Well as expected, the trackday on Tuesday was a bust, but that's not the half of it as its been a fairly rubbish couple of days. The plan for Monday was to ride to Birmingham, stay the night and then head up to Donington Park on Tuesday morning. Knowing I had to cover lots of ground fairly quickly I punted for the motorways, something which I rarely do. The forecast wasn't great and when I
left home it was overcast, but dry. Instead of just sitting on the M40 (which is lethal in the wet) I decided to break it up a little and take the M1, head past Silverstone on the A43 and the pick up the M40 past Warwick. It was all going so well up until I got to Toddington, then rain and spray made the trip to the services at J14....interesting. I stopped at got my rain gear on, which in hindsight, I should have done before I left. The rest of the journey passed without incident, but stayed wet all the way.
I eventually got to Birmingham at around 18:20, parked the bike up in a secure car park (not leaving a bike on the road in Birmingham ever again after my Kawasaki was stolen) and got a lift
home with Sarah. The next morning, I headed out, having learnt my lesson regarding the rain suit. The plan was to take the M5, M6 and M42/A42 to Donington, but like an idiot, I missed my turning. What was really annoying is I didn't realise for some time. Once I twigged, I was miles out of the way, got some fuel, turned around and blasted my way back through the rapidly building rush hour traffic. I would like to apologise to any and indeed everybody for that. A quick shot down the M6 toll, and I eventually got back onto the M42, which is when it finally started to rain.
I eventually got to Donny at 08:10, two hours after leaving the house and knew, looking at the conditions, that I wasn't going to head out on track. Its bad enough with a good rear tyre and with the rapidly decreasing state of my rear, I felt discretion was the better part of valour. So I listened to the briefing, had some coffee, got a sausage butty and got changed into my jeans.
After hanging around all morning doing a bit of networking, I had my lunch and listened to the Ducati WSBK riders being interviewed by Niall Mackenzie, which was fairly interesting, but with all the will in the world, Mackenzie is a racer, not an interviewer.
The track looked like it was drying, but I always knew that with a three hour ride home ahead of me, I'd have to leave early anyway, so just before 14:00 I headed off. Those who staed told me it was
dry for the last two and half sessions of the day. Gutted. Anyway, what followed was my second long motorway trip of the day, fighting my way through the rain, which had returned, and the traffic. I finally got home before 17:30 utterly shattered and feeling a bit down by the whole experience.
So, after work today I headed back to the dealer to get my Sat Nav installed and my rear tyre finally changed. Looking at the state of it, its probably a good thing I didn't go anywhere near the track. The last few mil of the rubber in the middle of the tyre had now all but gone and you could see the canvas underneath. Seriously unsafe. Annoyingly there was a slight mix up with the tyre that was
ordered for me, so instead of having a new Pirelli Rosso Corsa tyre fitted, my Ducati is now wearing a Supercorsa at the back. I'm a little uneasy about having non matching tyres, but as these are from the same 'family' by the same manufacturer, I should be fine....hopefully.
Took the bike out for quite a long spin this afternoon, which included a trip to Box Hill in Surrey. Along the way, I tried to change down gear a few times, but the gearbox appeared jammed. Not good I thought. After a few heated attempted, all was normal again, so when I stopped I had a quick look around the gear lever, just to check if something was rubbing. Thankfully it was as simple as a lost fastener on the belly pan. A pain, but not the end of the world. The bike is pretty much ready for a trackday at Donington on Tuesday. The last time I was there it raining and the forecast doesn't look great this time either. Could be a very expensive bacon sandwich and mug of coffee.
Today is a day that I will remember as being bitter sweet. I had some great news, I had some annoying news and I had some news that has downright pissed me off.
Lets start with the annoying first shall we? Following my RoSPA test yesterday, I was wheeling the bike back into the garage when I heard a slight scrapping noise from the front end and past experience has told me exactly what that was. One of my break pads has had it. When the bike was MOT'ed a few weeks back the pads were worn down by about 60%, but looking yesterday, the material on one of the pads had all but disappeared. Not good, but as I was going to get new pads before July it wasn't the end of the world and I'm glad I noticed sooner rather than later, especially with a trackday next week. So, a quick call to Mike and yep, he had some pads in stock. Great. Rock on up, one full set of pads; £230+ please.....errrm, excuse me? For a full set of Brembo pads, its over £230.00. Errrm, I don't think so, I'll have some EBC pads instead please. So after a quick call around, by Mike, not me I have to add, we found some at the KTM centre in Hemel Hempstead at a much more reasonable £25 a side. Sold to the man in the red jumper.
Now the really bad news. You may have been following my fortunes with these track fairings, well I set about getting them on the bike at lunchtime. I changed the screen over for an identical Airblade one and the mudguard was swapped pretty quickly. That is where the good news firmly ends. The nose cone doesn't fit. Not even close. I even removed gauze over the air ducts just in case....it turns out I put those on rather well. Anyway, nope, still no joy. What was doubly annoying was that Ducati use M6 bolts as standard to hold the nose on, these replacements want a M5 bolt. In the words of Kurt Russell in The Thing. 'Yeah f#ck you too!' Okay, lets try the tail. I attached the rear light really well and was pleased with the result, but the actual tail doesn't fit to the back of the bike, its just fractionally the wrong shape underneath and I broke a tap on the heat shield underneath in the process. Yeah, awesome!! You can imagine, I'm really annoyed now. The person who sold them to me, must have known. I wasn't best pleased with him to start with to be honest as he well oversold the condition of the parts. I won't go so far as to name him, but he's automatically used up all forms of discretion in my books and I will not have dealings with him of any sort. Ultimately its a £200 lesson. Just because you happen to be part of a very friendly forum, joined by a similar passion, it doesn't mean you won't get screwed over in the process by assholes. Let my lesson be a warning for all.
So finally onto the really good news. The July issue of Fast Bikes magazine www.fastbikesmag.com hit the shops today and inside I have my first article published where I documented my recent Desmo service. I wrote it back in February, but I'm so glad it finally got published and I can now tick off something from my bucket list.
I took a call yesterday from Tony, my RoSPA examiner who was keen to arrange my retest. For those new to the idea of RoSPA, in this form its an advanced classification of road riding standards, above those of the normal riding test and is equal to that provided by the Institute of Advancing Motoring, or IAM. There are subtle differences between the two and with the RoSPA award, you have to have mandatory retests every three years.
We had originally tried to get something done in October of last year, but things slipped between the cracks and then winter came along, so it got a little delayed. I looked at the weather forecast earlier today and it was really positive, but when riding to the meet at the services just off J23 of the M25, it started to rain, not heavily, but persistently. I got there nice and early, but didn't realise I was in the wrong place. After about 10mins I rode around to the petrol station to find Tony, texting me to work out where I was. Not the best start I thought.
We had a nice little chat and remembered part of my previous test and then off we popped into early Friday afternoon traffic. The roads were greasy and my tyres have never liked these conditions, but the road conditions improved during the ride and after around 45mins we got back to the services. I thought I'd done terribly if I'm honest. Yes there were some very good moments for me, but I was really worried that I made one too many errors on the ride. A missed cancelled indicator right at the start being a prime example, but thankfully I spotted it in time. During the debrief we talked about the road conditions, the way I rode, how I overtook and my general attitude when riding the bike. I was really happy when Tony put out his hand and told me I had achieved the gold award again. Great way to end the working week.
In race fairing project news, after getting back from the gym yesterday afternoon, I knuckled down and made a start on making the ram air covers that were absent from the fairing. If the bike were only every used on the track, I probably wouldn't have bothered, but as I have to ride to the track, I felt it was worth a shot.
I broke out the Dremel multitool and cleaned up some of the surface area on the inside of the fairing where I wanted to secure the metal gauze. Once happy I'd got most of the excess glue and crap out the way, I cut two bits of gauze to size and started to bend and manipulate them into shape.
Knowing full well that it didn't have to be the neatest job in the world, I made up some epoxy resin and started to secure everything down and then to top it off, I secured the outside of the gauze with some black duct tape. I then left everything to harden overnight.
I'm happy with the result, and really hope that the heat from the headlight doesn't have a detrimental effect.
In other news, after work today I headed back to Hughenden Triumph and spoke with Robert Rooney, the sales manager (I believe) about the '02 FireBlade I saw on Friday. I'd arranged a test ride and so took the bike for a spin around Oxford. My first thought was just how civilised the Honda felt. This could have been because I have either been beating myself up on the 1098s, or because the Blade genuinely is a very comfy bike. It was a really strange feeling, it almost felt like a tourer, which when you consider its a Sportsbike with 150bhp, was somewhat unexpected.
Other observations include that compared to the 1098s, it felt noticeably slower. Its not a slow bike by any means, and I know that the big twin has 100+cc more displacement, but in all honesty, it didn't feel that much quicker than I remember the ZX7R being. The mirrors work, the clutch is light, the engine very well behaved at low rpm, which would make it perfect for commuting. The condition of the bike was very good. It needed a bit of a clean, but that's a very minor thing. There was one small crack on one part of the rear fairing, both tyres were two years old and the front brakes need a strip and a clean followed by some premium pads. After talking for 25mins, I put down a deposit knowing full well that it I didn't I'd regret it on the way home.
On the hottest weekend of the year, when it seemed all the bikes in England were out in the road, mine was sat in the garage getting dusty. Not that I'm complaining as I had a great weekend. I got back mid afternoon today and after spending an hour or two catching up with things, I decided I had better get on with these track fairings. The first job was to repair the tabs on the belly pan, two of which were broken. I cleaned up the tabs and looked at ways to secure and reinforce them. I picked up some proper fairing clips at the end of last week for this very task, but when attached to the taps, they simply left no room to really attach them back on. It was then that I tried putting one on the last remaining tab and that, well frankly disintegrated on me. That was it, stuff it! I certainly wasnt going to fight a loosing battle with soft second rate plastic. The problem was, I still wanted to use the main panels, including the nose and tail, so I decided to give the normal (non carbon) belly pan a whirl instead and I'm very pleased. So much easier if I'm honest and it looks pretty good too. I just have to hope they go onto the bike okay.
Whilst rummaging around I found my original integrated tail light. Those of you who have read my blog over the years, might remember that I had to change it over as one of the four clusters of indicator LEDS stopped working, which isn't good enough for road trim, but for track duties and that one journey each way at each end of the day, it will be fine. The original idea was to put some stick on indicators inside the tail unit, but with this solution I don't have to and have saved myself a little bit of wiring. The problem with mounting the light is still there and following the issue with the belly pan, I wasn't really in the mood to start building up a tab and than having to find a solution regarding the thread. So I drilled a hole, just a small one to start with and as I thought, it comes out right under the seat cowl. The plan now is to either bolt the light in using the original gromets, but with a much longer nut and bolt which will then sit recessed under the seat, or by using cable ties. Now I know what you're thinking; this is serious bodge territory and you absolutely right, but lets see what happens.
Going back a few days for a second, on my way up to Birmingham on Friday, I had a more than enough time for the journey, so instead of just sitting on the motorway, I decided to drive my biking route which is much more engaging. Along the way I knew that I was due to pass a Triumph dealer www.hughendenm40.co.uk which is on the A40 just before Oxford services. So, I got out and had a look around, which is when I saw this.
Its a 14,000 mile 2002 CBR900RR FireBlade, the last one designed by Tadao Baba, the father of the FireBlade. The price is okay and I've sent out a few emails to see if I can get a test ride later this week. If I like it, this would be perfect for me, but the only problem is I still haven't sold the Monster.
So fair readers, these are the new track fairings I purchased. Before I saw them I knew they were second hand, but from the outside they look okay.
However, I think we all know the saying 'Never trust a book by it's cover' and well that is very true here. As mentioned earlier this week, there are a few problems, namely broken lugs, the worst of which is in the tail and is needed to hold the rear light in place. So knowing full well that a repair is now in order, I've sort of run away with my plans. As the front ram air covers and part of the tail are missing the metal gauze present on the OEM panels, yesterday I headed to the local B&Q and picked up some gauze of a suitable scale, some Epoxy Resin and some good old fashion Duct Tape and intend making my own. The Ducati normally runs with an integrated tail light and not wanting to splash out on another, I'm going to try something a little different. I've ordered up some cheap strip LED indicators which I'll mount inside the tail, behind the rear air vent (this is why I need the gauze for the back too) which will mean I can use the standard rear light that I took off in 2012.
I'm going to order some Plastex and repair all the broken lugs (see the frankly poor photos below) and I'm going to try and tidy up the blistering paint on the nose. Once that's sorted, I need to work out a good solution to the seat cowl. In some good news, the big side panels seem fine...but I will have to wait until I try and fit everything to the bike before I count my chickens. I'm all about the proverbs today.
I hardly touched the bike this weekend, with the exception of getting it out of the garage as a new freezer was delivered. I did however pick up a slightly second hand set of replacement black and white Xerox track fairings. Now this arn't full on track fairings, these are a set of cheaper after market fairings that I plan on using when the bike goes out on track. Giving them a very brief once over there are a few little niggles that I'll have to fix. The first is that one or two lugs are broken, mainly on the belly pan, which should be a pretty easy fix and I just have to work out the best way to do that. The second is the rear seat cowl. On a road bike, this gets locked in place with a simple release catch that is opened using the key. Now, when changing the tail units over, I don't want to have to remove the lock from the original tail piece every time I have a track day, so I need to come up with an alternative solution. I could leave it off completely, but that would defeat the point, so I was thinking maybe something simple like Velcro could work. I'd need to build in a tab that would allow me to life the back of the cowl upwards and the good news is that that would be really easy to do.
Staying with the tail. I will still need indicators, so I was thinking I'd rig something up with the signals in the rear vents, unlike the integrated tail light I use at the moment. I still have the original light so I can use that and I just need to source some cheap LEDs to secure into each side of the tail.
One solution I've already sorted was I ordered a replacement Airblade screen from Conquest Carbon to mirror the one I already use.
In book news, despite already having several books that I need to read, I just recently started reading a book titled The Limit by Michael Cannell. This isn't about bike racing, or motorbikes at all in fact, but it documents the build up to and the whole of the 1961 F1 race that pitted Phil Hill against Count Wolfgang von Trips. The final line of the synopsis on the back cover says "This is Mad Men at 165mph" Im not going to sit here and state that thats why I'm reading it, but it certainly didn't put me off.
My name is Matt Brown and I'm a UK journalist formerly based in London, but now calling the South of England home. I've been riding bikes since 2007, but got hooked straight away. Nothing gives me the feeling of freedom, even when stuck in a city. In 2010 I became a RoSPA gold rider, but when it comes down to it, I'm Just a normal man, riding his bikes as often as he can.