Sunday, June 26, 2011

6/26/2011 I finally started taking the Dondolino apart after blowing it up at Grattan last Sunday. I firmly adhere to the school that believes things alway could be worse and this blowup confirms this. The cyl. head looks fine. The crankshaft maybe OK. I couldn't get the flywheel off using the same technique I've used several times before, both on this motor and my Airone. That make me think the flywheel spun on the crank and sheared the key when the motor stopped spinning suddenly. I suspect the gearbox is OK, but I won't know for sure until I get the flywheel off. At minimum, I need a piston, rod, cyl. liner, a new magneto armature, and lots of welding on the crankcases. This is the risk we take when we put them on the race track.

Friday, June 24, 2011

6/23/11 Here's another nice photo by Bill Burke of Richard Birch fettling the clutch as David Plant looks on at David's house in Bride, IOM. The Indian has great lines, doesn't it?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

6/21/11 the Summer Solstice The AHRMA event at Grattan, Mi., near Grand Rapids, on 18-19 June, had markedly mixed results for me. I started practice on the '46 Moto GuzziDondolino and it seemed good right off the bat, although I made a mental note to try reducing the rear tire pressure to reduce the rear end hop, which I promptly forgot. My '70ERTT H-D Sprint wouldn't start. The last time the motor had run was sliding on it's side down a very wet Summit Point in April. Now it had no spark. I removed the points and cleaned them and it was better than new. Points maybe crude, but perhaps easier to diagnose and fix than a mysterious black box.
In the Class 'C' race on the Dondo, I got the hole shot and led the first lap, then Alex Mclean came by on the front straight and pulled steadily ahead. I finished 2nd with Dave Dunfey on his beautiful '50 Vincent 3rd.
In the 350 GP race, Bruce Yoximer, on his Seeley AJS 7R got the hole shot and I tucked into his draft, pulling out just before turn #1 and out braking him. I led the rest of the race to the checkered flag, but Bruce was right there the whole race and, in fact, turned the fastest lap of the race.
For Sunday's practice, I did remember to reduce the rear tire pressure on the Dondo and it did feel better. When the green flag dropped for the Class 'C' race the Dondo stalled and KenMertz, the starter, saw that the plug lead had fallen off. We shoved it back on and I took off well behind the pack. Coming out of turn #2, the lead fell off again and I stopped and put it back on and bumped it down the hill. Then, coming out of turn #5, it fell off again and I routed it through the frame before putting it back on this time. I bumped it off again and took off. When I finished the 2nd lap, I got the 'meatball' flag and pulled into the hot pit lane at the end of the 3rd lap where I was informed I was disqualified for starting a dead engine on the track. I said I started it on the grass, not the track, and the referee told me he'd let me go, then review it with the corner workers. So I took off again, but as I finished the 4th lap accelerating out of the last corner in 3rd gear, I had 'magneto failure' as when the broken connecting rod punches through the crankcases and knocks the magneto off. The rear wheel locked instantly while I was well leaned over, and the Dondo and I went sliding down the track. The cycle parts aren't too bad: bent handlebars, small ding in the fuel tank, bent footrest and left rear shock, and the seat is well torn up. I haven't taken the motor apart yet, so I don't know how bad it is yet but, potentially, it could all be scrap. At minimum, I need a rod, a cyl. liner, an armature for the mag, and lots of welding on the cases. I'm hoping the gearbox and head are OK.
The pain of this disaster was tempered somewhat by the 350gp race that followed after one race in between. Again Yoximer got the hole shot and again I outbraked him into turn #1 and led the first lap. But, Bruce passed me down the straight starting the second lap and a scrap ensued. He had a little motor on me and I had the advantage on the brakes. We swapped the lead many times. While he was leading, he missed a shift and I was able to get ahead. Then, a lap later, I overshifted from 2nd to 4th, but he wasn't able to capitalize on that because he almost ran in the back of me and had to check up. I may have had an advantage in traffic and I held him off for the win but, again, Bruce had the fastest lap of the race. It was the best race I've had in a couple of years.
Photo by Kenny Cummings, NYC Norton.
6/21/11 The Summer Solstice
One more picture of the infamous seagull theft of the chips on Glencrutchery Rd. Photo by Bill Burke, Binh foto

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

15 June, 2011
Here are some photos I just received. The one in the Scrutineering garage from my back with Richard Birch on the right is by Bill Burke. The other two are by John Cooper, one being with Richard Birch on Glencrutchery Rd. as the other parade bikes were starting and the other me working on the bike in David Plant's shop.

Monday, June 13, 2011

13 June, 2011
Top: Ian Hutchinson, the only person to win 5 TT's in a week, checks out the Indian.

Middle: Peter Gagan pushes his Indian while I chat with Kel Carruthers

Bottom: DR riding the Indian on the prom 9 June, '11

Mon. 13 June, 2011 I'm home now. Ken Richardson finally got a Wi-Fi connection and sent me some of his excellent photos. Here's a few for now.
Top left from left:Peter Gagan, John Cooper, DR, Richard Birch, Bill Burke
Top right: seagull exploit a moment inattention and inhale some chips
Middle left:David Plant's house and shop where most of the work was done
Middle right: Bill and I size doors in Peel
Bottom: The Indian in David's shop

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sat., 11 June, 2011 We went to the Post TT races at Castletown. We really didn't pay that much attention: after the TT and Mountain Circuit, the Billown Circuit is a bit anti-climatic (though the Dunlop brothers were racing there). We ran into several people we know and smoozed for a while and picked through a photo vendors offerings. I bought three Guzzi racer photos: Dickie Dale on the V-8 going down Bray Hill, Arthur Wheeler on his 350 single and Ken Kavanaugh on dustbin 500 single. Bill Burke and Ken Richardson decided to come with Mary and me up to Peel where we went to the Transport Museum next to the kipper smokehouse. The museum was closed despite it being well within opening hours. We went to the main House of Manannan Museum nearby and asked about the Transport Museum and were told they were a 'bit independent'. So, we checked out the Mountain Milestones exhibit there. It has a video with historical footage and some neat artifacts including the sidecar that crashed and burnt after it did the first sub-20 minute lap of the circuit. There was an great photo of Beryl Swain, the first woman to race the TT, at her kitchen table cleaning the ports of her two stroke cyl. Later, the FIM in it's wisdom, took her license away because it wasn't appropriate for women to race motorcycles. Keep 'em in the kitchen where they belong.
We drove up through Sulby Glen to the Bungalow and wandered around there enjoying the great views. We chatted with a rider who had been knocked off his bike by a car years ago and his right forearm was paralyzed. He had converted his bike to left hand throttle and front brake, sharing the bar with the clutch lever.
We drove from the Bungalow to Brandywell where we turned off the course to Barragaroo then backwards on the course to Doran's Bend and back to Peel and got fuel (1.419Pounds per liter), then down the southwest coast to the Calf of Man. We wandered around on the rocks by the water in glorious sunshine and read the plaques about the lives lost in ship wrecks there. From there we went to Port St. Mary and had a fabulous meal at a restaurant we stumbled upon run by an Algerian chef.
A near perfect day. The Isle of Man is such a special place, such a great mix of ancient and modern, and so beautiful. I look forward to my next visit here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fri., 10 June, 2011 Someone commented on the blog that this Indian adventure is turning into a nail-biter; they don't know the half of it. I thought over night that I hadn't actually done a clutch start with the Indian; I'd always been pushed off. So, I thought I'd better practice that and slipping the clutch. I called Richard in the morning and we agreed to meet at Point of Ayre. I took off alright and the clutch was pretty controllable. But, the bike seemed a little sluggish even with the lower gearing we had installed yesterday, and when I went to make the u-turn, it stalled as soon as I started to re-engage the clutch. I pushed it back and we tried it again, this time making the u-turn. It didn't want to pull high gear though, and we looked it over and found a tight tappet. Tappet adjusted, I tried it again and it went a ways, then died. We took the float bowl off and found the screw holding the (cork) float to the needle arm had fallen out. That must be the problem. That fixed, I made another run and again it stalled on the u-turn. The ignition seemed really retarded as the motor was really hot and it was sluggish. We looked at the points and they seemed too closed. So, out came the points plate and Richard opened up the gap. All the while, Mary was repairing my leather pants. I had a 'wardrobe malfunction' last night at our demonstration on the prom when the crotch ripped open. Points adjusted, I went to try it again, and the left handlebar gave way. They're brazed on and the joint failed. At that point, we decided to decamp to David Plant's shop again to braze the handlebar and adjust the timing. Richard and Peter took the bike, while Mary, Maryjane and I stopped at the Bride Tea Room to get some baps and scones to go. While we were there, I got the phone call that the parade had been moved up to before, rather than after, the Senior race because there had been a shower and they didn't want to start the race on the wet roads. That ended our chances as there was now no time to do any work on the bike and we rushed as fast as we could to get the bike to the start just to display it. In fact, the first bikes had left by the time we got there and they put us in the back of he queue. They were announcing a description of each bike and what it represented before it left the grid and did that for the Indian after the last bike left. Then we just push it back to the scrutineering bay for static display as the parade bikes finished there lap. It was very disappointing as some many people had worked so hard and so many had contributed to the effort. The silver lining was that we had met so many wonderful people. The bottom line is that the preparation should have started much earlier. The bike is much better now than when it arrived and Richard Burch is going to go through the engine in the next few weeks as the bike is going to stay in the IOM through the Manx Grand Prix where there is going to be a big Indian rally.
The Senior race ended up being postponed another hour and a half to let the roads throughly dry and started in gorgeous conditions. We went to the bottom of Bray hill just down from the start where the bikes bottom out at about 175mph 20' away. We stayed until the leaders came through on their second lap (and their first 'flying' lap), then drove around to Hillberry near the end of the lap and saw them come through for their 4th, 5th, and 6th laps. One of my favorite spots to spectate (and ride), it's a very fast bend with a long view. After Guy Martin led early, John McGuiness took control and won his 17th TT, a record only bested by Joey Dunlop (26 wins.) McGuiness is extremely smooth, precise and consistent. It's doubtful he'll match Dunlop's record as he's 39 years old. Then again, Dunlop won TT's well into his 40's.
Another TT in the books and it's future looks fairly secure. There was a big crowd here this year and there seem to be plenty of riders and manufactures that want to do it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thurs., 9 June, 2011 After topping up the oil and fuel tanks, we took the Indian up to the lighthouse at the Point of Ayre, the northern most spot in the Isle of Man. After warming up a bit, I took off down the road, picking up speed . I shifted up to high gear, but it didn't seem happy. I shifted back down to low gear and tried to make a u-turn in a layby, but when the revs dropped, the engine died. I pushed it back and tried it again. This time I tried to really peak it out in low before shifting to high. It was just barely maintaining speed it high gear. I went a bit further, then tried to keep the revs up by disengaging the clutch as I did the u-turn, but the engine died as soon as I threw in the clutch. Mike, who was on a GS 1100 BMW, rode back and got Richard and the two of them pushing me together got me going again. This time I went a couple of miles. Again, in high gear, it would just about maintain revs on the flat, or maybe a slight down hill. After a while, I went back to low, then went through some 'S' bend and started going up a hill. It lost revs and died. We turned it around and fired it off down hill and I rode it back to the lighthouse. All told, I went maybe 5 miles and Mike clocked me at about 30 MPH. A big advance from where we were a week ago, but not ideal. The bike seemed well overgeared and if the revs dropped, it was difficult to get the motor to pick up again. Back to the shop. We made some calls and found a 40 tooth rear sprocket for a KTM at a bike shop in Douglas and got it, hoping we could mount it to the Indian 35 tooth rear sprocket. The chain alignment with the Indian sprocket was quite a ways out even moving the rear wheel over as far as we could, so mounting the KTM sprocket inboard of the original actually improved the alignment. The Indian sprocket was glass hard, so it had to be annealed before it could be drilled.
I had to go to the Signing On and Riders Briefing and Richard carried on with the sprocket. In the original instructions, they said that each bike would go at 30 sec. intervals starting with the oldest (the Indian) and that they hoped the bikes would finish in the order they started. I had emailed the organizers saying I thought this was a bad idea as all the bikes would soon bunch up behind me and, in addition to being unsafe, the spectators couldn't enjoy the individual sounds of the bike. Further more, some of the machines would be very difficult if not impossible to ride as slow as I was going to go. At the briefing, I discovered that I wasn't the only rider who expressed this opinion. In fact, it seemed every rider there thought this was an absurd idea. We were told there would be traveling marshals leading the parade and interspersed though it and we weren't to pass them. A lot of riders weren't satisfied with this and suggested that the bikes be start in reverse order(newest starting first) and the organizers said they would consider this. I think this would mean I finish hours after the first bike. We'll find out tomorrow what they decide.
This evening we put on a demonstration on the Douglas Prom. It was sort of 2 1/2 laps down the road an 1/8 of a mile, tight u-turn and back up the other side of the road and tight u-turn again, then stop for a short interview. Charlie Williams went first on a '74 Maxton TZ 350, then Mick Grant on a Suzuki RG 500. Then they pushed me off on the Indian and it went a little ways and sputtered to a stop. Everyone groaned as Richard and John ran to push me again. It fired off and got rolling, but seemed sluggish. I was concerned about keeping the speed up at the tight u-turn at the end an kept the throttle pretty open and dragged the rear brake and just barely made the turn, just missing the kerb. The second time through, I thought I'd just try to modulate the throttle but, as I rolled it back, the motor actually seem to pick up. I was going too fast and the front clincher tire, which is at least 25 years old, tucked and I just barely saved it. That would have be embarrassing but, once again, I got away with it at the IOM. The interview went well and the crowd loved the bike.
The hope is that with the downhill start to Bray hill, the motor will get 'up on the cam' and I'll be alright, but I have my doubts about Ramsey Hairpin. We'll know tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wed., 8 June, 2011 We made some good progress today. We got the the gears with the freshly undercut dogs installed in the gearbox. But, we found the bolts that hold the gearbox in were too short, so Richard made some studs and installed it with nuts. We suspected the mount for the carb bolted to the crankcase might be transmitting too much vibration and making the fuel froth. So we made a hanger with a rubber block from the frame to the carb. When we started the motor, we found the fuel line had cracked and had to solder a sleeve onto it. Finally, the moment of truth. With a couple of guys pushing and me holding in the valve lifter until we got some speed, it fired up and I took off across the lawn. The Indian moved under it's own power for the first time ever. Not that far, as when I turned and headed up a small grade it stalled out. The throttle linkage was binding, so we massaged that and tried it again. The handlebars moved when I hit a bump. The handlebar arrangement is completely bicycle technology and we decided there wasn't enough 'pinch' on the clamp. We tried it again and headed down the driveway and went further, but I had to kill it when a car came up the lane. We decided to pack it in for the day and the plan is to take the bike up to a quiet road in the very north of the Island tomorrow and see if we can get it up on the cam. Time is running down, as Signing On and Riders Briefing are tomorrow. We're supposed to do a 'slow parade' on the Prom tomorrow evening with interviews and such. This all could be altered a bit as the first race today, the Supersport, was red flagged because of rain and today's events were rescheduled for tomorrow.
I spoke to Malc Wheeler and Phil Read today, both in the parade. Malc is riding a '37 Norton, representing Freddie Frith, who he worked with in his youth, and Phil is riding a 250 V-4 Yamaha from '67. After Phil told me that I was a brave man to ride the Indian, then told me to stay to the left as he was coming by on the right.
Sorry I haven't been posting more pictures, but I forgot to bring my cable thingie, so I'm relying on others to email me photo which I can then post. Plenty of photos are being taken, so they'll get posted eventually. To answer Buff's question, the tires on the bike are 28 X 2 1/4- 2 Universal Tire Co. clincher tires made in Lancaster, Pa. They are unused, but of i unknown age.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tues., 7 June, 2011 No work on the Indian as we didn't get the gears back from being undercut until this evening. So, first thing tomorrow we'll put the gearbox together and install it in the bike along with the clutch, primary and secondary drive. Hopefully, we'll be able to test it tomorrow afternoon.
So, we went to the Ramsey Sprints where there were mostly modern sportbikes running, but a few vintages ones and one moped which had a trap speed of 37mph in the 1/8 mile. The vintage MotorCycle Club had their ride terminate there and there were some really interesting bikes. To me, the prize goes to the 1914 Calthorpe. It had overhead valves, but they were horizontal, with 9" long rocker arms. It had a 2:1 compression ratio and a 2 speed gearbox with belt final drive. It, like all the bikes in the show, was ridden there. There was a New Imperial there that I had never seen before with a massive cyl. head. A guy had ridden his 250 BMW there from Germany as he had for the last 22 years. Plenty of Rudges and Velos, 3 Norton Electras, a nice Guzzi Falcone and much, much more. The Red Arrows, the RAF jet display team put on a show. We got to talking to a young couple at lunch and he had to duty to lead Loris Capirossi around to remote spectating points on a race day last year on dirt bikes. He said Loris was a really nice guy and incredibly fast off road, but also sliding the bike around on the pavement. They were neighbors of Milky Quale and she went to school with him when he was know as Sploge. It seems everywhere you go, people are so friendly and interesting. I saw the first rain in a week, but it was just a couple of showers, nothing serious.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mon. 6 June, 2011. Team Indian made good progress today. Richard made a bunch of new carb needles and soldered up the oil tank. John took the gears and sliding dogs to a machinist to get them undercut and we hope to have them tomorrow. But we were able to start the bike without the gearbox and, after trying a couple of needles got it to run reliably. There's a bit of oil and smoke about, but that adds to the ambiance. We're hoping we can get it moving tomorrow and I can start to learn how to ride it.
We didn't watch today's Supersport race and we we in the middle of the thrash, but were able to just see the bikes going through Guthrie's on their way up the Mountain from David Plant's house in Bride. But, we did go watch the Superstock race at Stella Maris leaving Ramsey. We'd see them climbing from May Hill just about topping out in 3rd gear, rolling it off a bit for the right bend, then back on it hard driving up to Ramsey Hairpin, when they'd brake hard impossibly late and down two gears and out of sight. This spot was relatively far away from the bikes, maybe 20' rather than the 10' or 12'. Great stuff. Tomorrow we plan to take in some of the Ramsey Sprints. Peter Astell-Burt, who's been a huge help to Team Indian, is running a blown Triumph there.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday, 5 June, 2011 John Cooper and I removed the gearbox from the Indian once again to remove the two mainshaft gears and the sliding dogs that engage them to try to get them undercut tomorrow to prevent it from jumping out of gear. We also removed the oil tank to determine where it was leaking and re-solder it. Richard turned up some new carb needles to see if we can get it running more consistently. Peter Gagan and Bill Burke arrived today and we had the Team Meeting at dinner to make a plan and assign orders. Ken Richardson, team photographer arrives tomorrow.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sat. 4 June, 2011 We've found a few problems with the 1911 Indian and have be slaving away on it. We got it back together after having the gearbox apart many times and the rear wheel on and off many times. Now we have some running issues that have us a bit baffled. But, we have a top notch crew with a lot of enthusiasm, experience and talent. David Plant owns a 1912 Indian and has offer up his work shop. Richard Burch has a 1919 Indian and is a superb machinist. Peter Astell-Burt is another excellent mechanic and has been hauling the bike around. These three have put in long hours because they think it's a worthy project.
We knocked off mid day today to run into Ramsey to watch the Superbike race. Peter has a friend who lives on the inside of the circuit at the exit of Parliment Square. We were in his garden at the outside of a left hand bend where accelerating bikes were shift from 2nd to third, bucking past us not more than 10' away. What started out as a really close race between John McGuiness and Kiwi Bruce Ansty, turned into a big lead for McGuiness when Ansty dropped out on the third lap. It was his 16th TT win, second only to Joey Dunlop's 26 wins.
John Cooper, from Toronto, another member of 'Team Indian' arrived today and we're going to hit it hard tomorrow on the Indian. It's owner, Peter Gagan arrives here tomorrow, and we're hoping he's bringing the answers with him.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

2 June, 2011 We decided some problems with the Indian had to be resolved before riding the bike. We took off the rear wheel to isolate where the drag was coming from. We decided it was from the gearbox, but didn't like the look of the rear axle, either. An enthusiast with a huge collection of early bikes, among them a 1912 Indian, offered his workshop and we moved there with Richard turning up a new axle while Peter and I took apart the gearbox. We made progress, but didn't finish before we had to knock off, so it's back there in the morning.
I went to watch evening practice at Hillberry, a fast right hand bend between a long downhill straight and an uphill exit near the end of the lap. The sidecars were out first after a delay. They were all left hand chairs and some would lift the drive wheel on the exit and the motors would spin up. Again it was sunny and warmer than yesterday with less wind and, I'll say it again, no place more beautiful than the Isle of Man. There was some oil spill at Alpine and it was decided to abandon practice, so the solos never got out.
1 June, 2011 After fettling the 1911 Indian, I went to Cronk-y-Voddy to watch the evening practice. You stand in a field against a barb wire fence that separates you from the road. You hear the bikes coming long before you see them come onto the straight more than a mile away. They pass you maybe 12' away probably around 190mph, through a right kink, the good ones not backing off, then downhill to another fast right and out of sight. Intense. And, on a warm, sunny day, in as beautiful as you'll find.
The plan for tomorrow is to take the Indian up to a quiet road at the very north of the Island and try to run it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Indian racers at the TT

Tim Pickering and Chris Smith have written a series of articles on Indian racers that have just (29 &31 May, 1 June 20111) been posted on the Vintagent. Check them out: