Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Box of Shame #8: An alarming situation…

Author: site admin
Category: Computers, The Box Of Shame

Its been awhile since I did a Box of Shame posting so I decided to delve into the pile ‘o parts for something else with an interesting story…

When I purchased my GSXR 1100 in ‘90, I assumed it would be my sport bike for riding around north Georgia. However, in the tradition of the saying “Give a kid a hammer and everything becomes a nail”, I starting using the bike for commuting, cruising around town and even touring. Over the years, I rode the Geezer on multi-week trips up the Blue Ridge Parkway and halfway across the country to Colorado. I also did trips to most of the states in the southeast. By the time I moved to Colorado in ‘95, I’d put nearly 40,000 miles on the bike with only one major problem (a spectacular rear suspension failure…but that is another story).

In 1996, my riding buddy Ed Guzman suggested a road trip to the Pacific Northwest to attend the annual gathering of the subscribers to the Wetleather mailing list that was being held in Republic, WA that year. I decided to join Ed for the trip to Republic but then extend the trip to ride down the west coast to California before returning to Colorado. Ed then coerced Jim Franklin to join us, giving Gooz a riding partner for the return trip after the Gather. Since the GSXR was the only (running) bike I had at the time, it was once again drafted into touring duty. I threw on my well-used Chase Harper soft luggage, loaded up my camping year, threw in a bunch of tools, did a quick tune-up and headed out for a two week, 11,000 mile trip.

As it turns out, my quick tune-up was probably too quick and resulted in a stripped value cover bolt. In my defense, the GSXR head is soft aluminum and after three years of professional racing and then 40,000 street miles, the threads were pretty tired after all those value adjustments. Whatever the cause, the stripped threads allowed oil to steadily seep out and by the time we entered Utah was visibly dripping off the motor. The next two days of riding included a regular cleaning of the engine at each gas stop (along with a very slow, very smokey stop-n-go idle through a traffic clogged Salt Lake City) until I could get it temporarily repaired in Coure D’Alene Idaho with some JB Weld thread repair. We continued the ride to Republic for The Gather, with the problem apparently fixed (though the bike did pick up the nickname “Suzuki Valdez”).

Ungo alarm off the GSXR

However, this blog entry isn’t about a stripped bolt hole. One side effect of the oil leak was that the wiring harness which runs behind the back of the motor had been coated with oil. When I lived in downtown Atlanta, I’d added a bike alarm to the GSXR to help discourage bike thieves. Since I was working in downtown Denver after I moved to Colorado I left the alarm installed to keep the bike safe when left all day in dark parking decks. The Ungo bike alarm is very simple, just a mercury switch and a few wires to connect to the battery, a loud alarm speaker and some wires going into the wiring harness to cut the ignition and sound the alarm when the bike is lifted off the side stand. The splice into the ignition wiring was done “right” but after six years of riding engine heat had done a job on the shrink wrap protecting the splice.

Unknown to me, the oil that had misted behind the engine while burning across Utah and Idaho eventually managed to get into the splice. At first, the bike was just tricky to start, which made me think it was just a dirty start button. However, as the weekend in Republic went on, the starting problem became more and more pronounced. The morning that Gooz and I decided to ride up into Canada, the bike refused to start all together. Ed was nice enough to give me a push start and we were off for a day ride into Oh Canada! By the time we were back at the US border, complete with draconian border guard, even a push start was taking more effort than I (and particularly Ed) was comfortable with. I was having horrible thoughts of trying to push start a fully loaded touring GSXR on some deserted coastal road in Oregon so clearly I had to figure this one out that night.

Once back at the campground, I started going through the bike’s electronics with a multi-meter and quickly traced the issue to the alarm’s ignition splice. Rather than re-wiring the splice, I borrowed a butane soldering iron from long distance rider Jeff Earls and removed the ignition splice all together. Quick fix and the bike ran perfectly for the rest of the trip. Sadly, Ed and Jim went straight back to Colorado and missed out on the trouble free riding I got to enjoy for a week on my return loop…a welcome relief after the four frustrating days that started the trip.

I am going to re-install the alarm with a new Ungo wiring harness now that I have the GSXR running again, but that simple problem could easily have ruined that two week trip. I keep the original oil covered ignition splice wire in my Box of Shame to remind me of that simple truth.

[image from my photo collection.]