Loopy starter motor – 13 Feb 2022.

Last summer, I was at the Guzzifest in Devon, and when I started the Fire Bike someone made a comment along the lines of “that starter motor’s not going to last long”. Well I can confirm they were not wrong! The bike has only refused to start once but the motor labours to turn the engine over before it struggles into life. Like this;

My bike was fitted with a Marelli starter for which very few parts (if any) are available. I think I may have found a source for brushes which just might fit. I’ve seen on This Old Tractor website that a modern Valeo starter can be made to fit. The modifications to the bike didn’t look too difficult so I ordered a motor from Gutsibits and set about making it fit. I could have tried a much cheaper Chinese made copy of the Valeo. They’re said to be good but the one I saw had a longer and fatter solenoid so I decided not to take the risk.

The main issue is that the old Marelli starter (and the Bosch starter of similar vintage) has its solenoid mounted below the main starter motor while all the later replacements including the Valeo one have the solenoid on top. On a 4-speed Guzzi this solenoid can clash with the neutral switch fitted to the gearbox and it obstructs the clutch cable which has a stop welded to the battery plate. The engine cases of early models also aren’t drilled for both starter mounting bolts as they use one bolt and one stud. Luckily, my late model V7 700 has the later engine cases which makes life much easier.

The first job was to disconnect the battery then remove this beast.

You can see my starter was held on with two bolts. Early models had a stud for the top mounting. Here are the old and new starters on the bench.

I offered up the new starter and it was clear that the clutch cable would be in the way. I disconnected that and tried again and found that the solenoid on the starter would touch the front one of the two screws which secure the neutral switch to the gearbox. It clears everything else. It’s a bit mucky down there. The clutch cable mount is in the foreground of this photo and the starter is prevented from bolting up by the neutral switch bolt. It looks like the neutral switch and main starter terminals are close. But they’re not “too” close. The camera angle makes it look worse. They’ll also be insulated.

Just to make sure, I took the starter off again, removed the offending screw and put it back on again. It fitted and I could see that I could get away with fitting a button-head allen screw instead of the original hex bolt.

The new starter in place. You can see the problem with the clutch cable mounting.

This Old Tractor and others say the way to get around this is to bend the mounting through 90 degrees so it sits higher up above the solenoid. Although there are pictures of this being done in-situ, I decided I would take the trouble to remove the battery tray to which the fitting is welded. I wasn’t confident of applying the heat needed and making the adjustment without setting the whole lot alight. As I’ve already said, it’s a bit oily down there!

Getting that battery tray out was a pain. Firstly I removed the battery and its clamps. Then the air cleaner has to come off. The locking tool boxes are next and these are secured with some nuts and bolts which are really difficult to hold.

The battery tray is held to the top of the gearbox with four M8 screws and to the frame with two M10 screws. This pair were really hard to budge. One was also the mounting point for the battery negative cable.

Now the battery tray was “fully floating” but it was like some cruel Chinese puzzle as I couldn’t find a way to winkle it out. I’d already taken off the rubber boot from the carbs to the air filter as well as the screw-on carburettor stubs. In the end I had to remove the top of the LH carb and its choke cable fitting which just allowed me to get the tray out. It would have been easier to remove the left hand carb completely. However, I have a problem with that. One of the bike’s fuel taps refuses to turn off and the tank is full. A job for another day I think. Anyway, I’d got the thing off and onto the bench.

I did as suggested, heating and bending the fixing upwards. Quite a lot of paint was burned off.

I jiggled the battery tray back into place and offered up the clutch cable. I could see that this would work but I needed to “twist” the fitting a bit so that it aims down toward the lever on the gearbox. This will make the clutch pull better. So it was all taken off and heated once more and the adjustment made. It ended up like this.

I fished out the battery plate again and spent a couple of days trying to repaint the damaged areas of the tray with red Smoothrite. It was just a mess so I took it in for powder-coating. I could have had it finished in red (alongside a batch of Welsh dragons) but it would have been a bit too bright. I decided on black as it won’t show anyway.

Some powdercoat had got into the threads for the clutch cable mounting. This was cleaned out with a M9x1.25 tap which I had to get specially. I’ll probably never need it again!

I went through the starter wiring and remade a couple of connections for peace of mind and insulated as necessary. New stainless screws and copper grease were used to refit the battery tray. I had to cut down two M10 screws for the rear fitting as they are a strange short length.

It was now time to put back all that other stuff that came off to get the battery tray out. Carburettor stubs and intake boot followed by the air cleaner itself. The tool boxes went back on with only a small amount of cussing and then the battery, its clamps, cables etc. The right hand battery cover was refitted as it had been dangling by the speedo cable. I’ve discovered the cable is jammed in the drive on the gearbox. Another job to do on another day.

Time for a test. Remember what it was like before? The battery hasn’t been charged in the meantime.

I’d say that was a result! It looks tidy too.

New ‘zorsts for the Fire Bike – 29 March 2021.

Until now the fire bike has been wearing its original but battered exhaust system but it had got to the stage where the silencers were well and truly rusted out. It looks like the right hand silencer has been repaired before and then rechromed.

I took the whole system off to have a look at what I’ve got. Some of the clamps just fell apart and heat was needed to separate the silencers from the crossover pipe. The pitting on the header pipes also meant there wasn’t actually a lot of chrome about.

The decision was made to replace the lot. This also meant that whatever I bought should all fit together without any serious issues. I trawled the internet and found that, at a price, I might be able to find an original style set up. However there were import hassles to consider and I knew I could get a visually correct stainless set up from Armour Ltd here in the UK. I held my wallet tight and ordered a complete system with crossover pipe. You can get a system without one. The lot was with me inside a couple of weeks and is very nicely made. I compared each piece of the system to check bends. mounting points and lengths and all seemed fine. I never expect any after-market replacement to be entirely straight-forward. The tubing on these stainless pipes is slightly bigger than the originals but looks better for it.

The silencers are of a different construction. The originals had offset baffles but these are an seem to be an absorption type that you can see right through. The outlet at the tail end is also larger. The originals were a tiny 22mm diameter. These are about 30mm. The system doesn’t use the usual exhaust clamps but has pinch bolts instead. I have heard that some people have cut these off and reverted to clamps but I’ll try them as supplied first.

I had a set of seals for the exhaust ports but found they were too small to fit on the tubes. I offered the pipes up to the exhaust ports in the heads and reassured myself they would fit before filing a bit off the pipes till the exhaust rings would push on.

The next hurdle was fitting the header sleeve nuts onto the new pipes. Being a very slightly larger diameter I predicted they might be hard to fit around the curves and this proved to be the case. I considered grinding out a small amount from the insides of the nuts but noticed the issue was that the pipes were slightly oval at the tightest part of the curve.

The answer was to squeeze the pipes in the soft jaws of my vice a bit at a time until the nuts were past the obstruction. It all sprung back after. I might invest in some nicer stainless versions of these nuts with their lockrings one day.

The complete system was then test fitted to the bike. It all lined up really well although the pipes ran very close to the pivot bolt for the side stand. I looked at the old pipe and could see where this had rubbed.

I decided to shorten the bolt and use a half nut. The bolt can’t jump out even if the nut goes missing as the spring plate fits over the top of it.

In this rather gloomy photo you can see there’s much more clearance now.

I decided that I would go back to the original flip up side stand the bike came with. In my early days with the bike I made a modification so that it would stay down. I struggled to hold the bike with my damaged wrist, lean the bike over and keep my foot on the stand at the same time. I had to get off to use it. I reasoned that I’m more used to my dodgy wrist now and would be alright.

I moved the bike to poke the smelly end out of the garage door and started it up. In the process I realised that I would need to go back to the non flip-up version of the side stand. It felt quite unsafe. The system only had one leak from the right hand cylinder head. slackening off and retightening was enough to fix that. The system sounded good. It’s probably a bit more boomy than the original but not what I would call loud.

I rolled the bike off its stand to bring it inside again and realised the centre stand wasn’t retracting. I balanced the bike on a jack to take a look. The legs of the stand were just touching the pinch bolts for the crossover pipe.

I think I was too over-enthusiastic when knocking the silencers onto that pipe. I left things for a couple of days as my manky wrist was painful after wielding the rubber mallet but returned to slacken the pinch bolts and spread the silencers a little. For good measure, I also spaced the silencers out from their mounts on the frame with a couple of washers each side although I probably could have got away without this.

The stand now retracts almost as far as it did. It’s about 3mm short of the stop on the frame.

The reason is that the old crossover had deep dents to permit the stand to come up further. The Armours one has little more than marks on the pipe. I’m not sure that deepening these would be the answer as the tab on the stand would then hit the underside of the silencer. It had been bashing on the original silencer before. It is also very possible that the stop for the stand is bent which is pretty common. I could extend the stop on the frame to take up the space but I’m inclined to leave the stand as it is coming to rest on the crossover. Any reduction in ground clearance is minimal (say 3 or 4mm) and won’t be causing me any problems. I’m not any sort of riding god.

All that remained was to go for a ride! It was my first outing on two wheels since last November due to the Covid rules in force until a few days ago. After a little over 30 miles I can say that the exhaust is louder than the original but not that much, bearing in mind it was full of holes and leaked at the joints. The bike also seemed to go better. It’s difficult to be objective but I suspect those narrow silencer outlets may have been restrictive and the silencers were full of rust flakes.

As you can see, the exhausts have already started to change to a straw colour.

Speedometer update – 6 June 2020.

How’s that for a surprise! I’m back after all this time! I’ve not had much time to do anything on my Guzzis mainly because I’ve been occupied with the BSA and my friend’s Le Mans which still isn’t done.

Earlier this year I bought a speedometer from a Guzzi 1000G5 or i-convert (I think) as a replacement for the characterful original fitted to The Fire Bike, my V7 700. As you can see, this had become fairly tatty inside as the numbers began to peel off the dial. This could be fixed with an overhaul but it only shows km/h anyway. I added the MH markers. It’s also very inaccurate registering 25% under, showing 40 for a true 30MPH.

Fitting the new unit would need a little bit of work as it doesn’t have the warning lights mounted in it as the original does. I would have to make a new light console and mount these above the new speedo. I knew there would be other challenges as well. This is the sort I bought.

To make a start I disconnected the battery then removed the binacle containing the speedometer along with my home-made switch/light panel. To recap, this houses my lights switch (pilot light only to the left and pilot lights plus headlamp to the right), repeater lamps for high beam and turn indicators, and my sparkbright battery condition light.

There are only four screws holding it to the fork yoke and with the binacle raised a bit you can get behind to disconnect the speedometer drive. I unscrewed the lock ring and flap for the ignition switch, pushed it inside, and then was able to hinge the hole lot upward to make a note of all the wiring connections.

The connections on  the back of the speedometer itself were;

  • White – instrument back light.

Then the four lights in a row.

  • Yellow/black – lights on.
  • Red – dynamo.
  • Green – neutral.
  • Grey (looks white in the photo) – oil.

and beside those

  • White/black – this is a common wire for the dynamo, neutral and oil lights.

I didn’t disturb the wiring to the ignition switch but disconnected everything else so that I could transfer it to the bench. Once there, I stripped the old speedo out of the binacle and set my switch/light panel to one side. I offered up the replacement speedometer and had a think about how to hold it in place. I ended up shortening the fixing clamps which came with the new speedo after trying to work out the depth I would need. It worked.

I forgot to say that I had removed the trip reset cable from the back of the new speedo for now. I needed to think about how best to get it out of the binacle to some form of bracket outside.

In the meantime I designed my new switch/warning light panel. I had bought some LEDs to perform the necessary functions. These are much smaller than the units used before  as now there will be 5 plus the battery condition light. I’m not going to have a “lights on” warning as I think that’s pretty redundant. The battery light can also be reduced in size by removing its bezel and sticking it to the panel. I had decided to fit a switch to isolate it so I can wire it direct to the battery. At the moment there’s quite a voltage drop when it’s fed via the ignition switch.

A card version of the new layout was made first.

Then the holes cut out of the last piece of aluminium angle in my off-cuts box.

Happy with this I could now cut it down to size but, then I had a thought. If I drill a small hole in the back of the speedo binacle I can get the trip reset knob to the panel as well. I spent a very long time considering whether I should do this to an original part before deciding that I would. Then even longer trying to work out exactly where that hole needed to be and how to add the reset knob to the new arrangement. When I did take the plunge it worked out well and the cable was refitted. It’s held to the speedo with a tiny screw.

Now I could cut the outline of the panel,

tidy it up and bolt it to the binacle. If you’re wondering about the numbers, they’re the tyre pressures I run – front, rear and trailer wheels.

All that was needed now was to wire everything up. I needed to bring the wires for the dynamo, neutral and oil lights out from behind the binacle. Luckily there was enough room to unplug the bulb holders and extend the wires so they could be fed out  through the top fork yoke and around. This meant I didn’t need to drill another hole.

The unused yellow/black cable was insulated and tied out of the way.

All that remained was to;

  • Change the terminals on the cables for main beam and turn signal warning lights.
  • Refit the lighting switch.
  • Refit the battery condition light with it’s switch in line.

and that was the wiring finished. The ignition switch was persuaded back into position and the speedo cable done up. I’m pleased with the result. There’s enough space under the warning lights for me to stamp a letter for G(en), N(eutral) and O(il) if I decide to but I’ll probably not bother.

Battery connected and everything works. The next day I took it for a short ride to compare the new speedometer output with that of the push-bike speedo I fitted when I realised the old speedo told lies. It turns out that this new speedometer is really accurate and the push-bike one can go. I quite like the look and apparently, if you scrape the black paint off the bezel, there’s a nickel finish beneath.

Good result!