Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Great Idea

The CS-1 Cafe racer.  First let me rant.

The Yamaha XS500 has had a cult following for a while now.  Plenty have been modded into cafe racers and with a thumper on board the classic motorcycle experience isn't lost.

Those who have built a few bikes and experimented with setups may have found that the radical look of a cafe racer does come at a price - loss of comfort and reliability.  It is pretty much a given that as soon as one begins altering the stock ergonomics of a bike, handling and comfort could just as easily suffer as improve.  Modding an engine is great fun and a good learning experience but the same holds true.  How many projects have been ruined by someone being a little too optimistic or adding an engine part that is actually inappropriate for what is the desired outcome.  Reliability is the first to suffer and frankly a new sound or shifted power band can often mask an overall decrease in performance.

I have hardly the desire to turn from the classic bikes and join the Harley or Goldwing fraternity but at least they ride!  The older I get, the less comfortable these cafe bikes become.  In addition, the one-off look of a heavily modified bike attracts enough attention that I can not leave one alone for too long.  Riding to work is no longer an option.  The result?  3-4 running bikes and only about 100 miles last year!   The ergo of flat bars, padded seat, and belt drive on a bike with unique but almost production look begins to sound not so bad.

What these guys are doing is right up our alley - for the time being.  A bike that has the look, has decent performance, and is reliable.  I'm not advocating this kit nor a world of retro rod bikes - I typically shun the old "....classic look with modern mechanics..." trip but this should serve as inspiration to us regardless of the base model one starts with.

I say until it takes off and becomes a dealer option where there are  several lined up at each MC show, all looking identical, it will be just unusual enough to be cool.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

JCCC Motorcycle Course

Well, another member, Ernest, asked if I'd like to attend a class with him on a Saturday morning. Having been labeled a "playboy" in high school (by my father for preferring hobbies over homework), now not missing college at all, and a seeker of all excuses to miss mandatory classes at work, I was hesitant to voluntarily relive any such organized gathering.
The Motorcycle Repair and Maintenance class at JCCC is taught by Bill Brown. I'm sure many of our members know him. I met him at Ralph Wayne's 2009 when he parked behind me on a scooter with sidecar AND trailer.
The class was mellow, basically with everyone quietly working on their own projects. Bill, injured in a car collision years ago, rolled from station to station in a chair giving pointers, suggesting tools, and generally lending a hand to the various students.
From what I understand, this is more of a club than a curriculum - don't quote me on that! I'm not enrolled, nor did I ask, but I doubt there is a test during the whole semester. Ernest could weigh in here.

The MC garage is fairly well appointed with multiple lifts but is a bit cramped with 5 or 6 projects going. I was put to work out front replacing a few side cover bolts on Ernest's CB350/4 - now apparently in Bill's stable through a deal they worked out. Ernest was inside polishing side covers, some were trying to get a 2-stroke scooter to run, and yet others worked on replacing a chain on a GS.
I explored the facility and *WOW* I found lots of great stuff. Apparently the automotive side of the JCCC facility fairs well. There were no fewer than six lifts in a garage larger than any local NTB or Tires plus garage - large enough for a commercial operation for sure. One corner had about six various tire balancing machines, as many cut away engines, and a computer station. There was a "clean room" for engine building, and a dirty room with a parts washer, blast cabinet, and spray booth for making a mess. There was about every kind of valve grinding machine I've ever seen in that room as well. Overhead block & tackle hoists were all over. The "dirty room", in particular, is shared with the MC class. Apparently, Bill, who I'm told also teaches the automotive classes, is trying to persuade the administration to allow more space(read: funding) for the growing MC class.

For the guy without a lot of knowledge of bikes, a guy without all the tools in his garage, or anyone wanting to get out of the house on a Sat morning, this could be a great place to learn. I don't know if bikes are brought there each week, left there, already there, or what. Apparently many of the bikes there are Bill's and I know a few students have purchased their projects from him. I don't know how that all works. I do know Bill has a picnic at his place once or twice a year and that he has "unofficial" wrench nights at his place on Wednesdays. In fact we all rode to his place after class for one of his picnics.
These are nice folks all around and this is a good way to get plugged in to the local bike scene. If you are interested, contact JCCC or Ernest on the group for more info.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

No Way in This World!

These guys have more guts than brains.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Machinist Boxes

First off. I am NOT a machinist. I love making small metal pieces out of larger metal pieces but what little I can do is self-taught.

Machinist's boxes are, to many, works of art. Whether made of wood or metal, they are a bit different than a carpenter's or mechanic's box. Machinist boxes are typically smaller and not as deep as other boxes. The tools stored are generally not as large but are more precise and far more expensive. This is why machinists boxes also contain tills and drawers that are lined with protective felt. Another unique feature is the locking front drop panel.

As a machinist progressed through his training, from apprentice to journeyman to professional, his box followed. In the wooden box world, it was common for a machinist to build his own box as part of his apprenticeship. I have heard that it was to show his skills and that to many it was sort of a right of passage. What made one decide to purchase a metal box and another to build his own, I cannot say. Most wooden boxes appear to be earlier. During WWII, there was a great need for machinists and other skilled laborers. The long process from apprenticeship to professional remained but doesn't appear to have been as much of a focus as the need for war production. This is only my opinion.

Kennedy is a name that is synonymous with quality and has always been the standard in metal boxes. Well-made and easy to pick out in a crowd, they have been around since the beginning of the 20th century. Kennedy still makes these as well as high quality mechanic's boxes.

Below is my box. This is a Kennedy 526 "Journeyman" box.

Below is a box I purchased from a neighbor. It was his father's Kennedy 520 "Apprentice" box. This box was built in the 40's and came to me full of nice American-made tools - a real find! In the accompanying paperwork were pay slips and a log of his training. The last entry is dated 1950. The box then sat essentially unused until I got it almost 60 years later. I use it frequently but I will leave the contents arranged as the original owner had them. I think that is only right.

Wooden boxes are still made today for those who chose not to build one. Some are Chinese junk and some are high quality. Union and Gerstner are quality vintage brands of wooden boxes and Gerstner is still made today. They go for $600 - $800! Ironically, antique Gerstners go for about the same amount.

Last is a box I just acquired and the one which means the most to me. This was my grandfather's. Built by him in the 30's or 40's, he worked for a time during WWII for Wright Aircraft Engines and retired from McDonnell Douglas in the 1960s. He chose to work mostly with wood in his retirement and made some stunning pieces. I remember this box sitting on his workbench when I would visit him as a child and is all I ever wanted of his since his death in 1992.

For various reasons, it took 17 years but, with the persistence of my father, I will now be able to preserve this box and what it stands for. Unfortunately, other relatives first stripped the requested tools from it but, while I am unable to preserve it as he had it arranged, I am grateful to have this box - made with his own hands. It has "him" all over it.

You can see where he carved his name in a creative way on the front. It is a large, heavy box and will need a little TLC but it is as unique as he was.

If you have a neat story of old tools and such, please post them on the KC CafeRacer Yahoo group page or e-mail them to me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kinda Cool Idea

I wish a few of my bikes would do this!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ralph Wayne's 2009

Always a great place to show up!
Thanks to Douglas for sending in these pics!

Had to start off with a Yamaha 2-stroke production racer. That Honda 400-4 is keeper too!

Nice BSA. Drips cafe racer!

Yamaha SR. Norton clone engines are always a nice place to start.

I would love a small displacement V-twin. Italian 350. Nice!

Excelsior with I/E head. I got there about 1pm and still missed this. Anyone know who it belonged to?

My offering. Lot's more attention than I thought. Remember that's a lawn mower engine!

The moderators always get the last word!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Show Friday night

There is a shoe being hosted by the Kansas Short Grass Motorcycle Club in Lawrence. I'm planning on taking the Cylone Replica on it's first outing!

First Annual Invitational Motorcycle Sidewalk Show

Friday, June 19, 2009

5 PM to 9 PM

Vermont Towers Parking Lot

11th and Vermont Streets

Lawrence, Kansas

The Kansas Short Grass Motorcycle Club was founded in 1910 in Rexford, Kansas near Colby. The club’s founder, Dr. Benjamin J. Patterson, was elected President of the Federation of American Motorcyclists in 1913. The Club became famous both regionally and nationally for their guided tours through Colorado & Wyoming. You are cordially invited to join us this coming Friday June 19th between 5 PM to 9 PM for an evening of fun and friendship with the men and women of the world famous…

Kansas Short Grass Motorcycle Club

Be sure to pick up one of our great new t-shirts during the show!

Regional motorcyclists are invited to participate in the KSGMC’s First Annual Invitational Motorcycle Sidewalk Show for the retirees of Vermont Towers. All makes and models of motorcycles are welcome and participants must be 18 years of age unless accompanied by an adult. Bring your camera, lawn chairs and your motorcycle for display. We look forward to meeting you Friday. Be sure to tell your friends about the Kansas Short Grass Motorcycle Club!