Maintenance Day – Changing the Coolant

Bike Maintenance

Another day of routine maintenance on the bike. This time it’s a coolant change. Looked like it would be a super easy job. It turns out it was simple, but a little frustrating at one point. The F650 GS takes the normal 50/50 antifreeze coolant so it’s a really cheap bit of work. The only other thing you need to buy is a small copper crush washer, size A6X10. I just ordered a few from Lonestar BMW for 40 cents each. I also bought a funnel that had some marks on the side of it so I would know exactly how much antifreeze I was putting in. It turns out this funnel is unnecessary so I will be returning it.

First, you need to start with a cold bike. Then, remove the left-side faux tank cover so you have access to the radiator cap and reservoir tank. Next, unscrew the radiator cap and remove the reservoir cover. After that, loosen the drain plug at the bottom of the water pump cover. Make sure you have some kind of container to catch the old coolant. I used an old water jug and a big funnel. When taking out the drain plug (and washer) make sure not to drop it into the old coolant. You’ll also need to disconnect the radiator hose to get the fluid out of the radiator. Lastly, remove the reservoir and dump the old coolant that was in there. Reattach the hose, put a new crush washer on the drainplug, apply a little loctite, then tighten it back up.

Next I wanted to bleed the cooling system and to do this, you are supposed to attach a tube to the bleed valve, then loosen it and start adding coolant to the radiator. Any air in the system will be forced out and when you see a steady stream of coolant coming out, tighten the bleed valve. The problem I had was that I couldn’t for the life of me find the bleed valve. I had a photo from f650.com and also the photo from the official service manual. I must have spent 20 minutes searching! Well, it turns out that the twin-spark F650 GS’s do not have a bleed valve, but just a regular bolt instead. This makes bleeding the cooling system a little trickier. Since you can’t attach a tube, I ended up sticking a straw into the hole. Positioned under the other side of the straw was the water jug and funnel. I started adding fluid to the radiator, and when I saw fresh coolant coming out of the straw, I quickly popped the bold back in there. It was a little messy and I’m not sure a little air didn’t get back in there, but what are you gonna do?

Next I topped up the radiator with coolant, and put some in the reservoir to the MIN line. I put the radiator and reservoir caps back on, then started up the bike. After about 10 minutes the fan kicked in which meant it was warmed up. Then I let it cool down and unscrewed the radiator cap and topped it up again. I also filled the reservoir to the max level. I put the plastics back on the bike, and was done! Later on I went for a ride and then checked the coolant level again, but it was the same level.

This was my first coolant change, and they recommend you change it every 2,000 miles so I was well overdue. It’s an easy and quick procedure, so I will be doing ti following the recommended schedule! Next maintenance that I would like to do is a valve check. This will be a little more involved, but I’d rather do it myself since service at the dealer is crazy expensive!

Sunday Ride

Open-air Vehicles

Went for a ride downtown this morning to go see the Treaty Oak. I read about this in Kinky Friedman’s wonderful book,  The Great Psychedelic Armadillo Picnic: A “Walk” in Austin and wanted to check it out. Unfortunately 6th Street was blocked off due to construction so I didn’t get to see it. However, downtown Austin on a Sunday morning is really nice. Hardly any traffic at all, and lots to look at. I saw a few scooters prowling the streets, and lots of bicyclists and runners. Only a couple people on motorcycles, though. They must be all out in the Hill Country enjoying the fine weather.

The above photo was taken while I was getting coffee. I really should stop and take photos at more interesting places than parking lots. That was actually what I was planning on doing at the Treaty Oak! Kondo ne. (Later)

Practicing U-turns

My F650 GS

I had a few hours free this morning so I decided to ride over to the coffee shop and get some caffiene. After that, I dropped off a book at the library then was planning to go home and relax but then I thought I would ride to the nearby school’s parking lot and practice some u-turns. I still have some trouble making these and the last time I practiced, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was a little tired and just couldn’t concentrate. I was disappointed because the previous time, I was really getting the hang of it.

But this morning I was fired up (most likely the coffee) and figured I might as well use this opportunity to sharpen my skills rather than just go home and play video games. I’m happy to say that it was clicking for me today and I was making much tighter turns, and my muscle-memory was taking over. That was really cool because I didn’t have to think so much about controlling the clutch and throttle. It just all seemed to work naturally.

A few months ago I bought the book Proficient Motorcycling by David L. Hough. It filled with great information that every motorcyclist should know. One surprisingly short section deals with u-turns and I picked up a couple good tips. I learned that to do a tight turn, you really need to lean the bike over. If you are just slow-speed turning with the bike perpendicular to the ground your turning radius is pretty large. So large in fact that you probably won’t be able to pull off a u-turn on a two lane street. (I know from personal experience!) So first, you need to throw the bike into a lean, while turning the handlebars pretty sharply. Then you need to use the clutch to control the stability. It helps to keep the throttle at a constant rev, and then just feather the clutch. To make a tighter turn, pull in the clutch lever. If the bike is leaning over too much and you feel like it’s tipping, let out the clutch and that power will straighten you up. After a while of practicing that, I started using the throttle more in conjuction with the clutch (and not having just a constant rev). This part is where the muscle memory and practice really paid off. Now when I feel the bike is at the tipping point, I don’t have to think about what to do to get it back in control. My left hand automatically lets out the clutch, and my right applies a bit more throttle. This is a really cool feeling!

A couple other things help me with the u-turns. First is keeping my body and head more perpendicular to the ground, and using the footpegs to maintain balance. It’s like when you are riding a bike up a hill and you stand up to get more pedaling power. The bike leans from side to side as you pump, while your body is pretty much straight up and down. On the motorcycle, you can lean the bike over, then apply pressure to the opposite peg to help balance it.

Another thing that helps is to look where you want to go. That’s one of the first things they teach you in the MSF class. And when you are doing u-turns you not only look with your eyes, but you crane your neck around pretty far. For me, I kind of just imagine the line I want to be taking, then look along that line about 20 feet out. In MSF, they say that if you see an obstacle in the road, don’t fixate on it, because you will head right towards it. For u-turns, I use this target fixation to help me guide where I want the bike to go. Kind of neat since it works!

I’ve also read that it helps to “drag” the rear brake as this will supposedly stabilize the bike. I’ve tried this a little bit, but was probably applying too much brake, since I stalled it out a couple times. Hopefully as the rest of the process becomes second-nature, I can add this element into the mix.

I still need to practice (never stop learning!) especially in one key area. I have trouble initiating the turn immediately from a stop. I usually need about five to eight feet of straight line acceleration before throwing it into the lean. In a few videos I’ve seen online, the rider will turn the bars first, then accelerate directly into a tight turn. Looks so easy! Hopefully I can improve in that area. Looking forward to the day that it “clicks” for me!