Saturday, 28 May 2011


Stripped and ready for action
If you listen with half an ear, you may be able to hear the grinding noise as the bottom of the barrel is scraped on the "Titles beginning with "inter" " front. It's pretentious, silly, and just a little bit of fun for me at least, but there are only a limited number of words in the English language that begin with "inter" and are even vaguely relevant to the content of the post. It may have to stop quite soon. Try not to be too disappointed?

Not all fiddly bits are for 4 strings.
Word games aside for a moment, I'd like to make the observation that building a motorcycle is in some ways like organising your life. The more effort you put in, and the more attention to detail you pay, the better the outcome. This is probably quite profound, but luckily this isn't a blog about my life, it's a blog about some of the motorcycles in it so we can confine ourselves to considering the assortment of shock absorber related parts that required some attention. The ally top collars (top left) got a visit from the polishing mop, the chrome plated bottom collars (top right) were spoofed back to some semblance of factory freshness by the judicious use of Scotch Brite and fluid from the parts washer, while the two sets of plastic collars were cosmetically improved in much the same way, but with less emphasis on the Scotch Brite and more emphasis on the cleaning fluid.
Class of 82 Reunion

Meanwhile, Johnny had painted the springs in the French Blue two pack because we felt that was a little more flexible than the enamel I brushed the frame with. A coat of aerosol satin black on the shrouds, and some Ford Arizona Gold on the shock absorber bodies and I reassembled the whole thing using the shock absorber spring compressor I made a while ago liberally bedecked with rags to stop any of the assorted paint finishes from being blemished.

Shocking the entire assembly...
You might have thought that with everything reassembled, that the shock absorbers could be bolted straight on. That would be to ignore the state of the bolts, and indeed the nuts. It's also ignoring bolting the swing arm in, but that mostly involved grease and a rotary wire brush. The mountings for the shock absorbers utilise the 10mm x 1.25mm thread and not the Euro favourite 10mm x 1.5mm thread. Since all the original fasteners seemed to have been the victims of some sort of systematic fastener abuse, they all looked quite appalling and were replaced with new stainless examples after a quick cross urban dash.

With the frame and swinging arm reunited, and the shock absorbers looking not entirely unlike they might possibly have cost slightly more than they actually did, the next thing to do would be to fit the engine. With that in mind I've started removing the mankiness from it, but I was interrupted by an interesting text message, and as I remarked earlier, much like a motorcycle, one's life turns out in accordance to the amount of effort one puts into the details, so I abandoned the engine cleaning in favour of a visit to the pub, in the interests of attending to the details.

Fickle, that's me. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


So, not a café racer then?
I think it's probably fair to say that I have far too many things on my plate and in trying to make some progress on all of them, I end up not making much progress on them. Occasionally, some new thing will inveigle it's way onto the schedule and if that doesn't go swimmingly well, it tends to throw a javelin through the spokes of the wheels of the wagon of progress on other things. The latest exemplar of this phenomena has been a rigid frame for a Triumph unit 750 engine which, predictably, rather more plummeted to the deep end of the pool and sat on the bottom sulking than it progressed swimmingly.

It's got a bronze swimming certificate.
In fairness, the lack of progress had more to do with the words "put those jig spacers in that stainless steel box" apparently meaning something other than "put those jig spacers in that stainless box" in certain local English dialects, and the eventual death of the nut in the tailstock feed on the lathe in the face of decades of neglect and abuse. Luckily, the nut in the tailstock died after I'd made some new dummy bearings to fit the headstock to the post on the jig, which meant that progress was held up as opposed to prevented entirely.

Making a mounting out of a molehill

Eventually, we, or at least Johnny, managed to track down a "little man" who could manufacture a new nut and that was sorted out for a reasonable sum of money.  With the lathe restored to full function we made the rest of the bracketry to retain the engine in the frame, and the Triumph frame is very nearly finished, although there is some muttering about fitting a twin leading shoe drum braked Triumph front wheel into the Suzuki GS550 forks. Luckily, I have a lathe for that sort of thing.

True Blue.
In between episodes of cursing the vagaries of assorted influences, I did manage to find the time to make the Z250 frame shiny and blue, so while progress was limited, there was at least some progress. I don't recall if I mentioned that I dismantled the shock absorbers and sanded all the paint off of the bodies in preparation for a fresh coat of paint. With the frame and swinging arm painted the next logical step would be to re unite them, and for that, I'll need the shock absorbers. Getting them painted and reassembled would seem like an idea in that case....

Who knows, it might even lead to some progress on the bloody thing.

Sunday, 1 May 2011


Towards a brighter future.
One of the differences between the process of building a motorcycle as an average enthusiast, and the same process as portrayed by assorted television documentaries, is that the average enthusiast is seldom working entirely with brand new components. Much like brush painting the frame, using second hand components saves money, but takes more time.  It probably possible to draw up a spread sheet, or write a complex equation to determine whether buying new or adapting used parts is the most economically viable solution for any given set of circumstances. Determining which is going to give the builder the most satisfaction however is a different matter.

Feeling a little blue...

If you recall, the premise behind building the Z250 was to sell it and get enough money in heap to rebuild the BMW engine with less in the way of oil leaks. While that's the object of the exercise, it doesn't mean that the job need lack for satisfaction, but it does mean that I have to keep an eye on my tendency to get too carried away with things such as seat catches. Commercially, the project makes little sense as the retail value of a Z250 Café Racer is going to be somewhat less than the retail value of, for instance, a Z750 Café Racer, but the amount of time and money involved would be the same, or at least very similar, in either case.

Pontifications on the economics of modifying motorcycles aside, the thing needs to be finished so I wet flatted the primer with some 600 grit wet and dry, removed all the paint sludge and flipped the frame over again. Brush painting is often seen as a "quick fix" and if you're slapping Smoothrite all over something without disassembling anything or attempting to remove any rust, dust, grease or oil, it may well be. It would also be completely pointless, as it isn't going to look very nice, or last very long. The object of the exercise here is to spend less money than powder coating the frame would cost, but at the same time maintaining the standard of finish, and as a consequence it all takes rather more time than you might imagine. Applying the colour coat to the frame and swinging arm took nearly two hours and needs to be done in good light. Starting from the top and working down means that the inevitable drips don't land on your carefully applied and laid off handiwork and mar the finish.

Johnny has wandered off with the rest of the bodywork and is applying some paint to that, which could lead you to believe that it might all start to look like a motorcycle again during the next week. However, the engine needs a thorough clean and a new gear change shaft oil seal and the wheels, brakes and forks will all need a little love before they're deemed lovely enough to be re-united with the frame.