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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dyno Run

Today after installing my new horn I brought the VFR to my friends Rich and Benny at Redline Motorsports to run it on their state-of-the-art Dynojet 250i dyno. The purpose of this visit was just to get a baseline measurement of the power and sate my own curiosity.

I had to "peel" the bike to lift the tank and gain access to an ignition wire. This allows the dyno to measure the engine speed of the bike, and therefore its torque output.

I've been seeing this girl for months and this is the first time I've got her naked. The fairings are surprisingly easy to R&I, as long as you read the manual. The clips and screws have to be removed and then the side panels slide forward and off.

Looks pretty good with her clothes off:
This is what it looks like under the tank:

The dyno results were about what I expected. I asked Benny to record runs in 2nd, third and fourth gear to show where the power is restricted.

This graph shows the power output in 2nd gear (restricted) compared to 3rd and 4th (unrestricted).

The upper 3 curves are the torque (with calibrations on the right side) and the lower 3 curves are horsepower (with calibrations on the left) The 2nd gear dip in horsepower and torque between 4000 and 6000RPM is very obvious. It's almost a 20hp / 20 lb-ft deficit. First gear is the same way. 3rd and 4th gear are overlapping on the chart, with virtually the same output.

Next, I asked Benny to plot the VFR's (4th gear) power over top of that of a modern litre bike. He had a dyno run from a stock 2010 GSXR1000 on file. Black lines are horsepower, grey lines are torque. The longer lines belong to the GSXR, as it has a greater rev ceiling. You can see how the VFR has a substantial power advantage up until 10000RPM, at which point the Honda peaks (142hp) and tapers off quickly while the GSXR continues building to its peak (152hp) at around 12k RPM, then over-revs right to 13000.

Someone needs to figure out how to trick the ECU into thinking that the transmission is in fourth gear, thereby reverting to its full-output throttle map. That would get back the lost power in the lower gears.

Here's a little video of the dyno run:

Horn Upgrade

The VFR1200 comes standard with a very polite Japanese horn which Japanese people probably think is suitable for politely "tootling" at other polite Japanese motorists and pedestrians.

Here in Canada where motorists don't even acknowledge motorcycles (let alone respect them) I need something more assertive. When a SUV-driving soccer-mom casually invades my space I want to let her know that "Here I am!" and "you fucked up!" A loud horn blast accompanied with a scolding stare or rude gesture should do the trick.

I bought a truck horn at Canadian Tire that claimed to have a "big rig sound".

The old horn next to the new one:

The new horn is bulkier but fit easily without any steering or suspension clearance issues. If I were to panic-brake HARD and fully compress the fork, the fender might touch the horn but it won't do any damage.

New horn installed:

"Before" video with polite little Japanese horn:

"After" video with new loud horn:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Badlands

Not all of southern Alberta's scenery and tourism lies to the west; head east from Calgary through about an hour and a half of open prairie and you will reach "the Badlands". There is plenty to see and do here, and it is much more peaceful than the mountains to the west, which while they are beautiful, can often be overrun like giant ant hills with tourists, campers, climbers, hikers, bikers and hippies.

A wide column stretching up from the US border to around Hanna, the Badlands area covers Milk River, Lethbridge, Brooks and Drumheller, as well as several small villages and ghost towns and thousands of tiny lakes. Millions of years ago, this area was a low-lying tropical swamp, rich with prehistoric flora and fauna... especially dinosaurs. Over millions of years the area became sort of a depression in the prairie, and the Red Deer River carved out a spectacular valley and series of coulees through the soft soil. What remains today is a breathtaking landscape of unique geographical formations. The layers of Earth are clearly visible in the steep valley walls, and otherworldly hoodoos stand guard like ancient stone sentinels.

All those prehistoric plants and animals left behind a wealth of bones and fossils, making this a World-leading destination for paleontologists, many of whom are based out of the Royal Tyrrell Museum near Drumheller. (or Helldrummer as I like to call it... sounds way cooler that way)

The dino remains which weren't preserved left behind another valuable resource: rich, horizontal (easy to mine) seams of semi-bituminous coal. This sparked a "coal boom" in the late 19th and early 20th, which had the area bustling with early settlers looking to make a good living. 139 coal mines were dug in the area and and much of the infrastructure and artifacts have been preserved. When oil was struck a few hours to the north in 1947, it replaced coal as the fossil fuel du-jour of the 20th and the area was largely deserted, leaving little ghost towns scattered about.

All of the valleys and coulees in the badlands have neccessitated some curvy, hilly roads, which make the area all that much more interesting on a motorcycle... especially a big fast fighter-bomber motorcycle. Before I left yesterday morning I sketched out a route on Google Maps which would take me on what looked like the most exciting roads. I would take Country Hills Blvd out of the north of the city, which would become hwy 564. I would follow that right to the "T" at the end, head north 6 or 7 Kms and turn on to 848, which would drop me down into the valley, across an old wood-decked bridge and into the ghost town of Dorothy.  I would head up the 570, which becomes highway 10 leading into Helldrummer for lunch. From there I would ride on the North Dinosaur Trail which curves and climbs out of the valley, then drops back in to cross the Red Deer River at the Bleriot Ferry and becomes the South Dinosaur Trail, leading back into Helldrummer. After that I would leave my options open and figure out a way home.

While I certainly chose an interesting route, I didn't realize that 564 ran out of pavement at the "T", and that 848 wasn't paved either. By the time I got there, my fuel light had started to flash, meaning I had only 1 gallon left to get me 40 miles to the nearest gas station in Drumheller. Interesting indeed. I should have left the house with a full tank, but my last fill-up was in Canmore last week so I started the trip with 100Kms already on the trip counter. It was too late to turn around so I had to ride about 20Kms of gravel road. This is definitely not what the VFR (and its high-performance Dunlop rubber) was meant for but I was interested to see how it would cope. As long as I kept my speed above 30 and kept my body and arms loose to let the bike move around, it was actually pretty easy. It also gave me a chance to test out the ABS. This is my first ABS-equipped motorcycle, and so far in the ~3500Kms I've put on it, I've never engaged the anti-lock. So I practiced spiking the brake lever on the gravel to get a feel for it. I was amazed... the lever just gives a gentle vibe (not unlike my Blackberry on silent mode) and the bike quickly comes to a calm drama-free stop. It's good to probe the limits of the machine... this technology may save my life some day.

Marooned on a gravel road... can`t turn back:

I made my way to Helldrummer and put 16.8 litres of premium in my tank with 286Kms on the trip counter. That's as empty as I've ever had it. A billboard outside of the town told me that if I wanted good food I should go to Bernie and the Boys Bistro.... and who was I to disobey. Bernie's was exactly the type of place I want to find on a solo adventure like this... a charming mom-and-pop hole in the wall diner that served up a mighty-fine bacon cheeseburger.


With a full belly I headed up the Dinosaur Trail, stopping along the way at the HorseThief Canyon lookout and riding the Bleriot Ferry. The Red Deer River isn't very wide or very deep at the ferry crossing.... they probably could have built a small bridge here for less than the cost of keeping the ferry operational but I'm glad they chose not to. The ferry lends a historic charm to the drive.

Royal Tyrrell Museum:

If the VFR1200 were a dinosaur, which one would it be?

HorseThief Canyon:

Bleriot Ferry:

After looping back to Helldrummer I worked my way back towards Dorothy to stop and see some sights that I bypassed on the way in. (I was too focused on getting to a gas station to bother stopping anywhere else) I stopped to walk across an old timber-framed cable suspension bridge in Rosedale. It is one of several such bridges built by mining companies a hundred years ago, but is still maintained and preserved as a functional relic. I also stopped at a roadside-attraction-cum-campsite near Cambria, where sight-seers can hike and play in the hoodoos that stand around a mini canyon. Cocky about my VFR's off-road capability after my ride down the gravel roads earlier, I rode down a potholed dirt trail through a little coulee and back. A guy ambling his way by me in a Jeep gave me a shocked double-take. I must have appeared really lost, but the fighter-bomber and its pilot were fully up to the task.

The VFR out of its element:

Heading further south I stopped at the Atlas Coal Mine near the village of East Coulee for a few quick photos.

Back at Dorothy, it was time to head home but I didn't want to go back the way I came... I had enough gravel for one day. I took a long way home, working my way back to highway 36 up to Hanna and west back to Calgary. I was texting my brother while I fuelled up in Hanna, and I told him that I was in "the home of Nickelback". His response was "quick, take a shit on something!" It wouldn't have done the town any harm... what a dump. I bet those guys were huge losers back in school... not that I wouldn't trade them places. They've found their niche selling millions of shitty albums to white trash the World over. Good for them.

As long as I`ve lived in Calgary I`ve never bothered to tour the Badlands until now. It`s a damn shame, because the area has a great deal to offer. I plan on spending more time a little ways east of Calgary instead of always heading west. The Badlands aren`t bad at all.


This is a montage of my "all-road" riding on the VFR. The first half is the gravel road west of Dorothy (sped up and condensed) and the second half is in the coulee behind the hoodoo park.


This is the Dinosaur Trail, condensed into 5 minutes:


A few more pics...

Wheat on the left, flax on the right:
I couldn't resist riding my 1200 into the knee-high flax field for this image: 
An old truck contrasted against a new motorcycle:
Apatosaurus sculpture in Drumheller:
World's Largest Dinosaur... a cartoonish looking T-Rex standing over Drumheller:
Don't know why but I just love the big green machines:


Monday, August 16, 2010


On Wednesday I rode out to Banff to ride a couple of little roads that I've been meaning to try. The Minnewanka Loop and Norquay road. Both are short runs that only take a few minutes, but the scenery is great and there are some fun curves.

The Norquay road is a series of switchbacks climbing up the side of the mountain of the same name to the ski resort near the top. It overlooks the town of Banff.

The Minnewanka loop is the road surrounding the lake of the same name. The lake is a reservoir that was expanded multiple times in the late 19th and early 20th century with progressively bigger dams. It is a popular spot for SCUBA divers because there is a ghost town at the bottom of the lake. Archaeological findings indicate that this area was inhabited by First Nations peoples as early as 10000 years ago.

I stopped in Banff for lunch at Timbers and then headed out to Lake Louise via the Bow Valley Parkway. This is an alternative route to the Trans Canada, and is more narrow, curvier and much more interesting.

I've been wanting to make my Vholdr videos more watchable, so I picked up a copy of PowerDirector video editing software. It was highly recommended online, and though video editing is new territory for me, I'm finding this program simple and intuitive.

Here is a short video of the climb up Norquay:

Here is one of the Minnewanka road: (at 5:42 or so you can see some divers in the water)

This is the drive down Sulfur Mountain, on the opposite side of the Bow Valley from Norquay, from the natural hot springs to the town of Banff and Banff Avenue:

These videos all had some of my favourite music blended in but youtube kicked some of it out for copyright infringement. Fuckers.


Entrance to Banff National Park
Cascade Ponds

Norquay lookout, looking down on Banff

From the TransCanada just west of Banff

***UpDATE: I disputed the copyright claim on my minnewanka video and youtube restored the soundtrack. Much better now.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The TankSlapper

I bought a mail-order product called "The Tank Slapper" a few weeks ago. It finally arrived this week so I installed it today. It's basically a static cling plastic film that adheres to the sides of the tank to protect it from scuffing.

The paint finish on the VFR is gorgeous... I'd hate to scratch it up. Mind you, when I ride the VFR my knees don't touch the sides of the tank (cover) but what the hell... it was cheap.

I used warm water with dish soap and a spatula from the kitchen as a squeegee.

Dunk the film in the soapy water and position it carefully on the tank. Lots of liquid lets you move it around and get it in the right spot.

Work the bubbles out with a "squeegee"

All done. You can barely tell it's there.