Tuesday 31 December 2013

Skorpion handlebar mod (part 1)

After having talked about it for at least a year, I decided to modify the bars on my Traveller today.
The problem is that they are slightly low. I've had the bike for over 13 years, but it's only in the last couple of years that this has become a problem, so I must be getting older! I've started to get get pain in my wrists on long runs, so the bars will have to come up a bit. Other Skorpion riders have found this problem and there are a number of solutions.
I decided to try a set of 'Helibars' after finding a used pair cheaply on Ebay. The pair I have are for a BMW K1300S, but numerous others from their range would have done.  They are not cheap new, (UK supplier), (US supplier), but mine were only £50.
As you can see, they are alloy bars that fit onto the standard bar mounts and give an 'offset' that allows you to reposition the bars higher and/or closer to you.

I was worried whether the cables and wires would be long enough, so I did a 'dry fit' on my white Traveller as it has its bodywork off at the moment, so it would be easier to reroute cables if required. (Also, I might take my silver Traveller out for a 'traditional' New Year's Day run and I didn't want to have to refit the standard bars in the morning). All the cables and wires turned out to be OK, except for the brake hose that was a little tight. When I changed my front brake, I had the hose made 60mm longer to allow the bars to be raised.

Everything fitted on fairly easily.
And you can see the raise on the bars.

I'll have to drill holes for the switchgear locating pegs, and as my Silver bike has a non standard clutch lever (CCM R30), and master cylinder (Cagiva Mito), they will need a bit more 'fitting'.
I'll be fitting a pair of genuine Honda heated grips from an ST1300 'Pan European'. These are about 10mm longer than the Skorpion grips, but there's enough room on the bars. (Controller visible in above picture), and I've got a pair of R&G barends specially made for the BMW.
Just sitting on the bike it feels a lot more 'natural' and hopefully more comfortable over long runs. I'll report back later!

Review of 2013 (part 2)

So it was time for our trip to Belgium and France.

I don't really know what happened, but the trip didn't really 'gel' as well as previous trips, and didn't really work out as well as planned. It's hard to put a finger on what happened – over expectation, the format getting stale, us all wanting different things from it? Looking back, some days we did too much riding, it was very hot which didn't suit riders or bikes, and one of the hotels was very poor, all of which didn't put us in a very good frame of mind.

However, I had a new job to start when I got back. I was working for a small company repairing and maintaining electrical equipment, and although it was only 3 days a week, it would be better than not working at all. The idea was that I would do a two week 'trial' whilst their existing engineer was on holiday, and they were happy with me, I would get the job as he was planning on leaving.
I enjoyed the work, the employers said they were very happy with what I'd done, and they would get back to me to arrange a starting date. However, after them phoning me a couple of times saying that they were just about to get things organised, they never got back to me with a starting date.

Meanwhile I'd arranged another lunch date and we both had a lot to talk about having both been on holiday. Unfortunately it didn't quite work out that way. Although I had thought we had been getting on well and had become good friends, the meeting was a bit cold and I felt a distance growing between us. After that she declined to meet me again and wouldn't even discuss it. I was really perplexed by this as it wasn't as if we were having a relationship that had gone stale, we were friends who met for lunch so it all coming to an end without explanation left me baffled. If I learned one thing from it, I understand women even less than I did 20 odd years ago!

So that was it – a disappointing holiday, no job, and a friendship inexplicably coming to an end. I don't really know what happened at this point but I kind of retreated into myself and became a bit reclusive. I rarely went out (sometimes for days at a time), hardly spoke to anyone, and stopped doing any worthwhile work on my bikes. All I seemed to do was scour the Internet searching for jobs, sending off applications, and getting no replies. By the time the anniversary of the end of my last full time job had come in August, I had applied for around 700 jobs but had only had 5 or 6 interviews.
I did manage a bit of work on my CL 350, and it is now a rolling chassis.

In October I managed to get a job as a Telecom Installer, and had to go for a two week training course in Coventry. It was a very intense course, and I was trained in installing telephone and broadband systems for domestic customers. The work would be hard and you were paid on a job basis rather than a salary, but we were told that there was plenty of money to be made.
I completed the course and started at the local depot. I seemed to spend a lot of time hanging around or working as a glorified labourer/driver, before eventually being sent out with another installer to 'learn the job'. During this time I was paid a very low 'training rate', but was always being told that once I was out by myself I would be earning a good wage.
Eventually I was sent out on jobs by myself, but rather than base me locally, I was sent to Manchester for a week. This meant having to leave on the Sunday evening, work long, hard hours (12 – 14 a day), in an unfamiliar city, with no local contacts or assistance. I eventually got home on Friday night at about 22:00, totally worn out by the experience. The follow weeks I was based more locally so could go home each night, and the workload was more realistic (8 hours a day). Eventually, I got first 'proper' wage, and it was pitiful! No-one would give me any explanation of how my wages were calculated, but said that 'things would be worked out later'. The next two weeks' wages were barely better, so as nobody would give me an explanation, I left. Although I was supposed to be paid a 'job rate', if you calculated it on an hourly rate I was being paid about half the Minimum Wage, so could earn twice as much stacking supermarket shelves or mopping floors!

So I end this year like I ended last year – unemployed, on my own, and not knowing what the coming year will bring!

A quick round up of what state my bikes are in:

Silver Traveller – Much as before. Will probably fit the higher bars this winter (didn't I say that last year?), give it a service in the Spring, and it's ready to go.

White Traveller – Same as this point last year. I haven't needed it in the last year, so haven't taxed or MOTed it. Bodywork is stored in the loft to prevent it getting scratched in the garage. If I get a job that I need a 'commuting bike' for, then it'll only take a weekend to put it back on the road. I start the engine every 2 weeks or so just to keep oil circulating.

Honda CL 350 – Getting forward slowly. Have nearly finished paining, cleaning up, etc, so can start reassembling it. Once I get a job I can get the more expensive jobs done (respray, rear shocks, etc), then get it registered for the road.

Yamaha SZR 660 – Not really done anything on it other than buy a few bits and turn the engine over now and again. Probably won't start proper work on it until the Honda is finished.

Monday 30 December 2013

Review of 2013 (part 1)

2013 was a year of two halves and ended with a feeling of déjà vu. At the end of 2012 I was unemployed, on my own, and not really sure what the coming year would bring. I'd made a list of plans of what I hoped to do in 2013, and at least some of them have come about.
January saw the buying of a car for the first time in about 15 years (I'd had company cars during that time).

I'm not really 'into cars', so bought a Volvo V40 for totally pragmatic reasons – build quality, longevity, and being a bit unfashionable so tends to be bought by older driver who look after them. A year and 10,000 miles (16,000 km) later and it's repayed my judgement. It's had one service, a pair of tyres, two bulbs, and the original 2002 battery called it a day. It's a bit slow and dull, but it doesn't use any oil and how many cars can boast a tape player? Unless I get another job with a company car I intend on keeping the Volvo until it breaks.
A week after buying the car I started a new job after four months of unemployment. I was employed through an agency to carry out electrical testing for a local authority. I was employed to do Portable Appliance Testing (aka PAT testing) and the job was described as testing 'in Council premises'. I had assumed that this would mean Council offices and I would be testing computers and kettles, but it turned out I would be testing in houses used by the Emergency Homeless Unit. This meant visits to the roughest streets of the roughest towns in the area and dealing with residents of whom about 80% had serious alcohol or drug related problems! The work was fairly easy and not too time consuming, but let us say that I met some 'interesting' characters! Imagine being an extra in an Irvine Welsh novel and that'll give you an idea!
The job was supposed to last 3 months, but they ran out of work after 6 weeks (I was even testing Christmas lights!), but a week later I got another job.
This was through another agency and was loftily described as an 'Electrical Engineer'. What it entailed was travelling round a company's factories, cataloguing electrical equipment in their stores, and inputting the data into spreadsheets. Although the work was fairly repetitive I really enjoyed it and the fact that it was very well paid helped! It involved quite a lot of travelling, but I saw a lot of the country and every 3 weeks or so I had an 'working from home' week inputting data.
As I was earning a reasonable amount of money, I had some work done on my house and bought a Yamaha SZR 660 'project'.

I'd always liked the SZR as it was basically the same engine as a Skorpion, but housed in a lightweight sporty frame (derived from a TZR 125/250). Usually SZRs are fairly expensive, but this one was so cheap that I couldn't say 'no'. It was sold to me as a non-running 'project', but I got it running fairly easily enough (cleaned out carb), but the rest is fairly tatty due to neglect and having sat in a damp shed for a few years. I haven't done much more work on it, and it's stored in the garage as a 'future project'.

There were a few changes in my private life as well. As some of you will know, I was widowed two years ago and I felt early this year that I was ready to 'move on' and meet women again. However, for a middle aged man this is really difficult due to the lack of a 'social structure' that allows you to meet people. It's OK if you're 20 or a pensioner, but for the middle aged , there's nothing. Eventually I met a very pleasant woman and we went for lunch. Although we were meeting as 'friends' and not on a 'date', I found this really traumatic as it was the first time I'd been with someone 'new' for about 23 years! However, it went really well and we continued to meet for lunch during the early part of the summer, and I thought we were getting on very well.
By this time it was June and my 'Electrical Engineer' contract was coming to an end. I had a couple of weeks without work before we headed off for our trip to Belgium and France. A couple of days before I left for holiday I got an interview for another job and arranged to start when I got back from holiday. So, I was heading off on holiday, had a regular lunch date, and was coming back to a new job – what could possibly go wrong?

Yuletide cool

Even US department store Macy's know that a 1972 Honda CL 350 is the coolest bike there is!

Saturday 28 December 2013

Spanish superbike

Some time ago I featured the Ossa Yankee 500. This was built in the early 70s by basically bolting two of their 250cc single cylinder two stroke engines together. Very few were built and the bike is now a rarity. They obviously thought that 'if we can do it once, then we can do it twice', and built the Byra 1000cc four.
The engine was fitted into the existing 500 frame, and was a bit on the wide side!.

The bike was first used for endurance racing and debuted at the 1972 24 hour race at Montjuic in Barcelona, where Ossa were based. Unfortunately the bike didn't finish.

It also ran in the 1973 race:

There's very little information on the Web about this bike other than it didn't reach production. A few examples exist, one in a museum in Barcelona.

And this one I found on the Web.

Friday bike

JJS X4 500

This is a prototype with a 500cc s troke engine with 4 cylinders arranged in an 'X' formation.

I have very little information on this bike other than it was built by Polish firm JJS Design & GG Tech, who have a picture gallery here.
They also have some pices of video illustating the valving and crankshaft layout on YouTube, but as the descriptions are in Polish I don't really know what's going on.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Bike events in 2014 (part 2)

Some more events for you:

Firstly, one of mr combo's favourites - the Stella Alpina. This event is held every year in the town of Bardonecchia in the Italian Alps on the second Sunday in July. (the 13th next year)
It's a very low key event where riders ride up a windy unsurfaced road to the snowline, where they are given a badge for completing the course.
Understandably, it is mostly trail styled bikes that do this, but judging by the photos, plenty of people manage it on road bikes.
There doesn't seen to be an 'official' website, but there's one here with lots of photos of events over the years. As the website says, even if you don't plan on riding up the hill, there's still a great atmosphere and a lot of socialising in the town over the weekend.
Really good series of posts by a couple who went on a Ural outfit here. (Lots of photos).
*** UPDATE *** Found a video of the Stella.

Next is the Faro Rally in Faro, Southern Portugal. No dates yet for next year's event, but it is usually mid July. A huge event, it attracts riders from all over Europe. Perhaps a bit too 'heavy metal and customs' for me (not to mention, much too hot), but if that's your thing, well worth a visit.
Here's a video of this year's event to give you a taste of what to expect. Don't quite understand why they have a 'wet t-shirt competion' in a country where you can go to the beach and see topless women, but there you go.

Last one for tonight is next year's Coupes Moto Legende at the Dijon-Prenoir Circuit in France. This is the event we went to last year. Huge event with a good mixture of race, road and classic bikes. This was possibly the biggest and best motorcycle event I've ever been to and one I plan to go to again one year. Next year's event will be on the weekend of 31st May - 1st June. Video of this year's event:

I'll add more events later. If you're thinking of going to anything let us know, and those that do to events, remember to take lots of photos, post them somewhere and I'll add a link.

CL350 crankcase repair

When I took the engine out of the CL350 to repair the broken kickstart mechanism, I noticed that part of one of the engine mounts had broken off.

There was no obvious damage to the frame oround this so possibly it broke due to vibration, or it had hit something when being ridden off road. Either way, it would have to be fixed.
I filed off the edges to make them reasonably flat then cut a strip of alloy and a half round piece from a tube (actually an old curtain rail from my kitchen - why buy something when you've got something that will do lying about!)
I temporaily glued the tube to the broken mount, then drilled and tapped the crankcase for an M3 screw. I the case is only about 3 - 4 mm thick at this point, so I 'broke through'. This shouldn't be a problem as it'll be sealed later.
I then screwed the alloy strip to the case so it passed over the half tube.
I bent the strip over the tube by carefully tapping it with a small hammer, then drilled and tapped the case again (didn't break through this time!)
Once I was happy with it, I took everything off and gave it a good clean with wire brushes and alcohol, then mixed up some epoxy (what would I do without it!!!)
I reassembled the tube and strip, glueing them in place with the epoxy, then smeared some more epoxy over the top.
I looks a bit messy at the moment, but I'll smooth the epoxy down, adding some more if it neeeds it. This will probably not be seen when the engine is in the frame, but if it's too obvious, I'll tidy it up a bit.
Ideally, I would fit the optional bash plate that Honda list in their parts book (part 9).

However, this is the 'Holy Grail' of CL350 owners as it hasn't been available for about 40 years and is much sought after. I might try to make something similar out of alloy sheet once I get the bike on the road. Unless someone out there has one they don't want..........
(Cue Larry to say 'I've got about 6 of them rusting away in my yard, do you want one?)

CL350 headlight bracket

I've done a bit of work on the CL since my last post about it. A lot of small bits and pieces have been cleaned and painted, and corroded fasteners replaced. I had a problem with the headlight mounts.

Water gathers on top of the bottom yoke (triple tree) and caused the bracket to rust. The chrome brackets were only fitted for a couple of years (other years were painted), and are now completely unobtainable. I've seen ones almost as tatty as mine selling for nearly £100, so it was out with some epoxy and a patch cut from a drinks can.
Glued in place. I couldn't remove the reflector as the screw was so rusted in the bracket would tear first.
Some very smelly filler filled the gap.
It was smoothed once hardened, and covered with some silver paint. Not brilliant, but as it's on the 'inside' it probably won't be seen.

More reports of work later....

Skorpion fan?

OK, a bit contrived, but it's just a question of spelling!

Lady Gaga recently appeared on the cover of Candy magazine in this Daliesque pose which includes a scorpion, so it's slightly relevant to a blog about MZ Skorpions.
This cover has created some controversy, but I imagine that's what the magazine and Ms Gaga intended. After all, she's been recently upstaged by Miley Cyrus as the 'most outrageous pop person', so she's just raising the stakes a bit.
I took a sort of 'editorial decision' and cropped the photo as you see somewhat more of Ms. Gaga on the magazine cover, but if you want to see the complete photo click here or not – you choose.
Personally I'm very shocked and outraged by this – not the photo of Ms. Gaga, but by the fact that there are people out there who will purchase what describes itself as 'the first transversal style magazine' (whatever that means!) at a cover price of €45 / UK £43 / USA $65 ! I'm in the wrong business!!

Saturday 21 December 2013

Bike events in 2014 (part 1)

At this time of year as we look out at the grey, miserable weather it's time to start planning trips for the coming year. At the moment I've nothing planned, and until my job situation settles down I can't really look too far ahead, but it's always good to build up a list of  'possibles'. First is the Café Racer Festival at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry near Paris.

Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry is a magnificent old 1920's racetrack with a steeply banked curves.

More details of the track here, event details will probably be here when they update their website, and the Facebook page is here.

Friday bike

'Premier' 350cc V8

Here's a bike I'd never heard of before, and could find very little information on on the Web. A Finnish builder caller Tauno Nurni built this DOHC 350cc V8 racer in either 1960 or 64 (depending on source), using a Norton frame.

An 8 cylinder 350 would have a cylinder capacity of 43.75cc, and I bet it sounded good on those open pipes.
Anyone know any more about it?

Monday 16 December 2013

Friday bike

Still looking for a Christmas present for the 'person who has everything?' How about a Vespa/Segway mashup:

Yes. you'd really have to want to own one of these! Either that or have more money than sense. Or perhaps you're one of those 'hipsters' who think it would be 'ironic'.
Details (in Spanish) here.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Friday bike

Sorry I've been a bit quiet recently but with starting a new job I haven't had much time. Also, last week I was working away from home (Manchester area) and stayed in a hotel with the slowest wi-fi I've ever come across.

More reading here and here.