Down and then up again

Just after pressing the “Publish” button on Wednesdays missive the postman arrived.    He brought with him a letter from the DVLA (That’s the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency – the organisation in the UK that is responsible for vehicle licensing).   In a nutshell the letter said

“Dear Robby, we can’t match the registration plates on Little Project with the registration number so you can’t have the V5 logbook so you won’t be able to tax the bike and so you can’t use the bike”.

I was down beyond belief.   It isn’t the absolute last straw, once I deem Little Project roadworthy I have the option of taking it to a vehicle testing station and getting it registered as if it was a kit bike but this means a special registration that immediately stands out from the crowd and pretty much doubles the insurance.

I thought “Sod it.  I’ll just put it all on eBay and flog it to anyone who wants to carry on”.   So I wandered down to the shed with the posh camera and took a bunch of photos.   I figured that with this blog documenting what’s been done and with so many shiny bits I may be able to find a buyer for what I had.

I turned on the computer to head to eBay and in my email there’s a comment against the glossary page.   It said…

I developed serious withdrawal symptoms when you were off line recently. Please don’t do it again!.

Then, within a blink there was another encouraging comment asking for “..more of the same please.”

So, you gentlemen (or ladies, or whoever you are).   Thank you.   You have encouraged me to carry on.   I have deleted those photographs that were for eBay and once again have oily fingers.

And a plan!

Meanwhile I have been doing some messing around with engines.    Now why isn’t that surprising.    I’ll just surmise where we are, viz-a-viz arranging some locomotion that doesn’t involve me scooting up and down the garden on Little Project shouting “Brmmm Brmmm” (I did, the neighbours thought I’d gone a bit bonkers.   I just wanted to see how comfortable Seat actually was).

We have…

  • A very nice 1978 CB125 engine that is clean and shiny and has good compression and a nice clutch and a good gearbox.
  • A not quite so nice 1978 CB125 engine that has a little broken bit on one of the casings where the tachometer cable goes (although Little Project doesn’t have a rev counter so it is possibly not a problem) and a slightly challenged gearbox.
  • A 1977 XL125 engine that has a missing cylinder head (but also has a good gearbox).
  • A 1983 Little Project original engine that has a piston welded into the barrel and the remains of a mouse sitting on top of the piston.  It also has a considerable amount of rust on it and some of the bolts holding it together are rusted, rounded and sheared.

So judging from the above list and allowing that I’m probably not going to make my completion date of July 22 (2013 of course) it is obvious that I should really use the original Little Project engine, or at least a proper CT125 engine.   Otherwise I am just going to be cheating and not doing the job properly.

Challenge number one is to get the piston that is welded into the barrel out.   This really needs to happen without having copious bits of piston and/or barrel falling into the engine so a devious plan was required (so devious in fact that I forgot to take photographs and it is now too dark to go to the shed to take them).

The devious plan involved Little Project engine (obviously), a cold chisel, some plastic safety spectacles, a black and decker workmate and the BFH.     The engine is clamped upside down in the workmate, gripped securely around the remains of the barrel.     There is a bit of old carpet laid beneath and if you should have chosen to venture into the shed at some stage this weekend, you would have found me lying on the carpet beneath the workmate.   My not so pristine overalls fastened up to my neck, safety goggles donned and wearing a blue woolly hat to keep the remains of my hair clean (people who know me will tell you that whatever hat I wear, I look like a grumpy gnome).

I am of the opinion that if I hit the piston hard enough and enough times with the cold chisel and the big hammer then the piston will eventually fall apart and I will then be able to remove the barrel and the remains of the welded piston at the same time.   This opinion is loosely based on what I think is holding the piston to the engine.

Obviously, it is going to take quite a lot of piston bashing to remove this.   However, I have patience.

Just one extra note.   There is a CT125 for sale on eBay, it finishes tomorrow.   The gentleman selling it says it needs some work (ha, as if) but the engine runs and all of the electrics are there.   It finishes in exactly 24 hours from now and I’m currently the highest bidder.   keep your fingers crossed for me, I’m on a very limited budget for it!

It’s only words

Yay! The Bee Gees (or Boyzone if you are younger).

This may seem like the shortest post in Little Project history.  It’s actually taken longer to write than all of the others with the exception of “The History of Little Project“.

It has been mentioned to me that there are some phrases and words that I have used through the previous 60 odd posts that don’t necessarily mean anything to some people.   These people can be categorised thus:

  • Those who live outside the UK
  • Those who don’t know anything about restoring motorcycles
  • Those who aren’t me.

To alleviate this shortfall I have spent several evenings compiling a glossary of things that may not have made sense.   (A quick note to my mum – Mum, if you touch the word “glossary” it will take you there, then press the “Back” button to bring you back here).

Feel free to point out anything that has been missed and I will add a description in a random position (so that you have to read it all again to find it),

Enjoy the rest of your week.

It’s all in the head

“The goal towards which the pleasure principle impels us – of becoming happy – is not attainable: yet we may not – nay, cannot – give up the efforts to come nearer to realization of it by some means or other.”

So said Sigmund Freud.   I think that what he was saying was that we don’t have any choice but to keep on trying and reach that point whereby satisfaction is reached even though it isn’t likely to happen.    Ether that or he was really keen on electronic rock music and had heard that Gary Numan was about to bring out a solo album.

Freud spent his life working out what was going on inside the head of people and is considered the founding father of psychoanalysis.   It would have been far more convenient for the Little Project story if he’d spent a lot of time working out what went on in the cylinder head and had been the founding father of cycleanalysis.  Still, at least he’s helped me invent a new word!

“Why haven’t you update the blog for two weeks?” a number of people have said to me.   I’ve been doing my proper job during the week and last weekend I was having a marvelous time helping out at a (not quite summer) fete.   You’ll find details of what I got up to on The Verbal Hedge if it is of any interest.  You’ll have to dig through to find “The old lady smell” page.

This weekend I have been a little like Dr Frankenstein in that I’ve taken off one head and put on another.    I thought to myself “This will be a doddle, I’ve done this loads of times”.   As I was thinking this I should have nudged myself and said “Yeah, but only on two stroke engines and not on four stroke engines that haven’t been taken apart for three decades”.

Just a little bit of background on two stroke/four stroke engines.    They both work very roughly by making an explosion in a chamber.  The explosion forces a piston down onto a crankshaft which in turn spins and pushes the piston back up.  The spinning crank is connected to the gearbox and this in turn is connected to the wheel and so everything spins and goes forward merrily.

With a two stroke engine, the fuel comes in, the piston goes up and explodes the fuel against a spark and then the gases are expelled on the way down (remember, this is a very rough description!).   With a four stroke engine. a valve opens to let the fuel in, the piston pops up and explodes it, then it pops down again and another valve opens and on the pistons next visit up the chamber a different valve opens and the exhaust gases are pushed out.   Then the cycle repeats itself.

So the obvious difference to me between two stroke and four stroke are these valve thingies.  They have to open and close in the correct sequence and at the correct times to allow stuff to come in and get burned and then go out again.   This is managed (on Little Project at least, things have moved on since the late 70’s) by something called a camshaft.    It’s a bit like a stick with lumps on it.   When the stick turns, the lumps press on the valves and pop them open, so you can imagine that on Little Project, the two lumps on the stick are in different places, one to open the innie valve and one to open the outie valve.

When you think about this a bit more, with two stroke engines, the spark that makes the fuel go boom has to happen when the piston gets to the top of the chamber.   Every time.   Simple.   With the four stroke engine, the spark happens every other time the piston gets to the top of the chamber, and it has to happen when the valves are closed or the energy goes wherever the valve leads to rather than in pushing the piston back down the chamber.

I hope that you are still with me and you haven’t died of boredom during that.   It is only a very rough description, so any mechanics who are shaking their heads with dismay should just remember that I’m a computer programmer and I can easily bugger up your payroll if you make harsh comments.

So, changing heads.   Simple.   Nope.

The camshafts (on Little Project they are “Overhead Cams” which mean they are at the top of the engine) are driven by a camchain which connects to a cam sprocket (I may have made that word up, it’s a cog that has a relationship with the camshafts).  So to take the cyinder head off you have to disconnect the cam chain and all sort of things.  None of this is difficult if you are in possession of lots of spanners and sockets and a sense of adventure.

So I took the cylinder head off the engine that has a defunct gearbox and I took the cylinder head off the engine that has a good gearbox but some broken bits on the cylinder head and put the cylinder head off the duff gearbox engine onto the engine that previously had the broken bits on the cylinder head.   Still with me?

Then I thought “I’ll just take a quick look at the manual now I’m feeling all smug”.

Oh my word (as the young people say a lot around here these days).

It said (I’m paraphrasing a bit here), “Make sure that the “o” mark on the cam sprocket is lined up with the engraved V on the casing and at the same time the “T” mark on the alternator is at TDC and ONLY TURN THE CRANK IN AN ANTI CLOCKWISE DIRECTION or serious engine damage may occur”.

Blimey, I hadn’t done any of these things!   I went back to look.  There’s an “o” on the cam sprocket…


Can you see it?   I think that it is definitely lined up with the (impossible to see) v that is engraved on the casing.  However…


If you look closely, the “T” is definitely not at the top (TDC stands for Top Dead Centre I think).  It’s sort of at just before 6 o clock.  What’s worrying me though is that there’s a little mark on the alternator (the yellow plastic looking bits) that almost lines up with the “T”.   So I’m thinking that this might need to be at the top and then everything will line up and then when the piston gets to the top and the spark goes off and there will be a massive explosion and I’ll find bits of my leg splattered all over the A316.

My simple solution was to take the cam sprocket off, turn the crank (in an anticlockwise direction of course) until the “T” was at the top and then put the cam sprocket back on again.   I can’t for the life of me see how this makes any difference but at least it is all how the manual says.

If you find a bit of leg in a few weeks time, it is possible that it is mine.   Can you return it to somewhere near Twickenham Stadium please.

Thanks for taking the time to visit.

The gears of war

I have been channeling Abe Lincoln this week and I really wanted to find a quote from him discussing the gearbox of a Honda CT125.  Alas, Lincoln died 30 years or so before the first recognised gearbox  was introduced (by a couple of intrepid Frenchmen in 1894) so he probably didn’t spend much time chuntering on about the benefits of synchromesh and whether paddle flaps were better than push buttons.

He did come up with some smart words though.  His opposition to slavery in the United States probably took 100 years to kick in properly and I didn’t realise until quite recently that a fair few of the lyrics of Bob Marley come directly from Lincoln – Google “You can fool some people sometime but you can’t fool all the people all the time” and see who comes out on top.

None of this helps me with this weeks Little Project challenge though.   I put the engine back into the frame.  I worked out where all the little bits went to make the exhaust pipe be an exhaust pipe and put the exhaust pipe on.   Amazingly, when the screws in the cylinder head were tightened the exhaust didn’t rattle at all and actually looked like it belonged there.

Flushed with success I thought I would put the carb on.   That would be about the last of the engine components to go on.   There was a bit of an issue with one of the little bolts that hold the carb on so I put it in the “gets rust off anything” bath (the bath now has WD40, vinegar and the ghastly green hammerite rust remover gel from an earlier post in it) for a week or so to see what happens to it.

Not to be daunted I decided to return to the electrics.   I had this little idea that the blog could feature a picture of the speedo with the neutral light brightly gleaming.   That would show that I had done something with the wires and it also indicates that the blog is sort of in charge of Little Project.

So, wires were joined and things were soldered (honest!) and the battery connected and there was no light.   Then I thought “I know, I’ll turn the ignition on”.   So I turned on the ignition and – no light.

I baffled for a minute then I checked the bulb.   Obviously it was blown, but there are four bulbs in the speedo  so I thought there might be one that was good.

It then occurred to me that for the neutral light to come on, the bike has to be in neutral.    I gave a spin of the drive sprocket and it span curiously freely.   I thought “I’ll just put it in gear to check that” and guess what.  Blooming thing won’t go into gear.   Changing gear is not an option.   I can’t believe I didn’t spot this when I had the engine on the table!    I think at that stage despondency set in.

I grabbed one of the other engines and checked and that has a gearbox that works just fine.   This engine has a threaded hole where the carb connects to it though so I am definitely going to whip the cylinder head and barrel off the engine with a gash gearbox and put it on the one with a good gearbox and a hokey head.

Now you all know how next weekend is going to pan out.

Thanks for visiting

Ten thousand words

Breath a sigh of relief.   This isn’t going to be an entire novel about Little Project.   The radio show that I am listening to had Richard and Judy as guests (folk outside the UK, I can’t possibly explain them in detail, they are a husband and wife team who present various shows, google them if you are interested).   Richard and Judy are sponsoring a prize of £50,000 and a publishing deal with marketing and advisors and everything else thrown in.     A thought whizzed through my mind – rather like a steam train that doesn’t stop at your station – that I could just cut and paste the 60 or so posts about Little Project, rub them together with some special novella rubbing grease and then I’d be fifty grand better off and talking to Speilberg about the film rights.    I think we’ll have a 1966 Ducati Monza playing the part of Little Project and the Amityville house can be the shed.

The engine is going back into the frame this week.   Cunning plan part II regarding those pesky alternator cables is that I’m going to put bullet connectors on each of them and then I can just swap them around until something happens.   Three cables in and three cables out, maths isn’t really a strong point but I think there can only be six possible combinations so it can’t be that bad.

I’ve a question for you.   I’ve sprayed the exhaust leg guards with alluminium silver paint.  They look rather good but the original ones were black.   Should I go back to black (as Amy Winehouse would say) or should I stick with silver (as David Soul intimated).   You can tell by that statement that the exhaust is also going to go on.   There’s a vast collection of spacers and gaskets and stoppers and things that go in various bits of the exhaust pipe.   I know that I’ve got them all because I said to my dealer (in a gruff voice) “give me all the bits that go with the exhaust pipe”.   I have no idea in what sequence they go, or into which orifice they should be inserted so I foresee a happy few hours playing with them like one of those puzzles where you know that it all goes together but you just don’t know how.

There have been times when I have thought “That will make a good blog” only to suddenly realise thatt it has nothing to do whatsoever with the story of the little Honda with big ideas.    Some of the ideas were actually quite good (I think, I always forget them after about 10 minutes anyway) but just in case it happens again, there is now a sister blog to this one.   I have no intention of publicizing it because it is intended it to be just another place for me to ramble on about things that get my goat or that I find amusing in some way.  I am however having a small party with virtual canapes and other finger foods along with some cheap red wine and lashings of ginger beer.   You are all welcome to come along and say hello and even click on the “follow” button (providing I’ve remembered to put one on there.   The address is   Dress code is informal, please bring a bottle.

A reluctant screw in the shed

A reluctant screw in the shed

Although it is not well known, Albert Einstein was big fan of Honda CT125’s.   He may even at one stage swung a leg over Little Project or at least looked at it and thought “That’s pretty knackered”.   I can only think that this is why he said

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

In my opinion, the only thing that really lies in the middle of difficulty is “iffi”, (alright, it’s not slap bang in the middle and it should be spelt iffy, but you know what I mean).

I had a cunning plan – I’m pretty certain I may have said that before, but this plan was as cunning as a fox who has just been appointed head of cunning at Oxford university (I should nod to Captain Edmund Blackadder for that).

The bits of wire coming out of Little Project alternator are black, white and yellow.  The bits of wire coming out of the HOAP engine of choice are yellow, pink and white.   Now, I don’t know anything about alternators except that they probably alternate something.   The wiring diagrams, all 14 of them, have different wires going everywhere and to be frank, they could be written in Cyrillic.  Actually, there are random little diagrams that make no sense scattered through the wiring diagrams.  I think I might instead have photographs of the inside of a pyramid.

Back to the cunning plan.   I thought that I’d take the alternator thingy out of Little Project and use that one instead of the CB125 one that was not unreasonably sitting in the CB125 engine.   This of course meant whipping Little Project engine out and flopping it onto the secondary workbench (also known as a Black and Decker workmate, I didn’t have the courage to use the kitchen table).   There are four screws holding on the cover that protects the alternator.   You don’t really need me to tell you what state they are in do you?   You’ve been reading this long enough to know.  They were the exact opposite of pristine.  I’m not sure what the word is.  Antipristine?  Unpristine?  Whatever, not healthy.  Screws 1, 2 and 3 took about two hours and screw 4 took about two hours.   Screw 4 was in a challenging place.  Screws 1 – 3 just needed a new slot hacksawing in to them.   With screw 4 I drilled a hole through it and then realised that the screw extractor snapped off somewhere in the frame back in the early days of Little Project.   I happened to have a torx bit (they have a star shape on the end of them) that mostly fitted the hole so I hammered it in and hey presto!

Hey presto!  Ask me – “Did you empty the oil out of the Little Project engine before you took the cover off?”, go on, ask me.  You know the answer.

So, the shed floor has quite a lot of oil on it.  I managed to get something to catch the bulk of it and as a hobby carpenter I know that oil is good for wood.   It tends to be vegetable oils like linseed that are really good for wood, but I’m sure that my Castrol R was a vegetable oil at one stage.

Still, I had access to the Little Project alternator.   Three cheers!    It is slightly different to the one on the CB125 engine.   The two photo’s below represent Little Project first and then the CB one.  Can you see the difference?

CT125 bits    XL125 bits

How on earth can they be so bloody different?   Both engines come from the same era and power the same size bike and are made by the same bloke somewhere in Tokyo.

I went back to the drawing board.   I’ve photocopies of the different wiring diagrams and I’ve a manual and I’ve two wiring looms and I’ve a table in the sunshine (I should have put it away some time ago) and I’ve a large bottle of cider.

Work table

It didn’t get any easier as the glass of cider emptied.   I had to fill the glass several times and gradually nothing at all became clearer.

I’ve retreated.   I cast a guilty glance at the front gate that I have yet to hang and had a bad moment when the CD player insisted on making me listen to Mumford and Sons.  I think I need a large gin.

Thanks for taking the time to visit.   I think that there may be news of another blog coming along in the next week or so.