Triumph Update

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Not much of an update to be honest but the new head arrived a bit ago, for easier tuning and reliability I had my brother buy a single carb head, so basically his Bonnie is going to become a Tiger.

I’m also going to a single carb on the Norton – and when I rebuild the engine next winter I’m going to bring the bore down from 750 to 650 – sort of copying the 650SS for performance. But that means that the two carbs I bought for the Norton in the beginning of the build – brand new Mk1 Amal’s – both of which are 32mm – so one will be fitted to the Norton and the other to the Triumph.

The head that I bought didn’t come with it’s original carb manifold which would have looked like this:

Instead the head has been fitted with a manifold meant to mount a carb with a spigot mount and the flange on the metal manifold (cause there’s a rubber one too) is wider than the flange on the Mk1 Amal. There are two solutions to this that I could figure, the first would be to buy the proper manifold which is $125, the second and the one I’m going to try first is to use a small $30 aluminum adapter. This adapter is designed to be bolted to a head/manifold that’s designed to accept the Amal carb and turn that mount into a spigot mount which would then allow for mounting something like Mikunis. What I decided to do with it is to reverse it, mount it to the flange on the Amal which’ll essentially turn the Amal from a flange mount carb to a spigot mount carb. Then in a few years when the rubber bit wears out I’ll order the proper manifold – unless of course it turns out that the combination of the metal manifold, rubber manifold, adapter, and carb combined creates too much of a distance so as to make it impossible to mount the pancake filter between the carb & frame – if that’s the case I’ll have to order the $125 manifold now.

It’s not pushed in all the way in that picture, going to need to pull the rubber bit off and press the adapter into it using the vice as there’s a wider OD step around the outside of the spigot side of the adapter which can’t be pushed past the same idea inside the rubber by hand.

The nice thing about doing it this way however is the fact that once the adapter is pressed in – I’ll be able to rotate it 90 degrees which’ll allow me to get a wrench on the allen bolts that tie the rubber to the manifold and then also will be able to bolt the carb to the adapter while it’s rotated which’ll make getting wrenches on either side of the flanges possible – then just rotate the carb back to upright and put a hose clamp on the rubber bit and I’ll be all set!

Here is the Norton’s version of this setup, because of how they designed the head on the Norton you just need a 2:1 manifold to switch to a single carb, rather than replacing the entire head as I had to do on the Triumph due to the splayed carbs on the twin head. But aside from the 2:1 manifold and the old carb used for the mockup, that’s the same air filter I plan to fit to the Triumph.

Another bit of the Triumph project that came in is the replacement timing cover which is going to allow me to mount a Joe Hunt magneto ignition (which is in the mail) up to the back of the belt housing coming off the cover – which’ll tuck the mag up in front of the cylinders – keeping it safe and looking quite slick at the same time.

It’s going to be a slick bike when it’s completed. My only sadness in all of it is that my brother has no time on 70s Triumphs so he won’t be able to fully appreciate the work I’m doing to this bike – like the upgraded progressive front end, stiffening the front brake, progressive rear shocks, having the crank balanced, etc. But that’s alright, cause I’ll know the difference, and I’ll know that my brother’s bike will be about as solid as a ’72 Triumph can be.

Norton Update

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This month I changed things up slightly, rather than ordering just one or two expensive parts, I’ve ordered a whole slew of little stuff. One of the main reasons why this bike has taken so long to get done is that when I got the project it was just a frame, power plant, and front wheel/brake. I’ve had to slowly cobble together everything else and because Norton parts aren’t cheap, and I don’t have very much extra money at the end of each month, something that could have been done in a few months has stretched out over a couple of years.

Now, after all this time, I’ve finally assembled pretty much everything that I need to make it work – or at least almost everything I need. I’m still waiting on the wheels that have been sent off to get some spokes, bearings, and tires – that’s been dragging along for sometime now, but until I get the front forks fitted and whatnot it doesn’t really matter. I do however intend to get the forks fitted this week and so will begin to call and press for the wheels with a bit more force – though to be fair if another month passes that’ll be fine because as of this moment I couldn’t pay for them anyway, having spent this month’s extra money already. The goal as it stands is to spend the rest of Feb getting the bike to the point where come March I’ll actually be able to mount the wheels once I have them back.

This month I ordered twenty parts from four separate companies.

From Lowbrow Customs in Ohio:
Pancake Air Filter
Miller STOP tail/brake light
Single pull throttle assembly
Gum rubber grips
Black drag handlebars (no rise, slight pullback)
Two clamp on heat shields for the exhaust pipes
Two 12″ long silencers (mufflers)
Gas cap for the new Enfield fuel tank

From Norvil in England:
2:1 Kit for going to a single Amal Mk1 Carb
TLS brake cable with inline brake light switch
Fuel line
Clutch Cable
Sealing washer for the fuel tap
Turnsignal kit (for installation on a bike that predates them)
Rear brake light switch (mounted by the pedal/lever)

From Norton Race Parts in England:
Tank Strap & Toggle latch kit
Headstock Steering Bearing Dust Cover

From Burton Bike Bits in England:
Triumph 3T number plate

Here are some pictures of some of those parts:

Miller STOP light & Triumph 3T number plate

I’ve actually already used this combination once before out in Arizona on an Enfield

Here’s a picture of the Norton with the Enfield tank mounted

This is the strap that’ll go down the middle to hold it on:

Here’s an example of a Cafe Racer using the same strap & latch (admittedly more pretty)

and the English made gas cap

The 2:1 kit – manifold, cables, gaskets, and fasteners

Pancake Air Filter – designed to screw on to the intake of the Amal Mk1 Carb

For the exhaust, the 12″ long silencers – each comes with a 7″ bracket

and the heat shields to protect my legs from the high pipes

Gum rubber grips – admittedly a funky color but incredibly soft and comfortable (Made in USA)

Signals, wires, and wiring diagram for tying into the harness that predates them

The combination of all of these parts along with the parts I’ve already collected is going to allow me to take the bike from where it’s been for the last few months and get it to the point where she’s damn near done.

There will be a number of things that’ll still need bought and some stuff still to be made – a combined example of those two would be the dash – I need to buy the really slick 4″ Speedo/Tach unit

and make the plate that’s going to be mounted to the top yoke by the fork top nuts which will hold it as well as a compass, Lucas 88SA switch, a pair of idiot lights, a number of toggle switches, and a kill button – I drew up this diagram which is just a first draft

One of the little details that makes this an obvious wishful thinking first draft is the fact that the center clock is 4″ in diameter and the forks are about 7″ apart on center and if you took this drawing to scale it would be about 12″ wide

There isn’t a need for as many toggles as I drew, in point of fact I’ll only need two toggles:
One that’ll kill the power to all the electrics, because this bike is going to run without a battery, so when I’m kickstarting it all I want it to be trying to start is the engine.
One for the USB port – a way to charge my phone while touring – the other two 12V sockets are just more wishful thinking.

Beyond that its just some oil lines, the strengthening kit for the front brake, spacers for getting the rear wheel aligned, and the belt drive kit that comes with an updated clutch.

So that’s the update, further pictures and developments will follow, I intend to machine the part needed to mount the triple trees today and with luck mount the triple trees today – in the event that I manage one or both I’ll likely update again in the next day or two.

The ordered bits arrived today for the Norton project

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This is some excellent stuff, some of it I’ve been looking for for a couple years while some is just the best solution to a two year problem.

So here for example are the proper pins to hold the footpeg brackets to the frame with their proper thin walled nuts on the ends, as well as the stud & spacer that mount somewhere below the timing side cover and hold that side’s footpeg bracket in place – I didn’t even know what that was going to look like – I just knew I didn’t have it.

Here are my beloved brake rod parts. My P11 came with a Triumph rear wheel and a funky cable operated brake lever. Cables are fine for the handlebars because there’s no good way to run a true linkage up to them, but for a rear brake? Cables fail, Rods don’t.

I’m not unaware of the fact that I could have made all of those bits myself, but I’m not there yet, not for the sort of fit & finish – also just don’t have the strength yet for the little details. I’ve the strength to do some of the big stuff sometimes. As I write this I know there’s a friend who wants to come over the house today and do some mill work – and I want him to, but I can’t right now. I’m hoping that I’ll feel more solid later. So yeah, I have the ability to make some stuff that I don’t yet have the strength to make, so I’m buying a fair share of stuff I otherwise wouldn’t have to. Still, look at the fit & finish on that adjuster nut! Bloody beautiful!

The headsteady came too! Not all of it, I didn’t order all of it, here look:

There are ears/plates that should bolt to the sides of the steady box end held down by the two studs/nuts on each outer side. These ears will have a 3rd hole at the top which will line up to a rod that goes through the frame’s backbone. Like this,

But I’m 98% sure the place for that rod on my frame won’t be exactly where it is on the Commando frame for which this steady was designed, So I’ll make my own to match the frame I have.

I chose that headsteady because the diameter of the plate should barely interfere with the way this engine’s oil system plugs into the head. Banjo bolts into the top of the head – on Commando heads they moved these to the sides of the head so that the headsteady could be fixed from 3 points rather than just one. It’s my belief that those banjo bolts with their copper washers will go right through the mounting points for this head steady and so I’ll have the best of both worlds. Won’t be as strong as it would be otherwise but it’ll be stronger than the stock P11 headsteady – and doesn’t require the missing frame that the stock P11 headsteady does.

To that same area – that missing bracket – the new tank arrived as well,

So next mont the order will be for these parts:

I’ve figured out how to make the pin mounts for the frame to hold those sections, it’s quite simple, just bending some steel plate round the frame and drilling a hole through the two ends that’ll extend up past the frame rail. Insert a spacer between them which the pin can run through – and through either end of the plate and then nuts will tie it all together. The tension on the strap across the back of the fuel tank coupled by the positions of the tank, seat, and steering neck should hold the brackets in place – they can be welded in place later.

End result will be the tank held on in this fashion:

Which I love on principle as well as the ease in which it will come off, just pull the safety pin out of the latch, release the latch, pivot the strap out of the way and remove the tank. It’s beautiful.

That’s the sum of it, now I gotta let Josh know I’m not dead and will be game to do some mill work this evening, which hopefully will be good for him.

P11 Tank Change

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At least for now I’m going to change the tank on the P11. We’ve come up with a dozen different ways to replace the missing frame brackets for mounting the stock tank, but I don’t like any of them more than just having Jake weld the proper brackets in place, which would be easy enough once the bike’s running but it doesn’t really change the fact that the stock tank only holds a couple gallons.

The bike I was building before isn’t the same bike I’m building now, now that my brother will have a ’72 Bonnie, I’ll have someone with a comparable bike to go for rides with. As such, I’m now building a bike that’ll keep pace with the other as well as being good for touring and whatnot. I’m going to keep the P11’s tank and even get the brackets back on the frame so that it can be mounted, but it won’t be the usual tank on the bike, getting an Enfield tank for that.

This one:

I did all the measurements on both the Norton frame and the Enfield frame and I know that the tank will fit the Norton just fine. That weird bit of strapping they did to make it look like a poor man’s 50’s tank is going to let me mount it without the necessary frame mounts. I’m going to do it up the way you’d do an old-school cafe racer – or more to the point and old school racer – with a strap down the back of the tank which’ll mount to the frame’s backbone.

Like this:

Though my version likely won’t be quite that clean, but it’ll work just the same.

I’ll get the tank powder-coated as a test by the folks we’ll use to powder coat the parts for my brother’s Bonnie, and then next winter when I’m rebuilding the engine from the inside out I’ll get the frame powder coated as well.

Given that this bike was a hybrid from the jump, and is just more so now, I’m going to have vinyl tank decals made for it with the word Bitsa done up in the same sort of font that Norton & Triumph used for their logos. Bitsa being old cafe racer slang for a bike made from bits & pieces. It’s going to look good, look & feel more like an old Model 7 Norton Dommie than a P11, but that’s fine by me. Besides, I was never really building a P11, not with the forks & wheels I chose – and not now that I’m taking the engine down to a 650. The Model 7 was a 500, the first of the Dommies and the P11 in many ways was the last of the Dommies – though some might argue the 650 Mercury was. Either way, it’s going to be a lovely machine that’ll do everything I want a machine to do. It’ll make a fantastic solo bike for short rides as well as long ones.

Norton P11 – Changes to the Idea

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One big thing that has changed since I got the P11 project is my brother getting a British twin of his own. My original intentions to hotrod the Atlas engine were based mostly on the idea that I’d be off riding backroads by myself and with the idea of touring in mind – being able to do interstate speeds in a pinch.

Things being what they are now, I’ve decided that instead of building a hotrod Atlas engine, instead I’m going to replicate the 650SS engine – but with modern quality internals.

It’s almost the same plan as before, I’m still going to replace a significant amount of the engine’s insides with JS Motorsports parts and I’m still going to fit a Maney alloy barrel. The only real difference there is that I’m going to get 650 pistons and have a 650 bore done on the cylinder.

The result will be a sweeter nimbler engine that’ll shake less violently, get better fuel milage, and will have an easier time keeping pace with my brother’s 650 Bonnie.

I am however going to do three things that are contrary to the direction I’ve already gone.

I’m going to purchase and install a 2:1 manifold – and going to a 650 engine will work well with the 32mm carb I’ll be fitting along with an Amal type pancake air filter.

I’m going to go ahead and fit a belt driven primary with an updated Commando clutch:

Also, more for the ability to easily fit Alloy Panniers than any other reason, I’m going to abandon the high pipes in favor of low slung mufflers of the same style fit to the Atlas and early Fastback Commandos:

Which is close to the P11A setup but you’ll note not exact as the P11A had an upswept exhaust:

And as pretty as I find that or as much as I dig the high pipes I wanted so much, I am not taking this particular bike off road so it doesn’t have to worry about drowning, and low slung silencers are my ticket to being able to lock up all my gear on a long trip – for which this bike is going to become the touring rig when I’m riding solo. So low pipes it is.

I’ve also finally figured out which head steady I can use with the current setup I have now as far as oil feed goes, this style isn’t any thicker than a washer, so I’ll be able to use it in conjunction with the head oil feed banjo bolts and the third solid bolt through the middle and the side bracket will either perfectly line up with the bit through the frame I have or else I can make my own side brackets that’ll do exactly that.

I’ve also found the linkage parts I need to replicate the Atlas rear brake on the P11!

Up front I still fully intend to buy & install the stiffening kit for the Twin Leading Shoe brake before I re-install the front end.

And I’ve settled on 12″ center to center Hagon Shrouded Progressive fork springs as being the best thing to match the front end I’ll have. I’m figuring I’m running the shorter 21″ tubes in the Roadholder front-end I have. Given that, I’ll likely want to use the softest of the 3 spring sets I got with the kit to start and go from there.

In point of fact, the P11 is damn near ready to go on the road, at least with the original engine & whatnot. Seeing how she runs this spring will be what I need to know about if I think she could go cross country in her current state or if I will in fact have to take the Ural.

There is something to be said for the adventure of just lighting off to CA on a 60s British twin with what gear’ll fit in a bag strapped to the rear fender.

As much I as I want to do that, 99.9% chance I’ll be on the Ural – which will still be a glorious Adventure, just a more reliable one, which is more neutral than a straight positive. Like the joy of having the kid you didn’t expect.

Short Trip in January 2017

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Today is the 5th of January, in about one week I’ll be leaving on a trip that should take somewhere between four to five days, where on the second day I’ll be meeting a small band of people who’ve just spent the past two years riding around the world on four old 650cc Urals. This blog began as a trip log for my attempted 7,000 mile motorcycle trek back in 2012, that turned out to be an entirely different adventure than the one I’d planned, but an adventure it was all the same – and it was taken on a 650 Ural. I am a fan of those bikes and anyone who would dare to take one on an adventure, I thought the one that I’d had would be hard to beat – using that bike to haul a second bike 1500 miles south to Georgia, but that trip pales in comparison to the one these folks have been on. I long to meet them and as it apparently happens, they would like to meet me as well. So next week I shall be lighting off on my new (2012) 750 Ural Retro for the purposes of meeting them in Brooklyn where they’re officially ending their trip.

That route was taken by these five German artists on these four (only 3 pictured) 650 Urals

They’ve had some grand adventures and they’ve even gotten help from Ural itself who has given them some replacement parts along the way, including a brand new 650 engine, one of the new 50amp Nippen-Desmo alternators, someone got a new 750 engine & gearbox, and there have been other bits here and there I gather. As with any true motorcycle adventure they’ve also received a solid amount of support from folks they’ve met along the way. By the way, so that you understand, my separation of the labels trip & adventure are by this view – a trip is something that goes according to plan and has no troubles, an adventure is when very from the plan and you need help of people met along the way in order to continue. This lot has been on a grand adventure. More likely than not I’ll be going on something closer to a trip in order to meet them, but then again, with my health coupled with the season, it’ll feel more like an adventure.

I’ve been getting things ready at this end. I bought a new helmet, an Italian made Nolan 91, in white.

Which has a number of novel features which include the ability to fold up the forward section in order to convert to a 3/4s helmet, as well as a fold down tinted visor for sunny weather, a number of vents and anti-fogging bits, removable lining for cleaning, and I bought a very basic headset designed to fit this helmet which will allow for the ability to hear a phone, gps device, or mp3 player inside the helmet.

On the motorcycle I have replaced the rear tire with a new one (not entirely by choice), studded both the rear & front tires, re-installed the front fender as on messy roads the front wheel tends to throw crud up onto my face shield, and installed a pair of Hippo-Hands over the controls so that I might keep my fingers from freezing on the road.

The following pictures show the installation of the rear wheel with the new studded tire, note how aggressive the tire is, also notice how superbly designed the inside of the rear fender is for the purpose of shielding the wires from that which might harm it. I also, personally, love the mechanical simplicity of the drive shaft and rear drum brake.

These two show the Hippo Hands installed and how they protect the hands from weather, in the second you can see where I’d insert my hands into them, and how they’ll protect me almost up to my elbows.

Here’s the aggressive front tire, slightly worn but still formidable against the snow, and studded against the ice.

And the lovely front fender that’s been living on a shelf since the middle of last winter, that Jerry can was used to balance the bike and keep the sidecar wheel on the ground while the bike’s rear was off the ground.

After I’d installed the front fender but before I’d removed the sidecar’s windshield, it’s looking like I’ll be alone for this trip, so there’s no need to keep it installed – it just hampers fuel millage.

The bike stripped down and mostly ready for the trip that’s to come:

I’ve still got some work to do on her before I leave. I’ve invested in a few more bits for my gopro camera, another mount which’ll let me easily vary the positions it’s in during my travels, as well as a battery pack to increase the length of time it can record. I’ve also bought a fixture for mounting my phone (which now has a weatherproof case) to the handlebars in between the bar clamps. I still need to buy a long charging cable so that I can plug it in on the road. I’ve purchased some bits in order to allow me to use the phone in place of a GPS device, I still need to perform some tests to that end, I want to see if I can listen to music at the same time or if I’ll have to sacrifice music in order to use the gps functions.

In order to mount all that I’m going to need to swap out the friction steering damper for the hydraulic one I’d bought a while back. I’m also going to replace the front engine cover with the upgraded one which has a modern oil filter setup on it. Once I’d completed those tasks I’ll upload more pictures and cover how that all went, though I expect it’ll go just fine.

Quick Triumph Update

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Finally paid down the ’72 Bonnie about a month ago and picked it up a couple weeks ago, picked it up in style, as it should be done.

The Ural did well, was much less frightening than the last time I did this with a Ural, I suspect the key difference is the telescopic fork front end verses the leading link that my old Ural had.

First or second night of having it home I pulled the stock airbox & battery/coil brackets out which opens up the space behind the engine beautifully and loses a decent amount of weight.

A few days later my buddy Brent came up for a visit from NYC and helped me pull the engine out,

Which was so filthy it appeared to be painted black,

But with a bit of Simple Green, some rags, and wire brushes – we got it back to something like it’s original loveliness

Right now, and for the past week, there has been a combination of oils soaking in the cylinders. Later today, with luck, we’ll pull the top end free. For the engine I have a few things planned as essentials.
All new seals & gaskets
Pull the sludge trap out of the crank and plug that off
Replace the stock oil pump with a Morgo rotary pump
Replace the iron barrel with an aluminum one
Replace the original crank bearings with ones of a higher quality
Replace gearbox bearings as well
Lap the cases so that they are truly oil tight
Check the connecting rod bushings – possibly replace them
Have the crank balanced to a 65% Wet balance (same as I’ll do with the P11)
Rebuild the carbs (only 3,000 miles on them so they should be ok for now)
Replace the points ignition with a modern electronic ignition
Replace the primary chain with a belt
Update/Upgrade the clutch.

The chassis is getting a cafe racer look, given I’ll be using chrome or stainless fenders and keeping the steel tank, I can’t really call it a true cafe racer. The look is good enough. This is a bike for my brother to be able to go out and blow off steam on state highways so he doesn’t stroke out from the stresses of life & work. I want the engine to be smooth and bulletproof reliable. I want progressive springs & shocks so she’ll be nimble and fun.

72 Triumph 650 Bonnie

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I now own 6/10s of what will be my fourth Triumph and third vintage Triumph.

Had pop’s last bike for a bit, a sweetly tuned ’05 T100 Bonnie with progressive springs & shocks. Right amount of tire pressure and she went round corners as tight as you could wish.

My first, a ’73 T140V 750 Bonnie, learned a lot about wrenching twins and building bikes with that one but didn’t have any measurable time riding it.

That’s the second ’73, this one a 750 Tiger, my primary transport when I was out in Phoenix. Out of the growing number of machines I’ve owned this is one that all others get measured against. This was as close as I ever got to the machine I’d always dreamed of and something comparable to the bike from the stories I was raised on (The ’67 Norton P11 will be closer still, as close as possible without actually being the machine).

I fitted alloy fenders, modern tires, the Mikuni carb, side covers and pancake filter to replace the heavy stock airbox, low bars, Corbin seat, rear rack for school shit & groceries, bar end mirrors, and briefly ran an open exhaust. Eventually ran her without a battery or working gauges – which didn’t matter because I got to know her speeds and could figure how fast I was going by the sound of the engine and what gear I was in. Next to the small block Guzzi its the bike I felt the most comfortable on in every regard.

Theoretically I am buying this 1972 Bonnie as a loaner, I figure it’ll primarily get used by my brother and his wife once their kid is older, something to ride round the back roads of New Hampshire on. Friends as well though, not all of them but the ones I trust the most, it’ll be a way to go on rides with mates where we’re both on comparable classic Brit machines.

My restoration which is slated a few years from now will set her up as an extremely solid New England bike. She’s getting the Magdyno ignition, an alloy barrel, and a modest overhaul. She’ll be solid and reliable for a few days at a time for sure without needing any fuss. I will fit her with a Craven rack so that the luggage I’m getting for the P11 will fit her as well, but she’s not going to get the sort of attention I’m giving the Norton, I’m rigging the Norton so she’ll be able to do a 7,000 mile road trip. The Norton will fulfill a great many things that I am currently lacking, this Triumph isn’t necessary and is getting bought mostly for that loaner thing but also because I don’t think they’ll remain in a price range I can afford much longer and I don’t want to miss the chance to own another one down the line.

Also by the time my nephew is old enough to be allowed to ride that bike’ll be a sweet 60 years old and perfect for him if he wants a classic bike. If things work out I hope to have him round with me when I rebuild her, and let him do any work he’s interested in doing. That’ll give him confidence working with engines, and some sweet memories from childhood of rebuilding a classic British motorcycle with his uncle that he will someday inherit. Won’t force him into it if he’s not interested but I know the memories I wish I had with pop and it seems poetic if I can make them a reality with my nephew who’s pop’s namesake.

Quick Motorcycle Update

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Been a while since I posted in here, so I figured I’d give a bit about where the bike is at now as it’s really beginning to come together – I think she should be on the road somewhere in March. Not sure if that’ll be legal & inspected, there are still some things that need done, legal by April for sure.

First, the wheels are at Barnstorm as I type getting new Kenda tires fitted, that means that I’ll finally be able to have a rolling chassis. While she came with a front wheel I’ve had to build the rear from bits from Ebay and as a result the bike has been living on a motorcycle-jack for about a year now. The rear tire has been the big hold up on that front, so this is excellent.

I’ve also decided on the gauges, a 4″ combination unit that uses GPS for tracking speed and also has a tach built into it. Looks like this,

The tach won’t work for a little bit as I’ll need to get an extra bit of electrical hardware to allow it to run off the magneto, but the speedo will be enough – this instrument is what’s going to hold me up till April. March is likely going to be dedicated to a large collection of smaller bits – more than a few will likely have to do with the oil tank and running the lines to bottom & top end. Also the making of brackets to actually hold the oil tank in place. I’ve also got to decide if the shocks fitted are alright or if I need to spring for Hagon progressive shocks sooner than later.

What’s most important to this update is the following.

First off, the Primary is now completely rebuilt and while not yet tensioned, otherwise all set with new sprockets, chain, clutch plates, springs, spring-buckets, and rotor:

With that done I was able to open up the timing chest so that I could set about replacing the ignition.

Despite the fact that this bike came with the best of the Lucas K2F mags – a true Competition mag,

It was unfortunately worn in a fashion that would have resulted in the cylinders firing at different times which would have cost more than I have to correct. As such, if you remember, I’d thought about going to a BT-H magneto which uses a modern electronic ignition inside of a magneto, but I had since read some unfavorable reviews about how those are assembled which coupled with their higher cost than the more standard Joe Hunt mags coupled with a need to use more expensive gauges than the one shown above that require a sensor on the wheel for gauging speed – killed my want to go that route.

So I went with what is now my third Joe Hunt Mag in the past 9 years. But unlike the last two which went onto Triumph engines that were produced post the mag era and so had the mags hanging out off the side of the timing cover, this one will be going behind the cylinder where the Lucas sat – which is as it should be.

In that picture you can also see the mechanical Auto-Advance unit which helped starting on the old Lucas mags, but isn’t necessary on the Hunt mags and so I’ll be leaving it off and replacing it with a simple sprocket. Here you can see the differences between the two ignitions in general size, layout, and the Auto-Advance vs a simple sprocket,

Both are shut off the same way, by grounding, on the Hunt the ground post is on the side where as on the Lucas its on the opposite end from the Advance. On the Lucas the cables come up from the top of the mag where as on the Hunt they come out of the black cover on the back.

Both mags have a mechanical contact breaker on the inside, and in this way the Hunt is going to be easier to maintain than the Lucas because as you can see, the access to that on the Lucas is a bit of a pain in the ass,

Where as on the Hunt,

The area is much more accessible both because of the amount of room allowed by the cover’s removal coupled with the fact that the hunt isn’t as deep from back to flange as the Lucas and so I’ll have more room between the back of the primary cover and mag’s insides.

Next step will be to install the Hunt mag, then install the triple trees with new bearings, finish rebuilding the forks, re-assemble the front end, install the front & rear wheels. Then make brackets for mounting the oil & gas tanks, install the new wire harness and tie in the various parts – all of which wire in as original parts would. Finally I’ll have to tie the oil system together, and repair a stripped thread in one of the gastank bungs so that I can tie in the fuel lines. Then I’ll be able to give her some gas & oil and see what I’ve got!

After that it’s just details like the gauges and minor adjustments. I plan to use LED headlight & tail lights since I won’t be running a battery, and I plan to put the speedo/tach on a toggle switch so that when I’m trying to start the bike with my leg the electronics in the unit aren’t a draw on the system. I also have to make a rear brake rod to tie the Dommie style brake into the Matchless chassis and likely I’ll have to modify of machine new wheel/axle spacers since I’m using different wheels than would have been used from the factory and I’m using Norton forks in Ceriani trees. But thats all details – and its all stuff I know how to do. There isn’t anything on this bike that I don’t know how to do, thats one of the reasons I love vintage british machines so much.

Another P11 Update – Getting Close Now

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I think I have to scratch the Electronic Fuel Injection, I don’t particularly want to, but I don’t think we’re at that point yet. There are a few issues with fitting the kit I want to the P11, some of which I think is more a result of the 1967 Norton P11 engine really having been designed in the late 1930s. The thing that I think is going to sink it is the ignition that has to be linked to the ECU and there not being a way to do that without spending another $1,300 – some of it on stuff I don’t want on my Norton. There is also a slim chance that I could do ALL of this and discover that none of it will work unless I also install a $1,700 Electric Starter kit – which I REALLY don’t want. For now I’ll continue to work with the folks who sell the kits to try to iron out the issues but I think that the idea most likely needs to be shelved for 1-3 years to let technology continue to evolve.

I have also decided to shelve the Belt Drive & Commando Clutch upgrade as not necessarily being necessary quite yet. There are a solid number of people who believe that Belt Driven Primaries aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and there are also quite a few people who still use the 3 spring AMC clutch and single row primary despite how easy it is to upgrade either or both. Instead I am going to restore what I have, ride what I have for a year or so and then decide if what I have needs to be better or not.

So I have ordered (all new) a Clutch Basket/Sprocket, a 21T engine sprocket, a single row primary chain, 3 springs, 6 Barnett Friction Plates, and a new Rotor Nut. The steel clutch plates are fine, and the cush drive rubbers in the clutch hub are fine (surprisingly). So not needing to replace those bits saves a bit of money. This is the way the Clutch goes together,

These are the clearly worn out friction plates,

They should look more like,

Steel plates,


The worn out sprockets on the clutch basket & engine sprocket,

And how the primary drive looked before I dismantled it, so that when I re-assemble it you’ll have a point of reference for the improvement. Note the new stainless fasteners looking all lovely going around. Also note the proximity of the footpeg mounting stud to the frame which is why rather than fixing it in place using a nut on either end I’m going to switch to cotter pins – which will make it/them easier to remove as the threads will no longer matter. You can also see the hole in the primary case(s) where the stud for fixing the footpeg bracket would have come through – I had intended to remove all of these parts & the inner cover for getting at the Magneto, but thats no longer necessary which I’ll explain soon.

Another project that I’ll be doing this winter is strengthening the front Twin Leading Shoe Brake plate. As far as drum brakes go, I am a fan because I like mechanical simplicity and their readily apparent issues (disc brakes can develop issues that are harder to see – like the hydraulic hose stretching over time reducing performance). I think that out of all the TLS Brake plates fitted to road going bikes, the best two were that fitted to the early /5 BMWs and the vented one fitted to the early Norton Commando’s, examples of both seen here,

The only issue with the Commando brake was that it could flex under certain conditions and the solution to that is to install a stiffening kit. Here is the stock plate inside,

Here is the stiffening kit,

And the combination of the two, which is fantastic.

The next bit of work is my continued working of the front forks, as you remember I purchased Roadholder forks, and then I purchased kits which will allow me to replace the far out dated internal damper design with dampers out of a 2007 Honda CBR600RR with custom wound progressive springs – which will give me superior roadholding even for today – which when they were new is one of the things that made the Norton’s so great – superior forks & handling during the 50s – 70s – then the world caught up and passed them and this kit allows me to keep the classic front fork’s outer style – though I am going from metal shrouds to rubber gaiters – and have modern handling at the same time.


Norton P11

Clear difference in the original internals (top) and the new Honda internals,

I still have to rebuild the forks before I install these new kits. New bushings, seals, and fiber washers. I have also decided to use the Ceriani fork trees rather than the Roadholder trees as I do intend to use this bike as a bit of a duel sport, the Ceriani MX trees provide much thicker clamps around the fork tubes and a much more substantial steering stem,

Though that is much of the reason I’ll be switching to rubber fork gaiters, beyond the fact that off road the metal shrouds apparently trap more dirt than they protect from – but also because the shrouds are designed to work with the Norton trees, not the Ceriani,

The last bit of news for tonight’s post is the Magneto ignition, I have decided to replace the Lucas K2F magneto with a BT-H FM2R Magneto. I actually could have picked the BT-H copy of the K2F – which is pretty slick,
My Competition K2F mounted,

BT-H Copy,

But its money for looks and I don’t care about my bike Looking exactly as it would have in 1967, if I did, this whole process would have cost me way more money and the bike I got at the end would look only slightly different than what I have now – but it wouldn’t be as good as what I’ll have when I’m done for the fact that I live in a city.

What I’m trying to do is build a bike that’s a cross between the 67 P11 and 67 Atlas.

The BT-H magneto is, well first of all, it’ll look like this,

It mounts the same way as the Lucas, physically takes up the same amount of space, and it Is a magneto. But thats where their commonality ends. The BT-H has a modern ignition, which is what makes it better than say a Joe Hunt magneto, the Joe Hunt still requires setting up and a bit of maintenance, its not as bad as the Lucas K2F for constant tinkering but for the cost of the thing its not what you’d expect it would be – and I say that having had 2 of them, they aren’t bad mags, they just, they aren’t as good as a new Lucas K2F was and they sure as hell aren’t as good as a new BT-H. The BT-H uses the more modern CDI type ignition and the triggering is magnets rather than points – the only moving part in the BT-H mag is the spindle – which is what I want for the cost of a new magneto, because with the BT-H the operative word in that sentence is new – as it should be.

I’ll also be able to ditch the Auto-Advance (top left),

With an 18T Sprocket,

I am going to replace the mechanical speedometer & tachometer with electronic clocks, the fellow at BT-H recommends I use the modern electronic Smiths and since they will fit my original Smith’s mounts and look the part – really, I’m not yet sure if I want the original Grey face or if I want the ones that were sold for Nortons with the N. But these are modern Electronic gauges!

That means no cables (the speedo cables are over 5′ long), no $290 tacho drive off the timing case/camshaft, no $92 speedo drive on the rear wheel, no dimly lit bulbs to light up the faces that will fall out because of the vibrations.

I’ll install the Speedo first, then later on after I collect the new big-end shells, JS Conrods, pistons, and valve springs – lap the cases, and all of that, thats when I’ll buy the tachometer. Till then I’m thinking I’ll install a metal plate where the tach would have been mounted (on the right) and in it I’ll install a key’d ignition switch because this bike is slowly turning into something that I don’t want just anyone to be able to start and ride off.

To sum all of this up, basically, I have finally figured out a really solid idea of what I want this bike to be when its finished. I can now picture it in my head clear as day, I know the end game for the engine, gearbox, and everything else. I have figured out the perfect (for me) blend of modern and vintage simplicity, and it thrills me. Even better, she really is very close, especially now that the primary is so close. A couple more months and she’ll be on the road. I still need to fit tires, add some missing brackets to the frame, and buy the magneto. But now that my health is turning round, everything is moving at the best speed possible, only hindered by my income and my still shifty health and lack of muscle – both of which are improving slowly but steadily.