TINKERING FOR BEGINNERS – PART 5: Adjusting valves with Hans and Rammstein

Tinkering for beginners – Part 5: Adjusting valves with Hans and Rammstein

When you want to go to the other side of the world on a motorbike, it is useful to have a little bit of technical knowledge of that motorbike. In this tinker blog series we write about our lessons and findings in the field of tinkering prior to our trip from Amsterdam to Australia. Have you already read part 1, 2 and 3? If not, please click here to go to part 1, part 2, part 3 or part 4.

After doing the basic maintenance at Erik’s motor (see: Tinkering Part 3) it is time for the next step. New tires, adjusting valves and carburetors and replace any wheel and bearings. An impressive list of activities that we absolutely cannot do alone, but we also do not want to let it be done by a (professional) garage. Not because we do not trust them, but because we won’t learn anything (have a look in the garage is mostly undesirable). The second reason to not bring our bikes to a garage is because these activities will directly downgrade our travel budget! That’s why we went looking for an expert who can guide us in this work, for a nice price.

We learned already a lot from Peter, but for our new activities it seemed a good idea to find another teacher. Someone who can explain the mechanism from a different perspective. From the moment we bought a Transalp, we were looking at the Honda Transalp Forum to read about the many technical and other adjustments Transalpers did. Here are also some artisans offering a ‘do it yourself concept’. Tinkering under the supervision of an expert. So we ended up with Hans van PJS Motorcycle Tire Services. With Hans we discussed our wishes about our tires and activities on the beforehand.

But how do you choose the right tire? That’s a really difficult question! There are tires that have been specifically provided for the highway, as well as tires made entirely for unpaved roads. So we look for the perfect ‘in between’ tires. Tires that have a potential long life and good performance on both paved and unpaved roads. After much research we ended up with the Heidenau K60 Scout, a “50-50” tire for a balanced performance on and off road. So we were ready, at least on paper 🙂 Heike and Filippo of 2livethedream wrote an interesting blog about these Heidenau’s.

On Saturday morning we are ready for departure to Elburg for a tinkerday. But after the breakfast Erik’s motorbike does not start. The hibernation was probably not very conducive to the battery. Fortunately there are plenty of cars in the yard to restart the engine. After a few seconds he runs like a charm immediately. However we start thinking…. Do we may also need to replace the battery?

Finally we go towards Elburg, where we arrive slightly over 9 o’clock. Hans is already waiting for us with fresh coffee, Rammstein from the speakers and his Honda Transalp that is shining outside the garage.

First, Hans drives on our motorbikes to determine the general condition. Bertha’s bike runs well, though he is a little slow when starting, just like a diesel. But after this dead moment he almost pulls the pavement out of the street! The general condition of Erik’s bike is just not good. Everything on the handlebar is slightly misaligned, shift pedal is just a bit too low, shift cable is not properly installed. It’s sufficient, but with the narrowest of margins. This bike needs an improvement today.

During another cup of coffee and even more Rammstein we get our first lesson about the engine of the Transalp. Where are all the plugs and valves? How can you remove it all?   We start to dismantle all caps. This is also the hardest part of the job. It is easy to remove the side caps with the trickle charger and seat lock, the panel on front side with the headlamp is quite difficult. There are many screws and the caps should be carefully removed, because otherwise it will break. The connections of the headlight and turn signals need to loose before the windshield and the cover of the dashboard can be removed.

Next, a sort of skeleton is left, it looks pretty cool. We all wonder why there are no ‘transparent’ bikes on the market so you can see the heart of the engine well. After wrestling with the caps, we start with the front and rear wheels. During our trip there is a chance that we get a flat tire, so it is important that we know how to remove and mount these wheels. Fortunately, it is not rocket science, both front and rear wheel are quite quickly to remove. This gives confidence to any tire change during our trip. At the tire mounting system of Hans, we receive the tough Heidenau K60 Scout studded tires.

During the day, a lot of people come by. A couple comes by for a new set of tires on the BMW and “scooter”, Hans his daughters and grandson come by for a  cup of coffee. There is time to help and meet everyone and everything goes with apparent ease. Tinkering with Hans is a pleasant experience.

After the tire change we start to replace the spark plugs and to adjust the valves. Two spark plugs are easy to remove with a the spark plug wrench. The other two are more difficult to find, of which one is situated near the radiator. But with a little bit of acrobatics, the other two spark plugs have also been changed. Again we cleared the job!

To make the valves visible, the covers need to be removed. The valves in our motorbikes provide the inlet of the fuel / air mixture, and exhaust combustion gases from the cylinders. Because the valves are very hot while driving, especially the exhaust valves, they expand and besides that the valve stem is longer. To compensate for this extension there must be a small space between the top of the valve stem and the rocker arm, or at least the camshaft above, between the cam or camshaft and the cam follower; the valve clearance. Modern engines often have hydraulic cam followers which automatically compensate the valve stem length with the change of oil pressure. In older motorbikes (our motorbikes are from 2005/2006), the valve position should be checked and adjusted regularly. With two small strips and with the Haynes workshop manual, that indicates what should be the minimum and maximum valve timing, the valves can be adjusted as necessary. At Bertha’s motorbike the valves are perfectly tuned. The valves at Erik’s motorbike need to be adjusted only a little.

After the valve job the motorbike may be reassembled again. We reattach the side and front covers, the windshield and dashboard. Everything in the place where it came from. The removal of the caps was compared to reattach them a simple job. Because we were busy all day, we find out that we are not that fast anymore and the whole tinkering starts to irritate us. Rammstein is still yelling from the speakers, which is not really motivating us. Meanwhile Hans works undisturbed on the power of the lights of Bertha’s bike, which did cause failure this morning. Hans lets us do our jobs. When we should have such a moment of irritation during our journey, it will be a good idea to leave everything and to grab a beer on our campsite.

But today we have a “time limit” and everything must be reinstalled. So we count a few times to ten and finally reassemble the whole motorbike. Good job! But where do those few screws coming from that have been left over?!?! In despair, we look at each other and ask Hans if he has an idea. The screws belong behind the dashboard, but it’s not a disaster if they are not attached. Relieved we breathe and give each other a high five! Next time we have to better pay attention, but for now we are more than satisfied!

After a long day, nearly 12 hours we have been working almost non-stop, the motorbikes stand outside again. We say goodbye to our teacher Hans and his band Rammstein. We grab our new helmets and drive on our finely tuned motorbikes back to Bant. It was a great day, Hans we can recommend to anyone and we’ll be back here again!

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  1. Lenie

    Wat een prachtig verhaal om te lezen. Mooi geschreven!!!!
    Succes met de schroefjes.

  2. Bertha, Erik, Dank jullie wel dat ik mocht helpen bij de voorbereiding op jullie, in mijn ogen, nu al epische trip naar Australië op de motor. Jullie werken op een bijzonder goede manier samen, ook als het wat minder gaat en dat is fijn om te zien en mee te maken. En jullie mogen altijd gebruik maken van de technische hulplijn met Nederland wanneer er onverwacht toch iets hapert of kapot gaat. Ik zal jullie zeker volgen via jullie website http://www.BEontheroad.nl Alvast een hele goede reis met veel mooie ervaringen en vooral ook veel plezier gewenst en Tot Ziens !!!!

    N.B. Met de schroefjes is het goed gekomen die zitten, dankzij Bertha, inmiddels weer veilig op hun eigen “plekje”

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