Saturday, June 29, 2013

From Road America, we went to Chicago to stay with old friends from college days.  One of the high points of my stay in Chicago in the week between Rd. Am. and Grattan is the rotating garage party that the member of ChiVinMoto put on.  For this week, it was at Ken Kales Sports Car Store, not far from where I was staying.  A friend pointed out that I had met Ken a few years before at Road America.  I called Ken and asked if there was any chance I could work on my race bikes at his shop and he said 'no problem'.  So, Tues., I set up there.  While Ken works on sports cars (specializing in Alfa and MG) and has raced them, he's definitely a bike guy and his man Alex was working on a scooter when I got there.
My Moto Guzzi Dondolino had broken the last time I raced it, in May at Loudon, N.H.  It has roller rocker cam followers and a roller spindle had broken, allowing the roller to fall to the bottom of the timing case and the rocker to bear directly on the cam lobe, galling it.

  As luck would have it, a friend in California had a Dondolino cam sitting on his shelf that he didn't need.  What are the chances of that?  He sent me the cam and two rocker assemblies and they arrive just before I left for the Midwest.  The rockers he sent me had been modified and the bushes had been replaced with needle bearings.  The bushes were 13mm I.D., but the needle bearings were 1/2" I.D., so a ground down rocker spindle was included.  This meant that I had to make a little shim 0.004-5" thick, so the spindle wasn't sloppy in the case.  I got it assembled, but when I went to put the rocker box on the head, it wanted to open the valves even though I had the adjusters backed all the way off.  After much head scratching, I finally realize that these roller rockers were for a Falcone and were different than Dondolino because a Falcone has enclosed valve gear.  I had brought a new set of reproduction Dondolino rockers with me, but they didn't have rollers or spindles.  So, I had to press the spindles out of the Falcone rockers and take those rollers and spindles and press them into the Dondolino rockers.  Except it wasn't as simple as that because the spindles had be peened or swedged and had to be relieved and the holes in the Dondo rocker had to be opened up, then the rollers offered up and the spindles pressed in then swedged.  This involve a lot of fiddling and Ken was a huge help in this with his shop facilities and a lot of good ideas. Wed. afternoon I finally got it buttoned up and we fired the bike up outside his shop and it sounded good.  I got my van loaded up before the big thunderstorm, which included hail, that was just tapering off as the garage party was to start.  The storm may have scared some of the lightweights away, but there was still a good turnout and we enjoyed Ken's beer boiled and barbecued brats.
Thurs. morning I headed to Michigan and visited Buck and Constance Boudeman.  Buck is the owner of the 1896 Sylvester Roper steamcycle, as well as a big collection of Stanley Steamers and Miller race cars.  Constance is the great grand daughter of one of the Stanley brothers (F.O., I believe) and she and Buck met through steam.  Buck got the Roper steamcycle by trading Coburn Benson a Stanley Steamer for it.  When Buck got it, he powered it up with compressed air and everything worked.  He was afraid to fire up the boiler as it's old and light weight.  Now he's decided that he wants to get it running and has asked me to ride it (I'm Sylvester's 2nd cousin, four times removed).  We're looking into non-destructive testing of the boiler now.  This will certainly have to wait until Buck gets back from taking his Miller 'Golden Submarine' race car to Goodwood.
From Buck's, I drove to Grattan.  Fri. I just puttered, changing the gearing on the Dondolino, then warming it up and re-torqueing everything.  I did a little crude body work on the ERTT.
I patched the hole in the fairing where it slid on the tach drive.
Both bikes worked well in practice and I didn't have to change anything.
I got the jump on Alex Mclean on Bob McKeevers rigid, cammy Norton, as I often do, I suspect because I have a lower first gear.  Alex came by just before we got the last lap flag, and I was surprised that he didn't have that much speed on me down the straight.  But, he still manage to put a bit of a gap on me before we got the Checkered flag.  I suspect the main advantage he has over the Dondolino is fatter 19" tires as opposed to my very skinny 21" front and rear.  He also has a hydraulic damper on his girder fork, when as I just have the friction dampers.
Hydraulic damper on the McKeever Norton
On the other hand, I have rear suspension, whereas his bike is rigid.  Whether that's an advantage is debatable.

McKeever's pre 40/Class C bike in the foreground and Classic 60's bike behind

Despite the big scoop, Alex says it doesn't have much brake
The classic Norton motor

The 350gp again ran with F-750 and 750 Sportsman.  I got the jump on Paul Germain's DT-1 Yamaha, which is unusual as in this class, I have the taller 1st gear.  I was able to get by Mike Dixon's XS650 Yamaha in the first lap chaos and could close right up on an entertaining battle between Kenny Cummings on his 750 Seeley Norton and Bob Newby on his RD 400 Yamaha based racer in 'the bowl' each lap, but then they'd pull away again.  I ended up 6th overall.  
We had heavy rain over night and the track was very wet for Sun. morning practice.  The sun came out and it got hot, but in several spots water continued to stream across the track for most of the day.  Sunday's races went much the same for me as Sat.  I again led the Class C race on the Dondo for several laps, though Alex came by sooner than Sat. and, just before the last lap, David Bourbeau came by on his tank shift H-D and I was not able to pass him back.  This may represent the first time and tank shifter has finished ahead of the Dondolino when it's been running right.  Bourbeau was impressive.
Sun., Germain did beat me off the line, but I passed him going into turn #1 and didn't see him again.  Going over the jump on the 1st lap (or was it the 2nd?), I locked the front brake landing and went into a tankslapper and some how kicked my right footrest up.  It took me a couples of corners to finally get the footrest down and be able to downshift twice to get in the proper gear.  Several people came by during this including Stu Carter on his Seeley AJS 7R.  When I got organized again, I was able to get Stu back and he finished 2nd in 350gp for the second day.  Sun., I was chasing Mike Dixon rather than the other way around, and I finished 5th overall.
That's Stu Carter on the left behind his Seeley AJS 7R with Francis Ganance or the right
Sunday's win in the 350gp class meant I cinched the class championship I believe, as I've won 10 of the 12 races held so far this year (with one 2nd and one crash), and there are only 8 races left.  This may speak less of my brilliance than the state of the competition theses days.  For one thing, Bruce Yoximer isn't racing this year, and he always gave me a good run.  And generally, entries are down from the glory days of years back.  But, I'm still having fun and intend to carry in this perhaps slowing dying sport.


  1. Deer Mr. Roper. I'm not a psichiatrist but I think yur suffering from racing melloncolia and just cause you think you cinched up the championship and just cause you dont think the competition is there any more and just cause you long for those glory days of yesteryear doesn't mean that someone can't come along and clean your clock and that's why I'm supporting a certain somebody with a certain red bike whosse gonna go to Midohio and give you a real run fur yur money. So you can be getting all wetty eyed with yur nostalliaga but you better watch yur back cause even though the grids are smaller there are competitoors out there just waiting to ponce and take the lead at a moments notice or even leave you in their dust from the get go. So just saying youve been warned and don't be trying to trace this note with all your high falootin New York City connections cause I got connections too that to help me stay anonamouse. So just saying don't be resting on your laurels. Cowboy. Yippe-i-o-kye-aye

  2. Deer Mr. Roper. Where I come from = the high plains of the greatest state in the Union, the proud state of Wyoming what you say is considured a compliment. Thank you. We ill bring it on fur sure. I already relayed yur challenge to my rider and from what I hear hes burnin the midnight oil to get his trusty steed ready fur this smack down smash mouth event. Things like adjustin the valves and timing and double checkin the cams n squish. And getting himself all in shape n stuff. And I know fur sure he's going to be practicing at Midohio to get the jetting sharp as a rattlers fang. You done put a burr under his saddle with yur man eye water flowing about no competitoors so I know hes rightly riled up fur sure n takin this real personal like. Sos I suspect hell be coming with both barrells blazin. Thank you again fur yur kind offer to us to bring our own special Western can of whoop ass to the party. Cowboy out.

  3. I have made several trips from america to Chicago on my bike . I enjoy the trip every tine i go to Chicago .

    Bruce Hammerson

    Hydraulic Hammers