L’Autodromo del Gran Sasso

L'Autodromo del Gran Sasso - Teramo, Abruzzo, ItaliaAbout 70Km North West lies San Mauro di Montorio al Vomano in the provice of Teramo, who’s inhabitents it seems have voted 61% in favour of a race track being built! L’Autodromo del Gran Sasso will occupy an area of 500,000m² and have a track length of 4.2Km with 13 bends. The 13m wide track will have two straights, one of 810m (300Kmh) and the other 510m (260Kmh) in length, these it seems are to meet with the requirements of Formula 1 and MotoGP. It will also have a paddock of 66,000m² comprising 36 garages of 66m² each. That’s the spec anyway ………… but will it ever get built? 😕

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All teeth aren’t equal!

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid Sunstar 16T front sprocketA good few year back when I had a Triumph Trophy 1200, I had an issue of excessive noise from the chain/sprockets – especially on the over-run. They were almost new and as far as I could tell, it was correctly tensioned. It drove me mad for a week or so, until I decided to try changing out the front sprocket, why I can’t remember, but it worked.

Now the same issue has raised its head on the Capo. The Sunstar front sprocket was fitted at the same time as the chain/rear sprocket, so about 3,500 miles ago give or take. Gradually I began to get a noise – mostly on the over-run that progressively got louder as the miles piled up. Once again, chain tension was fine, the slipper block in perfect condition – no obvious reason for the noise. What had changed?

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid front sprocket - Renthal & SunstarThe only difference I could think of is the make of sprocket. I’ve always used Renthal since I got the Capo, so the Sunstar was a step away from what I know and trust. Back to a Renthal 407-525-16P it is then.

And …….. all the noise has gone! Yes a good run around yesterday afternoon including annoying the hell out of an R1200GS rider desperate to give me the slip, proved once and for all that the Sunstar was the culprit. It certainly makes me think that the profile of the teeth may well have something to do with it, maybe that’s the reason Aprilia fitted a sprocket with cush-rubbers?

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Fixing a couple of Capo niggles

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid airbox / crankcase vent modificationOne niggle that has wound me up more than anything about the Capo over the years, is its unerring ability to regurgitate oil into the airbox – apparently no matter how much or little I fill the oil tank. In the end, enough is enough, time to do something about it.

So this is it, remove the molded spigot/structure into the airbox and replace with a new low-profile 90° coupling and pipe to dump regurgitated oil into the front section of the airbox, from where it can be drained off via the extended drain-line down by the oil filter. Hopefully no more lumpy idle and intermittent ‘cough’ coming off idle after extended (12Hrs+) runs at motorway speeds from the vented oil draining down into the throttle bodies. A better fix of course would be to build a trap before the airbox that would allow oil to drain back the way it came while still passing vapour into the airbox. That’ll wait until winter, for now I’m hoping this will work good enough.

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid clutch oil jetsSecondly, and I don’t mind admitting when a change to the Capo doesn’t work – I’ve gone back to the #60 clutch oil jet from the #40. Why? Simply because the benefits were outweighed by the losses …… yes the #40 jet made the initial 1st gear selection go from ‘CLONK’ to ‘clonk’ but it also buggered up all subsequent gear changes, gone was the silky smooth shift that I’d had with the #60 jet. In the end I would say that if your Capo shifts gears smoothly and doesn’t have an issue selecting Neutral, then leave well alone. I’m sure for those with no jet, a blocked jet or a nasty gear shift this may well be a worthwhile modification, for me I’m glad to have the old slick-shift gearbox back again.

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And back again ……

2003 Aprilia Caponord Rally-Raid ETV1000The Capo and I touched down back at home a few days ago with the odometer just over 77,750 miles …. a whizz around the block and we might have made a photo-op 77,777 but I was simply too knackered to bother! Capo ran strong and solid as always, so no news on that front. Anakee 3’s are wearing very well (3,050 miles in three weeks) and are certainly a nice change from running around on knobbly tyres …. it’s rumoured I even let (what remains) of my hair down and had a little play while in the UK.

Now We’ve got a few weeks before we do it all over again – time enough for a scrub up and check over, but frankly the way the Capo is running I could load up and leave right now with no worries. Which is great as I need a bit of time to do some revision ……

LEFARS….. for my next Amateur Radio exam! Yes, while in the UK I went along to a fantastic weekend organised by LEFARS (Loughton and Epping Forrest Amateur Radio Society) where I sat the RCE Foundation Licence exam – and passed! 😀 I have to say a huge thank you to all concerned for their time and dedication and for making the weekend a real enjoyment. So now I have the call-sign of M6FMZ and hopefully, if all goes well I’ll move on up to the Intermediate licence before the end of July (exam booked!) and maybe ….. just maybe mind ….. I might even get the full (Advanced) licence under my belt before Christmas, that would make a fantastic end to the year!

I searched high and low for a course closer to Oxford and unfortunately drew a blank until the back-end of the year, while LEFARS could squeeze me in on their May course – LEFARS it was then! The round trip from Oxford was about 130 miles(ish) and mostly motorways – so pretty quick. In the end I’m so glad I chose them, excellent venue/parking, tuition and most importantly – a good brew and well stocked biscuit tin! 😀 If a personal recommendation means anything, then mine says consider LEFARS if your thinking of taking up amateur radio. I’m damn glad I did.

New toy perhaps? Hmmm……..

Yeasu FT-991

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Just in the nick of time ……

20150524_131318Just when I’m done-and-dusted, the tools put away and the pannier-packing well underway with only 12hrs before leaving – Manuel’s (Motrag.com) parcel arrives with more goodies for the Capo! I really didn’t think it would be here in time, so I’d planned to fit the box-contents on my return …. but they’re here now so what the hell!

First off, a nice new left-hand lamp bracket and stronger angle-bracket with a funky new fastener – all to mount the GoPro tripod mount base. As usual, beautifully finished and perfect fit. Thanks very much for this Manuel, let’s see what the GoPro makes of it!

Next, one of Motrag’s new GPS mounts for the Rally-Raid. This one is for the Garmin 590LM and can be fitted directly to the supplied bracket or direct to the Accosoto cross-brace where the existing Touratech Garmin 2820 mount sits. Neat and unobtrusive (unlike an empty Touratech mount) it’s functional, yet simple. I’m really looking forward to trying this out (and the 590LM) in the coming weeks as the poor old 2820 has most definitely got a touch of dementia these days – it frequently forgets what day it is, or what country it’s in, bless it! More on this bracket in a later post.

20150508_180804And lastly, the replacement rear sprocket and DID drive chain. A nice slotted-steel sprocket from ‘France Equipement’ in black. I must admit to having never heard of them before, but fit is fine and the finish seems solid enough, so we’ll see what the miles make of it. The ZVM-X (in Gold/Gold) chain is the replacement for the ZVM² that has been on for a staggering 53,400 miles ….. yes one chain, one rear sprocket and three front sprockets for over 53K miles, I’ve never had one last like this before. The only thing negative I can muster against it, is that all the Gold wore off years ago – nowadays it’s just a plain old silver chain!

That’s it for the new stuff but Manuel had one more nugget tucked away in the box for me – a very clean and crack-free pair of inlet rubbers! After reading my post from a few days ago he decided to slip a pair in the box to replenish the MA spares stock – cheers Manuel you are a start indeed!

I’ll end by saying that while some of these items are product testing or favours between friends, I have to make it clear that the chain and sprocket were purchased from Motrag just as anyone else can. The price is extremely competitive and shipping very quick – so next time you’re in need of bits for your bike (not just Caponords), consider having a look at Motrag.com or emailing Manuel to see if a fellow owner/rider/engineer can help you out, I know I’d rather put a few Euro’s his way than in the pocket of some faceless multi-corporation any day of the week.

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Bye bye Karoo 3 …. hellooooo Anakee 3!

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid with Michelin Anakee 3 tyreWell yesterdays arrival of a spanking pair of Michelin Anakee 3’s makes the total number of tyre types fitted to the Capo a head spinning …… 5. The OEM fit Tourance, oodles of TKC80’s and Karoo 3’s and one fantastic set of Anakee 2’s. They were by far the best with excellent grip and long life – so the Anakee 3’s have a hard act to follow, I wonder how they’ll compare.

With the back wheel dropped out, I decided to give everything a once over and quick scrub-up – nice and shiny like. The vernier showed the rear disk had finally met the minimum thickness (4.5mm), so off it came and on went a nice almost-new one from an Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid rear wheel and disk with Michelin Anakee 3 tyre07 bike …. a floater instead of fixed. Now I must admit to being more than a little perplexed at what the hell Aprilia were thinking about when making the rear a floater – front yes, but rear! What for, where’s the benefit? With 74,710 miles on it, I can’t ever remember riding around thinking ‘damn this bike’s just screaming out for a floating rear disk’ But in the end, it’s what I had in my sack of goodies, so it’s what went on. With the rear done, the fronts looked a little sorry for themselves, so I pulled them off and gave them a once-over and spring re-tension …… I must say they do look rather nice again!

Rear wheel bearings, seals and cush rubbers are original and all in perfect condition, so the spares can stay in the cupboard for a while longer yet. The front bearings and seals that I replaced back in 2009 (@11,700 miles) are also fine – packing the void between the bearings and seals to prevent water getting trapped seems to work wonders! So now she’s all buttoned up and a final wipe with a soft cloth and ACF50 to fend off the corrosion gremlin should do the trick nicely.

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Cool running Capo

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid Agip Permanent Plus coolant (Antifreeze)After fiddling around with the cam chain tensioners, it was time to refill the coolant system – something Aprilia say to do every 2 years and MotoA has successfully neglected for almost double that! The handbook says to use either Agip Cool or IP Ecoblu. While Ecoblu is still available, the Agip coolant has apparently been superseded by Agip Permanent Plus and Agip Permanent Spezial ….. and wait for it ….. they’re about to be rebranded again as ENI Antifreeze Bike P and ENI Antifreeze Bike S. So which one do we need for the Capo? Well the ENI website says Bike S, while AF1 recommend Permanent Plus (Bike P), so I ordered Permanent Plus before the headache-of-confusion got any worse!

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid Agip Permanent Plus coolant (Antifreeze)What’s the difference? One is blue and one is red …….. but it goes a bit deeper than that! I must admit that the heady and scintillating world of antifreeze has past me by for most of my adult life, my knowledge pretty much stopped at – it’s green (mostly) and it stops my engine exploding into an ice block during winter-woolly-wearing time. Oh no, it seems that is most definitely NOT the end of it, our aqueous boffins have been brewing up a positive Smörgåsbord of antifreeze variants and as you can guess only some are suitable for our precious two-wheel companions. If you want to fry your brain with antifreeze techie stuff, have a read here. Otherwise it simply comes down to the difference between the two Agip products – Permanent Plus (Blue) is hybrid technology and good for 2 years while the Permanent Spezial (Red) is OAT (Organic Acid Technology) and good for 5 years – hence the ‘long-life’ tag.

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid coolant expansion tankBut in the end, whatever you buy just make sure it’s good down to -40c and nitrate free and pre-mixed or mix it to a 50/50 solution. Remember that over time the corrosion inhibitors will be used up and the solution will slowly become acidic. Consider buying a PH tester for a couple of pounds/dollars to check the PH level in the radiator when doing a service, ideally it should be 8 or higher when new. If the PH is below 7 then the coolant definitely needs replacing before the acidity starts to eat away at the engine.

So now the Capo has had a nice flush and refill with Permanent Plus and the spreadsheet has been updated to give me a gentle nudge when it’s due to be changed again, rather than the fill-it-forget-it method I’ve used to date!

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Cam chain tensioner – part 2

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally Raid cam chain tensioner AP0236252Sorting the rear tensioner yesterday took all of 20 minutes, but I knew that the front was going to be a different kettle of fish altogether because of the coolant pipes. No worries, I thought – a good excuse to change out the coolant as well.

So in I went and oh what fun it was! Off with the crash bars, side panels and sump guard, move the coolant bottle and release the radiator bottom hose and drain the system – so far, so good. Remove the airbox and release the clamps holding the throttle bodies in the inlet rubbers ….. hmmmm – looks like they’ve got a few deep cracks I’m thinking.

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally Raid inlet manifold rubber AP0267150Take off the rest of the hoses, cables and electrical connectors, now a gentle pull and twist to release the throttle bodies and ……………… oops! I think the cracks in that rubber were a tad deeper than first thought and a touch beyond repairing with a splash of rubberised goo. Luckily I’ve a spare pair to hand from the l’Aquila stash. However, this momentry inconvenience isn’t the task of the day ….. so onward once more. Hoses, cables anything and everything moved so I could at last get to the two clamps holding the ‘Y’ hose in place  – then finally the goal was in sight, the pot at the end of the rainbow …. the front cam chain tensioner!

Aprilia Capononrd ETV1000 Rally Raid inlet manifold rubber AP0267150With a heave, a grunt and too many fingers trying to get into too small a space I managed to retrieve the tensioner from its hide-away, gave it a squeeze and ……… it was fine, solid as a rock! Never mind, a flush to clean out any debris and a refill with clean oil never hurt.

Then it was rebuild time. The tensioner’s in place and the cap torqued down to 30Nm with a swanky new copper washer. The super-shiny inlet rubbers torque down at 19Nm and the rest of course is then a reversal of strip-down – with the intention of NOT ending up with any washers, screws or clips left over! And so with the sun ready to slip behind the mountains it was test-time. Glad to say she fired up first hit of the button and sounded so much smoother, funny how you get used to little noises and ‘character’ over time – now she’s idling smooth as can be, a tweak on the throttle body sync screw had the manometer within a couple of mills AND it stayed that way when the motor was reved, something it didn’t do last week. So I’m guessing the cracked inlet rubbers were an issue after all! 😳 So that’s it for today, other than updating the Capo’s history spreadsheet ….. the Capo has now done a pinch over 74,400 miles and other than a couple of valve shims and plugs, it’s the only work the motor has ever needed.

Next stop – tyres, chain and sprockets. 😯

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Cam chain tensioner – part 1

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally Raid airboxYesterday I spent a lazy morning installing a couple of sensors inside the airbox (more in another post) and with the tank propped back in place, fired the Capo up to check the fuel lines…….

…… and just for a second or so after she fired up there was a distinct rattle from the rear cylinder and frankly it didn’t sound too special as the bike warmed up. To be honest, I’d heard it before on a couple of occasions but couldn’t pin down which cylinder it was. With the tank lifted and stood in just the right position, it was obviously the Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally Raid cam chain tensioner AP0236253rear. As it was lunch time, I decided to have a look a bit later – and promptly forgot! Well I got back to it in the evening and pulled the cam chain tensioner out. Soggy as a knackered bed spring! :-(

So it had a thorough flush out and re-charge with fresh 15/50w oil and firmed up nicely (phew!) …. it looked as though contamination had built up in/around the ball that seals the oil in, in this case letting it out just as easy. Buttoned it all back together, fired the motor into life and revelled in a quiet(ish) Capo motor – just in time for a cold beer and MotoGP on the box, bliss! As I sat watching the race I kept having a niggling thought … what if the front one is the same?

Tomorrow feels like a let’s-check-the-front-one day ……….. 😕 

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All things being equal

gaugeIt’s been a while since the Capo was serviced and one job has still remained outstanding – in fact it has been ‘outstandingly’ outstanding for the past few services since I lost my old Davida vacuum gauge set! Yes, the perplexing throttle-body synchronisation*. Truth be told, the Capo has been running just fine for ages, but it never hurts to check it once in a blue moon!

I wasn’t about to lay out a fair-sized wad of cash for another (excellent) Davida set or buy a Carbtune II again in a hurry, so I thought it was about time to go the Poundland route and build my own manometer for a few pennies and with a bit of scrap kicking around the barn. The nice thing is that there’s a mountain of info on the internet about how to do this yourself, just pick what suits your needs best and modify for your own bike.

So what do you need? Well just a sturdy board, door or wall on which to mount the kit, a length of 6mmID clear tube, a suitable liquid and a way to connect it to the bike. That’s the nut’s and bolts of it, but a simple addition will make the setup ‘user friendly’ as you’ll see later. Although the tube is straight forward, the liquid is a bit more controversial …. Some say coloured water, some 2 stroke oil, some EP90 gearbox oil …… you get the idea! I chose some good old Scottoil Blue. Why? Because it was on hand, because it is basically ATF and has a fairly low viscosity, because IF it gets ingested by the motor it won’t cause any damage and because it turns out (purely by chance!) to work REALLY well!

*Workshop manual page 4-18-00

Now for a bit of physics ……

OU-1970's-styleFirst off, what kind of vacuum are we looking at from the Capo motor? From measurements, it looks to be somewhere in the range of 22-24cmHg (based on an erratic Carbtune II) per cylinder measured against atmospheric pressure …. Now that’s not much for a mercury manometer – barely the length of a sheet of A4 paper. A nice compact manometer then, except that unfortunately mercury is almost impossible to get hold of because it’s deemed way too dangerous for us potato-heads to use safely. So what does this mean in terms of manometer height if we use liquids of a lower density? Well…..

Mercury 22-24cm (Ideal!)
Water 299 – 326cm (free-ish and known density but hard to see at a distance)
Light oil 345 – 376cm (coloured – easy to read, density varies on type of oil)

20150413_manometerSo here’s our first problem …… measuring each cylinder individually will require a water manometer at least 3.5m tall and an oil one even taller, clearly not exactly practical or compact! The solution? Well the Capo comes to the rescue …..

Being a twin, the Capo simply needs a differential setup – that is, measure both cylinders against each other, not against atmospheric pressure. In theory they should cancel each other out if perfectly balanced and so the manometer would read zero. Any imbalance will have the liquid slightly higher in one tube and lower in the other …… so by measuring differential pressure we don’t need a manometer anywhere near as tall, but remember, even small differences in pressure will make big changes in liquid level, so the manometer still needs to be quite tall. In the end I built mine on an old wardrobe door – a total height of  155cm, with about 60cc of Scottoil filling about 40% of this. With hindsight, it’s about twice as tall as it needs to be, but hey you live and learn!

Putting it to use …..

20150413_monoWith the Capo nicely warmed up after a little ride, the tank lifted and the manometer plugged into the Capo’s vacuum ports, she was fired up again. The oil level in the tubes drifted apart and settled at approx. 9.5cm (equivalent to approx. 0.6cmHg), a gentle nudge of the screw for the front cylinder on the throttle body saw the level drop to just below 2-2.5cm (approx. 0.15cmHg) – comfortably within the 0.5cmHg accuracy quoted by Synchromate and oodles better than the 2cmHg per division of the Davida gauges. So that’s a £2 rig versus the commercial £70/£170 rigs ……..

….. and one other thing, this was without ANY damping (valve/jet/cotton wool etc.) in the line because the Scottoil works perfectly well as its own damper. It pulses gently by no more than about 2-3mm in the tube but is viscous enough to respond reasonably quickly to changes in vacuum. Oh and that addition I mentioned …… simply two small sealed containers greater than the volume of oil in the manometer, one placed in each line. Now if either vacuum line should come adrift the container on that line acts as a trap to capture the oil before it can get swallowed up by the motor!

Arduino motorcycle vacuum gaugeSo ultimately it’s cheap, self calibrating with excellent resolution around the balance point ….. but not exactly portable! And so in typical MA fashion, the mind wanders off to thoughts of a compact electronic version. Powered by the bike, self calibrating – kind of like this one!

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