Friday, December 23, 2011

Who Says You Can't Tilt a Harley?

One of those fabulous displays of police motorcycling skill discovered on Google Video during the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lights Out

I've experienced some trouble with the auxiliary lights that were included with the purchase of my BMW 1150 RT. What I suspect started months ago as an intermittent short in one of the lights grew into a full failure of the brake-side fog light in the early days of December. After I returned from the Blue Ridge Parkway, I noticed, particularly at night, as I went over a bump in the road, the light would flicker and sometimes go out. Another bump and the light would return. I decided that in order to ascertain whether the problem lay in the fog light itself or somewhere in the spaghetti junction of wires and leads, I needed to work my way back toward the harness and test the leads as I went.

My first approach was to check the bulb, socket, and the wires leading directly from the fog light housing. I hoped for a simple loose or bad bulb, easy in and easy out. When I removed the top caliper mounting bolt, which also secures the light housing, the bolt was difficult to break loose. I applied some WD40 and when the bolt still refused to turn freely, I applied heat via a propane torch. I feared that the bolt had seized somehow in the caliper. Upon removal my fears were confirmed. The silver on the mounting screw indicates that the threads from the caliper had twisted out with the bolt. The most likely culprit would be mismatched metals between the aftermarket mounting hardware and the stock brake caliper. I decided to remove the right side fog light as well. While the mounting bolt disengaged without a hitch, it showed a remarkable amount of corrosion on the threads.

The errant bulb theory didn't pay out as it appeared to be in good operating condition, no discoloration of any kind. When I tested the socket I received no current. I decided to trace the wire to the first lead and test the connection at the lead. As the wiring extended beyond view under the gas tank, the tank needed to be removed before I could proceed. With the self-sealing quick connectors in the fuel lines and the accessibility of all parts required to disconnect from the RT's right-hand side, the RT's tank has to be one of the simplest tank removal systems I've run across.

Until I can properly repair the short in the system, I decided to remove the aftermarket equipment as a precaution and install original equipment mounting hardware in the front brake calipers. I discovered that not all of the threads for the left hand caliper had twisted loose and a significant enough portion remained to accept the OEM hardware and hold the caliper in position. The leads remain in place, taped and held with fresh zip ties, should I decide to install any additional equipment of my own.

Over the past six months of ownership, I've come to appreciate the simplicity of the Beemer's stock systems. The valves are easy to adjust. In fact, it takes more time to remove the body panels than to actually adjust the valves. The wiring and connectors all seem to be located in logical areas and are simple to separate. It seems as if the machine is put together with a rider in mind, one who is encouraged to do his or her own work. My complaint with many aftermarket parts lies in the fact that they are often complex for the sheer sake of complexity or are not manufactured to specifications comparable to standard equipment. As it stands, I converted the bike back to the simple, stock setup. And in my book, simple is just plain better.