Sunday, July 28, 2013


We're back in Rome folks. We're all fine but our Marco is in a bit of a jam with his back and kidney so we decided it was best to play it safe and return to base. We're re-grouping in the next couple of days to decide if and how we continue the trip. Bummer, but better safe than sorry having to call in one of these half way up the Alps:

Monday, July 15, 2013

real quick

Earlier today I got word that my cylinders (for the Sportster) are back from the "machine shop". Let's hope they didn't eff it all up...

fiat lux, bit**es...

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Sometimes, all too often in fact, we forget how lucky we are. We take stuff for granted when it's really not. The dudes and I are very lucky to have bikes, enough time and a little bit of money to take off for a week and above all, we're lucky to have found in each other a good group of friends to ride with. Believe me when I say that is harder to find than tellurium. This year, we're lucky enough to have put together another trip, though it won't be Corsica (and we'll be sans Antonelli): we're off to the Black Forest (cue heavy-metal riff) We're thinking of getting up to Bozen by train, with bikes in tow, or sent ahead by courier and from there we'll be tackling the mighty Stelvio pass, as well as several others across the Alps. Now, I can imagine that some of you might sneer at the idea of motorcycling by train, so let me explain in no uncertain terms why we're doing this: we'd rather spend time riding the Alps than we would riding up from Rome for the umpteenth time. This will be a largely tarmac-bound trip, with perhaps only the occasional dirt track up to a campsite, though knowing how well things are kept in Germany, I doubt you'd even notice it wasn't paved. Now, I would have loved to take my beloved Sportster but there just isn't enough time to get that done and dialed in (more on that later) so I'll be on the R100GS again, making this an all-Beemer trip: Gianluca is mounting up on his R65, Witold on his tough-as-nails 1000 G/S and Marcolino on his "R465".
Let's go.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Progress report: new digs

The new garage is coming along nicely, though it probably doesn't look like much in this here photograph:

You can imagine how satisfying it is to set up a place all your own and I have a feeling that once it's all done and organised it will be a great place to wrench on my bikes.
Once again my friends helped a lot: Brian donated (and transported half way across town!) some very sturdy wooden surfaces to reinforce the workbench and to make the bike platform; and then I scored that nice set of metal shelves you see on the left, and some wooden ones from my friend Andrea (who again transported them half way across town): thank you both very much, as soon as I get a cooler in there, beers are on me!

It's nice to have friends you can count on. All of this, our bikes, our tools, our places it can only work if we help each-other and if we have fun while doing it. No one man can do it all (and if they think they do, I would say they're not very happy people...)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Progress report: Schwarzköpfe

More frantic progress on Marco's Beemer as the guys scramble to get this scrambler ready for our impending trip: tempus fugit dudes...

Here's a couple of detail shots of the cylinders going back on:

Witold gives two thumbs up, because it's one for each cylinder.

And new steering head bearings!

This is a bit of a blurry shot but here are the fantastic new Asatek shocks, 35cm of sturdy, purposeful kit:

We'll focus more closely on these once the bike is fully back together, so you can see the difference they make to the overall stance (coupled with the new 19 incher at the front). Suffice to say that compared to a stock bike, it is already looking much bulkier (in a good way), compact and muscular. We dig it.

The guys also had a couple of bitchin' spacers made for the new front wheel, in order to adapt all the various parts and in preparation for the twin disc conversion (that will probably happen sometime next year):

And here are the new headlight brackets (to support the, also, new headlight, which is a sleeker bigger version of the classic round type):

The front end is looking much more harmonious with the new wheel, and will look even better with double discs one day:

Alright, 'nuff chit-chat you two, get back to work!

Friday, July 5, 2013

On growing up.

There comes a time in any person's motorcycle's life when it's time to grow up.
This is what's happening to Marcolino's BMW R45, as it grows up to become an R65. Last year, before "der Korsika blitzkrieg", Witold and Marcolino scoured the ads for a suitable bike and found the R45 on the island of Elba. It handled the trip to Corsica really well all things considered, but it deserved more. The two of them tore into the venerable Bavarian flat twin with gusto and replaced (among other things) barrels and pistons with those off an R65. That's more like it.

Once again, it's all about that one-two-three...
And now, after nearly twenty years as a stock 883, my Sportster is growing up (perhaps out would be more appropriate) to a brash 1200cc of tarmac-ripping, fire-breathing, grin-inducing fun. 'Oorah...

As you may recall, earlier this year I had started noticing smoking and other problems with the Sportster and took it to Roberto who did his best to fix it: at first it looked like there wouldn't be a need for anything too invasive, so we decided to be as conservative as possible and simply replaced the piston rings and valve oil seals. The rest of the components was examined and cleaned, then the whole thing was put together with new gaskets, of course. The bike ran great. Seriously it was like I had gotten an extra 10 hp out of the engine. It was smooth and purposeful.
But, there is a but.
Only a few hundred miles after I got it back, the engine started blowing smoke again, this time twice as bad. The bike wouldn't start either, so I carted it off back to Roberto who was very good about it and provided me with a no-questions-asked warranty: there had obviously been something wrong and he was going to take care of it: that's a class act. During the second tear-down and examination, he found that the valve stems were scored (perhaps a rogue particle of grinding paste from when we cleaned the valves the previous time?) so they got replaced. New seals again, new gaskets. We think that the new piston rings, being harder than the original ones after 60.000kms, may have eaten into the cylinder liners, which, if you recall, had shown signs of discoloration, probably from when the bike was left to one side in the garage for a couple of years. Whether or not that's the case, let that be a lesson to us all: do not leave your bike sitting still, use it or it will perish.
Now, examining all the various top-end components, what's tricky is that there is no blatant culprit: it's not like you pull the heads and find a cracked piston. Everything shows the signs of wear you'd expect after 60.000kms, with maybe a few very small anomalies. Another thing I hadn't considered, which Roberto pointed out, is that having a balanced exhaust system can give you a "false positive" if you will, as to where smoke is truly coming from.
So, not having a clear cut root cause, and rather than "risking" another top-end rebuild only to find the same problem again, I've decided to start from scratch with the cylinders bored out to the standard 1200 size. New pistons. New rings. Of course, that's assuming the "machine shop" doesn't screw up (yes, it's all back with those folks again, don't get me started).
But for now, here's a few recent shots:

If you get past the blurriness, I'm sure you can appreciate the difference between the standard 883 and the 1200. Size matters, let's not kid ourselves yeah?

Here's a few more self-explanatory shots of engine bits, though I will direct your attention to those crazy knife & fork conrods:

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Heed the sign.

Oh, and happy 4th of July!