Saturday, May 23, 2020

Henderson Streamline KJ

Here's a rare bird to see with a British plate on it, a Henderson Streamline KJ from 1930 or 31. Hard to say when the photo was taken, but it is certain that the bike was already quite venerable. Probably the sixties judging from the van in the background. The bike would have certainly been in enthusiast ownership, perhaps used as powerful sidecar tug or as a mount for vintage events.

I checked out the numberplate and strangely it is now on a Morris car from 1930 that is still on the road.

Just for interest take a look at the huge ribbed front brake, definitely not standard but very useful for hauling up a 100mph bike hitched to a sidecar. Also non standard are the twin headlights (significantly less attractive than the original single light to my eyes) and the friction dampers fitted to the sprung saddle.

Henderson KJ Streamline combination.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Under-sparked Dominator

Another instalment of lockdown mechanics... This time the Norton Dominator has been receiving some loving. Just for a little background, up until about three years ago I was using the Dominator very regularly and regularly taking it on longer journeys and ocassionally abroad. The bike got laid up for a little while whilst I concentrated on my Velocette - the thing about the Dominator is that it is just so damned good and easy too that it means you tend to neglect everything else. The Velo scratch itched I put the Dommie back on the road last summer, but since then it has been a progressively more and more recalcitrant starter. A real shame as it is normally a first kick bike.

Over the last few months I had done various quick and easy tune up jobs to try and get to the bottom of the issue. Each time I did something like get the tappets spot on, clean the points or make sure the fuel was fresh there was a noticable improvement but it didn't stop the slide and the bike progressively became worse and worse. To be honest I was hoping that it would eventually conk out altogther and give me a good old school hard fault.

With the extra workshop time that lockdown granted me it seemed like a good opportunity to sort out the Dommie's starting fussiness once and for all.

Going back to basics this problem had to be ignition or fuel related. The bike would sometimes start second or third kick, sometimes not at all. If it started easily you could run it for a minute and then stop the motor and then it wouldn't go at all.

I knew some of the wiring in the ignition circuit was a bit tatty but rather than just get stuck in to that this was a job that needed a methodical approach. First up change the plugs. No improvement. Clean the carb and thoroughly check it through. - the fault did give some symptoms of fuel starvation and after kicking for a while and taking the plugs out they did look to be quite dry.

After a while the carb was as clean as a whistle but the problem was the same. The finger of suspiscion was beginning to point clearly at ignition.

Next step was to clear up that tatty wiring and start testing electrical components. I double checked and made sure that the points were clean and correctly gapped. The ignition circuit was re-wired with new cables and crimps and whilst at it I put in new HT lead.

Lucas distributor with fresh wiring.

From my experience HT leads do ocassionally fail and when they do it can be very hard to diagnose. You are as well off to replace it altogether when working on the ignition as to try and fault find it. I used braided cable, it looks a bit different and not everyone will like it but whilst not factory spec it is period correct and not offensive to my eyes. So, the moment of truth. Will it work? The tank goes back on and the bike starts first kick. I stop the engine. It starts second kick. I stop it again and then it doesn't start at all. What a tease. At that point I packed it in for the evening and went back in to the house to drown my sorrows.

Snap connector fitted on the fuel line.

For the next step I decided I was getting way too fed up taking the tank off and disconnecting the petrol pipe. The slimline Featherbed Norton is a very well thought out and designed by riders and mechanics sort of bike - the seat comes off in seconds with just one dzuz fastener and for the tank you just take off the bracing bar, undo an elastic band and then slide it off. However the petrol tap does have a habit of catching on the frame, opening itself up and pissing out petrol all over the floor (I don't think my bike has the original tap). So to make life easier I fitted a quick release coupling in the fuel line. These are great things - just press a button and they break apart closing off the supply as they part. The only thing you have got to watch out for with these couplings is to make sure that they are fitted in a straight length of pipe - from experience they are only available in plastic and do not take kindly to side force.

Fresh braided HT lead.

All that was really left was the capacitor and the coil. I disconneted and checked the coil - a regular 12v bike coil should have resistance of around 3.0 to 3.5ohm on the primary resistance (between the +ve and -ve poles). Also worth testing is that resistance to ground from any of the poles is infinity and that the secondary resistance (from either pole to the ht lead socket) is suitably large (typically 5,000 to 20,000ohm). The primary resistance I measured was 5.5ohm. Fairly high, but seeing as I did not have a coil on hand but I did have a capacitor I had a go at changing that to see what it would do anyway. The answer to that was a big fat nothing.

So, on to the coil. Seeing as my local bike shop was closed I had to go online. It arrived in four days and I put it on the bike. Just for a reminder here the coil should be wired so that the terminal wired to the points is the same as the earth on the bike - ie negative earth and negative terminal on the coil to the points. Tank back on, fuel pipe clipped back together and lo and behold it started first kick. I stopped the motor and then kicked again. The bike burst in to life. One more time to be sure, yes sorted. The next day I needed some eggs and veg so on went the panniers and the Norton became my shopping bike as we went to the local farm shop. All good.

Now we are at the end I'll confess that the coil was the major suspect from the start after previous tune up attempts failed.  Funky, intermittent starting and running have all the hallmarks of a coil issue. I still worked through making sure everything else was in good shape all the same. Throughout the bike looked like it was sparking ok when you took the plugs out to check. A bit weak perhaps but not too bad at all. The spark obviously diminished or died when there was a load applied. When the coil was changed the intensity of the spark increased greatly. At first I didn't really want to believe it was the coil as the one fitted really hadn't lasted to long at all (ok maybe 10 years, but not a huge mileage)..

Now all that is left is to get out and enjoy a Dommie in fine fettle.

And the works in all their glory.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Juwel sidecars

Here's the Swedish brochure for German sidecar brand Juwel. I'm not absolutely sure of the year but as the bike pictured looks very much like a Zundapp KS600 (but check out the artistic license on that very funky front brake) it has to date from 1938 or 9.







Thursday, May 14, 2020

1925 New Imperial

After the last post being on a modern bike it's time to get back to the proper old stuff. These pictures are easy enough to blow up and see that the bike is a New Imperial. Model identification is a bit trickier but if pushed I'm going for a Model 1 of 1925 fitted with New Imp's own 292cc side valve motor.




Monday, May 11, 2020

Royal Enfield Himalayan test ride

The concept of owning an Enfield Himalayan has been going through my mind for a while. A good traditional all-rounder that I can work on myself, use for green laning, touring and just generally having fun on the local back roads. Obviously a lot of other people feel the same as the Himalayan has been a good seller.

Personally what attracts me to the Himalayan is:
1. A reliable, easy made for purpose on / off road bike that I can use in Motor Cycling Club long distance trials.
2. The brand (I'm in the Royal Enfield Owners Club and don't have a working RE to turn up to club events on).
3. The price. The Himalayan is a great value for money package, I've never bought a new bike before and quite honestly the Himalayan is about as high as I would go before choosing to go second hand.
4. It's a traditional machine that I can repair myself and is a looker.


With all this in mind I booked a road test at local Royal Enfield dealers Moto Corsa, hopped on to my Velocette and rode over for a try out. This was back in early March before lockdown.

Before I go a lot further this isn't a full on test report, you can read those plenty of places elsewhere. It is a just a few impressions from an enthusiast with an admitted soft spot for Royal Enfields.

As soon as you hop on you feel that the Himalayan is a very comforting bike, you know it is going to be forgiving, confidence inspiring and a sinch to ride. Pulling away confirms first impressions, the long stroke motor is nice and tractable, the bike well balanced, seat position low and there is nothing harsh about it in any way. An ideal beginners bike but charming enough to satisfy the more experienced too.


The Himalayan gets praised for having 'character' and this was part of the appeal for me too. As generally a rider of older machinery I often find a lot of more modern machines lacking in excitement. Perhaps riding over on a Velocette, the archetypal idiosyncratic British bike, gave the Himalayan an unfair comparison and I would struggle to say that I found it overflowing with character. I guess though compared to many other modern machines, particularly trail bikes, the Enfield does stand out as being different. It can be hard to pin down what character is in a motorcycle, when you think to put it in to words each attribute comes across as a bit negative - vibration, quirky engineering, foibles. Ultimately character in a machine is an undefined something that makes the rider attached to the bike and appreciate it warts and all. If you look at it this way the Himalayan succeeds, if you spent time with one I think it would be a grower. At least as long as sustained motorway blasts are not your thing.

So, on to performance. The Himalayan is a keep up with the traffic kind of bike. You would be a fool to expect any more from the specs and design brief. It accelerates adequately briskly, 'high' speed cruising seems to be happiest in the sixty to seventy zone and it has enough get up and go to pass lorries and average paced cars safely. The long stroke engine is very flexible and the charm is that you don't need to use the gearbox too much and the five speeds provided are plenty.


As my interest with the Himalayan stems mostly from its off road abilities I gave it a few flexibility tests. It is a regular test bike so I didn't go off road but I did my best to get a feel for flexibility and handling. The bike chugs nicely and without snatch, is very manoeverable and easy to do a clutchless u turn on a narrow road without problem. The pegs and bars are nicely placed to ride standing up and it gave every impression that it would be a competent off road performer. The one draw back to more serious off roading is the weight, just a look at the Himalayan and knowing its price you can't expect it to be a lightweight. The bike holds its bulk well and handles sweetly but you would need to be fairly powerful to pick it up solo having taken a tumble on a muddy trials hill.

Comfort-wise for long distance trials and touring the Himalayan is good. At a long legged six foot two I had a gripe that the slope on the tail of the riders saddle pushed me forward and made my knees then sit outside of the scallops of the pertrol tank. There would be no way around this for me barring getting a flat profiled saddle or, of course, just putting up with it.


The other factor I had particularly wanted to check out with the Himalayan was the build quality. I had read a few things online but separating out the usual trolls and being fair to the bike's price and keeping expectations realistic the particular issues I wanted to check out the general build, the rust proofing paint on the exhaust and potential rust issues around the steering head.

Firstly, general build is good. I want a bike that I can use through winter and clean with a pressure washer. I feel the Himalayan would stand up to this. It might be pertinent to keep an eye on the frame and swinging arm and perhaps wax them over winter. The lack of mudguard extension down between the swinging arm will allow a lot of dirt to get in to difficult places and that is something that if I owned one I would address pretty quickly.

The rust proofing silver paint on the welds on the exhaust is what it is. Not pretty but more than likely effective.

Finally, the steering head. Look at the picture below: there is definitely a potential water trap at the bottom bracing pressing where it is welded to the steerer tube and the down tube. It should be designed out but given that it is there I would personally fill it with wax and then put some black silicon sealant on top to cap it off.


So there it is, the Himalayan fullfills my criteria. It is a competent all-rounder with a charm that would certainly grow on you. It has a couple of foibles but that just adds to the character doesn't it? If I was about to undertake some serious overlanding I would undoubtedly opt for one of these and use the money I had saved from buying a BMW GS to give me another year of travelling. In my own limited time family man world where an adventure is a long weekend away or a long distance trial the Himalayan still fits the bill. So happy ending really, apart from having done the test ride just pre lockdown when things seemed rather more certain. I would still like one but am going to have to wait a little while to make sure I still have a job to pay for it....

Friday, May 8, 2020

Heavily screened Norton Commando

A bit more recent than most of the photos that feature on this blog. Someone has decided to fit a Norton Commando to their Craven Clipper fairing. The Craven Clipper was noteworthy for having a luggage compartment just below the perspex of the screen.

Norton Commando Interstate attached to a Craven Clipper fairing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Beardmore Precision 1923

A long session on the scanner for this one, but worth it I hope you'll agree. The Beardmore Precision catalogue for 1923.  The front and rear covers are rough but all the content is good.



























Saturday, May 2, 2020

Villiers Go Kart Engines

Go Karting originated in California in the mid-fifties. It quickly found its way across the Pond to the UK and soon became popular. Villiers were an obvious choice of engine to fit being cheap, easily tuneable and plentiful. Of course Villiers themselves soon picked up on this and marketed their engines specifically to the karting crowd.

I'm not 100% sure of the date of this flyer but it is from around 1962.

Villiers Go Kart engines flyer.