Saturday, August 15, 2009

The case of the J-shaped lever

Tuesday, Aug. 11 -- I was in a hurry to get in out of the rain in Seneca Falls, N.Y., on Monday night. I pulled up at the motel office, shut off the engine, put the sidestand down and swung off the bike. The sidestand wasn't all the way down, however -- whoops!

With my armored elbows, knees, hips and head, I just hit the pavement, rolled once and stood up. A kind motel manager helped me lift the bike and the only damage was to my ego and the clutch lever on the left handlebar which suddenly became J-shaped.

The J-shaped clutch lever

Experts I'd read before the trip couselled to bring an extra lever along against just this kind of thing happen. How right they were I soon found out.

Tuesday morning, I stopped at the Harley dealer's in Geneva to see a mechanic could bend it back. "Can't help you," the guy at the counter said. "We don't have a replacement and if we try to bend that back it'll just snap off."

Then he remembered a motorcycle dealership in Canandaigua, 20 miles up the road, recently became a Kawasaki shop. I headed up there and waited while the woman who handled parts searched her computer and inventory. No luck.

"We really only stock oil filters and routine maintenance parts like that," the service manager said. "We haven't had Kawasaki very long."

Since I was headed back to Geneva to visit my friend David's boyhood home, I called the Kawi dealership in Ithaca. "Let me check" the guy said. I waited. "Nope."

After stopping at David's place, I rode completely around Seneca Lake. Leaving Watkins Glen at the southern tip, I saw Lane's Yamaha shop. The fingers on my left hand fingers were sore from working the bent lever, so I stopped to see if they could help.

Cindy Lane, who owns the shop with her husband Mal, suggested, "Take the bent lever off and we'll take a look and see if we have something that might fit." She offered me a wrench.

I got the lever off, brought it to Cindy and she patiently matched it up against a collection of machine-specific and generic levers hanging on the wall. The search turned up a lever that seemed to have holes in the right places, although it wasn't exactly the same shape. She tore the package open, handed it to me and said to give it a try.

It worked! The Yamaha lever is a tad short, but it doesn't pinch my fingers and the clutch works perfectly. With tax, it cost about $10 and even came with a matching brake lever, in case I ever need one of those.

Cindy didn't need a computer parts list, just a willingness to help and an encyclopedic knowledge of motorcycles.

I told her I used to have a Yamaha, a 1978 650 twin. She said, "Yup, Mal and I know that bike well. We still have a 650 of our own -- it's a 1972."

Something tells me all the parts on that bike aren't original equipment.

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