There is no more time. With some last minute wiring of navigation gear, changing of oil, oil filter, tyres, and cleaning of air filter, the three months of bike preparation is at an end, because if I want it to be on the other side of the Atlantic in ten days time it needs a bit of time to actually get there. There's a few things I'm not 100% happy with, but I think it will be OK.
My day began by going to pick up a big white van.
Then I put a big black and white bike in it.
In with the bike went the panniers, along with my helmet and boots. One of the panniers contains the rest of my riding gear. The stuff that should be in that pannier - largely clothes, toiletries, and the inevitable assortment of electronic bits and bobs - will be coming with me next weekend, along with anything else I suddenly remember in the meantime.
All loaded up, it was time to get on the road. The destination, James Cargo in Altrincham, Manchester.
Rolling up to their warehouse, I was met by David Wyborn, who has spent the last few months patiently answering emails full of stupid questions from me, and between us we took the front wheel out of the bike and strapped it down to a pallet.
The next time I see it will be in Newark, NJ, USA. As for me, I'm back to work for the next week, before flying out next Sunday.
I thought this merited a post on its own, as the subject of throttle cables comes up fairly frequently on the XT660.com forum.
If like me, you are fairly tall (6'3"/1.94m in my case), and you ride off-tarmac, you'll inevitably need to modify the riding position of your bike by fitting taller handlebars and bar risers. Almost as inevitably, you will find that there isn't really enough length in the original throttle cables to cope with this change.
When I originally changed the front end on the Tenere, I let the professionals take the strain, and sent my original throttle cables off to Venhill, who remade them 120mm longer for me. It cost about £70 and took a couple of weeks. That was all very well until the plastic adjuster (part of the original cable which Venhill reused as they couldn't replicate it) broke, probably in some sort of rallying incident. Didn't stop me riding the bike, but made it awkward to adjust, and could potentially let dirt into the cable.
Possibly not the best situation when you're about to head off to some fairly remote places, but I didn't really fancy having to send cables off to Venhill again, so I decided to make myself another 'pull'/opening cable, and keep the current one as a spare.
The original (lengthened) cable is in the middle. Below it is a pattern replacement from Wemoto - as you can see, considerably shorter. Above (coiled up) is a Venhill universal cable kit. I bought mine from an eBay shop, but you can also get them direct from Venhill for less than £10. The kit contains a wire core, sleeve, and an assortment of end fittings.
Start by cutting one end off the pattern cable, which allows you to pull the inner wire out, and the top end fitting/adjuster (which is the only bit you actually need) off the sleeve.
Moving on to the Venhill kit, the new inner has a little stud on one end. Pick out a suitably sized nipple for the top (twistgrip end) of the cable, and slide it onto the inner wire. You don't strictly need to solder this on, and I didn't, but with hindsight I would have put a bit on just to stop it sliding about while you are trying to assemble the twistgrip.
Next, you need to cut the outer to the right length. Easy for me, as I just copied the previously lengthened one, but if you are extending from stock you'll need to measure carefully on the bike. Cycling-enthusiast friends tell me you can get special devices for cutting cable sleeves. I just use a hacksaw and cut gently enough not to crush or otherwise damage it.
Thread the inner cable through the adjuster and the inner cable.
Then fit a rubber boot to the outer (I found I had to stretch it a bit first), pick out a suitable ferrule and bottom adjuster from the kit. An important note at this point - there ought to be two nuts on the adjuster for the Tenere. I didn't spot this, and of course you can't get one on once the nipple is on the lower end. I got away without remaking it because the length was right so I could get it adjusted properly with just the top adjuster, but that's more luck than judgement.
Now for the important bit. The critical bit of the cable is the difference in length between the inner and outer. If this isn't right, you may not be able to adjust it properly. Measure the original cable by pulling the inner as far as it will go in one direction. Needless to say, if you are dismantling your original cable rather than making another, take this measurement first!
(apologies for the rubbish photo)
You need to make sure the nipple on the new cable ends up in the same place.
At this point, I clamped the inner cable (very gently) in a vice, so that with the nipple sat on top of the vice jaws, it was in the correct place (measure, measure, and measure again).
Having cut the inner off about 15mm beyond the nipple, unravel the cable, and squash the loose strands down into the recess in the nipple. The messier the better, as you are trying to make sure it can't pull back out once soldered.
Get the nipple/cable end nice and hot with a soldering iron, then feed solder in until it fills the recess.
The solder turns that nice tangle of wire strands into a solid ball, preventing it from pulling back out of the nipple. You'll probably need to sand/file down any excess solder to get the nipple to fit into the carb/throttle body, and of course oil the cable before fitting.
I didn't make a closing cable, only the opening one, but the process would be the same. Incidentally, Venhill also do an emergency cable kit which doesn't require solder. Again it costs about a tenner. I'll be carrying one with me in the US, just in case.
Fancy trail riding with this lot on the back? I didn't think so.
You may have noticed a slight change of appearance lately. This is because, rather helpfully, less than a year after deciding to use Posterous for all my rambling-on-the-internet needs, owners Twitter have decided to close it down. Rather inconvenient when I'm only a few weeks away from departing for the US - although it would have been a bit worse if I'd failed to notice, and it had just disappeared a week into my trip!
After some very hasty evaluation of the options, and the hassle involved in switching, I settled on Posthaven, largely because, being run by a couple of the founders of Posterous, they are able to offer a faultless import service. As a paid service, they ought to be somewhat less likely to suffer from a whimsical disappearing act. Plus I actually liked using Posterous, and although it's early days, Posthaven promises to have a similar look and feel.
In the mean time, I'd best get on with writing up the rest of the bike build, because in a mere three weeks I'll be starting to write about the trips itself!
I'm spoiling the narrative a bit here since there's still a few bits of the build to be documented, but I'm quite excited (and relieved), so what the hell - a couple of hours ago, I rode the Tenere for the first time in two months, to the local MOT test centre, and returned with a pass certificate.
Of course, given I've not ridden for a while, the bike's been rebuilt from a bare frame, there's brand new brake pads, tyres, and various other bits that need bedding in, and it's now something like two and a half inches taller than a standard Tenere, I was glad that I had a nice warm Spring morning to ease myself back into it.
Still, I managed to make the journey there and back with no great drama, and for possibly the first time in my entire vehicle owning history passed an MOT test without even a single advisory. In an amusing twist, I actually participated in the test myself, as the tester decided he wasn't tall enough to sit on it for the brake test.
The MOT certificate also reveals that I've done a mere 7,615 miles since the first of March last year, which is a bit disappointing, although unsurprising given the amount of time I've spent preparing it for the rallies last year, and lately for the US trip. I expect the next twelve months (and indeed the twelve weeks that I'm in the US) to cover significantly more distance.
I'm now hoping the weather clears up a bit so I can put a decent shakedown mileage on it before, a mere three weeks from yesterday, it gets dropped off with the shipping agents to be boxed up and flown across the Atlantic.
That brings us up to Friday. With a day of work, the first stop was the powdercoater's to pick up the engine bars and luggage rack. They've been done in a really nice gloss black finish, which is a great improvement on the original flaky Yamaha finish.
Engine bars and bashplate back on. The bashplate has obviously got a bit bent at some point, because I had to put a jack under it to get the last mounting bolt to line up.
Engine bars on means the last engine bolt is torqued up, and the exhaust can be fitted properly.
Between the exhaust headers you can see the blanking plate where the AIS plumbing used to be.
Back on with the radiator, and fill the cooling system.
Back to the engine breather. Here's a shot from just after the engine went back in.
The original baffle chamber used to be mounted on the rubber grommet at the bottom of the frame, below the intake. The new hose which I fitted runs up past the left hand side of the intake, and between the cylinder head and the frame rail. It then passes through the forks and does a U-turn around the (modified) front sub-frame:
Before heading back down the right hand side of the bike. You can just about see it coming down past the oil filler, then along the top of the coolant expansion tank.
Because I've removed the AIS system, I've been left with a hole in the airbox. Rather than try and seal it up, I put a 'Y' piece in the breather and connected it to both the AIS port and the original breather port. The plastic 'Y' piece was originally part of the inlet system on a ZZR1100.
The point of doing this is that it's no longer 'downhill' from the airbox into the crankcases. So although the depth of water the bike can be ridden through with the engine running doesn't change, it could, in theory, be pushed (with the engine off) through water up to the headstock, and all you'd have to do on the other side is drain the airbox and possibly the cylinder. More realistically, in the event of a fall in more modest water crossings, water can only get into the oil if the bike more or less completely disappears under the surface. Even then, as long as I pick the bike up again fairly quickly, the amount of water that can flow is minimal.
I have now lost the baffle chamber, but I'm hoping the much longer hose will have a similar effect in encouraging the oil to condense out on the walls. I'll be keeping an eye on the amount of oil which finds its way into the airbox.