Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Getting the chopper back on the road, part two...

The Rising Star received a helping hand from uncle Fester a while back, and now it's time to do some more.
I've been pestering the poor guy about this for ages, I think he's happy it's done just so I will shut up already!

Only kidding, as always uncle Fester is like the big brother I never had, and he was truly happy to help.

We got some round stock of 14mm in diameter and he expertly shaped it into a very classic and very classy sissy bar. I had seen him do this before, once for example when he made one for his dope Shovelhead chopper, so I knew the look I wanted for mine.

Here are some "work in progress" shots from the man himself:

Look at the countersunk bungs in the next two photos: this is the sort of detail that tells you someone is paying attention to what they're doing:
Now for a closer look at some of the details:
I think you'll agree that this thing is well made.
This poor bike had laid dormant for a very long time and, understandably, the battery was dead. I had a Motobatt, as I do on most of my bikes as they are very high quality, but knowing that I won't be using this bike all that much (realistically, for the foreseeable future) I have to say that the idea of forking out a pretty penny for a new one kinda bothered me. Instead, I was able to find a sealed Magneti Marelli for €29. Done.
Sure, it's not as high-spec as a Motobatt of the same size, but it's still an absorbed glass mat (AGM) type, and plenty good for a summer trip.
I also gave the carburetter a bit of a clean and found that the main jet particularly was all gunked up and almost totally blocked. Still, after a little while it started right up and settled into its familiar droning boom (I'm gonna need some earplugs).
For those of you who don't speak chopper, I get that the sissy bar as an object can be puzzling, and "the point of it" very hard to fathom.
To keep the language analogy going, it is one of those words that come up extremely frequently in the chopper vocabulary. And while you don't have to have one in order to call a bike a chopper (and the opposite is equally true by the way: bolting on a sissy bar to a motorcycle does not make it a chopper!) it can certainly be more than just a nice touch.

There are countless variations on the sissy bar theme: every height, bend, shape, finish (painted? chromed? raw?), if you can think of it, someone's already done it.
Some are padded and give the impression that this is really just an elaborate backrest for a pillion.
But besides from the dubious feasibility of carrying a pillion on a chopper (bad idea) let me cut this short and tell you what it is: the sissy bar is a luggage rack, simple as that. It is one of the best and safest ways to carry a surprising amount of luggage on a chopper, and it offers unsuspected versatility.
So yes, think of a sissy bar as a vertical luggage rack.

Allow me to demonstrate by showing you how all this stuff can fit on this tiny bike:

This and a few assorted sundries can all get rolled up relying on the same ancient technique that's been used in south-east Asia for a long time to make delicious "spring rolls":

In principle, nothing can fall out when it's all rolled up this way and strapped down tight, and things can stay dry, provided the outer sheet is waterproof. It can now be strapped down onto the sissy bar, and you're good to go:

Having the bike at his underground lair workshop, uncle Fester took another look at the gas tank mount and decided he didn't like it, so he went at it again, hard!
The original attachment point was finally chopped off, and a proper flat mounting point created a little further back so the tank can sit right. A very neat job overall, see for yourselves:

Once again, thank you so much my friend, this is great, really.

Finally, there is another detail that is very important: no chopper would be complete without a blanket, and this one is its own. A friend of mine brought it back from Nepal:

p.s. this modification is approved and endorsed by the German:

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Corsica is one of those places that you don't really hear much about, until you enter a particular sphere (that of motorcycle summer holidays) and then it comes up A LOT.

There are endless articles, trip reports, tales, legends that all pretty much say the same things. Some of these things are true, others are more reflective of a person's fears and perceptions than anything else.

Still, when something is so popular and when the acclaim is so widespread (this applies to locations as it does to anything else, a motorcycle, a watch, a restaurant...) my instinct is to give it the bras d'honneur because obviously I'm better than everybody else.

But over the years I've come to understand that we all more or less equally suck, and that if something is popular, then it's not because the masses have figured out something I haven't, it's because it really is good, and people like it when things are good, easy and reliable: that bike really is faster and easier to ride, that restaurant really does do good food, the Rolex Submariner really is a cool watch.
And Corsica really is paradise on earth.

Back in 2011 three of us went over on three heroic Hondas, having no expectations of what we'd find. We didn't do anything special to prepare, Witold had done some advance recon on certain routes, but that was about the extent of it.
No special equipment and really no idea what to expect; because of that, it was a moment of pure discovery, frankly with fairly low expectations going in, precisely because of all the hubbub that we'd heard over the years.
It's fair to say that day after day that trip left us gobsmacked, and we knew we wanted to go back for more.
The following year we added two more friends and switched rides for 80% BMW, 20% Honda. There was a moment of quiet realisation that we had grown up, and that we now understood the appeal of the Bavarian airheads. Our second visit to the island was a resounding success, with higher mileage, new places and an even deeper appreciation of the experience.

Sure, there are beautiful beaches all around the island, but mountains and forests are what that place is really all about. Monte Cintu is listed as an "ultra-prominent peak", and there are plenty of high altitude spots that offer spectacular scenery and plenty of portals to other dimensions.
Ghisoni is apparently one such place, and we had been through Vergio during the Korsikatreffen. At 1477 meters, that had already seemed very impressive so I really would love to find out how high we can get, if you know what I mean.

We haven't been back all together since that time, and after one of those winter talks when you daydream about sunlight, long warm days and bikes in a campsite, we all conceded that maybe it was time we went back again.

So, with all the humility we can muster in the face of fate and its sense of irony, the plan is to go, the four of us, with our airheads and have a grandiose experience. Now, no sooner was I done typing that, that we already lost Gianluca, and that's too bad. The others are more or less ready and I hope they truly want to do this. I would like to think that I can go, but I probably won't be able to in the end. At this point I'm just putting this up because it would feel like a waste of time having written all this only to throw it away.

I don't know why I bother anymore. Anyone wanna buy some motorcycles?