Some Therapy

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Sometimes brakes stop you – from going.

It happens when the brake calipers clamp onto the rotors and don’t let go. This happens, typically, because the pistons inside the calipers have gotten sticky. Or stuck, as in the case of my ’83 Honda Silverwing’s calipers.

The bike felt like it had less power last time we took it for a ride. Which in a way it did, because a good bit of the engine’s power was straining to overcome resistance – caused by the front brake calipers having clamped down on the rotor, the disc that rotates with the wheel and which the calipers cause to slow down by causing the brake pads to contact the rotor when the brake pedal/lever is depressed, creating friction – which slows the bike down.

When everything’s working as it ought to, friction is relieved when pressure on the brake pedal/lever is relieved. The rotor – and wheel – rotates freely.

But rust or deteriorated seals or some other issue can cause the pistons to lock up – which can lock the wheel up. Maybe just a little, not so much that you can’t roll the bike – for now. But sometimes enough to render the bike immobile.

Anyhow, that’s what happened to me – and my ’83 Silverwing. A good thing, in a way – because it gave me something to do that would take my mind off everything that’s being done to us, from Chinese balloons to drag queen admirals.

It is immensely therapeutic to fix mechanical things. Things you can get your hands on. Things you take apart and put back together. To see – and understand – how it works and why it’s not working and what is necessary to make it work again. It is one of the reasons why I keep a fleet of old machines – things that, periodically, need to be taken apart and put back together; things that need to be fiddled with. Things that are, above all, tangible.

I despise electronic things because they aren’t. This isn’t to say electronic things are bad things. It is subjective thing. Electronic things simply don’t move me. I am uninterested in their workings, in part because they aren’t tangible. Which, for me, renders them emotionally uninteresting.

This brings me to why I am uninterested in electric cars. It is not entirely because they are electric cars. But it is a function of their being electric cars. As such, they are one dimensional devices.

They are quick – and that’s about it.

It is the one thing they do better than the machines they are meant to replace. Which is happening in spite of the fact that they are worse at everything else. Certainly as machines, in that they are incapable of doing the same job we rely on machines – our non-electric cars – to do.

Or at least, do it as well.

EVs – as everyone ought to know by now – do not. Unless you think that not being able to travel as far or refuel as fast isn’t a weakness but a strength. Unless you think that inconvenience is convenient. That paying more for less is good. In this sense, EVs are incontestably bad. With the sole exception of their being incontestably quick, which is – ironically – the very thing that has made them costly and impractical. Huge batteries are needed to store a massive amount of electricity, which is necessary to power a powerful electric motor (or two). These are expensive – and heavy. The heaviness reducing efficiency for the sake of quickness.

But what else is there?

An escalator is quicker than walking. And there are times when an escalator is helpful in that standing upon one relieves what would otherwise be the burden of walking up a long flight of stairs. But does anyone – other a small child, the first time he experiences it – get excited about taking an escalator? How many of us even think about it, even while we’re on it? We get on – we go up – and then we get off. And instantly forget. We do not feel anything while we’re on. We don’t remember it, except in the sense that we got on and got off.

There is nothing memorable about riding an escalator – once you’ve ridden one.

Just as there is nothing memorable about driving an electric vehicle, including (especially) an electric motorcycle. They go, often quickly. Without doing much else. Of such things memories are not made.

They are made by machines like my ’83 Honda, currently laid up while I fix the thing’s brakes. And my other machines, including my Great Pumpkin – the ’76 Pontiac Trans-Am (in glorious Carousel Red, which is really orange). A Tesla Plaid is much quicker and would easily beat my old muscle car in a drag race. But it wins my heart every time – because it’s not a one-dimensional device.

Quickness only takes you so far.

. . .

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  1. I’ve been on the receiving end of rear caliper lockups a few times. I have a Triumph Trophy 1200 which has the rear caliper assembly slung at the bottom. Even after rebuilding it always seemed to reoccur every 18 months or so. I finally figured out the cure for it which I’m sure will draw amusement. The cure is to sharply strike the brake lever a few times every week or so with a 3 footish 2×4. Utilizing a moderate blow which apparently send a sharp fast surge thru the system and somehow ends the behavior. Oddly attempting the same with your leg and heel doesn’t work. But for whatever reason the wood does at least with this British beast. It’s been trouble free since.


    • That’s hilarious, DD!

      It reminds me of my ’69 VW Squareback. It sometimes wouldn’t start. One day, frustrated, I kicked it in the right rear quarter panel. It started after I did that. Apparently, this reset some part of the Bosch FI system these cars used…

    • Hi Graves!

      This video illustrates how screwed up everything is. Guy on the bike is out riding, not causing any harm. Encounters an armed government worker in search of revenue. The AGW does a 180 and proceeds to drive even faster than the bike was going (so much for the “safety” argument in re “speeding”) to catch up to him. The biker – who wasn’t riding “unsafely,” merely “speeding” – does not want to hand over a large chunk of money to the AGW and so attempts to get away (the horror! he failed to submit!) and ends up wrecked and badly hurt, the bike totaled. None of this would have happened if the guy on the bike had just been let alone.

  2. I get more satisfaction out of changing the oil/transmission fluid/brake fluid/spark plugs/antifreeze myself than I ever did in all my years working for the government.

  3. Eric, re: bike brakes.
    I’ve learned that east of the Mississippi, bikes sit a lot, and their brake fluid absorbs moisture, unlike west of the Mississippi. For our race bikes, we change fluid every 6 months (in the East). Probably less for road machines, but maybe do every 2 years?
    Probably more for dirt-bikes as well, as we are always running in the wet, and washing them a lot to get the mud off.
    For our western bikes, I’ve inspected at 1,2,3,4, even 5 years, and the fluid is still good.
    Just moisture in the air.
    And the east-west thing is just a generalization.

    • Hi Chris,

      I think I got some bad brake fluid. I am meticulous about maintenance (as GTC!) and so I was shocked – shocked! – to find the ’83’s calipers seizing up. But I ought to have the old Honda operational again soon…

      • reminds me of a rough day at the roadrace track 30 years ago. We slept in tents at the time, and it froze overnight. There we were, ready to go on the track and my front brakes stuck on!!! OMG, this was a seeding race that was important.
        We struggled for 30 minutes, missed the seeding race, and we finally figured it out.
        The brake lines had water in them, froze, and while my brake lever, under force pushed the frozen section down, it would not allow normal atmosphere to return.
        I had to start at the back for the all-important race to get to the grand national finals that fall. I remember I made it (top3), but not what place, because I absolutely remember the finals where I took 6th out of the best in country at the time. I was so used to winning at local tracks that I got a slap in the face when everyone was good………………..

  4. ‘It is immensely therapeutic to fix mechanical things.’ — eric

    Sure … unless they fight back or mess with you. As kids, too young to drive, we occasionally got to work on a neighbor’s Triumph bike. Didn’t take long to discover that, despite all the screws and bolts being based on inch sizes, their threads were 55-degree Whitworth, instead of 60-degree US standard.

    Effing Whitworth!‘ came our bitter curses, to the mystification of the teeny-bopper girls hanging round to watch.

    Having got that off my chest, I caution: don’t get me started on JIS Phillips screws, a plague that still besets us today on rice rockets.

  5. Rebuilt the front and rear calipers on my 00 XLH with 26K on the clock. It was just challenging enough to not be frustrating and provided a lot of satisfaction after completing the work. Surprise Surprise They work excellent!

  6. Don’t forget the brake lines! The Commander’s hand me down Malibu wagon locked a brake, it was the rubber brake line deteriorated internally.

    My mechanical therapy this winter was restoring a 45 year old turntable, back to vinyl what fun. Belts readily available online, drive motor mounts no – used a thick rubber washer to shim the mounts works like new including auto return and shutoff. Synthetic clock oil for the motor bushings and spindle. Santa brought me a 300B series tube amp, my ancient SpeakerLab 2.5’s still fine sounding.

  7. Things CAN have a soul…. Anyone who has ever owned, maintained, and fixed a vehicle for more than 20 years knows that although they might not articulate it.

    I grew up in a genuine haunted house. Never knew the difference until my family moved around age 12. Most houses are completely devoid of such spirits. It gave me a certain perspective on places and inanimate objects.

    I’d wager there might be a few Teslas out there with that special Ghost in the Machine.

    But yeah, they still make little practical sense for the masses. But then again, neither does a Dodge Demon or Viper SRT …

  8. “It is immensely therapeutic to fix mechanical things.”
    Indeed, which is why I remained a plumber as long as I could. The tangible experience of fixing, building, or making a thing with one’s hands gives one a deep sense of victory. And we all need an occasional victory. It’s also why many people prefer paper documents to digital documents. They can touch it, feel it, perhaps even write it by hand, contacting a primordial part of themselves. Isaac Asimov touched on this in one of his later Foundation books. Forgive me for not remembering which one. The reason why one’s hands are one of the most sensitive parts of one’s body. We need it.

    • Any USA made supply lines exist? I needed a new hose supply line for a toilet fix today seems all are either Mexico or China. I was going to order a more expensive one till I spotted CHINA on the label shown in a picture online. I’ve about given up, if it’s got brass ends and a stainless braid seems they all come from the same factory overseas.

      • Wish I could help you, but I became unable to do plumbing over 20 years ago. A sever allergy to step ladders, causing my knees to react in pain. I sometimes expect to see a “made in China” tag on the underside of the gravel in my driveway.

  9. “It is immensely therapeutic to fix mechanical things.”

    This is why I fart around with hit ‘n’ miss engines. They’re simple and yet challenging. Restoring a 1928 Fuller & Johnson that was sold with a Barnes mud pump. Was able to find a new diaphragm for the pump & bought a sheet of rubber to make the outlet valve ring & the inlet valve flap. I’m sure it’ll pump once back together –basically like a plunger / pitcher pump but much bigger.

    The engine is being cantankerous. We’ll get it one of these days. I think the cam gear is wrong & will have to try to find one at a swap meet.

  10. Anyone see the jeep EV commercial during the NFL championship game?
    Recharging on the edge of a cliff in the middle of nowhere.
    Put that in the category of things you will never do with an EV.
    Interesting they needed to push a lie to make it look like EVs were a valid replacement for the things you can currently do with a real car.

    Then there was Ram pushing their REV in Q4 of 24.
    Claiming to be working on fixing the shortcomings of EVs.
    So these issues will all be resolved when these golf carts roll off the assembly line? or do they just estimate it will take until the end of next year to work out the kinks?


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