Sunday, May 21, 2017

Project SideCamper: Part Two

Claude finally made the call I had been waiting for...
Come and get it. Your rig is ready!!

Quickly I organize for a 3000 mile round trip to Pennsylvania to pick up Project SideCamper. 

Claude's crew is rightly proud of the rig they have created for me. 
  John, Bob, Claude, Angie and Ron with my "un-named"rig.  

Are they glad to get that monster out of their shop or.... what? 

Let me tell you about the SideCamper. It is wider than most sidecar rigs due to the width of the camper body. It has a heavy duty frame, 15" car tire, exposed shock and a swing out platform with an eight gallon fuel cell.  Am not sure what kind of mpg the rig will get but I need a riding range of at least 350 miles for where we are going. We added a custom made aluminum tool box up front to make it a more aerodynamic in deflecting wind. The tail lights are wired into the bike's lights. A sway bar was added to stabilize the rig on twisty curving roads.

The quality and durability of the work that Freedom Sidecar produces is impressive. 
Am very glad I selected them to build this rig.

Due to its position up front and outside the triangle of sidecar stability, the locking box is for lightweight rain gear, jacket, gloves and parts only.  Driving lights will be mounted on the box nose. 

The weight of the auxiliary fuel cell is mainly over the sidecar axle, within the triangle of stability. 
Am not sure yet about the eight gallon auxiliary tank, it might not be big enough.

The remote operated winch can be moved from the front to the back

To open the camper, the table with the fuel cell unlatches, then swings out with an adjustable leg that drops down to support the weight of a full tank of gas. With the top open, the rear camper door allow access inside. The door cannot be opened when the camper is closed.  A nice security feature when away from the rig.  It takes a little over two minutes to swing out the table and set up the camper. 

The aluminum box between the bike and the camper contains a car battery.  A battery that can be found at any Walmart world-wide, as can the auto tires.

For me the bed is short, but I can stretch out diagonally.  Good thing I travel solo.  The bed can also be set up as a bench with a back rest for those rainy days when you would rather stay in and read a good book.

The zip open windows on front and back have screens if you want a breeze coming thru. The dry space under the bed is for bedding, clothes, food, cooking gear, etc. 

Claude was told to not worry about the bike, its wiring and fuel plumbing hook ups. I plan to finish that part of the rig myself. That way I can familiarize myself with the Vstrom and the sidecar. This is my first Vstrom so this would be a learning experience.

By doing all my own wrenching and maintenance, if I have a problem on the road in the middle of nowhere, I will be better prepared if I am familiar with all the bikes systems and add-ons.  It also lets me discover which tools I must carry to tighten loose nuts or make repairs on the go.

The rig is 80% complete as you see it here. There is a long list of final adjustments, wiring, add-ons, upgrades needed before it is ready to go rogue.  

Claude and his crew finished their part of the build, now my work starts. 

Claude says the rig handles great. Eight miles into a forty mile test ride the bike loses the rear brakes.  Brake fluid was smoking on the exhaust. Seems the rubber hose was touching the hot exhaust.  Over time it burnt a hole in it.

Looks like I better plan on doing a complete service and inspection on the bike before taking any long trips.

We load the rig on my trailer to haul back to Texas. 

More to come in..... Part Three.


Project SideCamper, Part One

Several years ago I saw this photo of a sidecar rig that captured my attention.  Egads1, an AdvRider in Georgia had mounted a pop up camper in place of the chair as a sidecar on his motorcycle. Immediately I thought what a great idea for exploring Canada and Alaska. One can stop and spend the night wherever they desire. Sleep up off the cold wet ground and easily carry all of their clothes, camping, cooking,  photography gear with them. 

It would be a bit crowded for two people, but I travel alone. Would have a weatherproof storage space for all of my gear, sleeping bag, cook stove, etc. The ceiling height inside is 6'2", a little short for my 6'5" height, but much better than a 4' tall tent.

Knowing how expensive motels are once you head north, one can save money to buy more gasoline. Plus one has the freedom to sleep anywhere, be there for sunrise or sunset photos in the wild.

For months I researched the various models of lightweight motorcycle camper trailers, only to arrive at the same conclusion as Egads1, the Kwik Kamp Mini-Mate camper is the only model that would work as a sidecar. The top is hinged on the right side so when opened, the top is folds out over the sidecar wheel. Some other model's tops open to the left or both to the left and the right. With the motorcycle handlebars on the left, any top that opened left would not work.

The Mini-Mate feature that really caught my attention was, it can be set up in two minutes. Putting up a tent can take ten - twenty minutes. That may not sound like a big difference, but if it is raining, you and your gear are getting soaked while setting up a tent on the cold wet ground. Then to unload your gear, storing it in the tent, and finally crawl yourself inside. Then if you set up your tent in the wrong spot, you could have water running thru it and sleeping bag in the middle of the night. All of that can avoided with the Mini-Mate.

With the research done, now to find one. The Mini-Mate is sold as a pull behind camper, small and lightweight, easy to pull by motorcycle or small car. Tried looking locally and on various internet sites but none showed up on any of the motorcycle travel camper sites or internet auction sites. 

Finally I ordered a new Mini-Mate direct from the Pennsylvania factory. Had it shipped to Texas where I bolted on the axle and tongue so I could wheel it around in the storage area.  It is quite large and takes up space. 

With the camper in hand... what motorcycle do I mate it to? I did not have a motorcycle or sidecar rig that would be a good match for this camper. Egads1 told me that riding the camper rig was like pushing a wall of air with that flat front so your motorcycle better have power and torque.

Back to searching the internet, for a strong reliable motorcycle. I finally located a heavy duty adventure sidecar on AdvRider already set up for world travel: a 2007 Suzuki Vstrom 1000 converted to ride on three automobile tires and a winch. The Vstrom 1000 has a reputation of reliability and strength with its 100 horsepower engine. Freedom Sidecars in Pennsylvania had originally converted it to sidecar duty.  SLACKER, the owne, had the rig for sale in Baltimore, Md. He and his wife had just returned from spending several months touring around Mexico on it.

Off then to Baltimore for a test ride on Big Blue, the rig. Quickly a deal was struck. From there I trailered the Big Blue and the Mini-Mate camper to Claude Stanley of Freedom Sidecars in Pennsylvania to make the modification from a sidecar to a SideCamper. 

The blue sidecar was removed and sold to someone who had been waiting for a rig.

Claude was great to work with in designing a new sidecar frame for the Mini-Mate. Late into the night Claude and I drew out sketches and ideas on scrap paper until we finally agreed upon a plan. He and his crew had never built a sidecar camper before but were excited about the challenge. 

Now the building process began in earnest.  

As the build progressed, we introduced, discussed, accepted and rejected many ideas before arriving at the final product.

Always in the back of my mind were those nagging questions:

Would the new set up be ridable? 

Would it be reliable with that huge sidecar load?

Would the Vstrom have enough power to move the rig at highway speeds?

What kind of gas mileage would it get?

What would the final result look like?

More to come..... in Part Two


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

East Texas Beall Ranch life

Had the opportunity to visit the Beall Ranch near Milam, Texas last week.  Tom and Kelley have worked hard to build a beautiful tranquil country oasis in their busy business lives. For most people, just keeping up the ranch would be a full time job. Not for the Beall's, they also have several other businesses besides the ranch.  Am always impressed with people who are not afraid to work and work hard to build a good life for themselves and their family.

Two paint horses roam the ranch at ease. Before you say anything, 
Tom assured me they are both paint horses.

The cattle head back toward the barn at sunset.

This little fellow was orphaned at birth.  Kelley is having to bottle feed it. 
Having raised five daughters, Kelley is very experienced with bottle feeding.

Kelley and two young friends, a pup who wants all of her attention and the calf named Orphan.

Tom says to return next year as he thinks one of the mares might be pregnant. The gestation period for horses is eleven months, so next year there might be a new foal to photograph. Will mark my calendar to return.

On the sidecar front, the beautiful BMW K1200LT rig has come and gone from the ol' Man Cave.  Was a great road going rig, could get up to 80 mph on the highway in a flash but, the cave was getting too crowded with a new addition that rolled in last month. Something had to go.....
More news on that soon.

Gene, who bought Da'Mu the Goldwing sidecar rig from me, rode over to East Texas for a day ride.  We had lunch in San Augustine, visited one of the first log houses built in Texas. Is the dogtrot style with open breezeway between the two enclosed cabins. One side was used for cooking and daily chores while the other end was living/sleeping quarters.  Each cabin had its own fireplace.

Ride safe y'all

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Heights and Lights

The weather recently has been nice, almost spring-like. So Grey Phantom and I went exploring some of the new urban landscape in our area of Northwest Houston. 

In Texas they stack the overpasses higher and higher every year. Is there a competition among highway engineers to see who can build the tallest highway structure?
Won't be long, we will be seeing Boeing 747's flying at eye level when we cross an overpass.

If you note the flat profile rear tire on GP,
am experimenting with an auto tire to see if I can get longer tire life,
i.e. more miles with it than with a standard motorcycle tire. 
The jury is encouraged, but still out.

 GP in the shadow of an overpass, perfecting on its' urban punk rocker stance.

A new light bar in mounted on the front of the cargo box.
The reflective safety tape on the rig pops out as a bright white bar.
Hopefully it will pop out to other drivers too. Anything to be noticed so texting drivers can't claim
 they didn't see me after running over GP.

Have upgraded the front driving light from two small LED lamps to a bar LED.
Here is the old light set up. Above you can see the new bar light.

The new LED Headlamp on low beam and side running light.

HIGH LED Beam and LED Light Bar both on...
rather blinding.

Low beam

High beam with LED light bar, a major improvement in lighting.

And to wrap up todays post is a shot that makes one stop...  ponder...  reflect.

A photo can be a snippet of shiny chrome or 
a deeper essay with pathos and challenge that defy words to describe. 

What's a great photo, if not a story?

Ride safe today


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Best Point-n-Shoot Photos

Who says you can't take great photos 
with a point-n-shoot camera?  


Am still stretching those photography muscles, learning new techniques, trying different angles. 
Just plain having fun playing with it all.  And yes, I do take photos of something other than motorcycles, sidecars and the man cave. 

 Here are my personal Top Ten for the Year 2016.   Enjoy....

Louisiana Falls Bayou

Adrian at Rest.... for a split second

Only the Faithful may enter

Godzilla in a Teacup Body

Still Rose

A Spinner's Tale

Cobblestone Runway 

Three Photographers

Waiting for Empanadas

Dawn's a breakin'

Looking forward to more fun photo shots in 2017. 

See ya on down the road.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Motorcycle Lift Review

About a decade or so ago, I bought one of the best tools ever for working on motorcycles, a Harbor Freight motorcycle lift. Getting up off the cold hard floor and working on a bike at eye level makes for easier and faster repairs. No more crawling around on my hands and knees trying to change the oil on a hot engine. 

The HF lift works with a manual foot pump and a max 1000 lb lifting capacity.
It cost approximately $300 on sale back then.

Fast forward to today, the HF lift is getting a little long in the tooth but its shortcoming arose when I tried to raise a heavy sidecar rig. A 1000 # rated lift would not budge the larger sidecar rigs that can easily weigh more than 1300 lbs.

Time to go shopping for a heavy duty 1500 lb lift. Started looking on Craigslist, eBay,  reading reviews, getting recommendations.  Found prices ranged from $650 to over $2400.  I couldn't just drive and pick one up either, there are no lift retailers in the Houston area. So the cost of shipping has to be included in the price.

Being the frugal Dutchman that I have been accused of being and after reading what I thought was an honest review, I ordered the APlusLift MT-1500 air operated Hydraulic lift with a free service jack from Skywave Lifts in Washington state.  Why do I say honest review?  Because the reviewer stated that the APlus lifts had the lowest prices, was of decent quality but the foot air controller he received was defective.  Since the lift next closest in price was over $1200, I figured I could find another inexpensive foot controller if need be.

The AplusLift MT-1500 price was $659 plus freight, a total of $805 delivered to a truck depot on the far side of Houston.  An 80 mile drive round trip to retrieve it.  They could have delivered to my house for an additional $75, if I had a truck dock. HOA rules don't allow that modification.

Trailered the heavy 500#+ wooden box home.  Set up went smoothly until it came time to flip the lift over (it was shipped face down).  Instructions call for two people to flip it over as lifting at one corner can twist the frame.  I tried flipping it over using long handles, hand truck, etc, but it kept sliding away on the tile floor. Called my son Alan to come help. 

Together we flipped and moved the lift into position. Then we finished connecting the front tire clamp, the service jack and the tie down hooks.

Next step was connecting the air compressor to the foot controller then connecting that to the lift itself.  All assembled, connections tight, turn on the compressor, let's test it. Pressing the foot pedal to make it go up...... nothing happens! ^*

Rechecked all the connections on the lift, looks okay.  Narrowed down the problem to the suspect foot controller.  If I bypassed the foot controller and blew air directly into the line, the lift would move. Disassembled the controller, cleaned, lubricated all the parts, reassembled, tested again.... 
no movement! #!@#$%

Time for intense scrutiny of the foot controller. Yes, the foot controller is a sloppily assembled, ill-fitting piece of junk. Decided I did not want to risk life and limb raising a large heavy motorcycle with a foot controller that could fail at anytime.  Order a better quality $50 foot controller from Derek Weaver Company in Fort Worth. 

Received the new foot air controller the next day, great service! With the new controller now connected, once again tested the lift...  nothing happens! No movement! !
WHAT..... @#$%*^%#@!

Once again disassembled the foot controller, going piece by piece, narrowed the problem down to the female coupling on the lift side of the controller. The brass male coupling on the left in the photo above is coming from the air compressor line going to the foot controller. 

The silver male coupling above on the right goes from the controller to the lift pump. It is pressed on, i.e. non-removable. But the female coupling on the controller going to the silver male coupling is the real problem. With that now identified as the issue, simply go buy a new female coupling.

Next day went to NAPA, several auto parts and hardware stores trying to find a matching female coupling for the silver male. Was informed this coupling is not available, as is not US standard. No one had anything close to fitting it.  If I wanted to replace it with a standard US brass fitting, I would have to cut the factory hydraulic hose on the lift....... !@%^&*())*&^%$#@!

Before cutting the OEM hose, decided to splice in a short piece between the silver coupling and the foot controller.  Let's make sure everything actually works before cutting.

Above is the replacement foot controller, air line coming in on the left, spliced line on the right going to the lift. All the pieces in place, let's try again... the lift moves... it goes up!!!!!!! 
HIGH FIVE!!   Miller Time. 

This controller is of much better quality than the original.  Sorry, no photo of the original foot controller as it was deep sixed with great fanfare and vociferous animal sounds.

With the new lift working correctly and utilizing a modified auto jack under the sidecar, I can raise the rig level to a height of 20" plus. Enough to work more comfortably. The line stays spliced for now. Now to find a solution for raising the auto jack side higher.

For home repair, the occasional use, I can recommend the APlusLift, but plan on replacing the foot controller in your cost estimates. You can spend a lot more for other brands of lifts, but for my needs and pocketbook, this fits the bill. If it will last ten years like the HF lift, it will outlive my motorcycle wrenching days.

Ride safe ya'll

Monday, December 26, 2016

Motorcycle Images

A while back I was working on a book project where I needed images of motorcycles.  Not the whole machine, just enough for the reader to appreciate how a motorcycle is designed, built, assembled.

Visited a local BMW motorcycle dealer who also had several old bikes on display. Here is a small collection of images from that project.  

Happy Holidays to you and your family

May your 2017 riding season take you to new horizons as I am hoping mine will. 
See you out on the road.