They All Like It Hot

Husky engine

Husky engine

Cassandra, as all students of the classics will recall, was cursed with the ability to know what’s coming next while no one would take her seriously.

That, in a small way, is where I am on this subject.

Ever since fuel injection went into general production, I have read in newspapers and magazines—not here at CW, obviously—something along the lines of "Gosh, hit the button and head for the highway, no warm-up needed."

On this occasion, a newspaper guy was complaining about his neighbor warming the engine: “It’s a new motorcycle and doesn’t need warming,” he said. I was inspired to object.

As in...

Back when Husqvarna was a Swedish maker of unusual motorcycles that ruled the enduro world, I got talking with the tech guys and they told me an interesting story.

Seems they took two motocrossers as they came off the assembly line and hauled them to the factory's test track. Both bikes were prepped equally. One, the test rider kicked into life and as soon as it lit, he clicked into gear and headed for the track, WFO, where he rode for an hour at a time. The second bike—alike as it could be to the first, remember—was started and run at a fast idle until the fins were too hot to touch.

The bike that had been warmed gently before being ridden hard lasted exactly twice as long. Makes you think, eh?

Adding to that, at about the same time, Harley-Davidson, an operation about as far from Husqvarna as one can get, introduced its Evo engine, a vast improvement over the previous Shovelhead Twins.

All was going well except there were recurring problems with the cylinder base gaskets. Harley had an ongoing research program using different patterns and materials to see if it could get the cylinder to seal, which eventually it did.

Again, I was talking with the tech guys at H&D, and when we got to the topic of the gasket problems, I mentioned the HastyVarna experience.

Y’know, the Harley guys said, we talked with owners of the new engine, and it struck us at the time that nearly all the reports of the problem came from owners who told us they always rode away soon as the engine fired—no warm-up.

The first result of this was close and personal. I became careful to warm all my engines—eight in running order, as we speak—until the fins were too hot to touch. Okay, with my two liquid-cooled bikes, I wait until the cases are hot, never mind that my engines all have carburetors.

Here’s Cassandra: When I read tests that said, “Go ahead, ride it hard right off,” I began dropping notes, making calls, telling these guys what I’d learned and urging them to temper their enthusiasm.

No response. None. Zippo. A puzzle, until I remembered that testing motorcycles isn’t like owning them.

When I was doing tests, there were occasions I said as much—that we were in the business of testing, not preserving. Oh, and your engine blew up, send up another example.

Sounds callous, doesn’t it? That’s how it was, though, which is why I figured to deliver this advice direct.

As an illustration, there are places and times where a spouse has, by law, certain marital, um, rights—that is, a guaranteed supply of mother-and-father slap and tickle, as we say.

So, just as you can ride your new bike hard and cold, so can you fail to notice little hints, headaches or something.

You can do it, but sooner or later it will cost you.