Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The only social network worth the trouble.

I think there is a difference between modern motorcyclists who accept nothing but the very latest technology, brand new models, and the weirdos (such as myself) who go the opposite direction and revel in the satisfaction that comes from owning, riding and maintaining older machines.

One thing that makes that easier, or at least much more fulfilling, is cultivating, nay, curating a network of high-quality specialists that we can turn to to perform certain specialized tasks.

Sometimes it's because the expertise, knowledge and technical understanding required far surpasses the average dude: anyone who's attempted getting a degree in mechanical engineering will attest to this.

Other times it's because although we could turn a couple of spacers on a lathe, realistically we won't be doing it often enough to justify buying a lathe, or a milling machine, or an arc welder, or a pipe bender.

They're all very cool toys that most of us actually know how to use, but can't really justify paying for.
So, that's where outsourcing comes in.

No man can do it all. Those who stubbornly insist that they can, will inevitably deliver lower quality overall, than those who focus on doing a limited number of things (even just one) but do them well.

Now, finding a machine shop is not hard. Finding a good machine shop, however, one that will not destroy your parts, one that will understand what it is you want to do, what clearances should be and how it should all work is an altogether different proposition. The same goes for any service that's even vaguely pertinent to the subject matter.

Once you start putting together this network of metalworkers, machinists, artists, painters, upholsterers, and other assorted wizards, it can all translate into a very high quality motorcycle: a perfectly crafted seat, beautifully designed decals, a stunning paintjob, flawless chrome plating, etc. all together on one bike will be apparent to anyone.

Also, the phrase "more than the sum of its parts" applies to this scenario, and I'd like to think that my Norton is a very good example of that.

My latest addition to my ever-growing list of specialists is Alldens Exhausts, which I discovered quite by accident, while I was hastily leafing through an issue of Classic Bike magazine. The owner and operator works as part of Tube Engineers, and after looking at their website I'm sure you'll agree it is a very interesting outfit, sure to come in handy.
I sent them an old handlebar that was bent on one side, and they were able to reproduce it based on the side that was still intact.

Below, you should be able to tell how it all worked out:

You're looking at the underside of the handlebars, it was the only way I could put both really close together to compare the "replica" handlebar.

The original is the one at the top of the photo, you should be able to see that on the left it is bent inwards by a good few degrees.

The tightest bends are perhaps not quite as smooth as on the original and there is a bit of a nick in one spot, but the crucial dimensions of rise, width and pullback are spot on.

Have a look at the following two photos, the very next one is the original, and you can see it has a very smooth curve to it; the one after is the replica, and the same curve is a bit more... abrupt:
Below you can see they matched the width of the handlebar very precisely:
All in all this is a great resource to have on speed-dial, which obviously goes well beyond being able to replace a bent handlebar. Good to know...

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Wax on, wax on.

Those of you familiar with the 1980s adage will be perturbed by the title of this post, however, when doing what I'm doing, you want the wax to stay right where you put it.

It was time to re-proof my Belstaff, so I got to it.
Like any decent waxed cotton jacket, my Roadmaster needs re-proofing with paraffin or vegetable-based wax every so often. I try to do this at least once a year, and it pays off: this jacket is over a quarter of a century old.

Any self-respecting motorcyclist should have one of these in their closet; they are comfortable, warm enough for a mild winter and light enough up to late spring, they'll keep the wind off you and even a little bit of rain, within reason. Above all, they are just so damn cool.

It takes time to do this, you have to be methodical and not feel overwhelmed by the task, which can seem tedious. I think that's why a lot of people don't do it, and pay good money to have someone else do it for them. That's fine, so long as you get it done, or the cotton will dry, crack and tear.
Instead, the way to do this is to think of it as a practical meditation exercise; let yourself be absorbed (pun intended) by the task and watch as the fabric is slowly restored to its former glory.

You'll know you got it right when you yourself start feeling more serious and take on a stern, no-nonsense expression, like it's the 1930s outside, and like you should be getting on your exposed valves motorcycle, racing across a countryside devoid of traffic, shopping malls and other contemporary distractions.

You'll also know you got it right when you get that oilskin look, exactly like this: