Sunday, 19 August 2012

All ready for the Manx GP

It's quite a while since I posted and Doris hasn't been out much recently. 

I had the oil leak fixed and they were supposed to be sorting out the problem with the front brake master cylinder not releasing as well. They tickled with it but didn't fix it so poor Doris was still not roadworthy.

With the Manx fast approaching, I really wanted to take Doris rather than the VFR so I ordered a remanufactured master cylinder from David Silver. Lesson learned there - the cost of the new master cylinder and brake lever etc was very little more than what I previously paid for the seal kit and a separate lever. Plus I had to repaint it. I really tried hard to reuse stuff in preference to replacing but this one went against me.

Anyway, it's now replaced - that went very well. I sucked some brake fluid down from the master cylinder using my big syringe attached to the bleed valve on the caliper; swapped over the master cylinders; then "injected" the fluid back up. Job done - no need to bleed or anything :)

I took Doris out for a spin and what a revelation to have the front end running free. She was a delight. I stopped at the seafront at West Kirby and took a photo to celebrate! I think she looks gorgeous in the sunset.

Anyway, she'll be due a good wash and polish before setting off to the Island next Saturday night. I'll update the other blog with that adventure.

Friday, 29 June 2012

In for surgery

No great activity over the past couple of weeks. I've been trying to muster the courage / enthusiasm to look at this oil leak, but keep putting it off... I concluded this week that the reason I'm doing that is because I'm not confident that I'll succeed, so I decided that meant I should call on the experts again.
So Doris has gone to see kind Doctor John again today. He's going to sort it out for me next week. On the way down there, the front brake was binding on again, so I've also asked him to look at the master cylinder for me. May as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb!

I had to laugh the other day. Here is me worrying about spending a couple of hundred quid at the garage - my mate at work was telling me he's taking delivery of a new Ducati next week and hasn't told his wife yet !!

I'm really looking forward to being able to ride Doris again. I won an EBay auction a week or two back for a pair of new, unused Oxford panniers that fit her perfectly and match my tank bag - £15 - what a bargain :) They will be great for the Manx in August.

Further update once she's back from hospital.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Poor Incontinent Doris

I haven't posted for a couple of weeks. Once we hit the deadline and made it to the Thundersprint, I've had to catch up on all those other things that had been sacrificed to finish her. It's also been a busy time of year for "adventures" - with weekends away cycling and then a day away to the TT.

I finally found some time to investigate the oil leak from the base gasket today, having done the sensible thing and bought myself another torque wrench with a lower range. What did I find? Well, I had over-torqued, not under-torqued the bolts for starters. More seriously, there is also a residual issue from the previous owner. One of the long bolts holding down the head/barrel must have previously stripped a thread and had been replaced by a stud and nut, which had similarly stripped the thread and was doing next to bugger all :(.

Hmm this is turning into a big job now. I'll get proper Honda base and head gaskets if I can now and a replacement head bolt, but I'm going to have to strip all the top end down again and heli-coil the stripped thread, which I've never done before. The "how to" articles I've read about it look fairly straight forward though.

It's likely to be a few weeks before Doris is back on the road, so the VFR has been pressed back into service. Hey ho - no one said this would be straight forward......

I've booked a ferry ticket for passenger and bike for a few days at the Manx GP in the Isle of Man at the end of August. It would be nice if Doris could use the ticket :)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Noel & Doris's grand day out

Well Friday dawned and it was not a nice dawn at all. It had been raining overnight and more rain was predicted through the day before the sunshine came in for the weekend for a change.

The original plan had been to ride to work loaded up and then head straight for Northwich after work, but I decided that I'd have to spend a load of time cleaning the bike before the show if I did that, so I left the bike at home and headed off straight from there. It meant I didn't arrive at the campsite till later but was a load easier.

For a change, the weather followed the forecast. I left shortly after 6 and was there by 7, after a lovely ride down the A roads to Northwich. Doris ran like a .... Dream. By the time we arrived at Witton Albion Football Club, I was completely smitten. Lovely smooth, unthreatening power delivery - never going to set the world alight, but perfectly OK in normal traffic on A roads. She encouraged me to sit up and enjoy the journey a lot more than I'm used to on the VFR, which always seems to be egging me on to look for the next overtake or take that corner just a little faster next time. I really felt in my comfort zone.

One minor problem was evident - there was oil leaking from all around the base gasket. I know I'm a really bad mechanic, but when I tightened the head down I found that my torque wrench didn't have a low enough range for those bolts, so I guessed (shame :( ). But I definitely erred on the side of caution - too much on the side of caution it would appear....... Snagging job no 1 - buy another torque wrench and get it torqued down properly. It was not enough to be a problem though - the oil level was stll well up. So I mopped up the mess and gave a few bits a little clean ready for the following day.

This was my third year camping at Witton Albion and it's feeling like a nice tradition now. I got the tent set up quickly - decided to camp in the "quiet area" on the pitch this year (mainly because it's nearer the loos!)

Then I called into the Social Club for a drink. It was heaving, as they'd put a Race Night on to entertain the campers - not really my thing so I had a couple of pints then settled down for the night. Really clear skies were forecast and it was a very cold night's sleep. Reminder to self - get better sleeping bag!

Up early the next morning as all the show entrants were to be in place by 9.15. I rolled up and was slotted onto the "general modern classics" line - right between a GSXR Suzuki Barry Sheene special edition (one of only 3 in the country)  and a very well used Yamaha TTR250 that had recently completed a 20,000 mile journey to Cape Horn. Suddenly my Dream felt very mundane......

But what good fortune to be next to adventurer Ken Thomas - the most interesting person I have had the good fortune to meet in many a year. Read the blog of his amazing journey here then look at the journeys of Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman in a whole new light. Thanks Ken for a fascinating day.

The show was a huge success, with great attendance and loads of people taking the time to come and talk to me about Doris. One of the highlights for me was when previous owner Steve and his wife Sally called in to say Hi. Again - lovely people, and it was great to be able to share the journey with them, as I knew Steve had been disappointed not to be able to do the restoration himself. Nice to see a couple of members of the Classic Bikers Club forum that had been following the blog as well and also some friends from work showed up.

The very best bit was when one guy gushed at me that he'd had one in his 20's but hadn't seen one for years and it was by far the best bike he'd seen at the show so far! (I think he had a very specific point of reference compared to most people, but my ego is very easily inflated!)

You can see the dribble of oil in the photo above. Several people were amused to tell me that they thought only British bikes leaked oil - it was funny the first 4 or 5 times...... (Apologies to Northwich Council for the stain on your pavement, by the way.)

And so back to Witton Albion to camp overnight again. Another chilly night but I compensated with extra socks! I could afford a lie in this time though and once I'd got most of my camping kit packed, I rode back down to Northwich for the Thundersprint proper.

This is getting bigger every year - the crowds were huge this year. I spent the morning mooching round the race paddock and all the trade stalls - some serious classic bike porn in that paddock!

At midday, I went up to watch the cavalcade.

Then after that I took up position on the hill for the Spitfire display and the Thundersprint itself.

The fastest lap time I saw was 21.08 seconds - they don't call it a sprint for nothing! It also doesn't take itself too seriously, as evidenced by the George Formby tribute below - apparently from the film "No Limits that he did about the TT.

So, all over for another year - I headed back to the campsite to take down my tent and head for home. As I was heading back to the site and getting more confident in the bike, I braked a little harder for something. A minute later, the bike started labouring and slowing down as if it was running out of fuel. Uh oh! Actually, the front brake was stuck on - the handle was pumped up solid. Obviously, John hadn't quite sorted it out - it was OK for normal braking but not releasing after heavy braking ......

I sat by the side of the road, really disappointed as I was thinking that there was really nothing I could do to sort out  a wonky master cylinder at the side of the road, and that Doris would end her journey going home on a trailer. The only thing I could think of was to just crack open the hose union a fraction to let off the pressure and then see how it felt - bingo! We were moving again.

So we made a pact (well I did!) that on the journey home I'd anticipate like never before; only use the rear brake if I could and not go over 50 (remember the slight oil incontinence problem the old lady has!) and in return I asked Doris to deliver me home safely, which she did :).

A fine first adventure - we looked after each other well and had a marvellous time. Doris will now get a thorough clean and those two issues (oil and brake) sorted before we venture forth again but, on the evidence of this weekend, I have no doubt that our relationship is going to be a long and happy one.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Made it! (With 5 minutes to spare....)

Doctor John the bike mechanic is a magician! What a guy - he has worked his magic on Doris and turned her from a rattly, unbalanced, underpowered slug to a smooth, quiet, mid-range sports bike! I have nothing but praise for what he has done and in good time too (just!)

Thoroughly recommended: Truebikes

Here's what was wrong:
  • The engne was still on the original camchain, which appears to have been made out of cheese, as it had so much stretch in it that it looked like it had done 100k miles not 10k. Apparently there was an early recall to swap these original chains for DID - mine was clearly not done. It had skipped a tooth on the cam sprocket so the timing was on Eastern Standard Time I think! Luckily there is sufficient clearance between valve and piston and no damage was done. It would have taken me weeks before I'd thought of this as an issue.
  • The carbs, that I sent away and paid lots and lots to have overhauled and new jets fitted, appear not to have had quite everything done..... There is a deep seated jet controlling low speed running in each carb which is very hard to get to and which had chewed up heads so couldn't be removed. They were completely gummed up, so lots of time was spent softening up old fuel residue and cleaning  to get those jets clear. That was why I couldn't get it running below 5000rpm - there was no fuel passing over the air screws, so it made no difference how I adjusted them. Lesson - don't assume that, just because you've paid to have something overhauled, that it has actually been overhauled......
  • The pattern front brake lever that I fitted was not quite the right shape, so it was not fully releasing the master cylinder piston. The impact of this was that the return valve on the master cylinder wasn't being exposed, so the brake wasn't freeing off properly. No wonder I couldn't pump air back up through the system using the "syringe method" - the damn return hole was blocked. Again, I would never have thought of that.
The moral of this story is really to know your limitations. There was more "kerching"ing noises but you really do need to recognise asap when to bring in the experts. The forums are full of people "trying" to fix issues and stabbing in the dark (including me). I could easily have spent £100+ on swapping out perfectly good electrical kit trying to hunt down the source of my problems, and it would have been a complete waste of money.

Anyway, the end result is that Doris is now runing like a Dream - sorry, I lasted this long without an awful pun. She has her first MOT since 1986 and I got to the post office to get tax 5 minutes before it closed. Those who have read the blog right through will recall that the target I set myself 3 months ago was to have the bike ready to ride to, and display at, the Northwich Thundersprint on 12th May. Today is the 10th May and my Plan A was to ride to work in the morning, loaded with camping gear, so that I could go straight to Northwich after work and camp overnight ready for the early show entry time on Saturday morning. That depended on me taxing the bike today, so I really did make it with 5 minutes to spare!!

Of course I then needed to road test her properly, so off to the garage to fill up and then I got 20 miles around the local lanes in. I can report that she is a delight to ride. Sure footed handling, sounds lovely and all in all she feels like not far off a new bike (which of course she should, after all of the money thrown at her in the last 2 years!) I have never before sat on a bike that I felt so comfortable on and confident in from the off, and I'm really looking forward to some great adventures with her.

Doris is now loaded with camping gear and resting in the garage, ready for our first adventure to begin tomorrow:

Thanks for listening everyone - now let the real fun begin :)

Noel & Doris

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Doris and The Bike Doctor

After failing to get Doris MOT'd or running properly at the weekend, I bit the bullet and have called in the specialists, in a bid to be ready for the ThunderSprint bike show on Saturday.
The initial findings are that the camchain is too slack and at the adjustment limit, so a new chain is called for. I assume the timing will be very ropey till that's done.
The compression was all ok though which is good.
Doctor John said that there was an early recall on the Dream related to camchains - maybe mine got missed? 
Anyway, he's hopeful of getting me sorted out for the weekend, which is great news.