TOWED!

So I got to enjoy more of the incompetence of the city of Toronto and their inability to properly sign the streets.

I took my bike to class yesterday because I needed to go straight to work afterwards. My class was right off of Queens Circle in downtown Toronto. I parked my bike in the same place I’d been parking it the past couple weeks. On each end of the sidewalk there were signs that read “Paid parking enforced: 12:30-3:30, 6:30-9:30″ (those times are just estimates, I can’t remember exactly and there were some other times I believe, but these were the ones concerning me). So I figured what anyone would figure when they see that sign without any others up anywhere on the block: you have to pay for parking if you’re parking during those times otherwise there’s no charge.

When I got out of my class and turned the corner to the street where I parked my bike, the entire street was empty (of parked cars). A few thoughts went through my head, first I thought, I just didn’t remember exactly where I parked and I was actually one more block south, second that it had been towed, and third that the bike had gotten stolen. After freaking out a bit and walking the entire length of the street, checking every sign that was posted (and not seeing any no parking signs) I saw a group of people gathered around the parking meter where you pay to get your ticket. They had the same kind of looked that I imagined I had on at the moment and walked over and asked them if they had gotten towed and they answered that they figured they probably had. Then one of them leans over to the meter and points at a little label about 1/2″ by 2” in the middle of a column of about 3 or 4 other labels. These labels apparently had the parking regulations of the street on them, and underneath one that repeated the “pay parking enforced” sign up on the street was one with a little “p” with a cross through it that said no parking between 3:30 and 6:30 (the time during which I was parked.

The most ridiculous part about this whole situation is that motorcycles don’t have to pay for parking in Toronto, which means that there would be no circumstance under which I would be at the meter to have a chance to see the tiny, no parking label (which is clearly made as difficult to see as possible, which is why the other group ended up getting towed as well).

After work, I was able to call the towing company to make sure that they had my bike, which they did, and to get some more details. For just the first day, it was going to cost $180 to get my bike back, and every day after that an extra $48, and after 60 days… well the way the lady on the phone put it was “your bike won’t be here anymore.” On top of that, the place where people’s towed vehicles is kept is extremely out of the way and very difficult to get to if you don’t have your own mode of transportation… Also, the way I have to fight the ticket and the tow is to take it up with the police station that issued the ticket (which I get when I pick up my bike), and with them I set up a date to contest at a small claims court, the court date for which won’t be set for around 6 months, and probably won’t be for another 6 months after that.

So now I’m going to have to pay $240 to get my bike, and even if I fight it, I won’t see any money for at least around a year, without any compensation for all the time it’s going to take to figure this out. And this is all because the city of Toronto doesn’t know how to sign their streets, or at least sign them in a way that discriminates against motorcycles (which the city benefits from being driven in terms of congestion and pollution when compared to cars).

Buffalo to Toronto

It was a great game at the Ralph Wilson Stadium, with the Bills beating the Oakland Raiders by one point – scoring a field goal with three seconds left on the clock. The highlight had to have been when my brother shouted out “Let’s go, Toronto Bills!” Some people laughed, a lot of people gave angry looks, and some warned us to “Take it easy”.

The traffic leaving the stadium is the stuff of nightmares, as is the line up at the border. An electronic sign indicated that the Fort Eerie Peace bridge had the shortest wait at 20-30 minutes. I shut the motor off several times and pushed the bike to reduce wear/emissions/waste gas while waiting.

I wasn’t far over the border when it hit me. “Our roads are in terrible condition,” I thought to myself. A lot of it had been ripped up to be repaved, but it seemed to stretch on and on, from immediately after the Peace bridge in to St. Catherines, and again on the 427 as well as the 401. Not only is it uncomfortable to drive on, it is dangerous at those speeds. Several times the front end of my Honda Magna started to shake in the grooves, like a mock speed wobble. I had to keep a close eye on the roads to anticipate the grooved pavement as for the most part they are poorly marked.

In the least, these areas should be better indicated, and motorists should be aware of the danger this grooved pavement presents to motorcycles and drive appropriately.

Instead of heading home I decided to go to my girlfriends place in Oshawa. So non-stop from the Peace Bridge to Oshawa, on about $10 worth of gas, I drove for four hours. Not sure of my average speed as my speedometer was still inoperable but I was keeping pace with traffic. And just as I pulled into her driveway, the low fuel light turned on. Gotta love it.

Speedometer cable troubleshooting

As I recently mentioned, my speedometer suddenly stopped working. Browsing the internet and my owners manual didn’t offer much help, so I sought aid from a gent at a nearby parts store. I hope you find the following info helpful and relevant.

Diagnosing:
The first step is to disconnect the cable from the back of the instrument panel. The cable runs from the back of the speedometer to the front wheel. You will only need pliers for this.
Now, with the cable free from your instrument panel, spin the front wheel by either pushing the bike or getting the wheel off the ground and manually turning it.

If the speedometer cable spins, the problem is in your instrument panel. The cheapest solution is most likely replacing the speedometer or entire instrument panel if necessary.

If the speedometer cable does not spin there are two likely problems: either the cable has broken and needs to be replaced, or the cable has become disconnected at the front wheel.

Detach the cable from the front wheel. For this I only needed a Phillips head screw driver. Once that is done it should be obvious if the cable is broken. Pull either end of the cable – if it detaches you need to replace the cable. It may also be broken at the front wheel tip – it should have a gap or a slit to fit a tab in. If either side of the gap is broken you will need to replace the cable.

If the cable appears to be intact, it has most likely become detached at the front wheel. This is a bit more finnicky but by no means too difficult. There is a tab that sticks out of the front wheel where the speedometer cable connects. This has to be properly inserted into the right end of the cable. I found this easiest to do with the help of a friend (aren’t most things?). Fit the cable into the tab and, while keeping the cable taut with the front wheel, reattach it to the instrument panel. It is important that no slack is allowed during this process as the cable will easily detach at the front wheel.

You should be good to ride aware of your speed now! If the processes above did not solve your problem, it is possible that the tab at the front wheel is the problem, which would require the help of a knowledgeable mechanic. In the Greater Toronto Area I recommend either Cycleworld Superstore at 4545 Sheppard Ave East or Ontario Cycle Salvage at 1570 Kingston Rd.

Safe travels!

Spark Plug and Air Filter Care

Here are some tips I picked up while figuring out my too much oil issue.

First, something that can hurt the spark plugs is running the engine rich too much. This happens when you have the choke open to warm up the bike, so there’s no oxygen getting in the engine.

For a Sportster what you should try is rather than open the clutch, turn the gas 3 times before starting the bike, and once the bike is started keep the engine revved to warm it up. To make it easier, you can start with the choke and then slowly push it in as you keep the revs on.

Now a quick tip for the air filter. Something that can apparently cause oil to flood into the air filter is riding at a high gear with low revs. So when you’re riding try and wait a bit longer before going up a gear.

Hope this helps, now all there’s left to do is just keep the rubber on the road!

Symptoms: dry starts and long warm up

After I got back from San Diego, the bike was about due for another oil change (less than a week but almost 3000 miles since the last one). I decided to avoid the cost of bringing it to the shop and do it myself. This was the second time I’ve changed my oil, and I plan to write a post with pictures on how to change the oil on a post ’04 Sportster.

Symptoms:
After both times I changed my oil, I noticed some differences from when they did it at the shop. First, I would have trouble starting up the bike. Without fail every time I first pressed the ignition, I would get a dry start where the engine wouldn’t catch and then the second try it would turn over. The second problem was that once it was started it would take well over a minute to warm up (my bike is carburated rather than fuel injected) even in warm weather.

Troubleshooting:
A big difference between when I changes the oil and the dealership did (I noticed the mentioned symptoms both times I did it and not when they did) was the amount of oil, there was a lot more when I did, at the top/full mark on the dipstick, a big difference from the professional oil change. So I figured that must be where the problem comes from.

WARNING: the Harley Davidson user’s manual says to fill up 3.4 liters, including the bit that goes in the filter. This is WRONG. The amount should be closer to 3 liters.

When I called customer service about this, the guy was giving me a hard time telling me that the 3.4 liters is just an approximation. Personally I find it hard to believe that something like +/- almost a half liter counts as an approximation.

From talking with a couple mechanics (one really helpful source was a website, motorcycle.justanswer.com) , here’s what I figure happened. With my oil so high, it was taking longer for the engine to warm up as the oil had to get moving and running through the engine. This led me to run the engine richer (with the choke on) for longer. This started to take a toll on my spark plugs which affected the start up of the bike and the warm up even more. I also had a bit of over flow of oil into the air filter.

Solution:
The first thing I did was to take out the excess oil. I have a funnel with an open/close nozzle that has measurementson it too. So I took out 400 ml and then double checked the oil level.

Next I took out the air filter and cleaned it out with warm water and some soap, as the user’s manual recommends. I checked to see if the filter element was burned. I don’t know too much about it, but it looked a little black in parts, possibly from left over oil, but not quite charred.

Finally, I replaced the spark plugs. This is pretty easy to do, and inexpensive too. Checking and replacing spark plugs is a good idea for a lot of troubleshooting situations. All you need is a socket wrench and the appropriate sized spark plug attachment. I just asked for the spark plugs for my bike at the nearby harley dealership, but if you’re getting them on your own, make sure they’re the right size and type for your bike.

There are a couple other things I found out in terms of regular use to keep in mind to take care of the spark plugs and air filter, so check that post out under tips.

red molly gets tossed

so i was enjoying some white wine last night with a friend and my girlfriend when we heard knocking on my apartment door. my neighbours were at the door, and asked if i had left my motorcycle on its side.

you can imagine the thoughts that went through my head at that moment, made worse by the alcohol coursing through my veins.

the bike was lying on its side, the opposite side as the kickstand. the prognosis: someone pushed it over or hit it with a car. after closer inspection i ruled out the car as the culprit, as there were no marks to indicate that was the case.

the damage: broken right side rear view mirror, throttle grip no longer grips – it just spins round and round, and some minor scratches.

what i want to pass on to anyone reading: don’t ever, under any condition, sit or play on someone’s motorcycle. the love for one’s motorcycle can not be compared to a car – it is much stronger. i can not tell you how angry i’d be if i caught the person(s) who did this. so please, admire the bikes from afar. don’t ever touch.

Toronto to Buffalo

My father and brother are NFL fans. Every year, on the weekend of my dads birthday, we take him to Buffalo to catch a Bills game. This year I decided to ride the motorcycle down.

I was doing some work in the Halton Hills area with the Bruce Trail hiking club so my day started very early – I was on the road at 6 am. I was heading north on the DVP when I realized my speedometer wasn’t working. Odd, I thought, as it was working fine the previous day.

It was nice riding without much traffic to the 401, west to Trafalgar and north to 10th line, all the while measuring my speed by that of other cars around me. There was a fog lingering just above the farmers fields that made me regret leaving my DSLR.
I worked till 3 then began the trip to buffalo, taking Winston Churchill Blvd south to the 403 where I was supposed to meet with my dad and brother. They were delayed several hours and suggested I continue on and we’d meet near the border, so I decided to take the Niagara wine region tour. For those of you who have done this trip before you know how beautiful the area and the ride is on a gorgeous day. I’ll post a map of my route when I’m home.

After the wine tour, and still with time to kill, I headed to Niagara Falls. Despite the pedestrian and car traffic this is a sweet ride. There are many groups you can hook up with for short rides and the scenery doesn’t disappoint. Even the plethora of tourist based attractions have a peverse appeal.

Finally at 7:30, I got a call that my family had arrived at the Queenston-Lewiston bridge into the USA. I followed my dad and bro through the border customs, where the guard said they warned him I was transporting a ‘green, leafy substance’. Thankfully he was kidding (yes, some of them do have a sense of humor), then he started talking about motorcycles, suggesting I check out the Suzuki Boulevard.

Finally pulled into the Lord Amherst hotel (highly recommended and affordable) around 9 pm. Picked up a pizza and wings at ‘La Nova’ and cracked some beers, settling in for a relaxing night before the game!