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Houston, We Have a Problem - 9 July 2010
By admin (when...  09/07/2010 @ 18:06:46, Where Bike, linked 1292 times)
It started off as a normal Monday, though a little later than normal. I hit the road at 9:30 a.m., and after a short pause to fill up with petrol I settled into the 60 km trip. The weather was good, I had a leather jacket on but as long as I kept moving I wasn't going to get too hot.
The first 15 km are on the Via Flaminia: a winding single lane road descending from the hills and leading into the north of Rome. In a car you only need a small amount of traffic to make the 15 minute journey to Rome's ringroad into a 45 minute crawl, but on the bike there are enough straights to make passing possible, and fun, and the journey flies by. Pulling on to the ringroad, a big three lane affair that fluctates between a 160 kmh race circuit and Rome's largest car park, traffic was pretty mild and I switched into defensive mode, trying to spot morons out to kill me.

10 minutes on the road, coming out of a series of tunnels and just concluding an overtaking manuvre the engine revs quickly hit the roof and at the same time I lost all power to the rear wheel. On a manual change motorbike I'd worry about the chain having snapped (that happened to me once, with the chain wrapping itself round the rear wheel cog locking it solid in less than 3 seconds, but on the scooter the transmission is all down to a belt hidden from view behind metal and plastic. All I heard was a quiet snap, and that was it. Luckily I was heading downhill, so I coasted as far as I could: every metre I slowed down some more, and got hotter and hotter. As I reached a standstill I got off and started pushing till I arrived at a service station.

It was hot, oh yes it was.

I was lucky, I had just finished overtaking and was already in the slow lane, otherwise I'd have been stuck in the fast lane rapidly slowing from 115 kmh to zero with three lanes to cross. I was lucky that I only pushed the bike for less than a kilometre. All things considered I couldn't complain, but that didn't make me feel any better.

Calls were made, help was called for, and help did indeed arrive. I discovered something important though, a Yamaha Majesty 250 will fit inside a Seat Alhambra MPV if you take out all the seats in the car, and then remove the bike's screen and mirrors. And lean it right over as you struggle to push it in. Oh, I also confirmed that 340 Kg is a lot of bike, and pushing it up a narrow board is not fun, especially when it's 35° centigrade. Sure, if the engine had seized it would have been a lot harder, but if the engine had seized I think I would have left the bike where it came to a stop with a brief prayer and that would have been that.

Once the bike was back home, and I was fed and changed I started to remove bits of plastic, then more bits of plastic, and then bits of alloy. As I removed parts small bits of shredded rubber and canvas started to fall out and litter the garage floor. The belt had indeed snapped, and then the spinning variator and clutch had taken it in turns to shred whatever was left to a fine dust.

Yup, that was the transmission belt...

I dismantled everything slowly and tried to remember where all the bits went. I hit a problem with the variator, one of the four crosshead screws didn't want to let go. I tried penetrating oil, hitting the screwdriver with a hammer, and even heating up the screw with a paint remover hot air gun, all to no avail. In the end we took the whole vaiator to a local garage where the mechanic hit it harder than I wanted to and it unscrewed without a murmer. The rollers were not as much little cylinders as little misshapes with some flat bits and some curves, they needed changing too.

The new belt was sourced off the web, and it arrived after a day and a half. I also tried to get some new rollers for the variator, but everywhere I went I met blank stares and shaking heads. One local moped and bicycle spare parts shop almost came to the rescue. It was one of those family-run businesses from years past, complete with football scarves, framed photographs of a pope or two (one dead, one undecided), alongside those of pre-war cyclists who must have been black and white in real life too. To their credit they actually did have rollers, and the right size, but not the right weight. I asked the guy if they'd work, any slightly positive reply would have seen me buying the bits there and then, but he replied with a not so helpful, “what do I know?” It wasn't an honest “I won't tell you somthing I'm not sure about”, but rather a “I don't give a damn either way”. I expect that shop to have shut down in a year or so, with selling techniques like that...

Armed with the new belt I decided the rollers could wait, and I studied online guides to how to install the belt and put all the bits back together. Much to my surprise it all went back together without any problems, and I didn't have any bits missing and none left over! Of course she wouldn't start, and the battery died trying, but the spark plug was doing its thing, namely sparking, so the battery was charged up, and turning the throttle a few times got the petrol flowing through again (when we'd put the bike at an angle the carb had emptied). Back on the road all is well, acceleration is as smooth as it once was, and top speed is now up to 127 kph, better than when I got the bike. Good stuff indeed. Now I have to find new rollers and then take it all apart again.

I just love machinery...

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