Friday, October 21, 2011

An Excellent Project

In the previous post, I focused on the Brit bikes at the Stockbridge show. There were lots of Harley's and lots of different and unique Japanese bikes also there. I honestly don't know enough about Harleys to understand what to take pictures of. I'm a little better at understanding the Japanese bikes, but the variety is immense. I just took pictures of what I liked, especially "the project."

But before we get into that, as most of you know, my bike number two is a ZRX1200R. Apparently, earlier in the day there were about 12 of these lined up, one of each color, engine, and tuning flavor. By the time I got there, it was a gaggle of green ones, plus a custom painted black one.

This old Yamaha caught my attention. I suspect the body and the bike didn't start life out together, but who cares, it sure looks good.

I noticed "the project" parked near the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association tent and asked who belong to that bike. The owner/builder is Martin Snuvsnuverink ( I hope I spelled that right) and he was happy to answer my questions.

First, a little bit of history. In 1976, Norman Hossack, in England, developed a double A arm front suspension for a motorcycle. It had the advantage of being light, stiff, and having significantly more anti-dive than telescopic forks. Although telescopic forks still dominate front suspension design, an underfunded, Hossack design bike was able to win five British Single Cylinder championships in the 80's.

I copied the photo above from Tony Foale's excellent book, Motorcycle Handling and Chassis Design. As you can see in the diagram, the Hossack has two forward facing A arms above the wheel and a triangulated fork. The bike steers on heim joints where the fork connects to the front of the A arms. A coil over damper suspends the bike from the fork to the frame. Steering is accomplished through a linkage to the fork.

Some of you may recognize the BMW Duo-Lever front suspension in the Hossack. BMW recognized and copied the Duo-Lever from Hossack.

Martin liked the Hossack design, had some left over Honda parts, and decided to replicate the Hossack design, or at least his version of it. He started with a Honda VTR 1000 Super Hawk. That is a 2001 era bike with a 90 degree V-twin similar in concept to a Ducati.

In this case, the engine, transmission and rear swing suspension were retained. An adjustable geometry Hossack front suspension was made from small diameter tubing, along with a trellis frame to connect the front to the back. The built in adjustment gave the ability to anti-dive, rake, and trail. The light weight tube fork is said to be much lighter and stiffer than telescopic forks. The adjustable coil over damper gives lots of tuning room. The body work and radiators are a combination of RC51 and Super Hawk. Note the side radiators in the fairing which, like the front fairing, are from an RC51.

Martin said that, when he first rode it, he was immediately impressed with the stiffness and control in steering and braking. He tried a range of geometry, including more than 100% anti-dive which makes the front of the bike rise during braking. In the end he settled for about 40% anti-dive and says the confidence in braking is amazing. The lightness of the steering are also said to be remarkable.

This detail shot shows the aluminum cams that are used to adjust the geometry, the billet upper A-arm, the Heim joint that forms the upper ball joint, and the steering linkage going up toward the handlebars.

I am totally impressed with this project. From design to fabrication to tuning, this project is ambitious and professional. Note too that the bike gets ridden and ridden aggressively. You can tell, in part, by the blue stainless steel halfway down the muffler. Thanks, Martin, for trying something different and following your own path. I'm looking forward to a few ambitious projects of my own.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Local Talent

Recently, I was coming home from lunch with my father when I ran into a little motorcycle show in the square of a little town a few miles north of my home. It was late in the day, and I met a friend who told me that about half the bikes had already left. Time to hurry up and check out the bikes.

Of course, I hadn't planned on this and all I had with me was the cell phone camera. Now I'm going to have to take back some of those terrible things I said about cell phone cameras.

At this time of day, there were mostly British bikes left, along with a few Japanese and assorted other makes. This post, I'll leave you with one Italian, one Indian/British, and a bunch of Brit bikes.

This Cagiva Elephant (pronounce 'Elle - font') is from the late 70's and was both sold as a commuter bike in Europe and, in racing form, as true dirt bike campaigned in the Paris-Dakar rally. This is a 650cc Elephant using a Ducati V twin engine. Not my choice of colors, but a serious bike in its time.

A modern Royal Enfield Bullet. It's a good thing that Triumph began to sell their retro line again, because Enfield is looking pretty good these days.

A well used modern Triumph Bonneville with a mild cafe' racer treatment. Note the turned down handlebars, clipped fenders, and racing number plate. This was no show bike, the dirt all came from hard road use. I saw the bike leave. A young guy with a cute girl on the back. Full throttle through the gears, of course.

That leads me to a philosophical question or two. Is the cafe' racer trend just another fad like choppers? Are young guys picking up the cafe' racer thing? It's clear they are mostly passing on Harley's, but could Harley catch the attention of the younger rider with a nicely done cafe' racer?

This Norton is from the time and a kindred spirit to the Bonneville cafe' racer. You could tell that this guy used his bike, a lot.

The well ridden Norton engine.

Speaking of Norton's, the 850 Commando is a pretty bike, especially all shiny like this one. I guess a cell phone camera can do alright in the right light.

Norton was an exotic fantasy bike when I was growing up. Before the Japanese bikes took over entirely, these were aggressive, fast, and manly.

One of the clubs that was still hanging out was the Matchless Club of America, Michigan branch. Matchless was a British motorcycle company from the 1899 to the early 60's. They were famous for their light, good handling chassis and their 500 cc single engines , including the single cylinder win at the first Isle of Man TT in 1907.

The red one is pretty much in "road" trim, with the addition of a racing number plate. The black one is a pure racer with a single seat and all the lights removed.

Matchless is known for it's hairpin valve spring which was used to reduce moving mass in the valvetrain. They later built hairpin spring engines that were used in Morgan three wheelers and Brough Superior motorcycles.

1958 Matchless G12 CS was a 650 cc parallel twin with slightly higher ground clearance for desert racing. This bike still used the Matchless twin. Later engines were the Norton 750 after Matchless fell apart financially and was acquired by Norton.

Matchless was owned by the same group that owned AJS, another light, fast British bike. Known as the Matchless "Cammy", the 350 OHC single is really an AJS engine from the 7R series.

Built from 1927 through 1954, this engine was very successful in racing for many years.

Another small volume British motorcycle maker with a great reputation is Velocette. Known for their high quality and innovation, Velocette was successful in racing from the 20's through the 50's. Their 350 cc won the world championships in '49' and '50'.

This beautiful Vellocette is an early 60's Velocette Venom 500 cc single. It has its cam high in the block so that the push rods could be short and light. This resulted in higher engine rpm and higher horsepower. A slightly modified version of this Venom set the record of 100 mph for 24 hours.

I am curious about the 2nd hand lever on the left side of the handlebar. My guess is a compression release for kick starting that big 500 cc single, but I am just guessing.

Pre-WW2 Vincent's were called Vincent HRD. This is a 1949 Comet 500 cc single that was apparently made just before the change in name. Racing versions of this bike won the Isle of Man TT. The name changed to just Vincent after WW2 when the company needed to sell bikes in the US and didn't want confusion between Harley (HD) and HRD. Nice versions like this are easily worth $50k these days.

Note the bronze or brass carburetor body. Not bad for a little show in a little farming town in Michigan. Also, the photo quality is a pleasant surpise for a little cell phone camera. Next year, I'll have to plan more carefully and bring a real camera.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Call me Polly Anna

Call me an incurable optimist. Although there is a long way to go, I'm seeing hopeful signs in the economy. Maybe it's just Michigan or the Midwest. And anything could go wrong and turn things back into recession. But I keep seeing and hearing things to smile about.

A short list.

Everybody I know that was looking for a job, has one. How did that happen? I heard an NPR story about how employment agencies are having trouble finding qualified manufacturing workers for their manufacturer clients. Just plain weird.

This year, I had a couple of windows replaced and the trim on the house painted (much too high off the ground for me). The paint company is using a new tech paint, so that's a little special, but they were up 20%+ in 2010 and look to be up 30% this year. The window company is having a record year and would like to expand the area they serve, but all their crews are busy and they can't find enough qualified crews to expand.

At work, we are having trouble finding enough tires to build all the cars we are selling. We have one car where we can't get replacement tires for the dealers when the customer wears out his tires because all the tires in that size are going into new car plants.

A guy that works out at my health club sells hydraulic switches and other industrial components. He says that he could sell 40% more than he is now, but the parts just aren't available.

On my recent road trip, I ran into a shortage of hotel rooms. In one Pennsylvania town, I called 1 day ahead and got the last available room in town. When I checked in, I asked why the town was so busy? Why was a little town in the middle of PA. full up on a rainy Tuesday night? The clerk replied that they were full every night all summer and through the fall.

Finally, a coworker and his wife are trying to buy a house here in Michigan. They've put in three offers in the last month, all were above asking price bidding wars, and they've lost all three houses because all they can offer is 20% down and a mortgage pre-approval.

It makes me wonder why, for the most part, the news is all so bad. Maybe, like the rest of us, the new media just got used to reporting bad news and isn't looking for good news. I hope my little list is the sign of good things to come.