it’s in bits n pieces

and everything looks good; very good.

The beauty of such a small engine, is it’s so easy to work on but care needs to be taken as everything is smaller and more easily damaged.

The clutch housing is removed and everything looks good.

Even better, the disc valve is in really good condition. The steel disc (RH photo) is usually badly corroded on engines that have stood like this one, as they don’t run with much oil in the crankcase. So I’m now certain the engine has been re-build then never used. The disc valve was a very advanced design in the 50’s and is crucial to the (relative) excellent performance this engine. It was renown for excellent torque compared to larger capacity engines and out performed many 50cc engines.

The crankshaft is beautifully made and you can see the piston is in very good condition. It’s not unused as there is a little bit of scuffing on the piston skirt, from the barrel exhaust port, so I’ve gently smoothed it with 1200 grit paper. I’ll also add a very small radius to the top and bottom of the exhaust port with a needle file.

I’ve sanded the bore with 1200 wet and dry paper to help the rings bed in. The slightly rougher surface holds a little oil which reduces the risk of seizure whilst the rings bed in. The RH photo shows the piston support I made to hold the piston for the barrel to be fitted.

The cylinder head and barrel are so well made, that a gasket isn’t needed, just a smear of gasket cement to ensure a gas tight seal. Before fitting the cylinder, head I took the opportunity to mark TDC (top dead centre) on the flywheel (RH photo) and 7/8″ BTC (before top dead centre) which is the position where the points should just be opening, so setting the ignition timing should be easy and accurate.

Back together and read to go.

However, I can’t start it until it’s fitted to the wheel and I can’t do that as, a) the sellers weren’t able to find the missing eccentric (but they did find the drive chain) and b) when I checked the wheel hub bearings an inner cone was badly worn, so it’s still in pieces – see cone below.


The gouged groove in the centre shouldn’t be there. These parts are often just case hardened which means just the surface is hard and on this cone the hard surface has worn through, so I need a replacement. However, I’m told these parts are like the proverbial “hens teeth”, so that’s my next challenge, find a hen with teeth…


Houston, we have ignition..

But it wasn’t straightforward.

First, I checked the points and surprisingly they looked brand new with no pitting on the contact faces. Another sign the Cyclemaster has not been used since refurb. I set the correct gap of 0.015″ to 0.018″ and still no spark. No loose wires and the rotor magnets seem well magnetised. So back to basics. Draw the circuit and check the resistance of each coil and lead and see if that shows the problem.

The resistance of each coil checked out OK… but the wiring didn’t.The HT lead was soldered to the LIGHTING coil. Oops, looks like the engine has been rebuild, but not by an electrician. Let’s hope their mechanical skills were better. So now I have a spark… but it’s weak and intermittent, so I figure the capacitor (or condenser as it was called) is weak – not surprising as they suffer with age and they weren’t that good when new.

Now being an environmentally friendly person who prefers to recycle and reuse, rather than replace (i.e. a skinflint), I decided to re-core the existing brass bodied part.

Farnell supplied the 0.1µF capacitor on the left, for a very reasonable 95p.It needs to be a polyester film capacitor, with a voltage of more than 75v. Go for one with a high maximum pulse rise time (V/µs) for long term reliability. Cut the end off the old capacitor and remove the internals but keep the cardboard liner to act as an extra insulator. It also makes the new capacitor (10.5mm OD) a nice slide fit in the brass body.

Solder a lead to one end of the new cap as shown. I used adhesive lined shrink sleeving over the soldered joint to insulate it and give mechanical support. Put some 24hr epoxy resin glue into the brass pot, insert the new capacitor and solder the end to the brass body, where it exits through the small hole in the end. (LH end in RH photo above). Don’t worry about polarity, as film capacitors aren’t polarised.

I made a small brass washer for the end where the wire exits and added more epoxy glue. The finished capacitor is on the right AND I’ve now got a consistent healthy spark – job done!

But I haven’t tried starting the Cyclemaster yet as I’m unsure whether to strip the motor.

If I don’t there’s a risk the clutch won’t split when installed in a bike and I’d have to strip it anyway. It’s probably also a good idea to fit new crank seals whilst it’s open, as the motor only has 0.8HP at best and I can’t afford to loose any. So I’ve convinced myself – full strip and check, coming next.

How did I get myself into this..?

My wife’s a star and she’s brilliant aswell – particularly where cooking is concerned. She’s made Xmas diner for 40 years, without a break, always first class, never late, and never a complaint – until now…

This year (2016) she’s had enough. And it’s further compounded by the biggest group so far, of 9. Our 3 sons, their partners (2 for the first time) and Nana. So what do I do? Step in, like a knight in shining armour and say, “don’t worry dear, I’ll make it, I’ve always wanted to and now I’ve got the time”. I even sing the chorus of a song from one of the most revered engineers and handymen ever, “leave it with me” – Ted Glen star of Postman Pat.

To put this into context I did a bit of cooking, in the first year of married life and have done very little since. On one occasion, when working away from home, I even rang my wife for advice on how to make a “cup-o-soup”; embarrassing but true.

So the purpose of these blogs is to share with you, how I approached it, what went well and what didn’t. My hope is that it will help others to have a go and give their better halves a deserved change at Christmas. So why not have a go yourself in 2017?

I’ll blog on this topic with tips, over the coming weeks. However, I’ll share the first 3 with you now.


As far as cooking goes I’m base zero, so the internet was a great place to start and I’d recommend the following sites:

One conclusion I came to, was that there is no single defined way to do anything. Even yorkshire puddings can be made many, many different ways, eg 1,2 or 4 eggs for the same quantity. Many different ingredients and methods work, so just pick one that seems to fit with your diners preferences AND your level of ability and go for it.

From the research, you’ll arrive at a menu and this was mine.

This is a challenging menu for a newbie (and probablyeven an experienced cook), so that leads to the second tip.


I started by thinking I wanted to do everything myself but I soon came to my senses and delegated. I’m very fortunate to have willing and able, sons and their partners, so one couple took on the starters and one took on the sweets. This worked out really well on the day, as I was not alone in the kitchen and it was really nice for all of us to work together, without a cross word – promise!

My wife also gave lots of advice and was an invaluable help when the heat was on. She also enjoyed her day more than ever, as she could relax, have a drink of champagne and spend time with our family.


Seems obvious but as in many things, it’s the key to success. The maxim, “Failure to plan, is to plan to fail” is true. As is, “proper planning prevents p**s poor performance”.

My planning was done using the following excel spreadsheet.

You’ll see I’ve planned quantities, methods, and timing. The timing tab is incomplete as I ended up writing it out as I was changing it that much. However, on the day, the timing plan is absolutely vital. Mine worked but only just, as any xmas day cook will tell you, it gets frantic the closer you get to mealtime! You don’t have time to think, so just follow the plan and cross your fingers.

Make as much as you can before the big day. I made and froze the red cabbage a couple of weeks earlier and on Xmas eve I made the turnip, stuffing and apple sauce. I even planned which serving dish to use for each offering AND labelled them! Sad but true and effective. Remember, you can’t over plan.

Here’s a link on planning using excel spreadsheets, from Mr Chris Croft, a first class business trainer I came across several years ago.

Chris is a great guy, with a website packed with useful and interesting stuff – go to,

Got the engine – need the wheels

It’s good that Cyclemaster was sold as a powered wheel for any bicycle, as this opens up my search for a bike to basically any from the 50’s. Perfect would be a Mercury, as they were the official partner to Cyclemaster but realistically any will do, as long as it’s:

  1. a tourer
  2. has rod brakes (cable were available but rod just looks right for the period),
  3. is fitted with 26″ wheels, as that’s what the gearing is designed for,
  4. has a Brookes seat with big springs – also preferably comfortable,
  5. has period lights, particularly a large front one,
  6. oh and has mudguards, most did in the 50’s as they were more practical than style conscious,
  7. and finally, has some rust (or patina as the posh people say) but not too much

A Rudge would be great, or a Triumph, or a BSA. Or maybe a Hercules, or an Elswick, or even a Raleigh. They were the largest British cycle manufacturer and a major exporter to the USA, where they are still popular with collectors today.

Let the search commence.

some bad news and some good, or should it the other way around?

no, lets get the bad news out of the way first.

  1. the cyclemotor has no spark plug, which is odd as it has a blanking plug in the plug hole. Oh and it has no plug lead either; it’s just been cut off where it exists the magneto..
  2. some other bits are missing, like the drive chain from the engine to the wheel and the eccentric spacer used to adjust the drive chain

and it gets worse, as I’ve attached a short lead to the HT lead stub and there’s no spark, nothing, not even the slightest pulse, dead as a parrot

‘This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late parrot. It’s a stiff. Bereft of life,…

Also rigor mortis has set in as the clutch is stuck closed. No surprising though, as it’s not been operated for around 50 years.

But there is good news. Looking through the plug hole, the piston is clean aluminium, no black carbon as you would expect, particularly on a 2 stroke that burns oil in the petrol. So maybe the engine was refurbed and the owner never got round to using it again – we’ll see.

And even better news is that the seller has found 2 old number plates (but not the log book). However, the really good news is that one of the number plates is recognised on the DVLA website.


CYCLEMASTER, 32cc, first registered 13 September 1952

All I need to do is send form V62 to the DVLA and (with luck) they’ll send a new logbook, so the cyclemaster can ride again (some day) on it’s original number.. maybe.



making it happen

After weeks of searching on ebay, gumtree, preloved etc. it finally happened one Sunday morning. Ebay came good and a 32cc Cyclemaster was won AND it was local, only 7 miles away.

Bought blind, it was very much an unknown quantity – owned from new by the sellers grandfather; not known whether it was functional or even compete; not known when it last ran and no log book. It originated in the West Country from a family of” hoarders” – their description not mine! They turned out to be very genuine, really helpful people who were a pleasure to meet.


They didn’t know the registration number but agreed to have a look for the log book, or an old photo, next time they were down in Bristol. Fingers crossed, they’ll find it…..


So where did it start..

my interest in Cyclemasters?

Well to be honest I don’t remember, it just sort of happened when surfing. I guess some links caught my eye and it just grew from there. I won’t bore you repeating all the things that interested me, I’ll just point you to a couple of sites and you can decide for yourself.

The moped achive

Cyclemaster Museum

You’ll find references, to the Cyclemaster being like a swiss watch (hence the header), to how it generated social change and even how it strengthened the gene pool – yes, hard to see how, so just click on.