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28th November 2014

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French Fixes

When you run a classic motorcycling holiday business in a remote area of France, you get called upon to fix all kinds of odd problems as Roger Nicholls explains...

2014 was a very hectic year for us here in Brittany with a constant stream of bikers of all shapes, sizes, ages (and anything else you care to mention) coming over to stay with us. Inevitably, with so many people visiting on so many old / classic motorcycles, we end up dealing with a few breakdowns and spare-part requests. One particularly tricky mechanical emergency involved a Dell'Orto carb.

The Wiltshire Enfield Club were staying with us, and Don arrived on his Bullet outfit, struggling with an overflowing carb and poor performance. On dismantling the carb it was discovered that the double-sided float was full of petrol; one side completely full and the other half full. Several solutions were proposed and in the end a pin hole was drilled to empty the floats and an attempt to re-seal was tried… without success.

French Fixes

We're located in the centre of Brittany, a long way from anywhere that might have a spare float and it was the height of the French Holiday season. Don was getting concerned as it looked like he was going to miss out on the riding, and might need assistance to get back to England. We tried ringing biker friends in France for help and advice, but nothing came up. Next we looked for the nearest dealer that might have Dell'Orto parts and came up with a Ducati and Enfield dealership about 80 miles away in Rennes. We rang at about 11.50am and although the guy was helpful and said he had some floats he didn't know if they would fit the carb we had. As it was lunchtime he was just about to close; could we ring back in two hours?

This did not really help so our next stop was the wonderful internet. But being so remote we had to rely on a slow connection through a dish and the stars. A trawl came up with an exploded illustration of the self-same carb and floats with a name above the picture; Eurocarbs, based in Reading in the UK. A phone number was found and the number rung, with part numbers to hand. This was just after midday French time, 11am UK time. An extremely helpful chap answered. He had the part in stock, for £14.

French Fixes Sidecar Outfits on Now...

Could he deliver it to the middle of nowhere, not even on Sat-Nav, in France?

Yes certainly - just £14 for express delivery. In fact, he organised NEXT DAY delivery to back-water Brittany. This was on the Thursday lunch time and I then followed the carb float on its journey from Reading, to Stanstead airport and then to Germany, then to Charles de Gaul in Paris, then to Rennes, then to St Brieuc and finally by van to here, Burlaouen. It was delivered by 16.55 on Friday, just as the man had promised.

French Fixes

The new float was then fitted by a very excited Don, along with his many hangers-on and technical advisers and complete with a beer in hand. Job done; carb fitted. A few tweaks and away we all went for several test runs to get everything running smoothly. So Eurocarbs and UPS both deserve big thanks for their outstanding service.

Between March and October I have given up trying to do anything else other than look after bikers: wouldn't have it any other way. What a fabulous bunch of people they are. We have towed Russian sidecars back with Russian sidecars, and recovered a Vincent in the van when its clutch failed. Soon found a local Vincent expert who came up with the part, only problem was… could we wait a bit as he was just getting married?!

Then there was the MAC Velo that lost its rear wheel nuts, so it went home with a nut from the footrest of my Bantam and two nuts from a friend's Road Rocket. On another occasion a timing case fell off (almost) a Velocette. Eight Whitworth screws were required and these were found through a biker mate who had some just the right length. Where did they come from? From old American computers, of course!

French Fixes

Next year, no doubt, will bring a whole different set of problems to solve (and some lovely people with them).


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