Friday, 12 September 2008

Private Owner by L.R Higgins

The book from which I have borrowed the title for the Li'l Speedy story, was published in 1948 by G.T.Foulis and Co. I had never heard of it until my dear friend Harry Mortlock thrust a well read copy into my hand and said I must read it, and after that I could keep it. I resisted, especially when I saw that the author had signed the flyleaf for Harry when he bumped into him in the UK soon after the book was published. This is an unusual book, being written by a privateer who didn't exactly set the world on fire. But he did capture in great detail the ups and downs of running a KTT Velo in the period when it was the best thing money could by for Junior class racing.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

People at the VOCA Centenary Rally, Sydney NSW October 2005

Browsing through these photos rekindled memories of the good times we Aussies shared with our International friends at this fantastic rally - the last of the big Velocette Centenary Rallies held around the world in 2005. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be the only person to have attended the Centenary celebrations of the VOCUK at Stanford Hall in early July, the VOCNA rally based at Yosemite in late July and our own rally on the NW outskirts of Sydney in October - thank you Diana for the freedom to travel alone for all those weeks.
With over 100 Velos lined up for the Monday morning photo shoot in Sydney, it was a sight never before seen Downunder. But aside from the Velos, the best thing about these events is the people. They come from all backgrounds and ages with habits ranging from teetotal to drink-too-much, believer to non-believer, polished and fettled to she'll be right mate. All united by the common language of old bikes. As Pd'Os T-shirt says, "Velocette spoken here". I'll let the photos do the talking from here on. In a later post we'll look at some of the tasty machines in attendance.

VOCA Patron Anne Frampton, daughter of the last MD of Veloce Ltd, Bertie Goodman. She entertained the crowd with recollections from the happy days of Veloce as well as the not so happy times as the financial position of the company weakened. A long time resident of Sydney's eastern suburbs and a thoroughly charming person, Anne was amazed at the level of interest in Velocette motorcycles Downunder.

Checking in on Day 1. At left is Brisbane based VOCA member David Royston with Californian Gil Loe, both looking forward to the week ahead.

Ella and Larry Luce from Los Angeles. Their bike arrived late and if not for some swift talking by our own DQ it may have stayed on the docks for the duration of the rally. They are obviously relieved to have their own Velo to ride for the week having spent the money to ship it over. Larry's your genuine slow talking American dude, with some hilarious tales of finding stuff on the street (like 2 wedding rings - Ella's first and then some time later, one for himself). But when you get to know him he's anything but slow.

Peter and Bev Wolfenden, from the nearby Blue Mountains. Current Membership Secretaries of the VOCA and hard working members of the Centenary Rally Committtee. Peter is known for two things - riding his unspectacular but super-reliable MSS at 70+ mph whenever they are outside the town limits, and his passion for LEs. Somebody has to love 'em.

Long time Victorian member Bruce Beinke, not enjoying the best of health but still keen to attend. Note the sign on his electric buggy. "I'd rather be riding Britain's Legendary motorcycle - Velocette".
Never lose your sense of humour Bruce.

Still keen after all these years - long time member of the Victorian Centre Bill Hackett spins a yarn while leaning on the Luce machine - 63 Velo.

DQ (aka the Velobanjogent) feeds a cheeky crimson rosella while regular visitor to our shores, Mick Felder of Hermosa Beach CA looks amused by the antics.

Some of the girls from WA (and one from NSW).
l. to r. Connie Taylor, Bev Wolfenden, Marjorie Whittaker and Jocelyn Taylor.

Dot and Norm Trigg discuss the fine selection of rally wines on offer while Rally stalwart Al Morris seems less impressed. Al has attended every annual rally since 1982. Norm is a Life Member of the VOCA and author of the technical handbook that no Velo owner should be without - "Norm's Technicalities", published October 2008.

Long time Velo guru Keith Hamilton astride his immaculately restored Velocette Ladies Model, test ridden by all and sundry over the course of this particular evening. Keith would be better known as KFO (short for Keith from Oz) to those who frequent the Velocette Yahoo Forum.

Californian Olav Hassal and rally regular Jim Day chew the fat on the platform during our visit to the Zig Zag Railway.

Much, much later that day, Olav is admant that his story is factual: "I sshhhwear itsssh true!". Pd'O looks on, bemused.

Same night, WA Centre President Paul Barfoot pictured nursing one of his favourite drops. Evenings like this bring meaning to the 1930's advertising catchphrase - Velocette: Good Companions.

That man Loe again with Colleen Canning, wife of VOCA Pres Keith - definitely the better half if you've ever seen the photo of Keith in the VOCA's 2005 'Full Monty' calendar!
Gil spent his working life in Hollywood as a wardrobe man, hence his email "glragpicker". He worked on the series 'Dr Quinn Medicine Woman' for many years and was responsible for the wonderful period clothing worn by stars Jane Seymour, Joe Lando and Shawn Toovey.

Speaking of Keith and the Full Monty Calendar - this is the photo.

And finally, a great shot of my darling Diana, (Australia's best pillion passenger) with our mate from Upover, Paul d'Orleans, who made the long journey from San Francisco to attend another rally Downunder. Ever helpful FTDU printer Mick Tesser from the WA centre standing in the background.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Velocette Rally Memories - Crazy 2 stroke Cocktail Mixer

In July 2008 on the last day of the week long Velocette Owners Club of North America Summer Ride, I got to taste the fruits of Paul Zell's infamous 2 stroke powered cocktail mixer. A perfect way to pass the time on a hot afternoon under the trees near the historic Benbow Inn, Northern California.

Road Test - 1933 KTT MkIV Velocette

Back in July 2000, my good friend Paul d'Orleans of San Francisco, convinced me to ride one day of the week long VOCNA Summer Rally on his MkIV KTT Velo. Because of its heroic passage along the treacherous dirt of Mule Town Road the previous day of the rally, this bike thereafter became widely known as the "Little Mule". The Mule and I have shared many happy miles in North America, including one dramatic day in 2005 when the friendly officers of the South Lake Tahoe CHP decided that it should be impounded for registration irregularities - but that's another story. What follows is my impressions after the first big day on the Mule.

“Who me? Are you serious? All day tomorrow? I sure would!” This was roughly the response Paul D’Orleans heard when he offered me a ride on the most impressive and desirable Velo in attendance at the 2000 Summer Ride. So the deal was done – Paul and Alison would ride Paul’s Viper, which had been my faithful mount thus far, and I would ride Paul’s delectable 1933 KTT.

This was a hot Thursday evening in Etna, in the mountain wilds of NCa – the most northern part of our route. Friday we were returning to rally HQ, Redway some 250 miles to the south. Between Etna and Redway stood some of the most challenging roads of the week, including the infamous Forks of Salmon road, where legend has it that reclusive locals in beaten up pick-ups have been known to force unwanted tourists off the road and over the edge of the roadside abyss, never to be seen again. ‘Am I doing the right thing?’, came a small voice in my head.

Friday dawned to a crisp blue sky over the Etna City Park. KTT sat poised to go, on a convenient stump; a surrogate centrestand. After packing the gear onto the Viper and a final check of its vital parts, it was time to hand this mount over to Paul for the day. Paul gave some basic instructions and advice. Fuel taps. Tickler. Lots of oil blowing from the exposed valve gear onto the rear tyre. Upside down gearshift pattern (fortunately the same as the reverse gear lever equipped Viper). No rear view mirror. No kickstarter. No silencer. No horn. No lights. A front brake that works best once there’s some heat in the linings. How to bump start. ‘Am I doing the right thing?’, the small voice asked again.

Time to go. I looked at the long gravel access road and did a rough head count of the assembled onlookers. Discretion versus valour. ‘Righto Paul, show me how it’s done, mate!’ Paul is a special sort of Velo rider. I knew that he’d bumped and thumped KTT along the impossible, impassable Mule Town Road the previous day. I knew that he’d bump started KTT in loose sand when there was no-one else around in 98 degree heat. I knew this bit of gravel access road would be a piece of cake for him. And so it was. I pulled on the gloves, walked down to where he sat side saddle, blipping the throttle and threw my leg over the low slung sprung saddle. I rode down to the main road and did a couple of familiarisation laps while waiting for P & A on the Viper. I stopped the engine and did a trial bump start. Second gear, wind back off compression, clutch in, then run and bump. KTT fires but before I can get the clutch in stalls with a couple of kangaroo hops – my fault, not hers. Second attempt I grab the clutch, just in time. Before day’s end I have my own version of the bump start routine that suits me better. First gear, wind back off compression, clutch in, run and bump and clutch in. Then catch the engine on the throttle. The lower gear spins the engine faster and almost guarantees that it will fire immediately, so you don’t have to wait for things to light up, then respond with the clutch. Not recommended for sand or gravel bump starts, however.

P & A appear on the laden Viper and we turn east and almost immediately start a long climb. For KTT, with more power than Viper and far less unladen weight, this is no problem. But for Viper the added burden of all my camping gear plus pillion (albeit a lightweight one today) means each ascent becomes a second and third gear challenge. But Paul pushes hard and we enjoy a pleasant 15 minutes or so of climbing before the hairpins appear and the grade steepens. Paul waves me by and for the first time I feel the exhilaration of riding a Velo with a power to weight ratio that makes uphill as much fun as downhill. This KTT pulls strongly from low revs, and after each up change the bars literally tug on your arms as the clutch bites and the revs rise quickly to the next change point or braking point, whichever arrives first. After another 20 minutes or so we crest a saddle at 5500 feet. The view is spectacular in every direction. I stop at a viewing bay, dismount and reflect on the oily black and gold machine leaning against the stone wall. So far Paul’s advice is right - the oily rear tyre grips, but I wouldn’t like to try it on damp or wet bitumen. The riding position is more relaxed than racy, with flattish bars and mid mounted footpegs (definitely not rearset). The rear brake feels spongy (cable operated) but bites progressively. The front brake – well haven’t had much call for it yet, as engine braking has done most of the work so far. The clutch is a beauty, freeing cleanly for the bump start routine and not a sign of slip under power. Paul credits me with this, as it had started to drag during the previous day’s horror stretch and I spent 10 minutes with the adjusting peg on Thursday evening, and reset the cable. No cover on the gearbox sprocket so it was even easier than normal. Steering is precise, with the MkVIII style front end (forks and brake) giving clear signals as to what the front tyre is up to, and doing a ‘good for the era’ job of absorbing bumps. And the sprung saddle looks after minor bumps OK but after landing a little far back and copping the rear edge of the seat in the coccyx on one occasion, I decide to ride on the pegs for any substantial bumps I see in future.

The frenzied sound of a little engine working hard signals the arrival of Viper. P & A soak up the view, then Paul decides a nearby rock cairn would be a great setting for a victory shot of KTT. So we manoeuvre it gingerly out onto the cairn, engage first gear so it won’t roll away and prop the left footpeg on a substantial rock. Alison shoots photos from every angle, then we safely retrieve KTT and it’s off again, for my first taste of downhill KTT’ing. I must say that selecting the crest of a mountain for the first public demonstration of my prowess at the bump start routine was a masterstroke! However KTT fires up in the first 10 feet of the decline, leaving 4990 feet in reserve.

Paul obviously believes I‘ll get the plot home in one piece so I don’t feel the need for us to travel in convoy all day. I’m definitely a “travel at your own pace” sort of person, and generally detest the regimented riding which some Clubs force upon their riders. After a few gentle corners I begin to get the feel of the bike again and the pace quickens. But the first hairpin I encounter calls for an extraordinary amount of pressure on the front brake (and as much as I dare on the rear) to get down to a speed where I’m comfortable to tip it into the turn. Comfortable or not, there comes a point in every turn where tip it in you must, as the options are few. Lesson learnt – this ain’t no Tickle twin leader and I must adjust braking points to suit. Down through Sawyers Bar and on to Forks of Salmon I see few other Velos. The pace of the KTT on all the uphill riding means by this time Viper must be far behind. I come up behind a Velo pottering along at about 40 mph. I slip past and continue on at an enjoyable 7 or 8 tenths sort of pace. The road is bumpy and a little narrow but many of the corners have a clear view around. I look behind at one stage and see that the potterer has tagged on and we enjoy this ride for the next half hour or so. He drops back a little and then a little further down this winding road I hear another sound, at my left ear in the middle of a sweeping left-hander. Paul has cruised up on the inside. He waves, gives the thumbs up, shouts something (which is later translated to ‘it sounds great – I’ve been following you for 10 minutes’). Must look over my shoulder more often in future. I spend the remainder of the ride puzzling as to how the laden Viper could close what surely must have been a 10 to 15 minute advantage given the numerous climbs along the road this morning. Was there a shortcut I didn’t see? Or does he just ride downhill without touching brakes at all?

We stop at Soames Bar and the potterer turned tagger reveals himself as Frank Brennan, who admits to getting a real buzz out of following the KTT, simply to hear the note that she makes on the over run. This road must have given him a near overdose. I realise that the front brake has worked fine in the last hour or so, a combination of heat in the linings and my adjusting to its capabilities.

The remainder of the day passes with just a few incidents – major wildfire blocking the road, a broken clutch cable (replaced in 20 minutes when a spare was offered by a real Good Samaritan – thanks Victor), a much too close up view of a minor landslide, a fantastic lunch in the cool of a restored Victorian era Hotel in Ferndale (thanks again Victor for your good company), a severe lack of fuel (thanks Bill for getting me out of trouble) and a rough ride through the redwoods near day’s end. Back at Redway that evening, I leaned KTT against a tree near Paul’s room, closed the fuel taps, stood back, took a deep breath and smiled. I’d just heard a small voice say ‘You did the right thing!’

Thanks Paul for the opportunity of a lifetime. Thanks CHP for leaving us alone for the whole day, despite KTT’s doubtful legality on those public roads. And thanks KTT - you deserved the machine of the rally award bestowed upon you on Saturday evening.

Private Owner Downunder Part 3

A Red In The Shed (345)
Some Delays on the Road Back to the Track

The Li’l Speedy rebuild has been the classic one step forwards – two steps backwards affair. I was slow off the mark through the hot Perth summer, but during April things started to come together. The Carrillo conrod was machined to fit between the Velo flywheels, a couple of Triumph Daytona pistons (one standard 69mm Triumph bore, the other +.010 inch) arrived from NZ, the barrel was bored and the little end bush made to suit the non standard piston and rod combination. With Paul Barfoot’s help, the whole crank assembly was soon in one piece with a pair of ‘new old stock’ Hoffman roller bearings that I had been saving, fitted to both the drive and timing side mainshafts.
A couple of known issues remained. The timing side mainshaft was a little undersized, so that bearing was fitted to the shaft with a drop of Loctite. The timing side crankcase main bearing housing had stretched, so the outer cup was no longer a shrink fit. And the Carrillo rod was about 10mm shorter than the original Velo rod, so a fin or two would need to come off the top of the barrel to get back to around 11:1 compression ratio. And of course the pushrods would need to be shortened even further, with the possibility that the cutaways in the spigot of the barrel may need to be enlarged to accommodate the greater fore and aft rock of the shorter conrod.
Before trial assembly of the bottom end, I checked balance factor with the new piston and conrod and was pleased to discover that it was just over 75%, which is right in the recommended range for an iron MAC, so no adjustment needed.
That is where the good news ended. The trial assembly of the bottom end faltered when I found it impossible to get the drive side bearing into the shrunk fit outer. As I had not yet dealt with the timing side stretch issue, there was no problem fitting this side up. Frustrated I researched some articles I’d seen about bearing clearances. I recall that this had happened with a KSS special that Jack Hogan built, so suspected that the use of bearings with too tight a clearance may be the cause. This proved to be true as Veloce used C3 clearance for main bearings and the markings on these ‘new old stock’ bearing indicated the much tighter “C2”clearance. According to SKF, “C3” bearings of this size have 35 microns clearance, “Normal” bearings have 20 microns and “C2” bearings have only 10 microns. So it is clear why my Hoffman bearings would not fit together once installed with nipped outer and press fit inner.
Rather than attempt to increase running tolerance on these bearings by precision grinding (difficult with a single lipped design) or careful lapping, I decided to convert to readily available 2 inch imperial roller bearings, which would solve my timing side fit issue once the cases were machined. The new bearings will also require shimming, as they are about 3mm narrower than the originals, and a thin sleeve on each mainshaft to go from 22mm to 7/8 inch. This is a conversion used successfully by David Morse in his VMX Velos and more recently in his historic road racers so I’m happy enough to follow suit. By the way, the SKF bearing number is CFL7A/C3 and the cost is about $60 each.
A trip to the USA in July combining a little business with a large amount of Velo rally pleasure didn’t help to advance the Li’l Speedy project either. But it was worth it – see story elsewhere this issue.
With these obstacles now almost out of the way we plan to be back on the track for the final non-championship 2+4 meeting at Collie in early October then ready for the Nationals at Wanneroo Raceway in late November. It’ll be great to be out there again rather than watching from the pits.
– JJ