Saturday, August 12, 2017

Ducatis, Diavels, Dawn & Dusk.

I hate plans...
Always have, the best New Year's parties I've had have all been unplanned. And I live my life that way for this very reason.

I prefer to choose whether I go to a track day at 1.00am on the morning of the track day, just in case something better comes up. 😉

So, the other day, when I was out testing, playing and working on Smithy's Panigale, I fully intended to go for breakfast at the Metz, in Canungra, and then go home. But the best made plans...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ducati Panigale — Fixing Brakes & Rid... Kicking Ass.

When a job's worth doing...
People scare me. No, mechanics scare me. No, I just hate people. 😉

The reason I really love my job is because you can take something that isn't working quite how it was designed, and improve it. Sometimes you can improve it even beyond the original designer's idea because he/she was probably restricted by time or, more likely, money constraints. 
But in the last few years that has become harder because most vehicles are amazing straight out of the box. No question. You can literally jump on a 650 Versys and embarrass the average Joe on an R1, easily. They are that good!

Why am I ranting?
Because I just rode a three year-old bike which, arguably, should out handle most things on the road. And yet, this thing was hopeless, dangerous even.

Scrub the suspension, we can all ride around that. Tyre pressures might cause a few indiscretions, but hey ho. Brakes? Brakes that are downright dangerous, on a modern bike, is not the way to make progress.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Ducati Panigale 899 — The Review, The Dirt.

Ducati? Never rode one.
It's true, I have never been on a Ducati, not a Monster, not a 916, not even a Mike Halewood Replica. And I love to ride different bikes, just never had the chance, up until now.

He's a strange lad at the best of times, but had a bit of bad luck recently. The GSXR750L2 that I raved about, and that he crashed at Lakeside, was stolen recently (along with five other bikes!). Bastards! 
The only upside to this dark cloud was that he went out and bought a 2014 Ducati Panigale. And those things, without a doubt, look pretty damn cool.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Oil Filters — Part Deux.

Where are we at?
OK, so I've changed the oil twice since doing the original oil and filter change when I first got the bike. For those that remember, the filter fitted had no manufacturer's markings on it and, when I cut it up, found it to be absolute crap. 

I fitted a genuine Honda one, and since then just dropped the oil a couple of times to try and get everything running clean inside again. Today I put another flush in the engine and changed it all again. And this, my very bored friends, is how it went down.

2011 CBR600RR
Really like this bike, the paint, the shape, its agility... it's awesome. But someone decided it was a good idea to hide the oil filler cap behind that black fairing panel. Doesn't make sense that to top up the engine oil, or check the filler cap for tightness (as they do before you enter the racetrack), you have to remove part of the fairing.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

It's True, I'm All Torque...

And old school.
I'm trying to work out when I became old school. I guess I was brought up with old-fashioned methods of working on vehicles and there comes a point when you become the same as the person who taught you. Who knows? 
I also owned old, classic bikes when I was first able to ride on the road so my path was probably set.

What does this have to do with anything?
I often get asked about the torque settings on my various blog posts. Especially the little KTM Adventurer. The truth is, I don't know the actual values required by KTM and I generally crack on through with experience. And this stuff can only be learned over time. When I first started as an apprentice, every time a sump plug was tightened by me, it was double-checked by an old-school mechanic. Every single time. And this went on until they'd decided I was doing an alright job (yeah, they're still checking).

Of course, there are set values for most components and in this day and age of blaming someone else, stupidity and a lack of common sense, manufacturers have to give you an absolute figure for every bolt. Because they don't want to hear you whinge but, more importantly, don't want to be held accountable for anything.

In this crazy world, no longer can you keep tightening a bolt until the thread strips, and then back off half a turn. (Please don't do this, I'm being sarcastic)

Hand tight, and torque wrenches.
With all this frivolity I've forgotten what I was writing about. 

Oh yes, I was considering the small bolts like M5's and M6's a lot of home mechanics consider to be as strong as a 10.8 M12 Allen bolt. Having said that, I've seen a few "professional" mechanics do the same. There is a very fine line when tightening a camshaft cap, for instance, before the threads pull straight out of the head. Ask a Vauxhall/Opel mechanic about the 16V engines and they should be able to give you a fair indication. 

You see, you're looking for that sweet spot where it "feels' just right. You know at that point to stop dead. No further, or tears will flow. But on those Vauxhall cylinder heads, something appears to be made of case-hardened cheese. Either the alloy is very soft, or the bolts just keep stretching. Either way, it always feels like you've left them loose. But you haven't.

And mechanics needed to know. How tight do we go? The official consensus was hand-tight. Most of us, with just a hint of common sense, could get by with that. I wasn't looking for extra grief. I've been tightening bolts for years with very few issues.

But no!
Just as there is always someone in your class, when doing a manufacturer's course, that has to ask the obligatory stupid question, along comes old mate wanting to know how tight is hand-tight? 

"Well, how tight do you think hand-tight is?" asks the lecturer.

"Well, it's different for everybody. What if you're a big bloke, or a female apprentice?" retorts the mechanic (soon to be beaten to a pulp by a class full of impatient technicians).

Stalemate. Yes, everyone's idea of hand-tight is different. But give me strength! 

I see their point, but if you have to ask how tight to tighten a bolt to hand tight, are you in the right job? 

The answer.
Well some clever person at Vauxhall had a think and came up with a figure, which might've been around 5.9NM (I forget), and across the land everyone was happy. No more stressing out over loose bolts, stretched bolts, or case-hardened cheese bolts. 

Those of us with common sense rejoiced because that was one less stupid question that would keep us at the college longer than necessary.

For a while at least.
Because with that came a new problem altogether. You see, no one had needed a torque wrench that could work so accurately, and at such a low figure, before. And where the hell do you get one anyway? Oops. 

So what did old mate, who couldn't decide how tight hand-tight actually was, do without the mouse-sized torque wrench?

He went back to the old method of doing the small bolts up to his idea of hand-tight. Just like in life, the answer was there all along. 😜

More soon folks...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Lakeside 21/1/2017 — A Track Made For Fun... And 600's.

Boys, boys, boys...
Why do we hype everything up? What's with the banter? The underhand tactic of knocking self-confidence?

As long as there's been racing, riders have been looking over at someone's front wheel, looking up at their opponent and tutting. Anything to put an air of doubt into someone's mind and gain an advantage. And, depending on the mental strength of the other person, it's worked more than once.

But I was looking forward to this day for more than one reason. It was a chance to play with the 600RR on a track that was almost designed for it. Sharp, off-camber corners make big power a pain in the 'arris. The little Honda should be in its element. Easy to turn, easy to stop, and easy to get on the power.

The heatwave continues in Queensland and today will be tough. I'm taking my old leathers because the sweat is going to be pouring.

Monday, December 26, 2016

CBR600's, Trackdays and Relearning.

600's...Taking a step back?
There was a certain criteria I was looking for when downsizing:
  • Lighter bike 
  • Better brakes
  • More fun
I've never owned a 600 before, it's always been about big bikes, more power and all the hype that goes with it. But... having tried Smithy's GSXR750 (probably the best of both worlds), I wanted something that was easier to throw around and enjoy on the track. First go on the CBR was all I needed, it was like a toy. A very fast toy.

Queensland Raceway.
I've said it before, but this track is scary fast! Glenn Allerton currently holds the lap record at around 1.08 minutes on a BMW S1000RR. And I can mooch around in the 1.24's— snail's pace when you look at it like that. 

And when you turn up at the track and see this, you realise you're about to see some real talent. Glenn Allerton and Wayne Maxwell out playing in yellow group. Think I'll stick to blue.

And how would the little CBR fair amongst the 750 and 1000 of Messrs Smith and Wadwell, on their Suzukis. Well, in a straight line, not very well at all. 

The first thing that hit me was how many gear changes were needed, still leant over. When I usually exit turn 3 on the 1000 I have plenty of time to consider going up another gear. But now I was finding myself having to hook my left foot back under the lever because i was hitting the limiter, losing time every lap. 
Going down the front straight I was also having to make a concerted effort to watch the rev counter because, again, I'd hit the limiter each time! Big learning curve.

The first session was about getting up to speed again. Too long between trackdays, and a new bike to boot. The fear of turn 4 is still firmly lodged in my brain and I found it hard to go round there at anything above walking pace (that's what it felt like). And Bryan quickly followed up with "That's what it looked like!"

With the Yamaha and Kawasaki race teams playing here today too, there was a lot of talent to watch in the yellow group, including the aforementioned Glenn. He makes it look very easy to push out 1.09's. One of the kawasaki's went down into turn 1, during the second session, so we had to wait for ambulances etc. to come and pick the poor fella up. His bike was completely mullered/torn apart.

Wayne Maxwell pulls up by my CBR for some tips... from his crew.

The afternoon is where I pick up speed, every time. But Bryan's pace has picked up immensely since I last did a trackday, so he was disappearing in all but the final session. Going up against Pat on the 171BHP GSXR1000 was ok in the corners, but a waste of time down the straights. He eventually let me go in front and left me to it (felt sorry for me).

Bryan then puts in a 1.24, now the heat is on. That's the quickest I've done on my 1000 and his 750. It's going to be hard to pull that out on the 600!

Being dragged around is a big thing, go out on your own and you end up braking way too early and go in much too slowly. Follow someone and you're always looking for places to get in front — it helps. As it was in our final session. Because he waited for me to warm my tyres for a couple of laps, it was much easier to hang on behind. The horsepower difference between the 600 and the 750 is around 30 big ones, but you can overhaul that quite easily if you're on it. 

Final session of the day, we finished on 1.25's, not too bad for a horsepower needy track. There's plenty of places for me to make up that lack of speed, the main one being bravery. Lakeside will be a more even challenge with any luck, but let's wait for some cooler weather.

Pretty consistently slow. Ready to race below.

Overall, Smithy has upped the pace immensely. Pat doesn't care and will use whatever means possible to say goodbye. I've got what I wanted, something to make me faster in the turns, but now I need to practise it. The CBR is a cracking little bike, great on the road too. And easy for my 72kg's to throw around rather than the Gixer working me over.

Seriously folks, that bike is fun!