Thursday 29 December 2011

UK Road Numbering System

Ever wonder about the logic behind the country's road numbering system? The system was developed in the 1920's as motor vehicle use increased. In England & Wales six routes radiating clockwise from London were identified:

A1 to Edinburgh
A2 to Dover
A3 to Portsmouth
A4 to Bristol
A5 to Holyhead
A6 to Carlisle

These routes created six sectors eg sector 1 was the area between the A1 & A2. Any road starting in this area was named A1x, A1xx or A1xxx the longer numbers been generally more minor roads. B roads are local routes. Roads crossing sectors will use the lowest sector number.

Similarly Scotland has four routes from Edinburgh giving 4 sectors.

A1 to London
A7 to Carlisle
A8 to Glasgow, Greenock
A9 to Thurso

The system is pretty consistent but there are anomalies. There two roads called A594. One is the Leicester inner ring road and the other runs from Maryport to Cockermouth in Cumbria.

Then there's the Motorways........

UK road sectors

Thursday 22 December 2011

Featured Bike - 1952 Cyclemaster

The Cyclemaster was a powered wheel that was fitted to a bicycle to provided basic transport in post war Britain. The 26cc engine produced 0.6 bhp and powered a bicycle to 20mph (wind & gradient permitting, I suppose) This one was on show at Biggar in August.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Makin' Movie #2 - How it was done


The "bodycam" was something I thought up a while back but didn't use because it doesn't work on the FJ - you only see the inside of the fairing. The prototype is a piece of plywood with a metal plate attached. I found that attaching a camera to your helmet gives too much movement and to the bike too much vibration.  

Makin' Movies

In the past I've make on-board bike videos with cameras attached to the bike or my helmet. Today I tried using a "body cam" with the camera strapped to my chest. I did a short run to Eaglesham and onto the moor and yes it was as cold as it looks. I've added a music track because all you get is wind roar once you're moving.

Saturday 17 December 2011

War Horses

I was looking through photos of bikes I had taken at shows this years and found two WW2 army bikes.

M20's history

Indian Scout

Thursday 15 December 2011

Road Related Sculpture of the Week

If you have used the recently opened M80 motorway extension will not have failed to notice the striking sculpture erected beside the road. "Arria" represents "the coming together of the waters" the translation of Cumbernauld's Gaelic name "Comar Nan Allt. I took these pictures today.

Monday 12 December 2011

Featured Bike - 1931 Matchless Silver Hawk

I photographed this bike at the (rather damp) classic show at Glamis Castle this July. The bike was described as a 600cc ohc V four but it only had a single barrel & head. I had difficulty understanding the engine but research found that it is a very narrow angle V of 18 degrees, so the pistons sit in a "square four" arrangement. The single overhead cam has bevel drive.

Wednesday 7 December 2011


A rare Met Office "Red" warning for central Scotland tomorrow - wind & snow. "Take Action"?


Follow the rainbow and you will find.....a Honda?

Today at Loch Lomond

Tuesday 6 December 2011

CBF Problem No. 2

I did a short run today to check that the front brake was working and it was. But there was a loud "klunk" from the rear end. The chain? No, it was ok. The rear sprocket was moving about a bit though. The sprocket carrier bearing had broken up. By luck I had a spare and fitted it this evening. Do these things happens in threes? I'll keep you posted.

The remains of the bearing. I welded a bar onto the outer race to drive it out.

Monday 5 December 2011

Strange Brake Problem

If you are going to run a bike through a Scottish winter then stripping & cleaning brake calipers becomes a routine task. The CBF's front brake was becoming a bit "notchy" so I thought nothing of taking it apart. But when I put it back together there was something amiss. It felt wrong and was dragging badly. Inspection found that the dust seal on one piston was poking out. It turned out that a small chip has come off the caliper body at the seal groove.

I put the caliper back without the dust seal which should work for now (hard to test due to snow & ice on the roads) but I'll need a new caliper. The CBF is fairly rare so there aren't too many parts about. I checked the excellent EBC catalogue and this allowed me to cross reference the CBF's pads with others that use the same pads and thus possibly the same caliper - Honda 125 Varadeo & Kawasaki 125 Eliminator are candidates amongst others. I should find one on eBay.


After the rains; the snow. No biking today. I went for a walk & snapped this nice winter scene of Mearns Kirk.

Friday 2 December 2011

Featured Bike - 1988 Silk 500S

I photographed this bike at the Classic Bike Show at Stafford in 2005 and had a chance to talk to the owner. Silk make the 700S using an engine based on the Scott two stroke twin engine in a modern frame in the '70s. The bikes looked great but were made in small numbers and were expensive.

This 500 was one of two built. They seem to have been built in 1988 some time after the factory closed using a prototype engine and were prizes in a Classic Bike magazine competition. 

Wednesday 30 November 2011


I wrapped up well and went for a run today to look for the floods caused by the recent heavy rain.

The car park at Callander

Near Stirling
The road was blocked south of Aberfoyle - I thought I might make it, but played safe and turned back.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Featured Bike - Yamaha GTS1000

The Yamaha GTS1000 was the replacement for the mighty FJ1200 in 1993. The bike used a detuned version of the FZR1000 sports bike engine in a radical hub centre steering frame. The bike also featured early uses of fuel injection, ABS and a catalytic converter. As I recall it was sold through selected Yamaha "Omega" dealers. The bike was not a success and sold in small numbers for only three years. The problems were less power and more weight than the FJ, a high price, and probably biker suspicion of the front end. The bike looked quite good (right side anyway) but are very rare now.  

This one was for sale at the Stafford Classic Show. 
Hub steering arm & shock on left side

Quaint period launch video.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Tool Time

Rooting about in the garage I realised that I'd made a few tools for various tasks on the FJ and CBF. 

Bead breaker for tubeless tyres

CBF oil cap remover & rear drum brake adjuster

FJ fork tool & fork seal driver

FJ valve shim tool, shock removing tool & steering head collar socket

Monday 21 November 2011

Autumn Scene

What is this time of year called? Seems it's too late for autumn and the weather's too mild for winter. I'll call it "late autumn" and this pictures sums up the season. Loch Ard (past Aberfoyle) looking gloomy but mirror calm. I've made the picture monochrome because there was almost no colour in it.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Featured Bike - Triumph Trident Prototype (1965)

Looking like a mid 60's Bonnie this was the first prototype Trident.

I snapped this bike in the London Motorcycle Museum. If you are in the capital it's worth searching this place out. And search you will have to. It is located in old farm buildings now surrounded by housing in Greenford, Middlesex.

Current Bikes - Yamaha FJ1200

In 1993 I was looking for a big sports touring bike. I wanted a bike with good performance and the ability to carry two people and their luggage across a continent if necessary. That's when I bought my first Yamaha FJ1200 and eighteen years later and I'm still riding FJs.

Even after all this time the FJ still stacks up as a sports tourer. Ok it's not that fast by modern standards, but then when was the last time you had to exceed 150 mph? Yamaha claimed 125 bhp and that meant 105-110 at the rear wheel. An R6 makes this but the FJ is all about torque. It pulls cleanly from 2,000 rpm and by 4,000 you're moving. You can rev it to the red line but its more satisfying to change up and feel the grunt pull you along. Although the bike is an effortless mile muncher on the motorway I think the bike is best on fast twisting roads. It has good handling & brakes and it's always a joy to wind the throttle open coming out of a corner and feel the big engine power away.

The bike is also comfortable with a good seat, a nice riding position and a protective fairing. Mechanically they are fairly simple and there is good access for servicing & repairs. Parts are readily available and there is lots of bits on eBay to keep them going.

FJs are very reliable and durable. With little more than routine servicing my bikes have done 60,000 and 133,000 miles. I've ridden them for over 150,000 miles and they have never failed to get me where I'm going.  

Both bikes are fairly standard. Both have Givi racks. One a carrier for a top box and the other a Wingrack to add panniers. Both have uprated fork springs and front calipers - "blue spot" monoblocks on one and awesome six potters from a YZF750 on the other. The newer bike has been fitted with chrome silencers from an XJR1300.

My FJs
Touring in the Highlands

Sunday 13 November 2011


I don't know much about speedboats or their engines but I know a serious motor when I see it. This guy obviously believes that bigger is better! Snapped on a recent holiday to Fuerteventura, Canary Islands.

Big V8 motor with huge supercharger

Thursday 10 November 2011

Say┼Źnara FJ

This afternoon I gave my newer FJ1200 a good wash & polish to prepare it for its winter hibernation. I've been riding the bike since February but with the weather turning cold and the roads salty and mucky it was time to put it away until next year. I did a fair amount of miles - 7,500 this year on the FJ and, as usual, it never missed a beat. Over the winter there are few minor items of servcing & repair I'll do but not much.  

The FJ goes beddy-byes for a few months

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Featured Bike - Motus MST

The Motus MST is a high performance sports tourer currently in development and planned to be on the market next year. The bike has a 1645cc ohv longitudinal engine and a trellis type frame. The numbers are impressive: 160bhp & 500lb dry weight. Motus are based in Birmingham, Alabama and the motor was inspired by the American muscle cars. It must be hard for a new company to take on the existing highly developed sports tourers from Honda, BMW, Kawasaki, Yamaha etc but its good to see the Americans building something other than a V twin cruiser.

I like the styling

Motus V four engine

Friday 4 November 2011

Current Bikes - Honda CBF250

Have you ever seen one of these? I hadn't before I bought it and haven't since (except in Spain where they seem popular) Two years ago I needed a commuter bike after the my MZ expired and a used CBF fitted the bill. It was more cash than I intended to spent on a commuter bike but it was in near perfect condition and it reminded me of my old CB250RS. It's made in Brazil and known in some markets as the CBX250 "Twister".

The CBF makes the perfect commuter bike. Light, nimble, easy to ride, reliable. It is also astonishingly economical. 75mpg through town and an amazing 85mpg on the open road. It's not fast - 22bhp gives 80mph top speed with 65mph cruising. In Honda fashion it's fairly well built and totally inoffensive in operation. The engine is an air-cooled single with 4 valves & twin cams. It has a balance shaft that means virtually zero vibration.

Until recently I've used the bike almost exclusively for commuting but it can handle longer runs if you're not in a hurry. I went for a camping weekend on it to Cumbria and it made a capable lightweight tourer. I now use the bike as an everyday runabout and it's fun for runs on the country back roads.

The bike has the following accessories: heated grips, engine bars, a Givi carrier and a flyscreen.

My Honda CBF250

The bike is used all year round

Touring in Cumbria

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Getting Out and About

Into November and the opportunities for a good long bike ride become rarer. But today was sunny and mild so I did one of my favourite runs down the A76 to Dumfries on my Honda CBF250. This was my commuter bike and I didn't really use it for pleasure much but it's a fun little bike to ride. A bit of a culture shock after the FJ having about a fifth of the power but it goes well and it's a lot cheaper to run. 

The tolbooth at Sanquhar

Autumn colours at Drumlanrig Castle

Dumfries. Lots of water over the weir.

Dundrennan Abbey