Two Steps Forward, One Step Backtoblogo

by Shawn Downey

Friday morning, 5:30 a.m. and I am drinking a Guinness. If it were my first Guinness of the day, people might call me “eccentric” or “cheeky”. But it is not the first Guinness of the day as I have been awake since 4:00 a.m. attempting to fit the perfectly manicured Avon tire shod aluminum alloy rims to my genuine non-imitation Irish motorcycle. Oh sure, they fit just fine. The front rim mounted correctly after doing battle with the forks and I was able to fit the aluminum alloy tachometer and speedometer brackets…how much is an aluminum alloy factory? The rear wheel proved to be a bit more of a challenge as the slop had been removed from the rear brake assembly after installing the new brake pads and arcing the drum. Ever hear that axiom “stopping on a dime with nine cents change”? Hell, I could stop on Bill Clinton’s moral fiber and still have enough left over for Hillary.

The anticipation heightens as I fondle the bubblewrap – damn, I love bubblewrap – on the refurbished instrument gauges. Foreign Speedo in California did an amazing job of re-calibrating the Smiths gauges and they were able to remove a prolific dent the size of a donut hole. Foreign Speedo revitalizes the face of the gauges by applying an in-house magical alchemy that restores the illuminant qualities of the numbers and eliminates the very costly process of shooting and printing a one-off dial. Maybe they could use the same formula to revitalize the face of Pamela Anderson. Pamela, if you can hear me, use the sunblock – liberally.

Connecting the speedometer to the speedometer drive on the rear axle, I smile in great anticipation of seeing the speedometer register the revolutions of the rear wheel. Placing my hand on the rear wheel I give it a great spin analogous to the game wheel on the Wheel of Fortune. Unfortunately, my spin lands on Bankrupt – the rear wheel begins to exhibit these horrible screams of agony and the speedometer cable is ripped from the housing of the refurbished speedometer gauge. I do not profess to be a master mechanic, but surely this is wrong. Additional investigation reveals a fried speedometer drive worm gear and the need to disassemble the rear end once again.

Immune to the process of assembling, disassembling, and ordering new parts, I calmly cup the speedometer drive in my hand and proceed to the computer to search the parts database. A couple clicks of the mouse and BANG! I am hit with yet another Brit Bike anomaly. It appears that a Japanese company has been producing economical speedometer drive knockoffs for all makes and all years of British motorcycles – except for the 1967 Norton Atlas. The 1967 Norton Atlas has an axle that is slightly smaller than all other British motorcycle axles and requires the employment of NOS or for those of you who are acronym challenged, New Old Stock. Hence the reason for the second Guinness at 5:30 a.m. The first Guinness was just a wake up call. The second Guinness is the direct result of realizing the effort and dollars I am going to need to find a NOS Smiths speedometer drive.

Still in a state of contemplation, I turn my attention to the freshly installed rear sets and controls. A fellow Irish Bike enthusiast on-line alerted me to the importance of installing a gasket between the clutch inspection cover and the gearbox case. While my mind is trying to add up how many aluminum cans I am going to need to collect to pay for a NOS speedometer drive, my fingers are spinning the stainless steel allen screws out of the stainless steel clutch inspection cap. Suddenly I hear the sound worse than that of finger nails on a chalkboard, “Tink”. One of the allen screws has fallen into the gearbox….pass me another Guinness and some morphine please.

After attempting every imaginable technique to retrieve the allen screw (dental mirrors, magnates, I even called a contortionist) I arrive at the conclusion that I need to remove the controls and the side cover. Of course the side cover is held on by epoxy and a mixture of stripped slotted screws and Phillips heads screws so I reach for my time honored impact driver to remove those dastardly imbedded affixes. The first crack of the impact driver liberates the first screw, the second crack of the impact driver liberates the impact driver. It appears that after 25 years of trusty service, the impact driver has decided to return to its original state and scatters its atoms among the universe…and my basement.

Have you ever heard that Bruce Springsteen song entitled, “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back”? Well I hate that song and I can’t stand Bruce Springsteen either so don’t ever sing that crap around me.


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