Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving weekend in Ct.: a time for motorcycling. It was a bit cool, but clear and calm for my ride up to my brother's in Haddam, but no problem with the electric jacket liner and gloves plugged in. And, leaving Hicksville just before 11a,on T-day there was less traffic than on a normal Sat. We drove the cage over to New London to the cousin's when three generations of cousins were there (i.e. aunt, cousins, and cousin's children). Great time and excellent meal.

Fri. got in the mid 50's, so riding was comfortable without the electrics. After replacing the repaired footrest and installing the selector return spring (I stole from the Dondolino) on my '53 Airone Sport, brother Doug and I got riding, he on his '65 260 Benelli. We went to the south and west putting on about 72 miles by the time we got back. Doug asked me if I wanted to ride his Benelli, so I put another 12 or so miles on it. It runs strong, having had some port work by Scott Clough ( and with a fresh piston in it. And, the brakes are good. But, it vibrates a bit and I wonder if the balance factor is optimum. I also found downshifting awkward, probably mostly a matter of getting used to it. The suspension was stiff for me, but could be right for Doug as he's a bit heavier than I am.

So, Doug got to draining the oil and we started lifting bikes down into the basement for the winter.

After we put the '70 Bridgestone 200 DT, the '66 Bridgestone 175 HS, and the '65 Jawa 175 in the basement, Doug and I took a couple of four-strokes out to warm up the oil for draining. Doug took his wife Amy's'72 CL 350 Honda and I rode Doug's '78 Moto Guzzi LeMans. Doug has own the LeMans from new and has done much massaging over the years. It's a 950 now and has twin plugged heads and a deep sump. He replaced the forks with 38mm Marzocchi and has Koni rear shocks. The pipes and mufflers are stainless. The seat is 1000S. The motor is marvelous; I'm a singles guy, but I do love the 90 degree V-twin. The handling was solid with great suspension, but I did have some ergonomic issues. I thought the handlebars (non standard) were too wide and my shins bashed against the cyl. heads. We did a 10 or so mile loop around the neighborhood, then drained the oil on these and put them in the basement.

I didn't put the Airone in the basement because, though Doug had to work Sat., I didn't and the forecast was even better than Fri. At first the plan was to ride with Harold Dean, a local friend who, though he's 81 years old, is still a very competent rider. Harold was a great enduro rider in his youth and probably has a million road miles under his belt. But, Fri. evening, Harold tripped in his home and sprained his wrist and decided he better not aggravate it by riding. So, I called Rich Schlatcher Sat. morning. Rich and I started roadracing together(Memorial Day, 1972) and he went on to be twice U.S. roadracing champion ('79 & '80) and raced in the 250 World Championship in '81 and '82, scoring a couple of 4ths, at least one pole, and finishing the season 10th in '81. Rich now has a 500 Triumph Daytona and a Norton Commando in addition to and ST1100 Honda and a 999 Ducati. Rich said he loved to go for a ride, but he had to work, putting a roof on a house. What is it with these guys and work?

So, Amy suggested I call Rich Hosley. It wasn't work Hosley had to get out of, but family obligations. He told me to give him a half hour/45 min. for him to work out a strategy and conduct negotiations. Success; he got a day pass and I rode down to his shop in Branford. We spent a little time me catching up on the latest additions to his extensive collection. It's largely AMC, mostly Norton with some Matchless and a Royal Enfield project, but also several Ossa. Rich is another former enduro great, starting his career on the Brit bikes, but quickly switching to Ossa and finishing on Honda singles.

sort of hoped Rich would ride his Norton International today, but,when I arrived at his shop,he already had his '70 Ossa Wildfire gassed up, so I didn't say anything. Don't get me wrong; his Ossa is a great bike. But, I had ridden with him and it many times in Moto Giros and Tiddler Tours and the Ossa is a bit loud and a little smokey to follow for a long time. Rich led me on a great ride through south central Ct., an area I knew almost nothing about. This was largely the suburbs and exburbs around New Haven. One of the things I love about Ct. is that despite the fact that it's a small state and that I lived in it at least 25 of my years and spent much time in it since I moved to N.Y., I still discover places I've never heard of. Maybe it's because it's hilly and wooded that places are hidden. Totoket and Beacon Falls are examples of this. Who knew? And, while this area is moderately densely peopled, there are still lots of open areas, either rocky and wooded or pastures and fields. And, great roads. It's a great time of year for riding as the leaves are off the trees so one can see around many corners and also get the occasional vistas, but the pavement is cleaner and smoother than in winter or spring. On the other hand, the sun is low in the horizion and heading south and up hill can be a problem.

We got as far north a Beacon Falls and as far west as Seymour and had lunch at the Blue Check deli in Woodbridge which, Rich tells me, has been there a million years. When finishing lunch, I ask him if now we're going to switch bikes. After a moment hesitation, Rich says yes. The Ossa and Guzzi may both be southern European four speed 250 singles, but that's where the similarity ends. Rich had told me the Ossa was geared a bit short as he puts a 14 tooth gearbox sprocket on it for the agility test at the Giros and he hadn't gotten around to changing it back to a 15 or 16t. So the bike was definitely snappy with spot on carburation (from the cheater Mikuni) but a reasonably broad powerband. I was surprized at how smooth it was. Good brakes and good, if firm, suspension. The seat was a board. And did I mention it was loud? It's been a while since I've ridden a two-stroke on the street, and it's always a treat. Rich seemed to be enjoying the Guzzi, too. It takes some getting used to, with it's sprung saddle allowing you to move around a good deal and the heel/toe shift lever. It's fun getting to follow the bike I've spent so much time on, and see it from someone else's perspective. After following Rich about 87miles, we switched back to our own bikes and went out separate ways. I got in 128 miles in the day, then drained the oil and gas and put it in the basement.

Sunday, Harold Dean and I joined Amy at the British Iron Assoc. breakfast in Colchester, after which most of us retired to Ad Coppens' shop. Ad is a Dutchman who's a specialist in Matchless. He had singles and twins from 250 to 750 there and an extensive and highly organized stock of spares.
I packed up and took off on the 250 VTR beater(which passed 70K miles on this trip) and headed home, stopping at an old motorcycle friend in Stoney Creek, Ct., another little town I had never heard. Stoney Creek is a charming little beach community that part of Branford, but has it own post office. My friend says it's getting a little too charming but still quite liveable.


  1. Great post, Dave. Love that Seeley Commando…
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Next year I plan to dress for the event. Amy

  3. Yes, love seeing ALL the bikes (great photos)and Ct. sounds lovely but mostly the way you tell your riding adventures Dave, makes one feel as if they are riding along with you! Thanks again & Keep sharing!!! Darleen

  4. Dave, Sorry about the OSSA exhaust. Its the only way to keep you off my tail light. I enjoyed riding your Airone, handles so well. The heel and toe shifter was a first for me but right side made it a no brainer! Good fun! Rich

  5. Love the pix collection! Got to see Ad Coppens shop one of these days.