Honestly, I have been working on my AJS …

I honestly have been working on my AJS. I picked it up in October of 2010 and was all gung-ho to get it cleaned up and on the road.

But you didn’t hear anything. Nothing.

But believe me, I have been working on it. Honestly. The problem is that to this point there hasn’t been much to say or to show. I’ve been reading. A lot of reading. It’s a different beast than the V-Twins or Inline-Four’s I’m used to working on. It’s a push-rod engine with a dry sump for oil (dry sump engines carry their oil in an oil tank that is separate from the engine and uses two pumps to lubricate – one to pump oil to the engine, where it lubes everything and then drops to the bottom of the engine, and a second or ‘scavenge’ pump which pumps the oil back to the oil tank). This is something a Harley fan might be used to, but I’m not overly familiar with the 50+ year old technology …

I located a local importer and distributor of original parts from the UK (Walridge Motors). I procured factory manuals, parts schematics, and a plethora of tips from other AJS/Matchless owners.

Now I’m starting to have something to show you.

I started with the easy task of cleaning the Amal carb and replacing the throttle and clutch cable (Yes, that is an Easy Rider poster in the background!). First step was removing the fuel line running from the tank – I will also be replacing the fuel line, but haven’t got around to buying any yet. There is also an overflow line that must be removed (visible in this picture). The carb is attached to the engine via two bolts on either side of the carb and is buffered by a rubber gasket of sorts. Once you remove these two bolts the carb wiggles off and is free of the engine. To completely remove the carb we must detach the throttle cable (and with this carb the choke cable as well). There is a cap on the top of the carb that can be twisted off and will free the throttle slide and the choke. The carb can now be removed.

By removing the three screws on the ‘Amal’ cover plate you have access to the float – on newer carbs the float is usually on the bottom. This is the first thing I took apart. The float itself is held in with a brass ring (often called a ‘pin’) that just slides off, then the float can be removed. On this carb the needle rests on the float so it slid out upon removing the float. Now the jets can be removed.

Jets are screws that have a hole through the center of them which the fuel flows through to mix with air. The main jet is short and fat and will have a flat screwdriver head. The pilot jet is long and skinny and will take a flat head screwdriver to remove.

The last step before actually cleaning the carb is to remove the parts on the outside. The air screw and the idle screw can be removed with a flat head screwdriver. The idle screw is the larger of the two, and it adjusts the idle rpm of the engine. Also remove the air screw, which is the smaller screw and adjusts the air flow through the carb when the engine is running.

Before I started cleaning the carb I carefully removed all gaskets and o-rigns  – all were in great shape and appeared to have been recently replaced, so I deemed it unnecessary to replace them. Plus I’m a cheap bastard.

The easiest way to clean the carb and the parts is to soak them in carb/parts cleaner. Follow the instructions on the can for cleaning. I used a spray can of carb cleaner and used a clean oil drain pan to soak them in. Be sure to wear safety glasses and gloves!

I scrubbed the parts with a wire brush and then sprayed with carb cleaner. Then I sprayed the cleaner into the holes that the jets, air and idle screws, float needle, and choke came from. When cleaning the jets, be sure to spray cleaner into the holes, and look through them into light to make sure the hole is cleaned. If jets are not completely clean, blowing compressed air through the hole will remove any debris.

Allow everything to dry then replace gaskets/o-rings. Replace all parts in the opposite order as when you removed them. When installing the air screw (the skinny screw), if you don’t have a setting from the factory I usually screw it in all the way then back the screw out a turn and a 1/4. When the engine is running and warm you can properly adjust it by turning the screw in till the engine stumbles, then out till it stumbles, and leave it at half way in between.

Next install the float.  To install the float, line the holes up with the holes in the carburetor and slide the float pin in.  The pin will slide around freely, just make sure it is centered so it is secure. To make sure the float needle is working properly, move the float up and down to make sure the needle moves freely.  If the needle gets stuck in the up position it needs to be replaced.

Now I put a new throttle cable and choke cable in the throttle slide and choke slide. This was a matter of convenience as the carb must be removed to replace them. I still need to purchase new handlebar grips for the throttle…

With the throttle slide in and choke slide in, you can set the idle screw. Slowly turn the idle screw until the throttle slide begins to move. Now turn the screw half a rotation. You can properly adjust the idle screw with the engine running – turn the idle screw in to increase idle, turn it out to decrease idle.

Then I put the carb back on the bike by ‘wiggling’ it back on the rubber boot and bolting it back on. Now it looks cleaner than the rest of the bike!

Next I’ll be working on replacing oil, fuel line, spark plug, drum brake shoes, and rubber and getting this bad boy back on the road! I’ll keep you posted!


Circles always end up where they started (only in Australia they go reverse): Final days of the erotic tails (pun intended) of Karl and Yaegan’s motorcycle trip around Australia

Day Twelve.

We woke up to dark, gray storm clouds looming over us, and the sky hanging heavy with rain. We packed up as quickly as possible, said goodbye to the stream of much frolicking, and got a move on. According to the maps, we still had a little bit of gravel ahead of us, and we were pretty scared of the idea of that turning into mud, and us having to push some bloody heavy bikes through mud. Add to this our fear of running out of fuel, and we were moving pretty quick smart. Thankfully, we made it over the gravel section without incident, and into the nearest town about sixty ks away at about eight in the morning, just in time for the servo to open. We rode past dozens of “lakes” that had appeared where an entire paddock had been flooded.

We rode on, going straight into some black-as-night skies. Oddly enough, seeing this made me reflect on how perfect the weather had been for the whole trip so far, which made me feel quite happy. This feeling was to last about forty minutes, until the skies opened and it pissed down upon us. We stopped in at the nearest town, which was thankfully fully equipped with a wine bar. We were watching the weather radar maps on Yaegs’ non-branded-internet-capable telephone (it’s actually a HTC), and working out whether or not to stay and wait out the rain, or chance it. The maps said that we’d be missing the brunt of the downpour, so we put on our wet weather gear (not a euphemism for condoms) for the first time, and headed out. As predicted by the Gods of the Bureau of Meteorology (divinity yet to be ascertained), we only had gray skies, with no rain. The roads were pretty slick though, and we were back in caravan country, which led to some annoying patches of riding stuck behind a slow moving large vehicle.

We passed on to the Alpine Way, which was simply tremendous riding. We were a bit cautious with the wet roads, so we eased ourselves into things. A dickhead in a hotted-up ute (utility truck, which have somehow, inextricably, become a fashion statement in certain pools of Australian society) tried to race us by sitting tight on our tail for a few corners. This scared us, as we knew that if we came off, we’d have some bogan in a shrine to redneck society crushing us within milliseconds . We didn’t rate our chances of hopping off the bike, having a chinwag and explaining our position, and so we decided to speed up to get away from him.

On the Alpine Way, I saw my second kangaroo on the road of the trip. When I bought the bike, it came with a kangaroo whistle, which is essentially a hollowed out tube stuck on near the front of the bike, which claims to channel in air, at speed, and emit a super-sonic whistle that ‘roos don’t like. I was skeptical at first, but when I came out of the corner and saw the ‘roo on the road, it immediately snapped it’s head towards me, then bounded off into the shrub at the side of the road. Was it the whistle, or was it an inline three screaming at 8000 revs? Who knows. At least I didn’t crash into a metre and a half of a disemboweling maching.

We blitzed the road, had a little rest at Thredbo, then passed right through Jindabyne and had a stop at Cooma. After the afternoon tea of champions (meat-pie), we gave a mate in Canberra a quick call, checked that we were right to crash with him then smashed out the last bit of distance. We were now getting pretty close to home.

Day Thirteen.

We woke up and decided to try to leave Australia’s Most Boring City (not the official tourist slogan) quick smart. Canberra is the home to Australia’s federal parliament, where our not-rulers (the Queen is still the head of state) are located – as a trade off for having to host so many politicians, Canberra is the only place in Australia where the discerning consumer can buy both fireworks and XXX rated pornography. Fair trade? The entire city is built as a system of concentric circles, which means that it does look very nice from the air, but has the drawback of every single place being so far away from every other point of interest. Add to this the fact that the bus (singular) doesn’t run very regularly, and it doesn’t sum to much of a café culture. It was pissing down, so we decided to take the main road out of town – straight, wide, high-speed, but the safest road possible, given the appalling conditions. We had about an hour and a half ride to Goulburn, which wasn’t overly pleasant.

At Goulburn, Yaegs and I parted ways – he was off to see his dad, who lived south of Sydney near Wollongong, while I was going to meet up with my girlfriend and a few of her mates in the Blue Mountains out to the west of Sydney. Thankfully, about thirty ks out of Goulburn, the clouds disappeared away, to be replaced by a blazing hot sun, meaning that I had to stop by the side of the highway to take some clothes off (how the other half live!).

The roads for today were all pretty ordinary – big highways with not too many interesting features. I was hoping that the Blue Mountains might offer something up, but sadly there was roadwork all along the road, keeping the speed down.

I met up with Gel at a microbrewery in Leura, where we bought a few locally-made American Pale Ales, and assorted deli stuff. I had picked up some strawberries out near Camden, and we had a fantastically relaxing afternoon, comprised mainly of lying on a picnic rug eating strawberries and drinking nice beer. Bliss. I also finally had a chance to put my extensive speedo collection to work, and had a quick dip under the waterfall. Double bliss.

Day Fourteen.

Today was the shortest day of the trip, and the one that I came the nearest to a bad tumble. I was aware that I might get complacent, being so close to home and riding familiar roads, so I gave myself the little pep talk about every other driver being mad, etc. The roads were full of filthy feds, so I kept the speed legal. This meant that some wanker in an electric green ute (seriously? He must be able to see it, surely …) started getting closer and closer to my tail. I waved him past with one hand, not really sure why he was doing what he was doing. He didn’t move, just stayed right on me. I had had enough of his bullshit, so, with a quick twist of the throttle, jumped about 40 ks an hour or so, overtook a number of cars then moved back into the left lane, hoping that he wouldn’t try anything more. After about a minute, he overtook in the right lane, and just stared at me. Dickhead number one!

Dickhead number two came on the Anzac bridge, which links the inner-western suburbs of Sydney with the CBD. I was sitting about a metre in front of a van, who decided that it’d be a good reason to move into my lane, to hell with a bike already in it, in front of the van. I honked the horn and accelerated to get away from the wank.

Sooner than soon, I was back in the eastern suburbs, getting frustrated by the low speed, the constant traffic lights and the boring roads. Home sweet home.

All the Adrenaline of a Mr. T Public Service Announcement! Days 10 and 11 of Karl and Yaegan’s Manly Motorcycle Meandering through OZ!

Day Ten.

We woke up with the sun rising right behind the wind-farm. So much serenity. Things were going well – we were on the home straight, the weather had been fantastic, and we hadn’t even been getting on each other’s tits. Taking quick stock of the situation, we aimed to be in Milawa in the evening. We had some glorious riding in the morning through some lush grounds, with twisting, turning, ducking and weaving roads. We decided that after slumming it for a few days, we may as well spend a bit more and enjoy this tail end of the trip even more.

We had brekky at a lovely little café just near Ballarat, then pushed on to Seymour (SEYMOUR!). We drove past Puckapunyal, which led to an inordinate amount of us singing “I was only 19”. We got into Seymour (SEYMOUR!) about lunchtime, and headed straight to the RSL club, where we spent an enjoyable half-hour enjoying pub squashes and picking dragonflies, butterflies and flies out of our helmets, clothes and boots.

We thought that the sooner we were in Milawa (“The pearl of the gourmet region!”), the better. This meant a 200 click trip up a highway, in a heat of over 40 degrees C (which is quite hot). We knuckled down, hugged tight to the bikes, and blasted it up. Around 150 ks in, I had a lucky break – a filthy cop had been operating a speed camera, but thankfully caught someone driving about half a k in front of me. It did give me a start, and riding the last 50 ks at the legal limit made it that much more unpleasant. When we finally turned off the highway, the changes started slowly. The roads went from arrow-straight to slight curves, from exposed ovens to little country boulevards, with both sides of the road housing a number of gums. We soon got into Milawa, found a lovely B&B run by a denim-hotpant wearing German man (a never-nude, perhaps?). We spent about half an hour in the pool, just sitting and enjoying our good fortune. We would’ve happily paid the night’s rent just for the pool – I think that he would have actually offered us the pool for free, as we were quite smelly by this time. After showers and quick naps, we set off on foot to the nearest winery, then to another winery, then finally to a cheese factory. We spent the arvo lazing around, talking shit and eating a very nice brie.

Day Eleven.

Right from the outset, I knew that today would be good. We decided to take a longer route (there’s a first time for everything), add an extra four hundred kilometres onto the day, all in the name of good roads. We decided to go south through the Great Alpine Road down to Omeo, then take a back-road up to the base of Kosciuszko National Park.

Mount Buffalo

Mount Buffalo- Right before the ascent up the mountain

On a hot tip-off from my mum, we took a little detour in the morning to go up Mount BUFFalo (my emphasis). In the manner of responsible, respectable and above all, reasonable young adults, Yaegs and I had a little race up to the top. The path was fantastic – lots of sharp corners, hairpins and straights. The view was jaw-dropping – often, you’d be going up a road with a sheer rockface on one side, and a thirty metre drop on the other. There was thankfully very little traffic on the roads, as we would have been forced to overtake them in an entirely irresponsible manner had they been there. The only concern was the leaf-litter left on the road as a remnant of the recent rain (how’s that for alliteration!) – I had heard that if you rode over it, you’d slide everywhere (“Like a bitch”, as it was first explained to me), and my brain thankfully immediately constructed scenarios that led to me running the back over some debris, low-siding, then flying over the edge, to be crushed rather ingloriously by my own motorbike. About two-thirds of the way up, we saw two cyclists battling against the incline, so, in the spirit of camaraderie, we slowed to their speed (essentially have to grind the back anchor and ride the clutch), lifted the visors, then gave a spirited “Allons-y!”, before taking off at high speed – that definitely ought to have lifted their spirits. Sooner than soon, we made the summit (at least the summit that can be reached by motorbike), had a lovely picnic, then were off down again. Oddly enough, going down always seems so much faster (tee-hee) than going up (not sure how I can make that last one sexual). We stopped for some strawberries and cream by the side of the road, which did make me feel pretty tough.

The Great Alpine Road

The Great Alpine Road- Some say it's even better than the Great Ocean Road!

The Great Alpine Road was simply astounding. I’d rate it above the Great Ocean Road, for a number of reasons. First, there were fewer cars about (and hence, fewer dickheads taking up the road and driving far too slowly). Second, I preferred the scenery – giant ghost-gums loomed over the road, with their twisted, gnarled branches shaking like the fingers of an old crone. Third, you had more of a sense of altitude – instead of bobbing up and down, but ultimately staying within 50 metres of the sea, here, you just climbed, climbed and climbed. For me, there was an odd sense of accomplishment to that (imagine how much more accomplished I’d feel if I had actually cycled it). Fourth, there was a lot more variation in the road and the riding that it demanded – whilst the Great Ocean Road was all about tight corners and narrow hair-pins, the Great Alpine Road mixed things up – tight corners would be followed by long straights, which would be followed by long, sweeping corners. Fifth, it was a lot longer (har har har – and yes, that is what I look for in a ride) – whilst the GOR had about 40 ks of riding, the GAR was a good hundred ks.

We got into Omeo in the mid-afternoon, which allowed us to savour that sweetest of delights, that most delectable of treats, the double-pie-AND-sausage-roll lunch. I was struggling a little with the second pie, but again, thinking of my accomplishment in ascending the GAR earlier that day, I just knuckled down. Also, I finally got around to buying some earplugs for the rest of the ride – better late than never. Someday, they’ll invent a helmet that blocks out the wind, but not the important noises (traffic, horns, cars, etc.), and that doesn’t fog up, but until that day, I’ve got my earplugs. And only forty cents! Bargain! The plan from Omeo was to ride on up to somewhere near Kosciuszko, but we were a little uncertain – the maps we had brought indicated that there were some patches of unsealed road on the road, which wouldn’t be much fun. The only alternative, however, was to ride back up the GAR, which, although fun, we had just done. As Zappa once said, “Man was born to have adventures”, so we kept on trucking up the side-road.

Sadly, the road wasn’t quite as good as we’d hoped. It got skinnier, going down to a lane and a half (from two lanes earlier), the edges started to fall away, until, shock horror (!), we hit the gravel section. We had seen some big-arse storm clouds gathering, and were about halfway through our tank of fuel, and didn’t appreciate having to slow down and ride like muppets on gravel. I’ve heard a mate who said that he took his SV1000 up to 160 on dirt running Road Pilot 2s but I was too scared (/clever?) to risk that. Yaegs’ back was playing up a bit, so he needed to take some time off to stretch it out. This meant slow, tedious riding. We had about 5ks of gravel, then back onto sweet sweet blacktop. Sadly, this only lasted about 10 ks. We had another 20 k section of gravel, which was just painful. During our last break, Yaegs and I decided to re-evaluate our plan, and to stop at the next nice place and settle down for the evening. Sadly, nothing came up to break up the gravel. It was welcome relief to get back onto a proper sealed road and get some speed up. The road started to get interesting again, with some nice sharp corners. During one, I was lined up, leaning in, when I suddenly felt this mad crazy buzzing in my left breast. I first thought that it was a heart attack, which led to me panicking (some say like a little girl), and slowing right down after the corner. The buzzing stopped, but the started up again after a second. I realised that some insect had gotten inside my jacket, so I madly started smacking my chest with my left hand, which not only stopped the buzzing, but also probably made me look quite tough to anyone who was watching. About four in the arvo, we found a fantastic camp-spot – a beautiful open glade, next to a quick running stream. Despite our showering only yesterday, we took the arvo off to frolic in the stream and relax after a rough gravel section.

Two Men and Their Motorcycles, Stuck in a Heatwave with Nothing but their Speedos (and their Leather and Kevlar Body Armor): Day 8 + 9 of the Ride Through Australia!

Day Eight

We woke up with the sun and desperately in need of petrol (gas, for the trans-Pacific friends). We reckoned that stores wouldn’t open until around 9-ish, so we packed up the tent, lest any trigger-(or, as is the more likely case, ticket-) happy ranger rolled round, and wiled away the time reading – I love the smell (???) of popular econometrics in the morning – smells like victory (??? throughout). We wound our way back along KI, and bought some dreadfully expensive fuel that let us catch our 11 AM ferry back to the mainland.

Today marked the turn-around of the trip – from here on in, every day would bring us closer to Sydney. Given that neither of us had showered in several days, this didn’t seem like the worst thing in the world. Given that both Yaegs and myself are predisposed to the predilection of wearing speedos instead of undies, we were both fresh and tropical, though still seeing the need for a wash sometime soon.

We stopped in at a winery along the Flerurieu Way when going up to Wellington, and picked up a fucking piquant as shit (apologies to xkcd) Reisling, which we saw as a nice little way to celebrate the turning point of our trip. Sadly, we overestimated our ability to keep this cheeky number as cool as it deserved for the rest of the day, which unfortunately coincided with the start of the worst of the heatwave.

The riding along the Fleurieu Way was fantastic – nipping into corners and blasting over crests, with diverse and beautiful scenery. One minute we were ripping past paddocks, the next we were going through scrub, then even some rain-forest-esque scenes. We stopped in at Victor Harbor, where one scum-hole proprietor of a bakery (you know who you are) denied us a powerpoint to charge our phones. We played with the idea of taking our custom elsewhere, but settled for a pie and custard tart. After a lazy break, we went along our merry way – sadly, once we passed Wellington, things rapidly took a turn for the boring. We had heard from a useful tradie that the road we had planned to use was “bullshit” (I, too, have often doubted the veracity of inanimate objects), and so we were going along a semi-major highway. High-speed, low-interest.

We met up in the lovely town of Keith (from the name alone, we decided that we had to visit – it was a similar story with Seymour – read on), and went into the local to have some dinner and a beer or two. Calamity ensued when the television feed went down for two minutes, depriving the locals not only of cricket, but far more importantly, Keno (gambling on the flip on twenty simulated coins). Thankfully, the publican was able to restore the signal before anyone was able to develop a meaningful relationship or conversation with their co-drinkers. Crisis averted! Another exciting development was when a really fat lady swore her tits off at the members of the local lawn-bowls team. Keith had a lot going on, really.

Camping aside the A66 Highway

Sleeping aside the A66 Highway, how's the serenity? So much serenity

We headed back onto the A66 (Duke’s Highway!), looking for a side-road that we could sneak down to find a decent place to bunker down for the evening. We travelled about twenty k’s down the road, and still saw the same properties on either side of the road. I was reminded about the sheer size of Australia, with the length of these properties bringing to mind cattle stations that are bigger than France, or electorates bigger than all of Western Europe piled together. We soon decided that, with failing light, beggars couldn’t be choosers (a similar mindset for when we’re trying to pull girls), and so camped on the side of the highway. Oddly enough, it was one of the best nights of sleep I had on the trip.

We opened the Reisling, which was by now somewhere a few degrees on the wrong side of room temperature. See it as a testament to the willpower/poor taste of university students that the bottle was drunk. We stayed up a little past the sunset to watch more of the night-sky, spot satellites and talk shit.

Day Nine

We had planned this day as a fun way to break up the trip. We planned to ride up North through the Grampian National Park, then head a bit further East and kip down for the evening, with the goal of putting ourselves within striking distance of Milawa, the heart of the Victorian gourmet region for the next day.

We were now well and truly into the heat wave, and, given that we didn’t shower yesterday and were sweating like motherbitches all day, we decided to do our utmost to avoid the heat of the day. With best intentions, we set our alarms for before sunrise, which meant that we were well and truly able to wake up about an hour past sunrise. We quickly packed up, said goodbye to the rare and refined beauty that you can only perceive after sleeping on the side of a major highway, and rode along. We crossed over the border into Victoria about half eight or so, and celebrated by being served breakfast by quite possibly the grumpiest corner store lady known to mankind. Although we attempted to immolate her in a firewall of charm, as is our wont, she simply retarded the flames of charm with a blanket of asbestos-laded ill-humour. She also made rubbish hamburgers (we were both doing Samuel L. Jackson impressions à la Pulp Fiction, which I suppose was facetious, given just how un-tasty the burgers were).

We headed off, and stopped at the Southern tip of the Grampians around lunchtime. After the long stretch of highway riding, it was a beautiful relief to get back onto smaller, twistier roads. We were both amazed to see the extent of the flood damage that still existed, with portions of the road gone, branches and limbs of trees strewn to the side of the road, and large sections of pastures either ruined or still flooded. The morning’s ride had been good, and the Grampians were just beautiful. The road snaked and scythed through massive stretches and slabs of rock (possibly granite?), and we had the road to ourselves. However, the day was getting unbearable, so we stopped halfway up the Grampians in a campsite for a few hours to wait out the heat. We read, made some tea, attempted to flirt with a ranger (with limited success, which we put down to her professionalism, rather than our poor grooming and hygiene), and just generally lazed. We rolled out around four, and snuck through small back-country roads that were the most amazing mash of block-colours – the red of the earth was beautifully weighted against the most intense sky-blue, with the two separated by a golden band of wheat.

We peeled off the road a few hours before dark, and rode for about twenty k’s trying to find a quiet place to sleep, though farmhouses kept on popping up at all f the best locations. We eventually found a side dirt road, which led us just far enough off the road to feel comfortable enough to pitch a tent. This was another day without a shower, and instead of trying to write about the smell, I’ll just describe the inputs and let you do the rest. Several days of no showering? Check. A heat wave with temperatures easily above 40 degrees Celcius? Check and Check! Spending days in the sun wearing leathers and Kevlar jeans? Check. Yum yum!

Wheat field campsite

And what a campsite! Notice the wheat damaged by flooding on the right