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.