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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ken Richardson has digitized a tape of a practice lap I did at the Manx Grand Prix on the Isle of Man in 1993 on a '67ish 350 Benellli four cyl., 16 valve, 7 speed grand prix bike. The first installment can be seen here:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

19 November, 2011
I rode out to the Amagansett on the east end of Long Island for a benefit for a friend, Bob Curtis, who was paralyzed when he fell in an AHRMA cross county race in May. He's in a tough situation and if any one is interested in helping they should go to:
I stayed over with my friend Gordon and today we made the rounds to several motorcycle buddies. We ended up at Randy Hoffman's shop. Randy is a cabinet maker and m/c racer/collector/nut. He had just returned with his latest purchase: a '49 Velocette KTT motor in a Featherbed Norton chassis. It's a very good looking bike with many interesting pieces on it. It has an Amal RN carb, which is a new one to me. The 'RN' stands for remote needle, but it's different from a 'GP' in that the needle is entirely outside the slide. Apparently it was a transitional model between the 'TT' and 'GP' and not many were made. The bike seems to have been built in Australia, but not much is known of it's former life. It wasn't built with these wheels (230 Gimeca 4LS and Commando) and they do look out of place and will no doubt get replaced.
Randy has a love of the one off hybrid classic Brit bike racer. Also in his shop was a Norvin single which he's building

He recently finished a showroom/display area with examples of his woodworking and his motorcycle sickness.

A Rickman triple in front of the window and a '49 Norton International on a faux shipping crate Randy made.
Back in the shop was a truly classic 'barn find'. Someone told him they had an old motorcyle in their basement; they thought it was an Indian or something. He went to look at it expecting to fine an old Honda or something. What he found was this:

A '32 H.D. model 'C' 500cc sidevalve that had been left a good 40 years. Check out the grip and rear tire:

Also, in the shop was a long stroke Manx

and a '36 MSS Velocette

If you're out on the east end of Long Island, give a visit to The Machine Shop, 460 Pantigo Rd., Easthampton, (631)537-6152 and check out the bikes and furniture. But, don't schedule your visit for the end of August because Randy will be on the Isle of Man marshaling for the Manx Grand Prix.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Leif has asked what the autopsy results were from the Aermacchi failure at Barber and Daytona. Those who were paying attention will remember that on Sunday's 350gp race at Barber, I had a big lead on the 7th of 8 laps when the motor made a bad noise and lost power. I clutched it immediately and pulled off. Back in the pits, we found the engine turned over fine, it had compression, the plug looked good, the valve train worked fine and nothing was amiss in the carb. We started it up and it sounded and ran fine. And, it ran fine at Daytona for me on Fri. and Sat. But, Sun. when Don Hollingsworth was racing the bike going for the checkered flag out of NASCAR #4 with a big lead in the 350gp race, the motor made a bad noise and lost power. He was able to coast across the line and still win the race. Again, the bike turned over fine and had compression, but there was no time to look at it further before loading in the trailer for the trip back to Calif.
I left out one little detail: at Barber, when we were checking it over, we found the bolt holding the rotor of the Dyna ignition on the end of the camshaft was loose. The rotor is indexed to the cam with a tang in a slot and it didn't appear that the tang had come out of the slot, so we just Loctited the bolt and started the bike up. Well, when they looked at the bike back in Ca., the rotor was laying in the bottom of the fairing. Evidently, at Barber the rotor had come out of engagement and the ignition stopped firing, but then end up in the correct orientation (50/50% chance). At Daytona it fell all the way off. Oh well, it's better than a rod through the case, and I doubt will happen again.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When I was at the Barber vintage event, Chris Smith of gave me the 30th anniversary issue of Morton Media Ltd's The Classic Motorcycle which included a reprint of their first issue from 1981. In it is a good article by Mick Woollett on the very first vintage
race at Daytona in March of '81. Subscriptions to the magazine are available through Chris and this particular issue is still available.

While Woollett tells of the red flag and restart, there's a little more to it. The first start was a push start. Clive Watts was used to this and got a flyer. Many of the Americans struggled. Kurt Liebman said his foot was run over in the start and, during the red flag delay, agitated for the restart to be by clutch. A vote was taken and clutch start it was. Watts got a less good start and, if I remember correctly, Jimmy Adamo on the 350 Ducati might have led into turn #1. Watts and I overhauled Adamo, and I led the rest of the race.