Saturday 29 March 2014

Friday bike

A few years ago I posted a series called 'Old Flames' where I featured bikes that I'd owned. This week's Friday bike could be the start of an occasional sries of 'bikes I nearly bought',
Back in 1979, I was 21 and was at last earning enough money that I could afford to buy a new middle sized bike, and drew up a list of 'possibles'. Eventually I bought a Yamaha SR 500 but a close second on my list was a Honda CB400N 'Super Dream'. 

A bit of history: In 1977, Honda launched the CB 250/400T 'Dream' ('Hawk' in the US) which was a major step forward compared the previous CB 250/360 G5 models. The Dreams had a 3 valve per cylinder twin cylinder engine with electronic ignition and balance shafts, and the bikes had fabricated 'Comstar' wheels and sealed chains. They got very good reviews for their technical innovation, but were less well regarded for their rather podgy styling. Within 9 months, Honda launced a revamp as the CB250/400N 'Super Dreams', with 6 rather than 5 speed gearboxes and much improved styling which matched the larger bikes in their range.
The Super Dreams were very succesful, especially the 250 version which fitted in with the learner laws at the time, and was for many years was the biggest selling bike in the UK.
The 400 sold fewer as most riders who'd passed their test on a 250 moved onto 500/550 cc bikes, but it was still highly regarded and I remember a magazine saying that if BMW built a 400cc twin, it would be like this.


Being so popular meant that there were plenty of aftermarket accessories, with Rickman fairings and Rickman or Krauser luggage turning them into useful tourers.
Had I bought  a CB400N, it would have ended up with a Rickman fairing and Krauser luggage, and I probably wouldn't have bought the BMW I eventually went touring on.
Many years later I eventually rode a CB400N (I'd ridden plenty of 250s), and I was very impressed by the wide spread of power and how 'together' the bike felt. Not buying one back in 1979 was probably the worst motorcycling mistake I've made, but that's life!
However, there's a postscript to the story - in the early 90s I was thinking about buying another bike and I came across a Honda CB400A for sale locally. This was the very rare version of the earlier Dream fitted with a 2 speed automatic gearbox. As I was commuting across town at the time the automatic appealed, but I thought it would be too restricting for more open road use. Found a picture of one and you can see why Honda thought a restyle was quickly needed:


Friday 21 March 2014

Friday bike

How about a twin BSA A7 powered outfit with an 'add on' electric starter? This was listed on Ebay but the auction ended today.

Listing details:

This historic bike was  built by persons unknow in 1969. 

First documented  (next door to the 007 Bond 'rocket firing' BSA Lightning) in Bacon's    "Book of the BSA twins & triples" .  The bike's construction (from 2  x A7SS engines slung in an elongated frame)  remains something of  a mystery.

I have done some significant but discreet renovation work in order to bring the bike into good running order, with historic tax, MOT exempt, and on the road as an outfit.

The old Garrard chair body  was passed on to me with a decent old leather jacket .   I have fitted a propstand rear chain driven starter motor and sorted out the primary drive chain tensioning between the engines;   I also rebuilt the mags and put a Linslay 12 volt conversion to a reconditioned standard A10 dynamo , so that a car battery is fitted in the sidecar boot for the starter motor.  That's if  if you can't kick start it for one reason or another.  She goes well and ticks over nicely.

The bike was built and subsequently registered in '69 with a standard buff green log book, which I have.    The registration number is 710BRB;   My daughter tells me it could be worth more than you think.   Anyway its the original registration number,  on the  original log book & current V5.

Roger Sharman of Cake street Classics found this bike at a show, and I swapped it with him for a number of part built bikes and motorcycle parts.   You can see from some of the photos, the bike must have been laid up in a shed for years.

I  like to swap bikes around,  so here it is.  You won't find another one like it.  If you want a swap or a part exchange, give me a ring.  Especially if you've got a Vincent Comet,  or a bigger vincent or norvin in need of work.  

Sunday 16 March 2014

Another event

Friday bike

One of these went past me in the street and I thought it looked so cool that I had to search for it on the Web.


I really liked the flat tracker/street scrambler look, but am a bit disappointed as I thought from the tank badge it was a Yamaha.

Imagine if this was built by someone not based in China and had an engine of about 250 - 400cc - that would be really cool!

If anyone's interested , there are a couple of sellers in the UK offering the bike at around £1500.  one two.

Technical stuff::

Tuesday 11 March 2014

A big tour on a single

Found details of Steph Jeavons, who's just about to set off around the world on a Honda CRF250L.
Blog: here

Facebook page: here

See, you don't need to be a millionaire actor with a 1200cc bike and a film crew with you! Hope it goes well for her!

*********************UPDATE 16/03/14*************************************

She's made it onto the cover of what I think is the Sunday Times motoring section.

Monday 10 March 2014

DIY GPS mount

Thanks to my friend Pat Brennan in Ireland for this:

Here's something that might, or might not, be of interest. Briefly, our pal Ger Duhig -- you might know him,, had bought a no-name Chinese GPS last year for about €160 and remains very pleased with it. Samsung processor, all the right sort of internal kit, just like the branded ones apart from the no-branding. I wanted one, as I've got no sense of direction. Ger's UK supplier had gone AWOL, but Ger found me another, in Stockton-on-Tees. Fine, so I bought one for me and one for Frank Swords (Pan European ST 1300 man, whom you probably know from our rallies, and who has no credit cards!).

The hardware came by DHL within two days of dispatch. That's two days to Bray from Shenzhen, China!

Installing the mapware off the separately-supplied CD was easy enough but refining it for the 4.3" screen size was a little beyond me, so I got Frank Swords' son Greg -- an absolute genius, he runs his own computer business -- to spend ten minutes sorting it out.

Fine ... but how to fit the mounting bracket to the Skorpion? The factory has a lot to answer for in my opinion, fitting those oh-so-clever Paolo Tarozzi bars. Anyway, it had happened that just before Christmas my gas central heating "boiler" had gone belly-up, so I needed a new one really quickly. Just what I needed five days before Christmas, a bill for €1,800! But in the process the installer had managed to omit carrying off a few offcuts of (roughly) 22mm o/d copper tube. These bits struck me as potentially useful. I rarely throw anything away and so have a house full of junk, a fact that alone would disqualify me from Good Housekeeping awards.

To begin with, I soldered two 8mm i/d washers inside one end of a short section of copper tube (photo #2). In the other end, I cut off a separate copper-tube section, reduced the diameter till it would fit inside the main tube, and soldered it inside that tube (photo #3). Then I sliced the end off the redundant bar-end weight (I'd discarded those weights earlier, having fitted Halcyon stainless bar-end mirrors instead). The washers and copper insert weren't to add strength, merely to locate the tube in place on the handlebar. See photo #1 for all the components. (The small metal piece at lower right is a chunk I'd needed to hacksaw off the old bar-end fitting.) For soldering I used plumber's solder and Fry's Powerflow Flux, and a small butane blowtorch for heating. Definitely not a job for my usual cored solder and a 25W Weller electric soldering iron!

The remaining photos show the installation in place.

Friday 7 March 2014

There's touring.......

..........and there's touring!

Friday bike

Thanks to Pat Brennan for suggesting this week's bike.

1955/56 Derny Taon 125

This distinctive bike was built in 1955-56 by the Derny company more famous for the 'pacing bikes' used during cycle races at velodromes.

The bike was designed by Roger Tallon, designer of the TGV high speed train, watches, and televisions amongst other things.
The bike unfortunately led to the demise of the Derny company, but their name lives on as velodrome pacing bikes are referred to as 'dernies'.

Thursday 6 March 2014

Forward to the Past

We're barely into 2014 but Yamaha have already shown their 2015 SR 400.

This is basically the same bike they launched back in 1978 as the SR 500, other than smaller capacity and fuel injection. I bought an SR 500 back in 1979, so it's interesting that Yamaha are selling a slightly updated version 35 years later. Whilst the SR I owned wasn't a bad bike, it had a number of problems that hopefully Yamaha have addressed:

Very fussy carb, possibly due to being underdeveloped(?). It was easy enough to start cold or hot, but if it was warm you could be swinging on the kickstarter dozens of times before it would start. The carb had more parts in it than the engine, including a 'cold starting' lever and a 'hot starting' button. Fuel injection should have dealt with these problems.

Poor finish, both of plated parts and paint. Fairly typical of 70s bikes, and as the general standard of finish has improved since then, shouldn't be a problem now. Also, the 'heat shield' on the exhaust points towards it containing a catalytic converter, which in turn would require a stainless steel silencer. The chrome steel silencer on my old one rusted through within a year.

Poor handling. Better quality tyres and suspension should have dealt with this. Interestingly the new SR has an 18 inch front wheel whilst the old one had 19 inch.

Poor spares back up. Shouldn't be a problem now as you should be able to order anything through the internet.

Total lack of accessories, you couldn't even get a properly designed rack. Probably not any better now!

Looking at the photo, the new bike now has a multi piston front caliper and a grab rail, and that 'canister' in front of the engine is probably a carbon filter to get round Californian emission laws, so won't be fitted elsewhere.

The bike is listed at $5,990 in the US (£3573, 4321), which if it was offered for sale in the UK would make it a bargain compared to the Royal Enfield Bullet 500 EFI (£4299) as well as having a few decades more development. However, I can't really see it being on sale here (but I could be wrong!) Pity really as I imagine that it would be a fun bike to ride (IF Yamaha have sorted out the problems), and it would fit in well with the current trend for restoring 70s Japanese bikes.

Sunday 2 March 2014


You can often judge how good a holiday has been by the number of dead insects on your bike.

Saturday 1 March 2014

Old flames revisited

A couple of years ago I featured bikes I used to own referring to them as 'Old flames'. Found scans of OFs 1 and 2 and 5 original advertising leaflets.

This is an earlier version of the CB200 as it has a drum front brake. I think this was only fitted for the first year of production, but was almost certainly better than the cable operated disc of the later versions. This was one of those designs that worked in theory, but not in practice. It had a self adjusting mechanism that always failed and the brake never felt 'right' or stayed in adjustment for very long. When I had OF 5, I nearly bought a drum brake front end from a breakers as the disc was so much hassle!
These scans were posted on the excellent Japanese Vintage Bike Club group on Facebook.