Sunday, January 20, 2013

XS750 Restoration, Part 15 -- Turn Signals and Brake Lights

I received the LEDs from Superbright LEDs and the front turn signals from Motorcycle Superstore yesterday. I've spent most of the week collaborating with my younger brother, who in the last year decided he was going to learn electronics and now spends his spare time designing and building audiophile-quality amplifiers and such, on designing a solid-state LED flasher so I can replace the old-school, non-LED compatible flasher on the motorcycle with something that does not depend upon current draw to set the flash timing. Just as I was starting to make progress on the design, I found this. Hmmm...$8.95 (plus shipping) for a plug-in replacement for my existing flasher, or $20-40 in parts to build something that I have designed myself, that may or may not even work, and may or may not hold up in a motorcycle environment...let me think about it for a minute. Ordered!

I was very happy with the front turn signals that I received in the mail, but I was surprised at how tiny they were! The ad on the Motorcycle Superstore web site mentioned that they were low profile, but I didn't understand just how small they were -- they fit entirely in the palm of my hand! At first, I was concerned that they were so small that they couldn't possibly be very effective.

However, once I connected them to the motorcycle battery, I was no longer worried about the efficacy of these turn signals. They are seriously bright! You'd have to be blind not to notice these, even in full daylight. On the downside, I don't think my plan to replace the bulbs inside these lights with LED bulbs is going to work. Try as I might, I could not figure out how to get the light bulb out of the housing. Apparently, these are designed to have the entire unit replaced if/when the light bulb burns out. One other problem I noticed is that the short, threaded rod that is used to mount these turn signals is too short to fit through the headlight bucket and the mounting ears that holds the headlight bucket to the forks. I went to Lowe's to find a longer bolt, but while I was able to find a match for the diameter (12mm), Lowe's didn't have the same thread pitch. I needed a 1.25 pitch, but they only stock 1.75. I'm sure I can find the right size somewhere else; I'll just have to shop around a bit.

I was also pleased with the amber "Angel Eye" LED rings and 1157 LED tail light/brake light bulbs that I received. I'm shooting for something more or less along these lines, only with amber (the Angel Eyes) around the outside for the turn signals and the 1157 in the center for the tail lights/brake lights (the 1157 bulb is dual intensity). Both the Angel Eyes and the 1157 bulbs are quite bright; they are going to look sweeeeet when I get the housing built...

...which I started laying out today. Late last year, I bought a sheet of 3mm aluminum for the turn signal housings; today, I cut a template out of leftover poster board and transferred the template to the aluminum sheet. Hopefully, in the next week or so, I can start cutting the pieces out of the aluminum. I'll still need to make the barrel of the housing out of something; I haven't yet decided what. It would probably be trivial to do a fiberglass layup. Alternatively, I could cut a rectangle of thin, sheet aluminum and roll it into a tube. We'll see...

...To be continued...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

XS750 Project, Part 14 -- Rear...ummm...Fender?

One of the problems I have been trying to solve recently on this build is how to protect the electronics from spray from the wheel. I have considered building a fiberglass rear hugger, but, while I am confident that I can make a fiberglass layup that would look good and cover the rear wheel, I am not confident that I can engineer a way to mount it to the swingarm. The right hand side looked pretty straightforward, but the shaft side...not so much.

However, I think I've come up with a workable solution that is within my capabilities to engineer and build. Rather than making a fiberglass wheel hugger, I have decided to make a steel panel to fit between the rear-most upright pieces in the frame, the tubing just behind the fiberglass sidecovers that I am trying to make.

To make the piece, I started by buying a large sheet of posterboard, which I used to make a template. First, I measured the approximate size of the frame, and layed out the measurements on the posterboard. After cutting the rough shape out of the posterboard, I kept trimming until I had the shape I wanted.

Once I had the posterboard cut to more or less the right shape, I used it as a template to transfer the shape to a thin piece of sheet steel that I had left over from another project. I then used an angle grinder to cut the steel into the shape that I had drawn from the template.

Here is the final product, ready to be tacked onto the frame.

I'm not an experienced welder. I've got an oxy-acetylene torch that I bought back in the '90s, but I have never bought gas for it. I also have one of the cheapo Home Depot MAPP gas/oxygen torches which I have used multiple times, although I can only braze with that torch; the flame isn't stable enough to actually weld, in my experience. Unfortunately, before I can braze the...ummm...fender(?) in place, I have to remove all of the paint from the tubing on the frame.

So...grabbing my sandpaper, I got to work on the tubing. I called it a night once I had just about reached a suitable point for brazing the steel sheet in place. Ya' know, I've got a $25 gift card to Lowe's...maybe I need to go pick up some MAPP gas and oxygen...

Monday, January 14, 2013

XS750 Restoration, Part 13 -- Prepping for Paint

The last few days of work have been a somewhat frustrating experience. I've spent a lot of time on the bike, including several late, late nights, but the bike looks even further from being roadworthy than it was this time last week.

First, after consulting with some of the other forum members on the Triples forum, I decided to bite the bullet and pull the exhaust pipes before painting the frame. I've really been going back and forth over the prep work for painting. Ideally, I would really like to remove EVERYTHING from the frame -- engine, front forks, wiring harnesses, coils, rear suspension...everything -- then sandblast and powdercoat the frame. That's the RIGHT way to do it, anyway. However, truth to tell, I'm nervous about stripping the frame that bare. Mostly, I'm concerned that if I take the bike apart to that extent, I might not be able to put it all back together again...not to mention that I don't have access to a sandblaster, nor do I have the budget to powdercoat all of the metal parts. However, it looked like pulling the exhaust to get better access to the frame would be pretty easy, and would allow me to do a better job prepping and painting, while staying within my budget. By the time I had the exhaust removed, I went just a bit further and pulled the rear passenger footpegs, the rear brake, the rear brake mounting plate and the rear wheel (whew!). I also removed the tank (again!), since I'll need access to the frame under the tank when I start stripping the paint, and then priming and painting it again.

Speaking of the tank, I received the rebuild kit for the two fuel petcocks in the mail from Mike's XS. The rebuild kits are $$$ but, from what I understand, leaking petcocks can cause contamination of the engine oil, as gasoline leaks into the crankcase, which is way much bad juju, as a friend of mine used to say -- as in, "seized pistons due to inadequate lubrication." Yikes! So, rebuild kit = $$$; no rebuild kit = $$$$$. Yeah, "ordered!" Rebuilding the petcocks was beyond simple. Including cleaning both petcocks, I had the job done within an hour. If only cleaning and rebuilding everything else on the bike were that simple!

Even better, the morning after I pulled the rear wheel, I got a call from Anchorage Suzuki/Arctic Cat telling me that the Continental Conti Go! tires I had ordered had arrived. Synchronicity! :) Before I install the new Conti Go! tire on my wheels, I think I might wrap the tire in a plastic trashbag or three, glue some foam over the works, and lay up some fiberglass for a custom rear-hugger to protect the electronics in the frame. I'll either do that, or I'll need to braze or weld a sheet of steel in the frame just ahead of the rear tire. We'll see...

While goofing off on YouTube yesterday, I found a video showing a beautiful CX500 cafe racer build. In particular, I really like the integrated brake lights/running lights/turn signals that the builder installed (although the integrated light is very thin, which doesn't give me confidence that other drivers are going to be very likely to notice the brake lights or turn signals). Pricing them out on-line, I found that they are available for $50-75. Hmmm...I'm sure I can easily spend twice as much building something that only works half as well... ;) I hit up Superbright LEDs to see what they had that I could use on my bike. Yep: a pair of concentric, amber LED "Angel Eyes" in 60 and 80mm for the turn signals, surrounding a red 1157 LED bulb would be pretty sweet. Total cost, $97 and change. I'm pretty sure it would be a lot more noticeable than the Chrome Glow integrated lights on the CX500, however.

In addition to the work listed above, I have also been sanding and finishing (ha!) the two fiberglass sidecovers that I built in the last installment. Here, I've got another bit of a conundrum. In my vision of the finished bike, there are no sidecovers. I like the clean, open look of the frame without these pieces in the way. However, if I want an open frame, I need to eliminate -- or at least, relocate -- the battery and electronics. A lot of cafe builders either hide the electronics in a faux oil tank or they stuff it all in the cafe seat. IMHO, the faux oil tank is kind of cheesy, not to mention that the voltage regulator really needs airflow to keep it cool. Hiding it all in the cafe seat suits me much better, but, well, there's not a lot of room there, so I'd really like to go with a smaller battery if I'm going to do that. But if I'm going to spend money on a smaller battery, I want to go with a Shorai Lithium battery...which means I need a MOSFET-based voltage regulator with better reliability and current shunting to keep the battery from going catastrophic.

There's that whole, "integrated system of parts" thing again, sigh...

So for now, I think I'm just going to keep the build simple and cover the electronics with fiberglass, at least for this summer. Next winter will be a whole new wrenching season, and with a season of riding the XS behind me (I hope!) I will have a better idea of which parts of my vision are realistic and workable, and which parts are just delusional :)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

XS750 Restoration, Part 12 -- Starting the Fiberglass Layups

I finally finished carving the foam plugs for the side panels on the bike, and started laying up some fiberglass parts for the 750. The resin is still curing, so I don't yet know how they turned out, but I'll edit this post in a couple of hours to show the finished product.

First, I wrapped the plugs in blue painter's tape. The foam is just a mold (technically, a plug -- a female mold is a "mold" and a male "mold" is a plug, as I understand); it is not a part of the finished product, so the tape will help the fiberglass separate from the plug when it has cured. Also, I'm using polyester resin that I bought at Lowe's, and I am using styrofoam that I bought at Michael's. Polyester resin dissolves styrofoam, so the tape acts as a barrier between the two to keep the resin from dissolving my plug. If you want to build a part that incorporates the foam into the finished piece, then you either need to use a non-styrene foam like urethane foam or Divinycell, or you need to use a different kind of resin, for example epoxy or vinlyester.

Once the plugs are covered in tape, coat them with a layer of automotive wax. The tape already has a bit of a wax coating on it, but the auto wax will help the fiberglass release from the plug a little easier. I used Turtle Wax because it was cheap and available; I'm sure other waxes will work, too. Be careful not to buy a wax and cleaner in one, however. I don't KNOW that a wax and cleaner won't work, but I'd be cautious about getting soap in the fiberglass layup.

Cut a couple of pieces of fiberglass to fit the part, with a little extra around the edges, then, after covering the plugs with wax, lay the fiberglass over the plug. Pour a little resin over the parts, and use a brush, a roller, a squeegee or whatever you have handy to work the resin into the glass fibers and spread it over the entire part. If you see shiny, white patches in the cloth, that is an area that hasn't been properly wetted out with resin. Work some more resin into that area until you can clearly see the blue plug through the glass. Don't forget to work resin into the sides of the part, too.

Here is what the completed layup should look like. Observant readers will notice a long, thin, white streak near the top of the right piece. While it looks a lot like a void (an area that hasn't been saturated properly with resin), I spent quite a bit of time with my paint roller trying to work resin into the "dry" area there, with no effect whatsoever. Considering how easy it was to work out the actual voids in my layup, I'm convinced that this is just something on the plug -- probably an area where I didn't smear the wax around very well -- rather than a void. We'll see when the part is finished...

...which brings me to one of the cool things about working with foam and fiberglass: if you screw something up, it's not the end of the world. Carve and/or sand out the botched area, then rework it until you are happy. If you mess up a piece of foam, you can glue a new piece of foam in place, then carve or sand it until you are happy with the shape. If the problem is in a piece of fiberglass, use a saw, knife, file or sandpaper to carve out the problem area, then lay up a fiberglass patch over the area. When the resin has cured, sand the patch smooth and voila! Problem solved :)

Edit: As promised, the photos of the finished layups:

These two corners will need to be touched up a bit.

Here are the side panels fitted to the bike after some preliminary trimming:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Carb Tuning

I found a really good tutorial on tuning carburetors on older motorcycles the other day while browsing the Yamaha Triples forum, so I wanted to post a link to the site here (mostly so I could find it again later, lol).