Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Summer 2014 Wrap-Up

Despite the best of intentions, the 2014 riding season turned out to be somewhat anti-climactic.

Don't get me wrong -- it wasn't a bust by any stretch. I finally made it to Valdez, I got the Yamaha running well enough to put a few hundred miles on it, my wife and I participated in the Christmas in July charity ride, and Sue Zuki (the Strom) turned 30...thousand miles, that is ;) Unfortunately, I ended up trailering the Strom back from Valdez, the Yammy ended up with a pretty serious mechanical setback, and this year's Ride to Hope turned out to be the Ride to Girdwood due to some seriously foul weather.

Valdez: If you're in Alaska, whether living here or visiting, don't wait 25 years like I did -- it's really gorgeous through Thompson Pass and Keystone Canyon, easily one of the prettiest places I think I have ever been:
On the downside, I heard some odd noises from the rear wheel upon reaching Keystone Canyon on the return to Anchorage. Fortunately, my wife had driven our RV while I was riding the Strom, so I pulled the bike onto the trailer that my wife was pulling behind our RV, rather than riding all the way home. Oh, did I mention that it was pouring rain and bitter cold on the way to Valdez, but warm and sunny on the return trip? Adding insult to injury, the noises I heard in Keystone Canyon turned out to be nothing worse than a loose chain guard that had flopped over onto the chain, so the chain was lightly rubbing on the inside of the chain guard (sigh...) Despite the bad weather on the way to Valdez and the mechanical mishaps on the return trip, I honestly can't wait to go back again -- hopefully all the way there and back next time, lol.

Ride to HopeGirdwood: Then, there was the Ride to Hope, which turned out to be the Ride to Girdwood, due to the extremely inclement weather:
I typically ride rain or shine, so even though I was cold and uncomfortable, I wasn't going to say anything when we stopped in Girdwood to fuel up before heading the rest of the way to Hope. be completely honest, I was not at all disappointed when the group decided to pull the plug on the ride. They headed back to Anchorage, while I snuggled up with a latte at the espresso shop there in Girdwood ;)

XS750 Project: Arguably my biggest motorcycle accomplishment this summer, I also got my XS750 Cafe Racer project running well enough to put about 800 miles on it, including a run to the bike show at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer.

Mechanical Gremlins: However, I didn't log nearly as many miles on my bikes this summer as I usually do, which I blame on persistent mechanical problems this year. Much as I hate to admit it, the V-Strom is starting to show some signs of its age. First, the front tire is nearly worn out, which is good because I <expletive deleted> hate the Continental Trail Attack tires I put on it last summer for the ride to Seattle. I've already replaced the rear with a Shinko 750, and I plan on doing the same thing to the front tire this winter. In fact, the front tire washed out on me once on my driveway this summer, leading to my first drop at any kind of speed, and destroying one of the fog lights I had hung on my crash bars a while back. I've already worn out the chain and sprocket I hung last summer (!), so I've got a replacement in the garage, waiting for me to get a chance to swap them out. And finally, the valves have started chattering a bit, telling me it's (well past) time to pull the plastic, remove the heads, and shim the valves. I'm not looking forward to that. I'm also starting to think that I should probably replace the battery (it's started acting a little less peppy than it used to be) and the brake lines (Suzuki recommends every four years; I'm at five, and I really want stainless steel lines, anyway).

Ok, no problem. The cafe-nated XS750 is running, so I should have been able to take the Strom off-line to work on it, right? You see, I spent most of the summer tracking down a problem where the Yammie would run great for 20 miles or so, then would start running a little rough, would lose power, and then would die completely. I finally identified the problem as a plugged fuel vent, caused by my attempts to fabricate a new fuel cap gasket of silicone rubber last summer, and solved the problem (both of them) by buying a brand new, $25 gas cap -- money well spent!

Once I finally had that issue solved, I turned my attention to fabricating the bump-stop seat, which is 90% done now, although I'm not completely happy with it (it's heavy, a little rough in places, and the paint job looks like crap). I've also been trying out how to rework the exhaust system without paying a small fortune ($350, more or less) for a MAC 3-into-1 exhaust kit, which looks a little chintzy to me. I'd rather try to weld up a complete replacement, although I'll need to step up my welding skills to do that...and it's going to cost a lot more than the MAC. Finally, I've had the high-idle problem with the carbs all summer, as well. Trust me, you haven't lived until you've sat in traffic at a red light on a Yamaha triple with a blown-out exhaust system screaming at 4000+ RPM, lol.

Ok, so I spent a little while tweaking the remaining bugs out of the Yammy, some of which I still haven't completely eradicated, but it's still rideable, right? Ummm, no. On the ride to the Palmer State Fair, I blew the head gasket, and was only able to ride back home because a friend there loaned me a quart of oil to replace some of what leaked out all over my left leg and the engine case.

As a result of these mechanical issues, I didn't make some of the other trips I intended this summer. I skipped out on a group ride to Kennicot Mine, a number of group rides with the charity group that I'm in the process of becoming involved with, and I also blew off my hopes to ride to Nabesna this summer.

Project Plan: Needless to say, I've got a winter full of projects planned out for both bikes while the snow flies here in Anchorage:

Project Bike Dependencies
Head Gaskets Yamaha None
Valve Shim Adjustment V-Strom None
Carburetor Cleaning Yamaha None
Chain and Sprocket Change V-Strom None
Remove Starter Yamaha None
Finish Cafe Racer Seat Yamaha Match gas tank paint?
Exhaust R&R Yamaha Better Welding Technique, lol
Stainless Steel Brake Lines V-Strom None
Upgrade Regulator/Rectifier to Modern Yamaha None
Shorai Battery Both V-Strom: None;
Yamaha: Regulator/Rectifier Upgrade

Should be enough to keep me busy over the winter, lol. If I can get the first six items taken care of, I'll be content. If I can replace the V-Strom brake lines too, I'll be happy. If I can get the exhaust system repaired and/or replaced, I'll be ecstatic.