Monday, December 29, 2014

Upgrade mode.

The Apline White GS is resplendent in the winter sun, and gets a couple of neat upgrades all the way from the North Pole: thanks Santa!

First is an extension for the rear brake pedal: better purchase, safer braking:

Then this clever bracket, which should address a problem common to all Paralever models, i.e. the left pillion footrest is bolted directly to the exhaust silencer and supported only by the luggage subframe. It transmits an awful lot of vibration through the exhaust, making for an unpleasant ride for the passenger. With this mod, the footrest should have much more support and be bolted to the frame rather than the exhaust. However, it may require some modification to the bracket itself as we're also rocking non-standard footrests... we'll see.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A whole loada nothin'...

Well, hello everybody!
Look, I know. What the hell happened to the blog?! The simple truth is that I have not been to the garage in a very long time. 
Things have piled up there, figuratively and literally. There is so much to do, on all the bikes, but I don't know when I'll get around to it all. This situation is also felt by the others at the moment, with virtually all bikes laid up for the winter and in need of maintenance at the very least.
Take the Sportster for example. Badass though it is, it is waaay past time I serviced it. The brakes are shot, the suspension has become so vague it's not even funny. The transmission is screaming bloody murder and the whole thing could use a wash and a polish. I actually have all the spares, tools and chemicals I need to get to work, all I'm missing is some time to do it.
After that, here's what should be coming up:
1) the Rising Star gets its exhausts back, as they were before. We had them looked at by a specialist to see if they could be silenced but he said there's just no room for baffles or insulation. I've also rebuilt a 30mm Amal and will be fitting that. Finally, a fairly major repair is needed to the rear of the fuel tank/frame attachment.

2) I have to take the cylinder head off the Norton again and find out what went wrong. I suspect a dodgy valve guide but there's only one way to find out. Whatever happened, I'm inclined to send the whole thing off to SRM and have them rebuild it this time around. Partly to secure a properly executed job, partly to save some precious time.

3) I've been gathering a few parts for my Honda, I would like to change a few things and make it into more of a scrambler, but that's probably for next winter, we'll see.

4) Dad is working on the Yamaha Tricker and has made some progress there: the frame has been sanded and touched up in those spots that were starting to rust. The bodywork, mudguards, airbox and carburetter are off the bike, inspected and cleaned. There was something amiss with the carburetter: some new spares and it's good to go.

5) the Interstate needs a new rear sprocket/brake drum and a chain, I need to get a few spares.

And to top it all off, the others have plenty to do on their bikes so we really need to win the lottery so we can spend a few 12-hour days in the garage and get things done. And what about next year's trip? Where will we go? Will I be able to go?

So much to do...

Friday, November 7, 2014

Die werkstatt.

Despite our great love for British classics, we cannot deny being seduced by the much closer tolerances, rationality and precision engineering of BMWs from the 1980s.
At the moment, someone's garage looks like a little corner of Bavaria, right in our backyard!

Here we see evolution at work: from the R80G/S on the right, to the R100GS PD on the left.

The R80G/S is for sale, and I would recommend it. Matching numbers, low mileage and completely sorted out. I will take some proper photos of it soon. You could easily have this and no other bike and do everything with it. Get in while you can.

This is what remains of the R45 (not Marco's, another one). After a quick test-fit of the 1000cc engine:

 All cycle parts (except for the snowflake wheels, which are in great condition) will be sandblasted and powder-coated. This includes the swingarm, which you have to disassemble first though. Not the most straightforward thing to do, but nothing phases our mechanic anymore:
 So the original engine will be cleaned up and put aside:

Take a look at the frame, in particular towards the steering area: the influence of Norton's featherbed frame is undeniable. And it's a very good frame!

Ready for a winter makeover:

Friday, October 31, 2014

A triumphant return...

The GT6 is back! This beauty has been thoroughly overhauled everywhere it counts and is now ready to unleash classy hooliganism, from city center to mountain chalet. You have been warned.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Come on... it's just so cool!

The GS is currently wearing a pair of Avon Distanzia, and we have a couple of sensible mods coming up...

Monday, October 20, 2014


I know, I know, there's nothing going on... I'm in  BMW mode (and mood!) right now.

It's mostly to distract myself from the absolute chore that will be "maintenance season": I have to tear into the Commando again to find out what's wrong (a valve guide? a wrist pin?), I have to completely re-fabricate the fuel tank attachment on the Rising Star (plus refit the exhausts and rebuild the carburetter), I have to do a fairly major service on the Sportster, AND, if I can, do a little something with the Honda... I should probably get started.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

First ride.

Managed to go for a ride with my freshly licensed buddy Dan, just 100Kms to lake Bracciano, Sutri and back, but amazing weather and good roads.

The Norton is still pinging/pinking, so I need to try a few more things (carburetter settings and spark plugs) before I resort to more drastic measures and tear the engine down again to figure out how I've cocked it up in the first place.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Oh dear...

...the last time there was this much German machinery on Polish territory people got a bit miffed... There's even an extra R45 under the red tarp there...

And this ain't all of it, say hello to the latest arrival into our little congregation: a 1991 R100GS PD, equipped with the superior Paralever rear suspension/swingarm combo. BMW were allegedly told by the organisers of the original Paris-Dakar rally that they couldn't use that moniker for their bikes, so the official designation is "PD". The tank decals spell it out for you:

This machine will supersede Witold's beloved G/S, for one simple reason: he needed more out of it than the G/S was ever designed to do. And I'm a firm believer that when it comes to motorcycles, the first question you have to ask yourself must be: "what do you want to do with it?"
So, over the next few days, we will see the G/S get put back to 100% original, detailed and ready for its next lucky owner.

Marco likes it too, you can tell he's thinking "holy cow!".
The flower garlands aren't standard equipment, but they should be.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dakar 2015

Alright people, it is less than 100 days to the Dakar rally, the only motorsport event in the world worth watching. Of that, of course, it's the motorcycles and the trucks that steal the show.
Come on Honda!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

the Campotosto Mystic Trip: a report.

The idea for this weekend getaway came about when I met up with the boys on their way back from the Alps: high on the thrill of a proper bike trip, we promised ourselves we'd try and squeeze in one more salute to summer, another ride.
Having loved Campotosto so much last year (a place we knew almost nothing about, and that was a real surprise for how good it was), we felt that going back there would not have disappointed. And it didn't.
I had spread the word to a select few other unaffiliated, non-aligned motorcyclists and, although the idea was well received, one by one people started to back down (for perfectly good reasons), to the point that I wondered if I'd be going at all.
But Marco was there, resolute from the get go, and we decided to go, just the two of us. So romantic, I know.
You see, Witold was in Poland doing something crazy, and later he did something even crazier: his return flight landed in the early afternoon on Saturday, he grabbed his sleeping bag, fired up the Commando and absolutely gunned it on the A24 to catch up with us.
How he didn't blow himself up, we shall never know. All hail the Norton.
But let's go back to the morning. Marco and I met at my garage to get the luggage on the bikes, top up the oil and try to figure out what we were bound to have been forgetting. We still don't know, so it can't have been that important.
We left Rome at the crack of noon...
To avoid getting stuck in the never-ending miasma of small towns, roundabouts and traffic lights between Rome and Tivoli, we decided to hop onto the A24 highway, bypass it all and come out at the edge of the Lucretili nature reserve. This is where we stopped for lunch, then the real trip began. I wonder if the 'shrooms in the pasta were somehow psychotropic...
I had prepared an itinerary to take us through natural parks, up and around lakes, through valleys and over mountains, all the way to Campotosto, and the flavour of the trip was always going to be somewhat psychedelic, but never in our wildest predictions could we have foreseen the sheer out-of-time, altered-state-of-consciousness type of experience that we had.

That yellow bag looks enormous, and while it's definitely on the XL side (that's a little inside joke for Sportster aficionados), it is by no means cumbersome or disproportionate. In fact, it makes for a wonderful backrest, which, coupled with the touring seat and windshield makes this a 1200cc armchair. What better way to tour? Honestly!
When we came across this armchair, in the middle of a prehistoric forest, we knew we were in for something special:
The ride up to the lake was so good, that I have saved the itinerary and we will be using it again next year, hopefully for another version of the trip, possibly with more people, we'll see.
You'll have heard proponents of esoteric practices and miscellaneous snake-oil salesmen say that crystals (or what have you) resonate at certain frequencies; well, this trip resonated at 90Km/h, that was the effortless pace at which we glided across the land like fish through water, or birds through the air. We kept seeing fleeting glimpses of the plumed serpent ahead of us beyond the next corner, or over a hill, or through the shimmering water of the lakes and rustling leaves of the trees, never quite catching it. Perhaps that's no surprise, since it took us SEVEN hours to cover 200km, so it probably just got bored and flew on. Seven hours, how is this possible? Simple, we stepped out of time, into other dimensions, and re-emerged on the shores of lake Campotosto having had a powerful trip indeed.
Then I found a message on my phone, it was Witold: "is everything ok? I got here half an hour ago and there's still no sign of you..."
When we got to the campsite he rightly pointed out that it took him less time to get there from Poland than it did us from Rome. Wow!

"C'ho messo de meno io daa Polonia..."
Above: notice Witold's clever anti-rattle solution, an absolute must when travelling on the Commando at high speed.

Being late in the season and fairly cool, there was nobody else staying there, and even at the restaurant there was only another table filled, so we basically had the place to ourselves and it was fantastic. The food was second to none, that in and of itself a reason to keep coming back, and the setting for tents and motorcycles is idyllic, but check your shoes before you put them on in the morning...

Even the ride back on Sunday was great, and because - truthfully - we're not far from home, it means that these destinations allow us to focus on the fun and forget the drudgery of the way back home. Who needs to waste days on ferries and endless highways when we can be trippin' balls over here?
The ride back on Sunday was fairly quick, but we still got to see some fantastic scenery, or at least I did because I was riding slow. Those two had tunnel vision: rev counter and trajectories.

 Above: notice Marco hot on Witold's heels coming out of the hairpin.

And here they are on another swooping hairpin up the mountain, in order, the Norton and the BMW:

Below, a swig of gentiana moonshine for Witold, to calm the nerves after a brutally fast uphill climb, while I chillax and think about the fickle nature of time:

(Speaking of moonshine, it don't get more authentic than this:)

"...and remember kids, throttles and bottles don't mix."

Seriously, how cool is that beemer. And having swapped bikes with Marco for a few miles on Saturday, I can tell you that this thing rides like a scalpel. I kinda want one. Conversely, Marco was totally flabbergasted by the inescapable unwieldiness of the Sportster. I love my bike, but I can't deny that it's a lump of iron.

We talk to our bikes, no point denying it.

Something's gotta give: a quick roadside repair and a final blast to get home. There will be plenty to keep us busy this coming winter, probably more than we can fit in actually. Time to invest in a proper heater for the garage, and keep our eyes on the prize: next spring, more riding. Forestman will be there: