Saturday, April 29, 2006

So Close I Can Smell It



The history …
When I was in college I bought a 1987 Suzuki Intruder 1400. It was loud and obnoxious and matched my leather jacket. I had to have it. In 1995 I was living in Rhode Island and I rode the bike to NYC to meet a friend. On the ride back it started burning oil at a spectacular rate. It wasn’t so much a motorcycle as the center of a blue cloud.

It was soon clear that the problem was internal to the engine. On that bike any significant engine work means pulling the engine. Ever since buying it I wanted to customize it. Lower, narrower, simpler. Around that time CycleWorld magazine had a cover bike that I thought was a good direction to head (except for the orange paint).

So I had a bike that needed major disassembly to fix a real problem, and a desire to make some changes. In other words: a recipe for disaster.

I started wrenching. Methodically removing the engine according to the manual. Carefully sorting and labeling all of the parts I removed. Things went well for a month.

Then I had a bad day at work. (I don’t why.) I went home and vented my frustration on the bike. I launched into the disassembly with gusto. By 3am I had a bare frame hanging from the rafters in the garage and the motor was on a table in the guest bedroom. (Shhh! Don’t tell my landlord.) The parts were randomly scattered around the garage.

The bike was never the same.

6 months later I moved to a new house. In another year I was in Arizona. 5 years after that I moved to Seattle. Most of the bike was in milk-crates around the garage. More than once I considered giving the whole thing away.

After moving to Seattle the Suzuki project started getting the attention it needed. (It’s amazing how much more free time you have when you’re unemployed.) After 3 years it's almost done. It has a modified tank and frame, a new rear fender, new paint, forward foot controls, new hand controls, new wheels, etc.

(Disclaimer: I have a limited skill-set. I don’t do paint or fabrication. I order parts. I wrench. The skilled tasks were done at local shops.)

Believe it or not, after over 10 years in boxes and several cross country moves, the Suzuki moved under it’s own power a few weeks ago. It ran like a pig but it did run.

Current status …

Here’s the problem: It won’t shift gears if the motor is running. … (Go ahead and re-read that sentence. I’ll wait.) … Start in neutral, shift into first and ride off. As long as you don’t need 2nd gear and never have to stop you’re all set.

It turns out that the after-market clutch doesn’t push as much fluid as the stock one, so it doesn't fully disengage. When the motor is running there’s too much force on the clutch to allow the transmission to shift.

A few days ago I ordered a new master-cylinder. Identical to the one I already have except it has an 11/16” bore instead of 9/16”. It should push 50% more fluid and hopefully that will do the trick. If not, I’m considering leaving out one pressure plate and slip plate.

Once the clutch works the only thing keeping it off the road is a major tune-up.

1 comment:

Ricemutt said...

Hey TJ -- I love the writing style. Esp. the bit about shifting gears. Laughed out loud at that one! :)