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28th July 03

'When I was born, I had no Shed, my eye was single, and my body was filled with light...' Frank Westworth misquotes good poetry, and comments On Shedlessness...

Tales From The Big Shed

Someone has been grumbling at me about the recent lack of Shedness in these electronically pristine pages. In fact, I was so bowled over at Stinkwheel by the number of total strangers (and some were very strange; boom … er … boom) that I decided on the way home (by a mysterious and completely unfulfilling mixture of huge 4x4 and a train easily old enough to qualify for free road tax) that I should fix this. So…

The excellent lady on the Chris Knight stall had provided me with sundry electrical bits for the Matchless G15CS, and they were genuine Lucas bits, so I felt doubly inspired. Because that G15CS, recently reviled because of its complete failure to burst into prolonged active life like a good little doggie, has been revived…

I've just re-read the last From The Shed and realised that there's loads missing! This is the problem with an active message board; it is too easy to jabber inanely away, forgetting that not everyone reads the message board. (And why don't they? It cheers me up every time I visit.)

Anyway, following our relocation from Shropshire most glorious to Cornwall the very wet, I was deeply … nay, profoundly hacked off to discover that not one of my weary collection of ancient clunkers could be persuaded into anything resembling life, prolonged and active or otherwise. This was very hateful, and I was unamused. There was a crisis fast approaching, too. Mr Chris Read, valiant Editor of the AJS & Matchless OC's fine Jampot magazine and near neighbour down here in the peninsula, has taken to organising AMC get-togethers at Roadford Lake, a beauty spot with a sensibly intelligent café. And I wanted to rattle along. I wanted to rattle along on an AJS or a Matchless.

Furry engine case are the first sign of leaky shed roof...We have two Ajays and three Matchlesses, although one of the Ajays and one of the Matchlesses have been off the road since the dawn of time, so that reduced the odds of success a little. But I rode the G15CS (a fine 750cc desert sled) about a week afore we moved, so I knew it was a runner. And I'd last ridden the AJS 31 on the same day as the Matchless (do not ask), so I was happy that if the gorgeous shiny bright red G15CS was feeling grumpy, then the dull grey but ploddingly reliable AJS 31 would do the stuff.

Neither would start.

I was astonished.

I sweat myself into a lather, kicking like a maniac, convinced that once fresh fuel got around the system all would be well, and there was much to-ing and fro-ing while we went out and got some fresh petrol, and things like that. But nothing. Nothing at all. This is very depressing. I'd even charged up their batteries (a drastic step I know, but a clear indication of how worried I was getting!).

The biggest and most frustrating thing was that I Had No Shed! The bikes were stored, about a dozen of them, in an improbably small garage. This is no use, unless your bikes are reliable, because to be honest my days of enjoying sitting outside in the yacking steaming hot rain while wielding the spanners are over! And good riddance.

Desperate days call for desperate measures. When Chris, the AMC Editor Man, appeared aboard his (big, bright blue and irritatingly functional) AJS 31CSR, instead of hiding behind the sofa (which is what Rowena and I tend to do whenever visitors appear), I leapt out of the front door, beaming enticingly. Chris' expression suggested that my welcoming beam had been correctly interpreted as potentially expensive, but he'd stopped by then, so couldn't carry on by with a cheery wave and a sincere cry of 'See you at Roadford!' or something. Sorry, Chris…

While MrsW3 busied herself with an almost convincing impersonation of a friendly sort of gurl and made with the refreshments, I wheeled Chris into the garage and showed him my little problems.

He laughed, in a confident kind of way. I liked that. Already I was sure that my problems were indeed little ones. I've already said that. Hope you took the opportunity to be kind to an old joke. Oh, they're flowing nicely now!

Chris is a man who can fix anything AMC. He has a rare and priceless prototype Matchless living in his living room, and boasts one of the very very few genuine G15/45 Matchless twins as his own. All his bikes run flawlessly, and he was plainly unbothered by the lack of activity from my own weary plodders. Happiness.

We decided that there was plainly a lack of sparks. There was plainly plenty of fuel, and indeed the garage floor was awash with the stuff, not least because the pair of Amal Concentrics on the Matchless had poured about a pint each onto the floor because their float needles had stuck. And I hadn't noticed this, of course, because I'd been sat on the bike, kicking like an idiot, and leaking like a carb with its float needle stuck. If I could have seen the flood on the floor, I would in fact have assumed that it was sweat, but I couldn't see it due to my glasses being awash. Being fat is no use when kicking over 750 twins in a hot, humid climate. They'll do a Channel 4 programme about it one day.

Checking for sparks can be a problem if you don't have a handy plug spanner or a spare plug. But Chris knew what to do. Thinking I hadn't noticed, he flicked on the ignition while I was prodding disconsolately around inside one of the plug caps and gave the thing a decent kick. Indeed I hadn't noticed, but there was no need to worry, as tingling screaming high tension coronary moments there were none. No sparks, then.

Over to the dull grey AJS, still searching for the spark. Now this was truly annoying. When I'd bought the AJS, at an auction almost a year ago, it had been a non-runner. It had been a non-runner because the contact breaker points opened when the little cam-thing inside the distributor prodded them (generating a nice fat spark), but then failed to spring closed again (there was only the one nice fat spark, which is no use at all if you intend a journey of any kind).

I fixed that, easily, by freeing up the points. After that, the dull grey Ajay had always been a one-kick starter. Until now, when the points were sticking again.

Chris rode away. But returned within moments, clutching useful tools. And a spare set of points. All of my tools and all of my useful spares (like a complete spare distributor) were buried behind piles of office furniture in the industrial unit we've rented to store things while we move. Life is full of frustration. I hope never to move house again. Who cares about pestilence, fire and flood, compared to the absolute inconvenience of being apart from my shed?

We dismantled (well, Chris did. I sort of watched, encouragingly) the dull grey Ajay's dizzy. And checked that its points were free. They were. We reassembled it (see above) and checked that there were big fat healthy sparks. There were. We put it all together again, holding a beaming at each other competition, and I kicked it over. It fired at once!


It only fired the once…

The points had stuck again.

We all went out for a jolly good supper of steak, ale and bafflement.

I rode to Mr Editor Chris' Roadford Lake meeting on a Harley-Davidson. People were understanding. Mostly…

Bring me the Hammer of Thor...Then, on my own again (Chris is mysteriously busy these days) I decided to employ my favourite skills: mighty abuse, and Thor, King of Hammers. So I swore a lot and hammered an old screwdriver into the back of the G15's ignition switch to see what happened. My razor-like intellect and Sherlock Holmesian deductive processes had convinced me that as the horn worked, but nothing downstream of the ignition switch did, then the switch was plainly the root of all evil and deserved a good hammering. As soon as Thor and I smote the switch, everything worked. I flooded the carbs (never was an expression more apt, but Thor, King of Hammers, when applied to leaking Concentrics in a vigorous way, fixed the leaks), and then leapt heroically upon the kickstarter.

One kick.

Roar! Fabulous! And what a roar it is. Norton's 750 twins really do rort. Oh my yes.

So, as I said, I came away from Stinkwheel with a new switch, and a new locking barrel in case I destroyed the old one removing it from the old switch (of course I destroyed it. It deserved to be destroyed). No problems. This coming Sunday is Mr Editor Chris' next Roadford gathering, which leaves me three days to get an MoT, a free tax disc and to polish up that old candy apple red paint.

There I was then, about an hour ago, fitting my new switch, humming a merry little tune and reflecting that I didn't need any of the real tools, which was just as well, because they're about 25 miles away and largely inaccessible, when one of the four wires which fits the brand new and entirely functional switch fell out of its connector. No problem! It's a two minute job to strip the wire and fit a new connector!

Why does this always happen at the most inconvenient time?

Well it would be, if I had a) any tools, and b) a new connector. I do have both, of course, but they're 25 miles away…

Which leaves the last best hope for classic cred: Harry the Matchless. That's the 1987 Harris G80 which has been sat in the garage for almost a year. Completely neglected, cobwebby, damp, full of ancient unleaded and utterly flat in the battery dept. Would it start with a little encouragement from my elderly battery charger?

Two kicks. Now that's what I call real classic!

Moody Matchless

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