Sunday, May 30, 2010

No More Pulse-Air System

Since I still not supposed to ride yet, I spent the afternoon working on the bike. Pulled off the air box again to remove the Pulse-Air system. This system sends fresh air into the exhaust port right next to the exhaust valves and is apparently one of the culprits causing my valve recession problem. It is fairly straightforward to remove and the steel fittings threaded into the aluminum head came right out. Last winter, I tried removing the fittings and they wouldn't budge. This time, they were barely snug. Why the difference? Anyway, I need to try and find some 5/32" rubber caps to plug the vacuum ports on the carbs and on the air box and some rubber caps to plug some rather large holes in the air box where the plumbing fitted into. I also need to try and find some metric plugs to thread into the head next to the exhaust port. The overall look is much cleaner without all of the extra plumbing. I also took the opportunity to clean all the caked on grease and dirt from the transmission, air box, air hoses, etc. Basically, 60,000 miles of dirt and grime. It looks a much better. I'm also replacing all of the fuel lines, eliminating just about all of the vacuum lines (they are part of the Pulse-Air system), replacing a cracked stainless exhaust crossover, and while I have the time, The clutch cable. The fork gaiters will have to wait for this winter since that looks like a much more involved job. I will take the opportunity to rebuild the forks at that time. The BMW replacement parts are heavy rubber while the gaiters currently installed are thin plastic ones. Kind of like what you find on cheap aftermarket truck shock absorbers. I also still need to rebuild the fuel petcocks since I finally have the parts. Something for tomorrow. I've been asked why bother with an old bike such as this 1983 BMW R100RT but I really like the simplicity. No fancy electronics or complicated systems, no coolant hoses to leak but then again no advanced safety systems such as ABS.

When I drained the tank, I monitored the fuel flow to see if a vacuum would build up in the tank but it never did. I don't think the problem is the tank vent. Also, the vent line running from the tank to below the swing arm isn't plugged. The fuel flow was more than adequate for the entire three gallons left in the tank. I still don't have e carb parts yet so that is going to have to wait. Just for grins, I took off the ignition module and the thermal paste was reduced to yellowish-white dust. The paste ensures good heat transfer from the module to the aluminum heat sink to avoid overheating and eventual failure. I guess I have just been lucky that I haven't had any ignition problems related to heat. Tomorrow, I'll pick up some thermal paste from Radio Shack. I wonder what else I should check?

Sunday evening - I had a nice relaxing afternoon working on the bike. I found some expanding rubber plugs that fit the holes in the air box perfectly. Just tighten down an allen head screw and the center of the plug expands to prevent the plug from coming out. I found these at an industrial hardware store that was actually open. A Carquest auto parts store had the 5/32" rubber caps for plugging the now unused vacuum ports on the carbs, and the local Napa store had the M16-1.5 oil drain plugs that I used to plug the holes in the heads from removing the Air-Pulse system. I had to cut them down a bit but they now fit perfectly. I'll need to try and remember to torque them down when the heads are nice and hot. The engine now looks much cleaner without all of the extra plumbing. The exhaust crossover was kind of rusted in place and removing it required a vice and a hammer. The new crossover pipe was about two inches too long so I cut it down and re-cut the horizontal slots enabling the clamps to function. I then reassembled the intake system inluding a new air filter then put the exhaust system back on. Now it was time to rebuild both of the fuel petcocks. This basically amounts to taking them apart, cleaning them out, replacing all of the rubber parts inside and reassembling. About ten minutes each including carefully cleaning the screen inside the tank and trying to figure out how they came apart. I then adjusted the valves using my new color coded BMW thickness gauges (0.10 mm and 0.20 mm). These were missing from the tool kit and I noticed that the Beemershop carried them. The goal is to carry all of the tools I would need to do emergency repairs and periodic maintenance. All of the valves needed adjustment since I used SAE gauges the last time I adjusted them. Close but not quite the same. Both exhaust valves have not tightened so I'm still good. When the gap needs to be adjusted every time, that would be the sign to stop riding and pull the heads and send them off for rebuilding. I enjoy doing repairs but for rebuilding the heads, I'll let someone with more experience take care of it. I noticed that the vacuum line was almost cut in half from age and wear. This would have been a serious vacuum leak making the bike run very lean. A bit more on the right cylinder than the left. I wonder if this was contributing to my problem. I wasn't able to get any thermal grease so the ignition module is still hanging there. Once I get that done, I can put the tank back on, put in some gas, and see if it still runs. Maybe even take it out for a ride. All in all, a very therapeutic way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Back Up and Around

I must admit that it sure is nice to be getting up and about again. I walked down to College Road this afternoon using "the scenic route" through the ski trails. This was a nice flowering tree in front of the UAF Signers' Hall kind of in the middle of lower campus. The light was really flat due to a lot of haze/smoke in the air. A fire from last summer started up again after wintering by smoldering in the tundra. I hope this isn't what the whole summer is going to be like. That would be really depressing. The total distance was about four miles in very warm 78°F temperatures. I'm trying to work my way back up to my pre-surgery mileage.

I received a lot of suggestions on the bike problem I mentioned on my last post and it is giving me something to work on while I am off. I have started working half days again and may continue for at least another week so I have some time to dink around with the bike. One very probable theory is the gas tank vent system, On these old Beemers, there are a couple of small holes in the gas cap. There is a vent line that runs from outside of the threads for the cap to below the engine, to prevent raw gas from dripping on a hot engine or exhaust. The tiny holes could be plugged or the hose. Something else to look into. The best way to test would be to ride up the same hill and as soon as the problem shows up, loosen the gas cap. If the problem goes away, then I now know the solution. Maybe I'll be able to ride again in a week or so.

I am writing this post on another new toy, an Apple iPad, something that has been getting a lot of press these days. I have to admit that it is almost as functional as a laptop and may even surpass my little Dell Mini9 netbook. It weighs less, has a bigger, higher resolution screen. For email and web browsing, it is a much better platform. Since I'm not a very good typist anyway, I can type just as fast on the virtual keyboard but I do need to keep my eye on my hands as there is no tactile feedback. What's missing so far for me is no full screen SSH client, no Nike+ support and no IPv6 support. It also feels a bit more fragile than the Dell due to the large glass panel.

Speaking of the Dell, after I got the replacement SSD, I installed Ubuntu, which is the OS that it originally came with, and it worked great. Last night, I reinstalled Leopard using a different method than I used last time. This involved putting an image of the Leopard DVD on a USB thumb drive, making it bootable, booting up the Dell off of the thumb drive, going through the install. I then had it do a restore from my Time Machine backup. The whole process took less than an hour and it seems to work great. Ubuntu is fine but there were afew quirks with audio and wireless networking and, overall, OS X just runs cleaner.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fuel Starvation

I am in the process of trying to debug a problem on my R100RT. On my last ride, I was heading up a moderately steep grade leaving town towards Nenana when I felt a vibration a couple of miles up the grade. It felt like I was running on only one cylinder but it didn't feel like there was a significant loss of power. The vibration was something to do with the engine since I could pull in the clutch and the frequency would drop with engine RPM. After reaching the summit, the vibration continued for a couple of miles then went away. The only time this problem has shown up was when climbing this grade. Last summer, going up the same grade, the problem showed up but it was raining really hard. At that time I assumed the problem was ignition related due to the rain. I carefully checked the coils for hairline cracks but didn't find any. A couple of days ago, I posted a message on the BMW forum and immediately got back a bunch of responses pointing to fuel starvation, something I hadn't even considered. I checked fuel flow to the carbs and got about one cup in about ten seconds which seems to be more than adequate to me. I went ahead and replaced all of the fuel lines since I had ordered the "correct" size fuel line in my last parts order as some of the lines had some small cracks in them. Not enough to leak but possibly getting close. Several of the replies mentioned that carb work was necessary every couple of years on these old bikes especially with the ethanol in the fuel these days. I have not touched the carbs in the three years I've owned the bike so I went ahead and ordered rebuild kits. Something else to work on since I'm still not supposed to be riding for at least a couple more weeks. One of the other suggestions pointed to the tank vent. This allows air into the tank to compensate for fuel used. The suggestion was that the vent tends to clog up and if you start to pull gas out faster than air can bleed in, a vacuum will develop in the tank. The forum describes how to check this out and how to resolve the problem. Something else to check out.

I went into the office for half a day today and my new laptop had arrived. A 15" Macbook Pro with 8GB RAM, I7 processor, 256GB SSD drive, 1680x1050 display and high performance GPU. It took quite a while to restore all of my documents and information from my Time Machine backup to the new machine. It works pretty good. No complaints at all. Battery life seems about the same (contrary to the Apple site) no where near the claimed 8 hours but then again, I haven't calibrated the battery yet.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dell Mini9 Back From the Dead

Dell delivered, as promised, and I now have the new 32GB SSD (Solid State Drive) in my Dell Mini9 netbook. Took all of 5 minutes to replace the drive then booted up the Ubuntu restore disk and had Ubuntu installed about 15 minutes after that. I'm not sure I'm going to reinstall Apple OSX again since Apple removed Atom CPU support in Snow Leopard specifically to block use on the netbooks. It ran well but it was a primarily an experiment on my part just to see how it was done and to see how well it worked. I have absolutely no problem using Ubuntu as it has more than enough functionality for me. A few things missing such as DropBox, PGP and sharing of my iTunes library was really pretty handy. My primary use for this machine is web, SSH and email and for this limited functionality, it works great. Then again, an iPad has the same functionality but also supports DropBox and iTunes. I do have a 32GB, wi-fi only, model ordered just to see how well the iPad works in the University environment. The iPad does not have IPv6 support (which this netbook has) so it wouldn't work at some of the Internet² meetings I attend but, hopefully, IPv6 support may come eventually.

I picked up my old Macbook Pro from my office yesterday as the restore finished. I haven't freed up some additional drive space so the SSD failure could happen again at any time. I think I will move my iTunes and iPhoto libraries off of the internal hard disk which should drop disk utilization below 80GB. This would allow me to install the Intel X25 SSD which should be more reliable than the Super Talent one currently installed. I did receive notice that it's replacement has shipped from China so I may have it sometime next week, about when I plan to start working half time.

On the health front, I went from 12 pain pills per day to 6 and now I'm down to 3. I will drop down to 1 starting tomorrow. Yesterday evening, I attended a 3 hour church meeting just to see how things go having to sit still and I could start feeling it after a couple of hours. No need to rush back into it I guess. Plenty of sick leave available.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bad Day For My Technology

Today must be a local anti-technology day. My little Dell Mini9 claims "no operating system found" and my Macbook Pro (MBP) won't boot (recurring problem with the SSD). I'll need to stop by my office to get the Mac running again but hopefully, its replacement will have arrived. So now, I'll have to be content with my phone. On top of this, our broadband connection stopped working around 11:30 last night. The kids just assumed that I was messing with their connection so they didn't say anything. Didn't want to give me the satisfaction that I succeeded messing up their evening. (Am I really like that?) I usually switch to 3G on my phone in the evening since the kids watch Youtube videos and consume what little bandwidth we have so I didn't really notice the outage. There wasn't supposed to be a network outage last night. The ISP made a change to prevent a long outage tonight but maybe there were some unplanned consequences. Since I meet with the regularly, I'll ask about it then.

The Dell Mini9 is my hackintosh experiment (Apple OSX 10.5.8 on a Dell) so who knows what the problem is. If it's hardware, then I'm seriously disappointed in the build quality as I've had the little machine for a little over a year. Barely out of warranty. It has been an extremely reliable, excellent computer to take on trips. It has a 32GB SSD (Solid State Drive) and I noticed a real slowdown in performance lately. Maybe SSDs aren't quite ready for prime time. My replacement MBP was ordered with a SSD but also with Applecare i.e. a three year warranty. I've heard that there have been some significant improvements over the last couple of years. I will probably replace the 256GB SSD in the old MBP with an Intel 80GB SSD that is supposed to be much more reliable and do a fresh install of 10.6 as a spare computer. The battery is dying but it could be used as a desktop machine replacing an ageing G5 sitting behind the desk as my multicast streaming server.

My Beemershop order has finally arrived so I may try to do some of the minor repair items on the bike. These include rebuilding both of the fuel petcocks, replacing all of the fuel lines, changing the engine oil and filter. Maybe replace the second exhaust crossover.

Saturday evening - UPDATE After finishing this post, I thought about checking the Dell web site. I entered the service tag and discovered, to my surprise, that I still had six more days of warranty left. I quickly called the toll free number and there is now a new SSD on its way. It should be here by Tuesday. They also tried to get me to buy the extended warranty. According to the Dell Mini forums, the failure was probably caused by overheating.

Sunday afternoon - I stopped by my office to re-image my Mac (using SuperDuper!) and pick up the external optical drive and restore CD for the Dell Mini9. The re-image is proceeding slowly and hopefully will be one before my ride gets here. I tried doing a system restore on the Dell and can't get anywhere due to the hardware error so can't do anything until the replacement SSD gets here.

I also picked up my "spare" computer. It is a Getac W130 and is a "rugged" design kind of like a Panasonic Toughbook only a bit more reasonably priced. I originally got the machine as an experiment. We were looking for rugged computer options. This machine seems very durable and since its evaluation, I use it when going out of town when durability helps. I installed Windows 7 Professional and it seems to be a completely usable laptop. I still find OSX better fit for me but that is just my personal opinion. The battery life is a very reasonable 4 hours and it has a built in serial port, which is getting hard to find in a laptop. Serial interfaces are still used for anyone working with network gear such as routers and switches. I originally purchased the 80 GB Intel SSD for this laptop but after opening it up, I discovered that it still used an old technology IDE internal drive. I was surprised to discover that it had the hard drive spindle heater option installed which allows the computer to be used down to -4°F. An excellent choice for anyone looking for a rugged Windows laptop.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bike is Parked

I finally got an email message from the Beemershop and my lost order is now on it's way to the correct address. I had a typo in the online order form and my order was sent to the wrong location in Alaska. Fortunately, it found its way back to the Beemershop and is now it is on its way to the correct address. So thank you to them for their excellent customer service even though I was the one who screwed up.  I won't be able to do much work for a while but more on that later. I still haven't even figured out how to change out some of the parts like the fork gaiters. The ones on the bike feel like thin plastic, kind of like you would find on Rancho shocks rather than a BMW part. Anyway, they are split in several locations so I ordered BMW replacements. I think they are more for appearance rather than function, at least on my bike. The only item I really needed was the hinged oil filter and the high temperature anti-seize. I could have easily picked up the filter at the local shop but since I already had one on order, I was too cheap to simply buy one knowing that one was on its way. Odd behavior. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I just picked up some anti-seize at a local auto parts store and got the exhaust system reassembled.

Maybe the following is in the "too much information" category but at least there aren't any pictures.

A couple of weeks ago during a "medical procedure" recommended for those of us north of fifty, a cancerous polyp was found. Surgery was scheduled to remove the infected area as well as a couple of inches around to see if it had spread. The surgery went without issue and now I am on the healing path. The great news is that there is no evidence of the cancer spreading so I guess the surgery was well worth it to verify that. Now, I just need to heal including the large incision needed to get access. I'm told that this is one of the easiest types of cancer to detect and cure and would encourage anyone past fifty to get it checked out. The initial challenge is to get off of the narcotic pain pills as quickly as possible. I'm afraid that it's going to be difficult. I'm told that no lifting more than 10 lbs or straining for at least a month and I'm off work for a minimum of three weeks. My bike parts are just going to sit around for a while I guess. I may get my son to hoist the bike onto the center stand (way, way more than 10 lbs of effort on this old Beemer) so I would be able to do the oil change but I think I'll wait at least a couple of weeks even to do that.

Yesterday at the hospital, I had a couple of bike riding pastors (a Goldwing and a Shadow) visit and they were sure to remind me that it was wonderful riding weather and my bike was going to be parked for a while. Nice... Actually, I really did appreciate their visit and they were part of the group that went to the Monderosa last Sunday. My brother was even in town from Anchorage and stopped by for a short visit.

Sunday Morning - HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Finally Went Out Riding

I finally managed to get out for a nice ride. It was rainy and overcast this morning but things seem to clear up just fine this afternoon. My parts never arrived and I guess I'm going to have to assume that they are lost somewhere in the postal system. I picked up some 5/16" fuel line and replace the leaky section but you could easily tell that the size was wrong. Too loose on the fittings requiring a worm hose clamp. I guess I'll just have to re-order some of the correct size fuel line. I did stop by the BMW dealer but they don't carry anything except the 5/16" size either. Looked at the new bikes but the only on that looked even a little interesting was the F650GS. Last week, I stopped by the old BMW dealer location to talk to the owner about my exhaust valve recession problem. It is now a Royal Enfield dealer and there were a number of them as well as a couple of older BMWs with side cars. Looked interesting.

Here, I'm parked at the scenic overlook in front of the Reichardt Building (formerly known as the Natural Science Building) on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. There wasn't much of a view to the south due to all of the storm clouds blocking the Alaska Range. I just don't seem to have a good eye for composition so I tend not to stop too ofter for pictures. I did stop at the museum and played around in their large, empty parking lot doing figure eights and low speed turns in both directions. Kind of rusty. The roads are generally clear but I did run into some wet sand in a corner on campus and the rear end slid out a couple of inches. It felt like a foot and really made me nervous. 

Headed out through the Goldstream Valley to Fox then back towards town on the Steese Highway. There were quite a few bikes out and about and everyone cheerfully waved. Even the sport bike crowd. I think everyone was glad that riding season has finally arrived. Filled up the tank on a rumor that there will be a lunch ride tomorrow afternoon with a bunch from church. Rain or shine.

Sunday Afternoon - In spite of the showers, 6 people on 5 bikes showed up for the ride this afternoon. We just went to the Monderosa which is near Nenana about 50 miles from Fairbanks towards Anchorage. Some of the best burgers around and way more than I'm able to eat. The rain mostly threatened and except for a couple of light sprinkles, it was mostly dry. Two of the bikes didn't have any fairing or windshield and the riders were pretty cold upon arrival. No sunshine for most of the trip. The old BMW R100RT has pretty good coverage and I never even felt chilled. The bike has hand warmers but I have yet to use them. Maybe if it was really raining they would be nice to have. The electrical system on this old bike is pretty anemic and I don't think it can drive both the hand warmers and the headlight at the same time. I'll stick with the headlight until I can get an upgraded charging system installed. About 20 miles into the ride, the engine would generate a vibration like it was missing on one cylinder. After a few minutes, the vibration would go away back to the wonderful mechanical hum. No real loss of power but just the vibration. Last year, this also happened but it was pouring rain so I assumed that it was related to moisture. Today, it happened without the rain but only after the engine was under heavier load i.e. climbing hills. So maybe it's heat. Something to mull over the next month or so since I won't be able to ride.

On Wednesday, I will be headed into the hospital for a couple of days for some surgery. Recuperation may take a while and they said no lifting or straining.