What did Pip do to keep his early steeds on two wheels?

Classic Motorcycle Mechanics - - CONTENTS -

Af­ter a visit to Dave Lord’s palace of weld­ing ex­cel­lence I hap­pened to miss my turn off and ended up rid­ing around sunny Rad­cliffe, a gath­er­ing of dwellings be­twixt Bolton and Bury.

Round­ing one un­fea­si­bly tight turn I was trans­ported back over 50 years to a jour­ney me and my late brother Bill fre­quently took, mainly on a Satur­day morn, not to a mate’s or even a bike shop, but to a scrap­yard at a place called Pim­hole near Bury. The yard was lit­tered with old bikes and Al­sa­tians, the bikes had lit­tle value, no Tri­umphs or Gold Stars, mainly old crap. But this meant that we could rum­mage and tus­sle among twisted piles of junk in peace and with luck, we’d find an old mag­neto or a pre­cious brake plate. The cost of the booty was gen­er­ally in the or­der of five bob, that’s 25 pence in to­day’s coinage! I sup­pose that our mode of trans­port set the tone for the level of dis­pos­able in­come at hand, gen­er­ally we’d be on our joint-owned 1948 350 AJS, rigid frame, no lights, heart like a lion. The friend­ship, if any­body can ever ac­tu­ally be friends with a tat­tooed, one-handed scrap yard owner had evolved over time. We never nicked any­thing: even screws, old brack­ets and bits of petrol pipe were de­clared in full at the ‘check­out’. Bear­ing in mind that the Ajay cost me a full four quid you’d be hard pressed to find ei­ther of us with pa­per money in our mucky mits; cash wasn’t ex­actly plen­ti­ful back then. When I was 15 I was re­build­ing my Ariel Ar­row (ac­tu­ally a Leader but don’t tell any­one) and af­ter pok­ing and prod­ding around in the gear­box I needed some oil to re­place the goop that I’d pre­vi­ously ex­tracted with one of my mum’s tea spoons. I ped­alled up to the Bridge­wa­ter Garage up the road and asked if I could take a box full of empty oil tins. I toted the box back home and set about drain­ing the rem­nant BP Visco Static into strate­gi­cally placed jam jars. A day or two later I had a jug of lovely new (who knows what grad) oil for free! So we rode a bike that wasn’t fast but it had sus­pen­sion, well 50% of it did. We spent an in­or­di­nate amount of time mod­i­fy­ing stuff to keep it tick­ing along (our tools were mainly old push­bike span­ners and var­i­ous pli­ers, screw­drivers etc. that we ei­ther made or found). Mak­ing a new seat bracket took me about a week; if you look at our drill (left) you can see why mak­ing holes took some time. Once, we adapted a push­bike dy­namo to run on the side of the front tyre. We had to re­strict speed to about thirty mph, above this pace and the lights at­tained a fierce bril­liance: bulbs were re­quired on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. One event which is a lit­tle hazy (ha) left us with a con­stant plume of smoke trail­ing be­hind, I vaguely re­mem­ber that some­body had ‘helped’ us by re­mov­ing the top-end of the mo­tor to at­tend to the valves, why, I have no idea, but af­ter that it smoked like a fish. A cou­ple of days later we stripped it down and ev­ery­thing looked fine, no bro­ken rings, pis­ton in­tact, but when we re-in­stalled the cylin­der Bill no­ticed that the top land of the pis­ton was hard up against the side of the cylin­der, uh? What? More in­spec­tion re­quired, off wi’ the cylin­der again and we found a snug fit­ting bar to go through the small-end of the con-rod. Oh dear, it was plain to see that the rod was bent! Not good. Af­ter much mea­sur­ing and a bit of fin­ger point­ing we de­cided to straighten it out, we bolted a piece of tube through the small-end eye fit­ted over a spare gud­geon pin, then with a snug piece of gas pipe about four feet long over the afore­said tube and a cou­ple of strate­gi­cally placed lumps of wood pro­ceeded to tweak the rod back into its cor­rect shape (straight!) Be­ing re­ally care­ful not to hike it too much, it took about five min­utes to res­tore the rod to its proper re­la­tion­ship with pis­ton, crank and, most im­por­tant, cylin­der. With the bar­rel fit­ted the pis­ton could be shuf­fled back and forth with equa­nim­ity, job done and the Ajay quit its habit, no more smok­ing!

BE­LOW: A ‘nice’ Ajay!

From the days be­fore Makita was a thing, this is how we used to drill holes in stuff, good eh?

Ahhh the Ariel!

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