Archive for March, 2009

More playing in the Mud

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

I replaced a failed rear wheel bearing and fitted a new number plate and the bike then passed its MOT this week. Continuing the ongoing theme for weekends, I met up with seven others this morning and went off in search of paths through greenery. It was raining heavily when I left the house and most of the morning was in the rain/sleet/snow along with very strong winds. My glasses/visor steaming up was by far the biggest problem and you could barely see where you were going – note to self – treat with washing up liquid before next time!

The direction for the day was Durham and the Tees valley. We covered terrain that was a mix of rocks and mud in a form I’ve not seen before and was an interesting challenge. We also tried some comparatively unused trails which involved riding across heather moors with no path on a couple of occasions. I continue to be amazed at the  surfaces and obstacles the bikes will take on. I found the bike will cross 1ft deep car wheel ruts without noticing, its possible I partially jumped them, I’m not entirely sure but I made it across them when they appeared unexpectedly anyway! 🙂

I’d not been through Hamsterly forest before and kind of enjoyed the rocky exposed erosion there although the damage done by 4x4s was evident. Just before lunch I had my only fall of the day where at speed I tried to cross over what looked like a change in grass but turned out to be a narrow deep well established rut which threw the bike over. According to the witness following, I went over the bars and barrel rolled several times. My left shoulder took the main impact but it feels just bruised, thankfully.

After the off, I just left the bike on its side until feeling came back into my arm as I’ve previously learnt the hard way not to use muscles until you’ve worked out what damage you’ve done. The bike had taken an impact to the headlight, smashing the warning lights support bracket and the speedo support bracket but my design worked as the units themselves are fine, the brackets sacrificed (as per the design) and there was no other damage to the bike.

The lunch stop was shortly after this and quite welcome to let my shoulder recover a bit and to warm up (drying out wasn’t a realistic possibility).

The trip back was a lot of the route down reversed with some added twists and was comparatively uneventful. The rain had stopped and the visor wasn’t misting up making things much more pleasant and my gloves even partially dried out.

I don’t feel too tired so my fitness must be improving. I also managed a few saves today, staying on the bike for a change which was good. The ford and stream crossings today didn’t seem too bad either. I just hope my shoulder/arm isn’t too bad tomorrow as I have a DIY project to start.

Fun in the Fog

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

To continue a running theme, I went out playing on the CRM again yesterday. This time there was four of us in total, all KTMs apart from my trusty Honda. The direction for the day was North West and we ended up in northern Cumbria in the Brampton area.

The points of interest:

  • Spending two thirds of the day in heavy fog where I couldn’t see a rider less than 10m in front of me at times. Mist on the visor was a real problem.
  • Having a farmer on a quad weaving to stop us overtaking and then stopping and complaining about our speed (on a tarmac road).
  • The only fall of the day while crossing a ford where after being bounced off line by a rock, I deciding to launch the bike up the opposite bank in the wrong place rather than risk falling into the water.
  • Watching the bike falling off the sidestand while I was holding a gate open
  • Finding they still have railway crossings with gatekeepers who open the gates for you. He seemed surprised to see us.
  • Seeing and travelling along a rather quaint ‘disused’ byway with worn hedgerows either side, completely greened over and partially filled with debris.
  • Finding I hadn’t quite nipped the oil drain plug up tightly enough since it was dripping. Oops.
  • Riding along a rut, following the run leader when he suddenly changed ruts but not having the time to plan/execute a changeover myself. People never do that without good reason. Sure enough, the rut deepened substantially and I thought I was in trouble but somehow the bike made it through it albeit with me flailing around :).

Special mention goes to the landowner in Northern Cumbria in need of anger management lessons. I can see both sides of this but the fact is he has a public road running through the middle of his property. Yes, its not very actively used which he should really be thankful for. It would only be passable on two wheels due to the treeline around the ford at the bottom of the hill. It was obvious not a lot has passed that way for a while although you could clearly see where the road is.

We pay our road tax/MOT/insurance and hence have a right to use it and we shouldn’t have to put up with the abuse he hurled at us. I can’t remember when I last herd that amount of swearing and combined with the threats about putting things through the bike wheel spokes amongst the other abuse, it was not a pleasant experience. It amounted to bullying and intimidation which is not something I agree with so I suspect we’ll be back there. A report will go in suggesting the council rights of way officer pays him a visit too.

On a more cheerful note, we covered quite a considerable mileage (150+?) and whilst it was a long day, the trails were much easier than last weekend and I’m mostly saddlesore rather than totally drained of energy like last week. The pillion seat is actually quite comfortable to sit on when you need a change of position. The only damage to the bike I’m aware of is that in the last 5 miles back to where the van was parked, my numberplate shattered due to pressure from the spring mountings I have it on. It’ll need a new plate before the imminent MOT (and an improved spring mounting design).

Now, I just need to clean the bike and clothing…

Too much lying down on the job

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

After a missing a couple of weekends I was quite keen to get out on the CRM again. I joined a couple of others for a early morning start and I have to admit, I wasn’t at my best due to lack of sleep, remnants of jetlag and a rather turbulent week but nothing ventured, noting gained.

The first thing of note was that on tarmac, the bike was a new bike. The tyres are wonderful compared to the other ones on the road and off road, they felt more confident too. With the small group and the new found grip and probably mt state of mind, I became more adventurous with the bike, firstly by standing up a lot more and also by going a bit quicker. This proved to be a bit risky as I lost track of how many times I fell off the bike, I suspect it made double figures. I feel sorry for the CRM.

We covered many different tyres of terrain ranging from gravel tracks, moorland, watery muddy bogs under trees, rocky terrain with obstacles and the ever present fords. Points of interest were:

  • Coming to stop on a steep bit of hill with the front wheel up a step, trying to get going again, wheeling it and ending up with the bike vertical and me pinned against the  bank under it.
  • Successfully getting across a combination of a corner combined with bogs and a stream only to have the bike cross rut, go sideways, stall and fall over.
  • Trying to get through a bog on the moorland and getting very stuck. When you can’t see the rear wheel as it under the mud, you know its going to be fun getting it out. The three of us did get it out (thanks guys!). As I walked out, I stepped on a bad bit and I disappeared into another bit of the bog up to the tops of my thighs..
  • Crossing a ford, I went for the standing up with a bit of momentum approach. I hit a very large rock in the middle and according to the observers, the bars went to full lock, the bike stopped and I went over the bars. The bike took a little coaxing back into life since the exhaust was full of water but the engine thankfully wasn’t. After this I was rather wet. It did clean the mud off my boots and the bike though.
  • The only on tarmac incident of the day, coming up to a T junction and I was busy looking for a sign of which way to go. I put the brakes on to stop having not seen the gravel and the front wheel slid from under me, with the others watching with a grandstand view.

The day finished a little early as the others are out again tomorrow. I think given my performance this was probably good for me too. Despite the number of incidents, the clothing and other gear did its job and I’m fine, even if I may have difficulty moving tomorrow (as usual). The bike just needs some TLC on the usual areas like bending the handguards back into shape and checking on the state of the gearbox oil.

So it was good and I did enjoy it but I’ll not be pushing the boundaries quite so much next time and will hopefully have a few less interesting moments with the bike ending up on its side.

LEDs – A magic answer for vehicle lights?

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

I didn’t have time to write this during the week but on Thursday I finished off the repairs to the CRM. I’d already filed the notches out the clutch basket, added new friction plates and springs and reassembled the CRM’s clutch. I’d also changed the tyres to get rid of the horrible AC10s so all that remained was the set the pressures, add oils, water and bend the handguards back into shape and refit them.

By this point it was late in the evening and dark. I got kitted up, locked up the house, got the bike started and was about to ride off when I noticed a significant lack of lights on the bike. Main beam headlight worked, low beam did not, brake lights worked but no tail light or number plate light. Obviously it could not be use like this in the dark.

I decided for lights front and back to fail, it must be a wiring or switch fault and started pulling the bike to bits in the dark at the side of the road in front of the house. The bike only has electrical power when the engine is running and it was cold so wouldn’t idle. The neighbours love me. After an hour I determined there were two faults, the low beam was a fault in the headlight assembly itself and the tail light was just totally dead but had power. Its and LED unit so unlikely to be a blown bulb. Hmm.

The photos summarise the problem:

Somehow the whole thing was full of a fine silt which had corroded through the circuit boards. Filtering the silt let me find corroded remains of various components. This light unit is sold for off road vehicles and I bought it new at the end of January. To have failed this spectacularly in that time frame leaves me pretty much speechless.

I wanted to get out on the bike over the weekend and a replacement light could not be obtained in time so I chose to try and repair the mess. I found the needed resistors and diodes in my spares collection and while cleaning it up a couple of leds were found to no longer be attached to the board and had to be replaced with unmatched ones but I got the tail and brake lights working. The number plate light wasn’t so lucky, I got it working with a lab power supply but I didn’t have the 9V zener diode needed to make it work again. Plenty of silicon was used to seal it upon reassembly although I don’t hold out much hope of these repairs lasting long as there is so much corrosion, the vibration from the bike will kill it again in short order. It was enough to get it back on the road though with some minor further bodging though.

Growing Old

Friday, March 13th, 2009

The past few years have given me an insight into the world of the truly elderly. Old age is an extremely cruel process and I wish I could be more upbeat about the way we (society) handle it but I think it has a lot to learn. Surprisingly few people understand the elements of true old age and I wish more people did in a way but also hope people never have to learn about or experience it too. My experiences have probably aged parts of me beyond my years.

The past few weeks have given me an insight into things I’d rather not have witnessed and again, I think society still has a lot to learn. There are also things to take encouragement from and I have a deep respect for Macmillan and Marie Curie nurses doing a job I don’t think I could ever do.

My Gran reached the age of 98 through shear determination with a good helping of stubbornness, seeing all kinds of changes in the surrounding world only some of which she accepted. I can only hope to live up the various examples she set. RIP