Saturday, August 25, 2012

18-19 Aug., 2012 I raced at Mosport, Ontario, Canada in the V.R.R.A's flagship event.  I entered my '46 Moto Guzzi Dondolino in the Pre-50 class, but unfortunately I was the only entry.  Usually there are three or so Rudges entered led by Ingo Reters and his son, and I was looking to mix it up with them.  Because the Pre-50 class ran concurrently with the Period 1 350, I entered my H-D Sprint ERTT in the bump up class, Period 2 Lightweight.  I also entered the P1/P2 Master's race for riders over 50 years old.

My pit; Dondo on the bench, ERTT in the backround
The VRRA just runs a single round of practice  Sat. & Sun. mornings, having had practice (and a 2 hr. endurance race) on Fri.  Both my bikes went well in practice and didn't need any adjustments before their five lap heat races Sat. to determine starting positions for Sunday's eight lap finals.  The Dondolino was up first in a race combining P1 Open, pre-65 500, P1 350 with Pre-50.  Even though I was the only Pre 50 entrant, there were plenty of people to dice with as there were 27 entries overall and, starting from last on the grid, I finished 10th overall.  A few of the CB350 Honda guys were surprised by the speed of the old can.

The '46 Dondolino in turn #10; Paul Pace photo
The P2 Lwt. class had, by contrast, 23 entries and there were 37 overall in the heat which included P1 500, pre-65 350 and P1 200.  Shortly after the heat started, my bike started intermittently cutting out, then running fine.  This got worse and on the 3rd lap the bike finally stopped at turn #5, Moss's Corner.  I had to wait until the completion of the next race to get picked up and then had one race to figure out what was wrong before the Masters race.  The tank was low on fuel and I put more in, though I though it should have run on that.  I cleaned and checked the points, but when I fired it up, it was still cutting out.  I noticed the ground plug for the battery was loose and tightened that up, but still it was cutting out.  Out of time and in desperation, we disconnected the kill button and that seemed to cure it.  We had 14 starters in the Masters, 10 of which were P2.  This race has no heat, only the 8 lap final.  Peter Hurst quickly cleared off on his Rickman Triumph Trident, and I scrapped with Stan Nicholson on his TD-2 Yamaha and Doug Forbes on his 750 BMW.  Eventually, I was able to shake Stan and, after harassing Doug, he eventually pulled away.  After,  I took the kill button apart and found nothing wrong with it, so I don't know if that was the problem in the P2 Lwt. heat, or if the alien were just messing with me.  Big thanks to Ivan Messina for helping me with the frantic thrash to get the bike running again.
The ERTT in turn #10, Paul Pace photo
In Sun. morning practice, the Dondolino had some high rpm misfire and I checked and cleaned the points in that and put a new sparkplug in.  The ERTT seemed fine.  It's final ran first.  Stan Nicholson had won the heat and I hadn't finished, so he started on the front row and me on the back.  But, I had beat him in the Masters so the question was: could I catch him?  I did catch Stan in a lap or two, but he stepped it up from Sat. and pulled away, eventually catching and passing early leader Tim Voyer on his 350 Honda.  My bike seemed to run fine, but my fastest lap was a second slower than Sat.
Paul Pace photo
The pre-50 Final was the 2nd last race of the weekend and that high rpm misfire was still there, but despite that, my fasted lap was 1/2 sec faster than Sat.  Go figure.  There were a couple of more entrants Sun. than Sat. and I finish 13th out of 38 overall.
Paul Pace photo
It was a great weekend with fine weather (a little cool at night), good entries (other than pre 50), lots of spectators, and an impressive concourse.  Mosport is a challenging, high speed track, and it's new owners are putting money into it.  And the event was very well run by the VRRA without any red flags on Sat. or Sun., to my knowledge.
Some rare bike in the concours:
TX750 Yamaha Cafe Racer
A 1935 Phanomen M27 98cc 2 Stk., 2 speed, from Germany
a 250cc Royal Enfield Continental GT
Less rare, but beautiful CB 450 Honda

From the sublime...
Nev Miller's replica of Alec Bennett's 1923 TT winning KTT Velocette
to the ridiculous...
a diesel powered Honda.
Tank logo on a Norman moped

Thursday, August 16, 2012

After racing at Portland Intl. Raceway last weekend, Courtney Olive organized a three day road ride to eastern Oregon.  Courtney is the president of the Sang Froid Riding Club and we met last year in Peel, IOM during TT fortnight.  Courtney and the Club were instrumental in making the bike show happen at the Graeter Art Gallery and getting me out there to race at OMRRA's vintage weekend.
Five of us left Courtney's house in Portland around 10 Monday morning.  Tom Bright, a sixth grade science and math teacher was riding the oldest bike, a 1973 Moto Guzzi V-7 Sport.  Brett Edwards, proprietor of Glass From the Past, was on the other 750, two valve, aircooled twin, and '78 Triumph
Courtney and me in front of his '63 Falcoon Ranchero with his Honda 919 and Gary's Aprilla Falco
Special, which he describes as his rolling billboard as it sports bodywork (fairing, tank and seat) he makes and sells.  I started on the next oldest bike, Courtney's 1981 (the first year) Kawasaki 550 GPz.  Courtney, a lawyer for the Bonneville Power Authority, rode his '91 Suzuki 400 Bandit.  And, Gary Roper, a physical therapist and the guy who fettled the '51 Velocette MAC that I rode all too briefly at PIR, rode his '99? Aprilla Falco.  Tom's Guzzi was the only drum braked bike of the bunch and Brett's the only kickstart one.
We gassed up, then went maybe 10 miles south on I-5 and exited on US 26 east.  This took us through Sandy, ZigZag and Govt. Camp to the base of Mt. Hood where we stopped at a rest area.  I was enjoying the GPz; it was comfortable with great ergonomics and a good seat, and had decent power, brakes and handling.  Courtney was concerned about it because it the spring it had an ignition issue with two cyl.s dropping out.  The stator or pick-ups had been replaced and it was vastly better.  But, he had experience a couple of very subtle glitches on a subsequent ride and wondered if it was really fixed.  After we got on Rt. 216 and stopped in Maupin for gas and drinks, I reported to Courtney that I had experienced a couple of very minor hiccups, but didn't think it was a big deal.  We decided though, that maybe he and I should switch bikes so he could evaluate it.
Me taking over the Suzuki 400 Bandit in Maupin 
Before we got to Shaniko on Bakeoven Rd. (very appropriate as the temp was in the high 90's),  Courtney pulled over and said the GPz was getting worse and he felt it made sense for him to head back home, get his 2002 Honda 919, and meet us in Heppner in the evening.  Tom and Brett had gone on ahead and Gary and I found them waiting in Antelope, where we notice a fairly dead Honda CB450 at a yard sale.  At this point Gary peeled off to head for his home in Medford, Or. via Bend and around Crater Lake.  Tom, Brett and I headed to Fossil for a late lunch.
Brett Edward's '78 Triumph, Tom Bright's '73 Moto Guzzi V7 Sport and the Suzuki 400 Bandit.
From Fossil we headed to Heppner where we got a drink and waited for Courtney to arrive from his superslab burn-up.  When he arrived, we decided we couldn't get to Ukiah before the restaurant closed, so we decided to have dinner and stay in Heppner.  We camped by a stream in a little campground run by the local motel.
The next morning, we had a leisurely breakfast at the bowling alley and waited for the next member of our party to arrive.  Tim Webb, who works for a security company and another member of the SFRC, arrived on his 1987 VFR 700 around 10a from Milwaukie, just south of Portland.
I was assigned Courtney's 2002 Honda 919 to replace the balky GPz.  We gassed up and headed to Ukiah, got gas again in Granite and stopped for lunch at the Elkhorn Saloon in Sumpter.  The 919 was a bit of a revelation.  A 'Naked bike', it handled very well, had great brakes, an excellent seat and gobs of torque.  Forget about shifting.  Through just about the tightest hairpin, I left it in 6th and just rolled on.  This was a type of riding I'd never done before: fast.  Speed is relative and I certainly had ridden fast on narrow, bumpy back roads in New England or crowded, bumpy urban expressways.  But, now we were on superb, smooth, empty roads with excellent traction, that varied from high speed sweepers to tight switchbacks.  Perhaps most of our riding matched MPH for degrees temperature with a few forays over the ton.  But, it didn't feel hairball to me at all.  All of our group were excellent riders and everyone went at their own pace.  I, for the most part, didn't know the roads or where we were going, but I was encouraged to take the lead from time to time, being on the newest and most powerful of the bikes, and I'd just wait at the next intersection.  It was never a long wait and it was impressive how well a '73 Moto Guzzi or a 400cc Suzuki kept up.  One did have to stay alert for deer and cattle, but that was mostly an evening problem, and we did very little riding in the evening.  And, depending on the type of shoulder, one did have to pay attention to gravel in the switchbacks that the damn cages kick onto the road hanging their inner wheels over the edge of pavement.  Eastern Oregon is motorcycling heaven with terrain varying from high prairie to steep woodlands.  And, did I mention empty roads with excellent surface?
After lunch, we met up with the last member of our party, Mike Wantanabe, proprietor of Union Motorcycle Classics in Nampa, Id.  He rode from there on his beautiful Ducati 900SS (which he had extensively modified after bending the frame in a crash) and met us in Salisbury, as far east as we got on the trip.  We stopped at Unity Lake S.P. and several expressed interest in going for a swim but the water was deemed to cold/funky and I was easily talked out of it.  Brett had a small problem with his bike he wanted to deal with and Mike, Tom, and Tim decided to just chill there with him then head back to Sumpter.  Courtney and I were up for more riding.

Mike,  Brett, and Tom at Unity Lake

We headed to Bates to gas up, but found the station was closed Tues. and Wed., so we left a note for the other four and went 17 miles down the road to Prairie City.  Gassed up,  it was back to Bates and up Rt. 7 for maybe a mile, then off northeast on this fabulous little County road 20 that Courtney knew.  It was getting late, so we turned around just short of US 395 and started back.  The cattle that had been grazing by the side of the road were now in the road and the young ones seemed to want to race a bit before finally getting off.  In the last stretch before Sumpter it was dusk and we did see a few deer, but none did anything stupid.  Dinner and a beer at the Elkhorn, then camping out right in the empty lot between it and the laundromat .

The bikes in front of the Elkhorn.
The next morning after breakfast, we headed back:  Mike heading east to Idaho, and the rest of us west towards Portland.  Back through Granite and Ukiah, Tom and Brett decided to go the shorter way we had come to Heppner, while Tim, Courtney and I went the hard way via Rt. 74, another great road.  We gassed up and had lunch in Heppner and Brett and our waitress got to compare notes on their identical avulsed right index fingers (he: car fan belt; she: corn cobber).
On to Condon where Tom decided to split off as he needed to get back.  Tim, Brett, Courtney and I headed first to Fossil to get fuel, then on to Antelope to the yard sale with the dead CL 450.  I picked up a couple of nice wrenches (one of which TSA confiscated at the airport because it was over 7" long).  The CL 450 was a bit intriguing as it had one high pipe on each side rather than both on one side.  None of us recognized that, including Tim who knew 450 Hondas well having roadraced one for years.  Evidently, after they got home, Brett and Tim researched it and found it was a rare dealer installed option and they and Courtney decided to buy it together and Brett drove back a few days later and picked it up.
The rare CL450D at the yard sale in Antelope
It was getting late and we had a ways to go, so we jammed pretty hard to The Dalles.  While it was impressive how well Courtney kept up on the 400 Bandit, it did suck the fuel as it was constantly over 10K rpm.  It easily got the worse fuel mileage of all the bikes.  The 919 indicated about 40mpg, but it's speedo/odo were quite optimistic.  Courtney got a little nervous about making it to The Dalles and we did some drafting to make it.  After gassing up, we got on I-84 for a ways, then one last side trip up some switchbacks on US 30 to the Rowena overlook for a spectacular view of the Columbia River Gorge.
The road up to the Rowena overlook
 Courtney and I said good bye to Brett and Tim there and jammed back to Portland on I-84.  It was a bit of a slog into a headwind, but we did get a peek at Mulhomah Falls on the way.  I grabbed my stuff and Courtney drove me to the airport to catch the redeye back to JFK. 
About 1000 miles and 26 gallons of gas over the three days.  Fantastic roads, scenery, bikes, but most of all, a great bunch of guys. I look forward to doing it again.
More photos by Mike and Brett at:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gary Roper just got back to me with the autopsy results on the Velo MAC that failed at PIR on Sat., 4 Aug.  It seems the valve seat fell out of the head, then the head of the valve broke off, making quite a mess of the combustion chamber, piston and cyl. bore.
Velocette Mac cylinder head and piston

Gary is looking for help getting the MAC back together.  If anyone wants to contribute financially, they can use the Paypal feature on the upper left of this blogs home page, and I'll pass it on to Gary

Last weekend I flew out to Portland to race at Portland Intl. Raceway in OMRRA's Vintage weekend.  I did this in conjunction with the Graeter Art Gallery's current show:
We took one bike out of the show to race: Gary Roper's 1951 Velocette MAC.  This is a bike I've raced twice at Miller M/S Park and once at Willow Springs.
preping the MAC at Poor Bastard Cycle Works, Gary Roper photo
Gary Roper testing the MAC at 'the Heap', John or Debbie Roper photo

 Mike Bungay also shipped his 350 Aermacchi up from Sacramento.  The plan was to race the Velo in the 250 Vintage class, even though it's a 350, for no points or trophy, as it was felt that a bike that old, with a rigid frame and 21" front wheel, would be no faster than the more modern 250s.  OMRRA doesn't have a 350 Vintage class, so the Aermacchi went in 500 Vintage.

Mike Bungay's Aermacchi,  Gary Roper photo

Things started going wrong right away.  The Velo made a bad noise in less than 1/10 of a lap and inspection showed a huge exhaust valve lash, a smashed sparkplug, and the engine didn't want to turn over.  Gary had had some head work done since we last raced it and we figure that the valve seized in the guide, or the valve seat fell out, or it jumped cam timing somehow.  I'll report when I get the autopsy results from Gary, but it was done for that weekend.
Mike's Aermacchi had a brand new, one off custom frame built by Jim Belland, a legendary NorCal H-D guy, a new to the bike Kawasaki A1R brake (200mm, 4LS), and a new exhaust that gave more HP everywhere on the dyno.  The bike felt good immediately, except it was geared too short.  We geared it up and it was still too short for the 2nd practice.  While we were putting a smaller yet rear sprocket on, we were told that the bike was too loud and we'd have to baffle it.  PIR is in a city park within city limits and I had told Mike about the sound limits, but he didn't take it seriously/ran out of time.  So, we pulled the baffle out of the now dead Velo and adapted it to the Aermacchi.  We finished this work just after the first 500V race had started.  Oh well, there was a 2nd 500V race after lunch.
During lunch, I gave an informal talk which consisted of a short synopsis of my 'career' and Q & A.  It was well attended and there were many good questions, largely on the IOM.
In the 2nd 500V race, I got off third behind Erik Nielsen and Jon Munns, both on CB350 Hondas.  I got by Munns and was leaning heavily on Nielsen despite the baffle killing the top end.  Then, starting the 3rd lap, the 'Macchi suddenly lost power and I clutched it and pulled off.  Back in the pits, the sparkplug looked fine, the motor turned over fine and it had good compression.  So, we put the plug back in and it fired up and sounded fine.  The best theory I could come up with was that the extreme heat (it was over 100 degrees, hot anywhere, but unheard of in Portland) was exacerbated by the backpressure caused by the baffle, and cause the piston to tighten, but I clutched in time to avoid any damage.  So, we jetted up a couple of steps to cool it with gas and took the baffle out.  Several people, including OMRRA's liaison with the city's sound meter guy, told us that deflecting the exhaust away from the meter, which was on a bridge towards the outside of the track, would get us by.  We went to the local auto parts store and bought a chrome 'turn out' for an exhaust pipe and fit that pointing down and out on the right side exhaust.

Mike and I modify adaptor for exhaust 'turn out', Gary Roper photo
We went downtown and got some dinner, then went to the Graeter Art Gallery where I was again to talk.  There are some beautiful bikes there, probably the most impressive being John Stein's triple engined TR2 Yamaha drag bike.  But, there was also a beautiful '47 Norton Garden Gate Manx, a couple of Ducati singles, one with a one off frame, a Triumph TT Special, and American Eagle 250 and a Honda four done up as a Mike Hailwood tribute.  Complimenting the bikes was great M/C related art and memorabilia.  After a leisurely smooze, Jon Graeter introduced me and again I gave a short talk then did the Q & A.  It was a somewhat different crowd and I had different questions, and again seemed to be well received.
Sun. I changed my 250V entry (for the now dead Velo) to Ultralightweight Superbike.  This class allows a variety of engine configurations including up to 500cc 4 stroke, aircooled, two valve but, at this meeting, consisted entirely of 250 Kawasaki Ninjas.  My lap times had been similar, so it seemed like a good fit.
In practice, the Aermacchi motor cut out just before finishing the 1st lap.  Mike was convinced it was the battery, even though it read over 12V.  We were able to borrow an identical battery from another racer an installed this while we charged the first battery.  In the second practice, the motor cut out at the end of the back straight on the first lap.  I clutched it and coasted and, just before pit in, dropped the clutch and it started up.  I accelerated up the front straight, but it died about start/finish.  I pulled it in pit out and we were able to put the original battery back in and the bike started right up and I went out again in the same session.  Again, the motor died before I finished the next lap.
We checked over the wiring, but found nothing wrong.  So, for the 1st 500V race, Mike wired both batteries on the bike in parallel.  I completed the warm-up lap fine, but again, as I finished the 1st lap, the motor died and I pulled off.  Mike then went and bought the $160 lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery and installed that.
I went to the grid of the Ultralightweight SB race after the warm-up lap very skeptical.   I got the holeshot and led the 1st lap.  But soon, Chris Page on his 250 Ninja, was sticking a wheel in on me in turn #2.  I had motor on the Ninjas but they probably had brakes and maybe corner speed on me.  Then, on the 3rd lap (of this 12 lap race), the motor cut out just before I  shut off for turn#1 at the end of the long straight.  But, it came back when I rolled on at the exit of the turn and ran fine and I still led.  Next lap, the motor cut out slightly earlier before turn #1 and a pattern was established.  Each lap it cut out a little earlier towards the end of the straight, then ran fine the rest of the lap.  This allowed Chris to get by me in turn #2 or 3 or 4, but I would always pass him back on the back straight and lead across the finish line.  On the last lap, it cut out earliest yet, maybe 2/3 way down the straight, and three of the Ninjas went by.  I was able to get one of them back and finished a very close 3rd.  It was somewhat frustrating but also great fun and an entertaining race to watch as everyone, spectators and racers alike, could hear the engine cutting out.

I'm leading on the 'Macchi with the jackels (#9 Chris Page, #141 Andrew Pignataro, and #726 Justin Pyle) nipping at my heels,  photo by Jane Erickson at
We charged the battery and I went out for the 2nd 500V race thinking I had a chance as the race was only 6 laps.  Unfortunately, neither Erik Nielsen or Jon Munns raced on Sun., so it turned out to be a cakewalk, though the motor did cut out a couple of times.

It turned out to be a very useful shake down of the bike before the AHRMA race at Miller M/S Park.  The new frame felt great; the front brake got better as the weekend went on, but could still stand looking at; and now we know we have an ignition problem.  It seems that some component is getting too hot and demanding too much amperage.

My thanks to Courtney Olive, Jon Graeter, Chris Page and all of OMRRA for making it happen.  And, of course Mike Bungay and Gary Roper for letting me ride their bikes that they put so much work into.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Last Sat. the 28th of July, I did the first annual MotoGeezer Kickstart Classic. out of W. Warren, Ma.  It's pretty much a Moto Giro for any kickstart motorcycle.   We did about 90 miles in the morning, mostly in N.W. CT. and about 90 miles in the afternoon in Ma.  Route sheet & arrows, agility tests and secret checkpoints.  It was a light turnout, but the Springfield M/C Club and the Frazier family that put on the event, seemed undaunted and just chalked it up to the first time.
There was a 650 Triumph, a 650 BSA (from N.H.), and a 650 Yamaha, a 600 Yamaha SRX, a 360 Honda, a 305 Honda CB77 (from N.J.), and I (from N.Y.)rode my brother's 175 Bridgestone Hurricane Scrambler.
Bill Burke with his Yamaha SRX-6, my Moto Guzzi Zigolo, and my brother's Bridgestone 175 H.S.
Devon Frazier rode her dad's BMW with sidecar until that broke, then went and got his Chang Jiang with sidecar, which they affectionately call the Chinese Junk.

Bill Burke photo
The morning was especially good, with great roads and good weather.  After lunch, it started to spit, but didn't seem serious.  Then the heavens open and it varied between raining hard and intense.  Bill Burke, on the SRX 6, and I caught up to Marty on the TR6 Triumph.  Marty tagged along when we passed him.  We stopped at a store when I missed an arrow, and someone there told us that it was just a mile wide band that would soon pass.  Fat chance.  Riding some more, we got into a downhill, decreasing radius right turn and I ended up just about on the center line.  Bill end up over the center line, and Marty ended up way over the center line and decided to stand it up and try to ride it out on the grass.  He ended up augering in, but without any real damage to him or the bike.  It started first kick and he decided that maybe he'd head straight home.
Bill Burke photo
The BS ran great and I certainly had no trouble keeping up with anyone.  The suspension is pretty crude and I don't think it handles as well as his CZ 175 or my Airone, but I still made everyone work to keep up in the twisty bits.  Ergonomics are good and I was quite comfortable doing the 180 miles, other than being totally soaked.
optional tach, route sheet holder, bicycle speedo, camera mount and pen
optional pannier mounts; this bike has it all.
I highly recommend next year's Kickstart Classic.