Blog: January 6. How embarrassment!

TFNearDorrigo02It’s a new year, and although I’m not sentimental about such things, I hope this last weekend is the start of how this year will run for me.

I very seldom get to ride just for the sake of riding. The overwhelmingly huge majority of my time on a bike is tied to work. That allows me to do some great rides and enjoy some incredible bikes, but there’s always a lot of responsibility goes with it. I have to get the photos and I have to get the story, and it does make a difference to the enjoyment of riding. It means that I’m not shutting down from my daily cares and getting out for a while when I go riding. I’m heading off to get a job done, and if things don’t go in my favour, I still have to get the job done somehow. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for just enjoying a great ride.

I actually get to do that type of carefree riding only once or twice a year, and this last Saturday was one of those days.

I punched one of Marty H’s GPS routes into the Garmin, dumped the camerabag in a cupboard, and headed off.

It was a glorious, sunny, warm morning, and I was free to really make the most of it.

I actually did have to shoot some video for work, but it was my choice, and didn’t involve riding. I managed to knock it over as I had a break beside a creek. From there I punted back through Brooklana and Dorrigo and was plodding through Bellingen when I spotted and a group of KTMs at Foster’s servo. Pottsy was leading them around, so I stopped to say hello, chatted for a few minutes, then touched the starter and purred off back on to home.

It was only a couple of hours, but Man! It was awesome.

As much as I enjoyed it, “one of those things” popped up.

It doesn’t matter how old I get, I still never seem to learn. I guess if you’re born a goose, you have to expect to grow old a goose.

I’d grabbed the Dominator and headed out, busting to spend a little time with a bike I’m enjoying more and more every time I ride it. It’s been purring like a kitten since Dan Vaughan last had it, and the suspension upgrade really set the bike up. It’s a great joy for me to ride now that the personalisation changes I’ve made are starting to settle in.

Anyhoo, I idled into town in a leisurely fashion, just enjoying that rare occasion – a ride with no camerbag. The GPS was showing the route as clear as anything and life was good. I pulled into the servo and fuelled up, ready for a long, leisurely morning following the purple line.

As I left the servo and headed out of town, I felt the engine miss.

It wasn’t a full-on miss. More like a bit of a hesitation that wasn’t there before.

I tried to ignore it, but it wouldn’t go away. By the time I made Dairyville there was no avoiding it. I had to have a look. I pulled over, broke out the tools and started to think what was happening and what that should tell me.

It honestly felt like a blocked air filter. With the throttle wide open the motor ran fine – although I’d convinced myself it didn’t feel it had quite the edge I was used to. With a constant throttle, like rolling along the highway at 100kph, it would…hesitate. It wasn’t a full-on miss like a plug problem. It just wasn’t driving as I thought it should, and it was…choking, I guess.

Fine. Air filter. I whipped it out to find it as clean as a whistle.

So it should’ve been. Longest Day was a dusty 750km, and I was sweep for most of it, so the air filter was one of the first things I did the next morning.

The other far less likely cause was water or dirt in the fuel. I had just filled up, after all, although I think the ‘bad fuel’ scenario is a rare one, and I’ve been buying fuel at that servo for a lot of years – decades, probably. In any case, one of the things I love most about air-cooled singles is their simplicity. A quick flick of a screwdriver had the float bowl drained and I was back under way.

Not far out of Dairyville I hit some dirt and there was no highway cruising. I still had the conviction the motor wasn’t pulling as it should, though. Still, I was having a huge time, so I rode on, savouring every second.

When I hit the tar again, there was a definite problem. The hesitation had become a ‘gulp’.

The bike idled perfectly. It started at the lightest touch of the button, and there were no strange noises or any other signs I could see or hear.

At this stage I had the chance to head for Dorrigo. That’s a great section too, and from Dorrigo there’s a lot of downhill to home, so off I went. The bike ran best with the throttle open, so that’s what I did. I wasn’t caning it because that didn’t work, but I wasn’t nursing it, either.

I began to wonder about the plug. The problem didn’t ‘feel’ electrical, but I’m experienced enough to know that my feelings on engine performance aren’t worth much. I decided I’d head to Juan’s Cafe and have a coffee while the motor cooled down, then swap to the spare new plug I keep under the seat. But once I got to Juan’s I elected to head straight home, and off I went, the bike smoothing down the mountain road. I pulled up to talk to Pottsy and it started fine and got me home no problems.

Everything seems less stressful when you’re home and in your own shed. With the motor stone cold I pulled the seat to fit the spare plug.

The spare plug is in one of those plastic Acerbis holders that’s a bit like a long, skinny egg. I leave it just floating around on top of the airbox. In that plastic cover it won’t come to any harm, I figure.

It hadn’t either, but what it had done was work it’s way around to where it slipped into the air-intake snorkel, and effectively sealed one side of it. So the air intake was cut to 50 per cent, and that’s what was causing the problem.

Good on me.

I’m glad it was something so simple. Not as simple as me, but easy to fix.



  1. It was good to see you out riding the Dominatrix , and by the smile you had you were enjoying it . Like my ride , I have known 2 of the blokes I was with since kindergarten and the 2 others – father and son – big Skeffo on his 950 katie , a character larger than life , great blokes to ride with and rode some great tracks south of Bellingen through Collombatti to Willawarren, everyone should just get out there and ride

  2. hope everybody is getting there dakar fix on SBS 5.30

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