Mar 30

My beautiful Maggie. How could I neglect her?

With two bikes, I don’t feel the urgency to fix a minor problem on one of them that I would if I only had one. If a bike need repairs, I’ll just ride the other one for awhile until I get around to fixing the problem.
My Magna is leaking at the exhaust ports on the heads. There are crush washers between the exhaust port on the head and pipe that will have to be replaced. This is not a major operation, requiring only four new crush washers, an 8 mm socket and a little time.
Of course the “might-as-well” factor comes into play here. I’ll probably have to remove the gas tank and radiator to get to the front pipes, sooooo, while I’ve got it that far apart, I might as well replace the air filter and front two spark plugs. And while I’m replacing the front plugs, I might as well get the back ones too. It’s about time for an oil change, so might as well do that too. Now this has gone from a $12 operation to a $100-plus operation and will take a little more time.
I won’t do it after work because I have other chores to put off then. So that means a weekend. But man, the weather has been nice the last few weekends, and I do have a rideable bike sitting right there next to Maggie.
As I rolled the Valkyrie into the carport last weekend, it occurred to me that poor little Maggie has been sitting there for almost three weeks without being fired up. Sitting there with gas in the tank and that has no Sta-Bil or Sea Foam in it. Sitting there with carbs that are probably gumming up. OK, leaking exhaust port or not, it’s time for a quick ride.
I pull the cover off of her and am surprised to see that she still has a fine coat of green pollen. I blow it off then jump in the saddle. Checking the odometer, I see 64 miles on the trip gauge. I can usually hit 110 to 120 before going to reserve, so I should be OK for a quick run out to the loop.
She runs rough as I fire her up, hitting on only two cylinders for a while. As she warms up, she backfires a few times before settling down and running on all four. I back her out to the road and am appalled at how sluggish she is off the line. She also starts missing on at least one cylinder as I open the throttle. She spits and jumps for awhile, but I can hear her popping as she blows soot out the pipes. She’s cleaning herself out and running better by the second. Eventually she settles down and starts to show me what I’ve been missing. I’m surprised at the way she throws me back in the seat as I roll on the throttle.
But the exhilaration lasts for less than a mile. I’m climbing up a bridge as she starts to miss badly. I turn her around and head back for the house as she seriously threatens to die on me. I barely get turned around before she does die and we coast back down the bridge. Coming to a stop, I close the choke and try to start her up again. She hits and starts running rough, but threatens to die every time I open the throttle. I can’t get enough RPMs to start her rolling. I badly slip the clutch hoping to get rolling. Every foot I can coax her is a foot I won’t have to push her. But I don’t get far until she dies and refuses to hit again.
I sit there trying to imagine what happened to bring her down after it looked so promising. Probably some gelatinous glob of varnish coming off a fuel line into the carbs blocking a jet. But it seems like at least one carb would feed a cylinder well enough to hit every now and again. It’s like none of the cylinders is getting gas. Then it hits me. I reach down and turn the fuel valve to reserve. She turns over a couple of times, the fires right up.
I’d been pouring gas into her from a can, not filling the tank and resetting the trip odometer as I should have. I’d run out of gas.
She almost throws me off the back as I release the clutch. I can feel her attitude.
“You don’t deserve this,” she tells me as she shows me what she’s capable of. I’m ashamed of myself as she reminds me what an exciting lady she is. I’ve ignored her and taken her for granted.
I’ve ordered the crush washers, plugs and air filter. I’ll get the oil later.

- Guy Wheatley

Mar 21
VL Harley

An old Harley, possibly similar to one of the bikes used by my story teller.

As I pulled up to the pumps, I was scanning each station for the shortest line. I saw an empty car at the end pump and hopefully assumed that the driver had finished and was paying with cash at the window. I was topping off the bike for a day trip and was trying to get in and out of the gas station as quickly as possible.
I watched as an elderly gentleman slowly ambled toward the car from the pay window. He seemed to take forever, but I thought that once he reached his car I’d have the pump. My irritation grew as I realized he was returning to begin fueling his vehicle. I checked the other pumps, but decided my prospects were no better at any of the others. I started to reconsider as I watched the old man try to open the gas cap, then realize he had to return to the driver seat to release the catch. I again checked the other pumps to see if one of them looked promising enough to lure me away.
Motion caught my eye as I looked forward to see the aged driver shuffling toward me, his eyes fixed on the gleaming valve covers of my Valkyrie’s engine.
“What is that,” he asked.
I’ve had this happen before. I figured this old gentleman rode bikes in his day, but would have seen nothing like the 1500cc flat six nestled between my legs.
What is that?” he inquired.
“A Valkyrie,” I answered.
“It’s got 6 cylinders?” he asked as he counted my pipes.
“Yes sir,” I answered. “It’s a 1500 flat-six.”
“Well I used to ride some 45s back in my day,” he told me.
As we continued to chat, I gathered that the bikes he rode were the 45 cubic inch Harleys from the 1940s. As his tank slowly filled he regaled me with some of his adventures from an earlier time. There were races, close calls on dirt and gravel roads where cattle roamed free range and the challenge of machines with hand shifts and foot clutches.
For a short time he was young again, finding two-wheeled adventure with friends long gone. And I was fortunate enough to be with him for those too few short moments.
Before he left to pay for his gas, I invited him to join us at Dougaloo’s on Friday nights for out Bike Night meetings. I have little doubt some of the others there would also enjoy his tales of a previous biking era. But I could see in his eyes he wouldn’t make it. This was a rare moment brought about by an opportune meeting at the gas pumps.
I’m glad now that none of the other pumps was empty. I can’t remember enjoying the wait for a pump more. And all too soon, such opportunities will be gone. I’m fortunate to have experienced this one.

- Guy Wheatley

Mar 14

The KMV4 powered MST from Motus takes to the road.

Motus revealed the MST at Daytona Bike week. Video posted on youtube includes scenes of the bike on the road. The sound coming through my speakers is hardly high fidelity, but I can hear enough to start getting excited by the sound. This is clearly no V-twin. Idling or decelerating, there is a familiar, small engine, motorcycle sound. But when the rider gets on the throttle, things get interesting. The music emanating from the pipes brings back mental images of those great car chase scenes from the ’70s. If there is language in that sound, it’s saying, “Get out of the way!”
The bike itself is quite utilitarian in appearance. It sports a silver gray front faring with matching gas tank nicely integrated with the frame and faring. But the body is exposed revealing an unimaginatively painted gray engine block with black valve covers. An industrial looking truss frame follows a line from the triple tree toward the back axel. Unadorned pipes exit the exhaust manifold and make their way to a round, depressingly effective muffler. And despite the saddle bags attached almost as an afterthought to the rear fender, this is a sport bike. The design looks to me like something that will be popular in Europe and Japan. Wouldn’t it be a kick to have the latest euro-fad be an American bike.
Time will tell whether this machine lives up to it’s potential. I’m hoping for success on Motus’ part. I’d like the next great V-4 to be an American product. I’d like an Ameriucan company to succeed. And I’d like that motor to go into high production so that Motus will start looking for other things to stick it in.
Unlike Motus, I’m more excited about the KMV-4 engine than the bike as a whole. I can’t get myself to believe that somebody isn’t going to chrome that thing out, with cherry red valve covers, then stick it in a retro-style heavy cruiser with four into four pipes. Lose the chain and give it a drive shaft. Call it a new class of motorcycle, a muscle bike or muscle cruiser. Give it a name reminiscent of the muscle cars of the ’70s, like the Daytona SS.
Just picture yourself cruising America on your cherry red Daytona SS. And when you need to put a little more asphalt in your rearview mirror, you’ll do it with a distinctly American sound. Those pipes will be singing, “Born in the USA” while you enjoy “America the Beautiful.”
I can’t wait.

- Guy Wheatley


The KMV4 powered MST from Motus.

Mar 8
The man in black
icon1 Guy | icon2 Small Talk | icon4 03 8th, 2011| icon33 Comments »
Leather riding gear

Geared up for an early spring ride to the Magnolia Festival

When I first started riding, I ran out and bought a lot of black leather. A leather riding jacket, black leather vest, and black chaps. That’s what motorcycle riders were wearing, right? Certainly a lot of them were.
As I look back now though, I think most of the people in biker costumes were almost as new to riding as I. If fact, the two guys in our group who had actually been riding for decades rarely wore any of the biker clothes. They mostly wore jeans, a shirt and whatever weight of jacket the weather called for.
As I now look through my closet full of black leathers, I find myself less and less enamored with the color. It’s too hot in the summer. It’s too hard to see and doesn’t offer the extra visibility a motorcyclist really needs. Then, there’s the image. A black leather-clad biker roaring up on his hog presents a certain image, right? Maybe, maybe not.
This is really a two-part question. The first question is, “What image are we trying to give with our black leather garb?”If it’s some “bad hombre” vibe with a vague suggestion that we may have connection to certain outlaw gangs, then we’re actually missing the mark. Those guys don’t really dress like that. They probably laugh at those of us who do. I’ve decided that that’s not the image I want to try to present.
The second part of the question is, “Is that really the image we want to present?” For me at least, the answer is no. So, it’s time to pick another look.
As I start looking for an alternative to black leather, I discover that any other color is both hard to find and more expensive.The black stuff is so popular there is always somebody seriously overstocked, or going out of business and you can pick up some real quality garments for very little. Not so with other colors.
I’ll just have to wait over the next couple of years to see what I wind up with..

- Guy Wheatley

Mar 1

I rode to work one day last week in between the rain storms. Somebody commented to me that it was a good day to ride. At that time gasoline was pushing $3.00 per gallon and frankly, that had more to do with my decision to ride the bike than the weather.
“If gas keeps going up,” I said, “There are going to be a lot of good days to ride.”
Last year my decision to ride had more to do with the weather, or whether or not I needed to carry something large to work. Now, as gas prices climb toward $4, I find myself in the saddle on days I might have been in the pickup in the past.
Generally I’m pleased anytime motorcycling gets a boost. More people riding means more clout for this demographic, and better treatment from those needing our support —whether politicians or merchants. But this particular force may be driving more problems to the two-wheeled crowd than benefits.
People who buy a motorcycle to save money are less likely to dedicate sufficient resources to safety. Getting an MC license will cost at least $250 by the time you take the MSF course. And those frugal-minded bikers are more likely to skimp on good riding gear. Good gear is expensive. You can get the cheap stuff, but all too often with safety gear, you get what you pay for.
The true enthusiast begins riding in a less stressful environment than the daily commuter. And weekend rides are more often taken with other, more experienced riders who can set good examples and offer advice. Somebody lacking riding experience hopping on a bike and fighting rush hour traffic with the coming work day on their mind is a recipe for disaster.
I won’t advise against getting a bike for the gas mileage, but I will remind those planning such a move that the safety issues don’t change just because you don’t think of yourself as a biker.

- Guy Wheatley