Monday, December 26, 2011

DIY Lift Gate

So your Jeep gets rear-ended and it's going to cost you a bundle for a new liftgate.    What do you do?   

Not this.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why is Lane Splitting Illegal?

Other than making everyone else stuck in traffic jealous, why is lane splitting illegal in most of the United States.    Here's a playful look at Le Filtrage.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why I Change My Own Oil

It was a beautiful autumn day in Boulder, so I took the opportunity to change the oil in my cars.   All three of them.   

Six liters of Mobil 1 Synthetic and a Mobil 1 oil filter.   Cost: $50.

Knowing it was done right?   Priceless.

A few years ago, I went to Boulder Jiffy Lube and had a horrible experience.   Click the link if you want to read the story.

After that waste of time and money, I vowed either I'd do it myself or I'd take the car to a reputable mechanic.   Most of the time, I step up to full synthetic and do it myself.   

Oh, I know it doesn't make economic sense to take time to do the work, but I get pleasure from taking care of the machinery I own.   There's just something deeply satisfying about turning a wrench.   Crawling around beneath a car also gives you an opportunity to check out the underside.   You can see if your CV boots are cracked, or notice the beginning of an oil leak.   You can ponder your suspension bushings, give your tires a good look over, and see if anything looks out of place.  It's a bonding experience, really.

I should also say there is an economic argument that makes it all worthwhile.  NOT having to drive back to the shop and talk to the manager is certainly worth something, but in all seriousness, doing your own oil change means you can step up to better quality lubricants and filters for about the same cost as having a shop put in the cheap stuff.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Jump Start Gone Wrong

This is what happens when you cross polarities when jump starting a car battery.     Or rather, what might happen.   In the immortal words of Dr. Egon Spengler, "Don't cross the streams."

Remember, it's + to + and - to -.  

More pics
Source:  Quackstatic

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Haulin' Ass [Review]

So you've got your dirt or dual sport, but you need a way to haul it between trails?  

A lot of folks say, "just get a trailer."    But then you've got to worry about greasing the axles, having a spare tire, and dealing with the always pesky problem of trailer lighting. 

Here's a lower cost alternative.   Get a hitch mounted rack for your bike.   

There are a lot of options out there.  Here's a review of a cheap Harbor Freight model, written by Modette

Harbor Freight

I paid total $142.00 with shipping and tax, I used coupon code DIsc20 for 20% off. I bought this so I could be lazy and not have to get the trailer out when its just me. 

I ride a 2001 Honda XR650R that is plated and has a 6.3 Gallon tank added. I guess my bikes weight is around 300lbs.  

Assembly: You will probably need to drill out a few of the holes as they don't line up. Also washers are lacking with this kit, might want to pick some of those up too. I also used Red Locktite on the various bolts to make sure nothing would come loose.

Had to drill one of these holes out some as it did not line up with the aluminum.

All put together

Here is the ramp attached to the unit in storage mode

On a 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee with factory hitch package you can see the bead and the anti-sway device does not clamp down well.

Loading: Funny how the pictures show one guy loading the motorcycle (a heavy KLR650 at that) which be heavier then my bike. However the instructions clearly state to never load alone and always have a minimum of TWO people. Huh!!! 

Of course I need to load alone its why I bought this, and based on the picture I assumed that was OKAY (I can say its what I plan to do). I guess know your bike, I have man handled mine on single track hard trails so loading was not a big deal on a 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.7L. I will say practice loading and unloading before you NEED to use this. (from the practice I know with my 6.3 gallon tank I can lean the bike against the vehicle with no damage being done to my vehicle). 

I would say unloading is harder then loading, you got to get that front tire up out of the "cup" area of the rails, best to have the bike in gear and use the clutch to brake. I found that to be extremely hard to do, I held the bike upright with my right hand, and I used my left hand to turn the tire out of the cup area (that worked best).

Driving Manors: I have only tested the bike loaded around my local area on 35mph streets. It does move some, but seems pretty stable. On my Jeep the anti-sway does not work the best as my hitch has a bead around the end of the hitch receiver, so the anti-sway does not lay flush, this is probably okay just make sure if yours is the same to tighten the bolt very tight, put a piece of electrical tape around the end, this will stop the nut from falling off should it come loose from the bolt and you loosing the pieces.

Design: The rear (on the towing vehicles side on the hitch carrier) strap hook points are flimsy, they will bend up. I'm thinking use ratchet tie downs and go to the safety chain hook area of your hitch to the bike...very solid then, plus this will help keep the hitch from moving around even more within the receiver.

The tire cradle/cups for lack of knowing what to call them seem flimsy. One knob/handle already did not want to turn the bolt but instead screw the handle off the bolt. I'm not sure if this is even really needed to use, I guess it is suppose to stop the bike front tire from sliding around, but its not going to go anywhere. I'm not sure on the front tire PIN either, another safety thing I guess to keep the front wheel from hopping up (if you have it ratcheted down good it should not go anywhere anyways). Plus the Pin might damage the rim/spoke, so I'm unsure of that.

I'm thinking of instead of letting the front wheel drop down to leave the pin in and add a wheel chock to the front of this unit (use the bolt holes given for the tire clamp unit that seems flimsy), true it means I would need to back the bike off the lift, but that would not be a big deal for me or my motorcycle, if this is going on a tall truck, I could see that being a big deal to back down. I actually think it might make it easier to load and unload.Which brings me to ramp height, its fine for MY vehicle a stock height 2005 Jeep GC Limited, but that ramp is very short, the whole hitch carrier does flex down when loading and unloading...but I could see the ramp being too steep on a taller vehicle.

Towing with my 2005 Jeep GC 5.7LIt works great. I don't even notice the bike back there. The front of the car is slightly up from rear sag but I am rated at 750lbs of tongue weight. So with hitch I am around 360lbs, not that bad really. Also the instructions say not to go over 55mph... not sure I will follow that myself, I'd get run off the road here in CO with a speed limit of 75mph. I think as long as you drive sanely and safely you probably be okay. Obvious the vehicle will drive different with that rear weight back there so just realize that.

Another con is no tail lights, your vehicles lights will not be seen thus you will not be to code and a danger. I picked some up at my local Wal-Mart's store for $29 with flat 4 connector to wire on and mount. If you were going to go long distances might be a good idea to relocate the license plate to the hitch unit...most cops probably would not notice or say anything but it does give them a reason to stop you. Your call, but do realize needing to see tail lights and rear plate is required under every states laws. 

More thoughts and comments on other products...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

2012 BMW M5

We don't usually publish reviews of new cars because, well there are a billion other magazines, blogs, and television shows that have it covered.   But this review of the 2012 BMW M5 was too entertaining to not slap onto our blog.

Take a look.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hold Me, She Whispered.

The lever rests beneath your palm, floating above the iconic shift gate.   Polished and perfect, its cool surface against your skin, connecting man and machine.

Can you hear it whispering, urging you on?   Will you heed the call?

The road lies ahead.

image by izthistaken and detailing by AutoLavish

Saturday, October 1, 2011

If You Park Like This...

... leave a comment. 

Time Traveling Triumph

Certain cars just elicit a gut reaction.   As you pass by, you find your head turning to catch a better glimpse.   A flood of memories washes over you,  or maybe you're seeing it for the first time.  Either way, you can't take your eyes away.

I spotted this Triumph TR3 on the streets of Aspen,  its chrome sparkling in the crisp autumn sunshine.    There was something magical about this roadster.  Standing next to it was like traveling to another time.

It was absolutely gorgeous.  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lamborghini Megafactory

Like many children of the 80's,  I lusted after the Lamborghini Countach and (later) the Diablo.    Years before I had a driving license, posters of these beautiful machines graced the wood paneled walls of my shag carpeted bedroom, fueling dreams of the ultimate experience.  

Under Audi's ownership, today Lamborghini continues to create fire-breathing exotics.   Here's a look at how these super cars are manufactured.   This videos below cover the company's history and the manufacturing steps involved in production of the Murcielago.


Night Rider

3 AM Ride
as posted by talkingxbird

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2010 Chevrolet Impala LS [Road Test]

2010 Chevrolet Impala
While our trusty Lexus was in the body shop, Gear Thoughts was forced to do a road test of a 2010 Chevrolet Impala.  

The test covered over a month of daily use and 1,200+ miles of driving.  Most of driving consisted of short to medium length trips.

Pros:  It's been a while since we cruised in a GM product, and we were pleasantly surprised by fit and finish.   The front seats were comfortable and there was plenty of room for rear seat passengers.

Cons: The body panels in this car resemble the finish on a milk carton.   Chevy needs to step up in the plastic department.  As a rental vehicle, our Impala also came with a variety of mystery stains, none of which were the vehicle's fault.

Pros:  Our test car came equipped with the optional convenience package.   The controls on the steering wheel and dashboard were all intuitive worked well.   The built-in computer provided a variety of data monitoring functions, including individual tire pressure and warnings regarding hazardous driving conditions (ice).  Our test vehicle also came equipped with remote start, which was very handy.

Cons:  The temperature controls were ridiculously flimsy, almost like somebody made an effort to design something that feels like its about to break.  The vehicle also overrides temperature settings when on remote start mode (vehicle running prior to the key actually being inserted).  Often the self-selected temperature was higher or lower than desired, somewhat defeating the purpose of remote start   The self start would also time-out in a few minutes, not enough time to properly warm up the car (requiring a second remote start).

Pros:  Like most American cars, this Impala was very quick off the line, all six cylinders of it's 3.5 liter engine pumping furiously.   With a claimed 211 HP, the car didn't feel like a slouch in around-town driving.    Braking performance was also adequate, but not spectacular, and the optional traction control came in handy.   The EPA says this car gets 19 to 29mpg, which is pretty good for a non-hybrid vehicle of this size.

Cons:  The car felt sluggish on the highway, and revved like an over-excited puppy when called upon to pass.  Softly sprung, it offered a comfortable ride but wallowed in the corners when pushed.  It also easily bottomed out on speed bumps.  We didn't bother testing the vehicle on Colorado's windy mountain roads or pushing its limits with acceleration tests.   Apparently nobody else has either, since performance tests are nonexistent on the 'net.   A couple of sites say 7.7 to 9.3 seconds, 0-60.   I believe it.

Kelly's Blue Book currently prices this car, as equipped and with 30,000 miles, at $13,185 in our zip code (Boulder, CO).   That represents about 50% depreciation over two years from the original MSRP.   A similarly equipped, equally bland Toyota Camry will run $15,725 according to the ever resourceful Kelly.

It's been years since we've spent so much time driving an American vehicle and we came away impressed with the quality of this car.    The 2010 Chevy Impala is a reliable and roomy vehicle, perfect for a rental fleet or somebody looking for basic transportation.   It easily carries four adults in comfort with plenty of room for luggage.  It's a very plain vehicle however, but if you think cars are like appliances, you'll love it.

Our Simple Product Review Policy

1.  No paid endorsements.   We do not accept compensation for product reviews.

2.  Unless otherwise agreed, test products are not returned to the manufacturer. 

3.  If you'd like a review of your product, contact us prior to sending a sample.   Call 303.746.6896.   

4.  Expect honesty.    We give fair, unbiased reviews.   

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mighty Prius vs Truck

Word to the wise.  Don't leave your Prius parked in the safety zone on burn night.    The Black Rock City DPW won't wait for a tow truck.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dude, That's Just How I Roll [Accessorize]

Like My Farkles?

This late model Honda Gold Wing has been farkled with not one, but two big gulp sized cup holders, an ash tray, and a cigarette lighter.   Don't forget the shiny chrome handle bar grips.  Oy! 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bottom Bracket Rescue

Between the crank arms, nestled in a cylindrical hole in your bike frame rests a device called the bottom bracket.   In essence, it's a couple of sealed bearings inside a threaded tube with a small axle running through it.   After years of abuse, the bearings can fail, leading to a crackling noise when pedaling.   

Today, I pulled my very first bottom bracket, a fairly straightforward procedure, provided you have the right tools.  The tools themselves are cheap - about $20 on sale at my local bike shop. There are also plenty of how-to videos online, so I'll skip that.   Here's what I learned... 

Sometimes, the bottom bracket isn't bad.   My local shop didn't have the correct size bracket, but the mechanic checked out my bracket and thought it turned smoothly.   She suggested that grit that gets into the threads can also make a crackling noise.  

So, I gave it a go and surprise, surprise, my bottom bracket is fine.   The crackling noise is now completely gone.  So before running out to replace your bottom bracket, try cleaning it, regreasing, and reinstalling it first.   Oh, and don't be surprised if the bottom bracket comes out looking like a rusty mess.  Mine sure did, but it cleaned up nicely. 

Bottom bracket from my GT Terra Mountain Bike

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mutant Art Cars at Burning Man

A midst the spectacle of free expression at Burning Man comes a curious array of mutant vehicles.    Built to thrill as well as haul around participants, these vehicles often feature bars, sound systems, and pyrotechnics.   They are parties on wheels, like no other.  

Here's a sampling for your viewing pleasure... 

Animal Crackers anyone?

Praying Mantis vs. Scorpion


Swamp Thing?

Last seen in Blade Runner

Lego Truck

There be dragons!

Mutant art cars really come alive at night.

Another dragon
Chesire Cat

Tug boat
A gigantic VW bus named Walter

Mechanical fire shooting Octopus


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Goodbye KLR 650

My 2007 Kawasaki KLR650
A few months ago, I sold my 2007 KLR.   After several years of bliss,  it was time to move on.    Here's a few summary thoughts.

1.  Age Doesn't Matter.  Introduced by Kawasaki in 1987,  few modifications were made during the 20 year production run of the first generation KLR.  An older bike is just as good as a newer one, assuming it's been well maintained.

2. It's Cheap.   Bikes priced below $2,000 routinely pop up on Craigslist or online forums.   Shop around and you can pick up a bargain.  Few bikes provide as much bang for the buck.

3.  Go Anywhere.   This bike is a swiss army knife.   You'll be hard pressed to have as much go-anywhere fun with a KLR, especially for so little money.   It doesn't do anything particularly well, mind you, but you can ride everything from highway to single-track (and I did).   And when you drop it on the trail (and you will), parts are inexpensive too.

3.  Mods Galore.   There are tons of aftermarket products available and like the KLR itself, most are reasonably priced.    Mods range from making the engine more bullet-proof (doohickey), adding horsepower, adding luggage capacity, installing better lighting, or improving on-road or off-road manners.    You name it, it's available.

4.  An Global Community of Creative Owners.    KLR owners love to maintain and modify their bikes.  They also like to do it for as little as possible, and then tell you all about it.    KLRWorld and are two popular online forums.  (I'm guilty ).

5.  Crude build quality.   Everything is functional but build quality is crap.   Yes, the KLR650  was designed for abuse.   It was also conceived in the 1980's and built to a price point, and it shows in the form of cheap plastic switches and various bits that have a habit of rattling off (invest in a tube of low strength loctite).

6.  It's a Big Pig.    No fooling, this bike is a heavy and while porkiness poses few issues on-road, it can be handful on the trails.  I'm 6'2", in reasonably good shape, and I weigh over 200lbs.  Over the course of a long ride, the mass of a fully fueled and armored KLR would start to wear me down.     If you're used to a light dirt-bike, you'll be surprised by the effort needed to ride the KLR off-road for long periods.

7.  Surprisingly Thirsty.   I routinely got mid 40mpg, which isn't particularly impressive for a 650.  The bike could have used a sixth gear, I suppose.    In contrast, BMW's much better built (and much more expensive) F650GS is reputed to get 60+ mpg.    But then again, I think I care about fuel economy more than your typical rider.

8.  Rugged Looks.  I was pleasantly surprised how often I'd get compliments about the looks of my KLR.   I think the black/silver color combination of the 2007 was particularly attractive.   Perhaps the knobbies and a plethora of protective guards gave it a bit of Mad Max appeal.

9.  Soft Suspension.    Kawasaki seems to have designed this motorcycle for a rider who weighs about 160lbs.   Sadly, people have gotten larger and heavier since the 1980s.   The rear spring didn't hold up very well to a heavier rider, especially when weight was added for luggage and racks.  The sagginess was a little disappointing and if I kept the bike, correcting this with either a stiffer spring or a custom shock/spring would have been an upcoming mod.

10.  Deep Market.    If you're concerned with a bike retaining value, consider depth of market.   The more interest in a particular bike, the easier it will be to sell the bike down the road.   One quick way to gauge depth of market is to count the number of advertisements on Craigslist.  Keep an eye on how long it takes these ads to disappear.   Around the front range of Colorado, the KLR is one of the most popular bikes around because a lot of people want to explore old fire roads or trails and camping off a bike.  It's an easy bike to sell.

Overall, the KLR provided three years of reliable performance and many miles of dual-sport happiness.   When I sold it, I also got a price near what I paid for it.   Of course, I also maintained it religiously and added the most desirable farkles.  The new owner got a very well cared-for machine and I hope it gives him many years of joy.