Some first principles
When I was about to leave school, a friend of mine came round on a 125 BSA Bantam, all painted with the best blue Dulux you could beg - wheels, tyre edges, handlebars, cables, footrest rubbers and all. He was getting another bike and casually mentioned that this one would be for sale. I asked how much and he said 'Give me a Quid and its yours'. I had a paper round at the time and earned a little bit, but even that was too much for me, I went into the house and scraped together 17/6d (88 pence), which he accepted and sold the bike to me there and then. He taught me how to get it started and about the clutch and then kicked it into gear and told me to let the clutch out slowly. I obeyed - and I was off! The rest of the trivial instructions were shouted along the street at me, including how to stop the damned thing, but by that time I was probably out of range. Fortunately, he had forgotten to turn on the petrol and it gradually came to a stop in the middle of the road, as one carburettor full of fuel was finally exhausted. As I was not old enough to ride legally, my first job was to strip the thing down and repaint it black and white (well sort of white - as I didn't clean the paint brush very well after daubing on the black) I really don't remember what I did with that bike, but it must have been sold at some point.
The next important phase came when my Sister started going out with a chap who had a 250 BSA C12 which he might part with, so my Mum lent me the £15 to get it, as a reward for getting an apprenticeship with Hawker Siddeley Aviation. There was one snag, however - the cylinder head and timing chest, with the cams, followers and points, had been removed and placed in a cardboard box, which came with the bike. I had no idea how to put all of this back together, but the future Brother-in-law said he would give me a hand. I really believed him, but as the weeks passed by it slowly dawned on me that I was on my own, sitting at the bottom of a steep learning curve. I had some idea about renewing gaskets and also how important valve timing was. I cleaned up the parts that were there, and noticed that the cam gears had dots on them. A lot of head scratching (mine, not the bike's) eventually helped all of the bits back into the timing chest. I also knew about suck, squeeze, bang, blow from my Father, who died when I was only 11. So, with the pushrods resting on the cam followers, I slowly turned the engine over with the kick-starter. With the piston at top dead centre, both pushrods were down at their lowest position - good start! This would mean that this would be the end of the compression stroke (the squeeze/bang bit!)
As the engine turned and the piston got near the bottom of the bore, the pushrod nearest the front of the bike started to lift, ready for the exhaust (blow) phase. As luck would have it, it was closely followed by that pushrod going down and the other (inlet) going up, when the piston was nearing the top of the bore. When the piston again started it's descent, with this inlet valve open - it would draw with it, the mixture from the carb (suck). I seemed to have at least some of the ingredients of a motor which might even work. I didn't know then why it was important for the points to just start opening for the plug to fire, but mistakenly I made this happen at top dead centre, by fiddling around with the plate that held them. When I got the head fastened down and other parts fitted, the bike started after several kicks, even though I found out later that it should have been timed to fire before top dead centre. Ignorance certainly was bliss - I had done it!! and to a spotty 16 year old, this was a real achievement. My future Brother in law was not very pleased that I had succeeded, as it slowly became obvious to all concerned, that his original reticence was due to the fact he didn't really want to part with it after all! I think that my Sister must have brought pressure to bear (Don't even think about asking how!) because he eventually brought the Log Book for me - it was really mine at last!
this bike to go to work on occasionally (about 15 miles away) and also to meet
up with my mates at the local 'Caff' One of the other apprentices, had a
brand new Royal Enfield Continental GT - boy did we envy him! Then he
traded it in for a new Ducati Elite, to be followed closely by the daddy of them
all - a Ducati Mach 1. We obviously don't realise at the time, what will
influence us, but in later life, I owned a Continental GT, and have also now got
an Elite for restoration.
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