Maiden voyage for the trailer

Well, the hitch and chains are in place and secured.   The wiring is OK, held in place by some electrical tape while I figure out the best way to route the wires and locate the plugs.   I decided that a trip to the grocery store was as good a reason as any to take the plunge.   So, after checking the running lights, turn signals, and brake lights, off I went.

Interestingly, it was unremarkable which I suppose is the best possible outcome.   I had placed the spare tire up in front to give the trailer some tongue weight, having read some horror stories about improperly loaded trailers causing accidents.   The trailer tracked perfectly, and I made some sharp turns through town to see how it would handle them and to see how much additional space I needed to keep the trailer wheels off the curbs.   Not a lot, but being aware that the trailer is there undoubtedly caused me to allow a little more space during turns, just to be sure.

I was easily able to get all the groceries in the trailer, and probably used a third of the available space.   The chains were rubbing on the pavement, so when I got home I removed a link from each one.   They might still be a little long, so I will check clearances during sharp turns and might remove another link from each side.   I don’t want to go too far and have to buy new lengths of chain.

I still need to route the wires and tie them in place to locate the plugs in a good location.   Once this is done, the trailer is ready for a trip.

What a surprise, there’s a trip beginning next Monday.

Wrapping up the trailer bits

The kind that you pull behind the Goldwing, not the kind you live in.   C’mon, keep up. 🙂   The previous owner put in a swivel for the tongue, which is a good thing, but the additional length made the safety chains too short.   I measured the existing chains and added 8 inches to arrive at the length I thought would work.   Off to the hardware store to get some chain and connecting links to simplify the hookup.   Removed the swivel and the old chains, put the new ones in place and made sure the length was correct and reassembled everything.

The remaining task is to route the wiring and socket for the trailer lights.   You don’t want an excessive length of wire, but there needs to be enough so that the wiring allows the full range of without stretching.

Once this is done, ready for the maiden voyage.

Time for another trailer…

After our trip to Colorado, and the fun of shipping clothes to the hotel, I began to consider a trailer to pull behind the Goldwing.   We   could take clothes with us, raingear, jacket liners, and pick up groceries.   When it’s really hot and you’d like to take your jacket off, you need a place to put it. Holding it on your lap doesn’t work for a long ride and if the saddlebags and trunk are full you’re out of luck. Enter the trailer. You have room for the jacket and your helmets when you stop for a meal. I’ve never had a helmet stolen, but that doesn’t mean I will not have one stolen in the future. That would be a real problem on a long trip. Locking your jackets, gloves, and helmets in the trailer is a real plus. Once you get to your destination, lock the trailer around a light pole or take it in the garage and you’re ready for day-rides.

Another big plus it that you can assemble a good tool kit to take with you. The motorcycle tool kit is woefully inadequate for anything except a starting point to build a decent tool kit. The truth is that a decent tool kit doesn’t necessarily take up a lot of space, and putting it together with good quality tools means that it will give you a chance to make a repair on the road. Not that I expect to need many roadside repairs – that’s the reason the trailer will be pulled behind a Goldwing.

Now to find one. There are a number of models available, in a huge range of prices. You can take a Harbor Freight frame and put a cartop carrier on it and voila – a trailer. You can spend upwards on $8,000 and buy a Tailwind. I’ve read a lot about this and I think the Aluma trailer made in Iowa would be the best bang for the buck. New, the Aluma trailers are around $1600 and they have a five-year warranty. Most trailers hold their value quite well, so there isn’t always a big savings by buying a used trailer. Usually, the savings from buying used comes from the accessories the previous owner has added, and sometimes you can get a better price at the end of the season.

UPDATE October 17, 2008: I found and made a deal for an Aluma trailer, but the problem is that it’s in Virginia and I’m not.   I could take the truck out there and get it, but I’m going to see if there’s another way.   Maybe I can arrange shipping, or maybe someone else is heading west and could get it part way to Illinois.   Time to do some checking around.

UPDATE October 27, 2008: A gentleman named Jason on the GL1800 forums responded to my question and would be willing to bring the trailer from Virginia to Louisville, Kentucky.   That’s a lot closer than going all the way to Virginia, so I accepted his kind offer.   It’s a really nice feeling to know that there are people willing to help someone they’ve not met – it kind of restores your faith in humanity.   Now to finalize all the arrangements.

UPDATE October 31, 2008: I met Jason and his brother in Louisville and brought the trailer home in my pickup.   It’s still amazing to me that buying a trailer sight unseen from someone I’ve never met, having someone else I’ve never met take a day of their time to help transport it, and have everything go perfectly.   My faith in humanity is restored.   Now, I need to help someone else just because I can.   Maybe this is a trend we can all follow   – and we’d all be the better for it.

Humble thanks, guys.

My journey to the darkside, episode 2

…is ongoing but has it’s share of pitfalls. The Kumho 205-60VR16 was the proper diameter to correct the speedometer, but was just a little too big in diameter when 2-up with an insufficient preload setting. The tire rubbed on the amplifier box (which is molded into the inner rear fender on the ’06 and up wings) and rubbed a hole it it. Not OK. Even though the speedometer was correct, which is a nice bonus, the potential damage to expensive electronics from water incursion is not worth the risk.

Plan B – I ordered and installed a ContiProContact SSR 195/55VR16 tire. This tire, for all intents and purposes, matches a factory MC tire for diameter and width. Installing it was simple and even without weights I have been unable to detect an out-of-balance condition. Knowing that an even-slightly-out-of-balance rear tire can cause the infamous “wobble”, I ran up to 60mph and took my hands off the handlebars and let the bike coast down. Not a hint of a wobble at any speed. To the collective dismay of the naysayers, there was no fiery crash caused by running a car tire on a motorcycle. This tire will be on the bike for a long time – probably twice as long as a new MC tire, if other’s experience is any indication.

UPDATE – September 30 – I got back from my trip to ride the mountains in north Georgia, east Tennessee, west North and South Carolina and the Conti was flawless. Not a slip during the trip, and I did remove some metal from the footpegs. On the Cherahola Skyway, we were in the clouds at about 2000 feet on up to 5300 feet, with the resulting poor visibility and wet pavement. Not a slip from the Conti – it just held the road like a good tire should. When we stopped for gas, the rider behind me told me that the tire tread was almost flat on the road the entire time. When I tell you that we were wasting no time, believe it. Our group rode almost 500 miles through the mountains in about 12 hours of riding. If you’ve ridden in those mountains you know that is not a slow pace.

My journey to the darkside…

…is not yet complete – on the Goldwing, of course. For those of you not familiar with the meaning of the phrase, in the Goldwing community it refers to riders that are using a car tire on the rear wheel rather than the more conventional motorcycle tire. The Goldwing rear wheel is a 6″ wide, 16″ diameter tubeless wheel that is just begging for a car tire to be mounted.

Why, you ask? Well, there are many reasons. Here’s just a few

  1. Available in Run Flat
  2. Longer lasting
  3. Doesn’t delaminate
  4. Doesn’t explode
  5. Quieter
  6. Better traction in dry conditions
  7. Better traction in wet conditions
  8. Better traction in snow/slush
  9. Better performance on dirt/gravel
  10. Smoother ride
  11. Higher load capacity
  12. Capable of performing with lower PSI
  13. Runs at lower tire temperature
  14. Costs less
  15. Better balanced (fewer weights required, if any at all

That’s quite a list, isn’t it? Pay special attention to the advantages I highlighted. If the motorcycle tire manufacturers decided to build a tire that addressed these issues they would sell as many as they could make. But, economics enters into the picture. The market for motorcycle tires is a small fraction of the market for automotive tires. Given today’s litigious society, I suspect that a revolution in motorcycle tires for touring bikes is not going to happen anytime soon.

I purchased a spare rear wheel for my Goldwing and mounted a Kumho 205-60HR16 non-run-flat tire on it. I swapped it for the wheel with the Bridgestone cycle tire on it. The first difference I noted is that the bike is slightly taller, as the Kumho tire is a larger diamater tire. I expected this and the choice of a larger tire was intentional. The Goldwing (all motorcycles, as a practical matter) have a built-in speedometer error of 6-10%. When the speedometer says 60mph, a gps will show your true speed at 54mph. Of course, the odometer is off as well, so mpg calculations are based on “shorter” miles. The larger diamater tire corrects the speedometer to within a tenth of a mile per hour. Now, when the speedometer says 60, your speed is 60 mph – just as it should be.

While I’m on the topic, virtually all speedometers are incorrect. It’s just that most drivers aren’t aware of how far off they actually are. With the increased use of portable gps devices that display groundspeed to within a tenth of a mile per hour, more drivers are starting to realize the problem. Why do you think that built-in gps devices don’t display groundspeed? One reason is that drivers would demand that the manufacturers fix the broken speedometers. Consider what this does to warranty work. If the speedometer/odometer is off by 10%, your brand-new 50,000 mile warranty expires in 45,000 actual miles.

Consider what this error does to mpg calculations too. More people are paying attention to mpg these days and if the auto/truck/cycle manufacturers can have you calculate a higher mpg than you’re actually getting, they win. I’m not trying to say that correcting the speedometer/odometer error is a magic pill that will fix all mpg-related problems, but at least you’ll know what mpg you are really getting, not some number that’s based on a “short” mile and really doesn’t mean anything.

Goldwing suspension upgrade, part 3

And so, it begins – the saga of the u-nuts. I ordered some from McMaster-Carr that looked better than OEM but they didn’t fit properly so I returned them. Then, I ordered a half-dozen OEM ones ($2.50 each, ouch!) from HDL and waited for them to arrive. While I was waiting I decided to make some replacements. I ground off the protruding threads from the bottom of the OEM u-nut and drilled the hole out to match the other side. I got some 5mmx.8 nuts and jb-welded them onto the bottom of the u-nut. Now I have some u-nuts that will fit properly, and also have the added strength of a regular 5mm nut instead of 2 or 3 stamped threads. I was looking for some additional strength for the 2 middle u-nuts on each side as that’s where my Baker Air-Wings fasten down.

Today I put the top shelter back on, remembering to plug in both audio plugs and the radio antenna. Plugged in the connector for the pushbuttons on the meter panel, the two tweeter wires and pushed the meter panel into place. I left the pockets out for now, and began the preflight.

Turned the kill switch off, and turned the key. The dash lights worked as expected. I turned the kill switch to “run” and the FI light came on, the pump pressurized and the FI light went off. Started it and it sounded like it did last fall. Checked all lights, turn signals front and rear, brake lights, headlights both low and high beam. Checked the headlight adjuster – worked fine. Check the audio system, AM, FM, WX, speaker and headphones. Verified the suspension preload at “0”. Got on, tested reverse. So far, so good.

The ride height is a little higher than stock, mainly because of less sag. There was a noticeable difference when taking the bike down off the centerstand with traxxion/progressive installed than before. I didn’t measure it but I noticed the difference right away. Pulled out of the driveway and wondered what happened to the bump at the end. First impression underway – firmer but not harsher. I will play with the rear damping later – for now it’s set at the delivered middle-of-the-range. I got up to 60mph and tested the cruise and the clutch/handbrake/footbrake deactivate of the cruise. Tested above the setting, letting the cruise coast down and below the range, letting the cruise accelerate. All working well. Apparently I got everything plugged back in the way it should be. The steering seems very similar to the OEM bearings, not tighter, heavier, or excessively dampened.

Of course, I had to see if there was a wobble. I powder coated the wheels and put on new Bridgestones front and rear while everything was apart. At 60 mph, cruise off, removed my hands from the grips to see what would happen. Not a wobble to be seen, felt, or imagined. Went all the way down to 20 mph or so and pulled the clutch in and called it good.

All in all, a good-sized project, but not brain surgery. Organization is key to success. The only special tools I used were the bearing drivers and the steering stem socket. All other tools were standard and would be found in most any decently equipped garage. I do not have a table lift, I used the centerstand and a floor jack to do the lifting and supporting. Almost all of the work was done solo. Having a helping hand would definitely speed up the proceedings but is not necessary.

Ride report to follow…

Goldwing suspension upgrade, part 2

I decided to go with the Progressive 460 rear shock, mainly due to the adjustable rebound damping on this unit. The Traxxion rear shock price was within a few dollars so I chose the adjustable one. Both units use a 1200 lb/inch spring, while the OEM spring is 900 lb/inch rate spring. Since I had just finished installing the front end, I already had the top shelter off but a few more pieces are removed and bolts loosened to be able to remove the gas tank. I had not looked forward to this part of the upgrade, but it turned out just fine. The tank finally came out but the ’06 wiring harness (or maybe just MY ’06 wiring harness) had a stiff bundle of wires exiting the relay panel over the rear of the tank and it took a bit of work to get the tank out.

Once the tank is out removing the shock is easy. Loosening the right-side saddlebag and sliding it back a few inches made easy work of removing the actuator. My actuator began to labor at 5, and last year it began to labor at one, so I decided to refill the actuator while it was off the bike. I used Honda SS8 (10 weight) fork fluid for the refill. Reinstalling the shock and preload adjuster was pretty easy with everything out of the way.

While the gas tank was off, I followed the advice of others and checked the coolant hose clamps to be sure they were tight. In my case they were, but I loosened a couple, twisted them to make future checks easier, and tightened them back down. I also checked the main ground lug for corrosion and found it to be tightly fastened and clean.

Putting the gas tank back in required some wrestling with the wiring harness but since it came out it was definitely going back in. A little swearing and some silicone spray and the tank was back in and bolted in place and the wiring bundles returned to their proper location.

Somehow, while it was off the bike, I managed to break one of the tabs on the top shelter – I have no idea when or how. I used abs cement and some fiberglass cloth to repair it, and it’s now stronger than new. The gas overflow tray is held onto the tank by plastic “fingers” and when I went to reinstall it every one was broken except one. Of course that delayed things until I could get a replacement from HDL. Got that and I will not remove that piece if the tank needs to come out again – I’ll just remove the hose from it. Another item to attend to while the top shelter was off – I redid the shielding on the cruise control. I used 8 thicknesses of heavy-duty foil and I hope this is better at blocking the 2-pitch noise from the cruise control actuator.

OK, ready for final reassembly…

Goldwing suspension upgrade, part 1

After last September’s Wingstock, where I was able to ride a Traxxion-equipped Goldwing, I had pretty much decided to go forward with the suspension update. The hard part for me was the cost – it ain’t cheap. I finally rationalized that I would spend the money but that I was going to do the wrenching myself. I was going to replace tires over the winter and as part of that I was going to have the wheels powdercoated.

The first step was to disassemble the front end in order to extract the forks. Removing the fenders and calipers was fairly simple and I used a trick I’ve used for a long time – a muffin pan. I put the bolts and nuts in the muffin pan in the order I removed them and wote a note about which side of the bike and where they came from. I didn’t know how long the bike would be disassembled and I didn’t want to rely on my memory during reassembly.

With just a bit of luck, I was able to remove the forks without removing the top shelter. So, I packed them up and sent them off to Traxxion. Surprisingly, I had them back exactly 8 days after the UPS guy picked up the box. I had the rebound-damping adjustable fork caps installed. Having the forks back was great, but I wasn’t quite ready for reassembly just yet. I wanted to replace the steering stem bearings too. Since you have to disassemble the bike to this point plus a fair amount more, doing it now made a lot of sense. I removed the meter panel and top shelter and to give me additonal room I decided to remove the meter assembly as well. I know the rubber hoods on the plugs are a pregnant dog to reseat, but I decided the additional room was worth it. I removed the handlebars, the top triple tree, and finally the steering stem came out. Fred’s maintenance DVDs had entertained me to the point that I was able to replace the bearings fairly easily. The OEM bearings were in fine shape, and were well-greased from the factory. Removing the lower race from the stem destroyed it, so the OEM bearings were tossed. Reassembly was fairly easy, the most important part is to be sure the new races are seated completely. I chose to use a lower torque value than a lot of people used as I think the excessively high torque value will dampen the steering and slow the rate of left-right and right-left transitions. I chose to go with 15 ft-lbs, as that is the torque value for the GL1500 stem bearings and they were tapered roller bearings too. With the stem bearings replaced and the top nut torqued to spec, completing the reinstall of the forks and the remainder of the front end took less than an hour. The axle slipped through the newly-powdercoated wheel/new Bridgestone tire and the alignment was perfect. I torqued the remainder of the bolts and then put the front fender pieces back on. Front end work completed.

Now the real fun begins…

NEXRAD weather radar…

…on the Goldwing. I activated the “Sailor” package from XM radio so that my Garmin 478 gps can display weather information directly on the screen. Not just a forecast, but actual, real-time weather radar. I called Garmin and told the lady I spoke with that I wanted to add the “Sailor” package to my account and she said it was only available for aircraft or boats. I decided to avoid the problem and just said that it was for my boat. After hanging up, I parked the bike outside with the gps on and about 20 minutues later I had weather radar on my bike. I zoomed out to see if there was any storm activity I could locate and there was.

It was west of Minneapolis towards the Minnesota-North Dakota state line, moving east. I called my friend Mike (of Soggy Bottom Run fame) and asked if it was raining where he was (he works in Eden Prairie) and he said that it wasn’t but that storms were forecast for later in the day. Then I told him that the radar display on my bike was telling me that the forecast may be correct. I’m hoping that this information will help keep me dry (or at least dryER) and avoid bad weather that brings with it reduced visibility and slippery pavement.

It seems that every extended trip I’ve taken lately has resulted in at least one soaking rainstorm and I sure hope this may be the ticket to bring that streak to an end.

Fog lights

I decided that I would add fog lights to my Goldwing after seeing the huge difference in visibility they gave – not to improve my visibility AS a rider, but to improve my visibility TO other drivers. I decided against the Honda lights as they seemed overpriced, and a couple of other kits were not earning good reviews for quality. I chose the Ion series of lights by Electrical Connection. I have some other products from this company and they are high quality, work as intended, and the company stands behind them. The kit was just as I expected – well-constructed, with decent to good quality installation instructions, and they fit properly without any mucking about.

I went to remove the lower front cowling and the first problem was apparent. The lowest screw on the right side had buggered threads, and as a result the screw was ruined but I was able to run a 6mmx1 tap through the nut and clean it up. I used a Dremel tool to remove the “caps” where the lights are to be placed, and a small end mill to clean up the tabs afterwards. Mounting the lights on the cowling was fairly simple, but I added some extra stainless steel cotter pins to make it easier to install the mounting springs. OK, lights mounted and centered in the holes.

The electrical part was fairly simple. I chose an OEM switch, so that necessitated removing the left-side switch panel. To remove that I had to remove the Baker Air-Wings and the trim strip. I removed the blank, inserted the switch, and connected it to the harness with the keyed 4-conductor plug. Simple enough. I then routed the wires from the battery forward under the frame and then over the left-side cylinder head to the front of the engine. I used a fish wire to pull the relay trigger wire up to the switch I just installed and plugged it in. I have the EC power plate, a neat method of connecting several accessory circuits that keeps the wiring neat. Rather than put another set of ring terminals under the battery posts, I used a position on the power plate and a 15a fuse. I have a ground terminal strip so the ground wire went there. Making sure there would be no short, I turned the bike on and checked voltage at the wires and +12v was the result. OK, that’s done. I put the seat back on, the left-side battery cover, the trim strip, and the Baker Air-Wings. Then I retested the power and I still had +12v. Good. All that remains is to plug the lights in and reinstall the lower cowl.

The plugs are keyed but it really doesn’t matter. The connectors are insulated and the connection is covered after the lights are plugged in. Following the directions I installed the top screws first (the longer ones). The cowling went on easily and all screws and pushbuttons went into place properly the first time. Some folks have had fits trying to reinstall the cowling, maybe I just had a run of beginner’s luck. When I take this apart to have the cowling painted black I will find out if my beginner’s luck has run out or not.

The lights look good and can be seen from quite a distance. The combination of the yellow light down low and to either side, the headlights, and the running lights on the side mirrors makes for a VERY visible vehicle. That was the intent and if the lights help me to see better, great. I will be very happy if no one pulls out in front of me, or turns across my path.