Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Part of riding a motorcycle from a bygone era is having to know how to fix it. From regular maintenance to emergency roadside repairs, if you don't know your motorcycle in and out, it will deteriorate over time if you don't look after it and eventually leave you stranded, sooner or later.
I think this should  be true with all motorcycles, regardless of their manufacturing date but, sadly, ever since the aggressive and pervasive arrival of electronics (beyond simple improvements such as ignition), maintenance has taken on a whole new meaning and, truth be told, there isn't much of it left that can by done by the owner. But I digress. Let's return to simpler times, when all you needed to fix your motorcycle could fit in a small toolbox. The tools you use become as much a part of the experience as actually riding and I think those who categorically refuse to explore this aspect of classic motorcycling inevitably miss out on something important. Knowing how to use these tools gives you a richer experience, it makes you feel closer to your motorcycle and, ultimately, it will make you feel more at ease when you're actually hauling ass, knowing that if something goes wrong you'll most likely be able to fix it and get to where you need to be.
When I decided "I" was going to build this motorcycle, I also wanted to put together a toolkit specific for this bike. I once read one of those "hints & tips" articles (update: found it again)that said something along these lines: any time you're working on your motorcycle, whether it's for a full service, going over all the nuts and bolts, changing the oil, nipping up something that's come loose, whatever, put all the tools you use into a box. The next time you need a tool for your motorcycle you'll know where to look and when you go on a trip you'll know that those are all the tools you need to carry (especially when travelling, the last thing you want is to cart around tools you don't even need or that don't fit your fasteners at all).
Now, while this might be counterintuitive in that you might be taking away tools from a complete set, tools that might be needed to work on other bikes or (god forbid) cars, I think it's at least a very good idea to figure out exactly what you need for one particular vehicle. You can then get duplicate tools to dedicate to that bike.
As I go along putting bits together, I'm making a list of all the tools I use for just that very reason. Once the bike is complete I'll no doubt have a pretty long list but I'm hoping that within that list there will be a lot of duplication, which should translate to an actual set of tools of reasonable size and weight.
As a head start, I'm pleased to show you my latest find, courtesy of whitworth spanners.

The first four are 1940s Triumph spanners, the other ones are BSA. All are Whitworth sizes.
I also got a 1955 canvas tool roll. Brand new.

The BSA spanner pictured below has a little trick up its sleeve in that it is a 4-way tool. By machining a step in the jaws, the result is two different sizes in the same opening, kinda like sticking two spanners on top of each other. This includes the all important 1/4 inch size. Pretty neat huh?

The other BSA tool is a ring spanner as used on the M20 and other older models:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The bird?

Everybody knows, about the bird.
My buddy Gianluca sent me this. It is much more functional than my BSA at the moment.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


50 tooth spuroketto mounted on the rear wheel, again, much easier than I would have anticipated. For example, I didn't have to re-drill every single hole, which is something. Clearly, the OIF cycle parts are superior quality and the right choice for this bike.

Another nice thing about the conical hub is that there are three different sprockets to choose from: 47, 50 and 53 tooth available to suit your needs!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Progress report: rear brake.

Check it out, the rear brake is assembled!

Not shown is the lewdly named grease nipple; that nut & bolt is there just to keep the trunnion in place until the assembly is fitted to the bike and the brake rod is put in place.
All the parts fitted together far more easily than I would have thought at first... and it appears to work!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Other bikes.

Ok, first of all the pictures in this post are taken from the internet so if anyone has a problem with them being posted here please get in touch and I'll remove them.
The important thing is, they are very cool bikes (just a few of the many out there) and at some stage or another I have been inspired by some of the details, or the overall stance, or the paintjobs, or the choice of materials....

Monday, January 10, 2011

Quick update: exhaust pipes.

Just after Christmas, the exhaust pipes arrived from England.
I bought these new from Armours since in the past I have found their products to be of unbeatable quality, far superior specifications to anything else I've seen.
They are true gentlemen and I thoroughly recommend you call them first for replacement exhaust parts: +44(0)1202-519409.

They also have a decent stock of various parts from seats to petrol fittings and tires.
Definitely worth checking out.
These pipes are the stock ones for the Royal Star, unbalanced chromed steel. They are going to look fantastic on the bike.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


When I said that this thing is practically building itself, I may have exaggerated a little...

The handlebar came from my Norton, it's the one I found on it when I bought that bike as a total wreck.

Obviously not a stock item, I put it aside until it presented itself again and asked to be part of this bike.
Once all the controls were mounted on it and the whole thing was clamped onto the top yoke I knew the build was heading in the right direction and that the bike would have that OLD look I wanted.
More of a gentleman's touring bike than an out-and-out sports bike, I wanted this to look elegant and understated, the type of thing you might miss at first but that, if you look closely, reveals itself as a beautiful ride.

The "cocktail shaker" mufflers are straight from the 60s. There aren't any markings on them so I don't know exactly who made them and although they are a common sight in the States, they're pretty rare over here.
They were given to me by a fat old bloke who was just throwing them away because they were dented and had lost their shine. Not much I can or want to do about the dents (which I think are cool within reason) but the shine? really? They look ok to me.... thanks fat old bloke!
Chronologically, these were the first parts of this particular bike to have materialised.
Obviously at the time I didn't even think I'd be using them for this bike and frankly I didn't know if I ever would use them at all, but it would have just been a shame to throw them away.

The rims (original Dunlop items) are off an OIF Triumph Tiger that a good friend of mine restored and customised to suit his needs.
He decided to have alloy rims on his bike and so put the original ones aside. I heard he had them just lying around in his basement and that he was just not going to do anything with them and since I needed a couple of rims for my bike anyway...
When I asked him how much he wanted for them he looked insulted and told me to just get my ass over there; he then gave me the rims all cleaned up and packaged. Like I said, good friend.

This pretty much dictated (because of the hole pattern) that the hubs and spokes would have to be the conical type fitted to OIF Triumphs and BSAs, and while I realise that most people will only consider the older type rear hub and a tiny spool hub at the front - with no brake - I'm quite happy to say that I really like the look of the conicals!
There, I said it. Oh, and they work.
And I didn't stop there, oh no! As if the conical hubs were not enough of an affront to good taste, I chose to go for an OIF fork too! Oh the audacity!
The thing is, I like the idea of fork and wheels coming from an OIF onto the DB frame - I like the look of them, they're modern by British standards whilst remaining hopelessly obsolete. Perfect.
Peppe, the guy who is ultimately going to build this rad thing had a fork and a complete front hub/brake so that was very lucky. The top yoke was missing but I eventually found a good second-hand one in Holland.
The bottom yoke with the steering stem was in good shape.

Now for the rear conical hub. WOW, for something that's allegedly ugly as sin you guys really hunt these down with a passion!
What I mean is, they are HARD to find, as apparently a lot of people building Tritons and the like, use the rear conicals to mimic the appearance of the original Manx rear hub.
I called I don't know how many spares dealers in the UK and US and always got the same answer, sorry, all gone, haven't had one in sometime, you're building a café racer aren't you? (....nnnnot quite).
Eventually I found a spares supplier I hadn't come across before and even though I had already begun making plans to switch the whole rear wheel set up to a much earlier Triumph/BSA/Norton/Anything, I thought I'd give them a try just to see.
They replied to my e-mail saying yes they did have one, complete with spacers and in good condition, would I like to have it sent over? Oh yes please!
I was so, so happy to have found this inexplicably rare item.
When it arrived in the mail I knew that the rear end of the bike was basically taken care of and a lot closer to being on the road where it belongs.

Together with it came the brake plate, another crucial component.

The fuel tank is another one of those things that just found its way onto this bike without me really making a conscious decision to have it there.
Originally, yet another friend had bought it thinking it would look swell on his Shovelhead. It didn't.
The thing sat in his garage for a while, weighing on him, probably more annoyed at having misjudged a piece than for the money he'd "lost".
I bought it off him as one of the last items on the list, when I already had a good idea of what I wanted the bike to look like. I guess it was a happy coincidence that it was available from a friend who wanted to get rid of it.

The problem is, there are so many cool, funky tanks around that this one really looks a bit bland compared to some, even with all that chrome!
For a while I considered trying to find some sort of bizzarro frisco tank with a long filler neck and a killer psychedelic paintjob but in the end I decided to stick with this one, after all, it's a classic.
It's the "export" or US-type fuel tank Triumph used in the 60s, not sure why this particular one is all chromed though.
The paint job is going to be a mixture of different looks from BSA, Royal Enfield and others that somehow all meshed together in my head. It might even get a chromed trim/strip after it's painted. On the one hand it might make it look more refined, on the other hand it could be "too much". We'll see. 

To me the kickstand really sums up a lot of the aesthetic I was after. It may sound strange but there is very thoughtful design even in a seemingly simple piece like this.
It's the clamp-on concept, the design of the pivot, the spring's anchor point, the smooth curve of the metal as it flares out and shapes itself into the support piece, which has a knurled pattern to grip that slippery British countryside grass, or worse still, the treacherous terrain in the colonies.
And last but not least it's the thick, gummy, polyurethane paint, none of this modern powder-coat poppycock. Ladies powder their noses, frames should have proper paint all over them and it should be deep and black, like the North Sea at night.