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

- George Washington

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Need my head sorting out

Yep, it's confirmed. A few days standing out in the rain in November have wrecked my head.

I'd better clarify. While I was under orders to keep the garage clear so that the kitchen fitters would have somewhere to leave the flat-packs (after first getting it clear, in comparison to which the Augean Stables were a bit of light dusting) the poor old Sprint had to sit outside in the wind and rain. When the flat-packs were unflatpacked and installed, the garage became a kind of dumping-ground for bags of grout, fractions of floor-tile and odd bits of plastic whose purpose was never quite clear. This situation lasted for about six weeks in all, during which the weather was proper Welsh wet. The XT suffers this treatment all the time, of course, but seems to be able to shrug it off. This is one of the great advantages of using a trail bike as a drudge - they are built to get wet and mucky, and to fall over a lot, so a bit of rain and rough treatment is hardly going to upset them. Bearings are sealed, O-rings are everywhere, cables have little rubber boots on to keep the water out, and everything is designed to be as weatherproof and durable as posible. A two-wheeled Land Rover, if you like. It isn't that the Sprint is delicate (people I talk to in the forums run them year-round and to astronomical mileages) but it doesn't shrug things off like the XT does. It needs looking after.

And after six weeks of not being looked after, the steering had virtually seized. Moving the bars from side to side was like stirring a bucket full of stones. A bit of gentle toing-and-froing got it to move a bit easier, but it was clearly in need of attention. Rumour has it that the steering head bearings are not over-lavishly lubricated from the factory, so it's a failure that is waiting to happen. The schedule says to dismantle, clean, lubricate and adjust the head bearings every two years. The bike is 9 years old and there's no evidence it has ever been done, so it's not a surprise that things have gone wrong.

It was a dry afternoon here today, so I took it out for a gentle ride. Well, it started gently, anyway. It wasn't as bad as I had feared. The bike was quite rideable, but every corner was threepenny-bitted (should that be fifty-penced these days?) and cornering at speed felt none too secure. Even straight line riding was a bit weavy, but not bad enough to prevent some checking of the power curve. All in order there. So there's no putting it off or hoping it will get better on its own - something must be done. It's bang-on due for its 12,000 mile service now, and dealing with the steering head is part of the schedule, so it is now in the garage again and when I get a bit of time I will make a start. 12k is the big one, and there is lots to do. Luckily the XT is romping round like a teenager at the moment, so it's no hardship - and in fact a considerable luxury - to take the Sprint off the road and give it some proper attention while the XT continues its winter duties.

I suspect that cleaning and lubing the bearings won't be enough. They feel too far gone, so I will be ordering up a new set shortly.


  1. "It isn't that the Sprint is delicate ...... but it doesn't shrug things off ...... It needs looking after."

    Like a wife.

  2. "Luckily the XT is romping round like a teenager at the moment"...is that because it is, in fact, a teenager?

    Or perhaps "bike years" are like "cat years", something in the region of 7:1 "human years" and it's actually just in pretty good shape for a 112-year-old...

  3. The XT is, in fact, 17 years old - acne spots and raging hormones in a human. I suspect the ratio is about 3:1. 51 years old enough to know better, but still retaining a sense of fun. And 'Not As Young As I Used To Be'. Yeah, that'll do.

  4. Have fun, I did this job on the BMW F650GS a few months ago and when it cxame to the adjustment sequence I almost had to resort to psychiatric treatment as the manual translated into English confused "lockern" in German with tighten in English......

    I'll be in touch about the blogfest meeting soon..

  5. I might have to make mine more like 4:1 just for my generally lazy approach to cleaning and polishing. Still, I'm sure the VFR will scrub up to a lissome early-twenties come the Spring, even if it looks a bit mutton-dressed-as-lamb right now! Either way, the Kwak's still but a spring chicken.

    I wonder, even at 3:1, if Nikos has any BMWs that aren't due a telegram from the Queen...:-)?

  6. My octogenarian plus 10 (3:1) BMW R65 has been donated to a true enthusiast who took it off my hands last month for a song...A German mnotorcycle with an oil leak has no place in my garage!

  7. It's only when you fit new parts that you realise how worn the old ones really were....

    Nikos: You mean nonegenarian?

  8. The Sprint has been pressed into daily service for the next few days. The XT developed an alarming random electrical fault (engine cutting out when lights switched on, random failure of main and/or dipped beam for a few minutes) which will need a bit of attention on my next day off, so the Sprint is Daily Driver for now. It's actually not too bad. Certainly driveable and safe, but a bit lumpy in the bends. The good thing is I now have enough space in the garage to work on a bike, so I can get on with it (and the 12k service on the Sprint) whatever the weather throws at us.

  9. For random electrical failures, check the battery connections and all earthing points to the frame. If the ignition electrics (or ECU on a later bike) loses the earth, it will try and find the shortest alternative return path.

    A headlight bulb is quite good for this as it's a relatively low resistance. When you turn the lights on, the newly switched in positive feed over-rides the returning current and the engine dies.

    If any crimps look slightly corroded (in the actual crimped bit), chop them off with a 1/8" of wire and replace. If it's just the mating face, it will often be cleanable.

  10. Thanks Mick. I had an identical problem a little while ago and it turned out to be a faulty ignition switch (filthy and sloppy inside - you could cut the electrics just by waggling the key) New switch, problem gone. I did check all the earths and everything before that, but the wiring on the Yam is so unconventional (read butchered by PO) that I will do it all again. Your suggestion of a bad earth is probably right, as I'm pretty sure that all the actual wiring and connectors are good.

  11. I have just stripped the old XT naked and cleaned all the earth points. A quick test on the drive says all is well. But that's the damn thing with intermittent faults - it will be fine until I get to work or somewhere where a breakdown is majorly inconvenient. Think there may also be a fault in the main/dip switch, easily sorted.

    They keep us busy, that's for sure.


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