All ready to sail to Santander with Mrs A 🙂 The Jota has been running great still but with 7,000 post rebuild miles there was a bit of work to do.
The rear tyre needed replacement, there was still thread left but there was a non Avon furrow where we’d bottomed out in Scotland. As you’ll know getting a tyre fitted to a Laverda without rim damage is difficult so after consultation it was off to Mike Surman, Aylesbury. Jeremy is a factory trained mechanic and has a lovely 3c so we had a good natter. Not cheap but the rim is unscathed.
A new set of 110Ilbs weight springs came up from Falcon Suspension – 10Ilbs up on stock (must stop eating pies). While this was being done I also changed the orientation of the 8mm earth bolt so it is head down giving a few more millimetres of clearance. The picture also shows the old rack which with a few spacers fits fine…tho’ now the seat won’t open…
The Speedo stopped working which thankfully turned out to be the wheel worm gear spinning. Some Loctite 270 plus a new, cubed cable saw it working fine. I see this gear alone is €300 so I’ve included regular inspection and greasing to the service schedule!
Loctite 270 was also used on the outboard crush bearing which was spinning in the housing. Fresh rear sprocket (I passed on the drive sprocket for fear I’d bugger something up so close to departure), chain and clean oil joined the fray.
so the plan is Santander over to Paul Ricard to watch Andy Bartlett race his RGS and then back up through France to home. About 1200 miles in all…what could possibly go wrong!
Kept meaning to post but not a lot has happened – the Jota has kept rolling along 🙂 Since I the trip to the Belgian rally in September 2022 and having the oil cooler welded there’s been no issues. I’ve been using the Jota as my daily rider and aside from continued oil consumption at a litre every thousand miles it runs great. With regards the oil I’m assured it’s a known head gasket issue and that a replacement will be available by the end of April. It’s not ideal but I can live with the consumption for now.
The Jota is turning out to be more fun than I could have thought. It’s a ponderous thing to wheel about but once it’s moving all that weight goes away. The handling is tight and the engine pulls well. The more I ride it the more I use the performance. The Mikuni flatslides were a great choice as the bike idles and is smooth from very low revs with no snatching. I’m getting high 40’s mpg so my tank only needs filling every 200 miles which is so much better than the 125 miles it gave on Dellortos. The good running may also be down to the Ignitech ignition which must contribute to the smooth running and excellent starting 🙂
Preparations are underway to take the boat to Santander and from there ride over to Paul Ricard to watch Andy Bartlett race. Before we go it needs an oil change, back tyre, rack fitting and 2 litres of oil for the panniers! What could possibly go wrong…
A long time since the last update. So for these past couple of months I’ve had the luxury of really just riding the Jota! This picture was taken today after a 50 mile blast to take advantage of the incredibly mild weather. The roads were a bit damp and with the rear tyre getting low I didn’t ‘test’ the handling.
There was however a purpose behind the gentle morning bimble. I rode with a friend the other day who reported some smoke out of the right hand silencer when pulling away or overtaking. No smoke on a stable throttle. Pulling the plugs confirmed this as the primary side was perfect but things got worse as we moved to the alternator. I cleaned the plugs and then took it for a bit of a blast deliberately going on the local dual carriageway so I could rev up to 7,000 rpm. The bike ran really well and inspection of the plugs seemed to say all was well. Sometime this week I’ll pull the plugs again to see if a gentle bimble brings problems – though when I pulled into the drive and revved the bike it didn’t seem to smoke.
I have a few thoughts if it is burning some oil. First off the top of the pistons are a bit wet. This was something the engine man pointed out when the twisted crank was fixed. A different set of oil rings was put into the motor and initially oil consumption seemed negligible. I’ve noticed however that now oil consumption is somewhere around a litre per 1,000 miles. Are the rings still not sealing properly? To test this I’m going to change over to Kendal oil as run in Harleys. I used to run this back in the day and the motor seemed to be happy. I’m currently running Silkolene V twin 20/50 which to my eye seems quite thin. I know it can’t be but maybe a very traditional oil might be better? I’ve also considered 500 miles on a sump of Halford’s Classic 20/50. This cheap oil is used to break in engines and maybe I need to roughen up the bores and then go back to the expensive stuff? Could all be nonsense as discussions on ‘what oil should I use’ are normally silly. When I first got the Jota in ’87 I ran Duckhams Q and it was fine…
My second thought is petrol. The smoking happened after I filled up in an Esso station I’d never used. The petrol was E5 but now I’m back to Shell Super E5 I wonder if this will make any difference? I know this is petrol and not oil but might be something in it..?
Finally have I got the beginnings of a blowing head gasket. I hope not is all I can say to this. The bike has done 3,000 miles since the twisted crank was fixed.
So putting aside oil how’s it going? It runs great and everytime I go out on it I smile. It’s a glorious thing to be out on, the noise, the power the taut handling and of course the admiring looks.
It’s heavy to wheel around and I wonder if a side stand might be a good addition. The centre stand is very easy to use but I wonder if I am going to drop it sometime as I roll it off the stand?
The Mikuni carbs’ are excellent – no snatching at any revs and at least 30% better fuel economy. The throttle still retains the original annoying ‘one and a half’ turn to get fully open. This more than anything restricts how hard you spin the bike up. I’m only running one throttle cable on the ‘push/pull’ system but I am going to see what dual cables feels like. When I first used both cables the throttle was too heavy but that might have been a routing problem. What I notice is that sometimes the throttle doesn’t fully close. It may be me being slack shutting off but let’s see. The only downside is I just have to ensure I don’t leave them on for fear of another hydraulic lock. I did leave the petrol on for 3 hours the other day and before starting removed the plugs just to be sure (petrol hadn’t leaked past). It’s inevitable this will happen sometime in the future so always pack a plug spanner hey!
The brakes and suspension are heavy and hard. With the former you have to pull the lever but they work okay despite the bike’s weight. I’m impressed that the rear works as it never did back in the day. An upgrade would be a 14mm master cylinder on the front.
The front forks are spindly things that do judder a bit at slow speed. I might have slightly warped discs but there’s no pulsing at the lever so I think it’s the forks. A winter overhaul may bring benefits. The rear Falcon shocks are excellent – tho’ I might go for stronger springs for pillion and camping duties. Overall the handling is best described as ‘taut’ but also classy. It doesn’t feel like cheap suspension even tho’ it’s dated. It’s not harsh tho’ it is firm. I prefer this to the softly sprung Honda NC I own. The thin tyres and taut handling combine to reward committed riding – lots of counter-steering and rising revs out of corners brings a lot of rewards. I’m also exploring the impact of shifting body weight and this helps. With regards tyres I’m finding the rear wears quite quickly. With 3,000 miles on the back the tread is noticeably lower and this contributes to high speed head shakes. It might make 5,000 legally but I’ll put a fresh rear on in the spring. The front goes twice as long as the rear.
So I hope I can start planning for a full 2023 of Jota adventures. I can’t see any reason why the Jota can’t be a daily rider and frankly as the curtain appears to be coming down on petrol now is the time to be riding rather than polishing these ‘classic’ bikes!
Time was ticking down to the Scottish National Road Rally (SNRR) and the whirring noise in the engine was diagnosed as main bearing failure. The engine was dismantled in the Scottish workshop and it turns out the hydraulic lock had not only blown the head gasket but twisted the crank out of alignment. The super strong Arrow con-rods had survived intact, rather than bend, which would have happened with a standard rod, the crank gave. So engine out for the fourth time and hopefully now fixed. With the repair complete Mrs A and I set off at 6 am on the Sunday morning to take on the SNRR. You can read how we got on in the ‘Trips’ section of this blog.
The engine felt good after the head was nipped down. I’d decided to ride south via the A68 and A1/M1. Heading over to Selkirk and then down to Darlington was a real joy. The A68 was a good workout, the sun shone and the Jota got lots of admiring comments which made me feel that maybe all this grief was worth it.
Having the Jota home I was keen to ride it so arranged an evening with Tony over in Leicester. The Fosse Way over was great fun and the prospect of swopping over to his SF840 ‘twisted twin’ very alluring 🙂
Tony built the special SF with his Dad. The crank is a twisted to 88 degrees it runs a Metz ported bathtub cylinder head and lots of bits and bobs off a variety of Laverda models. The Jota pipes combined with the crank phasing make it sound awesome 🙂 At the moment it’s in a ‘rust rod’ condition – which to be fair looks cool. It’s obvious to anyone this bike is special.
Out on the road I watched as Tony glided off into the distance. His SF felt more compact, revved freely perhaps vibrated more and at least matched the Jota’s power. The SF is fast but it’s total focus means I wouldn’t necessarily jump at riding it to Breganze!
So stopped to talk about the bikes and after a while it was time to return the keys and head our separate ways. Luckily Tony noticed oil on his left boot and inspection of the Jota showed a cracked oil cooler… 6 hours later I rolled home courtesy of recovery…
The nearside oil cooler pipe had cracked from the main body. Luckily there was oil left in the engine so no damage there. The challenge was on tho’ to get the bike ready for the trip to the Belgian Rally. I came up with a few options:
Take the Honda (noooo)!
Get a new oil cooler (not enough time)
Fix the existing oil cooler (dispatched to a specialist welder)
Borrow a replacement (contact with friend made)
Plumb out the oil cooler altogether (visit hydraulic specialist)
I arranged to borrow a ‘cooler from an early triple – the type that has the horns attached to it. It looked promising as the cooler has oil pipes held by jubilee clips and it could use the ’81 mounting rubbers. Unfortunately the engine connectors are a different size (smaller) so this option wasn’t going to fly. Things were now getting a bit desperate but then a call came through that the ‘cooler had been welded so all was well. I did however still want a contingency so still visited the hydraulic specialist who knocked up the parts to make a link pipe should I have further problems…
We set off for the Belgian Rally. Everything seemed good and then the offside oil cooler pipe broke in exactly the same way! Good job I had the contingency on board (go to the Belgian Rally in the ‘Trips’ section.
So now I’ve had the offside oil cooler pipe welded and once again it’s looking good. I left the specialist welder however with a warning that maybe I needed a new oil cooler. The oil cooler I fitted is essentially what you’ll buy from a specialist Laverda supplier – a Citroen Dyane 6 oil cooler with the inlet/outlet pipes customised. I think however these coolers are perhaps not made to the same standard – the pipes seem to have been fixed to the cooler via a press process. Having mine welded will make this stronger but the system isn’t really strong enough. I see on my ’84 RGA the hoses are attached direct to the cooler via a 22mm nut. This arrangement takes out the weak thin pipes so this is probably the way to go.
Autumn has arrived and winter salted roads will soon be upon us. I’ve done my fair share of destroying Laverdas in winter conditions and with a Honda on hand have no desire to go down this road this year. I’ve therefore probably got a month or so before the Jota is laid up for winter.
So the Jota has gone back to Scotland for fixing…again. I tried all kinds of trouble shooting to try and find the source of the noise. I disabled the clutch pushrod then disengaged the gearbox by removing the primary chains. I bump started it without the alternator and sprag, replaced the cam chain blade and finally took out the outrigger bearing behind the ignition. The whir is still there so the conclusion is either it’s coming from the oil pump or the crank itself! I could’ve taken the oil pump apart except this involved undoing the big nut on the end of the crank (the ‘Jesus’ nut). I decided this was asking for trouble so sent it to the expert.
I’m pretty dis-heartened as you might imagine. I was so made up when I first rode the bike home but now with every problem my enthusiasm wanes. The summer is almost done, if I’m lucky it might be ready for the Scottish and Belgian rallies in the first and third weekends of September.
So with no enthusiasm to poke around with the Atlas still on the bike lift my attention turned to the RGA. The engine is built and under the bench. The swinging arm was in need of paint as was the frame so with all this hot weather I thought a ‘rattle can’ session was in order.
I’ve got a couple of swinging arms for the RGA as I bent one when the chain snapped many years ago and replaced it when parts weren’t so expensive. When I had the Jota rear wheel straightened I also got the swinging arm fixed. This arm is the replacement and has suffered through the many years of winter salt.
Digging through my stash of rattle cans I found some acrylic primer and gloss black. Not sure why I had this paint though clearly I’d used it on the RGA brackets as when I applied a coat the finish didn’t crinkle (see later). The primer and paint went on well and initially looked good…however having looked at it this morning I can see that really I should have rubbed it down between coats as the ‘rust rash’ is pretty bad…
The frame had been blasted, primed and painted with silk black many years ago. I thought the silk finish would look better but changed thinking ‘gloss’ might lift the black parts. So I started off with a good base and subsequently screwed this up by applying acrylic gloss which promptly crinkled up. I wondered if the silk was acrylic but of course didn’t do the sensible thing of trying it out on a part of the frame that is rarely seen…Still with the weather so hot it was off to Halfords for a can of ‘normal’ paint. By the time I got back some light work with emery paper and I got a couple of coats on. Looks okay I think.
So there we are – Turismo running good. Jota back at the mender, Atlas alone on the lift and yet another project re-ignited. Shambles….
So the Jota was fixed and ready for collection. The head gasket had been blown full out, presumably by the hydraulic lock. While the engine was apart a new set of oil rings were also installed as inspection suggested the Omega originals might not have been settling in. Finally more head scratching around the starter motor which for some unknown reason is too tight to the intermediate gear. This is not a new problem but one that had existed before the engine was rebuilt – possibly something to do with crankcase repair necessitated by a broken chain (I wasn’t aware that this had happened before I bought the bike back in 1987).
So the engine sounded great and first impressions were that it was smoother and perhaps a bit more powerful? The ‘clack’ that I’d reported when I collected the bike first time round had gone. I sailed down the M74, M6, M61 and I think the M60 to firstly meet an old friend in Whaley Bridge. He’d gone on pillion to Le Mans in 1995 on the Jota (yes with the hump seat you had to be good friends) and it was fun remembering the trip 🙂
By the time I got home everything was fine – now I can enjoy the summer…
….or maybe not!
The bike ran great for the National Road Rally (NRR) until it suddenly developed a whirring noise from the primary side of the engine. There was no smoke or any indication something was wrong just a whirr that went up and down with the motor. Consultation meant game over for the NRR and a call to the Automobile Assocation 😦
So investigations have begun to trace the source of this noise. The primary chain was slackened off with no change. Cam chain tension seems fine. The bearing behind the ignition given the okay. The clutch pushrod removed to eliminate the potential of a spinning clutch slave cylinder piston and all the starting side removed in case there was trouble in there. Now the primary chains have been removed which ought to show if the noise is engine or gearbox derived. I’ve also left off the starter sprag alignment tag as maybe this was rubbing?
An unexpected discovery was the overall condition of the clutch slave cylinder. I’d been told the hydraulic fluid was going black very quickly possibly due to the repaired cylinder being too soft. Certainly once I removed the boot there’s something going on in that it appears to have aluminum powder on the upper surface. Whatever the outcome of other lines of inquiry I’ll revert back to the original case.
So I’ll leave it on a cliff-hanger…when I start it this time will the noise be gone….
This is where I should be…but I’m sat at home watching Moto2 on the TV 😦
The Jota engine has been doing quite a bit of traveling since my last post.
I wanted the motor fixed as soon as possible so came up with the solution to pull the engine, dump it in the Panda and drive to Scotland. Cheapest option and it gave me and Mrs A a couple of days in a shepherd’s hut near Dumfries 🙂 The engine was checked over but aside from a slightly tight exhaust valve clearance was given a clean bill of health. Compression was consistent across the engine (checked via jump leads on the starter) and the absence of oil around the head gasket suggested it was okay.
The engine was put back in the bike and started…https://youtu.be/2nlO3oPlU2g ….well that didn’t go well did it! I fell into deep depression and had to be coached into a more positive frame of mind by the Scottish ace mechanic. In fairness it’s difficult to fix something when you don’t see the engine run – I should’ve coughed up the money to ship the bike back first time round.
The bike was duly collected and via a free ‘pity’ pass taken to Scotland. News from Scotland is positive so I should be picking the Jota back up this Wednesday…
In the meantime preparations for the forthcoming National Road Rally (NRR) were underway with the Turismo. I spent a bit of time on the electrics which first of all meant fitting a bicycle lamp to augment the lights. The bicycle lamp is a lot brighter and combined with an existing auxiliary rear lamp I should be seen.
To restore the rear brake light I upgraded the battery that powers it. These days the front lamp is a 6 volt item intended for a VW. The problem is that this bulb draws too much so if you activate the brake light the weedy fly wheel magneto dims the front light! I’d hidden a big torch battery in the tool box and this was now finished. So a modern rechargeable AGM battery for a fiver seemed like a good way forward 🙂
The tool box lid is normally held in place by the original button at the base and I suspect by a little screw in the top. I’d been running it without the screw and bound with red electrical tape (yes I know but better this than lose the tool box cap)! Modern wire is thinner at 1mm and this would sneak through the hole for the screw and onto the positive terminal. The negative terminal goes to earth on a mounting bolt in the tool box. It works 🙂
I’d learned from previous rides out on the Turismo that a perennial problem is the rear tank fixing point. I’d planned to fix this by putting a nylon shoulder washer on either end of the mounting bar.
I took off the seat and retaining nuts only to find I’d already fixed the problem by putting petrol pipe over the end of the frame support. It looks like a good job (surely I didn’t do this) so I’ve left well alone!
I cleaned and adjusted the points but I still wasn’t happy with the ‘cheesey’ feel of the plug when I put it in. I’d pulled out a B6S and wondered if this was too hard. I’d remembered maybe a B8? Consultation suggested this change might make it easier to start so I ordered up a B7S and B8S. It did start and run okay but I had a niggling doubt about the thread despite not seeing any evidence of cross threading. The answer seems to be that the ‘S’ plug is too short. So we’ll have this fixed for Sunday and the quest for a Bronze award in the NRR. What could possibly go wrong…
So here we go again. The Jota is back in pieces after just 1200 miles. I suspect the head gasket has blown but it may be worse (knowing how my luck goes it probably is). Left the fuel on and the engine pulled a hydraulic lock. Removed the plugs and fuel sprayed out of #1 cylinder. Plugs back in and hesitantly I started it up – sounded fine. Rode a mile to get fuel but despite running okay the primary side of the engine was covered in oil 😦
I ran a compression check and the middle pot appears to be down. So it’s engine out and back to Scotland.
Still I was enjoying the Jota for the short time it was running. Such a gorgeous bike to look at and listen to. Every time I parked up a bloke would come along and talk about his bike and experiences. A Laverda is a great way to meet people 🙂 Aside from the engine blow up tho’ there are various things that need sorting and I’ll use the enforced downtime to see if I can polish the stone.
So a ride out with Mrs A resulted in the suspension bottoming and bolts damaging the rear tyre. Now me and Mrs A are carrying a few more pounds than 30 years ago but turned out the springs were a weedy 80 Ilbs item whereas standard Laverda is 100. Robin down at Falcon Shocks sorted this while I waited so when we’re ready normal service can be resumed. I must say for solo riding 80 weight shocks worked well but I doubt I’ll be motivated to swop springs unless I know I’ll be riding alone for any length of time.
Having the downtime means I’ll also crack on with getting the standard ‘Futura’ fairing fitted. I’m undecided about the looks of this fairing but when I know there’s going to be long motorway work ahead a fairing would be an improvement. If the fairing goes on I’ll also wire up the indicators.
I’m also musing how to fit mirrors on the bike. The handlebar unit I’ve been loaned only works at low speeds – it just goes into a blur at anything over 40 mph. Orban bar end mirrors were recommended but reading reviews suggests these are more about style. I think a traditional item for when the bike is naked would be okay but with the fairing this won’t work. Laverda didn’t fit mirrors to this fairing as standard and I’m advised that adding them by mounting directly onto the fairing just means a blur fest! Thinking about this maybe a frame needs to be incorporated like the RGS or any other Jap’ bike I’ve owned. Still first up is to get the fairing mounted and then move onto the mirror issue.
Oil coming out of the top is going to be resolved but there was also an issue with oil coming out of the bottom. I was embarrassed that my freshly repaired engine dripped oil. Initially it was thought to be coming past the copper washer under the nut holding the igition wiring. I’ve now traced it to one stud forward and installed a copper washer. I also think the primary chain adjuster bolt with its stack of washers leaks. The oil level was dropping so to be sure it’s not burning oil the exodus from the bottom of the engine needs fixing!
So now the clock is ticking for the LCF rally in Les Vosges toward the end of June. Hopefully the Jota will be back and road hardened. If not then I need to see if I can develop a Plan B. A fresh starter motor means the Atlas engine spins over so I have to see if it will run. I don’t hold much hope for this engine as last time it didn’t seem in good health but hey leave an engine alone for long enough and it’s sure to fix itself hey!
So after 30 years I’m reunited with my Jota 🙂 Can’t quite believe it’s happened but yep we’re back although there were a few last minute hitches…
The Laverda specialist spent a couple of weeks undoing all that I’d done wrong. The list included removing my plastic battery blanking plate (correctly identified as being secured with a furniture bolt [which I had congratulated myself on]), replacing disc carriers which weren’t true due to paint, ignition coils from Honda VFR, Ignitec ignition as my IIS wouldn’t advance properly, correct starter solenoid, sorting out the mess of wiring including fitting headlight relays and a new front wheel spindle as the original had been turned to small to get rid of chrome plating (which of course had made it too big).
I was quite ashamed but as I watched the specialist go about his tasks it was obvious that I really don’t know what I’m about – something anyone reading this blog would’ve known long ago… Still it fired up, sounded great and I was handed the keys and told to put some miles on it so the head could be torqued down.
I left the yard something like Bambi trying to come to terms with riding the Jota after so many years and getting used to thin tyres and heavy controls. The first few miles were all fingers and thumbs but the road past Loch Lamond was unusually clear and soon I was out into open country and settling in.
Memories of how riding the Jota used to be came as I remembered how I put my toes on the pegs and rested my heels on the raised pillion pegs and the security of leaning into a tankbag.
The bike has smooth power from really low down. The Mikuni flatslide carbs’ worked well albeit making the throttle really heavy. I thought the clutch would be an issue but it was the throttle that was tiring. As the miles rolled on and I was on the final stretch from Fort William to Loch Ness I started to feel more at ease. You have to counter steer with passion, really push on the bars and get the bike to lean and then make sure you have a rising throttle. If you do this then the Jota handles and holds its line. The roar out of the silencers and the physical nature of the ride grab your attention and despite a rev limit of 5,000 (about 80 MPH/130 KPH) the Jota felt fast. You’re also aware of the weight and it feels like an unstoppable train (which it is unless you use the brakes hard).
A good night’s rest with Richard and Jenny in Inverness + a bit of time adjusting the handlebars so they were flatter saw me turn round and head south. This time I took a detour round Loch Lamond and caught the ferry at Dunoon. This was an excellent suggestion as the A83/A815 are wild and remote + isn’t it nice to catch a ferry.
The Jota was left to cool overnight so the head could be re-torqued in the morning. By 10:00 a cylinder stud had pulled out of the crankcases and the engine was back out of the frame… The specialist shrugged and said it just had to be fixed and there was no gain in getting annoyed…. It took about 10 hours before the Jota was back running complete with a new timesert. I’d be heading home in the morning.
I’d mentioned a rattle so the Ignitech curve was back off around 4,000 rpm as it might have been pinking. The ‘flat’ bar position was changed back to something more sporting – a change that proved very comfortable as it put my wrists and hands on the same line. That done a quick test ride and I was heading out of Glasgow towards Llandudno, Wales in preparation for the Welsh Road Rally which I’d entered.
I knew I had plenty of motorway miles ahead so chose to go via Selkirk which would give me the dual benefit of riding the A7 and a great coffee at https://www.threehillscoffee.com/
Neither the road or the coffee disappointed. I was getting better at riding the Jota although showing respect to roads that were a bit damp. The coffee and the A7 ended too soon and it was time to join the M6. Even listening to the wonderful music coming out of the Jota a motorway is something to be endured. Thankfully I’d been lent a mirror although the image just became a blur above 30 mph and then of course it started to rain at about Tebay Services. I took on more caffeine and chatted to a guy who was excited to see a Jota and wanted photographs for his father who used to race them (should’ve asked who his Dad is hey?).
I had 170 miles to Llandudno so gritted my teeth crouched over the tank for some respite from the rain and dug in. The Mikuni carbs’ have extended the fuel consumption by 20% so I had a precautionary pit stop in Wigan and pressed on. I missed the M56 turn so ended up on the A556 to Chester – isn’t it always so that just when you’re down something else comes along.
Finally I rolled in to Llandudno around 20:30. The Jota hadn’t missed a beat in the rain and ran strongly. There was still a rattle if I didn’t push the bike in the lower gears but I was besotted. Now all I had to do was plan my Welsh Road Rally route for the morning…
The Jota disappeared into the night – headed to Scotland and a Laverda specialist who’s going to breathe life back in to it! Part of the warranty was that the engine man had to start it once it was together. That’s fine with me as this way I’ll know it’s sound and in truth I ran out of steam…
The last few weeks have felt very much like a collective effort with many friends lending me their wisdom and encouragement. It’s also been a nice final stretch as I’ve got to meet Robin at Falcon Shocks and the chaps at JJ Cables and Cox Autoelectrics.
Following my last post tackling the rear brake mechanism was next up on my ‘to do’ list. It’s a difficult mechanism to fit because the clearance with the swinging arm is very tight. It’s also difficult on first sight because you think you’ve got to get the mechanism in the right spot and then attach a link arm. I was pleased to see a similar post on the LeClair Laverda forum and made a note of all the hints and tips + printed off the relevant parts diagram.
I struggled for some time before thinking that surely Laverda wouldn’t have done this on a production line and the penny dropped that you assemble it and then fix the brake master cylinder in to position. Taking this approach means the return spring is tensioned and although fiddly I guess by the time Massimo had assembled a thousand he’d be pretty quick!
Fitting the rear brake assembly however showed up another problem I’d created 20 years ago – the rear shocks are too long! Having overly long shocks means the swinging arm sits lower and ends up fouling on the brake return spring.
Long shocks was a big deal back in the day with the idea being if you kicked the arse up then there’d be more weight on the front end. It’s probably true but frankly nonsense for a rider of my skills… Still back in the day there was clearly a correlation between the size of your manhood and the length of your shocks – my top of the range Falcons come in at 380mm – even the LeClair forum only ran to 365mm. I pulled a pair of shocks I’d been using on the RGA and RGS but to my dismay found they have 10mm bolt holes where the Jota runs 12mm. Back up into the loft and the original silver Marzocchi’s were bought back into the light. They brushed up okay and fitted reminded me of how cool that remote reservoir looked back in the early 80’s. I wonder if they were actually leaking or had my ego compelled me to waste money on the Falcon’s many moons ago…
Mrs A and I rode the Honda down to Wareham where Robin changed the ends on the shocks while we waited to bring them down to 365mm. Wareham is in a lovely part of the world and I turned the ride out into my preferred circular route by returning via the Studland chain ferry and some of the most expensive real estate at Sandbanks… Now the correct length shocks are fitted the swinging arm is raised with the benefit that the rear wheel properly clears the ground on the centre stand. I’m going to feel more confident with this set up when parking up…
I needed to fit a speedo cable. With the brake caliphers on the back of the forks the standard cable is too short. I found an RGA speedo cable in the loft and it fits but now we had the opposite problem in that it’s a bit on the long side. JJ Cables was recommended to me and as it’s only 50 miles up the road I used it as an excuse for another ride. The internet is a wonderful thing and yet somehow if you can talk face-to-face I always have more confidence in the outcome. JJ Cables is a good old fashioned concern with cables everywhere and lots of vintage machines (a six tonne hand press to create the square ends) to produce a cable just as you desire. They turned the job round in a couple of days which gave me another excuse to go for a wobble.
I used the first trip to JJ Cables as a springboard to go another 50 miles and visit Cox autoelectrician with a box of mangled Bosch starter motor parts. Having fitted the starter motor which caused me to have a rummage I found I have two starters that I’ve ruined over the years – one engaged with the engine on the Cromwell Road when fitted to the RGA and busted the end of itself! Anyhow another example of the benefit of ‘face-to-face’. I pushed the box of shrapnel across the counter without identifying it only to be met with ‘Ah a Laverda starter motor’! I was told that as the commutator was scrap it wouldn’t be possible to make a good un out of two bad uns… but I was told to leave it with them and they’d see what they could do 🙂 It’s a no brainer really – if it can’t be fixed it’s broken and yet if it can… Fingers crossed.
So it was back to the garage and working through endless lists of things to do. Writing the lists became a vehicle for procrastination and also frustration. No sooner had I ticked something off the list then something I hadn’t anticipated had to be added.
Once again brake fluid got onto the front mudguard. This time out of the clutch master cylinder which I’d left dangling…I think this is the third time. My head went down and I just did a bit of cleaning, priming, sanding and rough spraying. At the end of the day it just needs to not rust and be orange! A job for when it comes home and I’m in a happier place maybe…
Getting the horns to work became a problem. I’d get one to work but with two sometimes they would make a strangled noise and at other times nothing. I checked out the left hand switch which was full of dirt and remnants of WD40 and ACF 50. I wasn’t sure the horn connection was good and there was also a broken indicator function. I changed this out with a working indicator part from a donor switch and cleaned everything thoroughly. This meant soldering in the wires to the horn and indicator which with Mrs A’s help wasn’t too bad…
Anyways still the horns were erratic at best and finally I came across the real culprit which was the rubbish pattern block connector from the switch to the harness. The pins are fiddly to crimp and just as fiddly to clip into the connector. In the end I decided against spending time to get this to work and decided the easiest solution was to cut the end off a donor switch and solder these wires. This meant I got a ‘factory’ end all made up and also a little bit extra length plumbed in. It was a lot easier to do this…and my soldering whilst not perfect was ‘good enough’.
By the end all the electrics were in place except the heavy duty earth cable and cables to the starter solenoid. What I couldn’t figure out tho’ was the brake lights. All the circuits checked out and I changed one of the hydraulic switches. I need someone ‘who knows’ to sort this…
The ignition system needed to be fitted. I’ve got a new IIS system or at least backplate and wiring harness from when I fitted one to the RGA. At the time the idea was to buy one box and two looms and swop the box. Not sure this would ever have happened but anyways… Fitting the IIS backplate was no issue but where to locate the box made me think. The solution was a thick plastic plate insulated with tap washers to the box fits behind the modern, slimmer battery.
While I was cutting up and spraying the IIS mount I also created a board to protect the battery from too much road filth. When the carbs are on it’s not visible but it should make a difference. The big headache that the IIS fitment throws up is how to make all the wiring neat. I did work on this before sending the bike off but the biggest problem is around the headstock and coil area.
I worked to get this tidy but ultimately it was still a mess and this was made worse by the rev counter cable. I very much doubt the professionally built engine will give any trouble but I’m sure that the poorly routed wiring will come back and bite me sometime…
I put new HT leads into the original coils after getting advice on how to do this. A wood chisel broke the original epoxy and the leads just pulled out. I started off using silicon on the new leads to hold them in place but in the end decided on an epoxy as the silicon didn’t feel secure. I think I cut the HT leads a bit short however (dumbass) so this may be a job for the future…
Despite having years to get this ready time was running short. I set the gearbox and tried to spin the back wheel only for it to be dragging. First off it had dropped into gear but even in neutral it was ‘tight’. Poking around showed one of the bolts holding the rear calipher was maybe a millimetre too long. I spaced this with a washer and at the same time spaced the chain guard which the chain was rubbing on.
I also changed the levers – found some new ones in a box. Made me smile as I remember getting the short items. I ordered them from a Laverda specialist and emphasised I wanted ‘dog leg’ items. The guy was pissed that I should point this out and he told me ‘He’d been selling Laverda parts for 20 years and knew what a dog-lever is’. He sent the wrong levers…
In the end I ran out of steam… pathetic. The bike was picked up and whisked off to Scotland where it’ll get proper care. Some people have a gift for mechanics and a passion for fettling. The beauty of the Jota and my inability to finish the job just tells me I’m a bodger who likes riding.
A Laverda specialist once told me the problem with Laverda is that they keep going despite their owners. Never a truer word…