Tuesday, August 20, 2013

2013 Connecticut British Iron Association's Brit Jam Show

 This past weekend was the annual Brit Jam motorcycle show put on by the Connecticut B.I.A. Having not ever gone to Brit Jam and being hit with a little cabin fever from illness, I thought to take in the show this year. The Mass Chapter of B.I.A host a ride known as the Jam to Brit Jam  making the journey all that much easier to get there. This year about 14 riders from Mass B.I.A. rode from Thompson CT to East Haddam, CT. via back roads and winding paths.  Very few lights were encountered, a good run on all accounts.

My day began with a pre-ride check over of the 63' MSS.  It seemed that the oil was a bit low in the tank. As I'd been riding the wheels off it this year and had been checking the tank regularly, it could only mean that something ( small section of oil filter?) had held the check ball open on the oil return line.  With a few jaunts to the basement for tools the crankcase drain was opened.  Out came the missing oil volume.  Even though the pump would have scavenged it back-  the initial drag of the flywheel through the extra heavy oil would make for an extra difficult start this cool fall morning.

Topping up the tank left a tad of oil over. I used the extra to make sure the chain was oiled and even give a quick check to the primary chain.  I can still see Floyd, my godfather of motorcycles, removing the fill plug on his 46 MAC and giving a check by touching the upper rollers on the chain. If his finger had oil on it-  then the chain was oiled enough. The Velocette primary only holds about 120cc of oil; something that I'm more often to over oil than under.  My MSS is known to leave a good size puddle both before and after a ride. Today was no different with a small trail of oil coming out of the garage from sumping.

Gear on, carb tickled and the few swings through till we've gone over compression; she fires off without too much trouble. One thing about Velos, the best way to get one to start regularly is to start it regularly.  As the idle settles down I give a quick check to the oil tank return line just underneath the fill cap.  Peering into the darkness, bubbles of lifeblood come trickling in. After a few more moments the oil is flowing nice and steady.
A quick stop in the center of town for a fuel up before the days events. The fuel up  doesn't take long as the MSS sips from its tank. It always amazes me to think that its time to fuel up and yet find there  is enough fuel for one more ride. Looking at the clock in town a  little off schedule time wise, we head towards the south to meet up with Mass BIA members in Thompson CT.

On this morning I'll do something that I'm not too comfortable with, and that is take the MSS up on the interstate. Being a soft tuned machine with low touring gears, I question her upper speeds.  I have her up around 65 on occasion, but that seemed too busy for me.  I also carry in the back of my mind the time she tightened up about 250 miles after her rebuild. I'd wanted to get a feel 'where' she'd run.  As I hit 60 she started to lose power and just not feel right. I pulled the clutch in and she stopped running... after a few moments coasting along I dropped clutch and used my rolling momentum to re-start the engine.  Still gun shy, not ever want to feel that again!

With a cautious trip down 395 and a few back roads I made it to the meeting point. Not a single person was there. Uh oh.... I've run too far behind with all the preparations to the MSS and missed them all.  After a few minutes to get settled, check a map and visit the pee tree the first rider shows up. This confirms I've not missed everyone yet. As more and more riders pour in the conversations awakens the fall air. Jim Shurtleff was there with his 550 Honda. It seems that his Honda has developed a leak near the cylinder base o ring.  Jim has done the repair in the past but the labor intensive chore means that the light leak will  remain just that for now.  To keep the oil under control Jim cut the end off a sock making a cloth ring that slides over the round  engine case section.  Both Jim and Rick talk about the mystical properties of seal-all products;  'Seal-All'- old socks are cheaper!
Joe and Jim with Jim's Honda

 The day before there was a BIA ride and camp out but I was unable to make it due to feeling sick from the previous week. Though it was evident from the conversations from riders that both the ride and camp out were perfect... Damn, well I'll just have to make it next year. Its one thing missing something, its another to find out what you thought was going to be lot of fun-  and find that it was lots of fun-  but you  missed it!

As the call out to the riders to saddle up, the Velo gives me grief in the starting drill. I didn't reset the choke or tickle her as I normally would.  She decides that I'm not quite ready to ride and will not comply.  A few more kicks, still nothing but a very grumpy Velo. As I become somewhat flustered  a partial set of riders head out of the lot. More halfhearted kicking and still no love. I then begin to fiddle with the choke... nothing.  People are heading out on to the road but a few hold back waiting for me to get the MSS going.  Hmmm, maybe if I tickle it a bit... nothing.  Open the throttle wide with the compression released giving a few 'clearing' kicks in case I've flooded it... still no love. The sickness threw off my concentration; the starting drill totally out of sync.

Without letting my lack of concentration  hold everyone up;I roll her back in first, pull in the clutch and start pushing her as fast as possible across the parking lot. Bounding into the air with a last bit of energy I come down cleanly from the vault onto the seat. The clutch is drop and with a quick whip back on the throttle she fires as if we were riding along for hours before.  Off to Brit Jam we go!.

A bout a mile or so up the road Rick and Lucie have pulled over the group to wait for rest of us. I feel somewhat shamed for holding up everybody.Yet need to remember that this 'waiting' is a sign the the club is behind its members. All those that waited were doing so as what we all do for fellow motorcyclist.

The ride was very impressive. Tree covered roads, gentle winding curves with infrequent stops throughout the journey. You could look up different videos on YouTube of bike rides throughout New England but not a one really gives you a good sense of what its all about. When you ride under a canopy of sugar maples or smell the fir trees in the state parks, it gives you a sense of peace and relaxation. hats off to Rick and Lucie for a wonderful journey to Brit Jam. For most of the ride the MSS and I hang back towards the back of the group keeping some extra braking distance while waving riders on to the fore front. A few stops here and there, a couple of brisk sprints.When we arrive at Brit Jam the gate workers were equally impressed with the Mass B.I.A. numbers.

Having never been to Brit Jam I was amazed by the activity and things all over.  Lots of vendors and clubs surrounding the field. There were plenty of classes to enter bike into, including Japanese and American. there were many people I'd met at previous shows and rides it was great to see them as well. Big crowds, good music and good food; a great time was had by all! It was great to see a few friends; Johnny Sprockets greeted B.I.A. members at the gate and on the field was a cool cat named Steven. I met Steven a few shows back and really like his style of rocker lifestyle.
Steven and the MSS

One of the more [ notable events ] was not one but two Velocette MkVIII KTTs on the field.  The Velocette MkVIII KTT, a mythical beast of racing origin; an overhead camshaft engine from the 40's.  Never really produced in great numbers, these machines are uncommon in general circuits. So it is a great treat to see one being shone at a local show. KTT can only to be up-staged by a Model O or Roarer in Velo circles.

As the day wound down, the crowds dissipated somewhat the core group of Mass B.I.A. members made for the journey back to Massachusetts. I hung around as the MSS was in the show.  Thanks to all the members that inquired into if I would like to have them stay and ride home with me.
Bob kicking the BSA over

Three Velocettes were announced in the awards; Adam Schoolsky won First place in the 1963 to 70 classic class. Randy Hoffman gathered an award for his 1948 MkVIII KTT and my MSS was awarded with a trophy for Original condition. Impressive as there were only a handful of Velos at this show.
John Dolber,Larry Ronai, Adam Schoolsky and Randy Hoffman
 The ride home was equally impressive, both Larry Ronai and myself had a spirited run back to our homes. The first part of the ride Larry followed behind as we traveled down Rt 151,66 and 6.  There were a few sections while I was tucked in on the MSS that it felt as if a push from behind moved the Velo forward. It seems we touched 80 mph on a section or two.  A tad surprising to me as I'd not run her up to those speeds before without incident. The handling of the Velo is still one of the best I'd ever ridden. Great day, great friends.
Velocette MAC 350

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The CAFE CONVERGENCE- what a ride, what a rush!

Note: most of the pictures are a good size, just right click and select either new tab or window to get more details.

If you wanted to find me Saturday August 10th, you'd have to be at the Cafe Convergence. After almost two weeks of illness I'd had enough. Missing shows, meetings, friends and even family events; it had taken a toll on my psyche.  I needed wheels under foot and I needed to be at the Convergence; no questions, no doubts!

With a mad dash between computer, road gear, and a quick scramble for a route list the clock ticked way too close to my departure time of 9AM. At 8:30 the bike still needed fresh fuel and a quick Check over. However the computer had no opperational printer this meant a frantic (but focused) search for a CT-RI-MA map.  There is a lot to be said about the freedom of a unprepared solo run.  

Its funny when you know what time you need to leave some place only to find its a tad behind where you wanted to be. Waiting for a break in the traffic, a glance at a nearby bank clock said I needed to cover 80 more miles of uncharted roads in an hour to make the arrival time of 11AM.

 A rip down 395 to exit 91w, follow 6 to 66 and then get lost for a bit trying to 9 and 99. The good point was bringing a real, tangible folded paper map!  I'd already compared notes with Google map images and marked the key points with stars so ball parking was the order for the day. It all worked out even with a fuel and rest stop; because an out of place Ducati meant to me that the start point was close! Made it with 15 minutes to spare. 

The ride was quite impressive from beginning to end. It was one of the largest group rides I'd had been on (well over 100+? after the midpoint meet-up at the Bach Dor Pub) note: too many different ways to spell that place! It was great to see so many members from the BIA at the midpoint! (John, Al, Joe, Bill, Johnny, Dave and Dennis from the CT-BIA). So many different bikes and people to meet. 


After  a short fuel up and some light refreshments the group got back onto route for Providence R.I.   All in all the ride wasn't too fast and ran into very few problems-  if any.  At one point on the second part of the ride I was up close to the lead group but pulled over to watch the riders go by in safety. The total run was very well organized as organizers had back markers making sure no one was left behind.  It'll be fun to do it all again next year. What would really be cool is to ride all 6 states meeting other cafe groups and clubs  [Hardford- Middletown-New London-Providence-Worcester-back].