January 1, 2008
Miscellaneous parts from my 2002 KTM 300MXC, before its
sale to Oak Park, Illinois buddy Steve Pierson. Yeah, I
cleaned them in the kitchen sink. And the bath tub. Because
I can.
January 4, 2008
The good news: the Fighting Illini earned a trip to the Rose
Bowl for the first time since 1984. The bad news: like in '84,
we got smoked by a Pac-10 team playing what amounted,
more or less, to a home game for them. But I was there, it
was a blast, and I'd go again in an instant. The Orange &
Blue took over an entire golf course before the game, in
what was the largest tailgate party I've ever seen. You can't
beat Pasadena on New Years.
January 15, 2008
This was one of the best Christmas gifts ever (thanks, Mom
& Dad). I'm only about halfway through it all, but so far it
couldn't be more enjoyable (that's what she said).
February 3, 2008
If you've ever visited Chicago in January, you may have
noticed a bit of a chill in the air. It's cold here in the winter. I
would say too cool to ride, but every time I see single digits
on
Big Bird's thermometer, I pass a guy or gal cruising
down the street on a bicycle. Craziness defined. Hibernation
is okay for web surfing and other stuff, which in past years
has led to
this and that, but the legs take some time to
wake up in the Spring. This year I decided it was time for a
change.

Before you ask why I didn't simply sign up for spin class
instead of ordering up a
CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer, I'll digress
with some casual observations (read: rants) about health
clubs, because apparently they are the only place to spin in
Chicago. The idea of signing a membership contract, which
in its simplest form is the club's way of guilting you into
spending a warm, sunny day indoors when you'd rather be
hammering trails at
Palos, but you go to the club instead
because there's money being sucked out of your checking
account (gotta love electronic funds transfer) for months or
even years at a time, and you desperately want to avoid
being one of "those people" who join in January and can
then count on one hand how many times they worked out
between March and December...well, let's just say I am
somewhat opposed to the concept. That is why I do not
spin.

Which leads us back to the CycleOps trainer.
Sting is
attached to the trainer and I pedal against its fluid
resistance until the downstairs neighbors get annoyed
enough to ask me to stop. Sleepy hibernating legs no
more....
February 10, 2008
Grease...it's the word when it comes to one of my winter
rituals: cleaning and lubricating the rear suspension
components of my motorcycles. Over the course of a riding
season, they get dirty.
Real dirty. On the left we have the
swingarms of my
Kawasaki KX250 and my Gas Gas 300EC.
In the center are the springs and the shocks, freshly
serviced by
W.E.R. Racing. On the right are the linkages
that connect the shocks to the swingarms and also perform
some tricks of physics involving leverage ratios and other
stuff only a true gearhead can appreciate. To put this photo
into a perspective almost anyone can comprehend, these
are approximately $2,000 worth of parts on my kitchen
counter.

Servicing of the complex internals of the shocks are left to
Drew Smith's expertise at W.E.R. Racing, but the remaining
components are carefully bathed in generous helpings of
WD-40, lovingly pampered with Bounty Extra Soft quilted
paper towels, gently lubricated with super-slippery water
resistant grease and then reassembled, after which a full
racing season will subject them to more abuse than a
first-year investment banking analyst.

It's a labor of love, and one that can be quantified in this
way: for every hour I race, I spend the same amount of
time (or more) cleaning and maintaining the bikes. There's
no better place to do this in February than within arms
reach of a Corona-stocked refrigerator.
February 16, 2008
Let's say you're a thirty-something single guy and tired of
receiving the same old junk mail. Credit card solicitations,
DVD clubs, Adam & Eve...stuff shows up in the mailbox
every week, boring and repetitive (except the porn, that
never goes out of style). You're probably thinking, "But I
have no control over my junk mail." Well, you're wrong. All
it takes is this:

Change your demographic!

That's right, let the mass marketers know you're no longer
a single male in his mid-thirties. Today, you're a 70-year-old
married man with adult children and some grandkids. How
can this apparent impossibility be accomplished? Simple.
Walk into any branch of
Harris Bank, open a savings
account, and set up your dad as the account beneficiary
(i.e. the person who gets your money if you die). The rest
takes care of itself*. Within a few weeks, your mailbox will
open you up to a whole new world of supplemental Medicare
insurance,
AARP membership, discount prescription drugs,
and my personal favorite,
The SCOOTER Store!  Just look
how happy people are while regaining their mobility on hella
badass scooters. My mind has truly been opened - to what,
I'm not sure. But I do like them scooters....


*You may ask, "John, aren't there laws prohibiting my
financial institution from sharing (a/k/a selling) my private
customer data to parties outside of the Harris family of
companies?" That is true. But come on, Harris Bank
preventing you from enjoying direct marketing? That, my
friend, would be a real crime.

  1. Right fork from my 2004 Kawasaki KX250
  2. Damping rod
  3. Damping rod holder tool
  4. Bastard file connected to DeWalt cordless drill
  5. China's best version of a 20mm wrench from Harbor
    Freight for holding the end of #3 above
  6. Second 20mm wrench from Harbor Freight set, which
    included two 20mm wrenches but no 19mm wrench
    (click here to see how you turn a 20mm wrench into
    a 19mm wrench)
  7. 19mm wrench
  8. Bottom end of compression valve stack
  9. Torque wrench
  10. 14mm Allen socket for removing/installing #8 above
  11. Medium strength thread lock for #8 above
  12. Best use for a picture of Britney Spears (my
    apologies to Jack Johnson and Ivan Tedesco)

This, my friends, is how you service a set of forks in the
comfort of your own kitchen. For those who know me well
and have keen observation skills, a few questions might
arise from this photo:

  • Why did the King of Cheap purchase a $35 factory
    tool? (see #3 above) Answer: I got lazy. I could
    have made a trip down to the farm and rigged up
    Dad's 12-ton shop press to compress the forks
    enough to keep that daggone damper apparatus
    from spinning inside the fork tubes while I torqued
    the valve assembly (#8 above), but the Internet and
    Ron Ayers Motorsports made it just too easy (the
    handy PVC tool for the '03 KX250 didn't work on the
    '04 forks; otherwise, I'd have preserved my
    reputation for cheapness).

  • What's the purpose of a bastard file? Answer: when
    you buy said factory tool and discover that the
    factory didn't bother to de-burr the inside of said
    tool and it doesn't fit properly around the outside of
    the damper rod, you need the bastard file. And a drill
    helps.

Just another day in the life....
March 4, 2008
This one's going to take some explanation, so let's break it
down into parts:
March 13, 2008
Another rite of Spring...the rebuilding of motorcycle
engines. This Kawasaki KX250 cylinder was actually the first
of two to grace the surface of my kitchen counter top, the
other being the heart of my Gas Gas 300EC. Those
odd-shaped metal pieces in the lower left corner are the
components of the most complicated power valve assembly
I've ever seen. Without the Internet at my disposal, those
pieces would still be lying on my kitchen counter. Thankfully,
all parts found their places inside the cylinder and the
engine fired up just fine.

Racing season begins in 3 days....
March 24, 2008
What we have here is either the coolest thing I will do this
summer, or the dumbest thing I've ever done in my life.
This is a waiver of my rights to claim stupidity as an
excuse for riding my bicycle 471 miles across Iowa within
a 7 day period in July. The event is called
RAGBRAI.
Entries are limited to 10,000 riders, who make overnight
stops in small towns in Iowa over the course of a week.
It's big deal. However, apparently there is some level of
danger and potential pain involved in all of this. A
sampling of what I just agreed to:

  • "I realize that RAGBRAI events require physical
    conditioning." You mean I have to pedal the bike?
    Myself? Crap.
  • "I am aware that the risk of injury or death is always
    present in biking...." All these years, I thought
    injury and death only applied to motorized biking.
  • "I acknowledge that I am signing this agreement
    freely and voluntarily...." They got me there. I see
    there is no opt-out for mental incapacity, otherwise
    there'd be no reason for anyone to sign the waiver.

So there you have it - mark this day on your calendar,
folks...the day John finally lost his mind, for good this
time. Should be a hell of a ride.
March 30, 2008
It's arrived...the only totally new thing I bought for the
2008 racing season (engine parts don't count).
Thor
supplied the chest protector (via my hard-earned cash) and
the number plate came from
BRM Offroad. Now everyone
will know who they're passing in the woods.
Page Index
January - March 2008
The Kitchen Counter Archives