Saturday, December 24, 2011


Being into classic motorcycles isn't just about riding or owning one (or more). Once you get into the scene you realise that is is a multifaceted endeavour, and the limit of your involvement is often dictated by things such as time and money. I was going to say skills (for example when it comes to maintenance) but that's not true, because the more you get involved, the more you learn. I can do things now that I didn't even know could be done say ten years ago. So, once you really get into classic motorcycles, you will see them manifest themselves in many different ways and they will lead you to places you wouldn't otherwise see. Which is exactly where I went a couple of weeks ago: up until the late 80s there were a few mechanics that dealt with British bikes here in Rome. It was a different time and they were mostly very conservative people, not keen on upgrades and improvements really. They were mostly there to keep your bike going, and if something couldn't be made to run quite right, well, that was too bad, you just had to live with it. I'm sure this was true for most places around the world and it isn't a negative judgement on those people, rather, it was the mentality of the time. That said, this attitude, combined with the inevitable wear and tear of the machines, probably contributed to spreading the myth that British bikes are unreliable and can't possibly run well. Not true my friends. And to be fair, today things are so much easier thanks to the internet. Spares availability, technical advice, bikes for sale...
But I digress.
So, one of these mechanics had a huge underground workshop in the so called "African neighbourhood" - not because of the ethnicity of its people but because the streets there are named after cities and countries in Africa.
The guy passed away a few years ago and the workshop all but closed down. The current owner is selling it to move to a much smaller workshop and he needs to get rid of all the many piles of parts that have been accumulated over the years, decades, actually.
When I say parts I should specify that these are not a treasure trove of immaculate New Old Stock parts still in their original packaging and lovingly tucked away on shelves. No, these are basically scrap metal heaps. Parts that were removed from bikes and that in some cases are still good enough to go back on one. There are buckets of Amal carburetter float bowls. Crates of engine mounting plates. Mounds of crankcases. Bundles of handlebars and bent fork stanchions. Rows of dented headlights. Rusty wheels, chipped cogs, tangled up wiring looms and cables; and small bolts, screws and washers litter the floor everywhere. The thing that strikes you first though is the fact that this is not a world in Technicolor. This is all in one colour: drab.
It's cold and damp down there and you have to just get stuck in and rummage. But despite the appearance, this can still give up some goodies, such as this Triumph brake pedal in good used condition. It came off a 650 unit and it will work on the BSA with some modifications.

This was one of a few major items still on the "to get" list so I'm happy I found it.
In addition, I also found the fork shrouds/headlight brackets you see below:

These were originally fitted to the very last OIF series, the 5-speed Bonnevilles for instance. They go over the stanchions and are locked onto the lower yoke with a couple of bolts. I won't be using a conventional headlight so I don't need the actual headlight brackets. They come off, leaving behind only the tapered part, which, together with the rubber gaiters, will give the forks a beefier look and - I like to think - a more 1950s, universal look.

I will be headed back to the underground hoard to dig for more parts, I think I spotted a couple more things that could be useful...

Stay tuned and have a Merry Christmas!


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