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Restoring Motorcycle Transmissions

Restoring Motorcycle Transmissions

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ISBN: 0-85045-859-5
Dimensions (inches): 7.75 x 10.5 x 0.375
Publisher: Osprey Publishing (UK), 1989
Original List Price: £9.95
126 pages, B&W Photos, Line Drawings and Illustrations

On my desk is an ever-growing stack of motorcycle books that are waiting for reviews.

I’ve been ignoring it, hoping that it will somehow get smaller rather than larger.

But every time I see an interesting motorcycle book, new or old, I just can’t seem to resist buying it.

So it’s time to get reading and start writing.

As I was thumbing through the pile, trying to figure out where to start, I discovered this 1989 paperback that’s been waiting for me to crack the cover since I found it a few years ago at a closeout sale.

“Restoring Motorcycle Transmissions” was written by Roy Bacon.

He’s a hugely prolific author of motorcycle and automobile books who has written dozens — if not hundreds — of books about motorcycles.

Those include books about motorcycle restoration and rebuilding, the history of various motorcycle manufacturers and a lot more.

We’ve reviewed several Roy Bacon books in the past, but this is the first of his restoration guides that I’ve read.

Restoring Motorcycle Transmissions is slightly dated, but it contains a wealth of information about vintage motorcycle transmissions and how they work.

I can’t say that by reading this book you’ll become an expert transmission rebuilder, but it does provide some very good background information on motorcycle transmissions and it explains the differences in various transmissions and how they work.

It starts with a look at some of the very first motorcycle transmissions and drive systems used back in the early 1900’s and it provides an overview of many different types of transmissions up to the 1960’s BSA, Triumph and other British makes.

The beginning chapters also feature a basic shop guide with tips and tricks designed to help anyone who plans on restoring a vintage transmission.

But the tips are helpful even if you’re not planning a complete tear-down but a less complicated general restoration.

The only issue I have with the book is that it assumes that the reader has some previous knowledge or understanding of transmissions and the terminology used to describe the various parts.

Although I enjoyed reading it, I struggled a few times to understand the processes that were being described.

The book has a selection of black and white photos and graphics where appropriate, but Bacon has included many line drawings taken from various sources, including the original shop manuals, which serve to illustrate the inner workings of the transmissions.

After covering drives, clutch types and the basics of a motorcycle transmission, Bacon then describes some of the types of transmissions that might be encountered in a restoration.

Although many readers may only be interested in one specific type or brand, it helps to develop a broader understanding of the various engineering solutions that have been devised over the years.

Transmissions transmit power to the rear wheel — some are simple and elegant, while others are complex and prone to breakage.

The last 10 or so pages are an appendix that discusses gear ratios, bearing sizes and chain dimensions, which may also be helpful for a restoration.

Although I’m not planning on restoring a vintage transmission any time soon, I’m always interested in learning about technologies related to motorcycling.

And Restoring Motorcycle Transmissions has provided me with a good background on the inner workings of these highly complex devices.

ADDENDUM: I forgot to mention — this book is (was) part of the “Restoring Motorcycles” series by Roy Bacon.

I think these were first published in the mid- to late-1980’s.

The series also includes these books, which can still be found: Four-Stroke Engines; Electrics; Two-Stroke Engines; Carburetors and Frames and Forks.

The publisher, Osprey Publishing (London), says of the series “The books are essential, practical, do-it-yourself guides, covering as wide a range of marques as possible, and are aimed at enthusiasts who undertake their own maintenance or restoration”.

I don’t think that the book has taught me enough to tackle a complete restoration job, but at the very least I feel confident that do know enough to hold an intelligent conversation with a professional restorer and communicate my needs.

I’ve also learned a lot about basic transmission concepts and mechanics, so my goals have been satisfied.

Publication Date: October 2008

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