Moto Morini Three and a Half – Cinque: Why I Hate Exams

Flaming June. And flaming revision. Martin Gelder promises himself a post exam Real Classic ride, but ends up stuck in the shed writing lists of things to do and things to buy…

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I hate exams. I’ve always hated exams. I hated them at school, I hated them in the sixth form, and I’m pretty sure I only passed my engineering and computering studies because of the coursework and thesis involved. So if I’d known, when I signed up for evening classes in Italian, that an exam was involved I would probably have done something else more pleasurable instead. Like having all my skin removed.

But they’d got my money already, the swine. And my Italian clients would almost certainly be impressed if I passed something that came with a certificate (“Un gcse è lo stesso come una doctorate, onestamente.”). So I rolled over and gave in to the inevitable, and started revising. Which I also hate.

Back in the long hot summer of 1976 I misspent the days when I should have been revising for my o’ levels by dreaming about all the moped rides I would go on when the exams were finally over. New Brighton, Parkgate, maybe even Chester or Liverpool… there was a whole world of wonder out there waiting to be explored at a heady thirty miles an hour.

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The reality turned out to be even better than I’d imagined. Lazy days spent tinkering with friends’ unreliable two-strokes, cruising small-town promenades and getting chased off Royal Liverpool golf course by “the man”. The Boys were Back in Town and The Leader of The Pack was back in the charts, we had our Brutus Jean On and Steve Harley was singing Here Comes the Sun. If only we’d been Lying in the Arms of Mary as well. It Only Takes a Minute, Girl…

So no surprise that, twenty nine years on, my thoughts drifted from the past imperfect tense of “I was” towards what I’d do to celebrate the end of my last exam. It had to have an Italian theme, of course, so what better celebration of free time and free spirit than riding an Italian bike to an outdoor café for an Italian ice-cream? And what better Italian bike to use than a descendant of the Moto Morini vee-twin that I’d lusted after all those years ago?

With the last exam done and dusted (don’t ask how it went, okay?), I was back in the office and tying up the week’s loose ends by eleven thirty and ready to hit the road an hour later. The thirty degree temperatures of the previous day had been tempered by a thin scrim of high altitude cloud, with a gentle breeze wafting in the smell of freshly cut grass. Perfect.

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Come on, you know you want to...

Well, no. By the time I’d cleaned my visor, found my earplugs and got the right bits and bobs in the right jacket pockets (keys, money, RAC card, mobile phone…) someone had dismantled June and replaced it with October. Torrential rain pounded the patio, sinking my spirits and drowning my hopes of a spirited ride to an outside café. It was dark and cold, inside and out.

Which finally, finally brings me to the point. I’ve had my Morini for almost two years, and it’s survived that period on little more than routine maintenance. Once the riding position was sorted out (morini03120500.html) all I’ve had to do is ride it. When I bought it I fully expected that some mechanical or electrical catastrophe would give me an excuse for some major tinkering, but it hasn’t happened. Yet. Touch wood.

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The sudden change of weather was obviously A Sign. It was time to stop putting off all the fettling and fiddling and get down to some proper sheddery.

Calling on my experience as a consultant, I began by making a list. Making a list is much more productive than actually doing any work, as any fule kno.

I’m booked up for the Beezumph trackday in four weeks time, and there are quite a few jobs that need doing before then. In front to back order they are:

Front End

  • The fork stanchions need replacing; one of them is *badly* pitted and has chewed its way through the oil seals and is now dribbling out what’s left of the fork oil, which is the wrong grade.
  • I might as well do the steering head bearings while I’m at it.
  • The front brake pads need replacing, and I’ll clean and rebuild the callipers while I’m at it. I’ve also got a set of braided hoses from a previous bike that’ll fit.


  • The tappets are noisy so I’d like to check them, and the rocker side-play needs adjusting while I’m in there.
  • The rear cylinder rocker cover gasket leaks, mainly because two of the three threads holding it down are a bit stripped. A new gasket might do the trick, otherwise it’s Helicoil time.
  • The starter motor might as well be removed, it weighs a ton and doesn’t work.
  • The timing belt could probably do with replacing; it hasn’t done that many miles *if* the service record is to be believed, but…
  • The clutch needs cleaning and possibly adjusting; it’s always been a bit grabby.
  • There’s an oil weep around the oil pressure switch; will this be another stripped thread, and do I really want to know?

    Back End

  • The chain is at the limit of adjustment, despite not being particularly worn. The bike came with a new replacement chain, but it’s too short despite being the “correct” length. If you see what I mean. I suspect the gearing has been tinkered with at some point in the bike’s history; it feels over-geared for day-to-day scratching.
  • The rear Hagon shocks sag alarmingly when I sit on the bike. What little movement is left feels well damped, so I might try and source some stiffer springs before switching to better units.
  • The rear brake calliper binds slightly, so it’ll get the same clean up and new pads as the front ones.
  • And finally, the seat is too slippery if I’m wearing anything other than leathers and is a bit high for the weight of the bike, giving a slightly remote feel.

  • Random Morini Stuff on

    Phew. Time for a cup of coffee and a chocolate digestive.

    Photo taken mid afternoon in June...

    Fully reinvigorated, and with an eye on the rain still pouring down from thick black clouds, there was only one thing for it. Time to start work.

    The Morini shares garage space with two other fully roadworthy two-wheelers, as well as a collection of green-canvas shrouded rusting relics which used to be motorbikes a long time ago. This means I either have to work outside, or limit my attentions to just one side of a particular bike at a time. Conveniently for me, the Morini’s designers positioned the electric starter, the cam belt and the chain and sprockets on the right hand side of the bike; I could attack several items on my list without having to manoeuvre the bike in and out of the garage.

    The electric starter weighs in at a healthy eight and a half pounds and was soon delivered to the box of Bits I’ve Taken off the Morini. The starter on its own accounts for a significant chunk of the bike’s total weight; with it gone (and after a bit of re-wiring) I’ll also be able to remove the solenoid and fit a much smaller battery. On an already light bike, this should make a real difference to the handling and performance.

    Eight and a half pounds of healthy baby start motor.

    A quick tooth count on the gearbox and rear wheel sprockets reveals that the bike has a standard 14 tooth front sprocket but a two tooth larger than standard 40 tooth rear one. This hopefully explains why the bike needs a 98 rather than 96 link chain, but it doesn’t explain the over-geared feeling. Maybe I’m just expecting too much from a 1970’s designed 350 four-stroke twin? Should I go back to standard, or further lower the gearing?

    Cam pulley peaks out above the alternator. Should it be brown?On to the cam belt next. It should have around 5mm of side to side play measured between the pulleys. It’s immediately obvious that the play is closer to 15mm, and that the belt is not a standard item; it should be marked A, B or C to relate to the pulley’s fitted at the factory. “New cam belt” is added to the shopping list, along with the special tools to remove and fit the alternator.

    Still raining, so it’s on to the tappets. The side play is juggled out and the clearances reset, but the engine doesn’t sound much quieter. Ah well. It looks like the leaky rear rocker cover might be fixable for now with a new gasket; the old one is badly compressed at the point where it seems to be leaking. Something else for the shopping list.

    To cheer myself up I decided to check the ignition timing; it’s spot on for both cylinders at full advance although a bit erratic at tick over; I decide to blame the ropey connections between the HT leads and my strobe light for the latter, and call it a day.

    Next time – and weather permitting – it’s the forks and front end…

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