A Free Honda Motorcycle ... PART II


Top Fuel
Nov 29, 2007
Keller, TX
2005 Rocket III
As a general rule I have always approached motorcycle repair as a learning opportunity, a way to improve personal knowledge, skills and abilities through performance of maintenance activities. Having never actually worked on any Honda motorcycle, (car, ATV, watercraft, or generator) before this was going to be my first deep dive into the arcane (some might say nefarious) engineering practices that all Honda's benefit from. My experience over the years with two, three, and four cylinder bikes has led me to believe there aren't any real fundamental differences between engine types, just the approach one engineer prefers over some other equally silly way to do things. Internal combustion (pronounced IN-FER-NAL CON-TRAP-SHUN) engines all have pistons, crank shafts, carburetors etc. with bits and bobs specifically designed, engineered and manufactered to fundamentally frustrate the casual (ab)user. I was to learn however, that a Japanese flat six has it's own peculiarities, peccadillos, and penchant for perniciousness when it's abandoned for a few years in an Easy Bake oven (a storage locker in Phoenix, AZ) left on HIGH. To assist me in my lab of learning was my son-in-law Tom, an excellent engineer in his own right, however I have deduced over the years that his own expertise in high pressure injection molding research and development doesn't translate too keenly to the mechanical mischief that can be wrought by a frustrated design engineer trying to solve a simple math equation with advanced quantum mechanics. When a simple solution is readily available, these nimrods will take the most rediculous and circuitous route to achieve their aims.

For example, if you look at an early 1960's Triumph Tiger you will see subtle differences between it and it's fleetmate counterpart in the lineup, the Bonneville. Both are parallel twins of the same displacement, however the mission for the Tiger is different than the Bonneville, hence the Tiger is fitted with a single carburetor, vice the Bonneville's twin Amal setup. This makes tuning the Tiger by far simpler than the Bonneville. The designer's and engineers involved with the development of the Tiger weren't trying to complicate the machine unnecessarily due to its different target market. Honda's technical approach to meeting market demands however is entirely different than these 1960's wiz-kids, they apparently wish to require one to have an advanced degree in mechanical engineering from MIT just to change the oil and replace the filter.
Tom and I had put the bike on my Handy lift and the first thing I noticed was a complex array of wires coming from various control elements on the handlebars. These looked like accessory add-ons that the previous owner(s) had put on to run things like GPS units, radio and intercom systems, GoPro cameras, possibly a microwave oven, and 5 pin camper trailer hookup. I decided since I didn't have any of those things it was just extra debris cluttering the bars so I set about removing the stuff from the bars and disconnecting them from the wiring systems. This took a little longer than it should have due to the extra miles of wire wrapped in serpentine fashion throughout the bike. Whoever mounted this stuff originally subscribed to the concept that if too much was good then a lot more is a lot more better. Why use 3 feet of wire directly connected to the battery when you can run 30 feet of wire all over the bike, dice it, splice it and butcher it to the exact same terminal point. To follow and remove the wires from the head stock back I had to remove the gas tank. To get the tank off requires you remove the fuel selector knob. To do this requires a Phillips head driver with about a 3 foot shank. I have one so that wasn't hard, just an eye roll and some increduluos disbelief.

The wires then went back behind the battery box, so I had to get the seat off. This turned into a real learning opportunity as the seat wouldn't come off. The lock that holds the seat on is under the seat at the back of the engine block. This takes the ignition key to unlock. I had the key, I found (after a few minutes) the lock housing at the back of the engine and inserted the key. The lock turned easy enough. I pulled up on the seat and .... nothing. Hmmnn. Maybe needs some lube. I squirt some WD-40 into the lock and try again. Nothing. Well crap. In the house I go to Youtube the problem. I have found when I get stuck on some task that Youtube is an excellent resource for how-tooing about anything. In this particular case it very was helpful, as I found a bunch of videos that showed all manner of maintenance activities and helpful how-to tips on the Honda Valkyrie but absolutely nothing on actually getting the **** seat off. So back to the garage I go now fully armed with the ignorance God gave me. I decided to look a little closer at the seat mechanism itself and see if I could ascertain the reason behind its recalcitrance. I pushed the "up" button on my lift's foot controller and watched the lift slowly raise the bike to a workable height. I let go when I had it high enough for me to see the underworks of the seat. It was then I noticed the windshield was folding over in half as it dug a nice gouge into the drywall on my garage's ceiling. Well Crap. I lowered the bike again and went about removing the windshield. That was actually a fairly simple task. Just 4 screws and only 2 of the screw heads were completely stripped out. Nothing more fun than wallowing out old stripped screw heads with a large Phillips (a joy I've had on many a motorcycle) trying desperately to get enough friction built up to actually turn the screw head. These antics are usually followed by the judicious application of my needle nose Vice-Grip pliers on the offending appliances. Once the screen was off I got the bike back up where I could see where or what the problem with the seat was. The back of the lock was attached to a short cable that pulled a detent out of a pin holding the seat on. I turned the key and watched the cable slack get taken up and that was the sum and total of all movement. Neat-O! There was no way to get my fat fingers or a bent nose plier into the space to pull down on the cable to release the seat. Super! So if a little is good a lot must be better. I turned the key to where it stopped and then applied a bunch more pressure, the key turned another quarter inch and the cable pulled the detent out of the pin. The seat was free. Cool beans. I was concerned I might have applied sufficient pressure to permanently mangle the key into the lock housing but no, it was fine. With the seat removed I was able to continue the quest to fish wires out of the nooks and crannies where they have been wrapped, taped, wound or zip-tied. After fishing all the speghetti out of the bike I had a large handful of control boxes and wires I had no use for so in the recycle bin they went. I now had the bike's gas tank off and the seat off and a couple miles of wire and control boxes removed. This was a good start.

I decided I'd better check the fuel tank since it was sloshing when I removed it. I had asked Leigh if he had had the Honda Shop "winterize" the bike before he stored it and the answer was "no." That meant the carbs were likely a bit crusty since they hadn't been drained and that the gas sloshing about in the tank had been in there for maybe 5 years. I pulled the key from the seat lock and inserted it into the gas cap and turned. The cap popped open and I was greeted with the bouyant aromatic bouquet of deceased fuel. The fuel had seperated into it's constituent parts some time ago and being volitile had managed to absorb or release enough moisture in an arid climate to grow a burgeoning forest of stalagtites and stalagmites of rusticles inside the tank. Using any Kreem rust remover was likley going to remove enough material to perforate the tank like your grannies favorite colander. So a new(er) gas tank was going to be needed. I did briefly consider using some Caswell tank sealer as an alternative to a new tank. That has been my go-to for years when it came to dealing with badly crusted tanks, it's a simple one-step process, however in this case I was afraid that simply sealing over the build-up inside the tank would decrease the tank's overall useable volume to a just few pints. Maybe enough fuel to get you to and from a gas station (as long it was within walking distance of home). So the gas tank was shot. Being economy minded I removed the petcock to see if it was rebuildable. It was as long as you could smelt the parts needed. So I needed a petcock too. In fact the only thing salvageble from the tank was the chrome cap and tank mount rubber grommet, however the rubber seal on on the gas cap was toast. Good thing I got this bike for free, otherwise it was going to cost a lot more than it was worth to get it back running.