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Haynes’ World: from Russia with love?

Haynes World cars and motorbikes updates

Haynes' World is a regular feature that takes a look at what the staff at Haynes are doing with their cars, bikes and other vehicles. This time, Martynn Randall reveals where he's at with the BMW R1150R Rockster and introduces a new project he's taking on for his son.

BMW R1150R Rockster motorbike

Bikes: BMW R1150R Rockster and IZH Planeta 350

Owners: Martynn Randall and his son

So much for a winter project. The work I’d planned for the BMW Rockster has already been completed.

I’ve overhauled the brakes, rebuilt the forks, repainted the engine, changed all the cables, polished the exhaust and generally given it a good check over and service.

After riding it a few times, I love it! So much so that I’ve now decided that I do want to get the tank and a few other bits resprayed. At the moment, the paint is a mess and really lets the bike down now. Originally, the tank was matt black with orange ‘blocks’ - same for the side panels. Trouble is, matt black is difficult to keep clean and doesn’t wear well, so it’s going to be gloss black with the orange blocks. The paint sprayer I use is so busy that the work won’t get done until next spring.

BMW bike project

So, in the meantime, I need something to play with. My son seems to have inherited a condition from me that makes ‘underdog’ machines attractive – you know, bikes or cars that everyone assumes are poor quality/ugly/quirky or just plain rubbish.

One of his recent purchases is a 1967 IZH Planeta 350 motorbike.

IZH Planeta 350 motorbike

Produced in Russia by the same company that made Kalashnikov rifles, this 2-stroke single-cylinder machine was designed to propel the population around the towns and countryside ‘adequately’. By Russian standards of the day, it had adequate performance with low-maintenance requirements. It could carry 2+ people, plus a week's shopping over unmade roads in adequate comfort.

By today's standards, the performance is woeful; top speed is apparently around 60mph, but it sounds like it’s going to explode above 45. The brakes are appalling; squeezing the front brake lever with all my strength produces little retardation, but causes the front forks to twist visibly. Pressing the rear brake pedal has no effect initially, then the rear wheel locks completely without warning.

Find a manual for your motorcycle

Six-volt electrics means the front light is little more than a brown stain on the front mudguard, the clutch manages to slip and drag at the same time and the gearbox is full of neutrals.

It sounds like a disaster on two wheels, but for some reason, it’s impossible to ride it without developing a huge grin. It’s that underdog thing - expectations are so low, that they’re easily exceeded. The styling is obviously a personal thing, but I love it. Just look at the rear carrier!

IZH ignition problems

Why do I mention all this? Well, it’s not starting or running very well at the moment and my son needs to free up some space in his garage for other projects, so I plan to go through the ignition and fuel systems to identify the problem.

The carburettor is notorious for mixing more fuel on the outside than inside, and the ignition system is typical of Soviet-era motorcycles: pretty crude with poor-quality components.

Spares are a bit of a problem, especially at the moment, and even new parts rarely fit properly without modification. Any 'new' old-stock parts still available from Russia are probably rejects from the original factory, and any Far Eastern replica parts are even worse quality. Luckily they’re cheap.

So I’ve got a toy to play with in the garage now that the Rockster is parked. I’ll let you know how I get on.