If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 24 October 2009

XT progress, of sorts

I am very thankful for the kind CWU and their convenient postal strikes. After all, if the post was working, I would have my new exhausts by now, and I would be fretting that I didn't have time to fit them. But I can relax, safe in the knowledge that they ain't coming any time soon, and I can get on with all the other stuff in my own time.

I posted earlier that I needed to take off the cylinder head to get the remains of the old headers out. After my shopping expedition this morning, I needed to do something positive, so I set to it. The airbox and the carbs came off with a bit of a struggle, but they came off. And then I set to taking off the bit that covers the top of the cylinder head - what, on a car, you would call the rocker cover. Well, that bit is held on by a number of long bolts. I found and took out 13 of them, and the damn thing wouldn't shift. I got to the point of gently trying to lift it away with a crowbar, which is very risky, but no deal. Just a fraction of a millimetre of movement. Robert M Pirsig (in ZAMM) refers to the state of 'stuckness', where a mechanical issue stops you dead and won't let you continue. How you get around the feeling of rage and impotence is a philospohical issue, not a mechanical one. I recognised in myself the feeling of 'stuckness' and went and had a cup of tea.

When I went back outside, I realised that maybe I hadn't located all the bolts. I visualised the shape of the cover, and the stresses of holding it down, and thought about where the bolts ought to be. Then I looked under a cover and there, hiding in a little pool of dark oil, was another bolt. Aha! Pirsig was right - my new, calmer mental state had allowed me to see the solution more clearly. So I took that out, too. 14 bolts, not 13. Try again.

No deal. Zilch. Nada.

OK, I said to the bike, you want to play rough? I went for the biggest weapon in the armoury of the backyard bodger. The workshop manual. And then I saw that there were 15 bolts shown in the diagram that I should have looked at much earlier. This bolt had by now a mythical status, as it appeared to be completely invisible. I found it located in a well right at the top of the engine, completely hidden by the bike's upper frame. I tried to undo it, but failed. Because it is in a well, my ordinary Allen key isn't long enough to reach fully into the socket in the bolt-head, and therefore I risk rounding out the hole if I try too hard. On the other hand, the frame rail means there isn't enough room to deploy the obvious alternative, a ratchet handle with an Allen bit in the end.

By now it was getting dark, so I cleared everything away and retired to the house, where a curry was being made and wonderful smells were developing. If I had carried on, I am sure I would have done more harm than good, such as damage the last bolt enough so that the whole engine would have to come out. No thanks.

Tomorrow, it will be daylight again, and I will have had a whole evening and night for Mr Pirsig's calm rationality to pervade my heated brain.

It's only a sodding bolt, after all. It can't be that difficult, can it?

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