Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The New Ducati Scrambler… specifications, images and video.

I was just mentioning to a friend that I have never really liked Italian motorcycles... even Ducati.
Ooooooh, but this motorcycle… this new motorcycle… this new Ducati… I've changed my mind… The new Ducati Scrambler is my kind of motorcycle.

From the Ducati website… The Ducati Scrambler is the contemporary interpretation of the iconic Ducati model, as if it had never been out of production. The style is “post-heritage”: to take the best of the past and create something unique and absolutely contemporary. Anti-conformist, accessible and essential, the Ducati Scrambler is the perfect blend of tradition and modernity and marks a return to the pure essence of motorcycling: two wheels, a wide handlebar, a simple engine and a huge amount of fun.

The specifications…
Engine: L-Twin, Desmodromic distribution, 2 valves per cylinder, air cooled
Displacement: 803 cc
Bore x stroke: 88 x 66 mm
Compression ratio: 11:1
Power: 55 kW (75 hp) @ 8,250 rpm
Torque: 68 Nm (50 lb-ft) @ 5,750 rpm
Fuel injection: Electronic fuel injection, 50 mm throttle body
Exhaust: Exhaust system with single stainless steel muffler, aluminium silencer cover, catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes
Emissions: Euro 3
Gearbox: 6 speed
Ratio: 1=32/13 2=30/18 3=28/21 4=26/23 5=22/22 6=24/26
Primary drive: Straight cut gears; Ratio 1.85:1
Final drive: Chain; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket 46
Clutch: APTC wet multiplate with mechanical control
Frame: Tubular steel Trellis frame
Front suspension: Upside down Kayaba 41 mm fork
Front wheel travel: 150 mm (5.9 in)
Front wheel: Spoked Wheel, 3.00” x 17”
Front tyre: Pirelli MT 60 RS 110/80 ZR18
Rear suspension: Kayaba rear shock, pre-load adjustable
Rear wheel travel: 150 mm (5.9 in)
Rear wheel: Spoked Wheel, 3.00” x 17”
Rear tyre: Pirelli MT 60 RS 180/55 ZR17
Front brake: 330 mm disc, radial 4-piston calliper with ABS as standard equipment
Rear brake: 245 mm disc, 1-piston floating calliper with ABS as standard equipment
Wheelbase: 1,445 mm (56.9 in)
Rake: 24°
Trail: 112 mm (4.4 in)
Total steering lock: 35°
Fuel tank capacity: 13.5 l - 3.57 gallons (US)
Dry weight: 176,5 kg (389 lb)
Wet weight*: 192,5 kg (424 lb)
Seat height: 790 mm (31.1 in) - low seat 770 mm (30.3 in) available as accessory
Max height: 1,150 mm (45.3 in) / brake reservoir
Max width: 845 mm (33.3 in) / mirrors
Max length: 2,100 - 2,165 mm (82.7 - 85.2 in)
Number of seats: Dual seat
Standard equipment: Spoked aluminium wheels, front and rear aluminium mudguards, vintage design seat, fuel tank with black stripe, high plate support, dedicated logo

Here are some images (click to enlarge)…

 The Classic version
Front view
Side view
Rear view
Urban Enduro version
Icon version
 Full throttle version

The official promo video.
Early sighting in September by MCN.
Unveiling by Motorcycle.com
Motogeo is planning a trip and review of the moto.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hoi An to Dalat… Adjusting to the sun, rain, dry, dust and clouds

From Hoi An I wanted to travel to Dalat. I could have traveled along the coast, but I was not enjoying the ride along the main highway called the A1. The highway had lots of traffic, big trailer trucks, areas under construction and the scenery along the road was just not very pretty. So I decided to take the road less traveled and I headed toward the interior highway the AH17.
Once I turned off the A1 highway the road varied between asphalt, to gravel to dirt.
When riding behind other motorcycles or minivans I found that the traffic would kick up quite a bit of dust.
So, I felt that it was time to pull out my 3M mask that filters out particulates and odors. I was amazed at how well this mask worked. It did protect me from breathing in particulate matter, but it worked so well that it filtered out the smell of exhaust. I don't know why I did not pull this out earlier in my trip. In the USA this mask cost about US$7… and it was worth every cent. It was a long day of riding back roads. 
I knew that I would not be able to travel the entire distance between Hoi An and Dalat in one day. I rode for most of the day. It started to turn dark, so I started to look for a hotel. I found a hotel in the middle of nowhere in particular. The colorful decor made me feel like a kid again. 
The next morning I skipped breakfast, packed up my things and hit the road. I knew that I had another full day of riding ahead of me.
I was surprised that as I headed south and west the terrain turned green and hilly. I do not know why, but I honestly was expecting the geography to be flat.
After a while the terrain actually turned mountainous. It began to rain and at one point a fog rolled in. During this part of the ride my visibility was limited to only about 50 feet. It was okay, there wasn't much traffic, so I eased off the throttle, slowed down and opened up all my senses. 
Looking back, it was one of those moments in which I felt very at peace. I felt like I was one with my motorcycle, my motorcycle was connected to the road, nature was enveloping me and I sensed that I was effortlessly carving through the clouds… I was in the zone.
This is a story that is perhaps a little rediculous. For most of this day it was raining. I got drenched. I had a rain parka that protected my upper body, but I did not have rain pants to protect my lower body. I was wearing quick dry pants that would dry if the sun came out and the wind was warm. But it was a pretty continuous rain, so my pants and underwear stayed wet. Therefore, I developed an interesting strategy to cope with my wet bottom. I decided to ride without underwear… that's right… commando! What I realized was that when my pants and underwear got wet, the sun and wind were not strong enough to dry them. But if I rode without my underwear, the sun and wind would dry my pants.

I feel a bit silly sharing this information, but in this situation I found this to be the most effective manner to dry my clothes while on the road. Maybe this silly technique might be of use to some other adventure motorcyclist that is riding through the rain somewhere around the world… or maybe not.
From my ride between Hoi An and Dalat, this photo is my favorite. It was late in the afternoon. I was riding through a farming area. I parked along the side of the road to take a little break. This father and son walked by. Based on some of the tools that they were carrying I could deduce that they had been working in the fields during the day. But I could also tell by some of the other equipment that they were carrying, that they had been fishing. They walked right by me, then the boy turned half way around to look at me, then I happened to snap the photo. The focus was a little off. But this image reminded me of some basics of life everywhere… father and son, work and play.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Motorcycle Maintenance In Vietnam

For some reason, my motorcycle's speedometer and odometer stopped working. I was not too concerned that my speedometer was not working, because I would rarely reference it. However, I was concerned that my odometer was broken because I utilized it all the time to measure travel distances for navigation and to estimate my gas consumption. I needed to fix it.

The great thing about motorcycle maintenance on the road is that I often ask if I can observe and assist with the diagnosis and repair… which means that I learn something new about motorcycles every time. I look at this as a positive and not a negative. Also, I enjoy the interaction with the people that I meet. It become less like a transaction and more like a cultural exchange.

The convenient thing about motorcycle maintenance in Vietnam is that there are usually one or many xe may shops (motorcycle shops) every few kilometers. So, I hopped on my motorcycle, traveled down the road and pulled into one such shop.

Like many of the shops in Vietnam, the store front was open and facing the road. This shop was actually spilling out onto the road. There were three guys hacking on motorcycles, there were tools and pieces of metal scattered on the floor, there were containers of old oil laying around and there were three of four motorcycles in various stages of repair or disrepair. I did not get warm fuzzies about the condition of the shop, but sometimes beggars cannot be chosers.

One of the young mechanics approached me and asked me what I needed. I said, "xin chao". This means "hello", but it also lets people know that I'm a foreigner, because Vietnamese people say hello differently. Then I said, "lam on" and pointed to my speedometer. This means "please", check out my speedometer.  The mechanic understood immediately. My Vietnamese language and pantomiming abilities were improving every day.
This is a schematic of my motorcycle's speedometer housing. There were a number of mechanical and electrical pieces that could have been broken. I have found that on the road mechanical pieces are usually pretty easy to fix, source, replace, weld, grind, bend or bang into usable condition. Electrical pieces are usually more difficult to fix, source and repair.  I was hoping that the problem was not with the speedometer housing.
This is a schematic of my motorcycle's front wheel. It might look complicated, but I was actually surprised by its simplicity and how few pieces where involved in the entire wheel hub. The speedometer measures speed via a connection to the front wheel hub (see parts 8,9,10). When the wheel spins, part 10 rotates with it. When part 10 spins around, it turns a cable that is connected to the speedometer. The speedometer measures the revolutions of the cable and in turn displays the speed.

The mechanic removed my wheel and manually spun the speedometer cable. The speedometer needle moved. Thus, we deduced that the problem was not in the speedometer housing, but that the problem was in the wheel hub. There were really only three pieces within the wheel hub that related to the speedometer. We examined all three pieces and they appeared to be in reasonable condition. There was one piece that was a little bent, part 10. We carefully repacked the wheel hub to see if it was just a misalignment or misconnection. We ran a test and the speedometer moved for a while, but then stopped working again. We disassembled and reassembled the wheel hub again. Same result. I inquired if he had a spare part to replace the bent part. He did not. Then a second mechanic approached us and started to disassemble the speedometer housing. I was a little concerned because to gain access to the speedometer we had to remove the whole front fairing, mirrors, light, brackets, etc. After running a few tests, we all concluded that the problem was with part 10. Unfortunately the shop did not have the spare part, nor did the mechanics have an idea of how to fix the issue. This whole procedure took maybe one hour. I was a little disappointed that we were not able to fix the problem, but I was happy that we had at least diagnosed the problem. I asked him how much I owed him for his time. He shook his head, "no" or "nothing". I thanked him and paid him 20,000 dong or US$1 for his time. I figured he could at least buy a beer or a drink. The mechanic was reluctant to take the money, but I forced it upon him and he eventually accepted it.

I still wanted to fix my speedometer, so I traveled down the street to find another xe may shop. 

I came upon another shop that was open and sparkling. It was so clean, that I thought that perhaps it was new and still not open to the public. There were tools in tool chests, parts on shelves, spare oil for sale, an actual motorcycle lift and the floor was spotless. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. The strange thing was that there was nobody in sight. I looked around and shouted, "xin chao!" I repeated this a few times. As I was about to leave, a man approached on his motorcycle and said "hello, can I help you?" At least I was guessing that is what he was saying.
I went through my routine… xin chao… lam on… point to the speedometer. He looked at me, smiled, then nodded his head that he understood. He walked up to my moto and spun the wheel. I pointed to the speedometer, then to the wheel hub. He understood perfectly. I motioned if I should move my motorcycle into the shop. He shook his head... No. I left my motorcycle where I had parked it. He pulled out his wrench and removed the wheel. I pointed to the part that was bent, part 10. He looked at the part, then walked into his shop. I thought, "Yes, he has the part!". He returned with a pair a pliers. He took the pliers and bend the piece back into shape. He then placed the part back on the hub. It did not fit perfectly, so he removed it and bent the part so that it would fit better. He then reassembled the wheel hub and tested it. It seemed to work. Yes!!! He then reassembled the entire wheel and reattached it to my motorcycle. The whole process took maybe 5 minutes.
I did a little test ride to confirm that everything was functioning properly. All seemed to be working fine. I inquired how much I owed him. He said, 30,000 dong. I paid the man. Best US$1.50 I ever spent for a motorcycle repair. Once again… clean shop = good mechanic = good service.

I got back on my motorcycle and headed down the road. The adventure would continue...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hoi An… Old Houses, Markets, Beaches and Pretty People

From Hue I traveled to the town of Hoi An. Along the way I passed a scenic route called the Hai Van Pass. The pass is a twisty road that passes through the mountains and along the coast of the South China Sea. Honestly, I was enjoying the ride so much that I forgot to stop and take many photos.

The Hải Vân Pass (ocean cloud pass), is an approximately 21 km long mountain pass on National Route 1A in Vietnam. It traverses a spur of the larger Annamite Range that juts into the South China Sea. Its name refers to the mists that rise from the sea, reducing visibility. Historically, the pass was a physical division between the kingdoms of Champa and Đại Việt. - wikipedia

When I arrived in Hue I did not have a reservation at a hotel. I was not worried because I knew that Hoi An was a tourist town and I felt comfortable that there would be many rooms available, especially in the low season. I decided that I would just locate a street with a number of hotels and go door to door until I found one that I liked and that was within my budget.

The first hotel I checked out was nice, but a little bit expensive. The second hotel I looked at was empty, I was hoping for a place that would be a little social. The third hotel I visited looked nice, but quoted me a price of US$50. I told the desk clerk thank you, but that it was more than I wanted to spend. She asked me how much I wanted to spend. I did not have a real figure in mind, so I quickly threw out the number of US$15. I thought that this amount was low enough that the clerk would not make a counter offer and I could easily exit the conversation and continue my search for a budget hotel. To my surprise, she said that she could not offer me a room at that rate at that particular hotel, but that she could offer me the US$15 rate at a second hotel that the family owned. I immediately was skeptical.

I have traveled enough to experience my fair share of "bait and switch" scams. A bait and switch is a form of scam used in sales but also employed in other contexts. First, customers are "baited" by merchants' advertising products or services at a low price, but when customers visit the store, they discover that the advertised goods are not available, or the customers are pressured by sales people to consider similar, but higher priced items - the "switch". Sometimes the buyer is forced into buying the item because they have no other alternative, time pressure or intimidation. Sometimes the buyer is simply taken to a remote location and robbed.

Usually when I perceive that a bait and switch is about to occur… I'm out of there. For some reason, I felt like playing along. It was a nice day, I had time and I sometimes like to play along with these games as part of an adventure. Also, I realized that I was on my motorcycle, so if the situation looked too shady I could simply spin around and head the opposite direction. I played along.

I was told the second locations was about 1 km away. I was introduced to a young man and told to follow him on my motorcycle. He got on his motorcycle, I got on my motorcycle and off we rode. He was traveling pretty quickly. I kept up, but all along the way was looking for an out in case I needed to make a quick escape.  He would slow down every once in a while and tell me that it was just a little further. We wound through some streets, over a bridge, around some monuments and along a river. We eventually stopped at a location that looked like a huge ornate mansion.
The second location actually turned out to be a hotel called the Long Life Riverside Hotel.
There was a nice lobby area...
A coy fish pond...
An indoor/outdoor swimming pool...
The clerk showed me to my room… which was really more like a suite...
There were towels folded like swans…
A desk with a computer and internet connection...
And the bathroom had a jacuzzi tub.

"US$15?"… I confirmed. "Yes", said the clerk. "Okay, looks good to me", I replied.

The "switch" seemed to be better than the "bait" in this situation. I did not have to think about it.

Somethings you just don't know until you go!
After settling into my hotel, I ventured out to try some of the local delicacies. This dish is called Banh Bao Vac (white rose). It is a shrimp dumpling made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose.
This dish is called Cao Lau. It contains a dark pork broth with fat yellow noodles, slabs of tender pork, bean sprouts, fresh greens and crispy croutons.
With a full stomach I ventured out to see the town. I discovered that I was staying on a little island that was connected to the mainland by a bridge.
Hoi An pays tribute to its maritime and fishing history with this golden fishing net that spans across a river in the center of town.
This is the Japanese Covered Bridge's Pagoda (Chua Cau or Lai Vien Kieu). The bridge was constructed in the early 1600's by the Japanese community. The bridge was renovated in 1986 and today, it's a noted landmark in Hoi An.
In Hoi An there are a number of traditional old houses.
A few of these old wooden houses have been restored and preserved. They are simple on the outside, but can be exquisite on the inside.
Some of these old houses have been converted into shops.
In Hoi An there is no shortage of stores selling a variety of trinkets and souvenir items.
And textiles. The town is actually know for producing textiles and tailored clothing. One can walk into a tailor shop one day and have a custom tailored outfit completed with 24 to 48 hours. Since I was traveling light, I elected to not have anything made.
There are also a number of Chinese Assembly Halls. In prior days these assembly halls were used by Chinese merchants for social gatherings and to conduct business.
When I entered this assembly hall there was a photography crew and this model conducting a photo shoot. Supposedly this model is somewhat famous in Ho Chi Minh, unfortunately I did not catch her name. The dress that she was wearing is called an áo dài.

The áo dài is a Vietnamese national costume, now most commonly worn by women. In its current form, it is a tight-fitting silk tunic worn over pants. The word is pronounced [ǎːw zâːj] in the North and [ǎːw jâːj] in the South. Áo classifies the item as a piece of clothing on the upper part of the body. Dài means "long". The word "ao dai" was originally applied to the outfit worn at the court of the Nguyễn Lords at Huế in the 18th century. This outfit evolved into the áo ngũ thân, a five-paneled aristocratic gown worn in the 19th and early 20th centuries. wikipedia
I thought that she was pretty, so after the photo shoot I introduced myself and asked if she would take a photo with me. Why not? She agreed.
I continued on my self guided tour and visited this old house called the Tan Ky House.
The design of the house shows how local architecture incorporated Japanese and Chinese influences. Japanese elements include the crab shell-shaped ceiling supported by three beams in the living room. Chinese poems written in mother-of-pearl are hanging from a number of the columns that hold up the roof.
I came across another Chinese Assembly Hall.
This assembly hall had one room that looked like a classroom.
I'm not sure if the classroom was actually being used for instruction or if it was simply laid out to illustrate that previously the hall was used for teaching and by scholars.
At night, Hoi An takes on a different vibe. The shops close and the activity spills out into the streets in the form of a night market. My hotel was conveniently located about 200 feet from the night market. There was food, jewelry, crafts and some household items being sold. 
On the other side of the river there was a street performance that was drawing a fairly large crowd. It seemed like the actors would present some scrolls, then people would bid on the scrolls, then the performers would perform a traditional song or act for the winning bidder. I did not stick around long enough to ask someone what was really going on. I just know that it looked like everyone was having fun.
The next day I hopped on my motorcycle and decided that I would take a trip to the beach. On my way out of town I got a little lost. I pulled over to the side of the street to re-orient myself. When stopping to rest or find directions I typically pull over into a shaded area. Trying to make decisions under a hot sun is generally not fun nor productive. When I pulled over into this shaded area there was a lady a few feet in front of me selling something out of two large woven baskets. When I glanced her way, she smiled back at me. She was such a cute little old lady that I decided to check out what she was selling.
She lifted up the cover on the basket and showed to me what looked like soft round white sheets of dough. I thought that maybe she was selling something akin to Chinese dim sum called cheung fan or rice noodle rolls. I signaled to her that I would take one.  
She served it to me on a plastic plate along with a little bowl filled with a garlic and pepper dipping sauce. It turns out that the item was not soft dough, but was crispy like a chip. I was surprised, but not disappointed. The crispy chip did not have much flavor, but the dipping sauce was sweet, spicy and tangy. I ate it all. I later found out that this food is called bánh đập.
I generally like exploring food in the same way that I explore places. Sometimes you just don't know until you eat it. I thanked the little old lady for enriching my day and took a photo with her.
With stinky garlic breath I continued on my way. I passed by this fishing area where there were what looked like various types of fish traps. I believe that the large circular fences were one type of trap and the square boxy items were another type of trap or a holding bin. 
I rode for a while until I could ride no further. I ended up at a beach called Cua Dai Beach.
It was the middle of the week so there was no body around. I walked along the beach for a while, but I wanted to find a location where there would be people so that I could people watch.
I ended up at another part of the Cua Dai Beach where there were more people. I ran into a production crew that was filming a travel tv show. I talked with the producer for a while and met the two stars. Cool to see that there is independent productions going on in Vietnam.
Away from the beach and closer to the bay I came across a few small fishing boats and more fishing traps.
This boat was washed up on shore and abandoned, it looks like it had seen better days.
After spending quite a few days in the western part of Vietnam riding around in the mountains and through farmland, it was a nice change of scenery to be near the beach. The warm and sunny days mixed with the bustle of the markets combined with the beautiful people made me think that if there was any place at which I'd like to spend more time, it would be in Hue and Hoi An.

But I had an appointment to keep, so I had to start making my way down south toward Ho Chi Minh City.

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