Steve's Bonneville (and now Daytona) blog

Days in the later life of a 1969 Triumph Bonneville and its new owner. Here it is saying "Please take me home" on May 1st 2007. How many things can you spot that are wrong about this bike?

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

New copper washers for rocker oil feed

Having decided (lack of time) to focus on getting the bike right for today, I had to restrict my resealing activity to replacing the copper washers. Here they are in all their glory. Pics are almost self-explanatory - I chose the 1mm thick washers for the bolt head (below the rocker box) and the top gland nut, the fat 1.6mm washers for the union banjos. I annealed all the copper washers before fitting. The union faces on the rocker boxes were in good condition. As you can see, they look good fitted. Today will tell whether they are oiltight too!

prior fitment - note fibre washers which gush oil

inlet union face

exhaust union assembled

exhaust union face

inlet union assembled

Monday, 15 August 2011

Daytona in the dock

The little Daytona beastie has done well over the last three months, carrying me to Bath and back three times per week in all weathers, and never failing to start first kick after I worked out the procedure:
  1. Full choke
  2. Generous tickle until the carb floods
  3. Prod the engine over twice before switching on.
  4. Ignition on and swing
  5. Roaring beast sound comes out of the silencers
The clutch is still not quite right. I had to screw the springs really tight to stop slipping under power. So tight that the adjuster nuts are almost lost inside the clutch pressure plate. Apart from requiring gorilla strength from my left hand, clutch operation doesn't free off the drive completely now, so every engagement of first is a bit of a crunchy exercise. After extensive bulletin board reading I'm fairly convinced that the problem consists in the friction plates having seen modern oils with antifriction additives. Apparently these chemicals do not come off the friction linings even when scrubbed in white spirit. So the next step there is to replace the friction plates, probably with nice new Surflex ones. No engine oil will ever go in there of course. ATF only. Then I shall have a nice light action clutch that frees off completely. But that's for a future date.

Tomorrow the bike goes on the hoist for some maintenance. Main task is to fix the pesky oil leaks which now seem to be coming from all corners of the top end. If I'm brave enough the entire top end will come off, and I shall replace:
  • tappet blocks (with post '69, o-ring type)
  • pushrod tunnels (with turned alloy aftermarket patterns that have proper sealing surfaces. No pushrod tunnel made by Triumph was ever any good, those pressed steel things are just awful)
  • seals (paying particular attention to the copper washers for the oil feed pipe banjos. The stock copper washers you get in repro gasket sets are much too thin, they are more like shims than oil seals! Even if annealed the constraint on the copper is such that they don't adapt to the 40-year-old mating surfaces. I got some lovely thick copper washers from a diesel fuel systems supplier. If they can cope with the pressure from a diesel injector pump, they should be alright with the half hearted push from a Triumph oil return plunger)
So bear with me and come back tomorrow night. I'll take the camera into the garage and post again with a few snaps of the day.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Daytona Day at the London Motorcycle Museum!

I was at Reg Allen in Hanwell, West London last week to get some bits for the Daytona. Sure enough, Bill Crosby did not disappoint, from the k/s and g/ch shaft seal components on the gearbox right up to a pair of fully floating TLS front brake shoes, and in the less common 7" size too! Highly recommended.

In fact Reg Allen is highly recommended for other reasons too. The shop is in a mid/late sixties time warp. It was a Meriden Triumph main dealer and Bill Crosby still runs it like that. The layout, the decor, the straightforward service methods (expect a little bit of good-natured mickey taking, but huge in depth product knowledge) remind me of my local bike shop in Leamington when I was a teenager. They also sponsor the London Motorcycle Museum in Greenford.

Tomorrow Sunday 26th June will be Daytona Day at the LMM. With live music and a barbeque included, all for only £8, its going to be a great event. Unfortunately won't be seeing you there since my particular Daytona is in dock at the moment, but don't let that stop you!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Back after 4 years..

..starting with an apology to those who have waited and asked for more news.
Elli and I are now settled back in jolly old UK (Gloucestershire) and finally managed to give up the day job. So now I have much more time to devote to two-wheeled entertainment. Theoretically at least.

The Bonneville came back across the Atlantic with us, but said goodbye to us shortly afterwards. It is now the hands of a new and loving owner in Italy. It has been replaced by a cheaper - and sweeter-handling! alternative - a 1968 T100R Daytona. Thanks to Mike for the photo.

This bike has some quirks of its very own.
  • LHS footrest is 2" higher than the right. I'm not a speedway rider so I am busy correcting this today by filing down the lug which projects from the back of the footrest boss. Thats what Bill Crosby (Reg Allen) told me to do!
  • No crankcase fastening studs at the back - first time off with the primary chaincase, noticed daylight coming through the empty threaded holes in the back of the case! I'd wondered where those oil leaks were coming from! Have the correct item from TriCor and will be fitting them today.
  • Fork springs 2" shorter than the usual fitted length. Made for some interesting noises from the front end, but curiously did not seem to affect the handling much. Now remedied with a pair of correct springs, also from TriCor.
  • Seriously weird tyres from Kings Tire. I hope no-one will take offence, but these were the first thing to go in the bin. Now replaced with Bridgestone BT45s which are just super. Better than Avon Roadrunners. Battlax 3.25-19F & 4.00-18 rear, will just go in with a coupla millimetres to spare.
  • Non existent primary slipper tensioner - again TriCor came to the rescue here.
  • Loose mainshaft nut allowing the alternator rotor to clack back and forth giving a very passable impression of knackered big ends when the bike was on tickover. That was an easy one.
  • Rock hard rear suspension - I suspect 140lb springs. I'd like a pair of 100lb/inch springs to give my aged backside a bit more comfort. Anyone want to swap?
Apart from that it has all the usual Triumph vices, total loss oiling from the pushrod tunnels and from the rocker feed unions - its a wonder anything gets down to the tunnels since most of it is plastered over the tops of the rocker boxes after 20 miles or so. I have a pair of later tappet blocks and some alloy tubes which have been cut down to fit this head. Hopefully that will do it. More news in my next post.

Watch out for me it you see me in Bath!
I guarantee to wave back.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Upcoming Event!

The Maine Coast BikeFest and Antique Aeroplane Show will be held THIS SATURDAY, June 23rd, at the Owls Head Museum near Rockland, Maine. If you register as an exhibitor (bike must be pre-1986) then entry is free. The unique attraction of this event is that, weather permitting, WWI aircraft will be flying all day. And not just one:
  • 1917 Curtiss Jenny
  • 1916 RAF F.E.-8
  • 1918 Standard J-1
  • 1916 Sopwith Pup
  • 1917 Fokker DR1 (the "Red Baron" aircraft!)

If you have your own aircraft, you can fly right in to Knox County Regional Airport where the museum is based. However, as a lesser mortal, I plan to be there on the Bonneville, riding up the coast from the Boston area. Route: I-95 N, then I-295 at Portland, then US-1 from Brunswick to Owls Head. I shall ride up on Friday, in order to be at the start of events early Saturday morning (there is plenty of accomodation in the area). It would of course be a delight (as well as more secure) to share the ride in convoy with other enthusiasts. Mail me on if interested.

Museum link:

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Blued pipes

Though I have not really been involved in it, the header pic of my Bonnie was the starting point for the recent (and for me unexpected) posting furore in the Bonneville Owners' Club group on whether blue pipes are a good thing or not. I have to admit its not that important to me, but since the first poster told me to take a bit more pride in my bike I decided to try and polish it off. Normal chrome polish just doesn't work, so down to Ace Hardware and asked for the most agressive rubbing compound known to man. Came back with a tub of something called Mother's (yes I know, don't ask) - which also happened to be the cheapest thing on the shelf. Result - disappointment and a sore thumb. As you can see the impact on the blueing is almost zero. It did shine the timing cover up nicely though. Open to (polite) suggestions on where to go from here...

Friday, 8 June 2007

Bonneville vs. the rest at the Experienced Rider Course

Ten bleary-eyed riders assembled before 7am on Friday June 8th at the Massachusetts State Police Training Ground in Ayer, MA to submit to a gruelling 5-hour training followed by a handling skills test to get the Motorcycle Safety Federation card for experienced riders. In my case, the objective was to get some useful skills (in my 42 years of riding I have NEVER been trained - scary eh) as well as to qualify for a full Massachusetts bike driver's licence. The other guys were a mixture; some who have always ridden on a learner's permit (and now want to be able to ride out of state, or in the dark, or with tottie on the pillion), and some who already have the full licence but want the insurance discounts that completion of this course enables. The Bonnie appears in the opening shot here, hiding behind a Coke bottle.
The course was excellent and worth every penny of the $150 fee. Paul the instructor (baseball cap and clipboard) together with Neil the demonstrator (baseball cap and Honda VT500) gave individual feedback to every one of the riders throughout the dozen or so set piece driving exercises which we performed on the 200mx100m exercise area. Things warmed up a bit during the morning but everyone saw the course through. However the same could not be said for the bikes. Apart from the Bonnie they were all Harleys or Suzukis with one Honda I think. One Suzuki (Intruder) and one Harley (nice-looking bobber) gave up the ghost halfway through the morning, the Suzuki with clutch failure and the Harley with... - well it just stopped. Needless to say the Bonnie never missed a beat. However it did have one senior moment when the float jammed in the left hand side Concentric whilst waiting in a queue, sort of minor incontinence you might say. The resulting tsunami of petrol/gasoline stopped after some frenzied tapping of the float chamber with my cellphone, and from then on there was no more trouble.
The other photos show a resolutely stationary Harley and Suzuki, the bikes in a group toward the end of the morning (note the 2x 250cc Honda Nighthawks borrowed from the trainers to replace the failed bikes, and Neil's demonstrator Honda in the foreground) and Paul Luevano debriefing us on our scores at the end of the test. Yes, we all got to hear how each one of us did. And which rider/bike combination do you think passed out top of the class with significant lead over the rest of the pack?
I heartily recommend Ironstone Ventures ( if you are on a learner's permit in Massachusetts. Passing the course automatically exempts you from the official RMV test. If you pre-pay the fee (which you can do by phone) you don't even have to go over to the RMV afterwards - they mail the full license to you. I can't wait.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

My Hero

A digression from the topic, but I couldn't resist this photo. Here he is, in one of his less polite moments...but sitting on what looks like a 1970 Bonneville. And as for the other photo, we all know who that isn't, don't we?

Photos from a sunnier swapmeet...

There was a variety - to say the least - of Triumphs available at the Massachusetts British Iron Association meet on May 27th at Oxford MA. My favourite was the 1969 machine shown here in its correct orange livery, which is how my bike should look. I got up close to this beast, looked underneath the engine to see completely clean crankcases with not even the slightest oil seepage or discoloration. First thought - cheat! Someone has trailered this bike to the show! I then put my hand on the timing cover and burnt myself.

BSA Club Swapmeet, Auburn MA June 3rd

This was the biggest and also the wettest event I have yet attended in the USA. A shame for everyone that the heavens opened around 1pm just as the concours judging was closing and the contestants started leaving in droves. Fortunately I was able to find (i.e. stumbled on) an autojumble stall selling wet weather gear and got a very acceptable suit for $40 to ride home in and stay dry.

The autojumble was small but with some nice pieces, just look at that '69 UK Bonneville tank in its original Olympic Flame paint! I was very tempted but they wanted $500 for it. Moved on very quickly. The bikes were nice, there were some excellent restorations and a few pre-war bikes including an M20 from Rhodesia - and how about that lovely 1951 Norton International? Most of the machinery was BSA and Triumph twins however. The fans who came by my bike were frighteningly knowledgeable and I was soon in trouble when they identified me as English, got me talking about my motorcycling history and then started asking probing questions about specification differences on Triumph Bonnevilles. Does anybody know why some of the 1969 bikes have a small bump on the top of the oil tank, and some don't? (It is almost totally hidden from view by the seat subframe by the way). Met some great people, everyone was unreservedly friendly. Bought a timing disc adaptor, a Melco plug spanner, and a T-shirt.