Here's a picture of Mike and I making astrophysical connections with our tractor beam hats, or 'galatic signal helmets' if you prefer. All part of the fun at our annual get-together in Westby, Wisconsin. Check out Doug's blog for a good read of the weekend: http://coopdwaycorner.blogspot.com/.
We just returned from the 2014 Manx TT on the Isle of Man. Any lover of vintage motorcycles will find this race week completely satisfying for the eye candy, culture, climate, landscape, and transport. One of the biggest thrills is to stand at the base of Bray Hill and watch the race bikes coming down the long straight at wide open throttle, hit the bottom swale, compress the suspension, bend right, and shoot up the hill, gone in a moment. A few of the pictures below capture this. These vintage classics are thrillingly fast and beautiful. The 500cc class bikes are lapping the 37 mile course at a 110 mph average, which is a remarkable accomplishment given the age of the bikes and the demands placed on them for a four lap race. The 350cc class bikes were equally remarkable, lapping the course 3 times over at a 100 mph average (2 pictures below). It was a great week. The abundance of vintage motorcyles was remarkable, like a swarming ant hill. We stayed at King William's College in Castletown, along with the Honda CB 1100 club (picture below), who showed up in very impressive order each day. There were 35 of them on the afternoon that we took this shot. There were similar marque specific clubs all over the island with fine vintage collections.
Every year I lead a vintage motorcycle overnight ride down through the coulees of South Western Wisconsin primarily on rural county roads, ending the ride for the night at the RKD Motel in Arcadia, WI. The county roads of Wisconsin are identified by letters of the alphabet; hence this overnight ride is referred to as the “Alphabet Ride” in the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club. I use the opportunity to do an extended shakedown ride of a freshly restored bike, as we typically cover approximately 250 – 300 miles over the two day period. This summer I picked the SR 500, which was very fortuitous due to the unexpected amount of road resurfacing gravel we encountered. The SR is very amenable to dirt and gravel as its more senior brother the XT500 was designed and built as a dirt bike first and a street bike second. They are very torquey and light, and the SR has brakes that are well above the norm for bikes of that period, and at only 353 lbs it is much easier to control on the back roads. Our ride for next year will repeat the same destination but will include a different bike for sure.
Sometimes the getting and the giving are more fun than the bikes we acquire. We have had several great travel adventures recently. In July 2011 my son-in-law Amit and I trailered two ’64 Yamaha YG1s to their new home in Vermont. These 80cc bikes are perfect for the mountainous and gentle pace of the southern Vermont area with its mix of firm gravel and serpentine paved asphalt. Cruising speed is a delightful 20-30 mph on gravel and 30-40 mph on pavement. Although I could have sold the bikes in a filling station parking lot in southern Wisconsin, we completed the trip from River Falls, Wisconsin to Brattleboro, Vermont in two 12-hour days. When we unloaded the bikes, I noticed a small oil leak on the trailer floor and headed into Brown and Roberts, the classic Vermont hardware store with 3 levels of creaking hardwood flooring, to pick up a new oil drain plug washer rather than just over tighten the existing washer.Brown and Roberts did not have exactly what I wanted but as we left downtown Brattleboro I noticed a motorcycle shop tucked into a cliff on Flat Street. The owner, Stan Lynde, is a very helpful guy.He went to the trouble of sitting down at his computer to see if he could find the exact size on a parts fiche.Not able to do so, he handed me a dozen aluminum washers with the request that I return the pieces we didn’t need. As he went through the exploded diagrams I dropped my card on his desk. He looked at the card, then at me, and asked, “Are you Mark?” Turns out he and his staff check out our website frequently. Now Amit has a new best friend for parts and service on his pair of ’64 Yamaha YG1s. Stan might also know where there is a parts bike to feed Amit’s pair. That was a good morning. I was chuffed. Stan’s business is Lynde Motorsports, 79 Flat Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301. You can email him at email@example.com. They had a motorcycle and music festival on August 5, 2011 that sounded very promising.
Here is a picture of the two ’64 Yamaha YG1s being inspected by my grandson:
In April 2011, Mike Blackburn, Minnesota coordinator for the Yamaha 650 Society, and I pulled an empty trailer 12 hours southwest to Council Grove, Kansas to pick up “The Mongrel.”It is a blend of many backgrounds, hence its name. It started life as an ’81 650 Special. Then it got a 750 big bore motor, heavy duty rods, elephant foot rockers, Web #59 cam, mild exhaust porting, Mikuni 34mm round slides, overdrive on 4th and 5th gear, heavy clutch, and a variety of other goodies. It had been sitting for a while and the carbs were pretty rough, but on its test run, once it got through the plugged low speed circuit, it pulled like a crazed ape through all the gears, turning 4,000 at 70 instead of 60 like the stock tranny would deliver. When we got it back here I installed a Mike’s XS café seat and a pair of laced aluminum spoked rims from a ’73 Yamaha TX750, which have a huge rear brake. It looks and handles more like a real motorcycle now. It sounds, looks and runs better with a 2 into 1 exhaust too. Turns out Council Grove, Kansas was the last stop before venturing onto the Santa Fe Pioneer trail in the 1850s. In fact, the Last Chance Store stone building is still in place on the west side of town. When I looked west from there is it obvious why people believed the world was flat prior to the Renaissance. Toward the end of the 12-hour return trip, while stopped at a red light, some guy in a Suburban honked and pointed urgently back at the trailer. I lowered the window expecting to hear the bike had fallen over and was engulfed in flames. He shouted out, “Hey, nice bike. Wanna sell it?” Here are a couple of shots of "The Mongrel."