Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Joys Of Spring

Doubtless if there is a definitive set of rules setting out what should and should not be blogged about,‭ ‬moaning about weather would be there under the heading,‭ '‬Not unless you want to bore your readers to death.‭' ‬Well,‭ ‬I guess dear reader,‭ ‬it's time to get your affairs in order.‭ ‬Sorry.

My wife.
Most weather biker.
All weather knitter.
To be fair though,‭ ‬as motorcyclists (‬I'm making an assumption there but it's pretty well founded so forgive me if you aren't‭) ‬weather has more impact on us than it does on those prone to many other pursuits.‭ ‬I'm pretty sure high winds, snow, torrential rain and freezing fog have never prevented my wife sewing up a sock monkey (‬google it if you must‭) or knitting a scarf for one of our children’s many stuffed dogs‬.‭ ‬Saying that,‭ ‬she doesn't blog so I guess there's no issue there.

However,‭ ‬those of us in the upper bits of the northern hemisphere,‭ ‬particularly in the UK,‭ are a little less weather aware now because at long last, this is ‬Spring.‭ ‬Oh happy day(s‭)! ‬Motorcycles are coming out of hibernation,‭ ‬their riders a little rusty,‭ ‬their batteries a little dead.‭ ‬My mate is one of them.‭ ‬We rode together for the first time a few days back.‭ ‬It was an impromptu Friday afternoon ride,‭ ‬ organised (‬I use the term loosly‭) ‬at the last moment.‭ ‬We pretty much just went to Squires to play look at bikes and the people that ride them.‭ ‬We certainly didn't go for the tea which is believed to be the worst in this world and probably those we have yet to explore.‭

Not this ride out but one years ago when I still had my CG125.
Kev still has that CBR but more a few more scratches these days.
But here's the cool part.‭ ‬Here's the part where all that cold,‭ ‬unsettled winter riding comes good.‭ ‬Sure,‭ ‬I looked into my mirrors to see Kev wasn't keeping up in the twisty bits.‭ ‬I wasn't pushing myself or the bike,‭ ‬just riding to the available grip with consideration for the vanishing point,‭ ‬as you do.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬it wasn't like Kev to not stay with me where the road gets curvy.‭ ‬He's rusty.‭ ‬I get it.‭ ‬Soon he'll be back to scraping the pegs and howling off into the distance on his‭ ‬11‭ ‬year old CBR600F.‭ ‬Then,‭ ‬I looked down.‭

It turns out that a winter of searching for every last gram of grip leaves you more than ready for the day when the tarmac warms up and the rain that washed the gravel from the perfect line has nicely dried up.‭ ‬When that day comes,‭ ‬you look down and that tarmac is a whole lot closer than you've seen it for a while.‭ ‬Normally you only see it this close when you fall of in the snow.‭ ‬In that moment,‭ ‬all is well in your world.‭ ‬That long,‭ ‬long winter somehow pays off.‭ ‬All the washing,‭ ‬stripping,‭ ‬ greasing,‭ ‬paying,‭ ‬praying,‭ ‬twitching,‭ ‬freezing,‭ ‬doubting.‭ ‬All of it suddenly becomes worth it.‭

So what did I do when I got home?‭ ‬I put my mid winter gloves back in the draw of death for another two seasons.‭ ‬Threw in a couple of mid layers and dug out the Summer gloves while I was there.‭ ‬Then I lowered the screen on Wee Hamish and gave serious consideration to removing the PinLock insert from my visor.‭ ‬That's pretty much it,‭ ‬I was back at work the next day and the mornings aren't all that warm.‭

Of course being England,‭ ‬the forecast is for rain the next two day followed by the temperature dropping well into single digits.‭ ‬I'm guessing it'll just be me again for a few days then.‭ ‬Mustn't moan.‭

Monday, 15 April 2013

DIY Motorcycle Maintenance and Repairs

Our workshop in Bosnia.
I'm not the worlds worst amateur mechanic.‭ ‬Fact.‭ ‬You see,‭ ‬I have a certificate that says I am a qualified mechanic therefore technically I'm just a really terrible mechanic.‭ ‬I may be overstating the case but it's not by much.‭

Lifting a pack with a 434's crane. Got quite attached to that hulk.
It seems a long time ago now that I was an Army mechanic specialising in light armour.‭ ‬I've been up to my ears in oil and mud many times but I wouldn't claim to have been good at it.‭ ‬I was good at fault diagnosis but terrible at fixing things.‭ ‬Bolts would sheer off as soon as look at me while my tool box had an incredible ability to loose tools. Engineering hygine wasn’t my forte either.‭ ‬Fortunately,‭ ‬I got out of that line of work and into teaching which I'm better at though by how much is a matter for others to decide.‭

Now that I'm not employed as a VMii‭ (‬Vehicle Mechanic Class‭ ‬2‭) ‬I usually feel I should be doing more to keep up and refine the skills which I keep forgetting I never really had.‭ ‬Why‭? ‬The reasons are two fold really.

Firstly,‭ ‬pride.‭ ‬Put simply,‭ ‬when faced with a job that probably doesn't require specialised tools or an engineering degree,‭ ‬I can't help thinking I should be doing this for myself.‭ ‬Plenty of other people with no formal training seem able to look after their bike's every need.‭ ‬Should I not also be able to do so?‭ ‬It's a well known fact after all that people who don't change their own oil,‭ ‬overhaul their own suspension or fit new chains themselves aren't really real men.‭

At the dock yard on our way to Kosovo.
Secondly,‭ ‬as much as I love having a mechanic I know I can trust to look after my bike properly and not charge over the odds,‭ ‬fixing stuff yourself has its benefits.‭ ‬Firstly,‭ ‬you have more money left at the end of the day.‭ ‬Secondly,‭ ‬you don't have to drop it off or pick it up or wait for him to be available to work on it.‭ ‬Do your own brake job and you'll have those seals out,‭ ‬callipers nearly clean,‭ ‬resealed and refitted,‭ ‬breaks not quite bled properly and a few washers unexpectedly left over by four in the morning no problems.‭ ‬It's a no-brainer really.

At the end of the day,‭ ‬if you can do it and don't have money to burn,‭ ‬maintaining your own bike makes a lot of sense.‭

As I alluded to earlier though,‭ ‬I did a brake job on my bike.‭ ‬It badly needed doing because all three callipers were seized or seizing.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬the parts alone cost over‭ ‬£110.‭ ‬Despite having never had the pleasure of overhauling break callipers,‭ ‬I decided to go it alone.‭

What a mess.
Things went OK.‭ ‬It took probably ‬6‭ ‬hours of work to complete the overhaul (that doesn't include making brews, scratching heads, crawling all over looking for lost bits etc) and I learned a lot from doing it.‭ ‬I also made an unholy mess of my garage and got brake oil everywhere.‭ ‬The back brake was perfect when completed but the fronts wouldn't bleed.‭ ‬Following advice from a forum I eventually cable-tied the brake lever to the handlebars overnight holding the brakes on with what pressure there was.‭ ‬This as it turned out,‭ ‬ruins the brake lines.‭ ‬Even once Alan had bled them,‭ ‬they were still spongy.‭ ‬So a job almost well done,‭ ‬on an absolutely critical system.‭ ‬Ah heck,‭ ‬I wanted steel hoses anyway.‭ ‬The point is,‭ ten‬ hours of my life and it still had to go to Alan to finish the job.‭

In the past I've made a mess of all sorts of things,‭ ‬mainly because I didn't quite understand them.‭ ‬The YBR250‭ ‬killed its wheel bearings because I wasn't getting the chain adjustment quite right.‭ ‬I killed the chain on the GT250‭ ‬about the same way.‭ ‬How can a motorcyclist not be good at adjusting the chain‭? ‬Actually,‭ ‬looking at a lot of peoples bikes,‭ ‬they mostly just don't adjust or lube them.‭ ‬But for me,‭ ‬surely that's just unacceptable.‭
My bike getting the attention it deserves. Alan's.

There are other examples of my incompetence but I won't go into any more.‭ ‬The case for the prosecution is clearly made.‭ ‬I've been tried and found wanting.‭ ‬As I said in my last post,‭ ‬if I was rich,‭ ‬I would be paying Alan to come to ours weekly to maintain the fleet of motorbikes I would own.‭ ‬In order to satisfy my manly need to break things with tools,‭ ‬I would keep a simple old banger.‭
Unfortunately,‭ ‬this is not an option.‭ ‬Now I have a worrying situation with the Wee.‭ ‬It's Secondary Throttle Valve,‭ ‬or possibly the linkage,‭ ‬is seizing up.‭ ‬Alan got it going again with some duck oil last time he worked on it but they're sticking again now.‭ ‬Really,‭ ‬it needs removing,‭ ‬stripping and lubing properly.‭ ‬For Alan that would be a good two hours,‭ ‬maybe three.‭ ‬It needs a new air filter as well so while the box is out,‭ ‬it would be daft not to change that.‭ ‬The air filter I would do in a heartbeat.‭ ‬But me take my own throttle bodies off‭? ‬I think we both know that's not the best idea in the world.‭ ‬On the other hand,‭ ‬we've somehow ended up with two holidays to save for.‭ Oh, and the clutch is dragging a bit. ‬Now,‭ ‬where's the‭ ‬12mm spanner got to‭?

Monday, 8 April 2013

My Garage Wish List

The Kia Carens we are soon to live
without pictured behind the bike
we get to keep. 
Today we did something that seems pretty crazy. It would have seemed unthinkable not all that long ago. We signed an agreement to trade our Kia Carens 2.0CRDi for a slightly younger Fiat Panda 1.1 eco somthingorother. Why? Because when it comes down to it, I couldn’t care less about cars. Unlike riding, driving’s fine, but not a pleasure. Taking my children on holiday is a pleasure. Driving is just necessary and expensive. However, the Panda will be a grand a year less than the Carens yet will do 95% of the work just as well. I know my friends will laugh. They already have. But honestly, I just don’t care about cars.

The thing is, if tomorrow we won say £10 million, on the lottery, there would be a considerable time before I went car shopping. I do have a list of motorbikes I would be hunting down though and this blog is that list. It comes under three headings;
  • Nostalgia
  • Just Want One
  • Bikes to Use Regularly.

Here goes (I apologise for repeating some things I mentioned in a previous post).

The Nostalga List

The Honda CB100n. My first bike. Bought for a song, simple and characterful. It had things like contact breakers and tappets that needed adjusting with a spanner. I’d use it as well. Actually I’d probably buy two or three of them and a Haynes manual as it would be the only bike I would work on if I had plenty of money. Other than that I’d be paying Alan to come to my garage every week to adjust chains, pull in for servicing and so on. The CB100N would be for me to satisfy my urge to get tool out and mess things up.

The Kawasaki GT550 was my first big bike and I loved it. That would need to be the later model and in red. I imagine I’d want to ride that as well. Being a shaft drive, Alan probably wouldn’t need to do much with it between services though as it would only go out on clean dry roads.

The BMW K75RT. In memory of the URide trip, this would need to be 1992 with a missing side panel and non functioning speedometer. Actually, I’d probably just ask Dan if I could buy his, get in covered in dust from the West Virginia dirt roads (assuming he has now washed it) then have it sealed in box and shipped over. Warts and all that one. Ride it? Probably. Alan would be splitting it ever few thousand miles to check the clutch splines though.

Just Want One

I’ve always wanted a Classic British bike and as a fan of little bikes it would have to be a BSA Bantam. Mine would be one of the 175cc bikes and the older the better really. Sure I’d ride it but it would probably do more miles on a trailer. It would spend most of it’s life in the living room next to the other bike under this heading, looking beautiful. Outings would be to steam rallies alongside the CB100N.

Only one manufacturer makes an engine which is a thing of beauty. I would have to have a naked Ducati of some sort. It wouldn’t be for riding. In fact, I may even leave one side pristine and then cut up the other side to expose some of it’s inner beauty. Exactly which one I’m open to suggestions on.

Bike To Use Regularly

First up, Mine. I’m not going to get rid of my Wee! It would just get all those suspension upgrades I’m always wishing I could afford. I might put a full luggage system on as well. This would be the most used bike right through all four seasons. I’d put pure road touring tyres on it as well (in fact, that’s probably gonna happen anyway).

I’d like a CRF250. The rooftop chase in Skyfall was amazing and I really would like to have a go at off-roading one day. I’ve also spent a lot of my riding life on 250s so it would be wrong not to have one. This would probably get used just as a local run about as well as for light green-laning. Not so much with the roof to chases though. 

I would like a big tourer. I loved Dan’s RT but I like the idea of a modern boxer. We would want something super comfortable for good long trips two up. The R1200RT would make plenty of sense. I would probably use it two or three times a year. However, all my mates who ride would know it was available to them for when they want to go two up touring.

If we won today, Ang would probably want to keep her YBR125. Just maybe she would consider swapping it for a CBR125. Either way, we wouldn’t be without a bike suited to a pair of L plates. When Ang does get her full licence, she fancies a Triumph Street Triple. Actually, we can’t get rid of the YBR. We’ve already promised Mummy's red bike to Beth.

The final bike is a request from Beth. She wants a side car outfit so she can go with me on rideouts. Having followed redlegsrides as he explores snowy mountain roads aboard his Ural Patrol rig, I’m slightly taken with the idea. If it means I could share the pleasures of riding with my children while they are still young, I’d have one in a heart beat. While the Ural rigs are kin of cool, thanks to Wallace and Gromit, ours would probably be an Enfield Bullet with Watsonian Squire side car.

Of course, there would be a few other little bikes for the kids. A reasonable selection of electric bikes, crossers and mini-motos would be available for fun and frolics with friends.

With a garage like this, heated, clean, brightly lit with a good size screen playing all my favourite videos on a loop, hot tea and comfy seats, it would be a great place to just sit and be. When friends come round, they could choose one of mine or ride their own. It’s good to share. With ten of the above bikes available for road use, there'd be plenty to choose from. I’m not sure Kev would be tempted off his trusty CBR600F with a CB100N or even a shiny new CRF250 but you never know. The choice would be there. And, if it’s too wet get them to ride, we could just chill amongst the bikes, drink brews, natter and be.

So now I’ve got my wish list sorted out, I just need to wait for my numbers to come up, preferably after a few weeks of roll-over. Don’t worry though. I’m not holding my breath. Besides, I’m already a lucky man. Two of those bikes are in my garage and right now they are both running beautifully. Another is in my brother’s on the other side of the Atlantic, available if we want it.

The point is, there's no car in my dream garage. There would be some car. Probably a small some car for getting about and a bigger some car for getting more/bigger things about. The bigger some car would be for towing bikes mainly. They can live on the drive or stuck out on the road for all I care. Car just move stuff and people. Bikes move me. Bring on the Panda.
Not this one exactly but it looks a lot like it. Just some car to do the job.