Wheel alignment

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Pulling finger at last

Earlier this month, I made a post about scanning old photos we had stored everywhere round the house in boxes.  Some of them were beyond salvage (a flooded basement garage a couple of years back didn't exactly help) but most of the important ones were ok so a start was made on digitising them.  A bigger issue was the mountain of 35mm negatives without corresponding prints, plus 35mm colour slides.  I suspect that most householders of errr....  a "certain age" will be in a similar position!

It's bothered Jennie and I for some time as these form a treasure trove of memories, both remembered and forgotten.  They would also be a legacy to pass on to our children.  Some of them go back to the late 60's but many are also a record of our children growing up.  Even though the subject matter would be relatively mundane in most cases, that's what family history is all about and still gives a sense of identity and place.  The lockdown presented an ideal opportunity to do something about it after years of procrastination.  We had decent experience scanning old prints with our Canon printer scanner.  However, we were starting from absolute ground zero as far as negatives and slides went.

We knew that there were some cheap, crappy scanners on the market as well as eye-wateringly expensive professional ones.  What was the right balance between price and quality for what you might call family use? We wanted something which we could mainly view as computer images with perhaps a print of the odd one which had special meaning.  That triggered a whole lot of research, followed by crossed fingers that our intended purchase didn't involve us buying a lemon.  Fortunately, our choice was absolutely "fit for purpose" so I thought we'd share our learnings and a few examples in case it's of background use to anyone in a similar position.

The scanner we ended up with is the Epson V600 flatbed.  We purchased it in NZ for a shade under NZ$600 (USD 365, AUD 559, CDN 511, GBP 300).  Easy to set up and this is a photo with the lid open, showing the holder for 35mm slides and negatives.

Epson V600 scanner

With respect to the driver software, it caters for both home and "professional" use. What this means is you can do scans in a full automatic mode for sheer convenience or you can play about with colour balances and other factors in a full advanced mode.  I've done both and must say that for most of what we require, full auto is absolutely fine.  You can also select a whole load of different resolutions and choice is very much dependent on how you want to view them.  If you want to actually print a scan to a large size, then you'll want a higher resolution.  I have used 800 dpi for most of our scans of both slides and negatives. It's a pragmatic compromise partially based on end use and also scanning time.  We have at best guess 2 or 3 thousand negatives and slides to work through.  At 300 dpi, each slide/negative takes about 45 seconds to scan.  At 800 dpi, it's 1 minute 45 seconds.  Haven't bothered to time a 1200 dpi scan but you get the picture!

Our personal experience is that scanning negatives often produces a higher quality image than with slides.  This is a reflection of how our originals have been stored.  There's no such thing as a climate-controlled environment where our scattered collection of originals are stored.  Some of the slides have scratches or dirt on them.  The latter can often be cleaned with a soft brush, cotton bud or slightly damp cloth.  Aftermarket software also helps to clean up blemishes but I'll come back to that.  Although our negatives and slides are stored in similar locations, the negatives have remained untouched in their tight-fitting plastic wallets so have stayed in pristine condition.  That's why scan quality tends to be a wee bit better than our slides.  The aftermarket software we've used is Picasa (are we the only people in the world who still have this on their PC's?) and the free Gimp.  Both are excellent for removing small blemishes, particularly in light areas such as the sky.

On this blog, it won't be possible to replicate the real life quality we're getting but the V600 has exceeded our expectations in terms of quality for a home user.  We could still use a professional service for something really special but so far, we haven't found a need with the results we're getting.  Quality is also dependent on the quality of the camera used and the person behind the lens!  However, here are some examples from the first few days of scanning.  All of them were scanned at 800 dpi but that won't show on the blog.

This was taken in 1975 just after arriving in NZ (oh, the clothes and hair!) with our Ford Escort Mk1.  It's a slide and some dirt and scratches can be seen in the sky - yet to be attacked with clean-up software.

The swinging 70's - Waiotapu geothermal mud pools

My Honda GB400 TT around 1990.  This was from a negative and needs no retouching.  Easy to play with brightness and colour if I want to at some stage.

I wish I still owned it as a second bike!

This is our younger son on graduation day pulling a pint in a student pub.  Originally taken (I think) in 2001 and is a negative.

Capping day

Me in the mid-80's having just been hurled out through the rigging when my catamaran nose-dived  on a broad reach!  Trust Jennie to have a camera handy.  This was a slide.


In 1985, we took the children back to the UK for a holiday to meet their grandparents and our friends.  Whilst there, I took our boys to the Duxford aircraft museum.  This is a negative of TSR 2 supersonic low level nuclear bomber.  There's a strong family connection with it.  My Dad was an engineer/physicist involved with wind tunnel testing the models before the actual aircraft was built.  Before being moved to Duxford, it was housed at the aeronautical faculty at Cranfield University whilst I was there.  Quite often strolled across the campus to see it and other exotic aircraft in one of the hangars. 

The wicked-looking TSR2

Our kids in the mid-80's.  We'd been given the use of a lakeside holiday home and boat by our next door neighbour who happened to be a government minister at that time.  Living next door had both its perks and downsides!  This is a slide and you can see a white blemish that I need to fix near the cloud.

Real water babies

This is a slide which was scanned at 1200 dpi then cropped to bring the subject matter closer.  It was taken (I think) in 1971 and features UK rider Ray Pickrell on a factory-prepared BSA Rocket 3 production racer.

A wonderful howl from these bikes

This scan was taken in the early 80's from a negative in the far north of NZ. Victoria wasn't even a gleam in her parent's eyes!  Short shorts on guys were clearly still socially acceptable then.

The old Stone Store, Kerikeri  - built between 1832 and 1836

So many more scans to do and I'm learning more all the time but of the ones done so far, the next slide is my personal favourite.  It was taken in 1972 whilst on honeymoon in the then Yugoslavia at a Lipizzaner horse stud.  Jennie was blissfully unaware that I was taking the photo whilst she was making a fuss of one of the stallions.  Makes it absolutely natural and 48 years later, still makes me wonder what she saw in me :-)


I hope that our positive experiences so far might strike a chord with others who have hordes of slides and negatives.  There's only been one slight downside (apart from the time it takes).  The Epson software is a tad flaky and in certain circumstances, it will freeze.  A mate suggested a simple solution to this which works perfectly.  Right clicking on the Epson desktop icon brings up a menu.  Click on Troubleshoot Compatability, then Try Recommended Settings (Windows Vista Service Pack 2) and you're away!

Wednesday 20 May 2020

New tyres - again!

I bought the KTM in March last year, a replacement for the Suzuki GSX-S 1000 which I'd owned for the previous 3 years.  Regular readers may remember that the last tyres I had on the Suzuki were Michelin Road 5's. I loved their wet and dry weather performance and "feel".  What I didn't love was getting 3 punctures in 4 months, including one rear tyre which was beyond repair.  I live a long way from tyre dealers and it's a good job that I carry enough repair options to not get stranded.  The whole saga was listed in THIS POST .   Naturally, I became a bit gun-shy of the Road 5, not knowing whether they were susceptible to punctures in the conditions I normally ride in or whether it was sheer bad luck.

The problem sort of solved itself with the sale of the Gixxer and the purchase of the KTM.  The birds sang in the trees, the sun shone and all was well with the world - until winter came.  The KTM came equipped with Maxxis pure sport tyres.  They gripped well in the warmer weather but as soon as the cold and wet arrived, they became unpredictable, even with the benefit of lean-sensitive traction control.  I guess the problem was exacerbated by the roads in our area.  Some of the best technical twisty roads for bikes anywhere but challenging when it's cold and wet.  Simply couldn't get enough heat into the tyres in those conditions and on one occasion, I lost the front end in a fairly big way but managed to stay on.  It wasn't as if  I was "pressing on" excessively either.  I didn't trust the bloody things after that and within a few days and only 3500 km from new, they were ditched and a set of Bridgestone T31 sport touring tyres had been fitted.

Recovering from eye surgery and Covid-19 lockdown excepted, I cover a fair bit of ground annually and in all weathers so fitting sport touring tyres made sense.  On the bikes I've owned over the last few years, a life of a bit better than 10,000 km was achieved from any of the main brands and this sort of life was acceptable.  I chose the T31 based on a series of positive reviews in the motorcycling press and a fellow Institute of Advanced Motorists friend had recently fitted them to his Hayabusa and was impressed with them in all conditions.  My experience was the same as his.  Nice, progressive turn-in to corners although not quite as fast as the Road 5's.  Grip in both wet and dry was excellent and on our  North Island Green Badge Tour in late Feb/early March, they were great.

The only downside was that at 6000 km, the front hoop had started developing a slight wedge shape in section, i.e, flats on the soft compound out towards the edge of the tyre.  The rear tyre was still in good shape.  This wasn't anything particularly new as my previous 3 bikes had all shown similar traits.  The twisty roads that I mainly inhabit coupled with fairly aggressive countersteering to maintain progress are the main contributors.  Where the T31 differed however was that by 8500 km, the front tyre had reached the wear bars on the right hand side (the effect of road camber, driving on the left) and the left hand side wasn't far behind.  The handling had become noticeably heavier on the turn-in too.

Front T31 @8500 km

Arrow showing the extent of "flattening" @ 8500 km

The same characteristics also manifested themselves on my mate's Hayabusa, junking it at 7000 km and at 6000 km, another friend with a Yamaha MT10 SP is showing the beginnings of the same problem.  Time for a replacement set!

Apart from the punctures on the GSX-S 1000, the Road 5's were the best all-round tyres I've had for the type of riding I do so the decision was to go for them on the KTM and put the past experience with punctures down to sheer bad luck.

A quick trip to Drury in South Auckland yesterday and a new set were fitted in 3/4 hour.  Service from Aida and Des is outstanding.

Des from the Drury Motorcycle Performance Centre fitting the Rear Road 5

New front Road 5 away being balanced

New tyres always feel "flighty" compared with worn ones and leaving Drury, only a light touch on the bars was required for directional changes compared with the worn T31's.  Most of the 130 km trip home was at a cautious pace and angle of lean, not wanting to skate along on my arse due to new tyres. No anxious moments at all and the handling of the bike has been totally transformed.  With the higher crown profile on the Road 5's, turn-in is really quick too and requires much less countersteering.  Really looking forward to seeing how they go compared to the T31's in terms of performance and life.

Rear Road 5 profile

Front Road 5 profile

Thursday 14 May 2020

Out of lockdown!

NZ has moved to level 2 and although there are still many restrictions, going for a ride isn't one of them any more!  The 11000 km service for my Duke 790 was originally scheduled for 2 days after lockdown started so that didn't happen.  Now, on the first day of level 2, I could get it done.  The dealer is a round trip of 350 km away so it was a good opportunity to bring my riding up to scratch again.

Awoke to wet roads and gusty winds which wasn't exactly ideal after a layoff but a good opportunity to take it super-easy.  The first 50 km of the journey is comprised of tight twisties along the coast and I felt surprisingly out of sorts.  The KTM 790 isn't nicknamed "The Scalpel" for nothing and my reactions seemed to lag behind its rapid response to steering inputs and throttle control.  I thought about this later and reckon that my situational awareness wasn't as sharp as it should be and as a consequence, my inputs to the bike were a bit slow and clumsy.  A quick stop in Thames to top up the tank actually paid dividends.  In the past when I haven't been riding particularly well, a short break to do a mental reset has paid dividends. I think that the gas stop was one of those occasions as the rest of the journey was a delight.  Drying roads helped too!

  Front of house at Boyds - now Yamaha agents too

Parked the bike outside service reception and for Covid-19 contact tracing purposes, all visitors were required sign in by log book or QR Code.  Strict 2 metre distancing was in play with sanitiser everywhere you looked. Really impressed that they were on their game, albeit low key.

790 waiting to be whisked away, along with an 1190 Adventure R

The team at Boyds know that it takes me a tad over 2 hours to get to their place from home so they started work on the bike within a few minutes of me arriving whilst I wandered around their showroom, keeping an appropriate distance of course.  Even had to do another contact trace in their separate parts, accessories and clothing department when I picked up another can of chain wax.  Thought I'd take the opportunity to share a few photos I took whilst wandering about.....

The  photo below is the dealer's beautifully restored Yamaha TT 500 .  A real classic manufactured from 1976 to 1981 and good ones fetch serious bucks.  I'd happily have one in the shed.

 Elegantly simple and bloody gorgeous!

Boyds picked up the Yamaha franchise late last year.  I was just wandering about looking at the various models and happened to notice the plumbing on the MT-09.  Thought it looked quite arty!

Sexy pipework

This is the first time I'd seen the adventure version of my 790 in the flesh.  Undoubtely a really competent machine but with all the plastic, it looked too bulky and unwieldy for my taste.  I'd sooner have the smaller 390. 

The 790 Adventure

Now the bike below is a beast of a machine - the 1290 SuperDuke.  Doesn't really need 2 wheels on the move as pointing at the sky on the back one in any gear is its normal modus operandi.  A seriously frightening machine.  If the 790 Duke is the Scalpel, this must be the Sledgehammer! Love it.

A real beast of a bike

I guess everyone on the planet must know how popular Royal Enfields have become through the world with both singles and twins being really popular in NZ.  The 650 below offers good performance at a very modest price.  Can't go wrong really.

Uncomplicated, attractive and well-priced

The last bike that attracted my attention was tucked away in the area which used to be for customers to chill and enjoy a coffee.  It's a Sur Ron electric bike powered by a 6 kw electric motor.  I reckon it would be huge fun in the gnarly back country.  In fact, anywhere near us, come to think if it.....

The Sur Ron electric motorcycle

Coming back to the KTM, the 11000 km service cost NZ$314 (US$189, AU$293, GBP 154).  Not only did it include all the items listed in the handbook for that distance, it also had a computer software update and new frame bolts replaced under warranty!  I have no idea what the latter replacement was all about as under the circumstances,  it wasn't possible to chat with the technician at any length.

And finally, yet more expenditure coming up.  My front Bridgestone T31 tyre is toast at 8500 km which is a lot less than sport touring tyres on other bikes I've owned.  I have some theories about this but will do a proper review of the T31 in due course.  Wear on the right hand side of the tyre is particularly noticeable as can be seen in the photo below.  There's a reasonable amount of life left in the rear T31 and could just replace the front but being ever inquisitive, there are a couple of other brands I'd like to experiment with so need to replace both hoops.  More on this in due course.

A well-knackered Bridgestone T31 front tyre (big flats on the outer faces)

Monday 4 May 2020

Time for a bit of nostalgia

This post has been kicked into gear by a bit of household tidying.  Although NZ has eased to lockdown level 3, we're still not straying far from home being over 70.  A trip to the village supermarket constitutes an exciting trip out!  Anyway, back to the tidying.

Our efforts to bring some semblance of order to our cupboards prompted a discussion with respect to the boxes of slides, photos and negatives we have stashed around the place.  We've decided to finish digitising the photos we want to keep as the really early ones are beginning to discolour.  We'll also buy a specialist scanner for 35mm slides and the zillion strips of photo negatives that we have but that needs a bit more research, not to mention the international postal service to start operating properly again.

However, I made a start today with scanning a few photos and thought I'd share a few which I can accompany with a bit of a narrative.  Hope that this post isn't too terminally boring!

The first photo was taken in 1967 of my 1955 Tiger 100 engine.  I'd had new cylinder liners fitted as both originals had small cracks propagating from the conrod cutouts.  For obscure reasons, both new liners over a period of several months had rotated slightly in the block, causing the edge of the cutouts to rub against the conrods.  If you look where the conrods emerge from the crankcase, you can see the semicircular scoop out of the nearest rod.  This filled the oil galleries with fine aluminium powder, with the inevitable result.  You can see the damage to the farside piston crown and rings.  The engine wasn't worth rebuilding but fortunately, I managed to buy an engine from a wrecked bike for 10 quid!  That ran reliably for the rest of the time I owned it.

 Thoroughly knackered Tiger 100 motor

This photo was taken in 1972 at Hildenborough in Kent, UK.  Signing the register in church after our wedding.  As well as being the start of a very happy 48 years together this year, the photo brought back a couple of other memories!  I might be smiling but I spent the wedding eve until dawn talking down the big white telephone (chucking up in the toilet).  Not due to alcohol, but a bug that Jennie's sister's family had contracted.  No-one in the entire congregation was spared over the next few days.  The other memory is of the vicar.  He subsequently ran off with a parishioner's wife, thereby demonstrating his flexible interpretation of christianity; at least the coveting bit!

Young and carefree

This photo was taken in 1977, becoming a Dad for the first time.  Lyndon was born the previous year at the time when long(ish) hair and moustaches were considered the height of fashion .  Cotton shirt without a collar and flared sleeves, hippy-style.

Fashion trendsetter and first time dad

Moving onto 1984 (or thereabouts), hair was shorter and I was pretty fit on account of sailing at a national level, competing in a Paper Tiger catamaran (a bit like Hobie cats, only with centreboards).  Those were the days when wearing short shorts was socially acceptable!  Pictured here with daughter Victoria.  In what seems like the blink of an eye, she's now a Senior Psychologist for the Justice Dept in Melbourne, Australia.  Where did the time go????

Down at a local lake

For a number of reasons, not the least because of rediscovering motorcycling, I stopped sailing at a national level in 1987, bought myself a Laser and just competed at club level.  After winning the club champs in three successive seasons, I finally stopped sailing in 1990, when this photo was taken.

The international Laser dinghy

In 1991, Jennie and Victoria flew back to the UK to attend a family wedding - Victoria was a bridesmaid.  Just love this photo with the silk dress and floral hoop.  We still have the hoop although admittedly, the flowers are rather moth-eaten!

Gets her looks and intelligence from her mother

In 1995 or thereabouts, I wanted to teach our eldest son to ride and acquired an unregistered Suzuki TS 100 as is, where is for $50.  This bike's claim to fame was that for a drunken bet, it had been ridden off the wharf at full tilt into Ohiwa Harbour, Evel Knievel style.  It had then been unceremoniously dumped in the corner of the owner's shed for a year.  It was in remarkably good condition considering and after a superficial strip and clean, ran perfectly.  The photo was taken on its first outing along a firebreak of our company forest.  I actually enjoyed riding it more than the Yamaha IT 175 which I bought to accompany him on.

Yours truly on the Suzuki TS 100

Moving on to 1996, Lyndon owned a 1980-something Suzuki X7 road bike so that he could get his full licence.  I bought it off a mate at work and it was an absolute joy to ride.  Another workmate subsequently bought it and although it hasn't been ridden for well over 10 years, I still know where it is.  It would be fun to restore it but time and enthusiasm are the problems.

Lyndon and his Suzuki X7

In 1997 (I think!), Lyndon became the first of our 3 kids to graduate.  Here he is outside the registry building at Otago University with his proud parents the day after the capping ceremony.  He spent his first 2 years at Knox College, which had dining and other traditions similar to Oxford or Cambridge (or Hogwarts, if you prefer!). He then completed his second degree in Auckland and along with his siblings, keeping his parents perennially poor.

Proud parents with Lyndon

The late 90's also saw a visit to NZ by my godmother and her 2 daughters Linda and June.  It was so much fun showing them about and one of my highlights was taking both Linda and June out on my BMW K100 RS and doing "The Ton" (100 mph) as it was something neither had ever done.  Motto?  Never grow up! 

Linda on the K100RS

In 2001, the last of our kids started university.  With no more ferrying of kids to sporting events etc at weekends, Jennie celebrated by buying her first MX5.  British Racing Green of course with unbelievably light Panasport competition mag wheels.  We spent a month touring the south island in it that year and the weather was so good that we only had the soft top raised on 2 half-days!  The trip was also memorable because in a remote camping ground on the west coast, we bumped into one of my old UK school school masters who I last saw in 1964.  Small world!

Hot chick with new toy

The last of the current crop of scans was taken in 2002/3.  Our younger son Kerryn had just graduated from Massey University with honours, Bachelor of Technology.  This was one of the expensive official photos.  Jennie always looks a million dollars but I thought I scrubbed up ok for the occasion too!

Another proud parent photo

Roll on normality!