Thursday, September 20, 2018

Run to the Sun

Between the MOT and heading off to the Bol D'Or (a 24 hour endurance bike race, in the South of France) with Gibbo and his restored/rebuilt 40 years old Yamaha XS 250, I took the bike on a Pegaso meet in Wales. During the two days I did over 400 miles, and the bike never missed a beat.

After that there was just the hassle of fixing the high beam (tank off, hunt for poor connection) and refitting the panniers. I had to take an angle grinder to the foot peg to get a seized bolt out to enable me to fit the panniers though.

Gibbo and I had given ourselves 5 days to get to the south of France, once in France we had no intention of using the auto-routes at all. With a week to go, Gibbo was still trying to get the carbs right and trying to make sure the front brake did not bind.

We mere days to spare his XS250 was ready to roll.

Our first day was a long one, distance and time. On the road for 09:00 and a Dover ferry target of 16:30 (about 300 miles). All UK motorway. At least traveling so slow (60-70MPH ) helped me return a decent MPG.

Gibbo's wife, Rachel, was following in the support car (a Chrysler Voyager) that could fit his bike into if required. We were both amused that we got on the targeted ferry, but she missed it.

Then an end of the day blast down the D roads to St Omer, trying to get to the hotel before dark as Gibbo did not trust his charging system and did not want to turn the lights on.

We plotted our route each day by selecting a target town, and asking Google for a no toll, no motorway route. Although slow going we went through some fantastic villages and back roads as we skipped down the east side of France and headed to the Beaune wine region, then on into the Alps.

I'd love to say we had no mishaps or problems along the way,  but that would be too far fetched. 

As Gibbo and I negotiated one of my wrong turns, through Reims, I caught sight of him flashing his lights at me. I knew that meant something serious was up as he would not chance that with his electric system otherwise.

His front brake had seized solid.

We pulled over next to the canal at set to work. Obviously the best solution was to remove the pads. Except they were gripping tighter than a camel giving a blow job.
But with the use of my camping rubber mallet, held together with gorilla tape, we forced the bugger out, and removed the pads, before refitting the caliper.

Then we tie clipped a crate strap, I have a lot if these, between his brake lever and bars, to prevent popping the cylinder out accidentally.

Sorted, we then had lovely 40k evening bimble across the champagne region.

An evenings bashing with a lump hammer, and the piston was back where is should be. The following morning Gibbo refitted the pads and we were on our way again.
And that was the biggest issue we faced on the way down, apart from the support car breaking down as it entered the camp site south of Grenoble, blocking the entrance gates so the 4 bikers behind then had to help push it out of the way.


After more twisty, bendy, roads offered up by Google we finally arrived at the race circuit. Set up my tent (Gibbo was Glamping it with Rachel in a Cabin).
 And did a beer run. My panniers were not large enough !

 I only lasted the one night on the race track site, I can understand people are in party mode but they were bouncing their engines off the rev limiters *ALL* night. Gibbo and Rach had a spare room in the cabin, so I joined them for the rest of the weekend. At least the motorbike Gendarmes there keep people under control, when the revving got too load and too late they let rip with their sirens and that was enough to shut everyone up. Bliss.

Gibbo had two encounters with the police while there, one was a telling off for not wearing his gloves as we went back for the start of the 24 hour race (he was sent back to the camp to collect them), it has been law since Jan 1st 2018 that all riders and pillions must wear CE approved gloves.

Later that day, back at the cabin, a Gendarme walked up and said; "We have to ask" pointing at the bike "did you bring trailer ?".

When he replied "No", the man shook his head and said "crazy, you are crazy". Gibbo's smile nearly split his face,

Obligatory night race shot ....

And that was it, apart from getting home.

I abandoned them on the Sunday morning, not bothering to wait for the race to finish (hey it was never about the race, just the ride). Gibbo and Rach were going back via Milleau and then Brittany, I was heading back to prepare for work.

Ten days round trip, 2000 miles (give or take a few). Blazing sun every day. Not a bad mid September.

By now you will have noticed something missing from this tale,  the bastard breaking down. As it turns out it was the most reliable vehicle. My plan to strip the radiator off it and fit it to Peg one (Jean's original) is on hold and I will use it this winter. Just to add a few more miles to the 85,000 it has done.

Finally, here is how you know summer has ended.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Project Resurrection

You can't keep a good bike down.

All it took was a suggestion from a friend, doesn't it always with me ? Just plant a daft idea and I go with it.

Back in 2001 we went to the Bol d'or 24 hour endurance race (at Magny Cours, France) as part of a group riding SOBs (Shite Old Bikes). This was organised by a journalist friend and would later appear as a magazine article in Motorcycle Mechanics.

Back then I was on a GS550, Gibbo was riding a XS250 (in spray can gold). It was the star of the show.

He is nearing his restoration of the XS250, and as a target has decided it would be a good idea to ride it to the Bol again, except this time it is back in its proper home at the Paul Ricard circuit, near Marseilles.

The "Bastard" has languished in the back of the garage, minus the parts used to rescue Jean's bike in Russia and various other parts that have been relocated to the other two Pegs. In some cases I had bought new replacements but never fitted them.

The radiator was my major issue, having been sent to Russia. I did actually have a spare, slightly leaky, the one that started leaking for me Kyrgyzstan and dripped all the way home, but was now minus an expansion tank. Fortunately another radiator became available on Ebay, with coolant tank.

A scrabble around the garage, to find all the bits needed to put the bike together, took 2 days. Then a further 2 days fitting them all and checking the bike over.

Finally I added a new spark plug, got to treat the bike sometimes, hooked up Jean's bike with the jump leads (battery was beyond redemption) and despite the petrol having sat in the tank for nearly 2 years the bastard fired on the 2nd press.

A bit more tinkering, then the shakedown run, to the MOT, which it sailed through. But I don't call her the Bastard without reason. It promptly returned to form and by the time I had returned home, the high beam was no longer working.

Another sunny day will see the lights checked out, a broken wire or a relay. Then I just need to change the very worn rear tyre for the not so worn one in the back of the garage and decide if a new chain is needed or not.

I just need Gibbo to finish putting his XS250 together now.