There are very few bent frames or dinged cast wheels Maid­stone Mo­to­liner can­not straighten or true. They’ve been at it long enough to have fixed mostly any­thing on two wheels

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Contents - Words and pic­tures: Alan Seeley

Tom Palmer straight­ens frames at Maid­stone Mo­to­liner

Maid­stone Mo­to­liner is one of those firms you might not hope to call on too of­ten but when you do, you’ll be glad they’re there. For over 40 years now the Kent com­pany has been straight­en­ing frames, not just to sort ac­ci­dent dam­age but also to cor­rect poor man­u­fac­tur­ing tol­er­ances for rac­ers and fussier riders.

Es­tab­lished in 1975 by Ray Palmer, fa­ther of cur­rent main man Tom, Maid­stone Mo­to­liner puts right not only frames but also yokes, forks and dinked and buck­led wheels. Ray, a keen and com­pet­i­tive grass-track racer, set up the firm with 50cc racer Mau­rice Thomas and it was orig­i­nally called Mol­ray. Their first Mo­to­liner, re­plac­ing one of Ray’s own de­sign, was in­stalled in 1977 at the in­sis­tence of in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and Mol­ray also started de­vel­op­ing tech­niques for fix­ing cast wheels, then be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar on bikes. The orig­i­nal part­ner­ship was dis­solved in 1987 and Ray set up Maid­stone Mo­to­liner, first in Dover Street, Maid­stone then mov­ing to the cur­rent premises in Ayles­ford in 1990, the year be­fore Tom joined the com­pany. Ray still clocks on for work a cou­ple of days a week. Work­ing for the fam­ily firm gave Tom the time and flex­i­bil­ity to pur­sue his own grasstrack and speed­way ca­reers.

There’s a lit­tle mu­seum above the work­shop con­tain­ing not only Ray and Tom’s old com­pe­ti­tion bikes plus a se­lec­tion of re­stored and mostly orig­i­nal Ital­ian lightweights. There’s also a re­cently ar­rived and very rare Du­cati MT50TT and a pair of Honda RS125 rac­ers.

There’s cer­tainly no short­age of work at Maid­stone Mo­to­liner. Tom reck­ons they sort an av­er­age of one frame per day and there are two Swedish-made Samefa jigs in the work­shop al­low­ing Maid­stone Mo­to­liner to cor­rect ev­ery­thing from the an­cient to the mod­ern. When we vis­ited there was a Yamaha TZ250 nestling along­side a Nor­ton At­las, a 1922 Scott, a brace of re­cent Har­leys, a Yamaha RD400 as well as a cou­ple of very re­cent sports­bikes. “There isn’t re­ally any­thing we can’t straighten,” says Tom, lean­ing on a jig con­tain­ing the frame and en­gine from a Kawasaki Z1300. Frames, forks, yokes and wheels ar­rive from all around the UK and con­ti­nen­tal Europe. A Kawasaki Z900 frame had been straight­ened and sent back to Nor­way the day prior to our visit.

Wheel straight­ener Ge­orge Thomas is ply­ing his craft on the other side of the work­shop, restor­ing a re­cent BMW wheel to cir­cu­lar­ity. “Soft wheels and heavy bikes,” he says, light­ing the gas torch. Ge­orge is bike daft too – he races a Yamaha TZ350 in the Lans­downe se­ries. The wheel he’s work­ing on is one of at least four or five he might sort out in the course of a typ­i­cal work­ing day.

“Our cur­rent pot­holed roads are bad news for riders but good news for busi­ness,” says Tom. In­deed it’s an ill-wind that blows no good.

We take a closer look at the Samefa jig con­tain­ing the Z1300. Tom points to the grad­u­ated in­di­ca­tors that show how far out a frame is. The now sorted Z1300 shows ab­so­lutely zero de­vi­a­tion from the straight and nar­row. “That’s how we do them,” says Tom. We work to ab­so­lutely zero tol­er­ance. Ev­ery­thing has to be mil­lime­tre per­fect.”

Left: Nice lit­tle Honda RS125 Cen­tre: Ge­orge Thomas works on true­ing a wheel Right: true­ing stand and dial gauge the defining tools

Big ding, but re­cov­er­able Mini-mu­seum on the top floor houses this Bul­taco TSS125 Beau­ti­fully re­stored, but beau­ti­fully bent too

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