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.
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
More photos from Jerry Cordy! We’ll start with a great one. Bud Ekins riding his Cyclone race bike on the street, Bob McCloud push starting.
Jerry hosted several tours in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, here’s a flyer for the 1989 edition.
Here’s Doug Eastwood on his Indian twin.
Jerry also included photos from some other rides. This one is from Corning, and others are from Volcano.
Dave Bettencort. He rode his ‘15 HD on the first Cannonball and did very well. If you scroll through the various old articles on Occhio Lungo you can also spot him at some of the Bud Ekins Memorial Tours in Atascadero.
Bill Stoures on a great Pope twin. Rear suspension and OHV.
There are a lot of names on the list. 67 participants at that tour. And names that are now famous in our hobby like Wes Allen, Bud Catlett, Roy Burke, Lysle Parker, Shorty Tomkins, Norm Gerlich, Marshall Mathews, Max Bubeck, etc. The list just keeps going.
Pete Peterson (center) and Bill Brownell (right). Pete is a very fine rider. A fast old fart on his Triumph twins these days. I had the pleasure to come across him and his buddies for the first time on an Oregon ride a dozen years ago. We made it down to one of the beaches, and he and the boys really tore it up. It was like watching On any Sunday. Spinning and doing brodies in the sand. Eventually one of them highsided and flew off his bike and ate some sandy salt water! They were not spring chickens at that point, all retired and probably in their late 60’s. Brownell owned a dealership in Chico, CA back before I was born and a lot of the guys still like to run his dealer license plate frames.
Cordy cast these belt buckles in brass for the riders of the Spring 89 Tour.
That’s Norm Gerlich and a Dayton. When I was in college in Seattle, Norm opened a pre16 motorcycle shop inside a a beautiful old Packard dealership. Walking in there was like stepping through the Pearly Gates! My pockets were empty but I could dream… But my friends and I were way too busy cutting up 1970’s Hondas to make our versions of café racer bikes. They were about $200 each in the Little Nickel classified adverts and we did what we could afford. Just like today’s builders.
Stu Laidlaw and Jeff Sierck on his white Thor 7. Sierk and the Crawfords used to host a fun springtime ride in Plymouth CA, but it only lasted a few years. Beautiful roads and scenery around there. And always a good bbq at the finish of the ride. We now do the Girder Fork Ride on some of the same roads.
Jerry Cordy and Bud Catlett in the white helmet. Outside the general store in Volano, CA.
Jerry and his honey.
Johnny Eagles and friend with a big Pierce single. In the background is a Sears twin, Indian and Tom Holthaus and Buster Naylor.
John Eagles, Cordy and Vahan Bandoian on Main St in Volcano.
Lysle and Dorothy Parker
Marshal Matthews tending to his Harley twin. Marshall was present on a lot of the early bike and early car tours until he died from ALS. He knew a lot of people and knew a lot about the machines. In his memory the Plaid Run is held each spring to raise money for victims of ALS. The variety of people and machines on that one day run has to be seen to be believed.
Shorty Thompkins sits on the bike while Matthews fixes something. It is a good pic of Evan Matthews in the sidecar. Evan grew up riding on old bikes and in old cars. When I met him he was about 20 years old and was driving the family 1906 Buick 2 cylinder car with his mom and sister passengers on an Alturas tour. He’s grown up to be a good man, and his father would be proud.
That’s Max Bubeck on an Indian of course. Max was a legend, and was glad to tell us all about it! He hosted the Death Valley ride for years, where he would tell us all about winning the Greenhorn Enduro on an Indian 4. A small guy with a big heart.
that’s a nice looking Merkel.
Pete Gagan. I think this is the Borrego Springs ride from a few years ago. Pete has been President of the AMCA and hosts a web show about his old bikes. It is called Pete’s Garage and is on youtube here.
Pete Peterson, Vahan Dinahanian and Roy Burke. Roy was another institution in the Oregon old bike world. He built a series of Indians with OHV heads that he constructed himself. He passed away a few years ago, but those Indians still get ridden by his old friends.
One of Roy’s bikes that I snapped on a ride a few years ago. He made the head in his home workshop, and the frame, fitted a Honda front suspension, British gearbox, etc.
Red and Kay Cadwell
Steve Wright on the right.
Main St in Volano, CA
The mailbox continues to overflow! Today’s item comes from Brittney Olson, wife of Matt Olson. Brittney races a wonderful 1923 F head Harley short coupled racer that she and Matt built last year, and she has made this short two minute film about her efforts. The Champion Sparkplug Company are awarding a scholarship for racers, and Brittney is the running to get it! The winner will be announced soon, based on the votes awarded at the website:
Click on the link to see the clever video that she wrote and filmed about racing a clutchless single speeder at 70+mph on the dirt tracks of the midwest.
From time to time, we all ask about the future of our old bike hobby. Where are the young people that will replace us? Who will be riding these old machines in 20 years? Here is the answer: Brittney is not only riding and racing, but she is a very energetic enthusiast and is bringing more young people into the hobby. She and Matt have been very active in the AMCA’s Youth program to bring youngsters into the fold by offering their own time and energy to the next generation. If Champion can support her (through our votes), and she supports old bikes, that sounds pretty good to me.
Votes can be submitted each day through March 23rd, so vote early and vote often.
More from the mailbox: Today’s images are from Manuel Parra in Madrid, Spain. He has a collection of three 1930’s Velocettes for sale! Regular readers will know my love of Velos, especially the rigid frame, girder fork types made before the war. They are very light, very capable and great handling machines. By placing the camshaft high in the crankcases, the pushrod Velo motors have lightweight pushrods and rev freely. This design stayed with the marque through the Clubman and Thruxton models right to the end of production in 1971. The iron head motors are quiet due to the sound damping of iron compared to aluminum, and parts are relatively easy to come by via Ed Gilkison and the owners clubs in the UK, US and OZ. My own MSS has done more than a dozen of our 1000 mile rallies without much fettling at all. And no one can deny the beauty of the Velo fishtail silencer.
The 500cc MSS is from 1935, the 350MAC is a 1936 model and the 250MOV is from 1934. Manuel assures me that all three run perfectly and they do look nice in his photos. He’d love to sell all three to one buyer and interested parties can reach him at cometainst (at) yahoo.es Replace the (at) with the @ symbol when composing your email. He is open to swaps or trades…
PS, don’t be afraid of the infamous Velo clutch. If you adjust it per the owner’s manual it will work fine without touching it for years and years.