Saturday, April 16, 2016

Devils Creek

I still had some unused tracks from the Devils Creek Dual Sport Rally last March, so I thought I'd put one of the Adventure Tracks to use. We had the 2016 Kawasaki KLR650 and I was on the new 2016 Suzuki DR650S.

The KLR650 got the worst of the day.

Especially when junior wound up sitting in a mudhole. Mud is slippery!

New Dual Sport

On Tuesday of this week I picked up a new dual sport ... 2016 Suzuki DR650S. I picked up the DR650 because my 21yo son has been been showing an extreme amount of interest in all the dual sport rallies and activities that I've been involved with since I obtained the KLR650 last November. Although he is full time employed as a plumber, we'll be able to hook up on week ends for some dual sport action. Most rallies are on the weekends as it is.

I'm going to start with a set of Shinko E-804/805 Block Knobbies on the DR650. I got a set from Revzilla for about $150. Much cheaper than the Conti TKC80s I run on the KLR650 and hopefully have a little better tread life.

Also waiting on a SWMotech Bash Plate and a TCI Boreggo Luggage Rack (via Moose Racing). Other than that, I don't plan on doing much to the DR. When I though the KLR650 was a bare bones piece of equipment, the DR650 is really a bare bones motorcycle.

Check out the new blog, Devils Creek DR.

NC Trip

Although the Roads & Trails 2016 Dual Sport Rally turned out to be a total bust, I did enjoy my trip up to North Carolina. The Smoky Mountains are truly a great place to ride motorcycles. Here are a few photos from my trip.

Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge.

My Dragon Decal. See Dragon Photos.

Fontana Dam

It's snowing and, yes, that's snow accumulating in the trees. This was on the Cherohalla Skyway. It was snowing pretty good from 3,000 feet to 5,000 feet.

This was at Iron Horse on Saturday. It's garage-made...the canopy thing, that is.

More Iron Horse.

Did I mention that it was cold up there? I've never ridden up to the Smokys before mid-May. Too cold.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Dragon

The Tail of the Dragon, located in the North West Smoky Mountains is not the place where you're going to find a bunch of dual sport motorcycles. Rather, the 11 mile stretch of hairpin riddled backroads is a haven for sport bikes and, it seems, a lot of cruiser types. However, since I was there with my 2016 Kawasaki KLR650 last weekend, I needed to give it a run...which turned into two...which turned into a bunch. The darn KLR did amazingly well on it's Conti TKC80 Twinduros; it was an absolute blast.

There's an outfit called Killboy Action Photography that sits along the Dragon (also Cherohalla and 28) and takes photos of bikes and cars and then offers them for sale for $6-$7 or less if you by like four or more. What a goldmine of an idea!

I go to the Smoky Mountains to ride those roads two or three times a year, but never before mid-May. Why? Cuz it's too friggin cold!

HaulMaster #62647 Folding Trailer

I have a hitch receiver carrier that seems reasonable for short, local or regional trips, but I wanted something a little better for longer hauls, such as my recent trip up to the Smoky Mountains. I've never really been a motorcycle trailerer, but I've determined that I can't carry as much on my dual sports (think camping gear) and I definitely can't deal with the wear on the block knobby tires.

I found small 5' x 8' trailers that ran anywhere from $750 to $1,200. Northern Tool had a North Star Trailer for $750 that seemed pretty good. 

However, they also had a 4' x 8' Ironton "Folding" Trailer that really caught my attention. Aside from the fact the trailer was $380, it caught my attention because I could fold it up and roll it into a corner of my garage. A regular trailer needs a place to stay. I actually already have a 5' x 8' enclosed HaulMark Trailer that is used in our family bicycle repair business. We have to keep that at an offsite facility for $50 a month. I really didn't want to spend more storage money on a motorcycle trailer, so I really got excited about the Ironton Foldup. 

Obviously the Ironton Foldup needs a surface, which is a $25 sheet of three quarter inch plywood; both trailer options needed a spare tire. I bought the Ironton Foldup.

Unfortunately, I ran into a snag. None of the three boxes that the trailer came in had the Certificate of Origin, which is necessary to get the trailer registered. I'll cut this long-story down, Northern Tool couldn't help with that problem and I was left to return it. Since they weren't willing to assure me that the C of O was in one of the other packages, I wasn't about to lug another trailer home and have the same experience. 

The good news is that, in short, I found another similar product and it was actually a much better product that the Ironton Foldup. Harbor Freight, of all places, offered the HaulMaster #62647 Folding Trailer for the same $380. Structurally it was very similar to the Ironton, but the the HaulMaster had a lot of better features:
  • M-Rated (81 mph) 530mm Wheels/Tires, compared to the 55 mph 480mm Tires on the Ironton.
  • A 1,720 load rating, compared to the 1,170 load rating of the Ironton (largely due to the better tires).
  • A much more stable tow bar configuration and a better coupler.
I'm sorta glad I had the snafu with the Ironton. Oh, the C of O was included in a window envelope on the outside of one of the two boxes of parts. 

Assembly was extensive, although not difficult. There were over 80 bolts and all of them had the nuts had nylon security rings! That's good, but those things are much harder to turn. I whipped out my Sears Crafstman air wrench that made assembly go a lot faster.

The only problem that I ran into was the brackets that mount the two tow bars to the frame weren't manufactured properly. All the brackets are is about 12 inches of angle iron, but the holes were drilled like they go on the same side. The holes need to be different on either side as shown in the second photo below.

So I had to drill out new holes on one of the brackets. This problem isn't apparent until you get them installed and the tow bars connected. I saw that one of the tow bars was crooked. In fact, there's a review on HF by a guy that mentions this problem. I put a review in HF and they suppressed it. I guess they don't mind people saying the thing is cockeyed but don't want to hear from someone who knows what the problem is.

Anyway, that was the only major issue. Like I said assembly was quite extensive and I encountered a great amount of difficulty getting the darn thing to level out. My only advice is patience goes a long way to get you to where you want and need to be. 

So the next step was installing the surface. You can buy 4' x 4' pieces of three-quarter inch plywood at Home Depot or some supply stores. My ACE Hardware had some pieces. I've set it up so I can use plain bolts, eye-bolts for tie-down points or, as shown in the photo below, a combination of both. All surface mounting points use wing nuts for easy on-and-off!

I also installed four D-Rings, 2 in front and 2 in the rear (installed later than this photo). 

The motorcycle carrier with the chock and the ramp are from my hitch receiver carrier...I've got them doing double duty. I'm lucky to have the carrier, but an alternative would be one of those cheap $18 M/C Wheel Chocks at Cycle Gear

I did a 35 mile test ride before loading the motorcycle and everything seemed to work fine. Then I loaded up the KLR650 and did the 35 mile ride all over again. The trailer was stable and tracked perfectly. 

I also installed a tool box and bought a spare tire that I carry in the back of my Rav4. 

Now, if you recall, the whole thing that got me focused on this trailer was that it folds up. Here's a photo of the trailer folded up. Just so you know, it does fold up with the plywood surface installed. However, I wanted the little extra light from the window in my garage so I take them off. As mentioned above, I have them installed with bolts and wing nuts for easy assembly and disassembly.

So the real question is how it did on the highway and up in North Carolina. Well, I headed out from Tampa to North Carolina last Thursday...605 total miles, about 10.5 hours. Then the same back on Sunday; over 1,200 miles. 

On the Interstates, I kept the speed between 70-75 mph, which is pretty good for a towing situation. The trailer did fine on the highways and never made a peep.

If you've ever been to the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, you know how curvy the roads are as they wind up and down the mountains. I pulled the trailer along those curvy roads at legal speeds or slightly higher. Keeping a reasonable speed in the corners, it wasn't long before I totally stopped worrying about a trailer tip. 

On the way back, I did have some carnage. The left rear tail light assembly and license plate bracket fell off. While the taillight stayed attached by its wires, and smashed along the highway, my license plate was lost somewhere between Robbinsville, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. The replacement tail light was $7 at Advance Auto Parts. The DMV charged me $25 for the replacement license plate. I did pay attention to most of the critical torques on the trailer during the trip, but I apparently missed those. My bad.

Overall, I'm very pleased with this Harbor Freight Folding trailer. Essentially, I got a nice little hauler that can handle highway travel for a total investment of well under $500. 

Here are some other thoughts:

The Spare Tire was $59.99 at Harbor Freight. Some states require a spare. 

The max psi for the tires is 80, which generally is how trailer tires are inflated. I only inflated to 60 psi, because 80 just seemed a little high for ply tires (they're 6 ply). That's just my judgement; ymmv.

If one wanted to go with a larger tire/wheel, the spindles are 25mm and the length was 85mm.

Several reviews on HF indicate that the assembly instructions are poor. I didn't come away  from the job with that impression at all. The instructions are available on their website in pdf if someone wanted to review them in advance.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

New Tire

I decided to replace the rear tire on my 2016 Kawasaki KLR650. The KLR650 comes in stock form with Dunlop K750s that aren't sufficient for the terrains we have in Florida. Rather, a good block knobby is needed. I had my dealer install a set of 40/60 Continental TKC80 Twinduros. Now at just about 3,000 miles, I need to change the rear TKC80.

While the Conti has done great, the road work getting to rallies really took its toll. The center block, which is normally 11mm, had worn down to 2mm. While at the Devil's Creek Rally last month I struggled getting through some muddy sections and that was the likely cause. So while there's a lot of tread elsewhere on the tire, that center block is all but shot. Onward...

I reviewed other tires and thought that I may go with something like a Dunlop D606 or Kenda K760, but I got a good deal on the replacement TKC80 from Revzilla ($105 w/free shipping) right at a time that Conti is increasing prices. So this may be the last TKC80.

I don't change my own tires. It's one of those areas that's way too much work when someone will do it for $20-$30 if I take them the removed wheel. Removal of the wheel was simple. The brake caliper comes off as one unit and can be hung out of the way with a zip tie on the frame. Then the axle bolt is removed and the axle is slid out. On the other side, the wheel is pushed forward and the chain is simply pulled off the sprocket and hung over the swing arm.


I was hoping to get the tire earlier today and installed as I'm running short on time leading up to the Road & Trails Rally starting Friday. Unfortunately, while it went out for delivery this morning at 6:30AM, I didn't get it until 7:30PM. So my KLR will just have to wait until tomorrow.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Roads & Trails Update

We're only a few short days away from the Roads & Trails Rally in Stecoah, North Carolina. As previously mentioned, I'll be camping at Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge in Robbinsville. I'm just getting a look at the weather during the event and it isn't looking too good.

Yikes, snow!