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1953 AJS Model 16 MS
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Mr Ed built his 350 AJS from a box of bits, ran it in, and then wondered whether it would cope with a long ride across the Yorkshire Dales...

I recently took my AJS along on the tail end of the BSA International Rally to the Yorkshire Dales. She is a 1953/54 350cc 16MS single which I got in big bits about two years ago. I put all the big bits together and she started second kick, but everything was knackered -- well and truly. The bike needed a new big end, rebore, exhaust, carb, clutch, primary drive, more, more more…you get the picture! We’ve all done that, ain’t we?

I spent the kids’ food money and took her apart. Put her all together again and started her up: perfect. I absolutely caned the AJS for the next eight months and 2000 miles. Nothing broke, fell off or went bang. Plus she always started first kick. I was in love with the little thing! I had a quest to achieve a top speed of 70 and (eventually) reached 74.5mph…

Great photo. Makes you wish you were there... 1953 AJS Model 16 MS

My dilemma was whether to take the 350 on this northern ride or take my Thunderbolt 650 that I have been everywhere on and which I trust completely. I was concerned whether the 350 could achieve reasonable speeds on the stiff long climbs on the Yorkshire dales and moors that we were intending to visit along the way. I am 16 stone so along with the tent, camping paraphernalia, cooking stuff and clothing I was looking at a good 20 stone all-up weight on the bike.

After much fretting and decision making I decided to take the Ajay. A good service was the sensible thing to do beforehand so I got the tools out went over the bike and all I could find to do was… the rear-view mirror needed cleaning!

Come the morning I loaded up the bike with all the stuff. Here is a tip for all who are going camping on a motorbike: get one of those Ortlieb bags, they are great bits of kit. Just bung in all the stuff. It’s waterproof and it’s easier to secure one bag than four bags all bungeed together. Trust me on this!

All loaded, I set off to meet the lads. Five yards later: catastrophe. The bike wouldn’t go through my garden gate! Unpack, trundle the bike out, re-pack and off I went. It felt a bit wobbly so when I fuelled up I also checked the tyres. The rear had about 15lbs, so put in 35lbs and – transformation -- solid as a very solid rock.

I met up with Graham and Kevin and we headed north to the Dales at 50-55mph all the way. The old girl pulled like a train and didn’t miss a beat all the way there. If anything she wanted to go a little faster!

During the next week we spent a lot of time following Shaun’s BSA M33 outfit at 40-50mph, and the AJS managed 100mpg as a result. All in all I am really impressed with the little Model 16, especially when you consider that this is the cooking version from a range of cookers. These AMC singles are amongst the cheapest classics out there and, as I have always thought, the Model 16 is one of the best designed singles ever built. Apart from the chaincase that is. I’ve cured that with a complete tube of silicon sealant!

AJSesses old and new on

As the bike had no carb, dynamo or mag I opted from the outset for modern replacements including an Alton alternator, 12V negative earth and a top of the range halogen bulb. You have to see the beam from this headlight to believe it! The Ajay runs on a BTH electronic magneto with re-wired, crimped and soldered joints and with extra earths to everything. It also has a louder horn and concentric carb, and every thing wearable was worn and so was replaced with new -- except the paint which is a mixture of oil and rust. The gearbox was really stiff and clunky but I let it soak in paraffin for a week, then filled it with oil and it gradually eased up and is now very good,

'Hello, is that the RAC? I'm phoning on behalf of my friend Shaun; he's got a BSA...' 1953 AJS Model 16 MS

So there you are: total expenditure including purchase of the bike (which was £700) came to about £2500. My reason for buying the old girl in the first place was the same as a lot of us classic riders; my first bike was identical, model and year.

Overall, I can’t tell you how much fun it is to ride a so-called ‘underpowered’ bike like this on a long, demanding journey. I have read of people doing more incredible journeys on much older and less powerful bikes than my old girl, and now I can see why. The feeling of achievement, satisfaction or whatever you call it is immense.

I shall be looking for more adventures in future with my AJS!


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