Unfortunately I was forced to take the Quasar to the Eco factory, then ride it to Brno, in a thoroughly 'unsorted' state.
Steering Head Bearings
A ride down to the 'Motorcycle World' event at Beaulieu revealed that the steering head bearings were well shot and needed to be changed before Brno. I fitted the fourth set of bearings in only 25,000 miles. Figuring that I must be overtightening them for the substantial taper-roller bearings to fail so regularly I decided to leave them a little slacker than normal.
Fitting the new engine, gearbox and bodyshell had taken much, much, longer than anticipated and several frustrating weeks were spent trying to get the new engine to run properly. The fortnight prior to departure had seen me working 'til midnight or one o'clock every night to get the bike ready, but problems with the professionally manufactured drive shaft, and the arrival of the new light-weight Dymag wheels only days before departure, all took their toll.
The Dymag wheels almost caused the whole trip to be cancelled at the last minute. I'd had both wheels fitted with Avon Azarro 17" tyres and was pleased to find that the front wheel fitted perfectly into the Quasar fork, and that the standard Quasar disks fitted a treat, (once drilled for 10mm mountings). I then tried riding the Quasar with the Dymag wheel fitted.
The steering of the bike was transformed, (well radically altered anyway !). With the Quasar front wheel you shove it into the bend with countersteer and it drives round like it's on rails. With the dymag front wheel, (which was 16 lbs lighter!), you touch the bars and the bike just falls over on it's side without any discernable inclination to get up again. Clearly this would take some getting used to !
Taking into account the fact that the low profile tyre, combined with the smaller wheel diameter, was losing me around an inch in ground clearance, (not a strong point of the Quasar to start with), and that the new wheel was too small to fit the wheel clamp of my bike trailer without damage, on the day before departure I decided to err on the side of caution and re-fit the standard wheel.
This proved to be no minor undertaking. Although I'd only driven around 40 miles with the Dymag wheel fitted, the front wheel spindle proved to be immovable. Using a 2 foot long bar on a socket allowed it to be wound out around an inch, at which point some heavily gouged material was beginning to emerge. Having struggled with this for some time I was forced to abandon the front fork and build another using old, (and definitely sub-standard), parts. The brake caliper mountings had to be cut off the old fork with an angle grinder as the calipers couldn't be un-bolted with the wheel in place and, with the disks similarly un-removable, I fitted a brand new pair from my stock of spares.
Some six hours later, I had a new front-end assembled, got the bike loaded on the trailer, and had time for a few hours sleep before leaving for Dover in the morning, not a good day !
Arriving at the Eco factory at Winterthur, near Zurich, we unloaded the Quasar and gave it a quick road test prior to leaving on the 550 mile drive down to Brno. It was immediately apparent that I had a pretty severe problem, with the whole front-end 'hammering' heavily whenever the front brake was used. I ascribed this to either loose steering head bearings or the slack in one of the lower fork pivots on the replacement fork. Tightening the head bearings made no difference and I was forced to undertake the trip to Brno, over the Alps, without the benefit of an adequate front brake.
The problem remained with me for the whole week until the day we left Czechia for the drive back to Winterthur, at which point it miraculously disappeared. Apparently the actual cause was down to the new disks which had finally worn sufficiently to present two parallel surfaces to the brake pads just one day too late to do me any good in the competition.
On the trip to Brno was plagued by embarrassing starting problems. The engine would crank over for ages, fire once, disengage the starter, and stop. This was clearly trying the patience of my fellow travelers who, at one stage, were reduced to push-starting me down the Alps. Whipping the air cleaner off and shoving my hand over the carb intake, (manual choke!), didn't improve matters so it appeared to be too rich on small throttle openings. I was also suffering a terrible lower mid-range flat-spot which was causing great inconvenience while following the slow-moving trailers. Whenever we stopped everyone else would go for a beer and I'd get out my bag of jets and fiddle with the carb 'til it was time to leave again. I had this pretty much sorted by the time we got to Czechia and had no problems with starting at the track at all. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be claimed for the trip home !
I'd fitted a 5mm cast Acrylic windscreen for the event prior to our departure from the UK. This is optically the equal of the laminated glass screen I normally use, but is nearly 10 lbs lighter. I fitted the screen in a rubber 'U'-shaped channel and sealed the rubber strip to the body-shell with silicone sealant.
Unfortunately, prior to our arrival at the track, I had to drive 550 miles on the road and, (unplanned set-back), on the German Autobahns it rained, I mean it rained A LOT!
This caused three problems, firstly the screen fogged over so that I couldn't see anything except the tail-lights ahead of me, secondly the seal around the screen leaked where the two ends of the rubber 'U' channel joined, allowing water to run around to the back of the screen, further impairing visibility, and finally, using the wipers continuously for two or three hours resulted in damage to the plastic screen which, you guessed, further impaired visibility.
To make matters worse, when I fitted the new bodyshell I forgotten to fit guttering to it, so I was subjected to a constant stream of water that ran around the windscreen pillars and launched itself from there straight into my face.
The problem got so bad that, at one stage, I actually had to pull onto the hard shoulder of the autobahn and wait for Arnold to catch up with the Eco transporter, so that I'd have something bigger, and thus marginally more visible, to follow.
Next time I make a trip like this you can be sure I'l take my 'Rain-X', 'Rain-X anti-mist' and fit a blower under the windscreen !
As my confidence on the track increased, I found that there was a risk of grounding both stands through the tight bends on the circuit, (ie virtually all of them). This is particularly fraught as the stands are very rigid so when grounded they tend to 'bounce' you out onto a wider line. Winding up the pre-load on the Avo shocks by an inch or so pretty much sorted the problem but I was still worried about it happening if I really pushed hard. A break-through occurred towards the end of the second days practice when I discovered that it was possible to pivot my boot outwards on the running board and feel the approaching tarmac surface before the stands grounded. Suddenly it was possible to gauge how close to the limit I was and give the bike some more tilt without worrying about the stands digging into the tarmac unexpectedly. Having followed me around the track for a spell, Arnold suggested that I could probably dispense with indicators on future Quasars and just paint the toes of my boots orange instead !
By the end of the second day the left-hand stand cable was getting heavily worn down by the track surface. As I needed both stands in good working order so as to be able to secure the Quasar on it's trailer back in Winterthur, I removed the whole left-hand stand, it's operating lever and cable, resulting in a further improvement in ground clearance to the left.
Interestingly, (or maybe not!), examination of my boots as the week progressed, revealed that I was cornering significantly harder through the left-hand bends than the right-handers. This is probably the result of years of riding on UK roads where the camber allows greater liberties to be taken on left-handers. On the track, (which is, of course, pretty flat and driven in a clockwise direction), there's significantly more right-hand cornering to be done than left, a bit of a handicap for the UK track novice !
Having, at one point, spotted Arnolds distinctive 1200 Turbo Eco in my wing mirrors, I was driven to push the Quasar hard round the next few turns until he could pass on the next straight. Returning to the pits after this unaccustomed act of bravery, I was somewhat taken-aback to find the whole left-hand side of the rear wheel and tyre covered in oil from the diff.
The Quasar diff is a sealed unit, not benefiting from any form of breather. Inevitably as it heats up pressure builds up inside it. This can be sufficient to pump oil past the oil seals, through the centre of the rear wheel, and out all over the rear disk. On this occasion, jacking up the rear suspension had been sufficient to raise the oil level in the diff above the level of the filler plug, which had already partially stripped the corresponding thread in the alloy casting in the diff and thus allowed it's escape to the outside world. The local mechanics cleaned out the thread and bunged the filler plug in with loads of Loctite which sorted the problem for the moment.
I was particularly impressed that, whilst I'd been pushing the Quasar near to its limits, the Avon Super Venom tyre had still provided all the grip I needed even with a liberal dose of oil being sprayed onto it.
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Last Updated 7th July 2001