Friday, September 27, 2013

New sprocket

I've replaced the 50 tooth sprocket for a 47 tooth one, which is the smallest available for the glorious conical hub, as far as I know.
While I was at it, I checked the brake shoes and the braking surface, all in perfect working order.
The whole thing really didn't take very long, and considering how these things normally go, there was very little grief involved and only a couple of power tools required.
I fitted a shorter chain too, rather than shortening the one I had; the idea being that if the new sprocket is still not enough, I may need to fit a bigger gearbox sprocket and may need the longer chain again, though I hope it doesn't come to that because it would be a fairly major pain in the neck.
I still had to cut a couple of links off the new chain with my trusty angle grinder, setting a cheesy Harley-Davidson t-shirt aflame in the process. Ideal.
I haven't tested it yet, so I don't know how much of a difference those three teeth will actually make. It should be at least noticeable. I hope.

Also, yay floodlights.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Walking on eggshells.

Before I whack the throttle open on the newly converted 1200 Sportster engine and unleash the staggering amount of tarmac-shredding torque, I've given myself 1.000 kms for walking on eggshells.
So far, it all looks promising. It is incredibly difficult to resist the temptation to just go for it, but I know that being careful now will pay off in the long run. I'm not exactly crawling either, I just try to let the engine find its footing in every gear, keeping it in that sweet spot where it's neither straining nor getting close to stalling. Day in, day out, for about 30 or 40 kms each time seems to be doing the trick.
It starts easily, idles well and shows no hesitation when running. There is sometimes a little bit of smoke just after I come to a stop, but after the aforementioned 1.000 kms I'll take a closer look at the carburetter and see if it needs re-jetting or any other adjustment.
There's a lot of throttle I'm not using, and it feels like there's plenty of fun in there, just waiting to be let loose...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


That's the best word to describe the new aluminium panniers for our R100GS:

You get a lotta bang for your buck with these. They're well made, and I'm sure that followers of BSG will appreciate the rather Caprican design...
Find out all there is to know about these right HERE.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Nice shoes!

Finally! I finally got around to replacing the shoes on the Rising Star's front brake.
It seems like something I could have done anytime in the past few months, except there were always plenty of other things getting in the way. Anyway, that's done and the difference is considerable. Of course you still need a healthy, manly squeeze of the lever but they really do work much better. Witold was on deck, as always, to lend a hand with a few things, thanks bro.

We gave everything a good clean and got it all done in very little time. The OIF brakes are surprisingly easy to work on and if they're set up properly they can be very effective bits of kit.
Below is a detail of one of the adjusters as seen through the hub: keep an eye on these from time to time and it'll help keep your brake working well.

Next up, though who knows when that'll be, the rear sprocket and the mufflers. And after that, it'll be on to my poor Commando...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Witold's Commando, a retrospective.

Many years ago, while I was still living under the majesitc wintery cloak of England's glorious North, well before I met any of the dudes from my current rag-tag band of classic-bike-riding poets and pirates, my cousin came across an odd-looking Norton Commando while out in Trastevere. He took some photos with his cell phone and showed them to me. You have to understand, back then this would have been akin to Cassini-Huygens photographing the lakes of freaking Titan.
Add to it the fact that we didn't know who owned the bike, who had customised it... and then it was gone. It was all shrouded in mystery...

Fast forward to the day Witold was finally able to buy his first British motorcycle.
He had been hanging out with the local bike club (back in the days when I was still in it), coming to rallies and generally understanding what these things are all about. 
Now, dream as we might of a huge heated garage full of exotic machines, racing thoroughbreds on smartly lit rotating platforms and a Batsuit in the corner, the reality is that when the time comes to part with our cash, most of us can only go for ONE motorcycle. And though our early-man façade betrays little emotion, you'd be surprised what that ONE motorcycle can mean to us. Focusing on make, model and year is a prayer. The choice is the result of a long and strenuous battle between reason and desire, a rollercoaster of utmost confidence that you've made the right decision and pits of chilling realisation that you have no idea what you're getting yourself into. When all of that was over for Witold, he chose the Norton Commando.
Now to actually find one... long story short, the strangely metal-flaked café racer from Trastevere resurfaced one Thursday night. Another guy had bought it, but perhaps not being fully in tune with the machine, decided to sell it shortly after. Sometimes things just don't work out. Eventually, Witold tracked it down to another guy who often has bikes for sale and we went to see him. It was the first time we had actually taken a close look at it with no distractions. As usual, there were good news and bad news. The good news (communicated in the form of a subtle nod to Witold) was that the core of this machine was very sound. It started easily, with Norton's iconic snorting thunder. Oozing strength.
The bad news was that it was butt-ugly. I mean... just... ach...
He would have a lot to do to make it look good.
After about 100 yards Witold was totally hooked. He loved that thing, and I think it's fair to say that the sheer grunt and performance surprised him, and still surprise him to this day.
Over time, he gradually reshaped it into what you see today and he has done an excellent job.
This just below is the first stage, with the paint scheme, PR seat and side panels being the obvious difference. There were still some details that were slightly out of place, but it was a good starting point:

One of the biggest jobs he tackled, with some outside help, was a serious upgrade of his front end, specifically ditching the Yamaha drum brake (he was never too fond of that) in favour of a PR floating disc brake and wonderful AP Lockheed caliper and master cylinder. This required a special fork slider, from Andover, and a polishing job that left him looking like a TT racer from the 1920s.

That's an impressive looking front wheel, yo.
Hey wait a minute, those clip-ons look familiar...

He also had time for this neat upgrade to the rear brake plate. Hmm... monkey see monkey do, methinks...

Here's some more work in progress stuff:

Notice the orange moped on the right, a hardtail rear frame, barely sprung front wheel, weighing in at about as much as a laptop and with a "big bore" 65cc engine that makes it feel like you're going two hundred miles an hour. It's still pretty fast, like 45mph.

Really nice work on that primary cover there man.

I have to say those clip ons look much better on his Commando than they ever did on mine.
And below, you can see the mark 1 PR oil tank, with an additional filler neck and flip-cap.
That is an impressive looking front end. It will look even sleeker with a PR type front mudguard.

AP racing. No relation.

Here's the Norvil PR mudguard, nice:

One thing he discovered, in order to get his Norton to where it is now, is that every single little thing was a struggle: nothing fit quite right and almost everything required filing, drilling, welding, hammering and you-name-it in order to work. It's the one major flaw with these bikes, and unless you're soberly aware of the fact and you accept it, it can seriously detract from the enjoyment of fettling these old things.

With a special like this one, you can never truly say that it is "done". There might be a better way to mount a coil, or a tail light, or to reinforce the seat, or give the exhaust a neater bend... So we'll be seeing more of it, rest assured.
Well, good job my friend.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Count your blessings, son.

That's what I thought last night as I was cruising on home on the Sportster, taking it easy with the rebuilt engine, as this dude glided past on a Ducati Monster and effortlessly disappeared over the hill and down the so called olympic avenue that cuts through the beautiful Pamphili park.
Then I thought that "glode" sounds better than glided. Then I thought you must be a special kind of dude to pilot a glider, and that it must be the thinking man's aerial vehicle of choice. Then I thought that if the 1200 engine had been fully tested it might have been a different story last night. Count your blessings, son...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Keep out of direct sunlight...

Just kidding, Greece was very nice. Back to the garage and the usual suspects in the next few days...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Meanwhile, in 1967

Mum & Dad cruise along the Tuscan riviera on their Gilera 300, equipped with a Lucas headlamp and Smiths chronometric speedo.
An NSU Prinz gives chase. Far out.
And yeah, no helmet laws.