The No-Ride Report

Well, I almost went for a ride this weekend. Didn't make it, again. This time I was thwarted by a broken slave piston on my hydraulic clutch. While I've managed a few road-rides this year, I've still not made it out to the bush. Every once in a while, I go through a phase where I don't get out on the bike much; life is just tugging me in another direction. But, I don't think I've ever before made it to September without at least a few good rides. This has been a strange year.

Sunday was suppose to be the day. I had finally finished all my winter maintenance (yeah, I know, summer's over), put aside the honey-do list, and installed a new clutch pack and springs. I had gone for a quick road test ride a few days before to make sure everything was good, and it was. So, I suited up: knee pads, riding pants, boots, kidney belt, the works; then, I hop on the bike and take off. Not 12 blocks later, before I even made it out of town, I'm pulling up to a stoplight and hear this weird pop. Next thing I know, I'm still moving forward and I shouldn't be. The clutch won't disengage. Not good.

Anyway, I manage to stall the bike out, wrangle it into neutral, and push it into a gas-station parking lot. Now, I had just replaced the clutch pack, so I'm thinking I did something seriously wrong. But, a quick inspection showed that the output shaft of the slave cylinder had snapped right at the mount where it connects to the clutch release arm. I guess it was weak and the new springs I put in just pushed it over the edge. That's the last time I write a review and brag about how low-maintenance a part is.

So, I'm 12 blocks from home, with a bike that runs but has no clutch. I've also bragged that I can ride a bike without a clutch, but that's in the trails. I know traffic without a clutch can be interesting, as I've done it with a car once (the clutch cable snapped). So, I hum and haw a little before deciding to try my luck on getting home. I start the bike up in neutral, standing beside it, and give a good push to get a running start, Grand Prix style.

And I'm off, and not stopping. Well, that lasted about a block - damn traffic lights. You know, you can't ride that slow if you don't have a clutch. So I pull over, flip the key off, and lurch to a stop. The light finally turns green, I wait for the traffic to clear, and did another running start. So far, so good, other than the odd stares I'm getting from the cagers. Anyway, I repeat this a couple of more times, each time with a little bit less of a running start because, hey, it's a 650 and it's damn hard to push. So, I'm jabbing it down into first and wheeling off as the engine coughs and sputters. This was not my finest riding performance. On the last intersection before home, a 4-way stop, I stall out again because I'm going too slow. This time, I just jabbed the starter and let it fire up in first gear. Yes, I've long-since bypassed all those pesky safeties.

I made it home, in relative safety, though I'm sure the bike hates me for it. Riding in the trails without a clutch would be way easier than in a city. I don't particularly recommend it. After another look-see over the broken parts, I realized that, no, I was not going for a ride today. So, I peeled off all my gear and tore down the clutch slave cylinder.

The shaft that broke is about 1.5mm in diameter. It is, or rather was, threaded on both ends. My plan is to re-thread the shaft at the broken end and make a new end-piece that fits into the clutch release arm, this one being a little longer to compensate for the missing shaft. I should be able to do it, as I do have a lathe, but I've never made anything that small before. Well, I did make my own pilot screw, but that was pretty big compared to this project. I have a 4-40 tap and die set but they might be too big. Yeah, it's tiny. I'll be updating this entry as the repair goes along.

Wish me luck,


Update 1:

So, the shaft is actually 2mm in diameter and I go to my local tool store, Aklands to be precise, for a tap and die. Now, for those that don't know Victoria, Aklands is the place you go when you can't find something someplace else. They're the people that do industrial orders, they carry a lot of useful but uncommon stuff, and they charge through the nose for it. Anyway, the guy says "forget metric." So, I ask for a #1 screw tap and die, being the closest standard size. He hums and haws while thumbing through a catalog and finally says "2 days, $29 for the tap, no die." Ouch. Well, if I have to cut the outside thread on my lathe, rather than using a die, then I'll do the metric thread and, while I'm at it, make my own tap. There's no way I'm paying $29 bucks for tap so small that it would break if I sneezed on it.

I've also belatedly realised that I still have my old cable clutch sitting in a box. So, yeah, I could have gone for a ride last weekend after all. Now I have to decide between fixing the hydraulic this weekend or just going for a ride... not sure which yet.