A Quick Canyon Ride

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A freight train in San Timoteo Canyon. Made with a Canon PowerShot A400.

Before the ride through San Timoteo Canyon, I had adjusted the valves on the Road Star many (many) days before, part of the scheduled maintenance on the bike. All of the maintenance took me 10 days (ten days, damnit!) because of the bad business practices of Chaparral Motorsports.

On a Saturday during the tear-down phase of the valve adjustment it became apparent that I needed to replace the fuel petcock, which fell apart after nearly 68,000 miles. I wanted to have the part at hand so I could install it during assembly after I made the adjustment, so the bike would be back in service as soon as possible. It was obvious that the valve adjustment was needed, since the bike was backfiring during deceleration. There’s always some back pressure noise with V-Twin engines, but this was actual firing, something the bike had never done before. It also made some sense that it would need the adjustment because the last time I had done that was at 32,000 miles and the factory recommends that the valves be checked every 16,000 miles (as long as everything sounded and ran right I ignored the factory schedule).

The smart thing to do would have been to pick up the phone and order it from No Pork Motorsports, but I was being somewhat boneheaded that day and I wanted to get the part in my hands “now”. Because I was anxious about getting the part in my hands quickly, I violated my own personal policy of only ordering parts from No Pork. I checked Chaparral’s Web site, which informed me that the part was “In Stock”. I drove the car to San Bernardino to pick up the part. I only drive the car or travel to San Bernardino when it is necessary. At the parts counter I was informed that the part was in stock and they would have it three days after they ordered it.

“Wait.” I said. “Either the part is in stock or it isn’t. In stock only means one thing: that it is here in the store. Somewhere else in the world is not in stock. I already knew that the part existed somewhere in the world. Apparently your Web site is broken.”

The result of my shot fired over the bow was that the part could be ordered. Since I was standing at the parts counter (and NoPork would have to order the part also) I went ahead and ordered it. I was assured that the part would arrive three days after it was ordered (translation: the following Thursday).

I drove to Chaparral the following Thursday to pick up the part. The part had not arrived and would not arrive until the following Monday. I phoned the following Monday at midday to check on the part. It had arrived, but had not been transferred to the Part Department. I was told that I would receive a phone call when the petcock was at the parts counter and ready to be picked up. Since that business closes the doors at 8:00 pm, it took over six hours to not get the part to the counter and/or not phone me about it.

I picked up the part the next morning, ten days after I ordered it, took it home and installed it, finishing the “routine” maintenance on the bike. The valve adjustment had been finished many days before, along with an oil change, new oil filter, and a cleaning of the K&N air filter, etc. I had also missed two of the best riding days we’d had this winter.

Then came the “moment of truth”. Had I adjusted the valves correctly or not? When I started the bike, it fired immediately, then settled into a beautiful sounding rumble. The valves were slightly quieter than before and sounded right. Over the next few days I was only able to make short trips in the city, so I couldn’t get a good feel for the way the valves were acting, but they seemed alright and I couldn’t get the bike to backfire on deceleration on the relatively long stretches between some of the traffic lights in town.

Finally, on Saturday I was able to take the bike out on a test ride through San Timoteo Canyon. It wasn’t a great day for riding; overcast and cool with a threat of rain. But the 59 mile round-trip was just long enough to be able to tell that the Road Star is running strong and right, as usual. 

I should have known better, given earlier, similar interactions with the company, but the result of my part acquisition “adventure” is that I have a new policy:

Never order parts from Chaparral again.

It is obvious that the company has no interest in providing service, though they were quite happy to take my money. I’ll look for a suitable chunk of granite to carve the new policy on…

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