British Bikes 

by Shawn Downey

“I-JUST-LOVE-BRITISH-BIKES,” I say through clenched teeth, as I stab at the numbers on the phone. I place the phone to my ear and peer towards the workbench. A fresh puddle of gasket sealer is on the vice–the vice that happened to be cradling my phone only moments before…

“AHHHHH!” I scream and yank the phone away from my ear. Seeing that my phone has miraculously grown blonde hair, I again scream “AHHHHH!”

Suddenly, the hairy one speaks. “Hello? Hey man, like, what the %&#$ is going on? What up? Someone better start preaching ’cause, like, I’m gonna click and hit *69, hunt you down and collect the 29 cents this cellular phone call is costing me, you loser.”

Before he hangs up I yell from afar, “Whoa! Hey, it’s me.”

“Dude, man, like what up? Geez, man, like I was about to get totally heinous on ear piece, man. Speak dude, Ma Bell is mobile and racking it up at 29 a minute.” (I have never figured out where he picked up the Southern California vernacular–he was born and raised in Anoka, Minnesota.)

“My baby’s sick man.” I try to emulate his accent. “Like, I got a Jed Clampett bubble and crude gas fountain flowing from the tickler valve, dude.” (I almost forgot to throw that obligatory “dude” in at the end of the sentence. Thank my lucky stars for Hooked on Phonics–South Cal Accents.)

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. Dude, man, what the hell do you think it is?” I demand.

“You running monobloc or concentric carbs?”

“You tell me,” I quiz.

“Well, like, if the carb bowls are hanging off to the left, we’re talking monoblocs. If the bowls are directly under the carb body, we’re talking concentrics. Most of the manufacturers were doing concentrics in 1967.”

“So, why did the manufacturer’s opt for the concentrics?”

“Well dude, let me lay down the mantra. When the carb bowls are hanging off to the side, the bike tends to starve the right hand carb and flood the left hand carb when leaning into left hand corners. This was known world wide as the original ‘surge’ effect. Because we all live on a wondrous symmetrical plane of life, a right hand corner would dictate the opposite. You tracking dude?”

“Ahh, I think so,” I reply. “So you think I should just replace the monoblocs with the concentrics?”

“Nah, they suck just as bad as the monoblocs. The concentrics of the ’60’s were not known for their reliability. They had huge amounts of overlap and only two sources of adjustment: the main jet and the needle position. So, you’re kinda like in a suck-suck situation dude.”

“So what do I do?” I demand. “Dude.”

“I would replace the bowl cover with a zip lock baggie. Form an airtight seal by affixing a rubber band around the outside of the bowl, extinguish all smoking materials, close one eye in case the gas sprays you in the face–better to be blind in one eye than two–and turn the petcock to the ON position. Watch what happens to the float. If it rises, then you know that your float is not water logged. If it rises and the gas is still spewing out the tickler, check the little white needle valve. There could be debris and carnage in there or the little white rocket could have a flat spot on it’s nose cone. You’re better off to replace that little rogue with one of the new rubber tipped brass needle jets. They’re way more advanced in the reliability department.

And while you’re in there check the slides for movement in the carb body. Hold the slide up about a quarter of the way and wiggle it back and forth. It should fit like Tom Jones’ pants. If you can fit more than a matchbook in the slack, it is time to replace or resleeve. Don’t freak though, man. It’s commonplace to get the slide turned down or the bore resleeved after about 5,000 miles. Cost you about a double nickel ($55 per). Amal must have been asleep during Metallurgy 101. They made the slide and the barrels out of the same materials so neither one is staid. You’ll probably be able to see all kinds of shiny spots and grooves on the slide. Typical symptoms of worn slides and barrels are unstable idle, hot running, poor gas mileage, and neutral throttle miss. Hey dude, man, like you got any Guinness? I’m spitting dust from talking so much. What’s your address again? Like, I think I’m in the vicinity.”

Horrified by the thought of him downing my precious stock, I do what I do best, “Hello? Hello? Dude, like you’re breaking up. I can’t hear you man. Maybe your battery is dying. Good luck and thanks man! Give my love to Marge.”


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