Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sylvania Silverstar Headlight Bulb

My ZR-7S has a notoriously dim bulb -- no, not the rider; the headlight. Electrics aren't my strong suit, but I believe a large contributing factor is the undersized wiring in the headlight circuit and the rather, well, circuitous route the juice must take from battery to bulb, resulting in a significant voltage drop. I hope to attack that problem this Winter by wiring direct from the battery to the headlight with larger gauge wire, and using relays to control the juice to the low and high beam circuits. In the meantime, I recently picked up a Sylvania Silverstar headlight bulb at Pep Boys for about $9. My ZR takes a standard H-4 bulb, 55W/60 so I went with the same wattage in the Silverstar. Installation took all of 90 seconds or so. I wore surgical latex gloves to ensure I didn't transfer any skin oil to the bulb, which would shorten its lifespan. I've ridden with the new bulb about a dozen times now, mostly in the dark/near dark as I don't see much sun during my commutes this time of year. According the manufacturer's hype, the Silverstar's color temperature is about 4000K (Kelvin), compared to about 3200K for a standard halogen bulb. Lacking a degree in Physics, I'll take Sylvania's word for it, but it doesn't take Einstein to discern that the beam cast by the Silverstar is very noticeably whiter than the OEM bulb. The whiter light makes it easier to see clearly; perhaps our brains translate optical input more accurately in light that's closer to "daylight" temperature? It also seems that the beam casts a little further, but without a side-by-side comparo it's difficult to tell. Another bonus is that I'm sure I'm now a little more visible to the other motorists with whom I'm doing battle. Bottom line: While not a cure-all for weak headlights, this is a cheap, easy upgrade that makes a significant improvement and increases conspicuity. Unless you're blessed with a bike that already has excellent headlight output, there's no excuse for not doing this simple upgrade. There are several other manufacturers selling these "hotter" bulbs, so they're very easy to find, too.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fog Tech Anti-Fog Treatment

This is the second installment of my quest to find an effective, long-lasting motorcycle visor anti-fog coating that doesn't distort my vision. In my prior review, I deemed Cat Crap Lens Cleaner & Anti-Fog unacceptable for motorcycle use.

I've now had a few opportunities to try a popular product called Fog Tech, which is sold in bottled form and in foil-packaged impregnated towelletes. Following the directions, I cleaned the inner surface of my visor well and ensured it was totally dry. The Fog Tech solution is applied by using either a towellete, or the supplied felt-like applicator if using the liquid. The user then quickly wipes the towellete or applicator across the inside of the visor until it is covered in a thin film. The tricky part is that to get it right, you must not overlap the strokes more than a tiny bit and you must not keeping wiping/rubbing while it dries. If you do, the quick-drying sticky solution will cause a mess and you must start all over again. You only get one shot at getting it correct. Fog Tech also recommends leaving about a half inch strip at the top of the visor uncoated to prevent rain water being pulled in. Keep in mind this all occurs on the inside of your visor -- not an easy task to manage if you've got a full-face helmet, without taking the visor off. So, it takes a bit of practice to get a good, even coating. The good thing (or not, as you'll read later) is that Fog Tech rinses off easily using plain ol' water, which makes starting over a bit easier. I find that the towelettes and the liquid are equally as easy, or difficult, to use.

On several dark, clear morning commutes in the low 40Fs lately, I discovered that Fog Tech was doing an excellent jog of keeping my visor clear, with only minor fogging around the edges.
The coating on the visor caused some visual distortion, but it was minimal compared to the Cat Crap. However, the fogging increasingly encroached into my field of vision as the ride went on, and by about 45 minutes down the road the anti-fog properties had diminished by about 50%. In part, this was because the Fog Tech caused a cycle wherein water droplets condensed and beaded-up on the inside of my visor, which then ran down, washing away some of the Fog Tech solution, which then caused more fogging, which resulted in more droplets, ad infinitum, and all of which added to the visual distortion.

Thus, while Fog Tech has excellent anti-fog properties, they don't last...and I imagine they'd degrade even more quickly in the rain. Plus the product is more difficult to apply than a product meant to be used frequently (and perhaps re-applied during a ride) should be. I rate Fog Tech "barely acceptable" for motorcycle use, and then only for short rides in daylight conditions. I guess I'll have to keep searching. I'm beginning to suspect that the solution will not lie with any substance that coats the helmet visor, but with barriers that prevent the fog-causing humid exhaled air from reaching the visor in the first place.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Screwed Again!

Dear drywall contractor who's working in my office building: I found one of your drywall screws in the parking lot last this morning -- in my rear tire! Call me Mr. Screw Magnet I guess; that's three in the last 13 months or so. This one had only gone 1,104 miles before losing its virginity, which works out to almost 15 cents per mile(!). On the bright side, I rarely ride around on a worn-out rear tire. Just as I was tilting it left into our under-building parking area, I felt the talltale "wumpa wumpa wumpa". I put 'er up on the centerstand and spun the rear tire hoping to find a large stone, or small critter, wedged in the tread...but noooooo (John Belushi voice here). There it was, about 1/4" sticking out and no telling just how long it was. It was dark and about 36F, and I didn't want to risk pulling the screw out (no air was hissing) and then having a plug (I always carry a plug kit and pump) not work, so I fired it up and headed back home. After a few miles the "wumpa" stopped, which I knew meant either the screw had been pushed in flush with the tread, or that it had departed. It turned out to be the former 'cuz the tire felt just fine all the way home, although I did ride extra-conservatively just in case. So, while I'm waiting for the UPS man to bring me a new Bridgestone donut, I have a Kisan ChargeGuard gathering dust on my workbench and I've always wanted to feed more electrons to my (notoriously dim) ZR-7's headlight by rewiring the circuit to eliminate much of the voltage drop. Think I'll get a broom and give my parking area a good sweep, too.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ephrata "First Sunday" Rally, Nov. 2007

On 11/4/07 I took a ride up to the last Ephrata First Sunday Rally of the year (sniff). It was a chilly 41F when I left Delaware. In a few weeks 41 will feel almost warm, but considering the unseasonably warm temps we've had this Fall 41 felt downright cold. It was the first time since March I had my "serious Winter" gear on, and I realized how each year my fingers seem to protest the cold a bit more. I'd estimate the crowd at Ephrata was only about 50% of maximum. I guess a lot of riders with more sense than I have put their bikes to bed until Spring. Fortunately, there were still plenty of cool and unusual bikes...and a couple of fellow Retreads to shoot the breeze with. Here are pics I snapped of an old toaster tank BMW, a cool 2-stroke RZ350, and a homemade trike (Harley-Keggerson?).

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Arai Helmet Visor Changing Made Easy...

Psych! Made you look! Everyone knows there is no easy way to remove and/or reinstall an Arai visor. Every time I do it, I'm sure I'm gonna break the darn thing. But I never do. Well, that was a true statement up until about an hour ago. I was removing my perfectly serviceable Arai Signet GTR visor in order to coat it with an anti-fog treatment I'm evaluating for you, my faithful (albeit so very few) readers, when the telltale e-eeeek cr--aaaaack! signaled an error in my technique. Good thing I had a spare, which was thankfully installed sans special auditory effects. While I love Arai's Signet (I'm on my 3rd, being the only lid that so well fits my "long-oval" noggin), I hate the practical joke some engineer continues to play on we poor saps. I mean, c'mon now Arai: I rebuilt a motorcycle engine at age 15 with no assistance; I spent 8 years as a technician on one of the world's most advanced jet fighters; I even understand the Copenhagen Theory of quantum mechanics; yet I can't remove a bloody Arai helmet visor that has less than one moving part without breaking it! At least Nicky Hayden has mastered the challenge. (Check out the video below).