Category Archives: Mechanical

Mounting a Hoffee Carbon Fiber Case for a Gibson SJ-200 on a VFR800

After a great deal of modifications, I finally have my Hoffee Carbon Fiber Gibson SJ-200  case mounted on my motorcycle! I am so proud to be sponsored by Hoffee. The case is a tank, but lightweight and built to withstand the elements.

I thought this would be easier to do using a standard GIVI PL166 and a Caribou adapter, but after testing the components the job was trickier than imagined. The Caribou adapter eliminates the top mating nub on the PL166 and replaces it with a flat steel plate with an oval-ish hole. The new mount overlaps this plate by 2 inches. The mounting tab for the GIVI was clearly in the way.

I started out by trying to flatten the original mounting point on the PL166. After bonking it down, the bent  tab still interfered  with the fake Two Brothers exhaust can on the left side. The exhaust system on the bike routes both exhaust pipes into the right muffler, so the left can is just a dummy. I got lucky because if I didn’t have this exhaust system, mounting the guitar would be much harder. The stock system also would heated up my guitar more than I would like. I next sawed off the tab and bent my own plate out of 1/8″ steel. After all this work I still ended up removing the fake muffler. No, the bike doesn’t look as cool, but I need to carry my guitar.

Once the entire set up was installed , I believe I could remount the fake muffler if I wanted to do so,  but I think I’ll leave it off and save the weight.

Once the guitar was mounted I applied a die cut decal to the case as well as a sticker from my case sponsor Hoffee.

Popp Over America is now ready to hit the road! I am shooting the pilot episode on July 8th – 12th with a full crew made possible by sponsors and Kickstarter supporters. A big thanks to all of you. Stay tuned and please subscribe to the blog on the left side of the page.


The Zen of Clutch Repair and Lucky Shoes

Today I made a firm decision that I was going to get my clutch to disengage. Last night while I slept, I went through in my mind all of the tricks I was going to try . I had done a lot of reading and I was sick of my new bike being parked like a wounded albatross. No, today I was going to fix it.

A mechanic that works at Ryders Alley where I park the bike took a look at it for me earlier in the week. He said the clutch lever seemed fine, but could not get it to disengage. I didn’t leave the key in the bike and he had no way of starting it to try and jog the clutch loose. I told him I would get a key on the bike and call him when I did. But this bothered me that I had to call a mechanic to fix something that I knew I could do myself. Even if I had to take the entire clutch apart, I felt I was capable. My ego was damaged when I thought that I couldn’t get the clutch bled properly in the first place.

I made a superstitious choice today. Adidas Samba sneakers. I know this sounds ridiculous, but these broken-in foot tires always bring me good luck. I headed down to the garage armed with two more containers of Bel-Ray Super Dot 4 brake fluid and a massive 100cc syringe to “back bleed” the clutch. I read up on the technique of reverse bleeding and found a descriptive YouTube video. I packed up my laptop loaded with the video, service manuals, and PDFs of tech tips I had scoured the web to find. Today I was going to win.

I walked down to the platform of the subway to a waiting mob. An announcement said there was a police investigation at the 103rd street stop to the south of me and there were no trains in either direction. “Police Investigation” means somebody committed suicide by jumping on the tracks, an event that claims roughly 25 lives a year. Was this the start of another bad day? I remained calm and patient and a train came along in about 10 minutes. Things were looking up.

I arrived at the Alley and lowered my bike from the top floor to the workshop area on the bike elevator. I put the bike on the lift and stared at it for a few moments. I decided I was going to ride this bike today. I willed it. I needed to believe this fact in order to muster up the confidence that something I was going to do today was going to fix this motorcycle.

I pulled in on the clutch lever and it felt a little spongy especially at the beginning of its travel. I took off the master cylinder cover and sopped out the fluid with an old sock leaving the reservoir empty. I noticed some built up black gunk so I cleaned the cavity until it was shiny. One of the tips I found was to remove a small metal tab and clean out the tiny pin-hole return opening. I used a small dental tool but nothing appeared to be clogging it.

I began the reverse bleeding process. I attached a bleeder hose to the William Burroughs-sized syringe and then attached it to the bleeder valve on the slave cylinder at the motor. I carefully filled the syringe with brake fluid. I tapped on the hose the get all the air out of the line. I loosened the bleeder, put the plunger in the syringe, and began to squeeze. I was a little over zealous and needle-like stream of fluid shot straight out of reservoir like a little boy peeing into the air after his overly-tight diaper is removed. I laughed, but quickly cleaned up the brake fluid with a water soaked towel. Brake fluid eats paint and just about everything else so I was careful to get every spilled drop. I slowly pressed on the syringe again and I watch as fluid filled the reservoir. Once at the right level, I tightened the bleeder and checked the lever. It had a nice firm pull through out it’s entire travel now – definite improvement.

I rolled the bike off the lift, put the bike in gear, pulled in the clutch, and tried to roll it. Still stuck. Now I was positive it was not my bleeding technique. I pushed the bike outside and decided I was going to start it and see what happened. It has a wet clutch which means the clutch sits in oil inside the engine case. By starting the bike, I hoped some oil would circulate through the clutch plates and free it. I pushed the starter button, fired up the bike, and let it warm up in neutral. I pulled in the clutch and put the bike in gear and waited for it to stall. There was no tug of the bike lurching forward. The clutch was freed – Halle-freaking-lujah!

Not one to settle, I wanted to install a Speed Bleeder so that changing the clutch fluid next time would be an easy process. This handy valve, prevents air from backing into the system when bleeding so you do not have to continue opening and closing the bleeder. Perhaps I should have left well enough alone but I refused to be scared to work on my bike. I installed the Speed Bleeder as instructed by a YouTube video I found. I ran some fluid from the top down through the new valve to make sure it worked, and it did.

I next installed two RAM ball mounts on the clutch and brake reservoirs for mounting a camera, my phone, and a GPS. I trembled a bit and I was careful to not tip over either unit.

Thinking backwards, I realize that the whole time I was messing with the clutch that all I really needed to do was to just start the bike. Doh! Roger Mercer, an expert mechanic from rAt Cycles, put in a new clutch just a week before, and it was probably barely stuck from being so new. I don’t believe that I introduced enough air into the system when putting on the RAM ball mount originally. I thought the tipping of the clutch reservoir caused the problem, but in fact it was just the bike sitting for a week with the new part. I felt like a bonehead, but I learned a great deal along the way of getting the clutch to let go.

The weather was cloudy, but there was no rain in the forecast. I hopped the bike and drove to Cycle Therapy a motorcycle shop in East Harlem for my inspection sticker. The motorcycle ran perfectly even while snarled in stop and go traffic on 125th street. I left the bike with the shop for half an hour and went for Chinese food. I picked it up after the approved inspection and rode home down the Hudson. The clouds that lingered before had now evaporated leaving a beautiful blue sky. I smiled inside my helmet. I was riding.

The easiest solutions can elude us when we look at a problem too closely or are distracted by other circumstances. I learned volumes about my bike this week. I troubleshoot complex audio systems and computers for a living, and I realized I committed an error equivalent to the obvious “Is it plugged in?” from my technical world. The battle was a long one, but I had won, regaining a portion of my confidence.

Now onto some wiring issues…

Luggage Racks or Dude Where’s My Shim?

Now that I have the bike, the first order of business is to figure out how to carry things – a lot of things. I decided to get factory luggage and I  found a great resource for obsolete Honda parts called David Silver Spares. I bought the O.E.M panniers (or saddlebags as some say) along with the top case. The top case is a slightly different color of red (Winning Red versus Italian Red), but I can barely tell the difference and for the price, I’ll just squint a little.

I got to Ryders Alley where my bike is parked and I began the install process for the luggage racks. I had printed instructions along with PDFs stored on my iPad. I knew I was more than prepared. As it turns out, my VFR800 has a rear fender eliminator kit rendering the direction useless. I eventually got the racks for the panniers in place and secure. I used a torque wrench to be sure every bolt was tightened to factory specifications.

I slapped on my new vanity plate that reads “POPOVER.” My idea was to get a frame printed with “AMERICA” and block the “Empire State” below the letters with a license plate frame. I discovered nobody in the world sells a frame that covers this bottom section. The registration sticker also glares a big “16.” I read up on the legality of covering areas of a license plate, and realized my hiding idea would mean breaking the law. The last thing I need is another brush with Johnny Law.  So I guess I’ll settle for the plate to read “Popp Over 16 Empire State America” when I get the frame.

I moved on to the top case rack. The rack shipped with two sets of shims and the translated instructions were not very clear on which set to use. When I thought I had the puzzle solved, something wouldn’t line up. As I tested the shims, I dropped one through the rear fairing and it landed in a very tricky place. I used a small allen wrench and my prowess of Skill Crane to fish out the cursed part. I finally arrived at a solution after a lot of trial and error. Small shims all around. I seated the rack for final mounting and another shim slipped from my grasp wedging itself down next to the battery. I again masterfully extracted the annoying part.

All of the racks were in place. Now believing I’m an unstoppable mechanic, I proceeded to  install two RAM ball mounts that bolt over the clamps for the clutch and brake reservoirs. These are used to mount cameras for on-bike filming and a GPS (I can get lost going to the bathroom). The bolts were extremely tight, but I removed the two from the clutch side. The lever flopped forward and I saw the fluid window indicator go to empty. I just let a bunch of air into my clutch line! AGGGHHHH. I realized the fate of my carelessness. I tightened the reservoir clamp back up, put the bike in gear, pulled in the clutch lever, and tried to spin the rear tire. Sure enough, the clutch needed to be bled and I had nothing to complete the process. I borrowed a short length of clear hose from another Ryders Alley member. My brain flashed back to a month ago when I tried this same fix. No Luck again. I needed some DOT 4 brake fluid and there was none to be found.

The borough of Manhattan does not have any auto parts stores. I thought of the irony of the millions of cars that drive the city streets and not a single bottle of common brake fluid to be found. Wings clipped and ego deflated, I surrendered for the day. I pushed my wounded steed back into her stable. I couldn’t ride anyway as I didn’t have my helmet and it was pouring rain. The curse of the clutch follows me like an eerie ghost, but this time he will be vanquished.