Friday, January 27, 2012

#90 (August 2009)

Once again, mechanical problems conspired to keep me from riding the entire Long Road route (well, it wasn’t called that when we did it last year, but you get the point). This time it was my beloved Shovelhead that caused me the problem.
This year I was ready, Fab Kevin had installed a set of auxiliary mid-pegs for me so I would have numerous combinations of foot position available. If you’ve ever done one of these long rides, you know that it can really help to rest your feet in a different spot every now and then. I had fresh oil and filter, a nicely tensioned drive chain, air in the tires. I was ready, dammit!
This bike has been a one-kick wonder for almost three years now. People would look on in amazement as it fired up time after time with no battery on board and rock-solid reliability. Well, this time it was going to be a little different. For one, it was becoming a three or four kicker to get going in the mornings. This was unheard of, so when we got to Santa Rosa, New Mexico, I popped the mag cap off to see if there was any contamination of the points. There was a nasty black substance all over in there, not exactly sure where it came from, but it certainly was interfering with the operation of the mag. Steve Broyles gave me a hand checking it all out and soon it was squeaky clean and ready to go. The next morning it fired up first kick as George the Painter began his long start sequence that usually ended up in pushing the bike down the nearest hill. I think it would start a lot easier if he wasn’t 85 pounds soaking wet! I knew this was going to be a fun part of the ride as I could see my breath as I was donning the rainsuit. We hit the road and within five minutes I had a really good Ice Cream headache going. Hey, this is New Mexico for God’s sake, what’s with this weather? The rain came and went several times in the next couple of hundred miles. It looked like it was finally drying out when the bike just died. I was in the ‘fast’ lane trying to catch the leaders of our little group, Stogie was the official keeper of the speed, since he had the speedo (meter) and the engine just stopped co-operating in midstream. I looked down and saw the magneto was suddenly at about 90º to the bike instead of its usual ‘straight ahead’ position. I moved the mag back to the forward position with my right foot and the Shovel jumped back into life. I pulled over toward the shoulder and the bike died again as I used my right foot to hit the brake. After I had rolled to a stop, I dismounted and check out the mag. I was hoping the lock-down wedge had somehow become loosened… no such luck. It was tight and I could physically rock the mag diagonally. This was bad. After a seemingly long while, Kevin came back to look for me and the prognosis was equally grim. I reluctantly loaded the Shovel into the Horse trailer and we determined that the best course would be to get parts shipped to our next stop. The next stop was Nashville because we were blowing by the Arkansas stop in order to have a ‘day off’ while the rest of the LongRiders were catching up. A quick disassembly revealed the broken piece, the housing that the wedge piece actually locks in was the culprit, and so a replacement was overnighted to our hotel. The next day the parts arrived and we set about replacing the lower part of the mag drive. Steve got the parts together very quickly and in no time had the assembly together and in the bike and timed! Time to kick.. and kick.. and kick.. nothing. Steve popped the top off the mag and saw the rotor wasn’t turning... uh oh. We pulled it all down and discovered a sheared locating pin in the worm gear screwed to the cam. The part appeared to be a square keyway in a two piece worm drive, we didn’t have the tools to pull it apart, but luckily Panhead Phil of Music City Motorcycle was there to lend us a hand and the use of his machine shop. We went back and forth to the shop and the bike several times during the course of the day, we sheared two or three square pins before we got it right and the bike ran for the rest of the ride and at Rockingham. It turns out that the square pin isn’t even a Joe Hunt part, no wonder they were confused when we told them what was happening! They use a roll pin and the worm drive is welded together, so somewhere along the line a third party replaced that part. Kudos to Joe Hunt for getting me the parts I needed and getting me back on the road, good to know there’s people you can depend on out there!

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