Go with the flow…
The Classic MotorCycle|December 2020
... or not, as the current peters out, meaning that there’s some more figuring out required.
TIM BRITTON

Electrical stuff, I freely admit, scares me, and not just because in my previous working life – one of them at least – it was not unknown for loud bangs, fizzing and eye-watering flashes to zip around the site as this mystical substance caught out the unwary practitioner of the art.

This possibly explains my nervousness in tackling this area of motorcycle rebuilding. It is unlikely the electrical system of a motorcycle would cause such an incident as described, though I was witness to a traffic light incident when a sidecarist attempted to investigate the misfire, in the rain, and touched the HT lead with wet gloves. I swear the outfit leaped clear off the road.

It doesn’t help I have any number of friends highly skilled in this area, all happily explaining how easy and logical electrical work is; maybe for them, but still I approach with caution and a desperation to find some other part of the bike to work on.

However, as time moves on, there are fewer excuses available and the subject has to be tackled. It doesn’t help the point has also been reached where I am determined to use the bits I have in order to at least make the spark plugs spark. I know that a much quicker and easier way to arrive at this spark would be to use an electronic ignition – something which has to be the most beneficial invention in the old bike world – in fact, even my very patient other half tartly suggested I ‘just go out and buy one’ when I moaned for the umpteenth time how easy fitting electronics would be compared to what I was mucking about with.

What I’m trying to put together is a simple system with no battery, as I don’t like them on an old off-road bike. Though the models in the ‘C’ range weren’t the first Triumphs to use a coil ignition powered by an alternator (that honour was claimed by the 5T Speed twin in 1953), it did mark the point when ignition started to be modern and over the next few years, each of the models would change to this system.

The thing is, in the early days looking at the wiring diagrams it wasn’t so much how the system failed occasionally, but more how it managed to work in the first place... at least to my untrained eye. There seems to be an inordinate amount of wires, switches and controls which could prevent the original system passing any kind of current at all, and the slightest bit of corrosion or dirt can end the play before it starts. On an original machine, wires head back and forth from front to back of a motorcycle, meander down to brake switches, wander up to dip switches while passing through coils, control units and so on. A lighting switch doubling as an ignition switch has certain positions to bring certain functions into play, and to me it is all very confusing.

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