Friday, April 7, 2017

Chuck Lawrence, Stampeder

Thursday, April 6, 2017

BSA Owners' Club of Northern California

Saturday the BSA Owners' Club of Northern California held their April Fools North Bay ride. I usually meet friends on Saturday mornings for a breakfast ride from Novato to Pt. Reyes Station, but this day called for a change of plans.

As would be expected there were a lot of British bikes ranging from oily and rough to some looking like they just rolled off the showroom floor. And there were two Harley's, my '02 Sporty and Rolly's knucklehead.

Gordon rode his '66 Triumph T120 and we stopped high above Tomales Bay  for a few photos.

When we got to the little town of Tomales, there was a battery smoking in the street. It was a lithium battery that had been in a pristine Trumph Trident. When the rider pulled into town he noticed smoke and drug the battery out of the bike. He was lucky the bike didn't burn up and I think that nearly every BSA Club member took a memo, "Note to self, NO LITHIUM BATTERIES."

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Stampede Feelin' 2 Years After

I miss The Stampede. At this time of year I would be focusing my energy on getting the bike ready, and that felt good. This year I've got a little trip in mind for May, so I pulled out all the old stuff I used on previous stampedes. I'm not going to be riding nonstop day and night, so the bike can be a little more raw. But I will want my personal stuff and need some extra gas.

I decided to leave off the roll bag. I had used it for the Stampede because I needed the extra bag space and to mount LED lights for night travel. It also acted to block the wind and kept the rain from blowing off the front tire onto me, but it also caused some handling problems because the weight is high and forward. 
I put on the saddle bags from Stampede 10 and the 2 1/2 gallon gas tank from Stampede 9. That will give me the packing space I need and nearly 5 gallons of gas too. I think it looks good.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Bob Smith, Tough Ol' Bird

I was happy to see Bob show up for the Saturday Breakfast Ride. He's not riding yet but says his doctor says there is no reason for him not to ride. The Doc also said there should be no problem kick starting a bike. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bob Smith on Black Ice

     Saturday mornings a bunch of friends ride to Pt. Reyes Station for breakfast. This year, Saturday was the day before Christmas and it dawned cold, 27 degrees when I left home. When we met up, there were only four of us. The cold probably had nothing to do with the low turnout.

     Bob Smith was riding his 62 Triumph. The road was wet but I didn't see any ice and Bob didn't see any either. Which brings us to the crash 
     Bob was ahead of me when we turned left onto Platform Bridge. I saw him lose traction and then high side. 
     Bob was unconscious when I got to him. A motorist stopped and then went to call 911 (there was no cell service) and another was an off duty Paramedic. Still others had a blanket. 
Bob was transported to the hospital. Gordon and Tom, the other two riders took care of Bob's motorcycle.
     Bob's Triumph had a broken headlight and dented headlight bucket. The seat was torn and some parts ground down a little. 
     I learned that Bob broke his hip, a couple of ribs and his collar bone. He had surgery at Stanford Hospital.

Update- Bob was transferred to a rehab hospital in Sebastopol, California. I visited him there and he is doing well and in good spirits. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016


     In the rush to publish most moto-journalists repeated what Harley Davidson Factory Reps fed them about the new 8 valve engine.  Fortunately the Ray’s Motorcycle Diary staff has no deadlines or need to be the first to get to print.  RMD is never invited to the roll out of any new factory models. Shame that, but it does allow me to think about what I am being told.
     I do think the new Harley Davidson 8 valve engine is a big step forward, giving riders what they have been asking for, a cooler running engine and more horsepower.  Harley showed that with good engineering an air cooled engine can make decent power and meet emission requirements.

     It seems that everything that was changed on the engine, was a change for the good and in some areas appear to be brilliant engineering.  So would I say that the 8 valve appears to be the best engine the Harley Davidson has made?  I think the answer lies in what was not changed.

     Probably the most problematic area of the Twin Cam engine was the chain driven cams.  In 2002 Harley Davidson dropped the double tapered-roller crank bearings in favor of the less expensive plain-roller crank bearings.  The plain-roller bearings allow excessive crank end play.  If there is excessive end play gear drive cams cannot be used.  Gear driven cams make for much more precise valve timing and the chain driven cams and tensioners on the Twin Cams motors caused problems throughout the Twin Cams life span.

     When asked why Harley Davidson did not use the more expensive but superior double tapered-roller bearings on the new Milwaukee 8, Harley’s Chief Engineer of New Products simply said, “We didn’t see a need to use double tapered-roller bearings.” Further Harley claims they kept the chain driven cams to lower engine noise, which allowed them to have louder pipes, now it's not a flaw it's a feature. 

     So is the new 8 valve the best engine Harley has ever made? I don't think so because Harley Davidson didn't build the best engine they could using the best available technology, and worse, they know they didn't. This engine is, well, just good enough.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sportster Blow By Catch Can

     I hope this catch can will solve the annoying problem of what to do with venting the crankcase.
     The crankcase builds positive pressure that must be vented. When the engine is started, condensation from the crankcase is vented until rising temperatures eliminate any water vapor from the system. After that it's an oily mist that is vented.
     Harley Davidson simply vents the blow by into the air cleaner. The problem is that on long rides oil can drip out through the air cleaner element and cause a mess.
     When I first built this bike and changed the air box, I ran a hose from the crankcase breather bolts down below the frame to vent onto the ground. This didn't work well for me as the hot oily mist condensed on the cold frame rails and made the bike an oily mess underneath.
     Also in my garage, the bike would occasionally drip onto the floor. It was only a drop or two, but I cannot abide oil leaks where there should be none.
     I got a bright idea, put an old fuel filter on the vent hose. The theory was that the filter mesh would condense the oil mist and the oil would sit in the filter body. The only trouble was, it didn't work, all I did was move the oily mess from the bottom of the bike to the top.

     I wondered how much oil came out through the system, so I taped a paper towel around my (fuel) filter to catch the oil. The photo shows how much oil was in the paper towel after a little less than a hundred miles.
     It certainly shows that my engine is not experiencing excessive blow by. It's amazing how much mess a small amount of oil mist can cause.
     I decided to look on the internet to see what others had done with their crankcase breathers. I was hardly surprised to find dozens of different opinions all presented as though they were the most expert advise possible. It seems oil has that effect on motorcyclists.
     I decided that a proper catch can would be the best solution to keep the oil mist and water vapor out of the engine and off the ground and bike. Most of the catch cans I saw were automotive and quite large for a motorcycle. I found the one below, made by a company called Golan. It's well made in the USA and seems that it would hold about about an ounce of fluid.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lions and Tigers and Scammers, On My

     Marie is selling her Sportster and this is the Craig's List advertisement we posted. It's a nice bike, Ok price, but apparently a scammer magnet.

2008 Sportster 1200 Low - $5400
ide this posting

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cotati Speedway

     My little town has some interesting history. Cotati, the smallest city in Sonoma County, California, once had a board track speedway.
     Cotati Speedway was built in 1921. It was a 1-1/4 mile banked oval. The grand opening and first car race was August 14, 1921. The speedway had two grandstands that each held 5000 race fans and the infield was packed with an additional 10,000 spectators. Eddie Hearne, driving a Duesenberg won and set a record with an average speed of 110.85 mph for the 150 mile race.
     The first motorcycle race was held on September 4. Otto Walker won the 25 mile race on a Harley Davidson and set a record of 106 mph average speed. Walker set the first speed record of over 100 mph earlier that year at a board track in Fresno, California. Walker survived the tremendously dangerous sport of board track racing and retired from racing in 1922. He ran a sport fishing outfit on the Sacramento River and died in 1963 at 73 years old.
     The track was opened in 1921 and closed in 1922. There are many opinions on why the Cotati Speedway only lasted two years. The tracks builder Jack S. Prince had a paralyzing stroke, the weather in the Cotati area was too cool and damp, the transportation to the area was poor, the board tracks required too much expensive maintenance and the terrible injuries at board tracks are all listed as reasons that the Cotati track lasted such a short time. The truth is that all these things contributed to, not only the Cotati tracks demise but to the eventual end of all the motordromes.
      Today, there is no trace of the speedway with only one exception. After the close of the speedway the track was dismantled and the lumber was sold. 

     The floor of the Redwood Cafe in downtown Cotati was the racing surface of the Cotati Speedway.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Ryca Kit Bike

     I saw this bike in a parking lot the other day. I thought it was a sweet little chop.

     Later I got to thinking that I had seen a "kit chopper" that was similar, then I remembered the Ryca kits.  Ryca builds several kits, bobber, cafe racer, scrambler and street trackers, using the Suzuki (S40) Savage and Harley Sportster as the basic bike.
     It looks well engineered and it's a sweet looking little bike. I really like the way the Suzuki engine looks without the big chrome band at the top. The only down side is that because it's a kit they tend to all look the same, like a production bike. Over time the owner would probably change enough to make the bike different from the rest.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Muller Power Clutch

     The clutch on my 2002 Sportster has always been hard to pull and right now I'm just not up for it. A friend told me about the Muller Power Clutch.
     The Muller Power Clutch replaces the stock clutch release mechanism. Muller changed the angle of the inner and outer ramps on the clutch release in order to make the clutch lever easier to pull. Harley Davidson changed the stock setup to a similar configuration around 2006.

     The Muller Power Clutch was super easy to install and easy to adjust. It claims to make the clutch pull about 40% easier. I can attest that the clutch is much easier to pull. The only down side is that the Muller Power Clutch come at a price. Yep it's expensive.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Senior Bob Marshall

     I opened the January issue of The Horse Magazine and found this article by my friend Bob Marshal. Bob shared some photos of his Dad and of the bike his Dad built and rode in the early 1970's. The bike is a '59 pan and still looks really cool and in style today.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Stampede Bike to Proper Chopper

     I used this bike for Stampede 9 and 10. After Stampede 10, the last Stampede, I changed up a few things to make the bike what I wanted from the beginning. I kept a few things so that in a couple of hours, I could change the bike back into a cross country racer.

     With the Stampede ended, it is unlikely that I will ride this bike back to the east coast again...but...I might.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Crash


Marie and I plowed into a deer while riding in the Eastern Sierras near Mammoth Mountain. I saw the deer, a grey blur, running from my right and recognized that we were going to hit. I don't remember any else until I woke up the next day in the hospital in Reno.
     I broke a bone in my left hand, a rib, my nose and fouled up my collar bone and knees. But it was Marie that was far more seriously injured. Her right leg was so badly damaged that it required three emergency surgeries to stabilize the broken bones and repair the blood supply. She is still hospitalized six weeks after the accident.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Couple Seriously Injured After Deer Collides With Motocycle

Staff Writer

Friday, October 9, 2015

A Coati couple was seriously injured near the Crestview area of U.S. 395 after a deer jumped out in front of them and collided with the motorcycle the couple was riding.
The accident occurred on Oct. 8, at approximately 11:45 a.m., when California Highway Patrol (CHP) received a report of an injury collision involving a black motorcycle and a deer on U.S. 395 south of Crestview, according to the CHP.
The preliminary investigation indicated the couple, Raymond and Maria Watson, was traveling southbound on U.S. 395 southbound, just north of Mammoth Scenic Loop in the #2 lane, according to a news release. A deer jumped up from the west side of the road and entered the #2 lane, directly in front of the motorcycle.
The couple was unable to avoid the deer and the subsequent collision caused the motorcycle to go down. Both the driver and the passenger were ejected from the motorcycle and both sustained major injuries and were transported by ambulance to Mammoth Hospital and then later, air-lifted to Renown Medical Center in Reno.
CHP personnel from the Bridgeport area responded as well as Mono County Sheriff, Mono County EMS and Cal-trans to assist. —WG

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Valley Fire

The fire started on Cobb Mountain and pushed by strong winds blowing from the west, roared into Middletown. People left their homes moments ahead of the fire and considered themselves lucky to be alive. 

Cobb Mountain is north of Napa Valley and south of Clear Lake, California. The mountain has a very high fuel load and even when there is no drought is very dry in fall. 

Still, these Amaryillis called Naked Ladies bloomed within hours of being burned over, as if to say to the fire and the world, "in your face, we are here, undefeated."

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Strato-Streak

    Three wheelers and trikes are becoming a lot more popular. I finally found one I like.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Heading to Sturgis

A lot of California was burning when we headed out Highway 50. We stayed in Fallon, Nevada our first night. 

We stopped in Austin, an old mining town of 192 people, for lunch. We had a great burger at the old International Hotel.

Our plan was to camp out in the Great Basin National Park. Lehman Creek campground is located near Baker, Nevada. We stopped at T&D's Country Store, Bar and Restaurant in Baker. Terry, Debra and Kelli treated us like royalty. Terry even broke out the good tequila. 

We rode up the mountain to Lehman Creek Campground, which is at about 7200 ft. The night sky in this part of Nevada has no light pollution and after the moon went down, the stars were incredible.

During the night the wind came up and nearly blew the tent down. We hardly slept at all because of the wind.

Some where along the road we saw this strange animal lurking behind a fence. It wasn't a chupacabra but just a shy burro.

Highway 50 is known as the loneliest highway in America and Eastern Nevada is the loneliest part of Highway 50.

Spotted Wolf Canyon in the San Rafael Reef. The San Rafael Reef is a 30 mile long rock wall. Then on to Grand Junction, Colorado and into the Rocky Mountains

When we got into the Rockies the weather cooled down and we rode at a more leisurely pace. At Salida, Colorado, we jogged south to Alamosa then east to La Veta, Colorado.

We stayed with Marie's family in La Veta. I really like this area, its geologically interesting, historically interesting as well as beautiful.

We stayed a day in La Veta and a day in Colorado Springs visiting family, then headed north again.

We stayed one night in Scott's Bluff while Jason Lewison owner of Precision Cycle replaced a tire and cured a manifold leak. 

We arrived at Nemo Saturday, time to set up camp and relax.