I came back from the York rally with bags full of bits, old and new, to be distributed among the various bikes. And Mrs Uncle Phil’s recently arrived vintage Moulton AM7 was needing work. I’m owed a couple of weeks time in lieu still from a particularly intensive stint in the field in the spring, so I took the day off today to tinker in the workshop. You know how, when you start tinkering with your bike, you find you haven’t got the part you need? Or a tool breaks? Or doesn’t fit? Or something is seized so solid you just can’t get it free and you end up breaking it, or a tool, or yourself, or all three? Well… None of those things happened today! I think it’s because I had all day: I could take my time, do everything right, and not have to rush to finish a job before dinner, or to go to bed, or anything else. So, the fixie now has a nicer chainset, and a new bottom bracket, and a rack (yes, sacrilege I know, but it wasn’t getting used because I usually have to tote stuff to work). The ‘bent has (temporarily) an old Shimano BioPace chainset. I’ve actually had the rings from one of these for years, from an old Marin mountain bike. When I stripped the frame to have it powder coated and rebuild it, I had to destroy the cranks to get them off. I’ve become aware that on a ‘bent, one tends to “pedal squares” more, because the weight of your legs isn’t evened out as it is on an upright. People are trying rotor cranks and Q-rings and so forth to help with this. I didn't want to spend that kind of money on an experiment, so I went shopping for cranks my Biopace rings would fit on at the rally, and got, in the Saddlebag Sale, a complete chainset for £3. I’ll let you know how I get on with it…. The Galaxy is down for a new set of wider handlebars, also £3, but that’ll have to wait… Meanwhile, the main work of the day was Mrs Uncle Phil’s Moulton. We called in at the Moulton works at Bradford on Avon last back end, on our way back from Granny Uncle Phil’s place. Shaun Moulton let us try all the latest bikes there, and we were smitten. Particularly Mrs Uncle Phil, because she’s tiny, and a Moulton actually fits her like no other bike she’s ever tried. It would be about the most expensive bike on the planet, though! So we’ve had our eyes on the second hand market. I snapped up a rather snazzy Bugatti blue AM7, which has been seen elsewhere on this forum. Mrs Uncle Phil wasn’t so bold, but found this slightly tired, but original early AM7 on Ebay. She’s working in the field just now, and it’s arrived while she’s away, but she’ll be back next weekend, and wants to ride it. And who wouldn’t? Unfortunately, besides dodgy cables (probably the original ones), the front suspension was seized, and the back wheel was a funny shape. Apart from that, it’s fine – well used, but running well. It also had both racks, special panniers for both racks, carrying bags for when the bike’s separated, and its original sale documents. So, stripped down the front end. A Stronglight roller bearing headset makes life easy there – no hundreds of tiny balls to lose. Just some rather dried out, sticky grease. Soaked in spirit and a toothbrush job to clean it up and it runs like new. (I’ve got some spare bearings and races anyway, from another Stronglight headset I accidentally destroyed…) A previous owner has believed that lots of engine oil is A Good Thing, so all the moving parts and surrounding areas are coated in something like dried-out treacle. So brakes went in the spirit for a bath. The nylon washers and bushes from the leading links were also treacly – into the spirit bath they went. But how to get the suspension working? The inner part that should have been sliding freely up and down inside the steerer tube, wasn’t. It wasn’t moving at all. Lots of reading of the Moultoneer website ensued. Using a metal rod to tap it all down from the top was the answer. The chances of having a length of rod of the right diameter to fit down the tube, slip past the pin and through the spring, and be stiff enough to hammer usefully on the other end seemed slim – but I had one! A few robust taps later and it was out. It seems the inner part that should have been moving but wasn’t, was a nylon plug. Early versions of these swell up with time and jam. I now have a replacement on order with the local Moulton dealer, but won’t stand on one leg waiting. Moulton make fantastic bikes, but lightning service isn’t part of the deal. Instead, I lathed it down until it fitted. I don’t have a lathe, so I drilled a little hole in the centre, put in a self-tapping screw and cut its head off. Then I could put the screw in the chuck of a drill and voila- a vertical axis lathe. A little chisel work and sandpapering later and it fitted. I’ll replace it with a less bodged one when/if it arrives! I managed not to lose any parts while reassembling everything - (the gods must have been smiling on me, because I didn't even have one of those periods of guddling in the dust and fluff under the work bench looking for a small part that's rolled off into the shadows... I even keep a torch in there now so I can look for things CSI-style when this happens) – and it works! I stopped for a leisurely lunch before tackling the wobbly wheel, because I don’t have a good record with wheels. I don’t really have the patience, and my nipples always seem to be rounded or seized. (Now now…) This bike has stainless steel nipples and spokes, and everything worked. The wheel is now perfectly circular and more or less true (I’m not going to agonise over the last millimetre because we’re going for new wheels soon anyway). New pedals, toe clips and straps, new brake cables, new super-short stem (quill of course), handlebars and brake levers, and the bike’s ready to go except for handlebar tape, or Grab-ons – the only thing I didn’t have ready to put on. But I could ride it around the block, and it rides very nicely. Mrs Uncle Phil should be very pleased. So all in all, a very satisfactory day. And how often does that happen? Oh yes, and after five years, one of my barn owl boxes has barn owls in it! Wahey - two chicks, all doing well. They've had little owls, jackdaws, stock doves, now, finally, bran wols!!