Commando Cafe Racer Rebuild

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Nov 11, 2008
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Hi all,

Didn't know this site existed until I stumbled upon it by chance, so g'day from Nunawading.

Been a bike nut for a long time and now in the final stages of a Commando rebuild which looks like this at the moment:
Commando Cafe Racer Rebuild

I bought it as a bucket of bolts with a rod through the crankcase around 12 years ago and am now (finally) on the home stretch.

I'm damned if I can get it to run though, despite the compression being healthy and everything else being set up by-the-book. I think the weedy RD350 coils fitted might be the cause. If anyone has a complete second-hand ignition set (coils, ballast resistor and mounting plate) they can part with, please let me know!

I'll post up a bit more on the bike as it progresses. I know it might offend some of the purists, but it was a cafe racer in its day and I'm trying to put it back to that style.

(edit: changed the subject title 3 May 2009)
Welcome to the forum. I am from the other side of the country in Perth.

This forum is a great source of info and saves a lot of headaches. It is also a great source of inspiration.
I'm damned if I can get it to run though, despite the compression being healthy and everything else being set up by-the-book. I think the weedy RD350 coils fitted might be the cause.

Are you running points or electronic ignition? If electronic, try laying the plug on the head and with the key "on" hit the kill button several times. You should see a spark. If you have points, pull the plugs and lay them on the head while kicking the engine through. Spark or no spark? If you are running Boyer or similar you should have the coils (6V) wired in series with no ballast resistor.

By the way, nice looking bike and welcome to the forum! What are those wheels? Yamaha SR500?

I'm in Port Melbourne with 850 Roadster, 850 Interstate 750 Fastback and a '71 Bonnie to keep me amused. They have been revived from the back of the shed syndrome. I am happy to look over your nice Cafe Commando if I can be of any help.

Call 0409 689 403.

Thanks for the responses guys.

Ron, I'm running the standard ignition setup, though I do have an electronic (TAI) set somewhere amongst all the bits I got with the bike. I've set the ignition timing up as standard by the book and checked for spark (I know it's hardly scientific, but it just seems to look a bit wimpy to me). Maybe I should try and get some car coils and lash them on just to see if I can get it to run. The coils are 12V RD350 ones wired in parallel.

I made up the entire loom from scratch as the one that came with it was beyond repair. I'm an electronics engineer by trade, so this part of the rebuild was pretty easy.

The wheels are from a chap called Peter Allen. The front forks are Seeley and the fairing, front guard and seat are Paul Dunstall. The rear shocks are Koni. The bike came with a Peter Allen 2:1 zorst system as well, but the muffler was totally perished. I've still got the header pipes and joiner, but prefer the look of the new (original) headers and pipes I've fitted.

Judging by the cubic style oil tank, slung behind the carbs, the bike was originally a sportster. There's no compliance badge on the steering stem though.

Thanks for the offer Mick, I've got a couple of hours free this arvo so am going to spend it on the bike. Might try some aerostart. If I'm not getting any joy I will take you up on your offer!

Will keep you informed of any progress (or lack therof)!
I have the original coils and wires off my 73 850, yours for shipping if you want them although I can't believe it'd be worth it. But again, they're yours if you want them.

I'd just buy a set of Dyna coils, or an Accel, or the like. In fact, I did....

Best of luck. VERY nice bike! Come to the Boston (USA) area and ride with me!
Woowwwha !!!

Twelve years.. !!!!

I was concerned my T150V has taken three years... but I am now on the front straight too ~

My current ride ~ Commando ( 900-30 1973 ) took three years ~

That's an intriguing front caliper mount/s you have created there... ( I am adapting Hinckley front callipers to a Yamaha Turbo front end for my Special Trident and on the lookout for mount designs.. )

I am a tad further north of you in Far ~ far north QLD.. west of Cairns ~

You will find the blokes here in are very handy and helpful lot ~

Cheers ~
Thanks guys,

Thanks for the offer Brian, I'd be interested in knowing what it would cost for shipping if you have any idea. I researched Dyna coils over the weekend and although they look the biz, they're bloody expensive!

Stu, the front end was done by the previous owner, around 20 years ago now. It's a big lump of aircraft grade Aluminium. Seems to be ok.

(BTW Stuart, that avatar looks very much like one I've seen kicking around the TW forum.)
Hey nice looking bike,

I would suggest you put dual coil ignition that will tuck up neatly under the tank.
They are here in New Zealand and the freight won't be much and your bike will look like it does in the picture.

The original coils make the bike look a bit like a gawky British bomber.

Cheers Balders,

alas money's rather tight at the moment, just can't stretch it for the Pazon stuff, excellent though it appears. Still got to buy a new 1st gear to fix the kick start ratchet issue and then buy tyres.

The best deals I can find are these from MCParts:
either a couple of the 12V Lucas Replicas
switching over to a dual-lead single coil system (the items marked "Dual O/Put 12V" and "Heat Sink") and firing both plugs at the same time.

I know it's sacrilege, but I'm sure the old beast is complaining about having a couple of 2-stroke Japanese coils anyway!

Hey Dave,

I have all the kit you want in a box up in a cupboard.

Send me a PM and I will arrange to send you the good condition coils,leads and bracket FOC.

You can buy me a beer if I am in the neighbourhood!

You're a champ Balders,

Beers at my place next time you're in Aussie.

PM sent!
Got a bit of a beg here guys -
Can anyone post up a sketch of the coil mounting bracket with dimensions so that I can fabricate a facsimile?
Thanks in advance for any assistance.
Well good news, I made up the necessary wiring and lashed Baldrick's coils up with cable ties late Saturday night. These are 6V coils that I'm feeding with a modern 2 Ohm ballast resistor that I found kicking around at work on a modern ignition coil, the same as the recommended arrangement.

Finished about midnight so too late to try and start her. But Sunday morning I did give it a go. She fired a couple of times on both cylinders on the stand which was very promising. Took it out onto the street and had a push start down the road. She fired again on both cylinders for a couple of strokes and then stopped. Had to call it quits then as I'd run out of time.

Later analysis showed the capacitor chassis connections were pretty poor so I've dismantled the whole thing to build some proper coil mounts and I should be ready to try again in a couple of days.

Whoohoo! Really getting somewhere!
Baldrick said:
Go Dave... Get the Missus to give you a push next time!

Thanks Balders, I'm keen on living long enough to get a chance to ride it though!

My former boss, who is also a mad keen rider and who has had 4 or 5 Nortons over the years dropped over to have a look. I thought I'd prepped him pretty well by running him by the TRX first, but his jaw dropped at the sight of the Commando and all the old stories started to come out. He'd done his back years ago, so can no longer ride, but he just had to have a sit on the bike and that smile was from ear to ear. "Oh you'll never want to sell it after you ride it" he said which resulted in the missus dialling up about 10 kilowatts of laser power in the look she gave me. The pain. The pain...

ludwig said:
double check all your ground connections : engine to frame , battery , coils ...

Thanks Ludwig, good advice. The loom's my own manufacture, so could be a couple of dodgy connections. Must tackle the obvious first - the poor earth connections on the capacitors.
Ignition sub-assembly finished:
Commando Cafe Racer Rebuild

Fits perfectly up under the tank. Spark looks good and healthy. Static timing spot on. Compression good, so valve timing must be at least close.
Time for some kicking!
Well I couldn't put it off any longer and I've been rewarded. She actually ran! I am just so pleased. 12 years I've waited for this moment. 12 friggin years! Man my smile goes from ear to ear. I only let it run for a couple of seconds, I need to check that oil's flowing where it should. Will double check everything and try again later this arvo. Fingers crossed!
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