Monday, January 31, 2011

Do Not Pass Go

Well, rats.  There isn't an easy way to incorporate the seat bolts as the forward rack attachment points.  I suppose if I had all of the necessary tools, I could fabricate something but, I don't.

So, we'll try to go with something that makes use of existing attachment points and still provides a (hopefully) stable platform.  I can make use of the upper toolbox bracket and turn signal on the left side and the muffler bolt and turn signal on the right side.  The 3/4" tubing will terminate before reaching the side panels which will allow them to be easily removed.  The same can be said of the seat since we're not going to incorporate the attachment bolts.  My only concern is the proximity of the turn signal and muffler bolt on the right side.  They're only a few inches apart.  This doesn't necessarily provide the most stable base.  But, I figure that by triangulating the 3/4" tube, that makes up the two 'side rails', the 1/2" square tube, that will comprise the base for the E200 rack, won't be relied on to supply most/all of the support.  Additionally, I'll gusset the 1/2" tube, at the 90º bend above the turn signals, for fore and aft, as well as side-to-side, support.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Voices, Inside My Head

Well, they aren't "echo(ing) the things that you said" but they are providing some ideas.


I altered a previously used illustration to provide an idea of what I'm envisioning.  The rendering is a little off but you get the idea (that's what you get for using MS Paint).  Everything visible is going to be 3/4" square tube.  But, I do recall having some 3/4" round tube in my scrap bin.  The scrap tube provides two things; 1 - a finished end that's properly crimped with a hole for the seat bolt and 2 - the round tube may provide a little more clearance for the side panel.  Also, you can see, in this illustration, that the turn signals are mounted on a separate tab.  That's not the case on my NX.  On my bike, they mount where tube, from under the side panel, "T"s into the vertical rack support.  I plan to weld a small piece of round tubing onto the rack support (just below that intersection point) so that the turn signals will pretty much be in their stock location.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vanessa Vacillating

Well, after my good friend sends me an email, I'm back to thinking a rear rack will work and that a side rack will be "Plan B".

The NX (shown at right) is a model not imported into the US.  How do I know?  It has a front disc brake, has wording on the side panels and has different wording on the swing arm (hard to see, I know, based on the image size).  Additionally, the rear turn signals are missing, although, that may be due to the rear rack.  Interestingly, the shop manual illustration shows the rear turn signals attached to a bracket that protrudes from rear fender sub-frame.  In actuality, the rear turn signals go through the rear fender and fasten the rear fender, frame and sub-frame together.  It's this attachment point that I plan to use for the rear rack.  The turn signals will be relocated to a bracket on the rack itself.

This image is what made me reconsider the rear rack.  A little detective work, based on the angle of the rack tubing below the seat, reveals that it uses the seat bolts as a connection point (there aren't any other fastener points in the immediate vicinity = process of elimination).  So, the rack is cantilevered with the main load points being taken by the frame itself (the rear fender and tail lights are supported by a tubular sub-frame which bolts to the frame proper at the rear turn signal connection points).  In all probability, the tubing is 1/2" mild steel and I'm still trying to decide if I want to stick with round tube or go with square tube.  Why square?  Well, for one, I'd prefer a flat surface to mount the E200 Givi rack (using my TransAlp rack as a template).  But, ultimately that means that only the tubing where the rack mounts needs to be square, the rest could be round.  Since I now own a tubing bender, I could justify it's purchase price by using it for this application (which is what I had intended all along).

Monday, January 24, 2011

The State says you're a scooter...

Seriously?  dude.

Yes, the Great State of Illinois has decreed that any two wheeled motor vehicle under 150cc of engine displacement shall be categorized as a "scooter".  Sweet.  Interestingly, this means that my wife's 2002 Honda Reflex, with 250cc, is considered a motorcycle.  How do I know this?  Well, I traveled to the Driver Services Facility in Lombard, Illinois on Saturday morning, February 22, 2011.  I was quickly processed and encountered a likable young man that was a little confused by the registration from the previous owner.  The NX was (previously) registered in Maine.  Maine, like New Hampshire, does not title vehicles that are of a certain age (twenty years old or older, I believe).  So, he had to double check with his supervisor.  With that straightened out, he went about making copies of the registration and bill of sale.  Then, he proceeded to stamp "less than 150cc" in about five or six separate areas of the registration form.  At no point did he ever ask about insurance (Did I have any?  Policy #?  Carrier?).  Nope, just pay the sales tax, title & registration fees and be off with you!  Did I mention he took his own sweet time?  The entire process took, easily, three times longer than normal because he was looking around, reviewing his handiwork and generally acting like a Government Employee.  Not that I minded, I was really in no hurry especially if he wasn't going to require proof of insurance (I have insurance, I just didn't have ID cards yet).  A (different) gentleman, that took the title & registration fees, and I had a good laugh about scooter versus motorcycle designations.  What's even more strange is that Illinois has chosen to make different license plates to differentiate scooters from motorcycles; firstly, a motorcycle plate is indicated by two letters (in the case of my wife's scooter, "AV", in the case of my TransAlp, "AA"), a scooter plate is indicated by one letter (in the case of the NX, "C"). Secondly, the motorcycle plate's letter/number combination is in dark red (on a mostly white background) while the scooter's is dark blue.  I'm guessing this makes it easier for law enforcement officers to ID a bike or a scoot?  Illinois may also restrict "scooters" (less than 150cc) from limited access highways (i.e. interstates).  The plate would make it easy to ID a "scooter" in this case.  I'm pretty sure the NX's top speed is about 60 mph which means I'll be avoiding highways like the plague and I knew this before even buying the bike (or scooter....).

I also had an opportunity to take it for a short spin, on Saturday, when I got home.  I made sure the battery was well charged (it sat on the trickle charger while I was out).  She fired right up and even though it was about 15º F outside, she ran just fine while I shivered and rode around in circles in a parking lot close to home.  Since I'm still breaking in a motor, I was surprised to find no tachometer next to the speedo (!!).  Hmmm.  It's nice to have a tach, especially when you're trying to keep the revs down during break-in.  So, an internet search quickly revealed Trail Tech's TTO Tach/Hour Meter.  Small enough to fit in the (already) cramped instrument binnacle but big enough to be easily read, this should work just fine (at least until I can tune my ear to know approximately how many RPM the engine is turning).  Now, if I can just figure out how to get a rear rack on the bike........

Friday, January 21, 2011

Location, location, location


The obvious location for the rear rack is directly above the rear fender.  But, I'm starting to wonder if fabricating a side rack and using a bicycle pannier wouldn't be a better idea.  The issue is this; the rear rack will need at least three, if not four, attachment points.  I can use the two turn signal stalks as forward supports for the rack.  However, there isn't much structure further aft of that location.  If the rear fender were not shown (above), the location of the turn signals is where the frame ends and the rear fender / tail light sub-frame begins.  The side rack could gain support from the attachment points, on the frame, for the tool box, the left turn signal and also tie into the rear passenger peg.  I could probably do something similar on the other side but would have to use the muffler attachment point as the tool box is left side only.  So, the side racks would be similar but not identical.  Jeff Stoess did something similar to his NX250 (see images at right).  Jeff decided to go with ATV Tank Panniers from Tractor Supply.  So, his racks are slightly different than what I would require, based on the mounting points for the bicycle panniers previously mentioned (and linked). However, Jeff's racks are a good starting point and provide a visual point of reference for mounting points.  Thanks Jeff.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Of Rear Racks and Headaches

So, I had an opportunity to go eye ball the NX to see what's involved with fabricating a rear rack.  Previously, I mentioned that I already own a Givi E35 Traffic top box and E200 rack (they came with my TransAlp).  I have since discovered that Givi no longer makes the E35 and that most, if not all, of the old stock has disappeared.  I was also hoping to find a light kit for it so I could add another brake light.  The top box is more in line with a driver's eye sight than the brake light on most bikes.  Adding a light, to the top box, can only help to increase my visibility, from behind, and that's a good thing.  I did find a highly recommended Canadian company, AdMore Lighting,  but they don't make a kit specific to the E35 and their mini light bar is cost prohibitive ($130, as of this writing).  So, I may look into 3M's SOLAS reflective tape as an alternative.  Whether you know it or not, everyone has seen SOLAS tape in action.  It's used on all of the road signs you (most likely) see every day while driving/riding.  It is the main reason those signs are so visible at night.  The issue with applying tape to the top box would be the fact that the box's surface is textured.  We'll see how that goes....

As for the rack itself, I'm going to be challenged to find appropriate mounting points for it.  I know the picture in the side bar isn't the most detailed (I have to fix that) but it's obvious that the turn signals are the only appendages aft of the seat.  I need at least three points to support a rack and would certainly prefer four.  On the left side of the bike is a small tool box, forward of the turn signal, that holds the minimalist tool kit and helmet lock.  The tool box attaches to the frame, at two points, with bolts.  On the right side is the muffler bolt.  Additionally, there are the turn signals which (hopefully) have enough of a threaded stem to accept a rack support bar.  A fellow inmate, at Adventure Rider and TransAlp.Org (see the side bar for links), has used this tubing bender to fabricate racks for his (former?) NX250.  I'm thinking I may need to bend up a "U" shaped piece of 1/2" tubing that will be oriented horizontally, under the rear fender.  It will use the two tool box attachment points, on the left side, and the muffler attachment point, on the right side, to support the four vertical rack supports.  The idea being that it's completely removable without leaving holes or slots in the bodywork.  While I don't plan to carry lots of weight, I'd prefer to keep the box/rack as low as possible (for obvious weight-up-high = bad reasons).  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Freezing Rain and Tapas

So, for those of you that live in areas that experience "winter" in its truest sense, last night's weather could have been more co-operative.  Due to scheduling issues and the fact that I didn't want the NX's old owner to wait any longer than necessary, I opted to pick the bike up yesterday evening (18 January 2011).  What was supposed to be "flurries in the morning followed by cloudy skies" turned into on and off snow/sleet/freezing rain throughout the day and into the evening hours.  I got home to find the driveway a sheet of icy, compacted snow.  I was able to get traction but just barely.  I own one of those folding trailers that you buy as a knocked-down kit and assemble yourself.  I don't use it that often but when I do, boy-howdy, it's nice to have.  When it's folded up, you can roll it around on casters.  So, I ran into the garage and moved it from its storage location (between my car and the wall) to my wife's vehicle's side of the garage (we used her little SUV to tow it).  When I went back out to drive my car into the garage, I found it slowly sliding, on the icy compacted snow, toward the street.  My driveway has just enough of a pitch to facilitate this action and my wife has complained about it earlier this winter (obviously, her comments fell on deaf ears....).  The sidewalk, at the end of the driveway, is flat which stopped my sliding car from going further.  It wasn't moving that fast in the first place but I certainly wasn't going to chase it into the street, either.  After getting the car in the garage, I took events to heart and salted the driveway (lest my wife arrive at home and chastise me once again; "You don't listen, do you?").  About thirty minutes later, I had the trailer set-up and ready to go.  Thanks to brand new smart phones, my wife was able to determine traffic information as well as several nice restaurants near our destination.  For those of you that have enjoyed these benefits for some time, indulge an old-timer, will ya?  Traffic turned out to be just like the phone indicated but the freezing rain, on the windshield, was a distraction.  55 mph was about as fast as I could go and have the defroster and windshield wipers keep up.  To be honest, I didn't care.  The trailer is small enough that it's really hard to see in the side view mirrors (but you can "feel" it through the seat of your pants - those who tow will understand) and taking it easy was OK as far as I was concerned.  The roads seemed to be in pretty good shape and I didn't ever encounter any icy pavement.  We arrived early, actually.

Tony was nice enough to come right out and help me load up after doing the paperwork and paying the balance due.  He commented on the "nice little trailer" (thanks) I had.  I brought along a ramp but, due to all of the ice and snow in the alleyway, it wasn't going to help much.  Fortunately, Tony had a piece of 3/4" plywood and we used that instead.  Luckily for me, Tony is a big dude, he's a brick layer by trade.  I'm pretty sure he could have picked up the bike and placed it on the trailer.  Needless to say, it was pretty easy to roll the NX up the plywood ramp and onto the trailer deck with him providing most of the impetus.  As I suspected, the deck was kind of slippery from the freezing rain.  Tony was kind enough to hold the bike while I strapped it down.  He was also kind enough to pick up the spare motor, like palming a basketball, and placed it in the back of my wife's SUV.  Just kidding about the "palming" part.  And, after a trip once around the block (Tony called to inform me we forgot to get the keys), we were on our way home.

The weather hadn't abated much but the precipitation had changed to mostly snow.  With a load on the trailer and the NX's headlight staring at me through the rear view mirror, we were able to keep pace with local traffic.  There is a local chain of restaurants that's notorious for their tapas.  Unfortunately for us, the location closest to us has closed.  So, we were delighted to discover that there was a location on the way home.  I was even lucky enough to be seated, in the restaurant, with a view of the parking lot.  I kept an eye on the NX for most of dinner (not that I expected anything bad to happen).  Fueled up with bacon wrapped dates and garlic potato salad (in addition to other goodies), the remaining trip home was a non-event.  The precipitation had stopped completely by the time we left.  As I off-loaded the bike, I was surprised by its light weight.  I'm used to pushing a 450 lb. TransAlp or 350 lb. Reflex around the garage/driveway.  The spare motor is pretty light, too; 65 lbs.  It took a little while to fold up the trailer thanks to trying to avoid all of the snow/slush/ice/road snot that had accumulated on it.  But, an hour later everything was packed up and put away.  And, I was beat and ready for bed.  I managed to thumb through the shop manual for a little while before my eye lids got really heavy.  So, I went to see the Sandman and dreamed of lightweight, dirt-capable, two-wheeled motor vehicles.......

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's Next (gear selection)

Having raced cars in the past (SCCA F Production Austin-Healy Sprite and SVRA Group 6 Shelby GT-350), I've always been a proponent of safety gear.  This means that I religiously wear my helmet, jacket, over-pants and boots on every ride, no matter how short/quick.  All The Gear, All The Time (ATGATT).  Considering the extreme disadvantage, with respect to operator protection, that bikes have versus cars, it only makes sense (in my mind) to give yourself the greatest chance to survive an "encounter" with a four wheeled vehicle.

However, one "new" consideration I now have is being (more) exposed to the elements because the NX has much less bodywork than the Reflex (scooter).  Even in wet weather, the Reflex does an admirable job of protecting the operator from rain and road spray.  My lower legs, in particular, will be subjected to "road rain" from the front wheel.  So, I'll be adding a rubber flap, a la the TransAlp, to the front fender in an effort to cut down some of that spray.  Additionally, I think I'll be getting a pair of inexpensive rain covers for my riding boots.  Otherwise, I should be good to go with respect to gear.  I have a new Arai XD3 helmet, FieldSheer jacket for early Spring and late Fall, CorTech jacket for late Spring and early Fall and a Hein-Gericke mesh jacket for Summer.  I wear FirstGear HT2 over-pants throughout the entire riding season.  The FieldSheer jacket is waterproof and I have a light weight rain jacket for warmer months (that fits over the CorTech and H-G jackets).  I have a selection of gloves; Joe Rocket for cool weather and are waterproof, Icon Patrol for Spring and Fall and a pair of mesh armored (brand escapes me) gloves for Summer.  Adding the rain boot covers should complete the "collection", as it were.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What's Next (for the bike)

Since I plan to use the NX for commuting purposes, I'll need to make a few modifications and/or additions.  I'm definitely going to need a rear rack.  My job requires me to carry a laptop to/from the office.  I also carry my lunch.  Since the NX is so light, I'll be carrying a u-lock and cable.  I'm fortunate enough to have an office with windows, so, I can see the bike in the parking lot.  Even though that provides some sense of security, the bike's just too light and a couple of people could lift it into a pick-up and be gone within minutes.  I know the lock/cable won't stop a pro, I'm just looking to discourage the opportunist.  Let's get back to the rack; I'm really lucky that my TransAlp came outfitted with Givi wing racks, E200 top rack and included a top case as well (a Traffic, I think?).  So, I need to fabricate a base rack to support the E200 top rack which will allow me to use the top case.  I already know the top case will fit my laptop, lunch cooler and u-lock/cable.  On top of that, it's big enough for my helmet and it's waterproof.

Hand guards.  As far as I'm concerned, these are a no-brainer.  There's just too many ways to mess up the levers and even though tree branches will be few and far between, these will also help with keeping my hands out of the air stream.  That said, hand muffs will also be something I want to procure.  I try to ride as long as the night time temperature is above 32º F.  Through lots of trial and error, I've determined that's the coldest my hands can handle without becoming frostbitten.  In Chicago-land, that means I can ride about nine months out of the year.  In 2010, I was able to get started pretty early, mid-March, if I recall correctly.  And, I was able to ride until the week of Thanksgiving.  However, those early and late months can be a little tough on the fingers, with respect to temperature.  I've read about grip heaters, winter gloves and heated gloves but the price point on Tusk hand mitts makes them very attractive.  That said, I see that Tusk grip heater sets aren't that much more expensive.

Seat Cover.  This may be something I have to have made.  I was fortunate to discover that an REI backpack cover was big enough to cover the scooter's seat.  This kept it from getting wet as well as providing some UV protection.  I don't think the backpack cover is going to work on the NX's seat.  Your thoughts/ideas would be appreciated on this.

Hello and Welcome

I recently purchased a 1988 Honda NX125.  So recently, in fact, that I don't even possess it yet (as of this writing).  However, while researching the bike, I discovered a dearth of general internet knowledge regarding this motorcycle.  I was able to find quite a bit of information on the NX250 and NX650 models.  I would expect some "cross pollination" across the NX line but, with the 250cc model being water cooled (the 125cc and 650cc engines are air cooled), there may not be as much as I expect.  I also happen to own a 1989 Honda TransAlp (which is a water cooled 600cc v-twin) and have already noticed some similarities between the little NX and the bigger TA.

The bike I bought is about as pristine as one would expect for a twenty-two year old bike with 2042 miles.  I'm the fourth owner.  The previous owner (Tony) bought the bike with a blown motor and has put all of about one hundred miles on it since he had the engine rebuilt.  In all fairness to Tony, he's more into cruisers and I'm not surprised this little buzz bomb didn't see much 'action'.  According to Tony (and I have no reason to doubt him), owner #2 ran the engine low on oil (the sump is only one quart) and proceeded to wipe out the cam and one valve.  So, Tony had a local cycle shop (someone he trusted) rebuild the motor.  He rode it so little (as previously mentioned) that I still have four hundred miles to go before the break-in period is complete.  In addition to the bike, Tony also has a spare motor, the owner's manual and a shop manual.  So, between the bike and the two manuals, I should be able to help with any questions regarding "from-the-factory" configuration.  Additionally, that spare motor may come in handy with respect to questions regarding engine internals.

Some background; this will be the sixth motorcycle I've owned.  I started out, in the early 90s, on a 1986 Honda Reflex (TLR200) which was Honda's street version of their trials bike (RTL200).  I then progressed to a 1997 Suzuki DR350SE which, in turn, was sold for a 1999 Suzuki DR350SE (better suspension than the '97).  In the summer of 2010, I decided I needed something a little more highway worthy yet still dirt capable.  The DR was sold for the above mentioned TransAlp.  Along the way, I picked up a 2002 Honda Reflex (scooter) for my wife.  Even thought it appears I'm a huge fan of "Ride Red", that's not necessarily the case.  I loved both of my DRs and if you're looking for a "do it all" dual sport, you cannot go wrong with that choice (I'd highly suggest the last two model years, 1998-99) if you go that route.  Owning a stable of Honda products is just the way things have worked out.