Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Odds 'n' Ends.

Having realized my lower chain slider was heavily worn, and that I had a replacement sitting in the basement engine parts storage room from an XR600, I went to work installing it. I found that the one on the bike had totally lost it's plastic and the chain was riding on metal. Oops! I went into this thinking that this was a recent development, perhaps the reason for my chain's rapid slackening, but I found that this was not the case. It will still have a positive effect on the drive train. A chain riding on steel would fail sooner than one riding on plastic due to the vibration caused. So maybe it was the reason my chain stretched out, but now that the damage was done, replacing it would not allow me to readjust the chain tension, I was still at the end of my adjusters' travel.

While I had the rear wheel loose, I greased the brake shoe rocker inside the brake drum per the factory manual. It seemed to take care of the rear brake sticking I had been experiencing. It was such that I could feel a dragging resistance as I took off from a stop after applying the rear brake within normal usage. The only remedy was either to roll the bike backwards to free the brake, or ride through the resistance and it would go away. Still an annoyance I was unaccustomed to, and I was glad to have figured it out.

While I was at it I remembered my rear brake lever adjustment. Since raising the rear of the bike to match the front, my riding position had changed to further forward in the saddle. This position was more like that of the XR600 and XR650L, and also the position I'd end up in if carrying a passenger. Adding foam and contouring the seat to be more like the seats found on the aforementioned models would have to wait. The new position creates the need for the rear brake lever to come down so that I don't have to lift my foot to depress it. Fortunately Honda thought of this and added this handy adjustment feature.

I adjusted it once before the hardware store and readjusted it to a better position after I got back as it was too low.

The shift lever naturally followed.

Next on the agenda (well, on my ad-hoc agenda anyway) was making split expansion plugs so I could install my bar end weights. They were once held in by my Ghetto Machined rubber plugs backed with nuts for a rubber squish-fit, but one of them vibrated off while my brother was riding it during his visit. Since they were removed, I had been experiencing a lot of high-frequency vibrations in the handlebars, the exact reason these bikes came with bar end weights. It's a thumper, and it's not the bass I mind so much as it is the treble if you know what I mean. I went to the hardware store to look at the steel stock they had. There was a huge bar of galvanized 5/8" stock, a very small piece of which was required for this project. I checked the fit to my handlebars and found that it would be too big, and not close enough to do any of my patented Ghetto Machining on it to get it to fit. I checked the nut and bolt drawers and found clevis pins in a 1/2" size, and one of them for a couple of bucks would be enough. Getting to work, I drilled a somewhat plumb hole in the workbench for the work piece to rest in. The plumb was gauged by the level bubble on the back of the drill, perfect for the "close enough" craftsman I sometimes am. I had thought about making extra long split expanding fasteners to function as extra weight in the bars, but I am glad I went with the shorter ones. The most easily noticed reason is that there is some really tough goop crap in the opening of the bars, and there is a big enough piece in the left end that I had to tap in the expander to get it to go all the way. Besides not having a metal miter saw, a drill press, or a lathe, the construction was quite simple. Drill a hole through the axis of the bar stock so you have a thick-walled pipe, thread it at least half way through, cut it in half at an angle greater than 45*, then drill one half out bigger, so that when the two pieces draw together, there is room for one of the pieces to skew to one side, creating pressure and grip inside the handle bar end.

Since it was plain steel that can rust, and I may need to remove the bar ends at some point, I applied anti-seize compound to the threads.

On one side there was an even layer of the goop crap I mentioned earlier. I liked this as it added a vibration-dampening layer between the bars and the weights, making it less likely to vibrate the threads loose. So I applied a bit of silicone sealant to the inner wall of the other side before installing it. Now I need to find two bolts to replace the current sluggers I have in there. Apparently a flat (countersink), allen head, stainless m10 was too specialized a fastener to ask of my neighborhood hardware store.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Who is a dipstick now?

My XRs Only temperature gauge dipstick had accumulated oil in the gauge that was not draining away like it used to. Or this time the oil was so black that I had trouble reading it. I decided to find out just how far I could disassemble it. To my surprise, it came apart far enough that I could spray out the gauge face with brake cleaner, clean all the parts, and reassemble it.

I reassembled the thermometer and squeezed it into the screw cap filled with silicone sealant. I screwed it into the oil reservoir and noticed that the face was sideways and not easily readable as I thought I had positioned it. I then attempted to align it by twisting the temperature probe. I then had to re-adjust since this accidentally de-calibrated it. This thermometer reads a broad temperature range, between 50 and 350. To calibrate a thermometer that will read down into freezing temperature range, you put it in ice water and if it doesn't read 32 degrees, you rotate the stem or the nut on the back against the face with the numbers to adjust the reading. I counted up the dash marks and figured them for 5 degree increments, and eyeballed 32 degrees.

My recollection of the instructions that accompanied this dipstick were to rotate the stem in order to adjust the position of the face. Maybe they also said to remove the clip that holds the thermometer part into the screw cap. Either way, the old instructions weren't going to work because they didn't put enough silicone in there to begin with. The only place they sealed up was around the area that the nut meets the stem and the back of the face. That's not where the oil gets in though, it gets in around the outside edge where the press-fit cap holding the glass on and it oozes out through the space between the thermometer and the screw cap to the outside, pooling up on the outer face. To the credit of XRs only, this usually only happens when the oil is overfilled. On my journey, though, it was a lot better to be overfilled than underfilled. These temperature gauge dipsticks are constructed of good parts and put together very thoughtfully for the most part, but they need only a little more silicone to be perfect.

I will monitor the progress of the re-seal job and update the blog. Now that the bike consumes nearly no oil, I will not likely risk any more leakage unless I were to overfill it.

I confess, I did some detailing on the bike. It's beginning to show signs of its original finish as opposed to highway road grime, chain lube, oil, and mud. I think the rear rim looks kind of stupid with the silver aluminum color showing after all this time. The thing to do now is get another rim anodized black since they look better.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Idles wild, dies while idling

I got it all back together with the Wiseco 9:1 piston a few days back. I heat cycled the new piston and broke it in 'nice-and-easy'. Here's the very first kick after reassembly:

I was still having the problem of stalling seemingly at random. A terible thing to happen on a kickstart-only bike in the middle of traffic. Especially one that is higher now and therefore harder to kick.

My mind jumped to a list of conclusions, such as, "it's that rust sediment I keep seeing in the carb bowls that's making it die". I went out on a wild goose chase for a paper filter that's going to fit in my small space. After finding mostly too large automotive paper filters and finally being told that paper filters are inferior to the little pressed-brass-pebble ones anyway, I bought a much-needed piece of fuel line at the last stop. I'm not sure if I believe him about the filter comparison, but I had never cleaned the petcock so I figured I had better take it out and clean that pre-screen off. I forgot to drain the tank on the reserve setting. When I went to remove the petcock, I found out first hand how much gas is in the reserve setting (quite a bit) and enjoyed the fringe benefit of the left side of my engine being degreased. Never did clear up that idle mystery though.

Today, I had decided to undo my stator's ground wire from the intake manifold bolt, to make sure it wasn't interfering with my tightening of the manifold. Stock stators don't have these ground wires, it's an add on by Ricky Stator, so you just sort of bolt it on wherever you can. I was tired of bolting it onto the sort of high-torque rocker box bolts. It was smashing the hell out of the poor little ring terminal. So I just put a wire extension with a gator clip on one end and clipped it to the frame until I feel like doing some electrical tailoring.

Finally, I got around to testing for leaks around the intake with an unlit propane torch with no results. The stator ground was still floating loose at this point and I thought I saw a spark. It worried me a little in the sense that sparks like that made a disaster possible, but how hard it was to light that torch with an open flame put my worries at ease. No leak detected from propane probing.

I checked the valve clearances and sure enough, they were the culprit. My exhaust and intake were both too tight, almost as if I'd gapped the two on that side as if they were both intakes and the two on the other side as exhausts. Wierd. Anyway, it idles without dying right when the light turns green, so that's good. I had forgotten how rock-solid at idle these engines are with all my chokepulling nonsense to deal with this issue. Now it would be nice if I could be flying along at 70mph and then pull in the clutch and know the engine would still be idling faithfully, but I don't think it's that good. I'm definitely on to something though.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

head gasket leak?

I kept riding it around, further and further. I rode it all the way to Charlotte for a meet-up at Lupies Chili Joint for one of the NC Adventure Rider dinners. We would have dinner and sometimes a sleepover somewhere in the state every month. It was a lot of fun getting to know strangers that ride, from the site that taught me how to work on my bike.

Some things happened, the order of these events is not certain.
-noticed popping sound under hard revs when I got the bike running again.
-realized it was the head gasket
-blew base gasket for no apparent reason (it was not related to the leaking head gasket)
-replaced both topend gaskets and gently replaced cam chain tensioner, not beating it in like a caveman, like last time
-used washers under all of the head bolts this time
-noticed valve train sounded better and engine was more powerful
-noticed head gasket popping still did not go away, questioned my torque and cleanliness of the head bolt threads, etc.

Somewhere along the way I realized that the steel cylinder sleeve was not level with the top machined surface that sealed the rest of the head gasket, like the timing chain hole. Having nothing to compare my cylinder to, I thought that maybe that was normal, but with all the popping and leaking, even after I used washers with all of the head blots (unlike the first time) and an OEM honda head gasket, it persisted.

I fell deeper in love with the bike though, even moreso than the truck. Through the ADVrider website, I saw the kinds of touring that were possible on even a small bike. I developed an interest in riding to the west coast on it. I had wanted to live near my sister in Oregon since I started visiting in 8th grade. ADVrider introduced me to the wild dirt bike world-tours of Lois on the Loose and Mondo Enduro. I still need to get a copy of Mondo Enduro.

Project underway.

I tried starting it obviously. Of course I wanted to ride it around if I could. The previous owner said it had not been started in 2 years, which was beleiveable, as oil was leaking out of seals, and when gassed up, the carbs leaked as well.

Finally I get a chance to start ripping it apart. My mechanical experience had mostly been on the 1992 Chevy S-10 and the Yamaha Zuma scooter, which I had put a carburetor and 70cc kit and stuff on. So this was like a bigass 4-stroke version of that, basically. It came with a manual so I couldn't screw anything up too badly. I cleaned the carburetors out, reinstalled them, got a cheap champion spark plug just in case my NGK was bad. Checked for spark, which I appeared to have.

I kicked the hell out of that bike, and I never got much more than a sputter. One day though, I got it to run for a while, and it smoked badly, misfired, and died. Later I would get it running long enough to ride it up and down my gravel driveway. What a tease! It had so much power that my 50cc-scootin' ass could hardly beleive it!

I had to have more. I just could not get it to start, so I began to check for other mechanical anomalies. I found out I didn't have spark anymore. I found out that I was hissing compression out of the carburetors. I had no way of knowing anything about the right amount of compression for this bike because I had no expreience with it in it's running form. There was no way to kick it over and know that it was way too easy and therefore it lacked compression, but after suspecting this, and telling some other XL600 guys that I could crank it right through the compression stroke with just my hand on the kickstarter, we knew something was up.

I tried a trick my buddy Sam Caldwell, and old, curmudgeony machinist about town told me about. With the cylinder head removed, I positioned it with the exhaust ports facing skyward, and poured gas in to see how well the valves sealed. Not very. Same test on the carburetor side revealed even worse-off valves. I had a machinist at an auto parts store look at it, and we dismantled the head. We found the valve seat to be loose on one of the valves, and he suggested knurling it and pressing it back in with some red loctite.

I never want to trust just one source of information, so I told this to Sam Caldwell, the curmudgeony machinist. He said that this was a risky proposition because the heat transfer properties of that steel valve seat to the aluminum head block would now be concentrated on those tiny little knurling points instead of the whole surface area. The tiny little points would get hotter becauase of less ability to get rid of heat through the aluminum, so it would get loose and fail more readily.

So now he had me good and scared. I didn't want to get the seat replaced since he told me that the way that they do this at the factory is probably with heat and liquid nitrogen. A shop could press fit it or do a less extreme temperature and possibly not press it in hard enough. I also didn't want to go with a used head; what if the previous owner had overheated it and the valve seat was on its way out?

So in one of my last transactions with Bike Bandit, I bought a complete head, OEM. It was wierd too, it looked like it had been made recently because the box did not look like it had aged from 1983, but the head was indeed mostly the 1984 design: 5th valve ith functional burp chamber, no reed valve equalization between the intake ports like on the 1983 (direct instead) and no pain-in-the-ass o-ring cap on one of the head bolts.

When I had asked via e-mail what the part number for the "head kit" included, since it was vague in the schematic, I was told, "everything needed for a complete head". It was just the block, valve guides, rubber intake manifold, and one head bolt, I guess to replace the one that went under the now-superceeded o-ring cap. I tried to get them to send me what they said it would include, bt they would not budge. I later found out that I overpaid by a hundred bucks or so, and now I use the Babbitt's website in Michigan to look up Honda numbers, and order from Zanotti's in Pennsylvania. I could use any site selling OEM parts to get the numbers from, but Babbitt's has the second best prices, a low price guarantee, and they are not Bike Bandit, so I don't have to look at their annoying lies or extremely high prices next to the part numbers. Zanotti's does not have a parts lookup page with pictures, but you plug in the part number and they come up with a low price and they order the part for you.

Anyway, I get the head, bitch about missing parts, get the valves and valve springs, anfter getting one wrong spring and a few e-mails back and forth and some more bullshit with Bike Bandit (I still had not learned yet) I got the head together and the valves lapped in and re-sealed. I got the cylinder mic'ed and found out I could get away with hone. The piston had been ruined, so I'd ordered one of those, a wrist pin, and a ring set. I finally got it all back together, and Bam! I'm riding this big-ass thumper down the road, barely shifting it correctly.

After only my first day of riding, it wouldn't start. I had to wheel it home from the local music venue, a real workout since this is a 300lb bike. After some diagnosin' around, I got a new stator and it fired right back up. Time for some hooligan riding!

Monday, May 4, 2009

1983: The XL600R. It was the beginning of the RFVC era, this engine was ahead of it's time, and the basic design was used from 1983-2009 in various Honda motorcycles: the XL600R, XR600, XL600LM in Europe, and the XR650L. The release of the XL600 gave way to the bike that won Baja in 1997 and 98, and is the most widely used motorcycle to explore the Australian outback; the XR600, which began production in 1985. It has the ability to be modified into about any type of bike you could want with the least work, from a Baja-burner clod-hoppper monster to "supermoto" styled speed demon. Owning a big red dirtbike has always been my fantasy since age 5. That is why it is the perfect motorcycle.

And, did you know it was featured in:

Alarm für Cobra 11 - Die Autobahnpolizei, TV Series, 1996-2009 ?

Here is the Internet Movie Car Database article!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chapel Hill, N.C.: Schwag capitol of the world.

This story needs to move on a little more quickly so that we can be on-track with the XL600R theme soon, see, that's what this here blog is all about. It's not about my personal fantasies and stories as a child. It is about that bad-boy Bart Simpson attitude towards life, the spirit of adventure and of course, all of the neat toys that we utilize for our mischief whether it's a slingshot or a moped.

After job stuff fizzled out in Wisconsin, my Dad was in the midst of reading some "inspirational" books, such as In The Spirit of Business. Dogged by unemployment, my dad wrote the author of this book a detailed letter asking what he thought we should do next. To his surprise, the author wrote back. We lived under the impression that fancy authors of books do not actually write back to letters from commoners such as ourselves. What he wrote was detailed, warm, and sincere. He invited my Dad to come and check out Chapel Hill as a potential destination. I remember my Pops' excitement when he had a phone call from the guy. It was a bright ray of orange light in a life that had become dull brown and stale in the summer air of Wisconsin, up on the windy hill.

I started 5th grade at New Holstein Elementary that year. Our teacher, Mr. Preston, although similar in appearance to Mr. Dewhurst, gave us a lot of homework, no time to finish it in class, basically a paper pushing jerk by comparison. With my grades slipping, we decided to move to N.C. that fall.

When we got there it was a lot different. A cramped 3rd story suburban apartment, 4th and 5th graders in the same classroom under a teacher and assistant, Macintosh computers with our own personal 1.44mb disk labeled with our name on it, heat, lots of pine trees, Black people and ethnicities other than white, and a whole new set of colloquialisms.

The Minnesota/Wisconsin accent, "oah, heay, doantcha noa?", was replaced by a southern accent, "wutchoo talkin' about, boah?", and "Y'all" took the place of "you guys". Neither of these sets of cultural boundaries affected me as an original Michigander, but I sure was more accepted and looked up to by the Wisconsin kids than the North Carolinians.

As part of the whole slinghot-toting Bart Simpson boyhoood mischief that was a part of being a badass, I started to become fascinated by paintball guns. In 3 years time, I had myself a job stocking shelves to make enough money to go out to an official field and splat people with paintballs all day every saturday. Soon I had a paintball gun of my own, purchased by the one and only Rasheed Wallace...'s brother. It was a cool sport.

Later my brother moved down and started printing business cards. He had some printing experience starting in graphics class in high school, and he even made breathe-right strips on some similar equipment.

Anyway my brother quenched my thirst for beer around this time in my life. Moosehead, a canadian beer, is owed credit a the first beer I got completely wasted on, or for my becoming a man. I liked to smoke some weed too, which I did plenty of in High School since it was then easier to find.

I was going to enter a graphics class where I'd be able to learn some of the printing skills my brother did in high school. There was a mistake, though. The graphics teacher was double-booked in a Cisco Systems computer networking class. I had the option to join that class or not much else.

Cisco had us on a computer the whole time, and an online course was the main daily activity. They were not smart enough, however, to limit our internet acess to that site only. So this is where I got into 2-wheeled vehicles again. I asked my dad for a loan, and got on e-bay in my Networking class and looked at Tomos Mopeds. Sure, I failed the class, but I got the moped, so who cares?

It was a spray-painted blue Tomos Targa LX with a 50cc engine and 2-speed automatic. I putted around on it and got stoned when I could and even putted over to this chick from Alabama's house a lot and made out with her one night. It was so cool riding away from that, I felt like I was the man.

Later I witnessed the awe that was the Yamaha Zuma. It had a wider range belt variator that gave it the acelleration of several gears all in one smooth motion, and had way better pickup than my puny Tomos. Mike and Jenny were the owners of it, a really cool couple who I spent a lot of time hanging out with. I got to test ride it at our mutual friend Kenan's house, who was my neighbor.

I was green with envy when Kenan got one. I finally found one used for less than him, and didn't wreck it like he did, so I got the last laugh. I had to get another interest-free loan from my dad, and paid him back $100 each month, or at least most months. Lots of fun was had on my machine, and I even replaced the plastic floorboards with aluminum diamondplate, and made a rear box of the same. At it's height of tricked-outness, it had a 70cc Polini kit and a Leo Vinci exhaust, but I blew the kit because I re-used a piston pin clip. Back to 50cc. I also upgeared the final drive. I think I could do 50 on it, because I was still unlicensed though, I only tried that on the 45mph speed limit highway once, and I kept up fine.

I moved out of my parents house into a big party house. I worked at a bar in addition to my frozen yogurt job, and got half price drinks. I was making all my own food so between that and the drinking, I fattened up to 180, the most I've ever weighed. Not much, I know, but I just remember being like, "whoa, where the hell did that gut come from?" I eventually moved out with the urging of my brother since one of my housemates was dealing coke and there was a potentially serious ashtray/garbage can fire downstairs. At least I had learned to do VCT tile when I did the kitchen one month as my rent.

I moved back in with Mom an Dad for a while. Later I moved back out and into a small, cheap basement apartment that was only $450 with utilities. Best of all, thoug, was that one of my good friends, Dianna, lived next door and it was a cool little 1950s apartment building that the current landlord actually had a hand in building. In his 80s, he still did all the maintenance.

I had my s-10 truck at this point, but I wanted something better than my little old Zuma. I started reminiscing about the old YZ80 or whatever it was that I had originally ridden, albeit breifly. I remember lovingthat style, and decided an early-to-mid- 70's Honda XL250 would do the trick. I perused Craigslist every day, and even put an ad out. "Wanted: old Honda XL 250 or similar for $800 or less, needs work is OK." about 3 weeks later, I got an e-mail from a guy who had a 1983 Honda XL600. He emailed and said he had just contacted another guy looking for the same, and that if I got back to him first, it was mine. He told me that the other guy had gotten back to him first, but the plans to meet up eventally fell through. That guy had a family emergency and couldn't make it. So I got the complete bike for only $50! That was hardly the end of it though. i will never be able to fully add up all that I've spent on it for parts. It has been a labor of love, and well worth it, too! I now consider this to be the perfect motorcycle.

The Saga Continues...

Later my brother and friend were seen tinkering with several other bikes. One was a bigger bike. My brother was making me nervous with this one that he decided to take down the hill that we lived on and into the curve of our driveway as fast as possible. He made a bunch of attempts, why, I don't know. The best I could imagine was that he wanted to burn some rubber and tear tire around the curve. What he did instead was get a big huge scar that he still has on his shin, and give me a scare.

On one of his attempts, he leaned hard and tried to push the rear end of the bike hard through the turn, expecting it to skid. What it did instead was maintained traction, and flung him off the bike sideways, and his shin caught on one of the footpegs on the way over. I thought he was head, but he got up and exclaimed, "Shit!" and we observed his bloody shin and the deep wound. I was relieved.

In time, I got to ride a moped with success. I didn't jump it up the ditch like my brother and his friends did, or like I did on my BMX bike. I began to write stories about kids my age who posed as 13-year-olds in order to ride their mopeds around, and they rode all over, hopping up the mopeds, running into trouble, and getting out of it, making time to find abandoned houses, treasure, and junkyards to source parts for their bikes. I wrote the story all down on big paper. I was going to have my 4th grade teacher bind it in a book I had gutted, and read it aloud in class. He was a cool teacher and painted the solar system on the back of the classroom with paints he had mixed at the hardware store, gave us enough time to do our homework in class, told us the truth about facts of life "You will be offered drugs in high school", told us gripping stories about his coming of age, and read a little of a novel to us each day.

I submitted my story to him, which included apart about the boys on mopeds that was apparently controversial. See, i got so much into my writing that I forgot that a teacher was going to read over it. I gave him the story on my big sheets of paper to be later rewritten in a book that he was going to help me bind. My mom used to work at a bindery. He called me to the back of the class in a stern voice that made me nervous. It made me feel like I had done something wrong and I was in trouble. All I was doing was writing my little book. He said, "Joel, do you think this is appropriate for class?", in a voice that indicated that it clearly was not. "Umm, No?" I answered by default. He didn't really tell me if it was just a part of the story or the whole thing that was not appropriate for class, so I just clammed up. He handed it back to me and told me I needed to rewrite it and then he could bind it into a book and read it to the class like he said hw would. I was shocked and confused. What had I written that was so bad? I later read over it and I remembered that the boys were in the forest in one scene. They had just spotted an abandoned house, and were on the trail to it when an old man emerged from the forest. He asked "what are you little brats ding out here?", to shich the little boys replied, "shut up, you sack of crap!", and pelted the old man with rocks and peeled away on their mopeds. "That must have been what was so bad", I thought, "I used the word 'crap'". I never wrote any more to the story since I was so shy, and I was afraid of what Mr. Dewhurst might say, or what my punishment might be for writing stuff I wasn't supposed to write again.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Early Days

Between 1989 and 1995, my family and I lived in New Holstein, Wisconsin. We had just moved there after taking a trip to California that my Dad got fired from work over. There was some confusion over time off that he had been allowed, and then denied, by no fault of his own. As the old adage goes, "Fuck it, you only live once". My Dad had worked for a rotary broom manufacturer back in Michigan, and now we lived in Wisconsin so he could keep working in rotary brooms.

We lived on a 5 acre "hobby farm" with a 2-story house, complete with basement, full-sized barn and 2 sheds. I rode a BMX bike and listened to Motley Crue, AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Candlebox, Collective Soul, Cypress Hill, and Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. I drew my own version of the cover of one of Dan Hicks' records where the seductive-looking worm lady coming out of the apple is offering a pack of Marlboros, in Crayola markers. I watched Tale Spin, Goof Troop, various Warner Brothers cartoons, The Simpsons, and Home Improvement while I ate Cool Ranch Doritos in the Papasan chair with the afghan blanket. I played with my stuffed dog, "Yuppie Puppy", and my tape recorder at the same time. He offered advice on life and when my Mom yelled at me to to turn off the Led Zeppelin guitar solo, and I said that she was the one who should be shutting up, he agreed. "She sure should", he said, in a tone of voice not unlike Tony in The Shining.

One day, my brother's friend had one of these motorcycles made for people my size over. Like some of the other ones that friend had, he started it by sticking a screwdriver where the key goes and turning it on that way. One day I was walking around fantasizing about building my airplane to fly back to California in, or making a map that led to buried treasure. They were putting around on this Yamaha YZ80 or something, and I was probably jealous that I didn't have one, while also afraid to ride it. Once they offered me a ride, I sheepishly accepted. They taught me how to shift through the gears. The more weird modifications I saw that he had done to it, the more bashful I became. They had taken off the clutch cable, so now I not only had to slam it into gear to take off, but I also had to find my way back to neutral if I wanted to stop. My heart was thumping away as fast as that little 2-stroke engine probably was.

I climbed on, and gingerly snapped it into gear. Time stood still. The whiteness of the barn's foundation in the full Wisconsin summer sun dazed me. I looked down at the gear shifter and tried to remember what they had told me. "One up, two down. Or was it two up, one down? Two up..." WHAM! In a daze, I heard murmuring voices around me. "Whoa! Are you okay dude?" one of them said. I looked up to see the white barn foundation wall in front of me, a metal post right next to the wall, and the bike, with it's wheel wedged right in the gap between the two. They were impressed with my macho first attempt on a bike. After they knew I was ok, they turned to the bike. "He even kept it running!" My brother's friend was astonished that the engine had not stalled. They flipped it upside-down like it was a BMX bike whose chain needed tightening, and spun the front wheel to see if it was bent. "Nope!" They asked me if I wanted to try again, but I was scared of it now. They were nervously impressed with me, as much impressed as relieved that they did not get me hurt and have to explain it to Mom and Dad. I declined and went inside to watch cartoons. So I was off to a slow, shaky start.