Sunday, 8 April 2018

Law abiding citizen - almost.

It's been almost 10 years since I've run a motorcycle exhaust with a baffle installed.

My default position is always Akrapovic, drop the catalytic converter and remove the baffle - let her breathe and encourage the braaarp.

Don't ask me why, I don't have a clever enough answer, but for some reason I felt the need to install the baffle in the Akrapovic on the MT09......ummmm - yeah, dunno?

So here goes.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of work required to get to this bolt.

You've got to take the canister off. There is no clearance to get a tool onto the bolt head, and zero chance of inserting the very tightly fitting baffle - and aligning it - whilst mounted to the bike. 

In order to get the can off, the mounting strap and retention springs have to be removed. 

As everyone who has ever fitted an exhaust canister will attest - retention springs are a bastard invention. Herein lies an industrial design opportunity. Engineer a better retention system - I've got some ideas......

All done, what was set out was achieved, baffle installed. Akrapovic muted somewhat. 

Actually, I do have a reason for trying this. 
Installing a baffle can sometimes aid in on/off throttle hesitation and backfire on the overrun. 
I was curious - OK?

A short spurt, a wheelie or two to test ride the now law abiding citizen. 
Hmmmm....nah - don' think I like that. 
.....I'll sleep on it. 

24 hours later. Restored to the state that nature intended. 
In braaarp mode. 
I'll sleep better tonight. 

Who counts sheep in their sleep? Count the braarps.....

Sunday, 11 February 2018

MV Agusta Brutale 800RR - delicious

I am in no way affiliated with any brands or business mentioned in this post and no commercial contributions have been made. All words and opinions are my own. 

Working away in the office on a Monday like any other, a call comes through to my personal phone.

"Hey mate, it's Vic here from Mid Life Cycles -  an MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR has arrived, you want to come along to the launch day and have a ride?"

--You bet your arse I do.

Fast forward to Saturday morning as I saddle up and point the MT09 towards Kinglake, a mini moto mecca, in the sub alpine hills of Victoria's Yarra Ranges. Eyes aghast with beauty on arrival.

MV Agusta really do build some stunning motorcycles, from their styling, to the exotic materials and high end components - these machines are premium with an impeccable fit and finish. Without a skerrick of mass-production. 

After a meet and greet with Vic and the MV Agusta guys, a bit of paperwork and the rider's brief, I get the key to this lovey one. The Brutale 800 RR.

The baby-faced ride leader - current pro tier racer - took off out of Kinglake at a fun pace, allowing us to toy with the MV's a little more than would be usually accepted on a demo ride. Liberating the throttle allowed a buck eighty plus change when the road opened up with a more consistent dollar fifty five in the corners. 

Thank you gentleman. 

As we got into the groove it was obvious that the Brutale 800 RR is more racer than roadster - it is very precise and prefers to be travelling at speed in the top half of the tachometer. The lumpy and hesitant bottom end gave over to a free revving, eager and visceral top end rush.

Start up delivered a familiar, laboured ignition - bringing back memories of past Italian insolence. At idle, the exhaust note was a tad agricultural, however fear not, as the 798cc triple spooled up the noise became like a can full of angry wasps, ready to fcuk you up. 

Beyond the mid range, acceleration is exceptional - speed was added to the digital dashboard in a surprising manner, like - BAM - surprise! The quick-shifter was good, not great and better up than down, although I suspect some of this was user error as it took me a while to force my right hand not to give the throttle a momentary pause when shifting. It works better pinned. 

Handling and chassis characteristics were phenomenal, riding position is quite committed and pitched over, requiring you to grip with your knees to hold your weight - or suffer wrist and shoulder pressure - your choice. 

With minimal rake and weight cantered forward over the nose the Brutale handled magnificently, the bike felt magnetised to the earth. What witchcraft is this? 

Given I was riding an unfamiliar bike I was comfortable attacking corners with more gusto than I had told myself I would. That vibrant chassis buzz when cracking on encouraged more speed towards warp territory - and it felt good, bloody good and bloody stable in doing so. The connection to the bike felt mechanical, which is odd considering all the electronics at play.....I suspected more witchcraft here. 

It was sad to hand the key back, the last thought I had in mind was -- 
'Uh oh I'm not going to be able to stop thinking about you. Scalpel sharp on the road and you made my nuts fizz.' 

I think the Brutale 800 RR deserves a place in the multi bike stable, but it would be a bitch to commute on or for touring. But that's not what it's for.

Looked like an espresso machine - delivered like a drug dealer. 

Trying to unfizz his nuts. 

Friday, 19 January 2018

ECU Flashing.....sounds legit?

I'd been thinking about having the MT-09 ECU flashed for quite a while.
Considering I run a straight through exhaust system - it was probably the right thing to do.
On paper.

Readership here is pretty cluey - just in case, ECU flashing is basically as follows. My words.

The ECU (engine control unit) is effectively a mix of computer hardware and software (firmware) which controls engine and operating characteristics of the machine.

Sensors provide data to the system which evaluates the input and provides calibrated output - done.

Least of which the ECU, maintains a fuel map - or more importantly - a mapping from throttle position on the grip to throttle-body position, ignition, injector and - in fancy implementations - valve timings. It's all pretty clever.

A common fuel map is represented as a series of compounding variables which determine a resultant.....ok, ok - terms aside.

Output = input (rider on grip) * (sensor input) * (fuel map bias) * (RPM)

The name of the game is to eliminate the oxygen sensor input at low RPM and small throttle openings, remove top end power/speed limitations and get as close to a 1 x input : 1 x output ratio as can be used smoothly and practically in the real world.  That last part is important, in case underline and bold wasn't obvious enough. 

Most internet forum hounds and riding buddies will firmly attest of the benefits of an ECU flash. They're not all wrong - but they're not perfectly right we go.

Don't believe the internet hysteria about burnt valves and exhaust back-pressure if you drop the catalyser and run a full system tuned by a reputable manufacturer. Insert Akrapovic, Remus, Scorpion etc.

Modern bikes are fuel injected with a myriad of control: Advance or retard ignition, anti-knock sensors, throttle position sensors etc.....and back-pressure? No - unless you've chopped the exhaust off at the extractors - or are running an exotic 2-stroke; back-pressure and gas scavenging is not a thing.

If you're buying your exhaust hardware from eBay or "Dan the man" down the road - I suspect - you've got much bigger problems.....just sayin'

I'll preface the following with, the result of the ECU flash is pretty good.
Bottom end is smoother, top end is exceptional - engine running temperature is cooler.
It. Is. Good.

The experience with the workshop - well, that was pretty shit.

First thing that struck me about the owner/operator was indifference. Let's call him Dave.

Unfortunately, my bike is my transport so I didn't have the option of just taking my ECU in.
This was a mistake.

Dave dismissed any semblance of service on arrival - then continued to dismiss any sense of care or attention.

I watched him 'work' on my bike like a hurried, ill-tempered and distracted squirrel - like I'd taken his precious time away from internet porn or hunting for his nuts. 

Once he'd stripped the bike down to get to the ECU he fucked about with an archaic laptop to run the flashing software. To my horror, when the flash commenced - this moron kicked the patch cable out of the device.....soft brick anyone?

This was the point I spoke up.

"Hey mate, you haven't just bricked that have you? You know, considering you're performing a firmware flash"

Ol'mate Dave
"Nah, but I could have"

We got talking some more. I work in IT - let's just leave it there.

This guy's understanding of fundamentals around binary and hexadecimal data - which is essential to his profession as a tuner - was staggeringly poor. He talked about 'his mapping' and Japanese connection as if he was working directly with the ECU incarnation of Satoshi Nakamoto.

Spare me.

At this point I go and pat his dog (lovely thing) and contemplate pushing my bike home.
Frenzied squirrel fucks about putting my bike back together.
I want to cry.

On the ride home the bike actually feels pretty good, smoother throttle, stronger acceleration.
Not a bad result. But something about the workmanship isn't sitting well.

Over the next couple of weeks I notice a few things.

  • The now disabled O2 sensor has been left dangling and unplugged, open to water ingress and debris. Dude - it's disabled - leave it connected and protected. 
  • The pushpins around the tank haven't been replaced correctly (some are longer than others) - basic mechanical hygiene if you ask me.
  • The fairing mount bots have missing washers. 

But then I noticed this....sometimes being OCD and over observant pays off
(only sometimes) 

Those tank breather and vent tubes aren't where they are supposed to be - time to investigate. I'm going in. 

Unlike others - I like to keep organised. 

Ol'mate Dave nutt sack squirrel only forgot to put the fucking breather and vent hoses back on the tank. No biggie. 

No wonder throttle response was feeling choppy with more backfire on the overrun. Tank pressure was unable to vent as the fuel vaporised and the fuel delivery was suffering.....yep - thanks Dave. 

Problem solved - do it yourself. 

That's better. 

Small things can lead to big things - don't ignore them. 


Hunting squirrels......

Friday, 12 January 2018


I've been shit.

In the past this was an active site, with an active community of people.
The drop-off is my fault. I own it.

This is not a problem - rather an opportunity. 

Updates my side - I've had the MT-09 ECU reflashed here
I'm still formulating a response to the experience - suffice to say, it was OK - just OK. Stand-by.

Bike-wise, the MT has had a fresh service and is, hands down, the best bike I've ever owned.
Get some.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

California Superbike School

It's been nearly 6 months since I completed California Superbike School (CSS) level 1.

Time enough for the after affects to bed in and for me to be able to come away with a solid idea of what's what.

It has taken some time for the experience to sink in and for the learnings and drills to become reference memory rather than a focal point. That is to say - I can now reflect on what was taught and execute as needed rather than deliberately try to practice each technique. This last statement is important, read on. 

The content, the instructors and the students: 

CSS runs like clockwork - you'd be hard to find fault in the operating rhythm. 
Instructors are a calming mix of approachable, yet firm - allowing pupils to put their trust in their mentor. 

The day begins with bike scrutineering followed by an introductory theory session in a classroom full of like minded motorcyclists - eyeing each other with a mixture of nervousness and anticipation. 

The diversity is amazing, riders from all walks of life with various backgrounds and vastly different levels of skill. Diversity is one of the most resounding themes with motorcyclists; never expect anything. 

While surveying the room you'll no doubt catch eyes with a repeat CSS student - a level 3 or 4 perhaps (achievement unlocked) - who'll respond to your skittishness with a knowing and sympathetic gaze, as if to say: "Yep, you're shitting yourself now - it's OK mate."

CSS level 1 is broken into 5 theory components, each with a corresponding on track session to practice the drill. The complexity of each technique builds sequentially throughout the day, and it is a long day. Be prepared and well rested - this will fatigue you both physically and mentally - I guarantee it. 

Each drill is closely related to the Twist of the Wrist content and the syllabus follows its mantras as expected. 

We line up for the first session, the location? The World famous Phillip Island MotoGP facility.......oh man, my loins are tingling......yep - definitely shitting my pants now. 

Drill 1 - Throttle control - No brakes, 4th gear only:

The intention of the throttle control drill is to remove distraction and understand that the job of the rider is to 'stabilise the bike' - where the throttle is the primary control impacting this task. 

Getting on the throttle early and rolling on smoothly increases traction and stability by letting the chassis do its job. And brakes? No brakes.

As our instructor drummed into us "if you can't get your speed right without the brakes and only 1 gear in use, how do you expect to get it right with them?"

Good point.

Drill 2 - Turn in point - No brakes, 3rd and 4th gears only:

It was surprising how much wider and later (deep) into a corner we were coached to turn in. It makes a huge difference to the rider perception of the corner and actually changes the aspect/profile of the corner itself. 

Drill 3 - Quick turn - Light braking, 3rd and 4th gears only:

Building on drills 1 and 2, the aim of the quick turn is to control speed and stability with the throttle before sighting a turn-in point - remaining light on the bars - then BAM! One deliberate and direct input to flick the bike over and into the turn.

Oh yes, that will do nicely. 

Drill 4 - Rider input - Light braking, gears 3, 4 and 5:

No surprises here - death grip bad, light on the bars good.
This drill starts the conversation around body position and how to carry your weight through you legs, locking to the bike.

But really, at level 1 - this session is more about letting you have another track session to begin consolidating what has already (hopefully) been learned.

Drill 5 - Two-step - Full braking and gears:

The Ah-Ha moment.
This drill is like sliding a precisely cut key into a well crafted lock. 
The tumblers and pins move about and align as the key snugs home. 

The two-step binds drills 1 - 5 into a cohesive cornering technique by coupling throttle, turn-in point and vision into a fluid and more repeatable method of control. The two-step approach decreases the perception of speed and gives you more time to evaluate and execute the corner. 

Game on.

After affects and conclusions

At first I was keen to get out onto the road to practice what I had (should have) learned. But all was not well. 

CSS is very track focused and relies on you to be able to see clearly through corners and be able to rinse and repeat the process to hone the skills. This is not really how roads in the real world work: Sketchy surfaces, blind corners, debris, traffic, gravel, wildlife, cagers.......etc...

I was struggling to put into practice the drills as there was not a direct mapping or translation for something like quick turn, or two-step in the twisties on tree-lined roads with gravel washouts. 

Frustration was building. I was overthinking everything.
I was riding worse, more hesitant, less in tune with the bike - I felt like I was broken and couldn't ride anymore. 

So I did what most do - I pushed it harder.
And had some very real near misses I'd rather forget. 
One such incident pushing wide on exit on a tree lined road, hitting gravel and going off the road - I have no idea how I didn't go down other than I remember letting the bars go to do their thing and the bike remained upright.
Adrenaline and poo came out. 

For a time I wished I hadn't done CSS. My brain was full of track technique.

Fast forward to now. To a point where I have finally been able to take what works and realise that not all aspects relate to all situations all of the time - and I'm glad I did CSS. 

Will I do level 2? 
Yep - game on. 

......You've shit yourself, haven't ya mate? 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

AGV K5 review

Over the years I've owned helmets from budget brands such as Fly, through to mainstream offerings from HJC and onto the pointy end of the premium lids by Shoei.

Other than significant price difference, there is a huge difference in the fit and finish, comfort and features offered by any helmet at any price point.

So then, after 5+ years of faithful service from my Shoei XR1100 - coupled with a considerably nasty drop - it was time for a new lid.

In helmet shopping mode I stuffed my pin into as many lids as I could, it is difficult to gain a proper representation of how a helmet will perform just by sticking your head in it - alas, it's the best we can do. Helmets are one of the hardest things to buy.

I don't have an 'Arai head' but retried them anyway to be sure. Nope

Never having owned a Shark I was intrigued by some of the new designs and features from the French company, I gave them a crack. Nope

With the newer ECE helmets now available in Australia I could try some of the Bell helmets - bugger. Nope

Back to Shoei then? Hmmmm. Then I tried the AGV K5

I took the plunge and have now been riding with the K5 for about 2 months including some track time during California Superbike School. Let's take a look. 

The Good.

Aesthetically, this is a very pleasing helmet. Fit and finish is good with a composite shell, sans carbon fibre, or other exotic polymers you'd find in the Pista range. That said, the helmet is appropriately light and weighs less than my old Shoei. 

Rider vision is excellent considering the 'race cut' of the lid - requiring you to look up and out of the visor opening. One thing to note about the race style is that the bottom surface of the helmet has an arc which prevents it from sitting flat on a table. 

Visor attachment is very simple using a similar cam and channel design as found on Shoei helmets - however the AGV offers something else too - visor increment adjustment.

The green component is the 'Road/Urban' visor guide which has a hard stop at the top, a hard stop at the bottom and three intermediate positions in between - also, there is a fine stop opening to allow the visor to vent.

Also included are blue for 'Race' with hard stop fully opened or fully closed with nothing in between and red for 'Tour' which provides open/closed and increments but no fine stop for slow speed venting. Out of the box the helmet is set to red, touring.

Ample airflow and venting provides a relatively cool and fog free experience, and surprisingly, not too noisy. Don't kid yourself, there is no such thing as a quiet helmet, the name of the game is to find one that is 'less bad.' I would report better venting, less fogging and noticeably quieter than the Shoei XR1100. 

Furthermore, with the race cut and small lip at the rear, the K5 is remarkably stable when on the bike at speed - no buffeting or pressure build up which can make other helmets feel heavy or shake when getting on. 

The internal padding uses natural bamboo and latex fibres meaning a comfortable skin feel which won't become humid and sweaty in hot conditions. The bucket of the helmet has the usual memory foam found in most lids and after a few rides this breaks in well. 

The Bad.

Luckily I wear contact lenses, so seeing glasses are not required - however if they were - you'd be shit out of luck.

The K5 advertises a 'Glasses Fit' slot located on the temple of each cheek pad - a fairly standard feature and design and one which fails completely with the AGV. In the past I would often wear riding glasses with a high contrast yellow lens to offset the smoke visor in dim conditions. No longer it would seem.

Something about the angle and height of the glasses channel makes it impossible for me to use glasses of any kind with this helmet. Inserting the glasses arms is painful as you try to force them past the soft piece of your noggin at the temple. Furthermore, if you do succeed, the glasses lens will be hovering somewhere around your eyebrows - not your eyes. Useless. 

Continuing the theme - the internal sun shade is pathetic, both in contrast and position. 

The bottom of the shade terminates just below your eye socket on your cheekbones, delivering distractingly bright reflected light straight into your pinholes. Oh good, that helps........

Further failure is observed in the contrast the shade provides - which is not much. Honestly, you're better off not using this (or removing it which is possible) and just installing a smoke visor as I have done. 


The AGV K5 offers some solid features and top notch fit and finish for a mid range helmet. At this price point some shortcomings are forgivable and the lack of a carbon-composite shell is understandable. 

Would I recommend it? Absolutely, unless of course, you wear glasses.

Pin head. 

Friday, 25 November 2016

Riding Solo: MT-09 meets the GOR

I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t yet introduced the MT-09 to the Great Ocean Road (GOR) – one of Victoria's - and indeed Australia’s - must ride roads.

Although it has been raining for 3 days straight and the weather today is less than ideal I am stubborn and determined enough to get the Gimp suit on and get this long overdue introduction done.

Kissing the wife goodbye and giving the little one a smile I hit the black stuff at 6:50 am – there’s a lot of road to cover.

The first 1.5 hour slab to Torquay is completed without incident – stopping for fuel I gunnel the tank and check the radar. High wind – but no rain – I wonder if this will in fact equate to ‘Dry’…….hmmm.

Before one can begin the GOR ‘proper’ the gratuitous Split Point lighthouse stop is required – this is our Mecca and the icons must be acknowledge. Pfffft……..nah.

That said, this lighthouse is a bit of a silver screen star and was the setting of the ever popular ‘Round the Twist’ children's series – a TV show which is a right of passage for my generation of Aussie-Kid.

Right then. Stop faffing about - it's clobbering time. 
Aireys Inlet to Lorne defines the warm-up section of the GOR - with spectacular views left and forward vision filled with a black snake tracing the coastline, the appetite is tending to Braaarp. 
We've had our wettest recorded Spring in Victoria for the last 30 years - oh joy - as such, the GOR has copped a beating. Landslides had closed large sections between Lorne and Apollo Bay, sections now open albeit under repair. 

It must be said, the road surface is shocking. It is pock-marked, pitted and rutted - there are gravel washouts and divots, large stone chips and, oh yeah - single lane road works. Settling into any form of rhythm is farken impossible, and with frustration breeding petulance, things are getting sketchy. 

So we climb a little further out, and head towards the Otways. Maybe we'll have more luck?

The road travelled

And the road ahead

Backtracking slightly I point the 'Niner to some inland delights via Skenes Creek on a coast to farm transition. The low lying Rain Forest road has also seen some heavy rain and is dicey at best - nothing else for it, climb higher and head out to the open plains. 

This looks like a nice spot for lunch

I complete my MT-09 to GOR introduction ride back to Melbourne town, as much as possible, on the roads less travelled. Glad the 'Niner has met the GOR - but I've got a feeling the appetite for Braarp has not been contented. 

Rolling up my driveway at 3pm, I've just spent 8 hours on the bike and completed ~630kms. 
My Girls are having a late lunch and are all smiles. Nothing, else, required. 

GOR, this is the 'Niner, be a better Mecca next time - OK?