Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This Month's Header-First Ride

WTF? This Month's Header explanation is a bit late, but is about and dedicated to First Rides. (Since no photos exist of this machine, I decided to illustrate this story)

When I say First Rides, I'm talking about that first time you rode a two wheeler powered by something other than your own two feet.

Here's how my story goes....

I'm the youngest of 3 boys, all two years apart. My oldest brother Lewy says the year was either 1964 or '65. This would mean he was about 13 or 14 years old, my next brother was 11 or 12, and I was 9 or 10.

He says that a friend from school with the last name Cruise had a homemade mini-bike and was in the process of upgrading to a better one. He told my brother if he bought 2 wheels with solid rubber tires for $5 dollars he'd give him the frame.

The Beast. A bicycle framed, lawnmower engine powered, push started, clutch-less/direct belt drive, solid rubber wheeled, no brakes suicide machine, on sesame seed bun.

While I don't remember every detail of what went down when my brother first brought it home , I seem to recall that dad was a bit pissed off and it taking him a few days to be OK with it.

A deal was made. If my brothers and I agreed to use the old push mower, then he could borrow the Briggs and Stratton engine from the Craftsman power mower. It was a second hand mower also on the older side, made in the early fifties.

Dad lays down the ground rules before the trial run.

I'll never forget the last part of how that first trial run went. I believe dad tried it out first, deemed it sound, and assembled the troops in the driveway. He then says to my oldest brother, "Take it out around the block... (turning to my brother John), and when he gets back... you can ride it." He pauses a moment, turns to me and says, "You can't ride it... you're to little!"

Since it had no clutch, we pushed Lewy to get it started and off he went. When he returned he shut it down to stop, John climbed aboard, and again we pushed to start it for his turn.

The running hand off. Before long, we came up with a better system. Since it had no clutch, you'd go as slow as possible, jump off and hand it over to the next rider who'd run up beside you. To stop you would kill the throttle lever and let it chug to a halt.

I don't know if it was the disappointment on my face or what, but when my brother John came back, dad said, "Oh... alright, you can try it.... just don't move the throttle lever past here."

What that says about my dad, I'm not sure, but for the next few days we were chasing each other riding what had to be one of the most dangerous vehicles a kid could have fun on... yelling for our turn and smiling ear to ear.

Flatheads Forever. Several years ago, I found the exact same type of engine off another Craftsman mower at a local swap meet for $10. I'd love to recreate that first bike but, with a clutch, pneumatic tires, and brakes. I failed to mention, while riding that deathtrap you had to keep your leg away from the spinning, sock eating, rope starter.

It doesn't seem like we rode it for long and I can't recall why we stopped, or what became of the frame. I do know my oldest brother soon got a better unfinished frame, but that project never got done.

Later, we had proper mini bikes. I got a new Taco 44 and then my brother John got a Flexo Big Bear Scrambler from a friend. That got crazy!

For a lot of us, it's in our blood. Once you get a taste of 2 wheel power, there's no turning back.

I'm sure many of you got your own start in a very similar way.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

El Camino 2011 Part 1 Sportsters Only?

I'm real late in posting anything from this years show.

If you go to the promoters website, it says that this years show was the biggest and best ever!... "Really?"

When I was asked what it was like, my reply was, "it sucked"! ... and think it has been in decline for sometime. My reason... for the last several years there has been a shrinking amount of American bikes entered in the show. Sure, there are always some interesting ones in the vendor's booths or rode in, but actually entered, very few. I do have some ideas why, but won't get in to that.

That's All Folks! This photo shows ALL of the bikes entered in two classes of American bikes, 1936-64 and 1965-89. Way back is Ty's very nice panhead , a K-model (cool, but of not show bike quality), and some sort of modified scooter that was completely out of place. To top it off, I overhead that the show officials had to ask 2 vendors to bring their bikes over to the show. There were 3 or 4 more Harleys in the custom class.

This very nice '72 and the above orange '69 were automatically in contention for 1st and 2nd place in the '65-'89 class. I would have liked to have got the owner's names.

This is definitely the nicest '72 XLCH I've ever seen and makes me question selling mine.

Again this bike, is nice, so don't get me wrong!... For fun and a personal challenge, I like to play judge and see if I can detect anything slightly a miss on bikes like this.

Disclaimer: I realize that many times an owner will make some personal choices which they are fully aware of. That said, I came up with 10 small items that a judge might find plus 2 I'd have to double check.

1. Fork bearing cups should be cad plated not black. 2. Front fender should have rivets not acorn nuts. 3 Inner front fender mounts improperly positioned. 4. Kickstand should be cad not chrome. 5. Kicker should be black not chrome. 6 Battery lid should be chrome not black. 7. Wire loom should be plastic not fabric. 8. Speedo cable routed incorrect. 9. Rocker box plugs should be cad, not chrome. 10. Carb/Air cleaner support should be cad, not black.

Two questionable items. 1. I'm not sure this type of passenger pegs were an option for this year. Most had a mount bolted to the rear engine mount. 2. I don't think the #1 points/timer cover is correct for this year.

I know this post got sort of disjointed, but wtf?... and OK, the show wasn't all bad, so I'll be posting more.

One last thing, Hey Noot, How'd I do?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bobber Not A Bobber #4, Birth of the Chopper?

My Google stats consistently reveal that some of the most viewed pages on this blog are the Bobber Not A Bobber posts. That, and seeing how Jeff over on the Knuckle Buster 1939 blog just did a post on the use of the term "choppers" and "chopped cycles" from the March 1954 Cycle Magazine, it prompted me to post some photos I've been meaning to for sometime.

Two years ago Dr. Sprocket sent me a package and included the two photo copies in which he said were from a 1950 and 1951 Cycle Magazine letters to the editor section. The only problem is, they were both marked 1954 on the back! Hey Doc, what's up with that?

Below are photos and caption from a 1967 article entitled "Let's Build A Chopper"

The Missing Link? The caption calls it a chopper. This machine is prettier and has more custom touches than your average post war Bob Job.

Even if the Oklahoma and Alaska bikes are from 1954, the writer of the '67 article includes the above bike (built in '51), as an example of an early Chopper. This strongly implies that the term was in use back then.

As mentioned in the first post, the terms "chop" and "bob" are both used (and not just for cycles), to mean, cut. So, my guess is that the term "chop" came to be fashionably interchangeable with "bob" in the early 50's. Then later, as the styles evolved, the two terms also evolved to mean something quite different.

It's fun to discuss, argue, and investigate the correct or first use of such terms.
From today's viewpoint, and for effective communication, I still feel the bikes above (especially the first two), are best described as Bob Jobs, or Bobbers.