Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hello: Winter

Sorry for being away for so long.. I honestly was hoping that there would be some additional riding time, after Thanksgiving (here in the US), but it was not to be. While we're still snow free here in Chicago, the morning temperatures are now below my 'pain' threshold. That is, I cannot ride to work without losing feeling in my fingers and/or toes. While I love riding, it's not worth the price.

Back to the NX's battery issues; after checking things out and having the battery sit on the trickle charger over-night, I never had any more trouble. What? Yeah, that seemed very strange to me as well. All electrical components check out per the shop manual. The battery is approximately one year old. I don't know what else to check or any other explanation. I'll chalk it up a a Beta particle passing through...

With respect to winterizing the NX, it was pretty simple; I changed the oil, hooked the battery to the trickle charger and parked the bike in the front of my (heated) garage. I do need to get some sort of fuel stabilizer into the remaining fuel in the tank (which isn't much, at this point). I will dump the remaining fuel, from my DR650SE into the NX's tank. I've heard that Seafoam makes a good fuel stabilizer (I've been using Sta-Bil) and may try it. The DR is getting totally torn down this winter so the frame can be powder-coated (which is what I've been spending my spare time on). I will take the opportunity to have the NX's engine shield and rear rack powder-coated as well. The engine shield takes a little too much abuse to just be painted (white) and the rear rack (black) has been abused by previous owners and needs to be re-freshened.

I'll be on vacation next week (Orlando, FL - Disney & Universal Studios) and shortly thereafter comes Christmas and New Year's. So, if I don't post until 2012, have a great holiday season!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hello: Dead Battery

So, I've been trying to squeeze a few more rides in this year (as you know). Normally, morning temperatures hover around the freezing mark and day time highs reach into the 40s or low 50s (F). Yesterday, the high was only in the upper 30s. Shouldn't be any problem, unless you have a suspect battery (which I didn't know the NX possessed). So, I go to fire the NX up for the ride home and ... one or two cranks and then nothing. Crap. Back into the office to get a jump from a co-worker. Well, I must have touched the wrong cable clamp to the opposite battery terminal some time in the jumper cable connection process. Because, when I turned on the ignition key, there was nothing. No lights, nothing. I had to navigate to this blog to review the shop manual and determine where the fuse was located (just above the negative battery terminal, behind the right side panel). There's supposed to be a 15 amp fuse in there, by the way. My NX had a 20 amp (blown) fuse. Problem found. So, after a quick run down to a local service station (that's still a service station, not a convenience mart with fuel), I had a new 15 amp fuse (blade type) installed. After getting a jump from my wife's SUV, who was kind enough to come help me, I was on my way. I had no trouble on the ride home and the bike started right up after shutting it down (as I would expect). The NX spent the night on the Yuasa Hot Shot battery tender and was fully charged this morning. I opted not to ride because it was only in the mid-20s this morning and I didn't feel like being a guinea pig today.

So, now I'm left to wonder; do I have a battery going south? Or, do I have a stator that's not charging? I'm going to guess the former even though I was under the impression, from the previous owner, that the battery was relatively new. I'm going to have to review my NX file for receipts. You'd think that if the battery wasn't receiving a charge, it would have done this a while ago and that I would notice issues with dim lights, etc. Cold weather is supposed to reveal deficiencies with weak batteries so I'm not too surprised this is rearing its ugly head now. I suppose I have some things to check, over the weekend, don't I? I'll let you know what I find.

Friday, November 11, 2011

November 11 - Veterans Day

I couldn't do this without your efforts and sacrifice.
God bless all of you.
And to those who are no longer with us; Godspeed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Manual Complete

For those of you that require information from a shop manual, I have completed the upload. The Wiring Diagram was the last piece in that puzzle. Take note that the diagram is based on a Portuguese-language version of the wiring diagram for an NX150. The diagram linked on the Resources page is my translation of that. I have other Honda shop manuals and was (kind of) surprised that Honda re-uses wiring colors across its entire range of bikes. Additionally, even though actual switches may physically differ, the way they are wired remains constant. So, I have some confidence in the diagram itself. I will also be spot checking it against my NX, this winter, as I perform maintenance. So, if I notice an issue, I'll do my best to correct it. If you happen to notice something, please inform me (through the Comments). Thanks.

Winter's Coming - Project Chosen (by default)

Sorry for the lack of posting recently. It's been pretty miserable here (Chicago) lately with a lot of damp days and cool conditions. The NX has spent a lot of time in the garage. Additionally, I traded my Transalp for a 1997 DR650SE. While the TA was fun it wasn't really what I was looking for; it was pretty bulky and (in my opinion) heavy. The DR is much lighter (~100 lbs) and much more svelte. It feels a lot like my old DR350SE but with some serious grunt. In retrospect, this is what I should have bought when I sold my DR350SE. So, I've been in the process of seeing what the DR needs. It doesn't need much but it does need some TLC. So, I thought I would "refresh" it over the winter. The major item would be having the frame sandblasted and powder-coated. Then, maintenance issues will be rectified during re-assembly (bearings, cables, gaskets, seals, filters, etc.). When Spring rolls around, the DR should be good to go for a few years (I would hope).

Since no one responded, I guess I'll be rebuilding forks over the winter. That's OK because it will give me more time (and $$) to spend on the DR.

Here's a little more feedback on gear:
The Olympia Bushwacker is still capable of keeping me warm with temperatures near freezing. I believe it was 33º F at O'Hare this morning. I wore a long sleeved cotton pull-over under the jacket/liner. I had no trouble keeping warm.

After my Joe Rocket gloves, which were waterproof and warm, split a seam, I purchased a pair of Tourmaster Cold Tex 2.0 gloves. They have leather on the palm and padding on the knuckles. They kept my fingers warm on the ride this morning and I'm only using the plastic hand guards on the NX (note: the NX does not come with hand guards from the factory. I adapted a set of Transalp guards to fit the NX). I have yet to install the Tusk Hand Mitts on the NX. When I do, that will allow me to ride in temperatures 10º colder.

The Gaerne Balance boots also kept my toes pretty warm. I was surprised they did that since I was expecting to have to wiggle my toes all the way to work. Nope, never really thought about it actually.

Temperatures are expected to rise back into the 40s and 50s (daytime highs) next week. However, it's pretty obvious that my riding days are numbered. I still hope to make it to the end of the month but may not be able to go much past that. We'll see.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Winter's Coming - Help Choose a Project

As much as I hate to admit it, my riding season is drawing to a close. While it's beautiful here today; mostly sunny, breezy and about 70º F, the weather will change drastically tonight and I'll be lucky if tomorrow's high temperature is in the lower 50s. I still hope to squeeze in another month on the NX but I'm not certain it that will be possible.

So, help me select an NX-related winter project. I have a spare set of front forks and was thinking of rebuilding them and, of course, documenting the process. Or, I have a spare motor and could do a tear-down or do a tear-down/rebuild (it's missing a camshaft which is no longer available from Honda. It also needs an intake valve but those are available). A motor rebuild is going to be a little more expensive, than a fork rebuild, especially if the cylinder needs to be bored or if the bottom end is trashed. I also have a spare set of wheels but they don't need much attention unless I attempt to remove the steel lining in the hubs (if that's even possible). Lastly, I was thinking about removing, cleaning and lubricating the swing arm.

I'm guessing there may be something that you'd like to see as well. Feel free to vote through the Comments. If nobody has any preferences, I'll go with the forks and proceed from there based on budget. Thanks for your input.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Back to Adventure

Back in July (2011), I wondered if the NX would work as an adventure bike (link). In that post, there's a picture of yours truly, on the NX, navigating County Divide Road in Jo Daviess County, Illinois. One of the group, that I was riding with that day, finally posted the video:

So smooth.......

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Carburetor Adjustments - Smooth Runnin', Finally

Ever since I started riding the NX, I've sensed that all was not right with respect to fuel delivery. I've wondered about corrosion in the carburetor (found and dealt with), air leaks (rectified with a carburetor rebuild kit) and timing (checks out OK). There are only two adjustments that can be made to the Keihin PD52E (PD52F in California) carburetor; idle speed and fuel/air mixture (also known as the pilot screw). Since I recently adjusted the valves, I figured it would be good to revisit the carburetor adjustments.

One of the issues with the adjustment is the limiter cap that's installed at the factory. The bikes are adjusted to be lean so that they pass emissions tests. The limiter cap ensures that the bike leaves the dealer in the same state of tune as when it left the factory. There's a stop cast into the float bowl and the tang on the limiter cap prohibits the screw from being adjusted to enrich the mixture. I've read that heat will defeat the adhesive that holds the limiter cap. I chose to simply grind the tang off when I had the carburetor apart for rebuild. You could also grind the stop off the float bowl, if you so choose. Regardless of what you do, don't allow aluminum shavings to enter the carburetor.

If you refer to the Chapter 4 - Fuel System PDF on the Resources page, you'll want to review the Pilot Screw Adjustment procedure on page 4-10. Basically, you want the engine at operating temperature and idling around 1300 (+/- 100) rpm. I use an off-set ratchet to make the adjustment.

The hard part is not burning your hand while trying to adjust the pilot screw. In the image below, the float bowl of the carburetor is identified by the yellow arrow (behind the rear brake light wiring and switch). If you use an off-set ratchet with a straight blade insert, you need to insert your right hand between the engine and exhaust pipe (pink arrow) and use your left hand to manipulate the off-set (lime green arrow). It's not easy and you can get hurt (burned).

I've found that using a welder's glove allows me to put my right hand on top of the engine case, palm up,  without being injured. Yes, your hand does get warm-to-hot inside the glove but you're protected. At this point, I use the middle finger of my right hand to hold the off-set in place while I adjust the pilot screw with my left hand. You are instructed to "turn the pilot screw in or out to obtain the highest engine speed". If you're using an offset ratchet, obviously, you can only turn in one direction at a time. Chances are, you'll want to turn counter-clockwise (from the initial setting of 1-7/8 turns out from bottomed) to enrich the mixture since the initial setting is lean. I've considered a screwdriver with a flexible shaft but have yet to see one with an attachment that keeps the blade in the screw head slot. Once you've obtained the highest engine speed (rpm), re-adjust the idle screw to 1300 (+/- 100) rpm.

This "tweak" has the NX running as I think it should. It warms up quickly, uses less choke and it accelerates smartly. There are times when it still struggles for pace but much less than it used to.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I have added a "Pages" section in the header. In an effort to better present information, this section will allow me to organize data. Sub-sections include Home, About Me (which used to be in the right rail) as well as  Resources. The Resources page will allow me to link to PDF files of the Shop Manual. I'm in the process of scanning each chapter. Please be patient while I go through the process. If you need something specific, just ask (in the Comments). I may also add a Photo Gallery in the future. If you'd like your NX added to the gallery, let me know. Thanks.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Adjusting Valves - A necessity for small displacement engines

I believe I mentioned that the motor in my NX was rebuilt. If I didn't, I apologize. It seems that owner #1 (I'm owner #3, owner #2 had the motor fixed) managed to run the engine low on oil and wipe out the camshaft and intake valve (the donor motor came with the bike). For those of you familiar with this series of Honda motors, you already know that keeping the oil level up is a major concern (especially if you have leaks or consumption issues). I've heard a few knowledgeable people say that it's OK to overfill, slightly. The extra oil will be pulled up to the head by the cam chain where it's best used (for this motor). An oil change refill is .95 US quarts (0.9 liters) according to the shop manual. That extra .05 quarts (0.1 liters) is what I mean by "slightly".

I've put about 2800 miles on the NX since I purchased it in January 2011. I checked the valve clearances when I bought the bike but figured the motor needed some break-in time. This past week I could hear a slight ticking while the motor idled. 2800 miles is plenty of time for the valve train to become broken-in. So, I adjusted the valve clearances over the weekend. Here's the page from the shop manual:

I know that's a little small to read so let me enumerate the steps;

  • Note: the engine must be cold to adjust the valves (below 35º C / 95º F).
  • Remove the fuel tank (to do that, remove the side panels, remove the seat, remove the tank fairings, disconnect the fuel line and then remove the tank).
  • The manual does not say this but I also remove the spark plug. First, it allows you to check the condition of the plug tip and, second, it means you don't have to fight against the engine's compression when trying to find Top Dead Center on the compression stroke.
  • Remove the valve hole adjusting caps (15/16" or 24mm)
  • Remove the crankshaft hole cap and timing hole cap. In the image, these caps have a slot (for a large screwdriver). My NX uses caps with Allen (hexagonal) sockets.
  • Rotate the crankshaft counter-clockwise and align the "T" mark on the flywheel with the index mark on the left crankcase cover. The "index mark" is a slot cut through the threads in the timing hole. Rotate the crank slowly because it's easy to miss the ("T") timing mark.
  • Make sure the piston is at TDC (Top Dead Center) on the compression stroke. I've found the easiest way to do this is to find the ("T") timing mark and then make sure the valve rockers are "rocking". That is, they will be loose (a relative term), you can move them slightly up and down and hear the 'tick' as the rocker hits the valve stem. Also, my motor turns past TDC very easily. So, don't be surprised if you find yourself repeating this step a few times. I use a 1/2" breaker bar and 14mm deep socket. If you use a ratchet, the motor may spin past TDC.
  • Check the valve clearance by inserting a feeler gauge between the adjuster screw and the valve stem.
  • Valve Clearance (Intake and Exhaust): 0.10 mm +/- 0.02 mm (0.004 inch +/- 0.001 inch)
  • In the pictures, the feeler gauge is shown attached to the pack. I find it much easier to remove the one gauge you're using from the pack. Now, bend the gauge into an "L" shape and insert it into the hole on either side of the rocker. This will allow you to find the gap between the rocker and the valve stem much more easily. It's also provides better feel when you're actually adjusting the clearance.
  • Adjust the clearance by loosening the lock nut and turning the adjusting screw until there is a slight drag on the feeler gauge. Hold the adjusting screw and tighten the lock nut.
  • Tools: 10mm x 12mm combination box end wrench (see image below) and adjusting wrench (Honda Part #: 07908-KE90000). I have an adjuster tool from Suzuki. They're the same. I understand that a wood deck screw with the square hole (available from home improvement stores) works as well.
  • Torque: 16 N-m (1.6 Kg-m, 12 ft-lb) Lock nuts may come loose if the proper torque is not applied. Don't over tighten, replacing a rocker is not fun.
  • Replace the valve hole caps
  • Reassemble in reverse order.

The engine is much more quiet and starts more easily now. The inspect/adjustment interval is every 2500 miles. I'm trying to figure out if there's a way I can scan my shop manual to PDF and post it here. I may have to create some sort of "archive" or "resources" page or something. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Review: Gaerne Balance Pro-Tech

"This boot is made of leather construction and features a new mold injection shin guard as well as three aluminium buckles that are replaceable. The sole is gum rubber to provide feel and control."

Image and description courtesy of the Gaerne USA web site.

I have finally found a nice pair of boots that are good for commuting (Spring & Fall - too hot for Summer) and light dual-sport riding. These boots were comfortable right out of the box but, as with all motorcycling footwear, require some break-in. They are not advertised as being water proof. If you'd like that feature, you'll need to get the Gaerne Balance Oiled boot (and pay about $100 extra dollars). As with all of my outdoor footwear, I chose to apply Sno Seal (two coats, actually) to the leather. I use a hair dryer to warm the leather so that it soaks in. I was especially diligent in getting the product into the area where the leather is stitched to the sole. Even after two applications, the leather still soaks up the wax to a dry surface. The directions indicate that if some product is left on the leather's surface, to wipe it off. I would imagine that this condition shows the leather has reached a 'saturation' point. Apparently, I can apply more sealant.

In an effort to break them in but not suffer too terribly, I have been wearing the boots to work. This exposes them to walking motions but also subjects them to body heat so that the boot can form to your foot. I noticed that it was a little difficult to press the rear brake pedal, initially, but that by the end of the first week, the articulation had increased dramatically. Also, without the calf-length or knee-length socks, the top of the boot can chafe your calf. Again, by the end of the week, that had abated somewhat.

These boots have very little impact protection for the ankle. So if you're going to be in any setting that exposes the foot and ankle to solid objects, you may want to consider an MX style boot or a dual-sport boot with a hard shell, like the AXO Prime (which I also happen to own). Gaerne does list both the Balance Oiled and the Balance Pro-Tech as trials type boots. Their offering for the dual-sport crowd is the GX-1, SG-10 and the SG-12. However, Gaerne considers them to be "MX" style boots (which can be too stiff/overkill for dual sport riding). A good compromise boot continues to be elusive.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Honda NX-Series - Non-U.S.

I made a new friend through the Adventure Rider forums. I was actually poking through the NX250 discussion thread and came across someone that was looking for information for the NX125. So, I replied. I never got a response, from that person, but did hear from "Leo.G" in Argentina. It seems that Leo has an NX150 which is more similar to the NX125 than the NX250 (there seem to be quite a few NX250 owners but not so many NX125 owners, on AdvRider). After trading a few private messages, Leo was kind enough to send me some images of his NX150 as well as an NX200 of a friend.

So, let's have a look:

If you're headed to the gym, be sure to hop on your 1991 NX150. Be prepared to endure comments about your Flashdance outfit and being "stuck" in the 80s.

For comparison, here's Leo's NX150. Note the masculine black/blue color scheme and distinct lack of spandex.

Leo also included some images of an NX200. I think I prefer the look of the low front fender (no offense Leo). I'm also jealous of the color choices (the NX125 came only in white in the US). That cinnamon red is sexy! It appears that the rear rack was a common option available all over the world.

If I recall correctly, Leo said this NX used to belong to a friend of his.

A big thanks to Leo for sharing.

Here's another version of the NX, an NX400 Falcon. I found this picture in a ride report thread, over on Adventure Rider.

Here's a random internet shot of the same bike, courtesy of Google:

I wonder if that's the same motor as the XR400.

You may be wondering why, all of a sudden, that I have an interest in more engine displacement. Well, it appears that the company, for which I am employed, is going to move. It will be three miles, each way, closer to home. However, the roads that I will need to traverse are much more heavily traveled and have a higher speed limit. While the NX, in its current configuration, is capable of the necessary speed, it lacks quickness; the ability to quickly out-accelerate a car or large truck. So, I thought about the NX250. However, I kind of like the 21"/18" wheel combination and, as you might have read previously, think that the NX125 would make an adventure bike if it had a few more cc of engine displacement. So, instead of an NX250, perhaps it's time to consider an engine swap. The motor out of an 1986-93 XR200R (or 1986-87 TLR200) appears to be based on the same basic design. Simply swap in a donor motor and off we go. OR, perhaps it's more fun/interesting to build a "sleeper" motor. I have a spare 125cc motor out of an NX125. Could it be as simple as swapping the liner and piston? I'd have to think the cam would be involved as well as the carburetor. More research is going to be necessary. Just in time for winter........

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day Weekend: Washington DC

My wife and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary (belatedly) by spending the Labor Day weekend in Washington DC. I have to say that DC is the most bike/bicycle/scooter friendly metropolitan area I've been to in some time (and I live in the Chicago suburbs). Chicago touts itself as being very bicycle friendly, I think it has serious competition. DC has taken the ZipCar idea and applied to to bicycles. Capitol BikeShare appears to be very popular with both locals and tourists alike. I'm guessing one of the main reasons for this is the concentrated downtown area where you can easily access businesses and tourist attractions. My wife and I walked to almost every place we visited. We figure that we walked about sixteen miles over the course of two and a half days. You can even take the train from Reagan/National airport to the downtown area. We did not rent a car, there's no need unless you need to get outside the Beltway. I did see this parked in the George Washington University footprint:

No license plate so I'm guessing that's got an engine less than 150cc. Looks like a blast to me. Small scooters, like the Honda SH150i, abound. Small bikes, up to 250cc, would be just as advantageous.

A note for those of you, from other countries, that are thinking of visiting the US: please have a basic knowledge of the English language. If I cannot communicate with you, I cannot help you. Also, leave your (bad) attitude at home. Don't come to my country and then get bent-out-of-shape when no one speaks your language or you don't like the rules. The typical American is not multilingual but some museum employees are. If you respect us, we will respect you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Transition: Custom Rear Rack to Factory Rear Rack

I while back I mentioned that I had managed to win (on that giant on-line auction site) an original equipment (Honda) rear rack from an '89 NX125. I contacted the seller to ask if he happened to have the rare (and expensive), but still available, turn signal supports. He did not. The factory rack bolts through the same hole, in the rear of the frame, that the turn signals use. So, I needed to figure out how to use the existing turn signals or acquire (and modify) some other turn signals. I ended up finding a set of Suzuki DRZ400 front turn signals that did not require any modification. This allows me to use the NX's rear turn signals on my Transalp.

So, I got started by removing the custom rear rack:

  1. remove the side panels
  2. remove the seat
  3. remove the turn signals
  4. remove the custom rack (most likely permanently)

The first thing that needed modification were the rubber grommets from the rear fender. The turn signals go through these grommets. However, they're too thick to fit inside the factory rack. So, I trimmed them down.

The left side has been trimmed. The right side is the original thickness. So, the grommet is about 3/4 of the total thickness that is used to be. The groove in the middle is where the fender rests when the grommet is installed (the grommet fits in a hole in the rear fender).

These are the two steel spacers that will fit inside the grommet (shown above). They will mimic the steel shaft that protrudes from the original turn signals. They needed to have about 1/8" (.125") removed from their length to properly fit.

This the right side grommet installed in the rear fender with the steel spacer in place. The left side looks exactly the same way (except the picture I took was blurry).

Here the factory rack is in place. Through the mounting hole in the rack you can see the steel spacer. I had to use two thin bladed putty knives to get the rack to slide over the rubber grommets. The putty knives help compress the grommets instead of having the rack push them down (which will eventually cause them to pop out of the rear fender).

Here the rack is in place with the DRZ400 turn signals in place. If you look closely at the horizontal rack surface, you can clearly see that it's been assembled improperly. The right side is higher than the left. I fully expect that the Honda worker responsible for this to have committed hara kiri (seppuku). Kidding. I first thought the rack was twisted (from a fall or something). But no, every bolt hole lined up without force. And, closer inspection revealed the error in assembly (welding). My partially disassembled Transalp can be seen in the background. It's now running and will be re-assembled shortly.

Here's a close up of the right rear turn signal. You can see that the DRZ400 turn signals come with a nice bracket that makes mounting easy. I will swap that Allen head cap screw for a stainless steel version when the rack is sent out for powder coating (this winter). I'll use the lower hole, in the mounting bracket, as a wiring harness guide.

Here's the left side. Just above the tool kit holder you can see that the rack support nicely clears the fender. I can revert to the factory bolts to hold the seat and rack (eliminating the longer Allen head caps screws and spacers made from steel tube).

A view of the left turn signal from above. Again, it's almost as if the DRZ400 turn signal mounting bracket was meant for this application. There is plenty of clearance for the wiring to exit the base and the bracket is tight to the rack. Nice and neat.

Here's the right turn signal from above. With the bracket in this position, there's plenty of muffler clearance and no need to fret about (possibly) melted plastic.

I soldered the wires so that I don't have to worry about mechanical connectors failing.

The joints were sealed with shrink tube. I also used some Honda wiring harness sleeve to protect the wires from dirt/debris/water/etc. There are not three wires there, the "middle" one is a refection in the muffler.

Here the rack is completely installed with the wiring in place.

Another angle of the installed rack. To complete the process, I needed to put the seat back on and install the side panels.

Here's the Honda rack plate that I was using on my custom rack. I used a couple of pieces of 1/2" square tube to bolt the plate to the rack. If you look closely, above the leading edge of the tail light, you'll see that the plate has two clips that snap over the horizontal rack tubing. In conjunction with the forward square tube, the plate won't be able to slide off of the rack. Later I decided to add a spacer between the plate and the square tubing. The spacers are 1/2" diameter nylon with a 1/4" hole. I had to cut them down from 0.5" in length to 0.4". The thickness of the horizontal rack tubing is 0.4". Now the plate doesn't bend/flex under the pressure from the attaching bolts.

Another view of the plate on the rack. It's a little easier to see how the forward square tube is captured in the rack support. This will prevent the plate from sliding off of the rack. I will most likely end up bolting the Givi base plate to the Honda plate so I can use the Givi top case (again). I also plan to have the square tubing powder coated as well.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Choke, the finer points of

Sorry for the lack of posting recently. Not much has been happening with the NX and I'm on a big push to get the TransAlp re-assembled before it gets too late in the riding season. With any luck, I plan to get the factory rear rack on the NX in the next few weekends, time permitting.

I have recently noticed that the NX doesn't require as much carburetor enrichment as I previously thought. First, let's revisit my old Reflex (TLR200) which was exceptionally cold-blooded. Not only did it require choke, to start, but took forever to warm up. In retrospect, it need some attention but I never figured that out. The NX doesn't seem to require that much choke, to start, nor does it require it for very long. I only apply about 50% choke to start the engine. It will immediately idle at about 1000 rpm. That's a little low so I usually assist, with throttle application, so that the rpm reaches ~1700. It will only take about half a minute and I'll hear the engine note increase and the rpm will also increase to about 2000 rpm. At this point, I'll reduce the choke to about 30% and repeat the procedure. Once I reduce the choke again, the NX is ready to go. By the time I reach the main road (about three blocks distance, inside my housing development), I can reduce the choke once again (so that it's now at about 10%). When I accelerate onto the main road, engine response is pretty crisp. Previously, I would encounter some bog (rich) which would take about 1/2 mile to clear out after reducing the choke by quite a bit. Since traffic moves briskly on this road, I need to have the NX running properly (or risk being "consumed" by rush-hour traffic). By the time I'm two miles from home, I can fully remove any choke and the engine will be idling @ 1340 rpm (+/- 50 rpm).

Of course this is all predicated on ambient temperature. In the morning, temperatures are now about 60º F. Daytime highs are at about 80º F. I have a heated garage so the NX's engine should never be colder than 55º F, in the morning. Afternoons will be a different story as we get into Autumn, especially late Autumn. Since the power-plant is relatively small, I'll be curious as to how quickly it warms when temps are in the 30º-40º F range. Naturally, more choke will be needed but for how much and how long will be the key. I'd prefer to avoid rich conditions (fouled spark plugs) so that I don't have to encounter tailgaters.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Basic Maintenance - Cleaning & Lubricating the Chain

The NX is the first bike I've owned that does not have an o-ring (or x-ring) chain. So, the chain is a little more susceptible to becoming less efficient due to debris. If the weather remains dry, the chain will remain in good condition for several weeks. However, if I happen to ride through the rain, it quickly loses its efficiency.

Tools used:

  • 3/8" drive ratchet
  • 3/8" drive 12mm shallow socket
  • 1/4" drive ratchet
  • 1/4" drive 8mm deep socket
  • 1/4" drive 10mm deep socket
  • 1/4" drive 3" extension
  • 1/4" drive 6" extension
  • Flat head screw driver
  • shallow (oil) drain pan
  • degreaser (Simple Green - I have also used turpentine)
  • source of compressed air
  • rags or paper towel

Here's the starting point. I prefer to remove the chain from the NX to lubricate it. It keeps the lube from running all over the swing arm (and making a big mess). Since the chain requires a cleaning, it's coming off of the NX for sure. Strangely, Honda mounted the left passenger footpeg directly in front of one of the fasteners for the chain guard.
So, use the 3/8" ratchet and 12mm socket to remove the footpeg entirely (2 bolts). Remove the chain guard by removing the three 10mm collared bolts with the 1/4" ratchet and the 10mm deep socket. Two of the mounting tabs can be seen on the swing arm (one, just above and to the left of the "P" and the other just above the "K"). The third tab is opposite side of the chain and is accessed from the other side of the NX. I use both 1/4" extensions (3" & 6") to reach across the gap. I tried using a 10mm box end wrench once but was limited by the tight quarters. I found it easier to use a ratchet and socket.

While it is not necessary to remove the front sprocket guard to remove the chain, you will need to remove it to put the chain back on. So, it may as well come off now. This provides access so that you can clean the guard as well as the sprocket (and areas around the sprocket). Also, check the sprocket for wear (fish-hooked teeth). A 1/4" ratchet and 8mm deep socket are used to remove the sprocket guard.

Locate the master link. The master link on the NX used to be marked with a dab of white paint. It has since worn off. Some owners use a dab of fingernail polish to make its location easier to find. It may be a little hard to see but the master link is centered in the picture. Counting the pins, from the top of the image, the master link spans pins #4 & #5. This is not quite the position I like to have the master link in. I rotate the rear wheel (counter-clockwise, in this case) so that the master link is in about the 1 o'clock position. I do this so that when I re-install the chain, the chain will stay on the rear gear without me having to hold it there. I can then install the master link without worrying about holding the chain in place (if you have someone helping you, this is a moot point). Use the flat bladed screwdriver to remove the master link clip. I hold the edge of the blade against the open end of the clip (the open end is pointing downward in the picture). Use the palm of your other hand to hit the end of the screwdriver handle. This should provide enough force to pop the clip off. I choose to work on a (semi) clean piece of cardboard. This ensures that small parts (like the clip) don't disappear and cardboard tends to be easier on the knees (than concrete).

Here's the NX with the chain removed. Clean the rear gear and inspect for wear (again, looking for fish hook shaped teeth). I also clean the swing arm and the 'shark fin' (the white plastic piece below the swing arm). They tend to gather a haze of chain lube which attracts dirt.

Here's the chain soaking in a shallow pan of Simple Green. I use an old toothbrush to remove grime from the side plates. Although, using a "panning for gold" motion removes a lot of the accumulated debris. Don't forget to clean the master link, master link side plate and clip.

Here's the chain after a rinse in water. I was very surprised at how much debris actually washes off. It took several rinses (again using that "panning for gold" motion) before the water, drained from the pan, was clear. The key now is to dry the chain before it can start to surface rust. Allowing it to air dry would be counterproductive. At that point oxidation has begun to occur.

I chose to use my step ladder to hang the chain. Using this method allows me to capture anything that happens to drip off of the chain (water or lube). I have a small air compressor and use it to rapidly dry the chain. It takes several passes before there is no more moisture (in mist form) coming from the chain. At this point, there is still some moisture trapped in the rollers (not good). So, I give the chain a light misting of WD-40. WD-40 (like the name implies, is water dispersing) drives the moisture out from the rollers. I allow a few minutes for the dissipation to occur. Then, I apply the Liquid Wrench chain lube in the same manner. I allow the lube to dry for about an hour. The chain will still look shiny but will be (mostly) dry to the touch. Now, when you install the chain, your hands will stay mostly clean and there won't be any lube running down the swing arm. Reassemble in the opposite order of dis-assembly. When installing the clip on the master link, be sure the closed end of the clip faces in the direction of travel. This way the clip won't be accidentally knocked free if you happen to hit an object while riding. Inventory your tools and make sure you haven't forgotten to re-install any parts. Now is a good time to check the chain tension adjustment.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Finally got wet

I've owned the NX for just about seven months now. Yesterday was the first time I actually rode it in the rain. That's not bad considering the number of miles I've put on it (~2000) and the number of business days that I've ridden it to work (since mid-March).

The Bike
I was pleasantly surprised by its ability to handle adverse conditions. It didn't feel much different than riding in the dry. I suppose that has something to do with the tires (Shinko 705). They handled the wet pavement with aplomb. I know to keep an eye out for pavement markings as the rain has a tendency to make them very slick. However, I never felt the bike slip or slide while riding over them. I didn't have any other issues other than my rain gloves slipping on the levers a little. I moved my hands inward, on the grips, to compensate for that. I noticed that I need to re-lube the chain, there's some surface rust on it this morning.

My Gear
Naturally, I had just washed the Olympia Bushwacker over the weekend. I chose to use the NikWax Tech Wash to clean the jacket and prep it for waterproofing. It did a decent job of restoring the color to the Hi-Viz jacket as well as removing most of the dirt. I plan to eventually use the TX.Direct Wash In waterproofing. I chose not to use it just yet because one bottle is supposed to be good for up to six garments. I only have two; my jacket and over-pants. Since the directions indicate one bottle per washer load, I figured I would use it once Fall arrived and the weather tends to be less dry. At that time, I'll wash the jacket, its waterproof liner and my FirstGear over-pants. The only issue I noticed was that my crotch was a little damp when I arrived at home. Unfortunately, that's common condition with waterproof pants. I don't know if the stitching has become loose with use or if the seams need to be sealed or if the waterproofing need to be "refreshed" with the TX.Direct. However, that was the only issue I noted and it rained steadily during my ride home. My helmet, an Arai XD3, is also very good at keeping my head dry. Water does not drip down the inside of the visor nor do the vents leak. I also put my Aerostitch Rain Boot Covers to use for the first time. They are pretty nice and very similar to Totes brand of overshoes. I like them because they come up to the mid-calf. This allows me to tuck my pants into them. With the over-pants, my feet and lower legs are protected from rain and spray. I read some reviews that said they were easily torn. I'm guessing this was due to a tight fit or operator impatience. So, I ordered one size larger than I normally would have. They were a little loose but not sloppy. They worked very well and I would recommend them. My Joe Rocket gloves, a birthday gift from a few years back, kept my fingers dry and warm. This was the first time I could recall feeling rain drops hitting the exterior of the gloves. No problems. The Seal Line messenger bag also did its job and kept everything dry. I opted to put my laptop in the messenger bag instead of in the Outdoor Research dry sack strapped to the rear rack. It made for a bulkier load but the bag isn't subjected to the spray, off the rear wheel, since it sits on the rear portion of the seat.

For some reason, inclement weather seems to bring out the worst in commuters. Most are either afraid of the conditions or drive like idiots. I can't figure out if they're truly unsure of their abilities or if they've lost their collective minds. However, yesterday, everyone seemed to be on their best behavior. No one was in a big rush or tailgating or weaving in and out of traffic. Just a nice calm ride in less than optimal conditions. Kinda nice (if not for the rain).

Monday, August 8, 2011

Basic Maintenance - Oil Change

Yes, this is pretty simple stuff but the NX is a little particular compared to some of the other bikes I own (or have owned).

Tools: 1/4" drive ratchet, 12mm & 10mm sockets, 1/2" drive ratchet, 15/16" (or 24mm) socket, oil drain pan, funnel and paper towel or rags.

As you can see, it's very helpful to remove the engine pan (or skid plate or engine guard) and the shift lever to gain access to the oil drain plug (and oil strainer). The drain plug is located just behind the tip of the shift lever.

Use the 1/4" ratchet with 12mm and 10mm sockets to remove the engine pan. The 12mm bolt is at the leading edge of the pan, where it meets the frame. The 10mm bolts (2) are at the trailing edge of the pan. At some point you may consider replacing the hex bolts with Allen bolts. Allen bolts have a tendency to maintain their internal hex shape even if they come in contact with a rock or a curb. If a hex bolt's head is rounded off, it may take a vice-grip to remove it.

Use the 1/4" ratchet and 10mm socket to remove the pinch bolt from the shift lever. The bolt has to be completely removed from the lever before the lever can slide off the splined shaft. Make note of the location of the tip of the shift lever in relation to a fixed point on the engine. You'll need to put the lever back in the proper location so that you can easily shift gears. The splined shaft allows the lever to be replaced in different orientations.

Here, the pan has been removed and the shift lever as well. There's now plenty of access to the drain plug. Remove the drain plug after placing the drain pan under the engine. Be careful when unscrewing the plug. There's a spring loaded strainer (screen) behind the plug. Chances are that the oil will push the screen out and into the drain pan. You really don't want that to happen because you'll have to go "fishing" for the screen in the old oil. If you're careful, you can use the spring to remove the screen (which is about the size and shape of a thimble). Place the plug, spring and screen on a rag or piece of paper towel. Allow the oil to drain completely (this may take several minutes before it stops dripping). I even raised the kickstand to see if tilting the bike further to the left would speed the process. It did, kind of.

Here's the completed job before re-assembly. Old socks make nice rags. I use Honda GN4 10w-40 oil because I got about 12 quarts of it with the bike. I may switch to synthetic once I've exhausted the supply. Right now, I change the oil every one thousand (1000) miles. That may be excessive but the sump is only one quart and the motor revs pretty high (50 mph = ~6K rpm). The transmission also seems to shift better with fresh oil. Always use an oil that's rated for a wet clutch. Automotive oils contain additives which can cause the clutch to work improperly (that is, slip).

Inspect the screen for debris. If there are metal chips you may have more serious issues to address. Be sure the screen is clear. Replace the screen, spring and plug as an assembly. It can be a little difficult to try to push (against the spring) and get the threads started. Be patient and use an extension (3") with the socket, if necessary. Tighten the plug so that it's good and snug but not overly tight. You don't want to strip those threads. I have to use an offset funnel to fill the sump because the fill hole is very close to the frame. Replace the shift lever and engine pan. Inventory your tools to ensure you didn't forget something. Properly dispose of your drain oil (most auto parts stores recycle used oil - my local Auto Zone still does). Start the engine to be sure everything is OK. Other maintenance things to consider while changing the oil: clean the air filter, clean & lubricate the chain, check tire pressures and/or lubricate frame pivots.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Local Business versus the Web

I'm going off on a tangent for a moment. I'm doing this because there is no substitute for good customer service. If you've been reading along though all of the posts, you'll notice that I do try to link products, that I have used, that I feel are worthy of consideration. Mostly this is due to a product meeting certain standards (mine). However, there are times when an entire company is deserving of recognition. In this case, it's Motion Pro. I know them for their throttle and clutch cables but they sell a litany of items including batteries, tools and throttle kits. However, you can have the most awesome products but without customer service to back those products up, you may as well not even be in business. Case in point; Corbin Seats. Search thru any motorcycle forum site and you'll find the general consensus is that Corbin makes an awesome product (I had one on my old Suzuki DR350SE - loved it). But, their customer service is suspect (and I think that's being kind based on what I've read). This is enough to turn off a lot of folks and they immediately look elsewhere. Full disclosure; I bought the seat 'used' off of a Suzuki DR350 forum site. It had never been installed so it was technically new. I did not pay retail price nor did I ever deal directly with Corbin's customer service department. Everything I'm relaying to you second-hand, at best.

In the age of the internet, most things are available locally as well as through the web. Most of us prefer the convenience of shopping through our computers. But, there's a price that comes with that convenience; lack of local support/retailers. If you're fortunate enough to be able to plan well in advance, you can get what you need from the 'Net. But, if you need something immediately or if you need assistance, a local retailer is your only source. With the competition from the 'Net, a lot of local retailers are having a tough go of things. The current state of the economy and the online sales tax issue are contributing to the demise of the local business owner. That said, you would think that customer service would play a large role any time a customer stepped into a retail shop.

In an effort to support a local business (my wife owns her own business which explains my preference), I checked the Motion Pro web site to determine my local dealer (they will remain nameless). They happen to be on my commute so I stopped in on my ride home one evening. I needed to buy some fuel line for the TransAlp. Yeah, I can get fuel line at any local hardware store. However, the TA already has Motion Pro line on it and also has a Motion Pro in-line quick disconnect. I figured that fuel line is a pretty basic maintenance item and would be stocked. Nope. How about an o-ring for that quick disconnect? Nope. Thinking that maybe this would be an easy get from the Motion Pro distributor, I asked how long it would take for them (the dealer) to get some fuel line in stock? The response; "Well, you'll have to place a full order." What's a 'full' order? "25 feet." I only needed about 2 feet. Blank stare. Let's try the o-ring. "Nope, we don't carry those." At this point I was sorry I even stopped in the first place. I thanked them for their time and left. The following business day I placed an order for 3 feet of 5/16" fuel line, in gray, from the Motion Pro web site. I tried to figure out if I could get a replacement o-ring for the quick disconnect but did not find anything. So, in the "notes" section of the order form, I inquired if one was available. I all honesty I was expecting them to provide a size and I'd get one at a local hardware store. I was thoroughly surprised to receive an email response that had a link to the part I needed. I asked if it was too late to add one to my order (Motion Pro states that they do their best to ship all orders on the day they were placed). The response was that the orders were filled in another location but that Motion Pro would be happy to send me one or two as a customer service gesture. Wow. I wasn't asking for a freebie, I wasn't hoping for a freebie but I got one anyway.
We're talkin' an o-ring here, what's the big deal?

It's not the part or the value of the part, it's the gesture and the extra effort that let's me know that this is a company worthy of my hard earned cash. I will be a repeat customer. Customer Service is all about the details.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Slow July

I haven't posted in a while because I haven't had much to say (no offense). The past month (July) certainly seemed to be either very hot or very humid or both. After starting out hot and dry, the weather pattern quickly changed to hot and humid (and wet). The lawn went from being slightly tan (dormant) to being pretty green (again).

I had an opportunity to ride, one morning, in the wet. It was not raining but it had been earlier in the morning. In an effort not to temp fate, I opted to put the laptop in the waterproof sack and I wore the liner in the Bushwacker. It was definitely a sticky ride to work. Granted, it was still very humid and the temperatures were in the upper 70s. So, I wasn't surprised to feel like I was in a sauna. However, while at speed, it wasn't too bad. Waiting at traffic signals caused the most discomfort. Naturally, it did not rain on me during the ride to the office. So, I still have not ridden in the actual rain while in the Bushwacker. Maybe some day...

The tires continue ti impress me. Although, I recently read a thread on Adventure Rider that indicated some are not all that happy with them. I have yet to experience any of the issues that were noted. They are smooth, hold a line in a corner and track on a straight line. The inmate that started that thread does ride a bike (Triumph Tiger) that's much different than the NX. Others chime in and it seems most ride something similar; Suzuki V-Strom (650cc or 1000cc version, I'm not sure). Perhaps these tires do well on lighter weight bikes. At 240 lbs, the NX is obviously much different than those previously mentioned.

The rear rack project is at a stand still while I'm doing a lot of work on the TransAlp. I discovered a leaking valve cover gasket, on the rear cylinder, during my ride home from purchasing the bike. There is some major dis-assembly involved and while you have all of those parts off, you may as well do some maintenance while you're at it. So far, the TA has new valve cover gaskets, new spark plugs and adjusted valves. The carburetors have been cleaned and I have bumped up the pilot jet sizes from 38 to 40 (not a big jump but enough to resolve some know idle issues). I have some new fuel line on order which will be the key to re-assembling everything. I also need to change the thermostat. After that, I can put everything back together and , hopefully, the TA will be good-to-go for years to come.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Original Equipment Rear Rack - Sourced

I was able to secure an original equipment rear rack off of a beater 1989 NX125. Naturally, that large on-line auction site was the "source". How do I know the donor bike was a beater? Most of time, when I person parts out a bike, and subsequently offers those parts for sale, they post images of said parts. I reviewed all of the NX125 parts this person had to offer and it was pretty obvious that one bike was the source. It appears as if said bike was also painted with a brush and had seen a hard life. I corresponded with the seller, who was certainly nice enough (this is no reflection on him), but based on some of his statements, that NX was ridden hard and put away wet for most of its life (again, no reflection on the seller). Even as I look at the rack, it appears to be tweaked, slightly twisted in such a way as to indicate it hit a solid surface most likely when the bike was dropped. The rear turn signals, along with the special mounting brackets were not even on the NX when the seller acquired the bike. So much for lucking into some rare and expensive parts.

I found some images, on-line, of a 1989 or 1990 NX125 rear rack. The rack I bought needs a good cleaning and to be powder coated. I have to decide which color; silver to match the frame or black as from the factory.

This image better shows how those distinctive brackets orient the turn signals above and to the rear of the mounting bolt on the side of the rack.

I find this picture to be most revealing; it shows that those grommeted holes, in the rear fender, are not for a rack locating pins (as originally theorized) but instead are for the turn signal wiring.

Here is a quick mock-up of how the rack will look on my NX. I will be using a set of Suzuki DRZ400 turn signals in place of the difficult to find original equipment units. As you can see, the Suzuki brackets orient the turn signals into almost the exact same position as they were from the factory. What I will not be doing is drilling holes into my rear fender (for the wiring). I will run the wires along the main rack support until they clear the main gusset (right above the trailing edge of the tool pouch holder (in this image). At that point the wiring will duck under the rear fender and follow the molded-in channels towards the connection point in the main harness (under the seat).

For fun, I checked to see if the Honda TransAlp rack plate would fit (to provide a larger platform). It snaps right into place. Sweet. That also means I could revert to the Givi Top Case if I wanted. I wouldn't mind using the top case on this rack because it will be more securely mounted to the bike (than my home-made rack is/was).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Derailed by a Derecho

Courtesy of a fast moving storm front that involved a derecho (pronounced "deh-REY-cho" in English), my office was without power for most of the week of July 10, 2011. The storm front actually went through on the morning of Monday, July 11, 2011. Since I worked from home for the rest of that week, there wasn't much commuting (on the NX). The office complex continued to suffer, with the air conditioning failing, on Monday, July 18,2011 (resulting in another day at home). Things seem to be back to normal and power was finally restored, in Chicago-land, on Sunday, July 17, 2011. Naturally, the commute resumes in some blistering conditions. Chicago-land is supposed to endure highs in the mid-to-upper 90s this week and humidity is supposed to be off-the-charts as well. I'm glad I had my home HVAC system serviced earlier in the year. The ride home today should be fun, fun, fun........

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

NX as an Adventure Bike?

As I've owned various dual sports, I've come to the conclusion that I prefer to ride dirt/gravel roads, forest service roads, two track and the occasional well-worn single track. I've never ridden motocross (MX) and really don't have much of an inclination to do so (no offense MX-ers). One of the reasons I sold my trusty DR350SE was due to the fact that it wasn't much of a on-pavement cruiser. Most of the routes that I would prefer to explore are usually some distance from my home. This necessitates transport (a tow vehicle and trailer or a pick-up truck) to the starting point and from the ending point. Sometimes coordinating that is as much work as the trip itself. So, I opted to buy something that can handle the distance involved to/from the start/end points as well as the trip in-between. The TransAlp fits that bill.

My wife indicated she was going to ride her scooter, to work, this summer. That prompted my search for a replacement since I used her scooter, to commute, last summer. Initially, I had a chance at a KLR250 but I was not financially ready to purchase so I decided to pass (ironically, I 'met' the KLR and it's new owner this past weekend). A few weeks later, I was put on the trail of the NX and here we are. After riding it for a couple of months now, I wondered if it could handle being an "adventure" bike in my sense of the word. Well, I had the opportunity to test the NX this past weekend in northwestern Illinois.

The weekend's activities involved an on-highway trip to Freeport, Illinois. That's about 90 miles of high speed pavement. The NX did not like that at all. I believe the gearing and the jetting both are culprits here. The tachometer indicated 7250 rpm @ 55 mph. I know the engine can spin faster than that but I prefer not to run those rpm for hours at a time. Additionally, the NX's 125cc motor doesn't have the torque to pull up (moderate) hills or deal with a headwind. Up hill into a headwind really causes the motor to labor. I wonder if the main jet is too lean because being at WOT (wide open throttle) didn't help much and fuel economy fell into the upper 80s (mpg). Perhaps if the jetting was richer, there wouldn't be the issue with hills and headwinds and , perhaps, the NX could make better use of the lower, numerically, 15/48 gearing. Regardless, those changes won't make the NX the long distance cruiser that the TransAlp can be (125cc single versus 600cc v-twin).

I was impressed by its ability to carry the necessary equipment. I put a waterproof bag, containing a tent, air mattress, light-weight sleeping bag and a few other odds & ends, on the rear rack. Additionally, I had a tool roll attached to the rack but the seat bore its weight. I wore a backpack with more gear inside which included a Camel-Bak reservoir. The NX handled very well considering the extra weight. Another pleasant surprise was my choice of tires; Shinko 705. Not only were they good on the pavement, they were equally as good on the gravel. They didn't handle the small amount of mud they encountered but I did not expect them to. However once back on gravel, the sipes cleared quickly.

The Author puts the NX through its paces on County Divide Road in Jo Daviess County, Illinois
So, back to the original question; Would the NX make a good 'adventure' bike? I think not. It was certainly fun to blast around northwestern Illinois, especially on gravel, but the fact that it won't cruise long distances makes me think it's better off sticking to (mostly) commuter duty.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chain Lube & Drive Line

I've been pretty blessed with respect to drive train maintenance. Only once have I had to replace a set of sprockets and a chain. And, I really did that because I was taking a long trip (Trans-Am Trail - Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado) and didn't want to have to worry about the chain failing. The original equipment chain probably would have made it but I figured "better safe than sorry."

One the things the previous owner did, to ensure the chain wouldn't turn to junk, was to liberally apply (red) grease to the chain. He did a nice enough job because the chain is still in pristine condition but the grease attracted an awful lot of dirt and debris along the way. Over the winter I made a feeble attempt at cleaning it using rags and brake cleaner. That was good enough for the time being but last weekend, while I was changing tires, I decided to get it good and clean once and for all. This time I used about a pint of turpentine, in a shallow oil drain pan, and let the chain soak in it while I swapped tires. Using a little elbow grease and an old toothbrush did the trick. The chain now looks like it did when it left the factory. I opted to try some Liquid Wrench Chain Lube.So far it's been great. It goes on as a liquid and dries within sixty minutes. It does not sling off but you do need to be vigilant while applying the lube to the chain, as it will drip. The next time I apply it, I may remove the chain from the NX and suspend it so extra liquid lube can drip off into a catch pan. After its dry, putting the chain back on the bike should be easy and keep everything much cleaner.

I am kicking around the idea of changing the sprockets so I can get a little more top end speed. Stock gearing for the 1988 NX125 is 15/56 (3.73:1 final drive). The 1989-90 models came with 15/50 (3.33:1 final drive) gearing. I am thinking of switching to 14/48 (3.42:1 final drive) and an o-ring chain. I will stick with the 428 chain as I see no reason for an upgrade.
EDIT: a reader left a comment (thanks Ed) to let me know that the stock gearing, on his 1989 NX125, is 15/48. So, if I wanted to increase the top speed potential, I could always go with the factory gearing for the 1989-90 NX125.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ring out the Old

I was really hoping to get a season's worth of riding on the original equipment tires that came on the NX. They're the ubiquitous Bridgestone Trail Wings, TW41 in the front and TW42 in the rear. Some folks refer to these tires as "Death Wings" due to their dearth of grip in off-pavement conditions.

When I owned a DR350SE, fellow owners hated them and would remove them, regardless of condition. I was fortunate, my DR350SE came with Dunlop D607s. They howled on pavement but I got good wear and gas mileage out of them. I eventually sourced a second wheel set for some Pirelli MT-21s and replaced the Dunlops with some Kenda K761s. I loved both; the MT-21s were great off-road and even on-road they were good (in the wet, too). The Kendas were pavement only, smooth and quiet.

I digress, I found the Trail Wings to be pretty good on the pavement and got good fuel mileage to boot (~94 mpg). However, at twenty-two years old, the carcass can begin to breakdown which would lead to catastrophic failure. While that's not necessarily bad in the dirt, it's going to be very bad on pavement, worse on pavement and in traffic. So, I opted to purchase some Shinko 705s from Motorcycle Superstore.

I ordered them on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 and received them two days later (!!). I don't care where M.S. is located, that's some fast handling & shipping. What's sad is that the Bridgestone's still look great, there aren't any cracks or splits and there's at least 1/4" of tread depth left. However, I'm not willing to take the risk (on having them fail massively). The Shinkos were $92 for both (on sale as of this writing) which included free shipping. They mounted up easily and the only issue I encountered was that the front Shinko (90/90/-21) is slightly wider at the tread shoulder than the original Bridgestone (2.75-21). This caused some interference issues with the front fender/fork brace. I had to reform it to clear the new tire.

I took them for a spin to scuff them in. I did not notice any difference in smoothness/vibration but they do ride much more quietly. I've seen several reviews, both on M.S.'s web site, on and on AdvRider. Most agree they're a good value and wear slowly. I would hope they'll last a while and should based on the light weight NX. They have wide, deep sipes which should allow them to clear any mud quickly (although, I doubt I'll have the NX off-road any time soon) and prevent any hydro-planing. The rest of the week is supposed to be warm/hot and dry. So, I'll have ample opportunity to fully scuff them in before extended gravel riding on Saturday, July 2.