Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Workshop Wednesday-Service School

 So yesterday at work I wasn't at work at all. Al, Greg and I traveled down to Milwaukee to Husqvarna service school. We attend these seminars annually to hone our skills and find out what new things we can expect to see from the largest outdoor power equipment manufacturer in the world.

  We tore apart some new chainsaws, discussed troubleshooting techniques and went over some service bulletins. Fun stuff.

 It looks like there may be some new George Jetson kinda things coming our way. Possibly bluetooth or wifi diagnostics from a smart phone. Husky already has chainsaws with "autotune". These saws have a micro processor controlled carb that can be hooked up to a laptop for diagnostics and firmware downloads. This technology will soon be found in string trimmers, blowers and other handhelds.
 It was kinda a drag falling behind a day in my work load at the shop but the seminar was worthwhile. I learned some things I can use every day, got a free lunch and won a hat for correctly answering a question. Ahhh, livin the dream.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Whats up?

 I previously reported a possible bad key switch on the sportster. Recently I decided to make a temporary fix on that so I could use the bike and test my theory. It also allowed me to see if my little workshop could handle two bikes.

 For a one day session I suppose there is just enough room. I think if I wanted a pair of long term projects I could rearrange things enough to make it happen. It would be tight.

 My temporary fix isn't very high tech. I replaced the stock switch with a 35 amp toggle. Done.

 I also gave the bike a much needed cleaning only to get rained on during the test ride.

 In other news, I've been sanding and grinding on the BSA frame. Progress is slow but a lot of time is being wasted on what I think I want the bike and paint to look like.

 I've got an old Yamaha fender that now has about a dozen layers of paint on it. Both of these are fails but I went shopping yesterday and have a few more color choices to play with today. Yes, this will be a spray can job but I think I can make it look decent. Remember, I'm a gearhead on a budget.
 Speaking of budgets, I purchased a new pair of retro looking Dunlop K70 tires for the old Beezer. I also picked up tubes and rim strips. The plan is to get a good handle on the rolling chassis and then concentrate on the engine.
 I wonder if this bike could be road worthy enough to consider taking it on vacation next year? That would be awesome. It would need to be in good enough mechanical shape to handle a three thousand mile week. I'm not gonna set that as a goal just yet but I'll keep it in the back of my mind while putting it together. The only goal I do have set for this bike is the Watson Street Bike Show next September. See you there.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Workshop Wednesday-Small Engine Fuel

 This time of year our inbound repair shelf at the shop is full of leaf blowers and chain saws that ran fine last year but now won't start. Soon it will be snow blowers. As a small engine mechanic I see more fuel related problems than anything else. There are two reasons for this. The first is ethanol. Its just not a good fuel for small engines. Most equipment more than just a few years old has rubber components that won't stand up to ethanol. Typically I see more than one piece of equipment a day that has a broken fuel line in the tank with the filter just laying there unconnected to anything. It ran a while like this and now the carb has crap in it. There is also the problem of phase separation.  Google it, but basically it comes down to the fact that ethanol absorbs a point. Then it separates and what you are left with is a layer of water on the bottom of your tank or gas can. When you tip and pour a gas can you get the stuff from the bottom first and that could be a large dose of water. Not good. I'm not going to get into the politics of ethanol but right now its just not a good fuel for small engines.
 The second fuel related problem I see is "stale gas". The equipment was used and ran fine. Then it sat in the shed till the next year when it was needed. Even if it was ethanol free fuel, it will evaporate and leave behind a big mess most people call "varnish". This is the stuff that plugs up tiny ports and jets in carbs.

 A few years back we started selling canned fuel. This is one example. There were a lot of claims about this stuff. We were told this fuel would stay fresh in an engine for two years. Ideal if you are a casual user of certain equipment. For example you have a hedge trimmer that only gets used a few times a year. A quart of fuel may be the total volume for the whole season. This stuff would be perfect for that if it worked up to its claims.
 I'm a "show me" kind of guy. I decided I needed to conduct my own experiment.

 About 27 months ago I salvaged an engine from a piece of equipment headed for the dumpster. I drained the gas and added SEF (small engine fuel). I ran the engine till I knew all the old gasoline was worked out of the carb and it was running on just SEF. Then I shut it off. I was certain the carb now only had SEF in it. I attached the tag in the pic and dated it 7/17/12. I then pushed the engine in the corner and pretty much forgot about it. Oh sure I'd see it every so often and be tempted to try to start it but I managed to hold off.
 Yesterday I noticed the engine and decided it was time to test out the claims. It was over the two year mark so figured why not. When I opened the cap on the fuel tank I noticed the tank appeared dry. I think a lot of the fuel evaporated and couldn't help but wonder if it "varnished" in the carb. I added some more SEF, turned the ignition switch on, moved the choke lever and gave it a pull. Sure enough it fired right up! I was truly impressed that this old piece of junk started on first pull. I let it run a while and it never missed a beat. I'm sold. I'm also relieved that all that canned fuel we sold was actually doing what we claimed it would do.
 Canned fuel isn't cheap but neither are repair costs. No snake oil here, this stuff works. Husqvarna offers to double the two year warranty on certain small equipment if three cans of their 50:1 mixed fuel is purchased at the time of the new equipment purchase. That says a lot.
 So if you've ever considered using this type of fuel but weren't sure if it was any good, go ahead. It has the Greasy Shop Rag stamp of approval.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Moving Forward While Looking Back

 The last two days my wife has been away and my youngest daughter has been out doing whatever teenagers do. There was talk about her going to the tattoo parlor to watch a friend get branded. You can imagine how thrilled I am about that. Anyway, that means I had time to work on the BSA. If you follow this blog then you know that this year, same as every year, is the year I fix up this bike.
 The last time I worked on the bike I found engine problems. This session would be about tearing it down to the frame and figuring out what else was needed. For the most part what I'm seeing is a frame with a lot of welding splatter from the factory. 

 It needs some detailing and paint so I snuck in a 90 mile ride on the sportster to buy one of those oscillating multi-tools. I'm using the sanding attachment to clean things up. I'm not quite there yet. It's taking a lot longer than expected. Every time I handle a different piece it would spark memories from decades ago when I first worked on this beast.

 When I was searching for the service manual I ran across an old pic someone scanned from a high school yearbook and sent to me. I guess they knew spending money on a yearbook wasn't my style.

  It's a crappy pic. All the other kids had professional pics taken. Not me. You need a pic, I'll stand here long enough for you to snap the shutter. The only sport listed was golf and theres a good reason for that. We did a lot of partying during golf practice and other sports just took up time that could be better used for motorcycle activities. They asked me for a quote. Really? I guess I never looked through any other yearbooks before. How about "Motorcycles speak louder than words". Not as sappy as the quotes from the honor roll students but it fit my personality well and this BSA was in the stable at that time. Back then I didn't give a shit about anything but bikes with the exception of one girl friend that I eventually fell in love with and married.

 So now I really need to decide which way phase II of BSA ownership will head. I have probably 95% of the original parts needed for a restoration. The problem is that if I restore it to original then I will have a copy of someone else's vision. Scotty don't roll that way. Part of me wants to blend some modern elements into the bike. Another part wants to "customize" it the way someone might have done back in the day using only parts available in the 70's. Thats been done before too. The cafe racer thing is cool but getting old. Unless done right it just seems like a lazy effort to be different.
 I don't have a clear vision of where this is going yet but I know that I don't want to hack on the frame. This means I can continue with my frame cleaning and painting efforts. Oddly enough I do have a vision of what the paint might look like but I'm not ready to share that right now.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Workshop Wednesday-Blown Away

 Some days I ride the bike to work. I sit on it and operate the controls while studying traffic and making adjustments until I reach my destination. This is commuting.
 Other times things just click. You don't think about the bikes controls, it just happens. You sit back and enjoy your surroundings. This happened to me the other day. The feeling of being part of the environment was much more intense than normal.

 The sun was at the peak of its arc and bright. If you were inside looking out you would swear it was an inviting summer day. This is what I thought when I headed out of the shop on my way to lunch. In reality it was cooler and very windy. A sweatshirt was just right for a ride through town.
 As I write this I don't even remember which bike I was on but I can clearly remember the wind. Fifteen to twenty miles per hour with thirty mph gusts made the trees strain. They were shaking so violently like an old man shaking his fist at me, daring me to continue on. Bouncing and twisting while shedding their foliage. Early fall color leaves were thrown like confetti in a ticker tape parade. The ones that hit the road were blowing around in snake like patterns hovering inches above the pavement. As I moved along at city speeds I remember being passed by some leaves. I don't normally take well to being passed but this seemed so peaceful while at the same time a bit eerie. I tried to pick out a single leaf and chase it down but it darted left and right much faster than I could. A stop sign ended my effort as the leaf raced through the intersection. I settled for a short wheelie to cap off the mini adrenaline rush. It all seemed so very animated, almost as if I were watching from the sidelines.

 The return trip was into the wind. You can't see it but you can feel its effects. An invisible powerful force pushing and pulling on you as you make adjustments to keep in your lane. A blast from an oncoming tractor/trailer is predictable man made force that a rider can anticipate. A gust of wind from nowhere is something totally different, especially when your are riding in the city. When I rode back into the area of town with the leaves raining down I could predict the wind blasts. The movement of the leaves allowed me to actually see the wind. For a short time I could predict the wind and make zen-like adjustments just before they were needed rather than reacting to it. It all seemed so natural at the time.
 Returning to the shop brought the ride to an end. You might think this is where I say that I wish it had never ended. On the contrary. I remember thinking how nice it was to put a perfect ride right at half time of a work day. With the combination of sun, wind and falling leaves, it was a ride that can only happen a few days of the year and I was lucky enough to enjoy it.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Beverage Review-Redds Apple Ale

 On my ride home from work I sometimes stop for evening beverages. The coolers at the local quicky mart are full of the latest trends in flavor sensations. It seems beer by itself isn't good enough anymore and now we have flavored ales.
 I decided it was time to investigate this trend and purchased a can of Redds Apple Ale. The best way to describe this stuff would be a mix of beer and apple cider. I think they might be close to having something here but really I think I could mix this up at home and come up with something better.
 The next time I was faced with a choice at the cooler I saw they had something new. Redds Wicked Apple Ale. Wicked you say. What's wicked? Is it the 8% alcohol by volume?  Wicked might be just what this brew needs. I purchased a 24 oz can of the stuff and hauled the precious cargo home in the pac on my sportster.

 The next day at work the DJ's on the radio were talking about this drink. A coworker from our lawn crew questioned what the difference might be between apple ale and wicked apple ale. I stepped up and offered my interpretation of the drinks.
 Imagine a beer and apple cider mix. That's Redd's Apple Ale. Now, think about mowing grass under an apple tree. There are a bunch of fallen apples in the tall grass but you're too lazy to get your ass off the lawn mower and clean up the apples so you just run over them making a big mess of things. A week later you return to the scene of the crime to cut the grass again. What you find are a bunch of rotten apples stinkin up the place. Bees are busy doing whatever they do and there is evidence of deer traffic. THESE are the apples used to make Wicked Apple Ale. I don't know how else to describe this brew and I know it sounds disgusting but it's actually quite delicious.

 For those of you that don't give a crap about drinks, I offer this update on my bike situation.
 The sportster rear tire might have enough tread to finish the season.
 The BSA sits on the hoist waiting for some attention. After the Packer game today, I might work on that.
  The Rat Turd needs a clutch cable and on thursday after work I rode to Team Winnebagoland to pick one up. They've made some changes and have much more showroom space. I poked around a bit till I warmed up enough to venture home. On the frosty return trip my hands were getting cold. I had about forty miles to go was counting down the miles till I got home to the warmth of my shop. I can make it. Ten miles to go. I should be froze to the bone by then. The timing will be just right.
 BRIDGE OUT. Crap. I forgot about the construction on County road D. Now instead of a 10 mile ride till thawing out it would be a 28 mile detour.
 I could have stopped and warmed my hands over the sportster engine. A short walk would have helped too. I chose to keep pushing on. Get it over with. As much as I hate getting cold, I enjoy riding a bike. The moon was bright, traffic was almost non existent and the deer were nowhere to be seen. Half of my attention was about getting home in one piece. The rest of my head was involved in thoughts designed to make me forget how cold I was. Why was I here on this road right now? How did this road get here? Who built it and why do I live where I do? Before ya know it I was home warming myself in front of my shop furnace. Another enjoyable ride to look back on.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Slimey Crud Follow Up

 Sunday I went to the Slimey Crud Run with friends. My day started out with a twenty mile ride to meet Dan. The temps were in the low thirties when I left but my electric jacket made it a bearable ride. A windshield would have been nice and maybe I need to look into finding something detachable for the sportster.
 Despite the cold, the morning was really nice and sunny. The fall colors were not at their peak but the early trees that turned were quite bright. We had to make a few stops along the way to work on Dans bike. It seems the Warrior has some electrical gremlins but I think he got those worked out later in the day.
 A late start and a long wait to board the Merrimac Ferry meant we weren't going to Pine Bluff. Instead we went directly to Leland, the final destination of the "run". There was a good turn out despite the cold temps.

 That line of bikes runs way up the street. There is a big parking lot on the left full of bikes and a couple of large grass lots on the right also.
 Here are a few bikes I thought were interesting.

 The ride home was high speed, low drag balls to the wall motorcycle excitement. Well that's my story and I'm stickin to it.

 And finally this one. I supplied some duct tape to help some old biker chick on her way. Can you spot where the tape was needed?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Rat Down

 My plan was to ride the Rat Turd to the Slimey Crud run today. Plans get changed.

 On Thursday I rode the bike to lunch. As I was turning back into the drive at work the clutch cable broke. Bummer. A new cable is on the way but I won't see it till Monday.
 Al was kind enough to give me a ride home with the bike. The lift gate worked pretty good for putting a small bike on and off the truck. Much better than a ramp. Ya I could have rode it home with a broken clutch cable if necessary, but it wasn't necessary. This is the second time this bike needed a lift home. The first was the day I bought it.
 So today I will meet up with Dan and his main squeeze to ride down to the Slimey Crud Run. I'll let them lead as they are riding two-up and the temps are starting out in the thirties. If they get cold they can pull over. I'll be fine because I wired up my heated jacket yesterday along with a volt meter to monitor my battery.

 I just attached a voltmeter to a power plug. I can plug it in when I use the heated gear.

 The meter is just velcroed to the mount I made for the gps.

 The test ride went well from a mechanical standpoint. The little harleys charging system seemed strong enough. It sucked ass from a stay-warm standpoint. Oh sure my upper body was toasty. You can't run the jacket on the highest setting without starting to sweat. The problem was that it started to rain. I don't have heated pants and I wasn't wearing rain gear. No fairing or lowers on this mount so my legs got wet. The rain was hard enough that the water soaked into my pants, over the top of my waterproof boots and down to my feet.  The temperature was 42 but felt much cooler at highway speeds.
 As I rolled along with a wet warm upper body and a wet cold lower half, I was trying to mentally reroute my ride home. I was pretty sure if I had to come to a stop and put my feet down that my knees weren't going to cooperate. They ached from the cold. I rode with my left hand on my left knee just to try to keep it warm enough to move when I stopped.
 The few stops I made went ok. Before I approached the stops, I was able to stand up on the rear pegs and loosen up my legs enough to safely hold the bike up. It's funny how you can sit on a bike and freeze but once you get off and walk around you forget how miserable you were. This forgetfulness is what allows me to get back on the bike on days like this. The thermometer reads 31 degrees and its a two hour ride to my destination. For me, all this "suffering" is actually part of the fun of riding. I don't know why this is but I know I'm not the only one. There will be a lot of other riders there today.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pissed off about Piston

 I started tearing into the BSA engine to see what was going on in the cylinders. I had previously scoped the cylinders and thought I saw some scoring. Sure enough, one piston is screwed.

 The rings are stuck in the grooves of the near piston. The piston is scored pretty bad as well.

 Its already been bored once. I suppose I could bore it one more time and pick up a pair of pistons. There is something I noticed that I don't remember from 35 years ago but it seems one of the cylinders had a crack in it and was repaired.Maybe it was repaired when it was sent out to be bored.

The picture doesn't show it well but a very small crack is visible inside the cylinder. I don't know if I should be concerned because its on the cylinder with no piston scoring. Right now I'm thinking about pulling the engine and keeping my eyes open for repair options. The rest of the bike needs plenty of work so I have enough to keep me busy for a while.
 First up will be stripping it down to the bare frame. I need to paint it before the weather turns too cold. Tearing it down will also give me a chance to handle every part and decide what needs to be fixed, painted or replaced.
 Saturday I plan to work and Sunday is the Slimey crud run so I may not get much done on the BSA this weekend. Stay tuned for updates.