What Real Motorcyclists do in the Winter

There are two lessons to this blog. One is that motorcycle mechanics doesn’t stop just because the weather makes riding uncomfortable. Oh no. When the weather turns bad, the real motorcyclist takes to his/her garage and gets busy. Motorcycle racers especially use all the down time to get their bikes as fine-tuned as possible and prepared for the next racing season. Other motorcyclists use this time to repair whatever failed, and to build those projects that came in a series of boxes, (but that is a separate story.) Winter is a time of discovery and becoming intimate with the bike.

The second lesson is this: motorcyclists have to pay attention to their bikes. When my friend, Fred Mork, drove from California to Barber, Alabama, he was determined to race. Previously, at Miller Sports Park, he’d noticed a small leak on his long-stroke Norton Manx. However, the bike ran strong and gave no indication that anything was wrong. (Leaks are common on vintage bikes). Mork assumed the leak was from something like a seal that hadn’t seated and didn’t worry about it.

Once in Barber though, he noticed that the leak was not going away, and it was getting worse. Although the bike ran reliably as ever on the Barber track, Mork cancelled his plans to go on to the races in Daytona, Florida. Despite his determination to race, and all the effort it took to get to the other side of the country, Mork had to acknowledge the leak indicated a worse possibility. But it wasn’t until he was back home, and had time in his shop that he found the real cause of the leak.

The two halves of a broken crankcase.

The two halves of a broken crankcase.


The unbroken half of the crankcase

The unbroken half of the crankcase

What looks obvious now, was not apparent from just looking at the bike. The crack started on the inside. As the crack grew, oil began to flow out of the crankcases, but otherwise nothing was visible. Mork had to tear down this part of the bike and split the crankcase to find out what was going on. Wear patterns from inside the cases tell the story. A story that could have been disastrous if Mork had continued riding, especially in a fierce competitive style.

The beautiful fly wheel

The beautiful fly wheel

However Winter is not all about work. There’s still time to play. Here I am taking Mork’s paddle tractor out for a test ride in the show room.

Here I am paddling the tractor tricycle in Mork's show room

Here I am paddling the tractor tricycle in Mork's show room


Woo Hoo!  I'm going fast on that tractor!

Woo Hoo! I'm going fast on that tractor!

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