Tech Questions and Answers - Shop Talk

Bar Back Banter

Q I enjoy reading your down-to-earth Shop Talk. You don't patronize anyone, no matter how unsophisticated the question, and you use everyday language, rather than "tech talk". Thanks for being both readable and understandable. Thanks, also, for being a fan of my new C90T. Therein lays my question.

I love the bike, but being 5'5", I'm stretching too far to reach the grips. I'd like to get about 2-3 inches more pullback. I've read everything I can find on risers (bar-backs) verses new bars. Opinions vary widely, depending on the forum. I'd like to buy risers, because they're simpler to install, but am told by my dealer that they will upset the geometry of the bike, especially at low speed. I can't see how risers would create geometry any different from that created by replacing the bars. Is this something I need to be seriously worried about? I'd like to have some idea what I'm getting into before I fork out $150.
Doug Hiatt
Tacoma, WA

A I like a guy that appreciates straight talk so here it is. Your dealer is snowing you. A motorcycle's steering geometry is determined by its frame dimensions, suspension settings, and wheel diameters and not by the position, height or width of the handlebars. So bottom line, whether you reposition the bars by installing new ones or using risers is immaterial as far as the geometry of the bike goes.

To be fair to the dealer, changing the shape and dimensions of the handlebar or its position relative to the steering head will have an impact on the way the bike feels, and perhaps this is what he meant, but again whether the change is because the handlebars were swapped or they were repositioned by using bar backs or risers is of no consequence.

**Speedo Solution

Q** I have a mechanical question regarding my 2003 Honda VTX "C" series speedometer. I have noticed that my speedometer goes to "0" then back to normal during riding. It does that on and off. What could be the problem? If the sensor needs to be replaced or cleaned, where is it located?
Via e-mail

A You may have a problem with speedometer, the sensor, or the wiring. To determine which is at fault locate the speedometer's electrical connector block, which is clipped beneath the right hand cylinder head cover. Disconnect it, with the bike in neutral and the ignition ON have someone slowly turn the rear wheel while you measure the voltage between the white wire (+) and the green/black (-) (make certain you're testing the wires on the side of the harness that come from the speed sensor). The voltage should pulse between 0V and 5V. If the voltage is there, replace the speedometer. If it isn't check the white wire for an open or short circuit, and check the green/black for an open. The speed sensor is located beneath the left rear crankcase cover behind the coolant tank. Honda sells a test harness that's used to troubleshoot the sensor but with a little imagination, you can probably jury rig something that'll work although you'll need the shop manual and some Honda specific terminals to do so, and I'm thinking that if you had those you wouldn't need me. You can also use the process of elimination, if the wiring is good between the sensor and the speedometer, but there's no voltage flowing when you spin the wheel it's a safe bet the sensor is kaput.

**They're How Old?

Q** I have a 1998 Honda Valkyrie with 30,000 miles on it. I keep it garaged and covered when I'm not riding. It still has the original timing belts and radiator hoses. Should I be thinking about replacing these or am I good for a few more years?
Paul Schwing
Brownton, MN

A An excellent question Paul and one that's not as clear-cut as it may seem. The theory is that belts and hoses deteriorate over time so they should be replaced on a periodic basis, say at two year or 30,000 mile intervals to prevent potential problems, and in the past most owners/service manuals have stated just that. However, I know of any number of timing belts and coolant hoses, including the ones on my own bikes that have double the recommended mileages (or more) without problem. Furthermore, I understand that Honda no longer recommends a change interval for the GoldWing/Valkyrie timing belt, stating only "It should be inspected and replaced as needed." Therefore, my recommendation (here come the letters) is this, if the hoses and belts look good, and show no signs of damage or deterioration than there's no need to change them.

**Battery Blues

Q** I purchased a 2004 Road King in August 2008; I believe it has original battery. I keep it on a Battery Tender JR. when not riding. When I do get a chance in the winter, it's usually once a week or two. After the ride when I plug it back in, the charger says, it's charging. Is this normal or should I be replacing battery soon before summer hits and I ride more? I don't want to get stuck with a dead battery somewhere out of town.
Via e-mail

A It's normal for the tender to indicate a charging condition for anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute after plugging it in, even if the battery is fully charged. However if it stays on for much longer than that a charging system test, including a battery load test should be performed and any weak areas rectified. Rectified, get it? Batteries, charging systems, rectifiers, aw forget it.

**Wrenching Wide Glides

Q** I recently bought a 2002 Harley 1200 Sportster S, and I really want the Wide Glide look. I am wondering, as a normal homeowner, with limited knowledge base, but good mechanical skills and some common sense, can I replace the front end of my bike myself?

If so, any suggestions to make the job any easier?
Kris Risley
Via e-mail

A You can absolutely do it yourself, As far as suggestions go;
1. Read through the appropriate section of the shop manual before turning a wrench.
2. Have some understanding of what you want to accomplish.
3. Gather up all the parts you'll need beforehand.
4. Work patiently; make sure each piece fits properly before moving on.
5. Keep my e-address handy.