Thursday, September 06, 2012

Broken Again: The life and times of a mechanical idiot...

I've been going to the local bike pub,  on foot, while sitting about looking for the cheapest way to get the throttle cable replaced. Okay, so the idea of bike night is you go on the bike, but for every 10 lads on their bikes, there were three or four who go to get pissed, so it's not too bad, and get pissed I did, week after week.

Now the RS has always had a very heavy throttle, with one cable going into a splitter box, pulling on four other cables. Over the years, at least some of them must have gunked up because to twist the throttle, well, there's probably at least a couple of kilos of pull on the throttle. Dangle two bags of sugar from the end of the throttle cable and twist the grip - that's the sort of stiffness you're looking at.

Eventually, (after drunkenly promising "I'll bring it up this wednesday, you can have a look at it" to come on the bike, I wandered up to RTT for a new throttle cable (having taken the old one as a reference), 18 quid and 20 minutes later and I've got a shiny new one.
Walked back (55 minutes) after 25 minutes of waiting for the once-hourly bus, got home and fitted the cable. Closed everything up, and realised I had no electrics.

Problem One

Got my dad to help, because he's ever so good at this sort of thing - the little wire had snapped off the solder on the cutoff switch, so he stripped the end of each wire, "tinned" them, and resoldered them with shiny new joins. Got the throttle cable fitted - a tight fit since it was slightly shorter than normal, but it fits fine and works fine.
Had a bit of a ride round, and the bike is still overheating like a bastard, but that can be sorted...

Spent today doing all sorts of things, cleaned the bike up, replaced some old bolts, added some nyloc nuts, and then gave it a once over with the polish to get it looking shiny for tonight.

Rode up there, happily making a point of blasting past my mate on his ickle neep neep scooter, and sat at the traffic lights halfway up Cowley lane with the engine getting hotter and hotter and hotter. Lights went to green, off I pull up the hill with the bike hesitating somewhat, and get almost all the way to the top of the hill before the bike bogs down completely. Just as I pull onto the side road, it dies.

Problem Two

A couple of minutes spent kicking it (the kick starter, not the bike!), while other lads ride past giving me cheery waves, and I get it going again. Ride it to outside the front door of the pub and park up, as the lads who passed me engross themselves in the RS "That's bloody marvellous/haven't seen one of them for a while/they go like shit off a shovel them" etc etc etc.

Sit around, walk around (which is like sitting around but higher up), drink (Britvic, thanks!), have a fag, and Karl pulls up on his, well, not sure what it is. Looks like a V-max ("A fucking V-max?!?" says he), but made by honda. VF1100 or something like that. "For you..." he says to his mate, pulling out a reg/rec and handing it over, "and for you" he says to me, pulling out a new throttle tube, after I drunkenly explained that I'd fucked the last one bodging it to get me back home.

We get talking onto how the throttle is incredibly heavy, and as I disconnect the fuel hose and take the tank off to show him the splitter box, and how much strain the (presumably incorrectly routed cable) is putting on it, he goes to have a "look".
Now he's used to riding bikes with two throttle cables, one push, one pull, which I suppose is the only explanation for what he does, which is to try to twist the grip forwards, towards the nose of the bike. Just as I'm beginning to wonder what he's doing, the entire rhs switchgear - cutoff switch, indicator switch and all - breaks free from its mounting pin and rotates upwards until the indicator switch that did face towards the rider, is now facing the sky..

Problem Three

I hastily dismantle the throttle assembly, where I find that the metal pin that stuck snugly into the hole on the bottom of the bar, has now pushed its way through the plastic, meaning that there's little to stop the switchgear rotating with the grip - leaving me with no throttle, unable to ride back. There are a few more blokes around at this point, including one guy who owns a local customs manufacturing/modifying/servicing/if it's to do with bikes, he can do it place. I'm flitting around, worrying about being able to get the bike back, looking for someone more experienced in mechanics to tell me that it's all okay, and that I'll be able to get home fine. Eventually, I do get talking to him (he's a well liked and respected dude this guy, and really knows his stuff. Frankly, I feel like I'm wasting his time every time I talk to him (even when I'm booking the bike in for a service), but he seems to like me well enough, so we get talking), and he makes the following announcements.

  • We're both looking forward to getting the bike in for a major overhaul
  • The RS is great fun to ride, but mechanically, is a royal pain in the arse, and most riders would decide that the bike is more trouble than it's worth
  • The riders that wouldn't consider it more trouble than its worth, are by now desperately looking around trying to find RSs, which is why they apparently command a premium as "there are so few about, because they've all just died"
  • He'd have to look to be sure, but the reason the throttle is heavy, is probably because at least some of the cables under the tank are fucked, and the lining of the cables is now serving to constrict the steel inner cable, and stop it from moving properly...
  • The reason the bike is overheating, is more than likely due to an air bubble. Apparently there's a certain location behind the top cylinder (maybe?), which is a bugger for getting bubbles in

Eventually I decide I can't wait, it's time to go, if I stop and wait for the chips the off licence will be closed by the time I get back, so I kick the bike up (starts first kick, every time, even after 16 years), and eventually it warms up. Nervously ("Will I get home? Or will I be left at the side of the road with a fucked throttle?") I get the earphones in, get the helmet and gloves on, and I get on the bike, and turn the lights on so people know to get out of my way.

Stand up, into first, revs up, clutch out, and off we go.

The bike pulls forwards a meter or so, and starts bogging down. I quickly apply more throttle, and it dies altogether.

Now, I want you to imagine the sound of a two-stroke engine cutting out. Now add the sound of 30 sympathetic but amused bikers all collectively going "ohhhhhhh".

I try to kick the engine over a few times and it's not having it. From somewhere behind me appears the head of Daz, one of my other mates, in my limited field of vision. Over Rammstein's "Der Meister", I hear him say "You've had the tank off haven't you?"

"Yeah". Says I.

"Did you turn the fuel back on?"

Theatrically, as if to say "I've made a stupid mistake and I'm not even going to try to hide it, I sweep my arm over the tank and make a show of turning the fuel tap back on.

I kick the bike a few times, and it won't start. Eventually, I end up having a shouted (yet muffled, thanks to the helmet and earphones) three-way conversation between myself, one of the other blokes there, and someone called "lost in translation", where he offers me a bump start. Eventually, I get on the bike and kick it into first, to a collective chorus of "Try Second!". Another couple of blokes appear in my field of view, offering helpful tips, all of which are drowned out by Till Lindemann rolling his Rs, and eventually we get the bike rolling.

I let the clutch out, and the revs increase, but the bike doesn't start. I pull in, accelerate again, let it out quicker, and the engine cuts into life. Not wanting to lose my momentum, I give a grateful beep of the horn to the lads behind me, and ride towards the big downhill.
I pull into the junction, being eternally mindful not to snap the retaining pin in the switchgear, and eventually make it down the hill, through the bends.
Just as I'm starting to enjoy myself, to remember what a beautifully awesome bike the RS is to ride, clearing a few sweeping curves, I pull up to the roundabout, where the bike dies AGAIN.
I get off the bike, pissed off, and sit around wondering what to do.


That is the sound of a thought occuring to me.

I crouch down beside the bike, grab the fuel tap, and twist it towards the rear "Reserve" position.

A quick kick, and the engine ZZzzZzzZzzZzzzzzzs back into life.

Bloody petrol.

I ride home, glad that I've now got another problem sorted, and with a sense of relief, and a still-working throttle, pull onto the drive.

Epiloguey bit...

A quick trip to the off licence later, and here I am, surrounded by leathers, boots, my helmet is sat on my bed facing blankly towards the wardrobe, and I've got a lovely bottle of chilled mead, and a big bottle of strongbow, which I'm already digging into. And here I am telling my tale to you folks.
Make of it what you will, it's been a fun night. Not great, but fun nonetheless.

I left my bike with an affectionate pat on the fuel tank and a few choice words...

You're a pain in the fucking arse... But I love you anyway...

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