Category Archives: gear-head

General Tech and Nerdy stuff, but especially car and alt-fuels information.

Two weekends of acquisition

As much as my last two weekends have been filled with torturing Thirteen as I try to help him help himself on big social studies reports, blistered palms resulting from digging holes for perennial planting in our extraordinarily rocky soil, and singlehandedly (well, I did use the washer/dryer) washing almost EVERY SINGLE piece of clothing in the house in one weekend — well. LOOK, just LOOK at what I’ve gotten over the last couple of weekends:

A new project bike! Nighthawk 450, gifted so generously from Rick and Janice to commemorate the happy occasion of our marriage. Considering that Mike already has a project bike I am so commandeering this.

The next day we hoped in our little car and trailered this lovely pedestal cast iron tub home from Tarrytown NY. For only $60!

it’s SO nice on the inside:

and once again may I say: I love our small car lifestyle!

The occasion for the tub is not so happy. Suffice it to say (for now!) that there is an awkward and annoying leak that is persistent and getting much worse and necessitates the renovation of our upstairs bathroom about 2 years before we were ready to pay someone else to do so. Family Tip Grundzilla will be performing this engaging and fruitful activity next weekend. Theoretically Fruitfully. Wish us luck.

And then this weekend I went to Rheinbeck for the NY Sheep and Wool Festival and got ALL THE THINGS:
rheinbeck party

OK, I didn’t get the sheep and the llama. But I wanted to. Badly. Think Nine and Thirteen can be swayed off of horses in 4H and onto the fiber-bearing animals?

after two years of hard use

tourmaster intake air gloves

These are the same gloves – the Tour Master Intake gloves. The one on the right has been in hard use for about 2 years. I finally retired it when the perforated leather palm looked in danger of ripping. I got them cheap at and liked them so much that I bought a 2nd pair just in case they were discontinued. The selling point was the fingers being “unusually long.” I have a slender ladies hand, but also long long long fingers. Normally gloves that fit my fingers are so wide that they bunch under my palms, or gloves that fit my hands have fingers that are short enough to press the seams against my finger tips – and these two things are at best annoying, at worst painful or blistery.

All in all these gloves are reasonable minimally protective gloves – textile mesh and foam pads, they attach firmly to the wrist above the wrist bones, and they have leather palms and inside fingers.

This is a post that I am throwing up quickly because I’m featured on the internets.

So, you know sometimes how you are kind of featured in an interview? on the internet? [[Like, over here at Helmet or Heels?]] And you realize that you haven’t put up much original content in the last few weeks? And on top of that your interview is read by a large community of motorcyclists, and the most recent posts in your blog are not about motorcycling?

Yeah, so when that happens, you know how sometimes you feel like you need to put up some new and original motorcycling content right away?

Yesterday I rode my motorcycle over to a new shop to get a spring tune-up. It’s kind of hilarious, because I’ve already put over 1,500 miles on the bike. it’s been a mild spring – just look at these bugs:


It’s really hard to quit riding your motorcycle all the time for something pesky like regular service.

But this weekend we got a lovely nor’easter (thankfully no snow in our neck of the woods) and we do plan a big motorcycle trip starting in mid-May, so I thought it would be a nice to have a good shake down. The bike is at 16,500 – which, WOW, considering I got it a couple of years ago with just about 3,000 miles on it – and it needs a pretty major service. Things like checking valve clearance. So off she goes and hopefully she’ll come back happy and purring and I won’t have any problems with this new shop at all.

Bake sale on a motorcycle

We had a bake sale today to raise money for hungry kids and I rode in with a loaf if banana bread in my hat box and a dozen cupcakes strapped behind me:


The cupcakes had a little room to slide around in there, but only 2 were damaged and I marked them as “smashcakes” with a 75% discount. I mean, I say “only two” but that’s 16% damaged.  Not a great loss rate but I could reduce it with more careful packing of cupcakes into the box, for sure.

See, you can do ANYTHING on a motorcycle!

International Woman’s Day

In honor of international woman’s day, I rode my motorcycle to work.

Ok, so, not at all in honor of that. It was gorgeous out, and I rode to work. And then I worked super late – potentially earning 80 cents to the dollar compared to men (though at my firm I am doing pretty well, honestly) – and when I left the parking lot was pitch black and the wind was just kicking up.


But in honor of international women’s day, let me say: read this. If you are a lady on a motorcycle, you probably know what it’s like to strive for equality – be it on the showroom floor as sales dudes try to sell to the man you’re with, at the shop when a mechanic talks down to you, or when you try to find well fitting and safe gear. And those are just small ways. Around the world there are many many ways women are unequal. Its harmful for everyone, too, not just the women themselves. Let’s ALL work towards equality – both men and women.

My sorta-cold weather gear


After getting to ride in to work last week in high-30s/low-40s, I thought maybe a post about my sorta-cold weather gear would be interesting. This is a terrible photo, but it shows my Fieldsheer Lena jacket and my Tourmaster Quest pants.

The jacket is water resistant and has a quilted liner, and it cinches nicely around the arms and the waist. I got it particularly because the arms are super long – and I am super tall. I have an inch or so at the bottom of the sleeves in extra fabric, which is such huge luxury on a motorcycle. However, last week I realized that perhaps as a function of me being so tall: the bottom of the jacket lets in a draft that hits me right on the belly button. I think I need an insulating cummerbund to keep my stomach warm.

The Quest pants were a deep discount purchase when I needed a pair of new pants last spring (after the bottom of my previous pants split. Embarrassing!). They have an integrated waterproof liner,  so they are generally too warm in any kind of heat. If I wear them at work any longer than necessary once I get to the office, my legs get sweaty and clammy. They work fairly well in the cold to keep the wind off of my legs.

Under these two things I generally wear wool long underwear. I have Icebreaker leggings and some other wool gear from sierra trading post. I wear a long sleeved light weight wool shirt and a thin-but-warm Icebreaker sweater on top.

I also wear a turtle fur neckwarmer (which I’ve had since middle school – over 12 years ago!), and have a wool balaclava but haven’t worn it yet.


Hands are the hard part. I have a pair of Rev-It Unix H2O gloves which are more warm than any other gloves I own, but still not warm enough. After about 25 or 30 minutes my fingers get cold and tingly, and my commute is 1 hour long. These gloves are womens’ sized, too, and they’re awfully tight – I’m not sure if I’d be able to get a liner in with my hands.

Tomorrow it’s going to be a beautiful day, but about 27 degF when I leave for work and I have a meeting late at night, so I wouldn’t be heading back home until long after dark. I just don’t think I’ve got the ability to do this on the motorcycle. Sadly! Long term, I plan to get some hippo hands and heated grips – but that just wasn’t in the cards for us this month.

What’s your cold weather kit? do you have a temperature threshold?

I’m blogging a photo a day for the month of February. You should too! #29in29

Riding to work in February!

Guess what: I rode into work today!


Doesn’t it look like my sweet DRZ-400 is descending from heaven to take me to work? What a lovely chariot. I wasn’t sure that it would start, actually – I haven’t drained the gas or put in stabil or put the battery on a trickle charger, but it was a new battery last year and it stayed strong enough for the minute and a half of cranking the ignition that was require before the engine blew out the varnish from the carb jet (what I assume it’s doing) and started with a bang and a backfire. Yay!

It WAS pretty cold – the temperature when I left the house at 7:30 was 38 degF but when I arrived home at 7PM it was a balmy 45 degF. (I’m planning another post where I talk about what I wear when I ride in sub-40 degF temps.)During the day it got up to 54 deg F! Sadly I was sitting at my desk and not riding in circles over hill and dale. My fingers got tingly on the way in and on the way home I stopped for gas and warmed up while picking an engine treatment to add to the tank – I’m not sure if it will work, but I got a fuel injector and carb cleaner and chugged the whole bottle (treats up to a 21-gallon tank!) into my little 4-gallon motorcycle and merrily rode home.

(NOTE TO SELF: don’t leave your fancy cold weather gloves out in the motorcycle hat box during the day when it’s cold. They will be cold when you put them on. Cold Cold Cold.)

I figure – I haven’t ridden since… oh shoot, December? November even? and the motorcycle started up. So if it can manage to last for 3 months and still start I should be fine until early April. IF I MUST. fingers crossed for some warm days and dry roads in the future!

I’m blogging a photo a day for the month of February. You should too! #29in29


What I’m reading right now – ride reports

I just discovered this great ride report on ADVRider. I really love the way he’s tracking all the information. So far I’ve reached nearly the end of Africa

On our journey so far we have covered nearly 11,000 miles, 18 US states, and 9 countries. Not too shabby for two little Taiwanese underbones. After 93 days on the road, our average daily cost is 62 USD total (not per person). This does not include air freight, air fares to Africa, and health insurance, but it does include every other expense incurred on the trip.

And then after staying in one place for a few days trying to arrange shipping, the Africa stats:

Africa: 7 countries in 57 days. 4843 USD in daily expenses = 85 USD per day. 485 liters (128 gallons) of petrol for 5600 miles = 88 mpg

I really love finding all this information. It’s a good baseline when I start my own dreaming. Transportation from Africa to India:

Transportation wrapup. Our flights on Oman Air from Dar Es Salaam to Mumbai were 455 USD each. The air freight cost for our 320kg was 3.96 USD per kilo, for a total of 1367 USD (including 10 USD air waybill prep and 80 USD in dangerous goods fees). We also paid 300 USD for our “deluxe” crate and freight forwarder fee.

So what’s the photo about? That’s my hat box, which has revolutionized my motorcycle commuting. Highly recommended, if you’ve got places to go, people to see, and weather to ride through.



I’ve been acquiring a lot of boots lately. The thing that really strikes me is the different uses that people think boots should have – and that the companies that sell them want to make you think they’re good for.

For example – the boots on the left are MIA “motorcycle” boots. The leather is so soft and distressed, and I’ve worn holes in the heels after just a year of wearing them to walk around – think of how they would hold up at stops on a motorcycle! The boots in the middle are Frye  Engineer boots, graciously gifted to me by a friend who didn’t quite fit into them – they are great, and I would be tempted to wear them on the motorcycle. Except! The ones on the right are actual motorcycle boots (the Tourmaster Solutions), and they have ankle protection and a  shifting pad on the left toe so the tops don’t get hopelessly scuffed up. Plus they’re honest-to-goodness waterproof. After riding around in boots that really do protect your whole foot and ankle it’s hard to go back a reduced level of protection – no matter how goofy your feet look in the motorcycle boots.

Of the three boots the REAL motorcycle boots were also the most inexpensive, hilariously. Who knew it was so expensive to look like a motorcyclist, and still be so poorly protected?

I’m blogging a photo a day for the month of February. You should too! #29in29

The sheds

We don’t have a garage at our house, but we do have a pretty big driveway. We’ve tried to solve the motorcycle parking issue with these plastic tarp sheds – each is about 8’x10′.

The one on the left is three years old, and holds my partners bikes: a 2006 SV650 and a 2007 Vulcan. The one on the right is just two years old and holds my DRZ-400 SM as well as my partners project bike, a 1976 Triumph.

(I am crawling Craigslist for a late-80s/early-90s sports bike to make into my own project bike! Searches for mororcycles for sale between $300-$500 are so much fun.)

The older shed isn’t doing well. Last winter the snow load was a little too much for the aging tarp and it began to shred. We have a newer tarp stretched over the frame of the shed for now like a silver toupee, picturesquely held on with milk jugs filled with water – but we should really find a better solution for next year.
I’m blogging a photo a day for the month of February. You should too! #29in29

Things I’ve started to do because of motorcycling


  • Paint my fingernails: it hides the inevitable dirty nails that comes from riding in mesh gloves in the summer.
  • Learning more about mechanics. Cars are pretty intimidating but motorcycles are much smaller and accessible. I’m not scared to get my hands dirty on one.
  • Exercise! Nothing makes a sports bike more comfortable than a zillion sit-ups. Nothing makes an 8 hour day in the saddle possible (for more than one day at a time) than a general level of fitness.
  • Make sure things are done safely. Even though my job as an environmental engineer requires attention to health and safety, I don’t think I felt as empowered to speak up as I do now – now that I’m accustomed to having a hands-on responsibility to safety as I ride my motorcycle around.
  • Be a better driver! I am much more present when I’m behind the wheel of my car. It makes me safer for myself and those around me.
  • Pack a hairbrush. Because it’s so necessary for helmet hair.
  • Take better care of my body and it’s basic needs. When you’re riding a motorcycle it’s important to get enough sleep, to make sure you eat at the right times, to avoid dehydration, and to wear sunblock. If you lose focus because you haven’t had enough protein for breakfast it can ruin your ride.
  • Gained an appreciation for the journey rather than the destination. I’ve always had an affinity for roads less traveled, but now I’m almost happier not getting to my destination… there’s just something lovely about shifting from goal based thinking to process based thinking. I love the ride.

I’m blogging a photo a day for the month of February. You should too! #29in29

The Rainmakers

The group that I normally ride long distances with is one of the best groups ever, I’m sure. We are trusting and respectful in a way that makes everything more fun and more exciting – there is zero drama, because I trust my friends to say what they need, I trust them to respect my needs as well. So when we are out riding, if one if us needs to go off for a while it’s no big deal: we just meet up later. If someone does something what makes another person uncomfortable, we tell each other. It’s pretty awesome.

Two years ago we ride 11 states in 11 days (and avoided highways as much as possible). I blogged it here. We’ve been using a group tumblr blog to track our trips as we ride them.

Tonight we all met for dinner and it was so super fun. What a great group of friends! This year we will ride down to Helen GA and ride in circles around it. I can’t wait.

I’m blogging a photo a day for the month of February. You should too! #29in29

So THAT’S what a titled frame is worth?

I just didn’t know they were worth so much.

And really, what MIGHT be a back wheel?


Suzuki 550

“1978.. It ran fine last year but now the key is missing.”



Everything about this ad screams “NOT MINE.”

Seriously – is this photo taken over the neighbors fence? Because this ad does not fill me with confidence that it’s being sold by the legal owner.

“i have a good running bike that needs a little tlc one rear signal light needs put on missing 4 little round cam covers just cosmetic also needs carbs cleaned as its hard starting but runs great once running second gear slips out needs sincro adjusted also could use a fresh battery it will take a jump start but wont start bike with out chargeing it first im not stupid if i do the work i can get 1500 but i need money now so the first person to come up with $500.00 gets the bike with clean title”

1978 Suzuki GS550

I’m starting a new thing. I keep doing searches on craigslist for old motorcycles to rebuild, and seriously, some of these are super priceless.

For example, this one:

The bike is clean only thing is passenger mirror is broken cause it fell over while sitting. I know I have a title somewhere but can’t seem to find it. It ran fine but I took the carbs off to rebuild and I haven’t even tried to get them back on. I was gonna chop it up to use for a go kart but I’m sick of looking at it please get this thing out of my driveway. I didn’t take a pic so just look one up

Guess what happened on my ride to work today?

Hey look, I rolled over 15,000 miles today!


Of course it’s probably going to rain all the way home, but TOTALLY WORTH IT.

I bought this motorcycle with 3,111 miles on it – it’s a good sport.

150,000 miles

Last night on the way hone little Insight and I rolled over 150,000 miles:


Not bad for a little hybrid. We’ve been together since December 2005, and I’m still averaging about 30,000 miles/year. Now that I live farther from everything my motorcycling takes in the extra 5-10,000 miles annually I’ve added to my life.

Go, Insight, Go!

Ride to work week

I’ve had a really good run this week – I’ve ridden in to the office every day. There’s been huge thunderstorms but I’ve lucked out and only gotten wet on Monday (the day I forgot my rain jacket). You may have noticed some tweets republished in this space regarding my  huge stinkiness because of a gas spill. That was Tuesday. The latch on the gas nozzle got stuck and I sprayed gasoline all over before I could get it shut off. And that inclues all over ME. ugh. I had to hang my clothes in the back room to avoid off-gassing myself (and my poor colleagues) to death.

Tuesday, though, I was sure it was going to pour and storm on me all the way home – my big dilemma was: do I put on the rain jacket over my nasty stinky gas laden clothes? Or rub dish soap all over my motorcycle jacket and *hope* for rain? I lucked out then, too. The storms passed by and I was able to ride home on nearly dry roads. And then I swapped into my 2nd motorcycle jacket for the rest of the week while the gas slowly evaporated.

and I did find a butterfly on my bike as I was leaving.



Of course today when I walked into the office with my dress hanging out below my motorcycle jacket I was a huge hit. Everyone laughed. I made the hardest laugher take my picture:

When I ride the skirt flaps in the wind behind me. I think I should get a tulle tutu. Adorabs!

Tomorrow I’m working from home, so I won’t hit 5 days on my commute, but you know, I’m pretty happy to work from home, so that’s ok.

New motorcycle gear

Got a crazy new bandana filled with water absorbing microbeads – it cools you off as the beads slowly release the water. I’m trying it out and giving the health and safety supply buyer at Day Job feedback. There are so many perks to environmental consulting, you know?

It kept me really cool on my ride home through upper-90 deg temps last night. AND it matches my jacket. Awesomepants.