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.


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