). Note here that I have pushed one of the washers that came with the top-case into the black plastic, it fit great.

2) Turn over the Bestem top-box mounting plate and line-up the bottom two-holes of the Honda black plastic piece (template) with the long slits of the Bestem rack (This is not a good picture as the template should be scooted up about 4 inches, sorry).

3) Once the template is centered on the Bestem rack, I used a silver indelible marker to mark the spots to drill.

4) Removing the template, I took a center punch an punched a couple of indentations so the drill would stay in the hole.

5) I choose a 5/16" bit which worked well and the holes were easy to drill since the gauge of the metal is rather thin.

6) Build a solid platform. Since the Bestem rack isn't made for this bike it needed to be supported a bit more. I took one of the metal U-brackets that came with the rack and mounted it as in the picture. To do this, I marked, then used the center punches again, then drilled two more holes about two inches below where the previous holes were drilled.

7) I went to our local hardware store and purchase a couple of small machine screws (1" I think) and a locking nut.

8) I secured the U-bracket to the Bestem rack and it felt solid.

9) I also purchased a couple of 1 1/2" machine screws for the back of the rack since the bolts that same with the rack hung down a bit lower than I wanted.

Almost done

10) Using the two supplied bolts and washer for the front of the rack, it's a tight squeeze but managed to get the lock washer and bolts screwed on. Be sure to not tighten completely until all bolts are attached.

11) Once all bolts were loose I centered the rack visually and screwed down two bolts.

12) I then tested the top-box on the rack to see if it would actually work. I was concerned that the bolt heads might not have enough clearance and scratch the bottom of the rack. No problem, at least while the top-box is empty :). The fit was nice and snug. The locking system is pretty cheesy - a lightweight plastic button. Again this is a value system.

13) While the top-case was on I also tested to make sure I could get my seat on and off. It's a bit snug but worked.

14) I then removed the top-case and tightened the remaining bolts careful not to bend the Bestem rack. The U-bracket really helped prevent this.

15) I have not connected the top-case lights yet. I will complete this entry when I do.

The Bestem top-box is an inexpensive system that requires some work to install the rack on the ST1300. It is made of a lighter grade plastic than my Givi system, which I have been commuting happily with for the last year on my V-Strom. Since I primarily use the ST's side cases for storage, while commuting to my to my office, I didn't attach the Bestem top-case for daily use. I do plan to use the top-case when on longer weekend rides, with my wife, and feel the backrest will make her ride a bit more comfortable. The blue paint job, albeit scractched a bit, was impressive. The color match of the case to the bike it almost seems a color match to the 2004 Blue.

Was it worth the actual price (base price - including shipping- of $87.58), a few nuts and bolts and 4-5 hours to install)? Yes, since I enjoyed the process, I like to tinker, and don't use the top-box on a daily basis. If you "don't" have the time to tinker with your bike this might not be the rack for you. This top-box is also a bit delicate, compared to my Givi, and has a pretty cheesy locking system and you will need to manually disconnect the brake wires after box removal from rack. On a day-to-day basis, I wouldn't feel confident about using the Bestem rack, but for weekend warriors, who like to do their own work, it seems a good value.

Following-up a couple of years later living with the Bestem ("Not all the glitters is gold"):
It did seem like a good value but I would not buy one again as it is just to cheaply constructed. I have a Givi V46 on another bike and would get another in a flash. They're solid and work great in a variety of weather conditions. The Bestem lock mechanism doesn't turn easily anymore and the box just feels cheap. The plastic of the case is much thinner than the Givi and if you're using your top-case for a daily commute I wouldn't even consider the Bestem as it's not durable for daily use. While at the time I wanted to match the color of my bike with the top-box, which the Bestem did great, the durability of the product is really sub-par.

In conclusion, When I install another top-box: I'll save time and spend a bit more to get a top-box that will stand-up for the life of my bike: the Givi V46 or the HondaLine.