Last year my motorcycle “Alaska” turned into quite the ordeal and was reason enough for me to dread ever taking a bike onto a ferry, let alone the wilds of British Columbia again. As a kickstart-only dual sport with a blown CDI box there was not much I could do to remedy the situation during the roadtrip up Vancouver Island. As a result, I decided to swallow my pride and purchase an electric-start motorcycle. There is no shame in doing so, but it does feel sort of cool to kick-over your bike (when it works!).
My husband Scott loves his Honda 1994 XR650L, and when we saw one on Craigslist for a great price, reasonable mileage and decent condition, we checked it out. Turns out the bike is pretty much a twin to Scott’s bike (just a slightly different colour scheme and larger tank), and is also 1994 with a little carrier rack. This would mean that every tool, every spare part, and every mechanical skill-set acquired would be relevant for both bikes! I went for it.
There was some work to be done to get it ready. First off, since it was originally purchased in California it had a huge ugly anti-smog device weighing it down, so we ordered the removal kit with the block-off plate, watched a Youtube video and did the procedure. It needed a slight idle adjustment, and now is running smoother (and lighter) without the bulky component. Plus, I think there is less back-fire and more power.
Then, we pulled off the hunk of hideous plastic which was the rear brake light, and replaced it with a more discrete universal tail-light. That process was a tad irritating since the three wires that were exposed did not match the new unit. It took some trouble-shooting and Google-searching before we found the right connections, and then all was well. Our buddy, Aaron with some power tools also drilled out some holes on my license plate to secure it.
Minor upgrades were swapping out the chewed-up handle-grips with vibrant purple ones! Pulling off the ugly plastic hand-guards and replacing them with some simple metal bark-busters. Replacing the brake / clutch levers since the original ones were angled out for larger “man hands,” and I could hardly reach them. Plus, we obviously did an oil change and oil filter change, since it appeared that the previous owner had simply been topping it off and never actually cleaned it all out. Forgive me environment! It was a thick black sludge that oozed out of the bike. We also changed the brake fluid for both our bikes, and spark plugs.
The most funny / infuriating part should have been the simplest! So, we had removed the side panels to replace the air filter and at the end of our repair session the panels simply had to be popped back on and bolted in place. The left side panel was a breeze… everything lined up and the three locker bolts easily secured the panel. But the right side panel was ridiculous! It has two plastic nubs that popped into place, and then a screw to secure everything. But no matter how I twisted and tried to manipulate or contort the side cover, the screw refused to line-up with the metal plate jutting out from the bike!
My mind was exhausted and baffled, and I had to leave the side panel for the night. It almost ruined my weekend. The next day, I double-checked with Scott that the screw actually had come out of the side panel, and we couldn’t quite remember. It seemed possible that it was actually a spare bolt from the seat. I then cross-referenced with Scott’s bike and it turned out that the metal plate was at a perfect 90 degree angle from his bike, while my plate (probably as a result of being dumped) was bent up and out of place by an inch!
Yay! This meant that I wasn’t crazy after all. I used a metal bar and essentially pushed and bent the plate back to 90 degrees and everything lined up like magic. It was a good reminder on not allowing the small things in motorcycle maintenance to eat me up, or anything at all. It’s not worth it. Overall, Scott and I were pleased with our accomplishments and the bike is running sweet. We even spray-painted my scratched up side-panels a nice hunter green, to accentuate my purple handle-grips. Ha!
All that’s left is putting on my new rugged tires, but I think I’ll leave that for a professional, such as Rising Sun Motorcycles. I have a feeling that replacing tires would utterly destroy my “zen” in this art of motorcycle maintenance. Bicycle tires are troublesome enough.
I like to name my motorcycles, and this one happens to be “Louie.” While his name is spelled differently, it is a kind of ode to the author Louis L’Amour, which is probably one of the most beloved Western writers among my aging library patrons! My bike will be a trusted stead, taking me on wild west adventures. As well, my brother would sometimes call me Louie as a nickname, since my middle name is Louise. Other than that, the bike just seems pretty laidback and good times – ideal for riding up to Haida Gwaii in August! I’ll probably motor along singing the song in my head, bungling up the lyrics, “Louie, Louie, oh baby, a wig a go, okay let’s give it to them!”