BRIT IRON #42
As winter approaches, we motorcyclists instinctively know its time to work on our bikes. Like bears just before hibernation, the days getting shorter triggers some sort of biological clock inside of us that tells us its time to stop riding for awhile, and start working on your bike. At least that’s the ritual if you have a classic British bike, because they pretty much always need work. You may not understand this ancient rite if you have a modern bike. I am uniquely qualified to understand this phenomenon because I have both a classic British motorcycle and a modern Harley. They Harley never needs anything. I just put gas in it and go. My Triumph, well, let me put it this way...the next 3 paragraphs of this e-zine are devoted to all the stuff it needs, and this doesn’t even scratch the surface. But that’s part of the fun of owning an old Brit bike, isn’t it? It certainly is for me, and unfortunately as much as old dudes like me dig stuff like
that, it doesn’t bode well for the future of our hobby. If the only people who can really own and ride a classic Brit bike are the guys who know how to fix them themselves, then new people coming into our sport are going to be few and far between. We, the Old Guard that is, must find a way to usher in a new generation of classic British bike nuts, people with the same kind of fire and passion for these bikes as we have. Of course, we grew up with them, when they were new in some cases. They see them as ancient history, as they surely are. So, it’s bound to be different for them than us. Another blessng that carries a curse with it is the way that escalating classic car prices are pushing lots of buyers out of cars and into classic bikes. That’s the good part. The bad part is that they will surely drive prices up, which is tough on people trying to buy a nice old Brit bike. Of course, if you already own one, or better yet want to sell one, then this could be very
ABOVE: That's me on Yellow Bike circa 2007 or so in San Gregario CA. I was on a long day ride with the BSA Club through the Santa Cruz Mountains.
YELLOW BIKE BLUES
For a quick update on Yellow Bike, I built this custom cafe racer over several years from about 2000 to 2006, rode it all over California, showed it, won shows with it, even got it written up in magazines. Then, like an idiot, I sold it in 2009 at the big MidAmerica Motorcycle Auction in Las Vegas. Almost immediately, I regretted selling it, and made several efforts to find it, to no avail. Fast forward to now. A good buddy of mine told he he’d seen the bike, I traced it down, and found the guy who bought it from me at the 2009 auction. He never even started it. In fact, it still had the same gas in it that was in it
when I took it to Vegas 7 years ago. It still looked fantastic, but the entire fuel system was a solid blob of gunk. I took the Sudco Mikuni carbs over to the good folks at Rabers who sonic-washed them and rebuilt them. The tank, my beautiful yellow UK-market tank, had developed a small fuel leak in the welded seam along the back edge of the tank, where it meets the seat. Rabers sent the tank to Southern California to a place that specializes only in fixing motorcycle tanks. They do a chemical tank sealer that just might fix the problem while saving my paintjob. Two months later, I get the call that the only way they can fix the leak is to weld it. That means the paintjob is toast. Oh well, at least I’ll save the $150 save-the-paintjob fee. It’s still $400 by the time I get it back.
ABOVE-LEFT: My tank BEFORE. ABOVE-RIGHT: My tank AFTER.
I wasn’t prepared to see it stripped bare and primered. I’d forgotten about the ding on the top, and oh yeah, those tank badge bosses that I bondo’d over are back. But, the tank has now been pressure-tested and no leaks. And they used their professional-grade tank sealant process to completely line the inside of my tank. You wouldn’t believe the finish on the inside of this thing! It’s glossy, smooth, and presents a flawless finish on the inside of the tank. Just one more added layer of protection, not just from leaks, but also to help prevent rust. This new ethanol-spiked gas carries a lot of water in it, and that can lead to rust in steel fuel tanks.
ABOVE: They totally acid-washed the inside of the tank then gave it this sealer treatment that looks better than some paintjobs I've seen.
So now I’m committed to painting it. The tank anyway. But instead of worrying about matching the color perfectly, I could paint the front and rear fenders, and side covers at the same time, all in the same color. But that got me to thinking...when I built Yellow Bike I fabricated the side covers out of thin aluminum flashing. While they did the job quite admirably, they were crude and looked very ‘cobbled together’. So this time around, as long as I have to paint it all anyway, I decided to upgrade the side covers somehow. I thought about making bucks, then molds, then laying them in fiberglass. I thought of trying to hand-hammer the thin aluminum into shape. But in the end, I had to admit that with my skill level and the tools I have to work with,
either method would likely have looked like a pre-schooler did it. So, in the end, I opted for a set of used side covers off a '79 T140D Bonneville Special as a starting point. I plan to fill in the emblem bosses, smoothing the whole surface, then making some other changes here and there as needed. In the end and after I get them painted yellow with everything else, I’m hoping they’ll look cool, unique, and professionally-fabricated. We’ll see. And you will too, because I’m going to keep you up to date, blow-by-blow in my progress on my beloved Yellow Bike. Stay tuned.
BELOW: I hand-fabricated the yellow side cover on the LEFT out of thin aluminum flashing using the most primitive of means, and it shows. I plan to replace them with the '79 factory fiberglass side covers, after modifying them somewhat, and painting them yellow, of course.
ABOVE: This '64 Velocette Vogue represents the extreme of the 'enclosed-bike-trend' of the late 50s and early 60s.
THIS MONTH’S THUNDER ROADS: “ENCLOSED BIKES”
I continue to provide Thunder Roads Mid-Atlantic motorcycle magazine
with high quality content each month all about our classic British motorcycles. Their readers, predominantly Harley folks, have been craving more articles about cool old Brit bikes, and my monthly column with them, “From Across the Pond” is now spreading across the country. We’re now in Delaware, DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Indiana, and spreading fast. This month’s column is titled “The Future of Motorcycling: Fully-Enclosed Bikes from England”. In it we study the fad that came and went in England in the late 50s and early 60s, but failed to catch on here in America. Many Brits back then, you see, were relying on their bikes
as their primary means of transport, and getting back and forth to work everyday in the miserable English weather was grueling at times. Only made worse by the nightly wipe-down that was required to avoid rust. Some thought the answer was enclosing the bikes. It’s an interesting story, with some enclosed bikes turning out better than others. Well worth the read.
If you’d like a FREE COPY, please ORDER HERE. Make sure and include your NAME and FULL ADDRESS. We still have some copies left of prior issues also, so if you’d like a different topic, let us know. Here are your choices:
* Triumph Bonneville
* History of BSA
* Indian Motorcycles from England
* History of Vincent
* Barber Motorcycle Museum
* Matchless Motorcycles
* Enclosed Bikes
OUR TRAFFIC HITS NEW HIGHS
Our traffic has grown steadily since our inception in 2010. Steadily, but slowly at times. A little over a year ago, in August 2015 we were getting around 140,000 hits (page-views) per month. By December 2015, we were at 150,000, and by May 2016 we were hitting 160,000, each a record for us when they happened. Then, in September we got just over 170,000, another record. Then last month, October 2016 we broke the 200,000-mark. Now, I know that in this world of big-money mega-websites, 200,000 page-views in a month isn’t diddly-squat. But in a niche as small and as narrow as Classic British Motorcycles, and a website run by one guy out of his house, that’s not too shabby. Hopefully its an indication that we’re having a positive effect on the marketplace out there, helping to expose more people to our precious British bikes, and that the genre as a whole is growing, which has been shrinking for years.
LOTSA NEW MOTORCYCLE VIDEOS
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been producing short videos for YouTube all about classic British motorcycles. In fact, Classic-British-Motorcycles.com has our own YouTube Channel, please check it out. And while you’re there, please subscribe, that way you’ll be notified every time a new classic British motorcycle video comes out. And I do them all the time. Here’s a sample:
* '58 Ariel Red Hunter
* '58 Ariel Red Hunter-HD
* '71 Bonneville
* '71 Bonneville-HD
* '69 Rocket 3 Cafe Racer
* '69 Rocket 3 Cafe Racer-HD
* Bonneville thru the
* Bonneville thru the Years-HD
* Barber Museum
* Barber Museum-HD
* '73 Triumph Hurricane
* '63 Royal Enfield Interceptor
* '47 Velocette KSS
* '52 BSA Golden Flash
THE 2017 MOTORCYCLE CALENDARS ARE IN
All the cool new classic motorcycle calendars are out for 2017, and they look fantastic. Of course, I’m a huge fan of calendars, and calendar art (or photos), so I love ‘em all. I usually buy a few different ones, one for my shop, one for my office at home and one for my office at my office. The great thing about buying your calendars early like this is that most of them these days are 16-month calendars. That means your 2017 calendar will start in September of 2016. So BUY IT NOW and start using it the moment it arrives. And buy with confidence, this is all through Amazon. Sales of things like
motorcycle books, magazine subscriptions and calendars helps support this website, and any purchase you make through us is greatly appreciated. Every little bit helps. Thank you, and on to an exciting new year.
COME SEE US ON FACEBOOK
If you’re on our Facebook, check out Facebook page and “Like” some stuff. We’re constantly posting new and interesting things that classic British bike nuts may like. So keep checking back. Thank you.