Sunday, November 21, 2010

ECR Ride - Alamparai and Pondy

"The journey is in itself a destination." This quote was experienced first-hand yesterday.  The ride through the ECR (East Coast Road) to Pondicherry which is about 130 odd kilometers may be a routine thing for many bikers in Chennai and a total of 300km ride in a day is definitely not a "Saddle Sore" ride. But the different weather conditions which we encountered along the way in such a short distance was awesome. Torrential downpour, sunny sun, sandy sand, knee deep water, wet roads, damn roads, bone dry roads etc.

The day started for most of us at 5.30am and everyone one where geared up and ready at the starting point (Besant Nagar beach). As everyone ready to leave the heaven's opened. We waited for 15 mins there was no sign of rain stopping. We decided to start anyway and Amith on his C500 took the lead followed by Siva on his C350, Ramkumar on his C500, Mothi and Selvam (pillion) on TBTS, Rajesh on his spanking new Apache RTR 180 and I was in the sweep. Before we could hit ECR we had to ride through almost knee deep water at places and everyone got wet to their bones in the first few kilometers itself. We hit ECR and the within 10 minutes of riding the rain stopped but the roads were really wet. We road on a single file formation. We took a couple of breaks in-between. I was forced to ride behind Rajesh and he couldn't go more than 60kph because he was running-in his bike. It was very frustrating and finally we reached Mahabs were we had a decent breakfast.

We were in no hurry and slowly puttered our way back to ECR from Mahabs and kept riding. The roads were damn neat, damp and so no dust and pleasant weather but overcast but all of us were still wet. And 60kph speed didn't help the drying process either. After Kalpakam I lost my patience and ripped. The Megaphone was roaring to glory and comments I got from the fellow riders was that even their listening to music and riding at 60-80kph the only thing they heard was me zipping past them. Maybe thats when I realized that Megaphone was a bad idea for group rides as its prone to irritate others. But that being said "Loud pipe does save lives." I saw people crossing the rode at intersections and when I was riding slow I had to blow my horn considerably to alert my presence. But that also didn't help sometimes because these folks are used to blaring horns. Different story when I ripped. People were running for their lives and no one in that vicinity had the balls to step on the road.

Reached Alamparai Fort by 10ish. Scouted the place for few minutes and decided to take the bike up the sand path up to the backwaters. Here where all the fun started. About 400m of off-roading. The bikes slipped and slided. It never for once go in a straight like and the OEM zappers are no good for off-roading. By this time Amith and I reached the backwaters and headed back on foot to help the others. Everyone struggled except for Mothi :D. All the bikes picked up sand and sprayed it on the brand new Apache. But eventually everyone made it to the top and were satisfied.

The location was perfect and the sun started to shine. Perfect place to relax and dry our clothes. Some explored took a swim in the backwaters, some explored the fort and some just lazed around. We spend mre than an hour and next time we have to buy some ration before coming here.

We started to Pondy and reached Promenade by 12.30pm... Relaxed for while at the Leather Bar and headed towards "La Terresse" for pizzas and sizzlers. We tanked up the bike and by that time we were ready to head back it was 4.15pm. We decided to have just one re-grouping point at Kalpakam. Mtself and Amith maintained and good speed of 80-90kph while Mothi was at a brisk 70-80kph and Ramkumar at a sedate 60kph and Siva didn't have an option and had to tag Ram. Myself and Amith stopped at a backwater for some final snaps of the trip and reached Kalpakam for the re-grouping. 

Now it was officially dark and we could see thunderstorm at the horizon. Me wanted to get back home at the earliest because a headache started to creep up. Switched on the driving lights which proved to be a life saver  when traffic from the opposite side were on high-beam. Ripped through the damp roads and then it started raining for a bit. The headlight glare was blinding but didn't give a damn. Concentrated hard and reached home by 8. Within 30 minutes everyone reached their home safely. Me had after effects. The food at La Terresse made me sick and had to throw up what ever I had for lunch. Grr.. I guess the meat was not cooked well and decieded not to go there from here on and stick with Promenade or Rendevous for food.

Butr whatever the be the case, ride along ECR has no parallels. Flawless roads with beautiful scenery. We never get tired of riding there. As far as I'm concerned, "There is ECR then there are roads". 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Exhaust backpressure myth busted

Destroying a myth.

Some say that "an engine needs backpressure to work correctly." Is this true?

No. It would be more correct to say, "a perfectly stock engine that cannot adjust its fuel delivery needs backpressure to work correctly." This idea is a myth. As with all myths, however, there is a hint of fact with this one. Particularly, some people equate backpressure with torque, and others fear that too little backpressure will lead to valve burning.

The first reason why people say "backpressure is good" is because they believe that increased backpressure by itself will increase torque, particularly with a stock exhaust manifold. Granted, some stock manifolds act somewhat like performance headers at low RPM, but these manifolds will exhibit poor performance at higher RPM. This, however does not automatically lead to the conclusion that backpressure produces more torque. The increase in torque is not due to backpressure, but to the effects of changes in fuel/air mixture, which will be described in more detail below.

The other reason why people say "backpressure is good" is because they hear that cars (or motorcycles) that have had performance exhaust work done to them would then go on to burn exhaust valves. Now, it is true that such valve burning has occurred as a result of the exhaust mods, but it isn't due merely to a lack of backpressure.

The internal combustion engine is a complex, dynamic collection of different systems working together to convert the stored power in gasoline into mechanical energy to push a car down the road. Anytime one of these systems are modified, that mod will also indirectly affect the other systems, as well.

Now, valve burning occurs as a result of a very lean-burning engine. In order to achieve a theoretical optimal combustion, an engine needs 14.7 parts of oxygen by mass to 1 part of gasoline (again, by mass). This is referred to as a stochiometric (chemically correct) mixture, and is commonly referred to as a 14.7:1 mix. If an engine burns with less oxygen present (13:1, 12:1, etc...), it is said to run rich. Conversely, if the engine runs with more oxygen present (16:1, 17:1, etc...), it is said to run lean. Today's engines are designed to run at 14.7:1 for normally cruising, with rich mixtures on acceleration or warm-up, and lean mixtures while decelerating.

Getting back to the discussion, the reason that exhaust valves burn is because the engine is burning lean. Normal engines will tolerate lean burning for a little bit, but not for sustained periods of time. The reason why the engine is burning lean to begin with is that the reduction in backpressure is causing more air to be drawn into the combustion chamber than before. Earlier cars (and motorcycles) with carburetion often could not adjust because of the way that backpressure caused air to flow backwards through the carburetor after the air already got loaded down with fuel, and caused the air to receive a second load of fuel. While a bad design, it was nonetheless used in a lot of vehicles. Once these vehicles received performance mods that reduced backpressure, they no longer had that double-loading effect, and then tended to burn valves because of the resulting over-lean condition. This, incidentally, also provides a basis for the "torque increase" seen if backpressure is maintained. As the fuel/air mixture becomes leaner, the resultant combustion will produce progressively less and less of the force needed to produce torque.

Modern BMWs don't have to worry about the effects described above, because the DME (car's computer) that controls the engine will detect that the engine is burning leaner than before, and will adjust fuel injection to compensate. So, in effect, reducing backpressure really does two good things: The engine can use work otherwise spent pushing exhaust gas out the tailpipe to propel the car forward, and the engine breathes better. Of course, the DME's ability to adjust fuel injection is limited by the physical parameters of the injection system (such as injector maximum flow rate and fuel system pressure), but with exhaust backpressure reduction, these limits won't be reached.

- Adapted from Thomas V.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Science of Exhaust Modifications

I chanced upon couple of images which gives a good understanding of exhaust systems.
Click on the images to read it.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I got back from a 1600km ride last week but that was a solo ride. Though I was a very good ride I wanted to ride in a group. Well I didn't had to wait for long. The following week itself a ride to Yercaud was planned by the Madras Bulls Motorcycle Club to join RTMC Bangalore who was celebrating their 9th anniversary. I had just did some upgrades to my C5 and was eager to test it out. The plan was to ride out on Saturday (9th October) at around 6am. I reached Shell Petrol station at Porur which was the starting point at around 5.30am where 3 members (Hari, Nedu and Bobby... well early comers has to be mentioned)  where already present and waiting. Slowly people started trickling in and by 6.30am about 15 bikes, 1 car and 1 jeep gathered. The ride plan was briefed and every one set off with Bose Sir in his lean mean machine (LB500 crank and gearbox with C5 head) leading and Hari in his "Diesel Rocket" (definitely not the speed  but the smoke produced) sweeping along with the Mageshwar and Co. in the Figo.

I started along with the lead group and all of us followed a single-file formation until we hit the highway. Everyone were asked to keep their head lights on so that it will be easier to spot other members in the rear view mirror. And boy oh boy what a sight it was to see a long string on lights in the rear view mirror and thump and roar of the Bulls from up front. Immediately after we hit the highway the group fell into a staggered file formation taking up an entire lane and starting rolling towards Vellore for breakfast. I wanted to test out my bike so took a "pee" break and starting playing catch up was very much satisfied with the performance. I got settled in the formation and the lead group of Bose Sir, Amar, Saran, Unni, Prabhu, Danger  (he was riding without any lane discipline) and myself started pulling away. We reached Vellore by 8.30am and stopped at Saravana Bhavan. Everyone had their breakfast for the day but our table (Amar, Saran, Unni and me) had a feast with atleast 3 orders per person. Slowly people started to trickle out of Vellore where myself and Unni had to catch up to the lead group. As Unii was riding his newly acquired AVL 500 he was also keen to test it out. Both of us opened up the throttle was hitting and cruising at 3 digits with easy. Caught up with the lead group within 10 mins and continued along with them. Suddenly we realized from the lead group of 5-6 people we didnt find a single soul behind us. We stopped waiting for the group catch up and took the chance to get acquainted with each other. We called up "Maggie" who was the central co-ordinator told us Prathamesh had a fall. Thanks to his riding gear his upper body was scratch free but had a scrapped knee. His ride suffered a broken foot rest and it has to be welded. Good they were still in Vellore when this happened so got this fixed easily. Meanwhile we decided to move ahead, tank-up and wait for others at Vaniyambadi.

After a quick re-group we started only to find the stretch between Vaniyambadi to Tiruppathur was bad. Every had their own ways of to deal with bumpy roads. Some preferred to find a way across/between/around bad patches, some standing and while some riding over each of the pot holes. Anyways everyone made through that patch and from there on in was bliss. Smooth twisty roads with tress on both sides and excellent weather making the that section wonderful. In the mean time among all the pot-holes Unni took the lead and was charging on they smooth roads and clearing the way for others with finger pointing, hand gesturing, head taping or sometime plain aggressive behavior. Met up with the other group near Uthrangai. We reached Kuppanur in no time and started our climb. Unni, myself, Bose Sir, Harish, Prathamesh and Saran started climbing together. But the torque figures of the 500s meant that 500s could take the hair-pin bends in 2-3 gears and still pull away while the TBTS had to work their gears pretty hard. All credit to Harish for keeping up his TBTS with the 500s in the climb. Reached Shevoroy by 2.45pm. Got ourselves registered, dumped our stuff in the rooms and had a sumptuous lunch though we were late. I was so excited to see about 100 odd bikes in the parking lot and the thump of few others who were riding in. I could feel the "Biking Brotherhood" in the air. We had arm wrestling competition and some other stuff which I dont know coz I went for a quick nap. While got back Bose Sir was giving a tech session and explaining his new creation. Samrat/Samrith not sure the exact pronunciation took the bike for a test ride and when he came back he had his teeth showing from ear-to-ear. The gathering was adjourned till 7pm for dinner.

The evening gala started about 7.30pm with the distribution of prizes for winners in competition that happened earlier in the evening. I could not see even 1 person without a plastic bottle in hand carrying all sorts of drinks. Some looked like diesel, petrol and even burnt up engine oil. But one thing is for sure all were having fun. The dance floor and dinner were open a little later and people started to feast and groove to various numbers. The party went on till 12.30am.

Woke up to the ringing of the door bell at 7am with hotel staff serving tea and coffee. Almost everyone were up by that time and it was time to have breakfast. Slowly people started to trickle out and later we decided to leave but couldn't decide which route to take. Anyways we saddled up and decided to take Uthrangarai-Gingee-Tindivanam route. With Hari's "Diesel Rocket" smoking its wake in the front people like me who started a little later did not have any trouble finding the way down and just traced the nauseating diesel smell. Had a couple of photo sessions. The climb down was not without incident with me running over a cat and a fellow rider taking a fall and continuing as if nothing happened only to be forcefully stopped by Hari. Quick job to remove the front mud fender which got bent and was scraping the tyre. A quick re-group at the bottom and Amar led the way while Nedu and Hari sweeping. We had a small confusion at Harur but we were well on our way to Uthrangai. The roads were little more familiar with the lead group scrapping foot peg at every turn only to realizer that Nedu who was sweep was already waiting for us there. Man that Std 350 can fly. Had lunch at Uthrangai and the nightmare began. Pathetic road with pot holes all over and we had to give our butts a break every 45 odd kms. Finally hit a piece of tarmac about 30 km before Polur. The road extra wide, beautifully cambered and with the right mix of curves and straights except for 3 bike breakers (speed breakers). The road was so inviting and I saw Kaushik in his A350 flying past me. Told to myself what the heck and began the hot pursuit. With speeds above 95kmph even in curves we were pulling away for the group. We thought we were in front only to see Unni in front. Then we all set of an amazing 15-20 mins taking curves, scrapping foot peg literally. I wanted to test the top speed and crouched down when we got a straight piece of empty road. Gunned it down to reach about 140kmph.  I was not that confident to take curves at higher speeds coz I was worried how the bike might handle. We reached Polur and waited for the others to come. Surprisingly the TBTS triplets (Saran, Harish and Ashok) were not that far behind immediately followed by Prathamesh who was nursing a bruised knee. A little while later the entire group came. The roads became bad to worse and some of us couldn't take anymore. We regrouped and the group split into 2. 1 group heading towards Tambaram and the other towards Kanchipuram-Porur. I, Nedu, Unni, Harish and Ashok decided to go through Tambaram hoping to reach GQ and the promised ice cold beer by Nedu at Porur. It had got dark and we passed through Kanchipuram, Sriperambathur and reach Porur by 7.30pm. Bid good bye to Ashok who was running late already and four of us just relaxed in an AC bar having some cold beer and chicken. By 9pm all of us bid good bye to each other and headed towards home sweet home.

Man is was such a memorable trip for me which might be evident from the number of lines I had to type. Wishing many more trips like this and thanks to RTMC for organizing flawlessly. Bravo!!!!

Notable mentions from the trip:
  1. Bose Sir Frankenstein bike.
  2. Abhishek's Electra 350 which had to be topped up 2 times to go one way.
  3. Hari's Diesel Rocket which disinfected the entire stretch.
I realized that leading or sweeping a group is no mean feet. The lead requires patience and good knowledge of road and road sense while the sweep requires even more patience and good hands-on skill. Thanks to all who participated.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day 4 - Final Day

Met couple of my friends and had a sumptuous and delicious lunch. The lunch made my start back to Chennai a little late. I started from Bangalore at 4pm and after filling fuel I hit the elevated highway. Whenever I tried to red-line the bull it felt like it was getting chocked for air. So decided to try out something. The road was pretty clean and dust free so rode with my air-box open. Free flow baby... free flow. Man the characteristics of the bike changed drastically. The thump turned into a roar and it was revving pretty easily. Rode the entire elevated highway like this and thoroughly enjoyed it. Now I'm seriously considering to change to K&N filter. I personally feel that the air intake in itself is flawed as its not able to supply enough air at higher speeds. Anyways thoughts on that later. I had to pay 20/- as toll for using that road which I feel is absurd and ridiculous because I never come across any other place except Elevated highway and NECE road. I have been on better roads and no tolls for two-wheelers. Crossed Hosur in a jiffy and a bad thing happened. I dosed off for a couple of seconds. The lunch was really getting to me. Quickly stopped in a petrol bunk which incidently had Cafe Coffee day. Had a King Cappuccino and I was feeling vigilant now. Decided to up the tempo a bit to make things more interesting. I pushed my speed from 80kmph to 95+kmph and there was no looking back. Reached home by 9.30pm. 5 hours from Banglore. There are lot of things to say but I'm too tired now. Rest later. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 3

A vibrating phone woke me up this morning. It was my friend from Bangalore giving me the updates about the situation. He said everything was fine and if I want I can come. Now confused I decided to go for it. and complete my round trip. Started at 10.30 am to Bangalore and stuck to my initially planned route. The thought of negotiating a total of 50 hair-pin bends made me very excited. Reached Ooty at about 1pm. Nothing special about route except for 14 hair-pin bends. But descend was the best. Decided to come down through Masinagudi. 36 hair-pin bends. Bloody hell some were real steep thought I would fall over the handle bar when I braked. Had to work the gears pretty hard to keep the bike in low speed. After that the route took me through Mudhumalai Tiger Reserve and Bandipur forest. Man it was heaven and I felt like God. Clean air pleasant breeze and greenery everywhere. Saw few spotted deers and a couple of elephants. I didnt want to stop  because I was running late because negotiating 36 hair-pin bends took a lot of time. Reached Mysore by 5pm. I kept riding towards Bangalore but it started raining. Put on my raincoat and kept riding until it became really difficult to see as the glare of the on-coming vehicles started blinding me at places where the centre median was not that high. I decided enough is enough. Tilted one of my HID lights up and that didnt the trick :) Reached Bangalore (Sarjapur) by 8pm. It was one of the longest time I have spent on the saddle, about 10 hours. Phew my back was fine but my bum lost its senses. The back of my neck hurt big time. The AGV helmets are pretty heavy and plus the wind blast is not helping. I have to look for a lighter or more aerodynamic option. For now some Vodka should do the trick.

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