This video was put together by some AZ vintage riders — Bill Ramsey of The Motorcycle Accessory Shop made the video, based on a technique he learned from Mark Smith. I struggle to start my old big-bore CZs, and have repeatedly ripped the buckles off my cool vintage Hi-Point MX boots. Not cool. Maybe this little trick will save my boots, until I crash and have to start it the old-fashioned way. Of course, this only works with bikes that have carburetors.

trailerkeeperWe all know someone who’s had their bikes and/or gear stolen, if we haven’t been the victim of theft ourselves. Lately it seems that thieves are simply hitching up to the trailer and towing the whole thing off. I guess that’s the price we pay for increased popularity of our sport, and the rising value of vintage bikes in particular. So I thought I’d share the steps I’ve taken to try and keep my own stuff secure.

First we need to acknowledge that if a real thief wants your stuff, there’s little you can do about it. But most thefts are crimes of opportunity — someone sees your stuff, sees an opportunity, and takes it. That’s the kind of thing I want to prevent. So here are five things I’ve done to reduce my chances of losing my stuff. Continue reading

female_mech_calendar_2009Here’s a pretty cool thing to hang over your workbench next year — the 2009 Female Mechanics Calendar from Sarah Lyon Photography. Now this is not your typical bikini-clad, super hot, supermodel calendar with mouthwatering hotties draped over equally mouthwatering pieces of hot rod art.

These are real women, working on everything from Ferraris to jet airplanes.

Based on the preview photos, some of these women are no slouch in the looks department, either. I don’t know about you, but an attractive woman who can actually do something is far hotter in my book than an anorexic supermodel clothes horse. But that’s just me. Anyway, I thought this was cool and deserved a post for those of you who like real women. Check it out.

sandblasterOne of the tools I’ve always wanted is a blaster for cleaning metal. A blast cabinet would be nice, for doing small parts in an enclosed area. But I wanted a bigger unit that would also let me work on frames and bigger pieces.

A couple of years ago I bought a 60-gallon, two-cylinder, 12 CFM compressor that was on close-out (about $350, I think) at Lowes. I had an electrician come in and wire a 220 outlet into my garage and hook it up. But I never used it. Not even once. I never even turned it on except to be sure it ran. I didn’t have any piping or anything. So, like most of my projects, it sat for a year and a half while I went on to other things.

Back in the spring I bought a spinner bike that had been in a fire. It’s a nice unit — a Lemond Revmaster — but the paint was pretty badly smoke damaged. I plan to rebuild it and I have all the parts, but I needed to paint the frame. Before I can paint I need to get the burned powder coat off. Sanding it by hand was not getting me anywhere — there are just too many nooks and crannies and odd angles. I needed a sand blaster! At least, that’s what I told myself.

So I went to Tractor Supply and bought one of their 20-gallon pressure pots for $129. It’s made by Clarke Products and is, at best, a piece of Chinese crap. But I knew that going in. Really, it’s not too bad. I mean, a metal tank is pretty much a metal tank. It’s just that the fittings and manifolds and filter/gauge are junk. The pressure gauge was actually broken on the one I bought.

So I bought a better pressure gauge at Sears ($10) and, using some Black Diamond blast media I got at Tractor Supply I tried blasting. It didn’t work at all. Clogged up immediately and wouldn’t blast a wet paper bag. I was unhappy.

So I started reading the stickers on the side and one of them said, “Use only 80-grit or finer media.” I don’t know anything about blasting grit, but it looked to me that the Black Diamond I bought was pretty coarse. It didn’t say anything about grit on the package. So I dug around on the internet and found some info that said it was probably 30-60 grit.

Aha! I thought. I need finer material. So I did more research, talked to a couple of people, and learned that I needed something called Star Blast. It’s about 100-grit, and I bought it locally at a blasting specialty shop downtown for $10/50lb bag.

I came home and tried it again. It worked better. But after a little bit the sun started to set, the temperature went down, and suddenly my blast nozzle was spluttering, spitting, and spewing water. Bad. I Looked at the cheap Chinese filter and thought it was at least part of the problem (I can’t afford an $900 chiller/dryer right now.) The next day I had to go to a plumbing supply house so I stopped by Northern Tool on the way home and bought an Ingersoll-Rand filter for $50. I put that on and tried it again.

Sure enough it worked better. But the unit still didn’t work very well. It just didn’t put out enough volume and the pressure in the tank wouldn’t stay high enough to do the job.

When I hooked it up I used a 3/8″ ID hose, because that was all I had fittings for. I had a 1/2″ ID hose, just no fittings for it. So today I went to the hardware store and bought the necessary fittings and adapters to connect the bigger hose to the unit.

Voila! It works like it should now. 30% more air volume did the trick. The compressor is big enough to keep it full, but the little hose was choking it down. Now the unit will stay at about a constant 70psi, which is enough to do a decent job of blasting. I will eventually replace the fittings with American units of better quality, and maybe look for some way to replace the manifolds — which are threaded with straight 3/8″ threads instead of tapered pipe threads, so they don’t seal well. But as a blaster it works quite well now, much faster than before. At some point I might even try upgrading to an even larger, custom-made 5/8″ ID or 3/4″ ID supply hose.

Still, blasting takes some time, and some technique. Adjusting the amount of material that comes through the hose is important for both efficiency and effectiveness. I have learned there is an art to taking off as much material as possible with each pass of the nozzle. The angle matters a lot. And it is still tedious. Even though I believe I have the unit working at full capacity now, blasting a whole frame is quite the undertaking.

It could easily take 5-6 bags of media, which is $50-$60. I don’t know of any way to recycle media when you’re blasting outside. Not to mention the mess that much media makes in the driveway. I will probably just blast all the welds and hard to reach areas, then sand and feather the flat surfaces into the blasted metal.

The Star Blast does a great job. At 100-grit it doesn’t remove much metal at all, and it leaves pretty much a primer-ready surface — not at all the rough surface you see with commercial aluminum oxide blasting. I could basically wipe it down and prime it once I’m through. That’s nice.

So the bottom line for effective blasting is you need lots of clean, dry air. Getting that in a home shop is not necessarily cheap or easy. But it makes the job a lot easier. I have some old CZ engine cases that aren’t good for much so once I finish the frame I will try blasting those to see what it does to the aluminum. I also have some broken magnesium hubs that I might try it on, too. I will post pictures of the blasted frame before I paint it.

flip-out-tableTwo cool links today. First is another nice trailer conversion site I found while researching some RV awnings. I don’t know the owner’s name, but he’s done some really nice stuff inside his 7’x14′ tandem axle trailer. I especially this idea for a flip-out table that attaches to the E-Track cargo strips along the wall. He can move the table anywhere in the trailer. He’s also done some really nice stuff with heating, A/C, cabinetry, etc. Pulls the thing with a Toyota Tacoma with a 3.4L V-6. Says he uses it as support for his grandson who races 50cc and 65cc bikes. Cool. A great source of ideas.

Next up is my friend Tommy Montgomery, who has posted some good pictures from Diamond Don’s over at flickr. Nice job, Tommy!

I was fortunate to be able to attend the 2008 Powersports Dealer Expo in Indianapolis (called the Indy Show because it is always in Indianapolis) this past weekend. It was a great trip. I had a good time, met some old friends, made some new ones, and learned lots of interesting stuff. I’ll be writing about all of it here over the next few weeks. For a rather more lighthearted look at the show check out the Racer X Films from Day 1 and Day 2.

To start I thought I’d review some of the more interesting little doodads and helper-items I saw. Nothing really big here, and some of them sell for a little more than I think they should. But they are still neat and may give you some ideas of your own.

handymate2First up is the HandyMate from BossMate. Made in Chattanooga, TN the HandyMate is one of those “Duh, why didn’t I think of that?” ideas. It’s just some simple, rectangular braces/brackets through which you slip a 2”x12” board of whatever length you want (probably around 8 feet max.) to create a nice, stable, self-supporting bench. At 21” tall the HandyMate just about the right height to support a long-travel dirt bike. It also makes a nice bench seat for putting on your boots or whatever, as well as a good step stool for reaching stuff on top of the trailer or across the truck bed. If you’re like me and make your loading ramps from 2”x12” lumber, using one of them for a bench seat or bike stand at the trail site is a great extra use. They make all sorts of variations. The HandyMate is the smallest. All you guys with welders and some 1” sq. tubing around can probably make some up yourself, but for a guy like me who doesn’t have that stuff the $45 retail price tag is low enough I can afford to buy a pair. Check them out.

bootbunny1Next is the MX Boot Bunny. It’s basically some 3/16” (or maybe 1/4”) mild steel rod that has been shaped into two upright, sock-like shapes that let you slip your upside-down muddy boots over them for washing. The Bunny holds them nice and steady so you can hit them with the pressure washer or car wash nozzle without fear of filling them with water. The basic Bunny just sticks into the ground, but they also offer a little fold-up base that can be used on hard surfaces like driveways. The base folds flat so the unit can hang on a hook in your trailer or truck. This one isn’t all that applicable for me since I don’t really ride in the mud anymore. Nor do a lot of vintage guys because it’s just too hard on the bikes. But everything needs washing eventually and at $35.95 for the standard unit and $62.95 for the combo with the base and a hanger it’s worth looking at if you don’t like tossing muddy gear into your rig.

park_tool_workbench2The next item is from Park Tool USA and is a nifty portable workbench. Park has been making specialized bicycle tools for decades and is the leading brand in that space. For 2008 they are upgrading and modifying a number of their tools for the motorcycle market. They have a range of things like specialty vises for holding shocks and forks, etc. The portable workbench looks like a nice addition to the pit gear for any racer. It’ll hold as much as 200 lbs (although you shouldn’t try to put a pitbike on it). It has molded recesses so drinks, cans and tools don’t go rolling off. Plus they offer a nice little kit that turns it into a 2-wheel dolly for transporting other pit gear. This item is a little pricey. I don’t remember exactly what they told me, but I think it’s around $150 retail for the table. The dolly kit is extra. That’s a lot.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been happy with the flimsy camping tables from Walmart, etc. The plastic “church” tables tend to fall over easily if the ground is soft, plus stuff falls off them all the time. The Park table has the legs set at a 45-degree angle so even if the ground is soft it will work its way into the dirt and remain stable. The nice, lightweight aluminum tables from places like Pit Posse or Pit Products cost up to $300. That’s totally out of my league. Compared to that the Park table seems like a pretty good deal.

The last item is really a service and web site for I only talked to this guy for a minute but he seemed knowledgeable and claims to have been serving the motorcycle industry since 1965. His web site has a form you can fill out to get a free quote. Continental US, Hawaii/Alaska, and International services are all available. Here’s a customer quote from his About US page:

“I just got my two Vincent engines shipped by Berklay and they did a great job. Dennis handled it and it came from Mike’s house near Toranto Canada to Texas. Mike wanted it shipped one day after he had them crated and ready. After we got shipping arranged, Mike said they made contact with him, and they were there when he wanted them, had them loaded up and gone exactly when he wanted it. They shipped them to NYC for customs, then to me where I picked them up at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport. No problems, no damage, easy to deal with, very reasonable prices (cheaper than I could have driven there!). The crates looked like they didn¹t have a mark on them. No damage to anything, and a great, quick job.” — Charlie Hamburger

He’s just an expediter, and I don’t know what sort of premium he gets over the basic carrier rates. But it may still be cheaper than Forward Air. And if he has solid relationships with the trucking and transport companies so his stuff doesn’t get screwed up that’s worth a lot. If you’re getting a bike from overseas it might be a real help to have a specialist expediter. OH, he has a gawdawful animated audio thing on his home page. Very annoying. But just ignore it.

Got a call from old-school CZ builder Gary Davis today. A little over a year ago I visited Gary up at his home/shop in North Carolina. I left him several boxes that constituted my CZ380 motor. Back in the day Gary was known for his over-bored, reed-valved CZ motors and his inverted stinger expansion chambers.

Back in ’06 I contacted Gary to see if he was interested in building such a motor for me. I drove up and we did an initial tear-down and inspection on my motor, which had cratered a transmission earlier in the year. I left there around mid-December of ’06 with a list of stuff I needed to source for the rebuild. I went to work on it but weeks turned into months and before I knew it a year had passed. I have all the needed parts now. I Just need to get them together.

But as I said earlier, I think 2008 is going to be a CZ year. So over the holiday I started trying to get in touch with Gary. Finally heard from him today and we’re going to get together in Feb. to start the rebuild.

The motor will cc out at about 408 cc displacement, running a Yamaha 400 piston (I think). Gary also has a dyno in his shop so when we get it together we’ll dyno it and see what it does. Should be fun.

99792628_1f3328383c_mThe first motorcycle I ever bought with my own money was a red 1972 Honda SL70. The picture is my younger brother David jumping the bike across the football field at Moore Jr. High when we were kids. Can you imagine trying that now?

I think I sold the bike to David, but I can’t really remember. I think this picture was before that because at one point I welded (well, my Dad welded) some reinforcement plates on the swingarm and we moved the lower shock mounts forward. This pic looks like the shocks are still in the stock location. But I know it was eventually sold off to someone else and disappeared. Like so many aging MXers, I’m now trying to recreate my childhood by getting my old bikes back. A few months back my long-time friend Ronnie found a bunch of SL70 and CT70 parts up in Dallas somewhere and got them for me, and my plan is to recreate my old bike.

To that end, I just got off the phone with Lyle Mirski, founder and chief bottle-washer at CHP Products. CHP is one of the top pitbike companies in the country and, even though Lyle and I never met, we graduated the same year from the same high school. Net-net, Lyle is going to rebuild my SL70 motor to kick-start my restoration project. He’s pretty busy right now with the big Indy Show and racing season coming up, but by early summer the SL70 project should be well underway. Stay tuned!