May 2021

While chromed alloy is not really my sort of thing, this bike certainly looks flash, with the extra chrome being just a part of the overall cosmetic approach that was originally undertaken in the USA I believe.

I was instrumental in getting the bike up to scratch mechanically when it was first complied in NZ, and it has performed well since then. Recently the electric start had gone missing in action, so the bike was delivered to me in order to fix that. I had the time so attacked it straight away.

Testing revealed that the starter relay was not operating at all, so I set about checking the connections on that first. We seemed to have power up at the handlebar end, and the owner seemed pretty confident that the actual starter button was ok.

It did seem that the relay earth wire was a tad loose, so I tightened that up and made sure the wiring was otherwise connected ok. It was. Fuse back in and it was now working, and continued to do so for a number of starter operations.

The covers went back on and I wheeled it back outside to take photos.

The bike had been freshly cleaned when it arrived, and the engine was covered in an oily film which the owner was telling me was his latest discovery, a cleaning agent that also preserved. Sort of like a super WD40 in his words.

I fired it up on the electric with no problems, and while it warmed up clouds of white smoke began to issue forth from the exhaust system. Obviously the new cleaner was quick to respond to a bit of heat.

I took it for a brief run to check that all was well in the general scheme of things. A friend lives about a mile away so I headed there. He owns a T160 too, so I knew he would appreciate this one. On the way there I found that the rear brake was virtually non-existent, so as per my usual treatment of brakes that have sat unused for long periods, I held a moderate pressure on the lever for about 20 seconds at suburban speed, then repeat, then repeat until I felt the brake start to bite. That indicates that any surface contaminants have been burned off.

I parked the bike on the sidestand outside his garage door and went to announce my presence. I tracked him down and he came out to view another T160. It really does look kinda special with all the shiny bits, and he was an appreciative audience. I was slightly annoyed to notice that in the interim some animal had pissed on the rear wheel, but they just do that to visiting things.

We compared notes and I headed home. Approaching a roundabout I could see an older driver waiting to my left, plus a car entering the roundabout on my right, so slowing briefly for the latter, I gunned it into the loop, only to have the old dude pull out in front of me. Fortunately I was prepared for him, and grabbed a handful of front brake, noticing as I did that it was not really performing to the standard I was expecting. The next section of road is a deserted stretch, so I performed the same treatment with the front as I had done with the rear. As with the rear, on the third hold it suddenly began to bite hard, so I relaxed and cruised on for a few seconds after which the second roundabout was looming up. I gave the front brake a quick touch to make sure it was happy before I might need it.

In an instant I was down and sliding along the road on the right side of the bike. I was shocked, not only at the instantaneous nature of the event, but that I was sliding onto the wrong side of the road, and my leg was sandwiched between the bike and the road. It did not last long as I was only doing about 55Kph, and I ended up on the wrong side of the road and facing back the way I had come. I jumped up and picked the bike up to get it out of harms way. Nothing was coming but it soon might.

The driver of a car that had been traveling behind me came running over, asking if I was ok, and I said yeah. He asked what on earth had happened, as we had been going real slow. I agreed, and told him the front brake had just locked solid. He looked down and said - what the hells that?. I now had the bike on the sidestand and walked around to see white smoke pouring off the entire surface of the front brake disc.

Wow. Something was burning off but while we stood it began to burn out and soon stopped. He asked if I needed a lift home, but I said I was ok and would ride the bike home. There was little damage to be seen except for the right footpeg being kinda bent upwards. The bike fired up immediately, so I rode forwards a few feet and tested the front brake. It worked quite normally. I turned around and had a very normal ride home. When I got off the bike and looked around, the right mirror glass was broken, and the right indicator lamp was broken. Only other visual was a graze on the bottom edge of the timing cover.

I had been riding in my overalls, and my right forearm felt a bit sore. I pulled the now ripped sleeve up and found my arm looked like a cooked lobster. Oops. I went indoors and put a bandage on it, then jumped in the car and drove back to where I fell off. I needed to try and understand what the hell had happened.

This photo shows the skid which is only 2 metres long before the bike was down and sliding on its side. 30mph equals 44 feet per second, so it took only 6.6 feet or 0.15 of a second from brake lock to being on the ground. Holy bat crapman - that is scary shit right there.

About 1 metre from the end of the skid the right footpeg made contact with the ground and went the distance.

It is simply staggering how fast this took place. From my revisit I could see that there was nothing amiss with the road surface. Much the opposite, as it is smooth and even, probably one of our dodgy city's best. The brake locked at the first instant of contact, and I cannot say whether I released the lever or not, but here is the thing. Something was burning on the disc. From the moment when the brake first locked, the wheel was no longer turning, so the disc was already alight before I touched the brake.

I decided to check my photos that were taken before I started the bike. I could now see that some fluid had run onto the rear tyre, and must have done so while the bike was in my shed, as it was no longer at the lowest point, but had also now followed the ridge in the tyre to the lowest point as the bike now stood.


Obviously the animal piss I saw at my friend's house was this, but from memory there was more of it. Presumably whatever was on the rear tyre had increased during my outward ride, and probably was assisted by my brake heating process. It seems likely that the same agent might have been on the front disc, explaining both the poor braking to begin with and the subsequent behaviour, although there was no sign that the rear disc had caught fire. The front certainly had, to the point that it had burnt the paint off the disc.

I took another look at the rear disc. I could now see that perhaps some more fluid had arrived since I parked the bike back in the shed at home. The rear tyre shows evidence of its drag along the road, but there is still clear sign of some residue both on the caliper cover and the wheel rim.

The cover from the front caliper has the same film, which was oily to the touch, and can be seen on the fork slider in the photo of the front disc. It would seem that the magic cleaning agent - I believe it is called "Inox" - has certainly gotten to places it should not have, but who would have predicted its behaviour once hot enough to ignite. I can only imagine that it turned into an equally magic adhesive in its burning phase. A good cleanup ensued, to remove what was left around the brakes.

After that I turned my attention to the footpeg, which was defying gravity for the current time. The graze on the timing cover is obvious here, more obvious in contrast to what is now a chrome finish, but I feel it would polish out pretty well.

Admittedly the chrome on the timing cover was beginning to succumb to rust, but I had grave misgivings about the process of stripping and then rechroming over alloy. It can be a hit or miss process.

Straightening bent pegs involves use of the patented Kilroy tool #568. Basically a humongous piece of galv pipe. Using bits of stuff to make it a neat fit over whatever size peg you are dealing with allows a very gentle process of bending things back to where they need to be. I have never yet broken one, and the paint remains in place.

I had removed the carbs at this time because the owner wanted to rechrome the timing cover, and it was decided that the starter cover would get the same treatment as it was letting the side down.

Here are the bits ready for the next step, which will be stripping of previous coatings, prior to polishing before the chroming process. The timing aperture cover was still in alloy, so that would be treated to chrome as well.

As the owner of the bike had a friend who might be able to build up the damaged portion of the alloy on the timing cover, I would retrieve that cover after stripping and the repair would be attempted. Apparently the nature of the alloy means it can behave badly when welded, so we were hopeful it would all be ok.

Unfortunately it wasn't, and a lot of small holes were left at the end of the process. The overall shape of the curved surface was also a casualty, so there was now some concern that when chromed the flaws may be highlighted rather than concealed.

Comparing notes with the metal polishers gave us some hope. Apparently they copper coat the alloy before chroming, and it was possible to build up solder on top of the copper layer to correct some irregularities before the chrome went on.

Not many platers were up to this task to the satisfaction of my Polishers, so the parts would be sent out of town to a service they trusted. I knew of them and had heard that parts could disappear into their care and not be seen again for some period of time, but being over a barrel as it were meant we were going to have to resign ourselves to their mercy. And workmanship. I have a strong resistance to work that I cannot do myself, but there it is.

In the meantime I found one problem looking for the worst possible moment to happen, so at least I was able to prevent that from happening.

Months then passed. Exactly 4 to be precise. I did not bother harassing the Polishers, as I know them well enough to be assured they would contact me the moment the parts came back. I also had no wish to be receiving any bad news, so I did an ostrich and carried on with other bikes.

To the day I got a call they were here, and no mention of any problems, so I raced in with a decent wad of cash. A good number of hundreds changed hands and I headed home with the valuable pieces in their layers of tissue paper. I handled them with similar respect.

I was pretty damn happy with the finished result actually, so was eager to bung it all back together to see how it looked.

Not too shabby..!

Actually, it was almost too shiny, as there were multiple reflections in the curves that deceived the eye, but it sure looked smart.

A bit of air in the tyres and a gallon of gas and it was time to test ride it. I had also replaced a broken indicator with a nice original Lucas one, and the owner had a spare new mirror that matched t'other, so they went on. These were on the right side and were also casualties of the slide along the road, but I still marvel at how little damage was incurred. I am also very grateful. Its too damn pretty..

Everything worked as it should, and this time the brakes had plenty of bite. I had taken the front pads out and cleaned them just to be on the safe side, but they were not showing enough wear or damage to require replacing. I dressed the work surfaces and left it at that.

Nothing left to do but take a few pics then.

As luck would have it, the owner needed work done on another bike, so I got to deliver this one about 40Km away and to ride the other back.

Guess I may have dazzled a few peeps along the way...