Wheel alignment

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Getting sorted

Back in 2019, I published a post concerning snatchy brakes on the Duke 790.  They weren't lethal, but it was certainly very noticeable at low speeds.  A recommendation was made through the Duke 790 forum that I should break the glaze on the disc rotors, using wet and dry paper.  This worked reasonably well for a short while before reappearing.  Then Covid appeared worldwide, a NZ early lockdown in 2020 and further investigations took a back seat.  I fitted EBC HH pads during lockdown, principally because they had delivered great results on my 3 previous bikes.  With lockdown lifted, the EBC pads delivered much improved stopping power on the open road but little had changed at around 20 km/hr or below.  They were grabbing to the extent that it wasn't always possible to stop exactly where planned.  Something needed to be done.  I measured disc runout (or thickness variation) with a dial gauge to get objective information to present to my dealer, along with photos to show uneven marking on the disk where the pads had intermittent contact with the surface.  It coincided with the measured runout high and low points. This is shown below.  Further detail HERE .

The Service Manager and one of the technicians took the bike for some low speed braking tests and their description was relatively colourful to me, although I understand that in the formal report to KTM, the word "aggressive" was used as a more conventional description.

The original discs

With all the evidence and the support of the dealer (Boyds of Hamilton), there was no issue with KTM agreeing that they would be replaced under warranty and a few days ago, I got a call that they were ready to be fitted.  A nice 340 km round trip yesterday to Hamilton to get them done.

Early morning start in fine weather

As a brief amusing interlude regarding the photo above taken by Jennie as I headed off, I wore the silver and black leathers made in 2003 AND THEY STILL FIT!  When they were brand new and I was kitting up for the very first outing, Jennie sauntered in to see what they looked like.  I uttered two words to her... "Chick Magnet".  Without pausing or altering her expression, she retorted "Until you take your helmet off".  Brought down to earth with a resounding thud, sigh.....

The new rotors took just 40 minutes to fit before the homeward journey.  The technician didn't test ride the bike, maybe with full confidence that the problem was solved.

Bright shiny new rotors

Brand new brakes aren't particularly effective so nosing out into city traffic, a longer stopping distance was judiciously applied.  However, it was obvious right from the start that there was no more "grabbing" at low speed.  The lever could be feathered lightly and slow speed control was spot-on -  Hallelujah!  Once out in the countryside, I was able to do a series of "stoppies" from open road speeds and was rather surprised how quickly the performance increased.  EBC HH pads really do the biz compared with the OEM ones.

On arriving home, the disc rotors were checked again.  The photo below suggests that there will be more bedding-in to come but importantly, the marks on the disc are absolutely consistent around the full 360 degrees compared with the first photo where there was a distinct lack of consistency.

Consistent disc marks after 160 km from new

Although it would have been better to avoid the disc problem entirely, the whole business wasn't a difficult one to rectify with willing support from both the dealer and KTM.  I guess gathering solid evidence and being pleasant and constructive rather than ranting and raving helps the process along too.  Despite the "quirks" of owning a KTM, it hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for the brand at all.  The 790 is just so much fun to ride and completely fills what I was looking for in a bike this time around.  A friend thought that it was releasing the "inner hooligan" in me.  To coin a well-known line from a UK TV series, "You might think that, but I couldn't possibly comment"!

Around a month ago, I took a chance and ordered a "knock off" Chinese Akarapovic carbon end can through AliExpress.  The OEM muffler isn't a particularly eye-catching design feature and weighs nearly 4 kg.  Although I wouldn't have forked out for a genuine Akrapovic, shedding a bit of weight and improving the appearance at a substantially lower cost was an attractive prospect.  Any potential performance increase wasn't a selling point.  Because it wasn't a full exhaust system and retained the catalytic converter, the ECU could handle any small changes in fuelling without having to buy more electronic trickery such as a Power Commander.  Easy peasy!

It arrived a few days ago from AR Racing Store and is extremely well-made.  The kit consisted of the carbon can, a link pipe to connect the can to the catalytic converter, an angle bracket and bolt, two sets of retaining springs and some adhesive-backed glass fibre tape.  There were no installation instructions.   Removing the OEM system and installing the new can and link pipe took about 90 minutes, being cautious to get everything spot on in terms of alignment.  


Much less obtrusive than the OEM muffler

There were only a couple of head-scratching moments.  The can was a sliding fit on the link pipe and I guessed that the adhesive-backed glass fibre tape was to form an exhaust gas seal when applied to the pipe where it goes inside the muffler.  The other puzzle was why two sets of retaining springs were supplied as one set was ridiculously short.  The longer set had a really strong tension and I had visions of them pinging off into a dark corner of the workshop if I used pliers or similar.  I actually used a bit of thin rope as a windlass and that worked just fine to get them in place.  The extra bolt and bracket in the kit weren't needed.

Retaining springs that would lift a main battle tank!

The first trial run

After fitting, it was time to do an 80 km round trip to test it out.  Exhaust note with the removable baffle in situ was similar to the OEM system which was just fine.  The only thing which differed was a lack of popping on a trailing throttle, which is a characteristic of the standard system.  No discernible difference in performance.  Upon returning home, an inspection showed that the glass fibre tape had moved slightly with the heat and exhaust gas was leaking slightly in one small place at the joint.  It's very small indeed and I may use a proper exhaust sealant to fix it at some stage.

In summary, it looks good and the exhaust note won't draw unwanted attention from the authorities.  It's also saved a few kg - great result and excellent value for money.  We'll see how it performs in the longer term but certainly no regrets in taking the risk to buy one.

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Not quite a waste of two weeks!

Spring has sprung in NZ, lots of sunshine, temperatures in the mid-20's C and as the saying goes, a young man's thoughts turn to love. For ummm... more "mature" gentlemen such as me, such thoughts are not entirely consigned to history but the beautiful weather also promotes thoughts about motorcycle riding and taking the boat out with Jennie to go fishing.  The last outing 3 weeks ago ended up with her having bragging rights (again) for catching more than me but at least I get to share in the bounty, even though less than subtle mickey-taking has to be endured.  

Thankfully keeping the smug grin off her face

After fishing, the plan was to get in plenty of riding but that turned to custard big time. There's an area of our garden that's a bit of a jungle.  It's on a slope and the clay soil can be extremely slippery .  We got stuck in and cut back masses of foliage.  The next stage was to get one of the many local tradespeople in to build about 10 metres of steps in the sloping area to make it safer and more accessible, and then replant it with all sorts of sub-tropical shrubbery.

Now I don't know how the rest of the world goes about getting hold of a tradesperson but in our area, it's bloody nigh-on impossible, despite their numerous advertisements in the local newspaper and community website.  This is how it goes on the phone.  Me:  Hi, are you interested in building me a 10 metre run of steps in our garden?  Tradie:  Yep, a bit busy right now but how about I pop round in a couple of days to see what's involved?  Me:  Fantastic, see you then.   You probably know what's coming next, don't you?  A complete no-show, repeated multiple times.  Lots of rude words said.

In fairness, the tradies round this way have excellent trade skills but their customer relationship building is shit (a technical term).  Their liaison skills are sadly lacking, probably because they have so much work that they've never had to get their act together.  We desperately wanted to get the job done to tidy up the place before Christmas so the only alternative was to forego all the fun stuff and do it myself.  I've never built steps before and terrain angle changes were an additional complication.  However, I'm good at maths and some calculations aided by building guides on an NZ website (Thanks, Mitre 10) saw me make a start on the project.

Area cleared of shrubbery and string lines laid out

I should add at this point that humping heavy lengths of timber around in hot conditions isn't kind to a 73 year old body.  Every evening saw me sprawled on the couch watching TV or more accurately, drifting in and out of conciousness and completely missing what was being shown on the goggle-box.  The other problem was mosquitoes.  It's not normally an issue but in that area, they were really keen to make life a misery.  I swear that the first repellent found in the bathroom cupboard was an attractant and it did no good at all.  Another brand was discovered after several days and I must say that it worked well.  Lord knows what it does to the human body though as it smelt like effluent from a chemical plant.

Lots of careful measuring and the use of string lines and a builder's level saw the steps starting to take shape and the result was rather pleasing.

Emerging from the undergrowth

Not bad if I do say so!

Fatigue put a dent in my organisational skills on a daily basis.  Lost count of the number of times that a critical tool or even a humble pencil was at the top of the steps when it was needed at the bottom or vice versa.  The percentage of time traversing the steps as opposed to doing something productive wouldn't have looked good if it had been charted, especially as productivity improvement is how I earned a crust for many years, sigh....  After getting into the swing of things and fixing the bearers in place, I could reckon on about an hour per step, what with all the measuring, cutting and nailing in place.  There were LOTS of steps - paid not to think about them.

I did have a supervisor for much of the time though - Sam, our rescue cat.  Every day, he was there squeaking encouragement or more likely telling me to pull finger.  He also enjoyed chasing the local lizard population when I disturbed them from under fallen leaves.

Sam, the civil engineering supervisor.  Not looking happy with the lack of progress

Every time there was a change in the slope or slight change in direction to miss treasured tree ferns, it meant more geometry to ensure that the steps remained horizontal.  I'm sure that tradies don't do it this way but it seemed to work ok for me.

Steps, steps and even more steps, plus the beginnings of a path

Starting to look quite professional

Finished the job two days ago and was agreeably surprised at how good the steps look.  There's still a path among the greenery to put in but we haven't yet decided whether it's going to be pre-cast slabs, natural stone or gravel.  No great urgency to make a decision on that.  Next step is to fill the cleared areas with exotic plants before the heat and drier weather really sets in.  We've already planted two bright pink hybridised versions of the NZ Cabbage Tree, Cordyline Australis; as per the photo below.  They should look great as they grow.

Cordyline Australis  Pink Passion

Part of the "jungle" now reclaimed as a shade garden and planted with bromeliads, hosta and other stuff, plus a good layer of bark mulch.  Should look good in a couple of years.

Looking a lot better than it previously did!

As the title of the post says, not quite a waste of two weeks but there are things which would have given a lot more pleasure.  However, the end result was satisfying and it did save on labour costs.  Not sure that I'd be keen to repeat the exercise though.

A final bit about motorcycling....

I took a half day break just before project completion to have a haircut.  The cut doesn't take that long you understand but I get it cut in a neighbouring town with 50 km of dream twisty motorcycling coast road in between.  Having not ridden for over 3 weeks, it was a traffic-free relaxed, chilled ride in both directions, or so I thought until noticing the back tyre.

Oops!  Michelin Road 5 put to good use

I'm sure that everyone who's ridden a motorcycle has set out to have a brisk ride and has ended up riding like a completely uncoordinated muppet.  Then there are the occasions when the rider is relaxed and has an absolute blinder without putting in any apparent effort.  This ride was in the latter category.  It's all in the top 3 inches!


Saturday 24 October 2020

A wee bit of culture

I turned 73 a week ago and when Jennie asked me earlier what I wanted for my birthday, I struggled to think of anything apart from a Lotus 7 replica.  Got "THE LOOK" so that was a non-starter.  I then suggested an overnighter somewhere interesting and left it to her.

Well, she came up with a cool idea and the first stop was the city of Hamilton, some 160 km from home.  I know it best for being where our eldest son and his family live plus where I have the KTM serviced but it's also known for its World class municipal gardens .  It's been years since we visited them and everything has changed since then.  It covers around 54 hectares and is split up into various themes.  It's also absolutely free to members of the public.  Too big to get round in one go, we settled on a couple of  hours and will go back again in the coming months.  Funnily enough, Flyboy has just posted some magnificent photos and a drone video of Jacaranda trees in bloom on his blog which are well worth seeing.  Onya Dave - who knew that Oz and Kiwi bikers could be sensitive, nature-loving types ;-).

First stop was through the tropical garden.  We have a number of the plants in our own garden such as bromeliads and Bird of Paradise and although Hamilton gets frosts, this garden has its own microclimate.

Lush is the perfect description

Some of the tropical blooms

Next stop was the Surrealist Garden and at the entrance were some characters, cups and saucers from the Mad Hatter's Tea Party; beaten from copper sheet.

Seriously nice work

Walking through what was a labyrinth of corridors, we were suddenly faced with huge tree-like structures covered in creepers.

Weird tree-like structures

Looking outwards from the weird trees, we immediately felt dwarfed with a massive gate  and an equally massive wheelbarrow and fork - seriously impressive construction efforts!

Honey, you've shrunk!

Just the thing for serious garden maintenance

Next two areas were an old-fashioned English country garden packed with annual and perennial flowers and a huge kitchen garden full of herbs and vegetables.  All the produce is given away to the needy.

Packed flower beds

Next up was a replica of an English Tudor period garden.  Very formal with all sorts of mythical beasts on tall poles.

Formal Tudor garden

One of the real delights of this place is that each garden is shielded from view by tall hedges so there's no advance warning of what you're going to find.  In this instance, it was a tethered helium-filled balloon with a boat suspended below - how cool is that?  Looked like something from a children's fantasy story. 

An unexpected find!

The next garden was in tribute to early 20th century Kiwi writer Katherine Mansfield.  The setting was from her short story "The Garden Party".

A transplanted bit of early 20th century society

Cucumber sandwiches and cake, anyone?

By now, it was getting hot and we were in need of sustenance.  With only half of the gardens covered, we decided to enjoy the rest at leisure and come back another time rather than rush things.

More copper statuary (based on the Magic Flute opera I think)

NZ native flax flowers

After lunch, it was time to travel to the nearby town of Cambridge and check into the new apartment/hotel complex that Jennie had booked, then head out and explore all the back roads and other sights that we hadn't seen for years.  We were originally going to walk into town for an evening meal but within 100 metres of the hotel, there was a Malay/Indian fusion restaurant which had only been open for a few months.  The food and service was absolutely outstanding and the range of craft beers  and single malt whiskies was as good as I've seen anywhere.  Being close to the hotel was a bonus after such a heroic meal!  I may have let the side down a bit dressed in jeans with Jennie looking a million dollars in her chic casual gear :-) .

Mrs James looking super-elegant at Koi restaurant

After breakfast, a visit to the local farmer's market was in order.  It's always great to buy fresh local produce at great prices. Cumberland spiced sausage and black pudding from an English butcher were a real find.  It was time to gradually head home and being a national holiday weekend, sticking to the back roads was a good plan.  This is where my motorcycling knowledge came into play as it's an area where my mates and I occasionally come to play for the twisty lanes and stuff-all traffic!  First stop was a little-used park and hill lookout which used to be the site of a tuberculosis sanatorium around 1900.  It gives fantastic views across the Waikato province on a clear day.  There was a bit of low cloud about but the views were still pretty good.

View from Maungakawa Hill

Another short stop was made half way along another superb motorcycling road at reservoir supplying a nearby small town. It's also the home of the Te Miro Mountain Bike Park , maintained by the local authority with trails to cater from experienced MTB'ers through to small children.  A great asset in beautiful surroundings.

Part of picturesque Te Miro Mountain Bike Park and reservoir

A lovely couple of days away exploring.  I've now had the hard word put on me to do the same for Jennie's birthday in 6 weeks so I'd better put my thinking cap on!

Monday 12 October 2020

A bit of variety

There's been plenty going on in our neck of the woods over the last fortnight.  With national school holidays, pretty nice weather and no lockdowns, families have been flocking into our area which is a popular tourist region.  Good for the economy, even if the number of stupid people on the road also increases.  There have been a couple of events too.  One was the annual Illume festival where the village is lit up at night, as indeed are the locals together with a lovely firework display.  Pretty darned good for a static population of around 1600.  The photos are ones I took a couple of years ago as I didn't bother this year.  The fireworks were taken from our deck, about 1km away from the action.

Family fun with an umbrella

Local H-D's festooned with LED's

Shane, the local butcher on his bike

Village shopfronts

Trees in the village

Awwww.... pretty!

It was also the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the visit of the Royal Navy ship HMS Coromandel, after which the village was named.  Naval vessels visited Coromandel and other northern locations on a regular basis to harvest Kauri trees which were knot-free and made wonderful spars for their sailing vessels.  You could call it rape and pillage of natural resources but we won't go there!

Kauri trees near our place

Anyway, to mark the occasion, there was an unveiling of a seriously cool commemorative sculpture.  A young local artist made a representation of HMS Coromandel with a ceramic hull and stainless steel sails.  It was housed in a glass case made to look like a ship in a bottle and the timber surround was made from floorboards from the 1800's local settlers hall when it was recently refurbished.  Pretty darned nice!

HMS Coromandel representation

A really nice commemorative work of art

The climate in Coromandel is benign and the number of (slight) frosts we get in winter can easily be counted on one hand.  It's a perfect climate for growing semi-tropical Bromeliads in the garden.  Two large examples which we planted 5 years ago as just small plants have just developed flower spikes for the first time.  They haven't opened yet but I'm worried that they might turn out to be killer Triffids as per John Wyndham's 1950's post-apocalyptic horror story!  That aside, they're looking pretty cool.

Flower spike 1.5 metres tall

Flower spike 1 metre tall

Motorcycles haven't been forgotten though.  Just over a week ago, I took out a serving Highway Patrol Officer for his Advanced Roadcraft Test.  Trevor drives a patrol car in NZ but in the UK, he was a Class1 motorcycle cop - the best of the best and it showed!  It was a near-flawless ride with a running commentary to match and boy, could he make his ST1300 shift down twisty, narrow country lanes.  Made it look easy, which it wasn't of course.  A really nice chap and a joy to spend the the day out with him - it's a tough life!  He just rides in his spare time here and owns several modern "classic" cars and bikes.

Trevor and his ST1300

Saving the best until last, yesterday was supposed to be an IAM monthly meeting where we do some coaching or go for a spirited social ride in the back blocks.  I should have smelt a rat when Jennie asked me a couple of times during the week whether I intended to go!  

Rocked up at the meeting point cafe some 100 km away and not only were there members from our local group there but a bunch of them from Auckland too.  The common thread was that over the past few years, I'd either coached them directly or had a hand in coaching them to pass their advanced qualifications.  STILL DIDN'T CATCH ON!  It wasn't until my good mate Tony stood up and said that we were all going to have a social ride together on the 200 km Coromandel Loop as recognition of our long association.  Apparently, my face was a sight to behold!  I felt pretty humbled and we had a wonderful time riding one of the great north island motorcycle routes together.  We even stopped at the Coroglen Tavern for lunch.  Not for a beer, but so that I could enjoy my all-time favourite scallop burger!  The ride finished on Coromandel Town wharf, only a few hundred metres from home which was just perfect.  What an incredible day and I'm really privileged to have mates who would do something like that.  Must have a bit of dust in my eye or something..... 

Memorial to Sir Keith Park, a Kiwi who played a major role in the WW2 Battle of Britain

Arriving at the Coroglen Tavern

Some of the team next to a mussel boat - Coromandel Town wharf

Great variety of machinery on Coromandel Town wharf

Some old geezer front and centre with great mates