Category Archives: Garage stuff

Like catching fish in a barrel

a small purple magnet is looped onto the end of a wire and has attracted a number of small iron shavings.There should be a gin at my right hand but I’m keeping it tea at the moment so there’s a mug of Tetley’s finest in a lovely autumnal orange mug from Aldi.

Why should there be a gin? Because I have spent the day crouched over the W650’s crankcase removing swarf from the inside, and it has gone Quite Well.

It shouldn’t be there, but then the barrels should come off without the need to recruit a firm of specialists with a big hammer. They had to drill things free and as a consequence there are little shavings everywhere.

And I’m picking them out, one by one. 

There are other things I will be doing later, like flushing the case out and changing the oil as often as I can afford, but it seems to me that the more tiny crunchy bits I can remove now, the better these other options will work.

I’m a child of the 70s and we had to amuse ourselves in ways that didn’t involve electronics. One game I remember involved magnets on strings, cut-out fish with paper clip noses, and a cardboard “tank” which you fished inside without peeking. The long winter nights simply flew by…. but my magnet-fishing skills have turned out to be an excellent foundation for several hours this afternoon with a small magnet on a wire.

Even better, it didn’t fall off the wire and disappear in the bottom of the crankcase, which I’d placed a 50/50 bet on. 

It’s less than ideal and I’m sure I won’t get all the flakes out, but there are very few examples of people successfully getting those barrels off thanks to Kawasaki’s decision to have four of the retaining bolts run outside the engine and rust into immobility.  I found one person discussing it online and he said he’d had to destroy the barrels to get them off. As replacements are £1,000 (or “one set of Africa Twin wheels”) I’m just glad the workshop got them off. 

More fishing tomorrow. Perhaps a squad of handsome Norwegians will turn up to make sure I’m not going over my quota. 

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No, no new tyres for you

I would have bought the Africa Twin some new tyres about 4 weeks ago but some scrotes decided to nick the wheels off my pushbike when it was unattended at my local railway station. So the £250 quid that would have been invested in new rubber went on replacing the stolen wheels and I took the AT very tentatively and gently north to a camping weekend with the promise that we’d get new rubber as soon as the next payday rolled around.

Well, that’s today. So I took the bike up to Wheelhouse Tyres, my local excellent tyre place. Last night I took all the plastics off the front forks because that had caused some bafflement when I had taken 2Moos for new tyres in Cambridgeshire. (It does puzzle me that slapdash places think you won’t notice when they’ve put your bike back together wrong. There were some significant howls of protest when I stood over them in the workshop to show them how to do it correctly.) Dropped the bike off, went to buy some Rokstraps from the shop on the same site.

Man in overalls approaches. “We can’t put your new tyre on.” The inside of both the front and back rims is corroded away to the point where it’s not safe to go back on the road.

Old ATs are prone to this but I suspect a vendor would react badly if you asked to take a tyre off to check the inside of the rim.

So no new tyres for me. The bike is still there, while Central Wheel see if they can source a rear rim for me. I was very fortunate that Platonic Road Companion is on lates this week so could come and pick me up.

It feels like I am in some psychological experiment to see how much distress one person can take before she folds like a 2CV chassis. 300 quid for the tyres, plus rims (if they can be found) plus spokes and wheel-building – well, that’s going to be a grand, minumum, isn’t it.

The 2CV is in the rented lock-up until I can invest £3,000 in a chassis replacement.

The W650 outfit is off the road until I can get 4 rusty cylinder head bolts out. Have been applying penetrating oil for a month, and getting nowhere

I have the Triumph with no Name and a pushbike. I pray daily that nothing happens to either of these.

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Eye eye!

At the risk of tempting fate again, it seems we are in the fine-tuning stages of the Big K (swiftly touches wood just in case).

I’ve rotated the cow-horn bars a smidge (that’s more than a baw-hair but less than a tad, for those who were wondering) and can now see behind me in the mirrors, which is progress.

I’ve fettled the front brake caliper and fitted a power cable for the sat-nav.

This was all in aid of heading north yesterday for what would have been our first camping trip.

But last Friday, the last day of our compulsory-bonus-post-Easter-annual-leave, after my happy day in the garage doing all these little tweaks, I suddenly felt like I’d been kicked in the kidneys and had to take to my bed for a week.

So no camping. But the goal remains plenty of touring miles this year and that means sometimes it is going to rain.

In the Lomax the Wingman and I had a well-developed system where I put bike waterproofs on and he huddled under his half of the tonneau cover. I needed a similar plan for keeping him dry in the chair.

The Velorex came with a pram hood that didn’t quite fit, so I consulted David Angel and after following his instructions it fit a bit better but one of the grommets pulled out of the material and a couple of the others looked a bit sketchy.

This Would Not Do.

One of the lessons I learnt from the Proprietor of the Northern Rest Home for Distressed Machinery is, if in doubt, go heavy-duty.

I bought a set of stainless steel, fanged, 5/8 grommets from J Clarke Marine – great website, easy to order, usually turn up the next day. But while the pack of grommets was about a fiver, the Special Tool to fit them was 70 quid.

“Look for a cover maker or a sail maker near you,” said the helpful chap on the phone. Three times, because I was caught out by his splendid brogue and failed to tune in quickly enough. Sorry.

I emailed a few likely candidates, and P and B in Northampton came up trumps. A young man with a big hammer interrupted something important with sails to knock them in for me for less than the price of a pint.

I fear I am not likely to ever be an actual customer of theirs but if you are a sailing type, do please consider giving them some of your business. They seem like good people.

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If it was easy, lawyers would do it

It’s fair to say that not everything has gone to plan with the W650 coronavirus special. Back in May I posted, with foolish bravado, that the only job left was to patch up the seat covers.

Oh, how the gods laughed. Here’s the current state of play.

I went to buy a rear mudguard and a bike seat off a chap who had found them surplus to his requirements for the W650-based bobber he was building, and on the way back I went to see Ken-who-knows-everything to ask if he could see why there was an unpleasant sounding clunk at low speeds.

Because the joints were loose, that’s why.

In a puzzling achievement, the joints holding the chair to the bike were both welded and loose. So it all had to come off.

The good news is that, contrary to Ken’s worst fears, nothing is actually cracked. So the tasks have been dismantling, de-rusting, taking off the now-surplus welds, and deciding how to reattach the eyebolts so they don’t work loose again.

Also painting.

I don’t know a huge amount about attaching sidecars but I’m lucky enough to know a few men that do. We’re currently debating how best to attach the upper rear mount – I want it a bit further back than it had been to improve the triangulation. (See, it’s almost as though I know what I’m doing).

In theory, setting up a chair is straightforward.

But then everything is, in theory.

I have the advantage now that I know what a well-set-up rig should handle like. So once we have reached consensus on where the eyebolts are going to go I am going to bravely attache the chassis, set the toe-in, the lead and the lean-out, and see how we do.

By this time it will be 2021 and the dog will probably be in Valhalla, but it’s good to have a project.

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Lockdown diaries

We’re now in the 6th week of coronavirus lockdown. I spent two of those flat out with something that may or may not have been Covid-19 but as the UK wasn’t doing widespread testing then I won’t know unless and until antibody tests become available.

Petrol is still cheap, the roads are still quiet and the sun is still shining.

I chafe against the restrictions but I abide by them.

What do we do when we can’t ride bikes? We can look back at previous rides, and I had a lot of fun at the weekend doing #lockdownlejog on twitter revisiting some memories from the 2008 Six Points Ride, the 2010 Lifeboats Ride and the 2011 Air Ambo ride.

I have always thought I had a bad memory but it turns out that’s not really true, I have moments of absolute clarity. I can remember as if it was yesterday rolling into Devizes camp site in 2011 to be greeted by Biker Paul say showered in cherry blossom and looking like Huey from the Fun Lovin Criminals. Or in 2008, roaming Dingwall looking for a dinner and meeting a tweedy lady weeding a flower display.

“Where’s a good place to eat in Dingwall?”

“At home,” she said.

She may have been right but we went to the National Hotel and had a dinner that couldn’t be beat. So much so that it became tradition and we went there again in 2010 and 2011.

And we can fix bikes. I have installed the TS150 I bought to commute on a week before we were all sent to work from home into the sun room and look forward to getting it into good shape, should we ever be allowed out again.

 

 

 

 

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I didn’t need those knuckles anyway – Kawasaki W650 air box refit

What does the modern woman do on the extra day that science has gifted us to keep the calendar in order? Well, I did offer to propose but no-one was available so I ended up doing what I do every other weekend of the winter – wrestling with a rusty heap in the garage.

I pine for the days when I lived in a house with an integral garage that housed the boiler and a radiator. That was the first year I rebuilt the Lomax and it was not only warm and comfortable, it opened onto the kitchen so top-up brews were only a few feet away.

Now I live in a house with a concrete sectional garage at the bottom of the garden that lets a lot of water in under the door. I need to buy a rubber threshold seal but I also need it to stop raining long enough to let the glue set so that one’s parked until spring.  A bit like the bikes…

What’s the task in hand? I have a Kawasaki W650 and sidecar previously owned by one of my very best friends. He converted it to pod filters but I’m a traditionalist and I do like things to be stock so I thought I would convert it back thanks to a fortuitous find of a complete air box on Italian eBay.

It arrived a few weeks before Christmas and a few days before Christmas I took a closer look, psyching myself up to get stuck in after Boxing Day.

Not quite complete after all.

Missing – one 8-inch long plastic rod. That has to come from Japan, about three weeks after you ask for it. And if you have a bike on which someone has removed the Kawasaki Clean Air system then you need a 50p rubber bung for the hole in the top. So I ordered a rod and a bung and some new seals and some clips and a side order of patience.

There are some good resources about how to remove the air box – and I’m going to give a shout-out here to Captain Jake’s brilliant photo guide. Note this small, helpful sentence

“As you wiggle the airbox back into place, you’ll have to mush the rubber cone to get it around the air horn of the carburetor. I started mine with one finger.”

Worst. Job. Ever.

I started on the right hand side at the end of January. The right-hand half of the airbox butts up hard against the battery carrier, so you can’t ease it rearwards to make room. And when you push the box into place, half the horn gets caught inside the carb.

I soaked the rubber horn in hot water. I applied red rubber grease. I applied washing up liquid. I soaked it in hot water again because it’s cold in the garage and the effects wore off pretty quick. I modified a plastic picnic knife from IKEA to try and hook the folded side out over the bellmouth.

I undid the clips on the carbs to try and shove them towards the bars a little. I tried to evolve an extra hand and a couple more thumbs.

I had more tea.

And then at the hundredth attempt the rubber squished in without folding under and all I had to do (hollow laugh) was squish it onto the end of the carb.

Victory was mine.

Rinse and repeat…..

Here’s the game for the left hand side. You’ve got to do it sitting in the sidecar. You’ve got to slide the left-hand box over the two plastic rods, that you now know take at least three weeks to come from Japan so you DO NOT WANT to fucking break them. And the rubber on this side is rock hard with age. Yes, you could order a new one from the very lovely chaps at Cradley Heath Kawasaki but spring is coming and you just want this job done.

Wiggle the box over the rods, get the rubber stuck. Wiggle the box off the rods. Wiggle the box on the rods, get the rubber stuck.

Get the butter knife and the washing up liquid.

Get the hair dryer.

It reminded me of two things. The first time I tried to replace the driveshaft rubbers on the 2CV, and disappointing sex. Every time – it would almost, almost go into the right place and then just slip away.

The answer to “how do I get a rubber gaiter onto a 2CV driveshaft?” turned out to be “put a pointy cap from a roll-on deodorant over the end of the driveshaft to give the rubber something to slip over.” And the answer to “how do I get the bastard rubber bastard over the bastard carburettor end without the bastard getting bastard stuck” turned out to be “cover the end of the carb with a piece of plastic cut from a milk bottle until you’ve past the danger point and then pull it out slowly.”

So now you know.

 

 

 

 

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Hammer to fall – auction house brucie bonus!

I don’t get lucky very often. And sometimes I take decisions that don’t quite work out. I put some absentee bids in at an auction about 90 miles away from home because I wanted the MZ ES150 they were selling and fancied my chances. And it would have made sense to make a 180 mile round trip to pick up a motorcycle and a box of random shite.

So when they emailed to say the bike had been withdrawn from auction I should have nixed all the other bids too.

Forgot.

On the Monday after the auction they called to tell me I was the fortunate winner of a box of studs and bolts.

Arse.

So I went to get it, because a winning bid is a contract, and I met up with BikerPaul for tea and crumpet on the way home, so it wasn’t a total wreck of a day, but by the time the petrol had been included and the tax and fees it was a 50 quid box of bolts.

In the evening I finally had a look to weigh up the true extent of my folly and among the stainless studs there was a shiny silver lining – a Sheffield steel Moore and Wright vernier caliper. Now I know you can buy digital ones for about 7 quid but it looks like this style sells for more like 70.

It was rusted solid, of course, but that’s only a matter of patience and penetrating oil.

And there’s something rewarding about bringing old tools back to life. I don’t know whose garage was being sold off in lots but I hope they will be happy for their calipers to make MZs run better.

22 Feb 2020

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Barrels round

If it’s spring I must be taking my engine apart. I knew when I bought the MZ that it was going to need some work but that doesn’t make it any easier when it splutters to a halt and leaves me and the Wingman standing like lemons at the side of the road.

Last weekend we were supposed to be making our MZ rally debut at Wainfleet brewery in Lincolnshire. MZ Steve gave up a Sunday to help fix my wiring so I could get an MOT. Even more nobly, Mrs MZ Steve gave up her Sunday to do the driving and spent the day sat in my front room with her crochet.

We had arranged to RV at the Little Chef at Thrapston but I only made it about 20 miles from home, when I slowed down for a junction, and the engine just carried on slowing to a stop.

Now, it had been doing this before and I swopped the fuel cap with the blocked breather for one without a blocked breather and hoped that had solved the problem.

No chance, said the god of engine problems.

Two sorts of people stop when you are broken down by the side of the road. Well-meaning ones, who ask ‘are you OK?’ but don’t really have anything to contribute other than moral support, and really useful ones. A young woman stepped up jiggling a baby. ‘Are you OK? Do you need any tools? It’s just my husband and I restore vintage Lambrettas…”

It turned out I needed an allen key because – and I can’t remember why I had taken the lid off the carb – I’d managed to ping the throttle cable free.

By the time I’d got the cable attached to the slider again the engine seemed happy to start and I had a choice.

Stick or twist?
A sensible person would have recognised that whatever the problem was, it had returned and Lincolnshire was not going to be reached.

A sensible person wouldn’t own an MZ. We got as far as the slip road to the A14 when it went again. Fortunately this wasn’t a busy junction and there was a safe place to wait. After half an hour the engine ran well enough to get us back to the nearby truck stop but only just. A helpful trucker pushed us up to the caff where I consoled the Wingman with sausages from my all-day-breakfast and admitted defeat. The A14 is not a good road to break down on as it’s very fast and has no hard shoulder. We would turn around.

Changed the plug, that seemed to help, for a short while. Got to within 5 miles of home, had to call my rescue people. By the time they arrived, the bike started so of course they didn’t put me in the back. I got to within 2 miles of home and had to call them again. But by now it was rush hour and it took a Very Long Time. And I had stopped in the middle of 6 lanes of traffic which wasn’t cool.

And then they told me that dogs aren’t normally allowed inside cabs any more and they are supposed to wait in the vehicle being rescued. They looked at a distressed and trembling Wingman and agreed that no, he could not be expected to sit in an open sidecar on the back of a low-loader. But it’s just one more example of a world designed for cars and it worries me a lot. Allergies, apparently.

I had left the house at 10.30 and got back at half past 6. On the roll of honour – the lady with the baby and the allen keys, the trucker who gave us a push to breakfast, the helpful chap who told me the postcode of the factory car park where I was waiting for the first truck, and the lady jogger who helped push me out of the traffic to a place of safety so I could wait for the second without dying. And Steve, who said ‘come tomorrow in the car.’

So I went to the rally in the car and had a lovely time and all the boys debated what the problem was with my engine.

The problem with 2 strokes is that everything influences everything else, and deduction turns into the Battle of Wits from the Princes Bride – is the choke sticking slightly on? then the engine is running too rich, which might end up in overheating because more fuel means less oil. But the tank is full of flakes of rust, so I clearly can not count on over-fuelling and perhaps the engine is running lean. Which might end up in over-heating because if there is not enough petrol going through then there is not enough oil either. So I can clearly not assume that it is overheating and it must be some other problem.

So I have been doing what I should have done in the first place, which is to take the tank off, clean out the shite, take the carb off, check all the jets and the float, and while I’ve done that I might as well take the barrel off and change the small end bearing in case that’s the source of the worrying ticking noise that could be the count-down to an engine failure.

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Fail again. Fail better.

1e147592ceaa016531cb2bc55dd6e6b1This week has been a frustrating lesson in the importance of starting again. I’m trying to make a dog sweater for the Wingman so that he is toasty in the sidecar when we go to our first MZ Rally at the end of the month.

It’s pretty complicated but I hadn’t expected to be on my third start with it. I’m new to cable knitting but not so new that I can’t see when something has gone horribly wrong.

Much like my MZ exhaust. I had three jobs this weekend – change the spark plug, in case it’s the source of the odd ticking. refit my lovely round front wheel with its lovely (newish) flat brake disc, and find out why the exhaust is leaking from the head. (Spoiler alert – because it wasn’t tight enough).

Now it turns out that, like the question ‘what’s the best oil ratio?’ exhausts can start a fight in a room of 2-stroke enthusiasts.  Some people like to put a big copper ring in between the downpipe and the barrell. Other people don’t. My downpipe is quite wobbly and it turns out I have a bent flange. (Yes, I will go and see a doctor…) So in went the ring.

There are only three clamps on an MZ exhaust – one at the front, one at the back, and one in the middle. With the other two in place, the middle one was about an inch shy of where it should be. Clearly I had fucked up.

I consulted.

It sort of went on.

I checked back in on my post in the MZ Riders Club Facebook, where helpful chaps look after this numpty woman.

“It’s upside down,” said Andy.

Damn. Of course the rule is that before you take anything off you take a photo of it so you know what it looked like but I forgot.

So I have started again. Again.

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Unwinding

52033885_2304492933129234_7908322633584738304_oSpring has arrived, stealthily. Much like the dog, who sidled up while I was admiring the crocuses which were my clue that winter is coming to an end, and widdled on them.

Two weeks ago I tried to take the outfit on an excursion to the Long Itch Diner and had to turn back in misery. Not only because of my freezing fingers but because the front brake was about as effective as a Tory Brexit minister, and because something weird was going on with the throttle – it felt like a constant battle to hold it open. Maybe the perished, rock hard rubber? Maybe something else.

Once the flu had buggered off, I put the heater on in the garage, for it was still winter last weekend, and got stuck in.

The grips that came from a well-known overseas MZ provider were disappointing. The non-throttle side was too big, and flopped about aimlessly. The throttle grip was too short, and like the party dress I bought when I was 17, could either cover the top or the bottom but not both.

So I went to the shop. My nearest motorcycle emporium is a dirt bike place staffed by gnarly youth, none of whom were familiar with the glories of Eastern Bloc bike design. The Renthals wouldn’t do, they were far too narrow inside. But a set of Oxford Fat Grips looked most promising. Back in the garage, the clutch side went on beautifully. The throttle side required significant amounts of lubricant, a hairdryer, a broom handle and a great deal of huffing and puffing. Much like me trying to get that dress on in 1987.

But I digress.

Saturday was a sunny day and it was time to voyage further than the local park, so we went ten miles to the park in the town where the Posh live and dogs are called things like Harvey and Brian. We met rather more pugs and rather fewer Staffies than we normally see, and no-one took the Wingman’s picture in his sidecar. I think his lack of Boden clothing rendered him invisible.

All was well. The new grips were decadently squishy. The throttle stopped fighting back and stayed where I wanted it. But on turning for home the front wheel was unhelpfully wobbly. A quick inspection revealed just about every single spoke loose to the touch – but also seized solid. Helpful.

Patience is not among my virtues. But in the face of an array of stiff nipples (sorry, anyone who is googling this term and not expecting a blog post about motorcycle mechanics) all you can do is apply the penetrating oil (oh dear, it’s not getting any better, is it!), have a cup of tea, take a firm grip and wiggle the spoke key back and forward until something gives.

And like the crocuses, and the warm spring sun, nothing happens for ever, until quietly with no warning the key turns, the spoke tightens up, and the wheel comes back into stability.

On Sunday we completed our voyage to the diner. Two weeks late but much improved.

Onwards.

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