Thursday, October 21, 2010

 

The great ethanol scam and your motorcycle engine: get worried


In this age of runaway, out-of-control government, it's easy to get mired down in worry and anger about a variety of things. Granted, the list is endless. But of all the wild government action we're currently being subjected to, perhaps one of the most cleverly executed scams going is the corn lobby's successful hijacking of the fuel sector via the mandated blending of ethanol with pump gas.

The crazy thing is, everyone knows ethanol is a terrible product as a fuel source. I mean everyone. For crying out loud, when the eco-mentalists and the oil companies actually come together to agree on something, you know a boondoggle of extraordinary magnitude is afoot.

But forget the fact that it takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than you get from a gallon of ethanol. Forget that ethanol's production drives up food prices and contributes to human starvation. Forget that ethanol is 35 percent less efficient than gasoline. Hell, forget that ethanol produces as much or more pollution than gasoline depending on how it's used. Yes, forget all that. The most important issue for you as a motorcyclist right now is that ethanol-laced fuel may be slowly destroying your bike's engine.

From the lawsuits against the ethanol industry by boaters whose marine engines and fuel cells were badly damaged, to the widespread cratering of two-stroke chainsaw and four-stroke lawnmower engines, the direct evidence of ethanol's curse is overwhelming. And the damage ethanol has done to some makes of cars and trucks is arguably just as bad. Early last year, Lexus ordered a massive vehicle recall related to ethanol damage. "Ethanol fuels with low moisture content will corrode the internal surface of fuel rails," reads one of the service bulletins.

It only stands to reason that similar woes are now befalling motorcycle owners, where ethanol's corrosive properties are destroying everything from rubber fuel boots to throttle bodies and carburetors.

And it gets worse. Since motorcycles tend to sit unused for long periods of time during the cold months, they are especially susceptible to serious engine damage resulting from phase separation, a condition whereby water condensation in the fuel causes the ethanol to bond to the H2O molecules, separate from the gasoline, and sink to the bottom of the tank. The first warm day the motorcycle is fired up, the pure ethanol dumps directly into the engine and, shazam, it's curtains for your poor bike.

So what can we do as motorcyclists to insure the continued care and long life of the bikes we love so much? Well, I wish I had that answer. I've heard tell of some guys intentionally phase separating the ethanol from their fuel using distilled water in specially constructed tanks, draining away the water/ethanol mixture, and then running the pure pump gas. I've also heard that running marine fuel stabilizers can be beneficial.

Honestly, I don't know if either of those ideas are good ones or not, but I do know that we all need to start making angry political noises about ethanol-laced fuel. It's needs to be gone forever, and it needs to be gone yesterday. It's time to get off our couches and start kicking and screaming about ethanol and all the other things our so-called leaders are doing to ruin the quality of our lives, otherwise those bought-and-payed-for bastards will soon diminish our existences to that of simple slaves, working and toiling pointlessly and endlessly, only to do their mindless bidding.

Addendum: For clarification, I realize that a small amount of ethanol has been used in pump gas as an octane booster since 1979 or so. My call to action is specifically aimed at eliminating large-volume ethanol blends such as E10 and E15.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

 

West Texas Bike Nights for October 2010


Come out and enjoy the beautiful autumn weather. These will be the last two organized bike nights of the year in Midland (TX):

Midland Powersports Bike Night
Wednesday October 13, 2010
7PM until 9PM
Midland Powersports on Old Highway 80
Midland, Texas



West Texas Motorcycles Bike Night IV
Wedensday October 20, 2010
7PM until 10PM
Rosa's Café on Andrews Highway
Midland, Texas


FYI, Midland Powersports' Bike Night will feature free food, drinks, in-store specials, and door prizes. Both events are family-friendly, and anyone interested is welcome to attend. See you in October!

Friday, October 08, 2010

 

Are we starting to see the beginnings of sportbike backlash?


Ah, modern race-replica sportbikes. They're sleek. They're light. They're unbelievably fast. They handle like nobody's business. And in many cases, they're becoming a generic, boring punchline in motorcycle culture.

At least that's how I'm perceiving the judgments being recently laid out against them by others; both riders and non-riders alike. It seems there's a growing backlash against sportbikes, fueled by a decade of super popularity, a whole lot of bad press, and a snot-nosed sportbiker archetype that's embarrassingly easy to pigeonhole.

We've done it to ourselves. Heck, ten or twelve years ago, I myself was doing far too much 150-plus mile per hour riding on the street, far too many wheelies, and far too much bragging about it. And let's be honest, it was an easy thing to get sucked into. The power, acceleration, and bullet-train stability of a full-on repli-racer is something to which a person can get easily addicted.

Unfortunately, we all know that activities catering to addictive behaviors will eventually draw-in a bad element, and with sportbikes, the bad element arrived in droves. Before long, no one with a daily commute found it unusual to see at least one group per day of insufferable sportbike douchebags acting like complete imbeciles on the freeway. Throw in lots of high-speed police chases, gory crashes, a million stupid YouTube videos and the stunting culture, and even someone as proud of his motorcycles as me stops telling people I even have a repli-racer sportbike. It becomes guilt by association:

"Oh, you ride one of *those* motorcycles? Well, one of you guys went by me doing a wheelie the other day and scared me so bad I almost crashed! I had my infant son in the car!"

"Those things should be outlawed. I watched a chase on TV the other day and the guy on the sportbike ran into the side of a truck at over 100 miles per hour. EMS had to scoop him up with a shovel!"

"The kid across the street from me crashed his and was in a coma for two months. You shouldn't ride those things!"

From my perspective, I'm seeing a lot of guys my age and younger getting out of sportbiking and buying other types of motorcycles. One by one, I'm watching as more and more of my longtime riding buddies turn up on the scene with Harleys and BMWs and adventure bikes. They've simply had enough and have "shifted gear", so to speak. And to my surprise, I seem to be doing the same. I love my ZX7R, but it sits in the garage a lot more these days as I ride my Z-Rex and old-school KZ. People don't leer as much when I ride those bikes, and the cops tend to be less interested in me, too. That's always a good thing.

I'm also noticing a swell of interest among the younger crowd in reviving the café scene. That's very cool, and seems to provide a way to enjoy spirited bikes while successfully divorcing away from the sportbike and stunting cultures. It's even making its way to TV more and more often, which I think is a strong sign:



 

Finishing touches on the '78 KZ project


Three months and a few Grand later, I'm finally putting the finishing touches on my 1978 KZ1000 LTD project bike.

Well, I say these are the finishing touches, but the possibilities on what I could do with this bike given the time and money are virtually endless. Due to the ease and availability of parts and support, I could certainly have a hot drag motor built for it. I could go crazy and install a modern sportbike front end, racing swingarm, and suspension system. I could go all HID or LED. These bikes are still so collectible and popular that a virtual treasure trove of groovy aftermarket kit is but an Internet order form away.

Yeah, I could do a lot more stuff; a lot more. But I'm not gonna. At least not for now.

Anyhow, as of this week, all the electrical is properly sorted, the engine is back in proper running order, and the new paint work is finally finished and installed. Now in 1970 Superbird (Vitamin C) Orange with black custom decals I designed myself, my old KZ is looking and running great, and I'm just happy to have the motorcycle back in one piece and purring like a kitten. Now I can actually ride the thing.

Old bikes are a labor of love to be sure, but they are more than worth it. I was just a little kid in the late '70s and early '80s when these bikes were rolling off the assembly lines from Japan, but was surrounded by Z- and H-model Kawasakis thanks to various older family members who were bigtime into riding them. I've said it before, but my experiences with those bikes as a child -- the smell, the sound, the feel of riding pillion -- are all part of the reason I ride motorcycles today. Moreover, they have influenced my enthusiasm for riding old-school and retro bikes, especially since I wasn't old enough to ride back in the day and had to mostly watch all the fun from afar.

Now, my restoration focus can finally return to my poor little S1A Mach I triple, which has been put on the back burner no less than three times since last year as I set it aside to work on other stuff. I've stopped setting goals for a finish date at this point, but if the little Mach I is lucky, it might just be running by springtime.

Fingers crossed.