72 Triumph 650 Bonnie

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I now own 6/10s of what will be my fourth Triumph and third vintage Triumph.

Had pop’s last bike for a bit, a sweetly tuned ’05 T100 Bonnie with progressive springs & shocks. Right amount of tire pressure and she went round corners as tight as you could wish.

My first, a ’73 T140V 750 Bonnie, learned a lot about wrenching twins and building bikes with that one but didn’t have any measurable time riding it.

That’s the second ’73, this one a 750 Tiger, my primary transport when I was out in Phoenix. Out of the growing number of machines I’ve owned this is one that all others get measured against. This was as close as I ever got to the machine I’d always dreamed of and something comparable to the bike from the stories I was raised on (The ’67 Norton P11 will be closer still, as close as possible without actually being the machine).

I fitted alloy fenders, modern tires, the Mikuni carb, side covers and pancake filter to replace the heavy stock airbox, low bars, Corbin seat, rear rack for school shit & groceries, bar end mirrors, and briefly ran an open exhaust. Eventually ran her without a battery or working gauges – which didn’t matter because I got to know her speeds and could figure how fast I was going by the sound of the engine and what gear I was in. Next to the small block Guzzi its the bike I felt the most comfortable on in every regard.

Theoretically I am buying this 1972 Bonnie as a loaner, I figure it’ll primarily get used by my brother and his wife once their kid is older, something to ride round the back roads of New Hampshire on. Friends as well though, not all of them but the ones I trust the most, it’ll be a way to go on rides with mates where we’re both on comparable classic Brit machines.

My restoration which is slated a few years from now will set her up as an extremely solid New England bike. She’s getting the Magdyno ignition, an alloy barrel, and a modest overhaul. She’ll be solid and reliable for a few days at a time for sure without needing any fuss. I will fit her with a Craven rack so that the luggage I’m getting for the P11 will fit her as well, but she’s not going to get the sort of attention I’m giving the Norton, I’m rigging the Norton so she’ll be able to do a 7,000 mile road trip. The Norton will fulfill a great many things that I am currently lacking, this Triumph isn’t necessary and is getting bought mostly for that loaner thing but also because I don’t think they’ll remain in a price range I can afford much longer and I don’t want to miss the chance to own another one down the line.

Also by the time my nephew is old enough to be allowed to ride that bike’ll be a sweet 60 years old and perfect for him if he wants a classic bike. If things work out I hope to have him round with me when I rebuild her, and let him do any work he’s interested in doing. That’ll give him confidence working with engines, and some sweet memories from childhood of rebuilding a classic British motorcycle with his uncle that he will someday inherit. Won’t force him into it if he’s not interested but I know the memories I wish I had with pop and it seems poetic if I can make them a reality with my nephew who’s pop’s namesake.

Quick Motorcycle Update

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Been a while since I posted in here, so I figured I’d give a bit about where the bike is at now as it’s really beginning to come together – I think she should be on the road somewhere in March. Not sure if that’ll be legal & inspected, there are still some things that need done, legal by April for sure.

First, the wheels are at Barnstorm as I type getting new Kenda tires fitted, that means that I’ll finally be able to have a rolling chassis. While she came with a front wheel I’ve had to build the rear from bits from Ebay and as a result the bike has been living on a motorcycle-jack for about a year now. The rear tire has been the big hold up on that front, so this is excellent.

I’ve also decided on the gauges, a 4″ combination unit that uses GPS for tracking speed and also has a tach built into it. Looks like this,

The tach won’t work for a little bit as I’ll need to get an extra bit of electrical hardware to allow it to run off the magneto, but the speedo will be enough – this instrument is what’s going to hold me up till April. March is likely going to be dedicated to a large collection of smaller bits – more than a few will likely have to do with the oil tank and running the lines to bottom & top end. Also the making of brackets to actually hold the oil tank in place. I’ve also got to decide if the shocks fitted are alright or if I need to spring for Hagon progressive shocks sooner than later.

What’s most important to this update is the following.

First off, the Primary is now completely rebuilt and while not yet tensioned, otherwise all set with new sprockets, chain, clutch plates, springs, spring-buckets, and rotor:

With that done I was able to open up the timing chest so that I could set about replacing the ignition.

Despite the fact that this bike came with the best of the Lucas K2F mags – a true Competition mag,

It was unfortunately worn in a fashion that would have resulted in the cylinders firing at different times which would have cost more than I have to correct. As such, if you remember, I’d thought about going to a BT-H magneto which uses a modern electronic ignition inside of a magneto, but I had since read some unfavorable reviews about how those are assembled which coupled with their higher cost than the more standard Joe Hunt mags coupled with a need to use more expensive gauges than the one shown above that require a sensor on the wheel for gauging speed – killed my want to go that route.

So I went with what is now my third Joe Hunt Mag in the past 9 years. But unlike the last two which went onto Triumph engines that were produced post the mag era and so had the mags hanging out off the side of the timing cover, this one will be going behind the cylinder where the Lucas sat – which is as it should be.

In that picture you can also see the mechanical Auto-Advance unit which helped starting on the old Lucas mags, but isn’t necessary on the Hunt mags and so I’ll be leaving it off and replacing it with a simple sprocket. Here you can see the differences between the two ignitions in general size, layout, and the Auto-Advance vs a simple sprocket,

Both are shut off the same way, by grounding, on the Hunt the ground post is on the side where as on the Lucas its on the opposite end from the Advance. On the Lucas the cables come up from the top of the mag where as on the Hunt they come out of the black cover on the back.

Both mags have a mechanical contact breaker on the inside, and in this way the Hunt is going to be easier to maintain than the Lucas because as you can see, the access to that on the Lucas is a bit of a pain in the ass,

Where as on the Hunt,

The area is much more accessible both because of the amount of room allowed by the cover’s removal coupled with the fact that the hunt isn’t as deep from back to flange as the Lucas and so I’ll have more room between the back of the primary cover and mag’s insides.

Next step will be to install the Hunt mag, then install the triple trees with new bearings, finish rebuilding the forks, re-assemble the front end, install the front & rear wheels. Then make brackets for mounting the oil & gas tanks, install the new wire harness and tie in the various parts – all of which wire in as original parts would. Finally I’ll have to tie the oil system together, and repair a stripped thread in one of the gastank bungs so that I can tie in the fuel lines. Then I’ll be able to give her some gas & oil and see what I’ve got!

After that it’s just details like the gauges and minor adjustments. I plan to use LED headlight & tail lights since I won’t be running a battery, and I plan to put the speedo/tach on a toggle switch so that when I’m trying to start the bike with my leg the electronics in the unit aren’t a draw on the system. I also have to make a rear brake rod to tie the Dommie style brake into the Matchless chassis and likely I’ll have to modify of machine new wheel/axle spacers since I’m using different wheels than would have been used from the factory and I’m using Norton forks in Ceriani trees. But thats all details – and its all stuff I know how to do. There isn’t anything on this bike that I don’t know how to do, thats one of the reasons I love vintage british machines so much.

Another P11 Update – Getting Close Now

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I think I have to scratch the Electronic Fuel Injection, I don’t particularly want to, but I don’t think we’re at that point yet. There are a few issues with fitting the kit I want to the P11, some of which I think is more a result of the 1967 Norton P11 engine really having been designed in the late 1930s. The thing that I think is going to sink it is the ignition that has to be linked to the ECU and there not being a way to do that without spending another $1,300 – some of it on stuff I don’t want on my Norton. There is also a slim chance that I could do ALL of this and discover that none of it will work unless I also install a $1,700 Electric Starter kit – which I REALLY don’t want. For now I’ll continue to work with the folks who sell the kits to try to iron out the issues but I think that the idea most likely needs to be shelved for 1-3 years to let technology continue to evolve.

I have also decided to shelve the Belt Drive & Commando Clutch upgrade as not necessarily being necessary quite yet. There are a solid number of people who believe that Belt Driven Primaries aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and there are also quite a few people who still use the 3 spring AMC clutch and single row primary despite how easy it is to upgrade either or both. Instead I am going to restore what I have, ride what I have for a year or so and then decide if what I have needs to be better or not.

So I have ordered (all new) a Clutch Basket/Sprocket, a 21T engine sprocket, a single row primary chain, 3 springs, 6 Barnett Friction Plates, and a new Rotor Nut. The steel clutch plates are fine, and the cush drive rubbers in the clutch hub are fine (surprisingly). So not needing to replace those bits saves a bit of money. This is the way the Clutch goes together,

These are the clearly worn out friction plates,

They should look more like,

Steel plates,


The worn out sprockets on the clutch basket & engine sprocket,

And how the primary drive looked before I dismantled it, so that when I re-assemble it you’ll have a point of reference for the improvement. Note the new stainless fasteners looking all lovely going around. Also note the proximity of the footpeg mounting stud to the frame which is why rather than fixing it in place using a nut on either end I’m going to switch to cotter pins – which will make it/them easier to remove as the threads will no longer matter. You can also see the hole in the primary case(s) where the stud for fixing the footpeg bracket would have come through – I had intended to remove all of these parts & the inner cover for getting at the Magneto, but thats no longer necessary which I’ll explain soon.

Another project that I’ll be doing this winter is strengthening the front Twin Leading Shoe Brake plate. As far as drum brakes go, I am a fan because I like mechanical simplicity and their readily apparent issues (disc brakes can develop issues that are harder to see – like the hydraulic hose stretching over time reducing performance). I think that out of all the TLS Brake plates fitted to road going bikes, the best two were that fitted to the early /5 BMWs and the vented one fitted to the early Norton Commando’s, examples of both seen here,

The only issue with the Commando brake was that it could flex under certain conditions and the solution to that is to install a stiffening kit. Here is the stock plate inside,

Here is the stiffening kit,

And the combination of the two, which is fantastic.

The next bit of work is my continued working of the front forks, as you remember I purchased Roadholder forks, and then I purchased kits which will allow me to replace the far out dated internal damper design with dampers out of a 2007 Honda CBR600RR with custom wound progressive springs – which will give me superior roadholding even for today – which when they were new is one of the things that made the Norton’s so great – superior forks & handling during the 50s – 70s – then the world caught up and passed them and this kit allows me to keep the classic front fork’s outer style – though I am going from metal shrouds to rubber gaiters – and have modern handling at the same time.


Norton P11

Clear difference in the original internals (top) and the new Honda internals,

I still have to rebuild the forks before I install these new kits. New bushings, seals, and fiber washers. I have also decided to use the Ceriani fork trees rather than the Roadholder trees as I do intend to use this bike as a bit of a duel sport, the Ceriani MX trees provide much thicker clamps around the fork tubes and a much more substantial steering stem,

Though that is much of the reason I’ll be switching to rubber fork gaiters, beyond the fact that off road the metal shrouds apparently trap more dirt than they protect from – but also because the shrouds are designed to work with the Norton trees, not the Ceriani,

The last bit of news for tonight’s post is the Magneto ignition, I have decided to replace the Lucas K2F magneto with a BT-H FM2R Magneto. I actually could have picked the BT-H copy of the K2F – which is pretty slick,
My Competition K2F mounted,

BT-H Copy,

But its money for looks and I don’t care about my bike Looking exactly as it would have in 1967, if I did, this whole process would have cost me way more money and the bike I got at the end would look only slightly different than what I have now – but it wouldn’t be as good as what I’ll have when I’m done for the fact that I live in a city.

What I’m trying to do is build a bike that’s a cross between the 67 P11 and 67 Atlas.

The BT-H magneto is, well first of all, it’ll look like this,

It mounts the same way as the Lucas, physically takes up the same amount of space, and it Is a magneto. But thats where their commonality ends. The BT-H has a modern ignition, which is what makes it better than say a Joe Hunt magneto, the Joe Hunt still requires setting up and a bit of maintenance, its not as bad as the Lucas K2F for constant tinkering but for the cost of the thing its not what you’d expect it would be – and I say that having had 2 of them, they aren’t bad mags, they just, they aren’t as good as a new Lucas K2F was and they sure as hell aren’t as good as a new BT-H. The BT-H uses the more modern CDI type ignition and the triggering is magnets rather than points – the only moving part in the BT-H mag is the spindle – which is what I want for the cost of a new magneto, because with the BT-H the operative word in that sentence is new – as it should be.

I’ll also be able to ditch the Auto-Advance (top left),

With an 18T Sprocket,

I am going to replace the mechanical speedometer & tachometer with electronic clocks, the fellow at BT-H recommends I use the modern electronic Smiths and since they will fit my original Smith’s mounts and look the part – really, I’m not yet sure if I want the original Grey face or if I want the ones that were sold for Nortons with the N. But these are modern Electronic gauges!

That means no cables (the speedo cables are over 5′ long), no $290 tacho drive off the timing case/camshaft, no $92 speedo drive on the rear wheel, no dimly lit bulbs to light up the faces that will fall out because of the vibrations.

I’ll install the Speedo first, then later on after I collect the new big-end shells, JS Conrods, pistons, and valve springs – lap the cases, and all of that, thats when I’ll buy the tachometer. Till then I’m thinking I’ll install a metal plate where the tach would have been mounted (on the right) and in it I’ll install a key’d ignition switch because this bike is slowly turning into something that I don’t want just anyone to be able to start and ride off.

To sum all of this up, basically, I have finally figured out a really solid idea of what I want this bike to be when its finished. I can now picture it in my head clear as day, I know the end game for the engine, gearbox, and everything else. I have figured out the perfect (for me) blend of modern and vintage simplicity, and it thrills me. Even better, she really is very close, especially now that the primary is so close. A couple more months and she’ll be on the road. I still need to fit tires, add some missing brackets to the frame, and buy the magneto. But now that my health is turning round, everything is moving at the best speed possible, only hindered by my income and my still shifty health and lack of muscle – both of which are improving slowly but steadily.

A Modern Norton P11 (sort of)

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Any one of my friends could tell you, I have had a lot of motorcycles in a relatively short period of time, I think its something around 50 in 10 years. Most were mules but some were really quite special. I have had two (which I rode regularly) that I miss more than all the others, a 1973 Triumph 750 Tiger and a 2004 Moto Guzzi 750 Breva.

I miss the Triumph because it was the closest I had ever gotten to my father’s 1967 Norton 750 Atlas and it was everything I had hoped & imagined a 750 British parallel twin would be, my only regret was that I didn’t get it till after pop was gone.

The 750 Moto Guzzi I loved because it was essentially a classic motorcycle that functioned like a modern one, it did everything perfectly without drips or foibles. When I say it was essentially a classic, here’s what I mean by that, in 1979 Moto Guzzi introduced a small block 350, then a 500, which became a 650 and eventually a 750. The engine and frame remained very close over the decades – only the tech & body parts changed with time.

I’ve decided that that’s what I’m going to strive for with my 1967 Norton P11. Rather than trying to build a Norton that could have rolled off the line yesterday (had yesterday been Nov 23 1967) I’m going to strive for a Norton P11 that could have rolled off the line yesterday. The technology available to the common man has caught up. I can’t do it exactly perfectly, but I should be able to get it pretty close to being that 750 Moto Guzzi.

I’ve discovered a Electronic Fuel Injection kit thats actually affordable, and this EFI kit includes an ignition system. This is most of the kit,

I’ll get the 34mm throttle body they offer and attach it to a 2:1 carb manifold thats made to take a 34mm Amal Mk2 carb or Mikuni. Doing so will allow me to ditch the Lucas K2F Magneto & Auto-Advance inside the timing chest – as well as one of the two chains in the timing chest (less drag on the engine). I’ll be able to cut 4 cables out of the 9 that I would need were I to do her up stock, I’ll be cutting 2 more by going to an electronic Speedometer & Tachometer,

I’d already started down the road without really noticing when I purchased a kit for replacing the Norton Roadholder internal dampers (designed in the late 1930s) with 2007 Honda CBR600RR dampers,

And had decided that first chance I got I’d be upgrading the single row primary chain and 1930s era clutch to a belt drive and early 1970s Commando clutch. I wandered further down the road when I decided that I’d be replacing the connecting rods & pistons with a kit that uses tech developed in auto racing – like longer conrods using a bushless small end in conjunction with shorter pistons and diamond coated piston pins,

As well as modern valve springs, a modern alloy barrel, and a slew of other modern bits tucked in here and there. I admit it took me a bit to realize I’d totally changed course, I have some parts I’ll need to sell – the carbs & electronic ignition I’d bought are now useless to me, obsolete in my eyes, because I’ve realized that I can build a bike that I didn’t really ever think I’d be able to have – a bike with the soul of a 1960s Norton that’ll perform as perfectly as my 04 Moto Guzzi did. They had the right idea, I’m going to follow their lead.

When I’m done I’m going to have a bike with 6 fewer cables, a brain, a bullet proof lighter smoother balanced engine that won’t need rebuilt for years. A smoother lighter clutch and a primary that doesn’t run in oil, won’t need constant fiddling. I’ll have a fuel delivery system thats cleaner, more efficient, and won’t need tinkering when I change altitude or temp. I’ll have a 1960s Norton twin that I’ll be able to ride anywhere in the world without having to worry about roadside repairs, shaking off parts, or any of that. I’ll have the best of both worlds.

The younger me would be spinning in rage at the thought of this, but the younger me hadn’t spent nearly a third of his life sidelined by pain & poor health, younger me didn’t understand how precious life is and how important it is to have a motorcycle thats predictable and completely dependable. The fact that I’ll be able to have those qualities on a bike that I’ve been dreaming about since I was 7 is an unexpected bonus I never really imagined possible.

Quick Update on the P11 with few words

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As I keep promising, I really will update this soon, I actually don’t have time right now. Today will be my busiest day in a couple years I think, and it needs to start soon! But I wanted to show how far along the Norton has come in the months since I got it – there is so much more to do, but it’s getting to be down to small stuff.

If you don’t remember, this is how she was when I got her, in terms of useable parts – and it turned out those forks don’t really count as useable parts.

Now I think what is important to say before I show where I’m at now is that I decided not to restore her towards the original P11 Specs. Those were fantastic desert racers in original trim – but I don’t live within 2,000 miles of a desert.

To begin I intend to use here as a road bike 70% of the time and for light off roading the other 30% of the time. The front end I’ve been building up will work extraordinarily well on road and off road it will be a marginal improvement on what would have been standard in 1967. As I build up my body and my off road ability I am going to build a second front end kit that’ll be able to be swapped out over the course of an afternoon in order to give the bike real off road chops and only marginal road capabilities. Having 2 front end kits will in essence give me two different machines with very different handling characteristics.

I can thank this fellow who discovered that 1989 Husqvarna 390 Forks will fit Norton triple trees – do that and swap out the rear shocks for longer ones and you have a real off road bike. Also knowing 1989 Husky forks fit will allow me a broader span of choices.

But anyway, here is where my own Norton stands now,

I love how narrow she is, the way everything is tucked in, the oil tank below the seat inside the frame, engine completely inside the frame, exhaust pipes tucked inside the frame as the pass the cylinder. Absolutely brilliant.

In the foreground here you can see a number of bits that’ll find their way onto the bike as time goes by – the vented 2LS Drum brake, vintage Lucas brake light & number plate, there’s an ignition in that box, and a whole lot of other bits scattered around the area.

She’s going to be amazing. Soon I have to bring her into Barnstorm Cycles so that Jake can weld a whole bunch of missing frame brackets back in place (or whatever we come up with) to allow me to bolt the tank down, bolt the seat down, install a battery, bolt the head pipes to the frame in the rear for support, I need a side stand of some sort, shit like that. Currently there is nothing for any of that – and no place to mount a head-steady – which would be fine if I was tearing through the desert – but for road riding, no head-steady has a negative impact on handling.

I also need tires so that I can (A) ride it safely, and (B) actually finally mount the rear wheel and have a rolling bike!

She’s getting SO close! I am beside myself with excitement.

Alright, its almost 5am and I need to take the trash out, do the dishes, wash some clothes, vacuum the floor, clean & vacuum the couch, clean a thousand empty soda bottles, and so on – and I don’t know if I have any trash bags – so I gotta go!

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I’m not dead, I just haven’t had much cause to update this as of late, there has been progress made on several fronts however so I will endeavor to write a reasonable post in the next couple of weeks to bring things up to date. I apologize if I’d worried anyone with my long absence.

Rest Day thoughts.

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I am holed up in a hotel in New Jersey, I have spent much of this trip in New Jersey. I’m maybe 20 miles from both Pennsylvania as well as New York. I had planned to ride today and probably get home tomorrow but after the T-Bone steak I had here last night combined with a general overal weariness when I woke up this morning I decided to put in one more night here.

Tomorrow is going to be a little wet so I’m going to have to go down to my bike in a little while and get the Carhartt pants out of the sidecar, the past few days – since I shifted from the Interstate to State Highways I have been wearing my Belstaff rain pants, the pair dad got me when I started riding. The trouble is that there is a hole in the left knee from that time I laid down the Moto Guzzi a couple towns over from Boylston. So while they work well for short trips in the rain as well as to help beat off the cold they don’t hold up so well to prolonged traveling in the rain. Eventually my left knee gets soaked and then slowly, and I know this from experience) my left boot begins to fill with water that has no place to go once its inside of the waterproof pants except down into the boot. As it is I left my waterproof socks at home by accident (I think) so that wouldn’t be great given the tempeture.

Also have to put some air in the tires, I am so glad I bought that little pump as well as a proper guage. I’ll do that in an hour or so, when the weather is at its best for the day.

This hotel, it’s a Holiday Inn, its nicer than some pretty nice places I’ve stayed. They have a restuerant with a chef who is quite talented and the food is reasonably priced, the only hang up is they only have one guy working out front who has to cover a sitting area/lounge type space, a bar that has the feel of a tavern, as well as a more formal dining area. I suspect that when this place is in season they have a staff, but as its March there is just the one fellow – who also is in charge of delivering food to the rooms and this hotel has 5 floors and a labrinth of rooms, I am fairly sure this place has about 250 rooms. Not to mention smoking rooms, only a handful, but I got one. Reeked of cigarettes when I got here but has since turned into the heavy smell of English pipe tobacco.

In an odd way I’m actually kind of glad that I didn’t make it to Savannah.

Not because the trip I’m having is in any way better than the one I’d planned, it isn’t, not at all. Also I deeply regret that I didn’t get to hang out with Will, see his house, hang out with his friends again – I liked several of his mates down there quite a bit and his boyfriend is a great guy, I was looking forward to talking to him again and hearing some stories about how he’s been using the large format camera I gave him last summer. So in those regards I would very very much have liked to have made it to Savannah, as well as just those days in the sun.

I also regret that I’m not stopping in NYC to visit Brent as well as to see Vax Moto and maybe catch a comedy show with Ian. Although I have full intent of making up for all of those things at a later date, possibly sometime over the summer.

The reason I am glad I didn’t make it down there is because I’d have to get home and quite frankly I’m having a bit of a hard time getting back from here and I’m not even remotely far away. I mean if not for the Ural someone could drive from Worcester to here – pick me up, and drive back home all in the same day and yet it’ll probably take me until Wed to get home. There is more than a little insanity to that. I don’t care though.

Its only insane if you look at it from the view of someone who isn’t disabled. Thats not an excuse, its just reality. I’ve had a brutal year, lost a lot of weight this year, had my weight fluctuate between my usual too thin and dangerously too thin because I repeatedly would hit stretches of several days of not being able to hold food in my system. Its only been the past couple of months where I have been able to move around with any sense of self assurance that I wasn’t going to end up on the ground unable to get back up again. If you felt the way I do right now you would feel like shit, but this is the best I have felt in months. Thats just the reality.

I’m not having as much fun as I could be because there are things weighing on me. Trying not to spend too much, trying to get home in a reasonable way, trying not to be too hard on myself for the limited range that I am capable of before I have to stop. Being cold a lot.

On the other hand I can feel myself getting stronger, my stamina is slowly starting to come back, and I am out here despite the syndromes, the disorder, the pain, the exhaustion, the weakness. I am out here in another state riding my motorcycle for several hours a day, day after day after day! The modifications my friends and I did to make the bike a better traveler were all spot on. She is infinitely better than how she was. The Dart flyscreen makes the wind more than tolerable, the heated grips keep my hands from hurting, the heated jacket makes all of this possible, the little speakers I mounted inside my helmet play music beautifully and yet allow me to here the sirens when an emergency vehicle needs to get past. I haven’t used the USB ports yet but the US std 12V socket let me use a GPS to find a hotel the night before last (first time I’ve ever done that, but at the time it was a saving grace which is why I brought one) and the Euro std 12V socket is in constant use. The new drybag I got to keep the rest of my gear in works perfectly and because of it’s design makes hauling around the duffle drybag easier because I can rest the duffle on the other in elevators which means I don’t have to bend down to pick it up – so much easier on my back. The little gopro is taking hundreds of pictures that will essentially allow me to watch the whole trip again at a later date in a time lapse video.

As always I am meeting fantastic people. Yesterday I met a guy at the Comfort Inn while I was packing up to leave who is into building cafe racers out of old Jap bikes. He showed me some pictures on his phone and he’s got the talent and the eye for it. We had a bit of a laugh over how we enjoy the same style of machines but go at them almost from completely opposite ends. He’s always trying to strip them down and pull them forward in tech – playing with using his cell phone as the bike’s guages, gps, etc while I am generally trying to strip bikes down and drag them backwards to the simplest oldest tech I can get away with that’ll do whatever it is I am trying to do.

While the trip I’d planned didn’t pan out I’m still very glad I tried it. Learned some valuable lessons, reaffirmed old theories, and its having almost exactly the right effect on my mood, my soul, my humors and all the rest of the things that had been suffering from too many months spent alone in my house unable to get out and ride, and feel alive. I feel so alive right now. Free. Content.

deja vu

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This blog was started in 2012 by my friend Josh in anticipation for an epic 7,000 mile road trip I had been planning while bedridden for years (really, years). That trip was to be a sort of full loop of the United States. I would begin in Worcester and riding all state highways on a 38hp Soviet made sidecar rig ride to Savannah where I would deliver a second motorcycle I’d haul on the sidecar frame. Then I was going to ride across the country following a southern route that would have taken me across many of the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico as well as across this country’s great desert. Then, after a night in the hotel that is the Queen Mary, I was going to ride up the California coast before turning right (as it were) and heading back across the country, a stop in Boulder to visit my uncle Matt & cousin Milo, then onto Wisconsin to visit my cousin Jess and her family, then onto Youngstown to visit the rest of mom’s family.

I hadn’t fully realized what several years in bed does to someone’s stamina until that trip. I had none. It took me four days to get out of Massachusetts and probably three or four to get through New York state. For the first week I couldn’t manage more than about 50-70 miles a day without having to take the day that followed it off so that I could recover.

Somewhere around New Jersey I realized that what I had intended didn’t stand a chance and that I had to completely re-evaluate the trip and it’s purpose. Rather than doing a bunch of cool shit I had to pick one thing, and that one thing was getting that second motorcycle down to my friend Will in Savannah. It took me a month. I spent another month in the state of Georgia, then I spent a month making my way back to Worcester.

I remember the last three days of that trip when I took my 650 38hp Ural onto the highway, she had some power now that there was nothing on the sidecar frame but some boards and my clothes. I could cruise about as fast as the 750cc Ural I’m riding now can (with the sidecar tub acting as a huge drag). Those last three days I had my stamina back. I was making miles! I was feeling strong again. My soul was totally recharged.

Here I am again, in New Jersey, on my way to Savannah having to re-eveluate the whole thing.

On that trip I had a budget I will never have again. Things just worked out weirdly, on that trip money wasn’t a factor, time wasn’t a factor, it was just about getting my head right, and I did.

This trip is however strongly tied down by time and money. I have things I didn’t have last time, like a house, bills, my cat (had her in 2012 too but we weren’t friends yet). Money is tight, I can’t be gone for more than 12 days or so. I can’t make Savannah, I know that. So we re-evaluate.

No more interstates. It’s too cold for that right now and my motorcycle as a sidecar rig doesn’t enjoy it. If I ditched the sidecar I bet she’d cruise at 75-80mph effortlessly, but fully loaded with the tub she doesn’t want to do over 55 unless I’m drafting behind trucks, then its closer to 65. My stomach doesn’t like interstate food. The endless concrete is slightly depressing.

Another way of looking at it, if I was in a car I could have made Savannah in a day. I’ve personally driven farther in 22 hours than I spent 3 months doing in 2012 on a motorcycle. But I am disabled, I can legally only own one vehicle and I dream about motorcycles. Also I have concerns about driving a car and what could happen if my chest locks up on say the interstate that I don’t have with the motorcycle. So five years without a car, and longer trips to get to places a car can reach in a day – or an able bodied man on a motorcycle can reach in two.

So we’re back to state highways, and we’re back to riding until we’re tired and then finding a hotel. It seems that my range is about 150km per day so tomorrow I’ll probably end up in either Bridgewater NJ or Allentown PA, I haven’t decided yet. Either way, I am about 5.5 hours from home by car so I should be home in 3-4 days. Crazy right?

I am bitterly disappointed that I didn’t make Savannah. I knew that was a bit of a long shot till I got on the bike, then I actually thought I had a real chance. It was the weather. State highways in this weather are tolerable, the interstate at just 10-20mph faster are not, especially when it rains. Thats an important lesson.

But I am content.

The main purposes of this trip were to get the hell out of Massachusetts for a while and to ride my motorcycle as much as I could, day after day of just road tripping. I have achieved that and will continue to for the days it takes to get home. Beyond that the pictures that I have been getting daily, and I have several hundred now, I will post a few below, these are just so boring. I’ll actually want to show the ones captured on the state highways, they will show so much that these do not. I regret not getting farther south for that as much as not getting to visit with Will, the state highways down south are wild & so beautiful.

It’ll feel so good to get back into the country rather than feeling like I am just skirting past it. I’ll also be warmer and feel better about things at the end of the day. When you travel on the interstate you have no conception of the journey, its like flying, you just blow by everything that matters. On state highways you feel like you’ve achieved something at the end of the day, you know exactly how far you’ve come because you actually watch it change around you as you shift from one region to another. Its brilliant.

Tomorrow night’s pictures will be better, I promise. The trip & adventure have shifted focus but they aren’t over.

Unfortunately this also means I’m going to have to visit Brent & Vax Moto at another point, I’m thinking mid to late Summer, when being outside isn’t a misery. I think for that trip I might pull the sidecar off.

Days 3 & 4

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To say the trip failed wouldn’t be 100% accurate. I have reached a place where there isn’t any snow, and yesterday it was beautiful outside once the rain stopped. The idea of reaching Savannah is over, that ended yesterday during the early afternoon when my chest locked up on the highway during a thunderstorm and I was forced to abandon the ride before 1pm on that one day where I could have made a ton of miles. Today having to be a rest day was the last nail in that coffin.

There is no chance of making Savannah during the window of Will’s free time for this weekend and I don’t have the money nor the desire to leave my cat alone for over 2 weeks which I would need both if I wanted to make Savannah. I’d have to hole up somewhere cheap for a week and then continue south with the idea of visiting Will next weekend rather than this one. But thats too long on the road, too much money, too much time away.

Besides, right now my chest still hurts a bit. I’d have to be stupid to ignore that and continue riding farther from my house rather than turning back and making my way home.

In as much as getting to Savannah this trip is a bitter failure and I’m pretty bummed out over that. But in so much as being out roaming around outside of Massachusetts on a motorcycle living life and having a good time, its not at all a failure and I learned some valuable things from this attempt. Late March is too early for interstate travel – the wind chill at interstate speeds are just too much for making miles.

That sort of thing.

Days 1 & 2 – Pictures later tonight.

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Generally speaking the trip so far has been surprisingly good. I think if the weather was a bit warmer I’d probably be half way to Savannah right now. That being said, the weather hasn’t been very pleasant.

Yesterday (Day 1) I made it to the southern tip of Connecticut which was farther than I’d made it in the first four days of my trip in 2012 which is one of the things thats telling me I’m doing alright here.

The trouble has mainly been the temp, yesterday I couldn’t leave until almost noon because I had to wait for the temp to get up into the mid 30s (all temps in F) so that the windchill on the interstate wouldn’t destroy my hands. Once on the interstate I discovered that fully loaded the Ural didn’t want to go much past 65mph and was happiest at about 60mph – which in a way isn’t bad at all, its a mile a minute which is quick enough and its very close to 100km per hour which makes it easy to judge time & distances because my odometer counts in km.

Yesterday I had a range of about 60km before I had to pull over and take a break for about 30-40 minutes (today it was closer to 80km). With the temp being where it was I couldn’t risk getting caught in rush hour traffic because the alternator wouldn’t be spinning fast enough to keep up with the draw for the heated jacket & grips, so I’d have to shut off my heat and ride without in stop and go traffic around the time of day the sun starts to go down. That to me isn’t an option.

So yesterday my trip time was about 4 hours but really closer to 2 hours on the road itself factoring the breaks. Thus southern CT (almost NY).

Today was much much better, I could feel the difference, as my body is beginning to adjust to riding again. I could go longer before the pain began to effect things and then endure that for longer. The modifications were brilliant and work almost flawlessly – I have to shim the seat a little bit at some point but its not an emergency. I can’t feel the heat from the jacket because I am riding with essentially 5 layers below the jacket – but I can feel the difference if I shut it off. With the jacket on I am comfortable, I can feel the grips and they are sweet. I sometimes forget to shut them off, I have to get better about that – I mean I don’t leave them on all night but a couple of times during gas stops.

I was pretty certain today that I would be able to push on through to Philly or Wilmington today but I ended up stopping about 30 miles north of Philly. It began the rain, the sun vanished, and it was about 38 degrees which means with the windchill it was about 19 degrees and wet. So I had to pack it in.

I’m at a Quality Inn on the first floor in a smoking room with my bike visible through the window. This is as good as it gets. The room (like last night’s) was about $75 before tax. Everything so far is cheaper than I’d budgeted it to be.

Tomorrow is going to be the day. The high for the day where I am now is 72, the high down near Richmond is 75ish, and the high towards Savannah is around 80. At 7am it’s going to be the same temp that I had to wait till 11am for today – by 9am it’ll be damn near 50.

Tomorrow I won’t need to worry about the heated gear being on during rush hour. Tomorrow I am going to ride for as long as I can, I am figuring that including stops I should be able to make about 500km over the full day.

Doing the math I no longer expect to arrive in Savannah on Friday but rather on Saturday morning.

That’s alright.

While the perfect version of this trip would have me spending 4-5 full days in Savannah hanging out with Will and exploring the fact that it’ll very likely be 2 days hanging out with Will and a day exploring by myself before I see him for a very little bit that night and then turn around and head home the following morning, it doesn’t bother me as much as you might think.

For me the trip is what its all about. The riding isn’t something to get out of the way before I do my fun thing in the evening. To me the riding is the fun time of the day and watching a movie at night before I go to bed is the best way to ensure I can get up the next day and go have fun again. I think thats why I probably wouldn’t fly anywhere even if I could (which I can’t) because the folks who fly to their vacation are the opposite mindset than me. For them, getting there, is the bit that has to be gotten out of the way before fun can happen. I have never understood that mentality. My brain doesn’t think that way. I am happiest when riding my motorcycle, vacation is riding my motorcycle as much as possible.

I’m not bummed out right now because I’m in New Jersey rather than Virginia. I am bummed out because the cold and the wet cut the amount of time I felt I could ride in half.

At any rate the pictures so far are not very fascinating, as I predicted its just loads of concrete more than anything else, they will make for a decent fast paced time lapse video but on their own they aren’t much to look at. That being said there are folks who want to see some of them, so after I take a much needed shower I will transfer today’s sets to the computer and then I’ll post the choice few on here. For now, here’s a picture of the bike as I was contemplating the weather clouds over me. Just as I started getting my stuff on because I could feel that the rain was imminent (I’d known that from weather reports last night but there hadn’t been a “at 2pm you’ll drown” but rather percentages of likely-hood through most of the afternoon) when it began to rain.