Motorcycle tools inventory

With under four months to go before the Alaska trip, I am now into my active to-do schedule from a custom calendar I created to start making sure everything is ready to go.  Each week for the next 14, I have things that need to be accomplished.  Today’s project was to ensure that all the tools I want to take are gathered together, checked, cleaned, and placed on the bike.  Most of these things I carry normally, but it is always a good idea to make sure that rust or any damages are not affecting them by doing an annual inspection.

First, a list of the tools that I carry:

  • Complete Craftsman 3/8″ socket set, with normal sockets, torx, star, allen, screwdriver, extensions, and other related items
  • Craftsman screwdriver ratchet, along with 30 bits of different shapes
  • Small folding hex (in SAE and metric) and allen wrenches
  • Windzone multi-tool and pouch (came with my Windzone EK1-HD tool set, which I pillaged to make my custom tool set)
  • 2 normal length and 2 micro sized screwdrivers (and a large thick screwdriver for prying, etc)
  • 2 different sized spark plug wrenches and a spark plug gap tool
  • Small flashlight (I have three others stored elsewhere on Harley)
  • Large adjustable wrench
  • Vise-grips, one small on large
  • Needle-nose pliers with side cutters
  • Small portable 3/8 & 1/4″ socket wrench
  • 4 combination wrenches matching the bolts needs on my Ultra (except for axle)
  • Slime air compressor, cabling to work off bike’s cigarette lighter, or the battery tender plug
  • Tire plugger kit
  • EMGO motorcycle jumper cables
  • Extra shift linkage (have helped 3 other people on the road carrying an extra one of these)
  • Gorilla tape, electrical tape, tie-wraps (not all pictured below)
  • Mini-fuses ranging from 1A to 40A, several extra 40A maxi-fuses (wait to you blow one of these out in the middle of nowhere…they cost under $5 each, and almost nobody ever carries an extra)…I carry these in my tour pak though.
All laid out…takes a lot of room on the bike as is
As we all know, all motorcycles have very little storage space.  Most of us ride with, or buy bags to hold things and strap them all over our bikes (saddlebags, panniers, tour packs, windshield bag, fork bag, etc).  The more we ride and journey, the quicker we learn to start finding way to consolidate everything into smaller packages.  We start trimming things off the bike that are redundant, or find creative ways to store everything we wish to bring.  Here’s how all of the above go into bags on my bike:

The four bags that are shown are made by a company called Innovative Storage Solutions.  They made custom bags for Harley’s that allow people to use every inch of available space to carry things on their trips.  These bags are custom made to fit the molding at the bottom of a Harley hard-shell saddlebag.  You see, Harley’s have a saddlebag support running under the bag itself, and the bag is molded to straddle this support.  The problem with this is the support runs the length of the bag, and is right in the middle.  As the saddlebag is packed, a lot of wasted space sits on each side of the molding.  Most people carry a tool roll bag of some kind, and this takes up valuable space.

To utilize all of this wasted space, I bought these four bags from Innovative Storage Solutions.  The cost was $59.95 plus shipping for the four-piece set (they call it their In the Bag set).  I had put off buying these for a while due to the high cost, but eventually purchased them to find a better way to carry my tools.  Every since I have had these, I have much appreciated them.  It gave back a ton of room in one saddlebag…enough to carry my leather coat and leather chaps in the same amount of regained space.  That is saying a lot about how practical these expensive, but very well made bags with length-long zippers, work for the bike.  If interested, you can find this product and other space savers on their website at http://www.storagepouches.com.

To explain a little bit better about the molding at the bottom of the saddlebag, I took a picture:
The raised channel in the middle is for the saddlebag support
This “raised hump” running through the bag is over 1/2″ tall.  When you but something in the bottom of the saddlebag, it tends to rest on the hump and all the space underneath is wasted.  Using the “In the Bag” bag kit I purchased,, in which two bags go into each saddlebag and are designed to use all the non-humped space, this is what it looks like with the tool bags at the bottom now:
Look ma, no wasted space!
Nice and even at the bottom.  With the tire repair items and jumper cables at the new bottom, this is how it appears:
Tons of space left now
The other side saddlebag
The kicker to all of this is that 3 of the four bags still have tons of room left in them.  Extra spark plugs, more sockets, emergency money, lotion, emergency medical supplies, or whatever else can easily be stored.  I carry a first aid roll that I prefer to keep at the top of the saddlebag for emergencies, and will cover the contents of that in a future posting.

Cameras for the journey

Sometimes the days get away from me a little, and the next thing I know, a week or two seems to have blown by without much concentration being expended on them.  I run a countdown clock on one of my computers to show the time until the Alaska trip departure, and see that it currently shows:

Under four months to go.  Three months and a couple of weeks.  That sounds like almost nothing, compared to when I made the final decision in September to make this trip a reality.  The days are flying by as of late; a good thing I guess.

After doing some work on the motorcycle this morning, watching a few episodes of the old HBO series Oz on TV, and unpacking a couple more recently received boxes of new toys through the postal service, I find myself with a couple of new electronic toys that will accompany the Harley to the Last Frontier.

Drift Innovation Ghost-S Action Camera, times two

A few years ago, I owned a Drift Innovation HD170 action camera, which I used on the Mistress to record some of the motorcycle rides I rode.  At that time, probably 3-4 years ago, action cameras were really becoming popular for motorcycles, and the technology was constantly being improved.  As most of the rides I was doing at the time covered the mildly curvy roads of south central Indiana, recording those rides lost its thrill fairly quick.  With the upcoming June trip, I figured I’d try it again.  So, I spent much of the winter researching the leading different cameras out there…GoPro, Sony, Garmin Virb, and the Ghost-S from Drift Innovation.  After buying the GoPro and Virb and trying them out, I found wanting something more.  So I went after the Ghost-S, which even today, are extremely hard to find anywhere.

Coming across an unbelievable deal on the Canadian Ebay website, I bought one.  The price was unbelievable…30% less than the next cheapest place online.  But to my surprise, it showed up just three days after ordering.  Playing with it, I found it fit my needs exactly…and I ordered a second one (for dual camera angles at the same time, as well as having a backup).  It also arrived in three days.  I am thinking one moved around the Harley, and one mounted to the helmet.

The specs on this camera is amazing.  Doing 1080 video at up to 60 frames per second, 720 video at 120 frames per second (super slow mode), nearly 4 hours of battery life, photoburst and timelapse abilities, and so much more.  My favorite feature will be the tagging.  In essence, the camera runs non-stop…but only records for a pre-determined amount of time when a button is pushed…and it pulls the last couple of minutes and saves that as well.  So instead of filtering through hours of videos that are unwanted, the rider will get periods of video of things they really want.  And it runs everything from a perfectly working remote, that can strap onto the wrist or handlebars.  And…the camera is completely waterproof, weatherproof, and has different field of vision settings that can be set.

Uploaded videos to Youtube lose a lot of quality.  I have a Vimeo account I have used in the past, and will need to configure it to hold future videos.  Looks like the Vimeo Plus account will meet my needs going forward, but just a little pricey at $59.95 a year.  They do run “sales” from time to time, so since I have over three months before departure, I will just wait until I get better annual pricing.

The plan is to do some quick videos throughout the trip and have them hosted on the Vimeo site, but linked from this blog. So, these cameras cover my video needs.  I’ll be bringing along the Nikon Coolpix AW110 waterproof camera since the weather is so unpredictable up there, and may bring along the very easy to use Canon PowerShot SD850 IS for the still photography needs.

Just thought about that I need to get my tools in order, so I will share info on my bike’s tool kit soon.


Playing with the battery

Ah, Saturday has arrived finally.  Funny, the work weeks gets longer, but the weekends seem to get shorter as we age.  Been looking forward to today, as the motorcycle has sat in the frigid garage all alone for the last couple of weeks due to the outrageous winter weather we are experiencing.  Every trip to the car, to the trash can, or out to the mailbox requires passing the midnight blue Ultra whose front still appears as it if had been ripped away by some evil scientist.  It has been too cold for the menial garage electric heaters to make the work area comfortable, so dust has continued to collect on the Harley’s exposed paint.  Regardless of temperatures today, it was my desire to enjoy some relaxation wrenching this morning.

First order of business was to install a new battery.  I had replaced the stock battery on the 2008 Ultra back in 2011 with a Deka/Big Crank ETX30L 400 CCA battery.  It has served me well, and probably has a couple more years of good life left in it.  But, as I will be taking a journey to the wilderness of Alaska in just 118 days, it made sense to ensure that the charging system was the best that it could be.  Amazon had it on sale for $99, and I ordered it last weekend from the comfort of my recliner.  It had arrived a couple of days ago, and was just waiting for me to swap it out.

Harley’s OEM battery, the Deka, and the name of BigCrank is all made by the same manufacturer…East Penn.  While the OEM battery is about 330 CCA (cold cranking amps), the Deka and Big Crank modified ones are 400 or higher CCA, a increase of battery power around 30% over the stock one.

The battery compartment of an Ultra is underneath the seat and the ECM (electronic control module, like the computer of the motorcycle) in a very narrow channel.  So narrow and deep in fact, that one has to use their fingernails and finger tips to try to pull out the 26 pound battery.  Ever try this type of movement?  It’s near impossible.  Ok…it’s impossible to get it out with your fingernails.  One learns to hold a flashlight in their mouth, move the battery out from under the steel frame lips of the compartment, keep pushing back the half dozen wires that were connected to the battery posts, and use a screwdriver on each side to try “walking the battery up the deep well” that holds it.  Of course, the person will drop it half dozen times back down, scraping their knuckles badly and cussing up a storm.  Eventually, the battery comes out enough you can quickly drop your screwdrivers and grab the battery with both hands and heave it out from the bike.  15 minutes of this makes you sweat profusely in a cold garage, your hands bloodied from the scrapes.  But the feel of satisfaction does make one happy with the accomplishment when it is over.

New on the left, old on the right
I had load tested the “old” battery last weekend, and it still is a good battery. You load test it by connecting a voltmeter to the positive and negative leads, disconnect the spark plug wires and ground them to the engine casing with alligator clips, and crank the bike for about 5 seconds.  The bike will not start, but it places a load on the battery, allowing for a successful measurement to be taken.  A 12V motorcycle battery should register at least 10.5 volts during this test.  If you want to learn more about doing this type of testing, check out the three one-minute videos located on this website.  A friend of mine reported having a dead battery yesterday on his own Harley, so I’m going to gift this to him.  He’s the same friend (Mitch) who helped me with the tire/brakes/suspension work late last year.
The deep well of the battery compartment

Putting a new battery back in is just reversing all the previous steps.  Hardest part is balancing it in one hand while trying to keep all the wires out of the way so it will fit back into the well.  It is a tight fit, but eventually you can slide it back down unimpeded by anything.  One thing of note:  Harley’s have a battery pull strap that should make it easier to pull a battery out.  My pull strap was located under my original battery, so when I swapped that out, I put the strap in place.  However, when I had a electrical system breakdown a year after that, the dealer I went to had removed the battery and didn’t put the strap back in place when they re-installed the battery.  That makes it a fingernail job trying to get it out.

Battery installed, and pull strap put in proper place

As shown in the photo above, a large strap is seen in the middle of the battery.  It actually ties into the frame, goes under the battery, and runs up the side and lays over the top.This idea is you pull on the end of the strap, and it helps pull the battery out of the channel.  Anyways, the ECM tray and device was reconnected over the battery.  Checked to make sure everything worked by starting up the Mistress with the garage door open, thus losing all the precious heat that took three hours for the electric heaters to generate.  So, that was the end of the work today.

Weather reports are that next weekend, temperatures will be in the forties or low fifties.  If so, I am looking forward to finishing up some of the piddly stuff like the grip swap-out.

I had mentioned a few months ago that several people had expressed interest in going, but had slowly pulled out when they realized exactly how intensive this trip would end up being.  Between the long days of riding, the 23 days to get up there and back, and the potential for damages or riding miles of gravel roads, these were enough to take the romance out of the dream for them.  I was then left with one person that assured me he was in, and would go.  Unfortunately he suffered an injury while on vacation last month that requires surgery and extensive rehab; we are hoping that he will be ready to go in June.  I am not able to postpone the trip any amount of days due to work arrangements, so we will keep our fingers crossed that he still can go.  If not, I am totally prepared to go by myself.

I have already set up two small trips, one in April and another in May, to test out my gear.  I guess I should start packing it all up and figuring out what goes on the bike and what stays home.  I’ll throw up some gear pictures as I have time here on this blog.


Sound of music

It’s been weeks since an update, but only because of the atrocious weather that blew in and wouldn’t leave.  Yesterday was the first day to hit 40 degrees plus in three weeks, and today was better than usual at 28.  So, fired up the electric heater in the garage and set back to working on the Mistress.

Finally got the new deutsch connectors in and was able to finish wiring in the heated gear to the extra accessory connector under the seat.  The hardest part was ensuring that the amperage draw of the heated gear would not overwhelm the motorcycle’s switch and OEM wiring.  My WarmNSafe jacket liner is rated at 110W and the heated gloves at 15W each.  Dividing the wattage totals by the voltage of a standard 12.8 volt battery nets a total of 11 amps.  My Harley’s accessory switch supports a connection of 15 amps.  So, it is safe to utilize.

Some tie-wraps to mount the heated gear power cable to the frame and leaving some slack under the middle of the seat allows it to be grabbed through the backrest hole and fed up to attach to the jacket when needed.  The jackets has power leads in each sleeve to connect to the gloves.  When not in use, the power cord gets tucked back down under the seat out of the way.  The deutsch connector was the finishing touch to getting it installed and knocked off the to-do list.

Double-checked the new audio wiring and the associated connections I had done a month ago.  Shrink tubing worked well on the connectors to the speakers, but do have to say that the speaker wire sure does not match the rest of the yards of cabling.  Oh well, it’s hidden when the fairing is reattached.

A rainbow of cabling colors
Example of the shrink tubing
The last thing to double check was the wiring connection that is being used by the GPS that was attached to the headlight loom.  It was soldered and shrink-wrapped, and finally taped.  Noticed that the “high quality” 3M electrical tape was already coming off less than month after it has been applied.  So, going to put on some other tape and see how it well it sticks.  Not really needed with the other waterproof measures…but what the heck.
Unintentional unraveling

Out of all the months of working on the motorcycle, from doing the suspension, to tires, to brakes, to wheel bearings, to GPS wiring, to redoing the audio system wiring and connectors, to…a ton of other smaller projects, I am down to just one maintenance item.  Fix the CB.  That requires another person with a CB, and that requires a lot warmer weather.  So, time to stop for a couple more months.

Decided to start the Harley, and listen to the cadence of the engine for a good fifteen minutes.  Unless you have a Harley-Davidson in your own garage, you probably do not understand the sound of music that it makes; especially after it has sat for many weeks because the weather is horrible outside.  Listening to the deep rumbling of the V&H Monster pipes provided just the lightest of relief…took the edge off for not being able to just back it out and go for a ride.

So, what to chat about for the next few months?  Well, I have…and have acquired…a lot of new motorcycle camping and traveling gear.  How about some reviews, just in case anybody reading this blog may also would like to get some things and head out on the road?  Work has been nuts lately since we are pursing a national certification of sorts; but hopefully things slow down and I can jump on here in the next few weeks and give some input on different gear that is out there.