Monthly Archives: September 2021

They’re back!

Today is Tuesday 14th September, I got back from walking the dogs this morning to find a note poked in the back door.

It was from ParcelForce telling me they’d tried to deliver a package while I was out and that I could pick it up from the local post office “after 1.00 pm”.

I went and picked it up and sure enough it was the LE cylinder barrels back, they’d been received at 3.01pm on Thursday according to the ParcelForce tracker and here they were back on the Tuesday morning, now that’s service!. It also shows how having the correct tooling to do a job can make it quick and easy.

Unfortunately I’ve not yet heard back from the LE Velo Club about my membership and until I have a member number I cannot use their Spares Scheme, I’ve a shopping list here ready to go as soon as I have that number!, mainly gaskets but I need those to re-assemble the engine.

In the meantime I’ve been having a look at making a fixing strap for the battery. The pukka strap is a piece of bent steel strip. I’d measured up and got as far as making the proverbial cardboard template when I had second thoughts, “Why not pinch the idea from BMW and secure the battery in place with a rubber strap?”.

I can remember that on my old R50 BMW there was a rubber strap over the top of the battery to secure it and I’d never had any problems with it so let’s have a look and see what’s needed.

I’ll need two frame anchor points, well there are the two points where the maker’s strap was fixed so it just means making up a pair of anchor hooks for the strap, not difficult, so what about the strap?.

The strap can be made from bands cut from an old inner tube, if I put them through a length of electrical braided sheathing that will give a more “professional” look to the job and anyway since it is under the saddle, while it can be seen it’s not out on open display as it were.

Details? A double hook is needed on the bike, one on either side of the battery. The ends of the rubber strap are looped over a short length of 4mm rod so the hooks go over the rod, on either side of the strap. I’ll need to glue the strap to get the correct length but I can either use “Super glue” or the glue from a puncture outfit for that.

When I took the barrels off I found that it would have been easier if I had had some “LE specific” tools, a 10mm plug spanner, a 2 BA box spanner and a 2 BA open ender, and a “special” for the cylinder base nuts.

While the special will have to come from the LE club I’ve been “on web” and sourced the others, while I don’t have any 2 BA spanners a 1/8 Whitworth is very near on size, close enough if the nuts are not too tight.

I’ve also found in my stash a 1/4” drive socket that will fit the base nuts and if I trim the length a bit and use a wobble bar it will do the job of the special base nut spanner nicely.

I’ll also need some ¼” BSF taps and a die to clean the cylinder head studs and nuts, better get some 2 BA as well so a call to Tracy Tools is on the cards as well.


I sent the two barrels off to have the water stubs replaced middle of last week, Parcelforce tracker says they were delivered Thursday afternoon, so it’s now a case of waiting for them to come back.

I’ve sent off for membership of the LE Velo Club so I’ve now to await their acknowledgement to be able to order up some spares.

Among the gen I got with the bike however was a spare parts book so I’ve been sorting out what I need, but I have to wait for their official order form before I can send the order in.

The little beasty is currently sitting in the garage minus her cylinders and there’s not a lot I can really do until I get them back.

One thing to sort out is the battery though. The LE has a 6-volt system. Originally the battery would have been the old rubber-cased type but these are not readily available now. The usual trick is to use a smaller modern AGM battery inside the case of one of the old type batteries and I’m in luck here in that I have such a case “on the shelf”, a bit battered but useable, and the battery the bike came with WILL fit into it.

I’ll just need to make up a top strap to secure the battery in place under the saddle so there is a job that needs doing.

The battery that came with the bike may be a problem however as it was stone flat when I got it. I have charged it up however and it’s been standing a couple of days now to see if it holds it’s charge, running a battery right down is an acknowledged way to knacker it after all.

Problems With Watercooling (2)

Next thing is “Just take the barrels off”. Sounds so easy – BUT first you need to drain down the cooling system, on both sides!, next remove the water hoses to get some room to work, labelling everything so it can go back in the same place.

Next is to remove the carburetter, relatively simple job but space is limited, followed by removing the inlet manifold, 4 small nuts, each placed close to the manifold tube and easy to drop!.

Now it’s just remove the exhausts, but these are not only held onto the barrels by 2 small bolts each but the pipes have to be persuaded to come out of the silencer box as well.

All this went to plan, no problems.

So start with the easy one and take off the left cylinder head.

The heads are each held on with 6 studs, ¼ inch BSF, nothing fancy so ease them of a little at a time till they spin off free. Book now says to take hold of the head and slide it off the studs but the head has not read the book!.

The head will not budge, first thing is to try jarring it off with a rubber hammer, no joy so try with the hide/copper mallet, still no movement.

Before getting violent I decided to remove the head and barrel as a unit so it’s undo the 5 barrel hold down nuts and slide the barrel off the piston, remembering to catch the piston as it drops from the barrel!.

Now I have the barrel and head in my hands I can get a bit more “creative”. Using the shaft of the hammer down the barrel I try to knock the head loose with no apparent effect till a closer look shows that the head has moved a little down the studs and that whoever rebuilt the engine last time had used a gasket cement on the head gasket. Not only had this stuck the head to the barrel but it had squeezed into the stud bores and glued these as well, I’m afraid the air went a little blue at this discovery and the previous mechanics ears must have been burning!.

Once I finally had them apart I had to clean the head joint faces of the remains of the glued on gasket. As the cylinder head is aluminium alloy I had to be careful not to damage it while scraping off the old gasket, I wound up taking the blade out of a Stanley knife and using that almost as a plane to peel the gasket off the alloy, certain blessings were pronounced while doing this but eventually the joint face was clean.

The barrel was easier to clean because it’s made from cast iron and so is less liable to damage when cleaning it. To make the job easier I removed the cylinder head studs, or anyway the 5 of them I could get to come out. (On both barrels the stud nearest the exhaust port would not come out.)

This was the barrel with the bad water pipe and I could now get a good look at it, it was a testament as to how corrosive water is and it showed just how little overlap between a stub pipe and the water hose is needed for a watertight joint, there was only about 1/16 inch of it left on one side!

I decided to call it a day and finish the job later, Mañana after all.

Here’s a look at the barrels to show you the water inlet and outlet stubs.
And this shows the inlets in close-up , these stubs should stand 3/4 inch proud of the barrel

Next job is a repeat performance on the right hand side, only difference is that the oil filter has to be taken off the head first.

Once I’ve got this head and barrel cleaned up then I just have to parcel the barrels up and post them off for repair.

While I’m awaiting their return I can clean up the joint faces on the crankcases ready for the repaired barrels and order up the new gaskets etc that I’ll need for the job.

Problems With Watercooling (1)!

A problem I was aware of when I took on the LE was that there was a water leak.

When I investigated further I found that the problem was not simply a badly made connection but that of a corrosion damaged water inlet pipe on one of the barrels, after all the bike is around 60 years old now.

There are four of these stubs, an inlet and an outlet on each barrel.

Fortunately these are not cast as part of the barrel but are simply a short length of tube, made as a press fit into the main barrel casting.

Having found one bad stub I checked the other three and found that “If doing one better do them all”.

While it is quite possible for you to replace these yourself there is an LEVelo club member who offers this as a service at a very reasonable price, in fact when I ‘phoned him for more information he quoted me a price for doing both that I thought was for fixing just one barrel!

This means its not worth going to the trouble of making the tooling necessary for the job and turning up the new stubs.

It does mean however that I’ll have the bike standing in the garage with the engine open for a while, not the best of ideas. The easy way round this is to make up a pair of blanking plates to cover the crankcase mouths and keep any muck out. Not only that but they can support the pistons in place while the barrels are being refitted rather than me having to support the piston with one hand, the barrel with the other and using a third hand to compress the piston rings into place in the barrel as I slide it into place.

To get the material for these plates I went down to Maxwells DIY in Birtley, had a rake in their offcuts box and came away with a nice piece of 4mm plywood.

Once I got back home I dug into the bits and pieces that had come with the bike and found a cylinder base gasket.

This was laid onto the plywood, drawn round and the holes marked out. I then set to and sawed the required two plates out of the plywood.

The hold down bolts for the cylinders are ¼ inch diameter so I drilled the holes in the plates out to 8mm, near enough 5/16 inch.

I then marked the centre of the bore and drilled a 12mm hole there and opened that up to the top edge so that I had a slot running from the top edge to the bore centre, this was to take the connecting rod, idea being that with both plates in position, by turning the engine I could bring both pistons down to lock the plates in position against the crankcase and seal the cases shut while the barrels were away being fixed.

That was the easy bit done, next comes the grovelling to the machine gods.