Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Bonneville. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Bonneville. Sort by date Show all posts

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Taking My Motorcycle Restorations to the Next Level with the help of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group

Heavy rain all week made Beaver Valley a
muddy mess.  The Tiger waded through it all,
spinning it's wheels in the deep mud but
always getting me down the track.
Sunday was a long ride up north to clear my head after another week of pandemic teaching where they pile on extra work going on two years into a pandemic and then reduce your ability to do it.  The trusty Tiger was on song and we sailed and sailed, up past Horning's Mills and through Creemore before tackling the Grey Highlands.  I was timing the ride because I had a meeting!

Last week I joined the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group and then connected with their Facebook page (that part is free - if you're into old bikes I'd urge you to join up!).  By dumb luck the admin who accepted my FB group request happens to live nearby and has a lockup ten minutes from where I live.  He asked if I wanted to see what he had kicking around in terms of project bikes I could buy.  That CVMG membership is already paying off!

Four hours and three hundred kilometres later I rolled up to a farm just south of town and met Brian and his lovely wife Terry.  We drove down to his storage containers out of sight at the back of the farm and he unlocked a hidden magical kingdom!

The bike I think I'm going to do a full ground up restoration on is a 1971 Triumph Bonneville.  This year was the first oil-in-frame model.  There are benefits to this model that suit me, the main one being that this bike has a taller seat than other Bonnies.

The bike in question has been partially 'choppered' with a big sissy bar and king/queen seat.  It also has long front forks - someone was on their way to turning this into some kind of Easy Rider homage, but it won't stay that way.  I'm not stuck on the stock-at-all-costs angle but I like motorcycling for the dynamic feel of it and a chopper isn't about that.  A modernized custom that stays true to the original look but makes use of the bits and pieces that will make this classic a bit more dependable is where I'm at.


Fortunately, Brian has lots of stock spares which he'd include with it so I'll be able to strip it down and begin working out how to put it all back together again without having to start from scratch.  When I pick up the bike I should also be getting some tupperware boxes full of additional parts.

Classic Bike Magazine had a great issue in June about Steve McQueen, On Any Sunday and desert racers.  McQueen himself did a Bonneville desert sled back in the '60s.  I like the stripped down scrambler look of that kind of bike, though I'm not going to go all knobbly tires and brown seat with it, but a simplified, high piped Bonneville for the road?  That's something I could get into!

I'm going to have to wait until after Thanksgiving Weekend to get my hands on it. I 'll also have to figure out how to get it over here, but I'm looking forward to my first deep bike resto after successfully putting a number of early retirements back on the road again.  This one's going to be an engine out, frame up restoration, Henry Cole style!

Brain had some beautiful old bikes - this 1950s BSA bitsa was a wonderful looking mashup.  The only thing that made me hesitate was the 350cc engine trying to move my bear-sized self around.


Back to stock? The '71 was the first of the oil in frame Bonnevilles and an odd duck with
a tall seat height, but it was also a handsome thing!

Here are some other resources and reference images as I bring this old thing back from the edge.





























"The new frame raised the seat height to 32” which meant only tall riders could really get both feet down" - yeah, that's not a problem for 6'3" me.



Saturday, 5 December 2020

Norfolk Wisdom on BBC's Speed Dreams

I just finished watching BBC 2's Speed Dreams: The Fastest Place On Earth, a documentary about a group of British motorcyclists who travel to Bonneville to see how fast their folk-engineered motorcycles can go.  It's a great watch and one of the best motorcycle focused things I've seen about Bonneville, and there have been many.

One of my favourite bits about this one is that it isn't one of those (insert celebrity name here) explorations of extreme motorbiking.  Those can get thin pretty quickly when they lean mainly on the twist of watching a footballer or actor doing something that hundreds of others have done with less while the poor celebrity laments their fame and finds ways to make the trip as expensive as they possibly can.  It might be time to shelve that formula.  Motorcycling is inherently egalitarian.  Millionaire problems while doing it just aren't that interesting. Meanwhile, Speed Dreams covers the gamut from build-it-in-your-shed eccentrics to bank funded high end amateur riders, but I find the ones who do it with less far more interesting.  Money makes people tedious and shallow.  It's not their fault, they can't help it, it's just what money does  They end up with an audience because people like to watch wealth.  The characters underneath it are nearly always atrophied by it.

Speaking of interesting, my favourite bit of Speed Dreams is when the Scottish lead engineer of the high end team comes out and waxes poetic about the shear size of the place...


Then the old fella from Norfolk who picks up the litter on the beach after he had a nervous breakdown and built an old Indian bike in his shed with recycled parts walks out and does us all Norfolk proud:


'ha''s Norfook for yow.  It made me miss home.

You can catch this one on Motortrend TV with a free trail, or on BBC if you're somewhere they'll let you stream it.  Amazon also looks like they add it in occasionally.  Back in the day Top Gear (with the old guys) liked it too.


Other Bonneville Motorcycle Media:


Guy Martin and the world's fastest motorbike.  I usually like Guy's stuff, but this isn't one of my favourites, probably because it comes off as a Triumph ad, he never gets his hands dirty.  Even the Triumph bit is outsourced to another engineering group making it look even more like a marketing exercise.  They don't manage to break any records either.  You can stream this one on Channel 4 UK, though there are other Guy motorbike themed things I prefer (his run at Pike's Peak on a custom hand made machine is fantastic).

Henry Cole's Worlds' Greatest Motorcycle Rides is a good series to get you through long Canadian winters and his run at Bonneville is a genuine tear jerker.  That he's trying to do it on a Brough Superior is English eccentricity at its best.  First time he met Sam Lovegrove too, so there is a good bit of engineering/technical to it as well.

Odin, Thor's dad (Anthony Hopkins), plays Burt Munro in The World's Fastest Indian, a well put together film telling the story of one of Bonneville's heroes from down under.


Out of Nothing is another shed-built Bonneville attempt from an American North West perspective.  It sometimes wanders dangerously near to hipster philosophical - Americans tend to take themselves very seriously when doing manly things.  I prefer the UK self deprecating humour rather than the chest thumping, but it's still a good film.






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.