Sunday, May 22, 2011


So what happened? Here it is over a year later and no posts? Like so many others I "put the blog down" for a bit and never got back to it. Maybe it's because there are so many other great blogs out there?

Whatever - time to start getting down some thoughts again, add my voice the Internet chorus. Or something like that.

So anyways - the Guzzi! Charley sent me back the transmission after replacing the bad bearing and 2 of the gears and it was a thing of beauty. He did a great job. Sadly UPS had somehow managed to bend the bell housing. I have no idea how you could do that?!?! I mean, if it were dropped you'd think it would break, but no - it had a slight flat spot on the edge. Weird. Possibly something really heavy had been put on the box while it was in the back of the truck?

Luckily Charley had another housing he basically gave me (but mad props to UPS - they didn't argue on the insurance claim, so hopefully Mr. Cole got them to give him a good price!) and so I just called UPS, whose claims dept. picked it up, "inspected" it and delivered it back to Charley. Not sure how many Guzzi experts they have there at UPS but they agreed to pay! A month or so later it was back, good as new.

I reassembled it over the next few weeks, rolled it out and it fired right up. Says a lot about a bike that isn't finicky and starts right up after you've disassembled / let it sit / reassembled it. Only problem was that it was running only on one cylinder :( I pulled the spark-plug and it wasn't firing. I swapped plugs to make sure it wasn't that, but no dice. Best guess is that either a wire came loose, or I broke one crabbing the frame.

So back into the garage it went. A few days later I got the tank off to inspect the wiring and it looked pretty good (well, except for the fact that it's old, dirty and badly repaired here and there with electrical tape). I cleaned some of the connections and made sure things were tight.

And there it has sat. Lame.

What's also sad is that today there's a local vintage bike meet and Moto Guzzi is the featured marque. So I get to go and be all "yeah, I've got one in my garage 'cause I'm too lazy to get it running properly". At least I get to take my Ducati 900SS. I'm going to take lots of pics and use that to get my ass in gear and get the Guzzi running this month.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Begin the Beguine

Now that the best time for bike maintenance is past, it's time for... taking the Guzzi's transmission off. Everyone is always going on about how winter is the best time to get things fixed, upgraded and generally spruced up in preparation for next season. I just can't do it. For one, it's cold in my garage. And two, I guess it's a form of seasonal affective disorder: I just get sad looking at bikes all cold sitting there waiting. So generally I just avoid the whole thing until it starts getting warm. Then the plans start to roll again.

Last year I had noticed two problems: 1) oil was leaking from the rear drive and 2) the revs would drop at idle if I held the clutch in (to the point sometimes that it would stall). Problem one is bad because oil might get on the tire and also things in the box need oil lest they wear prematurely. Problem two had me spooked because it's a sign of possible crank end-float, which would mean a complete engine tear-down. However it is also a sign of a bad layshaft bearing. I actually made a YouTube video and then posted it on the WildGuzzi forum to get the experts' opinion. Luckily consensus was that it was the layshaft bearing as the rev drop wasn't so bad.

From reading up on the replacement of the bearing, one can do it without taking apart the transmission - you just remove the driveshaft and it's accessible from the outside. However this bike is now 35 years old; it that bearing is bad, chances are other things are worn out. I'd like to make sure things are as they should. This runs into the problem of Guzzi transmission / drive box work needing special tools, and also best done by people who know what they're doing. So most likely I'll be sending them off to Charley Cole at Zydeco Racing.

He's been racing Guzzis for a long time on the vintage circuit. All he does are these two items, and he won't accept bikes - you send him the tranny and the rear drive and rebuilds them. The big attraction is he knows how to shim the transmission shafts properly for clean shifting. Most Guzzis apparently came from the factory not set up as good as they could be so they tend to 'clunk' into gear. Precise set-up of the internals cures that.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Version 0.1

Just wanted to put up a couple of quick pictures. Replaced the exhaust and fork tubes (scratching them up in the process - doh!), put in a new battery plus gas. Also got a sweet pleather chopper seat off of eBay. Rode it to work hoping the completely dry-rotted tire wouldn't let go. Handled like a dream.
By dream I mean nightmare. And yes, that's a yellow sponge helping to keep the battery in there.


I've ventured to the dark side. I saw a craigslist ad for a '77 Sportster XLH (aka 'Ironhead') and decided to take a look. Looking turned to owning.

I'd been seeing lots of builds lately where people are doing old-school bobber, cafe and other stripped-down Harleys and was intrigued.

I've always been turned off by Harleys because so many people who have them are douche bags. No other way to put it. I can remember when I started riding in Chicago. There was this place around the corner called the North Side and it was "Yuppie Lawyer on Bike" central. It seemed like every time I rode by some tool who'd put a total 50 miles a year on their bike (can't tarnish the chrome, dude) would yell something derogatory out. Showing his pals how he was true blooded. This shit even happened when I had my Norton. Either that or you'd bump into some fat ass wearing as much Harley-themed clothing as possible, riding some huge land-yacht who'd refer to anything else as "some jap crap" - didn't matter if it was Asian, British or Italian. Then for the last few years all you saw were lollipop-bikes that were trying to emulate those being "built" on some Discovery Channel show by guys who seemed to order everything new from a catalog (when they weren't yelling at each other and throwing tools).

Lately though there's been a sea change. Lots of guys looking back into the 50s and 60s for inspiration and coming up with the stripped-down essentials. Several overseas builders have cropped up lately with killer bikes that are bobber + street tracker + cafe + whatever = simple and clean. Mix and match components - whatever works. Form follows function.
I especially liked the looks of the builds made from pre-Evo sportsters; Harley's answer to the light fast British bikes that were taking over on the late 50s and 60s. Not much there but a big lump of cast iron and aluminum, a seat, 2 wheels and handlebars. Basic. Elemental bike. Even better is that they're not very desirable because 1) they're old, 2) they shake, 3) tend to leak oil, 4) they're mostly from the dreaded AMF days. Perfect - I could get one for cheap and not worry that screwing it up would make me feel like I'd ruined something expensive.

So I kept my eye out, but most people wanted 3 to 5 grand. Seems sellers aren't aware that the bottom has fallen out and people aren't paying a premium for anything anymore, never mind 25+ year old motorcycles. Then I found the ad - it ran, needed some work, was close by and cheap. I went and took a look. Guys was pretty straight-forward: he'd bought it 2 years ago and got it running (new generator and some other bits). And then let it sit in the back yard since. ?!? Rust is not your friend.

Overly loud 2" slash-cut drag pipes, rusty 4" over forks, rims spray-painted black (probably to hide rusty spokes), old gas in the tank making me ill. Just what I was looking for.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Black Rebel Motorcycle Exhaust

Saw a Craiglist ad for powder and ceramic coating of exhaust headers and other things. I had the pipes that came with the bike still around and had just gotten in some shorty megaphones, so I thought I'd give it a try.
The ceramic coating stuff has been around for a while and is supposed to help pull heat away from the heads - always good for air-cooled motors, but I don't know anyone who has tried it. I also liked the idea of not throwing away the original pipes; they looked bad but still worked fine. Plus black exhausts on red Guzzis always looks the business.
So I took the pipes and mufflers to Len at and had him coat them. I really like the result, especially how it brings out the imperfections (and the pipes had a lot of rust pitting). I like the aesthetic of "actually used" vs. "trailer queen". I think Len was kinda worried because the coating didn't fill in the pitting, and this shade of black kinda brought it out.
Another bonus is the sound of the shorties is pretty mean, especially when throttling down.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The route home

Here's the route back from the Speedway to Winchester:

(I tried to format as a nice table, but the Blogger interface kept doing weird things to it)

Left ramp onto I-65 S
go 5.5 mi

Exit 112A (on the left) to I-70 E
go 74.9 mi (1 hour 7 mins)
[84.0 mi]

Exit 1 to US-35 W toward Eaton
go 9.8 mi (12 mins)
[93.8 mi]

Slight left at W Main St/OH-122/US-35
go 0.5 mi
[94.3 mi]

Turn right at S Franklin St/OH-122 (Continue onto OH-122)
go 8.8 mi (18 mins)
[103 mi]

Turn right at East St/OH-122
go 344 ft

Turn left at OH-725 E/E South St (Continue onto OH-725 E)
go 9.4 mi (20 mins)
[113 mi]

Turn right at OH-4
go 1 mi
[114 mi]

Turn left at Carlisle Pike/OH-123 (Continue onto OH-123)
go 4.3 mi
[118 mi]

Turn right at Dayton Oxford Rd/OH-123 (Continue onto OH-123)
go 0.8 mi
[119 mi]

Turn left at W 2nd St
go 2.0 mi
[121 mi]

Continue on W Central Ave/OH-73 (Continue onto OH-73)
go 24.7 mi (42 mins)
[145 mi]

Turn right at N Nelson Ave
go 0.3 mi
[146 mi]

Turn left at W Main St
go 1.7 mi
[147 mi]

Continue on Fife Ave
go 0.3 mi
[148 mi]

Slight left at Eastside Dr
go 0.1 mi
[148 mi]

Slight right at Eastside Dr/OH-3/OH-73/US-22 (Continue onto OH-3/US-22)
go 20.7 mi (26 mins)
[169 mi]

Slight left at W Court St
go 0.6 mi
[169 mi]

Turn right at US-22 NE/Washington Ave (Continue onto US-22 NE)
go 27.5 mi (34 mins)
[197 mi]

Turn left at Lancaster Pike/US-22 (Continue onto US-22)
go 37.8 mi (48 mins)
[234 mi]

At Public Square, take the 2nd exit onto E Main St/OH-668/US-22 (Continue onto US-22)
go 17.3 mi (21 mins)
[252 mi]

Turn right at E Main St
go 0.8 mi
[253 mi]

Turn right at Moxahala Ave/OH-555
go 0.4 mi
[253 mi]

Turn left at Granger Hill Rd/OH-555 (Continue onto OH-555)
go 3.1 mi (8 mins)
[256 mi – about 5 hours 45 mins]

Head south on Center Rd/OH-555 toward Fattler Ridge Rd (Continue onto OH-555)
go 10.5 mi (26 mins)
[10.5 mi]

Turn left at OH-555/State Route 555 NW
go 2.2 mi
[12.8 mi]

Turn right at OH-555/State Route 555 NE
go 0.4 mi
[13.2 mi]

Turn right to stay on OH-555/State Route 555 NE (Continue onto OH-555)
go 2.2 mi
[15.4 mi]

Turn right at OH-555/State Route 555 NW
go 1.8 mi
[17.2 mi]

Turn right to stay on OH-555/State Route 555 NW
go 6.1 mi (15 mins)
[23.3 mi]

Turn left at OH-555/OH-78/S State Route 78 SW
23.4 mi
[go 0.1 mi]

Turn right at OH-555/State Route 555 SW
go 1.7 mi
[25.2 mi]

Turn left to stay on OH-555/State Route 555 SW
go 0.5 mi
[25.7 mi]

Turn right to stay on OH-555/State Route 555 SW
go 1.2 mi
[26.8 mi]

Turn right to stay on OH-555/State Route 555 SW
go 4.0 mi (10 mins)
[30.8 mi]

Turn left at OH-555/S State Route 555 (Continue onto OH-555)
go 4.2 mi (10 mins)
[35.0 mi]

Turn right at College St
go 0.1 mi
[35.1 mi]

College St turns left and becomes Coal St
go 0.5 mi
[35.6 mi]

Continue on OH-555/S State Route 555 (Continue onto OH-555)
go 3.1 mi
[38.7 mi]

Turn right at OH-555/State Route 555
go 5.8 mi (16 mins)
[44.5 mi]

Slight left to stay on OH-555/State Route 555
go 2.8 mi
[47.2 mi]

Slight left at Morris Dr
go 1.1 mi
[48.3 mi]

Continue on T238
go 1.5 mi
[49.8 mi]

Turn left at OH-555/State Route 555
go 0.6 mi
[50.4 mi]

Turn right to stay on OH-555/State Route 555
go 6.0 mi (15 mins)
[56.4 mi]

Head south on OH-555/State Route 555 toward Bull Rd
go 0.5 mi
[0.5 mi]

Slight left to stay on OH-555/State Route 555
go 0.8 mi
[1.2 mi]

Turn left at OH-32/OH-7/State Route 7/US-50
go 1.7 mi
[3.0 mi]

Merge onto US-50 via the ramp to Parkersburg (Entering West Virginia)
go 11.4 mi (16 mins)
[14.4 mi]

Slight right to stay on US-50
go 59.5 mi (1 hour 7 mins)
[73.8 mi]

Head east on US-50 toward Marshville-Camp Rock Rd
go 29.3 mi (39 mins)
[29.3 mi]

Turn left at N Pike St/US-50
go 0.2 mi
[29.5 mi]

Turn left to stay on N Pike St/US-50
go 436 ft
[29.5 mi]

Turn left to stay on N Pike St/US-50 (Continue onto US-50)
go 6.3 mi
[35.8 mi]

Turn right at George Washington Hwy/US-50 (Continue onto US-50)
Passing through Maryland / Entering West Virginia
go 57.8 mi (1 hour 6 mins)
[93.6 mi]

Turn right to stay on US-50 Entering Virginia
go 64.0 mi (1 hour 15 mins)
[158 mi]

Slight right at W Boscawen St
go 0.5 mi
[158 mi]

Turn left at N Cameron St
go 0.2 mi
[158 mi]

Turn right at E Piccadilly St
go 0.2 mi
[158 mi]

Turn left at N E Ln
go 308 ft
[159 mi]

Turn right at National Ave
go 0.4 mi
[159 mi]

Continue on Berryville Ave/VA-7
(Continue onto VA-7)

The road home

I flew back to Milwaukee to get the Guzzi and ride it to the MotoGP round in Indianapolis and then back home. A bunch of us were going to rent a motorhome and stay in (or camp next to) it during the races. I left Milwaukee a few hours before everybody else to try and avoid Chicago rush hour. The best route, though longer, was to go straight south to the Urbana area and then turn and head east to Indianapolis. This would avoid dealing with the skyway & nasty interstates around the Illinois / Indiana border.

The traffic around Chicago wasn't too bad, except I didn't have a speed pass, so I kept having to stop for tolls: Stop/bike in neutral/take glove off/get money/give to tollbooth op/get change/put in pocket/put glove on/shift back in gear/ drive off. Repeat several times. All in stop and go traffic with the motor getting hotter.

Once south of Chicago an hour the roads were pretty empty. Very straight, and between cornfields and other crops. Late summer light & looming clouds added to the ambiance. Sadly once I got a hour or two outside of Indianapolis it started raining. This was also when it started getting dark. I kept having to pull my headlight up and wipe my faceshield (the downside of the chopped front fender is revealed!) I tried to stay behind cars to see how the road went based on their taillights but wither they were going 90mph or got off at the next exit. It was pretty dark and the rain had let up when I crested a hill and there was Indy. It's such a low city I just came up on it all of a sudden. The only real indication were the signs for the beltway around town.

After some confusion over which RV Park we were staying at, I finally met up with everyone. The place was surreal - right across the street from the track with nothing else around but RV parks and a few (closed) hot dog stands. Except there were a few people who had permanent homes and seemed to live there year round. We found out later there are only 3 events at the Speedway all year. Otherwise it's just empty.

Other than the few residents it was nothing but RVs, tents, motorcycles and motorbike nuts in town to see the MotoGP circus. The entire track is surrounded by these lots. And it was loud. All you heard up and down the street were bikes: Harleys, Ducatis and other twins with loud pipes, crotch-rockets revved to 12000 and what not. At one point a police chopper came over shining a light on someone on a crotch rocket flying down the street. I think they just turned into one of the parks and lost the cops.

I finally got to sleep around 2AM, only to be woken up at 7 when the track issued it's wakeup call in the form of Blind Melon blaring over loud speakers. Within minutes the 2 strokes were being warmed up at the track. No point in trying to sleep. That's when the manager came by and told us we needed to turn the RV around because it was facing the wrong way. Plus our tents were in another reserved spot so we had to move them too (we ended up just paying for another spot). Fun turning that thing around without hitting telephone poles, tents, parked cars, etc.

The two days of practice / qualifying and racing were great. It actually cooled down quite a bit. For the entire month before it had been high summer, but the Friday before the races it suddenly turned to fall temps. I ended up buying a sweatshirt at the track (I think the vendors made a lot on hoodies). It was pretty amazing to see all the people at the races. No one in the US really cares about motorcycle racing, but seemed like all the ones on the East Coast were there. Plus on Saturday night we got to see the Indy Mile flat track races. Kenny Roberts (Sr) did a few parade laps (at speed) on the Yamaha KZ750. What a sound. A bunch of the GP starts were there too to watch.

Sunday I decided to get out of Indianpolis by about an hour and then get a hotel. After a long weekend in the sun, drinking beer and too little sleep I wanted a good night's sleep. Found a cheap motel near the Ohio border and crashed for the night. The next day I was able to make it home, although it took about 15 hours. The big problem was that the tempratures really dropped. I think when I got in it had gotten down to 58 or so. I was wearing a long sleeve t-shirt and 2 sweatshirts under my jacket. Still wasn;t enough because, like a dumbass, I decided at the last minute to bring my vented dirtbike gloves, and not the good Held gauntlets I usually wear.

The Guzzi never missed a beat, even with it's cobbled together electrics (thanks to my headlight redo) and getting rained on. The thing was a tractor just plodding along hour after hour.

The highlight of the trip back were Routes 555 in Ohio and US-50 in West Virginia. A friend told me about 555 so I planned my whole route home around it. Something like 60 miles through Ohio farm country on narrow roads with tons of curves (many blind) and elevation changes. About the only traffic I saw was an Amish guy in a horse-drawn cart, two dachsunds and a couple of other bikes. Totally amazing road. At the end of that it was into W. Va. on US-50 which sucked for a bit - more like an interstate with a few cities thrown in. Then it got more and more rural. Next thing I know it starts going up into the mountains. For the next 2 or so hours it was more and more curves as I went up and over part of the Appalachian Mountains (I think) in the dark. I was worried about the timid illumination from my head light when I realized it *did* have a highbean - problem solved. By the time it flattened out at Winchester VA I was done. Cold and tired. Time to get home. Luckily there were no cops because I was definitely moving at a "spirited pace". It's always the last hour or so that's the longest. Of course I had no trouble riding out or back from Milwaukee *until* I got into the DC area. I think I had three idiots to contend with in the last 10 miles. Oh well, made it back in one piece with no breakdowns.