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Friday, 24 December 2010

For the Northern Hemisphere bloggers!

Well, it's Christmas Eve Down Under.  I have a task list a mile long courtesy of my CEO and am under orders to have all tasks completed by the time the family starts to arrive in a couple of hours.  Our daughter is bringing her new(ish) boyfriend whom we've yet to meet.  I'm under orders to be nice to him or the carving knife will be used on me rather than the Xmas ham!  Perhaps not a good occasion to push my luck :-).  Anyway, one of Victoria's protective brothers recently met him and said that he's a really nice guy.  That's high praise indeed from someone who is not noted for diplomacy when it comes to her boyfriends!

The excellent Troubadour had a dig at us Southern Hemisphere types regarding the weather, trees and everything else in his recent post, showing a complete lack of sympathy for the warmth, blue skies and approaching the longest day of the year.  I took the photo below just for him and the snow-bound British bloggers on the way back from collecting the Christmas ham from town **sly grin**.  Xmas day and Boxing Day have temperature forecasts of around 30 degrees C, so we'll drink a toast to you at the evening BBQ!

Jennie's MX5, just 200 metres from home

All the very best from Upside-Down Land and catch you after Xmas.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Classic racebikes and other stuff

Decided to slip in a quick post before Xmas whilst I was sorting through some photos!

For a country with a 4 million-odd population, it's surprising just how many gems from the automotive and aircraft world lurk in people's sheds in NZ.  As an example from the aircraft world, there's an elderly guy at the top of the south island who bought some surplus aircraft in the decade following WW2 and stored them in a huge barn on his property.  All he does is go and sit in them and one is a De Havilland Mosquito.  How much would that be worth to a restorer????? Virtually priceless I guess.  Amazingly, there are four Mosquitoes reputed to be under restoration in NZ, one at an advanced stage.

Anyway, onto things automotive and motorcycling in particular; there are a huge number of classic race bikes which come out to play now and again, many very rare or one-offs.  In the latter category is the original Burt Munro Indian (World's Fastest Indian) and some of his other bikes.  They are permanently displayed at a hardware store in the south island town of Invercargill where Burt lived. Here's the link to photos of the real bikes: E Hays Hammer Hardware .  They even sell Burt Munro memorabilia.

 Some of Burt Munro's bikes


The February 4-6 International classic meeting at the Pukekohe track in south Auckland is not to be missed because classic racers come from all over the world to take part.  I'll be there snapping away in 2011 but in the meantime,  here's a few interesting local ones I photographed at various domestic meets over the last few years.  The fact that they're still in existence at all is wonderful, but that they are wheeled out time after time and given a real caning on the track is both testament to the bikes themselves and the care and time which the owners lavish on them.

 A brace of Excelsior Manxmen

Built in the 1930's in England in 250cc, 350cc and 500cc sizes, they were overhead cam driven and really innovative considering that Japanese bikes tend to be popularly thought of as introducing OHC to production bikes in the 60's.  The Excelsior closest to the camera has had the girder forks replaced with telescopic units.  Great to see 75 year old bikes still being raced and raced hard at that!


A Norvin

The Norvin is a British Vincent 1000cc engine shoe-horned into the legendary Norton featherbed frame.  Considering that the first Vincent V twin appeared in the mid-30's, they have remained remarkably plentiful and there are plenty of specialist companies around the world dedicated to keeping the name alive.  Wicked-looking bike and they sound magnificent with straight-through pipes - nothing politically correct about a racing Vincent engine!  As an observation, the twin leading shoe front brake would have its work cut out hauling up a Norvin from speed.


NSU Sportmax

The German NSU 250cc Sportmax racing single from the mid-1950's was a pretty uncomplicated racebike with pressed steel leading link forks. However, it's yet another example of a pre-Japanese overhead cam motorcycle.


The final photo isn't a racebike (you don't say!) but I photographed it at a classic meeting.  It's a Triumph from the early(ish) 1900's which has been impeccably restored.  It wasn't the bike which took my breath away but the beautifully made sidecar in green buttoned leather and woven cane.  Most regular readers of this blog will have gathered that I love the work of what might be described as "traditional" craftsmen.  This sidecar most definitely falls into that category - what a magnificent piece of work. Hope that the Health and Safety morons haven't seen fit to interfere with its ability to traverse NZ's highways.


1915 Vintage Triumph and cane sidecar

Finally, nothing at all to do with classic racebikes.  I'd like to mention a book which I read over the last week which may well appeal to motorcyclists everywhere, given their love of interesting challenges and a healthy disdain for conformity and boring normality.  This book was so funny that frequent hysterical snorting and choking, followed by wiping of eyes and blowing of nose was earning me sighs, tuts and rolling of eyes from my nearest and dearest whilst in earshot.

The book has an unlikely but true storyline. It's about a battery-powered domestic milk delivery float, built in the 1950's with a top speed on level ground of perhaps 20 mph or a tad more with a storm-force tailwind. Three guys decided not that long ago to drive one from the most easterly location in England to the most westerly part.  Not for a charity or any purpose other than it being good fun.  Adding spice to the tale, they did it with little or no forward planning - an interesting proposition considering that the batteries require re-charging every few hours.

If you enjoy a tale of quirky human endeavour coupled with the very best English wit, then you could do a lot worse than reading this.  You'll laugh yourself sick.  Here it is:  Three men in a Float, by Dan Kieran and Ian Vince - ISBN978-1-84854-015-6.  I was lucky enough to find it in our local library, but I know it's available at a modest price from at least a couple of international web-based booksellers.  The human race would be all the poorer without people having crazy ideas like this.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The non-human members of the family...

Following  Nicos' recent post about his soccer-averse moggie and Trobairitz'  photo of the majestic Squire Basil, plus seeing that it's close to Christmas, warm fuzzies and all; I thought I'd take the opportunity to introduce our non-motorcycling feline layabouts, Henry and Thomas.  For tenuous reasons, we have cats named after people from the literary world.  Pushkin was our 18 year old black Persian who passed away 11 years ago.  Henry (James) has just turned 11 and Thomas (Hardy) has just turned 9. Like cats everywhere, they're an integral part of the family and have very definite and diverse (psychotic?) personalities.

After Pushkin passed away, Jennie wanted another cat and spied a kitten at the local vets.  The vet nurse told her that blue-eyed white cats were invariably deaf but she was hooked anyway.  I was less happy because of the worry about it getting run over but was naturally over-ruled.  This is Henry a few days after collection from the vet:

Henry, the chocolate box cat in 1999

Henry promptly repaid Jennie's affection by completely ignoring her and attaching himself to me - he's been that way ever since!  For a deaf cat, he's remarkably talkative - how does that work????

After being ignored for a couple of years, Jennie lost patience and visited the local cat rescue, finding an abandoned Russian Blue cross kitten.  He had one bent ear and slightly runny eyes which triggered a typically  "aww...." response from my Chief Executive.  Now there were 2.....  Thomas immediately bonded utterly and completely with Jennie and it's been that way ever since, although he does acknowledge my presence when he's hungry.  This is Thomas on the day we picked him up:

A little waif with runny eyes and a bent ear tip - awwww....


Like most cats, they have their moments of insanity.  Here's Thomas, killing the cat flap:

Pure insanity!

Before we retired and moved permanently to our beach place, they used to come with us at the weekends and holidays, loving it there.  So much so that they developed a 6th sense for when it was time to go home and would promptly disappear into the undergrowth just before we were due to leave.  Thomas did a runner for 5 hours on one occasion and nearly had to fend for himself or scrounge off neighbours until the following weekend.

A few weeks after that incident, Henry got wind of imminent home-time and sprinted up a tree on a steep slope in the neighbour's garden.  I managed to coax him onto a lower branch then lunged.  At the same time as I grabbed his fur, my feet lost grip on the slope and we both rolled down the bank, flattening small shrubs and accumulating a lot of mud and debris in the process.  I couldn't let go of  Henry as we were ready to leave and he'd just bolt for hours.  Jennie witnessed the whole sorry affair and was in hysterics.  Mustering as much dignity as was possible covered in mud and leaves,  Henry got thrown in the car; followed by me. The cats and I had to endure muffled sniggers for the whole 2 1/2 hour drive home.  After that debacle, we resorted to shoving them in a bedroom before packing the car for the trip home and an uneasy truce existed until we moved full time.

Thomas also enjoys a walk on the beach just behind our place and spends ages investigating the rock pools.  He's an 8kg solid muscle Alpha Male and initiated an unprovoked attack on a neighbour's Weimaraner dog once - highly embarrassing having to apologise for that episode!!  A couple of years ago, he dragged a highly ticked-off live pheasant through the cat flap which then proceeded to poop and flap all over the house.  Nice of him to bring home fresh food though although it's pleasing that headless rabbits have now stopped appearing on the lounge carpet first thing in the morning.  His alias is "Zarg the Destroyer" as we're certain that's how he thinks of himself.


Zarg the Destroyer patrolling the beach

Henry's much more of a pretty boy with fewer bad habits, although he does enjoy regularly ambushing me out in the shrubbery and drawing blood, the bastard. Maybe as retribution for the tree incident.  He loves travelling in the car, grinning out at surprised pedestrians and following motorists.
.
Butter wouldn't melt.......

Whether it's us or any of the neighbours, the cats always know that boats being towed back up any of the driveways equates to a completed fishing trip and they're there as soon as filleting starts.  They don't scrounge, just sit there with big, soulful eyes - they really know how work a crowd!

Orderly queueing for scraps


Inspecting a neighbour's Snapper catch!


Now, I've already mentioned that Thomas is the alpha male of the district but there's one cat who has totally got his measure.  This is Minka, our neighbour's Tonkinese.  She's 13 or 14 years old and diminutive but has such authority and class that she can stroll in and eat Thomas' food when she feels like it with absolutely no repercussions.  She has that famous stare which all females instinctively posses (hereafter known as THE LOOK)  which of course is guaranteed to make any guy's eyes water!

Here is Minka:

Minka - Supreme Ruler of the Cat Universe


So there we are, indolent members of the household who don't do any housework, are suspect in terms of guarding the property, and don't do anything else particularly productive.  Hmmmm... sounds like our kids before they left home!

Currently, it's around 30 degrees C (90F) and Jennie and I have just been digging up and stacking about 30 sq meters of small block pavers in the garden ready for someone to come in and properly level the area.  Both overheated, dehydrated and stuffed.  A cold beer followed by a nana nap methinks!

It's my last post for the year so......

Wishing you all a wonderful Xmas with all that you would wish for yourselves.  May you also have a magnificent 2011!


Pohutukawa - the NZ Christmas tree






Sunday, 5 December 2010

Bikes and Planes - a great combination

Some spur of the moment rides can often be some of the most memorable....
 
After having visitors from the UK for a few days which was great fun but didn't involve 2 wheels, I was itching for a ride.  Woke up early, decided to go for a blast, grabbed a shower and the heavens immediately opened - couldn't believe it as the forecast was supposedly for great weather.  Resigned myself to aborting the ride and doing something productive indoors, only for the sun to come out after a few minutes and start drying the roads.  An hour later, I was on my way.

Decided to ride to Ardmore airfield, south-east of Auckland.  Ardmore is the home of several flying schools for various types of aircraft and it's also home to the north island chapter of the Warbirds - WW2 aircraft or thereabouts.  You never know what you'll see up there!  The 320-odd km loop through the countryside to get there and back is almost continuous twisties with minimal traffic - what more could you ask for?


320 km of heaven!

 The intent had been to head inland and approach Ardmore from the south but travelling down the Coromandel coast, the rain which cleared from home earlier seemed to be heading across that way, so going anticlockwise and travelling north up the western Firth of Thames coast road seemed a sensible option.  Beautiful warm weather with a mixture of cloud and sun, deserted roads..... magic!  A quick drink stop in lovely Kawakawa Bay and then on to Ardmore. A Highway Patrol car was discreetly tucked away near a hedge along a tempting country straight near Clevedon but the officer was being lazy and not using "instant on".  My detector picked him up the best part of a kilometre away which saved any grovelling explanations to Jennie.

Kawakawa Bay - not a soul in sight

Arriving at Ardmore, what struck me is the completely relaxed nature of the place considering that it's an operational airfield.  You can wander right up to the aircraft and whilst there must be some degree of discreet security, it's certainly not obvious and long may it be so.

First port of call was to the far end of the airfield where the Warbirds hangar is located.  Unfortunately, the hangar was shut so it wasn't possible to see what treasures were inside but right outside, there were some Harvards and Russian Yaks being readied for flight.  Alongside them was a PBY Catalina flying boat, one of a handful still in flying condition.  A rare treat to see it close up!

PBY Catalina and Yakolev aerobatic aircraft

The pilots started walking towards the Yaks, so it was time to scoot down to the other end of the airfield to see them take off.  However, just as I arrived, 4 Harvards were taxiing down the approach and parked in formation waiting for their turn to take off.

Clearing its throat or practising laying smoke?

Formation lift-off.  Big radials sound magnificent!

Low pass before flying off into the wide blue yonder

Ardmore has a slightly genteel air about it.  A vintage Bentley cruised slowly past whilst I was munching a bag of corn chips.  I think the occupants looked down their collective noses at someone in leather eating junk food.  The occupants were in period costume - strawberries and champagne for them rather than corn chips methinks; perhaps in the beautifully-restored DC3 which does charter flights around the Auckland area.  The genteel atmosphere extended to the photo below.  It looks like an English cricket pavilion but is in fact the Ardmore Flying School

Caviar and a cigar before your next flight old chap?

Shortly before I left, an aerobatic aircraft came out for a bit of practice.  Hard to see in the photo below but they're tiny little things - more like a home-built than a serious competition aircraft. It had only rolled a few metres before it took off - power to weight ratio must be enormous.

Tiny little aircraft but really, really fast

Finally, I couldn't resist a photo of the Triple against what remains of an English-built Bristol Freighter transport plane.  Hard to accept that these were front line cargo planes when I was a kid!  They had clamshell front loading doors and were pretty basic in their construction.  One Kiwi pilot likened it to 40,000 rivets flying in close formation!


Old meets new - pity about the vintage rider on the new item

The ride home through the Hunua range of hills was magic - literally two or 3 cars in 50 km and also pretty light for the rest of the run home, perfect for behaving irresponsibly (well, just a bit).  Guess we have to thank the nation's wives for keeping their husbands off the roads and busy on domestic tasks before they're allowed out to play.  My turn will come tomorrow but what a great day today has been!



Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Definitely the last embarrassing photos

Well, Sonja and Bob in particular have come to the party regarding their old photos, so I'll throw in a handful more to finish off my contribution then it's back to the much safer world of motorcycles!  Bob, my Agfa Snapscan 1212 scanner must be close to 10 years old and works just fine, no software problems at all *grin*

We start off in 1963 when I was 16.  The standard school photo taken in the library at the local technical grammar school in the UK.  Passed (to the complete surprise of everyone including me) all my national "O" level exams and my maternal grandparents must have been especially surprised and thankful as they kickstarted (sorry about the pun) my motorcycle ownership with a present in the shape of a Suzuki 50!!  It was certainly better than going everywhere by bicycle, even if it did only have 5 horsepower.

 Oh dear.....


My other great love as a teenager was building model aircraft of all types. Here we are in 1965 (I think) with a glider.  Forty-five years later, I can still remember that it had a black fuselage and yellow lifting surfaces, even if I can't remember what I had for dinner last night :-).


Lousy clothing choice - a lifetime problem!

The following photo was taken in 1968.  Heavily influenced by the Mods (on scooters) and Rockers (on bikes) era in the UK where the opposing sides would regularly meet in the coastal town of Brighton to kick the living daylights out of each other.  Being a devout, practising coward; I avoided the antisocial stuff. Besides, our next door neighbour's son was a Mod and he was a cool guy!

White silk scarf, waxed cotton jacket, fur-lined flying boots - what a jerk


A very special day in 1972 in the county of Kent, UK.  Hair a bit long, but otherwise tidy.  Mother-in-Law definitely DID NOT approve of a dark brown suit with flared trousers and a cream shirt.  Never heard the end of it. The other person in the photo totally eclipses me of course.

A very proud moment

Fast forward 20 years to 1992.  Big hair and big glasses and a silk trouser suit were apparently the "in thing" for females. Why oh why did I have a crew cut?  Probably as an embarrassment to our kids!

Hmmmm..... one of us looks ok......

Still with an excruciating crew cut, this photo was taken in 1996 when on secondment to our parent company, International Paper in the Southern USA.  Judging by the "Do not Feed Alligators" sign, the relaxed pose was a very fleeting one! Certainly wouldn't trust the colleague taking the photo to give me any warning!

Absolutely no intention of donating a limb to the local 'gators!


That's it folks - laugh all you like!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Alternative 2-wheeled technology and other stuff

It's been a pretty good and interesting few days!  Funny how you can go for weeks without anything significant happening and then all sorts of good things occur in the space of a few days.  The burst blood vessel in my right calf has now healed to the extent that it doesn't prevent most forms of physical activity which is marvellous now that the warm weather has arrived. 

First test of the leg was going out in the boat for a spot of fishing with Jennie.  Gorgeous day but unfortunately, my lucky red shorts weren't so lucky as I had my line snapped twice by something big which had other ideas about being caught.  Everything else I caught was undersize.  Fortunately, Jennie is far better at fishing than I am (there.... I've publicly admitted it!) and she caught a decent Trevally and a snapper which made a very nice evening meal.  The leg handled the expedition fine, which was very good news indeed.


Jennie's Trevally


Heading home in perfect weather

We also had my old corporate boss come to stay for the weekend. John is also a motorcyclist and has a Yamaha FZ1 Fazer.  Since I last saw him nearly 3 years ago, he's shed 15kg and turned into a very competitive ultra-distance extreme conditions mountain biker.  Last year, he competed in a 500 km endurance ride across Australia's Simpson Desert in 40 degrees C temperatures and this year, another in the Great Victorian Desert; 587 km long, finishing 5th which is remarkable seeing that he's 57 years of age.

Anyway, he brought his hi-tech mountain bike, a Surly Pugsley with him. An amazing bit of kit, unbelievably light with huge balloon tyres which are fantastic for most off-road conditions in snow, sand or anything in between.  The wheels on this bike weigh virtually nothing and with spokes offset from the centre line, they're certainly a technical bit of kit.  I might also add that the cost of these bikes is a sizeable percentage of a decent motorcycle! I took John to the very top of the Coromandel Peninsula in the 4x4 and he rode 40 km back down the dirt road to civilisation which has some wicked hills at the northern end as a light training ride!  Here are some photos of John in some scenic locations.

 Up in the clouds - John's bike next to NZ flax plants  in flower

A long uphill grind!
 A long drop to a beautiful clear bay

Barking up the wrong tree! (groan)

John's visit wasn't completely social and without going into detail, next year, I may come out of retirement for part of the time to help him out on a project.  I'm loving the freedom of retirement but here's an interesting philosophical thing.......  most of us count ourselves fortunate if our bosses are merely competent.  John is a true leader as opposed to just a good manager.  An outstanding visionary, treats everyone the same irrespective of status, gives his staff all the support they need, energises them and gives them the freedom to develop and flourish in the job.  A rare person indeed and I'd walk over broken glass for him, even though I'm normally a cynic when it comes to executive management behaviours in big corporates.  How many of us have been fortunate enough to have had bosses like that more than once or possibly twice in a lifetime?

I've saved the best news until almost last - as of today, I'm back on the bike again....... YIPPEE!!!!

The month-odd of not riding since the 1000-miler due to the burst blood vessel in my leg has been very trying to put it mildly.  Depressing would be another and more accurate description. Didn't expect to find a relatively short unplanned break from 2 wheels quite so hard to take.  Well Sonja, we made it back onto 2 wheels at pretty much the same time but at least I'm a bit warmer than you will be!

 All is well with the world!

Even though it's only been just over a month, it was surprising just how rusty I felt and after just driving my barge of a 4x4 during in that period, the Triple felt super-sensitive and powerful.  Didn't do anything dumb, and practised situational awareness out loud to dial back in.  Sooooo good to be back on 2 wheels again and into my summer leathers now the good weather is here.  Besides, they make me look slimmer than I actually am!!!

Finally, Jennie recently received complete clearance from her hip operation this time last year which means that we can now make some decent travel plans outside the South Pacific at long last.  We're now booked to travel to Vietnam and Cambodia in April 2011.  Must surreptitiously look into hiring a bike up there!

Yep, it's been a great few days alright!



Friday, 12 November 2010

Embarassing motorcycle photos!

Like most people, we've got boxes and boxes of photos from pre-digital camera days.  Some are so awful, not even our kids will get to see them until we've croaked it.  Some of them make me wince but I'm prepared to make an ass of myself in the (faint) hope that other bloggers will be stupid enough to follow suit.


Me, in Dad's helmet and goggles, aged 5

I started motorcycling at 16 when my grandparents bought me a Suzuki 50.  I don't have any photos from that period (thank God), neither the 350cc Triumph which followed shortly afterwards.  However, I do have one with my 1955 Tiger 100, taken in 1966/7 at 19/20 years of age. 

Slim and plenty of hair - 1966/7 

Looking back, it's amazing how often I changed hairstyles and clothes - probably no different from most young people then and now .  Hard not to blush looking at some of them.  I think the following photo was taken in 1968.  Rushed home directly from work without changing for a photo and article in the local newspaper about my Mk 1 drag bike.

Failed attempt at respectability

At the dawn of the 1970's, clean-cut was out and hairy was back in.  The photo below was taken in 1970 at Santa Pod Drag Strip, UK.  The item I'm holding is a bent pushrod from the Mk 2 short-stroke drag bike.  The alloy pushrods didn't take kindly to violent cams and heavy valve springs but titanium replacements did the trick!  In the way that only true friends can have a sly dig at a mate, one of them reckoned that I looked like an extra from the original TV series, the "Avengers".  It's ok to snigger, honestly!

Ohh... the shame - 1970

The next photo is a non-motorcycling one taken in 1975 within a few weeks of emigrating to NZ.  Only noteworthy for the mid-70's male fashion sense (or more accurately, a complete lack of it).  Dear God, what was I thinking of???  The photo was taken at a geothermal area in NZ - I should have jumped in.  Anyone remember the Weston Master camera exposure meter hanging on my front?

The shame continues

The following photo was taken in 1987 after a decade and a bit without a bike whilst building a career and raising a family.  The Honda GB400 TT was an impulse purchase and Jennie was less than amused (an understatement).  At least it scratched the motorcycling itch!

Less hair and filling out a bit - 1987

This photo was taken in the mid-90's when I owned a BMW K100RS.  Our eldest son was very keen to own a bike and after a period riding a small trail bike on forest fire breaks to build his skills, his mother grudgingly gave permission for him to get a road bike.  Mercifully, she remained ignorant of just how quick those Suzuki X7's were!

Lyndon and me - mid 90's

The next photo was taken in 2005 on the edge of winter whilst waiting for the ferry to take us to the north island.  I was taking part in the Southern Cross round NZ in 5 days endurance ride.  Approximately 4000km of low-flying! Quite an experience, contributing to hair loss I'm sure.

My beloved Blackbird - 2005.  Now wearing spectacles to see where I'm going!

The final bike shot was taken last month whilst setting off for the 1000 miles in 24 hours Grand Challenge.  Only noteworthy because of a "full circle" return to the Triumph brand just over 40 years after my first one.  Oh, and one other thing..... considerably less hair than the early photos.

Over 40 years riding and still in one piece (more or less)

There's one non-motorcycling photo I wanted to include which was taken in 1972.  It would be hard to disagree that in most of the photos, especially the early ones, I look like a complete ummm... dork.  The subject of this photo most certainly doesn't. It's a genuine mystery with respect to what Jennie saw in me 38 years ago.  She's had a lot to put up with in that time, with me being an anal engineer AND a complete bike nut.  Can't believe my good fortune and I'm still unashamedly crazy about her.

 Venice on our honeymoon - 1972

Jennie - current date


Ok, so who is prepared to stick some photos of their early motorcycling days on their blog???



Friday, 5 November 2010

A Triumph of motorcycle design (not)

Modern Triumph motorcycles, along with most other modern bike brands are the epitome of good engineering.  The generation of riders who have grown up with modern bikes quite rightly expect high levels of reliability, but it wasn't always like that, oh dearie me no! Teeth-gnashing and loss of temper was a regular occurrence for the old farts among us.  At least we all became mechanically and electrically competent as a result of it all.

"Electrickery" problems were legendary and manufacturer Joseph Lucas wasn't called the Prince of Darkness for nothing.  However, it was a recent post about lubricants on a Triumph forum which took me back to the 60's when training as an engineer. Triumph motorcycles were my sole form of transport and as such, reliability was paramount to get me to lectures (and more importantly, the pub) in a timely manner.

Now, Triumph in particular produced some of the earliest oil-cooled engine designs on the planet.  At least, I'm assuming that was the main reason that there was more oil on the outside of the engine than sloshing around the internals, although woeful seal design could well have contributed!  The old joke about the first after-market accessory Triumph owners bought being a large drip tray wasn't all that far from the truth.  Anyway, I digress.....

Oil leaks aside, Triumph twins were pretty sound mechanically although there was one little device on them which had the potential to cause mayhem for the unwary.  Let me introduce you to the Oil Release Valve and Indicator:

 It served 2 main functions apart from the unintended one which I'll come to shortly.  The first function was as a pressure regulator for the lubrication system.  The second function was to visually demonstrate that the engine actually had oil pressure and wasn't about to lock solid and chuck the unfortunate rider up the road.  The photo below shows its location at the bottom of the timing gear cover on pre-unit construction Triumphs.  Later models saw it located on the engine block just in front of the timing cover.

 Location of the valve on a pre-unit construction Triumph

When the engine was running, the oil pressure lifted the cruciform-head screw (shown on the first photo) clear of the body to reassure the rider that the bike did indeed have oil pressure so that he or she could then concentrate on worrying whether the electrics would fail before reaching the intended destination.  So what's wrong with that you may ask - an enlightened bit of design, surely?  Well..... no, actually.

From the line drawing below, you'll note that part #5 is a piece of rubber tubing which slips over the indicator shaft to prevent hot pressurised oil from making its escape from this particular location.  Those of a cynical nature or legal persuasion will note the word "should" on the second line rather than the more reassuring word word "will" in terms of maintenance requirement.  In horse racing terminology, this wording must be equivalent of Triumph having a dollar each way, and with good reason.


The problem was that in the environment it worked in, the rubber sleeve had a limited life before it perished or split, pumping hot oil out onto the rider's right boot.  At least Triumph riders had one dry sock in heavy rain, which I suppose was the only (unintended) good thing to come out of an engineering cock-up.  A close friend and I both owned Triumphs which waterproofed our right-hand boots every 6-12 months.  There was no real risk of running out of oil when this happened as the smokescreen from oil pouring onto a hot exhaust pipe was a fair indicator that something was amiss, even to the visually challenged.

Why Triumph shifted it to the front of the engine on later models is a bit of a mystery.  To see if the indicator was actually working required quite a forward stretch combined with a downward focus - not exactly an OSH-approved riding posture when tearing up the highway!  Also, although an oily boot was a thing of the past, oil now streamed round the crankcase and the slipstream neatly redirected it onto the rear tyre, adding another interesting dimension to already indifferent cornering.  After a few decades, Triumph came to their senses and did away with it altogether.  Only a tiny component but perhaps indicative of resistance to change and the eventual collapse of the British bike industry.

Who'd have thought that one tiny component would have been the subject of a (slightly) tongue-in-cheek bike blog?

As an aside, I still have 2 pristine Triumph manuals which are an endless source of amusement, particularly in terms of their earnest optimism.  I may share more from their pages in the fullness of time if I continue blogging...