Monday, September 26, 2016

Parting is such Sweet Sorrow...Leaving Mexico

Back in February...shortly after "The Last Ride"...we started doing the things that we had to do to move out of La Paz and get ourselves moved to our new home in Longview, Washington. One of the first steps (at least from my point of view) was to move the motorcycles up to the new home. I was very lucky to have a good friend with a good truck and a good trailer to take it all up. Johnny Johnson got it done in about a week. He just happens to be...probably...the most experienced guy in the world at driving the Baja Peninsula. Check out his racing resume by clicking on his name...amazing!

We had to be ready to vacate our La Paz home by March 1, 2016...actually we left a couple of days later. Just before we left, a Mexican moving company picked up the stuff that we were taking North and departed for the Border. United States laws will not allow a Mexican moving company to move beyond the Border region, so a California moving company picked up our load from just across the Border and drove it North to Longview. Catherine and I just drove ourselves up in our Nissan Xterra..a perfect car for the rain and snow of the Pacific Northwest. On the trip, we were well protected by Paco...our middle aged Weimaraner. As you can well imagine, none of this was cheap. Which certainly raises the question...Why bother? Why not just stay in beautiful tropical Mexico?

Many reasons spring to mind starting with the fact that medical care for aging United States citizens is paid for by the government (Medicare) but this advantage of citizenship is not available unless you are actually in the United States. There is no coverage for procedures performed outside the United States. I am well, but I am also 73 years it is only prudent to position myself to take advantage of this benefit. My wife, being essentially a child bride, is not eligible for Medicare for another year. So, she will be ready to take advantage when the time comes.

A second reason is weather related. It has been our experience that hurricanes are unpleasant events...not to be repeated if possible. Two years ago Catherine and I  went through a Category 5 hurricane at our home in La Paz and I believe that as a consequence of that event we made an unspoken agreement to leave as soon as it became convenient. Up here in Washington, there is also a distinct lack of widow spiders...rattlesnakes...mosquitos and millepedes. These are creatures that we can all do without. Up here in Washington our biggest problems are the giant slugs that wander out of the forest at night. Some people do not like our squirrels. From my point of view, they are massively preferable to the scorpions of La Paz.

So...what about Washington? It is very different from anyplace that I have ever lived before. Catherine has been around cold weather, rain, snow and tall green trees for at least some of her life...Me, not so much.

This is what the new place looks like from one of the game trails that surround the property. It did not take us long before we were hiking around the area. Below are a couple of shots from the game trail that is just south of the house.

I am not a fan of spiders and this one looks like something out of s Sy Fy movie!

In La Paz I had a spacious workshop where I could conduct my experiments on unsuspecting motorcycles. Here I am suffering. We have a nice (and even spacious) two car garage. But we also have three cars and way too many motorcycles. So, my search began for a local builder. I am happy to report that I am now awaiting the construction of a decent size (700+ sq.ft.) shop. Once that is up, I will be ready to start bringing back to life my bikes which have been suffering in the cold and damp weather. Below is a shot of the building pad under construction.

So, what else is new? Actually we re-stocked our weimaraner population. Two girl dogs from Kentucky arrived in early June. They are sisters from the same litter and they are growing like weeds. I expect that they will be keep us safe from the slugs and squirrels and letter carriers as well as the Fed Ex visitors. I'll have some more up-dates when construction begins on the shop.

The puppies at eleven weeks

The puppies at three months

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Last Ride

When I started writing this blog...a year or so ago...I intended to simply record my processes and thoughts while I gradually brought back to life a very sadly neglected TY 175. I bought that bike for my then 10 tear old son back in the middle 1990's. It took a while and it turns out that I enjoyed the process so much that I started working on some other bikes that found their way into my garage. That process...that mechanical and mental exercise... is now at an least until my wife and I complete our relocation further North.

There are a lot of feelings associated with this relocation. One of my strongest feelings is one of loss...the loss of this place. It just so happens that we live a few steps from the beach and in just about five minutes I can be in a perfectly quiet...sandy...rocky...and utterly undeveloped desert landscape which abuts the Sea of Cortez. Where we are moving that particular adventure is not possible.

I am presently in the middle of a series of "Last Rides". A couple of months ago my son (in whom I am well pleased...) came down to visit with his faithful companion "Tamale"...a Mexican street dog. We took a couple of days to take all of the bikes out to visit riding areas which we both knew very well. The picture above was taken in front of a sand dune...on the other side of that dune is the Sea of Cortez. Erin had been up that dune a number of time on the old Honda XR 600. That old and heavy beast is no longer with us...but I digress. On this occasion Erin easily rode to the top on the CR 250...but he had to go faster than he did on the XR because the CR is a peaky...nervous and demanding bike to ride. I think that he liked the old XR better. I would not even attempt the climb on the little Bultaco Campera. That would have been asking a lot given the size of the Bully's engine...the size of the rear tire...and the load that it would have been carrying.

On the last afternoon before Erin headed back North for a bit more surfing, we rode the trials bikes around the property. I think that Erin particularly enjoyed the TY. It had been his second motorcycle about 20 years ago. It appears, in this photo, that he inadvertently disabled the anti-wheelie software. We both rode the TLR quite a bit and agreed that it was a easier and more comfortable bike to ride around. These bikes will see a lot of action on the Northwest. There are logging trails all around our new house and thousands and thousands acres of Federally protected land which should be available for riding. We will see.

Tamale did not seem to mind, but I think that she was pleased that her mealticket survived with nothing more than a little sunburn.

Over the past week or so, I have gone on a couple more "Last Rides". About a week ago I went off on the CR250...the one in the photo above. It is a "busy" bike. It is easy to start and, for a racing bike, it has a fairly forgiving spread of power. It does not like low revs. Once you are up into the powerband you need to pay strict attention to where you are going.

My usual choice for a gentle and relaxing ride is the Bully. It makes enough noise to irritate my neighbors...but not so much noise that it interferes with the ride. It is comfortable...the carburetion is perfect and thanks to my electronic ignition the bike starts immediately every time.

I will be sad to be leaving my riding area, but I am anxiously looking forward to setting up a new shop at our new home and then exploring the riding opportunities in the State of Washington.

Stay tuned...more adventures to come.

Monday, June 22, 2015

In Memorium.....Mariposa

Right now it is hard for me to imagine myself laughing...or making love...or taking pride in anything that I have ever done. It's hard to talk...It's hard to write...It's hard to sleep. One of my very best friends died yesterday. She is the silver grey weimaraner above. Her brother is above on the couch next to her. He...just like completely lost. Rest in Peace girl dog

Thursday, June 4, 2015

CR250M-More Problems Solved

In my last note I indicated hope that my carburation/ignition problems had been solved. I was simply hoping that by changing my spark plug cap all would be magically transformed...silly boy!

In fact, the problem was with the carburettor. It took a bit of sleuthing but I finally figured it out. I went for a very short ride right after I installed my new plug cap. The problem re-appeared within one mile. It was clear from that ride that as long as I used at least 3/4th throttle the bike would run pretty well...not perfect...but useable. Once I slowed down and tried to idle the bike it immediately began running very rich and would only run if I held the throttle wide open. With that setting it gave a very rich idle...four stroking or rather eight or sixteen stroking...but it did keep running so I could get home without pushing. Clearly massive amounts of gas were flowing into the engine.

After significantly straining my brain, I devised a test. I was beginning to mistrust the float level. Once home, I shut off the fuel tap and kept on running the engine. Slowly but surely the rich running cleared up and the clearly nasty and argumentative tone of the engine returned. By running with the fuel tap closed I was simply lowering the level in the fuel bowl.

The next step was easy. Open up the carburettor for the fifth...or sixth...time and take a long look at the float. Had I installed it upside down. it turns out installing it upside down was impossible. Was the float at the wrong level? again...not really, at least according to my Clymer's Manual. It specified 19 mm from the bottom flange of the carburettor to the bottom of the float at just the point where the float was starting to close the needle valve. That is what I had. Something was wrong...probably Clymer!

Maybe this settling would work on the Bonneville Salt Flats, but it didn't work for me. I am rarely at full throttle and never for more than five or six seconds at a time. The rest of the time I am at no more than half throttle. So, I lowered the float by a significant amount...about 5 mm. Put it all back together again and went for a ride. This time I went about four miles with a lot of idling and part throttle and minimal full throttle. Each blast of full throttle produced an improvement in the engine's responsiveness. I may lower the float a bit more and I am going to be experimenting with plugs.

So...for now all is well and I'm looking forward to a longer ride later today. So, I'm off to mix up some fresh gas and gather up some tools. See ya!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

CR250M-Many Problems Solved

Over the past couple of weeks all of the issues with the CR have been sorted. First of all, the rear tire was finally mounted about two weeks ago. All tolled, I mounted the tire six times before I finally got it done. The forth time that I mounted it the tire did hold air, but when I went for a ride the tube blew out. I had repaired it...obviously not well enough. The last time I mounted the tire I used an extra heavy duty tube...which was even harder to mount, but I suspect that it will be with the bike until I die or sell it to someone else.

The next issue to present itself for solution was the right side cover...see above. After removing the cover to take a look at the clutch, I remounted the cover only to discover that the kick-start shaft was binding in the side case cover. I tried numerous strategies to solve the gasket...old gasket...nothing really worked. So I proceeded to very slightly enlarge the opening for the kick-start shaft in the side case with my Dremel tool. I had no worries about creating an oil leak because the opening the the side case has an oil seal, and the oil level in the side case is well below the opening. Right now...everything is cool.

The next issue was the rear suspension. When I finally received the bike, it was clear that the right rear shock absorber had received a mighty blow. It was bent inward at least 2.00cm...a little less than an inch. I was going to replace the shocks so this discovery was not a heart breaking event. I ordered some Betor shocks from Spain. Delivery was promised in mid-March. By early May nothing had arrived so I had to look at my options. My first thought was Falcon Shock Absorbers. The guy there is Robin Packham. I have used Falcon shock absorbers on my TLR for many years and I am very happy with them.

You get very personalized service with Robin. We ended-up talking on the phone for a long time finalizing all of the specifications. Every shock is custom made at Falcon . My shocks turned up on my door step about two weeks after we completed the order. They are beautifully made.

Unfortunately my Betor shocks showed up shortly after I placed my order with Robin. One of the nice things about the Betors is the fact that the body of the shock is the same color as the bike. Take a look at the picture below. Leaning against the rear sprocket are the Falcon units.

Less fortunately, the Betors needed a lot of work to mount. Grinding was necessary and some hacksaw work was required. On the other hand, the shocks seem to hold up the swing arm just fine. I am looking forward to trying the Falcon shock absorbers. I ordered the Falcon shock absorbers with 70 lb. springs, and I am sure that the Betors came with 100 lb. springs. I expect to prefer the lighter springs.

After all of these successes with the CR I had to go for a ride. Things did not turn out perfectly. I rode out about ten miles from my house along some dirt roads and the beach. At my turn-around spot the CR did not seem particularly interested in idling. I pressed on keeping the revs up. About three miles from home, I was left with nothing about a very rough idle. I made it home and the next day I took the carburretor apart expecting to find a thoroughly blocked main jet...that was not the case. I did a ultrasonic clean and put everything back together.

On the trail the day before,  I had discovered that the plug cap was very loosely attached to the spark plug. Back home I replaced the original cap with one of my NGK units which I much prefer. It appears that the plug cap was the problem. I had discovered that there was nothing wrong with the carburretor, and when I started the bike after going through the carburretor and replacing the plug cap...all was well. One more long ride will give me an answer. What I really do not want to do is start chasing some heat related ignition problem. We will see.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Art of the Bultaco-Restored

To those of us of a certain age there is an expectation of what a Bultaco is supposed to look like. And, I think a lot of us, are of the belief that is is the prettiest motorcycle engine ever. There is the clean egg shaped cases...the upswept exhaust with the rich chrome finish... the relatively crude expansion box...and finally the very clean inlet tract with the screw-on air filter. You can easily picture the mixture entering the engine...combusting...and exiting the high mounted exhaust.

I was forced to toss the original Monobloc Amal Carburettor which came with the bike. And, by the way, that carburettor was not original to the Campera. It was originally equipped with a Zenith which was not only ugly but also prone to wear. The Monobloc and the intake manifold which came with this bike when I bought it was from a Mercurio. It was over jetted and worn out. My solution was to install a Chinese copy of a Mikuni which was originally intended for a wide range of Japanese 175 cc trail bikes and MX machines. This installation involved two different adapters bolted on to the intake manifold. An air cleaner was eventually discovered which would fit between the carburettor and the frame. It was not a pretty picture. You can see the installation on one of my earlier posts.

The Chinese Mikuni worked well but I could not bear to look at all of those mismatched pieces. It was absolutely disrupting the graceful lines of the Bultaco engine. The solution was provided by .British Bike Bits. I was able to source a Amal (Wassell) carburettor which is intended for a 175cc BSA Bantam. It is a Concentric and its concentricness means that it is somewhat longer from top to bottom than the Monobloc which it replaced which in turn means that I had to find a spacer to move it out just a bit from the mounting studs to create some clearance. If you check the picture above you will see that there is on a tiny clearance between the bottom of the carburettor and the case. The spacer, between the carburettor and the intake manifold is also clearly visible. That little spacer raised the carburettor up just enough so as to clear the cases.

I have gone out on two test rides and it works perfectly. For me if a motorcycle starts easily and idles I am about 80% perfectly happy with it. The Wassell/Amal carburettor makes the Bultaco even easier to start than the Chinese Mikuni. Just use the tickler to run some gas down the intake manifold and off you go. Never more than two kicks.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Tire...New Chain...New Grips...New Levers...Things are Moving along Nicely...

From time to time I post and ask questions on a Vintage Motocross Forum which is based in the United States. It is not a particularly active site and so I am not getting my questions answered but there are some interesting folks on the site that can offer some help. It is a pity that there are not more and better sites for vintage motocross information. There are incredibly helpful sites all around the world for vintage trials people...but not much for vintage motocross. I digress.

On my forth try at mounting this new tire, I finally succeeded. This is a very stiff tire and my hands are not as flexible or as strong as they used to be. Now I can look forward to mounting the another new Maxxis to the front.

I have received some criticism for cutting off the original Bridgestone tire which was mounted on this bike when I bought it. Apparently the tire was specific to the CR250 and prized by collectors. Oh Well...I really need a good tire if I am going to ride this thing. I believe this Maxxis Desert knobby (4.50) will keep me hooked up...unlike the worn-out Bridgestone which came with the bike.

As you can see from the picture above I have a new chain in place as well. Again, much to the dismay of collectors and performance enthusiasts it is not especially "correct". It is an o-ring chain and it does sap some power from the drive line. I am not especially worried. I am sure that I can get myself into some very significant trouble given the power of this bike and I do like the security of knowing that my chain is not going to break ten miles from my house in the Baja Desert.

Above is a nice shot of the OEM muffler. It is a very heavy piece...completely out of keeping with the rest of the bike. At the time this motorcycle was introduced, California had recently introduced laws requiring spark arrestors on all off-road motorcycles. This was Honda's rather inelegant solution. The assumption must have been that the buyers of this bike would remove this piece at the first opportunity. Unfortunately, I am stuck with this "solution". None of the forums that I have visited...nor any of the manufacturers of two stroke mufflers have been able to offer me any alternatives.

When I received the bike, the front mounting bolt on this muffler had been sheared off in the frame and the rear mounting bolt simply was not there. I had to drill out the frozen bolt and clean-out the rear muffler mount for a couple of new bolts. Not a huge project...but it had to be done and it felt good to get those pieces properly mounted. Now all I have to do is get some high temperature paint for the muffler and the side case covers.

The clutch side case cover has been a bit of a project. The very good news is that it had never been removed. The phillips head screws which attach this cover to the crankcase were in perfect condition. There was absolutely no evidence of the screw heads being torn-up in any prior attempts to remove them and the screws themselves were in "like new" condition. The clutch was likewise in "like new" condition. I was primarily interested in checking out the clutch because I have been lead to believe that the clutch baskets on these bikes were subject to excessive wear if abused. This clutch basket was perfect.

A problem arose when I re-assembled the side case cover. As you can see, it is a tight fitting and relatively thin piece. The first time that I re-assembled it...with a new gasket...the kick-starter shaft was bound-up tight. I could barely move the shaft. I took it apart several times and made it a point to carefully check the kick-starter assembly to insure I did not put anything back together up-side-down or backwards...but everything checked-out. It appears that when re-assembling this cover you have to pay very close attention to the order in which the screws are tightened.

Right now the kick-starter shaft is slightly bound-up. What I am going to have do is remove the cover once again and very slightly relieve the bushing where the kick-start shaft comes through the side case cover to create some additional clearance. As things stand right now I can not completely tighten the screws which surround the kick-start assembly. I am not particularly worried about this "modification" because the oil level inside that cover is considerably below the point where the kick-start shaft exits. In the picture above you can see the small bolt which is below and to the right of the kick-start shaft. That is the oil level inspection hole. That is the appropriate level for oil in that side case. It is obviously well below the kick-start shaft. In addition, the kick-start shaft has its own oil seal. So I am not worried about oil coming out of that bushing.

So...what's left? Well, quite a few things. My shocks that I ordered from a Spanish supplier (that shall remain nameless) never arrived and so eBay credited me back the PayPal funds that I had paid to the supplier. So now I am back to my English suppliers looking for a reasonable set of replacement shocks and I still need a front number plate. As mentioned above, the new front tire still needs to be mounted and the forks flushed. I am waiting for a new throttle assembly. One of the previous owners fell over a little too hard on the right side and the original throttle assembly is a little rough.

Watch this space!