Friday, May 30, 2014

Kickstand Fixedstand Out of the Way


There is a problem that seems to be prevalent on the first generation -- 2006, 2007, and 2008 model years -- Kawasaki Ninja 650R like mine.  

The problem is that the kickstand pivot becomes worn enough that the foot of the stand contacts the drive chain when in the raised position.  That is not good.  It damages the chain, and it wears off the base of the stand. 

Many others apparently have this problem as evidenced in this forum. 
Well, being the tinkerer – er, engineer – that I am, I couldn’t stand by and let it get worse, so I started to look for a fix.  The amount of play, measured side to side at the bottom end of the stand had grown to almost an inch, and the return spring caused the stand to become closer and closer to the chain, eventually interfering with it.  Although the stand and its bracket are substantial, when leaning the bike over onto it, the stand would scoot out because of the excess clearance, giving a quite disconcerting feeling that the bike was going to topple over.  It never has, but it sure feels like it is going to every time I use the stand. 

I removed the kickstand to take a closer look at the problem.  Naturally, I had to put the bike up on my rear stand, and for that, I have to ask the help of my pretty wife.  As she always does, she dutifully helped steady the bike while I put the muscle into stand lever, lifting the rear wheel a few inches off the ground.  A thank-you kiss, and I am ready to start wrenching.  

It only takes a few minutes to remove the foot peg bracket (Kawasaki calls it a step stay), the stand safety switch, and the stand itself. 

The foot peg bracket has three screws, one of which is partially behind the shift lever.  It is not necessary to remove the lever, only to move it down out of the way, as if downshifting, when removing or installing this screw. 

The stand switch is removed by unscrewing the hex-head cap screw, not the Phillips-head screw that holds the actuator arm to the switch. 

Do note that the fastener for the stand is a shoulder screw.  There is a lock nut on the back of it that must be removed first, but the screw is also threaded into the far side of the kickstand itself.  Remove the nut, then unscrew the shoulder screw.  Carefully relieve the tension on the return sprang as you take the screw out. 

Here are the parts:  

Although I couldn’t see exactly what was worn, I set to measuring the thickness of the frame bracket, and the width of the fork on the stand.  I found a little more than 0.030” of difference.  I am certain that a little clearance is designed in, but something must be worn to cause the stand to be out of position.  The shoulder screw showed some wear, but not enough to cause the problem, it didn’t appear.  

Though you might be tempted to simply bend the sides of the fork together, that won't work for long because of the shoulder-screw design.  

So, I made a washer-shaped shim out of 0.030” steel stock,...
When assembled, the shim washer will be positioned against the inside face
of the lower leg of the kickstand fork in this picture. 
...and reassembled the stand.  After a little trouble making sure the shim was not damaged while inserting the shoulder screw that holds the stand to the bracket, I tried lowering and raising the stand, and it was much better.  Only about a quarter of an inch play now. 

I took everything apart again, lubed up the parts, and reassembled them.  The stand return spring was the most difficult thing to get back on, but a little help from a loop of bailing wire and a screwdriver to apply some stretching force to it saved the day.  (Yes, I removed the bailing wire after it did its job.  I’m a tinkerer, not a hacker, guys.)  A spring hook like this one made for brake and headlight springs is a better tool for removing and replacing the spring.  

The finished product:

Closeup of the shim washer location.  

Ah, that is much better. 

The stand doesn’t fool me into thinking the bike is going to fall over now.  Much more stable. 

Further info:

I do not guarantee that this will fix or, indeed, that this is a good fix at all, for the problem described.  I am not responsible for you and your bike.  You are. 

Specs for the spacer washer
·       0.030” thick steel shim stock. 
·       ½” diameter hole, punched with hole punch. 
·       1-1/8” outside diameter, cut with tin snips. 

The proper shim thickness may be different from mine, depending on the original dimensions and any wear that has occurred. 
The shim goes on the outside of the frame bracket, and inside the near side of the fork of the stand when assembled. 
Make sure the hole in the shim is aligned both with the hole in the stand and the hole in the frame bracket before tightening the shoulder screw. 
Make certain that the stand moves freely, and that the spring holds it both in the raised and in the lowered positions. 
Use the correct torques and thread locking compound (on the peg bracket and stand switch screws) as directed in the service manual on all fasteners. 
Test everything for proper operation before riding. 
If something does work right, take it to a competent serviceman.  

A fellow named Smash also has a tutorial on this repair here

Monday, May 26, 2014

Decoration Day

Flags      Today is Decoration Day.

"What day?" you ask. 

Your grandma might have called it Decoration Day, because, in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War, it was a day when the graves of soldiers were decorated in remembrance of their ultimate sacrifice while serving their country.

We call it Memorial Day now.  That name was first used in 1882, but it did not become common until after World War II, and was not declared to be the official name of the day by Federal law until 1967. 

(Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day;  Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.) 

We are not so thankful these days, I think.  But we certainly ought to be.  Our very freedom in these United States was won by -- and is defended daily by -- the blood of our servicemen and women. 

In fact, our young people used to aspire to serve our country, like in the cartoon from around the year 1900. 

 "On Decoration Day" Political cartoon.
Caption: "You bet I'm goin' to be a soldier, too, like my Uncle David, when I grow up."

I wonder how many even know they can serve. 

Why not take a little ride today and decorate the grave of some soldier, known to you or not?

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Last posting, I mentioned that I had to get back home from a ride on some ridiculously twisty roads to do chores.

You might know that I occasionally do some things not related to the scooter -- like work for a living.  But I also have to keep up the old homestead and make sure several vehicles besides the bike are alive and kicking. Seems like a full-time caretaker/mechanic is needed. 

I think those are amongst the reasons my wife has me around. 

My bride decided last year to do some vegetable gardening in the back yard.  She planted a bunch of crops in containers on the patio and had luck with a few of them.  This year, she asked if she could buy a greenhouse to get an early start on the growing season, and so that some plants could winter over without dying in the cold.

Of course, she had one all picked out.  The one she spotted was about 6' by 8', item #47712 at Harbor Freight Tools.  It was on sale, after all, and they always have coupons for a further percentage off.  She claimed it to be such a great deal that we couldn't afford not to buy it. (Can't argue with logic like that!) 
Not my wife
The thing came in a corrugated carton in about a thousand pieces, with marginally passable instructions on how to assemble it.  My engineering degree was taxed significantly trying to figure out the whole scheme, however.  The aluminum extrusions that form the frame are as light as they possibly can be and still survive the assembly process.  In fact, if you don't have a couple of helpers in the early stages, the pieces all collapse into a spaghetti-like heap on the ground. 

Oh, by the way, it doesn't come with any kind of a foundation or anchoring means.  My architectural engineering skills were tested as I tried to devise the best way to support the thing and keep it from blowing into the neighbor's yard in the next windstorm. Concrete is too permanent, a lot of work to install, and causes the tax man to come around, so that was not an option.  Maybe wood? 

I settled on a perimeter frame of 2x10s set on edge with a deck board floor so my wife wouldn't have to soil her shoes in the dirt.

The whole thing is supported on an array of several patio blocks, and anchored with these twisty things [engineering term] from Amazon: 

Liberty Outdoor ANCFR16-ORG-A Folding Ring Anchor, Orange, 16-Inch

(Be sure to call your utility company before you screw them into the ground.  If there is an electrical or gas line under there, you could be in real trouble.)

And don't try assembling the greenhouse pieces in any kind of wind.  It can't be done, even in the gentlest of breezes.  (I know.  I tried it.  Twice.)  

Once the wooden foundation and floor were assembled, I began constructing the aluminum frame on top of it.  Did I mention to you that it is like screwing together a gob of cooked linguine?  Well, it is pretty much like that, anyway, the frame pieces by themselves being feather weight and flimsy. 

That's me in there. 

A little further along. 

There were more than 120 screws and nuts to hold the frame together.

Once the majority of the framework was screwed together, the house began to have some substance to it, and it would stand on its own.  I lag screwed the bottom flange to my wooden base.  Finally, I felt confident that it wouldn't take off on its own.

With the corrugated polycarbonate panels in place, the thing was actually quite sturdy. 

The sliding door operates smoothly once I got the whole house square, straight, and level.

Of course, I couldn't let well enough alone.  I had to provide running water and power and gas for a heater so my sweetie would not have to over exert herself to keep the flowers and vegetables perky. 

There is a concrete sidewalk next to the greenhouse, under which these utility lines must be run, so out came a piece of plastic pipe attached to a garden hose to burrow beneath it.  After many hours of trying to get this done, I decided that there was no way to do it in the spot I had picked, so the power comes in by a heavy duty extension cord and the water runs in a hose across the sidewalk.  Must be some rocks or concrete under that sidewalk. 

I will worry about the gas line when it gets closer to winter again.  Nothing like procrastination -- with good excuse, however. 

The area surrounding the greenhouse, of course, could not be left in turf, so I had to till it up and kill the Bermuda grass (nearly impossible, I might add, it being the closest thing to a weed that money can buy).

My loving wife next advised me that she had invested in a pond liner so we could install a fishpond for some fish we don't have.  I was quite critical of this because it would require extensive manual labor to dig a hole that needed to be, oh, say, about 12 feet deep, it seemed to me.

I was also more cognizant than she of the fact that the neighbor's several cats might be very good fishermen.  ...or at the very least, the resident raccoons would finish off any fish we might supply.

Nevertheless, the pond was a go.  

It took a while to figure out how to make the hole in the ground the right size for the blow-molded plastic liner.  The way you do it is to dig a gigantic hole, level a place in the middle with sand, set the liner in place, then pour many more bags of sand around it.  The plastic liner was warped, too, adding to the challenge, so I had to partially fill it with water, then pack the sand under and around it to force it back into its correct shape.

MacCourt 50-Gallon High-Density Polyethylene Pond Liner,
Model #: LP5718

(The local Lowes store manager loves to see me come in lately. Lumber, pond liner, electrical and plumbing supplies, sand, etc., etc.) 

Did I mention the rocks? Well, any good pond in your garden needs rocks around the edges.  So we went to the rock store and brought a trailer of rocks home.  Each one was carefully placed, per instructions from my supervisor -- er, wife.
This is too much like real work!  (I'd rather be out riding, but I didn't let on to my wife.  ...and I was enjoying the project, I'll admit.)

To provide entertainment for the fish we don't have, and for any onlookers that might be about, she got a little pump that connects to a cast toadstool that has a frog sitting next to it.  The frog squirts the water out of his mouth and back into the pond.   High class, yes?

There is a downside to the spitting frog, however.  When sitting in our lawn chairs nearby, the trickling sound of the water makes you feel like you need to go trickle too.  It is very effective at this, I might say. 

Four tiny goldfish were hand selected by my wife at the pet store, and relegated to the deep.  We didn't see them for several days.  I was sure the cats had gotten them already.  Instead, I think they were hiding from us -- and from the cats and raccoons.   They are a little less skittish now, so we occasionally get a glimpse of them at feeding time. 

Plants galore were purchased to set around the greenhouse and in the new garden.  Perennials, and tomatoes, and other neat things were dispersed into almost every available space.


Did you notice those round stepping stones.  That is a story too.  My wife poured them, using pretty glass globs in each form for decoration.  She did this all by herself.  Great girl, she.

This well-behaved tortoise seems to like it here.  At any rate, he hasn't tried to move out yet.  

Our Republican mascot has a prominent place.

Another view of the pond, now with seashells surrounding it.  The fish feel right at home with the seashells, I am sure.

What do you think of the project?

That was certainly a chore, now completed.  It looks nice, and it makes my wife happy.  That makes it worthwhile.  And the greenhouse might provide us some vegetables later. 

Lest you be overly concerned, I did manage to get in a few rides between the work in the yard and the greenhouse. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ridiculously Twisty

Several years ago, a local rider, the tall fellow Stretch, posted on one of the on-line forums about a "Ridiculously Twisty" road that runs between NC-215 and NC-281.  He has probably ridden most of the roads in the upstate of South Carolina, Western North Carolina, northern Georgia, and well beyond.  He recently switched to a dualsport, so he is probably doing the same on all the gravel and dirt in the area too. 

Anyway, with the end of winter, and the advent of clean pavement without a lot of gravel and sand left over from the ice and snow that sometimes attacks the mountains around here, I finally decided to find the likely road, since he didn't identify it back then.

Google maps is my friend, so I started to explore.  I came up with several possibilities.
  • Charleys Creek Road/NC-1756, Neddy Mountain Road/NC-1757
  • Wolf Mountain Road/Tanasee Gap Road /Joe House Road/NC-1324
  • Silverstein Road/NC-1309
This is the route I mapped out, that might include the Ridiculously Twisty road.
Click here for an interactive map and route details. 

From home, I go first to Pickens, SC.  The road north from here is US-178, and the section between Pickens and SC-11 is mostly sweepers.  I enjoy this part of the road because it is usually clean, isn't too difficult, and it contains A Perfect Curve.

North of SC-11, the location of a biker meetup place, the Holly Springs Country Store, the road becomes much more technical, with many tight turns, and lots of elevation change.  You need to use your best look-where-you-want-to-go technique here.  This part of the route ends at Rosman, NC, but there is an even better road that starts here.  It is NC-215, recently paved, and with lots of tight curves as well.  I have used this route many times to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway, only 51 miles from home. 

Today, though, I turn left onto Charleys Creek Road, at Pushpin B on the map above.  I have not been on this road before, and almost right away, the road begins to show itself as ridiculously twisty, and keeps it up to its end, at Pushpin C.  The pavement is broken in places, there are a few patches of gravel and sand, and some of the curves are very tight.  Naturally, this being a rural route, there are no speed advisory signs, so you are on your own.  There are some Christmas tree farms and other nursery operations, but not much else through here.  I ride moderately, enjoying the trip through the hills. 

I turn south on Canada Road NC-281/NC-1758, for a few miles, an enjoyable road with some interesting curves, eventually passing over the T. Fields Dam on Wolf Creek, where I have stopped before.  I take a break, then continue on to Wolf Mountain Road/Tanasee Gap Road /Joe House Road, at Pushpin D.  This road is a bit twisty in places, but not a much as Charleys Creek Road was. The surrounding hills are still enjoyable to look at. 

I have seen quite a few bicyclists out today.  There must be an organized ride.

Why a lot of them insist on taking up the whole lane on a twisty road, I don't know, though. 

There is a pack of them at Pushpin D who run the stop sign there just as I am arriving.  Two of them, the one on the black bike and the one following him, almost bite the dust as they see the error of their way too late and turn in front of me.

Fortunately, I miss them. 

Pressley Fields Road takes me back to NC-215, then on to Macedonia Church Road.  I turn into the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI).  I am surprised that the gate is open on a Saturday.

This is the former spy satellite tracking station, turned education facility.  It is truly an unexpected sight here in the mountains of North Carolina, and it was an important, top secret tool in the cold war.  They are having a once-a-year open house today.

I wish I could stay, but I have been here before, and I must move on today, because I have chores to do at home. 

The last twisty road nearby (besides US-178 that I will be using to get back home) is Silversteen Road.  This is a very twisty route that some say rivals the Tail of the Dragon.  It is far less busy than the Dragon, and quite entertaining.  Watch what you are doing, however, because it is not well marked for the turns either.  I have ridden this one before as well -- seven passes on one day.  (I couldn't help myself.  It was great fun.)

I meet this group of BMW riders, booking it through the Silversteen turns.

They're having fun too, it looks like.

Silversteen ends at US-64 not far west of Rosman.  I go back into Rosman, and head down US-178 again to Pickens, retracing my route, now from the opposite direction.  Downhill is a bit more challenging, but I make it through just fine.

I think I found Stretch's ridiculuously twisty road today -- and then some.

I have ridden only 138  miles, but, boy, those roads were sure contorted!  Try my route some time, and let me know what you think.