Saturday, October 1, 2016

VRRA Vintage Festival

I was contacted by a documentary videographer, Daniel Lovering, a while ago who wanted to make a documentary on me.  I told him that this had already been done ('Roper #7' by Don Lange at Staightface Studio).  Daniel replied that he was aware of that video and thought it was good, but he had a somewhat different take on the story.  In the 'small world' department, it turns out that Daniel and Don had both worked on the same TV show years before and vaguely remembered each other and I had bought a Velocette Thruxton from Daniel's dad, Talbot, maybe 35 years ago.
I told Daniel my schedule and he asked if he could come along with me to the VRRA's Vintage Festival at Mosport, now officially known as Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.  So Daniel, who lives in Cambridge, Ma., drove down to Team Obsolete HQ in Brooklyn, videoed the T/O shop and conducted a interview with T/O founder and owner, Rob Iannucci.  Daniel then followed me home and videoed an interview with me at my house.  He returned the next morning and started shooting me doing the final load of my van.  We then headed off to Mosport, he following me in his car.  We soon got separated an went different ways but managed to meet up again just north of Binghampton, N.Y.  After eating on the fly, we got to the track close to 9p and I set up my pit area, Daniel recording everything into the dark.
The next morning, we awake to dense fog which still hadn't lifted after I got registered, went through tech inspection and attended the riders meeting.  They couldn't start practice because the corner workers couldn't see from one station to the next.  The fog didn't lift enough to start practice until about 12:30p and they scheduled one round of practice for each group.
The '46 Moto Guzzi Dondolino and '70 H-D ERTT with Daniel videoing in the background
My '46 MotoGuzzi Dondolino had run poorly at Road America and, while I found and fixed the problem with the clutch, I had no confidence that the minor changes I had made would solve the misfire problem.  Sure enough, while it would start easily and run fine in neutral, as soon as I put it under real load it would misfire, so I pulled in after one lap.  My H-D ERTT 350 Sprint on the other hand ran well.  I was entered in the first race of the day on the Sprint, the Magill Masters Lightweight.  This is open to any lightweight vintage bike piloted by a rider over 50 years old.  We assembled on the pre grid and while we waited, the fog descended again and they sent us back to the paddock.  Then it started to rain heavily with lightning close by and it was decided to cancel all racing for the day.  After raining with lightning for several hours, it let up and the sun even came out, so I decided to change the magneto on the Dondolino.  Guy Martin of Martin Brickwood Performance dove in to help and together we got it changed and timed.  The tapered armature has a keyway to locate the magneto gear on the shaft, but for some reason, if I install the key, I can't get the timing correct.  The motor has no vernier adjustment for the mag gear and the points plate is fixed in the magneto and can't be rotated to adjust the timing. So, I've just put the gear on the shaft at the correct point without the key and relied on the taper and nut to hold it in place.
When I went out on the Dondo for Sunday morning practice, it ran great initially with no misfire, but then started running slower and slower and I pulled off after two laps. 
On the Dondo at Moss's corner.  Alex Bilo photo
 I then went out on the Sprint and again it ran well.  But, at the end of the session, I did a plug chop and was coasting into the pits with a a dead engine holding the clutch in, when the clutch suddenly engaged and the cable all of a sudden had a massive amount of free play.  I quickly disassembled the clutch as I was in the first race of the day.  I found that one of the friction plates had de-laminated and jammed. I scrambled through my spares to find a new clutch plate, installed it and re-adjusted the cable.  I got it all done just in time to make the pre-grid only to be told that I didn't have my transponder on the bike.  
Alex Bilo photo
I rode back to my pit and screamed at who ever was close by to get the transponder off the Dondolino and put it on the Sprint, but of course they couldn't understand what I was saying or know where the transponder was located on the bike.  So it took a while to get this done and, by the time that I got back to the pre-grid, everyone had left and I had to start from the pit lane after everyone had passed.  I picked off 5 of the 10 starters, many of them newer and/or bigger bikes, and closed on Stan Nicholson's TD 2B Yamaha, but ran out of time to catch him in the shortened races they had to run on Sun.
Alex Bilo photo
I found that the ignition timing had slipped (to about TDC) on the Dondolino with the mag gear moving on the shaft and I had pretty much given up on fixing it before race race 6.  The only hope was to put the key back between the gear and the shaft, mounting the gear in the advanced position, then retarding the ignition to the correct time with the cable operated manual retard.  I explained this to my friend Mark Heckles when he stopped by and he volunteered to help and encouraged me to give it a try.  So we dove in.  It's fairly involved and a buch of stuff has to be removed to remove the timing cover to remove the mag gear.  Then  it took several tries to get the timing close before buttoning everything back up.  Mark was also in race 6, as oddly, the Pre 50 class was at the back of the grid behind the P2 Heavyweight that he was in on a CR 750 Honda.  Mark kept saying that he had to go to suit up for the race and I kept saying ' yes; you go', but then he'd say that he'd just replace this or tighten that.  We finally got it finished and we both managed to get suited up and to the pre-grid on time to make the warmup lap.  I got a good start and led the Pre 50 class most of the way through the back straight when Ingo Reuters came by on his Pre war Rudge as the Dondolino slowed, and slowed, and slowed, then started to seize.  I whipped the clutch in and the motor stopped as I coasted into pit in.  Then I realized that in the frenzy, I never turned the oil supply back on, having shut it off to remove the timing cover, a huge mistake.  I have a reminder that I attach to the oil valve when I shut it off, but I had forgotten to attach it in the frenzy.  A reminder for the reminder?  No, I need an electrical cut out that grounds the points when the oil valve is in the off position.  Oh well, the show must go on.
My last race was the P1 350 Class which was gridded behind the P1 Open bikes.  I got a good start leading the 350s and started picking off the Open bikes.  I ended up 1st 350 and 5th overall, having caught 4th place and, waking him up up from his stupor, he got me back and beat me by a little over an eight of a second.  A somewhat satisfying end to a fraught weekend.
Alex Bilo photo
Daniel was shooting footage until the end and he has a huge editing job ahead of him as he can only use probably less than 1% of what he shot.  It a little unnerving to be followed constantly with a camera, but Daniel is a good guy and I'm sure he won't show anything that will embarrass me more that failing to turn on the oil. 

Daniel never stopped shooting
Stuart Dey said he couldn't afford a TZ750 so he had had Denis Curtis of CRM Products build him a chassis for a TR750 Suzuki Waterbuffulo

Friday, September 30, 2016

NJMP Thunderbolt

For the AHRMA race at New Jersey Motorsport Park I entered the Friday practice to test Team Obsolete's MV Agusta 350 three cylinder, which mechanic Josh Mackenzie had recently finished going through.  In the first round, the tach stopped working and I had little front brake.  Josh fixed those problems, but in the second session I lost clutch release, which was just a matter of the handlebar adjuster backing off.  With that secured, the bike went well in the third session.  Having accomplished what we set out to do of making sure the bike was sorted and ready, Josh loaded up the bike and took it back to Brooklyn.
Team Obsolete MV 350 3 cal. on the bench and myTC200 Suzuki in foreground

Josh Mackenzie working on the T/O MV 350-3
I took my H-D ERTT Sprint out for one session and it seemed good.
Sat., my 'bump up' class ran first, the 500 Premiere class, which was gridded in front of 500GP, Formula 500 and 500 Sportsman and Vintage Superbike Lightweight.  There were only four of us in 500 Premiere and Tim Joyce on Maurice Candy's Manx soon cleared off.  I chased Helmi Niederer on his Minovation Seeley G-50, but he slowly pulled away.  Tim Tilghman, Rich Midgley and Kerry Smith all came by on their F-500 Honda 350s, but Midge got a flat tire and dropped out, so I finished 5th overall.
On the ERTT in turn #4  Etech photo
The 350GP class was gridded behind the electric bike class with Class 'C' foot shift and Handshift and Formula 125 behind us.  It took me several laps to chase down the electric bikes and I was able to win overall, but with only the 4th fastest lap, the electric bikes peaking early, then fading a bit.
Joel Samick brought his Retro Tours to NJMP Sat.  Joel runs tours on his Twins from the '70s and he had four guys with him and they were going on to Delaware on Sun.  They were riding an XLCR Harley, a TX 750 Yamaha, a RD400 Yamaha, a V50 Moto Guzzi, and a T100C Triumph.  He invited me to join them for dinner and I ended up spending the night with them in a condo at the track.
Joel told me that I had to check out this Corvair power bike in the swap meet.
complete with '60 instrumentation....
...and quad headlights
Sun. went much like Sat., though in the 500 race Helmi didn't ride and Midge didn't have a flat tire and Mark Morrow on his F-500 Yamaha and Brad Phillips on his 500 Sportsman BMW also came past me, so I was 7th overall.
In the 350 race, I was again able to chase down all the electric bikes and win overall, this time with the 2nd fastest lap.
Leading the electric bikes of Robert Berbeco 690, Art Kowitz 1, and Peter Nicolosi.  Etech photo

Eddie Fisher, age 91, winner of the '53 Laconia National, raced his Cub

My Hero
The inimitable Dick Miles showed up Sunday and pitted next to me.  Here he is working on the Norton Manx of John Lawless with his own Manx (44) in the background.

Scott Dell took the rider's school, then raced his '51 Vincent Comet

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


After back to back weekend of racing in early June, I had back to back weekends of Tiddler Tours.  First was the second annual Oak Hill Classic in Durham, N.Y.  Actually, this isn't strictly a Tiddler event as bikes are not limited by displacement, only age.  Unlike last year, we had great weather this year which boosted participation to about 20.  I rode my '68 Suzuki TC200.
The oldest and biggest bike was an Indian Chief.  The smallest bike was probably Gabrielle Isenbrand's 125 Kawasaki B8?
125 Kawasaki, 180 Yamaha, 250 BMW and note the B-25 BSA in the background
 Her partner Carter rode an R27 BMW and their friend a Yamaha CS-1.  There were two CA 160 Hondas, a CL 77, and my sister-in-law Amy rode her CL350.

 Brother Doug rode his '66 Norton Electra.
 There were two Ossa Wildfires and an Ossa powered Greeves (Grossa).
Jake standing in front of his Grossa with a Wildfire on the right.
The route started out with a lot of relatively high speed state roads.  Rich Hosley soon caught up to me on his Ossa Wildfire and we rode together through the middle part of the ride.  We stopped when my mirror  came loose.  After tightening it up, I was apparently not too careful about repacking my tool pouch and it was partially blocking the inlet to the air filter.  Shortly after we got going again, I missed a turn and soon noticed that Rich wasn't behind me.  I figured it out and turned back to get on the route which became more interesting, narrower, twister, and with steep grades.  I was trying to catch back up to Rich, but now the Suzuki wasn't running well because of the blocked intake.  About 8 miles from the finish, the bike went onto reserve and I had some concern that I might run out of fuel, thinking it might be getting even worse mileage than it's normal mid 30's to the gallon when I'm hammering it.  But, I did make it to the finish with only Doug Boughton on his 350cc CL 77 and Rich  already back.  We had a great feed at the firehouse before going our separate ways.
The Matchless and BSA were just on display, but the 380 Suzuki triple participated
George Ellis made a faux Excelsior with a Briggs and Stratton motor from the '20's
Rick Snyder standing in front of his restored LS-2 Yamaha
The next weekend, 4th of July weekend, was the social event of the season: the Roper Tiddler Tour put on by my brother Doug and his wife Amy.  Again, great weather brought out maybe the biggest turnout ever.
Rick Sawyer's RD 200
One of three R-27 BMWs at the TT
Scott Raker's 250 Jawa--always well ridden and reliable
Rick Bell's 250 Sprint--another well ridden bike

Bob Bendix brought a scooter this time with an XS400 Yamaha behind
a 250 Ducati Monza
a headless Al Anderson if front of his R-27 with John Harris' MZ behind
A beautifully restored YDS-3 Yamaha
It had what has to be an ultra rare factory windscreen.
A unmolested '74 RD350 Yamaha
Cool bike transporter: a Citroen Ami wagon.
Rich Hosley's quick and well ridden Ossa Wildfire
Phil Turkington's immaculate Bultaco Metralla, 'Camilla'
Stretching the definition of a Tiddler perhaps, but a cool bike nevertheless, Rich Barger's Cheney T100 Triumph
A nicely done CB 450 Honda 
Scuderia Frazier, with Jean's 125 Honda in the foreground and Mitch's Jawa in the back
A Triumph T-25 brought down from New Hampshire
A Yamaha CS-1
Steve Rossi' Moto Guzzi 110 Zigolo, which he let me take for a spin.  If only they had a 4 speed gearbox.
Gabrielle Isenbrand's 125 Kawasaki had fueling issues.
Brother Doug continues to impress with his ability to come up with new, great roads in a somewhat limited area.  Then there's the great after party that attracts most of the neighborhood in addition to the Tiddlers.
The next day, Gordon, Doug and I finally located the leak in my Horex Resident fuel tank and Doug did a expert job of silver soldering it.  Then the three of us escorted Eli and Seana in their sidecar outfit to Beacon Falls, Ct. on their way back to NYC.
Using baby powder to find the leak in the fuel tank.