Monday, July 30, 2012

It's high summer and I'm behind on my blog, but I'll first tackle the 21-22 July Vintage Days at Mid-Ohio.  I took my '70 H-D ERTT and '46 Moto Guzzi Dondolino, and my old friend, Gordon Pulis, came with me.
Talking with Thad Wolf with Gordon Pulis on the right.  Photo by Darleen Drehmel

Both bikes worked well in practice and I didn't change anything on them.  First up for me was the Class 'C' race.  I got a decent launch of the line, but by the time I was coming out of turn one, I had lost power and the motor sounded strange and I pulled off.  It turned out the exhaust valve adjuster had fallen out. and the rocker itself was just barely opening the valve.  I didn't have a spare, but  I was able to bodge one by finding a 7.0 X 1.0 bolt, cutting off the head and putting a screwdriver slot in the end and getting a lash cap from Larry Poons.

1946 Moto Guzzi Dondolino.  Photo by Darleen Drehmel

But that was after the GP 350 race, which was oddly gridded between Middleweight Original Superbike and Euro American Twins.  I quickly got into 4th place behind two superbikes and Doug MacRea on his 750 Norton.  I made a somewhat ambitious pass on Doug going into the 'keyhole' and promptly missed a downshift and cut across his bow as he went back by.  Somewhat chagrined, I shrugged as he looked back when we got on the back straight.  But, a lap or two later, I was able to make a clean pass on Doug and closed down on the 550 Yamaha Seca of Wayne Shelton who was running 2nd to Jeff Uher on a 550 GPz Kawasaki.
I'm on #7 chasing Wayne Shelton on a Yamaha 550 Seca after I got past Doug MacRea on a 750 Norton.  Photo by Darleen Drehmel

Sunday, the Dondolino seemed to work fine with the bodged rocker adjuster, but the Sprint sounded a bit off in practice and I found a big piece blown out of the megaphone.  Larry Poons came to the rescue again as he had a broken, somewhat flatten megaphone he let me cut a piece out of and I was able to braze this patch over the hole.  In Sunday's Class 'C' race, I was left at the line when, once again, I thought it was in gear, but wasn't.  I was able to get through the Class 'C' hand shift, and GP 250 fields,  and closed on Neil Pooler on his 125 CanAm, but Ryan Ambrose on Big D's pre-unit, rigid 500 Triumph had thing well under control at the front.  Still, I was pleased how the Guzzi ran and my fastest lap was second only to Ryan.!i=1988829206&k=GcdPVk8

Gordon Pulis helps me start the ERTT on Stu Carter's rollers for Sun. morn practice.  Darleen Drehmel photo

In Sunday's GP 350, even more oddly, they gridded us in the front of the superbikes and Euro-Am twins, and I was quickly able to get into the overall lead.  On the 6th of 8 laps, my spark plug lead came off the plug and my race was over, allowing Doug MacRea to win overall.

In the 'keyhole' before the plug lead fell off.  Darleen Drehmel photo

The entries were disappointingly small, but the weather was great and swap meet and spectator crowd still seemed good.  And the track was great as ever; one of my favorites.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I read a very interesting book recently: "Taking it to the Limit--20 years of making motorcycle movies" by Peter Starr.  I have a memory of seeing the film "Taking it to the Limit" in the Isle of Man in the early '80's.  The film was similar to "On and Sunday" in that it was a documentary potpourri of motorcycle sport: roadracing, flattrack, MX, drag racing, trials, speedway and even play riding.  I didn't remember the film well,  but the one surviving memory was Mike Hailwood going around the IOM TT Mountain course with a camera mounted bike in the mist (as the Brits call fog).  After reading the book, it turns out, once again, that my memories are suspect.  The film was first released at Daytona in 1980 and only ran a few weeks before the distribution company went bust.  The film was then tied up in litigation for the next four years and was never re-released in the original form.  Once Starr regain control of the rights to the film, he made a deal with Kawasaki, who wanted to use the slogan 'Taking it to the Limit".  The film was remade with about 2/3 of the original footage and 1/3 new material featuring Kawasakis.  So, maybe I didn't see it at the IOM, but rather Daytona, or maybe I saw the remade film much later.  But, I did see the bit with Mike Hailwood on the TT course in the mist.  What I didn't know until I read the book, was that this was filmed before Hailwood made his comeback in '78 on the Ducati.  It was done in practice for the '77 Manx GP and done on an OW31 750 Yamaha, a bike Mike had never ridden before.  Not only was it done with a big film camera in the front of the fairling, he did it with a microphone in his helmet and carrying a tape recorder on the bike.
These days, we take the onboard video for granted but, in those days, filming onboard was a huge deal.  Not only were the cameras very heavy, bulky and expensive, the film canister only lasted for a few minutes.
"Taking it to the Limit" is only a small part of  the motorcycle films Peter Starr has made for theater and TV.  For example, it was Starr who got the footage of Kenny Roberts winning the '75 Indy Mile out of the last corner on the TZ 750 dirt tracker.  And, Mike Hailwood is only one of an incredible list of motorcycle greats he has worked with.  In fact, the book ends with 15 pages of short profiles of the great competitors he has filmed, starting with Agostini and ending with Jeff Ward, with Steve Baker, Russ Collins, Roger DeCoster, Ricky Graham, Eddie Lawson, Ivan Mauger, Gary Nixon, Scotty Parker, Kenny Roberts some of the names in between.  Among the "S's" alone are Gary Scott, Sheene, Shobert, Malcolm Smith, Marty Smith, Spencer, and Springsteen. 
The book is a fascinating insight to the technical problems of filming motorcycle competition but also a great review of the competition of the '70's and '80s.
The book has a wealth of wonderful period photos and comes with a DVD with excerpts from some of Starr's films.
I highly recommend it.  Available from

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Recently, I've been sent a couple of photos that are worth sharing.  First, Dave Crussell sent me a photo from the 29 April, 2012 AHRMA F-250 race at Willow Springs.
Crussell, on the #1 Kawasaki Bighorn, is riding around the outside of me on #7, Kerry Beriont's Suzuki X-6, in turn#3.  I comment to Dave that I never noticed that sign before and Dave said he hadn't either. In the photo, it's hard to believe one could not notice it, but it's not where one is looking while racing.  It makes the photo, though.  I don't know where Dave got the photo or who took it.

Then, Jason Roberts sent me a photo he says Allan Engel took that he found on  I search and found plenty of other Allan Engel photos, but not this one.

This is Cal Rayborn with the H-D 350 Sprint I currently own and campaign.  The scene is Daytona in 1970.  That's clearly Mert Lawill on the left.  That could be Roger Reiman sitting on the bike, but what is he doing?  He could be plugging in the battery or tickling the carb, but why is Rayborn holding the bars then?  This was the first time Rayborn raced the bike.  The AMA had just changed the rules to allow 360 four stoke and two stroke singles  race against the 250 two stroke twins in the Lightweight class.  Rayborn finished 10th in his heat.  In the final, the Cycle News report on the race says: "Cal Rayborn (350 Sprint) ran 7th until a rubber grommet in one shock absorber split.  'It made things pretty shaky up on the banks,' Cal said, dropping out of the chase."  The June, 1970 issue of Cycle World reported that "Cal Rayborn pitted at the end of Lap 5--to find an empty pit.  Apparently the mechanics were more concerned with finding more horsepower from the big machines for the Sunday race."  This was the first year of the iron XR-750 and they were all melting pistons.

Monday, July 2, 2012

June 30th was the Doug and Amy Roper 4th annual Tiddler Tour.  First arrival and winner of the Long Distance award was Mike Gontesky, from Hampton, Va., via Binghamton, N.Y., where he was visiting relatives.  Mike brought an early '60 Lambretta 150 which he had recently been given and had just rebuilt and was using the TT as a shakedown for the fall Giro.  A fender mount on Mike's trailer had broken, so we dragged out the MIG welder and Douglas welded it back on.

Because of the small wheels on the scooter, it's forks were fouling the chock so, while we had the welder out, we widened the chock to clear the forks.
Later Fri., Leif Gustavson arrived with his comical TW200 Yamaha.
Sat. Tiddlers showed up from as far away as N.H., Dorchester, Ma., and Sparta, N.J.  The oldest bike was probably Bill Burke's '55 NSU Max Special and smallest bike was a '81 AR 80 Kawasaki.  A total of 19 bikes took to the Sat. am  loop: ten Japanese, four German, two Italian, two Spanish and one Czech.

Bill Burke in front of the 175 CZ talks to Mike Gontesky behind his 150 Lambretta.

Rich Hosley stands near his Ossa Wildfire with Henry Sypher's 175 Bridgestone in the foreground
As my Moto Guzzi Airone is still apart with crankshaft woes. I rode Doug's 65 CZ 175 again.  The CZ is a great little bike; very comfortable, handles well and good brakes.  But, it's no fireball, as the AR80 could out drag me on the CZ.  Once again, my brother had chosen great roads, heading south and west in the morning down to the shore in Guilford then back up through Durham.  There was a bit more traffic than we usually see in that area, but we still got plenty of empty roads.  Near the end of the morning loop there was a long uphill slog followed by a fast downhill section that I though would finally allow me to break 60 mph.  But, when I rolled off slightlly for a bend, the motor started to tighten and I clutched it and coasted to the bottom.  I let out the clutch just before I stopped and the motor started up and seemed none the worse for it.  We carried on and got some lunch at Higgies in Higganum and brought it back to Doug and Amy's house, a total of 85 miles.  After lunch, Douglas decided he was going to ride his 200 Bridgestone and offered me his 260 Benelli that he had ridden in the morning.  I didn't find it as pleasant as the CZ.  While the engine is much more powerful, the shift was bad, esp. on the downshift.  This combined with a very grabby front brake made corner entry awkward.  The seat was hard and rear shocks oversprung for me.  I didn't like the handling as well, it feeling top heavy.  Which isn't to say I couldn't have fun on it.  We rode on the east side of the Ct. River in the afternoon and Douglas made a loop that incorporated three legendary roads in both directions in Lyme and East Haddam.  I rode with Rich Hosley on his Ossa Wildfire, Leif on his TW, Henry Syphers on his 175 Bridgestone and Rich Midgley on his CB175 Honda, and we had a great 65 mile scratch.
After we got back, I was admiring Dale Hoyt's '63? Bultaco Mecurio 175 and he suggested I take it for a ride.  I did and it's a sweetheart.  It has a very willing motor with a surprisingly wide powerband,  is extremely agile, and has a very comfortable seat.  The brakes, as Dale warned me, were marginal at best.

The food and drink ensued with many non tiddlers showing up, some in some interesting cages.

Beth Braun admires a '60 Triumph TR3 and '56 Buick Skylark and a '38? Chevy.
We capped off the evening with fireworks that were good enough to bring two cop cars.  No one went to jail and, in fact, the cops let us do the final shoot.