Monday, July 31, 2017

My Year of Three Motorcycles


A year ago, I was riding the KLR as I had been since 2003.  The KLR is like an old friend, it's not perfect, but it's comfortable and we anticipate each others every move.


In the fall, watching the new motorcycle announcements, it became clear to me that no company was going make the light, modern, tall motorcycle that I wanted.  In fact, all of the new motorcycles seemed bigger, heavier, and more expensive.  I thought I should get after one of the few light motorcycles that fit my criteria.  That begun my chase of a KTM 690 Enduro.


I'm pretty sure the KTM will stay, but the contrast between the two is interesting.  While the KTM seat was off being improved, I took the KLR down to Kentucky for a club ride.  The contrast between the two is very interesting.  The KLR is very comfortable.  The seat is great and the ride is soft and long travel in character.  But the structure is soft and shakey.  It handles very well, but you have to see through all the vibration to get to confidence.  Also, the engine of the KLR has more vibration than the KTM, even though I have the lighter piston and isolation for the handlebars.


On the other hand, the KTM has stiff suspension and a rather aggressive ride.  I admit that I made that happen by employing stiffer than stock springs, so it's possible it could get to a place inbetween, but reality is that the KTM has much more damping and that makes it less comfortable than the KLR in normal riding.  The structure of the KTM is clearly better and shake is no problem.  Handling is also fine, very similar to the KLR without the shaking.  It's just that the suspension hits every thing hard, hard seat, hard suspension, less comfort.  Hmmnnnn.


In the middle of all of that, the Barley Therapy group had acquired a 1911 Flanders that was originally manufactured in a factory in Chelsea, Michigan, my hometown.  The idea was to acquire the bike and donate it in honor of Art Farley, our town's local motorcycle guru.  Our intention was to raise the money needed to buy it, then make it ride-able and safe.  As received, the Flanders was a perfectly nice static exhibit, but we wanted people to be able to hear it's beating heart, to smell it, to feel the tremors of the engine through the handlebars.  Now that's bringing history to life. 

In November, we had received donations to pay for the Flanders and we disassembled the bike to the last nut and screw.  That began the process of making it ride-able.  After some delays, we were able to get the frame straight (Thanks, Joe!) and new piston rings made for the engine.  We also needed to get the rims and spokes replaced because both were too rusted to be safe for riding.  Once those big items were fixed, it was all hands on deck to get it back together and running.  At present, everything is working well, but the appearance is a mixed message.  Somethings have been made new, but most things have the original patina.


On Wednesday, July 26, 2017 we had a nice little event at the Chelsea Museum.  Those who contributed time and money gathered so see the motorcycle ridden by Art.  In addition, we took this moment to acknowledge the major contribution of Elliott Andrews to this project.  He not only thought of the idea, but found the motorcycle, negotiated the sale, and worked by force of will through the entire rebuilding to keep the bike on track and see it through to success.


Brittany 1st start of refurbished Flanders from Jac Brown on Vimeo.

Finally, this was a sort of hand-off from the Flanders Group who have been working on the motorcycle to the Museum.  Overall, we are very proud of the result and happy to have Art ride it and have it donated in his honor.  And for Elliott and the rest of us to see it go.


Art on Flanders from Jac Brown on Vimeo.

Of course, there is more to do, but for now we have achieved a major milestone.  I would like to offer my thanks to those members of the Flanders Group that gave of themselves and their time to see this project through.

Elliott Andrews
Joe Gardella
Art Farley
George Fisher
Dave Strauss
John Deikis
John Chamberlin
Suzi Greenway






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