Motolombia – Colombia Motorcycle tours … on a Rally-Raid!

Occasionally I get emails asking for info or help and I’m more than happy to assist if I can. Frankly, I’m flattered that people think I have something to offer. The other day, Mike from Motolombia contacted me about his Rally-Raid ‘Bella Donna’ ………. and frankly, it knocked me for six! For the past couple of years or so, I’ve followed the adventures of Mike and ‘Bella Donna’ – their highs and lows as he travelled extensively, finally planting roots in Columbia. Now married with two children he’s the owner and driving force behind Motolombia Adventure Motorcycle Tours.

It’s been a real delight for me to make this connection across the continents and I hope that if all things work out, next year I can visit Columbia and we can sink a cold beer or two. Mike and ‘Bella Donna’ have proved beyond a doubt that the Aprilia Caponord is as capable as any bike out there at this over-landing lark. Please, take a moment and have a look at his site – especially the videos. What a beautiful country! www.motolombia.wordpress.com

Quill Exhausts – new straps in a Jiffy!

It’s nice to write something positive especially when it’s a British company involved! Some of you may remember that I didn’t have the best of dealings with Quill Exhausts in 2009. Well last month I contacted them again by email and this time – wow, what a difference! I enquired about a new silencer strap as I lost one and have been using a flimsy ‘universal’ one since. In the end I got two …… free ….. yes, free! Just send a pre-paid jiffy bag and we’ll have them in the return post, I was told … and sure enough, a couple of days later they arrived. So firstly, thank you James at Quill Exhausts for your exemplary customer service and quick email replies, I’m very impressed, thank you. And secondly, thank you to Jim Smith (Abbey Motorcycle Instructors) for sending the Jiffy bag on my behalf, you sir are a star!!

RecReg takes poll position

Ok folks, with over 80 votes on the poll – ‘What part(s) have you had fail on your Caponord’ – I’ve decided to close it and publish a new one. So firstly a big thank you to each and everyone of you that took the time to participate, I really appreciate it. Click on the image to get a better view of the list.

Well the data certainly mirrors the perception I get from hanging around the AF1 forum … no big surprise then what the top 5 causes of vanishing bank balances and roadside tears are;

•RecReg • Coils&leads • fuel connects • wheel bearings • instrument panel •

I was surprised that the clutch slave cylinder seal and starter solenoid didn’t appear to score very high … maybe they are not so prone to fail as I’d thought. Mind you, I still carry spares in the tool kit just in case! Other items listed include a couple of the ‘Y’ coolant hose, a couple of rear shock failures – including the nitrogen unit on the RR shock (gulp!) and a head gasket! In fact that’s the only engine failure listed …. that Rotax engine is most definitely bullet-proof , especially in the de-tuned Capo version.

So all in all, we can quite rightly blame the Italian electrics for most of our woes, or can we? The RecReg is made in Japan, the coils in France, the brown connectors in ……. well do I need to go on? Ok, the Italians connected them all together with a less than perfect wiring loom, but hey, it’s what gives the Capo character right?

So on to the next poll ….. are you a weekend-wonder or a four seasons mile-muncher, does your Capo spend more time on the center stand than wearing out its tyres? Go on, let us know what mileage your Capo has racked up over the years!

The Nautilus pays for itself!

Years ago I was reversed into …… a HGV stopped on a main A road, we and the traffic behind us stopped as well. Then he reversed. Instinct 1 – horn, instinct 2 – bale out, or be crushed. As accidents go, being reversed into is quite a slow affair, time enough then to process the outcome, time enough to let the dread take hold. My step father and I were lucky, trapped by the car behind with nowhere to go, a quick thinking German jumped the line of traffic and drove alongside the tractor unit with his horn blaring.

Role on to yesterday ……. heading back home on the heavily laden Capo. I take a right turn onto a decent section of road I know well. Ahead is a HGV. He’s moving at a reasonable speed and I’m in no hurry, so I settle on the crown of the road about 100m behind. In about 2Km I’m turning left (pic. above), about 75% of traffic turns there …. So it’s quite conceivable this chap will as well. In my mind I’m setting up for the overtake once we’ve settled down after the turn.

We approach the junction doing about 70Kmh and his left indicator starts flashing. A second later I indicate as well. He starts braking and I back off the gas. I’m thinking he’ll shave off 20-30Kmh to make the turn. As you can see from the picture above, it’s a wide open junction with good visibility.

Then things rapidly unravel.

I’m still at the crown of the road, so I can see his mirror clearly …. And the fact that he’s scrubbing off way more speed than I’d anticipated – he’s stopping! I’m now about 30m behind.

He stops …. I stop about 15m behind, in clear view of his mirror. He’s still indicating left.

Then it happens. The engine revs, the reversing lights go on and with a lurch he’s accelerating backwards towards me.

It takes 0.7 seconds to process and react so they say.

14m, 12m, 10m ……..my thumb hits the horn button …… and the Stebel Nautilus sings out. It echoes off the back of the truck and floods through my earplugs, it gets the job done. Sleeping Beauty is awoken from his afternoon siesta by the 139db kiss on his delicate eardrums.

And just like that, the situation is defused, my pulse falls as I ride away and I realise my tongue is well and truly stuck to the top of my desert-dry mouth. The weak knees and tremors take a bit longer to fade away.

Why this muppet did what he did I have no idea, the nearest entrance behind us was about 400m and anyway, the junction is so spacious and quiet he could have turned around easily. I guess I’ll never know what thought was crossing that barren wasteland called his brain.

The question is, would the situation have had the same outcome if I hadn’t recently fitted the Nautilus …..

Joe 1997 – 2011

Those of you that knew us in the UK, or have visited us here in Italy, could not have missed Joe, our venerable old cat-about-the-house. For 14 years he’d lived comfortably, only picking up a couple of minor battle scars along the way. For the past 4 years he’s enjoyed his daily wanderings into the valley, snoozing on the bed or inspecting my handiwork whenever I ventured into the barn.

On Sunday as I returned home on the Capo, I saw him lying near one of his shaded resting places … but I could tell it wasn’t good. His time had come, it was natures way …. but we miss him terribly.

Colour wiring diagrams

It’s not often these days that something really useful comes along, but Chris Elms has pulled one out of the bag! He recently popped over to the AF1 Caponord forum and quietly dropped off two wiring diagrams. Nothing new you might think – we’ve had wiring diagrams with the workshop manuals for years.

But these are different, in all the right places …. Chris has reworked them with all the wires now in color, extra technical details added and above all – layers!  The ability to select or deselect sections of the wiring loom, making it much clearer and easier to trace specific wires. That feature alone is worth a King’s ransom, absolutely brilliant. You need Adobe Reader to open the files (PDF) or a program cabable of opening that file type. If your browser is able, view the standard or ABS versions here, or download them from the menu bar.

Chris has kindly given Moto-Abruzzo permission to host his wiring diagrams. Thanks again Chris!!

Brew ha-ha!

I’ve written before about the good and bad points of the Aprilia (Rimowa) panniers, but one of the niggles I never mentioned was the carry handle on the lid. I never use it and the damn thing gets in the way.

So after a happy couple of hours cutting, sanding and drilling … they’ve been replaced by a nice piece of checker plate. A vast expanse of flat surface on which to make a brew and sort out my sarnies and nibbles. Smashing stuff!

Now I’m looking for a set of ‘pannier-top’ bags to finish off the job … bags to put the afore mentioned sarnies and tea brewing paraphernalia into. No more unstrapping panniers to delve inside for munchy stuff, it’ll all be on hand at the ‘zzzz‘ of a zip ….

Just call me ‘Hornblower’!

As an Bike Instructor I’m almost daily pointing out what the Highway Code has to say about the horn:- It’s ‘there to alert others of your presence’. In other words, use it if necessary to avoid a developing hazard becoming a major incident.

When something affects your safety, real or perceived … give a quick double tap of the horn! One long blast just puts peoples backs up, it’s aggressive, a double tap of the button can be an ‘Oi I’m here!’ as much as a ‘Hello, haven’t seen you in a while’ …. it’s ambiguous and inoffensive, but gets attention none the less. It’s a tool – use it if it’s going to help!!!

This is all well and good, if you happen to have a decent horn that is……

So the other afternoon,  there I am, cheerfully taking avoiding action with my thumb jammed on the horn button as my right knee is tickling the driver’s door handle of a VW Golf that not only didn’t stop for a Stop sign …. but jumped the junction at a paint-peeling pace to boot. Not only did she not look, she’s still sublimely oblivious to the impending 350Kg  of lap-Capo heading her way!

In amongst the swerving, braking and tutting …. I realised that the tooting element  wasn’t doing much in the way of attracting attention. Sad to say the toot was more like an ants asthmatic wheeze. My fault really, I said it back in 08 and I’ll say it again, the damn horn that Aprilia fitted has to go!

Back in the relative calm of the barn, I reflect on the moments entertainment and vow by Beelzebub’s butt, I’m not having that happen again in a hurry. I want the horn replaced, improved – something more blessed with decibels. Not quite a wall breaker, more a bowel shaker! There is it turns out, but one horn that fits the bill ….. the fearsome Stebel Nautilus.

So a ‘Nautilus Compact tuning’ in black is ordered from Fleabay and I set about making mounting brackets to fit it where the ABS unit would go if I had ABS, which I don’t. It fits nice and snug in the space below the relays and coils, behind the rear suspension unit and seems to be pretty well shielded from road crap. The existing Grey horn wire behind the headlight, is tapped into, shielded and run back to the new relay. Yes, the horn needs a relay to operate as it draws 18A … that’s a toasty 216w … or 10 sets of heated grips worth of electricity to you sir! And yes, before you ask – it’s protected with a waterproof 20A fuse. So now the existing horn and the new one work in parallel … if one fails, I have a backup!

Of course I’m biased, I think it’s better … but the real test ladies and gentlemen, the definitive before and after toot-test, is for you to decide.  Place your ear close to the speaker … closer than that, close your eyes and concentrate. Can you, discerning listener, tell the difference?

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/160.153.137.218/f62.25a.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Stebel-Nautilus-Compact.mp3|titles=Std Horn V Stebel Nautilus Compact]

Reasons to be cheerful ….. pt3

A tickle round the mountain, five logged files and two and a half hours of logging later …. it’s no longer a work in progress, it’s a runner!

It may only be a couple of weeks ago that this little project kicked off, but for the life of me, I can’t quite remember why I started, or in fact where I really thought it would lead. So I guess this is most definitely a natural end to this part in the development cycle. It starts, stops, logs and displays more than I originally intended. I guess there’s nothing more to do except get logging!

As for the other stuff on my wish list ….. well the aquisition of external info such as speed (measured not GPS), brake line pressure and gear position may well be handled by this little device. 8 x 5v analogue inputs should be fine … all looks fairly straight forward in the instruction book anyway. We’ll see!

So what have I learned from the data so far? Firstly, the air intake temperature is a fairly consistent 15ºC above the ambient air temp at all times – higher when the bike’s in stop-start traffic ….. all very power-sapping. Secondly … truthfully there isn’t a secondly just yet, but what I’m interested in looking at on the next couple of runs, is the barometric (air pressure) data. It’s measured in the airbox and with the restrictive ‘snorkel’ in place I’m expecting to see a drop in pressure at high RPM/throttle opening …. but will the data bear this out? And how much will it fluctuate by?

Caponord Datalogger Pt2

Wow what a whirlwind learning curve the last two days have been. Thanks to a Brain that (unusually) suffered the minimum of ‘Blue Screens’ and a patient wife who put up with all the muttering, mumbling and furtive running to and fro I now have a datalogger that is receiving info from the GPS and adding it to the log.

No doubt, chicken feed – a mere stroll in the park to any reading programmers …. me, I’ve taken out a lifelong subscription for Anadin! So, deep breath, sink a beer and pencil out the next step ……. I’m starting to get a liking for this digital-crochet lark!

I’ll try and get a snippet of video to post up so you can see it working ….. or crashing, whatever it decides!