What are the different engine configurations?
Single: Called a “thumper.” Most dirt bikes, many small motorcycles, and the
Inline Twin: two pistons side by side.
V-twin: Harley Davidsons, Ducatis, Honda Hawk and Superhawk, Moto Guzzi, and
a couple of Suzukis including the wonderful SV650. The 90-degree twin is
very well balanced; other angles may or may not be, depending on whether the
crankshaft has one pin or two.
Flat-twin: classic BMW design offers good balance and cooling.
Inline-three: Three pistons in a line. Triumph and BMW K75.
Inline-four: Staple of the UJM or “Universal Japanese Motorcycle,” found in
everything from the 400cc Honda CB-1 to the 1200CC BMW K1200. In the UJM
it’s mounted with the crankshaft sideways; in the BMW K it’s mounted with
the crankshaft aimed north-south and the pistons off to the left.
V-four: Honda VFR 800 (sideways) and ST1100 (longitudinal): smooth like a
four and balanced like a twin.
Flat-six: Honda Gold Wing and Valkyrie: smooth torque monster with low
center of gravity.
What are these configurations all for?
Each is a different solution for the task of putting a small, large,
powerful, efficient, loud, quiet and smooth engine into a motorcycle. An
engine with more pistons has smaller components that can move more quickly,
but is more complicated.
What is suitable to learn especially for a woman?
You can buy a small used dirt or trail bike, take it to the desert or woods
and learn how to ride. When trail riding, you learn how to keep the bike
upright, how to drop it if you have to, and how to negotiate rocks, sand,
and other obstacles like trees and potholes. After learning the basics you
can go out and buy the big bike. Make sure both your feet are flat on the
ground when in the sitting position so you can hold the bike up. You can't
be on tip toes on big bikes. A side wind at a traffic light will blow you
over sideways, easily. You can have the bike lowered or buy a seat with less
padding. The important factor is comfort. Is the bike too heavy for you? Big
bikes do require some strength. Harleys easily get into the 700 lbs area.
That's why the Sportster still sells, it is a small Harley and it sounds
Any good advice to prevent a mechanical break down?
Torque the spark plugs to spec before going on a long trip. When stopped for
fuel, look at the plugs and see if they are leaking. The spark plug gets
loose in a Harley and it will strip the threads badly and the cylinder will
fail. It won't be cheap or fast to fix. Each morning, check for oil stains
on floor; a seal may be leaking. If you notice smudge spots on your drive
sprocket or rear wheel it is a sign an oil leak is developing. Check your
oil levels often if you see stains or oil drips developing. Harleys are not
as reliable as the Japanese bikes. Once more thing; keep your gas tank above
1/2 full. This way you won't run out of gas.
Should I use oil additives?
Yes. You will notice engine noise decreases, fuel mileage and power
increases. These products reduce friction and heat in the. Just use it in
the engine oil, not the transmission and primary. If you have a bike that
uses the same oil for engine, transmission and clutch, Dura Lube will be
fine to use. It is a good idea to keep your fuel filter, lines and injectors
clean, so do use additives at least once each month of riding. It is no fun
being broken down because of a clogged gas line.
Why does my back brake pad wear out faster than my front brake pad?
Your foot is much stronger than your hand and applies a lot of pressure even
when you seem to just be pressing the brake pedal lightly. This is the
primary reason the back pad wears faster. Secondary reason is many riders
still fear applying strong hand pressure to the front brake, fearing a skit
or flip. Consider using the front brake all of the time and only use the
back and front brakes together when needing to stop quickly. This will allow
both brakes to wear out at the same time. If you feel this is unsafe, then
just do what you feel is best for you.
How should I get a tailgater off my back?
Slow down little by little. Often the tailgater will change lanes and pass
you. If not, slow down and pull over if you can. If you can't pull over then
wave the driver to pass you. It is always better to just pull over and let
the tailgater pass by if you can. Don't speed up and allow the tailgater to
stay on your tail at speed.
Riding with others?
You must keep in formation and if a rider falls out of formation everybody
needs to readjust to a lane change to maintain a staggered formation.
Breaking the formation will create huge gaps in the line causing many to get
hung up at lights and create collisions with other bikes. Put the most
sensible riders who know how to keep a group of bikes together in the front.
How can I tell a motorcycle repair shop is fair and square?
Word of mouth is a good indicator the shop or dealer is fair to work with.
Every business (even authorised Harley Davidson dealers) has sales and
ongoing discounts any day of the week, but the "stingy" dealer will not and
is out to take the biker for a ride. Personal dealing with the manager and
owner of the shop and how you are treated is a good indicator.
Loading big bikes into heavy trucks
If you want to load your big bike alone without assistance it can be done,
but you need to do your research. Buy a ramp that breaks down and folds up
so it can be placed along both sides of the bike in the truck. You could buy
a motorcycle rack to be welded on to the rear I-beams, but the bike must be
less than 450 pounds or the towing geometry will be affected and that could
cause you to lose control and crash. It's not going to work with big heavy
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