Monday, December 30, 2013

quick update

The sandblasting guy passed by to collect a few parts for the Fastback earlier today, and I might even get them back by the end of the week...

After that, I'll have to get a few bits from Andover and get in touch with the boys at SRM to see how they're getting on. I should be putting this thing back together by, let's say February?

Friday, December 27, 2013

What better way... spend Christmas day than by wrenching on your bikes with your loved ones?
In particular, dad and I swapped out the brake disc on the Honda for a new one that Santa left under the tree with a new set of pads:

Are we about to see more of 90s' urban trailies like this one?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Weight loss, the alluminium diet.

In other news, a few parts are on their way to SRM engineering for some important jobs: honing the cylinder for the correct clearance, gapping the rings and fitting the cam followers (this may simply require a little bit of "persuasion" with a hand-held rotary tool or some boring/honing at most).

Take a look at the weight there, 7.8Kgs and that's for:
  • cylinder block
  • pistons
  • rings and circlips
  • wrist pins
  • four cam followers with their locking plates and screws
  • a considerable amount of packing
The Maney cylinder does feel very light, but I hadn't realised it saves you that much weight. Nice...
Next time I see those parts they'll be ready to fit; and I'll have avoided the absolute joke that is the local "machine shop".

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Restart required.

Profuse apologies for the total lack of updates recently, I've just been very lazy and I need to get my ass back in gear again.
I got back to the garage yesterday and spent some time prepping the new head and a few other parts for sandblasting. I also checked the cam followers (tappets) in the new cylinder barrels but they don't fit: this is by no means strange, and all it would take would be removing a little bit of excess material from the pushrod tunnels, but I'll leave that for the machine shop. I refuse to hand this bit of kit and rather delicate jobs (piston/liner clearance and cam follower fitment) to the dimwitted ogres of the local "machine shop" who have on so many occasions in the past screwed up; instead, I've reached out to a reputable specialist and I'm waiting to hear back about when they can take delivery of my parts. I would rather pay a little bit more, wait a little longer but have the job done right once, than spend "less" three times.
Not much else going on I'm afraid, but there will be progress eventually...

One of the cam follower locking plates being lifted out.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

No replacement for displacement...

There's something to be said for a black Harley-Davidson. No nonsense.
I'm really enjoying the 1200 conversion: holy cow does this thing pack a punch.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Like I said, it'll be a little while before I have news to post here, so until then I'll leave you with an old grainy photo of my dad on the Matchless (notice the Craven panniers) and me on the Interstate, somewhere in central Italy a few years ago:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Last night,

I went along to a little bike soirée that my friend Simone invited me to. He (yes, in Italian, Simone is a dude's name. Makes you think, don't it.) was showing his Guzzi there as part of a "café racer" contest.

He has done a fantastic job of resurrecting my old motorcycle, and it was really satisfying to see it properly done. Also, the fact that I didn't think "man I should have kept it" was a very good sign.
See for yourselves, and yes, he does have the front mudguard at home, it just needs a bracket:

I also got to see some other buddies: a belated happy birthday to the German! He's getting his classy green Fastback (seen behind Livio's Commando special, below) back to top condition after he had a bit of a spill with it. Coming up, new Asatek shocks, some front fork parts and I think even a belt drive. Good for you my friend...

Now let's see, what else was there...

Augusto's SR500 special, with a really high level of detailing and finish, and a sound that'll make you think you're at the 1951 Isle of Man TT: bloody hell.

A gnarly modern Triumph special...

One of the latest offerings from Moto Guzzi, the current V7, is probably one of the most attractive options for newcomers to motorcycling: classic lines, real-world performance, economy and timeless cool.

Another interesting modern Triumph...

And a really f**king tasty Sportster-Scrambler. That thing looked like it was just asking for trouble.
Other than that, there were sadly many examples of the "more money than taste" trend that's sweeping across the motorcycling world.

Now, there probably won't be much going on about my Norton for a while: I need to outsource some sandblasting and machine work, so until I get that sorted out and done, things will probably be a bit slow on the blog, sorry please.
Still, do come back, there will be progress!
Ride safe.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Making headway (sorry, I couldn't resist that one).

The thing here is basically to swap every single part from the "modified" head onto the standard one, so that's valves, springs, cups, collets, rockers, spindles, a million washers, bolts, studs, nuts and a few more washers.
But before we get to that, I still had to remove the pistons, which requires the proper tool to remove the wrist pin (or gudgeon pin); this is important and you should always resist the temptation to just hammer it out, because it's just not right. Incidentally, you can also use the same tool to assist in refitting the new wrist pin. Of course piston circlips should always be replaced, but you know that.

Getting the wrist pin out, the right way.

Now that that's done, I'll leave the engine covered up, nice and snug, while I finish preparing the new head and go about measuring piston/cylinder clearance, but that's for some other time.
Now then, the first thing I did was to remove the rocker spindles, another easy job provided you have a slide hammer:

These should come out without too much grief, but if you feel that they're very tight, do not reach for that blowtorch as you'll likely only warp the relatively thin alloy. Instead, as the factory workshop specifies, submerge the whole thing in near-boiling water, have a cup of tea, and by the time you're done the spindles should be ready to come out. A kitchen sink is the ideal place to do this.
And here they are:

Now for the valves. For this, you'll need one of these:

They are inexpensive and worth getting even if you'll only use them once. Thing is, you'll probably need them on another engine, or maybe lend them to a friend... Don't be afraid of specialised tools, you can handle them!
Sometimes the collets can get a bit stuck, if that's the case try tapping (gently!) on the very tip of the stem to loosen them up. It's a good idea to use molybdenum paste (or grease) when assembling the springs and collets.

I have a little prep-work to do on the new head, I want to check a few clearances before I reassemble everything. Not to mention I'll need a few gaskets and all the parts you see above will need a good clean before they go back to work.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Very easy.

But then again, taking them apart always is, any monkey can do it. It's putting them back together that's the trick!

Ah well, close enough.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bite the bullet.

A Norton Commando is a luxury. If you own one, you should consider yourself lucky: they are the swan song of classic British twins and one hell of a song it is too. They are also fiddly, complicated, temperamental primadonnas that need therapy as much as they need maintenance. Say what you will, they are high maintenance.
But despite all the idiosyncrasies and the sheer amount of labour that goes into making parts fit together, despite the unnecessary complication of what could otherwise be simple maintenance tasks, we love them. The grunt, the torque, the sublime handling, the speed... wow.
A Norton Commando shouldn't just be looked after, it should be cherished. Kept clean. In tip-top condition. All things that mine isn't.
Mine has been in its current state of disrepair (see below...) ever since I finally confronted the fact that it is unusable.

I then chose to forget about it in favour of the Rising Star and other bikes, and only swapped the handlebars so I could give my clip-ons to Witold who needed to replace his.
Last year, I had already hinted at why it is unusable, though in addition to the ergonomics, there is also a big problem with the cylinder head, which has had the inlet tracts enlarged and altered in their curvature, in a silly and frankly pointless pursuit of more power. Sure, some people might enjoy that, and yes, it goes like stink once you're all the way up the rev counter, but before you can even get there, the plugs foul up and you're dead in the water. Besides, save for a racetrack, you simply cannot unleash all that high-revs power on the streets. In real world conditions you'll be reveling in the low-end torque, which is more than an Atlas V rocket at takeoff. The ability to accelerate through the gears smoothly is where the real fun is, and it is something that comes only from a well sorted standard head, coupled with a pair of MkI Amal Concentrics (30 or 32). Nothing else will do.
So, in order to turn this into the great motorcycle I know it can be, the plan is to take off the cylinder head and replace it with a standard one, which I was able to acquire some time ago: Apollo inspects it before I can proceed...

"You're gonna need some valves dude."

In addition to the head, I also want to replace the cylinder barrel, in favour of this little beauty:

It's an aluminium 750 barrel made by Steve Maney, a re-interpretation of the famous Dunstall type of the 70s.
I'll expand on the reasons behind the barrel in an entire page dedicated to the Fastback once it's actually back on the road.

Right then.

Gather ye rosebuds balls. Time to bite the bullet and get this done.
That said, before you even think about reaching for the spanners, here's the single most important thing about undertaking a fairly major operation such as what I am attempting: caeteris paribus, your workbench is what can make the difference between a well executed job, and a mess.
Two things specifically you simply cannot bypass: you need to work in as clean and well-lit an environment as possible.
Seems obvious, right? But you probably don't have to think very hard to remember some dodgy mechanic you once saw working out of a grimy pigsty, like an ogre in a dungeon.
Now think of those surgically clean, flood-lit rooms where they shoot engineering tutorials or train factory mechanics: where would you rather work? 'nuff said.
My workbench is thoroughly clean, there is not a spec of dirt, no oil & swarf film, no cigarette butts/ash... you could eat off this thing.

I have two powerful neon tubes overhead, and a selection of inspection lights that I can direct (and hold) where I need.
Next, there are soft clean rags and a whole box of latex gloves. No glove no love man...
Ok, enough faffing around.
I've decided to at least try to do this without pulling the entire engine. It should be glaringly obvious why: it's much less work. Yes, there isn't a lot of room. Also, since the new cylinder barrel is not standard, I have no idea if it will fit with the bottom end in the frame. But I can always pull the engine later if I really can't manage. With patience, concentration and care, I might be able to make it, who knows! And if I do, it'll have saved me taking apart the entire primary chaincase (with its three retaining bolts threaded directly and stomach-churningly into the crankcase) as well as the clutch.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

In other news,

these are on the workbench as well; I'm trying to get the internal baffles out, but they've probably never been disturbed in half a century, so this is more like archaeology than wrenching... If I do get them out in one piece, I can get to work with some steel wool (or rock wool, not sure exactly) and see if I can make the Rising Star a little bit more sociable. Before I took the silencers off, Witold took it for a ride, a rare occasion for me to see the bike on the move, and hear it: crikey it sounds like a much bigger engine than it actually is!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013