I love my Harley Road King, and I've loved all the Harleys I've had over the years. But what's up with Harley producing bikes of inferior quality? Seriously.
For the last 3 weekends I've worked on my Road King. First it was to replace the inner primary seal and then it was to fix a leak from the transmission. In the first case, I guess it's not too uncommon for this repair to be needed. But with only 42,000 miles on the bike I need to replace the primary seal?! Harley wanted a thousand bucks for the job! I did it for about a hundred bucks, the price of the parts.
I'm not an experienced mechanic, so I gained great benefit from subscribing to fixmyhog.com where there are many videos available that virtually walk you through many common repairs. It was invaluable in for me in repairing the primary seal. And though the journey through the Service Manual can be quite convoluted, it was spot on for the repairs.
Then I had to deal with a leak from the transmission. I wasn't quite sure where it was coming from so I used a ultra violet tracer dye to find the leak. To my surprise and disappointment it turned out that the leak was coming from the side access door of the transmission. The reason? Two bolts that connect the exhaust system to the transmission housing and hold the housing tight against a gasket were missing! The only explanation I could come up with is that when I bought my bike I had Harley install and aftermarket exhaust system, and in their installation failed to install the two missing bolts. Those bolts had to have been removed by Harley to take off the stock exhaust. So the technician either didn't bother replacing the bolts, or, they weren't installed right and fell out over time. I just find the later hard to believe.
Unfortunately, if you peruse the internet you will find countless stories of similar issues with Harley's quality and with Harley Techs not doing a good job. Flawed automatic primary chain tensioners, flawed cam chain tensioners, and flawed technicians. I could recite numerous incidents of flawed repairs by Harley techs that my friends have experienced, but I think I've made the point.
Harley's brand stands for America, but with the endless issues about bad design, bad repair, and flawed technical ability, Harley will erode its brand value and customers will eventually find their way to other competitors' bikes. Victory and Indian are pushing hard.
I'm not sure what mechanical issue I'll encounter next with my Harley, but it seems inevitable that I will run into yet another flawed design or repair. Bad Harley, bad...
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Check out this trailer for a short film on the infamous El Diablo Run into Mexico. Looks to me like a great time. This is what biker runs and rallies should be, instead of the t-shirt sales events that rallies have turned into.
I'll be headed there next year...
Saturday, June 1, 2013
Other than a short stint after my wife surprised me for my birthday with the purchase of a Harley Davidson Electra Glide Classic (I didn't have the heart to tell her I would have preferred a different bike without a windshield and tour pak), I've never owned a motorcycle with a windshield in the decades that I've been riding. My present ride, a 2011 Road King, donned with 16"ape hangers, is virtually always ridden without its windshield. It is a rare day that I wish I had a windshield in front of me, usually a day when we are hours on the interstate traveling at high speed into a strong and constant headwind. Holding on is work. Frankly though, other than then I see no need for a windshield. Wearing a face mask takes care of the bugs, and donning good snivel gear takes care of the cold in the winter season, obviating the need for the windshield. And I actually think that for the most part having a windshield takes away from the riding experience.
Windshields, though having been around since the 1920s, became ever more popular with the advent of the larger touring motorcycles of the 1930s and 1940s and with the advent of more paved roadways and highways which allowed for greater speeds. We've all seen photos from the 1940s and 1950s of bikers lined up posing while sitting on their motorcycles behind windshields, sort of the quintessential look from those days. I still find that fact quite puzzling given that back then most highways were still limited in speeds to 45-55 mph and there was little real need for a windshield.
The 1960s and 1970s, a time when the new interstate highway system was being constructed and motorcycle companies were offering greater numbers of bikes with windshields, ironically saw the change to more motorcycles without windshields. Choppers became the rage, and in lieu of a windshield, bikers on road trips attached their sleeping bags or other gear to the handlebars to cut the wind. That works, by the way. Bikers of that generation were more about expressing themselves in the new anti war freedom rebellion counter culture anti establishment symbolism of that time. It was a time of nonconformity when less was more when it came to your ride.
Now the rage is the fully tricked out bagger with the requisite windshield. Harley Davidson's Street Glides and Road Glides, and many of the smaller companies' (e.g., Yaffe) bagger bike designs dominate the sales in motorcycles. Consequently, a whole new generation of bikers that ride always behind a windshield have little understanding of what it's like riding without one, which gives one a whole different sense in riding.
However, there is also now a burgeoning group of bikers that are returning to the bike styles of the 1960s and 1970s, choppers and bobbers, bikes now widely being branded by the new Retro culture of riders. These mostly 20 something year olds get it. Riding without a windshield, GPS type gadgets, and 1000 watt stereos offers a different experience, and without these luxury items this new set of rebels seek the freedom of the road in more of a raw approach, keeping it to basics and enjoying just the the wind in their faces.
Give it a try; it truly is a different riding experience.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Plans are in the works for the first annual Tombstone Ride To Destiny Motorcycle Rally for next September 20-22. Planners are hoping to draw 10,000 bikers. I'm stoked, we need a good rally here in the deserts of the SW. Check it out...
Friday, February 15, 2013
Some of us remember trying to kick start our bikes of yester-year only to realize too late that we had forgotten to open the choke or turn on the key or forgotten to shut the fuel petcock, leaving ourselves with unattractive options like pulling spark plugs, draining fuel, or waiting long periods for evaporation to aid us in dealing with a 'flooded' cylinder and wet spark plugs. Electronic fuel injection in our modern bikes saves us from that unpleasant experience. In addition to the benefits of electronics, superior metals, advanced engineering, and modern lubricants have made it so that bike engines last longer and run better than older models. Ironically, today's more sophistacted bikes are just plain easier and more user friendly when it comes to diagnosis of problems and maintenance.
While the modern engine is still based on the old and simple fundamental structure of the internal combustion engine with cylinders, pistons, camshaft, etc., it is far more advanced than the relics of yesterday that required constant adjustment and maintenance. But, despite their modern look and performance, these bikes are still quite easy to maintain.
An oil change can be accomplished with two hand tools, a wrench to fit the oil pan plug and a filter wrench tool to remove the oil filter. Unscrew the plug; let the oil drain into a suitable drain pan, replace the o-gring on the plug and reinstall into the oil pan, being careful to not strip it; unscrew the oil filter with the filter wrench, replace it with a new filter tightened to hand tight only; fill the oil tank to the proper level with the specified amount and type of oil; run the engine for a minute, recheck the oil fluid level; and clean up your mess. 20-30 minutes at the most. You just saved lots of money and YOU know it's been done correctly. Changing the transmission fluid is even easier for most bikes, and changing the fluid in the primary case is not much more difficult, all accomplished with a few tools and little time.
Performing maintenance on your own bike gives one a sense of accomplishment, but just as importantly it keeps you in touch with the condition of your bike, making you aware of problems before they become big problems. And, not without importance, self wrenching will save you a lot of money. Nothing wrong with that. Get yourself a maintenance manual for your bike, or find a friend who maintains his bike and learn from him. With some experience you'll look forward to keeping your bike well maintained. For me it's not only fun, but it makes me feel more of a biker to know that I am responsible for keeping my bike in good shape.
What kind of maintenance do you do on your bike?
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
The Wild One, Easy Rider, Wild Hogs - biker movies of three distinct generations, allegorical narratives and symbols of the cultural history of America over the last 60 years. Oh how we have changed!
After WWII veterans, banded together by the misfortune of war, sought each other's brotherhood, and motorcycle riding was a perfect vehicle for fulfilling that need. Like-minded men, who gathered to ride and share their stories of horrors witnessed by them in a war that killed millions of people, found kinship in riding military motorcycle relics as a way of leaving behind nightmares and seeking new adventures on the highways and byways of a newly expanding America, but with not as near the risk as what they had just come through in the ravages of war.
In 1947 a group of these men who were members of the American Motorcycle Association gathered on a 4th of July weekend on their motorcycles in Hollister, California for some fun and carousing, only to be vilified in the news media for creating a reported riot and chaos in the streets of the peaceful little town. The movie the Wild One tried to memorialize those events. Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin starred in the 1953 movie. Facts show that most of what was alleged to have happened there in that little town on that summer weekend was pure fiction. But the movie, even banned in England, became the symbol of the new breed of rebel, the biker. Henceforth, the connection between the motorcycle and the badass became synonymous.
The Easy Rider movie of the late 1960's became the iconic counter-culture image of the clash between the burgeoning cultural revolution which espoused an anti-establishment individual freedom mantra, exemplified by two free-wheeling hippie bikers, from the establishment and the insurmountable firewall of the ultra-patriotic traditionally conservative America. It does not end well for the carefree bikers.
But what the movie does accurately reflect is the model of the new generation of rebel bikers, made up of war-scarred Vietnam Veterans, who had been castigated by anti-war movements within their own homeland, driving many of those veterans to seek those again of like-mind while saddled on an iron horse, a continuing symbol of rebellion.
The Wild Hogs movie of a few years ago, albeit intentionally comedic, is also an allegorical representation of "modern man." In this movie men are represented as sensitive sorts, much feminized compared to the men of the eras of the prior two movies. The men in Wild Hogs share their feelings, cry, and act childish. And while the men in the Wild One and Easy Rider lived to ride as an expression of freedom and rebellion, the new generation of bikers, while still craving the feel for freedom, have been so feminized that they no longer act upon their dreams, succumbing instead to the mundanity of the modern life. Daring to slap a penned bull on the rear end has become the symbol of bravado for modern man who has become politically correct and benign, sensitive, and emasculated. Of course, with the "evolution of man" the rules for manhood have become quite ambiguous, and men struggle to find their identity amidst the mixed messages of our times.
Fortunately, for a few brave that remain (and the new crop of war-hardened soldiers returning home) the desire for Freedom and brotherhood still remain the themes that connect this new generation to past generations of bikers, but the movies reflect a changing time. I wonder what the next generation of bikers will be like.