How much oil is the right amount?

Pay special attention to the fill line. You should be able to see the oil level in the window.

Pay special attention to the fill line. You should be able to see the oil level in the window.

Recently, I’ve come across a few bikes in my garage where the right amount of oil has made the difference between a cheap repair and a major one.

I just want to remind you if you do perform your own maintenance, to pay careful attention to the amount of oil you’re putting inside your engine.

For racers: Depending on the type of racing you’re doing, sometimes more oil is recommended to prolong the life of your engine. If you’re racing sidecars and are running oil baffles, it’s good to run a quart or more over the usual amount to make sure you don’t starve your bottom end (crankshaft and connecting rods) for oil. This may seem like you’re going against the grain, but the added oil ensures the extra lubrication reaches the connecting rod and crankshaft bearings under high rev scenarios like hard first gear take-off’s, high rev drives into corners and extended time in the higher r.p.m.’s in the straights. When you’re racing, it doesn’t take much to spin a bearing, so in your case remember “lube is your friend.”

For street riders: Your sight window on the clutch cover is your assurance that the right amount of oil is in your engine. If you’re can’t see the top of the oil level in the window, you have too much oil in the engine. Don’t fret though, because you can simply unscrew the drain bolt enough to drain the excess oil if you go over the recommended limit. Make sure to let the engine cool first, as the oil will be hot.

Also, if your motor utilizes a screw-in type oil dip stick, make sure to screw in the dip stick until it seats into the case, then unscrew it to check the oil. If you merely touch the top of the dip stick to the case without screwing it in, you may think the motor has enough oil if it reaches the full line, but you could in fact, be over.

Lastly, don’t forget to let the bike idle for two to three minutes after an oil change. Once the bike is warm, let it sit for another two to three minutes, then check the oil level again to add or take away as necessary.

Excerpt from the 2010 Kawasaki ZX-6R service manual.

Excerpt from the 2010 Kawasaki ZX-6R service manual.

These simple details can mean the difference between a happy engine and a complete top end rebuild. If you over fill the oil, the pressure from the excess oil could force it’s way past the piston rings into the cylinder, causing the spark plugs to foul and the engine to lose compression or power. In which case, you’d have to remove the top end and repair the damage, which could require several hours of expensive labor time. If you have over filled the oil, you will see blue smoke coming out of the tail pipe. This is a bad sign. The sooner you catch the mistake, the better.

I recommend purchasing the service manual for your motorcycle if you plan to do your own maintenance. It has a wealth of information and as long as you follow it, you can stave off the high costs of a mechanic.


Rough Season for Syck Bubblegum

Jeff Godfrey and Michelle Ducky Hovanec in the thick of a sidecar pile

Jeff Godfrey and Michelle Ducky Hovanec in the thick of a sidecar pile

Before the crash, Michelle and Jeff G. managed to acquire a few trophies while the goin' was good.

Before the crash, Michelle and Jeff G. managed to acquire a few trophies while the goin’ was good.

It’s been a tough season for Syck Bubblegum to say the least. What started off with a lot of optimism definitely ended up with events testing both the patience and endurance of all involved. But if I’ve learned something about Heather Rowe and Michelle Ducky Havonec, it is that they’re not quitters.

With the loss of her first partner at the beginning of the season, Heather set out to find a new one and that’s when she met Michelle. Michelle rode for the first time with Jeff Godfrey (who flew out for a brief time from Australia) on Syck Bubblegum at Victorville and placed third in the main. Then Michelle rode with Jeff Rowe on Superbeast, the R1 powered sidehack, at Pirate. If you don’t know what to expect, nor what muscles are needed to hold onto a sliding beast on three wheels, the fact that Michelle dove in with no experience is my definition of pure balls. But Michelle’s luck ran out at Costa Mesa, where she injured her leg.

During Michelle and Heather’s first team appearance at Pirate Speedway, several hands were involved in Syck Bubblegum’s set-up and with a quarky throttle cable and hard starting issue, Heather and Michelle found themselves dead in the water at the starting line. It was a disappointing first showing for the twosome, but they were determined to keep practicing until the next race.

While Heather and Jeff G. were racing at Industry Hills Grand Arena, however, Jeff found himself in a gaggle of third wheels and whipping clouds of sand. While doing his best to snap the handlebars back from oblivion, Heather was sent flying off Syck Bubblegum’s keel, head first into the dirt.

The sidecars are one of speedway’s most grandiose yet dreaded attractions as without the presence of much safety precautions, racing sidecars in the United States is an extremely dangerous sport, especially for the monkey’s riding the sidecars stern with nothing much to hold onto other than a grab rail, a piece of the rider in front of them and the floor board. Broken limbs, broken backs, fingers and collar bones are common, and those who are said to love this sport are just a hair short of bonkers. In the words of a spectator, “Every time my wife hears these guys get onto the track, she disappears. She’s fascinated by them but they freak the heck out of her!”

Unfortunately, Heather’s get-off sealed her season for her, as she suffered a severe case of whiplash after the fact and will probably spend the rest of the season recuperating. With Heather and Michelle both suffering injuries, they will have to wait until next season to get back behind the bars.

A starting line shot with Jeff G. and Heather.

A starting line shot with Jeff G. and Heather.

In the aftermath of injury and mayhem, Jeff Rowe, Heather’s husband attempted to resurrect Syck Bubblegum after Jeff Godfrey’s departure by racing it at the track himself. However, Ms. Bubblegum seemed hesitant to leave her usual suspects at the sidelines and declined to start, running with two cold cylinders. After checking the header pipes, it appears one of Ms. Bubblegum’s pick-up coils decided to conk out, perhaps out of sympathy for her team. Still, she will have to remain in the garage until she is repaired and perhaps, her cohorts are ready to return behind the bars.

Until next year when the dirt is flying and the audience is gasping with clasped fingers and phones held out to capture the carnage, I bid you goodbye until the racing starts once again.

Racing photo, mid-drift through the corner.

Racing photo, mid-drift through the corner.

A corner shot of Jeff G. and Heather.

A corner shot of Jeff G. and Heather.

MI Featured Rider of the Week: Living Brakes, Heather Rowe

Photo by Tony T-Bone Colombini from Blacktop Magazine.

Heather Rowe has an interesting hobby. She likes to hang her “ass” off the edge of a Sidehack, which is a speedway motorcycle with a third wheel attached. She races with her husband at local Southern California speedways every chance they get. The Sidehack has a 1000 cc motor and no brakes, which Heather says is the fun part! The Sidehack can reach speeds up to 100 mph in the dirt, which can get exciting when you have several Sidehacks racing on a small oval course enclosed by a wall.

Husband and wife team – Heather and Jeff – in action.

“People love the Sidehacks,” she says. “It’s pretty strange to see a person driving while another person hangs their ass over in the dirt.” Since the Sidehacks have no brakes, the person hanging off acts as a brake as they shift their weight over the back axle, thus helping to propel the machine out of a corner and avoid the wall.

Heather and Jeff having some fun between races.

So what is it like to hang your body off a slammed, over powered machine in the dirt? Heather says “It’s like a dance with an 80-year-old woman who wants to kick your ass!” I’d assume you’d have to be a racer to understand what that means, but I’ve met some pretty tough old ladies, so I can relate.

Superbeast Sidehack racing under the lights.

Heather and her husband race their Sidehack at the Inland Motorcycle Speedway in the San Bernardino-Industry Hills area on Wednesdays, and they also race in Victorville and Costa Mesa. She said that her and her husband also plan to race in Las Vegas and Auburn this season.

Heather in true rocker style aboard a bike just a little bit smaller than what she’s used to.

As you can see, Heather is fully inked from head to toe. Her right arm is made up of skulls with different kinds of pony tails, as she believes a woman can be strong but feminine at the same time. A saying by Pablo Picasso is inscribed on her left arm, which reads ‘It takes courage for a man to listen to his own goodness and act on it.’ Do we dare to be ourselves? “That is the question that counts,” she says.

Heather has full sleeve tattoos on both arms.

Heather’s cake toppers and portrait. Pretty cool.

Heather’s Day of the Dead cake toppers and portrait. Some pretty alternative, yet fascinating art.

A chilling portrait of her great, great grandfather who was the war chief of all apache is showcased on her left cafe while her mother’s portrait adorns her right thigh. She has a Day of the Dead-style wedding cake topper with the words “better together” over it. She and her husband have been married for 17 years and say this phrase to each other often.

Heather’s war chief on her left calf.

Heather’s back is completely inked with the same scheme that is painted on her and her husband’s chopper. Additionally, she has a bird and “steam-punk” gear tattoo on her back designed by artist, Jason Greely of Lowbrow Ink in Grand Terrace.

Heather’s full back tattoos.

“I love racing for the fans and I love the family of Sidehack racers we have,” she says. “We’ve got each others back, at least until we get out on the track, then it’s all about racing!”

To find out more about Heather’s Sidehack racing, visit her Facebook page or check out her website. If you’d like to learn more about the schedule, Heather or Sidehack racing in general, you can email her.

Photo by Tony T-Bone Colombini from Blacktop Magazine