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

- George Washington

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Who said bikes don't have personalities?

Anyone who has read this blog for a while (both of you) will know that I am very fond indeed of my scabby old Yamaha XT.  Bought as a disposable drudge bike to save a pristine Ducati from a muddy commute, it has become my keeper and vehicle of choice if the distance is under 50 miles and the expected speeds modest.  I've serviced and repaired it, and made it convenient and reliable.  There's a lot of me in this bike, and it has outlasted four much better and more expensive bikes that turned out to be just passing through.

It photographs better than it looks

Obviously, it didn't catch the selector's eye when it came to the Big Europe Trip with D2.  Not fast enough, not comfy enough, not stable enough.  200 miles on the autobahn would have left us crippled.  D2 and I were sitting on the floor on the Eurotunnel train to Calais (as you have to), watching the Sprint rock gently to and fro, and I was musing about leaving the XT behind.  I explained how I had put it in the garage out of the rain, and would give it a special treat (new oil, perhaps) and a pat on the tank when I got home.  She understood, mainly because she is as soft in the head as me.

Today, I washed the flies of 1800 miles of highway off the Sprint, took off all the temporary mods I had made for the tour, and put it away.  I rolled the XT out ready for the work run tonight, and decided to give the valve clearances a check.  I've noticed the beginning of a rattle, and I wanted to use the clever little gizmo I got off eBay that makes turning the tappet adjusters easier.  I applied my 17mm spanner to the left-hand exhaust valve cover, and ...


The cover fell away, leaving the threaded part of itself in the engine.  I really didn't use much force; it must have just decided to take that moment to fail.  Here's the outside bit:

and here's the hole it left.

Of course, any attempt to start the engine will result in a massive gush of oil all over the front wheel, so the bike is temporarily bedridden.  Fortunately, the threaded piece left inside came out with fingers only.  Even more fortunately, there was a guy selling two of them, today, right now, new old stock, on eBay for under nine quid the pair, including postage.  I BINned and paid in a flash.  It'll be back on the road in a few days.

So the Sprint had to come back out of the garage and will be doing daily duties until I can fix the Yam.  This has caused further issues (a dash to Halford's to get some more oil, owing to the Sprint's vast appetite for the stuff and a dry dipstick on return to British soil), but that will be for another post.

Then I realised: the XT is sulking.  I took it to town yesterday to get a few things, and it felt distinctly out of sorts.  I checked the tyre pressures when I got back, and I had 18 psi in the front and 17 in the back, compared to Yamaha's recommendation of 22/33.  I fixed that one, but obviously that small bit of attention wasn't enough.  It wants the whole nine yards - tools out, cup of tea, oily rags, time, care, and money spending.

Drama queen.

Love it.


  1. I can totally relate here. My connie is a better bike, but the Honda has a hell of a lot more character. You get to know a machine when your knuckle blood seeps into the gaskets through the years. Makes them a whole lot more difficult to sell down the road.

    Behind Bars

    1. I totally agree. There is certainly sweat and tears in the Yam, and probably blood and body parts as well, somewhere. And dead right - I couldn't see any circumstances where I would sell it.

  2. I'd substitute "character" for "personality", but agree with the principle.

    Mechancal things settle into their own groove - try to change it at your peril!

    1. Just like people, really. For me, 'character' is vibration, oil leaks and a spot of manageable unreliability. Sulks and drama episodes come under 'personality'. Like people.

  3. Looking at those photos, the only explanation of the failure is overtightening. Oops.

  4. This is why mechanical things are referred to as "She".

    Bloomin temperamental and sulk at the drop of a hat!

  5. And this one doesn't even make a good cup of tea.


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