Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Trials And Tribulations

I was just thinking this morning that our backyard is basically designed to be a trials bike playground (it's all hills, stairs and rocks), and after giving them a go last summer at SMART I'm still interested in developing those skills - it'd also turn my backyard into a gym!

One of the Bike Magazine writers set up a trials track in his tiny, British backyard to stave off the COVID madness.  I've got more yard than he does that's better suited to trials... so why not get one?

One just came up on Kijiji for under two-grand.  It needs clutch work.  I'm not sure what GasGases are like in terms of finding parts, especially for one that old (it's almost 30!).  GP Bikes in Whitby is a GasGas dealer, so there's at least one dealer in the province.

That'd be get fun to get muddy and sweaty on come spring, but it doesn't work and repairs are uncertain... and he still wants nearly two grand for it!  I've half talked myself into going for it.  The Tiger's almost done its winter maintenance and the 'Blade is ready to rock, so I even have the bike stand free to work on it.

Some other GASGAS Research:

Links on where to find GasGas service and parts
GasGas parts!  
Another GasGas parts source
Trials Bike Buyers Guide
Canadian source for trials bike tires
Revco does Trials tires, it's about $400 for a new set of rubber.  I know I can install them myself now.

In the world of unlimited funds a fully electric trials bike would be an awesome thing to have, but the ones I'm seeing are north of ten grand, which seems like a lot to pay for a toy.  It'd be a lot even if I was competing on it.

Electric trials bike research:
... maybe one day.

I should watch this again, then I'd be going down to Georgetown to pick up that GasGas (I'd also be able to show up at SMART Adventures next year and wow Clinton Smout with my mad skillz!

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

How Many Bikes is Enough Bikes?

One of Peter Egan's articles in Leanings is an answer to the age old motorcyclist's question: how many
motorcycles is right?  
Egan's list follows his own interests in the sport.  His suggestions are:

  1. a sportsbike for short, focused rides that are all about dynamics
  2. a sport touring bike for spirited long distance riding
  3. an off road bike (though this could be a bigger dual sport or adventure bike, not just a dirt bike)
  4. a Harley for long distance 'Merican Dream type rides
  5. an old nostalgia machine that takes you back to a bike you couldn't afford when you wanted it
He suggests that more than five bikes is too many and you end up with them going stale and getting covered in dust or getting so few miles they get musty.  Collectoritus is another thing,but if you're a rider with a working stable, five's the limit.

I've had a crack at the bike stable before, though Ontario's craptastic insurance system makes that more frustrating than exciting.  There are a couple of Peter's choices that are very specific to his interests that I think I can cut or clump into efficiencies.

The easy drop for me is the Harley.  I'd combine the touring with sport-touring in a Kawasaki Concours 14 that is big but athletic and can carry more weight two-up than a Harley anyway and with suspension and serious performance.

Shaft drive means it'd be a low maintenance device and, being a Kawasaki, it would run more or less forever.  We rode a previous generation one in the Arizona desert and it was brilliant; powerful, comfortable two up with luggage and surprisingly agile in the twisties, just what I'm looking for.

I figured that the sportsbike thing would get sorted with the Concours, but the Fireblade has changed 
my mind.  I don't need a brand new digital weapon.  Something light weight and minimalist would do the trick.

The 'sportbike' is more a 'cornering dynamics bike' - the point of it is to go on engaging rides where you're riding to ride rather than get somewhere, so a naked bike could do the job too.  To that end, if I had my choice I'd look for a naked alternative as it'd be easier on my old bones, though for anything up to 90 minutes I'm fine on the 'Blade, so I'm not in any rush to swap it out.  The naked bike I've always had a thing for is the Kawasaki Z1000 with it's anime like sugomi styling.  If it was a cost-no-object thing, I'd have a Z1000 in the most lurid orange I can find in the garage.

The dirtbike thing is another one of those opportunities to splice together a bike that'd do many jobs.  If you really wanted to condense things you could take the sports touring, touring and off-road categories and combine them together in something like the spectacular new BMW 1250GS that I rode last summer at SMART Adventures Off Road Training.

But as I get better at off road riding I realize what a compromise a big adventure bike is in really doing it.  Like the SUV that proceeded them, ADV bikes are so expensive and heavy nowadays that, while they might handle a bit of gravel, they aren't useful for trail riding or anything like off roading in more than an unpaved road kind of way.  I like the idea of getting deep in the woods and I like things that aren't so special that you're always worried about scratching them.  I wouldn't want to think about one falling on you in the woods.

This Honda 600XL came up last week on Kijii for under two grand.  I'm a sucker for that colour scheme and the gold rims - very 1980s.  Having something that old and simple would be nice to work on and straightforward to maintain, even if I wanted to get down to complete engine rebuilds.

It might be a bit too old for what I'm looking for as its function would be to get beaten up in the woods so something newer would be better, but that colour scheme...

Back in 2019 I went and looked at a Suzuki DR650 that had been purchased by a local farmer as a field bike.  He had a heart attack and died shortly after bringing it home and it sat in his barn for four years with no kilometres on it.  His wife was selling it for $4000 and I still regret not picking it up, basically a brand new machine (albeit one that's sat for a while) for 60% the price of a new one.

Something like that would be light and capable of trail riding while also being dependable and not so precious that a scratch would wind me up.

At the end of the day, if space wasn't an issue in my wee garage and Ontario's insurance system wasn't so nasty, I think these would be my five:
  1. Athletic Distance Machine: (Kawi Concours14)
  2. Dynamic Rider: (Fireblade, Z1000, or another light weight sport or naked machine)
  3. Adventure Bike for Canadian Exploration (roads suck here, even if they're paved, and they often are suddenly not. An ADV bike will cover the rough over long distances)
  4. Dirt/Trials Bike (a pedigree machine for intentional deep woods trail riding)
  5. Revolving Door Bike (project, by and sell, experience something new bike - sometimes even a Harley!)

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Peter Egan's Leanings

 I'm reading Peter Egan's Leanings at the moment.  Great book, and especially as a Christmas present for a motorcyclist since it has you riding along with one of the best motorcycle writers in a generation at a time when you can't do it for reals.

The book starts with longer stories ranging from Egan's first travel piece that got him a job at Cycle World to increasingly exotic trips to Japan for new Yamaha introductions or rides down the Baja Peninsula.  What makes it work is Egan is always Egan and he brings his small town Wisconsin thrift, good humour and love of bikes with him where ever he goes.

As a writer about motorcycles, reading Egan's book offers some useful insights.  One of my takeaways is: don't dumb down your writing.  Say what you mean as well as you can possibly say it.  Egan's not the only writer like this.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is more a philosophical post-graduate treatise than it is a book about bikes, yet many people who ride get into it.  When I finally read it I was stunned that so many others think it such a fine thing - it took my entire degree just to make sense of it!

There's a folksiness to Egan's writing that reminds me of Neil Graham, the former editor of Cycle Canada.  They both have a kind of relentless honesty to their writing and are willing to embrace their eccentricities.  That's all good writing advice whether you're doing bikes or something else.

The long writing pieces are great but so are the shorter articles at the back where Egan takes on everything from mortality and aging to family tradition and engineering, though he tends to shy away from anything technical, which is odd because he was a mechanic for many years.

Because the pieces are chronological, you end up follow Peter through his life from poor, struggling student to established writer.  The original pieces weren't designed with that narrative in mind but the layout of the book causes this trajectory to emerge, which is a nice thing to see as you're finishing the book, though it also reminds you that Peter's riding years may soon be behind him as he's in his seventies now.

I'm just finishing up the book now and I'm going to miss diving into it and listening to such a natural storyteller bringing bikes alive, though I can always get Leanings 2 (or 3!) and keep going.  Unfortunately, 2 doesn't seem very available and is quite expensive on Amazon.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

2003 Triumph Tiger 955i Winter Maintenance Continued

Winter Maintenance List:

Front end chassis maintenance:

Rear end chassis maintenance:

Got the backend back together yesterday:

Today it's the rear brake caliper going back on with new HEL brake line, then a brake bleed and if I have some extra time I'll finish up all the hardware bits and pieces on the front and rear and then turn to the engine.

The fuel injectors are coming out and getting ultrasonically cleaned and the rest of the system's getting a flush.

The odds and ends went together well.  Even the brakes were quick to bleed, so with the wheels back on and the new brake lines installed I turned to the fuel injection.

The injectors highlighted in yellow above are press fit in and just pull out of  the throttle body and the fuel rail behind.

The fuel rail is held in by clips and two bolts holding it in place relative to the throttle body.

The whole thing just pops out when you've undone the two bolts.

With the fuel injectors so easy to remove, I'll be quicker at cleaning them in the future.

Ultrasonic cleaners aren't expensive and do a great job on fuel injectors.

Cleaning doesn't take long if you remove the rail and injectors.

Ultrasonic cleaning gets into the small places.

The injectors press fit back into the throttle body with a beefy o-ring to seal them.

My fuel-line replacements for unavailable replacement rubber hoses for the vacuum driven idle control system (on the right) scored a two out of three.  The far one on the left got kinked, so I cut back the hose and I'll see how it does shortened.  If that doesn't work I'll start looking for stronger walled alternatives.

Monday, 11 January 2021

CBR900RR Chainguard DIY

The 1997 Honda CBR900RR didn't come with a chainguard, so I thought I'd 3d model one, but I wasn't sure what they looked like, so I did a bit of research.

Honda used the same chainguard on all the mid-late 90s CBRs, so if I can find a CBR600 F2 or F3 or a CBR900, they'd all fit.  If I can't find one I'll cabricate one.

Honda CASE, DRIVE CHAIN (CBR chainguard)

Part # 40510-KY2-700

This Honda 40510-KY2-700 CASE, DRIVE CHAIN (A) fits the following models and components:

Honda Motorcycle 1997 CBR900RR A Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1997 CBR900RR AC Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1996 CBR600SJR AC Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1996 CBR600SJR A Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1999 CBR900RR A Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1996 CBR600F3 AC - SUPER SPORT Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1996 CBR600F3 A - SUPER SPORT Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1992 CBR600F2 AC - SUPER SPORT Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1998 CBR600F3 AC Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1998 CBR600F3 A Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1997 CBR600F3 AC Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1997 CBR600F3 A Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1995 CBR900RR A Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1995 CBR900RR AC Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1994 CBR600F2 A - SUPER SPORT Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1991 CBR600F2 AC - SUPER SPORT Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1999 CBR900RR AC Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1994 CBR600F2 AC - SUPER SPORT Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1991 CBR600F2 A - SUPER SPORT Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1993 CBR900RR A Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1993 CBR900RR AC Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1996 CBR900RR AC Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1996 CBR900RR A Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1995 CBR600F3 AC - SUPER SPORT Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1995 CBR600F3 A - SUPER SPORT Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1994 CBR900RR AC Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1994 CBR900RR A Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1993 CBR600F2 A - SUPER SPORT Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1998 CBR900RR A Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1998 CBR900RR AC Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1998 CBR600SE AC - SMOKIN' JOE'S EDITION Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1998 CBR600SE A - SMOKIN' JOE'S EDITION Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1992 CBR600F2 A - SUPER SPORT Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 1993 CBR600F2 AC - SUPER SPORT Swingarm
Honda Motorcycle 2000 RVT1000R AC - RC51 SWINGARM ('00-'01)
Honda Motorcycle 2000 RVT1000R A - RC51 SWINGARM ('00-'01)
Honda Motorcycle 2001 RVT1000R AC - RC51 SWINGARM ('00-'01)
Honda Motorcycle 2001 RVT1000R A - RC51 SWINGARM ('00-'01)
Stock Honda Chainguard (above)

An alternate design for the same bike:

14cms between the mounting holes on the swingarm.

Print that scaled to a 14cm on-centre gap between the mounting holes and it should fit like a glove.  Time to see if we can fabricate something!

Here's the STL file if you want to mess around with 3d printing your own chainguard:  

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Triumph Tiger 955i Swingarm Installation

It's my first time doing a motorcycle swingarm so I knew it would be a learn-as-I-go experience.  Today I reinstalled the swingarm and that was definitely a case of learning as I go.  I hope this post saves you a lot of swearing because I've already done it for you.

I had to lever the swingarm out with a tire iron, it's a tight fit in the frame.  Removing it was tricky but reasonably straightforward with the some leverage between the engine and the swingarm.

Undoing the top bolt on the shock was a bugger (it's in an awkward spot inside the frame) but small motions over and over again eventually got it loose.  The Chilton manual says to remove the exhaust system entirely (which also means the oil cooler and radiator), but that seemed like a big faff.  Adrian Molloy .com had some good advice: instead of taking half the bike apart just take the swingarm out with the rear shock attached then dismantle it off the bike.  Not sure what Chilton's thinking was in removing half the motor to get the swingarm out, but removing the rear shock with it is a much more efficient approach.

I cleaned up surface rust on the top of the rear shock and rust painted it.  After cleaning the unit it was still in good shape otherwise so I let the paint dry overnight and then aimed to service the swingarm and reinstall it today, which turned out to be a bugger of a job.  The right side sleeve in the swingarm pivot wasn't turning but the left side came out easily and still had grease on it.  I lightly heated the swingarm and tapped it through with a 15mm socket bit that fit the sleeves perfectly.  I then cleaned them up and got the bearings turning before looking them over.  Once freed up they got a thorough cleaning and re-greasing using the Mobil XHP222 grease Triumph recommends.  The stuff that came off wasn't the same colour (dark red instead of grey), so I suspect whoever was in there last just threw on whatever they had on hand.

Installing the swingarm was another bugger of a job. It's a tight fit and has thin washers that sit between the swingarm and the frame.  They move around when you're trying to squeeze the swingarm into the frame and drive you around the bend.  You can see them in that picture in the middle.  Every time you squeeze the swingarm in it pushes the washers out of place.  I put a 14mm socket in which holds them in place, but it's a finicky process that I just couldn't get right.

What finally did work was loosening the engine mount nut below the swingarm that holds the frame so tight to the swingarm.  Loosen that off and you can install the big through bolt into the the left side of the frame with that side's washer in place and then thread it through the swingarm.  Once the engine mount bolt is loosened off you can the slide the wash in on the other side and then finish pushing the big swingarm retaining bolt though before tightening everything up again.  Needless to say, I greased the hell out of all that too.

There might be a way to install the swingarm with those fussy washers another way, but it was beyond me and I was running out of expletives.  Loosening off the engine bolt is a top tip for swingarm installation.

I'd also recommend you do the swingarm service if you haven't as mine was essentially seized on one side even though it was in good shape otherwise.  I think the bike's going to feel much more responsive as a result thanks to all the chassis lubrication and maintenance I've been doing this winter.  Below is what that engine mount nut looks like (above the exhaust and under the swingarm).  Loosen that off and the swingarm installation is straightforward.

The lower bolt that holds the shock in place on the swingarm is always awkward as it lines up with the exhaust pipe (which is probably why Chilton wants you to remove the whole exhaust system along with the radiator and oil cooler necessitated by that).  Since the rear shock just drops out with the swingarm that seems like a wrong headed way to do it, but what do I know?  Once it's out the lower bolt for the shock is easy to access.

Everything is moving freely and easily back on the bike.  My weekend's up but I'm hoping I can get the back wheel on this week and finalize all the bits and pieces on both the front and back ends.  That'll end the chassis maintenance portion of our program which included:
  • front fork removal, cleanup and new fork oil
  • reconditioned the fork gaiters (was going to replace them but reconditioning did the trick)
  • triple tree removal, cleanup and regreasing
  • swingarm removal
  • rear shock cleanup and reconditioning
  • cleanup and regreasing of swingarm pivot 
Unmentioned but something I also did while things were in pieces were the brake lines that now have new, custom Hel performance brake lines on them.  They look fantastic, installed well (the kit had all the hardware including new hollow bolts as well as washers) and make a nice, not-so-subtle (they're SUPER ORANGE and disco blue) upgrade to the brakes.  They should offer better response than the stretched, old rubber hoses that were original to the seventeen year old Tiger.

When you've got the front end out installing the brake lines is easy.  Same with the back end, so why not do it while access is easy?  The brake fluid was due a change anyway as I last did it in 2017, so the lines weren't that expensive because the bike would have been getting new DOT4 fluid anyway.

Some advice on brake fluid:  don't buy a big bottle as once you've opened it time is ticking because the stuff absorbs moisture.  Just get what you need and no more.  Keep it sealed when you're not using it and use it as quickly as you can.  I'm about half way through a normal sized bottle of DOT4 having bled the front brakes.  I should be able to bleed the rears on that one bottle and then not have the rest going off.

To dos this week include:
  • install the newly rear tired rim on the swingarm
  • finish the rear brake line install and bleed it (can't do that until the caliper's back on the disk)
  • go over all the fasteners front and rear and make sure they're all torqued up right
Once the chassis is sorted out I'll turn to the engine and go over the fuel injectors.  I think I can ultrasonically clean them in my new cleaner.  This isn't my first rodeo with the fuel system (it had issues last summer), so I'm hoping a deep service in the cold of a Canadian winter means my too-short riding season will be spent riding instead of swearing at faulty fuel injection in 2021.  No intermittent stalling this year!

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

DIY Motorcycle Tires

My first go at motorcycle tires way back with the Concours left me with a staggering dealer bill for nearly $700 for two tires installed.  That made me a bit jumpy about moto-tire changes.  Last time around I did a pair of Michelin Anakee 3s on my Triumph Tiger.  For that one I purchased the tires online and got them installed at my local shop.  That cut the cost down to just over five hundred bucks for two tires installed which is the way to go if you don't want to get your hands dirty, though I still did in both cases because I had to take the tires off the bike to get the professionals to do the job.

This time around I thought I'd order in the tires and do them myself.  I did a lot of tire changes as the tire guy at Canadian Tire during my misspent youth and know the process, but I don't have any of the pneumatic tools at home that made the job quick and easy.  A good piece of advice came from buddy Jeff, who suggested it's a good idea for anyone who rides to do their own tires at least once so you're not doing them on the side of the road for the first time, or getting taken to the cleaner by a shade tree mechanic who sees you coming from a mile away.

Doing tires by hand is easy if you do a couple of things to help the process.

Make sure you've got your direction of travel
worked out - bike tires aren't obvious in terms of
direction of rotation like cars are.  I should have
looked at which side the speedometer was on
but got distracted by just getting the new tire on.

When I couldn't get the old tires off at home I took them in to school and the auto-shop teacher and I did the job, but in the process of putting the tires on we must have got the front turned around and ended up installing it backwards.

It was a sweaty job the first time so I wasn't looking forward to doing it all over again, except this time I had a couple of tricks in hand to help things along.

Tire Installing Hack One:

Warm up the tire! It's Canadian winter here and cold tires are way harder to take off and put on.  This time around I left the tire on the rim on a heat vent by the front door before taking it out to the garage.

Warm tires are much more malleable and easy to dismount and mount.  If you're working in a cold garage this becomes doubly important.

Tire Installing Hack Two:

Use a lubricant to help the tire slip on the rim.  We used soap and water in the shop at school but I had an old bottle of Armour All sitting in the garage and used that to great effect.  A moisturised tire stretches more willingly and pops off the bead and back on again much easier than a dry one, and Armour All did the trick even better than soap and water.

Tire Installing Hack Three:

Be especially careful about inner tube placement if you've got them in your tires.  Pinching one can take you all the way back to step one again.  It's easy to get them seated inside the rim well away from the bead, but if you rush you can make problems for yourself.

Tire Installing Hack Four:

Save yourself the costs and logistical headaches of getting your new tires in for balancing by using Counteract Balancing Beads.  I've used the balance bead kits in tubeless tires with excellent results, so this time I got the Counteract inner tubes that include the beads inside.

I've installed bead kits into inner tubes before but it's a fiddly process (easy on tubeless tires though).  The kit that included new inner tubes for my 17 year old ones was a good choice that wasn't much more expensive than a new inner tube without the built in balancing.  Don't be skeptical about Counteract bead, they work!

Tire Installing Hack Five:

Get yourself some good tire spoons.  I got this Neiko long handled spoon set from Amazon and they've been good tools.  They're tough, built to purpose and the long handle gives you ample leverage.  At only $35 for three long handled spoons and the rim protectors, it's also an inexpensive way to make a hard job easier.

Using the first spoon to pry the tire off the rim, you can then work your way along keeping one in to hold the tire off the rim while the other two work together to work the edge of the tire off.  Soon enough (especially if things are warm and lubed), you've got the tire free.  They've installed 3 tires already (the front one twice) and still look brand new.

Thirty-five bucks in tools and a couple of common sense steps and this time around my tire change cost me $460 which included the two Michelin Anakees and Counteract beads delivered to my door.  Looking at those Michelins that cost me a fortune dealer installed way back when, I can see the same tires with Counteract beads delivered to my door for $462, or about $240 less than what I paid four years ago.

DIY tires are the way to go as long as you've got the right tools and know the tricks.  And if you're ever struck on the side of the road you'll know how to get into them and patch up the inner tube because the mystery will be gone.