The cylinder heads are done – 5 Feb 2017

It’s taken me some time but The Fire Bike is now back together. As indicated last time, I did buy the posh type of exhaust nuts with a lock ring. Here’s one alongside my repaired original type.

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Before fitting the new ring-nuts I made up a longer version of the c-spanner needed to tighten them. I didn’t want to have a repeat of the thing slipping and hitting the tank again because of my ham-fistedness!

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Some time I’ll thread the hole in the tube and threadlock a grub screw in it so that I don’t need to have the head of the bolt or a nut sticking out but, for now, it worked well.

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I removed the rocker covers again to adjust the valve clearances. I’ve written about doing this on my other Guzzis but not the V7 700. I’ll write this up when I have to do it again (after re-torqueing the heads).

Thick rocker cover gaskets were coated in grease and the rocker boxes refitted. I find that by doing this the gaskets last ages.

I went out for a shortish run on the bike today. I had to speed up the tick-over a little to stop it cutting out. It looks like I’ll have to give the bike a good tune up soon.

The other thing that happened was that the voltage warning light, which I fitted when I got the bike, was flashing away showing a low voltage although the bike ran well enough and the original dynamo light never came on. When I got home I let the bike stand for a bit over an hour then checked the battery voltage. 12.95V is good and suggests that the problem was not with the charging system but the voltage warning light so, that’s something else to have a look at.

My trip out had been to buy some “Fiat Racing Red” paint. I’ve got to make good the damage caused by that slipping spanner.

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There is a suggestion that the tank was blue once upon a time.

Off with his head, part 3 – 29 Jan 2017.

As I said yesterday, I’ve decided to repeat the work on the left hand cylinder, mainly for the sake of thoroughness. It’s also a chance to examine the condition of the cylinder bore and rocker gear.

Oh what fun I had! This time the exhaust header nut was very tight. Not only that, the notches for the c-spanner were a mess. I had to start by knocking the ring nut back and forward a tiny amount and dosing it with WD40 just to get it started. It was clear it had been hit with a punch or possibly a chisel before. It took me about an hour and a half to get it undone. When it did turn, it would still bind at the same point in every rotation. Once off I could see it was clearly distorted. It wasn’t me, honest! However, it was me who let the c-spanner slip and chip the paint on the fuel tank. It was clear that a “Gun Gum” type sealant had been used and was the main reason the thing had been stuck. Happily the exhaust port threads on this side were undamaged.

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The cylinder head nuts were tighter on this time but, when I lifted the rocker bracket, there were no O-rings where they should be. It turned out that they were fitted to the four long studs under the head gasket! Don’t do it like this.

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Again the rocker gear is in very good condition. It looks nearly new. It’s strange that this (expensive) work appears to have been undertaken but basic mistakes made.

Once again the cylinder barrel is the chrome plated type and in very good condition. The two bottom O-rings were where I would expect to find them.

Putting everything back together was easy enough but I discovered this chip out of the rocker bracket.

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It’s where the shaft-locking screw goes on the exhaust side. When reassembling the gear I was careful not to let the end of the lock-washer catch in the hole. I don’t feel able to weld the chip as the bracket is a casting. I think, at some point, I’ll run the engine with the rocker cover off to see if oil is pumped out of here instead of lubricating the rocker and shaft. Hopefully it will seal. If not, I might look for some sort of “plastic metal” to repair it but an oil-soaked casting might prevent it “taking”.

Again I have put the rocker cover back on without adjusting the valve clearances. This is while I turn my attention to the mullered exhaust head nut.

Replacements are quite pricey and the original type don’t seem to be available any more. Instead the better type with a lock-ring (as I have fitted to the V7Sport) can be had for about £50 a pair. Here’s what I mean on Rhino.

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I do have a couple of exhaust nuts which have been sawn lengthwise. I did it over 30 years ago to allow the rings to spread a bit to get around the sharper turns on a 850T3 shaped exhaust header. Once past the obstruction they would go back to their original size and screw down on the exhaust and still compress the gasket. The trouble was they would (unsurprisingly) come loose if not wired to a drilled cylinder head fin. At the time this was OK as they’d always had to be lock-wired anyway.

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In an effort to save money I decided to try and braze the gap. It wasn’t entirely successful because I couldn’t get enough heat into the job with my little oxy-propane set-up.

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I haven’t fitted it to the bike other than to check that it threads into the head easily. The repair seems robust enough. However, I think I’ll be making another order on the Stein-Dinse website. I’ll be hit with the minimum shipping cost again but, what can you do?

Off with his head, part 2 -28 Jan 2017.

I ordered the necessary parts from Stein-Dinse in Germany on Sunday, arrived here in Wales on Wednesday. Even with the minimum postage cost it was still worth it as no one in the UK had all I needed in stock.

I did include base gaskets in my order so the next job was to lift the cylinder barrel. This gave me a chance to properly examine the bore. Unmarked and in good condition.

The pistons are fitted with four rings. Three above the gudgeon pin and one below. I knew early V7s were fitted with these but wasn’t sure if they kept on with this for all the 700s.

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I evened out the ring gaps out around the bore then replaced the base gasket. There is an oil drain hole in the face of the engine block. If the gasket is fitted upside down it will block the hole and the rocker box will fill with oil which can’t drain back to the sump. O-rings go on the two short studs (at 6 and 12 o’clock).

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Fitting the cylinder barrel isn’t difficult but can be a little hard on the fingers. First I turn the engine by the front crankshaft bolt until the piston is right at the top of its travel. I like to lightly oil the spigot of the cylinder which fits into the engine block as well as the bore itself. The barrel is dropped over the studs and the top of the piston started into the bore. There is a little chamfer at its lower end. This means that you can squeeze the top piston ring with your fingers until it goes into the chamfer. The cylinder should then slide further onto the piston till it meets the next ring. If it won’t go, don’t force it! Check the ring has gone into the chamfer. Repeat the procedure until all the rings have gone into the bore. The last one is the hardest because there’s not much finger space.

It’s now time for the head gasket. I think the gasket I’ve just removed was meant for a 750 as the bore is about 83mm whereas the new one (specific to the 700) has a bore of 80mm. Here the old is placed on top of the new and you can see the difference.

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The gasket was fitted but, before I put the cylinder head on I searched in the exhaust port for the old exhaust gasket. There should be a (squashed) copper ring in there. I scraped and picked at the port but couldn’t find the gasket. Now, I know that sometimes these can appear to be part of the head and hard to find so, I decided to get a second opinion. I measured the depth of the threaded section as 18mm and asked the members of the Yahoo Loopframe Group if anyone had a head they could check. Inside the hour I had a response from Charlie saying he had just measured a head and found the depth to be 17mm. I was right then. Someone had fitted the exhaust header without a gasket.

The design of this exhaust fitting means that, if the header becomes loose, it can vibrate in the port and damage the fine threads. There is some damage on this head but it’s still serviceable. A repair can be very expensive.

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Before putting the head on, I double-checked that the gasket was on the right way round. Again there is an oil drain hole which must line up with the hole in the barrel.

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The head was fitted on the studs then O-rings fitted to the four remaining (long) studs.

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The bracket for the rocker gear goes on next and the six nuts (five plus the sleeve-nut) can be torqued down in a diagonal sequence. I do;
– top right,
– bottom left,
– top left,
– bottom right,
– lower one by spark plug,
– top 10mm hex sleeve-nut.
The torque figure is 27.5 ft.lbs. This figure seemed a bit low to me and conflicted with the figure of 29 to 32 ft.lbs (4 to 4.5 Kg/m) given for later Guzzis. After taking advice fro members of the Loopframe Group, I’ll use 32ft.lbs in future.

Fit a new crush washer and refit the 26mm blanking plug over the sleeve-nut. Then refit the rocker gear. Drop the pushrods back where they came from. I like to turn the engine again to get the pushrods as low in the head as possible. Squeeze the relevant rocker, spring and washer back in place on the bracket and a bit of wiggling will allow you to get the spindle back in (screw hole at the top). Turn the spindle with a screwdriver until the locking screw can be refitted.

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Only ever use the original type and length of screw. It locks the shaft in place but mustn’t go too deep. The other side of the hole is an oil supply which then goes down the centre of the shaft and out again halfway along it to lubricate the rocker arm on the spindle. The wrong screw might restrict this oil flow.

At this point I refitted the exhaust header but now it does have an exhaust gasket. The threads of the exhaust nut were given a smear of copper grease.

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I didn’t do it up tight until I’d got the frame-to-header clamp in place in an effort to get everything lined up properly. I tighten up header nut, silencer clamp and frame-to-pipe clamp in that order.

The oil feed to the head was reconnected using the banjo bolt and new crush washers. I’m careful how I do this as the bolt is naturally fragile, being hollow with a cross-drilling. I use a short spanner.

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The inlet manifold and carburettor were refitted and the spark plug screwed back in. I’ve decided to repeat the job on the left hand cylinder so I’ve left adjusting the valve clearances for now. I put the rocker cover on with a couple of screws to keep the muck out for now.

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Off with his head, part 1 – 21 Jan 2017.

I had to move some stuff around in the garage today so started up The Fire Bike to temporarily move it outside. I had the choke on and noticed smoke coming out of the RH cylinder when I revved it. I had to look twice but, yes, It was definitely coming from the cylinder barrel to head joint. Occasionally I had noticed a black drip from the head gasket onto the leg shield but had thought it was just a little “weep” and it didn’t always seem to do it. Today it was chuffing out of there like a steam engine. Something had to be done! This is where the leak was.

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I took the rocker cover off and put a spanner on the three head nuts you can reach while the rocker gear is still fitted. They were loose! I had a choice. I could just remove the rocker gear and re-tighten the nuts to the correct torque or pull the cylinder head off to take a look. I decided that, if the head had been so loose that combustion gasses could get past then the gasket should probably be changed. So, off with its head!

My first concern was whether I would be able to get the exhaust header nut undone. My experience with these had been that some will never stay tight while others will become stuck fast. This one had never loosened by itself so I feared the worst. However, it was OK. It took just one tap on the C-spanner with a soft-faced hammer and we were away.

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To remove the exhaust header pipe I loosened the clamp to the silencer and the frame-to-exhaust clamp. I could just get to this with the leg shield in place.

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I disconnected the carburettor, complete with manifold, from the cylinder head.

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The next job is to remove the oil-feed pipe from the head by undoing the banjo bolt. There is a crush washer on each side of the pipe.

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I removed the generator belt cover from the front of the engine (3 screws) and turned the engine with a socket on the crankshaft nut to take the pressure off the rockers. I then removed the rocker gear from its bracket (remove locking bolt and push the spindle out) and put the parts to one side so they can’t get interchanged. The pushrods were then removed and joined the rocker components.

The cylinder head (and cylinder barrel) are held down by nuts on four long and two short studs. The four long ones also hold down the bracket for the rocker gear. The short ones are top and bottom. The bottom one is by the spark plug. To get to the top one you remove a blanking plate in the cylinder head. There’s a crush washer under this.

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It hides a sleeve-nut which takes a 10mm Allen key.

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The six head securing nuts should be slackened in a diagonal sequence to avoid distortion to components although, in my case, they were already pretty loose. There is a heavy washer under each of the five ordinary nuts and a slightly different one under the sleeve nut.

Once the nuts are removed the bracket for the rocker gear can be lifted off. There are O-rings fitted to the four long studs under the rocker bracket. These were age hardened and have to be replaced anyway. I picked the rings out to make it easier to get the cylinder head free. Only one came off in one piece.

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Now it’s time to lift the cylinder head. It didn’t want to move at first but, little by little, I managed to get it loose without resorting to hitting anything with a hammer. Hurt my fingers though.

It was easy to see how the gasket had been leaking and there was signs of pitting to the surface of the gasket but, I might have been able to get away with just tightening everything up. It’s difficult to tell.

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I’ll put in an order for parts tomorrow but, I’m not sure whether to change the base gasket and two O-rings below the cylinder barrel while I’m in here. It wouldn’t be hard to lift and replace the barrel. I’ll buy parts for both cylinders though. I might have some of this list in the garage already.

  • Head gaskets (2)
  • Base gaskets (2)?
  • Rocker cover gaskets (2). I like thick ones if I can get them.
  • O-rings (12)
  • Exhaust gaskets (2)
  • Crush washers for under blanking plugs (2)
  • Crush washers for oil feed lines (4)

I took a look at the coating on the cylinder bore. It’s still a hard chromed barrel. There are those who say bikes with these should not be run as the chrome will flake off causing all sorts of damage. Instead replacement nikasil coated barrels should be fitted. I do know what happens if it all goes wrong. It happened to the Racing Rhino many years ago. Nikasil cylinder barrels for the old 700s just aren’t made. I could have mine stripped of their chrome and replated but it’s expensive and these seem to still be in very good condition with no thin spots or blisters. I could fit barrels from a 750 but don’t want to do this.

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I took a look at the rocker gear on the bench. It’s in very good condition. No wear on the spindles or in the pads that contact the top of the valves. It makes me think that some work has been done here not many miles ago and could be why the head was loose. I didn’t know that it needed to be re-torqued. It could also be that the cylinder barrels aren’t 45-year old originals. Old stock chrome ones still come to light from time to time.

I haven’t examined the valves yet but I’ll have a poke around everything else soon.

New Year 2017.

Sorry I haven’t been around much lately but there’s not been much to report. Some time ago, The Racing Rhino was cleaned, polished, sprayed with ACF50 and put away until the Local Council stop putting salt on the roads. The Fire Bike is still being ridden now and again. That way there’s only one bike to keep clean.

I’ve only done 986 miles on my V7Sport this year (actually from February and October).

There’s been a little change to the workshop in that I bought a massive, floor-standing Pollard Corona drill. It was 3-phase but it’s now running off the domestic supply. It was also built as a high speed drill so a new pulley was made to slow it down (the new motor was half the speed of the old one as well which helped) and I’ve successfully drilled a 13mm hole in steel with it as a test. As it’s floor-standing I had to change the work bench arrangements and that then led to more fiddling about. I’ll make some repairs to the drilling table soon then give it all a coat of paint.

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My personal injury claim following the accident in September 2014, which led to the demise of the S3, is still unresolved. Hopefully it won’t be too long now. I’ve got used to having daily issues with my right wrist and hand plus the constant need to change the way I do things. However, I’m noticing more aches and pains.

I’m not one for making resolutions. I expect things will just carry on as usual. However, I do have a few plans for the year ahead;

  • To get to more rallies and events.
  • Make some modifications to The Fire Bike’s generator mount.
  • Design and build a tow hitch for The Racing Rhino… I know, I know.
  • Hold some sort of camp around my 60th birthday in August.
  • I’d like to get a lathe (will have to be cheap) and learn how to use it.

It’s not much of a list but it’s all I can think of for now. Like everyone, my bike stuff has to be fitted around the rest of family life – being a husband, dad, grandad, having aging parents, owning and maintaining the house and just getting on with enjoying life.

So, happy New Year and I hope 2017 treats you well.

Twisted front forks? – 29 Sep 2016.

Well folks, this could be a long post! Ever since I have owned The Fire Bike the handlebars have been turned slightly to the right when riding in a straight line. I’ve always thought that the handlebar mounts were a bit bent and just lived with it. As I’ve said before, I’m no riding god and pretty much just ride what I’m presented with. When I took the bike for its MOT test last week the tester commented on this trait and suggested the forks could be twisted in their yokes. I thought that I had better take a look.

The first thing I did was to clamp some timber to each side of the rear wheel. I then clamped the front wheel in straight-ahead alignment using some thin pieces of plywood on each side as shims.

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I could now see how far out the alignment of the ‘bars were.

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It doesn’t look much but, what you might just be able to make out is that the instrument binnacle is turned to the right as well, meaning the top fork yoke is the same.

I decide that I would undo the pinch bolts on the lower yoke to see if everything would spring back into alignment but, I found that to do this I needed to remove the screen/fairing first. The pinch bolt is actually a through bolt so I needed to be able to get to the nut on the back of it as well.

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Due to the way the indicators are fitted, these had to come off before the fairing. It was easy enough to go into the headlamp and disconnect the wires but the connectors had to be cut off as they won’t pass through the headlamp mountings.

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That was the easy bit! The indicators have rubber stalks with a square drive fitted up against the fairing. They are screwed into the fixings for the headlamp. Turning these square drives is pretty well impossible without causing damage to the fairing. I found that I could loosen the headlamp nut between the fairing and headlamp bracket. Then hold the indicator stem still with a spanner on the square while tightening the headlamp mounting up again. This gradually wound the indicator and stalk off and I managed to keep the headlamp in alignment.

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With the indicators removed I temporarily put the headlamp back together. I decided that I would remove the fairing leaving the chrome brackets fitted to the handlebar clamps and the short black brackets attached to the fairing by undoing the two nuts and bolts at each side.

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Now I could get back to releasing those fork pinch bolts. I slackened them completely. Lots of flakes of red paint were shed from the nuts and bolts. I’d noticed before that the front end of the bike seems to have been given a coat of paint while assembled.

I had already removed all the timber and bounced the forks a few times. Then, with the front wheel between my knees, I tried to force the handlebars from side to side. I re-clamped the wheels and took another look at the alignment.

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I’d say that’s a significant improvement. I re-tightened the pinch bolts and was pleased to see this hadn’t changed. I put some wood between the fuel tank and handlebar mounts to see if the gaps were the same on each side. Not very accurate I know.

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Front fork oil change.

At this point I decided I would change the oil in the forks. The original oil specified was 160ml of Shell Tellux 33, whatever that was. I did some research on the web and found a number of suggestions. Some people use 20W50 engine oil and others use 30W fork oil. There are also suggestions about increasing the amount of oil used. Some say 200ml and some 8oz (225ml). I decided to get hold of some 30W fork oil and to stay with the factory specified amount. My local shop expressed surprise at me wanting such heavyweight oil but sold me the one and only 1litre bottle of the stuff they had on their shelf.

So, with all my temporary timber work removed, I undid the four allen screws holding the instrument binnacle/bezel/whatever to the top fork plate. I could ease it up enough and block it out of the way to allow me to get to the plugs in the top of each fork leg. More red paint was shed as I undid these but I was careful not to get any inside the fork tubes.

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I removed any remaining paint when the plug and its washer were on the bench.

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Then the drain screws were undone. They are just a couple of Cheese-head screws with a fibre washer.

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I put a bowl under the first leg and watched as what looked like a 2-inch long black slug slowly oozed from the drain hole. This was then followed by cleaner oil. The same happened when I drained the other side. I’m guilty here as I haven’t changed the oil before. I had assumed it was OK!

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After draining the oil, the screws were replaced along with new fibre washers and I added 160ml of 30W fork oil to each leg before replacing the top plugs. The washers under the plugs look like they are too big until you realise that they match the ring profile of the underside of the plugs. I checked the wiring connections under the instrument binnacle before screwing it back in place.

All that remained now was to put the fairing back. Initially I held the fairing in position with some screws and washers in place of the indicators.

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I could then turn my attention to the upper mountings to the handlebar brackets. I loosened the screws in the top of the ‘bar clamps and loosely refitted everything before going round and tightening the lot. The aim of this was to minimise the stresses on the fairing.

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Getting those indicators back on and facing the correct way was a bit of a rigmarole. With the headlamp off again, I fed their wires into the shell. I added a washer between the square drive on the stalks and the fairing and then just kept fiddling with them until they were right.

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I then had to crimp replacement connectors to the wires and link them back up. With the headlamp back on I checked that everything worked as it should before going for a ride.

The test ride confirmed that the ‘bars are now straight. I can’t feel any improvement in handling but am reassured by knowing the alignment is now correct. However, even I could notice a huge improvement in the action of the forks. Compression damping is improved and there is less dive under braking. As I found with the V7Sport, less dive seems to improve braking performance.

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Speedometer cable – 23 Sep 2016.

It seems to all be about The Fire Bike at the moment. That’s probably a good thing and hopefully means that The Racing Rhino is sorted!

Anyway, last weekend I attended The Red Kite Camp put on by the South Wales and Mid-Wales sections of MGCGB. I went on The Fire Bike with trailer. I belong to the Mid-Wales lot. All was good and I had a great time but neglected to take any photos.

During the ride-out on the Saturday the speedometer stopped working. That’s not a great issue for me as I also have the push-bike speedo fitted. A few days later I disconnected the cable at the gearbox end and spun the inner with my fingers and the speedo worked. Hmm. I examined the end of the cable and found that the square section had rounded off. I’m not sure why this has happened as everything moves freely.

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When looking for a replacement cable I noticed that the same cable is used on the V7Sport. I had a cable with a damaged outer in my box of old bits that might work.

To remove the inner cable from the bike you have to obviously disconnect it from the back of the speedometer which is easy enough. First I had to remove the four allen screws securing the bezel, or whatever it’s called, from the top yoke. The two slotted screws just blank off some holes.

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There was just enough room to get my fingers in to unscrew the cable and pull it to one side and to pull the inner cable out.

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I compared the cable to the one from my “scrap” box and yes, they were the same. I squirted some oil down the outer cable before inserting the inner which pushed a lot of it out the other end. Once inserted I added some more oil for good measure then reconnected the cable to the speedometer.

I took a good look underneath the bezel to make sure no electrical wires had been displaced by my fumbling about before screwing it back to the top of the forks.

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The cable was then reconnected at the gearbox end.

It’s not something I would recommend but, The bike was then started and run in gear on the centre stand to confirm the speedometer was working again. It was.

A couple of days later the bike was taken for its annual MOT test which it passed with no advisory points. The only comment was that there appeared to be an oil leak – it was only more oil finding its way out of that speedo cable!