Sunday, February 23, 2014

I'm Not Alone After All -- a Veteran Rider Does It Too!

The other day, I was surfing the Internet and clicked on a link I had not recently visited, called Life is a Road

It is hosted by veteran rider Daniel Meyer, who is a pilot, engineer, skier, and an avid motorcyclist who has ridden over a half-million miles. He is a big guy who rides a 2001 Honda Valkyrie, the hot-rod version of the Gold Wing.

A graphic at the place I happened to find on his website was this one:
And I thought I was alone, stealing glances over my shoulder when I park my bike and occasionally sneaking out into the garage to admire it.

For me, I suppose that it is a symptom, with an underlying bit of unbelief, that I, a more-than-slightly-past-middle-aged nerd, came to do such a thing at all -- ride a motorcycle.  My friends, work associates, and wife couldn't believe it when I announced my intentions to ride, bought this bike, and began to learn to ride it. 

I have enjoyed riding it year around in the beautiful area where we live, visiting places I might not have otherwise discovered.  I have met a fair number of new people since then too, some of which helped me figure out how to ride this two-wheeled contraption. 

Although I don't keep my bike pristine, when it is cleaned up, it looks pretty good for a middle-aged girl. 

So, don't make fun of my little quirk of admiring my Ninja.  I am apparently not alone, being, for one, in the company of riders like Mr. Meyer.

By the way, he is quite a writer.  In addition to his website, he writes a blog, and has written four books about motorcycling:
  • Life is a Road, the Soul is a Motorcycle
  • Life is a Road, Get on it and Ride!
  • Life Is a Road, Ride It Hard!
  • Life Is a Road, It's About the Ride
You can get them at his website, at Amazon, and at other booksellers.

He also has some short stories posted online.  Amongst them is a favorite of mine, called "Today I Met a Man." 

It appears below, in its entirety:


Today I Met a Man

by Daniel Meyer

It only took a millisecond to register.

I hate to shop, but sometimes a man’s just gotta. Stepping out of the store with my hard-won Christmas present for my wife, a terrible scene lay before me.

My first and unbidden thought was, “Somebody’s going to die!”

My second thought was, “Somebody’s really going to die!”

The Dragon was down you see. The big cruiser was laying on her right side, a bit of gasoline running across the asphalt. Standing over her in an incriminating manner was a teenage boy.

Let me start by stating that Valkyries do not just fall over. Period. She weighs 775 pounds dry, and she has a serious lean into the kickstand to prevent falling over if both tires go flat. It would take serious winds to blow her over, and even with the stand up, she will sit on her crash bars without falling unless she is pushed.

I am a Texan, and can be absolutely ruthless when needed, but I am slow to anger and must be seriously provoked to warrant a violent response.

I step out of the store and find a baggily clad teenager fooling with my fallen bike.

This was serious.

I was provoked.

I saw stars.

Somebody was fixing to die.

Still, I have been around enough to know that everything is not always what it seems to be in this world. Very little is black and white, or even gray, and while stereotypes and statistics can be highly accurate when applied to groups, they break down with spectacular rapidity when applied to individuals. I have also been judged incorrectly by people who do not know me, or what I am about, enough so that I am wary of jumping to conclusions. Benefit of the doubt and all that.

Good thing I do not shoot first and ask questions later.

I quickened my pace, headed toward the fallen bike and her unsavory teenage boy companion. For those that do not know me, I am 6 feet and 300-plus pounds. I am strong as an ox and supremely confident, and it usually shows in my walk and my manner (see the home page of this website for my definition of “pumping iron”). I can really move when needed. In this instance I was also dressed in my heavy leathers, the jacket alone weighing in at over 40 pounds. I am a BIG guy.

I have no idea what my expression was, but I am sure it was scary. I was pissed! My Dragon was fallen, my comrade was down!

About this time he looks up and sees me coming. Trust me, the better part of valor here would be to run and never look back.

His expressions went through an interesting range of emotions. Startle-ment, disbelief, panic, and outright terror rapidly crossed his face. His mouth dropped open and he actually blanched. I have never seen anyone go so white, so fast. His tongue and lips even went white!

I could see it in his eyes, he just knew I was going to pound him flat.

Then it happened. His arms tensed, his eyes rolled back--just a bit, he swayed, and his knees buckled--just a bit. He kept to his feet and recovered quickly, but not quite fast enough. A small wet stain soaked the crotch of his baggy blue jeans.

All this was observed in a matter of seconds. He recovered quickly.

But he did not run.

I stopped an arm’s length away. I could have reached out with one hand and throttled the boy. I knew it, and he knew it. He kind of squinted, looking a bit away, a hand half raised. The posture almost involuntarily taken a split second before you get clobbered by something. I would imagine that everyone that has ever been hit by a Mac truck looked like this a split second before impact.

And still he did not run.

All was clearly not what it seemed to be here.

“Explain yourself.” It was all I trusted myself to say.

He knew he was going to die. His voice quavered, but he could look me in the eye.

Here is the story, verified by all the parties involved:

His name is Shawn, and he and two friends were shopping. When they backed out of their space, they barely bumped the Valkyrie. Bad driving, and really annoying, but nothing sinister here. She went over and sat on her right crash bar.

Shawn (who was not driving) got out of the car and asked for help righting the bike. His friends laughed, and the driver backed up a little more, and over she went. Now we are into sinister. They then drove off, leaving Shawn to fend for himself.

Shawn tried to right the big cruiser but could not, so he waited for me.

He waited for me. He did not run.

Where I had seen just a boy when I came out of the store, I now realized that standing in front of me, quivering knees and all, was a man.

I turned the wheel to its stops and put my butt into it. Up came The Dragon.

She had sat mostly on her saddlebag and crash bar on the right, and the only damage I could find anywhere was the right rear blinker lens was cracked, and the front brake lever was bent. Not too bad.

I handed him my helmet. He was under 18 after all. “Come on Shawn, let’s go for a ride.”

“Yes sir.”

A quick trip to the gas station, and a stop at the Honda dealer, then later we were at Shawn’s house. “That’s them.” Shawn said pointing to a white Honda Accord.

They had figured he would run, and were waiting for him at his house. Some friends.

I knocked on the door and things were sorted out in quick order. I can see where Shawn gets it from. His father is a man too.

He rapidly had the “friends’” parents over and we all had a little pow-wow. The driver was Terry, and his parents were furious with him. The end result was that I was given $50 cash for my expenditures ($47 or so) at the Honda shop, and then I was handed the keys to the Accord by Terry’s father.

He said, and I quote, “The car is yours. Do whatever you want with it. Give me ten minutes and I’ll have the title over here for you.”

And then, “Do you want to swear out a charge?”

I looked at him a bit surprised, “What?”

Turns out Terry’s dad is a cop. Oooooooooh, bad for Terry.

I looked him in the eye, “You’ll take care of this?”

“Oh yes.” There was no doubt at all in that tone.

I handed him the keys to his son’s car.

“Okay then. Have a good one.”

As for Shawn, I shook his hand. He is, after-all . . . a man.

Daniel Meyer


If you enjoyed this story, consider buying some of Mr. Meyer's books.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014



Where do you think this picture was taken? 
  • Chicago?  
  • Toledo?
  • Alaska?
  • Siberia?
  • Antarctica?
  • South Carolina?

If you guessed any but South Carolina, you are wrong.  We have gotten hit again with the fluffy -- or not so fluffy -- white stuff.  Must have been meant for Chicago. Yea, that's it. 

Since I have not recently been to Chicago, I instead took a walk while it was coming down.  Sleet, now, actually.  Over the 3+ inches of snow.  ...and more to come tonight. 

Here is my little old friend Ronald sitting on the bike, waiting for the next ride. 

Enjoy the scenery and the kids playing in it with sleds that seldom get any use.

A little creek.

A future Olympian luger.

A dad, with his children.

Pretty to look at, and fun to play in, but it is supposed to be up in the mid-60s by the weekend.  Hurray! 

Motorcycle weather, maybe.  We'll see. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Chain, Again!


About 15,000 miles ago, in the middle of 2011, I replaced the original drive chain on my 2006 Kawasaki Ninja 650R.  It had become worn unevenly -- some links stretching more than others -- resulting in a jerky ride, almost as though the engine were misfiring.

I replaced the chain with an EK 520SRX Quadra X-Ring, part number 701-520SRX-114 and a rivet-type master link, part number 520SRX-MLJ.  That fixed the jerkiness problem back then. 

In August of last year, I noticed that the jerkiness was coming back.  It couldn't be the "new" chain, of course, so I dredged around for something else that could be causing the feeling.  I settled on the sprockets as being the most likely cause.  I ordered and installed a set of OEM sprockets from Ron Ayers

That seemed to help, but the problem continued to worsen.  I listened to extensive audio from my ride-along video camera, and the purr of the engine under all conditions was flawless as far as I could tell.  The symptoms, at least from the seat of my pants, still felt like the engine was misfiring, especially in the lower gears under hard acceleration.  Try as I might, I could not find evidence of that. 

I rechecked the chain tension at several points, and found the slack varying as much as the original chain showed just before I replaced it.

Rats.  Is that chain toast already?  Did the somewhat worn sprockets cause the new chain to fail prematurely?  My demure riding style certainly didn't contribute to its early demise, I don't think. 

I don't know for sure what caused it.

At any rate, I went back online and looked for a replacement chain.  I didn't want to try another EK, in case that was a contributing factor, so I looked further.

I found quite a few types and brands of chain, but many of them were non-O-ring, so they were not right.  You have to have a chain with O-ring seals so it lasts a long time even with it getting wet. 

Almost all chains say they come with a master link, but I had a terrible time figuring out whether the master link is a clip type or rivet type.  I never did find this answer for most of the chains I looked at, so I assumed they were clip type.  You shouldn't use such a link on a highly-stressed drive chain, as it is weaker than the regular links and may fail or come open.  That would be very bad.

Once I had tentatively picked a chain I could afford, I started to look for a riveted master link to match.  Surprisingly, there were few references I could find that pointed me toward the right one.

They ought to tell you what you are getting with the chain and make a link [pun] to the matching riveted master link page. 

After a good deal of armchair searching, I finally settled on a higher-priced-than-EK DID chain from Amazon.   It is a pretty gold-linked one: DID 520VX2GB-114 Gold X-Ring chain, and rivet link part number DID 520VX2GB-RIVET-CL Gold.

The numbers and letters mean that it is a number 520 chain, has gold links, X-ring style seals, and a length of 114 links.

Prices for the chain and the link were $79.73 and $7.97, respectively -- about 40% higher than the EK.

Maybe this one will last longer.  The product description says "Projected wear life 35.0 times longer than a standard chain under similar conditions."  If that is true, it should last me more than a lifetime.  Note, however, that it says "35.0," not "about 35 times."  They must think they are very accurate in this, but that is hogwash.  What is it measured against?  No way is it possible to predict that well. 

I few days after I pressed the order button, the chain arrived in the mail, and I set to work. 

The first thing I notice is that the instructions for the chain are in a barely intelligible translation from Japanese.  There are also some of those little pictures with exclamation points and such to explain to those who do not read any of the 257 languages printed on the box.  Why do they not pay somebody to translate for them?  I could do better, I believe.  I wonder how much they pay.  

I suppose most people just wing it, instead of trying to read the instructions. 

I put the bike on the rear stand and use my pneumatic grinder (#52847) and a cutoff wheel from Harbor Freight Tools to grind off the old chain master link rivet heads.

I break the old chain with the Stockton Chain Breaker (#28165) I bought from Cycle Gear.  I oil the threads and the tip of the chain tool to make it easier to use, since it takes a lot of force to work with a chain of this size.

Once the chain is unzipped from the sprockets, I clean the accumulated crud and lube, especially from around the front sprocket, and thread the new chain into place.  I have to move the rear wheel forward considerably to make the new chain reach, so the old chain must indeed have been stretched.

I pop the new rivet link into place and make sure to press the side plate on to the correct width dimension.  I measure across from side plate to side plate on one of the standard links and push the master link together with the chain tool to equal that dimension.  I work slowly, a little bit at a time, and use a digital caliper to make the measurements.

The plate press attachment:


Then I flare the link pins over so the side plate won't come off.  This takes a lot of torque on the chain tool, but I work at it little by little too, measuring the flared diameter to make sure it is sufficient, but not too much.  Too much may cause the pin to fracture.  Not good. 

I tension the chain by tightening the nuts on the two studs behind the rear axle, making sure the alignment markings display the same, side to side.  This time, however, I also have a new tool to check for proper alignment of the rear sprocket.  It is an OTC 4749, also sold as MotionPro 57-8048.  It cost $12.90 from Amazon.

... but mine matches the color of the bike! 

There are too few instructions on the product package, so I looked around and found on-line instructions and a video that describe its use.

The little piece of wire hanging down next to the numbers acts as a plumb bob so you can tell if the rod is parallel with the ground. The MotionPro doesn't have that. 

That helps make sure you are not fooled when sighting down the chain by the tool being aimed too high or too low.  You sight down the rod, and if the chain does not deviate from that line, it is OK.

Mine is surprisingly well aligned using only the markings on the rear axle carriers.  I make some minor adjustments, then tighten the rear axle nut and recheck the chain tension, because sometimes tightening the axle causes the chain tension to change a bit.  It turns out OK. I put in the cotter pin and bend over its legs so the rear axle nut cannot loosen. 

[Well, Bucky, you have spent a lot of time and money here.  Did this finally solve the problem?] 

The first ride into the foothills confirms that the chain was the issue with the "misfire" problem. The bike really does almost feel like new now -- smoooooth again -- and ready for the next who-knows-how-many miles.  I am not going to guess how many, but 35.0 times the life of a "regular" chain (say, like the EK) is more than half a million miles.  That ought to be enough to get me through.  I will make a posting when I change it next time. 

As long as we're exaggerating, after this first ride, the estimated 17 pounds of grease the new chain was packed in is all over my pretty, recently-cleaned rear wheel.  So, scrub-a-dub-dub. Again. 

Here are a couple pictures taken during the chain test ride, right here under the bridge on Roy F. Jones Road.

Pretty, even in winter.  See you next time!