Archive index  | Go to the Archive index | Go to previous Amis newsletter, Dec 1999 |

Les Amis du VéloSoleX

by Bryan Hollinshead

February 2000

Chers Amis,

A New Year and the start of a new millennium, how about all those resolutions?  To take part in more club runs, to start a new restoration or just to make plans.  I’ve made several such resolutions but, as yet like so many of you, have not got around to implementing any of them.  My first priority is to rebuild my Winged Wheel, which is sitting forlornly in my garage and makes me feel ashamed when I see it surrounded with a number of refurbished Solexes.

At an autojumble last summer I bought several small Solex items from a stall-holder who said that he was a baker with a shop in a small town some distance from where I live.  By chance I happened to be passing through that town and decided to pay him a call. To say that I wasn’t prepared for what I was to see was an understatement.  The outbuildings of his house were crammed full of things that most of us would kill for.  I counted no less than ten LD Lambrettas, several early Vespas, a Heinkel scooter, a Durkopp Diana, Zündapp Bella, a Cucciolo, two Vélovaps, umpteen cyclemotors of various makes, a number of French scooters, even an Ariel Three, motor cycles from the twenties and thirties as well as a Panhard PL17 car and numerous engines, gearboxes and cycle parts lying around.  Altogether, he estimated that he had around eighty machines of various kinds either complete or incomplete.  What caught my eye was an immaculate VéloSoleX from 1950 that had never been restored but was in the condition in which it had left the factory with shining paintwork and brilliant chrome.  Complete with all the optional extras such as centre stand, steering lock and other accessories.  It would surely be the definitive example for anyone seeking originality.  Like a number of other collectors, he is extremely reluctant to part with anything although he freely admitted that he would never have time to restore more than a fraction of the available machines.

Yet another variant of the Solex has been produced.  It’s called the Trotilex and uses the S3800 motor mounted on a frame similar to that of a child’s scooter.  The wheels are alloy, twelve inches in diameter with drum brakes front and rear.  Manufactured by EDEM cao, 1 route des Missionnaires, BP21-64240 Hasparren, France in partnership with IMPEX Hungaria. Should you wish to buy one a list of concessionaires is available on www.trotilex.com

Received too late to include in the last Les Amis was a report on the 7th Transolexine at Saint-Nazaire.  The rally attracted around one hundred and forty riders including a number from le Solex Club Spirales de Calais.  Most of the entrants were mounted on the later Solex models whilst the earliest model was from 1951.  A most interesting entry was a tandem Solex constructed by a concessionaire using various parts from three late models.  I’m not sure at present of the date of next year’s event but will include it in the list of events when I am certain of it.  Saint-Nazaire is not a great distance from the port of Roscoff and the rally might provide the excuse for a late holiday on the Atlantic Coast.

Some 40 Solexistes took part in the 4th randonnée VéloSoleX at Saint Germain Du Corbeis in Normandy, the oldest entrant being 84 years of age!  Saint Germain is near the town of Alençon and the rally included an exhibition of various versions of Solex and a 25 kilometre run.  Provisional dates for next year’s rally are 27th August or 3rd September.

I recently made contact with Les Mordus du SoleX by sending a copy of Buzzing to le président, Marc Famery and in return received a copy of their newsletter L’Auxiliare.  The club is a thriving one based in the Rouen area.  It is holding the 5th rallye à énigmes de Rouen, which, I presume, is an event where clues have to be solved, on the 2nd April.

Tech time!  How many of you check the truth of the cylinder head when rebuilding a Solex or any other engine?  When checking a motley collection of heads recently I found that four out of five varied between 0.0015" and 0.003" out of true.  These discrepancies are likely to have been caused by uneven tightening of the cylinder head bolts.  The moral is to use a torque wrench.  The correct setting for the head bolts is 1.2kgM.  Does it really matter?  Perhaps not but when a works mechanic is allowed eight hours to set up a Ducati Desmo head, a quarter of an hour spent on a humble Solex head seems worthwhile if only for your own satisfaction.  After all, there’s very little power to spare.

Finally, having obtained a serviceable ignition coil, the 330 is up and running and performing well.

A la prochaine


April 2000

Chers Amis,

Winter over, lighter evenings, warmer weather: now is the time to “ride it not hide it”.  Take it/them for a spin one evening or at the weekend and assess the results of the winter’s work.

During the winter months, I’ve come to appreciate just how valuable the VéloSoleX must have been to those who relied upon it as their sole means of transport.  Most days during the past winter one or other of my Solexes has been in use, not of necessity but simply because I enjoy riding them.  Of the four that are currently insured, 1700, 2200 and the two Col de Cygne models, most of the kilometres have been covered on the first two.  The earlier ones have had occasional airings but, due to scarcity of tyres, I have to limit their usage.  As I’ve mentioned previously, tyres for the 26" and 24" wheels are virtually unobtainable so, if you have the opportunity to buy any, do so.

Recently I took a number of ignition coils to try out on Jean-Pierre’s test rig.  None of them reached optimum efficiency although they all produced a spark of sorts.  These coils were the old variety covered with some sort of green paint.  Those encapsulated in a yellow plastic are said to be much more efficient and longer lasting and will fit all models from the 1700 onwards.  So, if your Solex suffers from poor starting or uneven running it may well be the ignition coil.

Which type of plug for the Solex?  The Marchal type has long been unobtainable.  I’ve been using the Champion L86 with satisfactory results.  However, some years ago at an autojumble I bought several Lodge HH14 triple electrode plugs which I understand were designed for two strokes and one of which I used in a Lambretta scooter.  These have improved starting and running in the two early Solex models and I’d be interested to know of any other Solexistes’ experiences.

SIMILI les rouardes have re-manufactured two period accessories for the Solex: a porte bidon and a guard for the rear lamp.  Both are priced at 150Fr.  Postage must, of course, be added to both.  Their order form states that they will supply spares for countries outside France so, if you need these items, give them a call: Tel 04.77.73.75.41.  They are also able to supply autocollants (stickers) for the 3800 models at very reasonable prices so now you will be able to complete that restoration and set off its shining new paint work.

Speaking of restorations: are not some of us, myself included, in danger of falling into the trap of being over concerned that our Solexes conform strictly to the state in which they left the factory?  For example, I’ve been searching for several months for a metal tank to replace the somewhat battered example my 2000.  I have a number of perfectly good plastic tanks as are fitted to later models but have resisted fitting one in the hope that I will be able to find the correct type and thus achieve one step nearer originality.  What surely matters are the sentiments expressed by members of the Solex Club Spirales of Calais at the last Transolexene Rally: “Some of our Solexes are not strictly original but the essential thing is to take part”.  They had a good point.

Interesting comment in Mark Daniels’s review of the Mince Pie Run concerning tuning two stroke engines with deflector pistons.  Well, manufacturers such as Levis got their two stroke racers to go quite quickly after the first World War and they used cast iron deflector pistons as well.  Scott also knew a thing or two about extracting speed from pre-Schnurle loop scavenging system two strokes.  Can’t do much with a standard Solex motor though.  I’ve tried but the ports are far too restricted.  However an ‘Arrow’ silencer which I found by the side of the road gives a lovely exhaust note if nothing else.

Recently I received a letter from an Ami complaining about the availability of spares in the UK for the imported Solex and the somewhat poor quality of the finished article.  I have only seen one of these Hungarian built machines, a Roland Garros example, and so I could not give an opinion.  As for quality control, I am reminded of an account that appeared in ‘The Classic Motor Cycle’ some years back.  It concerned a man who, each year, bought a brand new Ariel Square Four from a dealer specifying that it must not be run before delivery.  On getting the bike home the buyer would strip the engine and gearbox completely and take a great delight in returning to the dealer all of the swarf and other detritus found therein.  Quality control, or lack of it, is evidently not a modern phenomenon.

Some time ago Dave Beare compiled a register of Solex owners within the NACC, which he has passed on to me.  There are over one hundred entries at present and I would very much like to update the list of owners together with details of their machines.  It your name is not included on the register and would like it to be please write or telephone giving details of any Solexes that you own.

The date for the 8th Transolexene at St Nazaire is the second weekend in September and Franck Meneret hopes that there will be entrants from Germany, Belgium and England.  The 20th Tour de Bretagne takes place on the weekend commencing the 9th June at Rennes.  Two thousand véhicules anciens of all types are expected.  Details from: Association Bretonne Véhicules Anciens, 8 rue du Moulin à papier, 22000 Saint-Brieuc.  Two further dates for 2000:

I. 18th June: Randonée SoleX en forêt Compiègn.  Details: Amicale Solexion, tel: 03.44.85.60.60.

II. 23rd & 24th September: 1st Rétro Cyclo dans l’Ouest, open to all cyclemotors.  Details: Franck Meneret, tel: 02.40.86.90.40.

For the immediate future the Solex will have to take second place in the order of priorities as I have finally commenced the long awaited rebuild of the Winged Wheel.  It has been neglected for far too long.

I am now on the Internet.  The e-mail address is: hollinshead.bb@wanadoo.fr

A la prochaine


June 2000

Chers Amis,

Looking through past issues of Le VéloSoleX Illustré I was surprised to see just how many accessories were available for fitting to a Solex during its heyday.  Some seemed to have been eminently sensible whilst others appeared to be for cosmetic purposes only.  For example items such as porte-bidon or pare-chocs perform a useful purpose whilst others like the chaufe-mains could not have been very effective.  Carrying a child on the siege-enfant makes the mind boggle.  The poor little motor has enough to do without the weight of a child and a seat to add to its burden.  To carry a small child on any bicycle or cyclemotor seems to me to be the height of folly as raising the centre of gravity by carrying extra weight high up is bound to affect stability.

Two accessories of particular interest were the ingenious foot brake which could be fitted to the 1700 and 2000 models as an addition to the brakes already fitted and the second being a device for enabling the rider of a clutchless model to release the motor after coming to a halt without having to take a hand from the handlebar.  An excellent idea.

Recently I've been looking into the possibility of fitting a variable gear to one or other of my early Solexes in order to make LPA mean just that instead of very hard work on some of the long steep hills in this area. Two possibilities arise and both have been explored in the past: a Sturmey-Archer hub gear and a three speed derailleur.  Although three speed free wheels are readily available the change mechanism of the correct period by Cyclo is not.  I could, of course, fit a modern equivalent but that might provoke sharp intakes of breath from the purists.  We are back to the question of originality again!  Although easier to find, a hub gear would need the rear wheel to be rebuilt.  Fitting a hub gear would also mean dispensing with the drum brake on the 3300 and later Solex unless a Sturmey-Archer combined drum brake and hub gear could be found.  These, I believe, are quite rare.  Le VéloSoleX Illustré numbers 26 and 49 deal with the fitting of both types of gear.

Recently I was given a Solex motor that was complete and in running order.  The problem was that one of the bolts holding the suspension friction plate to the crankcase had worked loose and had evidently been unnoticed for some time.  The result was that the hole in the crankcase had been enlarged to such an extent that it could no longer locate the friction plate properly.  Fortunately the local welder was able to fill the hole with alloy and a fresh hole was drilled.  Result: a serviceable motor.  Moral: check the tightness of all fixings frequently.

Prices of used Solexes seem to be on the increase. A Motobécane-manufactured 3800 in running order but in a somewhat rough condition was on sale locally for 1,500 Francs and a 5000 in slightly better condition for a similar price.  Also, a Pli-SoleX was advertised for sale at 3,500 Francs in a recent issue of La Vie de la Moto.  Microns are usually advertised at 5,000 Francs or more.  One piece of good news: if you have a 45cc model and wish to source gaskets for the motor, Les Mordus du SoleX are exploring the possibility of having complete sets produced.  The cost will probably be in the region of 50 Francs.  A set of gaskets together with a pump diaphragm for the 3800 model is available from the same source at 50 Francs plus postage.

If you have read the March edition of Mob Chop you will have seen an illustrated article describing a special SoleX de Course with a very 'hot' motor incorporating a massive finned alloy cylinder and cylinder head, disc valve induction, Dell'Orto carburettor, special exhaust and a number of other mods which the owner/constructor describes as 'top secret'.  The motor drives a four speed Minarelli gearbox via a duplex chain and the complete unit is mounted in a lightweight motorcycle frame similar to those of mopeds such as the Yamaha FS1E.  The standard of workmanship displayed was superb.

It would be very interesting if any member who has bought a new Hungarian Solex would write an unbiased account of their experiences with it.  A sort of mini road test for publication in "Buzzing".  How about it someone?  Several road tests have appeared in the British press probably written by those who have had little or no experience of this type of machine prior to carrying out the test.  Consequently, they have no clear idea what to expect.

Recently, through a neighbour, I met a man who had spent the greater part of his working life in the Drawing Office at Courbevoie and had chosen to spend his retirement away from the noise and bustle of Paris. As could be expected, he was a mine of information on all matters Solex and was able to give me answers to a number of points with which I was unfamiliar including small and often insignificant differences between various Solex models

Those who were fortunate to have made his acquaintance or benefited from his encyclopaedic knowledge on all matters Solex will be saddened to learn of the death in April, at the age of sixty six, of Claude de Decker, known to lovers of the marque as "Papy Solex".  Although I had never met him personally I had written to him a number of times and also had numerous telephone conversations with him.  On each occasion, he invited me to visit him at his home and workshop.  Sadly, I never got around to it although I intended to visit his holiday home this summer.  He had suffered a long illness but was always cheerful whenever I spoke to him and always found time to reply to my letters promptly.  He will be sadly missed.

Finally, summer is here after a long winter and an uncertain spring.  Enjoy your riding whether it is on club runs or just pleasure jaunts.  May you not be plagued by whiskered plugs, vapour locks, blocked filters or any of the tiresome problems which might arise to spoil the fun.

A la prochaine


August 2000

Chers Amis,

In the last 'Les Amis' I mentioned the sad death of 'Papy Solex', Claude de Decker.  Although passionately concerned with all matters relating to the VéloSoleX he always insisted that he was not a collector but merely a source of information for anyone who cared to ask for his help.  He owned all the special tools needed for the Solex and invited enthusiasts to bring their motors to his workshop for attention if necessary.  I have in front of me his last reply to a query of mine concerning one of my Solex which refused to run evenly for any length of time.  As the spark was reasonable and the timing had been checked I eventually came to the conclusion, wrongly I must confess, that the problem was one of fuel supply.  After giving me his opinion he wrote "A good spark is never a guarantee of a sound Solex ignition system".  He was correct for the problem was finally traced to a flywheel that had become partially demagnetised.  His writing at the time showed that he must have been very ill yet he still was able to give sound advice.  A real 'Ami'.

Continuing on the subject of ignition, how many of you have experienced the frustration associated with the juggling of screwdrivers and cigarette papers whilst trying to keep the timing marks on the flywheel and crankcase in line?  If you are one such person spare a thought for the mechanics of the DKW racing team in the fifties who had to set the timing of their two stroke triples correct to one hundredth of a millimetre of piston stroke!

Nothing to do with the Solex but may be of interest to lovers of 'Deux Roues'.  The death occurred in France last December of Jean Nougier at the age of ninety.  Those of you who, like myself, followed motor cycle racing in the fifties may have heard of the four cylinder double overhead camshaft motor, constructed by Jean in his own workshop, along the lines of the Gilera and MV fours.  It was rumoured, although never officially confirmed, that the Norton race chief, Joe Craig, expressed an interest in the motor with a view to fitting it into a Norton frame to replace the Manx Norton single which was becoming uncompetitive.  Nothing came of this probably due to the Norton board of directors being unwilling to agree to the fitting of a French engine in a British chassis.  Swiss sidecar ace Florian Camathias tried to obtain the motor to contest the GPs during the 1965 season after his connection with Gilera had terminated but without success.  I gather the motor still exists together with a number of other of Jean's creations.

Recently I was able to buy three pairs of Lyotard pedals with white rubbers still in their original wrappings as fitted to the earlier Solex models.  I also managed to obtain a correct chain wheel with good chromium plating for the 330 to replace the rusty example that came with the bike.  Now I need to find a handlebar in similar condition.  In spite of resolving not to embark on another Solex restoration in the near future I couldn't resist parting with 150 Francs for some very rusty remains which one day 'might' become a working 1010.  The motor is free but the spark is weak.  Ignition problems again?

During a recent short break in Paris, I saw only five Solexes.  Four of these were the usual decrepit 3800s but the fifth was a superb 2200 in its original state.  It had obviously had lots of TLC for its paint-work and chrome were in excellent condition.  A striking feature was the gold pin-striping on the cycle parts, something that I've never been able to achieve satisfactorily by my own efforts; I've tried self-adhesive tape (too wide and too bright), using masking tape and an aerosol (better but still far short of hand lining).  Has anyone out there the answer?

The start of the Tour de Bretagne at Guingamp was somewhat of a disappointment.  There were enough superbly restored and rare cars to satisfy any enthusiast but there was not much for lovers of motor cycles although there were two Britons present with a pair of very well restored Honda twins from the sixties.  In spite of the organisers' publicity material stating that they would be represented there was not a single cyclemotor or moped in sight.  The highlight for me was a tidy though unrestored Morgan Super Sport trike with its big water-cooled JAP engine out in front.  The sight and sound of that motor together with its exposed valve gear clattering away was worth the journey.  George Brough, of Brough Superior fame, always asserted that the off-beat note of a large vee twin, due to its uneven firing intervals, portrayed man's association with the horse.  Not being a horseman, I quite see the connection but George was ever the showman with an eye to publicity.

Since having an E-mail address I have had the pleasure of receiving correspondence from the USA and Australia as well as a number of European countries.  Also I receive letters via the conventional post.  I enjoy receiving these communications and, although not all are from NACC members, I try to reply promptly.  One query that is oft repeated is "where can spares for the various models of the Solex be obtained?"  I reply with the addresses of two dealers who have told me that they are willing supply spares to customers who live outside France.  However, if you have experienced any difficulties in dealing with them I can only say that I have passed on such information as has been given to me by those concerned.

I've just been reading an account of the trip for Solex riders from St Nazaire to Sarrebuis, its twin town in Germany, organised by Franck Meneret and associates.  872km at 25km/h, fifteen participants aged from 17 to 72 including one Solexioneuse (lady Solexiste).  All were required to ride 3800 models in order to rationalise servicing in the event of mechanical breakdowns.  Stout fellows one and all.  No prizes for estimating how many kilometres needed LPA.

One of the advantages of riding a Solex, or any other cyclemotor for that matter, is that you have time to observe and appreciate all that is going on around about you and which you are not able to do when driving a car.  To go out for a ride on a lovely sunny day, see all the colours and varieties of flowers in the hedgerows and take in the fresh views which appear around each bend in the road always gives me the greatest of pleasure.

Enjoy your summer's riding.  Add a spot of Loctite to all vital fixings to ensure everything stays together and hope for fine weather.

A la prochaine


October 2000

Chers Amis,

At one time or another most of us have decided to dispose of some of our possessions but, after having second thoughts, decided against it.  In my case, it was the many copies of "The Classic Motor Cycle" and "Classic Bike" to which I have subscribed from issue one.  Before moving to France I offered them to a friend who turned down my offer and so they came with me and I am pleased that they did as I've derived hours of pleasure from reading and re-reading them some of which I know almost off by heart.

What is the point of all this?  Well, only the other evening I read, probably for the nth time, an article by "Rasselas" in "The Classic Motor Cycle" of December 1993 in which he has to say, amongst other things concerning cyclemotors, some very nice things about the NACC and the friendly attitude of the members.  "Rasselas" is obviously a Francophile and has an affection for the VéloSoleX as he has even published an appraisal of them in his column several times and has used one for everyday transport.  The March 1984 issue of "The Classic Motor Cycle" also contains some excellent photographs as part of a report of a Dutch rally including one of a bicycle to which no less than three separate engines were attached.  In fact an article in "Classic Bike" entitled "A Permanent Attachment" published in August 1984 kindled my interest in cyclemotors and ultimately led to me becoming a member of the NACC.

The four of my Solex that are currently insured are running quite well.  The unspectacular but utterly reliable 1700 has had an overhaul after four years of almost daily use.  At the same time the cylinder with a broken fin, which came with the bicycle, was replaced with a sound one and new rings and pump diaphragm have been fitted.  As rings for the later models are readily available there is no excuse for not fitting new ones at each overhaul and the increase in performance obtained by doing so is noticeable.  Unfortunately, rings for the early models with the deflector piston are not so easily obtained.  Although the performance of my 1954 model is just about satisfactory, it is losing compression and clearly would benefit from new rings.  No doubt there are some out there but the problem is to find them.  Also, after much searching, I have found the correct rear derailleur mechanism to fit to the 330.  Where did find it?  At the Council Tip attached to a Louison Bobet racing cycle frame of the fifties.  Does it make any difference?  Well, yes.  A 24-tooth rear sprocket for the lowest ratio takes some of the effort out of hill climbing.

I have had several letters on the subject of Solex brakes and what, if anything can be done to improve them.  My experience, but I'm open to disagreement, is that the drum brake as fitted to the later models is adequate providing that the linings are not unduly worn and are free from grease or oil.  As for the calliper brakes as fitted to both wheels on all models up to the 3300 and on the front wheel of all models, these are only efficient if the wheels run true and care is taken in setting them up.  Soon after the 2200 was introduced, an after market accessory in the form of a third calliper brake operated by a foot pedal mounted on the footrest was offered for sale.  My own view is that models equipped solely with bicycle type brakes are unsuitable for the busy urban traffic conditions of today.

Both my 1700 and 2200 are fitted with rear wheels from later models incorporating a drum brake whilst the rear calliper brake is left in place but disconnected.  I have thought of incorporating a second cable from the left-hand lever to this brake thus having triple brakes but have not done so.

Continuing on the same subject I have found that the brakes fitted to the early Solex, those prior to 1951, which lacked the adjustment facility, are very, difficult to set up.  My 1950 model, which is admittedly a bitza, came with such a brake acting on the front wheel and a coaster hub fitted to the rear wheel.  I understand that a coaster hub was fitted to some models produced in the Benelux countries although mine is not one of those.  Unfortunately, the internals of the hub were beyond repair and so I was unable to assess its effectiveness.  Now this machine is equipped with adjustable brakes front and rear from post 1951 models which perform reasonably well and are easier to set up.

Saturday 5th August saw the start of a 2500km journey of eighteen stages by Solex from Viols-le-Fort in the south of France to Debrecen in Hungary, the town where the Solex is now made, a distance greater than either the Paris/Dakar or the Monte-Carlo rallies.  Eighty riders,  both male and female,  ranging from sixteen to sixty-three years of age took part. The cost, which included, food, lodgings, fuel and a new limited edition Solex in blue was 5,100 Francs for which you kept the Solex on completion of the Journey.  This must be about £150 less than you would pay for a new Solex from an importer in the UK.  Can't be bad can it?  Technical assistance, in the form of two véhicules techniques was provide by Impex together with six motor cyclists to shepherd the convoy through the towns en route.  Needless they made the return journey by coach.  I hope to be able to include a report in the next 'Les Amis'.

Some weeks ago I called in at Jean-Pierre's workshop hoping to obtain some 'goodies' and became involved in conversation with a young man who, obviously, shared the same interest as me.  He took me to his car, a beautiful Simca from the early sixties, opened the boot and brought out a Poulain cyclemotor which drives the front wheel via a roller in the same manner as a Solex.  If this wasn't enough to make me really envious he said that he had recently obtained a Cyclotracteur, no less!

Bob Cordon-Champ's potted history of the Derny Paris-Bordeaux was most interesting.  Although I have seen photographs of these fascinating machines, I have never been fortunate enough to examine one.  I would dearly love to own an example but, as Bob says, they are now highly sought after.  His reference to motos de stayer intrigued me and someone really should carry out research into these monsters, which were powered by various engines ranging from the large single cylinder De-Dion Boutons to the huge three cylinder fan type Anzani motors such as used by Blériot for his cross-channel flight.  These massive, slow revving engines were packed into frames that looked as though they were made from old bedsteads.  Well Bob, it  appears that they can be ridden on the road, although with dlfficulty.  I recall one being mentioned in La Vie de la Moto some while back, the owner of which tried it out on the Paris Périphérique at about 1:00am.  Brave man or fool?  I understand that Sammy Miller has one such machine powered by a vee-twin MAG motor in his museum at New Milton in Hampshire.

For those of you who have access to the internet, log on to http://www.mygale.org/06/bsuzanne/solex/vsi which is a mine of information on all matters Solex, including technical details, names of clubs, dates to remember, and small ads.  Don't worry if you think that your French is not adequate as the text is also available in English.

By the time that this drops through your letterbox, I shall have reached my sixty-eighth birthday.  Too late to buy that Kawasaki H2 which languished for several years in a dealer's showroom in my home town in the UK and on which I gazed longingly on many occasions.  My congratulations to all of you who have completed the summer without any major disasters but to those who have not been so fortunate, my sympathies are extended.

A la prochaine


December 2000

Chers Amis,

Winter's here: dark evenings, summer a distant memory along with those pleasant excursions by Solex or the cyclemotor or moped of your preference.  Now is the time to retire to the workshop to prepare or repair your machines for next summer or, perhaps, embark on a new restoration.

Speaking of restorations, it must be almost thirty years ago when I carried out my first one: a 1952 BSA B31 that I obtained as a basket case.  Although my work at that time allowed access to most of the facilities needed to carry out such a restoration and I had experience in many of the skills required, I made most of the mistakes which any newcomer to the art was likely to make.  I did not do enough research, nor ask sufficient questions, nor even examine in depth the work of other more experienced restorers than myself.  Gradually I completed the job knowing that there were a number of departures from the original specification but I was fairly pleased with the final result.

Riding, not taking, the bike to its first rally I noticed two elderly gentlemen metaphorically pulling it to pieces in the exhibition area.  The colour and lining of the fuel tank was wrong (it wasn't in fact), the Lucas horn was not the correct one for the year (I was aware of that), the control cables should have fabric and not plastic covering (I couldn't find any), the rims were not chromium plated (they were not plated in 1952 due to the shortage of nickel) and several more criticisms.  I wasn't too upset because the usual "I had one like that" viewers were largely complimentary.  One, who was present with his wife, said that they went on honeymoon in Devon on a similar model many years previously so were pleased when I offered to photograph them sitting on my bike.  Finally, I saw one of the highly critical pair leaving the rally on a Honda C50 'step thru'!  I felt sure that he would have had at least a Vincent or a Brough Superior restored to concours standard.  What did I learn from this?  Never criticise another enthusiast's restoration.  He or she has undoubtedly put in many hours of work, overcome numerous difficulties and is likely to be justly proud of the final result.  I hasten to add that I have no prejudice against Honda 50s having owned several in the past.

A tip which appeared in an issue of VSI concerned caring for old tyres particularly those of 26" and 24" diameter which are unobtainable new today.  It suggests massaging the tyre, particularly the sidewalls, which are prone to cracking, with Vaseline.  Leave for several hours before removing the surplus with a soft cloth.  Repeat after twenty-four hours.  It goes without saying that the tyres should always be fully inflated to 28psi or, if you prefer it, 2 bar.

One of the last items which I received from Claude de Decker, or Papy Solex as I prefer to remember him, was a sheet prepared by him giving complete details of wheels, tyres, brakes, spokes as fitted to all SoleX models.  A copy has been sent to the club librarian and should prove of use to all restorers.  It is written French but is self-explanatory.

Those of you who own and enjoy riding the early clutchless models will have experienced the difficulty of having to take one hand from the handlebars to place the roller on the tyre after coming to a halt.  An after market accessory was manufactured in the mid fifties which allowed this task to be performed by operating a trigger similar to that which operates the throttle but fixed to the left hand side of the handlebars.  I have an illustration of this which is not dimensioned but, as none of the dimensions are critical, this need not be a problem.  If you can use simple hand tools making one would not present too many difficulties.  Anyone who would like a copy of the drawing please contact me.

I have had two or three enquiries as to the possibility of fitting reed valve induction to the Solex.  Although I'm no expert on the tuning of two stroke engines I have read, at some length, of Walter Kaaden's experiments in the fifties with the MZ racers.  As increasing the power of a two-stroke depends largely on harnessing the natural inlet and exhaust resonances it seems to me rather pointless experimenting with one feature, ie: the induction process, without paying corresponding attention to the exhaust, which means fining an expansion chamber type system.  Most of the highly tuned Solex de Course follow this line together with the fitting of a Dell'Orto carburettor, a steel connecting rod, a special crankshaft with a larger big end and a piston with extra ports cut in the skirt.  If you wish to go even further and fit electronic ignition, you will incur considerable expense.  In front of me is a photograph of a wrecked engine due to the failure of a normal rod, so beware.  Finally how about a supercharged Solex?  It has been tried!  For those of you who would like to delve further into the subject of two-stroke tuning I can recommend Vic Willoughby's book entitled 'The Racing Motor Cycle' or the late Brian Woolley's articles which appeared in 'The Classic Motor Cycle'.

Recently I attended an autojumble at Saint Brieuc in the hope of finding some parts which would help in the rebuild of the rusty 1010 which is my winter's project.  Not much luck I'm afraid as the event was organised by the Harley Davidson Club of Brittany and catered mostly for large bikes both Japanese and others.  There was a fine display of Harleys in the car park and, whether you like these large Vee-Twins or not, you have to acknowledge that their owners keep them in superb condition.  Not an oil drip in sight, unlike many British bikes of the post war years.

Whilst in Dinard a few weeks ago I had my first opportunity to examine an IMPEX built Solex.  Although I could not assess its mechanical capabilities, I was not impressed with the standard of finish.  The black paint work seemed rather dull and, in my opinion, the quality of the plating left much to be desired, as rust was already apparent on some of the plated items.  When compared with the finish on a mid price range mountain bike standing nearby it seemed lacking in quality.  Perhaps the need to increase sales in a competitive market leads to corners being cut in the interest of a lower price.

For those of you who are 'on line' there is another web site to visit, that of Les Mordus du Solex.  I have mentioned this thriving club which is based in Rouen on previous occasions.  The address is: http://www.chez.com/lesmordusdusolex/ or you can e-mail them on: lesmordusdusolex@chez.com

The club publishes L'Auxiliaire, which is their equivalent of Buzzing, three times each year and organises runs and rallies on several occasions during the summer months.  Perhaps some NACC members who visited Montlhéry last summer noticed their stand on which a total of thirteen Solex were displayed.

Finally, the local lads have started giving a wave as they scream past on their mobs to the old chap who wears a strange helmet and rides even stranger machinery.  Whether this is a sign of encouragement, sympathy or sheer disbelief I'm not sure, but it's very pleasant.

Joyeux Noel et Bonne Année à tous.


February 2001

Chers Amis,

Mid winter, Christmas, with all its expenses receding into the past, hopes and expectations rising for those warm pleasant summer days and miles of trouble free cyclemotoring.  I certainly hope so for, as I write, the rain is coming down in torrents.  I'm surrounded by several half finished projects, all of which require some piece or other in order to allow them to proceed, so there is an element of frustration creeping in.

The restoration of the 1010 has not progressed as well as I had hoped.  Some cycle parts in reasonable condition have been difficult to find.  The biggest problem encountered so far was with the engine which, when stripped for examination, showed signs of neglect by a former owner.  The flywheel had sustained a crack alongside the key-way, which was almost certainly due to it not being fully pulled up on the crank-shaft taper and the lock nut sufficiently tightened.  Fortunately, the shaft seems to be undamaged although the key had sheared and so it is a matter of finding another flywheel.  The lesson to be learned from this is obvious.  As expected, the ignition coil was in a poor state as was another that I had available.  Although one coil did give a very weak spark on the test rig, Jean-Pierre's opinion was that it was unserviceable.  The other coil had an open circuit HT winding.  Unfortunately, the coils from the later models will not fit.

At a recent autojumble at Guingamp, a fair quantity of Solex parts were for sale as well as several complete examples of the later models.  Masses of tanks, flywheels and engine covers, etc, but unfortunately there were very few parts relating to the early models although I did manage to find a pare-chocs for my 330.  Sadly the chrome was in very poor condition and much work with a rotary wire brush could not remove all the rust and thus make it suitable for re-chroming.  Although many of you may disagree with me, I am not normally in favour of using aluminium paint as a substitute for chromium plate, but in this case I shall have to do so until I am able to find a better example.

Giving the 1950 model the once over recently, I was struck by the varying quality relating to its construction.  Certainly the welding on my example left much to be desired particularly on the fabricated rear fork and one would have expected better of a skilled welder.  In fact, there was evidence of one broken welded joint that had been repaired by brazing.  On the other hand, the bolts and their associated nuts were well produced with radiused heads and a good standard of finish; rather better it seems than that applied to the Impex model.  The cast fork crown and some of the other frame parts showed signs of over-engineering and there seems possible room for weight saving without sacrificing strength, which might have offered some relief to the poor little motor.  However, like its four-wheeled counterpart the 2CV, the Solex was obviously designed to withstand rough usage, which is probably why so many of these early models have survived.  Certainly, the main frame tube looks strong enough to survive a collision with a Centurion tank.  Often, when I am riding one of my early Solexes, I find myself thinking that if only they had the power of speech they would, most likely, have some interesting stories to relate

Not sure of the correct detail finish for your early Solex?  Neither was I but an e-mail to Franck Meneret (apologies for my less than perfect French, Franck) brought all the information that I needed.  A copy, suitably translated into English, has been sent to the Club's library

Good news for owners of some models of the Solex.  The Hutchinson company has decided to manufacture a range of tyres for motor cycles including the 1.75"×19" size which is correct for the later models of the Solex.  If only they would manufacture similar tyres in 24" and 26" sizes then we would all be happy but to do so, of course would be uneconomic in view of the very limited demand.

The eighth TranSolexine met with its usual success.  A maximum entry of 150 riders took part and some who turned up without an entry were, unfortunately, not allowed to start due to the restriction on numbers.  The majority of riders were mounted on 2200, 3800 and 5000 models together with such rarities as the Micron and the Pli-SoleX.  However, there was one very unusual entry, probably unique, a model 330 the front down tube of which had been cut at about half its distance and joined by a through bolt, wing-nut and a tube thus making a two-part Solex for ease of transportation.  Of course, provision was made for detaching the rear brake cable.

Since writing my comments on the subiect of Motos de Stayer I have discovered several early photographs of these machines including one circa 1904 powered by a huge Buchet vertical twin (no, Edward Turner of Triumph fame was NOT the first to use the vertical twin configuration in a motor cycle) of 2750cc, no less, which is double the capacity of my small hatchback.  Another more modest example powered by a 2¾hp single cylinder JAP engine, the BAT of English manufacture, was used at the old Crystal Palace track at about the same time.

Back in the 1970s, when my sons and I visited the Saffron Lane cycle track in Leicester each Tuesday evening a motor paced race was usually featured.  The pacing machines used specially made frames and were powered by Norton Commando engines and equipped with belt drive.  The sound of three or four of these machines on open exhausts circulating in a relatively confined space was a joy to hear.  The interesting point is that success in these events, which were usually of 50 kms or more, depended almost as much on the pacer as the cyclist.  Cyclists tended to stay with their pacer and establish a rapport in much the same way that some top golfers always rely on the same caddie.  Sadly, motor paced racing has no longer a place in the World Championships and so these big motors are likely to be consigned to museums.  Just a thought for you who attend the Coupes Moto Légende at Montlhéry and circulate at a steady 25mph or so on your SoleX: in October 1925 on the same track a Belgian cyclist, Leon Vanderstuyft, covered 76 miles 503 yards in one hour behind a moto de stayer powered by a 3 litre vee-twin Anzani engine designed for use in a light aircraft.

A final thought: I would endorse Bob Cordon Champ's comments on the finding of spares for the Solex and other French mopeds.  Yes, they can be found in the places mentioned by Bob, but you have to spend a lot of time, cover considerable distances to find them and be prepared for a number of disappointments as many parts offered for sale will have had much usage and be in poor condition.

A la prochaine


April 2001

Chers Amis,

Do you fancy a different summer holiday this year?  If you do how about following the example of Eric Leblond who has recently completed the journey Paris to Peking on his Solex, a distance of some 14,000km.  Not only did his Solex transport him but pulled a small trailer containing all necessary spares, etc, for the journey.  Leaving Paris on the 15th July, this brave fellow travelled through Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and China.  During the course of this expedition he crossed mountains, plains, deserts, forests, steppes and visited some major cities en route, arriving back in Paris to a hero's welcome in December.  You really need to have faith in your vehicle and your standard of preparation if you undertake a journey of this magnitude.  Want to know more or better still send Eric a message of congratulations?  Visit web site http://www.clamart.net/

There is another side to this memorable journey, which may be of interest to followers of motoring history.  A similar expedition was undertaken at the beginning of the 20th Century.  Although my memory is not what it was, I can remember reading, many years ago, an account of this adventure.  I was a schoolboy who was then, as now, passionately interested in all things relating to the internal combustion engine.  As far as I can remember there were three participant, two cars and a curious tricycle of a marque known as a Contal powered by a De Dion single cylinder engine.  This machine, which had two wheels in the front and a single one at the rear, proved totally unsuitable for the conditions that were encountered and was finally abandoned in the Gobi Desert.  By sheer coincidence, the same photograph of the Contal as shown in the original book appeared in a recent edition of La Vie de la Moto.  If any readers can add anything to this information including the title of this book, I would be glad to hear from them, as I am sure that I would enjoy reading it again.

Another piece of history for these who want to know more of the story of the Solex: one of the three engineers who were responsible for the original Solex is alive and well and, at the age of ninety-five, lives at Blainville-sur-Mer In Normandy and still owns a example of the marque that he helped to create.

Eugène-Louis Mayet started work at the Solex factory as an odd job boy at the age of twelve at the time when the factory produced carburettors and radiators for buses.  Through study at an école technique he eventually progressed to the Design Office and, when Le Patron saw that there would soon be the need for a cheap and reliable form of transport, he was well placed to begin work on the prototype Solex.  Hidden from the occupying Germans, the three men progressed with their work, Eugène-Louis being principally responsible for the cycle parts.

The prototypes were tested on the roads between Paris and Chartes, breakdowns being repaired at the side of the road with much improvising necessary.  Shortages of suitable materials and the need to preserve security made for further difficulties.  After working at the Solex factory for fifty-one years Eugène-Louis finally retired in 1966.

Whilst on the subject of retirements, Marcel Juillaguet who kept a small VéloSoleX and MBK agency in the town of Milliau in the Aveyron has finally closed his shop after many years in business.  Marcel gave me considerable help with both parts and advice during the restoration of my first Solex and was always willing to stop work and chat whenever I called.  The owner of a fine collection of models spanning the fifty years of the Solex, I believe he has offered them to the town museum for permanent exhibition.  If it comes to fruition, the exhibition will be well worth a visit.

Spending a winter break at Menton near the Italian border, I came upon several interesting items.  The first was one of the Solex invalid carriages, which I gather, are very rare.  I had very little chance to examine it in detail nor yet photograph it as it was driven by a severely handicapped gentleman and to attempt to take a photograph would have been most insensitive.  The other interesting item was a Derny, which was for sale in a brocante.  Not the Paris-Bordeaux model but nevertheless a very desirable machine.  Complete and easily restorable, although I have the feeling that the rear wheel was not original, it would make an interesting project.  Why is it not now in my workshop awaiting attention?  Well, we had chosen to make the journey to Menton via the excellent SNCF and having no trailer, I was unable to bring the bike home with me to Brittany.  The TGV does not carry mopeds.  Also at a brocante, this time at Nice, a Pratt and Whitney Wasp radial aircraft engine complete with variable pitch propeller.  Now that really would be something to hang on the living room wall to impress the neighbours.

Need a new air filter?  Apparently, three layers of surgical gauze cut out to size and moistened with a few drops of oil work well when mounted in place of the original filter element.  The added advantage being that the gauze is available at any chemists.

Finding myself without fuel the other day and needing to use a Solex, I filled the tank with fuel for my strimmer, which specifies the use of synthetic oil.  This is the first experience that I've had of synthetic oil on any vehicle and it seems to have worked admirably in the Solex.  Has anyone else any comments to make on their experiences with this type of oil?  Synthetic oil is more expensive than the normal variety but this expense can be offset by the need to use less oil in the fuel mixture.

The 9th Transolexine will again take place next September at Saint-Nazaire although I am not yet aware of the actual date.  Agreed, it is quite a journey from the UK but, if you plan to be in the area during that time and would like to take part in what is described as the largest Solex rally anywhere, you would be advised to make your entry as soon as possible.  Entries are limited to 150 machines.  The address for entries is: Atelier Solex, Maison de quartier de Méan-Penhoet, 1, rue E.Combes, 44600 Salnt-Nazaire

Rumours appear in the press that all new scooters, mopeds and cyclemotors of 50cc or under, which are exempt at present, will have to be registered and given a registration number, although no annual tax will have to be paid.  Whether or not these vehicles will be subjected to the annual Contrôle Technique has not been stated.  The reason given is so that checks can be made on vehicles that have been reported stolen and also to allow the police to identify those riders who transgress the Code de la Route.  It might also help to put an end to the number of small mopeds and scooters that do not display the obligatory Certificate of Insurance and are, therefore, presumably uninsured.  Whether this rule will ultimately to apply existing machines is unclear.  Although, if they have to be registered it will leave the Licensing Authorities with a very considerable task as it is estimated that there am upwards of five million such vehicles in circulation.

Colin King's amusing article In February's Buzzing reminded me once again of one of my all time heroes in the world of motor cycle racing, the late and great Joe Craig.  Revered by many and heartily disliked by others, there could be no doubt that he was a superb development engineer.  Joe's face with its smile of satisfaction always seemed to appear in the after race photographs which would be published in the next issues of the Blue 'Un and the Green 'Un.  These would prove to the world that his beloved 'Joe Motors' and riders had triumphed yet again.  I once caught a glimpse of him after the 1949 TT after Harold Daniell had won his third and final Senior race.  Someone really should write his biography.

A la prochaine


June 2001

Chers Amis,

In the previous Les Amis I mentioned the unusual model 330, the front tube of which was cut and could be joined by an ingenious although rather elaborate device, thus making it possible to transport it in the boot of a car.  I had hoped to try to duplicate this arrangement myself and wrote to the owner Jean-Christophe Guyet for details.  Jean-Christophe replied by sending me a first class set of dimensioned sketches and two photographs of the fixture.  Unfortunately, after studying the drawings, I came to the conclusion that to make such a device would require more facilities that I have available, including a milling machine.  Before retirement, it would have presented no real problem as I would have rid all the necessary equipment to hand.  Shame really as I would have enjoyed the challenge.

Jean-Pierre found me some piston rings that could be adapted to suit the 49cc Solex fitted with a deflector piston.  The diameter is correct but the thickness of the rings was 0.009" greater than the originals.  However, some rubbing down on a medium grade 'wet and dry' paper attached to a sheet of plate glass reduced them to the correct size.  A tedious task but, as I have not been able to source the correct rings it is the only way.

Over enthusiastic use of the spanners can result in the 6mm studs holding the cylinder to the crankcase being pulled out.  If this has happened to you don't despair as the remedy is quite simple.  Remove the offending stud and cut a new thread in the hole that remains using a 1/4" BSW tap.  A 1/4" BSF tap could also be used instead although my engineering training reminds me that a coarser thread is better for studs in alloy castings.  Cut a new stud of suitable length from a 1/4" BSW bolt, add a drop of Loctite and screw it in.  If you wish to retain the original holding down nut just run the tap through the nut.  The purists won't like this at all and, to be strictly correct, it should merit a Helicoil which may not be available but it is not a 'bodge'.  I have used it on a motor which was given to me and which had both threads in the crankcase stripped and the repair has proved satisfactory.  It goes without saying that it is advisable to use a torque wrench when working on the Solex motor, or any other motor for that matter, and adhere to the torque settings as published in the service sheet.  If you need a copy of these settings for the Solex engine, I can supply one.

The lighting system on the Solex is primitive to say the least, particularly the light switch arrangement.  This was recognised as far back as 1953 when an additional lighting set comprising a cycle dynamo with a bracket allowing it to be clamped to the rear seat stays together with head and rear lights was offered by an accessory manufacturer.  If you plan to use your Solex at night and particularly if it is some years old it would be advisable to replace all crimped connections with soldered ones as corrosion will have taken place over the years which will result in loss of efficiency or even complete failure.

It's NOT a good idea to attempt to free a seized piston, particularly if it is rare or even irreplaceable, by using a wooden drift and a heavy hammer.  If you are faced with this problem beg, borrow or steal a copy of The Classic Motor Cycle for December 1995 and follow the method described inside.  This method will involve extra work but it may mean the difference between having a serviceable piston or not.

Writing in The Classic Motor Cycle of July 1986, Rasselas (aka Bob Cordon Champ) expressed some interesting thoughts on the preservation versus restoration issue.  On the whole, I agree with him as the highly polished over-restored examples that one often sees at rallies and concours d'élégance competitions bear little relation to the finish of the machines as they left the factory.  As I understand it, although someone will hasten to prove me wrong, the origin of the concours d'élégance was at what would be termed a social event, usually at some fashionable resort, where the wealthy, together with their ladies, would arrive in their Bentleys, Hispano-Suizas, Bugattis or other expensive car just to be 'seen'.  I have been unable to ascertain whether or not trophies were awarded at these event, but can you possibly imagine a Delage or Mercedes SSK together with its rich owner and expensively dressed partner arriving at Monte Carlo with the symbol of their wealth on a trailer to be unloaded outside the Casino or Hotel de Paris for all to see?  Of course, all the above would not apply to the Solex as anyone attempting to produce one to concours standard would be considered crazy as the cost of re-chroming the wheel rims, handlebars, etc, alone would probably outweigh the initial purchase price of the machine.  Having said all that, there is no excuse for exhibiting a scruffy and dirty vehicle unless it is intended to be shown 'as found'.  Personally I have no strong objections to the concours d'élégance as we know it provided that the competing vehicles are complete internally and externally, are in running order and are roadworthy.

Dave Beare recently sent me details of a sale comprising 120 Solex of various models plus spares.  They were to be sold as one lot. The asking price was 300,000 Francs or, if you prefer it, £30,000 at the current exchange rate!  For that amount of money, you could visit Monte Carlo in your own 911 Porsche.  Notice of the same sale has appeared in the current news-sheet of Les Mordus du Solex; I shall look out for any further news on the sale.

Two recent and interesting sightings.  The first was a 330 Solex seen near the quay at St Malo.  Unrestored but complete and obviously a runner there cannot be many in use today.  It would have taken a brave rider to attempt to negotiate the Easter Monday traffic in the old town of St Malo without the aid of a clutch.

The second was at the Underground German Hospital on Jersey.  One of the items on display was an example of the lightweight DKW as used in WW2 by the German army.  In its original state and as far as could be determined it was a most interesting exhibit.  After the war, a team or engineers from the British motor cycle industry travelled to Germany to discover what could be of use to them.  This delegation included Joe Craig who was anxious to discover the secrets of the works BMW Kompressor racers.  Unfortunately, these had disappeared, which means that they had been hidden away during the conflict, only to appear again later.  However, the team returned with details of the lightweight DKW motor which led to the design and production of the BSA Bantam on which countless people had their first experience or motor cycling and many more were provided with reliable and affordable transport in the years following the war.

Summer is now with us.  Time for riding and enjoying your new restoration or even bringing out your previous one again.  May the Gods smile on you and keep you free from all the problems, minor or otherwise, which go hand in hand with running old machinery.

A la prochaine


August 2001

Chers Amis,

A warm summer's evening, a 1700 or other Solex, half a litre of fuel and 6 Francs: what more could you require to spend a pleasant evening?  Wheel out the Solex and after two or three steps in my drive the engine bursts into life.  Three hundred metres and I have left the small hamlet where we have been fortunate to live for the past three years and I am in open country.  The speed, or lack of it, of the Solex gives one ample time to enjoy the surrounding countryside: the wild flowers in the hedgerows, the trees in leaf and all the other sights and sounds which make up the rural scene.  The fact that you are riding a Solex rarely seen in this area almost entitles you to acknowledgements from pedestrians and other road users particularly from those who would probably have owned a similar machine themselves in times past.  After a short run of about 15Km, I arrive at the small harbour about a kilometre or so from my home.  Enter Le Bar on the quayside order your café noir or glass of wine, sit outside in the evening sunshine and watch the fishing boats bobbing on the tide.  Usually someone stops to examine the Solex, particularly if the one chosen for that evening's excursion is an early model.  The downside of this circular tour is that I have to negotiate a long and very steep climb to return home.  So steep is it that it is way beyond a Solex, even one that has recently been decarbonised and given a new set of piston rings.  The Solex then takes on the rôle of an exercise bike and, after much LPA, I finally arrive back at my starting point rather breathless.  Nevertheless, the whole exercise was well worthwhile.  True, years ago I would have got the adrenaline flowing and completed the circuit in a fraction of the time on a much larger motor cycle but what pleasures I would have missed.

Tool boxes for the col de cygne models with the bent wire carrier seem to be unobtainable, at least to me, in spite of diligent searching.  However, a child's metal pencil box seen in a stationers is almost exactly the right size and shape and, when painted black, fills the bill admirably.

It is said that practice makes perfect.  In my case it would be more correct to say that practice results in an improvement.  After much trial and error and a number of disappointments, I have managed to make a reasonable job of the gold lining on the Solex cycle parts.  A small tin of Humbrol gold enamel as sold to model makers is easy to apply and gives the right effect.

Recently a small ad appeared in the local newspaper offering for sale ten Solex.  A telephone call to the vendor assured me that they were all complete and in running order.  On visiting his address, I found that this was certainly not the case.  The models varied from early examples up to the 6000.  All were rusty in varying degrees, some were certainly not complete and obviously none of them had run for a number of years.  They were all crammed into a small van and it was impossible to examine them in detail.  Nevertheless, I would have liked to buy one or two for restoration but the vendor would only sell them as a complete lot and at an inflated price.  He said that he had acquired them a number of years ago with a view to hiring them to holidaymakers but he obviously had little knowledge of the marque.

A recent visit to Paris showed one or two interesting items.  The first, the Trottilex, an oversize child's scooter with a Solex motor driving the front wheel in the normal Solex manner.  The second was a similar machine, in this case rear wheel driven via a toothed belt and using a more modern small two-stroke engine.  The latter obviously delivered more power than the Solex example and to see it negotiating the Paris traffic on the Boulevard St Michel at, I estimate, a speed approaching 25mph, was quite exiting.  There is nothing new under the sun of course as in 1919 a broadly similar device called the Autoglider Model A was produced and sold.  Powered by a 269cc Villiers engine mounted above the front wheel, which was driven by chain through a single plate clutch, it was in production for several years.  Indeed, as a publicity stunt a journey from Birmingham to London was made by two of these scooters at an average speed of 20mph.  Just imagine standing up on one of these machines for six hours!

For car lovers there was a treat in store at the Musée d'Orsay: a Brescia Bugatti on temporary exhibition.  I had seen photographs of such a car, in one of which Raymond Mays of ERA and BRM fame commenced his racing career, but had never been fortunate enough to see the real thing.  Seeing its narrow tyres and hard suspension one can only admire the brave men who endured long races on poor roads whilst driving these machines.

Visiting 'Klocycles' to buy some small items, I had the chance to examine a Roland Garros Solex and thought the green metallic finish quite attractive.  On the pavement outside the shop there were several used examples for sale including two complete but rather sad looking 5000s as well as some well used 3800s.  Not being interested, I didn't enquire as to the prices asked.

The Solex was much more in evidence in Toulouse.  Apart from the ones for sale at Gim's Motos, there were numerous examples to be seen around the town.  All were in 'well used' condition but they were fulfilling the purpose for which they were designed, that is providing cheap and, hopefully, reliable transport.  If you happen to visit Toulouse it would be worthwhile to visit Gim's Motos situated opposite the Cornmarket and not far from the railway station.  A sign in his shop window states that he is an agent for VéloSoleX and although he has a typically untidy workshop, he might just have the parts for which you have been looking.  Also seen in Toulouse was a Simson Schwalbe scooter probably from the early 1950s.  It was in a rather rough state but evidently in running order.  Not having seen one before I am not familiar with the marque although the model name suggests that it was of German origin.

The Tour de Bretagne stopped in Lannion on a lovely sunny Whit Monday morning.  Lots of interesting vehicles on two, three or four wheels.  With many of the occupants of these vehicles 'in costume' it turned out to be a real concours d'élégance. Which vehicles would I have liked to take home with me had I the choice?  The choice for a car would have been, without doubt, the open two-seater 1928 Amilcar with its white leather upholstery and painted in the blue colour which in pre-advertising days was the French national colour for its racing cars.  A similar Salmson would have run it close however.  A nicely, but not over restored, 750cc Vee-twin side valve René Gillet combination with an unusual form of rear suspension would have been my motor cycle choice but that also would have been a difficult decision to make as a lovely Rumi Formichino with its 125cc two-stroke twin engine would make an excellent machine for everyday use as it would have enough in the way of performance to leave most other scooters behind.  British machines were also present represented by AJS, BSA, Royal Enfield, Norton and Triumph whilst Austin-Healey, MG, Jaguar and Triumph cars were also in evidence.  My 1950 Solex received its share of attention mostly from fathers explaining to their offspring how the engine transmitted its power to the front wheel.  It also received a generous round of applause as it puttered away from the exhibition area.  Fortunately it is a first time starter as there is nothing more embarrassing than a machine which is reluctant to start when crowd of onlookers is watching.

Two Solex recently returned to their country of origin albeit briefly.  Frank and Dorothy Farrington brought their immaculate 3800s with them on holiday to Brittany and used them extensively.  Four of us spent a most pleasant few hours together including an excellent lunch in a restaurant on the sea front at Locquirec.

By now, the riding season will be well under way.  To adapt a phrase from gardening expert Alan Titchmarsh "Whatever the weather enjoy your cyclemotoring".

A la prochaine


October 2001

Chers Amis,

My riding activities have been sadly curtailed during the past two months or so due to cartilage trouble in the left knee.  Fortunately, unlike the UK, you do not have to wait months before a corrective operation can be carried out.  In my case, the operation was carried out on the day following my visit to the consultant!  However, it has meant that I have not been able to take advantage of the spell of glorious weather that we have had recently in Brittany.

Apparently, the Hispano-Suiza company assembled col de cygne models under licence from 1948 until 1957.  These differed from the French produced versions in having Westwood wheel rims, an optional third brake in the form of a coaster hub and an optional extra lighting system.  A rather attractive VK speedometer incorporating a mileage recorder was also available as an extra.  There is now an excellent web site at http://home.wish.net/~solex/suiza-e.htm dealing with these models.  It includes some first class photographs which would be invaluable to anyone who is restoring a col de cygne model and wishes it to be as near to factory specification as possible.  These photographs are in colour and can be enlarged to give details of the red and white lining that is common to early Solex models.  Much other useful information can be obtained from the site.  The engine numbers of these models are HS0 - HS14750, the higher figure being an estimate.

The interesting part of this information was that when I obtained my first Solex, a 1950 model which is still my favourite, it was fitted with Westwood rims and a coaster brake, there being no provision for a calliper brake at the rear.  As the coaster hub was damaged beyond repair and a replacement unavailable, a calliper type brake from another early Solex was grafted on.  The general opinion amongst those in the know was that only the very early models of the Solex had Westwood rims and that mine must have been fitted with wheels from a bicycle at some later date.  I always had my doubts about this and it seems that I may have been correct.  Unfortunately no engine number is visible as a check but this could be due to a replacement crankcase being fitted at some time or other.  This would seem to be a barrier in determining the origin of my model.  So, if your Solex is fitted with Westwood rims don't immediately discard them as it is possible that it is a Swiss built model or even one of those built under licence in the UK from 1949 until 1957.  For reference, photographs of these appear in "The Motor Cycling Year Book 1952" or "The A-Z of British Motorcycles" by Roy Bacon.  Another advantage for those Solex fitted with 26"×l½" Westwood rims is that suitable tyres, 650×35B Demi-Ballons, are readily available at most cycle shops.  They may not be as long lasting as the correct Michelin tyres as manufactured for the Solex but at least they are sold at a very reasonable price and will keep you mobile.  Unfortunately, these tyres have side-walls of an unattractive orange colour although it may be possible to find some all black examples. 

I have recently obtained a 3800 in a rather poor state.  This one has stainless steel mudguards which confirms it as a deluxe model.  Although it had been over painted rather badly with black paint, traces of its original blue paint, an option for a deluxe model, were visible.  I have commenced restoring it but have chosen the optional red colour and the paint-work has now been completed.  Unfortunately, the chrome on the handlebars and the wheel rims was in such a poor state that it will be necessary to find replacements to do justice to the restoration.  I would also like to obtain some of the extras that were available at the time of manufacture such as the protection for the rear light and the stainless steel trims for the chain stays.  Accessories in good condition are becoming increasingly difficult to find.  I would particularly like to find a genuine porte-bidon or more than one if possible.  Although I have made several passable imitations from aluminium strip, I am not entirely satisfied with the results.

On the same subject, at a recent vide grenier a 3800 was offered for sale.  It was in an appalling state with a seized motor, covered with rust and was really only fit for scrap.  When I asked the vendor the price he implied that it was a bargain at 750 Fr and was quite surprised when I said that it was almost worthless and totally beyond economic repair.

A possible new supplier of Solex parts both new and used: LE GALET, 33 cours de la Libération, 38100 Grenoble.  Tél:- 04 76 49 10 01

Yet another new Solex club has appeared.  It is based at Surgères, which is midway between Nantes and Bordeaux.  Surgères is twinned with Wiperfurth in Germany and it is hoped to organise a rally between the two towns some time in the future.  The address is: Solex'in Surgères, 7 ter route de St Xandre, La Sauzaie, 17138 ST XANDRE

Les Mordus du SoleX spares scheme offers a number of SoleX items for sale including gasket sets, piston rings and documentation.  Should any member wish to take advantage of these offers I can supply a list of what is available together with an order form on receipt of an International Reply Coupon or a copy can be obtained from the club library.

A day trip to the Isle de Batz, which is a short boat trip from Roscoff, was most interesting.  Due to its size and the virtually ignored 20kph speed limit, there were almost no cars but many scooters and mopeds.  Two 5000s in rather shabby condition were seen in a repair shop both fitted with large wooden boxes on the carrier.  It would seem that the law enforcement agencies do not apply the rules too strictly as hardly any of the riders seen on this small island wore helmets.

The Solex Team 85 ran a rally in the Sud Vendée on the 29th April.  Fifty-five riders took part in this rally including two participants each riding a Solex Flash.  Apparently, everyone finished without any problems, which must be a record of some sort.

A weekend spent in Orleans did not result in a single Solex being seen.  Lots of scooters and a number of motor cycles including a very nicely restored side valve Motobécane.  Unfortunately, I had only a few moments to study this desirable machine before it took off from the traffic lights.  There is something very appealing about a softly tuned side valve single such as a BSA M20 if you are not always in a hurry.

Whilst driving through Lannion the other day we saw, coming in the opposite direction, about fifteen or twenty cyclosports possibly a club out on a run.  Although they were gone too rapidly for me to recognise any particular makes they all appeared to be restored to a high standard.

A Lambretta LD125 which had been restored but not to a very high standard was recently seen for sale at 8000 Fr.  Seemed to me to be rather a high price to pay for what is not a very rare model but maybe that is the going rate.  I've always had a very soft spot for Lambrettas having owned several in the past and found them very economical and reliable.  In fact on my bookshelf I still have all the literature including parts lists, workshop manuals and various instruction books relating to all Lambrettas.  Maybe one day!  Who knows?

In one of Philippa's excellent articles in "Buzzing", she mentioned the KTT Velocette, the Mk.VIII of which was arguably the most attractive British racing single ever built.  I've seen a number of them in my time at various meetings and museums but have never had the opportunity to sample one.  However, probably in 1947 or thereabouts, a school friend of mine used to extract his dad's early thirties KTS from the garden shed during lunch hours for us to ride around the local recreation field.  Petrol was in very short supply at time so we would add a pint of methylated spirit, which was available from the chemists, to the contents of the tank.  Totally illegal of course and a possible source of detonation but what a lovely introduction to motor cycling.

The long dark nights will soon be with us again.  Time to put the bikes away for the winter and turn to the workshop instead.  I haven't any projects in mind at present but if a Honda SS50 should appear at a reasonable price I'd be more than interested as this was the first bike that I bought for my sixteen year youngest son over twenty years ago.  In spite of scanning the 'ads' in the French press I haven't been able to find one.  Maybe they were not imported into France.

A la prochaine


December 2001

Chers Amis,

As a result of communications received from the lawyers representing Magneti Marelli, France who are the sole owners of the trademarks VELOSOLEX and SOLEX the club Les Mordus du SoleX has had to change its name to Les Mordus du Galet.  It seems from this that the words SOLEX or VELOSOLEX may not be used as a title for articles nor used on visiting cards, headed notepaper, etc, as well as items of merchandise, T-shirts and the like without the express permission of Magneti Marelli.  So, I shall have to delete the heading on my notepaper and perhaps change the title of our little column in Buzzing.  Maybe if a line under the title saying that Magneti Marelli is the sole holder of the trademark VéloSoleX would suffice but it would take expert legal advice to ensure this.

How do you plan your maintenance?  Do you follow the American idea "If it ain't broke don't fix it?" or are you one of those who carries out a complete rebuild of all mechanical parts each winter 'just in case'?  After all, we wouldn't be human if we didn't feel a trifle embarrassed after coming to an unscheduled halt on a club run and having to suffer the indignity of calling on the support wagon.  For my part I must admit to gaining much pleasure in tinkering with engines and probably do more work on my own bikes than is strictly necessary.

Whilst on the subject of maintenance, I've obtained a copy of a simple schedule of maintenance for the Solex and have sent a copy to the Librarian.  It is written in French but anyone with schoolboy/girl French will be able to with understand it.  Maintenance really involves very little particularly with regard to the cycle parts which are as for a normal bicycle.

As all Solexistes know, the ignition timing is set by the timing marks on the flywheel.  I have often thought that more precise timing might be carried out using a timing disc but have not been able to obtain the necessary figures.  Does anyone have the number of degrees before top dead centre when ignition takes place?

Still on the same subject a useful table appears in the current issue of Le VéloSoleX Illustré.  This gives details of the number of teeth on the various chain wheels, rear sprockets and the dimensions of the rollers on all Solex models.  A copy of this has also been sent to the Librarian.

Seen outside a supermarket at Morlaix recently, a Poirier invalid tricycle which, although obviously in working order, was in need of TLC.  A single front wheel steered by a swept back handlebar and two rear wheels, the left hand one having a large sprocket was driven by chain from a fan cooled engine of, I imagine, about 100cc.  The right hand rear wheel was not driven, being free to rotate, there being no differential.  A cylindrical fuel tank situated behind the driver fed the engine by gravity.  This one had an incorrect front wheel as the normal spoked wheel had been replaced by one made of plastic, probably from a later moped.  Never having seen one of these vehicles before I was surprised to see a photograph in a recent copy of La Vie de la Moto of a similar one offered for sale at 2,000 Francs.

The month of August is the month of vide greniers.  I visited a number of these, being always on the lookout for something interesting - but to no effect.  Perusing the small ads in the local paper has also yielded nothing and neither has the council tip.  I did, however, buy for 50 Francs an exercise bike.  I don't like such things as I can't see the point of turning pedals and not going anywhere.  Evidently the original purchaser didn't like it either as the Huret speedometer only showed 15kms and the white pedal rubbers were unmarked.  You can guess why I bought it.  It was for the two aforementioned items, which are becoming increasingly difficult to find.  The remainder will end on the tip.

A 3800 Luxe nicely restored, although the shade of blue paint used was incorrect, was seen in a dealer's window priced at 2,500 Francs.  This seemed rather on the high side to me although the dealer assured me that it was mechanically sound and he was prepared to give a six-month guarantee to the buyer.  Perhaps the price asked does not seem too high when compared with those asked for a similar model in England but, when seeing a Peugeot 103 complete with electric start and in running order in a charity shop recently for only 1,200 Francs, the Solex seemed quite expensive.  It is rather a change to see a Solex in a colour other than black.  My own Luxe is nearing completion as I have managed to find a handlebar with decent chrome but am still searching for some other accessories.

A somewhat belated report on a rally centred on Beauvais appeared in an issue of La Vie de la Moto.  Ninety Solex took part in this rally which comprised a run of some seventy kilometres and included several entrants who had arrived having made the journey from Holland.  These gave French Solexistes the opportunity to observe the detail differences between those Solex produced in Holland and the French equivalents.  The rally included examples of the Pli-Solex as well as the Micron, the Flash and several luxe 3800s mostly painted in red.  I was once offered a nice example of the Flash for 900 Francs, which had an ignition problem but, having heard tales of its mechanical shortcomings and not particularly liking its appearance, I declined the offer.  The little autojumble included amongst other things some new tyres with white walls for the 5000 and Pli-Solex, which are apparently hard to find.

The same issue mentioned an autojumble that took place at St Nazaire.  I had intended to visit that event but, unfortunately as it turned out, I had to change my mind.  If I had made the journey I could have come away with the Honda SS50 for which I have been looking without success.

Does the idea of an excursion to the Pyrénées Orientales by Solex appeal to you?  It did to David Dumont, his wife Catherine and daughter Ludmilla.  Three Solex, two of which were equipped with the most enormous panniers which appeared to be home made in plywood and the third pulling a trailer comprised the equipment for the journey which was not without its problems including a broken wheel on one of the Solex.  1,200km were covered in what was expected to take 7 to 8 days but, because of the aforementioned incidents, took 11.  David, who presumably was riding the Solex that pulled the trailer, was described as "athletic"-which he really must have been.  As an ardent racing cyclist in my younger days, I never cease to be amazed as to how the Tour de France riders manage to achieve such high average speeds in such difficult terrain.  On a Solex it doesn't bear thinking about.

Come forward all of you who own a 330 Solex and visit the web site devoted to this model (see Michel Martin's letter in June's Buzzing).  This site is a mine of information and would be invaluable to anyone restoring a 330.  You can also get a print of the service notes for this model from the site.  It is in French but can easily be deciphered.  Michel is interested in compiling a register of 330 owners (mine is already included) and would be pleased to hear from anyone in the UK who has an example of this model.  Send him an email on solex@solex-330.com giving motor number and year of manufacture.

Solex sites seem to be on the increase.  The site of the Club Solex de Belgique can be found on: http://www.solex.be/  Worth a visit?  I think so.  At my last count there seemed to be at least fifty sites relating to the Solex.

Three dates for 2002:

And so another year draws to a close.  I hope that you have all derived much pleasure from your cyclemotoring during 2001 and view the coming year with anticipation of further pleasures.  It only remains for me to wish you all...

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année


Archive index | Go to next Amis newsletter, Feb 2002 |