Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The joy of six - and NOS parts

NOS - new, old stock - is a holy grail when you run an old motorcycle. My Benelli Sei 750 came with an alleged set of NOS six-into-six exhausts, worth a grand on their own. The down pipe and silencer are one piece items so replacing silencers alone is a no-no, even if you could find three that would squeeze together snugly.

So on one of the last rides of last year, I didn't worry too much when a silencer blew out with a magnificent wail that made me think maybe I should get an open six-into-one, like the one on the Sei Cafe Racer in Benzina #7 (above). A six cylinder motorcycle really does sound special. But then I've got those NOS pipes in the attic, and six pipes really do look good. As well as proving easily impressed car drivers can count that high...

But this "summer weather" has meant less riding than usual, so the Sei sat unloved while the Dukes got exercised. But eventually I got round to replacing the pipes, discovering (1) the old ones came off more easily than expected and (2) they were far more rotten than I'd realised, And the NOS pipes? Hmmm. Already authentically rusting (below) at the seam between the downpipe and silencer, they're such a dreadful fit that I suspect pattern parts. Despite heating the collars and some light filling, the collars were never going to squeeze over the flange that the collets rely on to fix to the cylinder head. Overdue a service the Sei went with the Dukes to Made in Italy Motorcycles. Hopefully they've fixed the oil leak from the cambox too...
But then riding off into the sunset, the forks jarred like an Essex girl at a Royal Wedding. Home again, and the sound of old bedsprings greeted a little gentle pumping (of the forks). Removing the drain plugs ejected little more than a few drops of rusty...what? Well, black gunk once flushed with WD40, so off we went to a friend with a better workshop. Blimey these forks are odd. And you have to fill them by slowly trickling oil past the damper cartridge. Basically Guzzi forks (the Seis were made - I think - at Mandello) the web is full of forum posts confirming this is indeed the madness fans of Italian motorcycles have to put up with. Still, beats meeting the nicest people on a Honda, and proves bikes seem to collect more problems if you don't ride them. With a mere five bikes to ride I promise to get out on each one more. If it ever stops raining.

Hopefully the Sei will be back in the garage for the last Teas and Cakes of the year. Hope the weather improves....

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Pretty girls + Ducati Superbikes = Deep joy

When I catch up with the stuff I ought to be doing (miles behind with benzina #10, the Benelli's forks have seized, family want feeding) and have finished the excellent Pedalare, Pedalare - a history of Italian cycling by John Foot, this is next on the reading list. Sir Alan of Cathcart is world famous for having ridden more Ducatis than pretty much anyone else on the planet, and at speeds that allow a real insight into their strengths and weaknesses. Now that one V Rossi has formally given up on Ducati's MotoGP effort, I'll wager Alan's sitting by the 'phone waiting for the call.

Jim Gianatsis is less well known in the UK, but his claim to fame is snapping the pix on the Fast Dates calendar. He's a diehard ducatista who owns an example of the ultimate streetlegal customer version of each generation of the Ducati Superbikes. The coffee-table format is a perfect mix of track tests and the technical tricks that make the factory Superbikes tick, illustrated with photos of glamorous women posing alongside them. Approved by the Ducati factory, this is a unique one-make motorcycle history book.

Best of all for those who appreciate benzina's printing quality it's a beautifully-produced publication, telling the story of the Ducati V-twin Superbikes from the very first 750cc prototype produced in 1986 to the new 1199 Panigale. And bravest of all it's self published - clearly I haven't made plain to Alan how expensive this is even if, like benzina, it allows complete editorial integrity and quality production values. Available at Amazon UK, where you can browse sections of the book, as well as other major Amazon sites

Sunday, 5 August 2012

My Olympic dream

Finally, an Olympic event I could lead - and who wouldn't want to? Being chased around by Vicki Pendleton (seen out of her cycling kit below) on the funkiest moped ever seen. Welcome to the Keirin, a form of cycle racing that originated in the gambling dens of Japan. The moped gets chased foe two-and-a-half laps, pulls over and the cyclist race by to complete  total of five laps (no, Vicki, come back...) Bonkers, and strangely addictive to watch.

These Olympics are changing the way the English think. Maybe we're not a basket case. Maybe the gold medals, the success of Triumph, Dyson, Jaguar, Land Rover, our music industry, and the Olympic experience prove we're as brilliant as we always were. The support by spectators for competitors of every nation prove the political extremes are wrong to play the jingoism card. Brits love abroad, love diversity and love inclusiveness.

Our youngest (15, just awarded his first dan blackbelt at judo) went to see the judo yesterday with friends and his sensei/teacher. Much more of an inspiration for young people than the usual "celebrities" and footballers. I don't think Wiggins had any idea how much his achievements would mean to us ordinary people. And then watching Chris Hoy and Vicki Pendleton. Well, who would not want to ride a bicycle? And it is from young people on bicycles we'll get tomorrow's motorcyclists.