Simmer Dim Rally

This year I decided that I was going to win the Long Distance award. To this end I visited some friends in California just before my trip to Shetland and sent the organisers a postcard from Hollywood, to back up my claim. My flight from San Francisco got in at Heathrow Monday morning. I gave the bike a quick check out, got the gear ready and went to bed.

My problems started just after I left home. I noticed that the battery voltage was hovering around twelve volts, not thirteen/fourteen as normal. This worried me a little, but I put it down to low revs through the traffic. When I got to the motorway, and it was just under twelve, I started to wonder whether I would make it to Aberdeen.

Through minimal use of lights, with few stops, I made it to near the top of the M6. By now the meter was showing about nine volts, when suddenly it dropped off the bottom of the scale. Although the bike still seemed to be running OK, panic started to set in. Luckily I was approaching Southwaite services (the last one on the motorway), and found my way through to the Repair bay. A quick examination found no loose connections and, as that was unfortunately the limit of my mechanical expertise, I had to call out the RAC.

The RAC van turned up eventually, followed by the subcontractors who were to carry me to my choice of destination. While carrying me to their base, their people had tried to find local dealers who could repair the bike. The only one who could was in Southport, Merseyside. Even if they could fix it, the bike would not be ready until about noon Wednesday, which was the time I had to be at Aberdeen harbour to book in for the ferry. Therefore I said the only thing I could, after which I told them to take me to Aberdeen. They informed me that as that was my recovery destination, RAC would not take me home if they found I had the same fault. (This didn't worry me, as I was sure we could fix it, or cause something else to 'go wrong' later). That being settled, off we went.

I do not remember much about the next few miles, still being horribly jet-lagged from the flight, but a couple of items are etched on my memory. Firstly, although it took me only four hours to get to Southwaite (300 miles), it took another nine hours to get the rest of the way (200 miles)!

However, the worst thing was when one of the lightweight straps holding the bike to the trailer broke, almost throwing my pride and joy down the road with no hope of repair in time for the rally. (I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but I do take this sort of thing seriously). After a swift phone call, a full-sized breakdown lorry was called out, and the bike transferred, for the rest of the journey. Thankfully, when I got to the Aberdeen campsite, most of the other rallyists had gone into town for the pubs. Those who were still there had a good laugh when they saw me turn up and took a few photos of my bike and I on the lorry. A quick checkout by those assembled decided that with either a bump, or a jump start, we could get the bike down to the harbour in the morning, and probably all the way to the rally site. As it happened, I needed two jump-starts on Shetland, but that is a minor detail. (I DID win Long Distance by the way!)

A full test of the bike's electrickery found that it was the alternator rotor causing the problems, and a replacement could not be got to us in time for the return journey, not really surprising when you consider our location.

Any trips out from the site would obviously have to be on pillion and, as I don't do pillion if I can help it, my trips around the island were severely curtailed. I joined my club on a trip to Jarlshof and the Shetland capital Lerwick, but the rest of the time I spent at the site.

I managed to get an overnight charge from the local shop for the trip back to the ferry terminal on the Sunday. I have to point out at this stage that Spam and Bat from the ABC made the glaring error of staying too long at the bar in the Hotel across the road from the ferry terminal. They were, I think, the first people to miss the ferry home! The rest of the club had to wait around for them to catch the next one, (luckily there was a mainly cargo ferry the next day), before continuing their journey. Mainly due to Spam having the petrol money.

The trip home was a bit worrying, consisting of a full battery charge up in Shetland, and bump starts every time after that, but I did get as far as Toddington services before trying the RAC again. Luckily I was being shadowed on this trip by 'Speed' from Crawley on his Guzzi, which has a battery the same size as mine that could have been swapped if needed. The RAC man's test equipment (a single bit of wire) led him to the conclusion that the rectifier was at fault, and he summoned the pickers-up. Even though it did take them half an hour to get to me, (on the other side of the car park from their office), they did at least start with a lorry equipped with nice strong straps. An hour or so later I arrived back at home. Rarely have I been so happy after a rally. I got the rotor replaced the next day for £210!

(By the way, did I mention that I won Long Distance?)

- Phil (the Spill) Drackley