The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Mollusks

Part of the joy of owning a motorcycle is getting to perform mechanical work. Many will disagree with me regarding this mindset because most motorists view their vehicles as a mode of transportation, a device to get them from point A to point B. Anytime a problem comes up, they need to find a mechanic and make arrangements to get the trouble fixed and this is a burden. If I had to rely on the Brick for daily commuting I might feel this way too, but I am lucky that I live close enough to work that I can walk. I use the motorcycle for enjoyment and that enjoyment come not only from riding it but also working on it.

As I have stated before in these pages, mechanical work is forbidden in my parking garage. There were a few things I wanted to get done to the Brick so I emailed my boss and asked if he would be kind enough to loan me his garage in New Jersey as he had done before. He told me when I first got the bike that his garage is my garage and I could use it at any time unannounced. I try to be a considerate person so give him a heads up anyway.

My boss is an amazing guy and a true renaissance man. He has a passion for life that is inspiring. Every activity in which he participates, he commits to full force. I work with him at a college recording studio and besides being an audio expert, a teacher, and composer, he is also a master chef, a wine aficionado, and an adventurer. He is fearless and I try to emulate his spirit by attacking whatever I want to accomplish whole heartedly. He is also a great supporter of mine and when I was going through my divorce, he gave me great advice and told me to take off as much time as I needed to heal. He places the human condition over work and realizes what is important in life. He has a positive attitude and always greets me with a big smile a “Joey the P” in a booming voice. There a few people I let call me Joey. My family and few close friends are allowed this privilege which I only grant to people whom I hold in the utmost respect. I previously wrote about my father and grandfather, and my boss is an amalgam of these two men. He has the technical and mechanical aptitude of my dad, and the larger than life personality of my grandpa. I have been at my current job for 10 years, and my boss is the primary reason.

I headed over to Jersey to the loaner garage. I took the George Washington Bridge to the Palisades Parkway. It was a perfect morning for a ride. It’s only about 18 miles to my boss’s house, so the ride was fast. When I arrived I saw a printed note (not hand written!) from my boss letting me know he was out running, he’d be back at 10am, and to help myself to any tools. I pulled the brick onto the center stand and started taking apart the right hand controls to get to the master cylinder. My boss returned to find me in his garage working on the bike. He asked if I needed anything and chatted for a bit, but then left me to my devices. He is a very perceptive man and he realized that when I’m doing mechanical work on the Brick it is my therapy.

The garage was cool and out of the direct heat of the sun which allowed me to work at a very relaxed pace. I took apart the right controls carefully, following the instructions from my Haynes Manual. I kept my work place very neat as I methodically pulled each part off. It took a while but I was enjoying myself. A man alone working with his hands. For at least a week before, I carefully reasearched the tools I needed for the job before coming out to do the work. I obtained snap ring pliers and a one man brake bleeding kit. I got the master cylinder off and extracted the piston from the bore using the snap ring pliers. The piston was actually not damaged in any way. The rubber seals were pliable and soft, but it was very dirty and this dirt was what was causing it to drip fluid from around the brake lever. I honed out the bore with some 600 grit sandpaper to remove any roughness or burrs. I replaced the piston with a new one I procured from Beemer Boneyard and reassembled the parts I had removed. It was a much easier task that I thought and I came prepared by doing a lot of reading before hand.

My brakes had been squealing since I changed my brake pads a few weeks ago. I thought I would just let this go, but every time I stopped at a light the squeal would make pedestrians cup their ears with disdain. I read up on a solution and purchased some Permatex Disc Brake Quiet spray. I coated the backs of the brake pads with the blue aerosol, let it dry, and reassembled the brakes.

Midway through the job, my boss’s wife made me a lunch of a cod cake sandwich, grilled aspragus, and blue tortilla chips. It was such a kind gesture. They have been a couple for a long time and have two kids in college. I tried to recollect my most lasting relationship. The longest lasted around 4 years. Is there something wrong with me that I cannot sustain a loving relationship for more than this short period of time? Have I simply chosen the wrong women or is it a character flaw? This idea is always in the front of my thoughts. I have pushed many people away in my life. I hold grudges too long, and I have trouble moving on from traumatic events. I keep working towards happiness, but I realize that it may be a moving target – one that I may never hit. But one thing I have realized is that owning this old bike helps me. Perhaps moving through the air at speed produces the serotonin I am lacking, or maybe it’s much more simple than that. I don’t question it. I just ride and feel better.

Some preventative maintenance I wanted to perform was to change the gearbox oil and the final drive oil. Once again I came prepared. I knew the proper fill levels, and had a supply of aluminum crush washers that fit the fill and drain plugs of the respective vessels. I increased the oil weight of the the gearbox to Royal Purple 75W-140 to hopefully improve the clunky downshifts I was experiencing. I filled the final drive with Mobil 1 75W-90 as suggested by my readings. The fluid change was an easy job and it gave me peace of mind. I want to have as many preventative items completed before my big trip in August to California and back.

I took the bike for a test ride. The brake squeal was gone and the shifting seemed much smoother. I smiled to myself, proud of the work I completed. The weather was beautiful so I decided to take a ride instead of heading straight home.

I said goodbye to my boss and his wife and I headed up the Palisades Parkway until it’s end at the Bear Mountain Bridge. I crossed the bridge and then headed south down the 9. I stopped in Peekskill for a repeat visit to the Peeksill Brewery. I ordered a beer and a plate of oysters. Euro Cup soccer was on the tube and I thought I would watch the game, but I got involved in a conversation with a patron named Pete. He told me he had a Harley and we exchanged some motorcycle stories. He was a friendly and funny guy and he gave me a few destinations that I will visit in my future travels. I enjoyed meeting somebody face to face for a change. In this world of texting and Facebook there seems to be so little human interaction in the world. So many people are tethered to their phones. I go to concerts and I see people capturing video on their cell phones and I don’t understand why they want to watch the entire concert through a 2.5 inch screen when the band is standing there live in front of them. Everybody is interested in chronicling every event in their life as if to say “Look at me! But as I write this, I guess I am guilty of this too. I post pictures of my bike and places I been as if bragging. I guess there is narcissism in all of us.

Pete and I talked for a while and he shook my hand as he lumbered out to his Harley. “Keep it on 2” I said. I am guess he was about 65 and still riding his hog with loud open pipes. I hope I will ride when I am his age. I stay as safe as I can so that I can ride when I am older. I am often questioned why I want to ride when the accident rate is so high for motorcyclists. I just smile and give my stock answer, “If I have to explain it to you, you’ll never understand.” I don’t want to ride – I have to ride.

Master cylinder off Snap ring pliers Honing the bore
Rebuilt! Brakes De-squeaked Mollusk celebration

Maintenance and Mollusks route

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