"BRIT IRON" takes you behind the scenes at
March 2012 - Issue #23
IN THIS WEEK'S ISSUE:
RIO VISTA/DELTA RIDE - Went on Saturday. WOW!!
PROJECT ROYAL CLONE - It's getting expensive...
RESTO TIP OF THE WEEK - ...something new
A NEW TRIUMPH ON THE 'MORNING AFTER RIDE' - Wait til you hear this one!
CLUBMAN'S ALL-BRITISH WEEKEND - It's just around the corner.
CORRECTION - Even I make a mistake, once in awhile...
WEIRD STUFF - ...of course.
BSAOC's RIO VISTA/DELTA RIDE
About 40 old Brit bikes (and my Harley) await the ferry.
The BSAOCNC (BSA Owners Club of Northern California) is a great bunch, and they serve up about one killer ride each month. While I've always been a bit of a Triumph guy, I've yet to find a decent Triumph club, the BSA club is not only the biggest (about 600 members), but the most active as well. In fact, on top of all the great rides they do all year, they put on the legendary Clubman's All-British Weekend show, now in its 25th year (see article near the bottom of this issue). So, here I am with all these BSA guys & gals. Great people, by the way, and they welcome all bikes, regardless of brand or even nationality. Good thing too, as this day I was riding my Harley. The trick is that you must share an appreciation of BSAs. And that I can do.
ONE OF MY FAVORITE RIDES
I did the Rio Vista-Delta Ride last year, and loved it. In fact, it was my first ride with the
BSA club since joining. It was an incredible ride last year, and this year was even better. We meet up at the bridge in Rio Vista in the heart of California's Sacramento River Delta, then off we go for about a 100-mile loop up one side of the river & down the other. Over bridges, past farms, fields, boats, fishermen, cute little houses, and ferries...don't forget the ferries. It's hard for me to imagine that it could be more cost effective for the county to maintain & operate a ferry 24/7, with a crew, maintenance, fuel, insurance, etc., than to just build a bridge. But I must say, I'm glad they haven't figured that one out yet, because taking these ferries with 40 other guys on vintage bikes is way cool! The photo above shows us waiting for the ferry to board us. We went across 2 of them in the course of the ride.
MORE ON THIS...
This ride took place on Saturday, March 4. I took helmet-cam videos & lots of photos of the ride & I plan to build a page about it, and a YouTube video. As soon as I get them done, I'll get you the info on them.
Trying to stay organized. I had to lay everything out just to see what I had.
PROJECT ROYAL CLONE: IT'S GETTING EXPENSIVE...
My frame now sits in my garage, slowly turning into a complete motorcycle san engine, and my engine is at Rabers. I've been methodically assembling the rest of the bike. I have the entire rolling chassis together: frame, swingarm, shocks, forks, wheels & brakes. The bars & controls are on, the headlight, the rear grab-bar...all while trying not to scratch anything or get anything wrong. I have been relying heavily on the notes I made and the digital pictures I took while disassembling the bike. I learned this from the History Channel TV show, "American Restoration", and I'm surprised it took me this long. Of course in the old days of film cameras, this would not have been very practical. But today with cheap hi-def cameras (mine's not so cheap) that can shoot hundreds of good-quality photos for nothing, it's the only game in town. Several times I have needed to refer to the photos on my laptop to make sure I had the right bolt, or the proper arrangement of spacers. Leave it to the Brits, they just love spacers. I have them all over this bike & every one of them is unique. There are two that mount the headlight, one thicker than the other. Then there are two more than look almost identical, also with one thicker than the other, but slightly larger in diameter, that go on the front engine mount. Then more for the lower engine mount, more for rear brake system, etc. I had everything powdercoated in advance based on where they would go. The headlight spacers needed to be black, but the engine spacers were going to be bright cad, to match the mounting bolt. But, they got switched at birth, and now one of my headlight spacers was bright cad instead of black. So, after all my trouble of powdercoating all these parts to match, I ended up painting that spacer (which fits between 2 black powdercoated parts) with a shaker can. It came out just about perfect, you can't tell the difference. The only way I sorted all this out was via the digital pictures I'd taken a month before. Thank goodness for my foresight. Sometimes I get my answers from photos I took of something else, but the item in question happens to be in the background of the photo, clear as day.
Until I get my engine back, the wiring harness is my top priority. I need to get most of the rest of the bike together before my engine arrives, but to do that, I've got to sort out the wiring harness first. I am slowly comparing my new harness to the old one, which was copiously labeled, and referring to my photo records, and running the harness as it should be. I am going to make one small modification to the harness however, I am routing the oil pressure sender wire around the back of the engine, out of sight, instead of down the front-right downtube the way it is from the factory. Just trying to clean up the lines a bit. I can't mount the tail light until I get the harness in place & I can't get the harness in place until I pick up a few female bullet connectors to match what came on the new harness. The auto-parts-store-bought crimp connectors don't work. Back to Rabers on Tuesday...or maybe I'll call them & have them mail the stuff to me.
Before and after: The right half was wet-sanded with 400-grit, then 600-grit. The left half was then hand-polished with SemiChrome polish. It came out luscious.
ON THE SUBJECT OF THAT TAIL LIGHT
I really need to anchor both ends of my wiring harness, and the tail light is easier to do than the headlight (a snaggle of wires), but I don't want to put it on the bike until it looks as good as all this other new stuff I'm doing. The tail light housing is made of cast aluminum & is highly polished from the factory. Of course 31 years of exposure has dulled & deteriorated its surface. Normally I use my buffing wheel & some jewelers rouge to polish parts like this. But, I couldn't find the rouge in all my crap & couldn't find anywhere that I could go to just buy it (gotta order it), I was forced to come up with other means. The solution came to me in the form of an article in the March/April issue of Motorcycle
Classics Magazine. Lo and behold, it was about hand-polishing alloy parts. Reading it, I decided to give it a try & did something I've never done before. Following the instructions, I wet-sanded my polished aluminum parts. I started with 400-grit, using water with just a drop of dishwashing soap in it. After cleaning up the entire surface of pits, scratches, imperfections & general grunge, it looks really good, but with a fine layer of sanding marks all over it, making it sort of white. I then graduated on to 600-grit & the surface cleaned up nicely, looking almost polished. Then I took my SemiChrome polish & a rag, & hand-polished it to a very high sheen. I did some before-and-after shots to show the differences in the various steps. But that's too much here, so you'll have to wait until I get them in to my ongoing coverage of this project, Triumph Bonneville Project.
AND NOW FOR THE BIG NEWS: OUCH!!
So, I got the bid from Rabers to do my engine. $2,800!! WOW! OUCH!! Certainly more than I was expecting, and this did not include the head, which I've already paid for ($500). But, to be fair, I'm getting everything done, and with world-class precision & skill. No doubt about it. The cylinders are being line-bored .020-over, with new pistons & rings. The crank is being rebuilt, and one of the main journals has worn down undersize, so it will be knurled, then turned back down to correct size, the rod journals will be reground also, with new bearings. I'm also upgrading to heavy duty roller main bearings on both sides. Then the whole crank is being shipped out to be dynamically-balanced. New cams, R-grind lifters & cam bushings, new gearbox bearings & bushings, a polished shift camplate (for smoother shifting), every surface, every alignment checked. In essence, they are balancing & blueprinting this engine for me. And that never comes cheap. Even in a little pushrod twin. Oh well, it should be worth it when it's done. And before you go thinking Rabers is making a killing here, or overcharging, remember that there is almost no one left who knows how to work on these bikes, certainly at this level, for any price. When Rabers does it, it's done right & they will stand behind it. And you get much more than just work. They will teach & coach you & help you do some of the work yourself. This work doesn't come cheap, nor do the specialized tools required, or the knowledge & skill that is only attainable through years of experience. Sure, $2,800 is a lot of money, but I don't see any viable alternatives that cost enough less to be worth taking a chance on. So, I bite the bullet, wait for my engine, then...we'll go riding!!
RESTORATION TIP OF THE WEEK
While on the Rio Vista Ride this weekend, I spoke with Bill Whalen, fellow BSAOCNC member. Bill has probably done more than any single person in recent history to raise the value of Rockets, resurrecting then restoring these rare British triples to such a high degree that he consistently breaks records when he then sells them at auction. This year, for instance, at Vegas Auction Week, he sold a '73 Triumph Hurricane (originally designed to be a BSA, but later rebadged to Triumph when BSA folded) for $30,500 (not a record, but very strong), and an ultra-rare 1972 BSA Rocket 3 with 5 speed for $30,000, surely a record for Rocket 3's.
Looking over his bikes, they always look new, better than new. His freshly plated nuts & bolts look perfect, virgins, like they've never seen a wrench. Mine, on the other hand, while newly cad-plated, look like they've been through a fight. What is the secret, I asked? Cellophane! He takes a small piece of plastic wrap & puts it over the nut or bolt head prior to tightening & it protects the surface from damage, and is so thin that the wrench still fits. Brilliant! And it works, I tried it. I just wish I would have asked about 3 weeks ago, before I started putting this bike back together. Expensive lessons...oh well.
NEW TRIUMPH THRUXTON FOR THE MORNING AFTER
As always, this year's Clubman's All-British Weekend on March 31 & April 1 follows up Saturday's motorcycle show (see below) with one of the nicest rides there is. The Morning After Ride departs Hobee's Restaurant in Los Gatos CA at around 10:00 am on Sunday Morning, with about 100 vintage bikes in attendance. They take a leisurely 90-mile loop through the Santa Cruz Mountains, with Redwoods, pine forests, lovely little apple farms & the Coast! I was planning to take my '79 Bonnie, but alas, it's nowhere near done. So, I had a choice to make: I could always take my Harley. I rode it on the Rio Vista ride on Saturday after all. But, owning a classic British motorcycle site & showing up to a classic British motorcycle ride, I just couldn't show up on a Harley. It seemed inappropriate. So I hatched this scheme.
ENTER TRI-VALLEY MOTO
I recently dropped into the local Triumph Motorcycle dealer in Livermore, Tri-Valley Moto to promote the upcoming Clubmans Show & met the owner, Mike, a very nice guy with a passion for nice bikes. They also sell BMWs and KTM. Very nice showroom. After my Rio Vista Ride on Saturday, on my way back home through Livermore, I dropped in to Tri-Valley Moto & unfolded my plan to Mike. I suggested that he loan me a new Triumph Bonneville for the ride. I was going to cover it with helmet cam & camera, write a page on my site about it & produce a YouTube video. Now I could change the whole complexion of the articles, to cover the aspect of riding a new British classic alongside all the old British classics. There would be lots of photo ops to stand the new Bonneville next to an old one. And through it all I would promote his business as well. He said, "I'll do you one better. I'll loan you my bike." From the sound of it, I knew it had to be good. And it is. A fully tricked-out Thruxton, with loads of the best performance goodies, and its mine for the weekend! What a guy. Can't wait. More on this later...
THE CLUBMAN IS COMING!!
I know I've said this before, but mark the weekend of Saturday, March 31 & Sunday, April 1, and make certain that you don't miss the 25th Annual Clubman's All-British Weekend at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose. This is THE biggest & best All-British Show west of the Mississippi, and there will be over 150 gorgeous bikes, a swap meet, bike corral, vendors, a Raffle Bike Giveaway (tickets are only $1.00 & the bike is a restored 1957 BSA Gold Star, and it's all only $5.00! DON'T MISS THIS SHOW!! For more info on the show, or to buy Raffle Tickets, go to BSAOCNC's own website, BSAOCNC.org.
CORRECTION: WRONG URL
In the last issue of Brit Iron, I gave you the link to my page on Examiner.com, but unfortunately, it didn't work. A space showed up in the URL somehow & that's all it takes to make it all go bad. So, here is the correct link to my page on Examiner.com, and I am hoping you will visit it often & leave comments (hopefully pro, rather than con), as this will help my ratings with them. I cover everything about Motorcycles in the Bay Area. Here is the link, please bookmark it:
WIERD STUFF: THEY FELL LIKE DOMINOES
This is appropriate because I saw these babies on last year's Rio Vista-Delta Ride with the BSAOCNC. I took the same ride two days ago but these towers were gone. While they do sort of give the impression of having fallen over, one-after-the-other, they were actually stored here temporarily by the County. Apparently, they've put them to good use somewhere.
Hope you enjoyed this issue of "BRIT IRON" as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please tell your friends about it, and my website, Classic-British-Motorcycles.com. And please urge them to subscribe to this e-zine. It is my hope that the right people will discover this website & tell the right people, who will then pass it along to more of the right people, and...well, you get the idea.
Thanks for all your interest & support,
PS: I'd love to hear from you, get your comments, ideas, suggestions, criticisms, whatever. Please contact me.
And above all, enjoy the ride...