Going Slow, With Style: 1953 AJS 18S
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Starting a British one lunger is easy — if you follow the specified starting procedure exactly. Don explains: “You turn the fuel tap on and tickle the carburetor. If it’s cool outside, you drop the air slide. You turn the manual advance on the left handlebar to full retard, use the kick starter to get the piston to full compression, pull the compression release, ease the motor over to just beyond top-dead center and give it a good healthy kick. It should start — if you did everything right in the right sequence.”
The manual advance lets the rider tune the bike from the handlebars. “As you adjust the lever, you can feel the bike pulling more or less hard. It compensates if the magneto isn’t timed exactly right,” Don says. The four-speed Burman box shifts nicely, and the brakes actually work. That said, Don notes that the Ajay “isn’t fast enough to test the handling.” And it runs on today’s regular gas, which is considerably higher octane than the miserable gasoline available to British riders in 1953.
“It’s more of a character bike,” Don explains. “People appreciate its patina. Riding it is fun. I have time to see what I am riding through. I like the chronometric dials, they move a little jump at a time. It’s not fast, it’s not powerful, it’s just pleasant to ride. I own a lot of bikes, and I only keep a few licensed. This is one of them.” Slow it might be, but that doesn’t keep this old AJS from being one of the more enjoyable motorcycles made. MC
AJS and Matchless Owners Club Limited
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