Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ram Mounts, X-Grip IV Follow-up

With the various devices and accessories that I've reviewed in the past, it seems a good idea to come back to them after I've used them for a while, to give an idea of how well they have held up to use and abuse. Today we shall start with the Ram Mounts X-Grip IV cell phone mount.

Yesterday when I arrived at the YTI-MTC campus, my odometer rolled over to 8,000 miles. This is since August of last year. I purchased the RAM mount shortly after purchasing the scooter, so a fair portion of those miles have been accompanied by my HTC One M8 firmly ensconced in its perch above the handlebar.

Firmly indeed. I use the X-Grip almost every time I ride as my phone serves many purposes, from GPS, to music player, to camera. It has never slipped, not once. The rubber fingers on the spring loaded grip seem to bond with the rubber otter-box case, which means my phone doesn't budge.

The only small issue I've had is with the u-bolt slipping slightly at times, despite being as tight as I can reasonably fasten it for fear of crushing the handlebar or breaking the plastic bumper inside the U-bolt.

So, this is very short and to the point as my blog posts go, but if you need a sturdy option for mounting your phone to your scooter or motorcycle, the Ram Mounts X-Grip does the job and does it well. Certainly, there are other phone mounting solutions out there, but this is the only one that seems truly universal and with nearly as many miles of use as the PCX itself, it's never let me down.

The original review can be found here:


Saturday, June 25, 2016

The fart can and you! (Leo Vince Corsa Exhaust)

Anyone who reads this blog will know that as a rider, I try to make myself noticeable. I often wear bright clothing while riding, have LED lighting on my scooter, and even wear a goofy muppet helmet cover, but in all this, something has been missing. Certainly, being visible is good, but what about being audible? This is something I have tried to remedy.

Enter the dragon. Ok, it's not a dragon, it's a Leo Vince exhaust. It was delivered on Wednesday and I installed it Thursday. I tried to do an install video, but due to some logistics, it didn't work out. I also tried to do some tunnel blasting to get a good sampling of the sound, but that didn't work out either because my phone picks up too much wind noise.

Just the same, the exhaust was successfully installed on my Honda PCX. It came with all the necessary parts, including a new exhaust gasket and a removable baffle/decibel reducer. Following the installation instructions was rather simple and once the bolts were torqued (not quite to full torque just to be safe), it was time to try it out.

I'd go over the list of good and bad with it, but I've already done so in my little YouTube video. Feel free to watch it below:one thing I will add, and I'm sorry for not mentioning this when I first posted this blog entry, the  fuel economy has improved just a hair, which is probably due more to the difference in weight from stock to aftermarket. The stock exhaust is a beast.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A tired old subject

It seems that every time you think you've done all you need to for vehicle maintenance for a while, something else comes up. Last week, I happened to look at the front tire on the Honda and noted an interesting tread wear pattern. 

For those who are unaware, this is called "cupping" or "scalloping." For more information on this phenomenon, there is a good discussion of it here. For those who do not at this very moment wish to follow the link, cupping occurs due to the force of the tread against the road surface, which pulls the edge of the tread surfaces up or otherwise forces the tread to be moved around. The close-up below shows this in better detail on my old Dunlop. 

Cupping on the front is generally caused by the stresses of braking, particularly heavy braking, while on the rear it would be caused by the stresses of acceleration. This can be worsened by improper inflation, though in my case, I've kept the air pressures fairly consistent, checking them at least once a week. The most frustrating thing about this is that the tire still had less than 7,000 miles on it when I noticed the cupping. 

So I bought another Michelin to replace the Dunlop. I have to say, I like my city grips. Even before the resin wore off the new front tire, the difference in grip and lean-ability of the scoot was evident. Just replacing the rear last month made a difference, but with the front changed now as well, the scoot feels noticeably different.

Tire condition and quality doesn't seem to be the focus of many motorists. Most people only get new tires when they absolutely have to. For a motorcyclist or scooterist, we have such a small contact patch on our tires "where the rubber meets the road" that overlooking tire condition can be life threatening. This is important, especially on the front where the rubber patch is generally the smallest and the braking force is the greatest. 

So, it's safe to say I'm sold on Michelin City Grips. They seem to be a very good tire. Dunlop, not so much.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A day at the Museum

Going back to school at 40 to become a motorcycle mechanic wasn't something I'd have believed I'd be doing even five years ago, but now I'm 41 and in the home stretch. The last day of classes is July 19th and it's starting to become a little too real. I get up around 6:00 am, ride to school, do whatever I have to do there until 1:20, then ride to work. I try to get to work as close to 2:00 pm as possible, work until 10:00 pm, then go home. By the time I drift off to sleep it's usually midnight or later. The next day, I repeat the same routine. Weekends have never been such a welcome relief.

So today was a nice break from the norm. Instead of normal classes, we met at the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing for a field trip. There weren't a ton of motorcycle related exhibits, but the history of motorsports in Central Pennsylvania was beyond cool.

The above pictured bike was actually raced by one of the instructors at YTI-MTC in an endurance competition. It was interesting to hear him tell about it and see the actual bike in person. There were a few other bikes, but most of the museum was dedicated to auto racing and the development of the sprint car.

There were a few early NASCAR racers and a good bit of memorobilia, but the most anticipated bit for me was the dirt flat-track on the grounds.

While we were looking at the exhibits, the tour guide spoke about the track and even suggested we could go around it if we wanted, so long as we didn't damage the fences. This was what I'd been hoping to hear, and as soon as the tour was over, I and a few other students went down to the track to try it out.

I discovered something about dirt tracks and scooters today that I suspected but had never tested; they don't mix well, at least not with street tires, and especially not after a recent rain. Heading out onto the track, all seemed well, but despite a moderate speed, the rear wheel went out on me and the scoot fishtailed around like a mad trout. I made it about a third of the way around before the rear wheel just wouldn't cooperate and I had to go back to the gate on the grass. I was extremely entertained just the same. I wish I'd remembered to mount my phone for some video, but wish in one hand...

Of course, our fun was cut short by a volunteer who hadn't received the memo from the tour guide that we were allowed to take a run around the track, and lit into one of the other students.

After leaving the museum and fair grounds, I and two of the other students stopped in for lunch at a Sheetz about ten miles away and discovered we had quite a bit of mud on our plastics. One of the bikes, a Honda CBR, had mud all up in the engine and a fair amount in the fairings.

After work tonight, I stopped to get my wife an anniversary gift,  The sky was so lovely I had to take a photo. Today was a good day. Maybe once I've gotten my feet back under me, I can set up a dirt track bike and go back to that track in York Springs. One little dream I have, and one I don't know if I'll ever fulfill, is to race a motorcycle, just once in a real race. At least for now I can say I was on a track, and chuckle to myself at the results.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fun on the dyno.

It's been over seven months and the third term at motorcycle tech school is halfway done. I've been enjoying my experience at YTI-MTC, and this current set of classes have been as interesting as the last. This week we've started working with the dynamometer.

It's an interesting feeling being on a sportbike that's tied down and feels like it wants to run away beneath you. I may never use a dyno again after finishing here, but having the opportunity has been eye opening.

I've even gotten to see a Kawasaki ZZR spit flames.