Mitas tyres for the X bike

mitas2With so many good tyres around these days, for each trip I try to use something different. For me that’s usually a trail tyre for the getting there and being there (Morocco in November). So far, in terms or all surface grip and longevity, it’s hard to beat the Heidenau K60s I used a couple of years ago. Someone told me recently that Heidenau is the modern iteration of the notorious Pneumant East German brand from the 1970 and 80s. Many a prematurely grey MZ rider will know what I’m talking about.

mitass1This time round I’m trying the similar, Czech-made Mitas E-07. Front and rear delivered to the middle of nowhere for under £100. That will do nicely.

Getting the old Tourances off proved the usual struggle. The Mrs had to drive repeatedly over the tyre to break the bead so it had me convinced there was some annoying, tubeless-style safety lip in there. Far from it, so you do wonder how you’d manage trying to do a tube repair alone out in the desert. It’s why I prefer tubeless and/or Slime. The less need for lever swinging the better.

mitas-leverBut when there’s no choice I’ve found tyre mounting is greatly eased with a pair of 350-mm Italian ‘Buzzetti’ Pro tyre levers. I’ve had my pair for years, as well as a little BMW number which is so old it says ‘Made in W. Germany’. Quality steel means both can be as narrow and thin as possible to help tuck under the bead, but without bending. In the UK this place in Buxton sells then for about £11 each.
The other thing I discovered recently is using Aerospace 303 as lube. It’s actually a UV vinyl/rubber protectorant I use on my kayaks, but lubes up nicely. Anything will do of course, but once dried, 303 gives a teflon-like slipperiness, rather than an oily or soapy film. Next time I’ll pre-spray the beads and the rim and let them dry – less wasteful that way. The blue things in the picture are home-made rim savers (bits of thick split hose), though they work best when removing a tyre. Going the other way there’s a risk of them being pulled into the tyre. That will not do nicely.

mitass4Despite all this superb equipment, a task that requires some application can produce a hasty ‘right, let me at ‘em’ attitude – or perhaps that’s just me. So much so that I fitted the front against the recommended rotational arrow. It’s not that critical unless I start pulling stopies for a living, though the tread pattern may wear better (i.e.: cup less) in the correct direction. And on the back I failed to give the tube a few psi to give it some shape so as to clear the levers – with predictable results. Oh well, all good practice which I clearly need. AdvSpec are doing Conti tubes for under £11 a shot.
It does remind me that familiarising yourself with the whole wheel-removal/tyre changing/wheel refitting business back home can save a lot of stress on the road. When you’ve done it once in the back garden (however much of a mess you made of it), you know you can do it again and are familiar with any required knacks or order-specific procedures unique to your bike.

mitas5Even with the 303 all over the front, it took a lot of pressurising/deflating/lubing/a run round the block and more repressurising up to 75psi to get it to sit fully. With that done it was time to do the 50-mile round trip to the shops as the larder was looking as bare as my old Metzelers.

Most of that run is a bendy single track road between mountain and loch (left) with plenty of hard breaking into pull-outs to dodge oncoming traffic. With the new E07s the Xcountry was transformed, reminding me how it ran when I picked it up less than nine months and a surprising 9000 miles ago. Where have I been? Since that time the bike has acquired a lardiness which I put down to the 10-15kg of extras I’ve fitted. With a steel subframe it adds up to 10% extra weight. The front end especially felt heavy, even after a Hyperpro make-over.

mitass8Seems it was only the worn down Tourances after all. Now that both tyres have round profiles, the 650 swung along that narrow road as if on rails. Cornering confidence was much improved and there was none of the new-tyre edginess that the ‘Catspaw’ K60 initially demonstrated on the BMW twin. Far from it; it just encourages you to push on towards the new limits. I did feel a bit of headshake at 70, but that could have been the strong crosswinds, the surface, the screen or just the fresh tread.

mitass6I imagine the chevron-bar ‘tractor’ pattern will work well enough on gravel, letting the tyres roll off small stones which will fall between the tread’s bars. In mud I’m not expecting miracles unless I drop pressures substantially. The depth of the centre tread – about 6mm front and back – seems less than the K60s. We’ll see how it performs on the road to Morocco where, as long as it was dry and you rode accordingly, last year’s Husky TR650 managed pretty well on the Dunlop Trailmax tyres. I expect the Mitas to be a bit more sure-footed on the pistes.


Posted in AMH News, BMW Xcountry, Gear Reviews, Project Bikes | Tagged , , , ,

The wrong kind of Adventure Motorcycling

RR-AIM4-1000I’ve written a new book. A motobiography called  Adventures in Motorcycling – Despatching Through 80s London about my occasionally badly behaved years as a motorcycle courier in London, thirty years ago. The book starts in the ‘sports moped’ era in the late seventies, before progressing on to despatch riding on everything from classic Brit twins and thundering Italian street racers, to East German mangles, demented dirt missiles and nitrox-injected dinosaurs. By the time I finished with that job I’d had many, many more motorbikes than birthdays.

sdidentityaxIf you rode bikes, lived in London, watched films, listened to music and had an opinion on Thatcher back then (as well as perhaps taking in a bit of rioting or protesting), you’ll find something to enjoy or wag a finger at in the new book. For a flavour of what it’s all about, scroll through the year-by-year galleries from those biking boom years which, among other things, brought us the great machines we ride today.

tinakindoThe kindle version will be out in early December (you can pre-order it off amazon now). The 300-page paperback is out in February. There’s a chance there may be some advance copies of the paperback before Christmas. Pre-order the paperback off my website. Free delivery in the UK.

Or, forget all of that and if the old eyes are still up to it, test your skills of observation in the Spot the Difference competition on the website to win a free copy of a kindle or a paperback.
If you do the social media then  s p r e a d  the word!

Adventures in Motorcycling is not a ‘how-to’ handbook


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BMW Xcountry update

msu-04In the last couple of months I’ve racked up a few more thousand miles in the X bike. In May I had a chance to test the new suspension on a heavily loaded ride to the Touratech event in south Wales. A twist on the pre-load knob on the Hyperpro shock dealt with 20kg of books with all the rest. The Adv Spec Magadan IIs I’d bought weren’t in yet so I lashed up some all-weather luggage using Watershed kayak bags of which I’m a big fan.

msu-03At the rally I met another bloke with an XCo who’d made a neat job of slotting in a Rotopax can. With a siphon, it’s not as handy set up as my Xtank, but it could easily be adapted to work just as seamlessly. This guy also gave me a tip about fitting a Booster plug to richen up the mixture and smooth out the engine a bit. Some days I think it’s something the bike could use.

msu-06I also had a ride on Nick Plumb’s Super Tenere (left) which had been blinged to within an inch of its life. What a stonking motor that is! The secret: 270° cranks for that lovely V-twin feel. They say the new Tenere may be based on the current Yamaha MT-07, 700cc, 270° twin (right). MT-07The MT seems to be going down well with the testers as a return to simple and cheap fun biking. new Tenere or something else, my next bike is going to be a 270.

msu-09The other bike I tried was some sort of AJP 250 enduro racer (right) with a bloke who interviewed me for TBM. We were up at the BMW off-road course, a brilliant venue with excellent traction and all sots of levels of challenge. That’s not me hooning about in the other pictures, but one of the BMW testers in full neck brace.

msu-tur1While at Touratech I fitted a Tuturo automatic chain oiler (left). For the full review click the link, short version: for me it the best solution to that necessary task.

After the event I sped off north through Wales trying to give my new springs a work out. The back ends works well, as you’d expect, but the refined front end (new Hyperpro springs and oil, seals and gaiters) has the effect of making the front tyre more sensitive to road irregularities. More information is good I suppose.

msu-19Crossing the border and filling up south of Glasgow a day or two later, I pulled away on a lovely smooth engine. I often get this with big singles and can only put it down to varying fuel quality, or perhaps a long motorway blast then cooling off? Either way, I knew the annoying big-single lumpiness would return after more docile riding. Maybe the ECU resets following in town riding? I have a hope that Booster plug will make a difference as this as, along with the horrible 1st to 2nd gear change, it spoils this bike.

msu-16I rode into Oban, parked the bike in a hostel and spent four days kayaking round the Slate Islands with a French mate who’d brought my boat and kit up in his car. When that was done, I piled my 14-foot kayak, packraft, and a whole lot of other stuff (left) on the X machine for a cautious ride up beyond Ullapool. Here I hooked up with Desert Riders Jon for an overnight packraft trek across the lochs of the Assynt. Very nice indeed.

I left my boats up there for later, then ferried from Ullapool to Stornoway for a run down  through the Outer Hebrides; one of Britain’s must-do rides. The CalMac ferry network gives you all sorts of options to return to the mainland or visit the other islands.

msu-24On Harris (left) I spent the night at the lovely Rhenigidale hostel, before riding back through the mist to the remote Hushnish beach (below right) which includes the odd experience of riding through the grounds of a baronial mansion. msu-30I then followed the single width roads on the west side of South Harris to the ferry at Leverburgh, but have to confess it’s had to get a rhythm going on such winding roads, even on a small 650.

msu-25msu-36North Uist’s lovely beaches led to Benbecula and causeways to South Uist and another cute thatched Gatliff hostel at Howmore. The weather was closing in now and next day’s ferry back to Oban beat through a Force 5 chop. Incredibly, from Oban I then rode all the way to Scarborough, a fabulous ride across northern England and the North York Moors.

msu-41Next day I diverted via msu-42David Lambeth’s neat Boston to make an flash inspection, then over to Norwich to pick up some cheap DRZ forks to consider fitting to the Xcountry or just keep for a rainy day. It was around here, tooling through the showers, that I recorded a phenomenal 108mpg. By the end of this cross-country ride there was a noticeable step in the seat where the foam had become compressed. But I’ve since found the wide seat remains comfortable for 400-mle days.

msu-69More recently I fitted the Booster Plug but can’t say the difference is huge for £90. Tick over feels a big less harsh, but overall I’m not as amazed as the bloke at TTech promised. The unit is dead easy to fit: remove the left side ‘tank’ cover, unplug a lead to the air box, then splice in the booster box while running the air sensor cable out to hang behind the headlamp.
The black box works by reading a lower air temp than in the air box, and richening the mixture at low rpm and on acceleration, as most modern bikes run very lean. I would hope it might also cool the bike a bit (had a mysterious drop in the expansion tank level but seems to have stabilised now). Next longish ride I may unplug then replug to compare.

I’m now back in far north Scotland and after a great southern summer it seems autumn is here already, but I can say the mpg doesn’t seem to be affected. Got a pretty poor 61.5 leaving London with loaded Magadans, but next two fill were low 70s, same as usual. Talking of which, finally got to use my Magadan IIs – as good as the old ones but better with the lower attachment rings.

Pre-Booster plug mpg (26 fill ups)
Best 108 – Worst 53 (both may have been miscalculations)
After Booster plug mpg (4 fill ups)
Best 73 – Worst 61.5

Now I have 11,111 miles on the Xco I’ve changed for fully synthetic oil. Next things will be a pair of tyres for Morocco in November and hopefully the VisionX 5-inch Narrow Beam LED.

I have to say I’m not really into the Xco. My feeling is in squeezing every last ounce of power out of it, they’ve made a sometimes harsh engine. And sadly all the necessary travel junk I’ve fitted to it has robbed it of its original lightness. Plus that gear change is awful at times the looks haven’t grown on me and I realise that matters more than I used to think. Still, rufty-tufty tyres may cure that, and for the Morocco tours it’s well equipped for the job.



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Tested: Tutoro Chain Oiler reviewed on BMW 650

This product was supplied free of charge by Tuturo

It’s not sprocket science
Iscrub‘ve been thinking that some sort of automatic chain oiler really is the way to go. For the long road there has got to be a better way than carrying a bulky aerosol that will run out in a couple of thousand miles, or the faff of a small oil bottle to brush on manually (right). O-ring chains are very durable, but that durability can be doubled if they’re coated in a near-constant film of sticky oil (and perhaps cleaned once in a while).

tur-scottoiScottoilers have been around since I started biking, but I never bought into the idea of plumbing the unit into the carb vacuum,  or these days, involving electronics. Why complicate things, it’s just an oil dripper! Do you really need a £200 piece of kit including a digital read-out (right) on ambient temps and G-force, when you can make your own crude manual oiler from a squeezy bottle? Fit-and-forget automation is great of course, but I prefer an autonomous system which, should it require attention up the Khyber, will be independent of other bike systems.

tur-osco1While at Hyperpro the other month, I notice an Xco there with the Dutch Osco system. It was a stand-alone system which was neat, but turns out to be a manual, ‘actuate-the plunger-once-in-a-while’ operation. Too much faffing to remember at the end of each long ride. At just 20 quid and not Osco’s £110, the Loobman is another manually actuated dispenser that is probably less hassle than making your own. And the word seems to be Loobs don’t survive rugged riding. And there’s the problem with all manual oilers: remembering to use them regularly.

A bit of research led me to Tuturo oilers who have the best solution for continuous chain oiling from a reasonable £45 with manual droppers costing the same as a Loobman. The auto Tuturo uses a balanced weight that responds to the movement of the bike and pumps oil accordingly. It might well resemble the ‘triple-axis turtautoaccelerometer’ that Scott mention on their e-system oilers, but without all the electronics which surely defeat the point of using free kinetic energy. With Tuturo, you simply set the reservoir’s drip dial (reachable on the move) at whatever level needed to oil the chain. If it starts raining maybe turn the wick up a bit. You don’t have to worry about forgetting that, as when the bike is still the plunger weight is at rest – no pumping occurs, so no drips. Once you move off the bike’s motion will set it off again. Simple and ingenious.

The Auto Delux edition I was sent came with the 100mm x 45mm reservoir, delivery hose, a variety of reservoir mounting brackets, a forked nozzle, zip ties and cable guides, the helix flexible tube, a small top up can and 500 mil of Tuturo oil. This isn’t just any old oil, this is a lushly blended, thick and sticky blue goo, just like you get from the best spray cans. As mentioned, the basic auto unit goes from £45.

Fitting the oiler
tur-15I fitted mine on the pavement in a bit of a rush, while flogging books at a Touratech travel event last May. On my 650 there’s a way of routing the hose neatly in and out of holes in the swing arm, but that looked a bit tricky to pull off in my situation; I may get round to doing that later, when I change tyres for Morocco. With just the zip ties, the reservoir was easily fitted to a bolt on the subframe down tube: out of the way but easy to reach and about 20° off vertical which is within operational limits. The hose ran along the outside of the swingarm using stick-on hose clips (right). They may prove to be vulnerable off road (a slab of gorilla tape over the hose may help), but months of road riding later, everything is still intact.

On the road
tur-07The latest Tuturos come with a rubber forked nozzle which I thought was to get the drips close to the o-rings and not just the rollers. It’s a nice idea but I guessed wrong. Due to unavoidable chainslap, my nozzle got damaged almost straight away (right). tur-vidHad I watched the latter half of this video, I’d have seen the forked nozzle is supposed to ‘bite’ either side of the sprocket at ‘3 o’clock’ (left) and well out of the way of the slapping chain. From here the oil gets thrown out onto the chain.
tur-08No matter; it’s only a bit of hose dripping oil onto the chain. Zip tied to the chain guard, I repositioned my single hose feed at the back of the lower chain run, just as it goes onto the sprocket; the place they tell you to spray a chain. I’m not certain it’s any less effective at lubing the chain in this position, and there’s nothing to get damaged or pulled off.

msu-tur1Setting the feed dial positioned at the bottom of the reservoir takes some practise, or it’s quite possible I didn’t rtfm properly. I didn’t bother priming the unit as that would happen automatically on the road. From Touratech I set off north for a spirited early morning ride across mid-Wales. I forgot all about the oiler until fuelling up at Newton in north Wales. Here I saw the reservoir was empty, oil was all over the back wheel and the chain glistened like an eel that had just stepped out of a steaming shower. With enough lube on the chain to last a few days, I shut it off then forgot all about it again as I rode up to far northwest Scotland (bottom of page) and then rode back to London via the Outer Hebrides. Finally, over the weeks and months, I’ve settled on about 3/4 turn out from closed; perhaps a bit more in chilly conditions.

tursideAlthough I haven’t scoured every corner of the internet to establish all the alternatives, to me the Tuturo auto luber is all you need to get the job done, without unnecessary complication at a reasonable price. My Delux kit contained enough bits to use a variety of positioning ideas and a pint of oil that is thick and sticky. If you run out on the road, motor or gearbox oil will do.

You can pay over three times as much for an e-system Scottoiler, or double for an Osco. I’m sure both work as well, but for my sort of riding and dodgy memory, simplicity combined with mechanical fit-and-forget ‘autonomous self-actuation’ works best. Good job Tuturo; I’m a convert and expect to remount this kit on all my future chain-drive travel bikes.

You can order the Delux kit I received here; manual Tuturo oilers cost from £20. Compared to the other products mentioned above, they’re all a bargain.


Posted in AMH News, BMW Xcountry, Gear Reviews, Project Bikes | Tagged , , , , ,

Hot weather riding

An MCN feature I contributed to about hot weather riding.

You can buy MCN digitally here.

Posted in AMH News

Gap in the adv bike market

Interesting post on the Idratherberiding blog about the possible new 700cc Tenere twin (right) to fill a gap in that part of the market.

Read it here.

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BMW Xcountry – Hyperpro suspension

Xcountry index page

smacbikeWhen I imagine a good handling bike I often visualise Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. Not the famous barbed wire jump which was actually done by a mate of his, but the riding he does beforehand while trying to outrun the jerries along the lanes and across the fields. The way he chucks that 170-kilo TR6 around on ordinary tyres and suspension, skid-turning with the back brake and sliding around but in control, always struck me as optimal moto/rider interaction. With a hefty old dog like the Triumph it must be down to skilful riding too, as well as a low slung machine, but if a bike can bring out that sort of confidence I’d be pleased with it.

My 650X wasn’t in such good shape when I rocked up at Hyperpro’s workshop, halfway between Erik’s Hot Rod Bar and the Hook van Holland ferry port. It felt like the head bearings were notching, and in the last 1000 miles the shock felt shot too. I didn’t feel like the Cooler King throwing it into roundabouts while in fact heading for the kerb. I thought oh well, I’ve finally lost much touch but at least the Xco is jolly economical and the switches fall easily to hand.
Bas at Hyperpro suggested I came over for a custom suspension fitment. In his experience, being there with your bike makes all the difference. Everyone told me I’d spend the whole day at his workshop watching him work and they weren’t wrong.

P1150346For weeks I’d suspected the head bearings were gone, something most noticeable at low speed. But lifting the front wheel I couldn’t detect anything and thought it might just be tension from the brake hose arrangement. Erik suggested cupping from the Tourance which was down to 2-3mm. With the bike yanked over, it took Bas a couple of seconds to diagnose the notch in the bars’  arc and which now felt obvious.
During suspension transplants he told me they get through a lot of headsets at the HP workshop. The Xco’s relatively elastic alloy stem doesn’t help in this regard, though Bas admitted his hard running BMW G/S (see below) eats a set every 5000km or so.

xhypertopcapI wasn’t expecting it, but Bas got stuck in and replaced my worn bearings. I still don’t get how this notching occurs; fork impact + wear + lack of care and grease I guess. Once fitted, he pointed out the noticeable change in resistance when tightening the 10mm hex headstock adjustment nut (left) by just a couple of degrees. That’ll need doing in 1000 miles as the bearings bed in.

P1150376He then got to work on my forks, identifying barely visible scratches on the chrome sliders which he buffed out with a strop and a file (right).
I’ve always doubted the genuine advantage of UPD forks. The best explanation I recall reading is that the heavy steel slider element sits lower for lower CoG, but then the alloy needs to be thicker to withstand the triple clamps and the steel is undesirable unsprung weight. To me they just look ‘upside down’ with a vulnerable slider out in the breeze.
It’s well know that telescopic forks are a regretable compromise on a bike: neat and cheap to make but with drawbacks we all learn to ride around. In fact I’m convinced a huge part of a GS12’s appeal is the poise it gains from its Telelever front end. To paraphrase something I read recently on adv ‘For a two-story building a GS handles pretty well’.

P1150379There’s only so much you can do to Xforks unless you replace them with something else. It doesn’t have to be anything flash either, Bas recommends a right-way-up fork from a DRZ400 which are easily found on ebay for under 100 quid. I just bought a set for £55 and plan to get them Hyperpro’d.

Once the sliders were as clean as they could be, Bas renewed the seals and cleaned up the bushes which run between the telescoping sections. He then slotted in the appropriate Hyperpro forks springs (left) and slipped in a lesser quantity of lighter oil (heavy oil is used to disguise soft forks). Bas explained why fork oil should be changed; not so much because it breaks down like motor oil but because it collects contaminants and humidity so needs flushing if you’re to avoid tedious seal failure. To stop that happening too soon, before remounting the forks Bas slipped on a pair of neoprene socks to protect the sliders.

xhyper-springsA quick word on progressive springs. Most bike springs are linear; wound at a consistent rate end to end. While some riding applications are said to benefit from linear springs (road racing on smooth tracks, perhaps), the main reason we get linear is cost, as with so much in bike suspension. Up to a point, the pivot on a mono rear ends adds a progressive element, and in the 70s twin-shock era it was thought laid over shocks had a similar effect.

xhyoper2springsAlso from the twin shock era, you may recall dual rate springs which at a glance look progressive, but merely have a more dense section at one end. Only progressive springs have a constantly variable spring rate right across their length. Because of this the spring can react to small surface irregularities, full-on hits and everything in between.
Linear springs can be factory wound by the mile and then chopped up like salami, but each progressive spring has to be made individually; it’s a more sophisticated and higher end solution and Bas had a good trick to demonstrate their efficacy: two little finger springs (above), one linear, one progressive. The purple progressive spring is easier to compress initially but, unlike the yellow linear one, is impossible to compress fully. Progressive compression in a nutshell.
Looking into suspension earlier I noticed the ‘P’ word bandied around disingenuously. Hagon’s aftermarket monoshocks claim ‘fully progressive spring pre-load adjustment’. Examine that phrase closely and you’ll see it means not much at all, but I bet a few have been caught out.

According to Bas, stiction is the nemesis of smooth suspension response and the reason many riders misdiagnose ‘harshness’. Of course ensuring friction-free operation while hammering your telescoping tubes over corrugations or flexing them under hard braking is all asking a bit much, but with careful assembly and maintenance, stiction can be minimised. Only then can the full effects of a finely tuned shock be appreciated.

P1150341Now for the shock. I’d felt the Sachs unit go on a recent ride up to Scotland. Perhaps the bike’s early life at the BMW Off Road School had included more than the usual amount of play jumping. It certainly had when I’d been there. The headlight beam now shone higher than it used to but when I tried to adjust the shock, the preload was maxed out and I didn’t even notice the rebound damping which was ineffective anyway. I’d originally planned to just whack on a Hyperpro spring on the shock body, but that would have been a mistake. It’s not the spring that wears out (though the original may be too soft for your needs, especially when loaded), it’s the seals and gas inside.

P1150409Most bikes run what they now call emulsion shocks, as that’s what happens to the oil and gas once it all froths up following a series of bumps. Much of the damping effect gets the lost until it all settles down and the gas and oil separate. An emulsion shock will be fine for regular road riding, but soon reaches its limits when you add heavy and variable loads and rough terrain.

dr-borderlands-mcAll these years I managed fine on my Teneres and whatnot, just jacking them up at the back and pushing a bit of sawn off bar end under the fork caps for some pre-load. The one bike I had with good OE suspension – the XRL650 for Desert Riders – was notably better than the previous XTs. Many times I’d get out of shape and expect to be going over the bars, only to have the superior front forks save the day. On that trip we all fitted K Tech progressive springs.

hyperpro461The problem had always been on the back where nothing short of several hundred quid’s worth of WP or Ohlins seemed a lot of money for an uncertain result. As long as it didn’t bottom out, that was fine with me. The fatigue and boat-like handling just came with territory when riding heavily laden travel bikes in the desert.

Bas doesn’t just invite you to lounge by the coffee machine while he whips a shock off the shelf and pops it on your bike. He builds the unit up from scratch, adding in shims across the damping apertures to suit your bike, weight, riding style and anticipated loads. I was getting Hyperpro’s top end 461 model (similar to left) with hydraulically adjusted preload (like the OE Sachs unit), 45 clicks of rebound damping at the base, and two settings covering low-speed plus high-speed compression damping on the remote reservoir. This latter feature is what’s missing from most average shocks but adds to the spring’s downward resistance and is what makes a big difference to fine tuning with changing loads.

P1150413Once the insides were assembled, the unit was charged with oil and the remote reservoir attached. In here there’s a bladder of nitrogen gas separated from the shock’s oil which feeds into the reservoir via the hose. A separate gas bladder can just as easily be located in the body of the shock if there’s room, though it runs cooler outside. Nitrogen is used as it’s dense and so less prone to leaking away, compared to regular air (which is 78% nitrogen anyway).
Once a location was fixed for the remote reservoir with its high/low-speed comp damping dials, the static sag was assessed; about 3cm felt at the tail rack. Sag is important as it sits you midway (more or less) in the shock’s stroke so it can extend fully before settling down. The whole point of suspension is to allow the wheels to move up and down as much and as responsively as necessary while the sprung weight (bike and rider) remains isolated and level.

hypershockAfter at least ten hours of methodical work, my Xco had been resprung. It sat maybe half an inch higher, though I could still get both feet flat on the floor. A quick blast round the block wasn’t night and day but revealed improved steering on the first bend; it went where I wanted in a predictable manner. Then a few dried mud bumps along the edge of a field got both ends pumping smoothly. All well there.
A 461 shock for the Xco costs about €950 with the optional hydraulic preload adjuster (much better than using the supplied C spanner). A set of fork springs is €150 plus €50 for a pair of fork seals. Custom fitment is well under €200 for both ends (not including head bearings). If you’re planning a day visit to Hyperpro you may like to know that the overnight ferry from Harwich arrives around 8am local time and returns at 10.30pm, so you can get Hyperpro’d in a day. I paid £220 for the boat with cabin.

Having no less than four adjustments on the shock is going to take some experimentation to see the best results, and they’ll vary with load and terrain. That will be something I’ll get to grips with in North Africa later in the year and who knows, I might find myself riding like I was being chased by a pack of stormtroopers.

In return for the work and suspension Hyperpro have been offered an advert in the future 6.2 reprint of AMH.

Other stuff I saw at the Hyperpro workshop
P1150354Though he’s a big fan of the early 90s R80 Monolever (the post 7 series Boxers), one of Bas’ bikes is a cool 800 G/S from the previous decade. Alongside a parked up GS12 you can see the different paths that ‘adventure motorcycling’ has taken over the intervening years. Actual GSbikesalesadventure and the other type. Where did BMW go so wrong? Well, look at the table on the right and you’ll see that perhaps they’ve got it very right. The 12 is by far the most popular big bike in Germany and many other places too, including the UK. But the Kawa ER-6 third? Perhaps they were on special in 2013.

505018991_jtcea-xlBas’ 180-kilo G/S reminded me of those ISDT enduro racers from the 1970s (left) from which the Dakar desert racers took their lead. His G/S has a longer swing arm, possibly a one-litre motor, forks from baswatera dirt bike, Excel rims and a mini tank behind the battery in the space opened out by the longer swing arm. Best of all, it just looked like you could take it anywhere you can manage with an XChallenge. In 2012 he did just that, riding with Walter in Mongolia and Far Eastern Russia for five weeks. Walter’s pics and report start here. Bas is currently rebuilding Walter’s tired old Xch around an Xco donor bike.

P1150369Bas’ g-friend Linda was also on that Russian ride with her Xco and when she turned up at the shop I took a close look at her set up. All the Xs in the shop seem to be running lowered footrest plates, (left), either DIY jobbies or made by Erik. Seems to improve comfort despite the greater chance of rut bashing. I may look into a set myself, as it’s easy to do.

P1150387Both their bikes were also running a 5-inch VisionX Xtreme 3 x 5w LED light bar as sold by Adv Spec. Narrow beam is the one to go for according to Bas; it still puts out plenty of light to the sides and is what I feel my bike needs. I haven’t been so inspired to refit the Rigid SR-M light from my GS-R, bright though it was.

P1150213One thing Erik mentioned the day earlier was that the flat upper face of the OE paper air filter tends to shake and sieve desert dust in desert areas. So even though paper works well, oiled foam cleaned regularly is a better way to go on this bike.

P1150368Though my screw on side stand foot plate was just a temporary measure added to a Wunderlich order, Bas was not such a fan of these as they come loose and fall off. I noticed one of the bikes had done a clever DIY job (right) giving the stand extra height to cope with the taller suspension, but it seems welding, just like I did in the old days, is the best way to do it. I now need to position a new plate carefully so as not to foul the shock’s reservoir.

P1150385All the chain bikes in the shop were running chain oil drippers and I finally concede this is a way to go and plan to fit one in the near future. For a job that needs doing daily on the road, a can of Wurth Dry lube is just too bulky to carry around and anyway, without a centre stand, hand oiling is a pain.
P1150348Among the array of fine tools in the Hyperpro shop was this Knipex adjustable spanner that uses grooves and a push button location to eliminate play, unlike those old knurled screw types. It looks like a very nifty general purpose too; I just ordered me the 86 05 180mm model off amazon for £34.

P1150335P1150380Talking tools, nice case on this XCh’s bash plate (right), though now I’m not putting a tank there my tool pouches are as good I’ve decided. And I had a closer look at a Mitas E07 tyre which is what I’ll try for the next trip, at least for the back. Same properties as the Heidi K60, but possibly better.

triscramFinally, talking of Steve McQueen, a customer turned up on a Triumph Scrambler 900 similar to the McQueen Special produced last year to commemorate the film’s half-centenary. Great looking machine, like most Triumph twins, but heavy and when I briefly sat on it it didn’t steve-mcqueenfeel right; seat way too wide. Couldn’t see me sliding confidentially around alpine meadows on that one. I’ll take a regular Bonneville or Bas’ elongated G/S.

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