Miscellany: Motorcycle, 1

:: home ::
                Go to 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15  

12/04/2012. Part One — In which we get a long dead motorcycle and a severely arthritic hip working at about the same time. If we repair meat and metal simultaneously, wouldn't that be sweet?


Fourteen years ago (!) I blew up something in my BMW K75s while recharging the battery. One thing led to another, and pursuing a fix got put off again and again and then again. Weeks became months, months became years. In 2007, I made a feint at getting it going again. At least I got the damage from just sitting more or less stabilized. I bought some parts (fuel pump, injectors, spark plugs, lots of tubing to replace the rotted bits in the fuel tank) but was quickly face to face with the simple truth that I'm no wrench. Around anything with a motor or within sight or smell of gasoline, I'm hopeless.

A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor, friend and client Michael Reno Harrell (I've been doing graphics for his CDs and maintaining his website for years) posted a photo on his Facebook page of himself getting ready to ride his new BMW to Big Bend and back. I didn't know he rode -- it never came up -- and I certainly didn't know he rode a Beemer. So when I saw Michael a few days later at a recording session for new storyteller Alan Hoel, I mentioned my cellar-dwelling K75s just about before I said, "Hello." I asked where he had his bike serviced. I know just the man you need to meet, said he. Today Michael came by with a pickup truck, a trailer, and some rope. First we towed the bike up from the deep swag into which it had settled after I extracted it from the basement day before yesterday (I only had to move a table saw, a drill press, and a cedar chest; then I horsed it 50 feet through the basement out near the double doors where there was enough room to put air in its tires; after that it rolled much more easily. That's hard work for a guy with a bad hip, let me tell you, but more about that later.) We tied the forks to the back of Michael's truck, reassured each other that we were very much aware that this had all the makings of a, "Hey, y'all, watch this!" YouTube moment, and then we walked it up to the driveway and loaded the Beemer into the trailer like we did this sort of thing every day of the week. Piece of cake.

Then Michael introduced me to Danny Wilson. The shop out behind his house is 4.2 crow's flight miles from where we started. I could yet be wrong about this, but I think we all met Danny many years ago around page 46 in Robert Pirsig's "Zen...". That, at least, was my first impression and it ran through my head more than once today. Here's a 2-frame HDR photo looking into Danny's workshop to show you what I mean:


wilson shop

"Inside I see that Bill is a mechanic of the 'photographic mind' school. Everything lying around everywhere. Wrenches, screwdrivers, old parts, old motorcycles, new parts, new motorcycles, sales literature, inner tubes, all scattered so thickly and clutteredly you can't even see the workbenches under them. I couldn't work in conditions like this but that's just because I'm not a photographic-mind mechanic. Bill can probably turn around and put his hand on any tool in this mess without having to think about where it is. I've seen mechanics like that. Drive you crazy to watch them, but they get the job done just as well and sometimes faster. Move one tool three inches to the left though, and he'll have to spend days looking for it." (ZAMM, p46)

[12/13: First impressions were not correct. Order rapidly increases at the threshhold of the workshop. Step inside this solo service bay and you'll find it lined with orderly rows of tool chests, work surfaces on which are parts related to the current project (but not to ten others). At the moment, its centerpiece is my K75s.]



Danny's dog Casey and Michael.
Danny peering into the tank at the depression where the fuel pump belongs.


The bike might as well have been in a time capsule. It was built in Germany 20 years ago this month and has all of 6,309 miles on the odometer. About 5,000 of them are mine, and 950 of those were bringing it home from Cambridge, Massachusetts. "I figured if I let it sit long enough, it'd become a collectable," I said, about one third joking. It looks new because from every perspective except the calendrical, it is new. It'll need new tires, that fuel pump I mentioned, probably the new injectors and plugs. Maybe it'll need new brake lines (more likely if we decide to modify the seating position to be less European sports-oriented and more suited to longer, slower American miles). We'll see about the radiator and the fork seals. Anything rubber is suspect, but not all pieces have been convicted. Danny's pretty confident that all I blew out ages ago was a master fuse ("It's either under the seat or under the tank... I'll find it"), and the tubing inside the tank is well mapped in various manuals that even I have. Change the oil and coolant, add a battery, and it might fire up, just that simply.

We sat and talked for an hour and a half, mostly about recent and not-so-recent two-wheeled exploits. Danny's into long-distance trail riding in a way I will never be; Michael recounted his cruise to and from Big Bend and mentioned the Iron Butt experiences of his buddy Ralph S. who just moved from near Riverton, Wyoming, to Silver City, New Mexico. I talked about commuting to and from Tucson on a KZ750, once via Washington state and once via Guadalajara. Discussion eventually circled back to my "silk blue jewel" (as its first owner described it) and what it needed. Tires? OEM Metzelers perhaps. The wheel sizes are a little retro, that 18-inch front especially, so there may be less selection than would be ideal (but now I see that the Motobrick group has lots of ideas and that tires, including the OEM skins, are available online, for a price). Maybe we can move the triple clamp to help get my feet on the ground. Michael mentioned that he had 3/4-inch soles put on his riding boots to help him. Eventually, probably, a type-C handlebar. We talked briefly about how my new hip (scheduled to be retrofitted in February 2013) might influence choices along these lines, but those details are still speculative. First things first: get it to fire. As for me, I've never registered it in NC, figuring that if the motor didn't run, mine was not so much a motorcycle as a full-sized model of one. So there's insurance and registration to get squared away. I left the bike with Danny, who declined a deposit, on a handshake.

News when I have some.


12/7/2012. I must think this is actually going to work out, because I just ordered tires. Did a lot of Googling to find that there's hardly a bad word to be said from K75s riders about Bridgestone BT45's which are way more affordable than OEM Metzelers. Significantly, one reviewer cited his impression that the original Metzelers tend to fall into a turn farther than intended -- an assessment with which I agree and which concisely identifies something that I always felt a little uneasy about. It contributes to the top-heavy impression the K75s exudes. Then there was a choice between the V and H rated versions of the BT45's, where the only difference from my P.O.V. is that the V's are available in the stock 90% aspect ratio (90-series) and cost about $15 more for the set. The reviews I see insist there is no discernable difference between the ride qualities of the V and H tires (tread is a little different, compounds may be identical, and the carcass may be a little stronger in the V's), so let's save a few dollars and lower the bike by using the 80-series H-rated edition. How much lower? Looks to me like (100*.90) - (100*.80) = 10mm or almost half an inch. To a penguin such as I, that could matter.

Other items which have caught my eye but which are not as critical as tires:

  • Handlebars: Start with bar backs for my S-bars (also, rotate the S-bars to raise the grips a bit) with the possibility of C-bars and lots of extra work in the background. You'll still need a longer brake line; get these bits to Danny soon in case he elects to bleed the front brakes early on.
  • How about a Progressive (or similar) shock? The Progressive is available in a 3/4-inch shorter version. [No need, says Danny.] Put that on and adjust the front forks in the triple clamp to keep the front geometry stock. Between the 80-series tires and that move, we'd've brought the bike down by a solid inch or slightly more. Add thick-soled boots (thanks again, MRH) and the bike should feel great.
  • Think about a custom seat (Rick Mayer) Or some custom work on the stock seat to narrow it slightly. But wait to see what needs to be done to accomodate my new bionic joint.
  • Consider a slightly more generous fairing (Aeroflow, Gustafson? In smoke or clear?).
  • Riding boots with thicker soles (consult my gurus, but look at the Bates offering -- want to be damn near six feet tall? Here's your chance).
  • And you're going to need a jacket that fits.

Progressive insurance is a little less than $15/month. Figure out the timing for insurance and registration and get that taken care of soon. So: tires, barbacks, insurance and registration. Then the rest at leisure while I recuperate and get back into this and many other things.


12/10/2012. Congratulations Dr. Robert M. Pirisig. High damn time, too. Eventually I'll tell you about the book I didn't buy at the end of my summer on the northern plains.


12/11/2012. UPS delivered the Bridgestones today. Barbacks and longer brake line are due on Friday but I am leaning toward not doing anything with them until time to fit the bike to the post-bionic me. Things will be different. Still, I'm happy to have ordered them while the ordering was good as I imagine the custom pieces may become scarce as spring progresses. In the event we don't use them, eBay or someone on a Beemer board will give me most of what I paid for the barbacks. If we do indeed raise the forks a bit in the triple clamps with an eye toward making the Earth easier to reach, then the stock brake line might (might) be long enough to allow the bars to be moved to where I think I want them. If not, then the new brake line comes into play. I watched some how-to videos about bleeding the brake lines and the process does not look overwhelmingly complex or subtle. If it does prove daunting, I know just the guy who can do it.

I found my riding suit (Motoport Difi GP-2, Kevlar, blue). Herbert threw it in with the bike. I wore it home from Massachusetts in 1997, and it worked great. Soon I'll see if I can still fit into it, which is to say, I'll see what it will take to tailor it or to modify me. Googled wisdom holds that it's machine washable, armor and all. That would be good.

Assuming all this really does come together, I'm going to look like a time-traveling penguin whose last stop was 1992.


12/13/2012. It rises! The injectors did the trick. Danny says he used everything in the parts box that I brought him from 2007 plus a new battery (Odyssey PC680, same battery he uses in all his machinery; "a little expensive but they last 5 or 6 years"). The old injectors can be cleaned / rebuilt ("they're yours," I said, "use them however you can"). There was one fuse missing and one blown (I checked! how could I be mistaken about testing a simple blade fuse? I mean, really...? S'OK, I've dealt with greater mysteries). Danny approved of the tires ("You'll love these," and pronounced my H-rated, 80-series reasoning sound). We talked about trying bar backs (yes, better than trying to change the bar), and the potential need for brake lines (Danny bled the front brakes to be sure they were still solid; these lines look and feel good, he says). He's changed the oil, the coolant, and regreased the drive-shaft. It all looked OK, but it was all way past its change-by date, and pennies saved here could cost thousands soon. The transmission fluid had turned milky (condensation most likely) and Danny changed that, too.

For the first time in 14 years my bike purrs with that characteristic K75 sound ("Meet George Jetson!"). In this case first impressions are correct: it sounds exactly like George's flying car:



The only thing known to be not working is the horn which is a deal-breaker as far as state safety inspections go. And the muffler is loose; somewhere along the line, a single bolt has worked its way free and allows the muffler to clang up and down against the bracketry for the passenger pegs. Danny's on it. The ABS may come back with the new battery and a full charge. There might, somewhere deep inside something, be a dried out gasket or some rubber widget waiting to fail. No way to find that out except to run it. So it's time to take care of insurance and registration and inspection. Insurance can be has been taken care of online; registration and state taxes will require a trip to Morganton. Soon. Probably the middle of next week.


12/15/2012. Barbacks, a brake line extension, two dedicated washers are in hand. Probably to be installed in April or, more likely, in May et seq. or maybe next week. Trying to think ahead -- we'll talk. Danny called to say that he'd run it about 20 miles this morning and that yes, we win the lottery: the ABS is working. The horn, too, yielded to some fiddling and works. The triple clamp could only be moved about half an inch until the S-bars interfered, but between that small tweak and the lower-profile tires, the rider is almost an inch closer to the ground. The only off-note is that for some reason the engine "idles up" from time to time. Danny disassembled and reassembled the grip and lubed the top of the throttle cable which may be sticking somewhere. "Probably just needs to be worked." I'll ask when and how much it "idles up" when I take Danny the temporary tag or whatever the DMV provides prior to initial NC inspection. Tuesday or Wednesday most likely.

A new item on the action list: clean up the cycle cover, 'cause I don't want to roll it back into the basement ...except maybe if I were to prepare a way to get it there and back under its own power. Probably unrealistic. But in the back of the mind just the same.


:: top ::

                   © 2013, David Cortner