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Steering Damper

Steering Dampers

Steering Dampers for the /7s

It's funny - neither Otus nor Bubo have a steering damper but my Airhead friends all pretty much expected both to have one installed. With just a little bit of cash for previously-enjoyed parts and an online purchase of the missing new parts and I have two complete steering dampers - one for each /7. The only bummer about installing the steering damper on each bike is that I have to take a lot of the front end apart - a task I don't really enjoy all that much. Doing the work on Otus will be the most time-consuming because I have to remove the windshield and it's tedious putting it back together.

The goal is to stabilize the front end on both bikes, but for different reasons. Otus could use the steering damper because I tend to pack him heavy when I attend rallies. I hve lightened my camping gear a bit this year by down-sizing my tent. This will allow me to move more weight into the panniers rather than in my duffle bag on the passenger seat but I will still have my duffle bag up top so I still need to improve Otus' front end tability.

With Bubo serving as the sidecar tug the steering damper should help eliminate the front-end wobble that seems to occur between 15 - 25 mph. The wobble is predictable but anything I can do to help make the ride more stable will improve my experience and confidence on the sidecar rig.

Pictures will follow when I'm ready to dig in on the projects.

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Luggage for Bubo - Featured Image

Luggage for Bubo

Luggage for Bubo

I'm getting closer to figuring out Bubo's role in the fleet but while I continue to sort it out I'm moving forward with installing the essentials. As far as I'm concerned luggage is an essential but Bubo arrived without any. I started by installing a previously-enjoyed set of pannier racks when I installed new shocks. With the racks in place I went shopping for the panniers. A friend of mine bought two parts bikes and I considered a set of panniers from those but they had three problems - "seat belt" style latches, cracks from years of service, and no keys. I looked around online but all the previously-enjoyed panniers had at least two of these same three problems. I also considered swapping the panniers from Otus to Bubo when necessary but I couldn't come up with the small bracket needed to make the latches work on the pannier racks so that wasn't a workable solution. Because I couldn't find a solid set of used panniers I put a crowbar in my wallet and bought new panniers from my friends at Bob's BMW. The paniers look right, mount solidly, I can lock them, and the small bracket is included with the panniers. Curiously enough the fasteners I needed to mount the brackets were not included with the panniers so I had to make a run to the hardware store and buy four bolts, nuts, and washers, to install these new panniers. It only took about 30 minutes to get the panniers mounted.

In addition to the panniers I also wanted to include a top case for heavier traveling. I have a Givi Monokey top case on Otus and there's a universal mounting plate that can be installed to just about any top case rack. With that universal mounting plate installed on Bubo's top case rack I am now able to swap the top case between motorcycles very easily. So, now I have Bubo outfitted to carry stuff when needed! The top case also acts as a backrest should I have a passenger on either Bubo or Otus.


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Suspension post featured image

Progress Report – Bubo

Out With The Old, On With The New

They say that when you buy an old motorcycle you'll end up spending the purchase price on parts and repairs so it's important to get that old machine at the lowest price possible! As I work to bring Bubo back to rally shape I've spent about half the purchase price to-date. The most recent collection of parts and repairs include:

All these parts and repairs were required as a big step to bringing Bubo back into shape for regular riding.

This Is Bad

For The Record, This Is Bad

Fork oil isn't supposed to be brown. I was hoping I could simply pull out the old and drop in the new fork springs but time was not on my side. I started on the right fork and things looked pretty good - at least the fork oil was still recognizable as fork oil! I removed the old spring, dropped the new one in, and then moved on to the left fork. That's where things took a turn for the worse. The first challenge was getting the cap off the fork. Using a wrench from Otus' tool roll I attempted to remove the cap but it put up a fight. As it turned out, the cap was stuck to the nut and they came off together. When I removed the nut it was discolored with brown liquid from the fork so I knew I'd have to drain and re-seal the fork. Fortunately I had all the parts on hand for the task. I drained the left-hand fork and found the oil was completely discolored and the bumper that sits in the bottom of the fork stanchion screw plug had turned to goo. A good clean-up, a new bumper and crush rings, and the left fork was sealed up and ready for the new spring and fresh fork oil. While I probably could have left the right-hand side alone I went ahead and flushed, cleaned-up, and buttoned up the right side as well. New springs and fresh oil all around makes the front end feel much better!

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Some time before the move I ordered up an Exhaust Plumbiing Alternative (EPA) Kit from Bob’s BMW and promptly tossed the kit in Strix’s tank bag and forgot about it. On the way back from the BMW MOA rally in Springfield, MO I felt like the bike ran poorly and the fuel economy was worse than I was used to with Otus. When I got home I tucked the bike into the shop and went about recuperating from the heat. A few days later I was unpacking the bike and rediscovered the EPA kit in the tank bag. It was time to get to work!

The “pollution control” stuff installed at the factory consisted of pipes that connect the cylinder heads to the airbox. Removing these pipes and installing the kit itself was easy enough but to get everything cleaned up I had to get into the airbox to remove and plug some vacuum hoses. Once I was inside the airbox I realized that the fuel delivery plumbing was also overly-complicated so I decided to simplify that as well. Under the starter cover there were two “solenoids” of some kind that the fuel passed through. These were connected to the fuel tank and carburetors through a maze of fuel hose. With the starter cover off I was able to remove the solenoids and sinmplify the top of the fuel delivery plumbing. The most challenging part of the reconfiguration though was adding a crossover fuel line like on Otus. To get the crossover fuel line added I had to remove the airbox entirely. This proved to be a challenge until I figure out how to get crankcase vent tube. With that, and the associated pieces out of the way I was able to remove the airbox, add the crossover fuel line, and button everything back up. I even used the appropriate Airhead braided fuel line when re-plumbing the entire setup! Now it looks like a proper Airhead. A turn of the key and a press of the starter button and Strix came alive, and sounded much better!

While I was able to execute this project to near completion with the parts I had on-hand (the EPA kit, Airhead fuel line, and fuel tees) the EPA kit provided screws to plug the vacuum ports on the carburetors. Unfortunately the vacuum ports on Strix’s carburetors were not threaded so I had to order up a vacuum plug kit from my friends at Amazon to complete the project.

As the saying goes, pictures or it didn’t happen. Unfortunately I’m a bit rusty and I didn’t get any before picture. I do, however, have a couple of after pictures that show what got removed and the neat and clean fuel line plumbing that makes Strix look like a proper Airhead!

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Oil Spill

Oil Cooler Failure

At the conclusion of this year’s Airtoberfest Otus’ oil cooler failed. Fortunately the failure was very noisy and I was able to shut him down before all the oil sprayed out. Unfortunately I was 125 miles away from home and no way to repair or bypass the oil cooler on the spot. The get home solution was AAA. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere AAA Premier RV service has been a lifesaver more than once and they came to the rescue yet again! The only constraint was that I was not allowed to ride in the cab of the tow truck due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately a friend was willing to drive me home so all was well and I was home not much later than I would have been had the oil cooler cooperated.

I added the oil cooler at a point in time where I was all about accessorizing Otus. I stumbled upon the oil cooler, thought it would make sense to cool the oil even more and add a little capacity to the oil system. Now that it stranded me I decided to remove it and put Otus’ oil system back to stock. Unfortunately this meant I needed to order a part as the addition of the oil cooler required the replacement of the stock oil filter tube with a much longer tube. This longer oil filter tube prevents the stock oil filter cover from fitting so I once again turned to my friends at Bob’s BMW for the part I needed to get Otus back on the road.

I spent some time reviewing the microfische and decided the part I needed was labeled “pipe” and cost $8.68. Unfortunately I wasn’t 100% certain I had found the correct part due to the vague description so I called Bob’s. They double-checked for me, confirmed it was the correct part, and I added it to my shopping cart. I also bought another oil change kit as I like to have one on-hand for the next oil change. I removed the long pipe, installed the short pipe, buttoned everything up, and Otus started right up with no leaks! While having the oil cooler might have helped in some situations not having it repaired and reinstalled makes Otus less complex and, dare I say – simple by choice.

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Balancing Otus’ Carburetors

The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect, but Otus’ carburetors needed balancing before taking a ride. Last year I bought a TWINMAX Carburetor Balancer, but ran out of riding season before using it. Now that Winter is giving way to Spring, and it was finally dry on a non-work day, the time for balancing the carburetors seemed right.

There are so many explanations of how to balance carbs with or without a balancing tool I really don’t have a lot to add to the discussion. That said, the first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the tool you’re going to use, so read the instructions! I also recommend that the process be performed after the machine is warmed up and has been put through its paces. Oh, and you should also wear gloves because the exhaust gets hot!

So, warm up the motorcycle, read the manual, and wear your gloves! With the carburetors balanced Otus was a happy Airhead. He ran great and that made me happy too!

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Hella Lights on the GS

Hella Lights for the GS

See Me!

You can go a couple of ways with "hella." You could go the way the young people use the word or you could simply accept this as the brand name. I think I'm going to ride the fence on this one and say that the Hella lights on the GS are hella cool and hella bright. And to be clear, these lights aren't just for me to see better but also for me to be seen better. The number of people turning left in front of me has gone down since adding these lights to Otus so the GS needed a set as well. I attempted to install these lights as I did on Otus but there are a few significant differences - I don't have crash bars on the GS and the wiring is quite a bit different. I was, however, able to put together a gadget bar much like the one on Otus, but with one difference.

Here's how this went down. The GS has a bar under the headlight that is threaded on the ends. Amazingly enough the bolts for the Hella light mounts were threaded the same as that bar. Good planning by the BMW Engineers? Good planning by the Hella Engineers? Blind shit-house luck? Hard to say but mounting the lights was a snap. Next was the wiring. I'd done this before on Otus so the installation of the relay and wiring was similarly easy. The instructions provided with the kit are OK but I'm not an electrical engineer so they could have been a bit more explicit. Having installed this kit before on another bike made this a straight-forward process.

The only challenge with this installation was coming up with power behind the ignition. Fortunately there are two fuses inline and the local auto parts store had spare fuses in stock! This part of the installation was different, and honestly I'm still not sure why. I'm sure someone out there will read this and know why right off the bat but again, I'm not an electrical engineer so I'm figuring this out as I go.

The relay in the kit comes with a wiring loom and simple instructions - connect the red lead to the battery and the ground goes to the frame (and there are plenty of places on the frame where the paint is scratched off so the frame ground is solid). Send power to the lights and ground the lights to the frame also (same comment on this frame ground as well). The tricky part here turned out to be the power and ground behind the ignition. I grabbed power from the marker light in the headlight bucket and ran that ground to frame also (just like I did on Otus) but when I turned on the bike the light fuse popped. I then moved the ground to the ground tab on the marker light, replaced the fuse, and there was light. The lesson for me is that, on the GS anyway, grounding the switch to the frame is a no-no.

I now have some spare fuses in my tool kit and really, really bright lights! I've started a mental count of left-turners that don't turn left in front of me. The current count is 3.

Pictures or it Didn't Happen

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Givi, not Luftmeister, Top Case

Something unexpected happened today. I got an email from the seller of the Luftmeister top case. He told me the hasp on the case was broken and asked if I still wanted it. I asked for a refund and he gave me a refund. I knew he didn't have a key for the lock but I don't think he knew the hasp was broken. Honestly prevailed and he told me about it BEFORE he shipped it. That's just awesome and very much appreciated.

But I Still Need a Top Case

Need might be a little strong but having a top case makes it easier to get where I'm going with my stuff. When I got the R1150R it didn't have a top case so I ordered up a Givi top case. I also got a universal mounting bracket to install on Otus but decided I liked the vintage look of the Luftmeister top case. The Givi case went with the R1150R when I traded for the GS. My Luftmeister case didn't survive my accident. I've wanted to replace it for some time, and hoped this was going to work out, but it was not to be. Because I still have the universal mounting plate I decided to give up on the quest for a replacement Luftmeister top case and I ordered up a new Givi top case. The last one I had was an enormous 57 liter case. This time I decided to go with a slightly smaller 47 liter case. This should keep my stuff from being scattered when I head to the upcoming rally.

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Luftmeister Top Case

I finally committed to a replacement Luftmeister case for Otus. My Luftmeister case was a casualty of my accident and was replaced with a Givi top case. While the Givi case was really nice, it was also the top case for my R1150R. When the R1150R was traded for the GS, the Givi top case went along with the R1150R. Since that time Otus has been without a top case. He looks good without it, but with rally season upon us a top case would be a nice-to-have. My friends at eBay facilitated the transaction and a new-to-me Luftmeister top case will be here in about a week.

It's Old

Part of the joy and challenge of a 1977 motorcycle is being period-correct yet functional. I never had a problem with the Luftmeister top case (until it exploded on impact). It looked correct on Otus and was just roomy enough to hold some light weight gear for making camping more comfortable. I have a bag of things I consider essential for life on the road and they fit well in a Luftmeister top case. I'm happy to have a replacement Luftmeister top case on the way. This is the final piece to restore Otus to rally configuration.

I'll add pictures during and after the installation.

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