TALES FROMTHE SHED
It’s a scary thing, but sometime RealLife gets in the way of RealClassic life in The Shed…
It’s a scary thing, but sometime RealLife gets in the way of RealClassic life in The Shed…
Iwas intending to start this episodic epistle with the traditional rhetorical question: ‘Where were we?’ But there
would be no point. Where we were is exactly where we are still. At least I have a decent excuse for a change.
It all sound very dramatic, but last month’s tale from The Shed was actually written on a laptop computer in a hospital, where I was parked up for some remedial action following that paramedics, ambulances, flashing lights and powerful opiates experience. The last mentioned was in fact the only fun involved, and although the unexpected emergency has passed – thanks for asking – it has put a serious crimp into my increasingly weary attempts at fixing the world’s most recalcitrant BSA.
Actually, that’s only partly true. There has been progress. Of a sort. The sort you don’t actually notice because it’s not moved anything along very much and in any case it’s mainly involved masses of jabbering and reading and making decisions, acting on them and … nothing much happening as a result. Does that make any sense? No? Thought not.
If you can stay awake better than many, you may recall that I’ve spent what feels like decades attempting to make the BSA’s uniquely non-comical hub front brake work. The actual problem here is that there is nothing wrong with it. It should work. Except it doesn’t. And at this point it would only be human of me to offer a huge THANKS to all the RC Facebook and magazine reading experts who offered advice, sent drawings and suggestions. I tried everything that seemed even faintly sensible and several things which did not. No noticeable effect.
In the end, I put it all back together again … and was a little surprised to observe that the amount of cable adjustment required to actually apply brake shoe to brake drum was noticeably less than previously. Still too much and still far too spongey. Then I remembered the restoration technique once favoured by Rod Ker, a long departed RC contributor, who often remarked that simply taking things apart and putting them back together again appeared to cure many problems.
I removed the wheel again and stripped the brake again. Operated the Micram adjusters with the brake plate out of the drum, and they appeared to work perfectly, smoothly and with little effort. I wound out the adjusters to their limits and offered the brake plate up to the drum. It wouldn’t fit. There was a visible overlap: the shoes were standing wider than the drum’s inner surface, as you’d expect.
So I backed off the adjusters until the shoes would clear the drum just enough for me to fit everything together again. Then I tried to adjust the shoes into a closer contact with the drum. There was no movement possible with the adjuster. Only a tiny amount of movement was needed to apply the brake using the operating arms. So… I put the wheel back into the bike (again: I should be getting quite good at this) and adjusted the cable. The cable adjuster does not adjust the shoes, although too many people do not believe this. The cable adjuster is only there to adjust the cable. Seems simple, but lots of us get it wrong.
This time, the cable was tight with about half of the available adjuster thread used. I took it all apart again. Practice, we are assured, makes perfect. It certainly ruined the perfectly decent paint finish I’d applied to the brake plate. Everything inside the drum looked fine. The clearance between shoes and drum was so small that I needed to back off the adjusters before I could either remove the brake plate from the drum or put it back again. Which I did. Again. This time when I adjusted the cable … it was tight after maybe an eighth of an inch of the adjuster was used. And the brake feels fine. It stops the wheel. No slowly slowing down and strange scraping noises: the wheel
stop immediately the lever is operated. Exactly like a brake should. I can spin the wheel as fast as possible and the brake stops it in a flash, as it should. Hurrah… but… how?
The next step involves taking the little beast out onto the lanes and seeing how or whether the brake works well enough to stop the bike from its fearsome top speed. But, we have a problem. To try out the brake … first start the engine.
If you can stay awake better than most, you may recall that I’ve spent what feels like decades attempting to make the BSA’s extremely simple ignition system produce reliable sparks. It did. Whereas the brake may in fact never have worked – how would I know? – the sparks most certainly did. They had no inconsistencies at all. You turned on the ignition, kicked over the engine and it would start. And now, in a mysterious reversal of the curiously self-fixing front brake, all the sparks have gone away, possibly on a nice holiday somewhere warmer than the currently damp Shed.
Last month I revealed that I’d fitted new points. Hurrah. No more sparks than with the old points. Boo. This is actually much more difficult to fix than the brake, mostly because my eyesight is getting dim – no sniggering at the back, please. Even though I have reading glasses which work well, I still find it very hard to focus on small things close up – this is the only actual problem with being longsighted. When my eyes are tired – after a long day gazing grimly at a computer screen for example – I find it almost impossible to discern what is actually going on with the points. I can see that there’s a healthy spark if I disconnect the power lead from the post and short it to the engine casing. I can see that the points are separated – insulated from each other. Even I can operate a meter to check for a break in the circuit when the points are opened – but I can’t actually see whether there’s a spark at the points…
Visitors to RCHQ never need to sing for their suppers. Not yet, anyway. However, as several kind folk have discovered down the years, there’s often that ‘Have you got a minute…’ moment. Long-time pal and RC contributor Martin Peacock made the mistake of suggesting lunch while he was down here en famille for a possibly well-deserved break from doing whatever it is that engineers get paid handsomely to do. Plainly he needed a break from both family and flinging spanners – or whatever it is that real engineers like Martin actually get handsomely paid to fling. He knew that something was afoot when I enquired – innocent-like – whether he’d brought overalls? Maybe gloves? His sigh was seismic. With a remarkably good impression of good grace, Martin aimed his terrifyingly functional and awesomely effective engineer eyes at the points. ‘ They’re points,’ he announced, removing his gloves. I agreed that they were, that he plainly was a prince among engineers and gave his gloves back to him.
The second sigh was less impressive. Maybe the lack of sparks is infectious. ‘Got a meter?’ he wondered. I do, and I gave it to him. Martin stared at it, wondering quietly whether it was any better than two pieces of old cable and a light bulb. I kept quiet, making encouraging gestures, like staring at my watch and pulling lip-smacking faces. It was almost lunchtime.
Martin connected up the meter – exactly as I had – and revealed that there was a circuit when the point were closed and no circuit when the points were open. This was encouraging: I’d got that right, at least. Then he looked up with a faint air of resignation and wondered whether I had another meter – a better meter, perhaps?
And oddly enough I do. I’d bought a meter some years ago when one of my one hundred percent reliable rotary Nortons had decided that in its relentless quest for perfection it no longer needed to charge its battery, resulting in a long and entirely pleasant journey with a nice man in a yellow van. The new improved meter had a function which allowed any fool (that would be me) to check whether the charging circuit was in fact charging. That was the only time I used it. Then I sold the Norton.
Digging around produced a damp and faded cardboard box containing another meter. The problem – for me – with this meter is that it is covered in mysterious engineer language, as used by the Alien Engineers in the Alien movies but illegible to mere humans like me. It also has a dial. This is very confusing. Hence the banishment of the boxed meter to a secure and dry drawer where it had both faded and become damp. Martin regarded it as a chap might regard a possibly poisonous arachnid. He shrugged again. Real engineers are good at shrugging. Alien Engineers meet sticky ends in the Alien movies. I refrained from mentioning this.
Martin twiddled the dial. Numbers appeared on the screen. ‘Hmm,’ he said, helpfully and with meaning. He twiddled more and connected the leads to things on and nearby the points. ‘Hmmm…’ he said. But not in an encouraging way. He read out some
figures. They meant nothing to me. He moved the leads and twiddled the dial, read out some more numbers. ‘Hmm,’ he said again, revealingly. ‘ There’s something wrong.’
This is the thing with real engineers. They can make stating the obvious sound like that moment when Moses came down from the mount clutching tablets. Of stone, rather than Nurofen, which is what I needed by now. ‘ The coil current should be more than the ½ amp or so we’re measuring. It should be around 3A – so there’s some extra resistance creeping in somewhere.’ Then he sat back with a huge wide and cheerful smile and said: ‘Isn’t it lunchtime?’
Lunch was good, at the Atlantic Diner in Bude, thank you for asking. I asked Martin how he knew so much about the wiring and numbers? How did he know what was up? ‘Ohm’s Law.’ Then he ate some cake.
A couple of days later – being a real engineer on holiday with plainly a hectic life – he sent me some diagrams. They may be around here somewhere. They may make sense. I groaned and moaned at anyone who would listen … before they ran away to visit folk in another county. Many helpful suggestions were issued. My favourite was from Paul Goff, noted electrical person and frequent autojumblist. ‘Send me £n (where n is small) and I’ll send you a Pazon. That’ll fix it.’ I did, and he did. I gazed at the big box with the little components and wondered what to do with it…
I have another friend, which is remarkable really, but there you are. This friend is called Chris Read, and apart from driving hugely expensive sports cars with Mercedes badges and riding a Honda, he’s a decent fellow. We do lunch. Gloriously he wondered whether I could do him a favour. Of course I could. I did. He wondered how he could do me a favour in return. This is apparently normal for friends. Remarkable. I wondered whether he knew anything about converting ancient and recalcitrant BSA singles from useless Lucas points set-ups to glorious Pazon technology. He grinned at me. ‘I wrote a series of features about that for a magazine once.’ I bit, wondering which and whether I could get a copy? ‘RealClassic.’ Sometimes you just can’t win…
Above: The front brake appears to work, with hardly any need for cable adjustment. This achievement is a mystery, not least because all FW did was take it apart and put it back together again (very many times)
Paul Goff’s answer to the same question was this. It looks very nice. FW gazed at the instructions – he always claims to enjoy wiring a motorcycle after all – and felt a sudden need for a long country walk
Left: Meanwhile, in other news, many hands make brake work, hopefully, although we have no idea how or why
A feature of RealEngineers is that they never admit defeat. While on holiday, Martin somehow managed to send this lot through the ethers to FW. Who gazed in mystified wonder, as you might expect
In a flash: the appliance of science. However, it did no good, despite invoking the mystical power of Ohm’s Law
No opportunity should be wasted. RealEngineer Martin Peacock made the mistake of agreeing to take a look at the B25SS
Frank rode this bike way, way back, and loved it. As you can see from the happy smiling face here
Meanwhile, back to the Beezer. Here’s how to check that the points are actually acting as a circuit breaker, demonstrated by the cheap (but easy to understand) meter
Left: One of the special editions introduced by Watsonian Squire when they imported RE Bullets was this handsome Woodsman, which used the EFI engine. Does anyone know whether the parts to achieve the conversion are around? Watsonian say not…
Top: On with the distraction, then. As the Bullet needs a dose of cosmetics, this is clearly a great opportunity to replace its stock styling with something a little more glamorous. Like this, maybe Left: When things are going badly, it pays to remind...
Most wiring diagrams provide a code to reveal the secrets of the wires’ various colours. BSA tried something different. It must mean something, of course, but what?
Right: In other other news, an ancient Matchless which has been laying around the place for many years is functional again! No credit to FW involved, as another RealEngineer performed the essential miracles. Never mind, any good result is welcome in...
Above: The problem plainly – probably – lies in here somewhere, but a rat’s nest is never a friendly place for the timid