Do you use your mobile phone while driving?

You know, I can TELL when a driver is using their mobile phone – well, it’s either that or they’re drunk!

In fact, the level of distraction created by using your phone is equivalent to the negative effect on your driving ability of being just over the legal alcohol limit for driving!

Now, if the law carries an automatic 12 month ban for drink driving, why not a similar punishment for mobile phone useage??

Watch the car in this video, filmed on my way home tonight. He was all over the place, almost off the road, random braking, if something unexpected had happened there wasn’t a cat in hell’s chance he’d have reacted quickly enough.

I wonder when it will be as socially unacceptable to use your mobile while driving as drink driving is. Unfortunately I suspect a lot of people will have to die needlessly first. That’s a bloody shame, especially if it’s you or a loved one. So next time you’re tempted to check your phone while you’re driving, DON’T!!! Simple.

Risk Appetite vs Risk Perception

A wee incident on the ride into work this morning got me thinking. Has my IAM training altered my risk appetite or my perception of risk?

The incident itself was nothing too dramatic – I was filtering through traffic in Edinburgh, coming in on the A90 Hillhouse Road between the two lanes of traffic, and for about a mile there had been a blue and white sports bike behind me. As I approached a car in lane one I could see a bicycle ahead of the car. Anticipating that the car may move out to get around the bicycle, I had space in lane two, and could give the car a wide berth before it reached the cyclist. Just after I got past the car and the bicycle the bike behind me came up my inside at full belt – to acheive that he must had passed the car as it was passing the cyclist. Lucky for him, the car didn’t suddenly swerve around the bicycle, or the bike would have had nowhere to go.

That got me thinking – yes, I have fun on the bike, yes, I like to filter and make progress, but I also TRY to minimise the risk by assessing what’s up ahead and anticipating problems – did this rider have no idea the bicycle was ahead of the car he was overtaking?? OR – Is it simply that I don’t like taking risks and he does? Maybe the rider saw the bicycle and decided in that instant to risk the overtake, and sod the consequences…??

I bet if you could ask him now he’d say he’d done nothing wrong….?

I was talking to a guy from Edinburgh a few months back – he was (still is?) doing his IAM training – he started it after he overtook a line of cars, at full belt, and one of the cars in the line pulled out to overtake the vehicles ahead – straight into the path of the bike – wham! He admits, at the time he saw nothing wrong with the manoeuvre – didn’t perceive it as a risk – so now doing his IAM his ‘risk appetite’ hasn’t altered, but his appraisal of situations has, and he now recognises potential risks where he never saw them before.

I like a little danger.. I just prefer it to not involve the random actions of other drivers… I’d rather challenge myself in the twisties…. At least then I’ll only come to grief if I’m the one making the mistake.

It’s work Jim, but not as we know it

Define your idea of fun. Does it involve some laughing and shouting? Well my idea of fun these days is getting my hands absolutely manky while working on my motorbike. Odd? To a mechanic that’d be work, but for me it’s fun – granted, I probably don’t look like I’m having fun, what with the swearing, aching knees, and general bad temper with anyone daring to distract me..

So last night was fun. Right?

I got the new radiator for the bike on Tuesday evening. Well, I got my mate, Bruce, who lives near(ish!) to the shop to get the radiator, and then I drove over in the car to his place to collect it. I was all set to fit it, when I realised the new radiator didn’t come with the thermostatic fan switch. Dam. That evening was spent in deep depression – I understood that my old radiator would already be winging its way back to the factory in the south of England, and a new fan switch cost around £50!! For a tiny little thing – ridiculous!

Wednesday morning I called Dunfermline Motorcycles – my radiator was still there – relief! Yes, they would get the switch out for me. Yes, Bruce was happy to swing by the shop yet again and collect it for me. What a star!

Wednesday evening we were all going to see my daughter perform in ‘Oliver’ at her High School (fabulous, by the way!) and after I’d deposited the family back home it was time to head over the Clackmannanshire bridge again to collect the bit I needed from Bruce.

When he’d gone to collect the part, it wasn’t out of the radiator yet, so the mechanic there set about removing it, and at that point he noticed a few other bits still on the radiator – minor things like mounting rubbers and metal clips to take the stone guard screws… I reckon there was a discussion about keeping all those little bits back, just to see what I’d say…. Anyway, there was a little bag of bits awaiting me at Bruce’s, but it was far too late once I was home (11:30pm) to start any work on the bike.

Finally Thursday evening arrived, and I set to. The new radiator needed all the little clips, rubbers etc put on it, and the fan bolted on, then it could be fitted to the bike.

new rad

Fitting to the bike was straightforward enough, until it came to bolting the radiator to the oil cooler beneath it – that just did not want to line up. That was eventually sorted with the dremel. Now the holes line up!

With everything in place, it was time to pour in the coolant, bleed air out of the coolant pump, and bleed air out of the thermostat housing. With that done it was all sealed up and ready to test. Only the fan switch connection was leaking. Dammit. I got it sealed eventually, just tightening it up a tiny bit at a time. The leaking stopped. Then I fired the bike up and ran it until it warmed up and the fan kicked in. All good, no leaks. Bike off and leave to cool.


While the bike cooled down I set about fitting the replacement for the burst sports rack – a proper Givi top box bracket – certainly a more serious bit of kit than the sports rack, which looks rather weedy in comparison!

Once the bike was cool enough I could check the coolant levels and pop the fairing back on (I’m getting REALLY good at that!) and the bike was good go at last!

This morning I opened the garage door with some trepidation… I was greeted with a nice dry garage floor – relief!

Riding into work it was a lovely sunny morning and it felt great to be back on the bike.

At lunchtime I nipped out while it was still dry (rain forecast) to again check no suspicious puddles – none.

The ride home was uneventful, and after dinner I set to the bike again – a tiny top up of coolant, probably not really needed, but done anyway. A few other wee items – oil level check and top up and oiled up the speedo cable.

Hopefully that’s the recent run of bad luck with the bike done…. for now…… !

The bike repair sagas continue

Blast and double blast.

Wednesday evening I rode the bike home only to find when I went to get my bag out of the top box that the rack holding it had broken. In fact I was bloody lucky – the other side of the rack had almost gone too – that would have meant the top box coming off, bouncing down the road and maybe causing an accident – REALLY not good!

sports rack fail

I had a lot of Dad duties to take care of, so I rolled the bike into my garage, and got on with it. Once I’d dispensed with collecting kids, cooking dinner, and the swim club taxi run, I could go and get the rack off.

Rolling the bike out of the garage I noticed a suspicious puddle on the floor under the bike. Coolant. Feck.

Stripping the lower fairings off I was expecting to find a cracked hose, or maybe a loose connection. Instead it was the radiator.

Considering the radiator was brand new in February that came as rather a surprise!

rad leak

I got in touch with the bike shop that fitted the new radiator – as far as I was concerned the bike wasn’t driveable, the rate of leakage was too high, it was at risk of boiling dry. Only problem being that with their current workload the shop couldn’t get over to me until mid way through the following week, meaning investigation into the fault couldn’t start until then.


Time to get the tools out then. So I whipped the radiator off myself.

Big hole where the rad should be :

no radiator

I took the radiator over to the bike shop. A quick pressure test, and it’s an element in the radiator core that’s split. Dam. New radiator needed.

The shop called the supplier – a new radiator will be couriered up first thing on Monday, and then we need to work out when/how I can get hold of it… and then of course I need to fit it!

At least I don’t have to buy loads of coolant – I caught all the coolant when I removed the radiator, and filtered it, ready to be bunged back in – hopefully soon!

I leave you with my heath robinson coolant filtration system, involving masking tape, some ply wood, a funnel, some kitchen roll and an empty milk carton! Hi tech…

high tech filtration

Oh, and the rack problems – I’ve bitten the bullet and ordered a proper Givi rack to take the top box. Should be a lot safer. And the burst sports rack? Well, thanks to a mate with a welder and talent for fixing stuff, that will be repaired and can be used again, just not for a top box!!!

Bad parking leads to near miss?

So on my way home form work today (Wed, April 17th 2013) a car pulled out in front of me.

A lady driver, who had parked on the ‘wrong’ side of the road (no law against it! – well, I think there is, but only after dark!) so that when she then went to pull away, her view of the oncoming traffic that she was pulling into was obscured because of the other parked cars, and because she was on the ‘wrong’ side of the car to get a good view.

Now, she did stop, and I had no problems stopping in time, despite the wet conditions, and she was apologetic, but I do have to ask, why did she not see me sooner? I couldn’t have ridden any further out in my lane without being on the wrong side of the road. I wasn’t speeding. I was wearing high viz clothing. I have a very bright headlamp. Did she simply not see me coming? Was she giving more attention to what may have been coming from behind??

I don’t know, and at the end of the day there was no accident, no one hurt, no damage done, but can either of us learn a lesson?

I’d say, the biggest lesson is, wherever possible, NEVER park your car on the wrong side of the road, and never, EVER, park it like that on a busy road – you are deliberately putting yourself in a difficult position right from the outset.

And there you have my thoughts, now make your own mind up 🙂

A bike run in the Scottish Borders

This weekend I enjoyed a lovely bike run down to the Borders with 6 mates on our bikes.

We gathered at Bruce’s over in Fife in the morning and then headed off across the Forth Road Bridge, around the Edinburgh bypass, and down the A7.

We had an early lunch in Galashiels, then went down towards Jedburgh, then across to the A68, back up that a short distance, and then across on the A699 to Kelso, then up back towards the A68, Edinburgh bypass and home.

From the hours and hours of footage, I cobbled together a video of the day :

A great day out, and just a wee appetizer for the upcoming Ireland trip….

A year of motorcycling

One year ago today I bought my ZZR1100, and it’s been a packed and busy year.

I’ve put just over 11,900 miles on it, and that’s inevitably brought a certain amount of cost in wear and tear…

Actually, quite a lot! But maybe some more on that later – if I can face it (sometimes it’s best not to dwell on the true financial implications of motorcycling!!)

Although I passed my bike test almost 20 years ago, I’d not had a bike for over a decade, so I grabbed the chance to do a BikeSafe course. That was fabulous – it’s such a shame that the amalgamation of the Scottish police forces this year has meant no BikeSafe events are being done here this year – although hopefully that’s only temporary (and the IAM are offering a free ride check this year in response to the lack of BikeSafe).

After attending the initial BikeSafe talk I also signed up for the IAM motorbike course courtesy of a birthday present from my dear Mum, and I had the first ride out with my IAM observer just before I got my BikeSafe ride out with a uniformed motorcycle copper.

I thoroughly enjoyed my rides out with my IAM observer, Lindsay Phyall, and I also had a great day on an ‘associate check ride’ with the regional observer, Rory Colville. There was a bit of a low when I didn’t pass my IAM test at the first attempt, on a rather dull and boring route, while I had a cold, but I had another go a month later, with a different examiner, done in and around Stirling, on a proper mix of town, motorway and country roads, and I was delighted to pass that (much harder!) test.

Meanwhile I enjoyed some great biking trips. The first was up to Tayvallich and was a great trip, with lots of challenges along the way – endless miles of loose gravel roads, and then rain and strong winds!!

Later on there was the trip to Lochinver, which may possibly have some of the best biking roads in the UK (made more interesting by yet more high winds and all sorts of debris on the road!).

I also had the pleasure of a few long weekend ride outs with mates, and I even managed to have some fun on my commuting rides!

Now, despite the bike looking absolutely mint when I bought it, there were a few niggles that became apparent fairly soon. The first was the awful rubber – cheap tyres on a bike bike is just BAD! Then there was the weepy fork oil seal. With Bridgestone rubber on, and the fork oil seals replaced, handling was much better, but there was niggling issue with the bike cutting out when it came off the throttle while still warming up.

We replaced the spark plugs, and replaced the Kawasaki coils with individual ‘stick coils’ from a Honda CBR, which seemed to help a little bit, but it didn’t cure the problem. What did solve it was getting the valve clearances checked – turned out that the exhaust valves were all rather tight indeed. With the valve clearances done, and the carbs balanced, the bike was behaving a whole lot better – and power was definitely up – result!!

I was rather bugged by the crappy headlamp on the bike – it provided so little illumination that at times it was positively dangerous. I stuck an HID lamp on my wish list, and my dear Mum bought me one – happy days! It proved a bit of a sod to fit, thanks to the vast fairings on the ZZR, access to the headlamp is poor at best, and space to manoeuvre the HID into place was tight, and then all the other gubbins that goes with it (relay, ballast etc) has to be tidied away somewhere. However the result was, and still is, brilliant! On dark winter mornings, and evenings, it has been fantastic to finally be able to see where I’m going!

I was also rather less than impressed with the instrument lighting – obviously irrelevant in daylight, and just about adequate in pitch black, it was useless everywhere in between (sorry officer, my instrument lights are so dim I couldn’t read my speedo…) so I pulled the instrument panel apart and fitted LED strips inside it.

Now despite replacing the fork oil seals at the summer, by mid autumn they were leaking again. I was not a happy chappy. At least this time round my mate Bruce had discovered that it was not in fact necessary to remove the entire fairing to remove the front forks, although I did have to whip the lower fairings off so I could jack the bike up… The leaky seals were due to dust and muck getting past the wiper seals, creating a kind of grinding paste that damaged the oil seals. So new oil seals, and new wiper seals – Paul at Dunfermline Motorcycles also did a little trick – turning the fork upper in the lathe, and using scotchbrite, he created incredibly fine lines that encourage the fork oil to better lubricate the oil seal as it moves up and down the fork leg – maybe this time the seals will last a whole lot longer!!

Since the front wheel was off, we changed the front wheel bearings as a while ago it had been noted by the tyre fitter that the wheel bearings were a little noisy… well, they were actually pretty well shot – in fact the real proof was that once the new bearings were fitted, a brake shudder – or more accurately a shudder that occurred under braking – disappeared completely. And here was me thinking maybe my brake discs were warping – wrong!

Not long after the New Year I noticed the chain was making a hell of a racket – it turned out to be rather badly worn sprockets – so one new chain and sprockets were fitted, and I rode home from Dunfermline Motorcycles with a lovely quiet chain – in the snow.

The real killer financially was in February – the exhaust started to blow, and the rot was spreading fast. I guess the exhaust was the original – the bike is a P reg, so to be fair, it had done incredibly well, but riding on salty roads, despite copious amounts of F365 (meant to neutralise the salt) had probably been the final straw. Now bike exhausts are crazy expensive, and it also turns out, rather awkward to get! After some calling around, Motad supplied the LAST one for the ZZR1100 from their factory – they claim they are not going to make them for that bike any more…. This one had better last then!!

The bike went back to Dunfermline Motorcycles again, and although the old exhaust came off without any great hassle, the radiator had to be moved out of the way to let the new exhaust fit on, and the bottom of the radiator was rotten and split. So one new radiator later, I faced the biggest automotive repair bill I’ve ever faced (last time I was faced with a potential cost like this for my old Hilux truck, I sold it rather than fix it!) – £802.80 – Owe! Owe! Owe!!

I have to mention my dear Mum here again – she sent me £400 to help with the cost – bless you!!!!

Not long after that, another issue – a puncture on the rear tyre. Dammit. One new tyre required. Still, the old one had managed around 7,000 miles, which isn’t entirely awful for good sticky rubber on a big fast bike..

What else? Oh, I serviced the front brakes – new seals, new pads, and then the heated grips packed in and needed replaced…

The very latest thing I’ve done, is replace the rear shock absorber – a job that had been waiting in the wings for many months, while I slowly gathered all the parts, and also slowly screwed up the courage to pull the bike apart to do the job…

So there we are, a year on, loads of miles done, contrary to popular expectation when I bought the bike a year ago, I’m still alive and not in a wheelchair 🙂

It’s been a blasted WET year, followed by a remarkably COLD ‘spring’ – but I’m still smiling and loving it – even the work on the bike, I have to confess, I love getting into it and getting my hands dirty.

I’ve had endless fun (?) with my scotoiler – weirdly, the old one on my last bike all those years ago was perfect – ran without a glitch – but this time around is a different blasted story… I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to do something with it. Still, if it ever does start performing reliably, I do still rate them highly – a well lubricated chain is a long lived chain, and the darned things are blasted expensive!

What’s in store for 2013?

Well, I still have some maintenance to get out of the way – strip and rebuild the rear brake, and get the steering head bearings replaced.

Rides wise, I have an IAM Observers social weekend later in April, a bike trip to Ireland early in May, an IAM skills day at Knockhill, another bike trip up to Lochinver in the summer, and a bike trip to the Kintyre peninsula in autumn. Hopefully there will be some lovely summer weekend rides in there too.. Can’t wait!

New rear shock for my ZZR

Well, what a busy couple of days this has been.

Some time ago a group of us had a good old bash at adjusting the rear shock absorber on my ZZR1100, but the adjuster rings absolutely refused to budge no matter what we did, so eventually we had to give it up as a bad job.

Since then there has been a long road to reach the point where the shock could be replaced.

Firstly, what to replace it with? A genuine Kawasaki replacement shock, like for like, was stupidly expensive. An Ohlins replacement was still very, very pricy. I settled on replacing it with a ZZR1200 shock as they have the remote adjustment I wanted, and they can be bought brand new from the US.

As my wife was heading over that way to visit her sister I saw a chance to save on the international mailing costs and got her to bring it back with her – only that backfired – the shock was removed from her suitcase after it had been checked in – the shock was missing when she got home – many phonecalls later, no agency in the US would accept responsibility – the security agency said it was the airline decision, and the airline said it was the airport security. Eventually the international calls were going to cost me more than I’d paid for the shock!

I had to reconcile myself to the loss, and after a while I stumped up and bought another shock, from the same place, and paid for the international postage – it arrived safe and sound a week later, no doubt having been flown over on an aircraft just like the original would have…..

With the shock ready to go, there was the question of getting the suspension linkage machined down – the new shock is narrower where it connects to the suspension linkage. I got a spare linkage and took the shock and linkage along to Dunfermline Motorcycles where they machined the linkage down and replaced the roller bearings for me.

The last main piece of the puzzle was the suspension linkage arms – the dog bones – I needed shorter ones to compensate for the slightly shorter shock length. After a few emails to a German company, helped along by an online translator, I finally had the new dog bones, and all that remained was to screw up my courage and do the job…

A friend had already done this to his ZZR, and reckoned it’d take at least 2 days.

Easter weekend was nominated as it gave me two days to work on it, and 2 days spare in case it took even longer…

So, first job was to loosen the lower bolts securing the shock absorber, and then go about getting to the top bolt. That involved removing the seat, fuel tank, and then all the electric gubbins mounted beneath the seat, on the rear mudguard, and the the rear mudguard itself needs to be detached, to finally get access to the top bolt of the shock absorber.


Despite my fears, all the bolts undid without too many problems, but the very last one, securing the suspension linkage arm to the bike frame, could be withdrawn enough to release the linkage because the nice new stainless steel exhaust was blocking it.


At least the old shock was finally out!


The new suspension linkage was giving me problems – one of the sleeves was too tight to let the bolt pass through.. solution was to use the sleeve from the old linkage, but that meant the sleeve was too long. This meant cutting the excess off the sleeve with the angle grinder, and then very carefully filing it down, again with the angle grinder, until it was the correct length. That took an age to do – grind, stop, measure, grind, stop, measure, etc etc etc!

Once that was done I turned my attention back to the exhaust. With the silencers removed, the under engine mounting bolt removed, and all the nuts loosened off at the engine block end, there was a little bit more play in the exhaust, but it was stubbornly refusing to budge far enough..

The solution was a roof bar off an old roof rack, and a hydraulic car jack – give me a lever long enough and I can move mountains! With the new linkage finally in place there was a small issue getting the exhaust back in place – a bit of persuasion with a lump hammer and a foam mat to protect the exhaust, and it snapped back into place. Phew.

Then the next issue – the new dog bones were slightly too tight where a bolt had to pass through one end. The bolt was 12mm, and the hole was a tiny fraction under 12mm. Hmmm. I had metal drill bits up to 10mm, and the from 15mm up. Dammit. A quick trip into Gemini Tools in Falkirk secured a 12mm drill bit, and that opened the holes out enough to pass the bolt through without it being loose.

It took a while to connect it all up – the swing arm needed jacked up to get everything in alignment, but eventually it was done and the new shock was finally in place, and all the bolts torqued up.


Then followed the long job of getting everything back in place – and that was indeed a long job! All the exhaust fittings to the engine had been undone, and fiddly is not the word!

I had been worried that with the electrics all disconnected, including the bike alarm, that on reconnecting it all there would be problems with the alarm, but I needn’t have worried, it all went back together with minimal problems.

There was a small amount of swearing when, having refitted the tail fairings, and the sports rack, I discovered I still had to fit the left side pillion footrest hanger, and that meant removing the sports rack and tail fairing again. Grrrrrrr.

Finally, it was all back together, and it fired up first time – lights all working, indicators working, heated grips working – looks like the bike is back in business!!

Now all I need is a chance to take it for a test run..

Still outstanding is a wee bracket to attach the shock’s remote adjuster too. I have a pattern made, now just need to get it made – hopefully a mate is going to be able to help me with this.. Meantime the remote is tie wrapped safely out of harms way.

Thread Lock

So, following on from my post about a brake caliper mounting bolt on my motorbike working loose and falling out, Nick (aka Muddydisco) suggested threadlock.

Now as it happens I recently got to know a nice chap Tom who is a professional motorbike mechanic, and he’d invited me over to his garage yesterday to see if he just happened to have a spare bolt that would fit to replace the missing one. Alas, no joy on the bolt, but it did give me opportunity to pick his brains about two things – threadlock and torque settings.

Firstly, threadlock – when a bike comes out fresh from the factory, most bolts are threadlocked (I imagine you’ve heard of this, but if not it’s a glue applied to the threads that sets hard once the bolt is in place), but from a motorbike mechanic’s point of view, if a bolt has to come out once, chances are it’ll probably have to come out again at some point in time. So he uses copper grease on the screw threads to ensure that the bolt won’t seize in place. Another issue that he has to consider is the bolt size – if it’s M12 or above with a prober hexagon head, chances are the force required to undo a threadlocked bolt won’t damage the head, but the caliper mounting bolts take a small (6 or 7 mm) allen key, so if too much force is used there’s a risk of rounding the head – not good!!

So the conclusion was to use copper grease, not threadlock, and be sure to tighten the bolt up correctly..

And that leads me onto the next topic – torque settings – you see although I have a Haynes manual for the bike, the brakes are non-standard – they are off a GSXR750, and they don’t use either the bolts from the GSXR750, or for the ZZR1100 – they are special shouldered bolts – so there is no specified torque setting that should be used…

So what to do – well as Tom pointed out, with life and use, bolts can stretch, and original torque settings cannot always be relied on. Instead, he relies on his experience to know by feel what the right pressure is. Now that may not be so helpful for the amateur mechanic, but it does make common sense – most guys who’ve done a bit of spannering pretty much know by feel how tight to go.

My thoughts therefore run along the lines of – copper grease, tighten up good and tight, but don’t overtighten, and last, but perhaps most important, come back after the first ride or two, and CHECK and RE-TIGHTEN if need be!!!


No-one to blame but myself for this, but having taken the front brake calipers off the bike, I refitted them, and as they aren’t the original Kwak brakes I don’t have any torque settings for the bolts, so just as I’ve done before, the mounting bolts were done up to ‘very firm’. Well, apparently not firm enough! One of the buggers came loose – and it popped out under braking with a bang – not a good feeling!!

I rode the rest of the way home in full IAM defensive driving mode, never needing to touch the front brakes at all.

Of course, being non standard brakes, to make them fit, they need non standard bolts. Do any of the local suppliers stock these weird shouldered bolts?? NO!

So, I have been able to order the right size from SQ online, but of course they won’t be delivered before Tuesday at the earliest… Oh well, back to the train for another couple of days….