While wait­ing for some en­gine com­po­nents, Odgie gets on with a stack of odd jobs on his Can-Am flat-tracker. It cer­tainly needs footrests and a seat and tail­piece. Time for some metal ma­nip­u­la­tion, then…

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While wait­ing for some en­gine com­po­nents, Odgie gets on with a stack of odd jobs on his Can-Am flat-tracker. It cer­tainly needs footrests and a seat and tail­piece. Time for some metal ma­nip­u­la­tion, then…

Projects tend to go in fits and starts. There might be a few days or a week or two where there’s a nice con­cen­tra­tion and build-up of mo­men­tum in one area, then you need to shift fo­cus to an­other as­pect of the build. As I was say­ing only last month, I’m of­ten re­minded of how bike build­ing is an ex­am­ple of life in minia­ture; the ebb and flow of ev­ery­day life be­ing re­flected in the men­tal and phys­i­cal work­ings of one small shed.

Bike build­ing teaches you pa­tience, adaptabili­ty, dura­bil­ity, de­ter­mi­na­tion and re­silience. These are all very use­ful at­tributes – whether you’re build­ing a worldbeate­r or nav­i­gat­ing the flot­sam and fluxes of ap­par­ent ex­is­tence in the space/ time con­tin­uum (or sim­ple of ‘be­ing alive’ if you’re not n t a journo j try­ing t i too im­press with ex­trav­a­gant pro­nounce­ments...)

Last month we’d started get­ting stuck into the en­gine. But the rod kit needed thicker thrust wash­ers (the only avail­able re­place­ment con­rods are slightly nar­rower at the big-end), and they were still be­ing man­u­fac­tured. No wor­ries, there’s never a short­age of Things To Be Do­ing, from the ex­cit­ing to the mun­dane. Here’s some of them now...

I had planned on mak­ing a rear mud­guard from scratch, and then mak­ing g a fairly stan­dard type t of f seat, much h like I did on the A65. I’d got the al­loy sheet out ready, and was con­tem­plat­ing how long and what style to make the mud­guard. But the more I stud­ied the back of the bike, the more I saw it be­ing a lit­tle too con­ven­tional. In fact that short­ened rear loop was cry­ing out to be made a feature rather than just a mud­guard car­rier. Time to break out the card and the cre­ativ­ity then

Suf­fi­ciently en­cour­aged by the mock-up, I com­mit­ted the first sec­tion to metal. At this stage it’s still a jour­ney into the un­known. Metal doesn’t be­have quite the same way as card, but some­times you have to fol­low a di­rec­tion to find out whether it’s the right or wrong one. See what I was say­ing about mir­ror­ing Life?

Pho­tos by Odgie Him­self

I never use tin­snips. I don’t think I even own a pair; they make such a of the edges, end­less lit­tle mess dents yo u can never get out. Smaller cut out us­ing a cut­ting bits of al­loy I disc in the grinder, but for larger ones plasma cut­ter. I tend to use the I bought it when I was build­ing cars item for a while, it’s an es­sen­tial when you’re mak­ing more sub­stan­tial parts from scratch, but it’s been con­sis­tently use­ful for bike par ts too. Not a thing you use of­ten, but well its value when you do need it worth

With the al­loy cut and bent to shape, I could mock-up a lit­tle fur­ther in card. Some­times you get it right first time, some­times you cut the card wrong and have to start again. But card is al­ways cheaper than al­loy sheet, it’s much eas­ier to spend 87p than it is to spend 50 quid and wait a week for more al­loy to be de­liv­ered. This is the second card mock-up as it hap­pens (even at the price of card, I’m still a cheap­skate; know­ing the first one might be sac­ri­fi­cial, I made it us­ing two old smaller bits of card taped to­gether...), but it’s start­ing to look like some­thing now

While I was at it, with no mud­guard I needed a splash guard in­stead. I couldn’t just use a flat sheet, as it needed to be well clear of the rear tyre. So I did get to use my plas­tic mal­lets and curved wooden block af­ter all. A trick­ier piece of metal to ma­nip­u­late than it might ap­pear, once you start ham­mer­ing the ten­dency is for the whole sheet to bend, but while the mid­dle needs quite se­ri­ous dou­ble cur­va­ture, the edges still need to re­main straight. It’s easy to get wrong, so it in­volves a com­bi­na­tion of feel, ex­pe­ri­ence, com­mon sense and courage – did I men­tion al­loy sheet was ex­pen­sive, the cost of scrap­page and wastage cer­tainly fo­cuses the mind

A real shame then to cover it up in many ways. But al­loy porn though it was, I need a flow­ing sur­face for paint or pow­der coat­ing. So out with the files and the san­der, and an hour or so later it was suit­ably smoothed

One of the few things I do farm out is al­loy weld­ing. I can just about stick al­loy to­gether if needs be, but the re­sult isn’t pretty – far from it in fact. So I nipped down to my mate Ben, who kindly did the nec­es­sary. When I tell you he makes tanks for the big Bri­tish Su­per­bike teams from around the coun­try, you’ll get an idea how good he is. Or just look at the pic­ture here...

A bit more bend­ing and curv­ing along the edges us­ing a rub­ber mal­let, and now we’re get­ting the pic­ture. This is the stuff I love. I’m in my el­e­ment just fab­bing away down the shed, I don’t need com­pany, I don’t even stop for lunch (most days I for­get to even drink for sev­eral hours), just my groovy tunes play­ing away and the deep joy and sat­is­fac­tion of see­ing things com­ing to life in my hands

On to sim­pler things. I de­cided on 38% of wheel­base for the footrest po­si­tion, along with 17 inches back, 29 inches be­low the han­dle­bars, all fairly straight­for­ward flat-track di­men­sions. Mea­sure the wheel­base, a quick cal­cu­la­tion on the old flip-phone (no swipe screens for me, I’ll stick with ‘beam me up Scotty’ if you don’t mind. Al­though it’s a sign of the times that your elec­tronic mo­bile phone choice can now de­fine you as a Lud­dite). As luck would have it, the footrest po­si­tion fell per­fectly for mak­ing up a mount­ing… and rules dic­tate it can’t be lower than the bot­tom frame rail any­way

The rear brake sys­tem was fairly straight­for­ward to make, once I’d de­cided in my head how I was go­ing to do it. The brake plate is fully float­ing. It sits on a bush when the wheel spin­dle is tight­ened, and the torque arm is bushed at both ends. So as the sus­pen­sion moves up and down, the brake ‘floats’ rather than be­ing fixed to the swing­ing arm. It al­lows the sus­pen­sion to still move more ef­fec­tively and stops the ‘hop­ping’ that can oc­cur un­der brak­ing

I’m not a rules per­son gen­er­ally, but com­mon sense is com­mon sense – pick­ing up sev­ered fin­gers from the track isn’t a nice task (and if they’re your own how do you pick them up any­way?). So for flat track a ‘shark’s fin’ guard is manda­tory to cover the chain en­ter­ing the rear sprocket. I cut a piece out of an old plas­tic five gal­lon drum, cut it to shape, heated and bent it 90 de­grees, and at­tached it us­ing a sin­gle 5mm stud welded to the swing­ing arm. You might think it would have needed two studs to stop it po­ten­tially ro­tat­ing, but where the axle plate sticks down slightly un­der the box sec­tion, I cut a cor­re­spond­ing groove in the ‘shark’s fin’, so a sin­gle stud still pro­vides pos­i­tive lo­ca­tion. I know an ex­tra-short 5mm stud doesn’t weigh that much, but ev­ery lit­tle helps, and the sheer el­e­gance of the so­lu­tion ap­peals to me

Ditto on the mount­ing. A sim­ple boss welded di­rectly to the frame, with a small groove cut into it and cir­clip. Much lighter than a bracket and nuts or bolts, and that’s the beauty of race bikes, they don’t need to do 50 years or 100k miles with a va­ri­ety of clod­hop­pered and ham-fisted own­ers, so they don’t need to be built like some­thing I K Brunel would have been proud of. And yet more ad­justa­bil­ity built into the cable an­chor. Note also the new gear lever, swap­ping it from the left meant its orig­i­nal curve was up­side down, so I made a new cen­tre sec­tion by cut­ting some scrap steel to a long taper, then used just the ends of the orig­i­nal

Al­though 38% is a good start­ing po­si­tion, de­pend­ing on ev­ery­thing from track con­di­tions to bike set-up to sim­ple rider pref­er­ence, a lit­tle bit of ad­justa­bil­ity is no bad thing. So I’m giv­ing my­self the pos­si­bil­ity of an inch for­wards or back­wards. Once I see how the bike han­dles. If I think I need to try some­thing difff­fer­ent, at least I have an easy op­tion

I also needed to knock up a brake lever. Small di­am­e­ter but fairly thick wall tub­ing for the lever it­self, as the best com­bi­na­tion of light weight and core strength, but thin wall tub­ing for the pivot to save weight. I’m pretty fa­nat­i­cal about weight: re­fer back to part one for why. Ev­ery ounce saved is an ounce I don’t have to make turn or ac­cel­er­ate on the track

I’m us­ing the top tube (for­merly the oil tank) as the fuel tank, but a bike needs some sort of tank-type shape. Oh look, here’s a fi­bre­glass cover now... I had the loan of a mould and ev­ery in­ten­tion of mak­ing it my­self. Un­til a quote for ma­te­ri­als alone came to over 90 quid! At which point our lo­cal fi­bre­glasser knocked it up for me for 60 cash…

Card­board tem­plates are the bike builder’s friend. At least old school builders. I’m sure some peo­ple are do­ing this with CAD (what­ever that is) these days

I mea­sured up and cut a hole in the top tube. You can buy ready-made filler necks to suit 2½” caps, so all I needed to do was fab up a bit of large di­am­e­ter tube, a bunch of mea­sur­ing and weld­ing, and Un­cle Bob came to town. The ring be­low the neck is a cir­cle I cut from thin steel sheet and welded to the neck with a rub­ber washer I cut from a bit of scrap, to lo­cate the fi­bre­glass cover once fit­ted

I made up some lit­tle tabs to mount the cover on. I try to make tabs by cut­ting up box-sec­tion or an­gle iron. You can get that lit­tle re­turn on one side, which adds lots of sup­port, whereas a sim­ple flat tab can frac­ture with vi­bra­tion and hence needs to be much thicker

Still, once it’s all sorted, the tank does sit nicely and look kinda ‘killer’

Card­board trans­ferred to al­loy sheet, cut out and bolted on, these lit­tle tabs are for at­tach­ing the tank to…

All of which counts as progress. So much so that I’d reached the stage where I could make a ‘to do’ list. I never make one at the start, it can be self-de­feat­ing. If you’re build­ing a bike from scratch it would take so long and run to so many pages you’d never want to start. I missed a few things off, which have been added since as they came to mind, but it’s still an achiev­ablelook­ing doc­u­ment…

Which I did by fi­bre­glass­ing them in place. I did both sides to make sure ev­ery­thing was se­cure, the out­side was easy, the in­side was less so. Get­ting resin and mat up the in­side and into all the cor­ners was what might be called ‘messy’...

I have a pet hate on bike builds, and it’s cable ties. Cable ties are for putting up road signs, or sort­ing out the mess be­hind your tele­vi­sion, or at a pinch get­ting you home along with gafffff­fer tape. Cable ties are for fin­ish­ing bikes when you didn’t think them through be­fore­hand. Oh look, a bit of 3mm weld­ing rod made into a cable locator. The cable is free to move as the forks turn, yet kept well out of the way of the lock­stops. You know it makes sense

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