Royal Enfield Wiltshire Owners Club

28 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Royal Enfield Wiltshire Owners Club

Dan Rickwood’s 1959 Super Meteor

Back to biking

For those of you who ploughed through my wordy article on the Rickman Interceptor restoration, you may have got the impression that I tend to be an impulse buyer sort of person, particularly inclined to buy bikes sight unseen, except for a few photos.

Spot on, to date, this is the way I have bought three out of the six bikes I have owned since I got back into biking in 1977.

This happened really by accident, as up till then, I hadn’t been on a bike since 1962, when I couldn’t wait to get out of the cold and rain and into a car.

I remember occasions when I rode all the year round, and a few times when I had to stop, and defrost my fingers on the down pipes.

The desire to get a bike came back unexpectedly, when I bought my 16 year old son a Suzuki TS50 trail bike, a large bike with a miniscule high revving 2T engine.

The bike needed a few tweaks to get it running properly, with the problems mostly down to the automatic pump set up which ensured the correct petrol / oil mixture, and lack of brakes.

However, when it was sorted, he casually asked me if I could ride it to the nearest CBT test centre, some ten miles away.

He obviously thought it would be like ‘riding a bike’, something you never forget, even though there had been a thirty year plus gap since I last had a tank between my knees.

Anyway, away I went, a bit wobbly at first, down the road, trying to re-programme the mindset from brakes on the left, to brakes on the right, gears on the left, and one down, four up, instead of one up, three down.

I enjoyed the ride so much, I resolved to get another bike of my own. My interest in bikes goes back a long way, starting when I was fourteen, and worked all of one school holiday, to buy an Old James Comet, 98 cc with only two, hand operated gears.

When I was sixteen, the bikes I really lusted after were the Bonnevilles, BSA Rocket Gold Star, and Constellations.

A quick look through a bike magazine produced a short list of hopefuls, which was narrowed down to a 1975 Harley 1000 cc Ironhead Sportster, not on the ’most wanted’ list, but it was within my budget.

On viewing the bike, I was not put off by the lack of a front brake, extended front fork tubes, minimal seat pad, straight through pipes, erratic running, dodgy electrics, etc.

It had potential, and there was nothing there that I thought I couldn’t fix.

This turned out to be correct, and a few months later, it was MOT’d and ‘rideable’, as in the photo of the black model.

‘Rideable’ was a matter of personal opinion, as the extended forks were OK if you wanted to go in a straight line, and didn’t want to stop in a hurry, despite my best efforts on the rebuild of the brakes, and were a fully paid up ‘Denplan’ member, as the vibration was truly enough to loosen tooth fillings, and made everthing in the rear view mirrors very fuzzy!

One day, out on the bike, I hit a patch of gravel on a bend, and over I went. It was then that I found out that the tank filler cap seal wasn’t too good, and petrol was running out of the tank, over my leg still under the bike, and was steaming as it hit the hot down pipes.

Even with a few hundredweights of bike on my leg, this galvanised me into action, just like Popeye after eating the spinach, and I was out from under in a hurry!

The only real damage, apart from a few bruises, was to my pride, plus some nasty scores in the chrome of my new slash-cut silencers.

Despite this, I wasn’t put off bikes, as shortly afterwards, I found another Harley for sale.

This time it was an abandoned ‘project’, another 1975 Harley engine, in a big Honda trail bike frame, with rear mono-shock.

After a few trips to autojumbles, the bike emerged as the silver model in the photo, which had all the visual charm of an aggressive camel, and a similar silhouette.

The oil cooler was from an old car type automatic transmission, and the spin-on oil filter put the oil capacity up even more.

The eventual line-up was :- frame Honda, brakes Suzuki, tank engine Harley, wheels Kawasaki, forks unknown, no wonder it had a ‘Q’ plate!

Unfortunately, the bike didn’t perform much better than the standard Harley, in fact, rather like the camel it resembled, and with the additional bonus of even worse brakes.

The heavy engine, mounted in a high up trail bike frame probably didn’t help the handling either.

About this time, my garage was about to be demolished and rebuilt, and I thought I would be pushing my luck to expect my wife Rae to have to live with three bikes in the kitchen, albeit, temporarily.

So the Harleys had to go. I advertised them for sale as a pair, and had loads of enquiries, the most promising was from a chap 150 miles away, who assured me that judging from the photos, he wanted to buy both. Obviously, a man after my own heart!

Come the weekend, he turned up as promised with two of his friends, from one of the Hells Angels chapters, all very nice blokes, even though they did tell me the story behind the hire van they brought with them.

Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Trial Trail
Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Trial Trail

Apparently, they had booked a Transit type van, with fixing points for securing straps, but when they turned up to collect it, it was a standard van.

After they suggested that it might help if they threw the rental companies computer through the office window, they suddenly found that there was a panel van with tail lift available at the same cost!

It certainly woke the neighbours up, as they had quite a few trial rides around the quiet close where I live.

That was the last I saw of the Harleys, but I did learn a lot about bike restoration, and fabricating special parts, especially for the ‘mongrel camel’.

After the garage was rebuilt, and the Bullet removed for the kitchen, the new large garage seemed to have plenty of space for another bike (or more?).

Cue the arrival of the Rickman Interceptor for the US, and the later arrival of a 1959 Super Meteor 700 cc, the latter seen in a ad, and ‘just up the road’ in Edinburgh.

Too far to go to look at it first, but from the e-mailed photos and description, did not seem to require much work to make it a runner.

Someone had previously done a lot of work on the bike, fitting a Super Meteor engine, with some Interceptor components in place of the original 500 cc Meteor item, a twin disc Suzuki front end, triumph Dolomite car type distributor, with two of the lobes removed, and a Suzuki clutch.

All I had to do was a complete re-wire, fit a replacement carburettor and Constellation tank, new battery and rectifier / regulator, replace the slipping clutch, adding two more plates, and overhaul the front hydraulic brakes.

The brakes were a particular problem, as even after multiple bleedings, they were still very spongy.

This turned out to be due to the actual hydraulic brake lines expanding under pressure, and new stainless braided pipes fixed the problem.

The completed bike, in contrast to the Harleys, was a really nice ride, plus it had the advantage of having the brakes and gears on the ‘right’ sides, which I had trouble adapting to on the Harleys.

The gearbox, compared to my modern Bullet, had only one neutral position. It did tend to stop rather better than it went, attributable to the twin discs front end, plus I believe it may have been fitted with sidecar gearing?

The bike was vet reliable, only letting me down once, when a small spring in the gear selector mechanism snapped, leaving me with a choice of neutral or first gear only, some fifteen miles from home.

I ended up pushing the bike the last five miles, until then, I hadn’t realised that the way home was all uphill!

About this time, the boxes and trays of parts in the garage, that one day would become a Rickman Interceptor again, were making me feel that I ought to get it together at last, as they had been collecting dust for some considerable time.

The time had come for the Super Meteor to go, to finance the Rickman rebuild, but that’s another story.

Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Trial Trail
Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Trial Trail


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