May 18th, 2013

A couple of days ago I wheeled the Superstock ZX10R out of the garage to take some photos, and mentally declared it as 'finished'.  And, it looks pretty good - the photos are here

While I was admiring my labours, it ocurred to me that I should probably fire it up, so I grabbed the keys and pushed the button.  The motor span over, but showed not the slightest hint of firing.  Hmm.  I figured I'd left something unplugged somewhere, and would just need to check a few connectors.  But, I didn't time there and then.

The next day I set aside a couple of hours, pulled the bodywork off and started checking all the obvious connectors (to fuel pump, etc) that I might have disturbed.  Hmm.  Nothing obvious.  So, I fired up the internet, and tried to figure out how to get a fault code out of the DFI system.  Then I downloaded a service manual.  And read some forums.  Nothing.

However, there were some references to the tip sensor (referred to in the manual as the "vehicle down sensor"), and I knew I'd disturbed that, so I went to have a look at it.  When removing the stock bodywork and fitting the race seat, I'd had to make up a different bracket to re-site as the race seat didn't allow it to be fitted in the stock position.  I'd spent some time on the bracket, a few weeks ago, and had felt quite pleased with myself when done, with  the sensor  now safely mounted well out of the way, and completely protected from the elements by the race seat.

Tip sensor

So I peered at  the sensor, and a sheepish grin spread across my face...

You see that arrow and the word 'UP' by it.  Guess which way I'd mounted it?  Yup, upside down. Everytime I turned the ignition on, the bike decided it was belly up, and shut down the fuel pump, injections and ignition systems. (But, annoyingly, let the starter motor still work).

Anyway, I flipped the sensor the right way up, and the bike fired the instant I pushed the button.  So, I took a photo to remind me of my stupidity.

Last meeting before the TT

May 7th, 2013

Because the last 2-day meeting at Jurby turned out to be a 1-day meeting due to bad weather, I needed to do one more race day this year to get my TT Mountain Licence.  This was all getting a bit tense, as the next Jurby meeting was on the last qualifying weekend.  

 Sunday we were up  early set up in the paddock by 8am.  Tho we didn't beat the dozen camper vans that were there the night before.  The weather was grey, not warm, and very windy, but at least it was dry.  The usual signing on, drinking coffee, scruting etc was done without incident, and soon enough we were out for first practice.

The plan was to just race the ER6 based 650 twin, but I did one practice session on my 'old' 600 as a reserve so that qualified to race it if there was a problem with the twin.  I then lent to the bike for the rest of the day to good mate Andy Cowie .   Anyway, I took the practice session fairly quietly, and recorded a 1:20, which is about what I did 3 weeks ago, and definitely nothing to write home about.

Next session was on the  twin and it was every bit as lovely as I remembered, and now changed gear more reliably too with a correct length turnbuckle fitted to the gearchange mechanism.  I got 2 sessions, for the 2 different events, and gridded it 7th for the "Steelies + singles/twins/triples) and 6th for the "650 twins + 400 fours".  I know I was meant to be taking it easy, but the twin is just soooo easy to ride hard, without ever feeling near the edge (I know, I know), so I was pleased to put in some good times.

And then the sun came out, and the wind dropped a bit, and it warmed up.

First race out was the "Steelies + Odds'n'Sods".   I was starting from the 3rd row, and got a cracking start (the twin launches brilliantly) and was in around 5th place on the first lap.  The 4 guys ahead of me were definitely on a hotter pace and went away, but I settled in, slowly dropping a few places to some quick steelies (and boy are some of them quick!), finishing (I think) in 8th or 9th place (Mylaps appears to be properly borked this morning).  I was 3rd in class tho, with only 2 twins ahead of me.

Then a brief respite and then it was out for the 650 twins + 400 fours.  Second row for this one, and my bike ate the revvy little fours for breakfast off the line, putting me in 3rd into the first corner.  Callum Collister had pole by a country mile, and proceeded to demonstrate why as he rode away at 3 seconds a lap to take an easy win.  In the meantime, I was busy with a lad called Dave Kennington on a beautiful (and quick) ZXR400.  I felt kinda guilty as I rode past him down the straight, because while he had a very healthy 78bhp, I had 93bhp.  The first time I did it he got me back on the brakes into the hairpin, but the second time I made it stick, and thought it was settled.  But then, on the last lap, I had to slow for a backmarker, and the little blighter came right past me again.  But now he was stuck too, and there was just enough of a gap, and enough grunt from the twin, to get past them both and onto the next straight, where I thought I ought to be safe.  And so it turned out - I'd finished 2nd.  This is possibly my best ever result for a short-circuit six lap dash (I have had a win before, but that was a B final).  Best of all, I did a 1:17, only 3 seconds a lap slower than Callister's 1:14, which was itself a new class record.  Callister was 2nd (behind Ryan Kneen) in the four big bike races, and I would have expected to be more like 7~8 seconds slower than him in them, at best, so I'm very pleased with "only" being 3 seconds slower.

After that the sensible thing to do would have been to put the bike in the van.  I knew there was everything to lose, nothing to gain, etc etc, but hell, I was there to race - that was the name of the game. I had a fairly uneventful 2nd ride in the Steelies + Odd'n'Sods, finishing, I think, a couple of places lower overall, and 4th in class.

Unknown to both me and Keef, there was no 2nd sidecar race, meaning we were straight back out again.  Keef nearly missed the start, and I should definitely have, riding straight through the wrong lane to join the back of the grid.  I had a bit of fun overtaking people, but this time I really was being careful, and the result was nothing to report.

And then we were done, nothing (bike or rider) was broken and both Keith and I had had a *brilliant* time.  We loaded the van, drove home, ran through the shower, and went to the pub.  I think we were that at 6:15pm, and Keith drank his first pint in 2 gulps.  I had my results sheet in my back pocket, and waved it at everyone who came in, and offered to buy them beer.

Next stop, Bray Hill!


Soon, my pretty, soon...

May 3rd, 2013

The Superstocker is nearly done, so I grabbed a few photos in the sun.  All that remains is to tidy up a couple of electrical cables, paint the number boards and numbers, and sticker it up.  Oh, and fit the 520 chain I've just ordered.

Nearly ready



Superstock preparation

April 20th, 2013

Most of my spare time over the last few weeks has been spent preparing the Kawasaki ZX10R which I will be riding in the three TT races for big bikes - the Superbike, Superstock and Senior.  The bike  has been provided by Frasers of Gloucester, and, apart from a Two Brothers Racing end can, was in completely stock condition when I collected it at the beginning of April.  Using the brilliant Trello application (with which I run much of my life), I quickly organised what needed to be done.  The list of jobs is easy to write, but not so quick to do:

  • Remove all unnecessary road kit (lights, stock bodywork, etc)
  • Order & fit race fairing & seat unit
  • Order & fit Maxton shock
  • Get the forks modified by Maxton
  • Order & fit engine armour
  • Order & fit steel brake lines and new pads
  • Order & fit rearsets
  • Order & fit GPR steering damper
  • Order & fit '"sharks fin" (mandatory chainguard on lower side of swingarm)
  • Drill and lockwire relevant bolts
  • Change oil & filter
  • Replace coolant with plain water

As you can see, there's a lot of stuff that needed buying in that list, so it's been like the run up to Christmas with deliveries on an almost daily basis.  I suspect the pain of the credit card bill afterwards will be like Christmas too.   Yesterday the shock and forks came back from Maxton, meaning I could finsh most of the mechanical work.  All I'm waiting for now is the fairing, and a fix to the exhaust link pipe, which hopefully will be here in the next week or so.

Here's some photos of the work in progress:

LHS rearset


Engine armour

Forks & brake lines

GPR Steering damper

RHS rearset

Exhaust hanger & remote preload adjuster

Sharks fin##

Maxton shock

First Race Meeting of the Year

April 17th, 2013
As the benighted ACU had decided to change the rules for getting a TT Mountain Licence, such that one now needs two of the six qualifying race days to be in the same year as the event which you use it (TT or MGP), then I needed to get my arse back out on a race bike.  Wish I hadn't spent the money going to Cadwell in October now.  Oh well, there was a 2 day meeting at Jurby which would do the trick.
I also decided to tie in a bit of TT prep, so flew across on Friday lunchtime, on the wonderful service from Gloucester to the Isle of Man.  I may have waxed lyrical about this before, but it really is the way flying should be.  Gloucester airport only has 2 commercial flights a day, for a plane with a max capacity of 19 people, so check-in is relaxed. Like, you turn up 30 mins before the flight, park for free, show some ID, get your bag scanned and pretty much get straight on the plane.  They've changed the model of plane this year - still a twin-prop 19 seater, but now with <drum roll> IN FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT!!!  Consisting of a TV behind the pilots (whose heads can be seen beyond)...but, because the plane is quite noisy, and there's no facility for headphones, the TV shows old silent movies!  Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd on the way out.  Brilliant thinking.
Anyway, enough of that.  I arrived, borrowed best mate Keith's car and did a sighting / familiarisation lap of the TT course, with my old course notes on my lap.  I stopped to note a few things down, and gawp at the amount of snow piled up on the side of the road along Cronk-y-Voddy and over the mountain.  We then spent the evening fettling bikes, and like club racers everywhere, vans.  For this meeting I was going to have a first ride on the Kawasaki ER6-based 650 twin built and prepared by Dave Clarke, on which I was entered for the Lightweigth TT.
Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny, and we did the usual race day morning stuff.  I'd forgotten the, er, draining experience of the race-morning visit to the paddock toilet block.  And then it was the usual 'hurry up and wait' sequence of signing on, scrut'ing, briefing, etc.  But soon enough I was heading out for first practice, which was a bit odd for me as well as most others, because the track was being run in the opposite direction from usual.  My old ZX6R hadn't turned a wheel since I rode it last September, but sounded sweet as a ever, flew down the straights, and still did everything as well as it ever did.  What a stager.   But then came a bit of a revelation....I'd not really thought much about Dave's 650 twin, but when I went out in practice, I was dumbstruck - it was FABULOUS!!!  Great power, from nothing all the way to the top, weighed nothing, stopped by thought alone, and went through the chicanes like they weren't there.  My best lap of practice was 1/100th a second slower than on my 600, despite giving anyway 30 horsepower. I'd put it 8th on the grid.  Suddenly, I realised how well I'd done getting it to ride in the TT.
I was out in the first race, which was the Open Centre Championship.  I'd qualified about 19th of 35 (best lap of 1:21, against Dan Kneen's pole of 1:11), but got an OK start, and was in an entertaining gang of 5 or 6.  Entertaining for me, as I managed to pick off at least one a lap, and managed to move myself up to 12th by the time the flag came out (best lap of 1:18 against Dan's fastest of 1:09).  Not bad for "a gentle trot round for a signature".  The 600 race followed a similar pattern - qualified 18th of 31 (best lap of 1:22, compared to Ryan Kneen's pole of 1:11), and got away ok (on the re-start, actually as Dan K put himself in hospital with a crash on the first lap; suffered a broken foot, which could jeopadise hisTT).  Again I had people to race against, and had fun doing so, and this time managed a 10th place (best lap of 1:18, against winner Ryan Kneen's 1:09).
I had a short breather and was then out in the twins race.  Lining up in sight of the lights on the third row felt a bit weird, and then when the lights changed the grunty twin leapt off the line and I made a couple of places before the first corner.  And then a couple more down the back straight.  By the second lap I was in 4th place, and catching third.  I was going to get a podium in my first outing!  But then ....no, not a disaster, but an attack of common sense.  The spitting rain that we'd started in got heavier, and the track got wet.  And I slowed down, and lost 5 places in the last two laps, finishing in what felt like a disappointing 9th place in the end.   I guess I should be pleased with myself for my grown-up attitude....but oh, what might have been.
And then the rain came down properly, and with no wets or spare wheels Keith and I decided to load the vans and go home.
That night the weather was appalling, and remained so the next morning, such that racing was cancelled.  Curses.   But it gave us time to do some other stuff, including shaking hands on the deal to ride the Kawasaki ZX6R that Keith rode last year, and now belonging to Rob Colvin.  That is also a beautifully prepared, and beautiful looking bike, so at least 2 of my 3 TT bikes will look (and be) the business.  The other one I'm building myself...
More updates to follow, as TT preparation hits top gear...