Tuesday, June 25, 2013


THIS weekend there was a National Trials competition right here in Vermont, Highgate, to be specific. If you don't know what Trials is, you should look it up, 'cause it's over my head to explain the whole thing. Actually it's not. In fact it's pretty simple really, just people riding their motorcycles over/through a pre-determined route called a section, on natural (or sometimes not) terrain, in a timed and observed setting. (Back in the day it used to be called "Observed Trials)
Anyway, the time allowed through is always the same, apparently, 90 seconds. The observation is simply judges/clerks/observers/watchers keeping an eye on you and assessing penalties if you break the rules. There are lots of rules, including taking too much time, putting your foot on the ground or other thing touching the ground, knocking gates down, crashing, rolling backwards, going out of bounds. It's almost like golf, there's rules for just about anything you can dream up, 'cause just about anything can happen.
I've seen a few demonstrations before, including indoor trials, and I've seen tons of video including the very popular urban trials riding by some incredibly skilled French dude, but this was my first outdoor event. It was pretty much a mind blowing deal, and I hate to overuse that expression.

There are lots of classes of riders including Clubman, High School, Womens, a bunch of age groups, and then Expert and Pro. Riders have to complete each section, but where they actually ride in that section is determined by their skill level/class. There are "gates" that help determine the route, and the higher the skill rating, the tougher the gate/route through the section. Some of the stuff just looked improbable, if not impossible to actually ride a bike through.

This is a High School class rider getting ready to enter the #3 section. There were 12 sections over the whole course, and the riders do 3 complete loops through the course in the day's competition. In a two day event, they change the gates and sometimes use different sections on different days.

Fred and I watched this section from one of the high spots. The riders can walk the section to plan their lines. Lots of discussion and concentration going on here, as Fred leans on a tree and offers advice on the best way to get down from there.

The Pro line here. The rider gets to this ledge, stops the bike, hops it 90 degrees right and sets up another jump up to the top of the wall. Then they ride down the front, do a stoppie and rev the engine in gear to clear the tire of mud, then hop over to face the wall and "splash" up it. The technique to do this takes years to learn. In almost all cases, all of the drive happens before the bike hits the wall or other obstacle, so you hear the engine rev to the moon, the bike explodes into motion, then it's either at the top of the wall or not, with the rider on it or not...

This is a rider competing in the Twin Shock (Vintage) class, on a sweet looking Italian SWM.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Quick Change cont'd

More work has been done on the quick change set-up. I got my axle back from Cheney Engineering with new spacers and a new hanger for the caliper. Jerry had proposed that I flip the brake disc on the wheel, so that the disc was closer to the spokes. I tried that but found that since the disc is only a 9.5" diameter, the caliper was too close to the spokes and contacted them on a regular basis. Not good. I repositioned the disc to the outside position and mounted the hanger, only to find that the lower half of the hanger interfered with the swingarm, and that I was going to need a spacer to get the caliper to center on the disc. Essentially, none of this stuff was going to be bolt on simple.
Fair enough. I put it aside until I had more time to deal with it, and as it happened, Charlie was hanging out on a Saturday morning and we attacked it together. (I think I'll need to get a sticker that says "Charlie Engineering" because he's been instrumental in getting this train wreck back on the rails.)

This is the modified caliper hanger. I had to cut the top of the lower section for it to clear the swingarm, and I had to add a piece of the cut material between the upper and lower sections as a spacer.

It still isn't spaced ideally, the disc isn't centered in the caliper, but I'm not sure I'll be able to get it any closer.

I decided to pull my old high pipe out of storage. I made this pipe several years ago, using left over pipe from my first low pipe project. I had a local welder finish it after I cut and measured the sections. I used an old XR100 pipe guard and some steel mesh to protect my leg from the pipe.
This was the easiest way to solve the interference problem with the brake pedal/low pipe.

I had this Supertrapp muffler lying around.

Charlie is the one who suggested I rotate the mounting tab closer to the frame to reduce the complexity of mounting the muffler. I mocked up the mounting strap with cardboard, then some light strap, and finally with some heavier scrap steel. I'm going to paint it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Father's Day Eve

I took last Saturday off to spend some time with family. Scott and Kira came up from Brooklyn, Hannah was home, so we packed a bunch of activity into a day, starting with a street ride. We met over at Fred's, where we joined Fred and his pal Jay. I was on Hannah's SV650, she was riding the Monster, and Scott and Kira were on my VFR. Jay was riding a KTM990 Adventure, and Fred was on his work-in-progress CBR500.

We stopped at the Dam on Rt 104 in Fairfax for a photo op, then headed through some very scenic roads that looped us back home for a pleasant 1 hour tour.

Next on the list was a hike up Snake Mountain in Addison. This is a moderately easy hike that rewards you with a fantastic 180 degree view of the Champlain Valley. Scott surprised us at the top with cold Miller High Lifes for all.

We wrapped up the day with a fire. Kira's sneakers get the bright on.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

XT500 quick change wheel

As you may remember, the last race of the 2012 season ended with a nasty high-side crash at OVRP. In the event, the muffler went into the rear wheel, breaking and bending spokes, and crushing the header pipe. I was forced to decide on either rebuilding the rear wheel, which was a lousy option because the drum brake was warped, so I'd need to lace a new drum hub up to the old rim, or switch over to a quick change rear wheel with a disc brake.

I got a good lead on a quick change wheel for sale, and wound up buying it this winter. It came with a nice Continental Dirt Track tire, but that tire is too wide to fit in my stock swing-arm, so I mounted my Goodyear and the fit is fine. It also came with an old 7/8" master cylinder, an axle and some spacers, and some other odds and ends. Fortunately, the spacers that it came with fit my stock axle, so once I determined the wheel would fit in my swing-arm, I just had to figure out spacing on the wheel, and how to mount up the master cylinder and caliper, and how they would affect the exhaust, which runs right under the right foot peg.

This is the new wheel, temporarily mounted so that I can move the bike in the shop. You can see where the exhaust runs under the old foot peg. At this point, I hadn't figured much out.

After some research online I found Cheney Engineering, this guy has answers for questions I didn't even know to ask! I called the shop and Jerry Cheney answered. He turned off the lathe, and spent the next half hour helping me with some of the products he sells. I had already purchased a caliper, so I needed a caliper hanger. Then he asked me what kind of master cylinder I was using. When I told him, he laughed and said he'd hoped everyone that had one of those old 7/8 cylinders had thrown 'em out 20 years ago. He wound up selling me this very tidy foot-peg/master cylinder/brake pedal/ mounting plate that would save me a bunch of time and head scratching...

I had to cut off the old foot-peg mount so that I could get the plate close to the frame. The plate had two mounting holes for the footpeg, so I'm using the rear mounting hole to bolt the plate to the old foot-peg mount, since it's threaded into the frame.

I needed to have another mounting point for the plate, and since the frame tapers away from the foot-peg mount, I made a spacer to take up the distance between the plate and the frame.

I wasn't sure how I would accomplish the upper mount. I had thought of a few ways to do it that involved welding and tapping threads. Then I decided to get some advice from Fred, since he's only got about twice or three times the experience that I have in fabrication. Probably four times. Anyway I showed him the stuff and my ideas, and he agreed that a through bolt would be the best, simplest and easiest way to do it.

Then he took me into his trailer and handed me the nut and bolt that would do the job. Surprisingly small, but he claims it's also surprisingly strong, and in fact his race cars are put together with this size hardware throughout.
I had to buy a new bolt for the lower foot-peg mount and grind it down so that it would clear the frame.

So here it is mounted in place. Once I got everything tight, I put my old exhaust pipe on to see if it would interfere with the pedal, and as I expected, it does. Then I sat on the bike to see how the pedal/foot-peg would feel, and discovered that the foot-peg feels fine, but the pedal feels too high, like I'd almost have to lift my boot off the peg to get my toe on the pedal. I can't rotate the plate because the foot-peg bolt hits the frame, so I may have to modify the pedal/master cylinder location. Nothing is as simple as it looks...

I'm still waiting on parts for the axle and caliper. Jerry sent me some stuff that didn't fit, so I sent him my axle and caliper, as well as some spacers, so he can make the correct stuff. I'll also have a sprocket for OVRP.