Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Mid-winter a few years ago, a co-worker asked, "What do you do for fun, once the riding season is over?" Having just acquired the XS750 project, I replied, "There are two seasons in Alaska: riding and wrenching." I don't like to waste my riding season working on the bikes, since the riding season is short enough as is, and invariably, once I start working on a bike, I'll end up with it off-line while I'm waiting for parts to arrive. On the other hand, I do enjoy tinkering on the bikes, so taking them apart to perform all the maintenance and upgrades during the off-season -- when I can't ride, anyway -- is a good way to spend the cold, dark winter months. To that end, I have thrown myself into work on all three of my bikes over the last two months.

In August, I rode my ultra-reliable V-Strom to work one morning, and noticed that it was acting funny while I was idling at a stop light. The turn signals were kind of flickering rather than blinking, and the engine seemed to be running rough, which is very unusual for that bike. I revved the engine a bit, and it settled down, leading me to think that I had a dead battery. That wasn't particularly surprising, considering that it's still the original battery -- six seasons old, now. After work, sure enough, there wasn't enough juice to start the engine. Fortunately, a co-worker was able to jump start me, and I made it home...but just barely. I needed the bike running ASAP, since our motorcycle organization had an event that weekend (this was a Thursday), so rather than taking the time to perform full diagnostics, I jumped to the most likely cause -- a dead battery -- and bought a replacement the next day. After work, I plugged in the new battery, started the engine, and connected a multi-meter to the battery terminals, reading 12.3VDC...not good. I should have been reading just over 14VDC. I took the Yamaha on the BACA event, then ended up ordering both a replacement voltage regulator and stator...at which point, I found that I also needed a gasket for the stator cover, since the V-Strom drips oil onto the stator to keep it cool. I believe I already mentioned something about invariably waiting for parts, once starting a maintenance project?

...all the while, I'm riding the 5000-RPM-idle cafe racer to BACA events...

...an hour away from home, one-way...

...in the rain.

The cafe racer is a fun bike, but with clubman handlebars and NO fairing to protect from the weather, while wearing leathers only in the rain (no rain suit, because my orange nylon rain suit does not exactly scream, "I am a bad-*** biker, and can keep you safe from those who mean you harm") at maybe 40F...not so much.

I was really missing my fairing, my heated grips, and my heated jacket liner, lol (fine, I'm a wuss; what's your point?!?!)

Then, on yet another cold, rainy day on the cafe racer, I started having problems getting the bike into first gear. I could shift into neutral, second, third, etc., but I had a bear of a time getting the bike to downshift into first at intersections. In frustration, I parked the bike, and caged it with my wife to escort one of our BACA kids to court, then when I got the chance to check the Yamaha Triples web site, I discovered that the XS750's have a tendency to break the layshaft bolt, which then causes difficulty shifting into first gear.

Great...with maybe three weeks left in the riding season and BACA Anchorage getting busy working with kids, I had not just one, but *TWO* broken bikes. The whole point of having a second bike was to have an alternate in case a bike broke down!

With the Yamaha now out of service, I jumped into high-gear trying to get the electrical problems with the V-Strom sorted out, since fixing the charging system seemed like a more manageable task. Yeah...no. After finally getting it all put back together again, I took the Strom out for a 10:00 p.m. shake down ride. I was elated for the first eight miles, as the cheapie Amazon.com volt meter that I had plugged into the accessory electrical socket was showing a steady 14.4VDC while riding. Then all of a sudden, I noticed that my voltage was dropping: 13.7V...13.6V...13.5V...about a tenth of a volt per second, more or less. I quickly whipped a U-turn and raced back home...12.9V...12.8V...7.0V. Wait, what?!?! 14.0V...12.2V...13.1V...I started seeing wild voltage swings all over the place, and my LCD panel on the bike had gone completely blank. The engine was running rough again -- the ECU wasn't getting good voltage, so the fuel injection was getting squirrely -- and I just barely made it home (the bike died in the driveway). I opened up the bike -- AGAIN -- and determined that the brand new regulator/rectifier had failed. I parked the Strom, because quite frankly, I was completely fed up with it. I had sunk $450 in parts on the V-Strom in the last two months, and it STILL didn't work right. I spent the rest of the season riding my wife's CB750A to BACA events, and caging it to and from work, sigh.

Fortunately, this was the point that I found the GL1000 project, and I had so much fun working on this bike, that I eventually built up enough motivation to dig into the V-Strom again. Electro-Sport made good on their warranty of the regulator/rectifier, which I re-installed last night, and which now seems to be working properly.

Then, I managed to obtain spousal approval on a pair of Dime City Cycles mufflers for the Yamaha, which are now sitting in the garage, waiting for me to fabricate new balance tubes and connecting pipes to the existing headers. After that, I'll need to drain the oil and dig into the transmission case to replace the layshaft bolt. Oh, yeah...and I've got an envelope full of carburetor parts -- butterfly shaft screws, butterfly shaft seals, circlips, and springs -- for the XS750. Hopefully, those will resolve the high-idle problem on the cafe racer; if not...new carbs?

As for the GL1000...it needs a new voltage regulator, too. Unlike the V-Strom, the 'Wing uses a separate voltage regulator and rectifier, but most of the after-market units I have found seem to be integrated. Oregon Motorcycle Parts makes a reasonably priced unit that seems like it would fit the bill quite nicely, and in my initial conversations with them, they seem to be pretty good people to work with. I expect to have their VRRPM3H-GL1000 model on order in the fairly near future. After that, lower handlebars (so I can connect the front brake line), and a new battery...and the GL1000 should be running! I still want to replace the rear shocks with Hagon 2810 TTSA's, like I did on the Yamaha, and I'd like to order new side covers and shelter covers from E-Bay, because I'd like to go satin black on the 'Wing, but I don't want to ruin the original plastic, since it's in reasonably good shape. However, that's all wish-list material, not necessary-to-get-the-bike-running items ;)

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