~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Facing the Music

7:57 is a very quick non-racing lap at Nurburgring

In olden times the chance to see real motorcycle races on film in the USA was nearly zilch and seeing racing bikes on TV, even less. If you were lucky you belonged to a motorcycle club that would borrow promotional movies from PR departments at Castrol or other companies that supported motorsports and you got to watch, through a haze of cigarette smoke, ten year old 16mm films of races in Europe (often in black and white).

Nowadays SpeedChannel (AKA the NASCAR channel), ESPN, OLN, and others give fairly decent coverage to MotoGP, World and AMA Superbike racing, motocross, and occasionally SuperMoto. Dakar Rally coverage on OLN is good although they spend far too much time on racer "up close and personal" segments instead of on the racing action. And while I'm at it, a big thumbs down to SpeedChannel for dropping their coverage of the Isle of Man TT races.

Racing movies are almost prolific now ("Faster", "Dust to Glory", "World's Fastest Indian") and especially since everyone with a bike, a camcorder, and access to a winding road, is making their own video. Most of the home brew videos are awful for content, image quality, and most of all, sound track. Why oh why can't you guys doing videos, whether amateur or professional, just let the bike do the sound track? Who could possibly think that some third rate thrash band or their favorite garage band can provide better sound than well tuned four cylinder engine or barely muffled Italian v-twin? You might as well use "I'm a lumberjack" from Monty Python, it would add as much class to your video.

Over at Google Video there's a great video of someone named Doohan (not Mick) and another guy dicing with cars on the Nurburgring. It's the only video I've seen of the 'Ring where a car passes the bikes. Someone who really knows how to drive a Porsche motored on past everyone and disappeared up the track. Impressive! The music sound track in the video is crap as usual but through it you can hear the bike engine wailing and even a shout of excited laughter from the rider when he gets the bike crossed up and saves it. Good stuff.

I just downloaded a 39 mb video from BMW wherein someone who rides much better than most of us flat hauls around the Nurburgring in Germany aboard a BMW K1200S. The perspective is good if a bit distorted by the windscreen, the riding is excellent, the bike is clearly amazing, and nearly smothering it all is some crappy music instead of the full sound of the BMW's 150+ hp four cylinder engine. Kudus for BMW for making a fun video but a big poke in the Roundel for not letting the bike itself do the sound track.

So to you budding Bruce Brown's out there: When you make your video, just let the engine handle the sound track, there's nothing in your library of pirated MP3 music that will sound as good. And you pro video guys, turn down the canned synth music and let the whole ride experience shine through including the engine sound.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Torture Rack

An eighth of an inch?? An eight of a freaking inch??? I stood there, shoulders slumped, dumbfounded that I could have spent 45 minutes measuring the $500 color-matched, Hondaline top box on my ST1300 in order to mount a new Givi parcel rack and missed by an eighth of an inch. No, I didn't catch the error in time. I'd just drilled four holes through the pristine metallic red surface of the top box after taping, marking, measuring, re-measuring, sighting, eyeballing, and otherwise making sure the new Givi top box rack would align perfectly and still got it wrong.

The Hondaline box is a beauty but has no real straight lines in the design to work from for measurement purposes and the Givi rack isn't much help that way either. Only with careful measuring could I be assured that all four holes would be just the right size and in just the right place and somehow I missed. I didn't fully realize the extent of my error until the rack was screwed down and obviously skewed. Was I upset? Oh yes. I put down the tools and walked in the house muttering and looking to drown my anger in ice cream.

Later in the evening after I calmed down I went back out to the garage, removed the rack, hogged out a couple of holes like any good, ham fisted idiot would do and re-installed the rack. It's on straight now...ok, not really, it's still maybe a sixteenth off but only a test engineer who makes his living inspecting car body and interior trim parts in the minutest detail would notice. Yeah, that's me. It will drive me crazy for as long as I own the bike but what's done is done.

So Sunday morning  I climbed onto the ST and headed for Kitt Peak National Observatory southwest of Tucson and about 110 miles from the palatial 40on2 estate. Kitt Peak is about 6,000+ feet above sea level and the road up to the top is nice and twisty. As with most good roads in Arizona, the ride to the road was fairly boring but the road up Kitt Peak was fun.  I didn't set any records up the mountain but the ride was nice and I worked on being smooth instead of fast. The ST handled as predictably as always and the excellent, fuel injected V-4, made the effects of altitude on performance a non-issue. The Honda continues to impress me with it's effortless operation and ability to get down the road with zero fuss.

These guys are numerous and have a taste for pretzel bits
At the top I wandered around, fed the wild birds, and observed the observatory complex while taking pictures and being suitably impressed by the feats of engineering technology. Several telescopes of assorted sizes including a big 4 meter unit are ensconced up there in gleaming white technological splendor. Each telescope has it's own building and each one stands like a monument to what can be done by smart people trying really hard. Thousands of years of accumulated astronomy knowledge are funneled into the creation of that place and it's difficult not to be impressed. There is a big solar telescope that doesn't look like a telescope but is made just for looking at the sun.

Solar Telescope
The big reflector mirror that catches the sun image sits at the top up a multi-story angled building that sits over a shaft that runs something like 135 meters under ground. Someone really smart dreamed up that one, someone with a PhD in sciences that in their most basic form would boggle ordinary minds.

And yet, when all the magnificent telescope building was done, when all the gleaming white paint was dry, someone discovered their calculations were just a tad off...

A closer look:

Yup, that's a rusty c-clamp, 6ft of rusty cable, and a bunch of scrap steel plate added to some sort of fancy rotating device so the darned thing will balance properly. I suddenly felt a little better about missing the measurement on the top box by an eighth of an inch.

After wandering about and seeing what there is to see and even letting myself in through an unlocked door to wander into the bowels of the big solar telescope I climbed back on the ST and trundled down the mountain and 110 miles non-stop back to town for some excellent Chinese food. I nearly forgot about the sixteenth off Givi rack but not quite. I did console myself though that people obviously smarter than me had to resort to a c-clamp and rusty metal plates to fix their mistake, all I had to do was drill out a couple of holes.

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