Early Morning Ride Challenges

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Sunday is usually a rough day for me since it always starts the same: I wake up way too early.

I think this is from years of conditioning, knowing that I need to be able to sleep Sunday night if I want any hope at all of being a functioning human on Monday. There were many weeks in high school and college that I learned this lesson the hard way, so I started to wake up earlier on Sundays to help guarantee earlier bed times that night.

But sometimes I wake up way too early.

That was the case this Sunday, when I opened my eyes for the day around 4:30am.

After scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, not really liking it but just killing time, I started to think about motorcycle challenges. I just downloaded Rever, a motorcycle app that tracks your rides and stats like average and max speed, distance, time, etc. There are challenges that pop up and I am probably never going to place in the top 10 while living on Oahu since they’re all location or milage-based.

Or, I should say, the only way I would ever place is if they made a challenge about hitting landmarks on Oahu. Then I might have a shot.

Anyway, some of my favorite bloggers are the ones that have done long distances on bikes that were definitely not meant for going long distances. They did it slowly, chipping away at the goal until it was accomplished and I’ve always liked this.  That’s how I approach these riding challenges.

It made me wonder what my longest ride had been and whether I could break that record before I had to be home to take my daughter to ninja class.

So I got up, drank coffee, and watched the sky slowly light up. I need the daylight since it’s less likely I’ll be pulled over for not having a license plate light in the daytime (I’ll get to it, I swear).

Once it was bright enough, I took off. I wasn’t looking to just get miles, but more to see how long I could hang out on the Ruckus and not get a sore back.  For funsies and science! 

I took usual routes and then branched off when I noticed a road that I had never been down. I explored and saw some stuff that I had never seen. I took my time going down these roads, excited to get home and mark up a map that I’ve been using to track all the places I’ve been on the Ruckus.

I found some rough roads I don’t plan on going again, some sketch roads that I thought I might not technically be allowed on, and some cool places for pictures. Overall, I had a great time just driving around, but eventually I had to go home.

When I pulled into the garage I had logged 2:07:24 and 39.4 miles. That’s a long time for a short distance, but I still had fun. I checked Rever and saw that I had moved up in my challenges, but it wasn’t as drastic as I had hoped. Currently I’m 145th in the odometer challenge of September, but the top 10 have insane numbers.

It was still worth it, though. I didn’t hurt at all, found out I could ride over two hours and be fine, I felt that kind of amazing that you feel after a good ride, and I enjoyed increasing my own stats.

While I’ll probably never place in a Rever challenge, I do enjoy taking part in them. I love riding, but the challenges create even more pull to get outside and see stuff, even if it’s just pushing your own limits.

So I thought maybe I’ll make my own challenges based on my own riding. If my current longest ride is about 2:08, can I ride 2:38 and, if so, will I be in any pain afterward? What about 3:08?  4:08?  If I rode 39.4 miles in 2:08, how many miles could I ride in the same time if I focused just on getting as many miles as possible while doing the speed limit in a small space?  Certainly more than this ride since I went down slow roads to see new stuff, stopping to take in the view at times, but how much more?

These are the questions that have me excited for the work week to be over so I can have fun breaking my own records and adding to my own challenges.

I’m stoked for the next long ride!

-Russ

The Walk of Shame

I’ve been tearing my Ruckus apart and putting it back together now for months, stretching it out, inadvertently lowering it, having to deal with the issues that popped up, and troubleshooting the new ways it was behaving based on modifications I finished.  You can’t do something without it effecting something else down the line and it is an exercise in patience to work your way down that line, slowly making sure that everything is good.

It’s especially frustrating when the bike goes from not running well at all to running okay.  I’ll admit that I’m quick to latch on and say “finally!” and try my hardest to ignore the knocks, pulls, and random noises until it just gets too irritating to bear any more and then it gets wheeled back in the garage for an unknown amount of time while I scour the internet and ask for help from local gurus who are familiar with the Ruckus.

The biggest issue that has come up with the Ruckus involved more airflow and the mixture with gas in the carburetor.  I had to increase the size of the jets, but re-jetting was a scary proposition.  I did it, though, and learned that it wasn’t the bear I imagined (I think this is a solid life lesson here), and have re-jet multiple times since.

Because that’s the thing with re-jetting.  It’s a process.  It involved putting in a new jet, going for a ride, taking notes (or using a tach if you have one), returning home, and doing it all over again to either go up or down a size.  It’s important to realize that, even if it’s running well, it might be able to run a bit better with a different jet.  And then you realize you went too big and bring it home to pull it all apart and put in the smaller jet again.

Like I said, an exercise in patience.

I won’t bore you with the process of re-jetting the carb on a Honda Ruckus (this is going to eventually be a site about travel and the Grom, after all.  Once I get my Grom!), but know that it involves a screw that you open to empty a small fuel reservoir.  When you’re done emptying it, you close the screw and carry on.  When you put everything back together and turn the bike on, the reservoir is filled with fuel.  This won’t be on the test, but it will come into play later.

I had been experiencing some pulsating that I chalked up to not quite enough fuel in the mixture and decided to bump up a jet size.  The worst-case scenario had me going back down.  Not a big deal.  I changed the oil and re-jet the carb, leaving the bike in the garage overnight.

The next day comes and I am supposed to go on my first group ride.  I was very excited, but knew that due diligence needed to be performed and the bike needed a test run.  I tried to start it and it would catch and then die.  Catch and then die.  Catch and then die.  Eventually it caught and, with some throttle goosing, got going.  The fuel light immediately came on, but I average 119mpg and the light comes on with .3 gallons left so I had plenty of miles to go before I actually needed gas and this was going to be a short test drive.

I drove out to the other side of the base.  It was a quiet morning since it was Sunday, and the streets were practically empty.  It was great.  When I reached the other side of the base, I did a U-turn and started back.  I would hit up a gas station and then go off to the group ride.  It was going to be a blast.

But then the bike started to cough and die.

Out of gas.

I was literally feet away from the furthest point from any gas station on base.

I pulled off to the shoulder and took off my backpack to start stowing my gear.  I took my helmet off, stowed my gloves, put on my sunglasses (helmet has a sun visor), and took off my long-sleeve shirt.  When I got off the bike, I noticed that the kickstand ate through the mixture of sand, dirt, and silt.  Even if I could get the bike balanced on it, it wouldn’t be long before it tipped.

But then I remembered!  They talked about this at the Basic RiderCourse, specifically about kickstands eating through hot asphalt and getting stuck or the bike tipping over.  You can buy these special plates/discs to go under your kickstand, but they’re expensive (about $20), perhaps not really needed (in that situation), and easily stolen.  My instructor said he was riding with a friend on a hot day and they pulled into a parking lot and his friend grabbed one from under someone else’s bike and put it under his kickstand instead.

The basics of it didn’t require a ton of investment, though.  You’re just talking about a greater dispersal of weight.  So I just tucked a Smucker’s jelly jar lid in my backpack (after washing it, of course).  It did the trick.

Side note: the lid worked like a champ but my kickstand poked a hole through it by the time I returned, so it might be a one-time use kind of thing, but it’s still cheap and comes with free jelly!

I also had sunblock in my bag (which was definitely needed) and a battery charger and cable in case my phone died.

The reason I mention these things is because they genuinely made me feel better about the situation.  I had gone from feeling miserable about my impending doom of a walk to get gas to feeling more or less okay because I won’t get sunburned, I have sunglasses, the bike will be fine while I’m gone, and I don’t even need to worry about my phone.

I started walking and after a couple of miles, my wife got back to my text and came to meet me.  I filled up .498 gallons and she took me back out to the bike.  I emptied the whole can into the gas tank and took off to the gas station to top it off and proceeded to put in .964 gallons.  It’s a 1.3 gallon tank.

I got home and the whole bike stunk of gas, but I figured that might be the bigger jet.  I later went out to get some flour and when I got home figured something was definitely wrong and noticed the small puddle of gas under the bike.  I cleaned up what I could and turned it back on, staring at the fuel line.

The fuel line was good.

The top of the carb case started to get flooded with gas, though.

And that was when it hit me.  The reservoir screw.

I tightened the screw and went for a ride.  Everything was better.  The bike started right, it felt good, acceleration (what little there is for a 49cc Ruckus) was there, and the smell was gone.  When I parked for a bit, a guy jumped out of his car and asked to take a picture of the bike.

Everything was good.

But what an embarrassment.  Add to that the fact that it killed my mileage stats dropping the mpg from 119 to 97.2.  I lost .5 gallons going seven miles.

Not cool.

So it was a day of lessons learned.  I’ll probably never make the carb screw mistake again.  I realized the importance of having some small things in your bag to make your life a little better.  I learned that Smucker’s jelly lids are pretty handy to have in your bag (the lid I used was from marmalade and I can’t help but wonder if the lid from their far-superior grape jelly would hold up better).

And I learned you can’t make it to a group ride if you’re doing the walk of shame for gas.

Maybe next time.