Wednesday 28 October 2015

Getting there slowly

As mentioned previously racing has taken a bit of a back seat, especially whilst I sort out other stuff in my life, starting a new job in the summer and shortly to be moving house too. But I have been slowly getting the Rally bike sorted.

You may recall the slight disaster with the thread on the securing bolt for the cam shaft feed  oil screen, that wound itself out of the crankcase when I did the oil and filter change. Of course I did see the positive side, as my inability to do an oil change in Morocco meant that I hadn't had a potential retirement half way through the rally, as I doubt I could have got it fixed out there.

This was clearly beyond my workshop capabilities so on my return the bike got taken to Torque Racing Services,

As an aside, this was also a test of fitting the EXC in my Mercedes Vito. No problem as I had removed the rear seats at the time and the navigation tower and fairing had been removed from the bike. This is the secret of getting it in the “none too tall” Vito.

The fairing was designed right from the start only to mount on the nav tower itself and nowhere else on the bike. Also the wiring all goes through a single block connector, for ease of removal. So it’s simply a matter of removing two bolts and unplugging the wiring to remove the navigation tower, road book, head lights and fairing all as one unit. In all it takes about ten minutes to remove or re-fit.

It is a lot easier to do if the fairing has been removed first and this means removing six bolts that screw into captive threads in the mounts again designed for ease of removal and fitting but this does of course mean it takes a bit longer. So the plan is to replace the bolts with quick release dzus fasteners. In fact this was always the intention but another of those jobs that I ran out of time to do before the Tuareg Rally.

The plan with the bike at Torque was for Martin to fit a Wurth Timesert into the thread, however in the event the thread size was an odd one and this proved not to be an economical option. So after trying some alternative solutions such as re-cutting the original thread but discovering this wouldn't work, he employed the services of a local machine shop that made a unique solution. An aluminium insert was made that was bonded into the hole, and threaded to accept a bolt from a later model EXC on the outside, the oil screen now fitting straight through the insert.

The problem is that the oil screen fits across the cases and is located inside the securing bolt, however now the distance has been increased between the fitting inside the cases and the securing bolt an aluminium adapter was made that plugs into the end of the oil screen to locate it in the correct place. To assist fitting and removal, a threaded hole was machined into this, so all you need to do is screw an M6 bolt into the adaptor to fit or remove the screen, then it can be removed and the securing bolt fitted. A very neat solution that prevented the alternative… a new set of crankcases, not a cheap option!

As an added bonus, Martin fitted new oil filters and new oil to test that the repair was oil tight, so saving me the effort.

The other weekend I changed the coolant and despite the fact that I had been topping up the bike with plain water in Morocco, it still looked fairly healthy and judging by the colour there was still plenty of coolant left in there.

I also fitted a new stand and pivot bolt, as you may recall the bolt snapped in Morocco, causing the stand to fall off! The only downside being that I can’t remember where I put the side stand spring… I know it came back to the UK but no doubt it’s “somewhere safe”. 

Edit: I eventually found it in a box of bits!

The negative bits of the weekend was first the chain, after the rally I had sprayed it with Teflon dry lube that had worked well in the desert, Unfortunately it didn't cope too well with the journey home and I guess two ferry crossings hadn't helped, as when I picked up the bike it was rather rusty! I soaked it in oil for a suitably long time but unfortunately it is still full of stiff links, so not really fit to go back on the bike. So a new chain was ordered and is ready to go on the bike.

Next was the battery, after the hammering it got in Morocco I shouldn't have been surprised but even after a long recharge on an Optimate charger it can't turn the engine over, so it looks like I fried it on the rally. Tanya batteries came to the rescue with a reasonably priced Enduroline that as soon as I fitted it, spun the engine over easily. But it wouldn't start! I soon realised this was because I had completely drained down the tank! Note to self.... go buy some petrol.

Also on that list are some new plastics as it’s currently wearing an old black set that I had saved but they are looking a bit second hand and in a mixture of white, orange and black, the bike is looking a bit of a miss mash. Although I do have a plan as I have some white sign writing vinyl, that with the aid of a hair dryer I could "wrap" the rear mudguard and side panel in white vinyl, saving a considerable amount of money and providing a "disposable" finish that can be cheaply replaced when necessary. Let's just see if it works!

I also fitted some new lower fork protectors (in white) as the brake hose/speedo cable clamp on the left hand one had stripped the thread and they were looking distinctly second hand too.

So what next? Well there's only one thing for it.... I've entered the Hafren Rally on November 15th

Sunday 4 October 2015

A Question of Counties - Part Six

A couple of years ago whilst between racing, I started a thread on my blog about how many of the Counties of England I had visited on a motorbike, so I thought that whilst my racing efforts are currently on hold, it was about time for an update.

The crucial thing being that I had to be able to “prove” it with a photo. Also being a Geographer I posed the question of what exactly are the Counties of England? 

With Metropolitan Boroughs and Unitary Council’s it has become rather confused, so I decided on the thirty nine traditional Counties as they stood until 1974. However I did originally add a few modern updates but on reflection have decided to stick to the originals. These will be broadly familiar with a few exceptions. East and West Sussex were one County back then, as was Yorkshire and Cumbria didn't exist, instead being made up of Cumberland, Westmorland and part of Lancashire.In addition there are counties like Huntingdonshire and Middlesex that no longer exist (now part of Cambridgeshire and Greater London respectively) and Rutland that was dissolved to became part of Leicestershire in 1974 but more recently was resurrected as a Unitary Authority. 

At the time of my last post on this thread, I had “ticked off” the following

1 Bedfordshire
2 Buckinghamshire       
3 Cambridgeshire     
4 Cornwall                                      
5 Derbyshire                                                     
6 Devon                                                         
7 Dorset                                                                           
8 Durham                                                
9 Essex                                                                       
10 Gloucestershire               
11 Hampshire    
12 Herefordshire          
13 Hertfordshire  
14 Kent         
15 Leicestershire
16 London 
17 Middlesex
18 Norfolk
19 Northamptonshire 
20 Northumberland 
21 Oxfordshire
22 Shropshire
24 Suffolk
25 Sussex
23 Somerset
26 Westmorland
27 Wiltshire
28 Yorkshire

So that left twelve still to go but where to start?  First I had another search of the photo archives and this turned up trumps. 

Cumberland: Although I had previously ticked this off as the modern county of Cumbria, the picture I originally posted was actually in the old County of Westmorland. However I did in fact visit Cumberland (at the same time as my first visit to Westmorland) in that trip to the Lake District in 1986 but have mislaid the photographs I took on that occasion, so here’s one from a more recent visit:

Huntingdonshire – Most probably ridden through for the first time on the A1 in 1982 on a trip to visit my late friend Alastair in Lincoln riding a borrowed Honda CD175, I realised that the rather more modern Peterborough Services on the A1(M) just falls inside the old Huntingdonshire county boundary, so here's a shot from there last year, a coffee stop on the way back from the TRF Coast to Coast ride last year:

Lancashire – first visited on a bike in 1986 whilst riding up the M6 to Cumberland/Westmorland but photographic evidence had to wait a few more years, here's a couple from the same spot on rides over Salter Fell on my 450 EXC on the day I bought it in December 2012 and the 990 Adventure on the TRF coast to coast in 2014:

Staffordshire – Another County first travelled through on the M6 in 1986, it took a bit of searching but then I remembered this shot of a late night stop at Keele Services on my way to up to the 2014 TRF Coast to Coast ride.

So that leaves eight, I checked through the remaining counties to see which ones I have actually visited and whilst it is clear I have at some point been to all of them, I have yet to find photographic evidence for the following:

1. Berkshire – First ridden through in 1980, it was an alternative route home from Portsmouth Polytechnic when I was a student as this was before the M25 had been finished so I had the choice of straight through London, the North and South Circular or the far more pleasant (but longer) route round the West of London via Windsor (i.e. through Berkshire).

2. Cheshire First visited on a bike in 1986 whilst riding up the M6 to Cumberland/Westmorland but I've never got a photo

3. Lincolnshire – 1982 on the trip to Lincoln mentioned above of course!

4. Nottinghamshire – I missed it on my trip to Lincoln as I used the A607 from Grantham to Lincoln but did ride through the County as part of the return trip two days later on the A1 near Newark.

5. Rutland – Again first visited on the A1 in 1982 on the trip to Lincoln 

6. Surrey – First ridden on my way to Portsmouth Polytechnic along the A3 on my Honda CB250G5 in October 1979

7. Warwickshire – First time was most probably a visit to the bike show at the NEC in 1986 

8. Worcestershire – I had to think long and hard about this one and realised that I had never ridden through the County until 2007 when Anne, my Ex bought a Suzuki SV650 from near Kidderminster and I rode it home for her, via the A448, M5 and M42. But I don’t have a photo taken in the County.

So it seems I have visited all the traditional counties of England by Bike over the last 35 years but once again the search for photos to prove them all goes on! Either that or I have generated a few ideas for some bike journeys in the coming months!