Saturday, February 28, 2015

Roebling Road, 21-22 Feb., 2015



When I had my right ankle replaced right after the last race of the 2014 season, I didn't know if I'd be fit to race in the first race or two of the 2015 season.  But, the surgery and rehab went really well and I had been riding on the street with no problem since Christmas time, so I decided to race at AHRMA Roebling Road, 21-22 Feb.  The only problem was that all of my race bikes were apart and in the middle of major motor work.
But, my friend Aleksey Kravchuk had just finished building a new race bike and he said that I could help him shake it down and race a bump up class.
Aleksey Kravchuk's F-250 CB 350 Honda
 The bike is a Formula 250 CB350 Honda.  Alex  built the frame from scratch and equipped it with Ceriani road race forks, a replica 210mm Fontana  four leading shoe front brake and 200mm twin leading shoe rear, Frank Giannini built the motor and Mat Tanner supplied the body work.  
a 210mm Fontana 4LS front brake
A Frank Giannini built motor

We loaded the bike in my van right after it ran for the first time at his shop and took off the next morning for Roebling.
Alex is a superb fabricator

We were prepared to camp, but decided it would be prudent to accept my friend Harriet's invitation to sleep on the floor of her house in the historic district of Savannah, as the forecast was for a low of 18 degrees.  Alex knew he had an oil leak, so Fri. morning we stopped at Action Rubber and Gasket on the way to the track and got an 'O'ring.  After setting up our pit and installing the 'O'ring we fired up the bike and found we still had an oil leak.  Further investigation revealed that it was a different 'O'ring that was at fault, so we drove back into Savannah and, after failing to find an 'O'ring at Graingers or a bearing house, ended up back a Action, who had the right part.  Back to the track and 'O'ring installed , this time the oil leak was cured.  We did some incidental drilling and safety wiring but decided it was too late and too cold to justify paying for Fri. practice.  We'd just be ready to go first thing Sat.
In the mean time, Gregg Bonelli offered me his Yamaha F-250 bike for a bump up class.
Gregg Bonelli's F-250 Yamaha DS7
While Sat. morning wasn't as cold as Fri. morning, it was still in the 30's, and Aleksey's Honda didn't want to run.  It would fire if he choked it like crazy while I worked the throttle on the rollers, but it would die pretty much as soon as he took his hand away.  We thought there might be a problem with the float level or the kill switch and we spent time investigating those possibilities, missing the first round of practice.  While Alex was taking the carbs apart, I took Gregg's hot-rodded DS7 Yamaha 250 out for practice and it went alright, though the rear brake and right clip-on needed adjustment.
Then Alex realized the problem.  He had put race gas in the bike back in Brooklyn, but when we loaded the van, he grabbed the wrong fuel jug, one filled with methanol for another project.  Fri. we had run the bike on the race gas in the tank, but it was very low so, Sat. morning Alex filled it with methanol, unbeknownst to him.  With gasoline jets in the carbs, the methanol was way too lean for the motor to run.  He drained the fuel and put in race gas, and the bike started right up.  By this time, there was just my practice left and, as much as I wanted Alex to ride the bike first, I went out on it.  I took it quite gingerly as it was a total unknown, but it seemed like it was going to be good.  The wheels were out of balance, but it steered well, the close ratio Nova gearbox shifted great, and the Fontana brakes were right there.  Just finishing the 3rd lap. the bike lost power and I clutched it and pulled off with smoke pouring out of the right exhust pipe.  Removing the sparkplug revealed a hole in the top of the piston big enough to see the wrist pin and no sign of the exhaust valve when we rotated the motor over.  Alex was naturally devastated and I felt really bad for him and wondered if I had done something wrong.  Later disassembly found no oil going to the top end and the cam and rockers were completely cooked.  It hasn't yet been detrimined why, but at least I didn't feel guilty.
So, with that bike dead it was on to Gregg's Yamaha.  Gregg was to ride it in F-250 and me in F-500, immediately following.  Gregg got a good start but pulled into the pit lane at the end of the 2nd lap with a fuel leak.  We had a frantic scramble determining where the fuel was coming from (a fuel line had split), then trying to get at it and shorten or replace it.  This took long enough for me to miss the warm-up lap, but I was able to go directly to the grid.    I got a good start with a moderate little wheelie and pretty quickly slotted into 2nd in class behind Mark Morrow on his RD 400 based Yamaha.
Stalking Ricky Pearson's Yamaha
At the end of the 2nd lap, he lost power and pulled off--apparently one of his carbs had fallen off, and now I was leading the class.  But, the right clip-on kept moving back towards the tank and I couldn't seem to push it forward down the straight.  I tried to carry on as long as I could, but it finally got too close to the tank and I pitted on the 3rd or 4th lap.  After much screaming and pointing I finally got Eric Cook to pull the clip-on well forward away from the tank and I took off again, a lap down.   The motor started loosing it's edge and the clip-on started moving back again.  I finished, but a lap down and the bike was pretty dead.  When I had asked Gregg to adjust the handle bar, he had loosened the pinch bolts on the yokes and rotated the fork tube, not realizing the clip-on wasn't tight on the fork tube.  It hadn't moved for him, but I guess I was pulling on it harder.  Only Harry Vanderlinder (SOS 2 MZ Skorpion), John Rickard (Vint. S/B LW Yamaha SR500) and presumable Mark Morrow (no times listed for him) had done a faster lap than me in the race, so the bike has real potential, but it was a moot point as the top end was now wasted.
Remarkably, after two bikes had died under me, someone offered me a ride for Sun.  Larry Morris, a near neighbor on Long Island, N.Y., had a Triumph Daytona 500 that he was riding in 500 Sportsman and he offered it to me to ride 750 Sportsman.

 This was a bike built by Tim Joyce, in my opinion the fastest vintage rider in North America.  It's unique in that it has a big twin 5 speed gearbox welded onto the crankcases at 90 degrees to the normal orientation.

 I was quite curious to ride it as I had seen Tim go extremely fast on it.  Larry had had some clutch slip on Sat. and thought the problem was just that the clutch springs weren't reefed down hard enough, and he said he would jump on that first thing Sun. morning.
When I went out in the first round of practice Sun., I found that the bike handled really well, had good brakes (the conical Bsump twin leading shoe with extended arms) and was remarkablly smooth for a Triumph twin.
custom billet yokes
extended brake arms make all the difference on these brakes

 And, the clutch was still slipping.  Also, when I came in, we found one of the clutch cover bolts was missing.  Larry said he had some more manly clutch springs he would put in and I went  looking for a replacement bolt.  It was a very long 1/4" Whitworth allen head cap screw and I couldn't find one anywhere.  So, we just put some spooge in the hole and I just got one lap in the 2nd round of practice.  It seemed like the clutch was no longer slipping, but the cover was leaking from the missing bolt.  Larry went out during lunch break to find some hardware, but Home Depot. Lowes, and Auto Zone didn't have anything like that.  But Alex, who was very much involved in wrenching on the bike, told Larry to get some 14"-20 threaded rod.  Alex threaded that into the case, put some flat washers over the counter bored holes and tightened up some lock nuts, then covered the whole mess in Yamabond.  I took the bike out for a scrub lap in one of the earlier races and it was good; the clutch didn't slip and the cover didn't leak.
Aleksey's very effective bodge on the primary cover

Larry decided that he wouldn't race the 500 Sportsman, which immediately preceded the 750 Sportsman race so as to not compromise my chances, despite my urging him to ride.  Race 7 was Sound of Thunder 3, Sportsman 750, Sound of Singles 3, eSuperSport (electric bikes), and F-750, with just four of us in 750 Sportsman: the 750 BMWs of Rich Heritage and Dan May, and the XS 750 Yamaha of Mark Nadelkov.  It was a single wave start and I got into 2nd in class soon.  I started to close on Rich Heritage and around the 5th lap got right on his tail out of the last corner onto the straight and got the perfect draft which I broke out of just before braking for turn #1 and slipped by.  I led that lap until we got back on the straight and Rich was able to motor by me.  This seemed to have pumped him up and he stepped it up.  I accidently knocked it up a gear and by the time I got it right, Rich and gapped me and that's the way we finished, Rich 4th overall behind two SV650's and a Ducati twin and me 5th OA ahead of Dave Rhinehart on a Triumph Thruxton, despite him having a faster best lap.
My new ankle worked great, the weather got good and warm, and I had a fun ride on a very nice bike.  A good start to the season.  Many thanks to Aleksey, Gregg and Larry.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

media

My friend Courtney Olive has written a very flattering article about our time at the Isle of Man during last year's Classic TT: 
http://www.motorcycle-usa.com/498/20739/Motorcycle-Article/Travels-with-Roper--Exploring-the-Isle-of-Man.aspx

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

TC 200

When I post from my IPad, when I'm on the road, I can't seem to upload photos.  They just show up as little squares with a question mark.  But, from my laptop, it works.  So, here are some missing photos from my last post.
Photo by Amy Roper with brother Doug looking on.
Photo by Amy Roper

Friday, December 26, 2014

Xmas 2014

Last Wednesday marked 9 week from the replacement of my right ankle.  I went 6 weeks totally non-weight bearing, then gradually increasing partial weight bearing.  So, Christmas Day I celebrated by riding a bicycle more than 9 miles.  Then, I got a neighbor of my brother, who stopped by on his R-27 BMW, to ride my recent purchase, a '68 Suzuki TC 200, around a little bit.  It seemed to work fine, so I couldn't resist riding it my self. 
 Today, I registered the bike and then rode it about 16 miles.  It's good.  It starts easily, runs well, not too peaky, handles fine, good front brake (I didn't use the rear brake as I rode in my Air Cast boot), and is reasonably comfortable, though it does vibrate a bit at high revs.
The TC 200 is the street scrambler version of the X-5, a 196cc, 5 speed, little brother to the 250cc    X-6.  I bought the bike with only 226 miles on the odometer.  The story was that the seller's uncle bought the bike new, rode it a little bit, then tipped over and parked it.  It lived much of the next 45 or so years near the ocean, so there is lots of surface rust, but it seems structurally sound.  The seller had taken it to someone who put new Michelin Gazelle tires, a new fuel tap, and new spark plugs, cleaned the carbs and got it running.  Evidently, this person didn't check the points, as I found one set gapped way too open and that side ignition timing well advanced.  There was also an oil leak from the clutch pushrod.  I got a new seal, but then realized the the pushrod was bent.  This, and the amount of muck and grime around make me question that the mileage is accurate.  
I also bought a center stand off Ebay and installed it.  It seems that some TCs came with them and some didn't .  Likewise, fork gaiters and rear shock shrouds, but fortunately this bike has both which probably saved the suspension from the rust that's on the rest of the bike.
Most people seem to prefer the look of the high pipes, cross braced handlebars and skid plate of the street scrambler, but personally I prefer the low pipes as they give easier access to the carbs and gearbox oil filler.
All it needs now is a route sheet holder and it's ready for a Moto Giro or Tiddler Tour.

Monday, November 10, 2014

2014 race record

For 2014, I competed in 13 different events, missing two events due to my late June street bike accident.  The 13 events were at 13 different venues, two of which I hadn't been to before: Phillip Island and the New Jersey Motorsports Park Lightning Circuit, and it had been almost 12 years since I had been to Shannonville.  I entered 54 races and started 50 of them, all of the non starts being mechanical issues from as minor as a wire pulled off the coil to as major as a dropped valve.  I did this on 18 different bikes belonging to 15 different people, the most I've ever raced in one season.  I got 22 wins, 6ea 2nds, 13ea 3rds, and 1ea. 4th, 5th , and 6th.  I had 6 DNFs, three of which were crashes plus one practice crash.  This is a little more than average, but fortunately, none of them stopped me from racing the same day.  In addition to this, I did the Lap of Honor parade at the Isle of Man, a Tiddler Tour, a Moto Giro, and a Pewter Run.  Another busy, successful year (with a little bump in the road in the middle).

Grattan

 Because of the problem with the cracked frame it was decided that it would be better to not ride the Seeley G-50 at Grattan.  So, I went to the track with no ride, but after dragging my pitiful self around with a hang dog look on Fri., Trish Damon offered me a ride on her CB175 Honda.
Trish Damon working on her 175 Honda

I would race it in the 250 GP class, while Trish would race it in the CB 160 race and 200 GP.  Then, after briefly considering an offer of a CB 750 Honda, Don Drake asked if I'd like to race his 350 Ducati.
Don Drakes short stroke 350 Ducati


Trish's Honda was quite stock and not super quick, but worked fine.
250GP ran with 500 Sportsman, Pre 40, and Formula 125.  Francis Ganance's freshly rebuilt 250 was running very well and he was riding very well, and he finished 5th overall behind four 500 Sportsman  bikes.  Trish's bike was no match for Lorraine Crussell's 175 Honda, and Lorraine was also riding superbly and I finished almost a minute behind her, 13th overall and third in class.
Trish's Cl175 Honda


Don Drake's 350 Ducati is a short stroke, i.e. a 450 top end on a 250 lower end, and the more I rode it, the more I realized it wanted to rev and I kept lowering the gearing.  Come the race, Francis Ganance was bumping up with his 250 Ducati.  He got a better start than me and I got balked a bit by the Vintage Superbike Middleweights, who out dragged us to turn # 1.  Not wanting to lose touch with Francis, I tried to dive under Alex Cook's 850 Guzzi in the turn # 10 'bus stop'.  I thought I was by him, but we were on completely different lines and we collided.  I went down and, while Alex didn't, I knocked the seat off his bike, and he couldn't continue.  I banged my big toe and pinky, but was otherwise OK.  Don and his crew kicked the Ducati straight and Alex was able to remount his seat, so we were both ready for Sunday.

Trish's 175 was not, however.  It wouldn't start and she and her crew couldn't figure it out.  But, she found me a different 175 to race Sunday.  Now, I would race in the 250 class the 175 Honda that Anders Carlson was racing in 200GP.
The Cl 175 Honda I was sharing with Anders Carlson

 This bike was quite different than Trish's.  It shifted in the opposite direction as it just had a reversed shift lever while Trish's bike had a linkage.  This was more awkward shifting and the riding position was awkward for me, too, but the bike was faster than Trish's.

But again, not as fast as Lorraine's and Lorraine briefly got ahead of Francis on the first lap.  They both steadily pulled away from me with Francis finishing 5th overall again and me this time less than half a minute behind Lorraine in 10th overall.
Having geared Don's Ducati down again, I thought I might be able to make it a race with Francis in the 350 GP, but it would require using the draft of his very quick 250, and on the first lap, I missed some shifts and lost touch with him.  I finished less than 3.5 seconds behind him, he in 5th, me in 6th overall.
all in all, not a bad weekend for having arrived with no ride.

Steve Pieratt picked up this beautifully crafted twin engine Bonneville on his way to Grattan.

Another tasty bike at Grattan was Geoff Maloney's GP Tech Yamaha powered Moto 3 bike.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fall Ritual


Last Sunday was the Roper family tradition of the putting in the basement of motorcycles for the winter.  This was about 4 weeks early this year because of my recent ankle replacement surgery and my brother's impending hip replacement surgery.  This will be the first time for his right hip; he's on his 6th left hip replacement, having been among the youngest people to have it done in 1972 when they were just doing it on old people ready to die.
Amy's 650 BMW was first to go down
Doug pushes my Airone...  Amy Roper photo
...while I supervise.  Amy Roper photo


Amy Roper photo
The Airone goes down
I supervise the lowering of Doug's Benelli 260.  Amy Roper photo

Amy's CL/CB 350 Honda goes next
Then the Bridgestone 200
Finally the stairs go back in place
It's crowded downstairs as the disease progresses.