Monday 27 February 2017

Bike Preparation Part 3

Having got everything back up and running (for the time being) and bolted together, a few more details remained:

The seat cover that initially got ripped on last year's Tour of Portugal and then completely FUBAR'ed at the Ryedale, was in desperate need of recovering, As you can see in the photo below I had been relying on "gaffa tape engineering". Unfortunately getting it sorted was a challenge in itself as although I had been told of a reasonably local company in Baldock that could do it for me, I just don't get time off in the week to get it to them.

I tried fitting the standard seat that is designed to fit with the stock 9 litre petrol tank, I knew this would leave a gap between the seat and my 13 litre tank but thought that a small price to pay. Unfortunately, try as I might i couldn't get the mounting bolt to line up so that idea was off the agenda!

The seat on the bike has always been a bit of an issue as it had been built up with extra foam and a gel pad by the previous owner. Whilst this made it nice and comfy for long rally stages, it has been a hindrance on the more technical UK rallies, where the seat height did cause me to struggle to get a foot on the ground.

I tried looking online to see if I could get a new seat to fit with the big tank but couldn't find one listed,

Then I learnt that the EXC was also sold as the MXC in some markets with the 13 litre tank as standard, sure enough a quick check of part numbers and I realised I had an MXC seat. A brand new one was duly ordered and not only is it a perfect fit but I've knocked two inches off the seat height!

You may notice the home made heat shield now fitted to the bike, I got fed up melting my boots and trousers on the exhaust where it is exposed near the rear shock. I had originally constructed this to fit on my old CCM that had a very similar problem but never got round to fitting it. I wondered if it would fit the KTM and with a slight enlarging of the mounting holes, it could have been designed for it!

Another job needing sorting before Portugal was some new tyres, I've always used Torque Racing in the past but since moving to Milton Keynes that means a two hour round trip so not an easy option anymore! So I was very pleased to find Mad4Motocross in Milton Keynes stock Maxxis MaxxCross IT, a favourite of mine and at a very decent price... so i'll definitely be paying them a visit!

Sorting out the electrics was my final major task and this looked like it was going to be a bit more problematic....

To be continued.....

Sunday 26 February 2017

Bike Preparation Part 2

Moving on to the electrical issues was a bit of a mixed bag:

The rear brake light switch was the easiest; it just started working again of its own accord! I suspect the fault was inadvertently fixed when I remounted the rear light, most probably the result of a loose connector.  

The horn was only slightly more difficult, a connector from the handlebar switch had come apart… simple!

The front brake light switch proved to be more difficult, the switch seemed to be working OK so I removed it from the loom via the connector mounted on the head stock. I then bridged the two wires in the connector and... nothing! So the switch was possibly OK but it looked like I might have a broken wire somewhere in the loom. I decided that it would not be to hard to fix for the MOT as I could just connect some new cables to those to the rear light switch and run them under the tank and connect to the front switch. A longer term solution would be required but it would almost certainly need some surgery on the wiring loom!

The speedo was also self explanatory with a number of severed wires. It looks as if they have been caught on the nav tower as the steering turns, so some thought will need to be applied there. This confused me as I seemed to have more wires coming out of the speedo than corresponding wires from the loom? A study of the wiring diagram shows this to be correct as four of the nine wires are there for the optional handlebar switch that turns the trip meter into a rally trip.  As I have no need for this facility, I can just ignore these wires. I'm also removing other redundant wiring such as the indicator wires to tidy up the rats nest that currently sits on the head stock. 

Another plan is to replace the two separate engine start and stop switches (see photo below) with a single switch block containing both switches. I just need to work out which wires need to go where as the new switch is from a Honda, so not a simple replacement and I need to work out which of the seven wires correspond to the four on the KTM. The switch incorporates the wiring to the (Honda) front brake light switch so there's a possibility I can incorporate that into the KTM's wiring too so neaten things up further on the bars.

You'll note the mirror mount in between the two switches. The EXC has no way of fitting mirrors as standard but whilst sorting through my box of CCM bits as I was selling some parts, I noticed the front brake is virtually identical (both are Brembo) and the CCM has provision to for a mirror on the clamp. Whilst I don't need a mirror when racing, it is very handy when out trail riding, so I was pleased to see the clamp was a perfect fit. This has allowed me to fit a Double Take folding mirror that uses a Ram Mount fitting.

That's a general problem with rally bikes, the need to fit road book and ICO switches to the left bar as well as lights, dip switch and horn makes things very crowded. The right hand bar is not so bad (unless running a back up ICO with the switches on that side) but still has to mount the brake reservoir/lever, start switch and kill switch. so the simpler it can be the better.

Also as I wont be using the mirror in racing, I can also use the Ram Mount to fit a video camera, as we are no longer allowed to wear helmet or body cameras under ACU rules.

To be continued...

Saturday 25 February 2017

Bike Preparation Part 1

So having decided what I’m doing on the rally front this year, how am I doing it? Still on the old faithful 2006 KTM 450 EXC which is currently being revamped ready for the Tour of Portugal, largely as a result of damage incurred on last year’s Ryedale Rally, this included:
  • Lost the side panel/air box cover
  • Lost the number plate
  • Broke the rear mudguard and number plate hanger
  • Bent the side stand pivot bolt
  • Ripped the mud flap that covers the rear shock
  • I also suffered some damage to the fairing from flying rocks
  • The speedo, horn and brake lights all gave up the ghost!
I’ll confess that I lost a bit of enthusiasm over the winter but finally started the rebuild. First the side stand was sorted, an easy fix as I had a spare bolt already Then a strip down and clean, to remove those bits of North Yorkshire that seemed to be lurking everywhere! Although to be honest the more I work on the bike, the more mud I keep finding!

Then a full service; oil change, oil screens cleaned, new oil filters, air filter cleaned and oiled, new spark plug and tappets checked.

Part of the delay was tracking down some new plastics in white to match the fairing, fork guards, front mudguard and hand guards as I was a bit fed up with the white/orange/black mismatch I had previously but I finally found some on eBay. 

The mud flap and side panel were standard KTM parts as was the rear number plate hanger although I did manage to get a US Spec short hanger, that is also at a shallower angle than the EU spec version. This is important because it was catching the old hanger on the back tyre because it sits closer to vertical (despite having been cut short) that caused the damage. The downside is the number plate is at a very shallow angle rather than the “vertical or near vertical” required by legislation but hopefully won’t be a problem for the MOT. 

Also the rear light on the US model is different, so although I have already replaced the rear light with an LED one I had to remake the mounting bracket to suit. This is Mark 1 as I want to fit it a bit higher and further forward to sit a bit closer under the rear mudguard but it’ll do for the time being so i can renew the MOT.

The mudflap was a straight replacement, so no problem there: 

As should have been the new side panel. It fits with two bayonet fittings that can be troublesome to fit and as I experienced, can easily come unlatched, causing the panel to fall off! Although two new fittings were supplied with my new side panel, when I came to fit it, do you think I could find them? Of course not!

A solution presented itself before I had to turn the garage upside down to find the (very small) plastic bag they came in. I was ordering some quick release dzus fasteners for my fairing when I spotted on the Speedy Fasteners website, a kit to replace the bayonet fittings on an EXC side panel with two dzus fasteners. 

I promptly ordered it and it only took about 10 minutes to fit, the panel wasn’t quite as tight up against the airbox as it could have been so I added a couple of rubber washers to the outside of the panel and the problem was sorted. A nice snug fit and the fasteners require  a quarter turn to lock. When racing a small bit of tape over the head of the fasteners will make them even more secure. I also intend to cover the side panel with white vinyl (the other side is already done) to match the (mostly) white colour scheme.

The other dzus fasteners I bought replaced the allen bolts that formerly held the fairing on. This means the fairing can now be removed and replaced in a matter of seconds when loading the bike into the van…. Result!

To be continued....

Monday 20 February 2017

Let's go racing....

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m already entered for the Tour of Portugal and determined to improve on last year’s 13th overall. After all I managed to take 5th place on the prologue despite starting 20 seconds late and being only 10 seconds down on third place. Although I genuinely decided not to ride the special stage on the prologue flat out, I made the school boy error of assuming the timing was triggered by your actual start i.e, by a light beam, not so: it was manual timing so started on your exact start time on the clock! So had I started on the correct time twenty seconds earlier and ridden at exactly the same pace, I’d have finished third!!!

It was day two that was my ultimate downfall, when a hard, loose climb proved impossible to get up without assistance from the marshals, this delayed me for so long that I then got caught up on the ridgeline, in low cloud, hail and snow. Visibility was so bad I was reduced to riding at about 20mph so lost a lot of time and eventually finished 18th on the stage.

Day three was better, with 8th overall for the day but marred slightly when I missed the turning to the start of the special stage and continued several kilometres down the road to where it eventually turned into to a gravel track, I continued for a while but after arriving at a junction that was clearly not on the road book I decided I was definitely off track, so turned around and retraced my steps. Then when I did find the correct turning and started the special stage, it was not long before we entered the same gravel track from a side track (I had wondered about all the tyre tracks at this point so should have realised I was off route then) and of course as it was a public road, was subject to a speed limit on the road book! Of course I had already ridden it at rather faster speed than was allowed…. and then did it again on the way back!!! As our speed was recorded by GPS tracker, there was no escape and I had inadvertently picked up two speeding penalties!

So definitely room for improvement!

Racing will go on hold for a while as we have the wedding in May but I hope to be back in action at the BAJA GB in June. The only UK event where we share with cars and buggies (although not on the course at the same time) as it’s also part of the Welsh Hill Rally, I’ve not managed to fit this one in before but I’m keen this year will feature road book navigation. The cars traditionally use a road book on  these events and this year so will the bikes.

Then in September I hope to do the two day Tour of Mann, on the Isle of Man. Another event that I have missed in the past but I’m keen to give a try as I’ve never been to the Isle of Mann before. Not a navigation rally but a “follow the arrows” event, it has a reputation for being a bit tough!

That’s it for the time being but I’m also planning to organise a number of road book practice days, I already have routes planned in Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire, Thetford Forest and the South Downs, so watch this space.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Nomad Racing in 2017

With the fun and games of the Dakar Rally over and done for another year, let’s get back to preparation for my own racing calendar.

As I have another big event to sort out this year (Yes the wedding)! I am planning a conservative campaign this year. Although some of you may spot this is potentially more than the last two years! 

In 2015 I started the year with the Tuareg Rally in March and then didn't manage to go racing again until the Hafren Rally in November. Basically the wear and tear of a seven day rally was rather more than I expected and a lot of new bits were required, including having to have the busted oil filter screen thread in the crankcases repaired which did keep the bike in the workshop for rather longer than anticipated. A new job and a house move also had to be factored into the year but I still managed eight days of rallying, seven of those on road book navigation.

Last year I started with the Tour of Portugal in March and then didn’t get out to race again until July and the Ryedale Rally. Although the three days in Portugal wasn’t as taxing as Morocco, it still took a fair bit of repair and replacement, the joys of campaigning an eleven year old bike I guess! 

The two days of the Ryedale were something else though….

I lost the side panel/air box cover, the number plate, broke the rear mudguard and number plate hanger, ripped the seat cover, bent the side stand pivot bolt, ripped the mud flap that covers the rear shock, suffered some damage to the fairing from flying rocks (that also smashed my helmet peak) and to add insult to injury, the speedo, horn and brake lights all gave up the ghost! So a bit of work to do before I go racing again. Again not a great year but still five days of rallying with three on roadbook.

So with all that in mind, what to actually race in 2017?

Well the proposed calendar to date is:
  • March/April - Tour of Portugal; Three day road book rally (already booked)
  • June - BAJA GB; One day road book rally in Mid Wales
  • September - Tour of Mann; a two day ATRC round on the Isle of Man
So that'll be six days of rallying with four of them on road book

More on them in my next blog