Day 05

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It should be noted that yesterday’s ride was abandoned early as I rode directly into a lightning storm – and being in the mountains I mean right into the storm. I’ve ridden through all kinds of weather over the years, its one of those things I take a bit of personal pride in, snow sleet & hail all included. Yesterday is the second time in all my time riding (getting to be long enough where I can say that) in which I rode into weather and thought “fuck this” and bailed on it. One of those things that you might not fully appreciate if you’ve never ridden motorcycles is the fact that things hurt when you’re going over 40mph. The occasional large insect to the face feels like someone’s chucked a pebble at you. Rain drops can be particularly unpleasant, perhaps not oddly how unpleasant is in line with how unpleasant the rain is, drizzle are like little air pellets while driven raindrops are more like BBs. The storm I rode into yesterday morning was driving rain and too close lightening strikes – both in proximity to where I was riding and the being up in a mountain put me closer to the source which I wasn’t digging.

Here’s the bit I wrote up earlier for today:

Important traveling advice, if you’re roaming around a decent sized town looking for a place to sleep, find a pizza shop – no one can give clear directions to the closest hotel/motel like a pizza delivery guy. I’d been roaming round this town for about half an hour, the US highway I was on turned into a 65mph type highway for a bit and the exit I got off at just as it was starting to drizzle had a bed sign but in the construction zone at the end of the ramp there was no arrow below the bed sign and six different roads splaying away from each other. The three to the left all dead ended into neighborhoods, one on the right dumps into an industrial park, the one I was exploring when the rain really started had lead to a nice looking university – I thought surely there’d be a hotel near the uni but I was wrong – I was on my way back to that intersection when I passed a Dominoes and the rain was coming solid now. They got me to this place just before the lightning started and it started coming down in sheets.

Good timing.

I was at the tail end of the day anyway, I could have ridden another hour I think, but I’d covered more miles than any day to this point. Got some decent pictures of the landscape and one that I particularly like and might get an actual print of. I’m about 20 miles from Belefonte which for me has two things of note – dad’s favorite KOA is there (mine’s in La Salle) and it’s damn near in the center of Pennsylvania. Earlier this morning I was about 5 miles south of a town called Factoryville (seriously – lovely houses tho) and North East of Gettysburg. I spent a solid chunk of the day riding west on 6 until I was just about due North of Gettysburg and then started picking and choosing various state & US highways leading due South. Wanted US 15 but turns out thats almost entirely a 70mph stretch of highway – which while lovely – is about 15mph faster than the Ural (weighted such as it is) can physically go in top gear, which on top of the fact that I’m still running knobbies – made it a bit too unnerving – so I ditched off onto PA 414 W then caught 180 S then 287 W and finally I think (and the order of those may be off) 220 S which was the 65mph stretch which at 50-55mph was alright. My speedometer is 5mph optimistic I’ve discovered, according to the dozen raider speedo displays I’ve passed, it’s almost exactly 5mph – which now that I know, I’m annoying fewer motorists and passing through small towns matching the speed limits exactly and so with absolutely no worries about local cops. Lot of towns out here with main stretches with 25mph limits – which is crazy, you’d die in Worcester if you tried going 25 on any main drag, but here no one seems to mind.

Somewhere along the way south I rode through a pretty solid thunder storm which had me singing in my helmet “yoho yoho I’m going to freeze to death in the mountains” which I actually enjoyed, especially motoring past clumps of motorcyclists roadside who were either shifting into rain gear (couldn’t find my rain pants before I left so I don’t really have rain gear so much as a spare jacket) or else just waiting it out, its not having to worry about falling down in twisty hills in the rain that makes the sidecar wonderful sometimes – though with the knobbies there were a few corners I sort of slid around which was a bit gnarly – at certain speeds those same sort of corners on dry pavement it sort of feels like floating around the corner between the tires not quite gripping like true road tires combined with the sprung saddle.

Part of the joy of these trips is the way the bike is different from how it is the rest of the time – last time because I’d strapped a 400 pound motorcycle to the sidecar frame and this time because I replaced the tub with an aluminum box thats got a lot of ballast – and as a result the motorcycle rides and handles differently and so I have to sort of relearn how to do it (which happens pretty quick) and then I get to test the limits of what I’ve got in all these different types of road conditions and with each passing day I get better and better at it. I made really good time today because I was going through corners in hills between 5-10mph faster than I was yesterday because I’ve got a better feel for the machine and I shifted some of the gear around in the box which has helped her cornering a bit.

and the pictures from today,




^ That’s the one I particularly like


Day 3

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First real view from yesterday’s riding:

Despite the rough start yesterday things warmed up as the day progressed and I think my body is starting to feel the testosterone again (thats the med I ran out of and couldn’t leave without) and I wound up doing about twice the miles as I’d done the first day. Also while I thought I was going to wind up in a hotel again I sporadically passed a KOA on the tail end of the day and ended up stopping there as I didn’t feel like pushing onwards to the next hotel. That by the way proved a lucky choice because the city I passed through at the start of today would have been a bit of a trick at dusk, there’s a real bit to this sort of traveling of never knowing where you actually are, and like in most cities the state & US highways aren’t as well marked as they should be. You sort of go by feel, following a road the way you think it’s designer figured you should, hoping all the while that you’re still on the road you’re supposed to be on. Sometimes this doesn’t work out quite right, or you’ll hit a detour that just stops giving you directions someway through and then it’s your best guess – picking the direction based on where the sun is in the sky and which way the shadows are pointing to best guess West or South.

But back round to the point, this is where I slept last night:

Which was pretty nice aside from hundreds of little anthills everywhere. Was across from a nice little pond,

and the camp chair I’ve been using since I was 15 in conjunction with the footplate on the sidecar made for a nice place to read the 2 year old magazines that came from a previous road trip,

Also, on an only slightly related note, this Army air mattress that I bought for the trip cross country Steve & I tool when I was 19 (and he 18) remains one of the best things I’ve ever put down money for.

If you follow the instructions and inflate it to the point when sitting on it that your buttocks just barely touch the ground – which is damn near verbatim what’s written on it – it’s exceptionally comfortable. My lungs aren’t quite as healthy as they were when I was 19 but I can inflate it inside of two songs, which is good enough.

Finally used the new camp stove, it boils a quart of water before you’ve finished cutting the top of the bag off of the food you need the water to cook, which is fantastic. Also the burner itself cools off very quickly, which is most excellent, because I like to leave not long after the foods in my stomach.

Today’s ride started early, stopped for food round 10am which was just a very little bit as my stomach’s been twitchy, but that’s finally sorting itself out.

I’m not as strong as I need to be to do the trip I intended, close, but not close enough. Today I was able to ride 3/4s the distance I’d set for the shorter days and only 1/2 the distance that I’d set for longer days – were the trip I planned to work. I’m also not solid enough to camp two days in a row, that might improve, but at the moment that’s a bit of a snag. There’s no way that I can make it to the Pacific and back in the time range that I’ve got with the budget that I’ve got in the shape that I’m in. That’s disappointing. But I’m surprisingly ok with it. Seeing stuff like this helps:

Besides which, the type of trip that I am physically capable of making is still one of my favorite sort of trips, and that is to pick two or three US highways based entirely on their going west or south and just riding down them until I can’t keep going – and then find somewhere to sleep. I can’t stay out as long as I’d hoped if I have to keep stopping into hotels but like I said, that might improve, but I should be able to alternate a bit. As much as anything I’m just really enjoying the whole being outside for most of the day.

I had forgotten how loud nature is – took a few hours to get to sleep last night.

Day 2

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Woke up feeling pretty rough this morning. If we’re going to go according to feel this trip doesn’t have a lot of hope, still, bit early to be calling it quits. All the same I have really very little idea of how far I’m going to be able to ride today – depends how I feel in the heat and how I feel with some food in my stomach. As such I think I’m going to take it easy and sort of plot a very non-specific course South West moving on US highways – figuring US-7 to US 44 to US 209 and see where I wind up. So long as I keep picking roads that are moving South or West I really can’t lose. I was going to aim for a KOA tonight but I think I might put camping off one more day.

That’s about it for now. Shoulder still hurts. Checkout is in an hour so I’m going to get my stuff packed up so that I can be ready to go.

Unless things improve significantly I don’t think I’ll be able to make California. I think I’d need a bike without a sidecar, a little more money, and about twice as much time. My brain says that’s crazy because of the trip I made in 08 on a bike in half as much riding time as I currently have – but I was stronger then, had more stamina too. I don’t remember any time spent crying inside my helmet from pain on that trip and as short as yesterday was, I did shed some tears from pain, as I am now. Bloody annoying.

All of that said, the bike handles pretty sweet with the cargo box packed the way it is, can hold the line in left hand turns while going up hills under power and can take decent right hand corners at speeds up to 40mph without feeling gnarly.

Alright, it’s time to get a move on, checkouts in 56 minutes and I need to pack up a bit. Just shy of 70 degrees now and going to have a high of 80ish, that ain’t bad. With some food in my stomach things should improve a bit.

Opening the day with this one:

Leaving

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Got a bit of a late start today, which was expected given when I got that med refilled, but I’m starting to get myself moving now. Going to follow the alternate plan and make a run for Great Barrington in an hour or two, still have to pack up the bike, head meant to yesterday but I was running on empty by the end of the night. Fucked up my right shoulder a bit at some point, don’t know what I did, but hopefully it’ll work itself out with the coming days of spending most of the time riding. Not perfect riding weather today, but tomorrow is, so there’s that at least.

Alright, time to get this show on the road, more later – I’ll have the internet tonight.

Arghh

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A medication that I can’t leave without – I’ve been waiting for 6 days for the doctor to write a new script for the pharmacy to fill – this is a medication I shouldn’t run out of. Because of a pharmacy screw up I had already been delayed from leaving Monday to what I thought was going to be Tuesday – which was annoying enough. But this is extremely frustrating. I’ve called the doctor’s office three times. The pharmacy has called the doctor’s office twice. Yesterday I left them a message telling them that I was supposed to leave on a vacation on Tuesday and couldn’t because they haven’t written this script, which I naturally assumed would light a fire under someone’s ass, because what asshole wouldn’t want to help fix that kind of a problem? But still nothing.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to be at their offices when they open. I am going to lay out the fact that my trip has been delayed because of this for three days (which complicates things because my pain meds were filled on the idea that I was leaving the first which means at some point on this trip mom’s going to need to refill my meds and then overnight mail them to wherever the hell I am at that time) and that I am going to sit and wait until they write me that script and then I am going to go to the pharmacy – then I’m going to leave on my trip – so they had best write the script as soon as they possibly can because I’m now out of the medication.

Further Work on the Cargo Box

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Took the Ural out for a test ride this afternoon and found that I was right about the sun reflecting off the aluminum cargo box and having a blinding effect. So I went to the hardware store and picked up a quart of red paint, four bolts and nylon lock nuts for fastening the jerry can mount, and an outdoor electrical outlet cover with sprung plate.

Here’s the Cargo box after it’s first layer of paint:


and here it is after the second and final layer of paint (still wet in pics):


You can see in that last picture where I mounted the weatherproof outlet cover – it’s directly opposite of the charging sockets and the duel USB charging socket. I then made a pouch out of a shop towel and some Gorilla tape which I mounted to the inside wall inside the box just below the hole I drilled through under the sprung cover of the outlet cover. This is going to allow me to plug in my cell phone to charge it while riding, the cable coming out of the USB port will go through the outlet cover and plug into my phone (or GoPro) which both fit in the little pouch.

Now that that’s all done I can go to sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day, I’m hoping I can get everything done in time and that the script that I’ve been waiting on get’s filled – with luck I’ll be able to leave Thursday morning – otherwise I’ll have to leave Friday morning.

Upcoming Trip

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Depending on outlook and how you count it, this is a trip that I’ve been planning between the last five to eighteen years, the idea of riding a motorcycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific and then back to the Atlantic once more. It’s a dream I shared with my father, one that he came up with when he was about 21 and shared with me when I was about 15, I locked onto it immediately – such a grand adventure!

The mistake my father made was setting an arbitrary age in which he would make the trip by, 60 was what he came up with, we were planning it the summer he died at 59. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t make the same mistake he did, rather instead I would do it as soon as I was physically capable of it. Technically speaking, I have ridden motorcycles all the way across this continent, in the summer of 2008 I rode a worn out KZ1000P from central MA to Phoenix AZ and then in the winter of 2009 I rode dad’s last motorcycle a ’05 Triumph T100 from Phoenix to Indio California. However, I’ve yet to see the Pacific by motorcycle and I’ve yet to do a round trip, I ended up shipping the Triumph home and flying back as at that time my health was too far gone to ride home.

Back in 2012 when this blog was first setup by a friend of mine, I was planning to do a sort of round the continental US trip, but instead ended up doing this somewhat epic trip down to Savannah & back on a 38hp Soviet made sidecar rig. I learned a lot on that particular adventure, completely reshaped the way I think about trips, discovered that for me it’s much more about the actual riding than the destination – the destination has pretty much become secondary to the pure joy of rambling around the country on a motorcycle.

On the map above you can see what my original idea was for this trip marked out in the thin blue, red, and yellow lines – I was going to ride west along a northern route and then drop down the Pacific coast, then cut across back east along a southern route before heading back north to home. As much as I would love to do such an epic trip, right now I’m not even sure I’m physically solid enough to make the Pacific ocean at all, and I’m not convinced that I have the time & budget to do the trip I had worked out.

So instead I worked out what things on this trip are the most important to me, and they are as follows – make the Pacific Ocean, visit one of my best friends who’s now living in Los Angeles, pass through Gettysburg again, and visit another of my best friends who’s a helicopter pilot working in NYC. As such, the thicker red line marks the first leg of this trip, which will pass through Gettysburg and then head straight for LA. I expect that it will take me about 11 to 12 days to do this first bit.

The plan is to stay at KOAs (Campgrounds of America) which were my father’s favorite places to camp when we went on family road trips when I was growing up. The beauty of KOAs are that you get all the regular benefits of camping outdoors but with access to clean bathrooms with showers, there’s a sort of general store selling decent supplies, sometimes a pool, and some have game rooms. Hell, there might even be wireless internet available in the main buildings nowadays, I’m totally guessing on that one though – last time I camped at KOAs was when my friend Steve and I drove to California & back in 2003 when I was 19 and he was 18.

The following list are the cities that I’ll be hitting as I head west, followed by the distance I’ll be riding that day, followed by the total hours of riding time (assuming an average speed of 70kmh/45mph) which’ll be spread out over 8 hour days:
Plattekill, New York – 260km – 4 hours
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – 390km – 6 hours
East Sparta, Ohio – 440km – 6 hours
Batesville, Indiana – 450km – 6.5 hours
Casey, Illinois – 353km – 5 hours
Sullivan, Missouri – 350km – 5 hours
Lawrence, Kansas – 455km – 6.5 hours
Amarillo, Texas – 550km – 8 hours
Santa Fe, New Mexico – 500km – 7 hours
Holbrook, Arizona – 600km – 8.5 hours
Needles, California – 665km – 9.5 hours

There’s a pretty solid chance that the last two days will actually wind up being three days and rather than staying at KOAs the first two will end at hotels. The reasons for that are a combination of the long hours between the nearest KOAs coupled with the fact that I’ll be riding through the desert (including Death Valley) in August and so will be in the extremely rare (for me) state where I’ll want air conditioning during the nights. But mainly because 8-9 solid hours of riding two days in a row might be more than I’m currently capable of.

On the ride across in 2008 I took I-84 to I-80 to I-25 to I-10, it was just a sea of concrete and mostly the only available food was rat burgers at those fast food joints that you find in truck stops along Interstates. Riding all day at 70-90mph while having to deal with speeding cars, tractor trailer trucks, and the occasional stand-still traffic jams that would last a couple hours – it was exhausting, often dangerous, and there were solid stretches without any beauty.

Where as the trip in 2012 I spent pretty much the entire trip traveling via State Highways where the speed limits vary between 45-55mph, the scenery is majestic, passing through so many small towns (I avoided big cities like NYC, Chicago, Philly, etc), and the variety of places to get lunch was absolutely glorious.

Since then I’ve made it a point to only tour on State Highways and this trip will be no different. I’ve budgeted and planned for a month – which I can afford so long as I camp as often as possible, which is my preference anyway. For breakfast and dinner I’ll be eating Boil-in-Bag meals, but for lunch I’ll be stopping at the best burger, steak houses, and Italian restaurants I can find along the way.

I’m going to bring along the GoPro, which I think I’ll set up for time lapses each day which I’ll turn into something after it’s all said and done, I’ll use the camera on the cellphone for pictures taken when I’m not riding – which I’ll post on here mixed in with the trip log.

I’m going across on the ’12 Ural 750 Retro which when brand new looked like this:



The most important modifications made since getting it include a Dart flyscreen which keeps the wind off my chest at speed and a sprung gel padded saddle – both visible in this picture:

As well as the installation of power outlets in the toolbox below the seat, these were installed primarily with a trip like this in mind, I’ve got a European type 12V socket, US standard 12V socket, and two 12V USB ports (on a toggle switch because they have a small LED light which as it turns out will drain the battery if power is left to them while the bike is off):

As a result of these I’ll be able to keep my phone & the gopro charged on the road – so not having access to electricity at the campsites won’t matter in the least!

For this trip specifically I decided that because I’m going to need to pack a solid amount of camping gear, spare fuel, some amount of bottled water, tools, more changes of clothes than I’d normally take on a road trip, and a variety of jackets (the hot weather Belstaff, cool weather classic Belstaff, and the Vanson leather jacket as a spare foul weather coat) as well as the flannel lined waxed cotton Belstaff rain pants, and a spare set of boots (the Redwings I wore for 15 years) – as well as this computer, my journal, a bottle of ink, and the fountain pen.. but like those three jackets combined are worth a couple grand – so I want to be able to lock up all my gear in a way that’s just not possible with the stock sidecar tub. Also all of that stuff is going to wind up being pretty heavy and to stick it all into a steel sidecar tub would add quite a bit of weight to the machine which would effect fuel milage.

As such I decided that I’d swap out the sidecar tub with an aluminum truck-bed toolbox that a friend left in my garage 5 years ago and then sold the truck it was used with.

In this first photo you can see the sidecar frame, the stock tub, and the toolbox:

Then with these two you can see the box mounted:

This setup gives me a water/sand proof box that I can lock everything up in which is also significantly lighter in weight than the stock tub – and as such, when fully loaded, shouldn’t weigh too much more than the stock tub would empty. Before I leave I’m going to paint the top, front, and maybe the back of the box with some red Rustolium that I’ll pick up from the hardware store tomorrow afternoon. I’m doing this so that reflected sunlight doesn’t blind me or other people on the road. I’ll leave the sides aluminum. I’m not going to put a lot of effort into it, but I will tape the edges so that when it’s done it at least looks pretty sharp.

While at the hardware store I think I’ll also buy an electrical box cover with a waterproof sprung cover – like this –

which I’ll install on the inner outside side of the box – opposite the accessory plugs under my seat – and then I’ll make a pouch out of Gorilla tape inside the toolbox. That will allow me to have a secure place to keep the phone & GoPro while they’re charging with the cable going from the sockets through the plate hole and into the phone/camera while whichever is sitting in the pouch. Aside from being waterproof the other main reason I want a sprung lid rather than just making a hood that would block wind & weather is that I’m going to be passing through areas with spiders that can really hurt you and I don’t want to make any way for them to be able to get into the box where I’m keeping all my stuff!

Finally, I picked up some new camping gear for this trip which I’m exceedingly pleased with.

An inflatable pillow which when deflated fits in a tiny pouch,

A decent plastic plate, collapsable bowl, and some silverware,

A nice little LED headlight that’s dimmable so that I can setup camp at night if need be as well as being able to read & write in my tent after dark,

I also decided to finally replace the classic Coleman camp stoves that we’ve been using for generations – and I mean that, one of them was my grandfather’s and is at least 60 years old, those look like this:

As glorious as they are, they take up far too much space for rambling on a motorcycle – even with my big alloy trunk. I replaced them with a fantastic little stove that will boil a quart of water in something like two minutes and will do it in any weather – and the burner and gas can all pack into the pot with a nifty collapsable handle and lid. According to what I’ve read a single fuel can should last me the whole way across, so I bought two, if I need a third I’ll be able to pick it up along the way. The pot has a vented hood that drops down over the burner to protect it from wind & weather – and it’s designed to hold exactly as much water as is needed to cook one of the boil-in-bag meals. So what you do is boil the water, then empty the contents of the bag into the pot of water, stir it up, let it sit for 4 minutes then stir again, then four more minutes and you’ve got yourself a meal! I’m thinking about making a ring that’ll be mounted to the top of the toolbox that comes up about 1/2″ that the fuel canister would be set down inside of – that way in windy weather I wouldn’t have to worry about the thing blowing over.


I’m also going to pack my banjo-ukelele and one of the books that has the fingering diagrams and a number of folk songs because this would be an excellent opprotunity to get some really solid practice in on it – and I bought it for the ability to have something to play at campsites on motorcycle trips exactly like this one.

Right, I think I’ve covered everything worth covering for now, in the next couple of days I’ll likely post a few pictures detailing the prep-work still needed to be done on the bike. Depending on how things go, I’ll either be leaving on Wed morning or else I’ll leave Thursday – it all depends on how much I can accomplish Tuesday as well as the fact that I’m still waiting on one of my medications to be refilled – one of the ones I can’t leave without.

Triumph Update

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Not much of an update to be honest but the new head arrived a bit ago, for easier tuning and reliability I had my brother buy a single carb head, so basically his Bonnie is going to become a Tiger.

I’m also going to a single carb on the Norton – and when I rebuild the engine next winter I’m going to bring the bore down from 750 to 650 – sort of copying the 650SS for performance. But that means that the two carbs I bought for the Norton in the beginning of the build – brand new Mk1 Amal’s – both of which are 32mm – so one will be fitted to the Norton and the other to the Triumph.

The head that I bought didn’t come with it’s original carb manifold which would have looked like this:

Instead the head has been fitted with a manifold meant to mount a carb with a spigot mount and the flange on the metal manifold (cause there’s a rubber one too) is wider than the flange on the Mk1 Amal. There are two solutions to this that I could figure, the first would be to buy the proper manifold which is $125, the second and the one I’m going to try first is to use a small $30 aluminum adapter. This adapter is designed to be bolted to a head/manifold that’s designed to accept the Amal carb and turn that mount into a spigot mount which would then allow for mounting something like Mikunis. What I decided to do with it is to reverse it, mount it to the flange on the Amal which’ll essentially turn the Amal from a flange mount carb to a spigot mount carb. Then in a few years when the rubber bit wears out I’ll order the proper manifold – unless of course it turns out that the combination of the metal manifold, rubber manifold, adapter, and carb combined creates too much of a distance so as to make it impossible to mount the pancake filter between the carb & frame – if that’s the case I’ll have to order the $125 manifold now.

It’s not pushed in all the way in that picture, going to need to pull the rubber bit off and press the adapter into it using the vice as there’s a wider OD step around the outside of the spigot side of the adapter which can’t be pushed past the same idea inside the rubber by hand.

The nice thing about doing it this way however is the fact that once the adapter is pressed in – I’ll be able to rotate it 90 degrees which’ll allow me to get a wrench on the allen bolts that tie the rubber to the manifold and then also will be able to bolt the carb to the adapter while it’s rotated which’ll make getting wrenches on either side of the flanges possible – then just rotate the carb back to upright and put a hose clamp on the rubber bit and I’ll be all set!

Here is the Norton’s version of this setup, because of how they designed the head on the Norton you just need a 2:1 manifold to switch to a single carb, rather than replacing the entire head as I had to do on the Triumph due to the splayed carbs on the twin head. But aside from the 2:1 manifold and the old carb used for the mockup, that’s the same air filter I plan to fit to the Triumph.

Another bit of the Triumph project that came in is the replacement timing cover which is going to allow me to mount a Joe Hunt magneto ignition (which is in the mail) up to the back of the belt housing coming off the cover – which’ll tuck the mag up in front of the cylinders – keeping it safe and looking quite slick at the same time.

It’s going to be a slick bike when it’s completed. My only sadness in all of it is that my brother has no time on 70s Triumphs so he won’t be able to fully appreciate the work I’m doing to this bike – like the upgraded progressive front end, stiffening the front brake, progressive rear shocks, having the crank balanced, etc. But that’s alright, cause I’ll know the difference, and I’ll know that my brother’s bike will be about as solid as a ’72 Triumph can be.

Norton Update

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This month I changed things up slightly, rather than ordering just one or two expensive parts, I’ve ordered a whole slew of little stuff. One of the main reasons why this bike has taken so long to get done is that when I got the project it was just a frame, power plant, and front wheel/brake. I’ve had to slowly cobble together everything else and because Norton parts aren’t cheap, and I don’t have very much extra money at the end of each month, something that could have been done in a few months has stretched out over a couple of years.

Now, after all this time, I’ve finally assembled pretty much everything that I need to make it work – or at least almost everything I need. I’m still waiting on the wheels that have been sent off to get some spokes, bearings, and tires – that’s been dragging along for sometime now, but until I get the front forks fitted and whatnot it doesn’t really matter. I do however intend to get the forks fitted this week and so will begin to call and press for the wheels with a bit more force – though to be fair if another month passes that’ll be fine because as of this moment I couldn’t pay for them anyway, having spent this month’s extra money already. The goal as it stands is to spend the rest of Feb getting the bike to the point where come March I’ll actually be able to mount the wheels once I have them back.

This month I ordered twenty parts from four separate companies.

From Lowbrow Customs in Ohio:
Pancake Air Filter
Miller STOP tail/brake light
Single pull throttle assembly
Gum rubber grips
Black drag handlebars (no rise, slight pullback)
Two clamp on heat shields for the exhaust pipes
Two 12″ long silencers (mufflers)
Gas cap for the new Enfield fuel tank

From Norvil in England:
2:1 Kit for going to a single Amal Mk1 Carb
TLS brake cable with inline brake light switch
Fuel line
Clutch Cable
Sealing washer for the fuel tap
Turnsignal kit (for installation on a bike that predates them)
Rear brake light switch (mounted by the pedal/lever)

From Norton Race Parts in England:
Tank Strap & Toggle latch kit
Headstock Steering Bearing Dust Cover

From Burton Bike Bits in England:
Triumph 3T number plate

Here are some pictures of some of those parts:

Miller STOP light & Triumph 3T number plate

I’ve actually already used this combination once before out in Arizona on an Enfield

Here’s a picture of the Norton with the Enfield tank mounted

This is the strap that’ll go down the middle to hold it on:

Here’s an example of a Cafe Racer using the same strap & latch (admittedly more pretty)

and the English made gas cap

The 2:1 kit – manifold, cables, gaskets, and fasteners

Pancake Air Filter – designed to screw on to the intake of the Amal Mk1 Carb

For the exhaust, the 12″ long silencers – each comes with a 7″ bracket

and the heat shields to protect my legs from the high pipes

Gum rubber grips – admittedly a funky color but incredibly soft and comfortable (Made in USA)

Signals, wires, and wiring diagram for tying into the harness that predates them

The combination of all of these parts along with the parts I’ve already collected is going to allow me to take the bike from where it’s been for the last few months and get it to the point where she’s damn near done.

There will be a number of things that’ll still need bought and some stuff still to be made – a combined example of those two would be the dash – I need to buy the really slick 4″ Speedo/Tach unit


and make the plate that’s going to be mounted to the top yoke by the fork top nuts which will hold it as well as a compass, Lucas 88SA switch, a pair of idiot lights, a number of toggle switches, and a kill button – I drew up this diagram which is just a first draft

One of the little details that makes this an obvious wishful thinking first draft is the fact that the center clock is 4″ in diameter and the forks are about 7″ apart on center and if you took this drawing to scale it would be about 12″ wide

There isn’t a need for as many toggles as I drew, in point of fact I’ll only need two toggles:
One that’ll kill the power to all the electrics, because this bike is going to run without a battery, so when I’m kickstarting it all I want it to be trying to start is the engine.
One for the USB port – a way to charge my phone while touring – the other two 12V sockets are just more wishful thinking.

Beyond that its just some oil lines, the strengthening kit for the front brake, spacers for getting the rear wheel aligned, and the belt drive kit that comes with an updated clutch.

So that’s the update, further pictures and developments will follow, I intend to machine the part needed to mount the triple trees today and with luck mount the triple trees today – in the event that I manage one or both I’ll likely update again in the next day or two.

The ordered bits arrived today for the Norton project

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This is some excellent stuff, some of it I’ve been looking for for a couple years while some is just the best solution to a two year problem.

So here for example are the proper pins to hold the footpeg brackets to the frame with their proper thin walled nuts on the ends, as well as the stud & spacer that mount somewhere below the timing side cover and hold that side’s footpeg bracket in place – I didn’t even know what that was going to look like – I just knew I didn’t have it.

Here are my beloved brake rod parts. My P11 came with a Triumph rear wheel and a funky cable operated brake lever. Cables are fine for the handlebars because there’s no good way to run a true linkage up to them, but for a rear brake? Cables fail, Rods don’t.



I’m not unaware of the fact that I could have made all of those bits myself, but I’m not there yet, not for the sort of fit & finish – also just don’t have the strength yet for the little details. I’ve the strength to do some of the big stuff sometimes. As I write this I know there’s a friend who wants to come over the house today and do some mill work – and I want him to, but I can’t right now. I’m hoping that I’ll feel more solid later. So yeah, I have the ability to make some stuff that I don’t yet have the strength to make, so I’m buying a fair share of stuff I otherwise wouldn’t have to. Still, look at the fit & finish on that adjuster nut! Bloody beautiful!

The headsteady came too! Not all of it, I didn’t order all of it, here look:


There are ears/plates that should bolt to the sides of the steady box end held down by the two studs/nuts on each outer side. These ears will have a 3rd hole at the top which will line up to a rod that goes through the frame’s backbone. Like this,

But I’m 98% sure the place for that rod on my frame won’t be exactly where it is on the Commando frame for which this steady was designed, So I’ll make my own to match the frame I have.

I chose that headsteady because the diameter of the plate should barely interfere with the way this engine’s oil system plugs into the head. Banjo bolts into the top of the head – on Commando heads they moved these to the sides of the head so that the headsteady could be fixed from 3 points rather than just one. It’s my belief that those banjo bolts with their copper washers will go right through the mounting points for this head steady and so I’ll have the best of both worlds. Won’t be as strong as it would be otherwise but it’ll be stronger than the stock P11 headsteady – and doesn’t require the missing frame that the stock P11 headsteady does.

To that same area – that missing bracket – the new tank arrived as well,

So next mont the order will be for these parts:



I’ve figured out how to make the pin mounts for the frame to hold those sections, it’s quite simple, just bending some steel plate round the frame and drilling a hole through the two ends that’ll extend up past the frame rail. Insert a spacer between them which the pin can run through – and through either end of the plate and then nuts will tie it all together. The tension on the strap across the back of the fuel tank coupled by the positions of the tank, seat, and steering neck should hold the brackets in place – they can be welded in place later.

End result will be the tank held on in this fashion:

Which I love on principle as well as the ease in which it will come off, just pull the safety pin out of the latch, release the latch, pivot the strap out of the way and remove the tank. It’s beautiful.

That’s the sum of it, now I gotta let Josh know I’m not dead and will be game to do some mill work this evening, which hopefully will be good for him.