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Aldo’s new book!

May 26, 2015

Aldo Carrer has finished his latest book, a continuation of the previous one hereThe Motorcycle of 1900 is published in English, Italian and German, but could likely be understood by readers of many other languages. It features photos from Aldo’s collection, acquired via decades of work searching through European swap meets, auctions and family connections. Aldo has gathered thousands of loose images, postcards, and complete scrapbooks dating back well over 100 years. The book is focused on primitive (but quickly evolving!) vehicles with two or three wheels. They are sorted by the country of origin, with a short description and date for each photo. As with Aldo’s previous books, they are a treasure for the fan of motorized transport and also make good gifts. 


216 pages. 8.5”x12” Hardbound, published by EDS Edizioni


To buy a copy, contact Aldo here:


US pricing is 30 Euros plus shipping. I’ll ship direct from San Francisco. Anywhere in the USA is $14(or 12.86€) prepaid, or you can pick it up for free here in SF. That total is 30+12.86 = 42.86Euros to Aldo’s Paypal at the email listed above.


Europe and rest of the world pricing & shipping depends on where you live. Contact Aldo directly and he’ll set you up.



(sorry for my quick iphone snaps of his pages. They are bit fuzzy, but the books are actually clear).10514246_1036219029721806_1050464503660019626_o

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All images Copyright Aldo Carrer 2015.

2015 Pioneer Run, Part 2

April 29, 2015

Here is a link to Part 1.


Everybody was smiling as we descended on Epsom Downs as the sun rose, bringing precious, but insufficient, warmth. Being a Californian, I expected relatively cold weather and I was not surprised. However my six layers of shirts and sweaters still left me shivering. The smarter folks among us wore ski parkas instead of button down shirts and bowties!


This little guy was looking forward to the journey, and was especially pleased to place his feet upon the basket filled with chocolate Easter eggs. James Ernshaw piloted the 1907 P&M and chair with a big smile too.2015-03-22 08.05.34


I really liked the look of this 1910 Arno 500cc single. The frame tube drops down just ahead of the seat, giving a low seating position and allowing the pilot to easily reach Terra Firma. The motor is hung between motor lugs instead of using plates, and the Armstrong rear hub has a clutch and three gears that must have come in handy in the Brighton traffic.P1020257

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Regular readers will know that I have a preference for the oddball machines (stay tuned for Part 3). Resplendent in black, nickel and brass, this 2.25hp De Dion dates from 1899 and has a triangular fuel tank/surface carb under the seat.

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And this very similar machine is also an 1899, but with a cylindrical fuel tank behind the seat and a modern spray carb mounted ahead of the motor.2015-03-22 10.19.54

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Ken Lee is a UK American Excelsior aficionado. That sentence may need clarification: Excelsior was a brand of motorcycles made in the UK. To minimize confusion, the bikes made in Chicago, USA were called American Excelsiors in the UK. And Ken lives in Blighty, and rides X’s, so he’s a UK American Excelsior aficionado. Now that we are past that, here is Ken’s more exotic machine, the one and only 1904 James H. Smith. 3hp, and with a fuel tank covered in control levers. Ken found it years ago at a jumble (swap meet). It was apparently made by Mr. Smith in his workshop, using a Fafnir engine and BSA chassis parts, but not much more is known. The elephant is a nice touch.

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I take photos of this 1907 Rex every time I see it. What a beauty.

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The Premier has a few things to notice. The kangaroo on the tank logo, the Davison fuel gage in the front of the tank, and the auxiliary exhaust valve are the first three. The coil spring on the head fins adds some additional surface area to dissipate the heat to the surrounding air. Open Bosch mag, B&B carb and silencer cutouts are common fixtures on other machines of the era.2015-03-22 13.20.15


Two veteran Veloce machines, and three Velo Fellows. Dave Masters, myself and Tim Simkins had a chat overlooking the Brighton beach. Dave rode his reliable M5054, and Tim rode Ivan Rhode’s early two stroke Velocette.P1020335


The little two stroke doesn’t weigh much at all, which makes starting a little easier. The pilot stands straddling the seat and simply paddles his/her feet for a few short steps until the motor comes to life. Direct drive and no clutch keeps things simple and light.2015-03-22 14.33.14


M5054 is a little more complicated, with a unit construction two speed gearbox built into the motor. Still no bicycle pedals nor chain, so Dave is also adept at bump starting.P1020313


Dave has gone through the motor very carefully to ensure that oil passes where it should and that the available torque and hp find their way to the rear wheel.2015-03-22 13.26.53 

The two speed is foot controlled via the double ended shifter lever shown in this image.

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Lincoln Elk is not a well-known marque. Bacon and Hallworth state that LE made bikes 1902-1925 in Broadgate, Lincoln. In 1912 they featured a novel two speed gear via a countershaft with two clutches and a chain to one side of the rear wheel, and a belt drive to the other side of the rear wheel! The 1909 bike pictured below on the Pioneer Run has a conventional belt drive.

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The 1914 Calthorpe Junior is a capable little machine, making just enough dependable power to complete the run. At first glance, the 175cc motor looks like a two stroke, but there are poppet valves mounted horizontally on the rear of the motor. I think that there is also a two speed gear built into the motor, just visible underneath the magneto.2015-03-22 13.30.00


Another Douglas. This one looks very nice from the rider’s seat.

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The following pics are not Uwe’s Peugeot, but another one that is almost the same. I think that both bikes have been converted from points and coil ignition to magnetos, and this second bike has an interesting pair of sprockets on that timing chain.

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Dual rear brakes. The Truffault type front brakes don’t lend themselves to a simple brake mounting.2015-03-22 14.32.08


I’ll finish Part 2 with a few views of Rudge Multis. I’ve written about them in the past and their wonderful mechanism, click on the search button on the right of the screen to find more.


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Sorry that I’m late with my articles. Stay tuned for Pioneer Run Part 3, and the Bud Ekins Memorial Tour, and also King City too. Plus a guest article on Wagner motorcycles, maybe a quick how-to article on Burman gearboxes and a book review of “No Room for Watermelons” and an announcement of Aldo Carrer’s new book when the publisher is ready…

racing motorcycles, cement track

April 27, 2015

We don’t have to understand the words to know that our German friends surely know how to have fun!



Making Spark Plugs

April 8, 2015

Ron Fellowes famously rode his 1910 FN four cylinder 14,606km from Nepal to Belgium in 2012. You can buy his book about the trip here. I’ll have a review of the book in a few days, but first I wanted to share his notes about making his own spark plugs! He mentioned in the book that he had a little bit of trouble with the modern plugs he carried on his trip and decided to make his own when he returned home. Fascinated by the idea of home made sparking plugs, I asked him for more information…



“During my journey I met Michel Bovy, who had original spark plugs fitted to his FN4. I admired them, took lots of photos and said I would like to replicate them. Next day, Michel brought me working drawings that his friend had made the night before.



I used hex steel to make the lower body which I threaded to 18mm and an internal taper of 2 degrees was machined to form a seal between the mica washers. The mica washers were purchased from India. These were of .2 + .1 thickness, mounted on a mandrel and ground with a matching 2 degree taper. I drilled cooling holes in the appropriate places.


The top cover was originally made from Bakelite or ebony, but as I did not have either material, I made my top cover from Tufnol, a manmade compressed fibre. The centre electrode is turned from a Grade 8 bolt.




To adjust the gap (firing point), mica washers are either added or subtracted from the centre electrode.


When I used the mica spark plugs I was happy with the performance, but I found the heat range a little high. I’ve been studying the drawings closely and feel I need to remove some of the mica washers in the cover end to make them run a little colder.


It’s not time consuming to adjust the electrode gap but I do need to put a dummy centre electrode in from the spark plug terminal end to keep the two degree taper in order. I am running .018inch gap.”



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Ron is continuing to test the new plugs with rides in Australia. I’ll ask if he has any new comments in the coming months.

Click here for about 50 more How To articles.


Above photos are copyright 2014 Ron Fellowes.


early plugs

Tony Held, R.I.P.

April 3, 2015

The latest VMCC Journal arrived today with the sad news that Tony Held has passed away.


Tony was a very friendly face to all who rode on the Irish National Rally, and to many events near his home in Southern England. We had loads of fun; here’s a few pics from last year’s Irish. He always was joking around! And his old Norton Manx was not the shiniest bike, but I seemed drawn to it and took pics of it every year. It is sad to think that he won’t be attending anymore and pulling my leg with his tall tales.2014-08-29 11.39.14

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Tonight we’ll have a toast to Tony. RIP my friend.


2015 Pioneer Run part 1

April 2, 2015

The 76th Pioneer Run was held Sunday March 22nd, departing Epsom Downs near London and travelling south about 45 miles to finish on sunny Madeira Drive, Brighton. The Mayor of Epsom was kind enough to start us off with a wave of his flag and his counterpart in Brighton & Hove greeted the finishers as we turned onto the seafront. The Pioneer Run is the largest event in the world for motorcycles made before WWI, with about 350 starters this year and a few less than that at the finish line.

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After last year’s run on the 1913 Veloce, I didn’t plan to attend the Pioneer Run again so soon. But the VMCC generously allowed me to ride the club’s most outstanding machine; Harry Karslake’s 1904 Dreadnought. Much has been written of the bike before. Click here for some notes. The short story is that Karslake built the bike to get the performance that he was after for the trials and tours of his time. The 400cc BAT motor was customized with an additional exhaust port and cooling fins before being dropped into a frame that fit his 6’4” stature. He continued to develop the bike for decades, and was still competing in trials like London to Edinburgh, trips to Lands End, etc. and he and the machine continued to be competitive against much newer machines. George Brough famously started in the #1 position on the machine in the very first Pioneer Run of 1930. Shortly before Karslake died he bequeathed the Dreadnought to the VMCC and it is used on special events like the Pioneer Run and an occasional Banbury Run, typically ridden by the club President. Knowing the history of the machine, I jumped when given the chance to ride it. Now I must publically thank my wife and my credit card company for allowing me to fly 5000 miles for the long weekend. And I’m eternally grateful to Tim Penn, Mike Wills, Harry Wiles and the rest of the VMCC officials for their help in my endeavor.

 2015-03-21 15.16.56Note the additional exhaust pipe and the new old stock AMAC carb. The latter was fitted recently and does wonders for the low speed tractability of the motor. Starting and low speed riding was simple with no worn carb parts to influence the idling speed.


2015-03-21 16.23.07There are a lot of fins added to the cylinder head. And Karslake obviously drilled the multitude of holes in each of them before he welded the fins on.

P1020250The drive side view shows that the machine is long and tall. The footboards don’t quite scrape the roadway, but float just above the tarmac. Being 6 feet tall myself I had to trouble scrambling onto the bike during bumpstarts.


2015-03-21 15.20.50Previous riders of the machine had written that it was a tough ‘bike to manage. But I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was pretty simple once I learned the various controls. The bike has been adjusted, tuned and engineered over the decades to provide sufficient power and reliability. The fixed gearing does require the pilot to jump on and off the bike at every stop, but it was an easy starter. Once underway a thumb’s push on the lever throttle gave a comfortable cruising speed of approximately 25mph I’d guess. Whatever speed it achieved was fine with me, as I was in no hurry to finish the ride!


2015-03-22 08.04.27Uwe came up from Germany, with about 25 of his countrymen. Here he stands with his 1904 Peugeot 330cc. Be sure to say die grüße if you see him at the cement track races in Bielefeld Germany later in the year.


2015-03-22 07.32.26As a mechanical design engineer, I just love these De Dion Bouton three wheelers! I should blame my father for that, since he bought me a Honda ATC 110 threewheeler for my 10th birthday. Oddball vehicles have fascinated me ever since then.

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2015-03-22 07.32.58Note the wheelie bar! The center of gravity on these DDB trikes is pretty far back, and they have been known to flip over backwards. So this machine features an arm to prevent too much rotation.


P1020263The little seat springs can just be seen in this last photo.


P1020253Vic Blake brought out this wonderful 1904 Auto-Fauteuil. Vic and his wife were all smiles in the grass at Epsom, but I understand that he had a spot of bother on the way down to Brighton.


2015-03-22 07.22.53 I think that this Quadrant was from 1902 or 03.

2015-03-22 07.22.59The tank top levers control the surface carb located inside the fuel tank.

2015-03-22 07.23.09The aftermarket stands are a nice addition to the Quadrant, and allow the rider to pedal-start the motor on the stand to warm it up. A close look shows the contracting band brake on this end of the hub.


2015-03-22 14.36.57-1M.A.G. motors were used by many manufacturers in the veteran and vintage eras. Here a twin cylinder motor powers a 1914 Matchless that also features a countershaft gearbox.


2015-03-22 07.56.07-1Multiple American Excelsiors attended again this year. I counted four or five. Here are a 1912 and a 1913. Both are chain driven 61” 1000cc twins. The 12 has a lot of accessories, including an acetylene tank, spare tube holder, pillion seat, spare spark plug holder, klaxon horn, clock and speedometer. Manfried brought it up from Germany, while the 13 lives in Hadstock, England.


P1020323If you look closely at these three photos of the 1902 Clement, you’ll see that it is three different bikes! There were actually four of the 1901-1903 142cc Clements on the run this year.


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This Douglas looked brand new! Note the curved links on the front forks, and all the shiny nickel plating on the motor. We stopped at the school in Handcross for tea, but I never had a chance to find the owner and congratulate him on his fine restoration.


Stay tuned for Pioneer Run parts #2 and #3 coming soon.

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





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