Sunday, 23 November 2008

Lily keeps me warm again

A few years ago my Prefect, with its heater whirring, was the warmest place to be on a wintery day - warmer even than my house...But failing that, the trick, as old folk know, is to keep active.

So, while others doubtless decided that when snow-bound, there was no alternative but to turn up the thermostat and watch TV all day, I was outside, scraping snow off Lily, bolting my newly-charged battery in, pulling out the choke and firing the old girl into life, before driving her up onto the ramps so that I could slide under her and inspect her bottom. I couldn't see the nascent hole which MOT chaps, last year, had said would make welding necessary before the next test (now past due), but I will have a better look when there isn't a stream of freezing snow run-off trickling down my neck.

I am hopeful that no welding will be necessary because the supposedly simple jobs always stretch out much longer than expected, and my time is far better spent. But I WILL have to tackle the rusty guttering above the car doors and the bottoms of the rear doors, as well as other bubbling patches on the bonnet and near the filler cap. No second hand price will compensate for losing the fun I have with Lily, so I might as well start looking after her properly.

I think I should seriously look at replacing the rubbers around the screens,which let in rain, the rust patches and along the that I can keep enjoying driving her. Quite frankly, she is more reliable than my "proper" car.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Eleven hundred miles by bike in 4 days

So, night three at a campsite near Glasgow on the way back (a site full of chavs and loud drunkards having a cheap holiday), some drunk comes up and says (roughly translated), "Have you put up a tent before, because you are doing that all wrong" to which I replied, "Have you grown a moustache before, because that one looks crap" and we fell about laughing. It broke the tension a bit after a tiring day on the road. We laughed and laughed.

ok, I waited for the drunk to walk off before I said it, to be honest :) but it was a side splitter anyway, though maybe you had to be there.

John had intended to get as far as somewhere or other even further north than Glen Coe and I pissed him off by not wanting to go that far, because, to be honest, we were rushing past some wonderful scenery to get to somewhere which neither of us knew and which was not certain to offer more than we were missing, as it was. I guess my philosophy of riding is just different from his, which is fine but it did make things a bit tense at times.

We covered over 250 miles per day, which I thought was pretty damned impressive, until we came across a cyclist who was doing 130 miles per day, just on a pushbike!

Glen Coe was absolutely fantastic. The campsite was a valley at the end of a long and windy road, and surrounded by 9 (John counted 10, but I didn't want to seem to boast, and anyway some of the peaks were parts of the same thing!) mountains. We discussed whether they were strictly 1000'+ and decided it was academic, as they were more than hills and bloody impressive anyway. Below them all round was forest, and beyond the mountains, an estuary from the sea. Marvellous. We followed the coastal road that night after supper, just for a laugh, and followed the 30 miles or so of the A838 circuit.

I figure we rode 1,150 miles in four days, which is easily the most miles I have done continuously, and certainly on a bike. I got really confident....better at reading other people's driving ; anticipating etc.

On the way back we stopped at Falkirk Wheel, easily one of the most ingenious engineering feats in the world. Have a look on this film on YouTube - speeded up by stop-motion.

The wheel cuts out the need for the 11 locks which were there (until dismantled in the 1930s) the space on just one and lifts boats 35metres! Wonderful, practically and aesthetically!

Here's a nice model of it in Meccano. There was a terrific architect's model of it in the exhibition centre, and I plan on making a moving model using some of the ex-school Fischer Technic John gave me this summer.

pics to follow -(they're on non-digital and on mate's camera)

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

5 days of biking - East Anglia, round Scotland and back

(John and the bikes at a really nice little kiosk at Felixstowe seafront a few weeks ago.)

This time next week I will have completed the first of five days with my mate and fellow-holidaying-teacher, John. We are counting down the days. On Sunday we are doing oil and filter changes, etc, test packing the bikes and planning our routes.

When we get back I am off to Sywell to learn to fly.
All in all, it is going to be a great summer!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Project musings

I got the GT550 repaired for the cost of a half hour's labour, though it will have taken a minute to sort it, at most. But it was money well spent because I was paying for expertise...and the man has saved me trying everything else the manual suggested; it didn't suggest this though! The tube which uses the vacuum created in the engine to draw fuel had somehow come off...and now I come to think of it, I probably knocked it when securing my tank bag. The result was that the bike was starved of fuel...though I think this was in one cylinder only. Anyway, I had a long ride after the repair and my confidence in the bike (recently purchased from the friend of a friend) has been restored.

Receiving a complimentary email from Tom, who came across my Lambretta Lowrider by accident and wrote to say it looks fantastic, makes me feel that I really must get it back on the road soon....when the van is finished. Tom is planning on building his own lowrider using an Li125 as a starting point. Good luck, mate.

I am thinking of selling Lily. She is getting rusty and I worry that I don't have time to deal with her deterioration. I feel ashamed, letting her go to hell like this. Mind you, I said this before, started getting her ready for sale (new battery, etc) and then taking her for a spin changed my mind! The few hundred I'd get for her would never compensate for losing her to some other lucky bugger. What a dilemma.

I also need to do something about putting my Cyclemaster back together. A local expert took the coaster hub apart and machined a replacement part which had sheered and jammed the brake on. I have all the parts of the bike ready to be reassembled, but it has sat cluttering up the box room for a year!

So much to do and so little time!

Monday, 9 June 2008

What next?! Bike breakdown - problem a mystery

After three hours glorious riding yesterday, I broke down on the A12 between Ipswich and Colchester - three times. Each time the bike started to lose power in top gear......and changing down progressively achieved nothing but a temporary reprieve....the bike died. Starting was hard....though leaving it for a while meant that it eventually started, except the last of three break-downs, though by then I think my battery was drained (electric start). Each time I got going I was able to cover only about a mile.

I didn't have a toolkit with me, though even if I had I would not have got further than checking plugs which I have checked and found fine today. I gave up and called the RAC who were diabolically slow and eventually a recovery truck arrived two and a half hours later, even though they'd only had to come from ten minutes away.

Today I checked the plugs, which looked fine, charged the battery, which meant the the bike did start, but it won't start without choke (even on a warm day like today's) and died when the choke was put in. It would not tick over without my hand on the throttle.

Damn, what do I try next? Tried all the simple things.

Air intake blocked, perhaps? Any suggestions?

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Get on yer Bike and RIDE!!!

In fairness to the mechanics, they brought the bike in within the quoted price and seem to have done a bloody good job. I loved riding it home. And I am about to go out on it now. Encouragingly, they also said that what I thought was loose tappet noise was pretty normal and that I shouldn't worry.

Got that Queen song running through my head, albeit edited from bi-cy-cle to mo-tor-bike:

I want to ride my mo-tor-bike, I want to ride my bike di-na-di-na, di-na din........I want to ride my mo-tor-biiiiiiike........


Saturday, 10 May 2008

If teachers could charge more when they discover that kids are thicker than expected....!

The GT550 failed its MOT on two points: headstock bearings were locking and the brake arm was floppy and needed retapping because it couldn't be tightened up. They are probably jobs I could have done myself....but you know how it is - if you start a job you will probably end up being interrupted, not having all the right tools, etc etc...and with no guarantee that you have done it to the MOT pass standard. So I bit the bullet and got them to do the jobs.

£46 plus VAT per hour - I swear, I am in the wrong business! That is twice what a teacher makes......and teachers can't charge for extra time spent on the job.

Worst case scenario quote was £230!!! SHIT.....and just when I think I can cope with that, they discover that their work on the headstock has affected the wiring, which they say they will put right at no cost because there was nothing wrong with the wiring before, but then they discover that the fairing bracket is affecting the run of the brake cable. So I tell them that if necessary I will rip the fairing off.....

Anyway, they are making good and hopefully they won't exceed the worst case scenario....but you bloody know they will and that they have you over a barrel.

How do they manage to sound irritated with you for feeling squeezed? You back off when the phone call is getting tense because they make you feel like if you play hard ball the price will go up.

But, all is not lost. I have worked out a way to foot the bill, I will just invoice the Headteacher for another 500quid this year. He will say that he has my contract which says I get 500 less than that, but I will just say that while I was teaching Year Two this year, I discovered that they were unusually thick so teaching them took a lot longer than anticipated. He will threaten not to pay and I will pull the old, "Well I can always open them up and take the new parts out" ploy.

In fact, I am going to float this with the teaching community :)


Sunday, 23 March 2008

Bat-Cave Manoeuvres

The turntable (or dolly) was purchased for a miraculous £39 plus postage on ebay and assembled in the bottom garage. I then cut away a step and put in a concrete ramp. I found, initially, that the floor locking mechanism slipped, so put holes in the concrete floor to anchor the dolly with steel bar.

Today I tested out the concrete ramp for the first time and the bike launched effortlessly up to the upper workshop and out the door, up the garden and through the new gate, which I wanted to test for fit. I adjusted the quick-release on the mirrors so that they can be folded in for this.

I turned the bike round (having turned the dolly round ready, because the side stand tray has to be on the left) and took the bike back down the garden for these which you can see the bike driving on to the dolly, the latter being turned around and pushed sideways out of the way. It is a terrific piece of kit.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Mantis transformed into Rack of Lamb

Discovered this bike last night and feel inspired. Been discussing it with Lori, a friend in Arkansas. I am planning on doing something similar on Mantis. I have never liked the dead space in Mantis's frame, where you'd ordinarily expect to see an engine. A crouching skeleton could be answer. In the next day or so I'll post a sketch of the idea. On Mantis I'd want the skeleton to be full size. I'd wrap the rib-cage around a rounded black tank (instead of the coffin tank). I like the halogen lights in the skull's eyes. I'd like the arms to be articlulated and fixed to the forks so that they move when the bike turns.

On mine there'd be less of the impression that the rider is shagging the skeleton and more the impression of riding on death's back.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Collected and cleaned Mantis

As planned, I pushed Mantis home today and cleaned her up. It was just as well I took a footpump with me as the tyres were completely flat. She was covered in cobwebs and dust and had lots of rust-spots on the chrome; altogether she was a sorry sight. But by the end of the evening she was looking pretty good.

I sat on Mantis this evening and it brought back just how much fun riding her is. John's right, I really must get the chop running again soon.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Getting Mantis from the garage

I am giving up the garage this month, so I have to get Mantis out this weekend and wheel it back to mine. She is in a sorry state but it wouldn't take more than a long weekend to get her running properly. John keeps nagging me, but it doesn't feel a priority right now.

The carb is on a rigid mount and really needs to be suspended on a rubber or flexi mount in order to stop my mixture from frothing, which in turn makes it hard to set the the tick-over just right. Apart from that, it needs general maintenance, cleaning, polishing and the headlight will need adjustment (also, come to think of it, the speedo doesn't register either).

I need to get it and the Cyclemaster back on the road this year for sure. The Cyclemaster only needs reassembly, though the front of the bike will need some tweaking after the crash down a flight of stairs had me landing on the front wheel, buckling it.