Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Japanese Industrial Standard

The Phillips head screw (with the + shape) was first developed in the 1930s to be used on automobile assembly lines. Some time later the Japanese created a slight variation called the JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard) or, more specifically, the JIS B 1012.

While they look like the standard ISO screw, trying to remove or tighten a JIS screw with the usual Phillips head screwdriver found in everyone’s toolbox can, and often does, result in damaged screw heads, skinned knuckles, and lots of cursing. In the worst case this results in the mechanic(?) eventually having to drill out the damaged screw. To this I can speak from experience.

JIS screw headFortunately JIS screws are usually marked with a small dimple on the head itself. However this is not foolproof, so sometimes it’s just best to assume that when working on a Japanese motorcycle that any cruciform-head screws will be JIS. And that’s not such a bad idea as a JIS screwdriver will work better in an ISO screw than vice versa anyway.

The point of all this – and there is a point – is that many, many years ago I had a pretty good set of JIS screwdrivers that saw yeoman’s duty on the various Japanese motorcycles I owned at the time. Unfortunately, at some point during several intervening house moves, they disappeared, along with countless 10mm sockets and wrenches – another necessity of which one can never have too many. So I have been making do with Phillips screwdrivers, hence the above comment about experience.

But after stripping and having to replace the umpteenth small screw (brake master cylinder cover screws are the worst – my parts guy insists they are made out of soft cheese) I finally broke down and ordered a replacement set. They arrived today, direct from Japan, and I can’t wait to start scr… er, removing screws.


If you are interested, Web Bike World has a write-up that provides more detail on the specific differences between the types. https://www.webbikeworld.com/jis-screwdrivers/

Saturday, 7 April 2018

During the war…

As you can imagine, the logistics of sourcing, shipping, and making spare parts available when and where needed during a war can be challenging. Equipment failures are dangerous while in theatre, and efforts going into maintenance and repairs detract resources from the broader mission. So, getting the most out of every piece of equipment is of paramount concern.

During the Second World War Canada’s National Defence HeadquartersIMG_0698 attempted to reduce maintenance costs and increase equipment life by publishing a monthly preventive maintenance magazine, CAM. It provided helpful suggestions on proper equipment usage as well as detailed maintenance tips and techniques.

As a motor mechanic with the RCAF’s No. 1 Fighter Squadron, my father was a recipient of these monthlies, a few of which found their way home with him and which I now have in my possession.

I just recently dug them out again and re-read some of the articles, particularly those related to the wartime care and feeding (as it were) of motorcycles. While clearly dated, both in style and content, they offer a sense of the challenges faced by those tasked with keeping these machines on the road under difficult circumstances.

Here’s one such article on the proper use of “auxiliary foot rests”. Seems pretty obvious to those of us with extensive riding experience, but probably not so much to the novice rider assigned to two wheels for the very first time.


Saturday, 31 March 2018

“Patience, young Grasshopper”

If you recognise that quote you are definitely dating yourself – as am I by using it.

That’s the state we are currently in, one of patience, as winter slowly eases her frigid grasp and spring/summer riding conditions approach.

One of the projects this winter was to upgrade the Kawasaki a bit so it was a little more presentable and reliable. That project is now mostly wrapped up and I am anxious to get it on the road as soon as the last of the ice is gone and the sand and salt have been washed away. Shouldn’t be more than a couple of weeks now.

Here are before and after pics for comparison.


IMG_0687 web

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

What did you drive to work today?

I came across this photo on the interwebz. I just had to share as it perfectly captures the difficult choices we face every day in the spring. Do I take the car today? The sled? The bike?
(Photographer unknown.)

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Ah, spring.

Today is the first day of spring. Which has absolutely nothing to do with the weather but is simply a recognition that the earth has tilted back towards vertical enough that the sun is now directly over the equator and, so, the time between sunup and sundown is exactly 12 hours everywhere on earth. (Of course science has refined these definitions such that this common understanding is approximate only. Still, it’s good enough for government work, as they say.)

IMG_0634We’re not out riding just yet though, except for the few diehards who refuse to be daunted by below freezing temperatures and icy, sandy, salty roads. Like the fellow I saw today carefully negotiating a pot-holed, puddled, street on his full dresser. As well, our lane remains an icy, muddy mess, virtually impassable by two wheels, so I’m not going anywhere soon.

Still, the sense that weather-spring is on the way is palpable. One can feel the heat of the sun. The snow banks inch back a little more each day. The forest critters are becoming much more active and aggressive as they seek out mates and chase away the competition. And summer birds are starting to reappear at the feeders. All evidence that old man winter is on his last legs, for another few months, at least.

It all lends an air of lightness to the soul that almost makes the long, dark winter experience worthwhile.

Saturday, 10 March 2018


After a relatively balmy February that saw most of the snow disappear and hopes soar for an early start to the riding and golfing seasons, came March. I’m reminded of the Peanuts cartoon meme that had Lucy always pulling the football away just as Charlie Brown was about to kick it. You would think we’d learn. Sigh…


Friday, 23 February 2018

One step at a time

From this:


To this:


To this:


To this:


And now, to this:


When I acquired the two old and abused 1965 Hondas I had some vague notion of restoring both of them. But once I started the tear-down that notion went out the window; the damage was too great and the cash infusion that would be required was simply out of the question for what were, and are, small, old, low-powered bikes. But, I thought, I still might be able to create a little hybrid by mixing and matching parts where possible, and doing some rough fabrication of bits that were missing or damaged beyond repair. This is the result so far.

Because it’s not an “at any cost” build, I wanted to get a decent running version before investing too much into cosmetics, or even any superfluous extras like lights and a horn. Make it work before making it pretty was the philosophy, so Version 1 is really a basic, stripped down rat bike. And, who knows, it may stay that way for a while.

All that needs to happen now is for the snow to go so I can road test my little Frankenbike before deciding on next steps. Besides it's time to refocus efforts on the Kawasaki so it's ready to go when the roads are clear.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

The very hatchet.

The one magazine I subscribe to and read faithfully is American Iron. They have great tech articles, do a lot of reviews of American V-Twins (Harley and Indian), and usually feature one or two custom bikes as eye candy.

359-1_coverUSOne such recently caught my eye. Advertised as "Roy’s Red Hot Road King", Beelzebub is a beautiful exemplar of the customizer's art. And while not to my personal taste I can appreciate the effort to conceptualize, design, and build such a machine.

But in reading the article I was struck by the fact that almost no part of the motorcycle is an actual Road King part. It may have started life as a Road King, but in this rendition it sports an aftermarket frame, an aftermarket engine, aftermarket wheels, exhaust, shocks, bars, controls, tank, seat, and so on. About the only original equipment still on the bike is the headlight and rear inner fender.

So calling it a Road King is, in my opinion, tantamount to insisting that the hatchet I hold in my hand is the very same one used by Washington to chop down the cherry tree, except that the head has been replaced twice and the handle four times.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

One man’s trash….

… is another man’s treasure. An old saying, its etymology has been lost in time. But the truth behind the saying is as valid now as ever and forms the basis of much of the reuse/recycle ethic of today.

I manage a small library run out of our community centre and every so often it’s necessary to cull the collection, removing duplicate or damaged  titles and clearing out copies that, for a variety of reasons, are of no further interest to the library’s users. However there is still a lot of life in these books so they are then donated to a recycle shop that will sell them to raise funds for the local hospital. They love to get books because they are always good sellers, bring people into the shop, and generate a significant amount of revenue.

So it was that one recent day, after dropping off four large boxes containing dozens of books I did a bit of browsing amongst the wares in the shop and found a few treasures of my own. Along with a bag of new-to-me books (have to replenish the stock somehow) I also managed to score some old DVDs, including a copy of Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe, which just may appear on the marquee for an upcoming movie night.

You just never know what you’re going to find, which is what makes browsing in second-hand stores so much fun. Besides, with a couple of feet of snow still on the ground, what else are you gonna do?

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Can you see me now?

I love getting parcels in the mail. It takes me back many decades to a time when most everything came into our household by parcel, usually from Sears, or Eatons. Certainly Christmas was the prime time for parcels and the mysteries they contained, but at any time of the year, a package arriving by mail usually meant something special and we kids would hover until its secrets were exposed.

Times and circumstances may have changed but I have never lost that sense of anticipation when opening a package, even if I know what’s in it.

But I’m rambling.

As the astute reader may have guessed, a package came in the mail today.


FortNine is quickly becoming one of my favourite online shopping sites. They carry a great range of products for all sorts of motorcycles and, best of all, they’re Canadian. Which means no exchange rate hits, no import duties or taxes, usually no shipping charges, and I have the items I ordered on my doorstep in two or three days. What’s not to like, especially when shipping fees from the US can often surpass the item’s cost, and it can sometimes take weeks to clear through Canadian customs? 

With that bit of free advertising out of the way, here’s what I got.


A few years ago, after a couple of close calls with inattentive drivers, I installed LED brake and signal lights on the Dyna. They were very bright, I loved them, and, best of all, no more near rear-end misses. I’d been meaning to do the same with the Road King this past year but life intervened and I didn’t get around to it. Until now. So with some help from the folks at FortNine I determined what was required and ordered the parts Monday night. They arrived this morning.

Fifteen minutes later the signal and tail lights were installed, a simple plug-and-play operation. And I’m very pleased. Not only are they much brighter than stock, but I believe the instant-on nature of LEDs also raises visibility.


So to all the half-blind, burger-eating, texting, cell-phone using morons out there on the road, can you see me now?

Monday, 5 February 2018



So, the Canadian government just changed two words in our national anthem, you know, that song that you hum because you only know about four words, while waiting for the puck to drop at a Senators hockey game. The change is, perhaps, worthy of a shrug, if that, but if you follow the right-wing media you’d think Chicken Little was right.

A bit of history is in order.

Canada’s national anthem, O Canada, was originally written in 1880, in French, to celebrate St. Jean Baptiste Day in Quebec. English words were written some 26 years later in 1906 and another English version was created in 1908. It is this later version that forms the basis for today’s anthem, although it too has been modified several times over the intervening years.

This particular debate, a century later, centres around making the anthem more gender neutral. The 1908 version included the now rather awkward phrase “thou dost in us command”, which was subsequently revised in 1914 to read as “in all thy sons command”. In recent years this phrasing has caused some to get their knickers in a knot because it “disenfranchises 50% of the population”. Okay, I can see the point, sort of. Then again, I don’t take offense when someone refers to God as a “she” so my offense threshold might be higher than most.

But no one asked my opinion and so, after decades of debate, a change has now been made to the official version that replaces “in all thy sons command” with “in all of us command”. Which, interestingly, brings the newest version back in line with the original. But that didn’t stop the gnashing of teeth and screams of political correctness gone mad by some in the media. They are so incensed you’d think the government had cut their subsidies and eliminated their tax breaks. And the online commentariate? Let’s not go into that hate-filled swamp.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people could get so enraged over things that really matter, that will affect millions of lives? Things like climate change, access to clean water, food, wars, displaced millions. It’s a very long list which, in my opinion, has no room for faux indignation over a song that few Canadians ever sing, or even know the words to.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

And in today’s news…

A woman tried to board a plane with her emotional support peacock. United wouldn't let it fly.


That’s right. Apparently the owner, New York City based performance artist Ventiko (Is that single name precious or what?) needs the peacock, Dexter, for emotional support. But United, in a fit of sanity, wouldn’t let the bird board with her on a flight from Newark to LA, even though she bought it a seat. While news reports didn’t specify Dexter’s size, male peacocks can be up to 7’ in length and weigh as much as 13 pounds. Just what any full-fare-paying passenger wants sitting (and shitting) in the seat beside her.

Perhaps if United had known how famous Dexter was (he even has his own Instagram page) they would have made a different decision, but now Dexter is having to travel the slow way, by ground, to LA.

Just another piece of performance art to raise Ventiko’s profile I expect. And it worked.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018


After several false steps and restarts it is now done.


For a first-time-ever project I’m quite pleased with the results. When I apply wax in another few weeks, after the paint is fully cured, I expect it will look pretty good – especially compared to the rest of the 37-year-old motorcycle which exhibits more than a few battle scars.

Now I have only a few more minor jobs to upgrade some parts on the Kawasaki from the donor bikes and it will be ready for another year of riding once the snow and ice is gone.

It was a fun project and when I tackle the next tank (still have two to do) perhaps I’ll try something a little more ambitious than simply a single colour, rattle-can paint job. But the blue C65 in the background will now be the focus for the next little while, so that will have to wait.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

I’m a lumberjack…

Some of you old-timers may remember when I posted about the big blow we had back in 2012.

Well there were four large pine trees that survived that storm but which were making me increasingly nervous with their proximity to the house. No good could come from the potential energy stored in a 100’ tree when applied to the roof of a house. And as subsequent wind storms snapped large branches off and bent the trees to near-breaking (in my opinion) stresses, I realised it was time for them to go.

And today was the day.

With a local arborist doing the heavy lifting (i.e. climbing) while I pulled on the end of a rope to control the direction of the fall we managed to get them all on the ground in three hours. Two  were already showing signs of rot in the core, so it was time.


It feels good to have one less thing to worry about, except now I have to clean up the mess. I expect any further project work in the garage will be delayed for a few days.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Orange peel

Some say old dogs and new tricks are incompatible but this old dog is getting quite an education while painting my Kawasaki tank.

I can’t believe I’ve circled the sun this many times and never really did any serious painting of anything that wasn’t big and flat, i.e. a wall. But I have, and so this could charitably be considered my introduction to rattle can painting.

I did finally choose a colour I liked and laid down the first couple of coats. Of course a gloss paint immediately highlighted a few minor imperfections that needed to be fixed – back to sanding, filling, and repainting. That was disappointing but not unexpected. This is, after all, a learning experience. And I have lots of time before riding season is upon us again.

More concerning was the surface finish of the paint. It was nice and glossy, but not shiny as the surface consisted of many small undulations. Baffled as to the cause, I was halfway through the description to my body-shop friend when he said “Orange peel. You’ve got orange peel.” He was right, it does look a bit like this (but not orange).

orange peel

And so it was back to the books Google to find out what I was doing wrong, which, apparently, was nearly everything. (As I said, a learning experience.) The main factor seems to be temperature, which is a lot more critical than I realised. Likely my garage was too cool, the tank was too cold, and the paint wasn’t sufficiently warmed before spraying.

My garage is heated but I sure don’t keep it at 65-70 degrees, the minimum recommended painting temperatures. So I’ll have to crank up the thermostat for a couple of days to get everything nice and toasty warm (after sending a blank check to my propane supplier) and try again. After first sanding it all back down to a nice smooth finish.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

How did I miss this?

Between 1981 and 1983 Honda came out with a fold-up motorcycle that was designed to fit in the back of their subcompact cars of the time. Why anyone needed to carry a spare motorcycle in their car was never really made clear, which may explain the very short life span of the Honda Motocompo.

Available in any colour you wanted, as long as it was white, yellow, or red, Honda sold a few more than 50,000 of the little 50cc scooters before pulling the plug in 1983.


They are hard to find on this side of the Pacific – I don’t think many were imported – and those that do infrequently come up for sale tend to command prices skyward of $3K, which makes it an expensive conversation piece indeed. But it seems some can still be found in Japan where the Motocompo has developed quite a cult status. They are collected, customised, and raced in local competitions. After-market parts and accessories are readily available (albeit expensive). And the uniquely Japanese styling concepts can result in some pretty interesting creations.



motocompo custom



Looks like a blast and makes me wish I had one just to tootle around on.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Patina is overrated


Don’t for a minute assume I’m comparing myself to Vinnie. For a starter, I have both my ears. But the sentiment behind the quote is still valid.

When I picked up the ugly duckling a while back it had a rather large dent in the tank along with various other battle scars. I had never really done any body work/painting and so I was tempted to just call it ‘patina’ and forget about it. But then there was this other voice, the perfectionist me, telling me to try to fix it. What finally made me decide to go for it was the acquisition of a couple more tanks, backups if I really messed it up.


So I jumped in with both feet. The first job was to build a stand to hold the tank when I was working on it. This turned out to be a great move as it made the job much, much easier.


With the tank secured in place I was ready to try my hand at body work. A body-shop experienced friend offered some guidance and before I knew it I was welding a bolt on the tank, with some trepidation, to pull the dent out. And it worked like a charm, rewarding me with a very satisfying ‘pop’ as the metal returned near to its original shape.


I ground the bolt off and then it was on to the filler. After sanding much of the tank back to bare metal the Bondo went on, smoothing out the ripples. Apply Bondo, let cure, sand, repeat several times. Eventually it not only looked smooth but more importantly it felt smooth.


The first indication whether the prep work was (or wasn’t) any good came once I applied the primer. Sure enough a coat of paint highlighted a few rough spots so it was back to the filler and more sanding and then primer again. Eventually I was happy.


But now, what colour to paint it? Didn’t want black. Didn’t want the original rusty red. Didn’t want another bright red like the Harley. So it was off to Canadian Tire where I spent an inordinate amount of time standing in front of the rack of colour-matched paints, trying to make a choice. In fact I think it took me longer to decide on a colour than it took me to decide to buy our last house. But that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

The voice isn’t silenced yet, but it’s getting there as I’m quite pleased with progress to date. Now you’ll just have to wait for the reveal.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Happy New Year. Really?

Right now the wind is howling outside my window as the temperature is in a downward plummet to something like -30C again tonight. (-40C or colder with the wind chill).

Jan 5 weather

Day 4 into a head cold, a box of tissues is my constant companion. Anti-histamines have become a basic food group. Nothing works.

Between naps/periods of unconsciousness I tried to do some work in the shop, only to run out of material part way through repainting the Kawasaki gas tank. I don’t have the energy to drive into town to get another can so it will have to wait.

And we’re only 5 days into the new year. It just has to get better, doesn’t it?