PART 4 : NOVEMBER 2003 - ON THE ROAD (MOSTLY)
At the start of November, I was out riding every halfway sunny
day that came along, starting to get really comfortable with the bike
and really enjoying myself. Okay, so there was still a strong smell of
gas from around the carbs a lot of the time, and I'd get occasional wafts
of exhaust smoke leaking from around the header pipes. All of that I could
live with - but not the damn rattle. If I was going to turn heads, I was
determined it would be because my bike looked cool, not because of the
horrible racket it made. I was fairly sure that I needed to replace the
cam chain tensioner, and one day I read an interesting post on kzrider.com
about just this subject. Apparently a tensioner from a KZ900 would work
fine - the 900s used the manual type tensioner that I wanted, and the
900 tensioners actually had a slightly longer plunger which would hold
a loose chain in place a little better. A quick check over on eBay - there
was one just coming up for auction, and I was able to grab it for $10!
The 900 tensioners have lower "shoulders" than the 650 version,
so I picked up some shorter mounting screws (see image at right - the
new 900 tensioner is on the bottom). I checked the posts on kzrider, and
double-checked my manual on the process for replacing a tensioner - the
main thing to watch out for is not to let the plunger spring out suddenly
while mounting or removing, or you may shoot small parts straight into
the engine block!I followed the instructions carefully, mounting the new
tensioner with the spring plunger locked all the way back, then turned
over the engine to the point where the cam chain should be loosest, and
loosened the tensioner locking nut. There was a satisfactory "clunk"
as the plunger shot out, and I tightened up the nut again. So did it work?
I started up the engine, and ... IT SOUNDED GREAT!! Absolutely no rattle
whatsover - for the first time, the bike positively "purred."
I have to say, that had to be just about the best $10 I ever spent!
With the new tensioner in place, I spend a few weeks of blissful (and
peaceful) riding - then, toward the end of November I made two unpleasant
discoveries. One was when I filled up with gas one day, and did a little
calculation too see just how well I was doing on mileage. Whoa - only
22 mpg! I did a quick online lookup and discovered that, as I suspected,
a KZ650 in decent shape should be getting more like 40 miles to a gallon.
My KZ had actually been running surprisingly well all things considered
- but obviously something was not right with the carburetors. I got an
even more nasty shock when I went to check the oil level one day and found
that it had gone UP. It became quickly clear that gas was getting into
the oil somehow, and my immediate reaction was to be horrified - this
surely meant very serious problems with the engine.
Luckily, kzrider was available once again to calm me down - gas in the
oil apparently is not an uncommon thing. Often it simply means that the
mixture is seriously over-rich and that raw (unatomized) gas is therefore
getting into the cylinders, and as it is thinner than oil, it can then
seep down past the piston rings. So this all fit in with my finding that
my bike was a big-time gas guzzler. Clearly someone needed to take a really
good look at the carburetors - and with December and the start of a three-month
period of no insurance coming up, it might as well be me! After all, I
couldn't possibly make it any worse ... could I?
(TO BE CONTINUED...)