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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Brake - Part 3

To wrap up this series on Spring maintenance I'll look at springs today. And shocks.

When I was in college and sometimes dabbled in alternate realities the one thing that always amazed me was that "Gravity never misses." Throw a ball in the air a hundred times and it will come down a hundred times. Sure, if I could have thrown it hard enough it would have escaped earth's gravity well but it was all I could do at such times to just make it to the kitchen to satisfy my munchies.

The point is that from the moment your bike was built gravity has been at work to make it sag like an old lady's tits. The forks suffer the most because most of them have no pre-load adjustment. Whether you are 5'3" and 100 pounds or 6'4" and 240 pounds you get the same springs. The lightweight rider will get a harsh ride because they don't have enough weight to cause the springs to flex. The heavyweight rider will suffer a mushy ride for the opposite reason. Using lighter or heavier fork oil will compensate but only slightly.

For most bikes you can buy after-market springs to match your weight and riding ability for around $60-80. After a few years of gravity fighting with a general purpose set you will be amazed at what a difference the right springs can make in your ride. Want a quick check to see if you need them? Head down a slight grade at a moderate speed and hit the front brakes hard. Does the whole front end dive like a whale with Ahab on its tail? You need new springs!

If the front end gets no respect the rear suspension is the ugly stepchild of the bike. There is usually nothing to do except adjust the preload and most people get that wrong. When I was younger, and less wise, I assumed that cranking up the preload gave me better handling. All my buddies said so. Which only meant that all my buddies were ignorant and I was dumb for listening to them. Rule: Leave your preload as low as possible to prevent bottoming out. Do not confuse spring rate with dampening!
New shocks are the next best thing you can do to a bike with some miles on it. Factory shocks, just like factory fork springs, are set for the least common denominator. If you are the type who has never met a cheeseburger you didn't like you can crank up the preload to compensate but that will only hasten their demise in the end. If the back end has that oingo-boingo feeling the shocks have given their all and it's time for replacement.

Shocks are expensive. No doubt about it. Go to your dealer and ask about them and they will suddenly show you pictures of the new yacht they are thinking of buying. This is probably the main reason 30 year old bikes have 30 year old shocks. Starting thinking about specialty shocks like Works Performance or Ohlins and you will quickly get a nose bleed from the elevated heights you will be traveling in. Are they worth it? Lots of people think so and if you are a racer they are definitely worth it.

However, there is also Hagon shocks, made in England, that are 90% as good at less than half the price. In fact, they are better than most stock shocks and cheaper as well. What makes them even better is the US distributor, Dave Quinn. If you call you will probably speak to Dave himself. If you say that you need shocks for a 1989 Honda NX250 he will tell you "That's nice" and then ask you how much you weigh, how do you ride, and other factors that will determine what he sells you.

Dave makes up each order individually. Which shock body, combined with which spring rate, will match your specific needs. Got a mono-shock? He's got all the latest models. Want remote adjustments? He can put together any setup you want. For a vintage restoration he can match chrome springs and covers, or go all black for custom, or any combination. No extra charge.

I've used Dave and Hagon for several of my bikes and always been happy. Both with the performance of the shocks and the service from Dave. And he supports the biker community. Every summer the CT Brit Bike Assn. has a big show and swap meet where they raffle off a restored Triumph, BSA, or Norton. The club members do all the work and every year the bike has a brand new pair of Hagon shocks donated by Dave.

He also sells the fork springs so he can help you at both ends. Give him a call! You don't want to be hanging like that bag lady down the street do you? 203-393-2651

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Brake - Part 2

Yesterday I talked about my experiences with the NX250 brakes. Today I'll relate the rest of the tale of neglect.

Most people can relate to brake problems because they can appreciate the need to stop in normal riding. Add the occasional crisis and the rider will start thinking about stopping. Suspension, on the other hand, is a vague, theoretical concept that means little to the average rider. Even if they are aware they generally dismiss the bike's forks and shocks as an expensive part of the bike that rarely fails. Unfortunately, it also rarely works very well in stock form. Add miles and neglect and it goes from bad to worse.

While I had the NX's brake caliper off I decided to replace the fork seals. What I found was probably fork oil that might have been changed once since it was built in 1989. Twenty years of sludge were lurking in the bottom of the fork tubes. 

Fork tubes are a pretty sophisticated mechanisms that work to keep the tire in contact with the road. Bumps, pot holes, and irregularities are all dealt with in an attempt to balance control with comfort. A fork tube is composed of two linear bearings that allow the wheel to travel up and down. The internal passages and valves open and close to control the flow of fork oil which controls the dampening. This keeps the bike firmly in contact with the road and avoids the oingo-boingo bouncing you see in old Fords with bad shocks. When the oil gets old and filled with sludge the fork can't move the way it's supposed to and traction is lost. The NX was just such a case. Because it happens slowly over time it is hard to appreciate but it is a classic statement that a rider will make, "Boy, it really feels like a new bike!", when the fork oil is replaced. The NX took 420cc per side and used up a 1 liter bottle. Would you pay $15 for a new bike feel? Do it once a year and you'll never have to endure the old bike feel.

It's even easier to do than changing the brake fluid and can often be done at the same time. Most forks have a drain plug at the bottom of each fork leg. Simply unscrew the top fork cap to let air in and then remove the drain plug. Have the drain pan positioned so that it will catch a stream shooting out or you'll have a mess to clean up. When it's all drained out I usually shoot some contact cleaner down the tube to flush out the sludge. Then replace the drain plug and refill the tube with whatever the manufacturer recommends. If you think about it stop at your dealer and get new drain plug washers before you start. They are generally copper washers that cost about $1 apiece. 

Note: If you have newer cartridge style forks the good news is that they are much better a doing their job by design. The bad news is that they generally require the dealer and special tools to work on. Do it every third year and enjoy the ride.

Tomorrow I'll close this series with my views of the rear suspension.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Brake - Part 1

Yesterday I talked about the importance of getting your bike ready for riding. More than just checking the oil level and tire pressure. I know some of you go all out and check the chain adjustment too but there is more to it than that if you want the bike to last and perform to new bike standards.

Yesterday I was working on an NX250 that I bought last fall as a simple, easy to ride bike that I could run errands on or loan to a friend who might be visiting. The NX series (125, 250, 650) were yet another Euro line that Honda brought to the US only to have them sell like day old fish cakes. Light, agile, electric start, stylish and fun they were dual sports that didn't fit into any cruiser/sport/power niche and people looked elsewhere for fun. Now they have a cult following that has kept prices high. The real icing on the cake is the 6-speed transmission. The 6th gear is overdrive that allows the bike to cruise at freeway speeds all day long.

Back to my point, this bike had been taken for granted. Nothing terrible but everything needed attention because the normal once-a-year maintenance had never been done. The front brake was wooden, absolutely no feel. I ordered the master cylinder kit and caliper seals and got to work. Sure enough, the brake fluid was the consistency of molasses. And about the same color.

People, brake fluid (DOT 3 & 4) are hygroscopic. That means that they absorb moisture out of the air. Water and brake fluid don't mix and the water corrodes the insides of the brake parts. Another problem is that the water can boil if the brakes are applied for an extended period. The water vapor is very compressible, relative to brake fluid, and causes a big loss of brake power. Not good for a long downhill stretch.

I had to buff out the master cylinder and put the new kit in. When I put the air hose to the brake line a disgusting collection of grunge and sludge came out the other end. The caliper required honing to cleanup the bores and get the pistons to move freely. It's a wonder that there was any braking at all! New seals went in and I bled the brakes with new fluid. Now the brakes feel like new, plenty of power without being grabby.
Pro Honda Brake Fluid DOT 4 12 oz.
All in all this cost me about $50 in parts + several hours of going to the dealer for parts and doing the work. And it all could have been avoided. Once a year, change the brake fluid and bleed your brakes! Take off the cover and pump new DOT 4 fluid through the system until it comes out as clear as it went in. 10 minutes and $5 for the fluid. That's all it takes to make your bike better and safer. Do it now!

PS: Take off the brake lever(s) and grease the pivots while you're at it. It's the little things that make a big difference.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring time is torque time.

So - the sun is out, the birds are singing, and the open road is calling. Maybe all of you in San Diego get to play all year but for the rest of us it's time to dig out the gear and hit the road.

Unfortunately that's just what I did a year and a half ago. I hadn't checked out a new (used) bike I had just bought and was rewarded with a collar bone broken in two places. Of course, the seller had assured me that everything was in perfect shape but had I checked it over thoroughly before riding I would have found that the swing arm and steering head bearings were loose. Combined with old, cold tires I was doing the horizontal slide on Rt 12. when I touched the front brake while leaned in a corner. A classic single bike accident.

However, since you didn't just buy a bike you don't have to do this right!? Wrong!!

You own a used bike. The fact that you are the one who used it makes it even more suspect. You would be the last one to notice the little things that have crept in over the miles. You adjusted to the wear and tear and learned to compensate. But, just like my bike, when things get a bit dicey all those little things can come together in a perfect storm to toss you on the ground. I was lucky, nobody else was on the road to run over me as I slid along. Things could have gone from bad to deadly had a semi been coming. Or some aged geezer with the reaction time of an arthritic sloth.

NOW IS THE TIME! Before it gets too nice to sit at home, take an hour and go over your bike from front to rear. How old are those tires? Tread depth is not a good judge of tire condition. DOT requires that the date of manufacture be encoded on each tire made since 2000. If it's older than that it's definitely time to replace! Tire Rack explains it all here. Can you make a dent in the tire with your thumbnail? If not get new tires because they are not gripping the road.

Get out a grease gun and lube all the joints on the bike. Then see if you have any play in the swing arm or steering head. What about the wheels? Are the wheel bearings loose? Even a little bit? They are not expensive, hospital bills are.

Henkel 01-24200 Loctite 6-ml Threadlocker 242Permatex 81343 Anti-Seize Lubricant 133

Finally, get out the torque wrench of your choice and torque every nut and bolt you can find. The best way is to take it out, clean it, apply blue Locktite, and re-torque. For steel bolts into aluminum parts I use anti-seize to prevent the dielectric corrosion that occurs between dissimilar metals.

Why use a torque wrench? Because most people over-tighten nuts and bolts. This can cause bearings to act improperly and other parts to distort and malfunction. Swing arms can't comply properly if they're too tight. Same with steering head bearings. Both can lead to deadly wobbles. Ever strip out a bolt because you thought it needed just a bit more? Or worse, stripped a bolt because the previous owner thought they were King Kong and ruined the threads?

Take the time to go over your bike now and enjoy the ride all summer. Your collar bone will thank you.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Resolution Kept

For the New Year I made a resolution to rationalize my motorcycle inventory. Decide what to ride, what to keep as a collection, and what to send down the road. You can read that post here.

So far, so good. The BMW /2 went last month and the CRF250X left this morning. The CB650 is running well and as soon as I get the title it's going on CraigsList. The brake master rebuild kit is here for the NX250 so it will be on CL next week too.

OMG! What am I going to do with all this room and spare time? Get to work on the LSR bike which has languished. And finish the mapping for b-cubed.

Most of all I'll just go riding and having fun again!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Computer crud (and how to make it better)

If you use an Apple or Linux computer you can check out now and come back tomorrow. If you have a PC I have two excellent tools for your computer that will make it "faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a locomotive, and able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound."
CCleaner - Freeware Windows Optimization

CCleaner is a great tool for taking out the trash, getting rid of unwanted programs, cleaning up your registry, and removing programs that slow your computer at startup. The function I use most often is the the Recycle Bin cleanup. More than just emptying the trash it also cleans out the temp files, the browser caches, and the internet cookies. One shot, all done. It is all wrapped in a user friendly interface that doesn't take a geek to understand but puts all the options under your control. Once set up it can run as easily as the regular Empty function but does so much more.

Every computer comes with games, trial-ware, and other unwanted programs that the maker includes "to enhance your user experience". This usually means that they got a few bucks for including this crap at your expense. With google running in one window and CCleaner in another I was able to check on each program and eliminate a couple of gigabytes of programs I had installed and never used or that the manufacturer had installed. For instance I found that I had a program that controlled a dialup modem. First, I don't have a dialup modem and second, there isn't even a land line to the house any more! 350 megabytes of space reclaimed just for that one.

CCleaner also has a similar program for disabling programs that automatically start when you turn on the computer. Every program wants to think it is so important that it should take up memory so that you don't have to wait an extra 3 seconds when you really do want to use it. If you ever do. Again, Google in one window and CCleaner in another allows me to check what each one does and then decide to disable it or not. This is especially safe since you are not removing the program and can re-enable it if you guess wrong.

Finally, CCleaner has a registry repair function that checks for missing keys, broken links, and other crud that builds up over time. Since this is all kept in memory it is just wasted space and possibly info that can cause errrors. CCleaner first scans and presents a list of issues. Then, with your permission, it makes a backup and fixes the problems.

I've been using CCleaner for a few years, on a few differnent computers, without a single problem. It's good stuff and it's free! You can make a donation and I recommend that you do if you find it as useful as I do.

Once you get everything all cleaned up it's time to reorganize. Microsoft has a disk defrag utility that is worth every penny you paid for it. It's better than nothing but just. Smart Defrag is so much better in so many ways. It's another free program that does a deep defrag rather than a superficial one. It will do a disk optimization as well as the simple defrag. Caution: the deep optimization will take a long time! I usually start it before going to bed at night so that the computer is ready in the morning. Smart Defrag doesn't seem like much as there is only one thing it does. However, it does it really, really well.

Try out both of these programs, your computer will thank you. If you find them as useful as I do make a donation to the authors. They will thank you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another Freebie

I received a $10 Bike Bandit gift card in the mail and, since I don't use them, I've decided to pass it on. I have nothing against them, I just prefer Peninsula Honda / The Motor Cafe for my OEM parts if I'm not using my local dealer.

So leave a comment and I'll pick one at random. Good Luck and thanks for reading this blog.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

American Racing

Peter sent this article on Maine ice racing from the New York Times:
The NYT article is here. The video is here.

It looks like a lot of fun if you bundle up well. The racing is good cheap fun in a land where employment is scarce and a job at Walmart is considered a very good thing.

It would be easy to dismiss them as a bunch of Red Necks until you dig a little deeper and see this as a bright spot in a hopeless world. The jobs are gone as tougher environmental laws restrict the logging that was the mainstay of the area. When I tried to set up a trail system for dual-sport bikes a few years ago I ran into a lot of opposition. I argued that tourists would bring cash to the area but was told that the greenie groups were in control of the state agency. Better to have land where nobody except elitist hikers can go than to have jobs so that local people don't lose their homes?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Definition of a Bad Day!

Too much advance on the spark? A little lean on the mixture? Compression too high?
All of the above?

Sunday, March 21, 2010


From the Gretjen file of People-With-Too-Much-Time-On-Their-Hands:
It's easy for a gear-head to be discouraged about the state of the world, especially in times of Carpocalypse and Cash for Clunkers. But occasionally, a bright light of awesome renews the spirit. Road-legal bumper cars do just that.

Yes, you read that right; these little beasties are street legal. Either Kawasaki or Honda motorcycle engines for power, and retired vintage bumper car bodies - transformed into the most awesome form of mini-car we've ever seen.

 There's seven of these little monsters floating around California, and they're all the creation of one man, Tom Wright, a Gyro Gearloose  builder on the outskirts of San Diego who figured the leftovers of the Long Beach Pike amusement park needed a more dignified end than the trash heap. 

They were originally powered by Harley engines but rattled like heck and Tom replaced them with Honda or Kawasaki 750's... and a couple have been 'measured' [not run at] theoretically as capable of 160 MPH which is terrifyingly fast in machines with such a short wheelbase.  Doesn't mean we would totally rock one should the opportunity present itself.  In fact, we now have only one burning desire, to see these things running a go kart track with a clown in the drivers seat.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Your other two wheels

Google Maps has just added a new feature that is really exciting. You could previously get directions for driving, walking, or public transportation. Now it will also provide a bicycle friendly map to your destination. When I first heard about this a couple of weeks ago I have to admit that I yawned. "Another feature for urban elitists", I thought. Supposedly it mapped out a route that avoided busy streets in favor of a cycle friendly path. I don't know if it goes over hills or around them.

However, I was not giving Google enough credit (a subtle way of admitting that I was wrong). I was looking for the directions to a local state park and on a whim clicked the bicycle option. Wow. It took me down the hill but then jogged me over to the Rails-To-Trails path and even knew about the new extension that was recently opened. From there it was back to public roads but smaller less traveled ones that would have fewer cars. On the map above you can see where it parallels Rt 85 but is actually 1/2 mile away wandering through the woods.

The total distance was not too far off the distance for a car. Getting away from the public roads is certainly nice. The big bonus is that I have another way to get out of the cage and onto two wheels. And the view from the rear will certainly improve with some pedaling on my part! Just because it doesn't have a motor doesn't mean it's not fun.

Friday, March 19, 2010

First Ride - the good and the very, very bad

A great day for a ride in rural CT. Warm weather and a chance to see how the CB650 runs on the roads after the recent problems. I'm happy to report that except for a bit of seepage under the head gasket, common for a bike of this age, the 650 ran beautifully. It's a sit back and enjoy the scenery kind of bike which is very different from my other bikes. Eye opening and enjoyable.

One of my favorite destinations is Zip's Dining Car in Dayville, CT. This is a diner in the most original sense of the word. It makes no attempts to be retro or trendy. It's simply about the food and the service. The food is blue collar fare with no pretensions. If you're looking for artisan, organic, or au courant go elsewhere. And yet, all the food is hand made a plate at a time. The food is from local farmers whenever possible and is fresh from the fields. The mashed potatoes have lumps and the whipped cream on the strawberry shortcake is made in the milk shake mixer just for your order. Rt 12 & Rt 101 just off I-395 exit 93 east. Look for the sign that says "EAT"

The ride back was leisurely, a straight shot down Rt 44 to Rt 32. Or so I thought. Just past UConn 4 Corners traffic was suddenly diverted onto a side road. At first it was a comedy of errors as traffic played follow the leader into the grounds of the old Mansfield Training School. This is a 100 acre campus with ~30 buildings. Cars were going up one road and down another to either meet up again going the other way or end up at a dead end. Since I knew a bit about the lay of the land I decided to head cross country to get out of the silliness. Then I saw this:
It became instantly clear why the road was closed, two bikers down. Word from one of the employees was that they were both dead but at that point one was actually still alive. Some 74 year old geezer in a Volvo had crossed the center line and hit the bikers head on. The Hartford Courant story is here.

It certainly put the rest of the ride in a dark mood. When I got home I sat down and wrote a message to my state legislators asking when they were going to make testing for drivers over 65 mandatory. I'm at that age and I'm willing to take the time to get some of the aging incompetents off the road. It's only going to get worse now that the Boomers are arriving at this point. They will fight it all the way but it has to be done. NPR once did a series on aging drivers. I remember one saying, "I always drive very slow so that I don't hit things very hard." 

Take a moment and write a message to your representatives now. Riding is dangerous. Reality is out there waiting to bite. As it is written, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour ... "

Ride Safe.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How did Stevie do that?

If you saw yesterday's post you saw Stevie Wonder play Punch Dub (aka Slug Bug). Probably you thought it was just an advertising gimmick. Here is the real story from Stevie himself. Pretty cool!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

VW ad

I don't remember this ad campaign but the "punch line" is incredible!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The tale of the cat

No post yesterday because there was no electricity at the house. The storm knocked out the power so I went to NJ to see a man about a Buick.

I live in the country surrounded by corn fields, dairy farms, and forests. This is generally pleasant but a recurring irritation for a motorcyclist such as myself is the existence of mice. Mice are proliffic. Their one purpose in life is to make sure other life forms are well fed. To keep up the supply they breed at a rate that makes rabbits envious.

So every fall I not only have to drain the gas from carburetors and lube the chains for the long winter's nap, I have to remove the gas tanks and seats. Also the air cleaners and anything else the little critters can use for nesting. The gas tanks have to come off because the area between the tank and frame backbone seems to be prime mouse real estate. And while they're there what way to while away the winter hours than chew on the wiring harness!? I dismantle, bag, seal, and store all the parts and hope for the best. Moth balls are distributed liberally in the hope that they will gas out the pests.

It was with great delight that I found that a gray cat had taken up residence in the garage and there was nary a sign of mouse habitation anywhere. Could life get any better? However, I made a fatal mistake. I gave the cat some milk. And some cat food. On the front porch. What was I thinking? If I was thinking at all!

The cat, who was happily providing a needed service as an independent contractor, now became a dependent of the state. Instead of sitting in the garden patiently waiting for a root eating mole to stick it's head above ground thereby providing lunch, it now sits on the front porch, staring in the window, waiting for free food to fall out of the sky. Worse, it continually expresses its opinion about its entitlement by loudly yowling every time I walk by.

The mice are throwing a party and are taking up a collection to buy more cat food. I'm back where I started except that now I have a useless cat that hates me for not feeding it. It must be a liberal Democrat!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Born to be Mild - The Saga Continues

I took the left exhaust off and found - nothing! I even started the engine with open exhaust ports and more - nothing! Except a lot of noise of course. I pressure washed the inside of the pipes to see what there was to see coming out of the back. But again - nothing! Weirder and weirder. When I put it all back together it ran fine and spit out - nothing! So I guess the problem is solved even though I'm not sure why.

One clue might be that the emissions storage tank was full of a watery oily mixture. While I had the exhaust off I drained the system and got ~250cc of liquid (about a coffee mug full). Could this have been the source of the oil shooting out of the back of the exhaust? But, if so, why only on the left side?

Feeling confident that the problem was behind me I moved on to change the oil while the engine was hot. Good idea but bad for me. I lost my balance and leaned against the exhaust pipes.
Score: nylon jacket:0 - exhaust pipes:1
Now I get to scrape the jacket material off the pipes.

One of the first things they did at Honda School was have us tighten a bunch of bolts and then use a torque wrench to see how close we were to factory specs. By varying degrees we were all over-tightening the bolts. So it was no surprise that the oil drain plug was so tight that the aluminum washer was mashed into a mushroom shape. Where do these people come from? Why are they allowed to own wrenches?

The oil filter housing was worse. The bolt head on the end of the filter bolt was rounded off and it was so tight that even a large pair of Vice Grip pliers couldn't loosen it. Now Honda has to assume part of the blame here. Putting a 12mm bolt head on the filter bolt was definitely one of their worst ideas. It's too small for the application and too easy to round off. A shade tree mechanic with an open end wrench is a recipe for disaster. There were several after market bolts that used either a 14mm or 17mm bolt head to remedy the problem.

However, the previous owner took to the problem to new heights (lows?) by not stopping when things were going bad. The picture above shows what I had to do to get it apart. Ugly to say the least! Nothing like a 32oz hammer and a 3/4" cold chisel to have your way. Payback for my jacket! Luckily I had a used filter housing and bolt in the odd parts box to replace these with.

It should all be wrapped up today. It's going to be raining all weekend so no road test until Monday or Tuesday. More news then, Something new tomorrow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Born to be Mild - The Mystery Continues

Herein I continue the adventure with the oil pumping CB650 from yesterday's post. Fearing the worst, I pulled the plugs on the CB650. I was imagining a blown or leaking head gasket that was passing enginee oil into the exhaust system. Although the engine ran fine when I put it away you never know about these things. To my surprise they all looked fine. If anything they looked a little lean to me. Certainly not wet and oil fouled as I would have guessed from the oil that was blowing out of the muffler.
To complete the inspection I took a compression reading with the results that follow:
CB650 Compression
As you can see nothing particularly weird there. The #1 cylinder is a little high which might be a clue that oil is getting to the rings and sealing better. So, today I'll pull the pipes and see what I can find.

Another thought I have is that this bike has a lot of emissions plumbing. Did I connect the wrong hose together that is pushing oil to places it shouldn't go? Tune in tomorrow folks for the further adventures of a baffled mechanic.

In the meantime if you have any thoughts or suggestions please leave them in the comments section.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Born to be Mild - Driving me Wild!

This is my CB650. It is a motorcycle that will take you cross-town or cross-country. Not a canyon carver, traffic light drag racer, or moto blitzkrieg. It was meant for solid and dependable transportation and is the darling of commuters and messengers who value comfort, dependability, and a light clutch over high strung Ricky Racer power and styling. It has the added advantage of being about as Plain Jane as a motorcycle can get. Even the most whacked out crackhead in SoHo is going to pass on stealing this one.

I was using it to get to work and local riding when I had an apartment in the Boston area. It was always ready to go and never required anything other than an oil and filter change at regular intervals. It has sat for the last 18 months and I decided to get it out to ride while I worked on the LSR bike. I could ride my R100RS on long trips but the CB650 would be the perfect local runabout.

Gumout - Carb + Choke Cleaner Jet Spray, 19 oz. (7460) 

Or so I thought! The first step was to remove the bank of carburetors and clean them. Three cheers for Gumout Carb + Choke Cleaner spray. I'm sure that there is nothing friendly in the stuff but it sure cleans out old gum and crap from jets and float bowls! Caution: Don't get it into your eyes - It burns like hell! Squirting it into a blind hole sends a stream right back into your face. However, it does work like magic and I recommend it with the caveat that some sort of glasses be worn when you use it.

Next step, patch a broken wire on the coil. @#$%*&* mice! Living in the country has its benefits. Gnawing rodents is not one of them. While I was doing all this I had refilled the battery with distilled water and put it on the charger. Amazingly it came back to life and seems hold a charge. Some time spent with the polish cloth and it was looking good to go.

A pull on the choke knob and a push on the starter button rewarded me with a very pleasant song. There is nothing like the  sound of Honda's SOHC-4 engines. It just seems to say, "Let's go for a ride and have some fun."

And then I walked around the back and noticed that the left (1-2) pipe was shooting out something dark. I was thinking it was soot from sitting so long but when I put my hand behind the muffle it came back dripping with oil! And I don't mean a fine mist. This thing was pumping out a spray that was oiling the garage floor for 8 feet!

I immediately shut it down and checked the oil level again. It was showing on the dipstick so I hadn't blown anything up. Yet. Since it was otherwise sounding good I decided to run it down the street in the ever vain hope that it was just something that was out of whack and needed to jiggle back in place. No such luck.

Today I'll pull the plugs and see what they have to tell me. I'll take a compression test to see if a blown head gasket or broken ring is indicated. With so much anti-emission plumbing on the engine I'm wondering if I plugged in a hose wrong when I got the carbs back together and it's sucking oil through that. The bike used to run well before I put it away so I'm hoping it's nothing catastrophic.

As they say, News and Views at 11.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Craigslist search engines

Opps - I thought I'd have Part II of the Adventure Travel story today but what Dan sent me was not more pictures of the India trip to Ladakh but the same pictures twice. So I am somewhat unprepared with content this morning. However, something interesting always seems to pop up.

Craigslist is always a great source of bikes, parts, and other stuff like tools and pickup trucks. However, searching each and every craigslist is tedious if not a complete drag.

Searchtempest is a much better way to do this. Enter a ZIP code and a radius and it will search every craigslist in the area. It also has a better search engine that utilizes wild cards.

Allofcraigs takes a simpler approach. Enter a query term and it seems to search every category in every craigslist in the world. This can be good if you're searching for something obscure but is a bit like trying to take a sip from a fire hose if you search for "Honda". Luckily there is an Advanced Search filter to help narrow the results.

Try them out and let me know what you think. Got any others to recommend?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ladakh Biking Expedition - Part I

Everyone knows that I love adventure riding. My friend Dan sent me this and I'm passing it along in total so that you don't miss any of it. Part 2 tomorrow.

Ladakh Biking Expedition - A Journey to Top of the World

(June 2009)

                          Heaven!!  Any one seen heaven when you are all alive? Majestic mountain ramparts crowned by snowcapped peaks, crumpling alpine slopes draining into wild mountain streams of foaming cascades of immaculate water, deep river valleys with yawning canyons & powerful rivers, blue lakes with the reflection of tranquil mountains, awesome huge glaciers and piled moraine, oasis of green fields swathe by cream-colored desert mountains that all beyond the imagination of human mind and the charm bestowed on this land by the god. That all I am speaking about heaven on earth i.e. Ladakh, my heaven’s bike ride. But wait for one minute, entry to this heaven is not easy, you have to pass through embarrassing conditions...Just imagine when you travel hundreds of miles in barren & no man’s land, devastated & suddenly disappeared roads, swept bridges, steel rods coming out of road, 2 feet deep snow-melts water & mud ponds, harsh and unforgiving conditions. After crossing such an abyss you can see this heaven.
                 One of the toughest terrains to ride in the world- Ladakh is every biker’s dream. I’m not an exception. I am passionate trekker around Western Ghat. Long awaited dream of Ladakh came true by great planning and guidance of my genius friends Sameer Phansalkar & Hrishikesh Tambe with support of other 4 team members.
                  We started our biking from Jammu & then to Paradise on Earth i.e. Srinagar & "Golden meadow"  Sonamarg, crossing perilous Zozi la Pass, saluting tiger hill at Kargil , then Suru Valley of immense beauty, reaching most isolated area of alpine lakes amidst snow peaks of ‘Zanskar Valley’, reaching forbidden city  Leh, visiting mysterious monastery in Ladakh, conquered the world at Khardungla (18,380 ft the world's highest motorable road), then splendid vistas of  scintillating ‘Pangong Lake’ lake, visiting to Lake of God ‘Tso Moriri’, meeting gigantic needles on the way at Pang & Sarchu, traversing through world’s  worst & mighty Baralacha La & Rohtang pass, then ‘land of god’ Himachal via Manali,  Chandigadh & finally completed at capital of  India, Delhi.
                 During this expedition on my bike, Bajaj Caliber (111cc) which already crossed 1,00000 Kms in December 2008 gave me best company without any single compliant though it was harsh conditions or low standard petrol.  Finally there is entry to heaven only for selected persons & I am one of them. So friends take seats & get ready for story of my 21 Days & 3,000Kms of Men, Machines, Mountains & Heaven.

Pune, India.

                              Road to Ladakh

                            a peaceful adventure,
                            an old new venture,

                            a dream with eyes open,
                            a scream with lips sealed,

                            something out of the world,
                            a story never heard never told,

                             i am back to my town
                             leaving something of my own

                             my mind, my heart is there,
                             High Road of Ladakh is where

                            _________________                                                                      Nitin Sharma

Please Check out full detail blog of our Ladakh Biking Expedition By Shridhar Purandare

Leh Ladakh biking expedition -- Challange that one can enjoy

Route Map
Our Route Shown in Red Color

Jammu - Patnitop - Srinagar - Sonamarg - Zozi la Pass - Drass - Kargil - Suru Valley - Rangdum (Zanskar valley) - Kargil - Mulbek - Namika La - Lamayuru - Leh - Khardung La - Hemis - Thiksey - Leh - Chang La Pass - Pangong Lake - Leh - Kiari - Chumathang - Tso Kar - Tso Moriri - Tanglang La - Pang - Sarchu - Baralacha La - Zing Zing Bar - Keylong - Tandi - Rohtang Pass - Manali - Chandigarh – Delhi

First meet our team

Anand Lohokare (Bajaj Pulsar 180cc), Nikhil Upadhye (Bajaj Pulsar 150cc), Ashutosh Khandkar, Sameer Phansalkar (Bajaj Pulsar 150cc),Shrikant Shimpi (Bajaj Caliber 111cc), Shridhar Purandare (Yamaha Gladiator 125cc), Hrishikesh Tambe (Bajaj Pulsar 180cc)

Dal lake, Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir

Visual spectacle that unfolds before u will put anything that you have ever seen in life, well just scenery.

We started our Biking Expedition from Jammu after Halt at Patnitop we reached at Sringar

Dal lake, Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir

Beauty as we feel it is something indescribable; what it is or what it means can never be said.

In Srinagar our stay was at House boat at Dal Lake

Dal lake, Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls

Next Day Morning stupendous view of Dal Lake from our House boat

This is indeed a heaven on earth

Dal lake famous for encircling mountains, blossoming gardens and orchards, Shikaras and Houseboats

Floating markets, Dal Lake

Next day morning visit to floating markets
Salesmen paddle from boat to boat, selling everything you could want such as fruit, nuts, fresh flowers, woolen shawls, silk carpets, leather goods.

Journey from Srinagar to Sonamarg takes you through splendid vistas for which Kashmir is renowned

Narrow trails weaving through misty snow-clad peaks, cool mountain air lashing against your face, and charming hill folk greeting you on the way

'Meadow of Gold’ Sonamarg, Jammu & Kashmir

“The greatest treasures are those visible to the eye but found by the heart.”

Sonamarg surrounded by dense forests, full of sycamore and alpine flowers, silver birch, fir and pine, the meadow presents a fascinating sight. It further enhanced with the snow capped mountains

Sonamarg, Jammu & Kashmir (6,561 ft)

This is like a fantasy picture, the clouds, the mountains, the river... all in perfect harmony

Sonamarg, Jammu & Kashmir

Beauty of this place is beyond the imagination of human mind and the charm bestowed on this land by the gods.

Sonamarg, Jammu & Kashmir

Encircled by snow-covered mountains, Sonamarg is a place of enchanting beauty

Zozi la Pass (11,500 ft) Himalayan Gateway to Ladakh

Located at an intimidating 11,500 ft & 100 km from Srinagar on Srinagar-Ladakh highway. Normally inaccessible except the short summer months because they remain ice clogged. Indian Army & BRO (Border Road Organization) toiling hard everyday to maintain the roads as best as they can under the harsh conditions.

Zozi la Pass (11,500 ft)

Riding through steep valleys and deep narrow canyon under over-hangs in the mountainsides, through snow-melts waters and frozen ice-breaks, over narrow & water swept bridges and even across the abyss, this intended only for audacious bikers.

Zozi la Pass (11,500 ft)

Khalid (Ashutosh) crossing nallah. Roads are in bad condition with lots of gravel, during rain the gravel turns to slush

Tiger hill, Drass, Kargil (16,800 ft)

Being so close to the might of Tiger Hill, was an overwhelming experience.

Standing tall and dominating the famous Tiger Hill on the Line of Control (LoC) is a grim reminder of the Kargil war 1999.The highest peak in the region which has a clear view of the National Highway 1 D, occupied by Pakistan

Drass Second coldest inhabited place in the world, 10600 ft. Temp. (-60°C) on 09 June 95
Normally Drass experiences recurring snowfalls during winters lower the temperature to as low as minus 40 degrees

“When you go home, tell them of us & say for your tomorrow we gave our today”

Kargil war memorial, Drass, Kargil

Panoramic view Suru Valley, (9,850ft)
40 km south of Kargil

Panoramic view of Suru Valley, Royal mountain ramparts crowned by snowcapped peaks, crumpling alpine slopes draining into wild mountain streams of foaming cascades of immaculate water, awesome glaciers descending along the Himalayan slopes to the river  bed in riverine formation, maze of mud-mud brick villages surrounded by lush irrigated farmland.

Unique Design farms at Suru Valley

Charming Girls at Suru Valley, Dist. Kargil

“Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven.”

“A smile happens in a flash, but its memory can last a lifetime.”

Time - 6pm, Temperature 3 °c, Height -11,500 ft, Spot - No man’s land surrounded with snow-clad peaks, Where - on way towards Zanskar valley, 104 km from Kargil, Nearest village - Rangdum with very rare population (22 km from this spot), Road condition – crushed, What happen - Sameer's bike's rear tyre punched 2nd time, Worst thing - For half an hour, one by one we tried to pump air but it was all in vain. Finally we decided to left Sameer's bike here & move towards Rangdum with punched tire.

Rangdum, Zanskar valley (11,500 ft)
130 km south- east of Kargil

As we moved further the road got worse and beauty got outmaneuver.
Entire View becomes entities to another world, another universe…… Surely the Gods live here.

Rangdum, Zanskar valley (11,500 ft)

The farthest and the most isolated part of Rangdum surrounded by colorful hills on one side & glacier encrusted rocky mountains on other.

Panoramic view of ‘Zanskar Valley’ (11,500 ft).

The picturesque tableland adorned with small alpine lakes and surrounded by snow covered peaks.


Ubiquitous on mountain slopes all over Ladakh

Check Out Full Photos Album @ Picasa