Thursday 30 December 2021

Motorcycle Electrical System Rebuild From Scratch

Researched links on re-wiring the 1971 Triumph Bonneville... 

The old Bonnie has an intact loom and many of the original electrical components, but many of these pieces won't have weathered the decades well and I'd be crazy to try and rebuild a hacked on electrical system in a fifty year old bike, so it's all coming out.  I'm going to take a page from the custom scene and build a loom from scratch and design and build a complete electrical system from scratch.

This ain't no modern digital machine so the electrical system in it is prehistorically simple.  Building a dependable replacement with quality modern upgrades (proper copper wiring, modern connectors, new electronic ignition and coils, etc).  The result should be a 1971 Bonneville that is more spritely and dependable than anything that rolled off the line in Meriden in 1971.

Tutorials on creating a motorcycle wiring harness/loom:

BikeExif Tutorial:

Rewiring tutorial:



Resource (costs 20 pounds):

Another good resource ($40):

I've purchased and read that last one - it's a gentle introduction to electrical work but I found it a bit simple and wished it had picked up speed as it went.  If you've never done any electrical work then it's a good place to start, but that's what I do all day so I was hoping for something with a bit more depth.

Replacement harness:

Prebuilt '71 Bonneville wiring harness:

Original loom wiring colours:
  • RED (seems to be earth but then battery + so this is a positive earthed bike?)
  • WHITE (headlamp loom)
  • GREEN/WHITE STRIPE (LH handlebar switch & main loom)
  • BROWN/GREEN STRIPE (headlamp loom)
  • BROWN/GREEN STRIPE (headlamp loom)
  • WHITE/YELLOW STRIPE (L/H handlebar switch) + ignition coil
  • BROWN (headlamp switch)
  • GREEN/RED STRIPE (L/H handlebar switch)
  • PURPLE (horn press R/H switch)
  • LIGHT GREEN (L/H handlebar switch)
  • PURPLE/RED (earth?) horn
  • BLACK/WHITE STRIPE (condesner pack/ignition coil split)
  • IGNITION COIL: BLACK/YELLOW STRIPE to coil & condenser pack + WHITE to coil
  • RED (earth frame)
  • BROWN/BLUE: Zenor diode
  • RED to battery positive (that doesn't make much sense)
  • BROWN/BLUE: battery negative
  • REAR LIGHTS:  BROWN/GREEN STRIPE (rear lamp)+BROWN (stop lamp)+GREEN/WHITE STRIPE (L/H indicator)+GREEN/RED STRIPE (R/H Indicator)+RED (earth)
  • STATOR (GREEN/YELLOW STRIPE+WHITE/GREEN STRIPE) were advertised in the UK's BIKE Magazine...

The Motogadget is an all-in-one electrical block for all electrical items on a bike - it also provides you with a bluetooth connection so you could start and stop it by your smartphone:

Not really what I'm looking for for the Bonnie project, though I'll keep it in mind for a future ground up custom build.

A new ignition barrel with keys looks to be about $80.  I'll see if Britcycle has them.

The existing wiring looks like it was taken apart and left that way - I'm tempted to take it all out and just rewire it rather than trust the old mess.

Electrical Systems Parts List:

  • Ignition barrel & key set
  • wiring to rebuild loom step by step - I'd need correct gauge wiring & connectors
  • fuse box
  • fuses
  • reg/rectifier
  • upgraded/modernized stator

Motorcycle wiring how to:  A commonly found writeup someone has done to walk any interested DIYer in how to rewire your bike.

1971 Triumph Bonneville Project: Photos from the current project and long term design ideas

 Some photos from the ongoing 1971 Triumph Bonneville winter project:

One of the boxes of spares.

Spare cylinder head and engine covers.

Looking into the top of the valves...

Yep, that's a 1984 plate sticker on it!

Front wheels cleaned up nicely.

Motor cleaned up well too!

Got it out into the minus ten sun to give it another clean up now that it's stripped.

Strance is back to stock now that the massive chopper front shocks are gone.

The goal is to get it mechanically sorted and ride it rat-bike style next summer to iron out an kinks.  Next winter it'll all come apart again and this time the frame will get painted and so will the body panels.  I've found some year correct Triumph badges but I'm thinking something a bit non-stock for the paint job, like perhaps a Gulf racing livery colour scheme:

I'm also thinking about seats.  A plain stock seat costs the better part of $500US.  For only $100 more I could get a custom coloured Corbin seat!

More research needed, but that looks sharp!  You can customize Corbin vintage seats like their modern bike seats, so I could match it to the Gulf racing colour scheme too.

Sunday 19 December 2021

Happiness is: Mastery!

 Sometimes the on-bike cameras in MotoGP capture a magic moment.  In this case it's Sam Lowes knocking out a fastest lap in free practice before qualifying at the Doha GP in the spring of 2021.

Sam Lowes putting in a fastest lap at the Doha GP in the spring of 2021

Doing something difficult that you love well is one of the foundational ideas behind my own motorcycling.  The glint in Sam's eye there as he blasts down the straight approaching 300kms/hr is magical.  You don't get that kind of intensity when you're being leisurely, it only happens when you're using all of yourself to do something difficult well.

Wayne Gretzky's dad replied to a reporter who described Wayne as a natural by saying that
he wasn't a natural at all - what Wayne Gretzky did was be out every day, stick in hand,
playing hockey more than anyone else: his mastery was hard earned but based on his
love of the game.  You can see that love in the glint in Sam's eye!

Sunday 12 December 2021

WOMBO.ART: How AI generated art offers insight into motorcycle marketing

Wombo's a rocket ship!
I teach computer technology in my day job and I've watched the coming of artificial intelligence over the past decade with interest.  AI and machine learning is getting better at managing real world data like visual information.  Recently, a Canadian company named Wombo have created an abstract art creation tool that builds original images from some key words and a selected art style.  This AI art generator offers some interesting insights, especially in a world where branding is everything (such as in motorcycling).

Wombo ( is easy to play with - just throw some key words in and pick a style and you get an original piece of abstract art.  If you run the same information it comes out different each time too.

So, what to throw in first?  Valentino Rossi, of course - he's front and centre in many motorcyclist's minds this fall.  

The machine intelligence putting this together has scanned every image it could find of The Doctor.  It creates its own contextual understanding from that massive dataset.  It doesn't understand who Valentino is (though it might have scanned articles about him for keywords and have used that too).  These randomized but thematic pieces makes some interesting inferences.  Firstly, Valentino means high-vis yellow... and Yamaha blue.  This begs the question: "what were Yamaha thinking sending Valentino off to retire in teal and black?

Perhaps my favourite part of this piece is the obvious Doctor's Dangle happening.  The dangle was started by Valentino around 2005.  It's still a bit of a mystery how it makes you go faster, but I suspect it offers a bit of fine tuning on your balance under heavy breaking while also offering a bit more wind resistance to slow you down.  Wombo's algorithm won't know any of that, but it knows to associate the dangle with the man who invented it.  At least it did this time, every other time I tried a Rossi image it wasn't there.

The Rossi implications got me thinking about how a machine intelligence sees a brand... and what interesting conclusions you might draw from it.  Ducati got the first swing at it since they're such an iconic brand:

The colours certainly shout Ducati, and while the motorcycle isn't obvious, there is something about the lean that suggests two wheels.  If someone who'd never heard of Ducati were shown this, I suspect they'd consider it a sporting brand rather than something else like a heritage focused company.  I think they'd be happy with that.

I then threw Triumph into the mix:

Not sure what to make of that one!  Triumph's long history before its resurrection must make for interesting texture in the data.  This looks very art deco and feels like 50s and 60s advertising might have inspired it.  Once again, the idea that Triumph is tied to motorcycles is evident in the edges, especially the one middle right.

Just now I did two more "Triumph Motorcycle" renditions:

I still see bikes (but then I tend to see bikes).  There is a sense of speed in how the designs depict the abstract objects.  I can't help but wonder if the colour choices aren't from actual bikes.

Here's one for MotoGP:

I can almost see Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi in that.  It certainly contains a feeling of competition and speed.  Does the machine intelligence know who Marc and Valentino are?  Is this an echo from Sepang in 2015?  I wonder if that'd make anyone wince in MotoGP's marketing office.

Wombo's AI art generator is easy to get lost in.  The images seem to speak in surprising ways.  If you've got a minute, go play with it.

Sunday 5 December 2021

Motorcycling For Sport On a Budget


The trickiest part about trying to arrange your motorcycling to provide you with a sporting outlet are the logistics.  You can't ride a track/trials/dirt bike to where you're going to ride it in a sporting fashion, so you need transportation options that'll get you and your gear to where you intend to use it.

The obvious choice (if you're looking for a budget choice) is to look at cargo vans - or so I thought.  Thanks to COVID, the market for these (like many other things) has gone bonkers as every unemployed rocket scientist in the world rushes out to grab a used van to deliver for Amazon.

Here are some current online choices:

My favourite is the fuggly Transit Connect that isn't even big enough to hold a single bike and is almost a decade old with over two-hundred thousand kilometres on it for $10,500, $8,500.  Eight and half grand for a heavily used POS.  Both my current on-road bikes, an '03 Triumph Tiger and an '10 Kawasaki Concours together cost me less than that, and they're both a joy to look at and operate, though carrying a dirt bike on them isn't likely.

If I want to get my Guy Martin on, New Transits start at thirty-five grand and can easily option up to over fifty.  The bigger Ram Promasters start at thirty-seven grand and can option to over twice that.  The wee Promaster City starts at thirty-four grand and can be optioned well into the forties.  Vans only really do the cargo thing and make any other usage tedious, and they're expensive!

The used car lot down Highway 6 has a 2015 Jeep Wrangler with 90k kms on it that they're asking $35k for it.  It isn't cheap but it seems in good nick and comes with the tow package.  We rented a Wrangler last year and I was impressed with its ability to carry weight and it's utility - it was also surprisingly fun to drive... and in the summer it'd get the doors and roof off and be able to do the Zoolander thing too.

A trailer goes for about a grand, this one comes with a ramp and he's asking $1300.  With a bit of bartering I could sort out a tow capable Wrangler with a useful trailer for under forty grand.  The Jeep isn't new, but it's only 6 years old and with a big v6 in it, 90k isn't too much of a stressful life - it actually works out to only fifteen thousand kilometres a year.

What's galling is that you're thirty-five grand into a years old almost 100k kms vehicle but the new ones run fifty-three grand - I guess you've got to have a lot of cash on hand to buy anything these days.

What'd be really nice is a state-ot-the-art Wrangler 4xe.  They tow, use very little gasoline and when things get sorted out with in-car fusion generators, I'd be able to take the gas engine out and go fully electric with it.  In the meantime, it'd carry all my bike clobber, would be a bulletproof winter vehicle and when the sun arrives I can pop the doors and roof off and enjoy it in an entirely different way; they really are Swiss Army knives!


Once I've got the moto-logistics worked out I could then focus on some sporting motorbiking.  This ain't cheap either, but some sport motorcycling is cheaper than others.  Trials riding is probably at the cheaper end of things with used bikes starting at about two grand and new, high-end performance models going up to about nine grand, though you can get a new, modern, Chinese made machine for under five grand.

I'm partial to older machines as I don't have to deal with dealer servicing and can do the work myself.  This mid-80s Yamaha TY350 comes with lots of spares and is in ready-to-go shape for about $2600.  Since I'm not looking to take on Dougie Lampkin, this'd more than get me started in trials.

The Amateur Trials Riding Association of Ontario offers regular weekend events throughout the summer and fall and would make for a great target to aim for.  I'd be a rookie, but I'm not in it to win it, I'm in it to improve my moto-craft and trials offer a unique focus on balance and control in that regard.

I'm disinclined to exercise for the sake of it, though I've never had trouble exercising in order to compete in sports, it's just hard to find any when you're a fifty-two year old guy in Southwestern Ontario.  Having trials events to prepare for would be just the thing to get me into motion.

There is also the Southwestern Ontario Classic Trials group, who also offer a number of events and categories and seem very newbie friendly.  That old Yamaha would fit right in with classic trials and would let me do my own spannering.

Our backyard has everything you'd need to practice trials, though tire tracks all over the lawn might not endear me to my better half.  Even with all that in mind, trials riding would be the cheapest moto-sport to get going in.

SPORT RIDING OPTIONS:  enduro/off-road riding

What's nice about the dirt-bike thing is that I could do it with my son, Max.  He got handy with dirt biking last summer at SMART Adventures so if we got into trail riding we could do it together.

Used dirt-bikes start at about $2500 and creep up quickly.  Most seem quite abused but appear to hold their value regardless.  For about six grand I could get us into two 21st Century machines that should be pretty dependable on the trails, the problem is there aren't any around here.  We'd have to drive for hours to get to the few that are left in Central Ontario.

The Ontario Federation of Trail Riders would be a good place to start in terms of working out trails and connecting with others interested in the sport.  Off Road Ontario offers access to enduro and motocross racing, but I'm not really into the yee-haw MX thing, though long distance enduro gets my attention (every January I'm glued to the Dakar Rally).  I also watch a lot of British television and I've seen a number of endurance off-road events on there that are appealing, so I wouldn't wave off enduro without looking into it a bit more.


There are motorcycle track days around Ontario from May to October.  The Vintage Road Racing Association seems like the best way in for someone not interested in becoming the next Marc Marquez but who is looking for some time on a bike working at the extreme ends of two-wheeled dynamics without having to worry about traffic.  The VRRA also offers a racing school to get people up to speed (so to speak).  I can't say that having a racing licence wouldn't be a cool thing to have.

The challenge with racing on pavement is that everything gets more expensive, from membership and training fees to the cost of equipment and bikes, and of course what it costs to fix them when you chuck them down the road.  Road racing offers a degree of speed and has obvious connections to road riding that are appealing, it's only the costs that make it seem like a step too far.

Sport motorcycling is tricky to get into.  You need the equipment to transport yourself and your bike and gear to where you're competing and then you also need the specialist motorbike itself, but there are options that can make it possible on not to extreme of a budget.  I'm hoping to find a way into this over the next few years.

Sunday 28 November 2021

1971 Triumph Bonneville Restoration: Front Fork Rebuild

It's all snow and wind outside so I spent a good six hours in the garage this weekend rebuilding the front forks and the triple tree on the '71 Bonneville winter project.

The forks on the bike had been 'choppered' with massive fork tubes and spacers in them.  The bike came with new stock fork tubes so after a cleanup both front forks got rebuilt with stock fork tubes.  I'll put the chopper ones up for sale and see if it'll make a dent in the new parts order I got in.

The internals on the forks were in good shape (it has always been stored inside).  After a cleanup they went back together again nicely.  The picture on the right gives you an idea of just how long those fork tubes were (almost as long as the whole shock!).

The right side front fork went right back in no problem, but  the left side one won't fit in the lower triple tree mount (it has a bolt that squeezes it on but the circular clamp is too tight.  I've tried heating it up and wedging a screwdriver in the gap to respread it enough to accept a fork.  I shouldn't complain, this is the only thing that's being difficult on this fifty year old machine so far.

The lower fork unit as it came out of the giant chopper tubes.

The same piece cleaned up.

Parts diagram from the '71 Triumph's parts manual.

Meanwhile, the first parts order came in from British Cycle Parts.  They were great helping me clarify what I needed to get started.  The order was about $450 including shipping and got here quickly (within a week), one box from their Canadian warehouse and the other from their U.S. one.  I haven't started installing anything yet, but I now have what I need to rebuild the Amal carbs, sort out the electrical system and take apart the motor to prep it to run for the first time.

Motor gasket set!

Electronic ignition system and coils!

Amal carburetor rebuild kits!

Rubber bits!  This time 'round I got a new kickstart rubber & the gear shift rubber.

That's a stock style new rubber to replace whatever the f*** was on it.

The monkey who was choppering the bike put massive footpegs on the rear peg position,
but that doesn't make any sense on a chopper (they're usually feet up and forward).
These are the stock footrests.

Stock foot rests (and hardware)!

The plan is to rebuild the carbs, get the motor sorted, install the upgraded ignition system (which I suspect will also involve creating a new electrical loom) and then see if I can get it all to run.  Once I've got it a step closer to running I'll be back in touch with BritCycle to get the other bits and pieces I need to get it rideable.  The plan is still to get it to a place of getting a safety and putting it on the road next season.

I'm not a big fan of lost causes and I wrench to ride, so the point is to get the Bonneville back into service. After watching a lot of Henry Cole on TV, I like the idea of a 'rat bike', which also means I can focus on the mechanics rather than how it looks.  If I can get the mechanics sorted to the point where I can ride it, I'll do a season with it rough but rideable and then consider my options.  I got the bike and spares for $1500 and I've just put another $450 into it.  I think I can get it roadworthy for under $4000 and a non-running barn find bike of similar era was going for a grand more than that a few weeks ago online, so no matter what the Bonnie project won't ever drip red.

In a perfect world I'll get it sorted and some one will offer me more than I've put into it (cost, not time, I'm happy to put time in keeping bikes on the road).  Whether that's once it's roadworthy or once it's been cleaned up too, I'm easy.  Meanwhile the Bonneville is doing what I wanted it to:  giving me an opportunity to go deep on a motorcycle restoration and learn a lot in the process.

The motor's getting cleaned up and recommissioned.

Once the (now stock) forks are back in I'll wheel it out for a deep clean on the motor
and then start with the electrics before rebuilding the carbs.  With any luck the old Bonnie
will be to the point of starting by the new year.

Somewhere in between all this deep surgery, the Concours needs new brake pads and the Tiger has some new sprockets and a chain to install.  To be honest, these minor maintenance jobs are something to look forward to after the deep diving into the restoration project.

Last winter was a deep maintenance round on the Tiger, but even that pales in comparison to the scale and scope of the Bonneville restoration.  Practical Sportsbikes and Classic Bike are both magazines focused on hands-on motorcycle mechanics and both have talked about the dreaded project stallout that can happen when it all gets too much.  I'm taking the advice of both mags and breaking this up into chunks and then solving things subsystem by subsystem.  The small wins help me feel like like the project is progressing and prevent the dreaded project-stallout from being overwhelmed by the whole thing.

On the upside, the fact that we got 15cm of snow over the weekend isn't really on my mind as I'm keeping track of many things-to-do in the garage.