Beta Alp 4.0

A collection of information as it arises. There's not a lot out there!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Route card holder

In the past I've written about my home-made illuminated route roller. However I do have use for a card holder when I'm making the route as I go along or to hold instructions given at the last minute.

My previous card holder snapped due to fatigue at a thin bent section so I decided to clamp a plastic board directly onto the handlebars. I fabricated to clamps, rather like handlebar clamps from some fairly soft plastic that I had in stock. Black might have been better.

These were a little fiddly to make and aren't excellent, but are hopefully adequate. My wish was for an A5 cardholder but the only place where it could be mounted without covering the instruments (I do occasionally look at the speedometer) or foul my tankbag left it rather exposed to the wind.

I didn't need to take it for a test ride to realise that it would vibrate in the short term and probably crack in the long term. A pity. So plan B is A4 wide and third of A4 tall. Grovvy rubber band retainers though!

I left an extra space to reveal the trip odometer - I'll have to lift the card and peer over, but at least there isn't a big piece of black plastic covering it. The black sheet is supposedly some sort of high resilience material so it should resist vibration and bending as it's used.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

LED lamps

I've been through a phase of bulbs blowing and decided to replace as many as possible with LEDs which have better resistance to vibration and a much longer life. OK, so they are believed to dim as they age, but a burnt out bulb is pretty dim too!

The speedo illumination lamps had both gone so that was the first job. I'd ordered a bunch of LEDs from Ultraleds in the 286 size, that is 5mm width push-in fitting.

For the back lighting I chose the wide 120 degree variant. This photo shows the silvered dead filament bulb and the slightly longer LED replacement. There seems to be plenty of space in the instrument unit for the slightly longer parts. I also swapped the neutral, lights on and high beam lamps.

Yes, they are a little bright, that could be a problem at night! I know that the turn indicator lamp could not be converted to a DC LED as current flows through the lamp in one direction for left turn and in the other for right turn.

Next up was the amber low fuel indicator. When I tested this by shorting across the float valve connector at the petcock the lamp only glowed dimly. The voltage was only 5V, but ramping up slowly. What was going on? Inspection of the the circuit diagram revealed a delay unit in series with the switch. This must act to smooth out the movement of the float valve when the petrol level is getting low. On replacing the bulb there was an 8 second delay between closing the contacts and the bulb illuminating. My main reason for fitting LEDs was for reliability, not current saving so I reasoned that I needed to draw more current through the delay circuit - just like when you fit LED turn lamps. I didn't want to add to the wiring so looked closely at the LEDs - they are just an LED, series resistor and reverse-current blocking diode stuffed into a piece of plastic.

So all that is needed is to fit an extra resistor inside the unit that will allow the delay to work. The bulb is a 1W item so passes about 83mA. There's no way that a 1W resistor will fit inside the LED case so I picked the lowest resistance that would not exceed 0.4W - the rating of the resistors in my electronics box. That gave me 330 ohms. It only passes 36mA, in addition to the 18mA drawn by the LED, but would that be enough? We'll have to see.

With a little care I was able to fit the extra resistor across the connections without it shorting. I squirted epoxy resin into the gaps between the wires and replaced it in the yellow housing. It protruded an extra mm but that's OK. It works, with a 15s delay which seems fine. In case you're interested, the delay component is a black box about 8mm x 15mm x 15mm just to the right of the airbox infront of the relay area. Only time will tell if this works.

Knowing that the LEDs are built like has 2 aspects. One, they may not be all that robust - the soldered joints are obviously hand done and are a weak point. Second, I can double up the construction to make an AC one for the turn indicator lamp; but not today.

The front sidelight had gone too. OK, so maybe it's pointless as the 55W lamp is on all the time, but perhaps, if the main bulb goes it would save a complaint by the Police? The bulb is close to the headlamp and Ultraleds warn that some LEDs will melt from heat. They do sell a metal bodied 1W item which is supposed to be heat resistant.

It has a large forward facing LED and gives off quite a lot of light. If you've disabled the headlamp this would be a worthwhile sidelight.

Whilst ordering LEDs I went for a red stop/tail light too. There are lots of these on the market, some with multiple LEDs, some that emit in all directions, some with white LEDs for the number plate. I elected to go for a single 3W rear facing unit.

This gives off a lot of light and must illuminate at least 120 degrees. I hoped the lens would give a good beam spread. I was pleasantly surprised at the beam pattern once installed. I had expected a very hot central spot with little to the sides, but actually, the facets on the lens spread the beam widely and the centre is not the most intense area.

It's hard to illustrate the distribution but this photo does show how much light is emitted to the sides. It's a lot brighter than the standard 21/5W item too. That should keep the cars away! Finally I swapped the dead number plate bulb, the frosted LEDs doesn't illuminate downwards much but is better than the nothing it replaced.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

9000 km

This weekend I've been doing a routine service of the Alp at just under 9000km. The exhaust valves were a little on the loose side at 0.15mm so I took those closer to 0.1mm which is dead centre on the recommended range.

As usual cleaning the air filter was a messy job. I spread it over a few days so that it had time to dry. My usual routine is to rinse it in paraffin, squeeze it out and then give it a few washes in a strong solution of household detergent. After several rinses I leave it to dry on a wire loop over the washing line outside. I have a zip poly bag and some thick rubber gloves that I use for oiling. I pour some on the filter, drop it in the bag and then massage the filter oil in. Then I have a cycle of checking for uniform colour (I use a blue oil), adding oil if required and then working it in in the bag. After that I squeeze excess out between sheets of newspaper. This phase also helps to distribute the oil within the filter. Finally I leave it on the line for a while to let the solvent evaporate. This is a good time to clean out the airbox.

I put the TKC 80 tyres on for summer and the rear trials tyre is worn out anyway. I'm getting quicker at tyre changing; I'm well below an hour for the rear now. The rims on the Alp are a bit odd, but once you're aware of the extra 'tubeless-style' rim you just have to work the bead over it. Whilst the front wheel was out I removed the rim lock and balance weights. The Alp has always suffered from a vibration of the front wheel at motorway speeds which I'd assumed to be due to imbalance caused by the rim lock. Last year I fitted some adhesive balance weights but these didn't remove the problem. Really they weren't heavy enough. So I took all of that lot off and covered the hole in the rim with adhesive aluminium tape and then gaffer tape. Over a short test journey it seemed that the vibration had gone. Once winter returns and the trials tyre goes back on, I'll refit the rim lock; but not bother with the weights.

Whilst the rear wheel was off I took the opportunity to fit a new chain set with a 15 tooth sprocket; I won't be needing the reduced gearing until the Edinburgh trial. The rear chain wheel was quite noticeably worn - it was the original one. Doesn't it look shiny now? This time I placed a rivet link as there was one in the kit. I've put the split link in my tool kit.

I considered replacing the front brake pads but when I compared them to new ones it didn't seem as though it was worth it as yet. They have only lost 1mm or so and still have 3mm left. So at least the same again before reaching the recommended 2 mm limit.

Along side doing these jobs I've been cleaning things with WD40 and/or polish so each job has taken longer than it maybe 'should' but at least it looks nice and clean once again.

After numerous trial drops the handlebars had a slight (additional) bend. I wasn't very aware of it but another competitor had noticed it. On comparing the old bars with a new set of Renthal Daker high bend bars it was obvious that they had deformed, but only dispalced by a few millimetres. With everything to refit there was no way I was refitting the old ones though. Anyway, how much bend can they withstand before breaking? The removal of bits only took 15 minutes, but cutting just over a cm off each end and then refitting levers etc took well over an hour.

At the end of these tasks I went out to get the oil nice and hot prior to changing it. I went on a little trip to the local Japanese motorbike dealer to buy a DR350 oil filter to fit on my return.

Monday, June 04, 2007

BMW make a real dirt bike?

This weekend I went to see the BMW X-challenge. Ok so this is a big bore machine but it is listed with an unladen wight of 156kg which makes it significantly lighter than the old F650 which weighs in at 191kg unladen. Quite where the 35kg have been saved as anybody's guess. A little bit everywhere I suspect. For comparison the Alp 4.0 is listed at 133kg dry. I'll put it on the scales sometime, but you could assume 10l of fuel and oil add at least 10kg.

A tough decision

A reader of this blog has asked me what I believed the other options are instead of a Beta Alp 4.0. Of course there are a myriad trail bikes to choose from but I'll give an outline of the decision process I went through.

To begin with, where are you starting from? I had a well-loved Yamaha Serow and a much maligned MotoMorini Kanguro. Both are old designs and not sophisticated. The Serow is tiny and very easy to handle and is well known to be better than the sum of its parts. However mine was showing its age, was painfully slow on long journeys and finally I was bored with it. The Kanguro is just an indifferent machine, hard work and best ignored for the rest of this post!

So to improve on the Serow I wanted something that was still easy to handle but with a little more grunt for both on and off tarmac, so perhaps a modern DOHC 250 or an old-school 350. A bit newer so that parts weren't worn out but perhaps something with a little quirk to stem the orange tide. Naturally it had to be electric start and also affordable. Let's think of a quick list...

  • DR350, all old and many possibly worn out.

  • DR400Z, a good possibility, a number of add-ons available, a bit tall for trials?

  • XR400, supposedly an excellent machine, lots of add-ons, not electric start unless you spend lots on an upgrade

  • KTMs, all excellent, light competition machines but owners seem to dislike the service schedules, a bit of a cliche?

  • New Serow, a 250cc now, but not quite as well thought out as the venerable XT225

  • TTR250, a possibility, a bit more umph, nearly all grey imports, a bit tall?

  • Alp 200, excellent LDT machine, poor finish, lack of power and road speed

  • Alp 4.0, heavy, mediocre build quality, few add-ons, dubious spares, costly new

  • Husaberg/Husquavana, like KTMs only more so?

  • I'd seen a review of the Alp 4.0 in TBM which was fairly favourable. They specifically commented on excellent road manners and good low speed control but that conversely the suspension couldn't cope with high speed use. The DR350 engine is well respected and importantly means that engine-related parts can be obtained from your local Japanese dealer. I watched eBay for a few weeks and a 4.0 appeared with low mileage, no off-tarmac use and at a significant reduction in price from new. So fate put me in that direction.

    To date I feel the biggest problems with the Alp 4.0 are its excessive weight and very average suspension. However it is a difficult compromise between a machine that will do hundreds of kilometres per day on tarmac and one which will climb up a muddy bank when requested.

    I don't think I'd pay new price for an Alp 4.0 as due to their unpopularity and lack of 'credability' resale values are modest.

    Friday, June 01, 2007

    They ARE out there

    I've been doing a bit of web browsing and found a few Alp 4.0 things that show that the machines do get used.

    Here's a chap who has taken his Alp to the Sahara and on trips in Italy.
    029 - Nefta

    A video in a dusty bit of land.