Sunday 26 July 2015

Friday bike

SWM Grand Milano 440
Some of you might remember Italian firm SWM who made off road bikes in the 70s and 80s. It appears that they have been relaunched, funded by Chinese firm Shineray, and the Grand Milano 440 is one of the models they've shown.
Very little information on the Web other than some of the engines they will be using are Husqvarna designs, and the projected price will be 5,500 - 6,000 Euros. (£3900 - 4200, US$6,000 - 6,500).
Clip ons, trail tyres, brown paint - all it needs is some exhaust wrap and the numberplate mounted on the side and it'll be a hipster's dream.
Personally I prefer the Silver Vase model:
Now that is cool!

No idea when or even if you'll ever be able to buy any of them.

Monday 13 July 2015

40 years, man and boy – Helmets

As this year will be my 40th of riding bikes (legally!), I thought I'd look back at various things I've had over the years and this post will be about helmets that I've owned.

First helmet I bought was a Stadium Project 9.

Very cheap basic helmet, but all I could afford at the time. Only thing of note was that the stripe round it and the logo at the front were reflective. This is the only open face helmet I've ridden a bike in, and I became very paranoid about potential injuries in an accident, especially as I wore spectacles at the time and had a real fear of broken glass going into my eyes!
So it was replaced within a year by my first full face helmet.

Back in the 70s these Italian made cheap polycarbonate helemet were imported and sold under a huge number of brand names. Mine was black and labelled as 'Griffin Speedstar' – can't really remember much about other than it had a rubbish visor mounting that fell to bits!

Next was a 'King' fullface. These were advertised by Barry Sheene at the time, and were a reasonably well made glassfibre helmet.

Mine had a 'custom' paintjob done to advertise a painter, but a local shop that had it on display offered it to me a suitable low price.

Only pic I have of it is this black and white one of it on the Yamaha SR500 I had at the time.
Eventually the lining in the King fell apart and I replaced it with a Nava.

Mine wasn't exactly the same as this as it had vents on the chinbar. Didn't have it long as it was stolen.
I had to buy a helmet in a hurry, so bought another cheap polycarbonate 'Griffin'. This one looked the same as their famous (and much more expensive) Clubman model.

Looked a bit like this.
I wanted another decent quality helmet, so the next one was a Bell Tourstar.

This was a huge leap forward as it was well built, comfortable, and was the first helmet I owned that had a 'proper' visor mounting mechanism that allowed the visor to stay partly open. Wore this for years until the lining eventually fell apart.
Next was a Shoei RF200,

Another really good helmet with vents that actually worked (not all hemets had these!), very comfortable, good visor mechanism, and had a comfortable feeling of quality.
I liked it so much that when it was starting to get a bit worn (I was doing a very high mileage at the time), I replaced it with another Shoei, a very similar TXR.

This was basically an uprated version of the RF200, and performed equally as well. Eventually the lining started to wear out, so it was replaced with an Arai RX-7XX.

Another great step forward in terms of build quality and comfort. Fits perfectly, vents work really well (almost too well for Scotland but ideal in France in the summer), and just oozes quality. Has the advantage that part of the lining is removable for cleaning which hopefully means that it'll last a bit longer (especially as I don't do anywhere as much mileage as I once did).

So, these are the helmets I've owned over the years. A few things I've learned:

  1. Try on lots of helmets before you buy one. We all have differently shaped heads, so try to find one that suits your head shape. I've found that I've got a Shoei/Arai shaped head, other people will have AGV, Bell, etc shaped heads so they would be better brands to buy.
  2. I've tended to buy plain coloured helmets as they are cheaper than patterned ones, especially 'race replicas'. Racers get a payment for each replica sold, so this is added to the price in addition to the extra painting cost.
  3. You basically get what you pay for. Cheap helmets are generally less comfortable, lining compress more quickly, and visor mechanisms wear more rapidly; so you end up replacing them more often.
  4. Always use genuine replacement visors as (in the case of Shoei and Arai) pattern ones are much poorer quality. Genuine ones are very expensive, but the much longer life and better quality (cheap ones tend to rattle in their mounts), make them worth the money.
  5. On the subject of visors, always buy them from authorised dealers as there are a lot of fakes out there. Always buy European spec visors rather than US spec ones as they have much superior anti-scratch coatings to pass European laws.

However, there's one helmet I've not mentioned yet. A few years ago I planned on taking part in The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride and bought a 'suitable' helmet to wear. I found this on Ebay.

Groovy eh? However, that's not the best thing about it – the paint is luminous!

I'd like to point out that it was made in China, doesn't have any stickers saying that it passes any country's safety laws, and the luminous paint probably gives out frightening amounts of radiation, but I was only going to wear it for one afternoon, and probably would have worn a decent helmet for the ride to and from the event.
I didn't eventually take part in the DGR, so I've never actually ridden a bike wearing it, however who knows what might happen in the future!!

Sunday 12 July 2015

Some more time in the garage

Only got a small amount of work done in the garage this weekend. Further to my last post, I stripped the bushes, seal etc from the fork leg and gave everything a through clean. The seal had been leaking and the bike hadn't been used for about 4 years before I bought it, so there was plenty of oily grime on the fork bottom casting. Basically spent a couple of hours with a brush and some paraffin (kerosene) scrubbing it. Once clean, I gave it a couple of coats of silver paint and it looks a lot better.

Friday bike

Back in the early 90s I rode a number of MZ 250s, they weren't a bad bike and all I could afford at the time. However, I saw a bike in a magazine that I really liked.
Aprilia Tuareg Wind 600

I just loved the look of it and hoped that one day I would own one. They were very rare, and it was a couple of years before I actually saw one in the flesh, riding past in the town of Tain (see, can even remember when I first saw one!)

As years went by, I read magazine articles on them, always looked for an affordable one for sale (no chance!), and always kept them in my mind.
Yes, the paint scheme was a bit 90s, wasn't it!

Years went on, I got a better paying job, bought my Skorpion, then one day went to a bike show where there was an Aprilia for sale! I was in a position to buy it, well until I stood next to it and realised that the saddle height was so high that I would be on tiptoe and probably fall over! Oh well, another dream shattered!
Over my 40 year motorcycling life I've never owned an Italian bike nor a trail bike, and this would have filled both those vacancies.

Engine and transmission
Displacement:562.00 ccm (34.29 cubic inches)
Engine type:Single cylinder, four-stroke
Power:45.00 HP (32.8 kW)) @ 7000 RPM
Top speed:155.0 km/h (96.3 mph)
Bore x stroke:94.0 x 81.0 mm (3.7 x 3.2 inches)
Valves per cylinder:4
Fuel control:OHC
Cooling system:Air
Transmission type,
final drive:
Chassis, suspension, brakes and wheels
Front tyre:90/90-21
Rear tyre:130/80-17
Front brakes:Dual disc
Rear brakes:Single disc
Physical measures and capacities
Weight incl. oil, gas, etc:182.0 kg (401.2 pounds)
Fuel capacity:18.00 litres (4.76 gallons)

Saturday 11 July 2015

Erskine Classic Car Show 2

Went along to the show on my Skorpion this afternoon. As I arrived I could see signs for 'Show Parking' and a field full of cars, but as I approached one of the stewards directed me to the 'Officials' Entrance' as there would be harder ground to park on. I parked right at the entrance of the Country Club next to some other bikes.
The Country Club seems to be mostly equestrian, and some of the cars were displayed in show jumping arenas, with many more in a large car park outside.
Ford Capris - beloved by 'Medallion Men' in the 70s!

Lots of very interesting and beautifully maintained cars, and there was also a display from a local owl sanctuary and a talent contest for teenage girls! Weather stayed really good and the show was very busy with visitors.
There were only a few bikes parked outside, plus some from a club inside, including this Indian Scout. I've featured this before as a 'Friday bike', but this is the first time I'd seen one. Was very inpressed by the very high build quality – not really my 'thing', but just so well done.

Show was held to raise funds for Erskine Hospital, which cares for ex-Service men and women

Coolest. Car. Ever. - Citroen DS19

Hillman Minx, Vauxhall Velox, Austin A35 - takes me back to when I was a kid.
Can't be many Australian built Holdens in Britain!

More photos at my Flickr page.

Thursday 9 July 2015

Erskine Classic Car Show

Another classic car show quite near me in Bishopton, Renfrewshire in aid of Erskine Hospital on Saturday.

Facebook page.

Sunday 5 July 2015

More time in the garage

Due to pressure of work etc I haven't done an awful lot on my bikes recently, just an hour or two here and there until today when I managed about half a day. Further to the last post I started on the front end of the SZR. I'm using an ABBA stand, which holds the bike by the swing arm pivot. Unfortunately, the SZR is so 'nose heavy' that even with the front wheel out it still wants to fall forwards, so I've had to use a strap onto the roof frame to hold it up. (Note to self – never buy a bike without a centre stand again!)
The wheel came out OK, and I soaked the disc bolts with penetrating oil for about a week. Even so, they wouldn't some out even using heat and an impact driver, so I had to cut a slot in them with an angle grinder and use a chisel and a very large hammer. Once the disc was off I cleaned up the wheel, smoothed the surface and repainted it. The disc was cleaned up, the centre repainted, and refitted using new bolts. I wouldn't say I'm paranoid, but I used threadlock AND new Schnorr washers, 'just in case'.
The left fork leg had been leaking from its seal, so out it came. Bolts had been sprayed with penetrating oil and came out very easily. With the fork on the bench it was now having to work out how to take it apart as this is the first time I've worked on 'upside down forks'. The manual mentions a number of special tools, but I've not been able to find them online, however I did find a couple of articles by people who had done the job themselves.
First tool needed was a very slim 14mm spanner to hold a locknut that is only accessible through the coils of the spring. So it was out with the angle grinder and I thinned a spanner down until it fitted.

The manual shows a special tool that fits down the forkleg outside of the damping mechanism to remove the cartridge. Numerous bikes use something similar and I found plenty available online, (Motion Pro makes a range of them). These are usually about £50, far more than I would want to spend on I job I am only likely to do once, and nobody listed a tool for my Italian made Paioli forks anyway.
One online report mentioned making a tool (basically a long tube with a 'castle' type end on it), so it was rummage round the garage for something suitable. A couple of years ago, a neighbour asked me if I could take an old table of hers to the dump. I dumped the glass top, but as the frame was made of steel, I cut it up and kept it, 'in case it came in handy'. Well, guess what was just the right size – one of the legs from the table! Five minutes work with a hacksaw and it looked like this:

I just guessed at the dimensions, but when I tried it I could feel it engaging with the nut. I had thought that it would be a bit weak, but the nut came off when I turned it. You can see how near I got to the right dimensions here:

Once that was out, I removed the circlip holding the seal in, held the fork bottom in the vice, and pulled the forks apart. A gave it a few pulls (which give a very satifying 'clonk') and I could see the fork seal starting to come out. A few more and the forks were apart.

The job was a lot easier than I had thought it would be, so don't be afraid of taking USD forks apart.
I had a good look at the forks and there is no noticable wear or damage to the sliding surface. I'll give everything a clean and replace the seal. You are supposed to use another special tool to drive the seal into place (it's recessed quite far into the fork), but I'll make something out of PVC drain pipe. I'll have to remove the bushes (the grey and bronze 'rings' round the tube) to fit the seal, but as they are split that's easy enough. You are supposed to use another special tool to compress them to reassemble the fork, but I'll make one out of PVC drain pipe with a Jubilee (worm drive) clip round it.

Forks seals only cost £6.20 from M&P, and I'll have to buy some oil. So far so good!


My job sometimes takes me into care homes, and on a recent visit to one I spotted this photo on the wall of a room. The resident wasn't in the room at the time, so I don't know who they are - one is possibly the resident's husband or brother. I assume that it was taken during or around WW2, and just thought it was a great photo. Anyone with more knowledge of bikes or military uniforms shed more light on it?

Friday bike

Saw this on another blog and thought it was worth featuring.
Coventry Eagle Silent Pullman 250

Interesting styling and featuring a lot of car influences (note the leaf spring rear suspension).Don't know much more about it other than it seemes to have been offered with a number of different 250cc engines, and that frame looks really heavy!