Friday, July 30, 2010

Playing with windshields

Until I got my Dyna I had never ridden with a windshield. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of miles over decades of riding and I never once felt the need or desire to have a windshield in front of my face.
hd windshieldThen I got the Dyna, and it came with the H-D quick-detach windshield. It didn’t take too long for me to become a convert – especially if the weather was wet or cold. I decided I liked riding behind a windshield, but I sure didn’t like riding behind that one - the helmet buffeting was exhausting. After an hour or so I felt like my eyeballs had finally rattled loose and Excedrine Headache No. 236 was on its way. It didn’t seem to matter how I adjusted it – up, down, tilted in, tilted out – I felt like one of those bobble-head dolls bouncing around at warp speed.
So off it came and the research began. Turns out there’s a whole lot more to this windshield thing than meets the eye. The first thing that surprised me was that most of the buffeting is caused by air coming up from below the windshield and in around the headlight. I found that out when I had the forward controls on. The buffeting was actually worse with them because the position of my legs would direct even more air up in front of my body. Further proof was when, by holding my left arm horizontally across in front of my chest, the buffeting almost entirely disappeared.
The second thing is helmets. I have 2 virtually identical 3/4 helmets. One of them bounces around much more than the other, although neither is particularly good. My full-face has the least buffeting of all, but I don’t like wearing it in the heat of summer, especially behind a windshield. And with its extra weight being shaken around neck pain is inevitable.
With windshield prices in the stratosphere, buying different models to try is not in the cards. And few if any dealers carry stock that they will let you mount on your bike and take for a quick ride. So that’s where asking people for their opinions and experiences comes in. Which, of course, gives you as many opinions as the number of people you ask. --- Yeah it’s bad, but I just ignore it. No, I don’t get any buffeting at all. Only a wuss rides with a windshield. --- Very helpful.
So once again it’s eBay to the rescue. Since it’s such a personal thing, there’s always someone getting rid of a windshield they hate. And that’s how I came to own a Memphis Shades unit for cheap-cheap. What a difference! If the original wind buffeting was 11 on a 10-point scale, this windscreen dropped it to about a 4 or 5. It’s narrower so I lose a bit of weather protection but it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And while the head shake is still there, but certainly much more bearable.
Now I’m keeping an eye out for a set of used lowers. Since so much of the problem is with wind coming up under the windshield, lowers should go a bit further to reduce that air flow. But I’m not prepared to spend $100s to find out so here’s hoping eBay comes through again.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to pick up a motorcycle

Iowa Harley Girl just posted an excellent video on how to pick up a motorcycle when it’s down on it’s side, which it will inevitably be at some point. It’s worth a look, so hop over there and check it out. Later.
That video reminded me of the time my wife took her license test here in Ontario. It was quite a few years ago now, so the testing regime may have changed, but at the time the test specifications stipulated that the prospective rider had to be able to safely put his/her motorcycle up on the centre stand in order to pass. Since some bikes didn’t have a centre stand (particularly Harley-Davidson’s, which were the only really big motorcycles around at the time), the law also allowed for the testee to demonstrate an ability to lift the motorcycle off its side on the ground as an alternative. But in truth they wouldn’t dare ask a Harley owner to lay his bike down to prove a point, and so most license testers weren’t even aware of the option.
75 Honda CB550FThe bike she used for the test was mine, a Honda 550F, which weighed a ton and was nearly impossible to get on the centre stand for anyone slightly less well constructed than Hulk Hogan.  So there was no way Miz Liz, at all of 100 pounds, was going to be able to do it. But knowing the regulations I made sure she could lift it using the same technique detailed in the video, and in fact she made it look just about as easy.
Come test day she goes through the written part and all the riding skills components with flying colours, and then the female tester (all the women we licensed hated the female testers; they were really tough on the ladies) told her to put it on the centre stand. Of course she said she couldn’t, at which point she was told by the tester that she was going on break for 10 minutes and to use that time to “figure it out” . So the missus says to her, “Well while you’re on break, check and you’ll see that all I have to do is show I can lift it. I don’t have to put it on the centre stand.”
When the tester returned 10 minutes later it was to my motorcycle lying on its side in the testing area and my wife sitting on the side of the seat. She then lifted the bike as if it weighed nothing and left it on the side stand to the obvious enjoyment of all the male license candidates who had been watching the interchange with some amusement.
The tester didn’t say a single word, just signed the form with a pass mark and handed it over. I guess she must have checked.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Where does the time go?

What with one thing and another it seems like I’ve been running like mad just to stay in place. The summer is flying by and the list of must-do items is growing faster than I can knock them off. Of course the spousal unit would probably tell me to golf less and ride less but those things are what summer is for; it’s not like you can defer them to the winter. (Curiously she never suggests I work less, or help in the garden less, or do less house work to free up time.)
Anyway we’re in for a couple of rainy days so I’m finally getting around to an item that had been top of mind since last winter. The Honda XL500 tends to smoke a bit when starting up. Well that’s a bit understated; it actually looks more like this military-grade mosquito fogger20050125ran8097690_022.JPG until the engine warms up.
I suspect worn valve guides.
So the next couple of days will be spent removing the engine, tearing it down to replace the guides, and then putting it all back together again, ideally with no parts left over. I’ll also take the opportunity to remove the compression release mechanism. It’s not really necessary for starting, and just adds complexity.  
Hopefully that will solve the smoking problem – the last issue I want to fix before I take it in for a pre-licensing safety check.