(A LONG motorcycle wrenching post today, may not interest non-riders)
When winter comes to south Texas, we don't ride, we wrench.
Last year winter came on a Friday. This year, a Tuesday.
Hit a high of 29 with sleet. Roads are covered with ice, schools and businesses closed. Yankees say Texan don't know how to drive on snow and ice.... We know how, but choose not to.
Throw another jalapeño on the grill, I feel a draft.
Too cold and icy to be out riding now that winter dropped in. Time to put the wrench to the sidecamper rig. After riding most of eastern Canada last summer, the side camper needs a good going over before the next riding season arrives when we plan to go back to Alaska.
There are a few issues needing attention, a few changes to be made and a few upgrades.
When in upstate New York, the bike lost the ability to shift gears when the clutch reservoir went dry. The clutch slave cylinder was slowly leaking brake fluid, so a rebuild kit was ordered.
With the side cover off to rebuild the cylinder, took time to clean up the counter sprocket area.
The six thousand miles to Canada and back revealed a problem with the new seat. (My long legs need a taller than normal seat). It was sloped too much towards the front causing me to slide forward when riding on rough roads. On smooth pavement it was okay, but not on gravel roads. I know what the roads will be like in Alaska, so a seat rework was called for.
The same builder reformed the seat by adding more foam. I then tested, cut, tested, and cut until the foam was the right height, slope and shape. They'll recover it with vinyl next week.
Next needed to check the rear wheel bearings. Before starting the trip last summer, I had replaced the rear bearings. By the time I reached in Maine heading north, they were shot. New bearings were installed in Ellsworth Maine. Now to check if they again need replacing. With the rear wheel off, also wanted to mount a new rear tire, replace the rear brake pads, change the rear sprocket to a lower number and install a new 530 chain.
The good news is the rear bearings are fine. No rough spots or notch-i-ness when spun. No need to replace, though I do carry a spare set.
By changing the rear sprocket, am going for slightly less lower end torque and a slightly higher top speed. The OEM sprocket has 41 teeth. The current larger sprocket has 46 teeth. With the 46 tooth, it has great low end torque (almost too much). But at 60-65 mph the engine is revving over 5000 rpm. Too high for all day riding in the south.
Decided to try a 43 tooth. If the 43T sprocket makes the clutch work too hard to start rolling from a dead stop, will switch back.
If you are familiar with the Vstrom1000, you might have noticed there is only one muffler on this bike. I had two mufflers when I left for Canada last July. The left muffler strap broke somewhere in Canada. I found it snapped in Ohio. The loose muffler banged around so much a hole was beat into it. Decided to remove the damaged left muffler, switch the right muffler to the left side using the one good remaining muffler strap. Then capped off the right side exhaust down at the mid-pipe. This change will only affect performance at high rpm's, or at high speeds. Which on this rig is not an issue.
The empty space on the right where a muffler once resided? Will fit in a 4" PVC pipe storage tube.
While on the subject of wheels, with the rear wheel back on, time to remove the front wheel.
A much more complicated procedure requiring the removal of twenty-one bolts (21). The brake rotor bolts must be removed while the wheel is still on the bike in order to lower the rotor so the brake calipers can be removed from the wheel. Then the axle bolt can be removed.
Checked the front bearings. Not bad but not smooth, so they need replacing. I have a set of front bearings on hand, but will need to borrow a bearing puller to remove the old bearings. Also ordered replacement brake rotor bolts as a few were wallowed out.
The brake caliper brackets were chipped and rusting. Decided to send them out for a sandblasting and a powder coating.
Had a new front tire mounted. Found a good tire shop that will dismount and mount a car tire on my custom wheels for ten bucks per tire.
By next week the front wheel will be ready to reinstall.
My parts replacement philosophy when prepping for a long trip is this: it is less expensive to replace a part or component in the comfort of the garage before it really needs replacing than to have it wear out on a remote road with the inconvenience and expense of towing and lodging while trying to find a replacement part at a much higher cost.
Have you ever compared the prices of tires in Alaska to the tire prices in the lower 48 states?
It costs a lot to ship parts to Alaska. The prices reflect that fact.
Have upsized the front tire from a 145/80-15 to a 165-80-15. The same size as the rear and the sidecar. It fits fine in the leading link front forks, no rubbing. It might make steering more difficult to handle. If so, will return to a narrower tire. Having the same size tire on all three corners does simplify the replacement question.
Next issue: Was not happy on the Canadian trip having to swing the 15 gallon aux fuel tank out of the way, then insert the support leg before opening the camper for the night. If the ground was uneven, as it frequently was. I was having to lift the tank with all its weight in order to insert the support leg. Then lift again in the morning to remove the leg. Sometimes the leg did not want to come out.
In searching for a better solution, decided to use the 8 gallon aux fuel cell I have on hand. Will mount it on a frame that will carry the weight over the rear tire of the Vstrom. With the tank behind me, the rig will be more aerodynamic, i.e. less wind drag and no more cussing at an uncooperative support leg.
Only how to configure it?
In order to keep costs down and not have to carry all that extra weight on the bike's rear subframe, decided to utilize the existing tubular frame (after cutting it smaller) with the existing pivot post on the sidecar chassis. Cut and resize the platform but add a front extension that will be over the passenger seating area. Rather than in the wind across the back of the camper, the smaller fuel cell will be behind me on the bike.
By utilizing the existing pivot post but swinging the platform around from the camper side to the bike side, a second vertical support post/brace will be added diagonally opposite the existing pivot post. This will will place the weight forward and over the rear tire.
The existing top case will move back, ride aft of the fuel cell. Since it carries little weight inside, it should not be an issue. It also means, to balance total weight fore and aft, I can carry more weight in the big white wedge box in front to the camper tub.
The fuel cell will ride directly behind me over the passenger seat. Can fit a back rest to the fuel cell too. Now to find the proper fittings to plumb the cell to the inline shut off valve leading to the main tank.
Why a pivoting and not a fixed shelf? I want the weight of the extra fuel forward, but not carried on the bikes subframe. Also I need to be able to swing the fuel cell out of the way in order to remove the seat to access the fuses underneath. That doesn't happen very often, so the left frame brace will be held in place with a bolt, with a quick disconnect on the fuel line.
When not needed, the entire assembly can be disconnected, lifted off of the pivot post and set aside.
Have added a clevis bracket to support the far side of the fuel cell, allowing the swing out feature and for easy removal. The clevis will be attached to a leg extended down to the passenger's left foot peg mount. A good solid mounting point.
By now you may have noticed the camper tub is not on the rig. Yeah, discovered an issue that necessitated the removal of the tub. The tub is not heavy, just awkward to grip and handle due to the size and smooth slick surface. Employed an engine crane to lift the tub and move it out of the way.
Was very lucky to find this potential disaster here at home in the garage and not out on the far side of nowhere...
Somewhere on the rough roads in Labrador, the sidecar shock mounting post took a beating. A crack developed where the horizontal stud goes through to hold the shock pivot arm. If that had snapped off when out on a long trip... a costly repair.
Ground off the powder coating so the welder can see where to make the repair. Once the rig has all three wheels back on, will ride over to my favorite welder, John Klein, to repair it. He can make a stronger weld if the tub is not in the way.
Decided to remove the tub not only for John to work on the post but also to look for any other cracks that might have developed. Could not find any. Good!
All of this work would not be possible if one did not have the proper tools.
In my case, a battery powered drill, an electric carving knife and red wine.
The drill makes small holes bigger,
the knife eases the shaping of the seat foam
(but don't tell the wife when the turkey tastes funny next Thanksgiving),
and the red wine....
Well, everything goes better with a good Malbec from Argentina.