Blog 176 All right now 28th July – 5th August 2011

The cylinder head arrived on Thursday morning. We were really pleased to see it but this was also sods law in action.We had been invited to Rhonda & Gary’s Wednesday night, they cooked us a smashing roast dinner and it turned into a really good evening. After dinner Gary got out the local specialty Bundaberg Rum as he found out we hadn’t tried it. He is a very hospitable fella Gary so we had a few generous ones of them and then he broke the Port out and we had a few of them as well.

Rum and Port the worst hangover we have had since we left. Karen hardly got out of bed all day and I didn’t feel to flash either.

I managed to get my head together enough to put the bike back together and had her running by the afternoon. Karen was just about feeling human by teatime and after dinner we packed up in prepation to leave next day.
Next morning we had a nice send off from Rhonda and Gary and a few other people we had got friendly on the site.


They suggested a slight detour inland to Finch Hatton and Eungella National Park.

Finch Hatton was first and didn’t disapoint, we walked up to Araluen cascades which was a nice walk through temperate rainforest. Doubling back slightly we then carried on to Callistemon crossing where the path crosses above the waterfall.
There were lots of huge boulders out in the creek allowing us to rock hop out midstream and get some good pictures.The lizards are called Skinks and bask on the boulders to warm up


When we got back it was lunchtime and picnic tables were provided so we went and got our lunch. As we sat down a flock of Cookaburras settled on the two branches either side of us.
This was a bit of a novelty at first and we thought that they were just waiting for scraps after we left.

Oh no not these Cookaburras they weren’t content with crumbs they wanted the whole sandwich. There were about seven or eight by now and they sat in three different trees so we couldn’t keep an eye on all of them at once, they then took turns to dive bomb us to raid our lunch. One snatched a slice of bread off my plate as I turned to pick up something, clearly this was war so Karen made us a sandwich each while I batted off incoming raiders. We were eating said sandwiches when one of the blighters swooped between us and grabbed the second half of my sandwich out of my hand before devouring it in front of me the swine. We had to admit defeat and move on so cheeky were they.


After our short lunch we carried on along  the valley before climbing up the side of the hill to Eungella. The last section was a really steep climb but it was worth it for the view, we were suddenly back in cool temperate rain forest. Just beyond Eungella is Broken River, Gary told us to stop here as you can sometimes see platypuses in the river. The first campsite we rode into was closed for winter but a nice lady there said we could ride around the post and camp for free-bonus.!


It was a small but nice National Parks campsite and allowed us to go for a couple of walks through the rainforest before we lost the light, just before dark we went back to the river to try and spot a platypus as dusk and dawn are their most active times.

They are shy secretive creatures and we didn’t see any that evening but we vowed to get up early and try again early in the morning. The alarm woke us up at 5.30am owch and we were packed up and away by 7am which is a record for us. Just after 7am we went back down to the river and after a few minutes waiting we saw one swimming up the river. They are tiny only 30 to 40cm long and very cute looking, the males actually have a poisonous barb on there back legs which are powerful enough to kill an animal the size of a dog and inject a human withpain so excruciating that the victim would be rendered helpless. It is said to last for weeks as well although the chances of ever being stung are incredibly remote. They are one of only three types of egg laying mammal in the world and they find their prey using electrolocation sensing tiny electrical impulses as anything moves once they have shovelled up the bottom of the riverbed with their bill. We see two more before they hide away for the day, we feel very privilidged to have seen them. The pictures are sadly a little blurry as they were a fair way away and there wasn’t much light but at least we got some.

The first picture is of a strangler fig, followed by a turtle and an Azure Kingfisher which we spotted while we were waiting.


After breakfast at the excellent picnic facilities (Australia does this very well, there are even free public gas bbq’s) we head back toward Mirani, from here we cut across through a lovely area of farming country. Farming here mainly consists of growing sugarcane and the whole area is criss crossed with narrow gauge railways used to cart the cane. We really enjoyed the ride back the road swooped gently past fields and fields of cane interspersed with small villages and it was a shame when it came to an end and we had to turn back on the Bruce Highway (the main north south coast road)


Back on the main highway we cruised for quite a while at 100kmh (the legal limit) The bike was running okay and a lot cooler but still smoking and spitting oil from the breather which wasn’t a good sign. Suddenly something let go in a big way, the oil breather was hosing out smoke and oil and the bike was only running on one cylinder.

We limped off the main highway onto a deserted side road and found some shade. We were in the middle of nowhere so we made the decision to pull down the offending cylinder (the same side as before) to see what had happened.         
The result wasn’t pretty although thankfully the new head and the cylinder (barrel) were okay. Removing the cylinder revealed a bunch of smashed up rings and the cause of our problem.

The piston had cracked between the rings and the whole ring land had gone which explains why the rings were smashed. I removed the cylinder in Mackay to check and the rings were all intact then but I supect the crack caused by detonation had been spreading unseen for some time which was what was causing the smoking and pressurising the crankcase.


I put the cylinder back together again roughly just to keep the muck out and pondered our next move. Karen rang Rhonda as we knew they had gone up to Townsville for the weekend to see if they could suggest anything.

We obviously don’t have any recovery but luckily for us Rhonda and Gary said if we could wait until the next day they could borrow a trailer from a mate on the way back and rescue us. That was a relief and as it was obvious we weren’t going anywhere that night we put up the tipi on the side of the road. Just as we had almost finished a Ute (pickup) pulled over, it was the owner of the adjacent property on his way back from work in the cane fields.

He asked what was wrong and after we explained he said you guys have had a bad day I’ll be back in a minute. He disapeared off and came back with an Esky full of beer and had a good yarn with us for an hour or more before inviting us down to the house later.

Next day mid afternoon Rhonda and Gary showed up as promised and we winched the bike on to the trailer. We had been trying to think of a plan B rather than going back to Mackay so I had been on the internet all morning. We broached the subject of taking us to Airlie Beach instead, they were happy to do this as it wasn’t that far. It made such a difference as the campsite was cheaper, in the middle of town and surrounded by things to do while we were waiting for parts.Thank you guys you were a life saver !

Mark from Canberra had mentioned in a previous conversation that he had some spare pistons and barrells, so I rang him first. He has been such a help here and came up trumps again with a good second hand barrel and piston and got it shipped to us at the campsite. Thanks Mark !!!!

Then I rang Mario from Thunderbikes again (rapidly becoming Saint Mario of Perth) to organise piston circlips and gaskets. I had also noticed a crack appearing in one of the exhaust clamps, Mario wasn’t sure if he had one but he said he would see what he could do.

We could now relax and enjoy Airlie Beach, it’s touristy as it’s the launching point for the beautiful Whitsunday Islands but it made a nice change to be somewhere busy and tourist friendly. It was a 50metre walk from the campsite to the main street which was only a stones throw from the beach and lagoon.

Kev is walking the tightrope that an Austrian couple had erected in the site it was great fun but really hard work as it was really wobbly.

Next day we arranged to go out on a boat trip out to the islands including two snorkels to view the coral and sealife.  It was amazing snorkelling, lots of colourful fish and all kinds of beautiful coral, it looked like a fantasy world inhabited by strange and beautiful creatures and we both loved the experience.  A combination of a fast boat and a choppy sea made the boat ride exiting too.

The bird is a hummingbird or bee eater (I think) we saw it walking around town. The lizard was walking around the campsite, we think it’s a monitor lizard but are not sure. I’m sure someone will tell us


That night when we got back the rafting guys said come down to the bar later which we did.

It turned into a good evening, we got a cheap meal and drinks as part of the deal and had a fun evening with a French/English couple who were on our trip. The bar had lots of games like monster jenga, connect 4, table tennis, pool and silly games with the patrons. The picture of Kev on stage is a game called Heads and Tails, you have to put your hands on your head or tail before a coin is flipped, last man standing wins. Except they didn’t mention until we were up on stage you could forfeit a piece of clothing to stay in. I did pretty well and came second without too much loss of dignity.


At midday the next day our parcels came and I changed the piston and barrel together with checking the other side, it took all afternoon but went well and I finished just before dark. Mario sent us an exhaust clamp off one of his personal bikes to keep us going asking us to return it when out trip was finished. His support and that of the Guzzi community has been incredible !

Next morning it was test ride time, it fired up and ran well,  the smoking from the breather has completely stopped and I feel confident we have go tot the bottom of the problem now.

From Airlie Beach we rode to Townsville via Bowen (the mural town) and the bike ran well all day with no trace of smoke, oil leaks or detonation. We had an invite to stay with Dale a mate of Graeme and Cindy the couple who put us up in Sydney. Dale is a amiable laid back Scotsman and made us very welcome. We had a tour around the town one afternoon pictures 4 & 5 are of the Strand followed by the view from Castle Hill. We did another interview with a local paper the Townsville Bulletin and the photographer met us on the strand. We also met Christian the organiser of the Ingham Italian Day which we are attending tommorrow. Last night was spent with a load of Dales biker buddies and was another good evening (Dale is the guy in the blue shirt)





 Post script re detonation problems

The damage I am now convinced was the result of detonation which when I think about it has been happening under heavy loading (steep climbs and headwinds etc) pretty much since we left. I just didnt realise the noise I was hearing was detonation. In New Zealand when I changed the rings the second ring was pinched tight in its groove and I had to spend hours cleaning out the groove to make the new ring a good sliding fit. This I am sure now was the start of the ring land collapsing as it was also when the oil breather started spitting oil. Normally smoking from the breather would mean worn out rings but I knew this wasnt the case as I had just changed them so I was perplexed. The detonation would have been like hammer blows to the piston and rings and no engine in the world would put up with that for ever.

This has prompted some discussions via email and a local whose opinion I respect and is who is well qualified offered the following advice:

 ”Kev & Karen Missed you here but just read about your ag on advrider, then your blog with pics.

Absolute classic pinking / detonation and is NOT the E10, all of my bikes will detonate badly on std 91, you are used to 95 as std in UK, here you must pay more. Actually the E10 will help not hinder but you will need to nurse it and not let it knock. Much better to run 95 or even 98 octane. The very best fuel we have here (a secret that the scaremongers don’t know /won’t tell) is actually E10/100 octane– awesome stuff. This is hard to get but E10/95 is quite common and my fuel of choice, best power to economy I can buy.
The important bit if you want to run 91 octane– I used much worse fuel than this in Africa in my Guzzi, never pinked ever
1/ lower your compression, easiest done with extra base gaskets,or thicker head gasket, I actually had different thickness’ made when I came back here in 1991– same reason but 95 was not readily available then
2/ retard your spark till it doesn’t pink, the knocking you’re hearing is exactly that

But my advice would be use 95 with or without ethanol, you shouldn’t have a problem then but if you’re heading South America , get used to ethanol, that’s what they run, up to E85 in some countries
Forget the fan, Guzzi engines are brilliant, I’ve been through 52 C in the Sahara, not even an oil cooler and not a trace of detonation, running on near kero !!!!!
I’m surprised you haven’t had a poor fuel problem before.”

This for my money was the best advice although from my experience I would say the bike runs hotter and detonates more on E10 91 than on standard 91. I would agree with the comment on E10 95 the Guzz ran pretty well on that suggesting that the problem has more to do with Octane than Ethanol although I still contend it doesnt help.
Bear in mind we are pulling about twice the load than the bike mentioned here.
I also retarded the ignition timing slightly and I havent heard a “knock” since although its still early days.
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