Friday 31 May 2013

Tandragee Trophy

Hi all

Well I have to admit I made myself a trophy to remind me of Tandragee, not that I'm likely to forget it any time soon, so thought I share my award with you.

For those less eagle eyed, it's my piston that casued me all my troubles, with matching valve stuck in piston accessories.

It now has pride of place on my shelf, along with holed piston from Southern 100, 2009. I'm getting quite a collection, but hope it stops soon.

Below are a couple of 'action' shots taken, again at Tandragee.

I always prefer wearing a black visor, but you can see why photographers prefer it when we don't. My thanks to Jimmy for these pictures.

 This weekend will be spent fitting my spare race engine as my blown engine won't be ready in time. This is no bad thing as it would've been to the wire getting it sorted, this way I have time to make sure everything is good and ready.

The blown one is ready for the head, but will still need valves lapping and the timing sorted, but this can be done at my leisure now, meaning I can take my time rather than rush it. 

I gave up with my new brake calipers. I tried bleeding them all ways but with no success so went back to my standard ones.

I decided to get some new pads for them and M&P have very helpfully sent the wrong ones. Oh well hope to get them exchanged and fitted before Cork.

Hope you are all watching the TT? Is hard watching it as would love to be there.

Oh well only another couple of weeks and it'll be Cork.




Saturday 25 May 2013


Well it's been another busy week here at Fort Hectic.

I took my engine away yesterday and was told it would be at least a week before it's done.

Still plenty to do in the mean time.

I put my new calipers on the other day and still having trouble bleeding them. Before I fitted them I replaced all the seals and gave them a really good clean and hoped this would make it easier. But after a couple of evenings playing with them they still feel spongy. So one last try with another bleed system and if that doesn't work, then its back to my standard ones.

A big box of goodies arrived from Kawasaki the other day, did you remember to buy shares?

So when I get time I can start fitting the bits.

I had fun and games getting the conrod shells as they don't just print a number on them, it's all to do with the marks on the crank and the conrod. Depending if there is, or isn't a mark on either dictates which size you need. Still sussed the code in the end and now have some standard shells to fit.

Once fitted I can then check with plastigauage as to whether I need a different shell, depending on the gap.

I hope to do this and have the bottom end sorted by the time the head comes back as this will need to be fitted, re timed and shims checked.

3 weeks until Cork you say? Oh well who needs sleep.

Still on a positive note my van has passed it's MOT and the regs for Mid Antrim have been issued, which are already completed and on their way.

Hopefully the next time I write the bottom end will be waiting the head.

Best I crack on.


Sunday 19 May 2013

Hi all

Well its been a busy weekend in the garage.

I've found out that the valve guide had broken up, hence the bits on the top of my piston.

On advice of John I removed the other valves in the same piston and this turned out to be good advice as the other inlet valve was sticking coming out, so possibly bent.

I've also dropped my 'Weymouth' engine, as it's now know, from the frame and have given this a good clean, which it was very much in need of. It's not brilliant but at least can touch it without the need of gloves.

I've also made some radiator guards to help stop stones putting holes in the radiator, couln't believe how many stones I was picking up at Cookstown, so should help cut down on excess weight as well.

I've stripped the calipers I was having so much trouble bleeding, and found all sorts of nastiness in there, so hopefully they will bleed up ok.

I also did a couple of odd jobs on the 600 and as far as I can tell this is ready for my next race, so will leave well alone.

Doesn't sound much when written out like this, but it's been a full weekends work as it all takes time.

I've got a shopping list as long as my arm for bits, so buy shares in Kawasaski tonight as their profits will soar tomorrow. 

If I can get the valve guide fitted, something I don't have the tools to do, then hopefully I will get my race engine rebuilt in time for Cork which is rapidly approaching.

I can't find an on board lap of Cork, so it will be a few laps round in the van before the race, this also means I can't post one up for you to see what I'll be up to, sorry.

Speak soon


Tuesday 14 May 2013

Cookstown 100 on TV tonight

Have just discovered that highlights from Cookstown 100 will be on TV tonight. Unfortunately only on BBC One NI. 11:05 PM.

If you are not in NI you may be able to tune in on Sky (channel 953) or Freesat (channel 957) I think.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Hi all

Well it's been another busy weekend in the garage. Yesterday Steve and myself popped down to pick up my 'new' engine and by 7.30pm we had it in my race frame.

Naturally I couldn't leave it alone so spent the rest of the evening connecting it all up.

This morning I put fresh oil in her, filled the radiator, fresh spark plugs and she burst into life first prod of the starter, result.

The guy I bought it from said he was told it was a runner when he bought it but never tried started it himself. Not sure how long it'd been stood but looked a while so am very pleased she went ok.

It needs a few bits doing, including fitting a helicoil as the thread has stripped on one of the water pipe connectors. Luckily Stafford, within seconds of hearing of my plight, volunteered to come and sort it for me. What a top man.

I'm now going to remove this one from the bike and put my spare 'race' engine in for Cork.

It will also give me a chance to give it a good clean as has years of road muck on it. 

Yesterday I also got around to cleaning the van up and think I brought most of Tandragee back with me, so will post that back at some stage. Van is faster too without all the weight in there.

Steve also told me that there are some photo's of me on their way from Tandragee as the lady we stayed with had some friends take some pictures from her garden during the racing.

So hopefully I'll get to post these up soon too.

Until next time



Friday 10 May 2013

Competition Time

Tell me what is wrong with this picture and there's a prize for the right answer.

On a totally unrelated note, honest, I tried my hand at welding and milling whilst at Tandragee, what do you think? 

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Investigations Continue

Stuart popped over this evening and helped me remove my poorly engine from my bike.

The temptation to remove the sump and have quick look proved to much, so off it came.

Fearing the worst we removed it and I expected to put a call into Steptoe & Son to come and remove the scrap.

But nothing. Well I say nothing, the oil strainer in the engine was clogged with sealant which had obviously been squashed into the engine when I rebuilt it.

Typically it didn't go on the outside of the engine where I could just've wiped it off.

So the theory now is I basically starved the engine of oil, but when I dig deeper I will be able to confirm that.

On a more positive note, I received confirmation of my entry to Cork, so have been busy booking ferries and will look for some accommodation in the next couple of days.

All being well I'm off on Saturday to pick up another spare engine, so we will see if that one runs so I have a spare to take with me to Cork.

Saying that I've got loads of time so should be able to rebuild my poorly one, yeah right, but then again who needs sleep?

It always amazed me the stories of race teams working until the early hours building engines before races, now I know how this happens.

Pass the Pro Plus



Tuesday 7 May 2013

Cookstown Pictures

Hi all

When my bike broke down on Saturday I met a guy who had taken some pictures of me at Cookstown and he very kindly mailed them to me, thanks Jimmy.

He has also taken some at Tandragee but he has to sort them out but will send them over when he can and I will post them up as soon as I can.

I'd said that yesterday was going to be a quiet tidy up day as I have loads of stuff to sort out.

It didn't go quite to plan and I ended up taking various cases off my 400 engine to see if I could locate the problem.

At one point we came to the conclusion that it maybe the water pump, but sadly that seems ok.

This means the most likely culprit is the crank.

This will be easier to sort once the engine is out, so the plan is to take the engine out and put my spare in for Cork and hope I can get the blown one fixed to take as a spare.

I've got 6 weeks until Cork, seems like a long time now but am sure it will fly by.


Monday 6 May 2013


Hi all

Back on line now as we had no internet at Tandragee, and to be honest I didn't stop the whole weekend.

Many thanks for all your comments and well wishes. Mark, don't make comments that may come back and haunt you, but it's a deal.

With heavy hearts we left everyone at Carmean Road and set off for Tandragee. We popped into Draperstown to say hi to Owen at Slim's cafe, but sadly we missed him.

We'd been told that the paddock was already a swamp on Wednesday so we took the van up to the paddock on Thursday evening.

We were greeted by a tractor towing people into the paddock, and it was so muddy. I had nightmares about what it would be like by the time we came to leave on Saturday.

We got set up and Hazel, our host for the weekend, picked us up and took us to a great pub in Tandragee.

After breakfast on Friday Hazel lent us her car so I could do a couple of laps.

What a circuit. It's called the mini TT due to the variety of corners, and it certainly lives up to its name.

There is one right hand corner that has a 30 foot high bank opposite. At the top are fence posts, which have bales on to protect you. I was later told that riders have gone up this bank and cleared the fence at the top, one to watch then.

After getting the bikes checked it was off for a very informative lap in the newcomers bus. We had three top riders giving us a guided tour of the circuit, pointing out apex's breaking points etc. This was a very worthwhile trip and lots stuck with me.

The weather again wasn't on our side for practice so it was another round of guess the tyre, not a great way to learn a circuit.

Like all road circuits, the circuit itself doesn't care if you are a pro rider or a newcomer, it will bite anyone who makes a mistake, and unlike short circuits the bite will always be a painful one.

I did scare myself on the first left hand corner as it tightens up, so ended up laid over with brakes still on heading for a bank. Luckily I remembered the old saying of look where you want to go, not what you're going to hit, and managed to get round ok. I was later told that if you are going to crash on a corner, it's not a bad one to crash on as you just end up in a field.

After a few laps I was lucky to follow Yvonne from ZXR forum, and I could see from her lines how to link the corners, which was a great help, so thanks for that.

By the end of practice I started to build confidence, so much so that I went for an overtake at the last corner.

On the newcomers coach we'd been told to watch this corner as it sucks you in and is easy to miss the breaking point, if you are not careful.

Just to prove the point I out braked Wee Roy, and overshot the corner. Luckily the escape road leads down to the paddock, so I made it look like I meant to do it. Still must've given Roy a smile as I'm sure he knew what would happen before I did.

We packed up late, in the dark, and was helped by my 'fan club' of Jack, Josh, Kyra and Adrian who'd come down to watch practice and then came along for race day too.

I also saw Ian, a marshal, who I'd met on Isle Of Man a couple of times last year, and I gave him a wave as I went passed him during practice. Being a flag marshal he has to sit with his back to the racers and look down the circuit. Next lap I came round and he obviously knew when I'd be coming, as he sat there with his back to me and gave me a thumbs up, which made me smile.

So to race day.

It was another early start but the weather looked to be on our side, so it was another round of change the tyre.

Last week it was tyre warmers all round but this week everyone was wrapping their tyres in cling film to stop the tread getting clogged up with mud on the way to the holding area. It was so muddy in the paddock that some of the top names refused to come to scrutineering as it was too muddy for them, so they had mats laid down so their bikes didn't get muddy.

Aficionados amongst you,James, may think this is WW1 battlefield, sadly it's the paddock. Sadly this wasn't the worst of it, in some places it was up to your knees.

First race was on 400 and I was really nervous about the race as I still felt I didn't know where I was going.

Luckily my fears were in vain as the circuit felt so much better on Saturday and it all seemed to come together. I had a good dice with a chap on a 650 and this boosted my confidence as well.

There are a couple of crests on the circuit and hadn't really noticed them in practice, but come the races I was airborne on every lap on both the 400 & 600.

The 600 is geared for about 160mph and on a couple of occasions I was flat out in top, and still went for another gear, so will fiddle with gearing should I go back next year.

Sadly in the second 400 race my bike died and came to a halt.

I was out in the next race so the marshals flagged down a travelling marshal to give me a lift back to the pits, where I jumped straight onto my 600.

By this time I grown to love the circuit and had a great run round and hope to be back next year.

I shouldn't be too despondent about the event as everyone I spoke to said it takes 3 years before you can really start pushing. That and my lap times improved throughout the weekend.

In practice my fastest time on the 400 was 4:39 and in the race it was down to 4:09. Likewise on the 600 it was 4:37 and come race day it was down to 4:00, so a massive improvement, even Stafford would be proud of that?  

I'm back home now and on top of having to sort the 400 out I have to wash everything as I think I must've bought a fair size chunk of Ireland back home with me as everything is covered in mud.

Oh well I've got 6 weeks between now and Cork and I'd only be bored otherwise.

Whilst at Tandragee I saw Susan who runs Skerries and she confirmed my entry for the racing which is great news.    

My plan this year was to do as many races as I can and then next year, all being well, go back and do selected ones. Well so far I want to go back and do both Cookstown and Tandragee again. At this rate next year could be an expensive one too!

Speak soon



Thursday 2 May 2013

Well our time at Cookstown has come to an end and so we move off to Tandragee today.

I've been told that it's a love it/hate it circuit as it's a lot more technical than Cookstown.

So I hope to do a few laps of the circuit in the van so I have an idea of where it all goes.

It all starts at 12:30 tomorrow so can have a relaxed start to the day, which is just as well as have got quite used to not getting up at the crack of dawn.

I'd just like to say thanks to Ann, Sandra, Adrian, Kyra, Jack and Josh for looking after us so well during our stay here. They've made us feel so welcome and couldn't do enough for us. We look forward to seeing you again soon.


Wednesday 1 May 2013

Hi everyone

Many thanks for the comments. Yes Liz the cake got here ok but fear it won't make the return journey, and yes there has been a Guinness taken, just for the iron content you understand.

The last couple of days have been spent trying some new calipers on the 400,but sadly I think they need a service as no matter how hard we tried we couldn't get them to bleed, so will strip and rebuild them when  I get chance.

So it was back to standard ones which bled through first time.

Apart from that we've done a general check over and all seems well with both bikes.

The family we are staying with have been great and I now have a new pit crew in the form of Jack and Josh who Steve is training up to his high standard.

Whilst working in the garage  a red cross parcel of coffee and freshly made shortbread, still warm, was bought to us. Thats it I'm not leaving here, the shortbread alone is enough to keep me here.

I'm amazed at how much everyone here is into the racing and have had offers of help from everyone we've met.

I've also found out today that my entry for Armoy has been accepted which is great news.

I was told last night that the paddock for Tandragee is like a swamp, so fingers crossed it will dry out by Friday.

The weather for the weekend is looking ok at the moment and I hope it stays that way.

Until next time