Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sneak Peek!

Just a quick note;

Myself and Matt will be appearing on Wisconsin Public Television's "Directors' Cut" tonight at 9:30PM Central. The show focuses primarily on our last documentary "Breakdown" but near the end it also includes a sneak peak of the Slimey Crud Run film as well (You can also view the entire episode online if you can't catch it on TV).

Let us know what you think!

Monday, November 10, 2008

What's that smell?

Last weekend when I opened the garage door I was hit with the beautiful smell of gasoline. After the initial pleasure of the aroma subsided, a more serious thought entered my head:

"Why does the garage smell like gas?"

Of course my first suspect is the CL. I take a look under the tarp and sure enough, there is a spot under the center stand that smells of fuel. Only a stain remains, but there was definitely some sort of leaking going on.

I'm surprised by this because I tested the tank repeatedly after lining it and found no leaks. I even replaced the petcock with a NOS one, and it has been turned off ever since I parked the bike for the winter.

I took a close look at the lines, the carbs and anywhere else that fuel flows and found nothing. Of course the liquid fuel evaporated before I became aware of the leak, but I was hoping to find some tell-tale residue or something along those lines. Nothing.

So I moved the bike to a more level spot and kept an eye on it. Everything seemed fine for a few days, then one morning, another spot.

Now when this happens, it's not a lot of fuel, the spot is only about a foot around and there is plenty of fuel left in the tank. My only guess is that it has something to do with the +-30 degree temperature swings we're experiencing around here lately but I still can't find the source and I'd like to address this before the snow flies and I go a week or more without opening the door.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

More Interviews

Last night we completed another key interview for the film and now we're down to only one left on the list. That isn't to say we won't be doing more, or doing additional interviews of subjects we've already spoken with but what it does mean is that we're one interview away from putting together what we're calling the "outline cut".

This is where we take everything we've shot so far, put it together in the timeline and watch it end-to-end. The goal here is to see what we have, identify the stories we want to focus on and determine what else we need to tell these stories in a compelling way.

So it's not so much the end of production in the traditional sense, but it is the beginning of post-production and a milestone that we've really been looking forward to. Unlike a drama, where the story is written before the camera rolls, this is where the story our film will tell really starts to emerge.

The other transition happening here is a shift in focus from working on the motorcycle to one of working on the film. I have a few bike-related tasks in store for the winter but the updates here will have more to do with "shots-and-cuts" and less to do with "pipes-and-jets" (although bigger jets are on the top of my parts list). The primary challenge facing the bike at the moment is getting the title and license squared away and from my experience that doesn't make for very exciting writing. So unless something particularly exciting happens, I'll spare you the gory details.

We will also be annoucing new posts using our Slimey Mailing List. If you'd like to receive these updates, follow me to sign up.

Look forward to more consistent (if not more frequent) updates and let us know if you like what you're hearing or if there is something you think we're leaving out.

Monday, October 6, 2008

208 Days

The 2008 fall SCMG Café Racer Run has come and gone and my CL350 project bike (nicknamed by Matt as " CooLeo") gently weeps with only a handful of miles on it since it first arrived here, more than a year ago.

Grounded by lack of clearance from the man (and a few potential mechanical issues), the bike will have to wait through the projected 150" of snow and the dawn of spring to get its first taste of the 'Crud; with the flavor of salt and sand that accompanies the spring roads.

As much as I think the bike had a good shot at making it to the run, when I'm honest with myself about it I admit there is a strong possibility it would not have made it to the end. The potential of mechanical (or more likely, electrical) failure was high given the weather conditions (cold, rain, some hail) and even barring that, I may have simply chickened out once the weather turned.

As it turned out, we took the V45's instead and found that the turnout was fair, but nothing compared to the spring run (weather is a factor, apparently). So even without the project bikes on the road we were able to focus on enjoying the ride, weather and all, and by the time I made it back home I'd logged 300 miles.

…not a bad way to round out the riding season…

I asked Jamie and Libby to help out with the shooting that day, with Lib on "Making Of" duty. Here's a little clip for those of you who didn't make it out on Sunday:

…and while I'd like to gripe about not getting the CL out for this run, there is a reason that these things happen twice a year, right?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Two Days

It's interesting, the motorcycle thing.

In cars, most of the technology is driven by the needs of common, boring street use. Motorcycle technology, on the other hand, seems to be driven primarily by racing, secondarily by nostalgia or physical beauty.

There was a point back in the 1970's or even late '60's where motorcycle technology matched automotive technology in every measurable way. From that point on, bikes took the lead and now there's no comparison.

So with the practical transportation aspirations of automobiles behind them, bikes went down this bizarre road where the only reason to get excited about a new bike is either numerical gains on the dyno or aesthetic (specifically, visual) beauty. Marketing has honed this to an extent that to the general public, motorcycling is these two things and all of the subtle nuances which make riding great are lost (or at best, ignored).

To summarize, every motorcycle made today from the cheapest beginner bike to the most expensive luxury liner is capable of performance exceeding anyone's "needs", so if you're going to continue to sell new motorcycles you have to focus on things that change over time even though they are irrelevant to what motorcyclists know it's all about.

The sad thing is that we (the people who buy motorcycles) are responsible for this. The evidence is that, throughout the history of the motorcycle (in particular, the last two decades) when manufacturers dared to come out with a model that circumvents this one-upmanship approach to sales, these models go unsold. Often these models become appreciated only long after the manufacturer has dropped them from production due to poor sales (the Hawk GT being an excellent example, but there are many more).

I see electric bikes as a potential cure for this problem. This has nothing to do with efficiency or performance but with the fact that they are different enough from people's expectations that we have a chance to reset the image of what makes bikes sell (out of necessity really, because in the near term electric bikes can't compete with gasoline models on all measureable performance fronts simultaneously). Honda did something like this back in the 1950's when they first brought their bikes to the states ("You meet the nicest people on a Honda"), the bikes were so different as to be perceived as a different class of vehicle from the large hooligan-machines driven only by the violent and the unwashed.

It would be an interesting intellectual experiment, to design a motorcycle company to produce a product like this and tweak the variables until it becomes sustainable (i.e., profitable). Similar things have been done before, Saturn did something like this in automobiles (until their short-sighted parent company pulled the plug on the philosophy and "burned the brand"). I have something nice to think about this morning...

As you may have noticed, I don't have any good news to share about the project. With no title in hand the odds are not in favor of getting the bike to the fall run. That's all I'm going to say for now as the whole situation is distressing and I'd rather change the topic.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Nine Days

I took the bike out for an extended ride last night (on a closed course of course…) and even was able to get a high-speed (60mph) run in there. There seems to be some sort of missing/backfiring problem between 0-.25 throttle which got worse toward the end of the ride. At first I thought it was maybe the battery conking out but I checked it right away when I got home and it was 12.25 (which is impressive since it was 11 something when I left...the charging system is working!). It also resembled a lack of fuel, but I think there was plenty in the tank and in the lines as well.

I need to do some reading but it might be that the air screws are too tight, making for a too-rich mixture around the crossover point where the carbs switch from the idle to the main jets (and both are open), so it might be just a matter of adjusting those screws, but you would think it would backfire at idle if that was all there is to it.

In any event the bike went 60 without ejecting any parts, and then it stopped as well. I have to say the handling is awesome (not that I pushed it too hard, but it feels really good at speed). If I can get this one running problem cleared up, and find out what's up with that back brake…I think she's done for this phase.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Twelve Days

The idle issue was solved today with some timing adjustments and cleaning of the mechanical advance mechanism.

The fuel leak has been located and can safely be ignored*.

The remaining issues are a minor missing/backfiring issue at 1/4 throttle-ish and the back brake has this "grabby" thing going on (who uses back brakes?). I have almost two miles on the bike now, all of them up-and-down the street in front of my house (much to the joy of my neighbors, I'm sure).

The thing is loud, almost painfully so. I'm open to (cheap, fast and easy) suggestions but chances are that I won't bother with it until after the run.

At this point I think I'm done until the bike can be on the street legally. I need to do a longer road test to figure out if the jetting is where it needs to be but I'm chicken to do it until I have a plate on the back. It would be a different story if I lived in the country...

*for the time being, it only leaks when the petcock is open and the bike isn't running.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Two Weeks

Today is Sunday, and there are only two weeks remaining until the 2008 Fall SCMG Cafe Racer Run.

After all of the tyre excitement of the last few weeks I was able to get the wheels back and mount them up with few issues. There are several various-sized cotter pins that I need to track down to finalize the assembly, but for now I'll just keep an eye on things.

As you can see, Jamie has done a fantastic job on the part I fear the most (the fuel tank), especially considering what I have given her to work with. You can see that along the way she's taken the time to tweak all the bits that I would have done poorly (or forgotten altogether).

So with the wheels on and the paint set, today is the day that I re-engage the idle problem.

Those of you who have been following this story know that I was able to successfully awaken this beast, but there is a big difference between "starting" and "running", and after I started it a few times I felt comfortable that there were no major mechanical engine problems lurking below (ie, blown head, bent valves, broken con-rods, etc.) and felt safe to turn my attention to other tasks and return to the engine when the intake, exhaust and fuel system were in in their final configuration.

The time has come, so I plumbed the tank, snagged a fresh can of Invigorate and kicked it.

Surprisingly she responded with only a few kicks (unlike before). After two start-stops I was able to hold the engine around 3500rpm without sudden death, so I was already back to where I left off.

This time I decided to tackle the problem one cylinder at a time. First I pulled the left plug wire and was able to get the bike to run almost smoothly around 2000rpm. Moving to the left cylinder (removing the right plug wire) was a completely different story, a couple of pops but no hope of any kind of constant firing.

Starting with spark, I pulled the plug and noticed the little knob that screws on the top of the plug (I bought Champions for this thing? no way...) was loose so I noted this and continued to pull the plug. Examining the electrodes they were a little black and funky, but not bad, so I dressed them quickly, tightened that "know" and tested for spark; much stronger than I expected.

I fitted the plug to the cylinder and tested again, this time it fired at least as well as the right-hand side. I snapped the right-hand plug wire in place, reduced the throttle and it almost got down to 1500RPM before dropping off.

From here I spent at least 30 minutes screwing around with various air-screw settings, idle stops, etc until finally it was starting in just a kick or two with no throttle...


I was tempted to hop on and take it around the block but better judgement (and hunger, it was lunch time) prevailed and we headed in for a bite. This was in the end fortunate because during lunch I remembered a few adjustments that would be necessary (like adjusting the brakes) before a road test would be prudent.

After lunch I checked the tyre pressure (Haynes recommends 23psi?...old bikes are weird), adjusted the brakes and decided to do a test-run in the driveway to make sure I wasn't going to run into any clutch/transmission-related surprises on the street. This went well (note to self: the neutral light can't be trusted) so I grabbed my lid and...

...well, see for yourself (crank up the sound, it's worth it):

There is work to do, there is an idle problem where once the RPM's have been up, it doesn't want to drop back down to a normal idle (I found applying the choke for a moment fixes this?). There is also the problem of the title, but my man Dan is fighting that battle with the DMV, so we'll see how that turns out.

But for now, the only mechanical issue on my list is that idle problem...isn't that where this post started?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Measure twice, order once

Here's a bit of advice to all the budding "$1000.00 Motorcycle" mechanics out there: Anytime you order a part, make sure it will fit your bike by actually measuring the mating parts and don't go by what "should fit based on the model".

I'm not sure why, but I fell squarely into this trap myself.

I had to order a new set of tyres since the ones that came on the bike are of unknown age but definitely old. So I go to Madison Motorsports and we look up in the book what kind of tyres are available for a 197x CL350. As it turns out they are hard to get so I place an order and forget about the whole thing for a couple of weeks.

I get a call last week that the tyres are in, so I spend a few hours getting the wheels free from the bike and bring them down to the shop the next day.

Later that same day I get a call from the shop because there is a problem with the tyres I ordered. I ordered a set of 18" tyres as this is the size of the stock wheels on the 197x CL350, however when the guys at the shop tried to mount them they found out that my front wheel is not 18", it's 19".

This brought into question weather or not I had a CL350 at all (apparently the SL350 had a 19" wheel). I know it's a CL350 because that's what's stamped on the frame, but then it all becomes clear:

When I was stripping and re-painting the tank I found out that there was some bondo filling in a few dents, and there are other signs that the bike has been down. My guess is that when the bike went down the original 18" wheel got bent and was replaced with this 19" wheel. Maybe the whole front end was replaced?

Now let me say here that this is all my fault. Instead of going with "what the book says" I should have measured the wheels (hell, just read the numbers off the tyre) and this could have all been avoided. Based on this, the shop could have justifiably charged me for this tyre as well as another that actually fits, but they have been most understanding of the situation.

Fortunately they were able to source a 19" tyre from a nearby supplier and it's still possible that they will get it ready before they take off for the races at the end of the week. This could have been a show-stopper for the fall run, but it just goes to show the value of having a good relationship with a professional shop.

My old man was right...

Sunday, September 7, 2008



After shooting an interview with Chris I had a couple of hours to spend on the old Honda. My tires came in last week and I need to get the wheels to the shop on Monday if I'm going to get them back anytime soon. Seems that the shop will be closed starting Thursday to go to the races, and I can't fault them for that.

So I pulled the wheels and while time-consuming, everything went pretty well. The hardest part was jacking up the bike so it could sit on the center-stand w/o wheels (the engine cradle is interesting, it's not the same height on both sides. After about 30 minutes I had both wheels free and set them aside for a little scrubbing before I hand them over.

While doing this I was also applying another coat of primer to the tank. I picked up some sanding sponge which worked awesome on the first coat, but I was a little thin in a few spots so a second pass is necessary. This is a nice task to do when a break occurs in another, like pulling these wheels.

Back in the garage I turn my attention to the electrical problems I've been having and in particular, the brake light. Seems it would turn on with the ignition, but it wouldn't change when the brakes were applied, and every once in awhile I'd blow the fuse (there is only one), so something was up.

I picked up a nice little 15a circuit breaker so I could troubleshoot this without going through boxes of fuses (I also replaced the old-fashioned fuse holder with a new "blade" style fuse). The circuit breaker fit good enough, but for the street I'll have to use a real fuse so it fits in the holder better. I also picked up some "bullet" wiring connectors for the tail light so I can easily swap things around. I followed the wiring diagram but I had a feeling that maybe something wasn't connected up right.

...that feeling turned out to be correct.

After a few minutes with the multimeter, I was able to determine that what I thought was the ground was the switched lead to make the brake light brighter. Swapping these around, suddenly the brake light functioned properly (with the foot brake at least, the handle bar switch is another story) so I crimped on the bullet connectors and closed up the tail light.

Then I spent another 15 minutes or so crimping closed ends on all of the various non-connected wires I have after I removed the handle bar controls and turn signals. In the long run I'll be ripping all this out and re-wiring the bike but for now I'm just trying to close up possible shorts.

Back to the tank for another coat, and then back to the garage to clean up those wheels.

I don't have a shot of the wheels after spending some time working on them with the old Brillo, but the results are pretty amazing. If I get a chance I'll snap one before I hand them off but most likely the next time I'll have the camera out there will be when I'm re-mounting the wheels, fresh rubber and all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Time To Kill (switch)

I was going to re-wire the entire electrical system. Seriously, I was considering that.

I'm still considering it, but not now, not if I'm going to get the bike running in time for the fall run.

You see, it won't idle, and it was occasionally blowing fuses (the one fuse), and I was fearing that there was some intermittent short somewhere buried in the wiring harness.

However since then I've disconnected the lead from the battery to the electric start system (yes there are two wires that clamp to the positive lead of the battery, one thick one for the electric start and a thin one for the rest of the electrical system) it hasn't blown the fuse, and I'm using a 7.5 in there instead of a 15 amp fuse, so current draw must be well within the realm of safety, right?

So for now I'm going to pretend like that little electric bugaboo doesn't exist and move on with troubleshooting the idle problems as if the electrical system is sound. So I'm moving on to things like points, air leaks, etc.

The carbs are often to blame for these problems but since I rebuilt them I'm leaning away from that. I'm going to start by checking for leaks at the intake manifold and move on to points/condenser next.

I do however need to tidy up the electricals a bit even if I don't plan on re-wiring the whole thing. At the moment the two cables that used to be threaded inside the handle bars are both sticking up from the gas tank with several wire nuts (of the wrong size, for sure) securing enough wires together to run the headlight on low and convince the motor that the kill switch is in the un-killing position. At a minimum I'd like to tie these two to a pair of switches so I can turn the motor off in the event of an emergency (I guess I could use the key…) and it would be nice to kill the headlight when I'm starting it, at least until it starts easier than it does now. As far as the rest of the wires are concerned, I think I'm just going to cap them off for now and tuck them away somewhere so they don't look so bad; I hate to cut them off in the event that I need to mess with them for troubleshooting (the tail light still doesn't work quite as it should). We'll see.

Of course I could just pull the tank and concentrate on getting that painted, and some other chassis/cleanup work that is in order and pretend like these engine problems are minor and leave them for later…that would be prudent eh?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rebel Yell

I got to spend about 1.5hrs on the bike last night so I checked the Kreem in the tank (which was completely dry) and tested for leaks. Then I tested the "balancing" tubes and one was clogged, but after about 10 minutes and piece of wire I was able to get a reasonable amount of fuel to flow out of it. I pulled the petcock (the old one) to see if there was any obstruction there and all of the fuel poured out, so that looked good.

I then moved to "tying up" what I could in the electrical system for an attempt at starting the thing later. Essentially I tied enough wires together to simulate the kill switch being in the "run" position and to put the headlight on "low". Through this process I noticed all sorts of weird behavior, sometimes the running light of the tail light would be on, other times it would be off but would activate when I applied the brake, but never both at the same time.

So, once the electricals were satisfactory I screwed in the new petcock and plumbed the tank. The fuel filters I got are too big for the fuel line I have so I left them out (the new petcock has a nice new strainer so I figured I was at least partially safe). I had a major hassle getting that balancing line connected (I think those tubes have a slightly larger outside diameter than the rest of the system, so I should get some bigger hose) and then it started to rain.

I didn't give up however and got the hose attached in the garage. The rain let up so I pulled the bike back out and took a shot at starting it. After about a dozen kicks it backfired (which greatly impressed Lib) and then after a few more it sprung to life. This time I had the sense to observe the tach and it seemed like I could bring the RPM's down to about 3000 but any lower and the thing dies.

Remembering that 3000 is about where the alternator starts making power, I decided to check the battery since below 3k the bike isn't generating enough power to throw a spark. Sure enough, just slightly more than 10 volts.

So I threw it on the charger last night thinking that if it ran at all with 10 volts maybe it would run great at 12-13, and even though that battery is smoked, it can usually hold a charge for an hour or so after it comes off the charger.

This morning I gave it another shot before coming in to the office and while it definitely starts easier and I can get the revs down closer to 2k, it still won't come close to idling, and when I try to hold the revs steady (around 3.5k), there is some "undulation".

So, I've got some research to do. I read somewhere that getting these bikes to idle w/o the stock exhaust is difficult, but I've seen many with modified pipes so that can't be the only cause. There are so many other possibilities but I'm going to try and narrow them down, otherwise I could spend a long time getting everything perfect.

But it was cool to hear it run again, and I think my tank nightmares are over, so I'm not complaining.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Grinding Disraeli Gears, Part 2

Where was I...oh yes.

So the next day I checked the tank filled with the "A" solution and things looked pretty clean, so I got ready for the next step.

The instructions indicate that you need to get the "A" stuff out, add the "B" and then immediately add "C" once you emptied the "B" stuff out (as rust will set in immediately.

After yesterday's "B" before "A" debacle, I only have about half a bottle of the "B" solution, and even that is somewhat nasty and rusty, but since I don't have alot of choice (and I'm growing ever more comfortable with the idea of replacing the tank anyway), I'm just going to go for it and see what happens.

So I pour the "A" + water solution and add what's left of the "B" bottle. This smells horrible and I slosh it around as best as I can. Following the directions, I get the can of "C" ready to go and quickly pour it into the tank.

As I slosh the white good around in the tank I notice that it is a bit runny...and rusty colored...

Finding yet one more way to screw this up, I added the contents of the "C" can without first emptying the "B" solution from the tank...brilliant!

After coating the tank as much as I can I decide to move on to something completely different and here I can say things went much better.

You may remember the surprise I had when I tried to swap out the handlebars in a previous post? Today I was ready to go to town with the wire cutters and make the swap. After some careful cutting, re-routing of control cables and Dremel work, the new bars were in place (and looking pretty sweet, I might add).

The Kreeme had one more trick up its sleeve for me. The next day I wanted to see what the bike would look like with the tank on, and I tested it several times to see if the coating had set up. No matter what I did I couldn't get any more to drip out, so I popped the tank on the bike. No sooner than a second or two after I got to marvel at the progress the Kreem decided to flow again and emptied out of the tank and on to my nice clean carburators...

I'm glad this part is almost over.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Grinding Disraeli Gears, Part 1

I’m going to start this post right away (although I might not post it right away) while the details are fresh in my mind.

For two weeks I tweaked on the process of restoring a rusty gas tank using the Kreem product. I read tutorials, watched videos and talked to people who have done this before but no matter what I had this bad feeling about the process.

Finally on Saturday I had some time to get started and since I had scheduled most of Sunday to work on the bike I thought it would be cool if I could get the preliminaries out of the way and get the Kreem in the tank and drying by Saturday night. The tank needs some work on the outside as well and the idea was to combine as much of this as possible since there is a lot of waiting involved.

The first part of the Kreem process is plugging the holes in the tank. I wasted a lot of time on this and in the end made probably the worst possible choices. I decided to leave the petcock in, since when I pulled it I found that it was barely functional and very rusted out. It’s going to need to at least be rebuilt (if not replaced) so I was comfortable with sacrificing it to the process.

The other two holes I was concerned with are two steel lines that come out of the bottom of the tank on either side. When the tank is on the bike, these two are connected with a piece of hose that runs through the frame so it has to be removed when the tank is off the bike. Here I came up with the brilliant idea of connecting these two with a short length of hose for the etching process and then using a length of wire in each to keep them open when applying the Kreem coating itself.

The Kreeme kit I got came with three containers labeld A, B and C. This should be simple enough, but for some reason I can’t explain I managed to dump bottle B in the tank first.

I told you I had a bad feeling about this.

I noticed this just as the bottle became empty and scrambled to recover as much of the (now rusty) liquid into its original container. After a scene that would make the three stooges proud, I got about 50% of it back.

I still can’t figure out how I screwed this up, I literally ran the steps through in my head a dozen times and read and re-read the directions over and over again. Amazing.

This time I add the right bottle, and then add additional hot water (as directed) and the tank is almost full. I let this mess sit for a few minutes and then, realizing that there isn’t much more I can do at this point turn my attention to the outside of the tank.

The plan here is to strip the paint, apply some bondo to cover the mounting plates for the emblems and then prime it for painting. Since the whole mess is nicely suspended on a 5-gallon pail I decide this is a good time to apply some paint stripper. This goes well and the paint begins to bubble up immediately (I use “Dad’s”, I haven’t used too many others but I prefer it to Zip Strip). After about 15 minutes most of the paint is falling off or close to it and a quick swipe with the putty knife removes almost all of it, revealing something interesting.

I’m not the first person to Bondo this tank.

On the front-left side of the tank is a patch of Bondo about four inches in diameter. On the opposite side is one about an inch around. I’ve know that the bike was down before I got it based on damage to the right-hand side of the engine, turn-signals, etc. but I didn’t know that the tank had been repaired. This was great news for me because it makes me more comfortable with screwing up the restoration of the tank, knowing that it’s not exactly in “new” condition.

Some steel wool and alcohol removes most of the paint and primer, enough for the Bondo to get a good grip (I think, I’ve never used it before) and so I give it a water rinse and let it dry. I take this chance to “agitate” the Kreem “A” stuff in the tank and when I take a peek it looks like it might actually be working.

I’m feeling more confident now so I decide to jump into the Bondo task once the tank is dry.

Bondo is cool stuff, I’ve never worked with it before and using nothing more that the directions on the can I had a very tenuous grip on the process but went at it anyway, with gusto. Other than getting too much of it on my Mechanix Gloves, it went well enough (I found out a little goes a long way). Using the included tool, I applied a fairly thin layer, just enough to cover up the mounting plates, to either side of the tank and let it dry. I applied a little more after the first layer seemed to set up so that there would be more of a “safety zone” when the time comes to sand this down.

Another agitation of the tank, it’s looking a little better now…

According to the directions they recommend 24 hours for an old tank, so that’s what I’m going to give it; I’ll leave B and C for Sunday…

Friday, August 1, 2008

Reserves Day 1

Last Sunday Matt came over with the camera and all told I spent a solid six hours working on the bike. In the morning I extracted it from my Tetris-like garage arrangement, setup an improve workbench and went through the day’s work in my head.

Before Matt arrived I started out with a few small adjustments to the recently overhauled carburetors. I thought there was a more thorough procedure outlined in my Clymer manual but most of the adjustment requires the bike to be running so that will have to wait.

Since we’re going with individual “pod”-style air filters one of the tasks on today’s agenda is removing the existing airbox. This was pretty straightforward once I realized that the two sides of the box are connected to each other using a rod that goes between the two sides. After bending the rod and denting one side of the airbox I realized this, removed the nut from one end and the whole thing fell away nicely. This really opened things up under the seat and there is now a lot more room to work with (which will make mounting the carbs a lot easier) but there are a few brackets and tabs and such that I think can go, later.

Since I needed some pipe clamps (on the list for the Fleet Farm run when Matt arrives) to mount the carbs I decided to move on to something easy like swapping out the handlebars. The CL come with these cool MX-style bars but I have a pair of even-cooler clubman bars I bought for my Monster years back but they didn’t fit.

I sliced the left grip to remove it and the pulled the screws from the left-side controls. For some reason, they didn’t just fall off at that point. I attributed this to decades of goo but after moving it around a bit I realized something more discouraging: all of the electrical for the hand controls are threaded through the handlebars.

I took a minute to contemplate what this meant and came to a few conclusions. The first was that it was very unlikely that the current wiring would be of the proper length for the new bars, so I’d be looking at extending it. If I’m going to extend it, I want to cut it back to a point where I could add a water-tight connector and hide it away, so that means back by the speedometer and tach. It also means I’ll need the connector itself, the wire, some way to “wrap up” the individual leads and I’ll be re-wiring the controls as well.

I was just about to cut the first wire when I realized that if I started this process now there was little-to-no chance the bike would run today. I didn’t have any great expectations that it would run anyway, but if I dove into this re-wiring effort (which required parts I didn’t have on hand) that there would be little chance of having everything in place to try and fire up the engine.

So instead I grabbed the Simple Green and started scrubbing until Matt arrived.

When Matt got there we grabbed a couple of cups of Black Gold and I went over the plan. We headed to Fleet to pick up a new battery, hose clamps, air filters and a fuel filter.

We returned with some hose clamps, a fuel filter (for a lawn tractor) and a battery charger (mine had burned up recently and I thought for $25 it would be worth a shot to try and revive the battery). I threw the battery on the charger and started the re-assembly with the carburetors. With the airbox removed this went quickly and easily and with the newly-cleaned carbs the throttle action was much improved (although I still need to at least lubricate the cable if not replace it at some point).

Once that was done I realized that I still had to hang the pipes and as I got started with that Matt grabbed the camera and started rolling. It had been awhile since I played with mounting the exhaust but after a few botched attempts I remembered how the two-piece flanges went on and the pipes were back on the bike.

Since they are considerably shorter than before the mounts that previously supported them no longer make sense, so for the moment they are simply bolted to the head. I imagine this isn’t a long-term solution.

With the carbs back on and the pipes hung, we were ready to drop in the battery, apply fuel and attempt to fire up the engine. I checked on my old battery and according to the charger it was almost done (one remaining bar on the 5-bar charge indicator). Thinking optimistically I pulled the battery off the charger and dropped it in the bike; there was almost no response. Realizing this was futile I pulled the battery and put it back on the charger, I had considered this possibility earlier in the week and had a plan B.

Matt and I both had the same thought as we eyed up my new bike, the Magna.

After learning the hard way how to get the battery out of the Magna we yanked it and set it up next to the CL. I found a pair of jumper cables in the garage and quickly attached them to the battery terminals of the bike, and then to the battery itself. I quick turn of the key indicated that the CL’s electrical system was not to blame for the previous batteries performance and the bike turned over without strain.

Next I dug out the Fuel IV previously mentioned on these pages and realized that the only gasoline I had on hand was from the last attempt at starting this bike, last summer. So, Matt and I headed to the corner gas station to buy about a half-gallon of gas and then headed back to the garage.

With the fuel lines connected I added a small amount of fuel to the IV and watched for leaks. Things looked pretty tight (before fuel would pour out of one of the bowls) so I turned the key, set the choke and hit the starter…


I was hoping that the reason we didn’t see a leak was not because there was no fuel flowing through the carbs. Let’s try again.


Maybe it doesn’t need the choke?


The last time I turned the bike over I tested the ignition and there was spark, but that was months ago so we verified this the old fashioned way. Spark on both sides, but the plugs seem dry. I added more fuel to the IV (it was now started to drip from one of the bowl drains, at least it’s coming out of the right place right?). We also decided to try the kick starter.

As a side note, if you’re trying to start a bike that hasn’t run for at least a decade, and you’re using the kick starter, wear boots. After about ten kicks (and a few slips) I thought that little metal rod (the remains of the kick starter pedal) was going to go through the bottom of my Chucks’.

Envision this: The CL is on its center stand, there is a battery laying next to it and jumper cables are running up to the battery compartment. I’m standing on the right-hand side of the bike, holding the Fuel IV in one hand (dripping gas), the throttle in the other and I’m trying to kick the kick starter with my left foot (the wrong foot) repeatedly, wearing tennis shoes…

…and then we heard a “pop”…

More furious kicking…

…pop, pop, pop

I kick a few more times and then my leg falls off. It’s time to get some boots.

Back outside in 5 minutes with the most reliable equipment ever made by HD on my feet, I turn the ignition back on, refill the IV and start kicking with various amounts of throttle, choke and prayer and…well you can see the results for yourself:

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I was taking these notes elsewhere, but then I thought, why not lay it all on the table?

So I was showing Matt these cool fairings I’ve been considering for the project. I know that it makes the end result more “SS” and less “Café” but I dig that 1970’s SS look and if I’m going to "do the ton" on a 350cc bike any aerodynamic advantage that can be had is worthwhile, right? Of course adding $250+ to the budget isn’t going to get this bike on the road sooner so I see this as “phase 2” of the project, but that got me thinking about what exactly are the phases of this project?

Phase 1:
A running, rideable bike that has a chance of making it to, riding in, and making it home from, the fall Slimey Crud Motorcycle Gang Café Racer Run.

Phase 2:
Making the bike capable of 100MPH, addressing aesthetics, tuning and overall reliability.

Phase 3:
More power, better handling

So for the moment we’ll focus on Phase 1 and relegate Phase 2 as daydream fodder for all the time we can’t be making progress on Phase 1.

To get ready for the day of work we’re lining up I started thinking about what we’d like to do first, and what parts/tools/etc. we’ll need to get around so we don’t have any (easily avoided) hang-ups on that day. Here’s my current task list, in approximate order of priority:

  1. Remove the airbox, replace with K&N pod filters (I’m giving up on velocity stacks for the moment)
  2. Get the carbs put back together (done)
  3. Install the carbs
  4. Install the modified “exhaust”
  5. Actually clean the oil filter (not just replace the engine oil)

…This should be enough to see if we can get the engine to start. Once that happens…

  1. Kreem & re-install the fuel tank (I'm re-considering this)
  2. Adjust carb jetting (we’ve made some major changes to the intake/exhaust)
  3. Tune-up the ignition (gap the “new” plugs, clean/replace the points, maybe new condenser/coils/plug wires)
  4. Check/adjust the timing
  5. Check/adjust the valves

…And then a few aesthetic adjustments

  1. Swap the stock bars for clubmans
  2. Fix/patch the seat
  3. Clean everything

That should be it for phase 1, and depending on how many snags we run into I dont' think there is any reason we can't get through it by this fall's run...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

All-carb diet

I spent some quality time with the carbs in the basement tonight.

At first I was a bit worried to see that there were more parts in the "carb kits" that I bought than I could find a place for in my carburetors, however consulting my handy service manual indicated that my CL came with two different types of carb, and these extra pieces were for the "other" kind.

Other than that things went very smoothly and I had both carbs back together in about 90 minutes. I still need to adjust them (as much as you can before mounting them) but I was just happy to have all the pieces together that I called it a night.

I'm working on a longer post to outline everything I have planned for the bike at this point, I'll post it soon once I've updated the list.


(BTW, I took a few pictures but my damn VQ1000 threw an error and I wasn't able to pull them off the camera...I think I'm going back to film...)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


It seems like I go through this every month or so, but again the bike languishes in the garage while a million other projects suck up my time.

It doesn’t help that it takes about 20 minutes to dig the bike out from behind everything else in the garage before I can work on it, but enough excuses right?

So talking with Matt, we’re going to dedicate a day in July to get together and try and make some serious progress on this thing. Once again I find myself evaluating the priorities of the project and trying to decide what to work on first. I think my biggest problem is keeping focus on small, attainable steps. Instead I keep thinking “if I can just get a weekend to work on the thing, I’ll get it on the road in one fell swoop!”.

Instead I should set the goal of putting a carb back together, just one, and go from there.

…I just found out that I might have an hour or two tonight…

On the up side, the rest of the project (the film that is) is progressing nicely. We have another interview in the can, this one with the President For Life of the gang, and from my preliminary viewing of the footage it looks pretty good. It sounds like Matt has a few more interviews lining up soon so for the moment things on that side of the film project are on-schedule.

Now if I can just hold up my end of the bargain…

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


After a few years searching for the right predecessor of my last (running) bike, the search is finally over.

Jamie and I have been looking for a more “comfortable” bike, something with passenger accommodations that are more “accommodating” than the Monster’s. This lead us into the realm of touring and cruiser bikes, and since we both have an aversion to fairings, most of the contenders were from the cruiser category.

We had pretty much settled on a Honda Shadow Aero, and had checked out a few over the years. We both dig the retro styling, and it seemed to be perfectly comfortable 2-up, and the price was in the right range. I never formally evaluated the performance because with this kind of bike, what’s the point? If you have enough power to haul two people and some gear around at highway speed, then that’s enough, right?

For some reason I always hesitated to pull the trigger on the purchase though. I just have a hard time buying a bike that is deliberately de-tuned for stylistic purposes, essentially to be more like a Harley.

But regardless we found a nice used Shadow at our local Honda shop and it was even decked out with a nice seat and bags, so it looked like this was going to be the one. Just on a whim, I did a quick search of the inventory of the other shops in the area and happened across this:

A 1995 Honda Magna VF750C. I knew immediately that this was the bike. Cruiser proportions and a sportbike engine, and awesome 50’s-style paint to boot, how can you go wrong? Of course the windshield/fairing needs to go, but other than that it was perfect (not to mention the price was right as well).

We spun down to Johnson Creek to check it out and after a nice test drive we were sold. A few days of finagling with the insurance and what-not and we were on the way home with it.

I haven’t had a lot of riding time yet due to some dental work I’ve had done but at the end of this week we’ll be spending some quality time together.

…now what does this mean for the CL project? Probably not much. On one hand you could think that it might slow down my progress since having a working bike might reduce my motivation to get the CL running, but on the other hand, now that we have a bike built for 2-up riding I can take a much more aggressive approach to the modifications of the CL and turn it into a true café racer. Of course some of the time I might have spent wrenching may be consumed by riding but I think there are worse things that can happen, and this way I can get my skills back up-to-speed before I try to take the “experimental” CL on the road.

…and this way I have SOMETHING to ride to the fall Crud Run, no matter how the CL project turns out.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Some Progress

I finally got some time to work on the bike instead of the movie!

I've had the pipes in the basement with the intention to cut off the rusted-out mufflers for months. Last weekend I had a couple of hours to kill and I decided to head downstairs and take a crack at them.

Probably the most distinctive feature of the CL350 (as opposed to the CB350) is the mufflers. Unfortunately they are also one of the most troublesome. Due to their shape and position, they collect water on the inside which is never good for steel, and most any un-restored example you find in the wild has major to complete rust in this area. To make things worse, the mufflers and the headers are one-piece, so there's no "bolt-on" option for replacing them.

Since this was one of my favorite parts of the bike I spent a lot of time trying to replace/repair them while retaining the stock look, thinking I could find some on Ebay (I've had luck with so many other parts). As it turns out, since they all had this problem non-rusted out examples fetch a nice sum and more than I'm willing to invest (this isn't a restoration project, I had to keep telling myself that). Finally a few months back I decided to damn the torpedoes and just slice off the mufflers and experiment. I figure the worst thing that can happen is I'll need to pick up a replacement set, which is what I was looking at in the first place.

So I set out with Dremel in hand and attacked the pipes. This makes for great movie footage as sparks fly and smoke rises, but it doesn't make for the cleanest cut possible. After seeing the results of this first attempt, I decided to give the hacksaw a try, which worked so well that I went back over the first pipe with the saw just to get a clean edge.

I had a little more time left and the pipes were so rusty that I decided to try taking a wire brush (attached to a power drill) to them and see if I could clean them up a bit. 30 minutes later they looked great (compared to before at least) and other than a few spots where the chrome had been removed (from a fall or something) they looked almost new. Well not new, but I think with some Brillo work they will look great. While I was at it I gave the clamps the wire wheel treatment as well and there was a huge difference (it didn't come out so much in the photo but trust me, it's very nice).

I spent a lot more time on this than I think I had to, but there was something so satisfying about making these parts look so nice. It makes me re-evaluate my approach to the bike, and now that I have a few months more to work on it's I'm considering taking a more thorough approach to cleaning the rest of the machine up.

...Then again it took me three months to get around to this one job so maybe I should just keep my ambitions low until the engine runs...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


I've decided to take an inventory of the project and figure out exactly what needs to be done and in what order. At the moment, here's what I think needs attention:

  • Re-assemble the carbs
  • Re-install the carbs
  • Replace the airbox with clamp-on filters
  • Cut-up and re-install the exhaust

Once these are done I should be able to try and fire up the engine and see what happens, assuming that it starts, and nothing terrible goes wrong, I can move on to the next batch of items:

  • Kreem the gas tank
  • Replace the tyres
  • Get a new title

This should be enough to get it on the road. Now, assuming I get this far before the fall run, I could spend some time making the bike more interesting. But for now, I'm going to try and get through this list.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thawing Out

So there is a lot of exciting developments around the film these days; unfortunately none of them have to do with my motorcycle.

I've had the carb rebuild kits for at least a month and the pipes in the basement for weeks, but with the schedule lately I've had zero time to spend down there getting things together.

With any luck things will wind down here in the next week or so and I'll get a chance to do some work on the bike. The weather around here has been improving, making it a lot easier to get work done out in the garage. Once I get the carbs and pipes done I'll be digging the rest out and moving operations back outside for the warmer months.

In the meantime I'll be focusing on my "Producer" role of the project and less on the "Mechanic" one; but hopefully that will change soon.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Matt's Interview

Last weekend we shot Matt's "progress report" interview and discussed his project bike and where things are at now that we're about half-way to the spring crud deadline (since we began production on the film).

I have to say that Matt's bike looks a lot better than mine does right now, and for all practical purposes he's a lot closer to being road-worthy than I am.

Shooting that interview definitely motivated me to get back in the garage, as does the unseasonably warm weather we're currently experiencing here. The next thing I need to do, re-assemble the carbs, I can do in the comfort of my basement workshop so the only thing standing in the way there is finding the time. After that it's back to the garage to re-attach the carbs, re-plumb the fuel lines and try again to get the motor to start. Really not that much to do before attempting to fire it up again if you think about it.

After last weekend I can definitely say, like most things that require discipline, fixing a motorcycle is definitely easier when you have a friend doing the same. Fixing a motorcycle isn't all that hard, there is a financial cost to it but if you do all the labor yourself (and fabricate/substitute the less common parts) it's not terribly expensive. Technical skill is required, but most of this you can acquire by reading and through trial-and-error. Bill pointed out that the best way to learn these skills is by doing the work yourself, making mistakes and then trying again until you get it. If you look at the lost time and money of this process, it's still cheaper than going to school and there is little chance of falling asleep working on your own bike.

There is a part of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where the narrator discusses "gumption", and says something like "without gumption the motorcycle may never be fixed, but with gumption the motorcycle cannot resist being fixed" (sometime I'll look up the exact quote) but I think the point is that the only thing that will stop a project such as this is the mechanic's choice to give up. If you can avoid this, the motorcycle will run again…