Now that you’ve changed the engine oil, how about those other fluids?

There’s no greasy chain to adjust on a shaft-driven bike. But there is regular maintanence. If you don’t do it, you’re liable to destroy the seals and gears spinning inside. The replacement cost will make you wish your bike had a chain.
That’s why changing the final drive oil on a regular basis is key. Many people recommend it be done at 6,000-mile intervals — or about every time you change your motor oil.

Getting final drive oil into the pan requires ingenuity and good scotch.

Fortunately, it’s even easier than changing your oil.
Here’s what you do on a classic shafty, the BMW R1150RT:
First, gather your tools. You’ll need a torque wrench and a 6mm allen wrench for the filler plug, located on top of the rear hub. A 19mm socket fits the drain plug below it. Get a drain pan and cut a piece of cardboard or other material to keep the oil from draining onto your rear wheel. Also, you’ll need a small funnel and possibly a measuring cup.

Final drive drain plug is attractive, literally.

For oil, almost any GL-5 rated gear oil in the 75-90 weight will do. I am using Castrol 80-90, non-synthetic gear oil ($6.99 per quart at Kragen). Also, you must have two new crush washers. They are about 50 cents each at the dealer.
Start by positioning the drain pan under the drain plug with the cardboard chute in place. Remove the filler plug first. Then unscrew the drain plug and let the oil flow out. Inspect the plug. It has a magnet on it to catch metalic debris and keep stuff out of the works. If there’s a lot of metal on your plug, start saving for a new final drive.
Clean it off, put a new crush washer on it and screw it back in by hand. Torque it to about 17 foot-pounds.
Fill the final drive with fresh oil. It takes 230 ml or about 8 ounces. You may need a separate measuring cup if the oil bottle doesn’t have markings on the side. Castrol gear oil has a narrow tipped end that is perfect for getting the oil into the small filler hole.

Filler up.

Once you’ve filled it, put the filler plug in with a new crush washer. Tighten to 17 foot-pounds also. Dump the used oil in with the other stuff you’re recycling. I put it all in one-gallon iced tea jugs from Trader Joe’s. I like them because they are clear and have wide openings.

Bill’s garage: Oil change for the ’02 BMW R1150RT

As you’ve seen, changing the oil and filter on a motorcycle is a relatively simple task that even a beginner can do. Servicing this BMW sport-tourer is no different. Here’s a straightforward how-to on the bike.

Everything you need except the torque wrench and the beer.

First, assemble your tools and parts. You’ll need four liters of moto-specific oil. I use Castrol 20-50 4T because it’s cheap and they stock it at my local auto parts store. My filter is a Hiflofiltro HF163 ($9.95) instead of the BMW-branded filter at $18.95. In addition, you’ll need two new crush washers and shop towels.

For tools, you’ll need a torque wrench, a ratchet, a 76mm filter wrench, an 8mm allen head wrench or driver, an oil catch pan and a funnel. An aftermarket service manual is a nice thing to have, too.

(Find out how to get free oil and filter drainer gear and recycle your oil and filters in San Mateo County, San Francisco, Alameda County, Sonoma County, Napa County, Marin County and Sacramento.)

Knowledge is power. Always have a shop manual nearby.

Get the bike hot and park it on the center stand. No need to remove the fairing. You can reach everything. Postion the catch pan and remove the drain plug with the 8mm driver. The plug is located on the bottom of the engine case. Be careful not to let it fall in the oil.

Drain plug with oil filter on right. Pink Schwinn in background.

Thar she blows!

Discard the old crush washer in a place where you won’t accidentally reuse it.

Clean plug and new crush washer.

Next, grab your filter wrench and ratchet and remove the filter. It is in a recessed spot near the drain plug. If the rubber gasket is not in the old filter when you take it out, check to be sure it isn’t stuck to the case. If so, reach up and pull it out.
Prepare your new filter by filling it with oil and spreading a bit of oil on the rubber gasket to help the seal.

Priming the filter and wetting the seal

Clean off any grit from the engine case before installing the new filter. The filter should be torqued to just 8 foot-pounds or about hand-tight.

You put the lime in the coconut … or something like that

Going up. Installing the filter.

Clean the drain plug, put a new crush washer on it and install it, torquing it to 23 foot-pounds. Don’t overtighten.
Now you’re ready to fill the bike with oil. It will take about 3.75 liters. Don’t overfill it. It goes in the oil cap atop the left cylinder head. I use a small funnel and pour the oil carefully, so it doesn’t spill on the engine.

Oil goes in da hole.

Check your oil level by looking at the sight glass below the cylinder and behind the fairing. A flashlight helps to see it.
Finally, start the bike and check for leaks.
Pour the old oil in a jug and take it back to the auto parts store to recycle it. Find out how to easily recycle your used oil and filters in San Mateo County, San Francisco, Alameda County, Sonoma County, Napa County, Marin County and Sacramento. If you’re not in those counties, find your own convenient oil and filter recycling location HERE.

High-tech records management system

I usually write the mileage and date on a piece of masking tape and stick it somewhere on the fairing. In 6,000 miles or so, I’ll change the oil and filter again.
You’re done!

Maybe that Pennsylvania groundhog is right

Ok. We’re not exactly breaking out the barbecue here on the North Coast of California.
Because it’s February. On the North Coast.
But it is warm, with temperatures flirting near the upper 60s. So warm that I fired up the bike this weekend and made a savage run to the beach, heating up the tires and getting a few grins while avoiding Sunday drivers and the fine gentlemen parked behind billboards.

Winter on the coast -- Highway 1 near Tomales Bay

Overall, it was a hell of a good day! My helmet is off to Punxatawney Phil. It was positively springlike.
Other riders took advantage, as well.
In my blast to Pt. Reyes Station via Highway 1, I saw sport bikes, dual sports and choppers, all basking in their own moto moments. I

No dog days of winter here

met a guy on a ’38 BMW R-61 who rode to Marin County from San Francisco wearing what looked like a trench coat.
He seemed surprised when I asked if he rode “that” over the Golden Gate Bridge.
“Of course I did,” he said, pointing out that the bike survived World War II and was rescued from a Polish barn. “Why wouldn’t I?”
He rolled away in a whir of sewing machine noise.
I took it as my cue and got my modern-day bike up to warp speed, flying north up the asphalt ribbon that envelopes Tomales Bay.
I scraped a foot peg or two, paused for pics and headed back to may own barn.
I stopped short of reconnecting the trickle charger. I have a feeling I won’t be needing it.


On any Sunday — closed for business

I’ve always found it odd that motorcycle shops are closed on Sundays. It’s got to be one of the busiest riding and tinkering days of the week.

Yet almost universally, shops draw the curtains and don’t open them until Tuesday morning.

I can understand closing Monday, but Sunday? It seems crazy, especially in these economic times.

Open when you need it?

“It’s just always been ride or race on Sunday and recover Monday,” said Brian Pecore, owner of The Motorcycle Shop, an independent service and accessories store in Santa Rosa.

True, Sunday is traditionally racing day, but how many shops actually race? And if they do, wouldn’t it make sense to keep the till going and the money flowing in?

It ain’t exactly cheap to go racing.

Desperate for answers and certain I was probably missing some key point, I turned to several other shop owners who informed me that, no, I really wasn’t missing any key point.

Aside from the fact that Saturday is an all-hands-on-deck work day and rest is needed, there’s no explaining the Sunday holiday.

However, you can bet the reluctance to do business is welcome by at least one mega-retailer. Cycle Gear is open seven days a week. The Benicia-based chain with outlets in 26 states opened its 98th store in November.

The 38-year-old company claims on its website that it is the nation’s largest and fastest growing retailer of motorcycle apparel and accessories.

You gotta wonder how much they’re raking in on Sunday.

“Cycle Gear always has, and always will put people first,” CEO Dave Bertram said.

Mayan Riviera: No country for motorcycles

I’ve always associated Mexico with motorcycles. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe it’s because of the handful of times I’ve ridden dirt bikes in Baja. Or maybe it’s because it’s warm there and I’m a fair-weather rider. Or maybe it’s just because both words start with the letter m.

Some dude riding at the playa

I had bikes on my mind when planning a family vacation to the Cancun area in December. I figured I’d rent a dual-sport or even a Harley at one of those over-priced tourist joints. While my wife and daughter lay on the beach at a sunny resort, I’d be off riding in a foreign land, looking for adventure and inexpensive tequila.
I figured wrong.
You see, the part of Mexico bordering the Caribbean Sea is great for relaxing, exploring ruins and watersports. But it’s not the best place to ride, in part because it is so flat. Roads go east and west, north and south, with few curves or hills in between. Endless jungle is all you see. Can you say boring?
Also, like Baja, the roads themselves aren’t all that good. Many are cobbled with, well, cobblestones. And Mexicans seem to have an obsession with speed bumps, which they call “topes.” They appear to crop up on any straight long enough to shift into second gear. I know of at least one economy sized rental car in serious need of an alignment!
I was cured of any Wild Hog aspirations after a quick trip to town in said rental car. Traffic was more dicey than a Los Angeles freeway at rush hour. Overladen trucks and dilapidated taxis careened by. Uniformed men carrying submachine guns glared from checkpoints.
Amid the chaos only locals were brave enough to ride motorcycles. They must be really good, I thought. They buzzed around me with great daring, seemingly risking life and limb to get from A to B.
I soon realized they were riding not because it was fun but because it’s a cheap form of transportation.
Maybe that’s the best that can be said of motorcycles anywhere.
Or not.
Nevertheless, I gave up my dream to ride the Mayan Riviera and focused instead on the mango daiquiries.

Happy New year! Now what?

As we ring in the new year, we at Riders Recycle celebrate the first 12 months of our blog, which launched last February. We’re officially a year old next month. What a short, strange trip it’s been!

Happy New Year

Still, we like to think we’ve covered a lot of ground while talking about how to properly dispose of used oil and filters. Topics ran the gamut from Northern California road trips to buying bikes off Craigslist. We also tackled stickier subjects such as whether loud pipes really do save lives and the wisdom of riding two-up on sportbikes.
We’re looking forward to an even more thought-provoking 2013. Hopefully we’ve saved enough brain cells from all the celebrating, gorging and channel-surfing to think up something good.
Just kidding. We’ve got some great stuff in the works. We know you’re going to like it. So stay tuned!

Getting a knack for the pack and figuring things out ahead of time

I’m not much of a planner and I’m damned sure not a joiner. But this year I’m going to reverse course on both.

Call it a New Year’s resolution of sorts. Bit early? Yup. Might as well get a jump on it.

Here’s the scenario: I’ve become a member of a large motorcycle club for owners of a certain German make that counts a bazillion people in it from coast to coast. And I’m going to the club’s national rally this summer in Salem, Oregon.

Rolling with my homies

At least that’s the plan.

It’s a big deal for me because I’m sort of a loner, seat-of-the-pants guy. Like many free-spirited motorcycle types, I mostly do my own thing. And I like to wing it.

 I made an exception, though, and so far, I haven’t regretted it. The club’s website is useful for tech tips and I like seeing pictures of other people’s bikes. Included for the $40 annual fee was a phone book with member contact information in case you break down and a subscription to a monthly magazine with tales from other riders.

My involvement would have ended there if not for one thing. My buddy Glenn, an old friend who happens to own the same bike as me, simultaneously joined the club. One day after reading his magazine he posed the simple question on Facebook — “Salem ’13?”

It was as if Bluto Blutarsky had just shouted “roadtrip” into my ear.

Of course, I was down. I began thinking of all the fun we would have blasting across state lines into beautiful country, communing with other riders and checking out their bikes along with all the latest gadgets and gear. No kids, no spouses. Lots of beer. Serious fun indeed.

Suddenly, I was contemplating things I’d never thought I would. I’m part of a tribe and we’re going to be doing something, together.

In eight months.

Wow. That’s a long time from now. I’m psyched at the moment but can I sustain it?

I think so. That’s what the club website is for. And the magazines.Glenn and I will have a hundred Facebook chats between now and then. We’re even trying to get others interested in the trip. We’re lobbying a mutual friend to sell his old sail boat, buy a bike and join us. Anyone need a boat?

Fall riding: The autumn moon lights my way

Bright yellow and orange leaves are piling up on the street as I roll my motorcycle out of the garage. It’s November in Northern California and I’m going for a ride.

The air is warm. I sweat as I start the bike and head off, a welcome breeze blowing into my textile jacket.

Seeing colors in the Sierra

My neighborhood seems to shimmer in the autumn light. It’s that time of year when it’s cold enough at night to turn the leaves but so mild by day you forget its only three weeks until Thanksgiving.

Back east, they’re dealing with the aftermath of a killer storm and an approaching Nor’easter. Here we’re walking around in rolled up shirtsleeves and big smiles. It’s like we’re getting away with something.

We’re not, of course. Everyone seems to know that this fickle weather is connected to something darker and of our own doing– climate change.

But we can take some consolation in the lighter environmental footprint of motorcycles. We use less gas and emit fewer toxins so we’re a smarter, saner transportation choice.

Motorcycles are also a lot more fun for a Saturday morning jaunt to high country to see beautiful fall foliage.

I choose the route of California settlers, riding east on Highway 108 over the Sonora Pass. The first golden groves of Aspen meet me at about 6,000 feet and stay with me over the summit, into the Eastern Sierra.

I gaze toward Nevada as I descend the back side, awash in the seasonal palate of reds, oranges and yellows. With the sun at my back — and not a car in sight — I crank the throttle until it  is all a blur. Granite canyons open to  fields of technicolor grasses. Pine trees whizz by like fence posts. And hawks soar over head, just out of reach.

As I slow for the stop sign at state Highway 395, I ponder the majesty of it all. I shut off the bike and stare at a distant mountain range. My motor ticks as it cools.

Then a northbound 18-wheeler roars by in front of me, pelting me with fine sand. I blink, hit the starter and flip a u-turn.

Let’s do that again.

Here’s a short video clip of the ride:



Clinging to life on the back of a sports bike

Here’s a bold admission: I love to ride motorcycles but you’d never catch me on the back of one.
People who do that are crazy.
I don’t mind if someone rides behind me on my bike. I love taking my young daughter on jaunts around the neighborhood and I’m constantly pressuring my wife to go on rides.
But trust some fool with my life? Hell no. I refuse to go there.

Gee honey, is it supposed to be that small?

So it goes without saying that I’m confused and even a bit horrified about a practice I see among crotch-rocket riders and the typically fine young things who cling to them.
Perched on seats no bigger than a lipstick purse, these brave women throw caution and dignity to the wind for the chance to sit behind their men.
Two thoughts immediately come to mind.
1. It can’t be safe.
2. It can’t be comfortable.
Hoping to discover the truth about why someone would willingly ride on back of a Ninja-type machine – but not wanting to get too deep into psycho-sexual disorders – I talked to women at a local bike shop about the topic.
They offered a range of responses from the insightful, “It’s fun,” to vaguely sexual claims about feeling closer to their men.
“Outside of the bedroom there’s no bigger thrill,” said a woman straddling a brand-new liter bike on a showroom floor.
But not all of the five women I talked to were so enamored of riding pillion.
Two admitted they disliked it intensely. One said it was the reason for a recent break-up.
“He insisted on it,” she said. “I have my own bike now.”
I found myself in complete agreement with this thought.
Why in the world would you climb on one of those tiny back seats, put your feet on those high foot pegs and ride down the road with your ass in the air?
I can understand why someone might co-pilot a big ole hog, Goldwing or other rolling Lazy Boy, but not a 150-horsepower sport bike with a two-by-four for a seat.
It’s just frigging stupid.
But alas, I must be missing something because people keep doing it. Maybe I’m just jealous.

Alice’s: Anything you want and a whole lot of traffic, too

Southern California has the Rock Store. In the Bay Area, Alice’s Restaurant is the place for riders of all stripes to see and be seen.

Rock Store north?

Located in the coastal range just west of Woodside, at the intersection of highways 35 and 84, Alice’s draws huge weekend crowds of sport riders and cruisers alike who come to show off their machines, grab a beer and ride the twisty mountain roads.

Hog heaven

The parking lot in front of Alice’s, which is not the restaurant of Arlo Guthrie fame but uses the lyrics in its slogan nonetheless, is typically packed with all manner of bike – from bobbed-out Harleys to exotic racers and all types in between.
On sunny weekends, bikes spill into neighboring lots and onto the shoulders of the road as people walk among them, admiring the gleaming paint and steel, talking shop or sharing road information.
“Whole bunch of cops down there,” a guy with a leather suit said as he dismounted a Ducati.
“Thanks, bro,” another guy said.

Alice's gas isn't cheap

Roads leading to and from are nice but the weekend brings cars. Lots of cars. The peninsula hotspot is sandwiched between San Francisco and San Jose, so even though it feels like wilderness it ain’t.
Inside the restaurant, they’re usually slammed. You can have anything you want, as they like to say, but mostly people go for the cheeseburger. And a beer.
People come from all over. Three Harley guys said they rode from the Central Valley town of Manteca just to take in the scene. Another man and his wife came from Lake Tahoe and were headed south to Santa Barbara.
Then there are the locals. The community of Sky Londa and environs have a hippie past that includes being home to Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. The VW buses have mostly been replaced by SUVs owned by Silicon Valley executives but look closely as you whisk through the woods and you’re likely to spot a yurt or two.
I lingered in the parking lot after eating a bowl of chili (watery, bland) and drinking a Sierra Nevada (cold and excellent). The crowd was thin because of a motorcycle race at Laguna Seca.
A BMW owner from nearby Palo Alto was hawking custom lights that increase visibility but also are considered illegal by the CHP. He bragged that the roads south of Alice’s on Skyline Drive are some of the best in Northern California.
The asphalt is smooth, save a few pavement “alligators,” and there are plenty of sweeping turns, he said.
I came in from the north (I-280 to 92 to 35) and was less than impressed by what I’d seen so far. The roads were on par with Santa Monica Mountain roads leading to the Rock Store but bumpier, narrow and full of cars.
At the man’s suggestion, I headed west out of Alice’s parking lot down 84 toward Half Moon Bay. Took a few nice sweepers before getting stuck behind traffic.
It was more of the same on Highway 1. By Half Moon Bay, the cars seemed to be reproducing and multiplying. Highway 92 east was bumper to bumper almost all the way back to 280.
While traffic dampened the experience for me, I’d say Alice’s is worth a visit, if for no other reason than to eat a meal, ogle bikes and chat with people with a mutual interest.