Saturday, October 29, 2011

My New Little Scoot

May I introduce my newest member of the family... A classic 1981 Honda CB900F.

She is an ancestor of the entire current Honda sport bike line. They were only sold in the states in 1981 and 1982 but marketed in other places from 1979 to 1983. That was the first generation; there was a second generation in the mid to late 2000's that was also known as the Hornet in Europe and the Honda 919 in the states.


1981 Honda CB900F -vs- 2004 Harley XL1200C
The ride is a LOT different. With my Sportster, almost every bump and rock in the road causes a minor tremor. With the CB, the suspension just absorbs the energy. It can still be felt, but the feeling of being slugged in the backside with a 2x4 isn't there.

While I am not necessarily one to ride fast around corners, the CB does make it fun. Where the Sporty would dive into corners, needing pressure to keep her from laying over all the way, the CB just glides into them while maintaining wonderful balance. AND, in tight corners I could feel the Sporty's rear tire slide ever so slightly. Quite disconcerting. And it isn't the tire. Several rear tires have been on my bike with the same feel.

There is no sliding sensation on the CB. It's as if there were steel claws on the tires. She takes hold and doesn't let go. Heck, I was doing the motorcycle range at the local college parking lot and was able to do the figure-eight at 15 to 20 MPH. THAT was fun.

Honda didn't design the CB series to be fast from the starting line but get that engine to 4500 RPM and she could eat my Sportster for breakfast. Yes, the torque from the Sportster's V-Twin makes for fast starts, but after about 40 MPH, the CB could leave her in the dust.

Balance... wow what a difference. My Sporty is pretty stable, but the CB can creep along at 5 MPH all day without a problem.

And speed... I have pegged the Sporty and it is a scary thing to feel. The CB speedo only goes to 85 MPH and the engine cranks at about 6200 RPM for that. Her red line is about 9000 RPM. Plenty more speed than the max on the speedometer. And, hunkering down close to the tank gives a nice stable, safe feeling ride.

Here is where the Sporty beats the CB. Hard or moderate riding both yield a mileage of about 55-65 MPG on the Sporty. On my CB, it is 40 - 45MPH. Not so good.

Yes, this is subjective, but going to throw it out. My Sportster has been mistaken for several different Harleys. There have been compliments here and there. However... I have only owned my CB for one week and people will just be walking by, stop, look and start up a conversation. Yesterday a neighbor stopped on his way to work and bet me he could tell me what bike it was. He lost. While the paint job doesn't agree with the sensibilities of some, the looks are classic.

No more numb ass!!!!! Riding the Sportster was akin to motorized flogging on trips over 200 miles. Today I put about 175 miles on my CB with no uncomfortableness at all!

So... Please don't disown me... and please don't tell my Sportster (although I think she already knows), my old little grandpa of a Superbike is without a doubt my riding favorite.

If you see me on the road, and who could miss a bike painted like this, just give me a wave. See ya all out there!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Little Riding Video

This guy has it DOWN!

Double click the video to make it full screen. It is DEFINITELY worth it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's In A Name?

What's in a name?

I have Athena, my 2004 Sportster.

I have Reb, my Honda Rebel.

Then there is Vixen and V3, my two, soon to be sold Suzuki VX800 project bikes.

So, what to call my new bike...

Maybe after a long quiet ride on a lonely desert road it will come to me. I pick her up on Saturday... My throttle hand is twitching. Unique bike in itself. Unique custom paint. Maybe sort-of a unique rider. Maybe, just maybe a good match.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pulling the Plug and Pulling the Trigger

There comes a time when one must say, enough is enough.

This morning I swapped ignitions, coils, plugs, carburetors, airboxes and some primary fuses. The best she could manage was a rough idle and occasional rev to about 3000 RPM for 30 seconds.

Here's the catch... she was only hitting off the rear cylinder. The front was firing, and burning fuel but generating almost no energy. My initial, thumb on the spark plug hole compression was false. This time, slowly turning the engine to TDC on the front cylinder yielded something I had feared. One of the exhaust valves was not closing. As a secondary test I removed the airboxes, cranked the engine over with the starter and placed my hand on the front carb's air intake. There is suction, but the rear carb almost sucked my hand in.

So, final analysis... Rear carb needs better adjusting and the jets need to be looked at & cleaned, replaced or who knows. Front cylinder likely has a sticky exhaust valve.

Damn it, Jim! I'm a computer programmer, not a bike mechanic!

Honestly, I NEED some long road time, not long garage time. She has given me a great education into the inner workings of a fine motorcycle; she has helped me learn many things about myself; and now the final lesson - knowing when to say when.

Without a doubt, someone with more talent and time and tools could have her going in little time. That person is not me.

So, this week... when time is available, I will be bagging up all of my VX800 parts and pieces and offering them for sale. I hope whoever buys her will be able to do the honorable thing, and get her running.

Now, on to pulling the trigger... I need something smooth running, somewhat simple, somewhat different, somewhat older or classic, something reliable. I pick her up tomorrow.
Classic 1981 Honda CB900F Superbike. Custom paint, 22k miles, custom saddle... a real head turner. Definitely something I could ride all day without my butt falling asleep and feeling like I was beaten up after 500 miles. More pics tomorrow.

When Too Much is Not a Good Thing

Yes, too much may not be a good thing.

Now with enough room in my garage and with it clean enough to not be considered complete chaos, I broke out my project bike. $110 at Nevada Suzuki for a new battery and diagnostics were ready to commence.

Crank, crank, crank, pop, crank, crank, pop. She would barely hit, enough to show that at least she was operable enough to mix some fuel, compress and cause it to ignite, but not enough to be self sustaining.

A few little squirts of starter fluid and she kicks off for twenty seconds and stops. OK. That reduces the possibility the problem is with the ignition system. Even though I drained the fuel from each carb, there is still gunk in the fuel system, so I keep squirting and running until she finally pops and starts running a little.

20 seconds... 30 seconds... 40... 50... a minute. She is alive and breathing fuel, but just barely.

I shut her down and feel the exhaust pipes. Rear cylinder pipe is nice and warm. Good. Front cylinder pipe is cool. Damn! That is the one I had problems with before.

So, while the battery gets a little charge I pull the plugs. With its compact powerplant, just pulling the plugs is a challenge in itself. But, they do come out and the above picture is what I find. Carbon fouling.

Here is where I made a previous diagnostic failure. Memories of my Dad teaching me to read plugs are coming back and I see the error. Before I would pull and read and since they were wet and black, I thought 'oil leak.' But no black smoke. Diagnostic fail.

It wasn't oil, it was fuel. How do I know? This time I leave the plugs out for a few minutes. If it were oil making them appear wet, they would still appear wet after a few minutes in the air. If it were fuel, it would float away in the air and the plugs would look dry.


There was something to chew on now; hard diagnostic analysis. Possible causes: rich fuel mixture; weak ignition; poor compression.

Poor compression is possible, but simple 'finger-over-the-plug-hole' indicate there is compression. It may not be up to spec, but there is. And, if there is indeed a compression problem, it is likely in the valves. There is no cross contamination between engine fluids to indicate any gasket or piston ring failure. So, compression is at the bottom of the possible issues list.

Weak ignition is possible and with my spare parts pile, I can easily replace the coils, plug wires and CDI. Actually, the last time I worked on her, I did swap out the coils and plug wires, so that likely isn't it. But, maybe the CDI. This is high on my list of possible culprits and with a little swap, is easy to confirm or dismiss.

Rich fuel mixture is another strong possibility and very likely the culprit. Getting in there to make fine adjustments is a challenge but not too tough.

So, #1 - Rummage through the garage and find the spare CDI and swap that out.
#2 - If that doesn't work, get out the tiny screw drivers and tweek with the carbs.

Looks like a good wrenchin' Sunday.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Karma Police

While the actual mechanics of Karma are, in my opinion, curious at best, the effects seem natural. You do good things, associate with good people, good things are likely to happen.

You do bad things, associate with bad people, bad things are likely to happen.

Well, I was arrested by the Karma Police, tried and given a sentence. There is no argument of its appropriateness and quite difficult to argue that the punishment does not suit the crime.

Earlier this year I promised someone a spare part from my project bike. Other things in my life pushed and shoved and because of miscalculation of priorities, this promise was pushed so low that it was never fulfilled. For the last month this gnawed on me like a rabid honey badger. So, the only thing that could be done was to contact this gentleman, explain the situation, offer an apology and attempt to make it right.

While gracious, he did say that over the course of the summer, several blue streaks of swearing did indeed, and much deserved, were shot my way. Honestly, I deserved that.

So, last night I spent some time in my garage preparing my project bike, a Suzuki VX800, for another shot at getting it to run. That's when the sirens went off and the Karma Police arrived. The arrest and sentence was swift, decisive and apropos.

For starters, the new battery I purchased about a year ago was not just dead, but had rigor mortise; only about 2 volts. After three hours on the charger, the voltage was still about 2 volts. Dead. Gone. Worth little more than the value of lead in its core.

But there was another part of the sentence... While checking out the chassis, dark spots could be seen on the fender near the front forks. Not one, but both front fork seals were now shot and leaking fork oil like it was running through a sieve.

Nothing irreparable, but quite appropriate. Fair enough. Time to accept the sentences, learn from their lessons and continue moving forward.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Of Friends and Bikes

Over the past several weeks I have received apologies from several friends for their lack of contact with me, or slow response to my e-mails or phone messages. These were heart-felt apologies, not some meaningless platitudes to calm any unsettled feelings they may think I have. One even went so far as to say she was a bad friend.

People have lives and friends are friends, regardless. It is not the frequency or quantity of contact that keeps true friends, it is the quality of that contact.

Now, on to motorcycles.

Yes, I am keeping Athena. We have a long ride coming up in January and she needs a little help preparing. Today while riding around, a mental tally started... $350 for a tune-up and check. $250 for a new set of tires. If the clutch is going again, that's another $200. $75 for a new battery cover and kit. And there was more.

The weather was nice and quite a few bikes on the road, many of them fresh and new and sparkly, not squeaky and a little sun-burnt and decorated with minor bumps and abrasions like Athena. And I thought... What if I just traded her, saved the repair money and not worry about it?

As her purr, her roar, her potential energy under me slightly sniffed with a cold, the speedometer hit 85. We weaved slightly in our lane, teasing the markers and likely confusing the drivers falling behind us. We were dancing.

One doesn't change good dance partners quite so easily. Guess I had better get that tune-up scheduled and new tires picked out.