Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bikes I Have Loved, YZ-250E

This may be the only photo of me riding my YZ-250E. The photo and bike are 1978 vintage. This photo was taken at an enduro at Red Mountain in the Mohave Desert. I can’t remember the name of the enduro. An enduro is like a car rally in the desert, there are checkpoints and you have to arrive on time at the checkpoints.
The photo was taken by one of those trackside photographers that try to sell you copies and send you a little teaser photo. Well this is the teaser photo.
This bike was a true motocross bike. In 1978 the professional motocross riders, like Bob Hanna, rode stock YZ’s and the bikes were raffled off to the crowd after the race. The bike was tall and fast. The power band was like a light switch, full on or full off. The bike was so tall, I could barely tiptoe the ground. I put on a speedometer from a Yamaha IT, which was a slug compared to the YZ.
In enduro riding of the time you used a roll chart to keep on time. The roll chart was a scroll of paper in an aluminum holder on the handlebars with the time in minutes on one side and where you should be on the other.
As you rode you would check your watch against your speedometer to tell where you should be in time and space.
This was all fine and should be simple, but, and there’s always one isn’t there? Digital watches were just coming out at the time; it was almost impossible to see the second hand on a regular watch. Digital displays were small and very hard to read while you were bouncing along a desert trail at speed. The speedometer was small and hard to read for the same reasons. The paper in the roll chart was also problematic. More than once it tore or got wet and went to pieces.
It was easy to stay on time when the trail was easy and the speeds low. When speeds were higher and the terrain harder it was almost impossible to stay on time. The Yamaha was the perfect bike. Fast and agile with long travel, the suspension soaked up huge bumps with the, then new, monoshock suspension.
I also used the bike for motocross until I had a bad crash and broke my collarbone, but that’s another story.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Freaks O' Nature

Here is a photo of a bike that I saw in London. It is a BMW C1. BMW what were you thinking? This is supposed to be a safer motorcycle that you can ride with out a helmet because you are so strapped in that your head could not hit the pavement. That’s right, seat belts and rollcage, a little car on two wheels.
We have been having so much rain here in Northern California lately that my brain began to wander, motorcycle rain/rain motorcycle, that’s when I remembered seeing the mighty C1. It might not be too bad riding with a windshield and roof. Put some side curtains on the thing and Viola.
In 2001, the first year of manufacture BMW produced 10,000 C1’s. In 2002 BMW produced only 2000 and production ceased the same year. What happened? I think people had a revelation. They woke up one morning, walked out to their scooter and said, “Whoa, this thing has got to be right up there with Lamas, and miniature horses, it’s a freak of nature."

How Did It All Go So Wrong?

How could my shifter rod drift apart? I was just riding a long and when I went to downshift into the town of Hopland and the shifter was on the floorboard. The ball and socket had parted ways. No big arguments just a separation and quicky divorce. While installing the new rod, HD does not sell just the rod end, no surprises there, I think I figured out how there were grounds for separation.
There was another man involved!
I remember when I bought this bike, the previous owner had mentioned that he couldn't adjust the height of the shift pedal. I think that he was trying to take the jamb nut loose and when it popped loose and the other wrench shot upward and that twisted the rod end off the ball. Oops, better pop it back on before admitting that it's broken. Better that the new owner shell out for a new one than the present owner, right?
So here we are 25k miles later in the middle of a nasty divorce.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bikes I Have Loved, DT-1

Everyone has a favorite motorcycle, mine is the Yamaha DT-1B. Made in 1969, it was my first real motorcycle. I loved that bike; I was so greatly influenced by that motorcycle that its vibrations still resonate in my life.
I can still remember the first time I saw a DT-1. It was 1968, I was in Crestline in the San Bernardino Mountains, and I saw it, it was so tall and the lines so right. The sight of that bike made such an impression on me that I remember everything about the moment 40 years later.
My Dad bought the 1969 Yamaha DT-1B from K&N Motorcycles on La Cadena Dr, in Riverside, California. Malcolm Smith was the head of the service department and K&N Motorcycles later became K&N Air Filters. My Dad had been saving lead pennies, which were made during the war years out of zinc to save copper for bullets. My Dad had saved up $300 worth of the lead pennies and sold them to a dealer for 3 cents apiece. Coincidentally that was the price of the Yamaha $900.
My Dad found the Dt-1 to be too tall and bought a Yamaha 125 AT-1, which he liked better because not only was it shorter, it had an electric starter. Dad was the same age as I am now and I can see how he appreciated the electric starter.
I took over the 250. I was 15 years old, I could not ride on the streets, but we lived near the Santa Ana River and I could coast down the hill and ride to the river bottom which was like a sand highway to the hills at North Main St. My Dad, my brother and I would load up the bikes and go to the Canyon Crest area and ride all day on weekends. My Dad and I once road the bikes to Bodie, California. The bike was a great piece of machinery. It never broke, it rode great and it looked great, what more could a kid want.
When I graduated from High School, I decided to take a motorcycle trip. I loaded a sleeping bag on the DT-1 and headed off. I toured around California and parts of Nevada. I lost my student deferment and got drafted. That changed the direction of my life.
I would not change one iota, not one molecule not one breath taken of the time I spent with that bike.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tin-ah-see Ernie

Greg and I are sitting at Ernie’s, I am enjoying the warm sun and the cold beer, when a guy starts unloading large sacks of peanuts and pistachios and pretzels behind the bar. Somebody at the other end of the bar says, “Hey Ernie.”
I say, “Are you the Ernie, the Ernie’s Tin Roof Ernie?”
He says,”Yeah.”
I say, “Can I take your picture for my blog.”
Ernie says, “I’m not posing.”
I take that for permission.

I'm HD You're Desmo

This is my buddy Greg, he's Desmodromic. Sexy and Italian, not Greg the motorcycle. Greg is, well, Greg. The motorcycle is a Ducati Monster. Desmodromic is the name given to Ducati motorcycles valve train. The valve train is not like other non-Italian drive trains. It is a system of levers that teeter totter the valves up and down. No springs here!
Ducati claims that when the engine valves are levered open and then levered closed the action is much more percise than when the valves are pushed open and then left to the vagaries of a spring to snap them closed. This allows much more precise adjustment of the engine timing.
Timing is everything be you a comedian or an engine. Timing is important in most everything we do, but I digress. Everything that happens in an engine as it runs is not digital like on/off, one or zero. Each part of the engine has tolerances that are taken up as the engine runs through a cycle. The spark needs to go off slightly before the piston is at the top of the chamber because by the time the mixture of gasoline and air starts to burn the piston will be at TDC (top dead center). Immagine as the engine speeds up and slows down the timing of the spark needs to be changed accordingly. There is a mechanism for this, it's the spark advance in the distributor or some computer thingy, but again I digress.
But a spring can only close so fast. Bigger springs will close quicker but will also take more force to open, enter Desmodromic. The Desmodromic valve system is a mechanism that will open and close the valves as the engine spins faster in perfect timing, a mechanism. Anyway it works, Ducati engines will rev like there is no limit.
As I mentioned before Greg's bike is Ducati Monster. It has no fairing, you can see all the engine and all the parts. Greg owned a Ducati 999, a beautiful fully faired, bright red, Italian speed freak. The bike not Greg. Greg sold the 999 and got the current ride, a Monster.
I think Ducati should have named the 999 the 666, that way they would have the Monster and the Beast. Greg sees no humor in this.