Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lightweight Shorai Battery

Not a vintage project but a cool one. I wanted a new battery for my 2010 Husqvarna TE250, and had recently read about these cool lightweight LiFePO4 (lithium iron phosphate) batteries made by Shorai. I'm a novice in the dirt and I'm short so the idea of lightening the bike a couple pounds sounded like a good idea.

Shorai's "Standard Recommendation" for my bike is the LFX09L2-BS12. There website claims: "This LFX battery is 4.07 Lbs. lighter than the lead-acid YTZ7S." That sounded pretty awesome, and my local dealer had it in stock.
Here is my original battery and the new Shorai.
The new Shorai is significantly shorter and less deep. They provide foam that you can cut to wedge the battery in the battery tray and you can see that in front of the Shorai battery in the picture. They also have these nice bolts with foam underneath that helps raise the nut for fitting the bolt. If you have fit a motorcycle battery before you know this seems like a handy and nice idea.

But what about the weight? First I weighed the original battery.
This is the original battery that came with the bike and including the bolts it weights 4 pounds 8.5 ounces (4.53 pounds).

Now the new Shorai battery.
Wow! 1 pound 4.9 ounces (1.31 pounds), including the bolts and foam shim.

So that is a savings of: 3 pounds 3.6 ounces, or 3.2 pounds. Not really close to Shorai's claim of 4.07 pounds, but still a pretty good weight savings.

Here's a picture of the battery fitted to the bike.

I was careful to zip tie the battery in place, as it definitely cold come loose otherwise, due to it's smaller size. But it does fit really well. (You might notice, I have some extra wiring under my bike for the Power Commander.)

I checked the voltage of the battery when I bought it, and it was at 13.40V. Which Shorai claims means the battery as delivered was at more than 90% charge. I also checked the drain with the ignition off and got 0.17mA on my meter. Thats pretty small, but I think I'll leave the battery disconnected between riding trips.

Cost? The Shorai at $106.62, tax included, was about the same price as a replacement Yuasa MF YTZ-7S battery ($110 online from various sites). But you can get an off-brand sealed AGM YTZ-7S for less than $50. So it's a great deal if you compare to a high end OEM replacement battery, kind of expensive if you compare it to the cheapest batteries out there.

So thats it, probably the easiest 3 pounds I've ever saved on a bike.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How I bent the foot peg mount back

The right foot peg on my 1977 Kawasaki KH400 has been a little crooked. Ideally this would have been bent back while the bike was disassembled (during restoration) but the restorer didn't notice it at that time.
The threaded lug that receives the foot peg is mounted to a gusset on the frame and I could see that gusset was slightly tweaked. So it wasn't a matter of bending the frame, just tweaking the sheet gusset back straight.
I tried bending it by removing the foot peg and inserting a long bolt, but the bolt just bent. So I ended up buying an extra foot peg on ebay, and then cutting it so I could fit a long steel pipe over the end.

I wrapped the end of the pipe in tape to protect surrounding components if something slipped or broke during the procedure. I also heated the the gusset with a heat gun. Not too much as I didn't want to harm the paint. Just slightly warm to the touch. Then I had my wife support the bike so I didn't pull it over and carefully tugged on the pipe. It's delicate procedure, as I didn't want to break anything and there are big, potentially dangerous forces involved. Obviously we both wore gloves and safety goggles. If you try something like this, be very careful and really, get professional help.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mondial Repairs

I arrived home from the giro and quickly made a list of things that need to be repaired, fixed or upgraded on the Mondial. These old bikes always need something. Sometimes the problems just arrive and sometimes they are chronic things you just can't seem to get rid of.  Eventually I might decide to move to a new old bike and a new set of problems!
The problem at hand:
- the ignition switch is intermittent and the ignition can cut out while riding or sometimes just to prevent the bike from starting.
A little investigation showed that the flat contact spring for the contact on the switch is made of two pieces, and one of the pieces has broken. (You can see the broken flat contact spring on the switch on the right in the picture below.) Unbelievably, I was able to find a replacement switch easily on sale for a mere $36. Its slightly different, but no big issues.
The new switch is on the left in the pic, with the bulb and fuse already fitted. I also put a jumper on it to connect two of the terminals. 
So now the switch is fixed!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Giro d' Califoria 2011 Wrap-up

I'm back home after another great Giro d'California.
It seemed like this was the best organized event yet, my complements to Harley and Deb and all those who helped them!
I've been asked for a bit more of a competitive update. Here is the story.

A Bit On Scoring and Strategy
The end section of a agility test right before the timing lights

The giro has 4 "agility tests" a day, where you strive to hit your time exactly over a short course, typically a slalom through some cones of less than 60 seconds. These are at the start, before and after lunch and at the finish. Additionally, there are typically 2 "emergency checks" along the course where you are marked to the middle of your minute (the 30 second point) in seconds. The agility tests are measured to the thousandth of a second with timing lights and emergency checks are measured to the second. Additionally there are 2 secret checks out on the course, where you are measure to the minute.
So here's how the strategy works out for me. Most importantly, I must leave on time at the start. It would be silly to blow that. Secondly, I want to arrive at the finish on time (you can be up to 15 minutes early for that with no penalty as it's a "known control". Then, I want to hit the secret checks and emergency controls on my designated minute. If a I can do all that, for 2 days, I will be "on my minute". Previous Giro's show that you will likely win the event if you can do that, or come close. The next priority after that is to try and hit the emergency check as close to the middle of my minute as possible, to avoid adding extra seconds to my score. And then the agility tests are important as they can also add seconds. Actually, the agility tests could add alot of seconds if you are very sloppy... between those and the emergency checks you could add enough seconds to more than a whole minute to your score.

The Competition
Barry Porter in the foreground  at the start with his "race face" on.

There are a bunch of guys doing the Giro well now but one stands out. I've found Barry Porter to be a fantastic competitor. I haven't been able to beat him in the last events as he runs just like a metronome. I succumb to the urge to just ride ahead of my time when the roads are good and that is a real detriment competitively. I tend to do the rabbit thing, run fast and then stop to let the clock catch up. At any rate, this typically means something has to go wrong for Barry for me to be close to him time wise. I mean, a TSD (time-speed-distance) event like this is about riding perfectly, and I make more "mistakes" than Barry and that makes it hard to beat him!

Day 1
Day 1 in the morning went fine. I lost 2 minutes when I arrived to a checkpoint early on a long twisty downhill. I knew I was ahead of schedule but didn't want to go slower as it was a nice road. I was just thinking of looking for a place to stop and whoops, here is a checkpoint! So that was that... I was going to be behind Barry in the overall.

The afternoon of Day 1 started pretty hot. Two riders are released from the start every minute and then have to wait for the agility test. As it was a long agility test the riders started to line up to wait for it. Soon it was a 10 minute wait. This means the guys in front had a real advantage, as they just got to run the test and leave. In the back, I had a long wait in my hot leathers... I was roasting. Eventually, I pulled my helmet and gloves and got some cold water. But by the time my shot at the test came up I just drove through it carefully to get rolling and away. I also needed to hit a gas stop and was just annoyed at the heat and delay. But eventually I was off and after an hour had cooled off and was enjoying the ride. It was a great road and we started to bend our way up a mountain.
But heading up the mountain, there was an error in the mileage on our roll chart for one of the turns! I was running right up a narrow single lane road in the Sequoia National Forest when I met Barry coming back down the mountain... he flagged me down and said the turn wasn't where it was supposed to be. I looked at my mileage and he appeared correct, but I suggested we keep going just to be sure, it's a long way to turn back. So we went another 2 miles forward and there was no turn. The previous turn has some road name markings which led us to believe maybe we should have turned differently back there... so we agreed to go back down the hill. For a moment, after he decided to go down the hill I was tempted to proceed ahead alone, as that would give me a time advantage if it worked! But Barry was right; we were way past where the turn was supposed to be and the previous intersection had been confusing on the roll chart.  So I followed him back down and we were zooming as we knew we were now late. And Barry was supposed to be several minutes ahead of me so he took off... and I was hoping that if I kept the gap low I would gain time on him in the overall. This error could be to my advantage! I was laughing in my helmet as the whole thing gets particularly funny when you are lost.
Barry and I went back down the hill passing people coming up with confused looks. And then we turned the other way at the last intersection. And we kept zooming. Barry was out of sight ahead but then he appeared coming at me again!  He pulls up and is frantic. He says he just came up on a checkpoint, from the wrong direction! We must have been going the right way the first time! He zooms off to go back up the hill. Now I stop and think. I don't immediately follow Barry. In moments there are half a dozen other riders pulled up and we they are all gabbing and discussing what to do. And then... Harley rides by.... and this surely indicates the proper direction, as he is the organizer! So I take off after Barry again. But now my mileage is way off, who knows where I'm going. And I know the turn on the hill isn't where it was supposed to be. I ride as fast as I can, still occasionally laughing in my helmet. This will really toss the standings like a salad! I'm competitive, but route finding is the game and certainly some people will have done it right. Hey, I almost went ahead without Barry the first time up the hill! At any rate I keep going as fast as I can. It gets lonely and I suspect no one is following me now. I was near the back in the start order and with this confusion I must be last or nearly so. It's getting dark and I finally come to an intersection... and it's no clearly marked so it doesn't match my chart and of course who knows the mileage! The sign seems to indicate I should go left. But if this is the lost intersection from my roll chart I should go right. I gamble and go right. And since the mileage was wrong I clearly can't reset my odometer here so I'm really concerned I might be getting lost. Its forest here and getting dark. I ride as quickly as I can. I haven't seen anyone in a long time. No cell reception up here I'm sure, it could be a long night if I'm lost. Luckily the bike is running well! And then... an intersection appears, and it matches the next turn on the map! I reset my odometer, noting I'm 40 miles off. And lots of time! I zoom along and a checkpoint appears! Yay! Humans! I'm on course! But WAY behind schedule. And the way the rules work, I have to stay behind schedule that same amount for the rest of the checkpoints. In fact, if I arrive more than 15 minutes early at the end I will be disqualified. Eventually I catch Barry and we discuss that fact and take our time during a free zone to avoid the possibility of DQ. And so the ride continues for the rest of the evening. I arrive at the hotel to find the special test already closed.
That night is full of interesting discussions. Obviously, those who managed to stay on route want the day's times to stand as they are! Rightly so, I think. It's the riders job to find the route regardless of errors on the route chart. And there are those who were lost who think the afternoons times should be discarded, because the chart was wrong. My opinion is that the results should be kept, UNLESS too many people are DQed. I mean, you can't throw out the results over every error in the charts or maps, you would never have a complete event. But on the other hand, you just don't want most of the riders DQed on day one of a 2 day event. That's just no fun for the attendees. So it will be up to the organizers...
That night Harley announces the afternoons results will be thrown out. I'm 2 minutes behind Barry, and there's a bunch of guys right on my tail...
(day 1 stats: morning: 89.2 miles plus approx. 40 miles lost, afternoon 91.6 miles)

Day 2 
It's a new day and it's like starting all over because yesterday's afternoon stage was discarded.
So starting day two I was solidly 2 minutes behind Barry, so my agility tests weren't going to be critical. Actually, there was someone close behind me (sorry I didn't check who it was, or I'd post it), but I assumed our times would likely spread enough that the agility tests wouldn't be critical. I still made an effort with them, but it was nice not to be concerned. After day 1's roast as I waited for the agility test after lunch, I was happy to just let these happen without stress for day two. I actually ran most of them without my stopwatch and just counted the seconds.
 I was happy to zero my first secret check in the morning and then we headed up into the mountains. Another great single lane road winding the way up. It's overcast and that's nice as it keeps things cool. There was a chance of rain and I brought all of my rain gear. This ended up being a good thing. We kept going up and up and it got colder. And then we were in the mist from the clouds and it was almost like rain the roads were wet and there were occasional small puddles. And visibility fell to 10 feet in places! And it was cold. I was in a giant debate with myself over whether to stop and put my rain gear on. I knew I was losing time as I rode more slowly in the fog and sometimes got stuck behind other riders. And I'd lose more time stopping to put the gear on. I kept hoping we'd head back down out of the mist... but eventually my hands became numb and I knew I had to stop. I figured most would do the same, so there was a good chance if I handled things smartly I could still do well. And there was always a chance Barry stopped longer. I stopped and put my gloves on the bikes shifter by the engine to heat them and put my rain jacket on. I ended up stopped quite a while to thoroughly warm up. I heated my hands using the engine as a radiator and waited till they were truly warm again. I didn't time it, but I lost between 5 and 10 minutes there. And then off I went, finally comfortable and passing people as I could trying to carefully and safely keep my time losses to a minimum. and as we came down out of the mountains the conditions cleared and it warmed up and I started to zoom along again. But I had obviously lost a lot of time. Finally made it to lunch and given the conditions I did pretty well. But Barry was heroic and actually zeroed the stage! He had anticipated the cold and dressed well. And he had managed to ride swiftly in the tough conditions. A really admirable effort. Unless something broke on his bike he was going to win!
After lunch I did well and zeroed my checkpoints. But I suspected things were all going to be decided based on the mornings score.
(day 2 stats: morning: 84.5 miles, afternoon 53.8 miles) 

That night was the big banquet. And excellent time of tales camaraderie and plenty of wine.  Barry took home the Overall 1st place trophy having finished the whole event less than 30 seconds away from perfect. Amazing! I took second approximately 10 minutes behind him. And Dean Kessler took 3rd a couple minutes behind me.

PS: My thanks again to the organizers and the fantastic volunteer staff. They stand alongside the road in the hot sun and cold rain and score us and encourage us through the whole event. Just amazing people who clearly love motorcycles and participating in an event like this.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On the way home in the rain!

It's the first big storm of the year for us in California. We were fortunate this didn't happen yesterday as it would have snowed on our route! And we seem to have picked up a forest mascot for the truck. We saw thousands of these seemingly suicidal squirrels on the road during the Giro. I saw a tarantula standing in the road once too, high and obvious on its legs. Very cool but I didn't have time to stop for a pic.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dinner banquet!

Managed to take second place in the 175 class and overall! Barry won again, he is an awesome competitor! And Dean took third with and excellent run. It was another great Giro d' California.

Giro day 2 lunch stop

Really cold trip into the mountains today before lunch. Right up into the clouds cold, wet and sometimes only 10 ft visiblilty! But then we came back down into nice weather. And this pic is from our lunch stop.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Night before

Everyone is arriving and checking in. The parking lot is a museum.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

All packed.

Ready to head out tomorrow.  Just hoping for a good nights sleep.

Final test ride complete

Just finished a 19.8 mile test ride. Bike seems to be running well and I seem to have remembered how to ride it. I think I have everything in good shape. My only fear is that in the past I have encountered times when it would stick in 4th gear... but it only happens rarely when the engine is very warm and I have run in top gear at full throttle for quite a ways. Needless to say, it hasn't happened since last years event! So I haven't had a chance to investigate it. Maybe I'll be lucky and the oil change and cush drive fix will make it go away? Wish me luck. Its time to pack.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Roll Chart tips

The Giro d'California has provided roll charts this year! In the past the competitors had to make there own, and that could be a tough exercise. Here are a few tips for assembling the chart.
  • Mark the hour on the roll chart. The Roll chart only shows the minutes... and with everything going on, it can get confusing out there. Having the hour marked can be a minor help.
  • Use a long straight edge, like the edge of a table, to make the pieces straight as you tape them together. Just align the pieces with the edge as you tape them.
  • Tape the joints on both sides. Otherwise the chart gets tangled as you wind or unwind.
  • Run one long piece of tape all the way down the back of the chart. This makes it a little stronger.
 All done!

Just don't let this happen!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nuovo molla per parastrappi!

I got my new springs for the cush drive yesterday! So I pulled the rear wheel off again and put the new springs in. It was pretty hard as they are under compression when fit and they are very stiff springs. But after a couple attempts I got them in and assembled. Lets hope they work as well as they look and hold up through the rigors of operation.
I also took the opportunity to inspect the rear brake again. It had seemed a little sticky, so I greased the cams very lightly and carefully and then removed any excess grease. Seems much better now,
Test ride tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Molla per parastrappi

In an earlier post I wrote about the broken "cush drive" springs. Apparently my parts book calls them: "Molla per parastrappi". I didn't find anyone local selling applicable replacement springs. But I did find these guys have a good online catalog:

And they were quite helpful with ordering the springs. The minimum order was a pain ($40), but that is survivable.

Essentially, there tech rep said engine type springs, like valve springs, have a high grade finish with less pits etc. A spring like that will require special ordering of a zillion units. That is out of my budget for this.

I ended up ordering a couple sets (ordered 16 to get to the $40 minimum order) of a standard "music wire" springs. Might be OK in my application in the rear hub. They are unfortunately powder coated, but that rubbing off shouldn't be too detrimental in the sprocket area.

The ones I ordered are specified as Length:63.5mm, Outside Dia: 15mm, Wire Diameter: 3mm, Number of coils: 12 (total 14). I actually ordered 2 types, the ones closest to that size. I'll see which fit best.

I have a lot of spares so if you need something like this contact me!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mondial almost ready.

The Mondial 175 Turismo Veloce is starting to look ready. Here's what I've done for this years event (so far):
  • Rear Wheel Inspected
    • New rear 2.50 x 19 tire and tube.
    • New rear wheel bearings
    • Rear brake pads OK
    • Checked rear spokes 
  • Front wheel inspected
    • Tire OK
    • Wheel bearings OK
    • Brake pads OK
    • Added grease to speedo drive / spacer.
  • Lubed brake and clutch cables with Tri-Flo
  • Lubed throttle cable and greased throttle chain
  • Drained old fuel and replaced. Fuel line and filter OK
  • Lubed chain
  • New front headlamp bulb
  • New Powersonic PS-6120ToyTS Battery (Perfect SLA AGM for this bike, and cheap. Just don't charge it with too high a voltage: check your regulator)
  • Tested the charging system regulator output
 Then I mounted and checked my rally instrumentation. This consists of two roll chart holders, one for the route and the other for the roll chart. The first lets you find your way and the second helps you to stay on schedule. Thus there is also a watch mounted properly nearby. The big gizmo with buttons is a ICO rally computer. It's a bit complicated but combines a speedometer and odometer with some other potentially useful functions.

Then I was off for a test ride!

Besides new leathers, there is lots to remember on the Mondial. The shift pattern (heel down toe up), the manual ignition advance, how to operate the ICO computer, etc. And of course the obvious stuff that modern riders forget, like the manual fuel taps, choke, funky headlamp switch, and the need to unplug the battery at stops, just in case the ignition switch is sticky. I need a couple more rides to get completely back in the roll with things...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wheel assembled

Finally got the wheel back together with new bearings and the rest. The bearing work was the usual ice box and torch exercise. It is a pain as the Mondial has a captive axle, and that axle press fits on the bearing. So what I did was:

  • put one bearing in the hub by freezing the bearing and torching the hub
  • freeze the axle and then put a bearing on the axle (on the opposite end of the axle from the one already in the hub! - this is an asymmetric axle)  And no torch on the bearing! I used my long pipe bearing driver over the axle on the inner race of the bearing.
  • Now freeze the axle and bearing assembly. Heat the hub and drop the axle with bearing through the hub and feed the axle into the bearing on the far side. Use my large bearing driver pipe over the axle on the outer race of the bearing on the axle.
  • Quickly flip the wheel over and reseat the bearing on that side, as it was pushed partially out. Flip the wheel back over a couple times tapping the bearing on each side of the wheel to be sure both sides are fully seated.
Complicated, and there is no way I know of to put these bearings in without stressing them some, due to the captive axle, and the fact the axle press fits into the bearings.

This video: here is somewhat helpful, but doesn't deal with the captive axle issue. But it shows a sensible (IMO) light heating of the hub.

Searched everywhere nearby for "cush" drive springs, and found some things that I could make fit... but didn't trust them. These springs will get hammered with every shift, braking and acceleration and I just didn't feel that using regular hardware store springs as a replacement. Ended up putting the old ones back in, figuring it's no worse than when I started... And I'll search for proper replacement springs in the coming week!
Here's a pic of the hub with new bearings and the old springs inserted. And some dabs of grease to help the sprocket "cush" smoothly:

Cush drive problems

Like many projects on an old motorcycle, things just keep getting more complicated. First I changed the tire. Then I found the wheel bearings were shot and needed replacement. When I removed the sprocket to remove the bearings.... I found 3 of the cush drive springs were broken!
 My local hardware store won't have these. Hmm...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tire change and problems

So I changed the rear tire on the Mondial.
Why is it that when people change tires they leave the old tube in place? I can't tell you how many bikes I've changed the tire on that have ancient tubes installed still. This one might not have been the original 1955 tube, but it was an old one. When was the last time Michelin manufactured 2.50 x 19 tubes in Italy? Thats how it was marked, (in English!)," Michelin Made in Italy"! And the rubber was frayed so it had to go.
I want to plug this video, it is a great aid for me to to remember the proper procedure:
You can just click through to part 2.
And the Bead Buddy is a great tool! Really helpful.

So with any project, something has to go wrong... this time? The wheel bearings are shot! Luckily I have some spares. Those will go in tomorrow. And then maybe I should check the front bearings...


For years now I have been wearing a two piece suite for the Giros and for general riding. For a day out, being able to remove my jacket is really important, especially here in hot California. And it makes for much more pleasant lunch and rest stops. I have a Vanson fully perforated jacket that I really love and I had pants made by Zooni leathers to match as Vanson had nothing that fit off the rack. I love Vanson stuff and have an ancient full custom racing suit from them and a couple other jackets. But I had that custom work done when I lived in Boston and had easy access to Mike and the Vanson shop. Thus when I needed pants to match my off the rack Vanson jacket. I went to Zooni, which was nearby in San Jose when I lived in NorCal.
Now I'm in Socal, and I find myself frequenting the Dianese store which is very close. They seem to have gear that fits me, and it seems to be great quality. I already have an AGV helmet from them as well as Dianese gloves and boots.
Over the years the Zooni pants have started to bother me in the knees. Fine for and hour, but spend a couple 8 hour days in them and the knees seem to press my kneecaps too hard and it starts to hurt. After every event lately I have been saying, I have to get a new suit!
So my birthday's coming up... and Lorraine happily recommended I make a new suit her present! So off to Dianese I went and I found a nicely vented jacket, the Dianese rebel and a matching set of pants, the Dianese Pony. Jen at the Dianese store in Costa Mesa was a great help. The jacket fits perfectly and seems to flow the air well. The pants are good too, my only wish would be for some more venting on them, but they do seem to flow some air through the stretch panels.
Importantly the gear is all black and the logos are discrete.  On a vintage bike, black looks best. Bright colors and logos just aren't how it was in the day. Of course I still want great protection and won't wear vintage gear, so "all black" is my goal for a somewhat vintage look. And some events actually require this. A couple years back the Motogiro d'Italia explicitly put it in the rules: all black gear and no logos!

Anyway, here's a fashion shot...

Giro d'California 2011 approaches!

I have about a week left to prepare for the 2011 Giro d'California. It is based in Visalia this year, so I'm betting we get some good runs in the Sierra Nevada Mountains this year. But of course the route isn't divulged to us until the event starts.
Last year, although I still managed to claim 2nd place I had some real mechanical problems that I need to address this year. I finally fixed my charging issue from 2009, but on the second day my ignition switch failed. So that needs to be addressed. And the bike needs all the usual servicing, oil changes, lubes, new tires. The front headlamp failed and a shock might be leaking. And of course it occasionally locks in top gear.
That last issue is the one I may not be able to repair, as it never seems to happen outside of competition. It's actually been happening for years, even back in Italy during the 5 day Motogiro. The engine needs to be very warm (a couple hours of running) and then  run it top gear for a long hard full throttle run. That seems to be the only time it sticks. Typically I end up pulled over and fuddle with the lever a bit and it downshifts and I am on the way. Of course this never happens when I test it at home, and I fear attempting a fix without really examining the problem. I think it's an issue with the ratchet mechanism that is accessible just inside the engine cover. But there is always a chance its an issue inside with the shift forks / barrel, and that would be a real problem.  Lets hope it happens again soon (like this weekend) so I have time to attempt a fix, or not at all until after the giro!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Registering and Titling a Vintage (pre-1958) Vehicle in California

Registering an old vehicle in California is no problem if you are just buying a vehicle that is currently registered in California and you are just transferring the registration. But suppose you have found or bought an old vehicle that hasn't been registered in California for many years? Registering and titling such a vehicle can be complicated. I've registered and titled five vintage vehicles in the past 10 years and here are some tips.

- The vehicle must have been registered in California in the past. Note that the DMV won't have any records for a vehicle that has it's last California registration in the 50s. But they will ask where the vehicle is from, and it is important to let them know it was originally in California. Importing a vehicle from another state or country becomes a much bigger process, and may be impossible. It is much easier to register a vehicle that has been in California since new.

- A bill of sale. Make sure you have a bill of sale from the previous owner. This can be hand written but should include all the particulars, like the sellers name, your name and address, chassis and engine numbers price and date of sale. Note that the fees you will be charged are based on this price. Also note that the date is very important. The sales taxes and fees are due when the sale happens! So if you buy a vehicle, and then take years to restore it and then go to register it years after the sale, you will owe back fees and substantial penalties for not doing this right away after the sale.

- Bring a completed "Application for Title or Registration" form (get it on the web ahead of time). Note that the date the "vehicle was purchased on" will be the basis for your fees and penalties (if any). Note the form also requires the "date the vehicle entered or was first operated in California"; this was probably the year the vehicle was manufactured, if the vehicle was originally sold in California.

- You may also be requested to fill out a "Statement of the Facts" form. You might look at this form ahead of time, but I would not produce it unless the DMV requests it. Sometimes with an old vehicle that isn't in the DMV computers anymore, they will want you to state where you got the bike, what you paid for it and other things. Essentially they seem to use this form whenever they want to be reassured about a vehicle that they have doubts about. So they might ask you to use this form to declare the vehicle's history.

- If you have any outside documentation of the bike's year or year related to model number, like a book about your vehicle, bring it. Don't produce it unless they ask, but they might want proof your vehicle is really one manufactured in 1955 or is only 125cc or whatever. Usually this isn't necessary, but don't expect them to be able to tell a 1950s motorcycle from a 1970s one by just looking at it.

- Bring your proof of insurance, although it's not strictly necessary. It at least provides another document with your name attached to the vehicle.

- Never tell the DMV anything more than you have to and never give them any more paperwork than necessary. More information is just a source of possible confusion and problems. Really. You have old plates or an old out of state registration; hide them. This stuff is only possibly helpful if it is official California stuff, like an old California plate. But be aware they will take these from you and you will never see them again. These documents really don't help with the process.

- Lastly, make yourself a very friendly customer of the DMV. You want the DMV to help you and the only way to get that is to be very polite and respectful.

So now you are off to the DMV. Here are some tips for what happens at most California DMVs.

- First, plan on making 3 trips to the DMV, each taking two to four hours! With luck you can do this in one trip that only lasts an hour, but it really can take much longer if you are unlucky. You can book appointments on the web... but typically they are scheduled out weeks in the future. I suggest booking at least two appointments and you might even book them at different DMV offices.

- How the registration process goes at the DMV is very dependent on which DMV you go to and what individual you happen to end up working with. I've often had good results at small friendly DMV offices that are further away from the main population centers. But I have also had good luck at some giant DMVs where I am just one of the thousands and they just want to process the application and get you out of there. I will also note that I have had better luck with younger men at the DMV that with older men or women. Frankly, I think there is a better chance of a younger guy being a car fan who will try and help you. If you get a person who is just pushing paper and is a stickler for detail, or who maybe believes all old polluting noisy killer motorcycles should be off the road, things might go worse than you hope.

But here is an important note. Right at the beginning of the process, pay close attention to what is happening! Especially if you haven't been entered into the computer yet, you can always leave and come back another day or go to a different DMV. Just say you can't finish this right now, or have your cell phone ring with an emergency or you have to get back to work. Really, this is important, if things aren't going well and nothing is in the computer yet, find an excuse to leave and try again another day at another DMV.

Here is what typically happens at the DMV:

(a) You go to the DMV and get in the reception line. When you get to the front they ask you what you are there for and check your paperwork. You should only need your “Application for Title” at this point. In fact, don't let them see anything else. Typically they will give you a number and tell you to go wait. However, sometimes they will immediately suggest you get your vehicle verified (the verifier will use a "Verification of Vehicle" form). You might even ask, politely, if it's possible to do this first as it will save you some waiting. Skip to (c) if you get to go directly to verification.

(b) Take you number and wait. Eventually you will get called up and you present your "Application for Title or Registration" and your bill of sale. Say as little as possible, but be friendly. Really, answer the questions with as few words as possible. Typically they will give you everything back and send you to get the vehicle verified. Sometimes they will also give you a statement of the facts form and tell you to fill it out. This can happily fill your time while you wait for the verification. Note that at this point, usually no one has entered any info about your application in the computer. If things aren't going well you can leave and try again later or at another DMV, so don't make a ruckus about problems. Example problems: They want more proof the vehicle was originally registered in California. Or they are confused by the short VIN on your vehicle. (Two of my bikes have 3 digit chassis numbers! Once they said my bike was already registered as a trailer! A friendly competent DMV clerk won't have any trouble with these items.) Or maybe they aren't convinced your bike is really as old as it is. Whatever the problem consider that you could just politely leave and come back another day to another DMV office.

(c) Verification. Make sure you don't have any old plates or stickers from other states or racing numbers on the vehicle. You don't want any potential for confusion about the history and use of the bike. A person comes over with a clipboard and a the “Verification of Vehicle" form. You are not allowed to enter anything on this form, so don't try. Typically the friendly DMV person will chat with you about the bike, and ask you to point out the chassis number (VIN) and engine number. It can be very useful to mention all the time and effort you spent restoring the bike at this point. One thing this inspection is about is catching stolen vehicles, so you want to be clear about how you properly and legally own the vehicle. They will also ask you the year and model and displacement. They might ask to see proof of the displacement (is it marked on the engine?). I have had these guys ask for proof of the year of manufacture, so a book with that stuff or even a printout of a web page can be handy (but I've also had them just let this go). If you are lucky, that's all that happens and they finish the form, sign it, and send you back to the DMV line to get a number. Be sure you verify that everything on the form is correct before you leave! Chassis and engine numbers can be hard to read and vehicles can have unusually spelled manufacturers. You really don't want any errors on this form.

However, I've also had this verification process go badly, where the DMV person is flustered by the short chassis number and the lack of emissions stickers and other documentation. In this case they might write a bunch of stuff on your form and check a box on the form that says "DO NOT PROCESS- REFER TO CHP". Then they usually give you this form. If this happens you go back in the DMV wait in line and they will give you some paper work and send you to the California Highway patrol for the vehicle to be checked and verified. In my experience the CHP are friendly guys who will check the bike out, check the VIN so they are sure the bike isn't stolen and will sign you off. Of course, you should trailer the vehicle the the CHP. But another approach (if you are personally holding the verification form and nothing has been entered in the DMV computers yet) is to go home, discard that paperwork and to start all over at another DMV! It's up to you and what you think will be less hassle. Really, I have had completely incompetent inspectors fuss about the short chassis number and lack of documentation, and gone to another DMV and just zipped right through. I'm not advising any cheating on this process, I'm just pointing out that the process varies. And no one has told me I can't just start over at another DMV.
(Note on later bikes: for bikes manufactured 1970? or later, the California DMV does require the Federal Certification Label to be on the bike! If this label is missing you will need an additional CHP inspection to verify the VIN. Or you might just get a new Federal Certification label before your inspection.)

(d) With the verification complete you are now back in the DMV waiting for your number to be called. Make sure you are happy with your forms, because this time they will be putting everything in the computer: You don't want any errors in any of the information. When you get to the clerk, you present your "Application for Title or Registration", your Bill of Sale and your completed "Verification of Vehicle" form. You might also have to do that "Statement of the Facts" form mentioned earlier. If all your forms are clean, things should go smoothly now. They might have some trouble with your unusual VIN, sometimes these can come up as another vehicle in their computer. But if your VIN clearly isn't that other vehicle, they can handle this. Sometimes they spend a lot of time typing and staring at the screen. I suggest you keep quiet. But if you must talk, mentioning your restoration effort on the vehicle shouldn't hurt. If they look really peculiar, you might ask what is going on. But generally realize they are playing with funny forms and your silly old VIN etc. Then they will ask you to pay. And they will give you your new registration! NOW IS THE TIME TO CHECK IT CAREFULLY! Catch any errors in the year, make, plate number name or address right now. You really don't want to have to do this all over. Also verify that they will be sending you the title in a couple weeks. And at some DMVs you have to go to another window to get your plate and stickers.

With some luck you should be done! And if you are really luck you got it all done in a couple hours in one visit. I wish I could say it was usually that easy, but it usually takes me two or three visits.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Handlebar options

Its been a long time since my last post! And lots of stories to tell. But for now just a little data drop on handlebars.

I wanted some new lower bars for my "new" 1977 KH400, but I was unable to find much detail on how the ones I were considering were different. So I ordered three that I was considering, and thought I'd post some pictures here in case someone else was interested. These are all BikeMaster bars, although I have seen them for sale under different names. I put a stickie next to each with the handle bar's name, and the info actually stamped into the metal. The W-xxx number appears to be the width of the bar, in mm. Other comments:

Superbike: have the least pull back and are the lowest. I should also note that the center portion of the superbike bars appears to be only marginally wide enough to mount in my clamps

European: slightly higher than the superbike and have pullback closer to stock.

GP Touring: Have a funny bend to the bars, that depending on how you mount them either cants the center forward or drops the ends of the bars down. I suspect most people use these mounted with the ends slightly down.

Detailed high res pics here.