My first machine the 1959 Velocette Viper sports was for the most part a very reliable machine. In the 4 years I owned it I only had a couple of minor problems.
The first time I needed to get out the spanners was when I got a flat tyre. The unfortunate part of this incident was the location! I was travelling with Wishbone and Dirty Eddie and we where in the middle of Dartmoor! No pubs for miles!
The second problem was a little more difficult to repair. The day came when I had to replace the clutch thrust bearing. I was told it was a simple job if you had the right tools. Back then I could not afford to take my bike into a garage to get it fixed, so I used all of my mechanical skills and tools to do the job myself.
How was I to know that the clutch was spring loaded? Not since WW2 has there been so much metal flying around Highfields! The bike sat around for about 3 weeks before I located all parts that needed to be shoved back into the clutch housing. Now here is where being a member of LPMCC really pays off. One of the members had the tools and could replace a clutch bearing in his sleep. He came over and had the bike better than new in 5 minutes.
A 1959 Velo Viper came from the factory with 6 volt lighting. The lights worked fine until it got dark. As soon as the sun went down I could not tell the difference if the lights were on or off! With my mechanical background of the era I thought about mounting a candle on the handlebars or even perhaps installing a miner's lamp on the front mudgard, but I decided against it because I did not want to blind other Velo rider's riding towards me.
The copper wire was up to the task (providing it wasn't raining) but the 6 and 12 volt systems of the day, combined with the very small weak batteries could not produce or store enough electrical energy, which meant we where kept in the dark.
In it's day, the Velocette was one of the finest motor cycles on the road, bred in racing, it handled like a dream and it had a very high top speed combined with unimaginable endurance.
The Velocette had many unique features not found on other motorcycles of that era.
Velocette introduced a tachometer on some model around the same time that the Japanese bikes began to take over in the UK. Most of the Japanese bikes of that era could produce from 10 to 13 thousand RPM.
I think Velocette thought by adding a tachometer it could compete with this new onslaught. Truth is, on a Velo at 70 mph you could count strokes with one hand! Instead of wasting all that money on a tachometer, they might have been better off installing a metronome!
My second machine was a Norton Domi 99. 600cc twin. This bike had more power than the Velocette and also turned out to be a very reliable machine. However, it didn't handle the corners as well as the Velocette. I cannot remember having any problems with the Norton except the occasional flat tyre. I think replacing the Velo with the Norton was a good decision but, the Norton could not replace the spirit of the Velocette.
I am certain that was the bike that I purchased from the old bike shop that used to break bikes and sell the spares, perhaps it was called Eros Motorcycles. I think that they had their shop down near West Bridge in Leicester and I think they later moved to an address in Highfields.
- Eric Tindall
- Wayne Fay
Good story ...