Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kawasaki Recalls 2003 VN1600 for Fuel Leak

Kawasaki has issued a recall of certain 2003 VN1600-A1 and VN1600-A1L motorcycles.

On certain motorcycles, the fuel tank is mounted to the chassis by means of tabs that are spot welded to the tank, then braised/welded around a portion of their circumference. Under certain conditions, repeated stress can crack the tank at the location of the tabs, and allow fuel to leak.

4352 units are affected.

Check out my Motorcycle Recalls feature for more details.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


John and Sue Ray host the annual Velocette owner's club Spring Opener at their 40-acre spread in the hills above Napa. Beautiful location, and the Rays are generous hosts, plus there's a lot of room to spread out the motorcycles, no matter how many show up. We met Saturday morning the 19th of May, for a ride of about 70 miles through the amazing countryside around Napa and Lake Berryessa - perfect motorcycle roads, especially if your motorcycle has rear suspension, as some of the roads are badly paved and bumpy in the areas where you'd like to be cranked over.
This year, as all my Velos were on the bench, I borrowed John's Thruxton, which is a fast and well-sorted machine. I think I kept my promise to only ride it to 80%, and I only opened the throttle WFO to pass a couple of cars along the way. Still, the bike is very fast through the twisty bits, and as that's all there is in the hills, so away we went. Thanks John!
Only one mechanical mishap, when Kim Young's '30 KSS had primary chain/clutch problems, which they've been trying to sort for a while. The bike has had a bit of teething trouble, and Pete puts a lot of time and effort to insure Kim has it available for rides.
Top pic; Kim and KSS, with Bill Charman, long-time club member who we don't see enough of on these rides. Bill has an amazing, barn find '55 MSS, which keeps on going without much input - he's had it for 18 years or so, and bought it from Frank Forster for the princely sum of $1200. Frank thought he got the better end of the deal at the time, but Bill has had the last laugh, as these days original/unrestored machines are getting hard to come by.
Pic 2; note the smoke coming off these riders - they're coming in fast! Paul Zell on the MeSS 680cc custom, Jeff Scott on a race-tuned Norton Commando, George Shoblo on a Moto Guzzi V50 which he flogs mercilessly (what, no Thruxton George?).
Pic 3; Frank Recoder's VMT, freshly recovered from a nasty T-bone accident and looking great. Pic 4 is Frank himself, fiddling with the unreacheable float bowl of the GP carb -it was once explained that a 'cooperative, trained snake is helpful in tickling the carb'. Too true; Frank uses a special tool to help.
Pic 5; the line-up. There were around 35 people present for the event, and about 25 riders. Bikes ranged from Kim's '30 KSS to a gaggle of Thruxtons, and a few brand-x machines as noted.
Pic 6; starting games! If you can start your bike in one kick and it idles without touching the throttle, you win. That would be Frank Brennan, another long-time club member who we don't see enough. In the pic is Frank Recoder being watched - the usual Velocette law of inversion ('the likelihood of a Velocette starting is inversely proportional to the number of people watching') is suspended for the event, as all spectators are Velo fans, and most of the bikes started first kick. They were all really shiny too; either standards are going up, or we're not riding our bikes enough, or maybe Bill and I didn't bring our scruffy bikes!
Pic 7; Dana Shatts giving it a go. His Thruxton was having none of it, and got the sulks.
Pic 8; Billy doing what we all ended up doing, relaxing with a beer in the sun.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally

I had the good fortune to attend Rolling Thunder over Memorial Day weekend in 2005. In fact, I wrote an article about it with pictures. Take a look.

I also noticed that a great video about Rolling Thunder is also available on YouTube. The year of this video is not mentioned but it's either 2005 or 2006. It looks pretty much like the sights that we saw in 2005. Here's the video.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Kawasaki Recalls 5906 Motorcycles for Stalling Problem

Kawasaki has issued a recall of certain 2006 VN900B6F, VN900B6FL, VN900D6F, and VN900D6FL motorcycles.

Certain motorcycles may stall under deceleration due to an improper setting of the engine control unit (ECU). This could create the potential for a crash, resulting in injury or death.

5906 units are affected.

Check out my Motorcycle Recalls feature for more details.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Family Fun with Motorcycles

Here's a great family story I just saw that involves motorcycles. In my family, it's just my wife and I that ride. Can't get the kids interested and probably won't be able to get the grand kids interested either. This story is about a complete family that rides. It's by Matthew K. Roy of the Salem News in Massachusetts. Here's an excerpt:

    "Look at the photograph taken a half-century ago. Mom's on her motorcycle. Dad's on his. Sitting behind him is one of their children. And in a side-car attached to the rear of his bike are four more. Meet the Blais family. They took to the road on motorcycles back then and haven't stopped. The matriarch of this motorcycle family is Peggie Blais of Danvers. She has nine children in all, six sons, three daughters. 'They all ride motorcycles,' said Peggie, 79."

Read the complete article.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Saturday's ride wound through the hills east of Atascadero, taking in the towns of Creston, Santa Margarita, and Pozo, around 100 miles of riding through rolling hills, vineyards, wildflowers, and sometimes amazing twisty roads.
Top pic shows yours truly on his mount of choice for the weekend, the '28 Sunbeam TT 90. A few of the Harley faithful expressed surprise that such a small machine could move so quickly and handle so well. See you later boys. I had a little trouble with a fix JP made to the rocker gear two years ago; one of my pushrods was slowly eroding an end, and I had to adjust the tappets several times a day. The grease around the rocker looked like shiny grinding paste, which is exactly what it became. I swapped my exhaust and inlet pushrods in the town of Creston, which bought me the rest of the day's ride, at the expense of now needing to repair both pushrods.
Second pic; an original and unrestored Yale, showing the primary side, and that fabulous clutch setup. No worries about tight cable runs, or even a clutch lever! The large arcuate slot along the side of the tank controls how much grip or slip; the clutch is has a typical plates and spring arrangement, AND a servo-type band of friction material. Where the lever sits determines which one is engaged, or both. The plates are all metal, and intended for slipping as the bike gets underway or is moving off from a slow corner, or just to drive very slowly. The friction band is more positive, effectively locking the drive in place. Complicated, but its just one big lever.
Next pic shows a trickster in the midst; while this may look like all the obsolete-by-1928 'clincher' rims, its actually a new DID rim from a Kawasaki, in aluminum, wm2 x 21", so modern tires can be fitted, as this Avon Speedmaster shows. Very clever, this was on a '15 Harley and if I hadn't seen the Avons, I would never have known. The owner, Fred Lange, actually replicates entire 8-valve racing Harleys, so has a clue about engineering. Ah, the most naughty bit; he painted the rims with a high iron-content paint, then sprayed them with an acid to make them rust up, matching the rest of the bike. Cheeky! Next pic is the entire '15 Harley with Fred aboard, the rusty wheel rims gleaming in the sun.

Most of our riding group can be seen in the pic in front of the LC saloon in Creston. I'm in the middle, working on my Sunbeam! The photo was taken by Clement Salvadori, author and
'moto-phot0-journalist'. Very nice fellow too, and I seem to see him at all the vintage motorcycle events, taking pix of the good bikes. He took the pic of me at the top, and the group shot here in front of the LC.
We travelled next to Santa Margarita, a cute little town with a couple of good espresso shops. These riders like to ride for 30 miles or so, then stop and jawjack in some picturesque spot. I suppose with nearly 100-year-old machines, this is a good idea. In fact, very few of the bikes had serious mechanical issues, and I ended up doing more work on my Sunbeam than they did on their older machines.
Next pic is a belt-drive Harley single-cylinder machine, ca 1912, of approx. 500cc, with a single coaster-type rear brake. Called the 'Silent Grey Fellow', these belt-drivers have no transmission noise (chains are noisy), only the puff of exhaust, so are actually very quiet and smooth - they just sort of puff along down the road. The belt on this bike had been on for 10 years, with no stretching, as its a sandwich of nylon webbing between two layers of leather.
Pozo Saloon! Founded in 1858, and much of it is original. I love the dollar bills tacked to the ceiling, they look like green butterflies.
Sitting inside the saloon are 'von John' Parker, organizer of the Primer Nationals custom car events, and Red Fred. Beards aren't required in the bar, but they help, apparently. The saloon laid on a big bbq for us, as they have tables and acres of lawn out in the back, and a porch for the band. They've hosted innumerable well-known acts, from Steppenwolf to the Grateful Dead, and Lynyrd Skynyrd is playing in July. Did I really write that? I had to look up the spelling. The bar is in the middle of NOWHERE, and is an oasis, serving really good beer (try the 'Pozo Martini' - beer with an olive!).
Next pic shows a really good story being told; not the rapt attention of listeners. This fellow, who shall remain nameless for the moment, had his driver's license revoked for a year for 7 seatbelt infractions in 30 days. Of course, the Indian 4 he was riding had a one-year expired tag on the plate... I didn't ride near him. Still, he told the best tales, very rapidly, prefacing every one with 'I'll tell you a quick story...'
The weather, by the way, was perfect, so it was hard to come back to sunny and cold SF.

Friday, May 11, 2007


The Pre-16 Run is organized by Steve Wright, who wrote the brilliant 'American Racer' books,which he in fact self-published, and which sell on ebay for a LOT of money. More recently, he wrote 'the American Motorcycle; 1869-1914', which may still be available - he's just about finished with vol.2, 1915-2000, which means he has a lot to say about really old bikes.
The ride usually attracts about 30 pre-1916 machines, almost all of which are American. Harley Davidson, Indian, Yale, Excelsior, Premier, and Pope were represented this year, as well as the later Rudge and Sunbeam of Pete and myself. The event is run over 3 days every spring, the weekend after the Legends, in the rolling hills just northeast of San Luis Obispo. The roads are terrific, bendy, and almost free of traffic, with lots of scenery as we wind past the wineries, ranches, and farms. Even though it was a fairly dry year, there were still a lot of wildflowers on the grassy hillsides and in the creek gullies. The prior week it had been 95 degrees in the area, but over the weekend it hovered in the 70s/80s.
Top pic is a 1915 Indian with Sidecar, a really nice restoration, looking great here in front of the San Miguel mission gate. Yes, I posed it there next to the agave, but doesn't it look terrific?
Next pic is Mr Mann; that would be the dog, not the fellow with the map, sitting in the sidecar of another immaculate '15 Harely, owned by Urban Hirsch (who is apparently one of the richest men in California). Urban brought several machines, all spotless.
Pete Young brought the interloper Premier, the only pre-16 from England. It ran well over the 100 miles on Friday, only losing a pedal along the way (it was found). But, no match speed-wise for the '15 Harleys, 'the first modern American motorcycle', according to Legends Show 2-time winner Mike Madden. Pete's bike would average around 40-45 mph, the Harleys seemed like they would average 65mph all day, with a top speed of perhaps the 90's. They were ridden with panache through the hills, or perhaps abandon, as they have only a rear brake, which has both internal shoes and an external band brake. Still, not much to stop 600lbs of rider and bike from 70mph! Although, to be honest, my Sunbeam brakes are pretty weak too.
Most of the quick '15 Harleys were cheaters, with much later cams, and stroked flywheels, giving them 1100cc; some had later carbs as well. I'm sure I'd do the same if I had one; I was impressed.
American bikes had it all over English bikes in this period, with much more durable and sophisticated designs. Eight-valve and overhead-cam racers were developed well before other countries, but by the mid-20's, American manufacturers had hardened into a formula of side-valve engines, and increasingly heavy motorcycles. Rugged but certainly not quick, they sank from view in international competition, only to return in the 1960's when Harley went abroad for the 'match races' in England, using ohv XR racers. But I digress.
Pic 4 shows an unrestored, original 1912 Harley 500cc single-cylinder belt-driver. Very rare, single-speed, and using bicycle type pedals to start the engine, as did most of the bikes present. These are mopeds, according the our glorious state of CA, and can be registered once, for life, on a moped license plate, for $50. If you spend $50k on a pre-16 machine, imagine how much you'll save with license fees!
Pic 5; black '15 Harley, sitting next to my Sunbeam. If you look closely, you'll see a gold pinstripe underneath the red stripes, where the rider's knees have rubbed the paint away. You can click on the pic for a better look. I didn't get a clear explanation for the gold, but I believe some of the Harley's exported to England were painted traditional English black and gold, like my Sunbeam. I parked my bike next to his, just to highlight the similarity; he got a real ribbing from other Harley guys about his 'Limey bike'. This gang really dishes it out, but are in fact very friendly.
Next pic is an original, unrestored 1914 Yale v-twin. Yale was one of many American motorcycle producers which disappeared by the 1920's. They started out as the Yale-California, produced in Sacramento, but were bought out by the Consolidated Manufacturing Company, and production moved to Toledo, Ohio. This model produced 9.2 hp at the rear wheel, and had horizontal cooling fins for better air flow.
Pic 7 is 'von John' Parker's Mexican police bobber, a '47 Indian Chief. He came in with his wife Jenny, who rode her own '47 Chief, see pic 7. Note friendly one-finger wave.
Pic 8 is Fred Lange's 1915 Harley, with wonky headlamps and even crazier wiring; click on pic for a better view. Oily and beautiful.
Last pic shows the group underway, enjoying the road and the sound of a bunch of blatting old bikes. Like most motorcycle rides, people sort themselves out according to preferred speed. The sight of a '15 overtaking slower riders is inspiring. I have a pre-16 JAP 1000cc side-valve motor sitting in my garage, which was rescued from a boat (not the anchor, the engine!) in Uruguay. It arrived in the chassis of a Brough 11-50, but was clearly much earlier than the '34 BS. If I could find a chassis for the early JAP, those H-D's might have some competition...

Here is a video of me following Mike Madden on his 1915 Harley - listen to his brake (singular) screech on approaching a corner! The 'bonking' sound is my '28 Sunbeam - you can hear the 'chuff-chuff' of his Harley, mid-video.

Monday, May 7, 2007


About 50 show bikes rolled out from their secure storage room at 8am Sunday for the Legends Ride; a 43-mile spin from the Ritz up to Skyline Ridge, Alice's Restaurant, and back again. I was a bit worried as my '28 Sunbeam isn't quite legal yet, but I wasn't the only one as Johnathan White had his GP Ducati on full megaphone and no plates at all! Same went for Aude Ragez in the Mk VII Velo KTT, and apparently there were a few other bikes not quite ready for prime time, or at least not registered. Having had a bike towed two years ago for registration 'issues', I was ready to give the ride a pass, but if Johnathan my judging partner was up for it, I wouldn't leave him to ride alone.
Then I saw two CHP motorcycles pull up, and a CHP car, and figured that was it - no ride for me. I told this to Jared Zaugg, and he explained that the CHP was there to protect all the bikes which weren't legal! Now that's a switch. It turned out I knew officer Gary Loo (his daughter went to grammar school with Zoe), and bade him a good morning, while we talked about our girls. I was going to ask him about my bike, but thought, let sleeping dogs lie... He did see my '28 plate at one point, and simply turned his head away.
Top pic, Kinya Shimura on his Knucklehead custom, which uses a recycled Cadillac exhaust manifold. It's so bitchin cool; he's the only custom builder whose work I admire.
Second pic, priceless 1 of 72 HRD Series A Rapide. Sounded great.
Third pic; Munch Mammut from Michigan, which was surprisingly quiet, if large.
Pic 4; HRD Meteor ('38) and Indian Chief (first in class on Saturday, Red Fred's bike).
Pic 5; AJS crazy home-made V-4 ohc. The factory never made one of these for sale to the public, but they did make a few racing machines to this spec. The owner made the engine himself, using photographs of the originals. Wow.
Pic 6; Jared Zaugg and our escorts. The only bummer was the adherence to speed limits, and some very slow moments at times for no apparent reason (although they had radios to each other, so were probably trying to bunch up our strung-out group).
Pic 7; on the road.
Pic 8; Jared and Alain de Cadanet at Alice's, with Alain's son
Pic 9; Close-up of the amazing Art Deco sculpting of this Indian Larry Shovelhead chopper. Every major item on the engine used this motif, very much as seen in the Empire State building elevators and decorative panels. Impressive work - this bike was to be delivered to Brad Pitt.
Pic 10; Vintagents! Pete Young and I behind Pete's 1913 Premier, which won a first. He averages around 40mph on this thing, and climbed the hills fairly well, amazingly enough. In the day, this would have been considered a serious road trial!
Pic 11 & 12; action shots of Shinya's Knuck! Cool!
Pic 12 & 13; After the ride, strolling through the secure enclosure, a Million Dollar Motorcycle sits alone and unguarded, so I got some nice detail shots, and ... I touched it!

Honda Motorcycle Commercial - "Free Yourself"

I just opened my June, 2007 issue of Rider Magazine and found a strange pull-out ad of a Honda VTX1800F. It involves a driver caught in traffic who bursts through the roof and dons huge red wings. He leaps into the air and the words "Free Yourself" appear as a Honda motorcycle roars down the road. Turns out there is a TV ad of this. Check out the following link that describes the making of the ad and then click on the internal link to view the ad. I had to do a right-mouse-click "Save as Target" command to save it to my computer. You may have better luck.

View the TV Ad

Sunday, May 6, 2007


The first two wheelers we saw at the Ritz; a pair of MTT Jet bikes! Numbers 17 and 18 produced thus far, apparently there are that many people willing to pay $150k for a new motorcycle which melts car bumpers in traffic. Below is a video of the bike firing up in the forecourt of the Ritz, and filling the whole area with smoke!

Second pic; sartorial accessory theme of the day for the judges was Rolex Daytona, in varying shades of gold, stainless, and platinum. The watch du juor of motorcyclists who have 'made it' apparently. Belly optional (apparently a preferred option, as it was popular).
Third pic is Oriol Puig Bulto, founder of Bultaco, former Spanish national roadrace champion, now an executive with the FIM, and lovely fellow all around. The epitome of european graciousness, very kind and approachable - several of 'his' motorcycles were on display, one took a first in its class (a PurSang). While most of thlee judges wore navy blazers (as requested) on Saturday, he wore a blue quilted Hermes riding jacket, which made my blue metallic patent leather Gucci loafers look gauche. I'll always be nouveau, never riche.

Fourth pic is Pete Gagan, president of the AMCA, and his wife Mary Jane on the right (neglected to get the other woman's name - bad journalism). Pete walked with a cane, he's having an ankle replacement surgery next month, a procedure not available in the US. Oh, Canada, indeed. Pete brought several impeccable machines, including a replica of Oliver Godfrey's 1911 TT winning Indian, pic 5. Clean and correct enough to win a prize, but as he'd essentially made the bike around an original type engine, it wasn't eligible. Our dictum from Ed Gilbertson, Chief Judge (and head honcho at the Pebble Beach Concours), was 'no ringers will be given prizes'.

Next pic shows Jared Zaugg, organizer of the Legends (with his wife Brooke Roner), Pete and Kim Young (former pres of the Velocete O/C), and Anney Rageys, owner of the amazing '38 Velo KTT mkVII, which the family brought from France and fired up for the first time on Friday. A compelling story, they had been trying to buy back the bike from a collector for 20 years, and only managed to purchase it two months ago.
Next group is Mark and Christine Upham, owners of British Only Austria (see link), here from their village near Salzburg. Mark is English, Christine is Austrian, great couple, Mark is very entertaining. Also pic'd; Mike Fitzsimon's wife with Johnathan White, my judging partner and vintage roadracer. He worked 35 years with DomiRacer, now is on his own selling vintage Italian m/c parts, and has the driest sense of humor I've ever encountered.
Next pair is Kim Young with Aude Rageys, who rides her grandfather's Mk VII KTT, and races other vintage machinery in France. I carried her grandfather's TT Replica trophy during the Judge's Reception, and didn't want to let it go! They're perfect carrying size, and no I didn't take a pic (doh!). I knew I was in trouble when I saw Aude striding around the Legends grounds in her riding gear on Sat, but when she fired up the mk VII and rode it around (on an open megaphone, sounded fantastic), I was sunk. On leaving Sunday, she said to please come attend the vintage meeting at Spa-Francorchamp with her, and handed me her card; she's the Marquise de something, but curiously her card went missing... Darcy honey, where's the Duchess's card?

Next pic is Anne from Smith and Hawken, one of the show sponsors, which did all the greenery for the Legends, with one of the adorable motorcycle topiaries placed all around. Yes, I snagged one.

Trio of hot blondes includes Darcy and two of the Lucky girls, no comment, but Lucky jeans was also a show sponsor.
Final pic is Darcy in front of the Jaguar XK150 which I'm now obligated to purchase, as it matched her lovely Marni outfit. Anything you want, babe. Although she's more likely to get the '53 Triumph Thunderbird which went unsold at the Bonham's auction Saturday, which also matched, in that great blue-grey color, same as Marlon Brando rode in the Wild One (I know, the movie was in black and white).