Friday, April 20, 2012

Day 00 - Getting Ready: More Farkles for the Ninja

Hola People!
It looks like tomorrow, April 21, 2012 is D-Day or “departure day” for my summer tour to Mexico. I’ve been busy these past few weeks going over the bike and making monster lists of stuff to take and stuff to leave home, etc. You’d think after all the times I’ve wandered off the ranch to go roaming around the country I’d have it all down pat but I still seem to forget stuff.
To begin with I’ve bought some new riding gear in HiViz yellow that’s pretty rad to look at which hopefully will catch other driver’s attention easier. It’s also a great all-around rain outfit so I won’t have to stop and put on more gear when black clouds loom up ahead. The manufacturer – Aerostich – makes some pretty proud claims as to the flexibility of this gear and they’re usually right. We’ll see.
El Nino the Ninja won out in the selection process of which bike to take; her previous rides to Alaska and Nova Scotia were trouble-free and I’m expecting nothing less this time. I changed her oil and added a new K&N filter, then swapped out the air filter with a new one from Kawasaki.
There were some wiring changes that had to be made; in the past I’d added various farkles without much planning and as a result some of the wiring hook-ups were a bit primitive. I corrected all of this with a new run of leads to a central location under the saddle complete with fuses and a weatherproof covering so that’s a done deal. Note: read “waterproof covering” as a hunk of old inner tube zip locked around the barrier terminal strip. Not as cool as the stuff of catalogs but substantial just the same.  
A new MRA Vario windshield was installed as a replacement for the Zero Gravity unit. One of the few complaints I’ve had with the Ninja was her total lack of weather protection – understandable since she’s basically a sports bike and not intended as a touring machine. The new unit has an adjustable spoiler on top which helps redirect the wind stream higher, thus reducing head bobble at speed. Nice.

Kawasaki has chosen to not provide a center-stand for this particular model which means when it’s time to oil the chain you squirt a section, then roll the bike forward about three feet, squirt the next section, and repeat until finished. This usually takes around 30 feet to complete which is no big deal but it’s one of my personal gripes and I don’t like it. All in the world they’d have to do would be make a center stand for it and you could oil the chain in place, but nooooo, that would probably add another 50 bucks to the price. 

Fortunately there’s a fairly simple solution; enter the ScottOiler, an automatic chain oiling device from those thoughtful folks in Scotland. They’re fairly easy to install and once up and running (no pun intended!) they meter out just enough oil to keep your bike’s chain happy, all the while eliminating the need for you to mess with it. Very nice indeed so I added one. Call me lazy.

Touratech, purveyors of some of the world’s most expensive gotta-havit farkles lured me back into the fold with a locking mount for my GPS. I had one of these for an earlier model and it worked fine so after selling it I applied the proceeds to a newer version. At the same time I added a locking RAM mount from Aerostich so the entire business should stay put, at least for a few seconds.

One of my most recent projects was to find a rain cover for the inflatable AirHawk seat pad. The AirHawk comes with a nice soft cloth covering that absorbs and retains water longer than a 3-humped camel which means your toosh is sitting in a puddle as soon as it begins to sprinkle. This may be pleasant to some folks but I prefer mine to remain dry so I ordered a nice sounding cover from a firm in Texas.  When it arrived I couldn’t help notice it seemed a bit on the light side, construction-wise and even though the manufacturer claimed it was alright to ride on I was skeptical. At the end of my first ride I snagged my boot on it during a dismount; the net result of which was a momentary tearing sound followed by an unusually large piece of the material flapping around. Fail. I contacted the manufacturer about it and to their credit they sent me TWO replacements, one of which I could give to a buddy to try out.  I did just that but realizing the light weight material wouldn't hold up to another scuffy dismount I've put mine away for the time being.

Jerry makes a new friend in Old Town Bandon
My friend Jerry Smith is a writer for bike magazines and is often called upon to evaluate gear for bikes. As luck would have it he knew I was looking for a rain cover and had recently been contacted by a firm offering to provide one for testing. Jerry rides a Honda Goldwing with a custom saddle; not one that this particular cover manufacturer provides for so he suggested they furnish one for a Ninja 650R. They were glad to do it and shipped the cover directly to me. One of the great features about it is it’s made of a stretchy material that’s rubbery on the inside and soft like cloth on the outside. It easily fits over both the stock saddle plus the AirHawk and this puppy’s really designed to ride on, nothing fragile about it. 

Since the purpose of this deal was to give it a thorough rain test of course the sun popped out right away and our world turned into early summer. No problem, I turned our garden hose onto its sprinkle setting and “rained” on it for a solid five minutes. Jerry had asked me to place paper towels underneath the cover so I could simply remove the cover and see if they’d remained dry. Dry as a bone, kiddies, exactly what I was looking for so it’s going to Mexico with me.

Looks a bit lumpy but that's due to the AirHawk lurking underneath
That about covers the preparations I’ve made for this trip – oops, almost forgot. I’ve received lots of advice from other riders who’ve either gone to Mexico or live there so I now have a road atlas published by a Mexican firm plus a new set of GPS map software from Garmin & company, both ready to spring into action as soon as I cross the border.  Of course the Mexican atlas is in Spanish....
El Nino's ready, just need to add the top box
I’ve been asked where I’m going, what route, how long I’ll be gone, etc. I first thought I’d like to ride down Baja and catch one of the ferries over to the mainland but after checking out ferry prices I’ve decided to either ride down the east side of the Sea of Cortez and once past Mexico City swing over towards Belize, then north to Reynosa and Texas or maybe just the opposite way around; I’ll know when I do it but I’m planning to be gone for 8 weeks.
Stay tuned…. LL
Poor old Chance has to stay home again - what a bummer!

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