Category: Mechanical

El Poncho’s 24,000 km Maintenance

El Poncho’s been my main mode of transportation since I purchased him in August of 2016. He’s a 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650. He replaced Taco, my 1998 Yamaha XT 350.

Purchased with only 10,800 km on the odometer, I’ve been looking forward to keeping on top of the maintenance schedule. I am passionate about mechanical maintenance and passionate about doing it myself. Not only do I tend to shy away from expensive hourly rates, but if I don’t do the work myself I find I’ll always end up knowing less about my machine, how it works, what requires attention before and after rides, and most importantly, I’ll be ill prepared to perform repairs on the side of a road or trail. Nothing drives me to open up my toolbox more than the thought of taking a bus home from a motorcycle trip.

Secretly though, I tell myself I’m preparing to race in the Dakar privateer class.

Each year I find myself seeing more of British Columbia and travelling deeper into the backcountry roads. This year is especially exciting though as my dual sport now resides centrally on Vancouver Island. Before I get ahead of myself though, there’s plenty I need to do to El Poncho.

Major tasks on the docket include a valve adjustment, changing the oil and filter, cleaning the air filter, changing the coolant, changing the brake fluid, lubricating the steering stem bearings, lubricating the swing arm and rear suspension, making sure all the controls work smoothly and that nothing needs immediate attention.

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El Poncho is due for his 24,000 km maintenance. Major tasks on the docket include a valve adjustment, changing the oil and filter, cleaning the air filter, changing the coolant, changing the brake fluid, lubricating the steering stem bearings, lubricating the swing arm and rear suspension, making sure all the controls work smoothly and nothing needs immediate attention.

The Inside of Chiappa Firearms’ Double Badger

It becomes clear to me that I am an outlier when I look at used cars and start popping air filter boxes open in front of bystanding owners. The look on their silent faces usually says, “What are you doing?!”, “Don’t break it!”, and “Interesting, I’ve actually never looked in there before…” all at once.

I realize in that kind of moment that I have no problem venturing into the mechanics of something where many fear to tread. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve always been good with puzzles, which naturally, has prompted me to take things apart so that I have the pleasure of putting the pieces back together in the right place. Sometimes it gets me in trouble. Sometimes I can’t put things back together as easily as I took them apart. But no doubt, it always leaves me wondering if I can’t put my hands on something I’m interested in. Like, “lay awake” wondering…

Usually, this wonder can be quenched by reading a service manual, owner’s manual or an enthusiast’s forum to ply me with photos of the internal design and construction of something. With cars, it’s easy… but with firearms it’s difficult. By looking at the pieces that make up the assembly, I am able to gauge an understanding of quality. And for a couple years now, I’ve been laying awake wondering about the build quality of Chiappa Firearms’ Double Badger.

The first thing that pops up when you search online for a firearm by name is the manufacturer’s website, quickly followed by reviews. And consistently, I found article after article that fell short of my expectations. Reviewers love to repeat everything that’s said on the manufacturer’s website and what was told to them at the store. We’re lucky to find authors who at the very least take the firearms outside or to the range and punch a variety of rounds through the barrel. But my itch had yet to be scratched. Breaking the action open and looking down the barrels still leaves much to be desired for someone mechanically inclined.

So with a price tag worth gambling, I realized waiting around for another year wasn’t going to offer up any further insight into the Double Badger. I was only going to sleep contently when left to my own devices. I purchased the .410 and .22 WMR (Magnum) model and set out to determine its true value, by actually taking it apart, and put it out there for others to benefit from before I get to carried away with bashing all gun reviews in general.

But first, compliments to the ladies and gentlemen at Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, offering up the most detailed experience of the Double Badger in the real world across multiple articles. Aside from their work, I consistently found article after article that fell short of my expectations of a review. If it wasn’t for their long term update posted about 2 years after their initial impression, I would have remained on the fence and refrained from purchasing a Double Badger to call my own. Their articles accurately displayed the firearm and its features, no doubt put it to use and weighed their conclusion in the context of a specific use for the firearm, which goes beyond the commonly accepted review.

Please consider this not a review, but a visual insight into the design and build quality of the firearm. I put the Badger to use at the range, but believe enough people have done the same thing and don’t care much to repeat what’s been said. I was able to make what I believe are some important findings with a simple yet partial disassembly, which I feel is lacking in the world of reviewing. I don’t wish to become a reviewer, but do wish to see more disassembly in reviews as it offers up much more to say when speaking about cost and quality of a firearm. Hopefully that becomes clear to readers and reviewers alike.

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The .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire cartridge and .410 bore 76mm (3") shotshell suited for Chiappa Firearms' Double Badger.

 

 

Recapitulation

This Double Badger does not exhibit quality out of the box. Neither was it actually ready to use out of the box; yours will likely require a basic disassembly to clean and lubricate. If you are looking to have a Double Badger which stands the test of time, expect to spend the time and money to correct for the mistakes Chiappa Firearms may make, and/or address some design flaws that the average consumer is blindly putting up with but will surely leave you with a deteriorating and unsafe firearm.

On the other hand, Chiappa’s done a fine balancing job of putting a beautiful, functional and inexpensive folding combination firearm in our hands, all things considered. Everything I’ve managed to negatively pick apart is manageable, and it’s up to you to determine whether these things reflect the cost. Nothing in my experience using or disassembling the Double Badger will prevent me from continuing to use it, and I hope to keep it indefinitely, so I will be putting the extra time and money into it. I speak from a desire to take things apart and fix them though.

Mechanic’s Toolsets in Service Manuals

I have yet to come across a service manual for a car, truck or motorcycle which includes a comprehensive list of tools required for each maintenance or repair procedure. The manuals will most definitely include Special Service Tools (SST), but when it comes to listing whether the case cover bolts require a 1/4″ ratchet and 8 mm socket, you are left on your own to determine this fact. I can easily see why technical writers and publishers would have to draw this line when creating a service manual, as it may be assumed that the manual is being read in a workshop fully stocked with all the generic tools one would hope a mechanic would have, but what if you are adventure touring on a motorbike, or privateering in the Dakar rally? Without a truck bed, trunk, or a mobile workshop following you, it’s absolutely necessary to know which tools you need specifically for the kind of maintenance and repair you plan (or don’t plan) on performing.

I’ve only been riding 4 and a half years, but I quickly had to redefine what it meant to be mechanically prepared. I had once been used to heaving a large, heavy toolbox in the back of the Land Cruiser, prepared for just about anything happening (and enjoying that nothing ever did). Then with my first Yamaha dual-sport, a small 350 cc, lacking any form of storage besides an 8″ x 6″ x 2″ tail bag, I had to learn how to pack minimally and hope for only the most basic problems to occur, if any. Riding with friends helps, when some coordination is made ahead of time to split the tools amongst each other, but it’s not always guaranteed that the tools required to remove the carburetor on one bike would allow for the same thing to be done on another bike.

This is where many people simply draw a line for themselves and sign up for roadside assistance, carry cash for a tow, or are one of those types who touch their seat, grips and footpegs and simply sell it the moment something else requires touching.

Who actually goes to this length, to determine precisely what type of tools they require, if say, a tire tube is punctured, or a spark plug needs to be removed, or the valve clearances need to be adjusted? Who has actually performed all the repairs on their bike and made note of which tools are needed for which tasks?

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