Sunday, October 28, 2012

13-15 Oct. 2012 was the Barber Vintage Festival, clearly the biggest vintage event in the country.  I entered Class 'C' foot shift with my 1946 Moto Guzzi Dondolino and 350GP, for which I brought my '70 ERTT H-D Sprint and Mike Bungay brought his 350 Aermacchi.  We had some problems with Mike's bike stopping in practice, but that turned out to be just a clogged fuel filter.  I geared Mike's bike taller and mine shorter and, in the end, I went a little faster on Mike's bike so that's the one I raced, with mine ready if back up was needed.  When I last ran my Dondolino at St. Eustache, the magneto failed.  So, I installed the magneto from my Airone road bike.  The Airone has a smaller mag gear and to use the Dondolino gear on the Airone mag, required making a plate to raise the mag 5mm.  The other problem was that the original Magneti Marrelli MLA mag has a manual advance while the Airone MRC-4E 15 degree magneto has a centrifugal advance.  I couldn't see any way to fix the mag at full advance to time it, so I assumed the '15 degree' cast on the body indicated that's how much the ignition advances.  When I initially checked the timing statically, it was 20 degrees so, I assumed it would be 35 degrees at fully advance.  I figured this was close enough to the 38-39 degrees I had been using, to test it.  I tried to check it with a timing light, but couldn't see any marks with my toy light.  However, the bike started easily and seemed to run well, as much as I could tell in the tight confines of my secret test site.  On the track in practice at Barber, the bike seemed to run great and the spark plug looked near perfect, so I didn't change anything on it.
This year, all practice was on Thurs. and Fri., with no practice on the race days on Sat. and Sun.  So, on Sat., I was first up on the Dondolino in the Class 'C' foot shift.  The competition was Ryan Ambrose on Big D's pre-unit 500 rigid Triumph twin

Alex McLean on Bob McKeever's 500 rigid cammy Norton
and Jake and Rob Hall sharing this BSA
That BSA was idling next to me at pit out, but when we gridded up after the warmup lap, it wasn't there.  Turns out that there was a problem with the petcock and when he gave it throttle, it died.  Ryan was away like a shot, I stayed ahead of Alex briefly before he came by and I finished third of the 6 Class 'C' foot shift, ahead of the ten Class 'C' hand shift and ahead of half the of the 18 350 Sportsman bikes that started in the wave ahead of us.
Bill Doll photo
There was a fair wait until the 750 Sportsman, 500 Sportsman, 350 GP race, but I occupied some of this with spectating in the Century Race, a race for bikes at least one hundred years old.  Dale Walksler won it (again) on his 1912 1000cc Indian in great style, chomping on his cigar with his open face helmet. Joe Gardella was a close 2nd on his 1912 H-D on which he had recently finished the Cannonball run.  Many of the Cannonball bikes were there and they got to do a parade lap, too.
A 1909 Excelsior single that competed in the Century Race
 I got it the lead of the 350GP class quickly and any threat to that lead ended when Paul Germain's exhaust pipe broke on his DT-1 Yamaha.  I set about seeing how many of the rest of the field I could get through.  I ended up 7th overall of the 39 entries after starting in the 3rd wave.  Only 4 of the 750s and none of the 500s had a faster fastest lap than me.

Vic Moore photo
Sunday went much the same as Sat.  The Hall BSA did start the Class 'C' race, but didn't finish.  It looked like the race was going to be a barnburner between the BSA and the Big D Triumph.  Coming out of the last corner on the first lap, Hall was leading, but Ryan was pushing hard and, when Hall missed a shift, Ryan collided with him, knocking off his exhaust pipe.  So, Hall had to retire and once again I was gifted 3rd after McLean got by me.  My fasted lap was almost one and a half seconds faster than Sat., 10th overall, and Alex and I both finished closer to Ryan, so I was pleased.

Alex McLean (122) and I (7) check each other out on the grid.  Jerrett Martin photo.
Sunday's 750 Sportsman/500 Sportsman/350GP race went much the same as Saturday's except that Germain had the exhaust fixed on his Yamaha.  He finished 2nd in the class, but was almost 24 sec. behind.  I find this very interesting as at Miller I beat him by less the 3/4 of a sec.  I don't see a reason why Mike's bike should be faster of Paul's slower than then.  Is one bike or rider better suited to this track than that?   Or, does one rider happen to be 'on' or the other 'off' that particular day?  It's fascinating and the unpredictability of it keeps me coming back.  My fastest lap was only about 0.1 sec faster Sun. than Sat., but it seems most of the field was slower and only Jerrett Martin on the Big D Triumph 750 had a faster fastest lap and I finished 5th overall starting from the 3rd wave.
Roger Cox photo.  He has more Barber photos on his website in addition to some of industrial decay
But, it could have been very different.  On the cool off lap as I went through the chicane on the back straight, I thought I missed a shift and tried it again.  And again. But, I had no drive and I look down to see that the chain had come off.  Inspection after I coasted and pushed in showed that the axle adjuster was broken, but which was the chicken and which the egg?  Luckily, it didn't jam in anything and lock the rear wheel and luckily it didn't happen a lap earlier.
The broken axle adjuster after we had put the chain back on.
Right to left: Mike Bungay, his son and pit crew Brennen Bungay, and me with Mike's beautiful 350 Aermacchi.  Rich Hosley photo

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Last Sunday was the USCRA's Pewter Run.  This is a road ride for pre-1950 (and some 'like design' post '50) motorcycles.  I had done this a few times in the past on my '53 Moto Guzzi Airone Sport, which is substantially the same as when this model was revised in 1949, but it's apart at the moment awaiting my attention at the end of the racing season.  But, Mark Gibson, founder of the Pewter Run, came to the rescue.  He arranged a ride for me on Tony Lockwood's 1936 Excelsior Manxman 500.

Tony Lockwood and me with his '36 Excelsior Manxman 500
 Tony is an ex-pat Brit who has lived in this country many years.  He brought four beautiful bikes to the Run this year.  He rode the oldest, a 1913 Motosocoche 2C7, which edged out Mark Turkington's 1914 BSA as the oldest bike in the event.
Mark Turkington's 1914 BSA
Tony let his friend ride his 1925 Norton 16H.
1925 Norton 16H in the forground and 1913 Motosocoche behind 2C7
Tony's daughter Melanie Herman, rode his 1955 Norton Dominator 500, and won the long distance award, coming from Virginia for the event.  I sort of feel that I got the pick of a very fine litter.  Tony says the Manxman's 2nd owner bought it in 1938 and, while he was in north Africa during the war, dreamed of how he was going to modify it.  So, in the late forties, he replaced the girder forks with Matchless telescopic and made his own plunger rear suspension.
The Matchless forks required a special brake anchor.
Home made plunger rear suspension which eliminated lugs for the prop stand, so this period accessory stand was added And he installed a Vincent seat.
Tony had rebuilt the motor using a VW Beatle piston (1mm oversize) and had replaced the points in the magneto with an electronic trigger.
There were three length courses depending on how old the bike was and how far you wanted to ride.  I rode the longest, which was nearly 50 miles.  We started in light rain, but it stopped raining toward the end of the route.
ready for to start.  Bill Burke photo with Bill's NSU Max Spezial in backround
The motor was superb: very flexible but quite quick when given some throttle.  The Albion gearbox worked well and had good ratios.  The riding position was very comfortable.  The suspension, while not plush, was undoubtedly better than original (though I'm curious to try an original now).  The brakes were O.K.
The route was great fun and very well arrowed, and I didn't look at the route sheet once.  The colors hadn't peaked yet, but were getting there.  I passed a cop going the other way early on and he waved to me.  Once I got familiar with the bike, I gave it some stick and rode it the way it was intended.  Therefore, I was the first to finish the long route, despite my number being 26, and was promptly DQed  for being too early.  No bother; it just gave me more time to smooze with the riders who had already finished the shorter routes.  One of these was Carlton Palmer who rode a terrific 1928 Norton CS-1 that had come out of Portugal years ago.
Carlton Palmer's 1928 Norton CS-1.  Bill Burke photo

After everyone got back, we had some lunch in the Penacook Historical Society bldg., then prize giving.  Tony won his class and the oldest combined age of bike and rider.  Carlos won his class on his 1928 Indian 101 Scout.
Carlos Escudero's 1928 Indian 101 Scout
This is a bike he found in Pawcatuck, Ct. that had been sitting in a basement for 40 old years.  It has some period mods and Carlos had to repair the fuel tank, but is largely as he found it and as it was last ridden in the '50s.
Rich Snyder won the '39-'49 class with his 1949 Matchless G-80S.

Rich Snyder's '49 Matchless G-80S
Pierce Reed was 2nd in this class and won the Good Sport award for best period attire.
Pierce Reed on his 1946 H-D EL. Bill Burke photo
Mark Gibson, who was riding the Pewter Run for the first time since Shane Rivet had taken over running the event from Mark, won the Hard Luck award, and the magneto failed on his Brough Superior, and he came back on the sweep truck.
Mark Gibson with his 1934 Brough Superior 680SV

Thanks to all who made this event happen.  It's a joy to see these old bikes used.
Carlos Escudero photo

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Last weekend (Sept 22-23) was the USCRA's Fall Giro, this year based in Cavendish, Vt.  With my Airone still apart, brother Doug(and Amy, for that matter) graciously let me ride the '65 175 CZ.  Doug rode his '65  250 Benelli and brought his 200 Bridgestone for backup.

Before we arrived Fri. afternoon, that backup was called upon.  Henry Syphers realized just before he arrived that he had forgotten the key to the 175 Bridgestone he had bought from Doug and wondered if we could swing by his house in Manchester, Ct. and pick it up.  We were long past Manchester, but Doug suggested Henry could take the ignition switch out of the 200 and put it in his 175.
There were a number of interesting bikes lined up by the time we got there, including a few for sale, like this Ariel Leader.

Sat. started cool and cloudy and, after we rode a ways, got very foggy.  Rich Hosley, on his Ossa Wildfire, came by in the fog and we rode together to the first checkpoint at Bunnell's Parts and Accessories, 488 Main St, Claremont, N.H., a non franchised motorcycle, snowmobile and ATV dealer.
Doug Roper's '85 175 CZ and Rich Hosley's 250 Ossa Wildfire @ Bunnell's.  Bill Burke photo
Brian Bunnell was super supportive of the Giro, helping Giroist all weekend including meeting Rich Hosley on the road with a selection of clutch cables to replace the one that was just about to break.  Bunnell's also had some great vintage racing photos on the wall of Roger Chase on a pre-unit Triumph in a scrambles and at Laconia and on a Parilla.
Add caption
The Autumnal equinox was approaching at 10:49am, which meant it was time to cut my hair.  I made a rough calculation on how many miles it would take to get to 10:49, then looked for an appropriate spot to stop at that mileage and started mowing.  I'd never done this in the field before, so had bought a battery powered mower.  I traditionally cut the scalp and beard to a 1/2" length, so I snapped on a rake that looked about 1/2" and started mowing, not realizing the mower had an adjuster for height that was on minimum not maximum.  The result was that my hair has not been this short since 15 April, 1970, when I got out of the Army.
Bill Burke, Peter Booth, and Ken Richardson look on as I do the semi annual shearing.  Tom Halchuk photo

  1. Bill Burke photo.  He says I should have stopped now.
    The chores done, it was on to lunch.  At lunch, I checked the fuel and there was plenty, so I didn't add any.  The CZ had seemed more rattle-ly than the last time I rode it, and at first I just chalked that up to the piston getting sloppier in the bore.  Then I wondered 'could this be detonation?  Naw, can't be.'  After the afternoon time check, the bike started getting more sluggish and finally started to die.  I put it on reserve and carried on a bit further, but then it cut out completely.  But, it seemed like I had plenty of gas in it.  Sparkplug?  Brother Doug stopped, then Rich Hosley, and we ruled out the sparkplug theory.  Then, the sweep truck showed up and Doug and Rich rode on.  We mixed up a gallon of gas and put it in, thinking reserve might be plugged, but still nothing.  We pulled off the fuel line and nothing came out in any position.  So, then we laid the bike on it side and took the fuel tap out and apart and sprayed contact cleaner through every orifice in every direction.  I tried starting the bike without my earplugs in or helmet on and it started, but I could hear right off that something was leaking.  We found all the cylinder head nuts loose.  Tightening them down made it better but it was still leaking as the head gasket was blown, and we put the bike on the trailer.  Back at the hotel, I found someone had some gasket material, like you'd use on an intake manifold, and Doug & I fashioned a head gasket.  Once I remembered to put the sparkplug lead back on, it started first kick and sounded fine. 
  2. It rained hard over night, but stopped by the morning.  I started the CZ early and let it idle for 10 or 15 minutes to get it good and hot, then retorqued the head nuts.  I suited up, but when I went to leave the bike wouldn't start.  I put a fresh plug in it, it started and I left late.  After a couple of miles, it started cutting out then died.  I figured all that idling had loaded it up and fouled the plug again.  I took it out and cleaned it, and it ran a bit then died again.  Amy and Gayle arrived with the sweep car and they took me back to the hotel.  I first tried to steal Mike Peavey's backup Moto Guzzi Lodola, then Bill Burke NSU Special Max, but I couldn't get either of them started.  Mitch Fraizer was there, his 305 Honda having holed a piston the previous day from an air leak. We went back to the CZ.  He was convinced it was a fuel flow problem, not spark, and we took the fuel tap apart again.  Now it started and idled, but wouldn't take any throttle.  So, we took the carb apart and cleaned every orifice.  Finally, it ran well.  I took off on the short cut to lunch with Mitch and Jean following in their truck ready to scoop me up if the CZ died.  It ran fine for maybe 10 miles, then didn't want to take full throttle.  I'd roll off and it would start running again.  I could maintain about 40mph n the flat, so I just carried on to lunch in Quechee, Vt.  I had enough time to wolf down a quick lunch and then took off for the afternoon session.
  3. Immediately the motor started cutting out and probably within two miles it died completely.  While I was getting ready to attack it, Scott Rikert, Mike Peavey and Bill Burke stopped to help.  It was a fuel feed problem again.  While Scot held his finger over the opening in the fuel tank, I took out and took apart the fuel tap again.  Now, it seemed like the cork inside had smushed over the main orifice and I hogged it out with the awl in my Swiss Army Knife. 
  4. Scott Rikert has his finger on the fuel tap bung while I auger out the cork  and Mike Peavey looks on.  Bill Burke photo

    1.  That did the trick and the CZ was now running fine.  The four of us rode together into Coolidge State Park where Amy was motioning everyone to slow down as someone had been busted for exceeding the ridiculous 15mph speed limit.  Scott popped a wheelie (on a 250 Jawa!!) for her.
    After a check point on the top to the mountain, the road turned to dirt but became smooth, wide and loose.  Scott led and pulled away, with Mike next and me following.  It looked like Mike got surprised by a downhill right corner and grabbed a bit too much front brake and slapped it down hard.  I avoided him and, by the time I got my bike stopped, turned around and found a place to get it on it's stand Devon Frazier had shown up and called Amy and Gayle.  Mike had hit his head really hard to the point his forehead was lightly abraded through the helmet .  He was dazed and his shoulder and neck really hurt.  Even though his Jawa was rideable, Mike made the right decision to load it on the trailer and ride back in the car.
  5. When we got back to the hotel, Mike was still a little dingy and in a lot of pain.  He's had back/neck issues before and figured a session with his chiropractor the next morning would straighten him out.  He asked Ken Richardson to drive him back home to Boston.  On the way he got nauseous and almost passed out.  They consulted a doctor friend of his and the decision was to take him straight to the emergency room when they did some imaging and found he had two broken vertebrae and a displaced disc which, had it displaced a little more, would have been catastrophic.  They put him in traction for a while, then operated on him, fusing two of the vertebrae with a metal plate and he was out of the hospital in 72 hours.  Amazing.  He should be fine.  A reminder that this motorcycle business is serious fun.
  6. a Zundapp Super Sabre
a Yetman CB77

George Ellis' 50cc Wards Riverside (Benelli) with Rich Snider's C102 Honda

The long distance award goes to the couple who came from Hawaii, she riding this trick 160 Ducati

Carlton Palmer's 200 Benelli