Manic Motorcycle Monday

What a strange Bank Holiday. Ross (

) and I, having done a bike trip to the Cotswolds yesterday in pouring rain, planned to take a spin to Kington in Herefordshire today.

Kington is near a personal site of special rock pilrimege to me, i.e. Hergest Ridge, and The Beacon (now a guest house), where Mike Oldfield lived and recorded two of his (IMHO) finest albums, Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn in 1974/75. I was planning on going there today and Ross seemed up for the jaunt as a way to further break in his new sparkly KTM Superduke before our trip to God’s Own County next weekend.

In the event, I got round to Ross’ house at just after 08:00 this morning in the pouring rain. Having got soaked yesterday during our excursion to the Cotswolds, Ross had suggested a backup plan of sorting out our (or more specifically my) Autocom bike communication equipment, which has been a little problematic recently and we decided to go for that and see if the weather improved as the day went on.

Having tried various things, swapping out bits of my Autocom for bits of Ross’ Autocom, we slowly worked our way through the various components to try to isolate the problematic part. Initially, having swapped things around, Ross suggested that the problem might just be water in the contacts in the lead that connects the helmet to the Autocom, so we sprayed the contacts with ACF 50 anti-corrosion water-repellent magic solution.

We plugged everything back in, Ross got all togged up to go and then, as we were about to leave, the horrible buzzing appeared in my ear again. Ross took off his helmet, earphones, jacket, neck warmer and we went back to trouble-shooting…

After much more swapping of components, we finally discovered that the problem was the combined Autocom microphone and headset lead which sits inside the helmet. I had recently bought the new mic and headset for my new helmet and, since I use my own earphones, had cut the earsets that come with the Autocom part out and very carefully taped them up. What I failed to notice, was that the new versions of this part have the + and – lead in one, with one running down the core and the other around the outside. When I cut the lead and taped it up, some strands must have remained in proximity and Ross realised that this was the problem.

So, he did a good job on insulating the cable. We plugged everything back together, got ready to go and I started my bike… except that it didn’t start. Having spent approximately four and a half hours trying to get the Autocom working okay, we’d drained the battery on the bike. That was probably down to the headlights being on while we were testing things (you can’t turn them off on the CBF-1000, or any new bikes come to that). Ross took off his helmet, earphones, jacket, neck warmer and we went back to trouble-shooting…

Out comes the world’s biggest generator to kick-start the battery and off we go. After a couple of attempts, the bike sprang to life and then Ross vanished behind a 1930s style Flash Gordon explosion of sparks and the bike stopped. Apparently, he’d accidentally clipped a piece of metal he thought was plastic. The good news is, he survived. We had another cup of tea while the battery was quick-charging.

Having refreshed ourselves, we went back to the bikes and started them up. No problem, except that my Kenwood transceiver wasn’t working… and nor was my Zumo 550 satnav unit. Ross took off his helmet, earphones, jacket, neck warmer and we went back to trouble-shooting…

The Kenwood was easy to fix. Turn it on! Durrr! The Zumo was less easy. Even out of its cradle, running on its own batteries it wasn’t starting. I cursed myself for being stupid enough to leave it plugged in while we were shocking the bike back to life. I asked Ross if I could borrow his web access to check the Zumo forums for any advice. He could tell that my mind was on the potentially dead (and not especially cheap) Zumo. The WWW saved the day. Someone on the forum reported the same problem and said that they had managed to restart the Zumo by pressing the power button and then the + button thrice. I tried that and nothing happened. Then I pressed the power button again and the unit sprang to life. Huzzah and a big sigh of relief!

By this time, we had ruled out the run to Kington and decided to go for a quick potter round. It ended a little quicker than we had hoped when I failed to follow half of the planned route, but nevertheless, we had finally got out on the bikes.

The good news is that all if hunky-dory. I phoned Emma from the Zumo on the way home and the audio signal was great. The Zumo was playing MP3s at a very good volume level and the intercom side of things worked like a dream. So at least we’re ready for the run up to North Yorkshire next weekend.

Here’s hoping for good weather!

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