Tuesday, July 21, 2015


10-12 July, 2015 I went to the AHRMA race at New Jersey Motorsports Park, in Millville, N.J.  I picked up my 350 Sprint from Bill Himmelsbach on my way down.  Bill had just replaced three layshaft gears that had failed at Grattan with reproduction gears that I ordered from Germany.  Friday, Bill took the bike out and did 5 quite gentle laps on it and pronounce it good, though he couldn't get used to the 230mm Ceriani 4LS front brake, thinking it was quite 'wooden' and then overly fierce.  I'm just used to it I guess, as I think it's a great brake.  But, that afternoon while rolling the bike to Tech inspection in neutral, I heard a click, click, click...  On the stand, we spun the rear wheel and listened.  We thought it could just be a dog just kissing another dog, but Bill was quite confident he had shimmed it correctly.
Saturday morning I went to start it to warm it up for practice.  At first it didn't fire, so I stopped and tickled the float again.  I push it again and, when it fired, there was a loud bang and now I had 6 neutrals.  The gearbox had failed.  I pulled the motor out of the frame and Bill took the drive side crankcase half off and it was immediately obvious.
failed gear on the layshaft
  Nine teeth had sheared off the brand new gear on the layshaft that all the intermediate gears drive through.  I seemed to be a case of improper material or hardening, or both.  Anyway, that bike was done for the weekend.
My friend Aleksey Kravchuk let me ride the Velocette Thruxton that I've left with him for a couple of years and into which he's put a tremendous amount of work and money.  Most recently, he's had the Lucas K1FC magneto rebuilt and bought a 1 1/2" Amal GP carb.  The carb required cutting up the fuel tank for clearance.
Velo Thruxton with tank modified for carb clearance.
I took the bike out in the first practice and it seemed to go quite well, though I didn't push it as it had brand new tires and I had lots of trouble shifting because of lever position.  I came in after 5 laps and notice that now the clutch was dragging.  We adjusted the clutch and I moved the shift lever.  I started the bike again and rode around the paddock a bit and all seemed well.  Then Aleksey rode it around a bit to confirm that the lever position was good for him, too.
When I started it for the race, the clutch was dragging again, but there was no time for any adjustment.  On the warm-up lap there was some indication of clutch slip.  I was able to get the gearbox in neutral when I came to the grid and I made a pathetic start when the flag dropped.  When I would shift, the clutch would slip, though it seemed that if I then backed off, it would hook up, so I carried on.  Then, I lost all clutch release, with the lever dangling on the clip-on.  So, I started shifting without the clutch.  Then the motor started misfiring.  This got progressively worse and I pulled off after two laps.  First we found that the magneto flopping around, the nuts holding it to the timing case being loose.  This was fixable, with some difficulty as there is limited access.  But, the clutch was a different matter.  When we took it apart, we found that four balls from the big ball bearing between the inner and outer clutch basket had somehow gotten out of their race and were jammed in the plates.
Somewhat hard to see, but there is a gap in the balls near the top of the bearing in the middle of the clutch.  They have scored the surface outboard of the outer race and left a lot of debris on the outer perimeter of the basket.
This was non-fixable and I was done for the weekend and Aleksey once again did not get to race the Velo.
Aleksey did have his rebuilt CB 350 Honda that had failed at Roebling Road when I was on it.  But, in Saturday's F-250 race, it stopped when an electrical connection lost contact.  That was easily fixed and he was back out in practice Sun. morning when a new rider on a 675 Triumph crashed behind him and the bike slid into Aleksey's knocking him down and giving him a grade 2 sprain of his ankle.  He's non weight bearing for 2 1/2 weeks.  Not a good weekend for Team Works Manufacturing.
All of this did not stop me from having a good time as there was plenty to do and see.  Bob Robbins brought his Brittan, one of 12 made, and it's original rider, Stephen Briggs, did some demo laps.
 Nick Ienatsch rode Rusty Bigley's Spondon TZ750 and won the Open Two Stroke race both days and the Formula Vintage race Sat.  There is some video of this at:

There was a swap meet and vendors with interesting stuff.
Doug Wood repairs magnetos and generators and had his 1938 Velocette KTS in front of his booth
This fellow made a featherbed frame and put a Royal Enfield motor in it.
This Zundapp Super Sabre really spoke to me

A young girl was riding it around and it seemed to run really well.

Almost 22K miles on the clock.

The TZR 250 Yamaha is another tasty stink wheel from the next generation.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Roper TT

July 4th marked the social event of the season, the Roper TT, put on by my brother Doug and his wife Amy.  People started arriving Fri., the 3rd with Gordon Pulis coming over on the ferry from eastern Long Island on his CL 175 Honda.  Rich Ronay probably gets the long distance award riding his '90 VFR 750 Honda from Tracy's Landing, Md., east of D.C, via Roscoe, N.Y. (although we had a couple from Brisbane, Australia who were visiting the Brauns and rode J's R100RS).  Rich and I go way back having raced against each other in the mid '70s in AAMRR.  He had come to a race that I competed in at Summit Point and expressed interest in the Tiddler Tours, so I told him that I'd sponsor him on my '68 TC200 Suzuki.  When he arrived, I had just finished changing the failed petcock on the Suzuki to a Bridgestone one my brother had given me.  So, Rich and I went for a shake down run, me on my '53 Moto Guzzi Airone Sport.  After ten or so miles, we stopped to debrief.  Rich was having a lot of trouble with the motor loading up and, after a minute sitting there, we saw that the right carb was pissing gas out.  We switched bikes and headed back to D & A's house, me turning the petcock on and off to control the stuck float.  When we got back we decided that the carbs had to come off and be cleaned.
Doug and Gordon supervise while Rich and I clean the carbs on the TC200.  Amy Roper photo
The TC is the high pipe model, which most people think looks really cool.  But, I'd prefer to have the low pipe model as it gives easier access to the carbs.  We decided we'd be better off removing the pipes completely, which didn't prove to big job.  Carbs cleaned and back on, the flooding stopped and we were ready for the next day's ride.  A TT wouldn't be complete without a little pre- ride wrenching for evening entertainment.
Amy Roper photo
All told, about 40 bikes showed up for the ride with people from N.H., Ma., N.Y., R. I.?, and N.J.  Bikes included three Bultaco Metrallas, a Ossa Wildfire, a couple of R27 BMWs, Honda CB 160, CL 175, and CL 77, Yamaha YDS5 and R5C, Kawasaki 305 GPZ and 250 Sherpa, Jawa 350, my brother's 260 Benelli, a couple of H-D Sprints and a Triumph T 25 SS.  
Mark Turkington checks out the TC200
There were quite a few cheater bikes, being well oversized or new, but a few that were interesting and didn't deserve chain whipping, including a Yamaha 550 Vision and a beautiful Norton Commando.  
A 'Taco, 850 Commando, 550 Vision, and 350 Jawa

Yamaha 550 Vision
Another was a Ryca CS1, which is a U.S. made chassis kit for a Suzuki 650 Savage single motor.
Ryca CS1
The morning ride headed east across the Connecticut River to E. Haddam, Moodus, E. Hampton, N. Westchester, Colchester, Salem, Lyme, Old Lyme, Hadlyme, and back to E. Haddam, and Haddam, picking up lunch and returning to D & A's house, a total of 75 miles of great back roads with little traffic.
Before we left for the afternoon section, I gave my nearly 15 year old 1st cousin, once removed a ride on the Airone.  This was the 2nd motorcycle ride in her life as I had given her a brief ride around a parking lot maybe 8 years ago.  She remembered it and asked for another.  There's always the question of how fast to go as one doesn't want to scare the newbie and turn them off motorcycles, yet one wants to go fast enough to give them a feel for it.  I guess I did about right for, though she left holding on pretty tightly,...

...she came back with a big smile
Amy Roper photos
Some lightweights skipped the afternoon ride, but I rode with my old buddy, Leif Gustavson, on his egregious cheater bike, a EX 650 Kawasaki, (when he had a perfectly good TW200 Yamaha sitting at home).  I made him work to keep up with the mighty Airone.  The afternoon ride headed west through Higganum, Durham, Middlefield, Wallingford, back to Durham, on to Killingworth, Chester, and back to Haddam.  Again, about 54 miles of great roads, though maybe slightly more traffic and the roads were surprisingly dirty and there were quite a few trees and limbs down from a heavy storm a few days before.
Some loaded up and headed home; some stayed to join a bunch of neighbors who came over for a pot luck dinner.  Then, a spectacular fireworks display, put on by J. Braun, Hannah, and Erika.  Several stayed over Saturday night.
Sunday, Rich Schlachter and Al Hahn, more sparing partners from roadracing in the 70's, came over on bikes.  Rich Ronay hadn't seen Doug, Schlachter, Al, and Leif for 37 years, and Leif hadn't seen Al for almost as long.
left to right: brother Doug, Rich Schlachter, Rich Ronay, Leif Gustavson, yours truly, and Al Hahn, still riding after all these years.  Amy Roper photo
We all went for a ride, with Amy on her new Moto Guzzi V7 Stone, lead by Doug.  After 30 or more miles, Ronay headed back to Roscoe, and Schalchter and Al headed back to Old Lyme, and Doug, Amy, and I back to Haddam.  So ended one of the best Tiddler Tours in the history of the know universe.
Markus Koelbl's Yamaha YDS-5 (and a bit of my finger)
John Strempher with his Metralla
Parker Heath gassing up his Metralla
Phil Turkington's Metralla, 'Camilla'
Al Anderson's and Ching Chiang's R27 BMWs
Rick Bell's nicely hot rodded Yamaha R5C, which he's owned for about 40 years. 
Jamie Goodson's 250 Sprint
Bob Bendix brought a bike to sell
It could be yours
Charlie Van Deck on his beautifully restored 350 Jawa twin.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Oak Hill Classic

Last Sunday was the inaugural Oak Hill Classic vintage road rally in Durham, N.Y.  The weather was challenging, esp. for a inaugural event, with rain and cool temperatures.  Despite this, ten interesting bikes and riders showed up.  The oldest bike was a '63 R-27 BMW ridden by Gabrielle Isenbrand.

 The next oldest was my brother Doug's 64 400 Norton Electra.

Doug achieved excellent oil containment for a British bike with the help of a catch bottle.
The smallest bike was Cater Willey's 125 CZ which his friend Jan, who's from the Czech Republic, rode.  Carter rode his 150 MZ, which had to be the bike with the least mileage: 54 Km.s on the clock.
The 150 MZ with 54 Km. and the 125 CZ behind it.
My sister-in-law, Amy, rode her CL 350 Honda, for which Doug had found a new license plate.

And, Rob Sigond rode the CL 350's predecessor on the ride: a CL77 Honda.

I rode my '68 Suzuki TC200, which may have been the second lowest mileage bike on the ride: 626mi.

But perhaps the most interesting bike was Jake Herzog's 'Grossa': an Ossa Pioneer motor in a Greeves chassis.  This was Jake's first real ride on the bike and he said it worked very well, though he thought it could stand to be geared up and the 12V headlight bulb blew.
Greeves chassis, Ossa motor and Honda fuel tank

note the horn

I didn't get a photo of Jack Cole CA 160 Honda Dream or George Ellis' Honda CB500, the biggest bike on the ride.  George was the one who laid out the route with Rick Synder assisting.  Mike Shia brought a Guzzi Eldorado, but didn't ride.
Trailer Queen
It was an excellent route of mostly county roads with very little traffic and a total of almost 89 miles.  There was drizzle for most of the ride, but some hard rain in the middle.  When we got back to the Oak Hill Volunteer Fire Dept., we were serve an excellent lunch.
George was hoping for more older bikes.  Let hope we get better weather next year and the event gets off the ground.

Owls Head Transport Museum

Recently,  I drove up to Maine to visit my dear friend Phyllis on Mt. Desert Island.  I brought my '68 TC200 Suzuki and we worked on her '78 V-50 Moto Guzzi.  We got it running better by adjusting the valves, cleaning the carbs and petcocks and fixed a problem with one of the front brakes.  We did a bit of riding around the Island through Acadia National Park, trading off the two bikes frequently.
When I returned home, I stopped at the Owls Head Transport Museum just south of Rockland, Me.  The Museum has planes, cars, motorcycles and the odd ship and railroad model.  Just inside the entrance was a Pierce four cylinder, a bike I've always admired for it's large diameter frame members.
The first hall off the entrance is titled 'Power' and the first thing I was attracted to was a cut away aircooled, supercharged, 28 cylinder (four banks of 7) radial Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major R-4360 aircraft engine.  Surely this has to rank as one of the all time great cut aways.
I tore myself away from the Wasp to find the Holy Grail:  a replica of the 1868 Sylvester Roper steam cycle (the original is in the Smithsonian Institute).
Notice the compressed air hose going to a regulator at the bottom of the boiler.  Evidently this has a working motor, though it wasn't running when I was there.  I've seen the original at the Smithsonian, though I'm told it's no longer on display, and I've seen replicas in the Motorcyclepedia Museum and the Barber Museum.  Both of these were done by William Eggers of Goshen, Ct. and they are non-runners.  I asked the woman at the desk who had made this replica and she didn't know, but said they had had it 'forever'.
It's interesting that they call it 1868, but then say Sylvester 'in 1865 created what is consider the first motorcycle.'  I have also seen it dated as 1867.  For those who aren't aware, I am related to Sylvester, his 2nd cousin, four times removed and, I subscribe to the 'Wandering Gene theory'.
Moving on to the other halls was a bit anti-climatic, but there were some other nice bikes among the cars and planes.
A 1901 Steffey motor bicycle
An unrestored Excelsior V-twin
A four cylinder Excelsior Henderson
A somewhat eclectic line up of bikes in the 'Quest for Speed' exhibit
Some neat micro cars including an Isetta and a couple of Crosleys
I'm not sure that I'd recommend going far out of your way to see the motorcycles but, if you're in the area, the Owls Head Transport Museum is worth a stop, especially if you're into cars and planes.