Bobbins, Bearings and Snow

When I had my motorbike serviced in November, the chap working on it noted that the paralever bearings and brake bobbins were wearing and needed replacement.

The bobbins are quite obvious to see, they are round pieces of metal that go between the outer bit of the brake disc (the bit that the pads work on) and an inner disc that connects to the wheel. The R1100RS has two discs at the front, and each disc has 12 bobbins. I think the idea is to do with the so-called “floating” disc setup. The bobbins allow lateral movement of the disc, sideways looking from the front of the bike, but not the other way.

The paralever bearings are up the back somewhere, inside the swinging arm, and thats about all I know. I do know from hunting round google that they go from time to time in mysterious circumstances. They are part of the geometry setup that BMW designed a few years ago to counter the inherant problems that driving the rear wheel with a shaft causes, compared to using a chain or belt.

With the MOT of the bike coming up early April, I decided to get on with what needed done on the bike and called the chap in South Queensferry to arrange to get the work done. I ordered up the parts from James Sherlock and waited. When the parts didn’t appear I found out that they had delivered direct to South Queensferry like last time, which wasn’t really a problem. Having phoned up I had to make hurried arrangements to get the bike over on Monday night so that the work could be fitted in over the week. The chap that does the work for me used to be in the trade, but now works on BM’s as a hobby, so it obviously has to fit round the rest of his week and his proper job.

He phoned on Thursday to say he had finished, but I had to arrange to pick it up on Friday night because I hadn’t got the bike kit with me. The chap that works on my bike is about 5 minutes walk from Dalmeny rail station, and Haymarket rail station is about 10 minutes walk from where I work at the moment. Doing the train ride of about 10 minutes between Haymarket and Dalmeny makes great sense when I’m working in central Edinburgh. The only tricky bit is that I need to plan in the morning to wear something semi-formal, and combine it with the change in clothes for the bike. More organised than last time, I wore my steel toe-cap size 14 Dr Martin’s, and my textile bike jacket with a shirt and trousers. The rest of the bike stuff, i.e. helmet, thermals, trousers, and hi-viz overjacket I carried with me on the morning bus.

Then it snowed on Friday, and I can tell you that the last thing I wanted to do was ride the bike on snow. Being a biggish bike it weighs a lot, and anything much over upright is hard to recover when near stationary. I learned this to my cost the first time I tried to ride the bike and overbalanced it, once is enough. I checked the live-eye views of the A8000 and the South Queensferry area to see if the snow was clearing. Right enough the sun managed to melt the exposed snow, but the train ride later showed side roads and similar with a couple of inches of snow.

Thankfully when going to collect the bike he rode it out to the street which was clear of snow, obviously my apprehension was tangible at that point. The ride from there I took easy, with bits of ice kicking about, but it wasn’t a problem. The brakes were a revelation too. Apparently my front brakes had practically seized on with riding on roads with salt. Now, trying to be a tough biker I’ve been riding the BMW over the last few weeks when there wasn’t snow and ice kicking about. I’ve also tried (mostly) to rinse the bike down with cold water to try and clear the salt. All doing the right thing apparently. My downfall at the moment is total lack of experience. Between a lack of riding experience, and lack of experience with the bike, I’m not equipped at all to tell whether a particular “feature” of the bike is a fault or part of the peculiar charms of such a bike. All I know is that the front brake would get sticky when the bike hadn’t been ridden for a few days, and that it freed up after a wee ride and that the bike stopped when I pulled on the brake lever. Now the lever pulls back farther and there is a lot more progressive feel to the front brake. Lesson learned.

Got all the way back to Livingston, and the anticipation sets in. My street is on a left hand bend, and goes down a hill off the left hand camber. That combination means that you can’t see the conditions until you are just about to turn in, and also makes it interesting on an icy day. I set up for the corner, and it was my fortune to have a car following and indicating the same way, just to add to my concern of evaluating the conditions. So I slowed right down on the main road, down to first, and minimum lean with gentle back brake. After all that the experience of riding on snow wasn’t that bad, I took it well easy. The trickiest bit came at the bottom of the street, where my house is. The car park follows the slope of the street, so its either down to the left or uphill to the top of the car park. One of my neighbours was reversing out of a space, and turning to come out of carpark which only has about a car and a half’s width to come out. So I had to stop on the snow while they were maneuvering. Gently did it, and almost died when my foot slipped, thankfully I’ve been trying to apply the feedback from my run with LMTS and not stick my leg out as far, thanks Joe! After that it was both feet down, sliding my feet on the snow, and parked up on a clear spot where a car had been. On the centre stand, what a relief – all intact.

And enough daylight left to rinse down the bike with my garden spray and Autoglym bike cleaner. Padlock and chain on, cover on the top, and it’s staying there till the snow goes!