Saturday Jun 5, 2021
With a running bike now at my disposal, I endeavored to get out for saddle time as much as possible, getting in a local 400 miler, then a 1000 mile day around Vermont. On the homefront, things were still not quite in tune. After such a long time off the bike, I felt both guilty heading out for a ride and pressure about the upcoming trip. I was putting in extra hours at the new job, which I was enjoying immensely, and had to make myself set aside time for riding. I wasn’t used to having the choice with the bike out of commission all winter. Our dog’s health was worrisome and a source of constant heartache and uncertainty.
While I continued prepping and planning for the rally, I knew I might need to abort at any point, depending on how things unfolded. It was only about a week before departure that I finally accepted the situation for what it was. Very rarely would all conditions be 100% convenient and perfect for leaving on a trip like this. For now, I’d proceed full steam ahead until conditions dictated otherwise. That included a bit of last minute farkling, from want and necessity.
I’d had my eye on Garmin’s latest Zumo XT model GPS for a while, but hadn’t been able to justify the purchase with a perfectly functional (if rather brick-like) 595 model already in place. While I’d never really been thrilled with the 595, I was used to it and it also served as my tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Garmin seems to be phasing out that feature on newer models. When I spotted the XT on sale, I went ahead and ordered one.
I didn’t really intend to install it before the upcoming rally, but I began looking into options to replace the tire pressure functionality, just to be prepared. The Garmin TPMS worked on Bluetooth and had always been flaky. It frequently disconnects, eats up batteries, and is not convenient to monitor while riding, requiring four screen taps just to see the air pressure.
I considered the FOBO system briefly, which utilizes a phone app and Bluetooth connection to monitor the tire sensors. Despite positive comments in the online forums, I didn’t like the idea of running yet another semi-critical function on my phone. Bluetooth connections use a lot of battery juice, and I would still need to click around on the screen in order to view the tire pressure.
I’d heard good reports about the simple $50 motorcycle TPMS packages available on Amazon. They seem to be sold under a few different brand names, but are probably all manufactured under the same roof in China. The kit consists of a small mountable monitoring device with two valve sensors connected by a more industry-standard and reliable RF bandwidth connection.
I picked up the Sykik SRTP-300 kit and ran a mounting bolt for it through my homemade bracket for the cruise control button pad. Now I had a readout for tire pressure always available at a glance.
Over the course of my last few rides, I’d experienced power loss to the 595 several times. The problem had worsened until I couldn’t count on the GPS to even last through a local day ride. I’d already fixed the known issue with the battery not charging (multiple times), and decided to replace the battery in case the problems were related. They weren’t, although the battery charging issue seemed fixed at last. That meant either the wiring or the unit itself was the problem.
Since I now had my replacement TPMS solution in place, and I’d be digging under the plastic anyway, I decided to proceed with installing the new XT. Once again removing the left-side fairing (and everything else that goes along with that!), I pulled out the 595 harness and installed the sleeker XT setup. Long ago, I had split one of my OEM accessory connections to power my two GPS units, with a pigtail I’d crimped with OEM-style molex connectors. I added the necessary connector to the XT harness and got everything neatly routed and connected.
With the lighter weight of the XT, I was able to go back to using a 1″ RAM ball mount (from the heavy-duty 1.5″ that the 595 required to stay in position). I had to spend quite a bit of time fiddling with different mount positions and RAM components for my secondary Zumo 350 GPS, but eventually got everything to tuck behind the windshield when it was all the way down.
While everything was opened up, I also installed the fast-charging MotoPuck add-on to my Perfect Squeeze phone mount (aka “Juiced Squeeze”), a more durable solution than the cheap charging disc I’d taped on there 2 years ago (which was still working, btw).
After buttoning up the plastic and enjoying a beautiful day on a local ride, I was chagrined to see the same power loss issue to my brand new XT. Something was obviously up with the wiring and so I headed for home to track down the issue for good. More plastic removal and cursing ensued. At one point, the small transformer box on the XT harness broke apart and required gluing, but it didn’t seem to cause any functional issues..
My splitter pigtail was the most likely suspect, as power would sometimes flicker to the unit when I moved that bundle of wires around by hand. I tried modifying it with 3-way bullet connectors, to ensure solid connectivity and easy disconnection, but the problem persisted. Long story short, I ran a pair of new cables for the XT directly back to my PC-8 fuse block and eliminated the splitter. I couldn’t afford any chances this problem would happen on the rally.
My theory is the OEM harness connection didn’t have enough juice (amps?) to continuously power both GPS units with the added resistance of the splitter connectors (?). Anyhow, I now have separately fused switched power to both GPS units, which have been rock solid ever since.
The final mod involved my hydration system. I’d been happily using the MotoJug bag with a modified one gallon Coleman thermos lid for the past few years. While this solution is versatile and kept my water cold for at least a day, I had the following concerns with it:
- The white plastic thermos had gotten irreversibly filthy from road grime and leaking oil, especially after the 48-10.
- Replacing the thermos is cheap, but I’d have to re-modify the lid again and I was never happy with the flexible tubing being run inside, where it gets caught up on the ice.
- Removing and replacing the thermos into the MotoJug bag after refilling was a two-hand/two-knee job that was a PITA, especially when pressed for time on a rally. I also had to be careful to watch out for all the straps to ensure nothing got melted on my exhaust.
The stainless steel jugs from Yeti and RTIC had been getting more notice, and when I saw someone post up photos using a solid-looking Yeti 1-gallon jug mount and a flush-mounted quick-disconnect, I had to attempt an upgrade. I ordered the cheaper RTIC jug , the Yeti mount, and these quick-disconnect parts, then spent some time fiddling with mounting ideas. With lead time growing short to the rally, I quickly came up with a solution involving a well-pounded U-bolt and a single nylon strap.
After a couple test rides, I added some velcro to hold the strap in place and was very pleased with the clean-looking install and ease of jug removal. The stainless steel should be much easier to clean as well. In the future, I may adjust this to run bolts down through the mount bottom and a bar underneath the peg with wingnuts, to make removal a bit easier in the field, but I rather like the simplicity of the current solution.
With these upgrades complete, and especially the GPS power issue solved (proven with a couple more local rides), I felt like the bike was ready to rally. I wasn’t so sure about myself, but it was time to start getting psyched up. I was looking forward to spending time in Provo with my LD comrades. I knew once I rolled out the driveway onto the roads, I’d have a singular focus for the next two weeks. I’d fall back into the comfort and freedom of being in the saddle for days on end, and the thrill of ticking the miles and hours off while visiting unexpected and interesting places for POINTS. This certainly wasn’t going to be the same rally experience as 2019, but I hoped it would be just as fun, challenging, and memorable.
PS. Oh and after a bunch of chatter on the private rally forum about never having enough good flashlights, I picked up a FRIKKIN LASER BEAM. 😀