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 North...so 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.