Transportation Anxiety

P1110991 WPThere have been events in this lifetime that have caused me some extreme anxiety; making the decision to leave my first wife, watching my brother die over a period of months, etc.

Transportation anxiety is not on the same order of magnitude as those events. It isn’t accompanied by high stress levels and it doesn’t border on neurosis. But it is real enough. I am in my seventh decade of this life and it is the only significant anxiety that I experience with any regularity. It is a regular event because it occurs whenever I perform maintenance on my motorcycle, which happens every 4,000 miles.

Sometimes, when regular maintenance only requires an oil change, oil filter change, and a cleaning of the K&M air filter, the anxiety is only a whisper. At other times, like my most recent maintenance session, additional, more intricate work is required, such as a valve adjustment, and the anxiety comes upon me like a high tide, particularly when something unexpected stops or delays the process.

My most recent maintenance session started a few days ago and the necessary work included a valve adjustment. According to the manufacturer (Yamaha), valves on the Road Star only need to be “checked” every 16,000 miles, so thankfully the check or adjustment doesn’t have to be done too frequently. I last adjusted the valves on this Road Star (I’ve had two) at 32,000 miles and the bike is now in the short approach to 68,000 miles, since until recently, I’ve had no reason to believe that they were out of adjustment. On recent rides I’ve noticed that the bike has been backfiring during deceleration, which is very common with V-Twin engines, but never happened with this bike before. 

P1110998 WPValve adjustment is a long process that requires the removal of the gas tank, both cylinder head covers, the shift rod assembly, the left side footrest assembly, the decompression solenoid cover, the timing inspection cover, and the camshaft cover. The valves can then be checked and/or adjusted as needed. Then one can reassemble everything (and hope that the adjustments made were correct).

My most recent valve adjustment was stopped for a time because of a glitch in the documentation. I’ve been using the Clymer service manual as a guide for years and it had been so long since I did a valve adjustment that I didn’t remember that there is a step missing from the manual. I got everything disassembled except the cam cover. When I tried to remove the cam cover, it wouldn’t budge. I knew it should pop off when all of the bolts were removed, since it was only held in place by a liquid gasket material, but despite my best efforts, I was unsuccessful.

I began experiencing the high tide of transportation anxiety. Because there were high winds that day, I’d left the cylinder head covers on after removing the bolts. I could see dust in the air at times, so I’d already decided to wait a day to do the actual adjustment, because I didn’t want any dust in the engine. I worried at the problem with the cam cover all night.

The next day I sat on a milk crate staring at the cover for several minutes after another unsuccessful attempt to pry it loose with my fingers. After a few minutes, the light bulb finally came on: The front cylinder’s exhaust pipe clears the cam cover by less than a quarter inch, so I can’t use my fingers to check for an additional bolt under the pipe and out of sight. I removed the bolts from the exhaust pipe and muffler and dropped the assembly down. An additional cover bolt was clearly revealed. After I removed the bolt, the cover popped off easily.

I mentally abused the management at Clymer and the “Technical Writer” they hired for a few minutes, then located a pen and wrote the missing step in the manual. The tide of anxiety quickly receded.