Better lights for the Chott

Desperate for some extra lumens during the night sections of long distance trials like the Lands End, I have fitted a modern headlamp – which takes H4 bulbs.

Problem is, alternator produces 55w in total so a standard bulb (55w/60w) would drain the standard battery in no time. I have a bigger capacity gel battery I use for events, so there is some scope for draw-down (is that a term?) as long as I don’t ask too much of it.

Some small Japanese sports bikes – namely the ZXR400 Kawasaki – had 35w/60w headlamps! So I ordered a couple of these bulbs having been assured that they were standard H4 fitments. Guess what? Ever heard of H4R bulbs? Nor me. Same three terminals as an H4 and same overall dimensions, but the two bottom lugs that locate the bulb and stop it falling forward into the reflector are in slightly different positions.

These bulbs annoy ZXR 400 owners for precisely the opposite reason – they want a full 55w on dip but can’t fit H4 bulbs to their H4R bulb holders. But their answer provided me with a solution to my own (inverted) version of the same problem. Since the top tab prevents the bulb from rotating, the bottom tabs only really prevent it from falling into the bowl – so why not snip them off and replace them with something else in the right position? In my case I soldered on a straightened stainless split pin.

It ain’t a thing of beauty but it works.

Since the oomph for a 60w main would probably melt my old handlebar switch in a jiffy I have also run the main beam circuit through a relay hidden in the headlamp shell – but forgot to take any photos.

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Laverda Chott clutch clean-up – part 2

Clutch all clean and plates oil-free once more. That still leaves the question of how the oil got in there in the first place. The O-ring in the clutch basket ‘lid’ and the oil seal on the shaft are both good.

Even though the handbook says use 20w/50 engine oil in the gearbox, I have been using modern gearbox oil, thinking I was treating the old girl to all the pampering that modern oil technologies had to offer. But still the gearbox dragged after a few miles of use and – as I found once inside – the oil was clearly getting past the seals and onto the plates.

After much head scratching it occurred to me that just maybe the modern gearbox oil is too thin for the design and so could creep past the seals. I have since filled the gearbox with fully synthetic Agip 20w/50 engine oil and the clutch works much better – no drag, neutrals easy to find, reasonably progressive when feathering. So far my individual rides have been limited to a couple of hours, but the oil has been in there for about a fortnight now and there is still no sign of the old problems.

The 2014 Lands End Trial beckons so I will soon find out if the 20w/50 trick can last for 350 miles and 18 hours of almost continuous use – assuming I am not stuck at the start with no spark like last year!



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Laverda Chott clutch clean-up – part 1

In preparation for the Lands End Trial,  I entered something down here call the Coast to Coast. What a mistake! It was well-organised and the people – competitors and organisers alike – were friendly and helpful. But it was way too hard for me and it broke my heart (though nothing on the bike, fortunately) to be throwing the old girl to the ground every 30 minutes or so. I only did the morning session and still came home with some great bruises … and a sticky clutch. Taking the positives from it – Cornwall is like California in so many ways! – I told myself that the LET couldn’t possible daunt me now and, anyway, I at least knew that my clutch needed a clean and service.

This is meant to be a dry clutch and this cover is supposed to keep the gearbox oil off the plates. There’s a seal at the rear of the clutch basket on the shaft, thus …
… and this huge O ring is supposed to do the rest of the job. But note: seriously glooped-up, oily friction plates.
Behind the clutch basket.
All clean in here now.

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Sluggish Ducati starter syndrome

This is an old Ducati favorite. Bike doesn’t want to turn over and is a poor starter. Many’s the good battery blamed unjustly for the problem. And it’s not the starter motor either. It’s the cables. Apparently they build up resistance over time. But to be honest, fitting such spindly cables in the first place looks like a triumph of hope over experience. Easy fix. New cables all round: battery-solenoid; solenoid-starter motor; and a new earth strap to double-up with the original. Easy to make yourself. Buy all the bits from Vehicle Wiring Products.

New cables to and from the starter solenoid behind the right-hand front fairing panel.

Red marks the original supply cable which feeds the loom and the starter solenoid through a connector just visible to the right of the frame. Next to it is my auxiliary cable which runs straight from the battery right to the front of the bike. Two earth leads as well. Belt and braces.

New lead (sheathed) to the starter motor. Note the home made cover for the oil lines. I've done them all and fitted spiral binding to the brake hoses. Otherwise they act like saws.



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New legs for the Elefant

The main fork tubes on the Elefant were in a terrible state. One of them had lost so much of its gold anodising that it actually looked a little like a real Elephant leg.

At first I thought I would replace the whole fork. A bit of research revealed that lots of trail bikes of the same period came with multi-adjustable versions of the 45mm USD Showa forks that would slot right into my yokes. A bit of hunting soon turned up a beautiful set with new bushes and seals (off a Suzuki RMX 250). The match isn’t perfect because the legs are a bit longer overall and the caliper mounts will need machining to take the bottom damping adjuster. I want to take my time with the machine shop stuff and don’t want to wreck the geometry, so I have put the full swap on hold and instead rebuilt my forks using the Suzuki’s tubes and new bushes and seals (one of mine was completely lunched.

Note: state of fork legs.

Old leg is on the top, of course. Barely a fleck of gold left. Bottom leg could have come of a two-year-old bike. But it it slightly longer.

You can use the fork stanchion as a slide hammer to get your old seals out. But you need one of these to drive the new ones in. Works a treat too.

Necessity is the mother of invention, is she not?



That's better!

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1975 Moto Guzzi 850T restoration – gearbox strip

Hopes that life in the sealed environment of the gearbox – away from the dirty air and oil that had done all the damage to the engine – might still be hunky dory were short-lived.

The magnetic filler plug’s spiky metallic hairdo pointed to horrors within even before I’d drained the old oil.







At some point a lone roller had escaped from the torrington-type thrust bearing, and soon all the others went scuttling off after it.






A bit of detective work soon revealed what had been the undoing of the thrust bearing.The bearing itself is in three parts – the rollers and two large precision washers, called ‘runners’. In addition, the effective length of the shaft is set by the use of a shim which should be the same inner and outer diameters as the bearing runners to the distribute the loads evenly. In this box that shim was missing and in its place was a washer of dubious origin not wide enough to support the bearing properly. The dodgy washer is on the left; the factory shim on the right.


Where had all those rollers gone? Everywhere. There was swarf in every nook and cranny, and this bearing retainer plate shows the signs of Armageddon; as bits of hardened metal were mashed by the spinning gears the shrapnel must have been sent hurtling round inside the casing.





Amazingly the damage did not extend to the bearing faces of the gears and their respective inner sleeves. All escaped harm except this one.







And as if all those bits of bearing weren’t enough to be getting on with, the speedo drive seemed to have shed it’s locating ball bearing at some point and promptly eaten it. Well, that’s my guess. There was certainly no ball to be found and the drive gears looked like they’d had a good old chomp on something hard.





And finally … the shim at the front of the shift drum was missing altogether. Shimming this drum is the key to optimising the quality of your gearchange. No wonder this one was so clunky.











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California Replica arrives for recommissioning

When this ‘California’ arrived for recommissioning and attention to the cosmetics, it was immediately obvious that all was not what it seemed. The buddy seat, screen, panniers, high bars and and footboards give it much of ‘the look’, but the instruments, front/rear mudguards and the 1000cc motor  are all from a Spada. The side panel tells the truth – almost. The frame is from a G5 or a convert!

The plan is to give her a thorough mechanical refresh, new paint and chrome, and a set of stainless guards to complete the Cali vibe.











































The massive ‘bars (and half the switchgear!) are from a Cali 3.

















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Elefant cosmetics

The main frame is pretty clean, but the surface corrosion in the sub-frame was an offence to me so it’s been blasted and repainted.











I used Halfords wheel paint (‘steel’) which isn’t a bad match if you are not being too anal. My priority was to get her presentable and protected, so I can start using her in earnest. I reckon she’ll be in her element in the muddy lanes round here.

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1975 Moto Guzzi 850T restoration – engine strip

This was an almost standard bike and so has spent its whole life without anything approaching proper filtration of its air and oil. Such refinements did not arrive until the next iteration of the T line – the 850 T3. Evidence of the harm all that dirty air and oil can do is everywhere.

This is what passes for an oil filter on these early 850s. The mesh pot lets plenty of muck circulate endlessly, and the damage done is clear to see on the various plain bearings.

There's space for a proper spin-on oil filter where this sits, and that's exactly what we'll be installing when the time comes.











What passes for an air filter on an 850T

All air and no filter.








More evidence of dirty oil and lots of it.

Some deep scoring in the rear main bearing.









A rather tired little end eye.

Terrible scoring originating from the oil hole says it all. Note the big chip out of the bearing too.










All four cam followers.

Crankpin looking better than I expected, but a micrometer tells a different story.










Also revealed: a pukka factory fix for porous crankcases. The owner stopped off at Mandello back in ’76 on his way home from Botswana and the factory finally put an end to the weeping. Aluminium putty roughly applied and a coat of sealant. Effective but not very neat. I think we’ll tidy it up.









Elsewhere …

More than one barrel stud was finger tight ...

... and the camchain had been eating the crankcases.

















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Cagiva Elefant 1993 900AC

Just arrived!


Great-looking bikes, in my humble opinion.This one has got a carbed version of the two-valve Ducati motor much-loved in 900SS/Monster 900 form.

Needs a bit of love but otherwise sound I think. Obvious stuff: one fork seal is well-blown; previous owner had been running it with a slash-cut exhaust (!); clutch deafeningly noisy (even for a Duke – the rubber gasket is missing from the clutch cover so the basket can just graze the inside); and the upper forks tubes are suffering from severe ally-blight, having lost most of their anodising.

badly corroded fork tubes

Witness marks inside clutch cover

What a missing clutch cover gasket looks like.


Deeper investigations also revealed some knackered exhaust studs, a seized footrest mounting bolt (common on these if you neglect the copaslip), and the upper silencer mounting bolt seized in its captive nut.

Big plus points: belts and shims done just a few hundred miles ago, new tyres and a Givi topbox plate.

Got to do something about that fork corrosion though!


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