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About this blog

Moto Mind is a technical blog written by Paul Olesen who is a powertrain engineer working in the motorcycle industry. The blog covers a wide variety of topics relating to two and four stroke engine performance, design, and optimization.

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School Has Started - Are You Ready For What's Next?

School Has Started - Are You Ready For What's Next? Recently I have had a few of the younger forum members send me messages thanking me for sharing my personal story, technical advice, and being so open in my blog. A few of these folks have shared with me how they are struggling a little bit right now in university, whether it be with difficult classes, professors that aren’t open to supporting unique projects, or their expectations are just not being met. I figured if these folks reached out to me, there must be a few other young people in the community with some of the same thoughts on their mind. Since it wasn’t too long ago when I was dealing with similar situations, I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my advice regarding attending a university and landing the dream job you want afterwards. And what better time to address some of these issues than at the start of a new school year? Your Senior Year of High School and “Deciding” on Your Future I remember my senior year of high school well. My life mostly revolved around sports and I certainly didn’t pay enough attention to what I was going to do after I graduated. My parents made it clear that I would be attending college, however I had no idea what I would go for because I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. College football was truly the only option I figured I could pursue. Unfortunately that dream quickly disappeared after I tore my ACL in a pickup basketball game right at the dawn of my collegiate career. In my opinion doing well academically and participating in extracurricular activities is essential to giving oneself the best chance of getting into a specific university you have your eyes on. If you’re unsure of what you want, at least keep the door open for future opportunities. The academic side of school I used to strongly dislike. The classes were boring and I thought that I would never utilize the things I was learning, however in the back of my head I knew that if I didn’t do the best job I could I would be closing some future doors prematurely. All young adult woes aside, I knew deep down that nothing would suck worse than missing out on an opportunity because I didn’t do as well as I could have. Figuring out what to do after high school is tricky. Some know right away and some it takes quite a bit longer to figure out. Taking your time isn’t something to be frowned upon though I believe. It took exactly two motorcycles alongside two years of studying pre-requisites to become a dentist before I realized that all I ever honestly thought or cared about was motorcycles. Even after this realization it took me another entire year of life experiences and research before I could figure out what my next step might be. I checked out programs to become a mechanic, I checked out machining programs, and I even went back to college for a week to do a general mechanical engineering degree. At the end of that frustrating week I took to Google and finally found what I actually wanted out my professional life, a degree specifically for motorcycle and powertrain engineering. My future became instantly clear and I knew exactly what I wanted to be doing. The reason I am sharing this journey with you is so it can be understood just how long it can take to figure out what you want out of life. While it might be nice to have some magical switch flip towards the end of high school and instantly know what you want to do, this often isn’t the reality. With the cost of tuition on the rise, my advice to anyone considering university right after high school would be to get as much exposure pertaining to the thing you think might want to do before you make that final decision. Whether it be job shadowing, working a relative job, or interviewing someone in the field you’re interested in - these are all good actions to take before saying “yes”. If you’re very uncertain of what you want take a few general courses, spare your wallet a full tuition, and get a feel for the things. Nowadays it might be more beneficial to take some time after high school and work in a field you’re interested in, explore a bit, and gain new life experiences before committing a serious amount of time and money to a degree. Getting the Most Out of University and Landing a Job You Actually Want Once you’re on a chosen career path, either academically or in the workplace, do not expect the road to the top to get easier. There has never been a time in history where more people are coming into the workforce with degrees and credentials. This has caused the competition for jobs to be fierce. The harsh truth is just because you might end up with a degree doesn’t mean you will end up with a job immediately after you graduate. In order to land your dream job or get on the path to attaining your dream job, you will have to DO more than your peers. This could mean anything from joining a student led project/organization (think Formula SAE), working on a unique project yourself, interning/volunteering in a relative field or a combination of all of these things. It always helps to work on things you’re interested in, the things you are passionate about. Once I finally got started on the education I truly cared about, it was pretty easy to be enthusiastic about working on projects outside of the required coursework. As a motorcycle guy I wasn’t interested in cars so participating in the student run Formula SAE program was not a very good option for me. I knew I had to create my own projects that would push me, challenge me, force me to grow and make mistakes on my own. For the first two years of university I worked on something purely because I wanted to, because I knew I would learn a lot from it, and I knew it was unique and would set me apart. That first year I designed my own racing motorcycle and proceeded to build it over the course of my school breaks. My second year I wanted to learn more about fuel injection and tuning, so I implemented a fuel injection system on to my racing motorcycle’s two-stroke engine. Finally, in the third year I got to work on designing a two-stroke engine for my racing motorcycle, and as a bonus I got graded on it as it was my final year project. I strongly believe that because of these additional efforts I made outside of my work in the university, I was able to attain the dream jobs I desired after graduating. So take action, work on something because you love it, because it peaks your curiosity, and do it for yourself. You might just find that these efforts outside of school are the projects that turn heads in the industry. The Networking Side While choosing a career in a field you’ll enjoy, working hard, and making yourself stand out are all essential - I feel the practice of networking is equally as vital. In high school I was extremely shy and in college and had to work hard at being more outspoken. By pushing myself to speak my mind, ask questions, and start conversations I was able to make some amazing connections. In all my experiences good things happen when you start interacting with people who share similar goals, hobbies, careers, or other things. Often times these interactions occur randomly and you never know at the time what a conversation may lead to. I can fully attribute getting my first job to networking. I grew up in a small town and my dad was the local dentist. One of his patients was a Bonneville racer, Tom Anderson. Tom attended the speed trials every year. He introduced the two of us and I was given the opportunity to go out to Bonneville and help out as a mechanic for his racing team. Tom was an excellent networker. He had the gift of gab and seemed to be friends with everyone in the pits. Towards the end of the week George Smith from S & S Cycle came to the event and Tom introduced me to him. I was a bit nervous but ended up asking Mr. Smith if there were any opportunities to intern at S & S and he kindly gave me his card and asked me to get in touch with him after the races. Shortly after I emailed Mr. Smith, went to S & S for an interview, and got my first job there for the summer just before starting my final year of university. Had I not gone out and connected with Tom and Mr. Smith I think the chances of getting an internship at S & S would have been much slimmer. It always helps for people to put a face with a name and I encourage all of you to work on growing your network throughout your academic careers and into your professional lives. I hope you’ve found my advice on academics, jobs, and networking to be beneficial and wish everyone in school or just starting their career the best of luck with your future! Moto Mind - Empowering and Educating Riders from Garage to Trail If you'd like to follow my blog, click the "follow this blog" button in the upper right. I'd love to have you.

Paul Olesen

Paul Olesen

 

Now It's Your Turn

How am I doing and what’s on your mind? We are a few posts in I’d like to take a moment to ensure that the most important part of Moto Mind is being taken care of. That part would be you, the reader. Me filling up this blog with content that none of you need or care about would put me on the fast track to having my own online diary! I don’t need a diary for my mental health, I have plenty of fast motorcycles to ride to keep me sane. What I do want is to create a dialogue between you, my readers, and myself so that I can better serve your needs and interests when it comes to your bikes. Over the past four posts I’ve hit on a few topics I feel should benefit all of you. Have you gotten a chance to think about or use them? Any thoughts or tips on your end concerning warming up your engine and piston ring end gap? You guys are the most important part of this dialogue and hearing from you is the ticket to making my time here on Thumper Talk worthwhile. Along with working in some of the content you want to see, I also want to share some of the topics I’m getting pumped to post about. On the technical side, I am going to post an in-depth look at engine balance, continue to post on successful engine building practices, and discuss the importance of keeping a log of the maintenance you perform on your engine. In addition to the technical content I am also planning on taking you through the complete design of a single cylinder two-stroke engine. As I design I am going to explain the process, creating an open door policy on how an engine is designed and why. The two-stroke engine is one of my passions and I would like to see a resurgence of it as a viable powertrain platform for sport vehicles. My aim is to teach you how the two-stroke can be produced using a more clean and efficient design. I hope you’re excited as I am about these upcoming topics. My aim is that this knowledge can serve you as much as it has served me. Give me a holler through the comments below and fill me in on what you want to see more of and what you want to learn about. Moto Mind is merely the sum of its readers and riders. Moto Mind - Empowering and Educating Riders from Garage to Trail If you'd like to follow my blog, click the "follow this blog" button in the upper right. I'd love to have you.

Paul Olesen

Paul Olesen

 

Premix Once - Measure Twice

Premix Once - Measure Twice I cringe when I see someone guess at the proper amount of oil to mix with their fuel when filling up their two-stroke dirt bike, snowmobile, jet-ski, or even weed whip. Manufacturer’s spend an awful lot of time figuring out what the right amount of oil is for a given engine application so when I see someone add a splash here and a splash there and call it good it worries me. If you’re one of those folks maybe after reading this it will worry you too. Adding too little oil may lead to improper lubrication of the crank bearings, rings, piston, and rod bearings causing premature failure due to excessive wear and increased friction. You might think using less oil will save you a few dollars, will lead to more horsepower, or will keep your spark plug from fouling. Let me assure you that buying another quart or gallon of oil is much cheaper than having to replace an entire top and/or bottom end. Personally I have not come across a single study that proved less oil lead to more horsepower. I have ran oil mixtures as rich as 20:1 and have not had any problems with the bike fouling plugs. In my opinion, plug fouling occurs from poor combustion (possibly caused by combustion chamber shape, spark strength, or ignition timing) not the amount of oil in the mixture itself. Let’s consider the effects of having an oil mixture that continually varies each time the bike is filled with fuel. As an example let’s say that the bike and carburetor is set up to run at a fuel/oil ratio of 40:1. What happens if we get generous with the amount of oil we add when we fill the bike up? Let’s say after we finish filling we end up with a fuel/oil mixture that is 20:1. Now the bike has much more oil in the fuel mixture than there was originally. There is no question that the engine will be well lubricated, but will the engine perform better or worse? Assuming that no changes are made to the carburetor to account for the richer oil mixture, the engine will most likely run worse. The reason being the amount of fuel able to pass through the orifice of the main jet, pilot jet, and needle circuit is reduced due to dilution caused by more oil. This will cause the bike to run lean and may lead to problems! While you may think you are doing the engine a favor by giving it more lubrication, unless the carburetor is adjusted to compensate for this change, you are actually increasing the chances of doing damage to the engine by running it lean. On the flip side we could decide to take our engine that is set up to run a 40:1 fuel/oil mixture and use less oil. Let’s say we are down to the last quart of oil and need to get a couple bikes through a weekend of riding so we skimp and run the bikes at 80:1. In this case the opposite will happen. Since there is less oil in the fuel/oil mixture, more fuel will be able to flow through our carburetor circuits, thus causing the bike to run rich. A rich bike is much better than a lean bike, but what if there is no longer enough oil to adequately lubricate the engine? If there isn’t enough oil to lubricate the moving components within the engine, it is highly likely that engine components will wear faster, run hotter, and ultimately fail. My advice to you would be to take the extra five minutes every time you mix to measure out the amount of gas and oil precisely. That way each time you fill the bike up you are giving your engine the most consistent fuel/oil mixture possible. Taking the time to do this will lead to more consistent performance, maintenance intervals, and save you a lot of money on an avoidable rebuild. If you don’t already have an oil measuring container go out and pick one up for a couple bucks and throw it in with your riding supplies so you are never in the situation where you have to guess. Another tip I want to share with you is when you are at the gas station filling up your container with premium, let the first gallon of fuel go to your car or truck. By doing this you purge the gas pump’s hose of whatever blend was previously dispensed and ensure you are in fact getting premium for your toys. Once done filling and mixing, I like to label my gas jugs with the date I mixed them and with the fuel/oil mixture I mixed. Doing these simple things will help avoid confusion down the road and a keep your engine healthy. Moto Mind - Empowering and Educating Riders from Garage to Trail If you'd like to follow my blog, click the "follow this blog" button in the upper right. I'd love to have you.

Paul Olesen

Paul Olesen

 

Piston Ring End Gap and Why You Should Care

I hope all of you in the Thumper Talk community are doing well and have benefited from my last blog post. This week I want to hit on a topic that ties in closely with last week’s topic on warming up the engine and the concept of thermal expansion. Piston Ring End Gap and Why it Matters Let’s talk piston rings. The rings’ primary function is to seal the combustion chamber and keep the pressure that builds on the compression stroke from escaping. Secondly, the rings provide a means for heat to transfer from the piston to the cylinder wall and then to the cooling system. Lastly, on four-stroke engines the rings act as a seal between the combustion chamber and the engine oil. Often times a special oil control ring is used to perform this function and is located furthest from the piston crown. Most of you are probably familiar with the practice of checking piston ring end gap when assembling an engine. What I want to share with you is why it is important to check ring end gap. Checking ring end gap when putting a new engine together or rebuilding an old one is critical because it will determine whether your engine runs flawlessly for countless hours or if you just wasted a whole bunch of money on a bunch of parts that are about to become scrap the first time you run the engine hard. Let me share a quick story with you. The first time I assembled my Kawasaki H2 two-stroke triple engine I couldn’t wait to hear it run. It was tempting to skip all the steps I would call critical to the success of a good engine build, but I’m sure glad I didn’t. First, I noticed that my gearbox was improperly shimmed by the company that back cut my gears. Next, I found that the right hand piston came with the wrong rings! I tried assembling the rings onto the piston and noticed that the gap was almost four times as much as the spec’d value given by the piston and ring manufacturer. Had I decided to run with the rings that had that excessive end gap it probably would not have resulted in a failure. The right cylinder simply would have been down on power since most of the gas being compressed could escape and the cylinder would have low compression. Now what if the situation was opposite what I just described? What if the rings had no end gap? Well, the outcome would have been much worse. Running your engine with too little end gap is a recipe for disaster. It’s time to revisit what I said last week about thermal expansion and how parts expand at different rates. If at room temperature there was no gap between the ends of the piston rings, what would happen when the rings’ temperature was elevated to 180°C? The ring would have no room to expand as it heated up and it would get tight to the cylinder bore, start to want to stick, scuff the cylinder bore, and wreak havoc on your entire engine! This example and explanation is the reason it is so critical to check end gap of the piston rings when assembling a new engine. My advice when setting end gap would be to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for end gap for their given product. The only time it might be necessary to deviate from their recommendations would be for race applications where more heat is generated than in a normal application. When in doubt, more end gap is always better than too little. Most of you are aware that there are at least two sealing rings in a piston assembly and by now perhaps some of you are wondering if the end gap of each ring should be set the same. In my opinion it is best to set the second ring end gap to be slightly more than the first. The reason for this is to limit the possibility of pressure building up under the top ring. If pressure builds up under the top ring it increases the chance of the top ring fluttering which should be avoided at all costs. By having the second ring’s gap a little looser than the first, any combustion pressure that gets between the two rings has an easier time exiting. For those of you who don’t mind a little math, here is a nice example. How exactly do the manufacturer’s determine the end gap that should be run? Let’s say the rule of thumb might be 0.003” of end gap per inch of cylinder bore for a particular application. Well who the heck decided on 0.003” per inch of bore and why? Let’s assume the following for the sake of simplicity: Cylinder crown temp = 300°C Piston ring temp = 180°C Cylinder liner temp = 100°C The formula for linear expansion is: ∆L = α x D x ∆T where: ∆L = Change in length of the piston ring α = coefficient of thermal expansion (in this case steel = 0.000012m/m°C) D = original diameter of the cylinder ∆T = Change in temperature α = 0.000012m/m°C D = Let’s assume the diameter to be equal to 1”. ∆T = 180°C - 100°C (difference between the liner and ring) Now it all gets put into the equation and solved. ∆L = 0.000012m/m°C x 1 x 80°C ∆L = 0.003015 inches So in our example, using temperatures fairly close to actual engine temperatures, we see that the ring will expand roughly 0.003 of an inch per 1 inch of cylinder bore. Hopefully this gives you a better idea of why the manufacturers specify the end gaps that they do. Moto Mind - Empowering and Educating Riders from Garage to Trail If you'd like to follow my blog, click the "follow this blog" button in the upper right. I'd love to have you.

Paul Olesen

Paul Olesen

 

Who Warms Up Their Engine Anyway?

Whenever I’m out and about either riding my motorcycle or participating in racing events occasionally I see things that just make me wonder “why”? One of those moments is when I see someone take a cold bike and fire it up for the first time and bang it off the rev limiter, start riding it immediately, or annoyingly continuously blip the throttle as if it will never idle on its own. These actions beg the question, “Why is it important to warm up an engine”? The answer lies in a simple explanation of science and mathematics. Before you quit reading because you may not have been an ace at math and science in high school, just give me a minute to break it down. It is actually really simple. The whole reason we need to let our engine warm up revolves around the concept of linear thermal expansion. Your engine is made up of a number of different materials. The piston is made from a certain type of aluminum alloy, the cylinder another type of aluminum alloy, the rings cast iron or steel, the valves if you have a four-stroke from steel, stainless, steel, or titanium, and the guides are made from yet another material. Once the engine is started these components begin to heat up from combustion and friction as they slide back and forth. None of these materials are exactly alike, and because of this they will expand when heated or contract when cooled at different rates. This interaction between material and change in temperature is predictable and linear. Now that we understand that engine components change dimensionally from when the motor is cold to when the motor is warm we can start to see the importance of warming up the engine. When a cold engine is first started the piston heats up and expands first. Heat is transferred from the piston to the rings and then to the cylinder wall. If we rev the engine and generate lots of combustion cycles and increase the frequency of friction too early the piston will grow much faster than the cylinder. If there is not adequate space between piston and cylinder to account for this growth the engine could suffer what is known as a cold seizure and you will have yourself a bad day. By allowing your engine to warm up before you start riding you allow all the components in the engine to slowly expand and stabilize. Once the engine is warm, changes in the engine part dimensions are less drastic and there is much less risk of damaging the engine. The picture below shows an engine which was limped home after the coolant started leaking out. As the engine lost its ability to cool down, things began to tighten up. You can see how the piston contacted the cylinder evenly around the bore and created the vertical scuff marks. Even though this engine didn’t completely seize, you can imagine the severity of scuffing would be much worse for an engine that would seize. So you are probably wondering, “how do I know when my engine has properly warmed up then?” and, “what exactly do I do to properly warm it up?” The procedure for warming up the engine is simple. 1. Start the engine using the choke if necessary 2. Once the idle comes up due to the choke turn the choke off 3. Allow the engine to idle with the choke off until the cooling system warms up and the engine comes up to temperature. Knowing when the engine is ready to ride is a bit subjective. As you begin to pay closer attention to your engine, you will begin to detect when it is ready to ride. Personally for water cooled engines I like to feel the radiator and use that as an indicator. I place my fingers on the side of the radiator where the coolant is returning from the cylinder head and lightly touch to get an idea of how warm the coolant is. I do this until the radiator is just getting uncomfortable to touch. This typically only takes a few minutes and after that I’m ready to start riding the bike. For air cooled engines my approach is much the same except I feel the cylinder and head to determine when I think the motor is warm enough to ride without causing any unnecessary wear or damage. Paul If you'd like to follow my blog, click the "follow this blog" button in the upper right. I'd love to have you.

Paul Olesen

Paul Olesen

 

Who the Heck is Paul Olesen?

Who the Heck is Paul Olesen and Why is he Writing for Thumper Talk? I’m really excited at the opportunity to start blogging because I’m finally going to have an outlet to express my passion for picking flowers, going for walks, and singing songs. I can’t imagine anything more exciting than doing these three things except... maybe, just maybe, riding motorcycles. On second thought, riding motorcycles and figuring out how engines work is definitely much more thought provoking and certainly what I came here to discuss... so lets get started! Most of you are probably wondering who the heck I am and what am I going to talk about. By day I’m a powertrain engineer at an American sportbike manufacturer where I work on and oversee multiple facets of engine development and production. At night I focus on my personal projects, hobbies, family, and whatever else might interest me. Since the age of 18 I’ve lived and breathed motorcycles. I’ve raced multiple disciplines (everything from road, ice, trials, salt flats, and hare scrambles), built my own racing bike, designed my own engines, modified a handful of bikes, and most importantly- made a whole lot of mistakes. These experiences, failures included, have put me in a position to teach you a few new things or at least give you an interesting read. My powersports story started at a young age, however thanks to parental restrictions I was never able to own a bike until I was 18. Once 18 hit, I promptly bought a 1984 Honda Nighthawk 700 from my high school. The bike had been donated by a member of the local community and I had my eye on it for years as I watched students try unsuccessfully to make it run right. Thanks to my never-ending curiosity, that bike very quickly got rebuilt, and to the dismay of my parents, it got ridden a hell of a lot. Shortly thereafter I graduated high school and then attended the University of Minnesota, where I was slated to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a dentist. I don’t recall too many times where I had actually thought that this career path was going to become a reality, so naturally my interest in higher education dwindled at an alarming rate. Simultaneously my interest in motorcycles was at an all time high. I was fascinated by the old Kawasaki two-stroke triples. I had never before seen a two-stroke in a motorcycle and their simplicity, light weight, and abundance of power drew me to them. In a twist of Craigslist-fate a deal for a pair of 1975 Kawasaki H2s popped up in Dallas. Before I could fully rationalize the consequences of skipping an exam, I was on my way with a friend to pick these basket cases up. On my way down to Dallas it hit me that without knowing what I wanted to do with my life, continuing going to school was pointless. I promptly quit two years into my college education, yet again much to my parents’ dismay. I had always made money running a painting business in the summer, so I did that for awhile to make ends meet. While painting has never been a glamorous business it was quite profitable and an important part of my life as it taught me the basics of running a business, allowed me the freedom to set my own schedule, and I learned how to deal with and manage people. Restored 1984 Honda Nighthawk 700 and Restored 1975 Kawasaki H2 The following year my parents ordered me back to school, this time to give engineering a try. I felt like a fish out of water. The idea of being stuck in Minneapolis for another four years brought upon visions of offing myself once and for all. A week in- I quit. I knew I needed a plan if I was going to break the news to my parents. Over the weekend I put on my big-boy pants and started searching for something that I might actually want to do with my life. Low and behold- if you Google “motorcycle engineering” a couple programs pop up in the United Kingdom. That was it, suddenly I was staring my future right in the face, a future that I actually wanted to pursue. Somehow I convinced my parents that going to Wales and attending Swansea Metropolitan University was a good idea, I applied, and got accepted shortly after. Finally I was going to go learn about something I actually wanted to, travel the world, and get a degree in motorcycle engineering. The move to Wales was exhilarating and things really started to take off for me once I began my studies. The structure of the program, the way in which the coursework was carried out, and class sizes were all a lot different than I had expected- but in a good way. The first year was a cakewalk, but it allowed me ample time to learn CAD programs, design a couple fictitious bikes, make friends, and enjoy the Welsh countryside. Towards the end of the year I decided I would design and build my own motorcycle, which I would then intend on racing in the Central Road Racing Association’s club racing events at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota. To keep costs down and the project manageable, I decided to build a super mono powered by a Kawasaki KX500 two stroke engine. Initial Chassis Layout My first summer back home I promptly ordered materials for the project and got back to work running my painting business to fund it. The only problem was that I had no mill, no lathe, no pipe bender, and no TIG welder- nor did I know a lot about using any of these aforementioned tools. Suddenly it hit me, there was going to be a steep learning curve. After befriending some locals who were enthused about my ambitious project as I was, in one fell swoop I procured the rights to use all the equipment I required at the odd hours I was intending on working on this bike. It was as if the universe had aligned for the things I had wanted all along as soon as I started asking for them. Quickly I got the jigs made for the frame and swingarm, enlisted the help of my father to work on the fiberglass components, and devised a plan to try and extract more power out of the engine. The biggest hold up that summer was having to teach myself how to weld. That exercise took roughly a month of practice on thin walled tubing and a hefty sized chunk of my own melted skin before I felt proficient to proceed to tackle a real frame. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I cocked up the frame design by trusting a friend’s engine model. My first go around at a frame didn’t end up fitting anything, but I got plenty of extra welding practice! By the end of summer the bike was 85 percent complete and I was able to finish the rest of it up over the Christmas and Easter breaks. Super Mono Construction My second year of school was much more engaging academically and focused a lot more on the powertrain side of things which was great. I learned all sorts of useful things to help me along with my race bike build and it was great to be so close to people that could answer some of my questions from a professional standpoint. My first test ride over Easter break came late one evening and to my dismay, it was a disappointing affair. I came back from the ride and my hands and butt were numb from all the engine vibration. Half the bike had rattled loose and the other half the hardware was completely missing! My first real world encounter with engine balancing was about to take place. Much to my dismay, simply changing the balance of the crankshaft did not in fact move the vibration to a more tolerable direction. I needed another solution. After much problem solving, I decided to try and graft on a counter balance assembly I designed to cancel out some of the forces that lead to engine vibration. This proved to be a difficult task with my amateur machining skills, but through much trial and error I managed and the balancer worked! Finishing up the balancer assembly After my second year of school I was offered a job at S & S Cycle for the summer as an engineer. This was great since I got to hang out/pester a lot of smart folks to help me with my race bike project. I learned a lot about machining, manufacturing, and engineering processes at S & S, plus the people there were awesome. My proudest moment while working at S & S was designing and building the land speed fairing for their Bonneville Salt Flats racing bike. This was a time consuming and messy affair, but it paid off when we took the bike out to Bonneville and set four land speed records! Once work was finished for the day, more often than not I went over to my bosses house. He had a decent size shop with a dyno, a hefty amount of tools, and the usual machining equipment- all the things I was requiring to make my world go round. Towards the end of my second year of school I had designed a fuel injection system which I was adamant about implementing onto my bike. That whole summer I spent my time incorporating the system into the engine and learned how to tune the engine on the dyno. By the end of summer my bike was ridable, and I was spending more and more time out on the road test riding. I had hoped to take it to the track for the final race of the year, but other engine problems cropped up and I, along with the bike, ended up staying home. My third and final year proved to be the most time consuming, educational, and one of the most exciting. As part of my degree, I was required to come up with a major project to work on and complete throughout the year. Seeing as my race bike needed a new engine, I began figuring out how to design a new single cylinder two-stroke which would incorporate all the beneficial things that I had learned over the past summer testing the KX500 engine. I settled on designing a 400cc single cylinder counter balanced engine that would use as many common parts as possible with a current production dirt bike transmission. Due to the fact that we actually had a couple Honda CRF450 bikes in the school’s workshop, and parts were cheap and cheerful, I decided to use the gearbox along with a few other parts from that engine. The rest of the engine I designed from the ground up. By the end of my third year I was calling my friends at S & S to help me out with some 3D printing so I could test fit the engine into my frame and the CRF frame. As most almost graduated grads, I was nearing the time where I needed a job, and I didn’t have any spare money to spend on having parts made so the 400cc single project had to be put on hold. 400cc prototype test fitment Job hunting proved to be an interesting time in my life, and even though I didn’t necessarily want all the jobs I applied to, I learned an awful lot through the interview process. I was able to see how companies were run, what real world engineers did, and how engineering roles were divided. Very quickly I began to determine what I did or didn’t want in a workplace and I began to wonder what my future might have in store for me. What also fascinated me was touring all of these companies’ facilities and seeing how the machine shops, engine build areas, dynos, and engineering departments were set up. One of the places I toured that piqued my curiosity the most was Mercedes AMG in the United Kingdom where the Mercedes Formula I engines are designed. I ended up going there twice for interviews and getting a job offer to work there, but thanks to work visa restrictions I was never able to secure the offer since the regulations tightened up after 2012. At that point there was really only one company in America where I thought my skill set and personality would be a good match, and that was at an American sportbike company. I had applied at the sportbike company which I was interested in in the fall of my final year and finally after four months of patiently waiting, I had heard something. An interview was arranged so I came home, loaded up my bike and prototype engine in the back of my van, and set out to East Troy. At the end of the day, after all their questions were answered, it was quite satisfying rolling out my hand built race bike in the sportbike company’s parking lot to show all the interviewing staff what I had done. The interview staff had never had another candidate who built and brought a rolling resume before and they were thoroughly impressed. Right then I realized my persistence at building my own bike had paid off and was largely responsible for landing me two jobs a lot of people dream of. I was brought on as a powertrain engineer in the fall and this is where I currently reside. Throughout my career I have continued to meet wonderful people, learn new things, and further my knowledge of two wheeled vehicles. I hope in a small way my exploits, triumphs, and failures will all be valuable lessons. Paul If you'd like to follow my blog, click the "follow this blog" button in the upper right. I'd love to have you.

Paul Olesen

Paul Olesen

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