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