Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunny country lanes.

Dad and I took a couple of bikes out for a nice ride along sunny country lanes yesterday.
With no stupid cars and no distractions from the current millenium, it made for one of those time-machine trips we often stumble into with our classics.
Like the time Svitol and I took our Nortons out to lake Vico.
Yesterday, it was the Matchless and the Moto Morini "Corsarino" (the little pirate).

With its 80cc fire-breathing high-revving engine, the little Morini is quite the spirited ride!

The Matchless is doing really well, we tightened up the steering and soldered an uncooperative battery connection, but other than that it is a real pleasure to ride on a day like that.
If you're not in a hurry, and if you want something that's truly simple and strong, consider a Matchless/AJS from those years...

Sunday, December 30, 2012


I just got these surprise photos from Peppe... he's been busy apparently!
: )


Saturday, December 29, 2012

In the not too distant future...

...we'll be taking a closer look at this particular Commando.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Norton at the vault.

Thanks to Marco for the logo.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

a better Norton

As far back as I can remember, my dad's Norton Commando (a 1972 Combat engined Interstate) has always been my favourite motorcycle in the world. My Fastback was a frame-up restoration, with the idea of turning it into as good a motorcycle as it could possibly be and tailored to my taste.
I never had clip-ons on any other motorcycle when I was growing up, and I always loved the look of them. So I didn't even think about practical implications when the time came to choose handlebars and went with clip-ons. At first I thought it would have been a matter of just getting used to them, and to a certain extent I have. I have done thousands of miles on my Norton, been up to Switzerland a couple of times, rallies up and down the country, weekends, day trips... I have used my motorcycle. But try as I might, clip-ons just aren't for me. It's not a question of comfort, it's a question of weight distribution and cornering. It just doesn't work for me and I'm sick of feeling like my pride and joy isn't as good as it could be, just because of a detail. It's an important detail, but that's all it is. It's time to stop letting it hold me back, and if sacrifying a small part of the looks means finally being able to enjoy this thing and getting the most out of it, so be it. I'm not saying I'll go for a major retooling of my motorcycle, but it's time to improve what is already a tremendous machine. There are a few things on the way, now is not the time to tell you exactly what, and I don't know how long it may take, but I'm confident that by the time I'm done, it will be a better Norton.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Another great ride.

I went out to the hills S/E of Rome to see my folks yesterday, it was my dad's birthday too!
Another crisp winter day and the Norton answered the call again: oh what fun it is to ride on a 70-horse rocket! At 3.500 rpm the engine feels like it's barely doing any work, but in top gear you're already at the legal speed limit. Now, let's say you accelerate like you mean bizness through second and third, and really unleash the camshaft's potential up to 6.000 rpm... you had better be ready bro, or this thing will take off. 5.000 rpm and up is only possible in top gear if there is nothing in front of you for a long way ahead. So, it is fun in a thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie sorta way. But the way the engine (specifically the head) is set up right now means you just can't use it in regular riding conditions, which is a bit of a shame because it really is a great bike. And a beautiful one at that.

Kitty was not impressed...
the Matchless, waiting for a nice sunny day and a leisurely stroll in the countryside,
the mighty Interstate, currently not at the top of its game but it's probably just a question of checking carbs, cables, maybe HT leads...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Doomsday everybody!

What are you doing for today's Mayan apocalypse?
Whatever you get up to, have fun! and then tell me all about it tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Christmas lunch.

Last Sunday I went out to our British bike club Christmas lunch, just outside of Rome, and it was a nice occasion to let the Norton stretch its legs. All it needed were a few spark plugs and as much open road as possible: the way the cylinder head is ported means you really need a WFO approach to riding that thing if you don't want the engine to choke up and sputter. Oh, what's WFO you ask? Wide Fu**ing Open.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In other news,

here are some more bits and pieces from the Dominator.
We refreshed the rocker spindles' locking plates. New gaskets, new plates:

I took just a sliver off the rear mudguard as it was still a bit too close to the swingarm, then rubber-mounted the whole thing and fitted the seat.

It's gettin' there.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Some assembly required.

Peppe passed by the garage with his van, we loaded up the rolling chassis and a few other bits, and took it all back to his workshop.
In the next couple of days the engine is going back into the frame, the wiring loom is being reconnected and the oil tank plumbed back in. The latter has been modified, so the return line is now a free-flowing pipe back into the tank, and we'll be monitoring it closely when we fire it up....again.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


You're gonna hear me say the word "again" a lot.
From the moment we took the engine apart again to the day I take the Rising Star out for a test ride again.
For now, the engine is ready. Again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Well well...

... apparently, the "machine shop" paid up.
Of course, this means they'll be overcharging Peppe on all future works until they make their money back, and then some, but that's between them.
Wasting no time, Peppe opened up the sludge trap, again, cleaned it and fitted the new plug.
Most of the bottom end is assembled, again, and the whole engine should be done with another 5 to 10 hours of work. Could we see the Rising Star back on the road before next summer?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jack Frost's icy clutch.

Oh yes, summer and indian summer are unquestionably over. It's getting cold in the mancave, the electric heater is on, full whack. It probably won't be long before we have to relocate to Witold's digs for our playdates. Anyway, speaking of clutches, we got the Dommie's all done and back on the bike, finally.

Here are the new shock absorbing rubbers being pressed in, not easy to do but really not as much of a headache as most people would have you believe. Put your back into it son!

Cover plate back on:

And backplate bolted on. In between that and the clutch center there is a large roller cage with individual rollers, a perfect fit and a beautiful arrangement. I forgot to take a photo of it though.

Now, these are the inserts that go into the actual clutch baskets, something that was replaced by a single half-bonded plate on later models. The inserts we found were a hard plastic and very smooth. The new ones are a much grippier fibre, you can see the difference here:

In they go, one by one:

Then it's on to the plates, alternating driving and driven:

Pressure plate, springs, with their cups and locknuts:

So elegantly self-contained, such a clever engineering solution. If you really stop to consider how it all works together you can't but be impressed. Whoever came up with this, hats off to you. Ok, back into the chaincase you go:

We're getting a new primary chain. At first I had thought we could re-use the one that was on, but a couple of stubborn links are giving me pause and I don't see the point putting it back on knowing it's not as good as it could be. The whole thing will need careful adjustment and may need to come off and be put back on once or twice, but I'm ok with this. I want this to be perfect, it has to work flawlessly. Witold has the stator and is soldering on some new wires for us. I'll enlist his expertise for some other "patches" on the wiring loom, I've spotted a couple of things that could definitely be improved.

Oh, have a look at the new rear mudguard, still in progress but pretty much done in terms of final fit: