June 27, 2004

It Runs!

SG came to life this morning, after I made a quick run to Sears for some electrolyte. I felt very old school as I asked for the battery acid, which arrived in a dirty jug. Battery acid is the kind of thing grown-ups rightly warn young people about. I wore my protective goggles as I filled the Coventry battery. I topped it off after its initial half-hour of chemical reaction, and then put it on the charger for good measure as I installed the windscreen and placed the body-work onto the frame.

First impressions: she runs well and starts easily, especially when warm. First gear "pulls" ever so slightly even when the clutch is pulled in, so an adjustment may be in order. Shifting is a little notchy, but solid. I find myself looking at the gear-indicator as often as not; perhaps as a result of the novelty of the thing. As with most motorcycles, finding neutral is easier when rolling along than at a dead stop. Adjustment of the clutch may help this as well.

The windscreen might be de-installed soon. Letta's look more sporty without them, and I generally wear a helmet. Plus it feels like it is being buffeted aroud by the wind. I will certainly keep the screen for touring adventures, if indeed I ever have them.

After the mandatory ride around the block, I took Sherman for a spin to our friend's house around the corner and the cafe to show off, where I saw the Triumph I saw at Blind Lizard last week.

Having SG up and running has encouraged me to get the clutch and gearbox rebuilt on Sil, if for no other reason than to see the top surface of my workbench again. I managed to break off another small chunk of the old clutch basket, but only after getting one end of the circle-spring retainer loose. I think I can fashion a compressor out of two c-clamps, a section of square-channel, and a very short section of 3inch cast iron pipe. Perhaps a TIG welder is in my future. . .

Posted by webs0080 at 9:43 AM

June 26, 2004


Letta275 - 1.JPGAfter just about a year, the Letta 275 has arrived from Scotland. By coincidence, its arrival took place on the same day as Bitty's arrival on Emerson Street in the District of Columbia. "Silver-Grey" (or SG) was crated well, but Elite Shipping had briliantly stacked the two boxes of engines rather than attaching each to the floor of the crate. Consequently, the top engine (for a Maico Mobil, destined for a scooter in Emeryvillle) box toppled, and oozed oil on its way across the Atlantic.

Fortunately, the scooter wore some sort of an old bedsheet on its bodywork which absorbed much of the spillage headed its way. According to the seller, all fluids had been drained from the thing, but I am beginning to have my doubts. I only hope a t-shirt isn't in that box as well!

Letta275 - 2.JPGThere is perhaps nothing more fun than uncrating a motorcycle that someone else has crated. (There are no surprises when one uncrates one's own motorcycle.) As the youngish but desperately-trying-to-resist-imminent-pattern-balding delivery person said, "Your job is to sit back with a big smile while I get this thing unloaded." Be that as it may, I felt compelled to steady the crate on its way down the liftgate.

I unpacked the spare engine, which I bought in order to replace the cantankerous gearbox in Sil. The "spare engine" is and was really more of a box of an engine's worth of parts; for some reason, I had expected the engine to arrive assembled and ready to install. I have therefore decided to use what I can of the old engine since I know it runs and its timing is set. But I will definitely use the gearbox and shifting mechanism, in addition to the parts I mutilated earlier, out of the spare.

Letta275 - 3.JPGA second assumption I made was that the battery from Sil would be the same as the battery for SG. Thus, I ran over to Minneapolis to pick up a new battery minutes before the shop closed for the week. As it turns out, the form factor of SG's battery case is slightly different than Sil's, and so I spent 25 bucks on a new battery for Sil. SG arrived with a fresh battery (courtesy of seller), but I reckoned that a new battery was easier to come by than battery acid. As it turns out, Sears is supposed to sell diluted sulphuric acid. So it all works out. I just need to figure out how to get Sil's clutch plates compressed and removed.

Letta275 - 4.JPGAs the sun set, impatience drove me to try and start SG with the new battery, even though it did not fit properly. For the first several tries, I could get no more than a "click" out of the starter. After an aborted bump start in the alley, though, the electric start fired her right up. I put SG away content with the small victory of a running 275.

Posted by webs0080 at 5:30 AM

June 22, 2004

Bitty Goes Bye Bye

After class ended last night, I drove us over to Lake Como to pick up the pickup to take Bitty away for good.

smbl02.jpgThis morning, I awoke at 5:00, a full hour earlier than normal. By six, the dogs were fed and my coffee kept me warm in the garage as I lifted Bitty's seat for the last time. I disconnected the battery cables from the battery and covered the terminals in electrical tape. I packed a bunch of foam rubber around the battery and taped a squash ball to its top to act as a cushion. Just in case.

smbl07.jpgI backed Jon's old F-150 into the driveway and pulled the ramp out of the bed. Rolled Bitty out of the garage and up the ramp. There was a little struggle to hold Bitty up with one hand while lowering the side-stand with the other, and I kept one hand on her as I climbed up in the bed and rolled her forward. I tied her down and took some pictures. Later, I used two more tie-downs to keep her butt from wiggling around excessively on the way over to Forward Air.

smbl09.jpgThe drive over was easy and short. Getting the paperwork sorted was not quite so simple. The forklift rolled up with a tiny plastic crate: evidently HQ had forgotten to supersize the crate order. Despite the mildly panicky phonecalls which followed, the problem was resolved quickly. The "medium crate" was enormous. Several Bitty's could have fit inside. I rolled her in and cinched her up, attaching her little bag of paperwork. After making sure that the crate got its destination labels properly affixed, I attached the padlocks and that was that.

Posted by webs0080 at 7:25 AM

Anticipation Part Two

Silver-Grey (as she is called by the seller) has cleared customs and is on her way to my door. She arrived in Chicago in a container full of all kinds of things, including some hazardous materials, I suppose, for her time in customs was delayed because a shipment of paint ingredients destined for Sherwin Williams was discovered to have been leaking on its transatlantic journey. The hazmat leak brings new meaning to the slogan "We Cover the World." Fortunately, the leak was at the opposite end of the container from the crate with the Letta and the two engines.

Delivery of the Letta is expected either today or tomorrow. But since it has been nearly a year already and the painters occupy two pallets worth of space in the garage, I think I can manage to be patient for a little bit longer.

Posted by webs0080 at 7:10 AM

June 18, 2004

The Test

In 1982, I was so ready to move out that I didn't wait for high school to end. As it turns out, I blew off enough school that I missed graduation by managing to fail American Government. I moved to a room in a house across from the seminary, located in a small unincorporated part of San Mateo County, nestled between Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton. The woman who owned the house sold me an old Honda C100 which had not run in years for the princely sum of $200, which I paid in payments of 100/50/50 over a period of months. I cleaned its carb, bought a battery, and began riding the thing to school -- when indeed I went -- and to work at the New Varsity.

According to the California Vehicle Code, the CA100 was a motorcycle and not a moped, because it did not pedals with which to start it. Therefore, I was required to have a motorcycle endorsement added to my driver's license, which I had earned 18 months earlier. By the time I took the test, I had moved out from the house on Santa Monica Avenue, and was rooming with a graphic artist cum indie record label producer in Mountain View. Thus, I took the driving portion of the motorcycle test in Santa Clara.

In the days before motorcycle safety courses, all one could really do was take the written test, get a permit, and practice like hell during daylight hours. The only privileges the license grants over the permit is the ability to carry a passenger and ride and night, neither of which is tested. The large difference is that the permit expires sooner than the license, which may be renewed an indefinite number of times.

Getting to Santa Clara from Mountain View involved longish ride down El Camino Real, past many car dealerships. Both towns were pretty much backwaters back then. It was the Friday before Hallowe'en, and some of the DMV staff were in costumes.

I met the fellow who was to administer the test out in the testing area carved out of the largish parking lot. The first off-putting thing was that the tester was in costume. He wore a rubber mask and a trench coat, from which bare legs extended. Low boots sans laces adorned his feet. I did the "key", riding up to a circle, doing a couple of laps and returning down a lane parallel to the one I rode up on. Next, we measured braking distances. We measured braking distances on curves, both left- and right-handed. Finally, the tester picked up a remote control box with wires that led to a saw-horse thing with three lights on it. He instructed me to accelerate normally through the gears (as I had already done in all the previous exercises) toward the saw-horse and when a yellow light flashed I was to steer away from the light around the opposite side of the saw-horse.

I accelerated normally toward the saw-horse, getting up to about 30mph. No lights. I braked as hard as I could without locking up the wheels, stopping inches in front of the obstacle. Mr. Man in a Mask apologized and adjusted the controls on his remote. "Go back and let's try this again." Again, I accelerated normally through the gears toward the saw-horse. This time, both lights flashed on. The tester was definitely messing with me. Again, I stopped short of the saw-horse, and again he offered an apology. On the third pass, the light came on on the left and I swerved to the right. Test passed.

What kind of lessons can a eighteen-year-old take away this tale? First off, take the test on a bike you can manage really well. Small bikes are preferable. Second, the tester may be out to trick you. Third, know the limits of your own ability and the bike itself. Get a feel for how long it takes to slow the thing to a stop without locking up the wheels. I think it is a good thing that many states now require under-18's to take a course, and that insurance companies give discounts for safety course completion. Even better is the ability in 20 states or so to gain exemption from the skills section of the driver's license exam in a supportive environment. I can't honestly say that I would have signed up for the course, but if one had been offered while I was in high school, I would have been all over it.

Posted by webs0080 at 3:15 PM

June 16, 2004

The Littlest Things

Sometimes the littlest things make all the difference. While enduring a particularly slow lunch period, I walked up to the window where the foods we served were painted on

  • Coffee
  • Espresso
  • Cappuccino
  • Sandwiches
  • Desserts
and with a razor blade I scraped the "S" and the "wiches" from "Sandwiches" as well as the bullet next to it. And just like that, we no longer served sandwiches in the cafe.

Recently, I made a decision the same way. Out front of our house there was a black reproduction four-sided carriage lamp. It was undeniably ugly. Moreover, its placement atop a six-foot pole placed it in every view from the porch and the living room. It was hard to say whether it was worse when it was on or off. On, its flame-shaped bulb sort of resembled the gaslight the lamp was supposed to have evoked. This effect was attenuated by the light-sensor base, whose rubber seal crept halfway up the bulb.

We were tempted to remove the whole thing, but I argued that it was convenient to have the outlet there, and that the light did after all throw some lumens on our otherwise dangerously dark front stairs. So we looked for replacements.

ext4.jpgWhen we bought it, the house had many ugly parts that required our attention. Some of the major uglinesses (e.g. the aluminum covering up the eave brackets) are being addressed. Perhaps this is what drove me to finally decapitate the lamp. We had looked in vain online for a post lamp to replace the Ugly One. Reproductions had once been available at Arroyo Craftsman, but they appear to have been discontinued. A further insult was that Rejuvenation had also discontinued the few post lights they once carried. The Rejuvenation people told me that the Arroyo Craftsman website was notoriously incomplete and gave me the number of a rep who could give me the number of a dealer in our area.

We knew the place, Creative Lighting. It is right around the corner from our house, though its dead-end frontage road location and my stubborn refusal to look at a map beforehand required us to drive several miles to get to it. We walked up to the front desk and inquired of the location of the Arroyo Craftsman stuff. We were so directed to the outdoor lighting department. The best they had was the Kichler 9529 AGZ, and we paid too much to bring it home.

newlamp.jpgThe next hour was spent decapitating the old lamp. The bulb, light sensor, and fixture came off easily enough, but I made a messy cut with the hacksaw that required some filing. Just for fun I dragged out the compressor and an air grinder to smooth things out. The new lamp installed quickly and easily and is a great improvement over the old one. The very moment the screws were being tightened, the skies opened up. I rolled the compressor back into the garage's safety as clouds burst overhead.

If we had it to do over again, we would save a bunch of money by ordering it online. This brings up the same dilemma we have with motorcycle accessories: You want to see them in person and so you go to a store to check them out. Then you see the price tag and you KNOW you can find it cheaper on-line. Of course, if everyone does this, as they appear to do lately, then the stores will sooner or later go out of business. So enjoy the roof over your head, well-paid employees of Creative Lighting, while your secure employment lasts.

What became of the eagle-adorned carriage-style lamp and the upper four feet of its pole? It was destined for not so great things, deposited alongside the garbage cans next to the alley. While I was working on Bitty, a pair of junkers in a pickup truck asked if they could take it. I offered them the glass, which was still on the porch. The glass, swaddled in protective cardboard, appeared to momentarily challenge them. Doubtless it would some little value to the little value of the lamp, and yet it demanded that they accommodate its fragility. Thanks for taking it, fellows, and may it make someone happy!

Posted by webs0080 at 8:51 PM

June 11, 2004


CCE - 02.jpgI rode up the alley in a light drizzle to find to my amazement that one side of the house had been primed. The house looks bigger, and every detail shows. Our color chips are safely in the hands of our contractor, and paint-mixing will commence while the weather improves.

But the big news in the Twin Cities was the Great Cupcake Reunion Part 2, which coincided with the Heck's Kitchen Reunion Part II. CC and unspouse Erik arrived to sample the delectable cupcakes Sherman made from the recipe she posted recently to her blog.

CCE - 03.jpgAs befitted us as Heck's Kitchen denizens, the celebration began in the Kitchen. There, we introduced ourselves and revealed the great mysteries that heretofore remained hidden. "Wait a minute. Which one are you on the Zonkboard?" "What do you do?" "Tell us about JM's mullet." "Do you have any ideas for your thesis yet?" These and many other questions were duly asked and answered. Many opportunities were taken to praise the special woman who was responsible for bringing us together. We popped open the bottle of Francis Ford Coppola's Zinfandel that our gracious guests brought and poured ourselves libations from it.

CCE - 07.jpg It was decided by consensus that everyone had to get their hands all over JM's Bitty, since she herself was unable to. Connie astounded us all by racing the bike at 200 mph. Not to be outdone, Erik got it up to 300 mph. He would have gone faster, but the alley is a pretty short one with a nasty jump at the end. Sherman who fears nothing got the bike up to 400 mph and flew the bike over some powerlines. We wearied of the abuse and eventually decided to give Bitty a rest, once we had had our way with her to our empty hearts' content. Our wholesome guests pretended to be interested in the small fleet of other motorscooters and motorbikes in the garage, and I was grateful for their indulgence. Unfortunately, the photos of the evening really suck, but Ms. C took some that hopefully outshine our own.

CCE - 09.jpg After having our way with Bitty, we adjourned to the dining room to discuss film, politics, and of course dogs. Mookie and Selkye relaxed enough to engage in their nightly aural cleansing ritual (Selkye, usually submissive, is a "top" in this particular activity). They were, however, too shy have their picture taken en flagrante delicto. As Erik sagely put it "I wouldn't let anyone post pictures of me doing that on the internet!" We retired to Jill's studio, where she creates her paintings. We shared a slightly psychic moment as Erik reached in his mind for the title of the book that Eric had coincidentally held in his hand at that very moment. It was Sasek's "This Is New York". We even popped into my office, where Connie learned that she shared a valuable life skill with Eric: the ability to kill insects with rubber bands. On only her second attempt ever, she pasted a mosquito at the wall ceiling joint. It is this almost unspeakable ability to continually amaze people that makes her a most honored Friendster. Alas the evening ended too soon, giving us a full fours of rest before the dogs, once more pining for a meal, roused us to responsibility.

Posted by webs0080 at 12:52 PM

June 10, 2004

Bitty Gets a Pink Slip

Fleet Plus BittyBitty came with a Bill of Sale. Unfortunately, our nation's capital does not allow vehicles to be registered on only the good word of an upstanding citizen. Perhaps this makes sense. Anyway, I have offered to register Bitty here in Minnesota, only to obtain a pink slip (why do they persist in calling them that -- they are all green now) which I will then sign and deliver to Bitty's New Mommy. As Mrs. Blog put it last night, "I guess BNM just bought you a new motorcycle."

And so I feel less guilty about taking her out for surreptitious spins around the block. Especially now that she has been registered in my name.

Morini on the lift, since she is awaiting grips.I have registered many bikes without titles, but all of them in California. Experience with one state does little to prepare you to deal with another. (Imagine my chagrin when Maryland demanded that I submit the venerable Morini to an inspection! But I digress.) Fortunately, Minnesota will allow you to register a vehicle without a title , provided you provide:

  • A Bill of Sale, signed by the seller, providing a complete description of the vehicle (year, make, model, and vehicle identification number), the name of the purchaser and the date of sale. All owners must sign. Purchaser must complete an Application to Title/Register a Motor Vehicle (PS2000).
  • A statement of facts, written and signed by the seller of the vehicle. This statement must give as much information as possible regarding the history of the vehicle and indicate why there is no documentary proof of ownership. It must also contain a complete vehicle description (year, make, model, and vehicle identification number).
  • A signed statement from purchaser that s/he agrees to defend and protect the State of Minnesota against any and all future claims of ownership.
  • Photographs showing all sides of the vehicle (photographs are not required on utility trailers with a gross weight of less than 6000 pounds).

    Ha! No problem. I fixed the typo on the Bill of Sale's engine# that the seller gave me, took a few pics in the alley, and I was good to go. Can you imagine if DC allowed this kind of titling?

    View from the tool chest. Bitty's headlamp is sick.So off I went to Sears to wait. Did I mention that the St. Paul DMV is on the second floor of Sears, between the draperies and the hair styling tools? When I arrived at 10:30am, the number being called was B70. The number I took was C10. It would be a while. I decided to pick up a few sundries and a couple of tools (a dial caliper and a set of metric T-handle allen wrenches). Then I went upstairs and checked my number. They were on B84. I called Mrs. Blog, and dropped my new purchases in the Tortoise. Then I went inside again. The lines kept growing. Actually, there aren't any lines there (except at the express window) because everyone had taken a number. People sat on the Samsonite luggage and leaned on the wire bins full of bedspreads. Gradually, it came to appear as though the whole town had turned out to change the addresses on their license on the same day. But really, it is always like this.

    I didn't really need to get to that bench anywayOccasionally, someone would wait around for a while and then realize that they could renew their tabs by walking up to the express window. Others simply got frustrated and left. Sometimes, they would give the number they had invested an hour's time on to a grateful fellow waiter. I saw one white-haired lady receive a low number as a gift, and then regift it to an older man in a polyester leisure jacket [redundant phrase?] when she got frustrated. I felt sorry for the people who brought their kids, who were actually really well behaved. I tried to read. I added our tentative date with Cupcakes, Mr. Cupcakes, et famille into my handheld. I listened in on a conversation about identity theft and how thieves paid for $600 worth of gum and windshield wiper fluid at a gas station and paid for everything with a stolen check which they signed on the memo line. Eventually, C10 was called.

    What do you think? Can I fit three or four more bikes in here?As I lay out my case to the Hmong clerk, I notice that the sign says "No Out of State Checks" right below where it says "Cash or Check Only". My personal checks are from Maryland, though the bank is in Texas. I never bothered to order new checks to match the new address. I mean, checks are for entities which trust you, right? And if they don't trust you then they call up TeleCheck or something and make sure, right? I quickly flipped through my checkbook to confirm that I had in fact used the same checks to register the Morini. I passed the check on as if there was nothing suspicious about it: I did not fancy returning there later for another hour and a half wait.

    I walked out with a set of stamped photocopies and a shiny new plate. Minnesota never asks for its old plates back. California does.

    Posted by webs0080 at 6:37 AM

June 8, 2004

Bitty's Arrival

Bitty arrived ca. 6:25. The seller had left Eden Prairie at 5:30. I am glad he offered to deliver the bike; I suspect he won't be so generous next time. Seemed like a genuine enough guy.

The weather paused just long enough for the bike to get unloaded and for us to complete our paperwork.

We gave the thing a couple of kicks, but no dice. However, the battery was a little flat from overwintering, and the tank was bone dry. Good signs: the battery and the plugs were new-looking.

We chatted about bikes and Bitty's provenance. She was a real stray, purchased on a whim at the County Fairgrounds last year. He told me that he never got the headlight to work. I suspect that it is the original reason for the bike's orphan status.

I took the battery out and put it on the charger.

Before it got dark, we took some photos.

I took the headlight off and saw that the snowmobile sealed beam had been wired without slide connectors. I ran off to get some large size slide connectors and a gallon of gas. I took the battery off the charger when it would light a bulb.

Bitty was at first uncooperative, but after drying off the plugs (cute little things!) and tightening the plug caps (they were covered in electrical tape and slipped right off the leads), she started up after a couple dozen kicks. She would run for a while then cut out, but got progressively more enthusiastic. Those caps really ought to be replaced.

Her maiden voyage (as far as I am concerned) was down the alley and back. I think she has the friendliest clutch of any bike I've ever ridden.

Here's what Heck's Barflies had to say:

Shermiepants: Woo hoo! Bitty's arriving tomorrow morning, jm!!!

Shermiepants: I mean, this evening!!


jm: you guys should call me.

jm: xxx.xxx.xxxx. if you can.

jm: even if there's bad news, i can take it. like, this motorcycle's missing two wheels and an engine.

RT: Oh, that will never happen. Even if it did, UB would fix it up on the spot and stick a "Lick Bush in '04" sticker on it.

Shermiepants: Ewww! don't want to lick Bush

Bitty Update: Tom will be here between 6 and 7 this evening.

jm: like, right now

SuSuBelle: Some of your best friends lick bush.

best friends: we do!

Shermiepants: Just got a look at Bitty. Cute! UB will give you the rundown.

Bitty: Hi Jenny!

jm: hi Bitty! i'm your new mommy. even though you're older than me. do you run?

Bitty: I'll let my daddy-in-law tell you about me.

Bitty: I sure am cute.

Sherman: <---P-O-S-T-E-D

Bitty: I run strong. However, I sport my original Yokohama tires, which are far too old and brittle. Also, my headlight doesn't work. It may not be original: it says "snowmobile" on it.

underblog: Those little tank badges actually say "160" on them. Supercute!

Bitty: Thanks uncleblog! It feels like my muffler is falling off.


Bitty: But I will make an excellent first bike for jennifer_miller, if she is patient with me. I will reward her with many miles of fun.

Dr. Uncleblog: Instructions to new Bitty-Mom: Get that parts catalog, STAT!

Underblog: jm, the muffler may be OK. You may just need the muffler joint, which OH Cycle has in their repro stash. But someone needs to look at the parts catalog and the bike and make the call.

DC Motorbike Inspector: That's just the thing I'll catch!

Posted by webs0080 at 11:12 PM

June 4, 2004


New old wheels are on their way to their new old homes all over the country. I think it has been a year now since my set began their voyage. Maybe more. In the scheme of things, it is not such a long wait.

sm277.jpgI had wanted a Maicoletta since I first read the British road tests reproduced in "Jet Set" and "Scooter and Scooterist" in the 1980's. Then I laid on a pair acquired by Wyatt, who owned Quantity Postcards on Grant Ave. Wyatt is an aesthete: he knew what made vintage scooters attractive, but he had no idea what made them good or not. He got the pair (a red 275, and a silver 250) in a major haul from Pennsylvania, I think. Other scooters in the deal included a pair of Heinkels, a Silver Pigeon, a Fuji Rabbit, and a Salsbury.

sm277wo.jpgThe Salsbury and the red Maicoletta were placed on display in the postcard shop. At the time, I had the only running Heinkel Tourist in San Francisco, and so Wyatt and I sat down one evening and talked about what it woud take to get and keep a Heinkel running for him. He took me to the garage downstairs and showed me the Heinkels he had for sale; I had recently purchased Schleicher Motors stash of NOS Heinkel parts, and could complete the two non-running Heinkels that Wyatt had. It was then that I offered to buy either of the Maicolettas from Wyatt. He had no interest in selling, but he did promise me that he would offer it to me first if he ever decided to sell one of them.

smfr.jpgMy life was upheaved in many ways between 1989 and 1993. I had managed to relocate myself from San Francisco to Italy back to San Francisco to Healdsburg and Sebastopol, and finally up to Dunsmuir. While sitting in the empty cafe/bar one afternoon, I got the call from Wyatt. Someone had offered him $1000 for the silver Letta, but he had remembered his promise and tracked me down. I told him I would come down with the trailer and collect the Letta.

smfrwhl.jpgMany months later, I examined what I had purchased: I put a battery in, and attached a piece of fuel line directly from the tank to the carb, since it was missing its fuel tap. To my astonishment, the scooter started right up. The tires only held air for a day or two, but that was long enough to take it for a spin. The scooter upshifted just fine, but it downshifted only with difficulty, despite apparently well-adjusted cables. The short ride from Sacramento Avenue to Soda Creek and back was the only time I ever took the scooter out. I fussed and fussed and adjusted and adjusted to no avail. I dropped the engine out of the frame and realized that I would need special tools to get the clutch off and look at the shifting mechanism itself.

I finally got around to getting the cover off when we were installed at our house in Takoma Park. It was then that I managed to destroy the clutch basket in an effort to pull it off the crankshaft. Oops.

smtop.jpgI eventually sourced a clutch basket from the editor of the "Maico Letter" in Scotland, but that only took the problem back to the gearbox. Plus, remnants of the old basket were not budging off the crankshaft. A month or so later, Steve listed his 1962 275 for sale with a spare 250 motor. If I purchased it, I could both repair the silver one and sell it and have the extra 25cc and a very handsomely restored scooter to boot.

Getting the money wired over seemed at the time to be a big deal, but it was not nearly as big a deal as getting the scooter picked up from Scotland. First, I made the mistake of getting a crate made rather than having the shipper make one. The custom job was enormous, and the shipper refused to use it, since shipping costs are based on volume, not weight. The crate did come in handy for the Scottish winter, when the scooter sat crated in the driveway.

smrear.jpgOnce at the shipper, the scooter found its way onto a ship rather quickly. In a few days time it will be in Halifax, and then I expect it will take a week or two to get here from there. There is still work to do this summer, plopping the spare engine into the silver Letta's frame and perhaps the bodywork will take a trip to a local body shop for a coat of paint. (The scooter has been moved a few more times than it would have liked, starting with Wyatt and ending here.) And then it is off to eBay! Know any takers?

Posted by webs0080 at 6:36 AM

June 2, 2004

Katspanker Got Some Wheels

sm24_1_b.jpgLet me be the first to say to you what you are sure to hear many more times than you like: "Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down." It sounds pretty stupid and it is, unless you stop to consider the alternative. You are scared. You should be; bikes are downright scary. Riding a motorcycle sometimes feels like being a kitten in a herd of wildebeest. But to those who hear the siren song of a tuned exhaust, they are irresistable. Welcome to the club.

sm29_1.jpgIt is appropriate that in this commencement season you are about to embark on what promises to be a great adventure. Motorcycling at its best can be just about the funnest thing in the world. Moreover, it is altogether unique; driving a truck is kind of like driving a car, but motorcycling is nothing like bicycling and even less like driving. A friend of mine (who, interestingly perhaps, later went completely insane) compared it to flying. Freedom becomes you, and motorcycles are all about freedom. You don't need a place to go, because getting there is all the fun. That, and pulling up on your cool ride. I look forward to hearing about your adventures, as you take one of the DC area's many creekside parkways as far out as it goes. The woods, the curves, the lack of traffic. Suddenly, familiar roads will have new criteria by which to be judged. The world itself seems different: you smell the smells and feel the sunlight dappling on your back.

Your 1966 Honda 160 Scrambler is awful cute, and it is a great bike to learn on. Light enough to pick up if you have to, yet speedy enough to get you around town just about as fast as anyone can. Old Hondas are tough. My Trail 90 is about the same year (1967), and I had a green and white CB 350 back in the day. Yours should be at least as indestructible as mine, given the occasional spot check.

smb1_1.jpgYour bike is older, and it needs to be looked after. I expect that you will religiously check your air pressure each week and change the oil at least once each season. Check the battery level often, and top off with DISTILLED water if need be. If the tires that come on it are original or noticeably older than the tires you see on contemporary bikes, please change them. Should parts ever seem expensive, think about how much a visit to the ER (or permanent loss of full functioning of a body part or two) will set you back. Get a can of 3 In 1 and oil all the cables. Each spring. Helmet and gloves, always. A nice 3.4 will look appropriately retro. And think eye protection, esp at night.

sm31_1.jpgBikes are not without their frustrations, so get to know other motorcyclists, especially ones who also ride old small Honda twins -- they are an invaluable source of info on parts, potential problems, and the occasional story. The internet has made this kind of information sharing much easier, but there is no substitute for real live chitchat. As the ad they used in the 60s says, "You meet the nicest people on a Honda." Get acquainted with your friendly neighborhood Honda dealer. The folks out at Aspen Hill across from Home Depot seemed nice enough. It is a good sign if they come out to take a look.

A word of caution, new motorcyclist: Your new old vehicle will give you the super-power of invisibility to other motorists. Pay attention to who is not paying attention. Assume that the car waiting to turn left will move into your path at any moment and anticipate what you would do if it starts to move. You will see danger everywhere. This is not paranoia but merely survival. City biking is mentally and physically exhausting.

sm1d_1.jpgFinally, take the class. I know that there is a long waiting list for it and that it uses up a weekend, but people who take the class really do die less frequently than those that don't. Going down is without a doubt the worst part of motorcycling, even if you manage to survive. You will save on your insurance if you take the class. Plus I hear it is a great place to meet chicks. Not that you are looking.

So godspeed little katspanker with the perfect eBay rating. Be cautious, be aware, be safe. We hope to have you in the club for a long long time.

Posted by webs0080 at 9:04 PM