Thursday, December 20, 2012

From Brimming Optimism to Crushing Defeat and Back Again: A Hanger's Tale

For a good month I was positively effervescent  that I had found a source for Nylon.  Last week I was told that this new source (A sleeping bag manufacturer) was unable to provide nylon that was not in sleeping bag form, and so I sailed into the doldrums and watched as the sails deflated.  So I began searching online anew. And in confirmation of my earlier searches unless I tried to battle through phone conversations that lacked any real sense of continuity or mutual understanding I was again without any hope of finding the treasure that I sought.

Up until last night I was out of ideas besides wandering through the old city hoping to stumble upon the rare and exotic fabric called Nylon.  Unfortunately wandering through the press of humanity called the old city is pretty close to my fear of heights, which is unfortunately a quite powerful demotivater.  The eve last, however, my fortune turned and I met a interior design teacher at a local design school who happens to know fashion design teachers at said school.  Oodalalie!  So hopefully one of these mascots of the fashion world will be able to appease my requirement for rip-stop nylon and the plethora of camping equipment that its abundance will produce.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A new mania

I always enjoyed watching wind and the willows.  I loved Mr. Toad and his many manias.  Little did I know as a young child that I would be somewhat obsessive.  Whenever I had a "hobby" it was life consuming.  When I was into miniatures and cards I ate and slept Warhammer, Lord of the Rings, and the American Civil War.  When I learned I could make pipes all I could talk about was briar grain, tobacco, stem making techniques, and the great carvers.  This of course was interspersed with waves of miniature painting and trying to convince my wife that playing Mordheim was fun.  Then came the motorcycles.  Oh and I forgot to mention the pen making, brush shaving, and being a rockstar.

With no workshop here and even less people to play miniatures with than I had in Ohio (which was 1) I have now turned to a new mania.  In the summer of 2002 I went backpacking in the Jenny Lakes wilderness.  I had been on a few trips before as well and I loved it every-time.  This time I had a herd of ping pong ball like mice running over my chest while I slept under the stars.  Rodents using my body as part of an obstacle course made me uncomfortable but camping, especially backpacking, makes me feel alive.  Being in the woods with some friends, climbing to the top of Mt.  What's its name, it makes me feel alive.  But did I have to hurt on the ground and kill myself in the hike to enjoy it?  I started thinking about hammocks over tents in those days and even brainstormed about bug and rain protection but never took active steps towards my goal.  Then in 2011 I went backpacking in raccoon creek st park in PA and killed myself with a super heavy backpack.  I was also starting to feel my age and did not sleep nearly as well as I did when I was a youngster.   I started to look into lightweight and ultralight backpacking which brought me into contact with Hammock Forums.  Here I found a bunch of crazies who, like me, thought hanging from a tree would be the better way to camp.  And several did it with packs 1/3 or even less than I was used to carrying.  With my body falling more and more out of shape and my knees hurting even more this was sounding like an interesting solution.

So in the midst of working almost continually I have been dreaming of sleeping in a hammock.  I have been looking to find rip-stop nylon (to build my own hammock) and today I finally touched bases with a supplier, so I'm stoked.  I want to hang as a family and I have already designed (in my mind) some sweet kids hammocks.  Once the I get some nylon hopefully we will be cooking with gas.

I ordered a hammock from Olive Planet (as this was the only one I could find that was anywhere near long enough for me).  So I have a hammock on the way.

I swung by Adventure on the rocks and picked up 2 Petzl Spirit carabiners.  Can't say enough nice things about this guy.  He also has pointed me in the direction to get materials for making my own hammocks and quilts.  This is the beginning of my suspension system.  For my personal hammock (to be procured before the  pending Goa vacation) I'm still in need of a few things:

1) Polyester webbing straps (tree huggers) this is to protect the trees from getting hurt from the hammocking process.
2) Dyneema rope.  I am trying to contact boat companies in Mumbai to get it.  Amsteel Blue is the big American brand but is pure unobtainium here in India.  Marlow is available and I'm going to try and get 3mm Excel D12.  This stuff only weighs practically nothing and can support 993 kg.  I don't even weigh that much.  I am going to make woopie slings and soft shackles with it.  That's right.  Woopie slings...and soft shackles.
3) Bug netting (I won't need this at the beach but it will be needed before I will actually treck with this setup.
4) Tarp.  I thought this would be the trickiest but found a material for sale here called Silpaulin.  Not only does the webpage have a picture of a buff Indian guy trying to rip it but I think (according to its waterproofiness and weight) to basically be silnylon.  So if I go for the lightest stuff I'll be rocking the cash box.

To get my family set up I'll need more of the same and the nylon which I have finally sourced.

Oh, and I'm not writing about my bike because I am too terrified of Indian bureaucracy to get my license and
registration taken care of.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Paging Dr. Wasteland

Paging Dr. Wasteland: One man's crusade to heal DayZ's zombie victims

How an offline actor became an online folk hero to a post-apocalyptic world.

Monday, July 16, 2012

This planet is getting smaller.

Shot from the ISS in Low Earth Orbit.  Fascinating video of the night side of our planet.  The auroras dance and play along the thin line of our atmosphere that is all that stands between us and the hostile universe outside.  Meanwhile, lightning filled storm clouds roll over darkened continents and clear skies reveal the light of civilization spread across the land.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Glint

I was pretty damn excited.  The light-bulb had gone on.  Inspiration had granted me her illustrious bounty. I’d just realized the elusive, elegant solution to the single problem keeping me from executing the perfect scam. 
I was ecstatic. 
This was going to be a blast and a half.  You see, I’ve always been supremely intrigued by the idea of convincing hundreds of otherwise intelligent people in fine public standing, and with loads of cash at their disposal to simply hand me it, smiling, knowing that their oodles and oodles of dough was well-spent.  That they were going to make a hefty profit.  That I was a good man.  Ha.  That was the best part.  They truly - with every pint of their blood and over every square inch of their skin – believed me to be a genuinely well-meaning human being.  What a rush.  That final handshake.  That last smile.  The glint in our eyes.  Theirs one of elation - and them believing mine to be of similar kin.  Goosebumps just thinking about it.  With that handshake I know I they’re mine.  “It’s been an absolute pleasure doing business with you, Scooter.”  “Oh, you too Mr. Stevens! Tomorrow you’ll truly be a rich man.”  Reach hand forward.  Look them straight in the eye.  Flash the grin.  Handclasp.  Three firm shakes.  Break.  “AdiĆ³s!”.  Give one last humble, kind smile. 
About face.
Walk with a bounce in my step, and the toothy snarl spreading from cheek to cheek. I head toward the nearest side road.  I have to get out of sight.  I once started the maniacal laughter before I got out of sight.  Bad decision.  Apparently the cackle’s a quick game-changer.  People find it to be odd, disturbing.  Strange.
I always allow myself the cackle… To be truthful I don’t really have much of a choice in the matter.  That’s why I make a break for it right after the handshake.  That’s what triggers the cackle ultimately.
It didn’t used to be like that though.  There was a time when I could keep it together.  I could keep cool through the whole gig, calm as a koala.  Then I stopped getting the rush, the thrill.  I needed costumes – bald caps, wigs, fake noses.  Weird stuff, I know.  Elaborate backstories.
And then I had to find out everything, I mean EVERYTHING about my target.  Well then the shakes started.
I went to see a psychiatrist who told me I should lay off the soft drinks. Yeah, the constant lying to everyone and unceasing pretending of alternate personas had nothing to do with it.  Definitiely just the soft drinks. 
Well all right.  So I cut them out, and it worked for a while.  Then I just had to stop doing the same ol’ same ol’ for every single con.  By upping the ante with each new job I got that rush I wanted.  Who needs drugs or sex when you’ve got the thrill of your life over and over with every new week that came.  But then I started wanting longer cons.  Better.  More elaborate.  Less tried.  Riskier.  Larger Hauls.  And that, my friend, is just about the time I conceived of the doozy of all cons - “The Oracle”.
Oh, it was love at first sight!  She was sleek, sexy - a real money maker.  All I needed was a veritable trove of targets who had gobs of cash, severe gambling problems, with a slight supernatural streak, and in far-flung corners of the globe. 
And I was pretty damn excited.  The light-bulb had gone on.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

[Insert SPHERE reference here]

This is dedication.  Not only does this guy take a somewhat regular hobby and maximize it.  Not only does he sell a farm in pursuit of this passion.  But he also creates a giant machine and calls it "The Scorpion".

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Catfish Prints

Ran Across a very interesting blog post about Fish prints in Japan.  Showing the relationship between the Japanese and Earthquakes.  Plus I love Japanese art so enjoy:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cumin Soda

That's right, Cumin Soda.  It's good for the digestion.  It is refreshing and cool in the heat. Side effect may be the temptation to cut out your tongue.  Think I'm going to try to make my own Ginger Ale.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I'm sure I'm not the only one who connects with this video.

The Age old Story of a Girl and her scooter

So I have a tendency to obsess.  I, like Mr. Toad of Wind in the Willows fame, become bent on certain manias.  He and I would probably get on quite well. I have been quite caught up with my search for a motorcycle here and although I am very exited about my new bike, I am a little sad that it will, hopefully, run reliably and not need much work.

I was happy with this compromise, as happy as anyone is with a compromise, when I sent my darling wife to the store with my adorable daughter to pick up some ice cream for a few guests who were coming over for the evening.  When they came home I was regaled with the story of how a neighbor was also frequenting the selfsame establishment and offered my dear girls a lift on her self propelled motor scooter.  Now my wife has always been a Mod and not a Rocker so it was no surprise to me that she enjoyed the experience.  What surprised me was how much she enjoyed it.  Particularly the smoothness of the CV transmission.  So, canny fellow that I am, see a splendid opportunity here.  I can have a motorcycle like I always dreamed of, and I can also have a wrenching project that with the proper application of spanners and know how will produce for my wife a scooter for her grocery trips and short jogs in the neighborhood.  Not only will I get to dirty my hands and possibly do some Rusty Sprocket customization but my wife and I will both have wheels, as long as it is not the monsoon season.  Hopefully you will see in coming posts the journey that an unknowingly fortunate scooter will take from scrap to Mod splendor.  

A Tale of 3 motorcycles

If you are one of my avid readers you probably already know that the first bike I fell in love with was a Yamaha FZ6.  It spoke to me with its classic Yamaha fairing and the exhaust under the seat.  So I have always leaned heavily Yamaha.  I am sure, mechanically, the other major brands all have something to offer but from the symbol to the style of the bike and the legacy of the company I am repeatedly drawn to Yamaha's products.  I love the XS bikes.  I owned an XS850 and so I am partial to the triples but the XS650 whether a cafe, a bobber, or a revitalized original, is a beautiful bike and one of my favorite motors out there.  You should do some checking.  Search or Bubblevisor and you are sure to find some beautiful examples.  Almost all of my favorite bikes at Mods vs Rockers Cleveland were 650's (although there were some airheads which took my breath away).   I also, in an effort at granularity, must state that I do, someday, dream of having an old BMW airhead.  They are unique and beautiful in a classical sense.  They don't have Italian style or British Sensibility but they have such an air of Mechanical excellence that I truly desire to work on one someday.

So when I came to India I leaned towards Yamaha.  Bajaj is an Indian company that is very common and produces good bikes for the money.  Hero and Honda both also are here but something about Yamaha keeps bringing me back.  Everywhere I look, if I see a bike I like it ends up being one of the FZ models by Yamaha India.  Yamaha makes the FZ-16, the FZ-S (two color variety) and the Fazer (Sports tourer with fairing).  They all have the same 153cc motor (which is pretty good sized for most Indian bikes).

Yamaha RX135
Now I am a vintage guy at heart.  I love old bikes.  Fixing them, knowing them.  There is a relationship that develops when working on an old bike that I don't think you can have with a newer model that requires factory service.  I understood my XS850 because I made her run.  I also led to her not running but that is another story.  So when I came to India I dreamed of getting an old bike, making her a cafe and running the streets.  Unfortunately the culture and the support for such an endeavor does not, as a whole, exist in Hyderabad.  At least I haven't found it.  I was really looking into the RX135, an old 2 stroke design, and found one for about $500 US that looked in great condition and had a larger rear wheel installed which was great.  There were some legal complications towards acquiring this particular model and although parts would be easy to find, people stared at me with some confusion in me wanting an old bike and fixing it up.  The DIY spirit that exists behind the cafe and bobber scene does not exists among those I have met here.  So, it seemed, the vintage 2 stroke was not the best option.

Yamaha SZ-R
This lead me to doubling my budget to get a new bike.  This is still only about $1K to $1,200 US, which would be the price of an old bike after I got in safely running anyway.  So looking around I settled on the SZ-R.  It is a little cooler than most of the commuter bikes here in the city but is still practical.  It has disk brakes, which I like, it has the same motor as the FZ models, but simply spec'd down to better gas mileage and less top end.  So I have, for the last week or so, been doing some research and getting exited about my upcoming purchase.

Yamaha FZ-16
Tonight, however, came a new revelation.  I have a Brazilian friend here who is going back to Brazil in 3 weeks.  I knew he had a bike by the helmet I sometimes saw him with (which has a Yamaha symbol conspicuously on the front).  So I ask him what bike he rides.  An F-Zed is his response (you'll have to forgive him, he's Brazilian).  He says to tell anyone who is interested that it will be for sale before he goes to Brazil.  I say I am interested.  So it looks like for less than I was going to spend on the SZ-R I may be the owner, soon, of a low-mileage FZ-16 (which is the bike I really want anyway).  Here's to hoping.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Inspirations in simplicity

So my two daily bike blogs are Bubble Visor and BikeExif.  Today they both had beautiful bikes that are the dividing line between what I would want to do if I find a donor bike here.  Of course I won't be working with a Triumph but probably a cheap 100cc commuter the style is what is the focus here.  The big question is scrambler or flat seat cafe.  You Decide!

Tridays Triumph Scramber
Deus Triumph Cafe

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Brass and Steam

Maybe you are in the same boat as me.  Maybe whenever a Lions-gate movie starts and you see all of those gears moving, your pulse quickens.  Maybe you enjoy old steam trains.  The chuff and squeal of mechanical energy and invention.  Maybe you have wondered what it would be like to wear a monocle or include a double breasted "waisket" into your wardrobe.  Then again, maybe not.  Up until a few years ago I did not know what "steam punk" even was.  In spite of that though I have always had a fascination with engineering, especially that of days gone past, when the movement of machines was a sensory experience.  You could see it, you could hear it.  Before the modern Apple mentality kicked in.  It seems that if we make our technology sterile and surgical looking than it is safer.  More accessible.  I have always been powerfully intrigued by the days when Machines were powerful and dangerous.  And they looked like it.

You can buy me almost any patch from this Etsy Store
and I'd be pretty stoked.
I had a "How things work" book as a kid and would stare at the pictures for hours.  I would imagine the pistons and push-rods, gears and sprockets, turning and working.  I have always loved the look of dark wood and brass.  I have always called myself an Anglophile.  But I think my love of things British really stem from a love of Victoriana.  There has always been something magical for me when it comes to Dickens England.  When the world was not completely conquered and there were still mysteries and dangers.  When there were still heroes and where the virtues of the society were not solely those that led to self-edification.  When technology was still being invented and could be thought up and carried out by the everyday man.  Where the physical expansion of an empire was simply a manifestation of the expansion that was felt in every other facet of society.  Socially, technologically, and philosophically.  I don't mean to over romanticize the era.  The expansion and technological explosion of the age led to the ability to oppress humanity in new and exiting ways.  Many of the scars that were left by the Vicki's Empire are still being felt across Africa, India, and Asia.  I see those scars around me on a daily basis.

That day in age does engender itself to imagination and fantasy, however, and I have always held a weak spot for books or films that reflected certain aspects of this internal leaning that I had.  I have yet to delve into the true works of original steam punk such as Joules Vern, but I love reading modern books that reflect similar sentiments.  The Edge Chronicles, Larklight, The Dangerous Book for Boys, The Series of Unfortunate Events,  Thunderer, and other books that I can't find online.  I never realized that there were other people who enjoyed such things as well.

And then, one destined winters day, I picked up The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  I thought the cover looked cool and needed something to read while at the Old Folks home my In Laws work at.  I finally saw the movie on the flight to New Delhi and realized that I should write this blog.  And so, in my traditionally rambling style, I have.  The book, as the movie, is filled with gears, grease, and steam.  I couldn't put the book down and I, for the first time, discovered automatons.  An Automaton is, for me, the bringing together of all these loose strings in my mind.  From the discovery of doing things with one's own hands that was awoken in me when I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to my childhood love of brass and steam.  So after I read this book I did what I do best: Waste many hours researching something online.  Researching automatons from the Victorian era and having an healthy, rational fear of porcelain dolls does not mix well, I can tell you that.  In the midst of the spinning horrors I saw before me I found the safe comfort of Keith Newstead's site.  I loved watching these simple machines accomplish so much.  My favorite is probably Mary Queen of Scott's getting trimmed by the royal razor.

Make a Telegraph that clicks out RSS feeds at
In my research I also stumbled across Steam punk.  Now granted, although I am a huge nerd, play miniatures, and read the encyclopedia for fun I do not LARP or dress up in costume even on halloween.  Not to say I haven't wanted to be a Chap just that I haven't ever actually done it.  So, in saying that there are elements of the steam punk crowd a little too out there for me.  I don't think spray painting a Nerf gun brass does it for me.  There are some elements however, such as the Steam Punk Workshop, that do.  Learning to make and fix things yourself, make things that actually serve a purpose, that is cool.  If there is a valve looking thing it should do something.  I love copper piping as much as the next guy but I think it should do something instead of just oxidize.  The aesthetic, however, made me feel like I had finally come home.  Sure, a steampunk cafe racer would be hard to pull off, although Dime City Cycles did give it a pretty good nod. I am stuck between wanting to be a rocker and an airship captain.  Not exactly two sub-cultures that tend to go hand in hand but...there you go.

Unfortunately, as I sit here with my laptop, in a Goodwill striped button-up, wafting the sour sent of tropical body odor, I realize that I am neither.  I am a guy who loves mechanical things.  I am a guy who loves the gleam of brass and the warm glow of polished aluminum.  I also have painted little men and pretended that they were fighting epic battles.  I smoke a pipe, read old books, and also play flash games for hours on end.  Like most everyone who is not attempting to emulate the hottest celebrity of the hour, I have a unique idio-culture mix.  Luckily for me, after being in Hyderabad for about 3 weeks I think I am the only one in this city to claim any of them.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Blood Bowl

For those that are interested in miniatures games, sports, and competitive league play.

My userID is champblue

You can find the entire rule book for Blood Bowl free from the manufacturer at this location:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

RV90: The Dilema

I know my 1 faithful follower has been dying to know the status of my Buddy's VanVan so I will provide an update.

So a few weeks ago we set back to work on the machine.  We had already reset the points (which were way off) and had provided a spark, which was the initial problem with the machine, no spark.  We also took out the carb.

After soaking the carb in Pinesol for a few days we rebuilt it.  We have since found out that we didn't clean the fuel inlet line and no gas is getting to the float bowl, and the float bowl is leaking so we removed the carb again.

Though we weren't getting fuel, we still could not get any kind of pop or crackle when we used starting ether.  It would just pump it right out of the exhaust pipe.  Very frustrating.  We did find that the spark plug had some grimy mud on the end.  I had seen this once before on the old plug and thought that it was a minor issue.  Now there is more mud on said incendiary device.

A little history of the VanVan:
It was once fully submerged.

So to inspect the source of this mud we took the head off of our stubborn little 2 stroke ad there was a bit of this brown muck on the piston head and cylinder.  We did wipe off a significant coating of the brown combustion retardant and tried to kick her over again, hoping it was a localized problem.  Apparently 2 stroke motors can mump mud into the cylinder as efficiently as gas-air mix.  So we decided it was time for a closer look.

Last week my buddy and I removed the motor from the VanVan, which only took about 45 minutes. We will now take the head and Cylinder off and see if the mud is going to require the case to be split, which I am now 90% confident that this will be the required answer.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

To those who would fix the world

I just read these comments on Reddit, forwarded to me by our good friend Atticus:

Have I supported IC with my money and time over several years? Yes.  Do I have an IC inspired tattoo?  Yes.  Is IC the only organization I give to because they have cool videos and I have no heart or brain?  No.

As I read the comments above I wanted to be upset, but I couldn't been.  Maybe it is because I am sleep deprived or maybe I'm just tired of the joke.  People were upset that IC doesn't give all their money to developing Northern Uganda.  I think that simply shows that they, like most everyone else, responds to these sort of things in the usual "fly-by media" way, as old Rush would say.  They see a video, look up their financial stats and criticize them for being selfish.  Is a group that sends people all over the country going to do so without paying for a ton of airline tickets, probably not.  The purpose of Invisible children is not solely to develop Uganda.  The primary purpose of IC is to get Americans interested and involved.  The very fact that people are talking about the new Kony video, on both sides of the isle, is proof that they have been successful.  If they made documentaries that were not hip and cool with sweet music and moving cinematography would our generation watch?  Probably not.  I think that it is interesting that we are a culture that demands to be entertained to pay attention and then criticizes those who understand that fact.  It is very difficult to send a message these days without wrapping it in an artsy-cool veneer.  And like most good veneers, that stuff is expensive.

I am also confused that though I saw a lot of criticism from "the experts" that this not only is a bad way to generate attention for N. Uganda but is not a long term solution to the problem.  Firstly, they did generate a lot of interest in a segment of the population that has a history of not caring meaningful about much of anything.  Would a significant part of the population be talking about the heinous crimes being committed by the LRA if not for IC, I doubt it.  I think it is interesting that the comments were so negative towards IC when they are merely feeding the appetites of the times.  They understand that we are more interested in Snookie and the spoilers on our favorite tv show than on children being abducted and forced to mutilate one another.  They understand that if something doesn't sparkle that the public attention will shift without notice. I think that these commentarians should be more upset at the apathetic decadence of our culture than a group that is attempting to do some good by leveraging said culture.  Secondly, do I agree that US troops helping national soldiers capture Joseph Kony is the cure for the turmoil in central Africa?  No.  I think very few people are as naive as that.  I don't think that IC is trying to say anything of that nature.  They saw something that needed fixed and actually did something about it.  Are a lot of issues in Africa a direct consequence of western imperialism?  Absolutely.  Does that mean we should not help African nations?  I doubt it.  Would the US go to Uganda if there was no oil there?  Hard to say but probably not.  Will Uganda profit from the infrastructure and work provided by oil exploitation?  Yes. I totally agree that it would be so much better for indigenous corporations to extract the oil and give equal shares of the profits to all those living in Uganda.  Maybe the CEO would work for the same wages as the new hires?  Our world is horribly flawed but we can use the tools available to try and not only improve the world but also to try and improve the tools that we attempt to use.  I did not see any offer for a better solution to the issues of Central Africa, which is probably good because if you thought you could spell out the fix for Africa in a post on Reddit you would be wrong.  I guess we could propose that someone cure greed, that would probably do it.

Maybe the cynical voices on the webs are taking the time from their busy, humanitarian lives to post a comment about how IC is doing it wrong.  They probably don't suggest a better solution because they have to get back to working on this better solution.  Maybe.  I would guess that many of them sit around and post on Reddit, and then go back to their decadent lives fueling the very global inequalities they criticize others for trying to fix with their consumerism and decadence.  I could be wrong here.  But I see a lot of people who feel like they can fix the world because of what they read on the Huffington Post but sit at their home, complaining about corporate greed while they ignore the 90% of humanity that is poorer than they are.

I want to address comparing the LRA's attrocities to Guantanamo Bay but it makes my head want to explode.

I have made and will continue to make posts about old motorcycles because I want to empower people to have a problem that they overcome with their own too hands instead of paying someone else to do it.  Motorcycles are an easy way that is within the grasp of many Americans to develop some of the chutzpah that our culture has, for the most part lost.  I believe that that same attitude should be applied to world issues.  If you see something wrong in your community or your world you should get up and do something about it.  If you see evidence that kids are being abused in your community you should not mind your own business, you should do something about it.  If you see that children are being mutilated, forced to commit atrocities, and that girls are being kept as slaves to be continually gang raped by the masses of brain washed killing zombies around them, you should probably do something about it.  At least IC did that.

Oh, and here is IC's explainations of some of the key attacks that the commentarians leveled against them.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

RV90 Day 1

Made some progress on the RV90 yesterday.  Didn't take any pics but the rust was minimal and the electrical and rubber components all looked good.  There was no spark when we started but we put in a new plug, gapped it, reset the points, and we got a good consistent spark.  Still no pop or gurgle but we brought the little Mikuni VM carb home to rebuild it.  Hopefully we will have some pictures next time.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Brian Despain

Just stumbled across this guys work while Pinteresting.  Right up my alley.

Vintage BikeGeek

I am positive that our RV90 is going to look nowhere as nice as this one
After many attempts and persuasion my good buddy has finally picked himself up an old motorcycle.  I know a 1972 RV90 almost doesn't classify as a motorcycle but the more I have looked into it the more stoked I am to be the technical adviser on this project.  I love to see an old motorcycle that has been rotting a rust heap in the back of someone's garage or barn be resurrected or even reincarnated into a functional machine that someone will enjoy.  I have several friends who are at various stages of the process.  Most of my friends on such an adventure have simply moved the rusting hulk from one garage to another.  This includes my '81 XS850 that was sold last winter (Chew's Cafe) and a friend's Virago 920 that I envisioned as a sweet bobber but has so far had one exhaust pipe removed.  Another friend of mine went so far as to strip down his RD250 and hopefully will start putting it back together in the near future.  Atticus here is my shining prodigy.  He not only bought the bike but he has taken steps to take a stripped down GS550 that was thrashed for a crappy race bike and has made it into a smooth running machine.  Unfortunately he is heading off to Iberia and may be selling it.

Atticus began the journey in a very similar place to myself.  Both of us started more likely able to assemble a light saber with the proper components than to rebuild a carburetor.  When I moved to the state of Ohio in 2007 I did not know how to change my own oil.  I did not even know what the purpose of a carburetor was.  I dreamed of buying a bike my whole life and after working with a 'Winger for 2 years I finally felt like I could make the jump.  When I bought my bike it was an ugly bagger.  Large fairing, hardbags, huge windshield, it was the bike I never wanted but it ran and so I bought it.  After it stopped working a short time later I tore out the carbs, the starter, and basically made the whole situation a whole lot worse.  After I finally located the real problem was in the  bus fuse housing I had a much bigger repair and rebuild than I had started over with.  Luckily the motor was in good order but the carburetors were filled with rust and the bike was still ugly.  Luckily my buddy Tony made the concession to allow a piece of 'Jap Junk' into his garage and under the ominous sign reading 'Harley parking only, Rice Burners will be crushed' we began to put Mio back together.  We stripped her down to look like a real motorcycle and got the carbs tuned in and running great.  My dream was to cafe the bike but I never had the time or money in the timespan available.  Last summer she didn't run for a large chunk of riding season due to a failed brake system landing my in a ditch along the state route.  But a few master cylinder rebuilds and SS brake lines later she ran (and stopped) like a champ.

Atticus pursued the motorcycle experiment after hearing tales of the mechanical chutzpah I had accrued during this time.  After reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance he started to dig in.  There is a perfect correlation between those nerds who read ZATAOMM and actually worked on their bike, and those who didn't.  Interesting.  After working on some ignition issues, putting mufflers on the straight pipes, and velo stacks on the intakes, he had a bike that ran and the courage to actually apply a tool to something mechanical.

All this brings me to a little 90cc beach bike that my buddy's father-in-law found in his barn.  It has no spark,  the tires are probably dry rotted, and who knows what condition the frame is in.  The important thing is, though, that when we have applied our limited wisdom and intelligence to the project we will most likely have a running machine that was good for nothing more than scrap previously.  This new buddy has very little mechanical experience and even less gusto but by the end he will be a code flinging grease knuckle like myself.
The FZ6

Part of what I love about motorcycles is they are very simple machines.  The systems are easily visable, are easy to access, and easy to understand.  Plus motorcycles are pure cool.  I fell in love with the Kawasaki Ninja when I was 6 years old.  I saw toy ninja at a flea market and it looked fast, and it was a Ninja.  Ninjas are cool.  Ever since then I liked motorcycles but new nothing about them.  Then in college I stumbled on the Yamaha FZ-6.  I have never totally been sold on crotch rockets.  I have never liked cruisers.  I can dig an occasional bobber, something nice a ratty but I had never heard of cafe racers at the time and this bike, a sporty but utilitarian bike, sang to me.  As I started to dig deeper into bikes I found that there was a whole spectrum between a Harley Electroglide and a Hyabusa.  And I was hooked.  I started reading Cycleworld and similar rags and then, after college, I found an article about WrenchMonkees.  I saw this bike:

I never realized what was possible with 2 simple wheels.  The simple beauty, the feel of speed while standing still, plus I had a weakness for the copper piping.  After I saw this bike, I had a new obsession.  An obsession that I have done my best to pass on to anyone who will let me.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Got the bike working yesterday simply by readjusting the base plate for the breaker points and, by doing so, adjusted the timing for the sparks on the cylinders. Took it out around the bog:

I took a couple falls, but hey, we're working with sand and dirt here! Here's me trying to get it started again after a spill:

Damn sexy! Heading back over there tomorrow to get some more practice. I figure learning on sand will make roads all the easier. Next stop, a small neighborhood to practice in!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Motorcycle Woes

On a motorcycle, the usual battery is a 12 volt alternating current. 12 volts isn't sufficient, though, to create a spark that will ignite gas to cause a piston-moving explosion in the engine. The ignition coils of a motorcycle solve this problem by creating and collapsing a magnetic field many times a second and sending out bursts of much higher voltage along the circuitry to the spark plugs. To time these magnetic field creations and collapses along with the upward and downward motion of the pistons so as to get a high-voltage spark at the right instant, the circuitry is built into a rotating "crankshaft". As the crankshaft is turned by the pistons, the breaker points on the crankshaft connect and disconnect, alternately completing and opening the circuit connected to the ignition coils.

See picture of my breaker points below:

I noticed the other day, when trying to get my bike to start up properly, that the ignition coils were severely overheating. Taking off the cover to the crankshaft and rotating it several full rotations with a wrench, I realized that at no point during the crankshaft cycle were the breaker points actually opening. The circuit was never being opened! That meant the coils' magnetic fields were never collapsing, never creating the proper high voltage necessary to start and power the engine.

I adjusted the breaker points so that at their farthest apart they'd be .3 to .4 millimeters wide, the specs according to my manual. Then, according to the manual, I was supposed to do what's called a "continuity test" to make sure that the circuit was being broken at the proper time in the crankshaft cycle. The way you're supposed to do this is to ground one end of the tester to the engine, and attach the other wire of the tester to one side of the breaker point. The you turn the crankshaft until you see the meter needle drop, indicating that there is no power flowing through the circuit.

The needle never dropped! It looked like, even with the correct gap between the points, the circuit was ALWAYS complete. The magnetic field still shouldn't be collapsing! But after that first gap adjustment, the bike turned on just fine!

How was the bike turning on while the circuit was constantly complete? More importantly, why is the circuit constantly complete! Electricity isn't crossing that gap between the breaker points when they're open. It must be crossing straight across the base plate that holds the points in place. Some sort of insulation isn't working properly in the circuit, allowing electricity to flow where it shouldn't.

Here's a picture of the way the wires are connected to the breaker plates. It's a zoomed in version of the picture above, zooming in just to below and to the right of the central hex bolt:

So the electricity flows up the black and white wires onto the each of the two screws at the connections indicated by the red circles. It goes onto the thin spring breaker plate (visible on the left connection coming out to the left and heading up-left off the picture) and, theoretically, along the plate up to the point. It also, in parallel, goes into the condensers (the metal cylinders seen at the bottom of the picture). At the same time, though, it looks like the electricity is flowing onto the bracket that holds the screw in place, and down the bracket onto the large circular baseplate holding this whole contraption in place.

So that's the first problem! In summary, I can't do a continuity test to make sure the circuit's connecting and breaking at the right points of the crankshaft cycle because, according to my instrument, the connection is always being made, even when there is a visible gap between the breaker points with no spark crossing.

Remember, all of this is without the bike running. When I start the bike up (which it does easily), I see sparks arching across the breaker points. This isn't supposed to happen. The voltage should not be high enough for a spark to cross a gap in the air - it's damaging to the breaker points. With a spark crossing many times a minute, breaker points develop pitting over time that can destroy them.

That's the second problem.

The third problem is that whenever I rev the engine over around 2.5k revolutions per minute (rpm), the engine sputters out of and dies. We believe that this is due to a timing issue - as the crankshaft turns faster and faster, you want the spark to be exploding gas in the cylinders at a different point of the piston's motion. This probably has something to do with the breaker points as well, but we can't check the timing if we can't do a continuity test, which we can't do since we constantly have a closed circuit!

And those are all the issues with my bike right now!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sweet Bike Blog

If you want to spend hours looking at pics of classic and custom bikes, this is the place. Those Japanese Chopper clubs put our boys to shame!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I wrote up the following document to help Atticus work out some Gremlins in his Electrical system. Hopefully he will post his findings later.

The key is to isolate individual systems and test them, then components instead of thinking of the wiring loom as a whole.

Where to Start:

  1. First step, Look at your wiring diagram. See how many grounds you should have, and then go through and find them all, look for any others. There is no point trying to track down other issues until you know your grounds are good and clean.

    1. Clean them with scotch-brite or emery paper (300ish grit sandpaper) until the metal gleams on both the connection end and the frame/engine part.

    2. Re-attach with dielectric grease

    3. A lot of problems can be solved with nice clean grounds.

    4. If a connection is super corroded put a new eyelet on it.

    5. Completely replacing the main ground strap would not hurt.

  2. Check the voltage at the battery with the bike off.

  3. Check that your fuses aren't blown.

  4. Check your voltage to the fuse and what it is after the fuse.


  1. Understand your lighting system

  2. I would recommend sketching out something similar to this to simplify the wiring diagram so it is not cluttered with other stuff (lowbrow has a really cool example):

  3. Use a voltmeter to see what tabs on the back of the light are getting juice when it is set to high beam. If the voltage is different on high vs low then the problem may be with the bulb (burnt out filament or power plan (4)). If it does not change, move back to the switch.

  4. I know for my Yamaha Triple the headlight worked like this: One Ground, one hot for low beam and both hot for hi-beam. Once I traded out my bulb to a brighter one I had to change the wiring so that low was hot for hi but only the hot tab was hot for high beam. If the same thing happened for yours you should see if the high beam lights up if you only give the one tab a hot wire. See ill.

  1. See if you can check the wiring in the switch to see if the issue is the switch itself or if it is the wiring between the switch and the lamp.

  2. You can disassemble the switch (it is probably just a knife switch) if that is the problem.

  3. I would normally recommend starting from the battery and tracing the current at each component on its way to the switch but since we know you have juice at the headlight than we don't need to do that.


  1. Make sure you understand where the voltage goes to make your signal work.

  2. Make sure that flasher relay is getting voltage when the signal is turned. If it does not than make sure the switch is getting voltage. There are probably grounds at each of the turn signal stems (where they bolt on) clean and dielectric grease them.

  3. You can jump your bulb to see if the bulb itself works. B/c of the bi-metal switch in the relay if a bulb is burned out it will not have a circuit and the flasher relay will not heat up and therefore will not function.

  4. I had a bad relay on mine and when replaced it worked properly. My flasher relay was one out of a motorcycle graveyard but I have since discovered that you can just pick them up at AutoZone. You can tell which relay is the flasher relay by the wires that go into it (using your handy wiring diagram). You can jump the circuit with the relay out and see if your lights light up (a good test to see if you relay is bad). You could probably just do this step first but it will be good to do the other stuff to get to know where everything is).

How to attach a connection or repair a break.

  1. You can do a better job with a soldering iron but since I do not have one I usually go without. Trim back enough wire insulation to show the copper inside (usually about ½”).

  2. Slip an appropriate length of shrink wrap over wire (make sure it will fit over the connector when crimped).

  3. Cover wire in solder, insert into connector, and crimp. I use hefty channel-locks to make sure it is well crimped.

  4. Slip heat-shrink over connection, and heat with lighter or hair dryer.

  5. For wire to wire connections you can solder them together w/o the butt-connector and then heat-shrink but again, I use butt-connectors b/c I don't have a soldering iron.

Monday, January 9, 2012

1978 Suzuki GS550

Want to learn how carburetors work? Just found a site all about them. It might just be able to help out with getting my bike to idle properly. We'll see! I'll be heading over to work on the bike tomorrow, and will be posting some pictures of it after I've got my new air filters on it!