Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CL 350 emerges from hibernation

Last weekend, I rode up to my brother and sister-in-laws house in Haddam, Ct. for the annual 'Raising of the Bikes'. First, I had to install my freshly relined front brake (relined by Brian Henderson at Two Wheel Specialist, 2733 Cassburn Rd., Van Kleek Hill, Ontario, Canada, K0B 1R0, (613)678-3364. Brian is an old sparring partner from VRRA racing in Canada.), a new Avon 3.00 X 19" Speedmaster front tire, a re-bushed speedometer drive, a new headlight rim, a new slide with a different cut away, and a new drain pipe from the exhaust rocker box to the sump of my '53 Moto Guzzi Airone Sport. I got this done Sat. and Sun. morn, Amy and I started pulling the bikes out of the basement (Douglas had to work).

Amy and the 175 Jawa

As we were finishing up, Bill Burke arrived with the '56 NSU Max Spezial he had recently picked up from refurbishment at Pete Talabach's Mohawk Garage, and his '56 Moto Guzzi Airone Sport. Shortly after that, Dale Hoyt arrived of his CB160 Honda. And then, local motorcycle legend, Harold Dean arrived on his 750 BMW (at age 82, Harold can ride anything he wants). Bill and I rode his NSU up and down the road, racing his dog Omar, and it seemed good. But, as the registration had expired and still needed to be broken in, Bill elected to ride his Airone.After gassing and oiling up, we decided to ride to Colchester for lunch a Harry's. Amy rode her CBized Cl 350 Honda. The fine weather really had the bikes out and every Harley in eastern Ct. seemed to be at Harry's. After a clam belly roll and an idle adjustment we headed off, dead reckoning in a north westerly direction. Some how, I was elected group leader and received much derision for making a couple of poor judgement calls and riding down some cul-de-sacs, though no one volunteered to take over the lead. Such is the burden of the Pathfinder, a burden I've learned to accept through my life.

L to R: me, Amy Roper, and Dale Hoyt
L to R: CB160, 200 DS Bridgestone, 175 HS Bridgestone, CL 350, '77 Moto Guzzi LeMans, '53 Moto Guzzi Airone Sport, Jawa 175, '56 Airone Sport, '56 NSU Spezial

Bill Burke photo

We did find some really nice roads, too, and when we started over the bridge crossing the Ct. River at Portland, I saw a sign saying 70 degrees at 4:03pm on 18 March. Remarkable, if a bit ominous. Dale and Harold headed for their respective homes from Middletown, and Bill, Amy and I took the hard way back to Haddam. 128KM total on a delightful late, late, late winter day, with that wonderful combination of warm weather, but no leaves on the
trees so one can see great distances and around corners. My bike is now shaken down for the USCRA's Spring Giro 5/6 May, in western Ma.

'53 Airone Sport after the days ride

Monday, March 12, 2012

I recently finished reading 'Road Racing History of the Triumph 500 Unit Twin' by Claudio Sintich. I was initially a little skeptical when given this book as I'm not a 'Triumph Guy', but I was drawn in. I never met a motorcycle I didn't like (or a Road Race motorcycle, anyway) and who isn't a fan of Gary Nixon or Percy Tait, for that matter. It's a quirky book and not without it's flaws. But, if you are a 'Triumph Guy', it's probably essential and, if your not, there's plenty of fascinating info and photos to keep your interest. Part of the quirkiness is no doubt due to the fact the author is Italian. Sintich grew up in Kenya, then went to school in England where he developed his love of the marque and the 500 twin in particular. The book is a little amateurish as the author is clearly not a professional writer. But, he's obviously extremely passionate and well versed on the subject. The book goes in a nominally chronological manor, but does jump around a bit, which makes it a little hard to follow. It covers the race history and development in both Britain and the U.S. There are plenty of reprints of factory tech bulletins, MCN articles and Tricor ads for race parts and touting race success, but sometimes they aren't cropped properly and an edge is cut off. There are many great photos from both the U.S. and Europe. There's plenty of coverage of Triumph's big successes: the '67 & '68 wins of the Daytona 200 and Percy Tait's amazing performance at the '69 Belgian GP at Spa, where he finish 2nd to Ago's MV. But, when someone I showed the book to, mentioned Triumph winning the 500 Production TT at the I.O.M, I thought he was mistaken. I had read about their mostly poor record at the I.O.M and went to the data base and, sure enough, Ray Knight won the '68 500 Production TT on a Triumph. I went back through the book to see if I had missed this (which is difficult as there is no index), but didn't find it. Curious.
Despite it's title, there is some coverage of off road racing both Grand National flat track and TT and Bill Baird amazing Enduro career. And, despite it's title, there's a little coverage of the 650 twins and 750 triples.
Sintich has many interviews with the original players, including Nixon. And he profiles many private and semi-private specials.
If you're interested in or racing a 500 Triumph, the book is essential. If you're just a road race junkie it's definitely worth having. From Panther Publishing and available through

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Here's a gallery of photos Jerry Masters, of the Hollingsworth racing team, took of Harley Sprints at Roebling Road Raceway on the 2nd and 3rd of March, 2012

This is Jason Roberts on a CRTT

#1B is Paul Germain on a DT-1 powered R-5 Yamaha 250
#950 is Don Hollingsworth on the CRTT he won the Novice race at Daytona in 1968, the last time a four stroke won the Novice race. Still racing the same bike 44 years later.

#866 is Dick Hollingsworth on a long stroke, wet clutch CRTT just ahead of Long Islander Jim Jowers on a Ducati 250

#950 Don Hollingsworth, short stroke, dry clutch CRTT, looks over at John Stephens on his 250 Ducati

Last weekend was the first race on my 2012 season at Roebling Road Raceway. This was the start of my 41st season of racing without missing a year. In fact, I doubt I've gone more that six months without racing since Memorial Day weekend, 1972. I spent Fri. at the track in 80 degree weather setting up my pits, warming up my 350 ERTT Harley Sprint, registering and running through tech. But, I didn't actually practice on the track. I figured the track was the same and my bike was the same and the two sessions Sat. morn before racing would be plenty. My bike was the same, but I had put in new rings and a new 4th gear on the layshaft. When I put the cases back together, I didn't have a Cometic gasket that I usually use, so I used an original Harley gasket which, I realized later, is a good deal thinner. This reduced the end float on the shift drum causing enough drag that the selector didn't want to 're-cock' on downshifts. I didn't want to take the cases apart again, so I hoped things would settle in and maybe the cases would grow when they got hot reducing the drag on the shift drum.
Pre-entries were quite light in my classes, so I was surprised and please to see my arch-nemesis and good friend Paul Germain had come down from Winnipeg, Manitoba (1800 miles and 30 hrs. by himself) with his very fast DT-1 based Yamaha. He had done more development work on it over the winter and was pleased how it went in practice.
When it was announce Sat. morn that there would be only one round of practice, then straight into racing with no lunch break, to try to beat the violent storm that was coming, I wondered if I had made the wrong decision on Fri. practice. But, the bike worked well Sat. am and shifted OK as I had hoped.
Germain didn't show up Sat., however, as he was convinced by the weather report that we'd be racing in the rain. As his body has gotten a bit beat up over the years, including a broken hand less than a year ago, he decided he wouldn't race in the rain. But, as it turned out, all three of his races were run in the dry before the rains came. So in 350gp, I led overall for about half the race until first Rabbie Demetrius on his 350 Honda, then Dave Crussell on his Kawasaki Bighorn came by from the 2nd wave in F-250. I sort of hung with them for a bit but was out of touch by the time we got the checker. I went back out immediately for the 500 Premiere race. Gridded behind, but in the same wave was Alex McLean on a Norton Manx and Todd Narduzzi on a CB450 Honda based racer in 500GP. I led overall for a couple of laps until Todd came by on the straight.
Todd Narduzzi about to pass me

#236 Todd Narduzzi 500 Honda twin

I got back by him and in the twisty bits and he came by again on the straight followed by Alex. Alex got by Todd, then I got by Todd.

#122 Alex Mclean Norton Manx

If I got right on the Manx' rear wheel, I could stay in the draft, and I got by Alex again
when he checked up a little early for a backmarker in turn #1. But, they both got by me and creeped away enough that I didn't see that Todd just pipped Alex at the line. Good fun and a pleasure riding with those two. It just started to spit in that race. Race #7 had a bit of rain, Race #8 was wet, Race #9 had standing water. It was decided to put off Race #10 until Sun. as it is a slick tire class, and they went straight to Race #11. This race got red flagged when the funnel cloud was spotted not far away. Racing was done by 12:30pm, so a few of us went to the Mighty 8th Airforce Museum in
nearby Pooler. It's an excellent museum with a multi screen theater with a film which give a fair idea of a WWII bombing mission. They're restoring a B-17 there and also had a P-51, an Me 109, and a Stearman trainer. The museum has special interest to me as my father flew B-17's in the 306th bomb group of the 8th Airforce from Thurleigh, England late in WWII.

All photos by Jerry Masters

Sun. the rain stopped early and the sun came out, but it was nearly 20 degrees cooler and there was a strong head wind. I added one tooth to the rear, but probably should have gone two. In the 350gp, Germain got me off the line and led for a couple of laps when I drafted by him and led a lap or two. But, Paul was demon in Turn #1 and got back by. I again got by on the straight and was leading in the last turn of the race. I had been having some chatter which seemed to upset the carburetion and the motor would stumble. Paul drove around the outside in this last corner and I wasn't able to get back by before the start/finish line. An excellent race. Again, immediately back out for the 500 Premiere race, but the motor didn't want to take a throttle and I bogged off the line and the motor would stumble whenever I opened the throttle more than a hair. I pulled off after the end of the 1st lap. I haven't found anything obviously wrong and the best theory I have is low battery. It read 5.92 volts (it's a 6 volt battery), which I would have thought was enough, but it may have been dropping much lower under load. I hadn't charged it Sat. night. Anyway, it was a good start to the season and, at this point, I lead the 350gp and 2nd in 500 Premiere class.
Driving back home on Mon., I hit heavy snow in Virgina and cars were spinning out but, by D.C. the roads were bone dry. I enjoyed all four seasons in the long weekend.

Friday, March 9, 2012

500 Moto Guzzi bicilindrica with an ABC behind it

Just finishing a week long visit to California. The excuse was to attend a dear old friend's b'day party/reunion with college era buddies. But, I managed to squeeze in a couple of motorcycle fixes, too. Sat. I went to Virgil Elings Vintage Motorcycle Museum in Solvang. Solvang is a ultra cute tourist town with a completely Danish theme. Completely Danish except for this superb m/c museum in the middle of it. The museum doesn't have a Nimbus in it. It's almost all road or roadrace bikes, the oldest being one I never heard of: a 1902 Mitchell, with a huge single cylinder in front of the downtime. The newest bikes are a NS 750 oval piston Honda and a Britten.

Moto Guzzi V-8

There were three nice Guzzis: a Falcone road bike, a 120 degree 500cc Bicilindrica racer and a beautiful reproduction 500 V-8, one of the most complicated motors ever made.

500 Jawa DOHC twin with a 1902 Mitchell behind it and a Benelli 420 four behind that

There are four Jawa and/or CZ four stroke racers; two 500 twins, a 350 single and a 250 single with a dustbin fairing. A Rennsport solo was one of three BMWs.

A bike that always makes me scratch my head in the Megola with the 5 cyl. radial engine in the front wheel. There's plenty of access to get right down and study this motor, but I still don't understand how the stationary carb and magneto distribute their mixture and spark to the spinning cyl.s. There are two Douglas twins, one a fore/aft racer with the gearbox above the rear cal. and the other an across the frame road bike. There were three oval track racers: a '75 XR750 H-D, a Jawa speedway bike and a Jawa ice racer. It's a personal collection and I'm sure Virgil wrote all the explanatory plaques himself. The museum is normally open 11a-5p Sat. & Sun. This was my third visit over more than 5 years and the exhibits rotate, so I'm sure I'll be back.

1928 Sunbeam Model 90 with a Matchless Silver Hawk V-4 behind it

Sun., my friend John Stein, who's book 'Drag Racing, a History' I reviewed, arranged a tour of Urban Hrisch's collection. Urban started riding dirt bikes in the '50's and got friendly with Bud Ekins. When Ekins got interested in early bikes, Urban followed. So now, in addition to three Cheney Triumphs, an Excelsior Manxman, a Ner-a-car, and many others, he has a big collection of pre-1916 motorcycles.


While he has some Indians and Harleys, the bulk of the collection is the more obscure brands: Pope, Yale, Reading Standard, Cleveland, Ace, Thor, and more. It's almost all American, but he does have a four Cyl. FN next to his four Cyl. Pierce.

Reading Standard (?) clutch pedal

two speed rear hub

Probably the standout of the collection is a Cyclone (one of 12 extant?). This OHC V-twin reputedly far out preformed the Indians and Harleys of the day.

Cyclone leaf spring rear suspension

Some of the bikes are beautifully restored and some are totally unrestored. Urban is quite a character and there are sculptures of gorillas, cows, hands and more around. The den upstairs from the shop has incredible woodwork with gargoyles with red lights for eyes. One can get a sense of Urban's personality from this Youtube:

Three days after seeing Urban's pile, I was driving my van down to Roebling Road for my first race of the year.