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proper tank bag

proper tank bag for a proper Airhead

I’ve had several tank bags on Otus but I’ve never been happy with any of them. In fact, two years ago I swore off the idea of using a tank bag entirely and started storing everything in my top case. While fuel stops were much easier, I had to develop new habits and places for my gloves, ear plugs, etc. I adapted and even got used to not having a tank bag. Today, however, my opinion changed. Here’s why.

A Purpose Built Bag

The reason I’ve disliked every tank bag I’ve ever owned is a simple – I’ve always used “universal” tank bags. Today a friend pointed out that a couple of genuine BMW tank bags purpose built for Airheads were listed on the local Craigslist. I pondered the listing, talked to the seller, and decided to go have a look. To ensure this would be no impulse purchase I didn’t stop at the bank to get the cash. I went to his house to inspect the goods and I was impressed with what I saw. The bags are purpose built for the shape of the Airhead tank and the one I ended up purchasing clips to the “seams” on the bottom edge of the tank. And to get to the fuel filler I simply unzip the bag and I can add fuel! This is a very nice tank bag and it solves the fitment issues I’ve always had with universal bags. I should have figured this out sooner but thankfully I have a very stubborn friend who likes to remind me that my opinions are wrong when they don’t match his.

All kidding aside, this is a very nice tank bag and it looks so very proper on Otus.

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Otus' headlight bucket threw up

working isn’t the same as correct – Airhead wiring

In putting Otus’ headlight bucket back together I discovered that the ground on headlight wiring harness had broken. I went to my parts cache and removed a headlight wiring harness from one of my spare headlight buckets. I made a map of how the original one was installed and connected the “new” harness based on the map. But while I was in there (yeah – “while I was in there” is the phrase that always gets me in trouble) I decided to use more parts from the cache. A little research helped me understand that the auto relay in Otus’ headlight bucket was the reason my turn signal indicator wasn’t working in my instrument cluster. Adding the BMW part would solve the behavior that plagued Otus since he became mine. I wasn’t planning on swapping in a relay but I have two so installing one seemed like the right thing to do. This is where things went bad.

making things right (sort of)

There is a good deal of discussion to be found on the Internets regarding using the BMW turn signal relay versus using an aftermarket automotive relay. The BMW relay currently sells for $81.26. That’s a lot of money for a relay. At some point, Otus’ previous owner had to replace the turn signal relay and chose a basic automotive relay. S/he also moved around a few of the wires in the headlight bucket to make the auto relay work. I found this out when I installed the new Cyclops LED headlight bulb and the starter relay whistled when I toggled on the hi-beam. Whistling relays are definitely not good so I shut everything down and started scratching my head. I also might have had a beer to help clear my head.

a good night’s sleep helped

Although I was disappointed that I was chasing a new issue, I decided that a good think and a good night’s sleep would help. While wiring is not my best friend I did have something on my side – an unmolested headlight bucket! I dug back into the parts cache, pulled out the headlight bucket I hadn’t touched, and carried it to Otus. A side-by-side comparison showed me that, probably to make the automotive turn signal relay work, the previous owner had moved some wires around. I pulled the “new” headlight harness, moved all the other wires in Otus’ bucket to match the unmolested one, plugged the headlight harness back in, and the whistling relay is whistling no more!

what’s the cheapest thing on a BMW?

The moral of this story is that just because something works, it may not be set up correctly. I certainly understand the previous owner’s motivation to use the inexpensive relay. It also appears that her/his understanding of wiring allowed her/him to reconfigure the harness to make things work and save money. The second moral of this story (if there are such things as second morals) is to always remember that the cheapest thing on a BMW is the rider!

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R100S fairings, saddles, and goodies

parts, parts, and more parts!

Through the magic of the Internets and the willingness of a friend I’ve just secured a collection of parts removed from two 1977 R100S motorcycles. In fact, the collection contains the parts that make two R100S motorcycles R100Ses. Fairings, saddles, side covers, shocks, exhaust, instrument clusters, handlebars, cables, and so on are included. While Otus is an R100/7 there are still a lot of parts in this collection that will help get and keep the Grand Old Man on the road for years to come. I’m not necessarily going to rebuild Otus as an R100S but then again, I’m not sure I won’t.

I’m going to be completely overrun with Airhead parts, but what a great problem to have! Otus just turned 40 and last year’s crash took quite a toll on both of us. I’ve been in the shop twice for arm repair and Otus is still on the lift awaiting attention and parts. This collection, along with the recent parts delivery from Bob’s BMW, should allow me to get Otus back on the road this spring while putting plenty of spare parts in inventory. To say I’m tickled is an understatement!

Probably the most important goodies are the instrument clusters. The dash itself survived the accident but the tachometer was totaled and the speedometer glass had a bite taken out of it. I want to keep the original (as far as I know anyway) speedometer as I repaired the odometer and, even though I am comfortable with the TMU label associated with Otus, at least I know how many miles shown on the odometer are mine. Depending on what I ultimately get Otus will likely sport:

  • A replacement instrument cluster housing
  • A replacement tachometer
  • Replacements for any other surprises I find

Pictures of the collection as listed on the Internets follow. The parts will be shipped via UPS tomorrow. As soon as they show up at the shop there will be a huge unveiling. I predict beer will be involved as unpacking and inventorying parts promises to be thirsty work.

Now, if I only had two more airhead frames…

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BMW classic saddlebag - left side

repair work, parts, and details

I took Otus’ front end down to make sure I had everything as straight as possible and noticed that, in addition to all the other damage, one of the fork reflectors was cracked. I jumped on to and ordered up a replacement reflector along with a few other must-have parts. In addition to a collection of bits and pieces I also went ahead and ordered a new set of “classic” bags to replace those totaled on my season-opener last year. I did, however, pass on purchasing the official BMW roundels to stick to the bags. This isn’t (just)about being cheap but has more to do with being unwilling to pay to advertise for a brand. Don’t get me wrong – I love me my Otus and my Strix – but not enough to pay to stick roundels on the luggage. Besides, I still have some of my Mechanical Owl stickers to apply! I also bought all the bushings, washers, etc to properly reinstall the instrument cluster and (hopefully) reduce the jiggle factor considerably.

I also ordered a hand full of parts from Wunderlich because, like Bob’s, they love my money. Here’s the list of what I ordered:

  • Long mirrors – left and right
    I’m going to try the long stem mirrors rather than the bar-end mirrors so I can re-install my hand guards
  • Instrument Repair Kit
    When Otus and I stopped so abruptly the instrument cluster suffered a bit of damage. The glass covering the tach is now completely missing and the glass covering the speedometer has a nice chip. I scrounged up a replacement housing but I’m going to see if I can’t use this to restore my existing cluster to a usable state.

When all this first went down I was beyond bummed about the damage inflicted upon Otus but as I went through the process of sourcing replacement parts I’ve been able to come to the conclusion that the motorcycle could be repaired, I could heal, and both of us will ride again. Sorry if that was too sappy…

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shinguards as forearm protection

arm protection?

We got an invitation to a Halloween party and I did a little thinking about what costume to wear. My research (well, actually it was more like image searches related to some of my favorite movies while I drank beer) led me to some pictures of a character from Mad Max – Jim Goose. The Goose was Max’s Kawasaki 1000 – riding friend who (spoiler alert!) died rather gruesomely. Regardless, he was a cool guy with some costume-worthy accessories that I figured could be bought on the cheap AND provide arm protection as I returned to the road.

One of the coolest things about Jim’s “costume” is that he used what appear to be baseball catcher leg guards as forearm guards. This got me thinking about channeling The Goose this Halloween. I ventured down to the local used sporting goods store and scored a set of previously enjoyed leg guards for $18. I figured I’d go from there and start assembling the rest of the costume. Then reality set in; my riding gear isn’t leather, my helmet is modular and black, I didn’t have any of the pins or badges, and – worst of all – I didn’t have a Kawasaki 1000 to ride to the party! Thus ended my quest to pay tribute to The Goose.

But some good came out of this project – I have my own leg guards I can start wearing as forearm guards. I have seriously thought about this since breaking my arm this spring. Dirt bike riders get to wear armor so I might just wear my leg guards as forearm guards while protecting my freshly-healed right arm and paying tribute to The Goose himself!

In preparation for next Halloween, I have tracked down the appropriate Jim Goose pins and badges so all I need now is full leathers, costume-correct boots, a silver helmet, that cool face protector, and a Kawasaki 1000! Happy Halloween!

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the mobile man cave w/lens flare

camping gear redux

A couple of weekends ago I did some car camping to see if I could remember how to set up camp. There’s a Fall rally coming up soon and I didn’t want my first post-crash attempt at setting up camp to be a festival of challenges in front of strangers so I decided a 4-wheeled run would be a good first step. I drove a couple of hours west, found a secluded spot, and set up the Mobile Man Cave. I’ve attached a few pictures and I’ve also updated my gear page to reflect changes to what I learned and what plan to take with me in October.

Overall the trip was a success. I was able to set up camp, sleep, drink cold beer (car camping allowed me to take a cooler with plenty of cold water and just enough beer to get me through the weekend), eat, read, sleep again, and break camp without incident. I’m not going to lie – the whole set up and tear down thing was a challenge. My pace setting up was slow but I still got the tent up before sundown on night #1 while still allowing time to have a beer before turning in for the night. All-in-all it was a happy Labor Day Weekend!

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nerdy neck wallet

what to do before you crash

At the end of March 2016 I had an accident on my beloved 1977 BMW R100/7, Otus. When the first responders showed up, they cut my motorcycle coat off. At that point my wallet was separated from me and I entered the healthcare system I was an uninsured patient. This has been a festival of physical, emotional, and financial pain as every healthcare provider chased me for payment simply because I was separated from my wallet and, therefore, my health insurance card, by the scissor-aggressive first responder who cut off my coat and pitched it in the nearest ditch. Fortunately my riding buddy scooped up the coat (along with all the motorcycle bits scattered around the accident scene) and I was reunited with my wallet.

To prevent this issue going forward, I am going to do two things:

  1. Try like hell to not crash again!
  2. Put my important documents in something like this.

I’m going to prepare for the worst by putting my important documents and information in my neck wallet and then try like hell to not crash again.

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tracking my travel with stickers

travel stickers

One of the things that’s become more and more important to me is tracking accomplishments. I’ve always had a completist tendency as I’ve begun venturing out of the central time zone on Otus, and I’ve gotten more confident in my ability to keep Otus running, I’ve realized that I can put Otus in all of the US Continental states at some point. I’ve started a page on the site to show where we’ve been and today I tracked down a set of stickers I’ll place on Otus to show people were we’ve been when we’re out and about. I googled around until I found and promptly ordered up a set for Otus. I also ordered up a set for my Cherokee because I actually do have to travel by car from time to time. We’ll see how these look when they get here and get installed. Assuming these work out well I’ll order another set for the newest member of the family!

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hacking the Wolfman enduro tool bag

wolfman enduro tool bag hack

Let me make one thing perfectly clear – I love my Wolfman Enduro Tool Bags. I asked for a pair of these for Christmas – one for each bike – and mounted them to each bike’s top case. They are exactly what I wanted in terms of size, shape and capacity but there was one thing I wanted to improve – I wanted the sides of the bags to be rigid so it was time to hack the bag.

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Mad Max-style Handguards on Strix

handguards for Strix

Some people think handguards, like tank bags, are required motorcycle accessories. I added a set of handguards to Otus, and because Strix is supposed to be a more modern version of the grand old man, a set of Barkbuster Storm handguards got ordered for the young man as well. Installation wasn’t as easy as on Otus because of the brake lines on Strix. I don’t think it will be a problem but the fitment was snug to say the least.

Continue reading “handguards for Strix”

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