Real Classic - - With lies within -

PUB wimps out of a wet week­end in Wales, and has to work on the weather weary brakes of the win­ter hack. In dis­grace she is de­moted to the pedal cy­cle world…

PUB wimps out of a wet week­end in Wales, and has to work on the weather weary brakes of the win­ter hack. In dis­grace she is de­moted to the pedal cy­cle world.

RC reader Ian Keaton asked (on the RC Face­book page) how far the car­bu­ret­tor nee­dles of the GS500 went be­fore fail­ure, in case he should look at his? The an­swer to that was in excess of 80,000 miles (not all done by PUB as it was a low mileage sec­ond­hand ac­qui­si­tion). At its re­cent MoT, tester Rob men­tioned a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent mod­els that he had seen some­thing sim­i­lar with. By con­trast a one-time dis­patcher reck­oned that GS500s did well over 100,000 miles with­out trou­ble on the DR cir­cuits. So pos­si­bly PUB was unlucky, or per­haps she rides too slowly, gen­er­ally stick­ing to speed lim­its and rid­ing old Bri­tish bike fash­ion in top gear when­ever pos­si­ble (so the gear­box is just idling in top, and not wear­ing its gears). With the 500’s en­gine only half way to its marked red­line, per­haps the carb di­aphragms are able to wrig­gle un­der the in­take air pres­sure fluc­tu­a­tions? If she thrashed the bike more, in speed and revs, the ef­fect and wear might be less? No mat­ter, the new nee­dles should see the bike, or her, out. At any rate, the bike runs fine again, start­ing re­li­ably enough even in mid­win­ter. Mid­win­ter, of course, means Dragon Rally time, which PUB and Morini Alan had signed up for once again.

Since the lads and lasses of the Conwy Club go to a lot of ef­fort to put this ma­jor rally on, PUB feels it is only fair to give it a bit of exposure and magazine space in turn. The weather fore­cast was es­pe­cially gloomy, cloudy, wet, and cold, but not icy and that is in­deed how it turned out at, with a lit­tle sleet along the way. Fri­day night was booked at a hotel in the Llan­gollen area, al­low­ing a leisurely ride and a de­cent lunch stop. This

hotel be­ing out of town, din­ner was taken there, al­though it proved too much eat­ing for PUB, who could not face break­fast next day. How­ever, there was plenty of time to tog up and get go­ing, al­though Alan’s Morini 500 proved slightly more re­luc­tant to start than the re­paired GS500.

Llyn Og­wen marked the high point of the scenic road, where there was a lit­tle snow along­side, but not on, the road, so that the con­trol point near Ban­gor was easily reached be­fore mid­day. There a huge queue had built up, pre­sum­ably be­cause so many do the Fri­day overnight­ing now – is ev­ery­one re­tired, or is it just eas­ier to take time off work these days? The site was not far away, one which in­struc­tions had out­lined would be ‘back to ba­sics’ camp­ing in a field, and so it was. Ac­tu­ally the field was quite good, and fairly well drained, but wet through so that

the en­trance had al­ready cut up enough to re­quire hard­ened boards put down by the hard work­ing mar­shals. PUB fool­ishly went in rather than her usual ploy of look­ing to park on hard stand­ing for a good exit – then car­ry­ing her tent in as re­quired. Hav­ing got split from Alan a frus­trat­ing time fol­lowed try­ing to join up again, but soon badges were col­lected, and soup swal­lowed – al­though no tents were erected!

In spite of the con­tin­u­ing driz­zle the af­ter­noon was spent look­ing around at the bikes, and find­ing var­i­ous friends, some of whom may only be seen at this par­tic­u­lar event. Clas­sic bikes are, not sur­pris­ingly, a bit rarer than of yore, but still worth look­ing out for. An S7 Sun­beam was es­pe­cially in­ter­est­ing as it proved to be quite an early model. Su­per­fi­cially it may look like any other, but a closer look at the photo will re­veal the old­fash­ioned in­verted han­dle­bar levers, and the brace be­tween front fork legs with a com­mon sus­pen­sion unit in the mid­dle. This was the Sun­beam’s own de­sign (not­with­stand­ing that they were BSA owned since 1943); only later were or­di­nary levers and the BSA fork legs adopted, to­gether with var­i­ous other changes.

Alan, mean­while had looked at the mud po­ten­tial, rudi­men­tary toi­lets, and sin­gle mar­quee to con­gre­gate in, which would be filled with loud mu­sic later. The driz­zle con­tin­ued, and whilst Alan likes his camp­ing, he prefers it not in mud and rain. PUB, in turn, had ex­tracted her bike, rather than wait un­til morn­ing when it would be harder (she is no tri­als rider) – but the tents were still not up. There was no real ex­cuse, for the site was OK, and pre­vi­ous years have been wet­ter, windier, and colder (the water bot­tle freez­ing solid one year), but en­thu­si­asm for stay­ing had waned, es­pe­cially with both PUB and Alan feel­ing rather off-colour.

So, for mixed rea­sons, it was de­cided to head home­ward this year with­out camp­ing over, pos­si­bly go­ing all the way (which PUB doubted she was up to), or try­ing the hotel again (which Alan didn’t re­ally want to pay for). Wimps both, and old or sen­si­ble enough not to be wor­ried about be­ing called such – been there, done that (Alan over 30 times, PUB over 50)!

Head­ing off into the evening the 2 de­gree tem­per­a­ture grad­u­ally re­duced to a wet 1 de­gree, and tired­ness set in, so that at Llan­gollen it was de­cided to go and in­ves­ti­gate the hotel again. PUB laid it on thick at re­cep­tion, about the long, cold and wet con­di­tions the two in­trepid rid­ers were faced with, and man­aged to get a sec­ond night at the same re­duced rate as the first had been booked with – very rea­son­able of them. Nei­ther re­gret­ted the nice, warm bed for the night, and both con­tem­plated this be­ing their last rally. How­ever, feel­ing bet­ter next morn­ing, a fine break­fast was tack­led, then on check­ing out Alan (who usu­ally does the pre-rally night’s book­ing) gaily said ‘per­haps we will see you next year’.

Pre­sum­ably the duo’s last func­tional brain cell must have died in the night.

PUB did no­tice, sub­se­quently, that it was not long be­fore other rid­ers came past. Whilst they could have got up very early, the lack of any camp­ing gear sug­gested that they too had ‘day tripped’ the rally, and by in­tent rather than as a late de­ci­sion. Whilst PUB thinks it is not en­tirely in the spirit of the Dragon, she will have to con­sider the op­tion for the fu­ture to save her creaky bones.

Back at home the poor bike’s chain was hang­ing off, in spite of hav­ing been ad­justed and sprayed not long ago, so it clearly needed re­plac­ing. When that had been ac­quired and done, wheel­ing the bike around re­vealed that the front brake was drag­ging too much to be ig­nored any longer. Like the rear brake trou­ble out­lined last month, this was due to salt water cor­ro­sion hav­ing dis­turbed the seals, so she took a few pics dur­ing the cor­rec­tive work.

Pre­vi­ously PUB has man­aged to ser­vice the cal­liper more or less in situ, but this time the re­mov­able pin would not re­move, so she needed to dis­con­nect the hy­draulic line and take it to the work­bench.

How­ever, the pistons would be very tight and hard to re­move ex­cept hy­drauli­cally. For­tu­nately, be­ing a fairly cheap bike, it also fea­tures a cheapo sin­gle sided ‘float­ing’ cal­liper at the front, and fur­ther­more one brake pad even swings out of the way when the cal­liper is de­tached from the fork leg and disc. As a re­sult the two pistons could be hy­drauli­cally ejected al­most out (re­strain­ing them al­ter­nately, to en­sure both moved the max­i­mum pos­si­ble). Then the hy­draulic line was dis­con­nected, and the pipe tied up with string to the han­dle­bar to keep most of the fluid in it and reser­voir in place.

The stub­born pin be­gan to look as though it would have to be drilled out – a dodgy busi­ness in an alu­minium al­loy cast­ing – but for­tu­nately the vice was able to grip its end just enough to wrig­gle it free – whew, that could have been the most dif­fi­cult bit. The pistons were, in­deed, al­most out and wrig­gled free with help from rag cush­ioned slip-joint pli­ers. There are such things as pis­ton pullers, which grip the hol­low in­sides, but PUB does not have any (in fact has never seen them). The pis­ton outer sur­faces form the hy­draulic seal, so must not be dam­aged with tools, al­though the very end 1/8 inch is of slightly less im­por­tance as it re­mains out­board of the seals. Nev­er­the­less, if a pis­ton is re­luc­tant it is bet­ter to slip a ju­bilee clip

over it, tighten, and then try to lever on that, rather than to try and grip the pis­ton di­rectly.

That was not nec­es­sary this time, in spite of the cor­ro­sion that can be seen in the photos. Ac­tu­ally, it is not usu­ally the cor­ro­sion that stiff­ens up the ac­tion it­self, but dis­place­ment and stick­ing of the ‘dust seals’. In­deed one of them can be seen hav­ing ‘es­caped’ com­pletely from its groove and emerged with the pis­ton! Man­u­fac­tur­ers will as­sert that both the thick hy­draulic seals and the thin­ner dust seals must be ser­viced and re­placed to­gether (and they can gen­er­ally only be bought to­gether), but PUB’s ex­pe­ri­ence is that the cor­ro­sion is usu­ally con­fined to the dust seal grooves only. These have to be cleaned out. An elec­tri­cian’s screw­driver is about the right size, but usu­ally it can­not get all round, so PUB has bent up a bit of steel to a right-an­gle tool, filed to a suit­able blunt scraper at its end.

After scrap­ing out the grooves the dis­turbed dust and dirt gen­er­ated was thor­oughly cleaned out of the cal­liper, be­fore fit­ting the new seals. PUB keeps seals in stock for when this prob­lem oc­curs, but the old ones will not be thrown away un­til re­place­ment new ones are sourced. They were ex­tracted care­fully and in a con­di­tion that would work again if nec­es­sary (but they’d not be easy to fit, as they will have stretched, as well as be­ing fairly knocked about).

The pistons cleaned up easily, as they are gen­er­ally stain­less and do not need scrap­ers or abra­sives. Then they were lubri­cated with fluid and slid back into place (not al­ways as easy as it sounds as they need to go in squarely to pass both dust and hy­draulic seals). The cal­liper was then re­filled with fresh fluid, and re­fit­ted, spilling as lit­tle as pos­si­ble. Ide­ally new wash­ers should be fit­ted when re­con­nect­ing the hy­draulic pipe, but PUB had none so had to leave the old ones in place. How­ever, the bleed­ing oper­a­tion went un­usu­ally well, and quickly – mak­ing sure that the han­dle­bar reser­voir was topped up dur­ing the process to keep air out of the pipe – and when it was done a check showed no sign of any weeps.

A last cau­tion, which PUB learned the hard way, re­gards fi­nally top­ping up the han­dle­bar reser­voir. On this bike at least, the reser­voir only sits level when the bike is up­right and the bars straight ahead. So that is where it needs to be when filled to the mark on the check­ing win­dow. Fur­ther­more, when parked on a side­stand with the steer­ing locked, the reser­voir lays over at a con­sid­er­able an­gle. In this sit­u­a­tion, the fluid level rises above the reser­voir cover joint, which means that its seal­ing is more im­por­tant than might be ex­pected. On the GS at least, a rub­ber ‘bel­lows’ sits over the fluid, and also forms

a seal­ing gas­ket for the cover – if all the sur­faces are clean. Should dirt or cor­ro­sion get any hold, then the fluid can grad­u­ally weep away, un­til the reser­voir is vir­tu­ally empty. The next thing that hap­pens after that is the brake dis­ap­pears (PUB caught hers only just in time, and learned the value of check­ing the level!). So the joint faces were cleaned and the top re­placed with care.

Job done, at­ten­tion turned to the getting a Vin­cent out of the shed. B44 Clive had de­cided to go to one of the VMCC Cy­clemo­tor Sec­tion ral­lies, with his Power Pak pow­ered RudgeWhit­worth bi­cy­cle. Big mouth PUB had said she would join him, so her Fire­fly needed to come out of the shed where it was con­signed again some months ago after re­sus­ci­ta­tion from a long slum­ber (12 years, ac­cord­ing to the old tax disc). A trial run re­sulted in one very la­bo­ri­ous start, fol­lowed by nix, noth­ing, no chance – there were no sparks. How­ever, at­tend­ing to the usual sus­pects of plug, points, and the tiny lit­tle main jet of the 3/8 inch car­bu­ret­tor (whose main jet is the pi­lot out of a con­cen­tric!) it con­de­scended to fire up, and ran around 5-10 miles with­out prob­lem. Morini Alan then de­cided to join in with his vin­tage 500cc BSA side­valve, as the trailer had 3 berths and VMCC cy­clemo­tor runs wel­come other low pow­ered vet­eran and vin­tage rid­ers to their events.

The route proved quite hilly (for a cy­clemo­tor), and hills seem to have got steeper in those 12 years, as PUB had to push up a num­ber of them. Un­for­tu­nately, the bike is bereft of its proper air fil­ter and choke, so cold starts are dif­fi­cult and a long push lets the en­gine get cold again. That jet bunged up a cou­ple of times too, so with a cruis­ing speed of only 15-18mph it was a long 25 miles. Most rid­ers have ei­ther more or later ccs (ie. proper geared mopeds in­stead of clipons), so were al­ready de­part­ing when PUB re­gained the pub meet­ing place. Even Clive had been back for some time, but his bike is 1.4ccs larger!

Time to go home, thank­fully not on the Fire­fly!

Left: There were two Vin­cent side­car out­fits spotted. This is Jim Richard­son who is a reg­u­lar ral­ly­ist Right: A fairly un­usual sight any­where, but es­pe­cially at a Dragon Rally, is this Heinkel scooter. It was made by Heinkel Flugzeug­w­erke (the air­craft...

Above: The rain was not heavy, with some respites. Here a few ral­ly­ists chat behind a model 50 Nor­ton. Happy ral­ly­ists, not wimps like PUB Below: The rid­ers of these Honda Dax look-alikes (Trail 70 in USA/Canada) adopted al­ter­na­tive lug­gage car­ry­ing...

Left: The fall of the wall, and even­tu­ally MZ too, is now his­tory, and bikes like this Tro­phy are be­com­ing a rare sight – but its light weight prob­a­bly makes it a good choice for the Dragon

The Dragon Rally still ap­peals to over­seas rid­ers, es­pe­cially from Ger­many. Given the snowy con­di­tions com­mon in win­ter mid­con­ti­nent all year round, Ger­man rid­ers tend to be well equipped for bad con­di­tions. Weather con­di­tions just above zero de­grees C...

Two pistons, left one still with dirt and cor­ro­sion, right one cleaned up (if it is vis­i­ble the grey pow­der at left is some of the alu­minium ox­ide cor­ro­sion). Tools used to scrape out the seal groove were an elec­tri­cian’s screw­driver and a lit­tle...

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