For the past 27 years the beginning of the old bike season here in Alta California has been marked by the BSA Clubman’s Show in San Jose, with the All British Ride in November closing things off for the winter slumber. This spring we made the early trip down to the fairgrounds, arriving by 7am, which was already too late to score some of the deals in the swap meet! As typical, the best times for photos was before the doors opened at 8am, and after 3pm during clean up.
The weatherman predicted heavy rain which didn’t quite materialize. But the prediction was enough that some local folks didn’t travel to the show (held indoors). The extra space came in handy however, when we wheeled the 8.4 second, 187mph Barnjob dragracer over for some photos in front of the 264mph Gyronaut X-1 land speed bike.
Here are a few pics of Clem Johnson’s Barnjob. Developed by him over a few decades, there are a lot of details to see. Click to enlarge the photos. From that link: “It is generally accepted that Clem is said to be the first motorcycle drag racer over 130, 140, 150 and even 160 mph.” There is very little left that came from the Vincent factory, just the crankcases and timing covers.
A fuel pump is belt driven from the crankshaft, and distributes fuel to both of the injectors. A/N hoses and fittings look pretty tough.
Paul making faces while making photos.
John owns the Barnjob, and also wrote this book about motorcycle drag racing. Only two copies are available via Amazon here. Get one quickly if you are a fan, we were lucky to snag one from him at the show.
Old and new photos of Barnjob, from the John’s book.
This 1921 BSA was very well received at the show. The owner had bought it partially finished at an auction, and now has it ready to ride. We had a good time discussing all the various controls and how to work the bike for starting and riding. He promised to send photos of his first ride which should occur in a week or two. Stay tuned. Another old bike returning to the road!
We’ve shown loads of photos of Charlie Taylor on his black Matchless Model X over the past few years. Well now he’ll have company as Fred Mork found one too! It was just registered with the DMV the day before the show, and will be another old bike on the roads this year.
The VOCNA table had three OHC bikes on display: KSS mk2, KTT mk8 and KSS mk1. In addition, there were several Velo MACs on the floor.
Harley Welch had his Rudge on display, and it is for sale at $8500. Who wants a Rudge? Great pre WWII bikes. If you look closely, you can see the offset spoke holes in the front rim.
Two motors, a handful of carbs, float chambers, etc.
Fred brought these two Norton Manx’s. The top one is the traditional road racing model, but with a lot of black magnesium and a 6 speed gear cluster in the ‘box. The second bike is striking for the lack of fins! They were all cut off to save weight for motorcross racing against the tide of twostrokes that changed the sport. This DOHC bike was built by Les Archer with all the go-fast goodies and lightest weight possible.
Most people have never seen the Norton 4.
This beeza had a great Brooklands can and looked like a lot of fun.
Sasha brought his old Scott all the way from Montana. Two speeds are activated by the right foot pedal, and the footstarter is mounted by the rear wheel axle. There are also twin sight glasses on the Best and Lloyd oil pump, stirrup brakes, etc.
Steve and Sandra Tremulis displayed the Triumph Gyronaut X-1 in all its glory.
Atticus shows how the rider’s legs go over the handlebars, and the bike is steered with hands behind the knees!
Paul Zell and his mk8 KTT.
The Roper/Roper race Velo.
Dennis Magri brought his Vindian. Not strictly a re-creation of the famous original, Dennis has done his own modifications to make the bike work better.
Many readers will already be familiar with Matt Machine’s work at http://machineshed.blogspot.com/. He has been building bikes in Australia for some time, producing high quality work with a lot less fanfare than the ‘famous’ guys. If you aren’t aware of him, you’ll recognize the type: an architecture background, a better-than-average eye, attention to design details, and fabrication skills sufficient for his own high standards.
He has recently been turning his attention toward publication and today marks the debut of his magazine Machine at www.themachinefiles.com.au. While the first issue doesn’t feature a 100 year old bike, I think it is worthy of mention here at Occhio Lungo.
His approach is noteworthy. 100+ professional photos showing details of one individual machine. Spread across 70+ pages, with commentary on the bike model, history, design and engineering details. Obviously this is different than the typical 3-5 pages that are devoted to any one bike in the traditional magazines, and the additional space devoted really opens up the viewer’s eyes. While most things on the internet today are moving to be tiny bites of information (140 characters of writing on Twitter, or a single cellphone image on Instagram), this magazine goes deep and shows so much more.
These images are from the web-based full screen viewer that allows the reader to flip pages and to zoom in to see small details. A print version is in the works, stay tuned to his website for details.
I’ve been pressing Matt for a few months on my desire for him to feature something primitive and ancient, but we’ll have to wait a few issues.
More info is also on the Machine Facebook page here.
Take a look, and try to support a guy who is supporting our old bike hobby. I have no idea if this is the future of motorcycle publications, but I like what I see and applaud the effort.
Sunday was the 11th annual Plaid Run, a memorial for Marshall Matthews and a fund raiser for the The Forbes Norris MDA/ALS Research and Treatment Center. Each year the group meets in Matthews’ memory to tell his stories and to help fund the work of Forbes/Norris. Previously called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, it is a rare affliction in which both the patients and the doctors need to learn various aspects of their care. The group is happy to help how they can, and one item that has recently resulted from the event is an educational film for the doctors that treat patients with the disease, and to tell patients what to expect.
Viewed curiously by onlookers, the day was a pile of random machines and smiling people wearing plaid. Marshall and friends used to wear plaid shirts, and it just grew into a thing. Working from a shop in Palo Alto, he restored a lot of early cars, bikes and boats and made a lot of friends along the way. The variety of machines at the Plaid Run each year tells a bit about how wide his circles were and still are.
As in all aspects of life, the fun comes in many colors. This event delivers fun via the gift of giving and by making new friends and seeing different types of machines. One treat was when Chris C. introduced me to a big guy with an oddly familiar voice. It took a minute or two to realize that he’s been a DJ on the radio here in SF for 20 years. Or seeing how one guy cut up a 19teens Buick on a whim to make his own version of a period racer. The howl of three or four V12 Ferrari motors, on display under their rear windows was matched by the Ford GT with its own blown V8 behind the driver’s seat. And good old Victor always gets a laugh with his antics on the ‘14 HD, while the various hood ornaments were a focus for the wife’s camera lens.
Scroll down to see some of the cellphone pics by the wife and the 11 year old daughter who was riding pillion.
Marshall and friends wearing the plaid.
One of the three Pierce Arrow cars on this year’s run. Pics from a few years ago are here.
A 1930 Ford leading K. on her 1930 Velocette
An earlier Pierce. Note the air over oil springs in the two vertical cylinders. Each has two reservoirs filled with red colored Marvel Mystery Oil. The pistons inside each cylinder have leather seals, and mount the front of the parallel leaf springs which gives a very nice ride in the big car. A small 25 year old dog was appreciated of the smooth ride.
The rear of a 1919 Buick speedster. The owner built it from a 5 passenger sedan, adding lots of neat details. Stay tuned for more info.
A 1914? HD with two speed rear hub. Behind it the shelves are filled with gas lamps, early speedos, and other brass-era knick knacks.
Race car and HD and Excelsior singles.
The Buick looks big, but has a two cylinder motor. The family drives on the Alturas small car tour each summer. The 1902 Packard has made the London to Brighton run several times.
With the bright California sun shining all day, Victor worked up a mighty thirst…
Wife loves to see the hood ornaments. This one is on a Pierce Silver Arrow.
He’s had this neat Indian for 15 years, and attracted loads of admiring glances at our stop at Alice’s Restaurant.
Yet another hood ornament.
This 40 Ford looked great.
The 46 Woody had a lot of period modifications, including three deuces on the flathead.
Another view of the Silver Arrow
K. on her 1930 Velocette
English cars were also present, including several Jaguars, MGs, and at least one Morgan.
Isn’t this 1940 Zundapp neat? He was on the 49 Mile Ride too.
“Ask the man who owns one” said the old Packard adverts. I love the little red hexagons on the wheels.
He’s always riding, or getting ready for a ride. Victor’s 1914 HD single speed will be on the Cannonball this fall.
Enzo Ferrari reportedly said that the Jaguar E type was “The most beautiful car ever made.” This Mark I drop top certainly fits the bill. Has any car ever eclipsed it?
She is so fast, the camera cannot catch her.
Old Stage Road, from San Gregorio to Pescadero, a route we use ever summer on the Rigid Ride too.
The stage stop in downtown San Gregorio. (Not shown is the other building that completes the town).
11 year olds can take good photos while riding pillion on rigid 76 year old bikes. But sometimes things don’t quite turn out.
What a fun day.
We don’t normally feature the commercial aspects of the old bike hobby, preferring to show machines in use on the road or being fixed in the shop. But the overall goal of the Occhio Lungo site is to spread enthusiasm for early machines and try to get more folks riding them. With that in mind, we are happy to show Paul’s fine 1914 Triumph that is for sale. It has been ridden, tuned, adjusted, etc. and is ready for a new owner. His reason for selling is that he’s now buying the actual 1911 Triumph that his grandfather used to ride!
If you’ve thought about getting a 100 year old machine, a Triumph is a great bike. They made a lot of them, and spare parts are much more available than for other marques. And the the motors were among the very best that were made pre WWI, with many other brands copying the design.
More info here: http://www.go-faster.com/1914Triumph.html
You can email him here: email@example.com
Drino passed away on March 4th after a second battle with cancer. He really packed a lot of living into his time on earth, and was a Baja racer, Baja pioneer and the 1970 overall race winner, a pre 1916 motorcycle rider, Cannonball rider, co-builder of the Hurst Baja Boot for McQueen and Ekins, a participant on old bike rallies in Atascadero, Ireland and Spain, EVP and COO of Toyota Racing Development (Indy cars), an Off-Road Motorsports hall of fame member, and Drino was the friend to many, many people.
He had more than his share of great stories to tell, but it sometimes took a bit of arm twisting to get him started. He was polite with the names and details that had played out over the past 40-50 years of derring-do with the famous and not-so-famous folks that he ran with. For more information on the details of his career, click here.
Kim and I were very glad to have the time that we did with Drino, and wish that there were just a few more rallies that we could have attended with him. We’d like to extend our condolences to his wife Lisa and family, and to his friends around the world.
More info via the L.A. Times obituary: http://lat.ms/OlwMKt
There is always a good assortment of interesting bikes on the Irish National Rally. We’ve already covered my favorite early machines, so this last article will show some of the later machines. If you live in America, it is likely that you have never seen a Brough Superior ridden on the road. But there are several BS riders in England and Ireland that use their bikes as George Brough intended. The guys were a lot of fun, and didn’t balk at rain puddles or gravel roads.
This black Brough looks good and came from the island of Malta I believe.
Phillip spent some time with the ‘13 Veloce and me along the edge of a golf course.
After reaching the top of Priest’s Leap, we all stopped for a breather and to enjoy the view. Here is James and his Rex Acme.
That fishtail tip on the Brooklands can looks and sounds great.
This is the Gap of Dunloe, visible in some photos in the previous article. I don’t recall any cars along the length of the road, but there were some riders on horses and a few horse carts too. A few of us took this route the day before the rally started, after a run for tea up to Moll’s Gap.
A stop at the Black Lake to get these two photos. The place seems very special, and very different than any other place that I have been to. I’m not sure why, but with the misty fog, the winding road and the lakes and waterfalls up near the top of the hills it has a mysterious feel. Again, no traffic, just a few isolated old motorcycles and a hiker or two on the one lane road.
A twin pair of Ariel Red Hunters.
The speedometer on this Brough is driven by the bolt-on gears at the rear hub. Also note the flip-out pillion footrests.
OHV motor for this Brough, and a neat cover on the magneto/dynamo. Hand shifter to the Sturmey Archer gearbox, and you can almost make out the lettering on the brake pedal says BS GB.
A sidevalve motor for this big Brough
This is one of the views from the north side of Healy Pass.
With a rush and push
In addition to the swell guys and gals and superb early bikes, the Irish always has a great selection of flat tank bikes (made up to around 1927). The roads chosen for the daily tours are well suited for these machines, with great winding one-laners mixed with a few 40-50mph routes that connect the twisty bits. A Norton Model 18 like this one with 500cc, OHV and Webb front forks is very capable of humbling riders on bikes made 20 or 30 years later. The lack of rear suspension isn’t much of a hindrance if the macadam surfaces haven’t crumbled, but the hand shifting of that Sturmey gearbox will delay things slightly when compared to a foot shifter. The power is adequate, especially when considering that the low weight of the machine without things like rear shocks, swingarm, battery, generator and speedometer. And it is hard to fault the appearance and styling of a 1920’s Norton.
One of the beverage stops was in this town square by Dan Murphy’s. James’ Rex Acme is parked in front of dad Bryan’s BSA V twin. The R-A is a factory racer and was used in anger at the Isle of Man TT. James uses it with slightly less anger on the roads, hence the oil coating some of the shiny things. He was curious about the action of the front forks and asked my opinion. As I sped off with him following closely behind we both hit a gigantic, but luckily rare, pothole. Both wheels came off the ground with several inches of daylight peeking through. But the bike stayed true upon its return to earth and the fork action and chassis alignment was not a concern for me during the rest of my test ride.
Regular readers will know my favorite roads are the ones less traveled. I have a theory that the narrower the road, the more fun there is to be had. Therefore I never ride on 4 lane roads, and try seek out old one lane cart paths. The route masters on the Irish choose some really good small ones. The road shown in Kim’s photo above goes up a valley, twisting and turning as it climbs in elevation, eventually crossing over the famous Healy Pass. With such a narrow bit of road, there are no lines painted on the sides, nor a line down the middle to divide the traffic. When oncoming cars approach, both cars dip their outside tires into the grassy ditch, giving just enough room for the other to pass without hitting the rearview mirrors.
This little BSA caught my eye all week. And not just from that wicker picnic basket. The dummy rim front and rear brakes and the hand pump for the oil are neat features. Good looking and capable.
Another flat tank BSA, this one has the neat oil regulator in the next photo. Adjust the needle valve and go. Look down and count the seconds between each little oil drip under the glass, but remember to look up and watch the road!
Back to visit Bunratty Castle and Durty Nelly’s Pub on our last night in Eire. They say it is the oldest pub, and I’m not going to argue with them.
Another pic of Jame’s dirty R-A. Shiny show bikes are nice to see, but isn’t this great?
Water scene on the side of the road. This was from the top of the small Coomhola Bridge on the Southern end of probably the best road that I’ve ever ridden. It starts at the R569 in Kilgarvan, near Macaura’s Grave, then up and over a summit from County Kerry to County Cork above Derreencollig, then down to Derrynafinchin to Coomhola.
Fear not dear reader, I know that those names may not make much sense, but here is a map. For reference, Priest’s Leap is in between the blue line and the yellow line, and summits along the same white dotted line that separates Cork and Kerry. We rode north to south, with great views and pavement on the way up the hill, but a bit too many potholes on the southern half coming down the hill. Still, I’d jump at the chance to do it again.
Our gracious host John Quirke provided us with two days to inspect his assortment of cutters and machine tools, and to gape at his wonder restorations. Including the hints and tips he gave regarding Brown and Barlow carburetors, and that portion of the holiday was as fun and rewarding as the rest of the trip.
Yet another old BSA. This one sports OHV atop some mighty long pushrods. The dummy rim brakes may have a little trouble with the sidecar load, but the bike made it back to Killarney without incidents.
Here is what that very same view looked like 104 years later. The old photo hangs on the wall in the restaurant above the Avoca wool shop, which is located just where the photographer stood all those years ago.
Throughout the week, we always find our way to to the top of Moll’s Gap. This small area is at the center of so many picturesque areas and wonderful roads. Down the hill towards Killarney is Ladies’ View, with the very best Irish Coffee. Back towards the south is the Ring of Kerry Road to Kenmare. And to the north are a series of little one lane roads that go through the Black Valley and up through the Gap of Dunloe, which is visible in both photos. Another one of my most favorite roads ever. Climbing the hill on my one speed Veloce was a sense of achievement that I hope never to forget.
Kim’s photo at the top of the Gap of Dunloe