Classic Bike Guide
Owner’s view: Matt and Maria’s B31
I was looking for a British bike that ticked many boxes. It needed to be pre-unit, not needing restoration, preferably rigid, and capable of taking me all over the place (sometimes two-up) – and it had to ‘fit in' with the old Brit-bike-boys.
My friend Dave built this one. It's a Norfolk reg and it may not be rigid, but my backside thinks it is. The engine has a rare high compression piston and a new bottom end, and this allows it to be higher geared.
It will hit 70mph and is happy at 60mph, though 55mph feels kinder. It also had alloy mudguards, so I fitted some excellent Heidenau K67 trials tyres, which I love the look of and handle off-road as well as road.
Mine has never liked starting on less than full advance, nor when just warm, and takes an age to tickle up, so I'm guessing it needs a birthday and possibly a refreshed mag. The gearbox doesn't like finding first when cold, so tap down to second, start moving slightly, then shift up to first. It's basically the old pre-war gearbox with a prewar change, but then you're not in any rush, are you?
The front brake is rubbish. The forks clatter on rebound, the centre stand is a back-breaker, I can't find a happy amount of grease for the rear plungers (they're either solid or leak grease), and it fell over a few years ago, petrol destroying the paint job, but it bothers us not.
You see, a mildly fettled B31 will keep with most, if enthusiastically peddled. Overtakes are only the preserve of the nutter who seeks out a slipstream, but possible nonetheless. Handling is predictable – not comfortable, nor sporting – but this brings enormous hilarity. It will even tour, with plenty of space for strapping camping stuff on.
I've thought about moving onto a twin, but nothing I can find offers the smiles/reliability/ease of maintenance/looks/era/do-itall nature the B31 does. Anyway, everyone's got a twin.
We've got a B31.