Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shop Notes -- Skid Plate Installed

As I documented in my last post I like to ride the Scrambler off the beaten path.  Because of this I felt that adding a skid plate to my bike would be a good move to protect the leading edge of the crankcase and lower frame rails from road debris and stones picked up by the block tread of the front tire.  A secondary benefit is gaining a few more style points.  The skid plate just belongs on a bike of this type.  
Exposed front end before the installation

Skid plate installed - ready for action.

The plate does have six vent holes in front to allow cooling air flow so some crud will find it's way through.  Still better than no protection I found after the first hundred miles of mixed surface riding.

Mounting the Triumph accessory was a simple affair well within my limited wrenching abilities.  A mounting bracket bolts to the front frame brace onto which the skid plate attaches with four machine screws.  Before I started I reviewed the well written and illustrated installation instructions provided in pdf form by Triumph and kept the laptop on the workbench in case I needed to refer back to the guide.

A small challenge was centering the mounting bracket between the frame rails.  The bolt holes on the bracket are slots allowing for a bit of lateral adjustment.  The screw holes on the plate itself are round holes and do not allow any play.  Once the skid plate is mounted the bolts on the bracket are inaccessible.  If the plate is not centered the upper screws have to be removed and the lower screws backed out enough to allow the top edge of the plate to drop down clearing the two bracket bolts for wrench access. After about five tries I had the skid plate perfectly aligned with the two frame rails.  (I've long suspected I have a mild case of OCD)  

The same four screws can be later removed dropping the plate allowing access to the oil filter (black cylindrical object just aft of the plate). Some guy on the Internet did a "mod" on his plate by grinding away the material in the shape of a crescent allowing the oil filter canister to drop free without removing the skid plate. To me it's not a big deal to pull four screws. Besides I will occasionally want to clean and inspect the underside of the engine and frame rails so I see no reason to modify the part.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Ride -- Indians and Insulators

Today I had an appointment for the first service on my motorbike.  The Triumph factory ships the Scrambler with a light weight semi-synthetic engine oil specifically formulated for the break in period.  After one month or 500 miles the oil filter is changed and a pure synthetic lubricant is added.

Another interesting feature of the modern Triumph motorcycle is a computer brain.  Computer diagnostics is reason enough to work with my service department.  With my bike plugged into a computer any fault or abnormality can be easily spotted.  These are amazing times we live in today.  I understand that back in the day it took a skilled tuner to keep a machine running at it's best. I appreciate the past and the skill of well trained and experienced engine mechanics but I'm also all for utilizing modern technology to make things easier.  I've heard more than one tech say "I wish the other manufacturers would get on board and offer similar diagnostic programs".

I took a gamble with the weather but lady luck was on my side.  I was on the road by 9:00am enjoying a calm and beautiful albeit crisp morning with temperatures in the 40's.  The rising sun at my back warmed my black motorcycle jacket providing comfort despite the wind chill. 

When I discovered this telegraph line along a CSX railroad track in Wyandot County I had to stop and take some pictures.  This is a stretch of lines several miles north from the site of another series of photographs I took last year.  Some of the insulators on this line looked familiar but I did notice some green beehives so what a treat to stumble blindly upon some historic antique glass insulators while not engaged in an actual "insulator hunt".

After the service the tech recommended a local sports bar where I did enjoy a perfectly grilled cheeseburger and fries. By this time the temperature had risen to a comfortable 55 degrees and I happily took the long way home logging a total of 106.2 miles for the day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shop Notes

The weather lately has been hit and miss and with the short days what little time I have spent with my bikes has been out in the garage catching up on some basic maintenance.  After 300 miles the Triumph Scrambler had finally accumulated a layer of road dust on the wheels and was ready for it's first chain lube.  

The cleaning and detailing of my two-wheelers is for me almost as enjoyable as riding them.  Getting up close and personal with the shiny bits on my machine not only enhances the pride of ownership aspect but can clue me in on patterns of wear or signs of impending component failure.  Obviously there is no wear to be found on a new bike but that won't stop me from sitting on an upturned bucket carefully inspecting every inch of my machine.  Checking fasteners, looking for leaks and basically studying the layout and engineering of the different systems.

Motorcycles and bicycles really have more in common than not.  The only real difference is how they are powered.  The first motorcycles were simply bicycles with a small motor bolted on.  As the engines got bigger so in turn did the frame and other chassis components to better handle the stresses of torque and vibrations of the gasoline engine.  Things have come a long way in nearly 120 years but some have not changed a bit.  Just like the rigs in the Wright Brothers shop my bikes have two wheels, a couple sprockets and a drive chain.

With my bicycles chain maintenance is a breeze.  I use a wax based lube that goes on wet but quickly dries.  This keeps the chain fairly clean because the wax flakes off as I ride taking the dirt with it.  Usually I will backpedal the cranks and apply the lube before each ride.  A process that takes all of about ten seconds.

The job is basically the same on the motorbike but it is a bit more labor intensive.  Due to the weight of the bike and absence of pedals one can't just pick up the back wheel and give it a spin to gain access to all of the drive chain.  Years ago when I first got into motorcycles I would scoot the bike forward a couple feet in the parking lot to expose a length of chain and apply lube.  Then repeat this about six times until I made it all the way around the chain.  By the early 1990's a center stand on a motorbike was no longer standard equipment but something that had to be purchased extra.  None of my bikes have ever had center stands so I've never had the luxury.  The Scrambler does have mounting points for a stand but I worry I wouldn't have the strength to rock the heavy bike back into the stand.  Besides I hesitate at the idea of bolting a big chunk of steel to the frame.  A mindset carried over from many years of pedaling a bike under my own power I'm sure.      

These days I use a hydraulic motorcycle lift to raise the wheels off the ground.  With the transmission in neutral and again perched on my bucket I can spin the rear wheel with two fingers and work that chain till it sparkles!  The lift is also indispensable for cleaning chrome rims and spokes.  None of that polish what you can reach, scoot forward and repeat business.  Spokes are a pain to take care of but they are old school cool and I wouldn't want it any other way.

On the motorcycle I use an aerosol based lube and cleaner for the chain.  These products are unlike the White Lightning that can be cleanly dripped onto the bicycle chain.  The spray can blasts it's contents everywhere.  To protect the rubber and wheel from over spray I cut a piece of plastic to fit up tight behind the sprocket and exposed length of chain completely shielding the wheel.  The material is inexpensive corrugated plastic from a sign shop.  I made a second piece so I have one shield for the cleaner and one for lube.  After I'm done I weight down the plastic pieces on the wood pile and put them away later after the distillates have evaporated.  A much better solution than a pile of oil soaked cardboard.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Insulator Post -- CD 145 California

Now that most of the CD styles made by the California Glass Insulator Company are represented in my collection I base my searches on color.  This California Beehive looks a bit yellow being influenced by an early November sunset.  It's true color is nearly clear with just a trace of lilac tint.  I saw this insulator on eBay and was lucky enough to win the piece.  Joining the purple and sage green CD 145's in my collection this clear example will contrast nicely.

Although the clear color is what guided my decision to go after this particular insulator I did discover an interesting feature once I received the package in the mail.  The color was represented well in the seller's photographs but what was not visible until I had the piece in my hands was thin fine lines flowing smoothly all around the surface of the glass.  These lines appear like curving contour marks on a topographic map.  The insulator also has a dull hazy appearance as if it had been buried for some time.  Initially I thought this might be a good candidate for tumbling and polishing but now I realize the strange surface anomaly adds a unique and distinctive character to the insulator.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Photos by LeeAnn

My wife talked me into being her subject for a photo shoot.  Nice job LeeAnn.  She uses a Canon with various lenses.  I may be  a bit biased to the subject material but I think she does a great job with a camera.  The site is an abandoned drive-in theater slowly turning back into farmland.  All that remains is a couple screens and the crumbling projection building. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Weather Event

A single line of severe weather passed through and dropped some hail stones on North Central Ohio Monday 7:00 pm local time.  The high temperature today was nearly 70 degrees F.  Strong winds blew all day and by early evening the skies darkened ominously.  Just after nightfall after returning home from grocery shopping I was caught out in a deluge with thunder and lightning and sideways rain.  I waited out the hailstorm safe in my car parked in the driveway.  Thinking quick after the storm passed I got the camera.  The large pieces are about 1/2" in diameter.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Indian Mill -- Wyandot County

On my bicycles I can easily traverse out to about a 25 mile radius from my home in any direction under my own power.  For the time spent in the saddle I can double or even triple this radius by riding the motorcycle.  This place called the Indian Mill along the Sandusky River in Wyandot County I pass on my way to the Triumph Dealer in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.  The Indian Mill built in 1820 is a picturesque piece of early Ohio history tucked away off the beaten path that I may never have stumbled upon had it not been for my motorcycle.

I live in a unique geographical location in Ohio at the point where some rivers flow north towards Lake Erie and others flow south eventually to the Ohio River and on to the Mississippi.  The Sandusky is one such river that twists it's way northward.  The flow of the water over the low head dam and the shadows cast by the mill and bridge show the orientation of the November midday sun to my left (South) as I shot the photograph.  

Another great weekend in November with the temperature rising into the fifties is just right for any type of cycling.  On a bicycle the effort of pedaling keeps one plenty warm on a 50 degree day.  A motorcycle jacket and pants along with a full face helmet and gloves wards off the chill nicely on a powered cycle.  I've been taking advantage of these last few days until the freezing temperatures brings out the road crews with their salt and brine solutions. 

The mill is now a museum operated by the Ohio Historical Society.  Not yet opened for the day when I came through,  I will make it a point to come back to this point of interest and investigate further.

My favorite use for a motorcycle besides practical transportation is as a time machine of sorts.  My new Triumph Scrambler fills this role perfectly.  From highway to farmer's tractor path the Scrambler has already proven itself a worthy adventure platform.  Reading books and the Internet are great ways to learn of history and the world at large but nothing beats getting out on two wheels and exploring the back country firsthand.  Physical links to our past are plentiful if one takes the time to seek them out.  Examples of early American architecture and infrastructure are by nature rural and to find them it's just a quick trip past the urban sprawl and out into the countryside.  

A plaque by this display reads:


Used by the Wyandots before the Indian Mill was built in 1820.  Top stone was turned by means of a wooden bar, and 10 to 12 bu. of  raw grain per day could be ground.

Wyandot County Historical Society

Sandusky River, Wyandot County, Ohio

Insulator Post -- CD160 -- Baby Signal

This post brings to end my ad hoc insulator week showcasing my recent purchases from the Mid Ohio Insulator Show.  I hope they look as good on the cyberspace windowsill as they do here in my home. 


This baby signal has an even gray color I like with just a hint of plum up in the dome glass.  Like another baby signal in my collection this one has an underpour at the base caused by an insufficient amount of glass placed into the mold before pressing.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Insulator Post -- CD 161 -- Signal

The Signal insulators were the workhorses of the telegraph line.  Dits and dahs of railroad business, news and even personal telegrams streamed along copper wire attached to this sage green beauty.

Some collectors like insulators with what we call "Junk in Glass".  At the top of the skirt just below the wire groove two small pieces of fire brick from the furnace are forever suspended inside the glass.  This is a fairly common occurrence in older insulators that adds a bit of charm and character.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Insulator Post -- CD 121 -- California Toll

Here is an attractive purple insulator that just filled a blank CD spot in my collection.  Tolls were a standard design made by many glass houses for use on telephone toll circuits. 



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Insulator Post -- CD 260 -- Roman Helmet

This power insulator with the great nickname: "Roman Helmet" is one of my latest finds from the Springfield show this year.  The insulator fills a void in my California collection being one of the few CD numbers not yet represented in my group.  The sage green color that I captured nicely in full sun is the most common out of the handful of colors in which these insulators can be found.  

My specimen is not perfect with a couple small flakes at the top of the ears.  This is common damage found on these types of insulators whose ears stick out susceptible to dings from drops or rough handling.  Although a common color this insulator is a relatively rare CD number made by the California Glass Insulator Company and now becomes the most valuable piece in my modest collection.  While not perfect I am glad to have it proudly displayed with my other Californias.

I endured some mental anguish as tried to decide whether to splurge on this piece or purchase a few lesser priced California insulators that turned up on dealer shelves this year.  In the end I made my decision on the Roman Helmet because I have been wanting one for a while and I love the sage green color.

The California CD 260 was put into service on electrical distribution lines from San Diego to as far north as Oregon and Washington State.  The dealer that sold me this insulator told me that it has never been in a collection before.  He purchased it from the son of a lineman who removed it from it's original line.  He didn't know exactly the location of the line but it was somewhere in the Golden State.  A vague history at best but still interesting and a perfect example of how most antique insulators find their way into the hands of collectors.

Snooping around the Internet I found a picture of California CD 260's still in service.  The helmets were discovered during a restoration of a historic site near Huntington Beach, California.  The picture shows the insulator installed in an inverted fashion that was probably common inside of mills and other industrial buildings requiring high voltage service.