Lessons Learned In Mechanical Ineptitude

Man, My Riding Sucks Lately! or Symptoms Of A Sick Hayabusa
I finally have the new ramp that dumps I-520W onto I-20W all to my self. Finally. I am so ready to double the speed limit on that puppy (it’s 45 through there). And what happens? Nada. It doesn’t feel right, something’s off and I don’t really know what; but I’m rather disappointed in the whole affair. I’ve been waiting for this for weeks now… and when the time finally comes I take it like Grandma on Metamucil, semi-smooth and slow as hell. Arrrgh. I can’t believe it, but my riding’s been sucking lately anyway. Maybe it’s the cold, the winter gloves, something. It’s definitely something. But I hate to think that I might need remedial training in lever control. I’ve missed a few too many up-shifts lately, too. It’s gotten so bad, that I’ve started to actually use the clutch lever again. Meh. Further on down the road, I’m in the process of passing a semi, when I notice that the on-ramp is full up and I’m in his way of getting over to make room for the cars trying to merge. I twist it; the tachometer needle jumps as the RPM spike, and then settles back down. The Fat Lady lurches forward, picks up speed and I get the hell out of there. I know I didn’t just ham-fist that throttle. I know I didn’t. WTF? I’m really starting to get a little peeved with myself. I take my exit and get in the left lane. The light is red, of course. I’m sitting on an incline, so I hold the bike in place with the front brake. When the light changes I take off to make my left turn. I swear this has got to be the slowest I’ve ever taken off or taken a left. The car on the outside passes me. Now, I’m seriously doubting my sanity. Something is wrong… but I still can’t put my finger on it. More internal admonishing of self for poor lever manipulation and throttle control. I catch up with the car that beat me around the corner at the red light on the other side of the bridge. The light changes and the white SUV floors it. Apparently he wants to beat me to the point where his lane ends, so he can get ahead of me. I take off, but nothing much happens. Now I know something is wrong, and it isn’t related to my riding skill. I give it hell, but the Fat Lady has lost her spunk and is whining at me. Around 4,000 RPM, it’s like somebody pulled a cork and she lurches forward in a moment of sudden power delivery. I barely get in front of the car, I think I even cut him off… well, considering I’m not in the lane that’s ending, it’s more like he has to slow down to get behind me. This is hugely embarrassing. This has got to look like I can’t ride worth a shit. However, I have no urge to wallow in my embarrassment, my mind is trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with my poor baby. I start by whacking the throttle open and closed. She feels sluggish, heavy, lagged, and all horsepower but no grunt. She sounds whiny to me, like she’s revving higher than normal. Two down, three up, down, up. But she seems to be shifting fine. I’m sure the guy behind me is losing his faith in chicks on bikes as he watches my seemingly erratic behavior. He gives me room. Good. I wonder if I’m going to make it home, or if I’m going to end up pushing her the last three miles to the house. I think the Fat Lady is sick. I’m a geek, not a mechanic. This stuff is beyond me, but I’m learning. I want to learn. She’s under warranty, so I’m not too worried about it, but I hate to have to take her to the ‘Busa Doc and be without her for any length of time. After I get home, strip off my riding gear and settle down to get unwired, I log on Twitter and end up getting a few ideas of what could be wrong from a few helpful souls I’ve met on there. They jump right in to help a chica figure things out.

The Process of Elimination or Diagnosing A Fat Lady’s Ailment
The next morning, I crank up the Fat Lady, put her in neutral, let the ECM kick it up to her normal idle speed and play with the throttle a bit. All seems as it should be. I also try B- and C-Modes, nothing weird seems to be going on. I get my helmet and gloves and decide I should go for a test ride before changing things up. At first, everything seems normal again, but then I notice it. She’s still sluggish and lagged in throttle response. Acceleration is also retarded and softer than it should be. Yes, the Fat Lady has lost her spunk. The thought of the poor chain maintenance she’s received lately due to inclement weather and lack of time occurs to me and I’m starting to feel really guilty. I wish I had a garage! I’m usually fastidious about keeping her well maintained and clean. At the suggestion of a friend on Twitter, I restore the Fat Lady to factory condition by taking the X-TRE de-restrictor off; then check all my connections and the wiring. I leave the alarm alone for now. I go for another test ride. Now her symptoms seem slightly worse. Hmmm…. A thought occurs to me: it’s almost like the clutch is sticking. I flick the lever forward with my index finger. It does feel a little stiff, but that’s probably just the cold… One of the suggestions was ‘moisture in the electrics’: Another pang of guilt for having to leave her in the rain at work all day and being too lazy to mess with her cover, which doesn’t really keep the water off the chain and if it rains hard enough she gets wet anyway. I really haven’t felt like messing with a wet bike cover in these temps, so she sits in her spot naked; has been for the better part of December. I run stuff through my head as best I can with my limited knowledge of motorcycle internals and I finally settle on it being the FI or the ECM that got funked somehow. I return home and decide that I had enough of this and am running out of time anyway, since hubby has to be at work soon and he needs to follow me up to the dealer to drop her off.

The Overcomplication Of Simple
The ride there is total crap. The take-offs are really in the dumps now, and I find myself starting to flick the clutch lever, which – in my mind – seems to help. An acute suspicion starts forming: It’s the stinking lever. There’s something wrong with the damn clutch lever, but I dismiss the thought. It wouldn’t be that simple. I have warranty, screw it… let them sort it out. Or I’ll be dickering around, pissing myself off in the process and then still end up taking her to the mech. I tell the dude behind the counter what is going on (of course I’m sounding like a total dipshit… the speech was much better in my head on the way over, much more intelligent and technical, too) and hand him the key. He suggests that Hayabusa Dude take it for a ride and I agree that that would be the best thing, even though it pains me to think what goes on during such ‘test rides’. Yeah, let’s not think about that too hard. Besides, after my superb deliverance of my symptom report, a test ride is almost mandatory.

Can’t Trust A Chick To Do More Than Putting Gas In It
Three hours after I get home I get the call from the service department. A nagging thought surfaces: “Too soon. They’re going to tell me it was the lever.” I answer the phone: “You can pick her up, she’s ready.” – “What was wrong with her?” – slight pause on the other end, then: “It was the clutch lever.” – “What about the clutch lever?” – “Ummm… I’ll show you when you get here.” Shit. How embarrassing is THAT? I call a friend to give me a ride. Let’s get this over with. They must think I’m such a dumbass. When I get there, Mr. P. starts off by saying: “Whoever put your levers on…” I blurt out with raised hand: “That would be me.” DOH! Shut up! Shut up! Damn! Mr. P. continues: “When YOU put the levers on you over-tightened the pinch bolt, which is supposed to be held in place by a little nut, but since it got stripped out, the nut didn’t hold, it started tightening…” or words to that effect: Blah, blah, blah. To make a long story short: The damn thing tightened on itself over time and wouldn’t let the clutch release all the way. They fixed it by putting a little locknut on the bottom to keep that from happening in the future. Can’t replace the stripped-out part, since it is part of the master cylinder and I would have to replace the whole thing. Just my luck. If I screw something up, I do it right and go all out.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Don’t install levers at 11PM in your driveway with a flashlight, groping around in the dark for tools and parts.
  2. Sears torque wrenches apparently suck, since I used a torque wrench to tighten those suckers according to factory spec. Well, I did the second time around, after it dawned on me that I had forgotten the damn grease during the night op in question.
  3. Don’t overthink it! Look for the simple solution first. When your PC screen remains blank when you boot up your machine, you don’t go blame the video card first off and run out and buy a new one. You ask yourself instead: “Is it plugged in?” Apparently the same sequence of troubleshooting steps goes for mechanical problems. And why would I think it’d be any different?!?
  4. Eliminate one thing at a time to isolate the problem. (I did do that, before I lost patience with the whole affair.) Start with the simple/obvious stuff and work your way up to the more complex. See #3.
  5. If it feels like your clutch is slipping, it probably is. (Even if you don’t know the proper terminology.)
  6. The price of stupidity: $37.50 and 8 miles of possible Fat Lady rape.

Now, to find that rattle that I introduced when I took all the Tupperware off that one time…

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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