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On Waking the Solex from Slumber

Brian L Dominic

Other things (like lack of transport, a more demanding family and a narrow gauge railway less than a mile away) had kept me off my bikes for some time.  The fact that my regular summer transport, a rather battered Honda Melody, had got nicked from the middle of a line of (in my eyes) far more desirable machinery in the middle of Nottingham in broad daylight didn't help.  Eventually, though, I was spurred into action.

The Solex was extracted, the tires pumped up and a start tried.  It didn't.  The first thing to do was to check for a spark, which is (like anything to do with the engine of a Solex in the absence of one of those special stands with rolling roads some dealers had) difficult unless you are wheeling the machine along.  The plug didn't appear to spark, so the nettle (or HT lead) was grasped firmly - the OW-OUCH-OOH-OUCH-OW as the front wheel rotated indicated that, yes, there was the potential (pardon the pun) for a spark.

As time was pressing, the bike got put away until the imminent arrival of a 50cc trail bike for my youngest son prompted a garage tidying session.  Besides, it was the opening of Euro 96...

Having got the garage into some sort of order, the Solex was extracted for further attention.  If it isn't spark, it must be fuel.  I had made up a fresh batch of 2-stroke mixture - the old batch went into the Lada's empty fuel tank, which was then filled up - I never noticed the difference!

However, there was still no go, so further investigation was called for.  The engine protector (one of the two bolt-on goodies no Solex should be without) was removed, followed by the engine covers and the rear heat shield, designed to stop flames from the carb setting fire to the rider.

My first thought was that the rubber diaphragm in the fuel pump had ruptured - a common problem.  I was dismantling the pump when I realised that the fuel pipe from the tank, which should have been dribbling fuel at the very least, wasn't.  TING!  I removed the tank, tipped the fuel back into its container, removed the fuel line from the tank and BINGO! lots of black gunge in the fuel pipe.  It was so solid that I had to use a fine drill to get a hole through it, before poking a piece of copper wire down the bore.  A few minutes' work cleared the pipe so that a blow at one end resulted in gunge out of the other.  The reassembly took about half an hour - the engine took about 6 feet before it struck up and we were off!  Following a quick test run, the covers and engine protector were reassembled and the lights checked.

The Fastest Solex (Spares) in Europe!

However, I was still not ready for an MoT - I had suffered with problems with my back brake for some time, even though I had succeeded in getting my local EBC brake shoe man to re-line the rear shoes.  The cable didn't seem to be able to stand up to the pull and the screw-on nipples didn't appear to grip very well.

Thus it was that a short break by Eurostar to Paris saw me Solex spotting (only saw one in motion) and heading for 104 Rue Lauriston, the premises of Klocycle.  The shop (unlike Motos San Michel and Mosquito) survives and has Hungarian Solexes for sale.  The collection of vintage models is as interesting as ever, and a discussion (in bad French) about my problem resulted in a new cable and nipple and folding Francs exchanging hands.  I also bought a new tyre and inner tube, the former causing some slight problem by not fitting in the luggage rack for the return journey!  The run on Eurostar (at a maximum speed of 187 mph) is quite impressive and is well recommended if you need Solex spares - you could do it in a day easily!

Following fitting, a trip to my local bike shop saw the tester saying: "You don't expect me to MoT THAT!" and once the MoT was obtained, a quick trip to Nottingham on the new Vespa saw me with a no-cost tax disk.  Now all I've got to do is to get used to pedalling again...

First published - August 1997

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