Wednesday 25 October 2017

Back in the Saddle Part 2

All started well, I was impressed that the road book mileage was absolutely spot on with what my ICO trip meter was showing, not bad considering the road book is created with Rally Navigator Pro software, using Google Maps in satellite view. There were only a couple of changes to make as I progressed, such as adding a prominent junction that riders go straight through so not originally marked (the rule being, if it’s not on the road book, go straight on) but I decided it would make a good check for riders due to being very distinctive, in other words you couldn’t really be anywhere else, so a good point to check and correct your mileage.. Or the point where a broad gravel track becomes a narrow dirt single track was not quite where I had judged it to be from the satellite view. 

I was taking things very easy as I was out of practice and definitely not bike fit (or any sort of fit to be honest), unfortunately this turned out to be an error.

Whilst riding up over the byways on Totternhoe Knolls near Dunstable Downs, I had to ride through a small depression and took it slowly; unfortunately as the front wheel hit the other side the bike didn’t have enough momentum and stopped dead. I on the other hand still had plenty of momentum and promptly head butted the road book holder! This resulted in the mother of all nosebleeds and a line of small cuts across the bridge of my nose, caused I suspect by the lens in my goggles being pushed out of the frame and the relatively sharp edge being pushed into my face… not funny!

In fact when I later examined my goggles, the lens now has a dent the shape of my road book holder permanently embossed into its surface!!! 

Not too long after this the route took me past the National Trust centre on Dunstable Downs, I took the opportunity to stop and have a wash, although I did get a few funny looks on the way in with my blood splattered face!

Most of the rest of the day went without incident, the road book requiring only a few corrections and I stopped on one lane for a few photos just as the bike ran onto reserve.

After the stop I set off again and completely forgot about my need for fuel… I bet you can guess what happened next.

I reached the Shell Petrol Station near Redbourne, marked on the road book of course... and rode straight past! After riding through Redbourne, I stopped at some temporary traffic lights and the bike died completely. I at once realised what I’d done and first tried a trick that has worked in the past. I laid the bike down on the ground on its left hand side as a bit of fuel usually ends up getting trapped in the right hand side of the tank but to no avail, although it did get some funny looks from a couple of passers-by. 

So there was only one thing for it, a long push back to the petrol station. I considered unbolting the fuel tank and carrying it to the petrol station but figured that’d be easy when it’s empty, we’ll not that easy really as it’s a very awkward shape and certainly not easy with fuel in it, even if I were to only part fill it. So a long hot slog pushing along the B487 was the order of the day

When I’d left in the morning it was grey and quite cold and looking like it might rain, so I had dressed appropriately, of course now the sun was out and temperature nudging into the twenties and of course it was almost all uphill to the station!!! And it goes without saying that going for a walk in Moto Cross boots and knee braces is not the most comfortable experience either.

I eventually got there having pushed for nearly a mile now sweating profusely and after I filled the bike with petrol, I downed a litre of water and half a litre of coke before I got back on my way.

After this there was only a relatively short stretch of the road book left with two more green roads to ride until I reached a suitable point to head back home and by now I was starting to loose daylight. So 100 km checked out of the total of 170 km, so I had an excuse to go out and play the next weekend!

Thursday 19 October 2017

Back in the Saddle Part 1

So after seventy seven days off the rally bike since my accident, I finally got back in the saddle this Sunday, although my plan for a nice gentle bimble round the Hertfordshire Road Book route I have planned, to check the final details didn’t quite go to plan!

Firstly there was the bike; it literally hadn’t been touched since the accident so first job was to sort it out. The front wheel bearings needed replacing but a quick check showed me the tyre on my spare front wheel was in slightly better condition than the one on the bike, so I simply bolted that in so I can replace the bearings at my leisure.

I was thinking of a full service but the oil didn’t look bad and the tappets don’t sound too noisy, so I decided that could wait too. I did clean and re-oil the air filter as that was definitely past its best! I did the ritual looking at the back tyre, thought about reversing it as the front edge of the blocks were well rounded off but decided it still had a least another days riding left in it. Although to be truthful I just couldn’t be bothered. I did consider using my spare wheel in the same way as the front but this would require changing the sprocket from one wheel to the other and that just seemed like too much work (and is one of those jobs that always seems to leave me with skinned knuckles)!

I fitted my road book; ICO trip meter etc. that I usually leave off for trail riding and that all worked fine. This was good news as its not been used since the “Cotswold Caper” road book event in June.

The other small job was to sort out the tear in the fairly new seat (that also occurred on the Cotswold Caper), this was done by cutting some vinyl from the cover on my old seat, luckily a decent amount was left at the ends despite the cover and foam being comprehensively wrecked in the middle (the reason for the new seat). I then inserted a square inside the cover and glued it to the inside. I then glued another square to the outside, so in effect the two pieces sandwich the torn area. I used some “Loctite 60 second glue” which is like superglue (but a gel rather than a liquid), works on multiple materials and more importantly for a seat cover remains flexible, it has worked really well and saves me the cost and effort of buying and fitting a new cover.  And it lasted the ride on Sunday… job done!

That’s when things started to go wrong, despite having started the bike up the other day, when it started first kick (the battery needed a bit of charge so the electric start wasn’t an option), it resolutely refused to start. An attempt to jump start it off an old Land Rover battery I keep in the garage for just such occasions just demonstrated that despite having been on a trickle charger, it was completely flat! So that’s heading to the tip but then I guess it is about 10 years old.

So I took the bike of its workshop stand and wheeled it out onto the drive only to find it leant over way too far and was in danger of toppling off the side stand. This being the culprit as the part of the aluminium stand that rests against the stop on the bracket has become damaged…. Another thing to fix!

I eventually got the bike to start by leaning it against my neighbour’s wall to kick start it and set off on the 40 minute ride to where I could join the road book route, plenty to charge the battery up I hoped.

To be continued

Friday 13 October 2017

Back on two wheels

So the knee continues to improve slowly with physio and I went back to see the consultant yesterday and it looks like there’s no operation needed.

In the meantime I’ve missed the Tour of Mann rally on the Isle of Man for third year running! In 2015 my bike was still in bits after a thread stripped on the crankcases and it took longer to sort out than anticipated. Then last year I was in New Zealand (so no need to feel sorry for me)! And now this year the knee injury, oh well maybe next year!

I have at least managed to get back on two wheels, albeit just on the road at the moment and at the weekend I even managed to check over the rally bike. After the accident I washed most of my kit but the bike just got a spray of lube on the chain to stop it rusting and was then chucked in the garage…

Luckily it wasn’t very muddy so is in not too bad a condition, although the front wheel bearings are completely toast! The tyres are very worn on the edges of the blocks but the simple expedient of turning them round will get a few more miles out of them and to be honest re-lubing the mousses is most probably long overdue so I have to take the tyres of anyway. Unfortunately I do tend to use my knees rather a lot when changing tyres so not something I’m looking forward to. A decent wash, a check of the valve clearances, an oil and filter change and a clean air filter should be all it needs as I really need to get out and recce my road book route for the Rallymoto “Hertfordshire Caper” in November.

A visit to Martin Wittering at Torque Racing last week also set the wheels in motion for another road book event hosted at Torque, this time I’ve planned a 170km route along the Cambridge/Essex/Hertfordshire borders, which should be fun!

I have previously mentioned the monster route I had planned taking in all the green roads in Hertfordshire (well at least all the ones worth doing) this is currently standing at 490 kilometres (304 miles) and an estimated 16 hours of riding. 

You won’t be surprised to learn I have also converted it to a road book. In a discussion with Burt from Rallymoto he had suggested doing this as an overnight ride, Martin took this one stage further and suggested doing it over two days with a “bivouac” in between at Torque Racing. 

Hang on I hear you cry “Torque Racing isn’t in Hertfordshire”! 

True, but it’s only just over the border into Cambridge. In fact the route is only 6 kilometres from Torque and 4 of those are along a byway (the Icknield Way). As an added bonus this point is at 230 kilometres (142 miles) into the route, so almost at the half way point….. 

I see a plan forming here!