Sunday, January 10, 2010

The kindness of strangers

I am parked in a nondescript multi-tenant light industrial park in Largo, Florida, near Saint Petersburg and across Old Tampa Bay from Tampa. No map link today for privacy reasons. I'm in front of a vacant shop unit, out of sight of the street. It was peaceful and quiet here last night, but so cold yesterday that I had to run the Webasto full time from shortly after I arrived.

I am here visiting with one of our loyal readers, who shall remain nameless to protect his privacy. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, he contacted me a few days ago to offer both a parking space and also his services to fabricate some quick-release mounts for our scooter mirrors. Long time readers will know that we need to remove the mirrors to stow the scooters in the bay, and then reattach them for use. In addition to being a pain in the butt, the constant removal/re-installation has been wreaking havoc on the threads, and sometimes the mirrors come loose on the road (for fear of damaging the threads further, we try to avoid over-tightening them). Watching one of our videos alerted him to our plight.

The nature of his business is such that he has a complete fabrication shop set up for exactly this sort of project, with cutting, welding, machining, and even powder coating facilities. All of his business, however, involves SAE-size fasteners, and of course the scooter mirrors are metric. We briefly discussed cutting the threaded ends off the existing mirrors and putting the quick-releases in-line, but I wanted to be able to restore the scooters to stock trim if need be, and on Louise's Vino, leaving the threads plus the quick-release on the bike would make the whole thing too tall to get into the bay. So off I went to Home Depot to buy some appropriately sized metric nuts, bolts, and cap screws.

On my bike, things were very straightforward. The quick-release base is a short section of square tubing with a set screw pushing a pressure plate; he welded a flat plate to the end of the tube with a hole punched in it, and the base bolts down to the existing mirror mount holes with an 8mm socket head cap screw. An 8mm nut is welded to the top of the mating square tube which slides into this piece, and the existing mirror stem threads into that nut, secured by the existing jam nut. The mounts are identical left and right, and the whole assembly adds nearly an inch to the height of the mirrors, which suits me fine, as they were a bit low for me anyway.

Louise's Vino presented more of a challenge. First off was the fact that her mirror mounts are higher than mine, which would make the system we used on my bike too tall for the bay, so the mounts had to be offset to the front of the grips in such a way as not to interfere with the controls. Then there is the matter of Yamaha's insistence on using left-hand threads for the base of the right side mirror on all their bikes. Of course, left-hand metric fasteners are not stocked at Home Depot (or most other places, for that matter).

The left side mount was easily secured with a 10mm bolt into the existing mirror mount hole. I could not get exactly the right length (and, ideally, these fasteners should be stainless; I'll change them when I find a real hardware store or perhaps a chandlery) so we had to use a washer. The square receiver tube sits in front of the left switch housing, moving the mirror about an inch forward.

The right mount is secured using the pinch bolt that holds the switch housing, stood off with a spacer. Additional strength is provided by a 10mm "plug" extending from the bottom of the mounting bracket into the old mirror mount hole -- the one with the left hand threads. In this photo, you can also see the top portion of the quick-release, which is topped with a 10mm nut to which the mirror post will thread.

Of course, this nut is right-hand thread, and the existing mirror upright has a left-hand thread. What I need to do now is to find either a left-hand mirror, or a right-hand mirror for another brand of motorcycle (Yamaha is the only major brand to do it this way -- all the other marques use right-hand threads on both sides) and swap the upright out for one with 10mm right-hand threads (the other end of the upright, that threads into the mirror, is already right-hand thread).

I'm hoping to find one at a motorcycle salvage yard; often the mirror itself will be destroyed in an accident without damaging the upright. These stock Vino mirrors are a common "Ken Sean" part; I happen to have the exact same Ken Sean mirrors on my Kymco with the exception of them being 8mm mounts instead of the 10mm items that Yamaha uses.

In spite of having something like four hours into this project, plus materials, he would not accept any payment. He was unavailable for dinner last night, but at least I was able to take him to lunch today. It was a real pleasure meeting (and watching a master craftsman at work), and I am very grateful for this random act of kindness. I suppose it is now on me to pay it forward.

In a few minutes I will be packing up and heading back across the bridge to Tampa. I only have two nights left here before Louise returns, and I know I have several parking options, but a fellow bus nut here in the area has offered me a spot with 50 amps of power. It's a generous offer, but more importantly I'd like to meet and spend a few minutes with him, so that's where I will likely be heading. I'll remain there until Tuesday afternoon, when I will roll out to the airport and head to the economy parking lot, which can accommodate oversize vehicles. Then I can meet Louise in the terminal via the parking shuttle, rather than being hassled by another airport parking Nazi. The entry gate for the economy lot has a 13' clearance, so I will have to "squat" the bus to get in and out, but that seems easier than dealing with either the weight limits or long stretches of 13'-0" clearance at the terminal complex itself.


  1. Sean,
    Nice job on those mounts! Look very professional!

  2. Sean if you have trouble with the mounts, find a good dirt bike dealer. They make mirrows that fold in for dual sport bikes.

    For when they go into the woods they can fold down to keep from breaking them off.

    uncle ned

  3. Simple and elegant design, beautifully executed. Thanks for the photos.


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