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Installing Interstate Radiator Pods on a Standard

         

[click on any image for a larger view]

Overview and opinions

The Interstate radiator pods are apparently controversial as far as appearance.  The purpose of the pods is to control airflow -- hot air coming from the radiator and wind coming from underneath the tank and up into your face is diverted around the rider.  I chose to install them for several reasons.  First, everyone seems to agree that they work.  I live in the Los Angeles area, and riding a Valk across a summer desert (or even across the San Fernando valley) is downright unpleasant.  Second, the Hondaline Interstate fog lights are way cool.  Third, the pods are an ideal place to install gauges.  Fourth, while it won't help you at a stoplight, the pods appear to create a slight ram air effect across the radiator core -- not only from the extensions scooping the side air in, but also potentially from the directional airflow behind the core.  Since Honda cheated up out of a temperature gauge, I guess I'll never know for sure.

Finally, I like the way they look -- especially with the fog lights.  They seem to add some much-needed visual "weight" to the front of the bike.  The front 3/4 view of the Valk highlights the abrupt transition from the wide engine area (and my visually weighty Interstate tank) to the front wheel.  There is an unsightly gap between these two areas.  The extra mass provided by the pods, at least to my eye, makes for a better visual transition.

I admit that I have some misgivings about their appearance.  They cover two of the intake runners, making the bike look like a four cylinder.  The textured plastic panels facing the rider are cheesy.  The seams are unattractive.  While I can do nothing about the first issue, the last two, as will be described below, can be solved.

Function

The Interstate uses a larger plastic sheet behind the radiator.  It funnels hot radiator air through the pods, which in turn release the heat to the sides, well out of the rider's airstream.  Additionally, the pods have a fresh air inlet that can be used to direct cool air onto the rider's legs.  Finally, the Interstate engine guards (shown below) have air scoops to direct cool air up over your feet.

Parts Needed

To make the swap, several parts are needed (numbers are referenced to the exploded diagrams below):

(1) The pods themselves (a gazillion little parts);

(2) Interstate crash bars (not shown; the pods connect to tabs welded onto the crash bars);

(3) The Interstate radiator shield (#4);

(4) left and right radiator brackets (#'s 23, 24);

(5) left and right frame brackets (#'s 3,8); and

(6) a longer "buzz bolt" (#9)

                    

[click on any image for a larger view]

Since the cost of new parts will exceed $1,000, you will want to get as much of this stuff as you can from a junkyard.  I bought the pods and crash bars used for $225.  The remaining parts were about $125.  Also note that the KuryAkyn intake valance covers will not fit with the pods.  Fortunately, KuryAkyn makes a set for the Interstate (order from the VRCC store).

Installation

Finally done.  Total time was a whopping 10-15 hours.  Ouch.

The only hassle -- but it is a BIG one -- is installing the radiator shield.

Step 1:   Remove the radiator and top radiator hose.

Step 2:   Remove the tank and airbox.

Step 3:   Remove the choke cable, throttle cables, and intake runners.

Step 4:   Slide the carbs back as far as they will go (you may have to remove or loosen whatever smog stuff is still in place).

Step 5:   Remove the old radiator shield.

Step 6:   Remove the crash bars.

Step 7:   Remove the bolts ahead of the "buzz bolt" (the one with the radiator hanging tabs).

Step 8:   Remove the "buzz bolt."

Step 9:   Take a break and look at the project a little more.  Notice the engine mounting bolts (green in the below diagram) and wires (temp, oil pressure, etc.) that the rubber skirt has to go around.

Step 10:   To get the shield in, start on one side and slide it in between the carbs and the frame.  Tuck the rubber skirt up and out of the way for now.  Take your time and work the shield into place.  Work the skirt around the connector for the top radiator hose.

Step 11:   You can see that the rubber skirt has to somehow magically get between the frame and engine.  Hmmm....  First, you will see the small engine wiring harness that needs to be addressed (crank position sensor, water temp, etc.).  Follow the wiring harness on the brake side of the engine up to the steering head.  Unplug the two connectors under the right side steering head cover (same as the radiator fan power junction).  Let the harness dangle down for now.

Step 12:   This is where you thank me (the pioneers take the arrows<g>).  We are going to force the frame rails open so that we can slide the rubber shirt between, so that it will lay flat.  Remove one of the lower mounting bolts (the green area in the above diagram).  You will probably need some kind of jack exerting gentle upward pressure on the engine.  Drive the bolt out with a hammer and drift if required.

Take the old buzz bolt and feed it through its hole.  Don't push it all the way through the other side of the frame.  Take an appropriately sized nut and thread it down and far as it will go.  Now push the buzz bolt through the other side of the frame.  Take some big Vise Grip pliers and clamp the bolt on the other side (as tight as you can).  Now tighten the nut as far as it will go.  The frame rail should now be open enough to allow you to slip the rubber skirt in between.

[photos coming soon]

Replace the mounting bolt (once again, some force is required).  Repeat for the other side.  Feed the engine wire harnesses through and reattach.  Voila!

[photos coming soon]

Step 13:   Replace all of that stuff you have lying all over the floor (except you will, of course, use the Interstate crash bars, longer buzz bolt, and frame and radiator mounting brackets).

You should also take the opportunity to solve the "buzz bolt" problem.  For those unaware, the "buzz bolt" got its name because of the annoying vibrations this bolt exhibits in mid RPMs.  The bolt/sleeve combination resonates.  While the traditional solution has been to torque the hell out of it, many have reported success with damping the resonance between the bolt and the sleeve.  The first solution is to fill the sleeve with silicone.  The second solution -- the one I used -- was to drill and tap the sleeve to accept set screws.  I used two 8-32 set screws, each placed roughly 1/3 from the end.  Don't forget the Loctite.

[photos coming soon]

Fortunately, the actual pod installation is straightforward.  The pods themselves are installed by locating a pin on the rear of the pod (marked "boss" in the below graphic) with a grommet on the crash bars.  The pod then swings around and bolts onto the radiator brackets, frame brackets, and the crash bar.

          

[click on any image for a larger view]

Modifications

Seam Filling:  The ABS plastic on the pods leaves much to be desired -- the seams are nasty, the edges of the plastic are rough, and in general do not match the quality of the rest of the bike.  I glued the inner and outer panels together with epoxy.  You might also try J-B Weld or equivalent.  I used enough to where excess glue squeezed up from the seams to minimize the need for Bondo or other filler.

Rough sand the seams smooth. 

[Optional - for the obsessed only]  Next, I used fine fiberglass cloth (available at hobby stores for model airplane building) and laid a patch over the seam to prevent the crack from showing through later.  This layer also needs to be sanded smooth enough for filling.

This layer, of course, needs to be sanded and filled.  Now it's time to break out the Bondo.  Run a thin coat across the entire seam and sand flush.  Don't try to use a sander for this step -- any pro will tell you that hand sanding with a block produces a superior finish.

I also sanded the edges and other rough spots.  One handy trick - when you think you are done sanding, spray a light coat of contrasting paint on the pods.  Then hand sand the entire surface, trying to make the new color disappear.  Where the new color remains, there is a low spot that needs to be filled.  The image on the left below shows the pods almost ready to paint.  Compare with the image on the right.  With a little help from a great painter, I impressed myself.

         

After prep, it's time to go to the painter (if you are going to install the fog lamps, now is the time to do it).  There are five nasty-looking buttonhead allens on each pod - three to secure the pods to the crash bars, radiator, and frame brackets; and two to secure the faces onto the pods.  I had these painted black.

Fog/Driving lights:  The Hondaline Fog Light kit is a little pricey, but incredibly well made.  The light housings must be a pound each -- talk about overengineering.  The lights do not mount to the pods, but instead bolt securely to the crash bars.  Once installed, you couldn't move them with a crane.  The lamps themselves are also very well engineered, with a very attractive reflector and jewel-cut lens.  Those looking for half-mile visibility will be disappointed -- the beam is wide and diffuse.  This suits my needs just fine; as a city dweller, I am primarily looking to be seen and the large lenses do the job with high style!

         

Several people have reported that is a nightmare to install.  Although it was intimidating to cut the pods, the rest of the installation is easy.  Since I already had a wiring harness in place, that cut a couple of hours off of the install.

Gauges:  As mentioned above, the pods make an ideal place to install gauges.  There is no other good place to install gauges on a Valk.  Plus, the wires can be short and hidden.  I am installing an air/fuel meter and a fuel gauge (provided I can find a gauge compatible with the resistance of the sender).

Face covering:  The textured plastic finish looks too cheap and too 90's.  I'm still thinking on this one.  Carbon fiber would be neat, but perhaps too difficult to do and too 90's also.  Maybe black leather would be the best bet.

Chrome vents:  JCWhitney sells some trick chrome vents for the Goldwing.  These work fine on the pods also.  A little more 60's or 70's than 50's, but they break up the monotony of the black faces.

Special thanks to Jim Lantz (AlbqJim) for all of his assistance in making this project work.

last modified 05/07/2011

2001 Timothy Skelton - all rights reserved

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