If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Rust Never Sleeps

No, not one of mine. I just posted this photo to help me feel better. "Things could be worse."

Yesterday I had a look at the Triumph and saw how badly it has fared in the last few weeks. It has stood outside through all the snow and the cold, and it has suffered. I have only used it a few times, and it shows. Today, I have spent most of the day on it, and it is looking better, but I am very disappointed by the way the finish has coped (or not) with the weather.

When I last gave it a bit of attention, it was still looking pretty good. That was back at the beginning of December, I think. This morning, on close inspection, there were telltale signs of rust everywhere. The wheel rims have broken out in a rash, and the fork legs have pitted. The footrest brackets have a rusty glow shining through the thin layer of matt-black paint. The axle nuts and adjusters look decidedly second-hand, all the fasteners have gone furry, and likewise the cooling fins. The lacquer on the engine cases (which had already started to lift at the edges) now looks as if it is ready to part company with the metal in a big way. The chain and rear sprocket, despite being lubed religiously every week and the later addition of a chain oiler, are orange throughout, and there is a big rusty stain on the rear tyre where the water has dripped. The bike looks as if it has aged five years in as many weeks.

I must have spent three or four hours on it today. It is now surgically clean, and all the rust has been polished out (although once the finish is breached, it will keep coming back, I know). All the shiny bits are covered in clean engine oil, likewise the chain, and the whole thing has been treated to a coat of protective spray. It looks good again, but I know that I am fighting a losing battle. For this reason I have done what I should have done two months ago - cleared the crap out of the garage and put it away under cover. It can stay there until the Spring.

Triumph - you aren't going to like this, but the Bonnie is the worst bike I have ever had for corrosion. Thin chrome, thin paint, badly-plated fasteners, poor lacquering. Yamahas are not known for the robustness of their finish, but the XT looks no worse than it did before Christmas, and it has had the same, or less, attention than the Bonnie. And that's a 15-year-old bike that has had a hard life.

Hondas are famed for their build quality, so it's no surprise that the Pan survived a severe winter outside with only a couple of rust spots on the brake pedal where my boots had worn the finish away. But my Suzuki Bandit (another bike famous for its cheap and cheerful finish) survived the winters well and looked the same when as sold it as the day I bought it. Likewise the Ducati: Italian bikes are well-known for falling over at the first sign of rain, but the bike lost nothing over the winter before last. All my bikes get the same treatment: they live outside, they are used in all weathers, and every week they get a good wash, the important bits get sprayed with WD40 or similar, and all the moving bits get a meeting with Mr Oilcan. For every other bike I have owned recently, this has been enough to keep them up to scratch. Not the Triumph.

The Yam has had a health check and some air in its tyres, and this is now the Official Winter Bike again. The Bonnie can stay in the garage until the weather improves. I expected a British bike to be capable of withstanding a British winter, but it looks like I was wrong. The XT has been a faithful buddy for a long time now, and it looks as though I have plenty of use for it yet.

Doff-doff-doff. Heh.


  1. I must have spent three or four hours on it today. It is now surgically clean

    My Landy has been out & about on the salty highways for the last few weeks. Could you drop by and give it some TLC?

    You know you want to... ;-)

  2. Oh dear. My Grand Dad (How to Start Motorcycling. pub MCN) was seen as a bit of a heretic for extolling the virtues of Jap bikes. Seems he was a visionary.

    I thought

  3. Patently - one word - Waxoyl. And I am afraid if I had time to spare to play with Landies, I would be getting my own back on the road :(

    WW - to be fair, it's not that Jap bikes are good (although they are), it's that this Brit bike is so terribly disappointing. I had hoped for much better than this.

  4. Sympathies - sounds extremely poor to me. Aside from the regular cleaning (unless biannually counts as regular) my bikes never get any better treatment to cope with winter and I've had nothing as bad as that description since an '86 Suzuki - which at least had the excuse of being an '86 Suzuki. And even that was, speaking in the vernacular as one who doesn't care much about cosmetics, a pretty gutting experience.

    To be fair(ish), it doesn't seem a consistent problem: when my local dealer was a Triumph shop, they had some bikes shrug off all weathers and some dissolve in a single summer shower. More of the latter than you'd expect of a modern manufacturer, though. Great British quality control, a la 70s Leyland, I suspect. Perhaps that's why Triumph online will happily sell you a 48-unit case of ACF50 at trade price?

    If there's a silver lining, perhaps it's that the nagging question of what the XT is for has been conclusively answered. Still, hope you can now keep the Bonnie in the condition you'd like without too much hard work.

  5. I'm not too bothered about cosmetics - except that I prefer things to be nice rather than nasty if possible - but function is important, and when you can see your chain adjuster as just a mass of rusty bits, and the exhaust head bolts likewise, it starts to worry me. I examined the wheel rims quite carefully last time I gave it a 'proper' clean (around early November) and they were 100%. Now they are pitted with rust, and no amount of cleaning will stop that, only keep it at bay.

    I was thinking as I was writing the post that the XT problem has finally resolved itself. It IS the Winter Bike!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Rust might never sleep Richard, but if it gets too much, try this........


  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Now those I like. The scales - I'd be going 'brum brum' every time I weighed some flour. Ingenious. I suppose it's the married man's equivalent of having the bike in the living room - having parts of the bike in the living room. I always fancied having furniture like the Top Gear set - perhaps this is better.

  10. Harley's I find have the same problem. For the price of them, one would think every part would be made of titanium. I can't believe how cheezy the plating is and the hardware is crap as well. The XS500 is rusty from one end to the other, but I am in the process of fixing that. In the winter I take the FJ out on only the nicest of winter days to maintain the condition I found it in. As far as choosing a Jap bike over a Harley, I'll take the Jap bike every time and have enough money left over to pick up a nice Bonnie as well ; )

  11. Hi Gymi

    I think your experience is the same as ours. When Jap bikes first came on the market, they were derided as 'jap crap' because of a) their alien threat to our native breeds, and b) Japan's reputation for poor quality manufacture. How wrong could we be! Interesting remarks about Harleys. We hear all about the 'deep, luscious' chrome, but it's no surprise that in the real world it's not the same. I've spoken to some members of my Triumph club, and it seems like a matter of luck: some have been fine, others have dissolved before your eyes. But the general feel is - not a great finish. Tchah.


Comment is free, according to C P Scott, so go for it. Word verification is turned off for the time being. Play nicely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...