Nov 15, 2010

Gerbing Heated Jacket Liner

On a recent cold weather ride in Northern Ontario, I suffered serious failures on my one year old Gerbing jacket liner. Temperatures were several degrees below the freezing mark.

First problem occurred when putting my Aerostich jacket on. I was holding on to the right side glove connector to guide it through the sleeve opening, and it came right off in my hand. The wire separated from the connector right at the molding. No chance to resolder.

The heated hand grips were still working but it was cold enough to make the back of my hands cold on this long highway ride in the early hours of the morning.

Then the left heated glove stopped working. The wire inside the insulation broke at the molding, but did not completely come off. In the picture, it may not be obvious, but the wire is bent over at an odd angle. Now both hands were cold. The heated hand grips just can't keep up when riding on the highway at -4C for a number of hours.

Then the left heated hand grip stopped working - broken wire. Quite unusual. I would expect more troubles with the right side, where the wires flex with each application of the throttle.

The heated grips had been preventing the onset of frostbite, but just barely. Now my left hand was without any heat at all. It wasn't long before my fingers were painful and stiff. I took my left hand off the the handlebar and placed it between me and the tankbag, out of the wind blast. It helped some, but my hand was still uncomfortably cold. The right wasn't much better. My legs were cold and there wasn't much heat under the liner either. There was just my jacket's shell between the heated liner and the frozen air. I had been shivering for some time.

I pulled over at a Tim Hortons to warm up. Once stopped, I picked out my heated pant liner and heated socks. I needed to get my core temperature up or the ride was done. Once inside, I ordered a chili and hot chocolate. It was around three in the morning with many hours of cold riding before the sun rose.

I put on the heated pant liner and heated socks, which plugged into the bottom of the heated jacket liner. I then put a sweater on top of the liner in hopes of keeping some of the heat in. After finishing my food, I went back at it.

No sense plugging in the heated gloves anymore. Off I go with my single heated grip and heated gear running. I felt better but the left hand suffered. I had to ride with it tucked behind the tankbag or risk frostbite.

I rode like this for hours. Eventually, the sun came up and temperatures inched above the freezing mark. The pain went away, but the cold never did.

By that day's nightfall, I was in warmer air south of Georgian Bay and it wasn't as cold. I was mad as hell, however, to be the victim of an early failure of a brand I once trusted.

My old Gerbing served me for over ten years, without a single problem for at least six of those years. After serving me valiantly for so long, it did eventually begin to suffer broken wires. I fixed them all myself, even though Gerbing offers a lifetime warranty on the wiring to the original owner.

A warranty isn't much good when one is freezing one's ass off in the middle of the night. I would rather fix a problem myself rather than mail it back to the United States, wait a few months, then pay outrageous brokerage fees upon return of the garment because they ignored my request to return via post instead of the hyper-expensive courier companies. (That subject being a whole other lengthy post)

And I can't do without a heated liner for months, summer or winter.

But after being stranded in the cold one too many times, I invested in another Gerbing. Big mistake. The new ones are now made in China and are of poor quality.

Others issues have irked me about the new designs. The jacket heat circuit and the glove heat circuit are now separate, forcing a purchase of a dual controller, or a splitter to run both circuits from one controller. Not a good idea from the standpoint of having more connections, which equates to more potential trouble spots.

Well guess what? I had problems with this splitter circuit within weeks of buying the jacket liner - right before the Iron Butt Rally. The heated jacket liner quit working while the gloves continued to provide heat. This problem was quite obviously the fault of the splitter. Sure enough, moving the connections caused the problem to move also, following the bad leg of the splitter.

I returned the splitter to the dealer where it was bought. It was returned to me from the distributor with an explanation that it was not faulty, and that I should send my jacket liner back to the company. Well I tried it again, thinking they may have just given me a new one.

Nope, they gave me the same crappy splitter with one branch providing no power. I had to purchase another (overpriced) splitter and THROW OUT the original one which was only weeks old. As I suspected when I saw this new design, there are now more things with which to have trouble.

So all in all, I give Gerbings a failing grade. I will send the "new" liner for warranty, but I can never rely on it again. It will ride along as a backup set to my next heated clothing gear - appropriately called "Gears."

Made in Canada, this gear got a positive review from a friend. I shall be obtaining a liner and gloves shortly. Review to follow in the new year.

Oct 16, 2010

ST1100 Rolls Again

The ST1100 is once again rolling. In lieu of a new exhaust system - which I have waiting in the wings for a winter change-out - I have patched the exhaust system.

I first tried red exhaust tape which melts and molds to fill cracks. My complete break being so much more than that, it wouldn't hold the canister - which is only supported by one bolt - from moving and was totally inadequate. So I applied a solution that is often effective in mobile applications: I wired it.

Nope, still moving too much, and now the red tape was bulging out through the wire when the bike was running. Next step was heavy duty aluminum foil with stainless steel band clamps. Well wouldn't ya know, the thing is holding. Ugly as sin is this back-alley repair but it is doing the trick. I have been running the bike this way for weeks and it is holding.

Should get me through the meagre fall riding that remains.

Aug 14, 2010

ST1100 Problems Surface

Well the miles I am accumulating on the 1998 Honda ST1100 are once again showing themselves. The splines in the rear drive are worn, and the exhaust system is coming apart.

The splines on both the differential side and the wheel side are worn from the nice flat top profile one would expect to small points. There is not much life left in them. I recently traveled to New York City to obtain a replacement. I bought a used differential from my friend Dan who is parting out an ST1100. I had recently bought the exhaust system and a brake caliper off this machine. How did I get there? Why on the ST1100 of course!

I was doing a tire change on the bike when it was noticed. I did get the new tire on, lubricated those worn splines with moly grease and rode to NYC and back. Approximately 1000 km each way. Of course the new tire is my old standby, the excellent Bridgestone Exedra G548.

I have yet to put the new-to-me differential on the bike.

The other problem I have is with that previously mentioned exhaust system that I bought used from the donor motorcycle. The pipe leading to the right canister is completely separated from the collector. Of course this used system was put on after the original exhaust rusted out.

I must get this system repaired soon. It is my favourite commuter bike!

Here is a photo of the damaged exhaust.

Jun 27, 2010

Annual Maintenance Complete (Whew!)

It feels good when all the maintenance on the motorcycles is up to date.

I just completed a round of maintenance on the KLR650 and the ST1100. Here is what I did.


  • fork oil
  • flush front and rear brake fluid
  • flush and fill radiator
  • motor oil and filter
  • clean foam air filter and re-oil
  • new spark plug
  • sonic wash and completely overhaul the carburetor
  • remove coolant overflow tank, clean and refill
(and that's besides doing the doohickey inside the engine and installing
grease nipples on the rear suspension)

  • fork oil
  • replace blown headlight bulb
  • flush and fill radiator
  • remove, clean, and refill coolant overflow bottle
  • flush front and rear brake lines with new fluid
  • replace differential fluid
  • clean and re-grease speedometer cable core
  • flush clutch line with new fluid
  • engine oil and filter
  • carburetor synchronization
  • valve clearance check
  • (plugs, filters, clutch, timing belt, and water pump were new last year)

I also did some maintenance on Jane's Yamaha XT225

  • flush front brake line with new fluid
  • engine oil and filter
  • Clean and re-oil air filter
  • Apply grease to all the rear suspension grease fittings
  • replace leaking base gasket between cylinder and engine block

We should be ready for our excursion to James Bay in Northern Quebec in a week.

Jun 1, 2010

First Long Ride of 2010

It was the middle of May, 2010, and I managed to get away for the first long ride of 2010.

It was mostly cold and rainy on my way from London, Ontario, to Moncton, New Brunswick.

In fact, it was cold most of the time I was there, and rainy.


I did experience a few nice days in my week and a half in the Maritimes. Here is a photo from my ride to Prince Edward Island. My first attempt at riding there on this trip was canceled due to severe rain.

I was also in the beautiful city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Overall a wonderful trip.

May 2, 2010

The KLR650 Is Alive And Well

It has been a long road. From the point where the suspension seized up until the motorcycle is again fully functional is a span of a year and a half.

So what was the holdup? I wanted to install six grease nipples on the rear suspension, and didn't know how I was going to get that done. In fact, for a while, I was considering a seventh and difficult location to install a grease nipple: on the head of the shock linkage pivot bolt.

I finally got those grease fittings installed earlier this year, abandoning the seventh. Thanks for doing this, Bruce. Also, since the engine was out of the frame, I opened up the engine to replace the balancer chain tensioner - the infamous doohickey.

Having taken some time off work to devote to this project, it finally progressed - sort of. Sometimes it was one step forward and two steps back.

I got the subframe on - a fiddly job that requires attaching a stiff rubber hose from the airbox to the carb. Then I had to remove it again in order to install the exhaust system. Then I had to remove the exhaust system in order to attach the negative battery cable to the starter. Of course, removing the exhaust system meant also removing the subframe - again!

Then after getting the bike mostly together, I discover that the initial problem which precipitated this entire process still existed. The rear suspension was still acting as if it was seized. One problem was the left linkage arm was installed the wrong way to allow clearance between the bolt head and the drive chain.

But after taking things apart to correct that issue, the suspension was still seized. I could press the seat down and it would stay down. I could pull the seat up, and it would stay up. What was wrong?

I once again disassembled the rear suspension (was this the third time or the fourth, I can't remember!) to remove the shock and check everything out. With the help of Gord Inglis of Inglis Cycle Centre in London, we put the shock on the hydraulic press and it did seem to rebound.

However, another check of the suspension eliminated all other possibilities. I enlisted Gord to help me find an aftermarket shock for the bike. Aftermarket shocks have the advantage of being rebuildable down the road when the damping system inevitably becomes less effective.

In the case of the original shock, instead of losing all damping whatsoever and turning the back end into a pogo stick, the internals of the Kawasaki shock went the other way; the shock became slow and stiff to extend and rebound as if filled with molasses.

Now, with my new Progressive Suspension shock in place, the bike rides as it should. Things have settled down in the back and the bike rides much smoother.

Upon initial disassembly of the bike way back when and finding the shock linkage pivot bolt rusted and seized, I looked no further for any other possible causes with regards to the seized suspension. Obviously, there were more than one problem with the bike!

Once again, thanks Gord for helping me out.

Today, my wife and I went out for an extended dirt ride to check things out and have a bit of fun. It was an excellent ride. We racked up more than 200 km, the vast majority on dirt and gravel backroads. There were also several old no-longer-maintained roads which required elevated care to the point of standing up at times.

Here are some pics.

Jane and her Yamaha XT225 - and the "new" KLR650

Port Stanley, Ontario - on the north shore of Lake Erie

Yellowstone Park! (see the sign in the background)

Apr 25, 2010

Coming Together

My last post on this subject detailed my changing of the engine balancer inside the KLR650 engine. The engine was out of the frame and so I could position the engine to make it easier to work on.

Now, the engine is back in the frame, and other bits and pieces are starting to be assembled into something that resembles a motorcycle. The following pictures show the grease nipples that my friend Bruce applied to the suspension bits. These will make it easier to lubricate the suspension so that hopefully a seizure like what happened on the Michigan Cross Country Trail can be avoided.

The shock linkage and center swingarm pivot showing grease nipples

Left side swingarm pivot grease nipple mounted on top near chain

Left side swingarm pivot grease nipple mounted underneath

Coming together, but still lots to do

Here I am on the Michigan Cross Country Trail
before the suspension seizure

Parts of this trail are very difficult and treacherous

GPS track of trail (including the crossover which forms
the letter A) it would take over a week to do it all

Mar 24, 2010

Did The Doohickey

Today I completed a further step towards getting my KLR6500 back on the road. I replaced the balancer chain idler pulley. This part is commonly referred to in the world of the KLR650 as the "doohickey."

I won't bore you with describing the whole procedure. It can be found here:

Something not updated in this procedure is the new spring design pioneered by Mike of Eagle Design and Mfg. I bought my kit, including the custom wrench and rotor puller, from A Vicious Cycle in New Dundee, Ontario. Great place for dirt bike and dual sport enthusiasts.

The new torsion spring is not discussed in the above procedure. For that, the instructions can be found at Left Coast KLRs.

Here are a few pictures from my own experience. I should say that with the above instructions, there were no surprises whatsoever.

My setup - I used ratcheting straps to tie the motor down
as a lot of torque is necessary to remove the rotor inside.

Close up of the left side strap. I removed the strap from
the ratcheting mechanism to thread it behind the oil
line which feeds the head.

Wider view- the back of a pickup truck is the perfect
work area. D-rings to hold the motor right at waist level.

This view shows my work lights. Plenty of light!

Left side cover removed showing the stator. The
rotor is still on the engine.

Torque on the rotor bolt is 130 ft.lbs. This custom
wrench holds the rotor/engine from turning.
Worked great!

Here is my old doohickey on the left. A welded part.
New doo on the right is machined from solid billet.

Vacuuming off engine before removing second
engine casing in order to access old spring.

This original spring, at 45,000 kms, has lost
all of it's pulling ability.

The engine casing has been drilled out to accept
the new torsion spring - shown.

Inner engine casing, torsion spring, and new
doohickey are applied. Using tack lifter
to stretch spring into place.

Here the spring is in place, and pushed back into the
groove on the doohickey. No more weak extension
spring or welded part.

Re-tightening the rotor bolt.

Mar 7, 2010

First Ride of 2010

It felt great to be riding the motorcycle today. It was unseasonably warm and I took full advantage. Not a big ride, but a very satisfying one. Can't wait for the next one.

Feb 2, 2010

2010 World of Motorcycles Expo

In the midst of a Canadian winter. Bikes are parked and we can only dream of rides to come. But wait, we can also get together to talk about and look at motorcycles at the numerous motorcycle shows that take place in the winter time.

Here in London Ontario, the World of Motorcycles Expo is coming up soon. February 19th - 21st at the Western Fair Agriplex.

I will be running the show booth for the London Motorcycle Ride for Dad, and will be displaying the motorcycle I rode in the 2009 Iron Butt Rally.

Jan 21, 2010

This is an iPhone test.

This is a test of blogging via iPhone. This test will determine how accurate text entry is, and whether the forms work.