Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Three on the road

Happy days! I have now have three of my four bikes on the road. In April I took the Ariel over the pits, but as I reported back then it didn't go well. The first thing I did after that debacle was to order a Pazon ignition system from New Zealand (link and some replacement pistons and rings. When we got into the engine however, the current pistons, rings and barrels, proved to be in great condition so we didn't replace them. The Pazon system immediately improved performance and made for reliable starting.

I decided that I would go with a concessional license and booked an inspection through the Vintage Motorcycle Club. It was a bit of a nerve wracking exercise because it was quite a ride out to the club in Forrestfield and I'd had almost no practice riding her on the road. I took it really slow, which certainly p*ssed off some drivers. My greatest concern was braking. The front brake is almost useless, barely able to slow the bike, but when used in combination with the footbrake it works okay. But only just okay.

The engine ran well but the gear change was sloppy, crunching in first and second, but third and fourth felt soft and it was often hard to tell which gear I was in. It will take a bit of practice to get the changes right. That all said, the Leader is a smooth ride. Its low centre of gravity makes it feel very stable on the road. It also corners well, although I didn't take any at speed.
The inspection was relatively quick and painless. I was a little more confident on the ride home and pushed her up to 50 miles per hour. Pleasingly she didn't lose speed running up the hill near my house, unlike the Troll and Vespa, which always struggle. Now I'm just waiting on the registration process. I'm crossing my fingers there aren't any more 'bureaucratic' challenges!

Update - 3 August 2010. My paperwork from the Department if Infrastructure and Transport stating, as we already knew, that there is no record of the Ariel being imported since the introduction of import restrictions in 1989. So, here we go. Let's hope this is the last hurdle.

The Troll

And the Troll is now back after six months off the road. The last time I'd ridden the Troll was before New Years Day, when she broke down. Because the kick starter had jammed and would not budge I suspected the piston had seized. Fortunately that proved not to be the case. Both the clutch arm and kick starter had come out of alignment and it only took a bit of pushing and pulling to set them right. A few fixing bolts and washers should keep them together. The leaking petrol tap was replaced, the carburetter cleaned and the old IWL air filter was disconnected and replaced by a new modern one (below). The transformation in performance has been incredible. She fires up on the first or second kick every time now. Amazing!

And finally.. FINALLY.. I was able to secure an IWL badge for the headstock. It's a trivial thing really and a bit battered up, but it these things are very hard to find. So now she is complete.

So it looks like I'm going to have lots of riding choices this summer to do things like this..

And this...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Balinese Scooter Restorers

Being the owner of a Balinese restored scooter I just had to visit a couple of shops. Asian restored scooters often get a bad rap; some of course for very good reasons. As you can see from some of the photos above, the scooters in Asia do it tough; it's not a romantic existence. Whereas in other parts of the world scooters had a relatively short working life before they were replaced by cheap cars, parked and then forgotten, the scooters in Asia run and run and run, kept alive by cheap bodges and temporary fixes until they simply can't run any more. So a scooter that ends up in the hands of a restorer is often in bad shape from the beginning.

But everything can be fixed right? Certainly old scooters and motorcycles were built to last and we've all seen machinesthat have been resurrected from virtual scrap metal to concourse perfection. But we are in Asia here, where low cost ingenuity is king. Parts are manufactured, customised and bodged to do the job. And they do do the job. The restorations look great and there were many on the road in Bali. It's important to note though that with traffic congestion as bad as it is in Bali, none of these machines are likely to do more than 30kph. And they'll almost never have to do an emergency stop. And if the carby clogs up, there will be 20 motorcycle shops who'll bodgy up some fix to get it back on the road in five minutes.

The problem is driving them here. Unless you want to be driven over by an impatient a four-wheel drive owner, you need to be able to keep up with traffic doing at least 70kph. And you need to be able to do an emergency stop. And you need a carby that doesn't clog. It's all about buyer beware. If you do buy a Balinese restored Vespa you need to be prepared to do some work on it to make sure it's roadworthy in Australia. And in the process you need to be aware that you might also find that some of the restoration is probably not going to meet the standards we would expect. But that all said, you could get a bargain out of the deal if you know what you're doing and have invested in a bit of research. Buying straight off the internet is not a great idea.
Interestingly, some shops were prepared to sell unrestored machines.

If you want to understand the difference between what some of these restorers claim to have done and what they actually do, read this blog -

I visited two shops and talked with the staff. I'm not promoting either of the shops and I have no opinion about the quality of their work but I did take a few photos.

Aneka Motor
Jl Raya Kuta No.88

Aneka was closing up when I arrived and the workshop was packed with scooters. About two thirds were finished and were soon to be dispatched, mainly to the UK.

I remain partial to the single colour scheme.

A nice Super Sport in traditional blue

These two small frames show the underlying condition of the original bikes. In the foreground you can see the rear end of a Lambretta J-125cc series.

On a platform above the Vespas was a newly restored Lambretta LD. From what I could gather from the owner, whose English was bad, this one was going to the UK.

A Lambretta J series, 125cc. These small engined Lambretta's were introduced in the mid 1960's in an effort to break Vespa's hold on the female market.

Another unrestored Lambretta J awaits its turn.

Bene Asai Vespa Shop
Jl Sriwjaya 19, Kuta Bali

A battered sidecar outfit sits at the front.

The new products

Some Vespas waiting their turn.

The blue Vespa here was 20 million rupiah. The silver Vespa behind it was unrestored but running. It was available for 9 million rupiah.

Bali scooter madness

Shelly and I popped over to Bali, Indonesia for a quick week of fun in the sun. Scooters are king in Bali; there were literally thousands everywhere you looked. Modern Hondas and Suzukis dominate the market but there were still a few old Vespas on the roads. Being a scooter manic, I couldn't help but take loads of photos.

Scooters and motorcycles are real workhorses in Bali.

A nice old VBB lines up with the new kids on the block.

A stripped down Honda 125cc.

Almost all the motorcycles on the road were small displacement. This 125cc Honda was typical.

Big engined monsters like these Harley-Davidsons were are rare sight and looked quite out of place.

Traffic in Bali was appalling and the roadsides were crammed with parked scooters. Surfboard carriers were popular with the tourists.

But if you don't have a surfboard carrier, who cares?

Who could miss this little Honda?

This old Vespa has seen better days, but was still on the road.

Your Asian restored Vespa probably once looked like this.

The greatest scooter ever made - the Honda Cub.

A beautiful VW T1.

While most of the Hondas on the road were standard spec I came across one or two which had been converted into cafe racer style. I had a chat with the owner of this little 125cc beauty but his English wasn't the best and my Indonesian was non-existent.

We were in a taxi to our hotel in Kuta when I caught sight of this old bike through the corner of my eye. It looked somewhat Soviet to me so I wandered back for a look. It turned out to be a badly distressed Czechoslovakian Jawa 230 Perak that was being used as a prop in front of a leather store. Note the bodged up air filter and toolbox. I took a couple of shots while the shop owner tried to interest me in a jacket. When he realised he was wasting his time he offered me the bike for 500 euro. Given its fairly decrepit state I had to say no. Maybe I should come back and offer him morning price??

Many stores used bikes and scooters in their displays

Here's a little beauty - the Daihatsu Midget MP5. The Midget was originally a copy of the Vespa Ape but soon became a much more complex vehicle. This one looks like a model from the early 1970s. I'd love one.

All of the Paul Smith clothing stores featured a Vespa painted in the company colours.

When we were staying Seminyak we came across this little shop with a bunch of old bikes on its front porch. It was Sunday and they were closed and the bikes were covered by tarps but the old wheels and drum brakes were instantly recognisable. Being a little bit cheeky I hopped up on their porch and snapped a couple of shots before the owner came out. He happily removed the tarps so I could get a better look and, of course, we talked about bikes.

This is a 1957 BSA. Note the lack of a dynamo cover. The owner was quite unconcerned about it - it still worked, so why worry?

The 1956 BSA outfit. They hire the bikes out for tours. We had a long chat about renting the bike for a drive, but given the madness of the traffic I completely understood that they weren't prepared to let me drive.

Another 56 BSA.

Sometimes restoration is not an option.... Vespa seats at an Italian restaurant.

A ubiquitous Bali petrol station. Why always Absolut vodka bottles?

Follow this link to part 2 - Balinese Scooter Restorers: