Tuesday 5 September 2023

Yes its so infrequent, I wonder why I bother!

But then again once a year is 'regular' I guess 😁

Just not enough spare time really.

Since starting the Byway Nomad channel on YouTube, a lot of spare time has been taken up riding and filming, editing videos and even then I don't always get them out by my (self imposed) deadlines! 

When I started I had visions of producing one new video a week, after all a single ride out can bag ten or more lanes, so that's ten weeks worth isn't it? Well yes but it's amazing how quickly that goes by, not helped in the least when I realise that lately having finally got into the groove that I tend to post every five to six days rather than every week, so the videos get used up even quicker.

I  also created a rod for my own back when I decided to add voice commentary to the videos which increased the time it takes to produce each finished video. As a result i've actually gone back to the text only format.You'd be amazed at how difficult it is to get a suitable period of quiet to do the recordings. I've been disturbed by delivery drivers, children playing outside, ice cream vans and even the cat jumping on my keyboard at a vital moment!!


In fact I've only recently finished churning out videos from the
Rallymoto weekend at Haggs Bank Bunkhouse, which took place in August 2022! But it did give me the opportunity to ad some County Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria lanes on the channel And then there's those very Rallymoto events, which take up enough time....

This year has had a fair few, they kicked off with our first training weekend on Salisbury Plain in January, although that had to be curtailed to classroom training only as ice made the trails and minor roads very dangerous. In February the training on the Saturday and an Adventure Rally Raid on the Sunday went ahead and these events were well attended and went very well with many satisfied customers.



After that it was March training, the Kielder 500, running Suzuki's demo rides at the ABR Festival and at Suzuki Live at Cadwell Park (photo above), then the Wales 500 and Adventure Rally Raids in the Peak District and Cotswolds. Not to mention writing risk assessments and method statements for the Suzuki events.


Then the planning, recce'ing and creating the road books for three of the six Blazing Saddles remote Road Book challenge routes (as well as a number of future projects). 



For the Blazing Saddles Challenge, I created the Peaks, Kent and Thetford routes and despite the odd issue with missing waypoints (whoops)! road closures, fallen trees and fly tipping, the feedback has been fabulous.

And I also launched the Byway Nomad website, which of course took time and requires keeping updated, so please go take a look

www.bywaynomad.co.uk

Then there's all the rest, holidays, weekends away with friends, family barbeques etc, etc but at the end of  it all I do actually like rambling away in text, so here I am back again.

And getting back to videos for Byway Nomad. i'm just about to publish my last video in my stock, Mill Way/Mill Lane in Bedfordshire. After that I need to get out on the bike and video a few more!

The next videos may take some time to appear as I'm off on a holiday in Cape Verde for a week. Most unlike what I normally get up to as on face value it's a 'Beach Holiday' but seeing as we've already booked quad biking and sea kayaking trips, maybe not!








Sunday 11 September 2022

Nine months of ramblings to catch up on...

OMG is it really that long since I last posted any ramblings!

I originally titled this episode of the blog 'Six Months of Ramblings to catch up on' but it's been another three months to finish as I keen adding stuff. So Nine months of ramblings it is!

So what’s been going on?

Well not a lot really, looks like I’m becoming a fair weather rider! But seriously, life has been very busy, work is keeping me very busy with a big project to introduce our new risk management system. And weekends seem to be chock full of catching up with friends and family after the Covid restrictions were lifted at the beginning of this year. For example we only got together with Gráinne’s family for “Christmas” in April. 

Snowboarding & Helicopters 

We managed to get away for a weeks snowboarding in Cervinia in Italy in March. Unfortunately Gráinne got caught out by the ‘first day curse’ again and got taken out on the slope by another snowboarder. This resulted in a ride in an ambulance and a helicopter to hospital in Aosta (a one hour drive by road). Luckily it only resulted in a few bumps and bruises but did rather spoil her holiday. 




I had some great lessons which helped my technique no end. I’m still nowhere near competent but improving slowly from 'complete idiot, out of control on the slope' status.

Rallymoto Part I

On the event front there have been some huge frustrations for Rallymoto trying to fix dates and the Wales 500 ended up having to be combined with the Welsh Dark Skies Rally last month. It all went well but for logistical reasons we couldn't run a separate night stage (too light in August and the nearest decent forest trails are too far from Llandovery). Mind you that didn't stop some riders returning after dark on Saturday after a mammoth day's riding.



I planned a few routes earlier in the year with the Hertfordshire and Cotswolds Adventure Cannonballs (albeit with a slight problem on the day on the Cotswold run, see photo below) and the Wales Extreme Adventure Cannonball running successfully earlier this year.


The Ice Breaker Challenge went well now all digital and I plotted three of the eight routes available. 

VMCC

I’ve also been working for the Vintage Motor Cycle Club (VMCC) producing route descriptions (road books) for their “Train Robbers Run” which visited the site of the 1962 Great Train Robbery. Then following the gang’s getaway route to their hideaway at Leatherfield Farm, only a couple of miles from where I live. 

Then I was asked to do the same for the VMCC Banbury Run. This event has run since 1949 for motorcycles manufactured before 1st January 1931. Starting from the British Motor Museum at Gaydon, Warwickshire and covering three different routes up to 62 miles through minor roads through Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, visiting Banbury on the way (obviously). I went and recce’d the three routes on the 390, having first fitted the original cast wheels with the road biased Continental TKC70 tyres. Five hours in the saddle and amazingly I felt comfortable throughout, for reasons explained below.


On the day I helped out calculating the results, there were some amazing bikes especially as you realise the 'youngest' bike that qualifies is still going to be at least Ninety One years old .

Upgrading the 390 Adventure

On the KTM 390 I have been continuing to try and change it from an Adventure to a sort of Adventure R.

To clarify, KTM often offer their Adventure bikes in two versions, the Adventure and the Adventure R, the former usually having a 17"/19" wheel set, cast wheels, road tyres and short travel non (or limited) adjustable suspension, being more road orientated.

And that's exactly what the 390 Adventure is (and doesn't get an R version from the factory) although the shorter travel suspension is still fully adjustable. 

The 390 Adventure after all, is effectively the same frame and engine as the 390 Duke road bike, fitted with different wheels, suspension, subframe and bodywork. As a result the ergonomics are still road oriented but more on that below.

The R versions of Adventure bikes have 18"/21" spoked wheels, fitted with more knobbly tyres, longer travel and fully adjustable suspension. 

So how to make the 390 more R like?

Well the obvious step was already done, fitting the spoked wheels and some more aggressive tyres, although these are still in the original 17"/19" diameters.

The next obvious step would be the suspension but to be honest the standard suspension works so well, I can't see much reason to change it just yet. 

The riding position as mentioned is road oriented, so whilst perfect on tarmac, does suffer off of it. the bars sit very low, resulting in a forward crouch that is not best for control. I first added some 18mm spacers under the bar riser/clamps to see if this made a difference, it did but not enough. 



I combined this with trying to switch the odd handlebars with their unique 26mm diameter centre section for some 'proper' fat bars, the Renthall RC High bars I have always used on my rally bikes. This appeared quite simple as I just swapped the handlebar clamps for some from a KTM EXC. But unfortunately the Renthal bars are not the correct bend for the 390 and you cannot fit the controls on the shorter straight bar sections at the ends. Apparently there is a Pro Taper bar that works so I may explore further.

As noted above the 18mm risers were not high enough so I fitted some 30mm risers. However this meant changing the clutch cable to reach. Fortunately the stock clutch cable from a Royal Enfield Himalayan is identical apart from being about 25mm longer (and only £13 compared to £20 for a KTM one). The riding position is now much better! 

The problem of the front tyres available in 19" not being aggressive enough in the dirt was solved when someone on the KTM 390 Adventure UK FaceBook group discovered the Maxxis M7304 Maxxcross IT is available in a 70/100x19 (for bikes like the KTM SX85). Its much skinnier than the standard 100/90x19 but surprisingly fits really well, although a 2.75 skinny front tube is required (luckily I had a HD Michelin version in the right size sitting on the shelf).

Another recent addition was a set of Bark Busters handguards to replace the standard Plastic items that from experience are too flimsy to protect the levers very well.





The Maxxis M7304 is the same tyre as I have used (albeit in 21"/18") when racing on my KTM 525 EXC so I know they are good. 

It has transformed the bike on the trails, with excellent steering abilities in mud and ruts. Although to be honest for the last few months most trails have been rock hard. One unforeseen problem is reduced ground clearance. The stock 100/90 tyre is 90mm tall; 100 being the width in millimetres and 90 being the 'aspect ratio' which is the height of the tyre as a percentage of the width. So in this case 100mm x 90% = 90mm.

The Maxxis being a 70/100 means the width is 70mm and the height is 100% i.e. also 70mm and therein lies the problem, a 20mm reduction in ride height at the front wheel (90mm - 70mm = 20mm). It's a bit annoying but doesn't seem to be too much of a problem (but see photo of bash plate below).

On the comfort front I fitted a Cool Covers seat cover, this was essential on my old 1090 R as it chucked out so much heat from the rear cylinder straight into the seat. This is obviously not a problem on the 390 but it massively improves the comfort  as well as its original purpose..


The troublesome brake pedal that sticks out too far has not been satisfactorily resolved but after straightening it out, changing the foot plate for a Freeride one (about a third of the size and rounded, not pointed like the original so less likely to snag). Finally I fitted a 'brake snake' a short cable from brake pedal to bash plate to stop anything getting caught behind the pedal i.e. vegetation.


KTM 390 Adventure R or Gas Gas 400 Adventure to come?

Mind you after all this there have been spy shots published of what looks like a 390 Adventure R prototype, definitely using a 390 engine and frame but with different sub-frame, wheels, swing arm, suspension etc:


And then some more of a '400 Adventure bike" under the Gas Gas name (Gas Gas now being part of the KTM Empire) but this does not appear to use the current 390 engine. There are rumours this is a 400cc motor that will replace the current 372cc motor in the 390 range (Adventure, Duke & RC)... the plot thickens!


Rallymoto Part II

Back to riding real bikes and my latest event was the Rallymoto Adventure Cannonball Camp at Haggs Bank Bunkhouse near Alston in Cumbria (No not the Lake District, the bit of Cumbria on the other side of the Pennines). This one was non competitive and just for fun, with two routes each day Adventure and Extreme. A fantastic weekend especially as I got to ride my bike for a change. And a great opportunity to film some new green roads for my Byway Nomad project.



The lack of ground clearance showed itself on some of the very rocky trail but at least the Powerparts bash plate earned its keep. I'm not sure the standard plastic item would have fared too well...




That's it for now but hopefully the next edition won't take so long to write!



Friday 24 December 2021

Yes I know it's been ages since my last post!

12th September to be exact but hey i've been busy with the Byway Nomad Project.

But first a very Merry Christmas to all readers.

So how's the Byway Nomad project going?

The last time I reported, back in May I had 50 subscribers on Youtube and 139 followers for the Facebook Page. 

As of today I have 89 subscribers and a whopping 480 followers for the Facebook page!

Also in May I had published 82 videos but now have 141 available.

Having covered the Peak District National Park, I have added green roads from Cumbria, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire and most recently Gloucestershire. 

Next on the list will be some Hampshire and West Sussex green roads when I get out to recce a new route for Rallymoto.

It would be nice if some of those on Facebook would subscribe on Youtube too, only 11 more and at 100 I can start doing more stuff like getting a custom URL. Instead of the totally unrememberable 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb4vXOKCHh04Y8z9K4wJ7KA 

I can get something like 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/bywaynomad

And it would be nice to get to 500 Facebook followers too (only another 20 to go).

In another improvement I have a new logo, following the Nomad Racing theme and very shortly stickers too! 




I



Thursday 2 September 2021

Project Downsize Part 4

In my last blog, I told the story of the rear brake pedal and how I managed to bend it in half after getting it stuck in the side of a rut on Salisbury Plain.


This was a result of the standard brake pedal sticking out a long way from the side of the bike and the foot plate on the end being very long too. So I started to look at how I could prevent this in future, now pay attention here comes the technical bit....

First I bent the pedal back to its original position as far as possible and then attempted to straighten it a bit more to tuck into the side of the bike by the simple expedient of clamping it in a bench vice, heating it up with a blow torch then getting a very large ring spanner over the lever and bending it as required. I also replaced the (very bent) original foot plate with one from a KTM EXC that is only half as big, this was a bit better but not perfect.

Next step was to find an alternative pedal that doesn’t stick out so far, I took a close look at the 790/890 pedal and it certainly looked like it might fit. Although the obvious issue was it mounts inside the frame, whereas the 390 pedal fits to the outside, so maybe it was just an optical illusion that it doesn't bend as far? The only way to find out was to get hold of one and try.

The downside is that a replacement 390 pedal is bad enough at £55 but a 790 is £79!!!

A bit too steep to start experimenting until I spotted a replacement 790 pedal on AliExpress for only £24 (with new user discount) so I thought it was worth a punt. It ended up costing me about £30 with postage but still not bad.
So it turned up eventually and a first look it seemed like everything was in the right place when comparing it to the original:


After removing the original pedal from the bike it looked even better


But then a few problems First problem is the part where the brake rod attaches is thicker on the 790 pedal.

This is because instead of a forked rod with a clevis pin that the 390 uses, the 790 has a rose joint that bolts to the side of the pedal.


I considered stealing the rod from my 525EXC as it’s the same type as the 790 but realised it was quite different where it goes into the master cylinder. So instead I spent a few minutes with a file and reduced the width to match...


Then I tried to push the clevis pin through the hole and discovered it is both smaller and lacks the steel bush the 390 pedal has:


So I pressed out the sleeve (with two small sockets and the vice) Then drilled out the 790 pedal to almost big enough, then carefully finished it off with a round file until:

 

I was then able to press the steel bush into the new pedal with the vice...

 

And it all fitted together as standard...

Another problem can be seen in the photo above, the hole for the return spring runs back to front, whereas on the original pedal it's from side to side. Not really an issue as I drilled another hole with a 2mm bit in the correct orientation.

Next issue was the thickness off the lever at the pivot, if you look at the 390 lever the bearing just pushes in from either side. But on the 790 it can only go in from the inside as it sits against a shoulder on the outside…


This means the pedal is thicker here and the unthreaded portion of the pivot bolt is not long enough and pinches the pedal up against the frame so it doesn't move. I cured this by finding a bolt with a slightly longer unthreaded section in my "box of spare bolts that must not be thrown away as they are bound to come in useful one day"

And so the final test, and everything seems to fit just right. The adjustment bolt, didn't quite line up but was enough to still work OK, I also fitted a footplate from a KTM 250F Freeride, even smaller than the old EXC one I used before.


It certainly achieves the aim of tucking the lever in out of harm's way, especially when compared to the position of the original pedal (and remember the foot plate in the photo is from an EXC so still about half the size of the original:



so all that remained was to road test it:

And this is when it all failed miserably as I found two problems both with the same cause:

Despite the brake actuating rod being adjusted to its shortest length, the brake pedal sits too high. This means you have to physically lift your foot to find the back brake, annoying and not ideal when off road.

Also due to this, in trying to get the pedal as low as possible, the travel of the pedal is extremely short, so the brake is effectively on or off, with hardly any travel between the two positions, not helped by the pedal being much shorter than the original so it was always going to travel through a shorter arc.
So it's now really good at locking the back brake due to a total lack of feel 😠
As a result I have written off all the work done and I've reinstalled the standard pedal (now with the smaller 250F Freeride footplate).
The answer to these problems would be a shorter actuating rod, I looked again at the one on my 525 EXC to see if that would work but it's different, being fatter at the adjustment end due to having a threaded hole in it for a rose joint rather than being threaded itself like the 390, shame as they only cost £10.
Or I could buy another standard one and try cutting a longer thread for more adjustment and/or shortening it but wouldn't want to do that until I had a spare.
But the problem with that is the brake rod is not available as a separate part for the 390, only as part of the master cylinder (£93.66 each) 😱
So it's time to start trawling through the KTM parts fiches to see what I can find.
The investigation continues.....

Monday 23 August 2021

Project Downsize part 3

After the mud had been washed off after the ABR Festival, I made a few more minor adjustments.

First was getting rid of the ridiculously long reflector bracket behind the number plate. At first I had just turned the reflector upside down which raised it a bit.


Later I crafted a plastic bracket from some 2mm plastic plate to position the redlecter right at the bottom of the number plate and did away with large moulded bracket altogether.

At the ABR festival I had picked up a new rack for the bike made from HDPE by French company AXP from Ollie Crowie at WrenchRidevery simple to fit and perfect for my purposes.


I then had a pleasant day out adding more miles as I had the 1000km (620 mile) service booked, this entailed just going out and getting lost, I discovered a few new byways and filmed them for the Byway Nomad channel, one each in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire (living as I do right on the border of the three counties). 

In fact, I rode more than that having included several I knew but unfortunately hadn’t quite got the hang of my new camera (a £30 knock off of a GoPro) so several of the videos were unusable, or I simply had managed to turn the camera off instead of on! Oh well at least I had an excuse to go and ride them again a week later! You can check them out at Byway Nomad


The next week  I took my bike in for its service in the back of the van as I also took along Gráinne’s KTM 250F Freeride as we had a plan! Gráinne had decided that rather than have both a trail bike and a road bike, a 390 Adventure (with a lowering kit) would replace them both. I was somewhat disappointed on arrival to discover the KTM Centre had no more 390s in stock and were unlikely to get anymore until the 2022 models started to arrive later in the year. This appeared to be the situation across the country as the model had proven so popular.

Luckily as there was no stock to be had in the UK, KTM were prepared to allow the KTM Centre to sell their demonstrator, so a deal was done and the Freeride part exchanged for the demo bike. It still only had 370 miles on the clock and the first 110 of those were done by me!

This is the bike..



At the time of writing we are still waiting for the lowering kit to arrive but the bike is safely ensconced in the KTM Centre, no longer available as a demo bike.

The next outing on my 390 was an Rallymoto training day on Salisbury Plain followed the next day by an Adventure Rally on the Plain. Saturday was fine with classroom sessions and a couple of short roadbook outings.

On Sunday, I was to be the course opener and all was going well until I entered a lane near the 'German Village' in the Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA), this was badly rutted from the passage of military vehicles and I caught the brake pedal in the side of the rut and next thing I knew I was on my side!

Luckily the only damage was to the pedal and the mount for the black plastic radiator shroud. The latter was easily pushed back into shape but I definitely need to get some crash bars as it could easily have been the radiator that got damaged.  

The brake pedal was a different story... 


Whoops!

I was able to straighten it a bit but for the rest of the day had to use my heel to brake, that was fun on wet chalk!

The saga of trying to resolve the pedal issue will be the subject of the next episode of the blog.

One good thing was i got this cracking photo of me on the 390 from Gabby our photographer.



To be continued...

Tuesday 10 August 2021

Project Downsize continues....

So what was next for the baby Adventure?

On buying my 390 I also ordered a set of spoked wheels from KTM, this was due to the original cast alloy wheels not being so suitable for off road use as they can easily get damaged. 

The spoked wheels have more flex in them so can absorb abuse on the trails. It took another 10 days but they finally turned up. 


They were soon unpacked and I checked through the parts. They include everything you need, discs, a new cush drive/sprocket carrier. ABS rings, spacers, rim tapes and all the bolts and nuts required. The only thing not supplied is a second rear sprocket. 

I had ordered some Mitas E09 tyres as the best value/most aggressive available in the 19"/17" wheel sizes so got around to fitting them, as you can see I had a willing (but not particularly helpful) assistant!



I had forgotten just how stiff the sidewalls are on these tyres, not the easiest to fit especially as the spindle on my Rabaconda tyre changer is too fat to fit through the wheel bearings, the 390 having much skinnier wheel spindles than most other KTMs, so I had to fit the tyres without using it. Keeping the wheels centred on the changer wasn't exactly easy as a result. Also the changer is designed for 18" to 21" wheels but I was able to adjust it just enough to accommodate the 17" rear wheel. 

I wondered why I had got a new cush drive/sprocket carrier with the new wheels thinking I could just use the existing one, saving me the effort to swap the sprocket over. After 20 minutes of trying to get the back wheel to fit and finding it a couple of millimetres too wide, I took a look at the other cush drive...


That'll be why it doesn't fit! The spoked wheels carrier is thinner than the cast wheel one as the spoked hub is clearly wider, no wonder it wouldn't fit. I also compared the spacer supplied with the spoked wheels, only a very subtle difference here but a difference nevertheless. I swapped over the sprocket (must get round to buying a second one) fitted the correct carrier and spacer and all was sorted. I particularly like the fact that the kit includes an upgrade of a Galfer wavy disc for the front wheel.



Job done, I was all ready for my first proper ride to Ragley Hall in Warwickshire to recce the adventure trail for the Adventure Bike rider Festival the following week, as I was the Clerk of the Course for the trail.


The tank bag is the Rigg Equipment bag I had bought for the 1090, luckily it fits the 390 as well. The rear bag is a Kriega US10 that fitted neatly on the rear seat and held my waterproofs. So off I set off, and if you look you can see the rear tyre is fully inflated, which is important because...

 I got only two miles down the road when the back tyre went flat!

Thinking I must have punctured it when fitting, I rode slowly back home and re-fitted the rear cast wheel and road tyre, to get on my way, only an hour behind schedule.

The recce went well and I had no real problems with the back tyre although the trail was pretty dry.




When I got home, I removed the tube from the offending wheel expecting it to be trashed by riding on it flat for two miles but it look perfect so I and pumped it up to see where the puncture was but found nothing. The next day it was still inflated, I put a new tube in the wheel anyway but over a month later it's still sitting in the garage and hasn't lost any pressure???

I can only guess that something got stuck in the valve or maybe because it's a few years old, it has become slightly porous over that time. OK when stationary but riding on it forced the air out. I decided I wouldn't be using it again anyway, just in case.

The following weekend was the ABR Festival itself and the 390 acquitted itself very well, excelling in the wet and muddy conditions we had on the Friday and Saturday. The only minor mishap was when I lost grip coming out of one of the bomb holes on the trail. This resulted in me hurtling backwards to the bottom of the hole!

Damage was confined to a bent exhaust bracket and the carbon fibre heat shield on the Akrapovič got torn in two pieces, the first was an easy fix but the second more frustrating, i'm still trying to get hold of a replacement.