Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Two-Wheeled Adultery to Keep the Missus Happy!

I am unfaithful.

Although I spend countless hours doting on my beloved old bike, I secretly sneak off to my computer every now and again to lust on other bikes. I just feel so dirty!

It's a serious disease and for which I've yet to find any kind of relief. Our house is running out of room to store the innumerable magazines, books and glossy dealership handouts which I've accumulated over the years. I'm a bit of a packrat, and I refuse to throw away any of my old magazines. Hey, you never know when that review of a 1994 BMW Funduro might come in handy. I mean, it's reference material, right? Only the recent availability of electronic magazines has given us some respite.

Anyhow, the temptation to cheat on my beloved Seca has gotten worse lately. I love the old beast, and although it is great for carving twisties and running errands around town; it doesn't really fit the bill when it comes to touring. Mostly, I think it has to do with the fact that my wife isn't really comfortable travelling on the old Yamaha. Can't say I blame her either, as the longish, flat seat has all the comfort of a two by eight piece of pine.

So I'll probably spend some time this winter checking the online ads for a decent used (i.e. cheap) touring rig. I'd actually spotted a nice '82 Goldwing without the fairing or excessive chrome (à la Nakedwing); but the wife didn't go for it. Says it looks too much like an "old man's bike".

Maybe I'll be able to get my hands on a nice sport-touring bike. I'm thinking something like a Honda ST1100 or maybe a Yami FJ1200. With the cold, wet weather settling in, I'll have plenty of time to look.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One Man's Junk

The concept (or belief) of Heaven is an interesting one. As kids, we were made to believe in Heaven as a place of perfection: everyone there is happy, healthy and never wants for anything. I remember my elementary-school mind thinking that it must be something like DisneyWorld... or at least I supposed as much since I'd never been there (DisneyWorld, that is).

As a motorcyclist, I can only hope that if there is such a thing as the afterlife, that it looks something like Allen's Cycle Salvage yard. In other words, as far from perfection as possible! Sure, I love to go to the local motorcycle dealerships and drool on the perfect lineup of shiny new bikes. But for sheer, unadulterated bliss, give me a few spanner wrenches and acres of junked bikes.

I may have been a fool in buying an old '82 Yamaha Seca 650 (XJ650RJC for you aficionados out there). It's a somewhat rare model, as even in 1982 North American tastes had started being more focused on style-specific bikes and moving away from the "standard" which continues to be so popular in Europe. As such, the Seca wasn't a huge seller - so used parts are scarce. To make matters worse, I have the Canadian model (hence the "C" in RJC) with the YICS engine. And yeah, she's a real finicky one to tune.

Oh sure, there will always be an interest in rarer bikes for collectors who spend insane amounts of money restoring them to pristine condition. But let's get real here: this is my daily driver. My goal isn't to make some sort of museum piece out of it; I just want it to be reliable, comfortable and versatile.

My most rewarding challenge so far? Simple: finding parts from other bikes that can be made to fit on mine. It's slowly turning into a Frankenbike, but in a good way.

"My wife is always trying to get rid of me. The other day she told me to put the garbage out. I said to her I already did. She told me to go and keep an eye on it." - Rodney Dangerfield

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Riding, It's Good For The Soul

Lazy blogger I am.

Seems life pulls you in one direction just long enough so that you get accustomed to the trajectory, then there's a shift and you beeline towards something else. Past six months have been something like that. Nothing major, mind you... just an accumulation of small changes that add up to a whole pile of "what the hell just happened?" The important stuff (i.e. the things a normal, well-balanced person should focus on but rarely does) is still there: still married, health is OK, still working (albeit, a bureaucrat).

So what's changed? Well, the job is getting more difficult for one. OK - I can imagine what you're thinking: poor little overpaid public servant with his cushy job. Firstly, I've never complained about the pay or benefits because you're right: they're great. No argument here. But imagine being in a job where you feel like a dog chasing its tail. You're constantly stuck in meetings and conference calls, everything you do is questioned, audited and redone by one of your superiors. People are moving from one job to another, and no one seems to really be in charge.

A recent study of federal executives found that three quarters felt "on the verge of burnout". You'd think that a high-paid director of something-or-other would be empowered by such a position, but it's quite the opposite. Executives in the private sector typically feel less stress because they have more control. When you work for the government (at least, in Canada), regardless at what level, you are little more than a puppet whose strings are held by the politicians in Ottawa.

Sound like I'm overreacting? Consider this: in the federal public service, disability claims related to mental health doubled between 1991 and 2007. Right now, they account for 45% of all claims.

But at least I've got my bike! Even with all the BS I have to put up with at work, just a half-hour ride still does it for me. I get home more relaxed, focused and probably easier to live with.

...but what will I do this winter?!?

"I don't want a pickle, just want to ride on my motorsickle" - Arlo Guthrie

Friday, February 26, 2010

Waiting for the Breakdown

Like millions of others around the world, I've been watching the Olympics for the past two weeks, rooting for the home team, hoping for some medals. Vancouver has been marred by problems since the very start. There was the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a practice run just hours before the opening ceremony. Then our Canadian sweetheart, figure skater Joannie Rochette, lost her mother to a heart attack just days before she was scheduled to compete.

Of course, when tragedy occurs, media will be there. Hence the title of this post. For these athletes to continue on after tragedy is commendable... but to be able to forge ahead under constant media attention and scrutiny; well, that is truly admirable.

The resilience for some athletes was amazing, while for others, the pain was simply too great. Rochette went on to win the Bronze last night. Kumaritashvili's fellow luger, Levan Gureshidze, felt he could not compete following the death of his teammate, and returned to Georgia to mourn.

Vancouver has also been challenged by the various technical and logistical problems they've had. From ice surfacers breaking down at the speed skating oval, to lack of snow on the mountains. Oh yes, let's not forget the protesters... Thousands who march the streets to bring more attention to their chosen cause. Don't get me wrong, I'll be the first to stand up for a person's right to protest... but not when that protesting involves violence or destruction of property.

But even with all the negative attention these games have garnered, there have still been moments that were simply uplifting. Watching Rochette get her bronze last night, the voice of legendary sportscaster Jim McKay floated in my head from his well remembered introduction to ABC's Wide World of Sports:

"Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport...
The thrill of victory...
And the agony of defeat...
The human drama of athletic competition..."


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We've Got A Pulse!

I’ve been a bad blogger. My last post was over 6 months ago, and I have become the great procrastinator. I was considering waiting ‘til spring to start posting again, as there’s currently a few feet of snow on the ground and the temperature is way below the freezing mark – not exactly the right motivation to get me writing about motorcycles again, eh?

But then I got the buzz. Motorcycle magazines are featuring new models on their covers, bike shows are happening, and the annual hunt for new farkles is well under way.

But first, my excuse: I’ve been busy. I know: it’s weak. Life’s other priorities took control for a while, but I’ve now managed to take the reigns again.

The Yamaha is in pieces: frame, engine and wheels are in the garage, while the various body parts, seat, exhaust and suspension components are in the basement. What started out as a simple “freshening-up” of the ’82 Seca has turned into a full blown restoration. Why can’t I ever leave good enough alone? Must be some sort of affliction. I'm sure there's a support group for people like me. But I digress.

Winter is a great time for this kind of project... It’s not like I’m going to be riding it anytime soon – so I might as well take the opportunity to get to know my bike from the inside out. So I’ve converted a small corner of the basement into a parts cleaning/restoration/paint shop. The Seca doesn’t exactly look like a classic bike, at least not in the same way as a Bonneville or even a Honda CB750, but I’m hoping the makeover will give it a bit of that old charm.

By the first days of spring, the Seca will have traded it’s severly sunburned metallic red paint for a nice light beige taken from the Toyota paint catalog (same colour as available on the FJ Cruiser). The seat will have gone from the torn black vinyl to dark brown faux-kangaroo vinyl. And finally, all the shiny bits will have spent considerable time under the buffing wheel.

Mechanically, other than some basic maintenance like rebuilding the carbs, there really isn’t much required. I’ve ordered a nice new micro blade fusebox to replace the breakage prone OEM glass tube type one, and I may consider changing the big, round turnsignals for something a little more modern.

But that’s it as far as modifications go.

By the way, if anybody knows of someplace where you can get nice looking brown leather saddlebags, please let me know. I don’t want anything with metal studs or fringe – it would look out of place on an UJM. Plain, simple and functional is what I’m looking for here.

In the meantime, fiddling around on the bike has been a nice way to fend off the latest bout of cabin fever.