Monday, 20 December 2010

State of the Art, and a Word on Parallel Twins

So now a bit of easy stuff - playing the critic. Much as I love to see the cafe racer, flat track, retro and other alternative bike styles flourishing (flourishing almost everywhere other than Britain that is), I have a gripe. I get the whole, "let's use plentiful and cheap Japanese bikes with character to base our projects on" - XS650, SR400, and various other trail bikes and so on. However, I am increasingly seeing the use of bikes that where unloved when they first appeared, and often for good reason. Just cos it's getting old doesn't mean it's cool. Sorry, but Honda CM250 et al?

Yes the winner of the Deus build-off showed abundantly better skills and talent than I can aspire to, with Much Much Go, and I love the exhausts, the stance, the paint job. But the donor motor? And comstar wheels? Not for me - ever. The same goes for the brilliant Wrench Monkees' Monkee #4 using an XS500. Why would you? At least the aesthetically similiar Icon bike, The Snake Charmer uses a rabid two stoke dirt bike motor. For me there has to be some "go" with the "show" unless there is extra charm instead. A lot of the 80's Japanese bikes being re-cycled now just don't have that charm in their genes.

Parallel twins (pre - modern clever firing orders and fuel injection) are pretty low on my favourite engine configuration chart. Low power and nasty vibrations. Brit bike's make up for this with character and stroke. That character has rubbed off very knowingly on XS650, W650 so they have their charm. But the legions of dull commuter bikes that utilised this configuration, XS, Dream and Super Dream, and the equivalents from Kawasaki and Suzuki, belong where they live, in the unglamorous bit of the past. Just my opinion you understand.....

Snowy Suburbia

All is peaceful at the 'shack:

Disgusted, Betty and Wilma don't come out even when you open their door - if you can't see to peck, what's the point? While young foxes frolic in neighbouring gardens, the girls stare resentfully at the snow that restricts their menu to the usual in-house birdfeed...

However, inside the 'shack things are humming (in their usual glacially slow manner). Due to the staggeringly quick delivery turnaround of the "Bearingboys" ( I am able to continue re-building the back-end of the big rooster. I ordered replacement rod-end bearings mid-afternoon, and despite UK snow chaos, they arrived the next morning - truly impressive turnaround. And at under £13 for the pair, a complete bargain (equivalents are about £45 each from Ducati!!).

At last we come to the fun bit - the giant meccano kit phase of bolting things together that I have been looking forward to:

However, Cutter being Cutter, there is plenty to worry about in the future of the build. The micro wiring of the Motogadget clock, the lingering doubts re sprag clutch orientation, the timing (electronic pick-up positioning), how to deal with safe handling of petrol tank when time comes for weld and spray (because fumes cause a hazard when transporting tank to renovator), etc etc. One step at a time as usual. For now it's great to see the Ohlins in postion, even if I'm unsure about where to mount the remote reservoir, and what to do if I need to swivel the banjo connector to adjust hose routing, as the reservoir is presumably pressurised, so loosening it would lose pressure...

Friday, 17 December 2010

Heaven and Hell

So following the "30mins good work" anti-procrastination method I crunched across the icy garden to the workshop last night at about 10pm. The shed wasn't too cold inside and soon warmed up with the little fan heater on. I had some new shims to add in order to see if I could eliminated the side to side play in the swinging arm. If they didn't do the trick (a trick that needed to be accomplished without unduly restricting the normal movement of the arm) then it would mean a new swinging arm pivot at around £70. I tried a couple of combination of shims without success, and even managed to damage one. Then I thought I would have one more go - success!! At least I think so - it remains to be seen if there is any effect on sprocket alignment. Plus play is supposed to me less than 0.1mm at the pivot. I was estimating by feel given that this is amplified quite considerably at the end of the swingarm, and there now seemed to be no discernable play. It felt good as it had been playing on my mind, and even though it was now coming up to midnight (with work the next day) I decided to try and put the rest of the rear suspension in place, it was going to look great - yellow and gold Ohlins on black frame!!

That's when I tried to fit the rod-end bearing height adjusters I had bought on the Monster Owner's forum. It felt stiff as I did the up the rod-end bearings, and I should have been more suspicious. I unscrewed the rod-ends again and the bottom of the threads had been wiped out by the much harder threads of the adapters. Didn't seem to have cross threaded at all, which was weird.

Curses - saved £70 but wasted about £20 or £30 as would now have to buy another pair, plus hassle of hunting down the right type (note - keep better records). Good news today is that I have found them cheaper than last time.....

What do I learn from this. The usual stuff, don't work when tired, don't rush anything, don't force stuff etc. etc. However once again the top message  is don't beat myself up when I make a mistake - when will I keep that Omelet Principle in mind?!?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Every little thing helps you feel good about yourself...

Cold night, tired after a day at work, but Red Dead Redemption held no appeal. Set PVR to record Horizon doc. about the Deepwater rig disaster, and went down the dark muddy garden to the shed. I'll just do a bit.... (God I have to keep re-learning that essential lesson)

Radio 4 drowned out by my improvised bench grinder. Trusty Bosch drill I've had for years, mounted in vice (without squeezing the section with the motor in it - luckily the casing has a ridge and is made of very tough impact resistant plastic/nylon).

Note - DIY disc for fast paint removal bought in B&Q has far out-lasted Scotchbrite type mops sourced on ebay. Nothing wrong with Scotchbrite it's brilliant, but cheap accessories are often crap - they just wear out too fast. This stripping wheel was a few quid more but results speak for themselves and it seems to be lasting a lot longer.


These are the adjuster end-caps for the swinging arm that I was looking for, as mine don't match each other. A kind UKMOC member contributed these (Thanks Greg!!) and I owe him a pint or two in the summer, he wouldn't take any other payment. These were from a 600 or 620 but fit fine. Again I haven't gone for a high polish finish. I want an industrial lived in look to the bike.

I had a bit of a play putting the suspension rocker linkage in place, having to sand the powder-coating back on the faces on the suspension arch that slot into the linkage (scary but getting used to having to do it). Put the polished end-caps in place and held the gold anodised chain adjuster side plates in place just to get a sense of the effect. Going to look nice. Might investigate some lacquer to protect these small parts that I am leaving as bare metal. Not had a lot of success with that in the past though... Maybe I have to learn about "two-pack"?

A couple of hours of farting about had gone by very pleasantly, and one more task accomplished and a bit of thinking done about next stages. I went back into the house to crack open a beer and watch BP manouvering robo-subs around 5000ft underwater. Night night Chickenshack...

Sunday, 14 November 2010

At last....

......rebuilding has started! And it feels so good. But Cutter is not Cutter without anxiety, so there is some play in the swingarm, can it be sorted with shims? Or is that S/H pivot pin just not up to it? And, I am now realising that powdercoating in threads is not as much of a problem as I thought, it's a bigger problem on all kinds of mating surfaces I hadn't thought about. These then need to be sanded back and I start stressing about taking metal off areas that should be flush (suspension rocker to frame etc. etc.). Not to mention some wounds I then inflict accidently into areas of powder coating near by. OMELET OMELET OMELET!  The war cry gets me through (see earlier post). Plus three attempts to spray valve covers and the paint still doesn't stick..

However the fun stuff HAS started, bolting it together and seeing  my version of the bike come together. It's not exactly over the crest and downhill from now on, as plenty of challenges to come, harder ones than taking the thing to pieces. But the difference is you get to see it grow.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Logjam Busted

At last the swinging arm bearings turned up. My good friend Barry lent me a big car draw-bolt kit - lovely German tools. Bearings went in as sweet as you like! Unlike removing them which took some heat, and some heated words. A bit of improvisation and the same happened with steering stem lower bearing, smooth as butter.

Baptism of Swarf

Decided to try and make my own open clutch cover out of the stock closed cover. Enter the Drill of Death, donated to workshop by my mate Graham.

Then time for some elbow grease with files etc, tried using rotary tool but didn't have enough relevant attachments.Hand files give more control....

Angle of Ducati logo not quite right when mounted but I still like it. Have to decide whether to leave scotchbrite satin, or paint.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Darkness and Light ( The Omelette)

This is an unashamed homily, maxim, proverb, down-home sayings, cheesy wisdom post so be warned. Last week I had workshop mood-swing big time. One night I managed to damage, ding, over-file and otherwise screw up various powder-coated bits and felt totally depressed. A couple of nights later I decided to have a play and put together some of the front-end just to have an idea as to what black yokes and black headlamp rim would look like:

It's going to be cool! I am finally getting to the "build it, style it, fettle it" stage! News just in - the bearings and seals I have been waiting months for are finally in! This means a winter of proper progress...

The thing is, I am clumsy and lazy and not a perfectionist, so a few dings, a few things destroyed, a few quid wasted, a few short cuts, what the hell. This is my first project and "get it done" is the number two rule, and "keep it simple" is number three. What's number one you ask? To quote a great friend of mine, usually talking about fettling guitars or playing gigs, "It's supposed to be fun."

I have the following paraphrased on my workshop wall (paraphrased means I couldn't be bothered to look it up and wrote it slightly differently, which is a nice metaphor for this project when you think about it):

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."
Samuel Beckett 

To put it another way, you can't make that omelette without breaking some eggs. (I just hope I break the cheap ones not the unobtainium ones......)

Has anyone got one of these....?

I'm looking for a chain adjuster plate as the two that were on the bike don't match... People seem to make nice aftermarket anodised sideplates (that the axle goes through) but no-one does an aftermarket one of these. If I have to get a stock one then second-hand would be great.... The one on the right is the type I need - just the angled plate nearest the camera, not the rest of the adjuster.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


There are still some pretty big items cost wise before this project is complete. In terms of expense, paint job is probably the biggest, fork rebuild ties for first place or is a narrow second, saddle customisation comes third. Floating around the £100 mark are little luxuries like chain and sprockets and other consumables that you don't think about because they are a bit boring, but can end up bankrupting you....

However time and time again in articles I see specials builders saying, if you see a special component that's rare, or rare at the right price, buy it. One of my other items for completion was an electronic speedo/dash. I was looking at one of these:

The Vapor (not to be confused with Veypour who also make digital dashes) is light, capable and reasonably economic at around £90 without the plastic dash and lights shown here.
 However, since I started researching for the bike I fancied one of these with its stepper motor and hidden LED readout and lights:

It's the Motoscope Tiny, from German company Motogadget who make some amazing instruments including an almost microscopic digital dash. As you can see from the coin in the picture, it's very small. This is a digital speedo with a stepper motor reading out through an analogue display. It includes hidden LED warning lights and LED readout which displays a variety of info.

Aesthetically it's bang on for the retro/techtro look I want. It's extremely small and light (though not as light as the Vapour). It doesn't have a rev counter like the Vapor's nice bar display, but then the original Monster dash doesn't have a tach. either and it's not really needed on a big air-cooled twin. These go for around £200, but one turned up new but ex demo on the bay last night for £140 so the decision was made. Let's hope I can get the warning lights hooked-up and the speed sensor in a happy location. Sure the expense pushes back the forks and paint, but it was needed and it's right. Feels good...

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Back in black....

Hi, I'm back. It's been a long summer with project progress being fairly slow. I ordered swinging-arm pivot bearings in May and half the kit arrrived after a month, the rest still isn't here. I can get bearings direct from bearings distributers, but not the seals which are unmarked. Much talk of Italian holiday season in August, but I suspect a lack of concentration at the dealer at this end has contributed to the delay. I am investigating alternative source. I successfully got the old shagged bearings out by drifting them using heat gun, brute force and ignorance. I am fairly apprehensive about getting new ones in so the waiting is killing me as I want it over with. Once they are in I can start the rebuild in earnest which should be the fun bit.

I have put the right side of the engine back together having re-sprayed the starter motor with Smoothrite (one of the starter mounting bolts is only accessible with the casing off) and cut back the paint on the crankcase cover with a Scotchbrite wheel, This has left a nice patina as  most of the original paint has survived quite well. The plan insn't for an immaculate as-new engine, but I may touch up  a few flaky sections.

The frame, wheels and various other bits have been to the powder-coaters.....twice. I got the frame and front wheel done as already had a black rear wheel. Realised that the new coating was much glossier, but also concerned at how easily the new coat got a little ding in it. I took the newly coated  front back for comaprison with  the rear and the chaps at the powder-coaters spotted something was wrong straight away. They offered to hard lacquer everything they had already coated for free, as the new coating was marking easier than they expected. We shall see if that fixes it. Of course I managed to drop something heavy on the rear rim AGAIN! and ding it straight away. Luckily the tyre will hide this, however little worried that the hard lacquer hasn't solved the problem. I can't face taking everything back again so will see how it turns out in the build.

Still, looks nice eh? I also got the top and bottom yokes done, including the old top yoke and bar clamps. This was in case I decide I just can't live with the clip-on handlebars and want to put straight bars on. I'll post a pic of the coated new top yoke soon but here's the old one:

 Other bits include headlamp ring which was originally chrome:

 That's the sort of small detail which I think will make a lot of difference.....

I also splurged on some nice Oberon levers due to a nice deal from Spareshack via Monster Owners Club UK:

However they show up the master cylinders and reservoir covers which will need some work:

Other news - I went to visit the excellent John Baines at Silverstone when I was at practice day for the British MotoGP. I had a plan to fit the project bike with a classic750/900SS bevel style race fairing. John was great and gave me loads of free advice and let me take pics of some of the great bikes in his workshop:

John Baines was producing kits to convert modern SS's into classic replicas before Ducati started bringing out their recent retros like the GT1000 and Paul Smart. He was ahead of his time as the craze for all things retro hadn't really kicked in. His Imola project was the nuts so if you want an authentic replica you know who to ask! Anyway we had a chat about the frame-mounted fairing supports that would have to be fabricated and he gave me some contacts for engineers who could help. After a few weeks mulling it over I decided that this was my first build and was supposed to be relatively simple. I figured I have enough on my plate with complete rebuild of bike and fettling of new suspension, setting up new FCR carbs etc etc. Not to mention cost. Maybe next time...

Monday, 8 February 2010

Multi-post freakout continues - blogorrhea suspected.....

So anything else. Yep some scary real mechanical stuff for a dilettante dabbling chancer like me. Bought puller, used puller, narrowly averted disaster when spotted had missed one casing bolt. See puller still in position on removed engine casing. Puller necessary due to crankshaft locating in bearing on engine casing...

The dark heart revealed, a strange land where the Woodruff Key roams...

More on the mission to replace the heavy old flywheel with the young pretender later....

Shopping, Shopping, Shopping I Say!!

So what got bought? The legendary Keihin FCR carbs are on the way from  the lovely Chris and Candice at California Cycleworks. In fact the carbs may already be languishing in a Parcelforce prison camp while various gnomes tally up the huge handling and import tithes to be visited on my poor threadbare ass. For surely it is right and just that I be punished for buying something cheaper abroad, forsooth. Enough! They will come and there will be much horsepower, cred, classic racing vibe, and boundless rejoicing.
What else? From Germany and the equally helpful and efficient bods at Kamna... a lightweight Pure-TEC flywheel!
Is there more? Oh yes, rays of divine golden light pierce the clouds, enter stage left a true petrol-head  icon of motosickle royalty bling, oh lordy the Ohlins is amongst us... Got at a bargain price due to the eagle-eyed and brotherly efforts of members of UK Monster Owners Club, and the desire to spread Ducati-flavoured joy in the heart of Peter at Pro-Twins. Check the links list brethren for all of the above. Meanwhile, rear suspension and most of the engine tuning is potentially sorted and I am now skint. Here are flywheel and shock:


So no money left for powdercoating - will have to start saving again and selling stuff. But milestones are always flexible (see earlier post) - they are there to help not dictate. I haven't decided about frame and wheel colour as I haven't decided about paint job. Better to wait and grab the big dollar items while the cash was available and the deals good. You never know when the next consumer durable is going to blow up after all....

On Choosing Motorcycles and, further, on Character.

So having sold the CB1300, and been sitting on a wodge (note for our non-UK readers: "wodge" = a sizeable chunk of cash, folding, wonga, bread, squids, etc) for a while, I finally found the right Firestorm with some help from my mate Barry who took me to look at one and is a 'storm owner himself. Pictures may follow but suffice to say it is like a cross between a banana and an A10 tankbuster. This because it is yellow, very noisy and aggressive sounding and to some, ugly. What is it with practical but sporting v-twins? It's not like the more road orientated offerings from Ducati and  Aprilia are much better - the ST series and the Falco all being  fairly lacking in the chiseled good looks department. In fact in this case I probably prefer the Falco and the 'storm to the  ducati ST's looks.
Anyway my one has some very nice high-level Quill pipes that are incredibly loud and fruity with the baffles out and merely very loud and fruity with them in. They are legal with the baffles in and I don't know how they managed it, they still sound thunderous and luvverly.
So any doubts I had about ditching the CB have been well and truly quelled - it was extremely capable but had zero character - I see that now. Probably the least character of any bike I have owned in 30 years. The storm is not ideal for my back, and I am still a bit worried it's going to blow up any minute, and it's hard on the wrists on traffic-jam town trips of more than half an hour. However, I came back from work tonight in the dark and with the snow falling, and also desperate for a piss, and I was still loving that bike - such is the power of Character.

A V-twin is shaping up to be my favourite configuration. The effortless rushing forward at low revs  is a magical sensation found on big singles too - magical because of the paradoxical feeling of a primitive powerplant's slow big bangs pushing you forward on a airy carpet of torque. But a v-twin has the top end to give you the best of both worlds, quick in the twisties and in town, confident and unstressed on the motorway. The 90 degree balanced vibes, the committed but not extreme riding position of the 'storm, even the very basic analogue clocks, the fact that apart from the budget suspension and the looks, the 'storm has similiar weight and performace to a  916, all combine to make you feel like you are on a mission but on a mission with a friend. Every good bike should make you feel like you are on a mission...basic requirement.

Anyhow, the storm cost a lot less than I got for the CB1300 as it's an older higher mileage bike which left lots of money to go shopping for big money project essentials....

Catching up...

A lot of developments since my last post. I did say I would post a picture of the Cyclecat yoke, and here it is above (in both senses) the piece of metal it's replacing:

Staying chronological - the last few things got taken off the frame leaving it ready for powder-coating.

However that goal, that milestone, which served well in motivating me for the stripdown,  has been re-prioritised......

Monday, 11 January 2010

Vulpe Rosso!!

So we are well into the New Year and unusually wintery weather (for the UK) is keeping me out of the shed. Betty and Wilma won't come out of their run even when there isn't one of these around:

Though they won't come out mainly because they can't see any ground to peck at under all the white stuff. Foxy there is the grown-up cub of  Broken Tail, a vixen who was suckling five cubs in broad daylight in the next door's garden (we're in a suburb, not in the country) two summers ago. Looks like one of them didn't want to leave home.

The weather has also interfered with my hunting - that is for a nice low mileage Honda Firestorm for 2K or under. As soon as that is in the bag I can order the Keihin flatside carbs from CA Cycleworks wth the money left over from selling the CB1300. In fact pretty soon I may just order them anyway - there are lots of reasonable 2K bikes around.

I have a vice for the workbench now, I have also been using my new hex drivers to take the headlight and clocks off of the Monster, and a mate of mine is donating a drill stand.

I've also bought a very nice Cyclecat billet top yoke to replace the ugly pig iron that was revealed when I removed the bars and risers. This new yoke is a piece of billet alloy artwork and should be much lighter too - will post pics when it arrives. Buying it has comitted me to sticking with the Monster non-adjustable Showa forks. I took advice on this from UK Monster Owner's Club.  I decided I would have to prioritise and not convert front-end to superbike spec. (916 et al) forks which are 53mm mount rather than 50mm. The new yoke is standard M900 fit of 50mm (these measurements refer to the top yoke apertures for fork legs). UK MOC member, Zimbo's advice was that the stock forks where better than early SS 50mm  adjustable forks. The key is to have them set up by professionals like MCT or Maxton. They won't look so techie with no adjustment, but the pilot's view will be nice and clean...

Ideally I would like to get  a nice aftermarket shock and get back and front suspension fettled at the same time. That's a way off though. Next steps are all about the engine and the frame. I've ordered a puller for the left hand crankcase, which means I will be able to fit a lightweight flywheel, and maybe replace the starter motor which was getting stuck everynow and then.

Plenty to do, just need the snow to clear and the weather to warm up a tiny bit.....