Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Beemer time...

Marcolino's engine is back after a rather pricey upgrade: ported/flowed heads, lots of new seals and gaskets, new piston rings, a new conrod (!), new bigger carburetters, and refurbished electrics, including a brilliant upgrade to electronic ignition, which is supposed to be worth up to 5hp. Awesome.
No comment:

And here's the conrod that got replaced. It's visibly bent, with an ominous hairline fracture that would have turned it into shrapnel for sure. Good save...

Monday, May 26, 2014

As if by magic.

More fast progress, as anticipated, on Witold's Fastback: the PR style front mudguard is stripped of its blue paint and turned BRG, a strong indication that this motorcycle will be dressed as a Fastback for the foreseeable future.

The fuel tank is getting a Monza cap, which is kitteh-approved:
The tail lamp is an original Lucas item, and gets wired into the rest of the electrics:
It still needs some decals, but judge for yourselves, is this not a cracking special or what?
Note the vented rear brake plate on that last one. Nice touch. I'm totally gonna steal it for my Fastback...

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Holy cow! Witold's Commando has gone from being cool, to being stunning.
He is understandably thrilled with the result, and is quickly working on getting a few details sorted out so he can go out on his new Fastback, so expect lightning fast updates on this latest transformation. It's one of the many great things about Commandos, all it takes is a bodywork kit and you've got yourself a different motorcycle. Well done bro.

Friday, May 23, 2014

metamorphosis, n.

(Pronunciation:  Brit. /ˌmɛtəˈmɔːfəsɪs/ , /ˌmɛtəmɔːˈfəʊsɪs/ , U.S. /ˌmɛdəˈmɔrfəsəs/)
a. The action or process of changing in form, shape, or substance; esp. transformation by supernatural means.
Check out Witold's Commando in its latest form: how cool is that?!

Obviously there are a few things to add, but I think it looks especially good, what with all those racing parts and mods. The yellow of that battery actually makes me think the bike would look cool with maybe a Lotus sponsor or something like that. Since I won't need my seat for a while, let's slap it onto this bike and see how it is. And I suspect that after a couple of outings with his "new" Fastback, Witold won't want to go back to the previous bodywork. What's next, a tracker handlebar??

And let's not forget what this bike has looked like since 1972:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Gianluca came by on his bitchin' Dominator to swap out his carburetter: I keep the "old" 30mm that he had, and he gets a 32mm that I had on the Rising Star, since it was just too big for that bike anyway. I'll eventually get around to making one working 30mm out of all the parts I have - like I originally intended - and bolt it back onto the BSA.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The opposite of glamorous.

This is what goes on behind the scenes folks, it's not all cool stuff about Commandos and choppers... Bummer, I was going to fit the refurbished head on the Norton, instead, I'm taking care of the daily driver on a sidewalk, like a hobo.

I'm not really sure what happened, the battery went flat and I only just managed to get the bike started down a hill and get back home. I put the battery on a charger and it seemed ok at first, but it still wouldn't crank the engine over.

Witold's multimeter revealed that although the battery is charged (12.46 volts), as soon as the ignition key is turned (on the Sportster the lights are always on) it drops to below 8 volts and the starter motor won't engage. So, it could be that the battery charger doesn't draw enough "juice" when it tests the battery, and therefore says it's fine. We also tested to see if the alternator was charging (after Witold gave a good push, thanks bro) and fortunately that part of the system seems ok with a reading of about 14.5 volts.
So, new battery it is...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hello old friend...

This was my moped when I was 14. It was certainly not the most fashionable item around, but boy was it great to hop on and go see your mates whenever you wanted!
In an effort to make it "cool" I had spray painted it matte grey and fitted a longer seat, and then when I started getting my first motorcycles, it languished at the back of the shed until dad tore into it and restored it to better-than-new conditions. Great job : )

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A badass black Roadster.

What more do you need to know?
Head on over to Thomasdunstall to see the latest Commando to be resurrected and take time to appreciate what a faithful restoration this is. In a world where it seems every old bike gets turned into a "special" (often with questionable results), it is all the more valuable to see someone put in the time and effort to preserve an original. Personally, I think a well sorted black Roadster would make a perfect daily driver. Honestly, if you've never tried a Commando, you'd be surprised just how dependable they can be.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Valvetrain: complete.

Alright, finally some tangible progress. I've refitted the valves, associated parts, and the rockers.
It all went very smoothly and I found it surprisingly easy to do. As a disclaimer, I should say that nothing I'm doing is really worth a damn until I'm actually riding my motorcycle and it all proves to be reliable. So...
For starters, I fitted the valve stem seals at the intake: I have standard Norton guides in this head, they're a good fit for the valves with no noticeable play. The seals are made for these guides and are a nice tight fit, really snug. I was careful when "feeding" the valve through, and also when compressing the springs to fit the split collets as there is a risk of crushing/ripping the brand new seal if you compress too far down.

The valve stem seals aren't present at the exhaust, but otherwise the following sequence applies to all four valves. Now then, put your anoraks on, we're going to take a look at the intake for cylinder 1:

Heat insulating washer.
Valve spring seat (over the fiber washer).
Outer spring.
Inner spring.
Valve spring collar; it's titanium baby...
Split collets; they hold the assembly together and are inserted using the valve compressor (not shown).
Completed assembly.
With all four valves in place, it's time to move on to the rockers.

You need to heat up the head, and you have to do this very gently. The workshop manual describes the installation sequence and gives useful advice, so I won't bore you with the details.

Flip around to the exhaust for cylinder 2. What you see below are the plain thin washer, rocker spindle, rocker with adjuster, and spring washer.

Fit the thackery washer last, before you drive the spindle all the way home.

I can't wait to ride this thing again.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Picking up again.

On Monday I got my cylinder head back from a machine shop that the Thomasdunstall guys recommended and I'm pleased to say it looks like they did a good job truing the mating surface:

Now I can bolt this sucker down knowing that the mating surface is actually flat. Yes I know there are some casting imperfections in the alloy, but this is by no means unheard of with these things. I'll seal it as best I can and see what happens.

Before fitting the cylinder block, I had mocked-up all the parts, both for the new cylinder and head, as well as for the display engine (we'll get to that in due course); this was to find out exactly what was missing before I went any further: it'd be easy at this point to get caught up in the enthusiasm only to find work grind to a halt for want of a 50p washer... So, I came up with a relatively short list of fasteners and gaskets that I got from Andover: an absolute pleasure to deal with, very fast and the real deal when it comes to spares. Accept no substitute. There are also a few decals for the side panels and tail fairing, since the whole bodywork will need to go back to Toni for some minor repairs and a conservative re-spray.

One thing I'll be fitting this time is the heat insulating washer under each valve assembly, just to be safe. I will check the installed height before I bolt down the head, of course, but again the only way to know for sure if something works is to try it. You can do all the calculations you want, but in the end you need to slowly rotate the engine by hand and stick a feeler gauge in there to make sure the springs don't end up a coilbound disaster when the camshaft is at maximum lift. With a 4S camshaft the problem could be the intake valves, as lift is higher than with a standard camshaft, however the exhaust should be the same, and that's where you really need the insulators. Anyway, if there is enough clearance, I'll leave the washers in everywhere.

I've also decarbonised the valves, real bloody drudgery but it has to be done. Even so, I did the absolute minimum, but it's definitely good enough. The build-up of carbon especially on the intake valves was pretty horrendous and betrays the sort of carburation nonsense that had been going on before. Here's some before and after:
Next up, actually assembling the valvetrain!

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Well, I haven't got much done lately, but I have my hands full guys:

So at least this time around, I'll have to skip the yearly motorcycle camping trip. I'm sure the rest of the gang will redouble their efforts to keep shenanigans at an acceptable level, and if all goes well I'll meet them for just one night on their way back to base sometime in... July?

Witold is waiting for a reconditioned gearbox from Germany for his G/S, while Marco's engine should be nearly ready with new carbs, ignition, and a general overhaul/service.
In the meantime, his frame and ancillaries have returned from powder coating and look great. Once it's all back together it'll feel like a proper upgrade. Here's some before and after stuff:

On the Norton front, I've taken the "new" cylinder head to have its mating surface skimmed, it should be done by Monday and if all goes well I can rebuild it next week, that means checking the valves and fitting springs, rockers, etc.