Monday, April 21, 2014

It’s new helmet time

I tend to replace my helmets every few years just on general principles. I know the industry claims you should do so on a 5-year basis (link here) but that aside, I just get tired of the old one after a while. And every time I go through the same decision process about what style to buy – half, 3/4, full face, or modular?

Of the four types, the only one I haven’t worn and don’t currently own is the half helmet. I don’t have an issue with the idea of wearing a half helmet but having tried many on in the past I have never liked the way they fit or felt. So that’s off the list and I don’t even bother trying them any more.

bell starOne of the best helmets I ever had was a 1970’s model Bell Star full-face. It was extremely comfortable, had great peripheral vision, and didn’t look (or feel) like I had a beach ball on my shoulders.  Of course it probably wasn’t as “protective” as today’s models but as far as I was concerned it did the job just fine. You can’t find those any more. All the crash resistance “improvements” since then mean that the average full face helmet is now twice the size and the window significantly smaller. helmets4I get claustrophobia in today’s full face units. Besides, they’re now geared to the 18-year-old sports bike rider so the more garish the paint scheme the better – not my style.

I did, however, acquire a modular full-face a few years ago thinking that might be a suitable option. Besides, I wanted a transitional helmet for those cool spring  and fall days when the wind chill on a bare face can be brutally uncomfortable. Or if I know I’m going to be riding in heavy weather. But the reality is I don’t like it much. The flip-up mechanism is bothersome and – at least with this model – reduces the peripheral vision which really irks.

So I was back to my preferred standby, a plain, old, boring 3/4 face. helmet1However this too seems to be becoming a disappearing breed, unless one is looking for a 70’s retro glitter paint job, an American flag (I have nothing against the American flag but why a Canadian dealership should carry not one but several variations ishelmet2 beyond me. Imagine going into your local dealer in Oshkosh and finding 3 helmets on the shelf sporting the Canadian maple leaf. Don’t think so.), or some bizarre graffiti-inspired symbology that, for all I know, is hugely insulting to at least half the population. And if you don’t want the newest fad, flip down aviator-style visors, the options become even fewer.

But I persevered, and at the 4th(!) dealer I visited I found what I was looking for – a simple 3/4 face Arai helmet. It wasn’t my preferred colour, but it was the last of last year’s stock and so $200 off list. It’s also a traditional model they are no longer offering (like Tim Horton’s taking the dutchie off the menu in my opinion) so paying full price to get a colour choice was not even an option.

Now all I have to do is decide if I can live with silver or if it’s time to bring out the rattle cans.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Signs of Spring – Part Deux

Some times it’s early, some times it’s late, but the coming of Spring is inevitable as the Northern Hemisphere tilts more and more towards old Sol. A week ago I was complaining about the depth of snow still on the ground, but a few days of mild temperatures later and the view from my office is distinctly encouraging as the pockets of snow continue to shrink. Still not riding though as there remain patches of ice on our driveway where the trees shade the sun, and the local roads are heavy with winter sand until the April rains wash them clean and make travel a bit safer for 2 wheels.

But there are other pleasures to be had as we wait. With those longer, sunny days and warmer temperatures comes the annual trip to the maple bush for a pancake breakfast - another sure sign of spring.


Fulton’s has been a local landmark for generations, popular with both locals and city (Ottawa) folk alike, so it was no surprise to see a long line-up at the restaurant this morning at 9 AM. Visiting the sugar bush is a multi-generational experience with all ages from toddlers to aging grandparents waiting patiently in line for a unique taste treat to be followed perhaps by a wagon ride through the woods or a visit to the business side where they’ll show you how they produce the maple syrup we all love so much.

But the line moved quickly and soon enough we were inside ordering our breakfasts. Then, with our bottomless cups of coffee and unlimited maple syrup for our pancakes we grabbed a couple of seats and dug in.


We have done the tours before so we decided not to dawdle and instead just picked up some supplies on the way out and headed home where there was lots of yard work waiting to be done.

And yes, it *was* a great day to be at Fulton’s.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

We are living in amazing times

I first got interested in old stuff back in the 70’s. A lot of the guys I rode with were into vintage motorcycles and so it didn’t take long before I had a couple of old bikes in my own cluttered garage. The first was a 1956 Norton Dominator that really had seen better days, but it was a cheap introduction to the vintage scene. Used and abused it needed everything from basic maintenance items to cosmetics such as a new seat pan and rust-free handlebars. I never did complete the restoration because I traded it up to a Dominator collector for a newer Norton Commando (the first of several). But what I did learn while I owned it were the arcane processes of the day involved in finding and acquiring parts for old motorcycles, whether OEM (Original Equipment Manufacture), NOS (New Old Stock), or after-market replacements.


The first step was to join the local CVMG (Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group) chapter. This group treated each and every restoration as a team effort and would offer all sorts of advise on how to proceed, what substitute parts could be made to fit/work, and failing that, what businesses might sell the specific parts you needed. And if you were really lucky someone would have the original parts manual for your bike and let you borrow it for a while.

The next step was to embark on a letter-writing campaign to a number of those businesses (most often in the UK) asking if they had the part you needed and at what price. This step usually took about a month before you got a response. And sometimes you’d go through 2 or 3 iterations before you finally tracked down what you needed. Then you’d send off a money order and wait for the package to arrive, hoping they hadn’t in the meantime sold the last one in stock and were waiting for a backorder (which happened more than once).

If all went well (which it hardly ever did) you could have what you needed in your hands in about 2 months. Which was when you realized you also needed a frippen to hold the widget in place and so the process started again.

And that was for a 20-year-old motorcycle – not ancient by any means.

2014-04-01 15.48.49Contrast that to today. I now have a 63-year-old outboard motor that needs a variety of parts – seals, coils, condensers, points, gaskets, impeller, etc. At 9 AM this morning I discovered the coils needed replacing. Enter Google. By noon I had the original and replacement part numbers and several sources of supply (including eBay, of course). A quick phone call to the local NAPA Parts store and the parts were on order, to be delivered by the end of the week. For a 63-year-old motor.

Ain’t technology grand?

I think I’ll put one of my spare computers in the shop – but that’s another project for another day.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

63 years young

No, not me; I’ve passed that particular milestone already.

Pretty much anyone who lives on the North American continent knows what a miserable and seemingly endless winter it’s been. The bike has been ready to go with new goodies, an oil change, and needed repairs done for a month now, yet when I look out the window I still see this:

DSC_7460 (2)

So what to do? Well, another project of course.

Our little lake is only about a mile long and 1/2 mile across so my 12’ aluminum boat is just fine with a small electric motor. And the loons like it that way as well – nice and quiet. But I wanted to be able to go out on much bigger White Lake for some decent walleye fishing so I needed an outboard motor. Not willing to pay a king’s ransom for a new (or even relatively new) one, I had been keeping an eye on Kijiji for something older and, most important, cheap. Then a week ago I found this:

2014-03-25 11.04.37

A 1951/52 Evinrude Fleetwin 7.5 hp. It looked a bit rough but it’s the kind of motor I grew up with so the pull of nostalgia was strong. And while the current owner wasn’t giving it away I could live with the price, knowing full well it would also probably need a lot of work.

“Should just have to put gas in it and go” he said. “It was running fine when we put it away.” I didn’t believe a word, and even if it had been running fine, putting it away years ago with a full tank of gas was likely not the smartest thing he’d ever done. It’s a 2-stroke, 24:1 gas:oil mix, so that full tank of oil-mixed fuel eventually degraded and completely clogged the fuel line and carburetor with tar, which is slowly being dissolved as I write this.

I also don’t expect it saw too many professional motor mechanics in its time. Stripped slot screw heads abound (praise be for an impact driver), and there are not a few small parts (non too critical fortunately) that appear to be missing from previous dismantlings and reassemblies – you know, when you tighten everything up only find an extra piece or two on the bench, at which point you say screw it and toss it in the trash? That kind of stuff. 

But it’s mostly all there and not too badly beaten up from years of bouncing around in the back of a pickup. The compression is good and, surprisingly, many parts are still available. So now it’s time to try some serious CPR and see if I can bring the old girl back to life while I wait… and wait… and wait for the snow to finally leave us.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why am I living where the air hurts my face?

The folks in central and north-eastern North America can, and often do, disagree on a lot of things: religion, politics, guns – it’s a long list. But one thing we can all agree on is this has been the winter from hell, although hell may not be the most appropriate term unless Hell itself has frozen over, which is a distinct possibility this year.


Tomorrow is officially the first day of spring. By now we should be seeing some warm, sunny days and patches of muddy earth emerging from under the blanket of snow. Possibly even the small spikes of a daffodil or two poking up through the still-frozen ground. The maple syrup businesses would be in full swing as we celebrate the coming of spring with a trip to the maple bush, a taste of maple candy, and a gallon (or two) of fresh syrup to take home. The last few maintenance items on the bike will have been done, possibly a pre-season wash if we’ve had a really nice day, our riding gear is all cleaned and ready to go, and we’d be waiting for the last of the ice and snow to clear the roads so we can get that first ride in.

Not this year.

airFour months of unrelenting cold has left us with a couple of feet of snow still on the ground (and more to come tomorrow according to the weather guessers), side roads coated with 6 inches of ice, and a frost so deep it will take until June for the earth to thaw.

I may be planting my tomatoes in July. That is, if I manage to survive the cabin fever until we see a real spring emerge.

I’ve had enough.

Drastic measures may be called for.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

This year’s upgrade

A couple of months ago I posted (here) that I’d purchased (Thank you eBay!) a hard to find dash panel needed for my ignition switch position change project on the Dyna. Then I started the search for all the other bits and pieces needed to make the shift.

As it turns out all the existing components (except for the ignition switch itself) would plug into the new dash panel without modification. I needed a couple of small mounting clamps but that was all. The existing wiring could be re-routed, but had to be extended about 10 inches to reach the new switch position. Fortunately that was accomplished by simply making up 3 extension wires and did not require any mods to the existing harness. (I don’t expect to ever revert back to stock, but keeping my options open seemed the best way to go.)

Of course, when at the dealer poring over parts books trying to determine what components could be re-used and which ones not, I came across this nice combined speedo/tachometer unit.


A simple drop-in, it addressed the issue of losing my tach after I made the change. I hadn’t planned on purchasing a new speedo but then I thought, in for a penny… so I bought it. (And a big shout-out here to the parts people at Freedom Harley-Davidson for being so helpful. Thanks guys, I really would have been stumbling around without your assistance.)

Once I got the garage cleaned up a bit so I could work (here) it didn’t take long to make the change.

2014-02-23 14.51.07

2014-02-25 13.10.52

2014-03-11 13.30.33







Button it all up again and here’s what it looks like now – before and after.

Before and after

I really like the new look and the convenience of the new switch position.  Meanwhile I’m busy getting rid of all the removed parts (on eBay, of course) to recover a large part of my investment.

So now I have a clean garage and a motorcycle all ready to go. WHAT’S SPRING WAITING FOR? If it doesn’t get here soon I may just have to find another project.


snowman end is near

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Signs of spring

A couple of weeks ago Dar, over at Princess Scooterpie, issued a challenge to post any sign of spring in our respective necks of the woods. Looking out at snow everywhere and temperatures below zero (on both C and F scales!) all I could do was enjoy everyone else’s postings vicariously as it seemed spring was going to be a long time coming in this area.

But then I thought, “What is the real sign of spring for a motorcyclist?” It’s not the first sprig of green grass, or the flowering tulip beds. No, it’s even earlier than that, when you start getting your bike ready for the upcoming riding season. And even earlier than that, when you start getting your garage ready to start getting your bike ready for the upcoming riding season.

So here is my first sign of spring post from the (still) frozen north. (Click on image.)

Snapshot 2 Captioned

Let the fun begin!