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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Alternative 2-wheeled technology and other stuff

It's been a pretty good and interesting few days!  Funny how you can go for weeks without anything significant happening and then all sorts of good things occur in the space of a few days.  The burst blood vessel in my right calf has now healed to the extent that it doesn't prevent most forms of physical activity which is marvellous now that the warm weather has arrived. 

First test of the leg was going out in the boat for a spot of fishing with Jennie.  Gorgeous day but unfortunately, my lucky red shorts weren't so lucky as I had my line snapped twice by something big which had other ideas about being caught.  Everything else I caught was undersize.  Fortunately, Jennie is far better at fishing than I am (there.... I've publicly admitted it!) and she caught a decent Trevally and a snapper which made a very nice evening meal.  The leg handled the expedition fine, which was very good news indeed.


Jennie's Trevally


Heading home in perfect weather

We also had my old corporate boss come to stay for the weekend. John is also a motorcyclist and has a Yamaha FZ1 Fazer.  Since I last saw him nearly 3 years ago, he's shed 15kg and turned into a very competitive ultra-distance extreme conditions mountain biker.  Last year, he competed in a 500 km endurance ride across Australia's Simpson Desert in 40 degrees C temperatures and this year, another in the Great Victorian Desert; 587 km long, finishing 5th which is remarkable seeing that he's 57 years of age.

Anyway, he brought his hi-tech mountain bike, a Surly Pugsley with him. An amazing bit of kit, unbelievably light with huge balloon tyres which are fantastic for most off-road conditions in snow, sand or anything in between.  The wheels on this bike weigh virtually nothing and with spokes offset from the centre line, they're certainly a technical bit of kit.  I might also add that the cost of these bikes is a sizeable percentage of a decent motorcycle! I took John to the very top of the Coromandel Peninsula in the 4x4 and he rode 40 km back down the dirt road to civilisation which has some wicked hills at the northern end as a light training ride!  Here are some photos of John in some scenic locations.

 Up in the clouds - John's bike next to NZ flax plants  in flower

A long uphill grind!
 A long drop to a beautiful clear bay

Barking up the wrong tree! (groan)

John's visit wasn't completely social and without going into detail, next year, I may come out of retirement for part of the time to help him out on a project.  I'm loving the freedom of retirement but here's an interesting philosophical thing.......  most of us count ourselves fortunate if our bosses are merely competent.  John is a true leader as opposed to just a good manager.  An outstanding visionary, treats everyone the same irrespective of status, gives his staff all the support they need, energises them and gives them the freedom to develop and flourish in the job.  A rare person indeed and I'd walk over broken glass for him, even though I'm normally a cynic when it comes to executive management behaviours in big corporates.  How many of us have been fortunate enough to have had bosses like that more than once or possibly twice in a lifetime?

I've saved the best news until almost last - as of today, I'm back on the bike again....... YIPPEE!!!!

The month-odd of not riding since the 1000-miler due to the burst blood vessel in my leg has been very trying to put it mildly.  Depressing would be another and more accurate description. Didn't expect to find a relatively short unplanned break from 2 wheels quite so hard to take.  Well Sonja, we made it back onto 2 wheels at pretty much the same time but at least I'm a bit warmer than you will be!

 All is well with the world!

Even though it's only been just over a month, it was surprising just how rusty I felt and after just driving my barge of a 4x4 during in that period, the Triple felt super-sensitive and powerful.  Didn't do anything dumb, and practised situational awareness out loud to dial back in.  Sooooo good to be back on 2 wheels again and into my summer leathers now the good weather is here.  Besides, they make me look slimmer than I actually am!!!

Finally, Jennie recently received complete clearance from her hip operation this time last year which means that we can now make some decent travel plans outside the South Pacific at long last.  We're now booked to travel to Vietnam and Cambodia in April 2011.  Must surreptitiously look into hiring a bike up there!

Yep, it's been a great few days alright!



Friday, 12 November 2010

Embarassing motorcycle photos!

Like most people, we've got boxes and boxes of photos from pre-digital camera days.  Some are so awful, not even our kids will get to see them until we've croaked it.  Some of them make me wince but I'm prepared to make an ass of myself in the (faint) hope that other bloggers will be stupid enough to follow suit.


Me, in Dad's helmet and goggles, aged 5

I started motorcycling at 16 when my grandparents bought me a Suzuki 50.  I don't have any photos from that period (thank God), neither the 350cc Triumph which followed shortly afterwards.  However, I do have one with my 1955 Tiger 100, taken in 1966/7 at 19/20 years of age. 

Slim and plenty of hair - 1966/7 

Looking back, it's amazing how often I changed hairstyles and clothes - probably no different from most young people then and now .  Hard not to blush looking at some of them.  I think the following photo was taken in 1968.  Rushed home directly from work without changing for a photo and article in the local newspaper about my Mk 1 drag bike.

Failed attempt at respectability

At the dawn of the 1970's, clean-cut was out and hairy was back in.  The photo below was taken in 1970 at Santa Pod Drag Strip, UK.  The item I'm holding is a bent pushrod from the Mk 2 short-stroke drag bike.  The alloy pushrods didn't take kindly to violent cams and heavy valve springs but titanium replacements did the trick!  In the way that only true friends can have a sly dig at a mate, one of them reckoned that I looked like an extra from the original TV series, the "Avengers".  It's ok to snigger, honestly!

Ohh... the shame - 1970

The next photo is a non-motorcycling one taken in 1975 within a few weeks of emigrating to NZ.  Only noteworthy for the mid-70's male fashion sense (or more accurately, a complete lack of it).  Dear God, what was I thinking of???  The photo was taken at a geothermal area in NZ - I should have jumped in.  Anyone remember the Weston Master camera exposure meter hanging on my front?

The shame continues

The following photo was taken in 1987 after a decade and a bit without a bike whilst building a career and raising a family.  The Honda GB400 TT was an impulse purchase and Jennie was less than amused (an understatement).  At least it scratched the motorcycling itch!

Less hair and filling out a bit - 1987

This photo was taken in the mid-90's when I owned a BMW K100RS.  Our eldest son was very keen to own a bike and after a period riding a small trail bike on forest fire breaks to build his skills, his mother grudgingly gave permission for him to get a road bike.  Mercifully, she remained ignorant of just how quick those Suzuki X7's were!

Lyndon and me - mid 90's

The next photo was taken in 2005 on the edge of winter whilst waiting for the ferry to take us to the north island.  I was taking part in the Southern Cross round NZ in 5 days endurance ride.  Approximately 4000km of low-flying! Quite an experience, contributing to hair loss I'm sure.

My beloved Blackbird - 2005.  Now wearing spectacles to see where I'm going!

The final bike shot was taken last month whilst setting off for the 1000 miles in 24 hours Grand Challenge.  Only noteworthy because of a "full circle" return to the Triumph brand just over 40 years after my first one.  Oh, and one other thing..... considerably less hair than the early photos.

Over 40 years riding and still in one piece (more or less)

There's one non-motorcycling photo I wanted to include which was taken in 1972.  It would be hard to disagree that in most of the photos, especially the early ones, I look like a complete ummm... dork.  The subject of this photo most certainly doesn't. It's a genuine mystery with respect to what Jennie saw in me 38 years ago.  She's had a lot to put up with in that time, with me being an anal engineer AND a complete bike nut.  Can't believe my good fortune and I'm still unashamedly crazy about her.

 Venice on our honeymoon - 1972

Jennie - current date


Ok, so who is prepared to stick some photos of their early motorcycling days on their blog???



Friday, 5 November 2010

A Triumph of motorcycle design (not)

Modern Triumph motorcycles, along with most other modern bike brands are the epitome of good engineering.  The generation of riders who have grown up with modern bikes quite rightly expect high levels of reliability, but it wasn't always like that, oh dearie me no! Teeth-gnashing and loss of temper was a regular occurrence for the old farts among us.  At least we all became mechanically and electrically competent as a result of it all.

"Electrickery" problems were legendary and manufacturer Joseph Lucas wasn't called the Prince of Darkness for nothing.  However, it was a recent post about lubricants on a Triumph forum which took me back to the 60's when training as an engineer. Triumph motorcycles were my sole form of transport and as such, reliability was paramount to get me to lectures (and more importantly, the pub) in a timely manner.

Now, Triumph in particular produced some of the earliest oil-cooled engine designs on the planet.  At least, I'm assuming that was the main reason that there was more oil on the outside of the engine than sloshing around the internals, although woeful seal design could well have contributed!  The old joke about the first after-market accessory Triumph owners bought being a large drip tray wasn't all that far from the truth.  Anyway, I digress.....

Oil leaks aside, Triumph twins were pretty sound mechanically although there was one little device on them which had the potential to cause mayhem for the unwary.  Let me introduce you to the Oil Release Valve and Indicator:

 It served 2 main functions apart from the unintended one which I'll come to shortly.  The first function was as a pressure regulator for the lubrication system.  The second function was to visually demonstrate that the engine actually had oil pressure and wasn't about to lock solid and chuck the unfortunate rider up the road.  The photo below shows its location at the bottom of the timing gear cover on pre-unit construction Triumphs.  Later models saw it located on the engine block just in front of the timing cover.

 Location of the valve on a pre-unit construction Triumph

When the engine was running, the oil pressure lifted the cruciform-head screw (shown on the first photo) clear of the body to reassure the rider that the bike did indeed have oil pressure so that he or she could then concentrate on worrying whether the electrics would fail before reaching the intended destination.  So what's wrong with that you may ask - an enlightened bit of design, surely?  Well..... no, actually.

From the line drawing below, you'll note that part #5 is a piece of rubber tubing which slips over the indicator shaft to prevent hot pressurised oil from making its escape from this particular location.  Those of a cynical nature or legal persuasion will note the word "should" on the second line rather than the more reassuring word word "will" in terms of maintenance requirement.  In horse racing terminology, this wording must be equivalent of Triumph having a dollar each way, and with good reason.


The problem was that in the environment it worked in, the rubber sleeve had a limited life before it perished or split, pumping hot oil out onto the rider's right boot.  At least Triumph riders had one dry sock in heavy rain, which I suppose was the only (unintended) good thing to come out of an engineering cock-up.  A close friend and I both owned Triumphs which waterproofed our right-hand boots every 6-12 months.  There was no real risk of running out of oil when this happened as the smokescreen from oil pouring onto a hot exhaust pipe was a fair indicator that something was amiss, even to the visually challenged.

Why Triumph shifted it to the front of the engine on later models is a bit of a mystery.  To see if the indicator was actually working required quite a forward stretch combined with a downward focus - not exactly an OSH-approved riding posture when tearing up the highway!  Also, although an oily boot was a thing of the past, oil now streamed round the crankcase and the slipstream neatly redirected it onto the rear tyre, adding another interesting dimension to already indifferent cornering.  After a few decades, Triumph came to their senses and did away with it altogether.  Only a tiny component but perhaps indicative of resistance to change and the eventual collapse of the British bike industry.

Who'd have thought that one tiny component would have been the subject of a (slightly) tongue-in-cheek bike blog?

As an aside, I still have 2 pristine Triumph manuals which are an endless source of amusement, particularly in terms of their earnest optimism.  I may share more from their pages in the fullness of time if I continue blogging...