TALES FROMTHE SHED

Frus­tra­tion. A fa­mil­iar word to all shed dwellers, and es­pe­cially to Frank at the mo­ment…

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Frus­tra­tion. A fa­mil­iar word to all shed dwellers, and es­pe­cially to Frank at the mo­ment…

Iwas in ru­ins. De­stroyed at a stroke. Months – nay, years of work wasted. Gloom set in as I wasted a dis­con­so­late half hour won­der­ing how to move stuff around to put the B25SS back onto the bench. I’d al­ready re­placed it with the G80 Match­less, but when The Boss de­mands bet­ter ser­vice it is a braver man than this one who con­sid­ers de­lay. But con­sider it I did. Bravely. Briefly.

If you have a bet­ter mem­ory than most ele­phants, you’ll re­call that last month’s most ex­cit­ing fea­ture bar none oh yes was Rowena’s first ride on her BSA B25SS since about 1997. Of course she broke it. Worse was to come. She wanted it fix­ing bet­ter. This was bad news. What I’d an­tic­i­pated as a brisk blast around the place, fol­lowed by dewy-eyed ad­mi­ra­tion and maybe a spe­cial ro­man­tic meal à deux at a trough of my choice at her ex­pense, and then…

What ac­tu­ally hap­pened was she made sev­eral com­ments along the lines of ‘It’ll prob­a­bly be all right when it’s fin­ished…’ and ‘Shouldn’t it have brakes?’ and ‘Why won’t it start prop­erly?’ Some­times I think I should change my name to Job. It has a cer­tain ring to it. I wheeled the (very hot) BSA back into The Shed and ob­served with some won­der that in her brief but rapid ride The Boss’s bike had man­aged to loosen a re­mark­able pro­por­tion of its mi­nor com­po­nents.

This is ir­ri­tat­ing, es­pe­cially as I’d tight­ened ev­ery­thing prop­erly. And it shows up a lit­tle prob­lem: some pat­tern parts are not made of such stern stuff as the orig­i­nals, and that some parts are sim­ply not avail­able. Well … not avail­able to non-anorak re­builders. Like me. I can be en­tirely anorak about AMC kit,

es­pe­cially the 1964-on bikes, check out this is­sue’s mighty Match­less mis­sive if you’re in doubt about this, but for rare lim­ited run BSAs I am no ex­pert. Rare? Rel­a­tively yes; rare for a BSA. Lim­ited run? Yes, built for less than a year. That is but a pass­ing in­stant in BSA terms.

Noth­ing vi­tal had loos­ened it­self, hap­pily. The big­gest – and hor­ri­bly vis­i­ble – of­fend­ers were the light­ing frip­peries. All the in­di­ca­tors had be­gun the BSA boo­gie, twirling mer­rily around on their stalks. At least … that’s what the rear ones had done. At the back, the stalks had re­mained fixed while the lamps had gone whirlaround. Which is un­der­stand­able: the stalks are metal and can be tight­ened to their bracket with ap­pro­pri­ate force; the lamp bod­ies are chromed plas­tic, which is even less ro­bust than Lu­cas­metal.

Things were a lit­tle more in­ter­est­ing at the front. At this end, not only had just one of the lamps come adrift from its stalk, but the en­tire head­light / in­di­ca­tors as­sem­bly had ro­tated on its brack­ets. Those brack­ets, as you know, aren’t brack­ets at all; they’re pieces of nice shiny chromed bent wire. These are formed into a pair of slots into which the head­lamp fits, be­ing held tightly into place by the in­di­ca­tors, act­ing as bolts, which screw into the head­lamp shell and are tight­ened by a big nut on the out­side. The is all metal-tometal, so how had they come loose?

As with the rear in­di­ca­tors, the an­swers lie in pat­tern – or sim­ply re­place­ment – parts. As well as the most noble BSA B25SS, The Shed is a happy rust­ing ground for a Tri­umph T25SS, which although of course dif­fer­ent in ev­ery way <ahem> has the same lights. It’s also never been re­stored, merely kept go­ing, ap­prox­i­mately, and still has its orig­i­nal Lu­cas in­di­ca­tors. Whereas on the re­place­ment items on the BSA, where the metal in­di­ca­tor stalks sim­ply screw into the plas­tic lamp bod­ies, on the Tri­umph’s orig­i­nal 1971 items the stalk : lamp in­ter­face is tight­ened by a nut which works against the lamp body. These have con­spic­u­ously not ro­tated. Nor have the threads in the plas­tic lamp bod­ies stripped.

So we tip a toe into the murky waters of the ‘gen­uine’ spares world. I’m go­ing to re­place all four in­di­ca­tors. ‘Lu­cas type’ as­sem­blies are freely avail­able and cost typ­i­cally around £12 for a pair; ‘Gen­uine Lu­cas’ are also avail­able and cost maybe 3 times that. The lights on the BSA are pat­tern ‘Lu­cas type’, so I’ll or­der a set of ‘Gen­uine Lu­cas’ to see whether they’re any bet­ter. I’ll let you know.

The prob­lem at the front is a lit­tle more in­ter­est­ing. Given that the BSA vi­brates enough to loosen its fas­ten­ings, and given that the en­tire head­light / in­di­ca­tors as­sem­bly could come loose and sim­ply fall back­wards out of the ‘slots’ in the wire brack­ets, it would be rea­son­able to as­sume that BSA took steps to pre­vent this. They did. BSA were a bunch of de­cent en­gi­neers.

The way they did this was to fit a pair of wash­ers with ‘ears’, ei­ther side of the wire bracket. The in­side eerie washer butts up against the head­light while the out­side ef­fort has the tight­en­ing nut clamped against it. These are rare, and when we orig­i­nally re­built the Beezer I could only find two of the four needed. I used round plain wash­ers as sub­sti­tutes. They didn’t work – this where the ro­ta­tion took place.

Hap­pily, in this in­ter­net age I was able to find an­other pair. NOS but pretty scruffy. I care not about that.

Even more ex­cit­ingly – and prob­a­bly in­evitably – while surf­ing the air­waves search­ing for mys­te­ri­ous wash­ers I stum­bled across a brand new MCH66 head­lamp shell of the ex­act type fit­ted to these bikes. Life can­not be more thrilling than this, surely.

Once again, pat­tern parts are oc­ca­sion­ally avail­able, although I’ve not found an MCH66 shell with the cor­rect holes in the cor­rect places, so when I put the bike back to­gether I used the best sec­ond­hand one I could find. It’s not ac­tu­ally very good. How­ever, in the mean­time a batch of MCH66 shells has plainly emerged from the mys­tic east, as I said, and are al­most sen­si­bly priced. The holes are wrong though and they’re a slightly strange shape. And then, there among the on­line clut­ter, was a UK-made item. Guar­an­teed to be the right sort, with the right cur­va­ture to the shell – some of the pat­tern va­ri­ety are a lit­tle imag­i­na­tive here. The snag? The price.

How­ever, as we all know, life is short and is hardly worth liv­ing un­less your BSA has the cor­rect head­lamp shell, so I or­dered one, winc­ing only a lot when Paypal ex­tracted the dosh from a se­ri­ously de­pleted bank ac­count. It’s ar­rived and looks ex­actly right. Let’s see how it fits and works.

But none of this was re­mov­ing the G80 from the bench and re­plac­ing it with the BSA. I’d man­aged to do most of the jobs on the Match­less … bar one. That one is a RealMys­tery

– all help­ful sug­ges­tions wel­comed.

AMC had an in­ter­est­ing way of mount­ing their rear mud­guards. The big­gest bolts in­volved also pro­vide the top mount­ing for the rear shocks, which is sen­si­ble enough. As well as the shocks and the mud­guard, these two bolts – one on each side – also mount the rear lift­ing han­dles, the de­sign of which changed a lit­tle in the 1960s, although that’s not re­ally rel­e­vant here.

What the bolt does is con­ven­tional enough: it passes through the frame bracket, through the eye at the top of the sus­pen­sion unit, then through the other side of the frame bracket. Then it passes through a hefty spacer and is gripped by its nut. The spacer and the nut are the im­por­tant items here. The spacer is cylin­dri­cal, as you’d ex­pect, and has a hole at one end to ac­cept the bolt. All nor­mal so far. At the other end, the spacer’s hole is much big­ger. It matches the nut, which is a sleeve nut of sorts. The hex head lives in­side the mud­guard, near the ro­tat­ing may­hem of the back tyre, while the sleeve part passes through a hole in the guard and pro­trudes into that cylin­dri­cal spacer. All fine, all sim­ple, all neat de­sign. And it works well. Ex­cept...

Ex­cept that on the G80’s right side the nut re­fuses to start on the bolt’s thread. How can this be? They fit to­gether ab­so­lutely per­fectly when off the bike, but refuse to mate while in place. The other side works per­fectly, both on and off the bike. How? Of course I im­me­di­ately un­der­stood that this is an align­ment is­sue, so I loos­ened ev­ery other fas­tener in­volved in rear mud­guard ex­cite­ment and wag­gled the whole guard in an en­tic­ing way while at­tempt­ing to start the nut onto the bolt’s thread. Noth­ing do­ing.

Plainly I need a new bolt. I or­dered a pair from eBay. They don’t fit. A les­son learned. I’ve built loads of AMC bikes, this is the first time I’ve en­coun­tered this mys­te­ri­ous prob­lem. An­swers, any­one?

While I was kick­ing things and curs­ing – which is plainly the re­sult of the BSA be­ing a bad in­flu­ence – I browsed the ethers some more, like you do at times of frus­tra­tion, and dis­cov­ered a new sump bash plate for the B25SS! Made in the UK, too, so not cheap, but plainly worth ev­ery penny. Or­dered, ar­rived, and out with the Smoothrite to give it a lit­tle pro­tec­tion from At­lantic spray.

Fi­nally, I gave up with the Match­less’s id­iot rear sus­pen­sion bolt, wheeled it from the bench and…

…hold on. Will it start? Been stood for a while, but, maybe, if I just see… Two kicks! I like Match­less en­gines. Far bet­ter than that BSA junk.

With a truly huge sense of de­feat, min­gled with de­spair and sea­soned with a soupçon of fore­bod­ing, I parked the BSA back on the bench and gave it a heavy dose of se­ri­ous

star­ing. First things first. The start­ing. It had been OK be­fore the Bet­ter Third treated it to its very own bap­tism of fire, so I’ll just give it a sin­gle kick and…

…noth­ing. A lot more kicks. Noth­ing. Lights light, horn honks. Sparks? No sparks. How can pre­vi­ously re­li­able sparks trans­form into no sparks at all? It was run­ning fine – if very loudly – when we scooted it back into The Shed, but now? No spark.

Off with the points cover. No spark at the points. How? Ob­serve with some grim feel­ing of in­evitabil­ity that when I switch on the ig­ni­tion the rear light lights. It’s done this be­fore, then it fixed it­self. How­ever, al­ways cre­ative, now the in­di­ca­tor re­peater in the head­lamp shines a bright or­ange when the ig­ni­tion’s switched on. None of the ac­tual in­di­ca­tors light, and wag­gling the han­dle­bar switch has no ef­fect at all. Only BSA can do this.

Dis­con­nect the low ten­sion lead. Brand new when I put the bike back to­gether be­cause some­how some­where the orig­i­nal had gone AWoL. As soon as I dis­con­nect the LT lead the or­ange glow from the head­light is ex­tin­guished. That is se­ri­ously heavy­weight mys­te­ri­ous. Ghosts in the shell? Could be. I flick the lead to earth against the en­gine. Nice crackle of sparks, so all is well that far. Maybe the lead is some­how short­ing against the in­side of the points hous­ing? Re­assem­ble with spe­cial care to keep the lead’s con­nec­tor away from the al­loy of the en­gine. Switch on. The or­ange light in the head­lamp shell lights. There are no sparks.

Dras­tic mea­sures. I or­der up a new lead and a set of new con­tact break­ers, com­plete with a new in­su­lat­ing ‘top hat’ to keep the lead away from the points. I shall crack this. It must be sim­ple. Surely…

Paint is cheap. And no one can see the thing un­der­neath the en­gine, so Smoothrite can do its stuff

Mean­while, hi­jacked by BSA en­thu­si­asm <sigh> FW found a new sump bash plate. Re­ally new, too. Also un­painted

Here we go again. The BSA’s back on the bench – its favourite place

Get­ting to the point… There ap­pears to be noth­ing wrong here. All the work­ing parts are new. Ex­cept there is no spark. There was pre­vi­ously a spark, now it has left the room

Try again. A new lead. Nice and neat. New ‘gen­uine Lu­cas’ con­tact set. Ob­serve with a smile how the lead’s con­nec­tor is far too small to ac­cept the nice new in­su­la­tor

Never mind. Frank was able to fit a sticker. Makes all the dif­fer­ence, ap­par­ently

The se­ri­ously frus­trat­ing rear sus­pen­sion bolt and its nut. Not only do they refuse to work to­gether – but only when ac­tu­ally on the bike – they are also un­avail­able. Huh

It all looks so sim­ple, too. Ex­cept that the nut in­side needs to get a grip

Match­less in name and na­ture. Mostly. Back on the bench but only for a short while

An ir­ri­tat­ing thing. There are a pair of pan­els be­tween oil tank and tool­box on the post-63 ma­chines. These fit­ted prop­erly be­fore they were painted. Now … less so

Be­low: Mean­while in other news, The Bet­ter Third has de­cided that the B25SS needs a smaller, slen­der, more stylish fuel tank. She has a smaller tank. The small tank needs a dif­fer­ent seat. This is just as well, as the orig­i­nal is a lit­tle tired....

The mys­te­ri­ous wash­ers which pre­vent the head­light ro­tat­ing. There should be a pair here, and soon there will be

Mean­while, the vast ex­pense con­tin­ues. This is a gen­uine new pat­tern MCH66 head­lamp shell. We may have no sparks, but at least we have a shiny shell

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