Sunday, February 13, 2011

DT Misadventures

As seen in the wilds of SOMA
For some reason, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to take off and ride South for a change. Now don't get me wrong, So Cal has it's charms but one of them isn't a slow paced technical ride on highway 1 South. Instead it has some pretty straight fast roads. That's great for getting where you are going but maybe not if like me, you ride a vintage small displacement two-stroke.

Today I learned about spark plug ratings and why some models of DT 250's, not mine, have two spark plugs in the head on the single cylinder. Two-strokes are finicky little monsters at times and they have certain ideal temperature ranges and fuel mixtures. So, they need different plugs for riding on trails and in city traffic than they do going flat out on the highway. Mismatch the riding to the plug and you'll need a new one sooner than you think.

The DT ran like a champ on the run south from San Francisco to Santa Cruz and part of the way back but the extended run into the wind up hill with a hot plug overheated it and fouled the @#$%^! out of it. I, not having experienced this before, did not know what was happening. If only I had and hadn't rushed out of the apartment without my tool kit that just so happens to contain a spark plug wrench and a shiny new plug.

So, I limped the machine into Half Moon Bay, a place where you can buy gas and food and not much else... OK, that's not true but you can't buy cheap socket sets or spark plug wrenches. Nor can you buy anything but an adjustable wrench after 6PM. Thanks Half Moon Bay. Though, I'm told it's the perfect place to go for a weekend with someone you aren't supposed to go away for the weekend with.

So, I pushed the bike for a mile or so and then got frustrated and kicked it a million times until it fired up. No clue why, it just did and it shouldn't have but I wasn't complaining. I kicked out onto the freeway, bad plan, and ran for home. I luckily managed to clear I280 just as the engine went dead again. ...back home-ish but in a terrible neighborhood at 6th and Howard. Try as I might I couldn't get it to light off again and once more pushed it another mile closer to home.

The idea was that I'd find a garage and safely park it over night until I could come back with some tools. At this point I still didn't know if the issue was a clogged jet, fouled plug, something uglier or a combination of all three. What happened was I found out how rude men who who work in parking garages and barely speak English can be. Really flipping rude. You'd think if someone asked a customer service person a business related question they'd at least give decent service even if just to say "No" but alas they need to say "Oh no no no, no motorcycle!" while they waggle a finger at you. If only Bill Cosby had been there, he'd know what to say.

Again, I pushed the little monster up hill another block until I finally found a parking space that looked like the bike would still be there when I came back with my tools, and it was!

After a couple frantic phone calls and talking through the problem with wiser motorcycle guys than me, it was determined twice independently that I'd cruelly ridden the bike too hard and had asked for it. Thanks, I already knew that.

Anyway, failing to find my spare plug I returned with contact cleaner, sandpaper and a pocket knife to clean the plug and hopefully make the .7 mile ride up hill and home.

Fouled plugs kind of don't un-foul too easily but I did manage to scrape and scrub it enough to get the bike started and in a cloud of blue smoke I was off through crowds of drunken Valentines celebrators and unexpected 10PM traffic. None the less, when the DT growls cars usually give me some room. I made it to the top of Nob Hill before the engine died again and I managed to push another couple blocks and then bump start it down a hill just far enough to ride to my parking space like nothing happened.

Some tipsy neighbors walked by and asked if I had been out riding. "Yep, great day for it. Rode down to Half Moon Bay." The response, "Man, I wish I had a bike like that." I just smiled and said thanks not wanting to burst the happy bubble of bike envy.

So, I'll be ordering up a half dozen plugs and making sure to carry spares at all times. Seems DT 250's are notorious for eating plugs.

Another lesson learned. Just happy I made it home.

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