Monday, September 10, 2012

Smooth sailing and a catastrophe.

Last Friday, a couple of buddies from the Club and I, left Rome for our yearly rally. This year the destination was once again the giant puddle known as lake Trasimeno in Umbria. I came up with an "all-B-lanes" itinerary through hills and valleys with no traffic and great views. The weather was perfect, we all took off around 10am and headed North. Other than my test ride the previous Sunday, this was the first real ride so I was still finding out how everything behaved. First of all, I was quite chuffed at how much stuff I can carry, rolled up, on the handlebars, without affecting the handling. Then there's the cruising speed: what had previously felt really slow (as in 25mph) actually turned out to be 50mph, so I can't complain. The guys told me that seen from the back, the bike looked low to the ground, steady and quick through the corners. It certainly felt that way, with enough oomph to pull you out of corners and gallop along to the next one. As advertised by BSA, the engine really was turbine smooth. Coupled with the excellent K70 tyres (new favourites?) it made for a silky smooth ride, without feeling disconnected as you could be on a big touring bike, rather, there is such a directness between the road and the rider that makes it feel like a new kind of bike altogether. Perhaps this is what all those chopper dudes had figured out in the first place.
Going through one of the small towns, a gremlin robs me of electricity and leaves me by the familiar "side of the road". I check the fuse (main fuse, only fuse) and it has blown. It was an 8-amp fuse and that's a little on the skinny side so I didn't give it much thought, replaced it with a 16-amp one and carried on. Two clicks down the road it happened again, fuse blown.
Shit, what now. Looking at the wiring (this is where you appreciate a minimalist loom) I could see that nothing was pinched, or torn, or burnt. Then I caught a glimpse of the oil pressure warning light dangling out of its socket and grounding (sic) against the lower yoke. Bastard, there you are. A little bit of electrical tape and off we go again, better than ever, all three bikes (and one support car, thank f*#k) running beautifully. We stopped for lunch in one of the many medieval towns that make central Italy what it is, checked the map and took off again.

By now the temperature was very much in the low-mid thirties. Conscious of the fact this was still a brand new engine, I took it easy and kept thinking "this feels very hot". At one point I stopped to check the plugs, which were too hot to even get close to. As was the carburetter (!) and pretty much everything else. The electrodes showed unmistakable signs of overheating, they looked exactly like the iconic drawing in the Haynes manuals. We waited a while, in the shade and gently tried to start it up again. It fired up with no hesitation, no smoke, seemingly ok. It was idling fine, revving up fine... so we went. And that was my mistake, no doubt about it. Not 500mt down the road a ghastly sound of metal-on-metal shattered the peace and brought the bike to an abrupt and final end.
I had just enough time to yank the clutch in, after which the engine stopped immediately with a last blood-curdling shriek. 40 minutes later I took the plugs out and looked through the holes as I tried to push the kickstarter down. The exhaust valve closed, the pistons dropped and totally, properly seized. Game over.
Needless to say, the rest of the rally wasn't exactly what I had planned. Luckily we were able to recover the bike and bring it back to the workshop but it now needs to come apart again and, very likely, have the engine rebuilt once again. Not 300 miles on it. Gutted.


Mick P said...

Shit Arturo, that's certainly a character-tester. Reminds me of the time I spent an overdraft I didn't have to rebuild the top-end of my 750 Four when I was a student. Its maiden run around Leamington Spa ended in a display of white smoke that would have done an aerobatic display team proud. I limped away, leaving shoppers choking and children crying. Holed piston, but not as big a hole as the one in my 'finances'. The bank manager confiscated my cards and cheque book soon after. Bastard.

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