The past summer was hectic and gone before I knew it. During the past winter I worked to fix an oil leak on the Norton and de-coked the BSA Lightning in an attempt to eliminate spark knock. I entered the riding season confident that I would have a couple of excellent riders and efforts to keep them going would be minimal. My optimism did not last long as both bikes started the year with problems which took significant time to put right.
The Norton oil leak, detailed on my Norton page, was mostly cured with the addition of an XS 650 breather valve early in the spring. By the end of the summer it was spitting a bit of oil again from the front of the head which means I have more work to do although it is not poring out as it was previous to the XS breather addition. After riding it a number of years it also needs additional attention; new tires, isolastics adjustment, clutch inspection and cleaning, etc. All good winter projects.
The BSA has been through an entire summer of trouble shooting and the situation has been a significant learning experience for me which is detailed on my 1970 BSA lightning page. I have found frayed bullet connectors shorting on the frame, a bad electronic ignition module, replaced worn carbs with re-sleeved units, put in the correct 6V coils to match the ignition module, installed new copper core wires with 5K ohm caps, and added a Lucas high output alternator and a Podtronics unit. I will put some miles on it and see how it holds up. The carbs still need a bit of tuning.
I have always used suppression plugs with OEM caps and wires. When my troubles started in the spring I replaced the 12V OEM units with 6V Lucas coils and installed new wires with suppression caps. The spark is significantly improved and starting is much easier.
One upgrade worth noting was the addition of a Sparx box , which was later replaced with a Podtronics unit. I think the BSA ills are finally cured. The Sparx unit did not handle the current from my high output Lucas alternator and responded with an explosion as loud as an M80 (my cooling setup was poor too). My son in-law was riding the bike at the time and I was slightly ahead of him when the bike let out a blast and went completely dead. He was passing a couple of horses and this must have startled them although I did not see them misbehave. This disruption culminated in the BSA’s second truck ride home for the season and a drive of shame past my Harley driving neighbor. Luckily he has been a “Big Dog” owner and suffered a similar humiliation in front of his friends. He was a bit sympathetic as a result. Another “Hot Rod Driving” neighbor had no such reservations and was in my driveway before I had the BSA unloaded. He teased me with an offer of $200 to take the non-running BSA off my hands which I promptly declined.
The Podtronics unit is much larger than the previous unit and should be up to the task of handling the high output alternator.
Even though its running good the BSA will need more work this winter. The clutch plates must be renewed, the chain and sprockets will be replaced and a 21 T counter shaft sprocket will be used to reduce RPM’s at highway speed – 55 MPH or so. The primary case chain oiler will be plugged and I am debating going back to 30W oil in the primary. The ATF leaks from many places and I do not know how to stop this without gasket sealer that will bond the cover to the machine. Tips from anyone?
ATF leaking from screw and plug holes. I guess you know oil circulates well when it comes out screw holes at the top of the case.
I am planning to strip and replace the wiring to finish what I have started. My hope is to have a battery free bike which should be possible with the components I have assembled. It starts and runs alright now without a battery but does not seem to generate enough power at idle. Lost voltage due to old wiring? We will see. The rear fender has cracked which will need to be TIG welded. This BSA is a rider so paint or a sticker will cover the repair. If I am ambitious I will take apart the steering head, which is a bit sticky, and add tapered roller bearings which have been a nice upgrade on my Hornet.
My daughter was married this spring and her friend, who was an English exchange student with our family, brought her father to the wedding. Him and I have traded history books for years and we share many common interests. He stayed on for a bit after the wedding and he enjoyed riding the BSA and Norton. A vintage Triumph Bonneville owner himself he was at home on one these machines that shift on the right. Aware of the problems I had been having with the bikes (luckily not occurring when he was here) he told everyone that I had to bring him over as a consultant from England to get things sorted out. I enjoy that English sense of humor.
My English friend is as much of an aircraft guy as I am a bike guy so a trip to the Dayton Ohio "National Museum of the United States Air Force" was in order. This is the “Barber Museum” for airplanes and a wonderful place to spend at least a day. You need to go there.
A paratrooper's best friend complete with a cart. I knew I would find something on two wheels if I looked hard enough.
The RE Interceptor has not progressed much this summer although I have inventoried parts that I need and ordered about half of them. Most of the chrome has been sent to Atlas plating. I will rebuild the engine and wheels this winter after the Norton & BSA are ready for next summer.
My final fall ride, and the only one of any distance this year, was to FSU in Big Rapids where my old “Tool & Die” buddies and I went to school. It was our annual pilgrimage for a Schuberger and as always well worth the trip. The new Hagon shock on the '96 Trophy performed well and the weather cooperated for the most part. Time to take care of fall chores and get things ready for snow.
A picture of me at Schuberg’s in about 1984. It looks the same today and the burgers are still great.