Saturday, May 28, 2011

On the Isle of Man - Day 1

And now for a report on what's happening on the Isle of Man. Our bike was scheduled to arrive on Friday, 27 May, so Lennon arrived on Wednesday afternoon, just in case the bike showed up early. I came in Friday afternoon, and Radu arrived early this afternoon (Saturday).


Friday evening our rider, Allan, had a practice session for the Pre TT Classic road race on a course on the southern side of the Isle of Man. After picking up my luggage (delayed due to weather in Toronto), Lennon and I went to check it out.
Lennon and Allan, waiting in line for tech inspection...

Allan rides in a class of 500cc bikes built in 1972 or before.

Ever wonder how you get a race bike started?

Waiting to start practice.

Heading out for a few practice laps.

The paddocks... lots of eye candy.


On Thursday and Friday, the word from our shipper was that the bike would arrive Saturday morning at 8:00am. My first thought was "oh boy... here we go again." I've had to deal with motorcycle shipping (and international shipping in general) enough to know that the first delay is often rarely the last. Lennon and I arrived at the designated drop-off point (a warehouse in Douglas, the capital city of the Isle of Man) at 8:30. No bike. So we started making phone calls. Our main shipping contact didn't have a reference number, and only knew the name of the shipper on the UK side of the ferry, not on the Isle of man side. So we got a list of the freight companies in town and called around. Long story short: after two hours of stressing out, running around town and thinking about what we were going to do if we couldn't get our bike until Tuesday (Monday is a bank holiday here), we got a call that the crates had arrived at our original meeting point. Phew!

So Lennon and I got to go unpack the crates,

load our mini-van with the little stuff,

and some of the bigger stuff (these are three of our four battery modules - more on the headache of shipping Lithium-ion batteries later).

And we waited for Allan to drive his van down to take the bike itself back to his house.


When the organizers of the TT set us up with a rider, they specifically chose Allan because they knew he would help us out with all of the nigly little details that come up. He and his wife Jan have been a huge help so far in arranging accommodation, transport and Manx hospitality, but the biggest thing so far has really been the use of his garage. While many teams have paddock space at the grandstand where they can work on their bike, complete with semi truck, enclosed tent and electrical power, arranging that equipment from the US or renting it here would have been prohibitively expensive. Instead, we get to work on our bike in Allan's two-car garage with plenty of space and light, and (perhaps most importantly) away from any distractions like other racers or mechanics stopping by to chat and see our bike before it's ready. We have a lot of work to do, and Allan's garage has proven to be a great place to focus on it.

Lennon and Radu, just getting started.

Allan is working on his own bike as well. This is a Kawasaki he plans to ride in one of the gas bike races.

Before we could actually assemble the bike, there were a couple of tasks which required _further disassembly_. This is as far as we had to go in the "disassembled" direction.

We're concerned about the effect of water on the bike. We are on an island in the middle of the Irish Sea after all, and there is occasionally moisture in the air and on the ground. (If you've ever been to the UK, you know how tongue-in-cheek that statement is). Anyway, we decided to wrap our batteries in plastic and 'heat-shrink' it to make the plastic tight.

Always best to prototype before you use up tons of plastic.

Lennon shrinking one of the battery modules.

One of the wrapped modules. Think it will keep out the rain?

We had to cut holes in the plastic to make electrical connections, but then sealed up the holes with tape afterwards.

Radu, fitting a brand new, heavy-duty drive shaft that he made just before leaving Boston.

And, finally, we got to start putting the bike back together, rather than taking it apart...

Me, playing with tinker toys... I mean assembling rearsets for the bike (they're footpeg assemblies that allow a better racing position for the rider than standard fixtures).

Lifting the lower two battery modules into place.

We called it a day with three of four battery modules in place. The hope is to finish assembling the bike tomorrow (Sunday) morning in time for a test run on a local racetrack that afternoon. Can't wait!


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