Acerbis X-Factor handguards

Most OEM handguards tend to do a very good job protecting from the wind and the rain, but do not usually offer much protection if any at all in the event of a fall, so you are more than likely to end up with a broken gear or clutch lever even if you drop the bike while moving it around (years ago some idiot knocked my V-Strom off while parking and the brake lever snapped).

The handguards on the AT look great, but offer the same level of crash protection as the ones on the V-Strom or the ST. The problem is that those ones were good at keeping your hand relatively dry and warm, but the ones on the AT are too small for that, so they are merely cosmetic additions to make the bike look more rugged.

Even before taking delivery of the AT I knew that I was going to fit it with a pair of Barkbusters like the ones I had on my V-Strom, which had proven themselves to be very efficient in a number of falls/drops. However, as I was comparing prices and trying to find a shop that had a specific kit for the AT, I saw some people on Adventure Rider and the Spanish AT forum that had fitted the Acerbis X-Factor ones.

I thought they would be more expensive, as the aluminum back bone they use is huge, but it turned out that not only were they cheaper than the Barkbusters, but they were available immediately, as no specific mounting kit is required for the AT.

I may not have considered Acerbis handguards for the V-Strom, as they look too ‘enduro’ for that bike, but on the pictures I had seen, they seem to suit the AT fine, so I got a pair.

IMG_8008I went for the black and white combination, as the OEM were also black and I was afraid the red ones might not match the shade of the bike. I got them in a week, and today I got down to fitting them, which is a very straightforward process.

Here it is:

First step is to remove the OEM handguards, including the weights both at the ends of the handlebars and the long ones inside.

Loosen the 5mm Allen bolts that hold the handlebar weights and pull the handguards mounts away from the weights.

IMG_8011Remove the bolts that hold the handguards to the brake and clutch lever mounts. Both nuts and bolts are 10mm, except the brake bolt, which is 12mm, annoyingly.

IMG_8009Remove the OEM handguards and put the lever bolts back in place. With the handguards removed they are a bit too long, but you can use the spacers that came with the handguards.

Now comes the difficult part – pulling out the inner weights. They are very long and have a couple of rubber rings, so they do not slide out easily. There is a small cylindrical plate that holds them to the handlebar weights bolts, but it is very easy for those to come apart. In fact, I pulled out the first one and then saw that the plate and the weight were still about 1cm inside the handlebar.

IMG_8016IMG_8017These cylindrical plates are fragile and can come out easily, be careful with them because of they do come out it is practically impossible to grab hold of the inner weight to pull it out. Having suffered this, when I removed the second one I unscrewed the handlebar weight bolt, then pulled gently but firmly until about 1cm of the inner weight emerged and then pulled it out with a pair of pliers.

To get the first one out, I used a pair of long thin pliers to hold the plate and pressed it with a screwdriver to prevent it from opening and coming apart from the weight.

With the most difficult part out of the way, it is time to fit the new handguards.

IMG_8020Do not try to put the expansion shell directly into the handlebars first, as there is a risk that the nut at the end comes loose from the shell and then you might push it further inside when inserting the bolt, making it very difficult to recover. Fit the shell to the aluminum backbone and then insert it in the handlebar.

IMG_8021Then fit the support arms to the handlebar but do not tighten, as you’ll need to adjust the levers. It is necessary to move both brake and clutch lever assembly about 1.5cm to the inside to prevent them from touching the backbone when released. Be careful with the clutch lever, too far in and it will touch the switch assembly, too far out and it will touch the backbone. You need to find the sweet spot.

IMG_8025IMG_8029Once everything is in the position and angle you want, start tightening first the mounting arms and then the expansion shells. The mounting arms come with two sets of brackets to fit handlebars of different diameters. In my case I did not need to use either of them.

IMG_8023IMG_8026IMG_8027IMG_8028The bike looks great with the backbones only and it is tempting to keep that look, but I want more protection, not less, so the last touch is to fit the plastic covers, which are attached with three Allen bolts each. Done!

IMG_8030I know this is a matter of personal opinion, but I think the X-Factor handguards look great on the AT, particularly in black:

IMG_8032IMG_8033IMG_8031

Tank protective stickers from Labelbike

The lastest addition to the AT is a set of protective stickers to prevent the zippers on my riding jacket and pants from scratching the paint on the fuel tank.

Some people have complained on the Spanish AT forum that the lacquer on the sides of their tanks has started to show some minor damage very quickly, so before mine does too, I ordered this set on Ebay.

They come from Italy, and first impressions on the quality of the product and the service from the vendor were good. They were delivered within a week of ordering and are thick and well-finished.

Things did not look so good when it came to putting them on the tank, however. These stickers are designed specifically for the Rally red paint scheme on the AT, the side stickers following the white stripe. When I lined them up against it, I saw that the white stripe on the sticker did not match the one on the bike at several points.

IMG_7994I sent a complaint to the vendor with these pictures attached, and got a reply in less than 24 hours: nothing wrong with the stickers, the white stripe is actually transparent to allow for differences in the paint in different bikes. What I saw white was actually the protective film behind the sticker. Well, that was embarrassing…

Back to the garage to get them on, then.

The tank protector that the previous owner had put on my old V-Strom was about 2cm off to the left, which drove me crazy for the five years I rode the bike, and that was black on black. Determined to do a proper job this time, I watched some tutorials online and followed the recommended method:

Step one: clean the surface with alcohol and let it dry.

IMG_7997Step two: without removing the white paper at the back of the stickers, put them in the desired position, make sure everything lines up correctly and fix them in place with masking tape.

IMG_7983IMG_7998Step three: lift the sticker on either side of the masking tape, separate it from the white paper and cut the paper away. (Important tip here – you can tear the paper, but if there are transparent areas in the sticker, small shreds of paper might remain stuck to it and be visible, so it is better to cut it clean with a pair of scissors).

IMG_7984IMG_7985IMG_7986IMG_7999Press the sticker against the tank surface from the masking tape outwards, making sure there are no wrinkles or air bubbles. A plastic ice scratcher is a good tool to do that.

IMG_8000Step four: one third of the sticker securely in place, remove the masking tape, lift the other two thirds and repeat the process.

IMG_8001IMG_8003The result looks great:

IMG_7988IMG_8005The white lines you can see are reflections from the fluorescent tubes on the ceiling.

Rider1000 2015 – Intro

Allow me to take a break from the Easter trip ride report to tell you about the event I am going to take part in this weekend.

logo_rider1000R

Rider1000 is a non-competitve event which started in 2013 and consists in riding 1000 km on open roads around Catalonia. We will be setting off from Manresa, more or less in the center of the country, and there are 13 checkpoints that we have to go through and have a passport stamped. There are no fixed routes between checkpoints, so each rider is free to choose whichever roads they want to get there.

maps_CAT_rider_2015_1000

Participants will set off from the start line in groups of 6, one group per minute, in order of inscription, to avoid congestion. The first group will start at 6 am, so they will have the most hours of daylight, but I found out about Rider1000 quite late and joined only a few days before the lists closed (I am 634 out of 641…), which means that I am starting with one of the last groups, between 7:45 and 7:50.

I have spent all morning planning the route and calculating the estimate time between checkpoints and to complete the ride. This is the intended route:

01 https://goo.gl/maps/p5Ooa

02 https://goo.gl/maps/Om2lZ

03 https://goo.gl/maps/T1cOv

04 https://goo.gl/maps/hvFyH

05 https://goo.gl/maps/Z6mcC

06 https://goo.gl/maps/8CmVZ

07 https://goo.gl/maps/A6usW

08 https://goo.gl/maps/G6Dxl

09 https://goo.gl/maps/Lcv2n

10 https://goo.gl/maps/hY3ky

11 https://goo.gl/maps/Gy2Td

12 https://goo.gl/maps/6E9ZY

13 https://goo.gl/maps/m88o1

And here is the time and distance estimation:

Roadbook

I’ll check this data against real time and distance recorded on Saturday.

I will try to make live updates during the race via the Stroming The World facebook page. Tomorrow we have to be in Manresa for a technical check of the motorbike and to pick up the paperwork, so I’ll take the chance to see if I can send updates from there.

See you tomorrow!

I want my bike!

Intro

It had been quite a while since the last long trip on the bike and I was really looking forward to this one. I wanted to see the south of Spain, as I had never been there, and knew I had nine days off work for Easter holidays, but we were not sure how long my girlfriend would have. In the end they only gave her four days, so I started considering a possible five-day route to be back in Barcelona in time to spend some days together, but not only did five days seem a bit of a hurry to cover such long distance and have time to visit a few things, she also wanted to spend a few days in the south. For a brief moment I contemplated organising a four-day trip via some low cost airline to the south and then aside from that going away for a few days on the bike, but I still wanted to have a bike to explore the south. We checked out some rental companies, but the price per day of even the most basic bike for two people and luggage was too expensive, and then I saw the answer staring right back at me from the figures I was getting from rental companies

If I was willing to pay that amount to have a bike, plus the deposit, plus the risk of damaging the bike or have it stolen, etc. why not take my own, use it until the very last day of holidays, fly back to Barcelona and have it shipped? I reckoned it would still be cheaper than renting one for four days.

A friend of mine had recently bought a second hand bike in Valencia, but since he was still in the process of getting his license, he had a motorbike transport company deliver the bike to his doorstep for only 90€. I could go away on my own for five days, meet Nat somewhere in the south, spend four more days there and then take a plane home (no two-day trip to ride back to Barcelona). Great idea!

At first it seemed that it was going to be a bit more complicated than I thought, since it turned out that all the companies I contacted only offered door-to-door service, that is, they would pick up the motorbike from a specific address, they did not have facilities in Granada (that’s where we were flying from) where I could drop the bike on the last day and hop on a plane, and we did not know anybody there we could leave the bike with until a transport was full and ready to head to Barcelona. Things were looking bad… If I could find a garage or dealer in Granada that would be willing to keep the bike for one or two days until it was collected things might work out, so I decided to try and ask the guys in Hamamatsu Motor who had always been very helpful in previous trips, and they gave the contact of a company that transports their motorbikes and also work for other brands. They told me they had a big fleet of transporters and worked with dealers all over the country. I called them and they confirmed that they had an agent in Granada where I could leave the bike. So, with that detail sorted, the trip was go!

Last minute man

“Nothing would ever get done if it weren’t for the last minute” read a poster a friend of mine had in his studio. An it could not be more right. I am indeed a last minute man. Less than a week to go and at the beginning of this week I still did not have my international driving permit, the insurance green card nor the motorbike’s registration documents.

Fortunately, I got them all on Tuesday morning, and today I went shopping for the few last things I needed to get, that is some oil, chain lube, bulbs and fuses and a long chain to attach the bike to trees or lamposts when I park it overnight in dodgy places.

This weekend is going to be a bit stressful: I’m trying to arrange for a friend to take care of my car while I’m away, emptying my bedroom because I am trying to rent it out while I am away, spending time with the loved ones, goodbye party, finals week at the school…

It is only now that the fact that I am going away starts to sink in, but I still feel strangely calm.

MoT passed

As I said yesterday, this morning I took the bike to its MoT (or rather, the Spanish equivalent of an MoT, called ITV here). I had to get it done for two reasons – one, it was due (it is every two years) and two, I had to get the paperwork for the change of ECU.

I booked the inspection at a center near my place of work, not only because it was convenient, but also because I had seen it recommended in the owner’s website. There are lots of potential problems with accessories in these kinds of inspections, even with the most common ones such as a higher windscreen or luggage racks, and I had been told that they were quite easy-going in this respect. It turns out it is true – they checked the bike’s brakes, lights, emissions and noise and asked for the dealer’s certificate regarding the change of the ECU and that was that. Passed!

So if anyone in or around Barcelona needs to pass their MoT, I highly recommend this center.

Final check on the bike

Last week I took the motorbike to a Suzuki dealer near home in Barcelona for a final service before setting off. There were some things that had to be done before starting the trip, like changing the ECU to de-restrict the engine (I was still riding with my A2 license, I got the A one a month ago), checking and adjusting valve clearance and replacing the brake fluid. I also still had not got round to installing a 12V socket, and that was essential. I could have done the latter myself, and maybe even the brake fluid, but I am running out of days and I wanted to have a professional mechanic have a good look at the bike, so I took it to Hamamatsu Motor.

The chief mechanic, Macari, did a great job – he kept the bike for a little longer to make sure everything was ready, charged me less than he should have for labour and issued the certificate I need to modify the bike’s documents now that it is back on full power free of charge, so I guess it is kind of a small sponsorship.

The bike works wonderfully well after having the timing and injection adjusted and the regular ECU installed. It is smoother, the engine breathes more easily and the revs climb without any problem to the red line. I have got an appointment tomorrow at the MoT centre near my work to have the corresponding paperwork done.

The stove works!

As you might remember from the post on the test weekend, I had some problems with my Coleman stove – I could not get it going and it seemed to leak some fuel – so I was facing the prospect of cold meals or learning to make a fire in the wild. Eating in restaurants or buying a new dual fuel stove were out of the question, I have spent all the money I had budgeted for the preparation, and “in the wild” usually means it’s either windy, wet and behind a run-down industrial park or surrounded by children at a family campsite, wondering why that man dressed in robocop gear is not using a Camping Gaz stove like dad’s.

So after having left the stove at my father’s home (he’s got a nice workshop in the basement) with the intention of taking it apart when I had a moment, I was very glad when he told me it was working.

It turns out there was nothing wrong with it, aside from the fact that I got it second-hand it did not come with instructions (other than the few basic steps written on the label next to the ‘read the instructions carefully before use’ warning) and I was using it wrong, pouring too much fuel into it and not operating the pump properly. Once everything was set up correctly, it burnt nicely for a really long time on a very small quantity of fuel, and it only took a few minutes to bring a big pot of water to a boil. Wonderful.

Couchsurfing

First of all, my apologies for having neglected the blog for so long, I’m on the final weeks before departure and things are getting hectic! I need to make sure everything is ready, plan the route in detail, sort out accommodation, make a final check on the bike, etc.

I had figured that the most expensive part of the journey is going to be Europe, so I have decided to try to use CouchSurfing. As many of you know, it is a system that puts in touch people looking for a place to sleep and people who offer a place to stay (a couch) at their homes. There are two reasons why I have decided to couchsurf: first, to keep costs down, secondly and most importantly, I think it is the best way of meeting locals and getting to know the people and the cities I am going to be visiting. I have spent long hours these last weeks sitting in front of the computer and sending lots of requests, and I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised at the result. I have been offered a place to stay at most cities I am going to ride through in Europe, and I am really looking forward to the experience.

Facebook page

Good morning!

Here I am, after a long weekend on the bike, testing all the equipment, sipping some instant coffee with milk and sugar that I bought for the trip. Not the best coffee in the world, but hey, it is hot coffee and I shall be grateful for it in some cold mornings.

Anyway, I will talk about the weekend on a longer post that I hope to write between today and tomorrow. This post was to announce that, following a suggestion from a fellow rider at the V-strom owners forum, I have set up a Facebook page for the project. The contents of the page will be the same as here, it will contain links to all the posts in this blog. It will make it easier for people to follow and share and the main difference is that in there I have uploaded practically all of the pictures I have taken so far, instead of just the highlights I have been posting here, so if anyone is interested in those (mostly technical so far), there thay are.

Here is the link:

https://www.facebook.com/Stromingtheworld?ref=hl