Category Archives: jawa

Better days

I am sitting holding a leather jacket while the man it belongs to does something daring. This makes me laugh. It’s the kind of thing I imagine a Pink Lady might do for her favourite T-bird. It’s not what I do. I rebuild carburettors, scour North Wales for spark plugs and drop the needle in the throttle to stop my engine running lean.

It didn’t help. Last weekend I came home from Welshpool in Biker Paul’s car while the Jawa went back to Wisbech with a wrecked gearbox. I no longer own it. It has gone back whence it came, for £1500 less than I paid for it. Add to that the £800 quid it cost me to ferry it up to Scotland and back down again, about a hundred for miscellaneous repair parts and a big tin of Jizer to degrease the baffles, two pounds twenty for the jar of Nutella and 50 quid in fuel and 2-stroke that I filled up with but didn’t get to use for the Welsh National Rally and the tiny number of trouble-free miles it covered seem like an extremely expensive luxury.

I am a bit bitter.

It doesn’t help that I am back in Wales this weekend for the Wartburg-Trabant IFA Club’s Eastern Bloc Vehicle Weekend. The first one of these I took part in was based around Lacock and was Scabbers the Trabi’s only happy outing before his long and painful expiration.

As the Jawa has now followed in Scabbers’ tyre tracks, this year I have come to Llangollen in Hortense, who is trying to blend in with her 602cc engine and lack of top speed. Just to rub salt in the wound, the hotel we gather in for Friday night’s meal is about 400 yards from the hill on which the Jawa’s gearbox gave up.

To be fair, if you are feeling sore about the failure of your Eastern Bloc vehicle, there is no better company to be among. Markus the Barkas didn’t make it at all, having broken his clutch cable over the Bank Holiday. Wilfred the Traction Engineer had to rebuild his top end over the winter after discovering that the Tramp had eaten a piston ring. The Ural pilot sat next to me at dinner had to learn how to set up and time his ignition rotor. Cheerfulness in the face of adversity is the secret. Beer helps.

It was a beautiful sunny weekend and AdventureDog and I assumed our traditional seat in the right hand side of the Tramp for Saturday’s train adventure and road run. With a short pause to reattach the exhaust and a second brief halt to change a spark plug after one of the cylinders stops working. Perhaps my expectations of Jawa ownership were too high.

Why am I holding a leather jacket? Because on Sunday morning we had an excursion across the Pontcysyllte aqueduct. The lad who opens up and sells the tickets also races grasstrack and does first aid at race meetings. He had a cautionary tale about a sidecar passenger who fell out when the outfit flipped over during a race and was found walking back to base with a broken leg. “It’s only a flesh wound,” I said. Without breaking stride he said “Tis but a scratch” and carried on with the story.

On a glorious sunny day, sitting in a canal boat crossing one of the wonders of the industrial world isn’t really challenging enough for the adventurous two-stroke traveller. MZ Tim said, “can we walk back?”

No problem, said the crew.

I thought about it. I have climbed the Diamond Tree. But no-one wants to see a grown woman cry. Dog and I stood on the towpath so that we could say we had done it but returned to the safe haven of the bows of the narrow boat and sat there trying not to look down. We took our jacket-holding duties seriously and handed it back in the sunshine at the Jones the Boat basin.

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I try to keep the list of ‘things I don’t want the landlady to know about’ fairly short. I don’t drink in the house very often, I haven’t had any gentlemen callers ( though I should perhaps add that they haven’t exactly been forming a queue) and I haven’t sat on her sofa in my pants to watch Strictly.

I am not sure that this adds up to enough in the ‘virtue’ column to make up for ‘arsing about with petrol on her garden furniture.’ Close to the spot she likes to stand for an after-dinner ciggy. But last Friday was dry, clear and still, while the forecast for the weekend was crap again. And, based on prior experience, I had about two hours before she came home. Fortune favours the brave and all that….

Checking the float on a 2CV carb is simple. Whip the top off, turn it upside down, and check that the dimple in the middle of the float is 18mm plus or minus 1 above the edge of the carb body. If you’re feeling thorough, check both floats and average it out.

Checking the Jikov 2829 CE requires a Nutella jar, a ruler, a length of tubing, a syringe, a permanent marker and some non-latex gloves. I couldn’t find my syringe so I had to nab the landlady’s Highland Spring bottle from the draining board. I hope she isn’t still looking for it.

Eat the Nutella. (I had to skip this step as it isn’t Fat Club compliant and spoon it into a tub instead.) Mark a line 10mm from the lip of the glass. Balance the top half of the carb on the jar. If you left the fuel hose on the tap go and fetch it and attach it to the carb. Using the syringe, feed the carb with petrol until the valve closes. Wipe up the petrol you spilled on the table before it melts it. Realise that over-enthusiastic syringing has resulted in overflow, giving a false reading. Syringe the petrol back out of the Nutella jar and try again. Keep trying until the valve closes just as the petrol hits the line that you drew.

Worry about meniscuses and other visual tricks.

Decide that time is short and you are close enough for jazz.

Assembly is the reverse of disassembly. Though without dropping any screws down holes this time. David Angel at F2 sends brilliant step-by-step instructions, though not for the fainthearted. I don’t think Haynes has ever suggested I should roll a rubber hose back like a condom before fitting it, but it did the job beautifully.

By 5pm on Friday I had a bike that started and ran. Which was a significant victory. Since then I have mostly been trying to set the air mix screw, with limited success. I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos, mainly by a chap called Mustie1 who is fettling a barn find Jawa at the moment. I need him to stop fannying around polishing the paintwork and show me how to tune the carb!

I also found a brilliant description of the process on the Yezdi and Jawa Club of Chennai website.

“select a place far away from the city or your residential area so that you do not disturb the tired, sick, disgusted, old people or babes (babies) living in your colony. You are likely to be shooed away from them when you are at a critical point. You may choose a place near your girl friend’s house just to impress her! Put the bike in main stand and get hold of your screw driver. That is all you need, together with your eyes, brains and ears.”

Yesterday I thought I had this cracked. I headed to a local beauty spot where one of this year’s RBR landmarks is located. I selected a place far away from my colony and adjusted the screw until the engine had a cheerful sound and the throttle response was quick without hesitation, deviation or repetition.

Today we were idling like a dog again. But yesterday was beautifully sunny and today was grey and damp. Maybe that makes a difference?

Who knows. After all the surgery I feel it’s now time just to start riding and see what happens. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, I could melt my pistons, lock the engine, crash and die. But I’ve done that once before (the melting part, not the crashing and dying part) so hopefully will feel it happening while there’s still time to pull in the clutch.

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I am buying a house. I owned a house until February last year and I sold it. So buying a new one makes me sad and angry, mostly with myself. And scared, because I don’t want to be taking on a mortgage at this point in my life but prices have gone up and my savings have gone down.

Four days of fettling a motorcycle in the rain have helped to remind me that having your own house is A Good Thing. If this had been my house I’d have put the outfit in the conservatory, put Planet Rock on, and had a lovely time. If the landlady had gone away for Easter I’d have been tempted to do the same. But no, she had the audacity to want to stay in her own home for Easter so I put my kagoule on, tried to find a spot for my cup of tea where it wouldn’t get diluted, and cracked on.

First, the dribbly exhausts. The internet is full of advice on having to take cutting wheels to welds and perform tricks with mole grips to get baffles out. I am here to tell you it’s much easier than that. Undo the 7mm bolt each side of the tailpipe and pull. Inside there’s a collection of objects d’art and two rubber rings, in my case, dripping with oil. Better get a bucket. And some degreaser.

It is much harder than I expected to get degreaser these days. Homebase don’t have it, the Brown Overall Emporium that had my Lomax bolts didn’t have it, and Halfords only do it on pre-order. Even my longstop local car accessories place only had a tiny tin. Has it been banned for our own good? I bet Shetland Janitorial could have helped..

So that was Good Friday. Degreasing, in the rain. After a bit of a James Herriot moment with my rubber-gloved hand inserted up the bike’s rear end I decided to take the pipes off for better access and to give a good clean to the surfaces where the collars meet the head, because David Angel says if these are dirty the seal will be poor.IMG_0598.JPG

Easter Saturday was more degreasing, cleaning of heads, refitting of shiny clean pipes, and then the game of trying to get the baffles back in. You can take them out in pieces but they need to go back as one unit. Have a guess how many tries it took to figure that one out….

2 days down, one job done. I ponder whether TV shows like Shed & Buried raise unrealistic expectations about how long jobs should take but decide that no, I’m just brick slow. My excuse is that I’ve never done this before. Next time will be quicker.

Another cup of tea, and then time to tackle the carb. I have a new float valve to fit and a set of gaskets in case I tear one. I’ve been eyeing up jars in supermarkets because the internet says that a jar with a 7cm neck is the right size to check the float height. And it needs to be really shallow to save me from having to take the whole carb off. Fortunately I work in a university town so roaming the aisles with a ruler and muttering doesn’t attract comment. Or security guards.

Taking the float bowl off, I dropped the screws. No problem, I thought. There’s a kind of shallow dish on top of the engine – the one that filled with fuel when the carb overflowed in Sainsbury’s car park – that will catch them.

So why did I only recover three screws?

Because it’s a shallow dish with a hole in one side that leads down into the engine assembly.

Much despair.

I could buy another screw. But that would leave one inside the bike doing god knows what damage.

There is only one thing to do. Get out the Big Screwdriver and take the side cover off. Underneath is something that I think is the ignition module, something else that I have no clue about, and a shiny carb screw resting gently on a ledge. I retrieve it and back gently away.

Panic over, and game over too – one of the floats is half-full of pale yellow liquid, like a Fanta bottle on the central reservation.

I’m cross because I’m the world’s slowest mechanic and losing screws down holes is really not cool.

But I’m also happy because I was right – the float wasn’t floating properly.

But I’m cross because I wasn’t confident enough to back my hunch and order a float at the same time as the new valve, so now I am stuck for the rest of Easter. And I can’t even pig out on eggs because we had a stern lecture at Fat Club – one large egg has as many calories as two bottles of wine. “Would you sit and drink two bottles of wine to yourself?” asked the leader. Most of us nodded, to her disappointment.

The exhausts look shiny though.


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All isn’t quiet, on New Year’s Eve.

When I was about twelve my best friend and I went on a bicycle adventure to visit her nanna in the next town. I’m pretty sure we cycled up the disused railway track, so we weren’t in peril from inattentive drivers. It was a magnificent, Enid-Blyton-style adventure and we probably had cake and lashings of ginger beer at our destination before returning home, triumphant.

To receive a bollocking from my dad. What was I thinking, going on a journey on a bicycle in inadequate mechanical condition? Slightly baffled pre-teen me was puzzled by the revelation that bicycle maintenance was one of my chores, and also couldn’t see anything particularly wrong with the bike, apart from a slightly wonky front light, which we didn’t need as we weren’t cycling in the dark.

Parade duly pissed on, I gave up bicycle adventures.

But I pondered the lesson anew while I waited in the rain for the recovery wagon a couple of weeks ago. If I had packed a can of WD40, we would probably have been able to get going again – a point proven by my trip home from Birmingham after Christmas, when we coughed majestically to a stop in the slush and quick deployment of the Smart Straw on all the under-seat wiring saved the day. If I had packed my waterproofs, I’d at least have had a less uncomfortable wait. And if I’d done my pre-trip maintenance, like my dad told me to, it might not have happened

My excuses are legitimate. I live in a spare room of a Rather Naice House. I have already created puddles of castor oil and Kurust on the front drive after some emergency 2CV maintenance. While the outfit would fit quite nicely into the conservatory, which would be an excellent winter fettling venue, I fear my tenancy would not survive. Also it’s dark when I get home from work.

But in these #twixmas days (now rebranded Chrimbo Limbo) I am at home in daylight and can get the toolkit out.

Electrical problems are a bastard and can only be resolved by being methodical. It’s really quite soothing. Cup of tea, camping chair, can of contact cleaner, big roll of kitchen towel, vaseline. It’s also a chance to get to know the bike, which I should really have done back in July but I was too busy learning how to ride it.

Everything under the seat is dirty, wet, and some connections are a bit loose. In the interests of checking my work as I go, there’s a fair amount of starting up and revving what is, if truth be admitted, a noisy, smelly 2-stroke.

On the fourth round of test firing, next door’s front door opens and the neighbour pops her head out. She’s an older lady and spends a lot of time in her garden. I cut the engine and wait for the smoke to disperse so that I can apologise, before realising she’s giving the thumbs up.

“Well done you! Great to hear it running properly.”

We have a chat about engines, cars and 2CV gearlevers. She recommends WD40 and Jizer as the two fluids a woman can rely on and gives me a couple of shop towels from her stash.

Never judge.

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