Saturday, April 30, 2016

Not so good start of the 2016 motorcycle riding season

I guess I jinxed it when I thought our early start on getting on our bikes for 2016 was a good omen. The next day, Monday, I rode my Norge to work. I was a bit later than normal getting away from my desk at the end of the day which, around here, guarantees a long commute home in the traffic. As such, it was a lot of stop and go at low speeds in the usually warm 80o+ that day. Not the kind of riding an air cooled motorcycle likes.

Less than 5 miles from home, the dreaded red warning light came on and the oil can icon showed on my dash panel. The very same one from last year. Unlike last year, smoke started billowing up from, I believe, the left cylinder and the engine started missing. I heard a loud clacking sound which prompted me to immediately kill the engine.

I pushed the bike to the curb and ultimately getting it to a parking lot. I called for a tow and had it taken to my house. I spent a week entertaining whether I would try opening the engine up and see how things are inside or taking it to a shop. My energy level prompted the latter. So, with the help of a good friend loaning me his trailer, it was off to Scoot Richmond.

I'm saving my pennies...
Heading out.

Dropped off.

First motorcycle ride of the 2016 season

Unlike the last couple of years, we got an early start this year: our first ride was in mid April--April 17th. I take it as a good omen. :)

We got an after church start on Sunday heading for a small eatery in Marshall Terri heard about. It turned out to be too busy to suit my growling stomach so we rode to the north end of town to the Marshall Diner. We hadn't been there in a long time so it was nice to see not much had changed, though it appears to be under different management since our last visit.

After lunch, we took the long way home. Riding the back roads through Hume and the surroundings ultimately getting back through Warrenton to Gainesville to home. All total about 136 miles for about 5 hours.





Thursday, March 24, 2016

The sounds of spring: time to do a valve adjustment on the Guzzi


I know it's spring when I hear the clickity-clack of quattro valvole (translation from the original Italian: 4-valve).

It's time to do a valve adjustment on my Moto Guzzi Norge. With the help of my granddaughter Tara, we documented how much out of adjustment the valves were and then put them back to where they needed to be.

The Guzzi valve adjustment interval is about 6000-miles; it's been just over 7500-miles since I last adjusted them, so they're due. I'm not going to give you a step by step "how to" in this blog post; others have posted excellent step-by-step instructions you can follow. (For example, click here.)

What is more useful for me is documenting how much the valve adjustment has changed since the last time I did this maintenance:

1st adjustment done on 5/28/2014,  odometer: 3558
      next adjustment on 3/22/2016,  odometer: 11116
                                                                           7558 miles   in 2 years...that's so sad :( 

Here are my two cylinders with valve covers removed looking down on the tops of the valves. Tara recorded the clearances as I measured them using a feeler gauge. 


(Yeah, I use Imperial units rather than Metric. I can't help it.)

The intake valves should be at .006". One valve on the right side was at spec. The other 3 needed adjustment, but not a whole lot of adjustment. I take that as a good sign.

The exhaust valves should be at .008". One on the left side was good and the other 3 needed adjustment. 

In truth, the valve noise was not very loud...


Monday, February 29, 2016

February 29, 2016 - Motorcycle ride on the Norge

Moto Guzzi Norge
February 29, 2016
Rode today.
Won't be riding again on "Leap Day"
for another four years.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Adventures of Replacing a Moto Guzzi Oil Pressure Switch - Finale

Let's get this done!

The oil pressure switch:

To recap, the oil pressure switch apparently cracked and was leaking oil. With help from Guzzi riders on the MGNOC Facebook site, I learned I could use an oil pressure switch for an automobile, the Autozone Duralast PS571, which is a drop in replacement including electrical hookup.


Oil pressure switch repaired!

The fuel fitting:

To recap, the plastic fuel fitting broke when I removed the fuel tank. It is not available as a separate part. Fixing this required removing the plastic fitting from the metal plate that attaches to the bottom of the fuel tank. Mounted on this plate is the fuel pump, fuel filter, and fuel float apparatus. The “hole” or “well” that held the broken plastic fuel fitting is approximately 0.52” in diameter. If you also broke your plastic fuel fitting, here’s all you need to know to rebuild the fuel fitting using brass components:

First I drilled out the hole using a 37/64” drill. This is the clearance size for a 3/8” pipe thread tap. FYI: I don’t have a drill that can hold a ½” diameter shank bit. So, I used a pair of vise grip pliers and rotated the drill bit in the hold by hand. It helped to hold everything by reinstalling the plate into the bottom of the tank. Having a new, sharp drill bit helped too.

I put tape on the underside of the plate so the shaving wouldn't fall into the tank. I frequently blew the shavings out of the hole with a blow gun on an air compressor. 
Tapping the threads was not problem. I used a bit of JB Weld when installing the 3/8” MIP by ¼” FIP reducer bushing—that piece will never be removed again. The ¼” FIP x ¼” MIP street elbow and ¼” ID x ¼” MIP hose barb were screwed into place using gasket sealer. (Some of you are probably wondering why it’s called a “street elbow.” Here’s what Wikipedia says: street elbow. I found the definition less than satisfying.) For reasons I can’t explain, it didn’t seem prudent to use JB Weld on these making them permanent—for one, until the tank was mounted back on the frame, I wasn’t quite sure which direction it should be pointing. 

Since the fuel tank needs to be removed to replace maintenance items like the air filter, I installed a quick disconnect coupling on the fuel line. I splurged and purchased one with dual shut off valves so the fuel will not flow when disconnected.

So that's it!

To prove it’s all working, check out the video showing the bike running. I rode it to work on the last day of 2015 which turned out to be rather nice weather wise. I’m looking forward to more riding opportunities before spring arrives—proof that I’m an optimist at heart.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Adventures of Replacing a Moto Guzzi Oil Pressure Switch—Part 4

An interlude to muse about motorcyclists 

In my professional life, I've mostly worked as an analyst focused on gaining insights from data to communicate to others so they could make informed decisions. There are critical thinking lessons analysts learn to apply in their investigations to help shield against making judgment errors or incorrect assessments. One of these lessons is particularly important and I abbreviate it as follows:
Always avoid never and never use always.

This is a condensed version of the sweeping generalization logical fallacy. Everyone has heard a sweeping generalization. It's when someone takes an aspect of an individual and applies it to a large population of those individuals. It works in the other direction too: ascribing a characteristic associated with a large population to an individual. For example,
  • My Toyota Camry is a lemon; I'll never buy another one. In fact, Toyota Camrys are among the most reliable cars on the road.
  • Everyone has a smartphone. I don't have one. (Actually, I do have one now. Up until a few months ago, I carried a flip phone.)


The sweeping generalization fallacy, in my opinion, is also the root of prejudice and bigotry. Many people extend the bad behavior they experience at the hand of an individual to an entire population. For example, a young teen riding a skateboard crosses in front of someone and displays a rude gesture, now that someone believes all young teens on skateboards are rude. From the other perspective, young boys in the early 1960s hear stories from their fathers, or watch television and movies, about war in the Pacific and then proceed to bully a US-born classmate of Asian descent solely because of the shape of his eyes. You can imagine better examples.

What's all this to do with motorcycles and oil pressure switches and fuel fittings?

This:
I received feedback on my previous posts that can be summarized as:
  • Why don't you take your Moto Guzzi to the dealer and let them fix it?
  • Don't you find it laborious/wearisome/frustrating to do these kinds of repairs on your Guzzi?
  • Do you wish you owned a different make of motorcycle that would be less prone to these kinds of irksome problems?


To address this feedback, I risk falling into the sweeping generalization fallacy by making general statements about motorcyclists. My preamble above is intended to let you know I realize the inappropriateness of this. I endeavor to guard against extending any general statements to a particular individual. If you feel like I'm talking about you, it's your conscience that condemns you. :)
I notice motorcyclists are a different breed. Most consider themselves individualists, rebels, free thinkers, mavericks, people-who-break-the-mold. And motorcycles are a way to project this individualism. I can relate; I understand this attitude. But I also notice that for most of these motorcyclists, only one brand of motorcycle exists. And not only that, but many of these riders buy their mono-brand bike and outfit it with the same set of chrome accessories as their buddies. Engulfed in a pungent cloud of new leather and loud pipes, these motorcyclists ride in herds of sameness that challenges the individualism they declare. So I'm not very surprised when these folks ask me about having a dealer fix my motorcycle or if I wish I had a different brand of motorcycle.

For me, a motorcycle isn’t a projector of my personality. I think of it more as a magnifying glass to investigate myself. I've ridden two-wheeled motorized vehicles for over 45 years--the only thing I've done longer is breathe. I relish riding solo, but also enjoy the company of others on rides. I’ve attended numerous rallies including Bike Week (my wife and I attended every one from 1997 to 2005) with an occasional visit to Biketoberfest over the years. I've done the Iron Butt Association's 1000 miles in 24 hours. I’ve ridden when the air temperature was 17o (is it possible to freeze your cornea?). All of these motorcycle experiences have taught me a little about me. The same goes for replacing discontinued oil pressure switches and having to engineer a new fuel fitting because parts aren’t sold separately. 

Fixing these bits is a way for me to tell me something about myself. 
It’s like I’m talking to myself. 
Maybe I’m crazy.
The next blog post will be back on the repairs.


To be continued…


Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Adventures of Replacing a Moto Guzzi Oil Pressure Switch—Part 3

Passing my motorcycle test gave me a disproportionate feeling of greatness.   


Moto Guzzi is the oldest European motorcycle manufacturer in continuous production. The Harley Davidson Company had been making motorcycles for 18 years when Moto Guzzi was established in 1921. Like Harley, the Moto Guzzi has had its ups and downs and has changed ownership, most recently in 2004, now owned by Piaggio. A scooter manufacturer of no small fame—you’ve probably heard of Vespa, the scooter so popular with the Italians that they created a new word in their language “vespare” which means to go somewhere on a Vespa—Piaggio has a long history of building machines that move starting with locomotives in the late 1800s and aircraft in World War I and World War II. I’m a newcomer to Moto Guzzi never having owned one in its pre-Piaggio days. I’m aware many ole-time Guzzi riders bemoan Piaggio’s takeover, I think because of the real or perceived ills of “a large company” swallowing “a small company.” Some Guzzi owners attribute the story I’m about to tell to Piaggio’s takeover of Moto Guzzi. Me? I’m not so sure. 

Shortly after removing the oil pressure switch I began searching the Internet for a vendor who might have one. I came across what I later learned is one of the largest suppliers of Guzzi OEM parts online but noticed my particular pressure switch, part number 978854, was not among the several available for Guzzis. Curious.

I sent them an email asking them about my switch, providing them the year, make, model details of my bike, and a photo to make sure everyone was clear on the specific part I was looking for. A couple of days later I got a kind, but terse, return email saying my oil pressure switch “…was no longer available.” What? My bike is a 2012…3 years old…not 30 years old! Off to the (relatively) new Moto Guzzi dealership in town. With old, leaking, oil pressure switch in hand, I headed to the dealer on a blustery Saturday morning in early December. We found the switch in his parts catalog. He didn’t have it in stock but said it would arrive in about a week. Perfect.

While we were at it, I told him I needed the disconnect fitting that fit on the plate under the fuel tank as I had broken mine when removing it. We went back to the parts catalog and looked…and looked…and looked…and looked. There was no fitting to be found. I showed him where the part should be on his parts catalog drawing and he promised to look into it and get back to me. I left that morning a little uneasy.

When I got home, I “unwrapped” the fuel tank to look again at the broken fitting. (The tank was wrapped in a blanket, kept in a box, stored in a semi-protected area of the garage. Semi-protected because no spot in the garage is completely protected from the grandkids, but the self-delusion of semi-protection makes me feel better. Don’t criticize—self-delusion is a viable coping mechanism for getting through life!) I upended the tank and removed the panel that held the broken fuel disconnect fitting.

You're looking at the plate removed from the tank and pulled partly out. The black cylinder on the
left is the fuel pump and the silver cylinder on the right is the fuel filter--both located in the fuel tank
when in operation. Straight on is the set screw I was convinced held the plastic fuel fitting to the
metal plate. Even now, with the fitting removed, I can't ell you what role that set screw plays--it serves
no function that I can tell.
Behold! A set screw! What other purpose would it serve than to keep the remaining portion of the fitting in the metal plate? I removed the set screw and pulled on the fitting. Nope. I got a pair of pliers and pulled. Nope. I got a screw driver to wedge under it and pry while pulling. Nope. I turned it one way, then the other. Around and around. Pulling the whole time. Nope. What is going on? I don’t think Arnold could get it out.

That’s when my friend from the local Guzzi dealership called. He said he had “bad news.” I involuntarily sat down. The fuel fitting is not sold separately. It is available as a unit along with the fuel pump and metal plate. The cost is approximately $675. !! I let out a high-pitched laugh…well, I guess it could have been called a laugh. I thanked him for letting me know I was going to have to come up with a different solution for repairing the fuel fitting. He promised to let me know when the pressure switch arrived. We said our good-byes.

Fast forward a week. With the help of my father-in-law, we endeavored to remove that plastic fitting from the metal plate. Using a Dremel tool, we cut off the fitting flush with the lip on the metal plate. Then, using a 1/16th drill bit, I carefully drilled small holes through the wall of the fitting remaining in the hole—this to weaken the fitting. Then using a small screwdriver and hammer, I “chiseled away” bits of the fitting wall on one side. Then I collapsed the fitting using pliers and removed it. With the plastic fuel fitting finally removed, the most obvious choice for repair is to replace it with a proper brass fitting. That will be the topic for the next installment.



Back to the oil pressure switch and whether Piaggio is to blame for any of this. 
The local Guzzi dealer called to let me know my switch had arrived. I thought it prudent to take my old switch with me when I went to pick up the new one—I’m really glad I did. The new switch was not at all like my old one. The Parts Manager told me the switch that was sent was a different part number that superseded mine as my switch “…was no longer available.” I had heard those words before. The problem was, the new switch was nothing like mine. Not only was the electrical connector different—something I could remedy easily enough, but where it screwed into the engine was completely different. It was the wrong size and would not fit. Something I could not easily remedy. I didn’t know what to do. The Parts Manager didn’t know what to do. So I went home without a working oil pressure switch.

The next day, I decided to post a question on the Moto Guzzi National Owners Club Facebook page about my oil pressure switch. Within 30-minutes I received scores of replies with truly useful information. In addition to many who blamed Piaggio for my maladies, an owner from the Netherlands told me my pressure switch has been superseded. I knew that. But what I didn’t know was that oil pressure switch 978854 was now replaced by oil pressure switch 641541 AND adapter 887123 so that the new switch would fit in my engine. Mystery solved.

He went on to say that I shouldn’t bother trying to get these parts from Moto Guzzi because I would still have to make changes to my electrical connector as the new switch is wired differently than my old one. Instead, he suggested I go to a local auto parts store and try to find one. I immediately did a couple of Internet searches and discovered an exact replacement for my oil switch available from Autozone:  Duralast PS571. (Actually, it is not an exact replacement. My original switch required a 23-mm wrench, this Duralast switch uses a 24-mm wrench.) And guess what? It was $10.99 This appealed greatly to my skinflint tendencies. 

I started to feel optimistic.

To be continued… 


Friday, January 1, 2016

The Adventures of Replacing a Moto Guzzi Oil Pressure Switch—Part 2

Phase 1 of the Solution Leads to Phase 2 of the Problem

It’s November 27th, my 39th wedding anniversary. As a present to myself, I decided to commence repair of the suspected leaking oil pressure switch on my Moto Guzzi Norge. I undertake these projects with the same naïveté of a person who thinks a soulmate can be found by seeking the girl whose foot fits a glass slipper. All I need do is remove the broken part, buy a new one, install it, and then I'm done. What could possibly go wrong?

The oil pressure switch on the Norge is located in the space between the cylinder heads, the "V", nearer to the left side. As with cars, boats, airplanes, and most any other machinery that has a human operator, the left side of the machine is the side that corresponds to the operator’s left when in position to control the machine. Above, you’re looking at the right side of the Norge. Below is a pretty picture of the smaller Guzzi motor unencumbered from a motorcycle—it more clearly shows the transverse V design of the Guzzi engines. (I haven’t done my homework on this, but I believe Moto Guzzi makes essentially two sized motors for their entire line of motorcycles. The photo below is the engine used in their smaller bikes.) In the Norge photo above, you can see the right cylinder head peeking from the opening below the red emblem on the side of the fuel tank. Hopefully you’re fully oriented now.

The fuel tank has to come off to get access to the V of the engine. On the Norge, that’s a relatively straightforward process. Remove a couple of bolts that anchor the rearward bits of the front fairing, then remove the tank’s rear anchor bolt under the seat, and voila! you’re done…sorta. There’s a pesky fuel line you have to disconnect. Moto Guzzi uses a plastic fuel disconnect fitting that requires a legendary run-the-engine-to-lower-the-pressure-in-the-fuel-line-push-squeeze-pull, but only when the moon is full and only after you’ve eaten a full plate of pasta, procedure to disconnect it. The Internet is replete with advice on how to do this successfully and there’s even a video on YouTube:



Guess what happened when I tried it? 


I screamed the scream when you accidentally lick the scoop of ice cream off your cone and watch it fall to the hot concrete side walk. And as in that case, I cried. 

In the photo above, you’re looking at the underside of the fuel tank removed from the bike and sitting upside down. It shows the plate where the red plastic fitting—now broken—connects to the fuel line (not shown) on its long side and then turns 90 degrees into the metal plate. The black “tube” going up through the top of the photo is actually a bundle of wires that connect to a plug providing electricity to the fuel pump and fuel gauge float which are on the other side of the metal plate inside the fuel tank.

So now, I’ve got two broken parts:
  • The initial leaking oil pressure switch, and
  • The fuel disconnect fitting

Well, so much for finding soulmates wearing glass slippers. It was a crummy analogy anyway.

I’ll just go get two parts instead of one. What could possibly go wrong?


To be continued…

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Adventures of Replacing a Moto Guzzi Oil Pressure Switch—Part 1

I am documenting my recent experience in replacing an oil pressure switch gone bad on my 2012 Moto Guzzi Norge. I document this primarily for me as I feel myself inescapably approaching that time when I will no longer be able to keep such experiences in working memory.
I picture myself in a rocking chair on a porch somewhere using the latest portable computing device re-reading this blog entry and turning to the old crusty guy sitting next to me in his rocking chair and saying, “See this? I did that! I am a rockstar!
I also do this for fellow Guzzi riders, especially relatively new Guzzi owners like me, who encounter what at first seems to be straight forward problems that ultimately takes twists and turns and needs a little creativity to manage a solution.

The problem:

At the beginning of the summer during a commute home when it was particularly hot, while idling at a stoplight, I noticed the ‘check engine’ light flutter to life on the dash. I thought “Uh oh”, but when the stoplight turned green and I rev-ed the engine to take off, the check engine light promptly went out. By the time I got home I forgot about it. (A foreshadow of things to come? See 1st paragraph.) A few days later, under the same circumstances—hot day, engine idling—the check engine light came on again but this time accompanied with the 'oil can icon' showing on the dash panel. That kept my attention and when I got home and I went through the diagnostic settings to read the fault code: DSB 08, oil pressure fault. I felt a tightening around my throat.

Checking in with my long time Guzzi riding friend revealed he has a similar problem with his Grisso—something he had been ignoring for years! A little Internet research revealed numerous other Moto Guzzi owners with similar problems. And all under the same circumstances of high temperatures, low engine revs, either or both the check engine light and ‘oil can icon’ showing on the dash. I read only a rare few had actual oil pressure problems—e.g. oil pump failure—and I was very relieved. The switch is located on the top of the engine within the “V”. Replacement would require removing the fuel tank at a minimum which I assumed was rather involved (based on experiences with my previous Italian motorcycle) and so I was fully prepared to ignore the problem. 

Oil pressure switches are a common component of nearly all internal combustion engines. This relatively simple electrical switch informs the operator that oil pressure has dropped, ostensibly indicating an unsafe condition that needs to be remedied. When I removed the old switch on my Norge, I broke off the plastic housing which showed a simple metal “plunger” and a spring. Apparently, these Guzzi switches “fail” by giving a false reading of low pressure under conditions of high temperature when the engine is at low speeds like idling. The high temperature is probably a factor because that is when oil viscosity is at its lowest (water is a low viscosity fluid, syrup is a high viscosity fluid) and along with low engine speed is likely not “pushing” against the plunger with enough force to maintain electrical contact within the switch falsely indicating to the main ECU that the oil pressure is low.
For some reason, I forgot to take a photo of my oil pressure switch. It looked just like this one. The left end is where the electrical connector clipped on and the right end is where it screwed into the engine. Oil entered into the switch on this end.
Apparently, mine had another problem: It must have had a crack or hole somewhere on the plastic housing because the bike was leaking oil. I find oil leaks irritating. I couldn’t ignore this problem because not only was oil mist was making the under parts of my Norge unsightly, I was worried too much oil would spray onto the rear wheel making the bike unsafe. This needed to be fixed.
Something to do during the winter doldrums


To be continued…

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Ever-Frustrating Conversation About Riding Motorcycles

The Ever-Frustrating Conversation About Riding Motorcycles



This is a link to an article on Yahoo that every motorcyclist has had with a non-motorcyclist. It is indeed a frustrating conversation and it ends just like it does in the article.

This is a photo of my wife and granddaughter having fun. 


'via Blog this'