Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Works Engineering Hosts Vintage Motorcycle Show

Works Engineering on North 14th St between Berry and Wythe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, hosts a show every year. The beer was sponsored by Asahi, and there were burgers, and dozens of vintage bikes. And Flo qualified as a vintage bike! (1983 Suzuki GS550E.) She got some love.

Here are some pics of the event.

An old Honda CB500 Four with cafe-style bars.

This is Jen, who makes Retro Moto t-shirts, getting camera time on her cafed-out CB. I bought one of her shirts as a souvenir.

The street before the rain. (Yes, it rained.)

Thruxton! One day I'll ride one of these...

Rev'It was at the show offering gear at discount prices. I tried on a jacket that fit me perfectly. But I try not to buy anything over $100 without taking a few days to think about it. They have a place in Red Hook in Brooklyn where they have warehouse sales. I'm so there.

And it rained.

And rained.

And we got wet.

Hot rod weekend

This past weekend (August 21, 2010) was an annual hot rod event in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Hundreds of hot rod and bike owners came out to display their projects. Here are some photos:

A bunch of photos of cars and bikes

Harley for sale.

An old BMW.

This guy with the helmet makes custom leather seats. Tres cool. I think he builds custom bikes, too. I'm not sure 'cause, well, he was on his way out and I didn't get to talk to him much.

One of his work. (To the helmet-wearing guy: Hey, I couldn't find your site.)

Check out the air filter. Cymbals.

I like the stick head.

Indian original!

This little thing is a "Vespa 400"

Two custom bicycles
After getting back from the hot rod show, we saw these two bikes built by Local Cycles in Long Beach, New York (on Long Island). They parked, then biked 3 miles to the show.

Parking at the hot rod show
This pic looks like it might be at the vintage bike show. But it was just a bunch of bikes parked outside the hot rod show. Motorcycle parking only!

The next day, we went to the vintage motorcycle show. More pics to come!

Meet Flo

In order to ride Molly again, I would have to remove her engine to get the stator coils. Since there isn't much time to work on her (since I'm not yet independently wealthy to do whatever I want) before our trip in the Northeast this Labor Day weekend, Jason and I acquired Flo, a 1983 Suzuki GS550e.
Flo, my 1983 Suzuki GS550E

The first time I saw this Suzuki, I didn't know what to think. I was still sad that Molly broke down and needed so much work. But once I got on this bike, she got her name. Flo is quick, responsive, and fun to ride. Much more fun than the CL360 or the CX550. Flo's model is GS550, but her displacement is really 572ccs. She's got 4 cylinders. She's the first 4-cylinder i've ever ridden. And she's about 70 pounds lighter than Molly. That's a big difference for me at 125 pounds. I might be able to lift her if she falls.

The first weekend I rode her, it rained. Her tires are relatively new, so I didn't worry.

She needs some work-- cleaning of her idle jet and carburetors (there are two), an oil change. Maybe replacement of covers for the ignition points and petcock. But that's about it. I haven't looked forward to riding as much as when we first got Georgia (the CL360).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Classic bikes need mechanic owners

This weekend, Jason and I went to Buck's County, Pennsylvania. River Road runs alongside the Delaware River, and we wanted to ride the stretch from Riegelsville to Milford, NJ.

We had to put Molly's front fender back on, since it was supposed to rain on the way back home. So, unfortunately, we left later than we wanted. (We were also out late the night before, and had a bit too much to drink.) By the time we got to the Holland Tunnel in Manhattan to head out onto Route 78, traffic was backed up for at least a half hour. Though it wasn't too hot outside, sitting still in traffic caused our engines to heat up quite a bit. Molly's temp gauge was almost in the red.

We didn't get to Riegelsville without further problems. In Bloomsbury, NJ, there's a Pilot Travel Center (my favorite gasoline stop). Jason likes to stop there, because it's a good place to rest after an hour on the highway. We picked up some sundries and geared up to ride a country road to Riegelsville, but then Molly wouldn't start. The battery was dead. Thinking about how the battery could have died while on the highway, I thought about possible symptoms. The engine was losing power then surging at high speeds. Before that we were sitting in stopped traffic while waiting to get through the Holland Tunnel. We had also tried to use carb cleaner, since the right side was backfiring when slowing down. I was sure it was because the right carburetor needed some degunking. I thought maybe the surging was a result of gunk getting stuck in the jet.

Maybe the carb cleaner was a bad idea. But that wouldn't be a reason why the battery would die so fast. Maybe a diode had burned out in the rectifier. In addition to a possible bad rectifier/charging system, we already knew one of the stator coils is bad. I hate being on the road with an old bike without the proper tools to troubleshoot problems.

At the Pilot, I said to Jason, "We need to push start her."

Just then, an angel at a gas pump yelled out, "You need a push start?"

At first, I didn't know what to think. I must have had a confused look on my face, because then he walked over with a smile and said, "You need to push start your bike? I had a CX500. They're great bikes." I think he was a local. His Jersey license plate said "Veteran," and he had a calm and stalwart demeanor. And he was a big guy. Well, bigger than Jason.

I put the clutch in 2nd, turned on the ignition, and in one run at about five mph with our veteran hero at the stern, I popped the clutch and pulled the throttle, and Molly started right up.

I didn't get his name. Wherever you are, Sir, thank you. People like you make me proud to be American. He was truly an angel that day.

We got to Riegelsville where we met up with family, and I put the battery on a trickle charger (which we take with us, because of the bad stator coil). The next morning, we packed up and headed down River Road. Gorgeous. And fun. It was much more fun to ride than Bear Mountain, because the route was much longer.

After some more family meetups, we decided to try to beat the rain. Well, we rode right into it. With the faulty firing, riding in the rain was not exciting. It was cold, we were wet, and Molly's power was getting worse. We were going so fast, though, I couldn't really listen to the engine with all the wind noise. I could only feel her lose power at high RPMs.

Several exits passed by, and each time one came up, I thought about getting off and drying off. But I really just wanted to get home. So we kept going.

Halfway there, the rain stopped. But Molly's ignition was even worse.

Then we reached the Holland Tunnel back toward the city. What a relief. For a minute.

At a traffic light just before reaching the toll booth, Molly stalled and wouldn't start. The battery was dead again. Jason and I pulled over to a side street and tried to push start her again, but she wouldn't take. We tried several times until Jason was too wiped out to push more. Fortunately, there was a shopping mall close by, so we took her battery and the trickle charger with us to charge while we got some food and a little rest.

With enough juice, we tried starting Molly again. The starter turned, but the cylinders would not ignite. Then we pulled out the spark plugs. The right side was covered in oil, and fuel had splashed up the sides of the plug. I didn't have a multimeter on me to check the connections and I forgot about touching the plugs to the cylinder to check for spark.

After replacing the right plug with a new one, we tried again. Nothing. I started thinking again about the symptoms. Obviously the battery wasn't charging. It could have been the rectifier. But then the ignition wasn't functioning either. The stator? Oh no.

Since it was getting late, we decided to leave Molly and head home through the tunnel. The parking lot to the Holland Motor Lodge was right there, and the manager was kind enough to let me park her overnight. In fact, he was so kind that later I looked up the hotel online and saw that it received an average of 4 out of 5 stars from hundreds of reviewers. So, side note, great place to stay. It's AAA and it's walking distance to public transportation, like the Manhattan Ferry and the New Jersey PATH train. And it has a parking lot, so you don't have to pay exorbitant Manhattan parking fees to enjoy the city. (Though, it is pretty easy to park a motorcycle in the city.)

The next day I went back to Molly with a fully charged battery, a multi-meter, a wire, electrical tape, penetrating cleaner, a bunch of tools, and a phone number for a motorcycle tow. I didn't have to look much to find that the phone number was the most important thing to have this time. I noticed that the right spark plug wire was loose. I pulled off the electrical tape that was on it to find out exactly why it was loose. Well, it wasn't just loose; it was broken. The plug wasn't getting any spark.

When we bought the bike, the seller mentioned that the carburetors needed cleaning, so we attributed the backfiring to dirty carbs. I never thought that it was the wires. It turns out the ignition system had two faulty connections between the CDI and the right spark plug. And when I checked the spark plug connector, there was no continuity at all.

Now, I did bring a wire along with the tools, so I theoretically could have done something McGyver to get the ignition to work. But unfortunately, that wasn't the only problem. I checked the stator coils. Another bad one. The engine was so hot that it melted the resin in the alternator. I had ridden Molly all weekend with one functioning stator coil. The ignition system drained the battery. I wasn't ready to ride with ghetto wiring and a failing alternator. The wire might have melted (shorted) and gotten me stuck inside the tunnel. Instead, I elected to call Tony of TLT Towing to get me home.

He came, and in one swift move, got the bike on his truck and drove us home.

Next step, fix the stator.