Pip’s new residence, round the backl!
“The pinging sprocket, the hand-wheel attached to it, and sundry nuts, bolts and clips fell on the primus stove, knocking it over, setting fire to an assortment of oil-soaked rags!”
When I wandered in to see my dad at about age 10 to ask him if he could make me a steam engine I didn’t quite get the response I’d hoped for, just a sort of grunt of submission followed by a ‘Why don’t you try makin’ one yersen’ lad?’ I never did get to progress too far down the steam route. I think I might have made some nettle beer or pointed a wall or taken next door’s mower to bits instead. In the years that followed brother Bill and me made crossbows and catapults that would merit a firearms licence before finally settling into anything with a kickstart and an oil leak. We had a bit of a dilemma with a Royal Enfield Bullet that was (I think) gifted to us. It needed to be torn to pieces, I’ve no idea why, but it definitely had it coming. Most of the extraneous bits were liberated with the aid of a set of mole grips, a ‘Brooks’ bike multi-key and two black spanners of indeterminate origin found wrapped in a tatty tool roll along with some insulation tape and a bent screw driver. On removing the primary chain cover we were confronted with an unfamiliar sight. Attached to the bar sticking out of the bottom of the engine (the ‘crankshaft’ Fergie called it) was a sprocket that was unlike any previously encountered cog, and it needed to come off. For the first week or so we attacked it with spoons and various levers fashioned out of an old bed frame. The sprocket laughed at us. While enduring Tuesday’s geography lesson I noticed an interesting steel hand-wheel living on the edge of the rolling blackboard. It was about five inches in diameter with a series of holes around the periphery and a single big threaded hole in the centre. It appeared to serve no useful purpose and I reasoned that it could come home with me for a few days. The bed frame yielded a few more handy bolts and with the addition of an old exhaust clamp and a couple of skinned knuckles we were able to put the sprocket under considerable tension using the newly appropriated hand-wheel as a puller, but it still didn’t budge. Even the occasional clonk with a hammer netted nothing. Among our weaponry was a trusty brass primus stove, all methylated spirits and scary pressure, an interesting combination; it seemed like a good idea to try to warm the job up a little. Our first effort to direct the heat at the appropriate area failed so we decided to cant the bike over on its side using whatever we had at hand to support the bike a few inches above the hissing flames. With an extra tweak of the bed bolts, PING! Off it popped. However the pinging sprocket, with attached hand-wheel, sundry nuts, bolts, clips etc. fell on the primus, knocking it over and simultaneously setting fire to a substantial hank of rags, strategically placed to soak up the ancient Castrol 40 that was dribbling out of the precariously inclined engine. In an effort to stop a minor conflagration escalating into a major incident, Bill yanked the flaming lump off its jenga-esque stack of timber supports and straight over on top of him. With a clumsy kick I booted the flaming primus into the garden and, in a state of moderate elation surveyed the damage. Bill: slightly grazed and singed leg, bruised arm, not too much blood. Dented primus, and (horror of horrors) one snapped off fin where the Royal Enfield head contacted an innocent Riley Pathfinder bellhousing. Notwithstanding the potential for serious injury if the bellhousing had been a few inches further away, we both viewed the snappage with dismay. ‘It’s got a broken wing,’ Bill uttered. Henceforth the Bullet was always referred to as ‘Broken Wing’ or ‘Wing’. Over the coming weeks we pulled the rest of it to bits. We blagged some main bearings and sampled the unintended Taser-like qualities of the Lucas magneto, played ‘hunt the valve spring’ and the even more time consuming, ‘hunt the flying, and inevitably lost valve spring collet’. The hand-wheel returned to school, bent and slightly charred, but no worse for its little adventure; and what of ‘Wing’? Well, we learned a lot, eventually it went back together and we would get our mates round for an occasional start-up. With a good tickling the Bullet would fire up pretty easily, thanks to a 7.5:1 compression ratio and a functioning valve lifter. One of them was so impressed he bought it off us to ride around the field at the back of his house, I think he gave us fifteen quid for it... cash!
ABOVE: My Ariel Leader, 250 twin stroker, bit like a prehistoric RD250, but slower.