Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pre-Cannonball Mechanical Adventures

  I must say, I'm quite glad that I have a complete, running machine with some time to spare before the Cannonball. During the Pre-1916 Cannonball, I know there were a couple of folks who hadn't gotten test miles on their bikes except riding from the trailer to the starting line, while still some were literally finishing their builds in the Kitty Hawk, North Carolina hotel parking lot. Adventurous, yes....but not my style. With a little more than 70 days left until the start of the run, I'm quite fortunate in having a bike that is Cannonball-ready. These days are giving me plenty of time to prepare and get in test miles. And believe you me, I'm glad the bugs are being worked out now. I meant to post this before my trip a few weeks back, since both of these incidents happened in the last week of May.

This would be the time for a few choice words...
  After putting almost 200 miles on the odometer with almost no issues, Murphy's Law dictated that it was time for the first one to pop up. On May 22, I went to fire up the bike to bring it to operating temperature so that I could drain the crankcase oil. Fuel on, drip feed set, magneto lever partially advanced, carburetor primed...Primer kick, primer ki------SNAP! An "Oh sh*t" moment if I ever heard one. My kickstart lever decided to snap right below the rubber. Well, what now? After a few choice words, I picked up the phone and gave my fellow BSA Cannonballer Jim Crain a call to see if he might have a spare lever. With no luck, it was down to pulling the old lever and re-welding it. I should probably mention that my shop has no air conditioning, and Texas is known for its oven-baking heat. So, I held off on removing it until the next morning when it was still cool outside.

  Once I finally wrangled the thing off, I examined the cause for failure. I knew that I wasn't at fault, since it was only a primer kick and the bike has a very low compression. It turned out that a combination of age and a poorly done weld on a previous break were the cause. Not being very proficient with welding, I took the kickstart lever up to a local shop that is very reliable. Very shortly after, I received it back and ground the weld smooth. I also went ahead and polished the piece up, since it's always easier to polish a part when removed from the motorcycle. And, as always, putting the piece back on is always many times more aggravating. Putting the kickstart lever back on was no exception to this rule- The return coil spring is actually operated by a simple tab that sticks out of the lever (my original intention was to use a kickstart lever from a 40's or 50's British bike, since they're easier to come by), and it decided that it would come unwound and pop out of the coil cover. Add another 30 minutes to the job, and the newly repaired kickstarter was installed.

A poorly done weld that had aged was the culprit

Ground down, sanded, and polished
Fellow Cannonballer Doug Wothke
said it best: BSA= Bring Some Air
  Smooth sailing from now on! Until May 31st, when I had the first flat tire. Luckily it was a mere 1,000 feet away from the shop where a new tube, tools, and a cold beer awaited. One of the features that I like about this bike is the foldable front stand to make tire changes extra easy. So easy, in fact, that I barely even sweated (okay, well maybe I did in the 100 degree heat). Turns out that the valve for the tube ripped right out. I sense a bunch of new tubes in the future..... Easy fix, and the front wheel was soon right back on. Also took the opportunity to adjust my front brake, change the oil over to 20-50 weight (the Texas head makes these machines very thirsty beasts), and change out all of the grease zerks to modern 1/4 inch fittings. I'm glad I changed out the fittings, because I've had a lot of trouble trying to find an adapter to fit the originals, and the bike took a decent amount of grease.
Isn't that front stand nifty?

All in all, these are small bugs that are to be expected with an 85 year old motorcycle. Nothing major, and nothing that can't be fixed. One thing I noticed is the smile that seems to have welded itself to my face, even with the ups and downs.

 In addition to doing normal maintenance and working out the bugs, my team and I are also working on improving the comfort and functionality of the BSA. One way we're doing this is by changing the seat to something more comfortable. The original seat on the bike has about 1/4 inch of original horsehair padding, with springs. Basically, it boils down to a comfort level of zero. So, while sitting around cogitating on it, we pulled out a brown leather seat that appears to be for a custom bobber or chopper. The seat is a new piece with a decent amount of padding, and heavy duty springs. I was worried about the condition of the original seat springs, as the metal looked very brittle.

Actually not too bad of a look. I kind of like the brown
 against the black and green
  Oh, by the way, our friends Ken Ashton and Phil Haywood from Vintage and Veteran, LLP sent me this picture a few days back. All of the high visibility vests for the three teams have arrived. Riders will receive two of them, as our machines will undoubtedly dirty them up. Every member of the support crews will receive one. A cool, and safety-conscious addition to our apparel.


Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer # 3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

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