Questions? Looking for parts? Parts for sale? or just for a chat,

The WD Motorcycle forum

WD Motorcycle forum
Start a New Topic 
James ML wheel bearings


I'm new to the forum. I'm restoring a James ML and Royal Enfield WD/CO/B. Regarding the James, I'm one of the lucky ones, in that I've managed to find wheels, but the wheel bearings are worn out and incredibly noisy. Does anyone know where I can get replacement bearing cones? The cups are ok and ball bearings are readily available, but the cones are heavily pitted.

At a push are there any cylindrical roller bearings that fit?

Many thanks,


email (option):

Re: James ML wheel bearings

Tom I don't think you'll easily find those cones other than get some made, which will also require a hardening process. Better to knock a cup out for accurate measuring and contact our own bearings expert Daren Wrudd to see if there's an exact replacement.... at:-


email (option):

Re: James ML wheel bearings

Hello Ron,

Thanks for the email contact, I'll get into contact and see if I can get a replacement.

This is certainly a very useful forum, wish I'd found it ages ago.

I see from some earlier posts that someone was potentially looking to make replica ML light switches, do you know if they are in production yet? I have the original switch panel and resistor (in perfect and useable brown paint), but the switch was the standard Off-T-L-H switch. Does anyone know if the Villers/Lucas switched with the Direct function can be converted?



email (option):

Re: James ML wheel bearings


The wheel hubs and brake plates for the ML were made by "The British Hub Co. Ltd" so I assume the cup and cone bearings were made by them as well...?

Either way, replacement wheel cones in "motorcycle" measurements as opposed to the easily found bicycle items are nowadays extremely difficult to find. I have two ML's and fortunately one had excellent original bearings fitted and the second I managed to source a set of cones after much searching. Occasionally, they turn up on Ebay but you have to be careful with the measurements.........original cones are hardened and don't take kindly to tapping and re-threading...!

Both wheels have one "fixed" and one "adjuster" cone fitted. The rear wheel needs a cone to fit a 1/2 inch spindle with a 26tpi thread and 5/16ths ball bearings......the front wheel has a 7/16ths spindle with a 26tpi thread and 1/4 in. ball bearings..........

Be careful with any similar bearing cones made for some smaller BSA's and Velocette's.......they are generally the 1/2 inch measurement but with a 20tpi thread not the required 26tpi..........

I MAY be able to assist you with the cones but will need to check first to see what I have....

The light-switch is unique to the ML. Apart from the switch face the primary difference is the alloy central rotor underneath the switch that raises the contact arms at the particular points necessary for the switch to operate correctly. I have seen some ML's fitted with the standard 4-position WD switch but in my experience it will not operate the lights correctly ! You can modify a standard rotor by Aralditing some hard plastic onto it suitably cut to shape but it's a case of trial and error using the WD workshop manual as a guide.....Steve

Re: James ML wheel bearings

Hello Steve,

Thanks for the information. I’ve had another look at the wheel bearings and the rear looks ok, but the front is definitely shot. They were good enough for me to build the wheel this weekend, but very noisy and the cones have delaminated. If you do find a spare set I would be very grateful, I want to ride the ML, but daren’t go far with the bearing as it is.

Do you know where I can get a decent picture of the rear of the switch to enable me to modify a standard one?

The next job is to get the rear wheel offset correct. I bought Peter Miller’s James ML book and it helpfully gives the offset, but I don’t have the spacers. Do you know how thick they are and where they go?

Many thanks.


email (option):

Re: James ML wheel bearings

Tom the way I see it, there's nothing to modify with an ordinary 4 position switch, you just need to swap the H and L positions at the terminals. The problem is, satisfactorily modifying the Bakelite face. Carefully sanding the L and H off is possible.....But how to reinstate them the other way round. The other bugger for accuracy, is that the ML switch has the open style digits....and no LUCAS logo. Ron

email (option):

Re: James ML wheel bearings

"The next job is to get the rear wheel offset correct. I bought Peter Miller’s James ML book and it helpfully gives the offset, but I don’t have the spacers. Do you know how thick they are and where they go?"

Tom, the order of assembly for the rear wheel spindle is as follows:

From the RIGHT-side of the bike:- Spindle Nut - Rear Wheel Adjuster - Frame - Spacer (3/4" long) - Brake Plate - Packing Washers for Brake Plate, thin (use as/if necessary) - Packing Washer (1/4" long) - Bearing Cone (Fixed) - Bearing Cone (Adjustable) - Washer (with central tab to engage with slot in spindle) - Locknut - Frame - Rear Wheel Adjuster - Spindle Nut..........

I still need to look for the cones........

Regarding the switch, you CAN use a normal 4-position WD switch but if you wire it according to the WD manual it will not work in all the switch positions. This is because the central rotor beneath the switch is different to the proper ML part which lifts and lowers the contact arms in the various positions. If you're not going to ride the bike during darkness it's not really an issue although I personally like my bikes to work as originally intended.......the correct ML WD lightswitch is very difficult to find today as unique to that model. They occasionally turn up on Ebay or at autojumbles described as a WD 4 position switch as few folks recognise the item for what it actually is.........

Re: James ML wheel bearings

Thanks Steve,

I had a good look at the rear wheel today and I have 2 of the larger adjustable bearing cones, the smaller fixed cone is missing, as are all the spacers, and the notched washer. If we weren't in lockdown I could get to a workshop and turn up a pair of spacers. I guess it will have to wait.

I also realised when I trial fitted the carb that my engine came back from Villiers Services with the wrong inlet manifold, so the carb is in completely the wrong orientation. Unfortunately it was rebuilt 10 years ago, so no recourse there! Do you know anyone who might have a spare? I'll ring Villiers services tomorrow and see if they have any used parts. If not it will be the long hunt on eBay.

So close, yet so far....

Thanks for your help with the switch. I think I will try and modify what I have to function correctly. Like you, I like things to work as they should do. The instruction manual seems to give a pretty good description of how the switch should work.

I sprayed the engine in brown paint today. It seemed like sacrilege to paint over the pristine alloy, but I suppose that was how they were out of the factory and that's how it should be.

Thanks again,


email (option):

Nieuwe pagina 1