Gremlin Found….eventually

Either side of a trip to Paris, I managed to resolve the electrical problem with the Transalp I encountered the previous weekend

After the pushing the bike back the mile into the workshop, I though it was going to a fairly trivial exercise in finding the problem connector and getting the bike running again.

Running round with multimeter didn’t locate any problems and it still wasn’t clear while I wasn’t getting a spark on any of the 4 plugs. Whilst in Paris, I located the official Honda manual for 1989 VK models and downloaded it. It provides more information of the electrics that in the Haynes manual, though the latter does have a colour wiring diagram.

Back in the shed, it seemed to me that the ‘safety’ features (neutral, stop switch etc) were the likely cause. Its not explained in the Haynes clearly, that the for the 1st two years, the models (VH, VJ ) came without the sidestand switch, so at least that removed it from equation. The neutral switch and been intermittent for a while and meant the bike would only start with the clutch pulled in, so a new one was ordered from David Silver Spares along with the much needed plug spanner.

Fitting the switch and checking this circuit still didn’t resolve the problem, so moved onto the rectifier / regulator. Whilst not part of the ignition circuit, it might be a problem. Using the chart in the Honda manual infact condemned it, as where there was meant to be continuity there was none. However, bit wary of these results and moved.

The dodgy connector

Checking the input to the CDI units revealed an interesting result. The black/white feed (via the stop switch) should have provide battery input with the ignition on, but only showed 2v, rather than 12v. The voltage at the switch was correct on both sides, and with assistance fro m Gavin who come round to assist the problem solving proved this, as taking an independent feed from the battery to one of the CDI units produced a spark.

It then took another 30 minutes or so to locate the offending connector, underneath and to the right of the instrument block. It was leaking to earth and after a clean-up and spray with contact cleaner, the bike was back running.

CDI units

So the moral of this tale:
– the electrical connectors on a 23 year old bike, do need checking and cleaning, even if it is a Honda
– than even on a fairly simple circuit like the Transalp, there is still of work needed to track down problems.
– both the Haynes and the Honda manual do not provide enough information on the electrical system for your bike; the rectifier tests in particulatr are misleading and could induce the unnecessary purchase of a new unit
– get it there: the only way to understand the electrics is to use the wiring diagram as a map and work your way around

The ebay project continues

After some soul searching…and inspection of the wallet, Gavin’s ebay project continues

After some helpful comments on Trials Central it turns out whilst the engine is from a Model 80, circa 1971, the frame is most likely from a later Sherpa.

Gavin has braved ebay once again and found a conrod, big end kit the process of restoration is underway. With the challenge thrown down by Woody to complete the bike for the 1st Sammy Miller round in Devon on March 9th, time and parts availability is against him.

Crank with new conrod

The gear cluster is slightly worn, and though expert advice from Dave Renham did advise that the tolerances would be fairly slack, the gear shafts are clearly very worn.

Gear cluster

Some other contacts for the correct frame and bottom yoke are forthcoming and also some calls to Brian Griffiths in nearby Peterchurch. The project is looking like being a bit of a challenge and Gavin has now been quoted as saying “buy a complete working price that you can take straight to a trial” to anybody who is listening.

Therefore currently looking for a frame (there is one nicely painted for part-ex), engine spares, bottom yoke and other Model 80 spares.

Transalp electrics

Over the last couple of weeks, I decided to work on the Transalp in an attempt to find out why I was getting ‘drop-out’ at certain times on what I think was the front cylinder.

As with all these things, Pandora’s box was opened and a few other gremlins were located and not all currently fixed.

As I’d found out on North Uist with damp, cold conditions the bike would get cylinder drop out. On my KTM Adventure, this is down to carb icing and the factory recalls/mods have added electric heaters to rectify it (sort of).

The early XL600V’s like my VH don’t have any carb heating, but I wasn’t convinced of this and after reading through the Transalp Forums I though it could be electrical, or with the carbs needing a service.

No Spark (1)

Put the bike into the shed and decided to give it a service and also started to check the wiring. After looking at a couple of connectors, cleaning them contact spray and 1600 grade wet-and-dry, I found that I’d got no spark. I went back through the connectors I’d just cleaned and the connector from the alternator to the reg/rectifier (3 yellow wires) seemed to be the culprit and after 20 minutes or so, had got a spark back. Seemed to justify continuing to go through the electrics


Decided to run through and check the plugs and whilst the rear cylinder plugs were slightly black, indicating running rich, the front plugs had slightly white tips, ie running lean. I’d changed the plugs 2500 miles earlier, but not too bad.

Front cylinder spark plug

I decided to remote the air duct and carbs, mainly to check the inlet rubbers, but also cleaned the choke at the same time. Decided not to disassemble the carbs at this point. The intet rubbers were fine, but the air duct round the front cylinder carb had cracked around the connector for the carb mouth, so fixed that with some impact adhesive.

Air Filter

I’d bought a K&N Air Filter having read about the positive effects on fuel consumption and the running rich syndrome that my Transalp, like a lot ot others, suffers from. At £32 including postage it wasn’t too bad, and the supplier on ebay, ybfilters was very good.

Carb Balancing

The carbs were balanced once warm, though I notice the front carb was running weaker when cold and when the choke was out; Therefore may need to re-visit the choke mechanism on the front carb.

Carb balancing

Heated Grips

I also decided to fit a pair of Motrax heated grips, as I’d never had a bike with them before. Anyway took about 90 minutes to fit and took the supply from the ignition feed, therefore solving the problem of running the battery down if I left them on.

There a lot of wire and the connectors from the grips and the control box to the fuse box and then to the battery all seemed to be in the wrong place; that is just behind the headstock. Anyway all sorted and they seemed to work well

No Spark [2

I ran the bike up in the workshop whilst balancing the carbs and after putting the bodywork on, decided to take it on a short test run round the lanes from the house. Unfortunately about a mile from the house, it just stopped, which what initially looked like a recurrence of the electrical problem (above). With the assistance of a neighbour out walking his dog managed to push the bike up the hill to the house.

Basically, the starter motor will turn, there are lights and other electrics, but there’s no spark at the plugs.

Back in the shed, checked the connector and seemed ok, but still no spark at the rear cylinder, left-hand plug. Checked the front right plug also, and no spark their either. Then started to do some more systematic checks:
– using the fuse holder for ignition (Fuse D on the Haynes wiring diagram) checked the continuity to the RH CDI unit (black-white cable) and this was ok
– checked the continuity for both the alternator->rectifier connector block and for the rectifier -> ignition blocks and seemed ok
– the neutral switch has been intermittent since I’ve had it and works only sometimes if the bike is warm and on the sidestand (?). I guess this is why i have to depress the clutch to start, even when the bike is in neutral (?). Checked and removed the switch and it does seems knackered (ie no continuity to ground with neutral engaged)
– stripped and cleaned the kill switch. Interesting, I’d notice before, with “kill” selected, the starter motor will still turn, rather than killing all the electrics.

So a puzzling problem, which will have to wait till Thursday as I’ve got to France for work (not by bike this time). At one point during the run through, I did have no electrics, but this was in turn due to a loose connector by the headstock for the live feed (red wire) from the ignition.

Some you win…..

Gavin parted with an undisclosed amount of cash on eBay for his latest project. After the recent completion on his Montessa 247 project, the recent purchase was collected from ‘somewhere in the South East’ and brought back to darkest Herefordshire.

As any bike restorer (or even purchase of second had bike) knows, the first inspection back in the shed can cover all emotions, including the sh*t ones.

Gavin came round to announce his new purchase had arrived, so there followed an immediate trip to his workshop. It confirmed some of the trials of tribulations of those Sunday night eBay purchase (with beer fuelled mouse fingers).

The Bultaco

The bike is somewhere between rolling chassis and a box of bits. On the good side the frame is complete and has been painted. The forks are in good condition, as the wheel rims. Based on some photos in an article in Classic Dirt Bike magazine , it seems the bottom yoke is wrong (it doesn’t match the gnarling on the forks) and that the rear wheel spokes are wrong (the spokes should be different lengths for each side).

Somebody had made a start on this as a project, but hadn’t got very far.

Piston and Crank

The tank and seat unit and come in to contact with a lot of fibreglass in attempt to fix it. Needless to say its completely knackered and will need a replacement. The frame and engine numbers don’t match and need to do some research on what the numbers were originally from. [[Engine M 8000651, Frame B9100276]]


The engine cases are together, with the gears, but thats it. The crank and piston are not in the engine and both are also not usable. It seems some form of major catastrophe has befallen the engine at some point, though it seems the piston would have met its nemesis in a completely different engine, as its doesn’t fit into the barrel. There is no big end with the bike, so seems to hint as its vapourisation as some point. There is a large hole in the right-hand crankcase cover.

The proud new owner, still smiling....

The question is now whether the bike is restorable [[Though restoration would probably require more original components]] or whether its a question of finding another Model 80 and using this a donor, or just sell off the parts.

There is a positive side to this bike, though currently neither Gavin or I are actually sure what it is yet. We both agree its this type (and vintage) are ideal for the Sammy Miller series.

Downland Trophy Trial

Have been meaning to write up this trial report for a while and now I’ve a few days at home have a chance.

Great trial, with better weather than the artic conditions of the previous year, also managed to finish.

However, my attempt to kill Sammy Miller by launching my bike at him, might go down as my ‘most embarrassing’ trials moment.

Final trial of the 2008 Sammy Miller Products series and unlike 2007, it wasn’t raining and freezing cold. Just a reminder, it did rain later on as we came back across the Ridgeway, just to let you know how pleasant it could be.

Only myself and Gavin from the usual contigent made the trip up to West Hagbourne in Oxfordshire, for what is a very different trial on the Sammy Miller calendar.

At the start

Prompt start at 09h30, which meant an early start from Hereford, but in the end had plenty of time. to grab the bacon sandwich and a coffee. Plenty of the usual suspects, though Woody was making an outing on a KT250 Kawasaki, though shame Mark wasn’t around to keep him company.

First couple of sections were fairly straightforward though did drop a couple of marks early on. Some tight stuff round trees, but nothing to sinister

Dave Woods and the KT250

Seymour’s Arena was milder in severity than in previous years; I dropped a shed load of marks here last year before the bike stopped running. Despite this still managed a five on the last sub, after only dropping one through the other 5 sections. Never mind.

Gavin at Seymour's

Out through the sections on the banks by Aston pits and thought had a number of three’s managed to avoid any serious screw-ups. The combination of wet soil and chalk is unique to the Downland Trophy trial and I only get to practice on it once a year.

The usual run up and across the Ridgeway is still part of this trial and it was nowhere as cold as last year. Got to the section up by the farm in time to watch Steve Bisby take a five on the steep, slippery turn up the bank. Had a careful look at this and decided that there was no point walking the rest of the section. Imagine my surprise as the bike turned itself onto the perfect line up to the right, found grip and i was out of a dab. Managed to complete the rest of the section blind; its funny how one section can make your day. Very happy with this.

Ashford Pits

The sections in the woods around Aldworth were a bit of a challenge and like any trial, once you have one five, another is sure to follow. I cocked up the first section here by not walking it carefully and needed to make an adjustment en-route as Gavin pointed out the deviation to me. Ah well. Another 5 on the large bank in the next small group, one where I’d had a ‘five’ 2 years before.

Geoff Muston and his TL125

But nothing could beat my fine finish to the Sammy Miller series for 2008. Exiting the section by the pub saw me and bike part company. Whilst I managed to sit back in the mud, the bike headed towards Sammy himself and some form of lustful revenge for the 2007 trial. Unlike the straw bale on the Isle of Man, no contact with Sammy was made and apart from my ego, nothing was damaged.

Back to the van and attempt to sell the Jumbo to an eager buyer. The Jumbo is bigger than a modern Sherco and this seemed to be the main restriction on its sale, ah well. There is a more appreciative owner out there somewhere.