nr's blog

The Light Pours Out Of Me 5 December, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling — nr @ 6:33 pm

 

As noted in my last post, I’ve been having a few problems with the lighting on the TRX. I decided to do something about this in time honoured tradition, by just doing the first thing I thought of, rather than doing a bit more thinking. So, I went out, and bought a headlight unit from an entirely different bike, on the offchance that it might work. The first immediate problem was the connector was obviously different, but more importantly, about 30 seconds after plugging stuff in, a quick bit of mental arithmetic showed me that I’d be pulling pretty much double the current through the aged wiring and handlebar switch. I could ‘do the math’ as the saying goes, but I’m not going to do that. I’m going to do the maths instead. It’s a small distinction, but an important one, I think you’ll agree. So, the standard H4 bulb draws 60W on main beam, 55 on dipped. So, with a 12V supply (give or take – I’m not planning to land a probe on Uranus or anything like that, so I don’t mind being a few % out either way), that will draw 5A on main, and about 4.6A on dipped. The new headlight has a pair of odd P30T-40 bulbs, which are 55W main, 40 dipped. Each. So, that’s about 9.2A on main, and 6.7A on dipped. A pretty substantial increase in current draw. So, it was immediately apparent that to get the most out of the new light, and to prevent the handlebar switch melting, I’d need to add a relay. Better than that, I’d add two – one for dipped, one for main beam.

A quick visit to the Vehicle Wiring Products website soon relieved me of another twenty quid or so, but in short order a large envelope turned up with everything I needed – a pair of relays and connectors, some wire, a couple of fuse holders and some relay sockets. For this job, I only needed four pole relays – which is handy, as they’re a couple of quid cheaper. First job was to decide where to mount them on the bike. You can put them next to the fusebox in the seat unit, but I decided to run them at the front of the bike, attached to the fairing mount bracket. This simplifies the cable run a little bit, but more importantly, makes them easier to get to when I undoubtedly break one of them. Five minutes with the drill, and the sockets were mounted.

Now, at this point, I should probably draw a nice little wiring diagram to show you how to wire the things up. Only I’m not going to, as I’m terrible at drawing, and there are already a million nice diagrams drawn by people who are far better – just google ‘headlight relay wiring diagram’ and look at the pretty pictures. Now, one notable short cut that I took was to wire a single fuse in place, rather than a pair – one for main, one for dipped. This means that if the fuse fails, I’ll lose all my lights, as there’s no provision for a sidelight with these lights either. No worries though. As has been determined already, I’m quite used to riding around without any lights at all. Anyhow, with the sockets mounted at the front, some nice fat cable was run from the battery directly to the live side of the relay, and the existing bulb holder was hacked off to wire the existing high and dipped feeds into the switching side of the relay. It was about this time that my soldering iron exploded. Literally. I was using a gas powered iron, and after many years of faithful service in the paddock, it finally shat itself and blew the end off the gas reservoir. Good job it was pointing away from me at the time, as it went a good 5 metres, bounced off the wall at the far end of the garage, and landed back at my feet.

So, where were we? Oh, yup. Relays wired in, cabled up, so just needed to physically fit the headlight and plug it all in. And in a surprising turn of events, it worked first time. So, is it any good? Well, most of my riding at the mo is being done on some pretty busy roads, so I’ve not had the chance to test it yet on a completely unlit, empty road. But initial results are pretty positive for sure. The beam pattern on dipped is noticeably wider, and there’s definitely a lot more light coming out of it. So all in all, I’m calling that a bit of a success. Total cost was about £75 or so, for the light, and the relays and stuff. I probably could have saved about 50p by reusing some old cable, but I decided that it was worth buying some new stuff. Oh, and I suppose I need to buy a new soldering iron now too. Dammit. Just as importantly though, the twin projector headlight just looks so much better than the old unit. I’m going to keep the old one, just in case the new one falls foul of an MOT law at some point. As long as I wire in a decent weatherproof connector, it will be a 10 minute job to swap them over.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that I’m painfully aware that blogging is now *so* 20th century. And to be fair, I did start this one in 1997. But, as my children have pointed out before, vlogging is where it’s at now. So, with that in mind, and because it’s easier to just set up a video rather than take a million photos, here’s a couple of quick videos explaining some of this stuff. Firstly, the why?

 

And, of course, the what?

 

I was going to do the how? but the battery died in my camera. If anyone is even remotely interested in watching me burn my fingers with a soldering iron for 20 minutes, I’m sure I could be persuaded to do something along those lines for another project. Alternatively, I’ll just resort to my 20th century ways, and take a load of photos.

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Vision Thing 20 November, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling — nr @ 6:20 pm

When I first rebuilt the TRX, one of the things that Mike, one of the previous owners had mentioned to me was the headlight. I won’t repeat his wording exactly on this page. No, actually, I will. “It’s fucking awful. Really dreadful”. I can get away with the strong language as I’m quoting 🙂 Anyway – I absorbed the information, and filed it away for future reference, safe in the knowledge that I’ve ridden a Suzuki TS100 through unlit country lanes in the middle of winter.

So, last week, I was riding home from work. The days are obviously getting shorter now, and I’ve been spending more and more time riding in the gloom, if not the complete darkness. And it was obvious that Mike was right about the lights. I didn’t realise just how right though, until the seventh or eighth car coming the other way flashed me. I’m used to getting the odd flash, particularly when filtering, but never normally this many. And then, a van that I’d just passed on the A505 re-passed me with some mad gesticulations from the driver, and a lot of flashing and honking. I thought I’d best stop, to see if there was something dangerously wrong with the bike. The headlight connector was hanging loose. I’d had the fairing off, and forgotten to reconnect the headlight. And I hadn’t even noticed – that’s how bad the headlight is. I popped the headlight connector back on, silently apologised to the driver I’d cursed earlier for flashing me as I was accelerating onto a roundabout (I thought he was giving me a hard time for nipping in and out of traffic. I didn’t realise he was actually warning me that I was about to die a messy and painful death when a tractor pulled out of a side road in front of the un-illuminated idiot), and carried on my way. And I still couldn’t tell any difference.

Now, there are several ways to go about improving lighting these days. But, the problem with just whacking in, say, an LED bulb or a HID kit is that they’re not designed to work with the reflectors you get with a ‘normal’ 1980s halogen light. And while they may appear to work well from the drivers perspective, they’ll instantly fail an MOT, and irritate every driver who has the misfortune to be coming the other way. Next time you see a chavved up Nova or Saxo with improbably dazzling headlights, this is what’s happened. With the TRX, it’s even worse, the problem is really one of reflector design. It does emit light. Just not where you need it. Or as we’ve found out, not where you can even bloody well see it. I made the quip in Another Place that it was almost like it absorbed light when you switched it on, to which I instantly got the brilliant response “are you sure you haven’t wired it up backwards?”

So, enter the headlight unit from the FZR400RR 3TJ:

P1060621

So, straight away, we can see one massive advantage. It looks bloody brilliant. Twin projector headlights, with red-rimmed lenses? What could possibly go wrong? Well, the bulbs cost £16. Each. Gulp. Hope I don’t blow too many of them. At the moment, I’ve not used it in anger, so actually have no clue whether it’s any better. One thing for sure, is that it can’t be any worse. The only real fly in the ointment is the connector. The TRX loom has an H4 plug (makes sense, as the standard fitment is an H4 bulb). The 3TJ headlight unit has some other form of connector. Currently it’s bodged up with a few spade connectors, but if I decide to keep it, I’ll get a male H4 connector and make up a proper adaptor.

So, if you’ve noticed an idiot on a bike with no lights whizzing around the A1/A505 kind of area over the past few weeks, errr, sorry. It’s me. Hopefully you’ll at least be able to see me now. And it’s a good job the damned thing is so noisy, as I suspect that’s the only thing that’s kept me alive over the past few weeks.

 

(get a) grip (on yourself) 10 October, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling,The Racing years — nr @ 6:30 pm

So, 12 years ago, give or take a few days, I retired from racing. And while I always maintained an interest in the sport, and many friends kept at it, I was done with it. I’d had great times, made great friends, and was happy to be walking away with nothing left to prove. If you’ve ever read any of my old race diary, you’ll know that I’m not a competitive chap, and the fact that I’d never won a race never bothered me in the least. I’d raced all sorts of bikes, in all sorts of classes, and wanted to spend more time with my family. It’s also safe to say that I was completely bankrupt, and a few years off to repay my debts was also a Good Thing. Of all the races I’d had, the fondest memories were endurance racing. It suited me more, for several reasons. Firstly, the team spirit – no single person can win an endurance race, and working in a close team of friends was brilliant. But also, it suited my temperament more. I was never good at the aggression needed in a six lap sprint, but the more analytical approach to endurance racing definitely suited me. But anyway, none of this mattered, as I was retired, right? But then, back in March, a message popped up in my inbox from Alex, team principal at Darvill Racing: “Ronkers, Have you still got an ACU licence?” I replied that I hadn’t, and got another reply, this time from old mate and ex-TZR racer, Chris “Fozzy” Foster: “Get one before October and book a weekend off”.

A few weeks later, I was sitting in a classroom, chatting with BMCRC safety officer Pete Bartlett, taking the necessary course to renew my race licence. Dammit. I can resist anything except temptation.

In the intervening weeks, a plan had been hatched. I was to accompany Foz on the Darvill Racing SV650 at this years end of season endurance race, with the Andreas Racing Association, at Jurby airfield. Was I nervous? Hell yes. The nerves were tempered somewhat by the fact that I had the backing of such an experienced team, but still, I was nervous. The arrangement was basically that I would drive over to the Isle of Man with my leathers and boots, race, drink beer, and come home again. The bike was being prepared by Alex, and we had Phil doing pit signalling, with Liz and Maz supplying tea, cake, and big smiles. And as an added bonus, another couple of mates, Andy and Champ were to be in the same race. I’ve known Champ for years, and he’s often tried to tempt me back into racing – so it’s only fitting that my first race back would involve him in some way. The final travel arrangements were that I’d spend a couple of days in the office in Reading, drive up to Congleton with Champ, pick up Foz, and then get the ferry. Tickets were booked, holiday was arranged. Everything fell into place nicely.

“I wasn’t expecting to see an 18 stone Vietnamese transvestite in Reading this evening.” It’s safe to say that’s a sentence that I never thought I’d have to use, but there in front of me, on stage in The Oakford Social Club was, indeed, an 18 stone Vietnamese transvestite, and I exclaimed to Vanessa, Champ’s lovely girlfriend, that I was mildly surprised at the turn of events. We’d arranged to pop out for a bite to eat and a pint the night before an early start, and ended up watching a Drag cabaret act. And it was bloody brilliant. So much so that all thoughts of an early night went out the window, and we just scraped onto the last bus home. The next morning, with slightly dull heads, we both hopped in the car, pointed it North, and spent the next six or so hours on the road to Heysham. Everything was pretty much routine, as we sat on the ferry, chatting about events that were to come, drinking tea, and reminiscing about old times. Being stuck on a ferry, with no internet access, and a couple of old mates is a brilliant way to spend a few hours. Just chatting. No resorting to Google to sort out arguments. No sudden distractions from social media. Just a good old chat. Brilliant. We ended up dropping Champ off with another old mate, Keef, in Ramsey, grabbing a bite to eat, and then Foz and I heading back down to Douglas where we were based for the weekend. We both decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and got our heads down for an early night, rather than spending a night on the town. Besides, I rather think that Foz was scared that I’d try to find another Drag cabaret given my enthusiasm for the previous evenings entertainment.

Saturday morning was spent in the local cafe with Liz, drinking tea and eating cake, after which we pottered off to Castletown and the Darvill Racing headquarters, to get everything packed and ready for the race. This was the first chance I’d had to see the bike in the flesh, and I instantly fell hopelessly in love with it. Alex is fastidious when it comes to bike preparation, and every detail was perfect. Other than the 500GP bike of Max Biaggi, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite so meticulously prepared. There wasn’t a bolt out of place. Even down to the shielding of the electronics in the quickshifter to try to eliminate the chance of RF interference. Final setup would be done after the Sunday morning practise session, as this was the first time that the bike had been used in anger in full Supertwin specification. Everything was cleaned, polished, and perfectly fettled.

I was secretly starting to feel that my 1990s leathers, would possibly let the side down somewhat.

With packing complete, Alex, Foz and me wandered into Douglas where we ate an extraordinarily tasty Chinese meal, and again, all got our heads down for an early night. I slept fitfully. Nervous at the events ahead. I obviously didn’t want to show this at the time, but am happy to admit it now. I was, frankly, worried that I’d either crash the bike, or cause someone else to have an accident. I determined that the best way to approach this fear was to basically give myself a damned good talking to. Everything was in place – I just had to ride the bike. And as we all know, that’s something you never forget how to do. It’s just like, errr, riding a bike.

I was obviously awake before the alarm on Sunday. We jumped into the cars, headed up to Jurby, and got set up. Liz and Maz then arrived, made tea, and were promptly despatched back to Douglas to collect Fozzy’s lid, which he’d left in the flat. I busied myself with climbing into my leathers, and scooting out for practise. This was it. Would I be hopelessly slow after all this time?

Well, yes. Yes, I was. I’d guess my first few laps were among the slowest ever seen at Jurby. The requirement was for each rider to complete at least four laps, and we had a 40 minute session. I was starting to doubt whether I’d complete my required four laps, at the pace I was going. However, after a few laps, I started to settle in. I wasn’t that comfortable with the race pattern gear shift to start with, but soon got used to that again. Otherwise, the bike was everything I’d hoped. Torquey, neutral handling, with strong, progressive brakes. The perfect bike for an endurance race really. I popped back into the pits to let Foz have his laps, and when he got back, we decided to raise the gear lever a bit to make downshifts easier. And that was all we needed to do to the bike. It was ready to go. The plan for the race was to run six sessions of forty minutes each. Foz would take the start, then we’d alternate, until I either crashed, or saw the chequered flag. So, Foz took the Le Mans start, and we quickly settled into second place in class, with Foz running steady 1:20s to 1:19s, with the occasional foray into the 1:17s when chasing someone. I knew that I’d get nowhere near these times, but if I could get within 10 seconds, that was my personal goal. Foz really is an exceptionally fast rider, was used to the bike, and I’d not raced for 12 years. I thought that was a safe, sensible goal.

After about 35 mins, Alex gently said to me “we just put out the three laps remaining board for Foz. You ready?” I had a quick glug of water, and pulled on my lid and gloves. This was it. No turning back now.

Foz came into pitlane, looking tired, but happy. We were still holding P2. “The last left hander is a bit greasy, otherwise, it’s all dry.” Alex topped up the fuel, I jumped on, and headed out onto track.

“woooooah, bloody hell, what was *that*?” I thought to myself, as a ZX10R shot past, fully 40-50km/h faster. I later learned that this was actually the ultimate race winners, aboard a ZX10R. But it was all I needed. I realised now, that I was racing. Not practising. And so I got my head down, and tried to find a nice rhythm. At the end of my second lap, the pitboard came out giving me my lap time.

1:39

Holy crap. I was actually ashamed at this. I could imagine the chaps in the pits, all thinking “bloody hell, we’ve made a mistake here”. Still, as we’ve already ascertained, I’m not competitive, right? So, I made a plan. I’d just keep doing the same thing, only looking for smoother lines until I either got faster, or my session finished. And this worked. By consciously forcing myself to relax, and look for corner speed rather than trying to make time with late braking, my lap times started to come down. 1:35… 1:33… 1:32… would I get below 1:30? 1:31… 1:31… 1:30… and then I got my signal to pit.

Foz took his session, and I sat down, and was instantly handed a cup of tea by Liz, with a big smile, and a hearty “Well done!”. And I could tell she really meant it. Liz, if you ever read this, you have no idea how happy that made me. I took stock of things. I felt fine – achy from the braking stresses, but physically, fine. I’d taken nine seconds off my lap times, but was still a few seconds from where I wanted to be. But, most importantly, I was enjoying it. A smile crossed my face, as I sat there. Tea in hand, I realised that I was racing, I wasn’t a million miles off the pace I wanted, and I was enjoying it. It had been a long time.

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However, things weren’t seemingly going so well on track for Foz. His laptimes were starting to slow. From regular 1:19s, he was now running 1:21 to 1:23, and obviously struggling. After about 30 mins he signalled that he needed to pit, and I got ready for my next session. When Foz got back to the pits, he looked shattered. Totally drained. It’s never nice seeing a mate in trouble like that, and my first instinct was to sit him down, and make sure all was OK. But before I could do that, Liz and Maz whipped him away, and I was out for another session.

Again, at the end of the second lap, I got my first time. 1:29. And while this was still, obviously, outside of my 10 second from Foz goal, it was a huge achievement for me. I mean, to put this into context, the winners were doing 1:09. But I don’t care. This was a brilliant spur for me to continue my plan to ride smoothly and consistently. 1:29… 1:28… 1:27…

I whooped with joy. 1:27. I’d achieved my goal.

1:26… 1:25… And then, a whole string of 1:25s. I’d reached the edge of what I was willing to push against for now. And I just kept on turning in 1:25s. It was, plainly obvious that I was nowhere near the limits of the bike. Modern tyres offer an amazing amount of grip, and I just couldn’t bring myself to use it all. Lap after lap, the tyres just stuck, and did exactly what I asked of them. No dramas, no lurid slides as they went off, no sudden and unexpected lurches. Just smooth, dependable grip. No, I’m not sponsored by Continental to say these things… Unbeknown to me, although fully expected, the team had decided to keep me out for the full 55 mins for this session, to let Foz recover. And for sure, at the end of the session, I felt those extra 15 minutes. My arms and shoulders were a little more achy this time, and I was very aware that for the last couple of laps, my attention had started to wander. Again, I handed the bike to Foz, slapped him on the back, and sat down. And again, a cup of tea was placed in my hands. I felt like royalty.

“Is Foz OK?” I asked Liz. The reply was that yes, he was OK, but had just run out of energy, but was fit to run his third session. I expected nothing less. Foz is one of those people who will never complain – he just gets stuck in. And for his final session, he rode smoothly, consistently and sensibly to conserve energy. We were now on the same lap as the third and fourth place teams, and they had their fastest riders out for the final session as Foz handed back to me.

“Go on mate. Enjoy it!” he said as he handed the bike over I was intensely relieved to see that he looked 1000 times better than at the previous handover. And so, I took the final session. And while we were knocked from P2 to P4 in the final 30 mins, I’m not unhappy with that. I was still turning in regular 1:25s, but the teams behind were down in the 1:19 or so bracket. I freely admit I’d have crashed trying to defend the position. And after a few more laps, the chequered flag came out.

I won’t bore you all with the details of packing away. It’s pretty tedious to do it, never mind read about someone else doing it. But, at the end of the evening, Alex, Foz and me ended up eating pizza, and drinking a cold beer. Before, erm, turning in for an early night. Last of the party animals.

I owe a huge debt of thanks to Alex. And of course to Foz, Liz, Maz (I know, it sounds like the cast of a cheesy 1980s hip-hop movie) and Phil. Am I going to do it again? Yeah, I reckon so. Watch this space.

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From left to right: Maz, me (with a cuppa, strangely enough), Foz, Alex, Liz, and Phil.

 

Hollow Hills 13 August, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling,Outdoor climbing — nr @ 8:14 pm

Blimey. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? This is a sign of two things: firstly, project TRX has been an outrageous success, to the point where I’ve just been getting on and riding it, rather than mithering on about it. Secondly, well, the weather has been rather nice, and I’ve been on holiday. Thirdly, I’ve got a new job, so things have been a bit busy on that front too. Fourthly, and most importantly, I seem to have forgotten how to count.

So. The TRX. Well, it’s bloody brilliant. I know I’ve said it before, but I have a feeling that this one is a definite keeper. It’s just so much fun to ride. I’ve done a few long(ish) trips, lots of little blasts, and a whole lot of just looking at it, thinking “phwooaaar”. I’ve not quite hit my personal benchmark of 500 miles in a day – but I reckon that it’s easily comfortable enough for an old chap like me, and enough fun to stop me having to have a snooze half way through the trip. I’ve also had the pleasure of getting my knee down on the road for the first time in a few years, so there’s no shortage of grip from the s/hand tyres. Nice. There’s a few bits and bobs that I want to sort out over the winter though. There’s a bit of a clonking from the front end every now and then, and I can’t quite work out whether it’s the head bearings or the fork internals right now. To save myself any further confusion, I’ll just replace the head bearings, and at the same time fit a set of cartridge emulators. This is a pretty standard mod to TRXs, as the front end is a bit weedy, even when new. After 20 years, well, it’s both weedy and floppy. Not a pleasant combination. Other than that, it’s been a brilliant ride. At first I thought it was a bit slow, but then I reminded myself to look at the speedo, and it’s embarrassingly easy to hit three figure speeds without realising it. Put it this way – it kept up with Sol’s GSX-R1100 powered Katana without ever stressing it. Nice. And I now go out of my way to look for tunnels, just so I can gas it and listen to the noise. Yup. I think this one is a keeper.

So, what next? Well, regular readers of this rubbish will remember that I had surgery last year for Dupuytren’s Contracture on my right hand. The main reason for this was because I quite fancied getting out there climbing again, and this was a complete pain in the arse. I’d tried a quick climb in Switzerland a couple of years ago, and it hurt enough to stop me pretty much dead in my tracks. So, I had the surgery last year, and after a few months of recovery, this happened last week:

SUNP0011Yes, I know it’s on a top rope, but I don’t care. I’d popped down to Cornwall with my family for a holiday, and decided to get out on the sea cliffs again, and my hand was absolutely fine. Not a twinge, not a niggle, not a weak moment. And this has really fired my enthusiasm to do a bit more climbing now – which is, of course, a complete pain in the arse given that I live in The Fens, and the nearest hill is half a days drive away. Still, there can’t be many more stupid pastimes to undertake when you live in The Fens, right?

At which point, I should probably introduce this:

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Errr, yeah. That’s my longboard. And although I’ve been riding it for a couple of years, I’ve kind of decided that I really want to get a bit more out of it, and do a lot more riding on some bigger and faster hills. So, rock climbing and longboarding. Both perfect ways to spend my autumn years living in the bastard flattest place on the planet.

In yet other news, oh, I’m not quite ready to mention this yet. Watch this space. Plans. Afoot. They very much are.

 

Won’t get fuelled again 26 March, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling,Uncategorized — nr @ 7:34 pm

I’ve been quite lazy about updating these pages recently. (Unfortunately, as can be seen, I’ve not been lazy about thinking of cringe-worthy links to song titles. I’m really sorry about this one). One of the main reasons has been that I’ve not had any nice photos to share, and the other reason is that I didn’t think anyone actually read this – it was a nice thing just to keep updated when I fancied a creative outlet for some stress. And then, yesterday, two things happened that got me to pull my finger out. Firstly, my mate Nick took this photo:

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Dreadfully sorry about the 1980s hairstyle, but then again, I’m probably wearing a shirt form about 1983, so it’s entirely fitting. But I thought it was a nice photo, and then when he posted it to Facebook, Mike (I know about 12 Mikes) asked when the next blog post was due. So, two birds, one stone. Nice.

Right then. The bike. When we left things last time, I think that the things that I mentioned that needed sorting out were the tyres, the chain and sprockets, and sorting out the exhaust system. The tyres were brilliantly easy to sort out, thanks to the chaps at TeamIxion (No, not that TeamIxion. Nor that one. The other one). I put out a request for any old ex-race tyres in the right size, and top racer dood Nogger had a few pairs of Supercorsas left over from last season. Perfect. And even better, I got the delivered for free thanks to other top racer dood Foz travelling in the right direction at the right time. So, that’s a lightly used pair of Diablo Supercorsas sitting in the garage waiting to be fitted. Lovely.

Next up, the exhaust. I’m still not 100% sure that this system will stay on the bike. For the sake of originality (and my wallet) I’m at least going to leave it on there for now. And if it performs spectacularly well on the dyno, I may look at it more favourably. But dammit, it’s badly made. And doesn’t fit that well. I can probably sort out the latter with a bit of time and precision adjustment with the rubber mallet. But I just can’t forgive the welding on it, nor the fact that I’ll be leaving the soles of my boots all over it, as it runs so close to the footpegs. Projection Components do a lovely 2-1 stainless system, which I may have a look at. It’ll be lighter. It’ll look better. It’ll be better made for sure. Dunno. Anyway, given that I’m currently registering around 0.032 on the financial Richter scale, this is a bit of a moot point right now.

So, lastly, the chain and sprockets. As previously mentioned, the TRX comes with a 525 as stock, with 17/39 final drive ratio. There’s no way a wheezy old 850 twin needs a 525 chain, so I determined to replace it with a 520. And while it took a bit of hunting, I found that an NX650 rear sprocket, and R6 front sprocket fitted nicely. I saved 200g on the chain by swapping a 525 to a 520, and added 400g to the rear sprocket by replacing the Renthal alloy jobbie that was on there with a cheap steel JT unit. Hey ho. It’ll last forever. Well, at least until I get fed up looking at it and want to replace it with something nicer. I also ended up running 17/42 gearing, rather than 17/39. This should make things a little more lively. Particularly with the short first gear that I have with the TDM850 gearbox that’s in there.

So, ready for an MOT, right?

Nope. Think again. I popped the bike outside yesterday for a quick run up to temperature to check for rattly nuts and bolts. And overnight, it dropped a large puddle of petrol on my garage floor. Bother. So, time to dive into the dreadful fuel system again. The more I have to fiddle with the vacuum hoses to the fuel tap and pump, the more I resolve to replace them at some point with an electric pump and normal on/off tap. Anyhow. The carbs came off, and were cleaned out, and as expected, some of the rust and crap from the tank was now sitting in the needle valve seat, which was causing the small dribble of fuel. With this all cleaned out, and put back together, I fired it up again. And this time, there was a full on torrent of fuel coming straight out of the overflow. Grrrr… I’m starting to think that this fuel system will be the thing that eventually kills this bike when it catches fire somewhere. So, once again, tank off, fuel hoses off, throttle cables off,blah blah etc. And I stripped the carbs again. And at this point, I noticed that the #2 powerjet was blocked. Now this is a proper pain in the neck, as the only way to get the powerjet out is to completely remove the bottom half of the carb, which is a proper job. Plan A was to just  vaguely squirt some air in kind of the right direction to try to clear the blockage. Needless to say, it didn’t work. So, I bodged up a small aerosol quill to my compressed air gun to a) drop the pressure, and b) get the air in the right place. And with this, I could blow air back from the jet through to the floatbowl, rather than the other way around. This seemed to work, so I had the incredible thought and foresight to check things out by squirting some GT-85 up the orifice, while looking directly at the outlet of the powerjet to see if anything came through.

I’d like to apologise to my neighbours at this point for the intensive use of four letter language that ensued when I got a jet of GT-85 straight into my right eye. Suffice to say, I’ll make sure that I’m not looking quite so closely next time.

In a foul mood, I bolted it all back together, and so far, it seems to be holding tight. I have a feeling that I’ll be sending the carbs away for a proper service at some point, and the removal of the vacuum systems may happen sooner rather than later. But, for now, if it doesn’t drop petrol all over the floor again, it’s ready for an MOT. I shall take a pair of earplugs for the examiner.

 

This Corrosion 22 February, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling — nr @ 10:29 am

Time for a long overdue update, as things have been progressing rather quickly over the past few weeks. You could blame a slack period at work for me having the extra time on my hands, but nothing could be further from the truth. I’m actually working all the hours under the sun at the moment (which is a shame, as I don’t get paid by the hour…) and am feeling rather stressed right now. So, a few bike rides, lots of tea, and a quick bit of creative writing will hopefully go some way to sorting that out. If not, I always have a plan B. There’s always a good plan B.

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Anyway. Enough of my mental health. Although if anyone would like to make me a cup of tea at any point, I’m all for it. Strong, white, no sugar please. Onto the bike. If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see a few nice things. Firstly, the gearbox sprocket nut looks lovely and clean. And the fact that it’s there is the largest milestone on the bike really, as that was the thing that took it off the road in the first place, when the thing (along with half the output shaft) fell off. The Öhlins shock, nestled in there, looks lovely. But you already know about that. No, the most important thing about the photo above is the jump leads hanging out the back of the bike, running to the battery of my car. This photo was taken on the day of the first test run of the engine. As you can probably guess from the position of the tank, it wasn’t successful on this particular occasion, but that was just a sticky float in one of the carbs allowing petrol to escape through the carb overflow. However, once that was sorted, the engine coughed, sputtered a bit, and then rumbled into life. With hindsight, ‘rumbled’ probably isn’t the right word. ‘Violently exploded into an assault on the eardrums’ would be better. Those Renegade pipes really don’t do much in the way of keeping the noise down. I did get a video of it running, but as I’m a tightwad, I don’t pay enough for this WordPress package to facilitate the hosting of videos. Just imagine an eighty-ton whale farting in a bowl of custard for now, that will give you an idea of what it sounds like.

So, what did it take to get to this momentous state of affairs. Well, firstly, the fuel system. As mentioned earlier, the tank was pretty rusty inside. From what I could see, it was a pretty light surface rust rather than anything really deeply set in, but it was covering most of the inside of the tank. First step to getting this out was to throw a good handful of nuts, bolts, screws and washers in there and give it all a good shaking around for a few hours to knock off the loose stuff. This was a) surprisingly effective and b) a good workout for my limp and baggy biceps. A whole lot of rust came out when I tipped the tank upside down, along with about 1/3 of the hardware that went in. The TRX tank is full of little nooks and crannies, and a lot of the stuff was still stuck in there. It all came out over the course of the next few days (I think – there may be a few more ancient fasteners lodged in there waiting to surprise me in future). Next step was a good cleaning – some POR-15 cleaner and degreaser was poured in, along with some hot water, and the whole lot shaken around every few minutes, then left overnight, then shaken around next day a few times, before emptying out. What came out was a fantastic dark brown sludge, which reminded me very much of the gravy we used to get at school. Tasted pretty similar too. Oh, and a few more nuts and bolts. Next step was a really good rinse through with a hosepipe and clean water to get the last of the sludge and detergent out. And a few more screws. Finally, a bottle of POR-15 metal-prep was thrown in, and again, the whole thing shaken every few minutes, and left overnight, then shaken a whole lot more, before draining, rinsing again, and recovering more bloody screws. And while the finish isn’t perfect, it’s OK for now I reckon. I put some new filters on the tap spigots to catch any remaining rust flakes (and random nuts and bolts), and buttoned it all up again. At this point I should have put a new gasket between the fuel tap and tank. I didn’t – lesson learned, as it all needed to come apart again a few days later. I could (and maybe will, one day) use some POR-15 tank sealer to fully line the tank, but for now I’m going to leave it as a half-arsed job and hope for the best.

The fuel hoses were replaced where necessary, and reconnected. And then I started finalising the work on the loom. I’d previously removed the alarm system, and generally started to tidy things up a bit, but a bit of investigation revealed that the sidestand cutout switch was goosed, and needed either replacing or bypassing. Obviously, I took it out of the circuit, threw it in the corner, and shorted the connector in the loom rather than buy a new one. Other connectors were cleaned or replaced, the whole lot plugged back together, and a battery was purchased (ouch) and fitted. First turn of the key showed the expected neutral light (there’s no oil pressure light on the TRX, which is stupid) and all the circuits work as designed. One of the bulbs in the tacho has failed, but as I don’t plan to ride this much at night (firstly the headlight is known to be pretty awful, but also, I think I’d likely annoy my neighbours, their neighbours, and pretty much anyone in about a 12 mile radius of where I am if I ride it late at night) I’m not too worried by this.

Brakes have had the usual strip and clean and re-filling, along with the hours of bleeding that you get with a completely dry system. New pads fitted, and I think they’re ready to go. Or stop, if you see what I mean. Bodywork is refitted, and I needed to recover the little bum-stop pad, as it was particularly manky. This simple sentence belies the hours of work and swearing that went into the job. The fabric I used (a kind of fake Alcantara sort of thing) is pretty horrible to work with. Still this was worth doing well, as it’s a very visible part of the bike. And I don’t want anyone to think I’m the kind of chap who’ll do a half-arsed job.

What’s left to do? Firstly, the exhausts need a really good cleanup and sort out. They work, but things don’t really line up all that well at the moment, and are completely filthy. A few hours of work will sort that out, I hope. Well, enough to get it through the MOT. Talking of which, I’ll also repack the cans to at least drop the noise a touch. I may well end up fitting some db-killers for road use (and maybe to get below 105dB for the Cadwell Park noise limit) but we’ll see what happens with the new packing. New tyres (probably Contis) will be ordered when I have a few bob, and then just chain and sprockets and it should be good to go. I’m actually a little bit undecided here. Obvious thing is just to buy the stock 17/39 525 kit. But I’m not convinced it needs a 525. I think a 520 will be more than strong enough, and lighter and cheaper. And at the same time I may change the gearing to 17/42. The stock gearing is pretty long, and although I should have the power to pull it with the FCRs and shouty pipes, I think I’d rather have the shorter gearing for giggles and wheelies.

In other news, I was at the dyno on Saturday with the splendid chaps from Cambridge Motorcycles, running up Sol’s Katana after the insertion of a GSX-R1100 motor. Any worries that I had about the TRX being a bit noisy went out of the window. This thing is shatteringly, painfully noisy. Even standing outside the dyno room, wearing ear defenders, I could still feel my eardrums buzzing. Still, 120bhp on the first run wasn’t too shabby.

No doubt the next installment of this drivel will be lamenting the fact that we’ve both been nicked for noisy pipes.

 

Scar Tissue 8 January, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling — nr @ 8:23 pm

I’ve reached that point on Project TRX when I need to start to consider cosmetics. Mechanically, it’s all coming back together nicely. Electrically, things are plugging in where they should, and the right circuits seem to be carrying the right signals at the right time. Sonically, well, there’s a few things to sort out before I attempt to start it, so that’s going to remain a tantalising mystery for the time being.

So. Cosmetics. I’ve kind of been cleaning things up as I went long for the main structural parts. The first decision I had to make was the frame – plan A was to blast it, and get it either powder coated or repainted. But as I ripped into the bike, I had a bit of a change of heart. You see, this was primarily a race bike, and was then enthusiastically toured around Europe on several long treks. It’s had a hard life. It shows its history in many places. And so, I decided to just patch up what I had rather than replacing anything. The frame was inspected, cleaned, and touched up where it needed it. The swingarm was just cleaned. Nothing else. There’s clear marks where it’s dropped a chain, but structurally, it’s fine. I started on the bodywork the other day – the tail unit was really pretty manky, with scratches, and marks from boots and panniers and probably from interactions with other bikes on the racetrack. I pulled off a couple of really old stickers, and just cleaned it up with a bit of t-cut. The seat is serviceable – I need to recover the bum stop pad, and I’ve got some spare material for this in the loft. Just need to pick up some glue and revisit my youth working as a sewing-machinist (yes, really, I did). The mudguard is shattered. And I can pick up a s/hand one from ebay for 50 quid, or even buy a new pattern part for not a lot more. Instead, I’ve patched it back together with cable ties and superglue, and just given it a good clean up. I’ve not started on the top fairing yet, but that will get the same treatment. I want this bike to carry its past with it, rather than to remove all traces of it.

Mechanically, we’re nearly there now (as long as everything works…). The engine is back in, the top end was carefully re-installed and timing checked and rechecked, the forks have been serviced, the brakes were stripped and cleaned and are just waiting for new pads. Loom is back in place (a very glib statement for an activity that took several evenings, and involved a highly impressive amount of proper anglo-saxon language), and a tentative prod with my bench power supply showed that the right circuits lit up at the right time. Carbs were re-installed along with the (frankly dreadful) vacuum hoses to the fuel pump and tap. I may well lose both of these horrible ideas in the future, and fit an electric pump. Footpegs and clocks and other ancilliaries are all cleaned and refitted.

So what’s left? Well, mainly, the fuel system. The tank is still chock-full of rust. So I need to sort that out, and the associated hoses and gubbins that have all gone crusty and wrinkly with time. Much like myself. Also I need to repack the ‘silencers’. I’ll probably use acousta-fil for this, in an attempt to make sure that Spike and Phil don’t actually laugh at me when I take it for an MOT. And then it’s really consumables – tyres, battery, chain&sprockets, oil&filter. But there’s no rush.

There’s still plenty to be done for sure, and it’s not going anywhere near a road for a few months yet. Well, firstly I need my finances to recover a little bit [1]. And actually, I’m enjoying this rebuild so much that I don’t want it to end too soon. And I want it to wear its scars with pride.

In other news, it’s time I dusted my bicycle off from its winter hibernation. I’m fat, pasty, and unfit. If I’m going to get old, I’m doing it on my terms and timescale. I’m going for a bike ride tomorrow.

[1] An unexpectedly large and unavoidable bill has meant that I needed to sell the TZR250. I’m not upset about this, firstly as the reason for selling it is entirely and completely the right thing to do. But also, it went straight back to Kev, who sold it to me in the first place. Hope you enjoy it dood – it’s been a labour of love.

 

 
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