Sunday, December 26, 2010

Motorcycling Over The Christmas Break

I haven't been blogging much lately - I'm a bit bored with it and have been trying to do more non-virtual activities.

I rode a motorcycle up to the top of Stevens Pass on Christmas Eve. The road was clear with a few snow flurries up near the top. There's a couple of feet of snow beside the road. The only challenge was finding a place that wasn't covered in ice or snow to turn the top-heavy Connie around. This is a poor quality iPhone photo I took up near the top

I took the Sportster out on Christmas day for a run to Snohomish and across the flats to Marysville to warm up the oil. I can get up to about 95 before the wind pushes my open-face helmet up to the point where it's annoying.

I ordered a pulse cover gasket Kawasaki PN 11061-1155 from Murph's kits for the Concours and plan to do another by-the-book valve cover adjustment before Spring is here.

There's two basic ways to adjust the valves on that bike - the by-the-book method involves removing the pickup coil (pulse) cover and using the timing marks to determine top dead center for the pistons. The other way is to leave the pulse cover on and adjust the valves with the cam lobes horizontal so the valves are closed (cam lobes not pushing on the rocker arms). I'm going to try one more by-the-book adjustment and see how the measurements compare with the looking-at-the-lobes method while I have the valve cover off.

Had the police bike out a lot since it's my everyday rider in the wet winter. I was thinking about painting it myself or having someone else do it so it looks less police-like. I decided against that since a decent paint job would cost as much as the bike and it would still end up looking like a painted police bike. It works for what I want to use it for and like any two-wheeler it's fun to ride.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bleeding Motorcycle Brakes or Clutch

I don't update this blog much anymore because I'm occupied with motorcycle maintenance, riding and reading about motorcycles. I tend to be a bit obsessive when I'm interested in something ;-)

Anyway here's a bit about motorcycle brakes and clutches that I learned from reading and some hands-on -

Hydraulic brake systems operate using a master cylinder and a slave cylinder. The master cylinder contains a piston which moves when you apply the brakes and applies pressure to the brake fluid in the brake lines. This pressure causes a piston in a slave cylinder on the brake calipers to move and compress the brake pads on the brake disc.

Hydraulic clutches work using the same basic principle using a master cylinder and a slave cylinder that extends to move a rod when you pull in the clutch which disengages the clutch. The components are spring loaded to return to the relaxed state when you release the clutch/brake.

HowStuffWorks "A Hydraulic System" shows the concept better than a lot of words.

There are a few key characteristics of the fluid that are of interest for someone doing motorcycle maintenance -

1. It should be incompressible ie. no air bubbles.
2. It shouldn't contain a lot of water since water boils at a lower temperature then brake fluid and tends to corrode metal
3. It shouldn't contain gunk - e.g. dirt that dropped into the master cylinder when you remove the cap to look at the fluid or small particles that flake off the brake lines/components as they age.

Since hydraulic brake systems are essentially sealed it's debatable whether you ever need to change the brake fluid. For example - a 2005 Harley Davidson Sportster has no recommended maintenance interval for changing brake fluid. In other words the manufacturer doesn't consider changing brake fluid to be routine maintenance - just leave it alone - like most of us do with the brake fluid in our car braking systems. For a 2000/2001 Kawasaki KZ-P/Concours the manufacturer recommends changing the brake/clutch fluid every two years.

Part of the reason for Harley being maintenance-free vs. Kawasaki every 2 years is the type of brake fluid used by Harley vs. Kawasaki. Harley uses a silicone based Dot 5 fluid which does not absorb water Kawasaki uses a glycol based Dot 3 or 4 fluid which will absorb water.

There are some other differences between Dot 5 and Dot 3 or 4.

Dot 5 has a higher boiling point than Dot 3 or 4, and will not strip off paint - but has a tendency to aerate and retain air bubbles which will make your brakes a little (or a lot) spongy depending on how much air is in the brake lines. There's a little bubble or two in my Sportster master cylinder right now and that brake system has never been opened/disturbed. Dot 3 or 4 brake fluid will strip paint but has less tendency towards aeration (ie. you can shake a bottle and it won't get all bubbly/foamy). Dot 5 costs two or three times what Dot 3 or 4 costs - not a real big deal 4 bucks vs. 12 bucks.

Dot 3 or 4 fluid starts out clear and turns black/brown as it absorbs moisture. You may wonder how moisture gets into a sealed system? The answer is that it isn't quite sealed. There's a vent near the top of the master cylinder to allow air to enter. The reason for this is that as the brake pads wear the fluid level in the master cylinder will go down since the pistons in the calipers have extended more. The vent allow the pressure to equalize when the system is at rest. It also allows air, which depending on the humidity contains some water, to enter the top of the system. Glycol based fluids absorb the water from the air.

Dot 5 fluid may start out purple and turn yellow - I don't know for sure. Currently my HD Sportster Dot 5 fluid is yellow. If I'm bored sometime I might bleed and replace it and then I'll know for sure if it changes color. The maintenance-free philosophy on the brake fluid reminds me that bike has some very nice characteristics if you like to just ride - change the oil and oil filter, primary oil, air filter spark plugs and brake pads once in awhile. All very easy. The downside it doesn't go as fast or stop as fast as a bike with more involved scheduled maintenance...but I digress - back to brakes.

If you decide to add brake fluid to the full mark on the master cylinder after your brake pads have worn a bit you will need to siphon it back out before you put new pads in - otherwise when you push the pistons back into the caliper you'll end up with brake fluid dripping/shooting our of the master cylinder (don't forget Dot 3 and 4 brake fluid is not good for paint or your eyeballs...Dot 5 probably shouldn't be used for eye drops either).

I've bled and replaced the brake fluid on a couple of Kaw's in the last weeks, as well as the clutch brake fluid on one of them - so I've gotten the bleeding procedure down pretty good. These motorcycles have dual caliper front brakes, a front master cylinder, single caliper rear brakes and a rear master cylinder (so 3 bleed points per bike). The Concours has a hydraulic clutch - so one more master cylinder and a slave cylinder with a bleed point.

Here's the basics - you don't need speed bleeders or a mity vac or some fancy shop tools to do this. You need a phillips screwdriver, 10 mm box wrench, piece of 3/8 inch clear plastic tubing, a bottle to drain the old fluid into, some rags or paper towels, a bottle of brake fluid and a sacrificial turkey baster, unless you don't mind a turkey that smells/tastes slightly like brake fluid - in which case you will use your everyday kitchen turkey baster.

Remove the cover from the master cylinder - if it's covered in dirt or the area around it is dirty clean it up before you remove the cover. The tolerances of the cylinder bore and piston are critical so you don't want dirt in there scratching things up.

Suck out the old gunky fluid with the turkey baster. Clean any sediment/gunk out of the master cylinder with a clean cloth/paper towel.

Fill the master cylinder with clean fluid. This way you are flushing new fluid through the system instead of the old stuff.

Put your 10 mm box wrench on bleed nipple for the clutch/brake.

Stick the 3/8 inch plastic tubing over the nipple making a nice tight seal

Stick the other end of the plastic tubing into your jar that has a little brake fluid in it so the bottom of the tube is submerged in fluid. You are doing this to prevent air from entering the system. I'm not so sure about this...but it's a tradition so I do it anyway.

Position the tubing so the bend is higher than the bleed nipple. This way there's a column of brake fluid that doesn't siphon into the jar and is free to return to the system (instead of air which is bad - in this case).

Here's the main sequence of what you are doing -

1. Pull and hold the brake lever.

2. Crack open the bleed nipple.

3. Pull the brake lever to it's limit and hold it there.

4. Close the bleed nipple.

5. Release the brake lever.

Repeat steps 1-5 until you see clean fluid coming out of the plastic tubing. Make sure you top off the brake fluid in the master cylinder while your doing this so you don't suck air in from the top side. Same for holding the brake until you close the bleed nipple - if you get out of sequence and release the brake before you close the nipple you'll suck in air from the bottom end.

It's not absolutely necessary since there's no spurting action like when you push the calipers back in after replacing pads - but you should probably put the master cylinder cover back on loosely while you are bleeding the brakes to help avoid spilling fluid on painted surfaces. You'll want some paper towels/rags/water to wipe up any spills that do happen.

It's easy to do this on a motorcycle. A car is harder with the four wheels plus you need an assistant. I'm guessing a motorcycle with ABS would be harder too.

A bottle of brake fluid is several dollars and the plastic tubing was 20 cents at Lowes so this is cheap maintenance. Clutch and brake master cylinders, slave cylinders, brake calipers etc. are not so cheap. Having clean fluid with no water or crud in it may help those components last a long time as well as ensuring your brakes are operating at their maximum potential.

One final note - if you end up getting spongy brakes it's because you didn't follow the simple procedure of keeping the brake master cylinder full, holding the brake, cracking the bleed nipple, closing the bleed nipple and then releasing the brake.

You can buy some speed bleeders (one-way valves) that replace the regular bleed nipple, special tools to suck fluid out the top or bottom - but I'd recommend just do it the simple way, it's cheap and it works. Shops use special tools when replacing brake fluid because it's faster - not because the special tools do a better job. Considering the fact you will be replacing this fluid every couple of years you'll have to decide for yourself if taking 15 minutes doing it the old fashioned way is worth your time or if you want to cut that down to 5 minutes using special purpose tools - which may end up taking a lot longer than 5 minutes because you are messing around with a vacuum pump, removing the bleed nipples etc.

Have fun - happy riding and may all your stops be safe and enjoyable.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

New Spark Plugs and Carb Synch

I thought the Kawasaki Police Bike KZ P19 was running a little rough - nothing significant just a little less smooth than what I'd like. I replaced the plugs with the recommended NGK BR8ES item number 5422 (10 dollars including tax at Napa Auto Parts).

Since I had the gas tank off, and I'd never down it on this motorcycle, I synchronized the carburetors using my Morgan Carbtune.

The plugs were okay - one was a little sooted up from running rich but they were all good enough to provide a hot spark. The carburetor synchronization was way off though. One was matched to two, and three was matched to four - but the left two and right two were off from each other significantly. To get them in synch I had to decrease the vacuum (gasoline flow) on three and four to match one and two, and then set the idle speed back up to 1000 rpm.

The spec for the vacuum is less than 20 mm Hg, ideally exactly the same - but that's not quite possible usually since the vacuum indicators are moving a bit as the engine idles. When I started three and four carbs were pulling about 80 mm Hg more than one and two - so off quite a bit.

I just used the motorcycle's gas tank while doing the carb synch, rather than fooling around with a temporary gas tank. I have a long piece of fuel line and cut a piece of metal pipe that would fit inside the fuel line so I could splice my long fuel line to the fuel line connected to the carburetors. I sat the gas tank on a step ladder cross bar with a couple of short 2x4's underneath to stabilize it and ran the engine with the petcock on prime.

It's running smoother now and there's less engine vibration.

One thing I've noticed a few times with used motorcycle ads on Craigslist is a statement something like - running rough or not running, needs carbs synchronized. You won't correct a motorcycle that won't run or is running really rough by synching the carbs. A carb synch is more of a fine tuning operation. When the carbs are out of synch the amount of fuel getting to each cylinder is not the same - that will hurt fuel economy and cause the cylinder(s) with more fuel to try and run faster which causes some vibration...but it isn't going to cause a bike to not run at all or run really rough.

There are exceptions I can think of that could cause a bike to run really rough and have the carbs not in synch - one would be that someone started twisting on the synch screws without a manometer which I suppose is a possibility, but I'd be worried what else might have been done to that bike if I was buying it.

Carbs that aren't in synch (pulling the same amount of vacuum) can be the symptoms of something else wrong - intake valves being out of adjustment, or the rubber carb boots having leaks, so you have a vacuum leak upstream of a carb. In these cases you could have a bike that's running poorly - but you need to adjust the valves or replace/repair the carb boots not just synch the carbs as the Craigslister's sometimes suggest.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pictures From Oregon

Oregon MC Trip - Fall 2010 - a set on Flickr

I didn't edit these so no guarantees on the quality - just quantity.

Here's a picture of a fat chipmunk that turned out pretty good -


This trip pushed me over 10,000 miles on the Concours since I got it in California last February. Those are pretty much all road miles since I hardly ever use it for commuting. I have to say it's been a remarkable bargain considering the places it's taken me without a problem.

Dee Wright Observatory

Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
This observatory/viewfinder is on top of McKenzie Pass. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and completed in 1937. Dee Wright was the Forest Service foreman in charge of the construction.

There are windows in the stone walls that line up with the various peaks in the area. There's a brass compass on top with marks for the various peaks as well. It's a really interesting place. The road up to the McKenzie Pass summit is limited to vehicles less than 35 feet because of the tight radius turns.

Oregon Fall 2010

I really enjoyed Oregon. Three days was just right to explore the area around Sisters. I rode over Santiam Pass a few times, McKenzie Pass and Tombstone Pass. I got to visit the Dee Wright Observatory on top of McKenzie Pass - super cool spot. Went south of Sisters until the road turned to gravel and got rough. I visited the Belknap Hot Springs Lodge on the McKenzie River - very nice person at the front desk gave me a map and invited me to tour the gardens. Went to Camp Sherman which is on the Metolius River. Cool store and nice clerk. Looks like a good spot for flyfishing.

Iron Bike


Sweet Home.

It's foggy up ahead which is weird after coming from the sunny side. The ride over Tombstone Pass coming down here is great. Lots of twisties, good road, nice river and fall colors.

I'm just going to head on to I-5 and super-slab it home to Everett.

Perfect time of year to be here, very few people and not much traffic in the places you'd see lots of tourists in the summer.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mill City Oregon

I'm taking a break at Papa Al's.

Beautiful drive from Silverton to Sublimity. It's the Christmas tree capital of the world and smells great.

I'm east of Salem and about 60 miles from Suttle Lake. I love this country!

We Ride At Dawn

At least I might ride at dawn if I get off the computer. This is a picture of one of my favorite bandanas. It's a rare one now - it came from Harlowtown, Montana and was a special offer that came with Cream of the West Cereal. B got it for me. I had two of them but one of them blew off my neck somewhere on the road.

I'm all packed for my trip to Suttle Lake and the Sisters, Oregon area. Changed the oil and filter on the Concours Saturday so she's ready to go. I'm bringing my own food - Odwalla Bars, nuts, oatmeal, noodles, and tofu. I can heat up water with my Jetboil for breakfast oatmeal and dinner noodle/tofu.

I'd like to go to Crater Lake but I don't think that's going to happen on this trip since it's a day ride round trip from Sisters, Oregon on the route I'd like to take and I don't want to be in a hurry.

It will be a good trip to Suttle Lake, Sisters, Santiam Pass, McKenzie Pass, Dee Wright Observatory and whatever other new sights are on the way.

I'm looking forward to getting some wind in my face and oxygen in my lungs.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Oyster Run - 2010

I'm glad I went up to the Oyster run in Anacortes. There were thousands of bikes, riders and onlookers. I was expecting to see lines of motorcycles on the roads going up there but I think I saw more police/sheriff vehicles than bikes on some of the back-roads. It was foggy and drizzling and I didn't get on the road until after noon - but there were still lots of people and motorcycles in Anacortes.

There was live music, snacks, vendors selling motorcycle stuff, food, drinks and even a Bandido booth selling T-shirts to support the Bandidos? There were some nice looking oyster shooters on ice. They shut down main street to cars and let you ride your bike and park it in the middle of the street. There's maybe 10 blocks of motorcycles on both sides of the street, down the middle and on the side streets. The majority are Harleys but there's plenty of other types too - so it isn't a Harley only event by any means. There were quite a few families with little kids and older folks (like me) walking around just taking in the atmosphere.

I only saw one accident - an Electra Glide missed a corner on Highway 20 going out of town and ended up in the ditch - they were putting it on a wrecker when I passed by.

I didn't see anyone acting stupid or causing trouble. The only wheelies I saw were some kids riding mini-bikes and one guy riding an ATV in a vacant lot.

I imagine the shop owners in Anacortes are pretty happy to have so many people in town spending money. I saw plates from California, Oregon, B.C. and Montana.

I took the Pioneer Highway up and I-5 back. There were a variety of stands and things going on for motorcycles on the way up there. Food/drink/music type stuff. I'm looking forward to going next year when hopefully the weather will be a little better - although I kind of like cool and some rain, or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

I didn't bring a camera and only took a few pics with my iPhone but here's a oyster run 2010 - Flickr: Search that has some nice photographs.

57 Chevy Bike

Ninja Line

Runnin With The Oysters - On a Motorized Bar Stool

Taking the Old Three Wheeler For a Spin

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Going to See The Sisters

The weather is looking good this coming week in the Sisters, Oregon area so I'm planning a ride down there Monday. Staying Monday and Tuesday night at the Suttle Lake Lodge in a rustic cabin since I don't feel like packing camping gear for a two night trip.

I'm really looking forward to exploring that area - it looks really pretty from Highway 97 and from what I've read and heard it's a great spot for riding a motorcycle.

View Trip to Sisters Fall 2010 in a larger map

This should be a simple trip - change the oil and filter on the bike today, throw some rain gear and a spare set of clothes on the bike Monday and then head south.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trip to Paradise

I rode to Paradise today for my last ride of the summer. It was a nice day but Mount Rainier was in the clouds so the views weren't as spectacular as they can be. On the plus side traffic was very light and it's only 5 dollars to enter the park on a motorcycle (15 dollars for a car). It was about 300 miles round trip with my winding route.

I made it home with an hour to spare since Fall officially began at 8:13 pm local time today.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Three Pass Blast

I rode over Stevens Pass, Blewett Pass and Snoqualmie Pass this afternoon.

It was drizzling on the way up Stevens Pass but sunny on the East side of the Cascades.

It was a pretty quick trip - one stop for gas and one at Owen's Meat Market in Cle Elum to get a pound of jerky.

Motorcycle was running great, clothes kept me comfortable and it was good riding weather.

Nice day for a ride!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Planning a Trip to The Three Sisters

It's about 400 miles to Sisters, Oregon from Everett. The Three Sisters mountain range is a little Southwest of there (pretty much due East from Bend).

I'm hoping for some nice weather in September or October otherwise maybe next summer when I can take a week - there are lots of interesting looking roads in that area that take you through forests, by rivers, lakes and mountains.

This is a snip from Sound Rider article about the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway -
"Up one pass, down through the other, reverse the route and repeat as necessary! The town of Sisters makes a great start and ending point for this magical loop that offers it all. Fantastic scenery and some of the most technical riding you’ll ever encounter on public roads."

Here's a longer article Tails of the Three Sisters and the Google Map satellite image showing the Three Sisters -

McKenzie Pass is on Highway 242 and Santiam Pass is on Highway 20 on the map above.

Dee Wright Observatory is on McKenzie Pass.

Three Fingered Jack is north of Santiam Pass.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Nice Ride Up Whidbey Island Today

It was drizzly and grey Saturday morning in Everett. Nice and sunny over on Whidbey Island though. I started out going south but the weather in the convergence zone was getting worse so I looked around for where it looked less cloudy. Looked better up North. I took the Mukilteo Ferry to Clinton. The fare for a motorcycle and rider is $3.80 which you can't beat. I was the first motor vehicle on and off. Also the only motorcycle which is unusual.

I pulled over to the side of the road on Whidbey to eat a snack. There was plenty of room to pull over on this 2-lane road. I was a couple of feet away from the white line on the side of the road.

A Sheriff's Deputy pulls in behind me. I'm thinking I'm going to get a lecture about something - or a ticket or who knows? He asked me if everything was okay and just wondered if I needed any help. He smiled and patted my shoulder.

Part of the reason for my trip was to scout routes into Anacortes. I found a really nice spot while doing that called Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory. There's a nice beach for looking at sea things, with picnic tables, group shelter and a lady with a bunch of samples of things you can see in the tidepools and on the beach. There were a few divers there - but very uncrowded considering it was Saturday on Labor Day Weekend . There were plenty of people on and near the Deception Pass Bridge - but I don't think most people get off the main Highway 20 route and it was raining south of there - so Rosario Road was very quiet.

You get to Rosario Beach by taking Rosario Road which is about a mile north of Deception Pass Bridge. The turnoff to Rosario beach is about a mile down Rosario Road. You can continue into Anacortes on Rosario Road and Marine Drive.

This is picture of the statue of the Maiden of Deception Pass at Rosario Beach.

The Maiden is part of a really interesting Native Story. This site has pictures of the carving process.


Marine Drive has grooves in it that caused my front wheel to wander and the Concours handles pretty good on the highway. It'd be worse on a Sportster. The grooves look like a "feature" more than anything temporary. I wonder if those grooves are there because there are expensive houses on the scenic bluff overlooking the ocean and they don't want motorcycles zipping around. In any event it's just a short hop into Anacortes.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Oyster Run - Last Sunday of This Month

The Oyster Run to Anacortes is the last Sunday in September this year - the 26th. In 2008 the crowd was estimated at 15 to 20 thousand so there will be lots of bikes and riders. Highway 20 is the only main road into Anacortes and it can be busy and slow on normal weekdays and weekends - so if you're in a hurry it's probably best to stay away from that area on the 26th.

There are four main routes to get up there from Everett - ferry from Mukilteo to Clinton and ride up Whidbey Island, Marine Drive past Kayak Point to Stanwood and then Pioneer Highway, I-5 and Highway 9.

The first two are the most scenic and interesting. I'm thinking the Marine Drive/Whidbey Island route and then west after Deception Pass to see if I can avoid traffic jams using the smaller roads on the west side of Anacortes.

There are other more round-about ways to get there - Highway 2 East over the Cascades and Highway 20 West would be a fun weekend. Riding up to BC and taking the ferry from Tsawwassen to Vancouver Island and the ferry back to Anacortes would be interesting but would add some time sitting in ferry lines, border crossing time and the cost of a couple of ferry rides. $27.45 for the ferry from Sidney to Anacortes and $36.60 for the ferry from Tsawwassen to Vancouver Island (it's a lot cheaper on a motorcycle than driving a car - plus you get to be the first on first off).

It would be fun to spend Saturday in the Bellingham area and ride Chuckanut Drive South on Sunday morning - through Edison and into Anacortes.

Lots of choices.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Riding and Singing In The Rain

We had a lot of rain today.

I got to try out my NEOS rain boots - they work great and I think they will last for awhile.

It's sort of funny when people comment how wet you must be riding a motorcycle (or doing anything else outside) when it's raining. The only part of me that's wet is my face unless I'm wearing a full-face helmet and then I'm dry all over.

It's all about having the right clothes for any weather. Rain pants, jacket, waterproof/warm gloves and rain boots and you're good to go for weather above freezing.

I try to avoid riding in the rain in areas where the traffic is really heavy and the speed limit is 55 or above. The spray from the cars can make it hard to see and hard for people to see you. I avoid riding in the rain at night as well - the reflection of headlights off the rain drops on your windshield, face-shield, goggles or glasses makes it hard to see. I try to avoid riding, or I'm really careful, when riding after a dry spell followed by rain since the oil/water mix can make for some slick spots until the rain has a chance to wash the roads off. Riding around town in traffic, or on roads with not too much traffic, when it's raining is no big deal as long as you practice your smooth riding techniques.

The thing I like best about riding in the rain is that it gets me in touch with the natural world and reminds me I'm alive. It was really a blast today to feel the wet wind on my face. Maybe it's because I spend so much time inside for work but I feel alive when I'm out in the rain - it makes me want to sing (sometimes) and it's a whole lot better than sitting at a desk (all the time).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Field Repairs

I spent the day taking the KZ1000 police bike apart so I could replace the valve cover gasket and repair a couple of stripped threads on the top end. The bike was seeping a bit of oil from the valve cover - not enough to be anything other than a slight nuisance when it blew a few little drops of oil on my pants while riding.

Getting to the valve cover requires removing the seat, gas tank, 2 ignition coils, 4 spark plug wires, the front fairing (because I needed access to get a straight shot with a drill into the stripped threads), headlight, cam chain tensioner nut/spring, 2 flapper valve covers, fuel line, vacuum line and unplugging some wiring. Once you get that stuff out of the way you remove 18 bolts that hold the valve cover on. One thing about working on a motorcycle is that everything is crowded into a small space - which adds to the challenge.

I had a new valve cover gasket from Z1 Enterprises (good price), some Threebond 1194 gasket sealant and a 6mm heli-coil kit. Things went as good as I could expect. Drilling and tapping a new thread on top of the open engine was interesting - I had to be careful not to go sideways or drop thread cuttings into the engine. I got it done but had to break off the top of the heli-coil because I was afraid to drill to deep into that soft aluminum head. The bolts in those two threads are "tight" now so that's good. The torque on the valve cover bolts is only 90 inch-lbs so you can't reef on them.

I used the Threebond on the half-moon cam end caps and that seemed to work just fine. It took awhile to clean the old glue/gunk off the valve cover and head. The valve cover was pretty easy because I could clean it with solvent and use a brass brush and a wood scraper. The head was harder because I didn't want to knock any glue pieces/gunk into the engine. I coated the new gasket with oil on both sides so it would stay in place and also to allow the gasket to expand as it soaked up the oil.

I took the bike out for a spin after I got it buttoned up and didn't see any oil seepage so I think I have it fixed. The real test will be the next time I ride that bike with a pair of khaki pants on...or I guess I could just look at the engine and see if it's staying dry.

I was thinking a lot of what I do mechanic-wise is like "field repairs" in that I'm sort of like a farmer who fixes stuff with whatever works out in the field - baling wire, duct tape, glue, scraps of metal or whatever is available to keep something running. It's not always pretty but usually I'm pretty successful and I like the challenge of taking something apart and putting it back together - hopefully working better than when I started. I also like repairing things rather than just replacing parts - and it gives me something to think about/learn about.

It's a fun hobby - I like the Sportster for the sunny days, the Connie for trips and the police bike for commuting in the rainy weather. It has good chrome that isn't rusting, the saddle bags and rack give it plenty of carrying capacity, the fairing breaks some of the wind and the big windshield keeps the rain off your face.

If I had the money, space, and time to ride them - I'd get a few more cycles - Suzuki V-Strom, something with a side-car, a Harley Road King, a Kawasaki Z14, a scooter (Vespa or a Ruckus), Triumph, Ducati, BSA, Honda 90, and a few others.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Back From Orcas Island

Betsy and I went up to Orcas Island for a mini-vacation Friday. We had fun but the trip didn't work out quite like I expected.

We made plans pretty recently and could only reserve Friday night at the place we usually stay in Olga so our plan was to leave fairly early Friday, catch the ferry and get to Olga in the mid-afternoon.

We stopped at a casino on the way and I lost some money playing Blackjack and then made up for it by throwing some money in the slots - losing more.

We got to the ferry terminal about noon and found out the next ferry we could get on was leaving at 3:30 pm.

I'd forgotten how much the fares had gone up and was a little surprised it was just about sixty dollars for us to take the ferry to Orcas Island.

During our 3 1/2 hour wait in the ferry line I was chewing on some Hot Tamale candy and my tooth fell out - well my crown fell off my tooth.

The ferry was late arriving and took an extra 1/2 hour to get to Orcas, so we ended up getting to our spot by the beach about 6 pm. Betsy loves this spot because it's good for hunting for beach glass - but she only had a couple of hours of daylight.

We brought Edgar with us and he didn't like the beach at first and just wanted to go back to the cottage and chase a ball around - so I ended up staying with Ed and reading old New Yorker magazines.

We left about 10:30 Saturday morning so we ended up taking a 16 hour vacation at the beach - not counting drive time across the island, to and from Everett to Anacortes, time sitting in ferry lines or riding the ferry.

When I got home, carrying my missing my tooth in my pocket and sort of bummed about how quick our trip was, there was an automated voice message from a bill collection agency for me.

The only bill I've been late on has something to do with my Time magazine subscription. I don't know why Time kept sending me magazines after my subscription expired and then started sending me bills telling me I owed them money. I don't know how much they think I owe them but it seems like a trifling amount of money to turn over to a collection agency. I guess if that's the worst of my financial problems I don't have anything to complain about.

Next time we take a vacation I think we'll go for a couple of days at least.

Friday, August 27, 2010

No Toil Air Filter Oil - Don't Bother

I bought some No-Toil air filter oil to use on a new air filter for the Kawasaki Concours. This OEM air filter is made of foam with fibers attached to the outside surface to trap dirt. It's an air filter that can be cleaned and re-oiled.

The Kawasaki manual says to clean the air filter using a low flash point solvent (like kerosene) and apply a light coat of clean engine oil on the filter.

I thought the "sticky" No-Toil oil might be better at trapping dirt than engine oil so I used it on a new filter.

After I thought about it a little more I kind of wondered what sucking some of that sticky stuff into the carbs would do to them so I decided to clean the No-Toil off the filter and go back to using regular engine oil. I used a bucket of warm water with some Tide and then a little Dawn dish washing detergent on the filter.

The filter, which is about a month old, disintegrated. The fibers which were attached to the foam started to come off - so the filter is ruined. I'd cleaned the old filter a couple of times with kerosene and re-oiled it with engine oil and never had a problem.

I'm ordering a new filter and will be throwing the No-Toil and the ruined filter in the trash.

Luckily I'd kept the old air filter which I'd cleaned before I put it away so I have something for the bike until the new air filter shows up next week.

I don't know what No-Toil is made of - it is sticky and a bit hard to get off your hands or anything else it gets on. There's some special cleaner you are supposed to buy to clean it off a filter and they sell another cleaner to clean it out of the air box - they don't sell anything to get it out of the carbs though.

Engine oil and kerosene have multiple uses, are easy to come by and work just fine. If the engine happens to suck some engine oil through the filter into the carbs it will be dissolved by gasoline flowing through the carbs. Also you can clean and re-oil this particular type of filter multiple times using kerosene and engine oil rather than having it fall apart the first time you try to clean it after using No-Toil.

I sent an email to No-Toil customer service to see if they will give me money for a new filter - but I'm not holding my breath on that.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not Very Good Weather for Blogging

It's been warm and sunny here lately, not the type of weather that makes you want to be inside. Summer weather was late this year in Everett and didn't really get going until August. It's been strange to think of the heat waves in much of the country while we were experiencing highs in the 60's and 70's.

This weekend the temps got into the 90's and will today as well. That's enough to cause heat advisories for us and people on the radio reminding us that there are cooling stations available. It's supposed to cool off again though; predicted high of 79 Tuesday, 69 Wednesday and 64 on Thursday.

I've been spending a lot less time on the computer in my spare time for the last year - when I started riding motorcycles again. With three of them in the garage there's generally some type of maintenance, cleaning, checking or riding to be done.

I did some painting this weekend - deck trim and a fairing that I'd repaired, pressure washed the garage roof and gutters and found time to go out riding in between, so it was a good weekend.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Sounds Like a Good Opportunity for Someone

I saw this ad on Craigslist recently.
Date: 2010-08-02, 7:06PM PDT

Apprentice wanted @ Randy’s Cycle Service (Everett)

Love motorcycles? Want to learn how to repair them, but don’t have the money for schooling? Well, we have the answer. Randy’s Cycle Service at 35th & Rucker in downtown Everett has been in the business of motorcycle repair and service since 1985 and has helped 5 different young men over the past 12 years prepare themselves for entry level positions at motorcycle dealerships. Without paying tuition, these young men learned the basics of motorcycle repair and service.

If this is something that might interest you, and you have 3 or 4 hours each day to devote to learning the exciting field of motorcycle repair and service, then give us a phone call. Our number is (425) 339-5592 and we’ll be glad to sit down and talk with you and see if this is something that would work for you and for us. We’re open Monday through Friday from 12 to 6.

I saw some young guy with a broom out in front of the place today so I think the apprentice may have already been chosen.

Randy's Cycle Service is a very small independent motorcycle repair shop that's been around for 25 years. I drive by there on my way to and from work and over the years I've seen a wide variety of motorcycles outside his little shop.

I don't know what motorcycle mechanics at dealerships are paid, but the labor rate for motorcycle work in this area is around 80 to 100 dollars an hour. If a person could work out of their garage you could probably do okay if you had the aptitude, desire and some source of income that would give you time to build up a customer base and purchase the necessary tools/equipment.

I imagine there are other independent motorcycle shops that would be willing to take on an apprentice. It really seems like a lot better way to learn about maintaining and fixing motorcycles than going to a school to me. It's free and you could learn what you need to know rather than sitting through classes at a school that may or may not have any practical value.

Tuition at the Motorcycle Mechanic Institute (MMI) that advertises on TV can be 25 to 30 grand. Those ads are expensive you know.


This is a YouTube video from Randy's Cycle Service where he's working on a 1960 something C200 Honda 90. Some really practical information here about fixing a stripped thread on the kick-starter, replacing the points and setting the timing. I'm not sure what all the noise is at the beginning of the video but it goes away after awhile.


Sunday, August 08, 2010

Lost Weekend

I haven't done anything this weekend other than enjoy the drizzle by staying inside.

The streets are wet, but there hasn't been enough rain to clean the oil off the streets so I'm leaving my motorcycles in the garage for now.

There was a big neighborhood Garage Sale here Saturday - unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate for the people who'd planned that sale for a couple of months, or the hydro races and Blue Angel show, or the Summer Meltdown Music Festival near Darrington.

I heard someone say on the radio that the date for Seafair was picked because the first weekend in August is historically sunny and warm. History didn't repeat itself this year and we ended up with light rain and temperatures in the low 60's Saturday.

It was a good weekend - like all of them, just a little damp.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Thinking Out Loud

If I could be anywhere doing anything where would I be?

Right here with Edgar on my lap - doing what I'm doing - nothing.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Find Something You Love

Preferably not something that involves criminal activity or ruins your health.

Doesn't have to be a job - if it is then you are either lucky or you have your ladder leaning against the wrong wall and will figure that out someday.

You could have a job you love/tolerate/hate and no life or a job you love/tolerate/hate and a life.

Try to go for the latter. Finding out you never had a life would be an unpleasant surprise when it's time to talk to St. Peter.

Sorry that's all there is - I'm not so good at wise thoughts. I find the older I get the less I'm sure about - except for some very basic stuff about things like naps, sun, water, air, food, dogs, movement, learning, laughing...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

In Case Your In The North Cascades

I heard this flash flood advisory on the radio earlier today and was thinking how cool it would be to be up in the North Cascades and also how useless this information is since as the advisory says ".. people most likely to be affected may be hiking and deep in the back country of the north Cascades."

I guess if your driving over Highway 20 and have radio reception it might be exciting to know a flash flood might occur somewhere along the route. It's 75 miles of nothing but mountains and forests between Marblemount and Mazama - so it's fairly remote even on the highway up there.

If your backpacking/hiking in the area probably best to just keep an eye on the sky like you would in any area - as it says at the end of the advisory, " Monitor the weather and be ready to act quickly if flooding is observed or a warning is issued."

Not sure how they give the warning.
... Flash Flood Watch in effect until 11 PM PDT this evening for portions
of the north Cascades...

The National Weather Service in Seattle has issued a

* Flash Flood Watch for portions of western Washington...
including the following counties... Skagit... Whatcom ...

* Until 11 PM PDT this evening

* heavy rainfall associated with slow moving thunderstorms will
continue to train over portions of the north Cascades through
late this evening. Small streams will quickly rise with
excessive rainfall temporarily becoming hazardous. In locations
where storms continue to pass through... localized rainfall
amounts will likely tally over several inches.

* State Route Highway 20 is the major roadway most likely to be
affected by these storms. Due to the rural nature of this
area... people most likely to be affected may be hiking and deep
in the back country of the north Cascades.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A Flash Flood Watch means conditions are favorable for flash
flooding but flooding is not imminent or occurring. Monitor the
weather and be ready to act quickly if flooding is observed or a
warning is issued.



Monday, August 02, 2010

Hanging Around

I've been sticking pretty close to home while Betsy is in Minnesota so I can take Edgar out for walks and play fetch with him. Betsy has been at Big Bass with the girls until yesterday.

Becca flew to Paris from Minnesota yesterday and is out having lunch now. Rachel is trying to decide what to do next - Peru, NYC or ?

I took a motorcycle and a lawnmower apart on Saturday...and put them back together. The KZP has a minor oil leak. I think it's from the valve cover. I thought maybe if I tightened the valve cover bolts it would cure it.

You have to take off the gas tank and move the fairing and coils to get to all the bolts. I found out two of the outer bolts are stripped - not the threads on the bolts - the head. It's a steel bolt going into an aluminum head with a low torque value (90 inch-lbs) and stripping them is fairly common. There are two simple fixes - tap it out to accept a 1/4 inch SAE bolt or use a 6mm heli-coil. I need a valve cover gasket before I do that though since I'll have to pull the valve cover. For now I used some blue loctite on the stripped bolts and tightened the rest of them to spec.

I'm thinking if I go to the trouble of pulling the valve cover I might as well check and adjust the valve lash. This bike uses shims to adjust the valve clearance - so that's bit of a pain. One shim is 5 bucks from Z1 Enterprises ($12.52 from the dealer) and there's 8 valves so it could run into some money. I have to measure the clearance and then figure out the shim size I need - so it will take some time. It's a shim over bucket design so you don't have to remove the camshaft.

The Connie uses screw-type adjusters so no shims to fool around with and the Harley has hydraulic lifters so no valve clearance adjustment needed.

Given what I paid for that police bike I don't want to put much money into it - so I'm just going to ride it for now and see how it goes. It's more of an oil seep than a leak, not enough that you have to add oil - but enough to get a few drops on your pants when you flog it a little. It's my wet weather commuter vehicle so I'm using wearing over-pants when I ride it anyway.


I rode up to Bow, Edison and Bellingham yesterday via Chuckanut Drive. Nice day. Usually I wind my way up there on the backroads but I enjoy riding the Connie on the Interstate. It loves to cruise at 70. Riding home I was thinking there must be a sign on I-5 that says keep left except to pass - there were lots of people in the left lanes driving at or below the speed limit. Consequently you end up with mini traffic jams all along the route. Once you blow by the people who like formation driving you find big open spaces of road.

I'm thinking about a hug-the-coast trip now for a longer ride. Basically a trip around the perimeter of the U.S. Just takes time - a trip down 101 and 1 would be a week - could do it in less time; but if I have to hurry why bother? Probably another week for the South, another for the East and then another to come back across the I need a month or two. If I don't take any vacation for awhile I'll have a month in January - going South would be nice but I'm not sure about the trip back across the North...don't really feel like not taking any time off until next Spring. I wish we could all just take August off.

Maybe a 3 week trip would work for the hug the coasts trip or a couple of weeks to just hug one coast. I have a night at Deetjens Big Sur Inn and I'd like to ride Highway 1 North of San Francisco, and check out Mt. Lassen in California and Crater Lake and the Three Sisters in Oregon. Maybe later in September or October when places are less crowded.


I ordered a Valve Cover Gasket and some ThreeBond 1194 gasket maker/sealant from Z1 Enterprises today and they shipped this afternoon. That was fast.

Threebond 1194 is a replacement for Yamabond 4 which I wanted - but has been discontinued.

I also ordered a 6mm helicoil kit from eBay so I can practice Thread Repair 101

I'm thinking I may need a set of Cam end plugs if I can't seal the existing ones with the Threebond.

I need to clean the engine and then spray it with some powdery substance like athletes foot powder or deoderant, to help me find out exactly where the oil is weeping from. I think it's coming from high up on the engine but oil has a tendency to spread out, blow around and run downhill so finding a leak can be a bit of a challenge. I don't think the leak is down at the head gasket - but if it is there are some o-rings on the head bolts that can cause leaks (so I've read).

I like taking things apart to see how they work - and motorcycles are complicated enough, and there's enough an amateur like me can do, that it keeps things interesting. It beats sitting at my computer all the time and gives me some new things to learn - plus the test of what you do is a go no-go sort of deal rather than something more abstract where your work is being rated by what someone else thinks. You're either riding or walking - pretty simple stuff.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Apple Apple Apple

This is a roadside farm/cafe/store off Highway 101 in Oregon last February. It was fairly cold and I was fairly tired and glad to have an apple, hot apple cider and a baked apple pastry still warm out of the oven.

That was a good ride up the coast from San Luis Obispo to Everett. The Concours is a lot more comfortable for long rides for me now with the highway bars and peg lowering kit I can ride all day no problem.

I'm daydreaming about my next ride - thinking either Fairbanks since I've never been there or a trip that takes me to a hot springs most every night in BC, Idaho, Montana, ?.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

If You're Ever in White Sulphur Springs Montana

The Corner Stone Deli is a good place to eat. They make their own potato chips and have a large selection of fresh soups and sandwiches. I wish I would have taken a picture of the chips - they are a nice blue color made with some special potato. I didn't order the chips but they brought some for me to try anyway - nice.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shopping Around for Automotive Headlamps

One of the low beam headlamps burned out in our car and I checked on a replacement at Autozone and Shucks/O'Reilly. They both had the same price $14.99, which ends up being $16.30 after sales tax is added in. It's a simple low beam H7 Lamp - 55W 12V so that price seems pretty steep.

It seemed sort of odd to me that both chain auto parts stores had the exact same price - but I think the deal is they figure not many people would shop around for a replacement headlamp. When a headlamp burns out you need a new one and you'll pay whatever they charge.

You can buy a generic H7 lamp on eBay for $5.55 and a brand name one for $8.99. That's the total price including shipping - there is no sales tax. I ended up paying $5.77 for an Eiko brand bulb which is $10.53 less than what I would have paid locally.

I'm fine with supporting local businesses but I don't feel like paying an auto-parts chain store more than a 100% mark-up on something (in this case it's 260%). No one is driving that car right now so I'll wait a few days until the new lamp shows up in the mail.

When you're buying a headlamp it helps to know the general part number or identifier. There's a lot of information on Headlamps at Wikipedia. You can usually figure out the generic name from the manufacturers part number which allows you to compare prices.

If a headlamp burns out and you have to drive at night you have to buy whatever you can get but if you can possibly get by without driving the car at night for awhile, I'd recommend checking online prices.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pelican - Snake River Grand Tetons

There were quite a few pelicans in this stretch of the Snake River. It's moving slowly in this area and more like a lake then a river. It's an area called Horseshoe Bend about 20 miles north of Jackson right beside highway 89.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Young Hawk

I took these pictures a couple of miles south of Columbus Montana in the Stillwater River Valley on the road to Absarokee. There were multiple hawks coming back to this nest - apparently to feed this single young hawk. I can't identify the type but they were good sized birds.

Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen

Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen

Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen

Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen

Friday, July 23, 2010

Deer By My Campsite

Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
This deer wandered in around dusk when I was camped at the Sheridan Creek Campground in the Custer National Forest outside of Red Lodge Montana. it was pretty much oblivious to me. The light was a little low for a good shot.

I don't think he recognized me as a predator since I don't smell like a carnivore. He made a wide circle away from the next campground where they were cooking some steaks.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Yaak Valley Morning

Yaak III
Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
The Yaak River valley in Northwestern Montana is (was) a nice remote area with some good fishing opportunities and a quirky bar called the Dirty Shame.

I've been there fishing and camping before and drove through with the family a couple of times. One time we were the only people in the bar except two guys dressed in homemade buckskin clothes. They were picking huckleberries and had a goat in the back of an old pickup with saddlebags on it to use for carrying hucks. They were squatters.

The Yaak valley was an area where people escaped to in the 60's and there were some number of hippie type squatters who put up tents/shacks on the forest service land, or private land that was owned by absentee landlords and rarely visited, around there.

This time when I was through things were quite a bit different. It was a Saturday and there were quite a few motorcycles on the secondary road into the town of Yaak. There were lots of motorcycles in town, plus hikers, campers and tourists in cars. The lady who owns the bar now showed me a national motorcycle magazine that had rated the ride to Yaak as a desirable motorcycle trip.

Too bad. It was better before it was discovered.

It's still pretty.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where is The West?

In the poem "Out Where The West Begins" the West is a state of mind.

For the Northern states I've always thought of it as starting West of Billings and running to the top of the Cascades. Anything further West is the Pacific Northwest and places to the East are either part of the middle of nowhere (big parts of Eastern Montana) or the Midwest - although Western ND might be part of the West. The West probably encompasses parts of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Eastern Oregon and California. Not sure about New Mexico I haven't been there enough to get a feel.

Purely subjective on my part.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Highway 89 Montana

Highway 89 Montana
Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
Almost too beautiful.

This is in the area south of Browning north of Choteau Montana.

No cars, no people, just the sky some mountains in the distance and some beautiful purple flowers in a green field.

If you click on this photo and go to Flickr you can look at it in larger sizes - much more impressive that way (too me anyway).

Lots of horses in this area.

I wish I would have stopped for one particular shot of two horses standing by a colt that was laying down. They weren't fenced in. I was wondering what was going on with the colt. I think he might of laid down because he was tired of the wind pushing on him. I thought about that colt for about a hundred miles - hoping he was okay...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hey Who's Road is This?

These critters were standing on Highway 3B to Rossland B.C. and eventually moved over to the side when enough cars came along. It looks like they are still shedding their winter coats.

It's a nice drive in the West Kootenay mountains. I took the Grand Forks, Christina Lake, Rossland, Trail, Waneta, Nelway and Creston route. Next time I'd like to head north to Nelson and points further.

I also got a photo of a nice deer at the Danville border crossing north of Republic, WA. before seeing these mountain sheep.

I got in trouble for taking that photo. Well a little anyway - there weren't any other vehicles at that crossing and the border agent had cleared me to go into Canada. I saw a deer walking by as I was getting ready to get back on my motorcycle. I left my motorcycle parked in the crossing and walked over to take a picture. The customs guy came out and told me "we do have other cars coming through here - and we really don't like cameras." Okay fine sir.

That's a nice looking deer - almost looks like a lawn ornament.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

La Grande Oregon

Nice town - very quiet this Saturday. I had some good noodle/ tofu dish at The Golden Harvest and a double-shot of espresso from a friendly spot on main street. They have a cool looking old movie theatre and a JC Penny on main street - reminds me of towns before the mall was invented.

Idaho Rally

I took a "shortcut" at Idaho City to get to Horseshoe Bend. It was 38 miles of washboard gravel with lots of curves and fairly steep grades and lots of dust. This photo is at Placerville. I ended up on the course and had to get to Horseshoe Bend before they closed the road at 1 pm. I've never been so dirty, except maybe after spending a week in the Black Rock desert was a trip riding the big loaded-up Connie with street tires on that road. Info on the rally is at

I've ridden on gravel but this was challenging because it was deep gravel in spots and the dust was so thick when cars passed me it was hard to see - plus it was about 95 degrees. It was a blast I almost only lost it once. I thought it was interesting that I kept seeing those rally cars on part of the road and then found out this a big race for them. This picture is of a local car - there were lots of them with professional sponsorship logos too. It's the racing where they have a driver and a navigator - that you see on TV every so often.

I have to say that Concours is one tough bike - it rode fine in the dust and vibration from the washboards and then 160 miles up here to La Grande at 75 mph and temps of just about 100 (98 in Ontario Oregon when I passed through town).


Up on top of highway 21 - going to Idaho City

Sawtooth Mountains

South of Stanley Idaho

Friday, July 16, 2010

Swan Lake Idaho

I like stopping at these small local stores.

Logan Utah

Beautiful drive in here through the Logan River canyon. Lots of twisties!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Just Went Through Paris

I'm in Garden City Utah now - by Bear Lake. That lake is a really pretty blue.

Garden City is all about raspberries - shakes, jams, jelly, candy; but someone told me I had to get the best onion rings at the Hometown Drive-In. They were good, served with lots of dipping sauce that was sort of like runny Thousand Island dressing.

Afton Wyoming

About 5 Miles North of Freedom

Etna Wyoming - Nice stop in a small town.

Jackson Hole Wyoming

Looking down main street - that's the ski area in the distance.

I'm Goin to Jackson

The tallest peak is the Grand Teton

Beartooth Pass

Above the tree-line max elevation 10k plus