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Anatomy of a Proper Tank Bag

Anatomy of a Proper Tank Bag

First I was all about the tank bag. Then I modified my tank bag by adding power outlets. But a couple of years ago I felt the need to eliminate the tank bag. I even wrote about it here, and I wrote about modifying what took its place here. Unfortunately nothing I did made the wrong tank bag right. There – I said it – I had the wrong tank bag to begin with so no amount of futzing and modding would make it right. You might recall that I eventually found a proper tank bag for Outs and wrote about it here. As I tend to do, I got excited, snapped a picture, wrote a little, and then went for a ride.

Recently I’ve been thinking that I need to better explain why my new tank bag made me reverse my decision to completely stop using a tank bag. Here it is – in pictures and words.

How The Bag Mounts

This tank bag works because the base is formed specifically to fit Otus’ tank. The way the base attaches to the tank ensures it stays tight and the nifty cut out in the center allows me to refuel without completely removing the bag from the bike. Check out the following pictures to see what I mean.

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The Storage Compartment

This tank bag works because the storage compartment is tapered to match the contour of the tank while creating a flat top. While the slope to the back tends to allow the contents to slide down into a pile, the flat top allows you to see whatever you put in the map pocket. An optional divider and rain cover were still with the bag when I bought it from the original owner. The next set of pictures illustrate why this bag is the right accessory for Otus.

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What’s In My Tank Bag

The contents of a tank bag are generally quite personal and based on the rider’s needs and tastes. The collection of goodies in my tank bag include the following:

  • The latest version of the MOA Anonymous Book
  • Maxpedition E.D.C. pocket organizer
  • two pens
  • tire pressure gauge
  • Moleskine notebook
  • ear plugs
  • AA battery powered head lamp
  • AA battery storage box (before anyone says anything about the battery box being empty I had the batteries in the charger during this photo shoot!)
  • Wunderlich Folding Oil Funnel
  • zip ties
  • side-stand foot
  • Olympia cold-weather gloves

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The actual contents may vary from time to time but this is what I generally carry in my tank bag now that I use a tank bag.

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Well ad Properly Sorted

Well and Properly Sorted

It has been a long time coming but I am ready to declare that Otus is well and properly sorted. I’m not going to bore you by rehashing all the events of the past – just understand that I have been on a 620 day journey that came to a happy conclusion Sunday, December 10, 2017. As simple as it sounds I threw my leg over Otus, pushed the start button, and he eagerly responded to the request. I rode him to Blip Roasters where I had coffee with friends. When I was as alert as I dared be on a Sunday morning, I threw my leg over Otus again, pushed the start button, and once again he eagerly responded. The ride home was uneventful and, therefore, blissful. When I returned home I tucked Otus back in the garage, connected the Battery Tender, and declared Otus well and properly sorted.

After the ride I was chatting with a friend about Otus’ well and properly sorted status. Over the course of a few weekends we made several “repairs” to Otus in an attempt to get to root cause for the horrible way he was running. The problem I encountered was that Otus would run great until I had ridden him about 10 miles or so (just far enough away that I was too far to push him home). My first thought was that I had a fuel delivery problem. Based on this initial theory I decided that a good flush of the fuel system is what Otus needed.

the fuel delivery theory

  • Remove the Auxiliary Fuel Tanks: A few years ago I decided I wanted to increase my range between fuel stops. Back in the day Luftmeister made “saddle” tanks that could be installed where the battery covers are typically installed. I pursued a pair of these tanks, installed them, and increased Otus’ range. Because fuel delivery on an Airhead happens because of gravity, and the saddle tanks didn’t always empty, I decided to eliminate them from the equation. They were removed, drained, and placed on the shelf.
  • Drain and Muck Out the Fuel Tank: I then removed the fuel tank and removed the petcocks. The screens on both petcocks were pretty mucked up so I flushed them with fresh fuel, re-installed the fuel system, and tried again. Otus started right up and off we went with a Lawrence, KS as our destination. Unfortunately I once again made it far enough to be stranded. I allowed Otus (and me) to cool down and limped him home. When I got home I checked “fuel delivery” off the list of possible causes.

Another “fix” I made was related to the kill switch on the right handlebar multi-switch. The switch itself was broken due to the sins of the past so I tried to repair it. Because I had eliminated fuel delivery as a problem (and air delivery was fine too because the air box and air filter were clean) I decided to source a new multi-switch to eliminate another problem. The parts ordering saga is documented here. I ordered a new left-hand switch as well but before opening it I discovered that it didn’t match the switch already installed. Otus has a neat feature – a switch to disable the headlight. This feature was eliminated somewhere along the way and I’m unwilling to remove this unique feature. I spoke to my friends at Bob’s BMW and they tell me that the switch with the headlight switch is no longer available so I decided to keep the one I received as a spare. Now, back to the story.

the kill switch theory

  • Check the Electronic Ignition: Some years ago I retired Otus’ breaker point ignition in favor of a Dyna III electronic ignition. The electronic ignition is a “black box” and should it fail it cannot be repaired – only replaced. As a sanity check we confirmed that all the wiring was in place, unmolested, and we dressed it all down neatly. Another request for Otus to start was declined. There was great sadness and frustration.
  • Replace the Right Hand Multi-Switch: The work was in removing the old and replacing the new switch. The left hand switch was, apparently, installed at the factory after the right hand switch so first we had to disconnect the left hand switch to disconnect the right hand switch. The right hand switch was replaced, the left hand wiring was re-connected, Otus was buttoned back up, and we once again asked him to start. Unfortunately this latest request was also denied. In fact, there was no power to the headlight bucket. Now it appears I had violated the Hippocratic oath and had done more harm that good.

At this point I was convinced that I had done irreparable harm to Otus and the results were finally showing up. I was vacillating between delivering his last rites, being mad at myself, and hoping against hope that he could be saved. Rather than giving up straight away, we decided to go back through all the key systems on Otus.

the check my homework theory

  • Check My Homework: Prior to the rough running I made a couple of what I consider “durability” upgrades. I replaced the stock diode board with an Omega diode board. The product description reads “Heavy duty high voltage automotive diodes in a large heat sink on a high temperature printed circuit board – what this means for you is consistent charging, long life, and a minimum of fuss.” All the things I like AND an oxford comma. This may be the perfect product! I also replaced the stock bonded diode board mounts with solid mounts. I reviewed the installation instructions, tracked down all my connections, and made certain I had properly installed the new diode board and the solid mounts. I also installed a new rotor for the charging system. As with the other “upgrades” I reviewed the installation. At the end of this homework check we found no errors but there was still no power to the headlight bucket. After re-checking this work we once again asked Otus to start but we were denied and there was still no power to the headlight bucket.

After much scratching of the head we started talking about what might be preventing power from making its way to the headlight bucket. Was the ignition switch bad? Did I miss a connection in the headlight bucket when I put everything back together? Had Otus simply passed away? To try to figure this out we broke out a rudimentary circuit tester and started poking around.

the circuit tester hail mary play

  • Check The Primary Relay: We found a problem. Using a multi-meter we determined that the relay wasn’t working. We removed the relay from the bike and started poking around with the circuit tester. We figured out how power should be getting to the headlight bucket and determined that the problem must be the main relay. We connected it to power and attempted to make it operate, but it simply wouldn’t click. After a few minutes of repeating the tests, we agreed that a new main relay was the most likely cure. Rather than sourcing a new relay online I went to my favorite auto parts store, worked with the parts person to source a new relay, returned to the garage, and prepared to install it. In comparing the old to the new I discover that the new relay was not correct. Dejected again, I was contemplating how to perform a motorcycle burial at sea in the middle of Kansas. While pondering that, we wondered if theold relay had really failed or if the contacts were just really dirty. We cleaned the contacts on the old relay, sprayed contact cleaner in Otus’ relay socket, and made another start request. Much to our delight (and my surprise and, ultimately, relief) Otus started! There was much rejoicing!
  • Install New Spark Plug Wires: In going through my receipts and notebook I could not determine if I had ever replaced Otus’ spark plug wires. Since I had to order parts I added a fresh set of plug wires to the order as a precaution. In keeping with my general camping gear axiom (I brought it along so I’m going to use it!) we decided to go ahead and install the new plug wires and demote the current ones to backup status. After installing the new plug wires Otus again responded positively to our start request. At this point I was on the verge of tears of joy, but crying as my motorcycle was idling on the lift didn’t seem very manly so I contained my emotions, issued a high five, a fist bump, and then grunted in satisfaction.

From that point forward it was a matter of buttoning up the headlight bucket and adjusting the carburetors. With these tasks properly performed Otus was declared well and properly sorted!

Otus now stands at attention in the garage. He is in fantastic condition for a 40 year old motorcycle and is ready for our next adventure. The 2018 BMWMOA Rally will be in Iowa. We’ve been through Iowa before but this might be the right rally for his triumphant comeback!

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Happiness is a Well-Sorted Airhead

Happiness is a Well-Sorted Airhead

Happiness is a well-sorted Airhead so today I am happier than I was on Friday but not completely happy yet. The combination switches I order from Bob’s BMW were only half correct and, with diagnostic help from a friend, I now need a new relay.

Otus is a 1977 BMW R100/7. When Otus was manufactured the left-hand combination switch featured a switch to turn the headlight off. You read that correctly – in 1977 it was still considered OK to allow the rider to decide when and even if they wanted to turn on the headlight. Oh, and the headlight switch could be used to hang your helmet if you choose to own but not wear one while riding. Of course I’m kidding – that switch cannot hold the weight of a motorcycle helmet. Regardless, the “replacement” switch sent to me by Bob’s BMW doesn’t have a headlight switch so it is not a true replacement part. I’ll call, complain, ask them to find the correct replacement, and see where that gets me.

The relay failure was a special surprise. The main relay for Otus appears to have failed catastrophically. Could this have been root cause for my him running like crap lately? It could be but the kill switch was broken regardless. I found a replacement relay at my local Car Quest (this has everything to do with the experienced guys at the counter) for 1/3 the cost of the same relay from BMW. I’ll try this part replacement and see if I can achieve well-sorted happiness.

Still more to come!

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Sorting Otus

Sorting Otus

Otus is having some problems again and once again I’m attempting to sort out out those problems (again). The working theory is that the kill switch on the right-hand combination switch is the culprit. The kill switch was broken in my accident but I didn’t notice it until recently. I attempted to repair the switch but it doesn’t appear to have worked. I received replacement switches (I’m replacing both because new switches are so pretty!) from Bob’s BMW and plan on installing them this weekend. I’m 90% certain this is the issue but that remaining 10% is scratching at the back of my brain. Let’s hope this is root cause because I’ve stopped looking for an explanation!

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The process to get the combination switches was tedious and a bit frustrating. I called my favorite parts retailer – Bob’s BMW – but the microfiche showed three switches per side. I called and they informed me that there are three lengths of wire associated wit the switches; short wires for S bars, mid-length wires for US bars, and long wires for the BMW ape-hanger bars. The switches with the correct wire length for my bars are on back order for at least a year. That was depressing news so I called a well respected Airhead mechanic and he recommended that I submit an order for new switches and wait patiently as used switches are 40 years old and likely not worth the effort to install. I called Bob’s to place the order and they suggested that I get the combination switches with the log wire tails and either cut them down or deal with the extra wire because these switches were immediately available. Dealing with the extra wire sounded like a great option so I ordered the switches and waited.

The switches weren’t in stock but showed up at Bob’s, found their way to FedEx, and magically appeared on my porch a couple of weeks later. I also ordered up new spark plug wires (in all the years I’ve owned Otus I never changed the plug wires so I thought “while I’m in there…”) and some timing hole plugs so I can have a spare for Otus and replace the awful plug on Strix and have a spare for him as well.

With these parts collected I, along with some expert help, started reassembling the Grand Old Man. I’ve got at least another day of work swapping in the switches (and dealing with other recently-discovered but hopefully minor damage). Saturday promises rain so I’ll be back in the shop putting the final touches on Otus just in time to get him ready for a long winter nap.

Wish me luck!

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Wandering Through Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma

Sending out a quick update tonight from a roadside motel as I rest up from wandering to Oklahoma. I got a late start and by 8:00 pm I decided the next motel I came upon would be my home for the night. So here I am at a motel that time forgot in Van Buren, Arkansas. Yes, I am in Arkansas on my way to Oklahoma.

You might be asking why but the answer is simple – Garmin. Apparently the fastest route to Talemina State Park goes by Joplin, MO and through Van Buren, AR. I’ve topped arguing with my GPS and just followed along. I ran out of sunlight as I approach Van Buren so here I am.

I’m just over an hour from my destination but it was shaping up to be a dark hour. I was hungry and tired so I decided to rest. The road, and my destination, will still be there tomorrow. And an early start will also get me to Sapulpa, OK while the sun’s still up so I can pay a visit to my Grandfather and Grandmother. They’ve passed away but I’m not going to tell them.

See you on the road tomorrow!

You can follow my progress by looking at this:

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Refactoring My Camping Gear

Refactoring My Camping Gear

This rainy camping weekend reinforced something I knew all along – my tent is too small for me to use for anything other than a sleep shelter. Time to consider refactoring my camping gear. The weather this Memorial Day weekend made it more obvious because there was no place other than my tent for me to go during the thunderstorms. The refuge I had counted on was also closed during thunderstorms so my only option was to retreat to my tent. I had my Kindle and was able to read but, because of the limited interior height I couldn’t bring my chair in and just sit.

Upon my return from the weekend I decided to look for a tent in which I can stand but would not be so heavy that it would dramatically increase the weight of the gear I haul. I made a decision and ordered a tent. Once it arrives I’ll provide an update along with a refactored Touring & Camping Gear list. I learned some other stuff too so the list will end up with more than just a tent upgrade. The updates to the gear and page will be glorious!

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LED Solid Sate Instrument Cluster Lights

instrument cluster lighting – solid state LED

I figured out a few things recently. Since Otus became my motorcycle the turn signal indicator in the instrument cluster hasn’t worked. Because he arrived in my garage that way I assumed there was a problem with the cluster itself. I changed the bulb but that didn’t matter. I cleaned the contacts but that didn’t matter either. I assumed that it was damaged and left it at that. It wasn’t until I started looking for a replacement instrument cluster that I figured out that the problem wasn’t the instrument cluster but rather the turn signal relay. Somewhere along the line someone swapped out the BMW relay for an automotive  turn signal relay. It was moving to this relay that prevented the instrument cluster light from lighting up to let me know a turn signal was on. Figuring out stuff like this typically leads me into Quixotic situations.

problem solving

Once I got a lead on the reason the turn signal light in the instrument cluster wasn’t working I dug into the parts cache and retrieved one of the BMW turn signal relays. Installing the correct relay led to a wiring voyage of discovery, but getting that sorted out ended up making things work as they should so ultimately the change, and the ensuing work, was a good thing. With this problem behind me I was ready to upgrade the stock Airhead incandescent lighting in the instrument cluster to a solid state LED light kit from Katdash.

making things brighter

The lights in the stock instrument cluster are OK, but because “I was in there” it seemed like the right time to make another LED upgrade to go along with the LED headlight. Enjoy the pictures!

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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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