Monday, September 3, 2012

First impressions: the ride.

Yesterday I took the BSA for a 130 kilometer test ride. But let's rewind to a few nights prior to that.
I get a text from Peppe saying something along the lines of "holy *#&$, is this thing loud". The next day I show up at his workshop as the smell of hot engine oil wafts out. He starts it up and I am instantly surprised by not only how loud it is (considering the "cocktail shaker" exhausts are supposedly muffled) but by how growly it sounds. It's a low, snarling note that settles once we get the timing spot on with the strobe gun. The carburetter is working flawlessly, of course, even though Peppe says it's all worn out and that I should replace it. Of course by his reasoning, anything that's not done or bought/chosen by him is wrong. I've learned to smile at that and am happy to look at my motorcycles through my point of view.
Outside, the bike looks fantastic. I perch on the little single seat, pull the rather heavy clutch in and engage first. This is it, release the clutch fairly decisively (you have to on a hardtail: with no suspension to cushion the drive, it either takes off straight away or it stalls) and notice that it's not nearly as brutal as other hardtails I've ridden. Immediately, a pot-hole, crikey that's uncivilised! But it's ok, you learn to read the road surface really fast on something like this, and as soon as you find smooth ground, the handling is just sublime. Low to the ground with no suspension to sponge away your trajectory, the bike whips around corners without hesitation. Acceleration is completely direct, from wrist to rear wheel. So is the rear brake, which feels better than a disc brake. The front brake, I'm pleased to say, is starting to feel stronger. I wonder if after a few more miles it'll just sort itself out. Just to be safe, a new pair of brake shoes are on the way from the UK, while the current ones will be re-lined with new material after I swap them out.
It's amazing, after the long wait I am actually riding what was just a pile of parts in my house until recently. What's even more remarkable, for something with a totally refurbished engine (so, potentially, lots of unknowns) and parts that have never worked together as a complete machine, this feels like a factory-made motorcycle: it's smooth, relatively comfortable, the riding position is very natural and all the controls are where they should be. Everything works without fuss. Oh, and the K70 tyres are just great. So, off I go towards the "castelli romani" where my folks live. They had no idea I had been working on this thing so it came as a bit of a surprise when I showed up. So yes, I made it there and back with no major issues.
Well, nothing terrible, just a couple of things that need to be figured out.
First of all, the oil pressure warning light is probably defective because it comes on when the engine is in top gear and at a steady cruising speed. Now, we know for sure that oil is circulating and that there is enough of it in the tank and in the sump. Since we never checked the pressure switch, other than a quick visual inspection, it is possible that the internal spring could have hardened or perhaps got stuck (old oil? grime?). We'll see. It's just a little unnerving riding around with that bright RED warning light on...
Next is the gearing: first, second and third are perfectly spaced out, however, top gear doesn't so much feel like a fourth gear as a three-and-a-bit. When shifting up into fourth, the drop in rpm is barely perceptible. That ain't good. Partly because the engine needs breaking-in and partly to see what a natural cruising speed would be, I kept the revs down in top gear. I have no idea how "fast" I was going, because I have no clocks but it seemed really slow. Now, I never meant for this to be a crotch-rocket, but I do want to be able to give it some stick once in a while...
I fitted a 50 tooth rear wheel sprocket and I guess I could go for the smaller 47 tooth option, or maybe see if a gearbox cluster from a 650 would do the trick, though that would be costly and labour intensive. Again, we'll see.
But the bottom line is good: this thing is awesome and fun to ride!
I now have just a couple of days before the rally, which will really put it to the test. After that, it will be a matter of riding it regularly and seeing what, if anything, needs more work.


Mick P said...

Good work Arturo. More pics, please! MP

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