Introducing the ‘Capogiro’ unit ….

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid & Capogiro dynamic brake light unitFirstly may I say that we here at moto-abruzzo wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and hope that 2018 brings good roads and big smiles on those shiny Caponords of yours!

Secondly, fellow Capo owner and electronics whizz Michele from Italy (MCR on AF1 forum) got in touch about his Mk3 ‘Capogiro’ unit. Based on the BMW Dynamic Brake Light system, it uses a microcontroller and a 3-axis gyro/accelerometer unit to control the brake light and hazard warning lights, as well as having other useful outputs. In a nutshell the DBL function is:

    • Normal brake light function under all light/medium braking conditions
    • Brake light pulsed at 5Hz when braking hard (>0.35g) from between 14Kmh (9mph) and 60Kmh (37mph)
    • Below 5Kmh (3mph) normal brake light function is restored
    • If still braking hard at below 5Kmh (3mph), the hazard lights are turned on automatically
  • They will then remain on for 60 seconds OR until the speed is greater than 20Kmh (12mph) for xx seconds

This then is the primary function of the unit. But Michele didn’t stop there, he’s added a raft of other useful functions as well, including:

    • Add a handlebar switch and you have rider switchable hazard warning lights
    • Drop the bike on its side and the opposite (high side) pair of indicators will operate in a kind of half-hazard mode to alert others of an obstruction on the road
    • Leave the indicators on too long and the system will give you an audible alarm to remind you to turn them off …. who hasn’t done that!
    • A basic but useful alarm function. Add a hidden switch and intercept a relay and the unit will use the gyros and accelerometers to know if it’s being moved and set off the horn/hazards as well as immobilise the engine.
    • It also has the ability to do what Aprilia never did – keep the headlights switched off until the engine is running, then turn them on, vastly reducing battery drain on starting.
  • And last but not least the ability to interface with an eCall device that alerts others that you may need assistance.

Each of these functions is well thought out with outputs all protected and battery status being analysed so as to not activate certain functions which could possibly prevent the bike from starting due to low voltage. All in all, a well thought out and professionally built unit. All this fits into a neat 122mm * 39mm * 31mm package that is designed to locate on top of the headlight behind the windscreen. Granted, if you use all the functions then there are a fair few wires to be connected, but if you don’t want to use a particularly function(s) then just don’t hook up those particular wires, easy! And the cost for this little box of wizardry …… currently €120, not cheap granted, but for the safety features and added additional functions thrown in, I think it’s well worth the money. You can download a copy of the installation instructions in English HERE or in Italian HERE.

OK, sounds great but is it legal to use? Well BMW have added a similar system because it conforms to EU legislation and they sell bikes fitted with it in the UK. But the fact is they DO appear to fall foul of the Highway Code rule 116 (watch their own videos):

“….. You MUST NOT use hazard warning lights while driving or being towed unless you are on a motorway or unrestricted dual carriageway and you need to warn drivers behind you of a hazard or obstruction ahead. …… “

In other words, if the hazard lights activate while moving on any other road than motorways/unrestricted dual carriageways then that’s a legal no-no …. even if it is helping to save your pride and joy (and skin) from some inattentive muppet driving too close behind!

So the bottom line seems to be that a big manufacturer can bend the rules but we, no doubt cannot. Fitting it then may be legally questionable, on the other hand if it increases safety, makes no visible changes to your bike in day-to-day use AND will most likely never be noticed during an MOT test or roadside inspection ……….. well then that’s up to you, I cannot condone anything that would possibly break local or international law in any way shape or form, no siree Bob. Me? I’m only testing it off-road of course. 😉

If you’re interested in more information or would like to buy on, please drop me a line with your details and I’ll forward them to michele for you.

And that just leaves me to express my own gratitude to Michele for not only sending me a Capogiro to try, but also sharing ‘under the bonnet’ details so that I can get a better understanding of how the functions work. I owe you one Michele! 😀

LED headlights …. verdict

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid Sealight LED headlightsSince fitting the Sealight X2 LED H4 headlight ‘bulbs’ I’ve managed to squeeze in a couple decent night-rides to see how well they work – about 100 miles in all. In fact it’s worked out perfectly, as there’s been no moon, so when riding in unlit mountains – dark means dark!

So how did they fare? Well let’s just say I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Make no mistake, they’re not really any brighter than a standard H4 but the bright white light and fast changeover (Hi/Lo) is a nice touch. The beam is surprisingly good, although the Aprilia guard on the front does mess it around by causing shadows/reflections but it does that with Halogen bulbs as well. Overall it’s fair to say that I didn’t have to adjust my pace at all to compensate …. as long as I can stop safely on my side of the road, in the distance I can see well-lit, then that’s fine with me! Oncoming traffic never seemed upset, so I’m of the opinion that there’s little scatter caused by the LED’s not being exactly in the lens sweet spot.

In the end though, the real benefit from these lights is the saving in energy. With about 4-5 Amps less being drawn, I’ve found I can now use my dinosaur Hella Micro DE fog lights and still show a charging voltage of 14.1V, even the fan cutting in only drops the voltage to 13.7V! It’s like a breath of fresh air and quite amazing how a simple redistribution of Amps makes the Capo a happier bunny. The main point now is how long will they last ….. only time will tell! 😀 

Who’s bright idea was this?

Range Rover P38 and a littel under bonnet fire!I bet you thought I’d run away with the circus it’s been so long since I posted anything!

Well in fact I’ve been rather preoccupied with other stuff of late ….. bad wrist, car barbecuing itself at the side of the A14 Adriatic (autostrada) motorway and getting a shiny new job (and car!). But more about all that another day. For now though it’s upwards and onwards with the fitting of a new toy for the Capo, or should I say toys … there are more posts to come about fatter/heated grips and reducing the torque on the twist grip for my wonky wrist!

A pair of X2 H4 (Hi/Lo) Sealight LED units in the headlights. These were recommended by Ravenranger over on the Aprilia AF1 forum and for a splash under £40 a pair (delivered) in the UK, I decided to take a punt. A neat and simple kit with bulb/box/plug connected by cables – just the right length for the Capo which is nice. Double sided Scotch 3M pads and some cable ties to mount the box’s out of the way complete the parts list. They’re rated at 12-24V and an output of 4,000lm (hmmm really?) and apparently fully waterproof, even the cooling fan.

I found fitting them really easy, hardly any worse than changing a standard bulb. All rubber seals and panels fit straight back into place as well. The little boxes were attached to the back of the headlamp shell with the double-sided sticky pads and it was all reassembled no problem.

NOTE: Look at the pics of the locking ring and bulb, two lugs 180º apart. The lamp can be fitted upside down if you’re not careful! Don’t ask me how I know this …. just be careful to check which way up the lamp is when clicking it into place.

Measured current draw on fuse A is:

Dip beam:     Halogen  8.35A   ( 53.4W * 2 )   LED  4.9A  ( 31.4W * 2 )

Main beam: Halogen  9.6A      ( 61.4W * 2 )   LED  4.9A   ( 31.4W * 2 )

So a saving of approx. 3.45A on dip and 4.7A on main. As you would expect, the light is a very bright white that made the existing halogen look dull and yellow in comparison add to that the very rapid turn-on and switch between dip/main and you certainly know it has LED’s installed!

But of course, this is all academic if the light pattern is junk! Night couldn’t arrive quick enough for me to get out to the barn and have a good look – low beam cut-off and high beam spread being paramount. Well I have to say that initial impressions are excellent. In the pitch-black of the Abruzzo evening the dip showed a nice crisp cut-off line and distinctive kick up to the left of a UK headlamp …… flick to main and the olive grove over the road practically burst into day light – OK, not quite! But bright enough to be surprised at just how decent these things appear to be. So far so good. I’m impressed enough to want to go get kitted up and hit the road rather than head for the tool kit and swap back, which is a damn fine start in my books. The weather looks nice for the next couple of evenings so I’ll dig out the INNOVV C5 and see if I can get a bit of night-time video!


A bit more INNOVV-ation!

All I can say is – WOW! Since the link was added to the INNOVV website about the K1 review, I don’t think I’ve ever had so much traffic or comments in one day. Absolutely fantastic and wonderful to swap emails with so many other riders!!

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid ferrite clip-on core for INNOVV K1So as a follow on, today I’ll answer a couple of questions that folks have raised. Firstly, ferrite cores, what are they and what do they do. In a nutshell wires can act as aerials, bringing unwanted high-frequency signals into (or out of) an electrical circuit, such that this interference causes problems. By fitting  a clip-on ferrite core you prevent these unwanted signals from entering or leaving – in this case the DV recording unit. In my case for example, when I tapped the horn button (Stebel Nautilus Compact Tuning – 18A!) the DV recorder would always reboot itself. Since fitting the ferrites – no problems at all when using the horn! The ferrites I bought are for 3.5mm cable and fit all the INNOVV wiring just fine.

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid INNOVV button & LED schematicSecondly, the button/LED replacement I made. Here’s a breakdown of the existing button – just a momentary push-to-make switch and a red LED, nothing more. As mentioned in the previous post, the voltage to the switch is 3.8v and to the LED 1.8v pulling approx. 11ma. The switch could easily be replaced by any momentary switch you like, that’s easy, unfortunately though the LED is drawing very little current and so this line cannot be relied on (without frying something!) to power a brighter LED that would typically draw around 20-30ma, so a new circuit is required. Now this could be as simple as using this line to drive a transistor such as in the diagram below. Here a fused switched 12v line provides the required Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid INNOVV K1 new LED driver circuitvoltage/current  to drive an LED via a transistor. In this case the INNOVV provides the 1.8v (at 0.5ma) to switch the transistor. This circuit could all be assembled inline with the LED to save space …… however it would have to be meticulously assembled, if the 12v line touches the 1.8v line, then goodnight DV recorder!! Much better to buy a small box and a piece of strip-board from Maplin (UK) or RadioShack (USA)  and build the circuit into the cable run.

Remember that if you want to use a green or blue LED instead of the red one, then the 560Ω resistor will need to be replaced with a 510Ω one to compensate for the different voltage requirement.

Now this where I admit I didn’t do it this way! That’s because I wanted to add a couple of other functions that I thought were useful, so I went and added a microcontroller into the melting pot. On the standard setup, when the button is pushed (long) the recorder starts or stops and the LED changes state – in other words, I have feedback from the unit while I’m riding along. However when the button is pushed (momentary) the LED does nothing …. the DV unit will say “Video file protected” and the red dot on the recorder screen will change to a yellow triangle with an exclamation mark in it, but I can neither hear or see any of this from the saddle. So for file protect/unprotect I don’t have any usable feedback and I wanted to change that.

Now the microcontroller runs a combined red/green LED – this lights green when recording and off when not recording, if file protect is enabled then it toggles red/green for 0.5 seconds at 10Hz then turns red denoting that the file currently recording is now protected. Another push of the button reverses the process – red/green toggle and then solid green for unprotected file recording.

Aprilia ETV1000 Caponord Rally-Raid LED dashboard cockpit Garmin Zumo 590LM

There is also one other feature ……. when file protection is enabled, it is ONLY for the current file. So if for example you activate file protection with a 10 minute file at 9 minutes 58 seconds elapsed, then 2 seconds later a new file will begin to record and it is UNPROTECTED, see the issue? So now, if I have activated file protection, the microcontroller waits until the new file begins recording and triggers file protection itself in the background and will continue to do so until I deactivate it. All the time I know I’m recording a sequence of protected files because the LED is red not green.


Stuff …. 6 months and 12 months on

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid dashboard - new right-hand indicator repeater!A couple of anniversaries this week ….. firstly the dashboard. Yes a full 12 months since it was finished and put back into the Capo for the last time, resplendent with its new inlay to complement the electronic changes. The auto-dimming back lighting and split indicator repeaters have been absolute winners – I couldn’t go back to a standard board again without missing them. Moving the side-stand and low-fuel lights toAprilia Caponord ETV1000 & Rally-Raid Voltmeter and re-located side-stand light on dashboard accommodate the twin indicator repeaters has had no impact, positive or negative. The voltmeter has been a different kettle of fish …. generally unused as the Sparkbight battery monitor handles voltage feedback when riding around – however it has proved a real benefit during start-up when the dashboard goes through its self-test phase. Now it’s become second nature to eye-ball the tacho needle to see what the battery voltage is pre-start. >12.6v and I know I should get a good kick from the battery!

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 & Rally-Raid MCCruise controlThe second anniversary, although shorter at 6 months and a tad over 11K miles, is the MCCruise cruise control. After a rushed install (not clever) I knew I had a heavier throttle than pre-installation ….. this was purely down to throttle cable routing and nothing to do with the cruise control itself. It simply didn’t like being re-routed behind the radiator, so I gave up and relocated the CIU (cable interface unit) to a new location by the throttle bodies. Now everything works fine – a light throttle and a happy cruise control. It’s been 100% Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 & Rally-Raid New MCCruise CIU locationreliable and functional. As a demonstration of its finesse I ran the bike in 1st gear at 25mph and let the cruise control take over the (100 horsepower!) throttle – all I can say is WOW! I would never have believed that the system could have the sensitivity to operate the throttle with such precision, but it did – up hill, down dale – never an ounce of jerkiness. Ok I admit no one wants to ride around in 1st gear …. but as an experiment, it proved to me that MCCruise have indeed developed an absolutely fantastic piece of kit.

Dashboard repairs

Risto's Christmas cardYes I admit it here and now, I’m doing a U-turn – a full 180° – and NOT stopping dashboard repairs at the end of January 2015. Jeez …. You’re thinking, I wish this chap would make his mind up!!

Why the change of heart?

A couple of reasons actually …. Firstly, a few emails over the past couple of weeks that have made me reflect on the initial decision, secondly a Christmas card. Yep – a lowly piece of card with a simple season’s greetings from a Capo owner in Finland.

Risto sent his board over almost 18 months ago and by all accounts is happy with the work done and each Christmas he has sent a card. That connection across the continent would never have Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 & Rally-Raid dashboard repairs and upgrades, backlighting and voltmeterhappened without the dashboard repair service. This year I opened the card and felt a twinge of regret, uneasiness, a sense that a decision I was making was the wrong one. The bottom line is that I would miss the emails/calls and involvement if I stopped something that I’ve been involved with since the beginning of unravelling the dashboard circuits.

Jan and I sat down and worked out some ways to free up a little more time and I’ve decided to put other projects on the back-burner for now. So I will not stop doing what I’ve done for almost two years ….. Give folks a grain of hope that a piece of their pride and joy can be repaired or upgraded. Sorry for the wobble, but hey, I’m only human.

And Risto ….. If you read this, just remember that opening your Christmas card changed the course of moto-abruzzo as he staggers into 2015. That’s pretty awesome when you think about it! 😀

On the right wavelength? (Part 2)

Waiting at the Post Office today were a couple of type-380 60 red LED tail/brake light bulbs to have a play with. I got these from in preference to the 92 LED version that needs modifying to fit into the Caponord reflector/socket (thanks for the info Andy!).

To recap  on the conclusion of  ‘On the right wavelength? (Part 1)’ – In my opinion it would be unwise to fit WHITE LED tail/stop bulbs in the Capo UNLESS you first have definitive proof of the red light output and even then, there is the subject of the legality of fitting them in the first place!

What follows then is a laymans point-of-view of the alternative red LED bulbs after a fun-filled afternoon tinkering in the barn …….Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - 5/21w incandescent & Type-380 60 red LED bulbSo ……. off with the lens cap, pop out a bulb and in with the new …. Easy to fit with no modification, they are certainly brighter than the standard 5w tail lights, while the brake lights are definitely on a par, if not a tad brighter than the standard 21w filament, most importantly the change in output when the brake is activated/deactivated is crisp and very obvious. Of course the one thing you notice electrically, is the wayyyyy lower drain on the battery when braking! Here’s a table comparing the power usage:-

Difference in power consumption

One additional point I noted in favour of the LED’s is actually based on their construction …. the filament bulb relies heavily on the reflector/lens diffusion to spread the light because it only has one fairly focused source of illumination, whereas the LED has 60 independent sources that reflect and refract far better giving the appearance of a much brighter output from ALL of the lens, a more uniform glow if you will!Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - Both bulb types with lens in place

Oh and one thing I almost forgot to mention about the LED bulb is that all 60 LED’s are illuminated at all times, the activation of the brake light simply intensifies their output, rather than switching on/off additional LED’s as I’ve seen in some bulbs. I think this maintains a much more even and balanced spread of light.

Conclusion …. yes the RED bulbs work as well if not better than the incandescent and of course the power saving is incredible. How they perform when hot and after several hundred hours of use has to be seen. In the end though I do have to wonder about two things; the logic of selling white LED bulbs for use at the rear of a vehicle and the woefully outdated UK/EU legislation in use – for example, using a bulbs power consumption as a measure of its output is unbelievably outdated. Technological change is here and seemingly faster with each passing year, legislators need to move out of the 20th century if they have any hope of keeping pace.

Me? …… I’ll leave them in for a while, just for evaluation off-road you understand. 😉

Caveat: Using LED tail/stop bulbs on the Caponord in the UK is illegal and as such karlb/moto-abruzzo cannot condone their use. They don’t carry an approval marking nor do they meet the brake light power requirements (15-36w) as set down in the The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989′ ….round in a circle we go …. the very thing we’re trying to save (power) it turns out we can’t!!

Dimmer and dimmer

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid Evening over the Gran Sasso ....I switched on the fog-lights to better illuminate the mud and stone strewn road ahead; when it dawned on me that I hadn’t taken the Capo out in the dark for ages, months  probably. And here I was winding a path along our troubled road and hopefully onward for a nice little night-time ride all in the name of testing the auto-dimming backlighting!

After getting the set-up working nicely with the old thumb-over-the-sensor routine, it was time to take the old girl out for a spin and see what the illumination was like both in unlit rural and street-lit urban riding. I took the netbook and cable along so that changes to the code could hopefully be done at the roadside.

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid .... and over the Maiella.In the end I was really pleased with how the lighting worked anyway, the only change I made was to the minimum brightness – dropping it slightly – so that it’s totally readable without putting stress on my tender night-time vision. Daytime backlighting is, as you would expect fully-on at 100% while the night-time drops to 30%, which with the higher output LED’s (blue & green) is just about spot on.

But ……

And there’s  always a ‘but’ …… the two LED’s in the binnacle (Autoswitch & Battery monitor) now stand out as being overly bright compared to the dashboard at night, so, time to work out how to take these signals and pass them through the Arduino and subject them to the auto-dimming code as well, then the whole cockpit area will be sorted at last!  😉

On the right wavelength? (Part 1)

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid. Tail-lightsWhat colour is your tail/brake light? Red I’d hope…. or is it really? Take the Capo’s lens cover off and it’s just a pair of common old yellowish 5/21W incandescent bulbs, the red is of course provided by the light passing through the red lens. In fact since time immemorial the only way simple incandescent bulbs were coloured was either by a coloured cover or380 60 LED bulb being dipped in a coloured dye. Why? Simply that the humble incandescent bulb fires out light at all different wavelengths from infra-red to ultraviolet, so a simple filter is all that’s needed to allow the required wavelengths to pass through.

Now of course we have LED’s…. and these little puppies don’t work the same way. A red LED will generate light in the 610-760nm wavelength – red …… a blue LED in the 450-500nm wavelength, you’ve guessed it – blue! But what about white LED’s? Well they produce red, blue and green light BUT they are dominant in the blue wavelengths and actually very poor emitters in the red – the very colour we need for our taillight!

So here’s the next question….. Do you change out your ‘so yesterday’ incandescent tail/stop bulbs with ultra-trick, smack-up-to-date LED’s? And if so red or white? Well here are a couple of photographs that I hope will help with that dilemma.

Using my old but trusty Nikon D200 I took the first picture with the Capo tail light and an LED torch for comparison. The second picture is exactly the same except this time I added an infra-red filter to the camera. Now the camera is only picking up light in the red wavelengths ……… look at the torch, I think you’ll agree that in the 2nd picture the torch is most certainly dimmer than the two puny 5w tail bulbs, yet overpowering in the 1st photo – quite a dramatic difference me thinks!

Now OK, this is just a torch not a pukka LED tail/stop bulb, and yes I concede that not all white LED’s will output the same amount of red light – but how do you KNOW what the output of that bulb you’re eyeing up on Fleabay really is?

Bottom line?

Don’t fit white LED tail bulbs into the Capo, stick with ordinary bulbs. Bummer on the power-drain, but better on the safety side – nobody likes a rear-end shunt……..

…….but what about the red LED version? Stay tuned for next weeks thrilling roller-coaster episode – ‘On the right wavelength (part 2)’.  😉

Caveat: Using LED tail/stop bulbs on the Caponord in the UK is illegal and as such karlb/moto-abruzzo cannot condone their use. They don’t carry an approval marking nor do they meet the brake light power requirements (15-36w) as set down in the The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989′ ….round in a circle we go …. the very thing we’re trying to save (power) it turns out we can’t!!

New ‘Lockwood’ inlay fitted at last

Right indicator repeaterOn 4th February Jan came back home with a suitcase fair groaning with all manner of goodies. The most eagerly awaited though, was the pair of new inlays from Lockwood International Ltd. So first impressions?

Excellent! From the textured material to the bleed-free printing, from the fit to the light-transmission …. everything was exactly as I’d hoped. The first thing I did was pop one onto a waiting chassis/board and turn on the lighting – did the text and colour match the light channels? Again, perfectly. Now I could relax, prepare the new chassis and get ready to fit one permanently to the dashboard. To fix it in place I decided to use a general-purpose spray adhesive and did a trial run on an old chassis/inlay to make sure it would be suitable. Everything seemed fine and it was certainly good experience to do a dummy run.

Making sure the chassis was grease and dust free was essential, then masking off the light-channels, mounting pegs and anywhere else I didn’t want spray glue to go! A couple of thin coats of adhesive were applied and the inlay fitted 10 minutes later to allow time for the solvents to evaporate. Perfect! It was now ready to be fitted to the circuit board, but first a couple of modifications to the board/processor circuits.

First the eeprom file needed to be updated for the Futura speedo/tacho, then the code in the microcontroller needed updating for the different (voltmeter) needle calibration. At the same time a couple of modifications were made to the circuits based on insights I’d picked up about Arduino boards from the Internet, also the auto-dimming circuit was finally added for the variable back-lighting, a bit of tweaking with the code – and it was all ready to be refitted to the Capo.

So there I was …. on a wind-swept but warm Sunday morning, dashboard in hand and about to see the fruits of a few months work finally come together on the bike. No doubt the code for the auto-dimming will need fine-tuning, but that can be done without removing the dashboard again – and that’s the line in the sand, right there. Once fitted, I shouldn’t have to remove them again anytime soon …. and that’s a great feeling!

I think that about now would be a great time to pause and say thanks to a few folks who have helped me keep the momentum in this little project. Firstly Jan for her patience and for lugging stuff across the continent for me, to Andy (beasthonda) for bouncing ideas around with me and his interest in the project, to Arvdee in the USA without who’s generous donation of a Futura inlay I wouldn’t have had a template.  Last but not least, Clive from Lockwood International for putting the proverbial icing on the cake – thank you all!!!! 😀