02/3/16

How to build a “Duzucati”

It’s been a few years, but I really wanted to do a write up how I came to build my race bike: a Suzuki SV650 powered Ducati 1098S- or as I like to call it, a “Duzucati”. A big reason why I wanted to write this up is because building custom/one off race bikes used to be a lot more popular, but with the advent of the modern “street bike” (really a race bike with mirrors and blinkers) custom bikes have gotten a lot rarer. People no longer need to do radical custom modifications to get a bike to make good horsepower and handle properly- you just need to walk into the local dealer and give him some money.

I had originally planned on glossing over some of the problems in order to focus on the positive parts of the story, but after a lot of consideration I decided to tell the whole story because I wanted to be honest about the experience. Building the bike and making it competitive wasn’t easy and it seemed dishonest to pretend that everything went smoothly.

With that said, here’s my story… Continue reading

02/2/16

Cheap Racing

So I was looking through my “Drafts” folder and found this post that I started writing back in September of 2011. This was back when I was racing my first race bike and before I built the Duzucati. Not sure why I didn’t post it back then, but looking back over the past few years I can’t say that much has changed. :)


So it’s almost the end of my third year racing in the AFM in a “cheap” class: 650 Production. Basically you take a relatively inexpensive motorcycle like a Suzuki SV650 and make it a race bike with limited modifications. If you’re not familiar with motorcycles, basically the SV650 isn’t a “race” bike like the sport bikes you’re familiar with. SV’s are great for commuting or just going out for a leisurely sunday ride, but they’re not that sporty, don’t make a lot of horsepower and hence don’t go through tires as quickly and since it’s production legal with a minimum amount of engine modifications should last a fair bit.

Boy was I wrong. Continue reading

01/30/16

Using AiM speed sensors for alarms with Arduino

So if you’ve been reading my blog, you know I created a SV650 ECU Decoder which decodes the data stream from the ECU that normally would go to the OEM dash. Recently I upgraded from the GPX Pro to the more powerful and physically bigger AiM MXL2.

So here’s the problem- the new dash is bigger which means I’m having a harder time finding a visible mounting point for my ECU decoder. And while the MXL2 can decode things like water temp, TPS and gear position from the ECU, it can’t decode any EFI warning codes. I didn’t like the prospect of not knowing when the bike was misbehaving due to a bad sensor or damaged wiring harness so I needed to come up with a solution. Continue reading

01/19/16

Initial AiM MXL2 Review

After comparing AiM, Race-Technology, MoTeC, AEM, RaceCapture/Pro, GEMS, XT Racing, TraqMate, VBox and 2D data logger offerings, I decided to go with the AiM MXL2 for my race bike to replace my XT Racing GPX Pro.

There’s a number of reasons for choosing AiM and their MXL2 over the others, but here’s the short version:

  • Software. After using the XT Racing GPX Pro for five years I learned how the hardware is only half of the equation. It doesn’t matter how much data you collect if you can’t display that data as actionable information.
  • Support. Many of these companies don’t have any support here in the USA and their support suffers. Even when the company is native English speaking it can take weeks for them to answer even basic questions about their product. AiM often responds in less then 24 hours!
  • Pricing. Some companies seem a lot less expensive then AiM until you realize they start charging you extra for critical features that AiM includes by default. That and AiM never charges for software/firmware updates for the life of the product can mean saving hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of the unit.
  • Features. The MXL2 is the latest generation hardware from AiM and it has many features that other high-end vendors like MoTeC and 2D charge thousands of dollars more for.
  • Ease of Use. Data logging in motorsports has been going on for nearly two decades and many vendors have software which look like it would be more at home running under Windows 95 rather then a modern operating system. AiM is in the process of rewriting their Race Studio Analysis software to take advantage of modern UI design.
  • Education. AiM is the only vendor I could find that not only has a lot of Youtube videos explaining how to use their software, but also offer inexpensive classes around the country. I just finished two days worth of classes (cost me $80) and learned not only a lot about AiM’s products and software, but also a lot about how to analyze the data which isn’t really obvious when you’re first starting out.
  • Quality. Once you look at the wiring harness connectors on the MXL2 you know this is a serious piece of equipment. The dash is billet aluminum and the buttons are solid. Everything about it exudes quality. Actually, the dash is so solid that I decided to re-enforce the front fairing stay on my motorcycle to make sure it could handle the extra weight!

There are some risks though- AiM while very big in the automotive club racing scene it has a very small (but growing) presence in motorcycles. The good news is that there are very few features that are specific to cars or bikes, so whatever enhancements are added over time should carry over. That said, the factory MotoAmerica Yamaha Team is also using the MXL2 so I’m sure the bikes won’t be ignored completely.

12/11/15

Quick thoughts about Let’s Encrypt

So I just switched over from StartSSL to Let’s Encrypt for all of Syn Fin dot Net’s SSL needs and wanted to give a few thoughts about the process:

It’s a very different experience getting up and started. I’ve used a variety of SSL CA’s for work and personal use and Let’s Encrypt is the first I’ve seen to so fully automate things. This has some pros and cons, but overall it’s much quicker and easier to get up and running with Let’s Encrypt then StartSSL (which honestly isn’t saying much) or most other CA’s. The downside of this is that the process is so different that you actually have to read the docs rather then just following the prompts, but having to RTFM is a small price to pay for a free SSL cert IMHO.

Let’s Encrypt (just LE for short) is also the first CA that limits their certs to 90 days. They claim that 90 day certs are becoming more common, but none of the CA’s I’ve ever used in the past even offer that as an option. Kinda annoying, but not a deal breaker considering how automated renewing certs are.

LE only offers domain validated certs (ie: no extended validation) which is fine for personal use, but it’s a little odd that there’s no requirement for any ownership information other then an email for contact purposes. For some use cases this makes a lot of sense, but I’d actually like people to know I own this domain (as long as they don’t spam/junk mail me).

LE’s automation makes it easy to get up and running quickly- if your needs adhere to their tool’s limitations. I ended up having to tell Nginx to serve up http://mail.synfin.net so I could get an SSL cert for Postfix. Lucky for me, my mail & web server are the same box so this was easy, but for most organizations this becomes a real pain.

My biggest feature request right now would allow the the letsencrypt-auto script listen on arbitrary ports and not just TCP/80 and TCP/443 to make it even easier to setup.

10/22/15

GPX Pro Review Part 2

This is an update for my original XT Racing GPX Pro Review.

First, let me say that the reliability problems I had in the past with the screen seem to have been solved. It’s been nearly three full years and the screen is still working just fine. That said, having some more time with the GPX Pro, I’ve got a few more thoughts:

First, XT Racing’s customer support has continued to be awesome. I’ve emailed them about a number of issues and they’ve been really good about providing me help and general advice.

That said, having spent more time with the software and continuing to learn about analyzing the data, there are some limitations with the GPX Pro if you want to get really serious about your data analysis. If you haven’t yet read up on the subject, I highly recommend Andrew Trevitt’s DataMC for a good introduction to data acquisition and analysis.

Simply put, I’ve come to learn that the XT Racing software is easy to use, but rather limited. Continue reading

04/25/15

SV650 ECU Decoder with LCD Display

So I’ve learned that the LED lights and LED display that I’ve used in earlier versions of the SV650 ECU Decoder have the unfortunate issue that the LED display is completely washed out in daylight. The LED lights, even though they are 10mm are hard to see as well.

Hence, I’ve redesigned the board around the Nokia 5110 LCD display. These display was originally used in cell phones and being LCD should be easier to see in sunlight. Suzuki even used a LCD display in the OEM dash. The biggest challenge with using a LCD display was finding one which would fit in the existing footprint. I really didn’t want to increase the board size since bigger boards cost more money. The biggest challenge was finding a switch which would fit- in the end, I went with a 6mm switch which *just* fits.

Of course, removing the LED lights and changing the display will require a significant rewrite of the code, but there are good libraries for the Nokia 5110 display so hopefully that won’t be too hard.

SV650 ECU Deocder v5.0 Board Top

SV650 ECU Deocder v5.0 Board Top


SV650 ECU Deocder v5.0 Board Bottom

SV650 ECU Deocder v5.0 Board Bottom

11/23/14

TeensyDSC – it works!

So last night I was finally able to test my custom digital setting circles setup on my AD12… it worked great!  I used the Astrosystems 10K encoder kit with the TeensyDSC and SkySafari on my iPad.  Here’s the photos of my setup:

My Digital Settings Circles setup using SkySafari on the iPad

My Digital Settings Circles setup using SkySafari on the iPad

Alt encoder and Wireless DSC module powered by a USB battery pack

Alt encoder and Wireless DSC module powered by a USB battery pack

 

 

11/17/14

A working basic TeensyDSC board

I recently got my first generation PCB in the mail from OshPark and I’m happy to say that the board works just like I had planned! I was able to do some basic testing using 10,000 step encoders, but due to the power of the Teensy 3.1 board and being able to use interrupt driven decoding there shouldn’t be any problem handling 100,000 step encoders if you so desired. The good news is that the board did a great job of reporting the position of the encoders to Sky Safari Pro running on my iPad via a wireless WiFi connection!

Renderings of the board I actually ended up using:

teensydsc-top-v0.5

teensydsc-bottom-v0.5

Photos of the board with the necessary components installed:

TeensyDSC Simple (populated) Top

TeensyDSC Simple (populated) Bottom

Notice there are some missing parts on the PCB.  That’s because so far I’ve only soldered on the parts necessary to power it via USB.  The missing parts are for powering it via 12V DC.

It also fits nicely in this small plastic enclosure I have:

2014-11-17 21.50.29

2014-11-17 21.48.12

As you can see, this board is smaller and much simpler then the earlier board I designed. I did this because it wasn’t going to be possible to fit the original board in the small plastic enclosure I had picked out and most of the features I wasn’t actually going to use/need and I wanted to focus on getting the basic DSC features tested and working.

08/7/14

2014 AFM Round 4 Race Report

After Round 3, I was able to get a lot of track riding in which ended up being both good and bad. The bad came early- a lowside while riding the new full 5 mile Thunderhill course. Both I and the bike came away with only minor damage (me bruised ribs, the bike just damaged controls) but it was enough to end my day. The good was both I and the bike were easily fixed and I was able to do 2 more days at Thunderhill (in ~110F heat!) before the AFM race weekend. All the extra riding really helped my “bike fitness” as I always find that no matter how much I work out in the off season, I can’t replicate the kind of motions while aggressively riding out on track.

I did the Friday trackday of the race weekend I had two goals:

  1. Work on bike setup
  2. Test a brand new prototype front brake lever for Constructors Racing Group (CRG).

Continue reading