12 May 2010

Farkling on the cheap

I first read the word "farkle" on the advrider.com forum.  I had no idea I'd been doing it for years.  A farkle for a motorcycle is like the shoes or earrings for the dress.  I have known people who have bought shoes then the dress to match.  I'm not sure if one buys a farkle then the motorcycle to match but I have known those who have bought a motorcycle because of the farkles.

When I decided I wanted to tour on my motorcycle, farkles became necessary.  Why?  Because the motorcycle I love came sans farkles.  Most do, unless it's a Goldwing or a Harley Dresser type cruiser.  I don't like those but I love my FZ1 (and the VX800).  There are many ways to go about it and no right way.  For me, budget dictated the way I added my farkles.

In my former life, this would have consisted of finding the item I wanted then buying it where ever I could.  Now that I live with theWolf, I have to do some things a different way.  I could have done it the same way, but it would have taken years to reach my goal.  I didn't want to wait years, I think I've waited too long as it is.

The first farkle I bought for the FZ1 was a new magnetic tank bag.  I bought it after only a couple of weeks ownership when I decided I didn't like the way the tank bag I used on the VX looked on the FZ1.  I chose the Fieldsheer Access tank bag for the pockets and the huge magnetic base.  I didn't want anything too big either.  Later, I added the matching tail bag when I noticed how tacky the Nelson Rigg bag I had looked on the FZ1.  I chose the Expander Tail Bag because it expanded and I thought it would really fit the lines of the bike.  I bought both of these the old way, but I did look for the best deal I could find.

Since I had no plans for trips at the time, I decided I could wait for the matching saddle bags until later.  Later turned out to be nearly two and a half years and I still ordered them too late to actually use on the trip I wanted them for!  Since I already had the tank and tail bags, I decided to stick with the Fieldsheer brand for the saddlebags after flirting with replacing the whole rear setup.  Even though the Expander Saddlebags only have one zipper instead of the two I was used to, the bags can hold a lot of stuff if you are careful about how you put it in.  I was able to get the bags on close out for about 1/2 the price I would have paid if I had bought them with the Tank and Tail Bag.

Later, I ended up with a hard top case that I mounted to the seat because of the deal that Sears had on the JCWhitney style cases.  I chose the seat mount for two reasons.  The first was that I didn't want to pay $150+ for a luggage rack.  The second was aesthetic--I didn't like how the luggage racks hung off of the back of the bike instead of over the tail.  My thinking for the extra tail bag is I can use the hard case for around town and the full soft setup for trips or I can add the saddle bags to the hard case if I want.  And if I really want to take a lot of crap, I can use all the bags (like the guy with the Ninjette pictured to the right but add saddlebags).  Now, when I put my tail bag atop the case, it all seemed extremely high.  Not sure I would do it unless there was no other choice.

Luggage options can get really expensive.  If I'd chosen all hard luggage for example, the costs could range from $700 to $1,000.  Soft luggage is cheaper but less durable and starts around $300. By getting the saddlebags on closeout I saved at least 40% on those bags, choosing the Sears trunk over Givi or Shad I saved at least $55.

Here is baby with the hard case and saddle bags.  I have spent about $300 total for luggage.

Sliders, Grips, Levers, and Foot Pegs:
The first farkle I did to the actual bike was add frame sliders.  I thought I wanted the engine case guards, but I like the look of the engine so much I don't want anything to distract from it.  I got the T-Rex Frame Sliders off of eBay when they were on sale around the first Christmas I owned Baby.  I wish I could have had some on the VX but they didn't make them and since the bike was only made from 1991 to 1993, there weren't many aftermarket parts still available.  I rode with just the sliders, tank and tail bags for a long time.  Until last year when I was getting Sam fixed and needed to get new grips.  I bought Pro Grips 719 gel grips for the FZ1 and the first time I rode with them, I wondered why I didn't do it sooner.

I saw the foot pegs on eBay not long after I got the bike and my brother said he'd get them for my birthday.  I waffled on whether or not I really wanted them until I saw TopWop had some red ones on his VFR.  They were the full tubes and not the half ones, which I couldn't tell from the pictures.  So when two years later my birthday still hadn't come and the price dropped $10 I went ahead and got black Billet Pegs for myself from i5motorcycle off of eBay.  I love the way they look.

The only thing I have left to buy is adjustable levers in black rather than the silver that comes stock with the bike.  I think my small hands will appreciate them and hope to get them in the next couple of months.  Because of the budget constraints, I'll likely end up with the Chinese Pazzo knock offs that are all over ebay instead of the ASV Levers I really want.  But, last month the ASVs were on eBay for lot less than SRP so maybe there's still hope.

I have spent about $60 for these items, with probably another $50 to spend on levers.  I could easily have spent $250 more if I'd made different choices. 

One of my first purchases was an alarm system.  I decided to use the same one I had on Sam, some no name brand that had the anti hi-jack and immobilization feature.  I think I spent about $50 vs $180 for a named brand one.

I was in Wal-Mart one day not long after I bought the bike and saw they had a battery float charger, a Bell Juicer, on clearance and bought it.  It has added at least a year to my battery life and saved me about $20 over the Battery Tender brand.  Looks like anybody can get it for that price now!

I'd grown tired of the paper maps before I left California but it wasn't until I got home that I learned my pda, a Casio BE300, could run map software.  So I dug it out, added a new operating system, thanks to the folk at the BE Advancement Society and learned what I needed to use the BE for mapping.  Turns out it was just a compact flash gps card, a cable, and some software.  I think I saved around $150 on retail by buying from eBay.

So that I wouldn't constantly drain the BE's batteries, I decided to add a power accessory jack using a $8 kit from Radios Shack.  Later, I used the $7 switchable extension so that I could keep the connections in the tank bag and be able to turn everything on and off.  After fiddling with exporting maps and finding it hard to find the right software for the BE, I decided to get a newer used pda and got an Ipaq 3970.

I was able to find better software because the Ipaq had more memory and a more current (but still not completely current) operating system.  I got iGo8 from eBay and had what turned out to be the perfect for me gps system.  The only change I had to make to power the Ipaq was a usb power adapter.

The advantage to the pda over a gps exclusive system is all the other applications I have.  My pda has games, book reader, movie player, calendar, mini office suite, picture viewer and just about anything else software wise I think I might need.  I can put my repair books and bike documents in electronic format so that I always have them with me.  Most gps exclusive systems for motorcycles offer at most the mp3 player and radio in addition to gps abilities.

I mounted it all to the tank bag and put the two-way radio and Motocomm cables in the right pocket so I could communicate with other riders.  I had the Motocomm from my cross country trip with Debbie back in 2004 when I went to the Women on Wheels Ride-In in Canaan Valley, WV.  At the time I bought it, I didn't think I would use it much so I didn't want to spend a lot of money on it.  I use it just about every ride now and am very pleased with it.  I'd buy another if I ever needed to.  The only change I've made is adding velcro to the right outside pocket for the radio so I can get better reception.

The Motocomm also has a music jack that I used to connect my MP3 player.  The first difference I noticed when changing from CDs to MP3s was the loss of volume and I bought a Boostaroo to fix that problem.  That too lives in the right pocket with the radio and motocomm stuff.  I'd like to add a Belkin Rockstar so I can connect the gps, mp3, and later radar at the same time.

Of course, I can't forget the reason I even have this blog:  the heated gloves.  Being broke can make one industrious.  I found a solution for my hands getting too cold and made my own heated gloves.  I added an accessory jack so I could power both the gloves and the Ipaq at the same time.  Before the next cold season comes, I will probably abandon the fan controller in favor of the smaller pwm controller unless I can figure out a better way to have it on the bike.

I also bought a battery tester from Harbor Freight when it was on sale that I haven't installed yet.  It's a pretty simple one but I think I want want that actually shows the voltage instead of what have.  I'll probably put it on the VX.

After I got a ticket on Thanksgiving (in the car!), I decided I had to have another radar detector.  I purchased a Cobra ESD 7400 on clearance at HH Gregg for only $30.  It's not the one I want, but for the price it'll do until I can afford the one I do want.  In this case, I still don't know what that is.  It seems to work okay except for that one time but I'm still not sure he was using radar.  It probably saved us last weekend.  I have it velcroed to the front brake reservoir.   It is the only thing that I don't put in the tank bag.

My GPS setup worked great until March of this year when I changed the skin for iGo8 and had navigation problems because the skin consumed too much memory then, at the end of March, I lost the cf card.  I returned to eBay for a bluetooth gps receiver.  While I was at it, I looked for a new Ipaq with more memory so I could run the skin I wanted to and not need to worry about memory problems.  My only criteria for the new Ipaq was that it run at least WM5 and cost under $50.  A few bids later, I'd won two (yes two) Ipaqs.  One was the HX2190 and the other was the HX2410.  The seller flaked on the HX2410 so I never got it, but the HX2190 was in my hands within a few days of sending my payment.  I also ordered a second bluetooth receiver so I could have the 3970 in the car and the 2190 on the bike.

Finally, there is the Chinese Helmet Camera experiment.  Before the Mini DV, I did the $5 Camera mount and used my old Vivitar Cam for video.  I thought the video was too small so I was looking for something much better.  That's when saw MD80 Mini DV knockoff on eBay and thought for under $20 it was worth a shot.  So far, I have been very pleased with it as a helmet cam but not so much as a bike mounted cam.  I'll end up spending another $30 to get one that should function better mounted to the bike.

I have spent about $450 on all of these things.  I think if I'd stuck with the traditional route, that number could easily exceed $1,000, although I'm not sure how much I saved on the gps.  I may have spent more than if I'd just bought a specific unit.

I was in the auto parts store and noticed they had a clearance on the xenon headlights and bought a bunch for my Mustang (Jason).  It turned out, they fit the bike too so I replaced the stock lights with the bright white xenon lights.  I'm pleased with the output, but I still want to upgrade to true hid lights.

Around the same time, I changed the stock tail light bulbs for the rotating pulsating LED bulbs one like I had on Sam.  They worked great until a month or so ago so now I'm back to stock for a while.  I also learned red LEDs are not as bright in the red tail light cover on this bike as they had been on Sam.  If I replace them, I'll get white.  I am considering LEDs for the turn signals too.

I tried to change the stock turn signals for smaller LED ones but the light output was pathetic on the cheap set I bought from eBay.  I guess I'm stuck with the stockers for a while.  I also added the pod lights by following instructions posted on the FZ1 forums after the cheap LED flush mount signals failed as pod lights.  Needless to say, I'm done with cheap LED signals.

I estimate that I've spent about $60 total for the turn signals that I don't use and an additional $30 for the stuff I do use.  Comparable mods would range from  $200 for signals I don't use and $70-100 for the pod lights.

Initially, I had no intentions of doing any performance mods for a while.  But after hearing Bobby's Two Brothers exhaust, a seed was planted.  The fruit was born a few weeks ago when I won another eBay auction.  This time it was the Yoshimura TRS slip on muffler.

When researching whether or not I should get a slip on, I learned I needed to jet the bike as well.  There are several kits available for the FZ1, but I have chosen the DIY route and will have RavenRider's Jetting done soon (very soon).

When all is said and done, I think I will have only spent around $170 on performance mods.  Comparable mods to what I'm doing (a new muffler, commercial jet kit) would probably be $450.  I don't think I will do any other performance mods, but then I didn't think I'd be doing these either.

Lessons learned:
Farkling the bike the way I have, I learned I can still get the things I want if I am smart and take my time.  I may not need to dedicate years to get the same name brand as everyone else, the results are basically the same.

For a fraction of the costs:
  • I can carry my stuff.  
  • I can ride in comfort.  
  • I can put in an address, go where I want to go, and find stuff nearby that I'm looking for.  
  • I can have the visibility I want and protect my bike from falls.  
  • My bike sounds the way I want and will run they way it should.
and I still have money in my pocket to go for a ride!

Thanks for reading,

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