Sunday 21 January 2018

Replacing Perished Rubbers

I got replacement rubber bits for the now fifteen year old Triumph Tiger 955i in before Christmas, but the weather has been so diabolically cold that even with a propane heater in the garage, the floor is still radiating negative thirty degrees and working in there is a misery.  We finally had a break in temperature this weekend so I got a chance to fit new rubber on the Tiger...

It's only -1°C out there, so it's garage door open time!

My targeted bits were the rubber covers on the mirror stalks, which aren't that important but you see a lot of them while you're riding and they bothered me.  The shift leaver rubber has been held together with Gorilla Tape for the better part of a year (that's some tough tape) and one of the rubber bits that go between the seat and the frame had disappeared, so I was aiming to replace that too so the seat would sit evenly and there would be no metal on metal rubbing.

The shift leaver was a simple thing.  I cut off the tape and the old rubber which was half torn.  With the new rubber warmed up and some WD40, the new bit slid on fairly easily.

The mirror arm rubbers were equally straight forward.  The mirror is on a threaded end.  Undoing that and the nut under it that holds it tight meant I could slide the mirror rubbers off.  The old ones were cracked in multiple places and barely hanging on.  I cleaned up the threads and metal under which was a bit rusty, put some rust paint on there to make sure none comes back and slid the new rubber covers on.  Another quick fix.

The problems arose when I tried to fit the seat rubbers.  I suspect the dealer sent me the wrong bits.  The rubbers that sit between the adjustable seat height bracket under the seat and the frame are circular with a flexible back that holds them to the frame.  Strangely, there don't seem to be any listed on the OEM parts blowups.  What I got were some pieces of rubber with sticky backing that aren't even the same thickness as the circular rubber grommets.

I'd shrug it off but at $3.30 plus tax and shipping for each of these sticky rubber bits, I'm out fifteen odd bucks in parts that seem to have nothing to do with what I was trying to fix.  I did send photos of the parts required and I thought we were clear on what was needed.  Rather than flush more money on parts I didn't ask for, I found a rubber grommet that was a bit too big and cut it down to fit the hole.  It's a snug fit and compresses to about the same thickness as the other grommets.  I might eventually get four matching rubber grommets just to make things even down there, but for now the seat isn't uneven and the frame isn't metal rubbing on metal.

The winter maintenance on the Triumph has been pretty straightforward this year.  Last year I did the fork oil, spark plugs, air filter and coolant and upgraded the dodgy plastic fuel line connectors, so this year the only maintenance was my usual end of season oil change.  I run the bike on the Triumph suggested Mobil1 10w40 motorcycle specific oil and I change it once at the end of the season.

The perished rubbers thing was as much an aesthetic choice as it was a performance fix.  Little details like rubber pieces on an older bike bring it back into focus.  Regularly watching Car SOS buying full sets of rubbers for older cars they are restoring probably intensified the urge.

Since I purchased the Tiger almost two years ago I've done all the fluids and changed the tires which produced a much more road capable bike (the old ones were well past due).  I've also replaced the chain, but other than these rubber bits and the fuel fittings last winter I haven't replaced anything that wasn't a regular service item.  The old Tiger has been a trustworthy steed.

I'm usually able to steal a ride toward the end of winter as the sunlight returns and we get the odd warm day with dry roads.  With any luck I'm only a few weeks away from stealing another one.  The Tiger's ready for it.

Saturday 20 January 2018

Bike Pickup in the Black Hills

The Dakar has me all dual sport fixated at the moment.  To pass the never ending Canadian winter I've been looking up hard to find bikes and then seeing what it would take to go get 'em.

For $3000US there is a Yamaha Ténéré for sale at the Power Brokers of the Black Hills out in South Dakota.  That's a capable dual sport named after part of the original Paris to Dakar race.

The cunning plan would be arrange to pick up the bike in the spring.  It's a few hundred bucks to fly out to Rapid City.  It happens to be right by the Black Hills and Sturgis where the big Harley thing happens.  I've got no interest in that, but the Hills are supposed to be lovely riding, and only four hundred miles west is Yellowstone.  I've always wanted to see the mega-volcano that will eventually wipe out most of the human race.

It's a long way back to the East after finding the Ténéré 

After hitting Yellowstone it's a long arc back to the east.  That isn't what the Ténéré is about, but if I did it focusing on back roads and trails, it'd be an interesting way to find my way home.

It's over 700 miles east before I get to Deluth on the west end of Lake Superior.  From there it's still a long way home.  In previous dream rides Deluth has been the apogee of around the Great Lakes rides.  This time it would be the half way point on a long ride east.

Friday 19 January 2018

Why On Earth Would They Do That?

A conversation with one of my students at lunch today:

Lyndon demonstrating, 'it's hard' 
"What are you watching?"
"Footage from today’s stage of the Dakar race."
"What's that?"
"The hardest race in the world."
"Why is it so hard?"
"It's thousands of kilometres of dangerous off road racing with cars, bikes & trucks with little sleep over weeks at a time. Many people who start it don’t finish. People die on it almost every year."
This very smart grade 9 student was confused. Finally she asked, "Why would anyone do that?”
“Because it’s difficult,” I replied.
She ruminated on that a moment then asked, “why is it so dangerous?”
“Because people race it in cars, trucks, quads and bikes, all at the same time over deserts, mountains and jungles. If you’re on a smaller vehicle it becomes even more dangerous than it already is.”
“Why on earth would anyone do that on a motorcycle?!?”

“Because it’s even more difficult…”

Is attempting the dangerous and difficult with ample chance of failure a bad idea, or the point of it all?  Risk nothing and you lose everything.

If you haven't been keeping up with the race this year, it's still all to play for.  If you want the official feed you can find it on the Dakar YouTube channel.  

If you're into documentary film making using the latest in state of the art video and on the fly editing, Lyndon Posskitt's Youtube Channel will take you through the race one gruelling stage at a time.  If you've got some time, watch Lyndon's Malle Moto - The Forgotten Dakar Story about last year's race.  It'll set you up for this year's harrowing adventure.

Sunday 14 January 2018

Classic Motorbike Pyrenees Trail Riding Fantasies

The legendary Austin Vince put out the video below about this year's orienteering trail rides in the Pyrenees in northern Spain:
Come map reading and trail-riding with me this summer. Watch this film with the sound up and note that the early bird offer ends in a week. This one is for Tim Kent and Del!
Posted by Austin Vince on Friday, January 12, 2018

If there was ever an excuse to load up a shipping container with old enduro bikes and send it to Europe, this is it.  The Twinshock Trailfinder is a two day event that focuses on older bikes (with twin rear shocks).  I'd dig up four old XT500s, clean them up and have them ready to go, in team colours.

Some soft luggage would make them as touring ready as they are going to get while keeping everything as light as possible.  The Trailfinder event starts on June 6th in Tremp, Catalunya, Spain and runs until June 8th.  An option is to container the bikes over to Antwerp, Belgium.  It's a two thousand kilometre ride if you go the pretty way around through the Alps down to Spain.  Two thousand kilometers on thirty-five year old enduro bikes is pretty hard core, but that would kind of be the point.

If the container got into Antwerp mid-May, we could get them sorted out and on the road by May 21st.  We could then wind down through Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and France before reaching Spain.  At 300kms a day that's a seven day trip.  With a couple of days off in there to explore, we could roll into Barcelona at the beginning of June and get the bikes sorted at the Yamaha Motor Centre before heading up to Tremp the next week.

Rather than get all GPSy with the ride down, we could do it all with survey maps like the ones used in the Twinshock Trailride.  By the time we found our way to Spain we'd be very familiar with how European survey maps work and would be able to find our way around without looking like lost North Americans.

After three days of trail riding with THE VINCE in the mountains, we could then spend an extra week getting better at it now that we've had a pro show us the ropes, maybe with some Jo Sinnott style wild camping in there.

When we're all done we could find some storage for the bikes and park them up, waiting for the next time someone needs to go trail riding in Spain.

Digging up old, twin shock enduro bikes is tricky, especially in the icy wastes of Canada where old machinery quietly rusts away under the snow and salt.  Ten years in Canada is like thirty anywhere else.  Looking country wide, the only XT500 I could find was in Victoria BC, over four thousand kilometres away.

Expanding the search into The States means I might be able to find non-rust belt bikes that have had easier lives.  Unrestored but road worthy bikes look to be about two grand.  Restored bikes go for over three thousand.  There is one in North Carolina, and one in Mesa, Arizona.  With some some searching and a US broker I think I could collect together four road worthy or thereabouts XT500s for under ten grand, and then spend some more prepping them.

If I started now I could probably have the bikes at hand by the end of February and then spend March sorting them out.  April could be spent breaking them in and shaking them down for any last minute issues.  They'd be shipped the end of April to show up in Antwerp when we needed them.

I'd be dangerous if I had money and time on my hands...

Saturday 13 January 2018

Face Your Monsters: Dakar Heroism

Dakar 2018 keeps coming thick and fast.  Front runners are dropping like flies in the Peruvian sand dunes.  Some of those front runners suggest this is too difficult for amateurs, but it's the professionals who seem to be catching the worst of it.

When I see a self-funded privateer like Lyndon Poskitt rolling in, maintaining his own bike, sorting himself out with a good night of sleep (in a tent on the ground) and then going at it again the next day, I have to think that maybe the speed-wonky professional racers with their team prepared vehicles and motor-home accommodations have missed the point entirely.  Don't get me wrong, I love watching the genius of the fast riders, but when they start moping about how a stage wasn't simple enough that reflexes and speed wasn't all it took to win it, I get annoyed.  Why do professional athletes always want to try and boil complex things down into something simple that they can more easily dominate?  Is that really what win at all cost competition has done to them?  It isn't very flattering.  The less funded a competitor, the more in keeping with the spirit of the Dakar they seem to be.

The professionals of motor-sport with their ungodly reflexes and singular focus on speed struggle with the Dakar, and that's exactly why I like it.  They complain about difficult navigation and the challenges of driving on fech-fech because they want every race to play to their strengths and run like an off road rally on carefully prepared stages. They've failed to comprehend that the Dakar is a long distance, cross country race. If they want to run rally stages, go run rally stages, but don't whine about the Dakar for being what it is.

What the Dakar is confounds people, but rather than hearing millionaire pro-drivers whining, I'd rather see real people battling the thing without excuses.  That many privateers and small teams have struggled mightily to get the funds just for the opportunity to face this monster of a race only makes their struggle more poignant.  I wish advertisers would enable more privateers into doing the Dakar and media would spend more time showing their battles.  Your brand gets a chance to show support for some real heroism and the media would have human stories to develop instead of focusing on the monotonous drone of competition.


Charles Cuypers has navigated the rally in a car and ridden motorcycles previously.  He knows what he's up against and yet once again he dares to try and finish the thing.  Watching this fifty year old fail to finish yet again was truly heroic.  It wasn't very dignified, but it was the most honest, heart wrenching thing I've seen in ages.

 He filmed his crash in the desert and eventual rescue by helicopter.  Through the whole thing he was chanting to himself that he would never give up.  The moment when he realizes it's over and bursts into tears on the helicopter is genuine, unspoiled and a beautifully sad thing to watch.  Will this aging man try again, or has the monster finally beaten him?  I don't care, I'm already a fan.  He had the courage to face the monster in the first place, and isn't that what matters?

"When I think of the Dakar, I have an image engraved in my head: that of Stéphane Peterhansel, a biker flying over the dunes. It was in the 90s. I was a co-driver and since that day I never stopped dreaming of riding the Dakar on a motorcycle. Being at the start is already a victory.  This human adventure shows us what life can be beyond the day to day. I want to live this passion: live life and live the adventure!"

Damned right, Charles, c'est magnifique!  Keep fighting that Dakar monster, that's what heroes do.

Charles rode for Casteu Aventure.

Monday 1 January 2018

Lyndon Poskitt and an inside look into the 2018 Dakar Rally

If you're new to the Dakar Rally and you love motorbikes, I've got a way in for you. 
Lyndon Poskitt has raced in the rally a couple of times now but this year he has raised the degree of inside media coverage to a new level.  If you follow his site you should get daily inside looks into what it's like to ride in the toughest class (Malle Moto is only the rider with no support crew doing everything from maintenance to navigation to riding over thousands of kilometres for almost two weeks, alone).  Riding a motorcycle in Dakar is the hardest thing you can do.  Some bike riders retire onto four wheels as they get older, but the bikers are the hardest of the hard core.

Lyndon's media crew made an hour long documentary that reviews his race from last year.  It introduces you to both the sheer physical exertion, luck and talent, both technical and riding, that is needed to get through the race as a malle moto rider.  After watching this it'll seem nearly impossible, but Lyndon's back at it again this year.

You get a bit of background on Lyndon from the video.  This isn't a rich guy playing at racing.  Lyndon's magic power is being a mechanical engineer.  His mechanical sympathy and technical talent allow him to prepare his bike as well as any mechanic would.  For the past couple of years, since a near death experience, he has been riding around the world participating in races and rallies as he goes.  He has sourced all his own support for this.

The Dakar is the mother of long distance rallies.  It used to run from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal in Northern Africa back in the Twentieth Century.  The BBC made a great documentary about it called Madness in the Desert, if you're interested in a detailed look at how the Dakar started.

Political instability in Saharan Africa moved the rally to South America in 2009 after decades of running from Europe through the desert to Dakar.  The move didn't make things any easier.

If you enjoy motorsport and watching people pushed to the limits of endurance and skill there is little that approaches it.  While there are many factory riders and teams on their fully funded rides, the Dakar always has a healthy bunch of privateers racing, so it doesn't seem like the millionaire's club that a lot of motorsports do.  There is something very genuine about the Dakar.

If you're interested in other forms of motor racing beyond bikes there is everything from quads to cars to massive trucks.  None of it is easy and all of it challenges competitors with thousands of miles of racing through every conceivable ecosystem, from jungles to Altiplano to desert dunes.  This year it's running from January 6th to 20th.


Follow the Dakar on TwitterOn FacebookOn YouTubeCarlton Kirby on Twitter (my favourite announcer on the race if you can find him on Eurosport)

Countdown to Dakar.

Dream Racer:  another great documentary on privateering in the Dakar.

Last year's Dakar:  A Dakar with teeth!

Ever wanted to get old knowing you did something exceptional while you still could?  Dakar Dreams...

n00b's guide to Dakar.

The deadly Dakar.

Rally Raid Network:  Countdown to Dakar

If you're interested in helping out Lyndon's efforts, you can do so here: