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Stolen 1920 Indian

March 11, 2015

STOLEN MOTORCYCLE ALERT: Over the weekend, this 1920 Indian Board Tracker was stolen in Gardner, Kansas. The machine was recently on display at the AMCA Santa Fe Chapter bike show in Lawrence, Kansas. The engine serial number is 77R010. If you have seen or know the whereabouts of this motorcycle, please contact your local law enforcement agency. You can also find out more information about the machine by contacting Jim Sneegas at 785-766-8963 or Jerry Juenemann at 913-938-4554. PLEASE SHARE this post and help the owner get their prized machine back!11021405_357860904415627_4956975998220515461_o




Sleeve Valve Indian. Cannon Ball Baker?

March 9, 2015

Geert sent in these photos of an old c1912 watercooled Indian single cylinder motor that his father bought in Florida in the 1990s. The seller claimed that the motor came from Cannon Ball Baker. It has horizontal rotary sleeve valves atop the head, à la the Cross layout, but with two spinning valves instead of the more common single valve layout. The history of the motor is not known to Geert other than what the seller had mentioned. 

Ed Youngblood wrote of Baker’s work here. But it seems that he started in 1929. Is there any chance that this old Indian could be tied to Baker? If you have any info, please post in the comments below.


The valves were driven by chains on the timing side of the motor. The chains are gone, but the sprockets can be seen in the first photo. The sleeves are still in the head (shown in the middle pics with two drive dogs each and their rectangular ports). And the drives with their two engagement slots can be seen in the last pics.


Rotary sleeve valves were promising in the 1920s as they are today. But they have always been hindered by the difficulties in sealing the valves during operation, due to thermal expansion. There may also be some issues with valve timing, but likely the issues could be solved with some modern numerical modeling, analysis and materials. Ceramic seals are an option that Baker could only have dreamt of.  We’ll see what the future holds.


indian 001


indian 002

   indian 004 

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indian 005 

indian 006


1896 Roper Replica

February 27, 2015

The story of Sylvester Roper and his steam bikes is very well known. Click here for some of the story. He built several of the earliest steam powered two wheeled cycles (although a very great number of other steam vehicles of 3-4 wheels predated his by several decades). I’m not going to waste any time debating who built the first or what the definition of a motorized cycle is. Let’s see some images:

4668bc480a61[1]roper 018

Recently a new replica of Roper’s last bike has been created in Huesca, Spain by Guillermo Ximeno with Manuel Parra and the team at Cometa Restauraciones.

stbike1aroper 002

Guillermo first started work two and a half years ago, and Cometa was able to display the bike for the first time this week at the ClassicAutoMadrid 2015. Manuel was kind enough to send over several photos and a description of the bike. Guillermo began with many original 1896 parts, including a Columbia Pope bicycle frame, seat, fork, handlebar and hubs. The team also sourced a period pressure gage, taps, valves, etc. so that the bike seems very authentic.  Many parts were blacksmith and locksmith fabricated and also cast via the Galicia foundries.


The photos above show just how well the replica mirrors the original bike. Which is a point that we sometimes overlook. It is much more difficult to make an accurate replica of a machine, or a perfect restoration, than to build a one of a kind custom. Being correct or incorrect is very cut and dried with these bikes as the original must be replicated exactly or the photos will show obvious deviations. We should applaud the best efforts that result in such perfect reproductions.roper 004

  roper 006

 roper 007The burner box would be filled with coal, but coke or charcoal will also work. The boiler cannot be seen, but is above, hidden inside the wood. And the plated water tank is atop that.


roper 009

The motor, valves, cranks and other bits are fully functional. Thus far it has been tested using compressed air, but the firebox has not yet been loaded with coal and burned. Cometa is eager to to that, but has the bike for sale and has chosen to let the new owner decide when to fire it up. The fire will lead to some oxidization, etc. that will slightly diminish the bike’s finishes, hence the wait. But OcchioLungo and our readers will of course want to see the machine being used! And hopefully soon we can share that.

roper 013Water filler, pressure gage and hand pump.


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The rear wheel is the crankshaft for the motor. The crank can be seen on the right end of the rear axle, with the connecting rods and valve timing rod linking to the motor. Materials are obviously brass, with some iron, steel and wood. Aluminum would have been useful, but wasn’t commonly available back then.


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On the center left is a regulator to control the steam into the motor (it looks a lot like a steam whistle). The operating cable can be seen going upwards, eventually connecting to a lever on the right handlebar and the device operates much like a carb on an internal combustion motor.

Between the two knobs is a sight glass to show the water level. A simple footpeg is on the lower right.


roper 031

The extension on the front forks was built when Roper found that the bike sat too low, and would high-center on rough terrain. The replica has the same extensions, rather than simply starting with revised frame/fork geometry.

Excellent work guys!


chip perry coburn bensen and the roper

As a special addition to this article, here is a photo of the the real 1896 Roper, taken a few years ago with Chip Perry and Coburn Bensen. Thanks to Chip for sending it! Note the the exhaust pipe is set in the low position here. It can be moved up or down to affect how the exhaust gasses flow.

2015 Rides

February 26, 2015

Mark you calendars! There are plenty of rides in 2015 so that you can enjoy your pre1916 motorcycle the way its maker intended.

1. Steve Wright & Bud Ekins Memorial Tour: Atascadero, CA. April 16-18.

2. King City Tour: King City, CA. April 23-25.

3. Modoc Small Car & Pre16 Motorcycle Tour: Alturas, CA. June 29-July 2.

4. Minden Tour: Minden, NV. date tbd September?

king city

The roads are dry, they sky is clear

December 31, 2014

Have a great Old Year’s Night, and watch your speed if riding tonight!

The roads are dry, they sky is clear
There is no sign of dust.
My bus I now will have to mount,
or else I’ll surely bust.


I take it out and tune it up,
Then mount it for a spin;
And gradually I speed it up
Until I get pulled in.


Lo! now I stand before the judge,
And tell my tale of woe;
When he announces ten and costs,
I hand him all my dough.


My spirits quickly droop and fade;
I start my boat in gloom,
As all along the road ahead,
The coppers seem to loom.


But in a week it’s all forgot
As is the way with men,
And I begin to hit it up,
Until I’m pinched again.


And so it goes from month to month,
When riding in a hurry,
And we get pinched from time to time;
But then, "Oh, we should worry!"

happy new year


My Velocette Days

December 19, 2014

2014-12-19 16.17.14

Yay! The mailman brought me a Winter Solstice present. The Velocette Club UK sent a copy of this book to all members: My Velocette Days, by Len Moseley. (membership has its privileges). The book has been out of print for forty years and is now rare, selling for $50-100 on ABE books. This new edition from the VOC also includes an additional series of old photos of the factory. You may recognize some of them that I have previously shared from Dave Masters (formerly Mr. Moseley’s collection).


Mr. Moseley worked at Veloce for 48 years, from 1923 until the end in 1970. He tells his first hand account of Veloce’s story as the bikes were built, tested, sold and raced. He was there as the new OHC bikes were introduced, and became KTT world championship bikes. And when the OHV MSS was developed, which continued into the Venom and Thruxton. Ultimately the factory doors closed and the building came down, but even then Moseley wrote that he expected the owner’s club to thrive for years to come.


Thank you to the VOC for sending this book.

1911 Pope, 1920 Henderson for sale

December 15, 2014

I’m not generally in favor of advertising, so this second consecutive post of bikes for sale may surprise regular readers. But a comment often uttered by people that want to ride early machines is that they don’t know where to find suitable bikes. They often sell via word of mouth, and that means you have to know who to talk to!


As one of my longstanding goals of OcchioLungo is to get more people onto old bikes, I’m glad to post a notice when suitable ones come up for sale. The retail dealers and auction houses already have plenty of opportunities to bend your ear, but this is just an old friend who needs to sell one bike in order to buy something else…

Dirk wears white sox

Dirk has had this 1911 Pope for decades.  The first pic is him riding the machine in Ireland back in 1991. He rode it up Molls Gap, but the coaster brake was scary on the way down.  The bike was found in Argentina in the 1980s when he was a purser, and he carried it home to Germany as crew baggage on a Lufthansa B747!10859848_10154867391955212_432548914_n10818756_10154840469935212_1215911932_n


There is a video here. These early Pope singles are pretty neat, and similar to the Yales and other bikes of that era. Automatic inlet valves and direct drive to the rear wheel keep the number of moving parts to a minimum. He has fitted a lever that can be used to slacken the belt and give the effect of a clutch for low speed starts away from traffic. The bike also comes with an acetylene tank, 1912 license plate and a neat early combination padlock.


You can reach Dirk via email: 49pepper AT (replace the AT with an @)


He also has a 1920 Henderson for sale. Purchased 30 years ago in Santa Cruz, he has started to restore it and rebuilt the crank, camshaft, rods, main bearings, etc. There are brand new gears, including reverse, plus new pistons, etc. Ready for reassembly and fettling.






OK, there you go. No auction fees or middlemen, deal directly with the seller and let’s see these bikes on the road in 2015.


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