W/E 26th April 2020


Elefant in the house

So a good week, made so by the arrival of a guest mechanic! Pete turned up on his Cagiva armed with a set of Stillson’s to sort out the busted stud.

The Elefant is worth a quick look. I was surprised that it pre-dates the Atlas bikes by at least a year. I’d thought the Atlas was the first Italian ‘XT’ but you’d have to admit Cagiva got their first. Laverda used the Elefant formula with a heavy steel frame, cheap plastics and instruments and a recycled ‘street’ motor. The Elefant looks like an even heavier bike with marginally more substantial forks, swinging arm and frame (square tube as you can see) and similar rear suspension ‘Soft Damp’ as opposed to ‘Soft Ramble’. In straight comparison I think the Cagiva is the better bike mainly on account of the stronger engine (tho’ Pete’s isn’t the original Cagiva lump).

So with plenty of the stud proud of the cylinder head Pete marched in with his Stillson’s and voila it moved and in a minute was out!


Doctor performs miracle in surgically clean workshop

I’d planned ahead and had a nice selection of parts from OCT including a new stud.


Thanks OCT – dig the complimentary sticker and 3C calendar 🙂

The new stud went in with no hassle and was tightened in place using the ‘2 nuts’ technique (oooh er!). All this progress presents an interesting, and unexpected, situation – I could end up with two Atlas’s ready for the road!!! I’d switched my attention to Atlas #1 but now Atlas #3 is back in contention too. I’ve put the cams from Atlas #3 in to #1 so they will need swapping out and the cams from the spare motor pressed in to action (the cam journals on Atlas #1 being pitted) but that aside both are shimmed up and once cam chains linked they’re ready to go.


It’s not citric acid

I’d left the Atlas #1 story with some seized in primary case allen bolts. Pete the mechanic has kindly left me some citric acid powder that I can mix with hot water to try out. At the moment I’m holding that in reserve and waiting to see if ‘Noxudol 4’ can do the trick. So far 2 out of the 4 seized bolts have indeed shifted so I will give this a bit more time. The allen bolts however continue to be stuck in the cam cover of Atlas #2. I’m learning however that patience is a virtue when it comes to seized bolts so will leave it a while longer before the citrus brew is applied.

Alongside the engine work I’ve started to reclaim the cycle parts of Atlas #1

DSCF8463 (2)


I’m not trying to get a concours finish. I just want enough paint to ward off too much rust for the time being. I had a tin of Aprilia gold frame paint in the shed and some ‘signal red’ enamel laying about so got to it. The results look okay from 10 metres…




It’s difficult to show the different red’s but if you compare the downtube to the cross-member that the side stand hangs from you can see it’s not a perfect match. Still most of the red paint won’t be seen, is better than rust and let’s face it once I’ve covered it all in road dirt it’ll be academic. I don’t intend to renovate any panels or the tank so it’ll be ‘shabby chic’ at best.

Nick 🙂

W/E 19th April 2020


Atlas #1 engine is almost back together!

I’ve installed the cams and cam bearings from Atlas #3. The set in Atlas #1 are damaged through wear and my incompetent assembly back in the day 😦 I’ve got a new set of cam bearings on their way from OCT but I’ll decide how to deploy them once I’ve had a look through all 4 engines.

I had to grind one inlet shim (inboard alternator side) and now have a row of 8’s and 10’s 🙂 The cams seem to be moving okay.

The squeeky bum moment was torquing down the cylinder head. I’d been advised to use 28 Nm so pulled it down firstly to 15 then 20, then 24 and finally to 28. The small M6 was tightened to 8 pounds. The nuts on the outer side of the cams are silver whereas the inner nuts black. The silver nuts torqued down okay but the black ones seemed ‘softer’ somehow. Anyway they’re all done now 🙂


Setting the valve timing proved to be a bit easier than I’d anticipated because back in the mists of time I’d scratched the primary cover to show TDC. The Mk 3 engines don’t have a timing mark like the earlier engines – you have to use the ignition backplate for reference. Got to TDC and with a bit of help from Mrs A holding the inlet cam in place the chain was joined and job done!

The cam-chain tensioner was wound into the engine using the cam-chain and then the tensioner blade was pushed to meet the retaining bolt.

The dreaded seized steel allen bolts in alloy cases has reared its head once again with four bolts currently stuck fast in the primary case. I don’t currently need access so this doesn’t have to slow things up but I’ve started to apply WD40 in the hope I can free them up.

So next stop is a carb’ clean, paint the engine cases and then the engine can go back in the frame.

Nick 🙂

W/E 12th April 2020

extra shim

So left the garage last time having decided I needed to swop the cylinder head off the spare engine onto Atlas #1. Once again I learned the value of walking away and thinking. Came back with a fresh pair of eyes and challenged why it was the exhaust cams could not be changed between Atlas #1 and Atlas #3. Fiddled for a while and then spotted the obvious which was that Atlas #1 had some shim on the centre support bearing. I removed this and the cam now works in either motor. There is no shim in Atlas #3 and I can’t see any reason for it in #1 so out it goes! The cam isn’t the smoothest but it should be ‘good enough’.

damaged bearing and camshaft

Bad news was waiting when I finally took the inlet cam out. I can remember butchering the white metal bushes when I put this engine back together many years ago – there’s evidence of my ‘handy work’ on the exhaust cam bushes but this was a new (low) level. The bearing surface on the cam is now damaged. As with the whole mess I intend to try and start it as is and once its going return and replace both cams with the pieces from the spare engine.

Suspension bush

Finally I went back to the suspension knuckle and in the first instance ordered up a replacement bush. On closer inspection I can see that the reason the steel bush dropped out is that the plain bearing pressed in to the knuckle has worn thin. My original plan was to maybe loctite or shim the steel bush but if I’d have done that the bolt going through the bush would’ve just worn the hole oval or in a worse case broken causing suspension failure! The reason for the wear is dirt getting in behind the o ring seals – something to bear in mind and maybe introduce six monthly checks on condition – especially if you’re going to use the bike all year round.


I dug out a bent frame I had in the back of the garage to salvage the swinging arm. The non-standard stickers look cool + the rest of the paint is in good condition. I can use this swinging arm in the build and save time not having to get a rattle can out.

Nick 🙂

W/E 5th April 2020


Dead Atlas

So Atlas #3 is on hold until I can strip the motor and have the busted stud sorted. I walked away and went through my options and decided to re-commission my first Atlas. This bike had a top end overhaul but started to run hot and misfire so it was shoved in the shed as I had Atlas #2 on standby.

With the engine on the floor I knew I had to unseize the swinging before digging about for other bits. The swinging arm is held with two bolts that sit flush to the frame and have a 24mm nut on the back.


The primary side bolt came out easily but the alternator side wouldn’t budge – damn Laverda’s why is nothing straightforward! I took a step away for a couple of days to think through how to get a big hammer into the back of the bolt. Time to reflect is a good lesson and sure enough the bleedin’ obvious came to me of putting a bar through the opposite side of the swinging arm. By loosening the retaining nut I reduced the possibility of damaging the thread.


Now pass me the hammer…

The bolt eventually shifted and the swinging arm came away for a clean up. I’m not sure what to do with the bearings in the swinging arm as I think they may have left the factory with a protective coating that in use forms a ‘teflon’ like slippy contact surface. My plan is to buff everything up and put it back together with ordinary grease. A bodge of course but the bearing surfaces are wide so I’d be surprised if this introduced play.

All my Atlas’s have this seized swinging arm problem (and that includes the spare bent frame). The fancy coating isn’t robust and once it wears you have a metal to metal contact which with very little encouragement is going to rust. The same happens on the suspension linkages. You know you have it when a pillion gets on the bike and the suspension sticks in a lower than normal plane.


I like a tidy workshop

So with swinging arm removed it was on to the engine. The valve clearances were good except for one inlet that was tight so I was confident that could be fixed – however knowing the history of the motor I was on the lookout for a reason why it ended up running so badly. I’d been warned to check the cams turned freely and checking these showed a tight exhaust cam albeit with consistent valve clearances.


Atlas #3 supported by wood, Atlas #1 in foreground about to reveal more problems…

I played around with the cam changing bearings around to see if I’d mixed them up (quite likely) when I’d put it together last time round. Whatever combination I tried the cam tightened up. The cam also had evidence of wear on the primary end – looked like it had been run with dirty oil (not something I tend to do) so life had been hard. I took the smooth cam out of Atlas #3 and installed this. This cam tightened up too despite being free in it’s original setting. My conclusion is that Atlas #1 has a warped head… So next task is to check the spare engine cylinder head and do a swap.


Collection of 1980’s tat

Final task was to give an initial clean of the swinging arm. It’s a cheap steel item that doesn’t suggest Laverda maintained its passion for quality towards the end of production. That’s going to need the bearings cleaning up and a touch of spray paint before going back in.


Catherine’s Ducati provides a nice background

Dismantling continued on the frame and cycle parts as they look pretty derelict! First off was the handlebar fairing that still bore the crash damage from maybe four years ago when it was knocked over in the car park at work. It’s going to take some work to get this back. Fortunately I have a spare.


As you can see there’s been some pretty impressive wiring done in the past (by me!)…this was how I plumbed in the auxiliary lights. The LED lights have a clever little box of tricks that allows you to dim them – from memory I ran one at 50% until I switched to main beam and then they both kicked in at 100%. It was like night and day 🙂


It was a tussle right to the end – the forks are held in the clamps by fiddling allen bolts which are seized in place. Hopefully the steering head bearings don’t need replacing…

There is a lot of paint missing around the frame and the gold on the swinging arm and forks is totally shot. It might have been a good time to attend to all of this but I’m thinking that if the purpose is to get it on the road then maybe touching it in is the way to go? At least having got it down this far it will come apart a lot easier when I go for a proper paint job.

Nick 🙂