Tag Archives: Motorcycling

Lit Up!

The other day I learned something about Florida traffic law. The fine for “obscuring your license plate” is eleven hundred and fifty bucks!

The short story goes something like this. My barhopper’s plate holder’s pivoted. It can fold flat against the bike, out of the way. I’d been working in the battery box the day before and had the thing pivoted backward. I’ve scraped my calf a couple of times on the damned thing. Before hittin’ the street I completed the usual first-ride-of-the-day checks as the engine warmed – lighting, control operation, etc. – like I always do. But the plate’s position just didn’t register.

I guess I made it about fifteen miles or so before I got lit up.

Considering the LEO commented “I could have sworn there was no tag at all” when I explained, the stop went well. I wasn’t ticketed and I learned something. Turns out the fine is steep from folks running tolls, covering their plates to avoid the cameras.

Tension eased, I took the opportunity to ask after something mentioned to me a while back, that vertically-oriented plates were illegal here. They’re not illegal, and the other LEO (yeah, by then another patrol car had joined us) concurred. I may remount the plate for a cleaner look – and to avoid another mishap.

In a few minutes I was back on the road. As I donned my lid one smiled and said “Try to stay under a hundred, okay?” “And keep the front wheel on the ground,” the other added.

“I’ll try.”

Dyna Gunk

Dyna
The Dyna lookin’ awesome.

I gave the Dyna its first decent cleanup and detailing since I put tires on about a year ago. It was a lot of work – but worth it.

I was down to the last bit of detailing – the wheels. I don’t care whatcha say, handling laced wheels is the crappiest part of the job. I don’t mind the mechanical stuff – checking spoke tightness, wheel trueness, tire condition, brake pad thickness, rotor condition, and so on and so forth – but the actual cleaning itself has its own section next to “suck” in the dictionary.But this time I found some kind of gunk on *some* spokes, and on *some* of those the gunk had come dangerously close to getting through the chrome itself.

Now, by “some” I mean this. Imagine standing in front of the bike, maybe five feet to the right of the brake pedal, about a quarter-bike length ahead of the front wheel. Position a gunk-emitter at about air cleaner height and fire a bike-wide spray of gunk droplets at the rider’s ass but toward the ground. Considering that it wasn’t all the spokes and none of the rest of the bike had the gunk, it’s almost like the gunk-emitter was fired when it was parked.

It took serious work to get that stuff off. The best method turned out to be auto wheel cleaner to soften it, coupled with a razor blade to ease it off. A toothbrush was useful for applying the wheel cleaner, but the best way turned out to be manual. I got to learn where each and every hole in my hands’ skin was located – that stuff is nasty.

Job’s done now, and my hands have more-or-less regained their moisture. All that remains is to clean up the back end a little where water had splashed. Oh, yeah, and hit that back wheel with the other miracle product: NevrDull.

Still not sure where I picked that stuff up. It’s been about a year – the last tire change – I’ve given that bike a thorough cleanup. Even the last interval service didn’t get one. I hate working on a dirty bike, but I was so busy preparing to move…. It’s not on any of the other bikes, either. Probably a one-shot deal, no pun intended, when I rode through something or parked in a bad place.

I’ll just have to pay more attention from now on.

Noisy 2008 Dyna Primary

The primary on my 2008 Dyna has been a little on the noisy side for some time now. Oh, it’s not so bad, just a little annoying intermittent noise, sort of resonating in the primary case, and only at low-speed deceleration. Hard to describe, as those noises tend to be.

The other day I was doing some interval service on the thing anyway so I decided to open it up.

Everything looked fine, I think. The chain looks great, no burrs or signs of any abrasion. This primary has the automatic tensioner, and its shoe looks great, too. No grooves or other signs of wear. If I press down on the bottom of the chain, simulating the forces of deceleration, I get about a half-inch of deflection, maybe a little less. There’s no specification for that in the service manual but it seems reasonable to me.

These images of the innards are clickable for more detail.

2008 Dyna Primary
2008 Dyna primary showing the automatic tensioner.

The only thing that might seem a little questionable to me is the toothed ramp at the bottom. There’s a toothed block that rides up the ramp with the help of a spring on the right side of the block, visible to the right of the wedge-shaped block in the image above.

In the image below it appears that the teeth might be a little buggered up. I could see that happening, maybe, under seriously hard deceleration. After all, the levers that translate the downward force to a force against the teeth would serve to amplify that force, and how much surface area could those teeth offer against those forces?? Well, it could happen…

Block and Ramp
Block and ramp detail, showing possible wear.

Trouble is, I’ve never seen a new automatic tensioner so I’ve got no frame of reference for what normal looks like. Tomorrow I’m going to be at a dealer for other reasons so I may have the opportunity to chat up a tech and/or see what a new part looks like.

Until then, if any readers have comments I’d love to hear ’em.

Orange County Choppers T-shirt

Looks like there might be a Frank Zappa fan over at Orange County Choppers. Seen their new t-shirt?

Youth Paul Senior Mustache Tee
Youth Paul Senior Mustache Tee

I’d argue that the iconic Zappa mustache logo is far more famous and certainly has been around a lot longer.

Tour-De-Frank Concert Tee
Tour-De-Frank Concert Tee

Now that’s a famous mustache! What’s more, it’s been copyrighted by the Zappa Family Trust. Hey, Paul, better be careful. Y’know, Gail Zappa‘s got quite the reputation for defending all things Zappa. Wasn’t that long ago Gail sued a… Zappa fan club, of all things… over their use of the mustache in promoting their annual “Zappanale” festival. (Okay, ZFT lost that one largely, as far as I can tell, on technicalities.) Your pockets are deeper, I’m bettin’, and you’re right here in the good ‘ol USofA rather than Germany.

I don’t know what to make of this oldie-but-goodie – Toyota.

Toyota Trucks & Zappa's Mustache
Toyota Trucks & Zappa's Mustache

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Yesterday the folks at the parts counter over at Highroads  Harley-Davidson in Highland Park blew me away. I had a short list of stuff that I needed for Pam‘s Deluxe and I pushed it across the counter as I said hello. The surprise came when he returned – every single item was in stock!

Those of you that have used this dealership for any length of time have certainly experienced for yourself how often you need to place an order. When Liberty bought the place they said to expect improvements. It looks like that’s actually happening.

Thinking back, the number of times that I need to place orders for common parts has indeed been going down. I used to complain quite a bit, but I guess those days are coming to a close.

Go check them out for yourself!

Dyna Clean

The other day I set aside some time to clean up my Dyna. For way too long – like since our stormy tour in the Poconos last August – it’s been the dirty bike in the garage. Not very fitting for a 105th anniversary numbered Wide Glide! Cleanup was long overdue.

Harley Care Starter Kit
Harley Care Starter Kit

As I collected my detailing materials I came across some Harley-Davidson branded cleaners. These are starter pack samples that the motor company hands out with new bikes. I’ve got a bunch of these, never opened, on the shelf.

The Harley Care Starter Set (94671-99A) consists of four products: Sunwash Concentrate, Bug Remover, Wheel & Tire Cleaner and Harley Gloss. All are labeled Biodegradable. What better time to check ’em out?

Product Bottles
Product Bottles

I mixed a batch of wash solution from the Sunwash Concentrate. The label states it’s formulated for use in direct sunlight, on all surfaces. It seemed perfect for this day’s weather – direct sunlight in the mid 60s. The product made some nice foamy water. But it wasn’t cutting the Dyna’s crud so I doubled up on the concentrate. That helped. I wash with plenty of water, keeping surfaces wet until I’m ready to break out the dryer but it didn’t matter. The result of the Sunwash Concentrate was tons of water spots. No harm, no foul, I’ve never used any wash solution that didn’t leave spots. The road crud was gone, though.

Next I broke out the Harley Gloss. They call it a UV Protective Detailer. It conveniently applies from a spray bottle, also safe for all surfaces. I also grabbed the bottle of Bug Remover. The box says that acid from insect bodies can damage surface finishes if not removed quickly. I’m not so sure I agree with that. I mean, maybe the damage can be measured somehow, but it’s never been visible to *my* eye. I got started. Know what I found? Neither product was anywhere near as effective as what I usually use following a wash! In fact, they kind of sucked. The Bug Remover just plain didn’t remove the crusty, hardened bugs. And the Harley Gloss was tricky to use according to the label: apply via rag or spray, wipe dry before it dries on the surface. It just plain didn’t work. I tried for maybe ten minutes before abandoning it for my preferred product.

By now you’re probably wondering what miracle product I use for a nice post-wash finish. Are you ready? Here it is. Lemon Pledge. (Link edited in December 2011. It looks like their product has changed, at least in the design of the container.)

Lemon Pledge
Lemon Pledge

There are no substitutes. It’s got to be this brand. And lemon, no other flavor will do. There must be something in that particular formula that has all the necessary attributes. It works on all surfaces, on all kinds of crud. (You still need to wash off the abrasive road dirt – with plenty of water – or risk scratching, but there’s no way around that step.) There are only two places I don’t recommend Lemon Pledge, for obvious reasons: the seat and tires. But paint, chrome, rubber and plastic, anywhere else is fair game.

The pre-soaked wipes will work, but I much prefer the spray. Use two clean cotton rags: one to apply and one to polish. As the polish rag gets laden and polishing becomes difficult, rotate it to become the application rag. Discard the original application rag and bring in a new polish rag. Don’t skimp on the rags! Use lots of ’em.

Shake the Lemon Pledge can well, often. Spray generously on the application rag. Wipe gently. It dissolves bugs and loosens tar, but stubborn areas might require multiple applications. Don’t be afraid to use plenty of spray. Hard surfaces (unlike your furniture) will not acquire a buildup! But resist rubbing too hard, let the product do the work. If you think you need more just spay the rag again and continue. Finally, with the clean, soft, dry rag, buff.

And those water spots? Erased, leaving a nice, crud-resistant finish that makes your next cleanup easier.

2008 Dyna Wide Glide
2008 Dyna Wide Glide

Fix for Runaway Toyotas Revealed!


Toyota Solution
Fix for Runaway Toyotas

Actually, the solution’s been built into my Harley-Davidsons (and all other street motorcycles) for a little bit less than forever. Well, since they legislated standardized controls, in any case.

What is it? It’s a real, honest-to-goodness stop switch.

Unlike Toyota‘s Prius, this switch is located right where it belongs, just a short reach for your right thumb, the switch produces immediate, predictable, certain results.

The engine stops.

You don’t need to hunt for the button. You don’t need to hold it for 30 seconds. Because when you need to stop the engine you need to stop the engine, and every millisecond counts.

There you have it!

Where’s my prize? Edmunds? Obama? Who’s got it?


The Mobile Spike

I’m wondering whether law enforcement officials would use deploy this in pursuit of a motorcycle.

http://blutube.policeone.com/Clip.aspx?key=8E7AF35948367905

I tend to pull over when requested, but what if???

Freedom Run to Ground Zero

The weather here in NJ hasn’t been the best for motorcyclists this spring. It’s made planning rides an iffy thing, at best. Pam’s been making it her business to fill the calendar with good rides and events now that my Dyna’s configured for passenger comfort. So I was glad when I woke to clear skies and reasonable temperatures for the Freedom Run to Ground Zero. Pam’s was really looking forward to this event.

We planned to meet some folks from bikerornot.com up at Bergen H-D. (We’re riding a charity run with them later in the month.) It meant leaving the house kind of early for a high-speed blast up the New Jersey Turnpike. The Freedom Run turned out to be a huge event – maybe bigger than the organizers anticipated. I heard estimates between 4,000 and 6,000 bikes and I believe it. Staging and registration were chaotic and eventually they shut registration down completely.  There was a definite advantage to being there earlier rather than later!

Even as close to the front as we were it took the better part of a half hour before we wheeled out of the parking lot. (Later, talking to others further back, I learned it took more than another hour to empty the lot.)

The route was to be a simple one: Route 80, across the George Washington Bridge, down the east side of Manhattan, across the Financial District to loop around the Ground Zero site, slightly north to the Holland Tunnel, then through the tube to Liberty State Park back in Jersey for the after-party. Now, how do you think they move that many bikes along that simple but well-traveled route? Why they close the roads, of course!

Have you ever experienced George Washington Bridge traffic? Even at best it’s awful, certainly NOT biker friendly. It’s very, very different when the police block traffic to let thousands of bikes pass. As for those that needed to stop and wait – probably for more than an hour – well, it sucked to be them.

The Holland Tunnel was interesting, too. Loud pipes are, well, loud in tunnels. Riding with a dozen or two is awesome. When the tunnel is filled with bikes it’s simply beyond description.

And that’s the way it was: roads closed to auto traffic, open to a rather large number of bikes. The entire route was, for the most part, non-stop – at least for those of us in the front. I heard that toward the back things were different. Drivers, after being trapped for a long time watching an uncountable number of bikes go by, were not pleased. The results of that were, well, predictable. I heard some less-experienced riders commenting that this Freedom Run was to be their last.

Ground Zero? As it happened we stopped briefly as we worked our way through traffic. But there wasn’t much to see – a chain link fence draped with opaque plastic blocked vision from the street. Pam, less familiar with the area from ground-level, didn’t even realize we were there until we had already passed the site! Still, it was an emotional moment.

We got plenty of pictures from the road. If you’ve got a few minutes then why not go and check ’em out.

The after-party was kind of a non-event. We ate a little lunch (no beer!) and wandered the vendors while listening to the band. Nothing we haven’t seen a million times before. We bought some helmet stickers (mine was fairly empty, having been replaced earlier this year) and found some excellent silver jewelry to follow up later. (edit: I’d give ’em a link – tildeath925.com – but the site’s dead. Jason’s a nice guy, I hope his business hasn’t gone tits up.) Must be the economy, the vendor turnout was pretty small, so we left. The Turnpike extension on the way back was jammed up solid with traffic. But we tagged along with a contingent of bikes using the shoulder, led by a couple of Hackensack Police bikes. That had to have saved at least an hour. It was much appreciated, thanks boys!

All in all it was a very good day!

Getting Lucky

Yesterday was a pretty good day. Pam and me rode out to Rahway for their Hot Rods and Harleys event. It was the first one of these that we’d been to.  What an incredible exhibit of vintage iron! What a trip down memory lane!  The weather was pretty good, too. 70s, mostly sunny, a fine day for walking around. We caught a bit of a sprinkle on the way out but it passed so quickly that it just didn’t matter.

After a stop for a quick beer, we left Milltown and entered the evening traffic of route 1 south. Accelerating into the left lane I worked my way through the gears rather loudly, smiling to myself, satisfied with the day. Then I saw the squad car under the flyover. It was much too late to do much about it.

I flipped the blinker and decelerated, moving back through the lanes, and left the highway for the Office Depot parking lot. There really isn’t anyplace safe to pull over, and I figured this would likely be a lengthy stop. I killed the motor and Pam and me dismounted, doffing our helmets.

The officer got out of his car and approached. “License and registration, please.”

“Yes, sir.” I pulled my license, handed it over and began sorting through the registration and insurance documents in my wallet, I have several.

“Mr. Plavnicky,” he said, “you’re local. You were doing seventy one in a fifty. You have yourself a nice day.” He handed my license back.

“Thank you, sir!” I said as he returned to his car.

We mounted up and left the parking lot. It could have gone very differently.

I didn’t catch the badge number or name, but if you happen to be reading – yeah, right, like that’s likely – well, thanks for making my day!

New Jersey Motorcycle Spectacular 2008

A week and a half ago Pam and me rode over to the CyclePro show at the Garden State Exhibit Center. The funny thing is that I probably wouldn’t have gone except that Pam suggested we ride over. Now, I ride pretty much year-round. Pam doesn’t, but this year she’s been challenging her tolerance of lower temperatures – this would be a good ten degrees lower than her usual lower limit. It wasn’t something to be passed up – she wants to ride, we ride – that’s good enough for me.

Pam on stage showing her ink to the MC
Pam on stage showing her ink to the MC

The show itself was pretty good! It wasn’t too crowded, which probably didn’t thrill vendors too much but was fine for me. Probably yet another effect of today’s troubled economy. I was hoping Dr. Dyno would be there; my Dyna’s been running strong lately and I kinda wanted to measure it. It wasn’t to be. But there was a good mix of vendors in attendance. Bikes new and old, of course, and more individuals than usual with parts arrayed on the floor. An indication of a resurgence of the swap-meets that seem to have been displaced by commercial interests? I snapped a few pictures between beers as we wandered the floor.

There was the requisite tattoo contest and, much to my surprise, Pam wanted to show off her ink! So up on stage she went…

Pam getting photographed for the magazine
Pam getting photographed for the magazine

Well, she didn’t win (she says it’s because all they look for is super-ornate stuff) and that was a little disappointing but it was a lot fun anyway. And now we have a reason to visit the shop more often – to pick up the magazine with the pictures.

Afterward we went for some food (and more shots and beers) over at the Brunswick Grove. The sports-orientation ain’t exactly what I look for in entertainment, but the atmosphere and food are pretty good. Excellent pizza. Pam and me try to drop in every now and again.

By now the sun had long set and the temperature had dropped some more. Decision time: slow ride takes longer, fast ride chills you faster. Six of one…

All in all, an unexpectedly fine day!

Eye Protection

When you ride a motorcycle you subject your eyes to all manner of risk. The importance of quality eyewear can’t be understated. It’s astounding how many riders donordinary sunglasses and think that they’re protected. I guess they’re okay if you wear them beneath a helmet visor that’s never lifted, but I prefer a helmet without a visor and that calls for glasses or goggles designed specifically for bikers.

I’ve had a number of pairs of goggles from Harley-Davidson. They go far to convince you that their apparel and other rider gear – Motorclothes ™ – are second to none. Well, not in my opinion. First, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything in their line that’s made in USA. But specifically, their goggles didn’t last very long for me. Like most eyewear, there’s a gasket that fits between the frame and your face. Theirs is foam with a felt-like surface that actually touches your face. After a short time – as little as a month or two – the felt on every single pair peeled back, leaving the foam right on my face, there to absorb sweat and grime. I tried gluing it back on. Contact cement works best but it doesn’t last. As if that isn’t enough, the strap tension adjuster is plastic and when it breaks that’s that. So I can’t recommend Harley-Davidson eyewear.

If you’re into goggles, Body Specs makes a quality product. My personal favorite is the BSG line. They fit well and the gasket is both high-quality and replaceable. In fact, their warranty will replace a failed gasket. When I had them replace one under warranty they told me that failures were rare and sent me two for my trouble. I’ve had several sets of BSGs and my biggest complain is that the elastic strap will eventually lose its stretch. The BSG line is convertible; you can snap in glasses temples in place of the strap but none have ever fit me well enough to use that way.

Today it’s all about convenience. I wear polychromatic glasses which self-adjust to light levels so I’m never caught with the wrong lenses installed. For the past year I’ve been using the same pair of Panoptx Diablo. Oh, look, they’re now marketed under the name 7EYE. Not sure what that’s about, but there you go. Anyway, the glasses are a pit pricey but the lenses are bulletproof (not a scratch on ’em in a year), they’re very comfortable, and the gasket is still like new. My complaint about them is the finish of the frames which began to peel. It’s kind of like they had a plastic coating that’s flaking or peeling off. They have an excellent warrany, though, so I’ve sent ’em in for repair. I’ll let you know how that goes once I get ’em back in the next week or two.

In the meantime I’ve picked up a pair of WileyX. My wife picked up a pair and I liked them so I figured I’d try them out myself. So far so good, but it’s only been a few hundred miles. The lenses are polychromatic, the replaceable gasket has a good fit, but the temples don’t loop around the ear like the Panoptx. Instead they’ve got a rubber-like area that just stays put, kind of like Oakley sunglasses. WileyX is pricey, too, but still a good deal less than the Panoptx.

The quest for the perfect eyewear seems never-ending sometimes. What’s your favorite?

Brief Ride Report

Yesterday was quite a day.

I ‘celebrated’ eleven years of shaving my head. I went ‘down the shore’ with my wife and kid to walk the boardwalk, eat some boardwalk food (the Midway Steak House at Seaside Heights has the best sausage sandwiches around), play some games (a Ziplock full of quarters equals an afternoon of mindless fun), have a few beers (Jack & Bill’s). I’m not going to mention how the cost of such a trivial (in the days of my youth) afternoon has risen – what’s the point? When I got home I found my dad’s cat, Buffy, had died. Buffy was an old cat, suffered advanced kidney disease (just like dad), and wasn’t in the best of health. Still, I was stunned. I’ve been caring for Buffy since my dad’s hospitalization in mid-May, and he was looking pretty good. They say that pets get attached to their owners that way, maybe with dad gone he figured he had had enough. So you could say the day was kinda packed. And if that wasn’t enough there were a few other things rattling round in my head. I retired to an uneasy sleep.

This morning dawned beautiful, though. We’re two days into the first ‘heat wave’ of the season (it never gets hot enough, long enough for us, but everyone else complains) and it was almost 80 F a little past 7am. After a pot of coffee I put the computer aside and set off to do a hundred miles before breakfast. I’m breaking in an engine on the Dyna, so this would be perfect blend of varied travel. Plus, I needed some time to think.

Route 27 south toward Princeton is a good start, nice to get the fluids up to temperature. Few lights and little traffic. Passed through Princeton and picked up 295 south near Lawrenceville for a bit, a bit of freeway to let it breathe a little. There were some clouds ahead, but I figured if I hit a little rain so be it. I wasn’t dressed for it, but so what. Below Trenton I jumped on 29 north: through the tunnel, alongside Trenton proper, and soon onto the two-lane toward Lambertville. Traffic remained light, permitting a good pace that didn’t exceed the posted limit by too much. At Lambertville I peeled off to 179; the number of bikes on the road seemed to grow with every mile. I guess others had the same idea. By Ringoes, 179 changes to 514 but keeps its name – Old York Road – but where 609 crosses it changes to Amwell Road while retaining its 514 number. Who said New Jersey roads made sense? The clouds I mentioned earlier had given way to blazing sun, but there was evidence here that it had rained earlier. On through Amwell, Cloverhill, Neshanic, and into Hillsborough. I decided to divert a bit through Raritan, grab a bottle of water at the Wawa there, and stop out at Branchburg Park. My dad spent many hours there flying model planes. It would be good to sit, hydrate, and watch the models. This map shows where I parked. After that I headed home, with a much clearer head. Riding is good therapy! The roads home were more suburban and a good deal less interesting. 202 to 22, then Foothill Road to 607 into Bound Brook, followed by a quick hop over the Raritan River onto 527 into New Brunswick. Through the city – it’s a campus town – and onto US 1 south for a final blast home.

99 miles, close enough for government work. Time to fire up the grill for some breakfast.

 

A Wrench Report of Very Little Consequence

Yesterday I dealt with a minor problem with the Harley, one that had been bugging me for a month or so. When applying the rear brake the stop light wasn’t coming on as quickly as I would like.

I was thinking that it might have something to do with the master cylinder rebuild I did some months back. That wasn’t merely convenience, it was a necessity! The pliable parts of the piston had largely disintegrated leaving the rear brake absolutely useless. The switch is actuated by hydraulic pressure so perhaps a bit of debris had made its way down the line and into the switch. Odd, since I completely purged the circuit and bled it thoroughly as part of the rebuild.

I noticed the trouble with the stop light during a pre-ride check so I bled the circuit again. The trouble cleared but soon returned. Another bleed, another temporary fix. This time when the trouble returned I did the electrical checks (all good) and gave in to replacing the switch.

So yesterday was the day. Luckily the local dealer had one for me and lightened my wallet by a twenty. I considered myself fortunate; they usually don’t have whatever part I happen to be looking for. Since it was my first visit to the dealer since they stocked the 2008 models I couldn’t resist browsing just a little…

Back in the garage, it took about fifteen minutes to replace the switch (with a metric wrench, so much for American Iron, eh?) and bleed the circuit yet again. The stop light was back to functioning normally at the lightest pedal touch.

I suppose I should have inspected the old switch to try to determine if it had any debris in it causing the trouble. But I just pitched it in the bin, grabbed a helmet, and went out for a test ride. Today they picked up the trash.

You’ve Got Balls

I was in the parking lot of the local WaWa strapping a jug of milk to the sissy bar of my motorcycle. For a winter day in New Jersey this wasn’t a bad one – temperature around 40 and the rain of the past several days had given way to overcast. Today’s ride was a good one and now I was on my way home.

The old guy diverted from his path to the store and stopped to talk. “You’ve got balls,” he said, “out riding in this weather. I know – when I was younger I did it, too.” I hadn’t thought of the day as particularly cold. I’ve certainly been out in much worse. We talked for several minutes, and he smiled and laughed as he spoke of the past.

I thumbed the starter. The engine came to life and settled into that characteristic V-twin idle as I pulled on my gloves. I think the old guy walked a little taller, a little straighter, as he continued into the store.