MAKING ROOM FOR THE WIFE

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When my wife committed to joining me on our riding groups’ annual adventure to Baker City Oregon, I realized that our bike was not set up or rated to carry us and all the personal items that would be required to keep us in clean clothes and beautified for a week.

Our Suzuki Volusia 800cc has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, GVWR, of about 950 lbs. The bike alone weights 590lbs. This means that my wife and our luggage, tools and miscellaneous items would have to weight 90 lbs. My wife alone weighs close to 90lbs. (You’re welcome babe). I weigh…do the math. Well you get the idea, we would be way over the GVWR. We got out our “Motorcycle Trip Packing List” (see my blog, “Motorcycle Packing List”) and started crossing things off the list that we could live without. When all was said and done we got our stack of essentials to fit into two small pieces of luggage, airplane carry-on style, and our biggest motorcycle trunk. In the past, when I used the Volusia for a trip I would just strap a bag on the passenger seat, cram a bunch of stuff in the hard shell saddlebags and be off. The problem now was that our Volusia was not set up to carry two pieces of luggage, my wife, and I. My V-strom is setup for exactly that scenario, (see my blog, “Panniers Made From Scratch”) but the V-strom isn’t nearly as comfortable as the Volusia to ride, it has Corbin seats.

For the next couple of days I scratched my head and tried to figure out how I was going remove the hard shell saddlebags and replace them with two pieces of carry-on luggage. I finally concluded that I would have to make another set of plastic panniers for the Volusia, exactly like those I made for my V-strom. That’s right, I said “exactly” like those for the V-strom. The panniers for the V-strom attach to the bike using a metal frame work that I designed and made. The Volusia didn’t have that same frame work, but it did have the saddlebag supports and the mounting studs that attach the saddlebags to the bike. Retro-fitting the panniers to the Volusia was as easy as drilling two holes in the back of the plastic panniers so they would slip onto the studs and clip in place just like the saddlebags. To make them extra secure and for added support I added a couple of straps. Now granted, it didn’t look “Harley Cool,” but it worked great.

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Showing plastic panniers on Volusia with studs showing and extra straps for support.

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Showing luggage in place in plastic panniers and covered with bright rain proof bags.

I knew that once we got to Baker City we would be removing the plastic panniers and luggage, which presented two more issues. First, with them removed, the bike is left with two large and ugly, metal ell brackets sticking out on both sides of the bike where the bags mount.

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Showing ugly metal support brackets for saddlebags

And second, the trunk wouldn’t be large enough to pack all the stuff we would need for the long day trips we would be taking from Baker City. My first thought was to pack the saddlebags full of clothes and pack the packed saddlebags in the luggage, but they were too big and too heavy.

When I first started riding dual sport I wanted some small saddle bags I could attach to my Honda XR650L to carry essentials, like tools, rain gear, water and power bars. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on brand named soft saddlebags, so I would stop by Goodwill every now and then to see if I could find pairs of backpacks, duffel bags or small soft sided luggage bags that were identical or very similar in size and appearance. Lucky enough, I was able to collect a few pairs of bags that looked alike or were exactly alike. I found two identical Goodwill bags in our motorcycle stall storage cabinet that would be a good size for day ride purposes. I could have just strapped them on the bike like saddlebags, but after modifying my plastic panniers the idea of making simple plastic supports that would attach just like the saddlebags and panniers seemed like the best plan.

I took one of the plastic barrels that I had and cut off two rectangles that were the same width as the small bags, 11.5”, and that were the same length in height + depth as the bags, 17”. Using a propane torch I heated and bent the plastic rectangles into two large ell shaped brackets. I drilled holes in the brackets to match the mounting studs on the bike so they too would slip onto the studs and clip in place.

Both bags had large open pockets on the back of them. I cut the pockets open along the bottom and reinforced the cut material with Gorilla Duct Tape, love the stuff. Next I slipped the bracket up through the open bottom of the pocket. The modified pocket held the bag to the bracket, the bag was supported by the bottom of the plastic ell and the bracket clipped easily to the motorcycle saddlebag studs.

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Showing plastic ell bracket and small bag.

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Showing ell bracket inserted through cut open back pocket.

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showing small bag mounted on the bike

The small bags were lightweight, could easily be packed with clothes and packed nicely into our luggage. They were large enough to carry what we needed for day trips and were even rain resistant. They did look a little redneck and defiantly not “Harley Cool”, but I’m not what you would call “cool.”

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

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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.

Portable Computer Stand

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Computer Stand that does it all.

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Several years ago my tool belt became so heavy with tools that it started to hurt my back and hips and I didn’t like carrying my computer around or leaving it sitting someplace in the home. I needed something better to carry tools and my computer and something I could keep with me during home inspections.

On a flight to Mexico I was looking through a Sky Mall catalog and noticed a roll around podium. It kind of looked like a music stand with wheels. Instantly the wheels in my head started turning and within a few minutes, about 150 miles at 500 miles an hour, I designed a computer-stand/tool-carrier I could use on my inspections.

For the next 75 miles I put together a materials list from items I might have in my shop or would have to purchase. The list included:

  • A five gallon bucket with a lid.
  • One 3’x3/4” pipe.
  • One floor flange that would screw to the top of the pipe.
  • A plastic gun case that my computer would fit in.
  • Some foam rubber for the computer to sit on in the case.
  • Some fine chain to attach the case base to the lid and keep it from opening too far.
  • Some miscellaneous nuts, bolts and screws.
  • A used office chair base with wheels.

When I returned home from vacation I rummaged through my shop and put together the parts. I ended up buying the 3’x3/4” iron pipe and, the chair. I picked up the pipe at our local ACE and stopped by the thrift store to pick up a small office chair for a couple of bucks.

Starting with the bottom, I removed the base from the chair. It was ideal because it had five feet with little plastic wheels. Some chair bases have four feet, which might work fine, but I figured five would give the stand more stability.

The 3/4’” pipe fit loosely into the center of the base neck, so I used some electric tape to take up the gap and make the pipe fit snug. I also drilled a hole through the base neck and the pipe and put a bolt through with a nut on the end to make sure the base would not fall off when I carried it up stairs.

The bucket lid would have worked fine, but my wife had one of those seat lids that you put on a five gallon bucket so when you are gardening you can sit comfortably on the bucket to pull weeds or whatever. The lid also came with an apron that goes around the outside of the bucket to put your tools in. I had never seen her use them, so I stole them out of the garden shed.  I drilled a ¾” hole  exactly in the middle of the bucket bottom and lid.  The bucket was pretty stable, but to stabilize it more I cut a round ½” piece of plywood, OSB, and drilled a ¾” hole in the middle to match the bottom of the bucket. With short 5/8” screws, I screwed down through the bottom of the bucket into the round piece of plywood. The bucket and lid slide down the pipe to the chair base neck. As a final touch, I sprayed the bucket with black spray in bed-liner.

OSB plywood attached to the bottom of the bucket.

OSB plywood attached to the bottom of the bucket.

The tool apron seemed ideal for my purposes, but it needed to be on the inside of the bucket, so I reversed it, attaching  it with some small screws, and removed the excess material at the top. The apron fit nicely on the inside of the bucket and now I had pockets for my tools.

Tool apron on inside the bucket.

Tool apron on inside the bucket.

For the plastic computer/gun case, I cut a piece of 1/4” plywood panel to fit into the case to make it more ridged and to give me something to attach the floor flange to.

Showing floor flange attache to the bottom of the case.

Showing floor flange attache to the bottom of the case.

I screwed through the bottom of the case up into the ply wood and mounted the floor flange to the bottom of the case with nuts and bolts. I cut the piece of foam rubber to the shape of the case and laid it in the bottom of the case, covering the screws and bolts. The foam protects the computer and elevates it in the case it to a nice height for typing.

Showing 1" thick foam used in bottom of case to cover plywood and hardware.

Showing 1″ thick foam used in bottom of case to cover plywood and hardware.

To keep the lid of the computer case from opening too far, I added two pieces of light chain, bolting them to the lid and the base with very small nuts and bolts. I thought it would be nice to have a pocket attached to the lid to keep pens, pads paper and some small tools in. I had salvaged the material off a camping chair which included a netted pouch that hung on the back of the chair. Cutting a piece of 1/8″ panel the shape of the lid to back the pouch, I attached the pouch to the panel with some hot glue. To hold the pouch in place place I stretch a small bungee cord across the lid, attaching it to the chains on both sides.

Showing pouch in lid for storage.

Showing pouch in lid for storage.

My new computer has a real sensitive touch pad and will jump the curser all over the screen if the pad is even lightly touched even after I made adjustments to the pad’s sensitivity. My solution was to add a small platform made of 1/4″ hardboard and two mouse pads cut to fit and glued to the hardboard. The platform fits across the front  of the case and there is a small cutout attached to the bottom that fits snugly in the the handle to keep the platform in place.

Showing stand with computer and mouse pad platform.

Showing stand with computer and mouse pad platform.

Showing bottom of platform with cutout attached.

Showing bottom of platform with cutout attached.

I have been using the computer stand for several years now and love it. My clients are continually telling me that I should patent the idea. They usually ask me whats in the bucket. I tell them, “beer and ice,” and then show them the tools. Occasionally I have to touch up the black spray in bed-liner and oil the wheels, but it is holding together very well. The stand is incredibily stable and has never tipped over.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

A mower to tow behind your ATV

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Converting a riding mower to an ATV tow behind.

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Some friends of ours own some wilderness property next to our property up in the Elkhorn Valley. They don’t spend as much time up there as they use to when their kids were younger, so I take care of their property along with ours. I don’t mind because they let our family use their fire-pit and ¼ acre meadow. That gives us about ½ acre of meadow to expand onto when we need more room.

One of the maintenance items that I like to do a couple times a year is mow the meadows to keep the grass and weeds down. I used my riding lawnmower for a few years, but then our friends gave me an old Craftsmen riding lawnmower keep up at the property so I wouldn’t have to use my nice mower when I needed to mow. The old mower ran pretty well, but the steering gear was going out. I brought it home a couple of times and fix it, but it kept going out.

My oldest son, Justus, has a home on a couple of acres near Estacada Oregon. The property is mostly on the side of a hill and very slopped. His father-in-law gave him a MTD riding lawnmower to mow his pasture. Unfortunately, it didn’t have enough power to mow up the hill that was at one end of the pasture and it tended to want and tip over when driving horizontal to the slope. He called me one day and asked me if I would help him make a mowing deck out the riding lawn mower. His idea was that he would tow the mowing deck with is ATV. I wasn’t sold on the idea of tearing the mower apart and mounting the motor on the deck to run the blades, but I’m always up for a project, so I told him to bring it on over.

After he got the mower here, we scratched our heads and talked about different ideas to accomplish what he wanted. I finally suggest that we remove the back wheels and fender, add a tow bar and just tow it backwards with his ATV. After he could visualized it and I convinced him that the mower would cut backwards as well as forward, he was all for it.

Here is how simple it was. We removed the belt and pulleys that drove the back wheels. We then removed the back wheels, axle and fenders. The steering wheel and seat were not longer needed so they came off too. We locked the front wheel so they wouldn’t move left or right and the mower would tow straight.

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Basically, we remove everything that will not be needed and to make the mover as lightweight as possible. When we had it stripped down to the essentials; motor, mower deck, front wheels, gas tank and battery, we bolted on a 4’ long 1-1/2” square bar that would attach to the ATV. Like most ATV, his had a hole in the back towing plate, so we welded a small rod on the tow bar that would drop through the hole. We make the bar long enough that when you turned a sharp corner the back wheel or the ATV wouldn’t hit the mower.

To use mower, you simple hook it up to your ATV, turn the key and start the mower, lower the deck to the desired height and mow away.

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After we built his mower, it occurred to me that I could do the same thing with the mower I was using up at the property. The steering was going out anyway, so a tow behind was a great solution. I did the same basic things to Craftsmen as we had done to Justus’s MTD, but my mower didn’t have a good battery, so I cut one end off an old set of jumper cables and attached them to the mowers battery cables. Then when I wanted to use the mower I just hook the jumper cable clamps to the battery on my ATV.

They worked great, but Justus now has a tractor with a mower deck that he attaches to the back and the motor in mine lost all the oil one day and blew up. But it’s all good. It was still a fun project.

Project Sabre

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My son-in-law, Dustin, has been after me to write a blog about my last project. He is an avid reader of my blog and probably my biggest fan. So, this is for you Dustin.

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Now that I have moved out of our very cramped garage and into our new shop, I thought it would be fun to do one or two motorcycle projects each year. My first project was a 1985 Honda VF700 Sabre. This bike wasn’t as much of a project as some of my past projects, like the Hawk or the three-wheeler that we converted to a four-wheeler, but I really liked the bike and the price was OK.

When I went to look at the bike I was pleased and surprised with what good mechanical condition it was in. I took it for a short ride and it made me smile. Which isn’t to say much because I’m usually smiling if I’m on a motorcycle, but this little 700cc surprised me. Back in the early 80’s Harley Davidson lobbied president Reagan to tariff any motorcycle imported into the USA that was larger than 700cc. Honda responded with the highly energized 699cc, rounded up to 700. With the 700cc once you get the rpms up into the 6-8K rpms the bike hits a “power band” of sorts and takes off like a big dog. That’s what put the smile on my face that day. Anyway, I bought the bike. At this point I want to put a shout out to my wife who understands my need to have a motorcycle project in the off-season. And I quote her, “I just want you to be happy.”

The bike had been well maintained and the only issue I found was a very small oil leak. A previous owner had laid the bike down and did some minor damage. The highway bar on the right side had been scraped and was worn nearly all the way through. The front blinker lights were damaged and the side panels on each side were missing, along with the right side electrical cover. There was a dent in the left side of the gas tank. The seat cover was worn out, but the seller had purchased a seat cover and threw it in as part of the deal. He also included a repair manual and a full tank of gas.

The first thing I wanted to do is to make sure the bike was street legal, so I started with the lights. The front left blinker light was in pretty bad shape. The orange lens was cracked and bent. I could have bought the lens for about $15 at Honda, but my mind doesn’t work that way. I heated the lens up and reshaped it, then used clear epoxy to fix the crack.

Both front blinker light stems were slightly bent and the globes or bulb domes were damaged. The outer edges of both light domes were damaged and missing sections. One of the great things about living in this day and age is the glues and epoxy that have been developed and can be purchased at any hardware store. Using JB Weld I reformed the missing pieces, making them a little heavier duty than original. Once the JB was dry I reshaped the repairs with my dermal tool and they looked good.

The left blinker light wasn’t working, no power at the light socket. I traced the wire to the headlight. I removed the headlight and found that there was power at the connection behind the headlight. After an hour of testing this and checking that, a little bit of cussing, I discovered that there was a bad connection at the bulb socket. I fixed it and the lights worked.

After studying it for a while I realized that I couldn’t make the electrical cover for the right side of the bike and have it match the left side. I wasn’t out to restore the bike, but I felt that matching covers would be important. I was lucky and found a cover on eBay and for $30. it was mine. I also found the other side covers on eBay. They were about $140. each. Being a cheap ba#$%d I decided I could make those. I viewed the panels on eBay and cut a similar pattern out of cardboard. I had inherited some old aluminum road signs from my father-in-law and using the pattern I cut aluminum panels for each side. The flat panels didn’t really fit that well so I bent and twisted them until they formed to the bike.  DSCF6661      The original panels where held in place by the seat fitting over the top edge and a clip arm on the back that inserted into a rubber grommeted hole in the fame. I replaced the clip arm with a screw and washer and the rubber grommets with a “clip on nut” that I epoxied in place so it wouldn’t move.

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Removing the dent in the gas tank turned out to be challenge in a fiasco sort of way. I thought I might be able to push the dent out if I could get a metal rod into the tank, through the gas fill hole and to the dent. Long story short, I couldn’t. My next attempt, plan B, was to make a slide hammer out of a wood handled screwdriver shaped tool and a plumbing floor flange. DSCF6666

I ground the wood handle flat and hot glued it to the tank. After the glue set, I slid the floor flange with force to the nut and washer at the end of the rod. I did this several times and could see some minor results each time, but not being a patient man, I moved to plan C.

Plan C is the fiasco part of this tank project. The thing is I had done this very same thing before on a different tank with the same results, but for some reason I thought the outcome would be different. Seems like the definition of insane is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well I haven’t done this same thing over and over again, yet, just twice. So, just a slow learner? Anyway, I wrapped the nozzle of my compressor air blower with inner tube until it would fit tightly into the gas fill hole. DSCF6664 My thought was that if I pressurized the tank the dent would pop right out. Most of the dent did pop out, but so did the bottom of the tank. The bottom of the tank is shaped to fit over the air filter box, frame and other odds and ends. Now it didn’t. It was at that point that I remembered I had done this before several years ago. Damn my memory!

Now I had to reshape the bottom of the tank. I turned the tank upside down on a cushioned chair and started beating on it with a rubber mallet. It was a lot harder to reshape than to unshape, but after several hard whacks I got it reshaped so it would fit back on the bike. I realize that I don’t have to share the stupid stuff I do, but if I can keep readers from making the same mistakes, then this blog will not be in vain. Moving on to plan D, I bondoed what little was left of the dent.

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But wait, it gets worse. My brother Nate mentioned that he knew a guy that pressurized a tank and split the seams. With that in mind I tested the tank for leaks and found a leak around the pipe that feeds gas to the tank. My first thought was to use gas tank repair epoxy to stop the leak. I patched it on and let it dry, but my confidence factor was low and tested it again. It leaked. I asked my buddy, Two Stroke, what to do and he said to silver solder it. I rinsed the tank out with water several times, soldered it and it worked.

The next project was to repair the highway bar. As I mentioned earlier, the right side of the bar had been nearly worn through from sliding down the pavement during a “lay-down”. That’s what us bikers call it, a “lay-down.” Lay-down sound more purposeful than, “I crashed my bike.”  Good, no, great bikers have made a mental commitment that they will never crash. They have committed that come hell or high water, they will do everything and anything possible to stay upright. When the situation becomes impossible, the great biker will purposefully lie their bike down is a controlled fashioned.

Anyway, back to the damaged highway bar. I fired up my wire feed welder and filled in the damaged areas of the bar. After I had enough metal built up on the damaged areas, I took the bar to the bench grinder and reshaped the bar to similitude of its original roundness.

At this point the bike was pretty stripped down. I removed the handlebars and front fender and prepared everything for paint. If you’ve followed my blogs at all you will know that I love spray-in bed liner. It’s very durable and sticks to just about everything. It also adds a little texture. On this bike I wanted to give it a flat, softer look, so I sprayed everything I was going to paint with the bed liner and used a satin paint. After the bed liner dried, I taped off and primed the parts I wanted green with Rust-oleum 2X Ultra Cover white primer. Then I sprayed on two coats of 2X Ultra satin green and two coats of 2X Ultra clear on everything. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the color and if there are those who don’t like the color, they have kept it to themselves.

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I installed the new seat cover and that’s it. Except for a little tinkering, the bike is done and ready to sell. It was a fun project and I learned some things.

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The Reincarnation of a Hawk

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Honda Hawk Hits the Dirt Roads 

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To stay busy and to keep my mind on motorcycles and off the weather, in 2010 I customized a 1978 Honda 400cc Hawk T Type II, converting it to a dual sport bike. I had been looking for a second dual sport bike for sometime. I wanted a second bike to have around for my two sons to ride. They both had street and dirt bikes, but no dual sport bikes. I looked for some time, but couldn’t find a second bike I could afford, or at least, that I could justify the expense of buying.

A few days before Thanksgiving, I found a Honda Hawk for sale  in Mill City, up in the Santiam Canyon. It didn’t run and looked like hell, but the guy said that it had run last year and everything worked well then. After some negotiation, I traded an old farm .16 gauge shot-gun for it. I had never fired the gun and probably never would, so I figured with the trade the bike was cheap enough that if I couldn’t get it running, at least I could part it out and make some money.

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The first thing I did was clean out the carburetors, charged the battery and to my delight, it started right up. After I got the clutch unstuck, probably stuck from sitting too long, I ran it around the field and up and down the road. It ran great! The tires were almost new, the brakes still had at least 75% left and it only had 50K miles on it. I bought a new horn and one back light bulb and with them in place, everything worked. I decided it would be worth my time to fix it up and try to convert it to a dual sport.

My youngest son and I stripped it down to the frame, cleaned it up, changed the oil and started making parts for it to try to make it more dirt-road-worthy.

Our first project was to make new fenders out of plastic. The metal fenders on the bike would be too easy to damage. For the past few years be had been replacing broken dirt bike fenders and side covers with ones we make out of plastic from 55 gal. plastic barrels. The plastic can be cut to shape, heated and formed into about any configuration. The stuff it is unbreakable. We made our patterns out of cardboard and once we had them right, we traced them on the barrels and cut them out. We then heated them and shaped them to the bike. The front fender was tricky. We had to shape it to the wheel in two directions, one big arc to follow the curve of the wheel and concave to curve around the tire. As you can see in the photos, we mounted the new fenders high over the wheels like on most dual sport bikes.

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We had to manufacture several brackets out of plastic and aluminum plate to attach the fenders to the bike. On the back of the bike we installed a hidden heavy, ¼”X1”, steel flat stock bar attached to the old fender mounts, that is bent to run under the fender/side covers on each side and over the mufflers to protect the mufflers if the bike went down.

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The finish is spray-in truck bed liner. The stuff is tough and will sticks real well if you sand the surface of the plastic before you spray it on. The red paint is just good old Krylon over the bed liner.

The mufflers were the fun part.  New mufflers would cost a couple of hundred dollars, which wasn’t in the budget. I have repacked a few mufflers, replaced baffles and mufflers didn’t seem that complicated. I did some research on the web and decided to try and make my own.

I made the mufflers out of 3” type B gas vent pipe and some 1 ½” steel pipe for the baffles. Type B is a double walled gas vent pipe use for venting things like gas water heaters. In the baffle pipes I cut 4 rows of ¾” long slots across the pipe with the rows running from one end to the other on four sides of the pipe. Then I took a chisel and pounded down the cut pipe one side of the slots, so that as the exhaust and noise runs up through the pipe, some of the exhaust and noise will be funneled into the type B vent pipe. I bought some muffler packing and wrapped the baffles, slipped the wrapped baffles into the gas pipe and capped the ends with aluminum that had 1 ½” holes in them for the baffles to run through. Since we would be using the bike in the forested areas, I installed screen spark arrester that I made from bathroom sink strainers.  That is basically it. They sounded great, looked good and were not too loud.

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We wanted to get the mufflers up and off the ground for clearance. For that, we used 1 ½” pipe from an old trampoline frame to make the extension pipes from the headers to the mufflers. We cut it and wielded it to the configuration we needed to get the mufflers pointed up to the back fender. Fortunately, the extension pipes slipped right on the original chrome header pipes and I was able to use the old header clamps. The muffler baffle pipes slip onto the extension pipes because I used pipe with a bell on one end to make the baffle pipes. I welded some knobs on the extension pipes and baffle pipes and used a spring to keep them snug tight together. I could have used clamps, but I thought the springs looked cool.

The gas tank was rusted on the inside and had a dent on one side. We figured we could fix the dent, so we cleaned it out, but discovered that it had a hole in it. I found a motorcycle recycle yard in SC and ordered one from them for $45.00, including shipping. After spraying it with bed liner  and panting it, it looked great.

The suspension was a concern since the bike was designed for street use. I did some research on the web forums and found that guys with Hawks did actually use them as dual sports without modification and the bike did real well. Our only modification was that I made a bracket for the top of the back springs to lift the bike an additional 2 ¼” for better clearance.

I did also replace the seals on the front forks. The back struts in side the springs were weak. The springs compressed nicely, but the strut banged on the rebound. I solved that by adding trampoline springs, attaching them to the swing arm and frame. The springs were light enough that they didn’t affect the compression springs, but stopped the banging on the rebound.  Without dual sport tires, the bike had 8 ½” clearance, which would get better if we had add tires with knobbies.

Of course, when you raise the back of the bike up 2 ¼” the kick is no longer long enough. I had to cut the original one in half and made it 4” longer with a smaller pipe that I slipped inside original stand and welded in place. The bike stood fairly upright, but the idea was that when we put dual sport tire on, it should have a slight side tip to it.

The hand guards were easy enough. I took these off my XR650L when I added bark busters to the XRL. I had to modify hand guards a little so they would fit, but with the modifications, they bolted right on with the break and clutch levers bolts. They aren’t bark busters, but they will offer some protection to the hands from wind and brush.

The front windscreen was made from plastic barrel and a piece of 3/16” plexi-glass that I had lying around. The plexi-glass was cut, heated and bent, then bolted to the plastic. To trim the hole for the headlight I used some old black rubber hose that was a washing machine water supply hose.

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The front turn signal lights were mounted to the front headlight with some very rigid chrome pipes. I wanted something more flexible in case of a tip over, so it cut the pipes in half and slipped some rubber gas line hose over the pipes. To add some additional rigidity to the pipes and to reduce vibration, I sipped some .10 gauge wire down the center of the pipes with the power wires. If the bike goes down the rubber hose should flex at the cuts.

The back-turn signals are mounted with the license plate on a bracket my son made from plastic barrel. The license plate light was salvaged from a broken sidelight off my trailer. The tail light was an old tail light off a trailer that was kicking around in my garage. It is mounted under the back fender with a plastic bracket.

The seat was in bad shape. We removed the old cover and foam from the steel base. The base was rusted, so we wire brushed it and painted it with stop rust paint. The foam was still in good shape, just wet, so we dried it out and reused it. We use the old cover as a pattern and cut a new one out of black leather-like vinyl.

The rock guard under the motor was a challenge. We made the bars out of some scrap ¾” black pipe. Our first attempt didn’t work out. We made the bars too short and we were probably over thinking it. My oldest son “the engineer” came by for a couple of hours one day and helped me rethink it. We ended up using the bars we had made, but attached them differently to the underside. The guard was made out of plastic barrel and attached to the bars with conduit brackets. Notice that I didn’t call it a skid plate. It’s not that heavy duty, but will keep rocks from flying up and putting holes in the bottom of the motor.

I like having saddlebags to keep emergency items, maps and my lunch in when I’m out riding. I had bought some nice bags for my XR650L on closeout for $20.00. They look a lot like two small carry on or duffel bags strapped together. I stopped at Good Will one day and was lucky to find two black carry on type bags that were almost identical. The only difference is the zippers on the sides are slightly different, but you would have had to look hard to tell the difference. They both are 14”X10”X6”. I cut the handles off on one side and removed the shoulder straps. I cut the other handles in half, put some Velcro on them, ran them under the seat and stuck them to the others bag’s handles that are cut and have Velcro attached. They look just like my other dual sport bags and only cost me $2.99 each for the bags and some Velcro.

There really was a lot more to it than described here. This is literally a “long story short”. It was a fun project and like my youngest son said, “These projects are so much fun. It doesn’t even really matter if it works in the end; I just like doing the project.” That’s true for me too. Over the past several years, some of the best times I have had were doing these “Home Grown Engineer” projects with my boys. It is nice though, when they actually work.

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