31 Mar 2012

In photos: The Devil's Punchbowl

I'm completely out of practice riding off paved roads at the minute so I ventured out to the Devil's Punchbowl near Hindhead UK. The byway started easy, further up I encountered 2–3 foot deep ruts from run-off when it rains, then a few steep hills with sharp rocks on soft sand... Nothing for a seasoned rider I'm sure, but I've not been off the tarmac for nearly a decade and it was an eye-opener just how out of practice I am...

Highfield Lane: Byway out of Thursley

Highfield Lane: Fork in the byway after coming out of Thursley

Highfield Lane: View from the right fork

Devil’s Punchbowl: View from the byway

Devil’s Punchbowl: A place to take in the view

Punchbowl Lane: Out the other side

27 Mar 2012

26 Mar 2012

ZFE too smart for its own good?

During my visit to BMW Battersea for my first service yesterday I had an interesting chat with one of the technicians who warned me about powering the TomTom cradle via the GPS connector. After doing a bit of digging I found that, because the it has a transformer integrated to step down the voltage from 12v to 5v, the cradle draws approximately 12mA just being connected to power. This increases to 70mA when the TomTom unit is clipped in with the battery charged, and 300mA when charging.

This is all fine when the bike is running of course, but the technician mentioned that in certain circumstances the slight draw can “fool” the ZFE into thinking a trickle charger is attached and wake up the CANbus circuit which will then slowly run down the battery.

I tested this by keeping the charging TomTom clipped in when switching off the engine. The TomTom would shut down as expected when the CANbus cut power after ~30 seconds, but about a minute later it would start up again, fully powered.

Looking around on several forums, a solution is to unclip the TomTom before switching off the engine. Doing this, it seems to stay inactive (clipping the TomTom back in after a few minutes doesn't start it back up). Without a multimeter to test the circuit  (I'm not willing to lick the contacts on the cradle) I can't tell if this is consistent. For now I've taken to disconnecting the lead from the cradle after parking the bike to not take any chances. I don't fancy the idea of the bike autonomously deciding to keep circuits live on a whim.

Has anyone else experienced anything like this? Any electricians among us? I presume someone knowledgeable in vehicle electrics could sort this by splicing in a diode to keep the voltage from seeping backwards (which presumably is what tricks the ZFE into thinking a charger is attached) or a transistor/relay to switch off the connection automatically when the draw drops down towards 12 mA. I suppose an alternative would be to splice in a switch or circuit breaker but this would defeat the purpose of permanently attached the cradle to a switched power source.

Unfortunately I'm not an electrician so I'm a bit at a loss with this, and I don't want to mess about adding bits into the wiring on a wish and a prayer... Any feedback would be gratefully received...

24 Mar 2012

First service

I am at BMW Battersea getting my first service done—they certainly like to push their coffee! Hopefully the free perks are not a reflection on the upcoming bill. To date I’ve had very good service at Park Lane/Battersea—friendly and professional.

I can't wait until the bike’s engine is fully broken in so I can start to really ride it—so far I’ve been fairly gentle with it.

Some thoughts:

  • It’s deceptively quick—compared to a high strung 4 cylinder motobike, acceleration feels lazy, until you look down at the speedometer
  • It’s very smooth—very good on London’s Beirut-style roads and particularly over crossing humps
  • It took time to get used to—sitting much higher than I’m used to, it felt awkward for the first while until I started to trust that it wasn’t going to go over
  • It is very efficient—nearly double the mileage out of the same size tank as my old bike
  • Putting it on the centre stand requires a knack—the crash bars help for pulling, but need to mind the knee against the hot exhaust can
  • Cars get out of the way—it’s a blend of big but non-threatening and car drivers generally will let you through (helps that they use these as police bikes in some areas)
  • The brakes squeak—not bothered, every German car and motorbike I’ve ever come across has squeaky brakes, but they still work well
  • Stalling the motor at low speed and at full lock is not a good idea—nearly put it down at a traffic light on the second day and wrenched my ankle preventing this from happening, stupid me
  • Pirelli Scorpion tyres—yeah… they do the job but I had really hoped for Michelin Anakee 2 tyres which rate much higher for grip in reviews, particularly in the wet
  • ABS system—see above about tyres, even in the dry the back is very quick to lock but the ABS is effective on the road
  • Wrist strain—after riding for 5–10 minute, my wrists start getting tired as the angle is not quite right for me on the handlebars… will have this adjusted at the service
Comments? Questions? Let me know.

Update 1: The service cost about £160, certainly not cheap but about the same as Honda. I also had the technician rotate the handlebars about 5° back—the angle is perfect for me now, no strain at all after 30 minutes of riding. Slightly lower and closer than stock.

Update 2: I forgot to mention 2 minor items. First was a crushed pannier lock dust cover which was noted on delivery. Second was the topcase retaining cable which was not crimped properly and came apart the second time I opened the case. Both were made right under warranty at no cost.

18 Mar 2012

In photos: Protection

A few bits here and there can go a long way to helping keep damage to a minimum during the inevitable falls a dual sport bike will face.

Crash bars and wind deflectors: Adventure Spec crash bars with BMW wind deflectors—yes they do fit together

Side stand foot: Moto Overland side stand foot keeps the bike from falling over when parked on soft surfaces

17 Mar 2012

14 Mar 2012