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MAY 2002

By Ray Jones

Remember! Classic bikes are like ‘classic’ ladies – no two will ‘start’ with the same approach!! Some (i.e. the bikes!) require flooding; to others, this is fatal: some machines require a fair amount of advance; others will kick like a mule if this is tried. It all depends on the settings of the carburettor, throttle and magneto. Starting is a long apprenticeship and practice makes perfect. One of the first things to learn is that you will never start a machine if you are frightened of it. Many people I watch approach starting half-heartedly all because it has kicked back on them at sometime or another. They try to kick with the pad of their foot instead of the instep or, if you watch them, they are lifting their foot before the bottom of the stroke. This is fatal – you need a full stroke with the weight of the body over the kick start. Remember that it will not kick back if the crank is held down to the bottom of the stroke. So all I can recommend is that you go through the right procedure before attempting to start. Assuming the magneto points and the plug points are at the right gaps and there is no cable slack at the throttle, adopt the following procedure (when cold):

  1. Turn the petrol on and flood the carburettor by slightly depressing the tickler on top of the flow chamber (excess flooding leads to a wet plug).

  2. Next, set the ignition lever to half way to start with, gradually advancing later if necessary.

  3. Some machines need the air lever closing somewhat: mine never does so I advise trying it without first.

  4. Use the kick start initially to ‘feel’ for compression. You are now at the top of the stroke. Then use the valve lifter to ease it over compression no more than one inch. Now you are just over the top of the stroke and you can assume a full cycle when you kick.

  5. Open the throttle very slightly (the extent required is only found by experiment).

  6. Now thrust down with the full weight of the body over the kick start, thus taking advantage of the whole range of movement.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again adopting the same procedure but this time advancing the ignition lever a little more, and/or closing the air lever just a little.

Some riders prefer to start their machines on the stand. This has the advantage that you don’t have to balance the machine but the disadvantage that it is difficult to get your weight over the kick start. This is more difficult on pre-war machines with rear stands that lift the machines rather high. The method practiced by the more pro-efficient is that they stand astride the machine and tilt it out before kicking. This needs some practice to retain your balance but enables the rider to position his weight right over the kick start.

In conclusion if it is any consolation, few riders can guarantee a first kick start. Old hams can almost always guarantee a start in, say, three, but all machines have their off days so if it doesn’t start after many kicks (it can’t be a Sunbeam!!) you can either throw it over the hedge or phone for the AA. However, I find that a change of plug works the majority of times.

In the end, as my RAF Sergeant used to say ‘You can’t teach cows how to handle rifles.’ 

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 'TURNED OUT NICE AGAIN!' or 'A FINE MESS YOU'VE GOT ME IN, DAVID!' (with apologies to George Formby and to Laurel and Hardy)

By Ray Jones and David Davies

The sun shone invitingly over the Shropshire countryside on this May day and seduced two intrepid septuagenarians to venture out on their 'classic steeds'. Some ten miles into the ride David's bike got a puncture and after several attempts to re-inflate  the tyre with a 'lilo pump' it was obvious that this would not be successful, particularly as the rim tape was hanging from the rim. David decided to 'run flat' in an attempt to get nearer home and disappeared around the bend at a steady 10 miles an hour. Confident in the performance of my own bike, I mounted to follow him but would it start?! - NO! it bl...... well wouldn't!! After a number of knee-jarring attempts I pushed the bike until I was on a slight slope and managed to start it. Two miles down the road a sorry David had come to a halt with the tyre off the rim. What to do? David suggested I left him with the bike and rode on for help. Loath to do this, my alternative suggestion was to put David's bike behind the hedge, sit him on my pillion with legs dangling since I had no footrests. Sadly our combined mass made this an extremely unsafe proposition! - back to the drawing board! By re-positioning my own feet, I managed to get David a slight 'toehold' and, feeling very much as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza must have felt on their 'classic steed', we set off weaving a 'mazy' path down the lanes much to both the consternation and amusement of fellow travellers. More than once we were 'up the hedge' and I had to kick the bike back on to the road but the crowning moment came when we were approaching David's house down his bumpy lane and his wife, who was on the phone at the time, saw this amazing sight weaving its way unsteadily towards her; she promptly doubled-up with laughter but, to her eternal credit, still managed to get out the Scotch bottle!! Where there's a will, there's a way! - but it just shows that however many years you have been a classic biker, new experiences are always just around the corner!



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