Tuesday, April 30, 2013

XS750 Restoration Project, Part 17 -- Progress!

After getting enough work done on the V-Strom to make it rideable -- I still need to install the new air filter, and the front wheel is still leaking air :( -- I have returned to working on the Yamaha.

The first thing I did is create a project plan to help keep me organized while trying to decide what needs to be done next. Not exciting, but I think it will help prevent putting sub-assemblies together only to find that I have to take it apart again to complete another step.

Next, I decided that I am probably not going to be able to build the hoop for the rear sub-frame with the tools and skills I currently possess, and I have completely struck out at finding someone locally who can do it for me. Dime City Cycles sells a completed hoop as well as an entire rail, but...$$$. They look like quality parts and I don't mean to knock the guys at DCC -- they are true craftsmen, in every sense of the word. However, I just can't see spending $70 on a single curved piece of steel tubing, nor can I afford $249 for the entire seat rail. Consequently, I took an extra piece of 7/8 inch tubing and used a 1 inch hole saw in my drill press to cut the ends to fit the sub-frame rails on the bike. By careful measuring -- and a lot of luck -- I managed to get it almost exactly the right width between the rails. Now, I need to buy some oxygen and acetylene from the local welding supply store so I can fire up my torch (which I've owned since nineteen-ninety-something and have never, ever used) to weld the cross-brace in place. Either that, or I can buy an arc welder from Lowe's or Home Depot, since that should be about the same amount of money as the welding gas, and is (arguably) better for welding steel tubing.

On top of that, I have revisited the fiberglass side covers I started making back in December. The surfaces were not nearly as smooth as I envisioned, so I spent a couple of hours with some 80-grit sandpaper, grinding down the high spots. Of course, as often happens when working with fiberglass, the tops of some of the low spots were lower than the bottom of some of the high spots, lol, so I ended up sanding all the way through the glass in places. That's okay, though -- these are not load-bearing parts, so discontinuity in the glass is acceptable, in this case. After getting the parts reasonably smooth, I cut another layer of glass, laid it over the parts, and wet it out thoroughly with more resin. I then used a cheap paint brush to work the resin into the weave, making sure there were no voids or air pockets (or at least trying to, anyway...), and let the resin cure. The corners are proving to be a bit tricky, so I ended up mixing up another batch of resin, shredding some scraps of glass cloth into the resin, and stirring to make a thick, sticky, goopy mess, which I applied liberally to the inside of the corners to stiffen them up and fill in the voids. Some time in the next week, I'll be sanding the high points where the glass creased instead of conforming to the intended curvature of the corners. It'll probably take a little more resin inside the corners, and maybe another ply or two of patches over the corners, as well as a lot of TLC with the sandpaper, before the corners are good enough for me to call them done :) After that, I'll prime and paint the covers to match what I intend for the rest of the bike. I'm thinking Duplicolor stainless steel with a coat or two of blackout shadow paint I have for the tanks...should look killer with the black frame, engine and handlebars!

Last, I finallydecided to stop procrastinating on the seat pan. I'm still concerned about putting a fiberglass seat pan over the battery, considering some of the stories I've read concerning charging problems on older motorcycles. Fiberglass can burn, steel doesn't. Consequently, I bought a sheet of mild steel from Lowe's, cut to approximately the same size as the seat rails on my bike, and started hitting it with a hammer until it looked about right. No, really -- that's exactly how I did it :) I laid the steel over the existing sub-frame, marked an outline with a Sharpie, redrew the outline about 1 inch wider, cut the marked line with my angle grinder, and beat it to conform to the shape of the sub frame. All things considered, I'm very, very happy with how it is turning out.

Once I was pretty happy with the shape of the seat pan, I started laying out and cutting foam for the seat padding. A little spray adhesive to hold the various pieces together, and it was starting to look pretty good:

I still need to take a file to the seat pan and smooth out all of the rough edges. The cut-outs for the shocks and other miscellaneous frame protrusions are pretty rough, and will develop stress cracks if I don't clean them up a bit. Then, I'll need to drill the pan for the lacing to sew the vinyl in place. I'm concerned that the sharp edges in the steel pan will abrade any kind of textile thread -- even kevlar, if I could find it -- so I think I will probably end up lacing the vinyl down with steel wire, then covering that with some rubber trim, glued in place. <shrug> I'll figure something out :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rally Racing

When most people think of motorcycle racing, the first thing that comes to mind is either MotoGP -- the motorcycle equivalent of Formula-1 racing -- or motocross. For the last year, I've also been intrigued by gymkhana, similar to autocross, which is a timed race around obstacles on a course that emphasizes balance, coordination, and handling skills more than outright speed.

All of these types of races are awesome in their own right, but I've been drawn towards Adventure motorcycling pretty much since I started riding. Therefore, it is no surprise that the race that has drawn my attention the most is not MotoGP, nor motocross, nor even gymkhana, but the rallies such as the Dakar Rally or the Baja 500/1000. I like the idea of a multi-day race (the Dakar is roughly two weeks long). I like the fact that it's not just who can go the fastest, but who can cope best with the different environments and terrain encountered in the race. I am drawn to the endurace required to finish such races. Furthermore, I am drawn to the idea that the race is difficult enough to finish, much less to win. In fact, I would love to participate in such a race, not because I believe I have even a snowball's chance of ever winning, but rather because simply finishing the Dakar or Baja 1000 is a major accomplishment. In MotoGP or motocross, one guy is the winner, and everyone else is an "also-ran" (not that I am disparaging the other riders -- they are far more skilled than I to even earn a position on the race track). However, it is no exaggeration to say that every person who crosses the finish line in the Dakar Rally is, in the truest sense of the word, a winner. If you disagree, then in defense of my claim, I humbly recommend that you watch the BBC Race to Dakar series. Roughly two out of every three racers quit the race. That's an incredible attrition rate!

Unfortunately, for a working-class schmuck like me, it's probably not realistic to enter the Dakar Rally due to costs (one participant in the 2012 race estimated his budget to be about $50,000 -- yes, fifty THOUSAND dollars -- to run the race) as well as the time required to prep for and run the rally. (However, if anyone wants to fund a complete unknown racing n00b, riding a rather inadequate rally bike, shoot me an e-mail, lol)

However, I can't help but wonder how difficult would it be to put together a much more modest, local event?

Yesterday evening, I decided to look up a term I had heard used at several motorcycle gatherings. What, exactly, is a "poker run?" (Answer: a rally-type ride to several locations where you gather "cards" to make a poker hand -- best hand wins, regardless of time to reach the destinations). Researching a poker run led me to a couple of Wikipedia entries about similar, non-motorcycle races, such as Rogaining (hint: has nothing to do with hair loss, lol) and Adventure Racing. Reading about these types of races as well as signing up for the Equinox-to-Equinox Rally got the wheels turning in my head a bit. Suppose, rather than orienteering, or multi-sport races, one were to design a rally where various sites in a geographic area were assigned points based upon how easy or difficult they were to reach, and participants had a period of time -- say a weekend, or maybe an entire week -- to score as many points as possible. Some of the checkpoints could be single-track trails; others could be long-distance endurance rides, so that no one type of bike had any particular advantage over any other. Checkpoints could be distributed so that participants in different cities would have destinations distributed as equitably as possible, or perhaps the competetion could be categorized so that riders in one area -- say, Anchorage, for example -- only competed with other riders in their area, while riders in another location -- say, Fairbanks -- only competed with other Fairbanks area riders.

Seems to me that such a rally would be great fun. What do you say...any takers? :)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tire Updates

The new tube arrived in the mail for the XS750 project the other day, and this time, I managed not to pinch the tube as I reinstalled the tire. In about an hour, I had the new tube installed, and inflated. I'm starting to get pretty good at removing and reinstalling tires with all the practice I've had lately :/

However, nothing I tried would get the bead to seat on the V-Strom's front tire. I finally took the front wheel to the guys at All-Pro just up the street from where I work, and they were able to seat the bead for me. The tire has been holding air for a couple of days now, so whatever caused the leak in the first place (I suspect debris between the sidewall and rim) has been fixed. They also had Continental Trail Attack tires on sale -- 10% off! -- in the right size for the V-Strom. I'm planning a possible looooong road trip this summer, and the Shinko 705's I've been running would be less than ideal for the trip, so I picked up the Conti's while I was picking up the front wheel. Expect a review some time this summer!

E2E 2013 Rally

I was doing some vicarious motorcycling over at ADV Rider and found a link to the 2013 Equinox to Equinox Rally. I'd never heard of it before, but basically, it's part scavenger hunt, part photography contest, and part motorcycle rally. On the web site, there is a list of things to find. When you find them, shoot a picture of your bike (or whatever bike you rode there) next to whatever it is you found, and submit it to the web site. No cheating and shooting a picture of someone else's bike that just happened to be there, or trailering you bike to the shot! :) Sounds like fun, and hey, it's an excuse to ride!

Unfortunately, I'm at a bit of a disadvantage. Since this is an equinox-to-equinox event, the rally has already started, and the current leader has already shot 133 photos. Meanwhile, I am staring out my driveway at this:

'Sall right, though. If it didn't still look like February outside, I'd be having a fit because I still haven't completed winter maintenance, lol.