Modern Motorcycle Mechanics, 2nd Edition
You’ll already know the book known as MMM, and hopefully you have a copy on a shelf in your workshop or in your office. But most likely you have the 7th and last edition, written in 1974. That last edition was the culmination of decades of work by J.B. Nicholson, and it shares much of his knowledge and tips for working on bikes, riding them, even running a shop.
We’ve covered Nicholson’s book here on Occhiolungo a few times. Click on this link to see some of the articles. There has also been a biography written about him by Greg Williams, which will come up via that link too. Greg has now re-published MMM’s second edition, which has some treats that are not in the other copies of the book.
Written in 1945, the 2nd edition has all the good stuff from the first edition, but with a lot more in its 560 pages. Fans of pre1945 bikes, either made in the USA or made in England, know that there are not a lot of factory owner’s manuals or guides available. But Nicholson was writing precisely that information, and he did it back then when the bikes were new in his shop. There is even a big section on Army motorcycles, as they were pretty common at that time. New riders needed to learn how to operate these bikes, and how to keep them operating on and off the roads.
My favorite chapter isn’t in the later editions: Motorcycle Machine Shop Practice! It shows how small shops in the 1940s would use a lathe to do a variety of tasks, or how to set up a cylinder boring machine, make and install bushings, use adjustable reamers, grind a crankpin with a toolpost grinder, etc. Since Nicholson was lmited by the size of each edition, he took out some pages every time he wrote a new version to make room for the newer info. This chapter and the chapter on Speed Tuning, and the Army bike chapter, and countless other paragraphs and pages went missing over the years. So if you only have the 7th edition, you are missing some of the good stuff circa 1945.
Chapters include Motorcycling, Design, Operation, Maintenance, Service for British Bikes, Reconditioning and Service of Brit Bikes, Villiers Two Strokes, Harley Service, Indian Service, Machine Shop Practice, Trouble Tracing, Speed Tuning, and Army Motorcycles.
Speed Tuning covers OHV and SV motors. Much of the information will be familiar to modern readers, but Nicholson covers many tips on increasing power for early bikes. He gives specifications on things like valve spring pressure, carb and valve sizes, piston clearances and a bit on cam duration and lift. There is special attention paid to Triumph Speed Twins and Tiger 100 motorcycles, as they were the hot bikes then.
The book is available from the publisher here for $58. You might wonder about buying it if you already have a later edition. I did too. But now that I have the 2nd, I think that I’ll use it more than than my copy of the 7th.