Aliens tries to do all their own machining in-house. ''Saves time and money," says Steve Panter

But first a quick history lesson: Aliens Performance goes back to around 1983 when Phil Allen formed a motorcycle business in Nottinghamshire. He was a well-known character and indulged his passion in racing by nelping with the Sparton race machines, which were an amalgam of Barton Engineering and Spcndon frames. Phil got the Sparton working by buying jets and needles from Padgetts and then indulging in a bit of trial and error engineering. It worked and soon Phil realised he was onto something. Also, he <new that there weren't many places you could buy carburettors or their associated parts from, so soon he changed Aliens Motorcycle to Aliens Performance. From then on, Phil became the fount of all knowledge on all things carb. He'd make carb kits, set bikes up, keep the settings anc basically trade on his unrivalled expertise. Sadly, Phil died a few years before Steve joined but the firm has been in their current unit in Bingham, Notts, for the last decade.

Steve says: "I joined in 2002 and I can only say I was dropped in at the deep-end: there was no other way. You can't train for being a carburettor expert. I did a basic motorcycle maintenance City and Guilds course when I was younger and I always worked on my own bikes, but that was it! It was solid, on-the-job training and you learn quickly. In 2004 I took over. It's fair to say that either I took it over or it would disappear and I didn't want that to happen. Another lad had the chance of taking it on, but I think he was risk-averse. I wasn't - I've raced BSA Bantams..."

Today, Aliens comprises of Steve, his grandfather John Plowright, Simon Wa sh, Mick Radford and Janice Bailey. It's a wonderfully cluttered and calmly chaotic kind of workshop. Perhaps the best description would be 'old school', but with a modern touch. A first generation Aprilia RS250 sits in one corner, wi:h its tank up, awaiting work. A few old, but still-useful engineering machines sit nearby, awaiting Steve to commission them aga n, while on the wall in the corridor are hundreds of small trays, each filled with various parts, needles and jets to keep tens of thousands of carburettors working. In a separate room is a home-made dyno, complete with Steve's dismantled racirg BSA Bantam sitting on it, looking a little worse for wear (he's blown it up...) and next to it a Benelli 650S from the early 1970s, which will serve as a test mule for a future range of products. Meanwiile John is busy machining adjusters so a carb and filter can fit onto a BSA B50, and as we move around the workshop the owner rings, asking when it will be ready. The phone rings almost constantly.

"We''e a small operat on but we're normally pretty busy," says Steve. "Ironically, this time of year is normally quiet and we're one man down, as someone's just left us. I was thinking that would be OK, but we've stayed busy. Normally work tails off in the winter."

At just 31, it's fair to say Steve has (thanks to his 'in at the deep-end on-the-job training) soaked up more knowledge on carts and carb operation than most of us would learn in a lifetime and he's always keen to further anyone's knowledge and dispel any 'old wives' tales'.

Take the Kawasaki ZX7750 lirrited-edition K and M series of machines. I rode one and found the standard carbs stuttery low-down in the rev-range, but as Steve says: "Suddenly everyone was repeating this comment and this became the comment that flat-slides are no good for the road, which is rubbish. As standard the Kawasaki's carbs were fundamentally flawed. Maybe they

Aliens tries to do all their own machining in-house. ''Saves time and money," says Steve Panter

This home-made dyno will help Aliens build ignition and carb kits

52 cmm © January 2011

didn't spend enough time and money developing :hem, but the bleed-type tubes used on the original carbs are different to the (much better) later, aftermarket ones. On the earlier tube, the air bleeds further down it, but now every downdraft Keihin FCR carb uses the later tube You tune the carb on the needle and get different diameter needles and different tapers and lengths before the taper starts; that's your tuning part, whereas the older tube is not used as a tuning part. Mikunis use different diameter orifices, needles and jets, but Keihin normally just use the needle for tuning. It's two different styles of doing the same thing, but it's a real shame Kawasaki and Keihin used these parts on the ZXRs because the press moaned about the bikes. They shot themselves in the foot and the reaction was that 'you can't set up flat-slides for the road.' That's just not true."

With more phone calls coming in, I'm wondering just how Steve's expertise is used. He says: "We're selling products because the customer's bike isn't running brilliantly, whi<%is why people come to us and buy aftermarket carbs. The thing is, it may not be due to the carbs, it could be the ignition. Quite often the symptoms are similar and confusing. So you go through everything with them. I have had people expect me tp listen to their bike down the phone an^diagnose a problem.' With the close telationship between carbs and ignition^Steve is embarking on a project with ws Benelli "We want to do ignition and c packages that complement eacft\ other. At the moment ignitions on the market aren't very sophisticated, they're analogue and many are suitable only for a chainsaw. The curve suits not one single engine. We're doing something ►

Steve at work. Carb building requires Swiss-watch precision www. classicmechanics. com o cmm 53 Release: StoreMags & Fantamag. Magazines for All

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