PUBTALK .....................................................

Real Classic - - What Lies Within -

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!

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