Sunday, 25 May 2014

There is a Hole...

 in my garage.
The Fourfiddy is sold and was collected today. Had the beast for 5 years... I was the second owner. She was a good 'un.

So many good memories with that bike... crossin' down the farm, Enduroland, harescrambles, green-laning and even Erzberg. A bit sad that I hadn't ridden it for 18 months -my friends had all sold their dirtbikes... not much fun on one's own.

Hope the new keeper in Poland gets as much awesome times out of that bike as I did. Look after her... she's a good 'un. I have a wee hole in my heart now.

Duke Engines

Check this out for an awesome concept in internal combustion design:

Not sure the packaging would suit the tradition motorbike layout though... would have to have some radical new designs around it.

Check out this vid of how little vibration there is:

I still like my chunky, vibrating, inefficient, great sounding vee twins though... just like some folks still like old-time bikes.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Dirttrack National Championship - Round 2 - Coventry

Sunday morning and we head out to Coventry speedway stadium for Round 2 of the DTRA Dirttrack National Championship. Practice starts at 11 and a few years ago, arriving before 10 would have given me loads of time to get a spot in the pits, unloaded, scrootineered etc. Things have changed. I arrive to a packed-out pits, everybody already setup and busying about, so I setup in the parking behind the pits.

Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Pits for the day...

The last time we were at Coventry was for the inaugural Dirtquake and the Shorttrack UK meeting. It rained and the track was a mudbath. A normal race meeting would have been cancelled, because of the huge effort and crowd turn-out, Dirtquake and the racing went ahead. It was so bad that guys were doing 360 spins off the line and crashing. Unlike most, I survived the day without laying down in the mud.

Start-line shenanigans at Coventry 2 years ago

Pretty soon, we're into the racing. Thunderbike heat 1 and I bag a 3rd. Good start :-) Pro heat one and I have a good battle with one of the super-fast youngsters, Aaron Sylvester. I run wide on the last turn, he tries to get up my inside and it's a drag-race for the line. I find the traction and nose in front of him to take something like 6th. As we cross the line, I brake and start to get a slide on so I don't end up in the fence. Then I feel a punt from behind... Whooooah! I control the bike and slow it down in turn 1 to see Aaron picking himself up off the dirt. We're both trying hard.

Looks like Aaron Sylvester's front spindle ripped some new tread for me - it gave me the edge!

Thunderbike heat 2, I make a good start on the front row, hold my place and get 2nd. Sweet! I'm feeling fast and not making many mistakes. The track was tricky though. Everyone was struggling. Inconsistent and patchy. When it was watered, the water wasn't sprayed evenly and you'd get stripes across the racing line - hard, dry packed dirt with loads of grip next to slick, wet mud patches. Even the smoothest riders were sometimes looking a bit on the edge.

Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Next Pro heat and I make good progress against the DTX bikes and make up a few places from the back row. Into the last Thunderbike heat and I make a cracking start from the back row... but get boxed in by slower riders that started on the row in front into turn 1 and through turn 2. I lose my momentum. I try get back at them, but I'm ragged as hell on the just-watered track. I'm not enjoying it and back-off in the last few laps to make sure I stay on and finish the heat with points.

Check out the dark and light stripes of dirt... bad for one's health.
Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

The last Pro heat goes alright with another mid-pack finish. I come up 14th on points from the Pro heats. Always finishing 6th in the heats isn't gonna get you in the Grand Final. Disappointed with that... but I think there is a stronger top-12 this year compared with last and I take solace in out-qualifying quite a few DTX bikes. In the Thunderbikes class I qualify 7th for the Final. Happy with that.

Gettin' on the gas.
Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Thunderbikes Final. I line up in the middle of the second row. "5 sec" board is shown. Green light and we're racin! I make a good start and slot into 4th coming out of turn 2. Super-smooth and consistent Dave Chadburn is out front with Guy Sutherland and Co-Built Geoff Cain are battling for 2nd spot. Lap 2 and on the drive out I nip up the inside of Geoff as he's off the throttle for a split second during a close battle with Guy.

Some action form one of the heats... more 'stripy' traction.
Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

It's tricky out there. Lap 3, turn 2 and I run in deep... I push the front big-time mid turn but hold it up on my foot. Shit! Losing time! I get on the gas a little too quickly to try get the time back and get her all sideeways. Bollocks! I recover and am lucky not to get passed - I could sense Geoff just off my back wheel. Take it steady... there are no heroics to be done on this track. Lap 4 and Guy over-cooks it in an attempt to get back at Dave Chadburn who, as at Leicester, is running away with it. I'm up to 2nd. Sweet! Keep it steady boy!

Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

I feel like I'm going slow... steady, smooth... but most important, not making any mistakes. Dave Chadburn was too far ahead... and too quick - I don't try and catch him. The gap is steady, so my pace is good. The guys behind are close, but I'm not challenged for the remaining laps. I cross the line in 2nd. Geoff is a close 3rd.

Whooooohoooo! Awesome! My second Thunderbike podium... the last one was 2 years ago. Feels good. Real good.

Big smiles and trophy time!
Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

The Pro 'B' final is cancelled because we were running out of time. The Paramedics were busy through the day and there were quite a few injuries. The inconsistent track preparation made it tricky and caught a lot of us out. Glad I got through without going down. Get well soon to all that did get hurt.

Thanks to friend and fellow ManxGP racer Warren and Rogan for coming along to support. I normally crash when folks come to watch me... you witnessed something special. Thanks DTRA and all that help out to make the events as good as they are.

Aftermath - despite doubling up on the seat fixings, I'm still wearing them out after a day's racing.
Not a bad thing - shows I'm moving my ass forward and backward on the seat...

I'm guessing I've bagged 2 Championship points for qualifying 14th in the Pro... and a whole bunch of points for 2nd in the Thunderbikes. Unfortunately, I'll miss the next round in Scunthorpe. Got an important wedding to attend - my own :-)

An awesome day on the clay!

Thanks Rogan for the pic

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Dirttrack National Championship - Round 1 - Leicester

Got the flattracker and gear loaded for tomorrow's racing at Coventry... came here to post an update and realized that I haven't yet posted the happenings of the DTRA Dirttrack National Championship Round 1 that was held at Leicester 3 weeks ago! Doh.

Thanks Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Okay... let's go back a wee while. A leisurely drive up to my nearest dirtrack on Sunday morning 27th April. Unloaded, parked up, set-up and a bit of banter for Round 1. A lot of new riders and bikes... some guys from France too.

Paul Sheldon with his souped up KTM EXC Thunderbike

Some riders came out from France

I had made a couple of changes to to bike on the advice of Kenny Noyes. Lower bars allowed me to swing them forward a few inches to pull me forward... need more weight on the front on the turn entry. I also stiffened up the rear suspension a bit - more pre-load and compression to try keep it more stable. Less traction, but a more predictable slide. I also tweaked my tyre pressures on the advice of UK's own AMA dirttracker, Alan Birtwhistle.

Riders' briefing

Out in practice an the bike already felt better. More control. Still needed to work on moving my ass forward in the seat for the turn entry. As usual, I was competing in Thunderbikes and the Pro classes. The first objective of the day is to not fall off, the second is to make both finals by doing well in the 3 heats run for each class.

Sideburn Gary Inman and Drogo Mitchie - Team FTWco

First heat is Thunderbikes. I get a good start. I ride well, make my way through the field and take 2nd place. Great start to the day! Bike is feeling a lot better. More control = more confidence = go faster = better results. Yeah! Pro heat 1 goes well and I get 5th or so.

View from the SpeedTherapy pits

I'm working on getting my weight forward for the turn entry, then moving it back for the exit. It;s working, but in the process, the dzus clip holding my seat unit breaks and my seat is adrift. I botch it with big-ass cable-ties (thanks George Pickering!), but it moves around and I have to re-attach it for every race for the rest of the day.

Thanks Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Next Thunderbike heat is similar to the first. Good start, pick a few riders off and finish 2nd. Sweet! Next Pro heat and around 5th or 6th. This is good going... the Pro class I'm up against DTX bikes that are a lot lighter and easier to ride fast. Its tough to get into the Grand Final (the top 12 scorers from the heats), but I did it a few times last year.

Lock-wire, cable-ties and duct tape are essential to keep race bikes racing

Thunderbikes heat 3 - another good start, steady and fast ride. I catch Ross Herod going into the last lap and nip past him to take the heat win. Yeeeeha! My first heat win in a long time. In the 3rd Pro heat I am drawn on the front row and reckon if I can get into the top 3, I got a good chance of making the Grand Final. I line up at the front, watch the lights. The green light comes on and 'braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa'. Shit! I'm standing still! Must have knocked it into neutral on my way to the line. Bugger! I hook 2nd gear in disgust and hoon off the line, chasing last place. I manage to catch and pass only 1 rider by the time the flag is out. Bollocks!

Drittrackin' is a family sport...

My consistency on the Thunderbikes puts me 3rd on the front row for the final. This is the first time I am starting from the front in a final. Cool as! The start line screw-up in the last Pro heat threw my chances of a Grand Final away... but I still get an extra ride in the 'B' final. I'm feeling pretty knackered though. Been having stomach cramps all day and not eating properly. Just got to dig deep for the Thunderbike final.

We roll up to the line for the start. The 5 second board goes up... the revs rise and we watch the lights. I feel the clutch just starting to bite and the bike strains forward. The green light appears and 'braaaaaaaaap!', 'braaaaaaaaaaaap'. I hook 3rd gear and slide her into turn 1 between Tim Neave (2013 champ) and Dave Chadburn (2013 runner-up). They get me at the apex and through the exit... I'm in 3rd place into turn 3. I chase. Lap 2, lap3. I get on the gas too early out of turn 2, she spins up sideways and I have to get off the throttle to not lowside. Co-Built Anthony Brown gets up my inside. Bollocks!

Battling with Co-Built Geoff Cain
Thanks Tom Whiting for the pic

Lap 4 and I do the same thing. This time Co-Built number 45 - Geoff Cain gets me. Shit! I ride hard to get back at them, but I make more mistakes. They make a few bike lengths on me. I get back up to them, then make another mistake. I run wide, of slide too much on the exit. I do this for the rest of the race while Anthony and Geoff have their own hum-dinger for the podium position. I finish 5th.

Broken leg, but still smiling... this is Dirttrackin' !

It's a good result - but a bit disappointed that I didn't ride well in the final. In the Pro 'B' Final I ride well again and have a great battle with Dave Homan and Vince Hurst. But I'm knackered and come home 3rd - I think I get 1 point in the Championship for that :-)

Some cool old bikes in the new Vintage class...

8 races and I ride well in 7 of them. Even though I messed up a bit in the Thunderbikes final and didn't make the Pro final, I'm happy with the result. (the wonky seat didn't help either) I have found something in the bike that is making me more competitive. A step in the right direction.

Thanks Tom Whiting for the pic

Thanks Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Tomorrow we are at Coventry for Round 2 of the DTRA Championship. I've fixed the seat, welded two other brackets that were broken and made a few more suspension tweaks. Looking forward to seeing how they work tomorrow. Also trying something different with the gearing.

Thanks Tom Whiting for the pic

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Classic TT 2013 - Post Race Inspection

A few weeks ago I finally got around to doing a thorough post race check on the Duke 888.

Here's what I found:
  • Minor oil leak from the clutch push-rod on left side of engine
  • Fuel tank fastening tab bent - this forced the tank down and the fuel tank pump outlet under the tank onto the top cylinder, causing a minor fuel leak down the right side of the engine
  • Belly-pan battered 'n scraped
  • Left front brake caliper leaking badly from the pistons. Inside of the caliper was touching the disc
  • Warped disc - about 3mm out of true
  • Rear subframe undertray mounting tab broken - this holds the ECU
  • Water overflow/spray from expansion tank - looks like the seat has worn a hole in the cap
  • Overflow tank bracket broken

RedMax Steve will be doing a post race health-check on teh engine and then setting it up for this year. Racing on the Isle of Man sure is tough on the machinery... but she held up really good :-)

Couple of repair jobs and then a few improvements...

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Project 'All In' - Phase II

I put everything into last year's Classic TT. Building then racing a 22 year old Ducati at the world's most fearsome race track was tough, especially on the wallet. I have a vision of where I'd like the old 888 to be regards spec and engine. Unfortunately, the budget just doesn't extend that far to do it all in one hit. The plan was always to to a basic IoM-proof build, get a finish and then see. We focused on reliability, reliability and reliability. It worked.

Last year's success has made me hungry for more :-) It has shown me a lot - especially that when the bike is working, I can go fast. It also showed me that I need help and that I can't do it all on my own. Now we move onto Phase II of the build, another step toward where I'd like the bike to be.

The TT Mountain Course is a horespower track. Of course, if the bike isn't handling you can't use the horsepower. Get the bike working and an extra 3% bhp extrapolated out through the 37.7 mile course with so many flat-out parts makes a difference. Looking at last year's dyno sheet... we had about 105/106 bhp (with a spike at 111bhp). This year we're looking for a few more ponies.

We're also trying to build more lightness into the bike. Last year we dropped the half-wet weight (ready to race but without fuel) from the standard road trim at just over 200kg, down to a much leaner 180kg. We want to trim that down a bit more... a few grams here, a few grams there. Less weight = better acceleration, easier braking and better handling. We also want to try improve the weight distribution - right now, she's got almost 50/50 front to rear distribution. 52/48 is about where we want to be.

Oh - and this year the budget is a lot, lot tighter. We need to be a bit creative. Here is an overview of things to do for Phase II:
  • Repair damage from last year (more about that in a later post)
  • Engine Health Check (tolerances/shims etc.)
  • Lighten Flywheel
  • Lighten Primary Gear
  • Lighter Clutch Basket
  • Lighter, more reliable Loom
  • Reposition ECU to front
  • Spaghetti Exhaust
  • Clip-ons
  • Lighter wheels
  • Quicker Action Throttle
  • Lighter Battery tray
  • Sort the brakes - Callipers, pads and discs
  • Brake and clutch reservoirs
  • Lighter Tank Stay
  • Try Different Airbox/Airflow Configuration
  • Velocity Stacks
  • Rear Sets and race shift
  • Belt covers
  • New, lighter Belly-pan
  • Set-up and Dyno
As with last year - we're getting help from some awesome folks:

RedMax Steve Hillary - Engine and help with repositioning the ECU
Oronero Peter Frade - More carbon deliciousness and a 'Corsa' loom

Onboard also for this year is

MADASL Mark Lumb - Spaghetti exhaust, flywheel and primary gear machining

The aim is to

  • Gain a few bhp - get her somewhere around the 110 mark
  • Drop  few kg - 175kg would be great
  • Gain some reliability - 23 year old Italian wiring is a liability
  • Get her working better - lighter wheels, quicker action throttle, brakes, weight distribution will all help.We have a good starting point for the setup from last year - we have 'data'.
I've been busy already and so have the other guys... it all speeds up now. On the afternoon of August 25th - we want to be in the beer tent behind the grandstand sharing a yarn of how awesome it all was :-)