Sunday, November 29, 2009

Let Us Give Thanks for Vintage Hondas

What a great Thanksgiving weekend!  Today Juli and I decided to go on a short hike up Blue Job Mountain, not far from us in NH.  It's a little mountain, and the trail isn't long, but its unique position means great views in all directions.  You can see into the White Mountains, East to Maine, bits of the seacoast, and West toward Vermont.
Anyway, despite today's late November date, the weather was nice, mid 40s and sunny.  So we took the Honda!  The picture above is Juli and the Honda at the trail head.  We wore many layers!  On the way there, a couple of the roads we wanted to take turned out to be dead-ends.  The Honda has seen some mild off road duty, and handles it well, but I didn't think we'd make these ones, especially with two on the bike.
What a great ride, though!  We found some great roads we've never been on.  It's interesting to ride when all the leaves are gone because you see things you wouldn't notice in the summer.  For example, the view of Bow Lake from Province Road was beautiful!  Somewhere in Strafford we were behind an old, gray Jeep CJ7.  The sounds and smells from that jeep filled me with great memories.  We always had cj's growing up, and sound of the 258ci straight six engine of the AMC era jeeps is one of the more enduring memories I have kept from childhood.
It was a great day, and probably our last ride of the season.  When we got home I added Stabil to the gas tank and parked the bike in the tent behind the garage.  Sad, but the reality is that we may not see many more days above 40 degrees, and that's cold enough for me.  From now until Spring the focus will be the repairs and maintenance items listed in the older post.

On another note, we made some great discoveries in the luggage realm.  First off, on our way back from Thanksgiving dinner Juli and I stopped at a bike dealer in Maine.  I have been wanting to see the new Moto Guzzi V7 in person since it came out, so we made a special stop.  That bike, by the way, is absolutely beautiful.  The perfect size, stance, style.  I was thoroughly impressed!  Anyway, at the dealer we saw a nice little top trunk from EMGO that looks to be the perfect size for our rear rack.

Best of all it's relatively cheap!  I looked at some nice cases from name brands and they're great, but many of them cost over $200!  It was great to see this trunk in person and witness just how sturdy it was.

Speaking of cheap, we had a new idea for side cases as well, and it came from the redneck world of Cabelas!  Don't get me wrong, I like Cabelas; in fact our tent came from them and it is excellent!

There is lots of talk on the adventure rider's forum about using ammo cans for side cases.  It's cheap and easy, but those things are very heavy, and our little bike can't carry a ton of extra weight.  And as much as I like the Pelican style boxes I mentioned before, they are pretty heavy too.  That's why I like these plastic boxes from Cabela's:

They're called Magnum Field Boxes, made by a company called Plano.  They appear to be rather tough, light, and are bigger than the Pelican's I was looking at.  They're also top-loading, which could be handy.  These are also cheap, around $25!!  Next time we're in Maine, we'll stop at the Cabela's store and see them in person.  That way we can judge whether they'd be tough enough for what we want to do.

Also, this weekend we looked at some travel books and I found one that I really like from National Geographic.  It's their guide to scenic highways and biways.  As a gauge for the quality of routes described, I looked at the New Hampshire section.  They mentioned Route 302 and the Kancamangus Highway, as they should.  But they also mention Route 153, which snakes up the east side of the state.  My dad discovered this road on his Royal Enfield and raved about it.  It is off the beaten path, but a great ride, so it seems that National Geographic is good at judging great routes!  It will be a great tool for finding those small, twisty, hilly, narrow roads we hope to stick to on our trip.

Hope everyone's Thanksgiving was great.  With all this planning and fun we had this weekend, Juli and I both feel thankful.
Jeremy B

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Preparation H (for Honda): Getting the bike ready

Earlier I mentioned what repairs, replacements, rebuilds, I have done to the bike to get it ready.  After spending countless hours reading on the forums, I have a good idea of what goes wrong on these bikes and what items should be looked at before a long trip.  So this is my to-do list for the winter.  Like last winter, these jobs will be spread out over time as I have time and money to complete the projects.
Here's what I'll do:

Front End:
Rebuild front fork with new seals and oil
wheel bearings
   -There is a squeak coming from the front end sometimes that I fear may be dried out bearings.  A seizure would be somewhat catastrophic.
clean and adjust brake caliper, add new brake pads
  -brakes are also squeaky, not sure why but this should fix it.
Stainless steel brake hoses
   -This is one of the best upgrades on these old bikes.  It quickens the response of the front brake and    resists fading as you squeeze the lever.  Those old rubber hoses are probably unsafe anyway, so whey not replace them with the best?
Tapered Roller Steering head bearings
  -Not sure the bike needs this repair right now.  It's more of an upgrade that improves handling.  I will do it if funds allow.

Fix electric start
  This may involve replacing the solenoid, or the switch. I am not sure why the starter doesn't always spin.  One issue is that the normal starter button is missing and the previous owner hacked into the wires by the left side cover and added his own push button switch.  That'll also be fixed.
Clean and lubricate all electrical connections
 This can make a big difference on these old bikes.  The SOHC Honda charging system doesn't offer much extra juice, so corroded or dirty connections can really affect brightness of lights, switches, and even how good the thing runs.  I'll unplug each connector and polish it, then put it back together with dielectric grease.
Replace/fix Horn
 Not sure why the horn doesn't work because I haven't looked into it.  It's the switch, a connection, or possibly the horn itself.  Fortunately a horn can be had for like $10

Tune Up/Maintenance
New points/condensers
I have no idea how old these parts are, so since they're cheap I'll go the safe route and get new ones.  I also intend to keep an extra set on the bike.  I have contemplated getting the electronic ignition for this bike, but we'll see if funds allow.  Points are nice because they're so simple you can fix on the side of the road.  Electronic ignition is maintenance free and will probably never fail, but if it did I would have no way to fix it while on the road.
Clean and synchronize carburetors again
 I think the bike is running rich, so I want to take the carbs off, clean them, recheck float levels, and re-sync them.  Over the summer I invested in a fancy carb sync tool, so that job isn't so bad.  What is bad is taking the carbs off and putting them on again.  That has been the least pleasant job on this bike.  I should be damn good at it after doing it so many times trying to get the carbs right, but alas, it still sucks.
New Chain and Sprockets
I have no idea how old the ones on the bike are.  The chain is definitely done for, and they recommend doing the sprockets at the same time.  Unfortunately the CB500 cannot use an o-ring chain, they're too wide and rub against the engine case, possible wearing a hole through it (ouch!).  A standard chain is cheaper though!  Sprockets are pretty cheap for this old girl too.
Maintenance Schedule
Routine stuff all in the first section of the manual.  Check and adjust cam chain, valve clearance, timing, etc.  This is easy and won't cost any money (provided I don't break anything).

Swing Arm Bushings
These were a weak point on the old Hondas, one of the few things that didn't last long.  There are aftermarket bronze bushings that work better.  Mine may not be bad, but I want to replace them anyway as the bike will be at or above load capacity with the girl and me plus luggage.  Plus, I think it would be good to take apart, clean, and re-lubricate the swing arm pivot shaft.  That grease is 38 years old.

New Rear Tire, tube, rim strip
Ahh, spoked wheels.  Standard size for this bike is 3.50-18.  The old inch-sizes are not hard to find, but you don't get much of a selection.  I think I'll go with a Dunlop 4.00-18, which seems to work on these rims.  Dad's Royal Enfield runs these and I really like them for dirt roads.  I am going to try this job on my own, we'll see how that goes.   I guess I should check the spokes for tension and the wheel for balance while I have it off.

Rear wheel bearings
Probably past their prime as well.  Not something I want to deal with on the trip, so I'll do them as a precaution.

Repaint exhaust headers
Last winter I painted the exhaust headers because the chrome was really crappy and a couple of them were a little rusty.  Brilliantly I chose engine enamel in a spray can, not realizing that engine enamel is not heat-resistant enough for exhaust pipes!  So my nice black headers have been slowly reverting back to crappy gray.
Here's what that project looked like.  I came up with an ingenious method of painting the individual pipes!  Here's before and after, then shown reinstalled on the bike.  This was before I had done the seat and gas tank, among other things.

I may also repaint the tank and side covers with a fresh coat of green.  I never took the time to sand and polish my original green paint job, so if I have time I'll redo it.

So there's my to do list!  Some of these repairs have been covered in Motorcycle Classics magazine's series on their project CB500, so for some things I have a nice, full color set of instructions in the vernacular language.  I also have the amazing resource of, which has helped me immensely so far.
Please note, parents and others, that most of the repair items I have lined up here are mainly to improve the safety of the bike.  I could probably ride it to Alaska tomorrow, but I want the bike to be as safe and reliable as I can make it!

Please stay tuned for more exciting posts!
Jeremy B

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Recent Ride and Sleeping Pads!

Riding the country on our little old Honda will surely be exhausting, so we're investing in a good summer's sleep!  We've already got the tent and sleeping bags, and just last week I got two Themarest Prolite sleeping pads!
 These things are awesome.  They roll up to 4"x11" and weigh one pound each.  They're only about 1" thick when inflated, but they'll provide a cushion from the ground as well as an insulating value.  These were a big expense, one of the largest single purchases for camping stuff, but there was a sale at EMS so I figured we'd take advantage.
There is still tons of other stuff we need to get (see our earlier posting) but it feels good to check off two of the biggies.

Sunday, November 8 was a glorious fall day here in New Hampshire.  I was home for the weekend and took what may be my last motorcycle ride of the year.  Originally I thought I'd ride to one of the local ridges but the weather kept getting better so I continued through the country to the seacoast.  The bike was running great but I discovered a couple of issues that will need to be addressed over the winter.  First of all, it's vibrating too much for a Honda four cylinder.  So much, in fact, that one of the tiny screws that hold the tachometer gauge face vibrated loose and fell off, leaving me with a wobbly tach face!  It's not easy to get inside the tach to fix this, but luckily my favorite magazine, Motorcycle Classics, did a feature on how to take apart the old honda gauges.   I think the vibration is simply due to the need for a tuneup.  I need to sync the carbs again and check valve clearances, all routine stuff that hasn't been done in a while.
The back tire is about spent.  I don't know how much further I dare go on it.  I plan to replace it myself, so if you're bored and in the need of some humor at another's expense, you can come over and watch me try to change the tire!
Also, the front end is squeaky.  I need to take apart the caliper and clean it, and I probably need to replace the wheel bearings as well.  Despite the relatively low miles shown on our bike, I think the age alone of some components (like bearing grease) can merit replacement.

Speaking of mileage, Sunday's ride almost put my bike's mileage over 18,000!  I was about 30 miles shy of crossing the big 18k.  Oddly, my Subaru is currently about 30 miles shy of crossing over the 180,000 mile mark!  Hmm.

Another thing!  Apparently clicking the "follow" thing on my page really does nothing other than tell me you're interested in the blog.  You won't get an email or anything telling you when I've updated the blog, so please bookmark the blog and check back every few days to see what's new!

Next couple of blogs will discuss route ideas, as mentioned before, and a list of what I still need to do to the bike to prepare for the trip.
Jeremy B