Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Each year at the Legend of the Motorcycle Concours, an artist is given a conference room at the Ritz to display motorcycle-related paintings or sculpture. Last weekend the room was occupied by the paintings of Conrad Leach, pictured beside his portrait of Peter Fonda (in his Wild Angels role). As you can see, the paintings are large scale (8' - 10' tall), and beautiful; Conrad had a 5 year contract as artist for the Louis Vuitton stores, and is now branching out, and selling his paintings at galleries and at exclusive shows.

The Norton painting with the pink (!) Union Jack looks a bit like Jimmy Guthrie ca 1934... I coveted it, I wanted it, I considered it, I talked it over with my wife...but the $10k price tag, while very reasonable for a large-scale original painting, was simply too much at the moment. I understand Alain de Cadanet bought it instead; I hope it looks good in your living room, Alain.

If you like what you see, he sells giclee (ie, photographic) prints of these and other paintings, including James Bond (Connery, of course), and two Ferrari GTOs (the models for which happened to have been owned by Alain de C, so I guess it was his karma to buy 'my' painting). I think George Cohen will be selling prints of the Norton through his site 'Norton Singles'. There is a rumor that George's most recent creation, the flat-tank 'Silverknob' which he showed at Brooklands and Stafford, will be a future subject of Conrad's paintbrush. Can't wait to see that one.

Below are scans which Conrad sent (much better than my lousy pocket camera snaps!)


I scored a coveted Friday ticket to Stafford, which is meant for traders and display only, so I was able to take a good look around the grounds before the public showed up in droves. There isn't a show in the US which has the same extent of club stands, autojumble stalls, auction halls, and bikes for sale. Every small and large club seemed to have a presence and a few bikes on display; the Rudge club had a '1940 on the beach' display, complete with lots of sand under the bikes.
This first photo was taken at 8 am, an hour before the public was allowed in... as you can see, there were already a few thousand people waiting. By 10am the area was swarming with people, and by noon it became difficult to see into the vendor's stalls. The variety of items on offer was impressive - one fellow's entire tent was ohc Norton spares, including loose engines.

The second pic shows a ca. 1906 DeDion Bouton engine, lying on the tarmac, waiting for a new home. It was one of three I saw on the day... and I thought they were rare. They were a popular engine in the Pioneer days, when it was difficult to find a reliable motor for your small production motorcycle.

Another stall had not only this Douglas 90+ for £4950, but two Vintage Royal Enfield v-twins... I saw another three of these available. Was it the day for Enfields?
The earlier model used a Vickers engine (noted for making guns more than motors), the other a JAP.

Stalls tended to have a real mixed bag on offer, as did this one; a 20's lightweight, a 50's AJS thumper, 70's Triumph trials machine, a rigid BSA sidevalve, and a modern Suzuki RG500. What an eclectic collection.

The Scott club had a great stand, and Roger Moss had a corner to himself, to display the 'cover girl' of the most recent VMCC newsletter - his racing Scott. The next photo shows the bike in action at Cadwell Park; yes it is airborne, and yes it is that fast. Roger is a gifted engineer, and the engine of this machine is entirely of his own manufacture, to the original appearance of a Scott, but with a completely strengthened and improved spec to the crank, pistons, barrel, and crankcase. Roger made the double-sided front hub from solid dural, and spent time explaining the Bendix adjustment system of the single-trailing-shoe arrangement. Some of his improved parts on the table are in fact the engine of John Sims, local (to me) Velocette enthusiast.

If you needed a replica Fontana, Grimeca, or Manx Norton brake, you could find one here. They only cost money...

By noon, the crowd looked like this; a sea of people swarming in from the entry gate. Besides the outdoor autojumble, which was about the same size as Netley Marsh, there were several large halls which were full of autojumble stalls and club stands. Plenty to look at.

I loved this Panther from the Panther OC stand. The best transfer... and they had respectable performance during this period (1930) as well.

Any kind of horrible deep fried food you could need was lined up in trailers; fish and chips, burgers, panini, shredded pork, bacon sandwiches, the lot. No deep fried oreos though; they haven't discovered American bad cooking yet. Soon.

The photo of the hottie was tucked onto a wall displaying vintage Scott photos, behind the bikes. When I queried the woman tending the club stand about it, she said her husband had figured it would be much more interesting than a bunch of old bike photos! It's Helen Mirren, ca 1969-ish. I'll never look at her the same.

The Velocette club stand had a few holdovers from Brooklands, which could be observed closely as they were static in the Hall. This is the ultra-rare Veloce, forerunner of the Velocette, which is owned by Dave Masters, who literally wrote the book on swingarm Velocettes. This was the first all-Veloce model, with their own ioe engine with an in-unit 2 speed gearbox. The small two-stroke Model A in the Brooklands post was the diminutive version of the Veloce, hence the 'Veloce-ette' name... the small bike remained, the big bike was dropped, and when next the Veloce company tried to introduce a bike with 'Veloce' on the tank, nobody remembered that there had been such before the introduction of the lightweight two stroke.

Did you say you were looking for a bike for the Moto Giro? Here were 6, all pre-1957 125-175cc machines; pushrod, ohc, and dohc, increasing in price according to capacity and complexity.

If you need a set of rare forks made, for example if you shunt your mkVIII Velocette, you'll need to speak with this fellow, Ray Daniels, who will build you a brand new set of forks. A very handy skill... forks in my opinion being replaceable without ruining the provenance of the machine.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Yamaha Recalls CP250 and YP400 for Fuel Pump Problem

Yamaha has issued a recall of certain 2006-2007 CP250 and 2005-2007 YP400 motorcycles.

The engine could stall and be difficult to restart because the wire terminals in the fuel pump wire coupler have corroded. Water can enter from the main wire harness end and run through the harness to the fuel pump coupler. If the water remains in the coupler for an extended period of time, the terminals can become corroded, which can prevent the fuel pump from operating properly.

9600 units are affected.

Check out my Motorcycle Recalls feature for more details.

Motorcycle Pictures of the Week - Shawn on his Spyder 300

Here are my Pictures of the Week as displayed on the Motorcycle Views Web site. These are taken from the Moto Pic Gallery.

See Shawn on his Johnny Pag Spyder 300.

If you'd like to see your bike as Picture of the Week, submit a picture of you and your bike along with a description of the bike.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Motorcycle FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions About Motorcycles

I have just released a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the Motorcycle Views Web site.

The questions and answers in the motorcycle FAQ cover a wide variety of information about motorcycling.

My approach is to consider the various phases that a motorcyclist goes through in his/her search for motorcycle information.

In the beginning, a prospective motorcyclist may just have basic questions. As they get deeper into the subject and actually realize that they want to learn to ride, their questions change.

As a person becomes a rider, they then want to buy a motorcycle and all the stuff that goes with it. The questions continue changing as the rider becomes more experienced.

I attempt to treat most of these major questions normally asked throughout the complete life of a motorcyclist -- a big undertaking.

Check out my Motorcycle FAQ for the complete set of questions and answers.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


April 20, 2008 was 100 years to the day of the first official Brooklands motorcycle race. There had been a match race the previous February, between Oscar Bickford and Gordon McMinnies (both Oxford undergrads at the time), on a Vindec special and a Triumph. McMinnies won the race on his TT Model Triumph, and later was founding editor of Motor Cycling magazine. Racing hoodlum goes legit!
This is the fourth Brooklands event I've attended, and dwarfed all previous with the number of entries and bikes on display, and the crowd milling around. The old motto, 'the Right Crowd and No Crowding' certainly didn't apply on the day, but I didn't mind a bit. It was all crackling noise and excitement from the moment Dai pulled the car into the lot, very early in the morning. Someone was firing up an alcohol-burning veteran in the parking area, with all attendant smoking and noise. We got distracted at the entry by the autojumble stalls, especially a scrapbook of original racing photos from ca 1934-36... lovely to look at, but at £3000, it was waaay out of my league. I'd rather have another motorcycle!

The giant grassy outfield was host to several one-make clubs (Scott, Douglas, Vincent), but the Velocette club dwarfed them all with a huge entry of machines from 1913 - 1971, including the Roarer, and the oldest known Velo of Dave Masters, recently featured in Classic Motorcycle. See photo of Dai sitting on the 1913 Model A Velocette, which was fired up by Tim Simkins, who looks after the two-stroke side of the Velocette Owner's Club. Velo made their early reputation on excellent little 'strokers, before they leapt directly to ohc bikes (the 1926+ K series), and went 'one step back' in '33 with the introduction of the ohv MOV 250cc. Their last tw0-stroke was the GTP of 1948 - I used to own one, and it was a lovely little bike, but too slow for my tastes! See movie of the Model A being fired up... with a kiss to the petrol tank!

Graham Rhodes was tending the Roarer, which everyone was hoping would be fired up, but this wasn't to be as Ivan was busy, and Graham is unable to ride since his 2005 Manx TT win (he has developed MS). His father Ivan raced around the grounds on the '26 Alec Bennett TT-winning ohc 350cc K model (pre KTT, this was a hotted up standard roadster). The bike is in original paint and plating, and has a rustic patina for sure, but is all the more compelling for it. See the video of Ivan not slacking up the Test Hill. He has been racing old Velocettes since they were barely old at all!

I'll have to make another post with more individual bike photos, as there were so many unique or very rare machines being ridden around. Several collectors brought out their best hidden gems, including a New Imperial 250cc with a LeVack-created dohc JAP engine - one of 6 built. This same fellow has two of the six Sunbeam Crocodiles built in 1926, and was kind enough to let me sit astride what is, for me, a personal dream machine; no I didn't make brrrb brrrb noises. I had actually arranged to meet this fellow beforehand, as we have a mutual friend, and he graciously invited me to visit his collection in Austria (subject of another post!). The Crocodile is called thus as, like the Croc in Peter Pan, it goes 'tick tock', unlike the traditional silence of the ohv and sv Sunbeams. A close look at the bike reveals the cylinder barrel which is cast for an ohv machine, and still has the indents for the two pushrods. Clearly, not ready for production - all these ohc 'Beams were factory experiments, which they dropped when performance proved disappointing (they didn't use a strobe light to see how the valves were bouncing around with different cam shapes - that took Harold Willis of Velocette to sort out).

There were racing Douglas' from the 20's which ranged from scruffy and original to ultra-resplendent in nickel plating and silver/blue paint schemes. The sounded phenomenal, and looked so fast just sitting there. Each of them seemed to be different as well, with changes to carbs, airboxes, wheels, tanks, etc, even though they were from the same small factory, and within perhaps only 4 years of production range, 1925-29.

Chris Illman, whose Norton-JAP sprinter was featured in an earlier post, brought along some of his 'gear' (knowing how much I like Really Cool Gear) - here's a photo of a watch which was presented to Freddy Dixon, after winning 4 classes at a race meeting in 1921, on his Harley-Davisdon. He got the watch on ebay, and was I kicking myself while vowing to find a search engine for ebay Brooklands stuff? He also has a copy of my favorite book in the world, Joe Bayley's 'The Vintage Years at Brooklands", which was the personal copy of Dr Bayley, and was signed by all the surviving racers who he mentions in the book. Now, I believe there is only one left, featured in my previous post on Dennis Loveday.

George Cohen showed up with his vintage Norton equipe, a camper truck with a host of really good racing bikes, ranging from early 20's sidevalvers, to late prewar ohc Model 30M. He's pictured astride his latest creation, a flat-tank special Model 18, which is a mix of old and new parts, including new alloy tanks and a freshly made frame. He's almost finished the detail work, and thinks it should do 100mph on the road. "After all, if Rex Judd can do 100mph for an hour on his in 1924, I should be able to as well..." Go George Go!

I heard a rumor that the fellow in the vintage tweed suit pictured near the Roarer, is the grandson of Locke, who built Brooklands in 1907; can anyone confirm this? We spoke of course about vintage clothing and period-correct clothing, as the and the ladies pictured are part of an 'art deco' society which has gatherings totally in time-specific dress. Check out this video of one of their gatherings at an estate in England. It's almost totally perfect, bar one or two things, like modern spectactles and the odd digital camera or cell phone!

Enjoy the rest of these atmospheric photos; if you've never been to Brooklands, and are interested in older racing motorcycles, I can't recommend it strongly enough.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Joe Motorcycle - Just an Average Guy

I happened to run into a biker friend of mine named Joe Motorcycle. Now Joe is an average guy, kinda like Charlie Brown in the comics. Joe spends a lot of time on the Internet, especially on the Motorcycle Views site and on the Motorcycle Views Forum when he's not out riding his bike.

Joe has consented to answer a few questions for me. I must warn you though. Joe is a man of few words.

Oh, and please resist the temptation to click on the links until we get to the end of the interview. If you do click the answers, please remember to use the Back button to return to the interview with Joe.

Walt: "What brand of motorcycle do you ride Joe?"

Joe: "Hey, I just got a new Harley-Davidson Softail Rocker. It's great!"

Walt: "How did you learn to ride?"

Joe: "Never went to one of those new schools. Learned on my own."

Walt: "What color is your scoot?"

Joe: "Some people around here seem to like red but the only motorcycle color I like is black."

Walt: "How many motorcycles do you own?

Joe: "Well, I used to have an old Panhead but had to sell it. I only have one motorcycle these days."

Read the rest of the interview


[Saturday, April 19, south of London, Kempton Park race track]
The Kempton Park autojumble is held several times per year at this horse racing track, and although my host Dai Gibbison insists the quality of goods on offer has gone down in recent years, the available spares and old motorcycles are more varied than any event held in the 'states. It's cold and drizzly here today, and unfortunately my suitcase was still sitting in San Francisco when I arrived in London Friday morning.... so I had to borrow some warm clothes. We didn't get rained on during the day, which was a blessing, as I was numb by the end of 5 hours 'looking down' and scouring the stalls for good parts. I mostly found books and magazines, which is great, but getting them home is always an issue... so I always carry an empty duffle bag in my suitcase for the return trip. Still, it looks like a box will be shipped to San Francisco, as the huge Stafford show is next weekend, and I just know there will be a KTT engine waiting for a new home...

The very first stall had, of course, Velocette parts, mostly in the shape of two LE's. I say 'shape' as one of the bikes had a replacment frame made of welded strip steel (sort of like a Nimbus, now that I think of it), instead of the monocoque body which originally clothed the mechanicals. It was clever, but not as clever as the bolted-up Meccano LE built in the 70's (see top pic - that's Dai investigating).

You never know what you'll find, and this Wade supercharger was one of THREE blowers at one fellow's stall, ranging from this giant Rootes type (good for a yank v8), to a medium size Shorrock (perfect for a Triumph), to a tiny little 150cc hair dryer of a thing, which would be perfect to hopping up your Moto Giro bike.

Every stall seemed to have at least one machine for sale, with lightweights the most common. Usually these were Lambrettas or Panther 250cc or Bianchi moped, but this Ariel 3 caught my eye. I know one contemporary scooter mf'r has a 3 wheeler - is it Piaggio? This was the prototype, which is, to my eye, a fairly clean and attractive design. Unfortunately, the dying British industry had no idea how to advertise it - the best they could come up with was 'Here it is, Whatever it is...". If Ariel couldn't sell a flourescent orange 3-wheel scooter in the drugged-out early 70's, they deserved to go out of business.

Also for sale were representatives of 1920's, 30's, and later machines, and this '25 Douglas was typical of the variety; well-used, original, running well. This was a tempting machine, but as the Dollar is the new Peso, I passed on the £3500 asking price. Nice machine, and it has gears and a clutch, which makes it rideable in city traffic, if a bit slow. And yes, it rained a bit during the day, but an oily-rag cleaning keeps the water at bay! Dai claimed a few of the vendors sold only rust, in the shape of motorcycle parts, but I found the variety excellent. Not many 1920's racing bits though, so my metal content was fairly low at the end of the day, which I've come to expect. We paid double in the morning to enter before the general public, and I was intrigued to watch items shift from stall to stall as vendors bought from each other, and resold them from their own space later in the day.

If you have a taste for Italian machinery there was plenty available, including this tasty Ducati 250cc cafe racer. It's done up to look like one of Gus Kuhn's 60's racers, with a short humpy seat and megaphone. I didn't ask how much.

And, because I'm into gear as well as being a gearhead, I was happy that one vendor sold only vintage motorcycle clothing. These two photos are from the Hi-Star Clothing stall, and they had old helmets as well as the odd racing suit, riding pants, and of course racks of leather jackets. I especially like 'Mole's' Rocker coat - has he gone underground? How do you give up your customized leather jacket(especially with that nickname)? Maybe he just got too big... which has happened to some of the jackets I've painted for other people (subject of another blog post - are you listening, Josiah?). Most of the stalls had a jacket or two for sale; it seems genuine, vintage Belstaff waxed-cotton Trailmaster jackets are selling for £1-200, no matter what their condition, and most of them were fairly rotten - the height of cool. I haven't had one since my last Trailmaster suit was stolen 10 years ago. They ruin any other clothing they touch, though; the wax gets incredibly filthy.

My next bike - this hippie-fied Enfield India, with tied-on feathers, god's eyes, bungee'd center stand, and saddle bags quilted from old curtains. Grooovy.

But, if I could fit it into my suitcase, this little Bianchi moped would be the perfect San Francisco Moped Army soldier. Shockingly cute and tiny, I probably should have bought it for my daughter... I'm a Bad Dad.

And, when the electricity goes away, you can still make parts for your bike (which will run on homebrew alcohol) on this treadle lathe, a relic of the Victorian Iron Age. Need to cut faster? Hurry up!

Something you don't know about me; I'm horribly Addicted To English Puddings, and the king of them all is the Treacle Sponge with warm Custard sauce... I get weak in the knees just thinking about it. If you've never, you must. This one was excellent, from a pub called The Bell, outside Reading; a 14th century half-timbered Tudor building with charming Gothic doorways, and a warm fire. The Sponge was washed down with a fine cask ale, hand-pumped by the barman. The two best things about England; desserts, and pubs.