Friday, 25 January 2013

Manx GP 2012 Thoughts - The Supertwins

Last year, in an effort to improve the little SV650, and with the help of Steve Mann, I grafted a proper front-end onto it. Away with the standard spindly, non-adjustable forks and crappy floating brakes... on with a serviced set of 51mm Ohlins off my 1998 Aprilia RSV with obligatory brembo stoppers. We worked hard on this... key was retaining the original geometry that seemed to work around the Isle.

Bungalow Bridge - always makes for great up-close pics

Pre-Manx testing at Mallory was promising. I could feel the front-end... the braking was transformed. 200% stiffer on the front-end, I could bury it deep in the corners, back wheel in the a air... and still feel exactly where the limit was. The new front-end showed up just how crap the original SV stuff is. Built to budget I guess. Those old forks flexed like Lou Farigno on Venice Beach... awful for short circiuts... but maybe not too bad on the Isle. But the old brakes were rubbish... bad on short circiuts... worse on the Isle. So... we were full of hope when we arrived on the Isle of Man mid-August.

Bungalow Bridge - from the other side

I first campaigned that bike in 2010 - that was a good year. Back then, the SV was basically a stock bike - 73 bhp at the wheel. I'd not ridden the bike before heading down Bray Hill for practice. During practice, she was flawless... a whopping 9 laps of practice with a fastest lap of 101mph. I qualified 35th of 89 entrants. During the race I got the hammer down, finishing 17th with a fastest lap of 104.6mph and earning my second replica. An awesome result... especially considering she was a 2001 stocker.

2011 wasn't a good year. With 12 more bhp, I only managed 3 laps of practice, with a fastest of 103mph. I still managed to qualify 19th... so things were looking okay for the race. But I broke down on lap 2 while lying in 12th place. Bah!

Ballaugh Bridge - doing proper jumps now

With good power (for a carbie SV) and my bling Ohlins front-end, I was looking for a replica last year. Or at least a 106mph lap.

The weather played against us... and then she developed a missfire as I was turning off Glencrutchery Road after only my second lap of practice. I checked this, checked that... found some old paint in the bottom of the tank, so cleaned out the whole fuel system and the carb jets. I didn't really know what I was doing... just following the fuel, stripping and cleaning. I didn't fix the misfire. Running out of practice days, I dropped the bike off at Padgetts. The young bloke there was great and found the problem - a rotten HT lead.

I think this is just after Ballaspur, on the approach to Doran's Bend - I can't remember the name...

The problem seemed cured. Due to one thing or another I didnt manage to get out on the bike for another lap of practice. I went straight into the race with it... but as I pulled off the start-line something was amiss. She just was't pulling. I even spent a minute parked up during that first lap at Quarterbridge checking for the problem.

I fought on during the race, expecting her to blow up at any second. It was a bit nerve-wracking. She couldn't even pull 6th gear up the Mountain Mile. The other Supertwins were just breezing past me on the straights. Fucking frustrating... I just got angry with her and wrung her neck. I finished the race with a fastest lap of only 98mph. Crap. But a finish.

Douglas Road Corner -  hard on the brakes before the exhilarating (and bumpy!) blast through Kirkmichael

After the Manx, and a few months of garage dejection I finally hauled the little SV up to Steve Mann to find the cause of her spineless performance. Steve knows his stuff and methodically goes through the scenario and possible causes. Check this, check that. Within 20 minutes, he finds the problem. The cap on the vacuum operated carb slide on the rear cylinder was on the wrong way around. The tiny airway was blocked. That slide wasn't sliding at all.

So, with one cylinder on idle, and the other in full tune, I did 150 miles at race pace. Throttle held wide open most of the time. I did the whole race on 1 1/2 cyclinders!

One of my favourite pics of the fortnight - stretching the cables coming out of Ballaspur

What muppet mechanic put that bloody cap on backwards? Fucking idoit! Looking back, a 98mph with the bike running the way it was is encouraging :-) So, all she needs is an oil change, a litte toone-up on the dyno and she's good to go! Finacially more palatable than the Aprilia.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


From my brother Nic:
"Got to build me and airhead like this."

Fuck yeah! Build it Chief!

Monday, 21 January 2013

BMW K75 - Moto Sumisura

An uber-cool BeeEm by BMW fanatic Frank A at Moto Sumisura

Thanks Jim Chadwick and BlessThisStuff blog for the link.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Manx GP 2012 Thoughts... the Senior

It's been a few months since my ManxGP 2012 - I've had time to think about it a bit... digest it all... an get over the disappointment... also been watching some of my on-board footage and doing a bit of analysis. I'll start with Betty - the 'big' bike I used in the Senior race. My fastest ever lap of the TT Mountain Course is just shy of 109mph - I did this in 2006 on my stock 1998 Aprilia RSV. I'm going to get all anoraky now...

Greeba Castle. When a bike handles... it all feels easier... less fear of getting thrown into a wall... so you can go faster...

In practice week I did a 107 mph (average speed) flying lap and a 106mph lap from a standing start (I also did a 108mph from a standing start - but don't have any footage from that). Standing starts are generally around 2 mph slower than a flying lap. And in all my past years, I go about 2 mph faster in the race than I do in practice - adrenalin? Things were looking good for me to beat my personal best in the race.

The Gooseneck. Giving the vintage Fattrack leathers an airing during practice...

Just to make sure I wasn't just being hopeful, I checked out times from the on-boards. On the 107mph lap, it took me 9:08 to reach Balaugh Bridge. On the 106mph lap, about 09:28 with a bit of traffic and wet around Glen Helen. Looking at the overall lap times it stacks up. I compared with my race footage...

Ballaugh Bridge. On my 6th ManxGP,I finally get the knack of jumping Ballaugh...

I knew it was the fastest half-lap I had ever done around there... the vid confirmed it. Depite it being wet around Glen Helen - the clock says 08:54 to Ballaugh Bridge. Extrapolate that out and I was on target for a first lap of around 110 to 111mph. That should give me a flying lap of around 112 to 113 mph. This has been my goal since 2006. But, with the bike breaking down 200m after Ballaugh Bridge... half a lap counts for nothing.

The bike started running on one cylinder... so I was hoping it was just a loose wire or something. I was so disgusted with it for breaking down that it just got dumped in the corner of the garage when I got back from the Isle in the beginning of September. I had a closer look at it before Chirstmas.

Ballaspur? Nothing comes close to the feeling of going as fast as you can on real roads...

The rear rear cylinder plug was bent... damage on the piston crown and fine shards of metal on the tops of the inlet valves... it didn't look good. I took it down to may mate Don Plane (Aprilia guru) at Southern Cross. Turns out it dropped and exhaust valve on the rear cylinder. Shit. :-( gonna need new pistons, valves and other bits. Don's now trying to get the head repaired... this is gonna cost :-(

Mountain Box. Flat-out for miles on a bike that hauls... gentle curves become hard corners at over 150mph... exhilarating!

Up until the point where she went 'pop', she was running sweet. For a 10 year old bike, she's fast. And with the help of my fellow competitor Dennis Booth, I was getting her handling too. Dennis knows his stuff. In my 5 previous campaigns, I've never been able to make a bike handle around there. It just shows what a bit of know-how can do. With a fast bike that handles... I know I can go fast around there...

Awesome Ducati Pic

from the guys at Cafe Racer Culture

Friday, 18 January 2013

Time in the Garage

Been spending time in the garage the last few weeks... sorting bikes.

Finally got around to doing something on the Wee Monster over Crimbo/New Year. The last time I did anything on this bike (besides race it... and win trophies...) was when I converted her back to a road racer after her stint as a flattracker. Yes... I did race this puppy on the dirt oval... where she bit me... deep. She's a fussy old tart that don't like the dirt. I think that was nearly 4 years ago now.

At one of the races last year, all the bikes in the series were weighed. Maximum allowed weight = 150 kg. Almost all the bikes in my class were between 155 and 165. Mine was the heaviest beeatch there - a porky 168kg. A diet was well overdue...

I did a bit of cutting... and a bit of grinding.

A couple of other bits and pieces... like stealing the front mudguard off the Monster S4r - a 200g advantage there. This is the theory of 'marginal gains' at work...

The belly-pan is pretty thick... and robust. Holding it in my hands, I reckoned I could make a lighter one. Besides bodywork repairs, I've never made anything with GRP. Out with that finger-pokin' glass-fibre sheet and that finger-stickin' resin... I didn't really know what I was doing... just making it up as I went along...

First tape up the original piece... and spray with some furniture polish...

Then slap on some mixed resin and a layer of glass-fibre sheet...

This shit was curing so fast, I had to do it in 4 sections. Man, I love the smell of resin in the mornin'!

Jeeeesus! All that graft just to make a tatty, crappy mould. There's gotta be a better way to do this... but I didn't really give a shit... I had time... it was cold outside... and I was gettin' hiiiiiiigh!

Clean-up the mould... and do it all again... tape, furniture polish, resin, glas-fibre sheet, dab, dab, dab... never stroke.

Surprisingly, I managed to get the new belly-pan-like-thing out of the mould without destroying the new part... or the mould. Ace! There's definitely something wrong with my technique... the part was full of tiny bubble-holes. No smooth, flawless finish here. I've heard the term 'gel-coat' and recon this must have something to do with it. Oh well... fuck it. Out with the body-filler and sander...

After a bit of sanding, it didn't look too bad. The proof will be when I cut it to fit, slap on some brackets and give it a nice, flat coat of satin black. It'll probably look like shit, but if it saves a few grams, that means it'll help me go faster... and that's all I want from the old gal.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The One Motorcycle Show

From a on the Cafe Racer Culture blog... my two favorites from The One Motorcycle Show in Portland Oregon in 2011...

I've never liked white frames... but this one somehow works... I think it's the brown seat, grips and bag that make it...

This one looks fast standing still... a true Caf Racer

Monday, 14 January 2013

Guzzi 850 Cafe

I've got a soft-spot for Guzzi Cafe Racers...

Thanks Cafe Racer Culture for the pics and great blogerooni.

Friday, 11 January 2013

South African Adventure - part 2

As I'm seeing my arse again and going down onto the rocks on the big climb, another rider blasting up narrowly misses me. He gets to the top no problem, stops, puts his bik on the stand and starts scrambling down the trail. He gets to me and my strewn bike and it's only then that I realise that it's my brother. He was on his last lap.

Igor was in for a good finish, but drowned his bike after going down in one of the crossings on his last lap...

"You okay?"
"Yup. Just cream-fuckin' crackerd."

Igor hauls then fires the bike up, and picks his way up to the top of the hill, only pausing for seconds at a tricky sloping rock section. Awesome! Another rider, one of course the marshalls and event organisers, stops at the top of the hill and comes down to help the fellow struggler up. Rescued!

I trudge to the top of the hill - bejeesus - that was tough. My gear feels like it is 500kg, dragging me down. I crawl to the bike, absolutely exhausted from a 50 yard scramble. I rest while the other guy and the marshal get up the hill. We rest, eat, drink and rest another 10 minutes after they get up. I get back on the bike. The marshal says it's just a big descent and then a trail ride back to the start/finish. He'll follow us.

Puff-adder - a bite from this local bad boy and you're in shit. My cousin nearly lost her leg from one... she still walks with a limp.

I move off, and get to the descent. Within a minute, I've left them behind. I press on carefully and get down without seeing my arse again. Little victories. Onto the trail ride... this was fun. Too knackered to give it beans and have a blast, I just cruise along enjoying all the scenery and awesome riding.

One more big river crossing and I'm back at the start/finish. My other brother Nic is waiting there, ready to refuel and get me going onto lap 2. It took me 3 hours, 20 minutes to do one lap! I had struggled, fallen, gotten back up, fallen again, learned a lot about two-smoke riding... crashed myself to the point of exhaution, but most of all... I had fun.

A reprofiled shin - fuck that hurt!

One lap was enough - that was it for me. A bunch of competitors didn't even make it around for 1 lap - so I was happy with my effort. I got my gear off and recovered while Igor went off and did a 4th lap - just for fun!
Igor and Tanna

In South Africa I had fantastic time with my brothers, father, niece and friends... racing, sightseeing, chilling-out and even managed to get a wee safari in :-) The trip reminded me of all the great things about South Africa - I want to visit more often than every 4 years.

You don't want to get stoon on by a hippo

Bourke's Luck Pot-Holes

Lisbon Falls


Gettin' close!

The King!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

South African Adventure - part 1

Back in November I was out in South Africa. Took the opportunity to do an Enduro with my brother Igor. Brother NIc and Niece Tanna as pit crew. We camped out in a nature reserve (complete with wild antelope, hippo and rinocerous...) and were up at first-light on race day.

Nic getting breakfast on the go

The race was near the old 19th century prospector's gold-panning town of Pilgrim's Rest. One of my favourite parts of South Africa - we spent many a childhood vacation in this area. It was an hour drive through this beautiful land to the race start.

We unpacked, set-up, checked the bikes and socialised. Races in South Africa are a far more social affair than in the UK. Mabe it's the weather. I took the KTM 300 EXC (two-smoke) my brother loaned me up and down the dirt road. It felt good... everything in the right place. It's then that I learn my brother and lot of the competitors use this event as training for the Roof of Africa extreme enduro. The alarm bells started ringing.

I started in the 'Senior' class. The objective was to complete 3 laps of the 25km course as fast as possible. It was estimated an hour per lap should be reasonable. I get going shortly after 09h00

'Action' shot - hardly...

The first 15 minutes were great... hooning across country on a super-fast trail ride. I cought and passed a few riders on the trail and about 6 or 7 others that were stuck at the two river crossings. Then I reached the first big climb. I tried once, twice and after the third fail I rested a bit at the bottom chatting to another guy who was struggling. I decided to try find a way around - he was going to try the climb again.

Igor - showing how it's done

I picked my way off-piste around the hill - bouncing through foot-ball sized rocks and venturing way off course. Eventually I come to an access road that led to the top of the hill. Thank fuck for that! I blast it up to the top of the bloody hill... only to find the guy I was chatting to has just made it up... exhausted and panting. Whooo-hooo! Nice one!

Watchin' bikes go by...

I leave him there to recover and head off to the next big climb. This time there's no way around - the trail goes up the easiest path. I attack it.

I spent a lot of time resting and enjoying the scenery

Less than a minute later, I come clattering down. Shit! I rest a minute or two and try again. I'm off half-way up. I am over the hardest part so just hang in there. I sit on the hill and rest for five minutes.. some food, drink and photos. I push on and come off two or three times more before eventually getting around the hill. Then the descents... just as gnarly and treacherous as the ascents.

Igor climbing mountains!

Typical Mpumalanga high-veld scene

Before I get to the next ascent, I have to rest. I'm feeling pretty tired - falling off on a rock-strewn hill and getting going again is flippin' hard work! Rested, fuelled and watered, I go for the next climb. It's on this climb that the penny drops...

We stalked within 10 yards of these rhino near the camp - dehorned to discourage poachers

I'd been riding the unfamiliar two-smoke like the big 'ol fourfiddy. On the fourfiddy, one uses the throttle, get's momentum and just smash through and over the obstacles. With the two-smoke one has to finesse it, use the clutch and just pop, hop and thread through and over the obstacles. I start to get the knack of this and get to the top of the climb without issue. But I'm knackered. The shenanigans on the first two hills really took it out of me and the leaders are now lapping me.

Fire-gazing brothers

The race is lost. It's then that I decide to just chill-out, enjoy the scenery, riding and generally have a good time. Some fast trails and few more hills later and I'm at the first check-point. I sit there for 15 minutes, resting, eating, drinking taking in the scenery and giving the riders lapping me encouragement. I do the same at the second check-point.

River crossings... this one had a bridge... the crossings of this river during the race didn't

I get to another bad-ass climb. Get half-way up and go down. There is already another rider struggling on this climb. We both try again. We both go down half-way up. I am absolutely wasted. I sit under a bush having a snack, drinking and trying to recover. Twenty minutes later and we give it another go - we both get about 10 yards futher up than from we went down before and then both go down - so tired I'm struggling to hold onto the bike. Fuck!

The last climb - our nemesis