Monday, December 28, 2015


Recently, I took a quick road trip with a friend down to visit my friends Will and Elaine Paley just outside of Asheville, N.C.  Since I had last seen Will in October, he had picked up a new bike: a 1950 Douglas Mk IV.
Will Paley photo
 As far as I know, all the bikes Douglas made were opposed twins.  Before WWII, most Douglas's had the cylinders fore/aft.  In 1934, they made their first transverse opposed twin; after the war, they were all transverse, like a BMW.  But, unlike a BMW, they used chain, rather than shaft, final drive.  And, the bike has unusual suspension with torsion bar springing for the rear swing arm and short leading link front suspension.  Will's bike seems quite straight and original, if not concours.  The Mk IV was followed by the Mk.V, then the Dragonfly, a similarly configured 350 opposed twin, but with more conventional suspension of telescopic forks and coil sprung rear shocks.
The torsion bars for the rear swing arm are in the lower frame tube you see above the exhaust pipe.  Will Paley photo
I helped him change the ancient front tire (3.25 X 19")for a good NOS IRC.  It's quite impressive how many parts the Brits can pack into an assembly.  Changing the tire required removing the front mudguard and one of the two stays.  When Will withdrew the axle, loose parts showered down on the floor.  We found that there was no rim band over the spoke nipples, so we substituted duct tape.  After we got the tire mounted, wheel balanced, and brake de-glazed, we slapped it back together, then discovered another spacer washer stuck to the magnetic parts tray.  But, did it come from the Douglas and, if so, where?  Fortunately, Will had a manual and parts book and, after one false start, we figured out that it did indeed belong to the Dougie and where.
Short leading link front suspension and a modest, but very effective front brake.  Phyllis Aschenbrenner photo
Will offer me a ride on the bike which I readily accepted despite the fact that it was just stopping raining and the bike wasn't registered.  I just took it to the end of his dead end road (known as a 'cove' in those parts) and back, but that was perhaps 2.5 miles each way of very curvy road.  Will had a little trouble starting the bike, which he put down to still learning how to recognize what the engined wanted as far as spark retard, tickling, choke, and throttle.  And, perhaps the jetting wasn't spot on as there was a bit of hesitation at part throttle under load, but otherwise it seemed reasonably lively for a 350 of substantial weight.  It shifted and steered very well and I was quite impressed with the single leading shoe brakes.  Of course, it wasn't a long enough ride to form a definitive opinion, but the initial impression was good.  And, in any case, it's worth having and riding just for the 'odd ball' factor.
I love the cast aluminium tool boxes.  Phyllis Aschenbrenner photo
A Gentleman's touring bike.  Will Paley photo

Friday, December 4, 2015

T-Day weekend 2015 T-Day weekend 2015

Again, I went up to my brother's in Haddam, Ct. and again, we had mild weather.  We had the traditional and excellent Thanksgiving day meal with neighbors.  Friday, we went for a end of season ride, Amy, on her '71 CL350 Honda, Doug on his '64 Norton Electra, and me on my '53 Moto Guzzi Airone Sport.
We rode to N. Madison where we met Rich Hosley, who was riding his '73 750 Norton Commando Interstate (one of the last 750s) after having a technical issue with his Norton International.  We headed north and west with Doug leading first through Durham and Northford.  Then Rich took the lead as he was more familiar with the roads to the west.  He took us through Wallingford, past Quinnipiac University, and into Cheshire where we had an excellent lunch at the Notch Store.  From there Rich led us through Prospect, Bethany, Seymour, Woodbridge, Hamden, North Haven, Northford, North Branford, East Haven, Branford, and Branford Center, where we left Rich at his business after looking at his pile.  This includes a '42 Ford Convertible (one of the last before production stopped for the war), an Ossa Wildfire and a 175 Sport; a Norton ES2, 650 SS, Combat Commando Roadster, a Fastback, and a Manx; a Royal Enfield Interceptor; a Matchless G-12, etc., etc.  From there, Doug led us through North Branford, Guilford, North Madison, Killingworth, and back to Haddam.  All told, it was about 150 miles through south central Ct., in excellent conditions with the leaves off the trees allowing one to see around the corners and into the woods and clean roads.  And, though it got more populated as we went west, traffic wasn't bad.  Doug drained the oil out of the Electra and the Honda hot.
The next day was cooler and showery and I went riding mountain bicycles with another neighbor, Cheryl,  and her dog, in Cockaponset State Forest.
 I hadn't been out in the woods on a bicycle for a couple of years, well before I had my right ankle replaced.  I only crashed once, so I obviously wasn't trying and Cheryl had to do a lot of waiting for me to catch up.  She is nearly 20 years younger than me and has a pretty trick bicycle and is very fit and experienced.  But, it felt great to be out in woods.
 As long as I'm on two wheels, I'm happy.
Sunday, we went to the British Iron Association breakfast at Pete and Sandy Swider's house in Salem.  My old sparing partner, Phil Turkington, was one of the dozen or so who showed up.  Phil and I had many dustups in 250GP races, he on his Bultaco, me on my CRTT.  A few years ago, he badly broke his femur and quit racing, but still rides vintage bikes on the street.  It was good catching up with him.  And it was good hearing Ad Coppens' classic immigrant story.  He arrive in the U.S. from Holland with $28 in his pocket, knowing no one and little English.  He worked three jobs, built up some capital, and started a tire business, importing and exporting tires to Europe.  Eventually, he sold out and started doing what he really loves, restoring AJS and Matchless and supplying part for them from his shop in Salem.
Back in Haddam, Doug took out his '64 260 Benelli and I fired up the Airone and went for a 10 mile burn up, then dumped the fuel and oil to put them away for the winter.
Doug returns from warming up the oil in his Benelli
Ya own a Guzzi and ya live under it.  Amy Roper photo.
After draining all the fuel and oil, we lowered all the bikes into the basement.
Amy's CL 350 Honda goes in first.
The 175 CZ goes down.
Amy receies the Norton Electra
Doug lifts his Benelli
My Airone being lowered
We saved the biggest for last.  Amy reaches for her 2016 V7 II
This completed the ancient Roper Family tradition of stowing of the bikes and the end of another good season of riding.

Friday, November 20, 2015

2015 Race Record

In 2015, I raced at 13 events at 13 different venues, all of which I had raced at before.  I entered 47 races and started 44.  I had 22 wins, seven 2nds, three 3rds, four 4ths, four 5ths, and one DQ (forgot to mount the transponder).  I had five DNFs, three of which were crashes.  Three crashes is about my average for a year.  One was on oil, and one might have been as a result of a mechanical failure, but maybe I was pushing too hard.  I raced 13 different bikes owned by 10 different people.  A reasonably successful season and I won the AHRMA 350GP championship again, though it seems like I had more than my share of mechanical issues.  This completes 44 years of racing, without missing a year.
In addition, I did the Lap of Honour at the Isle of Man, three Tiddler Tours, and a Moto Giro.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

AHRMA Daytona 2015

From Barber, I drove the back roads to Phenix City, Al., and spent the night.  The next morning, I drove to Pasaquan, near Buena Vista, Ga.  Pasaquan was the home of of Eddie Martin, a mystic visionary folk artist with a psychedelic bent.  I had stopped there last year on my way from Barber and was blown away.  The site is being restored by the Kohler Foundation and is not officially open yet, but the workers seem totally comfortable with visitors wandering around.  Much progress had been made in the year and they hope to officially open the site by May 2016.  If you're in west central Georgia, I highly recommend a visit.
Pasaquan 10/14
Pasaquan 10/15
From Pasaquan, I drove through rural, central Georgia to Savannah where I spent a few days with good friends in an enchanting city, filled with history and architecture.
Thurs., I drove down to Daytona and got set up in 'Sprint Central' with the Hollingsworths and John Basore and Jim Dillard.  I changed the gearing from Barber and checked everything over.
You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a H-D Sprint, the  Hollingsworth's 350GP, 250GP and 200GP bikes in the foreground, with my ERTT behind, and Jim Dillard's 250GP and 200GP CRTTs in the backround  with Frank Dittomaso's Historic Production LW 350 Sprint.
AHRMA shares the track with the modern bike organization, ASRA, and races on Fri. and Sat.  Again, I was racing the Dennis Latimer tuned CT-1 Yamaha and my ERTT. 
The two Latimer CT-1 Yamahas.   Jason Roberts was going to race X65, but the gearbox failed in practice.
 Practice went well with both bikes, though I ended up gearing my H-D taller than I had the past several years.  In fact, checking my race records, I had only once turned a faster lap in all the years we had been using transponders than I did Fri. morning, despite missing more shifts and even having it pop out of gear.
But, the problem was that the 350GP and 200GP were scheduled in the same race.  I talked to Cindy Cowell, the race director, to see if she could change that, but she didn't see a way to.  Because of the limited track time that AHRMA has sharing the track with ASRA and the pathetically small entry, many classes have to be combined in each race.  So, I raced the Latimer CT-1 and was scored in both classes, as 350GP is a legal 'bump-up' for the CT-1.
I led about 85% of the 200GP race, but never led across the start/finish line.  Each lap, Denny Poneleit on his amazing 200 Honda would motor by me on Nascar #4 onto the front straight.  I would pass him in turn#1 or #2 and lead through the infield and onto the banking.  It seemed that I had acceleration on him, but he had top end on me.  So I was 2nd 200GP less than a second behind, even though I had a slightly faster fastest lap than Denny, but also 2nd 350GP, as only Jack Parker was ahead of us.  BTW, Denny won the 1971 AMA Junior race at Daytona and has raced there since the mid '60s.  He knows how to build a bike for Daytona.
Rick Remy, Dennis Latimer's nephew, gets ready to put the stand on the CT-1.  Don Hollingsworth photo
For Sat., I decided to race my Sprint in the 350GP race and race the CT-1 in the 250GP race.  In practice, I was missing shifts more regularly and it jumped out of gear several time, with the revs going to the moon.  And, twice on the front straight, the motor started misfiring and cutting out, but then would run fine on the infield.  When I looked at the spark plug after the first round of practice, I found the gap was about 0.002"and I could see a mark on the piston from where it had touched.  I wondered if my big end bearing was going south, but turning the motor with the outside flywheel, it felt alright, as much as I could tell without taking down the top end.  So, I put two washers on a new spark plug, installed it, and went out for the second round of practice.  Again, the motor ran fine through the infield but would misfire and cut out on the banking after a while at full throttle.  Now, I thought the big end must be going and I decided to pull in.  But, exiting the chicane, the motor cut out completely and I had to push the bike in.  I removed the spark plug, expecting to see the gap closed again, but it hadn't changed a bit.  I started looking for another problem and when I barely touched the ground lead from the battery, it fell off.  Oh, that was my problem.  So, I repaired the lead putting new, redundant eyelets on the cable, and was ready for the 350GP race.
Al Hollingsworth puts the stand on my ERTT while Rick works on the CT-1.  Don Hollingsworth photo
But, the 250GP race was first.  I ended up a distant 2nd to Jack Parker on his 250 DT-1 Yamaha in the 250GP, which was probably as good as I could expect, but my fastest lap on the 175 CT-1 Yamaha was 2.225 seconds slower than I had gone the day before as it seemed the motor was losing it's edge. 
Right from the start of the 350GP race, I realized that the ground lead was only one of my problems, as the motor was still cutting out on the front and back straights.  Again, it would run fine in the infield, but ran so badly on the banking that my fastest lap was slower than I had gone earlier in the 250GP on the CT-1.  Now I decided that it must be fuel starvation as it seemed to be a matter of how long I held the throttle open.  The entry was light enough that I still finished 2nd to Jack Parker again. That 2nd and the one for the day before, was enough to cinch the AHRMA 350GP championship for the umpteenth time.
After the race, I took the fuel taps out of the tank expecting to see their filters clogged, but they were clean.  I took the top off the float bowl and that filter was clean, too, and the float seemed to be working fine.  So, I'm at a loss to explain what the problem was.  Don Hollingsworth had a somewhat similar problem Fri., and after brother Al had completely gone through the carb, changed the coil in desperation and that seemed to cure it.  So, maybe I have a coil problem, but that doesn't sound right to me.  And maybe I had a plugged fuel tank vent, which I haven't gotten around to checking yet.  After all my increasing shifting problems, I half expected to see some gear dogs come out when I drained the oil, but the oil was quite clean.  I got in touch with Bill Himmelsbach and he agreed to look at the gearbox again and I stopped at his house on my way home and pulled the motor out and left it with him.
AHRMA announced their schedule for 2016, and Daytona isn't on it.  They've finally come to the realization that Daytona in the fall has become an anticlimax after the huge Barber event.  There's some talk that it may be back in the spring in 2017,  but I may have raced there for the last time.

Jack Parker's DT-1 Yamaha
Jack's front tire.  If it's dry, they work fine as they become more like a slick
Doc Batsleer's Garden Gate Manx
Paul Allender came from England to race his TZ750 Yamaha at Daytona
The TZ has a frame and fuel tank made in Canada by Dennis Curtis
The workmanship on the chassis is superb.
A line up of Yamaha twins that came from Texas

2015 Barber Vintage Festival

On my way to Barber M/S Park from Weaverville, N.C., I stopped at the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, N.C.  The museum has exclusively American motorcycles and the majority of them were Harleys.  But, there are quite a few other more obscure brands, lots of memorabilia, and the odd car.  Dale Walksler, the proprietor, is a dynamo and is very approachable.  Dale fired up a bike and rode it around the museum.  There's a very good competition section with lots of race bikes, posters, trophies, leathers, and photos.
From there, I drove straight to Barber and got set up Thurs. afternoon.
For the AHRMA Barber event only, there is practice Thursday and/or Friday, but none on race day because the entry is so big and there are so many races, there isn't time.  Practice went well on the ERTT, though I did miss the odd shift.

I also rode the the CT1 Yamaha that Dennis Latimer built for David Ecker, and that I rode last year at Barber.
  It was geared too tall initially and the clutch slipped when it was cold.  By the time that we got the gearing close, the clutch was slipping all the time.  This was fixed by changing the whole clutch pack.  Then Dennis jetted it down and we were ready.
On the Dennis Latimer tuned CT1 Yamaha.  Don Hollingsworth photo
It rained pretty heavily over night and the track was still wet for the first race, the 250GP.  The second race was the 350GP gridded behind the Formula 500, in the second wave.  I didn't get a very good start and I was a bit tentative, figuring out how wet the track was.
Here I lead #112 Kevin Thurston (F-500, CB 350 Honda), #950 Don Hollingsworth (350 H-D Sprint), and #76 Stu Carter (Seeley 7R), but Jack Parker is long gone.  Neville Miller photo
But, Jack Parker, who had just won the 250GP race and knew exactly how wet the track was,  nailed the start on his DT1 Yamaha.   I passed several bikes after I got going, but never caught him and ended up second in class, almost 11 seconds behind, and 6th overall.
The 200GP race was in the afternoon, by which time the track was totally dry.  I started on the 10th row, having no points in the class this season.  It took me a couple or three laps to get in the lead and I won the race, but was surprised after to see that Chris Spargo, on his LS2 Yamaha, had finished less than 0.3 of a second behind me and his fastest lap was only 0.112 seconds slower than mine.
Cory Levenson photo
Sunday dawned beautiful and for the 350GP I was ready.  I got a much better start, although Jack Parker (who had again won the previous 250GP race) and Paul Germain both beat me off the line. I got by Paul first and, after a lap or so, got by Jack.  He came back by, but I was able to pass him back and pull a small gap, finishing just over 3 seconds ahead of him and again 6th overall.
Here I'm ahead of Jack Parker #18 (DT-1 Yamaha), Bobby Birdsall #x2 (350 Aermacchi) and John Stevens (250 Aermacchi).  Neville Miller photo
 My fastest lap was more than 2 seconds faster than I had gone on Sat., while Jack had gone only less than half a second quicker.
Jack and I went back and forth.  Neville Miller photo
The 200GP was similar to Sat.  I had a little better starting position, based on the point I had earned Sat., and was quickly chasing Chris Spargo.
leading Chris Spargo through the back straight chicane.  Neville Miller photo
We swapped back a forth a couple of times and I was just able to hold him off to the checkers, winning by 0.171 seconds., with a fastest lap 0.351 seconds faster than Chris, and 1.329 seconds faster than I had gone Sat.
Chris Spargo on his LS-2 Yamaha chasing me on a CT-1 Yamaha.  Don Hollingsworth photo
I packed up having had two good races with good competition and both bikes seeming in good shape for Daytona the following week.

Joe Gardella, winner of the Century Race for bikes at least 100 years old.
Beno Rodi on an Indian in the Century Race
A belt drive Triumph for the Century race.
And, speaking of belts, I love the belt damper on the front suspension
As long as I'm on two wheels, I'm happy.  Cory Levenson photo

Friday, November 13, 2015

2015 Classis TT addendum

Mike Peavey spotted me on the Team Obsolete 1954 E-95 AJS Porcupine in a Velocity Channel broadcast of the Classic TT Lap of Honor and spent me a clip.  I believe this is approaching Ballacraine and following me in Jim Redman who, at 83 years old, is still going strong.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fall Moto Giro

The USCRA's Fall Moto Giro was held in Asheville, N.C. this year on the weekend before the Barber Vintage Festival.  Will Paley, who participated in many Giros while he lived in Ct., moved to the Asheville area a couple of years ago and organized and laid out the route this Giro.  When I arrived on Fri., people were getting set up and doing last minute prep on there bikes.  I was quite taken with Tom Cotter's Progress scooter.
This is a late '50's German machine powered by a 191cc Sachs two stroke.  German machines of this era have such beautiful aluminum castings.  Tom let me take it for short ride and I was quite impressed.
It started to rain and blow in the afternoon and we knew that this was the beginnings of Hurricane Joaquin.  The predictions were dire, but we went to bed hoping for the best, knowing that the media often hypes these things way out of proportion.
The headquarters motel was chosen because of it's proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was our exit out of town.  Unfortunately, we found Sat. morning that the BRP had been closed.  Apparently, trees were down, and there was no easy way to revise the route on short notice, so Saturday's route was abandoned and we just did a agility test in the parking lot.
The majority of the Giroist decided to go to the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, not far away.  But, a few of us wanted to ride.  Yeah, it was raining and blowing, but so what?
Rob Hall grew up in the area, though he now lives in Charlotte, and he volunteered to lead us on a ride.    Six of us took off, heading first to Rob's brother Jake's shop, Hall's Custom Vintage, so Rob could pick up some two stroke oil.  We got to see Jake, who was recovering from a badly broken leg he received when T-boned while road testing a customer's beautiful BSA Goldstar.  HCV is a great shop and between Jake, Rob, and their dad Stuart, they can tackle anything for restoration or performance.  After checking out a few of their current projects and a good smooze, we got on the road again.
Leaving Halls Custom Vintage during Hurricane Joaquin.  Stuart Hall photo
Rob was riding the 125 Sachs Boondocker that he and his brother had beat the shit out of when they were kids.  Rob dragged it out of the barn where it had sat idle for years a few days before and threw some new tires on it.  I was riding my '68 TC 200 Suzuki, Mike Baker and Steve Fowler we each on 250 H-D Sprints, Tom Cotter was on his Progress and his nephew Kevin was on a YDS-3 Yamaha.  After a couple of miles of residential streets, we got to Elk Mountain Rd., and the fun began.  The road climbs steeply with switchback after switchback.  I couldn't believe the pace Rob was setting.  I knew Rob was a great roadracer, having raced against him at Roebling Rd., Barber, and Talladega.  But, now he was on a 125 dirt bike with trials universal tires.  In the pouring rain, he was  sending it in to the wet leave covered roads.  Admittedly, he knew the road well, but still I was dumbfounded, and there was no way I could hang with him.  When we stopped for a break, I asked him about those trials universal tires.  The front was a Shinko and the rear was a Golden Boy!  China's best.
We worked our way to Banardville, and then headed back, dropping Rob off at HCV.  Yeah, it was wet and there were a few branches down, but I think people had over reacted again.  Back at the HQ motel, my old friend, Bob Curtis, met us for lunch.  I probably met Bob 35 years ago when he live in the East End of Long Island, near the Bridgehampton race circuit.  About 10 years ago, he moved down to Burnsville, a little north of Asheville.  A couple of years after that, he fell in an AHRMA cross country and broke his back and is paralyzed from the waist down.  He now lives in a rehab facility in Asheville and his wife brought him over to the motel to see the bikes and some old friends, including Bob Coy, President of the USCRA, who he hadn't seen for about 30 years.  This motorcycle sport is serious fun.
At dinner that night, it was announced that Will had come up with a plan to run Sunday's route despite the fact that the Blue Ridge Parkway was still going to be closed.  Five or so locals would lead groups of 12 or so Giroist on a complicated route some 12 miles out of town to where we'd pick up the original route, for which we already had route sheets.  And, while the day started drizzly, it got nicer and nicer and, by mid-day, the sun was out and the roads were dry.  And, what roads they were.
Early on, I got hooked up with Rich Hosley riding his Ossa Wildfire.  But then he missed a turn and I rode for myself through some fabulous roads.  Grapevine Rd., Revere Rd., Lonely Mountain Rd.  Switchback after switchback with superb views and almost no traffic.  After I had gone quite a ways and was beginning to wonder if I had missed a turn, I stop to take a piss.  Being the modest, retiring fellow I am, I walk a ways off the road after parking my bike right on the side of the road.  I heard a two stroke coming and I got back to my bike just in time to see Rich passing and riding off in the distance.  There are no friends in a Moto Giro; it's cut throat.  So now I jammed hard trying to catch Rich, but ended up being the first one at the lunch stop in Marshall.  Rich had gotten lost again.
After lunch and the agility tests, I left with Rick Bell on his Sprint.  After we went a ways, we got hung up by some Giroist who were taking the average speed a bit too literally for my taste and I made a bit of a rude pass and lost Rick.  Some ways later, I saw a rider up ahead, and it took me for ever to catch up to him.  I followed for a good while and couldn't find a was to safely pass at this pace.  Finally, when he looked down at his route sheet in his tank bag figuring out the next turn, I swooped by, having my route sheet holder up on the cross bar of the handlebars and not having to take my eyes off the road much to read it.  This fellow, on a CB160 Honda, latched right onto me and we rode hard all the way back to the finish.  Trent Webster from Knoxville, Tn., introduced himself and I told him that I was impressed by his riding after he told me the motor was stock and still 161cc.
Trent Webster's CB160 Honda
I was impressed that Trent's taillight actually worked
Swiss Neiderberger gets the long distance award.  He brought this 250 Motobi from British Columbia
Eli Kirtz' on his C110 Honda, the sole 50cc entry
After a rough start, it turned out to be a great Giro.
Ron Cowan's Sears Allstate/Puch SR250 Twingle
Rich Snyder's '67 LS-2 Yamaha

Eli's faithful mascot
The legendary Cotter brothers, Danny standing and Tommy on his Progress, after Tommy survived going over a cliff, hauling his scooter 40' up to the road with the help of half a dozen or more and carrying on to the finish.  What's the big deal?
retrieving Tommy's Progress

I stayed on a few days with Will and his wife Elaine, in Weaverville, and got to ride much of his fleet.  Mon., my brother Doug and his wife Amy came over.  Doug's Benelli had died the previous day, his first DNF, and he found the loose connector in about 5 minutes in Will's shop, and we went for a ride, me on Will's Moto Guzzi Falcone, Will on his R-50 BMW, Rick Bell on his Sprint.  I rode my TC200 down to Bob Curtis' rehab facility and had dinner with him and his wife, who had brought Chinese takeout.  Over the next couple of days, I got to ride Will's NX 250 Honda and 2011 Moto Guzzi V-7.   I thought Will, having three BMWs, should know Ivan Messina and  Motorrad Unlimited, and we took a ride over to West Asheville and checked out his shop while he was preparing a bunch of bikes for Barber.  We visited Jake Hall again at HCV when I needed to weld a broken cable adjuster I found on my ERTT when preparing it for Barber.  Will took a shine to a 1950 Douglas Mk IV 350 they had in the shop and he recently told me that he bought it.  And we rode down to the Wedge Brewing Co. on a fine evening and met up with some of Will and Elaine's friends.  All in all, a great prelude to the Barber Vintage extravaganza.