Wednesday, March 28, 2012

First post from the android phone

This is an experiment. I have enough trouble getting the keys on a full size keyboard. I have no hope it all exiting the keys on this tiny little keyboard. F*** away android has a voice recognition system that simply translates my voice into words. To show how well it works I am not gonna correct anything on this blog and you can just see what mistakes have been made

A Luggage Rack for Good Measure

One of the first modifications I ever made to a motorcycle was to add a luggage rack.  I was 22 years old, and among my very few tools was a hacksaw.  So when I noticed some angle iron in a local shop, I figured out a way to attach it to the bike.  When I say angle iron, I am actually referring to "Slotted" angle iron, which is actually steel, perforated with holes along its entire length, and is bent at 90 degrees along its length.  With a hacksaw, it can easily be cut to a required length, and because I didn't have a power drill, the precut holes were perfect.

The angle iron was very strong, and I ended up putting quite a heavy load on my luggage rack, which taught me at least three things.  First,  if your rack is stronger than what you attach it to on the bike, the bike breaks before the rack does.  Second, the longer your rack, the greater the leverage on the rack's support structure, and third, weight placed far back on the bike has a greater pounding effect over bumps than weight in the middle.

Now back to the present, where I have lots of tools, including an electric drill, and I also have money to buy a nice new chrome rack from Kawasaki's "Fire and Steel" accessory collection.  But after looking at their design, which is over $200, I noticed a structural flaw in the design.  Structural flaws are easy to spot in luggage racks if you just imagine that they are made of cardboard, then think of where they will bend if you put a little bit of weight on them.  It seems to me the Kawasaki rack was made narrow for a typical bike frame, but my Vulcan has a chrome sissy bar frame about 8" wider than that.  So the luggage rack people simply added two little tabs of metal to widen the mounting point, and declared that it was specially made for the Vulcan 900.  I checked an aftermarket rack from Cobra, for about $140, and they had done the same thing: a universal rack welded to some tabs to widen it for the Vulcan 900.  No wonder both designs said "Max 5 lb Load".  Then I discovered a luggage rack on eBAY also claimed to be made for the Vulcan 900 LT, where the rack itself was the full width, meaning no weak mickey mouse ear brackets had to be welded on, for $65 (plus shipping from Hong Kong).  But the mounting width was given as 13.5", while I measured my frame at 13.75".  A quarter inch is a big discrepancy when everything is welded and very strong, so I looked carefully at the photo of their rack mounted on my bike, and saw that they had mounted one side inside the frame and the other outside the frame, and somehow was was close enough to call it a fit.

It was after looking over the "custom fit" racks for my bike that my memories came back of how easy it was to fit an angle iron rack to my first bike (I mean version 2.0, not 1.0).  I went out to look at what bolt holes were available on my saddlebag frame, and a plan started to form for an unusual rack that would extend forward and back from the sissy bar.  I am actually carrying my heaviest duffel bag on the passenger seat, where I assume loads up to 170 lb. can be carried safely.  So to help stabilize the duffel bag, my custom rack will have two side rails.  The same side rails will extend about 12" behind the sissy bar where I can strap on a 30 L bag.

The angle iron is very strong, I am not worried about it breaking.  But I am a little concerned about the spindly Kawasaki Vulcan frame that the rack is bolted to, so I maybe I should stick to the 5 lb max rule.

To make it look a bit nicer, I got some wooden strips to bolt to the top of the angle iron.  The whole thing comes to $35, about half the cost of the lowest cost chrome custom rack.  And it has about twice the weight capacity (maybe), and the fun of designing and making the thing myself.  I have bought a lot of fancy high tech gizmos for this trip, it's only fair to balance it out with a cheap home made angle iron luggage rack.

Picture: This is my partly complete luggage rack, the picture is taken with my Nexus "S" Android Smartphone with built in VCR, GPS, cellphone, weather radar, compass, email checker, altimeter, thermometer, and Field Guide to the Birds of North America all in one. I guess I forgot to mention that in my blog, I got it a few days ago and still figuring out what it will do.  Well, for one, I can take a picture and post it to my Picasa album with just a couple of finger taps while I'm on the road, driving with my throttle lock set to 100 kph. Not that I would ever do that.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Can Your Gear Ever Be Secure?

One things that bothers me about motorcycle travelling is the feeling of insecurity I get when leaving the fully laden bike in a parking where I can't see it.  I felt  reasonably comfortable with my old BMW because it had lockable saddlebags and trunk, but the Vulcan's only lockable area is under the seat, and that holds the small toolkit and nothing more.

I found a security device that I plan to try out, it is a "Pacsafe Anti-Theft Backpack and Bag Protector".

The packsafe is basically a wire net with a cable drawstring and padlock. I found one at Mountain Equipment Coop in London, Ontario. I have to give the store credit for three people helping me out with my purchase, this was a Thursday afternoon.  I was undecided about the size to buy. My main duffel bag is 90 litres.  The bag protector comes in various sizes, the closest being 85 litres and 120 litres.  I was tempted to round off to the nearest size, but usually it is safer to go to the larger size, so I ended up with a 120 litres size after the sales assistant demonstrated the entire packing process, using a 100 litre bag, and both nearest sizes of Packsafe nets.  I suppose I would have not got this kind of service for a $5.00 purchase, but these packsafe meshes run to about $85 US.  I also like that MEC sells the bag for the same price  in Canadian dollars that Packsafe suggests for US dollars.

When I got the wire mesh home, I tried to wrap up my bag without reading the instructions, which was not very successful. The packing job looked so sloppy I would not really like to travel with it. But after reading the instructions, I realized that, although it does not look like it, the mesh has specific dimensions when expanded.  The long dimension of the duffel bag must be oriented to match the long dimension of the wire mesh.  There is a thoughtfully placed tag on the mesh to let you know where the long end of your duffel must be centred.  I tried again, following the instructions, and ended up with a much neater finished job.  Then the cable drawstring can be tightened, looped through the motorcycle frame (in my case the sissy bar), and then doubles back to lock the drawstring so that it cannot be loosened.

The wire itself is not plastic coated, but it didn't seem to chafe my skin like some wire sailboat rigging I have worked with in the past.  The mesh comes in its own bag, with a padlock and three keys.  It is not horribly difficult to put on, but I will keep the in and outs to a minimum.

In all my previous trips, I have felt fairly secure either because my luggage was lockable, or because was driving at high speed most of the time.  This trip is going to have more parking, some of it might have to be unattended.  I thought the Packsafe motto might be appropriate: "When your gear's secure, you can do more".  I assume this rhymes to the people who thought it up.

Quoted from Wikipedia:
"Outpac Designs Limited, makers of Pacsafe, was established in 1998 by two Australians.[1] Their inspiration behind the original Pacsafe product and travel security products came while travelling in South America, where they saw chicken wire put around bags to protect them against thieves. Shortly afterwards, they created the slashproof wire cage system eXomesh, the Pacsafe 85L"
Pictures: My bike, but the 90L bag is not really full here the way it will be on the trip. But I did put another bag in the wire.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lost and Burgie on a Test Ride to See Tundra Swans

Today we had our first road test of our Scala Rider Q2 Bluetooth rider-to-rider headsets, which was a complete success. It turned out that Mary Ann was a bit more chatty on the radio than I had previously thought, so we may have to recharge our batteries more often than every two days.  But already I can see why people get addicted to the communications devices.  First is the safety of being able to tell the other person what you are doing, and warn of what other drivers are doing.  Second is for navigation, to be able to consult with each other before each decision point.  Which is also a plus for safety.  Third is freeing you up to improvise, not having to follow a previously constructed plan. And last, is what I might call entertainment, making observations.

For us, this translated in the following way.  I could easily tell Mary Ann to merge to the left lane before me, even though I was leading the way.  I believe it is safer for the following rider to change lanes first, but don't have time to explain right now.   Next I needed gas at Petersburg, and then told her to take the lead before Tavistock - asking her to pass on the left, not the right. I could tell her that I spotted a Snowy Owl fly overhead right behind her.  At one point we were looking for a turnoff at 90 kph with traffic following.  She could inform me as soon as she could make out the ever-so-small lettering on the streetsign, which of course is too late for her to give proper advanced  signalling.  But as I was following a proper distance behind, I was able to signal well in advance of the turn, and help protect her from any over ambitious floormat adjusting text messager from following too close and clipping her as she suddenly turned left.  I was also able to request an emergency stop at Timmy's for a Peach Mango smoothie.

The Scala Rider also is a big boost to navigation without using a GPS.  I wrote down the directions to follow, because Mary Ann wanted to try a new backroad route involving about 10 turns.  Then I was able to read my trip ticket and call out the turns one after the other.

By conventional measurement, our trip was a total failure.  Our original plan was to stop for lunch at "I'm Starvin' Roadhouse" near Grand Bend, then go to see the Tundra Swans migration stopover on Greenway Road, then have a break at C&J's cafe in Thedford.  There were no Tundra Swans, and both establishments were closed.  But instead of being annoyed, we found an open pub for lunch in Grand Bend, the Paddington, with an open patio (choice of front or back) and great food and friendly atmosphere.  Mary Ann even asked for the recipe for the potato leek soup, and the chef came out with pen and paper to write the recipe out for her.  Yes, we sat out on the patio and we even had to sit in the shade as it would have been too hot.  For people who live in Florida, this may be no big deal, but this is Canada, and it's the month of March, not April, not even May, and it's unheard of.

So the communicators were a success. We used them to make sure both motorcycles speedometers were reading the same.  We also tested them for range - I sped up until I was almost out of sight, and then as I went over the crest of a hill, I heard silence.  As Mary Ann came into view in the rearview mirror, communications were re-established.  Then a big truck came between us and her voice broke up again temporarily.  The voice-activated communicator takes a half second to turn on after going into dormant mode, and sometimes we miss the first syllable of the next message.  But I don't think it's a big problem if you are aware, and avoid monosyllabic messages.

The headset is also very effective at noise cancelling, and automatic volume adjusting. Once in a while it gets fooled.  At one point, Mary Ann called  "What are you doing?", I replied "I just sneezed!".  She answered, "Motorcycling is a good way to not catch germs."  There was another time I thought my faceshield had suddenly snapped shut, but that was impossible as it was still open.  Then I realized Mary Ann had flipped down her faceshield, and it sounded like mine.  I would say that's good sound quality.

Later in the day I must have started to get delusional, and used some air force pilot language I've heard in movies.  So I said "Bandit at 6:00!"  She answered "What does that mean?".  I said "What do you think it means?"

"Does it mean I'm going to see a raccoon in about an hour?"

Picture: Cover of comic book by George Low (Editor). Carlton Books, August 2008

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What is a Throttle Lock

I have installed a throttle lock on the Vulcan, and I plan to install one on Mary Ann's Burgman too. They are simple devices that I have used before, and they have helped me with long distance trips.  The most important consideration about these things is about their safety, or lack thereof.  All motorcycle add-ons must be considered this way, not just throttle locks, but bungie cords, radios, gps systems, cell phones, water bottles, trailers, even chome doo-dads that you add just for show.

Before I consider the safety aspect of throttle locks, let me restate the basic principal that safety is a state of mind, not a device you can add to a bike.

The name "Throttle Lock" itself sounds dangerous, but they do not in fact "LOCK" the throttle, they simply increase the friction in the throttle to prevent it returning to idle when the hand leaves the throttle. The hand is still able to adjust speed, but the throttle feels a bit stiffer.

I want to review the historical types of throttle, starting with the one where you set the throttle with some  lever, that you do not actually keep holding.  When you want to change speed, you reach over and turn the lever up or down a bit, then resume holding whatever you were holding before (say a beer for example).  This type of throttle was used in boats, planes, model T Fords, railroad locomotives, and the same principle even applied to horse drawn stage coaches.  Wherever precise control of speed was not needed or even expected.

The next type of throttle came about when speedometers were invented and there was a need to control speed more precisely.  As more and more cars came on the roads, and speed limits were enforced, it got so that you had to monitor your speed constantly. Throttles were designed where you could keep part of your body on it at all times.  In the car, it was generally a foot pedal so as to not interfere with the usual smoking or drinking.  With a motorcycle, it was a handgrip, as your feet were sometimes occupied holding up the bike. A foot pedal must return by spring pressure alone because human feet cannot grip the pedal properly. But with the motorcycle throttle on a rotating hand grip, self return was not a physical necessity (because the hand rotates both ways) and many early grip throttles did not return to idle all by themselves. This was considered a benefit in some cases.

Then the concept of the "Deadman" throttle came about.  It was noticed that in the case of a heart attack or a driver falling off the bike, boat, or out of a car, that it would be safer for the throttle to return to idle or even shut off altogether.  Soon this became the universal standard for throttles of all self-propelled vehicles - and even for things like lawn mowers where taking your hand off the throttle sometimes meant that you were shortly going to stick it in the blades.

I have seen some motorcycles with a true deadman cut off - a wire attached to kill switch, so that if you leave your bike unexpectedly, the wire pulls out and kills the engine altogether.  Very useful if the bike lands on top of you drive wheel first.

And finally, we come full circle with automotive "cruise control" that varies the throttle to maintain a set speed until you step on the brake.

So now with the "throttle lock" I'm going back to the non-deadman throttle, but briefly and only when there is no traffic and a clear view.  The purpose of the throttle lock is not to maintain a set speed, just to prevent slowing down suddenly when the hand is removed from the throttle for a few seconds. Unlike cars, most motorcycle slow down very quickly if you remove your hand from the throttle, even if you try to get a new wrist position, or want to adjust the right hand mirror.

So what is the real danger of a throttle lock?  I can mention a few from personal experience.  One, the throttle lock gets loose, rotates, jams in an open position and simultaneously blocks the brake lever from being squeezed.  Segundo: You use the throttle lock to remove both hands from the handlebars, and you discover for the first time that your motorcycle has a "speed wobble" that happens only when both hands are off the handlebars.  If you are lucky, you can get your hands back on the bars before this becomes a "tank slapper".  Third comes a whole variety of unexpected little things like gusts of wind, deer jumping out of the bushes, etc. that require fast response and full time two-handed control.

Now let me address something that is not a problem with throttle locks.  If you put on the front brake, you should notice that your hand stays on the throttle, and for maximum force, your thumb must remain hooked around the throttle while squeezing the brake lever.  So it does not really matter whether the throttle is locked or not, you must always return the throttle to idle before squeezing the front brake lever hard.  For many people this is an unconscious action, but one that you really should be aware of.  Due to the way your hand grips the throttle and brake together, it is actually quite a difficult trick to get a good squeeze on the brake while simultaneously holding the throttle open, although I am also sure some people can do it. So in reality you do not have to worry about a well adjusted, properly installed, throttle lock preventing you from stopping, even if it is in the "locked" position at the time.

Picture: The illustration documents Mrs. F.S. Bliven driving a car, from a collection of pictures primarily to serve as an easy to access educational resource. Contact Image ID# 0400F226.  I do not know why I chose this picture, but I'm pretty sure she was using one of the types of throttles that I mentioned.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Preparations Go On

The preparations continue.  My other trips did not take so much preparation, because each trip was an incremental change from the previous.  I may only have needed to buy a few items, and almost everything else could stay the same.  This time is different, because we will be gone for about twice as long as my previous longest trip, also Mary Ann has her own bike, and so I'm planning for the inscrutable Burgman as well as my Kawasaki Vulcan.  Also, I have not been for a long trip since 2004, so even some details like passport renewals need taking care of.  And with the passage of 7 years, technology has changed, so we are sampling some of the new possibilities like bike to bike communications, and wifi internet access.  And I'm older, too, so I need, for example, to take pills along, and a thicker sleeping pad.

I have a very long list of things to do.  Each one should be quick and simple, but it takes time to sort out these purchases, and modifications.  A simple, quick purchase might be something like the new belt drive for the Burgman.  Although it took a week, it was done by the dealer, and worked perfectly when I took it home.  My only remaining problem is how to pack the old drive belt to take as a spare.  Compare that to checking the Kawasaki valves, which took a week, and I did myself, and resulted in an oil leak.  The oil leak then had to be discovered, then fixed, then tested to make sure it was gone.  And the spilled oil needed to be cleaned up.  Altogether two weeks.

We have a Bluetooth rider-to-rider communications system, which still has to be tested on the road from one bike to another.  So far I have installed the units on the helmets, and I have been testing alone on the road with the FM radio only.  The FM radio appeared to not work properly at first.  Two days ago I made a discovery by accident.  I was in Dutton, and driving the 401 back to Kitchener.  As soon as I got on the road, I turned on the radio and it was as clear as a bell at 100 kph.  And it was a Kitchener station, too.  So even with no antenna the FM radio could easily play a station based 135 km away.  I couldn't figure out what the difference was, but by the time I got home I noticed that my right ear was in pain, because the ear/speaker had slipped down out of its pocket.  Curiously, although the speaker slipped down, it was the top of my ear that was pinched.  So that led to the discovery that my ears do not actually sit in the ear pocket of the helmet, they are actually about 3 cm. down from that point.  I moved both the speakers down 3 cm., and the sound was so loud I needed to turn down the volume.

The next day was even warmer and also sunny, and with the bluetooth working well, and the oil leak stopped, I went back to Zdeno's to pick up a few more items from my list.  I wanted a new tank bag, because my old one, which I bought for a non-cruiser style bike, is too big, and not magnetic, and blocks my view of the tank-mounted speedometer. I also wanted a Vista Cruise throttle lock, even though it looks like the thing is too complicated to ever work.  And I also wanted a large size leather tool bag, and I will figure out where to put it later.

At Zdeno's, I was allowed to take out the tank bag to try it on the bike before buying, so I took three small bags out, and picked the largest of the three, an oddly named Oxford "First Time Tank 'n Tail Bag" . At home, I loaded it up with all the stuff I need on the road, like water bottles, locks and a squirt bottle of windshield cleaner.  Unfortunately the windshield cleaner emptied itself out inside the new bag.  So I removed the contents, mopped up the soapy mess, and tried to unzip the bottom flap, which jammed. With my slippery fingers, it was just getting worse so I stopped and Googled "fixing zippers", which I then refined to "fixing separating zippers" (the type we use on jackets).  A nice video came on with a woman showing how to remove the track stops, take the zipper apart, realign it and replace the track stops.  Although my zipper was much smaller and therefore hard to work with, I managed to fix it using her advice.  So now that means today we no longer need "Zen" for motorcycle maintenance.  We need "Google".

I also installed the Vista Cruise throttle lock.  As part of this installation I replaced the stock mirrors that I had taken off four years ago, but the stock mirrors are much better than the aftermarket replacements for clarity and field of view. With everything back to stock, the Vista Cruise went on fairly easily, as long as you do it according to the instructions, plus a few tips from the internet. Vista Cruise people did not include the required allen key wrenches in their kit, and being made in the USA, it did not take metric allen keys.  (Correction: I did not see the wrenches in the kit until a week later. My mistake.)  I went to the nearby Dollarama and picked up a set of SAE allen keys for ... yes... one dollar (plus tax). Then everything went together quickly and seems to work.  But a road test is still needed.  Driveway checks just cannot come close to reproducing the conditions on the road, although they are a reasonable start.

I'm guessing that I'm about 90% done with the planning for this trip, not including care of the house while we're away.

Picture: Small magnetic tankbag in place, Vista Cruise installed.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Went for a Test Drive, Where Did the Puddle of Oil Come From?

With the recent work I have done to the bike, I was happy to get a test ride to Brantford today.

I pulled the Vulcan out of the garage,  and as I was going down the driveway I could already hear the music coming through the bluetooth headset.  But as I left town, and picked up speed, it seemed that the FM radio was not able to generate enough decibels to overcome the wind sound (and my earplugs too).  So naturally, I reached for the volume control, and tapped "UP" a few times, and the volume went up, but that only lasted about two seconds and it went down again.  Because this headset boasts that it automatically adjusts the volume itself to compensate for road noise, I started to wonder if this was a bug in the volume compensation logic.  I tried it many times, always with the same result.  Then I tried to tap the "DOWN" volume button, with the same result, that the volume went up momentarily.  Finally I decided to turn the unit off, and surprisingly, reaching for the off button also raised the sound level a bit before it went off.

Much later I came up with a theory to explain all this strange behaviour.  My hand must be acting as some kind of antenna boosting the radio reception.  With my hand on the handlebars, the reception diminishes, and so does the volume.  I have no proof of this yet, but as a scientific theory, at least it explains what is happening.

After the meeting at Timmy's in Brantford, I noticed a puddle of oil under the bike, which I ignored as my Vulcan is not made by Harley, and because many clapped-out vehicles park at Tim's.  But when I was putting the bike in the garage at home, I saw another puddle and became suspicious and then alarmed.  This bike has never leaked a drop of oil.  I checked the bike, and it seemed that the leak was not coming from the valve cover area, it seemed to start about half way down the cylinders, and there was enough oil to spatter the saddlebags too. It wasn't too long before I found a plausible explanation on the internet.  There is a tube around the spark plug hole that fits into the valve cover.  Apparently if you do not install the tube correctly when replacing the valve covers, you will get an engine oil leak around the spark plugs.  These tubes are critical in keeping oil inside the engine, I didn't realize that when I put the covers on.  Furthermore, Kawasaki has thoughtfully made a drain hole near the spark plug, in case water (or oil I suppose) gets in there, and that drain hole exits about half way down the cylinder.

Neither of my theories have been tested yet, but tomorrow I will have time to remove the gas tank again, along with the rear valve cover, as oil seems to only be coming off the rear cylinder - and the rear cylinder was where I had a lot of trouble forcing the spark plug tube in  to its seat.

The Vulcan's clock was also wrong, but not because of daylight saving to change last night, it's because I took the tank off, and of course the tank- mounted clock lost its power. So two things will need further looking at.  One thing that will need no further looking at is the living room VCR.  I tried to set the clock on it this morning for daylight saving time, and ended up tossing the whole VCR and its remote into the garbage ( actually our electronic pile destined for recycling).  I will deal with the motorcycle clock after I'm sure there are no more oil leaks.

At least there is one thing that still seems to work perfectly is the motorcycle's new fuel gauge.  After a fill up and 120 km, it's reading about 3/4 full.

Picture: That is not my Vulcan, it is a picture of a bike that's supposed to leak oil.  I see no oil in that pic, yet my bike has oil all over it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bike to Burgie Communications

You might call this Bluetooth Bike-to-Bike communication device an impulse buy.  I was aware that bike to bike communications had progressed over the last 40 years.  We used to have hand signals, and sometimes foot signals, and sometimes no signals at all.  Now we have something called Bluetooth.

It started this morning, when Mary Ann and I were out birdwatching in the balmy 11c weather with the field naturalists club. We engaged in a conversation with another couple that each rode their own bike on long trips, and found out that they had Bluetooth communicators, and really liked them.  After the conversation, Mary Ann took me aside and said "maybe we will need those for our trip to BC".  Up this now, my standard response would have been, "We go riding to not have to talk to each other", but somehow this comeback was starting to sound really weak.

For the last 5 days my motorcycle has been apart while I installed a new fuel level sensor, new spark plugs, and checked the valve clearances.  I put it back together and was pleased to see that it still ran as well as ever, and now the fuel gauge works.  So with Mary Ann's suggestion in my head, and feeling pretty good in the warm weather, I mysteriously ended up at Zdeno Cycle Parts. I was doomed from the moment Linda saw me and asked if I was looking for something.  10 minutes later I was out the door clutching a brand new Scalarider Q2 Multiset Pro. My sales resistance is pitiful. As she was ringing in the bill, the salesperson mentioned that electronic items are "Not returnable".  A little off putting, but oh well, of course it's going to work, I thought to myself.  This communications device does more than what I need, such as voice syncing with a GPS, voice control of a  cell phone, and running a wireless mp3 player.  It can also tune in local FM stations.  I do like the fact that it does not need wires to plug into the bike.  It is all self contained in the helmet, and runs for (I'm told) 7 hours of continuous talking before needing a recharge, and has a range of about 700 m.

As with any earth shaking new technology, I ran through a series of mental highs and lows as I discovered what it would and would not do, and tried to get it to do what I wanted it to.  I first began to charge the two units for five hours, as instructed by the manual.  While that was going on, I began to install the microphones and speakers in my Scorpion EXO1000 helmet and the counterpart in Mary Ann's HJC helmet.

First problem was that apparently it would not fit on my helmet, which has some stuff in it that I don't use anyway, for example the inflatable cheek pads.  But I got out a knife, I pulled insides out of the helmet and started carving a bit of space for the clamp.  This device is supposed to clamp on to the lower edge of the left side of the helmet.  After my knife work, I got the helmet and microphone and speakers all together and it actually looked almost professional.  Then I did Mary Ann's HJC, which was actually much easier to install without any cutting required.  I guess her helmet is more "normal".

During the remaining charging time I found out the internet is filled with stories about these things not working right out of the box.  Once the batteries reached full charge, I gave Mary Ann her helmet, and I put mine on and we began yelling to each other in the kitchen. Apparently this Scalarider Q2 Pro is one of those that doesn't work, and so I took both helmets and went back to the basement to re-read the instructions. The only thing I could think of doing was re-synching (or "Pairing").  You have to do a bunch of things which is supposed to result in the red lights going on for two seconds solidly, meaning they can now communicate.  If they fail to Pair up, then the devices "revert to standby mode".  That's what it says in the book, without any further comment - I want to know what do you do next if they don't pair up.  Try again? Send it back to the manufacturer?  So after retrying three time with the same results I registered my purchase on the warranty webpage, and prepared to call the help line. But then decided to try it one more time with Mary Ann in case it really did pair up, but just didn't shine the red lights.

Mary Ann and I went back to yelling at each other with our helmets on and suddenly it started working.  I heard something in the speakers, and so did she.  But it sounds like the first half second of anything you say is dropped.  Maybe that's something to do with the voice activation software.  Also the volume seems to adjust itself - and that probably has something to do with the noise compensation software.  These devices are optimized for a very loud environment, and the louder the road noise, the louder the voices go automatically. Anyway the next thing is a real road test.