Category Archives: MZ

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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Filed under Garage stuff, MZ

There is a light that never goes out…

For some reason unknown to Western capitalist running dogs, you can take the keys out of an MZ but leave the lights on. So a few weeks ago when I was in a rush to get to a meeting at work I accidentally did this and came back to a flat battery.

Put the Optimate on it in the garage, came back a few weeks later (I know, but it was winter and I’ve done my time riding in the cold and the wet) and it was flat again. So I brought it into the kitchen (the battery, not the bike) and put it on the car charger.

Built its strength back up, put it back on the bike, this time it held its charge but the red light that warns you that your revs are too puny to run the system wouldn’t go out.

I treated the bike to a new battery just in case.

Thanks, said the bike, but I’m just going to carry on with the warning light.

Now, it seems to me that you should be able to run a bike with a flat battery even if you can’t start it, but it’s different for MZs. In a rare burst of good luck, the new battery had just enough juice in it to get back to the garage and I thought I would see if the headlights brightened when I revved the engine, because I have a vague memory of that revealing whether or not your charging system was shot.

Turned the lights on and the engine stopped.

Yes, we have a problem.

My grasp of electrics is about the same as the Wingman’s grasp of particle physics. I know that a circuit has to go power – switch – component – earth, though sometimes on the MZ it goes power – component – switch – earth. If the circuit isn’t working you have to check that the fuse isn’t blown, that the wires aren’t broken, and that the thing that is supposed to be working isn’t borked.

If that’s a light it’s easy. If it’s a thing with six diodes on it, not so much.

What a man can do, remember?

I have a multimeter, a wiring diagram and the might of motorcycle Twitter behind me.

How to keep your Volkswagen Alive For Ever” recommends that before starting a new task you should grok the scene. Robert Heinlein is rather out of favour these days, but that’s no reason not to take the advice.

The charging circuit includes the battery, the generator, the regulator and the rectifier. The regulator and the rectifier are under the seat. Like Ant and Dec, one of them has a large shiny dome and I’m never quite sure which is which.

The Blue Book has three pages of instructions on what to test if you’ve got a red light that won’t go out. The Haynes manual has the same but their tests require you to “unsolder” several components – I have a soldering iron but not an unsoldering one, so I am not keen on this!. The Blue Book’s tests just need a bulb and crocodile clips. And by fortunate chance (and an afternoon in a Trabant graveyard having my leg humped by a Jack Russell) I have an actual IFA test lamp. I dig this out in the hope that the bike will feel more inclined to co-operate with the testing equipment of its people.

Electrical fault-finding needs ample supplies of tea, a good desk lamp and a notebook. I’m trying to learn to love it as it’s nice to do some work on the bike that doesn’t leave me clarted with shite or bleeding.

I got to play with my brucie bonus caliper, which would have been better if I’d remembered how to read the vernier scale and hadn’t had to resort to just putting the brush on top of the ruler part to make sure it was longer than 9mm (dear reader, it was.)

I got to refresh several fuses (never mind stockpiling bog roll, I’m going to have to clear Halfords out of 15amp blade fuses if this needs doing again).

Apart from me short-circuiting things several times, nothing actually seemed to be broken.

And then it just started working again. Wiggling the Regulator (or Rectifier) about resolved some sort of earthing problem and that was us.

I’m a great believer in quitting while I’m ahead. Yes, it would be good to understand a bit more about what was wrong and why it’s not wrong any more but I’ll just make sure I’ve put the Communist Test Lamp into the tool kit and keep a scan of the test pages on my phone

Hasta la Victoria Siempre! ( to mix my marxist metaphors).

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Acts of Kindness

It occasionally troubles me that I seem to need more looking after than a normal person. I do try to be self-sufficient, mainly because the Wingman lacks opposable thumbs and is rubbish at holding ladders, but when things go wrong I sigh, I dry my tears and then, incurring the wrath of all the efficient and effective women in the world, I ask a man for help.

Sometimes it’s even a man I know, though one of my more narrow escapes was when I had to flag a passing driver down to help me pick my Africa Twin up off the garage floor and he was most concerned that I should take his phone number and that he should come back on his way home from work to make sure I hadn’t dropped the bike again.

It’s World Kindness Day today. I’m not a very kind person. In fact I’ve recently been declared the most offensive woman someone has met in 50 years of rallying. But I do know lots of kind people and so I thought I would tell you about all the people who have helped me cure the MZ of all his various ailments. But that’s more stories than will fit in one post. So here’s just one of them…

Back in September I loaded up the tent and the dog and set off to Yorkshire for the MZ Riders Club Pheasant Camp. I didn’t get any further than Hayfield on the Friday because the bike stopped running in the rain, but that was OK because Hayfield has a brilliant camp site with a pub within the Wingman’s event horizon so we took an early bath and dried out in The Sportsman. Yorkshire was achieved the following day, and we had a lovely week trundling about, apart from the days it rained solidly which is a bit rubbish when you are stuck in a small tent with a wobbly dog.

While sitting in Middleton-in-Teesdale waiting for a bicycle race to come through I realised my lovely new whitewall tyre had stripped all of its tread. This was Not Good. I’d bought it in July because the previous tyre also had no tread in the centre. To have one bald tyre could be old age but to make another bald in about 200 miles of gentle 2-stroking – well, that wasn’t good news.

Yes, said the wisdom of the Fed. This is probably a set-up problem. They said things like “My narrow car is .5 toe in level sidecar frame and wheel at 90deg until I lean bike out 3 degrees then the sidecar frame has .187 to .250 rise on bike side so both cycles lean 3 degrees out and car tire ends up leaning opposite direction of m bike wheels the that’s done unweighted then when I sit on bike both my sidecars wheels are at 90 with only bike leaning away.” (It helps to read this in the voice of the recruiting sergeant from Alice’s Restaurant).

I needed a man who knew what that all meant. And by immense good fortune I knew one and he lives about 20 minutes from me.

Sure, said Matthew. Bring it along when you get home and I can look at it.

I didn’t much fancy 200 more miles on a bald tyre. But the north is a practical place and if you need a high-speed trailer tyre then the nearest garage will tell you where you can get one. After declining an invitation to swop the outfit for a Ducati Monster I sat with a cup of tea while a couple of highly efficient chaps refreshed my rubber, though in 20 minutes rather than an F1-style 4 handful of seconds.

And on a sunny Friday morning a week or so later, instead of setting out north for the Haggs Bank Adventure Bike Weekend I headed south for my induction into the mysteries of toe-in.

You need a washing line prop, a tape measure and a BFO hammer. You also need a lot of experience of setting up sidecars and a good eye.

It turned out to be only a one-cup problem.

The washing line prop and the tape measure revealed that my toe-in was immense – less camel toe, more moose knuckle. There was brief contemplation of removing the 8-inch wheel and fitting a big ten inch, but that escalated too quickly into needing to cut and weld the frame, so ambition was scaled back to deploying the BFO hammer to adjust the alignment so that the sidecar wheel was pointing in more-or-less the same direction as the bike.

It’s always a bit worrying watching someone take a hammer to your bike but the MZ is made of sterner stuff than me and raised no complaints. One quick lap of the village later to check for handing problems and we were done. I trundled home and Matthew got on with whatever he actually had planned for the day.

If you don’t have the good fortune to live near Matthew you can buy his book. And if you buy the book you will get to admire a picture of the Bishop illustrating one of the finer points of sidecar geometry.

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Filed under Introspection, MZ

Into the Valley*

It always adds a little something to a trip when you set off in the teeth of a Met Office “risk to life” warning. On their website the whole of England had been covered in a yellow puddle labelled “wind,” which isn’t great when you’re planning on camping.

I compromised. I spent Friday night in a curry house with a hot date (yes, further proof that the end times are upon us) and set out on Saturday morning, doing my best to time things so that the Wingman and I would emerge from under the rain cloud lightly drizzling on our home city and head to the Tern Valley Vintage Machinery Trust Annual Show under dry skies.

It nearly worked.

When I say nearly, we arrived in the sunshine but that was the first we had seen of it.

Now, I’m not a wimp about riding in the rain. My ability to charm water from a clear blue sky is in fact legendary. But it’s the Wingman, you see. He’s getting on a bit and getting rained on isn’t great for his arthritis. I have provided him with a screen but Bishop Brennan didn’t come with a tonneau cover or hood. So I wrapped him in his Scruffs thermal dog jacket, the one that makes him look like Emperor Palpatine, and tried to explain about lying down so only his nose got wet. And we duly trundled up Watling Street to Shropshire.

There is something uniquely lovely about heading to an event and knowing your friends are already there. The Wartburg-Trabant-IFA Club UK were representing not just with The World’s Worst Car (TM) but also a selection of Eastern Bloc scooters so Bishop Brennan needed to join the throng and fly the flag for MZs.

We even did a bit of evangelism among small children. I totally respect that many bikers don’t want the littlies clambering over their machines but the MZ has two advantages – it’s not going to topple over, thanks to the chair, and it’s pretty robust (or already battered to f***,  take your pick!). So when two small boys and their little sister ran up and looked hopeful I asked dad if they would like to sit in – or on! – and the grins on their faces made up for all the soggy miles.

And then two little girls proved once again that girls will rule the world once they realise their power.

“Can we go for a ride?”

Now, I’ve never taken human passengers so this was quite a step up. Mum and dad didn’t mind, they’d already been happy for the girls to have a lap of the field standing on the running boards of a Simson Schwalbe. So I loaded one in the chair and one on the seat and off we went.

It sounded like this:

“heeheeheehheeheeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheee”

“Can we go again?”

“heeheeheehheeheeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheee”

“Can we go again?”

“heeheeheehheeheeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheee”

“Can we go again?”

“heeheeheehheeheeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheeeheee”

“Can I hold the bars myself?”

Very briefly and in a straight line was the answer to that one!

These days we don’t have Kickstart on the telly to get kids into riding so we all have to do our bit. I think they enjoyed it…

 

 

 

*no, not the MAG one

 

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Welcome back to the age of jive!

It is time for a new tyre on the Wingman’s chair. It had a small tour of Warwickshire yesterday thanks to an erratic delivery person but got here safe in the end. Wasn’t expecting the white wall!

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Maybe a little too much adventure

There is a well-known joke about a man who owns no clock or wristwatch but does own a trombone.

“How do you find out what time it is,” asks his puzzled house guest.

“Hand it over and I’ll show you,” the man says, and starts to play.

“Who the fuck is playing the trombone at three in the morning?!” comes the cry through the wall.

I have always thought it a bit unrealistic. Until about two am on Sunday.

I know it’s a rally. Sleep isn’t everyone’s priority – there is no ‘eleven o’clock rule’ like the one which keeps the peace at Camping and Caravanning Club meets.  I had forgotten my earplugs so I made sure I got good and drunk the night before to give myself the best chance of oblivion. But I think it is Bad Form for the two-am-chatters to firstly pitch their tents all round mine about six inches away; and then to sit not in between two of their own tents but RIGHT IN FRONT OF MINE.

“It’s two in the fucking morning. Could you shut up?,” I asked politely, sticking my head out of my hemmed-in tent. There was humphing and grumping and a mutter of “Well I suppose it’s time to hit the sack,” and they shut up.

For three hours.

At five am, at least one of the party unzipped his tent and started packing up to go home. Cheerfully, loudly, and having banter with someone else who was up and about at the unholiest of morning hours.

I stuffed my ears with Johnson and Johnson wet wipes. They are good on stains but not great on the noises of pots rattling and a bike being packed. I huffed and puffed a bit in good British fashion.

And then I handed out the insults but hung back from getting out of the tent for fear of inflicting injury.  Hell hath no fury like a hungover woman woken up twice, and like the trombone player’s neighbour I bellowed “It’s five o’clock in the morning – are you having a FUCKING LAUGH?”

In fact I already knew they were having a fucking laugh because that’s one of the noises that woke me up.

Of course then they started trying to pack quietly which is even noisier than someone packing without a care in the world. I rearranged my erzatz earplugs, put my head under the pillow and tried to salvage another hour or so of rest, for at 5am the Jack Daniels would still be in the queue for liver processing.

Apart from my over-loud neighbours it had been a brilliant weekend.  Everyone in the MZ Riders Club says Carrog is the highlight of the rally season and it is in one of my favourite parts of Wales so I’ve had it booked in the calendar for ages. It is only about a hundred miles from my house so I went the long way to bag some Round Britain Rally landmarks on the way. I should have known it was going to be a trying day when I arrived at the first of them, a beautiful rural chapel, to find it was about to host a funeral. It is not easy to discreetly snap a photo on a two-stroke sidecar outfit when the dog likes to sing a little bike-starting song but I did my best.

LM-bagging completed I was peering at my map in the splendidly-named but difficult to pronounce Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain when a helpful Welsh chap talked me through the route I needed. The sat-nav was trying to punt me back onto the A5 up to Carrog, but on a beautiful sunny day with plenty of time in hand that would be dull. I wanted to go over the tops via Bala. All I needed to do was go back through the village, turn right at the pub, and head for Llanfechain, then Llanfillyn, then Llangynog, then Landrillo. No bother.

The sat-nav heard me ask for the quiet back roads and overshot. As we headed up the kind of goat tracks Biker Paul and I used to scare sheep on, I told myself that all was well, Bishop Brennan was coping, and we were fine even though the gap between the hedges was only just big enough for our wheels.

The roads got steeper and muddier, and the second thoughts got louder, and then we came round a corner to a lorry filling the road ahead, and started to slide gracefully back downhill on the mud towards the Landrover filling the road behind.

This was Not The Plan.

I switched the engine off to try and save the clutch and fishtailed to a halt broadside on with the tail of the chair in the hedge. Much like the Henchman in the first Austin Powers movie.

No bother – under the placid gazes of my motor-bound opposition I pointed the bike downhill, stared  the Landrover down until they started reversing, and tucked into a field entry to let them continue their ascent.

Tried again, ended up at the same junction.

Turned round, tried again, saw the same junction ahead and took the only other option, which was another goat track tucked in the folds between farmland.

Slowly the grass strip up the middle faded away, the tarmac got wider, and then we turned a corner and – joy unbounded – white paint down the centre line!  We had picked up the B4391 and it was plain sailing to the campsite.

Two months ago I was riding a bike that wouldn’t go 20 miles without dying. Apart from a brief lack of uphill traction, which was more to do with the mud in the road than anything to do with the bike, thanks to all my fettling it had coped with some really steep ascents, on a blazing hot day, with no bother at all. Forgive me for feeling bloody proud.

And how was the rally? Brilliant. Old friends re-met, twitter friends hugged in real life, and new friends made. And in a moment of splendid randomness, paths crossed with the wonderful Mark McArthur Christie who had set out to view the attractions of North Wales without realising this particular weekend they would include me,  an indomitable red motorcycle and a three-legged dog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under camping, Friends, MZ, Sidecar

Anticipation!

What do we do on the first weekend in July? Yes, it is a trick question because in recent years the answer has been ‘fix Lomaxes’ or ‘arrange to move 500 miles.’

But this year I am returning to the National Road Rally! I’ve done it solo many times, and at least once in tandem with Biker Paul, when we finished at the Ace Cafe, and in two weeks time I am part of an MZ team. Well, we’re not daft, it’s 2 MZs and one Honda. MZ Steve has worked out the route, and I will be bringing the Hairy Navigator.

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Counting

There’s one!
Nope.
But it’s got feathers, and a beak, and bony feet.
Nope. Still not counting it.
But….it’s saying ‘cluck’ and laying an egg.
I said no. We’re not counting chickens. Not yet.

There is a well-worn internet quote about madness being found in doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Thursday saw me doing the same things as I had the day I set out for Wainfleet and got brought home on a truck. Tent, Trangia and wash kit behind the seat. Clothes, food, and Wanted on Voyage in the nose. Sleeping bag lashed to the seat with my trust Helen2Wheels straps. Wingman in the chair, in his harness, singing his kickstart song which might be excitement or might be distress, it’s rather hard to tell.

We were heading for SALT 13, on the flat bits of the East coast the far side of Ipswich. But that was rather a long way away and we weren’t starting till the afternoon, as domestic chores like getting the 2CV her MOT and having a dispute with the neighbours about the position of their new fence posts delayed departure. So the first goal was a short hop to Cambridge, where there’s a rather nice camp site on the edge of the city centre, where we could pause and take stock.

It rained a bit. We voyaged cheerfully through the centre of Northampton, decided not to bother with Bedford, and nipped up a tiny bit of the M11 to reach Shelford. The outfit seemed to be shaking its head more than normal until I realised that it was just the headlight swaying to the beat of its own private drummer. Quick pause for tightening of nuts, then onto the trim green grass. Was that a faint cluck in the distance?

80 miles is no distance at all really – the man who brought me my first bike was found of saying “I could piss further than that” – but adventures don’t have to be huge to be significant. Barring the headlight, nothing fell off, the oil stayed where it was supposed to and the sun (mostly) shone. My back really hurt, though. Which is strange because I count myself fairly fit at the moment – I cycle 12 miles a day, which has given me thighs you could crack concrete on. But I’m not bike fit, and I was glad to call it a day.

One of the best things about the Cambridge Club Site is its book exchange. It’s Cambridge, so finding a book on the Bader Meinhof gang on the shelf shoudn’t come as a surprise. I nabbed that, and three others – a late Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich (don’t bother, she’s just phoning them in now); a children’s book by Eva Ibbotson which had an intrepid governess and a happy ending; and Bill Bryson’s latest which seems to have jumped the grumpy old man shark – got the tent up and settled back with a beer.

How to explain SALT? It’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek homage to the Cold War and the cars that came from it. There’s touring, there’s behind-the-scenes visits to Cold War sites, and there is feasting. I first heard about it when I owned the QEK, attended with Scabbers of mixed memory, and then missed the next two, one because I’d migrated to Scotland and my manager liked to play silly buggers with my leave, and the next because I’d migrated back from Scotland and my friend who came to help with the boxes wanted to stay the whole week and I felt unable to say “thanks, love – now off you fuck so I can go and drive two strokes.”

So this year had a sense of unfinished business and also the opportunity for MZ adventure. Though in the end the weather was so dreadful that I spent all of Saturday riding in the back of an army truck. It was a novel experience, by turns cold, wet, bumpy and with an underlying buzz from the exhaust fumes, but it was still better than letting the Wingman get soaked in the apocalyptic downpour. The SALT Tourists spent three hours in the rain admiring the nuclear bomb stores of Thetford Forest. I sat in the truck reading Smiley’s People, which was nearly the same, before they let me out for a pub lunch in the dry.

The reward for a soggy Saturday was a glorious sunny Sunday – perfect conditions to tackle the 160 miles home. AdventureDog got lots of cuddles from the owners of the caravan next to us at Moat Farm Campsite and we set out bravely.

There are things you need to find out when you are taking a new vehicle on tour. How often do you need to fill the tank up being one of the important ones. (About every 120 miles, is the answer. 10 miles a litre, same as the 2CV.) How hard can you push it before the engine seizes up is another.

This was my biggest worry. The Jawa-of-disgrace would run at 45mph for 15 minutes or so before overheating and abruptly losing power. I’d spent most of Friday waiting for that slightly sickening feeling, and keeping tabs on places we could pull in to recover – but it never came. So on Sunday we horsed on a bit, because I realised I could make it back in time for our local MZ meet if I didn’t hang about, and the bike was perfectly happy to run at 50. That’s a magic number because it’s just about fast enough to run safely on the dual carriageways, especially if road works are involved.

And if we can do 160 miles in about 4 hours, then there’s a whole lot of England we can get to in a weekend.

There’s an undeveloped metaphor in here but it is late and there are enough words already. The kit was the same but the bike underneath it was different. Change is, after all, possible.

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Filed under MZ, Travel

Mostly about mechanical idiocy

It is just possible that I overshare my life. Last Sunday when the Wingman and I finally made it to Caffeine and Machine, the first words said to us were “It’s still leaking then?”

(Actually the first words were ‘do you need a push’ as the entrance to the car park is quite steep and I ballsed it up. The answer was yes to both.)

Like the Emerald City or El Dorado, ‘Caff&Mac’ has taken on a slightly totemic quality. Since it opened in the winter I’ve been trying to get there but every time I set out the gremlins defeat me. Or the weather. Or, as it turned out on International Female Ride Day, good-old-fashioned personal incompetence.

The previous weekend we had made it to Stafford, with no notable mishaps, but the spreading pool of oil underneath Bishop Brennan had caused some comment. Armed with 6mm copper washers and some Hylomar blue I refitted all of the casing screws and we set out bravely on the sunny Saturday morning, gearbox refilled with the tin of Castrol supplied by Midlife Classics which I had been saving for the day that spannering was complete and adventures beginning.

As we trundled down the Fosse, between one beat and the next the engine cut dead. Much despair.

We stopped in a handy field entrance. At least the sun was shining.

It turned out the spark plug had shook itself loose. So that one was all on me. But I think it was a cry for help on the part of the bike – ever wondered how much gearbox oil comes out if you forget to refit the filler plug before setting out? All of it.

Don’t ask me how I know.

My adventure to Caff&Mac was supposed to be my consolation for not going to Wales for the Welsh National Rally. Three things ruled it out – lack of funds, lack of practice, and lack of confidence in the bike. Last year I got one checkpoint in before the Jawa’s gearbox expired and it was the best part of a week before the local recovery guys could deliver it back whence it came. So I didn’t fancy a second DNF.

After a reasonable amount of self-flagellation we set out again on Sunday and finally arrived, though still leaving small puddles.

This was clearly Not Right. The copper washers had done their job and the screws were no longer dribblng oil, but the flow rate seemed to be getting worse. And the rattling which had turned out not to be the small end bearing was also getting worse.

In a moment of ‘Oh Shit’ clarity two and two added up to ‘your oil pump is no longer attached to the side of your engine.’

And if a two-stroke isn’t getting oil it takes about a quarter of a mile before the piston siezes to the barrel.

Don’t ask me how I know that either.

So we found a nice leafy car park to stop in for some emergency surgery. I really need to start doing things up more tightly.

And then we had a really fun run home. But I still took the car to Thunderfest, just in case.

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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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