In memory of Rob Harris

I first met Rob Harris (Ed Arris) in the parking garage of a building in downtown Toronto off of Bloor Street. I was doing a telephone installation in the building, and he had his Daytona 675 Triumph parked in the basement, and two motorcycle enthusiasts chatted merrily for a few moments.

What's a little rain between friends?

A few years later, I was riding across the Trans Labrador Highway with a number of friends, and while on Newfoundland at L'Anse Aux Meadows viking settlement, we bumped into him and his riding partner Jim who were about to do the Trans Lab in the opposite direction, and as Darlene had participated in the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally that he organized, they knew each other quite well and I was formally introduced.

Wow! The new Tenere! I wonder who can afford these?

Later on when I moved out to Prince Edward Island from Ontario, Rob invited me to take part in the 2012 CMG Dusk to Dawn Rally, and I got caught up in Rob and Zac's epic one day rally that just got better and better as the day progressed. Rob struck me as basically a big kid on a mission to make his hobby support him. I was a bit envious, as this seemed a wonderful trick to me.

Later on Rob would comment on the tiny tank of the Honda CRF250L :D
I'd also have to say that I found his reviews in CMG very refreshing, as they didn't pander to the manufacturer, and I found that on the whole, he rendered an unbiased opinion with a humorous and informative manner. I found myself subscribing to his newsletter and reading more of the articles in the magazine, especially the tours and reviews. While he preferred to spend more on meals and accommodations, we really enjoyed the same sort of spirited riding, and I'd often envy the motorcycle jaunts, launches and events that he would attend as a journalist.

We got to chatting more often in one medium or another, and when he found that I was travelling from Ontario to Prince Edward Island he suggested that I stop in Sackville at the CMG downtown office and have a chat. I had to tear myself away, as the conversations would go in many different directions. We'd chat about everything from tea leaves to psychology, and the best bang for the buck in knobbies.

The Rallies? They were just an excuse to share his passion and play ringmaster at his very own brand of circus. And it worked. I was hooked so badly that when I moved back to Ontario, I scheduled a family vacation to visit the island in August so I could attend yet another one. I rode from the Island to Moncton in the pouring rain, and sat outside the diner waiting for him to show up and get the meal started, and I was soaking wet and mostly miserable. He pulled up, and next thing you know, we were smiling, laughing and looking forward to what tomorrow would bring.

Rain? You call this rain? Clearly you have never been to England.

CMG Dawn to Dusk 2014

Clearly that is an Icon Spider


The fast group takes a wrong turn

I bought an old 2001 Honda XR400 off of my friend Willie in Ontario, and managed to work a deal with a friend of a friend who knew someone at Honda that was hauling a trailer from Ontario and would be amenable to dropping into Sackville and kicking the bike off the back of the trailer to Rob who had volunteered to store it for me for a few days until I could collect it. Wouldn't you know that was the very weekend of the worst storm in Atlantic Canada in 50 years? The truck couldn't get to within a kilometre of his place as they needed to turn around and only one parking lot was big enough and had been cleared. He collected the bike and told me that he had no troubles storing it a few days longer if we had trouble getting off of the island. A couple of months later, we collected the bike when he also informed me that the front brake caliper was seized, but lucky for him he was able to slide it through the snow and into the his garage. That off hand remark told me that he had worked a lot harder to make this happen for me, and I was really very grateful to him. He'd gone out of his way to help me out, and knew how excited I was to get that old bike.

You can still see the remnants of the eight foot high snowbanks on the lawn.
Thanks Rob.

The Dawn to Dusk rally got passed over in favour of the new Fundy Adventure Rally, and while I missed the first year of it, I attended the second year, and watched ringmaster Rob at the podium smiling, cracking jokes, and turning a riders briefing into a comedic adventure. His wife Courtney was there as well, and it was clear that they formed a team, and he very much valued her contributions to the success of the rally and his business.

Courtney, can we go now? What about now? Now? What about now?

Later on, I was asked to review a helmet for CMG, so Zac and Rob arranged for it to be shipped out to the island to me. It arrived late in June, and while I reviewed it fairly promptly, Rob suggested some edits to the review, and for whatever reason that I don't fully understand myself, I procrastinated. I avoided it like the plague, and I still can't really tell you why. I finally broke down and submitted it in the late fall, far after the season was over, and in my mind, so too the usefulness of the review. and in response to my apology for taking so long with my rewrite, he told me he simply wanted to tie up the loose ends. I was grateful for that, but still feel that I let him down.

I'd visit Rob at his house in Sackville and he'd tell me the best way to get to and from his place, a little stretch of gravel road that lead practically from his doorstep and right back out to the highway, but avoiding the super highway. Just a beautiful little road with a covered bridge that spoke to me, but not so much the Versys, and with all the rough roads that I favoured, I was tossing fasteners or shearing them. I'd lost a front motor mount, sheared one subframe fastener twice, and when I pulled into his driveway he'd ask "How is the Versys treating you?" and I'd relate my current fastener troubles to him. As I pointed to the subframe fastener in question, I was nonplussed to see that I'd lost it yet again! And when showing him the newly replaced front motor mount, I found to my shock and horror that I'd lost the lower motor mount bolt as well! His response was to offer me a lunch that consisted of salad from his garden, any of the fasteners in his collection, and the keys to his Kia Rondo when it was apparent that the massive bolt I needed was not to be found. I returned with a galvanized fence bolt from the hardware store down the road, and used his tools to bolt humpty dumpty back together again. I'm still riding with fence bolt to this day, so I can respond to questions "How is the Versys treating you?" to "I'm sitting on the fence."

KLR, Konker and F800GS all in one place, including a broken Versys

And it was such a lovely bridge too.

I was riding through Sackville with Suzi on board, and when I dropped in to Rob's place, only to find that he was out, I was fortunate enough to meet with his lovely wife Courtney and we became friends, although it might be that Suzi didn't have a Facebook account while I do. All I can say is that Rob has great taste in women, and that I am truly very sorry for her loss, and that of his two daughters who have lost their father today.

Rob, you made me feel at home here in Atlantic Canada, you shared your home, your food and your passion for riding with me, and I will forever be grateful as I mourn the loss of a fellow rider and friend.


Carburetor overflow issues [Solved]

I've been having some carburetor overflow issues with my 2001 Honda XR400, and it boils down to a few possibilities which means I'll be taking the carb off the bike for the sixth and hopefully the last time this year to do a few things:

Brasso and Q-Tips

  1. Install a new petcock valve with fuel filter screen to prevent dirt from entering the fuel line.
  2. Install an aftermarket in-line fuel filter (1/4 or 5/16")
  3. Install new fuel line
  4. Clean out the carburetor once more
  5. polish the seat of the float needle (See the video for one technique)
  6. Conduct a float valve buoyancy test to make absolutely sure. 

For polishing the seat of the float of the float needle, a friend suggested topping a q-tip with steel wool and rotating by hand to clean up the float needle seat.

Another one suggested getting a wooden dowel and a pencil sharpener, then placing valve lapping compound (polish/abrasive) on the tip and gently using that to ensure a good mating surface.

And I'm off to the garage after supper to play. Wish me luck!

This Petcock runs you around $60 Cdn. 
The first order of business was to replace the old, leaking, petcock.

Note that a black rubber washer sits on top of top of the petcock. 
 Crap! I didn't order the washer so I'm reusing the old one, and I can tell you that if I were to do this over, (And I might have to one day) I'd order in a new one.

I had plans of using an inline fuel filter, but with such a limited space to work with, I decided I'd trust the OEM petcock screen/filter and forego the inline filter at this point.

I had an audience for a while. 

There is crap all over the bottom of the float bowl, so this tank of fuel is very dirty, and most likely the cause of why the carburetor was pissing out fuel out the overflow. Dirt would try to get past the new float needle, and it would get stuck wide open.

That video that you probably didn't watch shows a guy using a Q-Tip, a drill and some brasso metal polish to polish the float needle seat, and that is exactly what I did. Thanks to Stuart M. for putting me onto the idea in the first place.



After. This is a marked difference, and later on you will see the pressure testing proof

Have a look at 1:00 to see what I've been doing with my pressure testing.

I have such a gauge so why not use it?
I watched another video of a classroom environment where the motorcycle mechanic instructor tried to use a simple pressure test to see if the float valve was sealing properly, and he got 3psi more or less which he didn't find satisfactory at all. He then went on to say that he would have been much happier with 7 or 7-1/2 psi.

That is one tight seal! And stable as a table! If it will hold in air, it will hold fuel.

Detail shot. 

I've got this set for 14.5mm closed, 19mm open.

This spot sanding pen was fabulous for cleaning out more varnish and grit in the corners. 

Job done, but wait! It's down in oil. Quite a lot I'm afraid. Rotella 15W40 to the rescue.

In the words of Pooh, Oh bother!!! Nah, just me messing around. 

Right, I did the job in about four hours time, skipped my dinner in fact, but I finished up at the stroke of midnight and had to rush in and blog this before I crank it over and give it a go when the weather is conducive as I really don't care to spill any more gasoline inside the garage.

I hope you learned something, even if it is simply what not to do, or how not to do it. :P

Check back for updates.

Almost. There was a gaping big air leak between the head and intake as I mangled a gasket when I reinstalled it. Sigh. It's fixed and running fairly well although idle and start make me think I need a new spark plug. Read about it here:

Leaking Fork Seals [SOLVED]

So you might have read the post where I describe how my fork leg is now marking it's territory as if it were a dog checking it's pee-mail around the neighborhood. If you did, then let's get on with this post shall we?

Seal Mate
The trick of shoving a bit of plastic up the works and reaming out the grit might have actually worked!  I went online and bought a couple of the "Seal Mate" products, and waited patiently for them to arrive in the mail posted up from the US... ...then I got a call from my Honda dealer in Summerside that a petcock I ordered in for my 2001 Honda XR400 was in, and while I was at the parts counter, I spied a rack of the Seal Mates, for $10 each. Almost twice what they cost online before shipping, so I bought one. I'd love to tell you that I brought it home and proceeded straight to work on the bike, but it would be truthful to say instead, that I made a kick-ass Chicken Curry for dinner that night for my PEI family. (recipe available upon request)

Let me describe how I went about this wonderful task:

  1. I thought my triple tree lift was in storage... Nope, it was stuffed in the back of a shed. 
  2. It turns out that the lift was designed for sportbikes, and not wanna-be adventure bikes, or as my friend Zac likes to call bikes like the Versys, Sport Utility Bikes. (You know, sort of like the SUV's that only ever go offroad onto the grass of the soccer pitch?) So I had to locate a couple pieces of 2x6 spruce to put under the lift for some added, er.... ...lift.
  3. Remove the front axle (it had been so long since I had this axle off, that I forgot what size hex fit the front, was it 17mm or the 19mm? Either way I knew I was covered with my Motion Pro axle removing tool ---which didn't fit. ) with a 14mm 1/2 drive hex key... 
  4. Remove the front tire (and find that the lovely Michelin Pilot Road 4 or PR4 front tire was scalloping but had plenty of meat on it after just over 10,000km) 
  5. Remove both right and left brake calipers
  6. Remove fender
  7. Wedge said fender with brake calipers dangling off of it out of your way so you can now sort the fully exposed oil soused fork leg. 
  8. Clean it up. I'm going to suggest first off using a rag and some elbow grease, and perhaps some brake cleaner as well if your leg looks like mine... 
  9. Pry down the dust seal very gingerly so as not to scratch the surface and really bugger things up...
  10. Clean that up as well..
  11. RTFM
  12. Produce the Seal Mate and follow the instructions they provide, and perhaps even watch their How-to video once or twice for virtual practice. 
  13. Right, now I need to put it all back together again to compress the front end so the seals reset themselves. 10 good compressions of the front end. 
  14. If I got this right, I should see smears of fresh fork oil coating the leg, then those smears getting pushed lower and lower by a newly seated fork seal.
  15. Hallelujah! 
  16. Open the envelope your brother-in-law hands you, to find out that the two Seal Mates you ordered online are now in your possession, making you the proud owner of one seal mate, and two superfluous backups. 
  17. Realize that instead of being superfluous, the two surplus Seal Mates would make great stocking stuffers for the dirt bikers in my family... win:win:win  

And Hey Presto!!! It seems to have worked in bench testing mode! I walked away from it after compressing the front end about 15 times, and it was dry as a bone when I got back. We all know that bench testing is no substitute for the real thing...

Today I took the bike out for a fling for green peppers as tonight Chilli Con Carne was on the menu (recipe available upon request), and I took a road full of potholes and frost heaves there and back, around 20 km of fun riding... And again, the fork leg was as dry as a bone when I got back and packed it away into the garage. 

Tomorrow I've got to return some library books and collect some fork oil to top off what got pissed away, and I think the bike is overdue for a nice clean up. 

Anyhow, I'm packing for my first tour of the season, and I am so happy that I don't have to spend my trip budget on new fork seals and having someone else replace them for me, although fork seals are messy, messy adventures. *sigh*

I'd love to say that I'll order in a set of seals and the inverted fork spring compressing tool, but when I was doing all that work on the front brakes, I can see that this tour will end with a front brake pad re & re. 

It turns out that if you ride them, you have to repair them. Go figure. 

That fork oil collects even more dirt and grit, and paper towel just won't clean off the lowers.

These things work as advertised!!!

Everytime I wheelie, I think of all the grit that might end up jammed under the seal (It doesn't stop me though)

Yes, it is pulling out the dirt

And more dirt

Seal Mate sells them through Motion Pro

I can't remember what this was supposed to show, but the lighting is bad so I took a duplicate. Just be a good reader and ignore this one, please? There's a good lad/lass.

Seal Mate works, and I wanted to pass that information along should you want to try it out for  yourself.