Thursday 14 March 2019

There's A Starman...

Not something that you see every day, a genuine rocket in the middle of Edinburgh.

Rocket parts from the Black Arrow programme were on display outside the Scottish Parliament buildings in Edinburgh today. 

This is the remains of the Black Arrow R3 rocket, the only British rocket to reach Earth orbit back in 1971. The final flight of the programme was the only ever successful orbital launch by the UK.

It lay in the Australian outback for nearly 50 years, before being returned to the UK by Skyrora Ltd.

It was there for a debate about Scotland's space sector happening in the Parliament. 

Iron Pig on Tour

Riding a 50 year-old East German two-stroke across the USA. 

Story Here.

Monday 4 March 2019

Monkeying Around

Taking my own advice in an earlier post, I spent some time yesterday working on the front brakes on my Triumph Tiger. The bike itself has been off the road for a couple of years and I was hoping to resurrect it and either use it over the summer or sell it on, I haven't quite made up my mind which.

While working on it a while back I had overhauled the back brake, fitting new pads and changing the fluid, but found to my dismay that one piston in each of the front calipers was jammed tight and wouldn't budge, the tops I could see were heavily pitted and scored.  I decided to put them to one side for another day. Yesterday was that day. 
Armed with some new stainless replacement pistons I had ordered while I was waiting, it was time to brave the cold in the shed.

It took a lot of work to get the original pistons out as they were seriously chewed-up and appear to have last been removed by a gorilla using molegrips. As I intended replacing them I didn't feel the need to be particularly gentle with them myself, which was good as they weren't keen on coming out and a fair degree of brute force was required, but come out they did in the end.

Once out, I carefully inspected both calipers as I was a little concerned that the piston seats might have also been damaged but, apart from some superficial scoring to the upper surfaces they appeared sound and some wet & dry sandpaper took care of the problem.

Removing the original seals it was obvious that the amount of corrosion behind them had also been a factor in gripping the pistons preventing their removal. So, first order of business was to carefully scrape the corrosion away. Then a thorough clean in degreasant for both calipers to get rid of any traces of brake fluid or dirt, and it was time to put everything back together.

The new pistons came complete with rubber seals and a little packet of silicon grease, so the seals were greased up and fitted into their channels and the new pistons slotted home. While I was at it, I replaced the bleed nipples with some new ones, also in stainless.

Then, calipers reassembled, smear some copper grease on the backs of the brake pads to stop them squealing, and then into the calipers, a quick wipe with a cloth and that was that for the day. I'll fit them back onto the bike another time when it isn't so cold.

Friday 1 March 2019

Tales From the Shed

With the weather improving slightly, now would seem to be as good a time as any to start thinking about getting your bike ready for the forthcoming year. It’s easy to keep compensating for deteriorating performance, especially if it sneaks up on you over time, and after the winter it can be a good idea to check everything over carefully and sort out any small niggly problems before they get any bigger.

A lot can be accomplished by just taking the time to clean and tidy everything up, as faults are often easier to locate if the bike isn't covered in muck and glaur. Even running a spanner around the nuts and bolts to locate any that have worked loose can transform your handling and doesn't require that you be a mechanical wizard. 

Regardless of how long there is to go till your next MOT (annual inspection) after the winter months I always like to prep whatever bike I'm planning on using as if there were one due. That way, tyres, brakes, electrics etc. get a check, and any damage incurred through neglect or otherwise will hopefully be put to right before you set out on some long trip in the sunnier months. There is nothing more miserable than breaking down and knowing that it is entirely your own fault and that there's no one else to lay the blame on.

Anyway, I always think that there is a sense of achievement in working on your own bike. In knowing that everything works and that it was you that made it so. I don't just mean major surgery such as an engine rebuild, but even the smallest job such as changing a spark plug can give you a deep feeling of satisfaction when done right and everything goes to plan (except on those occasions when everything goes pear-shaped and you spend all day trying to get one rusty nut off an equally rusty bolt, and fail miserably).

No doubt you will probably have your own preferred way of preparing your bike, even if it’s only putting it into your local bike shop, and that’s your prerogative, but I would suggest that the place to start is with your battery.

lead acid on left, gel on right
A modern battery usually gives about 3-4 years trouble-free service, and there's not much point in trying to trace electrical faults if you've not looked at the battery beforehand. Now, I'm sure that you've all had bikes with the original 25-year-old battery in them behave faultlessly. Lucky old you, there's really no need to gloat. For the rest of us, though, first check that it is fully charged and that it is holding that charge. No? Then you need to actually have a good look at it. So, off with the seat and if it is half empty with a sediment at the bottom that looks like sludge then I'm afraid that you might actually have to spend some money on replacing it. While bodging is a way of life for some, I would suggest that a healthy battery is not a luxury but actually a necessity.

Once you've established that the battery itself is in good working order, you can turn your attention to the rest of electrics. Needless to say, anything exposed would probably benefit from a good clean and everything from a general check and tidy up. 

On the topic of electrical things, I was bemused by recent bits in various magazines that insist on some sort of audible warning being needed when using your indicators. When I bought my BMW Boxer many years ago it was fitted with a set of buzzers which made a loud irritating noise when the indicators were activated. They were so loud, and attracted so much attention from pedestrians that after the initial few turns I spent the remainder of the trip home using hand signals. My first action after getting the bike into the garage was to disconnect the bloody things. You've turned the indicators on, how difficult is it to remember to turn them off again, really? Not for me I'm afraid, but each to his own, I suppose.

Back on topic, brakes that work are good! When did you last check yours? It is quite easy to get used to them getting progressively worse over time. Once again, inspect, clean, lubricate and replace anything worn as necessary.

The same sort of thing applies to pretty much everything else: cables, chain, tyres etc. If they’re worn it may be best to replace them.
these are beyond help and should be replaced
Hopefully, with a little preparation you'll be less likely to have any automotive unpleasantness in the months ahead. Best of luck and get spannering.