Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Simson - East German Technology


About a year ago, a friend from high school contacted me. Willy was a foreign exchange student in high school in the little town of Lyle where i grew up. He lived a few houses down and we hung out quite a bit during his year abroad. Willy asked if we would host his daughter Lia for an exchange and of course we said yes. She was a joy to have and when her year was done, Willy asked that we call come to Germany for a few weeks as their guests. 

That was an opportunity we couldn't pass up. 

One night while sitting and having a beer, Willy asked if I would help with getting his scooter running.  We took a look at it and I managed to diagnose the problem. The main sprocket had fallen off and so power wasn't getting to the back wheel. Willy and I found some spare parts and slapped it back together. As the sun was setting, we got the bike running up and down the hills and roads around his home. 

I probably scared the neighbors, laughing like a mad man while riding on the back with Willy driving us down the road. 

The scooter was an East German Simson that Willy had picked up when he and his family first moved back to Germany after living in the US for several years. 

Simson was founded by a Jewsish family in Germany at the turn of the century. It was seized by the Nazis during World War II and change names and directorship for a few years. In East Germany under communist rule, it made cheap transportation including this KR 51/2 Schwalbe, which actually had quite a bit of style. 

After reunification, Schwalbes are cheap to come by and due to their utilitarian nature, rough and ready and a lot of fun. 

Willy planned to use the scooter to commute to work in Sankt Blasien, but after just a year they moved a little further away and he started a much longer commute into Switzerland -- too long for a ride on a two-stroke scooter. 

So the scooter sat for several years until he and his boys started fixing it up. That had it running for a few days, and then it broke down. He was afraid that the transmission had gone out. I was proud that I'd diagnosed the problem and even got it running. 

We let the girls take rides on it around the property, it still needs sorting before it is ready for the road, but already Lia was asking if she could ride it to school. 

Willy showing Grace how to work the clutch. 


Lia was already asking if she could ride it to school. 


Monday, September 25, 2017

Saying Goodbye to Felix

After a year of riding Felix, I sold him to a nice gal who is just getting back into street bikes. The bike sold for the asking price a week after I posted it. Amazing and I'm glad he is going to someone who is excited to ride.

There was nothing wrong with this bike, but it just didn't fit my riding style. It was comfortable for the 45 minute rides to work, but the long wheelbase was a pain - taking up a lot of my garage and was not something Amy could move into the basement if I was away and the water started riding.  It had a wide turning radius too, and so turning into the driveway or reversing directions was a pain on the two lane roads.







Finally, the brakes were not great. It had a drum brake in the back -- braking was smooth for emergency stops, but stops were relatively long and the back would lock up.

I had rebuilt the carb and fiddled with the lollipop turn signals, replacing them with some cool aftermarket fogs that served as foglights and turn signals. Very bright. I added a few farkles, but not much. It was such a new bike, I couldn't bring myself to mess with it much. I had the idea of selling in the back of my head from the day I brought it home.

It was pretty, and I have lots of pictures I've taken of it on my rides. A very photogenic bike, but I don't ride motorcycles to impress anyone or to look good. I've never been a chrome guy, and a year of commuting to the beach had the salt air already threatening the steel and chrome of the bike.

Felix was a survivor and deserved to stay pretty and with someone who loves him and wants to keep his chrome shiny. That's not my thing. So while I was glad to have him for a while, I was glad to see him go to a good home.



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Meet Felix

I've been riding the Piaggio all summer and having a lot of fun over the past two years. It's a fantastic commuter-scooter. It is super-stable, safe and has great storage and gets great gas milage.

It is not, however, very motorcycle-ly. I found myself longing for something that had a bit more soul.

My daughter, Lindsay, also didn't want anything to do with the scooter -- and she LIKES scooters, but mine was just not cool. One of her teachers bought a Honda Shadow. "You should get a bike like that dad, it's cool."

There is a special kind of peer pressure that comes from daughters and it has a power over their dads.

I loved my Vstar 650 Classic. It was a great bike. I rescued it from rusting away in Yelm, stripped it to its frame and restored it to glory. It was a small bike, but felt like a big bike going down the road. With its air - cooled v-twin, it was also as motorcycle-ly as a motorcycle could be.


I put the Piaggio up for sale, and started looking at what was out there in my price range. The Vstars are plentiful and a newer one can be had for not much more than an older one. I knew how to work on them. I knew they had a great support community and I even had some parts from my last bike laying around.

Then I noticed an ad for one up north - the owner said it had less than 100 miles on it, and he specifically wanted to trade for a Piaggio MP3.

What are the odds that someone has the exact bike you are looking for and just happens to want to trade for the exact bike you have -- that never happens.

Felix means luck.

So after working all night I picked up a U-haul trailer, loaded up the Piaggio and headed to Puyallup where a retired Boeing engineer had a 2008 Vstar with 99.7 miles on the ODO.



He explained that he'd bought the bike brand new in 2008 after trading in his Goldwing. The long and heavy cruiser, however, was too hard to manage to get out of his garage--which was stuffed with other bikes and cars -- including a perfectly restored 1968 CT90.

He had ridden it a few times, maintained it with a battery tender and running the engine every now and then, but otherwise, it just sat in the heated garage. It looked brand new.

In fact, it looks so new, it is kind of a puzzle. I'm not used to buying something shiny and kitted out with every bell and whistle.  It is the Silverado model - which came with floorboards, matching bags and studded seats. It is what the Harley guys call a "Garbage Wagon" - a stock bike loaded down with the entire accessories catalog.

It has floorboards -- which will take me a little time to get used to, but so far feel pretty comfortable. They allow me to move my feet around a little and to change position. I'm not a fan of the studded seat and all that chrome -- not really my style.

That said, it is interesting riding a bike that is brand new. I've never had that. The Piaggio was pretty new, but already had 3,000 miles and a few scuffs in the plastic.  This bike is shiny and looks like it rolled off the showroom floor. Heck, I need to read up on break in period -- I don't think I've ever owned a vehicle with these few miles on it -- even my new car purchases had more than 100 miles of test drive and delivery drives on the odo.

Felix is immaculate - but is still going to need some work.

Of course, I couldn't wait to get it out for a ride. Sure it was raining a fine mist and they are halfway through chip sealing the road next to my house.  Sure the bike still has the factory oil in it from 8 years ago.

There was no way I wasn't going to get on the bike and put it up over 100 miles -- so I took it out this morning and let it warm up a looooooong time with the choke. It's pretty cold blooded and wants to stall as soon as the choke is off. My guess is the previous owner let the gas sit in the bike. He swapped out some old gas right before I arrived, but I'll still need to clean the fuel lines before it runs right.

Out on the road it handles like I remember -- it is a heavy bike the parking lot, but stable once underway. I did a little parking lot practice -- nursing the clutch and trying not to stall it. On the way back I decided to open it up a bit more - CLUNK as it went into 5th gear -- still motored fine, then I realized -- this bike has probably NEVER even seen 5th gear in its entire life.

I've got to get some new oil in it and change the filter before I ride it much more. Seafoam to clean those carbs a little. The AIS has to come off too -- this bike just runs so much better without its emissions system which is supposed to reburn gases. The clutch is a known problem with these bikes -- my guess is the clutch on El Burro had been modified before I bought it since it was never a problem. In any case, I have some projects ahead of me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Getting It Running

Got a chance to go over the new motorcycle yesterday. The one downside with this motorcycle is the notoriously awful TK Carb. I had one on the TTR-125 and it just never worked -- but I never did switch it out. The girls had gotten into horses by that time.

The trouble with the TK is that it is cold blooded and takes forever to warm up. That was a leg breaker on a bike without electric start. A battery killer on one with.

I thought I'd try to clean and start the stock carb on the TW200 -- but when I looked, the float bowl drain screw was completely stripped. Not a good sign.

Instead I came inside and ebay'd a new BW200 carb from China. New throttle too since the TW uses a side mount push-pull system. Should be here by the end of the week. Goody! More toys in the mail.

Meanwhile, the old battery is toast. I have a gel battery laying around that will do the trick, but it is smaller. Still seems to charge up and crank the TW no problem. I think it is the old battery out of my VSTAR but I'm not sure.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Babe the Blue Ox



Well the CT is in parts in the basement. When I did ride it around out in the fields, it was pretty rough. Clearly this is a supercub made for rough gravel roads and not for riding off road out in the fields. I got bounced all over and at times had trouble keeping it under control.

Upgrading the suspension will help, I'm sure, but in the mean time Grace has been wanting to ride and I've been wanting something a little more old-bones friendly to ride with her out in the fields. The horses are nice, but they are high-maintenance. I wanted something I could push a button, put on my gear and go on a sunny afternoon before heading to work.

I've always wanted a TW200 - the ultimate trail motorcycle.

I finally found one that fit my budget.

Babe is a 1992 TW200 that sat in a Forest Service cabin most of its life. I bought it from a guy in Seattle that had it up on Craigs for a great price. Being a Forest Service bike, it had never been registered with DMV (so that's one cost I won't have to pay until I want to put it on the road.)

I headed up to Seattle in a wind and rain storm and arrived after dark. He had a garage full of TW200s. He told me he used to fix them for the Forest Service and gets them surplus. Sometimes they get a lot of use from the rangers, and sometimes they just sit.

Mine did not look like it had much use. The plastics are all in good shape and the pain looks like it has never been outside. Must have been a dry environment too -- no rust that I can find!

The downside is that it comes from the factory with the same crappy stock carb as the TTR-125. Since the seller was a TW expert I picked his brain for a few suggestions. His advice was to Seafoam the fuel system and then buy a $30 carb and swap it out when it arrives. He showed me his daily rider -- a well farkled TW -- and the cheap dualsport carb on it. "Starts faster, warms up faster, runs smoother."

I've got the plastics off now and am hoping to have it running around the fields by the end of the week.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Cee Baileys Windscreen and Maintanence on Piaggio MP3


Chiron with the new Cee Bailey windscreen. 
The Piaggio MP3 has been running great and getting me good gas mileage. With summer here, I've been driving it back and forth to work every day. It is very relaxing to hop on after a long night of work. Motorcycle therapy is good for the soul.

I put a new Cee Baileys windshield on and love it. It is a custom job in light green to take up the glare of sunshine on wet roads. Works -- and looks -- very nice.

When the spring rains were still constant, I had the big bug shield on -- which was okay for cold weather. I hate looking through a windshield rather than over it, but I'll put up with it if it means I can ride dry 4 seasons.

That said, I think I'll ride with the Cee Baileys as long as I can. It is very comfortable and sheds light rain over my shoulders. It forms a great cushion of air around me that makes the ride very easy while still cool on a warm day.  I'm very happy with it and the price was very reasonable even with the custom color.

Already I've added 3,000 miles to this bike commuting to work and hopping on it for rides whenever I can. It is amazing I've ridden that much since December, but it really is a great all weather bike.

I've changed the oil, but now it is time to do the 6,000 mile service. Too far from the nearest Vespa dealer, I'm on my own. Actually, I have the help of the Modern Vespa community which is very friendly and helpful with great how to videos  and pdf files on everything you need. I set my laptop up next to the scooter and began removing layers of plastic.

Under all the covers, the CVT is pretty simple. 
The job itself is straightforward, but I'm always very nervous when tearing apart a perfectly fine running motorcycle.

It pays to have a breaker bar and good torque wrench. What it didn't know was that I'd need an 8 mm socket to remove 7 cover bolts. All I had was an 8 mm open end wrench so that was tedious. Seating the new belt was also tricky -- the video has you pound in a dowel to make space for the belt to go down - that spooked me but worked fine.

 I got it all back together and gave it some throttle while it was still on the stand to see if the belt change was a success. The engine cut out -- panic loomed. I tried it again, then noticed that the dang parking break was on. (facepalm). So I went for a little ride and everything seems to be okay.

Still need to do the other stuff on the list, but it now has a new belt and Dr Pulley sliders which seem to smooth out the acceleration. I start my commute back to work tonight. Wish me luck!

Modern Vespa Wiki - MP3
Cee Bailey Windscreens