Tuesday, February 25, 2014

KTM Oil FIlters

I bought a KTM brand oil filter and a K&N brand oil filter to compare them. Both are for my 2013 KTM 35 EXC-F.

Interestingly, they appear identical, except for the color of the fabric and the box packaging. They are the same dimensionally, have the same metalwork and the same number of fabric pleats. They are also both made in Thailand. The K&N has red fabric and the KTM has orange fabric. I cannot test the  quality/function of the fabric but it looks the same to me.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ohlins Off Road Steering Damper v2.1 SD502 with SD 534 Mounting Kit

A couple weeks ago I was cruising down a straight sandy trail in the desert at about 40 mph. I hit a half buried soccer ball sized rock that was hidden in the shade of a bush. The bars slammed to the side jamming my wrist and forearm and the bike bucked up tossing me out of the saddle. I managed to recover, but it was almost an unpleasant crash.

I had heard that many guys run a steering damper in the desert specifically to help with this kind of incident. The idea is that it dampens jarring hits like one caused by hitting an embedded rock at speed. And I'd rather spend some bucks on a steering damper than have to recover from a hard fall. So I started shopping.

I quickly found that most steering dampers for dirt bikes mount under the handle bars and raise the height of the bars. I'm pretty short and definitely didn't want to raise the bars. A solution to that is to get flat low rise bars to compensate. I considered GPR v4 stabilizer with that plan. The GPR v4 is advertised to be thin and is designed to not raise the bars as much as other options. But after looking at it, I didn't want to install it and then put the flat bars on; I just didn't like setup.

Most people seem to use the Scotts steering stabilizer, and I noticed almost all of the Dakar guys use the Scotts. Unfortunately it raises the bars even more than the GPR. They do offer an "above the bar" mount, but I like to mount my GPS on top of the bar, and I have some safety concerns about mounting a solid metal stabilizer on top of the bars like that.

And then I found the Ohlins v2.1 Off Road Steering Damper. Now this looked cool and was claimed to mount under the bars without raising them!  There is a also good review on Eastern Dirt Magazine that made me more interested. The only problem was that it was darn expensive. But then I found a distributor offering a great deal as he had some overstock and I grabbed it. For my 2013 KTM 350 EXC-F the proper fitment was the SD502 damper with the SD 534 mounting kit.

The Ohlins 2.1 requires that you replace the top steering stem race with an Ohlins race with an attached post for the damper. With the special race and the thin damper body this makes for a nice tight installation. The negative is that you have to remove the top steering race and install the new Ohlins one. And the new one must be installed with the post perfectly in line with the centerline of the bike. This isn't too hard, but requires some special tools and extra care to not rotate the race during installation. The benefit of all this is a very compact installation with a short rigid post to actuate the damper.

Additionally, for installation on the KTM 350 EXC-F you have to drill and tap the top triple clamp to to fasten the damper in place.

I almost did this all myself, but then decided that instead of buying some tools and spending a bunch of hours that I'd rather let a professional do it. So I took that easy way out. Allen at Fox Engine Works did a great job for me. I should say installing this correctly takes some care. If you are skilled, do it yourself. If you want to have someone else do it, be prepared to pay for a bunch of hours and make sure they are capable of a detailed careful project like this. Your typical wrench monkey might not put it on straight.

I told Allen I wanted to be sure that the bar mounts were installed in their existing location, which was the most rearward position of four possible locations. Installing the damper with the bar mounts in the most rearward location did require grinding the bar mounts just a little bit to clear the damper.

I also needed to put some spiral wrap on the throttle cables and the fuel breather to protect them from rubbing on the sharp edges of the damper.

You also need to be careful to check the steering stops. You do NOT want the damper to stop the steering, you want the steering to hit the frame stops first.

The Ohlins offer two adjustment knobs. The "DL" or Damping Level knob sets the damping when the steering is being turned away from center. The "RTC" or Return to Center knob sets the damping when the steering is returning to center.

In this picture you can see the under bar mount with the plastic Garmin gps mount above the bar. The post from the steering race is completely hidden under the unit.

Here you can see to bolt that fixes the damper on top. The triple clamp needed to be drilled and tapped for this. Ohlins offers adapters for some bikes so the damper can be fitted without drilling. This looks nice and clean but does require careful work

This is a shot showing the adjustment knobs. For enduro use Ohlins recommends the DL to be opened 12 clicks and the RTC to be opened 8 clicks. I noted this on a bit of white duct tape.

After some consideration I decided to install the plastic protector Ohlins provides to protect the cables that run by the damper. Be very careful tightening these to not strip them!

My only concern about the damper is the arm that actuates the mechanism comes out of a thin slot on the underside of the damper. I could imagine sand or dirt jamming that slot. But it is in a fairly protected area of the bike so we will see how that works out. In this picture you can see the underside of the damper with the post mounted to the steering race and the actuating mechanism.

I tried the damper out just turning the bars. With the damping turned all the way open it's hard to tell it is installed. With both knobs turned all the way closed there is real resistance to the steering. (But not as much as the old linear damper on my Ducati Monster; on that damper you could barely turn the bars with the damper fully closed.) The return to center adjuster does really work; if you open that all the way you don't feel any damping when returning the steering to the center. I guess some people want to be dampened more if they are being knocked away from straight, and want to return back to the center more easily.

So far it looks great! A ride test report will come soon.
Ride report:
I got out in the desert for 100 miles with the new Ohlins steering damper. I set it at the suggested settings for enduro; 12 clicks out for the DL and 8 clicks out for the RTC. An a stand with the front wheel in the air you can feel the damping, but it is not much.
Out in the desert I couldn't feel it at all. I bumped the DL to 10 clicks out and even tried 8 and really couldn't feel it. Accelerating over ripples the front end felt really free and loose. Frankly, I was expecting a bit more restriction. Maybe I'll turn it way up and see. ;-)
But regardless of what I feel (or not) in regular use, I'm assuming it will help with a big off center hit to the front wheel. And that's why I put it on there.
I'll have to find somebody with a Scotts to compare.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Detailed Tire Changing Directions: How to change motorcycle dirt bike tires

I found a set of videos on you tube that I think do a great job of describing how to change motorcycle tires by hand. The videos feature Doug Schopinsky from Bridgestone tire and was done by Transworld Motocross. These are older videos, but they are the best I have found!

I put the actual videos at the end of this post and have transcribed some written directions from them. Print this post and watch the videos while you go over the notes. And then watch the videos again until it all makes sense. Then take the notes to the garage and give it a try!

Stuff you will need
  • tire mounting lube (Most use soapy water, I prefer stuff made for the job like this stuff.)
  • 3 tire irons (I like these.)
  • Motion Pro Bead Buddy
  • new tubes (Don't reuse ancient tubes please!)
  • a tire changing stand or a clean but soft place to work. I use a large flattened cardboard box on the lawn.

Tire Removal
  1. Remove valve core and let all the air out. Be careful as the core is under pressure and wants to shoot out and be forever lost.  Be sure to protect your eyes by wearing safety glasses or keeping them out of the line of fire.
  2. Loosen up rim lock to last threads. Make sure it is free and moving.
  3. Use a tire iron to pop the bead down on BOTH sides of the wheel.
  4. Start working on the wheel with the sprocket side down, it's safer that way.
  5. Put 3 tire irons in the wheel opposite the rim lock. These should be close together, each about 2 inches apart.
  6. Push the tire down into the rim's drop center by the rim lock, hold it down (TIP: Use a c-clamp or bead buddy to hold tire down into the drop center) and... 
  7. Flip the three tire irons down to lift the bead over the rim.
  8. Remove middle iron and work your way around the wheel lifting bead over the rim. 
  9. Reach inside the tire and pull out the tube. Put valve core back in valve before you lose it!
  10. Flip the wheel over.
  11. Again, put 3 tire irons in the wheel opposite the rim lock. These should be close together, each about 2 inches apart.
  12. Push tire down into the drop center by the rim lock, hold it down (TIP: Use a c-clamp or bead buddy to hold tire down into the drop center) and...
  13. Flip the three tire irons down to lift the bead over the rim.
  14. Remove middle iron and work your way around the wheel lifting the bead over the rim. 
  15. Now the rim should be inside the tire on both sides.
  16. Put the tire on the ground sinking the rim inside the tire on the bottom side.
  17. Pull the top of the rim out of the tire and continue to completely remove the rim.

Mounting Preparations
  1. Inspect the rim and clean the bead mounting area. I use a bit of non-scratching Scotch Brite.
  2. Replace the rim strip if needed.
  3. Check rim lock for sharp edges or cracks.
  4. Powder tube with unscented baby powder. TIP: Place the tube and baby powder in a plastic bag and shake.
  5. Inflate tube so that it is a nice donut that is somewhat deformed/dented when hanging on a finger.
  6. Some tubes come with two nuts on the valve above the washer that is next to the tube. I leave one nut on the tube, lightly tightened and holding the washer in place. On dirt bikes I discard the second nut. On street bikes I tighten the second nut lightly on the outside of the rim once the tire is mounted.
  7. Inspect and clean inside of new tire. Make sure the bead is not bent.

Tire Mounting
  1. Spray lube on the bead of tire. Wipe with finger to get a consistant layer all around.
  2. Put rim, disk side first, into the tire by the rim lock. Only the sprocket side of tire should be in the rim by the lock. Then place rim on stand with the disk side up and the tire on top. Make sure the tire is over the rim lock and on the proper (far/bottom side) inside of the rim.
  3. Starting 1/3 of the way around from the rim lock use a tire iron to start forcing the bead over the rim.
  4. Continue around the rim, being sure to push the bead down into the drop center at the rim lock.
  5. Once one side is on, be sure to place the tire so the spot is next to the heaviest part of the rim, aligned with the rim lock.
  6. Push the tube into the tire starting at the valve. PERFECT ALIGNMENT OF THE VALVE AND VALVE HOLE IS CRITICAL. It is very hard to fix the alignment after the tire is mounted. Make sure the rim lock in aligned properly with the rim (not crosswise).
  7. Check rim lock is free and properly placed.
  8. Hold the tire verically with the valve on top. Reach in the open side of the tire to finger the valve and use an iron to pull up the bead on the opposite side to make room for the valve to get vertical and then fall back down into the hole.
  9. Verify tube is straight and untwisted and rim lock is free. Check valve alignment.
  10. Lube bead on top side of tire. Consider relubing opposite side if dry.
  11. Start at rim lock. Push rim lock in and lever tire onto rim at rim lock. Use two more tire irons to lever the tire over to either side of rim lock. (On rims with the valve near rim lock, get past the valve.)
  12. Use Bead Buddy to replace one of the tire irons. (On rims with the valve near the rim lock use the bead buddy safely past the valve.) (TIP: It is possible to use a c-clamp hold tire down into the drop center instead of a bead buddy)
  13. Go back opposite the bead buddy and work around the wheel forcing the tire over the bead. Make sure the tire opposite the iron is pushed down into the rim's drop center. Keeping pressure on the tire iron helps hold the tire in the valley.
  14. When you reach the last part of the tire to force over the rim, put a second and possibly a third iron into the rim ahead of time, as the tire gets very tight at the end and it can become impossible to force the iron in later. Flip these last irons over, being careful that the tire is in the drop center as far around the circumference as possible. If these last irons seem too hard to push over, the tire isn't properly placed in the drop center. Don't use too much force or you can damage your rim!
  15. Check the valve and rim lock are free and that there are no signs of a twisted or pinched tube.
  16. Verify the valve is absolutely straight. If it isn't you likely have to remove the tire on one side to readjust it. (It might be possible, with help, to rotate the tire and tube a bit if you lube both beads... but I haven't had much luck with that.)
  17. Inflate the tire to about 20 PSI to seat the bead. Check the edge of the tire is evenly aligned to the rim all the way around on both sides. Most tires have a rib or line to help you be sure the bead is properly mounted.  Deflate and add lube to the bead if you are having trouble getting the bead mounted, don't dangerously over inflate the tire.
  18. Tighten the rim lock lightly.
  19. Optional: At this point I let all the air out of the tire and reinflate to be sure the tube isn't twisted and that the valve remains straight. (Having a perfectly straight valve helps you to to see that tire isn't slipping on the rim when you ride.)
  20. Inflate the tire to the proper specification.
  21. Tighten the rim lock to specification. "Two finger firm", but not too tight! You don't want to crack the rim lock or damage the rim.
  22. Install a good valve cap with a rubber seal. On dirt bikes; if you have a nut for the valve stem, either leave it off, or if you must have it, tighten it up under the valve cap. This way if the tire rotates a bit on the rim the valve isn't torn off immediately. On street bikes; lightly tighten the nut against the rim.
  23. Verify the tire pressure after 24 hours and after the first ride.

And this video is for installing a tire with a mousse, but has some great tips:

Best Motorsports Gas / Fuel / Utility Can or Jug

I ride a dirt bike and have some vintage bikes so I often need to carry fuel in my truck for rides and events.
I've had the opportunity to try many kinds of cans, so I thought I'd report my experience.

First a few words about storing fuel. You really shouldn't store fuel for very long in a plastic container. Modern fuels have components that escape as a vapor through the plastic and thus the fuel will degrade over time. Additionally most fuels in the USA are oxygenated and the ethanol component can separate out of the fuel, especially if there is any moisture available to the fuel. There are also safety issues with storing fuel at home. Personally, I use plastic containers only for temporary use, and afterwards I pour any leftover fuel into my truck's gas tank.
I never store fuel at home in one of these jugs.  Read all the warnings on your can or jug and follow the directions. Use a can or jug at your own risk, these are dangerous!

Getting a real gas can can be hard these days in California. But if you already have one, my understanding is that you can legally use it as long as it seals properly (no open hoses!). But you must check the laws yourself, I'm not an expert on those issues.

Regardless of the choice of plastic or metal, I only use a jug that seals with screw down caps. No snap vents or stick in plugs! And don't use any of those open ended hoses. You don't want a simple knock-over to spill fuel.

Lastly, some of these jugs come with cosmetic stickers on them. The plastic jugs, as I mentioned above, allow some volatile vapors to migrate through the plastic. And that makes it very hard for a sticker to stay on the jug. I don't think the decals will last on any regular plastic jug. (On dirt bikes, manufacturers often laminate the decals into the plastic tanks for this very reason.)

Delphos Old Ironsides 5 Gallon Gas Can
I'm only half joking with this vintage Old Ironsides gas can made by Delphos. These cans are wonderfully made and I love them. Steel is the best material for a gas can as some of the volatile vapors in modern fuels can escape through plastic. Sadly, I don't have a pouring hose that fits it and you cannot easily see how much fuel is left in the can. So I use this can to hold my used oil for recycling.

VP Racing 5 Gallon "Pail" Can
If you want 5 gallons of fuel from VP, this is how you get it. And I highly recommend VP C9 fuel. These cans have a pull out plastic spout. You can get a hose that attaches to the spout so you can use the fuel directly from the can. But; I have had the pull out spouts fail on 2 out of my last 7 cans I have purchased! One cracked and made it impossible use the spout. Another failed when the cap pulled off instead of pulling the spout out of the can. In both cases the expensive can of fuel became unusable to me when I needed it in the desert! So I do NOT recommend using this can to pour the fuel into your vehicle. You may need another jug for that.

VP Racing Round Motorsports Container ($30.00 without hose)
VP Deluxe Hose with cap ($8.50)
Years ago I bought a round 5 gallon VP Racing jug like this one. They are the "industry standard". They are reasonably priced and it seems almost everyone uses them. I always found this jug awkward to use. The handle wasn't well placed to lift the jug high up and pour into the tank and the round sides were hard to hold. Also, on my jug, the round opening wasn't perfectly round and so fuel sometimes leaked from under the cap. One good feature of the jug is it is the wide and very stable. VP also offered a square version of this jug, but I haven't tried one of those.
Here is what VP says about the jug:
Made with only the highest quality virgin high-density polyethylene, including 30% more material than standard containers to withstand the roughest treatment. The containers are subjected to a 15-point quality test and carry a 3-year limited warranty. They feature an ergonomically contoured handle, bottom grip for easy pouring and a non-breakable multipurpose cap with rubber gaskets.

Matrix Concepts M3 Utility Can ($59.95 with hose)

After becoming frustrated with the VP jug I bought the Matrix jug. It's really expensive but got great reviews in the magazines. I liked the idea that it is smaller with a 4 gallon capacity. It's easier to hold and pour because it is square and the lower edge works as a kind of a handle. You can see I used a sharpie pen the highlight the gallon marks.
The problem with this can was the actual pouring. Its hard to get the last bits of gas out because the spout isn't on the end of the can. Also, I regularly had fuel spill out of the vent on the gas cap because it was hard to angle the jug to get all the fuel out without having it reach the vent in the cap. Another problem is that the hose seals with a simple plug, not a screw cap.
Here is what Matrix says about the jug:
Comes complete with transportation cap and 5” long extender hose spout with 1 -1/8” plastic fill reducer with cap.

3” extra wide fill cap or easy and quick filling.

Strategically placed side handle and special unique bottom handle for balance and easy handling.

Made from hi - quality HDPE plastic with heavy duty wall thickness.

Comes with a warranty against leaking or cracking.

Reinforced ribbed bottom for extra strength.

4.0 gallon capacity makes the weight of the can easy to handle.

Utility Can includes an indent that allows the use of Matrix Concepts tie-downs to strap into place during transport.

Exclusive “name and number panels” give you the ability to personalize it, giving it the custom factory look.

Pit Posse Utility Jug ($34.95 with hose)
I've seen this jug for sale under several names besides Pit Posse including EZ-Hold and PU-Products. This thing is a winner. Five gallon capacity, two nice handles, clearly marked gallon and liter lines and the fuel comes out of the top of the cap. I also think the the square shape as it is easier to hold and pour. The only negative I found is that the jug is tall and so maybe it's not quite as stable as the others.
Here is what Pit Posse says about the jug:
Square design eliminates unusable space around jug
Double handle design for ease of use
Nylon cap uses rubber o ring for a better seal
Outside of jug has a guide to determine contents remaining
5 gal size
Unique inverted ribs prevent swelling and expansion for accurate fluid marking
1-year warranty
This container is intended for storage and/or transport for recycling and proper disposal of common fluids and is made of #2 HDPE.
Pit Posse Spout Bender ($19.95)
Pit posse also makes this ridiculously expensive but really awesome pouring hose. There is a wire that attached to the hose cap and when you remove the cap you use the wire to bend the hose and hold it in place. Now your hose is at a convenient angle to actually pour the fuel into your bike.
Here is what Pit Posse says about the hose:
Includes hose & bender hardware (does not include jug or jug cap)
Fits any 3/4" jug tread
Angles hose for easy pouring. Tethered hose cap
Hooks at base to pull hose down
Makes filling your tank easier!
1-year warranty

In my opinion: If you must have a plastic jug: get the Pit Posse jug. And if you find it troublesome getting your hose into the tank when pouring; consider dropping $20 on the Pit Posse Spout Bender.