Saturday 25 April 2015

Friday bike

Two variations on one bike this week.
Francis Barnett Kestral
Francis Barnett Merlin

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 be similar.

The Specs

  • Start Type: Electric start.
  • Engine: Air-cooled, 124cc, sohc, 5 gears, chain drive.
  • Power: 10.7bhp
  • Torque: 6.3ftlb
  • Frame: Tubular steel cradle, tubular steel swing arm
  • Suspension: Telescopic front forks, twin shocks with preload adjust, rear
  • Dry weight: 107kg
  • Front brake: Single wavy disc with twin-piston caliper
  • Rear brake: Drum
  • Fuel capacity: 12 litres
  • Seat height: 780mm

Francis Barnett website.

Test in MCN of earlier version of HMC Classic link.

Sunday 19 April 2015

A day in the garage

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 paint.

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!).

Friday 17 April 2015

Friday bike

1975 Can-Am 500cc prototype
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:

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Flying Dragons

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:

1972-1973 CL350:
06171-456-810SM: Gold/purple
06171-456-810SN: Silver/purple
06171-456-810SP: Green/purple
06171-456-810ST: Blue/dark blue
1972-1973 CL450:
06171-347-810SM: Gold/purple
06171-347-810SN: Silver/purple
06171-347-810SP: Green/purple
06171-347-810ST: Blue/dark blue
(Just in case there's someone reading this who works in a Honda dealership in the US and has some old boxes at the back of the store!)

I've only been able to find pictures of CL 350s in two of the schemes, plus a picture of three CL 450 tanks:

Pretty groovy! If you wanted to replicate these, you'd either have to be a very talented painter, or it might be possible to have them done in vinyl wrap. (Anyone any experience of that?)

Now, I was planning on getting my CL resprayed..................

Sunday 12 April 2015


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.


Home page


Friday bike

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..
Laverda Montjuic

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.
Laverda Alpino

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.)

Monday 6 April 2015

Yorkhill Easter Egg Run 2015

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 snobbishness here!

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.

Some photos I took, I've posted more on Flickr.
Puting on makeup before run.
 A lot of riders came in fancy dress and brought children.

Other people's photos that I've stolen from the Web:
 Good to see the Police entering into the spirit of the occasion.
 Assembling at the SECC.
 On the way!
 As far as the eye can see!
At Yorkhill Hospital.


Friday 3 April 2015

Friday bike

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.