It’s that same old story; three steps for­ward, four steps back…

four steps back… three steps for­ward, It’s that same old story;

Real Classic - - What Lies Within -

Slightly won­der­fully, the BSA A65T of fond re­gard (ha!) ar­rived com­plete with a clutch ca­ble, a truly hefty de­vice, which bodes ill for a light op­er­a­tion. How­ever, it’s there, so that’s one in­signif­i­cant ex­pense saved. I am try­ing to cheer my­self up. How is it that what at first seemed like a cheap, quick and easy re­build can so eas­ily turn into that oh-so fa­mil­iar tale of woe? I imag­ine we are as one in this, thee’n’me, and that you also suf­fer from False Dawn Syn­drome, a com­mon con­di­tion I’ve just in­vented to de­scribe the end­less abil­ity of sim­ple tasks to turn into mighty projects.

Like the clutch ca­ble. Some­where nearby may be a pic of it. Hand­some, no? How­ever, although it’s not easy to por­tray in a flat 2D photo, the ca­ble is enor­mously long. It may be that the Amer­i­can pre­vi­ous owner had his bike fit­ted with some kind of high’n’wide bars to suit the so-neat’n’sweet tank, but the ca­ble is still very very long. And I hope you like my deft use of 1970s apos­tro­phes, here’n’there. I thought it might add a note of cheer.

So, sens­ing a sim­ple task, I or­dered a nice new clutch ca­ble. This is easy enough. The plan was that I’d con­nect up the ca­ble to both the clutch lifter and the han­dle­bar lever and see whether the clutch it­self still works. What you are read­ing about here is a fine ex­am­ple of dis­place­ment be­hav­iour, the sort of thing we do rather than get­ting on with some­thing use­ful, like mak­ing the en­gine work, for ex­am­ple. I’ll be search­ing out a chain­guard next, just you wait and see.

The ca­ble ar­rived, mu­cho pronto, which is a good thing. It’s a lot shorter than that on the bike, which is a good thing too. It is also about half the width, which is a thing, although whether it’s a good thing or the other thing I have no idea yet. But I will re­port back. You have been warned. Trans­fer your sub­scrip­tion to Kitchen Gar­den magazine if you need to.

Re­plac­ing clutch ca­bles is some­thing we’ve all done, many, many times. As with a bike’s other ca­bles, it should be a sim­ple thing to do, a task ide­ally easy enough to ac­com­plish at the side of a rainy road in the dead of night. And BSA had been build­ing bikes for very, very many years by the time the plans for the A65 were drawn up in the late 1950s. Cast your mind back…

Part of the great leap for­ward which came with the in­tro­duc­tion of the unit con­struc­tion en­gines was a con­sid­er­able tidy­ing-up of the typ­i­cally rather bitty ap­pear­ance of bikes at the time. Con­sider BSA’s own A7 and A10 twins. Bits Stuck All over the place, as you may have read be­fore. They tided ev­ery­thing up, en­clos­ing the carb within ex­tended side pan­els, us­ing less fas­ten­ers and ditch­ing all those tire­some mag­ne­tos and dy­namos, things like that. BSA also took great care with the rout­ing of their ca­bles, tidy­ing them up wher­ever pos­si­ble. In the

case of the early unit twins, they ditched that un­sightly ex­ter­nal clutch op­er­at­ing lever on the gear­box and re­placed it with an in­ter­nal lever. That would be in­ter­nal, as in inside the en­gine cas­ings. Con­sider again that dark road­side in the rain.

Not ev­ery­one could have been en­tirely de­lighted with this ar­range­ment, as BSA al­tered the en­try. I am in deep debt to Roger from Dra­gan­fly, who has com­piled a small file of the var­i­ous changes made to BSA unit twin tim­ing cov­ers. It may be some­where nearby. Hope­fully. By the time this 1971 ma­chine was built, the ca­ble en­tered the in­ner tim­ing cover and con­nected to the repo­si­tioned op­er­at­ing lever inside it. Nice and neat. No ex­ter­nal levers. And a tiny hole for those hap­lessly road­side stranded to reach inside to dis­con­nect the old and con­nect the new. There may be a pic­ture of the hole some­where nearby. It is not a very big hole. I grum­bled loudly about it on the RC Face­book page, al­most cer­tainly a fount of all knowl­edge. Did I re­ally need to re­move the outer tim­ing cover to re­place the ca­ble?

Yes! replied sev­eral peo­ple. No! replied sev­eral more. And if you do need to re­move the outer tim­ing cover, ad­vised sev­eral ex­perts through grit­ted teeth, then be­ware the kick­start spring. Why? Be­cause it’s easy to dis­lodge it when re­fit­ting the cover. I stared at the clutch ca­ble and pon­dered re­plac­ing it. Maybe it would be easy? Re­ally? Maybe the sug­ges­tions in­volv­ing nee­dle-nosed pli­ers and in­testi­nal for­ti­tude were the true path? Maybe the other sug­ges­tions made sense: that re­plac­ing a new ca­ble with an­other new ca­ble was easy, be­cause the nip­ple and the in­ter­nal lever are eas­ily parted when new and oily – less so af­ter a cou­ple of decades and a lot of hot miles.

Or I could find a set of se­ri­ously wide han­dle­bars and use the old, very long, ca­ble…

Any­way, I dived into the tim­ing side to take a peek and in­stantly dis­cov­ered that there was no O-ring on the lit­tle cover. A mark of Mr Bodger. Next dis­cov­ery was that the clutch ca­ble nip­ple was com­pletely free of its lever, but that my fin­gers are far too fat to mud­dle it around, so pli­ers it will need to be. That should be OK. Then I mea­sured up the two ca­bles and good­ness me (Good­ness? Me? Re­ally?) are they dif­fer­ent. My nat­u­ral ex­u­ber­ance for point­less tasks col­lapsed and I found my­self won­der­ing where the very wide and in­deed very blue Ren­thal tri­als bars I’ve been cart­ing around for maybe two decades are hid­den. I mean safely stored away.

Flushed by the re­lent­less pace of suc­cess in The Shed, I whipped off the two lit­tle cov­ers on the pri­mary chain­case, mostly be­cause… well, be­cause. The first rev­e­la­tion (and I’ve no idea why I’d not looked be­fore) was that un­like much of the rest of the bike the at­ten­tions of Mr Bodger were again ev­i­dent. He’d ad­justed the clutch pushrod at some point. It’s not too chewed up. His man­i­fold tal­ents ev­i­dently did not ex­tend to ad­just­ing the pri­mary chain – a re­ally tremen­dous triplex affair which would han­dle a lot more poke than a sin­gle-cam T-Bolt. My my, but it’s slack.

One thing leads to an­other, so I whipped out the chain­case drain plug, won­der­ing whether there was any oil in there. Of course not. Let’s be char­i­ta­ble and pre­tend it was re­moved by the ship­pers who’d loaded the bike up in the far­away USA. Of course they had. Mind you… maybe they had, be­cause the drain plug came out eas­ily, un­like the level plug, which is an iden­ti­cal screw just a lit­tle higher up the chain­case. That’s so tight it broke my ratchet screw­driver. I’m sure there are plenty of bar­gain tools at au­to­jum­bles, but I ap­pear to have missed them when buy­ing this.

How­ever, speak­ing of eBay, which we weren’t, and in­spired by my mate Morgan’s un­earthing of some de­cent sparks, which I

was, I dived into the re­mark­able­ness which is that famed on­line auc­tion and hunted for a con­denser pack. A what? A lit­tle bit of thought­ful neat­ness in­volv­ing both con­densers be­ing tucked away inside a neat lit­tle rub­ber hous­ing and mounted firmly to the frame. As ever, there may be pho­tos nearby, de­pend­ing on how jolly Mr Mike the De­signer was feel­ing when he laid out the pages.

I’ve seen these packs in parts books, but have never no­ticed one on a bike. I could see where it fits, and although most of the com­po­nent parts are avail­able, I hoped I’d find a com­plete unit. And I did. There it was. All of it. New con­densers and ev­ery­thing. I bought it at once, and al­most im­me­di­ately re­ceived a mail from the ven­dor who asked if I was who he thought I was. This is al­ways enor­mously flat­ter­ing, and I was forced to go and drink Scotch whisky and then lie down for a mo­ment. The parts ar­rived faster than I’d thought pos­si­ble, and were as de­scribed. Ex­cept…

Ex­cept that there was an odd ex­tra bracket. Nor­mally, the base of the pack is screwed to the frame, and earths there. How­ever, this pack was screwed to an an­gled bracket, which I can find no ref­er­ence to any­where, de­spite a heavy bout of dili­gent Googling. And it’s cer­tainly not in the BSA parts list, nor can I find any pics of one any­where. How­ever, the bracket fits ex­actly to the holes on the frame, and al­lows the con­densers’ con­tacts to be aimed ei­ther for­ward or back, in other words, not pointed di­rectly up­wards at the seat base. Any­one who’s shorted out a Tri­umph bat­tery by crush­ing the seat base onto the ter­mi­nals – ahem – will like this idea. And so did I.

The holes in the frame got a good dose of clean­ing up, to make a de­cent earth, and my mighty mul­ti­me­ter con­firmed that in­deed ev­ery­thing was as it should be. I con­nected it all up, added a bat­tery and lev­ered the kick­starter. Big fat sparks. Good news. Maybe I’ll get it run­ning by this time in a year or two. I’ll make a note to re­mind me.

Mean­while, the year has seen sev­eral un­wel­come but nec­es­sary de­par­tures from The Shed. I’ll not bore you with the Why of it, but time moves on for us all, me in­cluded. The most re­cent was prob­a­bly the most dif­fi­cult, but it sold within one minute, which eases the pain some­what. I’d ar­ranged for two bikes to whiz away to be sold, and had in­tended that the other one would be my rather groovy old Match­less G80 – an LF Har­ris ma­chine

com­plete with elec­tric hoof and twin front discs. The bike hadn’t run for around a decade (sad but true) although I’d wheeled it around a bit about a year ago, de­cided that it was a great bike and I’d never part with it … like you do. Well… like I do. And the front discs were fairly rusty, which makes shov­ing it around a lit­tle tire­some.

So I was pre­pared to spend a lit­tle time free­ing off the front wheel. Which was of course com­pletely free any­way. Not that this was im­por­tant, be­cause the rear brake on the lit­tle Match­less was seized solid. It’s a small drum brake. How can this hap­pen? In one mil­lion years of mo­tor­bicy­cling this has never hap­pened to me be­fore. A drum, seized? Re­ally? Re­ally. And a pal with an­other G80 much like my own con­firmed that his had done the same, and has been off the road ever since be­cause it ap­pears to be im­pos­si­ble to sep­a­rate the parts.

I sprayed ev­ery­thing lib­er­ally with De­gripAll, my favourite magic anti-seize stuff, and left it to soak. I’ll re­peat the process ev­ery time I re­mem­ber. It pays not to rush things of course, and in any case there is a bright side. Which is that if I can’t wheel the G80 around I can’t sell it. My my, what a shame. Not.

The in­evitable an­swer is that I’ll drop out the wheel, cart it down to Kenny at Ace Mosick­les, en­dure his de­ri­sive laugh­ter at my ex­pense and watch dumb­founded (which means what, ex­actly?) as the assem­bly sim­ply falls apart in his hands. Which it will. Life is like that…

This is a clutch ca­ble. The other end is at­tached to the en­gine. Con­sider the dis­tance be­tween the han­dle­bar and the ca­ble’s nip­ple… Two clutch ca­bles. The ca­ble at­tached to the en­gine is prob­a­bly the orig­i­nal, de­spite its re­mark­able length. The other ca­ble is sub­stan­tially less sub­stan­tial. Should we as­sume that ma­te­ri­als tech­nol­ogy has im­proved so much since 1971 that the new ca­ble will ac­tu­ally be bet­ter?

This is a BSA en­gine. Admire its smooth, mod­ernistic lines. Con­sider the clutch ca­ble… Above: Two clutch ca­bles. They’re quite dif­fer­ent. Surely it’ll be sim­plic­ity it­self to swap them over to see which works best?Left: This is an ear­lier A65 (in fact, it’s the rea­son we’re build­ing the cur­rent one – as some id­iot sold the orig­i­nal). Ob­serve the ap­par­ent ab­sence of the clutch ca­ble. It en­ters the tim­ing chest be­hind that chest, bot­tom left on the pic, and yes, the tim­ing cover needs to come off to change it

Above and left: Close study of these pics re­veals how the clutch ca­ble con­nects to its lever. Or at least they did when the A65 was a new ma­chine in 1962 or so. BSA learned, and re­moved the need to re­move the tim­ing cover. So they said, although it is yet to be proved in The Shed By the time this Beezer was built in 1971 things had been im­proved. What’s wrong with a vis­i­ble clutch ca­ble any­way? In a mo­ment of shared anora­kno­pho­bia, our pals at Dra­gan­fly Mo­tor­cy­cles re­vealed that they’d worked up a spread­sheet of the sundry changes made to the A65 tim­ing cov­ers. No, re­ally. Thank you, Lau­ren and Roger

Peer­ing through the tiny hole, it is al­most pos­si­ble to ob­serve the end of the ca­ble and its lever. It is of course en­tirely im­pos­si­ble to get fin­gers inside to ac­tu­ally do any­thing… A handy new de­vice to land in The Shed is this great light, which makes peer­ing into dark places less of a chore. Ev­ery shed should have one Had Frank men­tioned the seat? OK… You know this al­ready, of course, but in case you’d for­got­ten, this is a BSA (and Tri­umph – and it fits the triples as well as the twins, as you can see) con­denser pack. It should screw straight to the frame, but in this case it has an ex­tra bracket… …here is that ex­tra bracket. Any­one know what it’s from?

Above: Frank was de­ter­mined to sell this most ex­cel­lent Match­less. We have no idea why One con­denser pack, neatly in place. The mys­te­ri­ous bracket means that the con­nec­tors point away from the seat base. A good idea, prob­a­bly Oh yes. He’s fit­ted the seat. Sort of. He’s very proud of this. Lit­tle thing, lit­tle mind…

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