Tuesday 22 March 2011

Winter makeover

Well the winter makeover is now done. Can you spot the differences?

Now if the snow would finally go I’d be a happy man.

Sunday 20 March 2011

The best kind of project

Last year I mused (here) about customising my ride and what I could do that was truly unique. In the H-D world, the derby cover is a common way for the owner to announce his/her interests or allegiances – like a mini-billboard on the side of your ride – so that seemed a reasonable customisation target.
As the objective was for something unique, that eliminated the ubiquitous “Live to Ride” messaging, the flames, the skulls, and the American flag (me being Canadian and all). But I did like the patriotic flavour associated with flying the flag so I decided to play around with that concept. Besides there were no manufacturers of derby covers (that I could find) who offered any variation of the Canadian flag, which would make my cover even more one-of-a-kind.
Not being much of an artist, it took me quite a while to come up with a layout that I liked. Dozens of different mock-ups were printed, cut out, and taped onto the cover to see how they looked. I considered coloured and monochrome, simple and complex, large and small images before finally deciding on a simple, monochromatic graphic.
I still wasn’t too sure how it would look in the end so, reluctant to invest too much in the project, I scoured eBay for a suitable used derby cover as my canvas. And I got lucky, finding a nearly new polished aluminum cover for little more than the cost of shipping – a far cry from buying new.
Now the only challenge that remained was finding a way to transfer the image to the cover. At first I considered having it cut in, but after visiting a few machine shops that option went away because of either technical or cost issues. I tried engraving shops but decided I didn’t like the effect where the image was basically cut in multiple passes resulting in a grooved pattern. Chemical etching was a possibility, but again very expensive unless you’re prepared to do it yourself, which I learned is not a simple process.
But then I found a small local shop that could do laser engraving. They couldn’t cut directly onto a curved surface either, but they were able to cut a template for me out of an adhesive-backed material that would withstand sand blasting yet still be easily removed.
One template, a bag of good quality blasting grit, and many test runs later I now have my one-of-a-kind cover. It was a fun project to do, I learned a lot about what is and isn’t possible, I met some good people, it was relatively inexpensive (in dollars if not in time), and I’m very pleased with the results. Now if only every project ended this way.
     Derby 2

Thursday 10 March 2011

One Man Caravan

by Robert Edison Fulton Jr.
One Man Caravan““Oh no,” I replied. “I’m going around the world on a motorcycle.””
At a dinner party in London, in 1932, Robert Edison Fulton Junior had just been asked when he was planning to sail back to America.
“Who was the more startled, the seven persons around me or myself, I really can’t say. I recall only that the moment I let that statement slip, I knew I’d done something inexplicably peculiar.”
Of course it might never have happened at all but for the fact that one of the other dinner guests was none other than Kenton Redgrave who had just purchased the Douglas Motor Works and offered Fulton a free motorcycle upon which to take the trip.
And thus began an eighteen-month round the world odyssey on a modified, 6 horsepower, Douglas twin, in 1932.
Fulton travelled through 22 countries, including some of the most inhospitable (then and now). He rode through Iraq (Irak, as it was spelled), Afghanistan, Waziristan, India, China, and many others. He crossed mountains, and deserts. He dealt with idiotic border regulations (and guards) and spent some time in jails. But throughout his trip he was, for the most part, able to connect with the local populace and surprisingly survived even the most potentially dangerous situations relatively unscathed. His descriptions of local customs and his attempts to communicate, usually with no common language, are often quite funny and insightful.
I really enjoyed this book, both for the experience of being able to vicariously share Fulton’s trip, but also because many of his observations of the tribal culture of much of the Middle East is no different today – some 80 years later.
So for anyone looking to add to their motorcycle travel library, this is one I would recommend.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

There’s nothing so sweet as the sound of a running engine….

Especially when it was torn down to the cases just two days ago.
Some of you may recall that I purchased a 1982 Honda FT500 Ascot last January for the missus. (Link here.) Well as with any 30 year old motorcycle, it had some issues, not least of which was a minor oil leak around the rocker cover. So one of my winter projects was to fix the leak.
On this model, the rocker cover is precision machined to fit on top of the cylinder head without a gasket. The oil up there isn’t under any pressure, so a good clean fit with properly torqued bolts usually does the trick. But not when the bolt holes have been stripped.
Of 11 bolts that hold the rocker cover in place, 9 had been stripped. Of those 7 had previously been heli-coiled, of which 5 of the heli-coils had also been stripped. So basically, if I had been able to do so, I could have turned the bike upside down and given it a good shake to have the rocker cover simply fall off. Now I knew why the previous owner (the so-called motorcycle mechanic!) had been reluctant to fix the oil leak – although, to his credit, he did advise me of it during the negotiations. So I guess it’s really my fault for not digging further into it at the time. (Another lesson learned, belatedly.)
So I was faced with drilling and re-tapping all those bolt holes 2 sizes over, which is not only a pain in the ass to do, but in a couple of cases would end up making the walls really thin. But then I remembered that the bike came with most of a spare engine, which was spending the winter out behind the shed, covered in snow. I went and dug it out and dragged it into the shop to thaw. And to my great delight, when I removed the rocker cover, the head had not been similarly butchered. So a quick swap of the cam and a couple of other bits and I now had a good head to work with. From there it was easy to bolt it all back together and fire it up. Now it runs great in the garage and I’m just waiting for the roads to clear for a final road test. I’m pretty sure I didn’t see any leaking oil (although the exhaust fumes were thick as a London fog when I was running it up to temperature inside the garage) so I’m hoping it’s good. But for now it’s done, and I can get on to the next project.