DIY Pelican Motorcycle Top Case

Mixing things up a bit here with a more motorcycle-centric post. Recently I fashioned my own top case to Murdock, my F800GS Adventure and here is a walkthrough on how I went about it.

To preface, I love my bike and everything about it minus the fact that parts and accessories can be ridiculously expensive for it. A problem that I was running into was having a secure storage space that would be permanently affixed to the bike for whenever I would commute or carry valuables. Normally I only run my Mosko Moto side bags when I go on longer trips since they add to the width of my bike making it a little more challenging to split the heavy California traffic. I do have a pair of tail bags meant for the sissy-bar of a Harley (hey, you use what resources you have available to you) but it didn’t have much storage capacity nor was it securable from the casual thief or the elements. Yeah, the big aluminum hard cases are nice but the $480 + $200 mounting rack to get one is a bit overpriced in my opinion.

After some quick research, I opted for mounting a pelican case on top of the existing stock luggage plate. Pelican cases 20170421_171956are durable, waterproof, and a lot cheaper when compared to their aluminum counterparts. I bought this Pelican 1500 with foam off of Amazon for $106. Hardware from Home Depot was about $6 and I already had all the tools needed. I went with the 1500 case due to its size both internally and externally on the bike. Could I have gotten a bigger one? Yes, but I don’t necessarily need anything bigger. If your storage needs are different though, the steps I took will apply to any sized plastic case that you decide to go with.

After getting the Pelican case, I made a quick trip to Home Depot to pick up some longer bolts, large washers, and some silicone sealant. Don’t overthink this step, as its really whatever you can make work. I ended up taking one of the stock bolts for the rear 20170421_184737.jpgluggage plate with me so that I could match the threads. Most hardware stores that I have been to have a handy gauge near the nuts and bolts where you can try fitting what part you already have into the gauge. The stock bolts are 55mm long and the ones I got from Home Depot are 65mm long. Large washers are a must as they help diffuse the pressure from the bolts across a larger area on the plastic of the pelican case so that the bolts don’t end up pulling through on all the bumpy roads you go down. The silicone, though I haven’t applied it yet, is to make the pelican case waterproof again after drilling through the bottom of it in the mounting process.

The hardest part of the whole project was finding the center line on the bottom of the pelican case due to its rounded corners. I used a tape measure and a square to find the center line, centered the stock luggage plate off of that line and used it as a template for marking the holes to drill. I highly recommend drilling pilot holes with a smaller drill bit so that you don’t end up marring the bottom if the drill bit were to jump around trying to get started. The drill bits went through the plastic like hot butter so be slow and deliberate when drilling.

 

20170421_192027.jpgAfter drilling, its a quick and easy mount onto the rear of the motorcycle. I still used the stock luggage plate underneath the pelican case to provide extra support and rigidity. If I were to get a larger luggage plate in the future, the holes in the case would still line up with the motorcycle. My thought is that I will probably end up getting a larger luggage plate sometime in the future as it would be handy to have easier points to hook straps to underneath the pelican case in order to secure luggage over the top and sides of the case.

With the case foam, I removed all of it for while I was working on getting the case mounted. After it was mounted, I put in the top and bottom pads and tore out the center foam so that I would just have the outer ring. I plan on having my electronics, breakables, and valuables in this case more often than not and don’t necessarily want them rattling freely around the case without some padding. Yes, I would have more storage space inside the case if I didn’t have any foam at all, but if I need more room then I can just pull out the foam again.

 

Overall, I’m extremely pleased with this project and how it looks on the bike. Its cheap in comparison to going out and buying a pre-made hard case, is rugged, and is lockable with a padlock style lock at either corner. So if any of you are thinking about doing the same, I hope this article helps.

 

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Confidence in Your Abilities

Unconsciously, every decision that we make, we do so with a certain level of confidence.  I realized this after servicing Murdock when I finally stopped doubting if I did something wrong. After a couple of days of commuting, my confidence was restored.

All I did on my motorcycle was change the oil and tighten the chain. Still need to check the air filter, but that is a project for this weekend… Growing up, my dad taught me how to work with tools. I did all of the oil changes on my car in high school and the first one on my first motorcycle, the Magna, after pulling it out of storage. Tightening a chain? How hard could that be to learn through Google and YouTube?

Lacking knowledge was not my issue. Even for the chain, which I have never dealt with before was easy and straightforward to learn. I am a quick study. It was purely believing in myself and mentally fortifying against any doubts that may arise. The doubts stemmed from not having changed the oil myself in any of my vehicles for over seven years and being around those that would rather pay the $200+ at the dealership to save themselves the time. None of that inspired any form of self-confidence.

The first couple of days I was obsessively checking for any leaks at the bottom of the engine, seeing where my oil level was at, and how much play I had in my chain. Turns out that I have the perfect level of fresh oil in the engine. The chain has the perfect amount of slack in it while the excess drive-train slack has been taken out whenever I shift gears.

Nothing changed on the bike over those couple of days. Nothing change either to really inspire confidence. All I had to do was get used to it. I let the fear of what could happen by me not being “certified” almost prevent anything from happening. Really the only certification that matters is our own confidence. It does not matter what we do, so long as we have confidence in doing it.

 

Exercising Patience

img_20161005_185800Today I did the 6,000 mile service on Murdock, my F800GS Adventure. Well, mostly… I still have the air filter to check/replace and adjusting the chain slack. I learned a lot in the process, but I realized a lot more in the aspect of exercising patience.

I have always been a patient person. Granted, I am only human and still have my weak moments, but it is a trait that I take pride in. Lately though this aspect of me is being tried again and again. For what reasons? I am not sure, but there is something…

In the early afternoon I headed out to the garage to begin working. Ah, but first I need a different oil filter wrench. The previous ones I bought from Harbor Freight were not the right size for the BMW filter, go figure. Harbor Freight being too far away for what should be a quick jaunt, I skip over to the Home Depot that is two blocks away. $10 later and a shiny new tool to show for it, I start unscrewing the skid plate.

Pulling off the skid plate so that it is out of the way, I move to the drain plug. I leverage all of my weight against it and it gives no sign of even moving. The torx bit I have starts to deform the hex-socket of the plug slightly. Well lets go to Home Depot again…

Pulling into the parking lot, I am irritated by the absent-minded drivers fighting over who can get the closer parking space. But I am not irritated at them… I am irritated at the negligent mechanic at the dealership who overtightened everything on my motorcycle from when I had the 600 mile break-in service done. Too late to do anything about that now except complain. A deep breath later, I come out of Home Depot with a couple more shiny new tools.

Back in the garage with the appropriate hex bit and a breaker bar, I torque on the drain plug again. Still no budge. My wife ventures out to see what I am up to, our 5-month-old in tow in her carrier wrap. I must look like a mad-man covered in dirt and grime from the underside of the motorcycle, uttering profanities under my breath. Cautiously, they both approach and my wife suggests using a cheater-pipe for more leverage. I am apprehensive at first, concerned about striping out the socket, but at this point I am desperate and have lost all semblance of logic in the furor I have stewed myself in.

Applying force again to the oil plug, gently ramping  it up until most of my weight is on the cheater-pipe, a thunderous ping fills the garage and my hands drop a few inches. My wife and daughter jump a little. The oil plug is finally loose with minimal damage to the hex socket. What a relief.

I move to the oil filter and test how tight it is. Of course, why am I not surprised? It is has been overtightened as well. At least the filter is made to be disposable. I just have to ensure to not crush it completely before its completely loosened. After a few choice words and pulling out the cheater pipe again, I unscrew the spent oil filter. It looks like a dog’s chew toy at this point.

New filter, oil plug and crush washer in place (not overtightened this time), fresh oil poured in, the oil change is done. The hardest part about it all. By doing it myself I have now ensured that I will not have to take as drastic of measures the next time around.

I decide on tightening the chain drive next. After 6,000 miles it has a lot more play in it than what it should. I begin on the adjustments, only to realize that I need to slacken the axle safety bolt first. I do not have a big enough wrench, so its back to Home Depot.

This time I can only be frustrated with my own lack of foresight and not thoroughly reading the directions first. I had planned ahead, but not fully so, in buying a set of wrenches that I assumed would be enough. The only downside is that most sets like that only go up to a certain size. Sure enough, I needed an even bigger wrench.

Getting back to the garage, guess what? The new wrench still isn’t big enough. At this point, I have to laugh. The afternoon is gone, friends are coming over, and I have no choice but to put my work on hold. But I managed to get this far…

The day’s events undoubtedly flustered me more than usual, all because of external factors that I had no way of being aware of or could not control. I was flustered primarily because I took a mechanic’s negligence personally, when for him it was a very impersonal thing. It was just another motorcycle. I was impatient in having to go through the growing pains of learning how to do the maintenance on a new motorcycle.

To realize these aspects is the first step in exercising patience. You cannot be patient if you never take the time to slow down and realize why you need to be patient for. In this case, I needed to be patient as I learned the correct tools I needed for my bike as well as being patient with circumstances that were predetermined 5,400 miles in the past. Being bogged down with anger and frustration in the present moment never helps you get through that hardship any faster. In fact, it actually impedes things.

Be mindful and realize what you need to be patient for…

 

The Mindset of Riding

I used to think that only longer motorcycle trips constituted a meaningful ride. Whenever I would go out on the weekend, I would be exhaustedly euphoric, like I had accomplished something worthwhile. Other times, like commuting, not so much. During a discussion with friends around the fire pit one not, my mindset changed.

Once upon a time, I used to put on nearly 500 miles in a week. I would commute every day to and from work on Archer, my trusty F800GT, only to turn around and go immediately back out on the weekends. Moving closer to work plus having a daughter now changed that significantly however.

I still ride Murdock regularly as well, but most of it is commuting. The weekend trips do not happen as often as I would like, but I make the most of them when they do. That was not always the case however, as I thought that in order to have a meaningful ride I had to get out and have fun on twisty scenic roads for uninterrupted hours on end.

There is a mental switch when it comes to riding that we do not realize unless we stop to think about it. The moment we straddle the engine, our mindset changes. We do not think of the stresses, the gossip, or the external factors affecting our lives. What matters right then and there is the bike, us on it, and anything that might endanger that bond. I would prefer that over the daily grind any time…

Where you ride, how long you ride, and why you ride is inconsequential unless you are mindful of how you do it. At the root of it all, whether we realize it or not, we ride to experience the mindfulness of it all. This is my Motorcycling Zen.

Telling a Rider to “Be Safe”

As I am putting on my motorcycle helmet someone usually shouts out, “Be safe!” in a jovial but concerned manner. Well of course, I think to myself. If I wasn’t going to be then I would end up crashing before I even went a mile. Later on, I end up blaring my horn at a careless driver that starts to drift over into my lane. They were texting while driving. Coming up alongside them, I see that it is the same person that told ME to be safe…

Natural selection still exists in motorcycling. The idiots that fly by doing 100+mph wearing little to no gear never survive for long. They either get killed at the expense of their own inexperience and recklessness or suffer injuries significant enough to scare them away leaving room for more riders just like him.

Less often, you see the motorcyclist that looks like he should be in some science fiction movie. These riders are the type that have either put a significant amount of miles down or have had road-rash before. They usually have experience riding in different weather, terrain, and across different types of motorcycles. So how do you tell this type of rider to be even safer?

There is a point with motorcycling where you can only be so safe. Even if you are doing everything right by the safety-nazis, you can still end up pulling the short straw when it comes to a crash. Motorcyclists simply do not have the luxury of being protected by a giant metal cage. Even if the motorcyclist was doing everything right, all it would take is one car to change lanes without checking their blind spot and its over. Car-1, Motorcycle-0.

I see part of the issue being that everyone only blames the motorcycles for being unsafe. Wrong. Unsafe riders make motorcycles unsafe. The same applies to cars, but no one is telling the car drivers to be safe. If you are one of those people, put down the phone, don’t go through the drive-thru, and learn what Bluetooth is…