de­light, then. A month of rid­ing Tigery charms… Au­tumn holds many

Real Classic - - Frank Westworth -

Imen­tioned al­ready – at length, as is my way – how chuffed I was with our lit­tle Tiger. ‘Lit­tle’ is all a ques­tion of per­spec­tive, of course. When I was a lad a ‘Mine’s a 500 Tri­umph, mate’ was a sure sign that a guy had ar­rived, that he had a full-size bike, not some fee­ble pop­pop learner thing. And the Tri­umph bit was im­por­tant, too. My own ‘Mine’s a 500 AJS, mate’ pro­duced more de­ri­sion than re­spect, such is the cruel way of the world. Odd how things change.

But what had not changed was the rekin­dled mem­ory of just how great a 500 Tri­umph can be to ride. You may al­ready have read my thoughts on the 500 Daytona I bor­rowed, a ride which made me con­sider our own T100C with new re­spect. Would this also re­ally pull the ton? Would it re­ally rev mer­rily and with added in­de­struc­tabil­ity to 7000rpm? I do not know and I have no wish to find out. How­ever, my en­thu­si­asm for zap­ping about the au­tumn lanes on a grand old rat­tler was so rekin­dled that I added it to the in­sur­ance (very lit­tle cost, re­mark­ably) and pon­dered whether it needed to be taxed – to pay that ‘road fund’ li­cence.

And of course it does not, be­ing a 1971 ma­chine. How re­mark­able is that? I con­tem­plated the tyres and pon­dered some more. As I’d saved money by not need­ing to tax it, why not spend that on some new

glo­ri­ous for me, be­cause I was 18 and hav­ing a whale of a time. My mem­o­ries of those days are so sharp that I can re­mem­ber sit­ting in the Full Moon on Taunton High Street chat­ting with ev­ery­one about the hideous tyres Tri­umph had fit­ted to a lot of their new bikes. I mean, Dun­lop K70s? Why-for those strangely square sec­tion things when they could’ve hooped on some trigo­nic TT100s? They wore strangely, too, es­pe­cially on the front. I even re­call chat­ting around how not sen­si­ble it was to use the same tread pat­tern and pro­file on both wheels. Front tyres need to be ribbed, ev­ery­one knows that. Experts at eigh­teen, we were.

How­ever, given the use to which the Tiger’s likely to be sub­jected, a blocky front tyre ac­tu­ally does ap­pear sen­si­ble. K70s have al­ways been good back tyres, but I’ve never liked the feath­er­ing the tread seems to de­velop on the front. How­ever … I ex­pect to cover hun­dreds of miles on the bike, not thou­sands, so wear is un­likely to be much of a con­cern. And a pal re­cently re­minded me that mod­ern K70s use mod­ern rub­ber. I had to take him se­ri­ously; he was pay­ing for lunch.

So. K70s. Of course I or­dered the cheap­est set I could find on­line and fit­ted them my­self us­ing only string and a tea­spoon, right? Wrong. I emailed Ace Mosick­les and sug­gested that they might like to lighten their au­tum­nal gloom by sup­ply­ing and fit­ting a pair – with new in­ner tubes and rim tapes please. Would they like to do this? Hur­rah, then.

I also con­sid­ered whether I should re­place the bat­tery, as it’s an­cient, and the throt­tle and choke ca­bles, as the lat­ter is ac­tu­ally seized, which po­ten­tially doesn’t help the win­try start­ing. But it is pos­si­bly to have too much ex­cite­ment in a sin­gle life, so I ap­plied the Bat Con­troller to the bat­tery and dripped lube into the choke ca­ble. The for­mer made the bat­tery happy, the lat­ter had no ef­fect apart from get­ting oil all over the floor. The spirit was will­ing.

And I booked an MoT. Why, asked Kenny down at Ace? Be­cause it needs one, I replied,

we noted experts be­ing notably ex­pert on such things. Kenny just laughed, like he does, and sug­gested I look it up on the help­ful DVLA web­site. The Tiger doesn’t need an MoT. Ahem. Did I still want the tyres, as they’re both mostly le­gal? Safety (mine) is more im­por­tant than a piece of pa­per from the gov­ern­ment, so yes, I did. Please. But I did not want to fit them. This is just as well, as the pho­tos may re­veal.

It’s amaz­ing just how much of the front end needed to be dis­man­tled to re­move the wheel … but not to re­place it. Guess why this was? Be­cause the tyre on there, the Pirelli, was ac­tu­ally the wrong pro­file. It was the cor­rect al­ter­na­tive to the orig­i­nal, ac­cord­ing to the tyre ref­er­ences, but of a con­sid­er­ably dif­fer­ent pro­file, with a wider sec­tion and rather less of the old-fash­ioned high side­wall. Even af­ter de­flat­ing it and squeez­ing it hard, it was still too wide to ex­tract. So what should have been a two-minute job took rather longer, in­clud­ing the dis­man­tling of Tri­umph’s truly mys­te­ri­ous way of fit­ting the mud­guard stays. OK, you’d not need to re­move them with an orig­i­nal K70 fit­ted, but even so. I drank ter­ri­fy­ing cof­fee, took smudgy pho­to­graphs and did my best to look knowl­edge­able, sup­port­ive and en­thu­si­as­tic. Kenny swore oc­ca­sion­ally. And then he peeled the tyre away from the rim. It had been there for a long time. There was a lot of rust in­side the rim: no more, thank­fully.

And of course I re­ceived many hu­mor­ous com­ments from pals about my un­will­ing­ness to change the tyres my­self. Lots along the lines of ‘I al­ways change mine with­out levers’ and ‘It’s re­ally easy, why pay some­one to do a ten-minute job?’ and ‘You could have saved a lot of money do­ing it your­self and buy­ing cheaper tyres…’ Hap­pily, no one sug­gested that I re-cut the treads on the orig­i­nal tyres with a penknife or stuffed them with straw at the road­side.

I watched smil­ing and sip­ping ‘cof­fee’ while Ken leaped about, ap­ply­ing Great Big Boots to the front tyre. To fit it onto his tyre-chang­ing jig he would have needed to re­move the wheel spin­dle, and… And so I watched with a wider still and wider smile un­til a trace of con­science prompted me to of­fer to make the next cof­fee. Maybe some­thing stronger. This is a fam­ily mag­a­zine so I’ll pre­serve you from the re­ply.

Once adorned with its posh new rub­ber, the front wheel went straight back in com­pletely eas­ily, re­veal­ing that Tri­umph’s fit­ters and de­sign­ers were not en­tirely in­sane: the square-sec­tion K70 slid be­tween the mud­guard para­pher­na­lia with mil­lime­tres to spare. Lovely job. It even looks the part.

Why would any­one want to change their own tyres? I ask be­cause I’ve changed lots of them in the past. Time was that I would scour the scrap­pies look­ing for tyres to re­place the show­ing-the-can­vas boots on my bikes. I did the same with my first few cars, too. The only rea­son for this is a se­ri­ous lack of the fold­ing stuff. Ev­ery time I blud­geoned off another WD-pat­tern Fire­stone rear to re­place it with a just-about le­gal al­ter­na­tive I swore (a lot and loudly too) that it would be the last time. Same with cars, although cars were eas­ier in that it was al­ways pos­si­ble to swap the en­tire wheel. Even in 1972 there were few Match­less wheels in Norfolk scrap­yards, and if there was one the scrap­per would want more money to swap if there was the faintest trace of chrome on his wheel. Hence the tyre re­moval – twice, to get the thing off the donor wheel as well as re­mov­ing old baldie from my bike. Why would I do that now? I never once man­aged it with­out los­ing a few fin­ger­nails, some skin and get­ting punc­tures… be­cause I could rarely af­ford to re­place the in­ner tube and am clumsy.

On the dimly bright side, I did get the chance to dis­cover sev­eral bizarre and deeply dread­ful tyres. Tyres which never wore out be­cause they never gripped the road. WD-type 1941 Dun­lops, for ex­am­ple. They needed no air by 1972, their 30 year-old side­walls be­ing eas­ily ca­pa­ble of hold­ing up them­selves and the bike. And I may never have dis­cov­ered the true and pos­si­bly fa­tal at­trac­tion of the John Bull Full Front Grip, a tyre whose un­remit­ting hor­ror is etched into my mem­ory. The first ride on one, around a small Scot­tish coastal town (Salt­coats, in case you know the area) was great. The sec­ond tine … it rained. Ter­ror takes many forms.

Nope, so long as I can af­ford to ride on new tyres, I can af­ford to pay some­one to fit the things. All other views are equally valid. And… I costed it out. I would have saved £40 by buy­ing the gen­uine K70s on­line and fit­ting them my­self. I would have saved £60 if I’d bought sim­i­lar-look­ing tyres from overseas. To be en­tirely hon­est, I’d rather sup­port my lo­cal bike shop – es­pe­cially as they re­vealed that I didn’t need an MoT! And nei­ther did the Tiger! Is that enough ex­cla­ma­tion marks!

Kenny checked the free run­ning of the front wheel, re­fit­ted all the brak­ing and

mud­guard­ing stuff, al­tered the bal­ance of the bike on its lift and con­tem­plated the rear wheel, which gen­uinely did still wear its 1971 orig­i­nal Dun­lop. ‘Is the wheel QD?’ he won­dered. I shook my head with fake sor­row. Of course it isn’t. Ear­lier ver­sions of the model were, but hey, this is a T100C, the ‘C’ be­ing for Com­pe­ti­tion, and who’d want QD wheels on a bike meant for off-road com­pe­ti­tion? Ex­actly. The rear tyre, per­versely, came off much more eas­ily than the front, and the new re­place­ment went on eas­ily, with its new tube and new rim tape. Hang the ex­pense.

Back out into the roads. Time to check the new rub­ber. I was al­ways told when younger to re­mem­ber that new tyres have a ‘slip’ com­pound on the out­side, a residue from the mould­ing process. Which might

have been true in 1970, but I’m not sure that it still is. How­ever, the roads were dry, the Tiger fired up just­likethat, and it had a full tank of fuel, so off we go. The tank of fuel was ac­tu­ally a mix­ture of fu­els an­cient and mod­ern, such is my se­cret par­si­mony, so the plan was to run it dry, re­fill it with volatile new stuff, then run it dry again. I reck­oned that a quick sev­eral miles would flush the sys­tem through well enough, and headed out on the At­lantic High­way, run­ning south to­wards real Cornwall.

Which of­fers some very en­ter­tain­ing roads, es­pe­cially in the non-tourist sea­son, in­clud­ing a whiz by the wind­mills up on David­stow Moor, and some nadgery stuff, then a blast back from Launceston to RCHQ Bude. The tyres, I can re­veal, are ex­cel­lent. The Tiger runs and rat­tles like a good ’un. It leaketh no oil, nor doth it smoke. As I’ve said else­where in this very is­sue, it is blind­ingly ob­vi­ous why bikes like this were so pop­u­lar back in their day, as they of­fer an en­ter­tain­ingly sen­si­ble way of be­ing en­ter­tained on two wheels.

As I rasped and rat­tled home­ward, hon­estly rev­el­ling in the grip, pre­ci­sion and sta­bil­ity of the new rub­ber, I cast my mind over the re­mark­able cheap­ness of putting what feels to me like an al­most mod­ern mo­tor­cy­cle on the road. There was no charge to amend the in­sur­ance, and there was … I didn’t ac­tu­ally need to re­place the tyres, and the oil for the due change is in The Shed al­ready, and although it could do with a re­place­ment choke ca­ble I have one of those al­ready and… just the free in­sur­ance, then. No MoT and no road tax. How cheap is that? Just the in­evitable con­sum­ables costs and we’re on the road again. Blimey.

Oh! The BSA pro­ject? Thanks for ask­ing. It’s cost far more to achieve far less on the Beezer than on the Tiger, you’ll be un­sur­prised to learn. More next month – prob­a­bly – but I’ve shown a few of the more comic mo­ments in some of the pho­tos which you might find around here. And I’ve de­cided upon a plan, a plan which in­volves no mid­night trips to a canal or to a high cliff. But a plan in­spired by watch­ing the new tyres mag­i­cally at­tach­ing them­selves to the Tri­umph’s wheels and the un­der­stand­ing that although I gen­er­ally en­joy wiring a bike I am slightly flum­moxed by the 1971 BSA, de­spite hav­ing lots of new, ex­pen­sive har­ness stuff for it. Time, as we say, to pon­der upon the pos­si­bil­i­ties. And the best way to pon­der is?

From the sad­dle of a sporty fun mo­tor­cy­cle on the empty win­ter roads. See you out there?

Above: The cor­rect and most pain­less way to fit tyres is to get some­one else to do it. Tiger on the bench, and Kenny is still smil­ing. It won’t last long…

Left: ‘That was fun. Let’s do it again, right now! Won­der if new tyres would im­prove it? Hmmm…’

Right: A com­mon com­plaint con­cerns the lack of cen­tre­stands on many mod­ern ma­chines. ’Twas ever thus; the T100C came with­out one. This is, as folk end­lessly com­plain, terrible when you need to re­move a wheel or do other stuff. Here’s how the pro­fes­sion­als do it

Be­low: The­ory has it that if the brake’s dis­con­nected and the fork end caps are re­moved, the wheel just drops out. Well, as seen here, if the tyre is a more mod­ern / less an­cient low-pro­file job­bie … the wheel stays where it is

Much phys­i­cal ef­fort was re­quired to break the bead away from the rim. FW drank a lot of cof­fee, due to the strain of ob­ser­va­tion

The wheel’s back in, com­plete with a proper tyre. It didn’t hurt a bit…

‘This’ll teach it for not be­ing QD.’ And sev­eral other things he said, too

Be­low: How­ever, even cen­tre­stand de­light should come with a health warn­ing. See any­thing strange about this pic­ture?

Above: Mean­while, FW has been in­fest­ing the cu­ri­ous world of on­line au­to­jum­bling, and was al­most un­con­trol­lable with de­light when he ac­quired a NOS cen­tre­stand for the BSA, along with new shoul­dered bolts to fit it. Also a spring! Life can­not be more ex­cit­ing than this

Fit­ting is easy with eyes closed…

Although the pri­mary chain is slacker than a slack thing on St Slacker’s Day, noth­ing in there ap­pears com­pli­cated. Yet…

Also mean­while, FW has ac­quired enough parts which ac­tu­ally fit to­gether to have a stab at fit­ting the carb and its ca­bles

Above: Mean­while again, this lot still makes lit­tle sense, de­spite se­ri­ous head-scratch­ing

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