Monday, December 10, 2007
So I'm leaving to Mexico on Thursday. Riding through Arizona to Copper Canyon, over to the ferry from Los Mochis to La Paz and then criss-crossing up through the Baja California.
Three Women, three motorcycles, three weeks, 4000 miles.
I'm taking a KTM950 Adventure that I bought a couple months ago. Or so I hope.
It blew the water pump on me for the second time. After investigation of why that actually happened again, I found out that the cases are misaligned, which potentially could have damaged the crank, which would make the engine blow up eventually. Now that would be fun. I got all the right parts to fix it for now, but am running out of time to give it a good shakedown run.
I'm nervous about the reliability now. I might take my traveling buddy's brother's KLR instead. I have one day to decide on that. I need to think fast. I know the KLR will make it there and back without a hick-up. The KTM on the other hand is a little more comfortable and just nicer, but I'm not sure if I can trust it yet.
Anyway, I will keep a separate blog for this journey where you can find updates during my travels. You can find it here:
The shop will be closed over Christmas, so no new tech blogs, but I will be keeping a journal, and posting to that blog while traveling , internet access permitting...
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
What's this greyish-brown stuff coming out of the cooling system? This kind of Yuk! happens when water and oil mix.
Usually when you see an emulsion like this in the engine. Which then means either the water pump seals are bad and/or the head gasket is blown, and water got into the engine.
Here, it came out of the cooling system. There was a ton of oil in the system. It was like mud paste. Never seen anything like it. Seemed like more oil than water.
So we took the water pump apart, did a leak down on the engine to determine if the head gasket was blown, and that checked out all ok, and then realized that the oil cooler had internally fried o-rings, let the oil leak into the cooling system, and needed a rebuild.
That probably happened when the thermostat got stuck, and there was no cooling the oil and the oil cooler, and the o-rings burned. Or, the o-rings burned, let the water and the oil mix, and then the emulsion made the thermostat stick, but the first scenario is a lot more likely. Or the bike is just really old and the o-rings reached the end of their life.
So if your radiator stays cool, and the temperature is up, check your thermostat. Needless to say, this is not too good for the engine. In this case the engine seems to be fine, and although it is a lot of work to rebuild, and clean the cooling system, it'll be ok in the end. Phew!
And I am really glad that we wear gloves here at the shop. Wouldn't want that slimy mess on my girly skin...
Thursday, October 4, 2007
So here is an interesting take on spooning...how to protect your heel from exhaust heat. It almost looks stock from 5 feet away, but if you look close, it's actually a giant spoon hose-clamped to the exhaust...innovative. Road side engineering, the good kind.
Speaking of spooning: I just bought a KTM950 Adventure. I almost wheeled it into my bedroom yesterday so I could spoon with it and look at it when I wake up in the morning...
I'm taking it to Mexico to get married to it. OK, kidding. I'm going to Copper Canyon for Christmas, and I have been trying on bikes to see which one is the one that will give me maximum riding pleasure. The Adventure seems to be purpose-built, just the right bike for touring and mild off-roading/riding on Mexican roads...
This turned out to be an all-girl trip, so the KTM will my ersatz boyfriend...
I'll make sure to write postcards and document the trip on this blog. Cheers!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
This is a drain plug with a very mangled sealing washer. You cannot see it in this picture, but it is very thin, much thinner that it should be, and, as you can see in this picture, a lot bigger then when it was new.
How do drain plug washers grow that much bigger you ask?
Well, for example, if somebody cranks the drain plug tight like they took a double portion of steroids that morning with no regards to the gentle needs of an innocent oil drain plug.
Commonly you would think that changing the oil is something that the aspiring hobby mechanic should have no problem doing.
I have seen anything from filling the engine to the top of the filler plug, which would result major drag and no power or non start of the engine, to tightening the drain plug until the lead washer squeezes out on the side, which is the picture you can admire here.
I put a fresh washer next to it to demonstrate just how much this drain plug was tightened. I know, the fear of loosing your oil plug and subsequently the oil over your rear tire with resulting self made oil slick and/or engine damage from oil pressure loss, is grand.
But really people. If the drain washer starts oozing out of the sides of the drain plug like a toothpaste out of the tube, wouldn't you care to think that something is actually WRONG?
The owner of the motorcycle that was accompanied by this squeezy here was lucky, since nothing more happened.
But I have seen it that the engine cases were cracked from asserting too much pressure on the little threads. In which case: you need to take the oil pan off and weld it.
Expensive and a lot of work.
Or: You don't have an oil pan, which older bikes or singles don't typically have, and then you are kinda SOL and either need to live with a leaky pan or do some labor intensive JB weld job every time you change the oil.
So if you are an aspiring mechanic: In your own interest. Do yourself a favor and buy a torque wrench.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Hopefully this doesn't remind you of your refrigerator after coming back from a 4 week vacation and having forgotten to throw away that food, but if it does, there are similarities.
It's organic matter from a tire emergency fix, called Slime, molded after sitting in the tire for 2 years.
This picture was taken with my cell phone since the battery was dead on my good camera, so it's a little fuzzy, but *I swear* the color was just like that.
Slime is always a pain for the mechanic, since it is, as the name implies, slimy, and has to be removed before a new tire can be mounted.
This bike came in the morning, before I had coffee, and the mechanic wasn't very happy about this either needless to say...
So if there are no plugs handy, and you have to use Slime, would you pretty please come in soon after that and have you tire changed, please, before it molds? It is a temporary fix after all, and not recommended for highway use. Also, once there is Slime in the tire, or Fix-a-Flat for that matter, it can't be safely plugged anymore, and you need a new tire for sure.
It also might be cheaper to have the bike towed to the shop than having to pay the mechanic to clean it up.
But hey, I guess stuff like this comes with the territory. Good thing it wasn't Monday morning though...
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I encountered this man east of Reno, just before the sun was down, on a recent road trip that I took on my recently purchased "couch", an 04 FZ1.
Despite the stern look on his face though, he was very nice and posed for the camera...
Ok, so he is not some red neck yahoo trying to chase me off his property, although that almost did happen to us a couple weeks ago on another trip.
It's Joe at the Supermoto races that were held at Reno Fernley this weekend, and the reason he is holding that gun is because he just got done starting off the 1 hour Supermoto team endurance race.
The start was done LeMans style which was refreshingly old school (is that an oxymoron?) and very exciting to watch. Here is a video of it: http://youtube.com/watch?v=2I6NBVNx9YM
Make sure you turn up the volume. Sounds like a stampede when everybody running toward their bikes that are leaned against the wall, then jumping on them, kick starting the bike and then taking off like bats out of hell. Fun!
Friday, August 10, 2007
You all have read these great travel stories by brave people that we admire for doing it, and you dream about doing it yourselves, but never do.
See, there is always an excuse: no time, can't get off work, don't have the right bike, since what you *really* need is a BMW R100GS, KLR650, Harley, Goldwing, Big Tourer of any make or an Enduros bike, right?
But not Michael Lohr, seen in this picture: he has a 2006 Suzuki GZ250, and he just drove it up from San Diego past San Francisco and is now on the way back. He says he needs to take a break every 50 miles, but hey, he's on vacation, so no rush, and he is definitely having fun, so that's what's it all about!
So whatever you have, don't let yourself prevent from a road trip. Everything is possible, you just need the right mind set.
And there is a good amount of people doing it, seems like it's getting more and more, and some come by here, for an oil change, new tire or repair to keep going, and it's always fun to talk to travelers.
I have a soft spot for traveling. After all, that's what I was doing when I fell in love with San Francisco, and got "stuck" here, meeting a good man and opening my own business.
That's what I love about traveling. You just never know what's going to happen. Finding the sweet spot. The Serendipity Factor. I love the serendipity factor.
My next adventure: Mexico over Christmas. 4 weeks of going where the weather suits me. Too cold? Drive closer to the coast. Too warm? Let's go to the mountains.
I'll be sure to make lots of pictures to share with you. And if you know of a great hidden away place to go in Mexico, let me know? Thanks!
Since that missing smile chunk is so warm and fuzzy it'll just burn and do not too much harm, but if you get into the dusties, with a smile like that, the dust is going the past of least resistance, right through that hole, and into your engine.
So washable air filters are pretty great as long as they last, but eventually they rot.
And paper air filters? They usually don't rot like that, unless a mouse gets to it (and I have seen that, but don't have a picture of it) and they can't be serviced, so when they clog, they look like this:
Another nice one from my bad bad air filter collection: you can see nicely how your air filter should and should not look like....pictures do speak more that words...
So no more words. This is a short one. Until next time...
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Here is a little quiz for you: where was this picture taken? Burning Man or Laguna Seca?
This picture could've been taken at either event: The hats, the funny hair, the beer cozies, the ear-to-ear grins, the blue sky.
What else, let's see: friends, fun, lots of (loud) events, making sure you drink enough water, heat, wind, camping out, sharing a common interest.
The races at Laguna Seca though have a couple added bonuses, for me anyway: you get to see the fastest guys on motorcycles in the world, and: it's right in our back yard.
And, thanks to Mike and Danielle, Arne and Michelle and Jim and Milli, all I have to do is get on my motorcycle with my tent and sleeping bag and show up to the best organized camp ever with everything and enjoy myself. And I did have a great time, thanks you guys!
One great thing that happened is Marco Melandri getting on the podium despite a foot injury. He just overcame the obstacles and kicked butt. It ain't over until the fat lady sings, and she didn't sing yet! Go Melandri, never give up!
And I picked him on the podium in the pre-race bet and won a t-shirt that Arne and Michelle got at the MotoGP race at Valencia. Yeehaa!
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
This picture here is the aftermath of yet another motorcycle overheating fest at the MotoGP at Laguna Seca this year.
When I heard it'll be in the 70s for this year's MotoGP at Laguna I was relieved. Not only for my own comfort but for all those poor bikes that had relentlessly overheated last year trying to get into the track.
But I was wrong.
It was pleasant for us humans (although it did get pretty chilly camping at night). The bikes however, if you got caught with the coming-to-the-track-at-8.30am- crowd, had a hard time once again.
Although it was cool, being stopped in traffic is hard on any bike. All newer bikes are liquid cooled and made for speed, so going slow or not going at all gets even the coolest running bike into the red.
On many modern motorcycles the fan never comes on under normal operation (i.e. on the gas, and getting air flow cooling through the radiator), so when it does, a little bit of corrosion makes the fan stick a little initially. This makes the dedicated 30A fan fuse blow, and then results in a non-operating fan and an overheating bike.
My bike circled between 220F and 225F, which is totally borderline. I was glad I checked the fan operation before I left by letting it run and monitoring the temperature until the fan comes on (or not, in which case you need to check out why).
Still, I thought that was a little hot and I was prepared to switch my bike off at any sign of fluid leakage.
Unfortunately, a lot of people were unaware of their bikes leaking. There was one poor motorcycle that got kicked even though it was down already - literally: it leaked coolant AND was already obscured in cooling fluid smoke, kept dying, and the owner still tried to re-start the bike every time it died.
And although I usually don't exercise empathy for inanimate objects, even motorcycles, THAT made my heart hurt. Argh!
That's the time when you evaluate how much it is worth to you to not miss first practice in the morning. Is it about $2000 or more? Which is what it costs to get rebuild the engine or even swap one that you got form ebay.
Time to smell the roses (or the smell of overheating motorcycles...as long as it is not yours...) since there was no way for ALL of us to bypass traffic, since traffic consisted solely of motorcycles with the same problem.
In any other situation, the solution is to (safely) split lanes and keep the bike moving. After all, that is why the lane splitting law was adapted in California, not to keep cool bikers moving, but to keep hot bikes cooled down.
But at Laguna - yet another overheating mayhem, but apart from that it was a great and very fun weekend, and I can't wait until next year, and now I am writing another blog that deals with all the fun times we had...
Monday, July 2, 2007
I write about nails in tires, I get a nail in my tire. Second time ever! I guess I have been lucky.
Fortunately Rich Gibbons from Berkeley Performance Motorcycles picked me up at 11pm on the Richmond Bridge. It's great to have good friends. Thank you, Rich, you are the best!
Two weeks ago, after writing about chains breaking - my chain breaks.
So now, on suggestion from Rich Gibbons, I'm going to write about the lottery. If I write about the lottery, I should win the lottery, right? All things come in threes as they say. So here is my pitch to test that. Kinda like myth busters. Only I hope this one is not going to bust...
If I win in the lottery this week, I'll mount free tires for a week at the shop...promise!
So wish me luck, you might get a free tire out of this...
(update: Didn't win the lottery. So much for good old sayings. Back to the drawing table on how to get filthy rich.)
Friday, June 29, 2007
Every once in a while you need to get away from what you are doing, and you need to get on your motorcycle and get far out of the city and your regular life.
So when my friend Sarah Lyon, who made that great calender about female mechanics (and in which I am the July girl, and which you can still buy at Sarah's website) said she would drive her BMW from Kentucky to San Francisco I borrowed a Honda Transalp from my friend Vincent which is more touring worthy than the GSX-R and decided I would meet her somewhere before she hit San Francisco and go motorcycle camping for a week or so.
After a lot of back and forth on where to meet, since she got caught in Salt Lake City with an electrical problem on her BMW, and then got delayed another day because of high winds that actually toppled a semi, we decided to meet in Winnemucca, at a randomly picked restaurant called Las Margeritas.
We pulled up at the same time, by a minute apart, me coming from Jackson, CA, 280 miles away, and her coming from Salt Lake City, 350 miles away. Sometimes, slacking with the departure actually makes it work out perfectly. Rushing is waaay overrated.
From there we continued north to find those hot springs my worn out Hot Springs of California book was talking about, 9.2 miles after this junction, and the 4.3 miles to the left, and watch out you might miss them. That is where this picture was taken.
It was a great trip, leading us to beautiful and remote camping spots nary seeing another soul from Nevada to Oregon back to California and Nevada and then California again.
We found a beautiful green camp site called Dairy Creek with knee high grass to stay at in Oregon, rejoicing to the eye after dry and gray Nevada.
We drove around Crater Lake with 10 feet high snowbanks surrounding us and the thick fog obscuring the view of the big hole in the ground completely, and it was totally surreal.
We staid with a Bonnie, bartender in Cedarville, who took us in because we got surprised by dark and full motels trying to find hot springs down a long dirt road.
We got stuck in the mud by the Trego Hot Springs in the Black Rock Desert on my bike, and had to walk back 3 miles back to the camp site and return the next morning with Sarah's bike to dig it out after the dust-turned-into-mud-after-the-rain had dried up again.
Fortunately Sarah had tools (shame on me, I didn't, arrogance of a mechanic). We had to take the fender off which was so caked with mud that it had blocked the front wheel which we hadn't realized with dusk falling and a long way back to the camp site.
On the way back (shame on me after preaching about chains all this time) my chain broke at 85 miles an hour on the freeway in Stockton. And fortunately again, it didn't get balled up and locked up the bike or broke the engine case, it just fell off and stranded me at an off ramp with No Services, and we had to find a Uhaul to get me back to the City, which cost me $300. Argh.
Nevertheless, it was all worth it, one of the greatest trips I have ever taken, and I highly recommend packing up your motorcycle this summer, by yourself or with friends, tent and sleeping bag, and hit the road in the search of serendipity, since I now have a lot of great stories to tell some of which might appear at one point in this blog, but for the sake of keeping it sweet and (somewhat) short this time I'll end here. Keep posted!
(photo by Sarah Lyon, of course)
In this city, you're getting nailed a lot. Or screwed. However you want to put it, I like to call it nail city. That's as in - getting a nail in your rear tire.
And this object on the left here is the biggest object I have EVER seen in a tire, by far, and usually it's a nail, or a screw, not a BOLT, like a 1/4 in x 25 or then some.
When I worked in Munich I saw like 1 screw in 1 tire of 1 customer in about 4 years working as a mechanic.
In San Francisco, I see people with screws in their tires come in almost every day.
Needless to say, this tire was completely flat and beyond repair. Most of the time the nail or screw goes in straight, in the middle, making a little hole that can be patched easily.
How the hell did this THING work its way into the tire? I have an answer for almost everything, but this time - nope. No idea.
Usually the tire is low on air, or low on tread, so the nail has an easy time to go through that kinda thinnish rubber layer, or the object is very sharp.
The little mean sharp ones are the those that preferably work their way into the brand new tires.
Like the little sharp nail lays there on the street and is bored and fed up with its location, and thinks to itself: Hey there is a brand new tire rolling down the street, I think I'll hitch a ride with this one.
Only that that hitch just brings it to the next shop, where it gets pulled and permanently deposited into a garbage can. Duh. That didn't get you very far, little dumb nail. Thought you were sharper than that. Caused me a bunch of pain though.
Anyway, just thought I share this THING with you - the sheer SIZE of it...incredible. I'm in awe.
Friday, May 18, 2007
The chain has loose and tight spots, depending on where in the rotation you check it. Or it already hangs down to the ground, almost anyway, looks rusty, and you can lift the chain off the sprocket by over 1/4 inch.
So what happens when your chain breaks or comes off? If you are lucky, it just comes off, falls on the road, and hopefully your buddy behind you won't run over it and crash.
Or it could whip up and hit you, the rider...I have seen it on a race bike once...the chain made a hole in the tail section and hit the rider in the back.
The chain is going at the speed of the bike you see, and the energy it picks up from going around is at least as high as crashing at 100mph, and that's the speed when I crashed and broke my hip, so I have experienced those forces at 100mph first hand and believe me, it's violent.
Or, as in this case on this picture right here, the chain doesn't break, but "just" comes off the sprocket and balls up under the chain cover and breaks the crank case. And if you are lucky, it won't lock up the rear wheel and you won't crash.
This guy was lucky. The bike is still in pristine condition, really nice actually, on the outside, but what this seemingly innocent little crack there means that it's basically done for, NFG, engine broken beyond repair.
In some cases, it can be fixed. If the crack is in an opportune place and you have a really, really good welder at hand that is willing to work on (not the usual "no, we won't touch") motorcycles, you might be able to get that welded.
If the crack is in a place like on this GSXR1000 though, i.e. in the walls on the precision bored hole that holds the water pump, there is pretty much no way you can fix this on or off the bike, since it would have to be machined afterwards to take the pump shaft again, and the filings from the machining will get into the engine, not to mention that it is somewhat difficult to get the motorcycle under a drill press, sideways and square.
Only solution in this case: new engine. On some bikes that would exceed the total value. So if you would like to avoid this fate, learn how to check your chain for the correct tension, and for "tight spots", which is hard to explain in writing, but if you come by anytime during business hours, I'll be happy to demonstrate, for free, and with pleasure. After all, I like my fellow motorcycle riders to stay alive. I hate going to funerals.
And don't forget to lube your chain every 300 miles or so, that'll make your chain and sprockets live a whole lot longer.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
As part of the Capp Alliance Project (CAP) we just got awarded the Crissy Fields Community Hero Award 2007 for pulling neighborhood resources together to implement a plan to keep Capp Street clean!
And last Saturday I took off the coveralls, put on nice jacket and pants and held a speech at Crissy Fields, San Francisco, in front of a bunch of people and officials, all proud of our CAP crew and of what we have accomplished, and what a great success it has been!
( And it was a windy day as you can see from my hair blowing and I don't have photo shop...)
There is also a year-long exhibit at the Crissy Fields Center, so when you are out there in the Crissy Fields which is part of the Golden Gate National Park System, drop by and check out the video of me and the crew wielding the brooms on Capp St...You can also check out the video here.
Since I kind of started at the end, here is how all that started in the beginning: There is a Homeless Center located a couple doors down from us, the Mission Resource Center, and I have been going to the meetings and working closely with the Center to improve the neighborhood and address some of the problems we are having here related to our homeless neighbors.
In one of those meetings we founded a group called CAP: Capp St Alliance Project, with the goal of improving our neighborhood and Werkstatt Motorcycle Repair is now sponsoring the CAP clean up crew that comes by Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning to clean the streets, and it worked: We now have one of the cleanest streets in San Francisco!
The way it works is that CAP hires and trains homeless people for a 2 month internship to clean the streets and become leaders of their community.
And the participants have taking this on with vigor and pride, and for some of them this became a stepping stone to get regular jobs and housing and to leave homelessness behind them, so this has been a real success on several levels despite having a nice, presentable, livable and safe street to boot.
Frankly, I am a little surprised how far we have gotten with not that much effort, but it goes to show that a little effort goes a long way!
I would like to thank everybody that has been part of CAP, especially Vero, Julie and Laura from the Resource Center, and all the guys that have been part of the clean up crew and made such a big difference!
Monday, April 23, 2007
Mmmh, the carbon foot print. Carbon foot print this, carbon foot print that. What's your carbon foot print?
If you live where I live (San Francisco) you are probably getting really sick of all those foot print people, wishing you could put a foot print up theirs by now.
Nevertheless, they have a point, and I'm personally glad that people are starting to catch onto the fact that we are changing our environment, and not always to the better, since the industrial revolution...
Since I grew up in Germany where environmental awareness was fed to me with my mother's breast milk, and since I still like our environment a whole lot, especially when I ride a motorcycle around in it, I set out to find the truth about the carbon foot print of motorcycles.
My hope was to be able to say: By merely riding a motorcycle instead of a car I am a good person sparing the environment.
Unfortunately, motorcycles are not really included in most carbon footprint calculators, but after some research, I came to this conclusion:
Yes, if you ride a motorcycle, you emit less green house gases (CO2), by sheer better gas mileage and also by shorter travel times, especially in California where you can split lanes and won't have to take part in traffic jams :)
My 2001 Suzuki GSX-R 750 gets over 30 mls/gl.
If you ride a commuter bike, you are likely to get 40-50 mls/gl.
And if you use a scooter to get around town, it could be up to 100 mls/gl.
And to produce and then recycle a motorcycle must be generating a smaller carbon foot print than a car's.
So that's good.
But: other pollutants, like CO and HC, are directly bad for people breathing them, and unfortunately motorcycle emissions seem to exceed the emissions of cars, even with a catalytic converter according to some sources.
So while I really would like to be able to say that riding a motorcycle is better than driving a car, unfortunately it isn't quite so.
Anyway, I think riding motorcycles is definitely a little better and one way to make a difference, all the while having a lot more fun than sitting in traffic in a car.
And using that other type of two wheeled transportation for cross training was never a bad idea anyway. Keeps ya in shape for those track days when you need endurance to ride every single session until the sun goes down.
Which makes my carbon foot print bigger again I know, so I repent by commuting (aka training) with the push bike. It's kind of like in the medieaval world where you could sin and then pay it off to the church with monetary means. I wonder why that went out of fashion?
P.S. I would appreciate any comments that shed more light on this issue or the motorcycle carbon foot print.
Happy two wheeling in the meantime!
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
This is Wade Boyd, at the Isle of Man racing, and, as you can probably imagine, a favorite among spectators. He has been racing the Isle of Man for 14 years.
But this year he has been denied: they booted him out in favor of bigger teams with more money and newcomers.
And they didn't let him know until 8 weeks before the race, and the bike, ready to be shipped from the US to the Isle of Man in the UK, had to be pulled off the container when it was just about to leave.
The bike, a 2007 Yamaha R1, owned by Urban Moto Magazine, and sponsored with parts and labor by many people, Werkstatt included, was race ready and being worked on since last year.
You would think that a race organization that is this year celebrating its 100th year would have more sense than booting a veteran international competitor off the race and then not letting him know until the last minute.
If anybody is dedicated to racing, it would be Wade Boyd, so I need your support to get him to race the Isle of Man.
Incidentally, Wade Boyd, of Subculture Racing, also happens to be the man that got me into racing sidecars in 1999. Generous man that he is, he just GAVE me a sidecar to race with my best friend Christine Blunck, who is now also Wade's girl friend of 7 years. We went on to win a few races with our itty-bitty 600cc sidecar, beating the big boys with their 1000cc, and making 5th place overall in the nation in our last year racing (I used to be fast...).
But that aside, I think not letting Wade race is super unfair, and I have filed a petition, which can be accessed at
and if you agree with me, please sign the petition to sway the organizers to let Wade race.
If you need more information about Wade Boyd, you can go to www.wadeboyd.com.
Thanks a lot in advance!
Wade got denied entry again after a special meeting in the Isle of Man. He will most likely still attend the races, as a spectator and supporter.
I'm not sure if I would attend were I in his shoes, I'd be too mad. But that goes to proof that Wade just loves the TT, should be racing, and that he is a true sports man to boot. Go Wade, and good luck for next year!
And thanks everybody for your support and for the 1500 signatures we were able to collect. Although we didn't succeed with the petition, standing up for far beats just rolling over to the Man, doesn't it?
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Originally, it's a slice of bread that is so thin, that you can actually see the moon through it. According to my Dad anyway.
This here brake pad is also a moon slice if I ever saw one. And definitely a worthy member of the Hall of Shame. You sure can see the moon through it. And the light that shines through it, actually makes a moon like shape...see that? Right there on the left?
There is a fun side to everything...
But seriously now: this would be the product of "my brakes have been making noise for weeks, but I haven't had time to take care of it".
The problem is: if you grind the brakes down that far, not only will you have to change the pads, but now the caliper piston and the rotor also need to be replaced, and the caliper needs to be taken apart and rebuilt. You just went from a $70 job to a $400 job for each brake rotor and caliper overhaul, and if you have dual discs, just double that amount. And the parts are probably not in stock, and you're going to have to wait a week to order, and you can't ride, and it just generally sucks.
I won't mention the seriously reduced braking power, but I'm sure you knew that...
So when your bike is talking to ya, look at it, find out why it's making noises, every time, not just every blue moon...your bike, and your wallet, will thank you.
Monday, April 9, 2007
5.30am. The Mighty Kawasaki Rickman CR and me made it up the Mount Tamalpais on Easter Sunday morning to watch the sun rise. Wade Boyd and my best friend Christine Blunck are also here. They are Subculture Racing and I used to race sidecars with them - Wade sponsored us the sidecar, and Christine was my brave monkey, I mean, side car passenger.
Hard to tell who else is here yet, too dark. Lots of Aerostich people though, check out all those reflectors!
Here is another one of Wade. And Abi! She's looking like one happy Easter bunny, with one of the donuts that the Zeitgeist girls were giving out...Jeez, it's 5 in the morning and freezing! Don't look so happy!
Wade's not so happy right now, since after racing the Isle of Man TT for 14 years, they won't let him race this year. Island politics. It's a big deal, and it really sucks, with all the effort that went into getting everything ready for it, and Urban Moto Magazine sponsoring him this year, too. The race bike was prepped, tickets bought, accommodations etc. prepared for, and now the bike had to be pulled off the container that was just about to leave to England. Terrible disappointment.
How many of these people have Long Johns on, or two Long John's, like me? Kept me pretty warm! Highly recommended.
There must've been 500 bikes there. A lot of them lined up on the way to the parking lot. Last year, when it was raining down so hard that we were soaked to the undies in 5 minutes flat (it didn't rain on the way out of San Francisco, so why bother with a pesky rain suit?), only about 50 people showed up. It was nice to see everybody this time. And a belated thanks to Joey Perrault who lit the way for me when my head light conked out on the way up last year.This time, no electrical problems, only the fender worked it's way loose from the original hose clamps over the bumpy road, and dug a groove in my front tire...nothing that couldn't be fixed on the side of the road though.
All the way to the top, 300 gruesome yards steeply uphill from the parking lot in riding boots feeling big like the Michelin Man with all the layers I had on, with little food or coffee in my belly, this was the reward: the fog was blowing hard over the top, it was freezing, and beautiful. Totally worth it.
And this is the official start of the riding season. So Happy Trails y'all, rubber side down and shiny side up, enjoy all the beautiful sun rises and sun sets you can take, and have a great season!
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Once upon a time there was a dear little motorcycle that was loved by every one who looked at it, but most of all by its owner, and there was nothing that he would not have given to the motorcycle, the problem was, he never really looked at it too closely, except he was giving it a bath all the time, but he never looked beyond the shiny parts.
Once he got the bike he also got a red helmet which suited him so well that he would never wear anything else; so he was always called "Little Red Riding Helmet".
One day while riding the motorcycle, Little Red Riding Helmet said:
"Oh! motorcycle," he said, "how come you make loud noises and seem to be skipping when I get on the gas like that?"
"Oh I was trying to be cute and just be skipping along" was the reply.
"But, motorcycle, how low to the ground your chain hangs!" he said.
"Low riding is where it's at these days, my dear."
"Oh! but, my motorcycle, how terribly round your sprocket is and all your teeth are missing!"
"The better for the chain to jump the sprocket, lock up your wheel and make you eat it! Harharaharharhar!"And scarcely had the motorcycle said this, than with one bound the chain came off, locked up the rear wheel and Little Red Riding Helmet ate it.
So what did we learn from this, kids? If you want to trust your motorcycle, look at it every once in a while, make sure the nice parts didn't turn into bad parts with regular wear and tear, listen for the signs and funny noises, and do something about it or ask somebody that knows and you will live happily ever after!
P.S. Believe it or not, this bike was actually ridden to the shop, chain super tight, pure friction making the rear wheel go round, and it could've ruined the output shaft bearing, but it did not, so it must have that rider's lucky day...didn't die and didn't brake anything else...
Thursday, March 22, 2007
So here are the first two items of
The Hall Of Shame. One's a front tire, one's a rear tire. Both tires actually lost air through the threads of the belt. I won't mention any names. Let's suffice it to say that both of them were products of trying to save money.
Both of these tires, had they blown up while riding, would have made the owner crash and would have cost them a lot more money then that tire. It could have just suddenly disintegrated -poof, magic, where did that black stuff around my rim go???
Looking at a tire like that makes me think of the TV show The Most Painful Extreme Elimination Challenge - in do-it-yourself mode. Pretty funny- except when it actually happens to you...
One worst case scenario: I had a customer once that had a damaged tire not as bad as this one, and despite warning, he really, really needed to go home on the freeway. He blew the tire and spent the next 3 months in the hospital.
Even if there is a little rubber still covering the belt the tire tread becomes so flexible that it sort of wraps itself around any nail in its path -xoxoxo dear nail, you want to come home with me?- and picks it up like Velcro...
So play the Can You See The Whole Head On A Lincoln Penny instead: stick a penny into the treads of the tire and if you can still see the whole head, it's time to replace your tires.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
So I did my first track day of the season, up at Thunderhill, organized by one of our suppliers, namely Tucker Rocky. They are one reason why we have a good time here at the shop, their service to us (and ultimately to our customers) is great.
But it wasn't just a track day for me. This time I made it a test-and-tune: I took my old trusty 2001 Suzuki GSX-R750 up there to dial in the suspension. It's something that is most easily done on the track.
Think about it: you can go the same speed around the same corners of the same track after every change, and you can feel every change and dial the bike in to suit you needs.
It's a good idea to note down the base settings before you start turning the dials. Find out from your manual which adjustment is what, and find the base setting by counting the clicks screwing the adjuster in, or turns if it doesn't have clicks, then turn it out to the exact number that you counted. Don't forget that step, it's easy to count, note it down, and move to the next step without resetting it. That will make for unpleasant surprises when you get back out there.
Then, note down the change, and when you come back, note down what the bike did, like "more bumpy now, will go back the other direction by 2 clicks" or something to that effect. Also, never make more than one change at a time, or do too many clicks, 1 or 2 is enough, otherwise you fool yourself into wrong conclusions. Good notes are very important: trust me, you WILL forget...
And most important: When doing this, go around the track at no more than maybe 60-70% of your regular speed, so if the bike does something erratic you will still be able to stand the bike up and get it around the turn, and not be fully leaned over without room for error. Remember, it's a test-and-tune. It's sometimes hard to let your friends blaze-by-ya, but eventually you blaze by them, since your suspension now works just great and you will have full confidence that the motorcycle is doing exactly what you want it to do when you throw it into the turn.
So have fun on the track, play with your suspension, hold your line, rubber side down and sunny side up!
Might see you out there one of these days...
P.S. In case you are wondering about the picture: when I went to try out my new camera to make pictures in turn 14 somebody crashed (didn't get hurt) and the session got red-flagged, and no bikes were on track. So I took the opportunity to photograph the cool checkered-flag-wrapped trashcan with the pretty flowers around it...not too often you see green at Thunderhill...
Thursday, February 15, 2007
On the other hand: points ignition, kick-start only, single cylinder, not a high engine life expectancy, big vibration and numb hands, high speed max of 65mph, anything over that resulting in instability and upcoming trips to Italy and Greece from Germany? The XT500 was not really the perfect choice. But I was cool. Boy, was I cool.
So after having all kinds of problems and (literally) pains-in-the-butt on my various long distance trips I had learned to love my motorcycle. Even though it was a high-maintenance love. A very high maintenance love.
But what really made me a mechanic: my counter shaft sprocket fell off. Far away from home. I called my Dad to come and tow me home. And he came (Thank you, Dad). We actually put a rope around the steering (and please, never, ever do that-it's the most dangerous thing) and tried to get home that way. Of course, I crashed. Fortunately, I crashed right away, not going very fast. So that didn't work.
So my Dad remembered that there was a welding shop not too far away, so we pushed the bike there, and they welded my counter shaft sprocket to the shaft at at my insistence. They warned me that it wasn't a good idea. But cheaper than getting the tow truck, since I was fairly far from home.
Now how did that make me mechanic, you ask? Well, after a while, the counter shaft sprocket wore out, as counter shaft sprockets do. So I needed to change it. Looking into the matter I realized that I had to take the top end off and split the cases in order to replace the counter shaft that the sprocket sits on, since by welding the two pieces together, I had rendered them both useless.
Overhaul the engine? No problem! I've never done anything like it. What's a torque wrench? My Dad doesn't know about mechanics. But I can do it. I'm 18 and I think I know everything.
My Dad helped me haul the engine up my room on the second floor, where I cleared my table, laid out a bunch of news paper and started taking the engine apart. (Un)fortunately (for my Dad) he had no idea what he had just agreed to. He is a computer engineer, and computers are not full of oil and grease. Or maybe he just didn't want to hinder me expanding my knowledge. I any case, thanks, Dad, again and a lot, for putting up with me and all my ideas.
Starting with engine oil stains on my (fortunately dark) carpet over pleas for money to buy yet another tool that I needed for the job to making the oven in the kitchen unusable for a while, since I heated up the engine halves in the oven in order to split them (it actually worked great). On the downside of it: the oil that hid in the crevices came out with the heat and crusted itself to the oven walls. Phew, what a stink. Of course I had waited till my Dad wasn't there for a day. But despite a hard cleaning effort, the oven still faintly smelled like burnt oil for a (long) while after...And I got into big trouble. But my Dad did forgive me in the end. So thanks one more time, Dad, you are the best! And he let me finish the engine in my room.
Aftermarket manual in hand, and occasional advice from my friends, I actually managed to take the whole thing apart, and put it back together. Hardheaded as I was, I didn't ask too many questions, and tried it all on my own. There is something to say about trial and error, and I never made the same stupid mistake twice, but I did make almost every possible mistake once. Not the most efficient way to learn, and a kinda painful and expensive one, but I got through it. What doesn't kill you makes you better, right? And the engine ran!
Anyway, I did get smart after that, and when I finished high school I signed up at a Honda Yamaha dealership in Munich and absolved a three year apprenticeship, which made me a really good mechanic.
But if would've bought that LTD...and the countershaft sprocket would have been properly mounted...you guys wouldn't be able to learn off my mistakes.
As an old German saying goes...gotta build a house with the stones that are laid in your way (even if you laid them there yourself, and boy, am I good with that!)
Friday, February 2, 2007
First thing, always: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE GAS! You might think this is obvious. Not so. About once a month I get somebody in here that has no gas, or didn't turn the petcock to reserve. Cost: towing plus the minimum shop rate. Looking in the gas tank is an easy way to check out if you have gas. Make sure you hold your breath: gas fumes are pretty bad for your lungs, and kids, no smoking while you're cap is open either. And beware: if there is a little gas covering the bottom, that might not be enough to start the bike.
Next: CHECK YOUR FUSES! Inspect them, make sure the little filament is not broken, and move them back and forth in their sockets (if they are glass fuses), or in and out (if they are plastic) to make sure that there isn't any corrosion that hinders the juice from going where it's supposed to go. Clean suspect contacts by scratching off the corrosion (e.g. your keys, nail file, clippers or whatever else your pant pockets will produce).
If that doesn't do the trick: try bump starting the bike. Have a friend push you, put it in second gear, pop the clutch when you reached about 10 mph or so. But please, make sure you wear your gear and a helmet. If the bike still won't start the rear tire will lock up, and if you are not fast enough pulling the clutch back in, you WILL crash. So caution, best is to have somebody do it that has a little experience.
But experience doesn't always shield you from doing stupid things:
I had a boyfriend once, that had experience, but didn't wear a helmet, trying to bump start a motorcycle sidesaddle. The bike started, stalled again, and bucked him off like a bronco. He couldn't remember his mother's name for a while, not did he know who the president was (which is something that a lot of us would like to be able forget right now, so maybe that is a good thing). He got himself a real good concussion. Fortunately, he didn't crack his head open. So wear a helmet. Thanks.
If your bike still doesn't start, it's time for more serious diagnosing. But don't be afraid: there are a lot of little things you can do with very little tools. Keep posted!
You can pay the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute $20,000 to learn how, in theory, without getting actual shop experience.
You can take Community College classes which will give you a good overview, but won't make you an efficient, real world mechanic that knows all the little tricks on how to work on a variety of motorcycles.
You can go to a European country where they still offer apprenticeships, learn the language, spend 3 years there, get paid $200 a month, graduate and come back here (that's what I did).
If none of the above appeals to you and you are a self-starting individual and you can spare part-time of your week:
Find yourself a shop where you can do an apprenticeship. Since it takes a lot of time for a mechanic to go over technical details of why and how something needs to be done, offer to run errands and do the odds and ends for the shop in exchange. We have been doing that here at Werkstatt for a while with excellent results.
Some people have moved on to become paid mechanics, others use that knowledge to be able to do the work on their bikes themselves, and save a bunch of money, especially when they have an older bike that needs constant attention.
Or: keep reading this blog, and email me with topics you're interested in, and I will do my best to explain how things are done!
Happy trails in the mean time,
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Hi all, my name is Jennifer Bromme, and some of you might know me from Werkstatt Motorcycle Repair in San Francisco, which I have started, owned and run since 1994.
I have been professionally working on Japanese motorcycles and BMWs as a motorcycle mechanic since 1990, have been riding since 1988 and amassed a lot of little, useful tips and tricks over the years, some in my apprenticeship, but most by trial and error and by knowledge passed down from the old guys that seem to have been around since Methuselah and that have knowledge about things that is not in the textbook anymore, or on the internet for that matter. Ever see "The Worlds Fastest Indian"? The main character, Burt Munro actually casts his own pistons in his shed behind his house, and manages to set the World Speed Record for over 1000cc vehicles in 1960, and held this record until a few years ago.
Now I don't know how to cast my own pistons, but I do know a lot of little tricks to make your life easier when you are working on your own motorcycle. Like how to use a hose to get the threads started without cross threading when installing a spark plug, spit in the spark plug cap grommet to get it to mount easier to the cable, or to use another box end wrench to make an extension on the side of the road if you are not built like Schwarzenegger to open that rear wheel nut that the previous owner cranked down way to tight.
I also stumble upon a lot of problems that could be avoided in the course of running a motorcycle repair facility, and I thought this would be good way to share avoidable, expensive mistakes!
So keep posted on the latest no-nos and tips and tricks for your motorcycle! I will take suggestions about topics, or if some of you want to share tips you'd be more than welcome to!
P.S. The picture was taken by Sarah Lyon, and it's on the July page of her Female Mechanic Calendar. In other words, I am now officially a calendar girl :) Thanks Sarah, for making a calendar of women that is not a pinup calendar! Check out her site at www.sarahlyon.com