The Transformer Motorcycle

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When I bought this 1981 Suzuki GS850 I was tempted to just polish it up, get it running well and sell. Most of the time though, I can’t leave well enough alone. After considerable contemplating I decided to make the bike a “Transformer.” Transforming from the stock bike to a bobber.

Bobber motorcycles are very popular, but to me, Bobbers are limiting. They’re cool, but limiting when it comes to riding for miles and many hours. What I wanted to do is create a bike that could go from stock to bobber with a bunch of variations in between and back to stock. When you buy a bike you pretty much get what you bought, cruiser, dual sport, café racer, bobber, crotch rocket…, but why not have a bike that can be changed to fit your need or mood.

When bike makers see this blog I’m sure they all will rush to make a Transformer bike.

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Here is what I did to make the bike into the Transformer; First I wanted to make a bobber style seat that would offer some comfort and would easily be installed and removed using the bike’s current brackets. This modification was perhaps the most time consuming. Bobber seats are pretty minimal, but I wanted something that would offer some comfort and yet look minimal. I’ve seen bobber seats that were metal farm tractor seats and though they look cool, I don’t think you’d want to ride all day on one.

I chose to make the seat out of plastic from a plastic barrel. I did this for two reasons; One, I like working with plastic barrels and second, I felt that plastic would offer some flex when sitting on it for long periods. To get the style I wanted, I cut the seat from the bottom of the barrel, leaving a couple of inches of the side of the barrel attached at the back of the seal. This would give the seat a raised back edge so it would look like just a flat board seat and the back raised edge would give the seat some flex. I covered the seat with first a layer of firm rubber yoga mat, then 1.5 inches of memory foam and covered it with black leather looking vinyl. The final product looks pretty good and is pretty butt form fitting.

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The original seat clips under two brackets at the front by the tank and lockded into another bracket at the back over the back fender. I wanted to use those same brackets for the new seat so I made a base for the seat, out of plastic.This gave me a base of attach the seat to.

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To attach the new seat to the bike I wanted to make it attach just like the original seat. At the front of the plastic base I welded together a bracket similar to the one on the original seat and attached it to the front of the plastic base with screws.

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The back latch was a little more complicated, but simple in nature. I made a slot in the seat base that would slip over the back metal bracket on the bike. So the plastic base would be secured down, I made a spring loaded latch, out of more plastic, a spring and small screw driver that I removed the handle from and bent the end so it would be easy to grab. This picture shows the base clipped to the bike’s bracket with the spring loaded screw driver. The other piece of plastic is the top piece, shown upside down, that holds the spring and screw driver in place.

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To install the seat base on the bike you simply slip the front into the front bracket, pull back the spring loaded latch, slip the slotted base onto the back bracket, release the spring loaded screw driver and lock it in place. The seat is bolted to the base using two small bolts. To make sure the seat unit doesn’t flex too far down, I installed a 2” x 8” plastic pipe across the frame of the bike under the seat. The pipe keeps the seat off the battery and wiring and adds to the flexing and comfort of the seat.

With the new seat on, the bike was starting to take on a bobber appearance, but I felt like if the back was lowered a little it would look better. Some bobber builders remove the back shocks and replace them with metal pipes that are shorter than the shocks. This lowers the bike, but offers no suspension. They call this a “Hard-tail,” because it’s hard, no suspension. I call it a “butt buster” or “back breaker.” I wanted to keep the shocks so the bike could be ridden with more comfort. If you’ve read any of my past motorcycle blogs you know I’m all about a comfortable ride.

The tops of the springs are attached to a threaded post, one on each side of the back fender, that are welded to the bike’s frame. The shocks slip onto the posts and are secured with a nut. To lower the back and keep the shocks I added two more threaded posts, one on each side, but I moved them up on the frame 1.5” and back slightly. To add the new posts I drilled a hole through the bike’s tubular frame, one on each side. I bought two bolts that would fit through the tops of the springs, cut the heads off the bolts and slipped them through the holes. I then welded the bolts in place on both sides of the tubular frame. Because the shocks are still installed the bike is called a “Soft-tail.” I call it “Heavenly.”

With the new bobber style seat and with the back lowered, the bike looked a little more bobberish, but not bobbered enough. Most bobbers have a raised gas tank. Some even have very small tanks that are almost head height. I decided the bike would look more “bobber” if the tank was raised up at the front. To accomplish this I again wanted to keep the original tank and attachment brackets. The front of the tank attaches to the bike with two slotted brackets on the under side of the tank that slip onto two “ears” attached to the bikes tubular frame. I raise the front of the tank by duplicating the two ears and welded them to a bracket that would straddle the bike’s tubular frame and slip onto the original “ears.” That worked and raises the front of the tank 2”.

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The signal lights on the bike are very large and kind of ugly. The lights, one on each side of the front and one on each side of the back, are attached to the bike on short tubes that stick out from the bike. I thought about replacing them with smaller L.E.D. lights, but I’ve ridden with guys that have converted to smaller lights and I find them hard to see. It’s my opinion that when riding a motorcycle you don’t want any light on the bike that is hard to see. I scratched my head for a while and decided to keep the signal light, but droop them by cutting the base of the of the tubes, where they attach to the bike, at an angle so the lights sloped slightly down giving them a drooped look.

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The stock tail light is huge. The light itself is large and square and the metal base that the light is attached to is kind of massive and not in keeping with the bobber simple look. I decided that when the bike is transformed into the bobber style, a round tail light with a small bracket would look better. You can buy many different sizes from your local automotive store. I chose one that I thought would be easy to see and look right for a bobber. (The white towel is to hide the license plate for whatever reason people do that.)

The handlebars that came with the bike may not have been stock. They were the style that raise up and swoop back and down. They were kind of funky looking and hurt my wrists after about five minutes of riding. I prefer something shorter and wider with only a sight pull back. The bars seemed useless to me so I cut them up and welded them back together in a more suitable style for my purpose. The result was handlebars that are more comfortable and better looking.

The thing about the bobber style is that most bobbers make you sit on a lowered bike with a flat seat and with the original foot shifter and brake in the original places. If you are taller, like me, this puts your knees in a very bent position. When I was younger that knee bent position wouldn’t have bothered me as much. Now that I’m older, lets say 40ish, bending my knees at such a squatted position is a deal killer. And knee killer. To remedy this uncomfortable riding position I made a forward shifter and forward brake mechanisms called forward controls. I wanted to keep the original shifter and foot brake lever in tact, so that the bike could be converted back to the original style. I did some shopping on Ebay and found replacements for a very reasonable price, like $36. for both with free shipping. I took the Ebay levers and cut them in-two, made brackets that attach to the frame in front of the motor, added pegs, rods, more brackets, etc… and I had forward controls that allowed me to stretch my legs forward, making the ride more comfortable.

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With all these modifications the bike can be set up in about 36 different configurations. You can change the seat or not, keep the front fender, or not, change the break light, or not, use forward controls, or not… raise the tank, or not, lower the back, or not, well you get the idea.

The last step was to paint the bike. A lot of people like “blacked out” bikes. I like them, but I wanted to add some bright highlights. I chose orange to give the bike some snap, some pop, some eye catchiness. To black out the bike, I cleaned the motor and sprayed it and the exhaust with a heat resistant paint. The rest of bike I painted first with black spray on truck bed coating, added the orange highlights and then clear coated it. I’m sure everyone will have their own opinion about how the bike looks, but I’m pleased with the results.

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This bike is my second winter project this year. The idea was to buy it, fix it, sell it and make a little cash. With this bike I made so many modifications that I told my wife that “I should hold onto it for a few months and ride it to make sure all the bugs are worked out and that it’s running right,” And that’s true, but this bike is a kick in the pants to ride and that’s true too.

There is a lot of parts to this project and each part could have been a blog in it’s self. If you decide to attempt any of these customization and need more information, please feel free to email me or leave your questions in the comments.

Anyway… for what it’s worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highway Pegs for Adventure Bikes

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One of the best additions I’ve made to my V-strom is the highway or forward pegs. Having the option of stretching my legs forward and resting them on foot pegs is a real relief when I’ve been riding for hours. Making the forward pegs is also one of the more difficult additions I’ve made. In all honesty I have to admit that the project of making the pegs was made difficult by the fact that I am a cheap bastard and instead of buying square metal tubing I used what I had, round pipe. To make the forward pegs for an “Adventure Bike,” I had to make them hinged so that they would fold up and out of the way in rough riding conditions and so they could easily fold back down when riding on the highways. To make them hinge with round pipe I had to heat the ends of the pipe until it was red hot and then hammer the round pipe into perfectly square ends. It gets even more complicated and difficult when one of the… well never mind, let me just tell you how to do this the easy way.

First you have to have a skid plate on your bike. For my V-strom I bought a skid plate. I had all kinds of ideas of how to make a skid plate, but I got such a great deal on the bike that I convinced myself that I could afford to buy the plate. Without a skid plate you might be able to attach to your crash bars, but you’ll have to buy crash bars. The forward pegs are three separate pieces, a long bar that bolts across the front of the skid plate and two shorter bars that are the foot pegs. The two foot pegs attach to the long bar at both ends with a single bolt that acts as your hinge pin. For my bike the long bar is 16” and the foot pegs are 6.5”. I’ve been pretty happy with those lengths, but you may want to make adjustments for your particular bike or riding style.

To make them out of square tubing you would cut the long bar at 16″, but leave a bottom tongue on both ends sticking out about 1″. The pegs are 6.5″ with the bottom corner rounded so it will hinge up and not drag the bottom corner. Cut four 2″ ears out of flat stock and weld them to the ends of the main bar with 1″ of the ears sticking out past the main bar. The ears will be welded to the tongue and main bar, one on each side. The other option is to buy foot pegs and bolt them to the main bar, but what fun would that be?

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I bolted my long bar to my skid plate with two “U” bolts. To make the foot pegs less slippery and to dress up the pegs I used a pair of rubber handlebar grips and slid them onto the pegs. They worked pretty well, but I failed to glue them on and they had a tendency to slid outward. On a trip to Glacier I lost one outside White Salmon, so I went into a hardware store found a heavy duty black rubber hose that would slide tightly onto the pegs and I’ve use that since. In my shop I found a couple of plastic caps off some kind of aerosal spray cans, probably brake cleaner, to cap the ends of the rubber hose to make the ends of the pegs look a little more finished.

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Like I said, one of the best addition I’ve make to my V-strom. I’m not young, have a little arthritis in both knees and being able to stretch out my legs is so nice.

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Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Indestructable Tomato Cages

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So anyway, I think my wife might be insane. Here’s why; every year she plants tomatoes and every year she buys the cheap flimsy tomato cages for the plants to grow on and every year the plants grow up on the cages and tip them over, bending them to the ground. I believe the definition of insanity is -“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I still love her.

Last year as the tomato plants and tomatoes lay on the ground I told her I would make her tomato cages next year. Hey, I had to do something to stop the insanity. So next year is here and I made her tomato cages.

My youngest daughter and son-in-law have three sons. Myles is the middle son. My mom had three sons. I was the middle child. It’s interesting to watch Myles struggle to find his place in the family. I can relate to the struggle because I also struggled to find my place in my family. As a middle child you really do get ignored, especially if your older brother is cool and your baby brother is cute. His are. Mine were. His mom tries very hard to make Myles feel special, but when his friends come over to play they are drawn to the coolness of his older brother, the cuteness of his baby brother and Myles is mostly left out. Myles is good at passing time playing alone with his toys and is best friend, “imagination.” My mother claims that I did the same.

Myles just had a birthday and for his birthday he wanted tomato plants so he could grow his own tomatoes. He loves tomatoes. When my wife, his Nana, heard this, she decided “we” should make a raised garden and surprise him with the garden and tomato plants. He’s four.

I know it is a little odd a four year old wanting tomato plants for his birthday, but again, I can relate to that oddness. Ask anyone to describe me and they will use many different adjectives and “odd” will always be one of those adjectives. Most people will use restraint and not say it out loud, but the adjective “odd” will be top of mind and on the tip of their tongues. (“Odd”-Deviating from what is ordinary, usual, or expected; strange or peculiar.)

So I built Myles a raised garden out of 1″X6″ cedar. The garden is 2’X6’ and 11” tall or deep. 2″X6″ cedar would last a lot longer, but 1″X6″ will probably out last his interest in growing tomatoes.

I also routered out a sign that says “Myles’ Garden – Love Nana and Grandpa.” I didn’t have room to say, “Love Nana and Mr. Grandpa Larson,” which is what I insist that all my grand kids call me, so the sign just says Grandpa.

Long story short, I also made Myles tomato cages.

I made the cages out of 3/8” rebar. I figured that 3/8” would be strong , last a long time and the lumber yard was all out of ¼”. Our local lumber yard, Stayton Builders Mart, stock not only rebar, but they also have a rebar cutter. I figured that out of a 20’ piece of rebar I could cut five, 4’ piece out of the bar. Tough math. My plan was to make the cages 4’ tall, with four sides and each side would be 1’ wide, 4’X1’=4′. I bought enough rebar to make six tomato cages. Myles only needed two and my wife needs three, but she told me to make her four because someday she would retire and grow four tomato plants. Clearly she has her retirement activity all planned out, pushing her limit to four plants.

So the Builder’s Mart sold me the rebar, pointed to the cutter and said, “knock yourself out.” The chore of cutting went pretty quickly after I set up a cutting guide. I positioned the cutter 4′ from the base of the lumber rack, slide the rebar end against the rack and cut. Once I had all 45 of the 4′ pieces cut, I took them home, laid them all out in a nice flat row and using water and a wire brush I tried to remove as much rust and crud as I could

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I let the bars dry and then painted them red. My wife wanted them painted red so that it would look like we had tomatoes before the tomatoes actually tuned red. What can I say, she is, after all, insane.

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After the paint dried I marked twenty four of the bright red 4′ bars into 12″ increments. Then I clamped each bar in my bench vice and bent them into 1′ squares using a piece of pipe that I slipped over the bars for leverage. It wasn’t as much fun as it sounds and welding the squares onto the 4′ legs was even less fun. After several frustrating hours trying to hold the legs and squares together while welding them I got all six cages welded together. After I finished welding each cage, I tested my welds by tossing the completed cage out my shop door onto the gravel driveway. It wasn’t much of a test, but it made me feel better. Of course, after bending and welding the cages I had to touch up the paint.

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In the end, the cages turned out pretty well. Am I glad I spent all that time making indestructible tomato cages? Yes. Would I do It again? Probably, but I am a glutton for punishment. If you take on this project, get a friend to help you hold the parts together while you weld.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

 

Wind Guards for V-strom

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Showing my Better Motorcycle Windshield and my Wind Guards.

After I made my  “Better Motorcycle Windshield,” which worked great and eliminated the head buffing, I realized that the only other big source of wind hitting me was coming from the tank area. I knew the usual solution was to put on fork wind deflectors. But I didn’t like the idea of something attached to my forks on a bike that I rode in rough conditions like back roads, forest service roads and on occasion, a narrow trail. I felt like they would be susceptible to damage from bushes, branches and if someone else was riding it, crashes. After some thought, I decided that I wanted something that would mount on the bike nearer to my legs, offering some protection to my legs and at the same time diverting the air flow coming from below and up around my bike’s tank.

What I did was simple and works great. Using plastic from a 55 gallon plastic barrel, I cut two wind guards following a pattern that I had developed from cardboard. I patterned the cardboard to match the contour of my bike, without touching or rubbing on my bike.

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The mounting brackets were easy to make from the plastic of the barrel. I probably could have bought and used two ell brackets and two conduit clamps, but I didn’t have the right size on hand and the plastic offers more flexibility.

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My wind guards mount to my crash bars with the “U” clamps and to the fairing using the ell brackets and a screw into the wind guard. I used a factory screw that holds the bike’s fairing in place. It was located in a perfect place for my purposes.

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 I painted them with truck bed coating that you buy in a rattle can and the black matches my bike great.

They work great! With my windshield modification and the lower wind guards I ride in a very wind free environment. Now the only time I get hit with wind is if the wind is blowing in from the side.

I was afraid that the deflectors would make my bike look too redneck, but I have gotten a lot of compliments on them and most people think that they are stock.

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Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Motorcycle Helmet Trunk

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There have been a couple of times when I have purchased a motorcycle from a private party and the seller has thrown in an old helmet to boot. Helmets have a half life of only a few years and the older they get, the more likely they will not protect your head in a crash. So when I get an old helmet, of course, I… use them. I use them until I can purchase a new helmet.  Then comes the question of what to do with the old helmet? I have held on to a couple of full face helmets with the idea that I would convert them into a motorcycle trunk. I know what you are thinking, “a helmet isn’t going to hold enough stuff to be of any use.” There is where you are wrong. I did a “stuff-it-full” test and found that a full face helmet will hold three full sized bath towels! I estimate that a person could carry in the full face helmet trunk; a sweat shirt, a pair of gloves, some odds and end tools, water bottle, power bar and a pair of sunglasses.

Today I was working on my GS 850 Suzuki bobber project, but wanted to take some time and consider a few things I was going change, so I decided to work on my helmet trunk idea. Choosing the best one of the two useless full face helmets kicking around in “Motorcycle Stable,” I removed the inside padding and foam. The padding just snaps in and came out very easily, but I had to break the foam loose from the shell with a chisel.

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To make the helmet into a trunk I figured it would have to have a bottom plate in it so my stuff wouldn’t fall through luggage rack onto the road. There are a couple things you could use for a bottom plate, wood, metal, or plastic. I used plastic from a 55 gallon barrel. Wood would have been much easier, but I’m a plastic barrel guy. The top of the barrel is the thickest plastic, so that’s where I cut out the bottom plate. Just set the helmet on the top of the barrel and trace around it.

Most helmets taper inward at the bottom opening.  I cut the plastic slightly larger than the opening, so when I put the bottom plate into the helmet and pushed it down, it would be too large to pass through the narrower bottom opening, It took several trips to the grinder to get the bottom plate just the right size. Once I was satisfied with the fit, I pushed the plate down to the bottom of the helmet shell and stuffed the shell full of towels to hold the plate in place. Using a good epoxy glue, I secured the plate to the helmet shell from the under side and then from the inside after I removed the towels.

The top of the barrel where I cut the plate is slightly concave. When I attached the plastic plate to the helmet, I put the curve so it was bowed up into the shell. I did this because motorcycle trunks are usually secured to the luggage rack with a couple of bolts, a bracket with two holes in it and two nuts. With the bow up, when the nuts were tightened they will pull that bow down, putting constant presser on the nuts so they would be less likely to come loose.

To mount the helmet trunk to the luggage rack, drill two holes through the bottom plate about 4″ apart or so the holes with the bolts through them will fit though the luggage rack with at least two rack bars between the bolts. Drill two holes in a metal bar that match the holes in the truck bottom plate. Put the bracket with two corresponding holes under the luggage rack, drop the bolts through the plate, between the bars on the luggage rack and through the bracket holes and secure with two nuts.

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The helmet was pretty ugly and beat up, but some sanding and a coat of black spray in bed liner dressed it up. I sprayed the face shield too so no one can see my stuff in the helmet trunk. I padded the bottom of the trunk with a cut to shape piece of rubber yoga mat that I picked up at Goodwill one day. So that’s pretty much it. I now have a trunk that I can easily attach to any luggage rack, carry my stuff in and gave an old helmet a second useful life.

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Anyway… for what it’s worth.

Heat Your House with a Ceiling Fan!

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At yesterday’s home inspection, WIN Home Inspection Salem, I was reminded once again that most people do not understand how to use a ceiling fan. There is more to a ceiling fan than just being decorative and spinning blades. Most ceiling fans, at the very least 99%, are three speed and they are also reversible. Ceiling fans can blow air down or they can blow air up. It’s easy to understand that if we are sitting under a ceiling fan and it is blowing air down on us we feel cooler. Without going into a bunch of science, as the air blows across our skin, the moisture on our skin, sweat, evaporates. Evaporation is a cooling process. I can still remember, barely, the days when people in arid climates would hang a canvas bag of water on the bumper of their car so they would have cool water to drink when they stopped for a break. The canvas would let water slowly seep to the outside of the bag, the sun would evaporate the water and the water inside the bag would cool. Simple science, but effective. You can think of yourself as a bag of water seeping moisture though the skin. In the summer the air from the blowing fan will cool you. If the fan isn’t cooling you fast enough, mist your skin with water.

In the winter you don’t want to be cooled so you reverse the fan and blow it up against the ceiling. Blowing up causes the lower cool air to be sucked up through the fan and forces the warmer air at the ceiling to move along the ceiling, down the walls and back along the floor to the fan where it is sucked up by the fan, pushed against the ceiling…etc. This slow moving current in the room fills the room with warm air.

You are probably wondering, why not just suck the warm air off the ceiling, sit under the fan and let it warm you up as it blows down? Two reasons, you are a bag of water and the warm air blowing across your body will evaporate any moisture on your skin, cooling you. The second reason is that if you blow the warm air down it will quickly rise again and the area under the fan may be warm but the perimeter and corners of the room will be cool. Blowing the air against the ceiling, down the walls, into the corners and long the floor warms the whole room.

If you could see the warm air, you would see it coming out of your heat registers, wall heater or baseboard heaters, rise to the ceiling and stay there. If you have a well insulated ceiling the heat will eventually build up in the room, first heating your head and slowly moving down your body until the heat reaches the height of wall thermostat, about 5’ off the floor in most cases, telling the thermostat that the room is warm, shutting the heat off, leaving your lower parts cool. This is a very ineffective use of heat and energy. If your ceiling is not well insulated, it takes longer for the heat to build from the ceiling down, because a lot of heat is escaping through the ceiling, and your heater will run much longer. (see my blog, “Insulation Matters.”)

So how do you know which direction the fan is blowing? 99.9% of the time if the reversing switch is switched up, it blows up, switch down, air blows down.

showing little black switch on the fan between the light and motor.

showing little black switch on the fan between the light and motor.

Rarely will your fan have a side to side switch, but if it does, switched to the right it blows up and left it blows down. Another easy way to tell which direction it’s blowing is if the leading edge of the blades are tipped down, it’s blowing up. Conversely, if it’s tipped up, it’s blowing down.

If you’re not convinced, take this challenge. Turn on your heat, let the room warm up until the thermostat shuts the heat off. Quickly take a temperature reading at the ceiling and then one at the floor level. I promise you will be surprised at the temperature difference. The next time the heat kicks on, start blowing your ceiling fan against the ceiling. When the heat kicks off take the temperature at the ceiling and floor again.  I did this test in my own home. With the fan off the difference was ten degrees. With the fan on, the difference was one degree. I can honestly tell you that in our home the ceiling fan blows against the ceiling day and night, all winter long.

The cost of running a ceiling fan is about 20-25 cents a day on high speed, depending on the size of the fan. If the fan keeps your home warmer and keeps your furnace or heater from kicking on only one less time a day, you have saved a lot of money.

If you don’t have ceiling fans in your home, consider installing some. If that’s not a possibility or until then, read my blog, “Leave Your Furnace Fan ON!” Using both these suggestions your home will be warmer and cost you less for energy.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Getting Organized and Clear Your Head

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My boys once called me the “Master Rattle Canner.” I do love rattle cans and have painted many things, transforming them from junk to a jewel. The good thing is that the fumes from the paint have not affected my BrA1n N0n3. Over the years my wife, my boys and I have bought hundreds of cans of spray paint for projects we have done. When I moved my stuff from our garage to our new shop we had accumulated over seventy cans of practically used spray paint. To move them to the shop, we put all the cans in two large plastic containers, moved them to the shop and in those two containers they stayed for a year and a half. The problem with having that many cans of paint is that you have to be able to organize them so that you know what you have and so you don’t keep buying more of the same colors over and over again. When I moved into the shop I wanted to organize it so that everything had a place. I put up pegboard, built a bunch of shelves, bought small boxes to organize stuff in, but the two plastic containers of spray paint had me stumped on how to organize them.

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The other day I was shopping at Goodwill, which used to be my favorite store until they raised their prices higher than regular retail, but I still shop there in hopes that I’ll find a bargain. So I was in Goodwill and found a metal rack for displaying wine in a store and I thought, “hey!”  The rack was marked $6.99 and would hold forty bottles of wine/cans of spray paint and with some minor alterations, it would hold sixty cans.

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Today I started going through the two containers of spay paint, properly disposing of six cans that were empty and cleaning the heads of the other cans that still had paint, but wouldn’t spray.

Over the years I have learned that when you are done painting something, if you really do turn the can upside down and spray until the spray is clear, the spray head will be cleaned and will work the next time you want to use the can. I now will even go as far as spraying the little spray hole with carb or brake cleaner and wiping it off with a cloth just as an extra precaution. With that said, I don’t always remember to do clear the head and it gets clogged with paint and won’t work. I hate that, having a paint can with paint in it, but won’t spray because the head is plugged with dried paint.

Out of the two containers of spray paint there were about fifteen cans that had paint in them, but would not spray, so I cleaned the heads. This is my method of cleaning a spray can head: I use brake or carb cleaner, a straight pin that is exact size or smaller to insert into the little hole the paint sprays out of, a utility knife, safety glasses and latex gloves.

First remove the head from the can by simply pulling it out of the can and spray a little carb or brake cleaner into the hole in the top of the can where the head was and let that sit while you clean the head.DSCF6949 Next, using the utility knife, scrape off any paint that has dried over the little hole.

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Sometimes that’s all it takes to clean the head, so test the head to see if it is clear by inserting the thin red tube that comes with every can of brake or carb cleaner up the neck of the of the head and being careful to point it away from my face, spray the cleaner into the neck.

CAUTION: You will need to secure the head on the tube by pinching it tightly with your fingers where the tube goes into the neck or you will shoot the head across the room and/or you will get cleaner on your face.

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If the cleaner sprays out the head’s small hole, it’s clean. If it’s plugged, take the pin and carefully push it into the small spray hole and up the neck to clear the plug.

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To make sure the head is clear, spray some cleaner in the neck again. Some plugs can be stubborn and you’ll have to repeat the process a couple of times, but this method will unplug the head. When the head is clear, point the head away from you, push it back in the top hole of the can, turn it upside down and check the spray. This cleaning method worked on all but two of the fifteen cans that I had that were clogged. As an extra precaution, I sprayed the head with cleaner and wipe the small hole with a cloth. Next time you want to use the spray paint it will be ready to use.

When you use the can of spray paint up, remove the head, clean it and save it. There have been many times I have dropped a can or knocked it off the bench, losing or breaking the head. Having a few extra heads around will allow you to still use the can of paint until it is empty.

Anyway…, for what it’s worth.

Loosen Stubborn Screws With a Wrench

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When something is broken or not working I have to fix it. I think there’s a physiological term or medical term for it, something like fixoholic. If my tractor is not running or broken, it gives me a knot in my gut and depression sets in. Rarely do I hire a professional to make the repairs. Well, at least not until I’ve tried to fix it and have made it worse. Over many years, yes I’m old; I have tackled repairs from rebuilding a Fiat motor to repairing a mechanical pencil. Am I an expert, no, but I am getting better. I’ve learned a lot because I try to learn a lot.

Over the years I have accumulated many tools, but I don’t have everything and I am always discovering tools that I need. Recently I bought an impact screw driver and an extraction bit set.

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So many times in the past when a screw would not budge or the head slots were stripped out, I would have given my eyeteeth for both or even one of those tools. Even after days of applying penetrating oil some screws will not break free. I have struggled for, wasted, many hours of my life trying to remove stubborn screws. I have gone as far as taking a fine metal saw blade and re-slotting a screw, which actually works.

The other day I was reading Handyman Magazine. There was a good article on how to remove a stubborn nut or bolt. The article didn’t offer me anything new really, but I did pick up one tip about using heat on the stuck bolt and then spraying it with cold water. The expansion and contraction is supposed to break the rust and allow the bolt to come out or the nut to come off. We tried it on my son’s car, trying to remove the nut on the bracket that attaches the strut to the axle. It didn’t work, but none of the other six methods we tried worked either. Anyway, as I was reading the article I realized that I had never read or seen the method I use to remove stuck, stripped or stubborn screws.

What I have learned about removing stuck screws is that after you have tried with all your might to remove a screw, don’t keep trying and strip the head slots out. But if you do keep trying and you damage the head slots a little, STOP and try this.

One day I was trying to remove a screw from a break fluid reservoir on a motorcycle and was damaging the head slots. I couldn’t push down hard enough to keep the screwdriver point in the head. I realized that what I really needed was help to keep a lot of pressure pushing down on the head so I could turn the screwdriver and not have it pop out of the head slots and damage them, but there was no one around.

I love clamps. It’s like having more hands to hold stuff. Over the past three years my clamp assortment has gone from a dozen clamps to three dozen clamps. I have a variety of sizes of “C” clamps, I have those clothes pin type spring clamps, some quick grip clamps, I have strap clamps, and 4’ long pipe clamps. Sometimes I go into my shop just to sit and admire my clamps. Did I mention that I love clamps?

So, I’m trying to get this screw out and it occurs to me that I could use a clamp to apply pressure to the top of the screwdriver. The best clamp for my purpose was a quick release clamp.

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Here’s an important tip, use the shortest screwdriver you can and with your grinder, flatten the end of the handle so the screwdriver will be more stable under the clamp. Here are the two screwdrivers I use most of the time when applying the clamp technique. Note that the tops of the handles have been ground flat.

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To do this method, place the short screw driver in the head of the screw and clamp it in place with a lot of pressure and turn the screwdriver. It’s really easy, if you have a grip like a gorilla. I don’t, so I use an adjustable wrench to turn the screwdriver. Most screwdrivers have handles that have six sides so they are easy to grip and as it turns out, to put an adjustable wrench on.

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I have used this method of removing stubborn screw several times and each time when I hear the screw pop loose, I get all giddy inside.

Anyway… for what it’s worth.

PANNIERS MADE FROM SCRATCH

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Luggage Racks For my V-strom

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Like most people, my life has been made easier by computers and yes, better. In my job as a home inspector, WIN Home Inspection Salem, a computer saves me time and corrects my terrible spelling. A computer provides most of our TV viewing pleasure and keeps me in touch with friends and family. I know for a fact that I would have never written a dozen books if I hadn’t had a laptop computer. Most of my life of being a do it yourselfer has been spent in trial and error. I have spent many hours and lots of money making mistakes because I didn’t have the knowledge to do it right the first time. Now I just go to my computer and Google how to do what ever it is I want to do and I can find it on Youtube. Exploring the internet with my computer has kept me learning and growing like nothing else could have done. And even though I curse them sometimes, a computer has opened the world to me and enhanced my life. God bless you mister or misses computer inventor person(s).

Next to the computer, used plastic 55 gallon barrels would have to be #2 in making my live easier.

After I realized how much I enjoyed dual sport motorcycle riding on my Honda XR650L, I decided that I needed an adventure bike. An adventure bike is a step up from a typical dual sport in that it is comfortable enough to ride long distances on the highways, but when you see a dirt or gravel road that looks interesting, off you go. After a lot of study I decided that the Suzuki V-strom 650DR was the ideal bike for me. I couldn’t really justify the expense of an $5000-$7000 bike. Since I like to work on motorcycles I decided that if I could find a wrecked bike that was mechanically sound I could probably fix it up and make it, at the very least, interesting looking. I had just published a book, The Reincarnation of Joe Rocket. In the book the main character had fallen on hard times and his buddy, Two Stroke, bought him a V-strom that had been wrecked. He spent a couple weeks fixing it up and then rode it from Washington State to Maine. It occurred to me that if Joe Rocket could fix one up, I could too. I put an ad on Craigslist and a week later a guy emailed me saying he had a totaled V-strom that he wanted to sell. The bike was a 2010 with 4500 miles on it. Long story short, the bike looked brand new, except for a broken left front turn light and the shifter lever. There were also a few small scratches that I would have never noticed if he hadn’t pointed them out to me. The guy had been rear ended, tapped, at a stop sign and tipped the bike over. Since the bike was virtually new, he wanted everything with even a minor scratch replaced. By the time the insurance company added it all up, the bike was totaled.  I bought it for half the price of a new one and within thirty minutes I had fixed the turn signal light and shifter. So much for a fixer upper project. I love this bike.

I had sold my cruiser, 2002 Honda VTX 1800, the previous winter, so the Vee was going to be my all around bike. I would use for long weekend dual sport trips and my week long road trips. For long trips I needed some kind of  saddlebags, or for a adventure bike like the V-strom, panniers. Panniers are usually aluminum boxes that mount to each side of the back fender area. They are made of aluminum to be almost indestructible and watertight. I never liked the idea of big metal boxes mounted to the back of my motorcycle. I guess I have had too many close encounters with trees and boulders and knew I would end up tearing them off my bike or denting them beyond repair. As I searched the web for something I thought would work for me, I found nothing I liked or could afford. I kept thinking, why don’t they make a flexible plastic holder that you can just slip your luggage onto? Then I though, “Hey, I can make that!”

I needed to make a rack that would withstand crashes and that I could mount my plastic luggage holders onto. During searches on the web I had seen many different racks that would mount on my V-strom, but I felt I could do better or at least, as well. I made a rough sketch of what I wanted, found a 10’X3/4” piece of conduit in my shop, bought some 1/8”X 1” metal flat stock at ACE, got out my conduit bender, fired up the welder and went to work.

Showing complete rack with my stovepipe tool box attached.

Showing complete rack with my stovepipe tool box attached.

The first thing I did was bend the conduit so it would attach to the passenger foot peg frame bracket on one side, bend around the back of the bike just under the tail light and attach to the other passenger peg frame bracket. I carefully flattened the ends of the conduit and drill holes for bolts through the flattened part. The frame brackets for the passenger foot pegs on the Vee are large and there was plenty of room to drill a hole in the bracket to accommodate the conduit, bolt and nut.

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The Vee comes stock with a substantial back rack that sits over the back fender. It’s bolted on in four places, two bolts attach back rack and two more bolts forward about mid seat. In my opinion, it is always a good idea to use the factory bolts and brackets when ever possible to attach something not stock to your bike.

I cut and bent to fit, two pieces of flat metal stock that would bolt under the back rack front brackets and reach down to the conduit. For the back support, I cut and bent one piece of flat stock that ran from the conduit on once side, up and under the back rack and down to the conduit on the other side. Because of where I had to run the flat stock under the back rack, the bolts for the rack didn’t line up with the flat stock. To make the connection to the bolts I welded two small ears to the flat stock that would reach the two bolts.

Showing rack bolted under the bike's rear rack at mid-seat.

Showing rack bolted under the bike’s rear rack at mid-seat.

Showing the two ears I welded on to fit in the two back holes of the bike's rear rack.

Showing the two ears I welded on to fit in the two back holes of the bike’s rear rack.

The next step was to cut two short pieces of flat stock that would attach horizontally between the two vertical flat stock on each side and would give me something to hang my plastic luggage racks on. Once everything was cut, bent and fitted, I welded it all together and sprayed it with black spray in bed liner.

Now with the rack made and mounted, I needed to make luggage racks. After drawing some sketches of what might work, I made a pattern out of cardboard. I had in mind that I was going to use 20” carry-on luggage to fit in the luggage racks.

Now what I needed was a big flat piece of plastic. Here is something that you might not know. If you cut the top and bottom off a plastic 55 gallon barrel, then cut it down one side, heat it up with a weed burner blow torch until it is so soft it will lay flat on a shop floor and put a piece of plywood with some heavy weight on the plywood over the plastic until it cools, you will end up with a large piece of flat plastic.

Showing my pattern with measurements.

Showing my pattern with measurements.

After cutting the plastic to the pattern, heating the plastic and bending it to the proper shape I riveted so it would retain the shape and make it strong. To attach the luggage rack to the metal rack, the luggage rack needed a bracket system that would easily clip onto the metal rack and wouldn’t accidentally come off over rough road. Of course I used plastic barrel to make the brackets. The bracket is a kind of  “Z” shape and the top bracket is a flat piece riveted along the top. They are just wide enough to fit between the two vertical supports on the metal rack and slip over the conduit on the bottom and the horizontal bar at the top. To keep the plastic racks from bouncing off the metal racks, I made a “L” bracket out of plastic, then cut a slot through the back of the luggage rack and “Z” bracket attached on the back. The slot was cut just below the top horizontal cross piece on the metal rack. I attached the “L” bracket with rivets to the luggage rack so that the short part of the “L” bracket will slip through the slot, under the horizontal cross-piece and though the “Z” bracket. The plastic “L” bracket is kind of spring loaded and stays through the slot until you’re ready to remove the luggage rack.

Showing brackets on the back that slide onto rack. Note the slot in the upper bracket for "L" bracket to slide through and secure the luggage rack to the metal rack. Note that everything is riveted and hot glued on.

Showing brackets on the back that slide onto rack. Note the slot in the upper bracket for “L” bracket to slide through and secure the luggage rack to the metal rack. Note that everything is riveted and hot glued on.

Showing "L" bracket that slips through the slot, over the horizontal rack bracket.

Showing “L” bracket that slips through the slot, over the horizontal rack bracket.

20” carry-luggage is pretty typical and I was able to find one at Goodwill for a $5. The other one I bought a matching one at Walmart for $20. I removed the wheels on the bags and they slipped perfectly into the plastic luggage racks. I added two straps on each luggage rack to hold the bags securely in the racks.

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The carry-on’s looked pretty good, but they weren’t waterproof or dust proof. We had acquired some bright yellow material that school crossing flags are made out of when we owned a screen printing business and I had some left over. Using that and some water resistant material I bought at a fabric store, I sewed together some slip on covers for the bags (see top picture). That’s right, I sewed. Gentlemen, if a sewing machine is not part of your power tool assortment, your assortment is not complete.

I have used the racks and panniers for three years now and they have worked great. They are light weight, durable, flexible, inexpensive and not too bad looking. I never remove the metal racks. They act as rear-end crash bars and have saved my bike from damage more than once.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

A Better Motorcycle Windshield

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I Love to Ride IN Comfort

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 I love to ride motorcycles. Every time I go for a ride it lifts my spirits and makes me whole. Those of us who ride, ride for our own reasons. I ride for the feeling of freedom and for the thrill. I love corners. There is nothing like the feeling of taking a corner too fast and thinking that you’re about to die and then you don’t. I don’t actually take corners too fast on purpose, but if you ride you know what I mean.

As I get older, I like to be as comfortable as possible when I’m riding. For my V-strom, I made a custom seat that fits me better and gives me better support. When I bought my Volusia with an $800 Corbin seat and I can ride it all day in comfort. My dual sport, Honda XR650L came with a $600 custom heated seat. My hind-end has got the comfortable seat issued covered, so to speak.

Another area that I like more comfort as I have aged is protection from the wind. It puzzles me to see guys running down the highway at 75 mph with ape hangers and no windshield or windscreen. They may look cool, but I know that they are not comfortable. It takes a serious grip to hold on to your handle bars with wind hitting you at 75 mph, not to mention bugs in your teeth and the road debris that gets flipped up and hits you in the face. That kind of riding is not for me.

My stock V-strom windshield is known for not offering good protection and for those of us who are a bit taller, head buffing and wind noise can be a problem. When I bought my Vee I knew that I would be using it for long trips, so I needed to solve the wind issue. After much research I found that I had two choices, buy a bigger windshield or add to the windshield I had. I didn’t want to buy a larger windshield because I use my Vee for dual sport riding and I was afraid that a larger windshield might get in the way in tight trails and would be difficult to see the rough road directly in front of me when the shield got dusty. I decided to add on to my stock shield.

In my research I found an add-on shield that would probably work, but it’s not ideal. The one add-on that I liked was designed to attach to the top section of a stock shield, extending up over the top a few inches. The thing that caught my attention was that it was engineered to catch the wind that was flowing up the stock shield, compressing it, accelerating the wind and shooting up and over your head. I like the concept and the physics of it told me that it would work, so I decided that was the one for me. The problem was that, like I said, it wasn’t ideal. I wanted to add some width to my stock shield too. I’m two foot across the shoulders, so being a homegrown engineer, I went to work designing and making what I thought would be ideal for me.

The first thing I did was cut a pattern out of cardboard. I wasn’t sure what shape would work best, so I cut and trimmed the cardboard until I felt good about the shape. Next I searched my shop and found a piece of plexi-glass that would be the right thickness and size. Using a scroll saw with a fine blade, I carefully cut the plexi to the pattern.

Once I had the plexi shaped and the edges sanded round I heated the plexi with a heat gun and formed it in the curve of my stock shield. I also wanted any wind hitting the new section to be diverted up and over my head as much a possible. To accomplish that, I heated the upper five inches and when it got pliable, I used gloves and a tightly rolled towel to curve the top of the new section forward slightly.

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Showing plexi-glass cut to pattern heated and formed to shape

When I considered how I was going to mount the new section to the original windshield I felt it would be important not to drill holes in the original windshield and to mount it with plastic bolts. I didn’t want to compromise the original shield and I used plastic wing nuts and bolts so if I crashed, the bolts would break and in theory, not the windshield. I figured out how to use two of the screws that held the original windshield for the two top brackets and two screws in the fairing on each side of the windshield for the lower brackets. I made the four plastic brackets out of, say it with me, plastic barrels and bought two plastic bolts with wing-nuts. I carefully marked the new shield so I knew where to drill holes for the bolts in the lower brackets, the four small screws in the upper bracket and carefully drilled through the plexi-glass.

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Showing plastic brackets mounted to bike with factory screws

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Showing new shield mounted to brackets with four small screws and two plastic bolts with wing nuts

After I got the new addition installed and gave it a run down the road, I notice that at 60 mph, or faster, that the plexi-glass compress too much, leaving only a small gap between the two shields. To solve the compression problem I added two medium size suction cups under the upper brackets. With the suction cups in place, the wind could only compress the new shield so far before the suction cup stem stopped the plexi-glass from compressing too much. The nice thing about the plexi compressing some was that the faster I went the smaller the gap between the two shields got and the faster the air flowing between them moved directing it up and over my head.

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The new addition to my windshield worked great. Riding down the road at any speed the new shield completely eliminated the wind hitting my head. No more sore neck from head buffing and the wind noise was cut by at least 60%. The new windshield combination looks unusual or even funky, but I gave up cool for functional a long time ago.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.