Sunday, August 29, 2010

Foot pegs for sure footing - passenger and driver alike

When riding a motorcycle, at any one time it is possible that your entire body weight rest on one foot peg. Thus it is important that your foot pegs make a solid connection with your foot. Traditionally the foot rest of a motorcycle was a simple metal rod covered with rubber. However these days the peg of a dirt oriented motorcycle more resembles a pedal of a bicycle or a small platform with protruding teethes. The foot pegs that came on my DR 350 were in bad shape. Not only where they small, and the teeth worn smooth, but they were bent as well. Foot pegs of dirt bikes are usually spring loaded and designed to fold up when the bike is dropped. This prevent the peg from taking too much damage. However, even with this design feature, over time the foot rest get pretty beat up.

The stock foot pegs on the DR are pretty small and I wanted an up grade. There are some really fancy foot rest out there with a very fancy price tag. The Fastways pegs for example are $130. The IMS super stock pegs are more reasonable at $75. But that was until I found the Ebay special foot pegs for $20 "buy now". Cheap bastards can bid and possible get them for $15. The ebay pegs are basically a IMS knockoff. I have seen them in other catalogs labeled as Volar Motor sports pegs.

Installation took approximately 30 seconds per side. Remove cotter pin, slide out pivot, remove old peg, insert new peg making sure the spring is properly positioned, replace pivot, replace cotter pin. Ok most people should budget 5 minutes per side for installation.

These foot pegs gave an instant boast to my riding ability. The foot contact is improved dramatically. It seems that my foot no longer needs to hunt for the peg, but is there when ever I apply downward force. The sharp biting teeth allow me to hang off the back or the side without fear of slipping off. A good rider might be able to ride fine on a greased up wooden dowel for a foot peg. But for those that lack the technical skill, any amount of mechanical help is appreciated.

The rear passenger foot pegs of the DR are in fact just rubber coated pegs. Upon one of my first rides I heard a loud clunk coming from the rear of the bike, as I landed a small jump. Upon closer inspection I discovered that the rear passenger foot peg was making contact with the swing arm, under suspension compression. The rear pegs are not spring loaded and do not fold up when pressure is applied. Instead they can be flipped down when in use or stored in the up position when not in use. The previous owner of the bike must have dropped the bike with a passenger on board, or simple left the peg down when the incident happened. The result was a bent right side passenger foot peg bracket and mounting tab. The bracket and tab were bent in such a way that it would contact the swing arm. I could have removed the bracket and peg completely, but I wanted to retain the ability to comfortably carry a passenger.

I removed the bracket in attempt to bend it back with a hammer and a vice. This did not work as the bracket and mounting tabs were very stout. I guess that is expected since it needed to support the weight of a person. So I mounted the bracket back on the bike and decided to give it a pull. I anchored the frame of the motorcycle to a large tree in my large. I then hooked up a "come-along" to the receiver hitch of my truck and to the bent foot peg bracket. Tensioning up they system took the most effort. Once everyhting was tight, it only took a few clicks of the hand winch to pull the bracket and tab straight. I was concerned that I might bend the frame of the bike in my attempts to bend the bracket back into shape. However the bracket and tab moved easily back into place with little force and no displacement of the frame itself.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pesto, Pasta and Squash

One of the fun things about getting a CSA is that you never know what you might get. Rather than eating the same ol same olds, you get to be creative and explore. One item that has been showing up in our CSA often is basil. Basil is such a wonderful plant. It is considered a spice, but can also be eaten as a vegetable.

Though there is always a use for basil. We decided to take this weeks share and make fresh pesto out of it. Ever since moving out of my folks house at the age of 18, spaghetti is a staple diet for 90% of everyone I know. In our house, we still have it at least once a week. To give the noodles a flare, we occasionally mix in pesto instead of red sauce. What is even more exciting is when you make pesto out of fresh basil.

It always impresses me when my wife cooks. Though we cook nearly every night, last nights spaghetti dinner inspired me to post about it. Even a plain pasta dinner can be fixed so that it is not only exotic but delicious. The following is my wife's age old family recipe (ok just off the Internet but I am sure it is an age old family receipt) for pesto:

4c basil, 1/2 c olive oil, 1/3 c pine nuts, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 c Parmesan cheese, 1t salt.

As with me and recipe sthis is just a guideline for approximate ratios of ingredients. This night we ran out of pine nuts so substituted with walnuts. We also deleted the salt cause there is way too much salt in everything we eat already. And just for poops and giggles, some sun dried tomatoes were thrown into the mix. The entire concoction was whipped up in a food processor.

I have been learning to like whole wheat pastas. Failing, but trying. Recently we found a whole wheat pasta that I think is decent. Garofalo by La Pasta Di Grangnano. Their 100% whole wheat organic spaghetti, has excellent texture and a complex flavor. One forgets that it is simply spaghetti that is melting in you mouth.

One final touch that can give your dull pasta a kick is to add some squash to it. I am not talking about some grilled squash to the sauce, but to add it right to the noodles themselves. This was a tip gained from some reality TV show. With a grater shred some squash up into long shreds. Dump this into boiling water the same time as you throw in the raw spaghetti. From then on out simply forget the you have squash in with your noddles and cook accordingly.

Bon appetit

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Coffee Maker Care - a half cocked pot

Does this look familiar. The bottom of your new coffee makers gets corroded and rusty after a short period of time. I had always thought this is the way things were; coffee maker's heating bases live a hard life. However there is a way to prolong that heating surface.

I had some guest stay the night at my house once. In the morning they had made breakfast including coffee. Before they left they washed out my coffee pot. However instead of replacing the coffee pot all the way onto the seat they left it half cocked on the rim. I didn't think much of it, till I thought about it later. This was done so that the base would have a chance to air dry. Placing a wet coffee pot on a wet base never allows the surface to dry. The wet acidic environment causes the surface to prematurely eroded. I thought this was quite clever.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

VW Eurovan Camper- The drive

Several months ago you might have remembered a post about me trying to sell the families 2002 VW Eurovan Camper. We got as far as finding a buyer, and was about to make the deal. However my entire family fell into a depression when the idea of not having the mini camper was soon to become a reality. So the day before the deal was to happen, I pulled it from the table. Sucks, but my fathers happiness was more important. My dad did take the potential buyer out to lunch to apologize, and they are current still in contact with each other and friends. The potential buyer soon became an owner of a VW Eurovan Camper as well.

I would have titled this post "first drive impressions" but that would not have been accurate since I have driven the camper many many miles already. In fact I lived in it for three months once. Regardless, how a vehicle drives is one of the most important attributes of a review.

Stepping into the Eurovan one immediately gets the feeling they are entering a work van. The built in step, "A" pillar grab bar, upright captain's chair. The swinging motion into the drivers seat is a very big rig like, quite different than the typical ingress to a passenger car. The location of the driver relative to the vehicle is also unique. Though the driver is not perched directly above the front left tire, one is placed just behind. In fact the hump of the wheel well acts as a dead pedal of sorts. This however follows the VW bus lineage, where due to the rear engine configuration placed the driver right in the very front of the van. In fact drivers of older VW buses found them selves seated in front of the front wheels.

The controls are laid out in a very simple utilitarian fashion. The dash board follows the contours of the windshield without extra protrusions for ergo, or that fighter jet cockpit feel. Many of the knobs, buttons, and instrumentation are standard VW parts shared with Jettas and Passats of the same era. There is nothing wrong with this at all. Why make different defrost buttons for each car when one will do. Though basic, if seen from a old school VW buser's eye, the dashboard and instrumentation has a very modern feel. One of the first things to catch my attention is the aftermarket Sony Explode CD stereo, and the blank button pop outs. I hate blank pop outs. It makes you feel like you are missing out on some great factory gizmo. The stereo is basic with no aux in, ipod connection, or MP3 format disk capability, after all this is 2002. The stereo does have good sound, and higher than average output (52 watts x4). The flip down face of the Explode unit however is less than desirable.

Adjusting the mirrors, you might or might not notice that the two rear view mirrors are different sizes and shapes. The driver side is rectangular and wide, the passenger's is taller. It took me a little bit to realize they were different and even longer to understand why. My guess for the asymmetric mirrors are because the blind spot on the driver side is larger. This is due to the fact that sitting on the left side of the vehicle allows for a greater field of view to the right. This blind spot is made worse when the EV is a camper. When the basic EV is configured to be a camper, the rear driver side window is not cutout and thus lacking windows to look through. Once properly situated the three rear views mirrors provide a great rear field of view, giving the driver the feeling that they are commanding a much smaller vehicle than the EV actually is. With the headrest of the rear bench seat removed there are no blind spots even with the entire rear passenger side of the van paneled out.

Starting the EV with the silly key fob is more difficult than it should be. The body of the fob does not provide a good grip to deliver the twisting motion needed. When you finally get the key turned, the engine winds to life with a very "German" wirl. The gear selector and the e-brake are located on the floor to the right. The gear selector requires the driver to hold the brake pedal down and the depress a release button to shift out of drive; this is pretty normal. What is not normal is the need to push the release button to go from R to N and from N to drive. What is even worse is shifting from D to 3. The fact that you must push the button is not bad, it is that you DO NOT need to push the button to go from 3 to 2. Downshifting from D to 3 should be done carefully. It is very easy to overshoot 3 and go to 2, while downshifting. This could cause to engine and transmission to rev at extremely unsafe RPMs.

Starting in 2001 VW EV's were equipped with a 2.8 liter, 201 horse power, 24 valve V6- the VR6. The VR6 is interseting in the fact that the two rows of cylinders are offset by only 15 degrees instead of the typical 45 degree offset. This gives this particular V6 engine a very narrow block like an in-line type motor, easily suited for many front wheel drive applications. The 24 valve VR6 is the most powerful engine every installed in a VW van from the factory, and you can tell. Stomping on the gas from a stop the EV accelerates at a rate one would not expect from a VW van. Even though the van weighs approximately 5000lbs, the low gearing optimizes the 201 hp. The low gearing is noticed as the 4 speed automatic transmission allows the van to humm along at 65mph while spinning the engine at 3000 RPM's.

The car feel of the EV is apparent even when you drive. It maneuvers easily and is narrow enough that you feel comfortable with it's dimensions. The power steering is heavy for a passenger car, but not so much that it a hindrance. The front suspension has plenty of caster built in that you never get the wandering feeling many large vans have. The major complaint of the drive is that the ride is woefully soft. Not only is the suspension soft, but the chassis lacks rigidity. A soft ride is expected since this is a camper van and not a sports car, but the EVC drives like a cooked noodle. Soft shocks and small sway bar gives the van a very sailboat like roll in corners. The large hole cut in the roof for the pop top does not help the overall rigidity, as the van groans and creeks over driveway cutouts. The car like feel of the van is lost when subjected to winding roads or off pavement conditions.

VW did the the EV van right by matching the powerful motor with equally powerful brakes. The 12" disk brakes have never felt inadequate. Fuel efficiency is good for a vehicle of its size. 20mpg can easily be obtained when road tripping, and 16 mpg is returned if you do alot of hotrodding. Not going into camper features, two other functions are good and worth mentioning. The front windows have both one touch up and down features for both driver and passenger side windows. Most of today's cars still don't have the dual one touches on both windows. The rear defrost is also unique. At the base where the windshield wipers sit there are some extra passes of the defrost element. This is to prevent snow and ice build up below the wiper, and to help prevent it from freezing to the rear windshield.

The first time I had interest in VW campers was in the early 80's when my dad and I went to a VW showroom. Many years later my father bought one, and once I am taking possession of to use for a road trip. I have a few days between driving it to my house and departing for a trip. Those few days were busily spent prepping the camper for my adventure with it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reno Ride 200 Enduro

Every year the Reno Dust Devils Motorcycle club hosts the Reno Ride 200. A 200 mile dirt bike ride over the course of two days. I found out about the event last year, but was still to much of a rookie to participate. Both in my riding ability, and in the condition of my machine. I have spent the remainder of last years riding season and this to prepare.
Though I rarely participate in organized events, they are great to help you get into a new activity. I will be participating in this years Reno Ride 200, at least the first day. The first day is the big day; 130 miles.
If anyone is interested in doing this ride, let me know.
vroom vroom

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The power of the SUN

Solar energy. What is there not to like about it. It's free, clean, and renewable. Though most of the time we think about turning light into electricity or heat, we often forget about one of the oldest forms of solar power: clothes drying. When I was a youngster, almost all of our clothes were dried in the sun. We never thought of using a gas or electric dryer unless it was raining out.

Pluses to drying your clothes in the sun include: free, great smell, and disinfecting. Cons to sun drying of your clothes include: time consuming, sun bleaching, and stiffness.

I had some time this weekend to wash a load of baby clothes. Instead of using the dryer I opted to line dry the items. Though I could have used a foldable drying rack, the cable railing of the deck provided amble drying space.

The first step was to wipe down the line. Being outside, even lines which appear clean will cause a mark on white clothes. Next I hung and affixed a clothes pin to each article of clothing. After several hours, I took the clothes down and threw them into the dryer for a quick fluff. This softened the clothes and removed the unwanted starchiness of line dried clothes.

We often go to great length to save a buck. Coupon clipping, DIY project instead of hiring out. But line drying clothes is a easy way to save some money, and our earth, while have great smelling clothes.