Thursday, 11 February 2016

Don't cut the red wire!

The woes continue! 

Attempting to repair my RNS Tripmaster by soldering the broken wires back into place turned out to be a bit of a disaster. Just holding the wires in place and putting the sensor next to the front wheel magnet got it working again so all looked good. So simply a matter of soldering the wires to the contacts, except once I had done this….. it didn’t work at all!

I can only think that whilst soldering I have managed to “fry” the electronics somehow…. Very frustrating! Oh well it wasn’t working before and it’s not working now, so I guess I’m no further forward but I’m no worse off either. 

So after a bit of internet research I discovered the new ICO Rally Max that was reported as not being launched until March was already available from Rally Raid Products. So I bit the bullet and shelled out £263 for one (say it quickly and it doesn’t sound so expensive). 

I also treated myself to one of Rally Raid’s aluminium combined switch mounts to mount both the remote ICO switch and the road book switch. 

An expensive luxury but certainly tidies up the left hand bar. Fitting the two switches with their separate mounts was a complete pain last year as they and the clutch lever mount all seem to get in the way of each other when trying to tighten them up. The mount will also take a standard KTM switch cluster but as I don’t have one that’s academic. It does however leave me enough room for my aftermarket light and horn switch… result!

So having received the new ICO, I mounted it in the same place as RNS had been on the road book plate, simple as it uses identical mounts. The RNS will be retained and mounted at the bottom of the road book plate as the clock function (that still works) will come in handy. And if I can in future get it repaired, then it can be run as a backup trip meter as most “proper” rally racers do.

Next task was to sort out the road book switch that had given up the ghost on the Tuareg Rally, again I could buy a new one but I decided to have a go at repairing it first and save myself £36. The problem was almost certainly not the switch but the wires leading too it, as on the rally we were able to get it working again by wiggling these wires around so almost certainly a break in a cable somewhere. 

There are four wires inside an outer sheath and they are very thin but luckily I had a length of almost identical four core multi cable (just slightly thicker). I cut the cable about 5cm from the switch and the connector at each end and stripped back the cables. 

They were then twisted together with the new cables, a thin layer of solder was then applied to hold the joint tight (so are not simply a soldered joint that might fracture) then a small piece of heat shrink applied to insulate the joint and further hold it together. 

Then a larger piece of heat shrink was put over the top to seal it up. This was repeated at the other end and…. Job done! 

All that remains is to wire up the road book to the power supply and check to see if it works.

I have also rewired the whole of the navigation tower with new cables, connectors, a new fuse box (very fancy with LEDs to show if a fuse has blown) and everything encased in plastic spiral wrap to protect the cables. I have also provided power to both the ICO and the RNS. In Morocco I relied on the internal batteries in the RNS to simplify the wiring. This has no effect other than the backlight is disabled until you press a button. No problem I thought as it it’ll be nice and bright in the sunshine. This in fact was the problem as the bright sunlight actually made it difficult to read without the backlight, so I learned a valuable lesson! 

Power has also been provided to my GPS, not required on the Tour of Portugal but provides a compass and a backup speedo and a power lead to the GPS tracker that is supplied by the organisers. This allows them to know where we are but also records any speeding infringements!

This weekend a few final jobs will be done:

  • Fit a new back tyre and check and re-lube the mousse
  • Swap the new tyre on my spare front wheel to the other wheel as it has brand new wheel bearings
  • Change the oil
  • Fit a clean air filter
  • Check all bearings for play
  • Check all cables
  • Make sure all bolts are tight

And check all the new wiring actually works!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Problems, problems....!

So house moves, Christmas, New Year and sadly two funerals out of the way and the new year Rally season kicks off on Sunday with a road book training session on Salisbury Plain. After all the Tour of Portugal is only six weeks away!

That has been booked, as well as flights and airport parking and all that remains is to ensure the bike and riding gear are prepared ready for transport to Portugal.

The bike is essentially OK but will get an oil and filter change, a clean air filter and a new plug before it goes, all bearings will be checked (and replaced if necessary) as well as cables etc. The problem lies with the navigation equipment….

You may recall that the road book switch stopped working in Morocco and yes I should have fixed it or replaced it by now but as I haven’t needed the road book, it kept getting put to the bottom of the “to do” list. 

The problem doesn’t seem to be the switch itself but appears to be a break (or breaks) in the cable where it passes along the handlebars, as wiggling these wires did get it working again for one day. As the cables are far longer than they need to be, I’m just going to chop out the offending parts, the re-solder them together and seal with heat shrink tubing…. Hopefully job done!

The second problem seemed a bit trickier, my fancy trip meter; an RNS TripMaster had suffered when the bike fell off its stand a few months back and one of the three wires in the back was torn out. I had thought this was the wire to the remote switch so if the worst came to the worst, I could use the buttons on the side of the unit instead. Not ideal but would do for Sunday until I could get something sorted.

Unfortunately it turned out to be the wires to the front wheel sensor… not so good! Without these it simply doesn’t work as a trip meter (although it was a handy to use the clock function on the Hafren Rally).

After taking it apart the internal appeared to be sealed with resin and a small hole was all that remained of where the wires entered! This was not looking good, of course for Sunday I could use the trip meter on the standard KTM speedo. Except this wasn’t working either! Just a matter of replacing a broken connector in the wire from the sensor but another job to do!!!

It's the blue and brown wires on the right that are supposed to lead into the back of the unit like the other two....

Luckily on further investigation the “resin” inside the RNS turned out to be silicone sealant and a few seconds work with a sharp knife and I had exposed the contacts that the wires needed to be soldered on to. So hopefully a quick fix tonight. Just hope I get the right wire on the right contact first time!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Happy Christmas

Cyril Neveu, winner of the first ever 
Paris - Dakar Rally in 1978/79 on a Yamaha XT500

Season's greetings and all that stuff to one and all....

Things have been a bit quiet on the rally front as House moves and other stuff get in the way, the rally bike hasn’t even made it to the new house yet as the garage is still full of boxes, so it’s currently stored at a friend’s place.

Around now I’m usually preparing for the Dakar Rally, using the great coverage that is available on the ADV Rider forum:

Unfortunately BT can’t connect up the phone line (and therefore provide internet access) at the new house until the 5th of January. So at the moment I have to rely on my fast dwindling mobile data allowance and the not very consistent free BT WiFi available at the house. Luckily it will just about stream Eurosport player so at least I can watch the highlights from the first few days of the Dakar until normal service is resumed!

I have also been contacted by a fellow Dakar enthusiast in the shape of James Budd, who writes for the blog, with some great historical information on the first Dakar in 1978/9, check out the blog…

Monday, 7 December 2015

Now there's a surprise!

After my one race in the UK this year and my 11th place out of 11 entrants in the Rally Class at the Hafren Rally, I nearly didn't bother looking for my overall result when the final positions in the All Terrain Rally Challenge were published on Saturday.

So imagine my surprise on checking the results that I got 13 points at the Hafren, that equates to sixth place..... surely some mistake?

Then I remembered that back at the beginning of the year we had to register for the championship to score points, this I assume was to prevent people who just did the odd race from affecting the overall results. I had always intended to campaign as much as the series as possible so had registered. Unfortunately events conspired against me and I couldn't ride at two events I had entered, the Ryedale Rally and the Pikes Peak. And a few others I had wanted to enter just didn't happen. 

So imagine my complete surprise when my 13 points had landed me tenth place in the championships, not bad for one mediocre race result! Obviously only six of us at the Hafren had registered for the championship, hence my result. OK so tenth place out of ten registered riders in the class may not be anything to write home about but heck I'll take a "top ten placing" anyway I can.

The bike has been stored away at a friend's place ready for the house move, which we still don't have a date for so it looks like it could be a few weeks before I get out on it again. At least I have the Dakar Rally to look forward to in January, only 26 days to go!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Plans for 2016

The Rally season is over and 2015 was certainly a bit different

My first overseas rally

My first navigation rally

My first experience of riding desert sand and dunes

Only two rallies competed in 2015 but…

My second longest year of racing with 8 days of racing, only beaten by 2012 when I competed in six rallies and raced for ten days in total.

So what’s in store for the winter and beyond? 

Well first I’ll have to get the house move over and my new garage set up. The bike is pretty sorted as the Hafren won’t have taken much out of it but it will need a very good clean and there are a few jobs that need doing.

Over the winter I will sort the wiring and put a light switch back on the handlebars, so I can run it in “enduro mode” with a small headlight unit and without the navigation tower and fairing, that way it can easily go in and out of the van without any modification.

During the Hafren Rally I noticed the speedo wasn't working. This wasn't surprising as the plug on the sender on the front wheel got broken in Morocco so doesn't latch together. I had thought I'd fixed by sticking some heat shrink tubing around it but clearly not. I have purchased some micro plugs so a better repair will be done.

The tyres will do me for a few trail rides yet but will need to be replaced for Portugal, luckily I still have a brand new tyre on my spare front wheel. The mousses in both wheels will get checked and re-lubed as necessary and I’ll get round to replacing the bearings in the spare front wheel.

So apart from any service needs during that time e.g. brake pads, chain and sprockets, oil and filters that should be it, the harder work will be to sort out the navigation gear….

When the bike fell over in the garage a few months back it ripped one of the wires out of the back of my RNS TripMaster so I’ll have to try and identify where they fix to and get the soldering iron out!

I could replace it but cost apart (about £250), RNS is a one man band (aka Tony Schattat in Germany), so they only seem to get produced in small batches from time to time and no one seems to have any in stock at present. 

The alternative is the ICO Rallye Light but that has a reputation for not being water tight and suffering from condensation, so although the "industry standard" for trip meters, maybe not so good for use in the UK! 

Also ICO have announced a new improved model, the Rally Max that addresses these issues but it won’t be launched until the the Tuareg Rally next year and  that starts on the 5th March 2016 so not much use to me as the Tour of Portugal starts a day earlier on the 4th March, so it looks like a repair is my only option at the moment.

Also you may recall that the road book switch gave up the ghost on the Tuareg Rally, or more correctly the wires to the switch failed. As the cable is far longer than it needs to be, I will pull it apart, look for any obvious breaks and chop that section out and re-solder it together at a more appropriate length! If that fails I'll just have to buy a new one, at least they are a bit more readily available! 

So just a few things to keep me busy then!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Time to go racing.... Part 2

The hopes of better weather on Sunday morning turned out to be wishful thinking. After a night of disturbed sleep due to the at times violent shaking of the van by the wind, I emerged to low cloud, horizontal rain and wind that was still much stronger than I’d have liked. 

Yes the bike is tied to the van to stop it blowing over!

Bleak barely describes it!

I stuck on my waterproofs and grabbed my helmet and fired up the bike. It was a bit sluggish to spin over so I decided to kick start it and it fired up first kick. I rode up to scrutineering which was a formality. After catching up with a few friends and photographing my race times, I went back to the van for breakfast. I was off at 09.36 so had plenty of time.

Whilst sorting out the bike, filling the tank and attempting to write my times down on a bit of duct tape on the cockpit (but failing miserably due to the rain) I was informed that the start was now delayed for an hour and we would only do two laps instead of two and a half. The lap length had also been cut to about 35 miles instead of 45. After getting my riding kit on, I wandering up to the start to confirm this, I got a cup of tea from the burger van and eventually watched the first riders heading off at 10.00.

At least we got to start undercover

I walked back to the van to finish kitting up then rode back to the start, still with about 15 minutes to go before my (revised) start time….

Only to find the last few riders heading off!

It turned out they had abandoned start times and just let everyone head off as soon as they wanted! Oh well it was quite good fun working my way through the beginners, especially as this was the sighting lap so didn’t mind if I got held up. The lap was fairly familiar, with lots of bits from previous years plus a few new sections thrown in. The special tests in particular were all over fairly familiar ground. Noticeably we spent very little time up on the open hillside section above Sweet Lamb, so I guess this was where the lap was cut.

Conditions were not the worst I have ever ridden in but weren’t exactly pleasant, I was soon soaked through despite waterproofs but it wasn’t that cold which was a blessing. However seeing where I was going was another matter altogether. My goggles were OK at first but soon gave up the ghost and misted up. At each stop I attempted to dry them off but soon ran out of anything dry to do this with, so just adjusted my speed accordingly.

The lap ended without incident, so I rode to the van, had a quick bite to eat, filled the bike with fuel (I hadn’t used much) and put on some clean, dry goggles and dry gloves. I then rode straight back to the start and was flagged off straight away; clearly start times had been completely abandoned.

I was now much further up the field, so in amongst some very quick bikes. The first special test went OK without being passed and I could still see for most of it. About two thirds into the test, the goggles were misting up again but as this was mostly fire road I coped OK.

Special two was trickier as I was in amongst some very quick two strokes, so let a few go past me but didn’t seem to get unduly slowed. Then a fairly long liaison where vision was being seriously compromised, my goggles were misted and I’d managed to get mud on the inside whilst trying to clean them. I arrived at Special stage three and decided it would be safer to ride without them. However I was again followed by some very fast riders (running much lower numbers than me) so I decided to be polite and let them past but this time it seemed to cost me a lot more time.

I was glad to finish, knowing that I only had a few miles of liaison left, so got back in, stripped off my soaking kit and got warm dry clothing and waterproofs on. I then dismantled the fairing and navigation tower, shoved the bike in the van and after the obligatory egg, bacon and sausage roll, hit the road back home.

Traffic wasn’t good but a detour onto the M6 Toll avoid a big queue on the M6 and a diversion down the A5 skirted the heavily congested roadworks on the M1 and I eventually rolled in  at home about 7.30 that evening, with a mountain of cleaning to be done but a feeling of satisfaction having got round in one piece and staying on the bike throughout.

A few days later and the results were out….. 11th place in the Rally Class out of 11 entrants! Not too surprising given my eight month layoff from racing and the quality of the field was rather good. I was pleased to see that I had been faster than a couple of other riders in the first two stages but had dropped quite a bit of time in the third.

Oh well, next race looks like it will be in Portugal in March, so hopefully the weather will be better!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Time to go racing.... part 1

The forecast for the weekend wasn’t looking good as I packed the van to head off for Llanidloes and the Hafren Rally. It was nice to have plenty of room to pack as even with the bike in the back, there seemed to be far too much room. A marked improvement from when I used to shoehorn everything into the back of the Land Rover. The van even got some new (magnetic) graphics..... 

Loads of room!

A couple more advantages over towing the bike trailer soon became evident as it was nice to be able to a) drive at 70 mph on the motorway and b) be allowed to use the outside lane. Traffic was also light so apart from a small bit of queueing on the motorway and regular stops for lunch, coffee, petrol (for the bike) and a shopping trip in Welshpool, I made Llanidloes in just over four hours. By now the weather was not at all pleasant with gusting winds and frequent driving rain. Another advantage also became apparent, it’s much easier to find a parking spot without a trailer!

I had about an hour to kill before early registration was taking place at the Rugby Club House in town. So considered driving up to the Sweet Lamb Rally Complex but as I had nothing to set up and it’s a pretty bleak place at the best of times, I didn’t see any reason as it was now dark and would be pitch black whatever time I rolled up. So after finding a spot in the car park near the club house, I wandered down to the Red Lion for a drink.

Here I bumped into a bunch of guys from High Wycombe most of whom were doing the Hafren for the first time so was pumped for information. We eventually wandered down to the club house, where signing on was quickly sorted and a hearty “buffet” of chicken curry, chilli con carne and chips was the order of the day. After catching up with a few friends I decided to drive the 20 minutes up to Sweet Lamb and set up camp. As I guessed sticking the race numbers on when soaking wet might be tricky, I did them in the warm and dry in the back of the van!

Arriving at the venue, signs directed me not to the usual spot but another flattish area higher up the valley side this was particularly bleak with the wind now very strong, approaching gale force and the rain was heavy and horizontal! After driving around what turned out to be a rather more sloping site than I first realised with only about ten vans, caravans and motorhomes present, I found a flattish spot behind a couple of other vans who had spotted the potential of a small flat area (note to self, must get some levelling ramps for the van).

I did consider just shuffling the bike to one side and putting the camp bed up but thought that the inevitable petrol fumes would not be too healthy. So after donning full waterproofs and wellies I got the bike out, parked it up on what was possibly the leeward side of the van (it was difficult to tell) and strapped it to one of the van wheels to stop it blowing over in the wind. I also bolted on the navigation tower and fairing as I thought I could do it in the morning but as I was already out in the cold and wet I might as well get it done.

The" Hotel Vito"

I then retreated back into the warmth and dry of the van (I had left the engine running and the heater on full blast throughout) and after stripping off my wet gear, got myself set up for the night. Unfolding the camp bed and crawling into my four season sleeping bag I decided it was too early to turn in for the night so fired up the lap top to watch a film. San Andreas was the chosen movie and the special earthquake effects were certainly added too by the frequent gusts of wind rocking the van!

Throughout I could hear vans arriving and a peek out under the blind, showed the parking area gradually filling up, I eventually turned in; sticking some ear plugs in due to the noise of the wind and rain, set the alarm for 07.00 am and hoped the weather might improve to go racing in the morning.