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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Temperatures and Airflow

While I'm still very happy with the performance of the VTR, one thing concerns me (a little); overheating. There were times, during my previous commute, where the water temperature, as indicated by the dash gauge, crept towards the top end of the indicator zone (without entering the red portion). The ambient temperatures, at the time, were in the 70s (F). My immediate concern was what was going to happen when ambient temperatures reached into the 90s (F) or higher.

The obvious thing was to ensure that the thermostat was functioning properly. It is. The second concern was that the radiator was free of external debris (that is, the fins are not clogged with dirt or bugs or the fins aren't all bent). It is. The third concern was that the radiator is not clogged internally. It doesn't seem to be. Fourth, ensure that the coolant hasn't broken down and is up to the job. It is.

After all of those considerations, it seems that airflow, or lack thereof, is the key component to keeping the VTR cool. The bike does have a thermostatically controlled fan. However, it's hard to hear if it's running (when the motor is hot). I know some owners have retro-fitted a manual fan switch so that they can control when the fan operates, if they think the thermostatic switch has failed or if they don't want to wait for it to trigger the fan. Recently, I've been in some traffic situations where having a manual fan switch would have been beneficial. My wife and I recently rode thru some of Chicago's northern suburbs. The ride 'out' was relatively slow due to traffic and traffic signals. There were several times when I was keeping a wary eye on the temperature gauge. However, the ride home, following the same streets, had less traffic and we managed to time the traffic signals so that we were stopped less often. The needle on the temperature gauge never moved above half-way (the ambient temperature was higher, too).

So, it would seem that air flowing thru the radiator, regardless of ambient temperature, is important in keeping the VTR cool. My current commute is very conducive to constant movement. That is, traffic flows quite well and quickly thus aiding air flow thru the radiator. However, it wouldn't take much (an accident or a freight train - there are several grade crossings on my commute) to turn an eight mile (twenty minute) ride into a coolant boiling catastrophe. Perhaps a manual fan override switch is in order, now that Summer is here (or will be in a few days). Stay tuned for another "How To" post...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Validation

Well, it's been just over a week of commuting to my new office location. I have to say that the VTR has performed flawlessly and I'm glad I decided to buy it. As with any roads that lead to a major airport, the traffic pace is quick and the flow can be heavy, especially in the afternoons. However, the VTR has been up to the task. I'm sure the NX125 would have really struggled. I am kind of curious about the Honda CB125R though. I would how that would have performed.

After a close inspection of the tires, during a wash, I noticed that they were pretty old (nine years for the front, twelve years for the rear). So, I took advantage of Motorcycle Superstore's Memorial Day sale and purchased a set of Bridgestone BT-45 Battleax tires. They come pretty highly recommended, from other VTR owners, as well as the general population of motorcycle tire purchasers (as indicated by the feedback on the web site). They seemed OK on this morning's ride (8 miles is not a large sample size). I did notice that they do not seem to be affected by the grooves left by the concrete grinder (one of the roads, on which I ride, was ground down to provide a smoother surface - as opposed to being re-surfaced). The old Bridgestones would wiggle a little while riding. Unfortunately, the grooves are in the direction of travel which is why the tires would track differently.

There is a possibility of thunderstorms this afternoon so I might even get a chance to see what the BT-45s are like in the rain. To be honest, I was hoping to scuff them in a little more before trying them out in the wet. New tires can be slick until the surface has been roughed up and it helps to have a few heat cycles, in them, was well. Fingers crossed that it stays dry (we could really use the rain though....)