Saturday, May 27, 2006

Round and Round She Goes

I bought the tires. On Monday 10 new Michelin Redline tires were stacked in my garage. Thursday I took 5 of them down for mounting and balancing. In case you’re curious, yes, a Subaru Forrester can carry 5 new tires plus 5 wheel-and-tire combos. It’s a bit crowded but it all fits if you fold the rear seat down. There’s even a tiny bit of space left over so you can bring the 5 new inner-tubes with you.

(Yes, I know I probably don’t *need* to use the inner tubes. But I’m not convinced these rims were designed for tubeless tires. They originally came with inner-tubes so that’s what they get. Maybe it’s not rational. But is it rational to put Redline tires on at all? … In the greater scope of things $18/each for the tubes is only minor insanity.)

I also bought a timing light. (Probably should have had one years ago.) I was hoping it would shed some light (no pun intended) on why the new TR6 runs so much differently than the old one. I’m sure it’s not the only reason, but there was at least a 6-degree difference at idle. (12 vs 18.) I made a rough adjustment to the old one and it seems to help, particularly when it’s still warming up.

The master cylinder for the Suzuki is still on back-order. Rumor has an ETA of June 9th. We’ll see. In theory I could be working on the carbs (I don’t think the rear one is attached to the choke) but to test it even roughly means starting the bike and I don’t want to put the engine cover back on until I resolve this clutch.

So I decided to look into the next biggest problem on the new TR6: seats. Oddly, the vinyl is nearly perfect, but the interior foam is completely shot. (The upholstery looks a little bit like Danny Devito wearing a suit made for Shaq.) I wasn’t sure if I’d need to cut or sew anything to get the vinyl back on, or how difficult the seats would be to strip. I decided I’d “practice” with the passenger seat from the old TR6. (Its seats have needed new foam AND vinyl since about 1992. I figured it wouldn’t matter if I tore the vinyl a little during disassembly.)

The disassembly wasn’t as bad as I feared. (I took a number of digital photos just in case.) It doesn’t look like any sewing will be required if the replacement kit looks anything like the originals. It should mostly slide right over the padding then get held in place with two clamps, about a dozen clips, a some strategically placed adhesive.

Speaking of replacement kits: I should probably stop yammering and order one. There seem to be a few available (The Roadster Factory, Moss, and Victoria British all offer some form of kit). Anyone have any experience with any of them? I want to make sure the vinyl matches the original color and pattern.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sunny Days, Sweeping the Clouds Away

It's a beautiful day outside. I decided to spend most of it in the garage. I'm not really sure why but that seems to be standard for me. If it's crappy outside I'm in the house, if it's nice out I'm in the garage. You'd think a sensible person would spend the crappy days working in the garage so when the weather turns nice you could enjoy the fruits of your labor. ... Draw your own conclusions.

I'm still waiting on the master clutch cylinder for the bike so the new TR6 was my target today.

I finished up the paint today. (Or at least I finished as much of the paint as *I* intend to do. I might get some professional work done on it.) It took about 5 hours to clean, polish and wax the whole car. It made a noticable improvement (even to Anandi) but it didn't fix everything. There's a spot on the top of the passenger door where the paint has cracked. I also found one or two dozen places where touch-up paint was used (and not in a good way). In addition I found a couple of dents and wrinkles that I hadn't noticed before. Nothing too imposing some may require professional help.

I also started a simple tune-up. Set the dwell, set the needle height of the carbs, replace the plugs, change the oil. And took it for a spin. It runs well. The engine is strong, the suspension is good and the brakes are very strong. (Although the shuttle in the hydraulic system may be shifted so only the front wheels are receiving pressure.) The worst things I found were squeaky brakes and it pulls to the right.

(Should I be happy or sad that it runs considerably better than my other TR6? It's nice that it runs well, but I like to think I'm good enough at this stuff that my work should be as good or better than everyone else's. ... Maybe I'll just blame it on the extra 82,000+ miles that my other TR6 has covered.)

Tomorrow I'll take it in for a front-end alignment and finish up the brief tune-up.

It needs new tires. The four it's wearing are the wrong style and they're shot (probably because of the alignment) and the spare is an original which means it's probably 33 years old. I have two choices:
- Michelin Redlines. 185/75/R15. These are original equipment for a TR6. $180/ea.
- Coker reproductions. I could get these in wider sizes. (The tires on the car now are 205 series.) $125-$155/ea.

I think I'll bite the bullet and buy 10 and replace all the tires for both cars. Who knows, maybe I'll get a bulk-rate discount.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Need For Speed

In 1999 I bought a new Triumph Daytona 955i. I don't like to admit I bowed to peer pressure but I was talked into it by a college buddy. I never considered myself a "Sportbike Guy" but I wanted to ride and my Suzuki wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I figured the Daytona was an experiment. Worst case scenario: I wouldn't like it and I'd sell it in a year and lose a little money. So I bought it.

(If my mother is reading this right now she's thinking "No. The worst case scenario is you race some friend down a side street, whack into a post and I get a frantic phonecall from your friends mother." My early history on two-wheels was not good. It was a traumatic time for mom.)

Sportbikes are made for the track. There's nowhere else you can even come close to using the cabapilities of a modern sportbike. If you have a sportbike and you haven’t taken it to the track you have no idea what you’re riding. You don’t have to worry about speed limits, gravel, rabbits, on-coming traffic, or the idiots going 45 in the left lane with their blinker on. All you need to worry about it is the asphalt coming at you from the front.

Trust me, take it to a track. It doesn't have to be expensive. Some people spend $20k+ on their track-day pit equipment, not including the bike. They also probably go to 30 tracks days every year. I have a trailer. It was $250 online. It came in a box. Some days I use it to haul crap to the dump. It works perfectly well to haul a bike.

I'll probably spew a bunch of track day stories throughout this blog. But for now I'll just try to focus on what's going on. The goal is to install an on-board video system.

I bought a lip-stick camera from It's mounted in the nose (pictures coming soon). That was pretty easy.

I've had less luck trying to setup the recording device. I first tried a Mustek PVR-A1. It was small, wrote to an SD card, and was < $100. All good. But it only gave 320x240 resolution, 15 fps, and the image color quality wasn't that good. I was hoping for something more.

I looked around and found that there are alot of people who make what I wanted, but most of them were $1000+. (The folks who claim to make the video and data-collection unit for John Force were very nice and had a very impressive setup. But for $3500 I'll have to leave that to the NHRA professionals.)

Right now I'm trying an Archos AV500 as a recorder. The picture quality 640x480, 30fps. The problem is that it uses an HDD not flash-memory so vibration is a problem. (When vibration takes over you it keeps the HDD from writing the file, so you don't get any data at all.) I created a sleeve out of foam to help isolate the recorder but it's not very reliable.