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