Many of you have been there. The point where you have adjusted, aligned, realigned, and generally mucked about with something so much that you have no idea where you are from the starting point or reference point. You know that at that point, you should just return all the settings back to some factory reference point and then begin anew, but you don’t because you are sick of looking at it, and you know some things are ok. There are actually a couple of good options at this point. The first is to just walk away, leave it alone, and come back with a fresh perspective after some period of time. But be careful, this is one reason that repairs and restorations can take years. The other option is to walk away, leave it alone, and let somebody else with a fresh perspective look at it. Preferably someone with expertise. But be careful, this is one reason that repairs and restorations can deplete retirement funds.
The R60 was running as well as any /2 that I had ever owned or ridden, but it had a bad stumble close to wide-open throttle. This is not a big problem on a bike that does not generally spend a lot of time at wide open throttle. With new jets and adjustments to the carbs, I was convinced that they were no longer the issue. Besides, as the old adage goes, 95% of carburetor problems are electrical. I installed new plugs and began by rechecking the valve timing. Then I moved on to points and ignition timing. Only minor adjustments were made, but the end result was that the bike would no longer start on the first or second kick. The stumble at wide-open throttle was gone, but the bike would not run as well. So I went back to the timing and fiddled some more figuring that I was on the right track. Several hours later, I was clearly on the wrong track as the bike would not start at all. There was clearly spark and air and fuel, but they were not coming together in the right timing to produce a running motorcycle. a sputter now and then was all I got. OK, what could have happened? I made no radical adjustments, just some incremental changes and some revalidation of settings. A large rum and coke beckoned. Time to walk away for a bit.
The next day, I went back to factory reference points and did not even get a sputter. An hour later I ran out of time, which is a good thing because blood pressure was close to pop-a-vein, and I had run out of english, swahili, and mandarin curse words ( I don’t even speak swahili or mandarin). There is a real personal sense of defeat if you cannot get a motorcycle this simple to run. Particularly when you have previously assembled a /2 from a box of bits and a frame. You know it is one of only a few things, so it can be maddening not to be able to figure it out. I mean, how hard can it be? I knew it was time to step away again. The following day I called my friend Jeff and asked if he would take a look at it. There are very few people that I am comfortable working on my machines, but Jeff is one. It did not take long for him to suspect the condenser and/or the coil. We ordered the parts, they came in a few days, he adjusted timing, and the machine started first kick and ran like a top.
The lessons here are many. First, always check and recheck the basics. At some point, a suspect condenser and/or coil failed. I had seen spark early in the diagnostics, but from then on, I assumed it remained good. I am sure that I would have discovered that there was no spark if I had rechecked at some point. Second, resist the urge to overthink and look for the exotic problem. As a doctor once told a medical student, “Maybe they are just fatigued, did you ever consider that possibility?” Third, avoid getting frustrated and/or tired. You are probably not doing your best thinking at the point of frustration and fatigue. It can cause you to look right at the problem and not be able to see it. Fourth, a fresh perspective does not just mean that you are well rested and recovered from the drinking binge that the situation forced upon you. It means that you forget what you think you know, and begin again as if you just saw the vehicle for the first time. I was “sure” about a few things late on night one, and when I went to work on day two. Intoxicated by my own self-assuredness, and in need of a mental breathalizer. It turns out that due to my own assumptions, and perhaps a little of the red mist, I was clearly DWI (diagnosing while impaired).