Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

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Living In Interesting Times

Post Date - 27 March 2017

By Borsuk

Been a busy few days for me and Miyuki, my Chinese 125.

Got back from work last Wednesday so on the Thursday I went to check out the bike which has been standing in the front garden for 6 weeks, mostly undercover until it blew over during the gales in February. First thing was the condition of the chain. I had painted it with gear oil before I left and was expecting it to be rusty as heck but surprisingly it was spotless, yeah. Tried to start it. Nothing. Try every combination of choke and throttle position, nada. Checked the kill switch, fuel supply, fuel in tank, throttle linkage to carb, she was turning over but not catching. Went to check the main fuse and realised the side stand was out as well as the centre stand. Oh sweary words, the side stand kill switch was active.

More sweary words, put stand in, still nothing. Get Haynes manual out, suggests to check for a spark. Break out tool set, remove spark plug, not a sausage. Now the rain is starting to get serious so I remove the battery to charge it up overnight and think about what the problem might be. Next morning I narrow it down to either the kill switch, logic tells me the side stand switch is most likely as it has been out for weeks and most likely siezed. I remove and open the switch and the plunger is stuck. Over a cup of coffee I clean and grease the switch and return it to the bike.

Try starting again, goes first time. Houston we have ignition, yeah. I can meet Ren and Sharon as planned on Sunday.

I take the bike out for a spin. On my way back to the house I stall at a set of traffic lights. Go to start the engine - no power what so ever, total electrical failure. I checked the main fuse but it is fine. So I call in reinforcements by phoning the hotline on my insurance policy and get the recovery back to Earnshaws to get the bike sorted. Jason at Earnshaws has the mechanic look at it straight away and I discover that most of the wiring is behind the main headlight, not under the seat as I expected. They discover a melted connector on the ignition system, that gets changed out and we are off again. Yeah. I find out later my handlebar kill switch is no longer activating, hmmmm, livable with.

Sunday we head out to meet Ren and Sharon in Settle. Weather is chucking it down but that's why I brought all this waterproof gear. The boy decides he is just wearing his jeans. By the time we get to Settle we are both soaked from the waist down. The bikes are being blown sideways by the wind which I later discovered was gusting at 63 Knots but we get there alright. One other biker there but that's it. As the boy and I start to remove our gear Ren and Sharon arrive, yeah we are not the only loonies in Yorkshire.
Had a good time chatting to Ren and Sharon and a couple of brews then we made the windy journey back, well worth the soaking.

The wife and I are going to Barmouth on the Monday to visit family so she is taking the car and I am taking the bike. I have a limited amount of time to practice so any time available I grab with both hands. 

It's an uneventful run to Barmouth, wet and windy but nothing major. Satnav decided I needed to see central Manchester in the rush hour, that took a while as I am not happy about filtering yet and with the winds still gusty I let cowardice be the greater part of valour and sat in the queues like everybody else. Due to problems at home the wife has to go back that night, I will following next morning so I had a look at my sat nav settings and realised I had switched off dual carriageways as well as motorways hence the centre of the city.

On the Tuesday I head home. The weather on the coast is dry and sunny, the roads look inviting, my running in period has finished so let's see what my Chinese girlfriend can do.
All is going well until I reach Bala. The road is closed ahead and I am advised to go back 3 miles or so and cut over to Corwen to get back on the main road. On this little country road has some loose bits, some muddy bits and some poohy bits but all goes well and I rejoin the main road outside Corwen. I start to accelerate out of the junction and get to about 30 then suddenly I am fishtailing like crazy. I realise my rear tyre has blown and manage to control the bike until it stops. 

I pull out the 1" rusty nail from my tyre and use my emergency burrito (what the boy calls a tin of tyre weld as the ones in my quad bike are wrapped in tin foil to protect them from the heat in summer). The tin says drive the vehicle for 5 miles or so to seal the hole, I try to drive the bike and after a couple of hundred yards decide sod this and push the bike into town to a car park. I ask at the Ifor Williams Centre if there is anywhere in town I can blow up a tyre. They kindly send me to the workshop where I re-inflate it and try running her with the back wheel in the air for a while to spread the gunk but to no avail. I decline their kind offer to leave my bike there while I arrange to get my tube replaced as I don't know how long it will take so I push her back up to the carpark. 

I then wait for my friend John who lives in the area to lookup tyre places that do motorbikes, he'll then come and pick me and my wheel up. While I wait I youtube how to remove the back wheel. Unfortunately to no avail as the internet on my phone is so slow here it is impossible to get anything useful. When John arrives we start to prepare the bike when a local biker called Danny offers to let me put the bike on his drive as he reckons it will have disappeared by the time I get back.
We take him up on his offer and once in his drive I start taking the wheel off.  I count how many turns of each bolt as I strip it off, then realise the central spindle has a thread on only one side so that buggers up the count. Eventually I have the spindle out, the chain slack and the brake drum wire released. I lift up the end so we can get the wheel out and just then the brake shoes fall to the floor. Now I start swearing in Polish and Arabic, sod it, we will deal with that at the rebuild. Pick up the brake bits, check I have them all, 2 shoes and 2 springs, can't be too complex then, wheel in boot of car, off to Buckley to replace inner tube.

Back at bike with freshly repaired tyre I'm lying on ground looking at the brake drum and trying to figure out where everything goes. John gets up to get tools and leans on top box rack to help himself up. Of course the back end comes down crushing my fingers which were under the swing arm steadying the bike, into the tarmac. Loud screamy swear words but on inspection there's no permanent damage to my fingers. Get it all back together again and every thing looks nice and dandy, only one question. How tight should the spindle nut be? Not a clue between the three of us so I tighten it to what I hope is fine then put all my tools in the top box, clean up and thank Danny profusely for the use of his drive and toilet and mugs of coffee. 

I get back on the bike and head off into the distance only to stop a mile down the road as I am sure the wheel is not right. It looks okay, feels okay, I get back on and head off again only to rinse and repeat every mile or so for about 10 miles because I know the guy who fitted the wheel back is a complete idiot and had no clue what he was doing. I Finally agree with myself the bike is good and start to relax and drive normally.

Now for a peaceful ride home. 20 miles down the road I take a give way junction too fast and for my first time I come off the bike and end up with it on top of me. A driver stops and helps me get it on the stand and I thank him as I check myself? over for damage, scuffed elbow at the armour pad but that's all. This reinforces my belief in wearing ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) and I check the bike over. Mirrors are loose, scuffing on the brake handle but that appears to be that. I give myself 10 minutes to get my body back to normal, tighten up the mirrors and resume. 

The next 20 miles are a repeat of earlier as I am convinced the forks are bent, the wheels are bent, the engine is bent, the handle bars are bent, the back wheel has become less grippy than before, the rider is mad and why am I on a fragile machine in the middle of nowhere in the piddling rain and darkness instead of at home after being transported in my comfortable, reliable, dry and warm car.

After a while my confidence returned and my speed crept up above 15 mph to normal. By the time I got back to the house I had resolved to A) take out AA or similar recovery as well as the insurance provider one as it is too restrictive in distance and how often you can use it and  B) see if the boy is up for a run on Friday and C) put a few more tools in the top box, especially the torch I got for it last week which is sitting in the living room. 

I hope all your rides are not as interesting as this one was.

Ren you were right about the kill switch being superfluous-ish on a carburetted bike, after about 15 seconds of lying on top of me the engine died from lack of fuel.

Reader's Comments

Ren - The Ed said :-
That was one hell of a few days Borsuk! It never rains it only pours both weather-wise and disaster-wise. 2 electrical problems, 1 puncture and a crash is not exactly ideal.

Still you've gotten through it all and come out the other side and that's what matters.
27/3/2017 10:32:13 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Was out on Sunday for a last run with the boy before heading back to work today. He led us up onto the moors, a bit blustery but nice and dry. Forget what the viewpoint we stopped at is called,the view was great, several bikes in the car park and a few scooter enthusiasts and best of all a Mr Whippy van. A nice dry road to drive on and ice cream at the end, does it get any better.

27/3/2017 4:01:54 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Ah, the good aspects of motorcycling too. You had the nice weather too. I'm guessing you're in transit back to the ship by now.
28/3/2017 5:57:47 AM UTC
Sharon said :-
Firstly huge congratulations on passing your theory test Borsuk.

Secondly what a bloody bad patch of bad luck. Well done for tackling each mishap and learning from it rather than despairing at them all.

Glad Mr Whippy has restored you faith and joy of biking.

At this rate you will be an experienced rider before you pass your test. All mishaps, mistakes and mithers all build up a valuable knowledge base. So not always fun to go through experiences like this are priceless in quality of knowledge gained. Well done to you.
28/3/2017 11:49:35 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
I went to get spare tubes to carry so that the tyre could be repaired by any garage when I am out and about in the wilds of Wales or Scotland but instead bought a bottle of Tyresafe preventative sealant. This hopefully will at best seal leaks as they happen and at worst slow down the deflation speed and the resultant fishtailing if I do have a puncture.
There was enough in the bottle to do both my tyres and the rear tyre on the boys bike and it cost the same as two inner tubes.
I might still carry a couple of spare tubes as well though. I am an optimist by nature but a pessimist by profession. :-)
All I need now is a pump to carry.
30/3/2017 4:39:09 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Correction, the stuff is called Puncturesafe Tyre Sealant.
30/3/2017 4:42:20 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I've never tried the tyre sealants. I've heard both good and bad reports and remain very much undecided on the matter.

As for a pump - a quality modern bicycle pump will suffice in a pinch. Don't get me wrong you'll sure work up a sweat inflating a motorcycle tyre with one but it will get the job done. Eventually.

Don't go for the old style ones with a little tube on the end. I have a Halfords one that sort of clamps itself onto the valve. I have deliberately let the tyre down on the 500 and re-inflated it with the little pump. My arms were pumped when I'd finished but I achieved 30psi in a 160 section rear tyre. That's enough to get you to a garage with a proper pump - as long as you can still operate the controls with your rubbery and shaky arms.
30/3/2017 5:57:26 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
I do have a stirrup type pump for recharging my air rifles, but at a max pressure of 250 bar it might be a bit of overkill. The gauge doesn't really show anything below 5 bar either. It is also good for working up a sweat and gives you rubbery arms afterwards which doesn't help in target shooting.
If it hopefully only to top up a bit a bicycle pump will probably do me, I have a foot pump in the hose but that's a bit bulky for the top box. I have already got so much stuff inside that it can't take a helmet anymore which was the main reason for getting it.
30/3/2017 7:04:24 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Yeah Borsuk - 250bar is probably overkill. Think you might split the tyre in 2 long before you reach that pressure. The Halfords pump is less than one foot long.

As for top boxes - mine is big enough for 2 helmets but there's always waterproofs, pump, the odd tool and other stuff in there so there's never space for a lid. I honestly do not know how anyone can ride a motorcycle without a top box. I guess most folks use them as toys not transport.
31/3/2017 8:26:12 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Mine is a 2 helmet job as well, and I think it reached the 3 kg limit for the rack empty never mind the bumph that is in it already.
My quad bike has space under the seat which is full of tools and the actual topbox on the aft carrier has about 100 litres or so of room and is usually half full of kit as well. Never did get the hang of traveling light.
31/3/2017 12:24:18 PM UTC

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