Questions & Answers - Shop Talk

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Q I have a 2002 Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter 800. It has a K&N; filter and Hard-Krome pipes and has been re-jetted. However I cannot find much more for the bike in terms of performance. I cannot even find a simple performance ignition for this bike. Is there anything else I can do to get a little more power from it?
Via e-mail

A Without being to flip about it the easiest way to get a little more power out of your 800 is to trade it on a 900. The 800 is great motorcycle, no doubt about it. Unfortunately it's not well supported by the aftermarket, particularly when it comes to high performance parts. Short of doing some serious internal engine work, or bolting on a nitrous bottle I'm afraid you've gone about as far as practical.

Back To Black
Q I've been searching the net for days about some motorcycle part paint problems and wanted to get your opinion. I have several pieces off my bike that are chromed, some plastic, and some metal.

My bikes are black and I want them that way. I think I'm going to have the metal ones black powder-coated. The plastic ones have me worried. I've seen people paint over chrome but people are also telling me not to try.
Officer. S. Gries
Lincoln, IL

A I'd try wet sanding an unobtrusive portion of one of the plastic parts with #600 wet/dry paper, if the finish is acceptable I'd then prime and paint it with a plastic compatible primer and black top coat. I know Krylon and Rustoleum both make plastic compatible spray paint if you want to shoot it yourself and I think Colorrite sells it by the pint for spray gun application. You may also want to consider a process called color metalizing, which is a dyeing process for chrome-check it out at

ABS Self-Service
Q Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your articles. The only reason I buy the magazine. They are very worthwhile and I learn a lot. Keep up the good work. I do all my own maintenance on a 2005 Vulcan Nomad. Almost 4 years old, 41,000 miles, I've been to Alaska and back, and without a single problem.

I am going to get a BMW R1200GS. Is it easy to bleed the brakes without a lot of special equipment if I get the anti skid?
Bob Didion
Via e-mail

A I haven't done much work on the 1200GS, but my understanding is that the older ABS equipped versions, those built before 2007, do require special tools and techniques to bleed the brakes and even to change the fluid. The problem, and again this is based on limited experience is that the ABS computer "see's" the brake bleeding process as a leak in the system and shuts off that portion of the circuit. You then need to reset the computer using the BMW diagnostic tool. So the problem is two-fold in that you need to bypass the ABS to bleed the system, and then you need to reflash the controller. It's a little too complicated for my tastes, I'd recommend a non-ABS version if you want to work on the brakes yourself. Starting with the 2007 models BMW went to easier to service ABS, called I believe ABSII. Those systems are much easier to work on, and from what I've been told, require no special tools to perform routine maintenance.

Q I recently purchased a 94 Suzuki VS 1400 Intruder with 16000 miles in excellent condition. I changed the oil using Castrol GTX 10w40 non-synthetic. While I was riding the other day I noticed slight clutch slippage on hard acceleration. There is virtually no play in the clutch lever. I also noticed when the bike sits for a week or so, when I first start it and put it in gear the clutch is slightly engaged but quickly lets go. I have only owned the bike for a short while and have not got a shop manual for it yet. Just wondering what your thoughts are on the problem. Is this clutch adjustable? (It is a hydraulic actuated clutch) Could it be the oil I used? I am an old fart used to working on vintage iron. Is a clutch adjustment easy on this bike? Your input is greatly appreciated.
Via e-mail

A Most wet clutches exhibit some drag when they're cold, and yes, it's generally more pronounced after the bike has sat for a few days. So your clutch's behavior is normal, however the slipping is not, and indicates that the clutch will soon be due for replacement. What's caused your clutch to start slipping I couldn't say without more info, but I can assure you it's not because you used Castrol GTX. Lastly according to my manual, your bike's clutch is not adjustable, at least there's no provision for adjusting the free play that I can see.

98 In The Shade
Q I just read the article on the Yamaha V-Star 950. They use an air-cooled motor while Suzuki uses a water-cooled. The first thing that pops in my mind is, the water-cooled motor will remain at a more constraint temperature (thermostatically controlled) while the air-cooled is at the mercy of the ambient temperature. This may not be a big deal, until you're caught in rush hour traffic for three hours and its 98-degrees in the shade or if you live in Alaska and want to go to a Christmas day rally at minus 10-degrees. So what say you, scooter wizard? 'Is wet always better than dry when you're looking for a nice ride?'
Ron Rickers
Elk River, MN

P.S. Pull your mind out of the gutter, we're talking about bikes here!

Geez you guys always think the worst of me! From a purely technical standpoint water-cooling is preferable for the very reasons you list. But air-cooled engines have been around for a lot of years and in practice work well enough to be considered 100% reliable. Moving forward I don't think you're going to see many more new models coming through with air cooling, but that has as much to do with manufacturing costs, and pollution/noise issues as anything else.