Wednesday, 29 June 2011


I’ve never ridden a trike, but always wanted to give it a try. I saw this very smart one at the weekend.

Very smart and well put together. Better by far than some of the lash-ups I’ve seen over the years.

The power plant for this one is a car engine but, to be honest, I much prefer the look of motorcycle engined ones. It just looks odd to me not to have an engine in the frame, although here the space has been filled with the fuel tank and the radiator.

Sign of the Times

Just back from a trip to Shropshire where the local council has loads of yellow signs similar to these posted warning drivers to be more aware of motorcycles on the roads. 

Very well intentioned, I'm sure, but does anyone else have a problem with the message that this one appears to be sending out to other road users?

Thursday, 23 June 2011


Spotted at a recent motorcycle rally, this well used old style Triumph Tiger 750.

I especially liked the warning label stuck to its after-market Mikuni Carburetor. You know, just in case the thought ever entered your mind.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


I came across this old photo from a rally in 2002.

A group from the MZ Riders Club enjoying a pint at the Applecross Inn, Applecross, Wester Ross.

[Can anyone put a name to all of the faces?]

Sunday, 19 June 2011


I did say that it was likely that I hadn't finished with the Skorpion. This morning saw me add a sheepskin seat cover to try and make journeys a bit more comfortable. I'd heard good things about them, so thought that I'd give it a try myself at some point. 

The one I bought is intended for motorcycle seats and came from an online company called Lambland, which I found through a BMW riders forum. I chose the natural (white) option, but you could go for black if you prefer. 

It does require some work as all you get is the fleece, there's nothing to attach it to your saddle. I sewed some lengths of elastic to the underside of the fleece with heavy-duty waxed thread so that, once slipped over the saddle, it doesn't slide about when you're riding.

I have yet to do any serious mileage on it, but will report back on my impressions once I do.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Bad News

From reading through my earlier posts on refurbishing the Skorpion it sounds almost too easy. Although I didn’t have too many problems, it was mostly a cosmetic job after all, those I have had to date were doozies.

Having nailed everything back together, I found that that the instrument lights mostly didn’t work. Removing the clocks for a good look at the wiring showed nothing obviously wrong. On the basis that sometimes it’s the little things, changed all of the bulbs, but still no joy.  Hmm.

While over to pick up an old frame Iain (Kawa) kindly offered to take a look at the wiring for me. I gladly accepted, as I hate wiring problems. When we opened up the loom we were met with the sight of loads of corrosion and a lot of badly frayed wires. Not too difficult to work out where the probable cause of the problem lay.

Iain spliced in a few lengths of new wire and the loom got tidied up and cleaned before being put back together. All but the neutral light was now working and, as that is a common Skorpion problem with a recognised solution, it can wait for another day. I can manage without a neutral light.

So, I thought that everything was now working and got ready for my trip to Ireland. Loaded the bike and set off only for it to conk out at the end of the road. Re-started it lasted only another half mile before coming to another unscheduled halt. It felt like fuel starvation, but I didn’t have time to sort it out as I had a ferry to catch so rode slowly home and picked up the Triumph instead.

Once home after the rally, it became apparent that the fuel tap was partially blocked. This had come with the new tank and I had had no reason to doubt it would work. It was a ten minute job to swap it over. Fingers crossed, I took the bike out for a lengthy spin to see how everything had bedded in. Everything was working fine. At last I thought that I could relax.

However, when I got home I was appalled to see that the paint on the swing-arm was bubbling and peeling off in large chunks. The whole thing was covered in brake fluid (see the streaks on the mudguard) which had eaten through the paint. The finish hadn't been perfect to start with, but this was beyond a joke. Now you know why they say to avoid spilling the stuff on your paintwork!

It turned out that the brake line had split, so I washed everything off and ordered up a new one and some new banjo bolts as well. These were fitted today and now the brakes are working properly and the fluid is staying on the inside again.

Actually, all that sounded relatively easy as well – either get someone else to do the work for you or replace the bit that isn’t working properly.

I also found myself with a number of items which were purchased but never used. Sometimes my enthusiasm for the project got the better of me, other times something came along so cheaply that I grabbed it and then tried to see how it could be made to fit into the scheme of things. I guess that I’ll either hang onto this stuff for future projects or put it back onto eBay and see if I can recoup some of my money.

Anyone want a cheap Harley Sportster touring screen?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


A friend sent me these pictures he took of an unusual bike he came across parked up on Douglas promenade when he was at the TT races on the Isle of Man this year.

It looks to be a Russian built IZH Planeta Sport 350. A 350cc two-stroke single built by the company best known as the manufacturer of Kalashnikov assault rifles (see design on the tank) and marketed in recent years under that brand name in the west.

IZH produces motorcycles which were almost unknown in the west until quite recently. Since 1927 the factory has produced some 11 million of them. Very few, however, made it to the UK.

In the twenties they produced small numbers of American-style large capacity V-twins, but from the early 1930s built mostly smaller capacity two-strokes copied from German models, principally Adler and DKW.

I wonder what reaction is down the pub when the owner casually mentions in conversation that he has a Kalashnikov ?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Finished Product

Right, that's the bike back together, and I'm really happy with how it's turned out.

Remember, I started with a fully-faired MZ Skorpion Traveller (see above)

and ended up with an un-faired MZ Skorpion 'Trail' (well, that's what I'm calling it).

As you can see from the second picture I have added a small flyscreen and some mirrors, and it may not be finished there as I recently picked up a second-hand belly pan which might yet get fitted before the summer is over.

While this work was done with a specific purpose in mind, another big part of the reason for the change was my purchase of a Triumph Sprint ST 955i a little over a year ago. 

‘ST’ stands for ‘Sports Tourer’, and with luggage fitted it did everything that the Skorpion Traveller did, but better. As I no longer had a need for the Traveller as a touring bike, changing it into something completely different made perfect sense to me. It stops life getting too boring.

So, bottom line. How much did this transformation cost, both in terms of time and money? Timewise I managed the whole thing over a couple of weekends and the occasional late night in the shed. Financially, I’m not too sure. The most expensive single item was the fork riser kit, with pretty much everything else being sourced second-hand from eBay or from the depths of one of the many boxes of 'stuff' cluttering up my shed. anyway, I deliberately gave up keeping track of what I’ve spent on this particular bike a long time ago. Let’s just say that it was less than buying a Honda Africa Twin or comparable machine, which had been one option early on.

With the bike now ready, time to start thinking about all those other pesky things that I'll need for the trip to Norway, like a decent sleeping bag etc.

Ding Dong

Right, even I have to admit that this is silly, but I like silly. This is marketed as a ‘Guardian or Spirit Bell’. 

Here's the blurb that came with the thing. I don't think that I need to say any more on the subject:
"Legend has it that Evil Road Spirits have been latching themselves on to motorcycles for as long as there have been bikes on the road. These Evil Road Spirits are responsible for mechanical problems and bad luck along a journey.

Legend goes on to say that by attaching a small bell onto your bike, the Evil Road Spirits will become trapped inside the bell where the constant ringing drives them insane, making them lose their grip until they fall to the ground. (Ever wonder where potholes come from?)

Legend also has it that the mystery of the Guardian Bell carries twice as much power when it is purchased by a friend or loved one and given as a gift.

Show someone how much you care. Offer them defence against the Evil Road Spirits! Give a Guardian Bell and share the Legend of Good Luck it offers to a motorcycle and its rider


Finishing Touches

Before fitting all of the bodywork back onto the machine I gave it a good polish and added a few accessories.

The original MZ tank badges had gone a bit 'milky', so I bought some replacements from Grahams Motorcycles in Taunton, your source for MZ Skorpion spares in the UK

They are not exactly the same as the original ones, ‘MZ’ rather than ‘MuZ’ for a start, but a lot better than the plastic 'bubble' badges being offered for sale elsewhere. These new ones are about half as thick and slightly curved with adhesive tape on the back, so fitting them is simplicity itself. Just peel and stick.

I added a chequered design to the front mudguard and petrol tank. This is pre-cut vinyl and is sold through eBay for people tarting up their Vespa scooters. I think that it looks equally good where it is now.

Then a couple of small decals for the tail piece of the Skorpion.

Fiat Abarth products use a scorpion logo, so I bought a pair of Abarth stickers and, in homage to my Triumph which sits there with its Union Flag decals on the fairing, some German flag ones as well. Why are British (and American) firms the only ones to feel the need to market their products with national flags anyway?

And, finally, a Wallace & Gromit badge to watch over the bike (actually, it's a plastic air freshener that I took apart and drilled, glued and reassembled so that it could be bolted on).

There you have it, some finishing touches. Now it was time to nail everything back together and see what it looked like.

Power Socket

To re-charge my various electrical doodads, I needed a 12v power socket. I had already fitted one to the Traveller fairing, but with that now removed, what to do with the socket?

After much consideration, I decided that it should be located somewhere about the headstock. I could then put whatever gadget I needed charged into my tank-bag and run a cable to the socket which would be near to hand, but out of the worst of the weather behind the clocks and the screen. As the existing socket is intended for marine use, it's also got a waterproof rubber cover which helps.

Having considered a few alternatives, I decided to mount the socket on a plate bolted to one of the new handlebar clamps. I used a piece of aluminium angle bracket cut to size and drilled the necessary holes in it for the socket and for the bolts.

The socket was fitted onto the bracket and the bracket was then mounted to the right-hand handlebar clamp using one of the existing bolts. Mounted there it doesn't obscure the main instruments.

Power is taken directly from the battery rather than from the bike's wiring loom, so there's no need to chop into the existing electrics and it can be removed or moved whenever you want. A friend was kind enough to sort out a couple of lengths of electrical wire with spade connectors on one end for the socket and ring connectors to attach to the battery terminals on the other. These are the red and brown wires you can see in the picture.

Once connected to the battery, the wires were then run along the frame to the power socket and tidied up using cable-ties. 

Sunday, 12 June 2011


I have a fondness for stainless steel fasteners on my bikes. I reckon that anyone who has had to wrestle with rusted and rounded-off mild steel fasteners will be familiar with the desire for something better. 

Stainless steel offers that option. If, like a few people I know, such fasteners are readily available through their work for nothing, great. For the rest of us, I recommend buying big tubs of nuts and bolts in M6, M8 and M10 as these are the most commonly used fasteners on modern motorcycles. Rather than go mad and spend days replacing the existing ones for stainless, just make sure that when anything gets taken off that it gets put back on using stainless and lots of copper grease. The grease is necessary to stop the stainless steel bolt or screw fusing to the steel housing. 

Sure Footed

The standard Skorpion sidestand isn't overly strong and I've had two of them fail on me on two different machines. What generally happens is that top mount bends when a heavily laden machine's weight is put on it. This can be compounded by the sometimes overly-enthusiastic strapping down that happens on ferry crossings. The result is the machine rides lower and lower until the top mount bends or snaps completely.

I bought a second-hand stand destined for another MZ from the SM/SX 125 range. This is much stronger, being heavier steel, and it's a bit longer as well. I had to grind the head into the shape of the original and then fit it with a heavier bolt, although I did manage to retain the original springs. Once painted it went on with a bit of work and I now have much more confidence in its abilities.

An added bonus is that the angle at which the machine comes to rest  is slightly more upright due to the longer arm on the stand. You no longer get the distinct feeling that your bike is going to keep sinking lower and lower until it comes to rest on the ground.

Edit: on the trip the new sidestand bent at the same place as the old one with similar results. Not really worth all of the effort, really.


En Garde

When I came across a nice stainless steel radiator guard destined for a Suzuki Bandit really cheaply I couldn't say no. Especially as it already had a scorpion etched into it (brand name). 

Okay, it wasn't the right size, but I reasoned that with a bit of work I could make it fit. When it arrived, as expected, it was too wide and, annoyingly, a bit too short for the radiator on the Skorpion. Time to get busy.

I straightened the existing shoulders until I had a flat piece of metal. Then, in a vice, I bent it to make new shoulders which now fitted snugly around the radiator. There was nothing I could do about it being too short, but I reckoned that it was better to have some protection than have nothing at all.

Mounting it to the bike needed some thought as the bolt holes in the side of the guard didn't line up with the holes on the side of the Skorpion's radiator, which is how I was planning to attach it.

In the end, I made up two short lengths of flat bar which would go over the top of the guard and hold it in place. These were cut to the same length as the guard and had a couple of holes drilled in them to line up with the existing holes on the side of the radiator. To make them a bit more presentable, they were spray painted the same shade of blue as the handlebars. The existing bolts used to attach the radiator side pieces were removed and slightly longer stainless ones were fitted to hold the flat bar and the guard in place. 

I guess that if you had unlimited funds you could have something made up or you might be able to locate one which fitted exactly. As a cheap option, though, I'm very pleased with how this turned out.

Hold Your Horses

I've never really had any great problem with the performance of the standard Grimeca brakes on the Skorpion, although the pistons on the rear caliper are prone to sticking and I find that they usually need stripped down and cleaned up at least once a year. However, as I was changing everything else, I decided to upgrade to a set of Brembo calipers. These are better quality than the Grimeca ones, which are reportedly copies of the Brembo anyway, and as a bonus they use the same fittings, hoses etc. as the Grimecas.


I picked up a pair of second-hand calipers from eBay quite cheaply. The front one was originally fitted to a Cagiva Mito, the rear from a Ducati Monster if you're interested. 

The only real difference between the two different calipers is that the rear Brembo isn't threaded to take the mounting bolts. A friend offered to put in some helicoil inserts as he'd done the same modification on his Skorpion and had bought a kit to do it with. It's surprisingly easy, and took all of five minutes to cut the threads and fit the inserts. It will now bolt straight onto the existing mounts with the bolts you took off - or better yet, some shiny new stainless ones.

The standard brake pin and circlip arrangement was replaced with stainless bolts and locknuts for peace of mind. Circlips have been known to fall off on occasion, and I'd prefer not to find out the hard way that my brake pads have followed suit. While I was at it, I also replaced the bleed nipples with new stainless ones. 

As already mentioned, the front hose was now too short and had to be replaced. Once more turning to eBay (what did we all do before the computer age?), I bought a new, longer length of stainless brake line together with some new stainless banjo bolts from Venhill. I chose a hose in a dark blue sheath to match everything else and the banjo bolts had 20º (top) and 90º (bottom) bends in them.

As both calipers came with new pads, all that remained was to re-fit everything, top the master cylinders up with brake fluid and test everything to make sure that both brakes now worked. 

Edit: I’m reliably informed that the Front caliper is a Brembo P3034, with 40 mm bolt distance (not 65mm). For the rear brake you need a Brembo P32F.