Aug 26, 2022

Fuel Tests

In case you have any confusion about the quality of fuel produced by large amounts of agricultural welfare payments, check out this video on what ethanol does to aluminum and rubber parts:

This is pretty enlightening, too:

And, finally, a motorcycle guy tosses in his several cents:

With all of that said, I have been only marginally careful with my "end of season" fuel. I have used Stabil since the late 80's, anytime my bike is likely to be unridden for more than a few weeks. In my carb days, I often disassembled those damn pieces of plumbing for various reasons, mostly altitude changes. The inside of every one of my bike's carbs were spotless. Seriously, they shined like they'd been polished. The same goes for my snowblowers and lawnmowers. They are the only carbureted motors I own now and I do an inspection at the end of every season. I do try to keep non-ethanol, non-oxygenated fuel in those motors or run them out with Stabil in the last tank before I store them.

Aug 22, 2022

Boiling the Frog

Welcome: The Boiling Frog StoryI had my own special boiled frog moment this week and it reminded me of how easily we settle into to what we’re used to and how quickly we can compromise what we think we “like” or expect from things we use. I’ve been riding my 6-year-old ebike (a late-2016/early-2017 RadPower Rover) since my grandson trashed it badly enough to give it to me in late 2018 in pretty much barely-salvageable condition. He’d commuted in Minneapolis/St. Paul for the year he owned the bike, crashing on the icy roads often, doing little-to-no maintenance, and doing the Millennial thing of ignoring problems until they become insurmountable obstacles. (If I believed in an afterlife, I’d be looking forward to seeing how that characteristic plays out in the long run. I’m still betting on robots over humans.) Over a couple of 2018 winter months, I chased down the non-functional electronic causes, repaired and replaced a lot of obvious mechanical problems and broken parts, and got the bike back to working bit-by-bit. One aspect of getting familiar with a complicated product in that manner is that I sort of reset my expectations as each bit “came on-line.”

Since that initiation, I’ve continued to upgrade the bike and maintain it, sometimes discovering problems that weren’t obvious to a newbie early on. The battery had been particularly abused by sub-zero storage and operating-temperature operation along with crash shocks. When I first started riding the bike, I was using the throttle a lot and, as a result, my range was fairly limited. Over the last 4,000 miles, I’ve learned to use the throttle sparingly and to count on the Pedal Assist System (PAS) to determine most of the bike’s power contribution. A couple of years ago, pre-Covid, I was making 40-50 mile trips on at least a monthly basis. In the last two years, a 20-25 mile trip had become my norm for a long ride, with most days in the 10-15 mile territory. Other than putting the bike chargers on a timer, I don’t do anything special to maintain the batteries.

Last week, Mrs. Day gave her 2019 MiniST a battery "test." We were about 8 miles out when she was stung by a wasp. She's very allergic and, I thought, freaked out, turned around and went full throttle back home and to head for our local clinic. My Rover was already down to 3 bars (from 5 on the battery status indicator) just from riding at PAS2 to that point. Mrs. Day is a minimalist and always rides in PAS3 and 3rd gear on the derailleur. To try to keep her in sight, I kept the Rover in PAS3 and pedaled hard. She was clearly running full throttle (20mph) in full motorcycle mode and she vanished into the distance. I figured she was so freaked out that she wasn't watching the battery status, but I was wrong (again). She still had 4 bars on her battery when she got home. I had been on one bar for the previous 4 miles.

I began to suspect that might need to replace my almost-6-year-old, 5,000 mile battery.

After the big wasp run, I “re-engineered" my grandson's discarded Mini battery bracket to mount on the Rover and, now, I have a newer far more powerful battery on the Rover. The Mini battery, when new, has about 150Wh more capacity than the Rover “dolphin” battery. Over the last few years, my range has been steadily declining and shortening my range to the point that I was pretty much starting to think anything over 25 miles was risky.

I needed to do a LOT of maintenance to the Rover and the cool weather and that battery comparison experience finally motivated me to do it. I cleaned and packed the rear hub bearings and lubed the nylon gears (1st time for that in almost 5,000 miles), cleaned and packed the front bearings, swapped the worn out rear tire for one of the old originals (the front is still ok), installed new brake pads and cleaned and roughed-up the disks, cleaned and lubed the chain and derailleur bearings, repacked the bottom bracket bearings, and generally cleaned and lubricated anything that caught my eye.

For the battery installation, I had to drill mounting holes for two of the 3 battery bracket screws (harder than it sounds because the holes also needed fairly precise countersinking to allow for the Rivnut heads on the bottom side of the battery frame. I installed 45A Quick Connectors in a very tight space between the bracket and wiring entry to make battery replacement fairly simple. Time for a test ride.

It’s probably psychosomatic, but the bike feels way more powerful. That could be real because the internal series resistance of the old battery cells has been increasing, which is the actual cause of battery depletion with age. As I mentioned, the Mini battery has about 150wh more capacity than the original Rover battery and is slightly lighter. I came home, after at least 12 miles of PAS3 operation (a total of 18 miles) and a couple of block-long full power uphill runs with 3 bars remaining (while at power). I think Cannon Falls is back in my range. Over the next several days, I took on tougher rides with more big hills and longer trips. It was obvious that the old battery was on its last legs.

It is also obvious that this is another example of how we become used to what we have and if what we have degrades slowly we won’t notice the degradation until we’re either forced to compare it to something similar or we suffer an outright failure.

Aug 12, 2022

Payback Is A Bitch

I’d been on the road (as a cage passenger, sadly) sans-electronics for a few days and when I came home my email inboxes were filled with the usual crap. I don’t know how people survive with cell phones and the inability to automatically screen callers, texters, and email. I flag practically everything as “spam” and I still ended up with more than 150 pieces of crap in my email accounts after 4 days and, at most, there were a half-dozen things to which I actually want or need to pay attention. And all that is after my spam filter has automatically trashed about 50% of everything sent to me. One of the things that caught my eye was from a local motorcycling (not biker) group. One of the members linked a few pages of the jury decision in the case of a truck driver who crossed into the oncoming lane and killed 7 bikers. WebBikeWorld has some additional information on the case here. where it is noted that “One of the motorcyclists had a BAC nearly double the state's 'too drunk to drive' limit.” The poster speculated that the jury found Volodymyr Zhukovskyy to be innocent because “the jury was filled with idiots. Or the prosecuting attorney was an idiot and didn't present any of this [drug use] information to the jury. Or maybe Westfield Transport is run by the mob and they threatened to harm the family members of the jury?”

Possible. But I have a different theory.

Since the trucking company has bankrupted due to civil payments to families and survivers, I think this case is pretty much done in civil court. It could be the state will bear some liability due to the driver's past history and the fact that he shouldn't have had any sort of commercial license. Somebody else’s problem.

However, I wonder if the real takeaway from this decision is that the jury, like most Americans, are fed up with motorcycles. The general impression of motorcycles and motorcyclists are taken from the unnecessary and arrogant noise, regular well-publicized bad behavior, and the general impression that most motorcyclists are dangerous, sub-human, psychopathic gangbangers. A more successful tactic for the prosecution might have been to spend a lot of time bringing in experts to establish that motorcyclists are sorta (at least closely related to) humans. Hardly has worked pretty hard to create the sub-human image. You'd think/hope there would be some downsides to promoting anarchy, violence, and chaos.

About 20 years ago, I was on the MN Governor's Motorcycle Safety Council. A friend and co-worker, who was also on the Governor's council and was an ABATE officer (most of the council was made up of ABATE gangbanger wannabes) were walking to lunch in downtown St. Paul and talking about motorcyclists' public image. Most of the kids I knew at the school thought motorcycling was for "old people and assholes," but my friend disagreed with that general image.

His disagreement held up until a couple of noisemakers went past us and pretty much everyone on the street said something along the lines of "crash and die assholes." Once exposed to the real world, his take on many of ABATE’s positions changed enough that he quit his club office and took a back row seat in most of ABATE’s key political positions.

So, back to my take on the jury decision: Since police are clearly terrified of bikers and their gangs, maybe the jury just decided legalizing motorcycle highway carnage is the only way to get the bangers off of the street?

For calibration purposes, we got back last night about 9PM after a long vacation return trip (long for us). Went to bed about 11pm and spent the night being noise bombed by nitwits on Hardlys (and other garbage fish) on our un-policed county road well past 2AM. Personally, I keep hoping Amazon will sell a hand-held holographic projector sometime soon. People living in those noise traffic zones could project deer, moose, bears, cops, baby carriages, etc on to the streets in front of the local idiots on blubber-mobiles and entertain themselves watching the goobers try to remember where their brake levers are. My street is decorated all summer long with morons and their unmuffled, 2 hp bikes, and 4 hp sound systems. "If wishes were fishes" there'd be a whole lot of Hardlys buried in half-rotted carp.

A couple of years ago, a friend and I were talking about the herd of anti-vaxing, science-denying goobers who were (and still are) decorating hospitals with their dying breath and crazy conspiracy theories. I’m not a big fan of humans and so my take was “That just seems like the usual price for stupidity.”

His response was, “Being stupid shouldn’t be a death sentence.”

“Dude, that is always the result of being stupid,” I said. In fact, that is exactly how evolution works, it’s the whole point of the Darwin Awards.

Likewise, after 75 years of Hardly’s convincing every white male that looking like an unreconstructed off-on-bail convict on a last binge before a couple of decades behind bars is “manly,” we have a problem. Minnesota has a “road guard” law that allows a moron with a reflective vest and a paddle to stop traffic indiscriminately for any unreasonable amount of time to allow totally useless, law-breaking, and decadent bikers to parade through any street or road in the state. You don’t think that tactic creates animosity? I’d bet it generates enough hate for motorcyclists from at least 50% of the inconvenienced population that you wouldn’t want them on a jury if you wanted that jury to convict anyone of killing a motorcyclist with any kind of weapon. Sit through two of those clown parades and you’ll be running them down yourself.