Sunday 27 July 2008

No fault found

Well, not in the gearbox anyway. After carefully disassembling the gearbox, labelling all the bits and pieces to ensure a proper reassembly, I couldn’t find anything wrong with the box. Gears all slid smoothly up and down the shafts; no broken teeth or unusual wear patterns; no excessively worn bearings. In short, everything seemed just fine.

However I did find a bottom end full of powdered aluminum. The last person who had the engine apart had reassembled it with the forward cam chain slipper installed incorrectly. As a result the cam chain wore away a large part of the inside of the case, generating a huge amount of aluminum powder that was being carried around by the oil. So my thinking is that perhaps (hopefully!) this was all just a bit of aluminum grit that caused one of the gears to bind on the shaft, and now that it’s cleaned out no more problems.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

So now it’s time to reassemble the motor and put the whole plot back together. Fortunately the gaskets all came off the cases without undue damage, so they are being re-used. I expect it may leak a bit, but there’s really no option as gasket kits for 34 year old motorcycles are not that easy to come by. And I have a coffee tin of metric bolts somewhere (just need to find it – not necessarily an easy task) that I can use to replace all the stripped Phillips-head bolts originally used to hold the cases together. Even with an impact driver, they are getting tough to remove and replace, so I’ll do what the factory should have done in the first place and use ‘advanced technology’ fasteners.

Aside from the aggravation of having to tear it all down and put it back together, this little exercise did give me a chance to check out the engine’s innards, and they are in very good shape indeed. The barrel is clean with no scratches or serious wear marks; the piston and rings are fine; there is very little carbon build-up on the head and valves; bearing play is minimal; and generally everything looks good. So, aside from the cam chain slipper problem, it looks like the engine has been well taken care of and not abused. That can’t be said of the rest of the bike as it shows a healthy dose of ‘good honest wear and tear’, but I’m now at least confident that the engine isn’t the weak link.

And, truth be known, taking stuff apart and getting it all back together in working order (without any shop manual I might add) is kind of fun!

Wednesday 23 July 2008

We have the technology....

Actually it's "we have the tool", and all for the princely sum of $1.68 (which is actually quite a lot for a small piece of threaded steel - even if it is that sexy black colour).

Now back to tearing apart the TL125 engine.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Have a trailer, but no bag.

I have to get my truck and my Low Rider about 500 km down the road next week, and wasn’t keen on trying to get 650 pounds of motorcycle up about 3’ into the short box, with ½ the weight bearing on an open tailgate. So trailering was the obvious answer, except I didn’t have a “real” motorcycle trailer. But I did have a flatbed landscape trailer that is load rated high enough to take the weight. Practically brand new, I got it for $200, but only after confirming that it didn’t just fall off the back of a delivery truck somewhere.

So with a few modifications including a front wheel chock, the addition of a couple more tie-down points, slab sides, and a spare wheel and tire, I now have a motorcycle trailer. I think it’s solid. It looks solid. And I’ve even tested it on a few short runs. But in spite of all that, I am still somewhat nervous trusting a $15,000 pay-load to a $200 trailer. Or at least I was, until I saw

Now I am not suggesting that a trailer that comes in a canvas bag is in any way deficient. It looks to be an innovative product that is well engineered and owner testimonials are all very positive. But one must admit it does look a bit, shall we say, minimalist, especially to someone like me who is from the school of if-a-2X6-is-good-let’s-use-a-2X10-to-be-sure where mass is a virtue. However, since so many happy customers have put their trust in (and expensive toys on) this product, I now feel a whole lot better about my trailer with all her excess poundage. May she not let me down.

Monday 21 July 2008

Trials bike a trial

Fired up the TL125 yesterday to run out to the end of the road for the paper and – seized transmission.


At $300 a couple of years ago, it’s not like I have a lot of money invested in this 1974 Honda trials bike, but I don’t want it to become a garden ornament either (although there are a few of those out here in our neck of the woods). So in the probably vain hope that it’s something relatively minor and easily repairable without having to double my investment, I pulled the engine out, only to hit my first roadblock – getting the flywheel off. (This is the part where I realize how dumb it was of me to give away my spare parts and toss the shop manual from the first TL 125 I had.)

Thankfully there’s always the internet where I discovered that the right way to do this - as compared to the pry-bars and hammer approach I was considering - was to use a 14mm X 1.5 bolt and gently turn the flywheel off the crankshaft. Aha! But six 5-pound coffee cans of assorted nuts and bolts later I discovered I do not have a 14mm X 1.5 bolt in my possession. So there'll be a short delay until I can get into the city and get the requisite bolt.

This project may take a while.

Thursday 17 July 2008

Rush hour (!)

This morning I had an appointment to take the trusty steed into the dealer for a scheduled warranty maintenance – at 9 A.M.

Normally I quite like being up and on the road early in the morning, but a 9 A.M. appointment meant I had to travel the last 25 kilometres on the 417 at the height of rush hour. As on most major urban highways, “rush hour” means that traffic moves along at 5 kph for several minutes, surges to 60 or 70 kph for a few seconds, then screeches back down to 5 kph again, or to a complete standstill. This pattern repeats endlessly until you reach your exit, or the other side of downtown.

Trying to ride on two wheels in this madness poses a particular challenge as you can only go so slowly before you have to stop or fall over (not recommended). So to avoid any of that unpleasantness, the smart rider opens up a couple of car-lengths ahead and uses that space as a buffer so that the “slinky” effect is minimised and hopefully a slow but steady pace can be maintained.

That is until the typical moronic Ottawa driver comes on the scene. They say nature abhors a vacuum; well so do Ottawa drivers. While doing my best to keep some open space in front of me so I could keep moving I had at least four drivers who were behind me pull out and pass, only to immediately pull back in front, taking up my space. Of course I then pulled back a bit to open it up again, only to have the next jerk do the same thing. Every one of these guys felt it necessary to pull out into another lane of traffic to pass so they could fill that hole in front of me, but not one of them got any further ahead than a single bike length.


Sunday 13 July 2008

It’s not a motorcycle, it’s a lifestyle....

I’ve owned a pretty wide range of motorcycles over the years – Yamaha 200, Yamaha 350-LC, Norton Commando, Kawasaki Z1-900, a selection of Honda Fours, Norton Atlas, etc. – and all had their fans and detractors. But nothing prepared me for becoming a Harley owner. Once you cross that threshold you go from just being a guy who happens to ride a motorcycle to being a member of a totally different sub-culture.

Now you have to buy your riding gear fully emblazoned with corporate logos. HOG membership is a virtually requirement. Every male over the age of 80 stops you on the street to tell you how he rode “one of them” just after the war. Catalogues containing hundreds of pages of (very expensive) shiny bits to add to your ride start showing up in your mailbox. Vacation planning shifts from nudist resorts in the Caribbean in February to Sturgis in August (okay, perhaps that’s a bad example). And personal improvement moves out of the fitness clubs and into the tattoo and piercing parlours.

Resistance is futile.....

Friday 11 July 2008

Sturgis - gotta go and get the t-shirt

There is one more step to completing the transition from years of owning Japanese and British iron to North American and that is the requisite pilgrimage to Sturgis for Bike Week.

H-D and Sturgis are the peanut-butter-and-jelly of the motorcycling world in my mind. One is not complete without the other. Sure you’ll find lots of metric bikes there, but it’s really all about Harleys. And while not every Harley in the world gets to drive down Main Street at least once, those that don’t wish they had.

I have the bike now, and if I want to really earn the right to wear the HD-logo’d everything, Sturgis is a must-do. And so the younger bro and I are off to the 68th Annual Sturgis Rally. But it’s not without some trepidation. The idea of half a million bikers descending on a town of 3,000 people for a weekend does create a few flutters. Just the thought of the traffic jams alone is pretty daunting. But, like the Burning Man, it’s been on my to-do list forever and I know I’d always regret not taking the opportunity when I had it to go at least once.

So in two weeks or so we load up the trailer with his Road King and my Low Rider and head west. A couple of days on the road and then 5 days of riding in and around Sturgis and the Black Hills. Should be a blast!