Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ear Bud Modification for Cardo Scala Rider G4 Headset

A few months ago, after performing considerable online research and talking with club members, I purchased a Cardo Scala Rider G4 headset to have a wireless connection to my my Garmin Zumo 550 GPS receiver.  For some time, I had been using a wired hookup between my GPS and my favorite ear buds (Etymotic ER-6i's, which are unfortunately no longer being made), but I really wanted to "cut the cords."  If feasible, I also wanted a headset that would also allow me to receive phone calls while riding.  One week out of every five, I am on-call for work and have been very hesitant to ride for fear of missing one of these work-related call outs (missing one could result in time off-without pay).  After considering both the Sena SMH-10 and Cardo's Scala Rider G4, I settled on the G4 headset, especially after positive recommendations by fellow club member and G4 user Paul Winter.

The G4 kit consists a base unit, which you attached to your helmet using either a clamp fit, or if necessary, with an adhesive mounting pad.  The standard base includes a boom-style microphone and two small speakers with Velcro backing to mount inside the helmet.  

The standard base unit should work well in most full face and three-quarter face helmets.  For those with very tight –fitting full-face helmets, an optional base is available with a wired microphone instead of the boom mic.  The transmitter/receiver (shown below) mounts to the base by sliding into the base.  

The transmitter/receiver uses a Bluetooth connect with your GPS or cell phone.  Unlike many older Bluetooth headsets, which are mono audio, the Scala Rider G4 supports stereo Bluetooth.  This is a great improvement if you are a rider who likes to listen to music or XM radio from your GPS, while riding.

Placement of the base unit's speakers inside your helmet is critical if you want to have sufficient volume for clear communications.  The speakers need to be mounted such that they are directly over your ears when the helmet is being worn.  Speaker placement is probably less of a problem if you do not wear ear plugs while riding, but is very important if you do wear ear plugs and this is something that I always do.  I was never completed satisfied with the speaker volume and began to explore ways to use ear buds with the Scala Rider G4.

I saw a post on ADVRider.com where an individual, Eileen Kelleher (aka JetGrl), had modified her G4 base to replace the helmet-mount speakers with a 3.5mm stereo plug for ear buds.  I learned that the base unit, which you mount to your helmet, includes a small circuit board to which the speaker leads are soldered.  It turned out that Eileen Kelleher had been offering her services to make the same modification for a few other ADVRider inmates.  (Members of the ADVRider forum are referred to inmates in this asylum.)

Not being an experienced user of a soldering iron and not being inclined to destroy my base unit's circuit board, I contacted Eileen, shipped her the base module, and in slightly more than one week, I received my modified base module.  If you are soldering-challenged like me, her $35 charge (which included the return shipping) seems very reasonable.  Installation of the 3.5mm plug makes for a very clean configuration, as you can see from this photo.

Having tested the modified unit using my Etymotic ER-6i ear buds, the output volume is significantly improved.  The only initial criticism was that the volume adjustment increments were not quite incremental as I would like when using the ear buds versus when using the speakers.  Fortunately some experimentation with setting the audio output level on my GPS versus the audio output setting on the Scala Rider G4 eventually arrived at very satisfactory sound output level and the level control desired.

The Scala Rider G4 is an excellent Bluetooth-type headset that I can strongly recommend.  If you have been less-than-satisfied with the G4 speaker volume, of if you prefer using ear buds while riding, making the ear bud modification to the base module can significantly improve the headset's functionality.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

East Coast Timing Association Event in Maxton

October 29, 2011
By Dick Williams

I made it to Maxton this past Saturday on what turned out to be a cold, blustery day, where the wind chill factor keep the temperature “feel” in the 40’s for most of the day (despite the cloud cover lifting in the afternoon). My conclusion, after spending about four hours (divided between the start line, the finishing line and circulating among the waiting racers) is that, although watching was fun, participating would have been much more fun.

Since the only racing that I have personally witnessed has been at large, professionally run facilities, I was not prepared for the quaint, almost folksy feel to the event. Access off a secondary highway (about like NC 133) was via a dirt/gravel road that connected to some partially paved areas that looked like the streets of an abandoned housing subdivision. Scattered here and there were people with trailers, campers and RV’s. A badly decomposed secondary runway ran in parallel to the “track”, a longer runway of about 2 miles in length no longer used to support airplanes. Along the secondary runway were arrayed the dizzying variety of vehicles and their drivers, all lined up and creeping towards the start line. This line up of vehicles was at least ¼ mile in length, representing an average wait time of 1 hour or so.

To keep things in perspective, the East Coast Timing Association (ECTA) does in fact have rigid safety rules that are strictly enforced (I found this out the hard way when I got too close to the starting area on my K12GT). Starts were done professionally, and only one vehicle was allowed on the runway at a time (they were properly spaced). All of this spit and polish when it came to safety just seemed a little odd when juxtaposed against the semi-abandoned airfield with muddy, decaying roads and unpicked cotton fields on all sides. It was a far cry from the pristine conditions at VIR or Daytona. So, too , were the riders and drivers who wore all manner of racing “get ups” (evidently all ECTA sanctioned). Although leathers were required for the bike riders, which gave them somewhat of a uniform appearance), the auto vehicle drivers at one extreme looked ready to step into a NASCAR (full flame retardant suit, head sock, helmet, driving boots, etc.) while those with much slower production vehicles were wearing almost ordinary clothing (with a helmet being their only really distinguishing characteristic).

The key to land speed racing is that all vehicles, in a sense, can qualify to do it. The question is simply how fast can you make the vehicle (with a given engine displacement, state of tune, etc.) go from a standing stop to the one mile mark. I did not study the rule book carefully, but there are literally dozens and dozens of racing classifications for all manner of vehicles. By way of illustration, I saw everything from showroom stock vehicles of all vintages to airplane-like vehicles with aft-mounted parachutes that are always pictured on the Bonneville Salt Flats (200 + MPH).

During my time at the track, the fastest motorcycles (most stock, or slightly modified, versions of the Suzuki Hayabusa) averaged in the 180’s. However, the fastest vehicle that I saw run that day was a specially modified race bike that cleared the traps at 226 MPH. Watching these machines pass by at those speeds had an air of unreality to it, as if one were watching special effects in a movie (most commercial jets are not traveling that fast, either on takeoff or landing).

One special treat of the day for me was watching a number of members of a vintage motorcycle club racing their 100cc to 200cc machines. While a few of these were roughhewn vintage race bikes, some (like a his-and-her pair of BMW R27’s) were beautifully restored with flawless paint and detailing. At one point, I stood at the starting line and watched with a certain amount of bemusement a vintage race bike rider (who must have been at least 70 years old) crouch expectedly at the starting line on a tiny 175cc race prepared Honda, blipping his throttle in anticipation of the start. I remember thinking that he could not possibly go more than 70 MPH on a single cylinder machine like that. To my absolute amazement, his terminal speed was announced as 104 MPH!

It was indeed an historic occasion, given that Maxton field is being turned into a special area for training antiterrorist units of the military, and ECTA racing there will evidently be ended forever. The transformation had already begun to take place with dirt roads named (“Baghdad Avenue”), artificially created earth embankments, and what appeared to be fortifications of some kind. In the future, all ECTA events are being moved to Wilmington, Ohio. I cannot believe what I missed out on for the last 10 years, or that I will have to journey 600 miles to see the next one of these.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November 2011 Newsletter

Happy Halloween, everyone!

November Club Meeting

After the weather-related postponement of our October club meeting, I concluded that it was time to resume our winter "weekend club meeting schedule."  Hopefully this schedule will make it easier for you to attend a meeting, if you are reluctant to ride at night.

For November, we are going to try something different in terms of scheduling our meeting.  Our club meeting will be held on Saturday, November 12th, 4 p.m., at the PT's Olde Fashioned Grill, 1437 Military Cutoff Road in Wilmington.  The meeting will be held, rain or shine.

View Larger Map

If the weather cooperates (i.e., no rain), I am planning a back road ride that will leave at approximately 2 p.m. time to be confirmed) from Buy & Go Exxon, 808 North College Road and will end by approximately 4 p.m. at our club meeting at the PT's Grill on Military Cutoff Road.

The currently planned dates and locations for the next few club meetings are now posted on the club calendar.  You will also find an announcement for each month's meeting on our club web site.

December 17 – The Harp Restaurant, Wilmington
January 14, 2012 – The Mad Boar, Wallace
February 4, 2012 – The Boundary House, Calabash
March 3, 2012 – TBD

October Meeting

As mentioned earlier, the threat of rain and an after-dark ride back to Wilmington caused me to postpone  our October 10th meeting.   Instead, we met at Yacht Basin Provisions Company the following Saturday, October 15th, for lunch.  We had an extremely light turnout  – I assume everyone was out enjoying the beautiful weather that weekend.  Thank you to those of you who were able to come for lunch, and to those who joined me in the ride afterwards.

Trip Reports

Well some of our club members have taken some trips over the last month or two, and we have trips reports to tell you all about it.  Tony and Jill Barcia have attended both the Return to Shiloh Rally, held in Tennessee on September 30-October 2, and the Beemers and Biplanes Rally held in Virginia Beach, VA on October 7-9.  Jill Barcia has submitted a great set of trip reports for each event, including some terrific photos.

In addition, Paul Winter, Jerry and Barb Dockery, and I attended Unrally X held in Little Switzerland, NC in August.  You can also read my trip report about my Unrally ride with Paul.

2012 BMW RA Rally

I have heard a rumor that the 2012 BMW Riders Association National Rally may be held, once again, at The Biltmore in Asheville, NC.  The source of the rumor, which I would characterize as fairly reliable, did not provide a specific date for the event.  An official BMW RA rally announcement has not been posted, thus far, on the BMW RA web site.  Stand by for further updates.

10/31/11 Update:  The BMW RA has now officially announced the 2012 National Rally will be held June 14-17, 2012, in Copper Mountain, Colorado.  This information comes from Michael Johnston, the BM RA Chartered Club Coordinator.  (So much for the previous "reliable rumor.")

2011 BMW MOA Mileage Contest

If you are a BMW MOA member, here is another reminder that the 2011 BMW MOA Mileage Contest ended on October 9th.  The Mileage Contest Ending Form was provided in the October issue of the BMW Owners News, and can also be downloaded from the BMW MOA web site.  Your form must be signed by two BMW MOA members in good standing, or by a club officer.  If you need your form signed, contact me at ccbmwridersclub@gmail.com to make arrangements.  All mileage forms must be mailed (postmarked) no later than November 14, 2011.  Be sure to list our club on your Ending Mileage Form (we are Club #306, Coastal Carolina BMW Riders Club).

Article on Road Debris

I recently encountered an interesting article on the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association (MSTA) web site about group riding and whether or not, during group rides, riders should point out road debris to trailing riders in the group.  The author cites an article by the late motorcycle safety instructor Lawrence Grodsky about pointing at road debris as you pass by (e.g., with your foot), presumably to help those following you. The author observes that in most of the cases he observed, the act of ‘pointing’ at some passing debris served to increase rather than decrease the hazard it represented.

Those of you who have joined me for one of our group rides have probably seen me, at one time or another,   point to road debris to alert those following me to the potential hazard.  However, during my riding years, I have never considered that doing so my actually be counter to the safety of those following me.

I am not saying that I agree or disagree with the author's views in the article, but it has caused me to reconsider the practice.  So what do you think?  Does the act of ‘pointing’ at passing debris serve to increase rather than decrease the hazard it represents?  Post your thoughts as a comment to this newsletter.

Deal's Gap Article

Club  member Jerry McCumby passed along an interesting article, posted on a Miata car forum, about Deal's Gap.


This article discusses the 10-mile segment of U.S. 129 that stretches from U.S. Highway 411 to the Calderwood Dam,otherwise known as "the dragstrip to The Dragon."  The Dragon is one of those roads that many motorcyclists believe has to be ridden at least once.  If you have never visited The Dragon and Crossroads of Time store, it is worth a visit, but be aware of the law enforcement in the area.  Also, being a U.S. highway, be aware of the potential for truck and RV traffic on this section of road.

GPS Tip-of-the-Month

I have recently begun making the transition from using Garmin's Mapsource program to their BaseCamp software.  As I have previously mentioned, Garmin has announced their intention to discontinue development and upgrades of the Mapsource software and instead focus their future efforts on BaseCamp.

The PC version of BaseCamp is probably not as developed as it should be when the Garmin programmers decided to release the current version.  BaseCamp manages your GPS data in a very different way compared to Mapsource,and learning its idiosyncrasies can be difficult.

A very helpful resource for learning BaseCamp (and one that I wished had been available to me when I made the transition) is a BaseCamp Wiki started by several members of the Garmin user forums.  The Wiki moderators have assembled an outstanding tutorial to help the novice BaseCamp user get started.  You can find this BaseCamp Wiki at http://garmin-mapsource.wikispaces.com/BaseCamp.

I encourage you to try the BaseCamp software.  It has some interesting features and will continue to improve as Garmin release further upgrades.

2012 International Motorcycle Shows

The dates for the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows has be announced.  The Washington, DC show is being held the weekend of January 13-15, 2012.  The closest show for our area is moving from its  previous location (Greenville, SC) to the Charlotte Convention Center on the weekend of February 24-26, 2012.

If you have never attended an International Motorcycle Show, you owe it to yourself to do so at least once. You find more information about these upcoming shows, including ticket information, at http://www.motorcycleshows.com.

BMW Scooters Coming

When I attended the 2011 International Cycle World in New York City earlier this year, in addition to the new K1600LT, BMW also had a new concept scooter on display.  A few pictures of the scooter are posted in my Picasa photo album from that trip.  We it appears that BMW plans to bring those scooters to market.  Bob's BMW recently posted a short online article about these scooters.  On will be powered with a standard gas engine, based on the F-series engine, while the other will be electric powered.  You can briefly see the Concept e scooter in this Youtube video.


I end this month's newsletter with a link to an interesting video of three riders during their ride through the Hattah Desert in Australia.  Who says a BMW R1200GS cannot be ridden like a dirt bike?  I hope you enjoy watching this dirt riding demonstration.

See you next month.  Until then, ride safe and ride far!