Sunday, March 27, 2011

Moto Middle Age

I received an email from an old friend a few weeks ago. It was addressed to all of his riding buddies and it listed all but one of his motorcycles as being for sale. We'd caught up over lunch the week prior so this wasn't a total surprise but somehow, seeing the bikes and prices listed made the whole situation much more "real."
Seems that after almost 40 years of riding, my friend Stan's health is forcing him to give up riding. For a hard core, dyed in the wool rider in his fifties, that's got to be a tough pill to swallow. He's keeping one bike, a Triumph Sprint, just in case but it's looking more and more like he'll be stuck in four wheels.

I've known Stan since the late 80's and he was the rider you couldn't help but envy. He always had an enviable assortment of two wheeled toys and did crazy stuff like traveling long distances!!! by motorcycle. When we met, I'd recently purchased my first motorcycle, an '82 CB750F and Stan was a good influence...encouraging use of proper gear, rider training and all that other un-sexy stuff that keeps a new rider alive. He was also kind enough to tolerate my slow ass self when I tagged along on day rides.
The objective observer might find it hard to feel sorry for Stan, heck he's owned dozens of bikes, ridden all over the US and Europe with a two wheeled vacation of some sort nearly every year, wife on pillion or solo. Still, it's hard not to be bummed for a friend losing the ability to enjoy his true passion. I'm keeping him in my thoughts, hoping he'll find a way to ride again in the future.

It's a good reminder to do the things you want to do, while you are able to.

I've noticed a lot of my friends seem to be in transition of late. Some have discovered the joy of off road riding after years of asphalt only motorcycling. Others are dipping a toe into that thing called adulthood; serious relationships, responsibilities and that's affecting their ability to ride like they want to. Heck, even my daughter is taking the step from dirt riding to street, a prospect that simultaneously makes me proud and scares the heck out of me. Taking the whole tableau in, I find myself unconsciously slotting myself into some sort of rider's timeline. If I'm lucky, I've hit moto middle age. I have the money to afford a selection of bikes that I can't help but smile about, I have the time to ride and I'm still young enough to enjoy riding hard.  I'm finally getting to do the stuff I'd dreamed about and I make it a point to remain thankful.

It all started right here for me

Who knows when or how it will end but here's to making the most of it in the meantime.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Keeping your head in the game

I promised myself I'd blog mostly moto related stuff and nothing else. Hence the big gap. I did have some cool motorcycle related stuff worth blogging from early last year but frankly, I just didn't feel like typing it up. Really, I didn't feel like doing much at all.

If you're like me, you spend a lot of time thinking about your bikes, upgrades, repairs, tires...oh yeah, all manner of things to keep them working exactly the way you want them to. Again, if you're like me, you also do some basic things to keep your body humming along. I have often joked that I go to the gym simply to avoid buying new leathers.
Unfortunately, it's harder to predict the performance of the human machine. A few years ago, I had some fun with my thyroid and while the idea of having a rare cancer was pretty scary at the time, the promise at the end of the whole thing was a normal life with the caveat of needing a pill every day.

Yeah, about that.....

Like I said, it's harder to predict the performance of the human machine than a mechanical one. Who knew how much of an effect little variations of one chemical could have on your overall well being.
There is, however, good news. EVENTUALLY, there is a point at which they finally find the right amount of stuff to pop every morning to feel mostly normal again. Ok, so it took two years of roller coaster good times to get there but I think we're close. And, it's nearly spring here in the north east....heck yeah!

Soooooo, I think I will take the next couple of posts to highlight some of the good stuff from last year with the expectation that I will have lots more two wheeled fun to talk about for 2011.

Here's a teaser

What sort of person takes a freebie, barn find CT70 Mini Trail, rebuilds it in 5 weeks or so, adds a 150cc engine and then ships it to LA for a trip to San Francisco? Oh, the chubby SOB in the silver helmet there is likely to do anything when he's feeling good :D

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Christmas sidetrip

I make no secret of the fact that I like to buy Christmas gifts, it's fun to stumble onto something that seems like the perfect thing for a friend or family member. For me, the gift giving thing is the best part of the holiday and I really don't think much about the gifts I might get. That aside, sometimes you get a gift from someone that is very cool, unexpected and really fits.

Enter the Lego model of Fallingwater. Anyone that knows me knows my love of architecture. I'm not going to waste a lot of bandwidth on the topic but I will say
A) I had no idea that Lego made things this cool
B) Building it was very enjoyable, it's been a long time since I played with Lego sets
C) It's going to look sweet on my desk

Thanks Fuzzmops !

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Get in gear, any gear will do - part one and a half...

In order to get some forward momentum and have a hope of catching up to the present day, we'll try shorter, less wordy posts :D

After getting the head onto to the workbench, I started to disassemble it. Am I the only person that hears "no disassemble number five!!" every time I type that word?

Anyway, I got out my trusty valve spring compressor and went to work.

I love this tool, if you are working on motorcycles, I highly recommend the OTC model 4572 spring compressor.

For less that $45, it's a screaming deal and the design works in very tight spots. Well worth the cash..

That's some carbon build up for just over 10,000 miles!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Get in gear, any gear will do - part one

This story will start in the past tense and pick up here in the present day...this little restoration project has been lurking round my houses for some time, read on:

About a thousand years ago, I bought a '77 CB400F from the original owner. It had just over 10,000 miles on the odometer and had been sitting in his shed for well over 20 years.
I'd nearly bought one as my first bike...probably should have as the CB750F I started on was much more machine than a beginner should have to man handle but, that's another story.
The 400F is one of those Honda stories that seems to repeat over and over. Critical success, modest sales, ultimately becomes a cult bike.

When I brought it home, you might say it was a "20 footer." From that distance, it looked like new.
Here it is the day I brought it home.
Up close, the ravages of less than ideal storage became apparent. The chrome on the wheels was beyond salvage, the fenders pitted and the right side of the frame was spotted and rusty where battery acid had spilled. Sounds bad but the upside was nearly perfect paint on the tank and side covers and the iconic four into one exhaust was in pretty good shape. What I had was a great place to start what they call a "sympathetic restoration" these days. I wanted to preserve as much of the original patina as possible but still have something I could be proud of when I parked it.

I was pleased to find the inside of the fuel tank was in great shape and not at all shocked to see the carbs filled with varnish.

Pulling the bike apart, I made a genuine effort to be very organized and label items as I went. This becomes pretty important to the story of this bike...

The carburetors were my first project and the tone of this effort was quickly set. The first of four came apart well enough, the dip tank did it's job and I was optimistic I'd be riding the 400 by spring. Then, I started into the second carb. Things went pear shaped in a hurry.

That little screw is inside the slide of carb number two. There are two small philips head screws inside to retain the needle. Actually, they are JIS philips head screws. At the time, I did not own a good set of JIS screw drivers. I do now.....
Now, this is where the story starts to take a tangent. In 2005, we decided it was time to buy a new house. This turned into building a new house, a nice project in some ways but the timing of things got tough. We were having trouble selling our home so when a good offer came in that required us to move before we finished our new place, we took it.

The 400F had been languishing in the garage for about nine months as I could not get that screw loose no matter what I tried. I bought a set of donor carbs on Ebay, a mistake as they were in pretty rough shape. The slides were in no condition to be re-used in my opinion. More than a little frustrated, I simply worked on other things.

So, well sell our home and move into an apartment. We rented a massive, and I mean massive storage unit where we put the majority of our belongings as well as two cars and my four motorcycles. If there is one thing worse than leaving a bike in pieces in your garage for a long time, surely it is moving a bike in pieces a few times. I'd had the carbs apart on the work bench, sitting in a big cafeteria tray and I simply moved them last and put them on a shelf in the storage unit.
Once the house was finished, we moved into the new place and all my toys stuff went into the new garage.
Then, I promptly ignored the 400F for 3 years. I would have a hard time explaining what finally moved me back into action but eventually I dug back into the carb slide problem.
It is funny how a lot of time away from a problem can make you more serene about it but I was in a better place mentally when I tackled it again. I built an extractor out of a left handed drill bit and out the screw came as though it was barely stuck.

I bought myself some JIS drivers and went after the other carbs.
In pretty short order, they looked like this

What was really remarkable was the fact I'd not lost a single part in the entire time they had been apart..

It was starting to feel like a fun project again so I stood back and reviewed my options. I'd collected a lot of NOS and reproduction parts to replace the ugly stuff but a rear fender was impossible to find. I bought a "perfect" one from Ebay and wound up with another, albeit slightly better than my original, dud. Ok, off to the chrome plate shop with you then. In the meantime, I had to sort out how deep into things I wanted to get. I knew the bike had been sitting for a long time. I knew it was a Honda and I could likely get it running by slapping the carbs back on it and filling the tank. I also knew, from experience, that all those old gaskets and seals would leak, probably sooner than later. If I wanted a reliable bike, the engine was coming apart. Besides, this way I could rehab the finish on the engine.

Pulling the engine is really not a major moment. Unhook the wires and hoses, pull the exhaust and unbolt the mounts. Easy. Except for this. That's the screw that holds the tach drive cable in place.

I spent three hours getting that screw out on the day I found out I might have a nasty little cancer. It was a good diversion, I suppose but truly strange in the way it went. After literally trying every trick in the book, I was about to break down and drill the thing completely out. The trouble with doing that is the location of the screw. It's easy enough to get to but it is set into the upper half of the cylinder head, at an angle, in a very thin casting. The odds of destroying the surrounding part seemed pretty high. So, I took one more crack at it with a small punch and hammer and it backed out as though it had never been stuck.

Fast forward a few months and I've had a little surgery and no cancer, Yeah!

Back to work on the 400F and it's time to get the damn engine out. To pull the engine cleanly, we needed to remove the oil filter housing and the oil pan. Wanna guess how that went?

That's the center bolt for the oil filter housing. I am quite proficient at stuck fastener removal by now. I've taken to referring to this project as the "stripped head special."
To be fair, the previous owner had obviously over tightened the bolt and rounded the head. He'd included a new bolt with the bike and I now know why .

With that mess out of the way, I could finally get the engine out of the frame, and darned if that didn't go fairly well.


Once I started to pull the engine apart, my decision to do so looked better and better. Check out the 30 year old sludge on that pick up tube!

Also, the spark plugs were really tight coming out. I knew as they turned, a lot of corrosion was being dumped into the cylinders.

While I could have blown that out, mostly, I was not going to get all this carbon out of the combustion pockets..

After years and years, I was finally starting to get somewhere.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A little perspective..

Some unusually warm weather afforded me the opportunity to go for a nice ride, no heated gear required. Since the Tuono offers little in the way of protection from the elements, it's not my first choice on cold, windy days. Today was not cold nor windy so playing with my Italian toy made perfect sense. It was also a great reminder that while California truly is an awesome riding location...I don't have it all that bad back east

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

California 09 - winners and losers

Whew, good, bad or otherwise, I actually finished a ride report and within a month of the ride itself. You can't know how good that feels. It's not terribly good, but I can check it off as complete at least :D

After I got back to Dubbelju, the process of unpacking the bike, pulling my GPS and generally getting my big duffle full of my stuff served to distract me from the little feelings of melancholy that pop up at the end of the ride.
I had a nice time in San Francisco before I got on the plane home so it wasn't until I was parked at the gate, waiting for my flight that the whole, "wow, it's over" thing happened. Six days is far from an epic ride but it is long enough to fall into a groove and I love the ride, sleep, repeat tempo. I'd covered 2200 miles, the majority of them almost perfect in one way or another. Something like 480 miles on the longest day...very manageable and relaxing.

It had been an exceptional trip.

So, let's thank the stars of the show and give the few downers the credit they deserve.


Hey, let's be honest, I am not a fan of people most days. I am functionally social but that doesn't mean I like it :D If I spend more than 5 minutes talking to you, I really like you. If I spend days riding with you and I am still talking to're one in 100 million. I had the good fortune to ride a few days with two of those folks. No drama, no effort, no scary "WTF are you doing?" moments. Sweet. The fact that they put up with me without any obvious signs of distress was just icing on the cake.

Motorcycle rentals from real motorcyclists. I completely recommend these guys if you are renting in California. Nice selection of well maintained bikes, fair rates, cool location. Besides, the bay area is just about perfect to start a ride from .


The Bike - R1200R Elleventy-billion times improved over the R1150 it replaces. Smooth, good power, solid handling - much more nimble than my K bike, and a comfortable seat. Burned zero oil in 2200 hard miles...for a rental with over 30k miles, impressive. The bike would be the perfect only bike for someone. Probably not me. I rode my Daytona for the first time in a while this past Sunday; that would be the perfect only bike for me...thank god I don't have to have just one. A basic bike with hardbags and heated grips sure does make sense though...
Now, this Canbus bullshit, that needs to just stop. A fuse is a very good way to protect a circuit. I do not need the HAL9000 to decide whether or not I should freeze my ass off in the middle of nowhere. Consider this my virtual one finger salute.
The other fly in the cycle ointment was the ZTechink barndoor mounted to the triple tree. It did a fine job providing protection but it made the steering heavy at the point where I pulled over to make sure I did not have a low rear tire. Crosswinds did a nice job of grabbing the top of the thing making steering through windy corners exciting. The winds in Death Valley were a real joy.

The Gear - Gerbings, I love you. Please consider this a virtual hug for all the pleasant things you do for me on two wheels. I've tried other brands but Gerbings is my choice.

Olympia textile riding gear - I have moved almost exclusively to riding in leather. That said, there are advantages to touring in textile and the cost/quality/perfomance of Olympia brand seems to work well for me. Not that the jacket is waterproof or anything but when I find one that truly is, I may faint from shock.

Alpinestars SMX4 with goretex - I didn't need waterproof on this trip but knowing that they are sure makes packing them easy. Comfy on long days and very protective.

Schuberth Helmet - Awesomely quiet, claimed to be safer than all the rest, difficult for most to pronounce. Perfect.

Garmin Zumo - Oh the invective I have hurled at the smug British bitch contained within it's ruggedized and waterproof housing. The cradle still offers static which I must remedy with napkins used as shims but having an MP3 player integrated into the thing clamped to the handlebars is sweet. As for actual navigation, the bag is mixed. I now make plans on paper and use the Zumo as a scrolling roadmap. I did build a few routes and with auto-recalc turned off, it was far less annoying. Still, Mapsource is an annoying piece of shit and I haven't the patience to spend hours squinting to build a route. I used the dead reckoning method of navigation for years and the Zumo is a great partner for that.

I'd considered typing more about the location of this ride but geez, you have to be sick of me lavishing praise on California riding by now.

Can't wait to go back