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The bike and the idea...

The bike is a stock 2001 Kawasaki Vulcan Classic Fi.  The motivation for this project was that I could not come up with a good scheme for listening to music on the bike.  I did not want to be physically attached to the bike via any wires.

I already had been using the Delphi Skyfi unit in my car so I decided to buy another Skyfi car cradle and antenna for the motorcycle.  The Skyfi unit can be easily moved from the car to the motorcycle since it simply snaps into each cradle.  The Skyfi cradle is attached to the handlebar using the "Universal Stereo Mounting kit" found at the bottom of this web page.

The speakers are Rumble Road Premium speakers.  Each speaker is in a chromed spotlight housing.  Each speaker housing encloses an amplifier and a Blaupunkt speaker.  The speakers sound great.  I had to get a Ground Loop Isolator from Radio Shack ($15) to get rid of some hissing/static noise.  I also bought an analog volume control ($6) for controlling the volume of the music.

If you're new to the world of XM Satellite Radio, check out XMFan.com to get the scoop on what you've been missing.  You can also visit the official XM Radio web site.

Connection Details

The guts of the electrical connections are hidden inside my bike's headlight can.  I also hid the excess XM antenna wire (you can't cut the antenna leads) inside the headlight can.  The only important here is that I put a female cigarette lighter socket inside the headlight can so that I could plug the cigarette lighter adapter that comes with the Skyfi.  You can't do a direct connection to the Skyfi because the Skyfi only uses 5V.  The cigarette lighter adapter that comes with the Skyfi, steps the voltage down from 12V to 5V.

I chose to connect everything to the running lights because I wanted to make sure that when the motorcycle was turned off, everything else would turn off as well.  However, I can turn the key (without cranking the bike) and with the running lights on, I can listen to music.  If you choose to make a direct connection to the battery, make sure you include a switch.  This is VERY important because even with the bike turned off, the amplifiers in the Rumble Road speakers will continue to draw power and eventually drain your battery.  This is one of the reasons why I chose the running light circuit.  By choosing this circuit, I could make all the connections inside the headlight can (keep it neat) AND make sure that when the bike is off, everything is off without the need to add an additional switch.

Connecting the XM antenna is a no-brainer.  The thing just plugs into the cradle.  However, you need choose a good location for it.  The antenna cannot be blocked by any metal because metal completely kills the satellite signal.  The XM satellites are in the southern sky.  Problem is, you can't go by that.  As you ride around, your bike can be oriented in any position.  Initially I had the antenna placed on an L-bracket on the fork but found that the fork itself would at times block the satellite signal based on the bike's orientation in relation to the satellites.  This was causing the music to cut on and off.  It was very annoying.  I ended up mounting an L-bracket to a bolt in the center of my windshield.  This puts the antenna fairly high on the bike so there are no metal parts blocking it from any direction.  The best thing will be to just try different locations to see how it works out for you.  The trick is to mount it as high as possible, with as few obstructions as possible.

Another detail about the satellite signal and antenna placement.  The XM signal is transmitted by two sources, the XM satellites (named Rock and Roll), and if you live in a major metropolitan area, you can also get the XM signal from ground repeaters.  The Skyfi has a menu screen that shows you whether or not you're picking up any ground repeaters.  The unit automatically monitors the strength of the satellite signal versus the strength of the ground repeater signal (if any) and uses the strongest of the two signals.  The ground repeaters allow the music to continue if the satellite signal is blocked.  In a metropolitan area, the signal would be blocked by downtown tall buildings, tunnels, etc.  Unfortunately, I don't live in an area with ground repeaters so the location of the antenna was very important since my only source for the XM signal is the satellites.  If you have ground repeaters where you live, you can put the antenna almost anywhere.  However, remember that once you leave town, your signal may cut on and off as you ride outside the range of the ground repeaters.

Click here to see how everything is connected.


Q - Can I connect the Skyfi cradle to headphones in my helmet?

A-  Yes you can.  You can connect headphones directly to the Skyfi cradle's headphone jack or to be able to control the volume, connect an analog volume control between the Skyfi cradle and your helmet headphones.

Q - Will I be able to hear the music over the wind noise?

A- The answer is, it depends.  This will vary depending on whether or not you have a windshield, the type of helmet you use, and of course your ground speed.  My motorcycle has a windshield and with my full-face helmet, the music is fine until around 65-70mph.  After that, the music is audible but there's a lot of wind noise so you have to turn the music up.  Oddly enough, the music sounds better when I wear my full-face helmet and open the helmet's wind shield a bit.  I initially thought the best scheme would be to wear my chip helmet but it's not.  I suspect the full-face helmet is better because it keeps any air/turbulence from directly hitting my ears.

Q - Did you use a fuse?

A-  On the original installation, there was no fuse but I have since added an inline fuse connected to the electrical noise filter's input lead (blue wire).

Q - My bike doesn't a have a stereo, how do I install the XM receiver?

A- Surprisingly enough, I've gotten several emails asking about this.  Look at the illustrations, there is NO NEED for a stereo unit of any kind.  The Skyfi and its cradle is all you need.  Since the Rumble Road speakers have amplifiers inside each speaker housing, there is no need for an additional car stereo (head unit) of any kind. 

Q - I have a question or comment.  What's your email address?

A-  If you have a question, please visit my blog archive and post a message.


Some pictures

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