Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Bullet out East

I took the Bullet on its first ride out east, on Saturday, along the wonderful Chum Creek and Myers Creek Roads, and through the Yarra Valley.

I am so pleased with this motorcycle.  It has so much character. With its big single beat it is so soul-soothing. Roads, which I have ridden for years, come to new life, as I wend my way through them, gently, revelling in the dappled sunshine.

At Toolangi I stopped for photos.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Country ride on the new Bullet

My new Bullet and I spent four hundred kilometers today on our maiden voyage into the countryside. Tonight, by the ride's end the bike had 1000km on the odometer and has completed its running in schedule. I must say, this Bullet with the UCE engine is everything I wanted. I would not desire less, nor more, power - it is spot on for feeling comfortable at the speed limit yet inclining me to slow down and enjoy the ride safely, taking in the details of the landscape. And the engine has so much character. Japanese bikes utilise horse power and revs, whereas old British motorcycles rely on torque, and this is true of the Bullet - it takes much longer to gain speed, but does not lose its speed easily, thumping away up hills with a slowing pulse but no loss of momentum. Yes, that soul-soothing thump. It is so pleasant opening the throttle up as I gently but briskly exit a corner. Everything about this bike is a delight. A wonderful motorcycle!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

W650 Modifications

The W began running badly, as mentioned in a previous post. I took it to be a vacuum problem because when on Prime the plugs returned to a normal tan and everything seemed good. Then it got bad again, again with that sensation of going to reserve, even when on Prime. I cleaned the carbs out by letting cleaner sit in them for a day, and while I was draining that out I noticed that they were loose on their rubber boots. This made sense of the fact that it was at the point of highest rpm vibration - in the early 3000s - that the problem generally manifested. The boots lock into the engine by means of clamps rather than screws. I tightened the clamps, but the problem became worse, and I could manipulate its manifestation by pulling or pushing gently on the carb. Rather than mess around more, I ordered new boots and clamps, given that the bike has 80,000km on it and needs new rubber all round.

It annoys me that so much effort is needed to remove the carbs, which is necessary in order to fit the new boots. I have to take off the seat, tank, then electrics on the left side, then remove the whole air filter box, in two piece from each side. This is simple compared to most modern motorcycles, but not compared to old bikes, and I highly value simplicity and ease of maintenance. It annoyed me that I'd have to mess around more to get it back together, only at some point to pull all this apart again if further problems eventuated.

So here the bike remains:

I made a decision to sort it out first time around. I will ditch the air box, purchase K&N filters and a richer jet kit, simplify some wiring, and ditch some plumbing:

I will create something reminiscent of the simplicity of my old SR500, something akin to an XS650, which should see the bike easy to own even as the miles climb.

My old Enfield Bullet was picked up this morning by a shipping company, to begin its voyage to Perth, to its new owner. I am past the first run-in stage on my new Bullet, and can now do up to 90kph. The bike is breaking in magnificently.  I will take my first ride - to Maldon - on Sunday.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Spring night, sweepers....

All night
my motion arouses the dust and leaves
and my headlight dazzles the kangaroos
emerging from the sleep of farm-town edges
illuminated by that same moon
under which stand bronze Anzacs
at ease between the wars.

That moonlight’s a dreamscape
where paddocks, restless with mice
frame silos standing in stillness.

Thundering across the country like a dare-devil
a bike boy of the '50s
tyre marks of scattered dust
in low gear shifting skyward up a hill.

Now the tail-light glows. Only just.
Strung out on the hills like those many others
alive after dusk
and spanning a continent,
it’s many parts nameless, but placed,
the night I rode for Ouyen on little petrol.

This is red earth country.
It looks empty and open
but is crowded with ghosts.
Those figures are hidden away in the folds of it
invisible here, and there
but letting me know I am watched

At day I stop and look into the blaze of sunlight
and know I am not the only one.
They go on like I do
and my having been here makes a ghost of me too
a moment in time that will always have been
a moment toward which I have always been making.

Spring night

on the road to Ouyen.

The Beginning

I have a new motorcycle.

New from the showroom floor.

I have never done such a thing, spent such money, and have never conceived of doing so for a bike whose reliability is a gamble. But there you have it. Motorcycling is emotional.

I need a bike that evokes the wonderful things that give reason and life to riding.

I had thought to get a late BSA twin, but I love British big singles. However I need it to be highway capable. And I need parts to be readily available.  Hence outside my door is now a new, 2013 model, Royal Enfield Bullet.

Readers of this blog will know that I own a 1995 Enfield Bullet 500 (currently for sale) -

That is a marvellous bike, but is too slow for my needs. I need something that is highway-capable, while feeling good at slow speeds on back roads. The old Bullet only does the latter well. My new Bullet has a unit construction engine,in production since 2009, which retains the same long stroke and heavy flywheel of the original motor but produces more power, enabling all-day highway riding. It is also more robust. I will continue to use my Kawasaki W650 for commuting and highway touring, but my Bullet will take me up the freeway quickly and then into the countryside where I can slow to 90kph.

We are about to enter 2015 and the bike is a 2013 model, so it was on sale. I was uncertain about spending so much on less than stellar reliability - my W650 cost me the exact same amount (used) but it is engineered to perfection - however when I consider all the riding that lives deepest in me it is on bikes with sketchy reliability and much character.

I view this new acquisition as akin to buying a new British motorcycle in the 1970s. One cannot expect Japanese perfection, but the memories it produces will glow brighter in years to come, while in the present it warms the heart so much more than bikes of superior engineering and build but less character.

I love the W650 and I hate debt, but this decision was motivated by the fact that the W is too sporting for my tastes. That might seem an odd thing to say in 2014 about an air-cooled, 40hp twin, but the W is essentially a replica of a '60s Bonneville and it rides accordingly: it begs to be opened up, to be pushed through the hills testing the speed limits. My riding is always influenced very much by the character of the bike. On the W I get impatient when stuck behind cars. I constantly have to tell myself to slow down. I anticipate that the Bullet will be pleasurable at slower speeds, inviting me to do 90kph all day, which is perfect.

This blog will serve as a diary of doing bigger miles on a Bullet.  I look forward to it, beginning with a trip around Tasmania in two month's time.

As an aside, I saw one of my favourite bands last week, Augie March. I was at TAFE with these guys, studying music, and they went on to become quite popular. Their sound is quite different in the albums from their best years, but I was reminded of their first EP and found it on Youtube. Have a listen. Their later music has accompanied me through all my riding adventures.

I am also halfway through Richard Flanagan's Booker Prize-winning novel, and it is wonderful. It is easy to make comparison's with David Malouf's The Great World, a novel which was moved me like few others, and there are moments when a close reader of Malouf's poetry will recognise what may be a borrowed image. Ultimately however the writing and story is Flanagan's own. Its setting - at times a 1940s dusty Australia - is good imaginative fodder for an owner of a new Royal Enfield.

On a final note, here is an advertisement for my model of motorcycle, the Bullet, for sale on the same street where I purchased my motorcycle last Thursday. However this advertisement was placed 63 years ago.

Various rides

With the weather warming I have spent the day on the motorcycle at regular intervals, every one to two weeks.  These rides have been spent alone or with others.  Then during the week I carry within flashes of memory - the light, the speed - which nourishes me as another life lived inside the usual one, sustaining it.  

These rides frequent the golden triangle of course:

And Maldon, with Em. There was a vintage hill climb event on and we wandered about the old motorcycles, such as this one:

Speaking of Em, after much hard work and scrimping and saving, her bike was finally sorted, road worthied, and I rode it to Vicroads and it was registered.  That night she finally, after five months owning a non-running bike, and having her learner's license, Em took her first ride on her Suzuki GN250.

We rode around empty back streets, up and down, while Em gained experience at slow speeds.  We then extended the loop to another street running up hill. It had a high camber.  Em did a u-turn and...dropped the bike.

Most rider's know that this is a classic learner's accident, a slow speed drop from which riders walk away with little more than a bent mirror. Unless they are unlucky.  Em was unlucky.  After all these months of waiting, and only half an hour of riding, the bike fell at the perfect angle and fractured her talus (ankle) in three places. She is in a cast, housebound, and will take three months to recover, with potential long-term pain.

Regardless she intends to get back on the bike as soon as reasonable.  A number of the medical professionals she has dealt with have been riders themselves, and have challenged her to not be discouraged about bikes. As they say, many people suffer such fractures while walking through the house.

Speaking of people who have gone down, broken their ankle, and recovered, in the last year, last Tuesday I went riding with Norm, fellow member of the Royal Enfield Club of Australia. We had a great time, trundling along at a gentle 80kph which pleased us both, and talking bikes over coffees. Norm is a wonderful riding companion.

Norm would not have a photo taken of him, but here I am, fighting off a bee.

My bike was not running well, and would not start the next morning. At 80,000km, this is the first time that the W650 has ever had a problem. It push started straight away, but prior to bumping it I checked the spark plugs, and saw this.

Obviously I am worried about the problem, especially with summer coming. I suspect there is a vacuum leak, and will ride on Prime sometime in the next day or two to see if they return to their usual tan. Thank goodness that the bike did not start, otherwise I might not have discovered this.

My next post documents the beginning of a new adventure.