On Tuesday 12 April, our would-be Siberian explorers got up bright eyed, bushy tailed and keen as mustard to get on the bikes and ride. A manic period of hurried preparations had got as far as a quick test ride of Ed’s WR and it was deemed to be ready. Just. Ferry tickets were booked and Dan and Ed met up in the glamorous environs of Clacket Lane Services to ride from there to Dover in convoy. Once on board, the time was taken to set a target for the evening’s riding. Liege in Belgium was a good three hour ride from Calais and it would require successful navigation of the Brussels ring road, possibly in the dark. That said, the target was achievable, and would bring with it a much needed sense of progress.
By the time two little trail bikes rocked up at the equally glamorous Hotel Formule Un just outside Liege, Dan had been suffering from a little navigational confusion and Ed had been suffering from something less expected and much more worrying. The newly adventure spec’d Biggspeed Yamaha was subjecting its pilot to a continuous torrent of vibration through the footpegs and bars – vibrations which had gone unnoticed in its previous, mostly standard incarnation. This was surprising, as all the modifications made would be expected to make no difference to, or to reduce vibration levels. It was too late and too dark to have a look at this stage, but a slot was allocated for initial investigations before departure the following morning.
So it was that on Wednesday morning, two confused and slightly sleepy motorcyclists were wandering around a vibrating motorcycle outside a budget Belgian B&B, grasping various bits of it and trying to locate a cause and hence a solution. Alterations to tyre pressures and rubber handlebar mounts made no difference, and it was decided to get the balance of the WR’s new shoes checked. For this, our duo opted to head to the Nurburgring in Germany to visit a tyre workshop that had featured in a previous trip on rather faster bikes a few years previously – it was on the route anyway and it would be fun to revisit the place, even on somewhat slower machines.
The bikes were loaded up, the riders were kitted up and the engines were started up. Or at least Dan thumbed his starter. Whirr-clunk. Try again. Just-clunk. Time for that back-up kick starter already? A quick prod from a booted foot revealed not a flat battery but an engine locked up solid. This was not going well.
The previous evening, Dan had been too spoilt by modern injected bikes without fuel taps to remember to turn his fuel off, and too tired or maybe just a bit too lazy to go back down to the bikes and turn it off when he remembered. The large capacity tank fitted does not use the standard Suzuki vacuum-actuated tap, but forgetting to turn off the fuel had caused no problems at all on numerous previous occasions. This time perhaps due to a long motorway stint before being parked up, a hot engine had maybe heated the tank from below and forced fuel through the open tap, via the carburettor, straight down into the cylinder? Panniers off, seat off, tank off, spark plug out. Leaning on the kicker produced a jet of fuel out of the spark plug hole and across the car park, which was reassuring in that it confirmed the diagnosis, but less so in that it also confirmed that all the oil had been washed off the cylinder walls and the oil in the cases now contained an unknown quantity of fuel. Further rotation of the stricken motor saw it purged of its unwelcome charge and on reassembly (which, naturally, was the reverse of removal…) it started on the button. In the absence of oil to effect a change, we’ll just have to call that fixed.
The journey to Adenau, the pretty and historic motoring mecca of the Nurburgring faithful, was more of the same for Ed. Even leaving the motorway behind in favour of the twisting tarmac of the Eifel National Park could provide no relief from the constant discomfort. Something had to be done, and soon.
As luck would have it, the windows of the Honda and Yamaha franchised dealer in Adenau didn’t just provide a tidy RC30 to gawp at – they also declared “Tyre service, best price in town”. This seemed a good place to start, so the vibrating Yamaha was parked up outside the Werkstatt door. Soon enough the wheels had been balanced, during which process a surprisingly large quantity of lead had been added to each wheel. This was promising, so a hopeful and expectant Edward set back off up the road for a test ride. The balancing had removed a low frequency wobble-component of the issue, but the intrusive buzzing of the bars and pegs remained. The afternoon and following day was spent on further experiments – removing hand-guards from bars, eliminating the rubber mounts from the new handlebar clamps and fashioning rubber footrest pads out of fuel hose. None of these, or any of the other experiments yielded a solution, so the time had come to make a difficult decision: continue for six months on the barely-bearable buzz-bike in the hope that some magic solution would appear, or head for home where various parts could be put back to standard in turn, until the problem disappeared again. By 4pm, the bikes were once again buried beneath piles of luggage and pointed westwards back towards Calais. By 11pm, tickets had been tucked into tankbags, and a couple of hours later, two weary riders were deposited on the Dover dockside for the cold, dark ride home. There was one more problem however. On the way to Calais, Dan’s left boot, along with the entire left side of the DRZ had been sprayed with coolant. Something was now clearly amiss with the cooling system of the DRZ, but in the darkness outside the two ferry terminals it had proved impossible to locate any obvious leak. It seemed both riders had some work to do in the next few days.
Daylight investigations on Dan’s folks’ driveway on Friday morning surprisingly revealed a cracked left hand radiator, realistically requiring either professional repair or replacement. As Suzuki value DRZ radiators much as others value their children, repair was the only cost-effective solution. Bagshot Radiator Services stepped into the breach with a welded repair for £25, though it would not be ready to collect until Monday.
At the Biggs residence, Ed was well occupied in the man-cave experimenting with putting components back to stock, making adjustments and trying different riding kit to match what had been worn for previous long trips on the baby Yamaha.
By Monday afternoon, Dan’s radiator was reinstalled with a better-than-new weld sealing the crack, and reassuringly, Dan had located a likely cause for the problem – there was a witness mark on the inside of the fuel tank where the tank had been resting against a hose clip. This was surprising, but thankfully the tank was not significantly damaged, and the bike was reassembled with the hose clamp on upside down relative to the standard Suzuki orientation, which provided some much needed clearance and would hopefully prevent the problem recurring.
Experiments on the WR were not so simple and progress there was understandably a bit slower. None of the stock parts refitted was a silver bullet and with the bike completely returned to standard, the time had come to experiment with a lead one – or rather a couple of thousand lead ones. The bars were filled with lead shot – the expected outcome being to make low frequency vibrations at low engine speed worse, but effectively eliminate the high frequency buzzing through the bars at high engine speeds that was making the bike unrideable for any extended period. The results however were once again somewhat disappointing with the Biggs-mitts going numb after only 40 miles or so. Efforts to de-vibe the little Yam continue.