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Well the motorbikes have arrived and been unloaded the one based around the Villiers engine (I really should get around to naming these motorcycles) is looking a little bit worse for wear but that’s only because it hasn’t been used in ages and has been stored in a shed.
It is a lovely little bike, it just needs some love.

It is a lovely little bike, it just needs some love.

I used to ride this bike in classic trials with my dad on the other one, it’s really light and was even made road-legal briefly. Large parts of this bike were made by hand so it served as a prototype for the next more powerful motorbike. The engine is a 250cc two-stroke affair and the gearbox was a bit of a nightmare or at least that is how I remember it.

Even more exciting than the Villiers was this bike, as you may have noticed I have given it a quick wash. When it arrived it still had the mud on it from when I was on it last.

The motorcycle, after being given a quick wash

The motorcycle, after being given a quick wash

Cameron (who had picked it up for me) had noticed that it’s got a bit of an oil leak which is a real pain. It seems to be in the sump, but since this is a hand built bike there isn’t a manual I can get hold of – it was designed on the back of cigarette packets and the corners of newspapers.

Even though it was really naughty I couldn’t resist firing it up, mostly to see if I could remember the sequence you have to go through to start it. It fired up almost instantly and rolled over beautifully, the exhaust note is deep and powerful like Thor laughing and it brought back a flood of memories. Today feels like Christmas.

I’m going to have to sort out the leak fast as it’s a real struggle to resist riding it about and I’m also going to have to work out what sort of oil I should put in it. Anyone got any ideas?
Oh and if you’d like to read a bit more about the second bike and it’s construction have a look here
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

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February 2019
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