Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My friend Stu Carter just sent me a link to a video of the 2008 Moto Giro America which took place in Central California, starting and ending in Monterey and based three days in Paso Robles.  Seeing the video brought back lots of good memories, as it was a fabulous event.  There was a great bunch of riders on some superb bikes and excellent roads, route sheets, accommodations and food.  The USCRA Moto Giro crew did the timing and scoring.  I initially roomed with Frank Scurria, a legendary racer from the '60s.  He had a very serious accident on the second day and was airlifted out, but has since recovered completlely.  Unfortunately, the event was a money loser and so never happened again.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The latest motorcycle book I've read is 'On Motorcycles, the Best of Backmarker' by Mark Gardiner.  Mark has been writing his 'Backmarker' column for many years.  At one time it was in Motorcyclist Magazine, then in Road Racer X until that folded, and currently online at  http://www.motorcycle-usa.com and at his personal blog  http://backmarker-bikewriter.blogspot.com/.  This book is a collection of what he considers his best columns.  There are 76 'columns' which average less than 6 pages each.  This means that it's a book that one can pick up, read a bit, and put it down without having to worry about losing continuity.  However, I found that I pretty much plowed straight through it because I found it that compelling.
I've know Mark for a while and have had great respect for him after reading his book 'Riding Man'.  This is the story of him quitting his job and selling virtually everything he owned to move to the Isle of Man, learn the circuit and race there.  I didn't know, until I read it in 'Best of Backmarker' that he was suffering from debilitating rheumatoid  at the time.
While he covers a lot of racing topics, the book is not primarily about racing.  Mark is a real investigative journalist.  When he's  intrigued  by a topic, he does the footwork to get to the bottom of it.  Perhaps the best example of this is the lead column in the book: 'Searching for Spadino'.  Spadino was the nickname of the motorcyclist who rode his bike repeatedly into  the Mont Blanc tunnel while it was blocked and burning from a tanker truck accident, saving many people, then succumbing to the fire.  Mark wondered what kind of person would do this.  So, he went to Italy and France and interviewed as many people as he could who knew Spadino.  The result is a terrifically moving portrait.
Or the Hollister 'riot' that was the inspiration for the film 'The Wild Ones'.  Mark went to Hollister more than once to interview people who were there and remembered.  A picture emerges that is nothing like the movie.
Mark organized an expedition with Patrick Bodden and Bob Hansen to go to Paris and check out a bike claimed to be the CR750 Honda that Dick Mann won the '70 Daytona 200.  Bodden is a Honda race bike expert and Hansen hired Mann and ran the team.
While Gardiner's main interest is probably road racing, his columns run the gamut including the 5-5-5 tour (cross country ride on bikes costing less than $500, less than 500cc and pre-1975), the Cannonball run (cross country ride on pre 1916 bikes), Bonneville speed week, and Black Bike Week in Daytona, and the Catalina GP.
There are profiles of several characters including Rob North (frame builder), Udo Gietl (tuner and team manager), Anthony Gobert (road racer), Big Sid Biberman (Vincent expert), and Mike Goodwin (serving a life sentence for murdering Mickey Thompson and his wife, but did he?)
And, much, much more.  Fascinating stuff and highly readable.  Available at : http://thebestofbackmarker.blogspot.com/

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Horex lives!  Today I started it for the first time.  And, remarkably, in less than a year from when  I first got it.  With the first kick I gave it, the headlight fell out, which amused my brother and sister-in-law no end.
It took a few kicks and a couple of pushes and at first it didn't want to run down low.
 But, after I noticed that the carb was loose and tightened the nuts securing it to the head, it actually idled.  No bad noises, almost no smoke and no big oil leaks.
 I ran the bike up and down their road, up to third gear and it seemed to pull well.  The brakes, however, weren't too impressive.
This is very encouraging, but there is still plenty to do to get it road worthy.  The fuel tank needs to be cleaned of all the rust inside.  The mufflers need to be mounted better.  The fork stops have to be increased.  A side stand has to be welded on, as the center stand is a two person affair.  And, the wiring has to be straightened out to get the lights and horn working.
Sat. we continued our ancient family Thanksgiving tradition of putting the bike in the basement.  For the four strokes, this involved taking them for a ride to warm them up to drain the oil.  Unlike last year when I took long rides in balmy conditions, this year it was around freezing, so the rides were short.  Amy had ridden he R65 BMW Fri., and that was already lowered in the basement.   I took out her CL350, which has been converted to low pipe and disc front brake.  That disc brake seemed to be dragging and the clutch slipped initially, but after I got it warmed up, the brake freed off and the clutch stopped slipping.  It's a great running bike and quite agile, but the brakes aren't too impressive.

Next up was Doug's '77 850 Moto Guzzi LeMans, that he's owned since new.  And, actually it's 950cc.  It's a bike that really easy to go fast on, maybe too easy, but I got away with it this day.
 Being a 90 degree V-twin, it's really smooth and he's put a comfy seat on it.  He's also put handle bars that are wider than my taste.  I missed the 2nd to 3rd shift several times; you have to be quite deliberate.  I was thinking the front brake wasn't too impressive, then realize it has linked brakes and front brake lever only works one side and you have to use the pedal to get the second front brake.  And, the switch gear is terrible.  But, fast, long legged, stable, comfortable and with a great sound.
Finally, my Moto Guzzi, from 24 years earlier, the 250 Airone Sport.  It's also comfy and has a great sound, but slow and mediocre brakes.  It doesn't  have a terrible turn signal switch because it doesn't have turn signals.  Remarkably little oil came out of the tank and sump, because most of it was on the outside of the bike.  But, I still love it.
All photo by Amy Roper
We saved Doug's '66 250 Benelli for Sun. which was forecast to be warmer.  In the morning, the internet told me it was 38 degrees, but don't believe everything you read on the internet.  I had intended to ride it to the British Iron Assoc. breakfast in Colchester, but a fuel tap leak cause me to go to plan B and ride in the cage with Doug and Amy.  Good thing as we were spinning up in the car and saw a couple of accidents on the way.  A couple of guys arrived late because Rt.66 was closed in Hebron because of the black ice.  But, by the time we got back it had warmed up enough that the ice was gone. We changed the fuel tap and I took it for a 10 mile loop.  The motor ran great and was much smoother than the last time I rode it as Doug had changed the crankshaft.  He got it with a 260 crank and it vibrated badly.  With the proper 250 crank it was quite pleasant and went well.  He's put a 2LS Bridgestone backing plate in the Benelli front hub and it now stops very well.  I found the shift lever quite awkward, the bars at a odd angle and the seat quite hard.  And the exhaust is pretty loud, but a great running and stopping bike.
Another motorcycling Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I just finished my annual compilation of the season racing results.  For 2013 I participated in 15 road race events, the most I've done since 2006.  This was at 15 different venues, again the most since '06.  Three of these I had never been to before: NOLA (New Orleans), The Ridge (Shelton, Wa.), and NJMP (Millville, N.J.).  Talladega (Alabama) and Sears Point (Ca.) were substantially altered since the last time I was there.  I entered 60 individual races and started 57 of them, the most since 2005.  I did this on 13 different bikes, the most since 2010, owned by 11 different people.  I got 33 firsts, 11 seconds, 5 thirds, and 4 DNFs.  One of those DNFs was a crash and one of the DNSs was a crash (on the warmup lap), and I had two practice crashes, one of which I'd call 'not my fault/being in the wrong place at the wrong time'.  Four crashes in a season is considerably above the 2.5 crash/season I've had over the last 12 years, but fortunately I didn't get hurt in any of them and raced the same or next day after all of them.
In addition to these races, I did the Parades at the Classic TT(Manx GP), a couple of Tiddler Tours, the Fall Giro, and the Pewter run.  2013 has been a busy, successful and satisfying year.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My friend and occasional sponsor, Tom Marquardt, forwarded me some photos that were sent to him of me racing a Team Obsolete G-50/7R.
Me racing a Team Obsolete G-50/7R, but where and when?  photo by Gordon Kerr
 I didn't recognize the venue, but thought it had to be over seas because the number four on the bike is not one I've used in the states, to my recollection.  When Tom told me the fellow who sent him the photos, Gordon Brown, was Scottish, I wondered if it could be Knockhill.  I raced at this great little circuit in sight of the Firth of the Forth Bridge on 4-5 July, 1987, and remember having some great races with a bloke on Greeves Oulton while I raced a AJS 7R.  We had just come from Assen where they had a classic race as a preliminary to the Dutch TT.  I was to race Matchless G-50 1709, the ex-Al Gunter bike with which we had won the IOM TT in '84.  But, in the last practice at Assen, the crank pin broke.  We had a freshly rebuilt 7R motor with us.  (A G-50 is 500cc and a 7R is 350cc, but the motors are virtually identical except for the bore.)  This 7R motor had last run at Daytona earlier that year when it holed a piston on the cool off lap after I had just won the 350GP race.  We rebuilt the motor, put it in a box, and put it in a big Iveco truck along with a bunch of bikes and spares, and shipped it to Europe.  So, at Assen, I petitioned the organizers to let me change classes from 500 to 350.  They said OK, but that I would have to start from the back of the grid, as I had not qualified on that motor.  We set about swapping motors, which should have been quite straight forward, but this particular motor had never been in this chassis before and seemed to fight us the whole way.  While we were doing this, my mother and brother arrived.  They were on a holiday and had just come from Belgium.  My mother had never seen me race, in fact, had never been to a race.  They enjoyed the banter as Bard Donovan, Steve Griffiths, Alf Montford and I struggled with this motor swap.  As we finished up, my mother and brother went to the stands for the European Championship race that immediately preceded the Classic race so my brother could explain to my mother what was going on.
I started the 7R and tried to ride it around the paddock to get as much running time as possible on this freshly rebuilt motor.  The rings weren't seated and it was oiling and 8 stroking like crazy and then fouled a plug.  We put in a new plug, but it was still 8 stroking and smoking and running terribly.  And, It looked like rain was coming.  I thought that I had dragged my mother to Holland to watch me NOT start the race, in the rain.  Time to go and the motor is running poorly on the sighting lap and, when I come to the grid, the motor just about dies, but I managed to keep it running a little longer until we have to kill the motors for the push start.  They flag off the 500's in the first wave, then the 350's.  I pushed as hard and fast as I could and the motor a goes putt.........putt..........putt.......putt....All the other bikes are gone and the Safety Car passes me to follow the pack on the first lap, and I'm still going putt......putt........putt.......putt.  The motor finally picks up and I take off.  I've got a clear track and I find that when I'm beating on it hard, the motor runs great.  I start catching people.  I start catching a lot of people.  On the last lap, I pass the leader of the 350 class, and turn the fastest lap of the race, 500's included.  There was the traditional podium scene with the champagne (Alan Cathcart won the 500 class on his Paton) and later that evening there was a prize giving at a fancy venue downtown.  It turned out to be the perfect event for my mother to come to.
So, we load up and drive to Scotland for the Bob McIntyre Memorial Classic races at Knockhill, picking up Dick Mann, who's going to race a pre-'65 motocross race at the same meeting, on the way.
There were three races for each class each day.  The Greeves Oulton would get the lighting start while the 7R would be all oiled up and take a while to clear.  As each race went on, the Greeves would slow a bit as it got hot and the 7R would get faster.  Sometimes I caught the Greeves; sometimes I didn't.
But, I was troubled, because the bike in the photo had a 230mm Ceriani 4LS front brake and 1709 had a 210mm Fontana 4LS front brake.  When I checked our records at Team Obsolete, I found that I had totally forgotten that I had also raced another G-50 (4825) in the 500 class and this chassis did have a 230 Ceriani.  We had a lot of trouble with this bike because of what ultimately turned out to be a faulty magneto.  Saturday, I got a 5th, a DNF, and a DNS.  Sunday, a DNF, a 1st when we ran the bike without the fairing lowers, and a DNS.
Racing at Knockhill 5 July, 1987 with no fairing lowers trying to diagnose a running problem.  Gordon Kerr photo
When I related all this to Gordon Brown, he replied that he still sees the pilot of that
Greeves Oulton, Joey Mulholand, and he sent me a photo of him and Joey racing.
One can't see much, but that's Joey Mulholand on his Greeves Oulton, this time racing Gordon Brown.  Gordon Kerr photo
Also a pit scene of the AJS 7R3 with Dick Mann in the background.
A pit scene from Knockhill: the Team Obsolete '54 AJS 7R3 and behind it, from left to right, Dick Mann, Steve Griffiths, me, and Bard Donovan.  To the right is Dick's pre-'65 MX bike  in front of the Iveco van that we brought everything in.  Gordon Brown photo

Friday, November 8, 2013

Like the last two years, the season ended for me with the Barber Vintage festival and Daytona.  I had committed to racing at the Island Classic at Phillip Island in Jan., 2014 which meant loading my bike into a container right after getting back from Daytona.  I was getting concerned with how much time was on my 350 Sprint and having no time to go through it after Daytona.  So, when Tom Marquardt offered me a ride on his 492cc Honda CB400F, I gratefully accepted and decided not to race the Sprint at Barber, though, since Tom wasn't going on to Daytona, I would race the Sprint there. 
Tom Marquardt's 492cc CB400F Honda

 I also brought my Moto Guzzi Dondolino, into which I had just installed newly rebuilt roller rocker cam followers, one of which had failed at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
In Friday practice at Barber, I went out on Tom's Honda first and it seemed good initially, but started to misfire after a few laps.  While Tom was looking into that, I first took out the Dondolino, then the Sprint, just to make sure it was OK in case I needed it as a fall back.  After practice on the Dondolino, once again I found huge intake valve lash.  I took off the timing cover to find the intake rocker roller flopping around on it's spindle.  When I removed the  roller, I found that it's bush was totally bagged out and cracked.  Dave and Al Hollingsworth volunteered to take the pieces to a local machine shop which agreed to make a new bushing.
Because of my brilliant photography, it's difficult to see the cam followers, but they're just to the right of the tent pole.
The Sprint seemed good and I parked it.
In the mean time, Tom decided the problem with the misfire was the battery and he installed a new one.    Again, initially it seemed good, but then started to misfire at high revs.  On the third lap, I got on the gas too early/hard and spun the bike out in the 180 degree hairpin turn #5.  I was a nice gentle lowside and I just slid on my ass watching the bike slide ahead of me off the track without digging in or flipping.  There was very little damage to either of us; it didn't even break the windscreen on the bike.  I wish all my crashed were like that.  It did bend the shift lever which then cracked when Tom tried to straighten it, but he got Andrew Cowell to repair it during the lunch break.
Tom's pit.  A hotrod Civic is the tow vehicle pulling a home made trailer with independent suspension.
The Honda has a very close ratio gearbox which made me think I had to shift down to 2nd for the slow hairpin.  But Tom pointed out the bike has a very broad powerband and I decided to try to take the corner in 3rd and get on the gas before it came 'on the cam'.  This worked well though I was perhaps still a bit gun shy getting on the gas here.  And we still had the high rpm misfire.
Tom finally figured out that the problem was the kill switch which apparently was vibrating at high rpms and intermittently killing the spark.  He disconnected the kill switch for the next practice and the bike ran like a banshee.  I put a bunch of laps in getting my brake points down until the chain came off. This was because the cush drive in the rear wheel had collapsed, putting it's race worthiness in doubt.
In the mean time, the Hollingsworths had come back from the machine shop with a couple of new bushings and I carefully reassembled the timing chest on the Dondo.  I didn't get this done before practice was finished, but I was able to ride the bike around the pits and it seemed alright.
There's no practice at Barber on race days (to give more time to have more races with fewer bike on the track at any one time) and we went right into racing Sat. morning at 8am.  I wa able to do a 'scrub lap' in one of the early races to check out the repair Tom had done to the rear hub, basically eliminating the cush, and it seemed OK.  I was out first in race 6 on Tom's Honda.  The 350GP class was gridded first with Formula 500, which I was in, next in the second wave and Sportsman 500 the third wave.  I knew from practice times and past performance that my competition would be Nick Cole, who had come from New Zealand with an incredibly quick Norton ES2.  The ES2 is a 500 pushrod single that was one of the more pedestrian plodders that Norton made.  But, Nick's sponsor and the bike's builder, Peter Lodge has transform it into a ripper.  And, Nick is a superb rider and all the more impressive because he is a really big guy.  The ES2 motor is in a Manx chassis with a 6 speed TT Industries gearbox.  The bike primary class is 500 Premiere and so has a Manx 4LS drum brake and Nick was 'bumping up' into the Formula 500 class.
We got off the line pretty evenly, but Nick was on the inside going into turn #1 and then pulled pretty steadily away.  We ended up passing all the 350GP riders by the 2nd lap, so I ended up 2nd in class and overall, but my fastest lap was almost 2.2 seconds slower than Nick's, though faster than everyone else.
Photo by Fred Sahms
I was out in race #10 on the Dondolino, gridded behind the 250GP in the 2nd wave.  The race started fine but I soon started loosing ground and wasn't pulling as many revs on the straights.  When the motor  misfired, I was finally convinced that all wasn't well and I pulled off, seeing the last lap white flag as I pulled down the pit lane.  Once again, there was huge intake valve lash and when I pulled the timing cover off again, I found bronze swarf  everywhere as the bush had disintegrated.  I decided then that I wasn't going to try to get it repaired for Sunday (or Daytona, for that matter) and wasn't going to run it until I took the motor completely apart and determined what was causing this cam follower problem.
So, for Sunday, I change my Class 'C' entry for Formula 750 in addition to F-500.  In the F-500 race, I got a good start and even got into the lead when Nick Cole got baulked by one of the 350GP riders, but he was soon past and pulling away.  
I'm about to pass Stu Carter on his Seeley AJS 7R from the first wave.  Fred Sahms photo
But, as we finished the first lap, there was a red flag and we all returned to the pit lane.  Tom was concerned we (Thad Wolfe was riding Tom's CB77 based racer in 350GP) might not have enough fuel and went to get some more.  But, the incident was cleaned up quickly and we were off before Tom got back with more fuel.  On the restart, I didn't get as good a launch as the first start and Chris Spargo on his RD 400 Yamaha based racer got a killer start and got ahead of Nick. 

 I started to have some shifting problems where the bike didn't want to downshift and several corners I was force to exit in too tall a gear.  I dropped back from the leaders while Nick got by Chris.  After a couple of laps, I had no more shifting problems and tried to close on Chris. 
Fred Sahms photo
 On the last lap, I made a big effort and two corners from the end I got into a huge slide and tank slapper, almost throwing it away.  
Smoke from oil from the cracked oil cooler getting on the exhaust headers (and the rear tire).  Fred Sahms photo
I told myself to calm down and took the checkered flag in third.  Then on the cool off lap, I was given the black flag. I immediately pulled off at the exit of turn #5, to find the bike had been leaking oil some of which got on the rear tire causing that slide.  Apparently the bike had been smoking increasingly towards the end as oil was coming out of a crack in the oil cooler and getting on the exhaust unbeknownst to me.  Once again, I cheated death.  
There was no way to repair the leak before the F-750 race, so that was the end of my weekend.  I had the satisfaction of knowing that my fastest lap was about 0.6 seconds faster on Sun. than Sat., but Nick Coles was more than a second faster and Chris Spargo, who didn't start Saturdays F-500 race, went almost 2 second faster than he did in the later F-750 race.
Another view of Tom's rig.

After loading up, we made it just short of Columbus, Georgia.  The next day we got to Savannah and spent three delightful days in that beautiful city.  Then on to Daytona where we raced Fri. and Sat. the 18th & 19th of Oct.  
Now back on the 350 H-D Sprint ERTT, Fridays morning practice went fine, though Jack Parker came by me on the banking on his very quick DT1 250 Yamaha but immediately backed out of it as we overtook a slower rider.  
After winning both 250GP and 350GP races at Barber, Paul Germain seized at Daytona.  Here he's installing his spare motor, which wasn't nearly as quick.
The 350GP race was again run with F-500, but this time F-500 was gridded more sensibly in front with Classic 60's and 500 Sportsman gridded behind us.  Nick Cole again blasted away from the start with Brian Oakley on a RD 400 based racer a distant 2nd.  Jack Parker led the 350GPs with me in close attendance through the infield.  Jack went way wide going out on the west banking and I went underneath him.  On the 2nd or 3rd lap, Jack stuck a wheel along side me braking for turn #2 but I backed him down.  I was starting to close on Brian Oakley and on the last lap I thought if I could get a good draft off him coming out of the chicane, I might be able to hold Jack off.  But, Brian went too slowly through the chicane and I had to pass him.  Sure enough, coming off NASCAR #4, Jack motored by me and finished less than half a sec. in front of me.  
Peter Lodge's ES2 Norton, which Nick Cole rode to seven wins out of eight starts.
The crate the ES2 came in from New Zealand.  The bike fit in there WITH all those spares and more.
Saturday's race was more interesting.  Nick Cole again disappeared.  Brian Oakley's bike had broken in practice, so he wasn't a factor.  Again, Jack Parker led the 350GPs through the infield; again he went way wide going out on the banking and again I went underneath him.  But this time, first Brad Phillips came by on his 500 BMW Sportsman bike, then Jack came by and we finished the first lap in that order.  On the next lap, Alex McLean on Bob McKeever's 500 Manx Norton Classic 60's bike leap frogged us all and Jack got by Brad and I finished the 2nd lap behind Brad.  On the third lap, I got by Brad and swapped back and forth with Jack and Alex and we finished that lap with the order Alex, Jack, me, then Brad.  More swapping back and forth and we finished the 4th lap: Alex, me, Jack, Brad.    On the last lap, I passed Jack braking for the chicane and Alex in the chicane, but they both came by on the run to the finish and Alex finished 42 and a half seconds behind Nick Cole, with Jack a little over 0.3 seconds behind Alex and me 0.4 sec. behind Jack and Brad 3/4 sec. behind me, less than 1.5 seconds between the four of us.  Good fun.
Jack Parker's very quick DT-1 Yamaha, winner of both 250GP and 350GP races at Daytona.
Nick Cole finally got beat in Sunday's 500 Premiere race by Tim Joyce on Maurice Candy's 500 Manx Norton, his first defeat in the 8 races he was in between Barber and Daytona, and impressive record.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Sunday after the Fall Giro, 29 Sept., was the Pewter Run in Penacook, N.H.  Last year, Tony Lockwood had let me ride his Excelsior Manxman and this year he offered me his 1925 Norton 16H.  This is a 500cc sidevalve, three speed, hand shift, flat tank with 'clincher tires' and a lever throttle.
Tony Lockwood's 1925 16H Norton
I was tremendously impressed with this bike.  It started easily and ran well.  Carlton Palmer pointed out to me that it had a 'cheater' carb on it, an Amal when it originally had a Binks.
The cheater Amal carb
When I asked Tony about this he confirmed that that was true and pointed out that it had a 'cheater' magneto, too.
The 'cheater' magneto on the 16H Norton
Tony warned me that the dogs on second gear were worn and it would pop out of gear under load.  It's not a positive stop selector so you have to feel how far to move the hand shift.  Sometimes I moved it too far and went from first to third, but the motor would lug amazingly well.  So it was wind it out in first, a bit of second, then short shift to third.  Tony suggested while lugging up hills in third gear, retarding the ignition a bit would help.  He told me to give it a shot of oil with the plunger on top of the tank every 5 to 10 miles, as it has total loss oiling.  I totally forgot about this, but when I caught up to him on his 1913 Motosacoche, he reminded me.  He had mounted a watch on the handlebar and there after I gave it a shot of oil every 15 minutes.  I had been warned to allow plenty of time for stopping as the brakes were primitive, but I found them totally adequate for the speeds it was capable of (50ish mph I'd guess; no speedometer).  I did get bounced around on the rough bits of road and didn't go crazy in the turns on the clincher tires, but I had no trouble passing many newer bikes.  As the bike had no route sheet holder, I was just following the arrows and missed a couple of turns.  Near the end, I was confused when I came to a stop, then followed several who came past me.  After a mile or two we realized we had gone the wrong was and turned around and just about when I got back to where I had gone wrong, I ran out of gas.  As I started to push, a couple of guys in a pickup truck stop to ask what the problem was.  The driver said he lived right nearby and went to fetch some fuel.  But, after we put it in, the carb wouldn't 'tickle' and it didn't want to start.  So, I pushed and coasted the last mile to the finish.  Once I got there it started right away.
What a treat it was to ride this fabulous old bike on a gorgeous, warm Fall day through beautiful back roads with like minded geezers.
Tony once again won the prize for the oldest bike in the event and the oldest combined age of bike and rider: 175 years!
Some of the other fabulous bikes at the event:
Carlton Palmer's KSS Velocette
Adam Schoolsky from RocketMoto rode this beautiful 1945 Moto Guzzi Airone
They had exposed valve springs and girder forks through 1947
The kickstarter and gearbox on a Nimbus

The Nimbus frame: riveted flat stock.  How could it have any rigidity?
Clive Doyle's AJS R10 with a DOHC Manx head grafted on.  Not something you see everyday.
Many more images can be seen at: http://www.pewterrun.com/gallery2013.html  
and: http://www.pewterrun.com/index.html

Friday, October 25, 2013

Correction:  At the AHRMA Barber race I saw Len Fitch, the owner of the bikes I raced at St. Eustache Sept. 7&8.  He informed me that the bike I raced in Sunday's final Vintage GP was a TZ 350D, not a 250 as I thought he had told me.  This makes more sense, as I wonder why an older TZ 250 would have motor on a later RS 250 Honda.  I will now edit the St. Eustache report.
Barber (and Daytona report to come).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The weekend of 14-15 Sept. I went up to my brother's to shake down a couple of bikes for the Fall Giro the following weekend in Newry, Maine.  I had talked my friend, Phyllis, into entering the Giro on my brother's 175 Bridgestone Hurricane Scrambler.  That hadn't run this year and maybe not since I rode it in the MotoGeezer Kick Start Classic late July, 2012.  It took a million kicks and a few pushes to get started, but then it ran fine.  My Moto Guzzi Airone Sport hadn't run in over two months, but that started on the first kick.  I also took my sister-in-laws new acquisition, a R-65 BMW, for a ride.  I went about 20 miles on each of them and they were all good.  The next day, we went to the Italian Motorcycle Owners Club meeting in Sturbridge, Ma.  I rode the Airone the 68 miles on back roads;  Doug and Amy drove in the cage while Doug recovers for his latest total hip replacement.  It was a beautiful day and there were a bunch of interesting bikes there including Buzz Kanter's '47 Guzzi Astorino and a Bimota V-Due (which seemed to run fine).  I forgot my camera and so have no photos.
But, Josh Martin risked his life by taking this photo from the middle of the road on our return.
Paige Mazurek, yours truly, and Bill Burke with our Horizontals on the way back from the IMOC rally
The next Fri., I picked up the Airone and Bridgestone in my van and drove up to Newry, while Doug and Amy took the Subaru with trailer to run 'sweep'.
Sat. morning was foggy, but fairly warm.  Rich Hosley was #80, I was 81 and Phyllis 82, with the highest number  being 89, I think.
Before the start Sat. morn.  Ken Richardson photo
Rich's Ossa Wildfire didn't want to start until he put a new plug in it.  Then, after the agility test, he shut it off and it didn't want to start again. I pushed him with the Airone about a half mile down hill before it started again.  I realized a didn't have my earplugs in and Phyllis misinterpreted my hand signal to 'stop, wait for me' as 'go'.  So, she took off while I searched for my earplugs, convincing myself I'd left them back in the hotel room, only to find I had them on me all the time when I got back to the room.  So, we were all separated early and I rode by myself to the first checkpoint.  I was surprised to find that Phyllis wasn't there, but she showed up shortly after, having missed a turn and gone a distance the wrong way.
Rich Hosley's Ossa Wildfire with my brother 175 Bridgstone H.S behind it at the first checkpoint.

The morning fog that made navigating so hard had burned off and we rode together though Errol, N.H., to the lunch stop in Rangeley, Me.  At lunch, Phyllis and I admired the C110 Honda of Eli Kirtz.
A Honda C110, one of the few 50cc bikes in the Giro.  Eli is wearing a Swedish Army jumpsuit.
Eli's mascot

After lunch, Phyllis and I took off together and, after some miles, we are going down a fairly steep hill with a fairly sharp left turn just before a stop sign at a crossroad.  I crossed and started up the hill on the other side when I notice Phyllis isn't behind me.  I stopped and waited a minute, then turned around and went back.  There's a pickup stopped and someone waving frantically at me.  Phyllis has crashed and is off the side of the road.  A bunch of Giroist stop as she's getting up.  Her face is bloody despite having a full coverage Arai Corsair helmet on because evidently she scooped up a bunch of rocks in it as she crashed.  She was a bit dingy and confused.  We dragged the bike up the bank and called Amy in the Sweep Car.  Amy was taking a dead bike back to the hotel and would be a half hour before she got there and another hour before she could get to us.  The fellow with the pickup truck, a Harley rider, volunteered to take Phyllis and the bike back to the hotel.  So we humped the bike up into the bed and cinched it down.  By this time I was assured that she was beat up, but basically alright, so I carried on with the route.  Serious fun.
I made it to the afternoon checkpoint with a minute or two to spare.  In the final leg back to the hotel, my bike was backfiring on the overrun.  When I got back, (after  checking on Phyllis who had taken a shower and was feeling much better and was much more lucid),I discovered that one of the nuts that hold the exhaust head pipe into the head had come off.  It was 7 X 1.00M  and, incredibly, no one had a spare.  After checking with several people to no avail, I finally realize that the seat spring bolts were 7 X 1.0 and I stole the nut to use on the exhaust and replace the bolt with a 6mm one.  It started raining as I was finishing up and the forecast indicated Sun. was going to be a washout.
As promised, it was still raining Sun. morning and a lot of lightweights packed up and went home.  But, as the last bikes were leaving the morning agility test, it stop raining.  The day just got nicer and nicer.  The route was better Sunday, also, with more turns, tighter roads, and more dirt roads.   Mark Young on his 250 Ducati Scrambler, followed me much of the morning.  Late in the morning, I missed a turn, but Mark didn't.  I went about a mile before I realized what I had done and did a U-turn.  Now, I was following Mark.  The route went on a long dirt road.  My bike started backfiring again on the overrun.  I figured that nut had loosened and I'd deal with it at lunch as that was not far away at the Worlds Fair, N. Waterford, Me.
When I got there, I discovered that the hanger bracket had broken on the muffler, undoubtedly from being stressed the day before when the exhaust was flopping around, and the muffler had dragged along the dirt road, ripping the fishtail off.  If I hadn't missed that turn, Mark would have seen this and been able to stop me.  Alas.  I wired the hell out of it and tightened up the header nuts and it was quiet, if ugly for the afternoon.  After we got back to the hotel and punched in and before the awards presentation, I got my bi-annual haircut on the solstice  (4:44p).  Long time volunteer Barb Wood's son, Mike, was doing the Giro for the first time.  He's a professional barber and he volunteered to do the cut.  So, I had my first professional haircut since 15 April, 1970, the day I got out of the Army, in front of the assembled crew.  Ken Richardson documented this, and has a bunch of other great photos from the weekend at his blog: http://www.kenrichardsonphoto.com/d445ea8b9c7424ded97e
Geoff Boughton put together a nice, short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5NJGYM950s
Some other nice bikes from the event:
A Zundapp Super Sabre

A Second Ossa Wildfire

Mitch Fraizer's 175 CZ, like my brother's, but earlier

A nice Bultaco Metralla

I think the only bike there that would have be eligible for the original Giro d'Italia, a '56(?) 175 Gilera

Sunday, October 6, 2013

One week after racing in Utah, I was racing near Montreal at the VRRA's Quebec GP at Autodrome St. Eustache on September 7th  & 8th.  It's always a fun event, with 1/8th mile drag racing Fri. night, and Stock Car racing on the 7/16th mile oval Sat. night.  When I raced there last year, I met Len Fitch and admired his two stroke Yamahas.  He suggested that I should race one sometime, so I got in touch with him before this year's event and he said he thought he could get something together for me to ride.  That  something turned out to be a 1972 TR3 Yamaha.
In the foreground, Len Fitch's TR3 Yamaha
The bike was quite original with the exception of front forks and brake from a TX500 Yamaha, a common period modification, swapping the four leading shoe drum brake for a single disc.  The bike also had a lengthened swing arm and Koni shocks, also common period mods.  I put many miles on the TD3 250 Yam back in the day ('73-'75), but never rode the 350cc TR3, though I raced a hot-rodded R5C, the road bike the TR3 was derived from, from '76-'78.  So, it was like old home week, though I did have some trouble shifting it initially.  I was convinced I wasn't able to select 6th gear, though statically it shifted into all the gears fine.  I finally realize that I was going through the slowest corner in 2nd, not 1st, and I was indeed getting 6th gear but the bike was gear too short.
Len geared it up once, but it was still a little short.  Len told me not to worry about it and just let it rev past 11,000 rpm.
Len's TZ 350 D on the right, TR3 on the left
Len brought four bikes: a '77 TZ350 D and two RS125 Hondas, in addition to the TR3.  One of my 'teammates', on the RS 125, was Stacey Nesbitt.  Stacey is a senior in high school and she has already won the Canadian CBR125 Honda National Championship (2011) and the CBR 250R National  Championship(2012).  While she was on a newer bike than me with slicks and tire warmers, she was also on a much smaller bike with a little over 1/3 the displacement of what I was riding, yet she passed me in both practice sessions.  I was very impressed.  She was there with her parents, who are extremely supportive of her racing.  The whole family came from Northern Ireland, Stacey when she was 15  months old.  Her dad grew up 6 miles from the Dundrod circuit, home of the Ulster GP.  They moved to Quebec to take jobs at Bombardier in the Aerospace industry.
I was entered in Middleweight Period 2 and in Saturdays heat, I was able to track down early leader Mick Vaclavik who was racing a XS 650 based Yamaha in a custom, one off chassis, and motor by for the win.  He apparently had a slipping clutch which he thought he would be able to fix.
Mick Vaclavik's XS 650 based 750 in a Dennis Curtis frame
Sunday morning, I tried to put on taller gearing, but ultimately realized that we couldn't do it with the sprockets and chain we had and returned to the sprockets we had used Sat.  The short gearing meant I got a good start in the Period 2 Heavyweight final and was never headed.  It turned out that Mick wasn't able to cure his slipping clutch.
I was also entered in the 12 lap Vintage GP, the last race of the weekend.  This is a class for bikes sold as race bikes, as opposed to converted street bikes.  I was expecting to race the TR3 in this race too but, at the last minute, Len asked me if I want to ride the '77 TZ 350 D that Steve Humphrey's had been racing.  Steve was racing his RS 125 in the Vintage GP, so the TZ was available.  The TZ was  newer and with monoshock rear suspension, and Len figured it was faster.  I was able to get one 'scrub' lap in during the warmup lap for the previous race, which was a bit of a help, but I wasn't exactly 'one' with the bike at the start.
There are three divisions in the Vintage GP class, Light, Middle and Heavy weight, and the TZ 350 is considered Middle, as is the TR3.  But, there were no Heavyweight entries, so I was gridded  on the second row of the first group, with the 125s behind us.  I quickly got into 4th place behind David Percival on an RS 250 Honda, Chris Hurst on a TZ350 Yamaha and Joe Soles on an RS 250 Honda.  It became apparent, as I started to get comfortable on the TZ, that it was geared too short, also.  On the 5th lap, I got by Joe Soles, with Percival and Hurst long gone.  What I didn't realize was that, after a bad start, Stacey got by Patrick Gagnon, to lead the 125s.  A lap later, she got by Joe Soles and got right on my rear wheel, with Joe right on her's.  Gagnon and Humphrey were following closely and swapping back and forth, too.  But, she couldn't get by and at the finish there was less than one second between me, Stacey, Soles and Gagnon.  Stacey's best lap was 0.852 seconds faster than my best, and I was probably holding her up as my best lap (as well as Joe's and Patrick's) was the last one, where as Stacey's was the 5th before she caught up to us.  In fact, Joe, Patrick and Steve all had a faster best lap than mine, they just didn't have enough of them.  Patrick Gagnon made an entertaining video of the race which can be seen here:
Nev Miller raced a Velo MAC and we compared notes with the Gary Roper MAC I race out West.
Not something you see everyday: a Ural roadracer; it wasn't last!
The Ural final drive
Another unusual road racer: Rick Yates' Kawasaki F7 175