Test Drive : 2017 Honda Ridgeline

So, this is a thing I’m gonna play with – Test Drives. We’re currently shopping for a replacement for the Lil’ Beast, a 2005 Subaru Forester 2.5XS. We bought it cheap from my folks, and it was only supposed to last a year or two. But, it’s been just shy of five years now, and it’s still kicking. But only barely. At this point, it needs rear (drum) brakes (ugh, my most loathed of brake jobs), endlinks, shocks, springs, emissions work (a regular P0457 – major evaporative leak keeps popping the check engine light) which could mean a new gas tank, charcoal canister, and/or vacuum lines. Probably needs new plugs & wires, too, and the engine has recently developed a mild knock, and oil leak.

That’s more than is worth fixing, on an 11 year old car, with 120,000 miles/200,000km + on it. The parts alone are more than the car is worth at this point, and that’s without any labour I can’t do myself.

So, test driving.

The spectrum is pretty wide – primarily because, no one will sell me what I really want: A midsize or fullsize wagon. Don’t really care for SUV’s additional ride-height, I don’t generally find it necessary. I’d rather have the space of an SUV, and the handling of a car.

But that’s a complaint for another time.

First on the list is… a truck?

I guess I should go over the list: I’ve kept it broad (for features and use) and tried not to exclude anything based on preconceptions. At the same time, I’m also trying to keep the cars interesting as well as utilitarian. Hey, I’m a car guy, and some kind of character to the vehicle is important.

So, the list is:

  • 2017 Honda Ridgeline
  • 2017 Ford F150 4×4 Crew XLT
  • 2016 Chevrolet Colorado 4×4
  • 2017 Subaru Forester
  • 2017 Toyota Rav4 hybrid eAWD

    For the moment, that’s it, but it’s subject to change/addition. Might throw the Ford Explorer in, and maybe the Subaru Outback, as well.

    So, back to the first on the list. A truck. A unibody, car-based truck at that.

    Thing is, @pingoderp (who this will also be partly/largely for) hates the Ridgeline. No, not kidding. She’s not a car person at all – she’s a home design person, I’m the car guy. But something about the 2006-2015 Ridgeline makes her literally apoplectic with rage when she sees one. It seems to be the flying buttress behind the cab – there’s something about the proportions that are thrown off in the design, well, look for yourself:

    So, when the generation two Ridgeline started making the show/review circuit, it was tough to bring it forward to her as an option. I mean, she REALLY hated the old one.

    But it really pushes all the utility buttons, so, we went to look.

    First off, a message to dealers. Telling me to pay a $500 deposit to bring a model in for me to test drive in a few weeks? Yeah, no. It may not be illegal, but it’s seriously immoral. And, it guarantees that I’m not going to do business with you. Civic Motors, Ottawa, I’m looking at you.

    So, second Honda dealership was much more accommodating. Walked in, asked about the truck, and was immediately offered a test drive.

    From this review out, I think I took pictures of the vehicles as we drove them, but I forgot for the Ridgeline.

    First off, the exterior is much less… controversial. It’s obviously a truck, but it’s a truck based on the same platform as the Honda Pilot – basically, from the B pillar forward, it IS a Honda Pilot.

    I’ve only got two complaints about the exterior. First, visually, it still does look very slightly “off” – the bed is slightly too short and it throws the visual balance off, for me. It’s not bad at all, though, just something I’ve noticed seeing a few “in the wild”. Second, however, is corporate bullshittery: You can’t get a color choice (ie. something other than black, white, or grey) until you spend up to the 2nd highest trim level, $10k over base price. That’s fucking bullshit. Color should never be trapped to trim level, and I’m truly tired of parking lots that are a sea of black and white. It’s boring as hell, and they can do better. This doesn’t help. That said, it can always be wrapped, but yeah. Full paint choices, from base on up.

    Ok, so, it looks good. Hows the interior?

    It’s very open. It is, in fact, big. For all intents and purposes, the “mid size” trucks of today are the fullsize trucks of yesterday. Well, about fifteen years ago. What that means is, with modern packaging as well, you can get a lot of space inside. With the Ridgeline, you get the added bonus of the base frame being an SUV. Technically, the Pilot (and Ridgeline) are front wheel drive (although the Ridgeline only comes as AWD in Canada) This really improves the interior packaging in a way that only a FWD base can do. There’s a ton of storage inside, and a good feature set, if you’re willing to spend the money. One of the big things for us is the ability to have a flat storage space inside. THere’s a 90lb Labrador retriever who currently lives in the back of the Subaru:

    Who needs somewhere comfortable. With a flat floor like the Ridgeline has, we can fold half the seat up, and give him a good spot to crash out, and again, with it being FWD/unibody, not body-on-frame, the entry point is lower for him too.

    I’m also pretty impressed with the seats. It’s tough to tell with only twenty minutes behind the wheel, but they feel good, and Honda has always done seats well (reference – 2003 RSX, and 1997 Integra) in my experience. Controls are logical and well organized, again, a Honda standard, and the infotainment seems good too – it was easy to pair my phone with it, and I was able to play music immediately. I don’t think it was Android Auto / Apple Car Play, at the time, but I believe that was an upgrade that was coming. It’ll be something we check on when we go back for a second test drive.

    I still have real problems with backup cameras. They’re helpful, there’s no doubt about it, and the Ridgeline’s is set up so that you can use it to align yourself with a trailer hitch (there’s an additional camera pointing downwards). Everything turns and twists with the vehicle, too, so it gives you a really, really good idea of where you are. It’s just really disconcerting to stare at that dash while you back up, instead of over your shoulder.

    At speed, wind noise is minimal, and that’s on the FWD/car/SUV based aero, rather than truck. And I think that’s part of the slightly off look of the vehicle – the droop on the nose makes it look less truck-like, and you get proportions you don’t expect from a truck. It’s not ugly, to my mind, but it’s “not truck” and that throws some people.

    There’s a ton of power. Honestly, a lot of guys swear that a truck isn’t a truck without a V8, but especially in this class, a nearly-300hp v6 is more than enough. It hammers down on ramps and merges seamlessly. The blind-spot warning is visible, but not intrusive – I actually quite liked it, and if it’s on, just hammer that go-pedal, and you’ll be clear in no time. Cruising on the highway at 115-120km/h, and it’s effectively silent in the cab. You can have a proper conversation with someone in the back seat without yelling at them. It’s really nice. Again, that’s that SUV/car DNA at work. There are real advantages to it. Getting back to the power, the tow rating is 5000lbs, and somewhere around a 1600lb bed load rating. Again, I don’t see this engine and (6 speed automatic) transmission combination having any trouble at all with those numbers. As you can imagine, it cuts the difference between SUV and truck in terms of (on paper) mileage. It’s a Honda, mileage will be good, but limited by the sheer mass of the vehicle. Throttle is progressive and does what it’s told (something that’s becoming rarer, thanks to throttle-by-wire). The steering has a remarkable amount of road feel, as well, despite being electrically boosted, not hydraulic.

    There’s a ton of trinkets and doodads we’re also not going to bother with – if you step up to the 2nd highest trim, the box doubles as a speaker for your tailgate parties. It’s a neat party trick, but that’s about all it is. It’s a shame you can’t get the auxiliary power outlets in the bed without this feature. The upside is, you get the super-hard bedliner and trunk at all trim levels.

    And that’s a major sell for us, as urban users. Lets face it, most of the “truck” use for us will be buying/moving furniture, and the home depot run. And the Ridgeline is the only truck with a trunk. At the back of the bed, under neath it, is a huge, lockable, weather proof storage area – a trunk. That is incredibly useful, and I can see other manufacturers copying it. It’s brilliant. Access to it is easy as well, as the gate on the bed opens to the side, and drops down traditionally, so easy to reach into.

    So, that’s first thoughts and a literal test-drive review. I’m going to do this for everything we drive/have driven. It helps me organize my thoughts, and it might even be interesting for you. They should be shorter from here out, too, as I’ve dealt with the preamble already.

    Of note. When we test drove, the price for the Sport was $39,999 CDN. According to Honda.ca, it’s now $41,488. Honda, what are you playing at? Oh, I see, Ok. Good job, Honda. They’re including freight/PDI in the MSRP, rather than hiding that $1500. That’s actually appreciated. I still think the freight/PDI costs Canadians pay are exorbitant, but that’s a different post.

    If any owners happen to read this? Let me know what your thoughts on ownership are! I’m interested if you’ve discovered any quirks and foibles with the truck.

  • ExtraLife Gameathon 2016 – Team Bombshelter

    Well, first off, the final numbers aren’t in yet but:

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    Yeah. Given that we’re a Canadian team, and that’s in US Dollars? I’m incredibly happy, and proud of my team. Seriously, they all come together at the last minute, and it just works. And they’re brutally generous with both their time and money.

    That’s also not the end of the story, either. I’m currently sitting on about $325 Canadian in cash donations from the day-of (we keep a donation bucket).

    And finally, if you’re so inclined, you can donate until December 31st, 2016. Just click right about here, and we thank you. Please, remember that this is in aid of CHEO (the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario), so,if you’re Ottawa, Kingston, that kind of area, and have, or know kids, chances are, someone you know will make use of CHEO’s services at some time. It’s a great cause, and we’re always happy to try to help them out in some small way.

    So, the event itself!

    I must admit, I had some trepidation going into it. It’s been … All round it’s been a rough year – I’ve had a lot going on at work, and personally, and I’m exhausted. So, it was tough to organize this year, and I almost didn’t bother. Almost. But, I had some concerns that we were going to get a super small turn out (we didn’t) that donations were gonna be tough (they weren’t) and that maybe the events time had passed for us (it hasn’t).

    Call it a minor crisis of faith.

    Well, I did the traditional lessons learned – We sold our pool table (that came with the house when we bought it) last winter, so that opened up a ton of space in the basement. That really made the PC gamers a lot more comfortable (And a lot more comfortable than they deserve! Basement trolls, every one of them). I picked up a couple of sets of folding table LEGS, and built two more “door tables” to provide as much space as I could, and that left us with an extra tabletop space surrounded by bookcases (which was actually really nice, the ambience was pretty great!) The network was strung from the ceiling like a spiderweb (main connection to gigabit switch, out to a gigabit switch on each set of two tables). I actually planned the layout of the house for the event on paper this year, and had myself an honest-to-god checklist, rather than just doing it all in my head. And, it all appears to have worked out fairly well.

    So, speaking of that house layout, this is what we had:

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    The living room – aka “Xbox Alley”. All consoles, all the time. Three years ago, this would have been the primary hub of activity, this year, not so much. We did have some bodies out sick, though, which made a big difference. Even so, our console division dropped off, which is interesting to note (also, smaller screens showing up this year, with the exception of my own, more on that later).

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    Like I said, my own TV was the exception. In the dining room, I took over: That’s 65″ of 4k love – It’s my house, dammit, I’ll play the way I want to. I also knew I was going to have a huge set-up, anyway, because of my racing rig. What you see in front of you was: Xbox360, Xbox:One, Logitech G920 racing wheel/pedals/shifter, LED backlighting on the TV from the powerbar (those are AWESOME), and my Republic of Gamers G571 laptop. I was all set to play pretty much anything. Next to it was @pingoderp’s Xbox360, which basically got used for Portal.

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    Family room was a general congregation area, and Rockband/DJ Hero. I was surprised at the turnout for the Rockbanding. Very good though. And the SumoSac’s were, as always, well loved by the kids for flopping out and spending time on mobile gaming, and Nintendo DS.

    Basement. I wasn’t kidding. This is where the PC Master Race is shunned… I mean, situated.

    Tabletop room 1!


    Tabletop room 2!

    I ended up not involved (for obvious reasons) but for a number of reasons, we tried a “PokeWalk” – a couple of the parents (primarily organized by @Yumi Kiddo) took a number of the kids to Carleton University to do a few hours of Pokemon Go. It does sound like it went well, and definitely helped us at the house, because it lowered the crush of kids running around for the afternoon (our highest volume of bodies is about noon to 9pm, and it can be a distinct “crush” of people in a relatively small space). I get the impression this went very well, but may have been a horde of babbling kids tearing at the nerves of a couple of parents *grin*

    Lessons learned? Always.

  • the couch in the family room can’t be on the west wall – kids would jump onto it, and bump the wall-socket network cable, taking everyone out down in the basement
  • Rockband, even on a smaller scale, is still a success – IF it’s separated from all the other gaming, because it’s loud, and not everyone wants to listen to it
  • upgrading the connection (from 27/3 to 60/10 made a huge difference, and no one had any issues beyond the bumping from the couch).
  • consoles have dropped off, tabletop has grown hugely, and PC gaming staged a notable increase
  • it remains a huge amount of work to set up. Like…. a lot.

    How much? Well, take a look at the pictures, and you see what goes into the rooms. We move furniture around. the networking consists of eight gigabit switches, and somewhere around 700 feet of Cat5e. Four of those switches were new this year. We upgraded the connection, as noted, and that costs money. Ok, sure, I wanted that too but. There’s the hydro – November is our biggest month of the year for obvious reasons. It’s about an extra fifty percent of our monthly bill, for that weekend. Food, that we lay in, beyond what other people generously provide.

    And mostly… time. It takes A LOT of time to set up, tear down, organize, lead, and fundraise for. Probably 130 hours of pure, physical set-up and tear-down, plus time talking to people about the event, what we’re doing, how we’re doing it.

    This is the thing. We’ve now done this for five years. And it IS a lot of work. And early on this year, it was somewhat disenchanting to see the… lack of enthusiasm. And I know, times get tough and get better and we have good years and bad years.

    But, what I know at this point is, to turn the house into a charity fun-house (which is really what we do) for about eighty people coming and going (which is about what we have) costs me. Well, us. It costs money – I spend about $200/year now – it was more three years ago, but now we’re down to just replacing broken/obsolete things, and any hardware needed. It costs time as noted.

    But you know what?

    It’s still worth it. It really is. The event comes together, it’s really fun, we have a great time, there are some great moments, and once we’re doing it, I’m reminded of just how awesome the people I’ve surrounded myself with, are. I’m incredibly fortunate. And that good fortune is one of the reasons we still do it, despite the work, the frustration, and the inconvenience. Because we can, and it is just work, frustration, and inconvenience, and we can deal with that.

    Because at the end of the day, we do something good, and that’s really worth it. Especially right now.

    So, will we do it again?

    Well, at five years? Yeah, we’re totally going to. I’m not completely sure what form it’ll take. We may have some other options for a location coming up. Something that would really take the pressure off us in terms of the intrusion of the event into our home for weeks. I’d miss having the event at home, for sure, but it’s grown to a point now that it may really not be viable to keep doing it at home. However, a bunch of other stuff will have to come together for that to work, too.

    Cryptic much? 😀

    At the end of the day, we do it for CHEO, and I think we do an amazing job. I haven’t heard what the numbers are for fundraisers for Ottawa, for CHEO specifically, but we are regularly near the top. Which means we really are doing something good for the world, and for our community.

    Pretty much every parent we know has made use of CHEO’s facilities at some point or another, and those that haven’t? Likely will. It’s that kind of facility.

    So, one more time, with feeling, if you want to drop a few bucks, it would be hugely appreciated. Just click that link up there at the top. You know the one. Go on. Click it. You know you wanna. Makes you feel good. Doooo iiit.

    Seriously, if you’d thought about it, but didn’t get around to it, now’s the time! so, please do, if you can.

    And yeah, we’ll probably be back next year.

    But for the moment, I’ll leave it with this. I’m wicked proud of my team. Players, fund raisers, donators, all. All amazing. Thank you again Team Bombshelter, you’re awesome, and I don’t do this by myself.

  • Slouching Onwards to Automotive… Somthing or other.

    It’s been that kind of summer. Between finally getting to the track and some general meandering around the province, I’ve put about 9000km on the ‘coupe this summer. That’s actually a big deal for me, as I commute to work by bike, so during the week, it’s not unusual for me to not even start the car for four or five days. Basically, all that mileage is cottage runs, and cruises.

    The track wasn’t high mileage (obviously) but 90 minutes at basically wide-open throttle (I kid you not, I could WATCH the gas gauge drop) is hard mileage. So, I’ve ended up with a few more oil changes than usual during the summer too.

    There’s just time for two more, as well – Right now, I need an oil change and then I’ll need one again next month.

    Next month, you say? That’s crazy talk, three months for oil changes is the norm.

    Except.

    September27th, I leave for Tail of the Dragon.

    It is 1686km one way. Tail of the Dragon (Deal’s Gap) is in Tennessee. I’ve no idea how much mileage I’ll do there, but then it’s 1686km home, as well. I figure that the bare minimum I’ll do in those five or six days is 4000km.

    Now, THAT’S a driving vacation.

    And right now, a bunch of you are muttering to yourselves that I’m nuts. And I’m not sure you’re wrong. But, with the help of someone who’s done it before, I’ve got a route that, while slightly longer, runs through some very scenic country that isn’t downtown Detroit.

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    That should be some pretty glorious driving, even if it is fifteen hours worth. Each way.

    Before that, though, I’ve gotta I had to deal with the car. (Had to – Ummm, I was gonna post this Friday afternoon, and it’s now Monday morning. Whattayagonnado?)

    Like I said, oil change. that’s actually scheduled for 2pm Friday – Finally, I’ve hit my last “included” oil-change (20 of them at time of purchase, 7.5 years ago). Once that’s done, it sounds like Friday tonight was going to be burgers’n’shakes (and it was), our weekly car crew get-together. Saturday morning, I was up at 7am, and in the garage.

    What’s on the agenda?

    First, brakes. You’ve all read by now the Post-trackday work I had with the brakes. And through the awesomeness of friends, that got me back to “driveable”. I want better than that for the Dragon, though. So, I ordered up some EBC YellowStuff pads:

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    I’ve also got OEM rotors for the back brakes, that are fresh(er than my R1 Concepts ones), and that combination should be prettty good.

    once that’s done, I definitely have to change the brake fluid. It would have been nice to do steel lines, but that’s going to be part of the winter upgrade – I don’t have the cash or time right now.

    I hate bleeding brakes. Passionately. So, I’m kinda hoping I’ll have some help for it. We’ll see how that goes. I’m pretty sure I can manage, I won’t be trying to get bubbles out of the system, just trying to clear the old and refill with new, so I don’t REALLY anticipate any problems.

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    It’s not rocket surgery, after all. Also, found a “one man bleeder kit” at Canadian Tire, and that was $8 well spent, as far as I’m concerned. No bubbles from what I could see, and all the fluid was coming out clear, and clean…. after a few good pumps. #notaeuphemism.

    After that, the car is basically good to go. If I have time, I’ll probably pull the AEM DryFilter, and wash it, along with the hydroshield. I have to remove the front bumper for that. While the bumper’s off, I want to tighten up the lip as well – since I realigned it, it seems to move around some. I’m not really worried about it falling off, but I’d like it not to scratch what’s left of my paint. So, if I get time for that, that’s on the agenda too.

    Tire pressures will be set. To factory. Because that’s what you do.

    After all that, interior cleaning and set-up. I’m going to have a ton of electronics charging in the car – multiple (GPS, four… maybe? Five? go-pros, a pair of Uniden walkie-talkies, my phone, oh, and my regular-issue dashcam.

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    How to run all that?

    Mount a 12V splitter – I have a stack of 12v dual-2.1a-USB sockets, which are perfect for charging pretty much anything, I just need enough 12v sockets to plug everything in. the only trick will be “where to mount the splitter”. So, I guess THAT’S on the agenda, too.

    Actually, ended up being fairly easy:

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    At the same time, I ran my longest USB cable under the console, and out the back, into the back seat. I want to do a video of the entire drive down, then speed it up, and set it to music – 1700km in 6 minutes or so. We’ll see how that works out. But I’m mounting it way in the back, rather than just in the windshield, so that, hopefully, it’s a little more interesting and personal. I think Andyman is going to do an exterior camera for this, so it’ll be interesting to see the differences.

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    Roadtrips. They’re just the same and very different from what they used to be. All I used to take was a couple of big, spiral-ring map-books. And most people thought that was too much, too. Apparently, wifi/connectivity is hard to come by once we actually GET to TotD, but I’ll be posting as I go/when we stop. If you’ve any interest in the along-the-way antics and any updates I can do from Fontanta Village itself, feel free to follow me on @boozysmurf on Twitter, and/or @b00zysmurf on Instagram.

    And the Saga of the Brakes Continues

    Seriously, eight months without a post, and now three in four days?

    So, looks like my thoughts on my first excursion on the track provoked some interest: viewership kinda exploded. I’m sure it’ll settle back to the usual 3-6 da day (mostly on the Mysterious Package posts) but in the interim: Hey, new folks!

    And, as I noted, I killed my brakes. And I was Looking into options.

    It turns out, on the bottom of the Frixa pads box, it says, very clearly “NOT FOR TRACK USE”. But who the hell looks at the bottom of the box??? That would have been helpful on the TOP of the box.

    C’est la vie.

    The deal is, though, by the time you read this, I should have the car back on the road. New brakes are acquired, at least for short-term.

    Lets go back in time a little bit.

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    When I bought the Genesis Coupe in 2009, it was one of three in the city. They were rare. like any new model (it’s still just a Hyundai). There was a community beginning in the ‘states, but not much in Canada yet. I got involved in GenCoupe.com, and that was OK. Upside was, I met some good people locally, who I’m still very, very good friends with. I, and those guys and girls, never actually called ourselves anything. Fast forward to 2010, 2011, and there’s a group popped up in Oshawa/Whitby area: The Durham Basterds. We met a bunch of these guys and girls, and, well, got along famously. Some are just car friends, others have become friends: it was a year before I met most of them. It was also several of these guys who pushed me towards the much more structured community of Chapter 11. And I got to know some more of the guys, even better.

    My Bombshelter crew: the guys and girls from University have become the bar to which I hold myself, and anyone I meet.

    The core of the Basterds?

    They’re worthy of the Bombshelter.

    They do the things I would do, and have done.

    For instance.

    While I don’t want to embarass anyone, someone built probably the most epic street genesis coupe (there are some more epic Gensesisisiesies. Genesii? I don’t know, but they’re pretty inherently show cars, not drivers) that I’ve seen.

    Well, this morning, they were on the road at 4am, and delivered me a full set of OEM brakes.

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    And I do mean “complete”. Rotors, pads, calipers, brackets, hardware, lines, and dust shields.

    I cannot put into words how much this kind of thing from my friends/chosen family means to me. This is what it’s all about: it’s what I try to do, and I know it’s the kind of selflessness that my friends seem to have, from 8 hour roundtrips for a favour, midnight cottage closings, hospital runs, parking lot repairs, charity events and so much more. The things I’ve seen the people I’ve surrounded myself with, that they get NOTHING out of, do, for the benefit of others? It’s just awesome. And it gives me hope.

    So… enough with the mushy stuff?

    Finally…

    It’s 40oC today. I got home from work, went through the brakes that’d been left for me, and re-installed what I needed: I’m lousy at bleeding brakes, and I want the car on the road this weekend for the cottage run, so I just did pads and rotors, re-lubed everything and took it for a test drive. All is awesome.

    The pedal is a little squishy. I do need to change the fluid, but it’ll be fine for a few days at least. It seems to hold true though, once that fluid has boiled, it’s never the same again. So, what I’ll probably do is swap the fluid, and at the same time, swap on the newer calipers, too.

    And then I figure out what the plan is going forward, for the track. And I guess I need some higher performance pads for Tail of the Dragon this fall too. Still, all things in their time.

    Gonna have to pay this whole thing forward sometime though.

    The Continuing Saga of a RaceTrack Wannabe

    That’s right. I don’t post anything for months, and now you get a couple in a couple of days.

    So, brakes.

    I mentioned briefly in my thoughts from Novice Day that my brakes went away by the end of the day. Well, it was actually worse than that. I lost brakes entirely on my 3rd last lap, going into Turn 6 at 170km/h: Pedal went to the floor. I’d already lifted, so was bleeding speed anyway, pumped the pedal a couple of times and got some pressure into the system, downshifted to let the engine do some of the work, and cranked the wheel over to let the tires scrub some speed, and all was well: My instructor admonished me for diving too deep into the corner and running wide and off line, I told him that it was a brakes issue. I ran the next few laps slower, just working on my line and smoothness, and pointing people by as I needed to (including the 370z I’d eaten up about three laps earlier, dammit!).

    I got a look at the rotors after the session ended, and this is what I saw:

    FLICKR – wheel – rotor

    Not good. Tough to tell without closer inspection, but the pads were looking a little light, too.

    Get on the road home, and I popped an (unrelated) engine code: P0133. Pretty sure that was just the engine reacting to the high flow catalytic converter and suddenly not running wide open, as I had been on the track for the best part of two hours. I cleared that, and no issues the rest of the way home (70km).

    When I got into town, however, and off the highway, I ran into some issues.

    At about Bank / Walkley, the car felt really sluggish. I had to give it more gas to make it go anywhere, and acceleration was seriously lackluster. If I took my foot off the gas, it came to a halt almost immediately.

    Of course, this is when a good officer of the law arrived on my bumper, in traffic.

    Because OF COURSE.

    So, I’m gunning the hell out of the engine to make the car go anywhere (I’ve already got an idea where the issue is) and figure, well, I might as well set up my defense. Put my four-ways on, and hope for the best. I’m less than 2km from home at this point, so I’m going to try to limp it there, unless I’m told not to. Turn onto the primary run into my neighbourhood… and the officer follows me in. Again, I figure I might as well get ahead of the curve, and pull to the side of the road in front of the Dodge dealership. At which point, the cop pulls right past me!

    Seriously?

    I’m now not worried about getting a ticket, but mildly irritated that, despite my four ways, the cop didn’t stop to check on me. Sorry guys. Sometimes you just can’t win.

    Nothing is visibly stuck, so after a few minutes, I get back on my way. Still really sluggish though. I get home, and the same thing: the car is stopping very quickly when it’s not under power, of its own accord. I back it into the garage, and leave it there for the night.

    2016-08-08_12-27-20//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

    Sunday afternoon rolls around, and it’s time to check things out. The good news: all the bolts on the brakes came loose with some pressure: nothing seized.

    The bad news. This list is longer.

    First, the front rotors are, as I thought, screwed. With them off, they’re both splotchy/white, with some flaking of the edges that isn’t rust, and they’re so deeply grooved that you could climb them. Or at least play “Darkside of the Moon” if you’ve got a record player kicking around. They are ROUGH. See for yourself:

    2016-08-08_11-58-20//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

    Second, the front pads. Also totally fucked. Outboard was down to a sliver of material left. The pad itself has been baked to the point at which it’s also flaking apart. The inboard pad isn’t as badly worn, but it’s really unevenly worn. Looks like it stuck in the bracket and stopped retracting/loosening off when I got off the brakes. Basically, about 1/4″ more wear on one end of the pad than the other.

    2016-08-08_11-57-34//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

    Third, the front caliper sliders were completely stuck: all the lubricant had burnt off. That’s an easy fix, but contributed to the above issues, I’m sure. All the lubricant around the areas the pads touch the brackets? Yeah, that’s gone too. Again, easy fix, but the pads are dead.

    Fourth, I don’t know if the front calipers are still ok. I’ve pushed the pistons back in, so they do move. Only way to find out will be to get fresh rotors and pads in there and see what happens.

    So, what’s the plan from here?

    Given how my brake knowledge has grown in the last 72 hours, there’s a couple of things. First, the rear brakes (same brand rotors – R1 Concepts, and same brand pads – Frixa) that I installed new on Friday night are FINE. No scoring, no over-wearing, no sticking. It might be worth disassembling them and re-lubicating to make sure everything is moving post-track-heat, but otherwise, they’re fine. What I hit the track with on the front of the car, though, had 60,000km over four years, on them, and two winters of driving in Ottawa’s snow and salt. There is (I’m told) a finite shelf-life for brakes, even if there’s material left: I didn’t know that. So, old, well-used components, stressed to the maximum on the track? It should surprise no one that they fought the good fight, and finally, lost. Everything I’ve read, and been told, says that no, the expectation is not that you will be going through a set of pads and rotors per track day. I hit a perfect storm of abuse and existing wear. On top of that, as I mentioned, I have the base OEM brake set up. It’s good, but it’s not, I don’t think, race track good. Especially not with 60,000km of wear already on the components. But, it’s taught me an awful lot about things to look for, and things to keep up with in terms of preventative maintenance. And I think, whatever brake set up I end up with in the future, I’ll make sure I’ve got spare pads and rotors on hand in case I do need them.

    Well, I’m doing Tail of the Dragon with GenSport United in late September. So, I’ve gotta have decent brakes on for that. In the short term, i MIGHT have access to a set of OEM’s that someone isn’t using. If I get really lucky, they’ll get up here from Oshawa before Thursday, and I can drive the ‘coupe to the cottage this weekend. If not, then I’ll be ordering new, OEM-base replacemnts (probably EBC rotors and pads) to get me through the end of summer and fall.

    After that, I’m seriously considering a BBK. It sounds like there may be a semi-local option for me. I may also have a line on an affordable OEM Brembo swap with Stoptech rotors and pads. Failing all that, the R1Concepts forged series BBK looks like it has potential as well.

    As I said in the original post, I learned a lot this last weekend, not just about being on a track, but about myself, my car, and all the things that go into being SAFE on the road, and on the track.

    Good times.

    Track Day, Bro.

    So, I’ve been quiet here. Ummmm. Sorry? All three of you?

    Basically, shit’s been busy, and I keep starting writing things and then not finishing them. I’m hoping this will not be the case tonight.

    So, I’ve talked about the car before. Today was a bit different.

    I signed up for 1morelap.com‘s novice day at Calabogie Motorsports Park. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. So, about a month ago, I went to an HPDE day. Why? I wasn’t going to drive just yet. But they do a great thing there: once you’re signed off to drive solo, you can take passengers. Better, you’re kinda expected to take a passenger if they ask. It’s the “first taste is free” kinda deal. And that was the full track. I’ll get to more of that later. I’ll give you verbatim what I posted to facebook that night:

    Huh. It was more than a couple weeks ago. June 11th, in fact!


    So, yesterday, a few of us (finally) took Borge Gamble up on a run out to Calabogie Motorsports Park for a lapping event, with 1morelap.

    I did not DRIVE.

    I had two very, very different experiences as a passenger (and everyone was wickedly friendly). First, with Ken in an (if you can believe it) automatic Scion FRS. Second, with Norman, in a fourteen year old BMW M3. Ken is somewhat of a novice, Norman, been doing this a good while.

    The FRS is amazing. I’ll be perfectly honest here. Anyone who says the base spec of 201hp/151lb.ft isn’t enough for a real car? Has never been in one driven hard, on a track. Hard on the brakes into Turn 5 was touching 155km/h. If anything, the paddle-shifted automatic made it faster. it was balanced, and basically only being passed by other cars on the straights: in the corners, with good tires, it is beyond capable.

    The M3 though (E43, the last truly good one in my opinion) is pretty much everything the M-fanbois make it out to be. It has more than enough power, and stunning brakes. Better tires make the handling… knife edged. The same entry into turn 5 as the FRS was a terrifying 200-220km/h, dropping to 90ish through the corner itself. And I now know what the phrase “throwing the anchor out” REALLY means. 220kmh to 85km/h in (my guess) under 200ft. It is violent. It was passed by exactly two cars. One, a monstrous Corvette street car, and the other a dedicated CASCAR (I think) chassis.

    I spent a lot of time watching entry speeds, exit speeds, and control: it’s not just about the experience (although the first three or four laps in the FRS were a bit of a blur, and my grin in the M3 was enough to split the helmet). I love racecraft, and you can learn a lot here. It’s a controlled environment, but it’s not THAT controlled. There’s excellent support from the support staff and marshals, and they WILL black flag (end your night) you if you’re being a dick and unsafe. I saw nothing but courtesy from other drivers: always pointing to pass (you do not pass unless the driver in front has told you explicitly to pass, and which side, with hand signals). Ken and Norman had dramatically different lines into several corners (most dramatically, Turn 8, 12, and 17).

    I drove home with the cruise locked in at maybe 5km/h over. There just didn’t seem to be much point.

    Sometime this summer, I’m gonna make it out there myself. Most likely August 6th / novice day, but possibly an evening or HPDE day, with an instructor: It costs a little more, but I think is going to be absolutely worth it.

    I’m also going to head out there on a couple of the days and volunteer as a photographer: it apparently gets me some different access, and that will also be a ton of fun.

    Excellent afternoon, doing the kind of thing I love. Good, good time. I can see the potential for addiction here, though.

    So, fastfoward to yesterday. We got there early, about two hours early for our first session (10am) and lined up, parked, and went to get a handle on things.

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    There were two events ongoing yesterday, so the track was “split”. Known coloquially as “east” and “west” tracks. The west track is where the novice day was held: it’s not as fast as the east side, but it’s got some extremely interesting and complex turns on it. Rewind a bit. A requirement of the Novice day is a half-hour in-class training. It’s very simple, basic stuff: this is a novice event after-all. Still, I learned some things: Seating position – I was very close to where I needed to be, but still needed some adjustment. Vision – again, I was close, but I needed to learn to look all the way round the corner, not just into it: I know the rule. You go where you look. Beyond that, it was basic material about focus, apexes, speed, braking and shifting points, and the racing line. All excellent information.

    So, then, to the track.

    Take a look back at the track. As I said, the track was split, and we were running corners 2 through 1. That sounds odd, I know, but, follow it round. We entered the track at Turn 2 / Jacques: following the blend line. Uphill wide onto the concrete curb on the outside, then cresting right before turn 3 / Gilles, which is effectively blind. When I did it right, I ran full-throttle in third gear through turn three. The short straight to turn 4 / Easy lets you settle the car: in my case, I found that I could run third up against the red line, but that was forcing me to back off, or grab fourth gear in the middle of easy, on the curb on the inside, at about 110km/h. So, what I learned to do was grab fourth gear on the transitional straight between 3 and 4, and run wide open: by the time I cleared 4, and wound out the steering onto the straight on the outside edge of the track, I was running about 130km/h. From there, a straight run down Rocky Road. Rocky Road ends up with a crest and kink into Sir John A and Mulligans (Turn 5). By the end of the first session, I was diving straight through, blind, into Mulligans, braking hard, stabilizing the car, downshifting to third gear, and preparing to turn. By the end of the second session, I was standing on the brakes at the top of fourth gear, just barely touching 170km/h and 6800rpm. By the time I come off the brakes, about 200ft later, I’m at 75km/h or so, turning in and touching the cement on the inside, then letting the car drift out to the cement on the outside, between 5 and 6 (Big Rock), shedding speed naturally, rather than under braking: begin the turn into turn 6. Turn 6 dips slightly, and the car settles down: as it does, roll onto the gas pedal. The car takes a set, and if I did it right, the traction control does not flutter. Exiting the turn, there’s a very short transisiton between 6 and 7 (Candy Mountain) and you’re now aiming at the tall, single tree beyond the track. Aiming here and letting the car drift to the center of the track as you unwind the steering sets you up for turn 7, running at the top of third gear. Straightening out after turn 7 is grabbing fourth gear and onto the short straight down to turn 8 (Temptation). Hard on the brakes at the end of the straight, but leave it in third and let it run out (no gas) bleeding speed, then a dab of brakes again, and turn hard across the inside, drifting out to the cones at turn 1, and onto the paddock straight. Run out third gear as tight to the wall as possible then brakes and hard across the concrete at turn 2 and do it all over again.

    When I write it down like that, it sounds like I know something, right?

    Yeah, not so much.

    I couldn’t have driven like I did without the instructors in my ear, in the passenger seat. Mike, John, Deiter: if you read this, holy shit guys, thank you. I learned so damn much yesterday. I put so damn much that I though I knew, into practice. I would not have had as much fun, learned as much, and had my frustration level lowered without those instructors.

    Let me put it this way.

    I cannot recommend the Novice Day enough. I just can’t. If you have any interest in cars, you need to do one of these. The instructors from 1MoreLap are absolutely fantastic, and patient, and knowledgeable, and patient, and encouraging, and did I mention patient?

    I never timed a lap.

    I didn’t count laps.

    I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to learn something.

    I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to destroy my brakes. Like. Completely.

    Bad Brakes, Bad//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

    *edit* *2016-08-08* Just to clarify. My brakes were OLD. Brakes (I discovered from someone more knowledgeable than me) have a shelf-life, as well. The car is 7.5 years old, I did the front brakes four years ago with reasonable quality Frixa pads and R1Concepts rotors. They had about 60,000km on them when I got to the track. You should NOT expect to have to replace your brakes every half hour! 🙂 It seems I may be implying that by omission. I’ve added a post about the brakes, too, because if you’re into racecraft, discussion of wear of hardware should interest you, and I’m talking about it from the perspective of a total noob. *end edit*

    I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to verify something I already knew, intellectually. I discovered that the drivermod is most important. I discovered my untuned, effectively stock(1) sub-200hp Genesis Coupe can stay with and go better than on-paper better cars, because of that DriverMod.

    I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to qualify my interest in watching racing, running sim-racers, and studying driving mechanics because I enjoy it, gives me a lot of knowledge the moment I sit down.

    I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to qualify that that last point means an awful lot less than I though it would: knowing a line intellectually is entirely different to actually driving it, at the limit of adhesion, as fast as you can, while listening to an instructor in your ear reminding you of the things you’re forgetting, or ignoring, because you’re only able to concentrate on a dozen things at once, not the two dozen you actually need to remember to be both fast and smooth.

    I know I did enough laps to prove to myself that while smooth may be fast, sometimes you’ve got to slow down to get smooth again, and then rebuild your speed.

    Most of all, I know I did enough laps to prove to myself that I know almost nothing, and that I want to go back and learn more.

    I could say an awful lot more, but I don’t think anyone would read it. I know I’m gushing somewhat, but that’s a bucket list experience. And when I do get the brakes fixed up, I’m looking to do it again. And again. It won’t be every/every other weekend. But it’ll probably be a couple of times a summer. Because I want to get better, and better, and better.

    (1) I have, at this time, wider, stickier than stock tires, lighter wheels, short shifter and bushings, intake, exhaust, high-flow catalytic converter, a stage 2 clutch, and lowering springs.

    2015 #extralife #gameathon

    Yes, I hashtagged my title. Live with it.

    I had previous written this “We’re right on top of the Gameathon”. Well, I never posted that. So, this is a little bit of pre- and post-gameathon.

    First things: if you don’t know, it’s a charity event that benefits the Children’s Miracle Network, via Extra-Life. In turn, you choose your hospital, in our case, that’s CHEO, or the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

    With that explanation, if you’d care to donate a few dollars, five, ten, fifty, five hundred, whatever you can, the best place to do so is here, through me!

    Donate via me!

    Yes, we have already completed our gameathon for 2015: However, donations are still counted towards this years totals until December 31st, 2015. So, if you want to donate? Please click the link. CHEO is a great, great cause. And, honestly, I would expect them to be busy in the new year: Refugee kids are going to need help, and I’m sure CHEO will be part of that effort.

    Anyway, back to the event!

    The team has become this weird combination of nerds, geeks, car-people, and .. yeah. General weirdos. There’s Chapter 11 Section 62 representation, @wrenchhaus, and the old university crew: The Bombshelter. Basically, we are legion.

    This year, we changed things up. How? well, you’d need to know last years, first. So, here’s last year:

    This year, instead of the island in the livingroom, we’re trying a long table around the walls. I think it’s free’d up a bunch of space: we had a problem last year with people needing to get in and out (food, bathroom). I think we’ve alleviated a lot of that with the new set-up.

    On top of that, with The McFee being out of town, we’re skipping Rockband and making room for more PC’s. The entire basement, in fact, is dedicated to PC gaming this year.

    Then, we’ve set up two bedrooms/offices upstairs with tables and chairs for serious tabletop action:

    At this point, in fact, we’ve got a full walk-through video for 2015, again. My apologies for … yeah. that’s me doing the voice over. So, I apologize in advance.

    Once again, I failed to do a second walkthrough. This year did, in fact, end up being signficantly different to previous years: not only did the Tabletop gaming get a lot more attention, but at the same time, one non-nerdy-family-game got played for no less than four straight hours, by a group that grew to nearly fifteen (somewhat intoxicated) bodies: “Catch Phrase”. I know. I don’t get it either. Sadly, I didn’t get any video of the idiocy involved, either, but that’s life. That said, we brought in the kids, too, and there were games of My First Carcasonne, and the like. The adults delved into a group favorite, Pandemic, as well as Elder Sign, and a multitude of others.

    The PC master race was, as is appropriate, well represented by basement dwellers. I mean, I set up the PC gear in the basement. Note the network cables EVERYWHERE.

    Speaking of the hardware, this is what it takes to set-up the house, to do things the way we do it. I’m not sure I’d recommend this to others: it’s a ton of work, and every year I end up buying more and more gear, especially networking gear. I got very lucky this year, and a neighbour was throwing out two tables (and by tables, I mean doors, with those folding legs bolted to them) which I picked up for free. Without that, we’d have had issues, so it was incredibly fortuitous.

    So,yes, the hardware and set-up. Couches get moved from basement to ground floor: the ground floor is entirely consoles.

    Also, my racing rig, which I finished at about 11pm the night before the event, and stood up extremely well. Althuogh I think I need addtional plyons… I mean, bracing.

    The hardware!

    Ok, so the house is rigged, before anyone shows up, with:

    Ground Floor:
    -Asus AC68u router
    -TP Link 8 port switch
    -TP Link 5 Port switch
    -TP Link 16 port switch
    -350′ Cat6 network cable

    Basement:
    -TP Link 5 port switch
    -TP Link 8 port switch
    -TP Link 32 port swtich (it’s what we had)
    -250′ Cat6 Network cable

    Once everyone was plugged in we had:

    Ground Floor:
    -11 TV’s (32″ to 50″)
    -5 Xbox360s
    -6 Xbox:One
    -1 lonely PS4

    Basement:
    -12 gaming PCs of various sizes, shapes, and forms

    This year, though, we didn’t blow a breaker. You laugh, but last year, we blew breakers repeatedly (due to a bad piece of wiring we’ve since had corrected) so badly that it blew a hole in the breaker itself, which had to be replaced, last winter. I’ve never seen anything like that. Compared to last year, I think we were actually bigger this year, but it’s hard to tell, because, as I pat myself on the back, I think we organized much, much more effectively this year.

    So, while it IS a ton of fun, both in the set-up, preparation, and the event itself, there is a point to all this. And the point is, to raise money for CHEO. Which we did in spades.

    Again, donations don’t close on this year’s event until December 31st, 2015. So, feel free to click that link up there, and make even a small donation.

    Here’s the numbers so far though.

    We’re showing up as the 285 biggest fundraising team in the event (international, 6265 teams, total). However, once the $400 USD I have addtionally makes it to the organizers (next week) then we’ll jump… We may jump into the top 100 teams. Which is INSANE. Most of those top-100 teams are corporate, and where they’re community teams, they have dozens, even hundreds of members raising funds. Again, I’m incredibly proud of my guys and girls: they put a ton of effort into this.

    And yes, I know it’s not a competition. But boy, leaderboards, am I right?

    Team Bombshelter is, once again, the #1 fund-raiser for CHEO, via Extra-Life, and the gameathon. I’m incredibly proud of not only our direct team, but the people who support us (with fooooooooood, in large part), those who donate incredibly generously, and those who come to wish us well. Our numbers are not 100% yet: I have a number of cash donations that are still coming in, but it looks, on the surface, as though we’ve (in what we thought was going to be an “off” year) broken through $3200 USD. That’s somewhere around $3800 in Canadian funds, going back, directly, to CHEO. Over the last four years, we’ve raised juuuuuuuust about $15,000 in Canadian funds[1].

    It should be noted, however, that the newly-formed “Ottawa Guild Superstars” were nipping at our heels this year! That’s pretty damn, awesome, too.

    [1]we lost our team historics this year, and we still don’t know why. Fortunately, I had screen captures of the previous years’ totals, so we’re not totally lost, but it is a shame, and I have to get back in contact with Extra-Life again to see if that can be rectified. It’s not a huge deal, but we are gamers, and our leaderboards are important to us. 😉