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

- George Washington

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Bearing Up

I saw the doctor on Wednesday, and she signed me off work for a week. I am no longer ill (i.e. I feel pretty much OK), but I need to rest my leg and keep it elevated so that the antibiotics can get to work on clearing out the nasty things that have caused the infection. So, naturally, I have been working on the bike. (Seriously, I am fairly immobile. I can be up and about for half an hour or so, but then I need to rest again or the leg starts to throb and swell like something in a science fiction movie. But in the periods when I can get about, where better to do it than in the garage?)

I've been getting a bit panicky about the Sprint being out of commission. I have booked in for the Ride of Respect next month, and I was having visions of having to do it on the XT, which would have been less than ideal -and take twice as long.

Regular readers who have the slightest interest will remember that the steering bearings had become very rough and notchy, leading to a slightly embarrassing tumble at work and some entirely preventable cosmetic damage to the bike. When I got the headstock dismantled, this was what I found:

No wonder it wasn't keen on corners!

Yesterday and today I spent working on it intermittently. I had to cut the old bearings off. They are an interference fit and were very reluctant to leave the party. To get the new ones on, I had to leave the stem in the freezer overnight and heat the bottom race up in the oven beforehand. With all that done, and a few mighty blows of a hammer and chisel, the new ones went on without too much drama. And don't they look better?

I then drained half a litre of 12-year-old brown sludge out of each fork leg and replaced it with nice fresh 10W oil and put it all back together. While all the plastics were off, I took the opportunity to fit some better headlight bulbs. The Sprint's headlights are shockingly bad, and I am hoping that these Osram Nightbreakers will improve matters. HID lights seem to the technical fix du jour, but I am not keen to go down that route until I have exhausted all the other (i.e. cheaper and less hassle) alternatives.

This morning, the bike looked like this:

BTW, that's the garage after I tidied it up to store the new kitchen units. You didn't want to see it before, honestly. Note the sophisticated jacking arrangement to keep the front end off the floor.

Tonight, it is back on its wheels, plastics fitted, and ready to go. A light drizzle and failing light meant that I wasn't too keen to test-ride it today, but if the weather holds I will take it for a few milkes tomorrow to see how it is shaping up. But even pushing it along the driveway I can feel that the steering is totally different; light and smooth as opposed to chunky and recalcitrant.

A shakedown ride, and then I will commute on it for a few days just to bond with it again. I'm looking forward to it. Assuming I can bend my leg.


  1. Regarding HID conversions - the MOT changed at the beginning of the year, and testers are expected to look for conversions and fail them.

    Technically, HID conversions have always been illegal. The four reasons are unsuitable lens design, dip beam not staying on when full beam is up, lack of self-levelling and lack of washer system. Essentially, an external light has to be "E" marked, then used in that manner. If you have a lamp tested with an incandescent bulb, by definition it is not suitable for HID.

    The link applies to cars, but I suspect that it will also apply to bike tests. I don't know of anyone who has been failed for this yet, but I'm sure it's going to happen.


    Obviously it wouldn't be legal to change the bulb just for the MOT test, and I presume that Plod will be on the look-out for HID conversions on the road....

  2. I knew HID was illegal for cars without self-levelling, and I kinda thought that bikes were a tolerated 'grey area'. But you've put the lid on that one. Thanks!

    HID for Sprints is very popular world-wide, as it's relatively cheap and does make a big improvement to the lights, or so I am told. (Since it is the beam pattern rather than the output that is the problem, I can't see how the brightest lights in the world can give an improvement, but all the Triumph Rat guys say to go for it.) It seems the main beam takes a measurable amount of time to wake up - hence the insistence on an overlap between main and dip - and while this is fine for where lights are permanently on, as someone who lights up when it's needed and not otherwise I think that could be a problem.

    As you can see, I am not convinced, hence my desire to try cheaper and less intrusive options first. If I can find small and neat spotlights to go under the fairing, that might be an ideal solution. Two to provide a decent spread for main beam, and one to fill in the central gap in dip.

    Pity Triumph didn't just design them better to start with. The Honda Pan had twin headlights with exactly the same bulbs and output, and that was as good as my car.

    Thanks for the input.

    1. I went from a car with factory HIDs to one with halogens, so have gone through the after-market HID thing. Then a friend pointed out the legislation, so I did the research. In practice, the factory HID setup I now have fitted to the car that I bought with halo's is far superior to the aftermarket kit, but it was a lot of money and grief to do the conversion.

      The dip/full beam issue is as much to do with H4 HID bulbs - when I tried a moveable arc bulb in the wifes MR2 Roadster, dip beam looked excellent and was correctly adjusted. However, when you moved to full beam, all the light moved up - it was like looking at the world through a letterbox, with no light on the road immediately in front of you.

      The best solution for the MR2 is to use the front foglight setup from the later cars, but fitted with driving lights. Technically not entirely legal, but nobody ever checks the beam pattern of front fog lights....

      There are some very effective and approved aftermarket LED headlights and spots available now. Fiendishly expensive, but quite effective and they don't put too much strain on the limited bike electrical system.

    2. It looks like a couple of LED spots, small size and mounted discreetly, are the way to go.

      Or I could just live with it ...

  3. Glad to hear your leg's getting better and that the sick time has had some productive moments! Like the new bearing better, I must say.

    I looked - very briefly - at HID conversions and decided it was way too much hassle and expense to bother with just to annoy other road users. Hadn't realised they were illegal too. To be honest, I've been satisfied enough with high-performance bulbs - used NightBreakers on my last few bikes and all of them have shown improvement*. Not had one for a while that had a truly dreadful beam pattern to begin with, though, so I can't vouch for how worthwhile they'd be in that case.

    * Presumably not just through placebo effect, although I've never gotten more scientific than looking at how bright the back wall of the garage seems.

    1. I feel a bit the same about HID. We'll see how the Nightbreakers perform. I fitted one to the XT when I ordered them, and there was a slight but noticeable improvement over the Halfords Extreme Brilliance +80% that I had fitted two years ago. As the bulbs currently in the Sprint are standard H4s, there should be a visible difference.

      Work tonight, so we shall see.

  4. Damn Richard,

    Your Triumph is looking a lot like my XS right now.

  5. HIDs are like night and day vs halogens, there is no contest. Now, the question is whether you want to deal with the potential hassle at MOT time (potential, because I have yet to have a problem on either car or bike, the tester telling me last year that as long at the beam is within limits, its fine) or not. Personally, I would rather be able to see where I'm going, and as importantly, that car drivers notice me a lot more in their mirrors.

    The bulbs I have switch from low to high with a movable cap, so there is no delay and it also means that the front of the bulb is covered on low which probably reduces possible glare to people opposite.


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