Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Favorite Posts of 2015

 I've been posting twice a week for a couple years now. I'm not much of a writer but I secretly wish I could do better in this area. The following is a collection of posts from this year that kinda are some of my favorites...all for different reasons. Some are techy. Some were from a fun day and others are just random thoughts. I didn't include the post from when my Mom passed away because although it was important, I didn't enjoy having to write it.

Where do they get this stuff?  This is a post about the day I discovered M. Schettl sales. They have quite a collection of oddball things for sale and on display.

Homemade Headers  I spent a lot of time trying to come up with an unusual exhaust for the Rat Turd. This was the beginning of that adventure.

Whutcha Gonna Blog About?  This is a post about nothing. Kinda like an episode of Seinfeld.

PBR Me ASAP  Just an old pic I found from my childhood.

Wet Ride  Wet Ride is a post about a day when my wife and I enjoyed a ride in the rain.

Dragon Loop    This post was about a day spent with friends in the Smoky Mountains.

Is Summer Coming To An End?  This is a story about a young lad that sparked some memories from my childhood.

 Thanks for following the blog. For 2016 you can expect to see more ride reports and more pics/videos from the bike. My daughter got me some GoPro camera gear that I'm looking forward to trying out. I guess I have a few months to learn how to use it.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

BSA Repost

  I posted this on December 15, 2013. I'm reposting it just to get myself fired up enough to continue work on this project and give you guys the back story on the bike.

 When I was young and first got interested in bikes one of the first projects was a '67 BSA Lightning. This was a bike my father purchased from a neighbor for $50. I remember carrying boxes of bike parts home. We had no idea what the bike was supposed to look like until we saw a pic in a workshop manual.

 A lot of time was spent on this motor. Partially for my benefit to learn about engines and part because as I now know, if you are working on a Brit bike for the first time there are a few things you need to wrap your head around. Lucas electrical, how to set the timing and British Standard to name a few.
 The cylinders were honed and oversized pistons and rings were installed along with all the other usual things done during a rebuild. We had such a hard time getting this engine running and spent a lot of time second guessing ourselves and double checking our work. I remember taking turns with my brother pushing the bike in gear trying to get the bike to fire up. We would try kick starting the bike with nothing to show for our efforts except a sore leg. Oh sure once in a while it would burp at us for a few seconds or even allow a short 50 foot blast up the drive, but that was about it.
 Other projects came and went. Seasons came and went. The BSA sat waiting in the corner of a few different garages. It sat eleven years before one day my dad asked me if I wanted it. I had eleven years of gear head experience behind me and felt I was ready to take on this project that had kicked my ass as a wrenching wannabe.
 When I was a kid I understood ignition systems from a text book viewpoint. Now I understood them from experience. It didn't take long to get the bike running but something else was going on with this beast. I could never get it to run smooth.
 After a few days of messing around with it after work I was starting to get goofy about this project. Was it gonna kick my ass again?
 I kicked the bike over and she came to life but ran crappy. Then it would run good, then bad again. I had a furnace fan blowing cool air over the motor so it wouldn't over heat. I pretended the air from the fan was the wind blowing my hair back. I leaned to the left then the right as if I were racing through an S curve. No bikes in my mirrors, I must be in the lead. A gentle sweeper to the right and she's purring like a kitten. Get on the brakes and scrub off some speed for the next left hander. Push hard on the left bar... Hey, what just happened? When I leaned left it ran like crap. When I leaned right it cleared up. After a few more laps on my pretend race track I was certain the bike was flooding one cylinder when I leaned left. Even if I only leaned a very small amount.
 Back on Earth after a little investigating I discovered a casting flaw in one of the Amal carbs. There was a small hole right about at the top of the fuel level in the bowl. Fuel was spilling from the bowl directly into the venturi. I used some JB Weld epoxy to plug the hole and an hour later I was riding the bike around the parking lot. It ran dang near perfect. Whodathunkit.
 I rode 200 miles on the bike before a bearing in the trans siezed up. Well, I rode 196 miles. I pushed it the last 4 miles home.
 That was over 20 years ago. I haven't had it running since then. I have worked on it a bit but only enough to figure out what was wrong and what was needed to fix it. I think I even bought a bunch of parts for it. I'll have to go out in the shed and take a peek. Every year I say that this is the year I will put it back together. Every year passes without that happening. This year I was getting serious about the bike and decided to borrow an inspection camera from Al. Unfortunately the camera showed what I feared. All that kicking and push starting attempts without decent oil circulation created some scoring in the cylinders.

 Also, this area that appears to be shiny concerns me. I think its actually rust pitting from sitting so long. Its not above the scored areas so it must have come after the 200 mile fling and wasn't the reason for the scoring. My bad for not fogging the cylinder better. I guess it really doesn't matter because it has to come apart either way.
 I'll get a better look at it when I tear it down this winter. Next year is the year I ride again...

 That was my post from two years ago. I know I keep saying that next year is the year I ride this bike again and each year comes and goes without much progress, but next year...
 Actually it would be nice to show this bike at the Watson Street bike show in the fall. I'll set that as a goal and see what happens.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas

 So I guess this is my last post before Christmas so I better put up a pic of the tree.

Our daughter Parker was responsible for the tree again this year and she did a wonderful job.

  This is a shot of whats on the shelf behind the tree in the above pic. I think we have a nice mix of artsy fartsy crap and motorcycle stuff on display. The bike is one I rode in high school. The hippo is my daughters creation.

   We had to put the tree in a different spot this year because there happens to be a motorcycle parked where the tree usually goes.

 Looks like Santa found our chimney!
Hey, I want to wish all of you a peace and happiness during this holiday season. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

One Season On An Ultra

  This spring I pulled the trigger on a new bike purchase. The bike is a 2015 Harley Ultra limited. I knew I was gonna buy another bike but didn't have my eyes on one this big. I figured for a solo rider it was overkill. I'm married so why am I a solo rider? Fifteen years ago I hit a deer while riding a Kawasaki Voyager. That incident earned me a week visit in the hospital and also marked the end of my wifes desire to ride. She figured someone had to be around to raise the kids and that's when I became a solo rider.
 To my surprise, while shopping for another bike, she expressed a desire to ride again. The kids are all either in or through college so she no longer had an excuse not to ride. And ride we did. We went on a lot of day trips and a few overnighters. The bike now has over twelve thousand miles on it. Considering I have two other bikes that got some use this year I'd say I have a bit more than just a "bar hopper" attitude towards riding.

 So what do I like about the bike?
  First, it's a big bike with plenty of storage space. We easily packed for overnight stays plus stored rain gear and cold weather gear on the bike. It was built for two up riding and does it well. I rode it solo for a week long vacation in the Smokies and had so much extra room that I brought a second helmet. The plan was to experiment with some of the bluetooth and voice activated features but the weather never got crappy enough to switch to my full face helmet.
 Second is a feeling of confidence. I'm not saying I don't think a new Harley will break down. Heck, I've had a few recalls on the bike already. What I mean is that there are dealers everywhere and where there isn't a dealer, there's an indy mechanic that knows HD like the back of his hand.

 Third is the "infotainment" system. I enjoy the tunes and have become quite accustomed to the operation of the radio. It now seems very natural to operate. The gps works well enough and I like the fact that it's built in and not an accessory hanging out on the bar or velcroed to the dash. The one time I used the cb it worked fine and the truckers chatter warned me of an upcoming accident/backup that I was able to avoid. The weather band radio is a nice feature and the ability to link my phone to the bike to make and receive calls is a feature most bikes can't handle.
 Fourth is the whole package. What I mean is that I like the feel of a v-twin and the protection offered by the bat wing fairing and lowers. The bike is smooth and comfortable with decent power, the mirrors don't vibrate and the extras like heated grips and seat all make it easy to rack up a lot of miles.
 What is it that I don't like about this bike?
  First, it's a big bike. This bike weighs in at over 900 pounds. It's a pain to try to maneuver around in and out of parking situations. If I ever tipped it over it would have to lay there till I got some help.
  Second is the feeling of confidence. I've seen more broke down Harleys than any other brand. Maybe it's just because there are more of them on the road. Sure there are a lot of dealers but as I learned when I was shopping for this beast, not all dealers are ones you want to deal with. The first two places I stopped at treated me like I was wasting their time. And then you have everyone and their brother that thinks they know how to fix these things. The service manual for the electronics is a tad thicker than the service manual for the rest of the bike.

 The book on the left is the factory service manual for the bike. The one on the right is for the electrical system of the same bike. Yikes!
  Third is the "infotainment" system. I've had no problems with boredom while riding bikes that didn't have tunes. The voices in my head keep me company. I suppose the radio could be a distraction and I may have become one of "those guys" whose radio you can hear as they cruise past. Do I really need to make a phone call while riding? Maybe.
  Fourth is the whole package. You know how when you get a different vehicle that you all of the sudden notice a lot of that model on the street? There are a lot of bikes out there that look just like this one. I've always gravitated towards bikes that were just a bit different. Not with this bike. Even custom paint would just make it an Ultra with custom paint. And how about the features this bike is missing? To me it would make sense to have an onboard compressor for the air shocks. I'm always switching between solo and two up riding and I just suffer the rough ride when alone rather than dink around with the hand pump. And how about a tire pressure monitoring system? It seems that should be included in a top of the line offering. Liquid cooled heads but no temp gauge? Come on man.
 Overall the pros outweigh the cons and I enjoy riding this bike and look forward to each outing. Now if they could just figure out how to offer something like this in a 500 pound package.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Workshop Wednesday-Damn Forklift

 About  six months ago I tore apart a forklift that needed a new head gasket. Things got busy at the shop and I chose to work on paying customer projects rather than this lift. We have three or four others so it wasn't even missed. There were a couple of factors that finally motivated me to get back on this project. One was the fact that it has been pushed around the shop a few times, the engine was opened up and parts may have been getting misplaced. Another was the fact that we have two going out on rent soon so we would technically be one short around here. The final deciding factor was that we have some guys in the shop that can't come up with any fresh material for their act and I was sick of hearing about the dead forklift in the shop.
 Somewhere in that mess is a forklift engine. I finished the repair and it has been running fine.  The better news is that I passed the torch to James and he can be the new forklift mechanic.

 I'm certain he'll make sure all repairs are done in a timely manner unlike the slow pace at which I perform them. Heck, he'll probably even do preventive maintenance on them so they never break down!
 Have a wonderful day.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Last Wednesday

 Last Wednesday at the end of my post I mentioned that if the sportster started I was gonna ride it to work. Well the damn thing fired up so I got the gear on and headed towards the gas station to pick up my morning bottle of orange juice. The temperature was in the mid thirties and the road was dry. No problem. As I walked out of the kwiky mart someone spotted me and asked if this was a new to me bike.  I explained about the new Ultra Limited and how I've had this sporty for a while and if I was gonna dump a bike this morning I wanted it to be this one and not the new one. His comment was "Ya, it's dark, foggy and wet, what could go wrong?"
 He was right. The roads weren't frozen but they kinda sweated and it just happened that quick. Even the lot we were standing on was dry just two minutes ago. With the salt residue on them they made a brine and were kinda slick. I threw a leg over the sporty and carefully headed back toward home. I did a few brake tests and dragged my foot across the pavement trying to determine if this probable last ride of the year might end up my last ride forever. As I slowed down in front of my drive I couldn't help but think what a puss I was for giving up on this ride. I cracked the throttle open and did a power slide around the next corner followed by a block long wheelie while screaming "Yee Haw" in my helmet! Ok, that last part isn't true but you get where my head was now at. I did whack the big bore sporty a bit just to make sure traction was ok, and although the ass end started coming around, I determined traction was "just ok" and proceeded on.

 The back roads were dark and quiet and had less salt if any but there were a few low spots that seemed slick. At one stop sign I did have to engage my outriggers. My work boots actually had much more stopping power than my worn rear tire and I'm still not sure if that was ice, salt brine or just an oily spot.
 I saw fifteen deer. I suppose I was in close proximity to about a kajillion more. No close calls, no pucker factor, just a cold ride to work. The sporty has no windshield or heated grips so I would compare it to a snowmobile ride with the wrong gloves on.

 Later I rode the bike to lunch. I guess people aren't expecting to see a bike on the Wisconsin roads in December because I got a lot of waves and thumbs up. I was just doing what they wanted to do but had some excuse not to. Common sense may have been their reasoning.
 I didn't want to leave work and ride home in the dark with greasy roads again so I left a bit early. I was able to go for a nice ride without worry and had a good time. Sure it was cold but I was enjoying everything else so it was easy to forget about the temps. When I stopped at the kwiky mart for evening refreshments, everyone had something to say. Even the folks that would normally tell me to go do something naughty to myself had a cheery comment. The one thing that everyone has in common with the person they're standing next to is the weather. Good or bad it is something we are all subjected to so when they see a bike in December with all this mild weather we have been having, well something has to be said I guess.
 When I got home I discovered why my right leg was staying so warm.

 I suppose my riding pants aren't waterproof anymore. I'll have to get some wrap for that pipe before I even think about replacing the pants.
 Kudos to the guy I spotted the next day. He was tucked in behind the windshield of his big twin while rolling down the hiway in the cold pouring rain, just as it was getting dark. I gave him a thumbs up from my warm truck as he gave me a nod I interpreted as meaning, "That's right, I rode mine today, what's your excuse?"

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Workshop Wednesday-Computer Security

 Earlier this year I heard a ruckus in the back room of the shop. I went out to investigate and this is what I found.

 What the hell is going on here? I stuck around to monitor the situation.

 What you're looking at is a pile of computer debris. The guys were told to destroy these computers so nobody could gain access to what was on the hard drives. I guess you could say they are now micro processors. (rimshot)
 Yep. Mission accomplished. Sure they could have just pulled the hard drives and destroyed those but that's no fun. Now they just have bits of information. (rimshot)
 I'm sorry, I'll try to come up with something better next week. I know this post bytes.

 In motorcycle related news...It's 38 degrees and dry. If the sportster starts I plan to ride it in to work today. Looking at the forecast this may be my last chance of the year.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Simple Ride

 I've read a lot of stories and blogs where people try to describe the pleasure they receive from riding. Usually they'll talk about the wind in their face, warm sunshine or the "man and machine" factor. Maybe they'll write about the feeling of being a free spirit in nature or how they can only "wind down" while riding. I don't know what the answer is but I think it's different for everyone. I enjoy every ride but not every ride leaves me with that euphoric feeling.
 The following is something I wrote about a year ago I guess, right after one of those simple rides that somehow left me feeling pretty good.

 It was a suck ass gloomy day most of Thursday. I braved the elements on the ride in to work and spent most of the day dreaming about the ride home. When I was ready to leave work the sun came out just for me. I accidentally sped past a cop but he didn't seem interested.  The ride started on brand new smooth asphalt that still had that "new road smell". Gotta love it. I was in no hurry to get anywhere and enjoyed the idea that I could go where ever I chose just by aiming my front wheel in that direction. The bike ran strong and never missed a beat. It gave me the feeling of confidence that I could ride it anywhere worry-free.
  Sometimes the cold ride to work in the morning has a payout on the evening ride home.

  That was all I wrote about this ride. So what made it special? It had all the traditional elements of a great ride. Sun, freedom, man and machine. Was it the combination of these things? I don't think so.
 I once told the story of a wet cold ride through the entire length of Illinois. I suffered on that ride and was so miserable that I sold that Aprilia Futura which had faithfully hauled my ass around for over 72k miles. Now I don't know how to explain this but as miserable of a ride as that was, it is one of my fondest motorcycle riding memories.
 So it wasn't about sunshine because it was cloudy on that day in Illinois. It's not about a connection with the bike as I couldn't sell that bike fast enough. Freedom and oneness with nature? I don't think so because that was a 400 mile blast down the interstate in torrential rain and traffic at 80 mph. The conditions sucked but somehow everything was dialed in and felt right. Maybe it is about the connection with mother nature, but for me the weather doesn't have to be warm and sunny. Sometimes I can slip into a different dimension and just take it all in knowing everything is right, even when the weather isn't. I've tried to duplicate it but that doesn't work.
 There is an X factor involved that I can't explain so my plan is to get as much seat time as possible in search of that special ride that lingers on in my memory.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Workshop Wednesday-Real Men Don't Read Instructions

 RTFOM- Read the freakin owners manual. The people that designed and built the equipment supplied you with an owners manual. Having built the equipment, they probably have a clue how to operate it.
 "My saw starts hard when warm"
  "Show me your starting procedure"
 -customer attempts to start saw-
   Now here I have to make a choice. Do I take the low road and belittle the customer for obviously not reading the manual or listening to our instructions? No. I reserve that snarky behavior for my friends and call it humor. It's odd how we sometimes treat our friends crappier than strangers.
 Depending on the age of the customer determines how I proceed. I had an elderly gentleman confused when I tried to explain setting the fast idle on his saw. Move the choke to full then back to run. The fast idle is set and will return to normal after hitting the trigger. He couldn't wrap his head around it until I reminded him of an automatic choke on an old car. It finally clicked. Nothing had to be done to repair the saw and the customer has not been back with problems.
 Younger customers are a different story. I don't say "the manual says...". Rather, I say "the manufacturer suggests..." because heaven forbid we read the freakin manual. We don't want to offend youngsters that think they know everything but I do like to make sure they leave smarter than when they walked in the store. I try to explain some of the features of a computer controlled saw like my ability to see how any hours are on it or the quality of fuel that was run. It saves a lot of embarrassment later when they try to bullshit me.
 The worst part is that all of this was explained when they bought the saw. So don't walk in and claim your new saw is a piece of shit when the reality is that you thought you knew everything and didn't read the manual or listen to our instruction.
 Another one that gets me is when someone brings one of these "piece of shit" saws into the store huffin and puffin about what kind of junk we sold them only to discover their fuel tank is full of water or bar oil. It will be junk if you don't clean up your fuel supply. And guess what? It's never their fault. It must have been from the neighbor that borrowed the saw. Recently I called a customer with a question about a repair. The wife answered and told me her son was the last one to use the saw yet earlier I was told by the husband that he loaned it to a neighbor. Why all the bullshit?
 "Real men don't read instructions". That's fine if everything goes ok. It's when things go south that you should consider reading the manual. It will save a lot of time and embarrassment. I should add here that it's only a small percentage of people that have these problems. They shout the loudest therefore they get more attention. I suppose I could write a post entitled "Everybody's Happy" with a picture of smiling customers showing off their shiny new chainsaws. Maybe the next pic could be us all having a group hug. Sorry, that's just not the way I roll.

 Not all instructions are easy to read.

 Sometimes you have to rely on the pictures. The point is, I was reading the instructions!
Rant over.