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Friday, 30 December 2011

Coming soon - Ducati 750GT

I've recently managed to get my hands on a 1974 Ducati 750GT for a while and I'll soon be posting a few articles on fettling and riding this magnificent machine. This is the Daddy of all Ducati 'V' twins and as such, represents a very significant moment in motorcycling history. You may notice that I don't buy into the whole 'L' twin idea - if a Moto Guzzi 90 degree engine is a 'V', then so is the Ducati.

First impressions are very good. What a cracker of an engine, in a chassis that works really well for the period. I'm rather smitten by it right now, and would have one in a heartbeat if funds allowed. I should have bought one a few years ago before the prices of bevel twins started to hit the classic bike premier league. Bugger...

Engine looks as good as it goes.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

KD Benches. Made in Scotland - from wee girders!

As well as Iron Bru, haggis and very good malt whisky, Scotland has another lesser known (but equally fine) export in the form of KD Benches.

I've been looking for a bike lift for a while, and despite some very good personal recommendations of other makes, I finally decided to go with KD. A few days before Christmas, I ordered a standard size bench with a front wheel clamp at a cost of £440 delivered, and astonishingly it arrived only 2 days later on the 23rd. Assembled and well packed, the driver and I struggled with the 80 odd kilo package (I'm not getting any younger), and it was breathlessly deposited in my yard.

It was then that I remembered the time we had a one ton safe delivered to our office. The delivery men simply used a few alloy bars as rollers and it glided into place, so a couple of cut down brooms later, the bench was in position and ready to go. Egyptian technology wins the day.

I'm delighted with my purchase.  Very nicely made, it locks positively in 3 height positions and the whole design works really well. But for me, the killer feature is the wooden top. Not only does it look nice, but the surface is kind to your dismantled covers and parts, and it becomes a convenient work bench to lay out assemblies, components, tools etc.

A top class piece of kit, and best of all it's made in Britain.

See this link for more details:

Friday, 23 December 2011

5 things that the OBB workshop couldn't live without

1. Facom 1/4 drive socket set
I've had this socket set for about 10 years, and it really does prove that quality tools are worth spending money on. Superbly made, a joy to use and will outlive me.

2. Aldi ultrasonic cleaner
I bought this about 2 years ago for the princely sum of £11.99, and it has been so useful that I can't imagine what it would be like not to have one. A bit on the small side, but with a little ingenuity and juggling you can clean carbs, switches, wiring and even your partners jewellery.

3. Facom stubby 3/8 ratchet
I do like Facom tools. This is a short ratchet and practically guarantees that you will never strip a thread again. Take them off with a long one, put them back on with this.

4. Lock wire
I got this roll of wire in a box of Bantam bits from a chap who worked in the aerospace industry (obviously appreciated fine engineering).

Not only is it great for the obvious, it's pressed into service for hanging up items to paint, poking things clear, temporary hose clips, lashing stuff together and a million other uses.

5. Dremel Stylus
A mini rechargeable Dremel that's always on hand to grind, cut, drill and sand. Another 'couldn't do without' item.

OBB seal of approval - Venture Classics

It gives me great pleasure to recommend top notch businesses on this blog, and Chris Spaett of Venture Classics is right up there with the best. I know a few people who have bought from him (including me), and the feedback about the quality of his bikes and service is universally excellent.

He stocks some very nice stuff, so if you are in the market for a quality addition to your stable, take a look at his website on and buy with confidence. 

There's a few samples of his current stock below. I'd pick the Norvelo myself. And if you're into naming your bikes, you could always call it Ivor...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Phew! (Vincent winter fettle part 1)

I had some time on my hands today, so decided to get cracking on the pension fund (Rapide). I've had the bike for about a year and when I bought it I decided to enjoy riding it rather than rush to take it to bits, so this is all uncharted territory.

I must have been feeling very brave, because I decided to tackle the most scary job first - a look inside the timing chest. Why scary I hear you all ask? I'll tell you then. It's scary because you can easily spend over £1500 in parts alone to refurbish the potential wear and damage you may find on examination. But it turns out lady luck was on my side today. As I nervously eased the timing cover off, I was greeted by the sight of a lovely lightened steel large idler gear and shaft assembly and the general appearance of a nicely put together engine in good order.

The large idler gear is a bit of an achilles heel with Vincents, because originally the factory fitted them made from alloy. A clever idea, it was intended to expand at the same rate as the cases, keeping things quiet and in a constant state of mesh. Unfortunately after 25+ years, alloy gears are known to shed teeth and distribute the bits throughout the engine, so it's advisable to replace them with steel. This involves stripping the whole timing side down and then re-adjusting mesh (including the selection of the correct sized small gear on the end of the crank from about 20 different sizes. Quite a big job, and since the engine has been running so nicely, I'm loathe to disturb it too much.

So it's just a clean up, new gasket and seals and on to the next job. Watch this space for the next episode, as I get to the bottom of the mystery of the (gradually) vanishing clutch pushrod.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

It's turning into Vincent week at OBB....

Take a look at this wonderful promotional film by Avon Tyres, which shows a Vincent being ridden in exactly the way that the makers intended. It's fascinating to see the bike in context, and it gives a real sense of just how quick a Rapide could be on the roads that were around at the time.

It also set me thinking that standards in riding attire have clearly been slipping. So all you motorcyclists who've given up wearing a tie when you ride out on your GSXR think on... you're letting the side down.

Monday, 19 December 2011

When the government encouraged motorcycling (by accident of course)

There's an awful lot of people out there who owe a great debt of gratitude to a chap called John Peyton. He was the Transport Minister who, in 1971 introduced the law which restricted 16 year olds to ride mopeds. Hilariously, it had exactly the opposite effect than the one he was hoping for.

Whilst government ministers quaffed their brandies and imagined a few die-hard spotty kids persevering with Raleigh Runabouts, manufacturers both small and large drove a steamroller through the regulations and designed the flashiest, fastest, coolest mopeds imaginable. The 'sixteener special' was born.

By 1974, the big players were Yamaha's FS1-E and the Honda SS50 (AP50's came later). Then there were oddball European makes like Casal, Batavus and KTM(!). Even Mobylette got in on the act. But the real glam, the bikes that were discussed in hushed tones, and the ones that were rumoured to hit 60+ were the Italians. The Fantic TI, Malaguti Olympique and Garelli Tiger Cross had ultimate street credibility, that is of course when they were actually working.

Presumably rattled by this blatant disregard at their attempts to spoil everyone's fun, the government eventually amended the law to limit mopeds to a top speed of 30mph. Amazingly, it took them 6 years, but when they did, the bubble burst almost overnight and the craze was over. Mopeds went back to the uncool wall, and soon kids copped out and were buying cars that previously their Mums wouldn't have been seen dead in. Big exhausts and anodised wheel nuts were still years away, but the trend had shifted.

So, it gives me great pleasure and genuine pride (in this context) to admit that I am 53, and that my motorcycling career began on a full fat, no holds barred sports 'ped.

My first road bike was a Puch VS50, yellow and chrome, with 3 speed hand change. This was soon realised to be a mistake and was quickly chopped in for a Fizzy (it's funny, I don't actually remember anyone calling them Fizzy then).

Yes, CUP 28L was my dream come true. It really was a lovely little bike. Candy gold, with optional indicators, it was one of the very early FS1-E's which had SS50 on the side panels. I think that this badging was quite short lived as presumably, Honda took offence. Anyway, as I was saying, what a lovely bike. It took me everywhere, it made me some lifelong friends, it impressed the right girls, it made me feel part of something, and most of all, it made me fall in love with motorcycles.

So - if you've ever wondered why a very large proportion of bikers are now around 50-55 years old, it's because literally hundreds of thousands of kids like me rode mopeds between 1972-1977. If you are also a member of that short lived unofficial club, then I suggest that you buy this absolutely brilliant book.

144 pages of technicolour 1970's memories can be yours for only a tenner. I bought a copy and I love it. Do yourself a favour and click on the link below.

Now all I need is about four grand plus for an original mint early Fizzy. It's genuinely tempting.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Sign of the times?

Can somebody please tell me why there isn't a proper blue plaque at the site of the old Vincent factory in Stevenage? There is, in fact a valiant 'home made' effort, but unfortunately it just doesn't have the same gravitas as the real thing. I understand that the English Heritage scheme only operates in London, but surely Stevenage Council could scrape together a few quid to have a proper 'cast' plaque produced.

At a time when everyone and his dog are banging on about the importance of manufacturing, it's a shame that we can't officially recognise one of the finest and most innovative engineering companies of an industry that was once such a major part of our economy.

Philip Vincent has this...

Whilst Edward Turner has this. Looks like Edward Turner
got a plaque made by Vincent and Philip Vincent got a plaque 
made by Triumph... 

(just a joke all you Triumph fans, 
I'd very much like to own an early 50's T100)

My winter to do list - part 1

I will soon be embarking on a program of repairs and maintenance to the Rapide so that hopefully, I will be able to enjoy a good summer's riding next year. The clutch pushrod has been gradually eaten by the actuating mechanism, and now there is no adjustment left so this will be first on the agenda. At the same time I will be fitting a needle roller thrust bearing conversion (available form the VOC).

I'm also planning to look inside the timing chest (scary...), and hopefully, that's all it will be - a look.

The primary chain case cover will be coming off as there is a leak from the mating face at the rear, and if necessary, a new chain and tensioner will be fitted.

The old girl has been running really well this year (despite using a bit too much oil) so I'm going to delay any further investigations and try to minimise disrupting anything else. The new pistons and barrels that I hastily purchased earlier in the year will be considered next winter.

Better late than never

It's been a while since my last ramblings. No feeble excuses or lame explanations, I just haven't had time.
The good news is, I have loads of new tales, opinions and bikey things to report, so keep looking, there will be lots of posts over the next few weeks.