Well finally, after months of hard graft and derision from onlookers the mighty Mercette finally made it down the road and back (eventually) with Jane aboard followed by Dick ‘the Dunkley’ and myself after being resurrected from a box of bits (the Mercette, not me!). Technical problems had put the trip off from the weekend. First it wouldn’t run. We dropped the needle down and then put it back up again then the flywheel came loose, for no apparent reason, and the points closed up! Strange that it was running so well before and then just stopped. That’ll be Dunkley engineering for you! We got out the big boys box of spark plugs and selected a reasonably ‘hot’ one thinking that may help. Leaving it to Dick ‘the Dunkley’ Yeouns, who can now rebuild a Dunkley engine with his eyes closed, I went off to earn some money. Late Monday night he staggered round proclaiming success. We had a cuppa and told Jane all systems were go for Wednesday. Tuesday was out as we were off to celebrate Trafalgar Day at the Lord Nelson, Hythe, but that’s another story that involved an electric train!
The day dawned bright and cheery and we agreed to have an ‘all systems go’ once I got back from collecting the Triumph frame from Ivor the Powder. Dick fettled the brute ready for the off and I went to find the camera. Still determined to be the first to ride it Jane downed a couple of large ports, had a final roll-up and prepared for a steep learning curve! After a briefing from neighbour Dick, Jane eventually got the hang of starting the thing. Get it on the stand, engage first gear, swing the pedal and it roars into life. Frantically get the clutch in and into neutral before it falls off the stand and takes off down the road, while keeping the throttle open. Looking a little pale she straddled the sumptuously padded saddle (riveted on!) and crashed the concoction of levers, pedals and chains into gear and nervously let out the clutch. There was a roar, a grating noise and it stopped. Now giggling along with the increasing number of well-wishers she got it going again, leapt aboard and let go the clutch while the right hand poured on the power. Gingerly it moved forward to a tremendous cheer and stopped. The maiden voyage had covered nearly twice the length of the Mixte frame. First gear, swift turn of the pedals and it was going again. More revs and contraption wove off down the road, the rear end almost independent of the front. Before we knew it she’d reached terminal velocity in first gear and had run out of road. With a choice of three levers a twistgrip, gearchange and throttle she opted for neutral and a brake lever which, as luck would have it, was the front brake. She stopped. Miraculously the engine didn’t. Janefully she manhandled it round, pointed it back up the road and let go the clutch. It stopped.
Dick and I laughed and discussed the best way forward with the next project while Jane valiantly tried to restart the darling. Eventually we decided we best go and help. After much peddling and more merriment it burst back into life (for no apparent reason) and once more Jane zoomed into the distance, this time stopping almost under control. The little engine purred away as we sauntered up to congratulate her then coughed and died.
Now it was Dick’s turn as he had, against all the odds got all the parts, looking like a sort of bike again. Confidently he started it up, engaged first and crashed off for all of ten feet. All was not well. Spanners out and the gearchange lever was adjusted (part of the shake-down process you know!!) and, tacker-tacker, he was off, jacket nearly blowing in the wind. A quick turn round and back to base. My turn.
Comfy seat. Quick start-up but a reluctance to run at any throttle. Eventually it picked up. Let out the clutch and away it went. The end of the road approached, knock it into neutral and hit the front brake. Engine still running, turn round and revs start to die. The first non-stop run fails as the engine sputters to a stop. Engage first gear and pedal like hell, drop the clutch and the engine just manages to take over for the last few yards. Sounds like its eight-stroking now so only one thing left to do. Fuel off, into neutral and pedal. Brilliant! Silent, quick acceleration and not using any fuel. This is the way to ride it!! I bet it will still leak oil though.
So, tomorrow we need to find out what has happened to the timing, plug, flywheel or points. Has to be electrical, but we have another set of innards! Apart from that, a successful first outing and, now we have finally stopped laughing, all agree that we, definitely, now know why they went out of business. Easy to ride? Possibly if you don’t use the engine to propel you. Mind you, it probably won’t pedal for very long! So the vino plonko is in the fridge and later we will have a quiet celebration of a feat nearly accomplished.