The First Spring Ride


1972 Moto Guzzi Ambassador

It happens every spring — especially a spring that follows a winter with no warm days. The bikes sit in the garage and we all wonder about the old gasoline — even with a fuel treatment. If you work on the bike, you need to take it on a ride to make sure all is well with the new lights or mechanical work. Are all the nuts and bolts tight? What about the battery or the tires, the air pressure? It takes a few miles of spring riding to determine if all is well. Maybe you don’t want to ride with a group just yet, because a breakdown would hold up the group. All this was on my mind as I pulled up to the Family Restaurant for a quickly arranged breakfast and ride with Lloyd, Leon, and Ken, all local members of the BMW Riders Club of Western New York, MOA #2. 

I got there early to check what was loose on my 1972 Moto Guzzi Ambassador. The mirror, which I grabbed and put in my pocket as it came off at 45 miles per hour, was re-attached and the other mirror was loose, but an Allen wrench fixed that. My pockets were full of tools. Ken pulled up on his BMW R80. Gas was pouring down the side of the bike and steaming off the exhaust pipe. I yelled to him as he shut off his motor. He quickly turned off the gas and dug out his tool kit. He said, "I thought I had a carb or cable problem. The bike was running rough." He pulled off the fuel bowl and let the gas run through. After a few tests with the float, the leak stopped. Leon pulled up on his old R69s. It had started with one kick after sitting all winter, old gas and all, although he uses a special brew of fuel in his R69s and the recipe is confidential.  Lloyd has a new bike that starts and runs well, so he didn’t have any first ride of the season problems. After breakfast we headed south toward Springville, N.Y.

At a stop my Guzzi stalled. I got it going again, but the stall was new and I wondered what caused it. Another time the bike backfired and seemed to shut off and go quickly on. Ken, the most experienced mechanic of the group suggested it may be my ignition switch. The rest of the ride was fine and when I got home, I checked the bike over in the garage. The cotter pin in the front brake lever was not secured and one of the new lights had burned out. These problems were quickly fixed in preparation for a longer ride on Saturday.

The plan for Saturday was to ride it out to the Beemer Barn, a local Airhead repair shop, to get my Guzzi inspected. I left home about 8 a.m., filled up with gas and hit the highway at a steady 70mph. I stopped at Tim Horton’s coffee shop to bring a bag of muffins to the guys at the Beemer Barn. The bike was running great. I took off down the road going fast to beat traffic — and then it happened. It just cut out — no power. I coasted to a parking lot to see if I could find the problem. At this point I found that I had left my cell phone in the garage at home, so I sat and ate a muffin. I thought to myself, “Why am I riding an old classic bike when they sell new bikes that start and run and don’t break down going to the Beemer Barn?”

I did have some tools and I quickly checked all the connections to the battery. I took off the instrument cover to see if anything was loose. It all looked fine. I started to look at the wires at the neutral switch thinking that it might not be grounding, but nothing helped. It was dead, however the head light and tail lights did work. What was the problem and what could I do?

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