Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The China Syndrome

I mentioned in a previous post the late supply of some panniers from China. Well they turned up the other day, much to my surprize!

To start off the quality of these boxes is rubbish!! Plain and simple! The shell is ok, it's just the way everything is put together. Mis-aligned latches, different size rivets. Paint, not powder coat, etc etc etc.

So, if you are in the market for panniers, then forget these guys. Pay the extra and get yourself some quality.

I did fit the panniers today and they look "ok" but I'm dubious about how long they will last. Time will tell.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Have A Dream

The Caponord is starting to look like a real Adventure bike now, however it has taken a while.

So far I have installed or modified the following:
  • GPS unit, (from Aldi, a really decent unit that is purpose built for bikes.)
  • Genuine Aprilia high seat, (cause I have long legs)
  • H&B Racks, both side and for topcase
  • Aprilia topcase. (Unfortunately arrived a bit damaged, but is fixed now. The nutter in Greece that sold it was a pain in the neck as well.)
  • Genuine Aprila heated grips. (You have to be comforatble right?)
  • Aprilia stone guard, from Alby in SA. (Good on ya Alby)
  • Ceramic brake pads. (A lot more progressive than the original)
  • Rally Raid, bars and bar mount. (This has transformed the overall feel of the steering)
  • Aprilia crash bars
  • Yamaha hand guards. (fitted, but now taken off, I need to modify the mounts a bit)
  • Dorsoduro indicators (The original will snap off if you look at them)
On the drawing board:
  • Carbon fibre sump guard. (I will have to build this myself)
  • Aprilia uprated fork springs. (Ordered, but not collected yet)
  • Possibly a camera mount.

You Gotta Ask Yourself....

It's time to go back in time for a moment and explain a few things. Why an Adventure bike? Why not a sports bike?

For most of my adult life, I have ridden Ducatis. Talk about a Love/Hate relationship. When they are on the boil, there is no other bike that gives quite the same joy. BUT, when you need that particular little part that costs enough to fund a Central American country, that's where the hate comes in. Still, sports bikes and particularly Ducatis have always been my passion. So why the change?

Ok, blame those two English guys, Charlie and Ewan. Blame my insane passion for the Paris Dakar. That however is only one side of the story. The other side is a parachuting accident that I had some years ago. My back was not coping with sports bikes any longer. But riding is in the blood, there must be an alternative? There is, An adventure bike. They are more upright for a start. The power tends to be less raw edged and the springs just a tad (read a lot) softer.

The idea of jumping on a bike, doing 400 to 500 kms a day, going places cars can't, seeing the world from a different perspective, this is what I call appealing. I had done this on a Ducati a few times, but on dirt roads a Duc is more than a handful. I need a purpose built bike for the job.

In addition, my first bikes before I could legally ride on the road were all dirt bikes, so there was some experiance with a "softer" style of bike.

My first ride of a big powerful adventure bike was a KTM 640. For anything on the dirt, this bike is a beast. On the road, hmmmm, too lumpy. Then the 640's big brother came along, the 950 Adventure. Love at first sight.

So there you have it, the reason why.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fettling Is So So Addictive

Part of owning a bike is changing a boring peice of transport into a peice of individual art. With this in mind and some serious practical points I started a metamorphosis that became addictive.

One thing that I never liked was the position of the handle bars. They just weren't right. A set of bars from the up-dated and uber-sexy Rally Raid model made a world of difference. They have better pull back, are positioned higher and are a bit wider giving more leverage.

A power socket was sourced from the local auto shop that be useful, but sooner than I thought. Aldi sold a lovely GPS unit that I kept on missing out on. Good Ol' Ebay again and I got one that had never been used and for a 1/3 of the original price. Now I can get lost - in style!!

I'd racked up (you will hate the pun later) some serious Kms on the KTM, and never had a good set of boxes for storing stuff. A set of Hepco and Becker racks off (you guessed it) Ebay and I was on the way. The boxes however were another story. For some stupid reason, storage boxes ( or panniers, if you like) are a crazy price and there was no way I was going to spend my fortnightly salary on a set. Time to make my own.

A local tool box manufacturer got the process started and to date I still haven't finished them off. I got sidetracked by a company in China who sells panniers and thought about a sideline in this rather lucrative business. I contacted a guy in China from a company called Edsee Industrial, but have still yet to see them. I actually think he has either gambled the cash sent or is taking a holiday somewhere. I doubt if I will every see the panniers on my door step.

(If you are reading this Cary, the local police will be looking for you soon.)

Time To Get The Looks Right

The standard fairing on the Caponord is rather polarising. Some love it, some loathe it. I was teetering towards loathing it. The later 04 - 08 model was more my cup of tea. The cost of repalcement Aprilia parts would make the job prohibitive, so I had to go hunting.

The first thing that assisted the transformation was a sub-frame that was on Ebay. It was the right price and local, so i jumped at it.
The remaining panels I was able to source from here and there and all up it cost less than $120. The only issue was they panels were all different colors. The local spray painter came to the rescue and now the Capo looks a treat. While I was there, I also decided to paint the "battleship" grey front guard. Now the Capo looks like a factory special.

So The Ugly Duckling Comes Home

I was back on a bike and loving it. The Aprilia Caponord was really starting to grow on me, but there were things that needed to be done.

The great guys on the AF1 Caponord forum gave me an insight into some of the small but potentially disasterous issues. There were two that stood out. The rectifier/regulator on the Capo is old technology and combined with two brown connectors buried deep in the bowels of the engine, they needed replacing. A CBR600 Reg sorted one part and a visit to Jaycar the connectors.

The other issue was the plastic fuel connectors on the tank. There are two that need urgent replacement.
This was completed with a minimum of fuss, until I started up the bike and went for a ride. A strange fume was coming from the engine.

Thanks to John at Motociclo in St. Peters (Sydney) a loose engine breather was found. John put this back into place and all was good.

The next issue was the rather breathless feel of the motor. I wanted to allow the motor to reveal it's true Identity. Again, I asked the boys on the AF1 forum and got a few ideas. The cost however was a set-back. In Australia, exhausts seem to attract a premium price, so a global hunt was on. Thanks to Mauro (Lineamoto) in Italy, I was able to source some georgeous Leo Vince rear mufflers. Fitting was a breeze and they look the part.

The first rideafter fitting the LV's was a revelation. Power was everywhere and the noise could only be described as sexy. Hmmmm Thank you Mr Vince. Now I have a bike that goes as well as it looks.

The Love Affair Begins

What did I want from my new motorcycle? Well it had to be a Dual Sport for a start. The occasional off-road blast, good in traffic (Something the KTM950A never was) and most importantly reliable.

I started looking around and considered the following:

  • Another KTM 950 Adventure (Quite expensive second hand)
  • A Ducati Multistrada (More a road bike than anything)
  • Suzuki DR 650 (Solid, cheap and reliable)
  • Suzuki Vstrom (Both 650 and 1000cc) 
  • Kawasaki KLR 650 (Pretty much bullet proof, cheap and reliable
  • Honda Transalp 650 (Boring!!)
  • Cagiva Navigator (Hmmm it's a Cagiva, that could be an issue)
  • BMW 1200 GS (These things are HUGE!!! and very expensive, even with high Kms. Also, not completely convinced about reliability)
  • Aprilia Caponord (What on earth is this thing??)

So I started hitting the pavement to try before buying. There were some good deals around with the Japanese bikes. I rode a few and everytime felt just that bit let down. Most were boring and had cheap finishes.
The BMW was out of the question, I just couldn't find one for a reasonable price.
The Ducati was nice, but would need serious modification for it to be useful off road.

Then one day I saw an ad for an Aprilia Caponord. Hmm, this is different. My partner and I went the other side of town and took a blue 2002 Caponord for a test ride. First impressions were not brilliant, but mainly because I was so used the KTM. It had power, but everything seemed in the wrong place. It was comfortable enough, but a bit top heavy. In addition, we nearly got wiped out by an unattentive driver on the test ride.

My partner and I went home scratching our heads. Then, the more I thought about the Capo, the more it intrigued me. I checked out the AF1 forum (Aprilia Nutcases, but all great guys) and asked a few basic questions. Was it any good? Was it reliable, known faults etc etc.

As it turned out, the issues were typically Italian, but not major. Electrical issues were easily repairable, if at times frustrating. The Rotax motor however was known to be a gem.

With that knowledge, I purchased the Caponord and took her home. The Missus loved it, the Neighbours hated it, and I was beginning to appreciate an Italian bike again.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The day the music died.

It was a cold June day when my KTM 950 Adventure left for Tasmania. The new owner was very pleased with his purchase, but it felt like a peice of me had been sold off for medical experiments.

The KTM was a truly awesome motorcycle and one that would take you to places not often seen by human eyes. However, one certainty in life is that change is inevitable and a new bike was to be found. But how could replace that which was simply called "Beast".

There was a brief period when I was motorcycless. A travesty, a sorrow, a time of nakedness.

The search was on for a worthy replacement.