Sunday, September 25, 2011

Today I went to the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburg, N.Y. and was quite impressed. There are something like 300 bikes there, the vast majority of them American. One starts off entering the Hillclimb section, all of them V-twins. Then there are three or four bicycle motor pacers with huge motors. There are a bunch of choppers, several Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth creations and many movie posters. Besides 'Easy Rider', I'd only seen one: 'CC and Company' with Joe Namath and Ann Margaret. Track it down if you have nothing to do.
There are a few road racers, including this superb '51 works DOHC Velocette. That's a long stroke Manx Norton in the backround. Other roadracers included a TZ 250 Yamaha, TSS Bultaco, and several KRTT H-Ds

There's an incredible collection of Indians; one model for every year of production, except the first (1901). There are three 8 valve boardtrack racers. I'd never noticed this front suspension before:
I'd forgotten that Indian had rear suspension in the teens also, with swing arms and leaf springs.

Downstairs there is a huge collection of early Harleys and, it seems, just about ever other American made cycle: Thor, Pope, Yale, Cleveland, Excelsior, M & M, Flying Merkel (another early bike with rear suspension). There is a great variety of four cylinder bikes: Indian, Henderson, Excelsior Henderson, Ace, Cleveland, and these two:

a Pierce and FN. I've always thought the Pierce was elegant with it's large diameter frame tubing. There was another early European bike which I had only recently been made aware of in reading about the 1911 IOM TT: the Moto-Reve. This was a Swiss bike, but they also supplied motors to other manufactures and the one in the museum is in a Husqvarna chassis. There are many other curiosities downstairs including a good selection of cut away motors and this oddity built in the Twenties:
The photo doesn't do it justice as the scale isn't obvious. I believe the wheels were 36" diameter and it had two massive V-Twins coupled together cleverly, as the two motors turned in opposite directions.
I highly recommend the museum as I easily spent 3 1/2 hours there and, at $10 admission, consider it a bargain.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

10-11 Sept. 2011 I went up to the Autodrome St. Eustache, just west of Montreal, to compete in the VRRA's Quebec GP. I just took my 250 Aermacchi, a '66 CRTT. This is a bike that's been apart for around 14 months. I last rode it at BeaveRun on 24 July, 2010 when it broke it's camshaft. Evidently, some piece of metal ran through the timing gears, breaking the inner end of the cam. When I took the motor apart, I found a dog broken off one of the gearbox gears, so maybe that's what went through the timing gears. I also found that one of the plugs in the crankpin was coming out. But, before I got the motor back together, I got distracted by the Dondolino and the CRTT was pushed to the back burner.
Now, with the Dondolino out of commission, I decided it was time to get the CRTT back on the track. I had lost the PVL ignition that I had on the motor (it's a long story) and ordered a new one through Frank Giannini. It arrived without the frame that the stator mounts on and I had to whittle one on the mill and rotary table. I tried to start the bike on Labor Day, having just arrive back from Miller at 6am that morning. It didn't even pop and I couldn't see a spark. So, the next day I took the entire ignition over to Frank's and we ran it on his test rig and found it was sparking 180 degrees out. It seems they had sent me a stator for a rotor that turn in the opposite direction. With a strobe light we marked where it was firing and I re-installed the ignition setting the timing to the make we had made. I bumped the bike off in my driveway and it fired right away. I didn't actually run the bike as I didn't want to make a lot of noise and annoy my neighbors. I figured that was good enough and loaded the van.
Friday we drove up (a beautiful drive through the Adirondack Mts.) and I was pleased to see almost no line at customs entering Canada. The inspector asked where we were going a why. I told him to St. Eustache to race a vintage motorcycle. He said "What?". I said "to race a vintage motorcycle". He said "I don't understand". I said "I'm going to race a vintage motorcycle at St. Eustache". He said "You?" incredulously, then let us go. We got to the track about 7pm and registered and went through scrutineering.

Sat. morning, I fired up the bike on some rollers and it ran poorly a short while then died. I pulled out the sparkplug and found the gap closed. I had lost the thick washer I have to use under the sparkplug and the one I replaced it with wasn't thick enough. That rectified, I went out for practice and the bike ran very poorly and didn't want to rev.
When I came in, I was told the sound limit was 98 db and my bike was 106 db and I'd have to do something to quiet it down.

I trolled the pits looking for some material and a welder when a spectator, Jose', took an interest and took a baffle out of his home made megaphones on the Ducati he rode to the track.

It was just a simple tube that went down in the mega, but he assured me it would work. We just had to drill one hole to bolt it in.

I went out for the P1 Open/P1 350 heat (my bump-up race) and the bike ran very poorly, though maybe very slightly better with the baffle in. After the heat, I went to check that the carb really had the 170 main jet my records said it had, and no, it didn't. It didn't have any main jet in the carb. None. I guess I had stolen it for the Dondolino and forgot. Oh, that must be my problem. And, I was told that I was down to 100 db and they were going to let me slide.
So, I put a 170 main jet in and went out for the P1 500/P1 250 heat. The motor ran differently, but still very poorly, maybe very slightly better. then it died on the back straight and I clutched it. I went over everything and found a wire to the coil was next to, not over, the spade, and looked like it was making intermittent contact. Oh, that must be my problem. I put the wire on properly.
Sunday morning, in the 1st practice, the bike ran very poorly, maybe slightly better. And, when I came in they told me I was right on the limit for sound and ask if there wasn't something I could do to quiet it down.

I had a piece of aluminum screen which I wired over the megaphone opening. I also went to a 178 main jet and went out for the second practice and it ran very poorly, maybe slightly better with the screen and/or main jet.

But when I came in, the screen had broken up and most of it was missing and they were concerned that metal was getting on the race track and could I do something else?

I again trolled the pits looking for material. I started to lash up something out of thicker aluminum sheet, when another racer, Tim Ruhl, took an interest in my plight and came up with a propane canister, like you'd use on a camp stove or lantern.

We drilled through the valve to release any gas left and managed not to blow ourselves up. Then we cut the end off, cut a slot so it could slide past my hanger tab on my mega, and drilled a hole in just the right spot to line up with the hole I had previously made for the baffle tube which, by this time, was mostly broken off. Then we drilled a bunch of holes in the back. With a bit of safety wire. we had a very solid mounting.

I went out for P1-500/P1-250 final and the motor ran very poorly, maybe slightly better, and I was able to get a distant 2nd in class to Stan Nicholson on his Greeves Silverstone, a bike which had seized twice Sat. Stan had patiently cleaned the bore with muriatic acid and sanded the piston and re-use the same rings. He went up two jet sizes and it went well Sun. Persistence paid off.

I went up to a 180 main jet, the biggest I own, and went out for the P1 Open/P1-350 final and the bike ran very poorly, maybe slightly better, and again I was a distant 2nd in class to Tim Voyer on a 350 Honda, and 4th overall.

Despite all the problems, I had a great weekend. It was gorgeous weather. Everyone was extremely friendly. Going to a francophone province is exotic, but everyone put up with my lack of French and spoke to me in English. In fact, all the anglophones and francophones seemed to get along great. The track is short and tight, but fun with good pavement. Fri. night they have 1/8 mile drags, Sat. night stock car racing on the 1/4 mile oval, part of which the roadrace course uses. A moment of silence was observed Sun. morning at the rider's meeting to remember all those who had died 10 years before AND all other victims of terrorism all over the world, which I thought was a thoughtful touch.
Driving back home, again there was almost no wait at the border (this being Sept. 11th) and the American customs agent did want to look in the van and see the race bike, but was less incredulous then her Canandian counterpart, but perhaps more bemused.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The long, lost Roper cousins: Gary and David

Gary and me with my friend and near neighbor Gary Dipietro lurking in the backround.
Labor Day weekend, I flew out to Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, just west of Salt Lake City. The plan was to race Gary Roper's '51 Velocette MAC in Class 'C' and Mike Bungay's 350 Aermacchi in 350gp. Mike called me Thurs. eve when I arrived at SLC to tell me they had had some problems on the dyno with the top end lubrication and the intake valve on one of the two bikes they were preparing had mushroomed. They decided to blow off Fri. practice, fix the motor, and arrive Sat. morning.
So, Fri. I just did a half day's practice on the Velo. Gary had put an electronic tachometer on it since I last rode it at Willow Springs in April in addition to rebuilding the clutch and resetting the ignition timing. With the tach, I was able to dial in the gearing a little better, and we added a tooth to the back compared to last year.
Gary and his son Colin adjusting the chain after changing the rear sprocket.

After having a great dinner with some new friends at the Red Iguana restaurant in SLC, Mike called me again to tell me that they had put the bikes back on the dyno and had more problems, run late, and the owner of the Sprinter they were coming in had knock his glasses off a shelf and broken both lens', and so they weren't coming at all. This was quite disappointing as there was a good 350gp field with Jim Neuenburg on Fred Mork's short stroke Aermacchi, Bruce Yoximer on his short stroke Seeley 7R, Paul Germain on his DT1 Yamaha, and Tim Sheedy on his Honda 350 four. I suspect it was, at least in part, a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good.
So, I changed my entry from 350gp to Classic 60's and bumped up to that class with the Velo.
The two races were back to back with the Class 'C' foot shift first in the second wave behind the 250gp. There were only three other bikes in the class: Fred Mork on his pre-war ridge 500 cammy Norton, and Dave Dunfey and Ken Genecco both on 500 Vincent singles. I pulled away from them and passed 14 of the 250s from the first wave to finish 11th overall. The Classic 60's race was also second wave, behind Formula-250 and Sportman 350. I finished third in class behind the Lighthouse family, Rodd (son) on a Velocette Venom and Ken (dad) on a 500 Goldstar, and ahead of the G-50 Matchless's of Janiec and Mork, 13th overall. Sunday's results were the same in class and virtually the same over all. My best lap was over two seconds quicker than last year so I guess we're making progress with the MAC.
Finishing ahead of Dave Janiec's G-50 powered AJS 7R on the little 350 MAC

Sunday morning, Scott Jennings talked me into practicing on his '85 Suzuki RG 500 Gamma. He's the second owner of the bike, buying it off the original owner 7 months after he purchase it. It's been extensively reworked with an R6 front end, different wheels and port work. Slicks and tire warmers make quite a contrast to a bike with a rigid frame and 21" ribbed front tire. It was good fun and I managed not to hurt myself or the bike.
There was a TTXGP electric bike race held on the west course while AHRMA was on the east. Shane Turpin on Michael Czysz' electric bike was turning lap times equivalent to 600 Supersport expert. Also in the electric bike race was Ely Schless, and old friend and competitor from Battle of the Twins days in the mid 80's when he raced a Triumph and then went on to race a Honda Hawk. I remember him having an electric pit bike back then and he's still one of the pioneers. It was good to catch up with him after 20 or so years.
Several people who had run in the previous few day on the Bonneville salt flats came to the roadraces at Miller, among them Stuart Hooper. Stuart had confirmed he has the fastest Velocette in the know universe, having upped his 136mph speed from Lake Gardiner in South Australia to 147mph at Bonneville. Stuart took some interest in the MAC and gave Gary some tips. As it turned out, Don Lamkin and I went back to the Red Iguana Sun. eve and who were we seated next to but Stuart and his mate. We move over to their table and had a good long session of tales of the salt. Stuart was disappointed to not break the 150 mph barrier but, having become the world's fastest Velo, is now shooting to be the world's fastest single. We're not sure what is the world's fastest single and if anyone knows, let me know.

The world's fastest Velo, fresh from doing 147mph at Bonneville.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I recently finished reading a fabulous book: 'Franklin's Indians', Irish motorcycle racer Charles B. Franklin, designer of the Indian Scout & Chief by Harry B. Sucher, Tim Pickering, Liam Diamond, Harry Havlin.

Franklin was one of Ireland's earliest and most successful motorcycle racers. Born in Dublin, he started racing an FN in 1903, switching to JAP in 1905 and to Triumph in 1909. In 1910 he started racing Indians and henceforth was exclusively associated with that brand. He quit his job as an electrical engineer with the City of Dublin and opened an Indian agency. He raced at the IOM from 1908 through 1914, finishing 2nd in the 1911 Senior, when Indians finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd. He raced and set records at Brookland from 1910 through 1914.

Greatly respected for his technical expertise and machine preparation, he was offer a design job at the Indian factory in Springfield, Ma. and immigrated there in 1916, a good time to leave Dublin as he may have sensed he was on the wrong side of the civil unrest that was increasing then. In Springfield he was heavily involved with the design and development of special works racers as well as production machines, though he never raced himself in the States. He died early at 52 in 1932 having largely set the course for Indian.

The book is extremely comprehensive and well researched. It touches on the social history of Ireland, the early days of racing in Britain, Europe and the U.S., the technical development of the motorcycle, and the business reality of the motorcycle industry. While Indian is now probably known for it's flat heads, Franklin also designed OHV and OHC engines, both singles and V-twins. While a biography of a remarkable man, the book gives an overview of the development of motorcycles and racing from the earliest days to a mature industry.

Highly recommended, The Franklin's Indians book is available from Chris @ Motorsport Publications for $59.99 (includes postage) - its on the web page at, reachable via phone (715 572 4595) and by email ( Readers on the English side of the Atlantic will want to buy it directly from the publisher at, where it sells for £29.95 (postage included for UK; £4.50 p&p for Europe, £12 for the Rest of the World.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm way behind on the blog as it's been a frenzy of racing lately and I'm trying to strike the right balance of creating the glory to reporting the glory.
First up was the MotoGP at Indy. My friend Kenny Cummings ( came with me in my van. He was involved in the Gary Nixon tribute at Indy in that he prepared the Rob North Triumph triple, which Gary had raced, and which Steve Parish rode at Indy. Apparently it was Nicky Hayden's idea, but Dorna/Ducati wouldn't let him ride the Triumph. So, Springsteen was going to ride it until the Indy mile was canceled and he decided not to come. Ultimately, Steve Parish rode the bike, which was totally appropriate. You can see a video of Parish revving the piss out of it here:
I brought my daily beater, a '90 VTR 250 Honda in the van and we left the van at the motel in Fishers and commuted to the track on the bike.
The GP races were fairly processional, other than Bradl's charge from the back of the Moto 2 grid (22nd) to 6th, but the two XR1200 races were excellent. When privateer Tyler O'Hara won the Sat. race, he took a victory lap which must have been cut short. We saw him running back into the paddock from the infield and he had no idea when to find victory circle. It seemed like he hadn't done a lot of winning at that level. He certainly was chuffed.