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18443 miles already?

March 30, 2011
The GTS on the stand

The GTS gets some long-overdue fettling (Orin O'Neill Hipstamatic print)

I’m pretty sure the GTS will pass the 20000-mile mark this summer. But it needed some maintenance. I must admit, I’ve been less than conscientious about some things.

The book sez you need to flush and replace the coolant and brake fluid every two years. The GTS is a 2007 model, and until recently still had the coolant it left Pontedera with.

Needless to say, the coolant looked a bit, uh, well-used. Kinda rust-colored, though there’s actually nothing to rust in the GTS’ cooling system. And not as much as expected drained out. Hmmm. Well, the cooling fan did seem to cycle on and off a lot, though the coolant temperature readout never budged past halfway.

The brake fluid was another matter. Brake fluid is aggressively hygroscopic, i.e., it very readily absorbs moisture from the air, which turns it icky black. But when the caps were removed from the master cylinders, the brake fluid (which also originated in Pontedera) was crystal clear.

Service people have been telling me almost from day one that the rear brake pads needed replacement. Given the number of bits and pieces that need to be removed to get to the rear brake caliper, and given my lack of a work space (which means I’d have to pay someone to do this), I put this off for… gosh, two and a half years?

I use both brakes to slow and stop, all the time, just as I was taught in the Basic Rider Course. When I use the brakes, I try to do so gently. Racing experience teaches one to conserve momentum at all costs, so I am always asking myself, “is this brake application really necessary?”

Letting the brake pad material wear completely away means the metal backing plate of the brake pad makes contact with the metal brake rotor. Not only is braking efficiency seriously reduced, the brake rotor can suffer enough damage to require replacement.

There was about four microns’ worth of friction material left on the old rear pads. It was time. The front brake pads, OTOH, looked almost new. Well, the meme about using the front brakes always resulting in the rider being pitched over the handlebars is a very, very strong one. Maybe the previous owner subscribed to it.

When shopping for brake pads, you’ll notice there are standard ones and long-life ones. My racing career took place exclusively in cars that used up their brakes rather quickly, so I found myself learning more about them than I thought it was possible to know. I’m here to tell ya, long-life (aka sintered) brake pads can be very effective in heavy use—like racing—but they tend to eat the brake rotors. I went with the standard pads, which are also cheaper.

It was time for an oil and filter change, too. Not as much oil drained out as would be expected. Hmmm. Well, I admit most of the time I hop on and fire up the engine, and if it sounds okay, I go. Oil capacity is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1½ quarts, so not much would have to be burned (oil evaporates, too) to reduce the oil level. The oil did seem a little dirtier and gooier than would be expected from the oil change about 6000 miles ago. It occurs to me if the engine was running hot, the oil could easily have evaporated and thickened. We’ll see how it looks in 6000 miles.

Happily, the drain plug and oil filter are easy to get to; there’s no need to remove the exhaust pipe to do an oil/filter change. The old oil will spill onto the center stand if it’s supporting the bike, so you’ll need to find another way to hold it upright. If you care about such things.

I forgot to note the mileage when the rear tire was replaced, but there’s still quite a bit of tread. Enough to get through rally season this year, I should think. And the front tire is fine (it’ll rot off the rim before it wears out). If money is too tight to mention, the Kenda K413 is your best tire choice if you ride one of the big Vespas. I am curious about Michelin’s Pilot Sport SC, and if this economic recovery I keep hearing about comes to my house I might try a set. We’ll see.

All done. For now...

We did discover the seal around the gearbox input shaft has expired, which has gearbox oil dripping down the inside of the transmission case and out through the cover. We’re talking drops here, and I’m told it’s an easy fix, so we’re waiting for the seal. It’s not urgent.

Also not (too) urgent is the need to replace the rear shock/spring assemblies. You need two of them, so the cost isn’t what you’d call dirt cheap. But the prices for some of the “performance” versions are eye-watering—in most cases more than for similar pieces for the Fourth Estate. I’ll be going with an OEM replacement, I think.

In the meantime, the GTS is running better than ever. I dare say, almost like a race car. Favicon

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3 Comments
  1. james john permalink
    March 31, 2011 5:37 pm

    its amazing what an oil change can do.

  2. March 31, 2011 9:56 pm

    Big Red Ugly got a new air filter, today. I’m hoping to see the expected rise in fuel economy that I barely got when the weather got above freezing. Two more tanks, and if I’m not in the low 60s MPG-wise by then, new spark plug.
    .

  3. April 3, 2011 7:40 pm

    Talk about getting every last micron out of the rear brake pads! I wonder which is cheaper. A set of brake pads or boots with hard soles? 🙂

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