Easy Rider

Well, this video is actually terrifying. A couple motorcyclists are riding along a country road when they come across a pickup truck. Cue video:

Reminds me of that scene from Easy Rider:


Why we stay wide on the road

There is no shortage of video clips out there of bike accidents. Many can be attributed to idiot motorcyclists, many can be attributed to idiot car drivers. To me, the best thing to take away from watching such videos is an understanding of what went wrong, how it might have been prevented, and then consciously adopting that in to your riding habits.

I hate drivers who can’t keep their vehicles in a 10 foot wide lane. And this is a prime example why you leave yourself enough space while riding to respond to emergencies.

Honestly, I have been working on my AJS …

I honestly have been working on my AJS. I picked it up in October of 2010 and was all gung-ho to get it cleaned up and on the road.

But you didn’t hear anything. Nothing.

But believe me, I have been working on it. Honestly. The problem is that to this point there hasn’t been much to say or to show. I’ve been reading. A lot of reading. It’s a different beast than the V-Twins or Inline-Four’s I’m used to working on. It’s a push-rod engine with a dry sump for oil (dry sump engines carry their oil in an oil tank that is separate from the engine and uses two pumps to lubricate – one to pump oil to the engine, where it lubes everything and then drops to the bottom of the engine, and a second or ‘scavenge’ pump which pumps the oil back to the oil tank). This is something a Harley fan might be used to, but I’m not overly familiar with the 50+ year old technology …

I located a local importer and distributor of original parts from the UK (Walridge Motors). I procured factory manuals, parts schematics, and a plethora of tips from other AJS/Matchless owners.

Now I’m starting to have something to show you.

I started with the easy task of cleaning the Amal carb and replacing the throttle and clutch cable (Yes, that is an Easy Rider poster in the background!). First step was removing the fuel line running from the tank – I will also be replacing the fuel line, but haven’t got around to buying any yet. There is also an overflow line that must be removed (visible in this picture). The carb is attached to the engine via two bolts on either side of the carb and is buffered by a rubber gasket of sorts. Once you remove these two bolts the carb wiggles off and is free of the engine. To completely remove the carb we must detach the throttle cable (and with this carb the choke cable as well). There is a cap on the top of the carb that can be twisted off and will free the throttle slide and the choke. The carb can now be removed.

By removing the three screws on the ‘Amal’ cover plate you have access to the float – on newer carbs the float is usually on the bottom. This is the first thing I took apart. The float itself is held in with a brass ring (often called a ‘pin’) that just slides off, then the float can be removed. On this carb the needle rests on the float so it slid out upon removing the float. Now the jets can be removed.

Jets are screws that have a hole through the center of them which the fuel flows through to mix with air. The main jet is short and fat and will have a flat screwdriver head. The pilot jet is long and skinny and will take a flat head screwdriver to remove.

The last step before actually cleaning the carb is to remove the parts on the outside. The air screw and the idle screw can be removed with a flat head screwdriver. The idle screw is the larger of the two, and it adjusts the idle rpm of the engine. Also remove the air screw, which is the smaller screw and adjusts the air flow through the carb when the engine is running.

Before I started cleaning the carb I carefully removed all gaskets and o-rigns  – all were in great shape and appeared to have been recently replaced, so I deemed it unnecessary to replace them. Plus I’m a cheap bastard.

The easiest way to clean the carb and the parts is to soak them in carb/parts cleaner. Follow the instructions on the can for cleaning. I used a spray can of carb cleaner and used a clean oil drain pan to soak them in. Be sure to wear safety glasses and gloves!

I scrubbed the parts with a wire brush and then sprayed with carb cleaner. Then I sprayed the cleaner into the holes that the jets, air and idle screws, float needle, and choke came from. When cleaning the jets, be sure to spray cleaner into the holes, and look through them into light to make sure the hole is cleaned. If jets are not completely clean, blowing compressed air through the hole will remove any debris.

Allow everything to dry then replace gaskets/o-rings. Replace all parts in the opposite order as when you removed them. When installing the air screw (the skinny screw), if you don’t have a setting from the factory I usually screw it in all the way then back the screw out a turn and a 1/4. When the engine is running and warm you can properly adjust it by turning the screw in till the engine stumbles, then out till it stumbles, and leave it at half way in between.

Next install the float.  To install the float, line the holes up with the holes in the carburetor and slide the float pin in.  The pin will slide around freely, just make sure it is centered so it is secure. To make sure the float needle is working properly, move the float up and down to make sure the needle moves freely.  If the needle gets stuck in the up position it needs to be replaced.

Now I put a new throttle cable and choke cable in the throttle slide and choke slide. This was a matter of convenience as the carb must be removed to replace them. I still need to purchase new handlebar grips for the throttle…

With the throttle slide in and choke slide in, you can set the idle screw. Slowly turn the idle screw until the throttle slide begins to move. Now turn the screw half a rotation. You can properly adjust the idle screw with the engine running – turn the idle screw in to increase idle, turn it out to decrease idle.

Then I put the carb back on the bike by ‘wiggling’ it back on the rubber boot and bolting it back on. Now it looks cleaner than the rest of the bike!

Next I’ll be working on replacing oil, fuel line, spark plug, drum brake shoes, and rubber and getting this bad boy back on the road! I’ll keep you posted!

A New Site for Planning Scenic Drives

Here’s a great site, called MyScenicDrives.com, that’s started up on the West Coast, that identifies scenic drives all over the region. The site provides a Google Map with highlighted overlays of the drives, which you can click on for very detailed descriptions. You can also see nearby hikes, vistas, food stops, and hotels. They are in the process of expanding east and to Canada, so keep an eye on it to see if your region gets included in future updates. And this site isn’t just for motorcycles, but useful for any road travelers looking for a good place to travel over the weekend.

If you’re interested in a useful iPhone app that can give you route suggestions, check out our review of the Greatest Road app, along with other Smart Phone apps that come in handy when driving by motorcycle, here.

Update April 13th: Greatest Road App now free for a limited time! So make sure you check it out while you can.

Some Rubber on the Road Scenic Drive Suggestions:

Mapquest for the iPhone: A Perfect Motorcyclist’s Companion

I just recently added this update to our Motorcycle App Review section, but I thought I’d give it a new dedicated post as well since I thought it was such a great app.

Mapquest– Free turn-by-turn directions.

This is an absolute must-have app. I only discovered this while on my 2 month trip around the US but it was a huge time saver. Obviously a bit issue with being on a motorcycle can be figuring out directions. There’s always the option of having a gas tank mount to hold some directions and a map, but that can’t be always safe looking down while driving trying to figure out if you have to make that exit approaching at 70mph. Of course memorizing them is not very reliable and you’ll find yourself second guessing yourself more often than not at the last minute.

I found the Mapquest app to be a perfect solution to this. I typically like to listen to music when I ride (a decision which some might question from a safety standpoint, but that’s for another post), and this app work perfectly in the background with the new iOS 4.0 in my iPhone as it would unobtrusively turn down my music and announce on-coming directions and then turn the music back on when it was done. It also has an auto reroute feature if you get off course, automatically adjusting its directions. There are options for shortest time and shortest distance, as well as the options to avoid highways, toll roads, and “seasonally closed” (all of which are nice for motorcycle riders).  Since it is built in with Mapquest capabilities, you can search for restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, etc. and get directions to them as well.

I found one important feature missing was that there was no option to turn on warnings. This was big on a motorcycle because you couldn’t just look down and check what the status is (unless you had a mount for your phone, but I carried mine in my jacket pocket), so I would find myself in the familiar trap of second guessing myself and my phone’s battery power only to pull over on the side of the road and discover I was still 5 miles from my turn. It looks like they might have added this option though in a recent update with “Walking Directions Alerts,” though I haven’t had the chance to test it out. I would recommend however not totally relying on the app, quickly reviewing the directions before stowing your phone away, as sometimes it can crash or your battery may die, leaving you endlessly waiting for the next turn (the walking alerts may do a lot to alleviate this concern though).

Oh, and did I mention the best part? It’s free!!

Push Starting my Motorcycle in the Middle of Beijing Rush Hour

I thought I’d share my recent problems in my  adventure into the world of Chinese motorcycling. After having just bought a second hand but only one year old Chinese brand motorcycle, I’m already having problems. The first day riding it home was great. I was able to take it on of the major Beijing roads, the 4th ring and navigated my way through traffic no problem. Despite, the sub-freezing temperatures, it was great to be back on two wheels. Then after one day of leaving it parked outside my apartment, I press the ignition only to find that I get no response from the engine whatsoever. At first I think it might be the cold, but the sound the engine would usually make in that situation is a little different. Whereas in the cold the engine is trying to catch with a sort of revving type sound, I was hearing a barely audible click, which would indicate a dead battery. This was bad as I needed to commute to work and was almost late as it was. I noticed a slight incline behind me so I pushed the bike up and started to run it down. Luckily this push start worked and I was able to make it to work on time.

Of course this wasn’t the end of my troubles. A couple of times at stop lights, the engine cut out. I figured, with the engine warmed up there shouldn’t be any more problems. I was wrong and so on the side of a very busy Beijing street with bikes, cars, and pedestrians everywhere, I had to again push start my bike (what it must have looked like to the local Chinese to see a foreigner, which is a strange enough sight as it is, go through this ritual I can only imagine). Luckily I started to get good at push starting as I had to repeat this several times.

Other things of note for diagnosis are how sometimes power wasn’t getting to the horn and that after the bike’s been sitting outside of my office building all day and I turn the power back on, the headlight is barely lit. This all leads me to believe it’s a battery issue.

What’s going to be interesting is to get this all sorted out with the language barrier. I have already been in contact via text with the seller, all in Chinese. His first response was to say it was cold. I explained how it wasn’t because it happened even after running for 20 minutes. His next response was to say that he just changed the battery. This just came off as a typical Chinese response that I’m not too likely to believe. And finally he told me that I just didn’t know how to ride it properly. I’m sorry but that’s just the wrong thing to say.

I’m going to continue to text him now that, after several days, the problem is more than confirmed. Most likely this Saturday (China time of course), I’ll be driving it (after the ritualistic method of push starting I’ve been using the past 3 days) back up to the north end of the city to have him see the problem for himself.

The sad thing of it all is that I’ve been really enjoying the bike otherwise. It rides well, it does what I need it to do (when it’s running), and I like the look of it. Let’s just hope I’m able to get it working smoothly and can be back on the road problem free!

An alternate way to lift up your bike after you drop it …

Found this video on ‘The Biker Gene’ – an alternate way to lift up your motorcycle if the ‘backwards’ method doesn’t work for you. I’ve never tried this method so I’m not sure how effective it is, but if you’re in a jam and can’t get the bike up here’s another way to try!