This blog started when I owned and MZ Skorpion Traveller and a bike magazine dismissed it with the phrase 'you can't tour on a single'. The Skorpion's gone and I now have a Triumph Bonneville, but I can't be bothered changing the title of the blog!
Yes, another old
British company name has reappeared as badges on Chinese bikes, (also
see AJS). The new Francis Barnetts are based on the Herald Motor
Company (HMC) Classic 125, which features a Chinese built Suzuki GN
125 'clone' engine.
No prices on the FB
website, but the HMC is listed as £1650 (plus on the road charges),
about 2300 Euros or US$2500, and I would imagine that the FBs would
Today I did a bit more
work on my Yamaha SZR 660. I'd bought this a couple of years ago, had started
to 'restore' it, but hadn't done any work for a while.
To recap, when I bought
it, it was a very tatty 'non runner' that had been abandoned in a
damp shed for four years, was very dirty, alloy was a bit corroded,
had damaged bodywork on the left hand side where it had fallen off
of its stand, and the rear tyre had a slow puncture.
What it was like when I bought it
Today I cleaned up the rear
wheel, wire brushed the corroded parts, then gave it a couple of
coats of satin black paint.
To find the slow
puncture, I fully inflated the tyre then rubbed soapy water over it
to see if I could see any bubbles. I found that it was leaking
between the tyre and rim at a four points, luckily all close to each
other. I deflated the tyre, broke the bead near the leaks, and
cleaned out corrosion and dirt from rim and tyre. I inflated it and
checked for bubbles. Only one point leaked now, so it was break the
bead again, smooth down the sealing surface of the rim, cleaned it
again, and inflated it. This time no bubbles!
Before I could inflate the
tyre I had to 'pop' it back onto the rim. Not having a compressor, I
used a couple of CO2 cartridges from my tubeless repair kit. Each
time the tyre popped back on the rim first time, then I could inflate
it with a footpump.
The swing arm looked
very tatty as a lot of the paint had flaked off and the alloy had
started to corrode. I cleaned it with some paraffin (kerosene for my
US readers) and an old toothbrush, this gets old chain lube off
fairly easily and cheaply. I spent a LOT of time removing corrosion
and old paint with a wire brush in and electric drill, smoothed the
surface with wet and dry, then gave it a couple of coats of silver
Last job was to fit a
new numberplate. When I'd got the bike the plate had been broken, so
I had to order a new one.
(Note to non UK
readers: here a vehicle keeps the same number through its life,
irrespective of how many owners it has. Number plates are sold by
approved sellers, and you can order them online.) Some sellers insist
on seeing your registration document and a form of ID, but the company I used didn't. I'd ordered it on Thursday night and it
arrived on Saturday morning, it was one of the cheapest companies I
could find (£7.49 including postage), and the quality is very good.
Note I took the care to
drill the mounting holes through digits so that you don't notice the
black plastic mounting screws.
The bike is in fairly
good condition, just very dirty and neglected. I'm planning on
selling it when it's finished as the riding position is just too
extreme for me (wouldn't have been 20 years ago!).
You can’t say Can-Am didn’t throw everything at motorcycles in the
early days. Flushed with their initial success, they attempted entering
the road bike market, but neither went beyond the prototype stage. The attempt was in 1975, with the use of a 500cc snowmobile engine in
a unique chassis. The rest of the bike was assembled using the TnT
front end, cast wheels and a monocoque tank and seat assembly similar in
design to Yamaha’s RD series. Only a couple of prototypes were constructed, and were distinct for
their unique exhaust system combining expansion pipes with a typical
conical silencer to look like twin pipes. Unfortuneatly the effective
ban on 2 strokes by the US Government due to emissions, cause the
project to be scrapped. I know of two examples still in existence. One in Alberta, Canada and
the other in North Carolina, owned by Gary Robison himself, which was
featured in the August 1989 issue of Classic Bike magazine. Link
The 1977 500cc CanAm street bike never made
it into production. Only 2 or 3 prototypes were ever built (circa 1975). One
was a street version which produced about 60 horsepower, while the other was an 85
horsepower road racing version. The engine was borrowed from a Bombardier snowmobile
and modified to accept a 5-speed gearbox. The powerplant was liquid cooled and
utilized a single horizontal rotary valve. The exhaust system was unique. The
lower pipe on each side was an expansion chamber, and was connected to the top pipe
(mufflers) with a small tube. This allowed expansion chamber performance while
remaining quiet enough for street use. This machine never went into production
because proposed EPA emission standards threatened its marketability in the United States.
Tony Murphy wrote a magazine article about this motorcycle in 1976. He recently
informed me that the prototypes are still running strong somewhere in Canada. Link
Some photos of a prototype spotted out on the road:
As regular readers will
know, I'm currently restoring a 1972 Honda CL 350. This has been a
bit of a slow process due to time/money/ frame of mind constraints,
but I do intend to get it on the road one day. Fellow blogger and CL
350 owner Larry mentioned the 'Flying Dragon' paint schemes
that were once an option on the CLs, so I did a bit of investigating.
Standard paint schemes for the 1972 CL 350 were gold or red.
Not my actual bike, but
what it should look like when finished.
However, in 1972 and
1973, Honda offered the Flying Dragon paint schemes on CL 350 and CL
450 models in the US. These were very rare and there is very little
on the Web about them, about the only thing is this article where
most of my info has come from.
The Flying Dragon
option came as a fuel tank and sidepanels to be fitted to an existing
CL 350, and were offered as an option through US Honda dealers. The
kits came from Japan as they have Honda Japan part numbers, and were
offered in four colour options:
That'll get your
attention! Found a free online magazine dedicated to Adventure
Touring. Looks like it's got a lot of articles about the type of
touring 90% of us will never do, but enjoy reading about. Some of the
articles are basically adverts, but they've got to pay for it
somehow. Well worth a look, and they also have a forum to discuss
various touring topics.
A couple of weeks ago I
was walking along the road when I heard the roar of an approaching
unsilenced bike. I looked round and saw a
bike that I hadn't seen an example of for at least 30 years..
In 1977, Laverda
launched the 500cc Alpino twin. (Known as Zeta in the
US). It was a modern, 500cc parallel twin , in a sporty, good
handling chassis. Downside was that it wasn't any faster than a Honda
400 Super Dream, but cost more than a Japanese 1000cc bike. Needless
to say, it didn't sell well and I've only ever seen one.
Laverda built a racing
version of the Alpino called the Formula 500, which was very
successful in its day. In 1979, British importer Slater Brothers,
built a road going 'replica' of the Formula 500, and named it
Montjuic after the racetrack in Barcelona.
The Montjuic was an
Alpino tuned to 50 bhp, (rather than 44), with high compression
pistons and sportier cams, an unsilenced exhaust, a small fairing and
seat unit made in the UK by Screen and Plastics, and rear sets and
low bars from Laverda's Jota model.
The result was a loud,
frantic, uncompromising sports bike, that due to its very high price
tag, was rare and exotic. Back in the 80s I only saw 3 or 4 of them
on the road, plus a couple raced in the 500cc Production class at
Knockhill racetrack (where they were completely outrun by the much
faster Yamaha RD 350s.)
Yesterday went to the Yorkhill Easter Egg Run on my Skorpion. Other than taking it for its MOT (UK annual
safety test) last weekend at a local shop, this was the first ride
I've done since September.
The format is that you
arrive at a location (carpark of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre), give a donation
(£10 is suggested), then go for an organised 8 mile (c.12km) run
round the West End of Glasgow, finishing at Yorkhill Children's
Hospital, where money raised is donated.
I arrived at about
10:00 and despite it being a bit cold and misty, there were already a
couple of hundred bikes there.
My Traveller was the only MZ there - and no, that's not stuff leaking out of it!
As we waited for the
11:00 start, there was a steady stream of bikes arriving, the weather
improved getting quite sunny, and I had a good wander round looking
at the very varied selection of bikes there.
Monkey bikes, Laverda 1000, BMW - all mixed in together.
By the time it was
ready to start the run the car park was packed and I've read
elsewhere that about 1100 bikes took part. It was fun riding in a
large, well organised group, and the marshals and Police
kept the group moving.
It was heartening to see thousands of people lining the route, waving
and cheering the riders. I was near the front, but I heard that some
of the riders further back got split up and separated from the main
group. I found this video, taken at the approach to the hospital, and
if you look at 1:16 you can see me wearing a red helmet riding my
silver Traveller (just in front of the yellow bike).
Once we arrived at the
hospital there was music, food, and some fund raising stalls. It was
actually quite warm by now (probably the warmest day so far this
year), and it was great just wandering around looking at the bikes.
Some riders had come in fancy dress, and many of the patients from
the hospital had been brought outside to see us.
It was interesting to
note that there were lots of different types of bikes there: sports
bikes, tourers, customs, trikes, scooters, etc., all together and
their owners mingling – no room for any motorcyling tribalism or
It was a great day out
and many thanks to everyone who took part, helped organise the event,
and contributed. At time of writing I don't know how much was raised,
last year it was £25,000, and it'll probably be about the same this year.
In January 1972, The UK Government raised the motorcycle riding age from 16 to 17, the same age for driving a car. As this would prevent 16 year olds starting work from using powered transport, the law allowed them to ride mopeds, and defined a moped as a two wheeler with an engine below 50cc and with pedals.
The Government had in mind something like an NSU Quickly, a low powered moped that was little more than a bicycle with an engine.
However, manufacturers quickly started expoliting the law by building ever more powerful 50cc motorbikes with a pair of pedal added on. Best of the bunch was probably the Yamaha FS1E, (known as the Fizzy), thousands of these were sold.
The Italian manufacturers had a wide range of very powerful, noisy and shoddily made bikes on offer, from the bizarre Fantic Chopper,
to the super cool Malaguti Olympique, this week's Friday bike.
Just look at it - clip ons, huge tank, sporty seat hump, twin exhausts - and this was reckoned to be the fastest moped you could buy. Most of the other mopeds could (maybe) manage 50 mph (80 km/h) with the rider flat on the tank down a steep hill, but the Olympique was reputed to do 60 mph (100 km/h), (although this was taken from speedo reading and the owner's wild imagination!)
When I was 16, this was the bike I wanted. However, I was still at school, had no money, and had to make do with a pushbike until I started work at 17.
Needless to say, lots of moped owners tried to 'tune' their bikes which resulted in airfilters being discarded, barrels butchered with inept 'porting', and painfully loud exhausts being fitted.
You used to be able to buy these expansion chambers that gullible owners thought would increase the power, but, being unsilenced, just made a racket and attracted the Police. Imagine a wasp in a Coke can amplified to about 120dB - that's what they were like!
Most of these moped were crashed, blown up, and suffered all sorts of owner neglect and abuse, so very few survive today. In 1977 the law was changed again to restrict mopeds tp 30 mph (50 km/h), and the brief era of sports mopeds was over.