Friday, 3 July 2020

DGR: Social Connections Challenge: Remember The Ride

I took a swing at the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride Social Connections Challenge with MOTR Garage in the last post, but that idea might not tick the "innovative and disruptive" box - motorcycle coops already exist, though not in the format I'm suggesting.  My angle was to leverage retired teachers to connect men inter-generationally, but otherwise it's an existing concept and not particularly disruptive, though it is scalable anywhere public education exists.

I just heard back from Motorcycle-Diaries and learned that I did not win their 2020 Dream Ride Contest, though being a top 5 finalist worldwide was pretty good by itself.  The winning trip by Theo De Paepe on riding to the northern lights is a moving piece worthy of the win.  Participating in this contest and reading all of these moving dream rides got me thinking about how digital connectivity might be used to reach out to younger potential riders lost in the digital wastes of 2020.

My own piece for that contest was on riding my granddad Bill's path though France as a part of the British Expeditionary Force in 1939 and 1940 before the Blitzkrieg swept them out of continental Europe.  William Morris's war record was another one of those family secrets that wasn't talked about, but his military service during World War 2 is the stuff of film.  One of only a handful of his RAF squadron that escaped occupied France, Bill recovered downed planes during the Battle of Britain and then experienced three harrowing years in Northern Africa fighting Rommel as a driver in the RAF armoured car division.  He finished his tour in the white helmets motorcycle stunt team, doing drill and stunts on motorbikes!

Discovering my Granddad's history was a great way to reconnect with a man I was close with as a child, but lost connection with when we emigrated to Canada.  As I was working through that family history I uncovered another mystery the family had been very quiet about, the death of my great aunt Faye.  My mum's middle name was Faye, but I hadn't realized she was named after her aunt.  I also didn't know that Faye had died in a motorcycling accident in Norfolk in the mid-sixties when she was hit by an army lorry.  My mother had always stridently opposed me riding, and now that all suddenly made sense.  That my great aunt's death ended my granddad's life long love of riding and also prevented me from getting on a motorcycle when I first started driving is a lasting source of frustration.

Motorcycling isn't easy, but it speaks to your very being, and it tends to self-select a certain kind of person.  It tends to run in families because families are literally all certain kinds of people.  Trying to bury my motorcycling family history only worked on me because I was an immigrant child separated from his extended family.  While I had uncles and cousins riding in the UK, I was oblivious in another country.

Finding my way back to my motorcycling gene played a big part in me eventually getting my license, though I'm frustrated at the lost decades I could have been riding.  It got me thinking about how many people are separated from family and live in a cultural void where they feel like they come from no one and from nowhere.  But we all have history, and many of us will have ancestors who rode.  Motorcycles used to be transportation before they became recreation.  Any rider can tell you how often an old timer will come up and start chatting about a bike they once owned - it happens to me on the Tiger all the time (Triumph is an old brand with a long history and a lot of old-timers have owned one).

DGR's Social Connections Challenge wants to focus on disruptive, on-the-ground projects that help socially disaffected men who are more prone to suicide.  As a group, immigrant children are more socially disaffected than most, growing up in a strange country where they have no extended family.  The UN's latest report has over two-hundred and seventy million people living as immigrants in countries they weren't born.  On top of that there are many more people living without connection to their family history for various reasons.  Having grown up in a place where I had deep roots and moving to North America, I often meet people who have no idea where their families came from or even who anyone was before their grand parents.  In the early 20th Century motorcycles were transport, not a recreational activity, so many people have family history on two wheels they know nothing about.  I speak from personal experience when I say that making that connection is a powerful thing.

With that in mind, here's another pitch to DGR's Social Connections Challenge:

Granddad Bill on his bike in rural Norfolk well before I was born.
Inspiration:  As an immigrant child I’ve been separated from my extended family for most of my adult life and missed out on motorcycling through family as a result.  After my grandmother’s death I returned home to England for the first time in three decades and discovered secret family motorcycling history which prompted me to get my license.  Family connections have allowed me to bypass the postmodern amnesia many people face; that feeling that we are no one from nowhere. Ride To Remember would be an online resource that connects riders and would be riders to their family motorcycling history.  Realizing that riding is a part of your personal history is powerful.  Not only would this encourage new riders to ride by normalizing what is now considered a high risk activity in our sedentary, safety-first societies, but it would also reconnect us to a sense of continuity and belonging through our own family history.  Motorcycling is an acknowledgement of an inclination that often has roots going back generations.

Target Group:  disassociated men who feel that they don’t have a culture or family history related to riding.  The UN reports over 270 million people have immigrated internationally, and many others are separated from family through circumstances such as adoption.

Proposed Solution:  An interactive website/online community that collects and shares family history related to motorcycling: an for motorcyclists.  By connecting disenfranchised men to their family history, I hope to offer them the same sense of belonging and cultural connection that I have discovered.  By leveraging online connectivity and modern data management, Ride To Remember collates historical motorcycle related media in an easy to access database surrounded by a engaged community that encourages disassociated men to rediscover their moto-roots.

Project vision:  the pilot period involves setting up a .org site that creates an online relational database of motorcycling history using existing online documents tagged with details that allow users to search for material based on time, geographic location, names and other details.  A.I. image recognition software would be used to web-crawl and archive historical motorcycle related online images and online sources.  Long standing manufacturers, museums and vintage motorcycling organizations already have online presences that would provide regional structures in this growing information cloud.   With a growing data structure in place, analytics would allow users to quickly find connections.  They would also be encouraged to add information to the database, further enriching it.  We are at a pivotal time where a lot of analogue material will get lost in digital translation, this project would also encourage digitization of photos and documents for future motorcyclists.  The final stage would be an interactive database that connects people to their motorcycling past and reminds us that none of us comes from no one, nowhere.

Project leads:  writers, photographers and family historians who ride (like myself), anyone with family history in riding (motorbikes used to be family transport!) would be encouraged to share their ancestral motorcyclists.

Project title:  Ride To Remember



The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride Social Connections:

Over 270 million immigrants in the world today:

My granddad's war history and my great aunt's death while riding was hidden family history that, once exposed, allowed me to embrace riding in a deep and personal way:

The Motorcyclist, by George Elliot Clarke - an ode to George's father, who rode at a time when Canada made it difficult for black men to do anything:

We live in a broken world where families are torn apart while chasing (or being stolen) by globalism.  There is a power in riding that self selects a certain kind of person.  Remember The Ride will reconnect lost people to family two-wheel roots that run deep.
Pier 21 in Halifax is the location of the Canadian Immigration Museum.  As a nation of immigrants, Canada is particularly prone to family amnesia.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Distinguished Gentleman's Ride: Social Connections Challenge

The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride is something I've wanted to participate in for a while now, though I never seem to have 'the right kind of bike', which is frustrating.  Fortunately I can grow a bad moustache as well as anyone else, so I've Movembered multiple times.

The DGR started in 2012 and has become a world wide event collecting millions in donations focused on men's health.  One of the main focuses of the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride is suicide.  Men are much more likely to do it and the DGR is now finding ways to support men socially so that they don't feel like this is a solution.  I've got family history with suicide and greatly appreciate the work this Australian charitable organization do around men's health, and particularly their focus on suicide prevention.  You can submit an idea up until July 6th, 2020.

I'm three of those things, so being mindful of suicide
is a wise approach.
As I was reading over this initiative I immediately thought of the various motorcycling cooperatives I've seen online where people get together and work on motorcycles, sharing tools and expertise.  The teacher in me likes the idea that this kind of mentoring could happen in a generational setting where both older men with knowledge and skills to share, could mentor new would-be riders who want to develop technical skills as they get into motorcycling.

Here's the goal for this project:

DGR continues by saying:  We know that:

  • The cultivation of healthy close relationships can increase individual resilience and act as a protective factor against suicide
  • Friends and family can be a significant source of social, emotional and financial support, and can buffer against the impact of external stressors
  • Traditional methods for engaging men about their health are often not effective and deter men from taking action for better health outcomes.
  • Programs designed specifically by and for men and reach them where they naturally gather are more successful.

O U R   S O L U T I O N  –  A N   I N N O V A T I V E F U N D I N G   O P P O R T U N I T Y :

Movember and DGR are proud to challenge the creative and forward-thinking people of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and the US to rethink the box and deliver innovative, concepts that lead to game-changing solutions targeting social connectedness, life satisfaction and mental wellbeing of motorcycle riders. For this initiative, we have prioritised middle-aged men who ride motorcycles and are dealing with key life challenges, and young riders in need of mentorship.

The focus goes on to explain exactly what they're looking for, so while I love the idea of a motorcycling cooperative franchise idea that would prompt shared garages all over the place rather than just in high hipster content urban locations, it might not be as scalable and on target for this project, but I'm going to pitch it anyway.

Here are the look-fors if you're thinking about submitting an idea (and if you've got one, you should):
The Inspiration Statement should describe the following:
  • Your inspiration for this Challenge
  • Who your target group would include
  • Your proposed solution to help male motorcyclists within your target group build relationships to increase their level of social connection, life satisfaction and well-being in an innovative and disruptive way
  • A brief description of your vision for the project beyond the pilot period
  • Project lead (and potential partners if known at this stage)
  • Project title
Inspiration:  I'm a technology teacher in our local high school.  This pathway began for me with my dad, who was a machinist and mechanic in the UK before we emigrated to Canada in 1977. We weren't well off, so if I wanted a car I had to know how to keep it going, and he always spent the time to do that work with me.  One day I asked him how he knew what to do as we repaired a head gasket on my car, and he said something that has stayed with me since, "if a person designed and built it, I can figure out how to repair it."  His mentor-ship led me to my career as a vocational skills teacher.  I've since watched generations of students develop their hands-on skills in technical trades.  I tried to start a high school motorcycling club a few years ago and got laughed out of the meeting.  Schools won't touch motorcycling, but there are other ways to introduce riding that benefit from the credibility and mentoring a teacher can provide.

Target Group:  cooperative education students (many of these are higher risk kids who lack male mentors), recent graduates who are usually forgotten by the system, young men in the community who may know the teacher from when they were in school, and middle-aged men who might even be parents of students; teachers connect through generations in their communities.

Proposed Solution:  MOTR Garages vertically connect men across generations.  Social isolaton can become particularly acute as men retire.  By recognizing and leveraging the skills and networks of retired teachers, this project provides a platform for older men to share their experience and expertise with younger men interested in motorcycling.  By giving older men purpose and an opportunity to share their experience, this project will offer a social space that many men lack.  Motorcycle mechanics offer men an opportunity to socially connect without off-putting social expectations.  While interested in the idea of biking, many younger men have no idea how to get into it. Through a shared motorcycle workspace, MOTR Garages provide a place for men to gather and learn around a shared love of riding.

Project vision:  Create a pathway for retired teachers to retain their links in the community and continue to share their experience and expertise with new generations of riders.  Schools won’t support a high risk activity like motorcycling, but many teachers ride and have developed mentoring and teaching skills that would facilitate the technical confidence many younger men lack.  Working through cooperative education in education and directly with men in the community, many of whom may be former students, MOTR Garages creates a space that values generational experience and sharing in a society intent on diminishing this connection between men.

Project leads:  retired educators with mechanical experience and a love of motorcycling; you'd be surprised at how many teachers ride.

Project title:  Mentoring Old-Hacks Tenacious Rookies  (MOTR Garage)


Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Mechanics

After another fraught week remote working in a pandemic working twice as hard to do half as much, I was at it again all Saturday morning before finally springing free for the afternoon, but I had a lot to do and I was already off-kilter from a two hour meeting.  I walked into my happy place (the garage) after once again spending too much time trying to work with people badly through screens (one of the joys of a pandemic is WAY too much screen-time) and went about reassembling the Tiger, which was causing anxiety by occasionally not holding an idle and stalling.  

The Tiger rebuild began poorly.  I couldn't find one of the two retaining bolts for the spark plug top I'd taken off the week before.  In the days between taking it apart and waiting for Amazon to get its finger out and deliver new spark plugs, the bike must have been jostled in my too-small garage and the bolts rolled off the head where I'd evidently left them.  I know better than that.  If I remove fasteners I usually put them in a container in groups or loosely reattach them to where they came from so they'll be there when I come back.

While that was going on I got Lloyd's message from Mostly Ironheads saying that I could bring the Fireblade in for a safety, so I cleaned up and got it over there for that.  He has some fantastic projects going on, I've got to see if he'll let me do another round of photos - that shop is half working garage, half motorcycle museum.  (He did let me do another round, they're here).

Back in the garage I was now frazzled with things going on in multiple places and the Tiger rebuild frozen by a lost bolt.  I found a replacement, but doing things half-assed means doing them for way longer than you need to.  It makes me feel like I'm my own make-work project.  I was angry at myself and swearing as I put it back together.  I took it out for a ride in the clearing afternoon weather (it had been threatening rain all morning), but the intermittent stall still happened, even after all the pain in the ass parts ordering waiting during a social distancing slow down.

I put the Tiger up on its stand and figured I'd take a run at it again the next day.  Then Lloyd called saying the 'Blade was all good except tires - so now I have to try and find some tires, in a pandemic (I did, Revco is fantastic).  I brought the Honda home got into a ridiculously complicated plan for suspending it so I could remove both wheels at once.  The end product looked more like a roof mounting for a sex swing when I finally gave up on it and locked up the garage for the night.


The next day I spent the morning brain storming ideas for a work project and then finally got to the garage mid-afternoon.  My mind-set was completely different this time.  Instead of being weighed down by worries from a meeting, I was buoyant from just having thought my way out of them.  In a good mood and with the importance of keeping my shit organized clearly at front of mind, I went about fabricating chocks for the front wheel of the Honda and attached them to Jeff's motorcycle stand.

They worked a treat and before I knew it the CBR was suspended and the wheels were off.  The brakes were pretty grotty, so taking it all apart, even if the pads and rotors do all meet MoT safety standards, wasn't a bad thing.  The music was playing, it was a cool, sunny afternoon and I was getting shit done.

As I disassembled the Fireblade, I was Sharpy marking parts, taking photos and batching fasteners together so I can find everything when I reassemble.  I've been mechanicking for too long not to do this, but a callous disregard for shop etiquette gave me the result I knew I deserved the day before, but not this time.  The jigs we create make the jobs we do possible, and vice versa.

What had taken me twice as long to do badly the day before, took me a fraction of the time to do better the next day.  Instead of spiralling into anger and frustration, I was in the zone.  Problems still occurred, of course.  This is mechanics where I'm dealing with immutable reality, I have to bend because reality won't, but rather than succumb to those problems I was agile and adaptive.  I can hear the sound of one hand clapping when I'm in the zone like that.  It feels effortless and completely engaging.

The Honda was sorted so quickly I turned to the Tiger and began the astonishingly fussy job of taking the fuel tank off (again).  What was tedious the day before became a matter of minutes the next day.  With the tank and air-box off (again), I looked over the idle control valve under the air-box and discovered one of the tubes going into the back of it was loose.  I cleaned up all the connecting and ensured they were tight and put some gasket compound on the rubber gasket to help it seal where it was squashed.

The whole thing went back together again equally quickly and the bike started and ran, so I shut it all down and cleaned up (some more good shop etiquette I'd been ignoring).

I'd gotten two days of work done in one, but it didn't feel like it.  Disappearing into the garage is one of my favourite things to do, but doing it when you're frazzled and fraught can mean you're bringing a lot of negative energy in with you.  That negativity can make you ignore best practices you'd otherwise follow and might result in simple jobs becoming much more frustrating than they need to be.

Just like when you're riding, you need to find your inner zen when wrenching.  Not only will it make you a better mechanic, but it'll also make the work itself a joy.


A couple of days later I was working through week six of the Science of Well Being course I've been taking and it went over the state of flow and how it induces a sense of happiness.  There is a lot of research into flow states, especially in terms of peak performance in sports, but any complex task, from painting to mechanics, will offer that moment when you're balancing your skills with your situation in a way that's so engaging you forget yourself.  That's actually what you're doing in a state of flow, you're so immersed in what you're doing that you don't have any mental acuity left to self realize.

Sony's mission statement:  what a place to work that would be!
If that doesn't clear it up for you, maybe the TEDtalk by the guy who invented the concept of flow will:

Sunday, 14 June 2020

One Tight, Not Too Tight

Now that the CBR900RR Fireblade project is sorted and on the road, I'm finding myself doing what the original intent was in getting it:  learning from a different type of motorcycle.  Unlike the heavy industry Kawasaki Concours, or the SUV of motorcycling Triumph Tiger, the 'Blade was built to a different design brief. The other bikes were over engineered heavy to last, but the the Honda is a feather.

That philosophy is at odds with the heavy handed git who owned it before me and managed to maintain it into such a state of disrepair that it kept it off the road for years.

From the rear brake cylinder that was assembled backwards and over tightened, to the over tight wheels and the slipping clutch I've just adjusted to actually be at spec rather than over-tightened, I'm finding the Honda was a victim of a heavy hand and unsympathetic mechanical inclination.

When I was a teen my dad was talking me through a head gasket repair on one of my first cars.  We weren't minted, so the only way I was driving was if I could keep an old car on the road; mechanical training was an implicit part of vehicle ownership for me growing up.  As we were tightening the head back on he made a point of talking me through the bolt pattern - always tightening opposite bolts so it would seat evenly, and then said something that I've never forgotten as we started tightening down the head:  "always one tight, not too tight."  I guess the guy who abused this lovely piece of Honda engineering into years in a garage never got such good advice.

Mechanical sympathy is an important part of maintaining any machine, but especially a motorcycle, where if you are cack-handed you can end up seriously hurting yourself when it breaks.  In that way, motorcycle mechanics are a lot like aircraft mechanics, it's a do it right or it can go very wrong kind of situation.

Part of that sympathy is taking the time to understand what the engineers who designed the machine want you to do in terms of looking after it.  In the case of the CBR900RR, Honda would like you to leave 10-20mm of play at the end of the clutch lever - this one was set so you could strum it like a guitar string.  This play is to ensure that the clutch fully disengages when you let go of it.  An over tightened clutch cable means it's always set to be slightly pulling and engaging the clutch.  Making it too tight isn't just a failure of the hands, it's a failure in thinking that wounds the machine.  In this case, the over-tightened clutch cable explains why the 'Blade was slipping RPMs when I opened it up.  A sympathetically tuned motorbike will give you a purity of interaction that allows you to more fully understand the machine.  This is one of the reasons why I value technical fluency so much, it puts your ability to operate technology into focus in a way that the technically ignorant will never realize.


Meanwhile, in the land of Tim where he's trying to keep a 17 year old European and a 23 year old Japanese bike rolling during the perilously short Canadian riding season, the Tiger's stalling when hot continues.  I've ordered a replacement air idle control valve from Inglis Cycles, who have once again exceeded expectations during a pandemic by sourcing the part from Triumph in the UK and getting it to me in about a week.

One of the nice things about the Tiger is that it's fuel injected, so all that carburetor management is taken care of, but the evil end of computerized fuel injection is that after seventy six thousand kilometres it's finally gone wrong, and an electronic system like that can go wrong in a lot of different ways. 

I'd never gotten into the Tuneboy Software that came with the Tiger (the original owner installed it along with a Power Commander), because if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  But now that it's broke, I got going on it the other evening.  Getting into the bike via a computer was pretty cool.  The software is Y2K retro-hip and the connection was straightforward.  The 20+ pages of instructions weren't really needed (I'm handy with computers).  Windows 10 automatically recognizes what you're plugging in (back in the day, WinXP would have needed drivers installed), and the software is responsive and quick to connect.  It occasionally drops connection, but unplugging it and plugging it in again resolved that each time.

The compact disk (told ya, Y2K hip!) had all of the stock maps for my year of Triumph Tiger 955i engine on it, so I saved what was on there in case it was some kind of cool specialty map the previous owner had worked out (dude worked at a nuclear power plant, so don't underestimate his tech skillz), and then I flashed it with the stock numbers, which took about 20 seconds and returned a confirmed result.  There is a slight lag, but otherwise this is easy to use stuff.

I then played with the diagnostics tool for a bit, hoping for some data that will help me isolate the hot idle stalling fault.  The software says there are no errors (promising that this is that mechanical failure then), and the only thing that looks out of place is a strange return on the engine temperature.  It seems to read accurately and then show -40, even when the fan is coming on, but if the fan is coming on and the temperature gauge on the dash is reading normally, I suspect this is something to do with how the software syncs with the on board computer rather than an actual fault, but I'm going to keep it in mind.

The problem with an idle fault on a fuel injected bike is that the engine management system is taking in data from a number of sensors and using it to balance engine activity, like idling, based on that information.  I've got the mechanical component that regulates idle on the bike incoming, and I hope that resolves the issue, but what I fear is that it's something else, and with these complex electronics systems could mean that anything from a dozen different sensors or relays to a loose or broken wire.  With any luck, it's that idle air control valve and I'm back on the Tiger... and the Honda, just not at the same time.

Motorcycle Destinations: Mostly Ironheads In Elora, ON.

There was a time when every motorcyclist was also an amateur mechanic.  Getting your hands dirty was the only way to keep early motorcycles running.  We're over a century into the evolution of the motorized bike now and, as in all places, digitization has taken over.  Modern mechanics are now called technicians and have to be as adept at communicating with the computers on a modern motorcycle as the old school types were at diagnosing a mechanical fault with their senses.  Both are complicated, but in quite different ways.  There are obvious advantages to modern bikes in terms of efficiency, ease of use and dependability, but motorcycling is inherently a compromise in convenience, and many of the iconoclasts who escape the clutches of automotive transport to ride in the wind question the replacement of human skill with automated assistance.

Back in the day the motorcyclist themselves performed many of the tasks that a modern day technician does, so what was left to the old school mechanic?  What you'd typically find in a pre-war motorcycle repair shop looked more akin to a machinist's bench than the antiseptic, electronically focused diagnostics bay of a modern day garage.  That ability to manufacturer your own parts and diagnose problems without computer support, using only your senses and your hands might seem simplistic and archaic, but it was nothing of the sort.  There is a secret art to working with pre-electronic, analogue motorcycles that trips up many modern technicians who, while adept in leveraging digital tools to diagnose digital machines and replace parts, struggle to diagnose and repair mechanical faults.


If you're into restoring older machinery, this vanishing skill set is hard to come by, but I'm fortunate to live near one of these rare, independent, locally owned shops.  Lloyd Gadd is the owner and operator of Mostly Ironheads in Elora, Ontario.  With decades of experience in mechanics, he approaches motorcycle repair old school.  His shop is part machinists, part mechanics and part historical ode to The Motor Company.  Lloyd focuses on older Harley Davidsons, but as the name of the shop implies, it's not an exclusive focus.  Lloyd is also a qualified mechanic who can do everything from MoT safeties to changing a tire.

I was in there most recently getting last winter's Fireblade project safetied, and in the process Lloyd's prompt service got me looking at a better way to do motorcycle tires that will save me a significant amount of money.  While I was over there I also did a round of photography to give you a sense of what goes on in this old school shop.

Multiple engine rebuilds of air cooled Harley twins were ongoing in this small but dense workspace.

Unlike like most modern shops that simply refuse to work on long term mechanical or machinist driven repairs in favour of high turnover/quick to repair parts replacement, Mostly Ironheads will actually machine parts and rebuild a motor from the ground up.

It's a whole other level of mechanical commitment when you are prepared to turn your own parts out.

Lloyd has a number of customer projects on the go, and also makes a point of collecting older and vintage parts.  If you're fan of Harley Davidson you should make a point of riding up to Elora and checking out what's on hand - in many cases you'll see parts that are so rare that you may never have seen them before, even if you're into classic hogs.

Lloyd told me the story of a 1950s Harley racing motor he'd come across.  Only one of the two heads is accurate, but he's on the lookout for a replacement - though seven decades old serviceable racing parts don't survive well, as you can imagine.  When he has this rare piece of motorcycling history back together it'll be one of the few remaining complete Panhead racing motors in existence.  You might think that's a one off, but not in this shop.  Even if you're not into HD, this place is an ode to moto-mechanical history and worth a stop.  Air cooled bikes have an aeronautical aesthetic to them that modern bikes often miss.

The machining needed to sort this head out is impressive.  It had worn down below spec so is now being built back up and reground to specifications.  When you can machine your own parts, you're as much an engineer as you are a mechanic.

 Being a restorer, Lloyd is always on the lookout for parts, and the shop is an ongoing work in progress, with parts coming in and getting sorted and stored until needed.  Previous customers, online and estate sales and various other connections like the Harley Owners Group mean Mostly Ironheads are able to draw in older parts, often found in boxes of 'stuff' that get dropped off.

Lloyd mentioned a customer who dropped off a box of stuff while clearing out space at home.  In the process of going through it they discovered an unopened complete carburetor assembly still in the original factory packaging from the mid-sixties!  There is a joy in bringing a piece of history like this back to life, and the joy is alive and well at Mostly Ironheads.  If you're in Southern Ontario, it's an easy ride up north of Guelph to the shop.

This is that racing motor - one of the heads is incorrect, but the rest is intact and very rare!
 These are the cam lobes for that racing head compared to a typical one.  Not only is the racing cam lobe lighter with hollowed shaft, but it's also heavier duty in terms of strength.  Here and here are good primers on cam profiles if you're curious.  Whereas the right side regular cam is designed for long term use and efficiency, the more radical racing came on the left is designed to stay open longer, rev high and produce more power, though it wouldn't idle well, get good mileage or run smoothly.  But when you're aiming for all out speed, you'll put up with that just so you can wind it up and go.  You're unlikely to see mechanical history like this anywhere else in Ontario.

In addition to the restoration work going on, you'll also find an eclectic mix of older, finished air cooled Harleys ranging from customized choppers to more standard rides.  If you're into older, air cooled machinery, this will really float your boat.

Lloyd's area of interest extends from post war bikes all the way up to the last of the air cooled, carburettor fed bikes.  If you're into graphic design, you'll see everything from post war art deco to sixties and seventies disco and eighties futurism in the logos and bike designs.

There are some core elements to Harleys (like v-twin engines), that evolve slowly, but design wise they're much more in tune with their times than you might have assumed.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Rubber Maths

I've looked into the savage world of motorcycle tires before.  Way back in 2016 I got fixated on customizing the rims and putting new rubber on the Kawasaki Concours, and got introduced to the expensive nature of buying half as many tires that wear out way faster.  That first time left me with a $500 bill for getting 2 Michelin Commander sport touring tires installed and left me wary of the expense.

More frustratingly, I ended up using the Counteract balance beads anyway because the caveman weights used on a traditional balance machine still left the wheels with a wobble, so that $500 bill ended up being even higher, though it did make me feel way better about using those beads - they work better than weights and a technician half paying attention to the balancing machine.

In 2017 the Tiger's tires were getting tired, so I was once again at Two Wheel trying to get in for service (they suggested a one month wait was likely that time - local car tire places really need to look into this market).  At that time they were pricing Michelin Anakees at about $420 for both, with another $100 for installation which was only the tires because if I wanted service within a week instead of a month I had to remove the tires and bring them in myself.  With taxes and incidental costs that crept in on the bill, those two tires ended up costing me almost seven hundred bucks, and I had to take the damned rims off and put them on myself!

Fast forward to 2020 and supply chains are in tatters (not that they were that good a couple of years ago).  After trying to contact Two Wheel and getting no response to multiple attempts, I started looking elsewhere.  No local tire companies do motorcycles - you're missing a market there everyone.  Motorcycle tires wear out quickly, get replaced often and cost more!  The only motorcycle focused company that could be bothered to raise a response was Revco, who were responsive and delivered the tires quickly and efficiently, even beating expectations I'd have had pre-pandemic.  If you need motorcycle tires in Canada, Revco can and do deliver!

Where am I at with costs this time around during a pandemic?  Counteract Balance Beads were just under thirty bucks, the two tires were $126 & $155, so the whole bill came out to $310.  I'm at $360 including taxes and delivery.  Lloyd at my local independent motorcycle shop, Mostly Ironheads, installed them for $100, so now I'm at $460 for this round of motorcycle rubber.  That's 35% cheaper than my last pre-pandemic tire buying experience.

Just out of curiosity I looked up the same Michelin Anakee tires I put on the Tiger three years ago that ended up costing me $500 just for the rubber.  They're starting to square off and have a fair number of kilometres on them, so an over-winter tire change is likely this year.  On Revco three years later they're $382 delivered with taxes, or 24% less expensive.  Even Lloyd's newly updated shop costs for installation at Mostly Ironheads are less than dealer costs in 2017, and are done in a day with the same amount of fuss (I still have to remove the wheels).  I'd be at $482 ready to roll when it cost me $700 three years before.

I know where I'm going and how I'm getting tires fitted from now on - and I'm even supporting my small, locally owned shop in the process.  The only thing preferable would be my own tire installation machine, but I can barely fit in the garage as it is, so that'd only come after a house move.  With the deficit in service around here, maybe I should just be doing motorcycle tires out of my garage anyway.