In memory of Rob Harris

In memory of Rob Harris

I first met Rob Harris (Ed Arris) in the parking garage of a building in downtown Toronto off of Bloor Street. I was doing a telephone installation in the building, and he had his Daytona 675 Triumph parked in the basement, and two motorcycle enthusiasts chatted merrily for a few moments.

What’s a little rain between friends?

A few years later, I was riding across the Trans Labrador Highway with a number of friends, and while on Newfoundland at L’Anse Aux Meadows viking settlement, we bumped into him and his riding partner Jim who were about to do the Trans Lab in the opposite direction, and as Darlene had participated in the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally that he organized, they knew each other quite well and I was formally introduced.

Wow! The new Tenere! I wonder who can afford these?

Later on when I moved out to Prince Edward Island from Ontario, Rob invited me to take part in the 2012 CMG Dusk to Dawn Rally, and I got caught up in Rob and Zac’s epic one day rally that just got better and better as the day progressed. Rob struck me as basically a big kid on a mission to make his hobby support him. I was a bit envious, as this seemed a wonderful trick to me.

Later on Rob would comment on the tiny tank of the Honda CRF250L 😀

I’d also have to say that I found his reviews in CMG very refreshing, as they didn’t pander to the manufacturer, and I found that on the whole, he rendered an unbiased opinion with a humorous and informative manner. I found myself subscribing to his newsletter and reading more of the articles in the magazine, especially the tours and reviews. While he preferred to spend more on meals and accommodations, we really enjoyed the same sort of spirited riding, and I’d often envy the motorcycle jaunts, launches and events that he would attend as a journalist.

We got to chatting more often in one medium or another, and when he found that I was travelling from Ontario to Prince Edward Island he suggested that I stop in Sackville at the CMG downtown office and have a chat. I had to tear myself away, as the conversations would go in many different directions. We’d chat about everything from tea leaves to psychology, and the best bang for the buck in knobbies.

The Rallies? They were just an excuse to share his passion and play ringmaster at his very own brand of circus. And it worked. I was hooked so badly that when I moved back to Ontario, I scheduled a family vacation to visit the island in August so I could attend yet another one. I rode from the Island to Moncton in the pouring rain, and sat outside the diner waiting for him to show up and get the meal started, and I was soaking wet and mostly miserable. He pulled up, and next thing you know, we were smiling, laughing and looking forward to what tomorrow would bring.

Rain? You call this rain? Clearly you have never been to England.
CMG Dawn to Dusk 2014

Clearly that is an Icon Spider

The fast group takes a wrong turn

I bought an old 2001 Honda XR400 off of my friend Willie in Ontario, and managed to work a deal with a friend of a friend who knew someone at Honda that was hauling a trailer from Ontario and would be amenable to dropping into Sackville and kicking the bike off the back of the trailer to Rob who had volunteered to store it for me for a few days until I could collect it. Wouldn’t you know that was the very weekend of the worst storm in Atlantic Canada in 50 years? The truck couldn’t get to within a kilometre of his place as they needed to turn around and only one parking lot was big enough and had been cleared. He collected the bike and told me that he had no troubles storing it a few days longer if we had trouble getting off of the island. A couple of months later, we collected the bike when he also informed me that the front brake caliper was seized, but lucky for him he was able to slide it through the snow and into the his garage. That off hand remark told me that he had worked a lot harder to make this happen for me, and I was really very grateful to him. He’d gone out of his way to help me out, and knew how excited I was to get that old bike.

You can still see the remnants of the eight foot high snowbanks on the lawn.

Thanks Rob.

The Dawn to Dusk rally got passed over in favour of the new Fundy Adventure Rally, and while I missed the first year of it, I attended the second year, and watched ringmaster Rob at the podium smiling, cracking jokes, and turning a riders briefing into a comedic adventure. His wife Courtney was there as well, and it was clear that they formed a team, and he very much valued her contributions to the success of the rally and his business.

Courtney, can we go now? What about now? Now? What about now?


Later on, I was asked to review a helmet for CMG, so Zac and Rob arranged for it to be shipped out to the island to me. It arrived late in June, and while I reviewed it fairly promptly, Rob suggested some edits to the review, and for whatever reason that I don’t fully understand myself, I procrastinated. I avoided it like the plague, and I still can’t really tell you why. I finally broke down and submitted it in the late fall, far after the season was over, and in my mind, so too the usefulness of the review. and in response to my apology for taking so long with my rewrite, he told me he simply wanted to tie up the loose ends. I was grateful for that, but still feel that I let him down.

I’d visit Rob at his house in Sackville and he’d tell me the best way to get to and from his place, a little stretch of gravel road that lead practically from his doorstep and right back out to the highway, but avoiding the super highway. Just a beautiful little road with a covered bridge that spoke to me, but not so much the Versys, and with all the rough roads that I favoured, I was tossing fasteners or shearing them. I’d lost a front motor mount, sheared one subframe fastener twice, and when I pulled into his driveway he’d ask “How is the Versys treating you?” and I’d relate my current fastener troubles to him. As I pointed to the subframe fastener in question, I was nonplussed to see that I’d lost it yet again! And when showing him the newly replaced front motor mount, I found to my shock and horror that I’d lost the lower motor mount bolt as well! His response was to offer me a lunch that consisted of salad from his garden, any of the fasteners in his collection, and the keys to his Kia Rondo when it was apparent that the massive bolt I needed was not to be found. I returned with a galvanized fence bolt from the hardware store down the road, and used his tools to bolt humpty dumpty back together again. I’m still riding with fence bolt to this day, so I can respond to questions “How is the Versys treating you?” to “I’m sitting on the fence.”

KLR, Konker and F800GS all in one place, including a broken Versys
And it was such a lovely bridge too.

I was riding through Sackville with Suzi on board, and when I dropped in to Rob’s place, only to find that he was out, I was fortunate enough to meet with his lovely wife Courtney and we became friends, although it might be that Suzi didn’t have a Facebook account while I do. All I can say is that Rob has great taste in women, and that I am truly very sorry for her loss, and that of his two daughters who have lost their father today.

Rob, you made me feel at home here in Atlantic Canada, you shared your home, your food and your passion for riding with me, and I will forever be grateful as I mourn the loss of a fellow rider and friend.

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The Versys Turns 50

I didn’t stop and give it a slice of cake or even sing “Happy Birthday” to it…

It turns 50!


And if that weren’t enough

My fork seals are leaking…

So you might have read the post where I describe how my fork leg is now marking it’s territory as if it were a dog checking it’s pee-mail around the neighborhood. If you did, then let’s get on with this post shall we?

Seal Mate
The trick of shoving a bit of plastic up the works and reaming out the grit might have actually worked!  I went online and bought a couple of the “Seal Mate” products, and waited patiently for them to arrive in the mail posted up from the US… …then I got a call from my Honda dealer in Summerside that a petcock I ordered in for my 2001 Honda XR400 was in, and while I was at the parts counter, I spied a rack of the Seal Mates, for $10 each. Almost twice what they cost online before shipping, so I bought one. I’d love to tell you that I brought it home and proceeded straight to work on the bike, but it would be truthful to say instead, that I made a kick-ass Chicken Curry for dinner that night for my PEI family. (recipe available upon request)
Let me describe how I went about this wonderful task:
  1. I thought my triple tree lift was in storage… Nope, it was stuffed in the back of a shed. 
  2. It turns out that the lift was designed for sportbikes, and not wanna-be adventure bikes, or as my friend Zac likes to call bikes like the Versys, Sport Utility Bikes. (You know, sort of like the SUV’s that only ever go offroad onto the grass of the soccer pitch?) So I had to locate a couple pieces of 2×6 spruce to put under the lift for some added, er…. …lift.
  3. Remove the front axle (it had been so long since I had this axle off, that I forgot what size hex fit the front, was it 17mm or the 19mm? Either way I knew I was covered with my Motion Pro axle removing tool —which didn’t fit. ) with a 14mm 1/2 drive hex key… 
  4. Remove the front tire (and find that the lovely Michelin Pilot Road 4 or PR4 front tire was scalloping but had plenty of meat on it after just over 10,000km) 
  5. Remove both right and left brake calipers
  6. Remove fender
  7. Wedge said fender with brake calipers dangling off of it out of your way so you can now sort the fully exposed oil soused fork leg. 
  8. Clean it up. I’m going to suggest first off using a rag and some elbow grease, and perhaps some brake cleaner as well if your leg looks like mine… 
  9. Pry down the dust seal very gingerly so as not to scratch the surface and really bugger things up…
  10. Clean that up as well..
  11. RTFM
  12. Produce the Seal Mate and follow the instructions they provide, and perhaps even watch their How-to video once or twice for virtual practice. 
  13. Right, now I need to put it all back together again to compress the front end so the seals reset themselves. 10 good compressions of the front end. 
  14. If I got this right, I should see smears of fresh fork oil coating the leg, then those smears getting pushed lower and lower by a newly seated fork seal.
  15. Hallelujah! 
  16. Open the envelope your brother-in-law hands you, to find out that the two Seal Mates you ordered online are now in your possession, making you the proud owner of one seal mate, and two superfluous backups. 
  17. Realize that instead of being superfluous, the two surplus Seal Mates would make great stocking stuffers for the dirt bikers in my family… win:win:win  
And Hey Presto!!! It seems to have worked in bench testing mode! I walked away from it after compressing the front end about 15 times, and it was dry as a bone when I got back. We all know that bench testing is no substitute for the real thing…
Today I took the bike out for a fling for green peppers as tonight Chilli Con Carne was on the menu (recipe available upon request), and I took a road full of potholes and frost heaves there and back, around 20 km of fun riding… And again, the fork leg was as dry as a bone when I got back and packed it away into the garage. 
Tomorrow I’ve got to return some library books and collect some fork oil to top off what got pissed away, and I think the bike is overdue for a nice clean up. 
Anyhow, I’m packing for my first tour of the season, and I am so happy that I don’t have to spend my trip budget on new fork seals and having someone else replace them for me, although fork seals are messy, messy adventures. *sigh*
I’d love to say that I’ll order in a set of seals and the inverted fork spring compressing tool, but when I was doing all that work on the front brakes, I can see that this tour will end with a front brake pad re & re. 
It turns out that if you ride them, you have to repair them. Go figure. 
That fork oil collects even more dirt and grit, and paper towel just won’t clean off the lowers.
These things work as advertised!!!
Everytime I wheelie, I think of all the grit that might end up jammed under the seal (It doesn’t stop me though)
Yes, it is pulling out the dirt
And more dirt
Seal Mate sells them through Motion Pro
I can’t remember what this was supposed to show, but the lighting is bad so I took a duplicate. Just be a good reader and ignore this one, please? There’s a good lad/lass.
Seal Mate works, and I wanted to pass that information along should you want to try it out for  yourself. 

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The Versys fork seals are leaking

It never rains, it pours. Or so it seems here at home. I’ve made a hash of my XR400 Carburetor repair, yesterday I blew a brake line on my venerable old 2003 Honda Civic, and today while riding my bike, I blew a front left fork seal. :'(

I wonder if this is all just dirt under the seals and if I can use the “seal mate” trick with a piece of old 35mm film or negative?

Motion Pro Seal Mate

If you are thinking about buying a Seal Mate, and you live in Canada, you may want to do so here:

I’ve had some experience replacing fork seals on a Kawasaki KLR 650, but the Versys uses the inverted upside down fork configuration, and my research shows that the job is just as messy, and requires some specialized tools to service the fork that I simply don’t have at the moment. So lining up for this job, I find I need the following bits based on servicing both front forks as opposed to only one:

  • SEAL,DUST (Ref # 92093)           92093-0035      2 Each 
  • SEAL-OIL (Ref # 92049)              92049-0058       2 Each
Fork Oil:
Specialized tools:
  • Fork Spring Compressor tool
  • Fork Bleed tool
  • “Finger” plate
Fork Spring Compressor Kit for inverted forks
These are from Traxxion Dynamics and if you find cheap Chinese knock offs that look very similar, the word on the street is be very careful, as they tend to break more than they work as compared to this Made in USA model. 
I found a comprehensive video that shows service on similar forks to the Versys, but this is not exactly the same as out bike. Please let me know if you have a better source for this. 
Part 1
Part 2

eBay sourced tool that does not get good reviews. Buyer Beware:
The price is right, but is it worth it?

This is a real DIY approach.

That’s all for now.


Getting the bugs out…

And I’ve been busy again, fixing the mirrors on my Versys… 🙂

Yeah, I busted them

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The Versys Gen 1 mirrors…

I’ve a 2009 Kawasaki KLE650 Versys, known as a Gen 1 as it was the birth of the new model back in 2007, and they had a few bugs that needed to be ironed out, which included “loose mirrors”. Which will become “useless” mirrors etc.

Note the missing left hand side mirror?

Some of the bugs really irked me. Such as loose mirrors. I suppose if you fell into that rider category of “Only rides from Church to Tim Horton’s when the forest fire danger is ‘high to extreme’.” then you know nothing of my dilemma and wonder why I need to replace my mirrors on the bike. I fall into the “He probably shouldn’t be doing that. He might fall down or damage the bike. Oh my! He did fall down and damage the bike!” category of rider.

After many gravel roads and potholes, wheelies etc, I found that my left hand mirror began to move more easily. I’d hit a really bad pothole, or come down too heavy on the front end, and it would swing around backwards at me. A casual glance at these mirrors leads you to think that they are really strong and robust…

That rubber covers a multitude of sins…
The mirror shaft is about 12mm in diameter, and uses a 10mm threaded bolt to mount to the handle bar brackets, yet the designers of this have cleverly camouflaged their mistakes under a couple of layers. 
First you will need to slide the rubber cover up to expose a curious sight, 
I bet you don’t have a wrench this big in the set you bought on sale…
So why would you use a nut that ships with PRE-ROUNDED corners much larger than the average 17mm or 19mm wrench that ships with an average combination wrench set?! Right, so if you are like me, or my friend WIllie, out comes the trusty old adjustable wrench and you are able to find that in order to tighten the mirror, you need to separate these two. The Silver Cone (Part A) needs to be removed from the Black Base (Part B), then using a thin walled 10mm socket, you need to tighten a nylock nut on the end of the mirror that uses friction to hold the mirror in place. You do this by hand without the aid of a vice, and think you might want to use some of the blue medium strength thread locker on all the parts so you won’t be back into this on Friday after work. Note that I would not be able to do this roadside with the stock kit as it lacks the tools necessary. 
2014 saw me tighten the mirror too much with the nylock nut, and I managed to snap off the end of the mirror, but by the grace of God there was enough thread left behind that I was able to reuse the nut with some washers, and get through the rest of the season.
Fast forward to 2015, and now the left hand mirror is wobbling when I’m on rough pavement, so I’m constantly correcting it before lane changes. I’m now much safer as any to the left has to be cleared with the mirror and a should check first, as the mirror is often no longer showing a view to the side and rear of the bike. A last ditch attempt to fill Part A (The Silver Cone of Concealment) with JB Weld epoxy, tighten the bugger and let that goop set for 24 hours, saw me once again snap the end of the mirror off, but this time it was done, and I rode the last couple of weeks of the season without a left hand mirror.
It’s dead, Jim!
I happily forgot all about it until a few weeks ago when I took the bike out, after which this starving student ordered in the cheapest replacement pair I could find that would pass a vehicle inspection coming up in July when I renew the registration. China had the answer, and I got my package…
Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music – Brown paper packages tied up with string… These are a few of my favourite things…

Are you old enough to even remember that song? 😀

 I was a bit nervous that the mirrors would mount properly as while I researched, I heard mention of left and right handed threads etc., but I’m happy to report on my Generation 1 Versys, the thread is 10mm on both sides, and the normal right handed thread we all know and love. Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey.

They aren’t made of cheese, but they are pretty cheesy. 

 These mirrors are made of cast white metal, and frankly I don’t think they will last more than a couple of years, but for $37 Cdn shipped, I can live with that. I want something functional that will pass an MVI later this year.

I still can’t believe how robust the upper is compared to the final 8mm connection.
Who came up with this and couldn’t see a problem developing later on?
Not perfect, but they work.
Job done, time to blog, err, Ride!

And that is that, although I do have a couple of suggestions for the designers…

  • If you have a 12mm shaft, try to stick to within a couple mm of the connecting bolt. Just saying.
  • Nylock nuts on a mirror? Come on. If you can’t even touch that the nut with the bike onboard tools, then it needs to be rethought. 
  • Next time I’d rather you focus on vibration damping if you are going to invent something fancy and useless
  • Run any designs past your old man first and get his go-ahead before sneaking them onto  the completed project. If you cannot find an old man, one will be provided for you. 

I’ll come back and update this if they survive… 😀

Update: 2016-04-22 The mirrors are pointing at the ground and have horrible vertical adjustment. I’m going to have to rotate the mount on the bars in order to get a better view of the road behind. That may effect the attitude of the brake and clutch levers. Perhaps I’ll simply loosen the handle bar and rotate that until fixed? 

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Is the carburetor supposed to do that?


It’s still leaking when the bike comes to a stop.

More here

The float bowl after sitting for a few years in a barn

The float needle is stuck, and the spring too weak to do the job


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And it’s time for a new rear tyre

The Michelin Pilot Road 4 didn’t last as long as I had hoped it would, and I found myself riding on the wear bars last fall. Luckily I was able to order in a set of tires, and finish the season on the PR4, but I knew that I would have to get that rear swapped out this spring or suffer some problems with the incredibly sandy corners that occur once the snow and ice melt away.

Once the bike was up on the rear stand it was an easy thirty minutes, and I was also able to squeeze in an oil and filter change to get ready for the new season.

What are you doing to get ready for the new season?




Spring 2016

Or is it really?

If you live on Canada’s East Coast then you know what I mean. For the rest of you, this picture will have to suffice


There is a two foot drift in front of my car, so I doubt the bike will be rolling down the drive anytime in the near future, although I do have high hopes for this coming weekend.

In the meantime, I’ve been getting ready for the 2016 season by getting some gear ready to go.

First ride of the season, after some blood, sweat and tears…

Read all about it here

Apparently carburetors can be repaired

Closed Course, Professional Rider, Do not attempt et cetera, et cetera.