Saturday, September 16, 2017

Possibilities…

We are currently enjoying one of the nicest stretches of weather since last summer (and I’m referring to 2016 here). It’s been a week of temperatures in the high 20s with no rain. Perfect weather for riding.

And today was no exception.

Now that I have the little Kawasaki more or less sorted I’ve been casting about for my next project to keep me occupied over the winter and one of these for sale in the local Kijiji caught my eye, an ‘84 VT500 Interceptor.

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I admired them back in the day so I thought, “better late than never”. The bike for sale didn’t look this clean in the ad but it was supposedly complete and running, came with a spare donor cycle, and was price negotiable. So I decided to go have a look and combine that with a nice ride on a hot, sunny, September day.

All was going well until Richmond where I ran smack into a parade that totally blocked my route. The oh-so-helpful police officer that was directing traffic gave me, another biker, and a lady in an SUV, instructions on how to get around the parade. Which put us in a working gravel pit. I guess he really didn’t know the town that well. After a few other false starts and u-turns on dead-end streets we all decided to just wait it out, which we did.

After 15 minutes or so I was back on the road and soon at my destination.

The owner was a young’ish lad who bought the bike with the intention of putting it on the road but became a bit overwhelmed with the amount of work it would take, to say nothing of the $$ required. He was right to be concerned. It doesn’t appear to need any major surgery but will require lots of TLC – certainly more than I’m willing to put in.  And with the engine and 4 carbs all shoe-horned into an impossibly small space in the frame, they are notoriously tough to work on. So I think I'm going to pass on this one but will keep looking for something simpler.

But then, while having a quick lunch at a nearby Tim Horton’s, one of these showed up.

GT750

It has been a long time since I last saw a Water Buffalo (Suzuki GT 750) and this one was pristine. 39 years old and it looked like it came straight off the showroom floor. Not a scratch on it. The owner claims he bought it like this a few years back and all he did was clean it up. It’s all original – paint, exhaust, etc., everything but the tires. He didn’t want to sell it; said it was his favourite to ride. Bummer.

After a pleasant parking lot chat it was back on the road again, taking a slightly longer route home. And four-and-a-half hours and 230 kilometres after heading out this morning I was having a refreshing swim in the lake to cap off a great day.

Manotick loop


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

There is no solution…

… so simple that the bureaucrats can’t screw it up.

This is a Google Maps satellite image of an intersection near our house.

Bellamy intersection gravel

The through road, coming from the bottom and exiting top left, is posted at 80 kilometres per hour. At the red line, at the apex of a curve, the surface changes, without warning, from newly-paved to loose gravel.

Two months ago the missus and I pulled a rider and his motorcycle out of the ditch on the far side of the intersection. He lost control when he hit the gravel at speed. He was a bit banged up – cuts and bruises – but otherwise okay. His bike was rideable after we bent a few things back into place. He was lucky and was able to ride home.

Three weeks ago, two other riders collided in that same spot when they both went down after hitting the gravel unexpectedly. Both were injured, one seriously enough that he had to be medevaced by helicopter to an Ottawa hospital.

CaptureAfter the first accident I contacted the township of Mississippi Mills, in which jurisdiction this intersection falls, suggesting that this, or a similar, sign be posted giving riders advance notice that the pavement is about to end. Their response? Mississippi Mills is only responsible for the road beginning where the gravel starts and so they couldn’t post such a sign because the location where the sign should go (marked by an “X” on the above photo) was on a county road.

When the second accident happened I contacted the county – Lanark Highlands – to see about getting a pavement ends sign put up. I spoke to the Superintendent of Public Works who advised that they were aware of the situation and it would be remedied in a few days.

Here’s their solution. At the spot marked with the “X” on the aerial photo they put up this sign.

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An astute observer will note that the diagram bears no resemblance whatsoever to the actual geometry of the curve; it’s a simple curve, not an “S” bend, and the intersecting road is off to the right, not the left. The 20 km/h is an advisory only, ignored by every road user in the province except big rig truckers with tippy loads. They also put a stop sign on the gravel road side of the intersection, which serves no useful purpose whatsoever as the problem occurs with riders transitioning from pavement to gravel at speed, not vice versa. But worse than all that, there is still no warning about a surface change, which is all I asked for in the first place.

I have tried to point out the errors and request, again, a simple pavement ends sign, but I now appear to be on the shit list as I get no response to emails or phone calls to the county. However I will continue to escalate and hopefully this will be fixed before someone dies because of simple bureaucratic ineptitude. Stay tuned....

Monday, September 4, 2017

Any job worth doing is worth doing twice. (II)

Unfortunately I seem to be making a practice of this.

IMG_20160925_113842892webAfter no activity for a few months I am now making some progress on getting the little Kawasaki roadworthy, and one of the main jobs was to replace the tires. Now a previous owner had done just that, but it was 18 years ago. Although the tires looked brand new, the rubber was hard and the sidewalls cracked, so they had to go.

So new tires on the floor and tire irons in hand I tackled the job. 4 hours later…..

Let’s just say it was a bear to break the beads. It was like the rubber had vulcanized right into the pores of the cast wheels. But finally, using a lot of creativity, a bottle jack, a few 2X4’s, and the tractor for weight, the old tires were off and the new were on.

At the time I considered changing the valve stems but that would require another trip into the city and a couple more days’ delay. Besides, the old tires were holding air just fine so they were probably okay.

Next day the front tire was flat. Yup, the valve stem was leaking, presumably after being disturbed during the tire change. So another trip into the city for a new stem, dismount the wheel, remove the tire, etc., etc.

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You think I’d learn.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

MosaïCanada

As part of the Canada 150 celebrations the National Capital Region engaged Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal to create an exhibit reflecting Canada’s history and diversity. The end result is a spectacular kilometer-long walk through some stunning horticultural sculpture.

We’d been meaning to visit and finally got around to it today. We were blown away by the artistry and attention to detail – all done in various types of plants, grasses, mosses, and so on to provide the texture and colour the artists desired. It is reported that 3 million plants of 80 different varieties were required to create this magical garden.

problem neighbour Aside from seeing the odd trimmed cedar in a front yard I’d never paid much attention to this art form. Supposedly all the rage in Victorian times it had fallen out of favour but is now making a modest comeback.

It is, understandably, extremely labour intensive and expensive (reported cost – $10 million to put on this particular exhibit of 100+ sculptures) so don’t expect to see this type of exhibit  too often. But if you ever get the chance to visit one, go for it, as these examples were truly beautiful.

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Walls and roof of 'station' covered with mosses.

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Canadian Pacific train crossing the Prairies. Life-sized and all plants.

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Inukshuk and puffins.

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Copy of a famous Orca sculpture by BC’s Bill Reid.

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Inukshuk and polar bear.

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Puffins.

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Muskox.

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Celebration of Canada’s links to China.

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Voyageur.

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Mother Earth. She’s probably 30’ high.

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Not horticultural art but still amazing creations by a British artist (forget her name) who uses driftwood as her medium.

All in all a great way to spend the day. Best of all, it was free. (Worst of all was the $53 parking ticket I got because I misread the sign. The fact that there was actually a free space should have been my first clue. Sigh.)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Tinfoil and vinegar

I decided it was finally time to get down to doing some work on the Kawasaki. A while back I had cleaned and rebuilt the carbs. (One of the POs – don’t know which – ‘forgot’ to replace a few small parts like springs and such and mis-installed a few others, proving once again that some people should never be allowed near tools.) Not surprisingly, once the carbs were set up properly it fired right up and ran well. Since the heart seemed strong it was now worth my time and effort to get it into reasonable shape to pass a safety check and, ultimately, get it licensed.

IMG_0140Fork seals were leaking and the clutch cable was frayed. The exhaust system was also leaking. And just overall, the bike looked ratty, which could trigger a more detailed safety inspection that I wanted.

Seals were easy to replace, as was the clutch cable (although very messy as it’s routed next to the front sprocket and is therefore subject to a lot of chain lube spray). A new, less radical, set of bars was obtained (surprising how many new parts are still available for a 35-year-old motorcycle), and the air box was replaced by 2 separate air filters.

IMG_0077But I wasn’t sure how to proceed with cleaning up all the surface rust on every chrome surface. As you can see from this shot of part of the rear fender it was pretty ugly. And every chrome surface was similar. Enter Google and YouTube where I discovered that a bit of tinfoil dipped in vinegar would remove that surface rust and leave the chrome, if not pristine, at least shiny.

I was pretty skeptical but decided to give it a try.

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Et voila! Worked like a charm. The chrome is still pitted and will rust again if left to the elements, but the improvement is remarkable.

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And just to highlight the difference, one muffler has been cleaned up and the second has yet to be touched. That’s tomorrow’s job.

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So who knows? I might get this thing on the road this summer after all.