Thursday, October 1, 2020

Southern loop

I started three back to back weekends by joining the USCRA's Moto Giro in Syria, Va. We were based at Graves Mountain Lodge and did loops from there, returning back there for lunch each day, which meant going over the some of the same roads multiple times. But, the roads were great and the scenery gorgeous. In fact, at first I wondered if the roads were too good--too smooth and well marked. But, eventually we did get a few gnarly roads and there was a good deal of excellent dirt road and one watercrossing. The turnout was well down from the usually because of Covid-19, but there were about 50 riders and a good variety of bikes.
Jesse Morris with his NSU Max 
An NSU Max, a Puch, a Jawa, a Gilera, two Ossas, two Bultacos, three R-27 BMWs,three Suzukis (including my TC200, a TC250 and a 305), two Yamahas (including a YM1 reputedly bought in Vietman at the PX by a service man and brought back to the States), a Kawasaki 90, and the usual gaggle of Hondas.
Alex Snoop on his 175 Ossa Wildfire

The bummer of the weekend was Rich Hosely breaking his right tibia and fibula without crashing by putting his foot down when he slid a bit and hitting his leg with his foot rest.
Craig Light's Bultaco Lobito
Bultaco Metralla

I didn't think the route sheet was the best and misinterpreted an instruction Sunday afternoon and missed a turn and went miles the wrong way on a boring divided hiway until I got disgusted and rode back, missing a reportedly good road going up to Skyline drive.
90cc Kawasaki G-3
Mitch Fraizer with his 250 Jawa Californian
Puch Allstate Twingle
Yamaha YM-1 Cross Country reputedly bought in Vietnam at the PX and brought back to the States by the previous owner.

I stayed over at Graves Sun. night and Monday drove to Thomas Jefferson's house Monticello, which I found fascinating and well done. From there, I drove to Peaks of Otter campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway, hydroplanning in the heavy rain and wondering if this was a good idea. But, it stopped raining and I was able to set up my tent and walk to the near by lodge to get dinner in the dry.
In the morning, I woke up to find that my right rear tire was flat. Thinking I'd put on the spare, I found that the tool to lower the spare was missing from my tool kit and I was unsuccessful trying to bodge it with an Allen key or screwdriver. I ended up pumping it up to 63 psi with a hand pump, which took a while. But, it got me into Roanoke where I got the tire patched. I unloaded my TC 200 and rode it to the Va. Museum of Transport while they were working on the tire. Cars, boats, planes and locomotives and one motorcycle--a '67 Triumph Bonneville. I stayed in Roanoke that night and the next morning cruised around town some and went to the O. Winston Link/Raymond Lowey museum in the old railway station that Lowey redesigned in the late '40s.
One of two railway stations in Roanoke
Downtown Roanoke
The Taubman Museum of Art

Hotel Roanoke
From there to the Booker T. Washington National Monument, then to the Rocky Knob campground also on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Rocky Knob overlook  where I met this rider from Indiana

Thurs., I drove to Stone Mountain State Park in N.C. and walked up to the top of Stone Mountain for a beautiful view that afternoon. The next morning, I walked the 4.5 mile loop trail that goes down to the base of the mountain by a spectacular waterfall, on to a restored homestead, then up over the mountain.
Stone Mountain had these mysterious holes in the rock.

this photo of the Stone Mountain waterfall doesn't do it justice

Then I drove to Carolina M/S Pk., getting there barely in time to get my bikes to Tech inspection before they close. I presented my 350 with a flat rear tire, which is a bit embarrassing. The next morning, when I tried to start it for practice, it wouldn't fire as my battery ground lead had come out of it's holder and had been laying against the crankcase for possible 8 days, draining the battery. So I put it on charge and just rode my 250 in practice.
The 250GP was in the third race of the day in the second wave behind the Thruxtons and Classic 60s & 650s in the first wave and 350 Sportsman in the second. I won the 250GP class quite comfortably and finished 9th overall behind four Thruxtons, three Classic 60s and one Classic 60s 650 (all form the first wave) and had the 5th fastest lap of the race. I did a scrub lap before the 350GP race to confirm that the battery was now charged up, my only practice on my ERTT. Race 11 had Sportsman 750 and Formula 500 in the first wave and 350GP led the second wave with Novice Historic Production Lightweight and Formula 125 behind. Alex McLean led the second wave into turn one with me behind. Jason Roberts on his TD2b Yamaha came flying by me on the straight between turns #6 and #7. Before the end of the first lap, we caught up to the first wave and I was able to get around both Jason and Alex. I guess Alex got really baulked by traffic and Jason and I began to exchange the lead. He'd pass me on the straight and I would out brake him going into the corners. We exchanged the lead 4 or 5 times in the first 3 laps. Then I ended the fun when I tucked the front end in turn #5 while in the lead on the fourth lap and, with my bike in the impact zone, the race was red flagged. Jason had the 5th fastest lap of the race, only bettered by the two Sportsman 750s and two F-500 bikes, while my fastest lap was 0.011 seconds slower than Jason's. I made out fine in the crash, but my bike got pretty torn up.
My ERTT after the crash.

It lowsided and then backed into the dirt ripping up the fairing and breaking the right clip-on off, and there was lots of dirt in the carb, and other damage.
Broken clipon and brake adjuster
Turns out that is fork tube was slightly bent.

Dirt in the carb.

I also found that the exhaust head pipe was cracked almost completely around, which probably had nothing to do with the crash. I decided not to try to fix it in the field and to wait until I was back home to strip it down and examine it carefully. I asked Sakis Vasilopoulis if he could repair the fairing and he said he could and would return it at Barber in Oct. So, Sunday I raced my 250 CRTT in both the 250GP and 350GP races. In the third race, I again easily won the 250GP and was 6th overall with the 5th fastest lap of the race. But, my fastest lap came on the 4th of 6 and the motor seem to loose it edge as the race wore on. I checked the valve clearance before race 11 and found the two rocker adjuster lock nuts sitting in the exhaust rocker cover and both adjusters had backed off and I had huge valve lash.
The lock nuts for both rocker adjusters came off.

I readjusted the valve lash and tried to really reef down on the lock nuts. This brought the edge back to the motor and I finish 2nd 350GP behind Alex McLean, as Jason Roberts didn't race on Sun. I was 4th overall behind two Formula 500 machines and Alex and my fastest lap was more than 1 1/4 seconds faster than in the 250GP and less than 2 1/2 seconds slower than I had gone on my 350 the day before, or just over 2%.
Craig Light's Bultaco road racer.  He rode the Lobito in the Moto Giro.
Dave Kaufman's (AJS Dave) G-12 Matchless
This Gilera was at the Moto Giro, also.
A beautiful S-65 Honda
This showed up at Carolina M/S Pk., on it's way to an air show.
I drove to Savannah Sunday evening and visited with friends there the next four days. Dan Levine made arrangements with a friend of his for me to change the gearing and check over my 250 for the AHRMA Talladega G.P Raceway the following weekend at his friend's sports car racing shop in Pooler. It was a fabulous facility with one half being devoted to vintage cars and the other to modern.
Dr. Dan Levine admiring the hardware
What do you do with the headers while you're working on a motor?
A Ferrari flat 12.
A Lola?
Porsches, Lolas, Elvas, Corvettes, and Ferraris, and other exotica.
Modern racing Ferraris.
And street Ferraris, too.
I was amused that crew at this shop were all Ga-Ga over my little stone ax 250 single in the presence of all this sophisticated, high dollar equipment. I got to Talladega Fri. afternoon and got my bike teched. The weather forcast was iffy with a good possibility of thunder storms and I wondered if the ancient Dunlops on my bike were up to a wet race. But, despite seeing lightning in the distance, not a drop fell on the track all weekend. It was hot, though. I hadn't been to TGPR since 2013, when it was back to back with NOLA. Since then it had be a stand alone event and I didn't feel it was worth the very long drive for a track that I considered second rate. It is short and flat. But, it being back to back with the postponed CMP and having done so little racing this year, I decided to do it. After practice, my opinion of the track hadn't improved, but riding on a mediocre track is better than watching TV at home.
Like CMP, my two races were separated by a big gap. 350GP was in race #2 and 250GP was in race #10. 350GP was in front of Novice Production LWT and Formula 125, all in one wave. Jason Roberts (TD2b Yamaha), Alex McLean (Drixton Aermacchi) and Jerry Duke (350 Ducati) pulled away in the front. Soon, Colton Roberts (Jason's son) came by on a F-125 Yamaha and not long after Jonas Stein came by on his 175 Honda. Jonas was pulling away when he got into the last corner too hot and ran off the track. This allowed me to get by, but he soon recovered and passed me again. So, I ended up 4th 350GP (on my 250) and 6th overall. The 250GPs were gridded in the back behind Thruxtons and Classic 60s and Classic 650s, and Sportsman 350 in the first wave and Novice Production HWT and 250GP in the second wave. My best lap was less the 0.05 of a second faster than in the 350GP race but was good enough to win the 250GP class and finish 5th overall behind three Thruxtons and a Sportsman 350. After the race, I checked my valve clearance and again found huge exhaust lash and the adjuster lock nut missing. Al Hollingsworth gave me a spare locknut and a little advice on the tightening procedure when I adjusted the valve clearance. Sunday's 350GP went about the same as Saturday, except that Jason Roberts didn't race because the chrome on the cylinder bores on his TD2b was peeling. Alex McLean and Jerry Duke took off and shortly Colton Roberts, the Jonas Stein came by with their F-125 bikes. This time, Jonas kept it on the track and passed Colton for 3rd overall, me being 3rd 350GP and 5th overall, with my best lap 0.7 seconds faster than I had gone Sat. The previous weekend at Carolina M/S Pk., when I rode my 250 in the 350GP race on Sun., I finished almost 1 min., 7 sec. ahead of Jerry Duke and my best lap was almost 11.5 seconds faster than his best. But here at Talladege there was no way that I could stay with him. He finished more than 8.5 seconds in front of me and his best lap was more than 1.2 seconds faster than my best. Also, I lapped Jonas Stein at CMP, but he was way faster than me at TGPR. I don't think that my bike was slower; I was just slower. Race #10 was also similar to Sat. with me 1st 250GP and and 5th overall behind three Thruxtons and one Sportsman 350, though my fastest lap was more than 0.8 sec. slower than I had gone in the morning's race #2. I guess I better check my valve clearance again.
Luke Conner's Thruxton, KRTT, and KHK?
Stu Carter's two Seeley G-50s, Framecrafter KTM, and my finger.
Stan Miller's T-20 Suzuki X-6
I noticed the grease fittings over the cams on Keith Leighty's CB450 based racer and asked Keith about them.  They're to pre-lube the rocker arms.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Mid-West swing 2020

 At the end of July, I headed to Blackhawk Farms Raceway in South Beloit, Illinois for my first race in 5 months.  5 months is about as long as I've gone without racing since 1972.  5 month is the length of the typical winter off season, Oct. to Feb.  In 2020, it seems that we've had two winters.  I had raced at BHF four times before, 1991-1994 so, with the track layout fresh in my mind, I didn't bother with Fri. practice.  I brought my 1966 250 CRTT H-D and my 1970 350 ERTT H-D. 

My guess on the gearing was close, with the 250 arguably a little short, but close enough that I didn't change it.  However, the 250 was vibrating a good deal and the right rear fairing screw came out in the 2nd round of practice and the bezel on the tach unscrewed and I found it stuck between the footrest and the shift linkage, but I didn't find the glass.  I had forgotten how much fun the 1.95 mile track was with some areas where I could almost, but not quite, go flat out and good traction everywhere.

The 350GP was up first, gridded in front of 350 Sportsman in one wave.  Though there was a good turn out at the event, not so much in my classes.  We had only 5 entries in the 350GP and one of those didn't show up and Jason Roberts had his clutch explode on the launch at the start.  I got an average start and Alex McLean pulled steadily away finishing more than 4.5 seconds ahead of me and with a fastest lap more that a second faster than my best.  But, at least I was 2nd overall with none of the six 350 Sportsman bikes catching us.

The 250GP was gridded at the back of the second wave behind the 500 Sportsman and with F-500 and 500 Premiere in the first wave.  The 250GP grid was also small with six entries and one of those not showing up, and 19 entries overall between the four classes.  I led the 250s from the start and on the 2nd lap caught up to a gaggle of 500 Sportsman and F500 bikes at turn #6.  I thought 'I can ride around the outside of all these guys', but the gap I was shooting for all of a sudden disappeared and I clipped one of the bikes with my arm, which sent me off the track onto the grass at maybe 90mph.  Luckily, I had lots of room and it was fairly smooth and I took my time slowing down and making a U-turn, though even then, I slid a bit.  I got back on the track and took off.  On the last lap I saw another 250GP bike and thought if I can catch him, maybe I can salvage a 3rd.  I missed a shift coming out of the last corner and didn't catch that bike.  But, when I checked the results, they had me as 1st.  I thought that must be a mistake, but checking the times I saw it wasn't and that even though my 2nd lap was 26.5 seconds slower than my fastest, I still won my class finishing 7th overall with the 5th fastest lap of the race.

I realized that I had a slow leak in my rear tube and put a new one in after the race.  When I was putting the wheel back in the swingarm, it seemed as though my rear torque arm was flopping around too much.  When I looked closer, I saw the the safety wire on the front mount had broken and I had lost the nut, but the bolt was still in the mount.  If the bolt had fallen out, it would have been messy.

I removed the rear wheel to replace the tube and found the torque arm about to fall off.

Sunday I just did a short practice on each bike.  The 350GP class only had three starters Sun., as Jason couldn't do anything about his clutch on his Yamaha.  This time, Kevin Dinsmoor came by at the start on his 350 Sportsman bike and closed right up on Alex.  But, he could never get by and after a few laps decided that he shouldn't try as they were in different classes and I realize that I was catching him and Alex.  I got by Kevin and closed right up on Alex thinking that I should follow him until the last lap to make my move.  But, on approaching the last corner on the penultimate lap, I couldn't resist passing him.  He passed me back on the straight as we took the last lap flag.  Again, I passed him into the last corner, but he out dragged me to the finish, beating me by 0.194 seconds.  I had the fastest lap, though it was 0.017 seconds slower than Alex had gone on Sat.

In Sunday's 250GP, there were only four starters in class and twelve overall.  In Saturday's race, Andrew Mauk in the 500 Premiere class was leading overall when he fell in the last corner and handed the win to Wes Orloff, who was in hot pursuit.  Andrew's bike was too badly damaged to race Sun., and Wes stopped on the warmup lap when two wires crossed and burned.  On the third lap, I went into 4th overall behind Kevin Dinsmoor and Martin Morrison on their F-500 bikes and Eric Cook on his 500 Sportsman bike but, on the 6th of 8 laps, my motor made a bad noise and stopped and I was able to coast into the pits.  So I had a DNF, but was still credited with 4th in class and had the 4th fastest lap in the race.  I did some investigation and found that I still had compression, but the exhaust push rod was barely moving and I suspected that the tappet had broken.

Trying to diagnose the failure on my CRTT with exh. rocker out and ign. rotor off.

I had pitted next to my old friend Sven Bley, who was racing a '90 NSR 250 Honda in Next Generation Lightweight and an 848 Ducati in Sound of Thunder 2. 

Sven Bley's '90 NSR 250 Honda and 848 Ducati.

Sven and I go way back to the early '90s when he and his dad were racing a bunch of exotica in AHRMA.  Sven had gotten away from roadracing and started a business and a family, but we stayed in touch over the years and eventually I helped suck him back into roadracing with AHRMA. Sven had generously invited me to stay with his wife and him at their house in a Northwest outer suburb of Chicago between BHF and the race at Gingerman.  There, I got right to work on the CRTT and found that my suspicions were correct and the exhaust tappet was broken. 
I worked on the bike right in the van because of a threat of rain.
I was relieved to find that the broken tappet had done no damage to the cam lobe or anything else. 

That's the head of the tappet sitting in the timing chest.

The exh. lobe is the one next to the gear.
I also found a broken clutch plate.

I had a spare tappet with me and had the motor back together fairly quickly and changed the gearing for Gingerman.  I was able to start the bike and ran it very briefly and it sounded fine.  Sven ordered some plexiglass from McMaster-Carr and I was able to cut out some lens' for the tach on the scroll saw at his work, Made to Measure, where they do ultra precision measurement for quality control purposes.

I went with Sven's uncle, Karl, to the site of the old Meadowdale roadrace track.  This track was built in 1958 and was used until 1969, though most racing stopped in 1966.  The grounds are now a forest preserve and much of the old pavement remains and one can walk the whole 3.27 miles of the circuit.

The iconic Meadowdale silo. Karl Bley photo.

It looks like it was a fabulous circuit with a really long straight that goes steeply down and across a creek, then steeply up and it had a banked corner called the Monza wall.  I love going to ruins of all kinds, but especially race tracks and now Meadowdale joins the list that includes Vineland, N.J., Upper Marlboro, Md., Mid-America Raceway in Wentzville, Mo., and Catalina Park in N.S.W., Australia.

Sven was into trials riding before he got into road racing and twice competed in the Scottish Six Day trials and still competes.  He brought boulders, huge logs and construction debris into his back yard so he could practice on his modern Honda powered Montesa and a couple of mornings we played on it and a dual sport Yamaha he has.

I rode my '68 TC200 Suzuki over to North Chicago to visit Joe Walano at his shop, The Guzzi Doctor.  While he specializes in V-twin Guzzis he had an eclectic collection of bikes there including some Guzzi singles, Brit twins, modern and vintage Ducatis, and an H-2 Kawasaki drag bike.  From there I rode south into Chicago proper and visited some good friends there and had a socially distanced, outdoor BBQ.

Then it was on to Gingerman in Michigan.  While I was very pleased by how everyone behaved at BHF where AHRMA and the track made it very clear that the rules were masks must be worn whenever indoors or unable to socially distance and that the event could be shut down if people didn't comply, it seemed very different at Gingerman.  People seemed way more casual/sloppy about wearing masks and nothing was said by the officials.

My CRTT, ERTT and Stu Carter's Seeley G-50.

After a dry practice, we had a shower as racing started and in race #2, which included Sound of Thunder 3 and Sound of Singles 2, there were a few crashes and a red flag.  Several races decide not to make the restart or pulled off at the end of the warm-up lap.  The 350GP was next up (gridded in the second wave with F-125, behind 750 Sportsman and F-500), and while the rain seemed to be tapering off, I was very tentative in the first laps and the leaders pulled steadily away and I finished 3rd in class behind Jason Roberts on his TD2b Yamaha and Alex McLean on his Aermacchi, and 12th overall.  I was unaware that the Yamaha TD2b is now legal in the 350GP class and it could change the complexion of the class.

Leah Bober's RS125 Honda, Wes Orloff's Buell and Dan May's BMW which he let Wes race.
I had a long wait until the race 11 for the 250GP and by then the track was totally dry.  We were gridded behind Classic 60s and 650 and 350 Sportsman, but in one wave.  I won the 250GP class and was 5th overall.  The bike continued to shed parts, this time one of the rocker cover bolts, and this caused some oil leakage.  When I cleaned this up after the race, I dropped the belly pan and what did I find in it but the glass from my tach that fell off the week before at BHF.

Mark Williams and his H1R Kawasaki.  Mark fed me all weekend.
Sunday was quite similar to Sat.  It rained quite heavily over night and the track was very wet for the one round of practice and a couple of people crashed in front of me.  The track was still wet with standing water in places on the warm-up lap for race #3, but drying.  Again, I was very tentative especially at the start, and finished a distant 2nd to Alex in the 350GP class, though I did move up from 14th on the grid to 10th overall.  Jason Roberts didn't enter the race on Sun. for some reason.  

And again, the track was totally dry for the 250GP in race #11.  And again, my bike continued to shed parts.  Just after the start, I lost the right rear windscreen screw and the bubble started flapping around, which dislodged the second screw, which cause it to flap more and crack.  By the time I entered the last corner on the first lap, the windscreen was sitting in my lap and as I crossed the Start/finish line I tossed it to the side of the track.  That didn't stop me from finishing the first lap in 4th overall and eventually moving up to 3rd overall with the fastest lap in the race, with a time 0.068 seconds, faster than I had gone in the 350 race in the morning.

After I got the van loaded, I drove to Stu Carter's house.  Monday, we went to his business, a medical marijuana dispensary, unloaded his van at his shop, visited one of his 'grow' facilities, then went to the Henry Ford Museum.  We quickly found the 1865 Sylvester Roper steam car, which they describe as the oldest surviving car in America.

Not far away was a Sylvester Roper hot air engine. 

For those not paying attention, Sylvester Roper was my 2nd cousin, four times removed.

 Having fulfilled my familial obligations, we checked out the amazing collection of ancient steam engines, early machine tools, a great aviation exhibit, with the Ford Tri-Motor featured, a collection of Presidential limousines, and more.  An excellent museum.  

I drove back home on Tuesday, got a Covid test on Friday, and the results on the next Wednesday said 'none detected'.  Seems that I got away with it.