Ain’t nothing easy on a Harley

In the past week, we have worked on the bike twice.  Sunday’s football games, which should have been enjoyed in the Lazy-Boy recliner, were a unseen spectacle as I drove over to Mitch’s who graciously gave up his Sunday afternoon so that we could continue on with the Ultra’s upgrades.

The temperature was in the thirties, not too cold, but definitely requiring the use of Mitch’s salamander-type propane heater.  This device can put out the heat…hot enough to melt boot soles when one experiments just how hot it can get.  My boots survived this day…but in my younger days, I may have been more ramped up to actually see how fast they took to melt.

Sounds like a jet engine, and the flames are spectacular to watch in person
Today’s goal was to remove and replace the front Harley stock shocks with the Progressive Monotubes.  By the end of four plus hours, we resigned ourselves with the knowledge what should have been easily accomplished was not to be done as expected.

The first order of business is to remove the spotlights and their bar holder, and to remove the chrome fascia that dresses up the bike under where the outer fairing once was located.  This was easily accomplished in minutes, in which time a friend of ours had arrived (LJ).  Some good nature ribbing all the way around, and we each focused on different things throughout the afternoon.  LJ had brought his bike by the previous week, and like me was using Mitch’s expertise to guide him along with some maintenance needs on his Road King.

The lower inner fairing needed to be removed next.  This is an arduous task, because the handlebars must be turned to the left and locked at the fork stop before the ignition switch can be removed.  What makes this difficult is that Harley, in one of their boneheaded moves, decided to make the ignition switch dependent on the proper alignment of the handlebars to re-install the removed parts.  Knowing this, I had previously watched a YouTube video about what was needed to devise a tool that allowed everything to work properly.  In true fashion, the tool that was made to duplicate the video did not work, and I locked myself out of getting the switch realigned.  If you get bored, have a Harley and want to learn something, or curious to just exactly what got boogered, watch this video:  IGNITION SWITCH VIDEO

As soon as I realized that the took didn’t work (just a piece of copper tubing with some thick tape wrapped on it and bent into an L), I spent the next hour trying to get the forks to lock and unlock as desired so I could do the future shock work.  Finally, with Mitch’s help, we were able to realign the tumblers, and get the handlebars turned where we needed them.

We got the right shock (left side in picture below) removed, and for some reason, it finally hit me just how dirty my bike had gotten from the last several rides of the year.  I’ll have to do something about that, but not on this day.

Filthy, filthy bike

We then spent the next hour taking the shock apart, draining the oil, and then realizing that to install the Monotubes, the original shock needed to be dismantled completely but in a different order so that we could remove the retaining bolt on the bottom of the shock.  Hard to explain the problem…but we spent an hour, which involved warming up to some hot chocolate and looking for online videos from Progressive, to show us how to correct what we screwed up.  HEY…it happens.  It’s a learning process…that’s why I am doing the work now, and not waiting for the last week of May!

So, for Sunday, the last thing we did was get the removed shock disassembled correctly, in preparation for what we would do on our next session.  Too tired to care, we realized we didn’t get much overall progress…but we valued the learning experience to know exactly how to do this type of work again in the future.

Let it sit and drain out the nasty ol’ fork oil

If you are still reading this, then jump forward a few days.  It’s now Tuesday evening.  It’s 18 degrees outside.  It’s so cold in the unheated garage we are working in, that a bottle of Meguiar’s detailer I had brought over back on Sunday was frozen solid.  I brought along a 20 pound tank of propane on this trip…and it was so cold, the garage never truly got warm, we saw our thick breath all evening long, and the salamander went through the propane tank in three hours.  Unbelievably cold!

So, where were we?  Oh yeah…get ready to install the Monotubes.  Here’s what they look like in case you don’t know:

Much prettier in person
The new shocks go inside the chrome shock cavities that were already on the Harley Davidson.  Now that we knew what we were doing with the shocks, things went much, much faster.  I guess I should say that we were forced to work fast…it was one of the only ways to retain warmth.
The internals of the stock shock in the pan

If you have never smelled used fork oil, you don’t know what you’ve been missing in your life.  Imagine the odor of spoiled raw eggs, mixed with rancid meat, topped with some bad burrito created excrement.  Yup, that’s pretty close to the smell of old fork oil.  The only good thing is that the smell doesn’t permeate too far away from the drain pan we used to collect the old fluids.  Oh… a quart of decent oil is around $3; of decent synthetic oil, about $8; of decent fork oil, that’s going to cost you a Jackson note.

Putting the shocks back on were cake, one of the easiest things accomplished since we started the overall upgrade project.  The light bar went back on, the ignition switch back in (after again fighting it to free up the locked handlebars as we had to do previously), and a little quick cleaning to get the bugs out of the areas that would not be easily accessible when the fender and tire goes back on later.

Forgot to mention…the reason the picture quality keeps changing is because I’m now using another camera.  The Nikon Coolpix AW110.  This camera is drop-proof, water-proof, and shock-proof.  The Sony I was using is a GREAT camera…but it does not have any of the three qualities I just mentioned about the Nikon.  Giving it some thought, I rather use a cheaper camera that can handle the elements, so now I’m trying to get used to it.  The Nikon has a mind of it own and seems to change the brightness settings too liberally for each photo I take.  It will take me some time to learn it and master it.  Good project to do while maybe watching this upcoming Sunday’s football games in my Lazy-Boy?

We are getting close to the end of the project lists.  Let’s see…need to swap out the tire (doing it the manual way again, that should be a fun experience one more), replace the wheel bearings, install the new brake pads, and maybe put on a front wheel mud flap (have not decided on this yet).  That would finish out the harder mechanical stuff I wanted to do over the winter.  And then, my area of interest gets focused on…the electrical system upgrades and issues.  I have developed some electrical gremlins I want to fix over the winter, and that I’ll describe in a future post when that work occurs.

So, that’s it for today’s entry.  I’ll leave you with something totally not related to the project at hand.  I do a lot of charity rides, volunteering, and trying to help out those that just need a hand.  I’m also very passionate about animals, and support some of the local rescues every chance I can.  I was asked by a reader here if I had any dogs.  Yep…got two of them:

The above is our German Short Hair Pointer mix; her name is Whisper.  One of the fastest running dogs I’ve ever seen.  Very loving, only wants to please anybody…all the time!  Probably has barked four times in the last four years.  Dang thing can eat like nobody’s business, and never gains weight due to all the running and playing she does nonstop.

And then we have Sasha, our newest rescue; she’s around 1-2 years old we believe.  She’s a dancer…she constantly dances around in a drunken ballet, thrashes in the air back and forth, and is very awkward in her movements.  Sasha was hit by a car and left to die; through some rescue friends, she came into our life after some major surgery and plates added to her hind quarters.  She had turned into the house defender…loves to play, barks at everything, and is become more of a lap dog than she needs to be.  She still is very timid of anything new…and very protective for a collie mix.

So, take a moment and give that animal of yours a few minutes of play time, followed by a treat.  Love my dogs…non-judgmental, and don’t care how bad your days was…all they want to do is make you smile.

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