Aug 16 2011

Wolfman Rolie

tim

I’ve been a big fan of Wolfman products for a few years now. For the Trip, I used an Expedition Tank Bag, powered from the bike, to carry my comms and camera gear. It’s big, well designed and well made, and it did a great job. My main luggage was the Wolfman Beta, which holds heaps and straps down tight over the back of the seat.

Sidenote: Lately I’ve added a Givi Monokey E45 top case to the back of the bike. It gives me secure, quick-release storage for my stuff, and makes the bike much more useful for commuting. Also, the addition of a wife earlier this year has meant that, for some trips at least, the pillion seat is taken.

Wolfman’s new-ish Rolie range of bags is brilliant. These simple, waterproof roll-top bags come in three sizes, but all share a common mounting “patch” with webbing straps, which makes them interchangeable and stackable. Wolfman have created a range of straps, harnesses and accessories which allow the Rolie bags to be used as tank bags, tank panniers, saddle bags and tail bags on just about any bike.

Today I received my order of a large Rolie from AdventureMoto. This thing is so versatile I can add it to the top of my Beta bag, to the rack behind my Beta bag, or to footman loops on top of my Givi hard case. Either way, riding one-up or two-up, with or without my other luggage, this thing gives me extra storage that’s waterproof and strapped down tight.

Pics to follow soon!

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Aug 14 2011

Electrical Noise Part 2

tim

Today I pulled apart the bike and checked the wiring for the accessory power outlet that I’d added two years ago. Contrary to my previous doubts, I found that the positive cable originated at the main fuse, and the negative (ground) terminated on the frame under the seat. Both these locations are about a close to the battery as you can get.

I also checked the configuration of the relay, and confirmed that was OK.

Just to be sure, I rigged up another cable, directly to the battery, and started running some tests.

  • AutoCom and VIO POV both connected to bike power, with the engine running: Lots of noise on the VIO POV recording, but none in my helmet.
  • AutoCom and VIO POV connected to bike power, but through a 20A noise supressor: Lots of noise on the recording, but with some of the lower frequencies gone.
  • AutoCom connected to bike power, and VIO POV running on AA batteries: a faint, high pitched noise on the recording, but otherwise clear audio.
  • The VIO POV connected to bike power and not connected to anything else (ie using its own microphone): lots of noise, as before.
This is enough to convince me that the bike power is fine the way it is, and the VIO POV will be running on AA batteries from now on.
I also tested the Push To Talk switch, and found that the 3.5mm plug and socket that I’d added to make the PTT switch removable is pretty flaky. I’ll be looking around for an alternative connector for that.
Pulling the bike apart gave me an opportunity to clean parts of it that normally get missed. There’s still a lot of red dust in hard to reach places, so I dismantled a few things to clean that off.

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Aug 9 2011

Electrical Noise

tim

As part of the original setup for the Trip, I bought an AutoCom ActivePLUS, which connected my iPod, my phone, and my UHF radio, and routed the sound through to my helmet. The other thing it did was feed all of that sound through to my helmet camera.

One of the things I’d hoped to do was capture some commentary of my own and radio chatter from the rest of the party as a way of narrating the video. Trust me… helmet camera footage is interesting for all of 30 seconds, music or no music.

One of the things that got in the way of that plan (and there were a few) was electrical noise. All the comms gear was powered off the bike, and all the helmet camera video I recorded was infected with a whining noise which changed pitch with the bike’s engine revs. I was aware of the problem before the Trip, and bought a noise supressor which was meant to resolve the issue. It didn’t.

Last weekend I bought a larger noise supressor, and started running some tests on gear powered off the bike. Using the AutoCom and the helmet camera, I ran a series of tests with various combinations of bike power and battery power. What I found was that, even with the filter in place, the helmet camera picked up a lot of noise when powered off the bike. The AutoCom itself seemed to remain reasonably clear on bike power, though the helmet camera (running off batteries) still picked up some electrical noise from the AutoCom.

Both these gadgets are designed to be fitted to a bike, so it came as a bit of a surprise that both would be so susceptible to electrical noise.

I started searching the ‘net, trying to understand the nature and cause of electrical noise, and found that the most common cause was a poor ground (or negative) connection. I started looking at the photos I’d taken when I first added the SAE cable that powers the tank bag, and I think I might have found a clue. The positive lead runs near enough to straight from the battery, so that should be reasonably clean. From there it runs to a relay behind the instrument panel. The trigger wire on the relay comes off the instrument backlights (which are always on when the bike is running). Again, this shouldn’t be a problem, since the switch side of the relay is isolated from the power it’s switching. The weak point, as expected, is the ground. Rather than go back to the frame, or all the way back to the negative terminal on the battery, I attached the ground to a negative wire off the back of the instruments. I can’t be sure, but I think that’s the weak point.

The next step is to rerun the auxiliary power on the bike, with positive and negative originating as close to the battery as possible. From there I’ll break out only for the relay, and use the same trigger source as before.

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Apr 28 2009

Work Weekend

tim

Managed to get some great work done on the bike over the weekend. A few weeks ago I ordered the Wolfman Large Expedition tank bag (in black), ProiTaper ATV Hi handlebars and a bunch of cables and connectors. They finally came, so I worked out what smaller bits I would need, bought those, and got to work.

Naked, but for a fancy pair of handlebars

Pro-Taper SE ATV Hi Bars
I took a couple of phone-photos of the OEM bars in their current position in case I needed to compare them later, but in the end it was the front fairing and the dashboard that decided the angle of the bars. I’ve been holding off on buying a riser kit, but I think I’ll get one now. The new bars are almost the same bend as the stockers, which means they’re just a little too low when I’m standing up.

SAE Power Connector

Fuse

Amongst the gear that I’d ordered (and waited some time for) from BlueRim were a couple of fused SAE wiring harnesses. I decided to go for these instead of a dashboard or handlebar-mounted Powerlet socket, since a mounted socket would require a connecting lead, which is both more expense and something else to go wrong down the track.

Wiring

The cable I’d purchased was long enough to reach from the battery to the tank bag, but I ended up deviating from my original plan and adding in a relay, so that the tank bag would turn on and off with the ignition switch. By the time I’d run the cable from the battery to the dashboard (where I’d mounted the relay and sourced the switched power) to the tank bag, it was all too short. Since I had to cut the cable to add the relay anyway, I spliced in some extra cable, and it worked out pretty well.

Relay

I sourced the main power from the main fuse under the seat, just near the generator. This is the same as taking power straight from the + terminal on the battery, but the location is better. The switched power from the relay came off one of the dashboard backlights (which, it turned out, had a blown bulb).

Connector

I routed the connector itself up through the handlebars and used the tether on the end-cap to keep it in place. It seems to work pretty well there, and the cable is stiff enough that it isn’t going to move.

Powering the Tank Bag
Another item I sourced from BlueRim was a waterproof power connector for the tank bag. The external socket is made from hard

SAE Socket

rubber, and there’s a metal plate inside the bag that clamps the whole thing in place. On the inside I added a double adapter, so I now have 2 SAE connectors inside the bag. All-up, it came out looking pretty sweet.

Gadgets
I removed the cigarette lighter plug from the end of a 3-way lighter-socket powerboard, and replaced it with an SAE connector, and hooked that up to the inside plug on the bag. I also fitted a cigarette lighter plug on the AutoCom, and connected that to the power outlet, along with my Belkin iPod car charger. I connected the iPod and my mobile phone to the AutoCom, conntected the whole thing to the bike, and tested it. Apart from the mic not registering on the phone, the whole thing worked quite nicely. The AutoCom fades the music when you speak, and it really does cancel out background noise and wind (well, all I did was blow in the microphone, but it seems to work).

More to follow on the push-to-talk switch and other tank-bag gadgets… but it’s coming together.

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Apr 3 2009

Autocom has arrived

tim

My new Autcom Active-PLUS arrived the other day. The unit looks much the same as the photos, though I was surprised to see that the connections for rider, pillion and UHF radio are all full-sized DIN plugs. I’d guessed that they’d be mini-DIN plugs – much like a mouse or keyboard plug – since that’s what I’d had on my old Aldi helmet radio system.

Not that it matters. I might just need to rethink how the cables come out of the tank bag, since I don’t think the access ports I was looking at would be large enough.

The leads from the main unit are reasonably long (though the pillion lead is shorter than the rider’s, so I guess they’re expecting it to be mounted at the back of the bike) so I won’t need both the supplied extension leads. I’ll sacrifice one of these and get it turned into an adapter for my throat mic and earmolds. I’ve managed to find an image of the pin-outs for the rider/pillion leads, and for the UHF lead.

So, here’s what I’m thinking regarding the tank bag and GPS:

Heavy Duty SAE Power Lead
This will run from the battery to the front of the bike. I was originally planning to terminate the power supply at a nice Powerlet socket with a lit, but looking at the cost, the effort of drilling the dash area etc, I’ve decided that an SAE connector with a rubber cap, clipped up under the fairing, will do the job. I can also tailor the length of lead I have available so it exactly reaches the bag. It can be clipped out of the way when not in use.

PowerMate Bulkhead Kit
This is an access port through the material of the tank bag. It’s basically an SAE connector on both sides, with a plastic sandwich plate to hold it all in place. I’ll add a second one of these for the PTT switch, which I’ll get to in a moment.

SAE Splitter
Inside the bag, I want to power 2 banks of cigarette lighter sockets. At this point I have 6 devices inside the bag that need to be powered, so 2 banks of 3 or 4 sockets will do the trick. Anyway, each of these will connect back to the power supply via an SAE plug.

Handlebar Push To Talk (PTT) Switch
As reluctant as I am to spend money on what is essentially a push-button, I think in the end I’ll have to. I’ll chop the switch lead from the rest of the harness and add in some SAE connectors, so that I can remove the tank bag and leave the PTT switch behind. I’ll need to decide whether I buy a separate adapter cable for the UHF radio I choose, or just remove the plug from the end of the harness and put the right connectors on the end. Since it’s all in the tank bag, it won’t need to be waterproof, or particularly long.

The rider and pillion leads will just go out the top of the bag, I think… the plugs are too large to use access ports.

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Mar 29 2009

Autocom, Bash Plate… coming

tim

Wow… it’s a bit sad when my twitter feed is generating more blog posts than I am. Need to remedy that.

Last week I ordered an Autocom Active PLUS from a reseller on eBay. It pays to shop around for these, since the one I bought got undercut by another reseller a few ours before I purchased, and I missed it. Also, by the looks of Autocom’s UK site, they’re replacing their entire model range, so there’s a good chance that all the existing models will start to drop in price in the next few months.

Anyway, I’ll soon be kitted up for iPod, phone, UHF radio and GPS chatter in my ears. I’ll need to get a an adapter made up for my Earmolds and my Noise Terminator throat mic, but that shouldn’t be too hard. In the meantime, the kit comes with two complete helmet setups, so I can at least test it with one of those.

At this point I’m still leaning toward a tank bag as the means of housing the Autocomm and all the associated gadgets. The Wolfman Expedition is probably winning – I’ll wedge all the power adapters etc in the bottom corner of it, and put a false floor over that. I’ll need to feed lines out for power, GPS and the PTT switch at the front, and for the mic/headphone jack at the back. Should be a nice setup when it’s done.

I’ve also ordered a bash plate from JNS Engineering in the states. I was able to share the postage with a couple of other guys… pretty happy about that.

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Jan 2 2009

Top case: this guy’s on the right track

tim

This post on KLR650.net gives some indication of the kind of top case mount I want to make for the Trimcast Taurus case. Mike has gone for parallel runners to slide the case into; I’d taper them to create an almost V shape. That way the case is always braced against the runners under acceleration or forward motion, and the locking pin only has to work under brakes. It also means that the case would only have to move an inch or two forward to release – which should be a good thing, but might yet prove to be a weakness.

I like that the case-side of the mount is in two pieces. It means he doesn’t have to get the centre piece the right size, but simply mount the two pieces to the case in the right places.

I also like that he’s included electrics in the case. I’ll add a high bake light to my case (probably in the lid), as well as 12-volt power. That will give me the option of adding a small inverter for charging less 12-volt friendly devices.

Design Mk II here we come…

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Dec 26 2008

May have found a top-box at last

tim

I’ve been wondering what to do about a top-box for the KLR. As much as I love soft luggage, I’d like the ability to easily cart random items, groceries etc, and to be able to stash a helmet in a locked container while I’m away from the bike for a short period. For the trip itself , I think there will be a range of gear that will be better stored in a rigid container – stove, cooking gear, some electricals etc. The short-list of features:

  • It must be lockable
  • It must be strong
  • It must hold a helmet, and have a footprint of around 30-40cm square
  • It must be waterproof and dust-proof, within reason
  • It must lock to the bike, and have the ability to be removed easily
  • It must be reasonably priced
  • It must be cheap.

Most of the retail options, such as Givi and DriRider are geared toward road bikes. They’re usually rounded, and made of rigid black plastic. They make sense on a bike that you’re afraid to drop, where the fairing is worth much more than the top-box, but on this bike, and on this trip, the case needs to be considerably tougher.

Most dual-sport pannier and top-boxes are made of aluminium, which is reasonably strong, but doesn’t tend to spring back to its original shape after taking a hit. The only decent plastic dual-sport top-box I’ve seen is the Gobi series, made by Hepco and Becker. The top case and panniers are made from double-walled plastic which looks quite durable, and the wall cavity can even be used to store water or fuel. Unfortunately they’re also around $450, not including the adapter plate to attach them to the bike.

The alternative is to use a storage case that is not actually designed as a motorcycle top-box, such as a Pelican case. Most of these are pretty heavy, and most of them don’t come in “cube” configuration that would hold a helmet. They’re also as expensive as a Gobi or similar.

Taurus 353434

Taurus 353434

Enter Trimcast, a Bayswater-based company that makes rotomoulded plastic transit cases for commercial, recreational and military applications. They seem to be made from a similar material to the Gobi cases, though these are single-walled. They meet all the criteria, except for the fact they’re not actual motorcycle cases. The Taurus Modular Spacecase 353434 is, as the name suggests” a ~35cm cube, which is dustproof, lockable, durable and light. At around $130, it’s also remarkably cheap.

But that does leave me with the problem of mounting it to the bike, though I think I have a solution.

The first step will be to use a large nylon (or plastic) chopping board and chop an inch-wide – or better still, tapered – strip from either side of it. The cut, rather than perpendicular to the surface of the board, will need to be at 45 degrees. This will leave the two outer strips with an “overhang” bevel, while the centre piece will have a “rooftop” bevel. I’d mount the two outer strips to the top of the rear cargo rack on the bike, and the centre piece to the bottom of the case. This would create a slide-in fitting for the case, much like a quick-release head on a camera tripod (sorry… it’s the best example I can think of right now).

The case would be stopped from sliding forward by the narrowing gap between the two side strips At the other end of the case, in one of the side recesses, I’d attach a patio bolt lock that locked down into the side-strip of the chopping board material. Most manufacturers make a push-button lock that only requires the key to unlock it. Since there’s no pin going into the case itself, the dust-proof properties of the case won’t be compromised. Since the bolt will be going into the chopping-board material, I don’t have to worry about the strength of the existing rear rack, or the about drilling into it to accommodate the bolt.

So, that’s where I’m going with all that. Sorry if it’s not the most riveting read… but it’s a brain dump, just so I don’t forget.

UPDATE: I’ve found a source for the the chopping-board material, and it looks as though I might be able to get it in black, which is even better! (I also updated my analogy about the camera tripod, which is probably no clearer than the one it replaces.)

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Oct 2 2008

Another DS tail bag

tim

Giant Loop DS Tail BagThis looks like an interesting setup. The Giant Loop is similar to the Wolfman Alpha and Beta bags, but is designed more for lighter dirt bikes.

The bag appears to have a rigid inner liner on the underside, which gives them a little more shape than the Wolfman, particularly when they’re empty. The side parts also seem to hang with a forward lean, so the top of the bag is at the back of the seat, while the sides rest on the side covers of the bike, rather than the exhaust.

I’m not sure I understand the value of mounting the bag to the bike with screws, as the video and photos on the site suggest. I know they want the bag to move with the bike, but a mounting system with no give at all seems to be over the top, and probably self-defeating, The front and rear straps on the Wolfman give the same level of connection, but with more flexibility.

Apparently there’s a KLR-sized one in development… not that I’ll be buying another tail bag any time soon.

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Aug 21 2008

New front guard

tim

Yesterday I bought a new KTM SuperMoto front guard for the KLR. The standard one (pictured in the masthead at the top of the page) is not the prettiest thing in the world, and from certain angles looks like a broken nose or a duck bill. I’d seen a few posts on klr650.net suggesting that the KTM guard was an almost perfect fit, and the photos (like the one you see here) looked great.

The guard went on easily enough. I needed to drill out the two rear mounting holes a little – back, and diagonally out to the sides – but apart from that it went straight on with the original bolts.

Some forum posters also said that they felt greatly reduced buffeting on the handlebars at high speed. I can’t vouch for that, but then again I haven’t had the bike long enough to make any real comparison. From what I can tell it isn’t any worse, but I don’t think it’s significantly better, either. The main wind interference that I get is off the top of the windshield… and that will be the next thing to be replaced on the bike.

Just an update on the crash-bars: the bars themselves don’t seem to amplify vibration back through the bike, but they do vibrate a little, particularly at speed. The only time I’ve noticed it is when I’ve bothered to check by reaching down and touching them (not something I’d normally do) and occasionally when my left leg has touched the bar near where is comes out from the subframe under the seat, when I’m changing gear. Sill, I’m more than happy with how they’ve gone on.

My Wolfman Beta bag still hasn’t arrived. After about two weeks of waiting, no one seems to know where it is. The dealer tells me it has left the warehouse, but that’s all he knows. I’m not in any great rush, but it would be nice to get the bag and try it out.

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