Sunday, January 31, 2010

One Way To Lube a Motorcycle Clutch Cable

I've been thinking about how to shoot some lubricant into the clutch cable on my Kaw P19. I don't know if it really needs any lube but I've been riding in the rain so I thought it wouldn't hurt.

You can buy a special lubricator tool like this one, but I'm sort of cheap and I've seen people using those with a fair amount of mess/spray coming out rather going in the cable. I thought about going to the drugstore to see if I could buy a syringe with a long needle, but wasn't sure if that would work. I ended up using a ziplock baggie with one corner cut open and taped with electrical tape around the end of the cable.

Put enough of your favorite cable lube in the corner of the baggie to cover the cable where it enters the sheath. I used a combination of 3 in 1 oil, 20-50 Mobil One, Autozone general purpose spray lube and some extra virgin olive oil (just kidding about the last one). I wanted something that was thin enough to enter the cable and not drag then it gets cold - but with a little more lubricating ability than WD40. I think any lubricating oil that isn't too thick when it gets cold would be fine.

It might be obvious but you have to remove the cable from the clutch lever before you tape on the baggie. To do that you loosen the middle cable adjuster, which is in front of the engine, by unlocking the locking nut and screwing the adjuster barrel in (clockwise). Loosening the locking nut takes two 12 MM open end wrenches. Or one 12 MM and one 1/2 inch in my case since I couldn't find two 12 MM wrenches and I have about ten 1/2 inch wrenches.

You also have to loosen the thumb wheel on the clutch lever cable and screw that adjuster in until you have enough slack to release the cable from the clutch lever. There's a groove cut into the threaded portion of the clutch lever adjuster that you line up to free the cable (it's a lot clearer when you look at it). You might need to use a small flat head screwdriver to gently pry the cable end piece from the clutch lever.

The baggie method is generally a gravity feed - but I didn't want to wait around while lube hopefully dripped through the cable. If you capture a little air in the baggie and ziplock it closed, you can carefully squeeze it to force the lube through the cable. Make sure you have something to catch dripping oil underneath the middle adjuster and the point where your clutch cable enters the engine. Squeeze the baggie until the lube comes out the other end and your done.

Pretty much done anyway. You have to put the cable back in the lever and unscrew the middle and upper adjuster until your clutch feels right. Once your happy with the feel of the lever tighten the lock nut on the middle adjuster and the thumb wheel on the clutch lever. I try to set the middle adjuster so the clutch lever adjustment is threaded about halfway in so I can fine tune it either way at the lever by hand and not have to use wrenches to mess with the middle adjuster.

There are some measurements given for lever free play (1/8 inch) but basically you want the clutch to start disengaging with about 1/4 lever pull (you can feel it). You want the clutch to completely disengage when you pull the lever in (so you aren't grinding gears/trying to hold your bike from creeping forward when it's stopped in gear) and completely engage when you release the lever (so the clutch plates don't slip and burn out).

Probably a good idea to do some stops and starts in a non-congested area to make sure the clutch friction zone is where you like it before taking off in traffic. Slow speed riding is really dependent on using the friction zone and small changes can throw you off if you're used to a certain sweet spot.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's a Little Snowy in New York

I've been hanging around Binghamton, New York this week. It's a nice area - home of Rod Serling, Johnny Hart creator of the BC comic strip, Binghamton University, six antique carousels and the Spiedie. The city is located at the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers.

I had some good homemade pasta at the Little Venice Restaurant. The Little Venice started business 64 years ago in 1946 so you know it has something going for it.

It's about 31 F this morning with some light snow - but it doesn't feel nearly as cold as when it gets to 31 in the Seattle area. I wish I had some more time to explore the area - maybe a visit some spring, summer, or fall when the leaves are changing color.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nice Weekend

It was in the 50's Saturday and Sunday. I got the outdoor Christmas lights put away, cut up the Christmas tree to put in the recycle bin and rode my Sportster 150 miles; 50 miles on Saturday and 100 miles today - not bad for the first part of January.

Saturday was sunny and I was able to ride comfortably with a sweater, gloves and jeans. Sunday was cloudy and a little windy so I rode with my leather jacket, gloves and over-pants.

I rode the Snohomish River Road, Old Snohomish-Monroe Road and Ben Howard Road to Sultan then headed up to Goldbar and then back west to Kayak Point Park which is about a 104 mile trip. The bike used just under 2 gallons of gas.

I'm averaging about 1000 miles a month on two wheels. On a monthly basis that is about 320 miles commuting and 680 miles just tooling around. I still haven't taken an overnight trip because of time/work/vacation/weather constraints but there are plenty of nice places to ride in this area and I'm looking forward to some longer trips this summer.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Traveling on $100 a Day

As I wait for the planet to tilt back toward the sun I've been daydreaming about taking extended trips on the Blue Highways of America. At one time I thought a Travels with Charley setup - just me and my dog tooling around the USA in a camper, would be a good way to go.

My recent obsession with motorcycles, and the price of gasoline, has made me think a trip on a two wheeler might be the way to go. I used to think about a bicycle but that seems too slow right now - and a little on the masochistic side when I think about the people I saw riding bicycles across the middle of Montana last summer.

I'm thinking 10 gallons of gasoline a day at about $3/gallon, $15 for food, $15 for miscellaneous (campground fees, laundry, shower, oil, stove fuel, maint) might be a fair estimate.

For $60/day I could travel 300 miles each day sleeping outside for a few days and then check into a motel every 3 or 4 days to clean up, wash clothes, get a good nights sleep, log-on etc.

It's a really rough guess. I don't think I'd really want to travel 300 miles every day; depending on where I was it might make more sense to not travel at all, more than 300 miles, or less than 300 miles and just spend my time stopping to look at/experience anything that looked interesting. Can't think of how many times I've passed something on a trip where I thought, "that looks interesting but I don't have time to stop or turn back to check it out." It sounds nice to slow down and have all the time I wanted to take to just wander around.

I plan to try it out this summer with some shorter trips over highway 20 the North Cascades Highway maybe drifting up to Canada and over to Montana at some point.

I'm still trying to figure out the right vehicle. The Sportster is fun but has very little carrying capacity for camping gear. It is also fairly tiring for long rides without a windshield or fairing. It would work if I only wanted to stay in motels and drive short distances - or if I want to get a rack/sissy bar that I can strap a bag on. It gets 50 mpg and with a 4.5 gallon tank has a good range. The KZ has a lot of carrying capacity but isn't as fuel efficient - with a 4 gallon tank and a range of only about 100 miles in stop and go conditions. I think I have to buy a different motorcycle.

Or I have to remember what it was like when I was 17 and drove my Honda 350 hundreds of miles around Montana over the Going-To-The-Sun Highway in Glacier Park and up the Cooke City Highway into Yellowstone just tooling around in the big open spaces. It didn't have a windshield, rack or saddle bags and would vibrate enough at certain speeds that you couldn't use the mirrors, but none of that seemed to be a problem, so my idea that I need the "perfect" motorcycle to get out and go may just be an excuse.


I really like the idea of one of these Concours motorcycles though and I may end up selling my two to end up with this one. Or maybe keep all three - Sportster for short trips in nice weather, KZP semi-beater for winter/commuting and then the Connie (or the newer GTR14) for road trips.

The Concours seems to be a good bang for your buck sport touring motorcycle, reading the owners comments they seem to be quite happy. I see new ones on E-Bay for a little over 10K and some slightly used ones like this one on Craigslist in S.F. for 4K 2003 Kawasaki Concours (trade?). I wonder what the weather would be like for a ride from San Francisco to Everett this weekend...?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Riding in The Rain

When I took a Motorcycle Safety Training course at the San Diego Naval base many years ago the instructor said he never rode in the rain. I thought that was pretty good advice, and really not much of a problem to accomplish in San Diego.

San Diego is pretty dry, with an average of 10.3 inches of rain a year; an average of about 3.6 days per month with some precipitation - ranging from one day in June, July, August and September to seven days in February and March. That small amount of rain tends to leave the roads pretty slippery for a 2 wheeler since it isn't enough to wash away the oil from cars. On average, there are about 263 sunny days per year in San Diego so there's plenty of days to ride without having to venture out in the rain.

My experience riding in Columbus Montana was somewhat similar with about 14 inches of precipitation per year - 69 days with any measurable precipitation, and an average of 202 sunny days, per year. The difference in Montana is that some of the precipitation is in the form of snow and some of those sunny days can be below freezing.

Everett, Washington is a different sort of place with an average annual rainfall of 37 inches which is spread out over an average of 148 days with measurable precipitation.

If I stuck with the "no riding in the rain" rule I'd end up not riding - 43 days in San Diego, 69 days in Montana and 148 days in Everett. The comparison with Montana isn't fair though since there's probably 148 days where there's either snow on the ground or it's so cold that you wouldn't want to ride a 2 wheeler.

The nice thing about Everett is that even though it gets some rain, it generally isn't that cold. Snow is fairly rare here and the average monthly low temperature is never below freezing so most days are okay for riding. I wouldn't want to spend much time on the busy Interstate Highways around here in the rain, particularly at night - but for my daily sixteen mile 35 mph commute - riding in the rain is fun.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Ringing In The New Year

I'm getting over the flu or else one heck of a cold.

I haven't had enough energy to stay upright for longer than an hour or so for the last few days - but I'm just about over it now. I'm a little bummed that I wasted a few days being sick and missed some fun times, riding and working out but there will be plenty of time for that as the days get longer.

I almost feel up to hopping on my bike for a first ride of the new year now at 11 pm...almost.

I'm looking forward to 2010!

It's going to be a lot better than the last few days for sure.