Monthly Archives: March 2012

To the doubters…

Since Beth and I proposed the idea of this trip we’ve received lots comments from people saying, “Wow that’s cool…but not on that bike.” Plenty of others have said, “go for it, even on a smaller bike.” So here’s why we are taking the smaller bike.

  • The Shadow has low mileage, at the time of writing about 9,200 miles.
  • It is in excellent running condition with good tires.
  • If I bought a larger bike I would still have to work it over and fix things (that was critical in deciding to rebuild the bike this past winter).
  • I don’t want to buy another bike just for the trip and have to sell it right away when we move.
  • I really enjoy tinkering so it was absolutely fun customizing the bike for heavier loads and longer distances.
  • An 85 Shadow is a fairly powerful bike for it’s size (50 hp) and still get’s amazing gas mileage riding 2 up (around 52).
  • We have a stop halfway through the trip at my brother’s place where I can rebuild any necessary parts.
  • People used to go further on small bikes, so why can’t we.
  • People in other parts of the world look at a 500 as a large bike.
  • We want to prove to ourselves that we can live with very little.
  • And last, but not least, most people don’t go long distance on a small bike, so we just have to be different and try it.

Well that about sums it up. We aren’t trying to be foolhardy, but don’t see any reason we can’t use what we have. And hey…if we fail we’ll still have a great story!


Stuck in 5th and a trip to Canada

I was riding through midtown Detroit last Thursday on the way home from lunch and coffee with some friends when the end of the shifter linkage sheared off of the shift lever. I was merging from I-75 north back onto I-75 north (I know we have some really screwed up roads here) when traffic slowed down and I shifted down to 4th (the Shadow is a 6 speed). As traffic accelerated again I went back to 5th but when I went to shift into 6th my foot couldn’t find the pedal. I looked down and it was hanging below the footpeg. Staying in 5th I rode the last couple miles to my exit. I hoped I could clear the light at the top of the ramp and get it close to home or a friends garage, but the light was red with a line of cars. I hopped the bike onto the sidewalk and shut it down. Lacking the tools to get the cover off (something that I’m fixing) I had no way to manually downshift to 1st or 2nd. In the end I just held the clutch lever in and pushed the bike over a mile to my friends garage. Wow…I’m really thankful that it’s only a 500 and not an 1100!

This is what was broken:

After basic repair attempts failed I started looking for the parts. Honda wanted me to replace the entire assembly…of course for a lot of money! None seemed to have even close to the right parts. Maybe they could order them by early the next week, but then I wouldn’t have the weekend to make the repairs and start tuning the carburetors. I finally located the parts needed to rebuild the whole linkage…at a Fastenal branch in Windsor, Ontario.

My first thought was, “I’m not crossing an international border for a few dollars in parts.” But then my wife reminded me that we had $20 Canadian laying around so I might as well go. So I grabbed my passport, keys, GPS and a little bit of cash and headed for the tunnel. The Canadian border patrol agent looked at me a little funny when she asked why I was visiting Canada and I told her that it was “To buy two spherical rod ends from Fastenal for my motorcycle.” I found Fastenal just fine and they had the two rod ends. But then when we looked up the threaded rod I would need to go between them they didn’t have it (evidently spherical rod ends only come in 1/4-28, but very few other things use 1/4-28). The second Fastenal store that did have my threaded rod was isolated by construction and had an address that the GPS couldn’t find. Forty-five minutes later, frustrated, I finally found the store in the back of a light industrial area. I purchased the rod and came home. That evening it only took about an hour to make the parts into a nice, new linkage. In fact, the new linkage actually makes the bike crisper than the old assembly!

I figured at the end of the saga there were at least two positives: 1) I’m fairly certain the linkage won’t break on our cross country trip; and 2) I got a cool story about going to Canada for $14 in parts!


Late entry to the blogosphere

Well, I’ve finally entered the blogosphere and I’m going to work on making this an interesting and useful blog. The goal is to incorporate reviews on items that I’ve purchased and am using on the bike, list technical “stuff” and how-to’s (I’ll try to put up warning labels like ***Warning: Technical Information*** for those of you who get nausea when confronted with technical info), and to describe the story of our trip as it happens.

The Shadow: