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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.

1916 Racing Motorcycles at the Autodromo de Sitges-Terramar, Spain

November 30, 2014

Located near Barcelona, the Autodromo de Terramar once held races for cars and motorbikes, before being abandoned to the elements like so many other tracks. There are modern plans to revive the location with penthouse suites, a casino, 5 star hotel, etc. Info at the link above if you are interested. But we’re here to view a little of the history and to see two of the motorbikes.

Manuel Parra sent in these great photos of the track and some of the bikes and cars that raced their during the 1920’s.

Copia de rodolfo cardenal  

foto_86 - Copy 






Here is how the track looks today:untitled



At Cometa Restauraciones, Manuel has these two race bikes for sale. A c1916 Indian and Harley, both had been stored in an abandoned warehouse near the track since the 1950s. The racing history of the bikes is not fully known, but Manuel has had them for many years and has finally decided to let them go.  Feel free to contact him at the link above to get more details.

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harley davidson brooklands 1916 019 harley davidson brooklands 1916 005 


harley davidson brooklands 1916 001


2014 Pioneer Run, pt 3. More oddballs

November 3, 2014

Happy Monday.  Today’s article has more from the 2014 Pioneer Run:


There were nearly 400 machines on the ride again this year, but with my limited time I snapped pics of the oddballs that attracted my attention.  This week’s post includes several three wheelers and some uncommon two wheelers too.



The wicker forecar on this 1903 Humber looks great! And the flags are a nice touch too. The motor, mounted as the frame downtube, has 387cc and makes just enough power to carry the rig on the modest hills of our route from London to Brighton.  A friend here in California has a similar model, but with two wheels in the back instead of the front.  This pic of his bike shows the motor mounting in more detail:



The other Leon Bollee was shown in the earlier article, but this one in amaranth red looks so good that it is included here.



I didn’t catch the ID for this machine, but it really looks interesting with those plush seats and winged mudguards.



Paul Valkenet brought his 1904 Lurquin & Courdert over from the Netherlands and had a successful ride to Madeira Drive. The lightweight machine has 210cc and direct drive, and more of that neat oxblood/amaranth color, offset by the green tank and belt rim. And the chap looks dapper too!



These two photos appear to be the same bike, but close study reveals that these two P&M bikes are nearly, but not quite, identical. Lots of chains, including TWO in the primary drive, the final drive chain, one to the footstarter and another to the shifter.


Everybody loves a Rex JAP Vtwin.




Isn’t the 1909 Phanomobile great? Certainly not something that we get to see everyday, and I applaud the owner/driver who brought it out for all to enjoy. The motor is mounted out front, with the weight surely affecting the steering to some extent?  I don’t know these very well, but think that they were made in Germany


Some De Dion three wheelers to compare and contrast. Six or seven were entered on this year’s run, but I only had time to snap pics of these:P1010296

The first has a later carb, but we can ignore that. The second one has a two speed gear to the right of the motor. The motor on the third machine is moved over to the left and has water cooling to the cylinder head.



ooh! Check out the rear end of this 1914 Edmund! The 2.75 JAP motor, with Senspray carb, etc isn’t that different than other marques, but the leaf springs under the rear carrier are the first indication that the bike is atypical of the more common Class Three 1911-1913 veteran machines on the Pioneer Run. It appears that the leaf springs and also a coil spring under the seat support a subframe of the seat and footboards (via a connection through the seat tube?). The rear wheel isn’t suspended, but almost looks to be. BAT offered a similar layout, seen here. A very close study of the pics also shows two primary chains, likely a two speed à la the P&M. P1010302P1010304

Dave Masters and I by the green doors of Verrall’s. A great place to buy a veteran or vintage bike! Thanks again Dave for talking me into coming over for the 2013 2014 Pioneer. Dave Masters


2014 Pioneer Run, part 2

October 13, 2014

We’ll start part 2 with my favorite of the old crocks, Harry Karslake’s famous Dreadnought.  The bike is even better known than the man, but that is only due to its longevity compared to his.  Mr. Karslake was a representative of an oil company (Wakefield I think) and his nickname was “Oily”. As part of his job duties he rode quite a bit in the pioneering days before WWI, and eventually was employed by George Brough as his right hand man at Brough Superior. The early magazines are filled with his exploits, including competing in a number of events like time trials, reliability trials and efficiency runs where he was often able to get either the fastest time, the most accurate time or the most miles per gallon of fuel. He also wrote a bit and gave lectures to teach riders of the veteran era how to get the most of themselves and their machines.  Do a search here for “karslake” to see 34 typical mentions of his name in a 6 month period of 1911 of The Motorcycle magazine. Eventually he was the founder and librarian for the Association of Pioneer Motorcyclists, which you can join if you’ve had a motorcycle license for the past 50 years…P1010242

Upon his death, Oily donated the machine to the VMCC, the world’s largest club for old motorcycles. It is ridden most years on the Pioneer Run by the club president, and has been the very first bike to depart every year since the first run in 1930!  It is often the first bike to finish too, with enough performance to keep the later machines from ever catching it.  Click here to read more about the build of the bike.P1010243


An American in England. This 1912 Excelsior single wasn’t quite unique, and was joined by a 1913 twin.



The Wilkinson four. Quite a machine.



This big twin Ariel looked great in green with red and grey. The gearbox was offered in this layout for 1914 only I think, and the later models can be identified by the kicker being on the other side. It is a minor difference, but the Sunbeam club is diligent about keeping track of which bikes are pre1915 and therefore eligible for the Pioneer Run.

 on pioneer run

The ‘13 Veloce took me all the way to the Brighton beach without any issues. If you get bored and want to read about how it was restored, click on the green link in the previous sentence.


Sunbeams have always been regarded as gentleman’s motorcycles. The very fine black jappaning finish and the enclosed chain drive were two details that added to its reputation. Sunbeams began with chain drive from the start of their production, even while others were still using belt drives. (only one ‘Beam model used belt drive, by requirements of the French army during the Great War). The company is a very old one, with origins in 1790 and they were famous for their black finishing work decades before they began making bicycles and motorbicycles.



This series of photos shows some varieties of the Zenith Gradua. As a mechanical design engineer, I’m always excited by designs like this or the Rudge Multi. Builders and buyers of motorbikes knew that gears were needed from the pioneer days c1903. Some were offered with and without clutches, to echo the features of the autocars of the era. However they weren’t seen as being required 100%, and they only increased the cost of the machine, sometimes more than they increased the value of the machine.  So it was some years before they became standard fitment. Even after the proliferation of countershaft gearboxes in the 1914-1915 era, bikes were still offered with primitive clutchless belt drives after WWI, especially on lightweight models and ladies’ models. In between days, bikes had a variation of specifications. The early NSU two-speed gear on the crankshaft was a common fitment, and other proprietary gears and/or clutches were offered by Mabon, etc. But the Zenith design excelled with its complex belt and pulley arrangement.  A crank lever worked a linkage that changed the width between the halves of the V belt pulley on the motor.  By driving the two halves closer, the belt had to ride up the V to a larger diameter, which made the bike go faster. But that larger front pulley also made the belt tighter on the rear pulley, so something was required. Rudge’s design was to have linkage to change the rear pulley size in conjunction with the front pulley.  Zenith went the more complicated way, and moved the rear wheel forwards or backwards to keep the belt tension constant. That is, the wheelbase was altered via that same linkage to the front pulley. This was done by a series of gears which pushed plungers in the frame chainstays, moving the axle. The gear sets were tied together with a chain that ran across the frame, lest the axle get cockeyed.P1010257

In principal it is fairly straightforward, but there are some complications. The first is that the brake needs to move with the rear wheel, but the brake pedal does not! A compensating linkage accounts for that, while the brake shoe is mounted to the moving portion of the left chainstay.P1010232

The other complication is the sheer number of moving parts required. Three gear sets, two sprockets and a chain, plus the linkages and associated bearings, not to mention the cam and bearing hardware in the motor pulley itself, all added to the cost. And as the exposed components wear, the modern rider must replace or repair items to minimize the slop in the system and keep it moving smoothly. P1010236

Like the Rudge Multi layout, the Zenith Gradua was eventually done in by its limited variation in gearing.  They simply couldn’t be driven to a very low gear and also to a very high gear in the way that a three speed countershaft gearbox could. But for a few years they were the best thing that a rider could imagine, and many races were won by Zenith Graduas against single speed bikes or bikes with fragile gearboxes. Zenith was famously barred from competing in some events as they had an unfair advantage. Zenith jumped on this and added the word “BARRED” to all their advertisements.P1010237

Three or four Zenith Graduas were on the 2013 Pioneer Run. A nice assortment of single and twins in different colors and some with left hand or right hand control levers are shown in the photos above.


This neat Bradbury has the above-mentioned NSU two speed on the motor crankshaft.  The lever above the fuel tank can be spun around to choose high or low gear, or a neutral can be found in the middle if the rider is careful. The drive is taken up by a series of metal discs which make a particular squeal when the hand crank is spun.


And just to be different, here is a 1909 shaft drive FN.


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