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My Involvement with Cyclemotors

Tony Spillane

The Early Days

Before starting school, I can remember my parents teaching me to ride a two wheeler.  During one memorable occasion, a man nearby got on his bicycle to ride off, when suddenly it made a popping noise, emitted a puff of blue smoke, and went off without further pedalling, as though by magic.  It hindsight I realise it was a Cyclemaster; at the time I was mesmerised!  My Meccano set took on a whole new significance, I now had to start making things mechanical!

University Days

Some fifteen or so years later, I was at university, and everyone got around by push-bike.  I was studying Mechanical Engineering, and somehow came across the Pitman book of Cyclemotors.  Suddenly, I had to have one!  I tracked down a for sale advert for a couple of tea chests of Cyclemaster bits, including three wheels, two motors, and odds and sods.  Once back at home during the holidays, my trusty push-bike got a rude awaking, as a moped!  Eventually I got it started, once I had replaced the wobbly flywheel.

Back at university, I made up a new exhaust system, using some domestic type plumbing and a tailpipe off a Volkswagen beetle as a 'straight-through' exhaust.  Apart from my landlady ordering me not to run the thing within 100 yards of her house, it went well.  One Christmas, I got a speedo for the bike - not a good idea!  On the flat, I could generally get up to around 27 or 28 mph, and down one good long hill I managed to achieve that tantalising ambition, of making the speedo needle go right round to the stop-an indicated 40 mph!  With the straight through exhaust, I felt I was on the Isle of Man TT!  The downside of this machine was stopping it.  Originally, the back-pedalling hub was very powerful, but wore out and snapped.  The bicycle rim brakes were useless in the wet, and a front hub brake I fitted had poor linings that did little to slow the bike down, but then suddenly grabbed just before the halt with such vigour that they almost snapped the front forks!

It was mainly the lack of stopping that made me get the Japanese Cyclemaster, the Honda P50.  Although it was a real struggle getting it onto the roof rack of my Dad's car at the beginning and end of each term, it was serious motoring.  It would go up any hill, pull away vigorously from standstill, and cruise around 25 to 30 mph.  With its four-stroke engine, centrifugal clutch, quiet operation, and yes-brakes that worked-it was a real distance machine.  So much so, in fact, that one mad hot summer's day I used it to see my girlfriend.  She was at Southampton University, which was over seventy miles (each way!) from me at Oxford.  The trip down was fine, except that the vibration (it had a particular speed that excited a strong buzz throughout the machine) made the petrol cap fall off and get lost.  Despite filling up for the return trip, I ran out at some early hour of the morning, and that, combined with the now much lower ambient temperature and no sensible coat (student, remember) meant I was frozen solid by the time I got back.  It took me hours to thaw out before I could get to sleep!

Another Few Decades On

Whilst I had the Cyclemaster at university, I always wanted a Winged Wheel, with its promise of a little more power and those mighty big back brakes.  I'd never even seen one, until a few years ago, I was idling skimming through a local paper when I spotted an advert for a Winged Wheel for sale.  It was fate.  I had to have it.  When I went round, I saw it was in an original BSA frame with front suspension.  It was already mine.  I put some fuel in, but it wouldn't start.  The crankshaft waggled on its (roller) bearings, but I still bought it.  Nothing would stop me.

The guy I bought it off was a retired bicycle shop owner, so all the cycle parts were fine.  However, the motor needed a full rebuild, but with the excellent help of Roger, at Cyclemotor and Autocycle Spares, it was running and MoT'd.

Tony's Winged Wheel

Then the problems started.  Unlike the Cyclemaster, which never let me down, every time I went out on the Winged Wheel, I ended up pushing it home.  Eventually I realised that the carburettor was flooding, and the fuel overflow was directly onto the ignition, cutting out the motor.  I put in a new float & needle assembly, and drilled and fitted a pipe into the overflow, so that it exited well away from the flywheel.  I have recently fitted the luxury of a new Sturmey Archer front hub brake, and, for nostalgia's sake, a Huret snaky-cable driven speedo.  Although I am still running it a little gingerly, in recognition of its fairly recent rebore etc, it does now seem to be going (and I'm now not just touching wood, I've got a vice like grip on it!) quite well.  Put it this way, I've recently done a thirty-mile round trip, and it got me home!  My confidence has been doubly boosted, partly by the last trip, but even more so by now having a mobile phone and a bike rack on the back of my mother's car!  I almost feel a NACC run coming on!

First published, August 2001

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