Finding the perfect end can for my Elefant – life after Micron

Ever since May 2014 when I posted about fitting a Micron carbon race can to the Elefant I have been trying out other options. The Micron looked good and gave a lovely fruity sound, but for me, and round here (lots of horses), it was just a bit too fierce.


Micron race – carbon


Thinking that more metal and less carbon might be all that was needed to take some of the bite out of the note, I tried a stainless Quill race can. It looked great but there was no significant difference in the sound.





Quill race – stainless


Now I have acquired a stainless Quill road can from a VFR800. This time the unit is round (both the race cans were oval) and a little longer, so the increase in volume (not as in ‘noise’ – the other kind of volume) is significant. Nonetheless, though heavier than the featherlight (1.9kg) race cans, weight is still greatly reduced in comparison to the massive (7.6kg) original with its built in catatlytic converter.

The lovely chaps at sorted me out with a(nother) adapter and we were off.











Sounds to follow.

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Lands End Trial 2015 – order out of chaos

One of the problems with using an old 2-stroke for long-distance trials is that you need so much stuff. Higher fuel consumption and the need for pre-mix oil means you have to find room for three litres of various petrochemical fluids before you start stashing the tools, tyre levers and spare inner tubes that everyone else takes as well.

Off-the-shelf green-laning tool bags aren’t really big enough for all my stuff, and bitter experience prevents me from leaving anything smaller than a lathe behind. In previous years I’ve strapped it all on top of the rear mudguard. This has proved perfectly secure but made life quite complicated at fuel stops, never mind when I descended into puncture hell during the 2012 event.

No more. This is a small Kodak camera bag bought cheap of eBay, embellished with a rather lovely Laverda badge (NB black background – thank you wolfman570_0)  bought from the same place. It took me ages to track one down that was suitably sized for the new rack and just the right dimensions to accommodate two bottles of 2T with room to spare. The side pockets – one of which is detachable – hold inner tubes and suchlike snugly. The rear external pocket holds a 2T bottle perfectly – fate!

New bag - no badgeNew bag - badge








I am also on the trail of a slightly larger tank-mounted back. The leather original looks very elegant perched on the tank, but there is room for something with a sightly larger footprint and a little extra capacity might render my bum-bag all but redundant. Another small camera bag should do the job.

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Lands End Trial 2015 – Chott suspension improvements

An oil leak from the right-hand fork slider near the pinch bolt has proved impossible to cure by simply making/remaking/improving the seal at the damper-rod retaining bolt. I am beginning to think that the problem might be a hairline crack somewhere impossible to see – perhaps as a result of previous over-tightening of the pinch bolt or axle. There leak would only start after everything was tightened up.

Next step has been to fit a fork slider from my spare bike, changing the seals (fitted in pairs on these fork legs) at the same time. Two weeks later and with a short test ride completed, there is no sign of a leak. The test ride revealed that having both fork legs working properly has made a great improvement. Lovely and supple.

Moving to the rear, the time has come to confess to an act of astonishing stupidity verging on self-sabotage. I now know why my NJB rear shocks seemed to lack sufficient damping. They were on upside down.

You’d think I’d have the sense to keep that sort of information to myself, wouldn’t you? I offer it here in a spirit of humility and life-long learning. Mr NJB informs me that he does indeed make shocks that work either way up, but mine aren’t among them. I can only say that they were upside down when I took delivery of the bike – and I can prove it. Now they are on the right way up, the rear is lovely, compliant and well-damped.

Clearly, by the last few sections of last year’s Lands End Trial I had neither front nor rear suspension that worked anything like Ceriani and NJB intended, with almost no damping at either end. My comprehensive failure at Blue Hills in 2014 – which previously I had done rather well on, even as a complete rookie – is starting to look less mysterious.

The bike now feels transformed – as you would expect. If we can repeat last year’s perfect mechanical reliability, I think the Chott and I will  have some fun in five week’s time.





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Laverda Chott clutch clean-up – part 3

The switch to 20w/50 engine oil in the gearbox (as per the 1976 handbook) did indeed prove a great success, but not a long-lived one. The clutch worked well for about 80% of the trial but started to drag towards the end, making the Blue Hills 1 & 2 restarts tricky enough for me to mess them up completely. When I opened things up I found that oil had contaminated the plates once more. Not a lot, but enough to spoil the fun.

My latest thought is that perhaps fully synthetic is a bit thin for this application, so I have now stripped everything, cleaned it meticulously, and refilled the gearbox with good old mineral oil. It certainly appears significantly thicker. Hopefully the O-ring that seals the clutch drum will have an easier time keeping this at bay.

If this doesn’t work, I will replace the oil seal in the base of the clutch basket. It looked fine but you never know.


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Elefant gets Micron can.

The standard silencer/dead-cat thingy on the Elefant is a bit of monstrosity weighs a tonne (7.6kg to be precise) and comprehensively spoils the music.









This beautiful Micron can came off a Kawasaki ZX6R. It is sleek and lovely, weighs 1.9kg and promises to restore the music. (Many thanks Kevin. You are a star. Good luck with saving up for the full Akrapovič!)

But will it fit?

Oh yes!

I just cannot believe how easy this was. Normally nothing is ever this straightforward in my workshop.





The thin end of the ZXR link pipe was so very nearly a perfect fit for the Elefant’s pipe that all I had to do was cut the end off (at the red line) to make an adapter and then slide the can on. A bit of shimming made the seal good between the adapter and the bike’s headers. Even the strap lined up with one of the two mounting points on the frame. Tailpipe is a bit snug to the indicator but nothing that a bit of fettling won’t sort out.








The finished result.

Sounds great.

Standard can

Micron can

And feels happier on the road too.

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No such thing as the perfect bike.

I met the owner of this beauty today. It really is as lovely in the flesh as it looks in the photo. Spotless. And so tasty you wanted to lick it. You don’t see much of this sort of exotica in West Cornwall. Well, I don’t.

As the owner climbed off I rather let my emotions get the better of me. “What an absolutely beautiful bike etc. etc.” (You know the sort of thing.) He looked at me as if I was a bit mad and, after a long pause, dropped his bombshell. “Tyres don’t last long – and they cost a fortune.”  Taken aback at this shocking revelation I tried to be diplomatic. “Still, that’s not so surprising I suppose.” But worse news was to come. “And the fuel consumption is terrible – worse than my car.”

Who knew? 160bhp Ducati eats tyres and drinks fuel! The things you learn.

Ducati 1098S

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Lands End Trial 2014 – Report: must try harder

Waiting for our turn - not sure where.

Well, we did it. Third time lucky. In 2012 (my first year on the Chott) multiple punctures brought things to an early close and I spent the night – the whole night! – at Barbrook, on the edge of Exmoor, trying to mend them. Last year electrical gremlins took up residence in the 90-minute van ride from Penzance to Plusha and I couldn’t even get out of the car park under my own steam.

But this year the Chott never missed a beat and for eleven of the 13 sections I really thought I might bring home an award. Unfortunately there was a problem with one key component – a long-standing vulnerability on all my bikes – something my Dad used to call “the nut that holds the handlebars”. Almost literally at the last minute, after 17 hours on the bike, I managed to snatch ignominy from the jaws of triumph even though the conditions were pretty much perfect. But the bike itself did indeed run sweetly for the full 22 hours and 350 or so miles. So that’s good then.

First I want to say thank you to Basil Stocker who acted as pathfinder. That’s Basil in the foreground of the first picture, next to his trusty XT250. Basil has so many awards, accumulated over a long MCC career, that he has had to have his loft joists reinforced. His tireless navigating, with what he describes as “one and a half eyes”, freed me to concentrate on my riding. I wish I had done better if only to repay Basil’s kindness. My turn in 2015, Basil.

I left Plusha at 17.09 convinced that simply to finish for the first time since 2010 (Honda XR-mounted) would be success enough. But the perfect conditions (bright, cold and dry-as-a-bone overnight), lots of recent bike fettling and a bit of practicing over the winter meant that the first three sections went like a dream. By 4am I was thinking the unthinkable. What’s that they say about “pride coming before a fall”?

Come Sutcombe (the fourth Observed Section) and my growing confidence and some comments about the Chott’s noisy exhaust got me wondering if I should try it in second. Nooooo! That would be a schoolboy error? But then, as the starter gave me the nod, my toe did indeed mysteriously snick up the box instead of down. Second gear it was then. All went well at first but soon the hill reared up. I ground to a halt about half way up, just a yard short of a restart box (for cars and some motorcycles but not mine). What was I thinking? Even a coffee and a bacon bap from the lovely ladies at the top of the hill could not ease the biting conviction that I was the most certifiably spectacular idiot the Lands End Trial had ever seen. Now a silver award was my best hope.

Bridgwater scrutineering

And so we processed through the remainder of that crisp, star-studded night. Just before dawn a shooting star streaked across the sky. In an exceedingly uncharacteristic piece of grumpiness by an MCC official, a section starter ticked me off because he couldn’t hear his walkie-talkie. But at 7.30am the Chott did indeed pass the noise test – just.

Around 10am we were into the woods. I remembered them from 2010 as being well within my capabilities, especially given how dry and grippy the woodland surface should be this year. Ladyvale (OS 9) and Hoskin Hill went according to plan and so did the second Observed Test, Bishop’s Path. Crikey! Still on Silver and just three sections to go. Next up, Bishops Wood, I couldn’t quite remember what was involved, but in 2010 I’d cleaned the two Blue Hills sections with only a little drama.

At the Bishops Wood line I chatted relaxedly with the very nice lady starter. Off we go. Round the sharp left-hander near the start … this is good … going well … dum de dum … restart box coming up … hit my mark perfectly. No! It’s the wrong bloody restart box (the yellow one). My box (the red one) is visible 20 yards away, from where the observers are gazing back at me, watching as I throw away my Silver. (By the way, apologies to all present for the shouting into my beard. Not very dignified. I realise that now.)

Blue Hills 2 (Photo courtesy of

Still, onwards and upwards? Bronze. Two more sections. But worse – much worse – was still to come. As a competitor you approach Blue Hills from the other side of the valley. The slow approach down a steep, narrow hill gives you plenty of time to take in the beautiful setting and the large crowds perched on the cliff-side. It’s a truly spectacular spot for a motorsport event – the photos don’t do it justice – and very popular with spectators. Did I mention that already?

There are two Blue Hills sections. The first is tight but straightforward. The main challenge comes from a restart on a stone slab incline just before you turn tight right to stop astride the finish line. Blue Hills 2 is the famous one; a long, steep rocky drag – and that’s just the approach. On the section proper the restart box is now positioned just before a steep stone slab (seemed steep to me) and followed by a sharp uphill right to the end of the section.

No point labouring this; I made a monumental hash of both restarts thanks to a combination of poor clutch and throttle control and the most glaring of my many failings as an off-road rider, the slowness with which I get up onto the pegs from a standing start. The Chott motor is not as grunty as a four-stroke. It needs revs to get it off the line and the clutch engages over a relatively short span near the end of the lever travel. Together these can make smooth restarts tricky. And then, if I don’t get up on the pegs sharpish to balance weight fore and aft, I can find it very hard to get grip and keep the front end on the deck.

Blue Hills 2 restart 2013 (Photo courtesy of Jim Llewellyn

So, at the Blue Hills 1 restart up came the front wheel and down went me – quite hard actually. All very embarrassing. Many, many thanks to the cheerful marshals who helped me up. The restart on Blue Hills 2 was a reprise of the same problems, but this time I stayed on the bike – if somewhat inelegantly.





And so I got my ‘wish’ – simply to finish. Three cheers for the Chott; one-and-a-half for the rider. I was, in the parlance of our times (© Big Lebowski), gutted. But now I have got the Chott reliable (and with a host of other improvements in the pipeline) I am already thinking about a first crack at the Edinburgh Trial in October.




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Lands End Trial 2014 – ready to go!

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Chott 2 – the sequel

Bought another! Ostensibly for spares but when I put a litre of fresh premix in her she burst into life on the second kick and the engine sounds at least as crisp and lusty as Chott 1’s. Lots of lovely bits on this bike that are missing from Chott 1: both instrument drives and good instruments, a bash plate, original seat, original grips and Tomaselli twistgrip. And she used to live in Breganze – so practically a works machine then!



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Lands End Trial 2014 – final shake-down ride

Here she is. Ready to go.  Main mod for this year is a modern headlamp so that I can use  H4R bulbs borrowed from a ZXR 400 – 35w dip for general running (so as not to overwhelm the measly 55w  generator) and 60w main for emergencies (ie, night sections). I also have a fantastic LED bicycle lamp which is brighter than both of them, so not much main beam use expected.

It broke my heart throwing her to the ground every half-hour during last year’s Coast-to-Coast so I have bought a second Chott (‘Chott 2 – the sequel’) the dented tank and broken side panels from which are now fitted to save Chott 1’s near-perfect body for a concours restoration for which I will never find the time. The tatty bodywork gives her a worldly, well-used look I think.


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