25 February, 2011

I'm spreading misinformation – Day 100

Odo 1236

In a recent post I blasted Zero. I realise that a lot of what I've said has been based on misreading their website.

The price has only gone up 5% not 25%. I got confused as the website seems to now autodetect my country and gave me local price rather than the US price. Strangely it still gave the US phone number. I used to manually select Australia and it would show local price and local phone number. I thought I was manually selecting the US page to get the US price.

Also there is now a chain option listed for the DS. I don't know if it was there before, but that is a good thing if you're going to be using it on gravel or dirt roads.

On a disturbing note, initial reports are that Neal Saiki has left Zero however blogosphere reports are conflicting. It would be sad if he did. I could see Zero seriously losing their way without him.

I know that the chain has been worrying a few people. Well I cleaned mine last week and adjusted it today. I was careful to get the right size tools 5/16”, 7/32” allen keys and 13 mm open end spanner (thanks Harlan on the electricmotorcycleforum). I also discovered that I needed a 6 mm allen to remove the heel plate and back brake master cylinder to access one of the rear bolts.

Cleaning the chain was horrible as it always is. Used a full can of brake cleaner, but I'm going to try a different lube I've been hearing about. Will report on that when I get some. It was quite sandy (probably due to riding through deep sand I suppose). It's not perfectly clean now but it's better.

Contrary to some internet reports the bolts didn't seem over torqued but I used new tbar allen keys with straight (rather than the ball type) ends and was careful to make sure they were completely home before applying any torque to them. Adjustment was about 20 minutes start to finish and was fiddly but probably easier than adjusting a normal bike as I didn't need to remove a large nut with a huge torque. Didn't even need to wash my hands.  I also got a good look at the front sprocket and I can't see how to change it without removing the motor. It also appears to need a special tool of some sort to hold the motor still while you undo a bolt that retains the sprocket. I guess time (or even a workshop manual should that ever appear) will tell.

16 February, 2011

2011, Backwards or Forwards? - Day 91

Update See my comments and the later post, there are errors in this one. 

Odo 1142

No news on the bike. It continues to just run and make my life nicer.

I've had time to have a look at the spec sheet for the 2011 version of my DS. There's some good things listed. New brakes, which would be good. The old ones were dismal, but that was cured with a change of the fluid. These new ones could be overkill for what is really a very mild mannered motorcycle. Belt drive which will be good if you never go off road and a disaster if you do. On balance that seems like the wrong direction to go. But then the MX is now road legal so if your heart is in the bush then you'd have bought that one anyway (I would have if I was buying now).

The thing that disturbed me most though was the weight going from 122 to 132 kg. It could be a typo, but it's a worrying trend... When Neil was hands on with every aspect of the design, the weight control was very impressive. You could see that every gram was budgeted. Now it suddenly gains 10 kg. Where? What amazing improvement has caused a 10 kg increase? Yes it's got ~10% more battery power, but it's ~10% heavier as well, so no real gain there. I feel that Neil needs to keep a tight control over what's going on here. Great motorcycles have gone west with weight gain in the past. It's also ~20% more expensive. 9995 to 11895. Again, I'm not seeing much in the way of improvement for the money. The 2.3 hour charge is good, a socket that fits car chargers is good (except there's not one public plug that fits it in Australia), but it's another 700 dollars again pushing the total to 12500! 25% higher than the 2010 bike. Brammo has dropped their prices rather than increased. I expected to pay a premium as an early adopter. Now it's looking like I got in on the cheap ones. Looking at the amount of money that's gone into the company in investment and the amount that's been returned by selling bikes you'd have to say each bike has cost 40-50 000 dollars to build. So either way we're getting a bargain. Still, I was expecting that as production ramped up from prototypes to production line that costs per unit would come down rather than rise.

So to sum up, the new one is slower (heavier and same power equals slower), slower to charge (unless you pay 700 dollars extra) and much more expensive.

I feel like Zero is losing its way. However it may be that they're keeping touch with reality and building these bikes is costing more than they thought it would. I guess time will tell.

Just as an aside, while the SAE J1772 is an attractive standard in some ways and may suit the USA with their dozens of competing standards it's not right for here. We're lucky that our voltage is higher and there are really only 2 sockets most people will ever encounter. The 10 amp 240 volt domestic and the 15 amp “caravan” socket (10 amp plugs go into both 10 and 15 amp sockets, 15 amp plugs only go into 15 amp sockets). Rather than a J1772, for my money, here in Australia I'd want the option of a 15 amp 240 volt plug. That gives 3.6 kW and that would fully recharge my bike in just over an hour. (I wouldn't want to charge faster than that anyway for the battery's health) They're found in *every* caravan park and caravan parks are found in almost every town and along most highways. The equivalent in the USA would be the TT-30, found in every trailer park. The installed base is several orders of magnitude higher than J1772 is even forecast to be this decade, let alone what's currently installed. (nothing and no firm plans to do so). Even just having a charger that takes full advantage of the standard household outlet here (10 amp 240 volt) would mean my bike would be fully charged in well under 2 hours. Those outlets are *everywhere*. I counted 9 in the local shopping centre carpark that were next to parking spots. There are *no* J1772 outlets available here. I would estimate that there are at least 400 million 10 amp 240 volt outlets (there are 16 in my lounge room). Of course that doesn't tell you much on it's own, if all the power points are in one place, you can only recharge in one spot.

The last data I can find is that there are 1600 caravan parks with more than 40 sites and a total of 144 000 powered sites in Australia. (average of 90 powered sites) That dwarfs the confirmed roll out of public charge points (none). EV's need to *start* by taking advantage of what's there already. Use caravan/trailer plugs and leverage from that. J1772 will be good in due course. By all means, prepare for them, but don't wait for them.

12 February, 2011

Cars to the left of me, cars to the right – Day 87

Odo 1111

Car drivers never cease to amaze and amuse. Sadly it's hard to get pictures of them in action, but you can figure some things out by what they leave behind.

Here's what one car driver left behind. His car, parked across 3 motorcycle only parking bays.

Porn on the Internet! - Day 87

There's more porn happening on the net than I ever realised.  


Sexy, naked, city girl who's completely unadorned.  Makes my country bumpkin look a bit like she's trying too hard.  Who would have thought that the "fresh out of the shower" look would be so much nicer than lots of red makeup?

10 February, 2011

I tell a secret - Day

Odo 1111

Nice round number on the Odo. Well no, actually the opposite of round. Anyway that's not the reason for this post.

The secret that I alluded to recently is perhaps not so much of a surprise on reflection

In 2008 KTM announced an electric dirt bike and showed what looked like a slightly modified 125SX with an electric motor.  That's quite common for KTM with their two and fourstroke bikes of various capacities sharing as many parts as possible.  40 minutes at race pace, most details pinned down. Great specs but no actual rides for the press. It looked like a finished production bike and all that was left was integrating the electrics into the existing production line. KTM told us that it would be part of the 2010 model line up. Now in KTM speak a year's models are released in the middle (usually June or July) of the year before. So we expected to see the electric in about 10 months. July 2009 duly saw the 2010 bikes released, but no electric. Then there was an announcement in their annual report that 2010 meant 2010 and we would see it in the 2011 line up released in mid 2010.

Then in March 2010 they announced that it would be spun off as a separate line “freeride” and showed some rather disappointing prototypes that appeared to have grown from their freeride bicycle division rather than their motorcycles.

Much fanfare ensued surrounding these rather dismal offerings. (I'm a big KTM fan BTW and ride an EXC200 and was hoping for an electric version of the bike I already ride)

Unlike the initial offering there are no specs, no performance promises, just fancy graphics on the website (which is still up)

Phone calls to the largest dealer in Australia got little beyond nervous laughter.

Then … Nearly a year of silence.

Now the word has come from the distributors, the project has been shelved indefinitely.

That's it apparently. They say they're “waiting for battery technology to improve”. Which I take to mean they've given up.

So it joins the long list of great motorcycles that were never made. Bikes like the Yamaha RD750LC, Ducati Apollo, Kawasaki 750 square four twostroke and Norton rotary.

Seems a shame, but on the other hand the 2011 Zeros have just been shown and they include a street legal version of the X and MX.  Looks like everything we hoped for from the KTM but didn't get.

03 February, 2011

Odo 1033

Had to pop into town this morning. There's tonnes of off street parking but no handy poles I could chain the bike to so I parked on the street. When I came back to the bike this is what I saw. It's a bit hard to see in the photo but there are actually only two vehicles parked on this street for about a kilometre in both directions. Can you see them?  Yes, he double parked me in, too close to lift my bike off the side stand without denting his car.

Car drivers: never ceasing to cause amusement and amazement since 1899.

In other news the magazine's blog:
mentions that the issue with my bike in it has been put to bed. No word on when it will hit the shelves. There's a photo of Tom the magazine dude on my bike in the blog and a *very* brief mention in the blog itself. I took the photo, which I am claiming makes me a published Motorcycle Magazine Photographer. Well in my mind anyway.