Friday, December 6, 2013

Jetting made easy

Lots of people talk badly about pod filters, and insist that a bike with CV carbs will always run better with the stock airbox and filter. I'm here to tell you that's not true. Most motorcycles with CV carbs are built to a budget, and maximum performance was not in mind at the factory. As such, these bikes can often benefit from the increased airflow SOME pod filters provide.

The first step is to make sure your bike runs well with the stock setup. If you're starting with a poorly-running bike, you're not going to have much luck using this guide. Get the bike running correctly with the original carbs, airbox, filter, and jetting, and THEN worry about pod filters.

The second step is to inspect your filters, make sure there's not a big rubber lip on the inside that blocks the vacuum and air bleed ports on the intake side of the carbs. This will make the bike run like crap. For example:


Big problem with CV carbs and cheap pod filters. People think it's because CV carbs don't work with pods, and that's bupkis. CV carbs, especially '70s and '80s carbs without tuned resonance chambers (like the Honda V4s) respond quite nicely to pods or stacks, so long as the ports are not occluded. That's not to say '90s bikes won't benefit either. The 500 Ninja greatly benefits from pods!

Once that's taken care of and the carbs are clean, it's time to think jetting.
On a cold day, give it full choke and try to start the bike. Does it start easily and idle high with the choke on? After 5 or 10 seconds of running, can you give it gas and rev it a little? If it is difficult to cold start on a cold day, difficult to keep idling even with full choke, and/or has to idle and warm up for a long time before you can rev it without the bike stalling, then you need a larger slow jet. Go up one size, and see if it's better. If Keep going up until the bike cold-starts on a cold day with choke, idles high with the choke, and can be revved almost immediately -- BUT it is still difficult to cold start with the choke off. If it starts easily on a cold day, with a cold engine and no choke, then your slow jet is too big.

Once that's dialed in, hold the throttle open to about 7000 rpm, and listen. Do you hear a lot of crackling, snapping, backfiring, or just plain straining to rev? If so, you need a larger main. Keep increasing the main size until you no longer hear that. If you however hear a gurgling, especially on overrun, it's probably too rich. (This is almost likely not the case with your bike as it is set up now). This will get you in the ballpark. Once that's done, take it for a ride. Lots of full-throttle, hard acceleration runs. If it seems lean, richen it up. If it runs better, you made the right choice. You can try going up another. If it runs worse, go smaller instead. Eventually you'll find a jet where it starts to run badly on the lean side, and starts to run badly on the rich side, with a range of jets inbetween that seem to run all about the same. Choose the one in the center of that range.

Finally, the last thing to concern yourself with is needle height. Once the bike is running fine at idle and at wide open throttle, run it at a constant speed on the highway. If it surges or feels like the bike is changing speed ever so slightly, even though your hand isn't moving on the throttle, chances are it's lean, and you need to add shims under the needle (or if you have an adjustable needle, move the clip on the needle down one notch). You also may experience a lag when you crack the throttle open from crusing velocity. The bike may fall on its face for an instant, and then accelerate normally. This is also indicative of a needle that needs to be raised. The higher the needle, the more fuel you get at partial throttle. This is a very good indicator, because when you crack the throttle open quickly, the slide reacts to air pressure quickly, but the fuel takes a half second to be pulled up out of the carb and atomized by the airflow. If you're already running lean, adding more air makes it much leaner for a split second, and the bike will lurch before the fuel catches up and it starts accelerating.

If your needle is too high, your gas mileage will go to shit. If you have a stock needle without an adjustable clip, and you're running rich at partial throttle (and everything else is set up correctly), then you'll have to get aftermarket adjustable needles. However, it's almost always the case that stock needles are too lean and a shim or two is all it takes. (If your midrange is rich with pods and stock needles, chances are the problem is your jets are too rich, and you need to go back and try this whole thing all over again) Radio shack electronics washers (.020" thickness) are perfect shims. Just buy a package of mixed electronics washers for $7 or so and you'll have a lifetime supply.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stuck Forks on a V65 Magna -- How to do fork seals CORRECTLY

The V65 Magna has traditional forks, with a decidedly non-traditional internal design. Most of the forks I've worked on, when you remove the bottom allen bolt, the lower easily slides off of the tube. No fuss at all.

The V65 on the other hand, is designed differently. There's a lower bushing attached to the bottom of the fork tube. This bushing's outer diameter is the same as the inner diameter of the fork lower. The upper bushing is attached to the top of the fork upper, and the inner diameter of this bushing is the same as the outer diameter of the fork tube itself. In this manner, the fork slider moves up and down with precision, and no side-to-side slop.

The drawback of this design is that the bushing on the bottom of the fork tube has a larger OD than the ID of the bushing at the top of the lower. Which means if you need to separate the fork lower and fork tube, the fork seal has to be removed as well. Normally this isn't too terribly difficult. After removing the oil and the top cap (so you're not fighting air pressure), use the fork lower as a slide-hammer. Slide it down sharply once or twice, and the fork lower will pop right off, leaving the fork seal and two bushings attached to the fork tube.

In theory, at least. Every now and then, you'll encounter problems. My problems stemmed from aftermarket seals which were slightly too large. When I replaced my fork seals last, the fork seals were really, really difficult to install. I used a piece of PVC , and stacked two old seals on top of the new seal, and then beat the crap out of the PVC with a 4 lb sledge. Took lots of hammering to get them in. Well, apparently all that hammering distorted the seal -- or they were just crap to begin with, because they started leaking immediately.

I'm here to tell you, if you experience this ever, STOP, and do not install that seal. If it's too difficult to install, there's a problem. And if you continue installing, the problem is going to get way, way worse. Because that slide-hammer action doesn't work very well at all when the seal is stuck in there really good. In fact, what happens is as you slide-hammer, the lower bushing expands the bottom of the upper bushing. The upper bushing has nowhere to go, because it fits tightly into the top of the fork lower. Expanding the bottom of the upper bushing wedges the bushing in place extremely firmly. No amount of slide-hammering will get the forks apart.

If this happens to you, use a PROPANE torch, and apply heat to the fork lower. You'll need something bigger than the small pencil tipped torches used for plumbing work. You'll need a brush-clearing torch with a big tip.  I used this:
I heated the crap out of the top of the fork lower, and then after two big slide hammers (wear welding gloves  to grasp the lowers without burning yourself) the left lower popped right off. The right side needed much more heat, and instead the tube expanded enough that the lower race was able to pull right through the upper race. This required using a 4 lb sledge to tap the fork lower off, though. Slide-hammer wasn't enough.

This is what the bushings on the left fork looked like. You can clearly see how the lower bushing is jammed into the upper bushing.

BE CAREFUL. When aluminum is hot it's malleable, and you can easily, easily damage the aluminum with a mallet. You can actually overheat the aluminum, but it requires a LOT of propane heat. Or just a little oxy-acetelyne heat. Which is why I used propane.

Once forks are removed in this manner, you're going to have to take apart the fork tubes as well. There are little plastic (pvc maybe?) bushings on the damping rod, and there's a good chance you may have melted them. Replace if they're damaged, and clean out any melty bits you find. 

When reassembling the forks, I test fitted everything this time. The upper bushing fit very tightly in the fork lower, so I took some sand paper and sanded off the layer of corrosion, dirt, grime, and muck there. I did the same for the fork seal area. I didn't remove metal, just the muck and nastiness and powdery corrosion. 

This time, instead of using PVC, I purchased an actual fork seal driver. I first used it to tap the upper race into place, and then to tap the seal into place. It took almost no force to install this time, and my OEM seals haven't leaked a drop.  The driver is also very nice because you can leave the fork tube installed in the triple tree. This is what it looks like: 

I will never install seals without a properly sized driver again. The tool was $25 and it was SO easy to use, it made the job almost pleasant. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Rearset controls on a Honda V65 Magna

I've had rearsets on my V65 for some time, but recently I just overhauled them, changed the mounting, and fixed some problems. While it was all apart, I figured I'd take photos and make a post. The first big problem I had is, I trashed my dented and rusty Kerker header, and installed a MAC 4-into-1 header. Because of the different design, the brake arm now directly contacted the header, so it had to be relocated. However, this same situation would occur with a stock bike, with stock collector and mufflers, so I think it'll be useful to post here. First thing I did was find some M10x1.5 bungs off of eBay, from Sin City Metal Works. They look like this:

I then removed the aluminum passenger brackets, and welded these to the position where the front-most bolt is located. Like this: 

Then I drilled out the mounting hole on the aluminum bracket, so that it slides over this bung:

I also had to grind the aluminum a little bit. The aluminum was at an angle with respect to the bung, which meant anything bolted here would be cocked sideways. A hit with the grinder made it level with the end of the bung.

Here you can see the Tarozzi universal rearsets -- brake side. I got these from Fast From The Past. The set consists of left and right folding pegs and adjustable shifter/brake arms -- and nothing else. I also purchased the spacer you see there, as well as the brake and shifter arms you'll see on down the page. 

Then I bolted this assembly to the bung .

I skipped a couple of steps. You can see here the rod and the clevis attachment (both from Fast From The Past). I'll bet you're wondering what that's connected to....

Well, a couple of years back I went to Vintage Motorcycle Days in Ohio, and scored a brand new, never been used Nissin master cylinder and reservoir. I welded together a custom bracket and mounted the master cylinder right where the original footpeg attached. 

That piece in the middle I had to "machine" myself. It's just a piece of mild steel solid rod from Lowes, which I cut, drilled, and tapped. The linkage arm is M6 thread, and the master cylinder is M8 thread, so I created this to connect them together. Works like a charm, and it was done with a Harbor Freight drill press and a regular old tap and die set. The brackets are 3/16" thick mild steel. I cut them with a cut-off saw, shaped with an angle grinder, and then welded them together. I kept the welds on the back side so the front looks clean and nice. Painted it with plasti-dip :)  

If you look close, you'll see wires coming off the banjo bolt. This is a pressure switch for the brake light. I soldered the connector on and it plugs into the wiring harness just like the stock brake light switch. This was much simpler than trying to rig up a mechanical brake light trigger. I purchased the banjo from Cycle-Recycle Part II. The stainless brake line was just hanging around in my shop. It's a little long, so I routed it a little funny so the extra line is out of sight under the motor. Works for now, I'll get a shorter line later. 

The shifter side was constructed pretty much the same. I bought two M6 ball end linkage connectors from McMasterCarr and attached them to another linkage that I bought from Fast From The Past. I drilled out the stock shift arm that connects to the shifter rod, so that I could attach the rod ends. You'll also notice that I used a thicker spacer (also from FFTP). This is so the shifter clears the kickstand when it's in the up position. You will absolutely need a linkage arm that's bent like this in order to clear the kickstand. It's a very tight fit. (Alternatively you could cut the kickstand off and weld it back on near the front, but that was too involved and an offset linkage was way easier).

Combined with a set of Daytona handlebars, these rearsets turn the V65 Magna from a laid-back cruiser to a standard seating position, which allows for more control and better handling in the twisties. The "rearsets" are very mild, the seating position is neutral, your feet are directly underneath you, so it's easy to stand on the pegs when going over railroad tracks or an unavoidable obstacle -- a difficult feat with stock pegs.

Seriously, the daytona bars and the rearset (standard-set really, but still further back than the V65 Sabre) completely change the attitude of the V65 Magna. In a straight line, it's CONSIDERABLY easier to launch this way, and wheelies (unexpected or otherwise) are much easier to control, because your feet are under you and still supporting you. You're not sliding backwards. Twisties are where this setup really shines though. I'm seriously considering un-doing my lowering, because it's so much more fun now that I want more ground clearance.

This mod wasn't cheap, but it wasn't that expensive either. Tarozzi rearsets are reasonably priced, and nicely made -- although I'd opt for the raw aluminum next time. The black wrinkle-coat wears off too easily. The extra parts required (linkage rods, ball ends, clevis, spacers, etc) are also reasonably priced. This mod did however require a bit of custom fabrication, and some welding. It's not a bolt-on, but it's also not out of the realm of possibility for a shade-tree mechanic. That's all I am, after all. The biggest tools required are a drill press and a flux-core welder, both from harbor freight (around $200 for the pair). You could make do with a hand drill and a vice in a pinch, and have a welder attach the bungs for you. If you go this route, I'd recommend you bring a bolt and washer to hold the bung in place, so he can just weld it and you can go on your way. Don't forget to strip the paint first! Also, don't forget to paint the bung and the stripped area around the weld, or it'll start rusting at the first hint of humidity.

Anyhow, I hope you found this useful, feel free to comment below!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Motorcyclists have a bad reputation. Historically we've been portrayed as dirty, rowdy, law-breaking ruffians on Harley Davidsons, or as young dumb brain donors on plastic rockets, wearing shorts and flip flops and doing wheelies in traffic at 120mph.  There are countless videos of stupidity and crashes on youtube... but today I found a video that made me smile:

These are the kind of videos that change public perception. Videos that show we're not all adrenaline junkies with no thought of our own (or anyone elses') safety, or unsavory tough guys with a beer in our hands and an axe to grind.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Oil Filters Exposed, or: "Why FRAM filters suck"

I came across this lovely bit of information many years ago, and it's important that everyone knows: FRAM filters suck. They have been banned by the NHRA, AMA, CSS, and WERA motorcycle racing organizations, because of frequent failures on the track. We're talking "blowing off the bike and covering the track with oil, and then blowing up your motor" failures.

I've personally seen fram filters come apart internally and rattle around, and I've seen them implode due to a faulty bypass valve. (Fram doesn't even use a spring for the bypass, just a piece of metal -- the ONLY piece of metal in the entire filter).

But, I won't bore you with my anecdotes, instead I'll give you actual information and proof. I found this a few years ago, and it's been continually updated ever since:

Seriously, FRAM is probably the worst possible filter you can put on your motorcycle or car. Don't believe me? Cut one open yourself. You'll be sickened by how poorly constructed the filter is. Don't risk your motor on junk. Buy NAPA, Wix, or K&N for your cars, Emgo, HiFlo, or Vesrah for your motorcycles.

Friday, July 12, 2013

JB Weld is magic

A great many people scoff at the use of JB Weld as a permanent repair. The stuff is amazing, but it's (perhaps not unfairly) associated with half-assed repairs that cause more problems than they solve.  Well, I'm here to say that if you apply it properly, and there is minimal stress on the part, this stuff is amazing.

Years past, I came across a CX500 motor, where the owner had somehow busted the water jacket (blown head gasket and massive overheat). It was broken right around the steel cylinder, a big V-shaped chunk was missing. He repaired it with JB Weld, of all things. He said he carefully cleaned and dried the aluminum, applied the JB weld, and sanded it down to the same level as the head. Then installed the head gasket and drove it for 10,000 miles. Eventually he decided he wanted a new motor, and he drove it to my dad's place. We swapped his motor for a low-mile motor in good shape... but we just had to remove the right head to see his repair. It was still holding strong, and it took quite a bit of effort to chip out so that we could see the extent of the damage.

Now, a busted water jacket repaired with JB Weld is impressive. The sealing surface of the head gasket right around the cylinder experiences wild temperature variation, as the engine heats up to operating temps. There's constant pressure from the head gasket, and the JB Weld was exposed to moving coolant. But that's still not magic.

Repairing an entire missing chunk of a motor. THAT is magic. I picked up a 1993 CB750 Nighthawk that had been wrecked, for $500. The owner locked up the front wheel, had a lowside slide, and then slammed into the back of a car. The bike went under the car, and the electronic ignition cover on the left side of the bike was sheared off by the undercarriage -- taking a big chunk of engine case with it.

See the missing chunk of metal? 

Not only that, but all of the bosses for the bolts that hold the cover on were busted off as well. This side of the motor contains the pickups and the timing gear, and it runs in an oil bath. No pressure, but the crankshaft has no seal on the end, so oil that comes out of the crankshaft bearing makes its way to the oil pan by draining through this area. So the bike can't be operated with a big hole in the case here.

The very first thing I did was load the bike in my truck, and bring it to my welder. This is the guy I use for any welding project that I'm not capable of. The guy is deaf as a doornail -- I have to scream at the top of my lungs, or write down my instructions, because 40 years working in a machine shop without ear protection has rendered him almost entirely deaf. I've seen him fix aluminum wheels that were curb-checked and cracked all the way through. I've seen him cut, shape, and weld extreme rake into a chopper. I've even seen him weld super-thin sheet metal without distorting it.  But, he wouldn't touch this. Said it was beyond repair, that the porous nature of cast aluminum combiuned with 20 years of oil contamination would prevent a quality weld, and that I should look for a replacement motor.

So I was looking on eBay for a used motor, but thought I'd give a shadetree fix a try. I went to the auto parts store and bought several tubes of epoxy putty. These are the size of a roll of quarters, and consisted of aluminum powder suspended in a two-part epoxy putty. Squish the putty together to activate it, and then apply and wait for it to harden. Since I had such a big area to cover, I found a piece of quarter-inch think aluminum, bent it with a BFH (Big Fucking Hammer) so that it had a curving radius, and then cut it with an angle grinder to fit the hole as best I could. I cleaned and roughed everything up, and then applied the putty to the case and to the aluminum piece. I also built new bosses with the remaining putty. After it dried, the repair looked like this:

I made the bosses oversized, so there is enough 
material there to support  a bolt.  I still need to 
drill and tap the last hole
Same angle as above, case is repaired.
I sanded the JB Weld down so it was level, and you can see some of the aluminum piece that makes the gasket sealing surface. It wasn't completely level, so there is some putty on top of it in places to level everything. I bought a new cover and used it to locate the last hole. I drilled and tapped it, then applied a THIN layer of silicone to a gasket, and bolted the cover on. I didn't dare tighten the cover too much, but I didn't have to. There's no pressure in here, and just a little more than finger tight is all it took to keep the cover on. There was a very, very infrequent oil drip, which I later went back and fixed by doubling up two gaskets with silicone sandwhiched between them. (The trick is, apply a thin bead of silicone both sides of both gaskets, snug everything up finger tight, and then let the silicone dry overnight. THEN tighten a quarter turn or so)

This worked for more than 15,000 miles without any problems. I even went touring hundreds of miles from home, and I wasn't worried a bit. I never did find a good used engine for a good price, and I eventually sold the bike for next to nothing, because of the damage. It still looked pretty nice from a few feet back though.

Nice new cover bolted right on
From a few feet back, she actually looked pretty nice. 
Not bad for $500
So JB Weld may have a bad rap, but it turned a $500 parts bike with a clean title into a runner. I spent less than $70 on the repair, and most of that was the new cover and the timing trigger. And this is why JB Weld is magic. Given the right situation (no shear stress) it can do amazing things.

I had no reservations taking it touring in the
Blue Ridge Mountains
A marvel of modern science

Hello Magnus, my old friend. (V4 repair and revival)

I'll admit it. I let a bike I love sit for way too long. I never used to understand how someone could let a motorcycle sit and go to pasture before, but here I am with a bike that was in need of major repair. It was still drivable, but then the brakes started feeling very wooden, and to top it off the fork seal puked oil all over my rotors. So out of sheer frustration, I just let the bike sit for almost two years.

Now, it's not like I wasn't riding. I had a CB750 Nighthawk that I brought back from the grave, and I was working on my big CX500/650 Cafe/Adventure/Scrambler project. I finished the CX, sold the nighthawk, and finally, my eye fell to my 1984 Honda V65 Magna, sitting in the corner of the garage, dusty and lonely. Almost 80,000 miles on the clocks, but on her second motor. The original motor I broke second gear after 36,000 miles. Well, really more like 32,000, but I kept riding it another 4000 miles, skipping second gear. I put a nice 14,000 mile motor in her, and rode it until two years ago.

Removed bodywork and exhaust. Carbs, radiator, and rear
wheel still have to come off before the motor can be removed
At just a hair under 80k on the clocks, 2nd gear failed again. I was being careful and didn't abuse the bike at all. I suppose I should be happy, the motor lasted 58,000 miles before second gear started popping out. Well, now I've acquired yet another motor. I'm not sure if the transmission is even good in this thing, nor do i know the mileage. But the cams are perfect and the motor is very clean, so I'm hoping for a good transmission too.

I could repair the original motor. But, 2nd gear is no longer made by Honda. I'd have to buy a used transmission for $150-$200 off of eBay, and hope 2nd gear isn't trashed. Then I'd have to have the transmission undercut, for another $300. I paid $350 for this motor, and last weekend I dropped the old motor out and bolted the new one in.

It's never that easy with a bike that's been sitting though. The carbs were full of green goo, and I had to rebuild them. The Kerker exhaust system has a couple of dents from where I tried to ride over a curb, and they need to be pulled out to restore performance. (Or I need to buy a new exhaust system). The muffler I installed really killed my power and my gas mileage, so I need to replace that as well. I removed the heat shield between the radiator and the carbs, because I was sick of removing the radiator if I needed access to the carbs -- bad idea, as that caused a vapor lock condition on a hot day.  So i had to buy a new shield off of eBay, paint it, and install it.

Big ole dent in the header for the #2 cylinder
This header has seen better days
I've swapped over most of the chrome covers from the old engine to the new, and I need to swap over my Kevlar clutch, my good starter gear, and my oil pressure gauge. I replaced a spark plug wire that was pinched and damaged as well.

I have new brakes on the way -- new master cylinders and new pads. Lots of little modifications are on the way to make this even more of a cafe bike. So even though the new engine is in, the valves are adjusted, and the carbs and radiator are back on, there's still a very long way to go (and lots of parts to buy) before I can even start her up again. Still, that day will be here pretty soon.

New motor installed, carbs, radiator, and wheel back on.
Need to swap clutch parts and then I can button up the motor

Monday, June 10, 2013

Beginner Bikes - Teach a Friend to Ride

I have taught a couple of friends to ride over the years, and I've learned some things I'd like to share.

First off, there is no such thing as too small of a bike. 200-250cc is the PERFECT size for a beginner. So many people start with bikes that are just WAY too big. A Kawasaki 250 Ninja will cruise all day at 80mph -- two up. It has a top speed of 105 (115 in a full tuck with a tailwind and 3 more teeth on the rear sprocket). That's plenty powerful. It's also a very light, very low bike. It's the bike I recommend the most, it's been made for years and you can find a nice example for $1500. The ONLY disadvantage is that it has plastic that is easily damaged.

The bike I recommend the second most is the Yamaha TW200. First off, yes it's smaller. Yes, it's slower (with a solo top speed of 75mph, and even then only if you take 3 teeth off of the rear sprocket). But holy hell it's FUN. It's extremely low, and it has a 130 front tire and a 180 rear... and these are full-on knobbies!! It corners like a sportbike and will wheelie with some effort. In short: a total blast, even for a 235 lb fatass with several 100+ hp motorcycles and 17 years of riding experience under his belt.

I taught this slight little French girl to ride on my badass TW200

Whether you loan a bike to your friend, or he (or she) buys her own, the more beat up the bike is, the better. Chances are it's going to get dropped once or twice. Or wedged into trees at the edge of the parking lot. Or driven into a ditch full to the brim with sticky gooey mud. Or ridden into a telephone pole.

All of these things have happened to friends of mine. In addition, the very first time I tried to ride I was trying to take a right turn and ended up heading for the ditch on the far side of the road, and then just panicked and fell over. Here's all that I learned:

  • Convince your friend to take the MSF course. It's a hassle. It's expensive. You lose an entire weekend. But it's totally worth every minute.
  • Even after the MSF course, if they don't start riding right away, they will lose any skill they acquired VERY quickly.

However, if you're reading this you've already dismissed the MSF course, so let me get down to the meat of this post:

  • The first thing to do, before your friend even looks at a motorcycle, is to talk about target fixation. You go where you look. If your friend looks at the muddy ditch or the telephone pole, he's going to hit it. It's important to drill into the student, if there's trouble, if there's panic, LOOK WHERE YOU WANT TO GO. This is the MOST important lesson.
  • You should take time to teach the student where the controls are. Clutch, brake, throttle, etc. I'm not going to go into that. (It's very helpful if the student knows how to drive a stick, that makes things *so* much easier.)  But the SECOND most important lesson is, if there's trouble, if there's panic, the first thing to do is look where you want to go. The second thing is to pull in the clutch and close the throttle. 
  • The lesson should begin in a large parking lot, with the student slipping the clutch and walking the bike around. Feet on the ground, walking. If feet are dragging, he's going too fast. Slow it down and walk the bike while slipping the clutch
  • Continue with starting and stopping in a straight line. Don't have them do it once. Or even twice. The student needs to complete 30 or so drills. Start moving, clutch completely out, clutch in, brake to a stop. Do it over and over again. Feet should be ON THE PEGS the moment the bike starts moving.
  • When out of straightaway, have the student slip the clutch and WALK the bike around to point the other direction.
  • Once he has a handle on that, it's time for turns. The hardest thing for a beginner is starting off and turning at the same time. So, use chalk or cones to set up an intersection in your parking lot, and have the student start off with making 90-degree right-hand turns. Feet should be on the pegs the moment the bike starts moving -- dragging your feet actually makes it much more difficult to execute the turn. Do another 30 drills, until he has it right. Then do left turns. Don't forget, you go where you look!
  • Now he's ready to graduate to shifting. Have him go down the parking lot, upshifting until half way across, then downshifting the other half. Then turn around with feet on the pegs, and continue back the way he came. Again, at least 30 drills.
  • Now your student is getting cocky, so it's time to go back to basics. Find a hill, and have the student practice holding the bike in place using only the clutch. Have him walk it up the hill, and then slip the clutch and roll it down the hill backwards. Clutch control is essential, it's the place where the beginner makes the most mistakes at first, and drills like these really make a difference in building skill -- and confidence.
  • Now the student is ready to graduate to riding on the street. But limit it to lightly traveled surface roads at first, at slow speeds, with you FOLLOWING, not leading. This is so you can watch the student and make a judgement whether you should continue riding, or head back to the parking lot for more practice. It's also so the student doesn't feel like he or she has to keep up with you. You go at his pace.

There are probably a million more things to consider when teaching a friend to ride, but I've found these to be the most successful. I've learned these by teaching friends how to ride over the years -- some with success, some without. These experiences have also resulted in a few amusing asides:

(This is the opposite of what your friend should learn on)

  • A cocky friend and 75hp (or more) motorcycles do not mix. Instead they make a skid mark down the driveway and across the street, and then a deep muddy rut across the neighbor's lawn, culminating with the bike climbing the front porch stairs and falling over. Also screaming -- lots of screaming and stained underwear from the both of you.
  • New riders do the damndest things. Like find the only telephone pole in the entire parking lot, and hit it. Or turning the throttle too hard, panicking, and ending up in the trees at the side of the parking lot, held up by branches with the bike 5 feet in front of him, also wedged into branches. 
  • If your friend crashes but is okay, and she removes her helmet and glasses... take her glasses from her. She won't remember where she put them, and they will be stepped on after a frantic 45-minute search in tall grass.
  • Don't teach your friend to ride on a chopper with 7" over fork tubes and some serious rake. Sure, it's stable in a straight line. Sure, the floorboards keep it from falling over beyond about 30 degrees, so it won't be damaged. But he'll never learn to turn that thing. Ever.
  • Cute girls on Mad-Max looking ratbikes are all sorts of awesome.
  • ATGATT - Wear All The Gear, All The Time

Okay, that's it for today!

SV650 Sticking Clutch

A few years back my buddy Randall had a problem with his SV650. The clutch wouldn't disengage. He'd pull in the lever and drop it into gear, and the bike would lurch forward. It acted like the clutch cable wasn't there at all. But then a few miles down the road it would work fine again. He brought it to me, and this is what I found:

This is the clutch basket. If you look closely, you can see there are nice shiny marks on the fingers of the basket. Running your fingers over these, the shiny areas are actually indentions,  and the dull areas raised ridges. What has happened is that this is a high mileage (50k) bike, and over time gunning the throttle has caused the clutch plates to slam into the fingers, which has create these shiny indentions. They don't look it, but they're deep enough at this point to occasionally catch the clutch plates, and prevent them from moving away from each other. The plates are firmly stuck in the indention. 

The correct thing to do is replace the clutch basket, and replace the clutch as well. However, the clutch in this bike was replaced less than 10k miles ago, and my buddy Randall was a grad student with no money. And since this is a blog that centers around budget motorcycle mods, here's the fix:

I'm painstakingly filing off material until the ridges are down to the same level as the indentions, and it's all completely smooth again. You can see I've completed one finger already, as the whole thing is nice and shiny. (leftmost finger) I did this filing for all the fingers, tossed it all back together, and was even able to reuse the clutch cover gasket. We even leaned the bike over in the grass so it wasn't even necessary to replace the oil.

Now, this fix is cheap, but there's a problem with it. It won't last forever. In fact, it won't last as long as the original clutch basket did. By filing the material down, there is even MORE slop in the clutch, which will cause the same problem to happen all over again -- and it will happen in fewer miles. So, it's a passable repair, that will probably get you another 20,000 miles. But it's not a permanent repair. Then again, nothing that has to do with your clutch is a *permanent* repair. They will all wear this way. 

That being said, my V65 Magna has 40 more horsepower than the SV650, 80,000 miles, and the clutch basket looks new. Different designs and different forces at work (and the V65 has a huge spring on the driveshaft that absorbs a lot of the immediate slamming force when hammering the throttle and dumping the clutch)

Anyhow, this is your technical tutorial for the day.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Right now I'm updating the CX500 Chopper Project, slowly reformatting the old posts (from to this new Blogger blog. New posts will come after the old stuff is back up!

In the meantime, this is my (rather festive) dog Chopper. Yes, I named my dog Chopper... actually long before I received the title ChopperCharles by the people on the CX500 Forum. He hopes you'll come back. (actually, he just wants the hat off his head, but we can pretend)

If you're coming here from google or from an old link, the CX500 forum is at
I'm splitting off into a blog about my motorcycle builds. The cx500forum will always and forever remain at The only thing that changed is that no longer redirects there.