The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

There’s a constant thread of discussion on the V-Strom forums about whether or not the skid plate (or “Bash Plate,”) is a required piece of kit for the bike.  Well it’s certainly not for all, especially those guys who only stick to the pavement but for me, I think the picture speaks for itself.  Those bits on the bottom corner that look like mud streaks are actually grind marks.  I also had to realign my foot pegs, I guess that close encounter with that washout back in the Spring moved them back on the right hand side.

Of course I discovered all of this today as I was changing my oil.  You’ve got to remove the skid plate to get to the drain plug, it’s a bit of a pain but a small price to pay for piece of mind.

As you can see it protects my Oil Cooler, Oil Filter and the front of my Exhaust.  Half the shit I bounce off of would clean those items right off of the bottom of the bike.  So me, I’m glad it’s there.

Of course I didn’t set out to change my oil today I was out to repair my heated grips.  Somewhere along the last couple of thousand miles I broke a wire and it turns out I’ve been running the current for the heated grips through the two wiring taps that go to my voltage meter.  This explains two things.  The first, why if I was having trouble with my grips, I could flick on my voltage meter and everything settled down and two, why my voltage meter isn’t working any more.  So the order of the day was a quick trip to Princess Auto.  I needed some new welding gloves anyway and they’re cheap there.  Of course, you’ve got to walk through the store, just in case you see something else you might need.  A new welding lens, crimping tool, and heat shrinkable butt splice connectors later I left with the wallet a little lighter.

You can see the trouble making wires in the bottom right of the above picture.  Part of fixing an electrical problem is figuring out what you did before to make the problem you have now.  It took a bit to unravel the taped up connections and then a little bit more to cut the wire and add the butt splice units.  I like the heat shrinkable type because they support the joint well and keep out moisture.  Best of all, when I was done, the grips were back up and working, which was the game plan.

Done and dusted.

Then the wife left to go for coffee with a friend.  What would I do with myself?  And that’s why I changed the oil.  It needed doing and I had free time to do it and well hell, the tools were already out.

Which brings us to wrenching your own machine.

A motorcycle is a machine which needs a certain attention to detail and a basic if not advanced (at times) mechanical aptitude.  The general rule of thumb is shit will go wrong when you are least equipped or in a place to do about it.  When you read ride reports from fellow inmates going to ridiculous places on their two wheeled mounts, they break down into distinct sections, the roads traveled, the people met, how shitty / not shitty the cops / border crossings are and what broke on their bike and what they had to do to fix it.  One of my favorite guys to read about in this regard is Doug Woske (otherwise known as Round The World Doug) he is a true bike whisperer and some of his mechanical fixes done in literally the back of beyond are legendary and awe inspiring.

Anyway, back on track…

There are certain things you should do yourself or it gets expensive.  Oil changes are important, especially if you’re running an air cooled bike.  When I had my XT600, I changed my oil and filter every three thousand kilometers. Which might have seemed excessive but I had that bike for twelve years and the motor never gave me a lick of trouble.  My V-Strom gets new oil every 5K and a new oil filter every 10K.  If you have a shop do this, it’s going to run you the cost of the oil plus labour, about $120.  Do it yourself and it’s 20 minutes out of your day, an $11 Oil Filter and about $15 to $20 worth of oil.  Same goes for the air filter.  check it and clean it every 15K and you’re good to go.  The Strom’s is behind a bit of body work and a pain to get to but it’s worth it.  Chain tension is also important.  It takes a second to check and about five minutes to adjust.  You just take your time and everything will be fine.

There are some things I don’t do.  I’ve never been comfortable with forks.  The shop I take my bike to are primarily a dirt bike shop.  Dirt guys work on forks all the time.  They’re putting a lot more stress on theirs than most road guys and they can change out the fork oil and seal with their eyes closed.  Any engine work I also leave to the mechanics.  I’ve worked on bike engines in the past and the end results have not been what I’d call successful.

In the end it does come down to comfort level but unlike a car, a bike requires a constant level of care and attention to detail, especially if you’re going to ask things of it above and beyond the original manufacturer’s spec.  As my bash plate will attest to.

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