NH Racing Blog What's Happening Nellie?

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26/04/2018: Roosevelt Truman (call me RT) Farr-Teigh Visits

Dimitri really must stop bringing back strange people that he meets in casinos! I mean dash it all! This latest one is an American of all things! He claims to be able to revolutionise our branded goods business overnight.

He has already got us into print on demand and drop-shipping, whatever they may be.

It seems that by using his new fangled methods, we don't have to worry about minimum order quantities or having all our stock in the wrong sizes any more.

Well, only time will tell if he is right I suppose. meanwhile he has been busying himself rushing around the estate, taking pictures of farm equipment, buildings and the old family jalopies, then making them darned unrecognisable and whooping about how they will look good on a teeshirt.

I just hope that he is right as all the proceeds from such sales go toward making the Farkham Hall race bikes live and breathe for the season.

Check out his work here in our new online shop.

Weirdest thing is, the dashed infernal chap reminds me of three old time celebrities all at once. Free teeshirt for the first person to email me with their identities.

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30/11/2017: Easily distracted? Me? Sorry, what was the question?

So, with the need for three engines next season, one for each bike and one spare, I thought it was a good time to start reviewing the availability of bottom ends. I have a number of crankcase sets, three knackered cranks and two point five gearboxes.

Luckily, just as I got to that realisation, my 3D jigsaw of the Eiffel Tower arrived.

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04/08/2017: I was just coming out of the hairpin and there was a bang...

Followed by a rattle and a sort of graunching noise. Then, my invisible idiot had a great idea; "Why don't you let the clutch out and see if it picks up?"

I should have known better. A few short yards later, the bike was leaning against the armco and I was having a very convivial time with the nice marshals.

On stripping the engine, quite apart from the piston, I had cracked the barrels and bent the con rod. Luckily, I have another bike that I can pirate for bits to get me going for the Snetterton meeting in October.

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20/08/2014: Time to brake? It's always later than you think!

Having got back into the office after a great weekend's racing with North Gloucester Road Racing Club at Anglesey, it is nice to have a new clock to show off and help me keep time at work.

Made from old brake discs and sprockets, these clocks are works of art and I will be glad to keep an eye on the time while here.

The header took not much thinking about, one of the aspects of my racing that I need to work on is braking later, so carrying the mantra in my head that the time to brake is always later than you think will help me prepare for the next outing at Snetterton in three weeks. Watch this space!

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24/06/2014: Your message on our bus from just £12 per year

With the recent demise of our race accommodation and towing vehicle, we have decided that the way forward is to buy a bus to transport the race bike and provide accommodation at circuits around Britain. You can help with personal messages of support or more corporate advertising space.

Where will this be seen? Well, we race with two clubs, Bemsee and North Gloucester, who between them take us to most of the major race circuits in England and Wales, so your message will be seen by up to 500 people at a time in the paddock, and many thousands while we travel to the events on main roads and motorways. With the traffic conditions enjoyed in this country, that will mean that people will have plenty of time to look too.

While it is not at race meetings, the bus will be parked by the side of the A466, which is the main road between Chepstow and Monmouth so messages will be seen by tourists from all over the world while they explore the beautiful Wye Valley.

There's more! As the bus is fully fitted out as a limo in the front section, it will be available for personal appearances at your corporate events, entertaining potential customers in comfort and style. We can even man it for you and spread your sales message or literature on your behalf.

From just £12 for a personal message of support to go on our Chequered Flag of Honour, up to bigger corporate advertising spaces at £200, there is a great choice of how your message is displayed on the bus and on our websites. If you want to make a bigger splash with your message, and even more impact, Premium Business spaces can be combined in any multiple of 500x300mm up to the full size of the bus rear panel.

Other options include Formula One simulators, grid girls and catering, so take a look at the options and let us help promote what you do.

As we are half way through the season, the even better news is that taking a year's space will buy you 18 months of exposure through the rest of this season and all of next. Try getting value like that from your local paper!

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08/04/2014: Who says you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear?

The fuel tank cover has come back today from our local powder coating specialist. It is now officially a thing of beauty inside and out.

The whole thing has been stripped to bare metal, filled with metal filler to withstand the heat of the powder coating process, then coated with white base and clear powder coat lacquer over the top.

This finish will be tough as well as beautiful, so hopefully will finish the season looking as good as when it started (barring mishaps of course...).

Richard has now taken away all the rest of my bodywork to spray in matching white. We are in danger of being more up together than at any time in the past at this rate.

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20/03/2014: Physioterrorism and Incentive

In an effort to get the damaged knee bending enough to get back on the race bike, the physioterrorist suggested a gonowherebike.

As am incentive and to remind me why the bloody hell I am pedalling like a loon, setting it up in the office so I can watch bike racing on the 'pooter while on it seems like the best plan. This is me watching Moto3 practice in Qatar whiling away the virtual miles. Happy days!

All I have to do now is hook it up to a generator so that if I stop pedalling, the screen goes black for the ultimate incentive...

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19/03/2014: Must dash!

The new instrument panel is now complete and in place. Having got the new digital temperature gauge recently, I could finish mounting all the bits that need to be mounted.

The sender unit was a different thread to the original Yamaha item so I am waiting for a top hose adaptor to arrive from Demon Tweeks to plumb the temp. gauge in. In the meantime, here it is being tested with a British Standard Workman's Tea Mug of hot water. So far so good.

For the first time ever, I now have the choke cable making an appearance in an easily accessible place, poking through the new instrument panel. Starting can now be a one person operation as the choke can be operated without diving under the seat.

All that remains is to reconnect the rev counter and tidy up the wiring then. The nice chaps at Gibson Exhausts are making me some new expansion chambers in search of a bit more power and a few bits of bodywork will complete the season's preparations. The bike is nearly ready, shame about the rider...

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13/03/2014: The Dawes Treader comes home!

The last time I saw this little tinker it was slithering down the road while I bounced down some stairs, shattering my knee into dust. Since then I haven't been able to ride it or anything else for that matter. That was on August 2nd, 2013...

At last I have been able to go and collect it from the nice people who looked after it for mo and having got it back in the workshop, I find that all the damage is a slightly bent seat. It will take about five minutes work with a vice to put that right and we will be back on the road again - hurrah!

In the meantime, I have been practicing pedal power on a gonowherebike in the office and can now make a full rotation of the pedals. I think that routes will be chosen more carefully in future to avoid the worst of the potholes that caused the whole bloody problem in the first place. Thank you Monmouthshire County Council. Thank you so bloody much!

It has been suggested that the treader should be demoted to use purely for paddock transport this season and I am tempted to agree. However, you can't resist a nice little ride out to the pub now and again eh?

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06/03/2014: All you need is some cardboard, aluminium mesh, grp kit and lots of Blue Peter Spirit

One of the things that the awfully nice Paul Lumley did for us apart from the beautiful fuel tank mentioned recently, was to make a new front fairing bracket. This is now a tubular construction and is lighter, stronger and a lot more professional looking than the original, which I fabricated out of aluminium sheet, and looked like it had been chewed to shape by a very large dog.

Having got such a nice bracket, it seemed churlish not to make a new instrument panel to go with it. I only lacked two things; facilities and skill. Not to be put off by such trivialities, I set to work with what I had to make an instrument panel that would be light, strong and look like it was made by someone who cared.

Like so many projects here, it started off as a cardboard template. From this, aluminium mesh and glass fibre mat were cut to shape before being laminated into a sandwich composite. This was a fairly messy process as there was no mould, just sticky fingers holding the pieces in place until the resin had cured enough. Final shaping still has to be done, then fitting and wiring of instruments when the new temperature gauge arrives. Watch this space!

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06/03/2014: I'm just a fuel (line) for you baby!

Now that we have a nice new fuel tank on the bike, it is about time that something better was contrived to convey the Shell V-Power/Rock Oil Synthesis 2 mix to the carburettors.

The original fuel pipe was forced into shape and I was never really happy with the routing, always feeling a little uneasy that the convoluted path may cause the flexible hose to kink or restrict fuel flow.

Now, we have a new fuel line made up using right angle unions to make sure that all hose runs are as straight as they can be, helping to get as much fuel as possible into the place where it will do the most good. Having caused a world shortage of locking wire in securing the unions, all that is needed now is an application of Jaffa Tape over them to keep nasty sharp edges away from sensitive fingers...

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14/02/2014: New fuel tank, seat and fairing brackets have arrived

Having had a succession of rotten fuel tanks, it has at last been time to bite the bullet and get something better done. That is where the awfully nice Paul Lumley from Lumley Engineering in Highbridge, Somerset came in.

Paul took my rotten as a pear, leaking and generally not worth a light original fiuel tank, hollowed it out and put a beautiful alloy ten litre container underneath. I can't believe how gorgeous this tank is. It seems a shame to cover it with the hollowed out original to keep the bike looking standard, but that's life.

Paul also made me a new seat bracket and fairing bracket to keep the bodywork in place. Both of these are things of beauty and show the care, skill and attention to detail that Paul brings to all the work that he does.

OK, the tank isn't legal under YPM rules at the moment, but I have great hope that when everyone gets to see it, they will join in the silhouette movement. Either way, it has got to be a bloody sight cheaper than wrecking engines with fuel-borne contamination. Either way, although it is a little heavier than standard, I reckon that the confidence is worth about a second a lap at least.

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04/02/2014: Colour-coded wheels? Whatever next?

With the awfully nice powder coating man just a couple of miles up the road from our base here in Tintern, it seemed rude not to get the spare wheels made pretty in readiness to fit the wet tyres that we are now allowed in the YPM class.

Here they are, delivered safely back to the workshop, just waiting for some new bearings now and a couple of sets of Avon AM22/23 tyres. The nice people at Avon tell me that there are some special versions of these great tyres ready for wet weather with extended grooves and additional sipes to clear the water. As the only tyres that we could reliably use, the Avons have proved themselves to work really well in all conditions from dry to deluge anyway, so I am really looking forward to trying some of the special wet ones.

So we now have pink wheels for the dry and blue ones for the wet. This is great because if I want to know what the weather is like this season I will just have to look at my bike - hurrah!

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17/01/2014: Temporary measure of two years ago made permanent at last!

When narrowing the footrest mounts for the 2011 season, I needed to quickly remove a portion of the right hand footrest bracket. Being somewhat ill-equipped, I drilled a ring of holes and hammered out the required area. The result was something that looked like it had been chewed out of aluminium by a large dog.

After only two years, I have finally got round to getting out the angle grinder, files and emery paper to make this lash up look like the engineered solution. OK, it won't make me go any faster but it is always better to have things that look like they were meant to be. As Ettore Bugatti said "If it looks right, it is right".

Click in the small thumbnail to see the new, shiny version. Temporary repair! My ears!

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17/01/2014: Shiny new rear suspension unit

As the YPM regulations call for standard shock absorbers on the rear of our bikes, it is a good policy to replace them at regular intervals. That's where the awfully nice Phil Onions of South Wales Superbikes comes in. He is great at getting hold of parts for obsolete and old Yamahas like mine.

The unit is shown here on the bench, ready to be fitted and already bolted to the super posh adjustable linkage made for me by the also awfully nice chaps at Pretech over in Reading.

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17/01/2014: Bemsee Matrix published

This is the time of year that everyone in Bemsee (The British Motorcycle Racing Club) looks forward to. Following the publication of provisional dates towards the end of the year, the Matrix of who is racing at which round is circulated to competitors so we all know what we are going to be doing for the coming season.

It is great to see that the DFDS Seaways Yamaha Past Masters series is missing the first round at Brands Hatch in the beginning of April. The reasons are two-fold; firstly, I get another three weeks to work on getting my body working well enough to race after last year's mishap, and secondly, the weather has a little more time to warm up. Every one's a winner!

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22/12/2013: Nasty clutch, nice clutch

Many people had commented on the heaviness of my clutch's action. It never really bothered me, but when stripping it to renew the plates, I did notice that the dogs on the clutch basket were very heavily grooved, which I guess won't help.

With the rubbish starts I have always made, having a nice smooth clutch action can't hurt, so the rivets were drilled out and a shiny new Mitaka billet basket fitted in its place.

The clutch was reassembled with new friction and steel plates, three TZ750 springs and 3 EBC springs, giving all a good soaking in Rock Synthesis 5W-30 gear oil for a few days beforehand.

Just for good measure, a new cable was fitted along with a Triumph TT600 perch and new shorty lever with adjustable span. The result is now the lightest, smoothest clutch I have ever had. It felt so light at first that I didn't think it was working at all but watching the plates move confirmed that it was.

I will probably still make rubbish starts but with one distraction removed, perhaps a little less rubbish. You never know your luck eh?

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11/12/2013: Ready to Rock!

Thanks to the nice people at Rock Oil, I have all my two-stroke, gear and fork oil for the coming season.

Adrian McTiffen is the man to talk to for racing oils delivered to your door for an easy life. You can reach him at Office: 01225 719000 or email adrian@rockoil.co.uk

The Rock Oil website is www.rockoil.com and they have a handy lubricants selector at http://www.rockoil.co.uk/cm/lubricant-selector.

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11/12/2013: Let the dog see the rabbit!

Since the world chose to insult me by causing me to have a stupid pushbike incident four and a half months ago, my working space has been somewhat neglected. Mostly, the only time that the office/workshop door has been opened has been to throw something else in there, then it has been closed very smartly afterwards to prevent things spilling out.

Here is the scene of devastation as photographed this afternoon...

As a result, the place is now an unnavigable tip. I can't get anywhere near my bike and working in the place is impossible.

Tomorrow all that is going to change. I have a friend coming to help me throw out what needs throwing out, move what needs moving and generally turn it into a place fit for a Village Websmith to ply his trade and a YPM racer to sort out his bike for the eagerly awaited 2014 season.

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03/11/2013: First jobs ticked off for next year

To celebrate being able to put a bit of weight on my left leg now, I spent this afternoon working on the bike for 2014. First job was to fit the brake master cylinder that had been overhauled on my bedroom table last week.

This is now a Triumph TT600 unit to match the calipers better than last year's ZX-10 radial master cylinder, which never gave a confidence inspiring feel. Having bled the system through this afternoon, the lever feels much more positive now. The clutch lever and perch have also been changed for TT600 ones to match.

The last job of the day was to fill the clip-ons with plasticine balls in the best Blue Peter spirit. The idea is to damp out the high frequency vibration which I am sure contributes to loss of feeling in my paws during races. Whether it will work or not remains to be seen but nothing ventured, nothing gained eh? This has added 130 grammes to the bike's weight so will have to find a way of shaving that off somewhere else. If anyone else suggests that the easiest way to remove it would be go on a diet, I will personally throttle them... I refute any suggestions that I weigh more than the bike and have bought some bathroom scales to weigh bike and self in order to prove this... Look out for the next story to see how this went.

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11/10/2013: 2013 - Another year goes pear-shaped...

Well, at least in 2013 I managed to take part in four meetings before it all fell apart. This time it was healthy exercise that was the villain of the piece. The combination of a bicycle ride, a badly rutted road and an unexpected flight of stairs meant five weeks in hospital, two operations and months with a fixator frame on my leg, which is still there as I write this.

However, on the plus side, 2013 had yielded my best ever results with a couple of 13th places at Brands and Snetterton 300, both in the rain.

Work has now started on the bike for 2014, although at present I am a bit limited to what I can do on my temporary bedroom table at the Rose & Crown as space in my office is a bit limited for hopping around on crutches.

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08/06/2013: Oulton Park Meeting, June 2013

With the restoration of my Chris Brocklehurst barrels and dyno setup at REPS in Rogiet, Bill, that's the bikes name by the way, went better at the Oulton Park meeting than he has ever gone. This extra power helped to cut 7 seconds off my personal best lap time at this circuit. OK, finishing 17th and 18th in the two races may not light everybody's fire, but for me they were great results and I was privileged to watch some fantastic racing going on ahead of me!

Bill felt great to ride and I will be looking for more improvements at Snetterton in a couple of weeks.

The photograph is courtesy of Liz Barber by the way, who I thank unreservedly for making me look faster than I was. I will be looking forward to seeing more of her work through the rest of the season. Check out Liz's Facebook page here.

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06/06/2013: StopStiopStopStopStop!

In the famous war of words between WO Bentley and Ettore Bugatti, Bugatti fired one opening salvo by describing Bentley's cars as "The fastest tanks in the world". "My cars have the best brakes in the world." Retorted Bentley. Bugatti's response was simply to say "My cars are made to go, not stop."

Modern motor sport thinking probably shows that WO was highly enlightened there, seeing that overall lap time and results come from being able to reduce speed as efficiently as gaining it.

In this aim, I have taken advantage of the latest regulations, which allow us in the YPM class to use any four piston brake caliper from a production bike with standard 83mm spacing on the mounting holes. Not only will these Triumph TT600 calipers give greater swept piston volume and more gripping force on the discs, but being more modern than the standard YPVS design, have a more up to date range of pad compounds available. As we speak the awfully helpful Phil Onions of South Wales Superbikes is getting a set of Bendix race compound pads in for me. Anchors aweigh me boyos!

Having found a bit more power, the last meeting at Oulton Park resulted in an improvement in personal best lap there of seven seconds. With more efficient stopping, next time out at Snetterton, I will be looking to improve by even more. Watch this space.

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04/06/2013: Some 'missing' horses recaptured

With thanks to the ever so helpful Royston Edwards at REPS Motorcycles in Rogiet, I got onto the dyno on my way to Oulton Park. The Chris Brocklehurst barrels and increased compression thanks to a single layer of head gasket instead of the standard three, brought a marked increase in power. As you can see from the chart, we now have just under 57BHP at the back wheel. Just two short of the class limit. I will be working to find that extra 2BHP in time for Snetterton, a true 'power' circuit.

Two horsepower may not sound much but if you ask any student of automotive engineering, that is worth 66,000 foot pounds of work each minute. To put it another way, with a combined bike and rider weight of approximately 440lbs, that would move us an extra 136 feet each minute. That is 272+ feet each lap of a circuit the size of Oulton with a two minute plus lap. Over the 8 lap races there, that comes to 1090 extra feet, or roughly one fifth of a mile...

Over race distance at my average speed of 70.6 MPH, that could have been worth 10.2 seconds. Not quite enough to gain a place, as I was 12.544s behind Martin Cullen in front of me, but a worthwhile potential improvement that could have made a difference...

Theory is a great place to live but there are no vacancies of course, but will be looking to find a little more power for Snetterton all the same...

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28/05/2013: More mumbo please!

At Pembrey this season, a number of people commented on my lack of speed down the straights. There must be something wrong! Normally people comment on my lack of speed everywhere...

Having been running with standard barrels so far this season, I guess that the bike is a bit down on power, so have re-fitted the nicely ported Chris Brocklehurst barrels that I had been saving for the '#1' engine.

Huge thanks go to Royston Edwards at REPS in Rogiet for boring and honing the barrels for me in double-quick time, and to Phil Onions at South Wales Superbikes for coming up with the necessary gaskets at short notice too.

I have a dyno session booked with Royston on Thursday so will be travelling straight to Oulton from there. Fingers crossed that a few of the missing horses will be found to be back in the paddock then.

More power Igor!

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18/02/2013: You have (new) controls...

At last, all the bits are in for the new handlebars, aimed at making the whole bike narrower and reducing the fatigue that has been plaguing my arms for a while. Overall, the bike is now narrower by 80mm at the widest part (apart from the rider, of course), and we have a new, compact throttle in place of the old Venhill behemoth, new Renthal dual compound kevlar grips from A&R Racing, stubby levers and a new Nissin front brake master cylinder courtesy of a Kawasaki.

Huge thanks have to go to Phil from South Wales Superbikes in Newport, who turned his entire stores upside down, and went through every microfiche he could find to help me get a reservoir hose. Eventually, he came up with the one you see here, that was originally intended for an EXUP. For such a tiny order, most people would just say "Sorry mate, can't help", but it is unbelievable how perfectly this component fits, despite having to paper over the cracks between a Fireblade rear reservoir, Kawasaki master cylinder, aftermarket clipons on a YPVS cobbled together with a home made bracket...

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24/01/2013: Stainless steel barrel nuts! Yummmmmm!
OK, they are no stronger or better than the originals. They probably won't help generate any more power, or make me faster.

However, on the plus side, they are so much shinier than the original, drab ones, that they just have to be used. Well, I am a boy after all!

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24/01/2013: Silver plated small end bearings
These little beauties should be worth at least a second a lap! Well, at least in my head they will be. Courtesy of the nice people at Legend Motorcycles. I am starting my purchases off small and building up to the lovely billet power valves that I desperately need to gain another second a lap!

Hmmm, two seconds a lap from two components? All I need to do now is find the other ten seconds that I need at most circuits and I will avoid being lapped every time out...

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24/01/2013: You have to be well connected...
When it comes to wiring looms, the original efforts of the bike manufacturer may be OK on day one, but when the bike has had 20 years of rain and road salt before being retired to racing, the connectors in their multi-blocks turn into some kind of green mush with all the conducting properties of a banana.

These awfully nice connectors from the Autostar eBay shop have been on our wiring loom for the last couple of seasons. They are robust and waterproof, so we can be sure that the electrical system is going to be the least of our worries. These additional connectors are for the spare engine and some wiring loom alterations.

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20/01/2013: Take Your Pick
At last some progress has been made in the struggle to get ready for 2013. My boss, who is a complete bastard by the way, has let me have Sunday afternoon off work! Hurrah! This has meant that the engine is now out and on the bench with its top end removed. Probably as a hangover from the overheating problems, one of the barrels has picked up really badly, and looks like it has been horribly hot at some point.

My mission now is to pick and mix enough bits out of the pile in the picture to make one complete spare engine while the rest goes off to Chris Brocklehurst to be made beautiful...

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08/01/2013: Small objects of desire
With the preparations for 2013's racing season getting off to a creaky start, some engine bits have chosen themselves for the shopping list. The awfully nice people at Legend Motorcycles make some billet powervalves and bushes that seem to be an absolute must for any racing YPVS engine.

These little beauties are made from aircraft spec. 6061 aluminium alloy, which should be far more durable and accurately machined than the Yamaha originals, which seem to be made out of 50% cheese, with alignment holes that stretch as soon as you look at them. The valves are also shaped for improved gas flow through the exhaust ports to clean up engine response. I must have some of these!

And just to put the icing on the cake, a complete set of power valves and bushes will set you back less than ?200. Compare that with some non-UK made items and you are quids in. Every one's a winner! Call Dan on 07914 815 884.

Check out their website here.

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08/01/2013: Make Room!
On the grounds that the little jobs are the ones that chew up all the time, this season, the rebuild process has been reversed somewhat. First task has been to move the electrics and power valve servomotor. The idea is to clear space around the engine and improve the flow of cooling air through the radiator (paranoid about overheating? Me? Errrr, yes).

The photograph shows the nice, clear space that has been achieved, and through getting a new seat bracket and battery box made up, all the electrics including the battery (now a small, light alarm type) are nestling nicely in the centre of the bike.

I have also received some samples of clear, semi rigid plastic sheet, with the idea of making air deflectors for the engine space to keep all that heat away from the carburettors so that they have a supply of nice, cold, dense air. The theory sounds so good, I am almost impressed myself. The small jobs are running out now, so will have to start on the big stuff soon, so watch out for news of the two engine rebuilds...

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02/05/2012: Try to keep your cool Bill!

With the overheating problems of last year still a distressing memory, drastic steps have been taken to reduce the engine temperature for this season. The awfully nice Mr Andy Muse (Moose, YPM #45) from Triple X Racing supplied us with a very posh radiator from a TZR250 3MA, which he couldn't use on his bike without cutting the fairing about. As our fairing is a little less pristine, if it has to be cut to get this lovely piece of aluminium in place, then so be it...

Shown next to the original, the additional area and increased finning are apparent. This also means that we won't have to take off the fuel tank every time we want to top up the water now, which was a royal pain before, especially as it needed doing so often. Watch this space for news of the new cool Bill.

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02/05/2012: And how will you know if it works?

For the last couple of seasons we have used the excellent and beautiful but fragile Scitsu capilliary temperature gauges. Unfortunately, the bike was overheating so badly that these were being destroyed wholesale. The search for an alternative that may be somewhat more robust took us to eBay where we found RC-Pitstop, whose business is in radio control models. They supplied us a Traxxas unit that works on a thermocouple using a watch battery.

The unit is absolutely tiny but records current, minimum and maximum temperatures in Celcius of Fahrenheit. The cable will need extending to use on our 1/1 scale vehicle instead of the model for which it is intended, but it even comes with instructions on how to do this. The picture shows the gauge with a 50p piece for scale, which coincidentally is the change you get out of ?22 for one of these, including delivery. Quite a bargain!

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18/02/2012: Movin' on
In search of somewhere to work on the bike with just six weeks remaining to the start of the 2012 season, we have moved lock, stock and barrel into a new storage unit in Mountnessing. The van was officially as full as a banana when we lumbered up there and if we find everything in time to get the season underway it will be a miracle.

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25/07/2011: Horses find their way home

Having fixed the head gasket, it was time to head over to Stinkwheels to see how the bike is going on their dyno. The first reaction was disappointment as we struggled to see 50BHP at 9000 revs. Eventually, it turned out that the power valve cable locking nuts had worked loose, allowing the valve timing to slip. Adjusting these saw us bang on the money, making the class power limit, again at just 9000 revs.

Next up, we tried a spanky pair of Gibson hydro-formed exhausts, which were aimed at letting the bike rev higher and maybe make even more power, who knows? Well, we do now. While the bike revved to 12000 with the new pipes, there was no overall gain in power, with peaks at 9000 and 120000 and a huge power hole between. The consensus of opinion was that this was down to my ignition box, a 1UA CDI. Changing to a 29K igniter would probably unleash more power and smooth out the curve, but at the cost of a more highly stressed crank, and the possibility of going over the class power limit. Also, Tony tells me it is generally reckoned that the 29K ignition boxes are fragile and unreliable compared to the 1UA version. Our thinking now is to accept the 9000 rev limit instead of the 10000 that I have been using and gear higher to get speed from torque. Watch this space, only Cadwell Park will tell.

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11/07/2011: Another day, another head gasket

Just when you think it is safe for the water to go back in! Well something like that anyway... The upshot is that after keeping cool for a while with the high-flow water impeller from a Banshee snowmobile, it seems like the bike was back up to its old tricks again at Snetterton.

With power seeming to fade over the weekend, eventually on Sunday morning, rusty water marks started to appear on the inside of the screen, indicating that another head gasket was on its way out. As the temperature gauge had been broken since Cadwell, tut-tut, there was no early warning. In Sunday's race 2, all the water blew out, and on stripping the head off, it was apparent that the gasket had blown almost the entire width of the water jacket on left hand cylinder. Needless to say, a new temperature gauge has been ordered, and will be in place before the August Cadwell Park outing.

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03/05/2011: Pembrey: The Search for Nellie's Brain Continues...

Having removed the two parts of the broken kickstart spring the day before leaving for Pembrey, and replaced it with one from our increasingly mis-named spare engine, I really thought that was a problem cured. However, on starting the engine, the noise was worse than ever, so a damaged tooth on one of the primary gears was suspected. Although, on stripping the clutch cover at the circuit, none was found. Eventually, the fault seemed to be with the clutch basket, which was changed. Lo and behold, the full time noise had gone, leaving only a still slightly puzzling noise when the clutch was disengaged and severe clutch drag. Anyway, that was not going to spoil our weekend so I went out testing happily on Friday.

The first two sessions went brilliantly, with the bike going better than it has ever gone, thanks to the CB tuning barrels and a pair of power valves that were opening together at long last, not to mention the now permanent 60 degrees engine temperature.

However, this was not going to last. In the third and final session, I was approaching a SuperTeen rider and an MZ rider coming up to the hairpin. My plan was to enter the bend late, exit tight on the right hand side and use my extra power to pass them before the first of the Dibeni left-handers. So far, so good. However, the SuperTeeny initiated Random Line Selection and moved right very early, causing the MZ rider to panic it seems. He then braked and stood the bike up mid exit, leaving me nowhere to go but into his back wheel. This hurled me over the high side and I landed on my head. Luckily, my excellent X-Lite 801 helmet did its job and the medical team, led by the truly wonderful Dr Rosie were on hand in no time to stretcher me off on a spinal board and send me hot-foot to hospital for x-rays, holding up to the light and general poking and prodding. Luckily, all I got was the headache from hell for a couple of days, a stiff neck and a slightly odd shaped knee for a while.

Roll on Brands GP!

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12/04/2011: Cadwell Park, Spring is Here (and Here!)

The eagerly awaited first meeting of the season has at last been and gone. Unfortunately it came with its share of technical challenges. In the testing sessions on Friday, the bike overheated drastically, as it also did in the qualifying session and first race on Saturday. Eventually, the fault was traced to a blown water pump seal, which let all the oil into the gearbox, causing it to turn into a gallon of emulsion that overflowed the gearbox and catch tank, ending up all over the rear tyre.

That was a bit of luck! No, really it was because the ever-helpful Steve Higerty loaned me a spare clutch cover that was fitted with a high-flow impeller from a Banshee snowmobile. This transformed the cooling system to the extent that for the first time ever, throughout race two, the temperature stayed at a perfect 60 degrees.

Enter the spring in question! This horseshoe shaped item normally adds some inertia to the kickstart pinion so that it meshes with its engagement hub and moves sideways to engage when the bike is kicked over. In some kind of freak failure, this broke in half and started floating around inside the clutch cover, making a frightful noise and preventing the clutch from disengaging fully. This manifested itself through Hall Bends in race two, causing me to pull out of the race. When stripping the clutch cover later on and removing the broken spring, I thought that was the end of it.

Little did I know...

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14/03/2011: Temporary Spray Booth - Nomadic Painter Strikes Again
The marquee was erected outside Stinkwheels workshop on Saturday and the various body panels all sprayed somewhat inexpertly, but heck, at least they are more or less the same colour now. Before this session, we had a nice white fuel tank and left hand lower fairing while the seat unit was bare grey grp, the spare seat was many colours of grp, paint, filler and old stickers while the right hand lower fairing definitely had that 'painted in the dark' look that only aerosol cans can give...

If you can ignore the runs and curtains in the lacquer that were largely the result of my own impatience to get a gun finish before the fading light made further work impossible, they don't look too bad. As Tony from Stinkwheels so eloquently put it "A Few well placed stickers and nobody will know. Just don't go asking any paint shops for sponsorship". I couldn't agree more. Anyway, a little judicious flatting and polishing and at a distance it could look OK.

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07/03/2011: Getting a better body!

With the accident damage at Cadwell Park last season affecting 2/3 of fairing panels and one seat unit while the spare seat is the wrong colour, it seems there is some bodywork to be done around here. First, the damaged seat was made good with P40 glass reinforced filler ready for sanding to shape. The hardest part was removing the old seat foam as some idiot (no names, no pack drill, Nellie) had used Evo-Stick when there was no double sided tape available. Still, a few applications of Sticky Stuff Remover later (available through Robert Dyas and really does what it says on the tin), all was well

With all the filler in and all panels sanded flat, next Saturday will be the day for applying the paint. We are using a solvent based colour coat with two pack acrylic clear coat over. All the materials were supplied by Leonard Brooks of Harlow, along with very helpful advice and cheery service. Talk to Richard Groves there on 01279 417501 for any paint and refinishing needs.

Watch this space for photos of the nice shiny bodywork all back together again very soon. Well, it needs to be as there is now just one month to go before we need to be up and running...

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07/03/2011: Something went according to plan? Surely not!

The new footrest brackets are now in place many thanks to the nice people at Delmer Precision in Romford. For a very reasonable amount of cash, they produced just what the doctor ordered the very next day. I can highly recommend anyone wanting anything made out of sheet metal or plate to get in touch Delmer on 01708 764819. Not only do they do a great job without charging the earth, but they are good fun to deal with as well. Last season's change to the rear suspension gave the additional clearance needed to use flat footrest hangers instead of the offset ones by removing the huge nut from the top of the dog bone that stuck out from the swingarm.

The end result is that the target reduction in width has been exceeded! Hurrah for exceeding target reductions in width. From its portly 53cm footpeg to footpeg width, the bike is now a svelt 47cm. There are still a couple of jobs to get done on this though as the controls now don't leave room for the original mounting bolts. This is where Group Components stepped in. As Yamaha chose to use a metric fine thread on the frame lugs, fasteners off the shelf are a teeny bit hard to come by. This meant that there were no countersunk bolts available to give the necessary clearance. I called Group Components on 01992 715900. They were incredibly helpful, but when the words "We can get some made for you" entered the conversation, one starts to quake with fear over the bill. My fears were all unfounded though as the cost of doing this was a measly ?2.50 each. Again, here is a supplier that can be wholeheartedly recommended.

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04/03/2011: Every Boy's Kitchen Table Should Look Like This

Rather than the edible kind of spaghetti, my kitchen table has recently played host to electrical spaghetti in the manufacture of new wiring looms. As most of the road equipment that requires electricity has been junked, the wiring loom can go on a serious diet.

In the original version, the 20 year old multi-pole connectors were all as corroded as you may expect, so they were replaced with Lucar types. All very well, but disconnection and reconnection was a pain, working one cable at a time.

Thanks to the nice people at Autostar, I have been able to source some really robust looking waterproof multi-pole connectors. These will soon be gracing the YPVS, making life easier while offering greater electrical reliability than the originals.

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09/01/2011: Always looking for a new angle

One of the biggest problems with my riding is that I just can't keep my big feet out of the way. This restricts corner speed, which gets me on the straights going slower with more accelerating to do, which costs me time everywhere. I have tried raising the footpegs with no success. The trouble was, this was all more or less done empirically with little or no planning, just trying something for the sake of it. However, in a complete reversal of that thinking, I now believe that I will get better results by actually lowering the pegs rather than raising them.

How so Nellie? I hear you say. Well, with the pegs too high, I get uncomfortable and can't move my short, fat, hairy legs easily. This means that my feet end up firmly planted on the pegs and sticking out, instead of being neatly up on the balls of my feet, toes turned inwards. The new plan is to slim down the footrest mounts, saving overall width of the bike. This will give additional ground clearance, allowing the footpegs to be lowered without compromising the maximum possible lean angle. By taking the approach of the constipated mathematician and working it out with a pencil, I have calculated that with the redesigned brackets, an additional 35mm of legroom will still allow exactly the same lean angles as the current setup. Taking this to 50mm extra will only trim 2o off that. OK, these lean angles are theoretical and will be different in real life as the additional compression of the suspension in the turns will have an effect on the ground clearance, but I am not interested in absolute numbers, it is the relationship that counts. I think that losing 2o is a small price to pay for being able to move my feet and will result overall in a big increase in the usable lean angle. Watch this space!

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30/12/2010: The Village Websmith Moves Home

With the change of title sponsor to The Village Websmith for the coming season, comes a world of new possibilities for our team. Moving to a new office is going to be a great start to our preparations as it will free up space at home and liberate me to get on with the lifestyle changes that are necessary to lose weight in order to go a bit faster. See the home page diet & training topic for details of how this is going to happen. Suffice it to say that I may even be blowing up the tyres on the old Dawes Treader...

Our new premises are on a local farm where the converted barn has offices upstairs and a gym downstairs. Hurrah for gyms downstairs! Look out for the new colour scheme of, errrr, white. Not so new, but there will be some green bits to break it up a bit this time.

The Village Websmith's aim in sponsoring the team is to spread the word about the company's franchise programme. This is a great opportunity for anyone with good people skills, but not necessarily any technical ability to get involved in a webvertising business. Click here to visit the franchising page of The Village Websmith's site.

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12/11/2010: Now, that's fast!

In the picture you can see fellow YPM racer Pete Wright standing next to Richard Noble's Bloodhound Super Sonic Car. This incredible piece of engineering is set to break the sound barrier and then some with a calculated speed over the flying mile of over 1000MPH. Pete and I both had a go on the simulator, being the big kids that we are, and just as in the YPM races, Pete beat me with a flying mile of 1027 against my measly 1003. There was me thinking that my extra weight wouldn't be a disadvantage on the simulator too!

The real treat was meeting Richard Noble though. A real Boy's Own Paper type of hero and a thoroughly charming man to boot. In his business charm seems to be an important asset too as he has had to sweet talk international companies, the BBC, the press and even government ministers into helping with the project. It is a testament to the greatest determination I have ever seen that this project exists.

More than that, the event was held at Havering College where their automotive engineering department has an active motor sport department. This currently consists of two single seater racing cars, a Formula Ford and Formula Renault, a racing saloon car and a rally Peugeot. The students are all encouraged to take part and aim for careers in the motor sports world or in one of the many support industries that thrive in Britain. Better still, if there is enough demand, the college is planning to add a bike racing string to this particular bow. For our part, we have offered to take one or more apprentices with us to a meeting so that they can get a taste of how poor people do it before setting their career sights a little higher...

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24/09/2010: Help the Cat help the KAAT

In this case, the Cat is Danny John-Jules, the Cat from Red Dwarf, and the KAAT is the Kent Air Ambulance Trust. To raise money for this great cause, Danny is doing some demo laps on his famous pink R1 at Brands Hatch on Saturday October the 2nd. For our part, all the Yamaha Past Masters racers will be wearing pink tee shirts over our leathers for the first of our two races on the Sunday. All proceeds from shirt sales will go to KAAT. If you would like to show your support, please drop us a line and let us know how many tee shirts you would like and in what sizes. They are all ?7.50 each. Even better, how about grabbing a tee shirt and wearing it to watch the races at Brands over the weekend.

The picture shows the Kent Air Ambulance at Brands Hatch, where one of our top men, Craig Jennings was recently airlifted to hospital. Even though Craig's condition is still one of great concern to all of us, the time saving in getting him to hospital (9 minutes as opposed to over an hour by road), must be a great contribution to his chances of a full recovery. KAAT is funded entirely by public subscription, so please do all you can to help them carry on their great work.

Wayne Bullen from our series sponsor, Norfolk Line Ferries has already donated an amazingly generous ?2500, so the rest of us will be doing our part to swell that amount as much as we can.

There will be a knot of supporters wearing the tee shirts at Hailwood Hill on the run up to Druid's Hairpin on Saturday, so swell the numbers and show the world that we care.

As the next race weekend at Brands is our last meeting of the season, it is going to have a great party atmosphere too. There is a band, Smoke and Mirrors, coming all the way from Bristol to play in the Kentagon on saturday night, everyone will be dressing up in 70s/80s glam rock gear and a fab time will be had by all. I'm especially happy about the fancy dress theme as it means I can just get stuff out of the wardrobe to take part.

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24/09/2010: Snetterton - Every Step is a Step Forward

I didn't make the target for Snetterton this time. Our goal was to come away with a sub 1m30s lap, but the best I managed over the weekend was 1:31.007 in Sunday's second race. There was a deal of encouragement in this though as my best lap was the last one, while for the rest of the season I have been peaking at about lap two then getting slower for the rest of the race.

This has always been a bit of a mystery to me, but I am sure that one of the contributing factors has been our inability to keep the engine temperature under control. That seems to be well and truly behind us now, and with the last meeting of the season coming up at Brands in October, I think the bigger part of this problem is going to be keeping it warm enough.

OK, the weekend's results still came up with three last places and one DNS owing to a disintegrating gear linkage while leaving the assembly area, but I am still very happy with progress, having shaved some 11.8 seconds off my previous best lap here.

As if a demonstration of how great the people in this class are were needed, Gary Button loaned me the gear linkage off his own bike so that I could get out in Sunday's races. Gary wasn't racing himself, and had brought the bike, van tools et al just in case somebody needed to borrow parts. The spirit of friendly competition just doesn't get better than that! Now we are just looking forward to our last meeting of the season for more of the same at Brands Indy. Hopefully this time without any need for loaned parts!

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01/09/2010: Ooops! Nearly forgot the Dog-o-Meter at Cadwell
OK, it was only just over a quarter of a meeting for us, completing just the one race on Saturday morning. However, we feel that the position of Airedale Terrier slow has been consolidated and perhaps even improved upon slightly. At least we managed to shave another second off our best racing lap time this time out, making it below the magic two minute barrier for the first time.

Yes, there is a long way to go but every step at present is a step forward. Had it not been for the mishap at the Mountain in race two, I am sure that we would have made even more progress as up until that point, I had passed three riders in making up for a bad start and was feeling really good about the whole thing. I guess any rider would say that though, so the real proof of the pudding is going to be at Snetterton-on-Snow in early September.

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30/08/2010: Technical adjustments?

OK, just when you think everything is going back together you take another good look and find something that you hadn't bargained for.

In this case it was a bent frame again. Tut! Should have gone to sexslavers I guess. Anyway, it did provide a little amusement as there was not much in the way of technical alignment kit available to us. In between garage sessions and lunch duties, I was dipping into the television coverage of the British Superbikes from Cadwell and musing on the differences between the pointy end of motorcycle sport and my own efforts.

Having just watched a team manager discussing the finer points of making adjustments to the ECU and moving the swing arm a couple of mm, I had to chuckle while 'straightening' my frame. The procedure went something like:

  • Push the bike over onto its side, using an old FireBlade swing arm as a technical stand
  • Find a place where one top rail of the seat subframe has a kink
  • Having identified the most likely bend point, place a trolley jack between the rails there
  • Jack the frame rails apart until the kink starts to straighten
  • Beat the back end of the same frame rail with a rubber mallet
  • Move the jack to the back of the rails and push them apart there
  • Bash the rail upwards until they look level
  • Fit the seat and measure the gap between seat and frame rails at each side
  • Repeat until measurements are the same
Next I will make a 2mm adjustment to the swing arm and modify the ECU programming a touch...

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24/08/2010: There's damage you can see...

Superficially, the damage to the bike was fixed before we left Cadwell Park. Huge thanks to the Higerty brothers, Steve and Kev, who loaned enough bits to put the throttle and front brake back in place, Keith Roissetter who came up with some miracle goo to fix the fuel tank and Postie Ken who loaned an invaluable hand in the fancy spanner twirling department.

For my part, since getting the bike home, I have removed the top and r/h side fairing panels, patched up the holes and these are now in primer awaiting a nice coat of shiny white paint.

We have a spare seat unit that has been in the garage for a while now, so that just needs painting too and a couple of new brackets made. Oh yes, and beat the back end of the frame straight with a huge hammer again.

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24/08/2010: ...And damage that you can't see

Having taken off the bodywork, the obvious damage can be repaired. However, on closer inspection it was clear that the lock stops had been damaged in the impact, distorting the bottom yoke in the process. This meant taking off the forks and removing the yokes. When this was done, guess what? Yes, more damage that wasn't apparent. The lower steering head bearing had lost a piece of its inner race, which, if left floating about could have affected the steering quite a bit.

Luckily, with bearings being a standard engineering component, they are not hard to come by. One call to the incredibly helpful Terry at County Bearings (01621 855222) saw a pair of bearings in the post to arrive next day, at a fraction of the cost of a steering head bearing kit. What a nice man! Now all I need is for Stinkwheels to put a blob of weld on the frame to repair the lock stops and a new triple clamp. The latter is the only slight pain as the RD350R model was different to all the other YPVS's and there weren't very many of them about. This could take a bit of finding.

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17/08/2010: A Valuable Lesson Learned

When everyone you speak to tells you that the correct line around the Mountain at Cadwell Park is to keep to the left, you should believe them. After all, virtually all the racers in our class know far more about the quick way around our circuits than I ever will.

However, some people just won't listen will they? That's how you get a bottom that looks like this one.

So, there we were, all ready to rock and roll in race 2 on Saturday at the fantastic Cadwell Park circuit. I was determined to do well, having finally got below 2 minutes for a lap in the first race. Fired up didn't even come close to how I felt for race 2.

As always, I made an appalling start, but by the time we rounded the esses on lap one, I had managed to get past Rob Andrews, Joe Catton and Ryan Hales. Approaching the Mountain, Paul Davies in front of me made a gearchange error and slowed for a moment. In a rush of blood to the head, I saw this as an opportunity to get past. Silly old me. By taking the right hand line through the Mountain, I was aiming for the steepest, most wheelie-inducing part of the track. Added to that, Paul had got his act back togethern and was driving forward well. To summarise the thoughts in my mind at the time, you could say "Just a little more gas, just a little more gas - Oh Shit! Too much gas" The resultant flip of the bike and landing on my arse took embarrassment to new levels...

Anyway, all was well that ended well, everyone pitched in to help me get the bike back together, which was no mean feat as the brake master cylinder had gone through the petrol tank, and I was able to go out and practice on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, there was some hidden damage and I pulled up when the fuel tap fell apart, but it was probably just the bike telling me not to carry on until it had had a thorough strip down and check over. All in all, another top weekend's bike racing.

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12/08/2010: Who says Tesco know nothing of motorsport?
This item was found in Tesco's car park the other day. It seems like they must have ridden two strokes themselves at some time or another. Being the eco-warrior that I am I recycled the objet trouvé by giving it its rightful place on the top yoke of our racer. Well, you know, at my age, memory starts to falter just a little so the odd timely reminder can't hurt can it?

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31/07/2010: Cool it! Cool it! COOL IT!

Even though the bike is now keeping all its water in place and not boiling over any more, the temperature is still getting rather high, running between 90 and 100 degrees every time out. Particularly in a two stroke, this is not great for power output.

However, help is at hand in the form of Aaron Radiators in South London. Luckily I got in touch with them through Googling for someone who could replace the core of our radiator with a bigger one. In conversation with Gerald from the company it became obvious that building a complete new radiator would be a better answer. This weekend's job is to remove the radiator and post it off to them as a pattern and hopefully, by the time Cadwell Park rolls around, we will have the shiny, new item in place with bigger capacity, larger surface area and much better cooling to keep the power output up throughout the whole race instead of peaking on lap 2 or 3 before tailing off as is the current situation.

Aaron Radiators has over 40 years' experience in making radiators, both in standard and custom sizes, and in conversation, Gerald was incredibly friendly, helpful and confidence inspiring so we are sure that at last, we will be able to keep the degrees celcius under control. I have pinched a picture from the Aaron Radiators website to show how good their products look, I hope they don't mind. Naturally this will be replaced with a pic of our own unit when it arrives. Watch this space for more news...

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29/07/2010: Smaller still and smaller, our dog-slowness is diminishing

The dog-slowness of Nellie took another step forward at Brands Hatch this weekend. According to the patented Neil Hesman Racing Dog-O-Meter shown above, we are now approaching the level of Airedale Terrier. Those are the ones that are always modeled on trolleys for small children to push around, so compared to the Giant Great Dane version of dog slow that we had at the start of the season, we are getting faster every time out.

In terms of personal milestones, this meant that we were only lapped twice in four races over the weekend, which would have been once had it not been for a bit of a moment caused by some oil that was incontinently spread all over the circuit. This just dropped me off the back of a group of dicing riders and cost some 200 metres of momentum, allowing Mike Smith to pass me about 10 metres before the end of lap 7. Nonetheless, we were very happy with results for the weekend. Best of all, we knocked the thick end of 5 seconds off our best ever lap to get round the Indy circuit in 59.6 seconds. Coming away having achieved a sub one minute lap was one of the major goals for the weekend, so delighted doesn't quite do justice to our feelings coming home on Sunday.

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21/07/2010: Bike For Sale

Not ours, but a friend is selling his treasured Trumpet. Here's what he says about the bike:

"Triumph Daytona 675 in 'Limited Edition' Grey. Like the one in this library picture.

Registered 2006 (?56 plate)

I have owned this bike from new, it has been run in as per instruction manual dictates, and has been dealer serviced throughout.

The bike is in standard trim ? its quite good enough without extra bells and whistles, has not been used on track and comes fitted (by Triumph) with a Datatool S4 alarm and immobiliser. The bike has really only been used for commuting and a couple of runs to the south coast, all dispatched without effort.

Along with the bike I?m throwing in a Triumph branded Optimate charger for those really cold times that can drain batteries. All documentation, two keys and two fobs are also included, as at time of purchase.

The Daytona 675 is a superb bike. From its release it has won Masterbike, as agreed by the world?s ?bike media.

An impending Tax bill forces sale ? curse that Tax man!"

For more information, call Liam on 07941 621887.

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19/07/2010: Cancel the Tena for Men order

There was a time when it seemed like nothing short of a miracle or a huge box of Tena for Men would keep the water in our cooling system where it is supposed to be. However, we ran the engine off load for 20 minutes on Friday, and for the first time ever, removing the radiator cap after cooling down showed the water level to be the same as before. It was also great to note that the temperature gauge needle didn't rise to much above 90 degrees, again in stark contrast to previous experience.

All that remains to be seen is whether this cooling system performance is replicated under load on the Stinkwheels dyno tomorrow. Watch this space. Looking back over recent races, our best lap has always been on lap two, which I now believe is because in the first flying lap, the temperature hasn't risen enough to affect the power output. After that, we just get slower and slower. We are looking for a big change to this at Brands Hatch this weekend. Pop back soon to find out if I am right...

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19/07/2010: Give me air!

On the belt and braces front, we have been looking at ways to get better than standard cooling. Once again, we have to thank Tony from Stinkwheels for coming up with some ideas. Tony has provided us with a 350LC radiator that has a core twice as thick as the YPVS one, so has greater capacity for water and greater surface area for cooling fins. Also he came up with an air scoop from an older, unfaired YPVS to direct more cooling air through the radiator core.

Using the principle of only changing one thing at a time, our first step has been to fit the cowling to our original radiator to see how it goes. If this is insufficient, then we will change the radiator too. I utterly refute any suggestion that I didn't change the rad because it would have meant making up brackets and changing hose runs. Lazy? Me? I can't be bothered to tell...

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19/07/2010: Thull Frottle Ahead

On discovering a crack in the body of our lovely Domino QA throttle, it was decided that we would try a Venhill item this time, so the required item plus a couple of cable kits and a splitter were oredered. So far so good. Unfortunately, the cable kits didn't include enough nipples of the right size to fit the carburettor slides, and the 1 into two splitter was too short, so wouldn't have given us full throttle.

I have never really liked the standard KR1-S cable that we have been using, but was forced to go back to it or face a delay while alternative cable parts were sourced. This wasn't entirely plain sailing as the ferrule and nipple on that cable were the wrong size for the Venhill body, so they had to be modified. All in all, this tiny change ended up in a five hour stint in the garage, not getting back into the house until gone midnight. Was it worth it? Well, according to Carole, who said some very un-team manager like things when I woke her up, probably not, but the throttle now feels very nice and will be a pleasure to use.

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19/07/2010: In Tent to Feed

Firstly, we have to say a huge thank you to the Thrift Green Trotters running club. Last year our marquee was destroyed by the wind while we manned the marshall's barbecue at their 10K run. This year, largely due to the good offices of Keith Thornton of Keith Thornton Logistics, the club provided us with a cheque to cover replacement. To make sure we got something a bit more resilient, we paid the difference and bought a very cheerful, green and white striped marquee from Sports HQ. Look out for our posh new premises at Brands Hatch this weekend.

The only caveat attached to the club's very generous offer was that we turn up with the marquee and man the barbecue at their 10K run again this year. Well, as we never need a second invitation to fire up some coals, we were there like a shot. Carole and I served up a hundred or so plates of burgers, chicken, bangers and vegetarian options to a crowd of hungry marshalls and volunteers. I have to say that we had a great time doing it, so hope to get invited back next year. I even picked up a very generous offer to help with my fitness for next season. Obviously, some people just can't resist a seemingly impossible challenge!

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15/07/2010: Aspiring to better aspiration???

Ever since we have been racing Bill (that is what our bike is called by the way), we have had a problem with the power valves not really adding much in the way of power, in fact, with them turned on, we get only 48 of the 58BHP that is available when they are turned off. With the head off this time, I turned them on to find that the valves were not moving together, which, call me old-fashioned, I firmly believed they were supposed to do...

In the absence of funds to buy a lovely set of billet valves and bushes from the awfully nice people at The Two Stroke Shop in Australia, a way had to be found to bring back harmonious coexistence to our power valves. On inspecting the two halves of our centre joint, it became obvious that this was a major part of the problem, being very worn in the clamping area. This was causing the right hand valve to open a lot later than the left hand (driven) valve. The temporary cure adopted until such time as we can afford the lovely Australian replacements was simply to file down the mating surfaces of the two halves by trial and error (if I was posh I would say empirical engineering of course) until they clamped the valve ends more rigidly. To remind me how much we need these, they are shown in the picture at the left.

Whether or not this is a complete cure for our YPVS woes remains to be seen. Only a dyno session at Stinkwheels will tell, so watch this space for whoops of joy!

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15/07/2010: Progress?

Way back in the early '70s I was apprenticed to a British Leyland garage. It's not the sort of thing that everyone would willingly talk about, but it did teach me some very useful stuff. At the time, Red Robbo was at the height of his 'powers' and disrupting manufacture whenever possible. The factory had immense quality problems, which we as mechanics had to overcome. One of the most useful things I learned was that when all else failed in getting a gasket to seal, and they so often did in the BL days, there was nothing to beat Wellseal. This stuff is the real juice when it comes to stubborn gaskets. With the appearance of runny treacle and the smell of dry cleaning fluid, you apply it to both surfaces and leave it to dry before reassembly. That was what we did to the head gasket yesterday in a last ditch attempt to keep the water in our cooling system.

Will let you know how this works out after the next dyno session.

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15/07/2010: Switch Makers with a Sense of Humour! Who needs them?
Laugh? I nearly bought a round! Having fitted the new kill switch to replace the one that fell apart at Cadwell, I went to start Bill and see if the water stayed in place and so on. Well, the exercise programme certainly got a boost as I was jumping up and down on the kickstart for half an hour to no avail.

Imagine my mirth when I tested the new switch only to find that it worked in the opposite way to the YPVS ones, close the switch (On) instsead of open the switch (Off) to run. I am going to have to file off the lettering otherwise this is bound to catch me out if I just try to remember that on really means off and vice versa.

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13/07/2010: Why am I sitting here?

Being in front of the computer is no help to our poor old bike at present. Before we can go to Brands Hatch, there is a list of long-standing problems as well as a few new ones that must be dealt with.

  • Overheating and cooling water loss (old problem)
  • Power valves that just don't work(old problem)
  • Rear brake binding (new problem)
  • Front brake excessive travel (reverse of rear brake, but also new problem)
  • Chronic misfire (new problem, changed kill switch but to no avail)
  • Cracked twistgrip body (new problem)
  • Temperature gauge fell off (new problem)
Other than that though, the bike is perfect! Therefore there is plenty of time before Brands, so will sit here for a while, then perhaps a beer?

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13/07/2010: The sun has got his helmet on, shout hip hip hip horray!

Sunny wasn't quite the word for Cadwell Park at the last round in June. The weather was blistering hot, which suited the team - we loved it. However, our poor old bike was feeling the strain a bit, and continued to overheat just like the rest of the season so far. The mystery is now completely beyond us and most of the people that we know. Other than overheating, the bike was running well until we withdrew from the last race with a mysterious misfire that I put down to the kill switch, which disintegrated on the warm-up lap.

Despite the overheating problems though, we managed to go faster round Cadwell than we have ever done before, and not just a little bit either. Thanks to the help and coaching of Keith Roissetter (Rangi), we managed to knock a stonking 11 seconds off our previous fastest lap. Chuffed doesn't quite cover it, and we know there is more to come. There is just a bit of work to be done on the bike before the next round at Brands Hatch at the end of July now. More of this anon...

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28/06/2010: The Law of Diminishing Dog
In an effort to quantify increases in performance, we have identified a scale that will help us understand progress. So that we can share that information with you, we will be presenting a view from the Neil Hesman Racing patented Dog-o-Meter after each round. Starting off from the position of immensely dog-slow, we have been working hard to reduce the size of the dog at each outing.

Progress at Cadwell Park was definitely positive. Our previous best lap was something over 2m 11s before this weekend's meeting. We are over the moon with the improvement that saw our best lap at this meeting cut to a shade over 2m 00s. You will see from the chart that we have now moved away from the original Great Dane slow, via the Dogo Argentino slow to just beyond German Shepherd slow. Our current standing is something approaching slightly overweight Red Setter slow, a great improvement!

The ultimate goal of Chihuahua now requires a further improvement of some 15 and a bit seconds, which could take some time, effort and a severe diet for the rider to achieve...

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20/06/2010: Get ahead, get a gasket

Once again there was clear evidence that the head gasket had blown last time out. The sooty deposits on the tops of the barrels between the rear of each cylinder and the water jackets showed exactly where the hot gases had been going. The slightly more tricky question is what to do about it. We have tried all sorts of gasket, sealant and head torque combinations, but seemingly to no avail.

As the standard gasket has a 64mm hole in each side, and the bores are 66mm (2mm oversize), there is a small overlap. Not having the courage to modify the gasket in house, and no time to have it laser cut, it had to be fitted as is, but it was interesting to note that even a genuine Yamaha gasket is a fairly loose fit over the studs. This, combined with the slight forward slope of the barrels, may let it fall forward to give a much bigger overlap at the back than the front, exposing more of the gasket for possible damage. This time, to give it as good a chance as possible, it was aligned very carefully to the centre before refitting the head. We are off to the Stinkwheels dyno again on Monday, so will see if this has borne any fruit.

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20/06/2010: More cooling system woes
Having changed the head gasket, a few other bits needed doing like a routine gear oil change. We try to do this every other meeting, but it hasn't been changed yet this year. On draining the oil, it was apparent that the gearbox has also been full of water. Gear oil should never be this colour! Luckily, the awfully nice Tony at Stinkwheels came up with a replacement oil seal on Saturday afternoon.

Even more horrors were in store when the water pump was removed though; the drive peg came out in three pieces and the back of the drive gear looked like it had been chewed by a dog. There isn't a single element in our cooling system now that hasn't been faulty this season. Surely it must work now???

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18/06/2010: Under Pressure!
With the number of times the head gasket has been changed lately and the astounding lack of success in keeping the cooling system working, it would seem to be time to try something else. The logical step is to pressure test the system. There is only one flaw in that otherwise perfect plan, we don't have a pressure tester. Worse than that, they are not the sort of thing you can just pop down to Halfords and buy, and when you do find one, they are horrifyingly expensive.

The only solution was to make one. I had an old radiator cap, so drilled out the rivet to release the spring and plunger, then drilled a 13mm hole in the cap and a repair washer. The rubber seal from the old cap was glued to the repair washer and the hole plugged up with a Schrader valve that the nice chaps at Kwik-Fit gave me for nothing. This also neatly held everything together. So here it is, the finished pressure tester at a cost of, well, more or less nothing really. Just add foot pump as a source of pressure and hey presto!

Here it is fitted to the bike, where it very quickly highlighted a leak in the radiator core, which we had no idea about previously.

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18/06/2010: 300 Miles round trip for seven laps! Silly Nellie!
We didn't get much practice at Cadwell in the end. The overheating problems were still there and the bike never managed more than a lap and a half before boiling up and spitting out all the water. We weren't even going quickly darnit! What with that and the appalling conditions threatening to destroy yet another tent, it wasn't the roaring success that it may have been. I awoke on the Thursday at 4am with the inside of my tent resembling a scene from The Prisoner where the huge inflatable plastic ball engulfed Number 6 every time he tried to make a break for it. After that, I spent the rest of the day either changing head gaskets or banging in tent pegs.

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07/06/2010: Oi! Flathead!

With the overheating problems and constantly blowing head gaskets that have dogged our season so far, it seemed like there must be a problem with the barrels. Off they came and were sent over to Thurston Engineering, who measured, checked, compared, poked and generally prodded them, coming back with the conclusion that they were fine. The barrels were the same height, flat and level, and the head was perfectly plane too. As a precaution they cleaned up the gasket faces a little, but there was definitely no fault to be found. Darnit!!!

They did suggest that perhaps the studs were stretched or fatigued, so I changed those and put all back together with a new Cometic gasket, all the way from the USA. On pouring in the water, it was coming out of the head gasket as fast as I could tip it into the radiator filler, which I have to say, didn't bode well. Dejectedly I sloped off to the bath. Thank you Archimedes! It came to me while soaking in the tub that as the head had been skimmed for more compression and squish, along with using a thinner gasket, the head bolts may be reaching the end of their thread before exerting sufficient pressure on the casting. Well, it was worth a try, so I added a washer to each head bolt, changing the gasket yet again to the middle shim out of a standard Yamaha item, and adding a little sealant. Just for good measure I increased the torque from 28 to 40 NM. On tipping in the water with all fingers crossed, I spilt it all over the place, so tried again without the fniger corssing and made a much better job. Nothing came out, and the engine was run up to temperature without any mishaps. Only time will now tell, so we are hoping to be able to get to Stinkwheels dyno before the bike gets ridden again in anger.

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07/06/2010: Thick head I reckon rather than flat head
Having taken off the Cometic gasket it was instantly apparent what the trouble was. This item was supposed to be applicable to 350 YPVS and Banshee ATV models. However, it seems that nobody had told the awfully nice Mr Yamaha, who had changed the shape of the water jackets on the later Banshee models, so that a large proportion of it was outside the gasket line. No wonder my feet were wet. The salutary lesson is to not assume that because the engine in the Banshee is basically similar, that the parts are interchangeable. Silly old Nellie!

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07/06/2010: Practice? Isn't that some form of cheating?
As Flanders and Swann said in 'The English, the English, the English are best', "And all the world over, each nation's the same,
They've simply no notion of Playing the Game:
They argue with umpires; they cheer when they've won;
And they practise beforehand, which ruins the fun!".

Anyway, last time out at Cadwell Park I rode like a Granny and didn't have the first idea of where the track went. In order not to repeat this sorry exercise, I have booked a place on a track day under the watchful eyes of Focused Events, featuring no less than a Q&A session with Jamie Witham and Niall McKenzie. That should be worth at least ten seconds a lap. Which is just as well as I am looking to improve by 12-13 seconds over our last visit. Cadwell is a fantastic circuit, and this year we intend to do it justice...

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30/05/2010: Drier than a dead dingo's dongler!
Since boiling up and blowing the head gasket twice at Brands last time out, it seemed like a fair idea to take off the head and see if we could find out why such a thing should keep happening.

Thinking there was a slight problem was probably just the teeniest understatement as when the bottom hose was removed, absolutely no water whatsoever came out - oops! Come Tuesday morning I will be off to Thurston Engineering with the barrels and head to see if there is some distortion causing the trouble. Fingers crossed!

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19/05/2010: Brands Hatch GP Circuit in May!

A huge thank you to Ross and Abi (shown in the picture are Ross, left, Matt, right and Abi centre) from LG Insurance in Romford who came along to cheer us on, bringing their Friend Matt with them. Sadly our results didn't do justice to their enthusiasm. We were plagued all weekend with overheating problems, and in Sunday's first race I lost all the feeling in my hands on lap two. That hasn't happened for a while, but stems from old rugby neck injuries closing up the spaces for the nerves that bring sensation from my hands. Such is life.

Also making the trip were Alec and Karen from our sponsors, APF Building Maintenance of Colchester, and Roy Allen from James Hawes Funeral Directors, part of the West & Coe Funeral Directors Group. It was really great to see everyone there, and I bet that I was the only rider on track with their own personal funeral director in attendance!

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12/05/2010: Valves with no value

At Pembrey (and Oulton Park if truth be told), the power valves were leaking exhaust spooge copiously all over the rest of the bike. Once again, it was Tony at Stinkwheels to the rescue and he got some new seals in for us overnight.

The trouble was that it wasn't just the seals that had failed. The first thing we noticed on removing the barrels was that the power valve retainers had shattered, leaving not even enough to be described as a washer behind. This of course allowed the power valves to move laterally, which destroyed the seals, one of which came out in pieces, scuff the valve bodies against the piston rings, and break up one of the power valve bearings. All in all, a right mess, made even worse by the lateral movement damaging the joining tabs and allowing the valves to move out of sync with each other.

The picture shows the broken up bearing, which I just couldn't believe had happened. Luckily, we had spares of most of the bits needed so the bike is now back in one piece and ready to go back on the Stinkwheels dyno to make sure the valves are working properly tomorrow, ready for Brands Hatch GP at the weekend.

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10/05/2010: Happy Burpday Carole
As you can see, Carole enjoys the lap-of-luxury, high life that only Neil Hesman racing can offer her. This year on her birthday (today), Carole will be forty nice years old so we will have to arrange a special treat for her.

Maybe camping at Brands Hatch the weekend after will be a good suggestion? Of course, no expense will be spared, the poor girl may even get a cuppa in the Kentagon.

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05/05/2010: Put a sock in it...
...or a stocking if you prefer. Getting the Kawasaki inlet stubs was one piece of good luck, but we totally ignored the difficulties involved in getting a new pair of Ramair filters. Delivery times of up to two weeks were quoted from various sources and poor old Tony at Stinkwheels was tearing his hair out trying to get some in for us.

Eventually, it was decided that we were wasting our time and that we would have to run at Pembrey without filters. To keep the bigger lumps of airborne detritus out of the air intakes, the long suffering Carole had to surrender a pair of her stockings, which were cut up and bits gaffer taped over the air intakes. Heath Robertson is alive and well, living in Brentwood and racing a 350R in the Yamaha Past Masters.

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05/05/2010: Pembrey - we love it!

Talking of the long-suffering Carole, here she is standing outside our living quarters/workshop area for the Pembrey Meeting. You may notice that most of the living space is taken up with motorised bicycle. Well, we wouldn't want it to get wet now would we?

Having said that, the promised rain didn't materialise and we had a glorious, sunny but windy weekend at the home of Welsh motor sport. The track there is fantastic, albeit a little flat as you would expect from a former airfield. The contrast between what must be the tightest hairpin in Britain and the absolutely mad, flat-out kink at woodlands is staggering. Added to that the lack of landmarks make it a real mental challenge to find and remember braking and turning in points. We loved every second of the racing here and came away with consistent improvements in time over the weekend.

Nellie is still dog slow, but the dog has reduced from its original dogue de Bordeaux proportions through Irish Wolfhound and is probably currently about the size of a decent German Shepherd. Next round at Brands Hatch GP, we will be looking to only be about red setter slow...

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27/04/2010: Tubes help you breathe more easily

Having borrowed some filters from the most excellent Higgsy at Oulton Park when one of our split, they came with some advice. Apparently when using the Keihin PWK carbs from Kawasaki's KR-1S, it really helps the mid range power to use the inlet stubs as well. The bike certainly felt a lot better with Steve's filters and stubs fitted, so we set out to buy a pair.

The only flaw in our otherwise perfect plan was that the genuine Kawasaki parts are no longer available. Even Corby Kawasaki, who are well known for keeping those hard to come by parts that other Kwak dealers don't have, couldn't help. Luckily, a complete airbox assembly came up on eBay so we were able to buy that and remove the inlet stubs, which just press in. Looking at the stubs, it seems that they will give a lengthened inlet tract (good for torque), and have a rounded bellmouth to smooth the airflow. Hopefully we will get the bike on Stinkwheels dyno again before Pembrey to see what the effect is.

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27/04/2010: Water, water, everywhere...
But not a drop to cool the engine. With Friday practice at Oulton Park going quite well, it was a bit disappointing to lose some power and have overheating problems on Saturday for the races. On stripping the top end it became apparent that the root cause was a leaky cylinder head gasket. There was a lot of oil/water emulsion inside the head and the exhaust stubs making that quite obvious. To add insult to injury, both the top and bottom hoses had split too, as had the small transfer hose from the back of the cylinder head to the filler. Even the bulb for the water temperature gauge had given up the ghost and come out of its mount. In short, the whole cooling system had gone into meltdown.

Stinkwheels to the rescue again. Tony had some nice Samco Sport hoses in stock, so those have been fitted now, the head and exhaust flanges sealed with Loctite 5920 copper compound, and hopefully, all the various liquids involved will be keeping to their own sides of the fence for the Pembrey meeting.

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21/04/2010: Oulton Park - Still dog slow, just a smaller dog...

Friday practice was encouraging, lapping consistently in the 2m 18s, some 13 seconds faster than the best I managed last year. So far, so good. Saturday warm-up seemed to go OK despite the zip for my right boot letting go in the holding area, leaving me to do the whole session with it flopping about all over the place.

Race one came and went in a blur of people going past me, but I managed to hold out until the last lap before being lapped by about four of the front runners. To add insult to injury I got pulled for the random dyno test at the end of the race and discovered that there was only 44.5bhp on tap. Horrors! On removing the fairing, part of the problem became apparent in that one of the air filters had split and fallen off the carb, partly blocking the inlet with the remains of its mounting flange.

A huge thank you to Steve Higerty here, who loaned me filters and inlet ducts off his own bike to let me out in race two. Sadly, his generosity didn't help as coming towards the end of lap three, the temperature gauge was off the scale and water was spraying up inside the screen. Such is life. We have a list of jobs now before Pembrey and not much time to get on with them. Watch this space for news of finding and curing the water leak, fitting a 350LC radiator, which has a bigger core, and remounting air filters using the inlet stubs from a KR-1S, which provided the carbs that we use. Apparently, this is a great boost to mid-range torque and rideability.

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13/04/2010: All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

Keen? Us? Yes, I suppose you could say that. The bike, tent and cooking stuff are all loaded up and ready to go, just leaving the tools, spares and fuel. These are heavy so naturally keep getting put off. Everything on the bike is ready apart from changing the front brake fluid and a new pair of tyres that we are meeting at the circuit courtesy of A&R Racing, who will fit them for us when we arrive on Thursday night.

Nothing to do now but relax and look forward to it.

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13/04/2010: Rejected rebranding idea
With the changeover from iCaramba! Ltd to Webinthebox Ltd as branding for our main business activity, the iCaramba! Racing brand had to be replaced. In the process that eventually ended up where we are, there were a number of ideas that got rejected. This was one of my favourites.

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12/04/2010: An army marches on its stomach, we race on ours

Thanks to the very nice Mrs Sqwelch of the YPM Racing Club coming up with the idea of a Caravan Cookbook for the class, we have been thinking a lot more about nutrition for this season. Instead of relying on paddock catering and whatever we could pick up from the en route supermarket as per last year, we are determined to cook more like we do at home and make sure that the team is fuelled as efficiently as the bike...

One of the main problems in getting organised was the lack of proper cooking apparatus and reliable power supplies. All that is changing this season. Thanks to the nice people at Army and Navy Clothing on the Ongar Road in Brentwood, we have equipped ourselves with a two ring gas cooker and grill, a stand to put it on and some proper lighting that doesn't rely on generators. Not only will Chez Nellie be the best place to get a cup of tea at all hours of day and night, but we will also be able to put into practice all the good intentions of eating right to perform better. Additionally we have invested in an AC/DC inverter and leisure battery so that we can have sufficient electrical equipment going to blow up tyres and mattresses etc., as well as some lighting without having to rely on circuit power supplies or carting generators about with us. Watch this space for the new self-contained, self sufficient paddock living. The Good Life has nothing on us. Christ! We'll be growing our own vegetabubbles next.

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09/04/2010: Dyno again.

Well, at least we have some of the power back, but only 2-3BHP by the look of it. This session on the Stinkwheels dyno showed a peak power of just 50.8BHP, but less drop off towards the top of the rev range. With a decent spread of power throughout the rev range, our bike should be very rideable, which is a big plus when you are still trying to learn the circuits too.

Still a little perplexed, we have arrived at the ideas drawer marked 'clutching at straws' now. In their turn, the YPVS controller and even the spark plugs (NGK BRE10IX iridiums as opposed to the standard BR9ESs) have come under scrutiny and received a portion of blame. However, there is nothing more that can be done before Oulton Park now, so we will have to run as is, then take a good hard look at everything when we get back.

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08/04/2010: Dyno-saster!
Well, the much anticipated dyno session at Stinkwheels turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Since the motor was reassembled using all the components that went together to make 58.1BHP on this dyno last year, something around the same was expected. Imagine our horror when the chart wouldn't go above 48.5BHP, a full 10 horsepower less than hoped for. The only difference was that this time, the ignition rotor had been moved round relative to the crank by 4 degrees using an offset keyway. Joe, whose knowledge and experience I trust implicitly suggested that despite any theories I may hold, the ignition advance could be sapping some of our power.

Needless to say, the standard woodruff key is now fitted in place of the modified item and the bike is booked in for another dyno session at Tony's tomorrow.

On the plus side, with the bike on the dyno we were able to locate and cure the water leak that I had been worrying about, and we were able to confirm that the change of YPVS servomotor had given us back full opening of the power valves. Weird stuff though, the motor sounded really sweet, revved freely and picked up cleanly, it just refused to make the power we thought it should. Heigh ho!

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07/04/2010: Loading should be loads easier. Well it seemed like a good idea at the time...
You know what it's like when you get an idea in your head. No power on earth will persuade you that it is anything other than a world beater until you have tried it out for yourself. So it was with the new loading ramp for our bike. the idea was to get a Bike-it parking widget from Stinkwheels, screw it to a sheet of MDF, add a few handles then hey-presto! With the bike strapped onto its board before loading, you could live the life that Reilly could only dream about.

My master plan has four stages:
  1. Lay the ramp on the ground behind the van with the doors open
  2. Roll the bike onto the ramp and secure it with ratchet straps
  3. Lift the front edge of the ramp onto the back of the van floor
  4. Lift the back of the ramp up and slide into position
What could be easier? Well, according to Carole, quite a lot of things actually, and as success of the plan rests on having her help to load up, then I have to throw my lot in with the majority and say it was a rubbish idea. We will probably still use the rig as a parking widget for the back of the van, but use a separate ramp to load the bike...

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05/04/2010: Weight, it's all relative really...

With the change in ride height gained through the adjustable rear tie bars, there is sure to be a change in weight distribution. To make sure that the bike's handling was just as good as last year, this would need to be compensated. The master plan was to use two pairs of bathroom scales, weigh front and rear wheel loads and adjust ride height/preload to get as close as possible to a 50/50 distribution.

Sounds so simple doesn't it? The first problem was to find bathroom scales with a sufficient range to accommodate both the bike and rider. This seemed impossible in traditional spring loaded scales, so we bought a couple of pairs of digital ones from Robert Dyas at a mere ?10 each. These had a range of 0-150Kg, so plenty, even for my lardy bulk. However, what I didn't take into account was that these don't react instantly, but take a while to register, during which you must remain absolutely still or they won't read. Well, after several hours and countless attempts, we ended up with just four readings out of the planned 28! Carole was running from one end of the bike to the other trying to see if there were any numbers on the displays while I tried to sit like a statue holding my breath for fear of disturbing the scales.

Our final conclusion seemed to be that we have a 43% front, 57% rear weight distribution, which stays the same regardless of rear preload setting, front fork air pressure and the amount of drop through on the fork legs. Was it worth it? Probably not from what we learned so now it will be a matter of trial and error at Oulton Park, but with only one ten-minute practice session there is not much time for adjustment.

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05/04/2010: Bootiful, really bootiful
Another thing we are hoping to avoid this season is the grinding away of Nellie's size 12 Gaerne's because he can't keep his flanges tucked in enough. This could end up costing a fortune in boots, but good old Isopon P40 to the rescue again. Hopefully, the additional ground clearance we have this year, along with new footpeg position should make it possible to even keep these great clodhoppers tucked in a bit. Anyway, after half an hour with some filler, tyre paint and of course, lots of Blue Peter spirit, they are almost as good as new.

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04/04/2010: Pistons, the good, the bad and the ugly

These are just three of the things that we will be trying to avoid this year. From the left, a piston that looks not too bad until you take a close look at the front of the crown, which has melted and rounded off quite severely. This looks like a weak mixture to me, making the exhaust gases hotter than they should be while heading for the exhaust port.

The middle piston siezed when a fleck of paint made it through the fuel filter and blocked the main jet, starving it of both fuel and lubrication. Interestingly, I was right on the apex of Paddock Hill bend, Brands Hatch at the time. This nearly spoiled a few people's weekends, but luckily, I managed to make it to the gravel trap without mishap (sorry Terry!).

On the right is the piston that siezed due to low temperature at Snetterton. This was largely my own fault for not taping up the radiator to keep some heat in the engine, and believing the constant 58oC reading on the temperature gauge that had been damaged. Silly old me! I also have a feeling that ring gaps being too small played a part in this, so they have been given much more attention this year.

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04/04/2010: Clumsy Wumsy
Certain tools should be wielded with accuracy first and enthusiasm second... Hammers being a case in point, silly old Nellie managed to deliver a half-decent clubbing to the joint at the base of left thumb during this afternoon's garage session. I wonder if this is divine retribution for working on Easter Sunday???

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03/04/2010: Congratulations Tony and Claire

Having been together for 12 years already, it seems that no-one was more surprised than Tony and Claire themselves when they set a wedding date for April 1st.

Their talent for organisation shone through, and even though the event was set up in no time flat, it went as smoothly as if it had been organised years in advance. The reception was held in the Stirling Suite at Brands Hatch, where everybody had a great time before repairing to the bar in the nearby Thistle hotel for a 'quick nightcap'.

The next morning, Good Friday, saw some of the hardier souls gathering at Brands to watch day one of the British Superbike practice. Being girlie lightweights, Carole and I only braved the foul conditions long enough to see the first BSB outing before scuttling off home for a nice hot bath.

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28/03/2010: Back together - will it run?

Everything that is necessary for the bike to run is now back in place. We have electricity for the power valves, fuel, gear oil, water in the cooling system and it is time to see how easily it starts. Hold that pose for a minute, frantic kicking failed to bring our bike to life. Popping out a spark plug revealed that it was just a plug at this time. The 'spark' bit was most definitely missing.

Removing the fuel tank revealed the cause instantly. Some idiot had managed to cut through the earth lead for the CDI box when refitting the fuel tank. Doh! Still, nothing major and after a couple of minutes work with a soldering iron, the tank was refitted (carefully this time) and the bike burst into life second kick - hurrah for bursting into life second kick!

The next stage is to get on to the Stinkwheels dyno as soon as possible and see what effect going back to our 'A' barrels, and fitting the 4o ignition advancer have had. Last time we had the engine running with this top end, it gave 58.5BHP, so we are hoping for good things this time around.

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28/03/2010: Old stickers can be a pain

Removing old stickers can be a fiddly, messy and time consuming job. I have always relied on WD40 as so many people do, but with a particularly stubborn old-fashioned paper backed sticker, it needed Carole to come to the rescue. She dug out of a cupboard an old bottle of some stuff called Zoff, which is sold to remove sticking plasters from people too wimpy to just pull them off like a man...

This did the trick brilliantly. I also recently bought some stuff prosaically labelled 'Sticky Stuff Remover' from Robert Dyas. Unfortunately I have managed to put it away so tidily that I havne't got a clue where it is so can't say how good it is.

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28/03/2010: Fussy about fuel filters

Since seizing the engine right on the apex of paddock bend, Brands Hatch a couple of seasons back, we have always paid great attention to fuel filters. The seizure occurred when a fleck of paint from inside the fuel tank made it through the filter, blocking the main jet.

Call me old fashioned, but I thought that inline fuel filters were there to stop just that sort of thing...

Anyway, since then the fuel filter has been changed every meeting (we don't buy them from H*lf*rds any more either). More importantly, it is very carefully positioned between the carburettors, aligned vertically so the fuel passes through it travelling upwards, the idea being that any particulate matter gets filtered out and collects at the bottom of the filter bowl through gravity.

On stripping the Keihin PWK carbs, this practice seems to have been spectacularly vindicated. After five meetings since their last strip, there was no need to clean the float chambers or jets - spotless!

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28/03/2010: And here it is on the bike

Carole's first reaction to seeing the new, shiny instrument panel in place was to say it was 'wonky'. Personally I prefer the phrase 'set at a jaunty angle' myself, but either way, the panel is fitted and the instruments connected, so who cares if I have to install a mirror so that I can see what they say?

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28/03/2010: Instrument Panel

Last year's instrument panel looked like it had been gnawed out of aluminium sheet by a dog. All lit had to do was hold on a switch and a multi-function meter with velcro. This year with a 'proper' rev counter and temperature gauge, a few modifications had to be made.

After several hours sweat, toil and swearing, the new, improved instrument panel now exists. OK, it still looks like it has been chewed to shape by a dog, but this time we hope it is a pedigree and not the shabby mongrel that did last year's one...

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27/03/2010: Newmungotent Lives!

A visit to my mother in Wales provided the perfect opportunity to give our new travelling race HQ its first test. It passed with flying colours, although I am not sure that the same could be said of me. After 53minutes and 44 seconds dead of sweat and toil I had a place to sleep for the night. Damn whoever thought of putting a stopwatch into a mobile phone!

Still, considering I was alone, had never seen the tent before and had no instructions, perhaps that wasn't so bad.

As you can see from the relative size to the lwb, high roof Renault Master van parked just behind it, there is plenty of room for the team (both of us) and the bike. I can stand up straight in it, and there is good access. OK, as Carole pointed out, it is still a tent with all the inherent discomfort, but I am convinced that the weather this season is going to be superb and she will really love every weekend's racing...

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22/03/2010: New chain slipper

One of the things that got lost when changing the rear suspension tie bars was the delrin chain slipper that keeps the chain away from the frame and exhausts on full droop. The original was bolted to the side of one of the 'dogbone' tie bars. Rather than drill our new, utterly beautiful tie bars, the slipper has been mounted on a small bracket, pop riveted to the frame. Whether this is strong enough or not is a matter for testing. We shall see what we shall see...

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22/03/2010: And here it is back in place

With the engine back in the frame, we are now ready to start putting back all the parts that make it work. The plan is to remodel the wiring loom used last season to remove a couple of unnecessary components and lose some cables that are no longer necessary as the Scitsu rev counter and temperature gauge are self-contained and need no current. We have a new power valve servomotor to go in, which will hopefully give us full opening of the valves again, and the battery charging loom, choke cable and power switch will all be going to new homes.

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22/03/2010: Ready to go back in the frame (at last)

Having been carefully reassembled with a new Wiseco piston installed in the right hand cylinder, and the 'old' (1lap and 1 bend of Snetterton) one in the left hand side, our engine is ready to be refitted. This time we are using a Wiseco oversize head gasket too so that no gasket material protrudes into the squish area, which should help liberate the power that we seek as every little helps.

On that subject, we are alson looking for an improvement from the offset ignition rotor keyway (?10 on eBay). This will help by advancing the static ignition timing by about 4degrees. Only the dyno session will tell.

There was one small problem in that one of the exhaust stud threads in the left hand cylinder was totally gone. These seem to be a weak point with the Yamaha LC series, not through design, but mostly through people overtightening them over the years. In this case, with necessity being the mother of invention we drilled the hole out oversize and tapped it for a 10mm thread. An old brake line banjo bolt was then screwed in and sawn off flush. This, in turn was drilled out and tapped at 8mm to accept the stud again. Perfect!

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22/03/2010: Piston Ring Gaps

Having had a cold seizure at Snetterton last year, which destroyed one of our lovely new Wiseco forged pistons after only one lap and one bend, I was determined to make sure there was no repetition.

Chris Brocklehurst of CB Tuning pointed out that Wiseco pistons are particularly sensitive to the end gap of the piston rings, which can close up and cause distortion if too small. Wiseco recommends .002-.004inch gap per inch of bore, which roughly translates to 6-10 thou on the 66mm bores of the YPVS (2mm oversize). Chris recommended that this should be seen as an absolute minimum so the ends of the rings were carefully filed to give a gap of 14 thou. As this year we will be running a thermostat unlike last year, and we have a more accurate temperature gauge, hopefully, even on the coldest day that our glorious summer can offer, there should be no more cold seizures.

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22/03/2010: Power Valve Clearance

As our cylinders are 2mm oversize, the power valves needed to be relieved with a half round file to make sure that there was adequate clearance for the pistons. This is quite laborious, but well worth it in terms of avoiding seizures through picking up aluminium on the piston rings, so the time was well spent.

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16/03/2010: More bits back on the bike! Shock! Horror!

Yes, the back wheel went back in and the footrest brackets now hold some footrests onto the chassis. This may not be a permanent situation though as the clearance that looks OK now for brake lever and gear linkage just may all disappear when the engine and exhausts are back in place.

Hopefully though, everything will fit. The footrest hangers have been redrilled to bring the pegs forward and upward a bit, which in turn should allow more clearance on the expansion chambers so that they don't have to be spaced out. If we are right, this will give more cornering clearance. If we are wrong, it is out with the Black and Decker again for more holes. Hmmmm, think of all that weight saving too!

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14/03/2010: Mothering Sunday

Even hairy-arsed ex prop forwards have mums, so just to prove that I am no exception to the rule, here is a picture of my mum with me stainding in front of her in the late 1950s.

You will observe that my mother is wearing a tree as a hat, so if anyone should ever wonder why I am somewhat deranged, look to the parents..

Bless your little cotton socks Mum, I wouldn't have you any other way.

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14/03/2010: The front wheel is back in...

The original plan was to change the wheels as the spare set has fresh bearings fitted. However, as one of the disc bolts jammed up on fitting and had to be drilled out, it was back to the original wheels. These still have to come out for new tyres to be fitted, but at least the old ones will do for a dyno session when the engine is back in.

After the new tyres, the last job before Oulton as far as the front wheel goes is to change the brake fluid for a nice fresh fill of DOT5.1 The Bendix brake pads used last season are fine, so they represent great value for money! Incidentally, they are also brilliant for stopping the bike.

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14/03/2010: Who's a donkey then?

Nellie is! That's who. Having been all the way to Peterborough to pick up our barrels from Chris at CB Tuning, I managed to leave the cylinder head behind.

Needless to say, Today's session in the garage was not as productive as it may have been.

The good news is that Chris is a most excellent fellow and much against the run of play for two-stroke tuners is very young. In what seems to be a dying art, so many of the practitioners are in their 60s or even 70s! Chris is well worth encouraging and the more business he gets, the longer we will have access to his skills. CB Tuning can be reached on 07984 464196.

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07/03/2010: A choice of front forks at last!

Well, to tell the truth we always did have, but last year the second pair looked so awful, it seemed a shame to put them on the bike. All that has changed now thanks to Clive from Bling Polishing. The second set of forks have come up better than new.

Using highly technical modern measuring kit (a pair of bathroom scales and a couple of cable ties) the fork legs were loaded and displacement measured to see which were the stiffest. As it turns out the springs in the recently polished set were about 14% stiffer under a load of about 55Kg. These have now been assigned to dry use (red dot) while the forks we ran all last year, being a bit more compliant have been put aside for the unlikely event of rain...

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07/03/2010: And here they are, back on the bike at last

With the forks back in place, the whole thing is beginning to look like a bike again. Now that we have some adjustable ride height tie bars at the rear, the forks will be fitted with about an inch less drop through to increase the front ride height and keep the plot level. When all the bits are back on, the bike and rider will be weighed front and rear using those technical bathroom scales again. This will allow adjustment of the ride height and suspension preload to give an even weight distribution. We are aiming for a 50/50front/rear balance to start with, then maybe throw a little more weight over the front for quicker turning on the tighter tracks. It's all about trial and error in the early stages, but I am really looking forward to having the additional ground clearance.

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20/02/2010: Bling! Bling! It's for Yoooo-hoooo

Having a spare set of forks set up for wet use is a luxury for us. The spare legs have now been rebuilt with more compliant forks and lighter oil to give more feel in wet conditions. While they were off the bike, it seemed like a great idea to get Clive at Bling Polishing to work his magic on them.

Sure enough they look great. Unfortunately it looks like we are going to have to swap the springs with our 'dry' front end as Clive said if we get them wet he will kill us!

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20/02/2010: First Part Goes Back on Bike!

Our custom made battery box/breather catch tank sits on top of the rear shock mount so needs to be the first thing back on the bike to make life easy. I have enough trouble getting my paws into confined spaces as it is so scheduling of tasks like this to make them manageable is a must.

The unit was designed by my good friend and supermoto racer extraordinaire, Carl Abram. The shape was cut out in cardboard then handed over to a local sheet metal company to make up and fitted like a glove from the outset. Good old Carl and cardboard boxes!

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20/02/2010: Another part bolted back on?

Yes, another part has been reunited with its former colleagues. The shark-fin chainguard, a vital piece of safety equipment that keeps your toes out of the chain and sprocket in case of a fall has now been bolted back onto the newly recoated swing arm.

We use an R&G racing model, which seems to be very solidly built so should be strong enough even to keep my size 12's in place if necessary. I just hope it never is...

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20/02/2010: And Talking of the Swingarm

The bushes that Stinkwheels welded in for us needed tapping to take a bolt connection to the link arms. This turned out to be a tough job and took literally hours!

Still it will be worth it to get rid of those nasty fibre bushes and corroded, fixed length 'dog bones'. The new needle roller bearings have been pressed into place and the swinging arm is ready to go back on the bike.

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20/02/2010: The new suspension tie bars in place

Huge thanks to the nice guys at Pretech Engineering. The tie bars that they made us for the rear suspension fitted a treat. We just need to get some lock nuts for them now and the swinging arm assembly can be bolted up ready for the wheels to go back in.

The range of adjustment goes from just over standard length at the longest to some 14mm shorter at the shortest. This raises the rear of the bike by well over an inch when the mechanical advantage of the tie bars is taken into account. As ground clearance is one of our three Holy Grails this season, this is going to be a big help.

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16/02/2010: Tacho Belle

Thanks to the generosity of Ton-up club members, we have also been able to buy a new rev counter and temperature gauge from Dennis Trollope Racing in Bristol. Not just any old clocks though, these are beautiful Scitsu items. The rev counter carries its own charge so cuts down on the wiring needed and the temperature gauge is an ultra-accurate capilliary type. There is a very strong feeling here that the inaccuracy of our instruments, damaged in a Brands Hatch mishap the season previous, was a major contributory factor in the early season blow-up of our number 1 engine.

With the new Scitsu clocks, we will be much more confident that everything will hang together, being in the right temperature and rev range much more often.

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13/02/2010: New bits arrived

The lovely new suspension parts made for me by the awfully nice chaps at Pretech in Reading have now arrived. These will give us the ability to adjust the rear ride height for some much-needed additional ground clearance. Rather than go for the fixed length shortened versions available from NK Racing and DTK Racing, we have opted to design some adjustable tie bars with rose joints from McGill Motor Sport. Along with a modified spindle to replace the original huge bolt and sleeve that are both well pitted after nearly 20 years on the road, the tie bars will make a big difference to the handling of the bike, which we will be able to fine tune to suit individual circuits.

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