Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Suspension Upgrade - BGM Front Dampers

The last race at Mallory saw me fit a major new upgrade to the scooter. As many will know from reading the blog I have had a struggle with high speed cornering stability and confidence. After much consideration and advice I came to the conclusion that yes..... the front end of the scooter was too stiff.

The previous setup had consisted of Taffspeed internal springs, which are progressive and a good upgrade from standard. The standard set up has a 7mm nylon bush at the top of the springs, I had some bushes machined from stainless steel, in a variety of sizes and the ones I had fitted were 14mm, which were stiffening up the front end massively, effectively pre-loading the suspension.

The end result of this very stiff set up was that the front end was not really absorbing much in the way of bumps at speed, so the front end was wandering around. It was Tony O'Brien who lit the light bulb that made me realise this in a conversation when he asked me if my high speed cornering problem was me or was it the bike? An interesting question..... and it set me thinking!

On a trip up to main sponsors Lambretta Cottage, the brand new BGM front dampers had come into stock, and I sat admiring the engineering for some time! Do you fit them to the scooter or hang them on the wall to look at!

First thing about them that really surprised me was the weight.... they looked really heavy - but they are no heavier than standard dampers! The quality of engineering work is truly brilliant. I reckon they are among the best engineered products I have seen for scooters.

They feature a 16 stage adjustable damping action. This is achieved by simply rotating the knurled section at the bottom. There are 16 very definite clicks and the adjustment can be easily made on the scooter.

The dampers are also cleverly designed to fit into standard Lambretta forks links and damper mountings. Many other alternative dampers need modified mountings , so this ability to fit into standard forks is a great feature, and allows the dampers to be easily fitted or even swapped between scooters easily.

So.................................. how do they perform in action?

I fitted the dampers prior to Mallory Park race meeting. As you may remember - this meeting was wet! ..... very wet! This immediately showed the benefit of the easy adjustment. In the wet weather I decided to slacken off the damping action so set the dampers in position 5 of the 16, and immediately went helling down the straight into Gerards to see how they felt!

The answer................ rock steady, and in the first wet practice I even passed a couple of people around Gerards! The front end felt certainly softer, and more stable.

I left the dampers in this position for the first race - which was also very wet! I think the new setup and damping action was very instrumental in the fact that I was able to pass a few people even around Gerards! My fastest lap time in these very wet conditions was only 4 seconds off my previuous best dry time!

The second race was dry ........ so the dampers were tightened up to position 9. Obviously in the dry you can push harder than the wet, so I tried this setting. I took more than a second off my previous best time, and I honestly think the majority of this was made up in Gerards... the fast sweeping bend that had been my nemesis so far! On the first lap I passed people there and was considerably more confident in my ability to turn into it at high speed.

So.................... are these BGM dampers worth the hefty price tag? Well if you are on a road scooter cruising out to a few runs...... probably not! If you have a tuned scooter and ride 'with spirit'..... yes for sure....... if you are racing..... hell yes!

The dampers are only available from a limited number of specialist dealers. Mine were supplied by Lambretta Cottage See the web site to order

Lambretta Cottage stock BGM products from these new front dampers, and the matching rear damper, to BGM high output stator plates and the brand new BGM carburettors.

You can order easily by phone, give Zak or Julie a call at Cottage......
01302 350404

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Mallory Park - June 7th - Water Water Everywhere

After a week of watching weather forecasts..... the expected rain certainly materialised! In the run up I discovered a couple of weather forecast websites that were very useful, Net Weather & Met Check Leaving for Mallory about 6.30 am.... the rain started! It seemed to follow me there, all the way from Grantham!

So arriving at Mallory....... heavy rain....... we went up to scrutineering and fortunately it was undercover. I passed scrutineering with no problems, then waited until the heavy rain storm passed. I was pleased I had put on wet tyres the previous night.... saved messing around changing them in the wet!

So..... wet weather..... my first proper wet day ...... rain has never really bothered me too much, and 'back in the day' I would always finish a few places higher in the wet, so even these extremely wet conditions were not really bothering me...... in fact I was actually relishing the thought of getting on track.

I had changed the front end of the scooter since the last race. The forks had been stripped and rebuilt, to make them softer, as I had come to the conclusion I had made them too stiff. So now they were softened up, but with the addition of the brand new BGM front dampers.

A few other riders, Stuart Day, Gaz Birch, Gary Biddle also had the mega new BGM dampers fitted. With the advantage of a little data from Stuart Day who had done a midweek test at Mallory, I set the dampers for what I thought would be a good set up for the wet conditions, then it was onto the track in heavy rain!

I was immediately lapping reasonably quickly, and not many people were passing me... in fact quite the reverse! The scooter felt so much better at the end of the straight and going into Gerards. The new set up was certainly working.... in fact all of a sudden I was actually passing a few people around Gerards, which was certainly new territory for me!

A few laps into practice I found myself bearing down on Stuart Day of all people, and under braking into Edwinas I was alongside him, then suddenly passed him exiting Edwinas! I'm not sure who was the most surprised.... me or him! Stuart came for a chat later, and said he saw something green and thought I was Tony O'Brien (bizarre! I'm much taller than Tony! ).... he confirmed he was actually trying, but was struggling to be confident in the conditions. A lap later Steve Conneely was the next victim...... although he told me he was on the wrong Sava wet tyre compound ( I did ask if that was the best excuse he could come up with ! lol )

So......... I was buzzing after a great practice and couldn't wait for race 1. We lined up in rain..... not quite as heavy at the start as it had been.... but still very wet.
I lined up 15th, alongside John Howe, to continue our battle from Three Sisters! I was all hyped up and raring to go. I knew this was my best chance yet to get a good finish.

Unfortunately I was a little too eager..... I lined up watching the lights..... I went to antipate...... and went too early.... I was underway... STOP..... the lights are still red.... apply brakes..... then go again...... momentum lost! I lost a couple of places off the line, then made them up round Gerards..... into Edwinas for the first lap I was was hoping I was going to blast through and outbrake a couple of people but I was a bit too far back.... I was bizarrely enjoying the conditions, which actually started to worsen during the race.

I had a few 'moments' during the race, and one particularly big one around Gerards.... which was a little heart stopping! But overall I was feeling really comfortable and had a good tousle with fellow Replay Scooters rider Gaz Birch, managing to hold him off until lap 5, when he managed to squeeze by.

All to soon the race was over and I was 18th across the line, with Gaz just in front of me, and John Howe just in front of Gaz.... less than two seconds covered us across the line. Fastest lap was 1.24.65 less than 5 seconds off my quickest dry lap!

We had been an early race in the day's sequence, so we could have a nice leisurely sunday lunch in the cafe ...... which was really enjoyable.... if a little filling! probably the best luch I've had at a race meeting! No pudding though.... after all I was racing!

After lunch (unfortunately) conditions started to improve and the sun came out, drying the track quite quickly, so it was a tyre change to Dunlop dry tyres! Tyre pressures adjusted ..... how great to have pit crew..... and we're ready to go for race 2!

So...... race 2... I was determined not to mess up the start like the first race, and I concentrated and got an absolute flyer off the line, and coming into Edwinas I was up to 10th place! From Edwinas up to the hairpin the fast charging Mikey Bonett on the super quick Kegra group 4 scooter came by, but this was new territory for me being in the top half of the pack!

The early sucess was brought to a halt as Clippo, came past me, followed a lap later by Dan Lewis and John Balcomb. But I was pleased to have made them work for it

On lap 4 battle re-commenced with Gaz Birch, and he snuck by. He could pull away a little into Gerards, and round it, then I could reel him in at Edwinas and up to the hairpin..... first lap after he passed me I was quite pleased as he didn't actually pull away. This was the start of a four lap battle where we traded quickest laps between us. All four laps were new personal bests for me.... all well into 1 min 19's. The laps followed the pattern, he pulled away a little along the main straight and round Gerards, then I reeled him in round the rest of the circuit and particularly under braking into Edwinas and the hairpin. I actually closed in on him especially on the last lap, where I outbraked him into the hairpin... but unfortunately went slightly wide and he got me back between the hairpin and the bus stop as I could not get my power down early enough.

Across the line there was just over 0.5 of a second between us and we were both grinning!

I was pretty pleased to leave Mallory after my best two results yet from a full grid, and the promise of a good mid pack grid position at Cadwell Park. The improvements to the front end of the scooter, and especially the addition of the new BGM dampers has made a good difference to the handling and my confidence in the front end.