Lick O’ Paint

We accomplished quite a lot today. In short, got the pedals on and operational and got a first coat of paint on 95% of the trike.

The pedals went extremely well. The brakes were even easy to bleed. The bad news, and it’s pretty minor, is that upon reflection, I don’t think the wheel will clear the fittings on the pedals in the event of a hard turn while braking, so I will need to move them. It’s just a matter of drilling 4 news holes.

The paint was really an all day affair that Toni was working on before I finished the pedals and could join in. In no particular order, we masked off large portions of the trike, removed the fuel tank, cleaned a LOT of surface with acetone, finished painting the front wheel, painted the ‘faux’ tank and the body of the trike. It will definitely all need another coat and we ran out, so we’ll have to buy another can.


Just about the the first thing that happened yesterday was that the driver side power lock actuator on my wife’s truck jammed. I spent about an hour getting it out, figuring out how it works and removing a gear to allow at least the key lock to work. Today’s projects will include securing a replacement and installing it. I found one at a wrecking yard for $40, about half the price of a new one.

After laying out and drilling for the pedals (the weights are soft cast iron and thus drilled very easily), we needed longer bolts. It was lunch time anyway, so we closed up shop, got lunch, bolts and matting to cut for the floor, all of which took a couple of hours.

We got a really good start on painting, especially the troublesome front wheel. The reusable aerosol can from Harbor Freight works pretty good for paint, so long as it’s thin enough. The spray head tends to sputter pretty badly when the air pressure begins to drop off, but it’s easy enough to keep it filled up.

I just barely got going on the pedals when a good friend called needing a rescue for the flat rear tire on his Suzuki M109. It’s a huge bike with a wide tubeless tire on the back and the bead had come unsealed, so there is no getting it to air back up so long as the bike is sitting on it.

We cleaned up the shop and I headed to Dallas with a trailer and picked him up, about a 3 hour adventure. It never fails to warm my heart to see someone who REALLY appreciates what you’re doing for them. My karma is balanced.

Speaking of diversions, I have been gathering some parts for the eventual EFI of my trike. The only thing left is a 36-1 trigger wheel. I think I have the plan for mounting one on a stock VW pulley, of which I now have at least a couple.
All that’s left after than is the manifold and all the work.

Since when last it ran, my trike engine was exhibiting symptoms similar to the yellow trike, I think I will see if the same thing seems to be happening with it, a leak around the throttle shaft in the carburetor. If so, I will borrow the new carb from the yellow trike and get the rest of my engine tuned and operational before I attempt the conversion, but I see no reason to spend the money on a new carburetor for my trike when the plan all along has been to run EFI and almost all the the major parts are in hand.

Busy Update

A lot has happened since the last update on the as-yet-unnamed Yellow Trike.

On the way home that afternoon, I picked up the control switch from Mid-Cities. It appeared very solid and had nice long leads.

That evening, I had enough of a break in the rain to allow me to rearrange the driveway so that I had the trike under the 10×20 garage tent that we use to expand the driveway. When the rain really came down, I still got soaked with a lot of mist, but at least I was out of the direct precipitation, so I could continue to work even in the weather. It was still pretty miserable. 🙂

Just about the first thing, I worked the throttle a couple of times, gauging how much work it was going to take to get throttle effort down to a more reasonable level. As I was doing that, smoke suddenly started emitting from all along the frame tube and another pocket of smoke came from the battery area. My first thought was to turn off the key. Um, I hadn’t turned on the key. So, the only other electrical control was the headlight switch, so I toggled it a time or two. The smoke stopped, but as I suspected, it had nothing to do with the light switch.

The previous owner had a cigarette lighter socket on the left side of the dashboard. It turns out that when I moved the handlebar, working the throttle, the wire feeding the lighter socket had gotten pinched between the triple tree and the dashboard, shorting to the dashboard. Whether the 18g speaker wire powering the socket burned in half somewhere along its length or if my panicky gyrations had relieved the short, I don’t know, but the wire was now good and melty.

I should probably mention at this point that, as some builders will do, EVERYTHING on the trike except for the starter is powered from the same power lead going through a 30A self-resetting circuit breaker. Even doubled up 18ga will yield before a 30A breaker does.

After that little adventure, I tested everything else… well, everything that had previously been working… and found that no other damage was done. I had a moment’s panic when steam formed off the exhaust. Looked a little too much like smoke 🙂

So, now began the task of wiring up some lights to the new switch. Of course, that meant decoding the existing wiring.

The wiring was essentially functional, and since people I know know the previous owner, I will say only that I don’t think automotive wiring was their first language. To their credit, the trike is several years old and they rode it all over the country for most of those years, so it couldn’t be TOO out of whack. There appears to have been a few repairs done over those years, wiring spliced and respliced, often with what was apparently the wire on hand. There was THHN insulated 12ga spliced to PVC insulated 14ga, using crimp connectors that had seen inside the jaws of a pair of vise-grips. Though I was under the gun to get the trike inspected the next day, I determined pretty early that I would be rewiring the whole thing.

The switch pod is pretty cool. It’s designed to help make a dirt bike street legal and most features are to that end. It has a parking light/headlight switch that actually has an off position. According to the installation sheet, this switch is intended to serve as the main switch in the absence of a keyswitch and pretty much everything depends on this switch being on. It also has a press-to-cancel turn signal switch, a horn button, a kill switch and a blue high-beam indicator LED.

It took till late in the evening, but I got it in place and as operational as I could. The front signal lights were pretty pitiful, so Saturday morning, we got some nice little lights from Mid-Cities and I returned and finished up the wiring and took it to be inspected.

Our usual inspector was out of motorcycle stickers, so we had to find an alternate. Now, inspections are a minimalist affair in Texas, pretty much verifying you have insurance and that you aren’t so stupid that you drop the bike. Consequently, it’s pretty standard faire for a motorcycle to be inspected on a trailer or in the back of a pickup. This guy refused to do so, insisting that I ride it into his shop. First time EVER that’s been an issue. When we told him that we’d never had to do that before, he said that the state requires it and those who don’t are not following the proper procedure.

So, I get out in the rain, unhook the trike from the trailer, uturn on the side street and pull it around into his garage. After this is done, he begins the proper procedure for inspecting a motorcycle in Texas. This procedure *apparently* consists of not testing the brake lights, turn signals, headlights, horn… He doesn’t test anything, but he fills in his paperwork and puts on a sticker.

I prefer to think that he just didn’t want to get out in the rain. In any case, the trike was now legal. Probably.

We took gathered some general working supplies and tools and such and arranged to meet a keyholder at the BTW clubhouse where we could work on the thing under a roof with lighting and powertools.

First order of business, get the wiring stable.

Very quickly, I decided that stabilizing the existing wiring would likely result in years of psychological therapy, so it needed to be scrapped. It took several evenings, but in short, there is now a fuse panel, relays and terminal strip in one of the storage boxes. I found a Honda keyswitch in the club junkpile that fit the forks and had keys, so I was able to eliminate the dashboard. This put more wiring to front, but I was still able change the ugly frayed bundle of wiring into a nearly undetectable sheath that has far more circuits in it. The only existing wire left are leads coming out of lights and the distributor.

I started the trike on the new wiring at 11:57 one weekday night, barely meeting the goal of “finishing the wiring tonight”.

Well, even so, it’s not *quite* finished. The oil and alternator lights do not yet have a place on the as yet unmade instrument panel. The speedometer is mounted on it’s original bracket, but the bracket has been flattened and cut to mount with the keyswitch. I will be making a replacement of this bracket with room for these and other indicator lights.

Some place in there, the newly covered seat came back. Almost immediately, we saw that it was not up to the usual standard of the shop doing the work. We took it back and had them tighten up the fit and generally just redo it. This time, it came back looking like it should.

The next big thing that needed attention was the engine. It was not obvious when we tested it out, but it would not idle when warm. In reading about idle problems with aircooled VW engines, it seemed like a vacuum leak. Long story short and $160 later, a new carburetor eliminated the leak around the old one’s throttle shaft. Oh, my, what a difference it made! It’s fun to drive now!

It’s too bad, we now have a very clean yet utterly useless used H30/31 PICT carburetor. Somebody makes a throttle shaft bushing kit and I may experiment with that, for my trike has similar problems that were undiagnosed when last I played with it.

We also got quite a few engine dress up items like pulleys, distributor cap, wires, coil cover. At this point, we’re going to wait to replace the tins, but they will one day be either replaced or painted.

Besides paint, the last *big* thing is the replacement of the pedals, which I’ll be working on today. We got pedals with a 3/4″ and a 7/8″ master cylinders, nylon lines and a new clutch slave cylinder. I’ve already made a bracket for the slave cylinder, to eliminate the side loading inherent in mounting a cylinder in place of the stock cable. Installing the new pedals will involve cutting out the old foot throttle and obviously the old brake and clutch pedals and their linkages. The biggest problem I see, short term, is that I must drill through the old weights welded to the bottom of the floorboard in order to mount the new pedals.

Yellow Trike Work

The rains came just as I got home.

I spent the time inside putting the end on the throttle cable and assembling the throttle, well, assembly. I have just about decided that building my own cables, especially custom cables, is just way less frustrating than trying to shop for one that will work, so long as you have all the parts.

I got all my cable parts online from Flanders Motorcycle Accessories. Knowing the size cable, sheath and ends you need will help a lot. Use your digital caliper a lot when or you will be destined to either not have the right parts or order a bunch of stuff you don’t need to get, hoping you get the right one. Even so, it takes a while to get good at remembering all the separate parts you really should order, like adjusters and boots and such. If I were doing full time building, I would try to stock a lot of parts to sort of standardize on, then I could build them as needed and just reorder stock instead of designing every element of a cable before ordering the parts for just that cable. I digress.

I’d hoped on being able to keep the foot throttle (easier for highway cruising) but I didn’t have a good way to attach both devices to the carburetor. I have a couple of ideas that I can try later, but for now I’ll just use a hand throttle only.

The throttle lever and spring on the carburetor is designed for foot-type forces and thus is hard to turn with the hand throttle. I will first try lightening the spring. If that doesn’t work, I will reconfigure the throttle for better leverage. There is more than enough travel in the cable to allow for some adjustment room there.

After the throttle, I did some electrical reconnaissance. The dashboard switch that we were lead to believe was the turn signals, is in fact the headlight switch. The headlight works! All we had to do was turn it on.

The turn signal switch is an after market affair kludged into place on the left hand control, where the stock one might have been many years ago. The baton for this switch is broken off, which is why I never noticed it before. By shorting the proper terminals together, I verified that the turn signals do indeed work.

We ordered a left hand control switch from Mid-Cities Cycle, which is due in this afternoon. Assuming the weather holds, I should be able to install the switch tonight then take the trike down for inspection tomorrow and it will be completely street legal!

I should probably bleed the clutch to make it easier to drive, though… 🙂

Well, there is one caveat. The seat is out for recovering, so for the inspection, I will probably need to attach a temporary seat, rather than just sit it there. Our inspector is as lenient as one could hope, but he’s not actually corrupt!

Nearly ready for paint

I called Bondo to ask what about painting Buzz with a single color and while I had him on the phone, we talked about the fenders and what he’s having to do to make them pretty. Lots of filler, unfortunately, as I had expected. In any case, it’s nearly ready for primer, which means the whole thing is nearly ready for paint…

As an added (though welcome) distraction, my wife just bought a home built VW trike. It’s already road worthy with the exception of troubleshooting the turn signals and headlight. Get those done and get it inspected and it could be driven anytime.

Well, there is a major design flaw that makes it VERY difficult to drive the trike on an incline. The placement of the brake pedal and accelerator makes it impossible to feather the throttle to gently climb an incline, you know, like our driveway. These engines are notorious for a low torque idle (at least in my experience), so I can’t feather the clutch without feathering the throttle and I can’t get to the throttle without releasing the brake.

She would rather have a hand throttle anyway, though there’s no reason we can’t have both.