Originally written for a club newsletter Nov. 2000
The clutch story
Back in the late 1970s when the world was new, it seemedlike to me, I rode an 850 Commando and a battered but usually reliable A10 650 combo fitted with a very practical wooden box sidecar. This was also very uncomfortable. Or so my girl friend told me, but that's another story.
I had recently spent an evening in Salisbury drinking in the then excellent bikers pub The Royal George, and was talking to a chap who had a spare Commando cylinder head that he would sell for a fiver. I didn't need one, but one should never pass up a bargain, so I agreed to return the following weekend by which time he would have collected it from wherever it was. I decided to take the combo just in case there were more parts to be had. So Friday afternoon I was riding to my garage to fit a new rear chain. On changing into third gear there was a loud clank and the old chain, out of which I had been determined to get as much use as possible, broke and locked the gear box and engine up.
Never mind it's only a short push. At the garage I fitted the new chain OK, but as I rode away I heard a horrible knocking in third. The shock of locking everything solid had been enough to break one of the teeth off a 3rd gear pinion. Never mind I still had 3 gears and so the following morning off I went with 2 friends, Eoin and Jane, on their Norton 650SS, to make a weekend of it.
The ride down to Salisbury from my home in Marlow, about 80 miles, was very uneventful. I had kept the solo gearing so without a passenger I could cruise around 60 mph. Coming off the roundabout just short of the Royal George there was an awful clattering from down below and the engine wasn't connected to the back wheel any more. Funny, I thought as I pushed it into the pub car park.
After a beer I removed the primary chain-case, which isn't a pleasant job on a combo that involves much leaning over the seat and cursing. Fortunately I always carried a full tool-kit in the sidecar box. The chain was still in one piece but the clutch had come off the mainshaft, which had been spinning around being driven by nothing. The peculiar clutch centre nut lost its threads on retightening so I had to have another. Asking everyone in the pub surprisingly failed to locate one, but all was not lost as I had one in the garage back at Marlow, 90 miles away. The minor logistical problem was solved by Eoin and Jane returning with the keys to my garage and Commando to give to another Friend, Pete, who would come to the rescue on my Commando with the spare centre nut.
By 10.00 PM I was getting a little worried, and a little drunk, when in walked Pete announcing that It was a bit silly of me not to have supplied the key to the lock & chain through the Commando back wheel. I thought better than to ask him how he got it off or where it had gone. Armed with the replacement nut the primary drive was assembled by torchlight and it was during the reassembly that Pete asked what had happened to the tab washer. I had wondered what BSA had put a flat on that peculiar nut for.
So off we went, and then we weren't. A few miles down the road just outside Middle Wallop the nut came undone again. By the light of a streetlamp off came the brakelever, footrest, chaincase and back on went the clutch followed by the chaincase footrest and brakelever and we were going again - for about 5 miles. This time I didn't bother with the footrest and breaklever. The next time I didn't even bother with the chaincase. In Basingstoke around 1.00AM the nut came undone again, and this time the clutch centre had sheared the woodruff key and we were stuck for the night. We found a school garden tool shed to sleep in just off the road but as I had only 1 sleeping bag that Pete claimed, I didn't get much sleep First thing saw us off on the Commando searching for a bike shop that would have just the special square sectioned, rounded at both ends woodruff key in stock. We found a trial bike shop but surprisingly the only key they had was too long and not rounded. Back at the bike we managed to cut the key in half with wire cutters and a brick, and with mole grips rounded the ends a bit on a kerbstone. The key wasn't even square but rectangular in section so the clutch centre wouldn't sit on the shaft squarely meaning it wouldn't disengage properly. But never mind, if I pushed it along a bit from a standstill before I banged it into 1st. we would be OK.
This time we made it back in one go. With the clutch jammed almost solid, only 3 gears, no back brake and my foot resting in the side-car box, cursing every traffic light and Zebra crossing I roared into Marlow around lunch time. Greeting us was rapturous applause from the throngs of applauding people lining the High St. Free beers they shouted.
No not really, but I felt we had deserved it.
The horn button
Last nights ride home from the club night at the Plough was uneventful, though wet as it was p-----g down. Got home, peeled off the dripping leather and went to bed to enjoy the sleep of the just, only to be awakened at around 2.00 AM by an odd buzzing. I rolled over a couple of times hoping it would go away, but it just carried on. So I got up, opened the bedroom door and it got louder. Half way down the stairs it sounded like it might be a horn. Opened the hall door and it definitely was a horn, blaring from the garage.
This suddenly became a nightmare.
I've rigged up a microswitch with a car horn as a burglar alarm and instantly thought that someone was in my garage stealing my bikes. I've got to stop them. So disregarding the fact that I'm naked I grabbed my uncles old wartime machete which I kept conveniently on the wall in the cupboard under the stairs & rushed in, to a garage full of bikes and fortunately no thieves.
My A10 was still there, still dripping wet with the horn blaring.
It's 2.00 o'clock in the morning; I'm half asleep and now being deafened. WAAH! I hit the horn button which does nothing but hurt my hand. WAAAH! There is a bezel, which unscrews that holds the horn button on so I unscrew it. The spring does what springs do and the horn button goes flying but the horn becomes silent. For about 3 seconds, and starts again. WAAAAH! I shake the handlebars willing it to stop and I swear it gets louder. WAAAAAH! What are the options? Pull off the battery connections. No good, under the seat, 2 spanners. WAAAAAAH! Pull off the horn connections, brilliant - where's the horn? WAAAAAAAH! Inside the headlamp nacelle behind all the complicated new relays and wiring for my new fangled headlight that I installed last week. WAAAAAAAAH!! I can just about get my hand in... Rip, and …. silence.
Isn't it wonderful how quiet it is at 2.00 AM, apart from the ringing in my ears and the neighbors clumping around. Must remember tomorrow to ask them how they slept last night.
The Petrol Tap
Coming home from the pub last night, I'd nearly reached the junction at the end of my road when on changing down my foot slipped of the footrest. This didn't seem right. At the junction I had a quick look down. We don't have street lights in my village but there was enough light to see a stream of petrol shooting out from the petrol tap.
The plunger had fallen out, so after killing the engine, quick as a flash I put my thumb over the hole where the plunger should have been & my finger over the screw hole. That fixed it. But what was I going to do now? I've had the old girl for a few years now but still can't ride it using only my left hand.
I looked into the petrol tank & saw that most of the petrol had already left anyway, so I took my hand away & pushed the remaining 100 yds. home watching the last £2 or £3s worth disappear.
I had to leave my boots & jeans outside as they stank of petrol & have a shower as I did as well.
Not strictly relavent but amusing
Two stories originally written for our club magazine, the first I copied from somewhere.
The Vincent rider: Leaps tall buildings in a single bound, is more powerful than a locomotive, is faster than a speeding bullet, walks on water, gives policy and personal advice to God.
The Norton Rider: Leaps short buildings in a single bound, equal in power to a locomotive, just as fast as a speeding bullet, walks on water if the weather is good and the sea is calm, Talks to God.
The Triumph Rider: Leaps short buildings with a running start, and favourable winds, is almost as powerful as a locomotive, chases speeding bullets, walks on the water of an indoor swimming pool, talks to God if a special request is approved.
The BSA Rider: Can clear the garden shed with a running start and a ramp, recognises locomotives immediately, is allowed to hold a bullet, can tread water, can talk to Gods secretary if special request is approved.
The Velocette Rider: Runs into buildings, recognises locomotives two out of three times, is not used to ammunition, can stay atop of the water if properly supplied with floats.
The Ariel Rider: Falls over the doorstep on entering buildings, has a toy train set, plays with pop guns, can talk to walls.
The AJS rider: Cannot make it as far as the building, says "look at the choo choo", wets himself with a water pistol, plays in mud puddles with his floaties on, mumbles to himself, thinks he is God.
A day or two in the life of an autojumbler
Two jumbles this weekend. The first was at Ross on Wye, so I got up early (5.00AM) as I'm working alone, the wife being with her folks. It looked grey & miserable & the forecast wasn't good but us 'jumblers are made of hardy stuff so off I set. Near Cheltenham it was still pissing down & I nearly turned back, but I told myself that us 'jumblers are made of hardy stuff so I carried on.
The weather during the day wasn't too bad, a bit of drizzle I fended off by a strategically placed side screen on the gazebo. Not a big crowd but a couple of customers were in a spending mood so I had a good day, for Ross anyway. Its mainly Welsh farmers wanting bits for their sons field bike so I never expect much. The yapping dogs on lengths of string pissing against the tables can be a nuicence All was well until I was most of the way through packing up (or are 'jumblers supposed to say 'breaking down' like circus men)? When it became rather windy. I'm greatly troubled by wind. I can't take the gazebos down until I've put the stuff in the van & taken the tables out from under them. The gazebos are strapped to the tables to hold them in place so when the wind blows they can take off and/or get bent out of shape. The gazebos got bent out of shape & I got very fraught & bad tempered .
For the last few days I've been puzzled by a crunch & then a bang when I put the van (13 yrs. old Escort) into reverse. This spread rapidly on the way home so by the time I'd got lost & was stuck in Cheltenham traffic I had not much of a clutch at all. At lights I had to switch the engine off & start it in first when they changed, take roundabouts in fourth etc but I got home alright. I had a look under the bonnet & discovered ½" of slack in the cable which I packed out with suitable washers from the 'Don't throw them away, might come in handy box', & it worked. I had a clutch again. If I could dance I would have done a jig. Shower, dinner then off to Folkestone where I'm staying in a cheap hotel (£25.00 & it didn't even smell) for the show at Hamstreet. All the way down I was marveling at my luck with the easy clutch fix so you can imaging how pleased I was when the clutch went with a bang in Folkestone . Looking on the bright side, amazingly it went in the hotel car park as I arrived. Slap bang in the middle it was & that was where it stayed until the cavalry (recovery truck) arrived at 6.00 the next morning.
The last time I was in Folkestone was on one of Brendans runs when we found a bikers pub called the Frenchman. I searched this out that evening & as I approached the band was playing Born to be Wild, so I was optimistic as I opened the doors. O dear dear me. The Frenchman had become another 'used to be a bikers pub' & had been redecorated and poshed up. The clientele were mainly 20/25 yr. old males who were already drunk & pushing into people. The only exceptions were the ones trying to get into the knickers of the two forty something housewifes who were loud & drunk & pushing into people. The way they were looking around I expected they would go off with the first bloke who asked them. I was suddenly struck dumb. The IPA was OK & the lousy band strangely seemed to improve as the evening went on. The hotel had a bar so I finished off the evening with a glass of awful house white which the barman/receptionist/waiter/janitor told me was nice & cold. It gave me toothache. So much for the entertainment.
The cavalry arrived remarkedly quickly the next morning, not too many breakdowns at 5.30 on a Sunday perhaps, & happily stopped in a service station on route so that I could buy some sandwiches. With all the excitement with the clutch the day before I'd left Sunday breakfast/lunch/dinner in the fridge. My arrival at the show & jumble in Hamstreet on the back of a recovery truck was greeted with some amusement by the other 'jumblers most of whom managed to avoid speaking to me fearing that they might be asked for help. The day went well, stock was sold & money taken. The sun even shone for part of the day so lack of useable gazebos wasn't a problem.
After I packed it all into the van, and having borrowed a mobile to phone another cavalry/recovery firm, I walked into the village & bought some cans of beer which I could place in the cold bag, that was supposed to have been carrying my lunch, to keep it nice & cool. The jumblers one by one left, some with a cheery wave others still ignoring me, until I was alone in the middle of this big field. It was quite peaceful. The sheep in the field next door didn't seem to have been bothered by the invasion of noisy bikers & bleatedly happily. The trees swayed slowly in the wind & from the aged cassette player Roger Waters was singing about money being the root of all evil today. The beer was sliding down nicely & the time slipped by. I'd long finished the sandwiches and after two early starts I was feeling a bit tired & so drifted off to the land of nod, dreaming about buying a football team. I was shaken out of this comfortable place by a big fat RAC man hammering on the window shouting "Have you broken down"?
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