In the home stretch


DON’T TELL THE BRIDE I wash motorcycle parts in the kitchen sink when she’s not around. She’s working in Boston all week, left me to my own devices. And dig it, the nose lights are going back on the iron piggy, so you can tell I’m in the home stretch. Before you know it we’ll be collecting bugs and rumbling over state lines and acquiring a whole new generation of wear & tear. I’m just about done fixing things, very eager to start wearing them out again.


Dunno about publishing this first pic, there could be costly repercussions. About a dozen years ago the bride caught me using the oven to heat-cure a paint job on the exhaust headers for my truck. Doesn’t hurt anything. It’s not like the paint gives off plutonium particles that end up in your next blueberry pie. But she gave me the look.

A few mornings later I’m shuffling around trying to lift a coffee mug to my mug and a Sears truck pulls up, two bruisers carry a new kitchen range into the house.

Let’s run a few numbers here… figure this, add that, multiply tax, carry the 1…  hmm, cost me $1,700 to paint my truck headers.

This is why in my next life I’m going to have a garage. And the same bride, I hope, despite the Sears thing. But my garage will have an oven in it. And a sink.

Oh, almost forget, a dishwasher. <duck>


There she is, fresh engine and transmission, new brakes all around, new lines & cables, new tires, new final drive belt, new sprockets… Not much left to do, really.


I need to get around this side now and reassemble the primary case. New stator and rotor went in this morning. There was nothing wrong with the old ones but at 70,000 miles they don’t owe me anything. Those are tough parts to dig out on the side of the road somewhere, should they fail. Who carries an inch-and-a-half socket and a breaker bar? Makes sense to go with new electricity now, when it’s easy.


Mike Connelly lent me his shop last Saturday, so I had access to a hydraulic press and a solvent sink. Threw many a gizmo in the bride’s car and had a fun day putzing around in the grime.

When Daughters #1, #2 and #3 were living at home we had a fleet of  Saabs in the driveway. We were able to afford them because of Mike’s friendship. I had after-hours lift privileges and an at-cost parts deal at Conntech, Mike’s Saab garage in Warwick, RI.

Had access to plenty of second-hand wheels and a tire changer, which was handy. At every other oil change it was common to find a bent wheel.

What did you hit, D1? (or D2, D3)

Nothing? Wow, Uri Geller must be bending our wheels!


Went down the checklist, made sure I had all essential shop supplies.


Back home now, reassembling the gearset after pressing new bearings in the side door.


Done. Just follow along in the service manual, it’s not rocket science. Unless we go to Mars on Harleys at some point.


Gearset goes back in the case from the side.


Shifter next. It’s a good idea to mic the forks at the surfaces that move the three sliding gears around in the box (mainshaft 1st, mainshaft 2nd, countershaft 3rd). The book says to trash the forks at 0.165. These mic at 0.181, plenty of miles left.


Shifter bits go back in the case through the top. This cam assembly is why the tranny doesn’t grind gears, even though it has no synchronizers on the gearset.


Ha! Some dumbass stuck the gearset back in the case without looping the drive belt around the mainshaft. Oh well, these things happen. The trick is not to compound the dumbassed-ness by sticking a bar in the belt, giving it a twist and a yank and setting up a $250 belt for premature failure out in the middle of nowhere. Get coffee instead. Then come back and do the right thing.


Jack the piggy up, pull the rear wheel…


… swing the back of the belt to the right, loop the front around the mainshaft, done, put the wheel back on.


New transmission sprocket goes on next.


I installed a new shifter pawl in the transmission case. Here’s the new shifter going onto the shaft on the outboard side. I replaced both parts because the old setup kept vibrating loose and the splines were kindly chewed up. You can’t get to this once the inner primary case is on the bike, except to sneak a socket down over the top and retighten the bolt. Which vibrates loose again… common problem. If you’re into motorcycles that rumble instead of purr, this is one of the things you bargain for.

To my eye, the shifter sits a little proud of the shaft. It needs to slide on another 1/16th to properly line up the bolt that’s supposed to lock it to the shaft. There’s a little retaining ring on the inboard side that prevents the shifter from sliding on quite enough.


My impromptu solution (we’ll see if it works) was to dremel out some metal on the inboard side of the shifter so it could slide on a bit more. The idea was to house the snap ring inside the shifter instead of  butting up against it.


There’s a clear shot down through the bolt hole now.


The new shifter bolt came with teflon-coated threads. I wire-brushed the teflon off. Yeah, baby, that’s red, high-strength thread locker!

A lot of it.


Torque spec is 18 to 22 foot pounds. Here I am giving it 25. If this ever comes loose again I’m welding it on.


Next, take the clutch basket apart, nine friction disks, eight steel, inspect for damage, measure the wear.


Nothing cracked or blued or warped. The friction plates are good down to 0.143. Mine mic’d at 0.149.

I had the clutch apart three years ago, in El Cajon, CA, after the bike got hot sitting at a Border Patrol checkpoint and the clutch stuck in the disengaged position. This was on a four-corners ride, 12,500 miles around the U.S. The disks mic’d then at 0.151, I think, so I’m down just 0.002 in the intervening 30,000 miles.

I’m not hard on clutches. They’re a long-wearing part if you’re not showing off doing burnouts.


The only thing I’ll replace in here is the diaphragm spring. It’s got a pretty good gouge all the way around after hundreds of thousands of clutch pulls. A million? Who knows? I don’t think the gouge is deep enough to break off one of those bits, but it only costs $30 to retire the spring. Makes sense, preventative maintenance.

Same deal with the starter. It worked fine but I got my miles out of it. Took it down to John at New England Starter-Alternator, in Coventry, RI, had him rebuild it. Cheap insurance, $80. It might save me having to push-start the piggy for a week to get home.


Just for yuks, I peeled open the oil filter that was on the bike when I toasted the motor in Spokane last summer, the thing that led to this total rebuild in the first place.


I was curious about how much metal I’d find trapped in the paper element.


Sorry to keep hitting you with arcane engineering terms, but it was a smidge more than a bunch, or, metrically speaking, a dab shy of a shitload.


Here’s some I picked off the filter paper with a magnet. It’s steel, off the forward cam shaft and its inboard bearing. But that’s the past, Moe. I’m looking forward to firing up this fresh motor and getting back out there in the wind. (Though, at the moment, it’s snowing heavy outside my writing window.)

As always, I’ll go down the road thinking about my good fortune vis a vis many a friend who has a tougher life to live right now. Will definitely feel humbled and a little guilty about goofing around on a motorcycle.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my friend Pete Lord, one of the bureau chiefs I worked for at the Providence Journal back in the 1800’s. Not the late 1800’s, either, that seems way too recent. Must have been the early part of the century.

Pete’s one of the best newsmen I know. Smart, fair, funny, tough and pleasant at the same time, can’t be distracted or misled or duped. I never saw him spare anybody’s sacred cow. Never saw him treat anyone badly or say anything mean. Pete gets the facts and reports the news. A man of good character, admirable in every way.

We had a great time working together, lots of laughs. I called him “Woodrow.” He called me “Augustus.”

Pete had a seizure in the newsroom last spring, was diagnosed with a brain tumor, has been through surgery, radiation, every complication you can imagine, all chronicled by his daughter, Katie, at She has the heart and mind of a good writer, takes after Pete. Check it out.

I really like the photo of Pete and Katie in New York some years ago, with the Twin Towers standing tall in the background. That one’s three or four pages back in Katie’s blog, if you want to see it.

Please think a good thought about my friend, and his bride, Mary Ann, and their brood, Jimmy, Katie and Ben. And if you pray to something, do that, too.

Tony DePaul, February 29, 2012, Cranston, Rhode Island





About Tony

The occasional scribblings of Tony DePaul, 62, father, grandfather, husband, freelance writer in many forms, ex-journalist, long-distance motorcycle rider, motorcycle wrecker, motorcycle rebuilder, collector of surgical hardware, blue routes wanderer, outdoorsman, topo map bushwhacker, handy with a wrench, hammer, chainsaw, rifle, former photographer, printer, logger, truck driver, truck mechanic, jet fueler… blah blah...
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19 Responses to In the home stretch

  1. David Kroth says:

    Damn, Tony. You know how to get things done. And you take good pictures too!

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, David. I gave myself an easy deadline on this one, just so I look good. In a pinch I could have the bike running in two days but I’m still aiming for Cinco de Mayo, nine weeks out.

  2. Jessie says:

    Once again, I have to say, the way you write makes putting a motorcycle back together interesting even to me. I laughed out loud about the oven. I will read your book when you get around to publishing it. I will also send your friend my prayers.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, neighbor. Pam better get home from Boston before I eat all these Girl Scout cookies. Had a box of peanut butter cookies for dinner last night.

      • Tony says:

        Thanks, Vincent. Hey, I’ve been wondering how often you’re able to get home to Kenya to visit family, especially given the high-pressure dissertation phase of your studies here. Hope you’ve been able to get there and find all is well. Cheers!

  3. Jan says:

    Thinking about your pal and his family. I know how lucky he is to have you as a friend.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, Jan. Pete’s eldest, Jimmy, has been living out your way for some years now, Portland, OR. Seems like yesterday all our kids were little and playing on the beach together.

    • Mari Nelson says:

      Lucky indeed. Beautiful pictures…like sculpture. Holding Pete, Katie and theirs in my heart even though they aren’t mine to hold. Maybe every little bit helps.
      Ride on.

  4. Tony says:

    Yep, paint never entered the picture. Didn’t even fix the dent in the front fender, just put a bullet-hole sticker over it. A conversation-starter, we’ll call it. How goes the work on the Guzzi, D?

  5. Tony says:

    We’ll all hoping for Woodrow to pull off the miracle that Duano did. Thanks for the good word, Donn.

  6. Ralph Medici says:

    Tony, Thanks for the email. Looks like your are reading the Projo while working on your bike! Keep riding, My Man! I miss you around here.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, Ralph. That’s true, I get most of my reading done at my workbench. Workboard, actually. When I’m finished with the bike I’ll have to saw up the board and make something out of it.

  7. Tim Schick says:

    Oven, sink, dishwasher. Hmm … when does the bride get a new refrigerator?

    • Tony says:

      Hey! Your name has been spoken around here of late, Tim. It was great fun to see your daughter on American Idol. Not that I watch the show, but Pam called me over to watch that part. Cheers!

  8. Steve Billings says:

    The piggy looks good with all that lipstick. The bride’s gonna be jealous.

    Looks like you will be back on the road this spring, unless you decide to shrink wrap it and just gaze fondly on your fine work. Ha!

  9. Tony says:

    Haha! Will do, Matt.

  10. Tarquino F. Flores says:

    Bikes & Beer……what a beautiful set of photos you shared here! 😀

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