Category Archives: Motorcycles

Day 71 365 Project

Honda NC700X
My Honda NC700X ready for 2015. Can’t wait.

Today was the second day of 2015 that I had my Honda NC700X out for a ride.

After a winter’s rest, the first ride reminds me of why I like this bike so much. It fired right up without a problem. The power and speed was a nice change from the minivan. It’s an economical bike that’s still visceral enough. It’s just a great all-around motorcycle.

Motorcycling and photography are 2 of my favorite things to do. You’d think combining them would  be easy. I find myself just wanting to ride without stopping for photos though. This year, I’ve got a photography project in mind that should balance things out though. It’s going to be a fun year.

Japanese Screws Are Different On Your Motorcycle

I have always had a problem with Japanese Philips head screws on my motorcycle and for the life of me couldn’t figure out why they were so hard to get a bite on. I found that they are JIS(Japanese Industry Standard) screws and you need JIS screwdrivers for the best fit when working with them.

The forum I found out about this in had a comment that said, “Good luck finding JIS screwdrivers.”. I did have good luck as Amazon has them, they’re just not cheap.

The Flat Tire That Changed My Way Of Thinking About Motorcycle Repair.

I ride motorcycles because I enjoy them and it’s easy to excuse their expensive as coming back in the way of saving gas. They do save gas, but not really enough to cover the repairs, maintenance, and insurance. It’s hard to give you an exact calculation but tires, high labor costs, and insurance eat into those gas savings. With that in mind, they’re not much more than a toy – unless you do the work yourself.

Here is a photo of a tire tube that came out of my motorcycle that changed everything.

Leaking valve stem on a motorcycle tire tube.
Leaking and corroded valve stem on a motorcycle tire tube.

This tire had a nagging leak for a long time. It confounded me because I told the shop to put in a new tube. The slow leak started soon after the new tire was put on, so the shop probably installed the old tube.

I took the bike back and asked them to check it and I was informed that they would not mount and dismount a new tire. Not only had they ripped me off a $10 tube, they wanted another $250 sale for a new tire! Outrageous.

A knee-jerk reaction to this would be to write a scathing review about the motorcycle shop and hope to get them back with a loss of customers. Fact is though, they have a long line of customers waiting every time I go there. It wouldn’t work and even if it did, revenge doesn’t get my money back or right anything. I decided to do myself a favor and avoid them in the future. I decided to fix the tire myself.  It’s led me down a different path of thinking.

The Tire Breakdown

For whatever reason, I had it in my head that a tire change on a motorcycle was probably hard. Maybe it’s something I read that said to “leave it to the professionals”. Maybe it’s the long, long list of services charged for on the receipt when you get the bill for a tire change. Maybe watching the mechanic use a tire changing machine made me think I needed special equipment. I don’t know, but I do know it’s bullshit now. It’s not much harder than changing a bicycle tire.  A 14 year old could do this with a little instruction.

I bought a manual tire changing machine, a hydraulic motorcycle lift, some tire spoons, a wrench for the axle nut(supposed to be in the tool kit, but the dealer didn’t include one with the bike. Said they don’t come with them), and a new tube.  It turned out I didn’t need the manual tire changer, but the lift was a game changer.

It took me a couple of hours to figure it all out, but with the tools, it was easy. Once I seen the problem with the corrorded valve stem, the gears in my mind started churning. What else had they ripped me off on over the years? Did really adjust the valves? Did they really use synthetic oil when I paid for it? All sorts of things come to mind. My trust in them or any other shop was broken because you really have no way of knowing.

Applying This To Everything Else

For me, the Internet tends to cause us to gravitate towards the useless. There’s gossip, impotent political banter, gadget pandering, and all sorts of distractions that takes us away from what the Internet was intended for, useful communication.  I bring this up because I found answers to all of my motorcycle repair questions on forums and YouTube. Expertise that I would have no access to was a click away.

Not only was the information there, but access to every part I needed at a lower price than what retailers sell them for was there. I don’t even have to run and pick them up as they’ll come right to my door. All-in-all, changing a tire is actually less of a hassle to do myself than it is to run the bike to dealer and wait, then wait some more, for it to actually be repaired.

I’ll be looking up everything that needs repaired from now on, especially on vehicles.

$21 Mistake On The Honda Shadow Final Drive Plug

If there’s one thing that I’m very slowly learning about motorcycle repair, it’s that there are torque specifications for every bolt on the motorcycle and if you don’t follow them, it’s expensive. I’m starting to lose track of all of the bolts I’ve broke on my shadow, but my last stunt was the valve cover bolts. They were pricey and I had to work like a surgeon to remove the broken bolts.

This time, I round the final drive plug and the damage was $21 for this little plug and O-ring with shipping and that was from a place called “Cheap Cycle Parts”. Nothing cheap about it.

O-ring for a Honda Shadow final drive.
A $21 final drive plug and O-ring for a Honda Shadow.

The manual states 12 Newton meters of torque, but it was leaking a little at that torque. I new O-ring probably stops that, but I thought that making it just a little tighter would help. The plug has the consistency of cold butter and it rounded right off. Lesson learned.


Happy To Have My Shadow On The Motorcycle Lift

I’ve written about my old Honda Shadow before. The bike has been around and has yet to leave me stranded, so I like the bike a lot despite it’s faults. Last night it went on the lift for repair and it was a happy moment.

2006 Honda Shadow On A Motorcycle Lift
Honda Shadow On The Motorcycle Lift

This repair is different from all of the others because it doesn’t need to be done. There was just a small leak in the tire that only required attention about once a month. I had taken it back to the shop that installed it and they claimed that I needed a new tire even thought it was just the tube leaking as it wasn’t safe to mount and remount a motorcycle tire. Bullshit!!!

I hated to hear that bullshit from a place I’d liked and patronized since I was 18 years old. They used to be just a small parts shop on the corner and they had treated me well over the years. They’ve grown into a massive motorcycle superstore and as they’ve grown, their level of service and honesty has declined. To make matters worse, the other dealers and shops in my area aren’t much better. As the old saying goes, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”. Turns out that if I want my motorcycle worked on at all, I’d better do it myself.

The bright side to all of this is that I’ve always wanted a vehicle that I could just work on without the stress of a deadline. I’ve worked on the family cars and the Semi-trucks I drove out of necessity at times when the situation didn’t allow for a leisurely repair or hired help. It takes the fun right out of it.

I’ve only done one major job on a motorcycle and that was a valve adjustment to this Shadow. The second time will be a walk in the park, but the first was horrific. I broke bolts, lost parts, etc. I swore if I ever did that job again, I’d have my garage set up right for it and a lift so I didn’t have to crawl around to work on it.

After a bunch of research into the topic of motorcycle repair, I have a good minimal setup, even a tire changer. Never again will I pay some lame shop $80+ dollars for a 15 minute job that they can’t even get done right. No more leaving the bike for days and days for minor repairs. I’ve got the shop manual and tools so I can do it myself.

Not only can I just fix the bikes myself, but the Shadow is my spare. It’s going to get some modifications. It’s going to be fun.

A Few Pics From Bike Rides This Summer

I love the summer because it’s the time of year that means I always have something to do and no place in particular to go. That’s how I like it.

Here are some photos of some bikes that have caught my eye out on adventures this year.

Honda Gold Wings. Always ahead of the curve on innovation.
An old Harley that’s been a few places.
The Nortan Commando. Because Norton’s have class.
A two-tone Harley-Davidson SportGlide.
Harley Sportster. The model’s been produced since the 50’s and there are Harley aficionados that still don’t consider it a worthy Harley. I give. I like them.
The custom chopper. Good for one thing. Looking Good.

2013 Ural Patrol Spotted

I finally got a chance to get a picture of a decent Ural. This one was a 2013 Ural Patrol. The owner showed up while I was taking a photo and talked to me about it for a while. He loves the bike and had good things to say about it.

Ural Patrol Sidecar Motorcycle
2013 Ural Patrol Sidecar Motorcycle


2013 Ural Patrol with sidecar.
2013 Ural Patrol 2WD motorcycle with a sidecar.

After reading so much about these motorcycles, I’ve come to love them. Although the owner of this one was happy, many other are not. All of the things that they site as being problematic make this bike sound like a better hobby than a Harley-Davidson.

These bikes are Russian made wonders. They have a reputation for breaking often and being unreliable. I wouldn’t want one for my only motorcycle, but for one that’s not mission critical(i.e. getting to work or taking long trips), I wouldn’t mind working on one. The trade-off would be that when you can get this motorcycle to go, it can go anywhere.

Just Can’t Sell Her

Shadow Ready For 2014
Shadow Ready For 2014

I bought this bike so long ago now I forget when me and the bank settled terms on her. In today’s world, her little 750cc engine and 24 inch high seat makes her a bit wanting in a sea of mega cc bikes with huge power.  At 100mph, she screams for mercy and it takes a long time to get her there.

I walked into the sorriest of sorry Honda dealerships on a lunch break one day, seen this bike and told them I’d take it. Oh the painful bullshit they put me through to get this bike. Just sell me the bike already. I didn’t need a test ride or anything as I could tell by looking that this bike would work for what I needed. I needed a little recaptured youth, old school flared out fenders, and low – I like low. Low makes a slow bike seem faster.

What really drew me to her was the size. My friend has an old panhead and the Shadow was closer to size and performance than a real Harley was.

So I get it. Instantly, it’s youth recaptured. People are mad I bought it once I get it home. I don’t care. When people are upset, that’s generally a good sign that fun’s about to happen. This bike is my reprieve from cubicle hell.

I’ve taken this bike to a lot of places, some of which it didn’t belong, just because I can. Biker rallies, no problem. Dentists and lawyers on $35K special edition dream bikes weep when I pull in.  I don’t need fancy patches, a hefty payment, and a 1000 pound rolling sofa to prove anything to anybody. Never had a bad word from anybody about my faux Harley. Unless you want 200+ pounds of ex-Infantry coming at you, best to keep comments about my little Honda out of earshot.  Chances are I’ll have you laughing and shaking hands before anyone gets hurt anyhow.

This bikes been everywhere I’ve wanted it to go. The Mighty Mack Bridge in Michigan is the most memorable. I had a group of sofa riders back out on me due to scary weather, went alone despite that, and had a great time anyhow. A few 400 mile trips to Maryland to see old friends, every country 2 lane in Ohio and West Virginia, and more to come someday.

This Spring, at 8 years old, she fought me a little to get fired up, but finally sparked off and changed her mind.  A full throttle ride on a cold morning through the countryside past the old churches and livestock in pastures seemed to remind her of what she’s here for though. Here’s to another season with her reluctantly running like a wounded banshee through he hills again. I’m not selling her yet.

The Suzuki V-Strom 650 And Honda NC700X

Suzuki V-Strom And Honda NC700X. 2 Great Bikes

Suzuki V-Strom And Honda NC700X
Suzuki V-Strom And A Honda NC700X

I’ve been wanting a V-Strom 650 ever since my wife got her’s a few years ago. It’s an incredibly versatile bike that suits our needs well. It’s comfortable, plenty of power, somewhat reliable, and easy on gas. It’s a sensible bike for commuting and weekend trips. The only thing I ever wished was that Honda would come out with something comparable because I’ve always found Honda to be a notch above Suzuki in quality.

I noticed that Honda was offering a new NC700X and I was sold at first sight. The price was much lower than the V-Strom and it reminded me of my first bike, the 1982 Honda Silverwing. In those days, the Silverwing was like a smaller Gold Wing. Even though it defied everything that other 18 year old riders wanted, it suited me fine. It reliably took me on many adventures and it was a sad day when I sold it. I always wanted something similar to take it’s place, but Honda never offered anything… until now. It was as if the Silverwing of old had evolved somewhere in secret into a new machine the likes I’d never seen.

The NC700X has a new design for a motorcycle motor. It’s a parallel twin that lays nearly flat to keep the weight low and centered as well as allowing for a storage compartment where the fuel tank usually is. The real fuel tank is under the seat. On my test ride, I realized that this motor didn’t run like other motors. All of the power is in the low RPM range with a red line at 6500 rpm’s. My first measured fuel mileage was 70mpg! It handles incredibly well, especially at slow speeds. I am really happy with the bike.

I researched the bike for a few days before buying it. I had reservations after reading so much bad press. The thing was, the complaints were things that I don’t care about anyhow! They said –

  • “It’s slow.” It goes over 100mph and it’s speed ratings to that point are comparable with a new V-8 Mustang. Fast enough for me.
  • “It’s like a scooter.” Looks and rides like a motorcycle to me.
  • “It’s not really an adventure bike.” Neither is the V-Strom or many others until you customize them. I don’t go on trails with it anyhow.
  • “The V-Strom is better.” Kind of. It’s faster, a little more comfortable, and a few other niceties. It’s also not better in the fit and finish department, it’s more expensive, and it’s not a Honda.

I could go on with these, but only a test ride will tell if you’re trying to decide which one works for you. They both have more good than bad points and it really comes down to your personal preferences. I’ve got a good feeling that the Honda is going to outlast the V-Strom, but I’ve got nothing to prove that. I guess the best way to find out is to ride them far enough to find out.