Monday, November 30, 2020

Sprints at Bonneville addendum

My previous post piqued Dick Hollingsworth's interest and he did some research and came up with what seems to be a definitive answer to my question:  How did George Roeder go 20mph faster in '65 than Roger Reiman  in '64 in the same streamliner.  The answer is better salt conditions AND more power.

This article came form the website:
Scrolling down quite a ways is a heading "Sprint CR Publication & Information" and immediately following is an article on the '64 effort with Reiman, with this photo: 

This clearly was a wet clutch motor which normally would be long stroke.  I suppose it's theoretically possible that it had a special short stroke crankshaft and top end, as Mick Walker claims in his books 'Classic American Racing Motorcycles' (1992) and 'Aermacchi' (1995), but I doubt it.  Scrolling down further is the article on the '65 effort with Roeder.  Neither of these articles are identified as to what publication they came from, but I suspect both are from H-D's in house publication "The Enthusiast".

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Sprints at Bonneville

When I recently went to the Antique Motorcycle Club of America national meet at Denton, N.C., a few of us rode to the American Classic Motorcycle Museum in Asheboro, N.C.  It was strictly H-D, with Knuckles, Pans and Shovels, and a couple of Sprint road bikes.  But, it had some good race posters and two that intrigued me featured a Sprint powered streamliner at Bonneville.

As you can see, in 1964 Roger Reiman went 156mph and a year later George Roeder went 176mph in what appears to be the same streamliner.  I wondered how they gained 20 mph in one year.  All things being equal, it would take a lot more horsepower to gain 20 mph at those speeds.  I spent a little time researching it, going first to Allan Girdler's book 'Harley Racers'.  This has a photo of Roeder with the streamliner which the caption says was built by James 'Stormy' Mangham.  Stormy had built a streamliner powered by a Triumph 650 twin, a Cub, and a 500 Tiger 100 and ridden by Johnny Allen first in 1955 and last in 1959 when Allen crashed and destroyed the 'liner.  In the '60s, Strormy built three streamliners: one similar to the on that was destroyed (and maybe using some of the original), that had a Sprint motor; one larger with had a Sportster motor; one with a Chevy V-8.  Harley got involved and built the Sprint and Sportster motors, with Reiman riding them in '64 and Roeder in '65.

I called my friend John Stein, who wrote the book 'World's Fastest Motorcycle, The Day the Salt Stood Still, Mike Akatiff vs. Denis Manning vs. Sam Wheeler'.  John didn't know any particulars of the Sprint effort, though he believed the Roeder family still owned the Sprint streamliner.  John is very friendly with Denis Manning and suggested that I call him.  Manning built the streamliner powered by a Sportster based motor that Cal Rayborn rode to absolute motorcycle speed record in 1970 of 265.492.  This is featured in the film On Any Sunday.  Manning wasn't involved with the earlier Sprint record, so didn't know any particulars but suggested that the difference in speed between '64 & '65 could have been fuel, but I pointed out that both posters say the times were set with pump gasoline.  Manning thought the difference must be down to the weather and/or salt conditions.  I asked him if there was any way to find out what the weather/salt conditions were in '64 & '65 and he told me that the AMA lost all the Bonneville records and when he ran his BUB event at Bonneville they had to reconstruct old records from magazine articles and the like.  Manning suggested that I might talk to Clyde Denzer, The Harley race department number 2 man to Dick O'Brien, and someone involved in that '70 effort.  I called Peter Zylstra, the man who designed/drew  the XR750 motor, also retired from the Harley race dept.  Peter arrive at H-D right around 1965 and didn't know anything of the earlier Bonneville effort.  I suggested that in '64 the streamliner might have been powered by the long stroke, wet clutch motor and in '65 might have had the revised short stroke, dry clutch motor, but we both questioned that as we thought the short stroke motor came out in '66.  Peter gave me Clyde Denzer's number and I called him.  He was in the H-D race dept. in '64 and was aware of the Bonneville effort, but hadn't gone there as he did in '70 with Rayborn.  Clyde also didn't think that the short stroke motor was used in '65 and thought part of the difference in speed was just down to more experience and a refined effort, though agreed that weather/salt conditions could well have contributed.  Then I called Keith Martin of Big D Cycles, as I understood that he had the molds for the shell of the Stormy Mangham Triumph streamliner and was involved in the restoration of the bike for the National Motor Museum in England.  He also didn't know anything specific about the Sprint records and thought it had to be down the weather/salt conditions and that sometime you just get lucky. I re-read the caption on the photo in Girdler book and it says that Reiman used the long stroke motor and Roeder the short stroke.
From Allan Girdler's "Harley Racers"

Then I found Mick Walker's 'Classic American Racing Motorcycles' which states: "As a way of extra publicity Harley-Davidson began to take an active interest in Bonneville.  Their first attempts were with a specially prepared short-stroke 248cc Aermacchi road racing engine enclosed in a 14 ft long alloy shell.  Ridden by works rider Roger Reiman this device averaged 156.24 mph for the flying mile and 156.54 mph for the kilometre in 1964.  The records were approved by the AMA but not the FIM as no recognised observer was present from the latter organisation.  Hence the speeds constituted American records only.  However Harley achieved its ambition the following year when George Roeder piloted a revised version of the sprint streamliner to a new world speed record at the breathtaking speed of 177.225 mph-sanctioned by the FIM."  So Walker claims that a short stroke motor was used in both '64 and '65, which doesn't explain the 20 mph gain.

From Stephen Wright book American Racer 1940-1980

I just got a hold of George Roeder's son, George II.  He thought that Reiman had run a long stroke/wet clutch motor and his dad the short stroke/dry clutch motor as a way of introducing it, as it was what was supplied in CR Sprints in '66.  He still has the streamliner at his museum at his shop Roeder Racing in Monroeville, Ohio.  When his dad was a franchised H-D dealer starting in 1972, he used to drive up to Milwaukee to pick up new bikes from the H-D factory to save on shipping.  He'd drop into the racing dept. to see his old buddies.  One time someone told him that the old streamliner was in a warehouse and in the way and why didn't he take it with him.  However, the machine has no motor in it, so it doesn't answer if it had a long or short stroke motor.  George II, also known as 'Joe' to distinguish him from his dad, told me that Bill Millburn had some information on the streamliner, so I called him.  Millburn is a collector and a bit of an historian on Class C racing in the '50-'70s.  Bill told me that he has the build card on the motor that both Reiman and Roeder used, a long stroke, wet clutch unit.  He says it was run at Daytona in a road racer with a 5A, 5 speed gearbox, 5A being the closest ratio option.  The gearbox was changed to a 5B, wider ratio, gearbox for Bonneville.  This would make some sense as with the super tall gearing needed at Bonneville, a lower 1st gear would be useful for getting going.  After Bonneville '64, the motor went back in a road racer with a 5A gearbox, then back in the streamliner with a 5B for Roeder at Bonneville in '65.  Millburn is convinced that it was the same motor in '64 & '65.
Finally, I talked to Herb Harris, a collector and former sponsor of Roeder Racing, and a lawyer who represented Roeder when, after Harley built their museum in Milwaukee, decided that they wanted the streamliner back.  According to Herb, it was a Davidson who gave the streamliner to George and therefore Roeder was the rightful owner, and that he decided to keep it and respectfully declined to return it to H-D.

This is one of the ways I spend time during 'lockdown', researching bit of motorcycle history arcana.  There is just about no one left who was there at the time and I guess we'll never know the details of effort, but I find it fun jogging peoples memories and getting their opinions. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

2020 Race Record

2020 was an unusual race year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The year started with two races in Feb., then racing shut down around the world.  AHRMA resumed racing in late July with two back to back races in the Mid-West, then there were two races back to back in the South, then the Barber finale. The VRRA in Canada had only one race and that was on a date that conflicted with one of the AHRMA races that I went to, but I don't think I was allowed to go to Canada anyway.  I had planned to do the WERA administered AMA Vintage M/C Days at Mid Ohio, but that was canceled.  I had also planned to do the Lap of Honour at the Isle of Man Classic TT, but that too was canceled.  So the total of 7 events that I went to was surely the least I've done perhaps since I started racing in 1972.  The 7 events were at 7 different venues, and I did four races at each event (two Sat., and two Sun,) for a total of 28 races.  I started all the races that I entered.  I won 13 of them, was 2nd in 8 of them, 3rd three times and 4th 3 times (two of which were mechanical DNFs), and 1 DQ for a crash which caused a red flag.  I had one other crash, but that was in practice and didn't prevent me from racing.  I raced three different bikes, all of which were mine.  At the first race of the year at Laguna Seca, Ca., I raced the 350 Aermacchi I own that lives in California with Karl Engellenner, who built and maintains it.  With it, I won the 350GP both days and was 3rd and 1st in the 500 Premiere.  The rest of the year, I just rode my CRTT and ERTT H-D Sprints.  With the CRTT, I had 9 wins, 2 seconds, 1 third(in 350GP) and 2 fourths (1 mechanical DNF, 1 in 350GP).  With the ERTT, I had 1 win, 6 seconds, 1 third, 1 fourth, and 1 DQ (crash).  I won the 250GP championship and was 2nd in the 350GP championship.  However, a big asterisk should be put after the 250GP championship as the entry in this class was very light and at least two of most competitive in this class couldn't make it to most of the races.  The entry in 350GP was slightly better but also with excellent riders and bikes.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Southern Swing #2

 This year's AHRMA race at Barber was very different than the past as the 'Vintage Festival' was canceled because of Covid-19, though racing continued.  So, there was no swap meet, Wall of Death, Ace Cafe, AMCA or VJMC club meets, etc., and nominally, no spectators.  Because of this, entry was way down from years past.  Many people who entered didn't show up because the forecast was for rain all weekend as a hurricane approached.  Then, many of those that did come ended up not racing because of the heavy rain, meaning grids were very thin.

I arrived at Barber Thurs. mid day with my 250 and 350 H-D Aermacchi Sprints.  The 350 I had crashed at Carolina M/S Pk. in Sept., and tore up the fairing, among other damage.  I left the fairing with Sakis Vasilopoulos who said he would repair it and deliver it to Barber.  So, after setting up my pit, I collected the fairing from Sakis, who did a beautiful job on it, including painting it and even making numbers.  But, he had filled all the mounting bracket holes, saying that they were oval from wear.  So, it meant fitting the fairing from scratch, then mounting a windscreen, which I did with the help of Dick Miles.  Fortunately, Thurs., was a beautiful day.

Friday dawned raining, as promised, and I set about practicing on both bikes.  My 250 had ancient and very worn Dunlop tires, the ones that are no longer made, and which don't have the best reputation in the wet, but are my preferred tires in the dry.  So, I was very cautious on it, both because I didn't trust the tires and because I didn't want to put any unnecessary wear on them.  I've long had a problem with the carb on my 350 sticking, especially when rolling the throttle of gradually.  The slide snaps right down when the engine isn't running but, when running, the slide tends to hang up unless one snaps the throttle shut.  The carb got packed with dirt in the crash at Kershaw, and it took me a long while to even get it out of the body.  Now, it the rain, the problem seemed noticeably worse.  After one session, I took the slide out to see if I could polish it to improve the situation.  Al Hollingsworth happened to come along and said that he might have a slide in better shape.  The slides are brass, plated with chrome(?) and the plating on my slide was almost completely worn away.  Al's was used, but much less worn and he loaned it to me and that completely cured the sticking issue.  The rain let up some in the afternoon and a dry line started to develop, but I didn't bother to go out any more as the forecast was for heavy rain Sat., and I didn't figure that I learn anything in the dry and just wear out the tires more.

Sat., I was first up in race #4, with 250GP in front of Novice Historic Production Lightweight in the first wave and Formula 125 and Pre 40 in the second.  Just three of the seven 250GP entrants started and 16 of the 27 overall entrants.  Craig Light on his Bultaco 'Metralla' immediately went into the lead.  I had just met Craig at the USCRA Moto Giro in August, where he rode a Bultaco Lobito 175 then, the next weekend, he was at CMP with the Metralla.  His backround is in MX and enduros and he only started road racing last year and apparently, he had never road raced in the rain.  And it was really raining, but I wasn't willing to go at his pace and he pulled away and then Colton Roberts, Jonas Stein and Joe Koury came by on their F-125 bikes for the second wave.  Colton got by Craig for the overall win and I was a distant 5th overall and 2nd (of three) in the class.

This is from Saturday's 250GP (I think)before the Kourys, father and son, passed me. Father #951 finished ahead of me, son #357 didn't finish. I don't know who took the photo as someone sent it to me after finding it on the internet.

The 350GP was in race #7 gridded behind 350 Sportsman and ahead of Novice Historic Production Heavyweight, all in one wave.  Five of the ten 350GP entrants, and 13 of the 24 overall entrants started.  Jerry Duke led the 350GP and the overall on his Ducati.  Eric Cook slotted into 2nd O.A. on his 350 Sportsman bike.  I was third overall initially, but on the 3rd lap, Craig Light came by on his 250 Metralla.  I was trying to hang with Craig, but he was pulling away.  Then my ignition coil fell off and I came to a stop.  I was credited with 11th overall and 4th in class, because Jason Roberts had his carbs gum up on his TD2b Yamaha and he didn't finish the 1st lap.

Remounting the coil was simple and I had the bike running again in an hour or so and was ready for Sun.  Conditions were a little better on Sunday but still very wet for both my races.  And, for some reason I felt a little more with it.  In the 250GP, I got in the lead overall quickly, but Colton Roberts came by on his F-125 bike.  On  the last lap, I got baulked lapping a rider and Craig Light got by me, but I got back by him and finished less than 1/4 second ahead of him, though his fastest lap was more than half a second faster than mine.  My fastest lap was more than 8 1/4 seconds faster than I had gone on Sat., where as Craig's was only 3 1/8 seconds faster.

In the 350GP race, Jerry Duke again got the jump on our class behind some 350 Sportsman bikes.  I passed Jerry going into turn #5 on the first lap, then Jason Roberts came by on the back straight, having changed the oil in his pre-mix.  Stan Miller crashed his Sportsman bike in turn#13, which caused Jason and me to check up a bit.  Then Jason crashed in the last corner of the first lap.  These crashes put the chill on any heroic on my part, but I managed to maintain the overall lead.  Jerry showed me a wheel several times, but I held him off and finished less the 3/4 of a second ahead of him.  My best lap was 15 seconds faster than Sat., whereas Jerry's and Craig's were closer to 9 1/2 seconds faster.  But, Jerry had the fastest lap of the race, more than 3/8 seconds better than my best.  It was good ending the weekend on an up note with two wins in close races and, perhaps more importantly, surviving.

The only photo I took at Barber: Doc Batsleer's CL 90 Honda which he bought new back in the mid '60s.  He told me that he was inspired to bring it to Barber after seeing the Aerostich ad in a magazine with me and a friends CL 90.

From Barber, I drove to Savannah and spent a few days with friends.  One of the first things that I did was dry my racing gear.

My friend, Dr. Dan Levine, showed me his latest project, a Rickman 500 Triumph.  The chassis is all new replica of period gear.  The front brake, a replica Robinson 4LS, and the forks, replica Ceriani 35mm, both came from Hungary.  The frame and body work came from England where Adrian Moss now owns the Rickman name.  Dan is threatening to race it.

Dr. Dan Levine with his Rickman Triumph Daytona.

Thurs., I drove to Denton, N.C., for the Antique Motorcycle Club of America meet there.  I noticed that my route there took me through Cheraw, S.C., which rang a bell.  Cheraw is where Dizzy Gillespie was born and grew up and, being a big fan of Dizzy, I made a point of stopping there.  His boyhood home is no longer there, but there is a park on the lot where his house stood, with great stainless steel sculptures of his horn, the notes to his composition "Salt Peanuts", etc.  Then a local guided me to the town green where there is a 7' tall statue of Dizzy blowing his horn.  Cheraw has Revolutionary and Civil war history and is a lovely place that honors its favorite son well. 

The bikes at Denton were mostly Harleys with a good number of Indians, but there was a smattering of British, Japanese and Italian bikes, too.  Denton Farmpark, where the event was held, was just chock full of old stuff: old farm machinery. a complete old machine shop with everything belt driven, an old gas station, etc., etc.  

An old linotype machine?

My friend Will Paley brought his 1920 ABC, a British across the frame opposed twin (before there was a BMW), with swing arm rear suspension, overhead valves and a four speed gearbox--ahead of it's time.  Will's ABC was parked next to a 1920 Indian Model W Sport Twin, a fore and aft opposed twin that was unrestored and started easily and ran great.  Another friend, Terry Wolbert, drove out from his home in Yamhill, Or., with five girder fork British bikes including a JAP engined Panther, and an AJW, an obscure and short lived bike.

Will Paley's 1920 ABC

Terry Wolbert's Panther.

A Triumph dirt dragster with reversed cylinder head.

Sat. morning a few of us rode to a museum about 16 miles away in Ashboro, American Classic Motorcycle Museum.  It was all Harley--Knuckles, Pans, and Shovels, with two Sprints, but it had a few good race posters on the walls and the covers from The Enthusiast Magazine, the in house Harley monthly, from the 1920s to the 1970s.  A couple of the race posters that intrigued me were from 1964 when Rodger Reiman went 156mph on a 250 Sprint powered streamliner at Bonneville and the next year, when George Roeder went 176mph on what looked like the same streamliner also powered by a 250 Sprint (running on gas).  It seemed incredible to me that they could go 20mph faster in one year.

Jack led the ride to the museum on this well patina-ed Panhead.

After returning to Denton Farmpark,  I went to hear the results of the judging.  The AMCA judges bike against their specs and appearance compared to when they came out of the factory new.  Points can be taken off for things as small as having the wrong spark plugs in the motor.  But, after this, a Concourse D' Ordinaire was held.  I put my '68 TC200 Suzuki in the line up.  I thought they had a prize for Most Rusty, but I parked next to a XS 650 Yamaha that was well rustier that my Suzuki, so I didn't think that I had a chance there.  But, I had misread the category and it was Most Rustic, not rusty, and I won.  It could have something to do with the fact that Will Paley was judge, but I'll proudly display the plaque anyway.  

The bike that won "Most Rustic" in the Concourse D'Ordinaire"

Five days after I got back home, I got a Covid-19 test and the result was 'none detected', so it looks like I got away with it once again.