Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Baby's Got a New Shoe

I knew that I would have to replace the rear tire on my 2002 Wide Glide when I bought it about a couple of months ago. While not quite bald, there was very little tread remaining, at least in the middle of the tire. I've ridden it a few times since I bought it, but I never felt too confident riding my bike with a tire that worn, even on dry pavement.

So today, I rode the Wide Glide to Bob's Motorcycle Sales in Ashaway, R.I., an independent sales and repair shop that specializes in Harley-Davidsons, to get the rear tire replaced. (The front tire has good tread, otherwise, the title of this blog entry would read, "Baby's Got a New Pair of Shoes.") Although Metzlers and Avon Venoms are highly-rated motorcycle tires, I decided to stick with the stock Dunlop tire, since I am keeping the front tire and it's not recommended to mix tire brands on a motorcycle. When the front tire wears out, it will probably be time to replace both tires, since the rears wear twice as fast as the fronts, I've heard. Then, I will probably try a different brand. But for now, I just want a tire with plenty of tread.

It had rained the past three days, so I thought my chances of dry roads for the ride to my 8 a.m. service appointment were slim. But I awoke to mostly dry roads. The temperature was another story - it was a very raw 38 degrees - so cold I wanted to wear my full-face helmet. But I didn't. My hands are my weak link in the cold, though. I activated some Hot Hands chemical heat packs and put them inside some mittens for the ride on Route 1 south, but by the time I reached the town of Westerly, my fingers were numb from cold, so I had to pull over and rub my hands on my jeans to restore some circulation. I was the first customer to arrive at Bob's just after 8 a.m. and I was promptly ushered into the garage. I decided to walk to a coffee shop on Route 3 while I waited for them to replace the tire. About two hours later, I was back on my bike, feeling more confident with some new rear tread on my ride.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wide Glide's Shakedown Cruise

Okay, so this post sounds similar to Wide Glide's Maiden Voyage, but I haven't ridden much lately and figure something is better than cyber-silence. Seriously, though, this is not a re-hash, so read on ....

Unlike this weekend, when we're experiencing a nor'easter with torrential rain and strong winds, last weekend was Mother Nature's invitation to bikers suffering from cabin fever, with both days sunny and nearly 60 degrees.

I rode my Harley to church last Sunday, and by the time church ended around noon, I was itching to ride. I called several Christian biker friends to see if they were up for a ride, but only got their voice mail. So, I decided to ride to Rendezvous Leather in Uxbridge, Mass. It was my first trip out of state with my bike, and the first time I had it on the interstate highway.

As stated before, the bike has plenty of power, a comfortable ride and feels very stable at speed. Very rarely does a bump cause my butt to leave the seat (this bike is 200 pounds heavier than my Yamaha Virago). And I feel safer riding the Wide Glide on the highway because I can get out of potential trouble situations much more quickly than I can with the 535 cc Yamaha. But, the Wide Glide is taller and I get more of a wind blast on my chest, so I will probably get a windshield for the bike for highway riding.

The weather drew a fair amount of bikes out, and I saw a few on the highway. At Rendezvous Leather, I bought another helmet (a size smaller), some goggles and a Throttle Boss (an accessory that makes it easier to hold the throttle on longer rides). I was surprised there were not more than a couple of other bikes at Rendezvous, a popular biker gathering spot, but a few rode by. Anyway, the Vega half-helmet - which stays on my head better at highway speeds - and the goggles - which enable me to ride without a helmet face shield - proved to be wise purchases. The Throttle Boss, however, didn't work well and I plan to return it. Fortunately, there are different styles and I will try another one.

About the title of this blog entry: a shakedown cruise is "a limited sea excursion for the purpose of testing all the working equipment of a ship before putting the vessel into service," according to an online nautical dictionary. Previously, I've only had my bike out a few times for fairly short rides, so I consider last Sunday's ride my true "shakedown cruise".

In many ways, riding a motorcycle is an act of faith. I have to have faith that I will ride to the best of my ability, and that God will do the rest to watch over me so no four-wheeled (or 18-wheeled) vehicles turn me into road kill (unless that's God's plan for me to depart from this earth). I have to have faith that my motorcycle is mechanically safe to ride. And, I have to have faith that my motorcycle is mechanically reliable, especially if I'm riding it a long distance. I'm still in the "getting to know you" stage of owning my 2002 Wide Glide. It did prove very reliable for the previous owner, who rode it to Pennsylvania last summer with no problems, but I have to learn to trust it for myself. Last weekend's ride definitely helped to earn my trust.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Harley Oil Change

Being a new Harley owner and being a bit - shall we say - obsessive about researching the 'best' products for my motorcycle, means that a routine oil change is anything but routine, at least for my first time.

I change my own oil on my work van, and it's a pretty routine job that costs less than $20 for an oil filter plus five quarts of decent quality oil (I use Castrol). I just can't see paying a quick-lube place $40 for an oil change (plus having to endure attempts to up-sell you on other services).

But what's a simple matter on my van, is a huge production with my Harley. My obsessive nature has been researching the Internet (mostly Harley forums) for opinions on the best oil and oil filters. I have decided I will go with the H-D oil filters, which filter particles as small as five microns, but I will buy a painted (black) filter, instead of the chromed one. The black filters are slightly cheaper, but I decided on them mainly because I was told they dissipate heat slightly better than the chrome filters. The Twin Cam engines run hotter than the Evolution engines, so I'll take any edge, however slight, to cool it down.

For oil, the big choice is natural or synthetic, and after doing my research, I've decided to go with a synthetic oil, which results in lower engine oil temperatures - definitely a good thing in slow traffic in the summer. The oil I plan on using, Mobil 1 V-Twin 20W50, is not cheap at about $10 per quart, but neither was my Harley, so I don't mind spending a bit more on something as critical to engine life as oil.

Then there's special tools to make changing oil on a Harley an easier job. The oil filter is above one of the rubber engine mounts and oil will get all over the engine mount and frame, unless you use some kind of shield, whether it's a specially designed plastic tray with a funnel, or a 2-liter plastic soda bottle that is partially cut open, to stick underneath the filter before removing it. There is also a sensor right near the Harley's oil filter, so not all styles of oil filter wrenches will clear the sensor. For about $10, Harley makes a special end-style oil filter wrench with a cutout to clear the sensor, and this looks like the best option.

Yesterday, I stopped at the local Harley dealer and bought an oil filter ($8.95) and an O-ring ($0.95) for the oil drain plug. I also bought three quarts of Mobil 1 V-Twin 20W50 synthetic motor oil and a new funnel at an Auto Zone store.

Instead of the stamped-steel Harley version of the oil-filter wrench, the Harley dealer ended up selling me a slick-looking oil filter wrench made by Paulimoto Racing. At a price of $17, it's not cheap, but it is very high-quality machined billet aluminum, and made in the U.S.A.

Then I stopped at the supermarket and bought 1- and 2-liter bottles of soda, which I bought for the plastic bottles. Using a utility knife, I cut the bottom and top off each of the bottles to use as a spill shield underneath the oil filter. The 1-liter bottle seemed to be a better fit.

Today's weather was sunny and in the 50s, so I took the bike for about a 10-mile ride to warm up the oil before I changed it. The oil filter wrench worked well, but the cut-up soda bottle didn't catch all the oil. I spilled some on the frame and motor mount. Next time, I may cover the area beneath the filter with aluminum foil, or else buy a catch tray specially made for this task. I used brake cleaner to clean the spilled oil off the bike.

Anyhow, I feel better now that I changed the oil on the bike, because the old oil was pretty dark and probably overdue. I celebrated by taking the bike out for a 50-mile ride, enjoying the best riding weather so far this year.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Getting Closer ...

After my last outing in dry but near-freezing weather, I pledged I would not ride again until the temperature broke 50 degrees. Today, it came close. It was mostly sunny and 47 degrees, according to a bank's LED sign - but we all know how accurate those things are, right?

During my travels in my work van, I saw two bikes on the road, and one bike parked in front of a house. Two out of the three bikes were Harleys, and both Harleys were baggers (Road Kings, I believe), including one ridden by a member of a firefighter M/C, who was evidently enjoying his day off.

I got home around 4 p.m. and was tempted to take my bike out, but a promise is a promise - even if it's only to myself.