Saturday, November 26, 2016


It seems strange that, with all the motorcycles I’ve owned in the last fifty plus years, I never owned a Kawasaki. Those big K bikes from the sixties and the seventies had engineering to equal the best of Honda and the other Japanese competitors, with sales that put it firmly in the big four Japanese companies.

It started when Kawasaki Heavy Industries as it is now known was Kawasaki Aircraft. They initially manufactured motorcycles under the Meguro name, having bought an ailing motorcycle manufacturer, Meguro Manufacturing, with whom they had been in partnership. It was later renamed when they formed Kawasaki Motor Sales. Some early motorcycles display an emblem with "Kawasaki Aircraft" on the fuel tank.

During 1962, Kawasaki engineers were developing a four-stroke engine for small cars which ended when some of the engineers transferred to the Meguro factory to work on the Meguro K1 and the SG, a single cylinder 250 cc OHV. In 1963, Kawasaki and Meguro merged to form Kawasaki Motorcycle Co.,Ltd. Kawasaki motorcycles from 1962 through 1967 used an emblem which can be described as a flag within a wing.

Work continued on the Meguro K1, a copy of the BSA A7 500 cc vertical twin, and on the Kawasaki W1. The K2 was exported to the U.S. for a test in response to the expanding American market for four-stroke motorcycles. Unfortunately, it was rejected for a lack of power. But by the mid-1960s, Kawasaki was finally exporting a moderate number of motorcycles. The Kawasaki H1 (Mach III) in 1968, along with several enduro-styled motorcycles to compete with Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda, increased sales of Kawasaki units.

Besides the “evil” triples, the Mach III and Mach IV, Kawasaki was developing a 750cc, four cylinder, four stroke bike in a late sixties project called hopefully "NY Steak," but they were surprised by the 1969 release of the Honda Four of equal displacement. So, they went back to their drawing boards eventually producing the Z1 in 1972, a 900cc, dual overhead cam competitor that pretty much beat the CB750 in all departments. Honda’s answers later in the decade were the Gold Wing and the CBX six. But this story isn’t about Honda.

As I said, I’ve never owned a Kawasaki … at least up until now. I am now the proud owner of two of the finest Kawasaki bikes ever made (in my not so humble opinion). I have a ’74 Z1, fully reconditioned that looks like it just came from the showroom floor all NOS parts and shiny new paint and chrome. I also have an H1, the infamous Mach III two stroke triple. This one is original and out of a museum. So it looks spanking fresh too.

When I told my good biking buddy, David “Woody” Woodman, about the H1, he brought up the name of Yvon Duhamel, perhaps the only rider who ever mastered the ill handling monster Mach IV, although judging by the number of crashes he survived, maybe master isn’t quite the correct term. More like “came to grips.”

A little history of Team Green and the Famous Flying Frog — Yvon Duhamel:

The Kawasaki name has, over the decades, been inextricably linked to a handful of riders. Dave Simmonds, who brought the marque its first world championship title in 1969 on a Kawasaki 125, and its first race win in the 500cc class at Jarama two years later, Mick Grant who brought Kawasaki their only 500cc win at the Isle of Man Senior TT in 1975, the last year it counted as a world championship round, and Kork Ballington, who won both the 250 and 350cc titles on the company’s tandem twins for two consecutive years in ’78 and ’79 are all staunch Kawasaki men.

Across the Atlantic in the USA a diminutive little French-Canadian, Yvon Duhamel, known affectionately as the “Flying Frog,” brought the Kawasaki name firmly into the limelight in the market where it counted most. Through his sheer talent — and the number of crashes he survived on the evil-handling 750cc two-stroke triple, the Kawasaki H2R, he became forever linked with the big K.

Duhamel — father of the more recent top-level AMA superbike racer Miguel — was an extraordinarily talented fellow. He won the Canadian dirt track championship in 1963, ’65, ’66, ’67, and ’68. He scooped various motocross championships, was a successful ice racer, winning three Canadian championships, and finished second in the ’68 Canadian trials championship.

He also had a talent for making money from all of his activities. in 1975 Duhamel, who earned a record $90,000 a year from Kawasaki to race their unruly triples in the USA, told an interviewer that he earned another $90,000 from product endorsements. “But I never count. Because I make money from snowmobiles too. I was making almost $100,000 with snowmobiles…”

Snowmobiles? Yep. Duhamel raced the things in the winters in Canada, won the world 1970 World Championship as well as the grueling 800km cross-country Winnipeg to St Paul race, and the following year set a World Snowmobile Speed Record of 127 mph. Then again, maybe all that record breaking money was in Canadian dollars. You have to do the conversion.

Despite all these accomplishments, Duhamel was most famous in the USA for his brave rides on the ill-handling 750cc Kawasaki two-strokes. As Kawasaki’s top rider in the early to mid-1970s he won half a dozen national championship races on the two-strokes, breaking down or crashing out of the rest. Note that he pretty much either won or crashed!

Then, in late 1972, Kawasaki launched their 903cc four-cylinder Z1 four-stroke, and in March 1973 set out to smash a couple of dozen world records for various distances and times up to 24 hours. Off to Daytona International Speedway they went with a pair of showroom standard 903cc Z1s, and one mildly modified version with a fairing. Yvon Duhamel was to ride that machine around the famous track to establish a new world single-lap speed record, as well as 10 km and 100 km records. On the first of the three days he did so with ease, lapping for the single lap at an average of 160 mph, or just over 257 km/h — a new world record for any motorcycle. He also achieved his goals over the 10km and 100 km distances.

Over the next two days and night the eight riders involved set another 49 records, including the 24 hour record at a 109 mph average for over 2600 miles, including stops for rider changes, fuel, and tires. Take that Honda!

Whatever that little Daytona exercise cost Kawasaki, it was worth it. Motorcyclists around the world were in awe of the mighty Z1, and sales rocketed. The King had arrived, and Yvon Duhamel became even more famous worldwide — along with what Kawasaki claimed was the world’s first Superbike!

Now let’s argue that last point. What about the Vincent? What about the original Honda CB750 … or the British Triples from BSA and Triumph that beat the Honda four to the market? Or maybe the Suzuki “Water Buffalo” (or “Kettle” as the tea drinking Brits called it), or Kawasaki’s very own H1 and H2 models? I’ll leave that argument alone and just go outside and ride one. They’re all pretty super to me, and I never thought I’d own one until the collector bug bit me. Now I want to own (and RIDE) them all.

I don’t really care which was the first super bike. I just want to ride them. The previous paragraph is a pretty good shopping list for what I'm looking for. Got the two big Kawasaki's now, so I'm after bigger game. (Try to imagine bigger game than the Z1 … pretty scary … eh what?)

Since no one is offering me a ride on their classic, vintage bikes, I have to buy my own. Ride 'em, don't hide 'em, that's my motto. That’s why I want to collect all of them. (Except the Vincent. I’m rich … but I ain’t THAT rich!)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Trailer for Sale or Rent

Trailer for sale or rent
Rooms to let, fifty cents.
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain't got no cigarettes

Ah, but, two hours of pushin' broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I'm a man of means by no means
King of the road.

This old song by Roger Miller was popular when I first started college at the Montana School of Mines. The lyrics tell of the day-to-day life of a vagabond hobo who, despite being poor (a "man of means by no means"), revels in his freedom, describing himself humorously as the "king of the road.” It was Miller's fifth single for Smash Records.

According to a ’69 interview in Pop Chronicles, Miller said that the song was inspired when he was driving and saw a sign on the side of a barn that read, "Trailers for sale or rent.”

As many of my readers know, I’m a avid motorcycle collector. I like those vintage bikes from the ‘60s and ‘70s, and I’ve traveled far and wide to pick up my purchases. I used to rent a U-Haul van to make these journeys. But after four trips in those expensive vehicles, including one clear to Philadelphia when I crammed two motorcycles into the back, I decided there was a better … and cheaper way.

Not only did the daily rent charge for these week long trips add up quickly, but the loading into the van was very difficult. For the first trip I got a large wooden pallet that I added a wheel chock and several tie down rings. I’d load that pallet into the back of the U-Haul. I had a long 6” x 12” ramp that I’d push the bike up.

Because the ramp was so narrow, you had to push the bike up manually. You couldn’t run the engine because the throttle and clutch would get over your head while loading and the ramp was so narrow. I was always glad to get plenty of help from the person I bought the bike from, since it was a real task to get it up and into the van and then over the edge of the pallet. I usually had to remove the mirrors prior to loading to get all to fit.

I considered buying my own van. I found some nice ones with high ceilings and I could have purchased a good ramp for the back. But even a used van of the type I needed ran over $20,000, and I just could not justify that expense. Trailers seemed a much more cost effective and reasonable choice.

So I decided to buy a trailer for the next trip. The trailer cost about $3,000. Since I had already spent over $5,000 on U-Haul rentals, it seemed like a sound business decision. It had a high ceiling plus the back door would drop down for loading making a simpler and easier ramp that one could actually ride the bike up into the trailer. The height would clear mirrors, rider, and even windshields if that was ever necessary. Since I was able to install the wheel chock and tie downs in the floor of the trailer, it was a straight, flat shot onto the wheel chock. I added a side door for quick load inspection and access. The trailer had a V-nose and it is long enough for the biggest bike made.

The Ford Flex has a factory hitch receiver capable of 4700 pound towing weight and is fully equipped with lighting connections and electric brake attachment. However I only needed a single axle, 3,000 pound GVW trailer, so I expected the Flex would have no problem towing such a trailer. Single axle trailers don’t require electric brakes and are simpler and cheaper, yet could easily handle a motorcycle or two loaded.

I purchased a Haulmark Passport trailer from a dealer in Denver and left it with them to have the tie-downs installed. While that was being done, I headed for Seattle to visit my brother. He’s a motorcycle enthusiast also and has a trailer he uses to move his large road bike to distant destinations. He’d towed everything from a hitch to a fifth wheel trailer, and had plenty of trailer experience. He told me I wasn’t going to like the trailer. He said they are noisy, awkward, and really mess with your gas mileage.

I had little experience with trailers prior to this purchase. It turns out my brother was spot on. Upon returning to Colorado, I picked up the trailer. It was very noisy as it snapped back and forward over bumps and joints in the street and navigating railroad tracks and dips in the road. The trailer would bounce on the hitch and up and down and clattered and clanked behind the Flex. I assumed that once loaded it wouldn’t be as noisy, and that turned out to be somewhat true.

It pulled very well and I had pretty good visibility around the trailer, but I was surprised once I headed for Dallas. Prior to this purchase I had very limited experience with trailers. When I got out of the Navy, I lived with my parents in Spokane, WA for a few months and we would take Dad’s boat over to Idaho for water skiing and camping. I usually drove his large pickup with the boat in tow. I don’t really recall much about towing that trailer since it was so long ago.

On occasion I’ve towed a trailer with my pickup and the Flex. I brought a motorcycle home from Oregon with a small U-Haul trailer and I’d driven a large Penski rental truck to Idaho with a car on a trailer in tow. Neither of those experiences prepared me for my trip to Dallas. The open motorcycle trailer from U-Haul added little wind resistance and the big Penski diesel truck was not affected much by adding the trailer in back.

As I headed south and east on US 287 with my new trailer in tow and into a stiff 50 mph headwind, the first thing I noticed was the Flex didn’t shift into it’s highest gear. Running at 65 mph the tach showed I was in a much lower gear than usual. The wind resistance added by the stiff headwind made it hard for the Flex to keep up with the speed limit.

The Ford Flex has a relatively small six cylinder engine. That usually gave me excellent gas mileage. It could get up to 25 mpg if I kept the speeds at 60 or under. On the 80 mph speed limit roads, it dropped to 20. I had reset the instruments in the Flex to get a current gas mileage reading. Even though I was only going 65 into the wind the mileage dropped down to about 11 mpg. I soon learned to slow down more to let the Flex shift into a more comfortable gear and pretty much took it easy on the whole two day drive.

When I previously had filled the tank, the instruments would report a range of over 400 miles with a full tank. Now it was more like 250 miles and I’d stop very often to top off the fuel.

Things were a little better on the trip home. As expected, with the bike adding weight to the trailer and on the hitch, it was quieter and didn’t jump up and down so much. Also, without the strong headwind (although it never became a tail wind, mostly blowing at right angles to my direction of travel) gas mileage improved a bit. I got as good as 13+ in the mpg department measured both by my instruments and the frequent visits to gas stations. But I still kept 5 or 10 under the posted speed limit to keep the RPMs down.

The good news is that the bike loaded as smooth as butter. We actually rode it into the trailer and locked it onto the wheel chock under power. Had to duck my head a bit inside, but it rode right up the ramp and into the trailer. Tie-downs worked well and the bike made it home with no incidents or accidents.

Now I need a place to store the trailer. With a U-Haul I just took it back to the store. Still I think the little 5’ x 8’ enclosed trailer is going to be an asset to MC Squared. I’m already shopping for more bikes and planning to attach my little trailer to the Flex and head East or West or South as the case may be. I do think a new pickup with a big V-8 or even a Diesel might be a good solution for going the speed limit on the super slab, although I’m told by more experienced friends that trailers suck down the gas mileage no matter how big or small the engine is.

The problem is quite simple: wind resistance. The Flex already suffered from that physical fact due to the height that the roomy vehicle posses. Add that high trailer to the back end and, even though it has a V-nose, it takes considerable energy to pull it through the air. That issue is aggravated by higher speeds and head winds. Plus it can’t be doing the Flex good to be running all day in those higher speed gears. She’s an old lady now with over 160,000 miles. She has been very trouble free so far in her travels, but the trailer is putting stresses on her parts and adding a hitch in her get along.

Turns out my brother was correct. “Bro knows trailers!” The trailer is noisy. It was also a task to back that baby up the long driveway to the garage where my new motorcycle was waiting for me. (I’m getting better at backing a trailer with practice.) And Lord have mercy, that trailer robbed a ton of gas mileage and top speed from my Blue Bus. He was right on all counts. Yet it was a cheaper trip than driving a rented van.

So what is to become of my little trailer? Will I have to buy a more suitable towing vehicle, or will the Flex be just fine as long as I keep the speed down? I’m currently pondering the answer to those questions. Meanwhile, no matter what decision I make, I’m “King of the Road.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Gud Paswurds

You’ve all read the news: “Bank Accounts Hacked,” “Large Department Store Data Stolen,” “30,000 Emails Deleted.” Oh wait, that last one is from the political news. But you know that bad actors, many located in foreign countries, seem to be able to regularly access accounts that should be secure. And why is that?

Well there are many reasons and many ways these thieves gain access where they should have been kept out by locks, security, and passwords. Yet they seem to find their way in, through a window or under the floor or over the roof … metaphorically speaking.

Well there isn’t a lot you can do about the data processing security of your local bank, department store, or government; but there is one aspect of cyber security that you do control. That is your password. Make them STRONG. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, don’t let those beach bullies kick sand in your password’s face. You can have a strong password in just 60 days with these wonderful … wait, I think I got off track yet again.

You do want strong passwords. You’ve read the instructions: Include upper AND lower case LETTERS. Use numbers. Use punctuation and the other strange keys on your keyboard. (Just what the heck is a "~" or a "|") That’s called “complexity.” There are other good hints such as, and I can’t emphasize this enough, don’t use regular words called “dictionary words.” Like I said, don’t use regular words called “dictionary words.”

But there is a third method, and it is actually the best at building strong passwords. And that is to make your passwords LOOOOONNNNNGGGGGGGGGG! Sure the site requires a minimum of 8 characters, but that isn’t nearly long enough. You see the hackers use programs that quickly produce combinations of letters and numbers (and even the strange ${>~?*|` characters. Oh, and they quickly run through dictionaries of common words and names. It is better to use upper and lower case letters, numbers, and even odd-ball symbols, but mathematical analysis shows the most difficult passwords to hack by these automatic programs are long passwords (without common words or names).

Compare these eight character passwords and the estimated time for most hacking algorithms to break them:

qkcrmztd       52 seconds
kqwbv832     11 minutes
J5bZ>9p!       20 days

Note how adding numbers and caps and symbols does increase the hacking time. Doesn’t 20 days sound pretty secure? Oh, but wait, the crooks are running massive parallel systems made of modern PCs with several graphics cards installed. (Graphics cards are very fast at doing math.) So the 20 days may only be one day on a parallel system with 20 nodes.

So, it may be, that 20 days isn’t as good as it may seem from first glance.

By the way, the way this works, in most cases, the crooks have hacked some site and stolen their encrypted password file. They are now using super fast algorithms to hack these files to discover the plain text password. But then I’m sure you don’t use the same password on all your accounts, so if they do discover the password used at one retail store, certainly that isn’t the same password you use at your bank. IS IT????

So what can you do? Well my friends, (Can I call you friends even though I don't know you?), length is your buddy. Let’s start to think in terms of “pass phrases” rather than “pass words.” Length adds tremendously to the time taken to crack a password, even if it only contains lower case letters. Here’s some examples:

orange tea       98 days     (length 10 characters)
this is cool       546 years   (length 12 characters)

Of course, many sites don’t accept blank spaces in passwords. Plus they may require upper and lower case, numbers, and special characters (often from a subset of all the keys on the keyboard) no matter how long you make the phrase. Besides that, these example contain dictionary words, so I don’t recommend them anyway.

Here are some really secure passwords

I own 2 dogs and 1 cat!         30 octillion years (longer than the age of the universe)
#I own 2 dogs and 1 cat!?     285 nonillion years (yeah, I made that up … but you get the idea)

Now for the blanks and dictionary words:

Just combine some things, misspell the words, add a few characters (which isn’t even necessary unless the site requires it and “round the rough and ragged rocks” becomes the uncrackable:


Using every computer on the planet hooked in parallel, that password will take until the universe has died of a heat death before it can be hacked. It is rather long, and takes a while to type. You could make it a bit simpler and shorter and it would still be plenty secure. The important thing is to make it more than 8 characters in whatever you choose. Twelve, fourteen, that should be enough, at least with the present state of the art. When they perfect quantum computers, we will have to revisit length.

The key point is that length > complexity in the required computing time to hack the password. No matter how complicated and complex your 8 character passwords are, and no matter how many special odd characters you use on the keyboard (assuming the site will allow them all) a relatively simple 12 character password will be tougher to break than the most complex 8 character password you can dream up. And if 12 isn’t enough to give you a warm feeling, use 18 or 20.

Just remember:

Don't use common dictionary words: orange, secret, password
Don't just substitute numbers for letters: secr3t, passw0rd — the crooks know that one.
Don't use sequential letters or numbers: 12345, abcde
Don't use repeated letters/numbers or keyboard patterns: 111, aaa, qwerty, asdfgh

And, finally, Don't use the same passphrase for every site if you can help it. (If it is a trivial site, using a common password is OK. But protect your financial accounts and your email carefully.)

Why email accounts? Well guess how you reset a password, You typically ask for a reset and the site sends an email to reset the password. If someone can hack your email, they can probably reset your wonderful long password in about 1 minute, assuming they know the answer to a security question such as our mother’s maiden name or the high school you attended — which isn’t that hard to find on the Internet, now is it? Ah yes, security questions. I’d better get busy and write another note about security questions. Good security, it’s a never ending job!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


I’m pretty used to updates. My iPhone just got an update to iOS 10, Windows skipped 9 and went right to 10 just a year ago. Interestingly the just released version of the Mac OS X (that’s supposed to be Roman numeral ten) is just MacOS, dropping the "X," since, apparently, “ten” was getting crowded.

Now the Milwaukee Motor Company upgrades their engine … but only to “8.” That’s the new Harley-Davidson V-twin, and the “eight” refers to the number of valves. Divide 8 by 2 (two cylinders, you know) and you get a four-valve per cylinder design. Plenty of bikes (and cars) have doubled up on the intake and exhaust valves. It helps the engine breath easier without the extra mass of big valves. (There’s that Newton thing about inertia and mass.)

This is a brand new engine from stem to stern and HD is very proud of it. Interestingly, while doubling the valves, they returned to one camshaft to open those poppets. That’s after the last upgrade was proudly showing off its “Twin Cams.” It just shows there are more than one way to skin the old apple. (ASPCA disallows allegorical references to felines.)

While reducing the camshaft count in half, Harley has doubled the spark plug number. There are good reasons for all these changes, as I’ll discuss in the details below.

But first, let’s go to the history books and examine just how often these Milwaukee engineers have practiced engine-eering. I think a definite trend will appear.

This is the ninth big V-Twin engine in Harley’s lineup since 1903:

  • 1914-1929 F-Head (61ci and 74ci)
  • 1930-1948 Flathead (74ci and 79ci)
  • 1936-1947 Knucklehead (61ci and 74ci)
  • 1948-1965 Panhead (61ci and 74ci)
  • 1957-1985 Ironhead (54ci and 61ci)
  • 11966-1984 Shovelhead (74ci and 80ci)
  • 1984-1999 Evolution (80ci)
  • 1999-2016 Twin Cam (88ci, 95ci, 96ci, 103ci, 110ci)
  • 2017 Milwaukee-Eight (107ci and 114ci)

Besides a steady, albeit rather glacial pace of upgrading, you also notice a pattern They just keep getting bigger. Ignore the Ironhead. That went in the smaller Harley Sportster, and so it doesn’t really show the cubic inch progress. Also missing from this list is the engine Harley codeveloped with Porsche, the 2002 “Revolution.” It is water-cooled, and not put in the standard bikes, so I’ve ignored it, although surely Harley engine designers learned from it as well as these listed versions.

The design of Harley’s Big Twins has tracked the development of America’s highways. When most roads were dirt and average speeds low, the Knuck’s iron heads and cylinders handled the heat and “wore like iron.” As roads were paved and four-lane highways began to appear, riders could ride farther, faster. More power being used required increased cooling, so higher-heat-conductivity aluminum replaced iron, first in heads and then in cylinders. Design evolution of the last generation of Twin Cam was anchored by improved cooling.

So what about this new power plant? What does HD say about it? Where will we see it?

The new eight-valve engine seeks two broad goals. One is to make greater power and torque while being emissions-compliant, fuel-efficient, and highly reliable. The other is a trend visible across the vehicle industry — to achieve world-class “ride feeling” through chassis, suspension, and driveline refinement. Customer research, covering 1,000 riders in seven cities, was distilled into “The Voice of the Customer,” telling The Motor Company that riders want more power for two-up riding and more back-road agility. They want the bike to fit more sizes of people. They want cooler operation.

The standard 107 uses precision oil-cooled cylinder heads and will be found in Street Glides, Road Glides, the Electra Glide Ultra Classic, and Freewheeler trikes. A Twin-Cooled version with liquid-cooled cylinder heads and radiators will power Ultra Limited models, the Road Glide Ultra, and Tri Glide models. CVO Limited and Street Glide models are equipped with the Twin-Cooled Milwaukee-Eight 114 featuring liquid-cooled cylinder heads and radiators.

Harley-Davidson Big Twin owners love the look of an air-cooled engine’s fins but have accepted “strategic cooling” (intensive cooling of specific areas) as the price of keeping that look while improving function. In the recent Rushmore series of changes to the Twin Cam engine, this took the form of circulating liquid coolant in passages around each cylinder head’s hot exhaust valve seat and then to external radiators, as a means of keeping valves and valve seats well-sealed and warp-free as more power (and therefore increased heat) was sought.

This is only one of two basic approaches to heat management — removing excess heat to keep parts at safe temperatures. An alternative approach is to change the design so it takes up less heat from combustion — an approach that may also increase power and efficiency by keeping that heat where it works for you — in the hot, high-pressure combustion gas that presses the pistons down to drive the crankshaft.

Therefore the new eight-valve engine abandons the large surface area of the traditional deep, modified hemi two-valve combustion chamber and puts in its place an almost flat chamber of minimum surface area with four valves. A true hemi chamber has exactly twice the surface area of a flat chamber, and to achieve the higher compression ratios needed to make strong torque, a piston in a hemi chamber may need a dome that increases its surface area as well. Thus, by switching from modified hemi two-valve to nearly flat four-valve, the surface area through which heat can enter heads and pistons has been substantially reduced.

Another way to take up less heat from combustion is to speed it up, exposing heads and pistons to flame for shorter time. Faster combustion from two spark plugs per cylinder is one element used in the Milwaukee-Eight to achieve this, but a second is invisible: thousands of hours of flow and combustion simulation studies. Like all modern manufacturers, Harley has relied heavily on powerful computer models allowing engineers to explore options at the press of key. Further use of computers on the bike's themselves produce sophisticated timing and anti-detonation detection. That saves heat and engine parts.

Like the original Big Twin — the EL of 1936 — the new engines have a single four-lobe camshaft in place of the Twin Cam’s pair. Drive is by chain with automatic hydraulic tensioner. Fewer parts mean reduced noise and lower friction. Other improvements in the air intake system also reduce noise. There is a single, outstanding reason for this. Besides monitoring exhaust gas emissions, the EPA monitors noise and the rules keep getting tighter. With motorcycles, the regulations measure the noise in a cumulative, “drive by” manner. That means the noise limits include engine mechanical noise, air noise from engine and body, and exhaust noise. Ah, but one man’s noise is another man’s music. And Harley riders like the rump, rump sound most of all. By minimizing mechanical and air intake noises, you can maximize the exhaust noise that is the primary selling point of the big Milwaukee Iron.

At some point in the future, government regulations may force HD to water cool their engines, since the water jacket muffles much of the engine mechanical noises. But Harely riders like the appearance of the big V-Twin power plant — fins and all, and Harley has been very aware of these design limitations. You don’t have to do a scientific survey of your customers to know where the Harley rider sweet spot applies. Keep ‘em loud and keep ‘em clean looking. That’s the marketing report.

All this effort underlines the importance of the work for Harley-Davidson. The Big Twins, where this new Milwaukee-Eight will be installed, is the very core of Harley’s business, the “engine” that ultimately drives sales all the way down to the last key fob. It’s the heart, soul, and sound that connects to the brand’s millions of fans around the world. Part of the strategy explored by HD includes smaller bikes as "entry-level" sales and the slightly smaller Sportster, yet the money makers are the big boys. In fact, the smaller bikes are part of a plan leading to the top of the line models. Plus you've got to keep the current riders, although they are some of the most brand loyal customers in the business. But they are also mostly an aging population that needs to be replaced with "young blood."

I’m not really a “Harley guy,” but I know a few and I’m very experienced with what these guys (and gals) want. I think the nail has been hit right on the sweet spot, and this engine and the other changes to suspension and various tweaks to the overall bike design will be met with approval by their intended audience and might even add a few more to the crowd. That’s important because the Motor Company has some stiff competition from Victory and Indian, as well as the big twins coming from that small island in the Pacific. The competition is tougher than it has ever been and HD’s bottom line has shown the impact of that competition. This new power plant is bound to help in that area. Just how much it will help is something yours truly will keep an eye on. This does seem like a good direction. The new Milwaukee-Eight combines tradition with the latest engineering and should hit the intended target right on the bulls eye. Time, and sales figures, will prove this assumption.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Honda V-Four Motorcycles

One of the most influential motorcycles of all time, the Honda CB750, created a serious dent in the competition when released and almost single-handedly caused the British bike industry to stall. It began production in 1969 as the homologation of the Honda CR750. The latter was developed in response to a rule change from the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) that eased engine restrictions for race qualification, an adjustment that allowed the CR750 to win its inaugural race — the 1970 Daytona 200.

A high-performance powerhouse available to the public, the CB750 is considered by many to be the first superbike. Fit with an air-cooled 736 cc straight-4 engine, a 5-speed transmission, and front disc brakes, the earliest edition harnessed 67 bhp and reached a top speed of 125 mph. With a production run through 2003 and again in Japan in 2007, over 400,000 examples were made. One currently resides in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

Thus Honda beat Kawasaki to the punch, since Kawasaki were developing a similar bike. When they realized that the 750 cc bike they had originally been working on would not hold its own against the herculean 1968 Honda CB750, they developed the 903 cc Z1 in response.

Delivered to the public in 1972, the bike featured a double tubular steel cradle that carried an air-cooled DOHC inline-four engine. Releasing 82 horses, the bike could gallop at a top speed of 130 mph while a 5-speed transmission served as bridle.

A synthesis of style and substance, the Z1 also offered an electric start, comprehensive instrumentation, and superior handling characteristics — an innovative combination of brute force and beguiling performance that set a new superbike standard.

This quickly led to copy-cat fours from the other two Japanese manufacturers and bigger models soon appeared (or in the case of Honda … several smaller displacement four-cylinder models: 500 cc, 550 cc, 400 cc, and 350 cc).

As a result, people were becoming bored with straight fours by the 1980s. Although Honda was the company responsible for starting it all with the CB750, now that Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Suzuki were churning out similar bikes — the ubiquitous “Universal Japanese Motorcycle” — it was time for something entirely different.

That something was the VF750S, announced in 1982. Starting with a clean sheet of paper and a blank computer screen, the machine was based around a water-cooled V4 with four valves per cylinder. The two banks of cylinders were set at 90 degrees resulting in almost perfect balance and minimizing vibration. Only the boxer design with 180 degree cylinder alignment could do better.

A quartet of 32mm Keihin carbs was squeezed into the space between the heads. Reving to an astonishing five-figure rpm without stress, this ultra short-stroke engine produced about 80 bhp.

So far, so good. Things began to go wrong when the new V4 was installed in a motorcycle chassis, with the cylinders pointing fore and aft and with a shaft driving the back wheel. Honda included all the latest technology, including Pro-Link rear suspension, flavor-of-the-month TRAC anti-dive forks, and a full set of electronic instruments with liquid crystal gauges. They even fitted the wheels with rims of a decent width.

Which all sounds promising enough, but somehow it was a confused design, an uneasy combination of sports bike and tourer, with an identity crisis. Test reports praised the engine for its power, smoothness, and relaxed feel at speed. On the debit side, the handling was deemed adequate at best, with a sense that the power and weight were overwhelming the suspension.

After Honda’s recent history of a producer of untrustworthy engines (early CX500 and DOHC CB750 and 900 fours, for example), some concerns were raised about the sheer complexity of the V4. This was certainly not a bike for DIY mechanics.

Sales weren’t great from the beginning, but when it became known that all the fears about engine reliability were coming true, the FV750S became difficult to sell at any price. Horror stories about camshafts and cam chains wearing out in a few thousand miles ensured that the bike became something of an embarrassment, helping Kawasaki to sell more straight fours than ever.

Soon the derisive term “chocolate cam shaft” that melted like a candy bar in the hot sun began to haunt the engine. Most of these engines, especially those driven hard, wore out cam lobes, rocker faces, and cam bearing surfaces prematurely. Honda came out with many explanations, excuses, and fixes including:

1. Incorrect valve adjustment because of forked rocker arms.

To avoid this, Honda recommended identical feeler gauges under each fork of the rocker arm at the same time, so the rocker arm doesn't tilt.

This problem is worsened by the fact that the cam caps don't extend very far around the tops of the cams. On the 500cc engines, and the later generation Interceptors, the cam caps extend much farther over the camshaft to hold it snugly in place. This may explain why the problem occurs less frequently in these bikes.

2. Variation in cam-to-bearing clearance because of manufacturing method.

To combat this, Honda developed a special tool to hold the cam in place. The service bulletin issued with this tool recommends valve clearance of .006 inches instead of .005 that the Sabre / Magna originally specified, as well as use of premium motorcycle oil, changed frequently, and avoidance of prolonged idling.

3. Improper cam chain tension.

Various redesigned cam chain tensioners have been developed.

4. Soft cam lobe material.

Later replacement cams use different camshaft material and hardening procedure, so they should last longer than the original cams. Honda offered an extended warranty which essentially meant free cams and rockers whenever needed. This warranty was discontinued in 1989 or so, and it costs about $1000 or so for parts (camshafts and rockers). Such is the cost of poor quality, a theme I’d often sing to my management team in development and manufacturing.

5. Heat

Despite liquid cooling, these engines do get hot. Usually the rear cams are the first to go because they get hottest.

Certainly one key issue was the V4 oil system. The oil system picks up oil from the sump through a strainer and routes it two ways. One goes to the filter and from there to the crankshaft. The other goes to a T joint where one branch goes to the transmission and the other splits again to feed each cylinder head. Therefore the oil is not as clean as it could be. The oil lines are of small diameter. On '83 Interceptors there was a restrictive banjo bolt in the pipes up to the heads. This was fixed for ’84.

Although many fixes were provided by Honda and aftermarket suppliers, this problem continued to plague the V4 until the 90s, with improvements provided over the years. Honda continued to improve the oil system to the camshaft, increasing the size of channels and running the oil down the center of the camshaft.

To address the handling and frame issues, only a year later, Honda fought back with the VF750F, a small change in model type, but a big change in concept. The engine had the same capacity and layout, but it was completely different inside, with a crankshaft turning in the opposite direction and chain drive to the rear wheel. Power was increased to 90 bhp at 10,000 rpm.

Addressing the dynamic weaknesses of the S, the frame was a new wraparound affair made of square-section steel tubes, crazily painted to make it look like aluminum. In addition to RAC anti-dive and Pro-Link rear suspension, the F had another secret weapon — a 16-inch front wheel, which in 1983 was the height of fashion.

The chassis was undoubtedly a good one, and the engine produced a deceptively relaxed rush of power, accompanied by a rumbly background thrum. Aided by an efficient fairing, the VF seemed to be going fast — until the rider looked at the speedometer, when the shocking truth was revealed. There had been plenty of fast bikes before, but doing 130 mph had never felt this easy.

Unlike the S model, the F found plenty of buyers immediately, and for a while, bikes were in short supply. This situation didn’t last long. Despite all the promises, it soon became apparent that the engine was still fundamentally flawed. Camshafts and cam chains still failed after a few thousand miles. After initially blaming everyone but themselves, Honda eventually admitted there was a problem, and became very generous with warranty claims. But it was really too late to salvage the VF’s tarnished reputation. Kawasaki sold even more GPz straight fours in 1983.

Disastrous though it was in some respects, the VF750F herald a new era for motorcycling, one in which bikes became almost too easy to ride at ever faster speeds, without necessarily being any more rewarding, or more exciting. Not everyone appreciated this wimpish new world of effortless two-wheeled travel, so was it a coincidence that sales were slumping, and continued to do so for the rest of the decade.

Ironically the next trend was back to the basic American motorcycle from previous decades. The Harley-Davidson big V-twin bikes with the attempted patent rump-rump (or potato-potato) cruiser sound, and decidedly more old fashioned designs became the trend in the industry.

Soon Honda and the other big Japanese companies began to copy the large V-twin designs, although with many modern accoutrements. (Actually Yamaha was first with the Virago line of cycles.) To this day the large V-twin cruisers and baggers are some of the best selling models for the Japanese companies as well a sales successes for Harley, Victory, and the resurrected Indian brand. These V-twins offer the advantages of narrow engine width and very low seat height, but it is really the sound of that engine that is the key to their success in my humble opinion. That and the movie Easy Rider!

Certainly the Japanese also have sales success with sports bikes that look like fugitives from the Daytona 200 as well as other unique touring bike designs with the Honda Goldwing.

The more complete history of the V-four would include many new models and a steady increase in displacement. The VFR was originally a 750 cc, but became an 800 cc in due course. New models featured technological innovation, such as a single-sided swing-arm, linked braking, ABS, and VTEC. The VFR1200 became the first motorcycle to feature a dual-clutch transmission. Not all of these "innovations" proved popular with riders, who often preferred the simple robustness of the earlier models.

Honda also developed a limited edition VFR, the Honda RC30, as a homologation racing platform. This motorcycle achieved some racing success, but the introduction of very light inline-four motorcycles by competing firms led Honda to downgrade its racing plans.

Honda's VF model line-up had engine capacities ranging from 400 cc to 1,000 cc. Another Honda, the shaft-drive ST1100 also featured a V4 engine, but this touring motorcycle does not form part of the VF series.

The V-four even got caught up in the short tariff war where Harley convinced the US government to add an additional import charge to bikes of 750cc and larger to protect Harley sales. This led to the VF700C model in 1987, which was raised back to 750cc the next year when the tariff was withdrawn.

Under model names of Sabre and Magna as well as the initial Intercepter, Honda produce various models of V-fours up to 1997 and even included a specially equipped police model.

The current standard bearer, an Intercepter model with definite sport bike faring and regalia is described in Honda brochures as a 782cc V-4 VTEC engine with fuel-injection mapping for better low-end torque feel. It includes adjustable seat height to better fit a range of riders, front-mount radiator for a slimmer profile, radial-mount front brakes, and all-side muffler, wheels and Pro-Arm swing-arm. There’s even a Deluxe model for 2015 with features like traction control, anti-lock brakes, self-cancelling turn signals, a center-stand and heated grips.

Self canceling turn signals!?! Doesn’t my ’96 Yamaha Virago have those? And it’s a V-twin. Still I yearn for an ’87 or ’88 “Super” Magna with the four upswept pipes and the little racing chin down under. (That's an '88 VF750C in the picture at the start of this article.) Most of the chocolate camshaft problems were fixed by then, and I’d love to add a V-four to my collection.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Motorcycle Safety Dance (or "Always wear your helmet")

Yesterday I took a long bike ride up north along the foothills above Ft. Collins to Laramie and then through the Medicine Bow mountains on Happy Jack road. What a “happy” name, “Happy Jack.”

Happy Jack wasn't old, but he was a man
He lived in the sand at the Isle of Mann
The kids would all sing, he would take the wrong key
So they rode on his head on their furry donkey

Isle of Mann … who knew Happy Jack was a motorcycle song?

No, I wasn’t riding a furry donkey. That would be a Suzuki or a Kawasaki or maybe one of those Spanish bikes, like a DelTaco.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, I am always conscious of SAFETY. Especially when I have my precious wife on the back. I don’t worry that much about me, but I’d hate for any harm to come to her. Safety. That’s my motto.

I always fasten my safety belt. I practice safe sex. I only use safety pins. I keep my money in a safe. All my guns are set on “safe” … and kept in a gun safe. (Not really. I don’t have any guns. Wouldn’t be safe.)

I even dance safe:

We can dance if we want to, we've got all your life and mine
As long as we abuse it, never gonna lose it
Everything'll work out right
I say, we can dance if we want to we can leave your friends behind
Cause your friends don't dance and if they don't dance
Well they're are no friends of mine

I say we can dance, we can dance everything out control
We can dance, we can dance we're doing it wall to wall
We can dance, we can dance everybody look at your hands
We can dance, we can dance everybody's takin' the chance

And that is the topic of today’s screed. Safety. Particularly motorcycle safety.

Motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than automobiles. In the first place, they are not as stable. A little sand in the road or some leaves on a turn and you can end up sliding into first. What would be a minor fender bender in a car, can be a serious accident on a scooter. You don’t have a steel cage around you and, even with appropriate safety gear: helmet, leathers, boots, gloves, crucifix; you just aren’t as safe as in a two ton cage with airbags, bumpers, and collapsing metal parts.

A biker does have some advantages. Even though small size (relative to an SUV) means you aren’t as noticeable, it does mean you can fit in a smaller space … like when that oncoming crazy guy tries to pass on the double yellow line and you have to share the single lane road with an impending collision.

Some argue that the greater maneuverability (and acceleration) of a bike means you can get out of the way. To me it just seems like you get quicker to the scene of the accident.

No, the main safety feature of a motorcycle, in my humble opinion, is your greater vision. There is really nothing to block your view of the road and oncoming hazards. So let’s discuss.

I will give you a visual example. Suppose you had a slice of pizza. Now lay it on the table in front of you with the pointy end toward you and the crust away. No, don’t take a bite out of it. Now that ruined it. Go ahead and finish it.

Now, put another piece of pizza in front of you with the pointy part toward you. It does look good. Pepperoni and Italian sausage. That’s one of my favorites. I’ll just take a little bite. Mmmmm. I’d better finish it now. I didn’t have lunch yet, you know.

Ok. One more time. Take a slice of imaginary pizza. Put it on the table in front of you with the pointy end closest to you. Now this will be our model of your vision.

Look down and focus on the pointy end of the pizza. This is like focusing on the ten feet in front of your bike (while traveling at 60 mph). Sure you’ll have a good view of the detail of the road and road hazards such as potholes and foreign (or domestic) objects in the roadway, but you don’t have the time (or reflexes) to avoid them anyway. Instead, focus down the road.

In our example, that means to look at the crust on the other end of the pizza. Not only is that farther away giving you more time to respond to what you spy, but it also increases your field of vision.

See how the pizza is wider at that end (the crust end). Your vision works the same way (only without anchovies). By focusing on the distance, you actually get a clear view of the entire road and the things alongside the road such as deer, antelope, moose, and skunk; as well as cars, trucks, and large ocean liners approaching at right angles (ninety degrees) to your direction of traffic. Looking to the distance actually expands your vision to the sides. You take in the entire panorama of events unfolding out in front of your motorcycle. (This works with cars too.)

You know about those cars and trucks approaching from the side roads. Sure they have a red light, stop sign, road construction barriers, and police car with flashing lights; but you know they’re going to ignore all that and just pull out in front of you. There’s that guy up ahead turning left. And don’t forget about the U-turners. By focusing on the distance you have more time to respond and your vision … like the pizza … is wider.

Hey, what happened to that last slice of pizza?

Some people argue it is safer to not wear a helmet on a bike because it can block this sideways or “peripheral” vision. It can also block your hearing. Well, that may be true to some extent, but I think that, if you play the odds, it is safer to wear the helmet. Choose a helmet carefully that preserves your side vision. Regarding hearing, with wind noise, etc., the helmet may actually allow you to hear more clearly. It depends on the circumstances and you have to play the odds.

(Someone noted that hockey players have been wearing athletic supporters with a cup for a hundred years, but only added helmet in the last ten. That doesn’t prove anything except that men have their priorities on what is more important to protect.)

Note some people argue that seat belts aren’t safe either because they can trap you in the car after the rollover and you burn up in the wreckage. But I say for every accident where the seat belt trapped someone and caused injury, there are 100 accounts where a no seat belt let the person be thrown from the vehicle and killed or badly injured. You gotta play the statistics.

There are some other advantages to being out in the open besides vision. You also have better hearing than a guy (or gal) in a car or truck with the radio blasting, talking on the telephone, windows rolled up, A/C blasting, and kids in the back fighting.

And don’t get me started on cell phones, texting, Facebooking, YouTubing, Twittering (I know, I know, it’s “tweeting”), or checking the weather reports and trying to write a blog whilst driving. (Wow … “whilst,” now that’s an old-fashioned word. Love it.)

And speaking of pizza and Facebook, also keep an eye in the mirror. Latest motorcycle accident statistics state the most frequent road accident is being hit from behind by a distracted driver. Keep an eye on the rear view mirror when stopped at a light. Keep an escape lane available (remember the narrow bike can go where no car can go) or just split the lane and pull right up to the light. Just don’t get those crazy car and truck drivers mad at you. Avoid eye contact.

I can’t think of a clever way to connect Facebook and pizza to a mirror. Maybe something about a selfie, but I see I’ve run out of time. So TTFN

Now I think I’ll go to my safe place and contemplate safety and the rules of the road. Have a safe ride.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Party on Wayne; Party on Garth

In my continual pursuit to understand the physical world, some recent reading in the prestigious Physical Review Letters journal, I encountered this article: “Collective Motion of Mashers at Heavy Metal Concerts.”

To quote an excerpt:

Human collective behaviors vary considerably with social context. For example, lane formation in pedestrian traffic, jamming during escape panic, and Mexican waves at sporting events are emergent phenomena that have been observed in specific social settings.

Here, we study large crowds (102 − 105 attendees) of people under the extreme conditions typically found at heavy metal concerts. Often resulting in injuries, the collective mood is influenced by the combination of loud, fast music (130 dB, 350 beats per minute), synchronized with bright, flashing lights, and frequent intoxication. This variety and magnitude of stimuli are atypical of more moderate settings, and contribute to the collective behaviors studied here.

Videos filmed by attendees at heavy metal concerts highlight a collective phenomenon consisting of 101 −102 participants commonly referred to as a mosh pit. In mosh pits, the participants (moshers) move randomly, colliding with one another in an undirected fashion. Qualitatively, this phenomenon resembles the kinetics of gaseous particles, even though moshers are self-propelled agents that experience dissipative collisions. To explore this analogy quantitatively, we obtained video footage, corrected for perspective distortions as well as camera instability, and used PIV analysis to measure the two-dimensional (2D) velocity field on an interpolated grid.

The results of the study shows the motion of the moshers duplicates quite closely the behavior of molecules in a gas. These gaseous phenomenon have been carefully studied from a perspective of thermal behavior (the effects of “temperature”) and advanced mathematics such as Maxwell-Boltzmann statistics. This is thermodynamics models at their loudest.

Ask not what Heavy Metal has done for you (or to you). Ask what you have done for Heavy Metal.

And there you have the shortest article I have ever written. Especially if you realize the majority of the text is a quote from another publication. People just don’t realize that I’m terse and laconic. Nor do they realize that physics is all around us … even at a rock concert.

For those so inclined, here's the original article: