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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Just a motorcycle story

I had struggled and struggled with the 2003 1500 Classic that I bought new. It lost second gear in 2005 and had to be rebuilt under warranty despite Kawasaki trying to deny the claim originally. The bike burnt oil. So I rebuilt it again. I found one ring had been installed down. Then I think I overheated it with a bad radiator cap and it went to using oil again. The usage seemed inconsistent, but got so bad it took 4 quarts of oil on a 1500 mile trip and the outer alternator crapped out, too.

I fixed the alternator and decided that it needed a new home and I needed another 1500 Classic. The old tale of a dog returning to his vomit, by some of my friends' perspective.

So I picked up a low mileage 2002 model that needed some help and set out to sell my 03. Actually, I was so upset with that 03 that I told my buddy Columbus(Warpig) that I couldn't even talk it up to sell it and sure didn't want anyone that I knew to buy it. I still loved the way I built it with the primer style paint and all the powdercoated stuff. There was a fortune in making that thing look nasty. I was going to list at $1800 and the first $1200 offer could have it. He said he could sell it for me and we agreed anything over $1800 was his commission.

So I cleaned it up, took some pictures, and let him take care of everything else. He calls me a couple weeks later, and says bring the bike to the bar around the corner from your house. He had a serious buyer. I went to go start the bike and it wouldn't. I pulled the seat and put the charger on it and called him back. Then I realized in my rush to get the bike started I had tried to start it in gear while I wasn't on it pulling the clutch lever in. DOH! So, I put it all back together and it starts fine. I was waiting on my wife and youngest to get home, because I was at home with my oldest and not sure what to do with him if I left.  They were not far away and due home and my wife's phone was left at home. So I asked my neighbor to watch my oldest for a minute.

I went to leave on the bike and realized the bike had no clutch at all. Oh crap! My wife and youngest showed up and I called Columbus back with the news. He said hang on I will be to your house in a minute. The clutch master cylinder had let go in the month between the wash job and that day. The DOT 4 brake fluid was all over the lever and switch housing.

I said, "what are we going to do?"

His reply, "Don't panic. Do you have a spare one?"

"No, this is a Vulcan part not a shovelhead part."(It seems everyone with a Shovelhead has several spares of everything.)

"What about the one on other Vulcan you just bought; will it fit?"

"Yeah, but we'll have to pull a bunch of parts to bleed it properly."

"Let's get to work then."


We set to work and swapped the master cylinder in about 10 minutes with the help of my wife handing us tools. Luckily enough, the clutch worked great after the swap and we didn't even have to bleed the system, which is at least another 45 minutes of work.  My wife was impressed. "That's the fastest I have ever seen you two fix a bike." I hated to rob parts off the new-to-me bike, but really wanted that bike gone.

Off to get the bike sold. I showed the buyer how to check the oil by himself through the sight glass and the buyer beat my buddy up on the price and gave him $2300 for it.

We decided we needed a beer and walked into the bar. I bought Columbus a beer and then he said, "what was the agreement again?"

"Everything over $1800 is yours. I'm happy it's gone."

"Here's all the money. Pay my way into the motorcycle show this weekend, thanks for the beer and we're even."

He's a good friend.

I rebuilt the bad master cylinder and put in on my current bike. It seemed good to go. I put a couple hundred miles on it without issue. I even took my youngest(5) for his first real ride last Sunday and everything was fine.

Went to ride it to work on Tuesday and danged if the clutch lever didn't feel right. I even rode it around the block to verify it was okay, before I committed to riding it to work. It seemed okay enough so I went on. Well, after lunch I walked outside to show my bike to another buddy and sure as the world the clutch lever was completely gone. Ugh, ugh, ugh, that cursed 2003 model bit me again. The bore must be bad after 70,000 miles. I'm not in terrible shape overall; my wife works in the same place and she can take me home and this is an easy fix if I have parts. So I call my Vulcan buddy Nate.  He's got a clutch master cylinder in his stash. He got it from another Vulcan guy, Lee. Nate was going to use it on something else, but never got around to it. He donated it to the cause if I would help with a couple of his projects. I was already figuring on helping him, when he actually gets down to working on them.

My wife drove me home to get tools. The only tool for the job I didn't have already in my box was my mighty-vac to bleed the slave cylinder.  That was about 15 miles southwest and then I drove about 15 miles northwest of there to Nate's house to get parts.  I was a bit concerned about the master cylinder being bad from being left dry to long, but it was actually a master cylinder, hose, and slave cylinder all together and still holding pressure. Sweet! I thought I might be able to swap the whole system and not need to bleed it.

I got back to my bike and put it on top of my emergency car blanket in case I dropped something.  I quickly realized that swapping the whole system was not an option as hose routing was too small to pass either cylinder though. Swapping the master cylinder was quick and easy, but I wasn't as lucky this time and a bunch of air got into the system.  A few folks had stopped to offer help, but I really hadn't needed any yet.  Just as I opened up the side cover a guy I had talked with a few times that worked swingshift stopped to check on me.  "Here's the jug of fluid. Don't let me suck the reservoir dry."  A simple task that would save me from getting up and down several times to finish the job. Clutch was fixed. I put the shift levers and floorboard back on, and managed to forget the giant cover. So I redid all that and went home.

I had forgotten how narrow the old style levers are and the gear shifter seemed off a bit for some reason.  I was looking at the shift levers at home to see what was up when my wife said, "Did you put those on in the right order?"


"Last time, I remember you were taking them off and putting them back on and I asked you why. You said the levers where in the wrong order."

Yes, she was correct, the toe shifter goes on first, then the heel shifter. Otherwise, the heel shifter hits the cover. It's not embarrassing to mess up once, but it is embarrassing to mess up a second time and not immediately remember the fix from the last time.

Hopefully all of the moving pieces from the cursed '03 are completely gone from my life.