Winter Motorcycle Repairs

TAKING AIM by Chris Maida, Editor

TAKING AIM by Chris Maida, Editor

TAKING AIM, by Chris Maida, Editor

Here in the northeast, wintertime is when you tackle big projects, or ones that take a lot of time to complete, since the weather is not exactly the best for a motorcycle ride. Things like paint jobs, chroming, powdercoating, engine builds, and major chassis modifications require many steps and outside shops to do various sections of the repair/upgrade. Delays are also due to an outside shop having a long turnaround time, like a chroming facility or paint shop. This is pretty much the standard pattern in our favorite pastime. So why am I telling you this?

Wintertime is also when you should take care of other projects, like replacing a slipping clutch or fixing a failing starter system. Unfortunately, a common problem is the guy who waits until that first nice day to call a shop to get his clutch fixed or bald rear tire changed, and he wants it done right away. Really? Those repairs were needed back when he put the bike up for the winter. Actually, the repairs were needed before then, but he was able to nurse the bike along to get the rest of the riding season in instead of losing those last few days to the shop. That part of the deal is fine; glad he was able to do it. The problem is that he didn’t get the bike fixed when the shop was slow during winter. Once the nice weather is back, he wants his bike fixed right away. Unfortunately, so do 20 other guys who also waited to get their bikes fixed.

Don’t be that guy. Go into your garage with a cup of coffee, uncover the bike, and give it a good going over. How are the tires? Good to go with lots of tread, or almost bald? What about the brake pads? Doing the tires and pads at the same time can save you some labor cost, depending on the model. Check out the primary chain and rear drive chain/belt. How was the clutch working last season? Did the bike start easily or were there starter issues? Maybe a fresh set of spark plugs is needed? How are the bike’s electrics? Does the horn and all the lights work? Yeah, it might be a bad bulb, or it might be a short or broken wire. Change the bulb now and see if that does the trick. If a short has to be tracked down, it may take the mechanic awhile to find it.

The point is that it’s now the beginning of February. If your riding season hasn’t started yet, but soon will, get those repairs done now. This way, when those nice riding days show up, especially the ones that pop up unexpectedly on a weekend, you can just fire up the bike and go for a ride. That is, unless you like watching your buddies ride by as you load your bike onto a truck.

See you on the road.
Chris Maida

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Garage Season And Daytona Madness

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

Is it just me, or is february the most challenging month for most motorcycle riders? Daytona Bike Week is still a month away. By now most of us Northerners have parked our bikes for the winter, and we’re itching to get back on the road. I know I am. In the meantime, if we’re lucky enough to have a heated garage or shed, we can spin wrenches and dream about spring riding.

I consider myself fortunate to have a heated work space that can hold several motorcycles and projects. No matter how many hours I spend in the garage wrenching during the riding season, I never seem to get far enough down my “to-do” list.

I’m not complaining as this is my passion, but sometimes I need to stop what I’m doing, step back from the workbench, take a deep breath, and reprioritize my winter projects. Know what I mean?

Entry-Level Motorcycle Choices
Most riders probably didn’t start their riding days aboard Harleys or Indians. Many of us had our first motorcycle experiences on small-displacement imports. Perhaps on a Honda, Triumph, Cushman, Hodaka, or Ducati. Most likely those bikes had single-cylinder engines that we had to kickstart before we could ride.

Anyone interested in an American entry level or “learner’s bike” in the last decade or so has not had many choices other than the short-lived Buell Blast and a few others. So what do you do when your friend, kid, or neighbor tells you he wants to learn to ride? Few of us want to loan our pride and joy to someone who’s never ridden a motorcycle before. Too many things to go wrong, especially on a full-size bike.

It appears that the big American manufacturers recognized the need of entry-level models and have been hard at work expanding new-rider options. Harley started with the Sportster Low models a couple of years ago, before adding the 500 and 750 Street models. Indian came out with the Scout about a year ago, and recently unveiled the new 2016 Scout Sixty (see Dain’s ride review on page 72), and now rumors are stirring that Victory has a small-displacement entry-level bike in the works. Good news indeed!

Daytona Madness?
One of the most exciting and lethal forms of motorcycle racing was boardtrack racing, popular more than a century ago. Those daredevils would race around crudely built wooden boardtracks at speeds over 100 mph. OK, so that doesn’t sound so fast when compared to fast street bikes today. But consider that those early rigid-framed race bikes didn’t have brakes, clutches, transmissions, or more than an inch of fork travel. Basically, a boardtracker was little more than a fire-belching engine stuffed into a bicycle frame.

If this sounds like fun to you, plan to join a handful of moto-loonies at the new Sons of Speed event. Billy Lane, the mastermind behind this madness, is handcrafting less than a dozen similar boardtrack race bikes with various 1000cc antique motorcycle engines to be raced at the New Smyrna Speedway  just south of Daytona Beach. We (yes, I will be piloting a Harley-powered race bike) have practice scheduled on Friday, March 11, with racing on the docket the following day. Keep your fingers crossed and wish us all luck. I’m still trying to figure out how on earth I got wrangled into this madness. Maybe it has something to do with these long, cold winter months.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz

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Help Wanted

Steve Lita, Editor, American Iron Garage

EDITOR’S COLUMN by Steve Lita

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet lots of great folks who work in the magazine industry. And not just the motorcycle magazine arena; my various paths have crossed with those of travel magazine pros, automotive and truck enthusiast mag writers, digital and webzine geeks, and even music biz journos. I like doing what we call around here seeing how the other guys do it. Sometimes I’ve been enlightened to new publishing techniques and processes and other times I end up scratching my head and wondering “How do they make a living?” But much like picking up tips for wrenching on your own bike, it’s a learning process.

Recently, a well-established, mainstream digital and print traveljournalist shared a tabulated report with me showing the results of data gathered from reader feedback and Internet hits. Lots of numbers and information on the page, some of which missed me completely. Over a drink at the bar, we discussed the meaning of all this confusing data. If you know what to look at, there is lots of valuable info on the page, and based on reader interest, future issues of that editor’s mag will feature more of the same items that rose to the top. It’s a high-tech version of combining the clichés: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and give the people what they want.

Well, with American Iron Garage (AIG) being so new to the newsstand and limited to three issues a year, it’s a little harder to cultivate lots of feedback for us to study. Sure, we can do all the spreadsheet manipulation the other guys do, but more time passes between each issue, so being the impatient lot we are, we need to take a more direct approach. We’ve added a new e-mail address to our list of contacts here at Garage@AmericanIronMag.com. And that will be our point of contact for your feedback and questions.

We need to explore directions for stories to publish in future issues of American Iron Garage, and I’m putting out the call for your input. So if you saw the headline of this column and feverishly started looking for the latest version of your résumé so you could apply for that dream-job magazine writer gig you always wanted, you can calm down and put it away. There won’t be any paychecks going out. But the return for your input will be future issues of AIG containing more of what you like and want. Bottom line: we can’t do it all ourselves. We’d like to hear from the riders of real-world garage builds and find out what your wrenches are turning.

Recently, some letters have come in via e-mail at Garage@AmericanIronMag.com requesting air ride suspension how-to stories. So we’re checking into the hows, whys, and wheres of making that happen. Our staffers’ bikes are pretty blinged out, but luckily, there are trick new parts hitting the market all the time, so we’re keeping the UPS driver busy with incoming packages. And we’ve been circling the wagons of employee buddies who own, ride, and wrench on Harleys (and even a Victory or Indian or two) to aid us with compiling the tech installs we publish.

Show us some things you did to your bike. Show us your whole bike. Show us what you’re building. Show us what you started with. Show us works in progress, or show us the finished product. We’re interested in the interesting.

Here are some tips. Use a real camera, which these days mean anything bigger than a 5-megapixel digital handheld. No cell phone shots. I don’t care what Samsung tells you, they are not good enough. Use a tripod. Ain’t got a tripod? Brace the camera against a stationary object, because, no, Photoshop cannot correct a blurry/out-of-focus image. Watch your background because we don’t want to see your neighbor’s Prius. (Don’t laugh, you should see what we get sometimes.) Can’t take a picture worth a darn? Drop me an e-mail and I’ll e-mail you a PDF of a great story we ran on How To Shoot Your Bike.

No matter what, tell us how you feel about American Iron Garage and help us put together the best do-it-yourself, real-world motorcycle tech mag on the newsstand.

 

This column appeared in our Spring 2015 issue of American Iron Garage, our all-tech/DIY publication, which will see four issues in 2016. While AIG is not available via subscription, you can find it on newsstands wherever American Iron Magazine and our sister mag, Motorcycle Rides & Culture, are sold, and also online, along with back issues, at Greaserag.com.

 

Tech Shoots and Road Time

TAKING AIM by Chris Maida, Editor

TAKING AIM by Chris Maida, Editor

TAKING AIM, by Chris Maida, Editor

I enjoy visiting various shops around the country. It gives me the opportunity to talk with many different mechanics

I’m writing this just a few days before Thanksgiving, and about 10 days late. The rest of the issue has already been shipped, working its way through the process that will eventually result in the magazine that ends up in your mailbox and on the newsstands. It’s also the first day I’m back in the office after a three-day tech shoot at Rob’s Dyno in Gardner, Massachusetts. In fact, most of the last few months I’ve been on the road shooting tech for American Iron. While it’s well known I’m the editor of American Iron, few readers know I’m also the tech editor.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about being on the road often. I enjoy visiting various shops around the country. It gives me the opportunity to talk with many different mechanics, in both H-D dealerships and independent shops, and find out what’s going on with our beloved Harley-Davidsons, as well as Indians, Victorys, and custom builds. I don’t have a shop anymore, so this is the best way for me to get info from the trenches.

It also gives me a chance to meet some of our readers. Of course, I can’t hang out when the mechanic is ready to do the installation. With me stopping him at every step to shoot photos of what he’s doing, the time it’ll take him to do the job is doubled. And, as odd as this may sound, it’s hard on the mechanic to do a shoot with me. These guys are used to rolling through the job quickly and methodically. Having to constantly stop for me to take five to eight photos per step is, for lack of a better word, aggravating. I know because sometimes I’m the one spinning the wrenches! That’s when my daughter Chelsea is doing the photography, as she did for the 2015 Fat Boy upgrade series we finished in issue #331.

But all my travel is not only for tech. I usually go to two main bike events each year: Daytona Bike Week, which is about two months away by the time you read this, and Sturgis. Unlike when I’m traveling for tech, my main focus during these events is to cover the festivities and meet our readers. So if you ever see a short guy with a ponytail in a black American Iron shirt walking around, it’ll probably be me, so come over and say “Hey!”

See you on the road.

Chris Maida

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Save Money And Have A Chance To Win A Harley

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

American Iron Magazine is committed to publishing 13 big issues again this year

Many magazines these days are jacking up their prices while cutting back on their product. We’re holding at 13 issues a year, publishing big, informative magazines, and reducing your costs. We all want to see motorcycling grow, especially with younger riders. But that’s not likely to happen if costs keep climbing.

I think I speak for most of us when I say times are tough and money is tight, but this isn’t the place to discuss why our economy is where it is. I’d rather share with you what we’re doing to add value for our readers and help you get more from your tight motorcycle budget. In return we only ask you to let others know how we’re helping and why.

Basically, there are four areas where we’re trying to benefit you, your wallet, and your motorcycle. The first is that we’re slashing the cover price of this magazine to under $5 an issue. Second, we’ve cut the subscription rate to under $25 (for all 13 issues!). Third, we’re increasing to four issues our Do-It-Yourself and Tech American Iron Garage. Fourth, we’ve teamed up with Dennis Kirk to give away a free custom Harley-Davidson Fat Boy to some lucky reader.

Let’s start with our price cuts. American Iron Magazine continues to lead the market in sharing the best American (Harley, Indian, and Victory) motorcycles, products, and tech.

Effective with this issue, we slashed the cover price from $6.99 to $4.99 (a buck more in Canada). We haven’t been that cheap in 20 years!

Lower prices are good, but what about content? While some magazines are folding or cutting back on pages and frequency, American Iron Magazine is committed to publish 13 big issues again this year (a new one every four weeks) and do it with the best editorial anywhere.

The newsstand industry continues to consolidate, making it more difficult and expensive for publishers to distribute their magazines in stores. We’re still the best-selling motorcycle magazine on the newsstand, but if you can’t find us there, we encourage you to subscribe. We cut the sub rate to under $25 a year in print (in the US) and less than $20 in digital delivery (worldwide). To subscribe call 877/693-3572 or go to AImag.com.

Many of us enjoy doing our own motorcycle maintenance and upgrades. Besides the feeling of accomplishment, it can save us some real money. In response to the growing demand for this kind of editorial, we’re increasing the frequency of our all-tech and DIY American Iron Garage newsstand specials in 2016 to four issues, with the first one on sale January 19. Back issues of American Iron Garage are available at Greaserag.com and in digital delivery at AImag.com.
Now, I’m not sure how long we can offer these lower rates, but you can help us by encouraging other enthusiasts to buy our magazines or subscriptions. We think our readers are worth this gamble, but we need your active support to make it work. The more readers we add at these lower prices, the longer we can afford to offer them.

Win A Custom Harley
From Dennis Kirk who wouldn’t want to win a great custom Harley-Davidson Fat Boy? Partnering with Dennis Kirk, we picked up a very nice Fat Boy for a year-long project bike. We will share the process of what we changed and how we customized it in the pages of American Iron Garage over the next four issues. Then, at the end of the year, one lucky person will win it.

This sweepstakes is open to all residents of the US, ages 18 and over, except where prohibited or restricted by law. All subscribers are automatically entered to win. So, if you don’t subscribe already, do it today. Or you can sign up to win without subscribing at AImag.com. It’s that simple.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz

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AIM Expo

TAKING AIM by Chris Maida, Editor

TAKING AIM by Chris Maida, Editor

TAKING AIM, by Chris Maida, Editor

Everyone has heard of Biketoberfest, which happens in Daytona during mid-October. But how many of you know about the new trade/consumer show that’s held at the same time in nearby Orlando? Now in its third year, this show is growing into a must-do event. The first two days, Thursday and Friday, are for the trade, meaning dealers and the media. However, on Saturday and Sunday the show is open to everyone. Being a fun putt from Daytona, it’s a great way to check out cool new products from many aftermarket manufacturers. Here are just a few of the new things I saw at this year’s show.

Yelvington, with a head designer/engineer who just retired from NASA, has introduced a new trike rear section that just bolts to your existing Touring model frame. There’s no welding or cutting involved since the new rear assembly replaces the stock swingarm. You keep the bike’s entire upper rear section (rear fender, saddlebags, Tour-Pak, etc.) just as it is. The new trike section places the two rear wheels just outside the saddlebags, complete with stock-looking rear fenders. Plus, this rear section has a built-in reverse feature, which is part of the new rear pulley. There’s no messing with the transmission! To operate, put the tranny into neutral, flip the switch that engages the reverse setup, shift the tranny into first gear, and simply move the bike backwards using your existing clutch lever just as you would to slowly move the bike forward. Sweet! We’re already set up to do a full install and review for you in 2016.

For the high performance crew, Yuasa now has a 500 CCA battery for selected models. That means the stock starter motor will now have plenty of power to crank over that monster motor you just spent lots of cash building. We’ll test these new batteries very soon.

Got a new Indian Big Twin and looking for more low-end grunt? The crew at Andrews has a new performance camshaft setup that promises an increase of over 10 ft-lbs. of torque in the engine’s low-rpm range. It’s just what the doctor ordered for the big bikes in the Indian lineup. You Victory owners have not been forgotten: Andrews has a new performance camshaft for you, too! There was also an array of new products from Barnett, Biker’s Choice, Dynojet, TechnoResearch, and a host of other manufacturers. Look for installs on these and other new products in future issues.

There was also an impressive display of showstopping bikes by noted custom builders. Definitely put this one on your short list of shows to see in 2016. And since it occurs at the same time as Biketoberbest, it’s an excellent way for riders like me who live in places with cold winters to close out the riding year. After all, we have all winter to install some of the cool new stuff we saw at the show!

See you on the road.

Chris Maida

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Goodbye, Old Friend

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

I had no idea what it would lead to when, in 1974 and against my parents’ wishes, I bought my first motorcycle. As a broke college kid, I sold that bike a year later to help pay for a slightly newer and bigger one. That transaction led to buying and selling even more bikes over the years.

The buying and selling stemmed from efforts to upgrade my ride, leading to an obsession with motorcycles in the process. Fast forward to the 1990s. That’s when my motorcycle interests reversed: leading me to classic American bikes from the 1940s and ’50s. I owned, and enjoyed riding, a 1953 Indian Chief, my first Indian. I later bought a beautiful, but barely running, 1946 Chief during the 1996 Daytona Bike Week. I spent a day or two sorting it out at the long-gone Klassix Auto Museum, where we used to host the Indian & Classic American Iron rallies. Fortunately, the ’46 Chief responded well to fine tuning, and my efforts were rewarded with a bike that loved to be ridden.

I’ve owned many classic motorcycles since then. Some I keep for a year or two before selling to make way for different ones. Others I keep and rode for decades. I never know which of these categories a new (well, old) bike will fall into when I purchase it. You see, I easily fall in love with classics, and I think each one is a “forever” bike. Most aren’t. And that’s okay because buying and selling lets me own, ride, and enjoy a wider assortment of motorcycles than if I had never sold any.

I had no idea what amazing experiences I’d have aboard this 69-year-old time machine. They include a ride up the California coast to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hollister riots with AIM Classics Editor Jim Babchak, the Tomas family from Kiwi Indian, and the wacky pranksters who hang out at The Shop in Ventura, California. I also enjoyed many wonderful rides on that Chief in and around New England (including many bike shows — and plenty of trophies), and I’ll never forget the ride on my Indian from the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa, to Sturgis this summer for the 75th running of the Sturgis Rally. Riding that Chief to Sturgis was fitting, considering the famous rally started out as an Indian motorcycle gathering.

But all good things must come to an end. I’m fortunate enough to own several classic motorcycles, but I can’t ride them all. Not having ridden the ’46 Indian much in the past several years (other than to Sturgis), I knew it was time for someone new to own and enjoy it. So I loaded a full description and photos on eBay along with a very reasonable reserve. I’m half-sad to report it sold quickly. Not for as much as I was hoping for, but a fair and reasonable price. As I walked the new owners — a nice, young couple — around the bike, sharing a few of my experiences and stories with them, I had serious second thoughts. And when I fired the engine up to ride over to their trailer, I had a hard time letting go of the handlebar. But a deal is a deal, and it’s time to let someone else create his own memories with the Chief.
Besides, I’ll always have my memories with this one, plus I still have my 1940 Indian Sport Scout to ride.

BOGOF: Last-Minute Gift Solution

Need a quick and easy solution to your last-minute gift-giving concerns? For the first time ever, American Iron Magazine is offering a BOGOF (Buy One, Give One Free) gift-subscription deal. For every gift subscription you buy for a riding buddy at our regular price, you get a second subscription free. Buy two gift subscriptions and get two more free! And we’ll even send them a card in your name. It doesn’t get much easier (or cheaper) than that for holiday (Harleyday?) shopping. But you have to act now as the offer expires December 31!
Please go to AIMag.com web site to take advantage of this limited-time Buy One, Give One Free gift-subscription deal. But, again, do it now, as this offer is good only through the end of the year.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

 

Buzz

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Compression Ratios III

TAKING AIM by Chris Maida, Editor

TAKING AIM by Chris Maida, Editor

TAKING AIM, by Chris Maida, Editor

Moderately boosting the compression, like going from 9:1 to 10:1 or 10.25:1, shouldn’t run you afoul of engine knock in a big way. However, a high-compression engine can be unforgiving and difficult to tune, especially a Twin Cam, if you go past 10.5:1. Even stock H-D engines have bouts with knock due to the very lean fuel/air mixture needed to meet EPA regulations. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent engine knock and an easy one is to not let the engine overheat. In case you haven’t noticed, a lean running engine will rattle and ping more often on a hot day, especially in heavy traffic. The combination of a very lean mixture and high engine operating temperatures aggravates the situation and gives engine knock an open invitation to trash your engine.

The method The Motor Company uses in its 2000 and later Softails, and 2002 and later rubber-mount models, is to mess with the ignition timing. All Delphi EFI control modules have a ping sensor, which detects whenever the Big K makes an appearance via a process called ion sensing. If the control module detects engine knock, it retards the ignition timing (moves it to a less aggressive setting) until the knocking stops. In fact, if the engine is not set up correctly for a high compression ratio, this system will retard the timing to the point of engine power loss, which, of course, defeats the purpose of having a high-compression engine in the first place. The fix for this is to have the module remapped for a high-compression engine.

Those with carburetor-equipped bikes can install a fully adjustable, single-fire ignition. This allows you to dial in the initial ignition timing and advance curve that’ll keep the combustion bogeyman away. The goal is to use the most aggressive advance curve possible, while still avoiding knock. Once correctly dialed-in, you’ll get the most power from your engine, while also protecting it from damage.

A word also needs to be said about riding style. Whacking open the throttle when the engine’s rpm is below its powerband will make even a properly tuned engine knock and ping. Down-shifting is the simple fix here.

Another way to eliminate knock is to use long-duration cams, which are camshafts with a lot of valve overlap. Valve overlap is when both the intake and exhaust valves are open briefly at the same time. This allows some of the engine’s compression to bleed off at low rpm, which is where engine knock always occurs. In fact, running the correct set of long-duration cams with a set of high-compression pistons will give you a nice gain in power. Be sure to talk with the cam manufacturer before buying to make sure you get the correct grind for your engine, bike, and riding style. Taking valve overlap too far, and ignoring other cam profile factors, can kill performance.

See you on the road

Chris Maida

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Motorcycle Magazines — Still Cheaper Than A Latte

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

I’m often asked how we decide which articles to publish in this magazine. Non-riders I talk with are amazed that there are enough motorcycle topics for us to fill a magazine this size every four weeks (we publish 13 issues of American Iron Magazine a year) without running out of material. Many riders often request that we publish articles that are of specific interest to them: like only baggers, Softails, Panheads, or whatever they’re into.

In general, here’s the procedure that Chris Maida (the hardest working editor in our business) and I follow on what seems like a weekly basis. As an enthusiast magazine, our job is to educate and entertain you with informative articles in every issue. Because our 100,000-plus readers’ interests cover a broad spectrum of American motor­cycle-related topics, we spread our coverage as widely as possible to give real value to all readers.

Every issue offers American motorcycles. There are new reviews and as many different types of customs as we can fit; you’ll find everything from backyard builds to pro-built customs, plus at least one classic American bike. Those full-feature articles are joined by a list of departments that include three favorites: Reader’s Ride, Snaps, and Letters. And as you’ve probably noticed, those departments are filled with photos of our readers’ bikes. We love to feature your rides, and we encourage you to send your photos to Letters@AmericanIronMag.com and ReadersRide@AmericanIronMag.com so that you can be part of our magazine family.

American Iron Magazine is also filled with informative and factual new bike and product reviews, plus tours and event coverage. Chris then puts together an assortment of tech and how-to articles for our readers, from novice to skilled mechanic, to complete the editorial package.

Our subtitle has been “For People Who Love Harley-Davidsons” since 1989, and most of our editorial is Harley-specific. But we add Indian, Victory, and other American motorcycles because our readers have asked for that.

If you have specific ideas on how we can make American Iron Magazine a better package or if you have comments, please pass them along at Letters@AmericanIronMag.com. We’d like to hear from you.

In addition to American Iron Magazine, we also publish American Iron Garage, a tech and DIY publication. AIG has no tours, events, or new bike reviews — just real-world tech, do-it-yourself installs, and homebuilt customs. These issues are available on the newsstand or through the mail from GreaseRag.com.

Subscribe & Save
How do you get American Iron Magazine? We’d like to thank all of our loyal readers for your on-going support in keeping us the best-selling magazine in our field. We work hard to get the best possible product to as many stores as we can. Yet the cost of doing business in the traditional single-copy industry continues to climb, and I don’t see this changing for the better any time soon.

I won’t go into the details here, but I suspect it’s going to become increasingly difficult to find magazines on your local newsstands. With that in mind, I encourage you to subscribe (in print, call 877/693-3572, or digital delivery at Zinio.com) to American Iron Magazine for yourself and as gifts for your riding buddies.

It’s up to you if you want to pay $7 per issue on the newsstand or $2 per issue through a subscription. In fact, you can buy a subscription for yourself and for two friends for less than buying one year’s worth on the newsstand. Something to consider. Regardless of how you buy American Iron Magazine, all of us here appreciate your support.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz

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Compression Ratios I

TAKING AIM by Chris Maida, Editor

TAKING AIM by Chris Maida, Editor

TAKING AIM, by Chris Maida, Editor

Have you ever been in a pack of bikes and heard one that had an exhaust note that crackled with power when the rider blipped the throttle? That, my friend, is the sound of a high-compression engine! And though some try to imitate it with real short drag pipes or holes in their mufflers, nothing has the crisp bite of a high-compression engine, in sound or throttle response.

Boosting an engine’s compression ratio is a time-honored and effective method of increasing its performance. If done correctly, it’s a modification that will enable an engine to produce more power while also increasing its efficiency (fuel mileage). Increasing the compression ratio will also make your engine accelerate (build rpm) faster, which will make the engine more responsive when you crack the throttle. However, like everything in the world, every modification has its pluses and minuses. So before you head down to the service department with a fistful of dollars, you should understand what compression ratio is, why it produces more power, and what the possible drawbacks are.

As you’ve seen in countless tech stories and bike features, an engine’s compression ratio is usually ststed as, for example, 10:1 and read as 10 to 1, like any other ratio. What this means is that the volume of the area above the piston, which is mostly the combustion chamber, and the volume of the cylinder when the piston is at the lowest point of its stroke — called its Bottom Dead Center position (BDC) — will be reduced to one-tenth of that size when the piston is at the highest point of its stroke, or its Top Dead Center position (TDC). The notation 10:1 simply states that the air/fuel mixture will be compressed into the cylinder head’s combustion chamber until it occupies a space one-tenth as large as the volume of the cylinder and combustion chamber combined. A notation like 10.5:1 simply means the ratio is 10-1/2 to one.

As for why increasing the engine’s compression enables it to put out more power, remember when we discussed how power is produced? The piston is driven down in its cylinder by the pressure produced in the combustion chamber by the rapidly burning fuel and air mixture. How hard this pressure pushes down on the piston determines how much power the engine produces. And if the pressure that the air/fuel mixture’s under is increased before it’s ignited — meaning the engine’s compression ratio has been raised — the burning gases will exert even more pressure onto the piston, producing more power. It’s like a coiled spring in that if you compress it a little, it pushes back a little. But the more you compress it, the harder it pushes back.

We’ll cover possible drawbacks of raising an engine’s compression and other details in a future column.

See you on the road

Chris Maida

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