Moto Life

Thunder in the canyon

Yesterday was the day. I wasn’t sure I’d do it when I crawled out of bed. Felt like a truck hit me the night before. I’m still not sure whether the time change earlier in the week, the continued head problems, the St. Patty’s Day revelry or the intense work most of the day Friday did it to me. Maybe it was none of the above. Maybe they all played a roll. Who knows.

Whatever the reason for the tire prints over my forehead, I was almost in a bad enough state of mind and body to skip ridinng completely. After several cups of coffee and a little ham and cheese croissant from East Village Baker, I chased away most of the yuck feeling and suited up for a ride.

The weather was mercifully dry leading up to my Day of Thunder. We’ve had a really wet winter this year with lots of moisture of all types falling from the sky. Plenty of snow in the mountains this year which will hopefully lead to lots fewer stories about how low we are on water.

Heading out to the shop, I wasn’t 100% sure I’d get to ride the Aprilia. I hadn’t started it for a few weeks, though it had been on the good battery conditioner/charger for the last week in the hopes that I’d be able to ride. Once I got the seat reinstalled, I turned the key, waited on the bike to go through its pre-ride checks and hit the magic button. Whammo–the bike roared to life and things got real.

After wheeling the bike out in front of the shop to warm up, I grabbed my helmet and pulled it on, found my gloves and closed up the shop. After throwing a leg over the bike, I realized I was a little nervous. It’d been a while since I’d been on a bike this powerful.

I wasn’t about to back down, nerves or not, though. After three months of sitting in the shop, I was riding the bike one way or another. I’d also been thinking I needed to sell it to pay off the DR650–so this one ride would need to tell me whether the wait had been worth it and whether I’d be CraigsListing again soon.

The bike didn’t want to idle without a bit of the fast-idle dialed in, so I left it there, put the bike in gear and putzed around our gravel drive. Having managed that without falling down immediately, I was encouraged and headed down the half mile dirt road and onto Arnold Market. I was pleansantly surprised by the suspension and fueling as I made my way down that dirt road. No herky-jerky throttle weirdness and the bike soaked up the bumps well enough for a sporting motorcycle. I was afraid it would be like that old MV Agusta I owned for a few minutes…err, months…several years ago.

With all the power in that Rotax motor, I knew I’d be taking it easy as I pulled onto Arnold Market, but was still surprised by the motor’s character and, even though it’s not a 90 degree twin like a Ducati, I do love the sound. There’s truly nothing like the sound of a sporting V-Twin.

Another thing I was pleasantly surprised about as I pulled onto Rickard Road heading east was the ergonomics. My knees fit perfectly into the tank cutouts, allowing me to grip the bike easily. The reach to the handlebar is sporty without being overly aggresive and the distance from the seat to the pegs seemed to put just the right amount of bend in my knees. The seat was even reasonably comfortable.

I slowly worked in more throttle, enjoying the very modern feel of the engine–especially compared to everything I’ve ridden recently: the Ural, DR650 and Guzzi all have motors with LOTS of history. The Rotax motor just feels modern in the way it delivers power and in general just the way it runs.

Everything wasn’t perfect, though. I did expect the fairing up front to divert more air than it does and was a bit surprised by the amount of buffeting when I sat up really straight. The reach to the levers on both sides is also a little more than I’d like–even with the levers set at their closest setting (they’re both 4-way adjustable). Minor stuff really.

The more I rode, the more confident I became. Since I didn’t know how much gas was in the bike I wanted to hit the gas station before going too far. I found some ethanol free gas on the north end of town and a friendly attendant who might’ve hopped on the back of the bike and gone for a ride with me if I’d offered her the chance. Instead I pointed the bike towards the airport and the Powell Butte Hwy. My destination: the four mile twisty road to Pronghorn. The Tuono did not dissapoint.

There’s a pair of long sweeping curves at the north end of the runway and I was amazed at how planted the Aprilia felt through those–so much so that I found myself a few clicks above my normal speeds before I realized it.

Once I hit the Pronghorn road, the Tuono really came alive. While I agree with the saying that it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast, it’s also more work.  Conversely I believe it’s just easier to be fast on a fast bike. While that may seem like a “duh” sort of thing to say, when you have a motor like the Rotax in the Tuono, gear selection is almost irrelevant–which allows you to just focus on picking your lines, setting the throttle and braking as necessary. No clutching and shifting unless you just want to–that’s two fewer appendages to worry about.

The Tuono feels so stable at speed and through corners that I don’t even notice riples and bumps in the road that normally fling me around on other motorcycles like the DR650. I was so amazed by the bike’s stability that I actually took the DR650 back to Pronghorn today. The difference between the two is even greater than I remembered with the Tuono staying comletelty composed through the curves and the DR bending, flexing and deflecting off of every imperfection in the road. I was able to manage similar speeds on the DR and it was exciting but not in the same way.

After the Pronghorn road, I couldn’t help it. I wanted more and the best place to get more wasn’t far away. First, though, I took a left out of Pronghorn and headed towards Prineville. Each of the big sweeping curves on the Powell Butte Hwy offered further proof of the Tuono’s abilities. The best part, though, was heading down into Prineville. The road winds back and forth around swippers and even a hairpin. Just before the descent I’d picked up a tail: a Ducati Diavel. Normally I can’t go around those curves very quickly due to their weird camber, but the Tuono slid around them so easily that soon the Diavel was well behind me and I couldn’t help grinning from ear to ear.

In Prinveille, I stopped at Starbucks for an Americano and a sandwich and sat outside to gaze on the lovely red motorcycle that was quickly working its way into my soul. A car full of tourists stopped and asked if they could take photos with the Tuono. None of my other bikes generate love like this–though the Ural does get attention.

Brain bucket, caffeine and andrenaline  machine
Brain bucket, caffeine and andrenaline machine

I did something at Starbucks this time that I haven’t ever done. I rushed through my coffee and lunch so I could get back on the bike and head up the canyon. I actually passed a couple of cars on the way–something else I don’t do much of. As you can see from the photos, though, I did stop a couple of times. The Red Bike does photograph well. Almost as well as it rides.

Since I hadn’t come down through the canyon on the way to Prineville like normal, I didn’t know the roads were actually in pretty good shape, so I took it pretty easy on the way up. There are a few sections with especially rippled road and the Tuono’s suspension soaked that up without breaking a swat. It was never too harsh, never deflected, just followed the road and let me get on with the business of setting up for the next curve.

After all the fun I felt a little beat by the time I got up to Reservoir Road and started heading back towards home. One thing was certain after that ride. I won’t be selling the bike anytime soon if I can help it.

Moto Life

Ural Maintenance…harder and easier than I thought

A couple Saturdays ago I woke up with nothing at all planned. No honey-dos. No riding (too cold and cruddy). No work. No movies. No beers with the guys. No kid stuff to do. I literally had the day at my disposal. For a while I laid in bed and thought about doing nothing at all. I felt a little guilty about that, though, and came up with a better idea: lubing the splines on the Ural’s final drive. This is a bit of maintenance that–if neglected–can result in the need to rebuild your final drive when the splines eventually wear down and the drive shaft spins freely. Not good. Not a cheap fix either. So, with a new sense of purpose, I got up, got dressed and headed out to the shop.

Most of the Ural is super simple to work on so I launched into the project. Step one was getting the bike up on its center stand–which took a hydraulic jack as it’s just too heavy to tug up there without help.

Next step was rear wheel removal. I was stuck at this step for nearly two hours. No matter how much turning and tugging I did on the axle, I couldn’t get it free. I finally started tapping the pin that slides through the axle hole with a hammer and–after a lot of worrying that I was doing it wrong but having no choice–the axle popped out. After inspecting the axle it became obvious why it had been so hard to remove–the axle was dry and crusty. I cleaned it up and set it aside. My friend Peter later asked if I’d used steel wool to clean the gunk off, but WD40 and a rag did a good enough job that I didn’t feel the need.

Got the rear wheel off. Cleaned things up a bit, then went to lunch.
Got the rear wheel off. Cleaned things up a bit, then went to lunch.


After getting the rear wheel off, I went to grab a bite to eat and, while finishing my lunch, I pulled up the Ural video on lubing the splines. Watching that video provided two crucial bits of information: tapping the axle out with a hammer is the recommended method of removing the axle–and there’s a lot more to lubing the splines on the final drive than pulling the rear wheel.

With this new knowledge I headed back out to the shop, got my ratchet set, took a deep breath and started pulling bolts out of the final drive itself. Since the Patrol is 2WD, there’s twice the number of drive shafts to deal with as on a 1WD Ural and I was suddenly thinking maybe 2WD isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

In the end, getting the final drive off was actually pretty easy–much easier than pulling the axle–or the work to come when I needed to put it back together. I even had the good sense to shoot photos of the U-joint positions before removing it so I could put it back together correctly.

It’s hard to see in the photos, but the splines on both drive shafts were dirty and very very DRY. I spent some time cleaning the final drive up and then turned my attention to the area where the wheel and final drive had been. After a good 30 minutes of knocking dirt and mud away and cleaning splines, I was ready to hit everything with grease and put it back together.

Up to this point, I’d been using rubber gloves to keep from getting my hands too nasty. Eventually, though, the grease and work got the better of the gloves and they started shredding. I tried for a while to use my winter work gloves and I finally gave up on the gloves completely. Nothing a little soap and warm water won’t clean off, right? Although it turns out the grease tends to really hold the cold–which resulted in some numb fingers.

After lubing the splines up good and reviewing the photos of the U-joints, I got the drive situated and started trying to get it back in place. Then I tried some more. And tried some more. The final drive must weigh 20-30 pounds (thought it feels more like 100 pounds) so trying to line up splines in two directions while holding the final drive in the right spot is an exercise…in getting exercise. You can’t get right under where you need to be so you’re stuck holding everything out in front of you with one arm while you try and line up everything and put it back together.

I tried using wood blocks to prop the drive up. I tried a jack. I even used my knees. In the end it came down to arm strength, though. I spent so much time getting it right, though, that I was as sore the next day as I’d have been if I spent the time working out in the gym.

Eventually I figured out the best way to get everything together was to line up the main drive first and then the sidecar drive. Or was it the other way around? Ah…a quick check of that YouTube video reveals it IS the main drive shaft first. After a bit more cursing I got it together and before tightening it all back down, I checked my photos to see how the U-joints were lined up. I breathed a deep sigh, muttered the word “why” to myself and pulled it back apart and tried again. And again. Until finally I got it right and even the photos looked the same. I wanted to jump for joy. I wanted a beer. Instead I took a breather to regroup and started putting everything back together.

As you can imagine, with the everything clean and the axle lubed, it all went back together fairly quickly and easily. I was done well before dinner and felt pretty satisfied, knowing I’d completed work that actually needed to be done. I took the bike out the following day for a shakedown ride. Also got the rear brake readjusted (since you have to pull it apart to get the final drive off). Everything went good on the ride and when I got back home I gave all the bolts a quick check. Done and done.

Next up: valve clearance check/adjust.

Moto Life

Happy birthday to me

Birthdays in Central Oregon are tough when your birthday is in January and the thing you want most of all is moto-related. Doesn’t matter if it’ a new bike, a motorbike ride or just a new moto farkle. All moto-related birthday wishes make me want to ride. And January in Central Oregon doesn’t alway give me that freedom. It did this year.

Actually the whole weekend leading up to my Tuesday birthday was decent. I rode the DR Saturday and Sunday and had a great time of it. The original plan was to take Tuesday and be on two wheels again–the Tuono if possible. Then I mentioned The Plan to Peter and suddenly we’re on Urals. I was disappointed at first but after we started heading into the canyon I was thankful to be on three as ODOT had apparently been hard at work converting Hwy 27 to gravel…or at least hiding the pavement from the snow under a thick layer of the stuff.

We stopped at the boat ramp leading down into the canyon and shot photos. Peter demoed flying the chair and with nobody around I talked him into teaching me the fine art, or trying to at least. I didn’t get any photos of my tub in the air, but I did manage to snap a couple of Peter.

Peter puts the chair in the air to show me how it's done.
Peter puts the chair in the air to show me how it’s done.


On (or more precisely, off) Patroll at Prineville Reservoir.
On (or more precisely, off) Patroll at Prineville Reservoir.


We messed around there long enough for me to get a good workout and shed my first layer–off with the glove liners–then it was on down the road for more photos. We found another spot that I usually miss because it’s in a particularly fun set of twisty parts. On a Ural you have more time to react…which is good since getting stopped takes longer.


From there it was on down the road a ways. I have a favorite spot for photos and nearly always pull off there on every photo run with every bike I take up or down the canyon–so of course we had to stop there. Usually I sit there long enough to see other bikes going by, but there just weren’t other bikes out…and not many cars either.


It wasn’t quite a bluebird sky day, but close–as you can see from the photos here. We headed on into Prineville for lunch at Tastee Treat–which Peter was kind enough to buy. After lunch it was on to the ONeil Hwy, through Redmond and finally home via the Old Bend Redmond Hwy. Was a great ride and made for a great birthday outing.

Moto Life

First post of Sweet ’16

It’s official…I’m posting in 2016. I know this is exciting for you, dear reader, so I’ll ask that you refrain from coming totally unglued. This is, after all, just a blog, and not a very good one at that.

Sometimes you put stuff out there for the wide world and wonder whether anyone will ever see it. Mostly that’s what I do–minus the wondering whether people see it bit. Probably because this blog’s really just for me.

So anyway, this winter has been especially cold and wet. Lots of snow and rain and as a result, I have yet to ride the 2004 Aprilia Tuono I acquired last month. I find this annoying–to say the least–as my birthday is rapidly approaching and I’d very much like to have at least a short ride on the bike.

Aside from the rain and snow and cold, the thing that’s been keeping me from riding is the bike hasn’t started since it came to live with me. It’s funny because I watched the previous owner fire it right up at his place, heard it run. There were no signs of anything being amiss. When he brought it here I didn’t even think to have him start it–why would I? As he drove off with the Guzzi, I tried to crank it up and and it almost lit–then the battery didn’t seem to have enough juice. According to the interwebs this is a common problem. The previous owner claims he never had any issues with it and wanted to blame my charger–the one I hadn’t hooked up to the bike yet. Sigh.

I’ve replaced a couple of known weaknesses–connections to the regulator/rectifier. Put it all back together. Yesterday I ordered a new Yuasa battery–something a bit more potent than the stock battery (of course the battery that was in there wasn’t stock…was a crappy BikeMaster gel battery). Also ordered a Tecmate Optimate 3 battery charger as they’re supposed to be  “smarter” chargers. Hoping that’s all it takes.

The Ducati flag was a Christmas gift. At least it's Italian. The previous owner flew a Confederate flag in his shop.
The Ducati flag was a Christmas gift. At least it’s Italian. The previous owner flew a Confederate flag in his shop.


Not long after getting the bike–and not being able to ride it or even fire it  up–I began suffering from buyers remorse. I always considered the Tuono a naked sport bike. Honestly though there’s not much naked about it. They literally stripped the pretty plastic bits off a the Mille sportbike and replaced them with less pretty plastic bits. No relocating anything to tidy up. Just hidden differently. You can only barely see bits and pieces of the motor. It’s the closest thing to a plastic-wrapped rocket I’ve ever owned and that’s just not me. I much prefer to see the motor and after the Guzzi–which hangs its lovely 1100cc motor in the wind for the world to see–the Tuono is a big change.

Last weekend, though, I got the rest of the wiring done on the bike and put it back together. The sky was blue and it was nearly warm. I pulled the bike into the sun near the rollup doors and admired it. I realized it’s really sexy and was inspired to shoot some photos–some of which are attached to this post. As I took pics, I thought about the exotic bits on the bike: titanium, magnesium, billet aluminum, carbon fiber, brembo brakes…all very sexy. Now I can’t wait to hear it again. Can’t wait to ride it. And if while I’m riding the front wheel should happen to levitate over bumps in the road…well that’ll be a bonus.

Moto Life

The Goose’s final ride

After several weeks of back and forth on Craigslist, the Guzzi went home with its new owner to Prineville today. I’d been trying to sell it since August after a ride that demonstrated to me once and for all how bad the ergonomics were for me by triggering my degenerative disk disease and causing neck/arm pain bad enough to make me go see a doctor.

After several months of no interest from the CraigsListees, I finally reached out to someone who’d left open the idea of trading and that’s how it ended up working out. In the Guzzi’s place is a 2004 Aprilia Tuono–dripping with sexy Italian red paint. I haven’t even ridden it yet, but I figure worst case, I’ll just sell it–which is what ultimately happens to all of my bikes anyway.

The Tuono occupies its new home in the shop
The Tuono occupies its new home in the shop