Monday, March 28, 2016

I am a wrencher!

My Dad (thanks Dad) encouraged me to tear our lawn mower apart over a fall and winter season. I must have been thirteen.


With a little guidance, I got it done. By the time I had finished, there were no two pieces connected together. I got introduced to a gear puller, I installed new piston rings, I cleaned the carburetor, adjusted the jets, replaced the pull start cord, gapped and installed a new spark plug, and then reassembled to whole thing with nary a nut or bolt left over. The miracle was that that old two-stroke Lawn Boy fired right up and ran flawlessly until many, many years later when it got the roughest duty of its long life: mowing grass at my uncle Bob's summer cottage.

In university I had a Velo Solex, an iconic front-wheel-drive French moped, the Citröen deux cheveaux of powered two-wheelers. That bloody bike could barely go a week without blowing spokes and needing to have some mysterious white powder scraped off its piston and cylinder head. Believe it or not I could accomplish those tasks in under thirty minutes and be ready to hit the road. I carried the tools and spare spokes I needed in my saddlebags along with a greasy bottle of two-stroke oil.

With that by way of background, and given the way I have plunged into the guts of my Vespa with abandon to do all kinds of electrical modifications, why oh why did I hesitate for so long before tackling the mechanics of that bike?

I think it's because I love, love, love that bike, and it's way more complicated than any of my past mechanical projects, and I just didn't trust myself... until yesterday.

Normally I do project reports when I tackle the Vespa, but this time I don't feel like I have anything to teach other than to encourage those of you who are reticent to trust yourselves and tear your Vespas apart. Mercifully I had help from my dear friend (if you're finding it too hard to do, you're doing it wrong) Gino and a fantastic transmission maintenance video compilation that Peter made for me. Thank heavens I was blessed with that help.

In the end I was more of a hands-on apprentice than a real full-fledged mechanic.

What is this mysterious thing I did, you ask?

Simply put, I removed the left crash bar, the cowl fairing, the clutch cover, the clutch bolt, loosened and pivoted the airbox, removed the transmission cover, removed the variator bolt, removed the variator (which turns out to be in pretty good shape), disassembled the variator, replaced the worn variator rollers... then put the transmission back together and tested the bike. Ran like a charm!

I know that there are those of you who have changed the belt drive by the side of the road and who handle all or most of your bike's mechanical needs. I remain in awe of you, and I salute you!

Let's just say that I got my hands dirty, and it felt great.

17 comments:

  1. Be able to work on your own bike just adds another layer of enjoyment to two-wheeling imo. Congrats on a job well done.

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    1. David I agree with that. People often cite a sense of freedom as a reason to ride. In my case there is that, but also a strong sense of self-reliance. The more routine maintenance I can do, the more pleasure I have.

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  2. I don’t know: With all this recent tear-it-the-hell-apart-and-reassemble-it talk about URAL engines and clutchless Beemer-URAL Frankenbikes and—now—lawn mowers and Vespas and Velo Solexes, er, Solexa, er, Solexi—(sigh)—I’m afraid I’ll wake on a warm day mid-spring surrounded by mounds of mixed make motorcycle guts and nary a functional bike to ride…

    Congrats, David, on a scoot successfully serviced. It sounds like it’s ready and raring for warmer temps and longer rides. (Aren't we all?)

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    1. Thanks Ry! Your comments are always a treat.

      The adventure continues!

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  3. David, you have proven more than once, that you are a handy man around your house, and the bike(s). Well done.

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    1. Sonja there is a song called Handy Man. I have in my iTunes library a version sung by Alberta Hunter. It's quite burlesque in a bluesy way, and always makes me smile. It takes the compliment to a whole other level.

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  4. I used to be afraid to dig into my scooters, but after the failure on the 2014 Cannonball Run, I have forced myself to do my own repair work. So far I have changed out four or five belts successfully. I can do other simple repairs but am still intimidated a bit by work involving the engine and electrical pieces. But I still have a few months until the next Cannonball.

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    1. Bill I always follow the Cannonball with great interest. As in the past I'll do my best to post all the links here. The links to past Cannonballs are down below on the right side of the page. I have a little gift for you for your Cannonball run. Right now it's packed. As soon as we unpack it goes in the mail.

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    2. Thank you David, I have a couple of items for you too. I will use them to give you incentive to visit in May. As for cannonball posts, I hope to post every day this year on R&M. And get good photos of every rider and their bikes. I hope I can make it to the finish line.

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  5. Now that you have more time, digging into the Vespa is a good thing to do. After all what does a dealer charge these days, $75/hr? Or more? Plus, it's a great diversion from packing.

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    1. So true! I now see that changing the belt is relatively simple.

      The one thing I didn't like was the Buzetti variator holding tool. I used one of the long 8mm bolts from the crashbar to screw it into the transmission case to torque the variator nut, and bent the screw. Fortunately I had a spare in the assorted parts Peter Sanderson gave me. Mic Bergsma used a different holder in his video.

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  6. Good luck on your run tomorrow. Try to get here before the traffic gets really crazy ... mid afternoon.

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    1. Thanks Ed, much appreciated. We hope to be on the road by noon or one o'clock latest, so I'll be hitting the GTA at peak rush hour.

      Our destination is Etobicoke since we'll be staying with our son for a week or so as we have some work to do in the new place.

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  7. Have a great ride to Toronto tomorrow! Of course there will be a complete log with tons of pictures...

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    1. Thanks Richard. I don't know about a ton, but I will try do do aan honest workman-like job of it.

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