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I’ve not messed around with the project motorcycles for a while now, mostly because I’ve been so busy writing and travelling. That’s a lie, the main reason why I’ve not been working on the motorbikes is that it is bloody freezing in the workshop. It’s too cold to be able to grip a spanner and so it’s not that much fun taking things to pieces to see how they work.
 
I need to get some sort of heater rigged up if I’m going to be in there during the winter months. I’ve heard of a ‘fair weather biker’ but is their such a thing as a ‘fair weather mechanic’? Although I don’t think I can call myself a mechanic of any sort really, I can just about take things to pieces, and put them back together again but actually fixing them, well it’s more down to luck than anything else.
 
All this means I’ve not been in the workshop very much over the past few weeks, I’ve been up in London a lot for work or if I have been here I’ve been chained to my computer writing. Which means the big, empty workshop has been left alone for a while and leaving any sort of cleared inside area on this farm is dangerous because the moment you make a big space in a shed it gets filled with a bit of farm machinery.
The motorbikes all squashed up, but why?

The motorbikes all squashed up, but why?

I had started to organise all the tools in the workshop so I could find things faster and then I went away for a few days to test the 800 GS and suddenly something huge and mechanical had appeared in the workshop.

I didn't even know we had one of these on the farm.

I didn't even know we had one of these on the farm.

This is what happens when you clean indoor spaces on the farm, they get filled. It’s like fighting against the tide, one made out of scrap metal. Thinking about it I should have cleaned out the workshop last, so that all these metal things that needed a home were already tucked away before space was made near the tools.

In more upbeat news Hugo at Classic Bike has said he would like a piece on the motorbike my Dad built so I’m writing that now and trying to arrange some photographs. Hugo and my Dad spoke  on the phone about doing a feature on the bike before my Dad passed away so I know my he would be very pleased that this feature is going to happen. 

Even more excitingly as a side effect of this blog I’m off to work at Motorcycle News for a bit. Yes, this is an example of blogging getting people work. I won’t go into the exact details of what happened but I’m really excited about working there.

I start tomorrow and I can’t wait.

The bike relaxing while I open a gate

The bike relaxing while I open a gate

I’ve spent most of today playing with the new motorcycles. After a quick oil change the large of the two was fired up and I gave it a good blat around the fields. It’s not really designed for riding sitting down, as the pegs are so far backwards so you really have to stand. The gearing is very low and rather annoyingly the farm is rather flat so it’s not really in it’s element at the moment. I need to take it to somewhere really muddy and preferably, vertical and then it will come alive. It was interesting to think about how different it was to the F 800 GS I rode a few weeks ago. The 800 GS is a serious off road bike but this motorbike is something else, it’s just so specialised.

Some parts of the bike are still a bit of a mystery to me, I can remember being told the sequence of things you had to do to start it but the reasons behind them were slightly lost to me. Thankfully the lovely chaps at the Classic Bike Forum were able to work out what was going on.

The clutch is fairly easy to spot, but what are the other two things?

The clutch is fairly easy to spot, but what are the other two things?

As you may notice this end of the handbar has slightly more levers on it than normal. The one on the top of the handles is the advance/retard for the ignition, it changes the rate at which the engine ticks over. The one below is a bit more mysterious. If you squeeze it when the engine is running the bike stops (which is handy because the bike doesn’t have any other off switches) and it is also used when kick starting. After I explained what happened to the chaps on the forum they said it might be a valve lifter, so I took some photos to investigate

There is where the cable goes, so valve lifter it is then.

There is where the cable goes, so valve lifter it is then.

And so you can see on the right where the cable connects to the top of the engine. Another mystery solved. I also got my Dad’s old helmets when the bikes were delivered. One of which is lovely old school lid, perfect for riding retro bikes around.

It just needs some goggles.

It just needs some goggles.

I dug it out this morning to wear while riding the bike around the farm but when I picked it up I noticed it still had my dad’s white hairs on the inside. It was as if he had only taken it off five minutes ago and so I decided I think I’ll leave it for now, I’ll buy a new helmet for me and leave that one for him.

Today is a very important day, my classic motorbikes are being delivered.

I’m so excited I feel a little bit sick. I’ve waited just over a year to sort out getting these motorcycles picked up and now they are on their way. The company doing the delivery are the aptly named – Motorcycle Delivery – who were recommended by a load of people on the Classic Bike forum and I’m really impressed with the service so far. I had tried to arrange to pick the bikes up myself but since I don’t have a suitable car let alone, a two bike trailer I was really stumped.

Well I am stumped no more as the motorbikes are on their way.

One of the bikes, rating the day I am having out of ten

One of the bikes, rating the day I am having out of ten

I’ll have to do a longer post later when they have arrived but for now have a read about one of the bikes being delivered – Classic trials bike

Given that the Stinger is far beyond my abilities to repair I’ve decided to start fiddling around with the 185 ER motorcycle to see if I can bring it back to life. I don’t know an awful lot about motorbike repair let alone restoration so this is going to be a learning experience but that’s just all part of the enjoyment, right?

When the bike was discovered we tried kick starting it but it was having none of it. Mostly because something is very wrong with the throttle, it’s jammed and no amount of twisting will get it to move so freeing it up was my first task.

Look at the state of that, just look

Look at the state of that, just look

To add an extra layer of fun to the project I had to find the tools before I could use them. I suspected that everything I would ever need was probably in the workshop it was just a matter of locating it. I was right, and hopefully while I do this I can slowly sort out where things go.

After a bit I’d managed to track down the jam to the bit of wire that leads onto the small bit that looks like a miniature dustbin, or the carburettor as it’s known. The lovely chaps on the Classic Bike forums suggested I just spray that with WD40 and see if that can un-gum it. I’ve given it a good coating so we will find out if that has worked in a day or so.

The top is half off the carburettor in this picture so it looks a bit weird.

I’m going to try and keep to doing the absolute minimum to the motorbike until I’ve got the engine ticking over otherwise I may end up spending a fortune on something that doesn’t even run. While this may be an important part of classic motorcycle ownership I’m not quite ready for that. 

I’ve had a dig through some old emails from my dad when he went into a bit more detail about the motorbike and I thought I’d share it here. It really gives you an idea of what a special motorcycle this is.
A nice close up of the front end.

A nice close up of the front end.

‘The Cylinder head is from a 350 Matchless or AJS, also 50’s, which with its smallish valves gives high gas speed at low revs, which is why it pulls like a train. Point is no one valued 350cc bits and pieces 15 years ago – they all wanted 500cc stuff – so these bits were cheap and relatively plentiful. A “proper” 500 alloy competition engine was worth probably £ 1500 and I built the whole bike, everything, for less than £600 as I recall. And got, with the crank/piston relationship a full 500 anyway. The 85mm stroke flywheels make it rev like mad if you want. Ignition is a Chec PAL speedway bike magneto which I converted to manual timing control with my home made (about 20 attempts) back plate to carry the points. Very Trick.

Gearbox is a standard Burman type fitted to millions of 50’s road bikes, but with lightweight Norton clutch and shock absorber. Chain cases made from bits of Villiers cases all welded up by a pal of John’s who welds up nuclear subs. John welded up the oil tank from alloy too.

Back wheel from a 1956 James road bike with new rim, BSA brake back plate and linings. Severely modified and rebuild-able rear shock absorbers. Front forks from some 1970’s obscure British firm, possibly REH, with again my modified internals and damping, front wheel from auto-jumble. The Petrol tank is made for choppers in the 70’s with a lot of welding up.

The motorcycle in it's natural state, covered in mud.

The motorcycle in it's natural state, covered in mud.

And so on. I can’t think of much else except that it was made to compete in Pre’65 trials which I did a lot, including some of the major national ones, and it was always accepted as being in the spirit of the game, even if not totally authentic. I can’t remember how much it weighs, except that I used to be able to pick it up, and its wheelbase is much the same as a Tiger Cub’s, which was reckoned to be the yardstick, if you like teeny gurly bikes.’

Read an earlier post about the bike here

I had a dig around in the shed because I’d been told that the entire Stinger motorbike was there I just had to find it. Well after a bit of falling over and some light swearing when I dropped a plank on my foot I found the parts.
The front part of the bike, well most of it.

The front part of the bike, well most of it.

The front wheel and shocks weren’t looking at their best but they are there, and you can even see the tax disk holder if you look carefully. Spurred on by this I continued searching through the boat shed and found the iconic exhausts and petrol tank from the Stinger.

The distinctive tank and exhausts
The distinctive tank and exhausts

Even the soft lighting from the window can’t completely hide that this motorcycle needs a lot of work. Has anyone else restored a wreck like this? How much time are we talking?

I was digging through some old albums of my dad and I found this excellent picture of him scrambling on a Matchless motorbike. Does anyone know what it is?

My dad scrambling on an unknown bike

My dad scrambling on an unknown bike

It looks like a 500cc bike, but I could be wrong. The engine shape is pretty distinctive, so I’d imagine someone out there will know what it is.

It might be a G85 or a G50, but the exhaust loops around to the wrong side, but my Dad may have modified it. He was pretty handy in the workshop which you can read about here.

So can anyone out there on the internet solve this mystery?

The 185 was moved for the first time in years today, it was dragged back into the daylight so I could get a better look at it.

I didn’t realise that this was the rare ‘agricultural editon’ of the 185 ER. It features special equipment not present on the normal 185. To stop the engine you touch a completely bare wire into the frame (my favourite feature I think) and the choke is operated by pulling a wire that is wrapped around the tank which is like tugging on the reigns of a horse. It also features the bailer twine accessory pack for that Wurzel Chic. The seat was covered in dead shrews but I think that’s an after-market thing added by the cats.

Fresh from the showroom, well fresh from a shed at least.

Fresh from the showroom, well fresh from a shed at least.

It’s got a flat front tire, and the throttle is stuck but that’s just due to years of not being used so it’s in pretty good condition for something found in a shed. I’ll have a go at removing the gunk from the throttle and put some fresh oil in it in the next couple of days.

I had a go at kick starting it (well, you would wouldn’t you) and the engine seems to be fine but it just didn’t want to fire up. I don’t blame it though as the petrol in the tank must be older than I am and the jammed throttle didn’t exactly help matters.

In other bike news I’ve arranged for the trials bikes to be picked up from the house of the Goat Witch, thanks to the lovely people at Classic Bike Magazine Forums. They are going to hitch a lift next time the excellent bike moving chap is heading in vaguely the right direction. I think I’ll take out a subscription to Classic Bike now as a way of saying thanks.

I had a dig around in another of the sheds to see if I could find anything else. I can remember this shed being full to bursting with classic bikes at one point many years ago.

It was wall to wall Triumphs, BSAs and even the odd Norton Commando. The reason why the farm was stuffed with classic bikes is that my dad and his best friend (who owned a modern motorcycle dealership) had brought out the stock of a bike shop that had gone bust and so the bikes were stored here until somewhere more suitable could be found for them or they were sold.

Sadly the shed doesn’t contain motorcycles anymore, it doesn’t contain much of anything really. I had a hunt around to see if I could find a little hint of the glorious bounty that was once contained inside but apart from an old tire, which looked suspiciously modern I didn’t have much luck.

Note the lack of classic bikes

Note the lack of classic bikes

I suppose it was a bit too much to hope for really, to find an overlooked Bantam or perhaps an aged Guzzi tucked away in a corner,  but a chap can dream can’t he?

An old tire

An old tire

In other news the internet connection has been restored.

Thanks to a load of coffee I have managed to move the heavy bench out of the way and get a look at the stinger. It’s amazing what you can do when you are putting off starting some hard writing. The bike is not looking very healthy but the bits are all there.

For some reason it has been spread over the boat shed so the distinctive exhaust pipes and tank are on a nearby bench and the front forks have been stored in a boat. From the tank I can now exclusively reveal that the stinger was yellow, once.

Digging out these classic bikes is excellent fun but I have to do some more work now to pay for the dream Triumph. As lovely and rare as the Stinger is I doubt my local dealship will let me use it to trade in for a 675.

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