Gravity Rides Everything

Blimey. Things have been moving on rather quickly in the workshop. Last time I had the enthusiasm to write anything, I ended up with this list of things to do:

  • Charging system
  • New screen
  • Fuel system leak
  • Rear brake
  • Kill switch wiring
  • Tacho cable a bit shonky
  • Seat unit work
  • Fit rear pegs
  • Mirrors?
  • Headlight
  • Bodywork
  • Battery strap
  • Oil sensor wiring – tidy
  • Brake light?
  • Chain & sprockets

Everything struck out is now done – I’ll take that the headlight is only 50% done as I’m not there completely with the wiring yet, but from what I can tell, it fits, and works, I just need to fit a proper waterproof connector.

In fact, things have progressed so far that I actually managed to ride the thing this weekend. Not far, and not fast – just a little putter in first gear around the yard. But it’s important, as it showed that things like the clutch and brakes worked as expected, and I can put a (very small!) load on the drivetrain without any horrible graunching noises, or third gear exiting the bottom of the crankcase. And just to prove a point, before I put the chain on I ran it up and down the gearbox a few times on the stand just to test that all gears engaged and there were no unwanted side effects. Other than an overwhelming desire to make myself a really good cup of tea to celebrate, no, there were no side effects that I noticed. So then, as is becoming customary, let’s start at the end with a photo of the current state of affairs.

That was taken immediately before the first tentative test ride around the yard. And, complete disclosure, wouldn’t have been taken at all had I remembered to turn the petrol tap on. Still, as the moribund turd had spluttered to a halt I grabbed the photo as I made my way back from the workshop with a pair of pliers that I need to turn the fuel on. (Note to self – add ‘fix fuel tap’ to that list above). And what else should be immediately apparent from that photo, even if I missed it from the list of things to do, is that I cleaned and fitted the sidestand. This is hardly NASA level engineering, but still, if it stops the bike from falling over I’m calling that a win.

Right then, so let’s look back at the list, and what was necessary:

Headlight – this was the big one really. The bike came with no headlight, and they are now completely and utterly unobtainable. However, as mentioned previously, a TZR250 headlight seemed to be the right size, so I set about modifying the mounting bracket to fit. and while it took a fair bit of attention from the angle grinder, I can now mount the headlight, oil cooler, and front fairing as intended:

This was cause for no small amount of celebration (I may even have had a hobnob with my tea) as if anything was going to make the bike impossible to put back on the road, it would have been this. As previously mentioned, I still need to finalise the wiring connector, but I’ve proven that a) the light fits, b) it works, and c) I get 12V to the right part of the loom when I press the lightswitch. So the only thing stopping this from becoming a fully functioning headlight is now my own ability, rather than any incompatibility of components. Expect, then, the next episode to be full of stories of fire engines racing to the scene of the incident.

Fuel system – this was pretty straightforward really, with one proviso. But basically, I just needed to fit little hose clamps on the unions to stop the drips, and give the tap a little tweak to line up the spigot more accurately with the fuel hose run. It’s good enough for the test runs now, but it still needs work. Firstly, as already mentioned, the tap itself is broken and needs a pair of pliers to turn the fuel on and off. Now, I’m a bit old fashioned so I’m actually more than happy to carry a toolkit on the bike so that’s not the end of the world. Secondly, and more seriously, the fuel tank breather is totally blocked so I need to find another way to let the tank breathe. I’ve got a couple of plans (and also I’ve got the tank from a works RSC world endurance racer from the 1970s in the workshop, complete with a completely irreplaceable and unique tank breather…) so watch this space. And no, I’m not going to cannibalise the completely unobtainable works tank. Although if I could make it fit the Ducati, that would be a plan.

Brake light – yup, this works from the front brake, but not the rear. Simple fix – the pressure switch is broken. As far as I know, it’s not an MOT requirement for the brake light to work independently on the rear brake (I’m willing to be told otherwise!) [1] so I’ll probably just leave this for now. The rear brake works, but I never use it on the road anyway.

Chain and sprockets – I can see some opprobrium incoming here – but I’ve just reused the chain that came with the bike and fitted a soft link for now. Please, hear me out… the original plan was to nail the bike back together, put an MOT on it, and just use it. However, I’ve had a bit of a rethink. Rather than going straight into a road test, I’m going to put the bike on the dyno at Cambridge Motorcycles for the first test run so I can check the fuelling and make sure that if anything breaks, it’s going to do it at 0mph rather than 53mph on the A142 in front of an Eddie Stobart. I reckon that there’s no way the thing will make any more than 70bhp, and a softlink will easily handle that. For the first test run then it’s perfectly adequate.

Oil sensor wiring – tidied. Nothing else to say about this really.

Tacho cable – this was a bit of a trial, as it’s in pretty bad shape. But with the tactical use of a small hose clamp, I think I’ve got this just about done now. If I wasn’t such a massive tightwad I’d just buy a new one, but I am, and that’s all there is to it. And actually, now that I write this I realise that there’s no speedo cable with the bike, so I’ll need to buy one of those anyway. I may treat myself to a new tacho cable at the same time. Then again, I may not, and spend the money on tea and cake instead.

Rear pegs – now cleaned up and fitted. These were quite disgracefully manky, and needed a lot of love and attention to get the little detent bearings working properly again. If I was going to do a proper job (more on this later…) on this bike I’d get the thrust plates re-plated to make the snicky-clicky-inny-outy action a lot smoother. As it is now, however, they work, and they cost me nothing to repair. Dans son jus.

Kill switch wiring – blimey, I’m starting to run out of memory now of what I’ve done and when I did it, and my typing finger is getting quite sore and I may need to dunk it in some cold water soon. But yes, I fitted a proper waterproof connector to this one as it’s exactly the kind of connector that can leave you stranded by the side of the M6 in a monsoon when it fails.

Right then, that’s as much as I can be bothered to type now about things that I’ve done. Let’s instead, talk about things that are yet to happen.

  • Charging system
  • New screen
  • Mirrors?
  • Bodywork
  • Battery strap
  • Fuel tap
  • Rivet link in chain

Blimey, that list is getting pretty short now. But before any of that happens, the next stop is an appointment on the dyno to let Spike work his magic on the carbs and laugh when it catches fire or launches a rod out the side of the cases. But, we’ve reached that point again where money rears its ugly head, and I need to put this on hold for a couple of months while I let the credit card recover a little. But that’s OK – it’s cold and dark outside, so I need to go and hibernate. Finally then, one last photo showing where we are now:

One (even more) last photo… I teased a little earlier with a ‘more on that later’ comment. This image recently turned up:

Now, the plan right now is very definitely still to get this lump on the road at minimal expense, and to enjoy it with all the foibles and scrapes and scuffs and bodges. But blimey, I reckon that looks flipping lovely – and if (and it’s a big if) I enjoy riding this one, I could be tempted to at least give the frame and bodywork a bit of a cosmetic seeing to. I’m 99% sure that I’m not going to do this – because of course, on the first ride with the lovely fresh paint there would be a marvellously predictable episode of gravity overcoming ability.

So, I think for the next couple of months, that’s about it really. No point in going any further until I’ve had a session on the dyno, and even when that’s done, the next stage (the charging system) is yet another big bill, and then I’ll need to put some proper tyres on it, so these really need to wait until we’re well into the new year. There may be some sporadic action cleaning up bodywork and so on, and I still need to fit a connector to the headlight. But there’s no way that I can write an essay on fitting a small four-way connector.

[1] From https://www.gov.uk/guidance/mot-inspection-manual-for-motorcycles/4-lamps-reflectors-and-electrical-equipment – “Motorcycles first used on or after 1 April 1986 must have a stop lamp that switch on from both brake controls. However, a small number of motorcycles first used from this date were approved with the stop lamp switching on by only one control. You should fail the stop lamp only if you are certain that it was originally manufactured to switch on from both controls.” – well that’s cleared that up nicely then. I think I’ll just fit a new switch to be on the safe side, and spend the next three bloody days bleeding the thing again.

Woah, we’re halfway there!

Sorry if that lyric has invoked any form of Bon Jovi Induced Stress – but it just feels apt right now. There’s been definite progress on the Ducati, but still quite a bit to do. So let’s start with a photo:

Yeah, that’s looking like there’s been a lot of progress, and in truth, there has. I mentioned last time out that the next two goals were the hydraulics and electrics. The hydraulics, I’m pleased to say, are just about done now. The clutch just needed a bit of time bleeding it, and now seems to be working just fine – I can put the bike in gear, pull the clutch, and spin the output shaft by hand, so to me, that indicates that it’s at least doing what it’s supposed to. Will it work under load? No idea. But at least we have a lever that works, and disengages the plates at rest. The front brakes are 95% there now – I think there’s just a last little bit of air that will work it’s way out one way or another. I’m really amazed by this, as I’ve not replaced anything in the system other than the fluid. The master cylinder is all original, and all I’ve done with the calipers is strip and clean them. Oh, and I replaced the screws in the reservoir lid, as the originals were totally badgered. For the sake of about £1.57 it was worth doing. The rear brake is working, but still needs more attention at the caliper end. Ideally, I’d replace the hose as the one I have is about 15cm too long, but I’ll live with the one I have for a while until I’m sure I want to keep the bike. But I do need to do something with the banjo bolt and washers at the caliper end, as there’s a definite weep there. No matter, that’s an easy job, albeit a bit of a messy one. To sum up then, last time I awarded myself 0.5 out of 3 for the hydraulics – now we’re at 2.5, so that’s progress.

Electrics (with the exception of the charging system) seem to be there, and working for the most part. There’s no headlight yet, but the tail light is now fitted, and working. My 748 has given up its battery to the 750, so that’s now permanently wired in. It’s going to need a rubber strap to hold it in place properly, but for now it’s fitted and working. And I have a new one on order for the 748. Indicators, again, I’m going to wait to see if I want to keep the bike before worrying about them. It came without any, so in the spirit of just rebuilding what I have rather than a complete restoration, it’ll stay that way for the test runs. The charging system does need a complete rebuild, so once I’ve saved up some pocket money I’ll be sending the stator and reg/rec off to a specialist for rewinding and a check-up. I have a feeling that the reg/rec died a messy death some time ago, so it’s worth getting checked out. The ignition circuit is just fine, as evidenced this afternoon when I hooked up the fuel system and pressed the button. It started first time.

To sum up then, the electrics work, the brakes work, the clutch works, the fuel system works, the engine runs. I’ve actually kind of run out of things to check on the bench now. The next series of tests will need to be on the road. Exciting times ahead then. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves – there’s still work to be done, and still a lot of money to be spent. A quick bit of scribbling on my whiteboard gives me this list:

  • Charging system
  • New screen
  • Fuel system leak
  • Rear brake
  • Kill switch wiring
  • Tacho cable a bit shonky
  • Seat unit work
  • Fit rear pegs
  • Mirrors?
  • Headlight
  • Bodywork
  • Battery strap
  • Oil sensor wiring – tidy
  • Brake light?
  • Chain & sprockets

And of course, there will be a million other little things to tidy up and make good. So while things are definitely coming along now, there’s a whole pile of things still to do. And at least one of those items requires a non-trivial amount of money to be spent, so that’s really going to have to wait until next year now. Are we half way there? Yeah, I reckon so. Well, I guess that depends on the scope of the project – if it’s just to get a running bike, I think I could argue that we’re well over half way, and so never need to listen to that bloody song again.

And finally, I never actually meant to get the bike running this weekend – there were many other plans. This was for Jim.

Never Mind The Hydraulics

Next stages are hydraulics, and electrics” – the best laid plans etc. Really, when I wrote this, I thought that I had a good plan of action, and a couple of weekends in the workshop with a few spare parts would soon have the hydraulic systems working again. As I’ve no doubt shown on a million occasions, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. In this case, I was pretty close to being a complete liability to mankind. So then, hydraulics on a motorcycle, how difficult can it be? On the face of it, there are three systems. Clutch, front brake, rear brake. That’s it. And they all work with essentially the same components, and very definitely on the same principles. Right then, let’s start with the clutch. Every motorcycle in the world with a hydraulic clutch has a master cylinder on the handlebar attached to the lever, and a slave cylinder attached to the crankcase. Except the Ducati 750 Sport. Which has the slave cylinder cast into the clutch cover:

Actually, the engineer in me likes this approach. The clutch cover is solid, stable, and in exactly the right place. By casting the cylinder into the cover, there are fewer components. What isn’t there cannot weigh anything, and cannot fail, right? Well, up to a point. Only if there is an external slave cylinder that fails it’s an easy matter to replace it. With this system, if it fails, you’ve got a load of hydraulic fluid over your clutch plates and a massive headache trying to get the piston out of the cylinder. So the mechanic in me is in conflict with my inner engineer. Only one thing for it then – bodge it back together and see if it works. First thing then, was to rebuild the slave piston – it’s a complex affair with bearings, seals, o-rings, circlips, and a factory specified crappy little o-ring which will doubtless fail after twelve miles:

Yeah, it looks grubby, but it’s actually pretty smooth – certainly good enough for the clutch on a shonky old Italian motorcycle. With the piston slapped back in the bore, it was time to bolt the cover back on, and fit the bleed nipple and hose.

That looks quite elegant, doesn’t it? Again, it appeals to my engineering side. I then spent about two hours trying to bleed the air out of the bloody thing. Eventually, I got pressure at the lever, but I’m not convinced it’s quite there yet. I have a feeling that this lot will come apart again.

Next up then, rear brake. This was the first instance on this rebuild where I just had to throw away what I had and start again. The master cylinder was completely seized. Rusted solid. I did, eventually, get the piston out, but only by heating the thing up so much that all the seals melted, and the cylinder was so scored as to be irrecoverable. Not to worry, as the marvellous chaps at Stein Dinse list a Brembo master cylinder in their inventory with the necessary 50mm bolt spacing, so one was ordered, along with a few other bits and bobs. It arrived a couple of days later, and of course, it fits just perfectly.

As you can see, the pegs and hangers are fitted, as is the master cylinder. Lovely. At this point I realised that I had no hose to run from the reservoir to the cylinder, nor did I have the copper washers to run the hose to the rear caliper, so I didn’t bother bolting that on.

Enthusiasm was waning at this point, as I knew that I couldn’t complete the work on the front brakes without the washers to connect the hose to the master cylinder. Still, it was worth at least bolting the lever and master cylinder to the bars, so I could get things ready for when I got my act together and spent 37p on some washers, right?

Anything about that photo look odd to you? No? Look again. Come back in 10 minutes. The throttle cable… it’s routed underneath the kill switch and brake. Now, I’m not that well versed in Shite Old Italian Bikes, but I’ve never seen this before. Every bike I’ve ever worked on, if the cable runs axially with the bar, it comes out above the brake, loops over, before diving under the yoke to reach the carbs. I must have spent an hour trying to work out why I couldn’t get any slack in the throttle cable before realising this. The workshop manual is, of course, of no use at all. There are no cable routing diagrams.

At this point, I was starting to think that a pleasant afternoon in the workshop was getting pretty trying. Out of three hydraulic systems, I’d scored possibly half a point. Two definite failures, and one that might work, but probably not. Still, it was a sunny afternoon, so I took 10 minutes to just sit in the sunshine and listen to the birdsong.

Next up, chain adjusters. When I pulled them out of the box last year, they looked like this:

Clearly, completely humped. And also completely unobtainable. Time then to get creative. The previous idiot who’d tried to weld steel to aluminium had made this a bit more awkward than it otherwise should have been. But with a bit of lateral thinking and some timeserts, I soon had them back in a position where I could at least see if I’d salvaged something out of nothing:

Got to be worth a try, right? And with a bit of hammering, filing, swearing, and jumping the **** out of the way when the belt let go on the belt sander, we ended up with this:

And with a bit of hefting of the wheel:

Not one for self-congratulation, but I’m calling that a win. The rear wheel is in, the adjusters work, and once I pony up for a chain this will all be buttoned up ready for the test run. At which point, I’m sure that one of the adjusters will fail and leave me stranded by the side of the road with a hopelessly lopsided rear wheel locked against the swinging arm.

Blimey, this has turned into a bit of an epic. My typing finger is getting a bit sore now, so I’m off to get a quick G&T to dunk my finger in to cool it down a bit.

Right then. So, chain adjusters done, time to fit the footpegs and associated gubbins. As seen previously, the right hand peg went on just fine with the rear brake master cylinder. And it’s nice to report that after all the previous comings and goings, the left hand one did too.

And this picture gives away a little secret – the other thing that I’d been working on was the exhaust system. And other than a couple of clamps, this is now ready to go as well. It did require some new grommets to fit the hangers – as can be seen, the old ones were crusty, broken, and rigid. The new ones, are all lithe and supple and youthful:

And it’s also worth mentioning that they are not, in fact Ducati parts to fit an exhaust hanger. No, it’s a Moto Guzzi fuel tank mounting grommet, which just happens to be a) the right size, and b) still available. New gaskets from the super chaps at Mdina Italia, and some lovely new studs with copper nuts, and this was all easily fitted and ready to go. There was a part of me that wanted to polish the lovely steel pipes, but now is not the time. Dans son jus, right? (That said, the brake and clutch master cylinder covers are absolutely gopping, and I will give them a quick blast of Halfords satin black just so I don’t feel physically ill every time I look at them).

And I’m going to leave it there, for now. The hydraulics turned into a bit of a saga, but we’re well on the way now. I have a feeling I may end up with repair kits for both the clutch and front brake master cylinders, but I’m going to try to resurrect what I have – the clutch is definitely working well enough to give me pressure, so it’s worth persevering. And I spent a happy 20 mins with the blowtorch annealing some copper washers from my spares ready to fit into the braking systems so we’ll soon know what’s going on there too. The bike is now permanently back on its wheels with the fork rebuild and massive bodge of the chain adjusters, so we’re into the last niggly bits of the rebuild. I have a feeling that the headlight will cause some head scratching and reaching for tea, but other that that it should be plain sailing – it’s just finances holding me back. Stator rewind and battery will be a couple of hundred quid, then there’s a screen, four litres of oil, wiring, and no end of other little bits just to get it capable of getting to an MOT test. And of course I need to replace those 25yr old tyres, if it passes the MOT. So there’s lots done, and I’m glad to be getting this project moving again, but still a long way to go. If all goes to plan, I’m hoping to have it ready for a trip down through France next year. And if plan A fails? Well, never mind. I like a good Plan B.

Forking Hostile

Right then – time for an update, and rather than apologising this time for how long it’s taken, I’m just going to get on with it. There may be a lot of words in this one. And quite a few pictures. And I’m pretty sure that at least one of the activities may lead to a fairly intense use of four-letter language if I’m accurately to record what happened in the garage. (At which point, I’d probably best apologise to my neighbours just in case they happened to be enjoying some early autumn sunshine in the garden while I was enjoying possibly the most intense use of foul language in the history of human communication. What makes it even more excruciatingly embarrassing is that I was talking to myself).

Right then. Let’s start with what’s gone well. Forks. I love a good fork, me, and once the decision was made to stick with 16″ wheels and the original forks, things became very easy indeed. I phoned the rather super Philpots in Luton, and explained that I needed some obscure old Ducati forks looking at, and they really couldn’t have been more helpful. I’d already stripped the forks, so all I needed to do was send away the pitted stanchions (they even provide a courier service to pick them up and deliver the finished article) and they would do the rest.

And so, a few weeks later, I got a call saying that the forks were ready, and would it be OK if I paid now? Well yes, absolutely, it would – and we got chatting about the best time to deliver the newly finished stanchions and had a bloody good chat about the Manx GP, and the plans for the rebuild. The stanchions turned up a few days later, immaculately packaged in individual cardboard tubes, and wrapped exquisitely in brown paper. It was like Christmas. I kind of wish that I’d made one of those dreadful unboxing videos, purely as it was *so* satisfying. And of course, the quality of the chroming is exceptional. Really, it’s so nice to have such good service that it’s worth making a bit of a fuss over. Philpots, in Luton. Even if you don’t need your forks rechroming, send them away for the pleasure of unwrapping them and a good chat. It’s the best money I’ve spent this year. As well as the stanchions, I also replaced the seals and retaining circlips as a matter of course. The bushes, I’ve left, as they are in reasonable condition. Besides, the external bushes are no longer available anyway so that kind of made the decision for me. Once all the bits arrived back at the garage, rebuilding was pretty straightforward. The Marzocchi M1R forks are unusual by modern standards, in that rebound damping is controlled in one fork leg, and compression damping in the other. But the more I thought about this, the more it made sense to me. I mean, once everything is bolted together with a spindle and a set of yokes, it’s a single system anyway. So why not keep the two functions separate, and that way it’s possible to have different grades of oil for rebound and compression – as indeed, I now do. 5wt in the left fork leg, and 10wt in the right – the manual states to use some kind of weird ATF or something, but the wisdom from people using these forks in the real world is to use different grades.

As can be seen, I didn’t repaint the lowers. Dans son jus.

While I was waiting for the forks, I decided to take a look at the bodywork. I’m not going to restore anything – but I did want to make sure that what I have is solid, and usable. First thing on the bench was the top fairing.

Oh dear. Someone has, at some point, just attacked this with some Halford rattle can action, and applied rather more jus than I was willing to accept. Still, a few hours with some wet&dry, elbow grease, and cellulose thinners had it looking like this:

Not desperately unhappy with that, but a quick look at the bottom of the unit showed that the lower mounting points had snapped off at some point – I’ll spare you photos of both of them, but this should give you an idea:

So, how to approach something like this? What I’m about to describe may not get the seal of approval from master rebuilders of shite old bikes, but it works for me. Well, so far it has anyway, on a few rebuilds. First thing is to scuff up the back of the panel with a Dremel to get down to bare plastic. Then, cut a bit of aluminium mesh slightly too large, clamp it in place, and just run a few drops of cyanoacrylate adhesive to tack it in place:

After a nice cup of tea, attempt to remove the clamps. You will, of course, have glued at least two of them to the repair. Every time. However, with a bit of swearing, and with your chakras rebalanced due to the tea, eventually the clamps can be removed. At this point, I slather the back of the area in epoxy. I normally use Araldite just because it’s what I’m used to, but any kind of epoxy will work here. I’ve also used a stupidly strong acrylic resin from East Coast Fibreglass in the past, but that’s properly nasty stuff that I wouldn’t like to make a mistake with – it’s absolutely fearsomely strong.

Once the epoxy has set (I normally use 24hr epoxy, as I’m quite likely to make several mistakes and need to reposition things a few times…) the creative bit begins. Basically, you need to fold up the edges of the mesh to kind of make something almost like the shape of the missing bit.

It doesn’t need to be exact. Just kind of the right sort of shape. Preferably a bit on the generous side, as it’s way easier to remove material than add little bits. Now for the creative bit. <cue a potters wheel interlude>. I use P40 for this bit, as it’s reasonably easy to work with, easy to find, and it smells good. So, mix up a dollop, and push it into the mesh. You actually want to push it in quite hard, so some of it pushes though the mesh to make sure there’s a really good bond. You need to work fast here, as it does go off quite quickly.

Also, ensure that you get a thin layer over the existing panel – most of this will be sanded off anyway, but it makes sure that you don’t leave a gap. Flushed with success, now is normally a good time to get another cuppa while the P40 goes off. It doesn’t take long, so 30 mins to make a pot and drink the first cup is about right. Once you’re feeling calm and prepared, it’s time to get the trusty Dremel out again, cut off the excess mesh, and roughly shape things:

Re-drill the hole. If you don’t know how to drill a hole, I’m afraid you need more help than I can offer here:

Finally, give it all a good sanding with wet wet&dry – I normally start at 240 grit and work down to something like 800 for this kind of work. Once everything feels smooth and just tickety-boo, if there are any small divots to fill in, something like P38 or Dinitrol 6030 can be used, again, finishing up with some wet&dry to smooth everything out. Once you’re happy that it’s good enough, slap some primer on it.

And that’s good enough for now. I will, I’m sure give this a coat of Ducati red at some point, but that point isn’t in my immediate future. There was a similar bit of damage on the left hand panel, which was fixed in a similar manner. I’ll save you the photos.

At this point, I pulled the screen out of the box of bits.

Yeah, at some point, one of the previous idiots who owned this bike sprayed it silver. And attempted to fair it into the upper fairing with massive blobs of bodyfiller randomly splatted around the place. Now, given that the screen is the only piece of bodywork that is still available to buy (and not at great expense) the obvious thing to do would be to gently place this in the dustbin, and forget that I’d ever seen it. But no, of course, the thesis here is ‘good enough’ and so I decided to see if I could, somehow recover this unholy mess and at least make it see-through again. So, in the same way that you’d treat clouded headlights on a car, I set about sanding through the paint and filler, just to see if this was a viable project.

Holy carp! Although it took a bloody long time, and quite a lot of elbow grease, it was apparent that yes, I *could* remove the layers of primer and paint, and get this back to the bare plastic. At which point, going through the grades of paper to 2000 grit would bring it back to life, and a final polish would make it while not as good as new, certainly usable. So, with a fresh cup of tea, and a spring in my step, I spent a happy few hours in the garage with a bowl of soapy water and a pile of wet&dry. And after a good four hours of slogging away, things were looking very much on the up:

At this point, I had the first dawning of realisation. The reason this was redrilled, bodged into place with body filler, and then just sprayed silver was because it was completely the wrong screen for the bike. A very quick check revealed that yes, indeed, I’d just spent five hours and a not-inconsiderable amount of elbow grease trying to restore something that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. In a state of zen calm and the true inner peace that comes from understanding that the joy comes from the process, and not the result, I carefully placed the screen back on the bench.

I then spent a good fifteen minutes swearing in at least three languages, and added a screen to my shopping list.

Time then, to fit the newly refurbished forks and bolt the wheel back in:

And that’s where we currently are. Next stages are hydraulics, and electrics. I’m going to tackle the brakes and clutch first I think, because, well, I’ve got to start somewhere. Plus, I already know that the electrics work well enough to get the bike running, so other than sending the stator away for rewiring, it’s going to be reasonably straightforward and relaxing stuff. The brakes should be, for the most part, reasonably easy to put back together. The rear brake master cylinder is utterly humped, but I’m confident that I’ll be able to either find a replacement, or fabricobble something to fit something suitable. The clutch, however, looks like it could be a total nightmare. None of the parts are available any more, and because of the way it’s designed (the slave cylinder is cast into the engine case) there’s no way just to bolt on something more modern without a huge amount of work and redesigning. Expect a lot more swearing in the next exciting episode then.

If all this sounds like a gratuitous amount of whinging, let me make one thing absolutely clear. I wouldn’t change a thing. I am exceptionally happy and content when attempting to fix things, even if that process goes nowhere and I end up throwing away a few hours work. Yes, like anyone else, I will probably have a bit of a grumble at that point, but I will look back on it and realise that firstly, I enjoyed the process of trying, and secondly if I’d engaged my brain before my hands I’d have soon realised that I was heading in the wrong direction. But that’s how we learn, and I’m very much still enjoying the process.

And even more finally, before anyone says “bloody hell! Your garage looks bigger than last time I was there!” I’d like to thank James for giving me space in his workshop and a ramp to work on. It’s made my old back 100 times happier.

Love Under Wheel

Now that the decision has been taken to stick with the 16″ wheels and stock suspension, things have actually been moving on a little bit with the project 750 Sport. And another decision has been taken, more on which later.

Actually, no, let’s get onto that bit straight away. There’s enough stress in the world right now, so rather than keeping you in suspense, I’ll come straight to it. I’ve decided not to actually restore this bike. Not yet, anyway, and probably never. Rather, I’m going to cobble together the bits that I have as cheaply as possible (paying attention to safety, natch, so things like brake hoses will be replaced. Probably) and just go and ride it. The French, of course, have a wonderful saying for this – dans son jus. Literally, in the juice, but figuratively, preserved but original. I’m going to enjoy this bike in her juice. Over time, I may gradually replace bits that are falling off, but that’s it. As with the Morini, this bike has a story to tell, and a full restoration will only hide that.

And of course this really has opened up the floodgates now, as I’m not worried about things like getting the wheels and frame repainted, the bodywork patched up, the seat recovered or anything like that. I’m now in the phase of just cleaning stuff up ready for reassembly when the forks come back from being ground and rechromed. I think I will, however, splash out on a pair of tyres. The Michelin Hi-Sports that are on there are probably 30 years old, and while the front looks hardly used, it’s got that lovely shiny slippy feel that really old tyres get. And here’s where things get even simpler. As far as I can tell, there is only one manufacturer making a pair of tyres in the right sizes any more – Shinko. No, I’ve never used them either. But this fits in with the ‘just get on and ride the thing’ direction that I’m now heading in. I don’t need to worry about which tyres to fit, as there’s only one option. Nice.

First place to start then, is the front wheel:

Actually, I think the camera is being rather critical there. The disk is nowhere near as rusty as it looks, and an hour spent with a wire brush has brought it up pretty nicely. If I had some Deox-C I’d probably drop them in a bath of the stuff for a few hours, but really, they don’t need it.

The lacquer is definitely lifting in a few places around the wheel, but remember what I said earlier about the cosmetics? So I’ve just given it all a jolly good clean with some soapy water and a splash of Surfex HD [1] where the grime was particularly icky. The wheel bearings are fine, so they’re staying put. In other words, this lot is ready to be put straight back into the bike once the forks are back in place. The yokes are just fine, and don’t need anything other than a quick wipe over to get the dust off. I will, however, check the head bearings – would be silly not to. I mean, I know I want the thing dans son jus, but I’d rather not have it upside down in a ditch when the head bearings seize.

So, what do I *need* to spend to get things running again? Off the top of my head, and in approximate order of play:

  • Fork seals and oil (the bushes are just fine)
  • Stator rewind
  • Potential reg/rec – I think the old one is cooked, but will check
  • Clutch – this is either going to be a 90p o-ring or a massive bill for having bits custom made.
  • Brakes – I’ve not gone into these in much detail yet, but definitely hoses and a rear master cylinder repair kit.
  • Chain
  • Battery
  • Tyres
  • Screen
  • Sundry nuts and bolts and fluids

When I started on this odyssey I put together a budget and it came to somewhere close to £4K. Pie in the sky money really. And somehow I’ve managed to already spend very nearly £1K on it, with very little to show for it really. Well, other than the running engine and rebuilt fuel system. And the new gearbox. Actually, that’s quite a lot now I think of it. But £300 of that was money wasted on attempting to fit a modern front end – so I can probably write that out of the budget now as I’ll either sell the bits to recoup some of that, or they’ll be used in a future project. But it’s safe to say that the new approach has considerably reduced that budget.

All in all, I’m feeling good about this change in direction. And while I know it’s easy to think that it’s actually a cop-out and I’m just doing a half-arsed job rather than doing things properly, it’s worth bearing in mind that this bike will never be an immaculate show-bike. Heck, even when it came out of the factory it would have had bits hanging off and electrics likely to catch fire if you just looked sideways at them. And what it also means is that things are going to start moving a lot faster now. Once the forks are back, the bike will be put back up on its wheels, and then it’s onto the clutch and stator.

All this has coincided with a bit of a personal change in direction too – rather than spending every last penny on shite old Italian motorbikes, I’ve been having the best summer just jumping on trains with The Lovely Faye and taking weekends away when we get the chance. And this has made me *very* happy indeed.

[1] https://bilthamber.com/product/surfex-hd/ – it’s brilliant. No, I’m not sponsored by Bilt-Hamber, but will happily recommend their stuff.

Plan 9 Channel 7 [1]

It’s time to do something with this Ducati isn’t it? It’s been so long that I really can’t remember where we left things last time other than getting the thing running. Which was a lovely moment, but as in shipbuilding, restoring shite old bikes is a rule of thirds. A third of the time on the engine, a third of the time on the chassis, and a third of the time on the controls. And then another third of the time fixing the electrics, and another third sorting out why the chain run is 20 degrees away from where it should be, and another third trying to source the obscure 12mm Brembo rear master cylinder repair kit.

Yeah, I’d got a bit bogged down, and to be honest, was losing a bit of enthusiasm. This is easily explained by the fact that I’d ended up in a position where to do anything next, I needed to spend money, which I just don’t have. The cost of living shitshow in the UK isn’t much fun right now, and trying to justify spending a four figure sum to build yet another crap Italian bike to put in the garage rather than feeding the family was getting pretty tough. It was time to look for a cheap(er) bodge to get things moving again. The thing that has been holding the whole build up recently was the decision to switch to 17″ wheels to make tyre choice easier. This means replacing the forks (as previously mentioned), brakes, some jiggery-pokery with the swinging arm, and faffing with the controls to make sure the master cylinder matches the new calipers.

Clearly, I’m far too tight to pay for all that right now. So a decision has been made. I’m going to completely ignore common sense. I mean, obviously, converting the bike to 17″ wheels is a better choice – I get better brakes, better suspension, and most importantly, a better choice of tyres. However, I’m going to completely ignore all of that on the grounds that I get (probably – more of which later) the original Marzocchi forks ground and re-chromed for about a quarter of the price of all the other stuff. Yeah, so I’m then stuck with Shinko tyres to match the 16″ wheels, but I’m not that bothered. If I want to go fast, I’ll take the Morini out. Oh no, wait. I won’t. It’s a shite old bike with 27bhp. No, if I want to go fast, I’ll borrow something else.

Right then. With a decision made that kind of opened the floodgates. The original Marzocchi forks were stripped, and other than the re-chroming and some new seals, I reckon they’re good. The bushes are all fine, and with a lick of paint on the outers I reckon they’ll be just tickety-boo. Well, at least not quite so offensive to look at. And of course, with the original forks, I get the fantastic opportunity to use the original Brembo P8 calipers from 35 years ago:

Yes, that’s a spider web. These calipers clearly haven’t had a lot of attention for quite a few years from anyone with fewer than eight legs. Time then, to strip the calipers and see what we’re dealing with.

Yeah, that’s a massive pile of rust and shite. That said, the pistons popped out easily, and there was absolutely no corrosion at all in the seal beds – which was a lovely turn of events. I like cleaning brake calipers – seriously – it’s one of those things which just appeals to the engineer in me. Take it all apart, clean it up, lubricate things, and let it all slide together smoothly and precisely. These calipers needed a bit of attention, but for the most part, they’re fine. The seals and beds are all good as mentioned, and the threads for the bleed nipples and banjo bolts are all OK, so things are looking pretty good for the most part. Brakes then, are good to go. Or stop. I’d rather they stopped.

The forks need to be ground and re-chromed. I’ve found a place reasonably nearby that will do the work (hopefully – they say they can recover anything up to about 0.7mm deep, and I don’t think these are quite that far gone) so it’s going to be a case now of saving my pocket money and sending them off. Yeah, I know, it then forces me to use 16″ wheels and the P8 calipers, but actually, I’m OK with that. Like I said earlier, if I want to ride fast, I’ll just use another bike.

To sum up then, I’ve gone through about 9 plans, and 7 sets of forks, to get back to where I started. Don’t care – I’ve enjoyed the process of getting here. There’s still a long way to go with this one (remember the rule of thirds earlier? Yeah I’m about a fifth of a way through the first seventh of the third) and it’s going to be a bit of a struggle at times. Hey ho. Wouldn’t be any fun if it was easy.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MNZIThfp6k – bloody hell, I love The Damned. And this, I reckon, is as good as anything else of the time.

Ten

Well it’s been a while hasn’t it? But I think it’s about time I wrote something new – a year ago yesterday I wheeled the Morini into the garage, and made public my mental health struggles. And while since then I’ve written interminably about gearbox shims and piston ring compressors, I’ve not really mentioned what’s been going on with my head. So it’s time to put that straight I think.

The first notable thing is the number of lovely friends I have who have taken time out to check up on me, take me out for tea and cake, the odd pint of beer, a walk, a bike ride, whatever. This, more than anything (almost… more on that later) has been what has helped me the most. So thank you. All of you. It has been a genuinely humbling experience to have so many people going out of their way just to see if I’m OK. And I can honestly and openly say that yes, I am. It’s taken a while, but really, and truly, I’m OK. And this leads me to a request (if anyone is reading this…) – if you’re worried about someone, give them a call. Or just pop round. Have a chat. Have a cup of tea. Take time to look after each other. To you, it may be a 15 minute break in an otherwise busy day, but to someone else, it could be what stops them ending up sitting on a railway line.

Secondly – I’ve learned not to be afraid to ask for help. Or just for a chat. This was the hardest thing for me. I come from a 1970s council estate upbringing – where any expression of emotion or weakness would immediately be picked up on and exploited. And I’m one of millions. So it’s not surprising that as a country, we have such a problem with mental health and suicide. Dropping my defences and asking for help was a huge step, and it really needn’t be. If you have a physical ailment, you go to the doctor, and maybe have a chat about it with your mates in the pub. Why isn’t it the same with mental health? As a society, we have a long way to go to make this normal – which kind of goes back to the point above. Let’s keep talking, and looking after each other. It’s not an easy world out there at the moment (no rose tinted glasses here – it’s never been easy, and I’m not looking back to times when everything was green and pleasant) and there will be a lot of people struggling, people who will keep it all hidden until it all goes horribly wrong.

Thirdly, on a practical level – I’m very happy that I went to talk to my GP. He was brilliant. This was back in the days of lockdown, and so the first tentative feelings were over a phone call. Within two minutes, he’d invited me to come straight to the surgery for a chat. This, I suspect, was ruinous to his planned appointments for the afternoon, as we spent a good 30 minutes talking. He was full of really good, practical advice, and also prescribed me antidepressants. Something that I never thought I’d need, but which helped me through the darkest times. I’m no longer taking them – but again, going back to the physical analogy, there’s no stigma in taking painkillers when you’ve done a hamstring. Why should there be with antidepressants? They greatly helped me get things back on an even keel while I tried to work out what had caused me to end up where I was.

Fourthly – I’ve changed. I spent so long trying to ensure that the future would be OK, that I forgot how to enjoy the present. This was the largest realisation for me. And for that, I really have to thank The Lovely Faye. Quite how she put up with me for so long will, I suspect, always be a mystery to me. But in the darkest times, she was there to hold me and help me realise that what was happening right there was more important than what might happen in ten years time. This gave me reason to dig in and keep trying. And, full disclosure – it wasn’t a simple binary decision – there were good days and bad days. But Faye was always there, to help me through the bad days, and help me celebrate the good. And I know this probably all sounds rather idyllic if you’re not in a happy relationship and are feeling shit about life – so again, I’ll stress, if you’re not feeling good, talk to someone. Phone a mate. Phone your GP. Heck – phone me – I’m not a great role model, but I make a half decent cuppa, and can witter on for hours about Ducati cambelts and Yamaha piston rings.

On the subject of which – what has been going on with the bikes then? Well, this isn’t really a bike update post, so I’ll keep this brief. The 750 Sport project has been parked while I try to work out whether it’s worth continuing – I reckon it’s a 4K restoration budget, for what will only ever be a 2.5K bike. This sounds incredibly mercenary, given the that bike was gifted to me, but I need to be realistic. What is keeping me from bailing out is the rarity, and how flipping lovely it looks. Right now though, it’s in a state of hibernation. The other Ducati, the 748, has been a thing of joy. I’ve cleaned it up, fitted new tyres, changed the belts, oil and filters, and that’s about it really. Oh, I also replaced the seals in the clutch slave cylinder and the clutch plates, as it was all a bit draggy. But what a beautiful thing – I’ve put a few thousand Ks on it since picking it up, whether long rides to the coast, or just daft knee-down moments on the local roundabout. And it fills me with joy every time I open the garage and see it there.

But the Morini – this is kind of where the journey started. And for the first time today, I decided to stop and have a good look and see where we were. We’ve been through a lot in the past year. From being picked up with the help of mates, through the initial rebuilding, to realising that I could enjoy using it. And so, today, I spent a few hours pulling back the covers, and checking that everything was still OK inside. And for sure, there are a few loose ends and dribbly bits that could do with tidying up. But there’s plenty of time for that. For now, I’m going to just carry on enjoying where we’ve got to.

Finally, why Ten? Some things are best left secret. But at least one friend will understand.

Hero

There are times, when sleeps sweet dark embrace doesn’t envelop me. When the pleasant oblivion of unconsciousness is drowned out by the noise in my head. And when this happens, I walk. I may not walk far. Or I may walk for hours. But I steal out of the house into the quiet landscape around me, and wait for things to happen.

And sometimes, when my senses are troubled I will find my way to the river, and stand on the bridge. The water is so placid that not only is the moonlight reflected, but I can make out the constellations. In the distance, I can see the tower of St. Andrews, a beacon, for it is home. The only sound is that of the distant owl. The dark reflective depths below are beguilingly silent.

The moment extends. I can feel infinity, and the void, at once, coalescing in this moment and place.

Finally, the tension is broken. In the far distance, I hear the shrill sound, like acid on a papercut, of someone ragging the absolute fuck out of a motorcycle. And it’s brilliant. Just another hero, riding through the night.

State of the Nation

Sorry for the delay – rather a lot has been going on recently, and 99% of it isn’t the kind of thing that I like to write about, and so all things bloggable have really taken a bit of a back seat. No, actually, that’s not strictly true. Things have been happening, but I’ve just not been in a writing mood. For the avoidance of any doubt, all is well here, I’ve just not been organised (or, in truth, motivated) enough to want to write about it. So then – where to start? The 750 Sport, let’s start there, as that’s where we left off last time.

Nothing has happened here really… Last time out I’d picked up some forks and yokes from a 900SS to give me the option of a 17″ front wheel, only one of the fork legs was bent. And somewhat unusually for me, I did exactly what I said I would. I picked up another fork leg from eBay, and then just locked the lot away for a few weeks. Eventually, however, once the weather had warmed enough for me to spend a couple of hours in the garage I went out to have a look. The new fork leg was *lovely*. Really clean, and it felt for all the world like it had just come out of the factory, with lovely plush damping and a beautifully smooth action. It’s also 40mm too short. Bollocks. I never knew that at some point, Ducati changed the length of 900SS forks, but I do now. Sadly I can’t even rescue the situation with a parts swapping frenzy as the bit that’s too short is the bit that’s damaged on the other fork leg. So if anyone is in the market for an old 900SS fork leg, let me know, as I’ve got one going spare. I’ll get over to the workshop to measure it up, just to make sure you don’t make the same mistake that I did. Oh, yeah, the workshop. That’s something that happened…

It’s a bit of a long story, and I don’t want to go into too much detail, but the 750 is now rehomed to a lovely new workshop, on it’s own ramp, and with access to all sorts of lovely tools. It’s a few miles away, but there’s always the promise of a good cup of tea whenever I go there, so it’s a proper win. And yes, it’s now on a proper uppy-downy ramp to save my old back any more grief. And if you look very closely at the top of the picture, just behind the knobbly on the back of the KTM, you can see a very dusty, but obviously well used rear tyre. That’s going to be the next project with James – more details will come later. But it will be very, very green. All in all then, in project 750 world, things are taking a hiatus, just as promised. The bike runs, and I now have a clear plan of the next steps:

  • Find a correct fork leg
  • Sort out the stem/yokes
  • Get a 17″ rear (already found one, just need to pick it up)
  • Strip it all again for frame paint, rewire, shock overhaul
  • Sort out charging system
  • Rebuild with 17″ wheels, new brakes to suit

And then it’s onto the whole bodywork saga. But one of the nice things about the new workshop is that it comes with compressed air, so hopefully that will help keep the costs down with the paintwork. Anyhow – that’s still a couple of years away I reckon yet. Any thoughts of getting this ready for the annual Cadwell outing this year have gone right out of the window.

Oh, yes, Cadwell. This brings me back to the lovely little Morini. I love this bike more than is healthy, and have spent as much time riding it as possible. It just puts a smile on my face. Yes, it’s slow, and a bit clanky, and a bit clattery, but it just feels right. One thing that was very much Not Right though was the handling from the rear end. Last year at Cadwell I’d fitted new tyres, and still had some horrific lurchy-slidey moments through the fast changes of direction at the bottom of the mountain, through Hall Bends, and at the awful Chicane With No Name. Initially I put this down to the new rear tyre, but as part of a general clean up, I pulled the rear shock out and stripped it. Oh dear. There was a little bit of damping left, but not a lot. But worse than that, what there was only worked for the last 50% of the stroke, and there were no bump stops at either end. So what was actually happening in these changes of direction was that the suspension was loading up, smacking hard against the end of the travel, then rebounding, at which point the damping left the building and the spring topped out with a clattering thud. A new shock was on the cards then. Only of course, trying to find a shock for a 30yr old Morini that wasn’t that popular when new was always going to be a challenge. First to rise to that challenge was Nitron – they didn’t have anything on the shelf (of course), but could build anything to my specifications. For about £600. Which actually is a complete bargain for a hand made, state of the art, custom shock. But regular readers of this drivel will know that I’m a colossal tightwad, so that went to the bottom of the list of potential fitments. Sadly that list only had one entry at this point. Next up, after a chat with the owners club, was Hagon. Again, they didn’t stock these as standard, however, they had made them before, and had the measurements, and so could help out for a few quid less. The shortlist of two was looking like what it lacked in quantity it more than made up for in quality, and price. Gulp. I was getting that uneasy feeling that I needed to sell something to fund the purchase. But then, out of the blue, I found that YSS listed the Cagiva Freccia as a standard fitment. And it’s exactly the same chassis, just a little lighter as the Freccia was a lovely crisp little 125 two-stroke rather than a wheezy old 350 four-stroke. Had to be worth a go, for £150 or so. This sounds suspiciously cheap, but I’ve got a bit of form with YSS from the TRX, and the performance seemed to belie the price. And when the shock turned up, for sure, it was not a fully adjustable Öhlins but then it didn’t need to be. It just needed to damp predictably and progressively, which is exactly what it did. I think in Morini world, the only other thing of note is that it let me down, and forced me into the Walk Of Shame back home… And it was nothing to do with the bike, and everything to do with one of the mods that I put in there. When I was plumbing in the fuel system I fitted a dry break coupling in the hose to make removal of the tank easier and it was this that failed, leading to fuel starvation. A really easy fix (I just replaced the coupling with a filter, so I didn’t even need to buy any new hose) and other than that it’s been brilliantly reliable. And I know that I’m very personally invested in this bike, given the story of why I have it in the first place, but out of all the bikes I’ve owned this one is right up there as probably the one closest to my heart.

Onto the 748 then. This has been having a bit of a workout recently. Once I’d changed the belts, the only thing it really needed was a new set of tyres. Cambridge Motorcycles came to the rescue with a lovely set of Contis, and since the weather broke I’ve been making the very most of them. And while this sounds very self-indulgent, having a 748 in the garage is an absolute dream come true for me. I’ll still argue that as a road bike, the 748 is better than the 916. The way it makes power is more engaging, the narrower rear tyre suits the chassis more, and it’s not all lumpy around town. The only thing I’ve done is to remove a couple of springs from the clutch (which is designed for about 50% more power, so I don’t mind losing 33% of the clamping force) to give my fragile wrists a chance of coping. There are very few bikes that I’d want to ride more – yeah, a TZR250 of course. And I’d love to give an OW01 a whizz. And while I wouldn’t like to own one, I’d like to have a spin on an early Hayabusa. Top of the pile though is an RC30.

Ever since I was a lad I’ve made model kits – and I finally invested in a half-decent airbrush and compressor a few weeks back. Obviously then, the first thing to do is to build another Tamiya RC30. I’ve built this kit before, and it’s a lovely build – so just to make it a bit more challenging I ordered the ‘detail-up’ kit above, which includes 106 individual chain links and pins, at 1:12 scale, as well as a pile of 1:12 M5 bolts. There are things in that box on a scale that if not smaller than the Planck length, certainly gives it a stern challenge. Gulp.

Next instalment I’m not sure yet. The RC30 will get started. The 750 Sport will get worked on. The 748 will get worshipped. And the Morini will get ridden. A lot. And I should probably write something about where my head is now, given the starting point of the Morini project.

Too Drunk To Fork

“Next update may be a good few weeks away then – and before I go any further with the 750 I need to fit new tyres to the 748” – or so I wrote only a week ago. I’m such a colossal bell-end at times. Of course, after the bike ran last week I did the only sensible thing and celebrated with a G&T. Or two. And some smoky Islay single malt. And a superb Orvieto. I was obviously in just the right frame of mind to fire up a web browser and start hunting through eBay.

That’s a pair of 1999 Ducati 900SS forks. And yokes. And clip-ons. And spindle. And they turned up in my garage yesterday. Now, in my defence, they were advertised stupidly cheaply.

In Lithuania.

Postage was a non-trivial affair, at forty quid. So I chucked an offer in at £40 off the asking price, knowing that it would obviously be rejected. Next morning I woke up with a slightly muffly head, to an email saying that my offer had been accepted, and would I like to pay now? Well, as it happens, about two weeks ago I finally paid off a credit card bill that had taken three years, so yeah, why not, what’s the worst that could happen?

And then yesterday the parcel turned up (full marks to the seller by the way – they were impeccably packaged, and to turn up in less than a week was brilliant) so I pottered out to the garage to see how close they were to fitting.

The good news… The yokes look spot on. The gap between the top and bottom yoke matches the 750 frame perfectly, and the offset to the fork tubes is also, absolutely bob-on. I reckon that with some new bearings, those yokes will just fit straight in. If they don’t, it should be easy enough to press the stem out of the 750 yokes and pop it into the 900 yokes. Brilliant. And the forks – no rust that I could see, no leaks from the seals, and good damping. They are non-adjustable, but that’s OK by me, as I won’t be pushing this bike hard enough to need anything other than a change of oil and preload. Oh, actually, there’s no preload adjusters either – so some spacers may the order of the day if it needs. Anyhow, I spent a couple of hours in the garage cleaning things up, and noticed that things just didn’t seem quite perfectly in line.

No matter how much I twiddled with things, when I sighted down from the top yoke to the spindle, things just didn’t quite line up. Sometimes it would be close, then I’d tighten things up, and it would all shift again. I was starting to get an uneasy feeling…

I took the fork legs out of the yokes again, and sighted along them – everything looked fine, so I tried just bouncing each leg up and down individually. The left fork leg was perfect. The right one, however, definitely had a bit of a tight spot. I tried rotating the lower leg in the stanchion, and it immediately bound solid.

Dammit. That’s a classic case of a bent fork – if there’s a slight kink in the fork outer, it makes a tiny high spot on the inside of the tube, and it binds solid as the inner bush slides over it. With a sigh, I stripped the fork leg. I hate doing this at the best of times, as fork oil is smelly and foul stuff. And no matter how long I leave the inners to drain, I still end up with it covering my hands, the bench, my clothes and normally most of my face. Anyhow, once I’d cleaned up the fork outer, I held it to the light, and sure enough there was a high spot in there – and when I put a straight edge up the inside it showed a definite kink.

Hey ho. I’m not unduly upset. The seller really wouldn’t have noticed, as externally, there’s the slightest indent that just looks like where the lower yoke clamps. And when everything was bolted together it all looked straight at first glance. I’ve written back, seeing if I can get a couple of quid off, to go towards the purchase of another r/h fork leg, but in all honesty, I’m not too worried. I mean, when you buy things sight unseen from a breakers, stuff like this just happens.

Anyway – it’s ultimately a positive update, as it looks very much like a 900SS front end will fit quite easily, which as well as giving me a 17″ wheel, will also give me much better brakes. So yeah, all in all, it’s a Good Thing.

Right then – as soon as I confirm that the yokes will fit I’ll grab a fork leg. And then *really* the bike will take a bit of a hiatus while I concentrate on the 748 and the Dart. Oh yes, the Dart – a new rear tyre is on the cards for this, as I’ve just requested a place on the Morini owners annual trackday at Cadwell Park. I’m still getting the odd attack of the heebie-jeebies when I remember how bad the existing rear tyre was last time out there.

Plans are afoot then. And absolutely none of them involve a drunken eBay odyssey. Yet.

Postscript: I dropped a note to the seller – they refunded practically half of the purchase price. Which I think is remarkably generous.