Saturday, December 22, 2012

Velocity Ferocity

Since I've been unemployed for a awhile I decided I'd poke around with the Android development kit.  It started as a curiosity thing, trying to discover the different capabilities of my Android phones.  But eventually I decided I'd try to do something useful.  ...  Well, ok, maybe not like "hey look, I cured cancer"-useful but something more than "wow, it plays Pong"-useful.

I created a GPS-based lap timer.  Using the GPS on the phone (or an external GPS connected via Bluetooth) it can time my laps and help show me where my riding can be improved.  I intend to use it on the bike, but it's just as happy in a car.

No, this certainly isn't the first GPS lap timer for Android.  There are more than a few.  (And more than a few for iPhones as well.)  I've tried a couple of them and some are pretty good.  But I was put off when one of the most popular Android ones deleted my data.  I'd spent over over $400 and a couple of days at the track and it suddenly the data was gone.  I figured I could write an application better than that.

I released the first version to the Google Play store a couple weeks ago.  You can find it here.  I'm hoping to send out updates every few weeks.  Eventually there will be a couple other similar applications.

If you like to drive in circles, and you want to know how fast you are, and you have $3, give it a try and let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Quick Pics

I was able to get the car out of the garage today to see my latest handiwork in the sun.

The repairs certainly aren't invisible but the giant cloudy mess I was worried about didn't materialize and things are a whole lot better than they were before I started.  I may invest in some proper paint and patch a few more spots.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

That'll Buff Right Out

After pounding my head against software issues for a couple of days I decided to switch gears.  My "To Do" list includes "get rid of green TR6" so I decided I'd put some time into it.

Sometime in its past the TR6 had an owner with an addiction.  (I suppose anyone silly enough to own a Triumph probably has some form of addiction.  Likely an addiction to the smell of burning oil.  But that's not what I mean.)  They were addicted to touch-up paint.  Absolutely in love with it.  They needed to hold it, to fondle it, to see it's lustrous color-matched sheen everywhere.  Sadly the end result is a car with dozens of brushed on gobs of paint.  And I do mean brushed on.  Maybe the little mountains of paint look better than the scratches they're covering.  But I doubt it.

Today I bit the bullet and tried to fix them.  I've never worked with automotive paint before (except for painting the bike which I don't think counts).  I assumed there was a good chance I'd ruin it and have to get the whole car professionally repainted but if I did nothing I'd probably have to get it repainted in order to sell it anyway.

I did a little reading (to reaffirm what I thought I already knew) and headed off to buy supplies:
  • Sandpaper (320 grit)
  • A few microfiber cloths
  • Sandpaper (600 grit)
  • Some foam applicator pads
  • Sandpaper (1500 grit)
  • A small bowl of water
  • Rubbing compound (which is essentially 2000 grit sandpaper)

Notice the sandpaper?  Yeah, me too.  It's the #1 reason I haven't tried this before.  The idea of taking sandpaper to a car just makes me cringe.  I don't care if it's 1500 grit it's still sandpaper!

This is where I started.  (It's hard to get a picture that really shows how messy these touch-ups are  but bear with me.)  There are three spots in a triangle around the reflection of the light.  All of them big enough to catch a fingernail on.

I started with the 320grit.  (I should have gone straight to the 600.)  Here's what a few minutes of wet sanding produced.

This is when I started to freak out.  I used to have 3 quarter-size spots that were only visible from within about 20 feet.  And now I've made the problem areas 3 times larger and 10 times as obvious.  Well, I'm committed now I might as well keep going.  The 600 grit yielded...

Great.  It still looks bad and now the spots are huge.  My understanding was that 1500 grit will clear this up.

Wrong.  I've now ruined about 10% of the entire hood in an attempt to fix three minor blemishes.  I feel pretty stupid.  Moving on to the rubbing compound.

Woot!  The rubbing compound got rid of the cloudy surface.  Yes, the original patches are still visible, but you've got to work much harder to find them, especially when you see the car in person.

I've spent 4 hours to address 6 similar areas.  Some were more successful than others but all of them are an improvement.

Hopefully I'll say the same thing when I get the car out of the garage and into the natural sunlight.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Data Collection

I've been playing with an Android-based app on my phone to collect some data about my riding. The goal is to see how consistent I am from lap to lap. In addition to the sensors (that include accelerometers and gyroscopes) and the internal GPS it connects to an external GPS via bluetooth.  I did this because, quite honestly, most phone GPSes stink for this kind of thing.  They update once per second (at most) and are accurate to maybe 20ft.  I picked up an external GPS for about $90 that updates much faster and with greater accuracy.

The app isn't nearly done but I took it on my drive yesterday to collect a large data set.  Here's the position and elevation data it gathered.

Which correlates well with the Google-Map route I posted yesterday.  So my code isn't completely broken.  (The two gaps in the elevation graph are the two long stops I made for food 9:15 and 12:30.)

But since I'm not planning to use this 460-mile loop as my track I need to look at the noise at a much smaller scale.  I found a nice hairpin turn to focus on.  (The little red circle in the first picture.)  Here's what it looks like on Google Maps.

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Here's what my app collected

If you look closely you can see the individual data points.  I get 10 samples per second so about one every 6 feet as I drove through this turn.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

North Cascades Highway

For the third weekend in a row I made a significant contribution to global warming. This time on four wheels. After having ridden WA-504 I thought I should try WA-20. According to Destination Highways WA-20 is the #1 road in Washington to drive. (WA-504 comes in 2nd or 3rd.) Here's the route:

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Expecting a 12-hour day I got off to an early start.  I headed out about 6:45am.  I arrived in Sedro-Woolley around 9:00am and figured that would be a good spot to refuel, grab some grub, and make a quick sanity-check on the car.

Sedro-Woolley is pretty typical small-town-Washington.  Which is to say that it's nothing like Seattle or Redmond: the locals are happy to chat and the ethnic diversity is about zero.  Other than WA-20 itself I think 50% of Sedro-Woolley is in that picture.  If you find yourself there I highly recommend the cinnamon rolls at the Hometown Cafe.

S Skagit Highway and WA-20 East of Sedro-Woolley is the road I had come for.  I definitely wasn't disappointed.  Most of the road is tree-covered, narrow, two-lane blacktop.  It's rural farmland.  I'm not sure it's better or worse than WA-504 but it's definitely different.  Where WA-504 has wide lanes and huge vistas that seem to beg for more throttle WA-504 has a sedate, back-country-road feel.  In retrospect the TR6 was the right choice.  The Ducati just wouldn't be as happy here.

The town of Winthrop marks the end of the more amusing section of WA-20.  I guess every summer weekend Winthrop sees a lot of visitors (the town seems built around tourism) but today had the added bonus of being a charity ride for a local motorcycle club.  There were probably 100 bikes in town.  I was lucky to find a place to park.

After grabbing some homemade ice-cream, a drink, and some sunblock I was off again just after 1pm.

If you're planning a trip, and you don't have time constraints, and you have to choose between "US-XX" and "Alt US-XX" I recommend "Alt".  Why?  Dunno, it just seems to work for me.  I might encounter more traffic lights but I'll almost always have less traffic.  So I picked Alt US-97 which takes a nice route around Lake Chelan and the Chelan River. ... The people in the city of Chelan have a good gig.

If you're planning a trip, and you don't have time constraints, and you think a "NF-XX" road looks interesting I suggest you be careful what you wish for. In my attempt to get off of US-2 I decided to detour up Chumstick Road to Little Wenatchee River Rd to NF-65 and NF-6700.  Chumstick was great.  Little Wenatchee was nice too.  Then I passed a sign that said "End of County Road" and suddenly the road was 4 feet narrower.  No problem, by car is pocket-sized.  Then came NF-6700.  I'm sure I checked the satellite images on Google Maps.  Apparently I didn't.  NF-6700 is unpaved.

At first I thought it was just an unpaved section and I'd soon get to the good stuff.  After 4 miles I realized there wasn't going to be any good stuff.  I could either backtrack the 4 miles of dirt and another 50 of asphalt or just finish the last 8 miles of dirt.  I chose the latter.  Although progress was slow it was some of the best scenery in the whole trip.

After getting back to WA-2 things went smoothly.  (Well, except for the one deer that made a foray into my lane.)  I arrived back at home around 7:30pm.  Both me and The Triumph seem to be in one piece but we're both pretty dirty.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Going Back For Seconds (and Thirds)

I've been in Seattle 8 years and, despite it's status as one of the nicest drives around, last weekend was the first time I'd been to the West side of Mt St Helens.  As luck would have it the second time came 6 days later.  A friend was part of a BMW motorcycle event and he wanted to get out and do some more riding.  He convinced me to meet him in Centralia on Friday.

I often say "Even a lab-rat learns from experience." and I like to think I'm a step or two ahead of a lab-rat.  Since I hadn't completely recovered from long ride the previous Saturday, and getting to Centralia is about as boring as you can imagine, I decided to take the trailer.  (Sure, go ahead, tell me I'm a poseur, a fraud, a typical Ducati owner.  I'd rebut your statements but first I have to finish my venti, no-whip, one-pump, soy, iced, chai latte.)

Friday afternoon Wil and I decided to go up 504.  The weather forecast was not good but the rain had been holding off so far and the weather was supposed to be improving.

Turns out it didn't.  The ride up was okay. There was occasional drizzle but nothing to worry about. The ride down was cloudy. "Cloudy" meaning "in a cloud." The rain and visibility ranged from bad to worse. In some cases I had to use the taillights of the car in front of me to know where the road was. By the time we reached the bottom again I was soaked.

We got back to the hotel, cleaned up, and went for dinner.

In the morning we took a round-about way to a little roadside diner in Oakville.  From there my friend headed home and I went back to the hotel.  After packing up and checking out I headed off on another ride.

For the third time in 6 days I was at the Johnson Observatory so I figured I should pay the fee, see the exhibits, and try to learn something besides "BMW drivers think 'Slow vehicle lane' doesn't apply to them."  The exhibits are about what you'd expect.  There were a couple of short films about the 1980 eruption (spoiler alert: the mountain explodes at the end.)

By 4pm I was back at the hotel and more than ready to call it a day.  I loaded up the trailer and headed home.  The executive summary:
  • 415 miles on the bike
  • 200 miles in the car
  • 2 educational films about Mt St Helens
  • 1 unnecessary rainstorm

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Spirit Lake

An inventory of yesterday:
  • 1 group ride
  • 5 bikes
  • 6 people
  • 11 hours
  • 350 miles
  • 0 rain
The ride was to Spirit Lake (the West side of Mt St. Helens).  Here's roughly the route we took:

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I'd never been to the West side of the mountain and WA-504 is supposed to be one of the best motorcycle roads in Washington. So I'd been looking forward to this ride for awhile.

Things did not get off to an auspicious start, the forecast called for rain, the sky was threatening, and the first hour was spent on freeways or in light-to-light traffic.  Things didn't really improve until we stopped for lunch in Elbe.  The roads were better, the traffic was light, even the sky had cleared.  We made our last gas stop near Toledo and from there it was a non-stop run to the visitors center at Spirit Lake.

Whoever built (and maintains) WA-504 needs a raise.  The lanes are wide and smooth and clean.  Even at decent speeds there aren't many blind corners.  The scenery isn't bad either.  I didn't get it all on video but this will give you a good idea of what it's like (no mom, I wasn't going this fast, the video is at 4x speed).

The visitors center has some pretty good views of Mt St Helens.  Even MiniMe enjoyed it.

After Spirit Lake the group separated.  Three bikes were headed to a camping event near Mt Rainier while my cousin and I headed back home.  The ride back was less pleasant.  We returned to Toledo then simply took the freeways home.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Going Green With Envy

Things around my house break.  I feel like I've spent the last 2 weeks just sticking fingers in the dike.  The compressor on the fridge gave out, the garage door opener broke, even the dog has needed weekly trips to the vet.

I finally entinguished the fires this afternoon.  So I went to Home Depot to get a jump on some less critical projects.  And what do I find in the parking lot?...

That's a Fisker Karma EV.   An electric, 4-door sedan.  It looks very nice in person.  Here's what Car and Driver had to say about it.

I'm guessing (although he is at Home Depot so I could be wrong) that his fridge still works.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse on Wheels

Do you know why the zombies always lose?  Because they gimp around on foot.  Clearly you can't conquer anything on foot.  What the zombies need is a car.  What kind of car would a zombie drive?  One that's come back from the dead of course.

On an almost unrelated note...

Today I put 60 miles on The Triumph.

That's more miles than it's seen in a long time.  How long?  It last left its garage in the Fall of 2007.  (For this picture.)  And even then it had to be pushed because trying to start it resulted in a quart of fuel on the floor.  At the time I figured I'd fix it when I got around to it.

I got around to it 4 1/2 years later.

By then its gas was 6 years old.  The tank came out, the carbs came off, the fuel filter and some of the lines were replaced.  It could have been worse.  In the end the fuel leak was caused by bad o-rings on the float bowls.  But 6 years of storage meant a little more work was required.  Most of the fluids were flushed, rubber hoses replaced, and some minor electrical work done.

The "recent" entries in the log book now look like:

   Date     Mileage
2004-03-12  141127
2004-05-13  141338
2005-05-30  141524
2006-05-15  141692
2006-06-03  141790
2006-06-03  141873
2012-06-02  141894

Which means in the 8 years it's been in Seattle (it arrived in March 2004) it's covered less than 1000 miles.  But there is hope on the horizon.  I woke up this morning to see this weather forecast:

Monday, July 02, 2012

Custom Sportbike

Don't get me wrong, I like sportbikes.  They're an impressive mix of design and engineering.  But I've always thought they were too homogenous.  One CBR1000 is pretty much the same as the next.

Cruisers (and in particular Harleys) span a much wider range.  A stock Harley bike is a blank canvas used to draw almost anything imaginable.  Where a stock sportibke is a nearly finished picture that only leaves a few minor details to the discretion of the owner.

That's why I was happy to see this bike:

It's a Yamaha FZ1 that started it's life something like this:

It might not be a huge amount of work (remove the fairings and fenders, new seat, new taillights, new mirrors, new exhaust) but the personality of the bike is radically different.

Kudos to someone willing to draw outside the lines.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Track Days

So far this year I've been to 4 track days.  (That's more than I went to in 2010 and 2011 combined.)  The first two were known quantities: Pacific Raceways with 2-Fast.

The last two were new.  I was riding at The Ridge Motorsports Park near Shelton with a group called PSSR.

The track is impressive.  It just opened this year so the surface is excellent.  It has a much more open feel to it than Pacific does, but there's enough elevation changes and interesting sections to make it a little tricky.

Here's a video of a single lap:
The data is from the bikes on-board system.  (I did a little hacking to parse the file and make a usable format.)  Seeing this on top of the video pointed out some things I need to work on.  I had another source of data about my riding as well, it was an app on my phone, and it's data was eye-opening as well.  Unfortunately that data was lost before I could put it into a video.

(Hopefully I'll have more to say about data collection in the not-too-distant future.)

Before going out there I watched some similar videos from other riders in the hopes of getting a sense of the track.  What didn't come through in those videos was the descent in turns 13, 14, and 15.  (At 0:15 and 2:35 in the video.)  Here's the view of those turns from the paddock:
For scale: the turn workers tower on the top of the hill is probably 15' tall.

Coming down that hill really feels like you're falling over the front of your bike.  It was a little spooky the first few times.

The track is an easy 90-minute drive from home.  With some luck I'll be back again this season.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Comeback

Once again I've ignored my blog for a long long time.

Once again I'm not losing much sleep over that fact.

But since I've found this blog to be a useful reference for me in the long term (as "Hey, when was I replacing the seats on the TR6?") I'll  spend a little time getting this blog up to date.

Speaking of using this blog as a time reference: I noticed it's been three years since I measured our home electricty usage.  At the time I figured cutting power might be like dieting: you work hard to stop doing the bad things, you see a lot of progress, but 8 months later you're back eatting a Big Mac with the a/c set at 62.  I'm happy to say our efforts haven't followed a similar path.

I usually track how much power we use on a 12-month rolling average.  In early 2009 we were averaging 46kWh per day.  By July 2010 we were down to 30kWh per day (despite adding new computers and appliances).  Since then it's been between 26 and 29kWh.

I invested $25 (on a Kill-A-Watt) and a few hours of my time and it's saved me over $1900 in electricity in 3 years.  Not too shabby in my opinion.