Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Big Vern Goes to the Shetlands





It started, as many good things do, over a pint on a winter evening. I’d had a communication about the Shetland Classic Motor Show and thought it might be a suitably stupid thing to visit. I mentioned it to my chum Sean, over a pint of Wetherspoons finest mediocre real ale, and he, owner of an early 80s Kawasaki Z650, agreed that riding motorcycles from Somerset to Shetland was a stupid idea, so we decided to go for it. At the time I wasn’t sure I even had a suitable machine to attempt it on. Back in my teens I’d managed to pilot an MZ150 from John o’Groats to Lands End along with a trio of like-minded fools, but I thought I might try something a little larger. 
I had my BSA Starfire, but the idea of taking that on a 2,000 mile round trip wasn’t something that filled my heart with joy, and while my FT500 Honda single was a possibility, I felt it might not really be up to the job of hauling self, plus gear to the other end of the country. My XS650 was in a state of flux, as despite an expensive top end rebuild it stubbornly refused to run effectively. My Ducati was definitely not a goer in any way, needing far more money throwing at it than it warranted. Still, the plan was born, and I was sure a suitable machine would either materialise, or the Yamaha would rise from its zombie state. Perhaps I could borrow something if needs be? The Ducati was sold some months later, and I was lurking around HJ Pugh’s auction site one Saturday morning, considering picking up some superannuated old Jap four for the trip, but few attracted my attention. 
And then I unexpectedly bought a 1973 Triumph T140 Bonneville. Which of us can say they haven’t done that?  I had placed an absurdly low bid upon it and expected someone to over bid me. Nobody did. The Bonnie arrived a few days later, and apart from a dodgy paint job, it seemed a fine bit of kit. I’m one of those people who likes to name their motorcycles and it was christened Big Vern. Why so? Big Vern, back in 1975, had a bit part as a getaway vehicle in an episode of the Sweeney (Season 3, episode 5, The Taste of Fear).

Big Vern, is also a character in the scatological adult comic Viz – a 1970s gangster who constantly rants about “needin’ a shootah” to visit the shops and always shoots himself in the last panel after a misunderstanding, because “no copper is gonna take me alive”.
A mid 70s Bonneville wasn’t part of the plan to go to Shetland. I’d been planning on a cheap old jap, or a new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650. Or a Guzzi V7. None of which looked like materialising, and in any case the cookie jar was empty. So the Bonneville it was.



Sean and I were, we freely admitted, not really match fit. We looked at maps. We decided that motorways were out, out of deference to Big Vern’s years. We would try to do most of the journey on A and B-roads. We were also far too old and stiff to camp or do anything silly like that. Pubs, Travelodges and B&Bs were the agenda. We worked out a route that meant we would need to cover 180 miles a day at the most, with plentiful stops. We went on 150 mile weekend proving runs. The Bonneville and the Z650 were fine – the Bonnie wasn’t rattling or banging, burning or leaking excessive amounts of oil, and the Z was whirring on nicely, if occasionally squirting out black smoke. The Bonneville was given an oil change, spare bulbs and a clutch cable were acquired, and as it wasn’t obviously broken anywhere else, I decided that I wouldn’t fix it. If it broke on the way, I’d just have to fix it or give up. The tool roll was packed with as many spanners and sockets as I could manage – probably enough to do an engine rebuild.
The Kawasaki broke its speedometer drive the week before the trip, so that was replaced and Sean, concerned about the state of his front forks, slotted on a replacement set from a Z750L4.

Tank bags were bought at a discount at Stafford, Sean picked up panniers and a tail pack from Ebay and I resorted to my old army surplus panniers. We were good to go.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Shiny thing make it all better

Alpha have vapour blasted and ultrasonically cleaned my carbs. aren't they pretty?

And this is what they used to look like



Sunday, 3 April 2016

Such things as reams are made of....

Cassius has been in the shop for a while while the very nice men at Alpha work their magic upon him.




And I've been buying lots and lots of parts from Germany, and Holland and the Bristol Classic Bike Show.

And the Germans sent me a new set of oversize pistons and a cam chain and an oil filter.

And the Dutch sent me a gearshift shaft and a starter motor gear and a new wiring loom and a very groovy thing called a "Hall Effect Ignition", which basically does away with fiddly old contact breakers, but doesn't need the big box of troublesome electronics on an electronic system.



And I bought a side stand spring and turned the empty boys room into a workshop, where I've been renovating chrome things and cleaning up brake calipers.

Meanwhile the chaps at Alpha have had the barrels rebored and put the engine back together, and put it back in the frame, where it gleams and makes the rest of the bike look a state.

And then we hit a snag. At some point, between 1979 and 1996, one of the previous owners had messed about with the Mikuni BS34 carbs, and chewed up the heads on the pilot jets - two little brass nodgers in the bowels of the fuel system. And after I had cruelly left ol' Cass to sit for eight years, those jets had got bunged up.

And Simon from Alpha, genius though he is, was reluctant to take on the surgery needed to get them out - he was honest enough to admit he didn't fancy buggering up my carbs doing it. 

So I went to the Internet, and search for alternatives and I sought advice from fellow owners online

Well, obviously there isn't a working set to be had for a Euro spec XS650. 

What to do? Well, I could find a precision engineering shop to try and get the jets out. 

Or i could, apparently, buy a secondhand set for a GPZ500 Kawasaki for about 50 quid, which is allegedly a bolt on replacement, but an absolute bugger to set up.

Or I could spend an eyewatering four hundred quid on a brand new Mikuni slide carb set up, which look great, but are also a sod to set up.



Anyway I got the carb bodies from Alpha to measure them up for the sourcing of replacements.



And then I did what I usually do when confronted by a knotty problem. 

I looked at them for ages. 

And I went through my screwdrivers and could not find one that fitted the pilot hole. 

So, I filled the holes with wd40 degreaser and nipped down my local hardware shop, where I paid £3.11 for a set of six long jewellers type screwdrivers. 

And I got them home and worked on the jets with the biggest screwdriver of them for a bit, just in case they would budge, but they wouldn't. 
So I had another think, and remembered that ages ago I bought one of those cheap modelling power tools from Lidl. 
So I went through all the hundreds of grinders and polishing wheels and drill bits in the set and found a tiny little reamer. 



Now the modelling tool itself only runs clockwise, and reasoning that applying clockwise pressure on a screw that is already jammed in clockwise was a bad idea, I clamped the reamer in the old Black and Decker drill/driver and gently at reverse, made the business end pilot hole a little bit bigger. 

Then I gently tapped the smallest screwdriver from the jewellers set into the hole, unscrewed and hey Presto, out came the pilot jet Did the same to the other one, and it looks like the problem is solved... 



I am, needless to say, well chuffed, and under the rules that apply to Man Maths, am now £450 better off than I was on Friday. Might buy a new front brake caliper to celebrate...

Such things as reams are made of....

Cassius has been in the shop for a while while the very nice men at Alpha work their magic upon him.




And I've been buying lots and lots of parts from Germany, and Holland and the Bristol Classic Bike Show.

And the Germans sent me a new set of oversize pistons and a cam chain and an oil filter.

And the Dutch sent me a gearshift shaft and a starter motor gear and a new wiring loom and a very groovy thing called a "Hall Effect Ignition", which basically does away with fiddly old contact breakers, but doesn't need the big box of troublesome electronics on an electronic system.



And I bought a side stand spring and turned the empty boys room into a workshop, where I've been renovating chrome things and cleaning up brake calipers.

Meanwhile the chaps at Alpha have had the barrels rebored and put the engine back together, and put it back in the frame, where it gleams and makes the rest of the bike look a state.

And then we hit a snag. At some point, between 1979 and 1996, one of the previous owners had messed about with the Mikuni BS34 carbs, and chewed up the heads on the pilot jets - two little brass nodgers in the bowels of the fuel system. And after I had cruelly left ol' Cass to sit for eight years, those jets had got bunged up.

And Simon from Alpha, genius though he is, was reluctant to take on the surgery needed to get them out - he was honest enough to admit he didn't fancy buggering up my carbs doing it. 

So I went to the Internet, and search for alternatives and I sought advice from fellow owners online

Well, obviously there isn't a working set to be had for a Euro spec XS650. 

What to do? Well, I could find a precision engineering shop to try and get the jets out. 

Or i could, apparently, buy a secondhand set for a GPZ500 Kawasaki for about 50 quid, which is allegedly a bolt on replacement, but an absolute bugger to set up.

Or I could spend an eyewatering four hundred quid on a brand new Mikuni slide carb set up, which look great, but are also a sod to set up.



Anyway I got the carb bodies from Alpha to measure them up for the sourcing of replacements.



And then I did what I usually do when confronted by a knotty problem. 

I looked at them for ages. 

And I went through my screwdrivers and could not find one that fitted the pilot hole. 

So, I filled the holes with wd40 degreaser and nipped down my local hardware shop, where I paid £3.11 for a set of six long jewellers type screwdrivers. 

And I got them home and worked on the jets with the biggest screwdriver of them for a bit, just in case they would budge, but they wouldn't. 
So I had another think, and remembered that ages ago I bought one of those cheap modelling power tools from Lidl. 
So I went through all the hundreds of grinders and polishing wheels and drill bits in the set and found a tiny little reamer. 



Now the modelling tool itself only runs clockwise, and reasoning that applying clockwise pressure on a screw that is already jammed in clockwise was a bad idea, I clamped the reamer in the old Black and Decker drill/driver and gently at reverse, made the business end pilot hole a little bit bigger. 

Then I gently tapped the smallest screwdriver from the jewellers set into the hole, unscrewed and hey Presto, out came the pilot jet Did the same to the other one, and it looks like the problem is solved... 



I am, needless to say, well chuffed, and under the rules that apply to Man Maths, am now £450 better off than I was on Friday. Might buy a new front brake caliper to celebrate...

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

One piece at a time

It's those tiny details that are so important.
Nut screws washers and bolts

Four tank badge oval set screws, £2.95. Inc postage.



NEXT!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Let's go shopping

I've been to the Bristol Classic Bike Show where there were some very lovely motorcycles
























and hundreds of stalls, the majority of which were selling the same disposable rubber gloves, and the same Bergen brand socket sets.

However.

I have bought

8 stainless steel dome nuts that are the wrong size for my exhaust studs.
Three 50mm and four 35mm m8 metric fine stainless steel bolts.
One small vice.
one stainless steel brake bleed nipple
a packet of the aforesaid rubber gloves
one metre of fuel pipe
A polishing mop set
A pair of funky little rear view mirrors
and most importantly:

one pair used pattern Jama megaphone exhausts with down pipes. these are made of unobtanium, and sell for absurd amounts on Ebay. they did not cost me an absurd amount and will replace the efficient but very ugly Motad 2-1

And one nice new Avon Roadrunner 19 inch front tyre. also virtually unobtainable



This evening i have used many of my tools and managed to free the piston in my rear caliper and having failed to obtain a pair of first oversize pistons  it's off to the internet to buy them from the Dutch. Or the Germans...

Let's go shopping

I've been to the Bristol Classic Bike Show where there were some very lovely motorcycles
























and hundreds of stalls, the majority of which were selling the same disposable rubber gloves, and the same Bergen brand socket sets.

However.

I have bought

8 stainless steel dome nuts that are the wrong size for my exhaust studs.
Three 50mm and four 35mm m8 metric fine stainless steel bolts.
One small vice.
one stainless steel brake bleed nipple
a packet of the aforesaid rubber gloves
one metre of fuel pipe
A polishing mop set
A pair of funky little rear view mirrors
and most importantly:

one pair used pattern Jama megaphone exhausts with down pipes. these are made of unobtanium, and sell for absurd amounts on Ebay. they did not cost me an absurd amount and will replace the efficient but very ugly Motad 2-1

And one nice new Avon Roadrunner 19 inch front tyre. also virtually unobtainable



This evening i have used many of my tools and managed to free the piston in my rear caliper and having failed to obtain a pair of first oversize pistons  it's off to the internet to buy them from the Dutch. Or the Germans...