Jul 25
A Half baked idea
icon1 Guy | icon2 Wrenching | icon4 07 25th, 2011| icon31 Comment »
HotHarleyHead” width=

photo illustration
The back cylinder on an air cooled V-twin can generate a lot of heat when
the bike isn’t moving.

In the interest of full disclosure, let’s get this out of the way. I’m not a big Harley fan. I’m not a Harley basher either. At least not in the usual sense. I don’t think they’re incompetent. I don’t think modern Harleys are junk or they are incapable of good engineering. I do think image and style are more important in the company mindset, and they intentionally and frequently make design decisions on that basis. Their engineers, far from being incapable, are masters of finding ways around intentional design limitations.
A case in point. I’ve only recently become aware of a change in Harley engines beginning in 2009 called EITMS, or Engine Idle Temperature Management System. This system goes on Harley Davidson touring bikes. Harleys are infamous for the amount of heat their engines produce, especially when road conditions or traffic cause a lot of stopping. If you can’t keep air flowing over an air-cooled engine, it’s going to get hot.
All of my motorcycles have had some variation of liquid cooling. Both of my Hondas use water and my Victory had an oil cooler. When my bikes are stopped for some reason, oil or water continues to shuttle heat to a radiator where it is cooled. In both cases a fan is able to keep an adequate amount of air flow over heat dissipating fins, whether or not the bike is moving.
But Harley style sensibilities have declared radiators verboten. Apparently broiling your gizzard is considered cool by someone high up in the Harley hierarchy. So Harley engineers had to figure out how to keep the inevitable heat of an internal combustion engine from cooking the rider, or seizing up the engine during times of reduced air flow. My hat is off to them. It’s an ingenious solution, but to a ridiculous problem.
EITMS shuts down fuel to the back cylinder when the engine is idling and when engine temperature reaches some pre-set level. The piston and valves still operate, turning the back cylinder into an air pump that, hopefully, pumps heat away from the motor. I’m sure that it is comparatively cool. Compared to the surface of the sun, the heart of a thermonuclear explosion or a regular Harley engine, it is probably quite cool. Probably not so much when compared with any other motorcycle engine equipped with a radiator.
And then there’s the “I” in that acronym. Idling. This cooling scheme won’t be much help hauling that hog slowly up a hill. It’s an immutable law of physics that producing energy produces heat. The more power an engine produces the more heat you’re going to have to get rid of. Bugatti engineers understood this when they put 16 radiators in the Veyron.
I don’t doubt for a second Harley understands this. As I’ve said before, their engineers are quite capable and intelligent. Harley upper management has decided that the “style” of an air-cooled engine is more valuable than the efficiency of a radiator. And the motorcycle riding public seems to agree with them. According to a July 20 article in Manufacturing.net, “Harley now expects to ship between 228,000 and 235,000 new bikes worldwide this year, representing an increase of 8 percent to 12 percent over 2010.”
I’m clearly in the minority here. As impressive as the EITMS is, I can’t help thinking that a radiator would be a lot more efficient and reliable.

- Guy Wheatley

Jul 19
icon1 Guy | icon2 Small Talk | icon4 07 19th, 2011| icon3No Comments »

Motorcycle Officers do thing with their bikes that seem to defy physics.

I’ve done quite a bit of PLP, or Parking Lot Practice, in my time. I did more as a new rider than I do now. It’s not that routine PLP wouldn’t continue to improve my skills. But as with most endeavors, it’s the recent convert who has the most zeal. I dropped my bikes several times in the first year. fewer in the second year, and no drops in the last several years. While I still realize in my head that I need practice, the lack of drops makes me less aware of that necessity in my gut.
I can handle my bike fairly well and have little trouble getting into or out of tight places. But lest I get too proud of myself, somebody posted a video online of a Police Motorcycle Rodeo held in Grand Prairie, Texas. The video identifies the contestant as Donnie Williams. Officer Williams takes his big Police Harley Davidson motorcycle around a course I’m not sure I could walk through with out knocking over cones. And he does it with rapid assurance. There are no timid starts, no uncertain wobbles. Just complete control of a large, powerful machine.
It would be tempting to think I’m watching a video special effect. But checking into it, I find these contests between police motorcycle officers is common, and while Officer Williams is at the top of his game, there are many other skilled police riders nipping at his heals. And to me, that is amazing. Apparently this level of almost superhuman skill is simply required of motor officers. I’ll tip my hat or helmet to any rider with those skills, police or civilian.
The skills demonstrated in these contests are far more impressive to me than the wheelies, stoppies and drifting I see from some in the sport bike crowd. They require far finer control of a larger machine, performing in the worst end of its operating envelope. These skills also come from real-world maneuvering conditions, and have practical application to safe riding.
Yep. It’s time for me to get in a little PLP.

- Guy Wheatley

Jul 11
Parking wars
icon1 Guy | icon2 Small Talk | icon4 07 11th, 2011| icon35 Comments »
Mini-van in a striped zone.” width=

The driver of this mini-van used his handicap sticker as justification
for parking in the striped area.

I’ve noticed a lot of motorcyclists parking in the striped area at the end of a parking line or next to a handicap parking spot. In Texarkana this is a common practice, and I have yet to see or hear about anybody being ticketed for it. I’ve indulged in this myself several times, always being sure that I wasn’t blocking somebody. I was especially careful if it was next to a handicap space, being sure that any vehicle in that spot had ample room to load or disembark wheelchairs.
But even with everybody else doing it, and despite my efforts to be considerate, it still didn’t feel right. For one thing, I’m sure it’s against the law. For another, I may have trouble with my insurance company if I’m ever hit by another vehicle while parked, illegally, in a stripped spot.
The point was really brought home to me about a month ago when I headed to a local big-box store. As I parked in a stripped area at the end of a line and headed for the store, I noticed a vehicle parked in the stripped area next to a handicap spot. But this wasn’t a motorcycle. It was a minivan. It looked so funny sitting there, I grabbed my cell phone and took a photo. That’s when I heard an angry, “Hey!” I hadn’t noticed the driver still sitting in the van.
“I am handicapped,” I heard him assert. I just waved and went on into the store. My purchases complete I left by the same door headed for my bike, only to discover the driver now standing outside the van waiting for me to emerge. As he pointed an accusing finger in my direction, I heard him tell a passerby, “That (expletive deleted) took my picture!”
Very little of what followed is printable in this, or any family oriented, publication. The gist of it was he believed, by taking the photo, I was accusing him of wrongdoing, and that his disability justified his actions.
Without stopping, I assured him that I was not with law enforcement and had only taken the photo because it was an amusing sight. Unfortunately this didn’t satisfy him and as I loaded up and put on my helmet, he grabbed a shopping cart with one hand and his cane with the other and headed my way. His slow and unsteady progress gave both tribute to the severity of his disability, and hope to me of making an escape before his arrival. Alas, recalcitrant buckles on my saddlebags and helmet delayed my departure just long enough for the aggrieved party to arrive.
Through a blizzard of profanity, it was explained to me I was a narrow minded bigot, and he was actually doing me a favor. It was also suggested I do things with parts of my anatomy that I don’t believe were actually physically possible.
Keeping an eye on the cane to be sure it continued to be used as a tool of locomotion, and not a weapon, I tried to again explain that I had no legal authority, and had only snapped the photo because it was an unusual and amusing sight. As before, this did nothing to assuage his anger.
To avoid the necessity of explaining to friends how I’d been beaten up by a crippled guy, I decided to practice the better part of valor. I cranked up the bike and hauled my narrow-minded, bigoted tuckus out of there. I watched my mirrors to see if he’d try to get back to his van and give chase. He didn’t. The last time I saw him, he was still standing where I left him, making gestures in my direction that I would not describe as conciliatory.
I park in the regular spaces now. It’s less dangerous.

- Guy Wheatley

Jul 7
Cushman days
icon1 Guy | icon2 Small Talk | icon4 07 7th, 2011| icon31 Comment »
Sixties era Chushmans” width=

Two Cushman vehicles, similar to ones I remember from my youth.

A friend recently attended a rally that featured vintage Cushman scooters. It’s hard to imagine the reaction the first buyers of those old machines would have had to the idea that he took pictures of them with his telephone. My first experience with a Cushman Vehicle was the ’60s era Truckster owned by a friend.
We lived in a small town in rural southeast Arkansas. I was 13 years old, and felt like the only kid in the county who didn’t own some sort of motorized transportation. This area was too spread out to realistically walk every where. At least half of the population of our town lived miles out in the country. The bayous, fishing holes, and hunting spots were also too far away to reach by foot. So most teens and preteens had use of a small motorcycle or scooter. But my pal Ricky had the absolute cadillac of Arkansas County adolescent transportation. A Cushman Truckster.
This thing had a cab with a bench seat. We could get three of our skinny little bodies in there without sitting on each other. And several more could pile into the back. Actually onto the back. All of the Trucksters I’ve seen at vintage shows had an actual truck bed behind the cab. Ricky’s had a hard top on it that we couldn’t remove. I’m not sure why. I never questioned it back in the day, having never seen anything different. So the less fortunate passengers selected to ride on the bed would cling to the rounded beast for dear life while Ricky showed us what that little 12-horse engine could do.
It had plastic doors that looked like shower curtains. Most of the time, these were rolled back and snapped in place. But if the weather threatened, Ricky could roll those things shut with snaps around the door frame to get away from the cold or rain. We’ve actually had four in the cab, and maybe could have gotten five if we’d been a little closer friends.
While my buds and I were roaming the county with Ricky, my future wife was hitching rides with one of her friends who had a Cushman scooter. This model had the long seat that ran all the way to the back. She says they could easily get three girls on it and thinks they may have had four on a couple of occasions. They lived in the little town of Tichnor, Ark., about nine miles to the east. I wasn’t around her enough in those days to witness any of her escapades, but I can just see three or four girls loading up on that thing and headed for the post office or restaurant for some ice cream.
We had fun with these things, but they weren’t really toys. They were serious transportation. If you played football or had any other extracurricular activity, you were going to need some way to get there and back home. The school bus didn’t run for those events. So parents either had to take you themselves, let you ride with somebody else or get you a way to get there on your own. I do remember a few crashes, but nothing serious. Nothing that didn’t heal. It would be years later, after we had our driver’s licenses and had passed the little scooters down to younger siblings, that I’d lose my first friends to vehicle accidents.
Those cell phone photos sure brought back memories. Those rugged little machines served my generation well.

- Guy Wheatley