Bike Power

I've been asking a few questions lately over at stromtrooper.com regarding luggage, comms and power. With an upcoming (1 day away) trip I decided I need to have some accessories powered on the bike. Most importantly, the GPS, so last night I added a power distribution block to my Suzuki DL650A using information from botht he Stromtrooper forum and the canyoncarvers forum.
There is a beautiful setup available from Eastern Beaver Electronics in the US. It contains "Y" connectors so you don't have to splice wire, all the right components and a neat distribution power block (fused) that is also switched (hence the relay) such that it is only active when the ignition is on (it also includes 2 non-switched ports, but that I wasn't too concerned about at this stage). The Y connector connects to the rear brake light as that is only powered when the ignition is on. Furthermore, it is a low current connection, as you don't need much juice to trip the relay !! I didn't purchase this !
I couldn't access the rear brake light connector. On the '8 V-Strom it is located under the coolant below the seat which my big hands just couldn't reach. I wasn't confident enough to do a tank lift without effing everything up. Even if I could reach, I didn't have a connector to use there as odering from Eastern beaver would just take too long (again, the ride was only 2 days away as of last night).

According to the electrical schematic for the V-Strom, there is a wiring harness going to the rear light cluster. It contains a brown wire that is only hot when the ignition is on. This wire becomes a grey wire at the lights themselves. I cut into the harness going along the left side of the bike (if you were sitting on it) to the tail ights, and used a quick splicer into the brown wire. Don't try and use snipe nosed pliars to crush the quick splice (plunge the connector)...I had a few moments of fretting why I didn't have continutity in the splice until I realized that no connection was being made yet...out ocome heftier pliars and..job done!). After the splice was complete, I had my wonderful wife (the non-wonderful one was busy apparently), with her incredibly tiny hands, tape it all up !!
Luckily through this process a friend of mine popped over to pick up some camping gear and got conscripted into this debaucle. Honestly without the extra pairs of hands, this woudl have taken longer than it did.
I started out soldering the relay connections but we soon came to a conclusion that there was a better way!

I found a number of insulated connectors (male and female) at Sayal Electronics. I bought them on impulse when I was getting some other stuff for this project and a little project for my wife (solar powered Ipod charger). They have been a god send. The females fit perfectly over the relay connectors (by perfectly I mean they are freakin' snug !!!) and the automotive fuse (should make changing out a blown fuse TRIVIAL). Furthermore, they will simplify my wiring by allowing me to create short "adapters" should I need to move things around.

Tested continuity where required, ignition, and everything worked...YAY !!

To make the power block, I just took a terminal connector and ground out a groove through the plastic dividers. Half of the block will become positive the other half ground. The grouve I cur would allow me to join all the positive connectors together and all the ground connectors together.

That's just the block so far. I will tidy it up today, pop it into a project box and it's job done. I will probably add another block with a fuse to each terminal, so that each connection isindividually fused. That's not needed for now though.
So now I need to power some devices with this distribution block. I'm not going to have time before the ride to do recisely what I want (powerlett) but I will be able to pull a pair of wires into my tank bag to power my GPS for the trip (via a voltage regulator), so when I get back IU get to add another post about the powerlet socket. I am also thinking of using a USB hub, pulling out the electronics and leaving the USB connectors. Then putting a voltage regulator in there. This will allow me to power all of my USB powered electronics (phone, GPS etc.) from one handy device...more on that later !

Motorcycle Communications

After being blown all over the road while riding just before a recent storm blew in, my wife said "we need comms", because she had to stop at the side of the road and it took me (in the increasing darkness) a km or 2 before I noticed that it wasn't her CBR headlights tailing me anymore.

After thinking the worst and hightailing my vstrom at a very illegal speed back along our route, I found her at the side of the road whereupon she decreed the comms requirement.

I'd been thinking about comms for a while. I had rejected most bluetooth based systems because they have crappy range, limited group membership (often 2 or 3 devices only, including bike to bike), and a few other issues. I may consider a bluetooth unit that I can put in my jacket procket and connect a helmet headset to that, thus freeing me from the wires connecting either to my bike or to my tank bag, but not overly comfortable with having the transceiver next to my noggin !! Autocomm and starcom1 looked like fantastic solutions, except their price....oh and I couldn't get anyone to sell me what I wanted in Canada....this was crazy, so I'll digress:

I called Automcom in the UK to get a price on their new products (Easi and avi-pro are no longer available, it's now the Logic/Logic Independence etc.). They advised me that they can't give me a price because they have a distributor in Canada, Motovan. No problem, I'll place a call to Motovan. Firstly I checked their website......communications equipment is in the "FASHION" catalog !! Secondly, they only have the old equipment, no longer available. Anyway, No call details for Motovan, so I emailed them. After sufficient delay, I got an email from Motovan:

"Thank you for your interest in Motovan Corporation and the parts we carry, As we are a Distributor and cannot sell directly to consumers, your Local Motorised Dealer should be able to assist you with all your purchases and any inquiries regarding such needs." - Initial email response from Motovan Support.

1. What is a motorized dealer
2. Gimme a hint, go on - who will sell it to me !
3. I've never had to try so hard to be sold a product. So far everyone I have called has said, oh, we don't actually sell it !!!

On, so eventually I get the names of those autorized to sell the autocom from Motovan. I called 3 sizable companies from the list. The first, a reputable HAM and Marine radio retail store, hadn't heard of it. The second just wanted to sell the "Cardo Scala Q2" and the third offered to get the latest motovan catalog and try and get me a price (at least someone TRYING to be helpful), but ofcourse, motovan aren't carrying the Logic/Logic Independence.

I really hope that Autocom see this because it's a bloody shambles all I had to go through, and I never got a Canadian price for the equipment.

Any way, back to the main part of the story.

In then end, I decided to get a headset from IMC as it was cheap and could interface with my Cobra FRS/GMRS radio (except that no one had the adapter for 3 weeks...more on that as I created my own). It didn't have some of the bells and whistles of a Starcom1 but I didn't really need them at this point.

IMC HS-410
A Bike to Bike (via radio) and Phone headset unit.


The headset speakers are a pair or 6mm slim speakers that fit (just) inside my shoe RF-1000 lid. A condensing mic is on the same loom, with enough cable to EASILY reach the chinbar on a full face, with plenty to spare; fastened with velcro. The complete headset unit uses a firewire connector (yes, IEEE 1394 interface connector) to the coiled cable. At the jack end of all of this cable:

  1. A 3 connector 3.5 mm 1pin jack for FRS/GMRS Radio - my radio (cobra Microtalk) needs to be 2.5 mm and non-standard connector config.
  2. A 3 connector 2.5 mm 1 pin jack for mobile phone - mine needs to be 3.5 mm, 4 connector (Blackberry) and non-standard connector config.
  3. A waterproof PPT switch connecting via a 3.5mm 3 connector jack.

I asked for an adapter for the radio, but everyone was out of stock and it appeared that NO-ONE knew the pin-out or how to wire one, so I created my own. I made some calls to Cobra; their techline knew the pinout, but not any details about capacitance or required resistance. Fortunately they put me through to their boss, who did.


After I had that information I was able to fabricate my own cable adapters for the radios, and get them tested on the road.

Often, the tip is mic, ring 1 is speaker and shield is ground.
For the cobra adapter, ring 1 and tip are reversed, so ring 1 becomes the mic, while tip becomes the speaker.


1 = Speaker
2 = Mic
3 = Ground

Here are a few pictures of the adapter.



It is also possible to charge the unit from the same socket, though I haven't figured this out yet (it may not be possible to simultaneously use the socket for audio and power).

Road Report.

Out on the road with the units, I was on my V-Strom in front, with my wife following behind on her CBR. Both wearing shoei RF-1000 helmets and both using identical equipment:
IMC HS-410 Motorcycle Headset
Cobra Microtalk Radio
(I brieflyplugged in my blackberry but there were issues with transmitting voice while the phone was connected).

We set off on a route and at regular intervals checked in to identify the clarity of both transmission and reception. I would transmit to my wife at various speeds and she would respond regarding the perceived clarity. This allows me to also judge the clarity in her response.

I only tested to 100KMH, based on the area we were in, this was all that was safe to do so. Suffice it to say that I could still hear, and be heard, with ease at this speed. For the best clarity, transmissions were done with the visor closed.

Wind noise wasn't much of a factor, even though it was a particularly windy day, so long as the visor was closed. Even with it open, it wasn't too bad; with engine noise obviously accompanying the conversation. I was much less affected by the noise of the environment than my wife was because I have the chin curtain on my shoei, which she does not, which appears to provide an additional level of acoustic isolation beyond that minimally provided by the microphone supplied.

In all we were very happy with the audio quality and clarity throughout the speeds tested. From a comfort perspective, I was fine for the whole ride, whereas my wife had 2 issues. Firstly the microphone would just about touch her lip, which was annoying and could cause a mild distraction for some people. Fairly easily fixed though (a little shaving of foam or repositioning of the mic as it's Velcro backed). Her second issues was that toward the end of the ride, one of her ears was less comfortable as the speaker had been pressing against it. This was purely an error of the fitter (me) due to a late night fitting session (2am the prev. morning) without the intended wearer (she was sound asleep). This can be easily remedied by re-positioning the speakers. That said, there isn't too much room in which to re-position the speakers. I'd like IMC to provide an ear-bud option, which they do not. Perhaps that'll become a future project, interfacing a pair of earbuds instead of speakers. On the whole though, the speakers themselfs were fine for the job (though don't expect High Fidelity stereophonic sound; they aren't an audiophiles dream solution).

The PPT switch I found too large and haven't really found a good place to put it yet. I first tried on the handlebar to the right of the signal/indicator lever block. This meant moving my hand position completely to reach it, not a great idea. I then moved it to the hand grip on the left hand. This was much easier to operate (either with a finger, or rotated around the grip to use my thumb) but it did impede the grip position of the left hand and made some clutch operations difficult. Due to this, during the ride, I wrapped some elastic banks around the PPT switch to engage it, and switched the radios into VOX mode. The VOX mode on the radios is far from perfect, but it was safer than using this particular PPT switch.

I've seen some other alternate placings of the PPT which I may also try.


  • Create a new PPT switch and mount it (gorilla glue?) just above the signal lever. My thumb can readily reach that and my grip is not impeded.
  • As an alternative to the above, use the trigger that normally provides the headlight "flash" feature to operate the PPT switch. May work nicely on my Wee-Strom but certainly wouldn't help on my wife's CBR (doesn't have the trigger).
  • THird option here is to use some kind of small rocker switch that can be operated by a thumb, but narrow enough to not impede grip, and
  • place that onto the left hand grip.

  • Interfacing to my blackberry comes next. While I am not likely to be taking calls while on the bike, I need to find a 4 pin 3.5mm connector. I haven't found one at Sayal electronics, but I can order one via the web at Mauser - something I am reluctant to do for such a small order. I can't use a 3pin because when put into a 4 pin socket ring 2 and sleeve are shorted. For the Blackberry:
  • Tip - Control/Mic
  • R1 - Audio
  • R2 - Audio
  • Sleve - Ground
  • So ground and one of the speakers become connected, meaning that we no longer have an effective ground.

Radio, GPS, other electrics:
  • Power from the bike.

    • Garmin 260W to go in the top of my tankbag - USB with 18 K ohm resistor between pin 4 and ground (5), pulling 1 A of current at 5Volts.
    • Cobra Microtalk Radio - using the chargeport at the top, the desktop charger connectors at the bottom, or some kind of adapter for the battery compartment.
    • Blackberry Bold - USB mini B, standard.

  • Consider bluetooth device to seperate wires from the bike/tankbag. THe Bluetooth device would be worn in my jacket (connecting to the wires in my helmet), with a corresponding bluetooth device in the tankbag. This would just allow me to not be physically tethered to the bike.
  • I suspect that this is going to require a switched fused connection to the battery, but that can be the fodder of a future post.

San Francisco Coastal route...and more

For those of us lucky enough to have been around the cabbot trail in
Nova Scotia, think hard; think how amazing that was. The astounding
natural beauty, the twisties, oh the twisties !!!

Now, multiply that by, at least, 2 !!!!!!!

My work has taken me to California and as a result, I was going to be in San Francisco over a weekend. I've heard there were some amazing roads out there, so I thought....rent-a-bike-and-see-the-sights. I did just that. A quick post into the Northern California section of StromTrooper.com (for us V-Strom owners) and I was furnished with what seems to be the only place that has V-Stroms to rent in San Fran. "Wild West Cycle Rent", renting space inside Subterranean motorcycles downtown San Francisco. Andy and Glenn had me sorted out in no time at all. Everything was done over email and was going perfectly, then we hit a snag. Both their wee-stroms were out for Sunday, and I needed them over Saturday and Sunday. No problem they said, how's about a Vstrom on Saturday and a KLR on Sunday - Fine by me ! As it was, this meant Andy or Glenn (turned out to be Glenn as Andy was sunning himself riding death valley I believe) would make a special trip into the city, early, to receive my v-strom and prep it for it's sunday rider !

All sorted, and followed through. I turned up on Saturday morning as agreed, and was out of the door on a new-ish model v-strom (with a Scorpion replacement slip on can that made the most divine sound !!!!!) - though it was in red....and that red in the wrong light does look a bit, well.....pink-and-sparkley (sorry red-strommers but you know that Black is the fastest color !!)

Bike sorted and off I set into the morning mist, across the Golden Gate Bridge, splitting off the 101 to Hwy 1. What a vista ! The roads wound their way along the coastline with a great mix of camber, inclide, sweep and tight turns; all thw while the perma smile giving me jaw ache. The bike was performing beautifully, and that exhaust note was just right.

The destination was Healdsburg, because there is a winery there that I wanted to buy some wine for my wife.... "Simi Winery" - well [Interlude] one of my wifes names happens to be Simi, so when we saw some wine bearing this name at the LCBO (Liquor store), it was a must buy. After drinking a bottle, we were very impressed and decided to buy some more, only to find that Canada had completely sold out. Apparently there were 6 bottles at the LCBO on Bayview and Sheppard, but their accounting practices must be second to Enron as they actually had none. So, being that I was to be in the area, I the least I could do was to furnish the love of my life with a wee gift now ![Interlude off]. North I went on Hwy 1, winding it's way in valley an o'r crest, then leaving the coolness and mist of the coast to join Hwy 116 just south of Jenner, stopping in Guemville for gas, all the while the temperature increasing steadily the further inland I went. After an accidental detour to Armstrong woods, we left the 116 to follow River Road (following Russian River?) onto a smaller road (westside road) into Healdsburg and then into Simi Winery - would have loved to stay longer, I had lunch in Healdsburg, which seemed such a lovely town, that I'd certainly love to visit again, there were lots of shops and antique places - even a town square that was: a - square(ish) and b - in use !

My exit was made via dry creek road to head North West to Lake Sonoma, which was where I found my new favorite road.... You can keep the Dragon my friends. Hwy 1 was nice, but omfg this road had some many direction changes and some great views, through forest onto open land...just amazing. I managed to jam my blackberry against the motorcycle to free my hands for riding so I could take a video of just a TINY piece - 40 miles or 64 Kms of amazing sceneray and riding !!. I had to stop to catch my breath, only to see a cow cross the river to see me.

Back onto Highway 1 at Stewarts point, I knew the light was going to beat me back to San Francisco, but the lights on the V-Strom are known as being the best you can get, stock ! It was soon there after, that a quick stop resulted in the knowledge that at least 1 bottle of wine wouldn't make it... - the nice people at Simi hadn't quite packaged it properly !!!


All that was left was to turn off Hwy 1, before Tomales bay and take back roads into Petaluma, have some dinner then ride the 101 back into San Francisco, 300 miles of twists and smiles !

Atv's in Cozumel

On vacation, having a horrible time being forced to play in the dirt and rocks of a very cold Cozumel. So what if it's not col and I wasn't forced!

Weather has been fantastic and any healthy eating I did before my vacation has been totally undone - oh well.

We rode around a ranch in cozumel and visited some Mayan burial and temple sites. The terrain was dust or rocks, seriously bumpy but a good laugh. There wasn't too much opportunity to "let loose" on the atv as this was a guided tour and in an area where one would tend to offer restraint out of respect.

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

First Ride of 2009

DualSportPlus shipped my engine guards as promised. I popped in there 2 weeks ago, before going to Argentina, on the way back from a business meeting in Buffalo. I know what I wanted thanks to the power of the "inter-web" (that always make me chuckle). When I arrived at their Stoney Creek store they had sold out of the bash plates and engine guards that I wanted, but had received an order of even better bash plates.....a quick look at it ( it was the new AdvMoto stuff one!) and I was fine with it, but no engine guards - but the owner of the store said he'd order them and ship them to me free of charge because I'd already come to the store. As I said, they kept their word.

So the engine guards and bash plate have been waiting for me since I came home from Argentina, waiting for a day with temperatures above freezing for me to get going; and that day was today. A forecast high of 10 C (low of -1) left me confident that I wouldn' freeze when I started to do some Bike DIY !!!

Short of the story is, I put the gear on, a few pushes, prods, bruised knuckles plus one trip to Canadian Tire to get some blue Loctite, and all is well. So I'm elated with my DIY capability. Clean-up is done (to save the ear bashing from T), sun is shining - what can I do but take the bike out for my first ride of the year? Snow is still on the ground. I rode up to Wilcox lake (still frozen). My original intent was to just stick to the well paved roads, but as I headed north on Leaslie St. between Soufville Rd. and Bloomington Rd E, I was a dirt track heading off to the left, apparently it's a street, lol; well I couldn't resist

View Larger Map

Argentina - Buenos Aires

Tania and I are in Argentina. I was teaching here last week so T decided to take a few days and come with me, and we stayed the weekend.

Leaving today and will arrive back in Toronto with just in time to start work on monday morning after a We hour flight.

Buenos Aires is a beautiful city. Lots of motorcycles, but I wouldn't say motorcycle "friendly" as that may suggest that the traffic was something other than an apparent narcissistic gnae of Crazy Taxi. Traffic here is very hedonistic... If there is a hole, put something in it.

We almost got scammed a few times..once by a cab driver whose rates were climbing too quickly, with no registration visible. We gave him 100 pasos to pay for the inflated ride and he took it then said he couldn't change it, apparently returning the same note. T had memorized the last 4 digits of the notes though and knew this wasn't the right one so asked for the original back. There are quite a few fake notes here apparently. That wa only a minor blemish on an otherwise fantastic trip.

I certainly want to come back and see more of the country, on 2 wheels !!

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Too Long

Eagerly awaiting the first few rain drops of the new year, so that the salt gets cleared from the road and I can ride again.

Been snowboarding a few times over the winter:
  • busted up knee
  • dislocated shoulder
  • realization that I don't bounce anymore !

Roll-On the bike show. Time to Farkle