MAKING ROOM FOR THE WIFE

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When my wife committed to joining me on our riding groups’ annual adventure to Baker City Oregon, I realized that our bike was not set up or rated to carry us and all the personal items that would be required to keep us in clean clothes and beautified for a week.

Our Suzuki Volusia 800cc has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, GVWR, of about 950 lbs. The bike alone weights 590lbs. This means that my wife and our luggage, tools and miscellaneous items would have to weight 90 lbs. My wife alone weighs close to 90lbs. (You’re welcome babe). I weigh…do the math. Well you get the idea, we would be way over the GVWR. We got out our “Motorcycle Trip Packing List” (see my blog, “Motorcycle Packing List”) and started crossing things off the list that we could live without. When all was said and done we got our stack of essentials to fit into two small pieces of luggage, airplane carry-on style, and our biggest motorcycle trunk. In the past, when I used the Volusia for a trip I would just strap a bag on the passenger seat, cram a bunch of stuff in the hard shell saddlebags and be off. The problem now was that our Volusia was not set up to carry two pieces of luggage, my wife, and I. My V-strom is setup for exactly that scenario, (see my blog, “Panniers Made From Scratch”) but the V-strom isn’t nearly as comfortable as the Volusia to ride, it has Corbin seats.

For the next couple of days I scratched my head and tried to figure out how I was going remove the hard shell saddlebags and replace them with two pieces of carry-on luggage. I finally concluded that I would have to make another set of plastic panniers for the Volusia, exactly like those I made for my V-strom. That’s right, I said “exactly” like those for the V-strom. The panniers for the V-strom attach to the bike using a metal frame work that I designed and made. The Volusia didn’t have that same frame work, but it did have the saddlebag supports and the mounting studs that attach the saddlebags to the bike. Retro-fitting the panniers to the Volusia was as easy as drilling two holes in the back of the plastic panniers so they would slip onto the studs and clip in place just like the saddlebags. To make them extra secure and for added support I added a couple of straps. Now granted, it didn’t look “Harley Cool,” but it worked great.

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Showing plastic panniers on Volusia with studs showing and extra straps for support.

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Showing luggage in place in plastic panniers and covered with bright rain proof bags.

I knew that once we got to Baker City we would be removing the plastic panniers and luggage, which presented two more issues. First, with them removed, the bike is left with two large and ugly, metal ell brackets sticking out on both sides of the bike where the bags mount.

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Showing ugly metal support brackets for saddlebags

And second, the trunk wouldn’t be large enough to pack all the stuff we would need for the long day trips we would be taking from Baker City. My first thought was to pack the saddlebags full of clothes and pack the packed saddlebags in the luggage, but they were too big and too heavy.

When I first started riding dual sport I wanted some small saddle bags I could attach to my Honda XR650L to carry essentials, like tools, rain gear, water and power bars. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on brand named soft saddlebags, so I would stop by Goodwill every now and then to see if I could find pairs of backpacks, duffel bags or small soft sided luggage bags that were identical or very similar in size and appearance. Lucky enough, I was able to collect a few pairs of bags that looked alike or were exactly alike. I found two identical Goodwill bags in our motorcycle stall storage cabinet that would be a good size for day ride purposes. I could have just strapped them on the bike like saddlebags, but after modifying my plastic panniers the idea of making simple plastic supports that would attach just like the saddlebags and panniers seemed like the best plan.

I took one of the plastic barrels that I had and cut off two rectangles that were the same width as the small bags, 11.5”, and that were the same length in height + depth as the bags, 17”. Using a propane torch I heated and bent the plastic rectangles into two large ell shaped brackets. I drilled holes in the brackets to match the mounting studs on the bike so they too would slip onto the studs and clip in place.

Both bags had large open pockets on the back of them. I cut the pockets open along the bottom and reinforced the cut material with Gorilla Duct Tape, love the stuff. Next I slipped the bracket up through the open bottom of the pocket. The modified pocket held the bag to the bracket, the bag was supported by the bottom of the plastic ell and the bracket clipped easily to the motorcycle saddlebag studs.

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Showing plastic ell bracket and small bag.

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Showing ell bracket inserted through cut open back pocket.

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showing small bag mounted on the bike

The small bags were lightweight, could easily be packed with clothes and packed nicely into our luggage. They were large enough to carry what we needed for day trips and were even rain resistant. They did look a little redneck and defiantly not “Harley Cool”, but I’m not what you would call “cool.”

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

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Motorcycle tool compartment

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A place to carry tools and essentials on a motorcycle.

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For me you can never have enough tools, parts, cleaners, first aid items, snacks and water with me when I’m out on a ride. I’m little like a boy scout in that way, always be prepared. When I bought my Suzuki 650 V-strom adventure bike I wanted more space to store stuff. I searched the web for add-on tool boxes. I found some good ideas, but I knew I could do better. I wanted something that would have plenty of room, be nearly indestructible and blend into the bike. The Vee 650 has one exhaust pipe right side, which makes it appear to be a little unbalanced.  I had made and installed a rack for panniers on the Vee, watch for that blog, and on the left side there was a gap were the exhaust was on the other side. My first thought was to find a matching exhaust, convert it to a storage tube and no one would even know it was storage because it would look like the other exhaust. I couldn’t find a used exhaust, so I went to plan B.

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I decided to use a 6″ black stovepipe instead of a 4″ ABS pipe like I had seen on the web. A 6″ stovepipe had more storage room, was the same size as the exhaust and would fit perfectly in the space behind my luggage rake. You can use the silver six-inch pipe, but the black is of heavier gauge and is already black. They also make other diameter pipe and even square pipe. The smaller diameters and square will be in the silver, lighter gauge.

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I first cut the pipe to the length I needed to fit behind my rack and so it would stick out equal distance to my muffler. I kept the crimped end because I wanted to use a six-inch cooking pot lid for the cover and the lid was the same diameter as the pipe so the end had to be crimped so the lid would fit over the pipe. I would suggest finding a lid before you cut the pipe. Some lids will fit nicely over the full six inches. I made a rubber strap to secure the lid to the pipe just in case. The strap is made out of inner-tube. I attached to the underside with a rivet and made a latch out of plastic and a screw at the top. I drilled a hole to insert the screw into.

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At some point you have to snap-lock the pipe together. I snapped mine together first and used my table saw to cut the excess end off.

I always have some 55 gal. plastic barrels around to make fenders and side covers for my dirt bikes. I like the plastic because you can heat it up and shape it into anything you want. I actually made my panniers out of the plastic, but that’s another posting sometime. I used the top of one of the barrels to cut a six-inch circle to use as the bottom plug at the lower end of my pipe. I made some adjustments with my grinder so the plug would fit snugly. I pushed the plug in so there was a ¼” lip of the pipe sticking past the plug. Using my hot glue gun, I reached in and glued the inside perimeter of the plug to the pipe and then I glued the exterior using the ¼” lip as additional surface for the glue. If you want, you can drill a few small holes through the side of the pipe into the edge of the plastic plug and insert some small screws or brads for extra holding power.DSCF6790

I dressed up the lid by adding a PVC pipe coupling over the lid handle. I had to grind the handle a little to get the coupling over it. I glued it on with hot glue. The lid fit really tight and doesn’t fall off, but I decided to add the rubber strap just in case. It’s made out of rubber inner tube. I riveted it to the under side of the pipe, cut it so it would fit around the PVC handle and added a plastic latch with a screw through it. The screw fits into a small hole in the top of the pipe. The threads on the screw and a little tension on the rubber strap keeps the strap in place.

After loading the toolbox up with my essentials, I realized how inconvenient it was going to be to find stuff in the pipe toolbox. I solved that by making a plastic insert tube that would slide in and out like a drawer and keep my stuff handy and organized. I cut two slightly smaller than six-inch end pieces and a piece of plastic from the side of the barrel that I could heat and form around the end pieces. I hot glued it all together and added four small screws through the sides into the end pieces for extra holding power. I drilled a finger hole in the top end of the insert so I had something to get hold of to pull the insert out.Photo383

The last step was to use spray-in bed liner in a rattle can to make it all black. The spray-in is great stuff and will stick to most anything. The plastic should be clean and roughed up with 50-80 grit sand paper to give the spray-in something to grip to.

That is it. It’s been on the bike three years now and has seen thousands of road miles and a few hundred miles over some pretty rough logging roads. It has held up to the miles and has given me lots of storage room.

Trampoline equipment shelter

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I am big on re-purposing things and will always try to figure out how to make something out of what I have on hand or can get cheap and make work for may purpose. When my children wore out their 14’ trampoline I used the frame to make a shelter for our camp so we could sit outside our trailer and keep dry in the winter or keep out of the sun in the summer. DSCN0448

More recently I put together five trampoline frames to make a farm equipment shelter for my tractor, riding lawnmower, ATVs, motorcycles and brush-hog. Most people are happy to have someone haul away their “useless” trampoline frames or they will sell them for very cheap. I acquired all five frames for less than $40.00.Photo399

The structure ended up being about 14’ wide, 28’ long and 10’ tall. I welded the half arches together to give them strength, but bolting also works. Most of the arches slipped easily into the trampoline leg sections. The leg sections were bolted together and anchored to the ground with rebar stakes and wire. I covered the frame with a heavy-duty, 12-mil tarp and used trampoline springs to keep the tarp tight. Photo402

The same frame could also be used for making a green house, animal shelter or just use your imagination.

It is important to use trampoline frames that are all the same; all 14’ and all use either springs or use elastic tension bands. The two types of frames are slightly different sizes.

I also used one trampoline to make a cover for my lumber. I bolted the circle in four sections and made a lean-to of sorts against the back of the garage over my lumber rack. (See photo)

Note that the lumber rack is two wrought iron railings, standing on end and secured with cross supports. I got the railing free several years ago. I used the same railing to make two stalls in my barn.

I know that as these popular trampoline’s mats wear out there will be hundred or even thousands of frames and parts available for other uses. I have used a pair of legs, turned upside down, on my boat trailer as guides to keep my boat in the center of the trailer when loading it. I’ve used the springs for a dozen projects and the net wall enclosure that came with one frame to net fish out of my stock pond. I have plans to use part of the net to make a hammock for camp. I’ve sold some of the springs to people who needed them for their trampolines and even sold two jumping mats that came with the frames and weren’t in too bad of shape to people how had ripped mats. All and all, I think I have come out ahead dollar wise, and may have made enough money on selling the parts to pay for the tarp that covers the frame.

If you have any questions or need more information on how I constructed the frame, please let me know.