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Thursday, 18 August 2022

A Cure For Your Insanity Part 1: East Across Ontario


Due to financial constraints and various responsibilities I'd almost talked myself out of going to visit an old friend (we've known each other since he was 13) at his 50th birthday party last weekend, but I'm so glad I didn't.  Seeing the old faces and catching up was brilliant, but so was the chance to be out in the wind for days on my bike.  Sometimes it takes stepping away from your place in the world to gain the perspective you need to better understand it.

I left on a Friday morning as the sun beat down and temperatures started to rise.  I'd intended to take the Kawasaki but it picked up a flat last week and replacement tire isn't in yet so I turned to the trusty nearly 20 year old/84k Triumph Tiger to take me away.  Following standard GTA avoidance protocols I headed east instead of south to the crowded and manic highways of Toronto, which Google Maps always prompts me towards (getting there five minutes sooner is much more important than your mental health!).  Other than a traffic light in Centre Wellington not seeing me waiting (they're quick to road-tax me but slow to recognize motorcycles as a vehicle - I ended up putting the kickstand down and running over to the pedestrian button to change the light), it was clear sailing out of my increasingly crowded and poorly infrastructured home county.

Riding into the rising sun I made good time until I hit Newmarket, which was all poorly timed traffic lights and frantic citiots rushing to get one car ahead.  I was going to stop for a coffee but nothing presented itself in the strip-mall cookie-cutter desert of GTA expansion and rather than grate on about wearing masks all the time I preferred to just avoid the masses, so I pressed on out the other side and back into the country, except the country is now plastered with gravel trucks grumbling in and out of construction sites to build more housing for the ever expanding Greater Toronto Area.

I'd been on the road about two hours when I rounded the end of Lake Scugog on the Port Perry causeway and pressed on towards Peterborough.  At a four way intersection someone in a trophy truck (top of the line full-sized pickup with bling wheels and chrome that will never do a day of work in its life) ran the red light making a right hand turn in front of me.  I edged over in my lane ready to do something more drastic but he stopped.  The lead rider in a gaggle of Harleys coming the other way started making angry monkey gestures because he felt that I was encroaching on his lane (which he was cutting the corner on).  It's one of those things about riding in the insanity of Southern Ontario: everyone is very keen to tell you what you should be doing rather than making better decisions themselves.

I pushed on, hoping to get beyond the gravitational suck of Toronto driving culture.  Construction on the highway into Peterborough slowed things up again as people in massive SUVs rushed up the soon to be closed left hand lane to get a few cars ahead (and cause miles of backup), but if you're not driving a massive SUV and butting in line you're not doing it right.

Finally on Highway 7, I continued east toward Ottawa aiming for the Iron Rooster about halfway along the day one map.  Traffic thinned out and everyone settled into a less manic rush as the (sh)city fell behind.  After a stop in Marmora for gas I didn't really need but a stretch I did, I rolled on to the Iron Rooster for lunch.  I haven't seen any Ontario Provincial Police presence in my community for weeks, but on Hwy 7 there were multi-car speed traps set up every 300 feet or so.  By the time I stopped for lunch I'd seen over 20 police vehicles.  By the time I got to Osgoode (south of Ottawa) the number was over 50.  It's nice to know that the OPP is focused on bonus tax collection and making sure the insurance industry is getting its pound of flesh rather than looking after the communities it claims to police.

The Iron Rooster is a cool spot right off the highway with a big parking lot and indoor/outdoor seating that helps ease any covid anxieties (they roll up multiple doors to make the inside outside).  The entire place is motorcycle themed and specializes in rotisserie chicken in various sandwiches.  That focus makes for good food and I enjoyed "The Rossi" which was a "Rotisserie chicken tossed in pesto mayo with tomato, avocado and havarti cheese" on a toasted brioche bun, locally cut fries too, nice!

Moto-inspired philosophy on the wall...

A wee museum with some interesting old bikes in it and the walls covered in posters including everything from The Great Escape to On Any Sunday and Easy Rider - it was a great stop!

A 1918 BSA!

Coming out of the restaurant I ran into three native women who were out for a ride on their Indian motorcycles.  One of the nice things about riding is that it tends to remove the social barriers that prevent us from talking to each other.  We struck up a conversation about our bikes and I asked them if the name bothered them and they shrugged, saying it was a historical brand and they liked how the company represented their culture, and they loved the bikes (all three were on variations of Indian Scouts).  We then had a good talk about why we enjoyed riding so much.  Being out in the world on a bike puts you in touch with the thermoclines you're passing through and we all dug that you can feel the air and smell the smells when out in the wind; it puts you in touch with Turtle Island.

A distance was starting to form in my mind from where I've been feeling stuck in the village we moved into that is rapidly being converted into an urban subdivision.  As I rode away from the Rooster with a full stomach and some perspective, the old bones of the earth started to appear in the form of the Canadian Shield, poking up between pines and lakes (if you could see past all the police parked on the side of the road).

I had the smartphone clamped on the handlebars and when it wasn't barking instructions at me it was flashing speed trap warnings.  I used to drive Highway 7 quite often when I lived in Ottawa and the lakes, woods and stony Shield were always my favourite parts of the drive.  Fast food restaurants now litter the route and the prettiness is being chased away by an influx of people.  Those chain restaurants have done a good job of chasing small town diners out of business as well.  One of the magical things about urban expansion is that everywhere starts to look the same after a while.

Traffic was light and I made the occasional pass, but between the police blitz and volume of traffic, Highway 7 isn't the picturesque alternative to the 401 that it once was.  I wasn't in a rush to get to Osgoode but I found the smartphone's manic attention getting behaviour exhausting and when I did occasionally see a place I might stop it I found myself pushing on to keep to with the schedule Google had decided for me.  I finally turned it off and found I could enjoy the scenery and the ride more without all that noise.

Six and a half hours in I stopped in Perth to hang the phone back up and guide me in to Osgoode.  I rode past a the only non-franchise local coffee shop I'd seen on the entire ride because it was neck deep in construction and the phone was barking alternatives at me all through town.  As the sun started to stretch out the shadows I made my way into Osgoode on back roads and finally to a friend's place I could stop at for the night.

The ride east was enlightening and it started a process that has me rethinking many of the habits I've fallen into because of where I live.  There is a manic oneupmanship that is a central tenet of Southern Ontario driving culture, and it's something that makes everyone who buys into it supremely unhappy and stressed.  Getting one car ahead, even if it's wasteful and potentially dangerous is everyone's goal.

From many miles away I was thinking back to where I live as I rode the final miles of this Friday across Ontario.  Construction noises start before 7am every day.  Sitting outside for a morning coffee has you surrounded by the stucato gun shots of nail guns in the new housing division next to us harmonizing with layers of beeping from various heavy equipment backing up again and again.  This morning that was eventually drowned out by our neighbour's professional lawn service getting their industrial grade (helicopter-loud) lawn mower out (at 7:30 in the morning) to trim their golf-course perfect lawn.  With that never ending noise, dust and with thousands of new people moving into the area, my quiet village is no longer either of those things.  Looking back on it from that great distance across the province I wondered if I'm holding on too tight to something that simply isn't there any more.


Sunday, 9 January 2022

Brake System Maintenance on a C14 Kawasaki Concours

 I'm busy in the garage these days with the on-going 50 year old Triumph Bonneville restoration project.  It's a big project that will take some time to sort out, but it's -20°C outside with snow squall warnings of 20cm of snow coming, which means it's also regular maintenance time on the two running bikes in the stable.

Tiger's back in hibernation after last week's sprockets & chain maintenance, waiting for a break in another never-ending winter of COVID for a chance to ride.

Last week the Tiger got new chain and sprockets.  I hadn't done the sprockets on it since getting it over 5 years and 40k ago, so I figured it was time when I noticed the latest chain had stretch in it that made it impossible to set the sag properly.  This week it's all about the Concours.

I got the Connie last spring in the middle of the second lockdown.  My son and I rented a van and drove down to The Beaches in Toronto and picked it up from its second owner who hadn't been riding it for several years.  It's a very low mileage bike (under 30k when I picked it up), but I like to cover all the basic maintenance so I can set a 'zero point' for future work.

As you would expect from Kawasaki Heavy Industries, the brakes on the GTR1400/C14 Concours are superbly engineered Nissin calipers.  I'd picked up the pads last summer but they hung on the wall until now because I was putting miles on the thing.  I did find the brakes were squeaking a bit, suggesting the calipers weren't releasing properly - something that can happen in a bike that sits for several seasons.  Like I said before, I don't like riding a bike where I'm not sure of the maintenance, especially on brakes, so it was due.

Doing the pads on the Concours is remarkably easy.  You don't need to remove any body panels and everything is very accessible.  Undo the pin that holds the pads and spring that holds them in and then everything comes apart in your hands.  The pins were rough and there was some odd gunk stuck in the front right caliper.  I cleaned everything up and lubed it and then slotted the new pads into place with the now lubed pins (I think it's a #5 hex head that does the trick).  All very logical.

If you're looking for torque settings for the
brakes on a Kawasaki GTR1400/Concours
C14, here they are.
The rears are just as easy and a similar design with the same pin and caliper bolt sizes (everything is hex metric).  The back was as mucky as the front and I went to lengths to clean up the pressurized caliper slider and lube the pins and areas where the pads move.  The action immediately felt better afterwards.

Last spring when I got the bike I had to sort out a leak in the hydraulic clutch which resulted in entirely new DOT 4 brake fluid (what the Connie uses in both clutch and brakes).  Changing up your brake fluid removes impurities and moisture that can eventually cause real corrosion headaches in your brake system, so after doing the pads I changed up the brakes fluid on both front and rear systems.  The only fluid change left now on the Concours is the antifreeze.  I'll do that at the end of next season.  When I tested it the fluid it was still bright green, looked new and showed good temperature range.

Getting all the air out of the hydraulic clutch so that it felt tight and had positive action was a real pain in the ass last spring.  The good new is that this air-line powered vacuum system did the trick then (it's not crazy expensive) and takes the headache out of bleeding anything with steady, controllable suction.

In the case of the brake system, I set up the vacuum bleeder and then kept adding fluid in the reservoir at the top until it came out clear (the used stuff was darker and cloudier - it looked almost like water once the new stuff made an appearance.

Just a note:  don't keep brake fluid laying around open.  It collects moisture and goes off pretty quickly.  As with all brake fluid changes, I opened the bottle and then immediately used it this time.

The front brakes took less than 10 minutes to completely bleed of old fluid and the rears even less.  If you're doing your own brake/hydraulic fluid maintenance with any kind of regularity, let that hand-pump go and get one of these things (assuming you have an air compressor of course).

With the brakes sorted on the Concours and the sprockets and chain on the Tiger, both are waiting for a break in the weather for a cheeky winter ride to kick off the 2022 season.  As long as I'm not trying to navigate ice on the road, I'm good to go.  An above zero day and some dry pavement is all I need

Now that the regular movers (I was going to call them new but the Tiger is almost 20 years old and the Connie turned ten last year) are sorted out maintenance wise, it's back to the old Bonneville project.  Next up I'm rebuilding the two Amal carbs, then it's rebuilding the ignition system and then (hopefully) hearing the old thing bark for the first time in decades.


Sometimes the Bonneville can feel like it's too big to manage, it needs so much, but with two other working machines I'm never going to be angry with it not being ready, though I would love to have it running in time for The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride on May 22nd.  A '71 Bonneville with some early 70s retro style would be a blast.



Sunday, 2 January 2022

Changing Motorcycle Chain And Sprockets





I've done chains before but not sprockets.  It's a fairly straightforward bit of work you can do yourself in your shed/garage.  In this case I'm doing both sprockets and chain on my 2003 Triumph Tiger 955i which has over 80k on it.



With the bike on its centre stand I removed the rear tire.





I picked up a chain breaking and installation tool a couple of years ago and it has more than paid for itself.  It has pin sets that push chain pins out to break the chain (it keeps all the hardware in the handle so for the two+ years I don't use it I'm not losing parts).

It also has drop in pads that let me press new rivet chain connectors together.



The new vs. the old front sprocket.  The new one is 19 teeth, the old one 18.



The new front sprocket on the motor.  These are the parts I used:

RK 530 MAX-O O-Ring Chain Natural 114            $101.99
JT Steel Rear Sprocket 46T (530) JTR2010.46    $74.99
JT Steel Front Sprocket 19T (530) - JTF11           $80.19 (all prices CAD)

The '03 Tiger takes a 114 link chain, a 46 tooth rear sprocket and an 18 tooth front sprocket stock.  I saw a suggestion online that going to a 19 tooth front sprocket calms down the bike a touch (it can be jumpy off the line) while also revving a touch slower while cruising which should improve mileage a bit.






Not bad for the original stock rear wheel with over 80k on it, eh?  If you think modern Triumphs aren't well put together, this one was, and with quality parts.
I've had these on the bike since I got it over 30k ago.  Still not in terrible shape.  I've seen sprockets torn to shreds - some people must be very heavy handed on the controls to strip a socket like that.  I've had the Tiger pulling the front wheel off the ground under acceleration so it's not like I'm soft with it (it's getting this drive train maintenance because the old chain had stretched in places).  I'm curious to see and hear how the new parts work.






The new chain and sprockets on.



The connecting link (see it?) is pressed into place with the DRC chain tool which also pushes links together as well as pulling them apart..




The many directions and warnings on the back of the chain box.
The Tiger had a deep maintenance last year, so this year it only needed the chain & sprockets.  It's back under the blanket waiting for a break in the snow for a cheeky early-spring ride.  Next up is doing the brakes on the Kawasaki, then I'm into rebuilding the Amal carbs on the 50 year old Bonneville winter project.

If you're looking for torque settings and parts details for a 2003 Triumph Tiger 955i while doing a sprocket and chain, here they are:

  1. chain sag:  35-40mm
  2. drive chain adjuster (the clamp on the adjustable rings in the swingarm):  35Nm
  3. rear sprocket nuts:  85Nm
  4. front sprocket nut:  132Nm
  5. rear wheel axle bolt:  85Nm
  6. 530 chain with 114 links (if that seems confusing, check THIS out)
  7. 18 tooth front sprocket (though 19 is recommended)
  8. 46 tooth rear sprocket


Sunday, 28 November 2021

1971 Triumph Bonneville Restoration: Front Fork Rebuild

It's all snow and wind outside so I spent a good six hours in the garage this weekend rebuilding the front forks and the triple tree on the '71 Bonneville winter project.



The forks on the bike had been 'choppered' with massive fork tubes and spacers in them.  The bike came with new stock fork tubes so after a cleanup both front forks got rebuilt with stock fork tubes.  I'll put the chopper ones up for sale and see if it'll make a dent in the new parts order I got in.

The internals on the forks were in good shape (it has always been stored inside).  After a cleanup they went back together again nicely.  The picture on the right gives you an idea of just how long those fork tubes were (almost as long as the whole shock!).

The right side front fork went right back in no problem, but  the left side one won't fit in the lower triple tree mount (it has a bolt that squeezes it on but the circular clamp is too tight.  I've tried heating it up and wedging a screwdriver in the gap to respread it enough to accept a fork.  I shouldn't complain, this is the only thing that's being difficult on this fifty year old machine so far.

The lower fork unit as it came out of the giant chopper tubes.

The same piece cleaned up.

Parts diagram from the '71 Triumph's parts manual.

Meanwhile, the first parts order came in from British Cycle Parts.  They were great helping me clarify what I needed to get started.  The order was about $450 including shipping and got here quickly (within a week), one box from their Canadian warehouse and the other from their U.S. one.  I haven't started installing anything yet, but I now have what I need to rebuild the Amal carbs, sort out the electrical system and take apart the motor to prep it to run for the first time.

Motor gasket set!

Electronic ignition system and coils!

Amal carburetor rebuild kits!

Rubber bits!  This time 'round I got a new kickstart rubber & the gear shift rubber.

That's a stock style new rubber to replace whatever the f*** was on it.

The monkey who was choppering the bike put massive footpegs on the rear peg position,
but that doesn't make any sense on a chopper (they're usually feet up and forward).
These are the stock footrests.

Stock foot rests (and hardware)!

The plan is to rebuild the carbs, get the motor sorted, install the upgraded ignition system (which I suspect will also involve creating a new electrical loom) and then see if I can get it all to run.  Once I've got it a step closer to running I'll be back in touch with BritCycle to get the other bits and pieces I need to get it rideable.  The plan is still to get it to a place of getting a safety and putting it on the road next season.

I'm not a big fan of lost causes and I wrench to ride, so the point is to get the Bonneville back into service. After watching a lot of Henry Cole on TV, I like the idea of a 'rat bike', which also means I can focus on the mechanics rather than how it looks.  If I can get the mechanics sorted to the point where I can ride it, I'll do a season with it rough but rideable and then consider my options.  I got the bike and spares for $1500 and I've just put another $450 into it.  I think I can get it roadworthy for under $4000 and a non-running barn find bike of similar era was going for a grand more than that a few weeks ago online, so no matter what the Bonnie project won't ever drip red.

In a perfect world I'll get it sorted and some one will offer me more than I've put into it (cost, not time, I'm happy to put time in keeping bikes on the road).  Whether that's once it's roadworthy or once it's been cleaned up too, I'm easy.  Meanwhile the Bonneville is doing what I wanted it to:  giving me an opportunity to go deep on a motorcycle restoration and learn a lot in the process.

The motor's getting cleaned up and recommissioned.

Once the (now stock) forks are back in I'll wheel it out for a deep clean on the motor
and then start with the electrics before rebuilding the carbs.  With any luck the old Bonnie
will be to the point of starting by the new year.

Somewhere in between all this deep surgery, the Concours needs new brake pads and the Tiger has some new sprockets and a chain to install.  To be honest, these minor maintenance jobs are something to look forward to after the deep diving into the restoration project.

Last winter was a deep maintenance round on the Tiger, but even that pales in comparison to the scale and scope of the Bonneville restoration.  Practical Sportsbikes and Classic Bike are both magazines focused on hands-on motorcycle mechanics and both have talked about the dreaded project stallout that can happen when it all gets too much.  I'm taking the advice of both mags and breaking this up into chunks and then solving things subsystem by subsystem.  The small wins help me feel like like the project is progressing and prevent the dreaded project-stallout from being overwhelmed by the whole thing.

On the upside, the fact that we got 15cm of snow over the weekend isn't really on my mind as I'm keeping track of many things-to-do in the garage.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

The Curtain Closes on the 2021 Riding Season

Squeezed in one after work ride last week before the curtain fell on this year's riding season (I hang 'em up when it takes me longer to clean the salt off the bike than the ride was).  We're looking at a weather warning tonight and snow all week.  Yay...









Over the weekend I got the end of year maintenance done.  Both bikes got a deep clean and an oil and filter change and can now hibernate with clean oil, ready for snows to recede in 2022.  Over the winter the Tiger's getting new chain and sprockets and the Concours is pretty much just ready to go, which is good because that's why I got it.




Meanwhile, the '71 Bonneville continues to be dismantled in an archeological manner and I'm waiting on my first order from British Cycle Supply Co..  They should get me to a point where I can actually start the motor for the first time!

Monday, 11 January 2021

Motorcycle Parts Fabrication: CBR900RR Chainguard DIY on a 3d printer

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: