A Shake Down Tour Of The GS

A Shake Down Tour Of The GS

2008/06 - A Quick Shake Down
19 May 2008 in Alberta, Wolfgang

I’m really going to have to figure out what it is about me and packing (or preparation in general). An entire winter of Edmonton weather (to be clear, not conducive to riding) and still I can’t quite get the fleet to be ready. May 12, with beautiful weather and 4 bikes in the garage, and only one of them is ready to ride.

This, of course, presents its own challenges, as in slightly less than 3 weeks I’m embarking on a 10-day ride to the west coast on Wolfgang. Before then, additional power, a new comm. system and a new helmet all need to be set up, shaken down and wrung out.

And so, of course, a shake down tour to JPL is in order. Which finds me getting up at 6am the day of the ride to install the communication system and helmet, all before a 9am business meeting. No idea how I keep getting myself in to these situations, but I do keep on getting myself into these situations…

The ride out to JPL is a little intense. One of the first truly hot days this year (27.5 degrees Celsius as we pull out of town) and all the wackiness that is traditionally associated with a Friday commute on a long weekend.

Not to mention the comm. system. I’ve had two Autocom systems already, so in my world this is assumed to be something of a known quantity. Nice theory. Reality: not so much.

The new system is supposed to have an ‘auto-vox’ function that adjusts sensitivity based upon background noise (and is also supposed to adjust the volume of music over the system). Nice theory, but… What I get virtually non-stop — at any speed over 60 clicks — is a constant opening of the VOX circuit. The XD-11 is a reasonably quiet helmet (I’ve certainly used louder) but every time that I find my head in the breeze (which is pretty much most of the time) the circuit opens. The net result is that the system is playing static in my ears. Loudly. It would be even more annoying if it was also opening the radio and entertaining Dianne with it as well, but fortunately I had the presence of mind to install a push-to-talk switch. This little descent into insanity at least won’t be broadcast.

A complicating factor in all of this is the wind. There is a truly impressive gale that comes variably from the north and west, and basically makes riding in a straight line more challenging than Lindsay Lohan driving without picking up a DUI. Throw in an RCMP checkpoint that is stopping all traffic on the Yellowhead Highway and taking time to pull over every pick-up truck — of which there are a few — and by the time we roll into Edson my brain circuits are pretty well fried. To add insult to injury, I still had my hearing aids in. Not only is the comm system consistently putting out static, but what I’m getting is amplified static.

Edson sees some adjustments. Ears out. Screen all the way down (for some reason it was at halfway, which is exactly where I pick up the turbulence created by the windscreen) and try again. Better (the static is now just a dull roar) but still the VOX circuit opens pretty much constantly over 60 clicks. Hinton sees the screen go to the full upright and locked position. This is a slight improvement (if only because there is more dead air to duck into) but the air current over the screen just catches the visor of the helmet, and that’s enough to set the whole thing off. Really starting to regret the whole idea of a new comm system…

Saturday comes with some new insights. Given all of the problems with the new system seems to have arisen with the background noise sensor, where it is placed must have an impact. (And please, don’t ask me why I didn’t think of this before. This is my story. Just let me tell it.) And so begins my experiment of driving up and down the road to Maligne Lake, trying different locations for the background noise sensor. We try slightly in, somewhat in, well in and truly and deeply buried. Also tried is all the way behind my head and taped down, facing into the foam liner. Interestingly, the last trick seems to have an impact, but what we’re now dealing with is the turbulence on the microphone itself. Have to say that I’m really starting to like the old system better. There are far fewer variables to try to manage.


9 am is a great time to go riding in the mountains. The light is at the level in the sky that makes for interesting pictures, and the tourists are not yet out in droves. So the roads can be ridden at an appropriate pace, not the speed deemed suitable by litigation-conscious government bureaucrats trying to over-engineer risk out of the wilderness.

Mostly, anyway. A car and a minivan are inching through the mountains at a ridiculously cautious 50 km/h, 10 km/h under the already hyper-cautious 60 that is already posted on the road. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long to be able to dispatch them and get the road all to myself.

Of course, 9am also equates to cooler temperatures, and 14 degrees Celsius may not be optimal for wearing a ventilated jacket. Ascending into the mountains towards Maligne Lake, the temperature goes in the wrong direction, bottoming out at a brisk and invigorating 11. Definitely chose the wrong jacket this morning. As raindrops threaten, going all the way up to Maligne Lake seems less a necessary goal. Turning around and heading back to JPL for a nice warm breakfast seems infinitely more appropriate.

There are some new theories about the comm system, though. A closer read of the manual indicates that there is an internal, non-permanent change that can be made to move from auto-sensing VOX to manual sensitivity, which should bypass the whole background noise sensor problem. Stay tuned.

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