Monday, February 11, 2013

Rebuilding Showa conventional forks, part 4

When everything’s cleaned up and dry, coat the new guide with fork oil inside AND out.  It'll be impossible to seat if you skip this step. Slide it onto the tube down toward the bottom. Coat both sides of the slide and the inside of the oil seal, setting the oil seal aside.  Install the slide on the end of the tube and the washer on the other end, and gather everything together down at the end of the tube, per the picture and instructions in the manual. Don’t put the oil seal on yet though, you want to set the guide using the washer, not the rubber seal.  Hold the cylinder and tube almost horizontal to each other (to avoid dropping the oil lock piece out)  Insert the tube into the cylinder and slide it all the way to the bottom, taking care that the oil lock piece doesn’t drop out on the way down.  If it does, pull it all apart and do it again, correctly.  When everything is seated right, the tube at the bottom of its travel, you are ready to set the guide.  Hold the fork vertical, take your PVC pipe (1 ½” class 200) and hammer on the retaining washer till the guide seats.  Then slip the lubricated oil seal down over the tube, and set that.  Then insert the spring clip to hold the seal in.  You should set that with your PVC as well.  It may take some hammering to get the seal low enough in the tube to accept the clip.  Ensure the clip seats fully in its groove before proceeding, if it wont you’ll have to pull the tubes apart and reassemble everything again (re-lubing the affected parts with more oil)

Once the clip is seated, drop the (inside oiled) new wiper and set it.  The wiper is a stiff fit into the cylinder, but with enough persuasion around the edges you will get the lip to set flush with the top edge of the cylinder.

Using a turkey baster with masking tape marking the 143mm point from the tip, pour half your quart of oil into the tube.  Work the tube up and down slowly a few times to get the air bubbles out.  Let it rest 5 mins, then work it up and down slowly again.  You want all the air out of that oil.  I repeated this process 5 or 6 times, then let the tubes sit overnight to bleed the bubbles, then repeated the process again the next day.  Trapped air will impede the performance of your suspension.

Try to suck some oil out holding the baster at the 143mm mark you set with tape.  Add oil until you can suck a bit out, and the level will be set.  You will need slightly more than half a quart per fork, so be sure you have two quart containers (or three pint containers).

With the reassembled fork cap/preload adjuster, ensure the preload is set all the way out to minimum.

Slowly lower the springs into the tubes so as not to introduce small air bubbles. Pull the tube up through the cylinder as high as it will go and put the spacer washer on top of the spring.  Put the spacer in, then the preload adjuster.  Press down hard on the spring while while threading to avoid crossthreading the fork cap.  Take your time to get it threaded correctly.  Once the cap is well threaded, use a wrench to thread it on the rest of the way til tight.  You will torque the cap once the tube is reinstalled on the bike.

Reinstall the forks onto the bike.  The top of the tube should be flush with the top triple clamp.  Remember when you have one fork leg installed, to set the fender in place before you install the other fork - otherwise it will be impossible to get the fender in.  Install the front axle when you install the second leg to help you align everything.  Torque all mounting fasteners to the manual specifications.

Reinstall the front wheel, speedo sensor, brake calipers and reflectors.  Reinstall the chin plastic.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Rebuilding Showa conventional forks, part 3

Take the fork tube, and clamp it gently (with a towel or rags) in a vise or have someone hold it from turning by running a long screwdriver, socket extension or something sturdy through a brake bolt hole.  You need to crack loose the allen head drain bolt at the bottom end of the fork.  I recommend buying an allen socket about 6” long and using a breaker bar for this.  It’s very difficult to crack loose.  Ensure the preload adjuster is screwed all the way down for max preload, the extra spring tension will help keep the internals from spinning.  Insert the allen tool and ensure it is firmly seated in the bolt and crack it loose.  If it won’t crack, after reasonable efforts, find someone with an air gun to knock it loose.  Once loose, don’t loosen it more - oil will leak out.  Leave it hand tight.

Back the preload out all the way again to release the internal tension, and unscrew the fork cap, holding it down as you undo the last couple of threads.  It will want to pop off under spring tension.  When the cap comes off, pull out the spacer and washer.  With a needlenose plier, unclip the cotter pin holding the wide washer on the bottom of the preload adjuster, and unscrew the preload adjuster from the fork cap.  Remove and throw away the old rubber o rings. Pull out the spring.  Pour the tube full of oil into a container. All parts should be flushed with white gasoline or similar solvent.  

Take the bottom drain bolt and copper washer off.  Use a screwdriver, with care, to pop up the dust cover.  Remove it, and use a smaller screwdriver or a pick to pry the spring clip out of the top of the oil seal. Grab the tube and cylinder in either hand and pull them apart to the stops.  You will need to give them a few sharp pulls to knock them apart, popping the internal guide metal out of its slot and get the tube out of the cylinder.  Note the order in which the parts are installed on the tube: you’ll install the new parts in exactly this way.  The service manual details how.

Use a screwdriver to unclip the slide from the very bottom of the fork.  Slide the guide, seal and washer off and throw the seal and guide/slide away.

Clean everything up with solvent.  Dump (carefully) the damper rods and junk out of the tube.  Flush and wipe everything to remove metallic debris.

I use a turkey baster, oil pan and white gas to flush everything.  Stand up one tube at a time in the oil pan, toss all the oily parts in the pan, and start basting gasoline down the inside of the tubes. When they’re all cleaned up set them aside to dry.  Use gas on a rag to clean the spring.  Swish everything else around in the pan to clean it and set it aside to dry.  I leave everything overnight to dry thoroughly.

It is critical that all parts be kept CLEAN throughout this entire process.  Any debris sloshing around inside the fork can cause your seals to leak again.  Keep parts covered in plastic or in bags to prevent shop dust from settling on them.

Having fun yet? If you're not, you should...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rebuilding Showa conventional forks, part 2

So you’re going to go ahead and DO this.  You don’t have $225 + shipping, you really feel that as a self respecting gearhead you ought to be able to rebuild suspension, you already have a service manual, a torque wrench calibrated in newton meters, a long 6mm allen socket, a dollar store turkey baster (for adjusting oil levels) and about 3’ of 1  ½ “ Class 200 (lightweight, i.e. not schedule 40) pvc pipe for inserting the fork seals and guide metal.

(the following is very specific instructions for the V-Strom. If you have a DR650 or SV650 or something else with Showa conventionals, please bear with me til the next post.)

Remove the front wheel.  Remove and secure the brake calipers (tape brake lever back, fit wood or cardboard between the pads, yada yada) and ziptie them back to the crashbar.  Remove all brakeline and speedo line fittings and bolts and ziploc them.  Cover the speedo sensor with masking tape and tuck it around a crashbar.  Remove reflectors from forks.  The forks must be stripped down to nothing attached. Leave the fender be, it’s hanging loose in between the fork cylinders.  It won’t come out unless you remove a fork leg, so don’t bother forcing it.

Pull the chin cowl (under the headlights).  You’ll need to get a torque wrench up in there later when you install the finished forks and removing this plastic gives you room to work.

Run the preload adjuster all the way out to minimum preload to minimize the load on the fork cap.  I recomend you use a nickel or a VERY large bladed screwdriver to move the adjuster as it mars easily. Break loose the fork cap (size?).  It’s on tight, so take your time and use a long wrench.  Brace the bars against one of the stops before you wrench on it.  Just crack it open.  You don’t want to remove the cap yet.  Spin the preload adjuster all the way back down, i’ll tell you why later.

Pick one tube or the other to remove first.  Completely loosen the top mount bolt.  Then loosen the two lower mount bolts.  The fork leg will literally drop out the triple trees when that last bolt goes, so hold onto the fork leg.  And its heavier than you think.  Maybe stick a piece of cardboard under the front end to catch it incase it drops.

Take the fork leg out with one hand and grab the fender with the other.  Set them aside and remove the other fork leg in the same fashion.

Now that you’ve got the front end all apart...

Rebuilding Showa conventional forks

Now that I have a garage, even less money to pay real mechanics, and a slightly expanded collection of hand tools, when the ‘Strom’s forks came due for a major service it seemed like a good idea to do it myself.  (after all, the internet said it was easy...)

Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but the scattered sessions I had in the garage needed to be focused on the work, not washing my hands to to pick up the camera, so with my profound apologies you get the thousand words instead.   Note: This writeup must be read from beginning to end before buying tools or parts, and must be used in conjunction with the factory service manual, as it contains key torque values and parts and procedure descriptions that I leave out.

The first challenge, specific to the V-Strom, was finding some stable way to get the front wheel off the ground. The header pipe runs under the engine, which doesn’t allow stable use of a jack. The solution was to run 3 of the heaviest duty eye bolts I could get into a rafter in the garage which was formed of 3 2x4x16’s bolted together.  A 600lb Harbor Freight hoist from a center eye to the center of the handlebar.  Once the bike was raised up high enough (not more than six inches or so required to get the front end off) with the hoist, I hooked tiedown straps thru the Givi crashbars to the two eye bolts on either side.  Serendipitously, as I lifted, the bars were cocked such that one grip was before, one behind the straps.  This allowed me, later, to set the triple tree against one of the turning stops in order to crack loose the fork caps.

Once the machine is adequately and stably supported you are ready to begin. This is about the right time to reconsider whether you really want to do the job yourself or mail the forks to RaceTech in Pomona, CA for $225 + shipping to have them professionally done.  It’s also the right time to reconsider if you want to spend an additional $120 or so on new springs rated for your weight and riding style.

The parts you need to do the fork rebuild yourself are all available through OEM (cheapcycleparts or bikebandit) or through RaceTech.  RaceTech sources its parts from OEM, so they’re the same, but they get a better price.

To do the job yourself, you need, x2:

Copper crush washer for the bottom drain bolt  

Slide metal (Outer diameter teflon coated) (comes in pairs from RT)  
Guide metal (Inner diameter teflon coated) (...)  
Fork seal (...)  
Fork seal wiper (...)  
Preload adjuster internal O Ring  
Fork cap internal O Ring  
Fork oil, weight to your taste.  I use 10wt.  You'll use slightly more than a quart to fill both forks.

Check this list against the service manual by reading the entire fork rebuild procedure carefully.

The seals, slides and guides, and oil are available from RaceTech.  Everything else you must order OEM. (You might be able to get the copper washer at a hardware store)

part two to follow...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Another year? Time passes but the good things in life don't really change.  Sometimes we get too busy to write about them.  The coffee is still there in the morning, the sunshine still floods the garage as we groggily roll our machines out to the street to face another day of work.

The essence of the free thinking mechanic defies time and defies pragmatism.  It remains glowing beneath the ashes of credit card bills, sewer trash and electric.  And once in a while, be it in a month or in a year, manifests itself in a bit of comfortable (warmer, drier) clothing, a welded luggage rack, a bigger windshield or perhaps a whole dusty inoperative machine darkening the floor where once was piled boxes and discarded lawn furniture.

It doesn't hide so far behind the credit card bills that it doesn't come out during the weekends to enliven the Saturday morning coffee and bacon, because life has to be lived somehow and where better than making something run better that wasn't running well before (or perhaps not at all).  Or just taking the damn thing out and revving the piss out of it to clean the carbon from the sparkplugs and headers.  The free thinking mechanic serves as a potent reminder that we are not slaves to our needs but rather work with those needs to serve the spirit.

Ok, fair enough.  So where are we at now that we weren't a year ago?  Not far, I'm ashamed to admit.  The free thinking mechanic has remained far, far behind.  The Suzuki has had over $1000 of work done to it, largely pre-emptive and professionally done by Howdy's Cycle in Ventura:  new clutch plates, new water pump, brake lines flushed. Beyond that, it has sat unchanged, unmodified, not even washed, ridden occasionally while its owner was far away making (we hope) progress on his life. But a few things have changed for the better.  It has a home now, for once.  Never in its life has it had its VERY OWN garage, and now it does! It lives right next to a well stocked tool bench in a warm insulated garage with a painted grey floor.  I'm losing patience with the stock thumbnail that passes for a windshield and plan to replace it soon, since I don't see the machine losing any steam even with 80,000 miles on the odometer.  Ridden carefully it still returns over 55 mpg and allows me to afford to get to work as well as see some countryside on the weekends...where somehow it manages to get much less than 55 mpg while the peg feelers get thinner and thinner.  The machine has an uncanny ability to morph from sedentary taxi into a beast against which the asphalt and potholes don't stand a chance...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

'S been a while.

It's true; getting old, selling off projects, kids, further ambitions, life itself faces us with precious little sympathy for what we used to call our free time.

But there are some things life cannot take from you.

It cannot take, for example, the peace and quiet of a warm garage at somebody else's house when the dishes are done and the laundry is done and one is surrounded by bits and pieces of Suzuki DR200. Or as one carefully eases a pair of Nissin calipers from their mounting bolts, cautious not to scratch the rotors.

It cannot take away the steam rising from a mug (not a cup, mind you, but a mug) of searing-hot black, black coffee as the sun rises over the track housing, sending a giant orange beam into the gray early-morning garage. And your friends roll in one by one to meet you, the dew coagulated on their windscreens.

It cannot take away the malty tang of a cold beer in the dusk of the day, which you savor as you try to figure out (without much success) exactly how that piece of emissions equipment was mounted on the frame in the first place.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Is anyone wrenching anymore?

What's it been, a year?

I know, we've all been amazingly busy: broke, worried about the economy, getting married, having kids, changing jobs, getting laid off, selling our old projects, getting OLD.

Me too.

But I think it'd be nice to try and breath some life back into this old pile of posts. Surely someone out there is doing something interesting right now. And Fall is basically here, which means some of those long chilly evenings might be spend cowering near a space heater, building a new bike or fixing up the car.

You never know...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Booya Bike Parts

As some of you may know, my day job is Your Computer Genius—we build websites and software, as well as doing network administration and computer consulting. An old friend of mine recently came to me with a need for a website, and we've launched the first version of it. You guys should check it out, they sell new oem motorcycle parts for a range of current imports and sport bikes. The website is:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Introducing: "Sparrow the Summer Wagon"

We had our first family dinner in Sparrow the Summer Wagon last night.

There is, ahem, a fair amount of work to do on her.

MY tasks include: finishing the caulking seal on the roof, sides and windows, making sure the coach 12V and 110V systems work, figuring out the propane and water systems, buying and installing a generator, changing all the automotive fluids and filters...

TSG's tasks include: assembling curtains and curtain rods, stripping the wallpaper, priming and painting, cleaning and painting the cabinets and washing the cushions and various other interior jobs...

Sparrow is a 1975 Roll-a-long 26-ft Motorhome. She was built on a 1974 Ford F-350 Custom 1-ton Dually chassis, with the 8-cylinder 460. (I now one a 2-wheeled vehicle, a 4-wheeled vehicle, and a 6-wheeled vehicle.)

We are looking forward to a very exciting Summer indeed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Long-lived motorcycles

"Now it is time for my 150,000 mile writeup (Sept 2009). Once again there have been NO mechnicals and NO parts had to be purchased except those that I consider as 'routine maintenance'.

In the last 30,000 miles: (since the last writeup)

-a new chain at 124,436 mi.
-EBCHH front brake pads at 130,067mi (lasted 18725 mi)
-adjusted vales at 133,021 miles. 5 were a little tight. previous adjustment was at 66,804 mi. (all were within spec)
-replaced rear wheel/sprocket bearings at 135,736. first replacement.
-EBCHH front brake pads at 143,668 mi
-replaced fuel filter at 143,408 miles. first replacement. At this time I purchased a new fuel pump that I will use on my extended range tank. The original pump is still good.
-replaced battery at 147,336 miles. second replacement
-replaced chain/sprockets at 150,001 mi. previous chain lasted 25,000 mi and previous sprockets lasted 48,000 miles
-8 oil changes and 4 oil filter changes. all Castrol 10x40 syntech w/ Fram filters

tires: I prefer Tourances but I have used other tires. There were three rear changes and 2 fronts in the last 30,000 mi.
overall total average rear miles is 12,000 miles. average front mileage is 18,000 mi

Maybe its just luck but in 150,000 miles I've only has to spend a total of $20 for these three items: front brake light switch, exhaust gasket and clutch slave seal. Those might also be considered as wear items!!!

So get on that Strom and ride!!

Kith Burkingstock
Newnan GA"

* * * *

My V-Strom is the DL650 '07 model, not the DL1000 '03 described above - but I hold out high hopes, especially since the pre-2004 1000 has the most issues of any of the V-Strom models.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not a week ago the blue V-Strom turned over 54,000 miles. Every time another ten-thousand goes by, which seems to happen with great rapidity, I have a chuckle reminding myself that some people own bikes for years and never put so much as five digits on the odometer. But then I stop chuckling because I know that piling that kind of mileage means sole-transpo, or at least commuting, use and I will never blame anyone for not using a motorcycle to substitute for a car. Piloting the Civic down the 101 freeway in torrential blinding rain last night, heater filling the glass bubble with peace and warmth, I thanked my lucky stars that I wouldn't have to thaw a shivering wet body under a hot shower for 20 minutes when I got home. On the other hand, I had to slightly crack open the driver side window so I could get at least SOME of the rain-smell into my nostrils. These are the things you lose with bodily comforts.

But yeah. 54k. And it's getting to be that time of year again. June. Road trip time. The V-Strom wasn't born to sit at home and chug back and forth every day to work and back. The very first time it came into my life, the very first three days I owned it from mile zero (or mile 2, since you can't register a new vehicle with no mileage) it carried me more than two thousand miles east for a wedding and then home. It wasn't a week old and it had more than two thousand miles on it. It was born for this very thing, to eat continents for lunch. And it's been moping about Ventura County for a whole year since last time I crossed the east California border, moping about, waiting for me to accrue enough vacation time to let it out again to play.

It'll be tough this year. My vacation time is going to be all used up honeymooning on Catalina Island in August. And that's okay. I'm looking forward to that, a different sort of adventure, of course. But it won't fix the wanderfoot, so I'll have to be creative. Another big thing is that the wifey-to-be has to be wandering with me or I'll feel selfish and unfulfilled. The V-Strom and I have a whole big world to show her, but we have to be careful not to overload her with too much adventure at the outset or she'll get sick and not want to do it ever again. She'll have to be eased into it somehow, the timing will have to be right, she'll have to have the right protective might not happen this year. But it sort of has to. A window in our lives is closing, and she absolutely HAS TO do a long, cold, hot, dry, starving, agonizing, gorgeous Purple Mountain Majesties and Fields of Waving Grain road trip before we can't anymore. She has to have that experience in common with me otherwise she'll never understand America properly. I wish I'd been able to do this earlier, but for health reasons it wasn't possible at all before this year and it may not be possible this year.

We'll see.

In the meantime, I watch episodes of the Long Way Round, I shake out my summer gear and polish the smoked visors for my helmets, I pinch my pennies for a full set of Givi side panniers, and I wait for my chance.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Faye got some glamor shots!

(Click on the panorama to see it much bigger.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I always wondered how VTEC worked. Here is a rather absorbing animation describing how Honda can generate big hp from a tiny motor without using turbos, high compression or other trickery.

My Civic has this; the technology has been around long enough now to be pretty standard-issue stuff on modern Japanese and German cars. While the storied kick in the pants above 4000 rpm is not present in my particular example, it does rev strongly and sharply to redline without running out of breath or feeling overworked.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I was farting around on the interwebs looking at pictures of VW Rabbits and feeling all nostalgic about the one I drove all through college, (and subsequently sold), and I randomly found my old car on wasn't even looking for it!!! Now that really hurts. Did you know that I quite literally teared up when the new owner took it away, and I have regretted selling it ever since? It's the only car I really wish I had never sold.

And how do I know for sure that it's mine? First of all, it's a red '77, if you look closely in the pictures you will see several things that are unmistakable:

-uncommon woodgrain dash with dual gauges, and rare under-dash package tray
-8 ball shift knob
-small hole on the corner of the gauge cluster where the tach used to be mounted
-Radio Shack speakers in the door panels and the defroster vents(!)
-missing interior panels in the rear hatch area
-annoying gap in the hatch weatherstripping
-dent in the corner of the driver's side front fender where I hit Emma's truck...

I know my car.

Of course the new owner has changed many things, but it's looking good!

Here's the link....


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

have computer, will travel

"Based on engine operating
conditions and accumulated engine
revolutions, the onboard computer in
your vehicle calculates the remaining
engine oil life." - Civic Owners Manual

With the emergence of fuel injection and consequently the Engine Control Unit as the standard method of "making it zoom", we have at our fingertips a heretofore untapped wealth of digital information that can be used to retire the mileage-based maintenance schedule along with those defunct carburetors. The raw data is available - drive-by-wire throttle inputs, engine temperature information, accumulated number of RPMs, even calendar time. (Shoot, instead of trying to hold it in your brain how long it's been, since your last oil change, why not let some computer do it?) And all of these inputs may be correlated to estimate how hard the car is being driven - patterns of hard acceleration, long periods of steady throttle, stop-and-go ... it's all there, being stored away in a memory chip. The car remembers how you drive. While it can't test its own oil any more than we can test our own blood, it gives us the best estimate yet of when the oil might be worn out. Honda's Maintenance Minder (not a very sexy name, but it is what it says) taps into this capability to simplify life. There are seven maintenance operations designated A, B, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. When the computer has counted enough RPMS and enough time has gone by, one or another of these lights up on the dashboard to say "hey, I need an air filter and spark plugs" or "oil change".

So yay. We don't need a computer to tell us when to change the oil, right? Well, remember that oil-change time is a guesstimate anyway. People say that oils these days last between 5,000 and 7,500 miles. But unless you pay to have an oil analysis done after three or four oil changes to determine the correlation between mileage and oil life, you won't know and you'll probably change the oil more often (and spend more money) than necessary. And even then, your estimate is based on mileage, inherently less useful in determining oil life than RPMS. The same mileage driven hard will wear out the oil faster than an identical mileage driven gently, given daily operation. In fact, if one has to choose a single criterion to base maintenance on, an RPM based maintenance schedule is probably the most accurate, even more so than hour-based maintenance.

The one factor, of course, that RPM based maintenance doesn't consider is how loaded or unloaded those RPMS are. A lot of hilly driving will put more stress on the oil for the same RPM than driving on level ground. However, a temperature data line (greater engine temps on hills) ought to weed out some of that variable. And of course there is to consider how dirty the air intake is.

In the end, service intervals are all estimates and must be treated as guesses. The question is, how can the most accurate guess be achieved for people who aren't into pulling plugs to look at the soot deposits, or analyzing their oil? Honda's answer seems to be pretty well thought out.

(p.s. Also, the Civic averaged 32 mpg on its fifth tank of gas in ordinary stop and go driving. That ought to improve as it breaks in)

Friday, February 12, 2010

just sneaking by, nobody notices the perfect finish, right...

Okay, okay. Don't hate me....

It was an experiment, really. Does making lease payments in exchange for a fridge that gets 35 mpg work out as a good idea in real life? I mean, what I already said about the Enabler, you know?

But now I have two, because the Suzuki hasn't started giving me any problems yet.

Well, if it keeps the fiancee happy, it's worth it. I took an honest look a the purchase cost of a 1967 Ford Falcon station wagon, the amount of garage space and wrenching facilities available to me, and the amount of sheer time I had available to me, and it added up to "no".

Don't get me wrong. The love of my life understands and entirely sympathizes with the fact that I have 30weight in my blood; and that I will always own and regularly use a motorcycle, at least for commuting.

But one just doesn't live as a normal member of society with grocery bags and driving friends to the Getty Center and going out for coffee on dark and stormy nights without a car. Sorry. I've tried it. It doesn't work. You have to be either single or weird - preferably both.

So given: car. Also given: reliable car. Well, old simple car or new (relatively simple) car? Old simple car: cheap. Requires time, tools and more time. Usually involves some frustration. Adventures, loving and hating. New car: expensive. None of the above stuff involved, if leasing. Set it and forget it. Honda pays for all oil changes for 3 years, warranty, etc etc etc. Not much of an adventure, not a whole lot of emotional attachment. Yet.

We'll see how this works out.

Also, part of the experiment is sheer geek-out curiosity. How do they MAKE cars these days? All this new stuff; drive by wire throttles (no more cables), oil life tracking (a computer tracks engine temperatures, load, and total revolutions to extrapolate oil life), five-speed automatic with overdrive (yes, I count six shifts) ...does all this shiny stuff do what they say it does? Does it really work? I'm kinda curious about this end of the vehicular spectrum, the bleeding edge of Honda's genius. What have they done to make my life simpler, easier and less expensive at the pump? Are new cars any good? If so, how?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Guess that winter wasn't as bad as I'd expected. It's starting to warm up again, and I've already logged 450 miles on the Triumph during the past month. Upon filling the tires back up to 40psi she handles beautifully, still with more power than I deserve.

I've been using KBC's VR2 for about the past year now, and liked it fairly well. My only complaint was addressing the way it rubbed on my forehead towards the end of a day-long ride. So, while I was down at Jeff's place last week, I decided to put a new one on order. I chose Sparx' S-07 and it came in today. After spending just 12 miles in it, the old VR-2 has achieved strictly-loaner status. The Sparx is quiet and comfortable, yet still drafty enough to stay cool in the summer. The padding has cavities on either side that accept big ears comfortably, even with earbuds. There are little elastic straps at the back to route the wires, too. Keep it in mind if you're looking to buy a new bucket with a hundred bucks.

And keep Jeff in mind too, should you find yourself owning a Ducati one fine day; he's running one hell of a good business out here.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I can't believe how long it has been since I posted here. But to prove this blog is not dead, here's my latest project: a wood car for Charlie!

Everything except for the wheels was built from scratch. (BTW, it is only sitting on that stick so the paint on the wheels can dry---I just finished it a few minutes ago).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Triumph of human will over aluminum

Nearly two years and endless amounts of blood and money in the making, Suzi lives and breathes again. She weeps a tiny bit of oil from the revised and siliconed head gasket (gaah!) and she won't idle below 2000 rpm, and the rear brake doesn't work anymore - but she runs DAMN good and pulls like a freight train. I ran her down to the local gas station to fill her up with premium and relived the days of wind-in-my-chest muscle-bike glory with the added joy of vintage rat-bike style.

Now the question remains: can I really sell her? (My Discover card balance will probably answer that one for me)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's been two years and change now since I rolled her out of the alleyway next to L.A. Honda/Triumph. Two amazingly uneventful years, from a maintenance standpoint, and two beautifully liberating and exploratory years from an operational standpoint.

She's done it all, gone everywhere I've gone. Oh, there was that one trip where I rented a car to drive up to Idaho, but that's because it was wintertime.

But everywhere else. Minnesota. Colorado.

And every day to work and back. Every dark morning in the dim carport lights, the ignition clicks on in a wash of headlights and LCD, always the same. Always starts on the second or third crank. Almost always hiccups once the first time past 2500 RPM; always clunks the forks on the way out over the drainage-curb; and always hmmmmmmmms up smoothly through the gears in its stiff morning oil. Nothing changes. And some things ought never to change. One's primary vehicle, the Enabler, the thing that makes it possible for you to live your life in a world of freeways....that ought to be one of those things. For my own sanity, I have always determined that I need one vehicle as reliable as a stone ax - anything over and above that is Fun and does not need to be reliable.

This Suzuki has been the most amazing stone ax ever. 48,900 miles now. One problem and one only: a bad start button, the day after the warranty expired.

After that, nothing. Before that, nothing. And, it has been dropped four times.

So, I'm thankful, and deeply respectful. This is a cheap motorcycle, after all. It was built very much to a price point, but such is the miracle of modern engineering that even cheap stuff these days is really, really good. And even now with all those miles on her budget shock and forks, she can still give BMW Z4's a run for their money in the twisties...but that's another story for another time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Joining the two-wheels-with-motors club

Well, I've joined the two-wheels-with-motors club. Also the club of tons of accessories, like helmets and leather jackets, and the club of low annual insurance premiums.

I picked up a 1978 Yamaha XS 400 for a steal on CL. Only thing I've done to it is dump a bunch of oil in and put a fresh battery. It runs great, not bad for a 31 year old bike!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It has been dead around here, hasn't it?

Well, I can't speak for other members of the group, but sadly my life has taken a decided turn away from machinery. (But this does not prevent me from noticing a perfectly restored red Sunbeam Tiger at a car show in Redwood City, then going inside to examine it more closely, marveling at the audacity of the Shelby engineers who packed a Ford V-8 inside its diminutive bonnet.)

The 1969 Chevrolet has been given back to its rightful owner. After the thing was made to run, I discovered a massive transmission leak that I was not ready to deal with. So I was reimbursed for my parts, and I'm looking for something with a box that is newer, simpler and preferably with four cylinders.

The 1982 GS1100E is parked, in pieces again, in a garage in Camarillo. It and I are awaiting the delivery of a revised head gasket from Cometic, a revision that I feel personally responsible for putting into action. Cometic's Multi-Layer-Steel head gaskets were designed to be used in racing motors with high-strength studs and therefore designed for torque values in excess of 40 ft-lb.

The problem I had with leakage did not crop up until recently, since who puts an MLS gasket on a stock motor??? The stock studs can only handle 30-35 ft lb at MOST before they break, and that torque is insufficient to mash the little metal ridges around the oilways flat enough for good sealing.

The solutions to this problem are legion: use black silicone around the oilway holes; get high-strength studs ($$$) and torque it to 40 or 50 ft lb; or (free) get Cometic to redesign their gasket, restamp it, and send me one. This latter has been the most time consuming but the most morally satisfying.

I'm supposed to get the revised gasket next week. We'll see. I'll probably use black silicone with the new gasket too, because if I have to tear that motor down one more time I will be seriously tempted to push the whole assembly off a cliff into the Pacific.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More IPD Goodness

Man, if I'd known about these a few years ago, I could have saved the 240 owners I know a good chunk of change.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Trick track bike

When addictedtowheels came to Ojai for a much-anticipated visit two weeks ago, he helped me to finally lace up the wheels for the new bike build I have been collecting parts for over the last 6-8 months. I got the frame yesterday in the mail, and this morning I put it all together. The biggest reason for this bike is to have something to do tricks on, and this one can do barspins and is geared down a little for easier wheelies and riding backward.

...We'll see if I can actually develop the talents for doing such things.

It's pretty much a full-on hipster machine however; much more so than I anticipated when buying parts one at a time...but I love it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Volvo roof rack

It's all done except for spraying it with bedliner! I am amazed that I succeeded in getting it so straight and dropped into the rain rails perfectly, first try. Had to modify the hold-down clamps slightly, but it came out alright. Now it's all set for an old tire, a vintage Coca-Cola cooler, and a bunch of battered suitcases.

Just kidding...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Today at the Ventura Motorsports car show Charlie got to be the first Cools or Hayden (that we know of) to sit in a real Ferrari---and not just any Ferrari---a 1963 250 GTL! When he is old enough to understand what it's all about, he's sure to be car guy for life, whether he likes it or not!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

2009 IPD Garage Sale

Slideshow here.

Imprfct'd's IPD Annual Garage Sale and Car Show photosetImprfct'd's IPD Annual Garage Sale and Car Show photoset

Monday, May 25, 2009

Saab loving was needed

Hey, all-- crashbox tells me that some Saab loving was needed on the blog. I'm game. I look forward to posting this summer as I will be spending the dog days of summer tearing apart the 1987 Saab 900 (Devon) again to take care of a transmission pinion bearing and a leaking power steering rack. The 1990 900 Turbo-vert (Ulla) is being persnickety after a winter in the garage, but I guess it's my fault for putting it away with a few issues. Ball joints, driver's window regulator rebuild, and convertible top replacement are scheduled for the early weekends of June. I'm almost done re-upholstering the seats. Leather is stiff. The 1991 900s (my only naturally aspirated car, Seymour) has been a lucky find- $500 and no real issues. I am replacing the CV's to eliminate clicking and vibrations on sharp cornering, but that's all! New York's safety inspection is picky, and Devon failed (e-brake and power steering need rebuilding) just as Seymour became available. I left a note on the guy's windshield two years ago offering to buy his car if he ever wanted to sell. He saved my note and called me at the same moment, literally, as Devon failed NYS inspection. He told me to name my price. I low-balled at $500 because of the CV's and small amount of body rust. For a one-owner, well-maintained car, I think I got a steal. This takes a little bit of the pressure off the projects with Devon and Ulla. Anyhow, let me know if any hot Volvos need a date with a black Saab.

Friday, May 15, 2009

IPD Garage Sale

Well folks, tomorrow is the Annual IPD Garage Sale.

I'm hoping to take the camera and do an Imprfct'd exclusive scoop, with lots of pictures.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

With all the parts I need to start building the wheels for my new bike assembled, I am finally ready to bust out the Sheldon Brown tutorial and get to work! Though I had good luck with my previous wheels using some clothespins and the frame of the bike for truing(!), I felt that this time I should really use a proper wheel truing stand. There were none on, and ebay was way too expensive and takes too long to ship anyway. I needed an alternative...

There just so happened to be some old aluminum door frame pieces hanging around the shop as scrap, and I started thinking...

Sometimes you've got to make your own tools.