Friday, December 30, 2011

Bigger Bikes Have Their Advantages Too

With the arrival of the Gunbus motorcycle, you might wonder if we have now gone about as far as we can go with bigger and bigger bikes. "The Lost Motorcyclist" has the feeling that no, we have not. Because no matter what we say about small motorcycles, there are some real advantages to bigger bikes.

I have gone over the advantages of small motorcycles. Cycle Canada's latest issue was devoted to small motorcycles. Now is the time to get real about the advantages of bigger bikes.

The advantages of bigger bikes may fall into two groups. The imaginary advantages and the real advantages. Lets start with imaginary, just to clear the way. Big bikes attract chicks, carry more weight, are not affected by side winds, are safer, go faster, run over dogs without crashing, and are as cheap and as easy to handle as small bikes. I'm going to stop here, even though there are hundreds more BS reasons why big bikes are better than small. All those reasons are crap, and are only useful to convince your wife that you need a bigger (and newer) bike.

Now for the real reasons big bikes are better. They are harder to lift into the back of a pickup truck, and are therefore harder to steal. They can go farther on highways without needed maintenance. They have more crankshaft torque at low engine speeds, and because of that, are easier to start rolling using the clutch, and without a super low first gear. They are less twitchy on the road, so you can spend more time looking at scenery while the bike goes more or less straight. They often have higher top speeds, and can travel at high speeds more safely (mainly due to larger tires).

Although the Gunbus does manage to look good in pictures from some angles, I'm not sure if these reasons are quite enough to make me want to buy a Gunbus, with its 410 cubic inch (6728 cc I believe) motor. But I would be interested to see one riding down a street sometime during my life.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Can Higher Speeds Save You Gas?

Getting better gas mileage at higher speeds goes against my intuitive understanding, which has been reinforced by many years of experience. Apparently some new research indicates that going faster can save you money at the pumps, that the optimum speed for fuel economy is over 100 kph.

I thought this might be similar to the campaign a few years ago to convince drivers that using a car air conditioner could save them gas. At that time, I looked into it and concluded that it was baseless.

In that blog the Lost Motorcyclist (me) said "Here is another debate pitting science and reason against vested interests and wishful thinking." I found this idea had already been written up in Wikipedia, with references. It was on an entry called "Fuel Economy in Automobiles", subheading "Speed and Fuel Economy Studies".

Quoted text

"The most recent study[16] indicates greater fuel efficiency at higher speeds than earlier studies; for example, some vehicles achieve better mileage at 65 mph (105 km/h) rather than at 45 mph (72 km/h),[16]"

I read the reference given "[16]" and found the graphs and charts started on page 27. The report itself referred to other reports, and so I went back to Wikipedia for another research tack.

Two graphs were also given in this Wikipedia section. Interestingly, each graph seemed to give a completely different result. One graph showing the fuel economy vs. speed of eight different cars, and in every case, fuel economy was better at lower speeds. The other graph was completely different, showing peaks of fuel economy for every vehicle in the range of 50 to 60 miles per hour. The source for this second graph has disappeared. The source for the first graph is available at

There is a possible explanation for this difference in fuel economy vs speed. Years ago, I believe most scientists and researchers were working with cars that had standard transmissions, and were left in high gear during the test. A standard transmission's efficiency does not vary much with speed. However, it seems that now many tests are being conducted on automatic transmission cars, which brings up a whole new set of variables.

Automatic transmissions do not have constant efficiency at various speeds, and the type of automatic transmission with an oil fluid torque converter may indeed be more efficient at high speeds. A torque converter decouples the engine from the rear wheels, and all power is driven from a turbine which turns at engine speed, which spins the oil in a housing that in turn spins another propeller driving the rear wheels through a gearbox. That is why manual transmissions are more efficient than automatics with torque converters (i.e. 99% of automatics). I don't know for sure what the efficiency vs. speed of these torque converters would be but I do know that some cars have a device that bypasses the torque converter at a higher speed, to achieve similar efficiency to a manual transmission. That could be one factor leading to new results that cars get better gas mileage at higher speed.

But there is another major factor, and that is the gear selection. In the past it was simply assumed that the car would be run in high gear, and that it would not be shifted to a lower gear at lower speed, as this downshift would result in lesser fuel economy. I'm not so sure today that these cars are run in high gear only, in fact the multiple peaks seem to indicate downshifts taking place as the car slows down.

Here is a thread on the Ecomodders blog, debating this point.

In that forum is a link to another blog by "King of the Road" where he has all kinds of mathematical equations and test results from his own vehicles. The results seem to indicate maximum efficiency of 50 mph. But to me the most telling point is later when he answers a comment with

"Yes, those calculations are run based on numbers gathered on (nearly) level ground, with the transmission using whatever gear the engine map assigns in cruise."

Do people really think an automatic transmission shifting itself is not worth mentioning, even with detailed explanation of experimental methods?

My conclusion is that this story may indeed have some truth, but only if you are using an automatic transmission, and the automatic is doing certain things at arbitrary speeds - which to me seems to be unscientific, and yet it also appears acceptable to many people.

I drive a manual transmission, but a few months ago I was driving my mother's car (an automatic with torque converter). I forgot to pick up gas at the last station on the 401, and with the needle on empty, decided to drive the remaining 40 km. to her home on back roads at a very low 60 kph. I don't think her transmission shifted down on me, as it is only a three speed (not the six speeds like some newer cars). I thought for sure at the time I was getting exceptionally good gas mileage, but in her 15 year old Chevy Cavalier I had no instant MPG display like many newer cars have. In the end, we did make it home without running dry.

Picture: Some ultra low speed driving from

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Is Ubuntu Linux as User Friendly as Windows 7?

Having spent the last four days upgrading computers, The Lost Motorcyclist (me) feels a need to express my opinions about this experience, and what it means for progress in the computer world.

Mary Ann's Windows computer, and my Linux computer were both gradually shutting down. It wasn't just one big thing, it was lots of little unrelated things. For example, Youtube started giving us angry messages that our computers needed to upgrade something. "HEY YOU: THIS IS NOT A SPAM MESSAGE.. GET YOUR FLASH UPGRADED NOW!!!" When I tried to upgrade, neither computer could complete the upgrade, so we muddled on, ignoring the rude messages. Also, Mary Ann's power button was sticking, my computer booted up without recognizing the hard drive, or the mouse, or the video card, all intermittently. Mary Ann repeatedly told me she thought there were viruses in her machine, but twice when I tried to track them down, it turned out to be user error. Other times, files became corrupted. The Internet searches slowed to a crawl.

Finally Mary Ann's Internet Explorer permanently stopped responding. We decided she needed a new computer, and it had to have Windows to run Eudora Mail, and MS Office to run some custom macros in her budget spreadsheet. I also needed another computer, but I could take her old computer and see if it worked like new again with an upgrade to the latest Linux Ubuntu.

So for less than $750, we could get a new desktop plus a $100 a year anti virus program and Office 2010. The new computer has a one terabyte drive. How is she going to use a one terabyte drive? The old computer had 80 gigabyte drive, and in six years was still half empty. If my math is right, this drive is more than ten times bigger. On the other hand, her CPU is fast enough to run full screen high resolution videos, which is better than the quarter screen videos on the last computer.

Next is my computer (actually her old computer). I went to load the latest copy of Ubuntu. Now despite the friendly references to "running alongside Windows", it is not easy to make Ubuntu run alongside Windows. If it runs alone, fine, the install works well. But if you should choose to run it alongside Windows, the next screen to come up asks you to repartition the machine, and gives no instructions on how to do it. If you do it wrong, as I did the first time, it destroys Windows and all the data on your hard disk, and takes 4 hours to do so. I guess it's part of the Linux culture, to screen out wannabees, newbies, and those who are not totally committed to Linux, while pretending to be as user-friendly as Windows.

But surprisingly, this new version of Linux Ubuntu (ver 11.10), is actually very user friendly. Let me explain what user friendliness is. You go into normal MacDonald's and order a big Mac, that is a user friendly experience. However, if they insist that you kill the cow yourself, that is not a user friendly experience. Old versions of Ubuntu and other variations of Linux were not user friendly. But this one is getting very close, and I think Microsoft should be worried.

First thing I noticed is that when I installed Ubuntu 11.10, everything worked! Youtube worked (I can't remember if I needed to download and install something - but if I did, it was easy), and I could run videos with the same video player that Mary Ann's computer uses (VLC). And if any additional software was needed, all I had to do was click on the button and boom it was there. For example, I installed VLC and Gimp (a watered down photoshop) without having to wade through pages of instructions, or going into command mode. Just click on the install button.

Then I downloaded and installed Kturtle, which is inspired by the Logo programming language of the eighties. I have used Logo extensively, first on a Coleco Adam computer, and later on an IBM clone. But it is revealing to look at the differences 25 years of progress have wrought. First, admittedly, the new version of Logo (called Kturtle) is free. I paid $250 for my PC version. Second, the size. Kturtle takes 10 MB of space to download, and 250 megabytes when installed. My PC Logo and Coleco Logo each could fit on a 5 inch floppy or less (Was that 350 Kilobytes?) So at least thirty times smaller just on the install file - never mind the 250 MB disk space. And how about the power? Both my 25 year old Logos could write data to disk, and came with a comprehensive manual and had enough power to create a home budget program. Coleco Logo also had self moving sprites (up to 12 I think) and collision, trackball and event detection, and could change the shape of the sprites (or turtles) on the fly, and had subscripted variables. I was able to write a paint program with it. By comparison Kturtle has almost no real power except for moving one turtle around a screen. To be fair, there may be a lot more power hidden there, as I have only glanced at the meagre reference manual. But it seems dedicated to the ages of 3-6 years old. And it does not write data to disk or have subscripted variables. And why on Earth would they change the commands? That's right, the most basic turtle commands. "Forward 5". Logo shortened that to FD 5. Kturtles shortens it to FW 5. Is that obfuscation or what? How about RIGHT TURN 90. Logo used RT 90. Kturtles uses TR 90. That sums up everything wrong with human interfaces. Is that what we want to teach our kids?

Speaking of common user interfaces, where did the menus go? This applies to all the applications on the computer. I understood that main menus were always at the top left corner of the window executing your program, and were visible all the time. Not any more. They go invisible unless you roll a mouse over them. Bad enough I guess, if you LEAVE THEM IN THE SAME PLACE!!! But now the (invisible) menus are all in the top left corner of the monitor screen. I couldn't find this valuable information on Google, (try googling "missing menus in Ubuntu 11.10) and finally found it on my own by sheer luck.

Anyway, Ubuntu 11.10 is catching up to Windows, and it's free and easily reinstallable by ordinary users. It has Word and Excel file compatibility also free. (but not macro compatibility - so my fault for writing Excel macros ten years ago that I still use). Ubuntu is nowhere near as virus prone as Windows. And it took me about as long to fiddle with Mary Ann's new Windows computer as it did to do the new Ubuntu install (if you subtract the wasted four hours of reformatting my disk). And that is after I paid the Future shop $120 to clean up all the commercial marketing crap that comes with the new Windows computer, and install an anti virus program.

Next time Mary Ann's computer needs replacing, I will find some alternate to those Microsoft Excel macros first. Then we can both use Linux Ubuntu.

Picture: from

Monday, November 14, 2011

What Kind of Motorcycle Gear Would God Wear?

One of my blogs receives a lot of hits from people who google "What kind of motorcycle does God ride?". So I decided to cash in on this success (not literally, as I have not monetized my blog), by doing a follow-up. This time, the question is "What Kind of Motorcycle Gear Would God Wear?" By the way, "The Lost Motorcyclist" is the original author of this blog, and all those other commercial websites you found on Google with the exact same article about God's motorcycle, are copying my blog without permission.

I think it would be best to start at the top, with the helmet. As they say, if you have a ten dollar head, get a ten dollar helmet. With God's head, it would be impossible to find a helmet to match the cost, which would be well into the trillions I expect. But given that it is impossible to damage God's brain in an accident, you could make do with a plastic beanie, and not even worry about the DOT approval - just make sure to put the sticker on in case God gets stopped by the police. Of course, He could get out of jail easily, but God doesn't want any hassles from the fuzz.

Next is the question of the jacket. Hi-vis textile? Black leather Hell's Angels type jacket? The answer is simple. God does not need high visibility reflective colours as His glowing halo is visible enough from miles away. Also, we know intuitively that God is not a wimp, and so He would wear a real hard core 1%er black leather jacket. Hard core motorcycle jackets have "Gun pockets", where God could conceal his piece. But many motorcycle jackets have wimpy gun pockets that can only conceal a small Glock. God's gun pocket should be big enough for an Uzzi. With another smaller pocket for a back-up Glock. Not that God needs the protection of a gun, but some people just listen better when a loaded gun is pointed at them.

To complete the outfit, God would need a rebel do-rag, alligator skin cowboy boots, fingerless gloves, t-shirt saying "My Dad created the universe and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt", and American made blue jeans. I'm not sure about the underwear, so I'm going to leave that part up to God.

ANSWERS TO MY LAST BLOG ABOUT GOD'S MOTORCYCLE. To keep it brief, I pictured God riding a Dodge Tomahawk V-10 motorcycle. To answer some objections, yes, God can easily pick up a 1,500 lb motorcycle if it drops. And even though the tank only holds 3 gallons (smallish American gallons), I guarantee God will not be the one to hold up your group ride because he needs gas - God's gas is renewable! And, finally, how many time must I repeat it? Yes, God is OK with me writing blogs about Him. God loves humour, that's why He told me the Canucks would win the Stanley Cup last year.

Monday, November 7, 2011

How To Put On Cold Weather Clothes for Motorcycling

This is not about what to wear for cold weather, but how to put it on. How you perform the act of getting dressed can mean all the difference between a cold ride and a warm ride, even if you are wearing exactly the same gear in the same weather. It seems to me that although there is a lot of information about what to wear, nobody ever seems to talk about how to put it on.

According to the Lost Motorcyclist (me), the basic principle is this: that you must not get sweaty and start perspiring while getting dressed for cold weather. That's because moisture cools you off, and conducts heat through otherwise warm insulation. That moisture will stay trapped in place under heavy winter gear, and you will get cold much sooner than if you started completely dry.

It's not as easy as you think to avoid getting sweaty under your cold weather gear. Most people get dressed in a warm house, at a temperature much too high for their warm clothes. And some cold weather gear is difficult to get into, meaning it takes time and physical effort, both of which increase the perspiration and moisture inside your clothes.

The first, most basic thing is to not begin getting dressed immediately after a physical workout. Wait for your body to cool down first. And make sure all your normal clothing, that you will be wearing under the winter gear, is dry before you start.

Second thing is to take care of all preliminary tasks before you put on your cold gear. In my case, that would be taking the motorcycle out of the garage and getting it pointed in the right direction for a ride. I do that before I put on any cold weather gear.

Third is to actually put on most of the gear - probably overpants, boots, and sweaters. This must be done quickly and effortlessly. If your gear takes too much time and effort to put on, you should get better gear or practice your technique.

Fourth, put on the last of the cold weather clothing outdoors, where it is cold. That would probably be the helmet, outer jacket, neck warmer, and gloves. I also usually leave those items inside the warm house until I am ready to go.

If you have done it all right you can be on your motorcycle, heading out of the driveway feeling warm but not overheated, and you can ride for a long time before you start to feel cold. The actual time might range from half an hour to all day long.

How far you can go before getting cold is a combination of many things: the temperature outside, the type of gear you are wearing, the wind protection on your motorcycle, your own body's tolerance for cold, and your heating system (if you have one like electric or chemical heat sources.) But among of all of those factors, the most poorly understood, yet critical, is the art of actually getting all that gear on and getting out the driveway.

Here is a funny video from Columbia sportswear that illustrates one way to put on cold weather gear, and there is some truth to it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Vulcan 900 Brake Pads

Motorcycle maintenance is more like a riddle than an art, according to "The Lost Motorcyclist".

For the first time since I bought a 1972 Honda scrambler six years ago, I was able to do some actual motorcycle maintenance in my garage. That's because I found a new home for the scrambler last week, and now there is enough space in the garage again for me to work on the remaining bikes.

Let's begin with what happened this morning. I rode my Vulcan 900 Classic over to Zdeno's, where they were able to install a new rear tire while I waited. During the install, I was informed that the brake pads were getting thin, and I asked them to replace the rear pads while they had the wheel off. While that was being done, I had time to reflect on all the years that I insisted on doing all the maintenance myself, and how this golden rule was being broken down step by step. This was another step, the first time I let someone else replace my brake pads (or shoes as we used to say in the sixties).

When I got home I suddenly realized that there were pads on the front of the bike too, and that they had never been inspected either, and they probably needed replacing even more than the rear pads. So I got on the bike again and drove across town in rush hour traffic to pick up a new pair of pads for the front. These, I would install myself.

I didn't have time to work on the bike until 8:00 PM. Normally I would not work on my bike in the driveway when it is dark out and 3c, but I remembered that I could now work in my "roomy" and well lit garage.

At first, everything went well. I removed the two caliper bolts as per the shop manual. Then I got stuck. The rim of the wheel prevented the caliper from coming off the rotor. I wasted no more than a minute fiddling with it, then came inside the house to jump on the internet and get some helpful advice from the Vulcan Forum. For some reason, I have never seen the internet so slooooow. I looked up post after post, and no one said anything about a difficulty removing the caliper. Finally I came to conclusion that (1) my bike was different from everyone else's (2) Or, it was so simple that no one else thought it worth mentioning.

I went back out to the garage and fiddled around until I realized that I needed to bend the fender a little (It's plastic, so that's OK) and my brake hose was a bit short because it was wrapped around my custom windshield bracket. Also the far side of the caliper was shorter than the side near to me, and the whole caliper was closer to coming off than I realized.

So, caliper is off, what next. "Remove clip pin" it says. I don't see a clip pin. Also, I don't know that a clip pin is supposed to look like. Is this some new 21st century technology? So I start working over the pad post with pliers, until I notice something moving in the crack between the pad and the bracket. Hey that must be the clip pin in there. I look in with a flashlight and some reading glasses, and there it is. Once you see something, it really is a lot easier to remove, and now I even remember what a clip pin looks like. I have seen many of them before.

When I bought these new brake pads, I was a bit worried because these are the first pads I have ever seen where the pair do not match. With the old pads, the only way you could mount them wrong would be to put the friction material pointing away from the disk instead of toward the disk (don't ask). With asymmetrical pads, there are many more ways (in theory, maybe four ways) to install them wrong. Anyway, lets continue with our look at the new brake pads. These pads have a very clever design feature, that you only need to remove one clip and shaft, to take out both the pads. Up till now, I have always had to remove two shafts (with their clips) per pair of pads. This new design is more complicated to think through. But it is simpler to build, and uses fewer moving parts, and is quicker to change the pads. I also noticed that the way the caliper is constructed, it is very unlikely to rust solid and stop working properly. That is the kind of progress that I like. Simpler and better ways to design things. Nothing much to brag about, because it is actually cheaper, but still an improvement because the performance stays 100% much longer and less maintenance is needed.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tinkering With the Riding Gear: Helmets

We often hear of tuning up a motorcycle, but rarely of tuning up the gear (i.e. clothing) for a motorcycle ride. Yesterday, "The Lost Motorcyclist" (me) decided to adjust his (my) gear. Recently I have bought a new helmet that needs a better attachment. And another problem, we are coming into some cold weather, when my face shield must be lifted frequently, but the pivot is sticky.

On my Vega half helmet, the D-rings keep jamming when I try to tighten the strap. I decided to forget about the D-rings and buy one of those add-on snap clips that make the helmet much easier to attach and undo the chin strap. So I went over to Zdeno and asked for the chin-snap thing, which the girls at the counter immediately recognized as a "quick release". So I got what they said, it was an "Echo Quick Release" for $12.00 plus tax. I've bought some of these before, but this looked like a new design - three pieces instead of the usual two (like Mary Ann's helmet). I tried to put it on my full face helmet outside in the parking lot. At the same time, I was trying to help another customer stuff his purchase into his saddlebags. When he saw me looking puzzled about my "quick release" he suggested I go back into the store and let the girls figure it out for me. I said "Not before I at least read the instructions." Later when I got home with my quick release working properly, I remembered I wanted to put it on my half helmet, but now I couldn't figure out how to get it off the first helmet. I checked the Internet. One guy had hacksawed his off when he realized it took longer to do and undo than regular D-rings. This didn't sound too good. Somebody else said that their wife used one, had an accident and the helmet came off. Even worse!

A web page by the Echo company explained (with pictures) how the get their quick release off a helmet. Their method worked fine. But now I was worried about all the consumer complaints I read about. I could tell right away that this helmet quick release was harder to snap on and off than all the other ones I have used. But that might be a good thing in case of an accident. However there was one other problem, and that was if you don't snap it properly, it can jam in an insecure position.

I tried snapping it off and on many times, and basically, the spring is a lot stiffer for the release clips than the other quick releases I have used. And yes, it is possible to get it crooked, but some practice could avoid that. Some people apparently do it up looking in a mirror, but really I don't think that is necessary. As a final test I asked Mary Ann to put it on and take it off. She looked at the quick release clip first then put the helmet on her head and snapped it correctly. Then she had a bit of trouble getting it off, she could not feel the release buttons at first, but only because they are different to hers. Then I tried the helmet myself with gloves on. It's quite hard to put on with gloves, but not impossible, and fairly easy to get off.

My final analysis: this quick release looks like it might be even safer in a crash than any previous quick releases I have used, despite the three piece design. Actually, the two steel pieces end up locked to each other, and the third plastic piece simply keeps the steel pieces aligned. It hooks up very positively, and will not release very easily by mistake. But the Echo is a bit harder to snap and unsnap than the others. Some people may not have the patience for this, I suppose.

I remembered the face shield was hard to lift on the full face helmet. In the summer this is not too much of a problem, but in the cold weather, I have to move the face shield up and down frequently - either to prevent fogging at a traffic light, or to keep my face warm at speed. It was getting so stiff, that when I lifted it up, it tried to move the entire helmet on my head. So I took off the shield and put some Vaseline (petroleum jelly) on the rubbing parts in the hinge. That seems to do the trick, it was very easy to open and close on my trip to Port Dover today - and it still holds its detent positions in between.

So it seems that with motorcycles themselves getting more and more maintenance free, I am going to have to get my jollies tinkering with the riding outfit instead. At least I can do that inside the house in the winter, where it's warm.

Picture: I took this on the other side of Port Dover harbor channel today.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Time to Reopen the Climategate Debate

Most Americans now believe that global warming is a hoax. Not only that, but many also believe that science itself is unreliable, and believe that most scientists in any field of research will fudge figures in order to obtain research grants. Most of this ill-will came about because of the controversy around global warming, and specifically the stolen emails from climate researchers that seemed to indicate they were using underhanded methods to "fake" global warming. (A.K.A.Climategate).

Making things worse, science itself seems to still be locked in mortal combat with the religious fundamentalists about the theory of evolution, and the fundamentalists are lending their financial resources and publicity to the fight against real science. (I use the term real science because the fundamentalists' latest tactic is to claim to be an alternate, "honest" type of science where the Earth is only 6,000 years old)

It is really sad to see popular opinion turn against science. I can understand my sister, who is a fundamentalist Christian, thinking that science is evil. I have a harder time accepting that a friend I made in Africa with CUSO believes the same thing. Even harder to believe that old college friends, from the science program at university, also believe that global warming is a hoax. These are just the people I know personally who believe the Climategate scandal. I assume the public opinion polls are right, and that many more people believe the same way.

But apparently last week there was a bit of a breakthrough. An independent voice took another look at global warming data, to see if the Climategate scandal was true. A report came out by Richard Muller, who is a scientist who in the past was skeptical about global warming. Richard Muller obtained funding (some from oil companies, apparently), assembled a team, and embarked on a project to find out if the data from Climategate did indeed indicate warming or not.

The above article indicates that his independent effort corroborates exactly what global warming scientists have been saying.

Does this mean the end of the controversy? Of course not. This report has been given almost zero air time, compared to the massive publicity that was given to the stolen emails. In fact it was given almost no air time even compared to the coverage of MacDonald's new McRib, according to Jon Stewart of the Daily Show (Oct 26, 2011). Also, Forbes Magazine ran an opinion piece by James Taylor "The Birth of a Straw Man" that basically said Richard Muller had not done any new research and that Global Warming was still a hoax.

The Forbes article, if you choose to read it, claims Richard Muller's research is a failure, because it does not turn up anything new, and because it does not answer the question of whether or not global warming is man-made. Well, of course not. It was intended to only look at climate data from weather stations - because that was issue of the Climategate controversy. It was a very comprehensive study to see if the data had indeed been fudged to get grants, as was claimed by the press. And it found the climate scientists not guilty. Too bad people like James Taylor are given so much space in influential magazines to air opinions that a fifth grader should be able to rebut.

Of course, Richard Muller's study is only a small part of the huge amount of research being done on Global Warming. True, it brings no new information to light, but it is an independent fact checking on the scientists who were accused of fudging their figures to obtain grants. They didn't. Now can we resume an intelligent conversation about Global Warming, or is it too late?

OK then, while we wait, how good is that new McRib burger?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Port Dover Chronicles: October 23, 2011

I am slipping further and further into the "biker" image. It is hard not to notice that 99% if motorcyclists who visit Port Dover wear black leather jackets. I, on the other hand have a few textile jackets and an old brown leather bomber jacket. I will give you an idea how old my brown leather jacket is. When shopping for it, I had trouble finding a jacket that was not a copy of the red leather jacket worn by Michael Jackson on the "Thriller" video. I had a few other leather jackets of various colours, one was even older, but some of them developed mildew from storage, and Mary Ann gave them the old heave ho.

Most of my friends also ride with black leather jackets, while I often wear my fluorescent lime green textile jacket. The jacket is so bright I'm afraid to wear it into restaurants. It also makes me look fat. I appear to weigh nearly 400 pounds while wearing my 2XXL green jacket on the Kawasaki Vulcan. But I read that black leather jackets make you look thinner - another reason they are popular. Also, check out these pictures of Marlon Brando (a) wearing a black leather jacket and (b) not wearing a black leather jacket.

The Lost Motorcyclist (me) found a nice jacket on the Internet for $375 but I was reluctant to order it because I like to look and feel first. Then I realized the same retailer has a store in London, Ontario, where I know that they have hundreds of jackets to try. I found the exact same jacket in the store, but I found out that they have higher prices when you actually go into the store, as compared to what you get when ordering over the Internet. So I might have been better off going back home empty handed and ordering the same coat from the same store over the Internet. However, they allowed me to buy the coat in the store for the same price as the Internet (plus shipping, even though I did not need shipping). In the end the jacket cost more than I first thought, but I really prefer to buy what I can try on first. And I didn't feel bad about trying on something at the store then ordering cheaper online, because it was the same company doing both the online and the store business.

Today I got to try out the jacket on a ride to Port Dover. First I met up with Barry and Bob at Tim Horton's. Bob was riding his Suzuki Intruder 1400, with a Mustang seat. I am very curious about aftermarket seats so he allowed my to try his bike for a ride to another Tim Hortons. I was amazed at how smooth the ride was compared to my Vulcan! On normal roads the rear suspension seemed to float on air. But then we went over a few rougher roads and I could feel the suspension bottoming out a little. Bob said his shocks are old and probably lost all their oil, and that's why they're so soft. The Mustang seat on the other hand didn't feel any softer than my stock Kawasaki seat. On the Vulcan, it takes about 45 minutes usually for "numb butt" to begin. Maybe the Mustang could stay comfy longer, but my test was not long enough to tell. In the end, I did enjoy riding a different bike for a while, but it only made me appreciate the Vulcan more when we swapped back.

The jacket also worked out very well. The temperature was only about 15c, and the jacket kept me warm. I really like the high collar on the jacket, which helps protect my neck, and the zipper that goes all the way to the top. But the collar is also so stiff that it digs into my chin and may stretch my neck out if I wear it too long. That is a problem I have with a lot of jackets when I try to fasten up the neck, and I always find a solution in the end. I also found out that my jacket weighs seven pounds, which seems really heavy, but maybe that's also a sign of good protection. It also has armour in the elbows and shoulders, but I left those at home.

I was the only one to carry on to Port Dover, where I was lucky to get the last apple fritters of the season from "Apples", the place in Port Dover that sells real deep fried apple fritters. But by the time I was finished, the temperature was starting to drop, and I needed to head home without any further delay. By six o'clock, I arrived home and the sun was disappearing behind some clouds. At this time of year, you should not waste daylight.

Pictures: One of the Lost Motorcyclist with black leather jacket, riding my bike in a parking lot. Next two pictures of Marlon Brando, with and without black leather jacket. These were not photoshopped!

Since When is Lying a Conservative Value?

For several years now I have wrestled with this interesting question. Who is telling the truth on TV and on the Internet? On one hand you have the Conservatives claiming to tell the truth. On the other you have the Liberals with exactly the same claim. In order to sort out the difference, I might have to fact-check every single statement made on TV or in the media. Even I, with my high speed Internet connection, and abundant free time, have been intimidated by this prospect. And as a result I have disengaged from some political debates that seem bogged down because of conflict source material. The fact is, most source material for political arguments does come from the media.

But now I think there is finally an issue that separates Conservative values from the Liberal values. This issue promises to put to rest the question about who is lying and who is telling the truth. It all comes down to one word: "Knowingly".

Last February, 2011, the CRTC applied to change a rule prohibiting the broadcasting of false and misleading information in Canada. According to their website the effective date of this rule change would be September 1, 2011. As of September 1, radio and TV stations are only prevented from "knowingly" broadcasting false and misleading information.

Is the addition of the word "knowingly" that big of a deal? Well, for one thing, a TV network would do well to fire any fact-checkers and researchers that they currently employ. The less they know, the less their legal liability. There is no CRTC regulation forcing broadcasters to hire fact checkers or researchers - I guess that was implied in the regulation preventing the broadcasting of false and misleading information. So my legal advice would be to fire the researchers and real reporters.

To illustrate the legal case, what is the difference between "Speed Limit of 100 kph" and "Speed Limit of 100 kph* (* knowingly)". When you are pulled over for speeding, the first question is "Did you know what speed you were going?" The answer, "No sir, I was not watching my speed" is not a good defence. Wouldn't it be fun if the law was only to punish people who admitted that they know what speed they were going? I would love to answer, "No sir, I don't have a clue! My speedometer is busted/covered with mud/my eyes don't focus that close/I was busy texting". The officer then is forced to reply "Oh, I am sorry, I didn't realize that you were unknowingly doing 235 kph back there. Sorry for the delay and have a nice day!"

Now who is pushing this small, but disturbing change to TV regulation? First I do not think it is the Liberals or the left wing. Fact one: This change is being made under a conservative government. Fact two, a new conservative TV station, Sun News, coincidentally began broadcasting right wing propaganda in the springtime of 2011. I am not aware of any left wing propaganda stations starting up lately. I realize that this is just circumstantial evidence, there is no publicly stated policy from the conservatives on lying. But the evidence is still very strong, and has the implication that the Conservatives are in favour of spreading untruths and misinformation.

From now on, what is the point of debating "Global Warming" based on media sources? What's the point of debating war, labour unrest, religion, free markets, or any of the other hundreds of political hot buttons? We will no longer be able to have a common point of reference in the media, a reference that we have counted on for years.

In a final note, I have not been able to find final confirmation on the Internet of this CRTC rule change. Last I heard, the left wing groups were still fighting it. All my sources are from January-February this year. But even if the "knowingly" modification is thwarted, it still is a clear indication of which side is more willing to spread false propaganda.

Picture: The Lost Motorcyclist photoshopped this speed limit sign to add the word "knowingly".

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fire Don Cherry, Ban Bare Knuckle Fighting

With Spain considering a ban on bullfighting, is it time for Canada and the USA to ban ice hockey? (Because the NHL covers both countries)

Don Cherry had an outburst against people who are against fighting in hockey. This got me thinking. There is a movement in Canada that seems to be starting, to investigate the damage caused by fighting in hockey. Don Cherry, the commentator on CBC hockey games is one of the most unabashed promoters of fighting in hockey and he was visibly upset with the attitudes of some of the ex-players who had said something about fighting. Don Cherry called them "pukes and turncoats", as apparently these guys had been fighters themselves during their NHL careers.

Here is the situation. Bare knuckled boxing is against the law in Canada and the USA. But there is a demand for this type of brutality. Professional ice hockey has somehow developed a symbiotic relationship with bare knuckled fighting. We actually have two sports parasitically living on each other. Bare knuckled fighting uses "National Hockey League" ice hockey to gain legitimacy, as the fights take place during hockey games. Hockey uses bare knuckled fighting to attract "fans", and to make more money.

No other professional sport does this. This is what I believe. In the National Hockey League version of ice hockey, a certain number of players are recruited by each team to do the fighting. The coaches send the fighters out when they are ready for a session of bare knuckled boxing, and the hockey game is temporarily suspended while the fight is going on. These are not spontaneous fights between hockey players. These are planned fights between athletes hired for their fighting abilities (most of the time - occasionally some other player will be attacked.)

They say that "fighting is part of the game". It is not. I have seen plenty of games with no fights (e.g Olympic hockey). It's time for NHL hockey to ban fighting, it is a very easy thing to do. Just don't hire fighters, and give stiff penalties for fighting. And of course, fire Don Cherry, that loudmouth ignorant embarrassment. (I Googled "fire don cherry" and got 28,000 hits.) Hire a commentator who knows hockey. Let's get back to the sport of hockey, which is not a bad game without the fight fans screaming for blood.

Picture: I got it off this website. There is a video also, which I did not look at, but I assume proves my point, that the fights are a separate sport from hockey, and should be as illegal as bare knuckled boxing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Glenn Fox, Trashing Green Energy Again

It seems Glenn Fox is up to his tricks again. He has co-authored a report claiming that green energy is too expensive for Ontario. I saw this report mentioned on TV today.

I have written two other blogs in relation to Glenn Fox. One about a different University of Guelph's economics professor and his political one sidedness when it comes to Green Energy.

The next was about a lecture I attended by Glenn Fox titled "It's not easy being green"

This previous blog attracted a few comments that were debated at length. And unlike the usual web comments section (for example the CTV article linked at the top of this blog), the debate on my blog was civil, and ranged from scientific to philosophical.

At the end of the debate I admitted that while I could give my opinion that lecture I attended was one-sided, I probably should not judge the rest of Glen Fox's life work as being equally biased against environmentalism and alternate energy.

Now Energy Minister Duguid of Ontario Government is saying that this new report is one-sided and flawed, and that one of the authors is known to be anti-alternate energy. I wonder if that biased person could be Glen Fox?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Non-Iron Butt Tour

It has been raining steady for a few days now, so I'm going to write about a crazy ride that I took long ago.

The Iron Butt rally is a long extreme endurance motorcycle ride, that first ran in 1984.

Since then, they have expanded their activities to many "self guided" rides. During these rides, the rider must complete a certain distance in a certain time, and document the result with gas receipts and witness signatures.

I have often read of the exploits of the Iron Butt riders, and I am quite amazed at the number of people willing to go on these runs. But I have never wanted to participate myself.

Except for the coincidental similarity, this trip has nothing to do with the Iron Butt association. I have no documentation to even prove I took this trip. It predates the first Iron Butt rally by one year.

In 1983, I bought my third motorcycle, a Honda Silver Wing GL500. I was 35 years old and living in Kitchener, Ontario. It was a hot August, and a plan formed in my mind to take my new motorcycle on a long solo trip to Baie Comeau Quebec, my home town, located about 800 miles away to the northeast. I packed my bike and left home at about 1:30 on Friday afternoon, Aug 12, 1983, planning to be back by Sunday night. This was already quite an ambitious schedule. It was my first ever long distance motorcycle trip on my own. I figured I could make more miles a day alone than with a passenger.

The journey started off quite normally on a hot sunny afternoon. I rode the ever so boring 401 heading east. I planned to stop and stay with my sister in Quebec City for the night, but I didn't phone ahead to let her know I was coming, that is something my passenger might have done, if she was coming along with me. Anyway, Quebec City is a good 11 hours from Kitchener, driving non-stop except for gas breaks and the occasional burger and coffee. I arrived there at about 11 PM, and it was a bit too late to drop in unannounced. But that was where the interesting road began, as I left the freeway and entered the mountains. I was psyched up to hit the mountains for the very first time on a bike over 250 cc, and unencumbered by the weight of a passenger. So I just kept going into the darkness.

By this time there was a bit of a chill in the air. I was getting further north and the sun had set. I had no windshield on this bike, and I had not thought of bringing my cold weather gear. As the night wore on, I stuffed some papers in the front of my jacket to help insulate me. Right now I forget where I got those papers - maybe free papers at some roadside tourist stop. By about 2:30 AM I had reached the ferry over the Saguenay River and I was cold. So I appreciated being able to warm up in the lounge and also grabbed a hot chocolate from a vending machine.

I was still wide awake and keen to ride on. I enjoyed watching the stars, and in fact there was a meteor shower going on that I could watch with fascination as I drove through the night.  Also, in the moonless night, the northern lights were visible.

Soon after I left the ferry, I saw the bus behind me. This would be the Quebec City- Baie Comeau bus, that I had taken as a passenger a few times. It stops in most towns to see if there is someone to pick up. And I knew that it was fast. I was going about 110 kph on the straights, and the bus kept catching up. But each time we reached a town, it had to drop back and look for passengers. I was driving as fast as I dared in the mountains in the dark, but gradually the lights of the bus gained on me between towns. It was a close race. Finally at about 5 AM, I was still ahead, but too cold to carry on. I was beginning to shake. So I stopped beside the road right near the Outardes river as the sun was coming into view. I started jogging to build up some body heat. Within less than two minutes, the bus roared by, leaving me in a wind vortex. Right behind the bus, looking like it was being towed, was a police car. I was glad he wasn't following me. The sight was intriguing enough that I got back on the bike and tried to follow to see what would happen, but I couldn't catch up.

Before long I had reached Baie Comeau and I wasn't really sure what to do next, because my plan didn't go that far ahead. I was hungry so I went to a restaurant for breakfast. Back then, there were no Tim Hortons or MacDonalds in Baie Comeau, so I went to a real restaurant and got a huge breakfast. I don't remember what I had, but I still remember it as one the best breakfasts ever.

Still without a plan I rode around town looking at the houses I used to live in. Then I decided that I had seen enough and I wanted to do more riding. So I turned around and headed back home. I knew I would need sleep at some point, and I would deal with it when I got tired. By about 8:30 AM it was starting to hit me, so I pulled off into a picnic area on a beach. There were some big flat rocks, so I laid down and immediately fell asleep. I woke up about an hour later with an itchy mosquito bite. I got back on the bike and started riding again, this time I was warm and actually felt rested.

Passing through Quebec City again, I stopped at a tourist information to find out how to get to my sister's house. I had not been there before, so I asked for instructions on how to get to "la rue Des Tours". The girl at the counter said there is no Rue Detours in Quebec city, perhaps I was mistaken and it was a "detour" sign? No, I insisted. And then I said it is located near "La Rue Larue". At this point the tourist information girl began to become suspicious that I was pulling her leg, "rue" being also the French word for "street"). I left without any instructions, and so continued on towards home without stopping. Later on, I found out that it was not "Rue LaRue", it was "Avenue Larue". Excuuuuuse me, and anyway, both those streets are in Beauport, not Quebec City, and so not on the Quebec City map, even though they are right next to each other.

Somehow I kept going through the rest of the day and well into the night again but in southern Ontario the night was warm - over 25c. My final pit stop was a 401 service centre just east of Toronto, about 200 km from home. While I was sitting drinking a coffee outside another motorcyclist came over to talk, and wanted to know where I was from. "Kitchener" I said, and he said "Man, you are far from home."

So I continued on and made it home just after midnight, for a total distance of 2650 km. There was no one home, so I just fell asleep until the alarm went off at 6:30 AM, I guess I forgot to turn it off for the weekend.

Picture: That's me (The Lost Motorcyclist) in 1983 pumping up the air shock on the rear of the Silver Wing. The picture is also on my Microverse website, along with a review of the bike.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It Grows on You

There is an expression about something that "grows on you", which means that it takes time to get to like something. This usually happens when I get a new motorcycle. At first I'm a bit uncomfortable with it, then with time I start to appreciate it.

The process of "growing on me" happens in many different ways. Most importantly is the appearance. Often I think new motorcycles are a bit strange looking. But with time, I sometimes see why they look the way they do. Or maybe I just get used to it. When I first got my Vulcan 900, I was a bit put off by all the fake chrome covering the bike. With time, I have removed or covered some of it. And now I realize the fake chrome is a very durable finish, in some cases better than real chrome. Also, as the bike gets older and dirtier, the chrome bits keep it looking almost new. So appreciation begins to take hold as "The Lost Motorcyclist" (me) understands better why the bike was finished that way.

At first I didn't like the look of the tires. Way too fat, I thought. But with time I found out that they lasted twice as long as the tires on my old BMW. All of a sudden they look good to me, and the BMW tires look too skinny. But I was remembering the Vulcan's handling was heavy compared to the precision of the BMW. So I decided maybe I should check the tire pressures, as heavy handling is sometimes caused by loss of air. Each tire was about 10 psi too low, and when I pumped them up, the handling returned to acceptable - although not quite like the BMW. So now the balloon tires are looking even better.

Other than appearance, reliability is an issue for me, and the longer the bike goes without needing repairs, the better I like it. Two days ago I was starting off on a trip down the 401 but when I got to the corner of the street, I saw a cloud of oil puffing out the front of the engine. I thought "great, now the engine has a hole in it." But no, I had added some oil and forgot to put the filler cap back on. It was not entirely my fault, I will explain why. On my previous bike, I forgot the filler cap once, and developed the habit of leaving the filler cap on the footpeg so I could never forget it again. I continued doing the same trick on the Vulcan, but the Vulcan has a strange system of checking the oil. You have to hold the bike upright (with no centrestand this is tricky) to check the oil level. While I was leaning the bike over, the cap slipped off the floorboard and I forgot about it until I saw oil coming out the engine. So I still don't like the method for checking oil level, but eventually I will remember to put the filler cap back on before riding away. When that happens, the bike can "grow on me" a little more. Until then I am a little put off by the oil level checking routine. But one big difference: the filler on the Vulcan is at the front of the engine, where at least I can see it the cloud of oil before I get past the end of the street. On the BMW I didn't notice the oil until the next exit on the 401.

When I first got the Vulcan, I thought the seat was too low. The salesman pointed out that I could always add an aftermarket seat pad if the seat was low, so later on I did do that. With some experimentation, I have found a seat pad that works for me. But with a "normal" height seat, adding a pad is a problem because you will not be able to reach the ground easily. Now I have an appreciation for low seats. And I also found out that if I take off the pad, in the rain or cold, I can duck down behind the windshield more easily. So two unexpected benefits of the low seat.

I'm wondering why the two mufflers are on the same side. I don't see any point to it, and it creates a problem for the passenger footpegs and saddlebags. Because of the twin stacked mufflers on one side, the saddlebag must be shallow, and the passenger footpegs are cramped. And yet almost all cruisers follow the same pattern (except for the touring models like the Nomad.)

When I first got my BMW I was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of having a BMW, which had the image at that time of a luxury vehicle for yuppies. Before long, I started to like having a BMW identifiable brand. When people asked my what kind of bike I had, there was a good answer. But since getting the Kawasaki Vulcan, the conversation goes like this: "Is that a ----------?" my answer: "No, it's a Kawasaki Vulcan". End of conversation. What I find amusing is the different questions I get. "Is that a BMW?" was the first one that almost made me laugh. Nobody ever asked me before if my BMW was a BMW. But last week I got one that had me scratching my head. A little old lady came over to ask me "Is that a Volvo?" I said no, she replied, "I thought it said Volvo on the back of your motorcycle." We  looked, and I said "No that's Vulcan". Looks like another senior will be heading for cataract surgery.

Picture: My bike at Port Stanley.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Port Dover Chronicles 10/10/11

For all you people who think a warm day proves the Global Warming theory, or all those who think a cold day proves it is a gigantic hoax, I would like to explain why you are wrong.

Today I went down to Port Dover on my motorcycle and it was about 25c. This is at least 10 degrees C over the normal average high for this time of year (Oct 10). It is the Canadian thanksgiving weekend, and I cannot recall seeing people sunbathing and swimming on this weekend before.

But even this strangely warm day does not prove global warming, because it is still within the normal range of temperatures. In the winter we can have highs of -20c, and in the summer highs can be up to of +38c.

Global warming theory predicts a change in average temperature a hundred years from now of only about 2 degrees Celsius, which is so small that you could not "feel it" even if it were 100 years in the future and global warming (for the sake of argument) had come true.

And while I'm in the mood for an educational blog message - Canada's Thanksgiving comes a month earlier than the USA because we have an earlier harvest, not because we need a head start on our prayers to God. And Al Gore did not "invent" global warming, other scientists had proposed it long ago. There is a Youtube video with scientists from NOAA warning of global warming in 1984. The video could be mistaken for something produced this week, because it is still close to current scientific findings.

Picture 1: Me leaving home this afternoon, wearing my warm weather motorcycle gear. Only a t-shirt under the unlined leather jacket. Signs of the times include the tree turning yellow, the car with its winter tires already on, and the election sign still up on our front lawn.

Picture 2: These are the palm trees at Port Dover that need to be replanted every spring. I sometimes screw up pictures not realizing there is some background thing like a telephone pole ruining the picture. This time there was a dead branch in the foreground hanging down. But I decided to keep it in there because it looks like the tentacle of some space monster coming to get the girl who is sunbathing on the beach. There is an appropriate quote I hear all the time: "When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade". Assuming life also gives you sugar and water. And if life also gives you alcohol, make "Mike's Hard Lemonade", which I am drinking right now after that long hot ride.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Historical Question about the Waterloo Region, Ontario

Yesterday, "The Lost Motorcyclist" (me) had the opportunity to go on a historical walk around one of our local quaint villages, known as Blair, Ontario. Previously, my only knowledge of Blair was that it was a 50 kph s-bend with a few nice looking old buildings, and it was on the west side of the Grand River, opposite Cambridge. It also used to have a good bar for bikers, the Nicholson Tavern, which closed many years ago. But during the walk, I found out several things. Blair now has both a Krishna and a Hindu temple. (weird, but not really the subject of this story). And Blair was the first European settlement in Waterloo Region, with notably the first gravesite, cemetery and school. This discovery got me thinking, that today Waterloo region has three major cities: Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge, all over 100,000 people. Blair is still practically a pioneer village, seeming to have hardly grown at all and the entire thing could almost be considered a living museum of the 1800's.

I decided to investigate on the Internet why Blair is so small, and why it has been overtaken in size by almost all the other settlements in Waterloo region. I suppose I could have asked the tour guide, but it's a complicated question, and it was kind of cold yesterday, and also a bit hard to hear the tour guide with all the traffic noise.

To follow the history, you need to know that community names have changed over the years. Kitchener used to be called Berlin until WW1. And when it was first settled, it was called Sand Hills. Cambridge city is made up of three previous towns of Galt, Hespeler, and Preston (of which Galt was the largest, and was originally called Shade's Mills). Blair was named Shingle Bridge, and Carlyle, before finally being named Blair.

So to begin with, Blair started off around 1809 as a Mennonite settlement for a few people coming up from the USA. Although it was the very first European settlement in Ontario that was not on the shore of the great lakes, its settlers had no grand vision of becoming anything more than a good place to live. The founders of Galt, about seven years later in 1816, had a big vision of bringing in many settlers from Scotland. They started with a very large tract of land, which they subdivided and then sold to settlers that they brought in from Scotland. They picked a site for a town to be the centre of all this activity, and in 1825 a post office was set up, which was called Galt. At the time the post office opened, Galt was the largest, and would remain the largest community in the Waterloo Area until about 1900. Blair would not get a post office for another 30 years after Galt's.

Then in about 1900, Galt was overtaken by Berlin in population and importance. The community of Sand Hills, which had taken the name Berlin in about 1833, had experienced an influx of immigrants from Germany between 1833 and 1900 that was big enough to overtake Galt. Why did so many Germans immigrate at that time, and why did they come to Berlin? The second question almost answers itself: Because it was named Berlin. But that's not the whole story. Most immigrants tend to go to the largest cities, but there was a problem with German immigrants going to Toronto that may have diverted the bulk of them to Berlin. In the 1800's Governor Simcoe attempted to get a large group of German immigrants to move to Markham, just north of Toronto. In this plan, he recruited William Berckzy whose biography is in the credits for this story. William Berczy brought in some Germans and began setting up the town of Markham, and extending Yonge Street from Toronto to Markham, but ran into some difficulties. I can't tell if it was because Torontonians were suspicious of Germans moving in so close, or just financial bad luck, but the deal fell through, and there was considerable ill will between Berczy and the establishment. Hence I assume Germans felt less welcome in Toronto than Berlin, Ontario. And the town of Waterloo, being next door to Berlin was equally welcoming to Germans. The name Waterloo, by the way, is not only named after the site of a great British victory over the French. We also sometimes forget that the Battle of Waterloo was a joint effort of Germans and British.

There were a lot of German immigrants to Canada because Germany is a very big country in Europe that did not really have it's own colonial destination for its people. So, many of the immigrants to Canada were Germans. Canada generally did not object to Germans because after all Queen Victoria was originally German. Also, many Germans had fought for England against the Americans in the revolution, so Germans were actually seen as being more loyal to Canada than Americans. (all that would change with the animosity of two world wars, but hopefully now is almost forgotten).

Picture: I found a picture postcard on the site below of one of the first power generating stations in the Waterloo area - it did not use electricity to transmit the power as we do today. We had a chance to walk around it yesterday in Blair on our historical tour.

Picture from:

Historical material

William Berczy:

German Immigration to Canada:

Blair history:

Galt history:

Friday, September 30, 2011

BMW K1100LT 1992 vs. BMW K1600GTL 2012

Nineteen years ago, BMW brought out the K1100LT motorcycle with a laid-down, inline, four cylinder motor, with four valve heads. The bike had technical innovations such as anti-lock braking, anti-squat drive shaft, floating disk brakes, heated handgrips and electrically adjustable windshield. The motorcycle retailed for a very high $17,000 here in Canada. But that was the perfect bike for me at the time, so I got one. It took many years before any serious competition came along to at least share with the K1100LT a "state of the art" comparison. But nobody was doing better. I owned a '92 K1100LT for 15 years. Although I have not ridden the new K1600GT, a test drive would hardly be necessary to declare it a winner over the 1992 machine.

There have been some challengers since 1992, and this is only the opinion of "The Lost Motorcyclist" (me), but they were all either too heavy, or didn't really attempt the outdo the K1100LT except in horsepower. I don't really need a lot more than 100 horsepower in a bike, so that didn't impress me too much. I also don't need a lot more than 750 pounds of motorcycle. For the rest of the competition, it has been pretty much a toss up as the other makers tried to match BMW's features and performance.

Even BMW fell short of the mark, and they had three bikes that sort of replaced the discontinued K1100LT. First was the R1200RT, which was only a two cylinder and was not even liquid cooled. Next, the K1200GT, which was still a four cylinder bike and still did not have a counter balancer to get rid of vibrations - and that was my main beef with the 1992 K1100LT. And last but not least was the K1200LT whale at over 850 lbs.

But now the K1600GTL finally surpasses the K1100LT in every way. It has more power, although this is not a big issue with me. But it has an inline six cylinder motor, which I consider to be a significant step forward, and also eliminates the need for a counter balance shaft. It has on-the-fly adjustable suspension tuning, another unique and desirable feature. From there it has a slew of other features that may or may not be important, and would need to be examined one by one, and some are not even part of the standard package. But most important to me, to prevent disqualification, BMW has kept the weight down so the bike is manageable, and much lighter than a Gold Wing or the BMW K1200LT.

I have not put in an order for the BMW K1600GTL, because my priorities have changed over the years. This specialized and expensive bike appeals to a fairly demanding buyer. I might have been like that twenty years ago, but now I actually prefer a less expensive Japanese built bike. I don't need the adjustable windshield any more, or the long distance high speed capabilities, either on the freeway or in the mountains. A few years ago, I got a 2007 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT, which has more than enough touring capacity for my current needs and should help keep me out of trouble with the law. The Kawasaki also has a local dealer, and anyway, has not been taken back to the dealer's shop for anything in four years. To be fair, I ignored one recall notice, got tires changed at an independent local shop, and I have also ignored a few maintenance items, and I don't worry that the fuel needle is stuck on zero. All those I probably would have taken to the dealer if I had a BMW. And probably a lot more, judging from comments on the BMW owners' forums.

It seems that the reviews coming in from motorcycle magazines (like Cycle World June 2011) are confirming that this is the new top bike of the touring/"sport touring" class. The only surprise for me is how long it took to get there. And that it was BMW who finally decided to produce a transverse inline six, not Honda or Kawasaki.

Picture: That's me going out for a winter (spring) ride many years ago on the K1100LT.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Squared Off Motorcycle Tires

The Lost Motorcyclist has now put 37,000 km on the second rear tire of the Vulcan 900, and it's still going. This is a record for me, my typical longest wearing rear tire up to now has been about 18,000. I am surprised to find this tire doubling the usual life of a tire. It is a Metzeler Marathon ME880 180/70x15B, bias ply, tubeless, made in Brazil. It cost $200 for the tire, $60 installation, and $18.99 for a new inner tube.

Some owners get long wear from the tires by running them until they are bald or down to the cords. Well, I have done that in the past but still not exceeded much more than 20,000 km. These tires never did have a tread in the centre, so it's hard to tell how much wear there really is. The tread at the outside is still deep, and that's because most of the wear takes place in the centre of the tire (actually a little offset to the left). I can see they are slightly squared off, meaning that the centre part of the tread is flat.

This tire has lasted a long time because of several factors. First, it is an extremely wide tire, and so compared to skinny tires, it can put more rubber on the road. Not only is the contact patch bigger, but there is more actual rubber on the tread. Second, it is a fairly large diameter tire (15 inch rim plus the height of the sidewall), which also puts more rubber on the road, and keeps the number of revolutions down. Third, I would guess it had a hard rubber compound. I can feel that the tire occasionally slips on the road under acceleration going around a corner. Soft rubber would stick better, but not last as long.

I usually change the tire when the handling of the "squared off" cross section becomes too annoying. Squared off tires have a peculiar dynamic compared to new round section tires treads. The difference is in the location of the contact patch, which on a new, round section tire, is always in the center. With a squared off tire, when you lean to the right, the contact patch also moves to the right, and this makes the motorcycle feel funny - usually you have to apply counter steering pressure all the way through a curve. With a new tire, the motorcycle can corner almost without handlebar pressure. Another place that squared off tires feel funny is in a straight line when the road surface is uneven or slanted to the side. The contact patch will move back and forth depending on where the high point of the road is, and this makes the steering feel vague and forces you to grab the handlebars tighter.

There is no way I know of to correct a squared off tire. I suppose driving on twisty roads and scraping footpegs for 20,000 km might work, but around here there is about 0.01 km of curving road every 50.0 km of straight, so do the math. On these roads, the squaring off is only going to get worse. Need I say that shaving off the corners with a cheese grater is a very bad idea?

Some riders have given up on round profile tires altogether, and use car tires. This trend is called "going to the dark side" in a reference to either Star Wars or Dick Cheney, and the fact that car tires are not legal on motorcycles. There is a huge amount of information on this on the Internet. There are plenty of online debates, with entries often started with the words "You, sir, are an idiot!". There are also some videos of tires in action, some accounts of 160,000 km experience in using car tires with no trouble at all. I have never used a car tire on a motorcycle, but I do not have any fundamental objection to it one day. To me, it seems to be simply an extreme case of squared off motorcycle tire, but with plenty of tread in the middle contact area. Now that motorcycles are using these very wide motorcycle tires, the differences do not appear too great. I would worry however, about a speed wobble. Speed wobbles used to kill a lot of motorcyclists, but is seems the bikes (or tires) of today are not as prone to speed wobbles. Unfortunately, the wobbles happen suddenly and car tires have not been scientifically tested the way motorcycle tires have been.

In any case, the appeal of the car tire is mostly the cheapness and long wear. With the new motorcycle tires that seem to get extraordinarily long life, I do not really need the hassle of driving on an illegal car tire the next time I get safety checked on the way to Port Dover for Friday 13th.

Picture: That's my tire, this afternoon. 55,000 km on the Vulcan.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bikers Guide to a Part of Toronto

The weather was perfect for a motorcycle trip, and because "The Lost Motorcyclist" has not done a ride to Toronto for a long time, I decided to go down there with the main aim of finding an outdoor patio for lunch, with motorcycle parking right nearby. Ideally, this parking would be at the curb, because in Toronto curbside parking is free for motorcycles.

I decided to wear my half helmet, because it would be better riding in downtown Toronto. And even though it doesn't match the helmet, I wore my lime flourescent green visibility jacket.

It is actually a very short trip to Toronto from Kitchener, if you stick to the 401. But if you go backroads you can take all day. I arrived there about 12:30, after taking a few back-road short cuts along the way, but I arrived on the Gardiner Expressway, which is a raised freeway along the lakeshore coming in to Toronto. I have done this route many times before, but I have never seen so many new tall buildings. You almost can't see the usual skyline any more from the Gardiner.

My chosen exit was Yonge Street, likely the most well known of Toronto's busiest streets. By "busy" I mean with people walking, more than with cars. Streets are far more interesting where pedestrians outnumber cars about 50 to one.

I have never yet found an outdoor restaurant with parking in Toronto, so this time I decided to try something a little different. At Carlton Street (just after Dundas) I made a right turn off Yonge, then a left at Church. Church Street had just what I was looking for. It was not too busy, some motorcycles parked at the curb (leaving place for me to park beside them), and many outdoor patios on both sides of the street. I saw one motorcyclist leaving his parking spot, so I U-turned and backed into the spot next to him. Then I turned around and looked for the right outdoor patio. There were four right beside each other where I was parked, and I decided to take the one closest to me, which was "Just Thai". I would leave my jacket and helmet on the bike, and keep an eye on it from across the sidewalk.

As I peered inside into the dark, I saw that this restaurant violated two of my most sacred rules for restaurants. One it had cloth napkins. Two, there were no customers. But just as I was removing my sunglasses, I noticed a smiling and friendly waitress, which convinced my I might as well stay and try it out. After all, I had the parking and the outside deck, which was a first.

I sat outside and ordered my meal, and started taking pictures of the streetscape. First I had to wait for two men who were greeting each other over enthusiastically to break it up, so I could take a picture without it looking too gay. Now if you happen to know that this stretch of Church Street is known as the "Gay Village", don't spoil it for the rest of the readers, and remember I've never been here before so I don't know either.

Well, to continue. I got a really nice meal, and a few individuals plus another couple drifted in after me (although I noticed it was all men, and no women). After the meal, I paid and went across the street to take a picture, and I did notice the bar across the street had a rainbow banner hanging in the window, I figured it was a decoration for the Gay Pride parade. And just as I put my camera away, a guy rode by on a purple scooter wearing a purple metallic cape which was billowing out behind. I thought "If that's how you are trying to not look too gay on your scooter, it's not working."

Picture: Just grabbed off the internet.  I did not notice any street signs with rainbow colours, but it's more interesting than the pictures I took.

Independence Movements

Independence is in the news again with Palestine's determination to ask the UN for their own country. Recently, a few new countries have gained independence, including East Timor and South Sudan. And many years ago, but in the British Empire, the present day USA fought for its independence and won, Haiti gained its independence from France, India and Ireland from Britain, and Northern Ireland from Ireland.

The fact is, all over the world there are groups seeking independence from their governments. In Canada, you have a movement in Quebec and maybe Alberta. In the USA, Texans, in Spain, the Basques, In Turkey, the Kurds.

Back in 1948, the Jews gained their independence from Palestine with an act of the United Nations. This was not officially called "independence" since most of the Jews (at that time) did not live in Palestine in the first place, but migrated to the new independent Jewish part of Palestine (called Israel) from other parts of the world.

In 1990, the black people of South Africa, while they did not gain independence, they did gain control of the country in a mostly peaceful takeover. This is one possible the result of an independence movement where the geographic area is not clearly known, and the subject population is an overwhelming majority anyway.

Palestine is now also seeking its independence, after having been conquered by Israel back in 1967.

Why do some independence movements eventually succeed in one way or another, while others fizzle out or just simmer for decades or centuries?

I think one of the long standing simmering independence movements is that of the French in Canada, (now the province of Quebec) going on since the seventeen hundreds. That is an example of not gaining independence (so far anyway), as opposed to East Timor or South Sudan as an example of achieving independence.

The major impetus behind independence is basically the will of the people, and so it sort of comes down to how well the people who want independence are treated by the national government. But there are some other contributing factors.

1. The number of people has to be significant although I can't give a fixed minimum number. Obviously the more the better.
2. The geographic area should be fairly easy to identify.
3. The people who want independence have significant cultural, racial, religious, or linguistic differences to the majority in the country. And this results in some forms of mistreatment at the hands of the existing governing authorities.

Some of the symptoms to look for include violent suppression of a distinct ethnic group by the government using the full force of the military. Another sign of trouble brewing is any overt racial discrimination against the minority, especially disallowing the right to vote or representation in the government, or preventing the free movement of the target group within the country, or to leave or enter the country.

Finally, the resulting new country needs to have some chance of succeeding economically after independence. This generally means that the fight for independence should not destroy the country entirely, and the boundaries of the new country need to be reasonable - not entirely inside the old country, and not too fragmented.

If you take South Sudan, many signs of a struggle for independence were present. The government had a policy of bombing villages in the south to displace the natives. The Southern Sudanese were a difference race, language, and religion from the northern government. There was a fairly overwhelming will of the southern people to separate from the North. In addition, there was oil in the south, and after independence those oil revenues would theoretically stay in South Sudan to help the country become a viable entity.

On the other hand, in Canada and Quebec, the French speaking people are generally well accepted in the rest of the country. They have representation in the federal government. They also have representation in the armed forces and the police. And they have considerable independence already inside the federal system, where they are a province with their own local government. As a result the desire for independence has been reduced over the years to the point where its likely that under half the population of Quebec would support it.

On the other hand, Palestinians have had a rough time with their Israeli masters. They are denied travel permits, they can't vote in Israel's elections, can't import or export goods, can't fish in the ocean. Their homes are demolished and their land has been taken by the Israeli government. They have been bombed and invaded several times. They cannot serve in the military or even buy land most of the time. But until recently they have not been thinking of independence, they have been thinking of taking over Israel. Now it seems like an ever larger number of Palestinians have given up on this goal and would be satisfied with having their own country.

The final step, independence, usually results in a lot of violence and wanton destruction as the occupying forces leave. This happened in East Timor and South Sudan. By comparison, the British left America quite peacefully. But Israel has threatened retaliation in various forms if the Palestinians present a formal request for independence at the United Nations.

Picture: I photoshopped the flag to represent any country wanting independence, not just the USA.