Friday, October 26, 2012

YSS Shock Review

You know that feeling when your bike just isn't riding right?      Last fall, my 1992 K75S was starting to get sloppy despite new rubber and new front wheel bearings.   It appeared the tired OEM shock was ready for replacement.

I wanted a good shock at a reasonable price. Reading through various online forums for recommendations, I was surprised how many options were available. Ultimately,  I noticed a lot of positive comments about a particular guy named Klaus at a retailer called EPM Performance.     So, I gave him a call and Klaus walked me through a few options, including the YSS ME 302-360 I eventually ordered.  

Here's what the new YSS 302-360 shock looks like compared to stock.

As you can see, the YSS monoshock is adjustable for pre-load like the original.     The adjustment isn't notched like the OEM shock, so you can really dial it in for the weight you're carrying and conditions.      The spring is also progressively wound.  Fit and finish on the new shock can only be described as excellent, it's well made and attractive.      But how would it perform?

The picture above shows YSS on the left and the OEM shock on the right.      At first, I thought the YSS shock was missing its rubber bushing.   It turns out that the bushing has an aluminum collar on it, hiding the rubber from the elements and lending a cleaner appearance.     Very nice.

Installation was very easy, once you've got the luggage carrier out of the way, it's just a couple of bolts.    Just be sure to support the swing arm so it doesn't drop all the way,  pulling the rubber boot away from the front of the driveshaft.    Also be sure to torque to spec.

Once installed, I took it on a few canyon runs and adjusted the pre-load.  I also took the opportunity to flush the fork fluid so I was starting with a fresh set-up.  

Road trip to Santa Fe

Since installation and fine-tuning, I've put a few thousand miles on the bike and I'm extremely pleased with the shock's performance.   Compared to the shoddy and well worn OEM shock, the bike rides better than it ever has before.  It's just taught enough on the twisties to soak up imperfections and keep good contact with the road.    It's just soft enough on the long stretches to easily absorb larger bumps with a nice feel, but no jarring.     It feels like a new bike.

The Numbers
This review is unbiased.   I didn't tell Klaus or his assistant Michelle at EPM that I would be reviewing the shock.    I simply called and asked him for my options.  Unbeknownst to him, I also tried shopping for the shock internationally as authorized YSS retailers are pretty rare in the United States.   I like to price shop and know I'm getting a good deal.   Nothing came close to the price EPM offered and Klaus has a very good reputation in the BMW community, so I went ahead.    

Out the door, I paid $248 for the shock (which included $29 for shipping).    If you buy one, keep in mind that I ordered the ME 302-360, which is about 10mm taller than stock.    The shock is also available in stock height, the ME 302-350 and may even be available in a short shock.     Klaus also stocks Wilburs, Hyperpro, and other options.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Old GT

My old GT Terra has gone places.   I bought it for $25 as a beater commuter in New York City in 2001.   It came with a rusty chain and two flat tires.      I figured I wouldn't cry if someone stole it.     Nobody did.

When I moved to Boston, I added the 3 strut, tig welded "expendition" rack from Nashbar,  bright orange and brown Cannondale panniers from eBay, and fenders from Planet Bike.     Mostly, I commuted from my house in Medford to a research job in Cambridge.  Sometimes I'd attend workshops and other events near Harvard and occasionally I'd cruise over to Trader Joe's in Arlington.    I pretty much rode it all over Boston, but I never did make it to Sheldon's shop in Newton.

On Nantucket, I regularly rode to town from Surfside and all over the island too.   Two years on the gray lady and somehow it survived the salt air, unlike my car.    We've been in Boulder for seven years,  it's now a veteran of many cruiser rides and my tow-vehicle of choice for Marley on his chariot.  Last year, it was daily companion on the playa.    

So once again, I'm about to double down for parts and labor.   I could replace it with a used bike in better shape for about the same price as what I'm about to throw into it, but given the places I've gone, it just isn't worth it.  

Upcoming repairs and improvements;
Bottom Bracket  COMPLETE
Wheel bearings
Wheel Tuning

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Cutest VW Bus Ever

I've seen a lot of buses, but this one might qualify as the cutest one ever.

This little green guy was spotted in the McGuckin parking lot in Boulder, CO.    California tags.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Intel WiFi Link Network Cards and HP Laptops

$10 part number
The wireless network card on my three year old HP laptop has recently been malfunctioning.  It was disconnecting by itself and not reconnecting without a reboot.    Naturally, this was occurring at convenient times like when I was doing client presentations.    Since the laptop didn't have any other real problems, it would be a shame to replace it for this issue.

And by "shame" I mean it would cost me $2,950 (after tax) for a brand new Apple Macbook Pro, not that I've been visiting the Apple Store to drool on them.

The device driver was up to date so I suspected the card simply had a loose or ever slightly corroded connection.   I pulled the card out, looked for physical signs of a problem (didn't see any), and reinstalled the card.  

So far, so good.

The card was easy to remove.   It's accessed by removing the speaker cover on the bottom of the laptop (one screw).    The antenna connections can be removed by gently pulling on the plugs with small pliers and two small screws secure the card in place.  Total time to pull the card - about 5 minutes.

Here's the curious thing.   Some bright young MBA at HP decided to label components that are likely to need replacement with HP part numbers.   The idea was probably to make it easy for HP repair monkeys ("technicians") to confirm that replacement parts match.  Too bad it doesn't make it easier for consumers to order the part.  

You'd think that searching HP's website by the HP part number would lead you to a simple way to purchase the part.   But that's not how it goes.   HP's website says that HP no longer carries the part but links to a list of resellers.   The list starts with Canadian companies and US companies are further down (why?).

The first US based HP reseller linked from the HP website didn't have a searchable website, so I gave up and easily found it on eBay and various other places for $15 to $18 (plus shipping).    I ripped off the haphazardly attached  HP label and searched eBay by the Intel part number where I found used network cards for as little as $3 (plus shipping) and brand new ones for $8 (free shipping).

Here's a few things that HP clearly doesn't understand.

1. Consumers develop relationships with products that extend onto the web.    An HP website that is 99% focused on selling new laptops and buries parts and service with crappy menus and poor search tools is deeply frustrating.   The relationship isn't positive here, it's negative.    Are you listening HP?   Fix your damn website.    

2.   If you're going to cover up the manufacturer label with your own part number, at least align the label and put it right side up.   And cross reference it with the OEM part number.

3.   Don't put links on your website to resellers who without online capabilities to search and purchase parts.  Our time is value and we aren't going to call a reseller, spend 20 minutes on the phone talking when we can spend 2 minutes searching the web.

Laptop:  HP HDX X18T-1200 CTO Premium
Wifi Card:  Intel WiFi link 5100 512AN_MMW
HP Part:  480985-001

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hitch Love (Why?)

Hitches are more than just a convenient attachment point for hauling trailers and cargo racks.   They're an urban defense.

Check out this parking job and note the evidence of previous abuse by the owner's bad parking behavior.

Tight parking

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Art of Motorcycle Globalization

Made in Germany, sold in America, and sent to Japan for repair.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fun Drifting Video

Maybe I'm too old, 'cause I'm not a big fan of drifting.   That said, this video is fun to watch.  

via Okidokyo

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Riviera

Little about this hard-edged Riviera conjures tanned skin, cocktails, or card tables. Found on the mean streets of Boulder, CO.

Monday, January 9, 2012

What Cycle World Is Not Telling You

Here's a recent video review by Cycle World of the big adventure bikes;  KTM 990, BMW R1200GS, and Yamaha Super Tenere.

Don't you just love how they gush over each of the bikes, while only hinting at a few of the down-sides?   I wonder if they're worried about their advertising budgets.    Ooh, but look at the bike-porn action shots.   Drool...

What They're Not Telling You
Since we have no advertising budget at risk, hell we don't even get loaners to test, it's easy to tell you what they're not telling you.   Some people call this the truth.

Money, Money, Money
A fully equipped BMW R1200 GS will be around $18,000 out the door.   It's also an older design and BMW is getting set to release the new model, which will likely be water cooled.   The GS Adventure is really the model to have, it's arguably better setup for off-road and with a massively larger fuel tank, it's better for adventure travel.   Expect the price for an Adventure to be closer to $20,000 or more for a fully set-up with panniers, bash plates, and other farkles.  

The Super Tenere and KTM are 25-30% less expensive than the BMW.   Fully set-up, the gap may be even greater.   Don't kid yourself, that buys a lot of fuel, tires, valve adjustments, and oil changes.  

If past trends hold true, the BMW may have the lowest depreciation rate over your ownership period but that could change when BMW releases the new model.  Used KTM's, even with low mileage, have crappy resale values.  Thus, the overall cost to own one might be higher than the GS.   Yes, you can use that to help convince your spouse.

KTM's also have much higher maintenance requirements, and not just because it's chain driven.  Remember, it's pretty much a gigantic, somewhat high-strung dirt bike.   You might also note that high mileage KTMs are somewhat rare on the used market, but you'll easily find a plethora of high mileage BMWs.    Factor maintenance into the cost of ownership.

Off Road Capability 
The vast majority of people will look at the ruggedness of the BMW and think it's a continent conquering off-road machine.  Over the years, BMW has done a fantastic job of cultivating that image.  Seeing the GS, some bystanders may even imagine Charley and Ewan, rolling across the vast landscape. 

The truth is that even the upgraded Adventure model is horrid off-road compared to the KTM.   As my dirt-bike riding friends like to say, the mighty GS makes a fine road bike.

There is no comparison.  The KTM is much better when it comes to trail riding.   I have a lot of friends who have KTM Adventures.   They rave about the power, occasionally take them off-road but rarely on single-track.   They usually have a real dirt-bike for that.  So ask yourself... are you really going to take your KTM into Dakar like conditions?    Probably not.  Any of these bike will handle a forest road, or even a mild four wheel drive trail, and get you to your campsite.  

Fuel Economy
Wheel spinning power has a tradeoff.  It's called fuel economy.

Those same friends who chatter on about the superiority of the KTM get pretty quiet when I ask about the fuel mileage.   If you're on the throttle, expect fuel economy in the 20's and otherwise in the mid 30's.   The BMW and Yamaha are good for another 10mpg.    Some reviewers are even claiming high 50's for the Yamaha on the slab.

I don't know about you, but higher fuel economy makes a difference.   Maybe it's only a few bucks, but it feels better knowing that I'm not sucking down gas.   In the rest of the world, motorcycles are looked at as smart transportation because they're cheap and get fantastic fuel mileage.   Here in the states, the motors keep getting bigger and brains keep getting smaller.  

Seriously, Which One? 
If you're seriously considering any of these, be sure to check out all of them.   Don't be surprised if you find fit/finish, ride, and ... emotional appeal to be radically different.  Take a test-ride.   Consider the full ownership cost.   Then make your decision.

More Reading
R1250GS Threadfest (Adv Rider)
Yamaha Super Tenere Review (Eastern Dirt)
KTM Adventure Review (Motorcycle USA)

Friday, January 6, 2012


Rubber on asphalt, wind in your hair, and a smile on your face.  

The call of the open road.   Your adventure... awaits.