BRIT IRON #40
Greetings my friends. I am writing you one day before the celebration of America’s birthday, the 4th of July. I have made it a practice not to get political here, and I know that my website, Classic-British-Motorcycles.com, and this newsletter ”Brit Iron” go out to a very international audience. You have given me your time and attention and I will always do my best to respect that. However, as I reflect back on the ups and downs, the highs and lows of America’s history, I am deeply troubled by what I see for America today and in the future. We Americans, once known for our toughness, our fierce independence, and our intestinal fortitude, have become a nation of whiners and do-nothing wimps. We don’t like what our government is doing, but we do nothing. Crowds of so-called “progressives” attack American citizens to prevent them from voicing their views, and we don’t even speak up about
it. Our college kids are being taught to be so hyper-sensitive today that listening to other viewpoints is now impossible without "safe zones" to run to. Our economy is a slow-motion train wreck, and we all just hope it will magically get better somehow. We have given over the control of our lives to a government who thinks that the only solution to problems is more government. We watch as the Feds gobble up bigger and bigger chunks of our GDP, and plunge us further into debt (growing by over $1 Trillion per year now!), and here we sit, thinking about buying a new flat screen.
Those of you who lived in the US in the 1960s or the 70s or even the 80s, remember a time when the Government was much, much smaller than it is today, and had much less control over our lives, and yet life seemed to be pretty good, back then. Somehow, we poor stupid citizens found a way to provide for ourselves, our families and our society without massive government programs, political
correctness or laws regulating everything. And despite what the left is selling, from the 70s on, blacks, Hispanics and other minorities were treated just fine by the vast majority of Americans. We all seemed to get along pretty well and people were happy enough. Back then, normal folks were able to raise a family on one income. People actually saved money, and very few were swimming in the kind of personal debt that we consider ‘normal’ today. You could come right out of high school and get a job that you could keep for life. Over these past few decades, the Government has gotten bigger and bigger, more and more powerful, and much more expensive to operate, contributing to the financial undermining of our nation and the entire working middle class in America. But that’s not even the worst part of it. Because all this government growth, and power and money didn’t make things better. Quite the opposite, the US government has squandered the biggest fortune in human
history on screwing things up horribly, and taking the rights away of average Americans to do it.
And it’s not just the Feds. Did you know that it is now against the law to live off the grid in some states? They are literally taking peoples’ homes away from them for refusing to hook up to the grid. Here these Americans are trying to live independently, maybe reduce their carbon footprint, living in areas that may not even have a grid. But the government (several states, in this case) isn’t having it. Why should they care? And why arrest people who aren’t hurting anyone? Did you know that it’s also illegal to capture and store rainwater in many states? You don’t own the rain, not even if it lands on your roof. The government owns the rain now. Look it up. On the federal level, ObamaCare, on top of all the other things that are wrong with it, makes your medical records government property. What used to be private, between you and your doctor, is now
part of some huge government database, and may someday be used against you in federal court. And don’t think they won’t. Remember when Obama sicked the IRS on Republicans that he didn’t like? There are countless more examples just as bad or worse.
Are these the kinds of programs you want to pay your taxes to support? Are you willing to go into debt supporting a government who has overreached its own useful, practical, and moral limits? My hat goes off to our friends in Britain who voted against the globalist elites and took their country back. The same kind of creeps have been running our country for years. I hope and pray that there are still enough smart, logical, clear-thinking American’s left so that we can do the same in our country, come November. Right now, this isn’t about personalities. This could be our last decent shot at saving our America and taking it back from the crumbs who did this to us. Career politicians, Republicans and Democrats both,
who don’t know how to do anything but run for office, have run our country into the ground. Most have never run a business, had to balance a set of books, or created a single job. Many have never even had a real job, outside of government. All they’ve ever done is run for office. Their only solution is always more of the same. Our forefathers never envisioned this elitist ruling class that we’re stuck with today. Look at the educational backgrounds of nearly every elected official in the US government. Guess what? They’re all attorneys. Vote, come November. Let’s kick the bums out and get our country back. Tomorrow is Independence Day. God Bless America.
ABOVE: Me & Yellow Bike in San Gregorio, on a ride through the Santa Cruz Mountains CA.
MEMORIES OF YELLOW BIKE
Those of you who have followed me on my site or in this e-zine for awhile might remember my Yellow Bike. It was a ’73 Triumph TR7 (with a T140 head and two carbs) 750 custom cafe racer. I built it from scratch from about 2001 to 2007 or so. It was the bike I always dreamed of building as a young man, but never had the resources. So, this time around, I did it right. I built it in stages. I’d ride it for awhile, then tear it down, make some improvements, then ride it for another season or two, only to repeat the process.
ABOVE: On our way to the Cachuma Lake Rally. Our ranks are thinning.
I rode Yellow Bike with the Rabers crew to the Cachuma Lake All-British Rally twice. This was an awesome event and an awesome ride, 350 miles of country roads almost the entire way, virtually no freeways. Starting at Rabers in San Jose CA, we wound through surface streets all the way to Hollister, then down Highway 25 over 125 miles without civilization, until we popped out at Paso Robles. We were forced to take Highway 101 for a few miles, then it was back onto country roads again for the balance of the 350 mile ride to Cachuma Lake, near Santa Barbara. What a ride, 350 miles of back country and mountain roads! Thank God for chase trucks. About 20 bikes would
leave San Jose and maybe 15 would make it. Remember, these are old Brit bikes. When someone would break down, we’d all stop, scratch our heads and try to get him back on the road with what little we had to work with (one time a piece of wire from a nearby barbed wire fence). If it couldn’t be done, then about an hour later, the chase trucks would catch up and load up him and his bike. When we arrived in 2006, I wiped down Yellow Bike, put it in the motorcycle show, and won the custom class! The other top contenders in my class had all been trailered to the show. I felt pretty good, that day.
ABOVE: My 15 minutes of fame: Magazine article & some trophies.
Along with our group who left Rabers together on Friday was a very nice couple from England. They worked for a British motorcycle magazine, “Classic Bike Guide”, and they traveled to the US at Bob Raber’s invitation, to ride with us on this adventure. They arrived a week early and bought a ’71 BSA A65, serviced it, rode it around for a week to make sure it was sound, then rode it to Cachuma. Bully! Turns out they really liked my bike, and asked for photos and info on it for an article. I got a 4-page writeup in the November 2007 issue of Classic Bike Guide.
ABOVE: Part of the Cachuma Rally were the unbelievable rides around the area. This one took us above Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. We actually went past the front gate getting up here. Not much to see, really.
I did a lot of riding and plenty of adventuring on Yellow Bike. But, the itch for other bikes and other projects led me to put it up for auction in Las Vegas in 2009 and I sold it. I never saw it again, and the money I got for it (not much) melted into the general fund and made little difference in the big scheme of things. What’s worse, I regretted letting it go. I asked around, but no one had seen it (and it’s a hard bike to miss). MidAmerica Auctions had since sold to RM Auctions, and I didn’t know any of those guys. I resigned myself to likely never seeing Yellow Bike
YELLOW BIKE REVISITED
A good friend of mine from my old Hanford days, Andy Mattos, who also happens to be big into British bikes (he worked for legendary Brit bike restorer Don Harrell for many years) is now moving up to the Gold Country, like me. We’re talking more lately. A couple of weeks ago, just as an aside, he said he’d seen my old Yellow Bike recently. I couldn’t believe it! Where? Way up in the mountains east of Fresno. Cary Stanley has a private collection of bikes and an absolute dream shop way up in the boonies, and he was the one who bought Yellow Bike way back in ’09. He was trying to sell it. But Andy couldn’t find Cary’s number. So, I called Don Harrell and got it from him. Now, I’m getting nervous. What do I say? Will I give my hand away by gushing too much? Or will I weird the guy out? Oh well, just call.
I introduced myself, and Cary and I hit it right off.
He tells me he bought it from a guy who rode it from Northern California all the way to a show in Southern California using the backroads the whole way, then won the show with it. I said, “Thats me!” After some talk, he said he had been trying to sell it for more, but that he wanted me to have the bike for just what he paid for it. I was flabbergasted! What a great guy!
ABOVE: The seller (L) and me (R) shaking on the deal. Yellow Bike is mine again!!
YELLOW BIKE COMES HOME
So, I made the arrangements with him and drove my old pickup truck on the longest trip its made since I’ve owned it. It was a couple of hours just to Fresno, then I headed east on Highway 180, up into the hills. From there, it was into the mountains, past Squaw Valley, as the roads narrowed and became more curvy. I called to let him know I was on my way. Before long, I had no cell phone signal, and was beginning to question the directions. GPS will only get you so far, out in the boonies. It’s used to city addresses, not lonely driveways out in the middle of nowhere. When I left Fresno I had more than half a tank. I figured I was less than an hour away. But two hours later, I was lost in the hills and down to less than a quarter-tank. And no signal. I was starting to sweat. If my gas got too short, or I started to lose the light, I might
have to drive back down the hill to get phone signal, and by then I might not be able to come back up that day. All sorts of things were going through my mind.
ABOVE: Cary has a ton of great bikes. Many Brits, some classic Japanese, and a few interesting Harleys. He sells some too. Check out his website at www.DiamondCSMotorcycles.com.
When he gave me directions the day before, I wrote them down meticulously. So I reread them several times and looked into the wording. “The long row of mailboxes, the last one is bigger.” Okay, here it is. “Sharp hairpin turn to left into driveway”, alright. But then it looked like I was in someone’s back yard, I doubted myself and backed out. I read them further. “Go past the cabins to the green pole with the doorbell button on it”. Ah so. Back in I go, past the cabins, and up this little dirt driveway along a cliff, it’s pretty long and I can’t see the end. Just when I’m sure this can’t be it, I come upon a gate with a green pole and a doorbell on it. I push the button and the gate slowly opens. In I go and up to the
ABOVE: It’s loaded in the back of the truck. I’ve gotta pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.
When I walked in, the first thing I see is Yellow Bike, polished up and shining bright, pulled out from the gaggle of other gorgeous classic bikes of every sort. Wow! My old bike looked stunning! No wonder he bought it. How could I have ever let it go? Who has the answers to these questions? All I know is that I paid the man, we shook hands, had one beer together in celebration, then I drove home with that lovely yellow fairing filling my rearview mirror. The drive, while still mildly hellish, was much better going back. I more or less knew the way, and it was downhill all the way. But knowing that I had my Yellow Bike in the back of the truck, and it was mine again, made the whole trip worth the price. I had a great drive home.
YELLOW BIKE’S NEW LIFE
If you get this newsletter, chances are good that you know just what’s going through my
mind right now. It needs all sorts of stuff just to get it roadworthy again. But just get it running? Or take it to the next level? That is the question.
What does it need to get it on the road again? New tires and tubes, and that means balancing the wheels. I’ll take them off the bike and drive to the Bay Area soon and have Rabers do it. Then, the whole fuel system will need to be gone through. Cary never started the bike, in all these years. So it’s been sitting with old gas in it for 7 years. It’s all turned to varnish I’m sure. Those poor Mikunis. A new battery goes without saying, and again I’ll get that at Rabers. I could probably pick one up at any bike shop, but I’m going there anyway for the tires, and I like to give them all my classic Brit bike business. It’s good to support good people. Of course all the fluids will be changed and everything thoroughly checked
and adjusted. One of the big questions is the fuel tank. I did a 2-part tank liner on it back in the 2000s. But the ethanol in modern gas is known to eat up those old liners. If that’s the case, then I may have to abandon that tank and get a new one. While I love yellow, I never liked that yellow. It was way too bright. So, maybe it’s time to get a new tank, mould in the emblem bosses (as before) install Triumph decals (as before) and repaint it. If so, it will be a different shade of yellow, one with more body. The back fender, which is a generic flexible plastic MX unit, is close to the right yellow. It’s different than the rest of the bike, although most people don’t notice it until I point it out.
Painting it leads to more decisions. The front fender is a no-brainer. It’s fiberglass and it will be painted to match the tank. But the side covers were cobbled together out of thin aluminum flashing and stand out for their crudeness. I’d like to
do something new and different. I’m thinking about making bucks in the shape I want, then making molds from them, then laying them in fiberglass, thereby creating exactly the side covers I want, in fiberglass. Then painting them to match.
So, that’s the straight-up approach. What if I want to take it up a notch? I have my other project bike, the ”Royal Clone” (my ’79 T140D Bonneville Special that I’m morphing into a tribute to the ’81 T140LE Bonneville Royal Wedding edition), and it has those cool Morris mag wheels on it. I think they would look bitchin’ on the Yellow Bike. But, that forces a conversion over to rear disk brake, and the abandonment of one of my favorite elements on Yellow Bike: the conical rear hub. Going to a rear disk brake would require a master cylinder and hydraulic setup (and I don’t like the one on the ’79 T140D, and it goes on the right side
anyway, so it’s out), and an accommodation for the caliper on the right side of the swing arm. Yellow Bike’s swing arm is chromed, so I’m not going to get away with welding a bracket on it to anchor the caliper. So, while totally cool looking, it may be more than I want to take on, right now. However, when the wheels are off for new tires, I may mount the mag wheels on just to see what it looks like. If I do, I’ll take some pictures for you, and maybe you can help me decide.
I’m now working with a group to enhance my Facebook presence of Classic-British-Motorcycles.com. They have been posting regularly and they’ve tuned up my Facebook page in various ways. That inspired me, and now I’m posting stuff more often myself. I’ve been making slideshow-style videos of some awesome bikes I’ve photographed over the years, along with some other cool stuff. If you get a chance, please visit our Facebook Page and “Like” something that you actually do like. And let me know what you think of the Facebook Page overall, and the posts specifically.
I’ve been working on our YouTube Channel. Among other things, I’m building slideshow-style videos of some awesome classic British bikes that I’ve photographed over the years. I’d love for you to check them out. There will be more coming soon:
1946 Velocette KSS
1952 BSA A10 Golden Flash
1963 Royal Enfield 750 Interceptor Mark I
THUNDER ROADS COLUMN
As you may recall, I am now writing a regular monthly column in Thunder Roads Mid-Atlantic Magazine about classic British motorcycles. The Harley-oriented magazine has had lots of requests for more articles about other kinds of bikes, including old Brit Iron. When I was growing up in the 70s, many guys who ended up on Harleys started on Triumph or BSA 650s. So, I have written 5 columns so far, four of which have been published. The July 2016 issue has The History of Vincent Motorcycles, and turned out well. I just finished my next article (for the August issue) entitled “Indian Motorcycles built in Britain?” It’s a fascinating story of Britain’s connection to that fabled American marque that lasted almost 25 years. And for 5 years of that, all Indian Motorcycles were being built in England by Royal Enfield. But, that’s in August. For now, the July issue just released and you can read the article online if you want at https://issuu.com/thunderroads.
As a way to promote my new column, and this website, last month I offered to mail a copy of Thunder Roads Mid-Atlantic to the first 20 of you who emailed me with your address. At that point, you had your choice of the issue with the Norton article, the Bonneville article, or the BSA article, all excellent if I do say so myself. The response was overwhelming. I probably should have cut it off at 20, but I kept going and ended up sending out 48 magazines to you faithful. I had more requests than that from all over the globe, Canada, Scotland, England, Australia, Ireland, and I planned to send them until I saw how much it would cost! I felt bad, and I told them all so, but they were all stand-up folks who let me off the hook gracefully. So I emailed them scans of the article of their choice, as a consolation.
This month, I want to make a similar offer. This time it will be for the first 30 who Email me here with your name and full address. And it will only be for people living in the USA. I’m sorry, but I’m not a big company. I’m just a guy doing this mostly for fun. So, I have to draw the line somewhere. Please understand. If you have a preference of issues, let me know that also. Right now you have two choices:
May 2016 w/History of the Triumph Bonneville
June 2016 w/History of BSA Motorcycles
I should receive my packet of July issues with the Vincent article in it, but I don’t have them yet. When I do, I’ll do a similar giveaway. Enjoy the read.
I WANNA GO RIDIN’
I’ve got my Yellow Bike back but it’s going to take a good bit to get it running. My Harley has a dead battery, but otherwise should be ready to go. Now that I’m living in the Gold Country, there are a whole new set of incredible rides I can go on. Be safe out there.