Forced Integration

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor


This is where you learn that FedEx is your friend

In this issue I’d like to tell you about an important lesson I’ve learned recently. Actually, I learned the lesson long ago, but somehow I keep forgetting it, and life has to give me a refresher course from time to time.

Even though we are showing the second part of the Daytona Bike Build story in this issue, the bike is actually done. By the time you read this, it will be on display in Daytona Beach, Florida: completed, painted, running, and looking great. My oft-forgotten lesson is this: whenever you are working on a bike and mixing parts from different manufacturers, it’s a smart idea to trial-fit the parts to make sure they all interact well. Sounds simple, right?

You know the feeling—you get a box of cool new parts or gadgets and your excitement level is heightened. This might not be overwhelming, but it gets your heart rate up. Fact is, now is the time to see if those new parts will play nice with all the other stuff on the bike or stuff you’re planning to install. Building a motorcycle is an integrated process. And sometimes different brand products have to be modified to properly work with each other.

It never fails; deadlines seem to exacerbate any problems with cohesive fit. And the closer you are to a deadline, the more you’ll find difficulty in properly installing these dissimilar parts. Soon you realize things aren’t going as smoothly as you see on Discovery Channel. This is where you learn that FedEx is your friend.

For example, that extended clutch cable you installed on the aftermarket transmission sidecover might not be the right length for the tall bars you also installed, even though the catalog said it was. Those driving lights that the website said would fit? Yeah, they don’t. You can bet the stock hardware won’t be the correct length for the new parts you’re installing, so it’s time to get to know the hardware store attendant on a first name basis. And the chances of one brand of brake caliper working with another brand of brake disc, on a different brand of wheel, wrapped in yet another brand of fender? Well, those things all working together would be a huge long shot. So, out comes the die grinder, and fiberglass dust starts to fly.

I once heard a story about the development of a new, mid-1980’s, American-made automobile. Somewhere there was a manufacturing engineer who wouldn’t let departments talk to each other during the development phase. The carburetor guy wasn’t allowed to talk to the engine builder. The wheel designer wasn’t allowed to speak with the brake team. And the transmission crew wasn’t allowed to interact with the chassis department. “Just mind your own business, and stick to the blueprint” was his slogan. Seems that the first batch of cars off the assembly line didn’t start, run, or drive under their own power. Again, disconnect within the integration.

And this dilemma of integration occurs not only in the construction of motorcycles. Here at TAM Communications, we actually build something different: magazines. For example, this issue of American Iron Magazine almost had three Road Glide features. While compiling stories I hadn’t realized the duplication. And we figured our readers might revolt at the sight of lopsided magazine content (except for the Road Glide owners out there). But when the error was discovered, we made editorial changes to have more diverse content. Point is that it’s all about picking things that work well with each other. And if they don’t, you need to massage things out until they do work.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then a looming deadline and ill-fitting parts are the fathers of harsh words, lost sleep, and, ultimately, modification. Trust me, a few minutes spent test-fitting parts will not be wasted time. Even if the parts fit well, the peace of mind will be worth the effort. Especially just before deadline!

Steve Lita

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