Archive for February, 2014

Do not wear your helmet, it’s the law!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 14, 2014 by bleiglass

More and more often I feel treated like a criminal, like a scumbag who steals, who can not be trusted and best should be put away for many many years.

It is all done under the unbeatable umbrella argument of “Your safety!”, it is politically correct not to question these supposedly “sensible” rules pilled on top of each other. But enough is enough, my helmet is a safety devise and we should win this argument.

Again and again I am refused fuel at service stations. Embarrassingly loud the stations speakers yell for everybody to hear: “The motorcyclist has to remove his helmet!”, and I am not sure if from some hidden space a sharpshooter is aiming his rifle at me.


Not only it is insulting to ask me to remove my helmet, but it is also plain dangerous.

In a world of full scale CCTV observation it is acceptable within limits that the movement of visitors or intruders can be recorded. At a fuel station, all vehicle registrations are recorded and used in criminal prosecution should the customer leave without paying. That is fair. But to ask me in a further step to remove my helmet is simply not acceptable. First I have no plan to steal fuel, and the statistics confirm that fuel is stolen mainly by drivers of cars and not motorcycles. But not only does the operator think I may be stealing, but he also implies that I am driving a stolen motorcycle, why else would he also need my face on tape.


Ask your friendly fuel station operator: more fuel is not paid by confused elderly drivers then by criminal motorcyclists.

This is insulting and goes a step to far. When will fuel station operators ask customers to remove their sunglasses, as boarder patrol officers do at the Eurotunnel? When will there be a sign by Shell, BP or Esso to lower your hoddies, scarf or burka? You must be 15 to shop for fuel, when will they impose a upper age limit, refusing fuel for the confused elderly? I am sure that in some dark corporate back room a bureaucrat is already justifying his employment by formulating such further rules.

But not only is this new practise insulting, it is plain dangerous on numerous accounts:


First it dilutes the visibility and respect of actually important safety notices at fuel stations. While a warning symbol that smoking is dangerous and your engine should be switched off make some sense, the back room bureaucrat adds symbols banning activities at a alarming rate: no speeding, no eating, no mobile, whats next: no kissing, no smiling? Recently he invented: no helmets, but what does this have to do with safety? Does he thinks I pull a gun and endanger the safety of his other customers? Will the fuel ignite because I wear a helmet?

If the back room bureaucrat would be in touch with the sport his fuel brand supports and sponsors, he should know that its a rule to wear a helmet at some refuelling stations for safety reasons.


A helmet is a safety devise, and should not be banned on a safety board.

Secondly this new rule is dangerous for the motorcycle rider himself. Dear underpaid fuel station operator: a helmet is not removed like a baseball cap, and to wear and secure it correctly is a important safety measure. To ask a rider to remove it involves the risk that it is not put on again correctly. We all remember that on occasion we have to stop after the first few miles of a ride to adjust the helmet or scarf, and now I am forced to remove a perfectly fastened helmet without good reason.

The back room bureaucrat has the law on his side to enforce this wrong and insulting rule, it is up to us to make it a economical stupid decision for his company to do so. Luckily not all stations enforce this rule, but once they do, I leave after a lengthy friendly discussion without aggression and purchase… and never return.


Like biker friendly pubs and restaurants, fuel station should advertise the fact that they are biker friendly, and allow you to keep your helmet on when you refuel, accepting that the helmet is a safety device and you are not considered a thief.


The female connector of your Zumo does not like salt!

Posted in DIY, Harley-Davidson with tags , on February 8, 2014 by bleiglass

Doing a simple Google search, I realise that many Zumo motorcycle users know this message as well as I now do:

>>> USB connected to wrong port

and we may all react the same way: WTF, the USB port is not connected at all, never was and never will be. No clear explanation is given when reading through all posts and comments, except for 1 recurring similarity: its wet outside, and the problem often disappeared once the sun started shining.

Here in England waiting for the sun to dry things out can be very time consuming, it may actually not happen at all for years in a row. So after some wet weekend rides in January I started to search for the places that can get wet, and to no surprise, thats nearly everywhere, but only few are somewhat related to the USB port of the ZUMO: a) the cradle unit and b) the female Micro USB connector at he end of the cable, the one you hide unter you seat, or better say: under your very wet seat.


I am not convinced its the cradle unit, as the electrics are well sealed off by a blue plastic (1) from any moving part, the only way for moisture entering the unit is through the cable connection (2). Possible, but not likely, but keep it dry and greased.

Much more likely is a short circuit or a creeping current between terminals in the female Micro USB connector you leave under your seat. This one can be exposed to a waterfall of water, and what is worse: salty water. This formula is worth remembering:

TDS (ppm) = 0.64 X EC (μS/cm) = 640 X EC (dS/m).

EC stands for Electrical Conductivity, and TDS stands for Total Dissolved Solids. The 640 seems to be a important factor, but I have no idea why. Maybe some reader can enlighten me, or not.


If you paid attention in school, you may remember that distilled water does not contain dissolved salts and, as a result, it does not conduct electricity and has an EC of zero. In other words: put your female Zumo 660 USB connector in distilled water, and all works fine. So in summer, it may rain as much as it wants, but as this water has a very low salt concentration, your ZUMO works fine on the way to Rome or Morocco.

In winter however, local councils enjoy throwing salt on the roads, so much that your bike looks like sugar coated after each ride, but its not sugar, its salt. Add water from the skies, and you have a very conductive salty mixture that short circuits your ZUMO 660, and all your GPS is willing to repeat over and over again is:

>>> USB connected to wrong port

… while it should be saying:

>> Dear user, the salt concentration of the water you dip my female USB connector in is way to high for comfort, and as you seem to enjoy doing this, I will now spam you with repeated error messages making no sense. See you again in summer.

Some more life saving informations on the subject of EC: interestingly, if the water contains very large amounts of salt, then the water becomes such an efficient conductor of electricity that an electrical current may essentially ignore a human body in the water and stick to the better pathway to conduct itself—the masses of salt in the water. That is why the danger of electrocution in sea water is less than it would be in your bath water – if you did not add too much salt.


Whatever, but did we learn something? Yes I hope, if you still want to ride in winter on wet salty roads, keep your female connector as dry as possible, Micro USB that is.


I tried to solve the problem with as small bag of silica gel (3) you find them as addition in the packaging of some food product or sensible electrical equipment, and uncooked rice, as both absorb humidity very well.


Wrap them with the cleaned and dried out USB connector in a plastic bag, and hope for the best.


Have a safe ride in all seasons!

My Harley-Davidson Tri Glide Ultra experience

Posted in Harley-Davidson, HOG with tags , on February 4, 2014 by bleiglass

In 2014, Harley-Davidson re-launched in Europe the sale of tricycles, the Tri Glide Ultra, and I had the chance to test drive it. Yes, I say drive, as I quickly learned that you do not ride it.

On a motorcycle, you engage the clutch with your left hand, change gears with your left foot and accelerate with your right hand. Fine, but here the Tri Glide Ultra similarities with its 2 wheel motorcycle equivalent stop. Yes, they share the same 103ci big V-twin, but on the Tri Glide you do not feel that this engine is big and heavy, as you never have to hold its weight, its just sits there as any other engine would between your legs. Yes, they share hundreds of pages of the Genuine Motor Parts and Accessories catalogue, but you do not feel them. For example, the seats on the Tri Glide are always levelled, so its shape is less relevant. The position of the footpegs is not really important, as with some excercise you could cut your toenails while driving. Basically you sit in a small cabriolet with the fuel tank and engine between your legs.


You have to forget how to ride a motorcycle, best is you do not know how to ride a motorcycle, as otherwise you are doomed. No countersteering, you have to pull and push the handlebar like a trucks steering wheel, and forget all your advanced riding knowledge about road positioning, the only position is with the front wheel in the middle of the road. Keep your feet all the time on the floorboards, or you end up driving over your own heels – the 2 back wheels are where you put your foot on the ground.


It is a completely different driving sensation, and without wanting to be disrespectful, its best compared to like driving the Harley-Davidson golf cart or a John Deere lawnmower – quickly. It does not matter if its 3 or 4 wheels, and it does not compare to a 3 wheel Piaggio MP3, as the Piaggio frame leans into the curve like a proper motorcycle.

Its a interesting balancing act Harley-Davidson is trying with this Tri-Glide, and if they sell sufficient numbers in Europe they will succeed. The potential buyers have the same profiles as motorcycle dudes and enjoy similar aspects of life and values. They are keen to be part of the Harley family and culture, fitting well into being a member of HOG and a HOG Chapter, as they enjoy the same social aspects of Club Nights, rallies and parties.


But the Tri-Glide needs to sell in numbers, so “Tri-Glide only” driving groups can form, as the riding styles and characteristics are worlds apart. Nobody wants to be the odd one out, but we need to find common grounds as we share the same interests once the engines are switches off. Integration will be a interesting process.