W/E 8th January 2017

All of a sudden it’s a new year – where did last year go?

2017 kicked off with a return to the daily commute in to London. Me and the Atlas seemed to be enjoying ourselves in the lighter than normal holiday traffic until the back light failed! To add to the nuisance the rear lens also cracked off one of the retaining lugs so once the bulb was restored the lens had to make the 50 miles home with just one retaining screw…

I’ve replaced the rear unit on Atlas #1 and 2 with an LED setup because the original fitment is cheap junk!!! The housing gets slack and the bulb moves – sometimes you have a light with no brake light or maybe no light at all. This is kinda dangerous in the rush hour.

As you can see I bodged the bulb by putting strips of masking tape on one side of the bulb to push it against the earth in the holder. I had another lens in the shed but to make sure it didn’t go AWOL I put some tape over the screw holes so the screws can’t jump ship. It’s all working so far but at the weekend I’ll rig up something more robust!

Nick πŸ™‚

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W/E 13th November 2016

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A slow week in the garage but Saturday was spent giving my eldest, Catherine, a go on the little Turismo. It’s seven years since Cor, Gido, Dean and I rode to Breganze for the 60thΒ  Laverda Birthday Party.Β  A lot has happened since then…

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Seeing Catherine on the Turismo made me very proud. It was quite different from her 600 Monster with just 3 speeds, right foot change, left side kick-start, drum brakes and all of 40 mph on tap! She did well, even mastered the heel and toe gearchange arrangement πŸ™‚

The exhaust still hasn’t moved on Atlas #2 and I’m thinking now that the best way of shifting it will be the bleedin’ obvious of starting it and getting it up to temperature and then try and free the exhaust nuts. Expansion forces will most likely result in unwinding the studs but that’s okay. As it stands the most likely result of my hanging on a 11 mm spanner is a busted stud!

The majority of the garage time however has been spent doing yet more tidying up. A bit dull but I have liberated so much space and even found a few parts that I didn’t remember having (a new set of fork tubes for instance)! The tidy up also liberated a project for Mrs A in the shape of her old ’68 BSA D14/4.

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The little Bantam has sat unloved under a pile of Laverda spares for many years – infact it still has a campsite sticker from its trip to the ’92 24 Heures du Mons (broken primary chain meant it came home in a van…). Despite surface rust it’s all there and thankfully not seized from all the time spent idle. The plan therefore is for Mrs A to join me in the garage – she’s sure to be on the road with the Banty before the RGA returns…

Nick πŸ™‚

 

W/E 25th September 2016

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No work on the Laverda fleet to report – been fettling my daughter’s Ducati Monster and out riding with her.

The ’94 Ducati is one of the very first Monster series. Catherine’s bike has a good service history and just 34,000 miles on the bores. The downside is poor paint on the frame, footrest hangers and engine. It’s been interesting to compare the Monster against the Atlas which runs a similarly ‘soft’ motor unlike the 650 Zane which is its contempory.

The Ducati engine has more torque but the small valve head seems to stop it revving out at the top end. The Atlas is therefore quicker flat out but in the real world for these bikes which is in the 70 mph zone the Ducati is stronger. The Ducati reminds me of my old British 650 in terms of its physical size and the way it delivers power and how easy it is to work on. It made me smile to myself to find that the Ducati has a dynojet kit (remember those) and that running the standard silencers put the carbs in conflict with the exhaust. Fitting the Bos carbon cans immediately liberated 10% more speed:-) Similarly a change from Champion to NGK plugs cured a minor misfire at high revs. Simple, schoolboy mechanics and quite refreshing.

The Atlas on the other hand feels more Japanese with the little 8 valve parallel twin howling away and even in this soft state of tune requiring revs else it will bog down (mind the Ducati similarly needs to be in the right gear). Where the Atlas also runs up short is the quality of the cycle parts. The Ducati benefits from being from the 90’s not the 80’s in this regard – it feels like it is looking forward to the next era in terms of suspension and frame. Again the Zane alternative addresses this whereas the Atlas feels like a cheap build blinged up with gold wheels and swinging arm. The brakes are cheap as are the plastics and instruments.

So I’m a bit smitten by the Ducati, especially as they can be found cheaply (a 750 Monster would be ideal) and seem to have a strong owners club. If I was starting out again then my guess is I’d be likely to buy a cheap Monster as my way into Italian ownership (which is how I came to own a Jota at just Β£1250 in 1987). Laverda unfortunately has become a defunct marque and the ever increasing prices work against attracting younger riders who someday might grow into a 3CL or an RGS. It makes me think who will want to buy all my bikes once I’m too old and need to pass on the baton…? How are we growing the next generation of Laverdisti?

Back in the garage next week I promise.

Nick πŸ™‚

W/E 5th April 2015

Not too much to do...

Not too much to do…

So the recommissioning work on the second Atlas began in earnest. As I went through the bike it was kind of like opening the door into a room that had been locked for many years. I got a sense of when the bike was alive and maybe some of the ambitions and ways of the previous owner. Lucky for me the previous owner was far more meticulous than me, the bike hasn’t deviated much from stock in its 37,000 kms.

Old battery with aged strap - like a shipwreck on the beach...

Old battery with aged strap – like a shipwreck on the beach…

A tour round the bike with a dud battery showed the horn, starter and all the lights worked except for the rear brake light. – the front chimed in once the lever had been pumped a couple of times, like a bear waking up after months in hibernation. The brake light switch is missing a spade so a new switch has been ordered – aside from having to bleed the back brake to fit it the fix is simple. I also see that one of the screws for the rear light lens doesn’t tighten so if I don’t fix this it’ll soon be long gone. There was evidence that the loom had been tampered with on the top tube but everything had been taped neatly back together. I added a couple of cable ties to tidy things up a bit more and job done. Final modification was to fit a battery tray that I’d flattened out to take the larger Harley battery I’m running on Atlas #1. I expect to swop the battery between the two bikes so this’ll save a whooping Β£125 + mean I won’t have to concern myself with charging the battery while it just sits there.

On the carb there is an interesting modification to locate an additional spring to the choke mechanism (the single, standard spring isn’t up to the job unless everything is squeaky clean) but aside from this everything is as the book.

Little piece of tin to facilitate extra choke spring

Little piece of tin to facilitate extra choke spring

The brake pads are fine as is the silencer. So on Wednesday I think I have to just swop over the missing chainguard and rear wheel (current tyre illegal), mask the front light (dips the wrong way) and we should be good to go!

I have done some fiddling on Atlas #1 with an eye to the impending Welsh National Rally. I replaced the rear calipher with a spare – though this also shows signs on wear where the pin goes through the body. It has ‘clicked’ home but I have augmented this some bearing lock. I am also going to wire the pin just to be sure. On the front end I have ordered up an FZR 750 disc and arranged to borrow a spacing plate so I can get one made up to locate the front calipher correctly. Finally I started to look at the tangle of old wire which runs the speedo and lights. My remaining problem is getting the front high beam LED back on track. I think this is an earth issue. Still have a few weeks before the flag drops so let’s see…

Nick πŸ™‚

W/E 28th December

Well with all this Christmas stuff kicking off not much time for the Laverda – although I did decide to fit the muffs ready for tomorrow’s return to work. It’s just turned cold so head down and tough it out. The shortest day has passed but January is the worst month for commuting.

I’ve also had to investigate a new sensor for the Koso digital speedo – it all checks out wiring wise so all I can think is that when I lost a wheel magnet it clouted the sensor. It’s going to cost around Β£15 so not too bad. Putting the speedo to one side and the warped and poor front disc to one side the Atlas seems to have settled into a good rhythm. A trip down to Southampton had it purring down the A34/M3.

Looking back across the year it’s been pitiful in terms of getting the stable back on the road, especially as I made good progress at the start of the year having the triple engines split and a replacement engine shoe’d into the Atlas all by the end of March. Totting up it seems I’ve spent 7 months of the year on the Atlas (clocked up about 14,000 miles in this time), 3 months on the VFR and 2 months with no motorcycle at all! For someone with 10 motorcycles this ain’t good! At year end I have just the Atlas on the road with the next closest being the 100 which just needs the exhaust system putting back on. Incredibly the 100 has been in this state for 18 months or so – I haven’t ridden it on the road since it completed the 2013 National Rally.

The Atlas began its ‘season’ with a second-hand motor that was part of an Atlas ‘job-lot’. The donor bike had been written off in Romania but the engine just seemed to suffer a cracked primary case. When started it sounded and ran sweet but as the miles piled on it succumbed to the normal Atlas trait of messing the starter sprag and then developed a top end rattle which I just ignored… When that motor expired it was back to the original engine which turned out to have a loose inlet valve seat, tired valves and rings. Getting the Atlas to work though has been a major step for me in that aside from the 100 it is the first engine I’ve built from the bottom up since an A65 30 years ago! I kept saying to Mrs A that it had to be simple – just four shafts in a bed, and so it proved. I can see now that the complexity of a Laverda motor rests mainly in the head. Steve Winterton spends a long time making sure the cams spin properly and given the rest of it is just big lumps with bearings it makes sense that poor cams and valve timing are the key to a sweet motor.

The second Atlas from Belgium needs cosmetic work and registering in the UK – the latter being the main obstacle but something I seem to have resolved via a recent email exchange and so I could soon have an Atlas ‘contingency’.

The Atlas is a good bike but not as good as a triple. The way these bikes cruise at 90 MPH is something I’ve missed and I find myself day-dreaming about 120’s. There is hope however in that I have two reconditioned cranks waiting and a good engine shop close by to overhaul the valve gear.

The 180 Jota languishes with the motor in Scotland and the cycle parts half assembled in the garage. I have to build up a plan to have this running before I start to loose parts of the jigsaw…

Riding-wise 2014 has been a bit ‘light’ with just one trip to the Continent. The ride from Calais to Cannes was quite epic and relatively trouble free with just a starter solenoid playing up.I enjoyed the idea of an epic journey (sea to sea) and ride over to Grenoble and then up to Briancon was spectacular. Similarly the route over from Barelonnette to Castelanne a bit squeaky bum! Down into and then onto the beach at Cannes was strange – swimming in the Med’ and rubbing shoulders with the ‘in’ set – but stranger still was a few hours later being confronted by hail stones up in the hills!!! The overwhelming memory however was just what a push it was to cover so many miles in such a short time. Was this fun or too much? Well the experience meant we bailed out of going to Breganze for the 65th year celebration – too far and too bloody hot. Has age crept up on me?

By June however we’d completed the Welsh National which resulted in 400 mile day and quite a few ‘moments’ as the sun disappeared and the realisation that the Atlas lights were wholly inadequate. The weekend however was a good adventure. I particularly enjoyed the ride up to Shrewsbury via Leominster as this is a route I’d only done in the pitch black on the 100 during the National. Hopefully in 2015 we’ll have a bit less rain so we can take in the views – some of which we got to see in September when we visited Swansea en route to the ILOC rally in Hay-on-Wye. The ILOC rally also provided the only real opportunity for me to test out my LED lights and Andy Strapz panniers – when the LED’s got turned on Mrs A just burst out laughing when the world lit up!

More drama with the National where with less than 20 miles up I had to have an oil cooler plumbed out. The ride up to Thirsk had been worthwhile and the final ride down the A34 to the end bliss as I knew I just had to bring it home for a well earned Gold. I’ve really got into these distance challenges which let me see new parts of the UK.

I was riding my luck however and as I pulled into Glasgow ready for the Scottish where nasty noises in the motor meant we never made the start. A pity because I think the Scottish is my favourite distance rally – I have to ride 450 miles just to get to the start line and then Scotland is just such an excellent place. Plans are already in place for 2015…

So what’s the plan for 2015? Well I remember reading an article that said you had to break rebuilds down into mini-projects and keep hitting these intermediate milestones. A good idea so let’s sketch it out:

End of January – start second Atlas registration process

End of February – have RGA engine built + second Atlas road registered and ready to ride

End of March – have RGA on the road!

End of April – have RGS engine built

End of June – have RGS on the road

I want to get over to Europe a few more times in 2015 but not necessarily to ‘Laverda’ events. I remember back on 1987 with the Jota we’d do things like the Grand Prix’s or the 24 Heures Le Mans. I like to head out with some purpose but it would be good to mix this up and just turn up as a motorcyclist who happens to be on a Laverda. The National Rallies have also shown me that there are many parts of the UK still to be unlocked, especially the midlands and east coast.

So let’s see what 2015 brings…

Nick πŸ™‚

W/E 14th September

Where's that knocking coming from?

Where’s that knocking coming from?

Well as you’ll see from the Trips section the final part of the ‘National Rally Trilogy’ – the Scottish ended in failure 😦

We got to Glasgow and although the engine pulled well the crank felt harsh and there was a knock under load. The engine had also drunk a half litre of oil in 400 miles but I don’t think that is related to it’s demise. Still the bike will remain in Keith Nairn’s workshop until he has finished my RGS crankshaft rebuild and then this and the Atlas will return via courier van.

Other things Laverda were meeting Piet from Germany with his RGS Executive – though this had to be rescued by Keith when its ignition failed. Chatting to Piet confirmed what I’d suspected that the Atlas gearchange return spring is different to that fitted on an RGS in that it is wound the opposite way. This construction means the spring doesn’t still parallel to the mechanism meaning it has to work across itself to work.

Talking of Laverda legends I also got word from Scott Potter that there are two sets of used but serviceable RGS pistons waiting pickup from the Royal Mail customs shed (USA import…). At the same time word has come back that the RGA barrels are within service limits (just) but I’ll need another set of liners for the RGS. So as the eight valve twin star falls perhaps the triple’s rises?

Oddly maybe I wasn’t too disappointed as it showed that getting all three rallies in one year on a 25 year old bike isn’t so easy. I’ve immediately started to think about how we can get it back on the road and the plan is to pool this engine and the original with the hope that’ll build one serviceable motor. I think the bottom end on the original is okay and similarly the top end of the incumbent works so we might have a plan!

Nick πŸ™‚

W/E 5th May

Well nothing particularly Laverda to relate this week – although the Atlas has now taken over as the exclusive provider of motorcycle transport following the breakdown on the ‘ultra-reliable’ VFR. The Honda returned to service on Monday after being laid low by the broken rear shock. Trouble was that while it had sat idle it developed an electrical fault that drained the battery dead flat rendering the LED information dash in the fairing redundant. Still the bike ran so it was off into London on the daily commute only for it to split an oil pipe to bring things to a halt. At least the Honda came home in the back of a van rather than on a flatbed for all to see!

Of course the demise of the Honda meant those damned wheel bearings needed fixing so the simplest thing to do was to take out the wheel from #425 and away we go…

I must admit to feeling a bit exposed now I have no back up motorcycle and the prospect of the Welsh National Rally and LCF Rally in the south of France coming along in the next few weeks. This will then be followed up by the National Rally and then the ride down to Breganze…all in all the little Atlas will see maybe 10,000 miles service between now and the end of July. It seems to be running well but for how long I wonder!

Nick πŸ™‚