Thursday, August 30, 2007

Stage One Upgrade and the Power Commander

Debbie asked "Why?". "We have a perfectly outfitted '07 Ultra Classic that runs flawlessly, so why mess with it?"

My reply: "Well, umm, uh....".

I love it when my intelligence shines through.

There are, however, reasons why certain improvements are beneficial. The main issue with the new 96 inch motor is heat. No I'm not whining about it but it is very real. Our Sportster generated heat but no where near the volume of heat that radiates from the Ultra. The main culprit being the lean condition from the factory to meet the EPA requirements. Several bike mechanics agreed that the heat could be borderline to causing actual engine issues under certain conditions so my first step was to determine how to cool the bike.

Much research from web sites to newsgroups and forums to folks at local Harley shops came up with the solution. An engine is an air pump so if you allow it to take in more air and allow that same air an easier escape route then it will run cooler and perform better. If at the same time you can optimize the air/fuel ratio across the board you have an even larger performance gain and an additional engine temperature decrease.

Both Debbie and I agreed early on that the Ultra ran hot so my first goal was to tone down the engine heat and if I obtained a real performance gain then that was a plus. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

A more free flowing air system was obtained through the H-D parts catalog with the Stage 1 Air Cleaner Kit. I went with the SE model simply because it is mentioned time and time again on many sites and I wanted to keep the stock air filter cover. This was easy to install and the included instructions were accurate. They even included Loctite with the kit. Total time to install was about thirty five minutes.

Part number 29773-02C

At the other end of the bike was where I really researched. I wanted a less restrictive exhaust but learned that back pressure was important and I wanted a deeper and slightly louder exhaust tone. The available SE slip-ons were too quiet and the previous year SE's were no longer available since H-D has adopted a certain stance on exhaust audio levels. A very knowledgeable local parts guy gave me the inside track: The older SE slip-ons were manufactured by SuperTrap/Kerker and were available. Do I like the Kerker slip-ons? Oh yeah, I like them a lot. I went with the model 128-78020 and the turn down end caps. I also learned something about billet end caps: Chromed machined aluminum will flake off after repeated exposure to heating and cooling. So go with non-aluminum end caps if possible. Another good thing about the Kerker slip-ons is that you can remove and/or repack the actual muffler insert. You will have to acquire three nuts per side if you remove the insert since the inserts are threaded to allow the outside screws to hold it and the end caps in place.

Installation was easier than I thought, Chad told me that early on, and I was quite satisfied with the result. The Kerker slip-ons are slightly smaller in diameter than the stock ones and the end caps extend the perceived pipe lengths about two inches over stock. Since the supplied muffler clamps threaded portion was longer than stock I rotated them more downward so as not to protrude past the pipe on either side. When I first thumbed the ignition switch and the 96'er roared to life I grinned so hard my cheeks hurt. Install time was about one and a half hours. On an Electra Glide you will need to remove the saddle bags which takes all of sixty seconds.

Of all the parts required for this endeavor Debbie's favorite was the insert for the air cleaner cover. I have to admit that I like it as well.

With all this done there still needed to be a way to "modify" the stock ECM to take advantage of all the performance enhancements the new parts had to offer. Again I turned to the Net and a few knowledgeable individuals. The Screamin' Eagle Race Tuner software writes directly to the bike's ECM while the Power Commander is written to directly and in turn modifies the instructions being sent to the ECM. I have been around computers and software used to alter communications and network gear for a long time so this was right up my alley. I settled on the PC because if there is an issue I simply relocate the connectors and we are back to stock in two minutes. One other good reason is the large amount of freely downloadable maps available on the Power Commander web site and the fact that Chad has a PC on Bad Bob. If you are looking to save some bucks then be aware that the SERT is a hundred bucks on the heavy side when compared to the PC. The local HD shop is also a tuning center for the PC so if I have an issue they could help. The PC mounts under the right hand cover and installation took about twenty minutes. I emailed the guys at PC for the best map to start with since the Kerker slip-ons are not listed. I received an email a couple of days later that said to use map 812-009 since the flow characteristics were very similar between the two set ups.

I will add to this on Saturday since Chad and I plan to try some different settings and maps on both bikes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The damn bike won't start!

Saturday the 18th seemed like a great day to head to Wilmington and meet up with Mike for lunch and a few miles near the beach. Wilmington is eighty five miles south of New Bern and is mostly over a four lane highway known as Highway 17. It's generally an easy drive even though the traffic is fairly heavy since the road is eastern NC's main north/south corridor.

We met the Crew at 9:30 and gassed up. We live out in the country and it was fairly cool when we left home but it was quickly warming up and the humidity was not helping.

They were having a "Sell your Bike" event at New River Harley so we had made plans to stop on the way south.

There were a few new bikes on display and Lynn fell in love with the Deluxe, yet once again. You would think that if Chad loves Lynn the way he says he does then he would go ahead and write the check. I mean, Lynn's worth it, right Chad?

This Screamin' Eagle edition with the sun on the chrome was to good to pass up. I wonder if Chad would write me a check for this?

This bike was on display outside. What an awesome paint job.

Where's Mike? I called him as we were leaving Jacksonville and left a message. I had hoped he would meet us and ride south but maybe we would pass him heading out. He finally called and said he was running a little late and would meet us in Hampstead.

So we ride to Hampstead to meet Mike at the gas station across from Foodlion. I ride past that and stop at the Hess station: no Mike. I call and he says he'll meet us at the small shopping center just north of Ogden. It seems there is an issue with his Sportster and he left an earlier message about the problem. Basically the damn bike won't start.

Hampstead Chamber

Hampstead Weather

Mike's story:
Friday night I cleaned the bike and I left the key on. I tried to start it but all I got was a bunch of hell raisin' clicking. So I figured I could push start it. Here I am in the street in my neighborhood trying to run the Sportster down the street, jump on, squeeze the clutch, click it in gear and dump the clutch. Time and time again but she won't start. Out of breath, and sweating and swearing profusely, I give in to common sense and jump in the Yukon. There are three Harleys on the way down from New Bern and here I am driving the friggin car! That's just wrong.

The Heat!
Heat transfer? Yep, I know how that works. From the rear cylinder to your thighs! Ninety Six cubic inches of Milwaukee designed heat pump. Mike guided us on some back city roads to avoid the Wilmington traffic jam. Speed bumps and thirty MPH speeds in ninety five degree temperatures!

Flaming Amy's
We stopped at Flaming Amy's for lunch. I don't think the girls thought to much of the establishment. I think it's pretty good and I usually stop there when I'm in Wilmington which is usually two or three times a month.

Just after leaving Flaming Amy's, Debbie advises that her left peg is lower than usual. At a red light I feel behind me and try to determine the problem. I think I've got it fixed and pull out. Once we arrive at Chad and Lynn's, Debbie asked me to check her peg again because it "fell down" shortly after we left Wilmington. The left Kuryakyn peg had "eat the hell" out of the derby cover. Debbie didn't realize it was hurting anything and felt awful. Needless to say that dictated yet another trip the HD shop for a new derby cover. That has now been replaced.

The round trip of 188 miles was on one tank at 45.2 MPG. That's definitely better than the 38 we were getting when we bought the bike. There are quite a few goodies that I am adding to the Ultra in a few days. Look for a post involving some Stage 1 parts and a few extras.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Windsor, NC

I was in Windsor, NC for a few days dealing with a new project start up a week or so ago. I made the drive every day for three days. Windsor is a very enchanting town and it's overlooked by the vast majority of the Highway 17 traffic. The people I worked with, without exception, were down to earth, unassuming and straight forward. That is a group of qualities that are rare and greatly appreciated. I hope you enjoy the following briefly narrated, pictorial representation of my trip to this wonderful corner of eastern North Carolina.

Motorcycle riding prepares you for many things in life. Most especially it gives you a greater appreciation for your surroundings. Highway 17 runs through Washington, Williamston and on to Windsor.

Just after you leave Williamston heading north you hit the four lane that leads to Windsor. There is something about this stretch that is particularly appealing.

I had the advantage of working in the old power plant adjacent to the wonderful riverside park area and could not resist the desire for some pictures.

Windsor, the county seat of Bertie County, is ideally located in Northeastern North Carolina between the Roanoke and Chowan Rivers, headwaters of the Albemarle Sound. Windsor is centrally located on major highways and just a short drive from the Outer Banks. Founded in 1768, the town is located on the banks of the Cashie River and remains today much as it did in its heyday and is one of the most interesting small historically significant towns in the region.

Do not forget to eat at Buns Barbecue on North King Avenue! I highly recommend it! Take a left at the main light at 17 then go a few blocks and look on the right.

Roanoke River Partners


City Data

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Of all places...Winterville

Last Saturday we decided on a run to Winterville, NC. One reason for this excursion was to go back to Wimpies in Winterville. Debbie and I ate there a few weeks ago and we were very impressed with the Cajun food. Chad, like me, is especially fond of that type of food so Chad, Lynn, Debbie and I decided to make a day of it.

We meet up just south of New Bern and gas up about 11:30. We all agree that it's time to eat since nobody has had breakfast so Lynn recommends the Riverwalk Deli in Pollocksville. Sounds good to me. The girls have the chicken salad but we men, we have the Hot Hamburger Plate. The link to the Hot Hamburger Plate takes you to Wikipedia for a description and the description was entered by our son Adam some time back. It seems that that the dish is very local to eastern NC.

Since we started in Pollocksville we take some back roads to get to Greenville to do a little shopping before supper (you Yanks call it dinner) at 5:30. Well I just had to stop in Trenton, NC not NJ, for a wonderful photo op at Brock Mill Pond.

The Street Bob, AKA Chad's Bad Bob

"Pris" ridden by Lynn, a Sportster with a few surprises.

Our two wheeled time machine. I really need to come up with a name for the Ultra, any ideas?

So we leave Trenton and head to Kinston by way of Highway 58 and boy is it hot. We pass through Phillips Crossroads, Elm Grove and Southwood. It's a good back road and the traffic is always fairly light. Even riding at 60 or so it's not exactly comfortable but it's not the heat it's the humidity as we say in the south. Even from someone who was born here, it was hot. It makes me think about the Stage One upgrade and the saddle shields even more.

From Kinston we pick up Highway 11 and aim for Greenville with a short stop at J and E Harley- Davidson. There is a fairly long light as you turn off 11 at J and E and we all thought we would spontaneously burst into flames on the new blacktop. We welcomed the AC and a cold drink. Next it was off to the Colonial Mall in Greenville for a bit of shopping.

Finally we make it back to Winterville, that's where J and E is located, for some Cajun cuisine. You really owe it to yourself to try this place out. The food is great, the beer is cold and the service is quite good.

I especially like this shot of the outdoor area. It transports you from eastern NC to somewhere in Louisiana.

Well, all good things must come to an end so we say goodbye to Winterville and have a much cooler and very enjoyable ride back to New Bern via 118 and River Road.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


Debbie and I rode to Williamston last week and I have had the "opportunity" to drive that same route three times this week. Unfortunately I was in the company vehicle which has more than two tires.

I couldn't help but replay the two wheeled trip in my mind and compare mental notes. While on the bike there was a sense of calm but yet heightened awareness and of course there was the fun factor. I vividly remember the width of the road, the rake of the curves and the quantity of farm crops along the way. I also remember the good number of unused tobacco barns and family farms that are in various states of disrepair and stand as monuments to our past rural successes. What happened to these farms and homes that lay empty? The family suddenly disappeared into the night or more likely the children moved on to a "better" way of life once Ma and Pa couldn't take care of themselves any longer.

With the big family dog by your side as you ran down the dirt path, dragging the stick along the fence, click, click, click. The cane pole over your shoulder while thinking about the big one that won't get away.

Boy I sure wandered away from the point on that one....

Driving in the cage you are so isolated from everything that it's a disconnected journey at best. You are a bystander not a participant. You are more concerned with the destination than the experience. I don't fault cars entirely, I actually enjoy cars quite a bit. A few weeks ago we drove to Winston-Salem to visit Allan and returned through Raleigh to visit Adam. We took our '02 Yukon on that trip and drove non-stop to Winston-Salem. It was very pleasant and we were never concerned with traffic or our safety. But yet I hardly ever have memories from the drive like I do when we ride the bike. When you ride on two wheels you are more aware and you tend to take the back roads so that explains part of the difference. I wonder if the cage driver attitude is partly responsible for so many of the accidents that occur? The disconnected, isolated traveler.

Traveling on two wheels is motorvational!