Thursday, January 10, 2008

On motorcycle maintenance...

So Baby is sitting perched on her stand in the garage, half-covered like some nude model taking a break during a portrait session. Her seat and side covers have been stripped from her, as she awaits the beginning of her winter maintenance period. This is the end of her third season with me, though the '05 season only began in August for us. Still, she has over 40,000kms on her so far, so this winter will see a few more items added to the 'to do' list.

As every year, she will receive new oil and filter. I will await a balmy day when I can leave the garage door partly open, so as to let the exhaust vent to the outside, as she warms up to operating temperature. I will drain the old oil out, remove the old filter, clean and verify the threads on all 3 drain plugs. Ensuring the threads are spotless (on the bolts and their receiving holes), the plugs will be reinserted, torqued and the new filter installed. The new oil will then be added and the bike run up to operating temperature again, as I check for any leaks or weeping. Shutting the bike down, I will do a final check of the oil level, adding any if required.

This year I will also be flushing the radiator and changing the rad fluid. The coolant hoses and their associated clamps will be checked for any wear, cracking or looseness. The forks will have to be disassembled, cleaned and the fork oil replaced. While the forks are apart, I will replace the stock fork springs with a set of Progressive Suspension springs. This step will require me to also change the rear shocks as well. So a set of Progressive Suspension 412 Series gas-charged shocks will be on order, to finally remedy my VTX's less-than-ideal stock suspension set up.

The air cleaner assembly will be disassembled, washed and polished. The K&N filter itself cleaned, washed, drained and then re-oiled, before the assembly is put back together. A drop of blue Loctite on each bolt will ensure nothing will vibrate loose.

The brake fluid will be changed in both front and rear master cylinders. The calipers will be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned and the brake pads inspected and changed if necessary. The brake caliper pins will be inspected, cleaned and re-lubed, to allow for the easy sliding of the brake pads themselves. The hydraulic clutch fluid will also be changed out of the clutch master cylinder. Both applications, clutch and brakes, use DOT-4 brake fluid. I have given some thought to replacing the stock clutch plates, with a set of Barnett Heavy-Duty plates and springs. I may decide to hold out for another year before doing so, as I have felt no slipping in the clutch so far. As all the oil must be drained from the engine for me to do this (engine and clutch share the same oil bath), I will likely leave it until next winter's maintenance cycle.

The final drive oil (90 weight hypoid gear oil) will be bled out of the rear transfer case and replaced as well. Both wheels will be removed and detailed as well, while the axles will be cleaned and re-greased. The wheel bearings will be inspected and rotated, feeling for any notching or hesitation in them, which might warrant their replacement. The spark plugs will be pulled from each cylinder head and serviced. Their threads receiving a light coat of anti-seize... The cylinders will be fogged with storage oil and I will let her resume her winter slumber, disturbing her only slightly every now and again, when I hook her up to the wall-mounted battery tender. This I do perhaps once every two weeks, to ensure that her battery remains fully charged and ready to go.

As for her paint, I will remove the dash cover, to expose the very top part of her gas tank. This area, as well as inside her fenders, are washed thoroughly, dried and then waxed. Several coats of wax are applied before the wheels and dash cover are reinstalled. This makes up for the inattention these areas suffer during the normal riding season. The areas normally hidden by the side covers are treated the same way, as are the underside of the frame rails. All visible painted areas are likewise treated. It is not uncommon for the bike to receive 4 to 5 new coats of wax during her winter storage period.

All chrome surfaces are meticulously washed and inspected for any pitting, dings, scratches or God forbid... rust. These surfaces are then polished repeatedly using Mother's polishing wax. Just before spring, a coat of metal sealant is applied to all chrome and brushed aluminum surfaces, so as to seal them against the elements.

All moving parts receive either grease or teflon lubricant of some sort. Special attention is paid to the throttle body, throttle cables and the throttle grip itself. They are cleaned out and lubed until their operation feels like butter. The type of lubricant required for any and all parts, is plainly stated by the manufacturer in the maintenance manual. This book is not to be confused with the Owner's Manual. The owner's manual for any vehicle is a pretty basic, 'written-for-retards' kind of book that teaches you how to operate your vehicle.

A proper maintenance manual will cost about a fifth the value of the vehicle itself (okay... a slight exageration...) and will explain in painstaking detail, how to completely disassemble said vehicle AND reassemble it again... properly! It will contain everything there is to know about every piece that makes up your vehicle. It will include fluid capacities, dimensions, tolerances, torque values for every fitting, assembly and disassembly sequences, as well as exploded diagrams for each and every one of these sequences. This is a book that, no matter how much you may have paid for it, is still an absolute bargain! If you own anything motorized and do not buy the maintenance manual for it, you are either:

a) A retard; or

b) Rich... and have so much disposable income, you don't know what to do with it.

You may hear this tired old phrase used to describe a good many things in this life, but when someone tells you that your vehicle's maintenance manual will: "pay for itself after it's first or second use", they are not bullshitting you in the least. Don't believe me? Call up any shop in any city, in any country. Ask them what their hourly labour rate is. Now look at the price tag on your manual. See? Exactly... Carrying on then...

Here is the problem with owning a motorcycle that you also happen to love. If you're rolling your eyes while reading this, I can guarantee that you don't ride...nor are you likely to any time soon. Yes, we love our rides... If you do ride or have 'the bug', you probably know what's coming next.

After you've done all the "necessary" stuff for your ride. You will still have some months left to go before riding season. This is the dangerous part of the winter months. The one that can wind up getting costly if you don't keep it in check. Because now is the time you start thinking about all the fun you had with her and you decide that you really ought to show her that you appreciate her. Hmmmm.... Lemme see here... What can I get for my bike, that will show how cool I think she is? That will let other riders see how bad-ass she is...? Then you might start thinkin' about how the two of you are in a partnership, so hey... I was pretty cool last year. I made a couple of really good runs, mebbe I deserve somethin' new for next year too... Maybe some new riding gear... those old summer gloves are lookin' pretty beat. Your favorite riding boots are starting to show the mileage. They're sun-faded and road worn by now. Wonder if they still make that model? Maybe they have something cooler by now... Or a new Garmin unit to use on that next run down South...? Out come the magazines and catalogs... Or you simply start surfin' the net, haunting corporate websites, riding group sites... You start showing up at your local bike shops on the weekends, "just lookin", you say... Yeah, sure... Whatever...

I've been riding long enough now, to not feel the need to impress anyone else. Sure I see a lot of cool things on other people's bikes during the run of the year. An' that's fine for them... What may work on one man's ride, may not work on another. I can appreciate them but they don't always happen to appeal to my style. That and imitating someone else's idea of a good idea, does not make for an individual's style. It makes for a trend and I am anything but trendy. Trust me.

I see people throwing ridiculous amounts of money on their bikes, bolting on everything they see. I have no idea what they're trying to accomplish and frankly most times, neither do they. If I discover something out there on the market, that will make my ride more efficient, more comfortable, or that will give it that certain something that has "me" written all over it, I might pick it up. More often than not, it is miles on the road spent travelling, which will guide my thoughts as to what the bike, myself or my passenger might benefit from.

So... next thing you know, you're drawing up a list of items that you will either source out or order for you and your trusty steed. So begins the metamorphosis stage of your bike's hibernation. I mean, come on.... those chrome covers would catch an evening sunset along the Blue Ridge Parkway just right, wouldn't they? While we're at it, that larger windshield from Memphis Shades would sure cut down on you jerkin' around whenever a particularly large bug smacks you in the lip... And that back end does need some dressing up... just to bring it up to par with the front end. Those chrome drain bolt and axle covers would be just the ticket... Okay, so the saddlebags cover most of those fittings... but still, you know it's there... and on it goes.

Yeah....winter. Ya gotta love it. :)

No comments: