Saturday, November 15, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Should you have separate wheels for your snow tires?
For many years, I followed the mantra that it was better to have a separate set of wheels on your dedicated winter tires. I also was a big fan of the Nokian brand.
After much deliberation, not only did I choose to stick to one set of wheels, I also bought a set of Michelin - X-Ice Xi2 tires instead of Nokian Hakkapelittas.
No matter how I added up the numbers, it simply made sense. The tires were $165.99 each at Costco. The price includes mounting, balancing, road hazard coverage, and free rotation. For $25, Costco will even swap my summer tires back and rebalance them.
The best price I could find on the Nokian Hakka 4s was $175 each, plus $50 for shipping. Once they arrived, I'd have to pay for mounting and balancing at a tire shop. And no road hazard coverage.
Bring on the snow!
p.s. How durable are Canola oil based tires?
Sunday, November 2, 2008
A few years ago I made the mistake of taking the 4Runner to Quicklube for an oil change. The clowns doing the work didn't bother tightening the oil filter. The next morning, I was had to do a little a cleanup.
It was very cold outside.
I wasn't happy with Quicklube.
p.s. A letter to the company went unanswered. It was the last time I went to Quick Lube.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Billed as the world's largest, Veloswap is a "consumer bicycling and sports expo." That's fancy talk for a massive bazaar of all things cycling, complete with haggling merchants and keen buyers hungry for a bargain. Vendors range from massive corporations (Subaru, a.k.a. Fuji Heavy) to a solitary guy selling a bike on a blanket.
It was held in Denver this past weekend. If you missed it... well, there's always next year. Here's a few pics (and a video) from the event.
The crowded exhibition hall:
Chain rings and wine cozies, hmm..
Tires, tires everywhere:
Some vendors were more organized than others:
It wasn't all the latest bling:
A crowd tore into a pile of discount cycling socks. Like blood thirsty sharks swirling, a feeding frenzy ensued:
Vendors were creative:
Occasional desperate measures:
The pics above can only give you a small sense of how big this event was. Here's a little video that helps capture the scale:
Monday, October 27, 2008
Model: 4000 Quattro
Mileage at Purchase: ~235,000
Miles Driven: 12,000 miles
Purchase Price: $750
Sold Price: $1,000
Extras: Box of parts, Bag of door handles, snow tires mounted on separate rims, shop manuals, extensive maintenance records (now google-ized)
Repairs and Mods
Torn CV boot replaced ($50)
Brake vacuum push-rod removed ($0)
Driver door seal re-glued ($1?)
What worked: Faultless engine, transmission and brakes
What didn't: Door seals, sunroof, a/c, radio
What sucked: bad paint job, oil drips, torn seats, and my wife's complaints about it parked in front of our house
What rocked: fuel mileage, handling in the snow, and parking a little too close to the luxury ego-machines at the office.
I bought the car because I wanted something to drive to work during the winter and this Audi was almost cheaper than the snow tires I would have needed for the Mazdaspeed Miata I owned at the time. I admit, I was a little nervous when I brought it home. I was gunshy because of a horrendously expensive ownership experience with a 1989 Audi 200 Quattro. But a little research showed that the 4000 has few of the wicked pricey and failure prone parts of the Type 44's. Parts for this car were cheap and Audi 4000's with more than 300,000 are common.
Alas, Frau Blucher has now been sold. The new owner promises to take good care of it.
Huw Powell's Site
Friday, October 24, 2008
Have you wondered about that trail fading off into the woods? Want to explore forgotten corners of the world, travel epic distances, or just keep going after the pavement ends? A dual sport might be the machine for you.
Now the classic question: which bike?
There are several big adventure models out there, but most are too heavy for more than a dirt road. For the rider who wants to seriously get off pavement, there's only a few choices. You want something light enough to handle tough trails but still capable of handling long stretches of pavement. This shootout is between the Kawasaki KLR 650 and the BMW F650GS Dakar.
Please note, this post isn't about the hottest new model. It's about bikes a few years old. It's about getting the right machine at the right price. Gear Thoughts is devoted to the used market. Like Festivus, it's a web site for the rest of us.
This post is also based on a real life story. About a year ago, I found myself bike shopping. With the jingle of a little change in my pocket, I was looking for a machine that offered:
- Off-road capability
- Reasonable on-road performance
- Reliability and durability
- Comfortable, all day riding position
- Low cost of ownership
The KLR 650
Ronald Regan was still President when the first generation KLR rolled off the assembly line in Japan. It would be twenty years later (2008) before a fully redesigned KLR model was finally introduced. In between, there were only minor modifications.
The 2008 KLR is too new so this report focuses on the last production year of the 1st generation (2007). The last year of a model is often the best year to buy. Prices generally drop when a new model is introduced as many would-be buyers move on to the latest/greatest. Most systematic issues have also generally been worked out in the last year of production.
The F650GS Dakar
First introduced in 1999 as the Funduro, the F650GS was BMW's answer to the need for a light weight dual sport bike. Smaller than the F1100GS and far less expensive, the F650GS quickly developed a following. Unlike its shaft driven bigger brother, the F650 was chain driven and powered by an Austrian built Rotax motor. This BMW was unlike any before. The Dakar edition has useful offroad upgrades such as beefier and taller suspension and a larger front wheel. The seat height of the Dakar is 34.5 inches, compares to 30.7 inches for the base F650 GS. The Dakar also has a unique look to it, distinguishing the bike from lesser models.
In 2007, rumors were swirling about a new GS. The F800 was on its way, a bike both lighter and more powerful than the F650. Pictures first appeared in the Spring and deliveries were expected in the fall. But there were many delays, and the bike finally starting hitting dealerships this autumn. Waiting for the F800, many potential buyers decided to hold off.
The F800 GS is now available and the F650 GS was discontinued in 2007, marking it's last year of production. Supposedly another F650 GS is under development but until its released, 2007 was the last year of production for the F650 GS in the U.S. market.
Head to Head
The F650GS vs KLR 650. Two capable 650cc adventure riding machines face off. Both the last year of production. Both with rabid, foaming at the mouth, cult like followings. The chart below summarizes key differences.
Power: Both bikes offer 650cc engines putting out similar horsepower. According to the manufacturers, the BMW has a slight edge in the power department. In my road test, I barely noticed a difference. On the highway, the BMW may have the advantage but in typical everyday riding, these two bikes are essentially a draw.
Brakes: The KLR brakes are a weak spot. Some riders upgrade by installing a bigger front rotor and stainless steel brake lines. ABS is also not available. Advantage: BMW.
Off-Road: It's a little lighter so the KLR might have a slight advantage off road. But with it's unique fuel tank design, the BMW has a lower center of gravity. In performance it's probably a toss up but one factor cannot be overlooked. Riding off road in rugged terrain frequently results in a dropped bike. Both bikes have weak spots but for the Kawasaki, these are easily remedied or replaced with inexpensive aftermarket parts. Should you break parts on the BMW, the cost is many times more for repair or replacement. Advantage: Kawasaki.
On-Road: These bikes are single cylinder machines (thumpers). On the road, both bikes are underpowered on the highway and are prone to vibration. But they're great in town. Overall, on the road the KLR is less refined and is a cruder machine. The BMW gets better fuel mileage, has smoother power delivery, and slightly more top end. Advantage: BMW.
Hit To Your Wallet: At half the price of the BMW, the Kawasaki is a cheap way to get into dual sporting. Here in Colorado, I see machines only a year or two old for $3,700. Some of these machines are nicely farkled. Others have unbelievably low mileage. Drop down below $3,000 and you'll still find machines available but with substantially higher mileage. Even so, on any given day there are three or four KLR's available on Craigslist.
The Dakar is far rarer and typical asking prices are $7,500 and up. In my experience, mileage also tends to be higher. To find the right one, you'll need a dose of luck, a willingness to travel, and some patience.
Verdict: If money isn't a factor, it's hard to argue with an F650GS Dakar. It's the best F650GS and it's a better bike than the KLR 650 is nearly every way. If you're rarely going off road, there is no comparison. Go with the F650GS.
Money of course is a factor. For the same price, you could probably buy TWO Kawasakis. Think about that. Or you could buy a Kawasaki and a bunch of farkles like panniers, skid plates, and GPS systems. And you'd still have plenty of cash left over.
When I was shopping, I asked myself what I really wanted. I decided that I wanted a bike that I could fix on the road. Even in the middle of nowhere, I wanted something that could be patched together with a bit of wire, duct tape, and some ingenuity. I also didn't want to feel any anguish when I dropped it on a trail. At the right price, I could overlook crude construction.
So I decided on the KLR. Even with all of its faults, it's a very functional motorcycle. Any repair shop can fix it. Tried and tested, parts are abundant and cheap. Failure modes are well known. Modifications, easy. And it's probably a little better in the dirt, if only for my willingness to push myself to the limits of my ability.
I purchased my black and silver '07 KLR 650 last Spring. It had only 400 miles on it and so I paid a little more than the typical asking price. Already dropped once, a plastic side panel was already zip tied. As part of the purchase, I negotiated a steep discount on gear, adding Sidi Crossfire boots and a few other items to my list of equipment.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I bought my '05 Mazdaspeed Miata last September and sold it a year later. I drove it about 10,000 miles in twelve months and loved nearly every minute of it.
It was far faster and better handling than the base Miata. I also liked it better than the new version, which looks like it's wearing waders.
With as much fun as I had, there were two primary drawbacks. 1) I didn't want to drive it in the snow, especially for my 80 mile round trip commute. 2) At 6'2" and 220lb, it was a tight squeeze. I finally got tired of driving with my shoes off, the only way I could get behind the wheel.
If I had to do it again, I'd buy a 1st generation Miata with a documented maintenance history and +100,000 miles. The first gen is underpowered but it has a bigger interior and they're quite a bit less money.
Sold in limited markets, powered by Toyota's hybrid technology. I took this baby for a spin and was impressed by it's solidness. The car was also quite large, easily adequate for four adults on a medium length trip. Toyota licensing/selling their hybrid technology also increases their competitive advantage. While competitors attempt to gain a foothold in the market using Toyota's technology, Toyota forges ahead with development.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
My riding partner macgyvered this when he discovered the missing nut. Held together from Estes to Boulder, a distance of nearly 40 miles.
Monday, July 28, 2008
At first glance, it looks like a fairly ordinary cruiser. Maybe with custom flames perhaps.
But then your eye catches that permanently mounted spare fuel tank on the back.
So you start wondering why this cruiser needs an extra fuel tank. And then you notice the turbo. The very large shiny turbo.
I never found the owner of this machine, but undoubtedly it's a thrill to ride. It may also be the largest ratio of turbo size to motor I've ever seen.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Monday, July 7, 2008
When he wrote Walden, he almost certainly wasn't thinking about motorcycles. He died nearly 25 years before the first one was invented. Even so, Thoreau obviously knew a thing or two about self sufficiency and that's what owning an older Beemer is all about. Sure, I'm not living alone in the woods, but my recent attempts at motorcycle maintenance might as well have been inspired by his writing.
Last Spring I bought a 1992 K75s with about 51,000 miles on the clock. Called Flying Bricks for the shape of their engines, BMW originally designed them to replace the boxer powered R series. When BMW broke the news, boxer fanatics freaked. So BMW tried introducing a last edition of the R series, to give the obsessive types an opportunity to own the last of the lineage. But the fanatics wouldn't relent. Several last editions later, BMW caved. The R-bikes continue to be manufactured today, as do the K-bikes. And both have a following.
I'd driven by this particular K75s a least a thousand times. Parked up the street from my house, it was a naughty temptress. Always calling me as I passed by, whispering my name. I finally couldn't take it any more and in a moment of weakness, I stomped up the street to talk the owner. Fate was with me.
She said was getting out of motorcycling, getting married and wanted a more respectable lifestyle. Ah yes, respectable. That's something I don't know anything about so I pressed on.
Although the bike looked a little rough, she claimed it had been well maintained by a local shop. But she didn't have any records. She also admitted to dropping the bike, causing the very visible scratches along the right side. Hmm...
Despite my propensity to overanalyze every decision costing greater than $5, we somehow agreed to a price on the spot. Shaking hands, I handed her a check... and then sheepishly asked her to ride it up the street and park it outside my house. I didn't have a license. Or even a helmet yet.
Stay tuned for part II...
Monday, March 10, 2008
A couple of years ago, I slapped some fenders on my GT for commuting duty. It was perfect for rainy or snowy rides back and forth to my office in Cambridge. When I lived on Nantucket, the sandy roads and occasional trail posed no problem. There generally wasn't much mud.
The pics below are why you should remove fenders for trail riding in Colorado. The mud was packed in so badly that the wheels wouldn't turn. I had to remove the wheels and clean out the thick, sticky mud several times on my ride yesterday.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Egads! Is my beloved Audi 4000 rejecting her heritage?
I suppose I'll just have to make the most of it. I can think of some fun photographic uses for an Audi badge.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
When you want to go online to network socially, forget about the usual social networking sites. Social networking sites are poor imitators of much older forums, email lists, and even chat rooms. People have been gathering in these forums and email groups since the Internet began. When you visit these websites and email lists, you'll find people with common interests and real experts, happy to dole out crucial advise.
Let's bring this back to Gear Thoughts. Here's a few groups in which I participate.
For my BMW K75s, I often participate in the Yahoo Group: KBMW. For my adventure riding addiction, I can spend hours reading the ride reports on the Adventure Rider Motorcycle Forum. For meeting local riders and going on group rides, there's the regional subforums. If you live in Colorado and are into sportbikes, you'll want to visit the Colorado Sportbike Club Forums. You'll find plenty of expertise and lots of opportunity to join other riders. If you're into BMW motorcycles, visit Colorado Beemers and join the group for a ride. When I want to feed my Audi addiction, I'll go to the forums on Audiworld although the Audifans site has a much better marketplace.
And on it goes. For every passion, you will find a forum or email list to support it. When you have a problem, the people you meet are often willing to help and you'll also find a treasure trove of useful technical information in the archives. There are always informal and formal gatherings happening, so there's plenty of opportunity to meet these people in person.
I don't mean to bash Facebook, Linked In, and other social networking sites. I have a few profiles out there myself and they've enabled me to reconnect with people I haven't spoken with for years. That's pretty cool. But they're also limited and the widget stuff is increasingly annoying. If you're looking for much higher quality interactions, visit forums and email lists on subjects you're passionate about.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Yet the automotive forums say that Water + Sea Foam = Fountain of Youth. The promises are remarkable; better fuel mileage, more power, smoother running. The horror stories, few. The online video tutorials, amusing.
So like a later day Ponce de León, I slid a can of Sea Foam across the counter at my local auto parts store yesterday. The clerk gave me a curious look, as if he knew something I didn't. It reminded of the first time I bought condoms at the grocery store. Then and now, I hoped the clerk's smirk wasn't knowledge of disaster awaiting.
Later that evening, under the cover of darkness, I began the ritual. The engine was warmed up while an old priest and a young priest were summoned. A few cups of water were sucked into the motor, followed by the sea foam. My helper, my wife in this case, kept the engine running at 3000 rpm but kept asking me if I knew what I was doing. I feigned confidence, all the while knowing that the price of failure would be measured in humiliating stories told at cocktail parties and family gatherings for years to come. With each puff of white smoke out the tail pipe, I wondered how this would turn out.
After the initial water torture, I took the car out for an Italian tune up. Given its advanced age and mileage (23 years old, 240K miles), I'd previously never pushed the engine much beyond 4000 rpm. Now I was repeatedly brushing past 6000 rpm into redline. For half an hour, I abused the car with boy racer antics and full throttle motoring. Gushers of white smoke poured forth, as I worried about law enforcement pulling me over for causing so much pollution.
Eventually, the smoke cleared and the engine began purring. It appears that the motor survived. Indeed, it was now running quite smoothly. From the seat of the pants, it also seemed like the engine was even a little more powerful. I'm not sure if it was the sea foam itself or the Italian Tune up which followed, but thus far I'm satisfied with the results (i.e. humiliation avoided). I've been tracking my fuel consumption, so over the next week I'll be able to tell if there was an actual improvement.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Over the years, many places to buy previously owned products have appeared on the Internet. Sites like AutoTrader.com, Cars.com, eBay and Craigslist have unlocked vast marketplaces for previously owned vehicles. With a few extra minutes, I tend to wander over and let the imagination run wild. When I buy, I often find the stuff I want online and typically buy used.
Why buy used? Simple. Let someone else can take the hit on depreciation. Plus, used products are more environmentally sustainable. Buying something used also lets you enjoy the unique character of the secondary marketplace. Compared to shopping at a sterile brick and mortar store, shopping the secondary market is like visiting an exotic bazaar, with colorful sellers flogging nearly any item you mind can conceive.
Interested in finding a Unimog? You won't find one on your local car lot, but at any given time you'll probably find a handful of the rockcrawling German military machines for sale on eBay. Want an original (now 40+ year old) Mini Cooper in mint condition? Time to roll up your sleeves and start shopping online.
This blog is devoted to the joy of shopping the secondary markets. Our goal is to share our experience, share our research, and perhaps tell a funny tale. While you'll find hundreds of magazines and websites devoted to new stuff, you won't find very good information for used products. This blog is aimed to fill that void. We hope you enjoy the experience (and consider contributing).
Welcome to GearThoughts.
About our name. As you may have guessed, virtually everything that rolls, flies, slices, or cuts across the earth has gears. The simple and elegant concept of a gear is fundamental requirement for anything that moves. Plus, many people have taken to calling the swag that accumulates in our closets, the stuff needed to hike, climb, or walk.. gear.