Dead Red - The Prince of Darkness Strikes

in 2020 Articles

I finally got a chance to get out for a ride today and since I still need to get the ABS fixed on the 2010 Triumph Tiger I decided to take little Red out and put some more break in miles on him. I gave him a clean-up before leaving, since he was going out in public, and he looked real pretty sitting on the drive.

Red, for those who don't know, is a 1970 Triumph TR25W.  His last great adventure ended in disaster when he suffered a catastrophic seizure up in Jasper. Since then he has had a complete rebuild and having completed an initial shake down ride bringing him back from the mechanic I was starting to gently put miles on to break him in. 

I headed out on Bells Ferry Road and stopped off at Old McDonalds for a quick bite to live up to the motto "Eat to Ride, and Ride to Eat". 

From there I rejoined Bells Ferry Road at the Bridgemill main entrance and carried on up to the Chevron at Butterworth Road where I hung a left up to Knox Bridge Highway.  Red was running great, just happily humming along as I kept within limits for breaking him in.

Breaking in on these old bikes is done at 40mph, so it's necessary to be courteous to drivers who get stuck behind you and pull off every now and again to let a backlog of cars go by. I had done this a couple of times on the ride and unfortunately the third time was definitely not a charm in this case. I pulled off on a convenient gravel road and as I rode a U turn the old boy died. 

I thought he may have just stalled, but when I kicked him over it was clear there was something lacking in the spark department.  Sure enough upon checking, the little red ignition light was out. I thought I must have blown the fuse. Yes that's right, THE fuse, not A fuse.  These old British bikes have just one main fuse.  As I walked around the bike I saw the lights were still on, so it wasn't the fuse. 

I pulled the plug and kicked it over to confirm there was no spark, only to confirm my suspicions of an ignition circuit problem. 

I pulled the headlamp out to check connections and any signs of shorts in the rat nest of wiring that is tucked in the headlamp shell.  No problems there. I checked all wiring connections under the seat and in the battery compartment. All seemed fine there as well, and yet there was no power to the ignition. 

That left the ignition connections and coil that live under the gas tank. With no means to remove the tank at the side of the road I called AAA for recovery.  I hate doing that because although I am ever so grateful they will recover my bike, they use car transporters and have a tenancy to strap the bikes down too right, so blowing the front fork oil seals. 

AAA were initially great as usual.  They answered the phone quickly and in no time had a recovery vehicle booked for me, which would arrive in less than an hour. Then came the sting in the tail. Due to COVID-19 they no longer allow you to ride with the recovery driver and you have to make alternate arrangement to get yourself home. What a pain in the derriere! However, my pleasure with AAA soon turned to anger and frustration as the due time came and went with no updates and no sign of a recovery truck.  I called AAA for a status update.  They told me the firm who had accepted the job had then canceled the job and nobody had bothered to provide me an update.  They put me on hold while they arranged for an alternate recovery service.  After a long hold they came back on only to tell me that they couldn't get a service and were passing the case to Dispatch who may take another 2.5 hours to get back to me.  My blood boiled.

While I had been waiting for the phantom AAA recovery truck I had visits from several locals all offering help, two of whom lived up the gravel track that I was on.  Tired of waiting for AAA to provide service I decided to move the bike to the parking lot of Sutallee Baptist Church, just up the hill from my unplanned stop. AAA could pick it up from there and if necessary I would leave it there overnight.  As I rounded the curve at the top of the hill I found one of the good Samaritans, a chap called Walter, in his front yard.  He kindly offered for me to store the bike on his driveway instead until I could arrange pickup. So there Red sits, up in White GA with a kindly neighbor.  I now need to come up with Plan B to bring him home as I am not putting any faith in AAA sorting this out for me.

So the moral of the story is, when riding alone and believing you have AAA to save the day, they will save the day for your two wheeled ride, but you my friend are on your own! Plan accordingly and make sure your phone is fully charged before you leave! 

Here's some other things to be aware of as well. Google maps does allow for location sharing, so you can send a live link of your location to the friend who is going to pick you up.  However, you will need to disable power saving on your phone or it won't even let you send your location.  Again we are back to MAKE SURE YOUR PHONE IS FULLY CHARGED BEFORE YOU LEAVE! Or better yet, don't ride old British bikes at all, but where's the fun and adventure in that! 

November 11th Update

AAA did eventually contact me again on Sunday night and confirmed they had found a motorcycle recovery company to get my bike.  Being as it was 9pm on Sunday when they called me, and I had Wednesday off as a company holiday anyway, we agreed arrangements to get the bike on Veteran's Day.

As it turned out on the day AAA was not done yet with causing problems and while I waited for Clyde @Cycle Worthy Towing to arrive AAA gave the job to another service provider.  Clyde was only 20 minutes from me at that stage.  Thankfully the second service provider called me as soon as she was on her way and I was able to clarify that service was arriving shortly, so she stood down from the job.  I need to have a serious rethink about my motorcycle recovery with AAA.

Clyde turned up, decked out with a properly built pickup with a hydraulic deck to carry up to 3 bikes, which I was very pleased to see since the last recovery service AAA had sent to me for a bike was a car transporter... I kid you not!  Red was loaded aboard and in short order we were on our way home.

Once I had red tucked in the garage again I stripped off the saddle, the tank and the side panel of the battery enclosure.  It was very quickly obvious what the problem was.  One of the connections on the coil had become detached and pushing it back on it was clear why.  The little spade connector had opened up over time and had no grip on the coil post.

Before doing anything else I turned on the ignition and was very pleased to see the ignition light glowing bright red.  So far so good. 

I pulled the spark plug, turned on the ignition and kicked over the motor. A bright blue spark across the plug gap confirmed the issue had been found.

I gently closed up the detached connector and reattached it to the coil.  While I was in there I checked the other two coil connectors and both were loose, one as loose as the connection that had detached.  I gently closed up the other two connectors as well and reattached them to the coil.  I reassembled the bike as far as putting the tank back on and fired it up.  It was an easy start, easier than before, no doubt because of the now effective connections on the coil.

Thank goodness that is the end of that.  Now I can get back to breaking in the new engine build and enjoying what is a really super little 1970 motorcycle.

Check out these links to Lucas Prince of Darkness humor...

http://www.hermit.cc/tmc/humor/lucas.htm

https://www.mez.co.uk/lucas.html