Showing posts sorted by relevance for query chain. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query chain. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday, 11 July 2014

How to Break/Resize/Install a Master Link on a Motorcycle Chain

A 2007 Ninja 650R with its pants down (chain and front
sprocket cover removed)
If you've never done chains and sprockets on a motorcycle before, they are complicated.  Being an open part of the drive system, they offer a relatively easy way to modify your bike's performance.  With smaller (faster) sprockets you can produce a revvier, shorter geared engine.  With a shorter chain you can close up your wheel-base creating a bike more willing to change direction.  Chains and sprockets are a bike fettler's delight.

On top of sprockets, you also have a pile of chain choices.  O-ring chains are the cheaper, lower efficiency alternative, while X-ring chains offer more efficiency and less maintenance at a higher cost.  They also come in a rainbow of colours and a variety of sizes from little dirt bikes all the way up to thousand plus cc super-bikes.  


Chain sizes and dimensions
From little dirt bikes to bike motors.
Chain sizing is based on the width of the chain and the length between the pins in the chain.  You've got match all these up with the right sprockets or it won't all fit together.  With so many factors in play, it pays to get a handle on chain mechanics before you take a run at changing the chain on your motorbike.

Here's a primer on how to break a chain.  Some people say cutting a chain but you aren't cutting it, you're breaking it by popping the rivet out and dismantling the chain links.

How to Break a Chain:

  • If you're removing your old bike chain, find the master link (it should be the one that's different from all the rest)
  • Put a chain breaking tool on the chain and push the rivets out - do a bit on each side at a time until the chain 'breaks' open.  I did this with a bicycle chain breaker (see bottom) and it worked fine.
  • Once you've 'broken' apart the master link the chain will come apart and you can pull it through and free of the bike.

To reduce chain size on a motorcycle:
  • if you have a 520 or smaller chain and a good motorcycle specific chain link breaking tool you can simply push the rivet through (see the video at the bottom)
  • if you don't have specific tools, grind or file down the rivet and then tap it out with a hammer and punch pin.  If you grind down the rivet you can also use a bicycle weight chain breaker (see a pic at the bottom) to push out the worn down rivet.
  • triple check which link you want to pull and use something like Gearing Commander to make sure you've got the right number of links in your chain.  (This is what I'm kicking myself for not doing).
  • Using the bicycle chain puller on filed down pins, I pushed on side and then the other and then repeated the process and the rivet popped loose along with the outer chain links.  Since you're only filing down the outer link (which you'll chuck after) it doesn't matter if you file into it a bit.
  • With the chain dismantled you should now have two inner links ready for a new master link.
Installing a New Master Link:
  • Install the little rubber washers on the master link rivets and slide it onto the chain - do this on the sprockets as it's easier to do with some tension on the chain.
  • put the last two rubber washers on and the end plate and then use the chain tool or some other kind of clamp to press the side plate on.
  • if you've got a rivet type master link you need a light hand and some patience to press in the rivet ends.  If you're too heavy handed you'll bind the chain and swear a lot.
  • The more traditional type of master link is the kind I was familiar with from bicycles.  It comes with a slid on clip.
Don't freak out if you've got the rivet type master link, just make sure you have the right tool handy.  The rivet type link is very strong and performs pretty much like all the other links if installed properly, which is why you'll find it exclusively on high performance chains.  Check out the youtube video at the bottom for a good primer on how to do this.

If you take your time and work through it slowly, you'll have a new chain on in no time.  If you want to get into sprockets the rears are remarkably easy to do.  When you remove the rear wheel bolt the wheel drops down and the floating rear caliper on the Ninja 650r simply disengaged and I hung it on the frame.  You can then remove the wheel.  The rear sprocket is held on with your typical nuts and was easy to swap out.

This front sprocket is a f&#*er.
The front sprocket was in good shape, so I gave up on it.  Others online have said that they are pretty straightforward if you have an air gun, but even with a breaker bar I couldn't budge the damn thing and I can pick up a car by the fender.  You remove the front sprocket by bending back the holding washer, putting the bike in gear, stepping on the rear break to hold everything still and removing the nut (it's a good fit on a big 27mm bit).  If there's a trick to this (other than getting a compressor, air tank and air tools), I'd love to hear it.

Follow up with Chain And No Agony for how easily the new chain went on with the right tools.


SOME CHAIN & SPROCKET LINKS THAT MIGHT BE HANDY:

If you've only got a bicycle chain
breaker, file or grind down the rivets
first before you push them out.
If you've broken bicycle chains before you know the basics.  Motorcycle chains are much heavier duty so the process requires stronger tools capable of dealing with stronger rivets.  If you have a bicycle chain breaker you just have to take your time and file down the rivet you're going to push through first.  It took me a couple of minutes of filing to do this.  Lazy people on the internet say buy a Dremel.  If you're lazy, that's what you should do.

VIDEOS

A video on how to break a motorcycle chain (skip to 35sec when the mechanic comes in) in order to re-size it using a motorbike specific tool

A good primer on how to install a master link (and how the pressed, rivet type master links work)

How to measure a motorcycle chain

Hillbilly mechanics: how to do a master link without special tools.

LINKS

Gearing Commander - a handy webpage that lets you compare different sprocket and chain combinations
http://www.gearingcommander.com/

DID company chain guide:

http://www.didchain.com/chainSpecs.html

Motorcycle Chain primer on about.com

http://motorcycles.about.com/od/motorcyclemaintenanc1/ss/Chain_Maint.htm

Wikipedia's history and technically detailed chain description
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roller_chain

Layout of a roller chain: 1. Outer plate,
2. Inner plate, 3. Pin, 4. Bushing, 5. Roller
An exhaustive history of chains!
ttp://chain-guide.com/applications/1-5-2-motorcycle-chain.html

How Motorcycles Work's awesome chain diagram:


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A Quick Motorcycle Chain Switch

After previous experiences breaking and installing motorcycle chains I figured this time it would be fairly straightforward thanks to a good tool and knowing what I'm doing.  The Tiger's chain had a pretty severe tight spot in it. When I set the tight spot to spec (40mm of slack), the loose part was wobbling around with twice that.  If I set the loose part to spec the tight part would rumble on the sprockets.  You could actually feel the difference in chain tension under acceleration as a surge.

The tool I got last time was quick to set up.  The blue 500 size chain pin pusher slotted right in out of the handle where it had been sitting since my last chain change on the Ninja over two years ago.

The Tiger chain is a 535 sized chain (wider than the Ninja's, but the same pitch length between the links - the Ninja was a 520 chain).  
With the pin pusher piece in place I tightened the outer bolt with a 10mm ratchet and it easily pushed the pins out of the old master link with only mild force on a small ratchet.


With the old chain removed I spent some time cleaning up the sprockets, which were in great condition.  The front sprocket was packed with years of gum from chain lube and it took a while to get it all out, first with a screwdriver and afterwards wiping it up with some WD40.  With it all cleaned off it looked like a bit of rust had found its way onto the front sprocket.



The rear sprocket was only covered in chain oil remnants and cleaning it up was easily done.



If you're not yahooing around and yanking on your chain like a madman all the time sprockets tend to last, especially big, beefy 535 wide ones; this bike has only been owned by gentlemen.  I might swap out the rear 46 tooth sprocket for a 47 tooth one to lower the revs slightly on the next chain, but that's years down the road, and with the sprockets in good shape, it seemed silly to do a full switch now.

A master link came with the chain which is a bit off-putting because Fortnine immediately filled the screen with master links after I purchased the chain, which I took to mean I needed one.  I guess I'll hang on to it, but if the chain I'm buying comes with it letting me know seems like the polite thing to do rather than encouraging an upsell.

The master link that came with the chain had an interesting process for installation.  I'm told this is quite common on bicycles now.  The master link pins have a threaded piece on the end of them.  You thread the long pins on the chain and then alternate tighten the bolts until they won't go any further.



This snugs the outer piece of the master link onto the pins.  When you're done you back off the nuts a few turns and then break them off with a pair of pliers.  It worked well.


A chain so new it's still covered in the wax it was packaged in to stop rust.
With the new chain set to 35mm of sag top and bottom and lubricated with chain wax (preferred because it doesn't make a gooey mess of things, sticks to the chain well and is also a lovely honey colour), it was time for a test ride.  A twenty minute ride in the setting sun up to 100kms per hour demonstrated all sorts of improvement.  The surging feeling was gone making the bike much smoother under acceleration.  In corners that surging could destabalize the bike, it doesn't any more.  The new chain is also noticably quieter.

This time round I think the actual chain removal and installation took about 40 minutes moving slowly and deliberately.  The cleanup of the front sprocket was what took the most time, though it probably did a lot to quiet the new chain (not running through a tunnel of goop on each revolution has to be better).


While I had the tools out I finished the counteract balancing beads install I started earlier in the week by doing the back tire as well.  With beads now in the front and rear tires vibrations through the handlebars are gone and the whole bike is rattle free at speed.  I never really got to try them out on the Concours, but what little I did seemed to work, and seeing as the beads are cheaper than taking in tires to get balanced anyway, why not?  I'm glad I did.

The Tiger is now as arrow straight and smooth as it can be.  It was a joy to ride it home as the sun set on Sunday evening.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Chain and no Agony

Follow up to Chain & Agony and How to Size and Replace a Motorcycle Chain...


The whole process of breaking the chain and installing it took about half an hour this time around.  The o-ring chain I got was easy to break using the tool I picked up, and installing the new master link on the chain took only moments.  The three in one DRC Chain Tool I got (chain breaker, outer plate presser, rivet presser) was easy to use and looks good doing it.  It might be my favourite tool at the moment.


The chain-breaking tool comes with two sizes of /privet pushing bit.  The blue bit was for 500 sized chains (the Ninja's is
a 520).  You back off the big bolt and install the push pin, then use the smaller outer bolt to push the pin into the rivet on the chain. The tool automatically centres the rivet, so you're true all the way through.
The new chain was a 120 link chain, the Ninja takes 114 links, so that's 6 links off the end.  The hole in the
top is where the chain pin falls out once you've pushed it through.
Close-up of the blue chain bit .  There is a pin inside it that the outer bolt pushes through, pushing the rivet
right out of the chain.  Once the pin falls out the chain falls apart.  You end up with a clean break and two
inner chain links ready to be re-attached on the bike with a master link.
Six links of the 120 link chain removed.  One pin is pushed right out, the other was pushed
out far enough to dismantle the chain.
I installed the master link on the sprocket - it keeps everything lined up and made installation easy.  After
pressing on the side plate (gently, checking that it's in line with the other links and the chain has play in it),
the only tricky bit was installing the retaining clip, it took a few tries.  When you get it though you know for
sure because it makes a very satisfying click.
With the chain back on and lubricated, everything is tight.  The change to how the bike feels is subtle
but very satisfying.  The engine feels much more firmly connected to the back wheel now.  No sags and tight
spots like on the old chain.

I got this mighty DRC Pro chain
tool
at Royal Distributing in
Guelph
.



Now that I've got a handle on this and the right tools for the job, chains don't worry me any more.  This process also emphasized how surgical bike mechanics are.  I started off doing heavy equipment repair as a millwright and then did a couple of years in automotive.  Compared to that kind of work, motorcycle mechanics feel more like surgery than butchery.  Patience and a careful hand are more important than brute force.

Now more than ever I'm looking for an old bike to dismantle and rebuild to get an inside feel for how motorbikes go together.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Chain and Agony, or, the End of Local Parts Suppliers

I've got to admit I'm a bit pissed off.  After trying to wrap my head around chains and sprockets online I decided to buy locally and have a chat with the parts desk at my regional dealer.  Since it was my first time doing a chain/sprocket replacement I figured I'd pay the extra cost and get some face to face advice.

Trying to get details out of the parts-desk guy was like pulling teeth.  He seemed frustrated with my questions and didn't offer up much.  I guess the logic there was, 'just bring it in to service.'  I left paying over $300 taxes in for what would have cost me $240 online, but was none the wiser.  I was at least assured that these were the specific parts I needed.

After a series of confusing and frustrating situations, here is the advice I wish the parts guy at the dealer had given me:

The Ninja 650r uses a 114 link chain, he gave me a 120 link chain but told me this was the stock chain especially for my bike.  He's not wrong, but he didn't tell me I'd have to 'break' the chain.  Here is how I wish it'd gone down:


You're going to need one of
these to break and master
link up a motorcycle chain.
It isn't expensive (about
sixty bucks)
Parts guy: "I'm ordering you the chain size for your bike, but it comes with six extra links.  When it comes in I'll get one of the guys to break the chain so it fits your bike specifically.  If you want I'll even ask him to do it when you come to pick it up so you can see how he does it."

He could have sold me a $60 tool (probably for more) and I would have left knowing what I was getting into, instead all I got was the exasperated face.  

When I hung the chain on the bike it was way too long (it was a 120 link chain going on a 114 link bike, but I didn't know that at the time).  I had to go digging to find out why the chain 'specific to my bike' obviously didn't fit.

This experience asks a larger question about brick and mortar stores versus shopping online: why would I spend the gas and time driving there and then pay the extra 20% for the experience if I can pay less online?  If there is nothing value added in me bothering to buy at full retail locally, then why would I do it?

Second up, I wish he'd have offered me some pragmatic advice for doing my own chain work:

Parts guy: "Is this your first motorcycle chain?  It's pretty easy to mess it up.  I'd suggest going for a basic O-ring chain for your first go.  If you botch the job you're only out fifty bucks and you've learned something."

I ended up buying the bells and whistles X-ring chain on his advice, and then breaking it a link too short (after looking up how to do that on that paragon of customer support, the internet).  It's an expensive learning experience breaking a chain so that it doesn't fit my bike.  At least it's still over 110 links and a 520 sized chain, meaning it'll work on a lot of other bikes.  Now I've not got to decide whether to seal it up and wait for an ideal use or try and resell it (at a loss).

One way or another, I don't think I'll be driving down to the local dealer again for parts, I get my questions answered with more patience on the internet, which beggars belief.

Note:  a couple of days later I went online and picked up a basic O-link chain from the same Japanese chain manufacturer from
Canada's Motorcycle (35% cheaper than the equivalent chain from the dealer).  In a matter of moments the chain was on its way (free delivery).  It got here in the same amount of time it took the dealer to order it in (but I didn't have to drive down to the city twice).  I'm all for buying locally and helping out the area economy, but if local business don't realize how they can add value to a local buying experience they're going to kill it stone dead.

Note²:  maybe it's only a motorcycle dealership thing.  I went to RONA to make an order for deck parts and they couldn't have been more fantastic, same with Universal Rentals in Fergus, equally awesome customer service.  Are motorbike shops just too cool to care?

Note³: See the followup post on how to break/shorten/master link a new bike chain for how-tos. 

Monday, 23 May 2016

Tiger Chains & Parts

Top gear at 4000rpm has me going
about 100km/hr, so it looks like I have
stock sprockets on the Tiger.
A one tooth more relaxed front sprocket
knocks a couple of hundred RPM off
the bike at 100km/hr and takes the
edginess off low speed throttle.

Chain & Agony: The Return


Now that I'm off a shaft driven bike, I'm back into the black magic that is chain geometry!  A trip to Gearing Commander has me working out the details of an '03 Triumph Tiger 955i's chain and sprockets.  The stock set is a 18T (eighteen tooth) front sprocket and a 46T (forty-six tooth) rear sprocket.  The chain is a 530-50 114.


A number of riders suggested a 19T (nineteen tooth) front sprocket to calm the bike down a bit.  The chain and sprockets are happy right now, but when it finally comes to a change, I think I'll go the 19T way.  Motorbike sprockets run backwards from bicycle ones - the smaller sprocket is attached to the engine, so the more teeth, the bigger the gearing.

LINKS & CHAIN INFORMATION


The 530 114 chain on the Tiger has a pitch of 5/8 of an inch (the 5 is 5 x ⅛" - a 4 series chain would be 4 x ⅛" or half an inch of pitch).  Five-eighths pitch chains have a  roller diameter of 0.400".    The 30 part of the 530 refers to roller width, which in this case is 3 x  ⅛" or 3/8th of an inch.  A 520 chain would have a roller width of 2 x ⅛", or a quarter of an inch.  If you want to understand chain sizes, get a handle on that rule of 8 (all the numbers refer to eighths of an inch).
The 114 refers to the number of links in the chain (its length).


How to change a chain on a Tiger (video)
Triumph Tiger 955i parts list

<- 520 and 530 chains & sprockets widths compared


Tiger Changes of Oil

A fifty dollar US ($300CDN) magnetic
oil drain plug.
Triumph magnetic oil drain plugs.
M14x1.5x16
(that's a metric 14mm width, 1.5mm distance between the threads, 16 mm long drain plug).

Entertaining Triumph oil drain plug banter (and the idea to put hard drive magnets on your oil filter, which is what I'm doing instead of ordering an expensive custom drain plug from The States).

The Tiger has been using a bit of oil (which is evidently within spec) but I don't know what the previous owner's mechanic put in it - putting in not Mobil 1 Synthetic (which Triumph states is the preferred oil) would be a great way to make money on an oil change.  If I swap in the good stuff, then I know what's in it.

I'm also putting on a K&N oil filter with a higher spec than the stock one and putting a couple of hard drive magnets on the bottom of it to catch any metal shavings dancing around in there.

I did the oil change yesterday. I've done thousands of oil changes (it put me through university).  If that oil was changed last fall I'm a monkey's uncle.  The Triumph filter on it had rust on it, the drain plug didn't look like it had been taken off any time recently.  Either the previous owner didn't do it, or his mechanic lied to him.  The oil was black and punky too, looking like it had been in there a long time.

With that all done I'll now look to see how much oil I'm missing every thousand kilometres (it's 3-400ml at the moment - but goodness knows what was in it or for how long).  The moral here is change the oil when you buy a used bike - you can't trust what happened before it was yours and oil is vital to keeping an engine running well.  I'm looking forward to seeing what new, correct oil does for the bike moving forward.


Other than keeping it shiny and lubricating cables and controls, there isn't much more needs doing.

It's supposed to be a beautiful long weekend.  I'm hoping to get out for some time on my very orange Tiger in my very orange Tiger shirt.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Sprockets, Chains & Walls of Rain

I thought I could make it down to Guelph to order my sprockets and chain and back before the rain hit.  The weather radar said there wouldn't be rain for over an hour.  I left at 2:30 and grabbed some gas in Fergus before heading down Highway 6.  It sprinkled lightly as I went, but it was just enough to take the edge of some truly oppressive humidity.

I got the sprocket and chains sorted out at Two Wheel Motorsport.  The chain drives on motorcycles are one of the first places people play with their geometry.  If you go to look up sprockets and chains for a 2007 Ninja 650r you're buried alive in neon chains and sprockets designed to look like shuriken.  By messing with the length of chain and number of teeth in the sprocket you can essentially gear up your bike, giving it faster acceleration (though it would also be revving over 5000rpm at highway speeds).  

For my first go-around with motorcycle sprockets and chains I went with quality and longevity.  The steel sprockets I got were Afam sprockets designed and built in Europe, they are very high spec pieces.  I stayed away from anything that's neon.  If you're curious, a 2007 Kawasaki Ninja 650r takes a 15 tooth front sprocket and a 46 tooth rear sprocket (that isn't always obvious as people rush to over gear their bikes so they go 0-60 faster).  I also got an X link chain, which offers a number of advantages over an O link chain, though they are more expensive.  The high quality sprockets (front and back) and a high tensile strength chain cost me about $300 taxes in.  They should be in by the end of the week.


Something wicked this way comes!
After wandering around looking at new bikes in the showroom for a few minutes I jumped back on the Ninja and headed back north.  As I turned on to Elora Road the sky got menacing, then it turned positively apocalyptic.

I've ridden through rain a fair bit, especially last summer when I was commuting on the bike.  This one looked turbulent though.  I stopped to zip everything up and take that picture and then I drove into a wall of water.

One of the nice parts of being on a bike is how connected you are to the world.  As I rode toward the darkness I knew this was going to be more than a sprinkle.  The clouds were scalloped and black/green and the temperature dropped ten degrees as I rode under them.  Then the smell of ozone filled my helmet.  I could see across the valley ahead that cars had their headlights on and the wipers were going furiously, behind them the standing wall of rain advanced steadily.


Hosed but home.
As the first big drops hit me I hunkered down on the tank behind the windscreen.  The wind picked up and I had to lean into it to hold my line, and then I rode into the water wall.  I like riding in the rain.  The bike is surprisingly well planted and if you want your visor to clear just turn your head and watch the rain roll sideways across it.  Of course, I like it better when I'm in rain gear, which I wasn't this time.  In about 10 seconds at 80kms/hr in torrential rain I was soaked to the bone, but I was only 10 minutes from home so I could get wet.  Cars were pulling over, the end was nigh.  Trees were bent sideways and it was night-time dark.  I made it the 10 minutes up the highway and turned on to back streets.  I was in my driveway a minute later.

After getting the bike inside and towelling it off I peeled off soaked clothes.  It was the first time I wasn't hot and sweaty all day.  I love riding in the rain.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Following Rivers

I just took a quick ride today along the Grand River.  In Ontario, where all the roads are painfully straight, you have to think geographically to find a road with some kinks in it.  Following the river offered something other than driving the Ontario grid.
Riding the banks of The Grand River

I got to the covered bridge at the end of the route and stopped for a photo.  I noticed that there was some drippage underneath the bike so I looked it over.  I'd just lubricated the chain before leaving so I thought maybe I'd put a bit too much chain oil on, but what was coming off looked runnier than chain lube.  A quick look under the fuel tank showed a gas leak.  
I got the bike home and took off the tank.  I hadn't been happy with how the fuel line had gone back on, it never seemed to sit right.  After futzing around with it for a few minutes it suddenly popped right on properly and locked.  No more leak.

It was nice to get out for a short (45 minutes or so) ride even with a headache on a cold, windy day.  It's been raining for days so I couldn't turn down a chance to get out, even for a little while.  Diagnosing and fixing a leak that quickly afterwards was just as satisfying.

I'd really like to find a junker that I can break down and rebuild as a learning exercise, but finding an old bike in Ontario isn't easy.  

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Micro Ninja

I picked up a Celestron digital microscope/camera a few weeks ago.  These are surprisingly cheap and let you take some astonishing video and photography on a micro level you might not otherwise get to see with a normal camera and even the fanciest macro setup.  

The model I got takes 4mb images and does high-def video at high frame rates (for smooth slow motion).  After messing around with ice crystals and eyeballs I turned the it on the Ninja.





I've always thought the petal type rotors on the Ninja are a nice feature, and up close they take on an abstract modernism that is really beautiful.  I couldn't help but critically exam them while they were under the microscope, they seem to be wearing very evenly.







Looking at the chain up close was another matter.  What I thought was a clean, well lubricated chain didn't look so clean under a microscope.  The road grit that gets caught up in the lubricant is obvious at even low magnification.  I suppose the only time your chain looks nice is before you use it.





The radiator fins made another interesting closeup.  These look perfectly formed and even to the naked eye, but up close the folds in the cooling fins look like they were made by hand.  It's another world when you get to micro-photography.  No corrosion and they look to be wearing well though.

The small-print on the tires are very sharp considering that they are branded into rubber.  The sidewalls look to be in very clean shape after my first season too.

What was freakier was looking at the micro-detail in the treads.  Motorcyclists have such tiny contact patches on the road, they tend to be much more tire focused than four wheeled vehicles.  With the naked eye the tires on the bike still look in great shape, but under the microscope they made me nervous.  Don't look at your bike tires under a microscope unless you've got a strong stomach:
That's the narrow end of one of the tread cuts on the rear tire (not quite a season old) of the Avon Storms on the Ninja.  Once again, they look in great shape to the naked eye, but tires are the sharp end of the spear on a bike and up close they show their wear in the tread grooves.  In this case it looks like the contact patch is in good shape but the rubber in the grooves has dried out.

As a photographic exercise the Celestron digital microscope/camera was a lot of fun to play with, and at only about fifty bucks it might also make a handy diagnostic tool (the photos are jpgs and the videos are avi, so you could easily share them with people too).  In video mode it could create high-def, high frame rate (slow motion) images as you scan over an area and show cracks or damage in fantastic detail.  It would be interesting to run this over internal engine parts after high mileage to get a sense of how they wear.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Five Years: Diversifying Motorcycle Experience and Finding Balance

After the first year on two wheels I began thinking about more challenging motorcycle projects that would diversify my experience.  Starting in year two I did my first away motorcycle ride, renting scooters and then a BMW around the southern end of Vancouver Island - that led to my first article being published in Motorcycle Mojo and gave me a lot of insight into variations in motorcycling.

In addition to pushing my riding experience in daring new directions (like riding two-up with my son on an unfamiliar bike on one of the most challenging roads in Canada), I also began looking for a bike that needed more than just regular maintenance to operate... a bike that needed me.


I discovered just such a thing toward the end of that riding season, a long dormant Kawasaki Concours that we had to cut out of the grass it was sitting in.  Something that old (twenty plus years at the time) had a lot of perished rubber on it, and when I finally got it up to temperature it also had a sizable oil leak.  The winter was spent getting a new oil cooler and lines, replacing a lot of rubber bits and otherwise getting this old warrior back on its feet again.

The Concours not only got me moving mechanically, but it also offered a real blank slate, something I've since realized is only available on well used bikes (unless you're loaded and like to pull apart new things).  I'd enjoyed the aesthetic restoration of the Ninja and was looking forward to doing the same thing on the Concours.  Getting an old bike and making it not only usable but unique looking has been one of the highlights of my motorcycling career to date, and a trend I intend to continue.  It's something that my current too-nice Tiger doesn't offer me.

The Kintsugi Concours became my go-to ride and the Ninja became my first sold bike.  It was difficult to part with something I'd developed such an emotional bond with.  I can understand why the people with the space and means hang on to every bike they buy.  Having beaten the selling a bike emotional roller coaster, I immediately went looking for another, but it took a while to finally find the right thing, and in the meantime the old Concours suddenly became less than dependable.

A KLX250 that couldn't do 100km/hr with me on it made me feel like I was overly exposed and under-powered while riding on the road, though it was a deft hand off it and gave me my first real off road experiences.  I held on to it over the winter and when there was finally a break in the never ending Canadian snow I thought this is the moment the KLX will shine, on dirty, just thawed roads - except it wouldn't start.  It was a lot easier to sell because I'd never fallen in love with it.  Getting $400 more than I bought it for didn't hurt either.

Later that summer I made my next motorcycle buying error and stumbled into an old Yamaha XS1100 sitting on the side of the road.  I ignored the three strikes against it (non-runner with no ownership being sold by a gormless kid) and purchased it anyway; I won't do that again.  I got lucky on the ownership - it was within a whisker of being a write-off and had a long and difficult history (I was the thirteenth owner!), but I was able to sell it on after sorting the ownership and just broke even.  In the process I stumbled onto a balancing act I hadn't considered before.


I love riding older bikes I wrench myself, but they aren't always ready to ride.  When the otherwise dependable Concours wasn't and my only other choice was an ancient Yamaha I'd only just freed up the brakes and carbs on, I found myself with nothing to ride as the cruelly short Canadian motorcycling season began.  I'd gambled too much on being able to keep the old bikes rolling.  With riding days so valuable in the Great White North, that wasn't a viable approach.

I still had most of the money from the Ninja sitting aside and my wise wife said to just focus on getting something newer and more dependable.  Maintaining that balance means having a riding ready bike and a project bike, and not messing up that equation.  To further complicate things, I'm a big guy so I needed a bike that fit, and my son was getting bigger every year and loved coming along, so I needed a bike that would fit us both.  Being the onerous person I am, I didn't do the obvious thing and buy a late model Japanese touring bike that runs like clockwork.

My daily rider suddenly popped up on Kijiji but it ended up being the most emotionally driven purchase yet.  Instead of a sensible five year old, low mileage Kayamonduki, I got bitten by a thirteen year old Tiger.  It was European, over budget, too old and with too many miles, but the owner was a young professional (nuclear operator!) and from the UK and we had a good, straight up chat about the bike.  I was honest about my position (the Tiger was out of my league but I loved it and wanted it), and he was straight up with his position (he was about to take it in to trade for a new Triumph at the dealership and even my lower offer was much better than he would have gotten on trade in).  I ended up feeling like I stole the bike for over a grand less than he was asking and he got more for it than he otherwise would have.  It was an emotionally driven purchase with a lot of rational oversight.

With all that good karma the Tiger has turned out to be a special thing.  I was only the third owner.  In thirteen years it had averaged less than 4000kms/year, and on two years the first owner had ridden it out to Calgary and back (seven thousand plus kilometres each time).  It had been power commandered (that had never come up in the purchasing discussions), indicating that the original owner had really fawned over this bike.  The guy I bought it off wasn't very mechanically minded and it hadn't had much in the way of regular maintenance, but then he hadn't used it much.  Within a couple of weeks I'd gotten it safetied, done all the maintenance and given it a good tuning - it has run like a top ever since.


It's an older, European bike, but fuel injection and a resurgent Triumph Motorcycles Co. using the latest manufacturing techniques means it's not a bonkers choice as a daily rider.  On the second year of ownership it fired right up after hibernating under a blanket in the garage, and it did again this year.  I've fixed some dodgy, plastic fuel connectors on the tank, changed the tires and done the fork oil and other fluids along with the chain, but other than the fuel fittings, it's all been regular maintenance.  The Tiger has been such a treat and it's such a rare thing (I've only ever seen one other) that I can't see myself letting it go.

Meanwhile the Concours became the project bike, but since I wasn't depending on it, the project took on new dimensions.  I stripped the old fairing off and ended up with a muscle bike like no other.  I've experienced some drift with this project and I think when I get it to a riding level I'll sell it with the aim to make my money back on it (shouldn't be too hard considering what I got it for).

I think the drift comes from biting off more than I can chew as far as tools I have on hand and time and a comfortable place to work.  If had welding gear handy and could do the fabrication I needed, I think I'd still be be pushing for an edgy completion to the project which has taken longer and has been more involved than I initially planned.  The heart is willing but I'm too tight money and time-wise to chase this big of a thing.  In the winter it hurts to go out in the garage and work on it and in the summer I'd rather be out riding.  Future projects might be more of a Shed and Buried/SPQR approach where I can get a bike sorted and back on its feet again, have some fun with it aesthetically and then move it on without losing any money on it.  Making enough on each one to keep me in tools and pay for the process would be the dream.


The sophomore years of motorcycling have been about pushing into more challenging riding opportunities.  From riding Arizona (another one that got published), to going to the last MotoGP race at Indianapolis to circumnavigating Great Lakes and Georgian Bay, I've gotten more and more daring and gone further afield with each season.

These years have also been about dusting off and expanding my technical skills and have seen me do everything from oil coolers to complete carburetor rebuilds.  The garage has gotten better and better in the process, though it's still bloody cold in the winter.  If I could find a solar powered heating system for the space I'd be a happy man.  If I had a heated, insulated work space about twice the size, I'd be even happier.  The other side of the coin is riding opportunities.  Living somewhere where you can't ride for 3+ months of the year isn't conducive to building saddle experience.  I'd be happier if I lived in an all year riding opportunity - or at least if I had access to such places over the winter here.


20 hours might have gotten me able to manage the basic
operations of a motorcycle - the Conestoga course was a
weekend with about 4 hours on bikes each day, then some
very tentative rides in the neighborhood got me to 20 hours.
At five years I feel like I've put a lot of time into improving my rider's craft.  I've also spent a lot of energy getting the rust off my mechanical skills.  What I most wish for the next five years is to maintain my hunger for more motorcycle experiences.  I'd like to try  a wider range of different bikes and types of riding and find a way to dig even deeper into mechanics.  This year I'm hoping to take an off-road training course.  In the future I'd love to find the money and time to take track riding, if not to pursue racing then at least to explore riding dynamics at the extreme end in a controlled environment.

If you put ten thousand hours into something you've developed a degree of expertise in it.  In each season I've tried to beat ten thousand kilometres of riding (and succeeded) before the snows fall.  Those fifty plus thousand kilometres have probably had me in the saddle for over a thousand hours and I've easily spent that again in the garage doing repairs and maintenance.  If feel like my motorcycle apprenticeship is well underway, I just need to keep finding ways to feed that expertise.




The light cover in the garage - a reminder...