Thursday, 25 September 2008

He Says - The Fuel Tank Dilemma.

Well the frenzy has died down a bit, and every waking moment is no longer being consumed by thoughts about the trip. I only think about it every 12 seconds (the 10-second mark is historically taken). The web site has stalled a bit, we have the general concept set up, it is just the technical side of thing that turned out to be a hassle, what will work in one browser will not working in the next and vise-versa so much for WYSIWYG programming (the geeks will understand this one). Savings wise we are doing well and are more then on track to make our goals, conservation organisation alliance has not even started. Anubis’s preparations have also hit a slight snag and that is the core of this post.

Although there is great debate over "Do Overlanders really need to carry extra fuel or not". Some saying that there is no real need these day, with petrol (literally) driving the world you can always find some. Others say that sometimes the distances are further then your average bike’s range, so you need it. Still others say that carrying a small jerry can, is all you need to do to be safe enough. I personally think that there is truth to all of these opinions but being a bit on the better safe then sorry persuasion, I have decided to install a bigger tank. This will give us the extra fuel /range when we need it and it will not take up luggage space like a jerry can will.

The OEM tank on the Africa Twin is 23l, which gives a range (to dry while two-up-fully loaded) of 195miles (314km) on the nose while on UK highways @70-80mph). This, by the way, turns out to be exactly 4.8miles (7.7km) before the petrol station where you where planning on filling up.

So the search began (well in truth I have been looking at tanks for years) but I digress. Companies like Touratech and African Queens both sell oversized tanks at outrageous prices, African Queens being the cheaper option (slightly) and having the wider range of sizes.

Looking at what was available from African Queens, I realised that I could go either rear-tanks (heck-tanks) or “normal”. The rear tanks have the advantage of having the added weight spread over the bike, which is prefect for rallies. However for touring, the majority of luggage (weight) is already in the rear, thus negating the spreading out factor. Plus the pannier- racks would also have be modified (widened), thereby making the bike much wider, this would defeat all the work I did to narrow the pannier system in the first place. So rear (or heck) tanks are perfect for rallies but they did not meet my needs (this time).

So “normal” style tank it is. African Queens offered the super-tanker size of 56lt (2.5x bigger then the OEM tank), frankly it looks silly, it is way to big and would make the already heavy bike way to heavy. Next choice was 45l, still very big and heavy and I could not see the need for a 400+ theoretical range. Both these tanks have the added disadvantage that you must also change the fairings and seat so an extra expense.

Then I saw a 36l tank at the 2007 HU meet. It looked like a normal tank, the bike was the same size the faring and the seat were the OEM ones, Perfect! The 36l was reported to give a rage of 350miles (two-up-fully-loaded), and the calculated range was still 310miles, good enough! This seemed like the perfect compromise, but at over €1000.00 from African Queens it was still an outrageous price, plus there were still some modifications that I would want done. Maybe jerry cans are the way to go?

Well by the power of the internet, I found the company that actually makes them for African Queens: Boana Moto racing sports. They sell the tanks and will make the modifications that I wanted for about half the price that African Queens wanted for the stock unit. Prefect! Although they are in Italy they speak perfect English and were more then helpful. I placed my order. I was told at the time that the tank will not be ready for about 6 weeks due to the requested modifications. I saw nothing wrong with this, as it was me changing things after all. To my surprise it arrived in about two and a half weeks time. The tank itself was a work of art, although fibreglass (GRP) it was smooth as silk, and the modifications were perfect. The tank is 50% bigger then the stock tank and being GPR weights about half, bigger bonus. The only problem was that I needed to buy a second fuel tap as my OEM tank only has one. Well I emailed Boano simply to ask what size thread they used and they told me that they would send me both Taps that I need free. So far customer service has been outstanding!

Well all was not roses, Honda will not sell me the OEM decals that I needed to make the tank look like an OEM one. And so I had to search all over the place to find a vinyl printer that could make them for me with out charging an arm and a leg. I eventually found a company called The Image Works (UK) that would print the decals at a very reasonable price. They did a great job and now everything is set. All I need to do is paint or get it painted and fit it.

Well still not all roses! Over the weekend I was removing a bad organ (see next post) and so had Anubis in parts, so I attempted to place to new tank on.. It does not fit. My crash bars are too narrow, although it is only by a few mm it is enough to render the bars useless in an off and to make the tank not fit. So now I am searching for more appropriate bars. This was not an expense that we counted on, and neither of us are happy but truly it is only my fault. Their may be a sliver lining, from a company called overland solutions, but that is an other thread if it works out... Stay tuned for He-Says - The Crash bars!

He Says – The Bad Organ.

For years I have heard about this legendary product the Scott-oiler, a automatic motorcycle chain oiler. It had the reputation of being a life saver. Made chains go 20-30k miles instead on 15k miles. I wanted one! Well Anubis came with one. I was truly pleased, and it worked great when I was not commuting or travelling, those few nice weekends that I could get out on the bike when it was warm and sunny and all was dry and nice. I was a pleasure rider only. Well all that changed after our first tour on Anubis. We were in Spain and the dam thing stopped working. I though it was just me and my naivety about the working of it. So I learned and a dark feeling grew in my stomach.. but every one else loves em.. I must be wrong.

Then we moved houses I was no longer 1 mile from work .. I get to ride every DAY!! Yay!. Within a week the Scott oiler stopped working. I adjusted it .. it worked.. a few weeks passed it stopped .. I adjusted it .. it worked .. spring hit .. it stopped working…..this pattern repeated it self for the next several months. We travelled again and it did not work at all.. I started to believe that I was right and every one else was wrong. We for 3 weeks travelled though Romania.. the Scott-oiler failed.. my chain was eaten because I did notice until we were too far from anywhere I could get spray on lube for several hundred more miles. The result: Scott oilers don’t work…But how, everyone loves them?

Well now I know … Scott-oilers work just fine.. Just not for all weather riders like overland tourers or even commuters.

Most riders get on there bike when it is warm and sunny and all is nice and dry. Warm and sunny and all was dry and nice. So the environmental conditions are always similar. Scott-oilers are no good for overlanders, they are designed for “similar condition rides".. AKA Fair weather riders.

When the environment is hot the oil is thinner so you drip fast (your tank can go dry in a day). When cold the opposite (oil gets thick and drips too slow = not enough on the chain). When wet your chain is washed of oil too quickly. When cold and wet you run a dry chain (because it drips slow and gets washed off). When hot and wet you get a dry chain and an oily tyre, and off-road you get a nice grinding paste. We (tourers) ride in way to many conditions and need to adjust the drip rate far too often (like several times a day).

I have taken the Scot-toiler off Anubis. I had the feeling that I was removing a cancerous organ. I hated it. It did do two things great: leak oil on my garage floor and give me headaches. It never worked well. I feeling of relief came over me as I sealed the m5 vacuum nipple hole, and ripped out the oily tubing. Now that it has been off for a couple of weeks I also believe that the Scott-oiler messed with my vacuum system (which it “ran” off) enough that it effected performance and fuel economy.

HOWEVER, I love the idea of a feed system so that the chain stays nice and lubed all the time, without (too much) daily checking.
I just installed a new system called pro-oiler ( the concept is much easier (in my mind to deal with).. it is a little 12v pump that pumps the oil at the rate you chose..(nothing attached to your engine at all.. just a 12V power feed) and they have it set up so that the pump is disabled when the wheels aren’t moving so you dont waste oil either. The nicest part is there is a control (on the dash/handle bars) where you can instantaneously (and as frequently as you want), adjust the drip rate for all the conditions that we may face. You can chose from OFF (0 drips/min) to environmental terrorist rates. They have also programmed an off-road setting (which may be 2X the environmental terrorist rates (I don’t know). This gives you the control that is needed, for rides that are not warm or sunny or all dry and nice. It is not as hands off as the Scott-oiler claims to be, but the added control is IMHO the point.

The one thing (so far) that I did not like about the pro-oiler was the oil tank was smaller then I would have liked (175ml), but with their help (information) I modified the Scott-oiler’s 500ml touring tank (which I already had) and that gave me lots of oil… So lets see how it all goes. So far my engine seems smoother and the chain is nice and lubed.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

She Says - Month 2 of Preparation

Not a great deal to update on, as things have slowed down a little. Last night, we heartbreakingly sold Xander’s professional video camera (plus camera bag) to a budding documentary maker from Nottingham. It was a really tough decision to make, but as it’s an item that is replaceable and the £850 it brought in gives us an extra 1.5 months of travel, it was worth it. He can always buy another when we get back home. Advertising cost nothing, so there are options out there to shift important stuff at low cost!

We both have tough decisions to make, as everything we keep has to be sent back to Oz and stored, so will cost money in shipping and space for one of my parents! In my case, I’ve decided to sell my bat detector that I’ve owned since 2002. I was all prepared to finally buy the piece of expensive equipment to finish the system so I can finally use the thing properly, in fact I’d just attended a training course on how to sue the system, when the whole travel idea raised it’s ugly head. The extra money was something that just could not be justified in light of that! Once again, it’s not irreplaceable and if I really want to, I can buy another back home.

I’ve contacted a friend who is a fellow photographer and batter, who might be able to help us sell the bat detector and some of the old camera gear. Xander also talked to one of the camera shops in Brum, who might take some gear as a trade-in for new lenses we want, and I’m getting in touch with other batters to see if anyone’s interested in my bat detector.

I sold about 15 books to a second-hand store last week. Only got £10 pounds for them, and I realised as I left the store that I should have waited to sell them at a car boot sale, but I completely forgot I had other options for selling. Oh well. I know now to hold off on selling any others till we car-boot, although I have some old natural history books that I can try to shift through specialist natural history bookstores.

Planning hasn’t progressed at all, we just seem a bit busy right now! Xander has been working away at the website, but we’ve already had a hiccup there, with the web hosting company screwing up the charges, and making us cancel and re-sign for the package because their computer can’t deal with it. Huh?!?! Xander has given up on creating our logo, as he doesn’t feel he can get the look he wants. He contacted fellow bikers on forums to see if anyone else wanted to take up the challenge. One guy has created a very cute picture; however, it’s still not quite what we’re after. I think we’re actually going to have to pay someone for this one! A friend at work is going to see if his graphic designer friend is interested, or can at least tell us what it would cost to design so we know if we can afford it or will have to stick to Xander’s designs.