If it aint broke!

Ok, so someone please explain to me why I saw a bee the other day in London… there I was walking along and it landed on the pavement in front of me… its only the beginning of Febuary… However the plus side is that I can finish spraying the blasted items, including frame, mudguard hanger, coil mount and so on. Here is a picture of the items on their way to the blasters.off_to_the_blaster_sc.jpg
I fixed the swingarm this last week. I bought a welder from a great tool shop, after prcrastinating for some time over prices and power and not finding the MIG I wanted for the price I wanted I decided to check locally. I went to see the chaps at Hunter tools: Here is their site just paste it into your browser and have a quick look: http://www.hunter-tools.co.uk/
Now I dont usually mention businesses and associated services in articles but I thought that these guys were definitely worth a mention. They have a full range of recoil kits and a number of hard to find tools as well as a range of nuts and bolts including nyloc. Very polite and traditional service too. WELL DONE and thanks very much for the new welder, at the time it was the best price I could find on the internet!
Ok adverts aside lets see whats happened, where was I, oh yes so I have bought the MIG after much humming and haaring (well how do you spell it then!) and as the pictures show we have a slight problem with the swingarm…
swing_before_blast_sc.jpg It doesnt look so bad after it has been blasted,
though it did still need welding up if I wanted to make sure that the back wheel didnt overtake me as I was rumbling over some rough terrain! Its been a while since I have done any welding (I used to do mostly MIG) I was tought how to use a MIG welder many years ago by an ex girlfriends father who re-built a Volkswagen beetle by cutting every patch of rust out of the bodywork (which he had suspended from the ceiling in his garage) and welding new metal in its place… talk about patience! anyway he showed me a trick or too when it comes to MIG welding and I will share these with you. Usual disclaimers apply here with emphasis on safety please… ALWAYS wear a suitable welding mask. I prefer a full face with the darkest possible glass as I tend to lean into the work for a closer look! ok I am by no means expert but this will give you enough info to give it a go:
Basic concept: (this may or may not help you troubleshoot a couple of issues with your welding it is certainly NOT a comprehensive guide to the safe use and configuration of a MIG welder)
MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas welding, the concept is that as the metal arcs to the target a molten pool of metal is formed, wire is fed into the molten pool by the welding machine at a pre-determined speed (more about that in a minute) to prevent the molten pool of metal oxidising i.e. reacting with the oxygen in the air an inert gas shield is created around the molten pool, again provided by the welding machine and fed by a replaceable gas bottle. The key to a good weld is smoothly wiggling (technical term) the molten pool of metal into the gap between the two pieces ot metal or along the seam between a join of two pieces of metal. There are a number of things that can ruin this:
A genetic inability to weld (well I told you I wasnt an expert!)
wire speed: too fast and the weld torch will push back in your hand as the wire cant melt quickly enough and is pushing against the work.
Too slow and the wire will have a tendency to melt onto the tip of the torch and stop coming out. (insanely annoying until someone tells you what the problem is)
amps or current: This is essentially the welding power, the thicker the metal the higher the current that is required to achieve a decent penetration (the molten pool of metal is not just the wire as it is fed onto the work it is also the work itself.. hence the strength) The higher the power the more likely it is to burn through the work completely, if your power setting is too low then you will see the weld looking like a line of toothpaste on top of the work rather than a nice D shape.
How do you know its going ok?swing_post_repair_sc.jpg
Well: The work still looks like the swingarm off a Honda TL125 (this may not be the case if you are trying this at home on something other than a swingarm from a Honda TL125. If however it is the case and you did not origimally start with a swingarm off a Honda TL125 then you are deffinitely doing something wrong and should stop immediately and seek assistance)
There are no holes in your clothing from spitting weld and nothing around you is on fire.. sounds silly I know but there is so much heat generated when welding it can cause nasty side effects, be aware of your surroundings… no petrol cans etc. and DEFINITELY NO WELDING OF PETROL TANKS PLEASE just cos its empty certainly does NOT make it safe!!

The sound of a good weld.. sounds strange doesnt it but my wise teacher aptly described it as a sizzling bacon sound, it shouldnt pop or spit but just run nicely across the subject, continuously…. (it was an analogy made all the more appropriate, because as I recall I had a steaming hangover at the time, having taken his daughter out to the pub the night before!)
TOP TIP: make sure that the piece you are welding is ABSOLUTELY CLEAN any rust will cause the welder to spit and it will disturb your nice flowing weld. I prepare the piece with a grinder and or wire brush. Remember also that you can dress your welds afterwards with an angle grinder though do remember that you are actually taking away metal and therefore strength.. so dont go too mad!

Ok so back to the project. I have included a number of photos this week to catch updg_sc.jpg from last weeks rather abrupt article. (I also included a picture of my main helper and trusty sidekick Marbs… always there if you have a biscuit in your hand…

Here are some piccies of the finished frame and sidestand, I have since added the head race and trial fitted the forks(yes end on a high note… ) though I will add these details in the next article. I am rather hoping to get the engine fully cleaned and back into the frame this weekend… I will let you know. frame1_sc.jpgframe3_sc.jpgframe2_sc.jpg

more coming soon… its a lovely weekend and the sun is out … perfect


After checking that the engine runs and most of the mechanical bits do what they should its time to move to the frame and suspension.

Xmas has come and gone and while the relatives were sleeping off their turkey dinners and the enormous quantity of alcohol that my lovely wife provided I found myself itching to head for the shed. I cant say that I wasnt a little disappointed that my presents did not include such xmas essentials as: “a pair of betor shocks”, “a cam sprocket”, “a mig welder”, “a years subscription to trials and motocross weekly”, “a cudly toy”, ” a fondue set”, ” a holiday for two in barbados”……. (yes well it was wearing a little thin at that point so i will stop so you can read on) I will however take this opportunity to publicly thank those responsible for giving me a number of lovely presents and once more getting time to spend with the family…. so its a big thank you to Marbles (the dog) for the lovely socks… I am sure you will have a great time hiding them for me at every opportunity and a big thank you to wifey for the chain lube and Valentino Rossi auto biography.. super.
So as the frantic excitement died down I soon found myself thumping around in the shed much to the amusement of Marbles who has taken to sitting next to me in the rather small shed and watching my every move in the hope that some form of food will magically appear after each task…. he’s still waiting..

Before I could remove the engine for cleaning/serviceing and polishing I thought it would be a good idea to take stock of the nuts and bolts. Focusing on the longevity of the bike and the environment in which I want to run it, I thought it would be wise to replace the often missing nuts and bolts with quality steel items. This job required carefull measurement and analysis of the nuts and bolts taking into account their thread pitch and metric size. As I removed each of the rather worn nuts and bolts from around the engine and various ancilliaries such as the coil mounts and triple clamps I noted the size and thread pitch. I found a great supplier and ordered replacements for each of the nuts and bolts in high tensile steel. This should remove the unsightly gnarled nuts and bolts and complement the soon to be shot blasted frame and engine mount.

The bolts have now arrived and I will post the sizes and thread pitch on the site as it may be usefull to some, though I cannot guarantee that these were the original size and pitch so compare them to the bolts you remove just in case. I am almost down to a naked frame. The engine was very easy to remove and now sits on the workshop bench (well actually.. the small shed! we can all dream) The only trouble was a seized swing arm mounting bolt, it runs through the swing arm bushes and through the center of the pressed steel frame downtube, it had seized in a spectacular fashion and required a lot of soaking with plus gas and gentle pursuasion with a drift in order to extract it… the tired swing arm bushes are now on the new parts list. On removal the swingarm appears to be very badly fractured underneath and is holed as well. This will be addressed with the mig welder when all the items come back from the shot blast shop (and I can lay my hands on a MIG welder). I will post the links to the sites of the suppliers I have used so far at the end of the articles.

I am actually not far from the stage of sending the frame to be blasted and the engine crank case covers as well…. I have gathered some other bits to be sent including front engine mount, coil mount, air box and gear/rear brake levers. pictures to follow of the engine work and frame strip preparation.

I finished taking the last parts off the frame and have taken all the parts to the blasters I decided to take the tank as well… This may or may not turn out well.

Ok I have the parts back… great news.. and they have done a great job. After blasting they have coated the bare metal with a rust inhibitor/anti oxidisation agent, this also has the added benefit of improving paint adhesion… nice! the tanks was a wee bit disappointing as it has a few pin holes in the base.. the jury is still out on what to do about these though the rest of the tank is very solid.. I have a family friend who may be able to work some magic with the tank so I will hand it to him and add an update about it here when I see it again. The main tasks will be to straighten bent parts such as the gear change and brake levers/pushrods and generally prepare for the warmer weather and an opportunity to paint the frame.

So off we go again, well thats what Marbles seems to think he is in the shed peering out as if to say “come on theres work to be done!” I however am standing at the back door looking at the snow! typical…. I was hoping for the warm weather to hold out .. I rekon that I need about 10 degrees to spray… come on Marbs lets go for a walk today instead!

Ok so the snow has gone and I have spent the weekend spraying the frame and some of the anciliaries… I chose black smoothrite.. I have used it before and got great results.. the key here is to apply a number of coats and watch for drips. I applied 6 coats of paint from the 3 cans of smooth black. I have to say its come out better than I hoped and with the front engine mount painted, rear brake lever, airbox, lower triple clamp and sidestand done as well I can step back and take a few snaps of the finished article.

While the paint hardens I am going to focus on the front forks. Stripping them was easy I modified a 6mm long reach allen head socket as I needed a nice strong allen head socket (5mm) would have done the trick however it was not strong enough for the impact wrench. This was used to break the allen head bolt that secures the damper assembly into the fork leg. It is accessed by first draining the fork leg of oil (remove the 10mm drain screw at the back of the fork leg at the base carefull you dont lose the little copper sealing washer in the process) invert the fork leg and then after cleaning out the gunk insert the modified tool and use the impact wrench to undo the allen bolt deep in the fork base. DO NOT remove the fork top yet, the pressure of the compressed spring will hold the allen head bolt securing the damping rod… DO NOT remove the allen head bolt completely though as it could prove very dangerous as the compressed spring unloads, ince you have the allen head screw loose remove the top cap and remove the pressure, then you can remove the allen head bolt in the base of the fork completely. Once that is done the whole fork tube and damper assembly will slide out. The selas are a little trickier as I found. My bike has the original seals fitted and they do not pop out as the fork stanchion is removed as on most modern bikes. They have to be carefully prised out.. even with some heat they would not budge… back to the drawing board. In a flash of inspiration and determined to carry out most tasks on my own I borrowed a friends dremel multi tool, well in actual fact it was a skill multi tool with an extendible head. With the cutting disk attached I used the skil tool to carefully cut the seal and prise the seal away from the aluminium seat. TAKE GREAT CARE… it is all too easy to get carried away and ruin the alluminium seal seat. Once done I was left with a lot of fork parts! next clean and check the fork tubes. Mine are a little pitted higher up but actually are serviceable. So after polishing they are as good as new.. so its back together for the forks….

Time to

Alive Again !

Ok well lots to report since my last posting. The carb went back together nicely and I spent some time curing the distortion I mentioned from the overtightening of the mounting nuts. This basically consisted of a piece of 600 grade wet and dry on a flat surface upon which I gently sanded the carb mounting plate true again. I had to do the same to the carb to cylinder head mount as well which was displaying quite a pronounced warp.

Soaking the Carb
Finished carb

Following the carb re-build and re-attach to the cylinder head the tank was tackled. The tank is easily removed from the frame following removal of the seat. It slides back and away from the bike to reveal the bikes backbone that flares down towards the back wheel/swingarm mount. The latter part of the backbone is formed using a distinctive pressed steel construction. The newly liberated tank was cleaned carefully the mud was removed from the underside and the fuel tap was cleaned up.
Carb floats
Carb with gunk

A quick swill with fresh petrol and that was it at this stage. New fuel line was fitted and the tank offered back to the frame and plummed in. So now the little bike was ready for the first attempts at starting. I opened the fuel tap, put on the choke, and made sure there were no airlocks in the fuel system by backing off the float bowl screw until fuel seeped from it… ignition switch in the on position I gave the bike a hefty kick… there was a slight attempt to fire, another kick and a bit of throttle and away she went… a bit tentative at first I carefully listened for any tell tale rumblings, cam chain rattles or cam journal knocks… there was a slight miss fire and after setting the idle and pilot jet screws, conservatively to start with it appeared that the cam chain was a bit rattly.

So it runs and not at all badly by all accounts. This alleviated a few of my fears as to the history of the bike and the extent of the restoration work ahead. As I was playing in the garden with the carb settings my neighbour leaned over the garden fence to find out what the noise was all about. I told him of my attempts at ressurecting the TL todate and that I was not sure it would start to which he replied:

“What do you mean you didnt think it would run… its a Honda!”

Tank Side

So now the engine is running with no smoke or strange noises its a tune up and check through… The points cover was removed (something I had not done to date as I had initially observed that there was a good spark from the ignition) I was greeted by a clean and tidy set of points but all of the surrounding screws including the nut that secures the mechanical advance weights to the cam were chewed up beyond all recognition! I had to use some very specific screw driver bits and a bit of force to remove them and even had to resort to an impact wrench to drift the cam nut out. (These were all replaced with equivalent allen head bolts on re-assembly except for the points gap adjusting screws.) After removing the timing plate and points the mechanical ignition advance unit was clearly visible. Essentially working on the same principles as a traction engine regulator unit and relying on centrifugal force generated by the cam spinning as the engine runs to advance the ignition timing the weights are retained by a pair of light springs and two magnets. There appeared to be a few mm’s of play in the wieghts so the springs were carefully nipped up and the play was removed completely. Removal of the cam nut using the impact wrench meant that I could take the newly reconditioned advance unit off the cam, remove the ignition houseing and reveal the cam sprocket behind.

The heads of these early tl machines were a single casting with no cam bearings as such, they just run in the head, which means that there was no option when they become worn other than to replace the head or insert some sort of bearing or bush using a local machine shop. the cam seemed solid and as the initial engine run had shown it seemed that there were no real signs of serious wear other than a rather tired looking cam sprocket that had obviously suffered from a loose cam chain thrashing around for quite some time… so I will put the cam sprocket on the xmas list and after spending an hour soaking the cam chain adjuster and lock nut in penetrating oil adjusted the cam chain to a more acceptable tension. Once all was done and put back together it was just a matter of adjusting the dynamic timing using a strobe light to align the F mark on the flyweel with the middle of the observation window in the caseing…… more to follow, it will soon be time for engine to come out and focus to switch to the frame and suspension components.

In the beginning…

It has begun….

Having just got married this summer it seems appropriate to use the following phrase:

“My affair with all things trials, Honda and twin shock has begun”

Lets get the pleasantries out of the way:

My wife would like to thank my good friend for introducing me to my new aquisition
and the focus of my attention for not some considerable time I think…
I also would like to thank my good friend for the new collection of bent metal parts currently residing in my shed, that in the early seventies resembled an attractive little machine to say the least.

The project:

Fettled from the Honda stable and rising from the enthusiasm for trials in an era when the Carpenters and John Denver ruled the airwaves and chain guards were a necessity for those who preferred bell bottoms. The little Honda with its small simplistic four stroke engine and with parts still reasonably available seemed a perfect place to start my introduction to observed twin shock trials.
I have to admit though, that I have more than a little enthusiasm for the lovely little Honda. Currently awaiting a thorough going over, piece by piece it sits in all its original glory.. if only bikes could talk…

So what happens next ?

A fan of maintaining as much originality as is practical on a small budget I am going to attempt to illustrate the restoration of my Honda TL125 K. With my mechanical roots in classic car restoration, mostly early Triumphs, I have not set my sites on a bike project until now…. Make no mistake I am very very new to the trials scene and so I apologise in advance for any errors and rest assured that I am seeking guidance from those around me in the know and the mine of information that is the internet… which brings me to this site where I will be posting as many articles on my project as I can… I hope that this will provide an entertaining read and a bit of enthusiasm for those who want to give it a go.. I am hoping that piece by piece the little bike will come together and finally give me an insight into the trials and tribulations of a Honda tl125… (yes well I had hoped to slip that one in earlier..)

The first thing to do is put the kettle on make a nice cup of tea, walk around the bike a bit and then put the kettle on again… all of the important bits are there bar a few of the rarer bits and the engine turns over with a kick on the kickstart….

So the first thing to do in any project is to assess… the assessment in this case is mainly focused on the engine.. the plug is new and a bit sooty, there is compression and the engine oil looks surprisingly clean so someone has obviously tried to revive it at some point. Plug cap off, spark plug out and we have a healthy looking spark with a couple of kicks with the plug earthed on the cylinder head… good. I have decided that it is safe to fire up the engine as it does not appear to be seized and the oil looks good, no severe leaks or obvious ingress of water/filth either so it should be a good test for noise/smoke and other symptoms. There is no throttle cable and the carb looks a bit antiqued.. So this means that its off with the carb, a Keihin 20mm, a simplistic little thing it seems at first but after gaining the necessary access to it by removing the seat, air box and the two securing nuts it seems that its just not budging… in the end I removed it with a couple of very light taps from a rubber mallet and some gentle wiggling… The cause of the tricky removal is clearly seen to be distortion of the mounting plate caused, as I would later be expertly informed: by the carburettor mounting nuts being over tightened. After removing the screw top of the carb it is easy to tell that the carb slide is well and truly seized in its barrel and I am slightly worried that the overtightening of the mounting nuts and distortion have extended to the carb body and thus wedging the slide.. apparently this is a common fate for this type of carb on the early TL’s the basic fix for which is a replacement item!. After a generous soak in a suitable penetrating oil to my glee the slide moves freely up the carb body and reveals the needle and main jet below… a further strip of the carb involving removal of the bowl reveals a mass of gunk and gloop not entirely unexpected on a machine of this age and condition. As I am writing this the carb is stripped and sitting in a bath of petrol where all the sticky residue is slowly but surely being removed… once this has been done I can start to assess the condition of the individual components.. more to follow soon including some pictures……