Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Interesting week with the bike.  Last Thursday morning I was getting ready to ride into work, I go to start the bike like I normally do… half choke, neutral, hit the starter… doesn’t start.  Try again, it sputters to life but is running a little rough.  I go to give it more choke and it stalls out.  Alllrighty then!  So I go to start it again, nothing… cranks and cranks, but won’t fire.  Worse ye, I feel the engine jerking a bit like when the timing jumped a tooth about a year ago.  Eventually I run the battery down to the point that it won’t turn over.

I pack my gear in shame into the PT and head to work… get home vowing to get the bike started.  So I hook my portable jump starter up, cranks once and the battery on the portable dies.  Wheel over the PT and hook it up to the bike (generally frowned upon but F it, I wanted to start the bike).  Same thing.  Ok, it has carburetors, maybe I flooded them?  I switch off the fuel supply, turn the bike over a bit to clear the excess fuel out, and try again.

This time I switch it to full choke, hit the starter, and it sputters to life.  Only now I’m hearing a very loud clanking noise from the crankcase.  It took every ounce of energy NOT to let out a violent stream of expletives at this point.  Ok, something is either broken or stuck.  I kill the motor, and remove one of the plug wires (repeating this step on both cylinder to troubleshoot) – same thing.  I call up the mechanic – he’s not there, so I dig into my ‘things I learned from my master mechanic cousin’ and look for some transmission fluid.  All I could find was a new bottle of Prestone power steering fluid.  Same thing pretty much.

Now the oil level was good, but the oil was pretty much black.  I change it every 3k, but not at the start of the season (which I shall do from now on).  It still had a good 1000-1500 miles to go before its next change was due.  I poured in 1/3rd of the bottle and fired the bike up.  The clanking was back but as the new fluid worked its way through the engine, the noise quieted down until the bike appeared to be running normal.

The next day, I drove up to CycleMotion in Middletown to pick up some oil and a filter.  I went with a synthetic blend, in total it cost $50 for everything.  I also grabbed myself a new jacket as my Joe Rocket jacket was falling apart, none of the zippers worked right anymore, and I had burned a hole through the sleeve on the exhaust last summer.  I opted for a Coretech jacket (phenomenal jacket BTW, plenty of pockets, removable liner, as well as flaps for allowing airflow into the jacket while riding).  Lastly, I stopped over at Get In Gear for a can of Seafoam to put into the gas tank.

I’d never done an oil change on the bike before (paid CM $80 to do it last time, and they screwed up by putting in ordinary dino juice instead of the synthetic blend I requested), but it was pretty straight forward.  I just rode the bike up onto a rock so I had enough height to slide the catch pan underneath.  Sure enough, the oil that came out was black as tar.  I put on the new filter, added the new oil, as well as the Seafoam to the gas tank, then let the bike idle for 5 minutes, let it sit again for 5 minutes, then let it idle some more.  It was running like new.  I took it out for a road test, the bike was absolutely alive again.  Considering the state of the oil, I’m almost inclined to think that they never even changed it last time, but I’ll be closely monitoring it over the course of the season to see if it gets dirty so quick again.

I put a good 250 miles on it over the weekend, plenty of power, smooth operation, no quirks whatsoever.  THANK GOD!!! 🙂

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