sharing daring fairing repairing.

When I picked up the ZXR, it was sold to me as having a ‘cracked fairing panel’. Caveat emptor and all that, but here’s a photo of the ‘cracked’ panel:


Now, call me pernickety, but to my mind, that’s broken. Not cracked. I mean, it could be considered that there was a very large crack that caused a large lump to fall off on the M62 into the path of a Norbert Dentressangle lorry. But still, it’s broken. Not cracked. This bugged me, not because of the missing lump in isolation, but because that missing lump contained the mounting point for another panel that keeps the worst of the slime and rubbish from the road from the oil cooler, filter, and associated gubbins. I looked around on ebay for another panel. One came up for seventy quid that was cracked (actually cracked, not broken) and had been painted by Stevie Wonder using bitumen and a hosepipe. Amazingly it sold as well. Another one popped up (and is still there) for £125. It’s immaculate. Really, it looks brand new. And it’s a complete bargain, as these panels cost £500 each in 1989. But, no matter how much of a bargain it is, I just don’t have £125 right now. Well, I do, but I’m spending it on beer and curry rather than wasting it. Also, remember what I said earlier about wanted to repair what I have, rather than just buy new stuff? That still holds true.

And then, my good pal Keef came to the rescue. He’d picked up a pair of indescribably scabby panels from a workshop on the Isle of Man, and shipped them over to me for nothing. At all. Completely gratis. Keef, if you ever read this, you are a gentleman of the highest order, and officially the Nicest Bloke in The World. I briefly considered painting this pair of panels, but once I’d had a good look, it was apparent that the l/h panel was actually in worse condition than the one I already had. To fix it, and repaint it, would have cost considerably more than the £125 for the immaculate ebay one.

But, crucially, the lump that was missing from my panel was still in pretty good shape on the new panel. So, very carefully, I measured up, lined up, marked up, had a cup of tea, re-lined up, and re-measured, and cut the matching lump out of the new panel to graft into the existing one. It took quite a bit of sanding, but eventually, I was left with this:


Now, I know from previous experience that glassfibre really doesn’t bond too well to ZXR panels, so I got out the angle grinder and flap wheel, and roughed up the surface for about 10cm either side of the join. I then cut some aluminium mesh and glass cloth to cover the area, mixed up some really properly nasty epoxy resin, poured it over the area, and left it 24hrs to set. Obviously, this looked bloody awful once I picked it up and turned it over after everything had cured nicely. But, importantly, it was bloody strong. Once again I got out the angle grinder and flap wheel, and cleaned up the epoxy that had run through the gaps on the front. It now looked like this:


Well, looking on the bright side, at least it was the right kind of  shape. As for whoever painted the panel to look like a canary suffering from jaundice, well, the less said the better. Anyway. I broke out the tub of P38 (I used to have some really nice, lightweight filler with aluminium flakes in it that set quickly, was easy to use, and easy to sand, and took paint really well, but I lent it to someone and never saw it again. Sadly I’ve also completely forgotten what it’s called, so I’m back stuck with P38 until I can find some more [1]), slathered a load of it over the join, waited a couple of hours, and then sanded it as flat as I could be bothered. There’s no point in spending a huge amount of time on this, as the rest of the bike isn’t a concours specimen, so I’m just going for the “looks OK from a distance” kind of fix. A quick spray with some plastic primer I found in the garage, and we’re now here:


Which kind of looks OK. From a distance. Which is exactly what I’m looking for, so that’s good. I’ll pop down to Halfords tomorrow to find a gunmetal kind of paint that almost, but doesn’t quite match the original. Again, that’s OK by me, as you can’t look at both sides at once to see the difference. And besides, as the sidestand is Donald Ducked, the bike leans over so far that nobody is ever likely to notice the mismatch unless they’re picking the bike out of a gravel trap somewhere.


[1] PS. Just did a bit of searching, and it’s Dinitrol 6030. Highly recommended. Will buy some more myself, in readiness for the inevitable earth-sky-earth-sky-carrot-field moment.


Fred softly, because you Fred on my dreams [1]

As should be obvious by now to anyone who knows me, or has read any of these pages, I have a bit of history with the Fred Whitton Challenge. Widely regarded as one of the toughest one day cycling challenges around, last year saw me nearly being carted off, hypothermic, in an ambulance. Thanks mainly to Sol, but also to many cups of tea and some good Northern common sense, that didn’t happen, and instead I went on to finish in a little under 10 hours.

Just think about that. 10 hours. My average heart rate was somewhere in the high 150s. I’ve seen it written that this ride, in terms of time and calorific expenditure is the equivalent of two marathons back to back. As I’ve never run a marathon I have no idea whether this is true. If it is, my heart absolutely goes out to the thousands who completed the London marathon today, as I know just how much it hurt me to get even half way round. The second half was just a case of blind stubbornness on my part, a lot of support, and several Really Good cups of tea.

Anyway. I said at the end of last years event that I’d never do it again. Actually I said it about half way around, but even I didn’t really believe that at the time. So of course I entered again this year. After all, it would take an immense stroke of bad luck to have my entry accepted for this massively oversubscribed (no, I don’t know why either) event three years running. To coin a well overused phrase, if it wasn’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all, so obviously I got an entry this year, and so for the past few months I’ve been racking up the miles around The Fens, and generally letting the thing prey on my mind to the point where I started dreaming about the run through Borrowdale and into Honister last night. It wasn’t an unpleasant dream oddly enough, but it does show that I’m starting to think about this thing probably rather more than is healthy.

The first big test of the year came in the fantastic No Excuses sportive. Sol & I teamed up with Ironman Andy and The Hillingdon Locomotive Craig for this one. And Craig, after selflessly towing us all round for most of the ride, paid us the great compliment of saying “I dunno how you can do that given that your training just consists of ragging it around The Fens every now and then”. I walked away with a good finishing time, a belly full of tea and pastie, and an enormous smile. Things were looking good. And then came the Newmarket Spring Saddle sportive last weekend. This was a bit more serious, and 162kms, and a fair bit hillier. And I was recovering from a nasty chest infection (yup, I’m just getting the excuses in now) as well, which didn’t help. And although I was feeling positive before I turned a pedal at the start of the ride, it was immediately apparent that I was going to have a really really bad day. I died a thousand times. I ran out of energy about 2hrs and 50kms in, and just had to suffer the rest of it. The knowledge that I felt absolutely awful, but it was only going to go downhill for the next 4 or 5 hours was just crushing. The inevitability of the rest of the ride panned out in front of me, and I just had to hope for the best. It was also very apparent that Sol had set his sights on a sub 6hr30 time. Which sounds pretty easy really, but given that we did the same ride last year in 7hr30 when I was healthy, that should give you an idea of the size of the task. I swore in 13 different languages. I cursed. I made comedy groaning noises. I was probably gurning for queen and country. I was certainly frothing at the mouth and leaving trails of snot in my wake. But, slowly, it became apparent that I was going to make it. 6hrs16. And it’s probably safe to say that the tea and bacon butty at the finish line were the most enjoyable things I’ve ever put in my mouth.

Compare that with today. I’d not sat on the bike since that ride. So today, I popped out for a quickie with fellow Fred Whittoneer Simon. (Not that Simon. Another Simon). We slipped out of the town, and into some of the more sparsely populated parts of High Suffolk. My senses were almost overwhelmed by the vibrancy of the smells, colours and sounds of the countryside. The heavy fragrance of the rape seed coated everything, and the contrast between the yellow of the fields, the deep blue of the sky, and the red of Simon’s shirt would have made a beautiful photo. It took me straight back to my childhood. Riding a bike just because it’s fun. Turning the pedals for the sheer joy of building as much speed as possible down the hills, revelling in the freedom of it all. When I was a child I used to dream of flying – skimming silently above the ground, no effort, just enjoying the act of moving effortlessly. Swooping through corners, diving into gullies, feeling the rush of the air on my face. Today was as close as I’ve ever come to that feeling whilst being awake.

And when I’m suffering (and I will, no question) during the Fred Whitton ride, I’ll try to take my mind back to that feeling. The euphoria of my childhood dream.

Finally, and it seems rather churlish to bring it up here, but one of the reasons for doing this again is to try to raise a few bob for charity. Actually, no, that’s a lie. It’s not of the reasons for doing it. I’m doing it because I want to. But it’s a handy way to publicise some fund raising that we’re doing on the back of this. if you fancy chipping a couple of quid in.

[1] Apologies obviously to Yeats. I doubt he ever thought that one was even a possibility.