Saturday, July 28, 2012

The End of Many Things!

The 2010 Cross Country season was over, Max and I had won our classes, which should have meant many grins and a massive amount of weight removed from various shoulders. No. Instead, I was in my shop throwing the most hateful looks I possibly could at a Triumph T100 that had been converted into an off road bike. Just staring at it wasn't enough, I would gather up a heap of hateful look and heave it all on at once. Much more effective. We had a Lost Weekend coming up to cap the end of the year so I had decided to ride the thing the mile or so to the car wash and give it a nice clean. I was nearly there when a distinct rattling began to be audibly apparent. In my head there was much yelling, "DAMN YOU, OIL PUMP!!!!" as I pulled into the car wash. Opening the tank showed the level at or near proper location....this meant the feed side had given up this time. I know what your thinking, "I've never had a problem with Triumph's horrid, crude, antiquated plunger pumps, you must just be the worlds sloppiest Triumph owner", and your prolly correct. However, this process had involved three different pumps (the original, another used one, and a fancy new jobby), resetting of balls on seats, lapping seats+resetting, removal of oil tank and cleaning at least 3 times, replacement of all oil lines, three different filter set-ups, plus a complete flushing of all oilways during a bottom end rebuild caused by pump failure. I may be the worlds sloppiest Triumph owner, but I've put in the time, damn it. Across the busy road from the car wash is a Honda shop, so after giving it the wash it needed anyway, I pushed the bike over and walked home to get my truck. To say I was miffed is an understatement, I wanted to set the horrid thing on fire and throw it at another Triumph, thereby starting a chain reaction that would eventually consume all the worlds Triumphs with plunger pumps in a grand conflagration. Yeah, I may have been pretty upset. Back home I just stared at it hatefully for sometime before I cleared the pump (this was a pretty quick exercise due to a modified timing cover that didn't upset the timing when you needed to remove it to deal with a pump every few days), fired it up, and it was still rattley. Peachy, damage done. At least the season was over and I quickly decided if it blew up at the Lost Weekend I would let that be the punctuation to this little sentence. The bike was duly loaded, and we were away.

We had a good number of people convene at our Durhamtown haunt. Usual suspects from North Carolina included Jay, Marcus and Alex. Various parts of Tennessee were represented by Tony (T-Read), and Larry. Florida put up Max, George and me, with a first LW appearance by James
Who was dubiously mounted on one o' them Spanish two stroke things,
Larry was also was in possession of a dubious Spanish two stroke thing, the starting process of which required a 3763 step ritual, which included kicking
 "poking with a stick"
the patented "screw you gravity" maneuver
more kicking
any finally appealing to various deities
I didn't see much of day one, I was poking at the Triumph, trying to determine how bad and where the damage was,
I mainly just did a couple short runs by myself, but despite the usual autumn crispness, everyone else seemed to be having a pretty incident free good time.
The second day, after a mighty attempt-to-start-a-bultaco session, I said to hell with it and went out with everyone. As almost always seems to happen, we met up at the far end of the park at the bottom of the hill climb
With everyone present (minus Tony, who had had to leave early) we decided it was the perfect time for a nice Georgia woods family portrait
Then, it was back to camp for vittles. I was beginning to think the Triumph might actually survive the weekend, it was noisy, but not nearly as bad as at Carolina when it had consumed itself. I began upping the pace a bit and enjoying myself when on a straight stretch of road about half way back there was a measly lil' "tink" and forward motion stopped. Luckily for me I wasn't by myself, unluckily for Jay and Alex, one of them would get to tow me out. Straws drawn, the field tank Triumph was hitched up to Alex's teeenyy, tiny BSA single for the long drag home. We nearly came-a-cropper only once or twice, but managed to not kill ourselves, while the little BSA valiantly managed to not be torn in half hauling over five hundred pounds of stricken Triumph and its pilot, emerging to the reward of hot dogs and beer
The Triumph was once again given accusatory looks
I was pretty sick of the thing at this point, and the thought of pulling it all apart over the winter filled me with dread. I instead decided to take a different tack (read about that here) for the upcoming season, leaving the Triumph for some future day when I could stand to touch it. Not wanting to take up space at home, it sat in a corner at work for the next year and a half, mostly forgotten
Eventually, I got the proverbial wild hair, pulled the engine and decided to get it running, mainly to get it out of the way at work. The hated plunger pump went away, replaced with a Morgo rotary unit. The crank was reground, new rods, big ends, and mains purchased. Parts scavenged off it to put on the AJS were replaced, and it was eventually ready to start. One afternoon, fuel on, oil in I gave it a kick, "blump", it was gonna start! Second kick "blump, blump, blump". I figured the next kick would do it....but if you're waiting for a happy ending, it aint coming. I went to press down on the kickstart for that third time and it was locked hard. At first it seemed something in the kickstart or gearbox had locked up, it being so sudden and solid, so covers were taken off as I followed the path from lever to 'box, nothing. More covers, 'box to primary, still nothing. Heart beginning to sink as I got closer to the engine. Something in the bottom end was locked up. As far as I could tell, something had survived cleaning the crank after the blow up and subsequent grind and had been shoved out as it tried to start and galled a big end. I was done. You may at this point level all the charges of incompetent Triumph owner at me you want. I couldn't care less, I was not pulling that engine again. I took it home and left it outside the shop until I decided what to do with it. I joked I was gonna bolt it to the wall, the wife didn't realize I was joking and suggested I should mount it on the center beam so it could be seen from both sides. I stared at her, it wasn't the response I was expecting. I made a bracket. Max, though I feel he disapproved, was roped in to help get the 40 ton beast up there. Here he is, verifying that it is, indeed, a Triumph bolted to a beam
To be honest, me and the Triumph never really got on with each other. I enjoyed racing it, and was usually impressed by its toughness given the abuse it was subjected to, but I didn't love it. In the end it put me in a bit of a quandary because I knew I probably wouldn't ride it again. I never considered selling it, because in the state it was it would bring so much less than it was worth to me, being my first dirt-bike and the one I'd spent so much time on over the previous few years. I didn't really have space for a bike I never thought I'd get running again in the shop, so it would have been relegated to the shop's loft, a place from which few things return. I guess what I'm saying is I'm lukewarm happy its on the beam. I won't have to feel the regret of having sold it, and its mostly preserved in a nice climate controlled space should I get the (highly unlikely) urge to hoist it down and get it running. But I've pondered how to end this post for a long while, because there is a small part of me sad its up there on that beam. However, there's a HUGE part of me GLAD its up there, so I guess I'll just wish it a happy second retirement. Made from the bones of at least two other bikes, it was enjoying its first long slumber when it came to me, dragged out of a shed, old, worn out, its mismatched parts held together with zip-ties. It was bought for cheap because it was fully expected its life would end after it got wrapped around a tree. It was meant to be disposable, but it kept going despite me and despite itself. Its a real bike now, not a bitsa project. Its broken, but whole, it has its own stories. I guess I'll just let it sleep a while.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Triumphant Triumphs! ISDTRR 2010!

Last race of the season. Amazing. It hadn't exactly been a trouble free year, but the end was truly near and a long winter's nap was nigh. Max's bike had been far easier to trouble shoot than thought. As we were in his shop one night poking it with sticks (genuine Lucas approved sticks, of course) trying to determine the cause of the mystery ignition gremlin that manifested itself at Barber, sparks helpfully lit up the location of a chafed wire. Luckily, the sparks didn't also light up the whole bike, so a couple snips and some "electrical streamlining" later it was running happy as a hardwood tree. If hardwood trees can happily run...whatever. So the three 5 hunnerts and their Floridian riders were on their way to the last installment of the three race ISDT series, the Reunion Ride. For a reminder what this type event is like, read HERE . Decent pics on this one, so I'll keep the word things to a minimum. Anyhow, I'll sum up at the end, so...Pics! Here we go:
Three goons of various descriptions, bikes in impound so nothing to do but drink coffee for an hour or so
The impounded bikes, George's in particular
On the line, waiting for our minute
And we're off!
Max approaching the lunch stop
George, doing the same
Back on the line, leaving the lunch stop
Single lap of the grass track at the end of the first day
Day two was a bit wetter, it rained a bit the night before, but the weirdest thing was the morning fog. The first transfer stage took you straight up a dirt road onto the mountain where visibility was in the single to low double digits. For a good chunk of the way you were following the tail of the bike immediately in front of you, and that was your entire view of the world. But I'm getting ahead of things! Pics!
On the line again
Then it was back to the bright sunshine and a finish on the grasstrack
Max's bike ran great all weekend, meaning he got the points he needed to win Classic Expert, I had already accrued enough at Barber to win Classic Intermediate, and George ended 3rd in Classic Int. George got a bit turned around on day one and got spat out of a special test, which sadly earned him a DNF. Max and I got our 6 Days Awards for having survived the whole enchilada. Damn fun events, those Ahrma Isdt's. I seriously cannot say enough good things. Do one, you'll love it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I advise you all to throw your K2F's in a ditch now.

At one point I had opinions about strange things...things like magnetos, strong opinions about them, in fact. As I got older and I had to deal with a smaller selection of the things, but a greater selection of other things, those opinions drifted further from from my mind and I instead developed opinions about things that had nothing to do with mags, opinions about flooring, for example... However, I recently discovered that as you sit on the side of the road waiting for your friend George to ride his annoyingly spark-endowed Triumph back to your house to grab your truck to come load up your annoyingly spark-challenged AJS, those opinions come flooding back like a wave.
Once upon a time I had a Royal Enfield Constellation. I hated that bike. Hated it for many reasons, only one of which was its magneto. It's likely that it was about that time I began having opinions about mags. In particular, I didn't like K2F's. Compared to the SR1 on my AJS single, it seemed like a needlessly complicated device, with its fancy rotating armature with everything having to flow in and out of it and such, plus important bits that might need changing as part of routine overhaul buried deep inside...horrible (the word "surgery" always seems to occur soon after the word "condenser" in K2F-land). But then there was the lowly SR, relegated to powering industrial engines an' boats an' such. Not nearly glamorous enough for a motorcycle, I guess, so they were rarely used on two wheeled devices. I never understood this. They are probably the best thing Lucas ever made, the whole thing can be stripped down and rebuilt with a flat tip screwdriver and a small wrench in 5 minutes, lovely. Oddly enough, two of the very few bikes that used an SR were one year of AMC singles (which just happened to be the year I had) and a couple years of Enfield twins (which mine wasn't). I decided I needed an SR2 on the Constellation. I Acquired one. I never bothered to install it. I sold the Constellation. Did I mention I hated that bike?

Back in the present, the Mongrel 20's K2F (rebuilt at considerable expense just last year) packed up this past Sunday just as I was set to load the bike for British in the Blue Ridge and some trail riding on Wednesday night. I can't rebuild a K2F, in fact I don't think anyone can. I once heard from a reliable source the rebuild procedure goes something like this:
1: Receive mag from customer
2: Wait 'til moonless night, bury mag on sanctified ground, sacrifice 2 chickens and a goat on spot mag is buried
3: Wait 'til full moon, exhume K2F, return to customer in exchange for much money
4: Wait a year or two and receive same K2F from customer, repeat steps 1-3
At first I looked for another mag to quickly drop in the duff one's place, I couldn't find a working K2F in the entire Southeast, I needed a Plan B....I glanced around the room, my eyes happened to fall upon the spare SR1 that sits next to my computer (its sat there for a good while, you don't need spare SR mags), I was reminded I hated K2F's, a thought came to mind "I've got an SR2, and I've already modified the mag pinion to take an auto advance". As I waited for phone calls to be returned telling me a drop in replacement did not exist in the miniscule time available I checked to see if the SR would fit, it would. I checked if it had spark, it had spark. Did it have spark in the right direction, it did not, but because its an SR, I grabbed my trusty high tech Magneto Grade Screwdriver and brief moments later (ish) it had spark in the right direction. By 4 o'clock Tuesday the K2F's options were running out as time was running out. The SR it was, time for an adapter plate and a plan to get it in there
It was a tight fit, but it did fit
Just needed to reroute the exhaust to clear the much taller instrument
And the job was done
Did it work? I didn't know and honestly didn't care. I was beat, my shop reeked of a dead rat that I couldn't locate, it was hot, I was being attacked by some of the horrible flesh eating insects of which Florida is well endowed and time was up. Nothing for it but to load up and hope it just needed timing the next day.
The pressure was on, for the three days this process had been playing out I had been crowing how much better SR mags are than K2F's. George and Max were ready to pounce. As I stayed back and timed the engine with my trusty wood wedge, brass rod and cigarette paper they went riding on their reliably sparking Triumphs, visions of the abuse they would heave my way when they returned to a non working AJS dancing in their heads. The AJS started and ran. George and Max looked disappointed. In the end it was a great weekend, this past weekend, with three happy Floridians on mighty Five-hunnert twins scaring themselves witless on horrifying clay downhills in the north Georgia woods, all 6 cylinders just a-sparkin' away (ish). Lovely.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dusty, dusty, dusty: Barber 2010

Jumping back in time, once again, we head to 2010 where it was time for Barber. George wasn't racing which meant he was able to take a bunch of good pics, so I'll keep the type-y bits short. Basically, Barber is usually a good event, with a large turnout both for the racing and just to camp and hang out. 2010 was no different, with Max and me joined by Chad and Larry. All bikes seemed okay so it looked like it was going to be a good race. The Triumph had settled down and was mostly behaving itself.
And despite his attempts to broil himself with one of his BSA singles, Chad was not swayed from his faith in the evil things and had shown up on one of the examples he hadn't tried to barbeque.
Max, up with the fast kids was off like a rocket at the start, but I as usual got a crummy start so ended up going into the woods behind Chad and Larry.
This was bad because Chad and I were kinda in a scrap having not been in a race together since Jeepskool when I had completely shamed myself. Larry isn't terribly comfy in the woods, and his pace shows that, so being stuck behind him I could do nothing but watch Chad walk away until I could get past. Luckily there was a nice long straight not too far into the course, so was able to use the Triumph's not insignificant difference in power to get past his Rickman before diving into the woods and picking up Chad, who had gotten stuck behind a slower rider. This happened right before the trickiest spot on the course, a steep drop into a deep "V" of a gully with a 90 degree sharp left at the bottom. The spot had already made it onto my radar on the sighting lap when it had become a mess, and it would stay that way through the race. The situation wasn't helped by a dead bike that someone must have stalled there on the sighting lap and had chosen to just abandon in the worst possible spot. Needless to say, Chad and I dropped down that slope and found ourselves stuck in a mess of 4 or 5 bikes because of another stalled two stroke menace. One of Max's favorite sayings (which rarely refers to actual physical location, but rather a more ethereal concept of "being") instantly came to mind "that's not where you wanna be, bud". With its size and weight, the Triumph makes a pretty decent bulldozer, so I put both cylinders to use to get the hell outta there before another rider came down that slope and tried to park in This had the added benefit of putting me ahead of Chad, but he stayed right on me throughout that lap. You can see how close he was at the timing tent in the orange/black pants just clearing the trees
Up ahead Max was on a much faster pace, but was beginning to have a problem with some rough running and his bike cutting out
The course was a pretty fast loop, so you turned a lot of laps in a pretty short time. Chad stuck with me until he attempted a pass at an inopportune spot and clothes-lined himself on a vine, leaving him a nice Hang 'em High mark on his neck. I was oblivious, so spent the rest of the race thinking he was right on my tail
 Despite his bike's mystery ignition problem, Max was lapping between a half and a full minute faster than me as he doggedly tried to stay up with the front runners
 It was bone dry out there, so almost immediately the ground got churned up and became airborne. As the race progressed, it seemed the dust was less and less inclined to settle down, eventually getting to the point it felt like you were riding through a forest fire
In the end, Max's bike got worse, becoming too much of a fight and began to worry him, so he bowed out at 9 laps with 3rd in his class, which worried him a bit about his points because we had one race left, which was the ISDT Reunion Ride. Therefore, he was fairly concerned that an intermittent but clearly recurring electrical gremlin was cropping up right before an event that required many hours of riding over a couple days with a couple creek crossings to add water into an already worrying electrical equation.
Chad's run in with the vine rang his bell pretty good and I think he'd had a hard time getting his mind back into the race afterwards, leading him to call it quits after 4 or 5 laps. I was completely confused, the timing board at the end of each lap kept saying I was in second, but there had been no one else in Classic Int. on our line. Then suddenly, one lap it claimed I was the leader. I spent the rest of that lap trying to figure out the other person in my class and when I had passed him, only to see 2nd place again at the end of the next lap. It took a little bit after the race to figure what had happened. There was another Tr5t in the race, but he had accidentally started on the expert line, so I had assumed he was in Max's class. Not that it woulda made any difference at all had I known this at the time. He was much faster than me so I only even saw him during the race because he had gotten himself off course, stalled and had trouble restarting. We had actually gone back and forth a bit after that, but he was clearly faster and my clutch was beginning to drag so he strolled on ahead for the win. Between the dust and my clutch, after that many short laps I finished looking like some sort of grubby hobo
Oh, and the bike's return side pump had begun acting up right at the end of the race. No damage seemed to have occurred, but a mighty Harrumph was aimed squarely at the bike.
So with one race to go, both my an Max's bike were being quite mysterious. My points situation was such that I had already won Classic Intermediate, but Max would need a first at the Reunion Ride to win his class. He had run unopposed in that series to this point, and likely would again, but being a two day event that counted as a single race, he would have to finish both days to get the points he needed to get into first in Expert, which meant the mystery gremlin in the ignition would have to be found. Fun, fun.