CX500 handlebar surgery

I’ve put off modifying my CX500 for a while. Mostly due to lack of time and funds. My ignition switch started randomly cutting out on me, and since I had to take the bars off to get to it, I thought it might be a good time to “chop and flop” the bars  for a more sporty riding position.  This is an idea I had after seeing the grab bar made out of bmx bars a couple of posts ago.

Stock bars

Stock bars

I cut a couple of inches out of each side. I’m not really sure how you’re _supposed_ to measure where to cut, so I eyeballed it, marked with tape, then checked that the tape marks were parallel with the bottom (clamping area) of the bars. Seemed to have worked ok. I cut some small sections of pipe off an old mic stand I had in the scrap bin and welded them inside the handlebars. This probably wasn’t necessary, but since my welding is pretty bad, I figured it would give me a little bit of safety cushion – if the welds give, the inner pipe should keep the bars from completely falling apart.

Chopped

Chopped

I tacked them up and test fit them on the bike. Master cylinder was totally in the way of where I wanted them to be. It was hitting the turn signal pod. I pulled the pods off while formulating a plan for the turn signals.. Up to this point I still didn’t have a clear vision for what I wanted the front end to look like. I had been thinking about putting the cx500 Custom headlight bracket on, but lately I’ve been thinking about trying to stay with the standard’s mini fairing; especially after discovering that there are little windscreens that fit them. I came up with a way to integrate the form of the turn signals into the fairing. To do this and make more room for the master cylinder, I chopped off the signal pod arms.

Chopped signal pod stalk

Chopped signal pod stalk

Back to the bars.. The shape wasn’t the greatest, but I was working with a lot of limitations. (restricted by the tank / back of the fairing and also the existing curves of the bars) I settled on a shape and made a half-assed jig on my work bench with C-clamps and files to keep the curves where I wanted them. My welds were ugly, but I think I got decent penetration. once cleaned up with the grinder and flap wheel, they looked ok.

Welded in pseudo jig

Welded in pseudo jig

Here they are on the bike in the position I ended up with. Trying to reroute cables to account for the excess length was a PITA. I’m not totally happy with it. There is still some tweaking to be done. I rode it around the block and it was kind of painful to disengage the clutch in this position. I don’t know if it’s just a bad hand position or  if the snaking of the clutch cable under the tank is making it harder to pull.. It was pretty stiff in the first place. You can also see a bit of my turn signal plan here, but I’ll save the rest of that for later.

Back on the bike

Back on the bike

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Motorcycle customization with found parts.

I like to keep an eye on the CX500 forum‘s “customizations” section to see interesting approaches to modifying these little bikes. I saw one yesterday that I thought was creative enough from a design standpoint to share.

Many motorcycles have a grab bar around the back seat. It’s purpose is for a passenger to hold on to, hence the name. One of the most popular modifications to CX500’s (and other bikes) is to put a smaller seat on. As such, the grab bar gets modified to match the new seat. In this case, the poster uses a set of BMX handlebars as source material for his new grab bar. This is a great idea, because he gets the curves he needs without having to do any bending. (tube bending requires expensive mandrel benders to do properly)

A handlebar becomes a grab bar

A handlebar becomes a grab bar

Of course this got me thinking about sources for inexpensive BMX handlebars to chop up. My go to for such things is Sidewall Distribution, and they didn’t disappoint this time. They always seem to have some closeout and promo deals. They’ve got a couple of options on $10 chromoly handlebars, so I may grab a set or two in case I decide to go this way on my motorcycle.

IDSA Midwest Design Dialog Conference..

This past weekend I attended the Industrial Designers Society of America, Midwestern Design Dialog Conference. This was the first design conference I’ve been to, so I really didn’t know what to expect.. Unfortunately, our school-provided transportation didn’t run early enough for me to check out the workshops, so really, for me, the whole thing consisted of a bunch of 25 minute talks. I have to admit that I was pretty bummed out that all I got for my $175 registration fee was a “live” version of watching TED talks on Youtube, and free beer at an after party put on by my own school. I suppose I should acknowledge some other benefits though:

Evolve flyerOf the approximately 6 total vendor booths, one of them was useful. They were promoting a new software that the marketing material suggested was named “Evolve”. It is both NURBS and parametric, which is particularly helpful for industrial designers; saving the step of translation of a pretty Rhino model to a manufacturable SolidWorks model. The spokesman told me the software was free for students, which is awesome because neither Rhino or SolidWorks are free. When I got home and tried to find the software, I couldn’t find anything called Evolve, but further review of their handbill sent me to the site of a company called solidThinking who have a product called solidThinking, which I assume is what they were actually advertising? I couldn’t find any free student downloads so I sent them an email inquiry.. still haven’t heard back.

 
Another benefit, albeit not design related, was getting to chat for a bit with Dave Mucci from the moto mucci blog. For the uninitiated, his blog is mostly about nice looking motorcycles including his own CX500 project, which I snapped a photo of in person. It turns out that he is an Industrial designer and works at TEAMS, the design studio where we had our senior show.

 

 

Getting back to the talks.. There were a handful of good ones, some boring ones, and a few that totally seemed like ego trips. (Sorry Motorola) The theme was “Exploring creative fusion”, although from what I took away, it should have been “The rise of the design proletariat”.  Perhaps my personal leanings steered me towards this perception, but I think it was backed up by Chris Pacione’s talk “Design Literacy: Why Design is Emerging as the Next Pervasive Human Literacy” and Zach Kaplan’s “Bringing the Factory to the Desktop”. The latter yielded a great find in Zach’s Inventables.com which is kind of like a hardware store for the modern DIYer.  Joe Graceffa from IDEO had a nice talk regarding the necessity to include fun in the design lifestyle, that interestingly referenced a “for fun” project that his office outsourced to an Etsy seller.

There were other good topics, especially “Mobile apps must die”; a call to kill off ultra specific, redundant apps, and replace them with a system of local area service discovery. I guess I’d like to focus on the idea of DIY encroaching on design though. I’m pretty new to this game, only really knowing what Industrial design is since 2009, and only now starting a graduate program regarding it. I get the creeping feeling that “professional” part of it is about to fall out, much the way it did with computers and IT in the 90’s. Now, as then, the tools are just becoming more readily available. Then it was the IBM PC, now it’s the 3D printer. I feel like maybe the design industry should be thinking about how to collaborate more readily with the DIYer. Certainly there can be a synergistic relationship.

So yeah.. My first design conference was an interesting experience, and quite a bit different than the Independent music conferences I’m used to.  There were some valuable tidbits to be had, but at the same time, I really don’t think it was worth $175. I doubt I’ll go back next year. Until then, I’ll just keep watching TED talks for free.

 

I bought a motorcycle..

So I bought a motorcycle a couple of weeks ago. For a while I’ve been keeping an eye towards craigslist for a cheap motorcycle, mostly so I could save a little money on gas driving back and forth from work. I’d had an interest in the 1970’s Honda CB series, which was a prime choice for cheapness, but after seeing a Honda CX in person and realizing that they are water cooled and shaft driven, ( which equals longevity and potentially less maintenance) I included them in my notice list. I’d kind of set an arbitrary price limit at $500. A non-running CX showed up on craigslist for $400, and while I was mulling it over, another showed up for $180. Thinking it would get snatched up quickly since CX’s are quickly becoming a target of folks doing “cafe racer” conversions, I called the guy and went to get it.

1980 Honda CX500

1980 Honda CX500

I think it was a little more ratty than I had expected, but in reality, it’s not bad at all. The guy bought it for a project but found a running CX before he got around to working on this one. Word from the person he bought it from was that the CDI box was dead. I talked him down to $120 and took it home.

Tank and seat off

Tank and seat off

I’ve been slowly picking it apart to make sure that the CDI is indeed the problem and see if anything else needs to be done. Short of an open resistor in one of the plug boots, everything is seeming ok. I was lucky enough to get in on a group purchase for the Inigtech CDI replacement box through www.cx500forum.com. These units seem to be the only drop in replacement for the OEM CDI boxes, and a lot of CX riders are using them successfully. Shipping from the Czech republic is a little spendy, but when you figure that this will last a heck of a lot longer than a 30+ year old used CDI (including a 2 year warranty) AND give you the ability to program your spark curves, it’s kind of a no-brainer.

I also made the decision to send the carbs out for rebuilding rather than do it myself. I’m no stranger to freshening up carburetors, at one point I could do a Quadrajet in about 15 minutes, but these Keihin units appear to be a bit more complicated, and my free time is pretty limited. After crawling around honda motorcycle message boards for a while, I found that Larry Cargill, the guy who literally “wrote the book” on working on these carbs also did rebuilds. I saw a lot of his procedural photos, and realized that even on my best day there is no way I could be that thorough. He sonic cleans everything and reopens the jets and passages to OEM sizes down to the thousandth.

Once I get these two pieces on and the engine running, I’ll have to give the brakes a little attention. The front brake master cylinder is trashed. I ordered a cheapo master cylinder and lever from ebay for $25 that should be plug and play. Hopefully autozone can turn the rotor.