Saturday, August 22, 2009

What’s the Combination?

Living with a thirty two year old bike has brought this phrase back into sharp focus for me. It used to be, when you loaned your car to someone or let a friend ride your bike, you had to give them the starting procedure or “the Combination” if you will. For all you young whipper snappers out there, who have not have the pleasure of driving, riding or owning a car or bike that was built before the early to mid eighties. Every car or bike seemed to have it’s own combination of actions you would have to go through to start them. For instance, my XS combo is turn both petcocks to the on position, set the start switch to run, twist the throttle three times, set the choke lever to full, thumb the starter or kick the bike once, whichever you prefer. Once the bike is started, set the choke to half for about thirty seconds while blipping the throttle to keep the revs up a bit. After this the bike should settle into a steady idle with out stalling. This is the procedure for this bike in warm weather, I will have to modify this a bit when those autumn breezes start blowing.

I have missed these combinations for most of the last twenty five years. Except for the RD’s I have owned in this time period, all the bike and cars I owned have had flawless carburetion or fuel injection. With the bikes, the only thing you would have to do is mess with the bar mounted choke. And this was just choke to start and adjust it down as you rode. Way back when, you expected your bike to be quirky, they all were. To ride you had to have at least rudimentary mechanical skills, because you never knew when your bike was going to leave you stranded somewhere. Clutch cable breaks, an electrical short, the chain snaps, a flat tire, you get the picture. That went for most bikes (most BMW’s excluded, they seemed to never break down, although you still had a starting combo for most of them, at least the bikes I was exposed to.)

The first bike I owned that did not come with a kick starter, was a ‘84 Honda Nighthawk S. This bike was almost maintenance free, hydraulic lifters, shaft drive, vacuum petcock. It freaked me out till I got used to the battery not dying while I was a couple of hundred miles from home and having to kick start the bike to start it and get back home. The headlight was always on, and that added to my anxiety. From my riding experience to this point, I simply did not trust the charging systems on motorcycles. Every bike I had ever owned in that era had some sort of weak charging system and would leave you kick or push starting your bike every now and then. Hell, after the vacuum petcock and fuel injection, you did not even have to remember to shut the fuel off after you shut your bike off.

I have become spoiled over the years, the vehicles I have owned since then have pretty much been bullet proof, almost soul less. I really don’t mind going back to the old combo system again, it kinda makes me a bit nostalgic. Even though the modern bikes I have owned have been bullet proof, I still liked to do my own maintenance on them. It always makes me feel closer to the bike somehow. The XS just needs a little more upkeep maintenance than my latest bikes needed. To me that’s not a bad thing. The hardest part for me is remembering to shut the fuel off when I park the bike. Now, I’m looking forward to finding out what the cold weather starting “Combination” is going to entail on the old XS.

Till Next Time.............

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