December 21, 2009

Repainted R100GS Paris Dakar fuel tank

Follow-up to R100GS Paris Dakar refurbishment after 85,000 miles from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Excellent work by Glossy Car Coats of Kenilworth. The fuel tank looks like new. The mudguards and side panels were painted in blue.


R100GS Paris Dakar refurbishment after 85,000 miles

I'm currently working on a more serious refurbishment of my BMW R100GS Paris Dakar. I started to get minor electrical faults in the headlights and instruments. On the PD they the front end is wrapped in an un-necessarily big and complicated plastic fairing. It even has large metal crash bars wrapped around it. I've never liked the fairing, and when I realised that it is quite a barrier to doing repairs on the electrics, I decided to remove it. It took much effort to remove! I bought the bike because it is supposed to be easy to work on, simple and reliable. Now that the fairing is gone, it's closer to that ideal. Once it was off, I put the whole assemblage on the scales (including instruments and crash bar). It weighs 10 kilos! A substantial weight for an off road bike.

The instruments will be replaced by an all-in-one Acewell digital system. They are available, along with a speedo cable for BMW, from Boxxerparts in Germany. The headlight will be replaced with a pair of small round "streetfighter" style headlights mounted to the fork stanchions with mini-indicators.

With the fairing, fuel tank, seats and side panels off, I could see just how bad the rest of the bike is. It's covered in 85,000 miles of road grime. My earlier attempts at anti-rust-coating and painting the frame are now being surpassed by rusting. The worst aspect is the wiring harness. The fabric cover is soaked with oil, wearing through and unwrapping:

Wiring harness and rust

The only real solution is to strip the whole bike down, clean it thoroughly, restore the wiring harness, and get the frame bead-blasted and powder coated. I'm half way through that. The next step is to remove the forks, engine and transmission. I'll need some help with the engine, and will probably struggle to get the steering bearings out of the stem.

GS stripped down from front

I think i'll get the engine and forks removed by a professional, considering this article on removing steering races and bearings.

September 21, 2009

Trail riding in Wiltshire and Northamptonshire – R100GS and R1100GS

BMW R100GS PD at Barbury Castle, south of Swindon. A long section of the Ridgeway byway, legally accessible by motorcycles in the summer, starts here.

At the start of the Ridgeway

In Wiltshire the Ridgeway mostly consists of well drained gravel tracks.


The Ridgeway has some of the best wide open views to be found on an English byway. However, in some areas, deep tractor ruts require more concentrated riding.

Ridgeway views

Once that we had reached the end of the southernmost ridable section of the Ridgeway at Overton Hill, we took another byway to connect with a second stretch of Ridgeway further north. Wiltshire has many excellent byways open to bikes. This great track leads through a beech forest, with gentle hills and glades.

Forest ride

In Northamptonshire, the Banbury Track and Oxford Track are a little more challenging. This stretch, open only to motorcycles, is overgrown and rutted. On a grassier stretch, we both fell off at the same time, struggling through the thick vegetation.

Banbury track

Some of the tracks are barely used. Martin found much less grip on the grass with his Avon Distanzia dual-purpose tyres. My Continental TKC80 off-road tyres were better. We met the farmer (on a quad with his dog). He was friendly and chatted about bikes and the local routes.


August 16, 2009

Walking with Attenboroughs

Yesterday: Walking with Dinosaurs on stage at the NIA, in the front row, face to face with the deadliest predator of all time.

Today: Lawrence's birthday at Brandon Marsh, pond dipping with lots of friends, and wallking in the footsteps of David Attenborough....


August 11, 2009

Child sentenced to Robben Island style hard labour

Follow-up to Robert gets his head smashed in Dorset from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

For his part in the brutal murder of Robert the Crab, Lawrence O'Toole (almost 4) was sentenced to a life of hard labour smashing rocks in the West Dorset ammonite mines. Lawrence was heard to comment: "this is well cool, just like Nelson Mandela, crime really rocks".


The campus police man was not amused at having to fruitlessly patrol an entirely harmless gathering of motorcylists in the Warwickshire countryside, while such outlaws roamed the land, perpetrating acts of unspeakable cruelty on defenceless crustacea.


August 10, 2009

Robert gets his head smashed in Dorset

Children can be just so cruel. Especially Lawrence. Early on Friday morning we set off to Samway's, the West Bay fish monger, just around the corner from our apartment on the cliff top at Burton Bradstock, Dorset. The boy refused lobster, aiming his hammer at the most substantial target on offer: a 12 inch wide crab, complete with fearsome pincers. We returned home, I struggling under the weight of several kilos of sea food: the giant crab, a large skate, a smaller haddock, and a bag full of samphire.

Back in the kitchen, Lawrence was keen to get the crab out of its bag and start to pursue innocent squeeling ladies with its snapping pincers and pungent aroma. Emma was unimpressed. Eventually we deposited the crab in the fridge, by which time it was no longer merely "the crab", Lawrence having chosen a name for his deceased crustacea. For some inexplicable reason, the crab was called "Robert". Thanks Lawrence.


And so when finally the ominous mallet of supper-time hovered meanacingly over the prettily orange speckled carapace of fate, many jokes had been tossed into the boulabaise of family banter.


A crushing blow landed square in the center of Robert's head.

He crumpled beneath its shattering force, light splurges of gungy brown meat leaking out on the rebound.


Health and safety tip: always wear protective goggles when smashing a crab.

Teasing away a splintered fragment of shell, the intrepid culinary adventurers revealed the false dawn that is the body of the crab. Insubstantial but tasty. The carapace contains only brown sludge. Delicious brown sludge. I led Lawrence to believe it to be the crab's brain. Not sure if that is true or false, but it's a good story.

A mopping-up operation then commenced, us armed with chunks of good white bread sourced from Bridport's marvellous Washingpool Farm Shop.

And then onto the hard-core crab eating: chunky white leg meat, the extraction of which required heavier artillery - Lawrence's geology hammer delivered just the necessary impacts (with the crab now placed on the ground for maximum ballistic intent).

Eventually, it lay before us thoroughly exhausted and extinct. Only a single claw remained intact, providing hours of cheap entertainment for everyone, especially Lawrence.


Apparently, the skate (roasted), haddock (fried), and samphire (boiled) were also of excellent standing.

Well done to Samway's and to Washingpool.

Sorry Robert the crab.

June 29, 2009

My new research blog: Inspires Learning

I will be publishing all future entries concerning space, pedagogy, technology and design on my new blog at

June 22, 2009

Harvest time already

Eating carrot

Not prize winning veg...

Bent carrot

June 20, 2009

Watsonian Squire motorcyles open day

Today Martin and I rode down to Moreton for the annual open day of Watsonian Squire, makers of sidecars and importers of Royal Enfield motorcycles.

We went on a somewhat anachronistic ride out, the two of us on Indian built Enfield Clubman 500 cafe racers, following a lead rider on a Kawasaki Ninja superbike. Einstein was of course wrong. Time travel is possible, and the Enfield is the necessary transport. The bikes rattled, barked, popped and crakled, rather like one of Lawrence's noisy breakfast cereals amplified to a 1000 watts. Martin recited the classic classic bike joke: the throttle is a volume control, with no effect upon acceleration. I did manage to get to 60mph. The vibrations settle down a bit at that speed, although a visit to the dentist is still required. Despite the experience, Martin is still keen on the idea of flying to Delhi, buying a Bullet 500, and riding into the Himalayas.

Primitive? It's now got electric start, "Japanese" style controls, and disc brakes...

Enfield Clubman

Marlon Brando? Steve McQueen? Sid James?

Go faster

So that's what happened to the British motorcycle industry...


Next time we plan to go dressed as Maharajas, to celebrate the Enfield's Indian engineering.

June 12, 2009

Asturias rocks

Follow-up to A short walk in Asturias from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Pleistocene cave bears discovered living on the Asturian coast...

Cave bears

If you like limestone, you'll love Asturias...


Rocks 2

Rocks 3

Blow hole





June 11, 2009

Academic integrity activities and tools being assessed in focus groups


Leiecester University

Australian National University

Prepare for Success


Warwick Avoiding Plagiarism

A short walk in Asturias

Follow-up to Ribadesella, Asturias from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Sand lizards basking on a rock near to the edge of Poo de Llanes. Too fast for Lawrence to catch.


Finding interesting insects on the long-distance coastal path.


A small river runs out of the mountains and down to the sea. We followed its course.

By the river

Spring wild flowers.


Along the river.


A shoal of fish. Lawrence wanted to jump in and catch them (in the style of Nigel Marven).


The river bed widens out into a cove.

River and beach

And down towards the sea.

Towards the sea

June 01, 2009

Ribadesella, Asturias

Follow-up to Funicular de Bulnes, Picos de Europa, Asturias from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

The Rio Sella cascades down from the Picos de Europa, quickly losing its momentum, and flowing out into the Bay of Biscay at the smart sea side resort of Ribadesella.

On several occasions we drove the short distance along the twisty coast road from Llanes, for drinks and food at the elegant Pastelería-Bombonería Nerian.

Ribadesella's long beach:

Ribadesella beach

Just like Baywatch:

Beach babe

Lawrence always finds interesting material for a beach sculpture:


The Hotel Villarosario is one of many elegant buildings:


Towns and villages in Asturias usually have a new play area:

Play area

The play area is next to a lagoon with a series of bird hides. We spotted a citrine warbler in the trees.


ThePastelería-Bombonería Nerian serves great pizza, hambuergesas, and an amazing selection of confections:


Chocolate shop

Chocolate shop 2


May 20, 2009

Funicular de Bulnes, Picos de Europa, Asturias

Follow-up to El Museo Jurásico de Asturias from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

From our house in Poo de Llanes, Asturias, we could look South towards the Picos de Europa range. I had ridden through the mountains with Martin a couple of years ago, and wanted to take Emma and Lawrence to see the mountains, streams, meadows and eagles.

We drove down to the Arenas de Cabrales for coffee and tortilla. Here's a photo from the Garganta de Cares (gorge of the river Cares) to the East of Arenas:

Picos 1

Steep meadows fill the valleys:

Picos 2

The road winds along the river:

Picos 3

A grain store, typical of Asturias. Traditional farming practices are common throughout:

Picos grain store

Boarding the Funicular de Bulnes train, which travels 2km underneath a mountain, up to mountain village:

Funicular de Bulnes

At the other end of the tunnel, we walked along a remote mountain foot path.

Bulnes 1

Fishing in a mountain stream:

Bulnes fisher man

Goats, just like those in Lawrence's herd in Africa:

Bulnes 3

A view across to the peak of Naranjo de Bulnes, still covered in snow at Easter. As we looked out to the mountain, many large raptors drifted by on a thermal: Golden Eagles & Griffon Vultures.

Naranjo de Bulnes

May 18, 2009

El Museo Jurásico de Asturias

Follow-up to Poo de Llanes beach, Asturias from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Near to Colunga on the Asturian 'jurassic coast', MUJA is an amazing museum full of fossils, reconstructions, and informative displays. It is built in the shape of a giant foot print, with each toe representing a different part of the Mesozoic, along with some Permian and Tertiary exhibits to put them into context.

It's a great place to hear a lecture by a leading palaeontologist:


Some of the exhibits can get quite hungry, best appease them with sacrificial children:


This photo gives an idea of the vast size of the halls:


Lawrence correctly identified the oviraptor and explained its name (egg eating raptor):


A display illustrating possible colour schemes for various Ceratopsidae.