Sunday, August 3, 2008

Welcome to my new blog, Triumph of the Clueless. I thought it might be interesting to journal my adventures as a new motorcycle owner. I just purchased my first motorcycle, and her name's Pearl. She's a '77 Triumph Tiger. Being an older bike, I assume she'll need regular maintenance. Unfortunately, I don't know a thing about motorcycles - hence the name of this blog. So I suppose I'll be talking about learning to ride a bike, learning about how motorcycles work, and also any modifications or repairs I make.

And now for today's trials and tribulations: This morning I woke up early to take the motorcycle out for a ride for the first time. I only picked her up 2 days ago and this is the first opportunity I've had. Also since I'm a beginning rider and I don't feel very comfortable in traffic, I wanted to ride at a time when traffic would be minimal and I could practice - Sunday morning is perfect. So at 7AM this morning I suited up and got to it. At first Pearl wasn't very cooperative, idling a bit rough and dying before I could get her moving. But after a few minutes she was warmed up and ready to go. I ambled around the neighborhood, enjoying the empty streets. My two biggest problems: stalling at stop signs and lights, and finding neutral. The combination of these two things can make for painful intermissions from riding. After about 45 minutes I felt a bit more comfortable getting the bike moving from a dead stop, but I was still having some issues. And here's where disaster strikes. I had come to full stop at a stop sign and planned to make a left turn. There was a row of cars parked on the right side of the street I was turning onto. As I began to turn, the bike started to stall out. I tried to give it a little gas to prevent it from stalling, but I was a little heavy handed and the bike lurched forward suddenly in a wide turn - heading towards the cars parked on my right. Like an idiot I jammed on the front break while the bike was turning. Of course it went down. Since I was going all of 5 mph the only damage to me was a very small scape on my knee and a bruised ego. There was however an issue with the bike - the battery was on the street about 5 feet from the motorcycle. I remembered that the battery was not strapped into the frame, so the jolt had sent it flying. I threw the battery into the frame and pushed the bike a few blocks to my apartment.

Once I got home, I had a closer look at the bike and realized I had absolutely no idea how to hook the battery back up. Under the seat was a tangle of wires, and probably about 5 or so places that looked like they could be somewhere the two leads of the battery were to be plugged into. Now if I can't figure out how to plug in a damn battery on my own, there's no chance I'll be able to do even routine maintenance on the bike. So I pulled out my handy Haynes manual and went to it. The first step was to determine if my bike was Positive or Negative earth (for the uninitiated: basically, if the positive or negative side of the battery is grounded to the frame). The '77 TR7Vs like mine were among the last to be Positive Earth - so the positive end of the battery terminal needs to be grounded. Digging around I saw a red wire dangling loose in the harness, and following it I verified it terminated in the frame. So far so good. Reviewing the Haynes wiring diagrams, I saw the Negative end of the battery should go into the Rectifier. After some difficulty, I was able to locate it - only to discover that nothing was plugged into it. If it were being used, it should also have been wired into the Alternator. I looked around a bit more and came to the conclusion that the Zener diode had been removed from the bike. What's going on here? Finally, my attention was drawn to a small box mounted behind the battery on the rear mudguard. I noticed it had several wires coming out of it. "Tympanium" was stamped on the side. A quick check on Google turned up this very helpful page. Turns out the Tympanium box is a solid state regulator which replaces the stock Lucas Regulator and Zener diode. That's good for me, as it means the bike's electrical system should be more stable and easier to maintain. Wiring diagram in hand, I went to try to resurrect my bike. I ended up wiring as follows: loose red ground wire in the harness to positive terminal on battery, negative terminal on battery to black wire on the Tympanium unit, and red wire on Tympanium unit directly to the frame. I stuck the key in the ignition and was delighted to see that the oil light came on - we've got power! There's only one weird thing - I'm almost certain that based on the conditions of the wires when I started that this is not how it was hooked up before. Hmmm...strange. But, the lights work and I can start her up, so I'm happy. I also invested $2 in a thick rubber bungie to tie down the battery. Hopefully that'll be the last time it flies out!

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