Further thoughts on Polishin', Paintin' and Ridin'

By Dave Murray


I leaned into the turn, just a tad too close behind Mildred annoyed at her "five MPH under the limit" pace, the back end of a HUGE thunderstorm looming five miles overhead. Then we drove into Niagara Falls. Mildred got all over her brakes, and got sideways, the road went instantly to Vaseline, and the bike got that loose feeling it gets when there is NO adhesion. I saw some grass, figured it was softer than concrete, and sorta herded the bike toward it. I got a little braking done before we hit the wet grass and went down. Classic low side crash, I thought, as I hit the kill switch and did an inventory of arms and legs. They were all there, though the right leg was pinned under the bike, and I couldn't get traction in the mud to get it out. A wonderful Hispanic couple stopped and lifted the bike off me. Mildred drove on. I surveyed a big ding in the tank, a badly insulted leg, and what sure felt like a torn rotator. I got off cheap. I could ride home.

How stupid is it to overtake a thunderstorm? I'm a freakin' pilot. I know better! That's how strong "Get Home-itis" can be. I was coming back from my Brigade reunion in DC, getting close to home at the Jersey Shore, and the pull was strong. I had just passed Olga's Diner, where I could have waited for the thunderbumper to move on. Oh, well! "Ve get too Soon Oldt, und too late Schmart!" That was Memorial Day, a year back.

The bike had brand-new Taiwan tires when I bought it, I knew they were substandard, but had been too cheap to throw away tires with only 1500 miles on them. I did so the next day, in favor of a set of Avons. There is a night-and-day difference. On a bike, the best tires are just barely good enough. The same goes for brakes; I replaced the HD single piston front caliper with a "Hawghalter" four piston unit (http://www.hawghalters.com/).

The modulation is much better due to reduced effort, and a two-finger pull feels like running into a giant marshmallow. I left the rear alone, as it is already a bit prone to lockup.

I have put about 10,000 miles on in a year and a half, mostly 10-20 mile chunks, and the Sporty has proven to be the perfect bike for me. I can't imagine moving "up" to a larger, slower, bike. I have 72 HP pushing 500 pounds and a 700 pound bike would have to be putting down well over 100 HP to match my power/weight ratio. New Jersey is the most densely populated state, and we don't have 100 mile straight stretches. You need acceleration, braking, and maneuverability. The Sporty has them, in spades.

The crash gave me the opportunity to do a lacquer spot-repair. I filled the ding with Bondo, sanded it fair, and then primed it. I put on three light coats of color with a cheap airbrush, heavier in the center of the repair, feathering outward. The lacquer "burned into" the existing paint like magic. I used the HVLP gun to clearcoat the whole tank, heavier over the repair, as in the original "Paintin' " article, and was done in four hours. Lacquer is unsurpassed in reparability.

I have had well over a dozen kind responses to the "Paintin" article from people who tried it with good results. I have also been told that there are very user-friendly urethanes available now, but the discussion of which primer, reducer, and catalyst gets complicated really quickly. I may try it next time, but I still hold that, for the complete newcomer to painting, lacquer is more forgiving. Mine has stood up well, except that gas spots do eat into the clearcoat, and have to be polished out. Lacquer used to be harder and more fuel-resistant, so I suspect that VOC regulations have taken their toll.

I had expected to have to re-polish the aluminum with buffing wheels and rouge, but it has not been necessary. The monthly maintenance polish has kept it as shiny as when newly buffed. I found a very good aluminum polish, "Boms Away" (s'help me, God!). This is a non-abrasive chemical cleaner and polish that contains a carnauba wax. It leaves a mirror shine which stands up better than anything else I have tried (http://www.badtothebom.com). I haven't tried their other products, and ain't financially involved.

A good trick when using any metal polish is to use a two-rag buffing system. Use the polish, then wipe the haze down with rag #1, then final polish with rag #2. As soon as rag #2 starts showing gray, demote it to rag #1, and start a new #2. Use only perfect rags, particularly on paint. Silk is best fer a Harley; cashmere is okay fer riceburners. OK, I'm kidding (nobody polishes riceburners), but absolutely clean terry or sweatshirt material is a must.

Mechanically, the bike has been bone reliable. I did go to synthetic oil (Mobil 1 20/50) in the engine, and got an immediate 20 drop in oil temperature. Combustion heat is unchanged, so that is entirely due to friction reduction. I've talked to racers and long haul truckers. They say motors running full synthetic oil simply do not wear. Now, for years, Harley dealers told us that our roller bearings would "skid," and our manly members shrivel if we used synthetic oil. Yeah, right! The Motor Company just announced their own branded synthetic 20/50. It can be used in transmissions and primary cases as well. I may be kidding myself, but I think it quieted the primary/transmission noise considerably.

At the time of the first articles, I had the bike pretty much where I wanted it to be, so I have made few further modifications. I do recommend one, which can save your butt. I have always been unhappy with the Sporty's single stoplight. I put in a high intensity bulb, but I still wanted to be more certain that I was getting the message across; "Hey Mildred, Wilbur, I'm freakin' STOPPING here!" I installed dual-filament sockets in the rear turn indicators, installed red lenses, and wired the brightest filaments to the stoplight circuit. I now have three stoplights, which will do until I can figure a way to mount a flare dispenser. I believe HD has a kit to do this, and Custom Chrome carries the parts. You need an electronic balancer box, as well.

I used to work for a living, now my Southern friends describe me as "retard." Trouble is, after the thunderbumper crash, there is some question which syllable should be accented. I love to ride, every day if it ain't raining or snowing. If you're in Ocean County, I'm the guy wearing the vest with the 12" 199th Infantry patch on the back. You got your colors, Bro, I got mine. I'm also a wuss. This bike has no Tupperware except the windshield, and it's drafty, if you get my drift. I hate winter, so last fall I got the "Gerbing" electric heated jacket liner and gloves. I found their gloves a bit bulky, but they will wire a set of your own gloves for half the price of new (http://www.gerbing.com/).

Man, they are the caterpillar's spats! Going down the road at 35 with warm hands is wonderful. With lined jeans, a neoprene face cover and ear cover from a Sporting goods shop, and the electric undies, I am actually comfortable down to 30. It takes awhile to get dressed, and I look like that advert for Michelin tires, but I'm riding. Doesn't it make sense to spend a couple of hundred to make a bike worth many thousands ride-able for a greater part of the year?

This year's reunion is two weeks off, and I hope to make it to Rolling Thunder as well. Let's see what kind of bonehead stunt I can pull this year!

Go forth and be joyful!




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Copyright 2003 by Dave Murray. All rights reserved.



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