Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Winter Is Here

 We're still tooling up equipment at the shop in preparation for snow plowing season. There have been a few slippery days when I went out salting but no pushing yet. Its this time of year when I need to get my head in the game and think about the tools available to me and safely using them. A while back I posted about a pic I look at to keep myself in check. I have a few for the winter season too.

 I bet I've plowed this drive fifty times. What you can't see is a row of rocks on the left edge of the drive. I accidentally touched one of them with the snow plow and it upset the truck just enough that I went into a slide. This is a U shaped drive and I already had dumped a little bit of salt on the bottom near the garage door. This was supposed to prevent the problem I had of sliding into the door but my slide started too close to the top of the drive and I gained a lot of speed on the way down. There wasn't enough snow to build up in the blade and slow me down and I wasn't able to make the turn. The result was a broke ass garage. If I would have plowed up from the bottom I would have also had a broke ass salt spreader.

 A few years back under a different employer I had a plow route that included a lot a steep drives. Word got around that I was willing to do these drives with a truck and I ended up doing some of the worst drives in the area. Hey, I was getting paid to go 4-wheelin!

 These two pics are the same drive. I would get stuck down here everytime I tried to plow it. Even though I would drop salt on the way down there were two off-camber sharp turns where the blade wouldn't scrape clean. This meant to get back up the hill I needed to do some shoveling and haul a bunch of salt in a bucket. I don't miss this drive. It was exciting for a while but really a lot of BS. These days the excitement comes from trying to manage a crew and get everything done on time. Nothing steeper than a loading dock for me.
 If you're out there dealing with snow I wish you luck. May your salter never freeze up and your blade raise every time you hit the button. If you're traveling, be aware of the plow trucks. Most of them are in a hurry to complete their routes on time and many have poor visibility when backing up. Remember that a lot of these independent guys are out there twelve hours or more. They are tired and frustrated because there are always cars parked in the wrong spot. It might do you well to cut them a little slack.
 Enjoy the snow and have a safe winter!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Timing Cover

 Yesterday was to be a shop cleaning day. I did get some cleaning done but what I really wanted to do was work on the sportster. I needed a quick project to fit in between the ritual of returning tools to their home and gathering up scraps of steel that didn't make it on the bike. I wanted to make my own timing cover and that seemed like a quick easy task.

 I started by removing the original cover and tracing its size onto a thin piece of sheet metal.

 Nothing fancy here.
 I took it to the grinder and got it close to the final size.

 The belt/disc sander was used to bring it down to final size. I then marked and drilled the two holes that will be used to rivet the cover to the housing.

 The next step was to bastardize a few "Greasy Shop Rag" stickers so they would form a circle rather than their original oval shape. The piece I applied them to is a magnetic backed vinyl sheet. The only reason I used this stuff is because it was white and I didn't have any white paint but I did have some spray adhesive. Anyway, then it was sprayed with clear coat.

 This sheet was cut to size and glued to the sheet metal piece I created earlier.

 Now I have a one of a kind timing cover, at least until I make one for the Rat Turd.  I've gotten some feedback on the stickers. It seems many of my friends think they're cool but the female fans not so much. I guess guys think poop is funnier than girls think it is.
 Listen, I have a lot of these stickers. If you want some just ask.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fly Like an Eagle

 I got a chance to mess around with the sissy bar over the weekend. I squirted some paint on it. Nothing hi-tech here, just a rattle can paint job.
While that was drying I took a look at my rear fender. It fell victim to my cut off wheel.
 After a coat of black paint and some clear I decided I would try out an idea I had.
I'm not done painting it yet. Can you see where I'm going here? Hey, if it looks like total crap I'll sand it down and squirt it black.

Uh, ya. I wish I had painting talent. I don't like sanding either so who knows how long it will stay on there. Maybe I can get one of my kids to do something with it.

 This seems like a good time to add a pic of some wood carving my father did a few years back. This piece has a 3 or 4 foot wing span. This is just one example of some really awesome work he does. A few more examples can be found here, here and here.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Iron Butt

 I enjoy long distance riding. It's something I can do well. For me it comes easy, for some others not so much. I never had any interest in being a jock or a rock star or a politician. I'm not good at those things. I fix crap and enjoy riding. A good combo I think.
 There was a time when my wife bought me a nice new touring bike. Before I had that bike I never heard of the IBA or Iron Butt Association. Someone once asked me if I ever did any Iron Butt rides and I didn't even realize they were talking about an actual series of rides dedicated to long distance enthusiasts. Before this I never paid much attention to how many miles were ticking over on the odometer.
   After investigating the IBA website I decided I would document a SaddleSore 1000 ride. The goal is to safely travel 1000 miles in under 24 hours. Keeping track of time, location and mileage is done by collecting gas station receipts.
 It was July of 2000 around Independence Day. I decided I would take advantage of the long weekend. The forecast sucked for riding but guess what, it sucked for cooking out and parades too. I laid out a route that would cover a thousand miles of interstate. I slept in late and left the house in the late afternoon so that I would still be fresh for the night time portion of the ride. The first fifty miles was state highway then after a couple hours of interstate I crossed the Mississippi river and entered Minnesota.
 Somewhere north of the twin cities I encountered road construction. They weren't out there working on the roads at midnight in the pouring rain but the road was definitely under construction. Both lanes were open but they were uneven. One lane was waiting for another layer of asphalt. There was no paint on the road and visibility sucked. The rain was consuming the windshield and any light was exploded into a magnificent star burst of distraction. Because I had lifted my foggy visor to try and get a better view, my clear glasses got wet and were also starting to fog up.
 I soldiered along for awhile. I was pretty much alone on the road. No hurry, just keep pushing along. The rain was coming down so hard it was bouncing up off the road. My headlight couldn't pierce this wall of water and mist that seemed about a foot off the ground. Even if the road had painted lines on it they would have been masked. The rain just wouldn't let up but I was just as stubborn.
 Two things finally made me get off the road that night. The first was my low fuel light. I exited twice but both times all the gas stations were closed. I knew I had no more than fifty miles left in the tank. I had a gps with me but the screen turned black about an hour ago. My paper map was now just pulp so I didn't know how far it was to the next city. If I was gonna run out of fuel I preferred it was in daylight. I dunno, just one of those personal rules of mine.
 The second reason I pulled off the road was because someone in a car decided to tail gate me. I don't know if he thought he was helping or if he was just an idiot but with his headlights reflecting off all the water on my shield it became almost impossible to see. What I finally did see was something that has become a welcome sight on many rides. It was the blue "rest area" sign.
 I parked the bike and sloshed my way over to a picnic table under a tree. Wet is wet but if I were to categorize states of wetness it would go something like this:

Dry. Not wet at all.

Damp. This could happen from heavy exercise or riding through the spray from a farmers irrigation system thats not adjusted to the field just right and extends into the road.

Wet. You rode home from work in the rain. You knew you'd be home soon and could warm up and dry off easily.

Soaked. Your clothes won't absorb any more moisture. You experienced this state of wetness only for a short period of time.

Miserable. You don't have to be soaked to be miserable but there are three factors that must be present. 1-your feet must be wet. 2-a lot of moisture must have found its way down your ass crack and into your groin area. 3-These things have to been bothering you for an extended amount of time.

 I was in a full blown state of miserable wetness. I left my helmet on and laid on top of that picnic table.  I eventually dozed off and actually slept pretty good for about three hours. I was awakened by the sound of a harley accelerating out of the rest area. It was a very quiet morning and this harley wasn't excessively loud but I heard it for a long time. I took my helmet off and could still hear it. I don't know why but this memory sticks with me like it just happened and I think about it a lot.
 It was done raining. I ate a vending machine breakfast then got on my bike and headed out. I found fuel. Pretty soon I dried down to a state of just being soaked. I wasn't even half way to my 1000 mile goal yet but the closer I got to home the wetter I got.  If this kept up there was a good chance I would arrive home just damp.
 The rest of the ride was uneventful. Me, a bike and my thoughts. I continued to Fargo, ND then headed south to Sioux Falls, SD then east back through Minnesota and into Wisconsin. Theres a gas station two blocks from my house. It was my official starting and ending point. I logged 1145 miles in 19 hours. Three of those hours were on a picnic table. Its really not a matter of speeding. Its more about time management.


 I sent in the paperwork and received my official certificate of completion for the ride. I've done a lot of 1000+ mile days since then but never felt the need to get them certified. Whether it be a scenic country ride, a spirited twisty back road jaunt or a full day just eating up miles...its all good.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


 I'm new to blogging. I started because it was suggested it would be an easy way for me to share progress on some of my projects. As I started reading other blogs I noticed many people offering stickers promoting their blogs. Cool.
 As it turns out my wife works for a very large promotional products company called 4imprint. She told me they have an art department that could help me design whatever I wanted. I had a rough idea so I searched through the many choices of size and style stickers that they offer. When I found one that would work I drew up a rough sketch and sent them an email of my idea. I included some notes to give them a feel of how I wanted it to look. The next day I had three options in front of me. I selected one to work from. I would make a request, they would make the change and I would approve it or make another suggestion. My new smart phone allowed me to do this while I was at work without missing a beat. After just one day of these exchanges I had a design I was happy with. I was surprised at how easy the whole process was.

 I wanted it simple. Its actually busier than I had originally planned. I had the option of adding more color but again I wanted to keep it simple. It's a scruffy rat. Why? Rats, as in rat bikes, are cool. Home built ingenuity is too. To me a rat most closely portrays that in a lovable little character. This adorable creature is dropping a deuce while reading "the greasy shop rag". Nothing fancy here, just a bunch of crap I put in writing. Plus, poop is funny. A steaming pile of rat crap is even funnier. I added the chain around the outer edge to try to give it a motorcycle feel.
 So, if you want a sticker just click the pic on the right column. Leave me your name and mailing address and I'll send some out. You can also use that link if you have any comments you don't want to share publicly.
 Thanks for the stickers Honey!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Excess Baggage-Met The Goal, Now What?

 I didn't have a whole lot of free time this week for the bike but I did manage to get a little done. If you haven't been following then you can find part 1, part 2 and part 3 here.

 I started with a cardboard template of the area I wanted to cover with sheet metal.

 I traced the pattern onto the sheet metal and cut it with the plasma cutter. The top was just hammered over a 4" pipe to get the bend.

 On the bike with the rack in the stored position. I'm still planning on chopping the fender off.

Rack deployed.

 It looks huge from this angle but its only 9" at the widest point. Right now I'm thinking I may cut some holes or other pattern in the sheet metal so the rack can be seen from the front. My other option is to just paint the area behind the rack in a lighter color. Not sure yet, maybe I'll even come up with some other idea.

UPDATE: Today is a new day and I decided to take a look at the bike with the bag on it.
 I thought what would happen is I'd put the bag on a decide it would hide everything and I could leave the sheet metal alone. Instead what happened is my head is swimming with ideas. Up to this point I would just start working on the sissy bar and an idea would flow out and I'd go in that direction. Now that I have met the goal of being able to haul the bakpac and a styrofoam container, I have lost direction. There are so many possibilities with tail lights, cutting the fender, paint and ventilating that piece of sheet metal. I may have to let this one soak for a while before moving on.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Excess Baggage-pizza extensions

 If you've been following my sissy bar build part one and part two then you may be interested in my latest progress.

 Here is the fold down rack and the parts for the side extensions. There were a number of ways I could have done this. For a while I was convinced I was gonna use a gas cylinder to push out the sides.

 Instead I decided to go with springs hidden in tubes. I welded little stops on the ends of those rods and tapped the tubes for a stop screw.

 I wish I would have thought about this folded down look a little more. Good thing this will never really be seen much because when its down there will be something on it. As far as size goes, I think I'll like it. From this point forward the side extensions will be referred as "pizza extensions". Thanks Frank!

 Here the rack is folded up with the pizza extensions tucked in. I was just checking to make sure it fit, its not bolted in and thats why its not centered right now.

 Here's a different angle to give you an idea of the width of the rack. As I complete aspects of this build it frees my mind for new ideas. I still have to decide if the license plate will get mounted on here or on the side of the bike. I have to make a final decision about the rear fender and I also have to make some decisions about lighting.
 I know I'm gonna want to hang my helmet on the top of the bar. I've brushed up against it and ripped my shirt twice already. I don't want it to tear my helmet liner so I may have to trade cool for practical and round the tip a little bit.
 That's all for now.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Excess Baggage continued

 I found some time this weekend to work on the sissy bar. Its getting pretty big but I think it can be functional while letting me express myself a bit. Part one of this build can be found here.

 The hoops are a rack that will keep my bacpac from riding on the tire or whatever fender I may go with.

 This is the start of the fold down rack. The main purpose of this rack is for hauling styrofoam containers of food when the mood strikes.

 I spent a lot of time drilling and grinding. I had to figure out how to get the stops shaped right so the rack will be level when open.

 Its funny, this isn't what I was envisioning when I started today. I like to start with a general idea and let it develop as the build goes on. Thats what I like to do but many times I over analyze things and end up with a mess.

 In the raised position the rack won't be visible from a side view. I had planned to add a piece of sheet metal to the front of the bar. Thats why the rack stop was made out of that ugly piece of 2" flat stock at the bottom of the sissy bar. Now I'm not sure. I don't think it really matters as the bacpac will be on the bike most of the time and cover it up anyway.

 Here in the down position its not wide enough for what I want to do. My plan is to add spring loaded side extensions. They will extend out from those two holes on each side of the rack. Not far, maybe only 2-3" but they will double as the latch mechanism when the rack is up. Thats all for now.