Speedometer Repair

The cable exposed next to the bracket. Behind the headlamp and under the instrument cluster.

The cable exposed next to the bracket. Behind the headlamp and under the instrument cluster.

Saturday morning, immediately following my last post, I set out to repair my speedometer cable, which had come out of the bracket that attaches it to the instrument cluster. I had some concern I’d need to replace the cable, housing and bracket entirely, but figured it was a simple enough repair to undertake in an afternoon.

I’d taken some time to look at the problem earlier in the week, so I knew already essentially what needed to be done.

The bracket partially screws and partially clamps onto the cable housing. My assumption was that the housing started to dry out and shrink. This probably wouldn’t have been an issue if I hadn’t toyed with it in order to get the instrument cluster off and on a few times when having my odometer fixed.

I set up my work space next to the bike, brought out all the tools I presumed I’d need, lit a couple of citronella candles to help keep mosquitoes at bay, and set to work.

Work AreaStep one was to remove the bracket and pull the cable housing down under the fuel tank so I could work with it while sitting on the ground. Neither caused me any fuss. A closer inspection of the housing revealed a thin metal wire coiling along the housing, the effective threading for the bracket. Inside the bracket itself was worn–out, dried rubber, most likely the reason the threading wasn’t holding anymore. I attempted to screw the bracket back on and only succeeded in uncoiling the threading from the housing.

Stripped HousingI tried a couple different methods of holding the thread in place as I wound the bracket on, including using needle–nosed vice grips to clamp the thread in place, but nothing worked. After several attempts and about 30 minutes the wire threading itself was so damaged from my abuse I opted to just snip it off. At this point it was determined that more drastic measures were going to be required to complete the repair, so I borrowed Joel’s bike and Autumn and I went to the auto parts store down the road and bought the smallest quantity of 1/4″ hose clamps we could find.

HoseClamped BracketBack at the house, I wrenched the bracket on, fixed it to the cable housing with electrical tape and then cranked the clamp down on top. Certainly not pretty, as you can see, but tugging on the bracket indicated it would get the job done. I strung the cable back up, under the handlebars and worked it into position. The needle–nose vise grips—which were loaned to me by a coworker—clamped on the locking nut while I screwed the bracket on with a pair of over–sized pliers.

The bracket is hard to get into place, and I had to make a few adjustments to the exact position of the hose clamp to keep it from scratching the back of the headlamp bucket. But I got everything in place, tightened it all down. I refilled my water and came back outside, ready to double check my work and clean up. In my double checking, I found I could tighten the bracket onto the cluster just a tad more.

It’s hard to tell if the cable is seated properly or if the bracket is all the way in place. The attachment to the cluster can spin freely, so once the bracket and the locking nut are tightened to each other, it’s still possible to turn the entire attachment unit.Attchaing Speedo

As I twisted the bracket, I could see the cable housing was not turning to match. With hardly a yank, I slid the cable right back out of the bracket. Back to square one.

This is the point at which, in most projects, the amount of effort required exceeds the enjoyment of doing it myself and I give up for the day. This isn’t a pattern I want to continue in my life and isn’t an attitude I want to have towards working on the motorcycle.

I threw my tools down in frustration, huffed and puffed a bit, paced back and forth on the tarp and was joined by Joel. We sat down together and decided the wrap the housing in electrical tape in lieu of the wire threading. Our first attempt was too thick for the bracket to fit over. We pulled it off and did a single wrap, cutting into the rubber housing a little.

Elec Tape HousingThe bracket twisted on with some effort (those needle–nose vise grips coming in handy again), and we lay the cut rubber housing over the base of the bracket, wrapped that in electrical tape and cranked the hose clamp down on top. I tugged and tugged at this setup before stringing it back under the handlebars again. It held fast. Joel tugged on it a bit himself once it was behind the headlamp bucket. Everything held firm, so we threaded the cable in place and screwed on the bracket. We tightened the locking nut and gave the cable housing a few good tugs.

My original plan called for removing the headlamp bucket entirely, for ease of access. Since my coworker lent me the needle–nose vise grips I didn’t have to remove anything in order to get to the locking nut. That was a huge help. The cable itself runs from the left side of the transmission body, under the fuel tank along the frame and the comes out just behind and under the handlebars.

Speedo Repair Feature

So with everything firmly in place, I took a few minutes to collect the discarded tape, put away the tools, roll up the tarp and blow out the not–very–useful citronella candles.

The experience of working under the canopy made me realize a couple of things: 1) Working outside in August sucks, even if you’re in the shade; 2) We really need to hang a small outdoor fan from the top of the canopy to keep the air moving.

Joel and I changed into more appropriate gear for riding—long pants, shoes and helmets, really—and set out to test the accuracy of the speedo now that we’d repaired it.

We headed down the street with him in front. He held up two fingers to indicate he was holding 20mph. The speedo read 15.

At 30mph it read 25. At 40 it read 35.

I reached forward and tried pushing up on the cable housing, to see if that would change anything. It didn’t.

Oh well.

Autumn and I had plans to head to the beach on the bike, assuming I could get the speedometer working. Knowing I was exactly 5mph under my actual speed meant I knew how fast I was going. It also gave me a good opportunity to test out the odometer—to see if it reading a reduced speed meant that it was reading fewer miles ticking by.

Autumn BikeWe loaded the saddle bags and grabbed our helmets. It was already late afternoon and we didn’t want to drive back too long after dark. Autumn found a nearby beach less than an hour away called Shell Point. I’d heard of Shell Point but couldn’t remember ever going there—not that I’ve ever made a habit of going to any beach. We mapped the route on her phone and I reset my trip-o-meter to zero.

We got about 4 miles (of 30) out of town and the bike chug-a-chugged, asking for the reserve taps to be set. I turned around, not sure how far until the next gas station and wanting to head to once I knew was on the edge of town that sells ethanol–free gas (for recreational use, as is proclaimed boldly on the pump). We filled up and I set the trip-o-meter to zero once more.

We re-routed on the phone—we were trying to check the mileage, after all—and headed south again.

The ride was was nice. Long, straight, two–lane roads, semi–canopied by trees. We drove through areas so shaded the pavement was still wet from a rain that must have come hours before. The sky was nearly cloudless and flickered in and out of view as we zipped next to Wakulla Springs State Park, the speedo reading 60.

Adam BikeAutumn sat comfortably behind me, shifting her gaze from over one shoulder to the other on occasion.

The bike responded wonderfully to the entire experience. I had the steering damper turned off (because I never remember to turn it on for those longer rides), but I felt no strain in my forearms or shoulders.

The beach was remarkable only in its lack of sand, prevalence of Oreo–stealing birds, and yellow flies. Autumn found some hermit crabs and took pictures of them, I wound up falling asleep for ten or fifteen minutes. We stayed about an hour, then took our time packing everything back up and getting changed into our riding clothes.

As we packed up the bags, an older guy pulled into the parking lot and sauntered over, asking a couple questions about the bike and telling us some stories about his own experiences riding. He warned us profusely about being safe on the road, using quite a few examples of people in the area who had died in accidents.

I really hate it when people constantly reference people dying in motorcycle accidents as a way of making their point about safety. I’m well aware that accidents are measurably more life–threatening when you’re on a motorcycle, and I know that many people have died while riding in full gear, obeying all the rules of the road and being vigilantly defensive drivers. I’m also keenly aware that I am not the one rider who will never have an accident, that the things which happen to other riders can and likely will happen to me.

I don’t know how the larger motorcycling community feels about referring to specific rider deaths when talking about safety—maybe it’s a faux pas, maybe it’s accepted behavior—but I find it both disrespectful and not useful—especially when the rider who lectures you about safety then goes on to say that he does not wear a helmet because not wearing it makes him more safety–conscious. [This, I realize, is something of an ad hominem assumption.]

We were on the bike and well on our way home before the sun got too close to the horizon, though my arms were thankful for the break in the heat. I got a visor–full of giant dragonfly about halfway back, probably going about 70mph. The ride back was really nice, the distant clouds catching the very beginning of the sunset and giving off hints of purples and oranges. Ahead there were some thick clouds, but the air felt so clean I wasn’t expecting any rain.

We got a little sprinkle as we came into town, I dodged east about a mile and was able to (just by chance) avoid what looked like heavier ran. The cooler, wet air was welcome after a long ride in the damp Florida heat.

Once home I checked the speedometer cable again and it was still holding. The odometer was accurate to the miles we’d put on the bike since filling up.

Autumn and I cooked [sweet potato chips!] and crashed after a long day.

The next morning, Sunday, I woke up and met the geezers for breakfast. Checked the odometer before and after. Then Autumn, Joel and I rode to my parents’ house. On the way home from their house I glanced down and saw my speedometer was reading zero while we were clearly whizzing down a main road. At the next red light I leaned forward to inspect the cable housing and found it had fallen out of the bracket once more. I showed Autumn and Joel when we got to the house and they both threw up their hands in frustration. I guess the next step is to get a new cable, housing and bracket and install that.

It’s frustrating that it wasn’t able to work, though, to be honest, it’s mostly frustrating because I just want to know how many god–damn miles to the gallon I’m getting and right now I haven’t a fucking clue.

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