Motorcycle Brakes Upgrade

All right, so not so long ago I wrote about performing a valve adjustment on my motorcycle and oil changes on both that and my wife’s car.  This is all within the last year, and for someone who has never performed any mechanical maintenance beyond filling power steering fluid prior to that, I feel I’m allowed to be a little impressed with myself.

The first time I changed the oil in the wife’s car, it was something like a 7 hour job.  Like I said, not mechanically experienced.  Once the weather warmed up a bit, I changed oil and filter on both the car and the bike in around 6 hours.  Hardly professional mechanic level, but I was bolstered by it.

As an aside, prior to changing the oil on a motorcycle, you’re supposed to take it on a short ride to get the oil flowing.  So I did that, and discovered that while the bike will start at 28 degrees, my gear is not good enough to actually ride at that temperature.  In particular, I need different gloves for winter and some manner of neck warmer.  I also got to find out what cold tires mean.  No harm done.

Emboldened by my success with the oil change, I began to look into a brake problem I’d been having.  I would get an occasional pulsating when depressing the brakes gently, usually from a fairly low speed.  I started by hoping it would go away, but instead it got worse.  So I looked it up, and it’s an issue caused by a warped brake rotor.

Now here’s where things start to balloon.  See, a motorcycle rotor is too thin to safely machine flat, so it has to be replaced.  When replacing the rotor, you should replace the brake pads as well.  As I’m checking the manual and the walkthrough at ninja250.org, I see the mention of a possibility of having to replace the brake fluid, and figure I might as well do that while I’m at it.  That leads me to checking the service schedule in my Haynes manual and seeing that the rubber brake lines themselves are supposed to be replaced every four years.  This bike is from 2002, and I’m pretty sure those lines are original.  Yeah, time to replace those, and while I’m at it I can make the upgrade to braided stainless steel brake lines for roughly the cost of questionable eBay new-old-stock parts.

So what I thought was going to be a fairly small job had grown somewhat.  No matter: everything finally came in the mail, I have a Sunday set aside, and off I go.  I started with draining the brake fluid.  Did you know that DOT-4 brake fluid is clear?  Because what was in the sight glass on the handlebar was yellow, but I put that to aged plastic.  That plastic was fine: what drained out of the lines & reservoir was something between generic American beer and piss-weak office coffee in color once it was in the bottle.  Hmm.

But I disconnected everything, took the wheel off, and got the old rotor off with several soaks of WD40, some swearing, and almost breaking a loaner Allen wrench.  I’d forgotten those are put on there with thread-locker, in spite of my having actually bought some to put the new one on.  Eh, go me.  I get the old pads out of the caliper as well, and put the new ones in.  This presents some trouble, and once they are in, they’re almost touching.  That’s a problem, they’re supposed to be able to have that rotor in between them and then some, and I can’t even shove the old rotor in there. The new one’s even thicker than stock.

When all else fails, either lubricate or clean and hope something comes up.  This is where my wife abandons her duty of moral support/mockery and bails; brake cleaner smell was a bit much for her.  Fair enough, though I’ll admit to liking the smell.

Now I’m cleaning the caliper and having some trouble.  See, there are two posts that shove the brake pad against the rotor, with the other pad as a backer.  I can only get one post to move, the other one is stuck out a good half centimeter.  The one won’t come out, the other won’t move a bit.  Repeated soakings and scrapings do nothing, and I’m starting to get frustrated enough that my hands are shaking.  So I take a research break.

Apparently the trick is to blow them out with an air compressor.  But carefully.  Ya huh.  So I wrap the whole thing as best I can, stick the compressor nozzle in the hole where the hose end was and BLAM!  Only the moving post came out.  Great.  So I make a shim out of a paint stir stick to hold the now-free post in its place just enough to maintain pressure, wrap everything, and hit it again.  Success!  In this case, success means I get to scrape dried brake whatsit off everything with a screwdriver.  Satisfying, though.

I put everything back together and this time it fits with some room to spare.  Plus, you know, the entire brake should work now.  The brake line replacement itself was no big deal, just paying attention to torque values.  Putting the front wheel on was its own ordeal, but not an entertaining one; there are some tabs that have to line up from the wheel to the speedometer hub that are identical to some other tabs that are a 90 degree angle from them.  When you line up the wrong ones and tighten the front axle at all, the front wheel locks up.  I got the wrong ones four times in a row and freaked out a little.  Also filling & bleeding the new brake lines took longer than I’d expected until I realized I was also having to fill every cavity on the caliper, duh.

But I’m finally on the home stretch.  Everything is going well right up until I go to put the correct amount of torque on the front axle and realize that the torque wrench is 3/8″.  The socket is 1/2″.  Also this wrench doesn’t even get close to the 88 newton-meters the book says I need for this.  I’d just go to the store and get one, but torque wrenches are expensive and it’s past 11:00 PM, everything has been closed for a good while, and I’d been at this for nearly 12 hours.  Did a walkaround for the torque values I could complete, cleaned up the work space, put the bike away and went home.

I managed to borrow an appropriate-to-the-task torque wrench from a friend of a friend and yesterday I was able to tighten the front axle, put in the cotter pin and take it out for the first proper ride since … last September, I think.

Was an interesting ride. Aside from the usual post-mechanical “oh man, what if I messed something up and it spews fluid all over everything and I die” tension, there’s the addition of bedding in the new brake pads to the new rotor.  See, the rotor is machined flat, and to get grip the pads have to scratch the hell out of it, which they’ll do in their own way that is unique to this bike, how the caliper is resting, and a bunch of other voodoo I don’t understand.  So it’s a process, and for the first 300 miles the brakes are of questionable utility.  You start out at a walk and check them, then at a jog and check them, then you actually start the bike and check the brakes very gradually and at low speeds, slowly building up.

I went on a fairly leisurely 30 mile ride, going easy and avoiding the freeway.  I’d forgotten how fast a bike feels, even at low speeds.  Feel for it comes back fairly quickly, even if I did kill the bike at a stoplight. My nose itches? I’ll just lift the visor with my left hand and hey why’d the bike die?

All that and I completely forgot to replace the old, grody brake fluid in the rear lines.  Ah well, that can wait.  I don’t much use the rear lines anyhow.

P.S. I’m quite pleased so far, so I should probably call them out: Venhill Stainless Steel Braided Brake Line and Galfer HH Sintered Metal Pads and Wave Rotor.  And a Pitbull stand to hold the bike up with the front wheel off.

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Medic’s Bag

So let me tell you a story about doing things the wrong way.  It seems appropriate to start at the end, so here’s the final result:

Medic Bag 01_webeditI made this to go with an outfit for a friend’s LARP I attended.  I’d previously gone to another Live Action Role Playing event he hosted, which was more of a typical “Medieval” fantasy setting where people hit each other with foam swords.  I could see the appeal for others, but I didn’t have much fun and it clearly wasn’t for me.

This entire event was built around another world, ruleset, and playing style.  The LARP is called Here At The End, and the game is based around nighttime play, group versus group, vying for resource control and shooting each other with laser guns.  (No website up that I can recall, so here’s the Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/EvilGeniusEnterprises)

And holy shit I had fun.  I went along to show willing and to get a firmer grip on the ruleset, which I’d promised to help re-write.  So I came in to play a non-combatant medic to get an intimate experience with the health and healing rules, which seemed particularly obtuse.  I still don’t have a great grasp of the minutiae, but that didn’t seem to damage gameplay or slow things down.Medic Bag 02_webeditMost important, though: I had fun, and so far as I could tell so did everyone else.  And before the wife and I got back from the game I had costuming ideas rolling around my head.  I was a medic, and the world of the LARP is a post-apocalypse peopled solely by formerly cloistered disparate groups, each with their own flavor, mythology, ethos, and so forth.  Think Fallout, Mad Max, Paranoia, and the like with World War 2 fetishists, technophobes, steampunk Victorians, and some others I’m forgetting all mixed in.

Medic Bag 03_webeditIn such a world medical technology might improve in some limited ways, but overall would degrade to a serious degree.  Or at least that is what I’m playing with, since playing a 1900s-era quack doctor with a 1950s “Science Cannot Be Wrong” sensibility and access to laser weaponry sounds just fun as can be.  So I immediately start figuring on what this guy would have in his medic’s bag, and started building around that.

Medic Bag 06_webeditI mean that quite literally: I sewed attachments and pouches onto a lining and then sewed them to the outer casing afterward.

Medic Bag 07_webeditSo: alcoholic wipes, forceps, fake syringes (body & cover, no needle), face masks, gloves, band-aids, tongue depressors, a finger light, a centipede, tongue depressors, a pill-box, strike-anywhere and waterproof matches, an Ace bandage, and medicinal liquor with shotglasses.

Oh, and space on the side for small stuff I haven’t thought of yet.  I have some glass jars that’ll fit, but need to come up with nasty or frightening things to put in them – they will then be glued shut and sewn into the leather side roll.  I need to find a little kid’s book of science tricks, I seem to recall stuff like that when I was young.

Now, people with a methodical turn of mind will see how this has already gone wrong.  A pack needs to be a pack first and a display case second, so you design the pack and work the innards around your design, or come up with a new design.  Here, I’ve made the innards and just assumed everything would work.  Yeah.  So the first issue is in how this thing is going to be held on to my body, and the second is in how it is going to remain closed.

Medic Bag 8_webeditI’d left the bottom/center of the pack free of objects because I intended to add some things later that didn’t fit and were too heavy – specifically one of those old circular athletic tape containers (too big) and a glass jar with an LED light, filled with glow-in-the-dark rubber maggots in oil (far too heavy).  Having come up with nothing else, I just let it be, which ended up working out.

Medic Bag 04_webeditThe strap is two strips of latigo leather (a specific tannage of cow leather, used for straps and western stuff – these are a burgundy that is almost black) sewn together and slipped between the lining and the outer layer.  They loop around the arms, over the shoulders, through the brass D-ring, behind the back, through another D-ring (holding the bag closed), over the front, through another D-ring on top and finally held in place with a brass button stud.  And the same on the other side.

It’s a nonsense way to do things, and that strip is about 10 feet long, but it works.  Well, so far: I haven’t run around with it yet.

But I got done with that and decided the front was boring.  Well, I did get some hand-me-down leather tooling tools for Christmas…

Yeah, tooling leather is the first thing you should do to it.  I did it last, because why not?  If it ended up looking poorly, I could use the excuse that leather tooling expertise had been lost with the ages, and that I had tried to teach myself from an old book.  Close enough to the truth.  Actually, it turned out okay, once I decided on a design:

Medic Bag 9_webeditThere is something enjoyably cartoony about the setting, something very Golden Age of Comics about it.  So I wrote something out that wouldn’t look out of place in a 3-color kid’s comic circa 1940, particularly if it said “Kapow!” instead of “Medic!”

Bit it didn’t pop like I wanted.  And this was pre-oiling, and I’m not sure if oiling will deepen contrasts or dim them, but I suspect the latter.  I should find out, though.  No matter: I resolved the issue with three or four coats of maroon leather dye.

Medic Bag 05_webeditClearly my painting skills need work.  That’s all right, this is just for me.

So I let it dry, buffed the excess dye off, put on two coats of oil, let them dry, and then ended with a coating of Atom Wax to seal everything a bit – that’s what the camera flash is shining off of.

Oh yeah, new camera.  Hope everyone likes what it outputs.  It’s just a cheap point-&-shoot, but it’s replacing a very cheap similar model from something like 2004, so there should be improvement regardless.  Oh, and I get to put my new image processing skills to work by streamlining these photos for blog viewing.  Hopefully I did it correctly.

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Belated Year-End Roundup

Yeah, how long has it been since I promised to post more often? Well, things picked up just after that. I’m sticking with that as an excuse.

That is the reason, though; I got a new job as a production assistant to a graphic designer at a place that makes in-store and mailer flyers for grocery and hardware stores.  Actually, let me clarify: I got a job as production assistant to my wife at her work. The number of people who are uncomfortable with our being able to work together is astonishing to me: apparently everyone else would be at their significant other’s throats.

Don’t get me wrong: we get on each other’s nerves, but we can maintain professionalism while we work those moments out.  That, and a mutual understanding that “Fuck off” means “I need some space right now,” and not “I hate you.” Eh, rambling.

So, to go along with that I sold my car.  We can carpool now, and I’ve been itching to replace it for a while, so I replaced it with nothing.  Nothing in this case being a step up from a car held together with duct tape and baling wire.  That might be funny, but it wasn’t a joke; one of the side body panels had been held on with duct tape for the last five years, and the muffler (number 7 as I recall, that car just dissolved mufflers) was held on by wire.  And other things, but the main reasoning became “winter is coming and I don’t want to have to dig the car out of the snow to move it every day when I don’t even use it.”  So, come good weather I’ll have the bike again, and meantime I don’t go out much.

Selling the car doesn’t count as a success, since I took the easy way out: I drove it to the scrapyard, sold the car for $200 and walked home.  I could’ve gotten $500 on craigslist, probably, but I couldn’t bring myself to deal with people to that degree.  We sold the wife’s Jeep a couple of years back and that was irritating enough even though she took care of most of it.

What else?  I know there was something else… oh yes.  Moving from a manual labor job to one where I sit on a chair for 8 to 11 hours a day is an issue as far as my ability to continue fitting into my current wardrobe is concerned.  So I took up Tae Kwon Do with the wife.  I’d been wanting to take up a martial art for a while, but was unable to do so due to a consistently irregular work schedule.  Now that I’m on a regular 8:30 – 5:00-ish, I can actually plan things.  And actual weekends off, are you kidding me?  I can leave town and hang out with people without asking off a month ahead of time.

The money’s not great, but it’s better than the just-barely-above-minimum-wage I was making before.  Oh, and I have insurance for the first time in … fourteen years?  How old am I?  Yeesh.

Up next: a real update, I promise!

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Firewood Carrier Mk. 1.5

I’m counting this as 1.5 because version 1 died before it began.  The request was for something in which to carry firewood, and my original attempt was to make a canvas bag sans sides.  However, it turns out that I have forgotten how to cut fabric with any precision.  Then, while mulling over how to deal with that, I realized that the edged of the bag would have to be reinforced to handle any significant weight of wood.  And the straps would have to go all the way around the bag for the same reason.  So I scrapped the original idea and got to work on the Quiver Mk. 3, as previously shown.

Firewood Carrier 1_1

Then I remembered that some people have those ornamental brass wood holders for indoor fireplaces.  I assume they’re ornamental; I’ve never seen one actually with wood in it.  So why not re-create that shape with leather?

Firewood Carrier 1_2Obviously this is a mixed-media effort: leather and wood.  I was concerned about the handles cutting into a person’s hand if they were entirely of leather, but this way the weight should balance automatically.

Firewood Carrier 1_3As you can see, the body shape is built into the leather.  This was achieved through the usual wet-forming method, like with the Dopp Kits, but I needed a large, non-tapering cylinder.  After pounding my head for a bit, I realized we had one: the kitchen garbage can.  So I cleaned that off and used it.  Note for anyone following in my footsteps: let the person you are living with know that you have stolen the garbage; it avoids difficult questions.

Firewood Carrier 1_4Of course, the whole carrier needs to sit without tipping over, and so I lashed some much larger dowels to the bottom.  I think the bottom ones are 1.5″ in diameter, and the handles are .75″ diameter.  I really didn’t need to put such effort into lashing them into place, they aren’t load-bearing except when the whole thing is sitting on the ground.  Still, it was a good exercise in creative lacing.  The outcome looks good, I think:

Firewood Carrier 1_5The leather is veg-tan, I think 8 or 10 ounce, including the straps (which were sitting around from when I was practicing with the strap cutter and the slicker wheel).  The laces are pre-cut latigo lacings, and the dowel rods are whatever kind of hardwood dowels Home Depot sells, I have no idea.

Firewood Carrier 1_6The dowel-handle-to-strap interface required some serious thought, and working, and re-working, and then rethinking.  Unlike with the Dowel Bag, I was unable to get the straps tight enough with just sewing; the leather is too thick.  Without that tightness, the strap loops can just slide off the end the moment stress is taken off of them, for example the second the carrier is set down.  After a number of attempts, what I ended up with is the above: and inter-weaving of the straps and the lace, which tightens the whole thing to the dowel nicely.  It was that, or furniture-tack the straps to the rods, and likely split them in the process.

Firewood Carrier 1_7So there’s the whole of it: the Firewood Carrier Mk. 1.5.  Untested as yet, and the person who requested it hasn’t yet seen it.  His request was more along the lines of the original canvas bag, but if that’s really all he wanted then why did he ask me?

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Post-valve adjustment ride and first breakdown

Okay, so they aren’t related (mostly), and the “breakdown” really wasn’t.  Still, I went for the eye-catching title.

Since adjusting the valves, I’ve only taken the bike around the block a few times; just lack of time and so forth.  In no way was I nervous about subjecting to stress an engine that I’d taken apart and fiddled with.  No, sir.

So last week Tuesday I went for the gusto and took the bike on the freeway.  Actually, no I did not, because the blinkers suddenly stopped working before I could get there.  Kinda glad they did, really; I likely would not have noticed the blinkers not working while actually on the freeway.  So I pulled into the nearest parking lot (a Fire Station) and started poking around.

The blinkers have been a problem on this bike.  They get power from the quick-detatch type of connectors, which are necessary due to them being on the front fairing of the bike, which has to be removed for quite a few routine maintenance issues.  So their connection isn’t that solid, and I’m used to having to re-attach them.  The symptom is easy to see: when I select a left or right turn, the dash indicator blinks way too fast.  I’ve never had issues with the rear indicators (you don’t take the rear fairing off for anything, so they don’t get bumped), so that always means the front indicator on that side has fallen out again.

This time all four indicators were non-functional, and the dash light didn’t glow either.  Basic logic tells me that the most likely thing these all have in common is (a) a connection to the batter, and (b) a fuse for that connection.  Reasonable assumption: blown fuse.  Well, I know where the fusebox is, even if I’ve never opened it, so let’s take off the side fairing and look inside…

Okay: what the hell, Kawasaki.  Every other fusebox I’ve seen, both in person and online, has had a diagram on the inside of the cover.  Now, I’m not mechanically inclined, so that’s really not that many, but still: what the hell.

So I’m about to carefully ride the bike home (and trying to remember my hand signals from that bicycle course I took when I was 10) so I can look at the Clymer’s manual (way too big to fit under the seats, and I don’t have sidebags) when I remember that I live in the future and have all the answers in the world in my pocket.

Phone with internet connection -> ninja250.org -> fusebox wiring diagram -> turn signal fuse -> yep, that’s popped -> hey, one of these is a spare!

Pulled the old one out, put the replacement in, tested: yup, right front indicator disconnected again, and took the fuse with it this time.  Fiddled, good, put everything back and took off.  Okay, so not really a breakdown since nothing stopped me from going forward, but I’m counting it.

Feeling quite bolstered by the experience, I immediately took the bike for an 80-mile ride, including much freeway time, running a few errands, getting lost-ish, and stopping for ice cream.

Good day.

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Quiver Mk. 3

So, recently I was engaged to create a custom piece of leatherwork.

That is not what this post is about.

The contents of this post did come about, however, as a result of my immediate and temporary failure to create the new item.  The original concept I’d spent a week planning out failed utterly, and so I needed something to focus on to keep myself from becoming too distraught.  So I set to work on a quiver that has been sitting, cut but otherwise untouched, for something like 5 months.

Quiver 3_1 editThis was another custom piece, requested by a LARPing friend to meet some particular needs.  He wanted a quiver that could hold LARP arrows without them falling out (I’ve covered this issue before; the solution is an extra-long quiver), wearable at either the shoulder or waist (tall order), and able to be put on with relative ease (his last quiver needed another person’s help to put on when he was wearing armor).  So I sorted this one out to my liking in my head, cut and pre-punched the leather, and then forgot about it entirely because motorcycle motorcycle motorcycle motorcycle.  That’s not all it was, but yeah.

Quiver 3_2 editNow, this has lead to an interesting thing.  The vegetable-tanned portions of the quiver (the body and the base) were on top of the pile on my table, so they kept getting sunlight on them every day; they tanned.  That’s why I like using veg-tan leather: it ages.Quiver 3_3 editIt also dries out.  The leather was still pliable when I got to it (and I’ve held leather you could hammer nails with), but it felt thirsty, like touching it was pulling the moisture from my skin.  It took about 4 coatings of neatsfoot oil before it felt right again.  Then I topped it with a protective coating of Atom Wax.

In case you cannot tell, I’m pretty pleased with the fancy stitching job I did on the side and bottom.

Quiver 3_4 editNow on to the perquisites: easy on/off, and flexible wearing point.  The quiver is held to the body by two sets of paired latigo strips.  They’ll certainly be able to hold some arrows, and I’ve stretched the hell out of them to try and force a break: nothing, so I think they’ll hold.

Quiver 3_5 edit

Each one is attached on the right side of the contrasting leather holding plate, so the strips travel around the body and attach back on the left by wrapping around or hooking onto one of a pair of antler toggles.  The white in the antler helps the darkened leather pop a little more, I think.

Quiver 3_6 editA straight-across attachment method seemed likely to allow the quiver to bounce, and seemed like the straps might even come off the toggles in a running situation.  Thus, I planned a crossover of the straps to help distribute the weight and any disturbances.

Quiver 3_7 edit

This also acts as a pad, as I was worried about the fairly thin strips digging into a person on the point of contact, and secures the point of crossover somewhat.  Adjustment of the pad’s placement is possible (and necessary to transition from shoulder-mounted to hip-mounted wearable methods) but is a bit of a pain due to the crossover pad locking the strips partially in.  The benefit of this is that the pad shouldn’t move about one’s person during running or combat.

Quiver 3_8 editI’m rather pleased with how it turned out.  The attachment system I’ve designed isn’t as single-user-friendly as I’d desired (will probably require a little help getting hooked-in, at least in armor, and due to the length of the free-hanging strips, there isn’t a visually-pleasing way to hang the quiver up when it is not in use.

Still, looks quite good and should handle well.  I should probably let the guy know it’s finally done.

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Rampant Manliness

So before I get into this, I need to make one thing straight: I don’t know a damn thing about mechanical work.  I have no background in this, I spent high school reading rather than learning anything, and my only car has been reliable enough that anything that goes wrong with it goes wrong badly enough to require a tow rather than being side-of-the-road fixable (hi, memory of my brake line exploding!).  The result of this is that I’ve never put on a spare tire (pretty sure mine’s the original on an 18-year-old car, wouldn’t help much anyway), never changed a car’s oil, never done my brakes.  Probably the most mechanically apt thing I can put my hand to is changing a dead battery in the middle of a blizzard, but I had help with that.  Oh, and putting in a head unit properly, but since someone was able to undo that with a crowbar and 30 seconds’ work, I’m not sure that counts.

So we’re in the same mental frame here: the mechanical insides of a car are big and scary and likely to kill me if I touch them, if not right away then when I’m at freeway speeds.  Which is probably why I thought it was a good idea to take something I’m afraid to do on a four-wheeled vehicle and do it to a two-wheeled vehicle.  After all, if the engine explodes out of a car it’ll roll to a stop, whereas if the engine explodes out of a motorcycle it’ll travel upwards into the gas tank and then further up into my crotch, and then the whole thing will fall over at whatever speed I was traveling.

I may not have thought this through entirely.

All right, so the reasons are twofold: a shame at having never learned how to do this before, and being unable to afford someone else doing this for me.  Motorcycle plus safety gear plus rear tire plus shop fees for mounting the tire (not something you can do at home) plus DMV fees killed what I’d allocated for discretionary spending.

Oh yes, another motivator: I have zero service records on this thing.  The kid I bought it from said he replaced the oil twice last season and ran some Seafoam through it.  And while I’m sure the person selling something is always trustworthy…

What do I have?  Very little money, some tools, access to more tools, a gifted Clymer manual, some shops nearby (including a motorcycle-specific shop), the loan of a place to work, and oh yeah the freaking internet.  Seriously, without the internet I would’ve given up on at least some of this.  The collected wisdom of a thousand people who have done the same thing I’m about to try and the occasional youtube video of someone walking you through it cannot be under-valued, even if they do occasionally forget a few things and have to go back.

First off, I changed the spark plugs.  Actually, no; first off I got a lesson in how a torque wrench is used from the father-in-law.  Like I said, I’m new to this.  This one scared the blazes out of me because step three or so is “Remove Fuel Tank.”  There is no part of that that isn’t frightening.  And of course I’d just filled it, so the tank was very heavy.  This is what’s called in writing circles a “recurring theme.”

The spark plugs were old but otherwise looked fine, and I did get the additional, comforting knowledge that they’d been changed before.  By a ham-fisted moron.  The left-hand spark plug hole threads had been stripped just enough to make the entire thing more of an ordeal than it had to be.  I take no shame in admitting that I had help with putting the spark plugs in, nor stating that there was much swearing involved.  Tally: $5 for a couple of spark plugs, $6 for the shim to gap the spark plugs.

Secondarily, I changed the oil.  Thankfully this was on a weekend, and that meant that there was someone around to yell at me when I went to drain the old oil when the bike was way too hot.  The instructions said to perform this action when the bike was “warm.” Apparently, going for a 45-minute ride is outside of this limitation, and would have burned me rather badly.  Whoops.

So after a long waiting period, I drained the oil (and did not drop the nut into the spent oil, I’ll have you know).  The oil was deemed (by someone other than myself) to be old but not ancient.  I found no metal flecks in the pan, so the engine isn’t eating itself.  Replaced oil filter and oil, operation a success. Tally: $0.50 for the crush-washer and (I think) $8 for the filter; the oil came with the bike.

I feel I should point out that I managed to do this while the wife was singing “Now You’re A Man” by DVDA repeatedly until she got bored.  She has also complained about being called “the wife,” which I get.  “The wife” is impersonal, “my wife” is possessive, “Jess” leaves readers out of the loop if they miss the post in which I first introduce her, and “significant other” sounds like I’m playing the pronoun game (and makes me want to stab people for some reason).  Sticking with the first one for the sake of clarity.

Finally, I checked and adjusted the valves, and replaced the fuel filter while I had the tank off.  Valve adjustment is one of those “separates the men from the boys” things, which is amusing to me because neither my dad nor my father-in-law (both riders) have done this, ever.  In this they share common ground with my motorcycle; valves are supposed to be checked and adjusted every 6,000 miles, and at 15,000 miles the engine showed no sign of having ever been opened before.

This wasn’t difficult so much as time-consuming and exhausting.  I ended up having to go to the store again for a new shim set (automotive stores don’t have shims that go that thin, apparently).  I ended up having to adjust every single valve (twin-cam bike, two intake and two exhaust valves per cam, so eight in total), although the intake sides were generally almost in tolerance, while the exhaust sides were definitely too tight.  Oddly enough, that’s apparently how these work: over time they tighten themselves until the engine chews itself up, rather than loosening up until the engine falls apart.  Goes rather against how I thought an engine worked.

Then again, these valves clearly were designed to be adjusted by someone with psychic powers.  They are held in place with a nut, and adjusted by a screw held inside the nut.  So you have to break the nut loose (sounds dirty), adjust the screw-head to the proper height, and then torque the nut back down without adjusting the screw any further.  Madness.  I did it, though.  Put it all together and it fired right up.  Engine sounds a little less strangled now, as well.  I’ve taken it around the block a couple of times, but haven’t taken it up to proper freeway speeds for a shakedown yet.  It feels all right, though.

Oh, and had the now-obligatory frustrating moment where I put everything together, turned the ignition to the on position, and then couldn’t remember if the headlight was supposed to turn on when that happened, or if I’d broken a wire somewhere.  Turns out that’s how it is supposed to work; the headlight doesn’t come on until the engine does, but the rear light comes on right away.  Tally: $12 for a fancy new shim set, plus a $3 replacement ratchet socket for the one I somehow stripped out inside the head, plus eight freaking hours of my time.

Still, beats spending two weeks’ wages on getting a shop to do it.

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