Dyno-run to Hobbsport
With the big bore kit fitted and the engine re-assembled, I disappeared down south to Yorkshire for a few days - and had a real blast. I also got the bonnie dyno tuned while I was at it. Sorry in advance for being so long winded, but here's how it went.
The journey down saw me heading south, in dry but gusty weather, from Penrith on the M6, having topped up the tank and a spare 5 litre can in a bag on the back. I was running with a pair of 130 main jets in the carbs and duct tape and a pair of socks on the K&Ns just to keep the mixture about right, so I wasn't totally sure about my mileage. I had my tank bag and panniers stuffed to the gills with the usual odds, and ends and means to enjoy a party, so I felt slightly more prone to the wind gusting than normal. That wasn't really too much of a worry, though, and I wasn't in any hurry - all in all it felt good just to be going somewhere.
Traffic was light and once over Shap Summit I descended through the long bends below Tebay to leave the motorway at junction 37. The first thing you encounter at the end of the exit lane is a cattle grid, then the junction. I took a left and headed east for Sedbergh on the A684. With the Howgills on the left and Whernside to the right, the road took me through several series of bends and twists that just seemed to be made for the way that it would be nice to move around the landscape and revealed the odd good view for the few miles or so it took to descend into Sedbergh. I skirted the town centre and continued eastward in the direction of Wensleydale.
After a short while in the valley bottom, the road started to climb again. I crossed over another cattle grid and the road was open to the hillside. There's something so much more satisfying about riding on a road without walls either side. Sheep, though, can be a hazard.
I stopped briefly to unburden myself of a cup or two of coffee I'd had earlier and took in the view across into Garsdale, noticing that here, as up home, the effects of the late spring were obvious - the ground damp and the trees showing no sign of foliage. The sunshine and the clouds blew across the sky, but it didn't even hint at raining - the road was as dry as a bone. Continuing on my way, I allowed myself to open things up a little more as I got the feel of the road's wind through the valley, Meandering less as the vegetation grew rougher, the road became faster and I quickly found myself at the Viaduct (part of the Carlisle to Settle Railway) and the dip in the road at the Moorcock Inn junction where the Kirkby Stephen road (B6259) turns north. Riding the rollercoaster back up again, between the Inn and the stables opposite, the road immediately climbs once more, up between Abbotside Common and Mossdale Moor - bleaker and faster, but with plenty to entertain. Gradually though, trees start to put in an appearance again and the road slows down a bit. I get to the corner and bridge at Appersett and I know Hawes is no more than a mile or so away. Cue the "Cheese Shop" sketch.
I pulled into the Wensleydale Creamery car park and prepared to "scurry forth" to the "place of purveyance to negotiate in the vending of some cheesey comestibles" when I noticed that the entire building was about to explode from the pressure of containing so many tourists all frantically trying to buy loaves of cheese over one tiny counter. I opted to satisfy myself with taking a couple of snaps of the place and headed off up the high road to Wharfedale over the Fleet Moss.
This is a very narrow road (having developed from a rough drovers track, it even goes through a couple of farmyards) which takes you up the steep west slopes of Wether Fell to Green Side. Here the road joins with the Roman road (which stretches from Bainbridge to Ingleton) for a short way before veering upwards between ancient dry-stone walls to the highest point of any road in the Dales (at 589 m), or so I'm told. A 90 degree bend and southward again, summiting, before another cattle grid at the edge of the Fleet Moss. It's a good place to stop and appreciate the view or, failing that, the atmosphere.
Looking south from Fleet Moss (at 589m) can be seen: Old Cote Moor Top running down from the left with Great Wernside above; Darnbrook Fell and Pen-y-ghent Hill on the right, and; Malham and Hebden Moors in the distance.
The road down from the top to Oughtershaw is steep and winding, mainly over open hillside - and the bonnie loved it. The hamlet itself seems almost to huddle in the crook of the valley, as though in the vain hope that the great heavy clouds looming overhead won't notice it. From Oughtershaw downward into Langstrothdale, the road runs next to the Oughtershaw Beck and the River Wharfe, respectively, often with little to separate them. The fairly short distance past Yockenthwaite to Kirk Gill is characterised by twists and dips and brows and convolutions thereof that follow every curve of the valley side - proper Bonneville territory.
Bellow Kirk Gill, the character of the road changes abruptly, suddenly constricted by close, high walls angling across the flood plane to Buckden. Over the bridge, past the green and up to the T junction onto the B6160. As with many rural roads, this one can't make its mind up whether it wants to be single lane or double. Gladly, it also allows you to appreciate Wharfedale's geology and glacial shaping to the full. I turned on to it and head south and, before long, I was slowly winding along the narrow main street of Starbotton. This village has the dubious distinction of being the recipient of the first known "disaster appeal" - having been washed away in its entirety by a flash-flood in the 17th century. The event was heralded widely and the village was rebuilt with donations from people in, then, very distant counties throughout the land.
The next village is Kettlewell - my destination. By this time, the road has decided it wants to be one and a half lanes with the half one painted red. A line of trees separate the road and the river before a few bends lead to the village centre, where the road crosses the river and the Blue Bell Inn sits. It's a 17th century coaching inn which serves Copper Dragon daught and excellent food, and has great staff - one of whom would be putting me up for a couple of days. A swift pint of light ale and a stretch of the legs saw me refreshed and I headed off in the direction of my friends' house.
The Blue Bell Inn in Kettlewell.
It was good to see Dave and Emma again and we spent the evening in the company of more Copper Dragons (not as good from the bottle as from the pump, but it went down well amongst its peers) - t'was a good night. The next day, I awoke on the floor of the living-room with a small child shoving the hard end of a feather into my ear. This not being a part of my preferred awakening routine, I told her to leave me alone (in the nicest possible way, of course) and lay there listening to her playing scrabble with her brother and arguing. It was getting on for eleven o'clock when I finally picked myself off the floor and bimbled through for a coffee. I felt better when I saw that the other two looked to be in a similar condition to me. By twelve thirty I felt stable enough to get on the bonnie and make my way towards Hobbsport in Eastburn. I topped up my tank from the spare can, stuffed a few things in the tank bag and set off.
The road leads, first, to Skipton (via the B6160 and the B6265) - winding its way down Wharfedale and past the Kilnsey Craggs. The further south it goes, the straighter and faster it gets, until by the Skipton by-pass it is wide, flat and almost straight. I left the by-pass behind and took the A629 down Airedale. Straight over at the Sutton roundabout and on up into the village - keeping to the main street, past a turning and up to a set of traffic lights - fifty yards or so and left into a small industrial yard and immediately left again to where Hobbsport sits in the corner. The workshop is a single small industrial unit with the usual counter and double door in the front, an open centre and three partitioned sections at the rear: a tool room; an engineering shop, and; the tuning booth.
I'd arrived early and they were running late, so I nipped up the road for a hot pie, a muesli bar and a bottle of lucozade (pretty much my usual cure for a heavy night). After adequate digestion time and a natter with the boss (whose name escapes me right now), a young lad, Ian, appeared and wheeled the bonnie into the tuning booth. It turned out that he was a friend of a friend who had been teaching him to play the guitar. He'd mentioned that this lad had been working on bikes since in single figures and was well familiar with carb tuning so I was happy enough to put the bonnie in his hands. As I talked with him and watched what he was doing, it became clear that he was very comfortable with the tools he was using and had a good knack for getting a pair of carbs fitted quickly in a tight and fiddly spot.
I told them how I had set the carbs, filters and pipes and after staring at the ceiling in wonderment they took a reading of its performance as it was - a base-line (run 131). The conclusion was that I'd got it about right at the bottom end but as the engine increased in rpm it started to run a bit too rich. Though all things considered, a resounding endorsement of my son's socks - I think. After removing my home-made restrictor kit, I removed the baffles for "the boss" to hammer a 10mm drift down through the centre, to "open it up a bit".
The workshop at Hobbsport and the testing booth.
With the baffles back in, he rubbed his hands together and said, "Right. Now we can start doing things to it!"
The afternoon passed, punctuated by a succession of tests, analyses and adjustments. Discussing how he does the jetting, he mentioned he always uses Dyno-jets (the number of which differs from other jets because it is measured by flow rate rather than diameter). As the tuning became more into the right ball-park we decided to see what effect replacing the existing carb slide springs with a pair of Kawa GPz 900 (longer but softer) would have. This was done and the result was faster throttle response but leaner running, so more shims were added. Then different jets were fitted - and so on and so on.
Eventually, into the early evening, the job was done and it was time to go over the final test results (run 145). Briefly, the conclusion was that overall performance was good (and a huge improvement over that prior to the session) but there was still a large dip in the middle of the torque curve.
Dyno test graph showing increase in torque and HP of final reading (run 145) over initial reading (run 131).
I was feeling pretty hungry, so I didn't hang around. Pulling out from the place, the first thing I noticed was the increased acceleration, a deeper note from the pipes and noisier K&Ns. After fueling up at the Sutton roundabout, I headed back up the road for Kettlewell. Despite an ever so slight flattening off in the midrange, the improvement in the bonnie's performance was considerable - far more so to the feel of it than suggested by the graph. Everywhere on the rev-range it was sharper - and boy, what a sound! I flew up the road in the sunshine without any bother, enjoying both the meatier low end and the more powerful top end - even the midrange didn't seem to be as lacking as I expected.
After a quick stop at the Kilnsey Crags, I was back at Kettlewell. But I didn't want to stop yet and, besides, hadn't I seen an interesting looking road climbing the hill behind the village? Right, time for a test of gear against gradient. Alas, the road turned out to be unridable, at least from my standpoint. However, I made a mental note of the adjoining road as a future run - the Great Hunters Stone road, which runs through Carlton Highdale and down Coverdale to Middleham and Wensley, is said to be well worth travelling. I made do with a look at the scenery before riding back down the hill to my friends' house.
The next morning was spent polishing the bike and sitting in the sun, talking about nothing in particular. Dave said he had a mate down at the garage who'd probably like to have a look at the bonnie. He jumped onto his mountain bike and yelled, "Race ya!" and sped off. The swine didn't even let me get ready but I was after him in very short order. It must have been pretty obvious who lived in the village and who was the visitor, and I'm afraid to say I was soundly beaten by the pushbike. Down at the garage, Dave (standing grinning next to and old Villiers) introduced me to his mate who, upon seeing my bike, greeted me with the words, "Ah, a Kawasaki Bonneville."
Needless to say, the conversation stayed on the topic of motorcycles for a good while. It emerged that, in his earlier years, he had raced for Triumph before moving to Kawasaki and, later, Honda and still maintained a keen interest. Inside, he had numerous classic motorbikes in very tidy condition. Amongst his collection, I spotted: a BSA Goldstar; a Triumph Speed Twin; a Villiers; a Scott; a James; several Greeves (two of which are the last two ever made - one still "as new" but for the dust), and even; a Bultaco 350. Many were for sale. As we talked, it emerged that his "Kawasaki Bonneville" comment was not without grounds, at least from his standpoint. He told me that the design from which the new Bonneville was built was, in fact, developed and then shelved by Kawasaki before being sold on to the new Triumph company. It was certainly news to me.
We talked around the subject a while longer until Dave jumped onto his mountain bike and shouted, "Race ya!" again. I quickly caught him up but was unable to overtake through a throng of ramblers which had suddenly filled the place, so I sat on his tail until a clear bit of street appeared. I twisted the throttle, the bike leaped forwards and I was off down the far end before Dave knew where I'd gone, the new deeper sound of the pipes rasping and rumbling back off the walls of the houses either side of the narrow street in a great din. I was definitely starting to get a feel for the new throttle response, although I made a mental note not to rev like that in town too much.
Too soon, it was time for me to make tracks back to Cumbria. With the panniers loaded and balanced, and the tank bag full (I didn't bother filling the spare can for the return trip), the bike pulled through the corners beautifully as I rode the few miles north to Buckden and the Fleet Moss road. The extra amount of near-instantly available power made the road to the top, and down the other side to Hawes, an absolute wonder. It occurred to me that, if each motorcycle had a perfect road to match its characteristics, this would be the road for my bonnie. I was in heaven and seized by an uncontrollable perma-grin.
A few miles west of Hawes, the rains hit. All of a sudden, on this brilliant road, I was down to 40 mph - blast! It didn't last long, though, and by the top end of Garsdale I was through it. As the road got closer to the motorway, it grew dryer and I was able to have a bit more fun again. The final few twisties flew by and I was at junction 37 again. Over the cattle grid, down the filter lane and onto the M6 north. What sparse traffic there was, was sitting at around 80 mph and I was happy just to sit and match that for all of two minutes.
The long sweeping corners on this stretch (between J37 and J38) make it the best section of motorway, that I know of at least, to really open up along. I overtook a couple of cars and ahead of me not another could be seen, so I twisted the throttle all the way and let it take me where it wanted to be. Straight away I could feel the front end starting to lighten up and bounce more readily over any bumps and the acceleration just kept coming, right up to the limiter at 118(ish?) mph. Junction 38 at Tebay arrived very soon and I forked off the motorway in search of something a little less lunacy inducing.
L: Looking northwest from Garsdale Rigg towards the Howgill Fells.
R: Orton Church.
I made for the Orton road (B6260) out of the north side of the place. After some more placid miles I was struck by the view of a large lime-washed Norman (or Saxon, even) church tower shining out among the dark stone buildings of the village. I turned up a narrow lane and parked in the churchyard for a short while. Legs suitably stretched for the last leg, I headed northwest over Crosby Ravensworth Fell to Shap and then up the A6 to Penrith and the familiar landmarks of home. It was an even better journey on the way up than on the way down and I'm sure I used less fuel.