Wednesday 29 July 2009


To everyone heading off to the 69th Annual Sturgis Rally have fun and ride safe. I wish I was going to be there with you!

Thursday 23 July 2009

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Forward controls – the jury is still out

Well I finally got to go for a short (50 mile) ride after putting the forwards on last week, and I have to say the jury is still out.HD forwards

But first, for those concerned readers worried about my minimalist fix for the old shift lever, I fabricated a metal bracket to hold it in place and was able to remove the quick-tie. You can rest easy now.
HD quick tie          HD bracket

The reason I wanted to try forwards in the first place was because I spent most of my riding time with my feet on the highway pegs and found having to take them off to shift or use the rear brake was a pain. Besides, I like the look and I got them at a very good price, so my financial exposure was limited.

After an admittedly short time (and distance) here are my initial observations that might be of value to someone considering the change. I also expect to get some comments from readers who swear by forwards, so let’s get a dialogue going.

YogaNow to provide a significant caveat… I have never ridden a bike with forwards before, so my decades of experience have always been with my feet firmly planted near, or beneath, my butt. Except for the rear-sets I had on my Z1, that is, but that was only for a year or so and I was much more flexible back then.

So with that out of the way, here’s what I found.

On the highway they are great. Very comfortable. As I indicated earlier, I was used to the highway pegs anyway, so this gives me the same riding position with the added benefit of not having to change foot position to shift or use the rear brake to slow down.

But in town and on the gravel roads around here I feel like I’ve given up a lot of control. I didn’t realise how much I managed balance and controlled my road position through my lower body and legs. With the forwards I find I’m using much more upper body with the resulting tensions in less-used back muscles. I expect that may change as I get more familiarity with them and my body acclimates to the riding position, but it caught me by surprise.

Also around here the roads can get pretty rough – even the paved ones. Having the ability to lift your ass off the seat, even slightly, when hitting a bump does a lot to smooth out the ride. Clearly that’s not possible with the forwards, although I have heard of some people leaving the mid foot pegs in place for exactly that purpose. I may have to give that a try.

And speaking of being able to get one’s ass of the seat, there’s a particular problem we guys face, and that is the need to adjust the “boys” once in a while. Sitting in one spot for hours on end, things can get, shall we say, cramped, and being able to lift off the seat and let gravity realign everything can be a great relief (ladies, trust me on this one). With the forward controls  you lose that option unless you retain the mid pegs in place, which is another reason to consider doing just that.

While it may seem that this is mostly  negative, and I am disappointed, I have no intention of pulling them off just yet. Over the next few days I hope to get a chance to put some serious miles on which will really let me get comfortable (or not) with them. But with a 4- or 5-day road trip in the planning stages for next month I want to be sure I have the most comfortable ride I can manage.

Monday 20 July 2009

A rose by any other name is just as prickly

We used to teach the Basic Rider’s Course in a parking lot behind one of the government office buildings here in Ottawa. Being a government building there was never any risk of employees working late so it was usually car-free by training time. It was also close to City Hall where we had a small office and storage for our bikes, so the location was excellent. It was also quite scenic, overlooking the Ottawa River and Rideau Falls and nicely landscaped with various shrubberies, including several large rosebushes at one end of the lot.
The spousal unit had expressed an interest in riding up front for a while, and my stories from the course and the types of people we were teaching to ride finally convinced her that this was something she would be able to do. So she signed up to take the training. We ran several concurrent classes on alternating nights, and at her request I did not run the Tuesday night course she was taking. I guess I made her nervous, or something.
As usual, the instructors would meet 1/2 hour or so ahead of time to transact any business, review student’s progress, and swap stories about last week’s classes or the weekend vintage races down at Shannonville – typical biker stuff.
So one night we were getting caught up and the story came out about this one student  who experienced some sort of brain cramp, and instead of braking somehow managed to accelerate right into the rose bush, which conveniently kept her from hitting either a large tree or a low wall, rose thornswhich would have catapulted her ignominiously into the Ottawa River. So it was kind of a blessing in disguise – although an embarrassingly prickly one. As you might expect, the story was told with much humour, many expletives, and a fair dollop of exaggeration. Nonetheless it was a great story, and one which persisted for the better part of the summer.
Later that evening when I came home I asked if she had seen the excitement on Tuesday.
“What excitement?”
“Well someone had a brain cramp and pitched a bike into the rose bushes at the end of the parking lot. Sounds like it was pretty funny. I can’t imagine you missed it.”
It was just about then that the old 10-watt light bulb came on, perhaps triggered by the stony look from a fast-reddening face.
“It was you?”
“Well it wasn’t really my fault….”
And I missed the rest because I was laughing so hard.
Postscript: She went on to complete the course, get her license (another story), and become one of the better riders I know.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Well that wasn’t so bad.

Another rainy day (gawd I’m sick of this weather) so I figured it was a good time to try and put the pieces together. And so off to the garage.

The first order of business was to sit and contemplate the job ahead. This took about an hour and involved a beer, a cigar, a shop manual, lots of starting at the bike and all the bits and pieces, and some good tunes on the CD player. Now many (spousal units especially) would view this as “wasted” time that could otherwise be spent more profitably helping in the garden. This is a genetic problem that cannot be solved, so it’s best to ignore it entirely.

Eventually the vision formed and it was time to start the disassembly. This is the phase when you realize that a human being is no match for an assembly line robot that torques every nut and bolt to at least 500-ft-lbs. That, combined with a liberal use of LocTite, meant only one thing - impact wrench. Eventually everything was off, with the utmost care taken to not scratch anything chromed or painted, in other words everything, so those parts can find a new home via eBay.

Then it was on with the new.

The quick-detach sideplates for the luggage rack and back rest went on in no time. I had all the parts I needed except for a couple of spacers that were quickly made from some scrap material laying around. (I could have waited until tomorrow when the fastener shop was open, but this way the job is done today.)

The forward controls were a bit more complicated. Here too I had to make some spacers and a nylon bushing so that everything fit nice and snug with no excess play. The bigger issue though is that in order to remove the original shifter link one must either disassemble the complete primary drive side, or cut the shifter link off the shaft and take it out in pieces. The latter option is obviously a one-way street; there’s no going back if I change my mind. And I didn’t have all the gaskets, various seals, and special tools needed to  pull the drive side apart, so I compromised. The old shaft is still there, but it’s held in place with a quick-tie so it won’t rattle or jam the shifter mechanism. Not ideal, but certainly good enough for the time being until I’m convinced I won’t be going back to mid-controls. Then I can decide on hacksaw versus major surgery.

So it’s done. Except for the absence of a back rest, the changes are not that obvious, but should result in a more comfortable ride. Now if it would only stop raining long enough to find out.

HD with forwards

Friday 10 July 2009

Christmas in July!

Well the eBay sellers came through in fine fashion with two (count ‘em – two!) packages arriving at the humble abode today. Woo hoo!
But let me digress for a moment. There was one small surprise. One of the sellers shipped UPS instead of USPS (my bad - I forgot to No UPSspecify) and as a consequence I got hit with an extra charge of $55 for brokerage fees and taxes (this on a $100 order). So, note to anyone Stateside: If you ever want to ship anything to a Canadian relative or a friend you want to keep, DO NOT ship UPS. They will charge a brokerage fee on pretty much anything crossing the border, which is just a huge rip-off because they do nothing different than what USPS does for free. Rant over – don’t use UPS.
So it’s up to the garage with the parcels and, just like Christmas, in 37.5 seconds I had everything unpacked and this pile of chrome parts on a bench.HD parts Being used, of course there were no installation instructions. No surprise there, but it does make it a bit more difficult for the spousal unit to offer “suggestions” when she doesn’t have a roadmap to point to. And besides it gives me an excuse to make several trips to the dealer to ask whether tab A really fits into slot B, and where the hell is slot B anyway? Or why do I have two of these, and what are they? And while the parts guys are chasing down the answers I’ll get to sit on all the new 2010’s on the showroom floor and fend off the sales reps touting their key exchange program. It’s all good.
But for now I’m just trying to make sure I have everything I need to finish the job once I start the tear-down. So I’ve been trying to dry-fit all the bits and pieces and producing huge lists of special bolts, acorn nuts, washers, spacers, and anything else I just “might” need in the process, which is, after all, half the fun.
The other half of the fun is putting it all back to stock when you are 95% complete and find you are still missing that one critical piece which is on backorder and won’t be available until the real Christmas arrives in about 6 months. But that would never happen to me. No.
Anyway we’re supposed to get a few (more!) days of rain coming up, so it’ll be a good time to do some wrenching and see if we can’t change her character just a wee bit. Stay tuned.

A matter of trust

Danny over at A Blog About recently posted about Trust Issues. He’d been having electrical problems with his Suzuki Savage that have  left him stranded on at least one occasion, and was lamenting that he was losing (had lost?) trust in his ride.
That post got me thinking about trust and motorcycles.
Trust is a very tenuous thing. When we buy a ‘new’ motorcycle (even used, it’s ‘new’ to us) we start with a high degree of trust, otherwise we wouldn’t part with our hard-earned dollars. We simply assume it will start when we want it to, and take us where we need to go without drama. And we continue to trust it until it lets us down. Now there’s usually a freebie in there and we’ll forgive the first time. But if it happens a second time, your faith and confidence is seriously fractured. Even after making repairs and countless subsequent event-free rides you will always remember the time your bike let you down.
That's not to say you should rush right out and buy a new one (although who among us wouldn't love to be able to do that), just that your relationship has now changed.
Norton roadsideOn the other hand, I once had a bike that I could absolutely trust to let me down in the middle of nowhere. It became part of the adventure and I always had a wide selection of bolts, fuses, clamps, duct tape, mechanic’s wire and assorted tools for the inevitable roadside repairs that would be needed to get me home. In spite of (or because of?) my ride’s reputation I still managed to find a fair number of riding partners, although perhaps it was just that I offered more entertainment than a simple ride in the country. And while I did hear of the odd bet being placed on which part would fall off first, and how far from home we’d be when it happened, no one would ever admit to profiting from my misfortunes.

Thursday 2 July 2009

It’s been a good eBay week

As I blogged about previously, I’m not really into customizing my ride – or at least I wasn’t until I got my Dyna. It must have something to do with that famous Harley mystique that forces owners to no sooner get their dream machine in the driveway than they want to start customising. There’s just something about H-D that says, “I’ve got the bike I’ve always wanted. Now how can I change it?”
Which reminds me of that old story about the fundamental difference between men and women: a man marries a woman hoping she’ll never change, and a woman marries a man hoping he will. Okay, okay. It’s just a joke. I’m not inferring anything about the sexuality of the typical Harley owner. Jeez.
Anyway, since I got my Dyna last year I’ve replaced the stock seat and found a good set of used saddlebags so I could carry “stuff” without having to resort to bungee cords for everything. Both were good mods and worth every penny.I also wanted to replace the mids with forward controls and swap out the fixed luggage rack for a removable unit, but I wasn’t prepared to shell out the suitcases full of cash needed to buy new H-D parts.
Enter eBay. For months I watched for good quality used items with no luck. Either the prices quickly escalated into new parts territory – even without the shipping costs – or the items themselves were of dubious quality and lineage. (My favourite: “Forward controls for Harley Davidson. Not sure of year and model. May not be complete.” Yeah, I’ll go $300 for that – not!)
But this week – jackpot! A random “Harley” search turned up both items, in excellent condition, from reputable sellers. Some careful bidding, and for less than 1/2 the cost of new I now have detachable side plates and forward controls on the way. Now I just have to wait a few days while the USPS and Canada Customs do their magic and then I  continue the makeover.
Stay tuned…..
DSCN0092 copy

Always carry a spare

Last week I posted this photo of a scooter with a spare bicycle attached.
It appears I may have started something.