Friday, February 18, 2011

Replica Valves

Back in 2009 and 2010, I bought valves from a few online websites in UK (ultimateparts, PJME) and Ebay (claimed to be a Germany company). They ranged from S$140-160.

All the abovementioned valves were the same. There are all aluminium CNC-machined.

As you know, aluminium is a soft and malleable material. I initially purchased them for my own use. I have been using 2 valves on both my RS125's (my girlfriend's and my own bike) for over a long period, and found them to be quite durable and they performed flawlessly.

Encouraged by their performance, I decided to order them in a larger quantity, so that more Aprilia riders can buy cheaper valves instead of the costly Rotax originals from WEDA at S$280 each.

From PJME: These valves were claimed to be originals, but they were not. They turned out to be the aluminium CNC-machined valves. I called PJ only to be told these were the valves they were stocking then. I had no choice, I decided to order from Ultimate Parts, who is reputed to stock original Aprilia parts.

Please note that PJME is like the Lim Ah Boy of UK. They sell alot of stuff for a lot of bikes at a very low price. Some are originals, some are OEM, some are totally NOT originals. Some of the cables and parts sold on PJME were marketed and sold as originals, but after I called to complain about their sales ethics, they changed the website so they clearly state if an item is original, or OEM (not original but compatible).

Please note that even though the photograph shows an original Rotax valve, the valves shipped over were the non-original aluminium CNC-machined valves.

From Ultimate Parts: They stock a lot of original parts. In fact, when I was in the UK, I even visited their shop physically. I took a train out to the town they were in and walked into their shop to pick up the items I purchased online. I spoke to the owner.
Now, they too were out of the original valves, so guess what they sold me? You guessed it, the aluminium CNC-machined valves.

I figured since the recession and all, everyone is trying to save a buck or two right? So I decided to purchase from Ebay, since the only cheap valves available are the aluminium valves, might as well get from Ebay, where I found the aluminium valves the cheapest, at $140 each, excluding shipping.

I received a few complaints about the aluminium CNC-machined valves being very soft and prone to breakage. I knew the valves were lighter and softer in material, but personally, I've had no issues with them. I noticed scratches and wear on the valve surface, but despite that I've used the same valves for over 2 years without breakage.

I've visited a few bike shops who see a fair number of Aprilias being serviced there, and from what I gather, the aluminium valve users experience an exceptionally high incidence of breakage. I needed to understand why the valves are breaking prematurely on bikes other than my own. I'm not pointing fingers at any mechanic here but I'm just saying I tune my own bikes and I've got no problems with the valves whatsoever.

It may be due to the valve cable tension, and the material. I do agree that aluminium is too soft to be used in high-stress components, so I specially purchased a brand new original Rotax valve and sent it for metal testing. It turns out that the original Rotax valve is made from a special alloy that gives it strength and lightness, like ceramic. It's very hard, can take a lot of stress, and if you took a screwdriver to it, you won't be able to gouge out a chunk of it like you can with aluminium. The surface of it is coated with a layer of metal hardener, to reinforce its durability.

I sent the original valve to be duplicated in the exact dimensions and metal as the original Rotax. This not only ensures that the new valve has the same strength and properties of the original Rotax valve, but also ensures it is of the same weight.

I am currently testing the new replica valve and after 400km, they are still going strong. Every 100km I've taken them out to check the wear and condition, and they still look good. I may be wrong, but the rate of wear does seem to be slower than the aluminium valves. I am unable to test this result scientifically, which I would prefer, so I don't clean them before putting them back in because I want as much carbon build-up on them as possible. I am trying to break them.

But as both my bikes are pretty well-tuned, I do not foresee any problems with it.

For those of you who are looking for a cheaper alternative to the original Rotax valve, this may be your answer. But I cannot guarantee that they will outperform the original Rotax. Please understand than when I sell you a part, I am putting my reputation on the line. I will not sell to you an item that I feel is defective. I will only sell you products that I feel will benefit you, as I have benefited from using them myself.

I believe in sharing the good stuff, including knowledge, because we all deserve better than how the shops are treating us all.

I will be conducting a DIY in end Feb, those of you interested in taking a look at the valve and its wear, and other upgrades like stainless steel exhausts, please attend.

As always, I will try my best to answer your queries.

What I know, I will share. What I do not know, I will find out more. But what I will never do, is pretend to know everything.

Below are the replica valve and original Rotax. Can you tell the difference?


Knowing that both are of the same material and weight, which one would you use?


Stainless Steel Exhaust

Please note that the following images are not digitally touched-up in any way. All photos are presented as is, save for cropping of the image to reduce its file size.

Made of stainless steel, it won't rust, and is corrosion-resistant. It's made a little thinner to reduce weight.


Most exhausts, including the Arrow, Gianelli, Jim Lomas, Jolly Moto, Shark, and the stock system only has the header which connects to the expansion chamber. This new exhaust includes an additional sleeve to reduce the possibility of exhaust and oil leakage from the header/expansion chamber joinery.

Arrow and Gianelli both use the same expansion chamber, and like the stock exhaust, features only 2 bends from header to expansion chamber. Here you can see 12 segments to ensure smoother exhaust flow, like Jolly Moto and Jim Lomas exhaust systems.

The beautiful expansion chamber with minor tweaks to improve the mid-range.

Mounting points are the same as stock and other aftermarket exhaust systems.

The stinger allows the stock and Arrow endcans (mufflers) to be installed, removing the need for purchasing an aftermarket endcan. This allows a rider on a budget to install this expansion chamber with his current endcan for track use only.

In all its steel glory.

Disclaimer: please note that this exhaust is not a homologated system approved by local authorities. It is only for track use and export.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Short hop to Jamaluang

The Forest Reserve road is one of the few roads in M'sia that is in so good a condition it actually could fool you into thinking that it's a highway in Singapore! Its about 30km of winding turns and sweeping corners. Was doing 130-140 through most of them. At one point, I hit a bump on the road, which turns out to be a patched up pothole, at 160km/h.
Both my tyres lifted clear from the surface of the road. NOT A GOOD THING.

Been mountain biking for a pretty long time now, air time is not a big deal anymore. What actually scared the wind out of me was when my bike touched down and I nearly got a tankslapper. My front wheel flipped out towards the right and jerked violently a couple of times before easing off. I swear my heart skipped a beat right there.

Saw monkeys, a 12-strong family of wild boars, and an unidentified low-flying bird which glided over a field (beautiful sight, really), and right into my trajectory. I aint gonna kill myself trying to avoid a bird I dont even know, so I figured between mangled legs or cleaning a mangled bird out of my radiator, I chose mangled bird.

I felt a violent smack. And that was all there was to it. Didnt see any bird carcass, so I assumed the little bastard was stuck on my bike or something, maybe with his back pressed against my headlights, like a boy trying to disappear into the wall when faced with the school bully.

Anyway, there was a heavy rain afterwards on the way back to SG. When I got home, I looked at the radiator and nothing there! No blood, no feathers. Which is cool. No mangled legs, no mangled bird.

Oh, found out my bike's speedometer aint that accurate after all. The indicator says 165km/h, but I was clocked next to a Yamaha Fazer (fyi, its Fazer, as in 'unfazed', NOT Frazer ok? wtf) whose rider said I was doing only 160km/h. Shouldn't have downsized my main jet to a 152. I was happy with a 155. Why? Those were happy days.
Then again, I can just swap it for the 155 in 10 minutes tops. Nevermind.

Oh, the lunch was fantastic. Curry wild boar, fried bass or cod (never good at identifying fish), sauteed frog legs, black pepper mountain goat, pork ribs (I'm pretty sure they came from the same wild boar. ok nvmd), sambal kang kong.

Ok, so.... fast environment-destroying bike, great curves, top speeds, air time, monkeys, pigs, dead bird, but no carcass, sounds like a.... actually I have nothing witty to say here. A very fun trip, nevertheless.

Hope to do it again soon.

Monday, June 13, 2005

My 2-Hour Long Orgasm at Sepang

The feeling of euphoria still lingers even though it's been almost 24 hours after my first track session at the Sepang F1 Circuit.

Bearing down the straightways with the Italian heart of my Aprilia screaming to the beat of 13,000 revolutions per minute; twisting though the 60kph hairpin turns with apexes so tight I swear I could pick a coin off the tarmac; flipping over from left to right and left again through the chicanes, hanging off yet on, scraping my knee sliders and sidestand, feeling my rear tyre drift and my bike begin to slide sideways as I keep full power on to compensate for the lack of torque; tachometer rarely dipping below 10K; human and machine spirit fused as one - it felt like I had just pumped a gallon of joy into my heart and pounded a sledghammer into my brain.

I'm still basking in the afterglow of the whole Sepang Track Day. Not a life-changing exprience, but definitely memorable. I shall now share with you my humbling track episode.

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The track session is to start at 4pm. We get to the track at 3pm. After unloading the bikes from the truck, we wheel them into the pit where final checks are made. I cover my front and rear number plates as Private Investigators from insurance companies are known to frequent Track Days to ensure that damage and injuries sustained on the track are not fraudulently claimed by riders. As we all know, insurance policies do not cover bikes used for racing.

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Unnecessary parts like mirrors and signal lamps are removed. My baby is beginning to look a lot sexier now. Sorta like saying, 'OK, enough of bullshit on the roads. Time for some serious fun on the track.'
20 minutes to go before the track is opened to bikes, I put my brain bucket over my head and ride out to the nearest Petronas station to top up my petrol tank. My baby's a gas guzzler and at that point I wish I had brought a couple of extra containers for reserve fuel.

When I get back, I find almost every rider suited up. TEXPORT, RS TAICHI, DAINESE, SPYKE, SPIDI, and the likes are getting filled up with little boys looking like adult men.
I have my heart in my mouth and butterflies in my stomach. I start questioning my own sanity to be riding the smallest bike out here at Sepang among monsters like the YZF, CBRs, Gixxers, Ducatis, and Ninjas belching out enough horses to tow the earth out of orbit.

I hastily pour 2 capfuls of 2T into the petrol tank, silently praying that I wont have to deal with a seized piston.

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Struggling to lug on my suit over my inner liner, which is actually a lycra vest and a pair of sweat pants graciously lent to me by someone special,
I perspire profusely. Afterwards, I manage to secure the clips on my track boots and stand up without falling over. My recent injury on my pelvis and hip began to take its toll and started to hurt excruciatingly. Regretting that I hadn't brought my crutches, I hobble over to my machine which was humming gently, waiting to be mounted.

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Once standing next to my bike, I find my hands trembling from excitement while securing my helmet straps. Next on were my gloves. Save for my OGK lid, my suit, boots, and gloves were all virgin. I could feel a quiver run down my spine. The heat from the scorching 4 o'clock sun and being bound in thick, skin-tight leather with a back protector and CE armour over all joints nearly gave me an anxiety attack.

As many of you may know, I'm claustrophobic.
But it's way too late for me to allow this little issue get in the way. I swallow hard and take a deep breath, fighting the urge to hyperventilate and stretching the suit to its limit.

I swing my leg over the tail and gently rest my buttocks onto the seat. It feels strange to be so heavily and thickly protected. Seriously, my suit weighs over 2kg from the leather and armour. It feels taut from being new, yet extremely flexible. At this point, all doubts about the cost of the suit is put to rest. Haha!! Definitely well worth the money, I think to myself.

I throw her into gear and begin to make my way down the pit lane, passing other riders still preparing themselves. I try hard to put out of my mind the fact that I am the only 125cc bike on track that day.

The end of the pit lane looms ahead. My baby is purring at mid-pitch. My wrist twitches with anticipation.....


My bike lurches forward like a bat out of hell. I know for a fact that her acceleration cannot possibly beat the big boys' 180-horse monsters, but it was still scary to see how much quicker she moves on track than she's allowed on roads.

On my 1st lap, I try my best to make good time yet memorise the turns. Some were very tricky turns with double apexes, others were tight with gradient.
By my 3rd lap, I was whooping “YEAH!!”and grinning to myself. I could hear my own shrieking inside my lid and suddenly became very self-conscious when a CBR1000 outbraked me into one of the turns and I wondered if he heard me.

The next 3 hours of my track session felt like a blur.

I recall keeping pace with an RS250 for about 1/2 of a lap. Afterwhich he completely kicked my ass in the 2nd last turn, behind the main grandstand, which had a decreasing radius. I did manage to preserve some of my dignity when towards the last few laps, my timing progressively improved and I kept pace with an R6, overtook a SRAD, CBR1000RR, and a GSX on some corners.

But once out of the corners, those damned litre-bikes left me standing in their wake.
Well, at 160kph, it felt like standing still when they passed me doing well over 200kph. Especially on the straightways....

Even though I only ran for slightly over 20 laps, I felt pretty drained. This Track Day, Sepang opened its full course of 5.543 km, 15 turns and 8 straights. Not as exhausting as completing a triathlon, but surely a test of one's endurance.
Many times I found myself too tense from pushing and pulling, leaning and bracing, and from levelling out after corners, there was no time to relax. Everything was happening simultaneously.
Approaching right hairpin turn, pick ideal line, watch for 200m, 150m, 100m mark, and then....
Brake! - brace against forward lunge, release
Brake again! - shift weight, clutch in, kick down 2 gears, blip throttle, keep RPM at 12,000, buttock over the seat, right knee out, grip seat using left thigh and calf, left elbow on side of tank, right elbow down, back tight and upright, head roughly where mirror used to be, release clutch and open throttle
Contact - right knee scrapes tarmac, throttle open full, rear wheel begins to slide, RPM 13,500, bike leans lower and threatens to wash out completely, countersteer, right up

I gave myself some leeway for error, so I was pushing myself around 80% throughout. I didnt dare give it my 100% yet.

I had my timing taken by a someone in the pit. 3:00 min.
The fastest riders were pushing 2:20!!
I clearly got my ass kicked to obscurity....

40 seconds?!
Where the hell did those 40 seconds go? I sure as hell wasnt napping!!

Which inevitably brings me to say this....
I want an RS250.
I've got bloodlust now. I am hot on the scent of the next RS250 for sale.
The Hunt is on!

Tyres ripped to shreds

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Knee sliders
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Monday, May 23, 2005

Aint Nothing's Gonna Break My Stride

Ever since my accident 5 weeks ago, I've had many friends who ask me, "Why do you still want to ride? Arent you afraid of dying? Get a car, dude"

Let me ask you something.
If I told you to abandon your heterosexual preference and told you to someone of the same sex as you instead, would you do it?
What if the rest of the world was homosexual, would you make the switch just because it is the norm to be homosexual?

Let me explain what love and passion is all about.
I love cycling, and anything else with 2 wheels. I've driven before, and all I can say is, its so boring I dont blame drivers who fall asleep at the wheel. Even at 200kph, it feels like I'm sitting in a bubble on a lake. Ah, but a bike at 200kph? You're riding a crotch rocket with the world streaking behind you.

Riding a bike is just about as technical as driving a car. Every limb comes into play, you have to know about weight distribution, and which tyre is losing traction, how much to ease up on the brakes, clutch control, throttle control, etc all simultaneously. The only difference is, sitting in a claustrophobic cage is seriously a killjoy. Not nearly as fun as sitting on your machine itself.

Asking me to drive a car and never ride a bike again is like telling my gay friends to be heterosexual and never set their eyes on someone of the same sex. Its just unnatural.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Death is the only promise made to us at birth

Another dead girl.

Just received word that an acquaintance has passed on after being involved in a traffic accident. She was a motorcyclist in a classic case of wrong place wrong time.

Her name is Grace.
On the night of the 17th, she was riding her Honda NSR150 on AYE to Jurong when she self-skidded just under the Normanton Park flyover which is under construction. She fell on the road and the vehicle behind her ran over her helmeted head.

Grace's skull was cracked and the fragments punctured her brain. She died on the spot.

Who is Grace? A young, bubbly
rider that I got to know on a trip to Gelang Patah for a supper some moons back.

She had her whole life ahead of her.
Only to have her existence dissolved like tears in rain.