So, after pondering the fate of the fuse block issues, the wire connector ends were cleaned and reinstalled in the original part. It WAS running before, so why not just leave it alone for the moment? (see previous story)
About four hours of work to reinstall the rear wheel, check and repair wiring problems, reinstall the front wheel and brakes and generally go over the whole bike again, it seemed like it was ready for a little test ride. Despite sitting for a couple of weeks, while waiting for parts, the engine fired up immediately with that marvelous racket of 6 eager cylinders wanting to go out and play. First it was just a gentle run around the block, testing brakes, clutch and throttle under a little load. It was a much different experience than when it was rolled off the truck last month and barely able to make it around the block due to air leaks, spark plug cap problems and a general need for maintenance.
Once the first leg was successful, the bike was taken further down the road for my mini-test drive course which covers just a few miles. The bike revved up to 4-5 grand on the tach and the speedometer was indicating speed correctly. It is amazing how much these bikes sound like Honda’s CBX six, despite having a lot less valves/cams and a different primary drive/alternator drive system. There is very little flywheel effect on these engines, so they catch revs really quickly. For a gear-head enthusiast who is used to high-revving Honda engines, it was an ecstatic moment, which can turn very addictive in a hurry.
Even with a totally stock exhaust system, the whole whining, ripping-tearing sounds of these engines going up the musical scale is nothing short of magical, at least to Bill’s ears. The bike’s suspension is supple and controlled without being harsh at all. Fresh tires probably helped the feeling of adhesion to the road, as well, but the bike feels quite well balanced and nimble for 500+ lbs of machinery and a 5- gallon fuel tank sitting atop the frame rails. It changes directions easily and feels like it wants to lean over with little more than a thought and nudge from your hands and arms.
After adding 4 gallons of gas to the nearly empty tank, the next test was to run out towards my friend Scott’s house in Jamul. He’s often home and I thought I would surprise him with a visit on the newly revived Benelli. While the bike ran smoothly on the 12 mile ride out to Scott’s house, the surprise was spoiled because he was about 25 miles away shopping for home improvement products. Stopping on his driveway I noticed that there was some oil drooling down the centerstand and off the newly-installed oil pan gasket. It wasn’t a major leak, but would obviously be marking its territory wherever it stopped, so the choice was to zoom back home for some inspection and remedies. My riding gear was not the best choice either, as I was wearing rubber Crocs and short socks on my feet with thin Levi pants on. There was a gap between the bottom of pants legs and the top of my thin socks. On several occasions I was slightly singed by contact with the relocated alternator casting, which protrudes out right next to your shin bone when you are holding the rear brake pedal down and leaning the bike slightly at a stop sign. Ouch, ouch, ouch…
The return trip was uneventful, beyond the oil leak. The countershaft sprocket cover, which includes the clutch release mechanism, was removed as the very toasty engine was cooling off. There were gobs of goo and old spider bodies trapped up inside the cover, similarly to what happens on the CB500-550 engines. Some of the drool was melting oil residues; a mix of oil and old chain lube that was flung off the drive chain up front. I had lubed the chain with some 90wt gear oil to help loosen it up and as a result the chain had to be readjusted three times in the first 30 miles of driving.
What concerned me the most was that there was engine oil slowly drooling down the parting line where the oil pan and crankcases meet. A good used CB650 oil pan had been purchased and installed along with a new o-ring style gasket, so you would think that the sealing there would have been leak-proof, but it wasn’t apparently.
Another quick local test ride confirmed that the oil coming down the cases now was engine oil not any more residues from the chain case area, which was cleaned out completely. So, it would appear that another look at the oil pan installation was next. The next day a closer inspection (after removing the oil pan again just for a confirming look) revealed oil leaks at the clutch pushrod seal and oil pump o-rings. Three of the four seals were sourced at a local seal shop, while the clutch pushrod seal turned out to be a 292 code CB450 part, which was ordered from the local dealer. Once the seals and o-rings were replaced, the oil seepage stopped completely.
As far as the actual riding of a Benelli Sei is concerned, there are more than a few quirky design pieces that must be considered while riding. The left side handlebar controls are very inconvenient to use, as the turn signal button is tiny (about the width of my little fingernail) and moves only a fraction of an inch with little feeling as to when it is back to center, after use. The whole crazy headlight switch assembly rotates on the handlebars with a lockout button feature. Once it is turned up from the OFF position, it runs through PARK (which the bike doesn’t have) and then to LOW, just before the HIGH BEAM position. To turn the lights OFF, you have to push another small button sideways and then rotate the light switch arm downwards. This all requires an awkward use of your left thumb, which is best left ungloved for the most accurate operation. This bike needs a nice set of pre-1975 handlebar switches from a CB500-550 for ease of use. The starter button on the right side, along with the kill switch is also a tiny piece, which looks like it was taken from a moped model.
The instrument cluster is perhaps 30 degrees up from horizontal and while the speedometer and tachometer are fairly easy to read, the row of warning lights, located in between the meters are difficult to see in bright sunlight. Consequently, any HI beam or turn signal warnings are never noticed during daylight riding.
The previous owner added an ammeter, mounted off the end of the intake manifold stud on the right side. It generally shows about a 10amp charge rate if the lights are not ON. When lights are ON, the meter seems to stay just above the zero mark, at an electrical break-even point. Once recent trip, it suddenly showed no charging going on for some reason. Nursing the bike back home, I removed the alternator cover to see if the brushes were worn out. I poked and prodded here and there with nothing really definitive, but on restart the charging system burst back to life again.
A nearly useless feature on the bike is the side-stand. It is located way forward on the frame with a small loop that is positioned just underneath the #3 exhaust pipe header. I bent the loop downwards to get some foot/toe clearance, but you really cannot deploy the stand while sitting on the bike. And you certainly cannot retract it from that point, as well. The repositioned loop now touches down in hard left hand corners!
The rear SLS brake is large and powerful, showing little wear in 18k miles. The rear hub has large rubber drive cushions which were likewise in near-new condition. The front Brembo brakes are dual piston, with pistons coming in from each side of the rotor. Despite sitting unused for many years, the pistons moved freely and the brake pads showed little wear, as well. The front brake is a two-finger affair, hauling the bike and rider load down easily and quickly with good braking feel. Despite the presence of brake pad imprints on the cast iron rotors, there is no chattering feel when the brakes are applied. The rotors continued a self-cleaning process as repeated applications scrubbed off more of the remaining surface rust, which had been attacked earlier with a rotary brake rotor scuffing tool. The front fork dust boots were cracked and split along the edges but the fork seals, so far, are dry after 100 miles of riding. So, while fully functional as a motorcycle, it continues to be a work in progress as the smaller issues are dealt with and continued cleaning of the chassis parts continues.
I have to say that this is one BAD-@#$ sounding motorcycle, though. It is sort of a CBX-lite style machine with 100 lbs less weight and 25% less horsepower than the big, imposing Honda DOHC six, which came along five years after the introduction of the Sei. Twisting the throttle on this bike can become permanently addicting at all speeds. The bike needs lots of cosmetic work, like wheel rebuilding, frame and bodywork repainting and general scrubbing up here and there. But, it is what it is in the moment and there is a lot of charm in the 40 year-old machine, so it may be hanging around the shop all summer.
Bill “Bill-Benelli” Silver