50 Year Old Triumph Bonneville Restoration: Amal Carbs and the Fuel Tank

A place where logic, precision and cause and
effect still matter in a world gone mad.

 After the random weirdness of work, time in the garage with the old Bonneville is remarkably
straightforward and logical.  I suspect the bike was in the middle of a Captain America Easy Rider customization in the early/mid eighties when it got parked and time left it behind.  I got it from Brian’s storage shipping container where it was out of the weather and raised off the ground.  I don’t know where Brian got it from but I suspect it was always stored inside.  I battled with a mid-nineties Kawasaki that had been left outside back in 2014 and this much older machine is nothing like as seized, rusted and difficult to get into.

Anything that doesn’t immediately loosen gets a bit of heat and then comes free without any headaches.  Not being in a rush and leaning on the spannering skills I’ve refreshed over the past decade is making this an enjoyable and meditative process.

The surface rust came off the tank with a bit of sanding.  I’m going to see if I can knock out the dent and then strip it all back.  I used Metal Rescue on the Honda Fireblade tank in my last project and it did a fantastic job of cleaning that unused and rust tank out.  I’ll let it sit overnight and then do the power wash tomorrow and hopefully the tank’ll come back to me.

The Amal carburetors on the bike are remarkably simple compared to what I’ve been up against before.  Last time around it was a bank of four last-generation-before-fuel-injection carbs on a ’97 Honda Fireblade.  Before that it was a bank-of-four on a ’94 Kawasaki GTR1000 and then another complex bank of four on an ’81 Yamaha XS1100.  The old Bonnie’s single Amal carb per cylinder is a simpler design from a simpler time compared to those complex Japanese four-pot carbs.
Airbox sleeves off.

Carb clean up with a fine wire brush and wd40.
Some aluminum corrosion in the bottom of the carb bowls but it cleaned out nicely.

They’ve been sitting for a long while, but all the hard parts look to be in good shape.

After an initial cleanup I’m going to break down each carb and clean the hard parts in a ultrasonic cleaning bath before reassembling with new gasketry from British Cycle Supply Co..

I think my plan is to get the bike operational mechanically and have it going next spring having cleaned up and rust painted the frame and body.  Once it’s operational I’ll ride it for a season rough and get to know it before looking to a complete engine rebuild and deeper restoration of frame and body panels at a later date.

In order to get it back to rideable, these are the parts I think I’ll need:

  • carb gasket rebuild kit x 2
  • exhaust pipes x2
  • mufflers x2
  • ignition cables (and possibly some other electrics)
  • headlight
  • indicators
  • battery
  • head and sump gaskets for the motor (I intend to go in and clean things out/have a look around before I run it)

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Peculiar, Chancy & Fluid

 Almost ten years ago I came across Matt Crawford’s Shop Class As Soulcraft, a brilliant little book that helped frame the value of my tangible real-world skills after years of academic abstraction.  At that time I was changing gears from English to technology teaching and this book helped me reclaim my millwright apprenticeship and years of hands-on skills development in information technology I’d left behind when I wandered into ivory towers.

In addition to framing skills honed in the real world where results rather than opinion mattered (you can’t fake brake repairs like you can literacy test scores), Crawford’s philosophical treatise on manual skilled labour also explained the challenge of trying to manage in a world where success criteria are both invented and met in a fictional world of plausible deniability:

“Crawford also does a brilliant dissection of the ‘peculiarly chancy and fluid‘ life of the corporate manager (substitute administrator or educational consultant for equal value here). In a world with no objective means of assessing competence, the manager lives in a purgatory of abstraction using vague language “…staking out a position on all sides of a situation, so you always have plausible deniability of a failure.” Crawford goes to great lengths to point out that this isn’t done maliciously but rather as a means of psychic protection for the people trapped in this morass.”

Dusty World quoting Shop Class As Soul Craft back in 2012

This chancy and fluid nature has been stretched beyond breaking during the pandemic as the people running public education, sometimes in the same sentence, can offer completely contradictory direction.  From “students must maintain masked cohorts while in class” followed by: “everyone should leave the building in large unsupervised, unmasked groups at lunch” to the arbitrary rules around classroom layout (all tables must face the same way, unless we’re trying to stuff 31 students into your room then you can ignore that), I’ve come to find that I don’t thrive in a chancy and fluid world of conflicting absolute rules.  The past two years in OntEd provides ample examples for another Milgram Obedience Experiment.

This was cast in a stark light in a recent online PD session my lovely partner attended on equity.  This is another wildly contradictory example of what is either cynical manipulation or peculiar, chancy and fluid management think:  equity matters, but pivot online during snow days even while we refuse to provide any connectivity or technology support for students in need.  When it costs something or requires effort, equity suddenly becomes quite diffuse.

In that PD session, Alanna noted that many of the people in ‘lead’ roles aren’t walking the talk.  A righteous curriculum lead jumped in to tell her she was wrong and that everyone in administration got into it with the best intentions.  When I heard about it after I found this rhetoric interesting.  I don’t doubt administrators get into it for all the right reasons (and never because classroom teaching was something that was beating them up causing them to look for an alternative).  I’m also not so oblivious as to think that administrators have any say in what is going to happen – they’re middle management and are told what to do by people higher up.  What I am curious about is, if they’re so intent on looking after students with best pedagogical practices, why they push directives that directly hurt student well being and learning.  This has happened a lot in the past two years.

As things have staggered back from the brink last year we continue to see irrational and often cruel decisions being made, often under the auspices of public health in order to prevent an ongoing pandemic health crisis, but they seldom make sense.  I set up my room with as many tables as I could stuff into it following public health requirements and then was told to change it out of compliance with those guidelines so we could stuff more students into the room… during a pandemic.  We’re told we have to wear inferior, poorly sized PPE even when we’re willing to bring our own superior, properly sized masks.  Staff are being made to cover (but don’t call it coverage so we’re in compliance with our contract that would have limited the number of coverages) other classes putting them in front of what can end up being hundreds of students every day in order to make a cruel, marathon class quadmestered schedule work.  A schedule that is utterly meaningless as students mix freely before and after school and at lunches every day.  Yesterday I watched a dozen boys leave a washroom together, most of them not wearing masks correctly, and walk back to different classrooms.  The union is very proud of dunking our membership in this much face to face teaching every day in order to enable the directives of a vindictive government.

Nothing makes sense, in many cases it’s contradictory and completely irrational, and it’s also hurting students.  An English colleague the other day told me her applied 2.5 hour class is one step away from complete chaos every day.  Many other teachers are noting the impossibility of covering curriculum in marathon classes that directly contradict the data we’ve collected on best practices around student learning.  Yet when told to execute this cruelty everyone in management makes it happen, though, I’m sure, they all got into it for the right reasons.

I’ve been reflecting on Dusty World this fall but the negativity of the posts has me not publishing them as I’m trying to find some sense of well-being in this ongoing mess.  Wallowing in the cruelty and absurdity of what we’re doing won’t get me there, but I still record what’s happening because one day I hope the public education system does more than talk about student learning and wellbeing and actually acts on it.

These past two years have turned into a cautionary tale about what a vindictive government can do during a public health crisis.  They’ve also shown that the people running public education are willing to do whatever they’re told even when it’s contradictory and cruel.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, until education (and healthcare) can operate according to best practices rather than the whims of populist politicians this will keep happening.  I need it to stop happening.  I can do good work when given the framework or even when the framework isn’t actively working against me while trying to support student learning and well-being.

Not yet but 2022 is looming large.  COVID might be behind us by next summer, and if Ontario comes to its senses we might have a government that isn’t so maliciously short sighted.

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Concours Owners Group

I’ve been told that one of the best parts of owning a Concours is the Concours Owners Group.  I just signed up for a year’s membership and I’m already overwhelmed by all the information in the forum.

Looking at the calendar, there is a local meeting tomorrow only a 45 minute ride away.  For a group that covers a huge geographical area, they offer a chance to meet face to face  around the corner; very cool.

Between COG and the huge aftermarket available, it looks like the Concours is the canvas I’ve been looking for.

1971 Triumph Bonneville T120 Online Resources

Searching the internet for parts and technical details for a 1971 T120 Triumph Bonneville 650cc air cooled twin.  Here’s what I’ve found – hope it helps if you’re looking for similarly vintage parts and details.

Technical Details








Love me some hand drawn drafting!









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Royan’s Delemma

This post originally published on Dusty World, Thursday, 18 July 2013

Royan Lee’s Spicy Learning Blog (it’s in my list of favourites on the side of Dusty World), asks some hard questions as digital technology matures and reaches mass appeal…

“How are we going to do this, folks? How will we foster critical mindsets of what it means to check that I Agree button, especially in regards to students that are in our charge but not our own children?”

My response…

There is something about mass adoption that shifts a market from focusing on literate early adopters to the willfully ignorant masses.  When the herd finally adopts a technology it becomes a race to reach the widest range of people (including the lowest denominator).

When they started manufacturing automobiles in the early 1900s each one was hand crafted, almost unique and required either your own personal mechanic or you were the mechanic.  As automobiles became more popular, the landscape changed, systems became synchronized, the car became a cookie cuttered piece of mass assembly designed in more complicated ways to ask less of the driver – the only sense of individuality was found in the frantic marketing.  The technology itself matured into operator simplicity in order to get even the most incompetent people behind the wheel.

saganquoteSound familiar Microsoft?  Google?  Apple?  Fanboy/girlism is one of the clearest signs that we’ve moved past the early adopter stance on digital technology and are now catering to the main stream (I say that in the most derogatory way possible) where marketing dictates sales because the majority of people have no idea how the technology works.  It’s in this environment that giant legal documents creep in to user agreements and business finds more insidious ways to make use of the ignorant consumer.

If you look at owner’s manuals from long ago they were full of technological information on how the product worked (so you could fix it).  Nowadays you get legalese and idiot diagrams designed to hide the inner workings.  The machines themselves are even put together intentionally to prevent you from repairing them.

Most mechanical sub cultures survive and thrive on a hands-on ethos. Shed Built motorbikes in the current custom scene are a badge of pride.

The only real way to save yourself from the vapid consumerism and accompanying ignorance that drives mass adoption is through the hacking ethos of maker culture; this has never died.  Cars are being stamped out for the unwashed masses by multi-nationals but there has always been a thriving underground of maker/hackers who ignore the rules designed for the ignorant and come to relate to the technology in a direct, more complete way.

If you want to save yourself and your students from this ignorant, consumerist relationship with technology then find their inner hacker!  Get into the nuts and bolts and bend technology to your will.  Using your hands and your head to get inside the machines sold to us frees you from the consumerist trap.  Freedom is only a hack away!


Some reading to save your mind:
http://www.matthewbcrawford.com/  a brilliant, modern attack on consumerist thinking and the power of your hands to save you

… and the follow up:  http://www.matthewbcrawford.com/new-page-1-1/
I used to have links to the maker manifesto here but evidently it’s been turned into a book and isn’t available online any more.  That says something about the current state of the maker movement…

Don’t give up!  Just don’t follow the road more travelled, even if it’s paved for you by people determined to monetize you…

MediaSmarts: Battling Consumerism

CBR900RR Bits & Pieces

1997 Honda CBR900RR parts, but I’m buying too many online when I’d rather buy them locally.  For someone who would rather support local business, I’m frustrated at the lack of competent parts people.  Canadian Tire needs to do better.

Fram oil filters:

The oil filter for the CBR is a fairly common filter – but the big Canadian Tire in Guelph didn’t have one… or anything else I needed.  It’s things like this that force me online to purchase when I’d rather just purchase locally.

Strangely, the Walmart across the street, the only place I can find the Mobil 1 oil Triumph calls on for the Tiger, had an oil filter for the Honda.  Not a great weekend for Canadian Tire.  You can’t really brag on having 200,000 parts if your sales rep can’t find any of them.

Winter flushing oil:
This is what I’m going to put in the Honda over the winter as it gets sorted.  In the spring I’ll do a flush and go with Mobil 1 synthetic.

The only place I can find the Mobil 1 is at Walmart – it’s the only time I usually go there.  Since I’m already there for the Tiger, I’ll go for 7 litres and do the Tiger and CBR with the same super-oil.  Running the Mobil 1 in the Tiger has stopped any oil burning in it.  It’s good stuff.

K&N Filters for CBR900:
The HA-9092-A air filter is a strange thing – I thought the filter element would pop out of the plastic, but it’s a single (expensive) manufactured piece.  Finding these is tricky.  You can find cheap, paper filters for about $40 a go, but I found the K&N on Amazon for $120CAD, so that’s going in and getting cleaned regularly.  That should pay for itself within three changes.

I’m not in a place where I’m going to put the front end back together again and pop in the replacement LED when it comes in this week.  With the replacement carb from NCK Salvage in hand, I’m going to try and rebuild as much of the Honda as I can over the long weekend (it’s Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada).

The Strange World of Dash Bulbs:

12v 1.7W wedge dash light is the warning light bulb needed for a ’97 Honda CBR900RR.  These are hard to find – Canadian Tire was no help and the girl at the parts desk in Guelph couldn’t remember the numbers for parts, so I gave up on trying to find them.  I want to buy locally, but with that kind of floor help, it just isn’t happening.

I found LED replacement lights that should last better and use less electricity in the process on Amazon.

This light search led to a crash course in bulb sizing.  The dash lights on the CBR900RR are T-5 Wedge 12v 1.7W bulbs.  T5 means it has a 5mm base.  In this case they’re 1.7cms long on that 5mm base.  The LED should be cooler, use less electricity and be brighter.

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1971 Triumph Bonneville Motorcycle Restoration: the baseline

 Baseline photography for this 1971 Triumph Bonneville restoration project:

According to Low Brow Customs, this means I’ve got an A (January) E (October 1970 – July 1971) and was the 9125th 650 twin made that year (00100 is the starting number for each grouping so this was the 9225-100th motor made in the 1970-71 batch).
The frame was tricky to pick out – one of those sites mentions that the stampings are sometime very thin and this one’s barely there – our best guess is AE07050, which would put it in the same month/year as the motor, which seems promising.

The chopper stuff has started to come off and the bike is up on a wooden base on the stand in the back of the shop.  

Next up will be taking the tank off and beginning the GREAT DISMANTLE OF 2021!

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Pannier Thoughts: Motorbike Repair Kit Gear

Having never had on-bike storage before, or a bike designed to cover big distances, I’m thinking about what I could leave in the bottom of the panniers to keep us on the road. 

Here’s the short list so far:

A bike specific multi-tool, this BikeMaster metric device covers a lot of bases in terms of general usefulness.

$16.18 from canadasmotorcycle.ca

Puncture Repair Kit.  Many moons ago I used to do this at Canadian Tire, so plugging a tire is nothing new, and if I’ve got the bits I need on the road I’ll be able to get us going again in short order.

$~20 from Canadian Tire

Yukon Steel Multitool.  I use a generic one at work all the time.  They work well and I don’t need a fancy brand to somehow validate my handiness.

$30 from Canadian Tire

I’m also going to grab a lightweight nylon tarp.  You can get tough, camping ready ones that only weigh about 500 grams and fold up into the size of an envelope.  Along with a little roll of duct tape, small hand pump, some nylon string and a mini wd40 can, I’d have a very light and small collection of handy bits and pieces that would keep us moving if we ran into a problem.

Riding In The Rain: A ride into Algonquin Park in October

 Deerhurst Resort to Algonquin Park and back again, chased by the rain.

Algonquin Park in the rain at the height of autumn colours. The Theta 360 camera held up but I eventually pocketed it when the deluge become too heavy.  The camera is mounted on a ball mount on the handlebars and set to fire automatically every 10 seconds.  Photos captured in the Theta camera app and then modified/enhanced in Photoshop.

This is the raw photo out of the camera. The fixed lense doesn’t collect a lot of light, so on a dim, rainy day like this the image is quite muddy.  I brought up the shadows in Photoshop and the result (with a bit of cropping) is the same photo above.

If you’re curious about how to put together on-bike photos, check this how-to out.  It’s also available on Adventure Bike Rider Magazine’s site here.  You can pick up a simple 360 camera for a couple of hundred bucks.  Fully waterproof ones (which I obviously need) start a bit higher.

I got into this with Ricoh’s Theta way back in 2013, but Ricoh has been stingy about support and won’t even offer me at-cost options for educational use.  Looking around recently, the Insta360 offers some interesting combinations with next generation 360 imaging, though it’s very video focused and I prefer still shooting.  Gopro also has the 360 Max, though it isn’t as aerodynamic and therefore might not be the thing to put on a bike in the wind, though I’m willing to give it a go.
Gopro goes out of its way to support users and especially ones who advertise for them on social media.  I wish Ricoh were so forward thinking, but they aren’t.  I’d suggest the Gopro if you want to get into 360 photography.  It’s remarkably easy to set up and the results look fantastic.  You should give it a try.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

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