August 08, 2006

A seizure, a bypass, and a very fast bike

My annual trip to CW Motorcycles - Britain's top-rated motorcycle dealership.

How many goats must be sacrificed before beginning the starting procedure? In these modern politically correct times we no longer sacrifice virgins. Goats yes: messy but legal. Virgins no: messy, illegal, very much so. Such bloodlettings are only one of many requirements:

  1. check the petrol taps are on;
  2. estimate the exact degree of choke using a complex algorithm combining the ambient air temperature with the quantity of oil in the sump and the latent heat in the pistons (or just guess and get it wrong);
  3. put the bike on its centre stand;
  4. pray to the correct pantheon of Germanic gods;
  5. sacrifice goats (not virgins);
  6. sign Satanic pact (in blood) henceforth dedicating one's soul to the Antichrist;
  7. mount BMW motorcycle;
  8. place heal of boot onto the kick starter;
  9. gently pump the kick starter up and down for anything up to half an hour;
  10. be amazed when sufficient compression is generated in the 1000cc lump so that firing commences;
  11. rev the engine at exactly the right time in exactly the correct manner so as to keep the cylinders firing;
  12. don't ever stop reving the engine until it is thoroughly warmed up (ten miles of riding is usually sufficient).

Starting a 13 year old BMW R100 GS Paris Daker desert racer without an electric starter motor is a fairly futile task. But occassionaly, thanks to BMW reliability, the task is unavoidably necessary. A single click from the ignition system had made the situation quite clear. The starter had seized. This might have been a side effect of a high speed 200 mile non–stop blast between Kenilworth and Dorchester the day before. But I suspect that the bike just realised that it was only 10 miles from its spiritual home (the dealer from whence it came). It is often uncanny in this manner.

And so, only a few minutes after deciding to give in and buy myself one of the wonderful new R1200GS rocket bikes, I was again back on track. Had I been riding a modern bike I would still be waiting for the tow truck. The R100GS was one of the last bikes to be equipped with a kick start, the idea being that electrics do fail quite easily when riding far out in its natural environment, the Sahara.

My arrival at CW's caused a minor stir. The GS–PD is a rare sight. Wally, top technical man, had come in specially to supervise work on what seems to be one of his favourites. In the past he has replaced the gearbox, shaft drive, brakes, one exhaust valve, and various other bits under warranty. Now being out of warranty (over ten years old), I would have to pay for a new starter motor myself: £175. I would also have to wait for a few days – not part of my agenda. Wally is also recommending that he fit a bypass to cut out the oil cooler, which is now rather old and a potential problem. Common wisdom claims that the cooler isn't really required, unless riding in the desert, and in fact the engine runs better without it. I have given him a Touratech bypas kit to apply.

Having amazed everyone with my kick–start miracle, I sat down for a while to chat with Wally and Neil. Wally has a theory about kick starting: it is a genetically inherited skill, or rather, some kind of primeval drive. Some people have it, other don't. He also claims that it guarantees success with the ladies! I'm not sure about that. But it certainly did get me tio CW's, from whom I departed a couple of hours later riding a loan bike. A very fast loan bike: a new R1150R naked roadster on which I could bimble around Dorset, ride back to Kenilworth, and then return in a few days to collect the GS PD. Excellent service as usual.

BMW R1150R

BMW R1150R – a sexy black naked roadster. Fast, manouverable, moderately comfortable (legs a bit too cramped). I even managed to get the front wheel to slide in a corner. The telelever front suspension is often blamed for this habit – it makes the bike much more stable, but also isolates the rider from the traction, making it hard to know when it is losing grip.

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