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September 2006 Entries
Matching locks on a 1995 R1100RS Ignition, Panniers and Top box

Through the years, I knew I had made it when the car I drove had one key that worked all of the locks. Moving up the quality chain I was.

When I got the bike, it had two keys on the keyring. I had an invoice which seemed to suggest the top box (the 33 litre BMW top box that also fits the RT, and the 1150 RS and RT) had been bought later. I even had a lock mechanism with the paperwork. Trying the keys out, the ignition key also undoes the seat and the two panniers. The other key worked the top box.

Over the months I've gone through the ritual of always trying the wrong key in the top box first, for some reason bigger than me (the same reason that makes toast fall sticky side down)  it always seemed to be the wrong one. If you read up about it, they tell you that you can take the stuff to a BMW dealer and get them to match things up.

A wee hunt round the web showed up Daniel Ebdon's excellent website, with instructions on how to do things like fit headlamp relays (a future project - I have the parts ;), fit heated grips and modify luggage locks. Now that Motorworks have pictures of their new parts up on the web, I bought the lock repair kit and went for it tonight.

The hardest part is getting the lock out, it is held in by a wee slidy bit of metal on a spring. The idea is you push a small screwdriver or similar through a wee hole and push the slidy bit of metal into the lock mechanism, and this allows the lock to be pulled out on the key.

That done, I swapped the keys over and only had to change one of the tumblers. Sorted, my one ignition key works all of the locks on the bike now. I feel almost posh.

Now I have to figure out how to get my gloves on and off without tangling myself up in bits of velcro..

posted @ Friday, September 29, 2006 10:41 PM | Feedback (0)
Fourth Ride to Advanced

I woke up on Sunday morning to pouring rain, which my waterproof clothing deals with admirably, but I hate the reduced visibility that steamed up visors bring. But if I never rode in rain I'd be stuck in a lot in Scotland, so I got on with it.

I set off along the road and it was ok, with my helmet visor open on its lowest click to stop the steaming up. I tried breathing through my nose or mouth but it didn't seem to make much difference. I took the ride in on the A71 pretty gently, but it was ok, the only thing that caught me out was standing water which I arrived at at the same time as a van on the other side. Not being in a position to swerve, I ran through the middle, creating a bow wave that splashed over my right boot. I've still been wearing my steel toecapped Dr Martins and the water ran up over the laces and down by the tongue. Cue wet feet for the rest of the morning.

Fuelling up at Dreghorn was followed by a roll and coffee at the Little Chef, which was nice and warm. I only left a little damp patch.

When I met up with the other EDAM folks, I was glad I'd made the effort. With the rain putting one or two off from turning up, I stood a better chance of getting an Observer. And right enough I was able to go on a run with the same Bob from last week, and started my progress card. Associates do a number of runs up to a mock test, and a number of areas are checked each week. After last week's run I'm up to week 2 of the card, which is a great start and really reassuring when it comes to my goal of my Advanced test this year.

Bob and I did a run around town, neither of us fancying a run out into the country in the heavy rain. I found it quite a tricky route, I really hate the lack of visibility that comes with the rain, and in town with all the things to see I wasn't that happy with my ride. Bob seemed happier, which cheered me up a bit. There were a few 90 degree turns, some with no way of looking along the road until you were right at the junction. One or two with slopes and cambers all over the place, the steep camber caught me out in one place and I didn't do that well at parking up.

Points to work on? On certain turns or roundabouts I was missing the speed limit change, ending up going too slow on the road I was in. I guess I was thinking too much of the turn and not paying attention to what was going on around me. I am also a bit slow at getting away from the side of the road, or when traffic lights change. In my own mind another variant of the "get on with it" I try and tell myself. Mirror checks and blind spots are another, I need to switch myself to a left - right mirror check. Along with other stuff I have the highway code to get to know, more roadcraft, and my pre-ride check (brakes, fluids etc) and starting and stopping drill. All in the name of safety! And for the test I need to show the examiner that I'm paying attention to signs by a corresponding mirror check and application of the system.

posted @ Monday, September 25, 2006 8:52 PM | Feedback (3)
Microsoft Exam Time Again

I applied one of my personal motivational techniques at the weekend and used the online facility at 2 Test to book my next MCP exam. When I get to the stage when I think I am refining what I know rather than learning new material, I give myself focus by booking the exam. Although it is possible to reschedule, i have never used that facility and gear up for the exam. And it tends to work for me, giving the last four weeks before the exam a bit of a boost.

At this stage in my process I explore the edges of the curriculum covered by the exam by using Transcender test exams. These are regularly updated and in my experience have served to be a more accurate coverage of the source material than the exam related reading material you see on Amazon. Don't get me wrong, I use such books as the first stage, as most are structured in the best way to approach the material.

My use of Transcenders is to check my incorrect answers, and read all of the referenced material. To this end I'd like to recommend Microsoft for their open approach to product documentation. For the exam I am preparing for, the online help and Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit are both available online.

Both of these are invaluable, and I am already finding material that I have had access to but never used. Something I'd never quite got about AD design clicked yesterday when I was looking into Group Policy Objects and Organisational Units. Excellent.

posted @ Wednesday, September 20, 2006 6:56 PM | Feedback (0)
Third Ride to Advanced

If you've been following these posts you will know that I signed up for the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists / Motorcyclists) route to an Advance Motorcycle Test, a method that relies on the talents of local volunteers to check over your standard of riding.

The terminology they use is that currently I am an "Associate", with Membership coming with a successful pass of the Advanced Test. Volunteers that help with the process are called Observers, and there are also Senior Observers and a Chief Observer who coordinates standards. Trainee Observers start by being Members, and work through the process of learning to set routes for Associates, talking through their ride, how to watch what we are up to etc.

While I'm in the process of waiting for an allocated Observer, I'm tagging along to make the best of the weekly opportunities. Today worked out quite well for my tagging along, I joined an associated that was well along in the process to his test, together with a Trainee Observer and one of the Senior Observers.

Being on the third week of this process means I am still on the learning curve with how things work, and I was a bit slow in the uptake today. I don't know the parts of Southern Edinburgh well enough to match the descriptions to places I know, and frankly some places I've never ever been to anyway, so it is mainly a case of keeping someone in view and then getting on with the ride. But I got into the stride of things and tagged along with the ride, the Associate up front, Trainee Observer behind, then me and the Senior Observer too. And once I got into things it went well, the first part of the ride was fine and I didn't feel too left behind. Then when we parked up in an industrial estate, the Trainee Observer talked through the ride, and then the Senior Observer did a followup.

The Observer system is deliberately not called Training, for historical reasons I haven't looked into fully yet and is a ride and debrief model along a chosen route. The debrief plays back the ride, observing how the Associate rode compared to Roadcraft and the highway code. Then as an Associate you see what you need to work on, then off on another stretch again. And repeat! I seemed to get on ok, and had remembered the bits I hadn't done so well, like wandering over the lanes in a roundabout a bit without checking my blind spots. I'm also sharpening up on looking before a move or change in speed, and not the other way round. I also got asked how long I'd been riding, and I think I need to come up with a simpler explanation of my situation. I passed my test 10 years ago, and didn't ride again until I got my own bike last November. I've been riding each month since, but that is really it.

Then a run down to Peebles with opportunities to practice positioning and one or two overtakes, I'm happy ish with positioning, but overtaking is still an experience after being a car driver for years. The accelleration of a bike is still something to get used to, and also understanding the difference to safe overtakes that this makes. Basically, in one or two areas I need to get on with things and not dawdle.

A stop in Peebles with another double debrief, then off to Penicuik, a stop there to chat and then off. The stop in Penecuik was a good stop to talk about Observations with the Trainee Observer, and really illustrated the difference in what can be seen by moving position just a pace or two to the left. We looked at a slight right hand turn in town, and moving to the left showed a number of extra items to see.

Another particularly enjoyable run.

posted @ Sunday, September 17, 2006 10:12 PM | Feedback (0)
Driving theory test, free demo

To help with my learning of the highway code, I tried the free theory test online. Picked the motorcycle test and got 34 out of 35, which was encouraging. The one I got wrong? Bearing in mind that the theory test is for learners, I got the "what should you do if you break down in a tunnel", instead of picking the "put on the hazard lights and go for help" I picked something else.

Small note - not very many motorcycles have hazard lights, mine does (being a big fat BMW) but your little DAS or CBT 125cc doesn't generally.

And don't get me started about the question on towing! An excellent service nonetheless.

posted @ Thursday, September 14, 2006 9:36 PM | Feedback (0)
Comforting eye drops for contact lenses

A discovery I made recently when loitering around Boots the chemists waiting for my wife to buy stuff, was eye drops for contact lense wearers. And on today's results I think I can recommend them as an option if your eyes get a bit dry or irritated. Made all the difference to me, being an occaisional wearer.

I guess they've always been around, I just hadn't know it.

posted @ Sunday, September 10, 2006 10:45 PM | Feedback (0)
What are the different kinds of controlled pedestrian crossings (birds)

So I'll use my blog to help me learn the stuff for my advanced test I thought. One question that came into my head this week followed a crash report on one of the Internet bike lists. They spoke about one of those crossings that has a green man, and a green bicycle. I couldn't remember if it was a Toucan or a Puffin that had that.

So here goes, for me and you. Be quiet and listen :)

All this stuff is online as well as in print, so you can check and see if I got it right.

Well, to begin with, the crossing which allows cyclists to go is called a Toucan. On those, there is a wee green man standing beside a green bicycle.

Pelican crossings have a button for the pedestrian to push, and if you cross after a while they have the bit where the wee green man flashes to indicate that you should do that comedy effect of appearing to hurry but actually walking at the same speed. What the flashing actually means is that you shouldn't start to cross, but you have enough time to finish if you are already on the crossing.

Puffin crossings have a button too, but have pictures of wee men right beside the button as well as up on the traffic light. These show red when you are to stay where you are, and green when you can go. There is no flashing stage, the wee men behave themselves on these crossings.

posted @ Sunday, September 10, 2006 9:50 PM | Feedback (0)
Second Ride to Advanced

Thankfully the weather turned out good today, though I was happier with my ride out last week. Today was limited due to holidays etc, and because of that there weren't enough Observers to do individual rides. So we all had a group run, which is basically a bimble along off somewhere into the country and back.

I must admit to a bit of nervousness, I'm still pretty new to this lark, and I normally ride solo with noone else to bother about. I've also got a bit of an aversion to driving with other cars too, bothering about others rather than the drive is too much of a distraction. But, its all about learning, and picking up safe things to do. I kept telling myself to concentrate on my own ride, not to get dragged in to anything I wasn't happy with.

And the run was fine, it was a lovely day today and a nice run into the borders. There are lovely roads down there, and they've even put some signs up for us bikers to remind us not to fall off the road on twisty bits. It showed up weak spots that I know about, I'm not that confident with parking up. I'm hesitant enough in the car, but with bikes all around I'm still looking for car sized spaces! And the run back from Peebles showed up my reticence in overtaking, there were a few safe opportunities, but I'm still trying to tune my speed sense for the bike. The things accellerate so quickly that I let some opportunities go, but all in the name of safety. The main thing is not to crash, making progress can come with training.

I was second from the back on the way home, which meant the Observer at the back was able to see what looked like either a bad connection or my foot resting on the brake. Having checked the bike I think it is the latter, with my big size fourteens I have to tuck them in to avoid clicking the brake switch on. I'll see if I can consciously stop, otherwise I'll adjust the pedal down slightly.

I'm itching to get my own Observer and really practice this stuff, hopefully that will get going before the end of the year - my Sunday mornings next year are already committed.

posted @ Sunday, September 10, 2006 9:32 PM | Feedback (0)
First ride on the way to the advanced test

Had my first meet up with the local IAM bike club this morning, I started out early, and promptly turned back at the next village. With the pouring rain I had rubbish visbility and my neck was getting a bit raw. So back to the house to spray a couple of coats of my Hein Gericke rainy visor stuff, and to zip the flappy bit on my jacket that goes around my neck to keep it out of the draft (or hooks round the front of my chin, but that just gets tangled up with the chin strap on my helmet). There were one or two moments in the rain with slippery drain covers on corners and tricky roundabouts, but it is all practice.

There are a number of groups affiliated to the IAM around the country, run by volunteers, who support others to get through the advanced tests. They don't train but "Observe" and each run is a ride with a stop off for some observations, then off again etc. After one of these runs I've got to brush up on Roadcraft and the Highway code, and got the usual blind spots probed. So off to learn the bits I couldn't remember, and so on.

It's early days, but hats off to them for volunteering their time to do this sort of safety related stuff, I chose it as the most economical way of improving my riding and it had a good start.

So I've got the elements of the system (from Roadcraft) to get in my head, the highway code (e.g. horn use), bike checking drills and stopping and starting drill. Other specifics include sacrificing the visibility line on left hand corners when there is oncoming traffic, proper lifesaver checks (i.e. almost chin on the shoulder). Lots to remember, but good fun.

posted @ Sunday, September 3, 2006 9:53 PM | Feedback (0)