Monday, September 21, 2009

What a great weekend... (1)

I have to admit that this past weekend was quite splendid. Not only did I get some chores done on the home front, but I got in a whole mess of riding, in absolutely perfect weather conditions. My little girl's bike has been residing in a barn for the past few months. A barn with a dirt floor, mind you... and open to every critter God put on this earth. The chrome, the aluminum wheels and some of the painted metal surfaces, were already beginning to show signs of neglect. This is a brand new bike (a 2008 Honda VTX 1300S, with R Model wheels), with just a little over 340 klicks on her...

So bright and early Saturday morning, I loaded up my bike with a battery charger, a multimeter and some basic hand tools, and headed out to Chesterville. Thankfully the bike's battery had been removed and stored indoors, before my little girl had been posted overseas. My plan was to give her a once-over and try to get her out on the road for a little systems check, if I could. I thought it likely that I'd have to leave her on charge overnight, before she'd be ready to hit the road. When I finally got there and metered the battery to check what kind of voltage remained, it registered a surprising 11.45VDC. Now a 12 volt battery that's in top shape, ready to go, will normally read a little over 13VDC. The way I figured it, it wouldn't take us that long to have this battery charged up to specs and ready to re-install in the bike.

We hooked up the battery to the charger and I then busied myself inspecting the bike. She was dirt-encrusted with bits of straw here and there. Cobwebs abounded, there was the beginning of galling on those fine CNC-machined aluminum wheels and even the odd scattering of surface rust on her pipes and the hardware for her saddlebags. No... no... nononononono... This would never do. This was no longer a steed fit for my daughter, let alone for one of our country's finest. Something had to be done. I think I pretty much resolved right there to "bike-nap" my daughter's ride. But first, we had to bring her back to life...

Her man and I shot the breeze for a spell, we observed the goings-on of their chickens (and 4 black ducks) and he was kind enough to brew me up a cup of coffee. I admired his handiwork in building several small outbuildings for their growing brood. After a while, I decided to check on the battery and see how it was coming along. The voltmeter read 13.25 VDC. Good enough! I was going to get to take this little princess out for a road check after all. In short order, we had re-installed the battery in the bike and buttoned her all up. Finally, we installed the seat.

I made a mental note to get a better battery charger for my daughter... one which came with a set of "pig-tails". Pig-tails are a set of permanent connections that are wired directly to the battery terminals. They end in a simple, generic 12V plug. This can be hidden in back of one of the side covers, so that whenever you need to recharge/top up your battery, you just pop the side cover and plug it in. It's just that simple. No need to remove the seat, the battery cover, etc... They are a godsend.

With the battery once more where it belonged, it was time to see if this little darlin' would fire up for me. I turned on the petcock, pulled out the choke, turned the key in the ignition and hit the starter. She turned over fine but no ignition yet. I turned the ignition off and gave a couple of twists on the throttle, just to make sure there was enough fuel in the carb's bowl and down the throat. I once more turned the ignition to "On" and thumbed the starter. She turned over a couple of times and then caught. Success!! I let her idle at high revs for what I reckoned was a good while, before attempting to ease the choke back in.

In the meantime, I had donned my riding gear and was pretty much set to go. When I pushed the choke home, she stuttered and died. Hm-mmm... The slow speed circuit didn't want to play the game. I had been told that fuel stabilizer had been added prior to the bike being put away, so it might simply be some small impurities which had found their way to a fuel or an air jet. I cracked the choke just a tad and starterd her up again. She was running fine. I headed out onto the small two-lane blacktop strip that would lead me over the South Nation River and towards Route 31.

I kind of goosed her as we motored down the road. 100kmh... 120kmh... I figured I might be able to dislodge whatever bad stuff was making her act up. I could barely make out the sound of the engine over the roar of the wind. As I neared the small bridge which arced over the river, I downshifted to fourth, then third. I still could not really make out the pitch of the engine, so I downshifted to second as I readied to take the turn. As I released the clutch, I heard a chirp as the rear tire bit into the road and the ass-end fishtailed slightly. Whooooa... apparently I had still been rolling a little hot for a shift down to second. Mental note to self: go slower so that maybe you'll be able to hear the engine better. Second mental note to self: Tell daughter she needs a set of throatier pipes for her little beast. Stealth and motorcycles do not and should not mix... ever.

I have to tell you, this bike scoots along very, very well and with little effort, I might add. The throttle was a little stiff, but I think I can massage that by the judicious application of some teflon-based lube and better adjusting the throttle cable free-play. There is a very solid, planted feeling you get while riding this bike. The floorboards contribute to this in a big way, I feel. The heel-toe shifter (commonly called a rocker shifter) takes a little getting used to, but after the first few up and down shift patterns, it becomes almost natural. The bike is effortless to manoeuvre. Cornering is a little more restricted than with other models (I.E.: those without the floorboards), but it's always good to remember that they are hinged and will give when they first touch down.

It's always a little disconcerting when you first 'scrape the boards'. The thing to remember is not to freak out, don't make any severe or harsh corrective measures that will land you in actual trouble. The scraping is simply a warning device to tell you: "Okay... that's enough leaning. Now stop leaning before you dig in the mount for your floorboards. That is a solid mounted piece of the bike that does not bend of give...". Dig that sucker in and you're going for a ride, alright...

Some riders develop a predilection for grinding down their boards. Some make a habit of honing them down so they look like a knife edge. They delight in dragging them through curves, impressing their buddies trailing behind them with a long shower of sparks. It works better at dusk or at night, obviously. They reckon they're riding on the wild side, courting disaster by living life on the ragged edge. Me? I reckon they just like shelling out the bucks for new floorboards... Either way, it's not a big thing when it happens and can actually be kind of entertaining.

I made it to the juncture of Route 31 (Bank Street, really...) and she was still refusing to idle with the choke in, unless I stayed on the throttle. I veered to the right, which would lead me into Chesterville. I figured I'd go as far as the local Timmie's and see how she did, before turning around and heading back. We blasted along that stretch of highway pretty good. She ran like a trooper, seeming to like the 100kmh/120kmh bracket just fine. As we pulled into Tim's and I let off the throttle, she was still sputtering a little, but not as bad as she had been. I had to fish around like a 'tard with my heel for the kickstand, as she still had the short, stock one mounted on hers. A small group of riders watched me with some amusement and I felt mortified. Blast!

I finally got her on her sidestand and dismounted. Quickly shedding my lid, I headed inside for a small double-double. I realized I had not brought my phone to let Matt know where I was, and that if I tarried overly long, my daughter's hubby may find himself pondering how to explain my untimely demise to her. The group of riders had gathered around the bike and were waiting for me when I emerged with my coffee. "I really like those bars... where did you get them?", one of the riders asked. I was relieved to explain that this was in fact my daughter's bike and I was taking it out for a little shakedown cruise. I explained the carb problem as well, so that they would not be left with the impression that they were talking to a newbie.

We talked bikes for a spell and I noticed that one of the lads was riding a 1300S model in black. She had white wall tires, laced wheels, Vance & Hines pipes, KuryAkyn Hypercharger, batwing fairing and hardbags to match. It was drop-dead gorgeous and immaculately maintained. A real showbike. I made some mental notes on it as we talked. It suddenly hit me that I really should get back so I bade farewell to my new buddies and saddled up. I made sure I cracked the choke just a bit as I started her up. I didn't want anymore "embarassing moments" as I made my way out of there.

I tromped her once more as we headed back to my daughter's place. She ran rock steady. As I rolled back into her driveway, I rolled completely off the throttle and she died. Hm-mmm... Clearly some more 'cleaning out' was needed. Some fresh gas ought to do the trick. I'd work on that tomorrow. For the time being, I was satisfied she was up and running again. We'd work on the specifics later on. I thanked Matt for his hospitality and we made plans for him to come out and fetch me on Sunday, when I would then take my little girl's bike back home with me. I would restore her to her former glory and provide her with a comfy and loving home until her owner's return.

I left the battery charger with Matt and saddled up for the retrurn trip. I arrived at home after an exhilarating ride in perfect weather. I had to do some floor space planning for how to shoehorn two VTXs in this garage. Though smaller in displacement, the 1300S model had a longer overall length, thanks to her valanced fenders.

I couldn't wait to get her into the shop. My daughter needed my help to keep 'the nasties' from overwhelming her pride and joy. How in the world could I refuse her?

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