Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Old Irons

"Old Irons" is a literal translation of the Italian phrase "ferri vecchi", which is a somewhat pejorative description for an old vehicle.

When it's used by certain people however, to describe their own motorcycles, it is a loving testament of dedication and of a bond between man and machine that only a special breed can ever hope to experience.

What is fast becoming a fairly sizeable event, started out as a simple trip up the mountains, just a few friends (those "certain people" I was telling you about) on their choppers, a sleeping bag, a few tools and little else. This is them:

They found themselves on a plateau at 5.000ft, nestled between mountains so serene they look like a painting; no trees, no people, and just a couple of shacks that sell some food and something to wash it down with, the incredibly bitter genziana moonshine you can only find in these parts.

I like to think that that first time will remain the stuff of legends and always shrouded in some mystery.

Over the years, more and more people have gone along and it was one of those trips I really wanted to go on for a while now. This year I finally managed, and with the Norton no less.

The morning meet was just on the way out of Rome, and at least 30 motorcycles were present, maybe more, I didn't actually count. When the whole group set out together, it was a pleasant reminder that some people can still ride together without drama, and just have a damn good time.
The distant silhouette of mountain ranges drawing ever closer, and larger, the air finally drying up and cooling down, we slowly and serenly made our way up and over, until we reached the plateau.

Someone broke down, we tried to help but couldn't (when you don't have the right spare drive-belt, you just ain't going nowhere; and when you break a gearbox mainshaft, that's that), others had to return to base before the day was done, but for those who stayed (and got back in one piece!) it was a great weekend.

I doubt our Mystic Trip would eventually evolve into something quite so large over the years (there were 130 motorcycles present!), and it's not at all what we'd be going for, or even want, but just to say that the vibe is very much the same: easy, laid back, appreciative of nature and motorcycles alike; and that's what makes it such a pleasure to hang out with like-minded people.

I think the photos speak for themselves, hopefully there'll be more next year. Perhaps on the Rising Star itself?

Above - you can see Filippo's blue Triumph, a 750 Morgo special.
Below - another 750 Morgo special, this one belonging to Livio, who recently finished putting it together. There are a lot of details that are not immediately apparent, and therefore give the impression of a particularly nice standard bike; then you start noticing the handlebar, aluminium rearsets, the shortened seat, the Asatek rear shocks, and of course the cylinder block.
Apparently both bikes were less than happy to return home, I'm sure these are just teething woes that will soon be sorted.
And here you can see Gianluca's faith-based luggage system. As long as you firmly believe that your luggage won't end up strewn all over the autostrada, it will stay on the bike. Good grief man...

Monday, July 27, 2015

We're back!

More photos from the weekend trip coming soon.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


A while back dad sent me photos of these two intrepid adventurers on an epic journey aboard their trusty Honda (Super Cub? Sorry, not sure what the exact model is), as they stopped for some repairs at a local fixer-upper:

It just goes to show you don't need a big bike to have a big adventure.

We don't know your names guys, but we hope your trip went well, and, if you see this, get in touch!
You really do meet the nicest people on a Honda, don't you?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015

This is why.

I was going over the Norton last night, checking assorted fasteners and such, when I remembered something from last year.

This is why you check your motorcycle before you go on a trip. Good job I had done just that before that weekend away back in August when I went to meet the boys on their way back from the Alps; look what I had found when checking the chain!

This was supposed to be a heavy duty, superior quality Regina Serie Oro chain... I wonder what happened here, perhaps a stone or other piece of road debris?
Not only had a section of link vanished, but the master link also cracked so that one of the pins was held on only by the circlip.

It could have ended rather badly, but then again I couldn't tell you when this actually happened nor how long I had been riding like this. Hundreds of miles? Thousands of miles?
I know the Commando just chews through chains, it shreds them actually, but this is new even to me, and I've replaced my fair share of chains on this bike.
Bear in mind that I had discovered this in mid-August last year, a time when Rome is typically shut down. For a moment I thought I would have had to forego the trip on the Commando and take my poor Sportster instead, but I went to see a generic spares supplier in the area (the same one where I got the new battery) and against all odds they were open! I got a replacement chain and quickly fitted it. Child's play if you have a grinder (I guess I must have done it right because it hasn't given me any problems since).

I don't think I'd ever get around to doing this, but I wonder if a belt drive conversion wouldn't be a bad idea...

Friday, July 10, 2015

Thoughts about the test ride.

It is one thing for something to work. It is quite another for that thing to work exceptionally well.
When I took it upon myself to rebuild the top end of my Norton's engine last year, I actually got the thing working and used it on a couple of short outings. So, it worked.
However, now that the cylinder head has been fully refurbished by SRM, it works exceptionally well.
The difference is impressive. The way I had done it, sure, there was the familiar low-end torque and the effortless 80mph cruising, just enough horsepower to keep things interesting. But it felt toned down somehow.
Now that the valves are properly seated, they seal well and run smoothly in their guides, now that the head is properly torqued down, the orchestra is playing at full volume again.
It's like looking at a photocopy of a painting, and then looking at the original. No contest.
My compliments to the engineers at SRM for yet another job well done.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Mystic Motors Roma

Using the newly put together Norton as an excuse, I went to visit uncle Fester at his place, now operating under the moniker of Mystic Motors Roma, a wonderfully eclectic blender of old bikes, cars, pick up trucks, tools, machines and memorabilia.
They can accommodate a huge variety of customer machines and, through a good network of intelligently done outsourcing, are basically a one-stop shop for people looking for that something special for their machines.
For example, here's Filippo's Triumph, originally an OIF 650, and now a fantastic looking (and sounding!) 750 Morgo special, with what has to be the most finely crafted custom seat I have ever seen on a bike like this.
Below are just a few glimpses from what can seem like a bit of a madhouse, but is in fact a true fountain of creativity and ingenuity:

Fastbacks abound!

A 350 Ducati Scrambler waiting for an engine rebuild.

Survivor: an amazing vintage chopper from the 1960s, with a Knucklehead motor resurrected after 30 years, and a remarkable family story.

This one's gonna be a beast: Ducati 900 in a custom frame, over 30Kg lighter than a stock bike. You'll need a weapons permit to ride this thing...

A wonderfully original Harley-Davidson Aermacchi.

That's not a paintjob on the helmet, just one bad crash.

A sweet Triumph hardtail with a David Bird bolt-on, and plenty of neat touches: notice the seat hinge, which will use a single stock shock absorber, the modified headlamp brackets, and the oil tank, which is that fire extinguisher bottle on the bench.

Plenty of tools and (below) machines, machines everywhere!

An electronic Kröber tachometer.

A fiberglass primary cover for a Norton Commando, from Glass From The Past.