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
Moto Life

Some good news, some bad news, but at least I’ve been riding

When I have good and bad news to tell, I usually like to start with the bad–just seems better to get it out of the way. In this case the bad news is sort of the reason for the good news anyway, so it’ll also be chronological order. Oh, but there’s also the riding…which in general has been good this year as reported in my last post (aside from my head giving me grief).

I took the Stone up over McKenzie Pass this year–I didn’t do the entire thing, but did get down the west side past most of the hairpin turns before I turned around to head back. It’s always beautiful up there and this trip was no exception.

The Bad News

I had another couple of rides locally on the Goose after this, but the last one–yep you read that right–was a doozy. I was determined to get a ride in one weekend and left for a short one on a Sunday. I headed up onto Cascade Lakes Hwy into a stiff wind and basically fought the wind for the entire ride. Between being tired when I started the ride and fighting the wind during the ride, I was pretty wiped. Little did I know at the time that I’d also screwed up my neck. That’s right, my old herniated disc decided to give me problems again…15 years after the first time.

After dealing with the neck for a couple of days I went to see a doctor friend of mine because I was due to head out on a driving vacation with the family a few days later. I was afraid my neck wouldn’t like being on the road for 8-10 hours in the car (when the herniated disc showed up 15 years ago I couldn’t be in the car for more than 45 minutes–and I was miserable the whole time). My friend told me that if I was worried about it I probably shouldn’t go, so I ended up sending my family on vacation to see the redwoods in Northern California without me.

The Good News

Staying home worked. I took lots of ibuprofen. I stretched. I chilled. I stayed off bikes. I got better. And I got on CraigsList. I found another bike and I went and looked–a Honda NC700X owned by the owner of Cibellis pizza. Cool. Then I went and looked at another–a Suzuki V-Strom 650 owned by a gentlemen whose name I don’t recall, but he had great taste in motorcycles. In his shop were no less than seven motorcycles–a W650, DRZ400, DR650, the Wee Strom, a big-daddy Vstrom (the new version), a KTM 1290 Super Adventure and a Suzuki GSXR-750 track bike. There may have also been a TW200 in there somewhere. Ultimately I didn’t buy any of those bikes but had good fun meeting the owners and admiring them.

The following weekend, though, I found and agreed to buy a 2009 Suzuki DR650. The bike was a little more money than I wanted to spend, but had low miles and lots of farkles including the two big ones: aftermarket seat and a great big gas tank. I took it for a test ride and knew immediately it’s what I was looking for and haven’t regretted buying it since.

Once I got the bike home, the customization started immediately: returned to stock height, put the stock kickstand back on, ditched the windscreen and added my universal top case mount for my Givi top case. Within a week or two I’d ordered a jet kit from and I installed it the day it came in. Of course it created issues with surging that I sorted with a little help from the interwebz. Turns out the carb is very sensitive to air flow/pressure, so I tweaked the airbox cuts I made and extended a hose from the carb that’s tied to air pressure and it runs great.

Made a few other tweaks to the DR as well. One of the previous owners had installed hand guards that prevented the clutch lever from being pulled in all the way so I removed those and reinstalled the stock hand guards. Now I can get the bike in neutral when I come to a stop with it in gear. Also pulled the foot brake lever and installed it one notch down so I don’t have to try so hard to shift gears. Finally I noticed the handlebars weren’t straight after a trip up and over McKenzie Pass–yes I rode the entire thing this time–so I loosened all the bolts tweaked the bars and tightened them back down. Perfect.

Have been riding and loving this bike and will leave you with some gratuitous shots.