Safety on Vintage Motorcycles

After hearing about a fellow CB350 riders crash caused by “Vintage” brake shoes, (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH SHOES FROM Vintage Brake, I felt obligated to assemble this list items to consider with all vintage motorcycles. Having resurrected many vintage motorcycles, more than 100 350K Hondas, I have seen many complications, or at least their results, as well as my own experiences. I recommend you print this information and go over you bike while reading.

MSF Motorcycle Safety Course is the best motorcycle investment a ride can ever make. Has it been a decade since you took your course? Consider another basic course or perhaps an advanced course.

IF safety is the concern that it should be, on any motorcycle, TIRE PRESSURE is the one variable most in your control and easiest to keep correct!

Modern and vintage bikes are both dangerous without functional mirrors. Managing the traffic behind you is a major part of “riding awareness”.

CHAIN: Neglected chains damage sprockets and can break causing; a loss of power to the rear wheel, a chain wrapped around your front sprocket, or worst case scenario – a locked up rear wheel taking away most all the control you had just seconds before.

CABLES: They are called control cable. Loss of the function of any of the cables means loss of control. 50 year old cables are great for EMERGENCY situations. If they’re still on your bike, the EMERGENCY is waiting to show it’s ugly face at any time.

ELECTRICAL CONNECTIONS: Riding down the road and having your ignition cut off in traffic is a very dangerous place to be. ANY SIGN of intermittent behaviour of your machine should be resolved before proceeding on the road. Consider taking a can of PB Blaster to each and every electrical connection, rotating and removing and replacing the male bullet connector in and out of the female connector to rub metal on metal removing corrosion in those places where the connectors mate with each other. Leave any remnants of Blaster behind to continue penetrating and dissolving corrosion and protecting metal with remaining residue. If your kill switch is misbehaving you can bypass it inside the headlight until resolved.

Charging System: Failed charging systems are another way to lose control of your machine. You can also find yourself stranded wherever it happens to fail. The 350K Honda charging system is actually a very crude and archaic means of keeping the battery (designed for lead/acid batteries) with a positive charge. The “Orange Fin” Zener diode bridge rectifier is connected directly to the battery. When, not if, the 50 year old rectifier dies, it’s usually a short circuit. This takes the battery and drains it to ground (EVEN WITH THE IGNITION SWITCH TURNED OFF!). Left this way for a couple of weeks, your battery, no matter how new it is, will likely not recover when charged. The “Points based” voltage regulator is as crude a concept as “electronics” has to offer. “It works well enough”. Although by it’s nature, shortens the life of a battery. Modern Solid State regulator/rectifier units are more efficient and much more forgiving and extend the life of a battery. DANGER! Never use a LITHIUM battery with the original charging system! Lithium batteries have a history of catching fire with modern solid state charging systems. Using the points based voltage regulator is asking for trouble. Points based charging systems ALWAYS exceed manufacturer’s maximum allowable voltages! I’m working on creating a combo regulator/rectifier that will available at ASAP!

Brake shoes (front and rear, either will take control away from you in a heartbeat) I race with vintage brake shoes on the rear brakes of my CL350 stocker to “detune” braking in the rear to avoid rear tire/wheel lock-ups at speed. I inspect them with a magnifying glass and verify that the glue is connected to both the shoe and the brake material all the way around. Any material that is partially delaminated, is dangerous and should be removed from the bike. NEW MODERN BRAKE SHOES with new technology brake material is far superior to used or NOS and at $35 is a no-brainer to remove the vintage effect from the functionality of the brake system.

Steering bearings, I sport a scar on my shoulder for this flaw and am so grateful it happened to me and not the buyer who was scheduled to receive the bike that day. TAPERED ROLLER STEERING BEARINGS is a safety and handling upgrade which is worth its weight in gold. You will never know what the condition of your steering bearing until you take the steering column apart. While you are at that point it only takes $50 to have the permanent solution which is so much easier to work with from then on out, not having to deal with 30+ ball bearings slopped in grease or dropping all over your floor and waiting to be hunted down, counted and put back into the bearing races after clean all.

WHEEL TRUING AND BALANCING: 50 year old wheels have a history. Some histories are easier to see than others. Looking down the length of each spoke will help visualise straightness of each spoke. Tapping each spoke with a 14/17/19mm wrench and listening for pitch of each spoke will assist in sensing tightness. The only way to really check off this variable is to remove the tire and, if ALL spoke nipples turn smoothly reusing spokes may be a possibility. If you chose this route, remove each nipple individually, clean thread area and grease interior of nipple before placing back on the recently cleaned and greased spoke. However, there’s nothing as nice as new OEM type spokes, although new Buchanan spokes are even nicer. Truing the wheel, removing almost all imperfections of eccentricity of wheels makes balancing require so much less weight and eliminates the need for steering dampers in street use.

RIM WIDTH: Research your tire manufacturer’s specifications for rim requirements for your size tire and you’ll be surprised just how “pinched” your tire profile actually is.

Example: Continental Road Attack 2 Radial (ROCKS) in the 90/90-18″ size wants a 2.15″ wide rim. That’s two sizes larger than the 1.60″ front rim of a CB/CL350.

REAR SWING ARM BUSHINGS: It’s so easy to test if this is needed. Bike on center stand, kneel behind your bike, grab the rear of the rear wheel and push the wheel towards each end of the rear axle. If this side to side motion shows no slack at the swing arm mount, then all you need is to GREASE THE SWING ARM BUSHINGS with the sirtS on each end of the swing arm shaft.

Wheel bearings, I’ve never heard of an issue, but unsealed bearings on the inside. This is not a problem if the wheel ALWAYS stayed mounted on the bike. But for those wheels with unknown history, one possibility for danger is a removed wheel leaned up against a building where rain gets into the axle chamber and water on bearings is what caused the rustedsteering bearings that scarred my shoulder. New wheel bearings at $12 per set is the last thing I do before mounting a fully modernized wheel on a bike. Todays bearings are sealed on BOTH SIDES.

I originally started this article based on order of importance. Realizing that they are all important, i rearranged the items to the order of likeliness of occurrence. Although this article was prompted by the failure of a set of brake shoes, my experience has shown this to be quite rare. Check the frame lower and front of engine. If this area is rougn from rust, you want to go straight to inspecting/replacing the front brake shoes. It’s just the one indicator I’ve found that may be indicative of brake shoe condition.

Addendum #1:

Rob Zwiercan AND ALL 350K Lovers: Thank you for helping me refine the list of items to address!

Rim Straps/Strips: Vintage Racers already say NO to Rim Strips! As I spent my first year racing a Norton that developed a high speed wobble, the faster our times got, SAY NO TO RIM STRIPS! There’s a reason that there is a new product out there call Rim Tape. Rim Strips SLIP! The Norton problem was that a rim strip had slipped under about 1/3 the way around of one side of the tire. It ended up lodged between the tire and the bead of the rim. As my times got faster and I was on faster tracks, I was holding on for dear life while the handle bars wrenched left and right out of my control. Racers use duct tape. Two wraps, overlapping at the valve stem hole and it stays where you put it. I have no experience with rim tape.

As for Tires, I also need to point out my Help article: I have a complete section on Modern Tires on Vintage Rims at the bottom of the page And for that matter, the resurrection of 350 Hondas is covered in FatAoVMR8x (Friends and the Art of Vintage Motorcycle Restoration) , a compilation of tech support for 350 lovers before there was a Facebook forum like the one we now gather on.

Air Boxes/Filters: With rare few exceptions, usually found on CL350s that were dirt road ridden, I’ve always been amazed by the functionality and how most can be run as is.

Tubes are another area where if nothing else (as a survivalist) I have two tubs of used tubes that I just cant bring myself to throw out. Yes they are inexpensive to replace. However, the ones that I take out of 50 year old wheels have proven themselves as dependable, if still inflated when I get around to them. This also brings up another bragging point about the 350K Honda series. I believe them to be the ultimate survivalist motorcycle. Proliferated like no other highway worthy motorcycle, the 350 Hondas are still distributed around the country waiting to be “found” in barns, outbuildings, and warehouse all over the world.

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2018 Season Opener, Lil Tally II, the Sunday Sequel

As Scott was so kind as to cover the hotel while at Tally, I am so grateful. However, he took things one step further and treated to dinner after Saturday racing. Scott, Jennifer, and Jake were my dinner hosts at Frontera, the choice Mexican restaurant in the Oxford/Anniston area of Alabama. Thank you, Sir, I do appreciate you hospitality.

Sunday morning began with an Egg McMuffin and Coffee. The hash brown was gone before the traffic light on highway 21 allowed access from the McDonald’s parking lot.

As the canopy was destroyed on Saturday, the bikes were left out uncovered overnight with carb intake velocity stacks sealed. Overnight rain was inevitable but the bikes started okay for practice. The day started dry and practice sessions went like clockwork.

Scott had a good run early in the day. Jennifer was sitting things out as she determined she needed time in the saddle with her full leathers, boots and gloves on her CB200 street legal racer.  I was concentrating on all conversations about the rain worthiness, or the lack thereof,  of the Continental Road Attack II CRs. The practice sessions were both run dry, but the  forecast included a rainy afternoon for racing. The first half of the day’s racing went well in the dry traffic. As our time approached, the rain had us under plastic bags hoping that the rain would not fall during our race.

Suited in our leathers, we appreciated the lack of falling rain as 1st call was announced. Starting our bikes, we worked our way towards pit out and traversed the pit row road keeping our engines warm as we lined up leaving modern bikes in front so we could follow them to the back of the grid to our ultimate destination in the back of the pack. The rain had diminished but left the track plenty wet. After second call for the 500GP race we started our engines and road to pit out.

Keeping in mind the reputation of  the Continental Road Attacks in the rain, my mind was focused on sensing slippage between the tires and the wet track. The warm up lap went slowly and without incident. With no sensation of slippage we took our grid positions. The grid of bikes was to be split into two waves on Sunday, unlike the day before. The 500GP class was squeeze between the front of the second wave and was the back of the first. This didn’t make any sense to me unlike being in the back of the back of the pack, as was the case on Saturday.

As all bikes were in position, the number board was flipped to 2, lowered into place, flipped to 1, turned sideways, and the green flag ripped through the air and we were off. Before we went to the grids, I told Scott of my intention to give him a line to follow. He and I were the only one in our class as Jerry left after racing on Saturday, so I could show him a line to follow to leave the track open for the faster bikes.

Knowing that just seconds after we received the green flag that there would be a second wave of bikes racing up behind us, our job was to stay out of their way. After clearing turn 2, I looked back for Scott and saw fast bikes entering turn 2. As Lil Tally is a left turn track with only one exception, I made a path that kept to the right side of the track. With elbow out and leaning right early to broadcast my intention to take the right hander on the inside, I kept both Scott and I on the right side of the track, within a few feet of the grass.

I left the track multiple times looking back for Scott. Sometimes he was close, other times he was way behind. Little did I know that Scott was having continuing technical difficulties. Eventually I went past him where he went off the track due to a misbehaving engine. This left no reason for me to push any limits. Then it happened…

As I went past Scott the second time, I looked down to notice my battery indicator had gone red. My engine began to sputter. Being passed so many times, I could only hope that I would catch the checkered flag on my next past across the start finish line. Going down the back strait I noticed that I was getting a stalling response with wide open throttle.  Easing back off, responsiveness came back. Zig zagging through the last turn set, I looked down the straight to see the checkered being waved.

Making it across the line, all I had to do now was to make it back to the pits. With the degradation of my motor’s performance, I figured it would be best to look behind me before the right hander in order to get off the track at back side exit. Exactly at the time I exited the track, my engine stalled and I was left to leg it back to the pit which was in sight.

No crashes, no broken bikes, no paperwork. The race was over and although not a rain out, it was kind of a wash out. Looking forward to dry tracks for the rest of the season, I’ll still look into the Continental Road Attack 3 tires as they were specifically designed for better rain handling.

I’d like to thank my sponsor, Mr. Martin Mattes of Sirius Consolidated Incorporated for his continued support and urge everyone thinking about buying any motorsport parts and/or accessories to shop the SCI line up offerings. I’m heading there next for a round of motorcycle resurrecting, life rejuvenating, vintage motor parts for the next round of bikes I need to resuscitate.  Until next time…

The rain soaked 500GP race video can be seen here:

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Racing Season is Back in Swing Again!

After a couple weeks of working on Scott’s CB350 race bike “Slow Motion” and Jennifer’s CB200T racer (known as “Yoda”), I had a couple of days to work on my bike before the Tally season opener. I replaced mufflers, kill switch, alternator engine case gasket and starter plug o-ring, safety wire here, tach mount there, etc… Pushing things down to the wire, I chased my tail for a while having forgot that I stuffed some rags in the intake velocity stacks beyond view. Once settled, I tracked the problem down and loaded for “Lil Tally”.

Scott, Jennifer, and her son Jake had already headed to Oxford and arrived as I hit the road. Scott was so kind as to have hosted a room for me using his hotel points. Arriving at midnight, I unloaded my personal belongings and channel surfed till my thoughts had settled by fatigue. The wake call started the day and I caught up with Scott & company at the very end of pit row.

The first half of the day had Scott and Jennifer taking race school, both classroom and track time, leaving me the chance to take Yoda out for a practice run after I was happy with the performance of “Black Bullitt”. The little 200 was as much fun on the track as I thought it would be. As I got more comfortable with the nimble little machine, I began to scrape the turned out exhaust as I thought might be the case, after removing the center stand making it obvious that the exhaust was the next most protruding hardware. I began to push the bike’s capabilities and had to ease off as the exhaust became “curb feelers” for both left and right turns.

Scott and Jennifer were the only to vintage racers taking the WERA Race School with more than a dozen modern bike riders. Students were following instructors on the track when I came to the conclusion that Scott was a natural and getting into the swing of things. Jennifer had fun on the track as well and looks forward to riding her street legal racer in North Gwinnett county roads to get more comfortable and used to riding in leathers, race boots, gloves, and determining what ergonomic modifications are required for maximum comfort on her bike.

The weekend forecast for Tally was rain, rain, and more rain. Saturday’s 500GP registered racers included Jerry Duke (Champ), Jack Houman, Scott Kulina, and Jennifer Florence. These also appear to have been the ONLY vintage racers to make it to the season opener. Two of the four GP riders are newbies, with 2 more newbies preparing to hit the track in the near future while more and more inquiries are being supported with information necessary to configure and prepare for vintage motorcycle racing.

Saturday’s rain forecast was not so accurate as by the end of the day, the personal discomfort came from the one weather condition not prepared for… sun burn. Sunglasses would have been nice to have as well. The only rain experienced on Saturday occurred during the awards ceremony and was over before the ceremony was complete. I was thinking my vitamin D shortage should be resolved soon and so it came to pass.

Jerry had to admit that he did not need to “transpose” the direction he pointed his race bike when having help starting it using rollers from the other side of his truck. A brain-fart was blamed when he tried to start his engine backwards causing his rear wheel to slide into the rear wheel of his truck and the muffler caught the valve stem of the truck wheel causing a flat. He was able to get his bike started before the race, but had to change the tire upon his return from the track, 😉

WERA’s new Sportsman race scheduled, with many of the vintage classes combined, had the GP500 (which now includes all the GP250 & GP350 bikes) raced with faster modern bikes on the track in the same grid formation. Clubman Expert and Novice, Vintage 4, Vintage 3, and F Superstock all started ahead of us, which made sense. We knew that about halfway through the race the faster racers in the class would lap us and the real excitement would begin. It is my hopes that more and more 350 Honda twin racers will join the CB350 stocker racers so that when our numbers are large enough that we will be able to have our own race class?

As first call for the GP500 race landed we were all suited and heading to fire up the bikes.  Heading to pit out, we were joined by all the bigger faster bikes. It seemed natural to go counter race in the hot pit so that we were in the correct position to follow those racers were would start behind. The pit out worker flagged us onto the track for our warm up lap and we followed the modern bikes around the track. As we reached the grid positions we stopped at the back of the pack and focused on the flagman and number board guy. I could see Jerry to my right and Scott beyond Jerry.

The “2” board had our attention as it was brought from above and lowered to indicate that the countdown process had begun. Engines began to rev in bursts of noisy thunder. The 2 board flipped to 1, 1 was turned sideways, and the green flag ripped through the air and we were charging toward turn one.

At first, I was concerned that we might be gaining too fast on the bikes ahead of and then they shifted into second gear and regained the gap between our classes. It was obvious that the racer in the back of the pack ahead of us was female. She used an accentuate leaning technique and was very comfortable leaning into each turn. As we passed through turn 1, Jerry burst out in front and took the lead of the GP500 pack with me hungry to take it from him. There were about a half dozen Clubman Novices that Jerry and I kept up with for a few laps. During that time, Jerry and I kept swapping places. He would leave the track at the last turn set and I would swoop into the lead. Then he’d determine where he would regain the lead. He was having a few difficulties with brakes and handling, but he definitely had a power advantage with his 350 single Ducati engine.

Taking the advice from Mr. Charlie Young, I removed the bolt that ran through the center of my chrome tipped exhaust as it was truly keeping me from reaching red line operations in 2017. Thank you Charlie! However, Jerry had also made some mods to his bike as per recommendations from Mr. Doug Bowie, Mr. WERA GP350. Each of our machines had received performance enhancements that kept Jerry just ahead of me, like last season.

As there were many red flags in races before ours, the delays left WERA officials with no choice but to shave off laps from each of the remaining races to allow all racers to compete before the sun went down. Combine that with the faster racers that lapped up would take laps from us in the process. Our actual number of laps ended up being 5 short laps with 10 place changes between Jerry and I. The second to last position change had be flying past Jerry and heading toward the checkered flag where Jerry recovered and took the win less than 100 feet from the finish line. Congratulations Jerry (Champ) on his first win of the season!

The new season class changes and schedule has us racing 1 GP500 race on Saturday and 1 on Sunday. The new schedule also left us with sore hands from clapping for so many podium racers from all the classes that ran until the sun was 5 degrees above the horizon. Fortunately, the clouds that crept in had kept the sun from being a visual deterrent that could have blinded racers due to the shortened daylight hours of winter. With race 1 completed we went to Frontera, my favorite Mexican restaurant in Oxford/Anniston Alabama area. Good grub, good company, and great conversations completed the evening before turning in for the night and resting up for Sunday racing the next day.

I do apologize for not having a video to show as something about the GoPro and the memory chip weren’t happy the way they were mated together. After the race, removing the memory chip and replacing in the camera had all system go for Sunday racing. Go figure?

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The Schedule Is Settled and May the Racing Begin

This weekend marks the beginning of the 2018 Vintage Motorcycle Racing Season with the WERA season opener at Talladega Gran Prix Raceway in Munford, Alabama. The past couple weeks have included final refinement of two new race bikes to hit the track for the first time.

Scott Kulina will be taking his WERA race school on his newly completed CB350 stocker race bike configured to be capable to ride to the race track, shed the street components, race for a weekend of vintage motorcycle racing, reconfigure for street riding, and the ability to ride home on the street legal machine. This is one of four such bikes created in the north Atlanta area this winter.

A second such bike, a CB200 that Scott acquired in 2017, will be ridden by Jennifer as her race school ride and she will join us in the GP500 class. This will prove to be the lightest powered bike on the track all weekend long, but Jennifer’s lighter build and great attitude will propel her to great feats this year. Stay tuned as the season evolves.

The third such bike has been temporarily delayed as Barry concentrates on more important matters, but will soon be on the track getting more therapy than he thought possible. The forth and final street/race machine is my most recent project. The red/white early CL350 twin known as “Spittin Fish” is also going to be a street legal race bike that with the help of fellow racers will be ridden from Stone Mountain, GA to Road Atlanta Raceway. It will be street gear stripped after arrival at Road Atlanta, raced on Saturday and Sunday, with the help of fellow racers that will take my race gear to the track, reconfigured for street riding and then ridden home.  This is in hopes of inspiring other vintage motorcycle riders to join us on the track.

Whether as a spectator, hard core racer, or vintage motorcycle rider dabbling in racing, I look forward to seeing you at the track.

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2017 WERA Grand National Finals at Barber Motorsports Park

The end of the season finale was again held at the “finest campus we got to race at”, Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama. November 2nd was the latest I’d ever seen a GNF held and the weather was perfect. Mid 70s and totally overcast. No sweat, no squinting, and no place like Barber to race.

The turnout had been light on this Thursday race day. Doug Bowie was out of the GP350 with recent eye surgery. That left Jerry Duke, David Hurst, and myself to battle for the GP350 title. David Rutherford was at the GNF as the points leader in the GP500. David confidently let all of us know that we should probably just give our bikes a rest rather than making him work for his title. David has been sporting the number 1 plate on his BSA 500 single for some time now. Jerry, David Hurst and I thought it would look good on our bikes as well…

Without a rider’s meeting as the vintage racers have heard the drill many times over, we had lunch after morning practice, stood for the national anthem, and continued onto the racing for the day. Race 4 was the GP500 where the 350 Honda gang joined David Rutherford with this year’s new entrant on his 350 Ducati, Mr. Jerry Duke.  The warm up lap led the small pack of racers to the grid. We took our positions and stared at Ed Bargy, the race marshal for the GNF.

Ed directed the number board be switched from 3 to 2… From over the number man’s head it was slowly brought down to mid height, flipped over to the 1 board, switch to the sideways position… and low and behold,  Jerry Duke just burst down the track followed by the green flag from Ed Bargy. Jerry had just blown his start. All the racers that saw this knew that Jerry would receive the meatball flag associated with his race number soon. This was to be Jerry’s indication that he needed to report to pit row for a stop and go. As close as Jerry and I had raced this season, there was no way he was going to be able to catch up and pass me before the end of the 8 lap race.

Congratulations Jerry, and welcome to Team Old & Oily. Having received your meatball flag was your final initiation to the ever growing vintage race team.

This left me chasing David Rutherford on my own as David and I pulled away from the rest of the racers. I led David through turns one, two and three and he passed me as we approached Charlotte’s web. However, David braked early and I continued into the web before braking and leaning left into the off camber turn. David passed me as we headed towards the museum turn and I gave chase.

Without Jerry to battle with, my thoughts focused on the fact that this race was, unless David’s BSA grenaded, was going to be a warm up race for the GP350 battle. I kept David in my sights for the first half of the race. John Cook was behind me recording what was supposed to be a neck and neck race with Jerry and I chasing David. As that was not the case, all I had to look forward to was the 350GP, race 7. I gave a good show until around lap 5 or 6 and John took that as his  cue to pass me and let his uncontested motor rip the track up for a while. The BSA behaved as it was supposed to and David pulled away for the win. His number 1 plate will stay in place yet another year.

There was a great effort exerted at the end of the race by both David Hurst and myself. Seeing DH off in the distance after receiving the white flag, indicating the last lap of the race. Closing on David as we approached the museum turn, I continued to get closer and closer to lapping him. We went through the first set of zig zags at a distance. The second set was much closer. Going through the big sweeping final turn set, I dropped the last of the space between us. The two of us went through the final turn with me at a higher velocity. After passing David, I tucked down behind the camera, arms tight in, and raced toward the finish line. As the line drew near, David burst back onto the scene and had his DS7 revving to produce a great burst of power passing me and almost immediately  crossing the finish line. The caption of the optimum still frame from the video had an invisible caption that read “Oh no you don’t!”.  David is da man!

WERA 2017 350GP Race Video

Back at the pits, Jerry admitted, with his tail between his legs, that he thought the flagging had a level of inconsistency. And at the same time had to admit he was the only one that jumped the gun.

After a little ignition tweaking, I had to run to the men’s room as second call was being announced for the 350GP race. Running back, I was the last one in the pits for our race class. Trying to kick start the bike didn’t create any affect. Pushing the bike and taking advantage of the downhill toward pit out to bump start the bike to no avail.  I pulled up against the concrete wall of the race tower, took off my helmet and found the one connection that had not been made and connected it. This caused a loss of time. I got to pit out on the 3 board and was directed directly to my grid position as it was too late for a warm up lap.

I started up the camera and put it into record as the rest of the racers came around the track and rolled into their grid positions.  John Cook was in front of us as the only racer in the Vintage 1 class present, so again, he was out for some good footage.

The number board went to 2, flipped over to 1, flipped sideways, and… nobody moved until the green flag ripped through the air. Jerry got a great start and led through turn 1, 2, and 3, while racing towards Charlotte’s web. By the time we got to the museum turn, it appeared the pack was pulling away. However, by the time we flew past Norton Hill, the leaders were all tightly packed in the last turn set with me recording their traversion towards the start/finish line.

I did find myself comforted by the fact that with enough turns on the track, I could catch up with the pack that would again pull away on the straight portions of track. It’s definitely time for some motor refreshing this winter.

Racing through turn 1, not at race speed, I gained on the pack, passed John through turn 2 and closed on Jerry, the leader of our class. Playing Jerry’s wingman climbing out of the mini gravity cavity and heading toward Charlotte’s Web, Jerry showed is superior pull away power. Jerry seems to have a handle on the off camber turn to the left known as Charlotte’s Web so I barely gained on him at all. Just like most of the race, the long straight had Jerry and Dick Gruhn pulling away from me as we headed back to the museum turn. Finishing that turn, I was back on their tail and closing… until the next straight.

Dick had crashed in the Web causing a red flag in the very first race of the day, so he was nursing an ankle from what I was told. It was no surprise when I passed him in chase of Jerry. I never saw Dick for the rest of the race and assumed he was only riding for points achieved by completing the race. Passing Dick, shoulder to shoulder, I saw Jerry come a little close to the edge of the track.

The back half of Barber’s most excellent track as two sets of “zig-zags” best approached for minimal speed interruption. Being as smooth as I could, it appears as if I may have become a bit fixated on Jerry as I closed through the Norton Hill turn set 12, 13, & 14. Jerry went off the track and began a quick dirt bike race while I stopped my exit from the track on the rumble strips.

This was my chance and I took advantage of it when I saw it. Staying on the throttle while Jerry had to ease off to recover, I raced pass the imaginary gathering of the Norton Family on the Hill in a manner of saying “watch this guys”. Heading toward the start/finish line, I didn’t look back. I held the lead until Jerry passed me just before the museum turn. He seemed to have a minor difficulty after uprighting from the turn which allowed me to stay close on his tail with some drafting effect. Jerry didn’t have to look back long to see me hot on his tail enjoying his wind wake.

Perhaps Jerry experienced a bit of a fluster flashback in view of Norton Hill because I was able to pass him through the last turn set. It was official. We were battling for the much sought after 350GP title available for the first time since WERA had vintage motorcycle racing, due to Doug Bowie’s absence. Of course, I was not surprised when Jerry passed me just before turn 1.  I knew this was going to offer some good footage and we ended up climbing out of Barber’s gravity cavity together.

For the next few laps, Jerry achieved and kept a slight distance between us although never leaving my sight. With nobody else around, I owned that portion of the track I was on. Turns came quite comfortably. I was slowly regaining any gap Jerry had created. Tasting that first place win, I continued to close on him. Then I saw it. That one last variable that could make or break the results at the finish line.

David Hurst was the one racer we would have to deal with as traffic on the track. I could tell Jerry slowed as he approached Norton Hill for the last pass of our race. Jerry’s encounter with David occured at a crucial point in the turn which required him to slow and avoid. By the time I passed David the track had opened after turn 12. As he cleared my view, there was the gradually sloping grassy plane known as Norton Hill. And, there was Jerry, in my sights.

Having not taken him before the last turns, I didn’t stand a chance to pass, but I was not to be left in dust for this exciting finish. Tucking in tight to Black Bullett, I became as aerodynamically smooth as possible. I crossed the finish line .884 seconds after Jerry did. As it turns out, my last lap was my fastest of the race and the fastest for the day, and possibly my best for the track, ever.

WERA 2017 GNF 500GP Race Video   I have to apologize but it appears the humidity inside the camera case built up over the course of the day noticeably affecting visibility of the recording.

A great time was had by those who participated. The awards ceremony was lightly attended so those present had to applaud for the many missing from the gala. It did prove to be a family affair with a total of 27 attendees including the WERA personnel that were present.  It is quite possible that this will be remembered as “the valley” of participation as we climb back up in popularity and participation of future WERA vintage racing history.

If you have ever thought about getting out on the track and having some ‘double digit” racing fun, grab a Honda 350 twin from 1968 to 1973 era and strip it down. There’s lot’s of guidance assistance available and the WERA 350 Honda guys do what it takes to get all racers out on the track to play with us. YOU could join us, IF you want to.

My contiguous gratitude to Mr. Martin Mattes of Sirius Consolidated Incorporated for his contiguous sponsorship. With two second place finishes at the GNF, leading to two second place standings nationally for the 350GP & 500GP vintage racing in 2017, it sounds like I still have a little room for improvement. I’ll be starting with the SCI 1.o mm over 350 Honda complete piston set for $89.99, a valve job, and cylinder honing for a fresh chance at playing with Jerry in 2018, and perhaps you, if you join us.

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Barber Vintage Festival: A Story Left Untold… for Now.

Having not had the chance to write up the entry into AHRMA racing yet, I’ve decided to just write about the WERA Grand National Finals instead.

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Best Laid Plans

I had looked forward to the marathon racing weekend for sometime and really looked forward to racing at the Barber Vintage Festival for the first time ever. To do so meant driving from Atlanta to Munford, Alabama Thursday night in order to practice with AHRMA on Friday. Upon successful completion of the practice day I was to drive back to Atlanta for a good night’s sleep before racing at Road Atlanta with WERA in the 350GP and 500GP races only to work my way back to Alabama to race on Sunday with AHRMA in the 350 Sportsman and 500 sportsman classes. And then there was Irma.

After a restless night under a bright full moon, I woke to a chilly start Friday morning. With the help of many of the AHRMA officials and lots of AHRMA racers as well. Registration was significantly less efficient than the WERA configuration so I completed AHRMA licensing and race registration just in time to join the racer’s meeting already in progress.

There were a few familiar faces who also race with WERA and even some I hadn’t seen in decades. Absorbing the information available, I picked up on a few differences between race organization’s procedures. Many blanks were filled in by David Hurst who was very helpful making sure I understood what was in store for the Barber Vintage Festival requirements, thank you, Sir! Learning that I was looking at five 15 minute practice sessions over the course of the day I returned to my pit and and prepped my bike.

Across pit row was Joe (the father) and Magnum Joe, his son who was going through the race school that day. They were both CB160 Le Mans start racers. Small bikes with a totally different racing style required. Both bikes looked like most the rest of the AHRMA racer’s bikes, mighty fine.

Having been at Lil Tally just a few weeks before, Black Bullet was already geared for the track at 15:35. A 5 gallon can of BP Amoco Ultimate to power BB and we were ready to run the track again. Practice group calls were difficult to hear so I kept an eye on another 350 Honda racer 15 pits away. Nothing special to report about the Tally track. Same as it ever was and still exactly the same as weeks before.

With 5 uneventful practice sessions under my belt with AHRMA, I went to pre-tech for Sunday’s races and was informed that hurricane Irma had the attention of AHRMA officials and things might not go a planned. I then collapsed the 10×20 canopy, filled the truck back up and headed to Atlanta with the ability to check back in the next day to see about Sunday’s plans.

Traffic was clear in the east bound direction as all those fleeing Irma were Alabama bound of or already off the roads. A good night’s sleep left me energized for the relatively short drive to Road Atlanta Raceway. Arriving just before 8 am, the lines were short to non-existent. Being preregistered, I was in and out with paperwork in hand in less than 2 minutes.

Due to the overlap of the WERA/AHRMA dual locations on the same weekend, the grids were light in both locations. Nobody else was attempting the Tally/Road Atlanta/Tally weekend like I was.

I shared John Cook’s canopy as I had planned to leave mine at Tally. The breeze was perfect to gusty. Nothing but sunshine in the skies, and the temperatures were predicted to approach 80 degrees. The day was beautiful for racing.

We were all surprised to see Sir Richard Oldakowski at the track but disappointed when he told us of his vehicular difficulties. The Mercedes Euro van wouldn’t start after he had filled his fuel can with 110 octane race fuel at the pump at Road Atlanta. I loaned Richard my truck and he went off to find a remedy. Rich came back after the practice sessions, racer’s meeting, and lunch time. Just as I was about to install the camera on the bike, Rich returned. Bad news was all he was faced with. Mercedes was closed on Saturday and Sunday and his daughter had to be back at work Monday morning. All said and done, all Rich was left with was having his van towed back to Farmville, Virginia. He offered me a handshake and he race fuel and left after finding the best offer for towing.

Bucky Sexton made it down from the northern states and Jerry Duke was there. That left me and David Rutherford in the 500GP and Doug Bowie in the 350GP races.

Since Rich left me with his 110 octane fuel, I totally drained my tank and half filled it with 110.

As our third and final call was announced, we headed to the pit out area and waited sign to take our warm up lap. Facing turn 1, we waited for the green flag. I had noticed the engine breaking up a bit as the warm up lap started and all throughout the lap. The 110 fuel came in question immediately. Not so much as bad fuel, but more the ability of my stock compression motor being able to perform properly with pure 110.

The flag ripped through the air and we took off. Immediately everybody was in front of me. I was trailing Bucky as the pack had thinned to a line of racers zigzagging through the bus stop and heading down hill through the esses. Bucky’s motor was popping and sputtering while my bike was performing as his sounded. I began to lose confidence in my possibilities to even keep up with Bucky as the race progressed. Already having consoled myself that a fuel swap was in order for the next race, I started to chuckle as Bucky was waving me past him. All I could think was “If I could, I would”.

As we approached turn one under speed for the first time, I simply held my throttle wide open and leaned as I passed him. The rest of the pack had pulled way ahead. After two more laps, I was already concentrating my efforts on the next race. Jerry, David, and Doug were having a great battle and I was not to be part of it.

Back at the pits after the 500GP was over, I drained the tank back into Rich’s race fuel can and half filled my tank with pump premium. Chugging some water and grabbing some shade, I prepped myself for the 350GP.

The warm up lap did give me some hope that I had determined correctly the problem I had experienced and I psyched myself for a competitive race. Doug, Jerry and I were all in a line while Bucky was behind us. The number boards went through the countdown and the green flag ripped through the air. Dick Gruhn was the only bike in his class starting if front of us. His much faster 2 stroke screamer took off and we all followed him.

Going into the bus stop we were all closely packed together. Down hill through the esses, we began to tighten up even more. Doug was behind us with Bucky. Jerry and I went through turn 6 side by side as I took him on the outside. I continued on the throttle and ended up drafting Dick through turn 7. This gave me a bit of an edge and allowed to pull away from Doug, Jerry and Bucky.

This felt a lot better than when the 110 was too much performance for my stocker 350. Now I had the track to myself. 10A and 10b went like clock work. I realized that I was performing for a prospective newbie 350 race as Scott Kulina and Jennifer were watching from the concrete stadium that gave a great view of turns 10a and 10b. Keeping my mind on the best line, latest braking, and earliest acceleration, I maintained my lead on Jerry, who was the next closest racer behind me. Turn 1, at wide open throttle was a shaky operation, but I needed to keep every ¼ second achieved by being most efficient through the turns that could be pushed the most.

The half way flag was the point where Jerry was closing on me. I looked back one last time before tur. n one and Jerry wasn’t there anymore. Turning my gaze on what was in front of me, I saw Jerry complete his pass and take turn one before me. My lead had just dissolved. I now had Jerry as my target and tailed him close. With each turn, Jerry was pulling away a little at a time. By the time we got the final lap flag Jerry had about 100 yards on me and I was surprised Doug hadn’t passed me yet. It wasn’t until after the back straight that Doug passed me and set his sights on Jerry. Before 10a, Doug took the lead and proved his technique of beating us just enough to keep us coming back for more.

My day did include two trips to the podium. I did get to thank the corner workers, Sirius Consolidated Incorporated, and Mr. Jerry Duke for stepping up his game and putting the Ducs in the front of the pack. However this also proved to be my first two 3rd places for the season. Perhaps freshening up my motor would be a good idea. Getting Red Storm’s motor repaired also seems to be a productive concept as well.

I am sorry to report that although the camera did appear to be recording, however, all the files from Tally and Road Atlanta are corrupted. Hopefully I’ll be able to get them repaired and edited in the future.

My next challenge is to ask AHRMA to make an exception and allow me to race at Barber Vintage Festival in lieu of refunding my race fees for Sunday racing that never happened.

Stay tuned for the next entry in this therapeutic journal.

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