Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More, better faster!

Post-production is coming along nicely and this project's pace is really starting to pick up. To make it easier for everyone to keep on top of things, we've decided to consolidate our updates and make them available via the following methods:

We've also updated the projects Official Website to reflect the current "shape" of the film and set a date for the first public screening as well.

Matt will be making a whirlwind appearance at the fall 'Run, if you see him be sure to say hi!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Baby Steps

Another step in the right direction (?), the previous owner of "This Old Honda" got a letter from the DMV requesting some sort of "Bond". I'm not sure what that's all about, but Dan said he did, so I guess that's progress?

Anyway, some good news; the film is coming along fine. We're deep in post and planning on shooting some "supplementary" footage in a couple of weeks that should wrap up just about all of the loose ends we have on the photography front. I've also been working on the score with our "court composer" Derek Schyvinck and we seem to be on the same wavelength.

I'm hoping we will have a "teaser" available in the next month or so to share, but our focus at the moment is solidly on getting all remaining footage in the can so we can focus on the edit. That said, we could all use something to "point at" when we're discussing the film and I'm sure Matt could use a break from cutting interview footage.

In the meantime, go riding, it's beautiful out there!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Some encouraging news...

I got an email over the weekend from the bike's previous owner. He has all the paperwork done and in the mail to get the title squared away. I'm not sure what this means time-wise, but at long last it looks like I'll have a clear title for the bike, which means I need to get my "rear in gear" and get these carb issues under control.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


The spring crud has come and gone and I still have that overflowing carb issue. Poking around for a new carb (yes I'm ready to punt), I ran across this tasty little tidbit:

"What caused the overflowing was the float binding on the overflow tube. There is not much clearance between the float and the overflow tube. If any difficulty is experienced removing the float bowl, there is a good chance that the float may be bent towards the tube, and, as a result, binding on the overflow tube. Having set the float level to 19mm, and squaring up the floats, the problem has been resolved. I hope this extra bit of insight is useful."

taken from:http://scootrs.com/tech.cfm?tip=float

I've noticed that the float bowl goes on with more difficulty than expected, so it's worth a look.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2 Weeks

I was starting to get really bummed about the bike Saturday morning, it was starting, then surging and dying, and no matter to screw-tweaking seemed to make a difference. I decided that for some reason maybe that overflowing carb was involved and that instead of trying to "tune the whole guitar" maybe I should "replace the broken string" first, so to speak.

This was a good move in that it got me in the right mindset for the job. Visions of riding the bike were now far away and out of focus and all I was looking at was the carb, and why fuel kept coming out of the overflow. As far as I know, the only way fuel flows out of this port is when too much fuel is in the bowl. So I turned my attention to how fuel gets in the bowl, which works surprisingly like a toilet.

The bowl is at the bottom of the carburetor and inside this bowl is a float (really a pair of connected floats). When fuel fills the bowl, these floats move upward and at a set point, engage a valve which cuts off the fuel. As fuel is used by the engine, the floats drop as the fuel level drops and at a certain point, fuel once again flows into the bowl. If this mechanism fails to do its job, there is an overflow tube that lets the fuel run out the bottom of the carburetor. This is what was happening to my carburetor.

The first thing I did was pull the bowl off. I was really afraid that the gasket was going to jump out and I was going to have to wait another week for it to shrink back to normal size so I could put the carb back together again. To my surprise, it just stayed in place, so I let it be and I was careful not to disturb it the rest of the day.

First I wanted to test the shutoff valve, since a failure or leak here would explain everything. I manually lifted the floats to their maximum "closed" position and turned on the fuel: no leak. I slowly dropped the floats with the fuel on and as expected, the fuel began to flow as soon as the floats allowed the valve's needle to fall away from its seat.

The next test I did was of the floats themselves. One common cause of this is a hole in the float, so that it is no longer buoyant and doesn't lift when the bowl fills with fuel. I did a crude test of this by removing the floats and placing them in the removed bowl. I added fuel to the bowl and the floats lifted as expected. Examining the floats after this test, there was no evidence that they had taken on any fuel, or had any holes or openings that should not be there.

Another cause of this problem can be a mis-adjustment of the cut-off point for the fuel valve. Like a toilet, if the valve waits too long to close the fluid will continue to flow even if the float is at its maximum height. On the carburetor this is adjusted by bending a small metal "tang" on the float assembly which contacts the needle portion of the fuel valve.

There is a recommended procedure for adjusting this tang in the manual, but it requires you to tilt the carburetor and take some measurements. Obviously this is impossible with the carb attached to the engine. Removing the carb from the engine is surprisingly allot of work on this bike due to the position of the exhaust and how the throttle linkage works so I thought instead that I would take a "cut-and-try" approach to adjusting the tang.

Either I thoroughly underestimated the precision necessary for this adjustment, or there is some other cause for the overflow because I tried this adjustment no less than 27 times through the course of the day, with not satisfaction. I was able to adjust the tang to the point where no fuel flowed, and adjust it the other direction to cause the overflow, but I was unable to find the "sweet spot" where the float action correctly metered the fuel in the bowl.

I'm surprised that the "window" of adjustment is as small as it appears to be and I have a feeling there is more to this than I'm understanding.

At this point it's clear that another approach is necessary if I'm going to correct this problem. It is unclear if correcting this will make the bike run right, but I've decided to fix the things that I know how to fix, and since this engine running problem is more complex and elusive, I'll focus on the carb for the moment.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Crabby Carbs

So the replacement gasket came and I was able to install it using my new tools in record time. I pulled the battery off the charger, turned on the petcock and gave the bike a few mighty kicks. After more than I expected, it popped, sputtered and died.

This lead to maybe an hour of pulling plugs, checking for spark, trying individual cylinders, etc. Describing the process is boring, but the results are that now the right-hand side (the one I just replaced the gasket on) is working well, and the left-hand-side is acting up.

This is frustrating because last time, it was the other way around, and I haven't made any changes on the left-hand side!

Something else interesting, the right-hand-side (which has a new gasket) is now slowly leaking fuel via the bowl's overflow tube…I'm not sure what causes this, but I'm guessing it's a float or maybe a needle/slide thing?

Needless to say this was not the results I was expecting to have after this session. After giving it some time to simmer in the back of my mind, I have a few troubleshooting ideas for the upcoming weekend, and hopefully I can get it all sorted out soon.

Only three weeks to go...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Through the looking glass

Matt and I finally got around to shooting our next round of "project bike" interviews and it was interesting to be on the other side of the lens for a change. I have a renewed respect for everyone who put up with the hot lights and our countless questions.

Last weekend I got some feedback from one of our readers as well as about an hour to wrench on the bike and the results were promising. I bit the bullet and dropped one of the pipes, making it much easier to get the bowls back on the carbs.

As Chris pointed out, the enlarged gaskets will return to normal size on their own if you just give them a chance. I wish I would have known that before I re-sized the right-hand-carb's gasket.

So after about 20 minutes I had everything back together and turned on the fuel. As expected, the carb who's gasket I "adjusted" leaked, but after a bit of kicking I was able to get the bike to fire. It wouldn't idle however, so I experimented with figuring out if it was one side or the other that was acting up by removing one spark plug wire, then the other. Again no surprises, the right-side was acting up (the same side as the leaky carb) and it was doing what I can only explain as "surging slowly".

I thought about playing with the carb adjustments but I figured even if I was able to get it to behave it would just be screwed up again when I replace the gasket (I'm only guessing that the leak and the weird behavior are related because they came along at the same time, and the non-leaking side is working correctly). So for now I'm going to let it be, track down a new gasket and focus my efforts elsewhere.

Elsewhere being the rear brake.

I described the brake problem to Bill at Motorcycle Performance and he knew instantly what I was talking about. He told me all that I needed to do was loosen the rear axle nut, apply the brake and re-tighten. I'll be giving that a shot this week and hopefully I can check that item off the list.

With any luck I'll track down a gasket shortly and figure out if my midrange problem is resolved or if further investigation will be in order. For now I have something to work on (as well as making the bike street legal) so I'll focus on that.

On the film front we are closing in on our first rough cut (with placeholders for the footage that has yet to be shot, of course) which is very exciting. This will be the first time we've seen the footage assembled and having shot it over more than a year, there is footage that I haven't seen for a very long time in there. Hopefully we'll have something from that effort to share as well, but for now we're focused on making it to the spring run, which means back to the garage for me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I picked up a new battery from Fleet Farm, the same as the old one, just not fried. Added the acid, threw it on the charger and headed to the gas station for some fresh fuel.

I thought I'd be draining the "over winter" gas from the fuel tank but when I popped the gas cap, the tank was dry. I had noticed some leaking over the winter, but I had no idea how severe it was. I'm not sure where or why it leaked, because all last summer it held fuel (once it was treated) but when I topped it up in the fall, it somehow got back out.

Something to keep an eye on; anyway…

I dropped the freshly charged battery in the bike and tested the lights: all systems go. Poured in maybe a gallon or so of Premium (I thought I'd leave Ethanol out of the equation, for now) and after about five kicks, she started right up and settled down into a nice idle.

Unexpected, but nice.

The idea here was to make sure the thing would start as-is before I started messing with the jets. I didn't want to swap them out and have trouble getting it to run and be left wondering if something else had happened during the off-season or if it was just the recent changes. Now I know that if it doesn't work, it's my fault.

So I shut 'er down and inspect the bike as the engine cools. Everything looks good, surprisingly, although the top-end sounded a little lubrication-starved to me (not sure if this is normal or not for this bike, but something to check up on).

My plan is just to drop the bowls and swap the jets for the largest ones that came in my "kit". I figure since I more or less removed the exhaust system and opened up the intake as well I should start large and work my way down. The logic, hopefully not flawed, is that the side-effects of too rich a mixture (smoke and wet plugs) are better than that of too lean (overheating, detonation, etc.).

Unfortunately it wasn't going to be as simple as I would have liked to get these bowls off. First off, the right-side was too tight for any screwdrivers I had on hand, so I had to run to Fleet to pick up some stubbies and a pair of offset drivers (which are pretty cool). This was enough to get the bowl off, which led to the next problem.

When the bowl came off, the (new) gasket jumped out and somehow was too large to fit as-is back into the groove on the bowl. After trying in vain to get it back in there I decided to "shorten" it. I'm pretty sure I'm going to regret this, but since the only recourse was buying a smaller one, I figured there was no harm in trying it. Even after shortening it, it was impossible to get it to stay in the groove (if anyone has any tips for this, please pass them on, I'm going to be doing this a few more times). After messing with it for awhile I was able to get the bowl back on with the gasket in place and I think it's in the right place…

The left side was worse.

High pipes, while cool looking are not very practical. In this case, the top one made it almost impossible to get at the carburetor bowl with the carb mounted on the engine. Dropping the pipes would help, but since jet selection (for me) is a trial-and-error process, I really want to avoid having to do this each time I want to try different jets. After about thirty minutes I was able to get the bowl out and drop in the new jets.

The same gasket problems exist here (how did these things grow?) and are only compounded by the inaccessibility of the left carb. After another thirty minutes it was starting to get dark so I decided to call it for the night.

Thinking it over later, I should have just dropped the pipes. It would have only taken a few minutes, and I may have even gotten everything back together before dark. The worst part was that I knew this at the time, but I was too focused on trying out the new jets that I didn't take the time necessary to do it right.

At least I know what to do next time…

(sorry for the blandness of this post, I was in too much of a hurry to take pictures. Lucky for you, I'll be doing this again and I'll try to snap a few next time.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Motorcycle Season Begins?

It's hard to believe that three days ago Jamie and I dusted off the Magna for a short ride around town. The great thing about the weather around here is that if you don't like it, just wait 15 minutes…

Post-production continues on the film as we log hour and hours of footage. Matt tells me that most of the tape has been captured and he's pumped about turning out that first rough cut. I'm excited as well because unlike our other projects, there is quite a lot of footage that I haven't seen yet (I wasn't present for the shooting), so there will be a lot of stuff I haven't seen yet in the rough.

As the weather turns fair it reminds us that we don't have a lot of time before the spring run (two months?) and neither of our bikes are quite "road ready" yet. On Matt's end he continues to battle the leaking fuel tank issues while mine are less serious mechanically (I'll get into them in a minute) but I'm still uncertain about obtaining a proper title which really grounds the whole project. If I don't make any progress in this regard soon, I'm seriously considering a frame swap…

But on the mechanical end of things, the two highest-priority items I have on my list are:

  • Work out the midrange power problems
  • Figure out (and fix) the back brake "clunking" issue

When I had the bike out last year I noticed, when accelerating through the rev range the bike struggles as the tach climbs beyond 3000rpm. After thinking about it over the winter, I'm pretty confident this is a jetting issue, since I really opened up the intake and exhaust but I'm still running the stock main jets. So I ordered a "jet kit" off ebay that comes with several different sizes of main jets and we'll give this a shot.

The brake issue is something else. I un-intentionally disassembled the rear (drum) brake when I removed the wheel to have new tires mounted. I thought I put it back together correctly, but apparently I did something wrong. When applying the brake, it begins to grab as expected but then it will suddenly grip, make a "clunk" noise and then all but lock-up the rear wheel. If you plan for it, it's not a problem but if it catches you off-guard it's very unsettling. I'm not sure if I goofed something up inside the brake itself or maybe something in the mounting (the torque arm?) but either way I'm going to have to spend some time figuring it out. If I had even one disc up front, I wouldn’t sweat it too much but with (old) drums on both ends, I need every bit of stopping power I can find.

The weather is supposed to turn warmer again this week and I expect my jets will arrive as well. If both these things happen I may charge up the bike, get some fresh fuel and see if I can at least get it to start. If I get that far, I'll try installing some new jets and see what the difference is. It will probably be awhile before I can do another road test, but at least I'll be ready for the next break in the weather.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


It's hard to think about motorcycles when it's -5 degrees Fahrenheit, but I'll try.

Matt and I have been busy capturing/logging footage and taking a step back to look at what we have so far and how that fits into the "picture" of the film we started out with. Some things have come out exactly as we expected and others have exceeded our expectations in many ways.

There are two ways to approach a non-fiction film, you can set out to tell the story a certain way from the start and "force" this story in the way that you acquire footage and information or you can pick a "starting point" and let the film take shape as you gather media and information. I think that you have to have the whole story in mind when you start out, because you need to be able to envision the end of the film, but conversely I think you need to be able to let this go if, along the way, the story reveals itself in a way that is contradictory to your original vision. Ike said it best;

"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."

Matt and I had a very solid vision of the film when we first started shooting in 2007, but since then so much has changed. When we started we could scarcely imagine the resources that we would be able to gather and today we stand here with such a rich collection of stories and images that to force them into the mold we originally set would be to sacrifice too much. So we have spent the last few months taking all this in and contemplating how to grow the idea of the film, in light of all that has changed, and we've come up with something that we are very excited about and we think you will be too.

…of course I can't spill the beans here, you weren't expecting that were you?

All grand plans aside there are some very basic and concrete tasks remaining before we can consider production "a wrap". Next on the agenda are interview sessions with yours truly and Matthew to gather updates on the project bikes, and speaking of project bikes there is the small matter of readying them for the spring run! At the moment the biggest obstacle for Matt is the self-draining fuel tank and for myself, aside from a few (what I consider minor) mechanical issues is the greater matter of getting the bike registered and street-legal.

So my next post will return to a discussion of these technical/mechanical items, but I wanted to take a moment to update you all on the status of the film itself. We are very excited to reveal more, and in the coming months we'll be leaking more details. Stay tuned.

BTW, for those of you who missed it on television you can see Matt and I on Wisconsin Public Television's "Directors Cut" online and catch a brief "sneak peek" of some of our Crud Run footage near the end of the episode: http://www.wpt.org/directorscut/111gullickson_cribben.cfm