5/1/11 – 5/4/11
4 days, 1,250 miles
Days 1 & 2: Chicago – Chester IL – Salem MO
Days 3 & 4: Salem MO – Foristell MO – Chicago
Howard and I have actually planned a trip to the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, but the weather forecast for this area was so bad, that, at the very last moment, we decided to ride to Missouri.
We spent most of the first day on interstate, I-294/I-55/I-255, getting off the highway somewhere south of the St. Louis Downtown Airport.
The morning was warm and sunny, but it started to rain in the late afternoon, and the last 50 miles were cold and wet. However, the Bluff Road and the Great River Road were scenic, and we tried to enjoy them as much as we could.
The rain continued through the night, stopped in the morning for several hours, started again at about 10 AM, and didn’t stop until the next day.
Day 2, from Chester to Salem, was the most challenging. It was cold, rainy, and the entire area was heavily flooded. A couple of times we had to turn around and look for another road.
This is County Road H south of Grassy.
By lunchtime we gave up on the planned route and decided to stay on the major roads through the rest of the day. This actually turned out to be a very nice ride. We took SR-72 from Junction City to Arcadia, then 21 North and 32 West.
Day 3 greeted us with the bright sun and a very pleasant weather overall. We had re-planned this day’s route, but it wasn’t probably necessary since this part of Missouri wasn’t flooded.
Day 4 started really great, but going through St. Louis Howard and I lost each other and had to finish the trip separately.
For this trip Howard and I decided to go high-tech and purchased Scala Rider communicators, so we could talk to each other while riding as well as hear GPS instructions.
Our setup looked like this: two Scala radios attached to the helmets, Howard’s GPS connected to his unit, and my TomTom connected to my unit. All via Bluetooth. In theory, this was supposed to be working seamlessly with Scala managing all communications. In practice, nothing worked. At least initially. After some experimentation, we gave up on Bluetooth and used a cable to connect GPS to Scala. It also took us some time to figure out that Scala doesn’t release the channel after the end of the conversation. One of us needed to press a button to explicitly end it. Only after that a GPS would reconnect.
All this playing with audio was a big distraction. I don’t think I was terribly upset when an audio jack in my GPS broke of.
I also used this trip to test a new helmet and a new windshield. The helmet was Nolan N90. It turned out to be very comfortable and aerodynamic. Internal sun visor was also great. The only disappointment was the visor that didn’t use friction to stay open like on my old helmet, but instead had preset stops with the first one creating a 1” opening. I usually open the visor just a notch when it rains to allow air in to reduce visor fogging. An opening, which is too big, allows too much water inside the helmet. I will need to put on my engineering hat and come up with a solution.
Most new helmets, including N90, are designed to channel air from the front vents to the visor, but because of the tall windshield, the vents are in the low pressure air bubble where air just doesn’t move. I guess all helmet designers ride naked bikes only.
The new windshield was a huge disappointment. I ordered Cee Baileys + 4 hoping that it would push the air above my helmet creating a very comfortable air bubble with low noise and no turbulence. What I didn’t know that windshields with reverse flips and non-fair shapes generate semi-periodic chaotic swirls of turbulent air, called Von Karman vortices. These vortices, or pockets of turbulence, grow as they move away from the windshield. At high speed the turbulence was so severe, I had hard time reading highway signs.
There are several potential options that I intend to explore: raise the windshield to allow more air under it, install a vent, cut the windshield, buy another brand, or a combination of those options. Riding with the stock windshield is also a possibility.
After reviewing pros and cons of each option, I decided to try a vent. I was able to find two vents – Honda Goldwing vent and Rifle Air Balance vent. I had the Goldwing vent in the Clearview windshield installed on my previous scooter and was not impress with its performance. I also wanted to cut an inch off of the top of the windshield. Rifle, on the other hand, has been testing and designing vents since late 60's. So I just shipped Cee Baileys windshield to Rifle with my instructions to make it shorter and install the vent. Three weeks later I received it back and today took the bike on interstate.
My first impression is positive. The windshield is now the right height, so I can easily see over it. The vent flows lots of air and, by channeling it all up the back side of the windshield, it breaks the airflow from the front side of the windshield and pushes it higher. As a result, there’s less turbulence and a quieter ride. I don’t think there’s any way to eliminate turbulence completely with a tall windshield when you look over it. What I have now is probably as good as it will ever get.
However, I still would like to test a shorter windshield. I think if I cut off 10-12” of the top of the stock windshield, so the air hits me in the chest, it will eliminate buffeting completely. A big drawback of a shorter windshield, of course, is a significantly increased level of wind noise. But I think it’s worth a try. Of all evils, helmet buffeting is probably the worst.