Monday, August 27, 2007

Chinese bike goes "bye-bye"!

Such is the impetuous nature of youth. I think that's part of the reason for this saying:

"You spend the first 12 years of a child's life zealously protecting them from all dangers. You spend the next few years wanting to kill them yourself!"

My youngest son, Clinton, is 19 years old. He's supporting himself in his own apartment. He's held the same job for the last 14 months and makes a decent living for a young man. Clinton comes to see his Mama regularly and not just at supper time. He also does his own laundry. So I can't really complain. But I'm going to anyway. Clinton's got the bike bug and it's driven him to abandon common sense. One of the dangers of being young and inexperienced is that tomorrow seems an awfully long ways away.

The Chinese bike has proven to be a royal pain. The shop's been of little help. Since he's my boy, after all, I helped him do some machining and shop work to make the bike whole. I wasn't too worried about warranties. It's a discontinued model and there's like two dealers on the West Coast. The dealer near us is less than stellar, and that's all I'll say about them. This post isn't about nailing them to the wall.

We actually got the bike working quite well. There were still some lingering issues with intermittent lapses in the operation of the tach and speedometer. That was traced to a ground problem. The kick start and electric start both work, now. I figured he'd ride it for a while. For whatever reason he picked out this bike to buy and it seemed that once it was functional he'd be happy with it. A single cylinder 200 cc bike can be fun and economical both. At least, that's what I thought. Apparently I was wrong.

I started hearing some little comments about how buzzy it was. There was a complaint that it would only do 60 mph and was screaming at that. Then, 10 days ago, I heard he'd put it up for sale on Craig's List. The really weird part is that it sold last night. The people who bought it came clear over from Bend. That's on the other side of the Cascade Mountains. It's a three hour drive over the Pass. I asked Clinton if these people, a man and wife, knew what they were getting into. He told me they had done some research on the internet and knew what the bike was. I was there when they showed up. Clinton was perfectly candid with them but they bought the bike anyway and stuffed it into the back of a Toyota pickup. The purchase price was a hundred dollars more than Clinton had paid for the bike in the first place. Of course, that doesn't account for the labor that I thought I was putting out in behalf of my son!

The reason I was over at his place is that he'd invited me to look at his new acquisition. Huh?

Once upon a time this was a 1986 VFR500F Honda. Technically, I guess, it still is. Now it's just ugly. It turns out that Clinton had bought it last Friday night. On speculation, he'd borrowed fifteen hundred dollars from his girlfriend. She seems better able to save for something than my son can. I should have been suspicious when Clinton called me out of the blue last Wednesday and asked me what he should look for when he shops for a used bike. I gave him a laundry list and never thought more of it. I mean, he still had the Chinese bike, right?

Ok. It's his business if he wanted to buy this bike. They say beauty is only skin deep. I say that ugly goes to the bone and this bike is bone ugly to me. I'm not the one who has to look at it, though. What's so funny is that Clinton was in such a hurry to to get another bike that he overlooked a few warning signs. Now he's back to having a bike that is going to have some issues. Already does, actually. I think he had his mind made up beforehand that he was going to buy this bike no matter what.

One of the things I told him to look at was the chain and sprocket teeth. I explained the wear patterns he should be on the watch for. This one has perfectly hooked sprocket teeth. Oops! I also explained that a bike this old could likely have problems with the water pump. The trick was to let the bike sit and run a while. I told him to see how long it took the bike to get up to temperature and to see how hot it actually got. The bike no longer has a temperature gauge it turns out. The boy's not quite experienced enough to know how to judge a normal engine's temperature, I guess.

See, the guy who was selling the VFR lives in Eugene which is a hour South. He met Clinton in Corvallis as he was coming to see his girlfriend. Thirteen hundred and fifty dollars changed hands and the bike came home with Clinton. My boy told me that if the guy rode it that far the bike must be ok. Right!

After the Chinese bike departed, Clinton decided to go for a little ride on the VFR. He pulled the radiator cap off and couldn't see any water. A gallon later, the radiator was full. When he started the bike, water starting literally spurting out of a place where a metal water pipe enters the block. Just for good measure, a gasket was leaking, too. It slowly dawned on Clinton that the guy had ridden the bike with very little water in it. No water was spurting out when he ran the bike. No spurt, no water. Another oops. He asked me how much damage I though that had done. What could I say?

I told him that the good news was that the motor hadn't seized up yet. Other than that, who knew? Thank goodness Honda knew how to build bullet proof motors. So I guess Clinton will be spending some time learning about Honda's water cooled motors. At least he has a good tool set. As my three sons set out on their own, my going away gift to them was an extensive tool set. Hey, I'm just trying to keep them away from mine!

I'm sure that I'll probably get suckered into helping out a little. That's how Dads are, you know. Besides, Clinton knows I'm addicted to all things motorcycle and will probably use it to his advantage! I find this more amusing than upsetting. As much as I hate to admit it, I've done similar things. It's part of the learning process. I thought I'd share it with you. Not for any sort of negative reflection on Clinton. Think of it more as a way to look back on our younger days and laugh at ourselves back then. Motorcycling is a family pursuit. Maybe even a tradition. Sometimes the nut really doesn't fall far from the tree!

Miles and smiles,



Steve Williams said...

When you write your How to Buy a Used Motorcycle blog entry this will come in handy...

Seriously though it is one of those lessons that can't be taught, only experienced by our children. I don't often try and impart any wisdom anymore so as to not impede the wonderful opportunities for personal growth that my kids can have.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

irondad said...


Exactly. Why rob them of the rich opportunity to learn? I like the approach:

"I'll let you stink it up a little then I'll show you how to fix it."

Bryce Lee said...

IF Clinton is your youngest, what's the range of your other children, if I may ask?

I keep thinking of Dan as between forty and fifty years; married very earlier in life and then did what comes naturally. I could well be
incorrect in my thinking. So how many
offspring do you have, and have any of them continued the family line to
enable you to be called grandfather.

Anonymous said...

Yes, unwise purchase of vehicles is an essential part of growing-up. Or at least that's what I tell myself to justify some of the mistakes which I made in the past!

Anonymous said...

Jeez, I would have sold him my '86 honda cbr hurricane for like half that. It's now just sitting in my garage. Mechanically sound... AND it has a fairing!!

Agree with you on the ugly comment...


Anonymous said...

Incidentally, I bought a motorcycle from someone who told me that he had not checked the tyre pressures since it had been serviced a year earlier, because he had had the tyres filled with nitrogen, which was more stable than air! Needless to say, both tyres were dangerously under-inflated.

Kano said...

Hey Dan, Clinton is showing signs of turning out to be a great business man, selling the Chinese bike for more than he bought it for and with mechanical problems to boot!

irondad said...

You'd be closer with the 50's guess than the 40's. The other kids are 22, 25, and 27. So far there are no grandchildren. They'll all have to take that step when they are ready. If they have the option to choose, that is.


Will Rogers said :

"Good judgment comes from bad experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment."

Maybe I should buy your CBR!

Blind faith and dumb luck. Wish I could get away with things like that.

Yeah, not to mention getting free labor from his Dad!