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Classic Motorcycle Review - Posted 8th August 2008

Puch Maxi

David Stracey becomes the owner of an old moped and, while bringing it back to life, also rebuilds a way back to biking...

I have two grown-up daughters, who have left home and returned. Twice. Each. So I had to clear out my shed to make room for my youngest daughter’s things, as she was moving back into our house. For the second time. Just as her elder sister had done. Most of the stuff in the shed was taken down to the tip. But there was a good bicycle there, which she wanted to give to a friend. Her friend had an old moped in the garden and offered it to me in exchange. Of course I should have said no. I was trying to make space, wasn’t I? The loft was full, the large Wendy house was full and the shed was now full. Daughters always bring back more than they take away. But, being a bloke, naturally I said ‘Yes, I’ll have it. Thanks’.

So I became the possessor of an old Puch Maxi.

Apparently a young lad had ridden it and filled it with fuel, without realising that you have to put oil in the fuel. Having seized it, he threw it into his garden in disgust, where it had lain for two years. So there it was, totally complete and totally solid. Front suspension solid, rear suspension solid, engine solid. A solid metal statue. But it was mine. And it was complete.

Silver. Can't go wrong with silver. Puch Maxi No.1: Silver, with footrests instead of pedals.

So, first step: Clear out the greenhouse. A greenhouse makes an excellent, albeit cramped, workshop. Plenty of light. Just don’t drop any screws onto the floor. The floor is pea shingle. Good mechanical training, and character-building.

It took two years to get all the parts (Steve Goode, who communes with the Druids in Wildest Wales, has just about all things Puch. He also has a phone – 01938 850544). New sprockets, chains, crank, barrel, piston, etc. Being able to lift an engine out without getting a hernia is a definite plus point for a moped. So is the simplicity. No gearbox – one gear. No clutch – just spring loaded brake shoes. Wheelwise (01403 864533) did a great job of re-building the wheels, including adapting a Honda wheel bearing to fit.

The front suspension took a little thought. Undo the bolt at the top of each leg and just pull the lower part down. Simple. No – solid. So, off to my local fixings supplier. Says I: ‘I want a length of threaded bolt, same size and thread as this, about three feet long.’

‘How long?’ says the bewildered spotty youth.

Luckily there was a ‘storeman’ standing behind him. You can always tell a ‘storeman’. Brown coat with a large number of different coloured ball pens in the breast pocket. With lines of different coloured ink above each pen, denoting the precise order they had always been placed in, since time immemorial. And the badge of office, the one-inch long pencil tucked behind the right ear.

‘Second row, fourth shelf up, third box from the left’ pronounced the storeman. Easy. Take it home. Screw it into the thread inside the fork and tap down with a rubber hammer. This is the only sort of hammer I am safe with.

2 Speed Automatic! Whatever next? Puch Maxi Brochure
Puchs on Now...

The problem came with the electrickery. Now I’m a Christian, so I’m not a believer when it comes to the electrickery. I can accept that there’s a bit of string that the electrickery goes down. I can accept that different bits of gubbins have to go at different ends of the string, depending on what you want the electrickery to do. I can accept that you have to stop it escaping, or it won’t have the strength to do what you want it to do. But that contradicts the fact that you have to let it escape where some dark magician has decided to let it escape, or it won’t have the strength to do what you want it to do…

Of course, the really bad thing about the electrical gubbins is that you cannot just look at it and tell if it’s worn out or broken. So, back on the phone to Steve Goode and order all the electrical parts, new.

We all know that one of the really critical bits of string connects the sparking plug to the points. I don’t know why they should be called points – they are flat. Then there are smaller bits of string connecting the points with the condenser and the magnet(o). But I have all new parts, so just replace everything and join the strings up as they were. Make adjustments as per the book. Easy. This is where you get to the really evil, Satanic, thing about mopeds (and many other two-strokes).

All of this spark making stuff is hidden inside a small, heavy saucepan which also acts as the flywheel.

There are only a couple of slots in it which allow you to see what’s going on. You can even measure the gaps between the magnet(o) and the saucepan. You can also measure the gaps between the points.

You can also adjust the points gap. But you cannot measure and adjust. The slots in the bottom of the saucepan won’t allow it. Very character-building.

Now you might hope that after all these years, the Satanist who designed this would be pushing up the daisies in some churchyard. But sadly, No. He is still working, contentedly, for that nice Mr Gates over at Macrohard!

Finally came the moment of truth. Put in some pre-mixed fuel (and oil). Flood the carb. Push down the spring-loaded choke control (it releases itself when the throttle is opened). Leave the throttle closed and kick.

‘Wassatnoise? Blimey it’s going!’

Keep it going ’till it’s warmed up. Then adjust the carb so that the tickover is fast enough to keep it going but slow enough to release the automatic clutch. Job done.

‘Haven’t seen one of them for years’ says the MOT man. It passed its MOT despite a very slight problem. Although all the electricals were new, the lights glowed when they were switched off. They glowed only marginally brighter when they were switched on. But hey, who wants to ride a moped in the dark? The MOT only requires that all lights, where fitted, must work. And these did. Sort of.

I used to have a proper job, you know. How did it come to this? Puch Maxi No.1: Blue, with pedals instead of footrests.

It was at about this time that my better half found another Puch Maxi on eBay. She suggested I buy it as spares. Naturally I paid about three times what it was worth. I also spent more than it was worth hiring a Tranny to go down to Southampton to collect it. It was older than mine, with a solid rear end and pedals instead of a kickstart. But, on its stand, one prod of a pedal and it started. And the mileometer (which both the vendor and I believed to be correct) said only 600 miles! So now I have two. One which I have rebuilt myself – ‘I did that’ – and one which I have never laid a spanner on. Well, you can’t, can you. Not on something which you believe to be truly original.

In the last couple of years I have put about 400 miles on each. Sometimes months pass without either being out. It requires a combination of the right available time and the right weather. But I enjoy both. Not as motorcycles. I think of them as pushbikes, which you don’t have to pedal. Easy. Also they travel at a slow speed, so you get to see more of what’s around you. Of course small boys to point and laugh. Mopeds don’t have any street cred. My daughters have told me not to go ‘where anyone might know you’. So I do go into town on them. I enjoy ignoring my daughters.

There has been a very expensive spin-off to all of this. I decided to buy a motorcycle. What that meant, however, was that if I wanted three bikes I had to have another shed. But I already had one shed – full of my daughter’s stuff. Family politics precluded a second shed. So I had to have a summerhouse. I won’t bother you with that story – it’s twice the length of this missive. But I did get a motorbike. But that, as they say, is another story…

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