leftBupt  Pilgrimage to the Kiwi Rally

     I have become inspired to put finger to keyboard and tell all of an epic journey, a journey only the brave, the foolhardy, and a dedicated VJ motorcyclist would even attempt to do.. Yes.. I rode a Suzuki T125 Stinger to the Cold Kiwi Rally. Yes.. a real Man's Machine. This rally is held at the highest point of the Desert Road in the North Island of NZ early in September, ie mid winter. It is often wet, or snowing and is always very cold, but each year about 2500 riders challange the normally accepted boundries of sanity and make the pilgrimage.

     But first I should tell you a little about THE MOTORCYCLE (hereafter referred to as THE MOTORCYCLE), a 1971 T125-II. I aquired it from my father's cousin about 8 years ago. He had bought it secondhand in 1971 and used it to go to work when the weather was good for about 14 years, until a VW beetle cut across in front of him at an intersection, hooked the end of its bumper bar (do you US -types have another name for that?) on the inside edge of the front rim, and towed him three or four hundred yards up the road and into a factory car park! The guy then abused him for tail-gating. Three years after the fact, he still shook telling me the story.

     So, after 11,680 trouble free miles THE MOTORCYCLE was parked in the shed and then outside for a year when space was needed. It's time in the fresh and humid air of Auckland did it no good, so the chromework has suffered a bit and the motor was seized solid. Lucky for me, it had never been re-bored. The only pistons that I could buy new were 0.5mm OS and that was just enough to remove the scars of battle inflicted on the bores when I pressed out the old pistons.
     Apart from the chrome, the bike was in very good original condition, with tool kit, spare fuses, running in jets, and even original tyres (since replaced with Pirrelli Mandrakes). The battery even held a charge. So, new pistons and rings went in, the carbs were cleaned up, the points cleaned and set, new oil all round... Key on, full choke.. big kick.. not a suasage.. A few more kicks, then a quick push and it fired up. When will the mythical first-kick-fire-up-after-a-rebuild happen to me?? Careful running in over the next five hundred miles and I decided to try her out. Full speed in top gear and only 5500rpm.. hmmmm.. Scratch head..check timing... polish glasses.. clean air filter... wife remarks how quiet THE MOTORCYCLE is.. ahhhhh! 11,680 miles, a lot of them on ordinary motor oil knowing my cousin, and I bet no one has ever cleaned out the pipes. Out with the gas plant and a few million cubic feet of thick smoke later, the pipes were clear.

     Here is a hint for cleaning out two-smoke pipes that are not chrome plated or are going to be re-plated. Use an oxy-acetylene welding torch to heat up the header end of the pipe and when it is glowing hot, slowly reduce the acetylene until you are blowing pure oxygen into the pipe. the oxygen and heat soon burns away the sludge, producing copious clouds of smoke.
     A word of warning!! This process generates a lot of heat if the oxygen is turned up too high and can melt or distort the metal. Watch carefully for the glowing band as it moves its way down the pipe as the sludge burns away. Do it in a shaded place or at night to make sure you do not overheat the metal.
     Occasionally the gas will explode in the pipe, making wonderous smoke rings and back-fire noises. Your neighbours will love the aroma of two-stroke and will ask you to do it again as soon as you can! A coat of flat black VHT paint, and back on the bike they go. Lets try it out. Hmmm again.. 8750rmp.. where is that last 250rpm? Checking the plugs told me. Sooty electrode.Too rich. I remembered the spare main jets in the plastic pouch beside the spare fuses. They were one size smaller so in they went to replace the running-in jets that had never been removed. Ahhhh!

     Crisp is the only word for the engine note now. The Stinger sounds like a wasp with a bee in its bonnet. But back to the saga.

     Saturday morning dawned wet and windy of course, so it was on with the incontinent plastics and away. I had a friend come with me on my RD400C, so I made him carry most of the gear. The trip was pleasant but uneventfull until Taihape, about 80km from the rally. THE MOTORCYCLE coughed once and died. Terror clutched my heart.. stranded in Taihape! (Those of you who have never been to NZ, please substitute Taihape with any out of the way place in your country e.g. South Carolina *grin*) A check showed there was no electrickery going anywhere, and the lead was soon replaced back on the battery. But having used the brakes and direction indicators as I pulled off the road, the only bulbs still working were the high beam and the right side indicators (work that one out, you US types!) The power surge with the battery out of circuit had blown all the other bulbs. The next stop was to fill up with gas AND bulbs and we carried on.

     On the climb up the Desert Road ( which is desert only because it is high and cold) we were passed hundreds of big bikes. I was riding along thinking smuggly to myself "Yessiree.. this little baby is going to turn heads".. Thru the gates... collect my badge, out into the rally site, and almost run into two guys on Stingers coming the other way. Oh well, three Stingers out of 2500 bikes is not so bad.

     All in all, it was a very good weekend, with the usual rally competitions except the wet t-shirt..Not recommended in sub-zero temperatures! A Vespa won the burnout competition.... well he did have a spare tyre didn't he?!? But a T500 gave him a run for his money. One of the other Stingers went into the Wheelie competion.. the first three tries just resulted in classic "bog-out" and the fourth try went thru the power band with him leaning way back and resulted in him tearing a small trench in the ground with the back mudguard. Someone had a CB400N painted in rattlecan fluro green and red. It was abused all day. At one stage they kept trying to ride it up the pile of trees that was to be the bonfire. Then they parked it against a log, and red lined it in second while about 10 people climbed on. It buried itself down to the swingarm. Then they took turns sitting on it, drinking beer and keeping the throttle around to the stop. On Sunday, it was still going! A Honda C50 Stepthru was there, and entered in every competition; wheelie, hillclimb, longest jump, do-nut, burnout (unsuccessfully!) and most riders. Later they tried combinations of all of the above. At about 7:00pm they asked over the PA if anyone had a spare C50 swingarm. But the Metal Gonads award, in my book, would have to go to the guy who rode around on his XZ550, naked, with his "Inflatable Friend" facing him on the fuel tank. And the temp was about zero by this time.

     The usual bonfire and band to the small hours made me rather glad we had picked a camp site a long way down the valley. We were woken at about 6:00am by a rousing chorus of "Put another Honda on the fire"

     On the way home, as I was riding down a long and gentle hill when two nicely dressed men in matching leathers on a matching BMW passed me. A challange! Honour was at stake! Adopting my best Hugh Anderson crouch, I smoked off after them. 85mph was showing on the speedo, and Nippon Denso was showing on the rev-counter! I screamed past them and they did not even smile. After that I had a very interesting dice with a Honda MB100, passing and repassing each other as we slip-streamed. It showed the disc-valve 100cc motor was a perfect horsepower match for the old piston port twin. Over all the little bike did very well. Interesting was the fact that the T125 and the RD400 used almost exactly the same amount of fuel. 60mph is fast for the Stinger, but easy stuff for the RD. Over the weekend we covered 850km and I would do it again tomorrow.
Nigel in NZ
04 January 2000