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!