Thursday, November 26, 2015

GL1000 Project, Part 3: It Runs!

Just a quick post tonight (errr...this morning!). After getting the timing belts changed yesterday, I decided to change the oil and filter for a quick and easy task to mark off the checklist. About one hour elapsed time later (about two and a half hours later, including running my daughter to a friend's house), the 'Wing had a clean, new filter and fresh oil.

The bike wasn't running when I bought it, so having the belts and oil changed, I decided to see if I could get the bike to start. Since the battery was toast -- not just discharged, but ruined -- I had to borrow a battery from another bike, but with the help of a little starting fluid in the air box and full choke, it fired right up!

The radiator overflow reservoir was dry, so I had no idea how much coolant was in the radiator. Not wanting to damage the engine due to overheating, I didn't run the engine for long, but at least I know it's not just a sculpture for my garage. There may be -- no, ARE -- plenty of things that still need work, but at least I know the engine runs (w00t!).

Next up: coolant flush and refill, and final drive oil change.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

GL1000 Project, Part 2: Timing Belts

Conventional wisdom on the 1st generation Goldwings is that Honda massively overbuilt the engine, using engineering parameters for an air-cooled, inline 4 on this liquid-cooled boxer. As a result, these bikes have a reputation for lasting well into six-figure odometer readings.

However, like Achilles, they do have one weakness: the engine uses an interference design on the pistons and valves, so if your timing belt breaks, it's an engine rebuild. That's why my first GL1000 project had the engine in several Rubbermaid tubs when I acquired it -- the timing belt had broken, and the p.o. overestimated his ability to repair the damage. I don't want to tear down the engine on this bike, so I decided to replace the timing belts before I ever even start the engine!

The procedure is pretty straight-forward:
  1. Loosen the radiator, and pull it as far forward as you can, to provide access to the four bolts that hold the timing belt cover in place;
  2. Remove the four bolts that hold the two timing belt covers in place;
  3. Remove the left-hand and right-hand timing belt covers (I had to use a rubber mallet to break the covers loose);
  4. Use a 17mm wrench to rotate the crankshaft (the two, stacked gears in the center of the engine) until the alignment marks on the left-hand and right-hand crankshaft pulleys line up EXACTLY with the markings on the engine case:
  5. Verify that the engine crankshaft is at TDC:
  6. Loosen the timing belt tensioner wheels, and remove the tensioner springs;
  7. Remove the belts;
  8. Install the new belts, making sure that you do not rotate the crankshaft or either cam gear (yeah, right...);
  9. Reattach the spring to the tensioner, then tighten the tensioner bolts as required;
  10. Verify the timing marks on the cam gears and crankshaft. If they aren't right, loosen the tensioner(s), remove the belt(s), and try it again. It took me three tries (per side!) to get everything lined up properly ;)
  11. Turn the engine through AT LEAST two full revolutions by hand (17mm wrench on the crankshaft gears again) to make sure everything is working properly;
  12. Reinstall the timing belt covers;
  13. Secure the radiator.

This, of course, is a highly simplified, ideal case. When I dug into my bike, I found that the radiator was almost immovable, that I had to remove the engine guards in order to remove the timing belt covers, that I had to remove the horns (there are two on my bike; not sure if that's typical) to remove the engine guards, and that I needed (okay, "wanted") to clean up the timing belt covers because they were kinda nasty ;)

Also, I didn't bother to check the crankshaft position after lining up the camshaft gears when removing the belts, which means that I don't know if the previous owner botched the belt alignment, or if the crankshaft and camshaft gears rotated a bit when I removed the belts. This is why it is IMPERATIVE that you check and recheck the alignment before buttoning everything up. If your cam timing isn't set properly, at best the engine won't perform as well as it should, and at worst, you could break pistons and valves. Here is how my timing looked when I double-checked alignments:

Cams are aligned, but the crankshaft...not so much.

And here is how the cams looked with the crankshaft at TDC. I had to pull the belts and rotate both camshaft gears until they were aligned properly. It would have saved a lot of time had I checked the crankshaft position before initially installing the belts. <shrug> I'll know better next time.

Edit: I hadn't reinstalled the timing belt covers yet when I wrote the post above. After finishing with the timing belts, I grabbed one of the covers, and decided it needed a good cleaning before I put it back on the bike:

After about three hours of quality time with a Scotchbrite pad, some Meguire's Metal Polish, and several paper towels (and maybe a little swearing), I was rewarded with this:

Not perfect (not really even close, to be honest), but a lot better than they were. I intend to ride this bike, not enter it in shows, so I'm not going to obsess on polishing a steel cover that is placed squarely in the middle of the spray coming off the front wheel ;) In this case, "good enough" is exactly that.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

GL1000 Project, Part 1: Brakes

In aviation circles, there's an oft-repeated, old saw: "Taking off is optional. Landing is mandatory." The meaning, of course, is that you can always change your mind about going flying, if weather, fatigue or mechanical issues suggest that you might want to stay on the ground. However, once you "slip those surly bonds," you have a finite amount of time until you must come back down to land again.

This sentiment can be paraphrased for motorcyclists, too: "Starting is optional. Stopping is not." Maybe I'm just a wuss, but if I'm going to have to stop, I'd prefer it be on my terms, in my timing, and under control. To achieve this goal, it is imperative that the bike's brakes work properly, which is why one of the three highest priorities on the Goldwing project was to refurbish the brakes (the other two items being to replace the timing belts and to install the new headlight bucket and turn signals).

When I bought the bike, the previous owner mentioned that he had been unable to get the front brakes working properly. Digging into the box of brake parts, I found that he had already disassembled the right-hand brake, so I started cleaning it up first...which is when I found this:

That black line at the 10-11 o'clock position is a crack inside the slave cylinder, which passes behind the oil seal. Squeezing on the brake handle will cause brake fluid to squirt out of the cylinder, making the front brakes ineffective. Fortunately, I found a replacement caliper on E-Bay for about $30 shipped. Hopefully, it will be rebuildable. After coming to a stop on the RH caliper, I decided to go ahead and dig into the LH caliper. Approximately 30 minutes later, I was rewarded with a nice, clean, rebuilt (and hopefully working!) brake caliper:

One unexpected bonus is that the previous owner told me that he had already bought new brake lines for the bike. Since, after 37 years, I expected that the OEM lines would be suspect, at best, I had already planned to replace the brake lines with new, braided stainless steel brake lines. Unfortunately, the previous owner said the lines he had bought were plain rubber lines, like the ones Honda had originally shipped with the bike. O.K., I can live with that until I'm ready to install the after-market handlebars. However, when I opened the box of brake parts, I didn't find OEM brake lines, but rather the exact same brake lines I had intended to buy for the bike -- about $50 worth of parts that I would no longer need to acquire! I'll need to buy the ends for the brake lines, but I'm still ahead of where I expected to be when I bought the bike. In the mean time, I found that the unused Galfer lines from the XS750 project are almost a perfect fit for the lower brake lines, between the tee and the calipers, so I've installed them for now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Liter Bike!!!

As I've mentioned before, my very first motorcycle was a 1978 Honda GL1000 -- one of the original Goldwings -- with the engine in pieces.
Against my better judgment, I sold that bike before I ever got it running, and I've kicked myself ever since. Then, in March of 2010, I bought my Suzuki V-Strom
which has been a great bike, and which I've truly enjoyed.

However, I've run into a bit of a conundrum recently. About two years ago, my wife and I joined a motorcycle group that "...seeks to empower abused children to no longer be afraid of the world in which they live." My XS750 cafe racer,
while a lot of fun, isn't really ideal for riding with this group: it still idles at 5,000 RPM once it's warmed up, the exhaust is rusting to pieces (more on that in another post, coming soon to a web browser near you!), the rear view mirrors and tail lights are all but useless (which makes it kind of hard to keep an eye on the riders behind me -- or for them to interpret my intentions --when riding in a group), and I removed all of the provisions for carrying passengers. Making things worse, while my wife is a capable rider with a bike of her own (a pristine 1977 Honda CB750A Hondamatic)
it also has a few characteristics that make it..."sub-optimal"...for riding in our group. Although it's a very cool piece of history, it's not a terribly fast bike (yeah, it's a CB750, but the Hondamatics had a significantly de-tuned version of that engine) among other things. Consequently, she often rides pillion on my Suzuki V-Strom when we are riding with the group.

While I can ride two up in the group on the Wee-Strom, it too is less than ideal for this purpose. First, surrounded by a big-bore Kawasaki Vulcan, a Honda VTX-1800, several Harley-Davidson's (go figure), and a bunch of H-D trikes, the Strom sticks out like a very tall, bright orange, sore thumb.
It just doesn't look the part. More importantly, as much fun as it as when ridden solo, the Strom is a bit under-powered and under-sprung for riding two-up, especially when riding in a group of torquey, large-displacement cruisers. Finally, the brakes are a bit soft for carrying two full-grown, American adults at highway (ahem...) speeds. To solve this problem, my wife and I considered buying her a Sportster 1200 with a Frankenstein trike conversion kit but although it was a hoot to ride and would certainly have looked the part in the motorcycle group...well, it just wasn't a good fit.

We talked it over, and decided that maybe I should sell the V-Strom and buy a more capable two-up bike. After reviewing the options, I had narrowed the list of potential mounts down to a 2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250, a 2015 Triumph Speed Triple,
and a brand new, unsold 2013 Honda CB1100.
Once again, none of these bikes were quite right. The Bandit was the most practical choice, but would need suspension upgrades since they are reportedly undersprung, just like my V-Strom. The Speed Triple was the bike that set my pulse racing, but the passenger seat was a joke, the bars were really low for riding any length of time (although not as bad as my XS750), and I was worried about insurance costs on a hooligan bike like that. The CB1100 would probably be the most comfortable, but I didn't like the red paint, it had no windscreen, and while checking it out at the local Honda dealer, I was already making a list of modifications to make it more of what I wanted (read that, "$$$"). It would have worked, but it just didn't make sense to drop roughly ten grand on a brand new bike, then chop it up to re-make it the way I wanted.

No, none of these bikes were ideal, even if they were a step up from my V-Strom.

Then, the other night, my wife was looking at the bikes for sale on Craigslist when she found a 1978 GL1000 project. Hmmm...I like GL1000's...
Better yet, even after upgrades, the price is low enough that I wouldn't have to sell the V-Strom, and I've seen a couple of seriously cool GL1000 custom bike builds. I set out making a list of upgrades, changes, and simple maintenance items to make a vintage Goldwing suitable for our needs, and came up with the following preliminary list:

Item Justification Parts List Cost
Brake Rebuild The current owner already has removed the front brakes for a rebuild, and as I found with the XS750 project, neglected brakes are a nightmare. Rebuild these now before they end up in as poor shape as the front brakes on the Yammie were when I bought it. K & L brake caliper rebuild kits, K & L master cylinder rebuild kits, new brake pistons (cheap, and solves a lot of problems), braided stainless steel brake lines. $425
Dime City Cycles "Euro" Handlebars As I recall, the stock GL1000 handlebars aren't that bad -- way better than those evil monstrosities, invented by the ghost of Torquemada himself, that Yamaha shipped on the XS750 -- but I'd like something a little sportier. This would be a much lower priority change, but I really want to replace the old brake lines before riding season, and I'm not going to buy braided stainless steel brake lines twice for this bike. That's just a waste of money. Dime City Cycles "Euro" Handlebars $50
New Headlight Bike had a Vetter fairing; needs new lights and mounting hardware. E-Bay "Dominator" headlights and cafe racer fork ears. $140
Replace Timing Belts Cheap insurance. Bike has an interference engine. If a timing belt breaks, you will be tearing down the engine to replace pistons and valves. That's why the engine on my first GL1000 project was in several Rubbermaid boxes when I acquired it. Gates timing belts. $30
Uni Foam Air Filter Easy, inexpensive maintenance/performance upgrade item. Uni foam air filter $25
Ignition System Refurb Spark plugs are a no brainer. Coils and wires are relatively inexpensive and simple to replace, also. Finally, points and condensers wear out, giving a weak spark. Replacing these parts should make for a better running engine. DR8EIX spark plugs, coils t.b.d., 7mm silicone spark plug wires and NGK spark plug boots from Mike's XS, and a Sudco tune-up kit. $200
Suspension Upgrades Suspension is one of my key concerns. Vintage bikes are notoriously undersprung, and I've been happy with these springs and shocks on my XS750.
Note: I'd prefer Race Tech springs and valve emulators in the forks, but at 1/3 the cost, these win the cost/value argument.
Progressive Suspension fork springs and Hagon 2810 TTSA shocks. $414
Total: $1284

There are other things I'd like to change too, but this should be enough to get the bike to the point where it is reasonably reliable, comfortable, good looking, and capable of running with the best of them while two-up. I won't be schooling competent sportbike riders in the twisties on a vintage Goldwing, nor will I be the flashiest bike in the state, but this should be a vast improvement over the status quo. And, I'll get to regain some of that karma I lost when I sold my first GL1000 project, lol.

I'll go take a look at the GL1000 tomorrow, and who knows? Maybe by tomorrow night, I'll be the proud owner of yet another GL1000 project bike ;)

Edit: I bought the 'Wing:

There are a few maintenance items that need to be completed before it's ready to ride, but in all honesty, it's a very clean bike for its vintage. After looking it over, I've changed the planned maintenance slightly. There are a few things that have already been taken care of, and a few things that I probably won't change until after the bike is running (function first, cosmetics later -- a lesson I learned from the XS750 project). Here is a Google Sheets document outlining the plan in more detail. I'll leave the table above as a snapshot of the original plan, but the Google doc will be changing as work progresses.