Sunday, 15 July 2018

Nankang Roadiac WF-1 review

After 10565 miles (!) it was time to replace the Michelin Pilot Road 3s that adorned the TRX, there was still some life left in them but not enough to pass an MOT and the front seemed to have become very slippery, possibly cooked at the track day at Mallory Park when I crashed it while braking in a straight line. The crash made more sense afterwards..

So, I was in need of tyres and my preference is that they are cheap. I liked the look (and name..) of the Nankang Roadiac WF-1, a search on Google showed a couple of glowing reviews from paid journos and a whole range of opinions from real people. One common thread was that these tyres wear fast, but everyone seems to be fitting them to gixxer thous and ZZR1400s so I figured they might last a little longer and a slow old TRX850. Turns out, no they didn't..

I eventually found that M&P had the correct 160/60-17 in stock so I bought a pair for £123.48, not bad for a pair of dual compound radials. That escalated to £189.48 including fitting.. The TRX has no centre stand so I opted for a ride in/ride out service, suddenly these tyres didn't seem so cheap, especially when the tread depth from new is not very much. The tyre man took the opportunity to promise me they wouldn't be a patch on the PR3s but that the front had a nice profile, but what does the tyre man know anyway. Running them at the standard 36/42PSI that all modern fat radial tyres seem to run at, I set off for an MOT and then soon a week in Germany.

Initial thoughts were that they were stiff - really stiff. I actually softened the rear suspension a bit to make it less harsh, but there was no getting away from the fact that the tyres were hard and skittered over rough ground. I figured they might soften up with use so carried on.

A jolly good time was had in Europe, but the tyres never seemed to get any softer/grippier. I can report that the grip on offer is perfectly acceptable in both dry and wet conditions, I've never had a moment with them except for very recently on a slimy, molten road surface which I don't blame them for at all. One interesting thing to report is that the rear got very hot on Belgian motorway and the rubber in the centre was actually starting to ball up and come off, even though it was raining. We came to a stop in some services and I could small hot rubber, like being at a track day.. Turned out to be me! This likely didn't help the rear's lifespan.

After a while I decided a drop in pressure might help, I'd had success with this before. I dropped the pressures until settling on 33/35, the pressures recommended in the TRX manual are 33/36 so I think this shows that the Nankangs are built on seriously old technology. Anyway, now running half flat and reacting quite viciously to white lines the bike turned in much faster and felt far more planted in corners - a trade off I was very willing to take.

Speaking of old technology, way back in the mid nineties it was quite normal to get around 4000 miles out of a pair of sporty tyres. At 4087 miles, the Nankangs look like this:

Just about into the wear markers at the back and almost touching them on the front. The front still has loads of tread depth in the centre, which is giving it quite a "pointy" profile and is making the bike flop over in a disconcerting manner. Meanwhile the central compound on the rear could be harder. I do like the way the rubber roughs up though, it makes me look like a hero!

So, in conclusion, these are actually quite good - good grip, good wet weather manners, good handling if you run them at a pressure that suits them. But they're not that cheap, and with fitting they're really not worth having over some old PR3s or whatever other touring tyres you can find for <£200 a pair. Lots of tyres are lasting 10K now and that makes these really poor value for money. Oh well, could've been worse - they could've been like those horrible Mitas MC25s!

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

How to check the valve clearances of a Kawasaki Z250SL

Of course this will also work for a Ninja 250SL but I don't know how the extra plastic comes off..

So, you gets your Z250SL:
And you remove the rear seat. You do this by putting the key into the lock underneath the rear seat on the left side of the bike:
And turn it until the rear seat pops up. Then pull the seat rearwards. Suddenly, it'll be off! The next step is to remove the "boomerang" bits of plastic from the rear. Yes I know you're trying to check the valve clearances but Kawasaki apparently design things arse about face so here we are playing with the fairings at the very rear of the bike.. Undo these screws:
And then unclip all the clips, maybe undo some screws on the underside if your bike still has them (mine are long gone) and pull the barbs out of their grommets at the front of this piece of ever-so-useful plastic. Suddenly, it'll be off!
The next step is to remove the rider's seat. To the rear of the most forward grommet in the above picture is a shiny silver bit with a "7" 10mm bolt in the bottom, undo the bolt and remove it all. This is a pin that holds the rider's seat in place - remove the one on the other side too. Hello gubbins!
Either side of the battery is an interesting hook thing that connects the big stupid side plastic to the stupid rear plastic:
Unhook them.

Next up is the big stupid side plastic bit thing. This is actually quite easy to remove, it is just barbs everywhere except at the very front where it is a push fit onto a rubber thing. Barbs and grommets:
Rubber hook thing on the front of the tank:
Hole for rubber hook thing at the front of the long stupid plastic thing:
I hope this makes sense? Essentially, starting from the rear of the long plastic bit of nonsense, you just pull the plastic away from the bike until you reach the front when you pull the whole plastic thing rearwards. It is easy and mercifully the plastic is bendy so you probably won't break it.

Phew! Next up is to remove the tank. Of course the 250SL is fuel injected so this isn't easy at all.. Remove the bolts from the mounts at the rear of the tank:
You now need to disconnect the power cable from the fuel pump. This is located on the underside of the tank so lift the rear of the tank upwards to squeeze your hand in. You need to squeeze this clip together and then it will let go, mine was thankfully not difficult.
Here is a picture of the connector disconnected so you can hopefully figure out which bit to squeeze to release it (hint: the left bit):
The next joyous part of this experience is to remove the "quick release" fuel hose connector from the pump. Bloody "quick release", this took me ages. This is what you're dealing with:
You will need to pull the green side parts downwards with your fingers, this is stiff and quite painful ("quick release"!). Do not just try and pull it off the pump, the manual states the pump body is made of resin and is as fragile as your Gran after a heavy night out. Here is a picture of the "quick release" removed so you can see what state it needs to be in to let go:
This will try and leak petrol everywhere so, err, be ready for it I guess? The manual says you should have disconnected the battery but ain't nobody got time fo' dat.

The next stage of removing the tank is to pull the breather hoses off the front left. This was actually really bloody awkward and difficult as Kawasaki have used those silly wire clip things to hold the hoses in place. I ended up having to keep the tank lifted up like this:
While I attacked the clips with a small screwdriver, bending them open. I did not put them back upon reassembly, the hoses are a snug fit and they're just breathers fer chrissakes.
With the tank finally cut from its tendrils simply lift the rear and slide the tank backwards - it has some prongs at the front which fit into some rubbers. I imagine these will fall to bits in time but never mind that now.

With the tank removed, place it on some wooden blocks so that no pressure is applied to the ridiculously fragile pump housing. Oh, did I not mention you needed blocks before now? I'm just going by what the manual says.. (grumble!).
The manual also says to open the tank cap so as to reduce leakage. I don't know if this works or not but I followed the advice.

So, finally, the engine is found. Undo the clip that holds the breather (?) tube on to the air box:
Now undo the two 12mm bolts and single 14mm bolt that hold that central "spine" of the frame in place, and remove it. Also pull the breather tube that you disconnected forward, underneath the top of the frame and route it somewhere out of the way like so:
It is now actually time to touch the engine! That rear seat seems like an awful long time ago..

Simply undo the four bolts that hold the rocker cover in place and remove them, this is a totally traditional design.
Once free, the rocker cover simply pulls backwards out of the space. Note that you will have to separate the rubber gasket/seal from the rocker cover as it is too thick to fit through the gap with that rubber still in place. Sadly this makes reassembly much more fiddly than it needed to be but don't blame me, blame Kawasaki.
The manual states that the spark plug cap needs to be removed but I didn't find it to be in the way at all. I also couldn't get it to budge at all so that was a good thing, in a way.

Next up is to get the rear wheel off the ground somehow. Those of you with more money than sense may have a proper stand, I prefer to use a trolley jack underneath the rear suspension arm linkage triangle thing.
Turn the rear wheel in the direction of forward travel while pulling the gear lever upwards until the bike is in 6th gear. Now keep turning/knocking the wheel in the same direction to turn the engine over - you want the inlet and exhaust cam lobes to be pointing away from each other, this is Top Dead Centre on the compression stroke. Never mind removing the timing cap and searching for TDC on there, ain't nobody got time fo' dat.
There is a good chance that the motor stopped just before TDC on the compression stroke so you probably won't have to turn the wheel very much.

With the motor in this state it is time to check the clearances. Get your feeler gauges and feel away!
The clearance specs are as follows:
Inlet: 0.10-0.19mm
Exhaust: 0.15-0.24mm

This is the same as the KLX250 so no great surprises. At around 8400 miles my clearances were:
Left inlet: ~0.15mm
Right inlet: 0.10-0.15mm
Both exhausts: 0.15-0.20mm (closer to 0.20mm)

So mine are in spec, but the right inlet is tighter than I would like which means I'll be in there again at the next service interval plus a bit because I'm lazy. Interesting fact, the owners manual states the interval for this is 7200 miles but the workshop manual says 7600 - I prefer the latter!

If any of your clearances are out of spec then please leave a comment below including the gap you found and the mileage/kilometrage of the engine. Thankfully mine were okay so installation is the reverse of removal, kind of. Be careful not to trap/crush the rubber seal under the rocker cover, and you can use some gasket goo over the cam half moon things though I never bother and have never suffered leaks. My seal played nice and went back without much bother though I did have to poke it in with a small screwdriver in one place. Otherwise, simply reassemble..
Simply push the green section of the "quick release" connector back into place, mine took a bit of wiggling and then suddenly snapped in, and slather some grease/petroleum jelly on the barbs on the plastics, maybe some more in the rubbers that hold the front of the tank, and job's a good 'un. Phew!

Saturday, 16 June 2018

How to wire a BMW Navigator II straight to your battery

If you're anything like me, you will appreciate the simplicity and fiscal sensibility of an older item - in this case it's a sat nav that gives a straight forward 2D map view of where you want to go, none of this 3D-can't-see-what's-coming-up silliness you get with any modern 'nav. BMW Navigator IIs (and their Garmin Streetpilot 2610 counterparts) can also be found on certain auction sites for around £50 if you look hard enough, which is bargainous by anyone's standard. Plus they're mega retro. There's just one problem - if you're one of the ~95% of people who don't have a BMW ready wired to take one of these units (such as a K1200RS) then you'll find it quite difficult to actually wire the bloody thing in. Here is how I did it, a culmination of a surprising amount of reading up on the subject..

Firstly, if you're really unlucky or misguided, you may have bought a unit without the power cable. Mine came with the cable chopped up to fit a Bosch power socket similar to a cigarette lighter socket but not quite, these are common fitment on BMW motorcycles for some reason. This was a problem because the wires in the power lead are aluminium (!) and the strands would work harden and break off under the screws over the course of a day. As you can imagine, stripping back the wires and reattaching them to the connector every morning became quite tiring. If you need a cable then I found mine on ebay under the title "GARMIN StreetPilot 2610,2620,2720,2820 GPS DATA BMW Amplifier Harness Kit Cable" but I think it also has the BMW part number "71 60 7 686 670". It also bears the code "320-00171-53" if that helps anyone..
So, that's step one out of the way. But there's a problem isn't there? You still can't connect it to the battery because this cable ends in a frankly bizarre connector that is special to BMW. It's a shame to chop this off and solder straight on to the wires because this connector is waterproof and it allows you to easily disconnect your GPS unit. So, there are a couple of ways to go with this - you can either buy the proper BMW connector block to fit the other side (BMW part number "611657 83300413586" available on ebay Germany for £26.67 at time of writing) or you can search for connector number 968402 and see what comes up - BMW also use this connector in their cars, as do JLR and maybe more. The only thing to watch for is where the "rib" on the top is located, there are clearly several versions of the 968402 and you need the one to fit your Garmin cable..
Mine came from a "3 series", whatever that is. They seem to be a popular connector for parking sensors, whatever those are. It was £10, still quite a lot for a chomped off bit of loom but better than the new prices!

With that you'll need to know which is +12v and which is negative, the Garmin cable is traditionally coloured with the red wire is live and the black wire as ground but a kind soul over on the advrider forum has made a lovely diagram:
Of course you're working with the right side of the diagram, I hope that was obvious..! They state that J2 Pin 1 is ground and J2 Pin 3 is +12v, which I can say is correct.

With a bit of wire stripping, twisting, soldering and heatshrinking done it was time to wire the Nav into a battery and hope that the people on advrider weren't lying to me..
Happily the wires out of the "3 series" block are also copper so hopefully it won't work harden and break off! This also somehow makes the BMW cradle work with the GPS unit, there is no extra work required. Happy Navigating!

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Mitas/Sava MC25 Bogart review

I'll cut to the chase - these are awful. Awful. If you ever might find yourself riding in the wet, even the damp, do not get these as you might die. I've never known anything like it. Read on for more, should you wish..

At a mileage that seemed far too low, the original fitment Dunlop TT900 on the rear of the Z250SL was worn out. Ebay was scoured for a replacement, the cheaper and more interesting the better - you may have noticed I like to try out the less premium products on offer! Up came a pair of Mitas MC25 Bogarts, barely used, for a mere £55 delivered - bought! Mitas don't have much of a name in the world of road tyres but they have been around forever in the off road market, and are well regarded. A few years ago they bought a rival firm called "Sava" who did have a good reputation in the world of road tyres for small bikes, their MC7 was particularly popular for a while. Now was my chance to try this particular Slovenian delight! But first I have to remove the rear wheel from a bike that doesn't have a centre stand, what a joke..
Is it really that hard to fit a centre stand, Kawasaki? And the rest of you lot making bikes. Look at this, you think this is acceptable? Anyway.. After a while faffing with the rear caliper on its carrier that has to locate on the rear axle and a stub on the inside of the swingarm at the same time (difficult..) I had a tyre that looked like this.
I've never seen a tyre so.. Pointy? I started off at Kawasaki's recommendation of 32 PSI for the rear, which was fine for the OE Dunlop but this looked a little overinflated, like riding on a knife edge. Never mind, only one way to find out..

Another week, another load of commuting. The tyre seemed a bit hard but not bad, not overly affected by bumps or road imperfections and in the first few dry days it had more grip than I needed - I was pleased. Then the first wet morning came, I set of as normal and all was well until I reached a junction that is made of a strange road surface, big stones perhaps to be hard wearing - unfortunately these polish flat over time. I set off in first gear, the rear slid out so I pulled the clutch and kicked it into second while the bike sorted itself out. Put the (meagre!) power down again and the rear span straight up, no problem. The rest of the commute was rather subdued!

Thankfully the commute home was dry, so again no drama. I figured the pressure must be too high, giving me only a tiny contact patch - I let it down to 28 PSI. This seemed to have no ill effects on handling and gave a more comfortable ride. There was no more rain that week but at the weekend I had a day out in the Peak district on a hot day, when I actually had to stop and let yet more air out of the tyre as it had become so hard again in the heat - now at 26 PSI! This feels slightly squirmy until the tyre is warm but it is what I've stayed with. This is also by far the lowest pressure I've ever run a tyre at, the construction of these must be really stiff.

Now running half flat the contact patch was larger and I was really beginning to enjoy the grip on offer, at least in the dry. I barely had any chicken strips left, the bike wasn't wallowing or weaving in corners and the shoulders of the tyre were roughing up enough to make me look a bit like Rossi's retarded second cousin. Unfortunately another rain dawned, and quickly dashed my hopes of a larger contact patch meaning more grip in the wet - further testing has revealed I can spin up the rear in third gear! I have also nearly stuffed the bike into a kerb when going too fast around a long sweeping bend, as whenever I tried to lean the bike very seriously threatened to lowside due to the total lack of grip on offer. These tyres make the Goldentyre GT201 seem excellent.

I have not yet fitted the front Mitas, and frankly I'm not sure if I dare. I wish I could imagine it will be better, but this is so bad that it seems an impossibility. I have since seen M+P selling pairs of scooter tyres from Dunlop for £50, I wish I'd bought those instead.. Never mind, eh?

With a pathetic 2979 miles up the wear markers are making themselves known!
Now that it has squared off a bit I can spin the rear up in 6th gear in the wet and it snakes all over the place given a hint of moisture. I'm increasingly of the opinion these tyres should not be offered for sale and still have severe anxiety over the thought of fitting the front.. I really don't think I can do it, it'd be suicide.

"Rhino" brand brake pads review

With not a lot over 8000 miles on the clock (if the previous owner was telling the truth!) the Z250SL had eaten the organic EBCs that were in the front brake caliper. EBCs are not original fitment so I don't know what's going on here but they were plenty meaty at 3200 so they've not lasted long at all. They were also cracked!
I found this out since I had to clean out the calipers after a few days of winter riding.. It only took me until June to get around to it. I'm busy, y'know? Anyway, this meant I was in need of some new pads. Being tight I went straight to ebay looking for FA197 sorted by price and postage (lowest). This brings up some openly Chinese pads at £6.70 or the next step up is supposedly German quality pads from Rhino at £8. I have tried Chinese pads before and actually liked them very much, but I went big with the Rhinos because they're completely new to em and I haven't seen a single proper review of them. Very quickly they popped through my door..
They look very fancy in gold with a nice thick back plate, not like the thin thing that the Chinese pads get. They fitted into the caliper beautifully and took around 50-60 miles to bed in against the disc. Initial impressions are that they actually work okay, plenty powerful if I squeeze the lever hard (I did have the rear slewing about one time!) but they do lack a certain feel, there's a good initial bite and then not a lot more until a lot of squeezing takes place when they seem to really come alive. They do feel more slippery than grippy though, a lot like Kyoto and Vicma pads do - as if the disc is getting away from them rather than the pads biting the disc to slow it down, if that makes any sense at all.

I have not yet ridden with these pads in the rain but this review will be updated when I do, along with pad life if I keep this bike long enough.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Leicester Egg Run 2018

Way back in January I was given this flyer for an easter egg run that happens not only in the fair shire of Leicester but also happens to be just a couple of villages over from where I live. My interest was piqued.
Sure enough, March rolled around and surprisingly the forecast was looking good so after popping down to an enormous B&M that exists in Coalville to arm myself with a Peppa Pig easter egg I rolled into the car park in Anstey, unsure of what I would find. Unsure partly because I've never done an Easter egg run before (though I can guess what is involved!) but also partly unsure because I'm not at all religious - will I even be welcome?

With the weather as glorious as it was and safe in the knowledge that all group rides are dog slow I puttered to the top of the hill on the glorious CBX250RS and parked up amongst a surprisingly large number of bikes considering I've been riding for the past 9 years and never heard of this going on.
As I remove my helmet, gloves and earplugs a bloke quickly walks over to check what on Earth can make such a wonderful noise, and then nips off again without saying anything. Weird but I shouldn't expect anything less, at least they seem to like what I've brought!

I hand the 'Pig egg over to a bloke who puts it in the back of a hearse (???) with the rest of the donations and the Christians begin their preaching and thanking. Mercifully it is short and sweet and soon everyone is readying themselves for the run:
There was some interesting machinery here, as there always is for group rides, though sadly the bicycle moped thing was nowhere to be seen after this point.

Upon leaving the car park we were waved off by people holding small wooden crosses, again a bit much but I mustn't hold it against them - for some reason I wouldn't mind nearly as much if I was on some Diwali ride and they gave people Tilaka marks.
And so we set off towards Cropston, I think touching Rothley and then following a route quite similar to the Brass Monkey run to end up at, surprise surprise, The Vic in Coalville. Sure enough the pace was sedate and the CBX was more than capable enough despite not breathing properly. I don't mind though, it's part of the fun once you know the score and accept it.

So, overall this is a nice little jaunt with good planning and perfectly lovely people and I think it could be a great event if they sort their marketing out so people actually know it is on - perhaps this post will help them! There is a niche to be filled here, I don't know of any other Easter egg runs in the Leicester area or even in the East Midlands and the ones over in Birmingham or Wirral seem very popular. Come on guys, get the word out!

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Metzeler Sportec Klassik Review

Finding decent tyres for my BMW K100RS is difficult nowadays. Way back in the eighties you could find radial tyres in suitable sizes, now there are only trail type items in 140/80-17 and if you want the "correct" 130/90-17 there are only bias ply tyres on offer. Modern bias ply tyres are coming on in leaps and bounds though, supposedly the Pirelli Sport Demon is a marvellous thing though they wear out fast. I thought I'd try my luck with Metzeler's newest addition to their bias ply range, the Sportec Klassik, something so new and modern must surely be better than the Avon Roadrider it was replacing.. Right?

My first impression of the tyre was that the tread was not cut very deep, perhaps 8mm. The Roadrider started with something ludicrous like 15mm, though it all wore away in about 5500 miles and then split in the middle, showing the cords to the outside world. But enough about that, here is the near-bald looking brand new Klassik:
A nice shape, for sure. The previous tyres I've had on the K100 are a Conti Go! which I quite liked but it was a bit wobbly, and the aforementioned Roadrider which I didn't like a lot and it was very wobbly, the bike wallowing all over the shop when pressing on after the tyre had a bit of wear on it. Initial impressions of the Klassik were very different, the compound is hard yet seemed to bite in very nicely when asked to work, and the construction of the carcass is harder still - this thing is STIFF. It reminded me a lot of the Lasertec I once had on the front, every bump in the road is transmitted to the rider but the upside to this is the bike is held on line round corners. Whether this is worth the lack of comfort is personal preference, personally I'll take it.

After a mere 435 miles the tyre collected a screw. This was strange as I hadn't had a puncture for many tens of thousands of miles over about 6 years, but it was to become a running theme. Surely it's not the tyre's fault, though?
After getting it plugged I carried on my merry way, including a ~2000 mile trip to Germany. The tyre proved perfectly capable in the dry, if still very stiff, and somewhat adequate in the wet though I'm sure the Conti Go! was better. The Klassik is a bit squirmy and feels somewhat loose, though it never actually slid. But then the feeling of insecurity meant I gave it little chance to!

Once home from that most marvellous of trips the tyre decided it would collect another screw. At least it meant I kept a decent record of pictures on how it was wearing.. This is at 2700 miles:
To be fair it took quite a beating in Germany, being caned up hills in second gear and then caned along autobahn, but I was disappointed with the speed with which it was wearing. The tyre also felt very squirmy, having worn to the camber on the wrong side of the road - this as much a function of its stiff carcass and hard compound as the way it was worn. Other tyres have not been nearly as bad as this. It was also starting to follow road imperfections and white lines in a most alarming fashion, feeling as though it was surely worn out. But no.. A week later it again decided to pick up a screw, the tyre man rubbing his hands with a most disturbing level of glee. This is at 2841 miles:
The tyre had also picked up a sizeable chunk of glass and was full of stones. I'm not sure what is going on here, I can only guess that it runs hot in use and is soft enough to gobble up whatever is sharp enough to make its way into the rubber. The only tyre I've had that was as hungry as this is a special extra-soft Heidenau K65 meant for racing, which I can forgive. But this? With these grip levels? Not so good.

I pressed on with the tyre until I hit the wear markers at a surprisingly far 5814 miles:
By this time it was feeling very loose in wet weather and on rough surfaces, though it still hadn't actually caused any major concern as I felt the need to ride very slowly with it like that. By this time the wobbles are also starting to creep in again, the tyre having lost some of its rigidity but I think that is fair, it is supposed to be replaced.

So, would I recommend this tyre? Yes and no. Yes if you run a heavy bike and like to press on in dry weather, it grips well enough and is stiff enough to keep the bike under control better than other modern tyres. But if you ride year round then no, this tyre was never great in the wet and got worse with use. Given the price point I would take it over the Avon Roadrider and the Metzeler Lasertec but I think I would want to stump up the extra 10% for a Michelin Pilot Activ instead, if my experience of one on the front is any indication then that is a far superior tyre. Perhaps there is a reason the Klassik is at the bottom of the price range!