Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

Night of Broken Bikes

June 28th, 2008 1 comment

This is an unusual tale of mechanical mystery, charming chivalry and late-night suspense. Friday night was my last shift as Crew Chief at The Ironworks, a beautiful venue that has been my home at the Jazz Fest for 4 years. Although the Ironworks studio, an artistic space in an actual converted metal-working shop previously known as Burrard Ironworks, is sophisticated and beautiful inside, it is located in the worst part of Vancouver. The neighbourhood is one of the poorest postal codes in Canada and many homeless people wander the streets in company with drug addicts and mentally ill individuals. The area is starting to gentrify, behind security barracades, but the streets are still mean and inhabitants are unpredictable — it is the Downtown Eastside.

I went down to The Ironworks early, as the venue manager had requested that I be there at 6:30pm. I complied and helped organize the other volunteers by orienting and assisting the hospitality volunteer and making sure everyone else knew what they were supposed to be doing. My job as Crew Chief is to keep the volunteers happy, make sure they have water or soft drinks and get a break when they need it. I also keep an eye on the venue and support the venue manager.

While I was changing my boots for shoes, I left a message with Simon that my red+white loaner FJ motorcycle was developing the same clutch problem that my blue+black FJ had last year. I had noticed him leaning it over at angles I cannot achieve without becoming completely horizontal, and pumping the clutch to remove the air from the lines. Somewhere in the clutch system, which is supposed to be full of a pressurized oil, there were air bubbles getting in.

1660-1100w1200top2_sm.png Read more…


Yamaha FJ Road Ready

April 25th, 2008 2 comments

I went over to Simon’s after work as I have been having a bit of a problem shifting gears. It was not happening all the time, so it made it difficult to diagnose. Occasionally, the bike would refuse to shift into 3rd gear. It would “hit the ceiling” as it does in 5th and give my foot the signal that there are no more upshifts here. I left a phone message for Simon, then rode around a bit. I can easily ride to work in 2nd gear as the Fj is so powerful, but the high revs are not good in the long run. It was only happening from time to time and I started to think that, in Simon’s parlance, “It’s the nut behind the wheel”, particularly when the nut has new boots on ….

It started getting worse, so when Simon called, I was happy to go over and poke around on the bike. It always astonishes me when I see how easily he moves these big machines around. I try not to react when he casually holds the bike up with one hand before putting it up on the centre stand with a quick practiced motion. I mentally coach myself that Simon can do this and I don’t have to rush over to steady the bike or “help” him.

He quickly diagnosed the problem as a need for lubrication in the joints and then he rode the bike around the back to do the work. I tried to help, but I think I mostly got in the way. Despite my assistance, Simon managed to lube the significant parts, tighten and oil the chain and put the right amount of air in the tires. Only Simon could have made my throttle work better by putting the counterweight in the lathe and shaving it down a hair.

I always enjoy Simon’s company as he shows me all of his projects and the bikes he is working on. I rode off and started feeling the difference his changes had made. The work he did on the clutch last year and this work means the Fj shifts like a new bike. The extra air in the front tire made me feel the bumps on the road and I almost lost it going into a gas station. I am not used to that much of a direct road feel as I went over the driveway bump. I will get used to it, I am sure and the extra air made it corner so much better!

Simon says: make sure your chain is lubed and adjusted properly and keep checking your tire pressure as every bike looses some air.

Thanks Simon!

Categories: 1990 Yamaha FJ 1200

Yamaha FJ – On the Road

April 20th, 2008 No comments

Two sunny days in a row happened last weekend, so on Monday I bought insurance for the big bike — my Yamaha FJ1200. By Friday, I was riding confidently, under a partly cloudy sky, to Yaletown. I was scheduled to meet with a documentary film maker who wanted to interview me about one of my teachers and the benefits of her program.

After the interview, which was quite short, I thought I would join my daughter for dinner, so I phoned her as it started to rain. We made plans, but as I talked to her the rain turned to small beads of hail. I decided to have a coffee and wait this one out. The closest Starbucks was the only organic coffee in the area. Starbucks will go organic if you insist, they will make you a bodum press of organic coffee if they don’t have any on tap. As the hail was quite fierce, I lingered over the brew, but then it started to clear up a bit. I quickly saw my chance to head out, returned to my bike and shook the hail off the bike cover. The FJ started easily, even in the cold, but I knew the remnants of the hail was still on the street, so I was careful not to start or stop too quickly.

I started to head over to my daughter’s house, but decided to go home instead as it was really cold and I was worried about the weather. I had seen a couple of lightning strikes and the big, dark clouds now covered the sky. I was quite close to home when the hail started coming down again. My hands freezing as I drove very carefully on the slippery stuff, I managed to park outside my house and cover the bike quickly. The hail was coming down very thickly by then and I felt lucky to have made it home.

Later, I looked out the window and confirmed I had made the right choice.


In Vancouver, it usually snows enough to cover the ground a couple of times a year. This was taken Friday, April 18th, 2008. The spring flowers are out, the daffodils and tulips are blooming and the early cherry trees are already finished. It is so unusual that I know this unseasonable cold is a symptom of climate change. This cold and hail must be affecting the local farmers and gardeners. There are some people who think that the global warming can cause an ice age as the pendulum swings back to self-correct the climate. I am worried about the future, but I will do what I can in the present.


Categories: 1990 Yamaha FJ 1200

Streaming from a Motorcycle Outline

January 30th, 2008 2 comments


Sketch of Bike cam logo idea by Victoria

Streaming Video From a Motorcycle

Required Equipment





Image Capture Device

  • camera

  • lense and recorder (helmetcam or isight)



Notebook Computer

  • Macintosh Powerbook

  • Ubuntu Powerbook

Choice of OS may lead to using two notebook computers

Backup always good, but space limited.



Satellite Modem

  • many choices

  • data calls expensive

  • Sponsorship an option



Monitor Device

  • cell phone monitor stream

  • small LCD screen



Voice Communications

Satellite cell phone with Bluetooth headset and networking



Video Switching device

Handlebar mounted video switching device to stream camera1 or 2


Streaming Server

Many options including free services



Isn't that dangerous?

December 30th, 2007 No comments

Riding a motorcycle is always dangerous and riding in unfamiliar territory increases the risk. However, I am a very careful rider and my mandate is to capture the video, deliver the workshops, present the electronic music events and bring the whole show back in one piece.

The major hazard is dropping my bike over. I am a small person and there is no way I can pick up this motorcycle. I will have to be super careful, especially when the tank is full, even that change in balance can create a problem. Every time I have dropped the bike it has been stopped with a full tank. Due to the need to keep the center of gravity low, I will not have a case on top of the bike and I will be looking for ways to reduce the weight of everything I carry.

Read more…

Categories: 1990 Yamaha FJ 1200

Motorcycle Camera Mount Research

December 2nd, 2007 No comments

There are many people recording video from moving motorcycles, so I decided to post a few links to show some of the mounting technologies that I might use to attach a video camera to the Yamaha FJ motorcycle.

This is a Suzuki motorcycle, but my Yamaha has the same type of gas tank fill cap. I don’t have a grab bar on the back similar to where the second camera is mounted.

Videos made by to promote their group tours in the U.S. are edited well and show the group riding safely. Jones Helmet camera system has made videos of racing motorcycles, sailboats and even hot air balloons. Youtube and other video sites feature countless video clips taken with helmet cams and other video capture devices, but the quality is extremely uneven. I have not yet found anyone who is streaming directly from a motorcycle except for GP and other races that feed to a nearby truck, not directly on to the internet.

European motorcycle riders also have posted video of rides in the Alps, but they are not for the safety oriented. They are definitely in the sport bike category, with tips on penalties for speeding around the world. Don’t speed in Norway or you will loose your license! Fortunately, Canada is listed as one of the most reasonable on this topic, however, my license is completely clean and I intend to keep it that way. I may tour though Montana on my way home to make some “need for speed” video footage as there are no speed limits outside of certain zones there. That is definitely outside the scope of this tour.

These video examples give you an idea of the good quality of video production that can be obtained using consumer grade video equipment. One of the major writers of the pashnit site is a former Yamaha FJ 1200 owner who claims to have ridden over 30,000 miles on the bike before he sold it.

Here is the most economical mount yet …. the $5. camera mount. The sound on his video is mostly wind noise as he has no windshield. Great idea though. Unfortunately, my FJ has a very different system for the handlebars. Another problem is my windshield is so opaque that I don’t think I should take any video through it. That brings me to the idea of mounting a camera on my helmet.  Read more…


The Touring Machine

October 30th, 2007 5 comments


This is my 1990 Yamaha Fj, by far the largest and most powerful motorcycle I have owned in my over 30 year history of owning motorcycles.

My bike: 1990 Yamaha FJ 1200

 Many thanks to my mechanic, Simon, who has just finished rebuilding the clutch. There were some pesky problems, but Simon knows these bikes very well and is an invaluable resource.

Since this picture was taken, I have replaced the front tire and cleaned up a few minor problems. The major problem has been the hydraulic  clutch, but now it seems to be functioning perfectly.

My insurance for riding expires on November 1, 2007 so it is time for me to take a few last test rides and put the bike in storage for the winter. If I kept it insured I would be out riding in all weather and I don’t think I should give myself that temptation.

I had some great rides this summer – one to Seattle and one to Powell River. The return trip from Seattle took one full tank of gas, cost= $15.00US for over 200 km.

This bike inspires confidence and a feeling of poetry in motion. It can be risky riding alone because I cannot pick it up if it falls, so I try not to fall. I have a lot of experience riding safely and this is a very smooth and great handling machine. The only time I feel the weight is when I am stopped, then I have had a few problems.

I look forward to the tour and will be putting up links to other motorcycle resources and sites of interest.  I will be trying to find sponsors and other people who are interested in seeing the internet travel at 150 kmph!




Categories: 1990 Yamaha FJ 1200