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.