PUB stands aside and lets B44 Clive loose on a vintage Rex Acme combined petroloil tank which is in need of skilled care and attention – as well as a pretty paint job
From this initial test ride, I am really pleased with the Enfield. It offers a genuine throwback to the lovely motorcycles I rode in the 1950s. The Enfield doesn’t follow the current trend of retro styling. It is the real thing, the rest are simply styling impostors.
Having visited India on several occasions, I am familiar with conditions over there. Today’s Enfields are set up precisely for their home market where agile steering for dodging sacred cows and rickshaws is a requirement. The heavily sprung suspension is designed to carry the whole family and a couple of pigs. Engine smoothness is excellent for the low speeds that are the norm. Power and performance are not a requirement. Is it any wonder that the Enfields sell in huge numbers over there?
Conversely, in most of western Europe and here in the US, the Indian home-market specification does not cut the mustard sales-wise. I am convinced the very slow sales here in the States are directly related to the issues mentioned above. The customer base of enthusiastic, mechanically adept, nostalgic geriatrics is very limited. Convinced the Enfield will suit me just fine, I work out how to tackle the main issues that call for attention. I’m not a masochist when it comes to working on my twowheeled friends. On the contrary, the Enfield is a prime candidate for me to spend many happy hours fixing it to suit myself. I have the time and a wellequipped workshop, also a modicum of knowledge and experience after a long career in the motorbike trade. Let’s start with the easy things. All my bikes get a pair of big, fat, sponge handlebar grips, I find them so much easier to grip and they are excellent vibration dampers. Next, due to arthritis in my right hand, I need to get the front brake lever closer to the bar as I can’t pull much with outstretched fingers. Turning the pages of Hitchcocks’ most excellent catalogue, there is the answer in the form of lovely pair of fully adjustable lever assemblies. Also in this very addictive catalogue, there is a set of
Ferodo brake shoes for the rear drum brake.
Another item is a replacement head steady. The Enfield one is just a piece of stamped-out sheet steel that is obviously going to crack sooner or later. Chroming the piece makes matters worse as the process renders steel brittle. That’s why you will not see chromed race frames or exhausts.
Unfortunately neither of the above items would fit or perform as advertised without access to a lathe and the gumption on how to use it. The brake shoe material had distinctive ripples on the surface. I fitted the shoes anyway but, as expected, it was difficult to tell the rear brake was dragging, let alone having any effect on slowing the plot. I took the whole lot out again to set up the brake plate and shoe assembly in the lathe for a light skim, just enough to eliminate the surface ripples. After this work the brake was better than OE but still on the weak side. It needs some modern sintered material but none seem to be available.
The Hitchcocks head steady is a much better piece of equipment but, again, the one sent to me could not be installed without procuring longer stainless steel bolts and turning up a spacer on the lathe. Discussing these issues with Allan Hitchcock, he promises that his brake shoe supplier will be sorted out. The missing parts for the head steady have been noted and will be incorporated into the new catalogue that he is currently working on.
Moving on, the rear chain fitted in India would make better knicker elastic: they stretch and stretch according to all reports. Simple fix, replace it with a top-line X-ring chain. While down there fiddling with chain adjustment, I take note that the notched cam adjusters can’t be relied on to align the wheels. To cure this, I do an accurate wheel alignment with the tight string method. With that done, I put markers on the adjusters for future reference.
The mirrors were useless above 55mph due to the bar vibration. Rubber mounts, again from the Hitchcocks catalogue, made a very worthwhile improvement. The harshness of the truck-like suspension was another easy fix, with Hitchcocks again to the rescue for the rear end, in the form of 3/8” shorter and lighter gauge springs.
An Indian cock-up came to light as I proceeded to remove the rear suspenders. The top bolt had the nut on the OUTSIDE. This meant that the whole mudguard and subframe had to be removed to allow clearance to push the bolt inwards for removal. Why not install the bolt from the outside, with the nut on the inside?
At the front end, there’s no lighter spring
Above: A pair of very worthwhile rubber sleeved mirror stem mounts clear the vision. Two shots, to give a reasonable idea of how they fit and work Right: The new head steady needed longer bolts and a spacer because it’s rather wider than the original...
Left: Replace the split pin with P-clip and mark the cam notch. Do not rely on the notches without a wheel alignment check first Below: Because the suspension top bolts were fitted the wrong way around, it was necessary to take the mudguard and...
Now that is much better, nut on the inside!