Archive for the DIY Category

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!


Make your GPS legal for France

Posted in DIY, Harley-Davidson with tags , , on May 3, 2012 by bleiglass

The big difference between the French and Germans is that the French will pass ridiculous laws and its up to your personal judgement to follo them, or not, while in Germany the law is abide by, no exceptions, full point.

However, law enforcement officers of both countries under strict EU dictatorship react pretty similar, you should not expect the french policeman to allow a casual laissez faire attitude once you are on his radar screen. And he will surely not share a glass of white wine with you before he lets you continue your journey. These times are over!

Riding a motorcycle these days seems to be a very anti-social activity, and politicians of all colours, who never even sat on a motorcycle in their whole life, love to invent legislation to kill any sense of freedom to ride. But fighting laws once they are passed is less productive then fighting them while they are debated in Westminster, Paris or worse, Brussels. So stay informed on all the idiocies our elected politicians come up with and say loudly NO before they hit any parliament’s floor.

But this article is not a rant about what could come, but what unfortunately already is. Here in the UK a lot of Club Night time is spend on trying to understand what the French are up to, with ugly Hi-Vis vest, reflective clothing and mandatory breathalyser at the centre of attention and heated debates.

Here a MAG statement published on my Chapters website:

On one point I researched a bit more, as one statement is not exactly accurate:

Speed: French police take speeding seriously, apparently a lot of speed camera warning signs have been removed, devices to detect radar are illegal (GPS with speed camera sites loaded on them are okay). Fines are payable on the spot, expect to be arrested and possibly have the vehicle impounded if you can’t pay or the speed was high.

Thanks to our twinned Reims Chapter website, I found that the statement: “GPS with speed camera sites loaded on them are okay” is not exactly accurate. Key is:

The speed camera proximity warning needs to be switched off.

There are even official statements by Garmin and TomTom on this and how to perform the switch off or what to do to be legal. Details (sorry, in French) can be found here:

While Garmin advises to disable the proximity warning to be 100% legal, TomTom explains at length how to avoid LIVE updates.

Having myself a Garmin Zumo 660, I did switch off the proximity warning, and as not all of ou may speak or read french, here a short description on How To:

Switch on you ZUMO, and press TOOLS

You want to change the SETTINGS

Note that some screens are longer then the display, press the arrow down to get to more options, and then select Proximity Points

You want to CHANGE proximity alerts

you are nearly done, now uncheck the tickbox for proximity alerts for Safety Cameras

Bon yoyage!

Remember: as everything you read here, this is my very own and personal view and action, and it may be wrong. All you do or don’t do is as usual at your own risk.

Has you brain left the ride?

Posted in DIY, Harley-Davidson with tags , , on April 8, 2011 by bleiglass

It’s the regularity – even of a loud obnoxious or deep thumbing noise – that causes your brain to stop paying attention. In scientific language it’s called habituation. And when your brain enters the habituation zone, even a loud noise can fade into the background, but still can cause physical pain.

That’s it, my Vance and Hines Quiet Baffles (VH21931) are now installed. The exhaust sound changed, but did it change for the better?

I think so, but as with most changes, this is a compromise, although a very necessary one.

The raw, brute deep note is gone, officially the decibel noise level is reduced by 3-5 db. That does not sound like much on paper, but it is very noticable, specially in idle, but also on the monotonous highway. Your neighbours will love the quiet baffles, as will your head.

Without them, the Turn Down mufflers are clearly great fun for a short weekend ride, but my recent round trip to Wootton Bassett, over 200 miles, was over the limit. Back home, my head was uncomfortably humming even hours after my return, and the cause was clearly the wonderful raw low frequency bass you do not really hear, but clearly feel.

I think these 200 miles were the limit my ears, brain and head were willing to accept, and as I plan much longer daily rides this season, there is no way around the quiet baffles.

Actually “quiet” is the wrong word, I would call them comfort baffles, as they are not really quiet, but more comfortable for longer rides. And that is what at the end a touring bike like the Road King Classic is all about.

You loose a tiny bit of the show-off factor, the one even appreciated by bystanders when 30 or more Harley’s ride down the village roads, but then again, you just loose just a bit of it, and have the chance to remain sane.

I was considering removing the baffles on occasions, for certain “exhibition rides”, where the show factor is more important then the ride itself. But consider this: a muffler is the home address of all the culprits for aggressive metal corrosion. Heat, extreme temperature variations, aggressive chemicals in the air, dust of all sizes, humidity and evaporation, you find in the mufflers a toxic mix contributing to the most aggressive climate on earth. No metal can really remain undamaged for long, and specially delicate screws to hold the pieces together suffer most. So if you plan to unscrew and re-fix your quiet baffles in weekly intervals, prepare for disaster, as the screws will most likely not survive more then 10 cycles. If you really plan this change frequently, prepare for new high quality screws, like stainless steel A4 grade ones, which are used in the similarly hostile marine environment.

I got quickly used to the new, more comfortable sound, and I do not really miss the raw beast that was barking at me earlier, as it is still there, just not right next to my ear.

My Road King squeaks like a pig

Posted in DIY, Harley-Davidson with tags , , , on February 13, 2011 by bleiglass

On my Road King, the “Active Exhaust” includes an actuator valve which closes during higher engine loads. The exhaust is closed during acceleration or going up a hill or any other time of “higher engine loads. The only reason I can think for this factory installed castration is to “meet noise regulations.”

It works, it kills the Harley sound. But worse, it squeaks like a pig when the valve opens again.

Check out this 44sec video, you can clearly hear how the deep rumble is put on mute and see the actuator valve working.

Time to change some parts and get rid of this actuator valve.

Do you know of any reason (except to please the law) why not to get a sawzall and cut off the stock exhaust system and to toss it in the closest dumpster?

The second season starts at 6052 miles

Posted in DIY, Harley-Davidson with tags , , on January 30, 2011 by bleiglass

Today was the day, sunshine and blue skies, my second season on a Harley-Davidson started.

It was still bloody cold at 4C (39F), but the first day in 2011 to be able to see through sunglasses, ideal for a short and lonely ride to remind my Road King Classic what is was build for.

The engine started without problems, 2 month of inactivity in the garage did not kill the battery. Well, all parts are less then one year old, I would have expected nothing less.

My small round trip to nowhere and back home was also designed to check out the small additions I made over the winter break. As I had to remove the front wheel to fix new fender parts, I was a bit careful for the first miles, but all turned out fine.

Here some pictures of the new parts and chrome I added

Road King Classic Chrome Fender Skirt


Road King Classic Passsneger Footboard Cover


Aileron brake pedal pad

Check out the drama behind this DIY job here<<


Aileron shifter peg


Aileron heated handgrips

Enough show-off, I can’t wait for the first Chapter rides to start…


About FX exchange rates – many ways to pay for your Harley Holiday

Posted in DIY, Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , , , on January 20, 2011 by bleiglass

For my US friends it may be irrelevant, but here in Europe, specially if you live in the UK, you may not just forget your passport, but you also need sufficient money in the different currencies.

Since the introduction of the Euro, it is much simpler to travel in Germany, France, Belgium and Italy, but there are still islands (like Great Britain or Switzerland) who do not accept the Euro as their national currency. Lets not discuss if this is good or bad, its a fact that you have from time to time exchange one currency for another.

Currency exchange is a messy business, offered by your trusted banker, glossy online brokers and then some dodgy homeless unshaven street fraudster offering “velly cheap” rates, preferably bought in combination with some illegal telephone cards.

I had some serious exchange to do, and choosing the right path can save you hundreds of £ or €, and more US$. The problem is, you never know what the right path is, and I decided to to split my transfer from Germany to the UK into 3 equal portions, choosing 3 different means of transfer and comparing the final result. One will be the best way, the others… lets call them a learning fee.

The task was simple: exchanging Euros to Pounds, while making a international fund transfer from a German € account into a UK £ account, and I choose 3 path, blue, yellow and green, coloured by the logo of the institution involved in the actual FX trade.

The blue path

the SEPA way

European bureaucrats hail SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) as a big financial step in unification money transfers in the Europe. And I must agree, it is very comfortable. All you need is a IBAN and SWIFTBIC code, and you can transfer funds from Germany to England, from France to Luxembourg, with one form, and unified fees, most often no fees. The catch is that you can only transfer Euro’s, so you can send Euro’s from Germany to the UK, but if you want British Pounds coming out of the pipe, the exchange will be done after the actual money transfer, by your UK local bank.

The yellow path
traditional international money transfer

This is done with long forms, many informations, you need the address of the receiving bank and the recipient, so in case anything goes wrong they can send you a letter. Quite traditional, and slower, and there is a fee. But the major difference to SEPA is: you can send a foreign currency, not just Euro’s. Using this path, you can select for the exchange from Euro’s into Pounds is done at the origin of the transfer, in Germany, and the UK bank receives Pounds, which they then just deposit into your UK account.

The green path
using a online foreign exchange broker

I think we all have a healthy portion of distrust to big banks, specially in the field of foreign exchange, where there is lot of movement but little accountability. Using a online broker is a interesting alternative, as they offer online a high level of information, transparency and control. You decide what exchange rate is used, you can wait for it to go up or down, and lock it in simply by pressing the enter key. You then have sold and bought the currencies involved, and have 4 days to provide the money.

Not sure what happens if you do not provide the money, but maybe you will have a chance to meet some friends of Tony Soprano… kidding, it just gets quickly expensive with roll-overs, so better pay in a timely manner, or if there is a problem: call them and be honest. This green path requires more actions then just filling in one online form, but you feel like sitting in the driver seat, informed about what is going to happen at what rate.

The results

Surprisingly to me, the clear winner was the traditional international money transfer, the yellow path. No SEPA IBAN hype, no online trading, it even had a clear advantage over the online broker, and I may have saved hundreds of pounds if I went for this path alone. But I didn’t, and it would never have been my first choice, as I am a confessing Nintendo kid, enjoying my online experience.

As you can see from the table above, I made some adjustments (negative values) for the yellow and green path. On the yellow path its the German fee of 19.50 € converted into 16.08 £ and for the green path its the difference in trading date, as the first 2 trades were done on the 11.1., and the third one 2 days later. By then the FX rate improved for a sale of Euro’s, thus the small “handicap” of 14.80 £ to make the results comparable.

I am most disappointed by my UK bank, not only for applying a very bad retail rate, but also for not even telling me in the statement what exactly contributed to the final amount.

The big blue-yellow difference can not be found in the FX mid rate fluctuation, as it was trading in a narrow band from 10.1.-12.1.  All rates (blue, yellow and green) are for normal customers, no friend and family bonus applied. All orders were placed online, the blue and yellow ones on a Sunday within a short time window of few minutes.

Following these results, I gained 2 major insights:

1) understand the fees, but do not worry too much about them

At first sight I was shocked to be charged a fixed fee on the yellow path, but this actually proved the most economical route. Fixed fees are good for large amounts, but bad for smaller amounts to be exchanged. In the business of currency exchange, fees are usually well hidden, and please do not trust anybody who starts his advertisement with a “No fees” promise, run away quickly. Everybody always charges fees, there is no free lunch, if it sounds to good to be true, it isn’t true.

Most of the time, the fee, or profit for the bank or broker, is hidden in the exchange rate offered. The professionals will not use the mid rate, but their sell or buy rate, and the distance of these rates to the mid rate are in effect the hidden fees.

I liked the transparency of the green path, the broker clearly quoted the mid rate (0.8355), also called the commercial rate, and the used rate (0.8143), called the retail rate. For the 4k of Euro’s exchanged this represents a implied fee of 84.80 £, or about 2.6%. If you want to learn more, watch the educational video “Commission Free” is a Myth <<< of RabbitFX.

2) the music is in the FX mid rate used

The biggest factor in foreign exchange is timing, but to get that right you have to understand the market. I assume no one of us is a FX professional, monitoring the market movements on a daily basis and understanding the influencing factors, therefore we are ready to use for occasional currency exchange the rate is prevailing at the time of exchange. But even some days of observation, trying to hit at the right time, can save you more money then all the fees directly or indirectly charged by the banks or brokers.

If you look at the pink points, representing 2 very different FX rates just for this one week, and manage to hit the right (high) rate on the Friday, the difference can suddenly be 80£ more positive on 4k€.

I will make this effort next time I have a greater amount to exchange. As you plan your holiday well in advance, you should also try to understand the exchange rate tendencies, at least have a feeling to better wait some days, or quickly exchange right now. And then the green path may well be the best path.

The online website of brokers provide a lot of analytical information, and you could quickly “earn” the money for your first candlelight dinner on the beach.

Original Harley-Davidson mini-skirt

Posted in DIY, Harley-Davidson with tags , , , on December 12, 2010 by bleiglass

As some of you may know, I “changed” my front fender, and had to replace some chrome. But what does a mini-skirt have to do with a flimsy tin-can?

Well, the Harley Davidson original front fender skirt is a extremly flimsy piece of sheet metal, with some black lines printed on it.

I like the brightly shining skirts I sometimes see on other bikes, and wondered how much polish they needed to achieve that look. Immersing yourself into the accessories bible of Harley, you find a whole collection of different styles, and, as I like to stay true to style, I ordered the Road King Classic one.

First I thought the price for this small piece of simple metal to be excessively high, as I had already removed the old one and while holding it in my hand, was not impressed at all.

But after collecting the new one, what a surprise! This new skirt is a serious piece of metal, with raised accent ribs and a die-cast medallion. and its heavy, it is actually 4.5 times as heavy as the original skirt.

I wonder what other “original” components on my Road King  are as low quality as the original front fender skirt. This upgrade clearly added value… and weight!

After Xmas I go on a diet again, to compensate…