Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Success, Nearly

Racing Makes Heroin Addiction Look Like a Vague Wish for Something Salty.

-Peter Egan

Mr. Egan, having written about races and observed racers' at-times feverish and obsessive behavior for decades, is one who would know.  Get me to the track and going fast and I'll do anything.  Its a feeling and behavior that, try as you will to explain to a non-racer, is just not transmittable by any other medium than experience.

It really started hitting as Jamie pulled the sprinter into the loading dock.  Between his optimism and mine on what parts, tools and rituals may be needed during the weekend I had to leave my XR100 pit bike home.  The first time I actually own a pit bike and it won't make it to the track.  Foiled again!

The short trip to NJMP was uneventful and we pitted and unloaded into garage 112.  The Rotacular was honored to share the garage with a sweet Seeley G50 and an even sweeter Norton Spaceframe continuation model.  Usually the Rotacular has to associate with more pedestrian motorcycles, this weekend it was purpose-built racers only!

Friday practice was uneventful, if you consider excessive sweating, mis-shifting, and in general acting like a moving chicane most of the day uneventful.  Race shift pattern, how about that!  Why is everyone going so fast?  I think we had 5 sessions and it was only the last session that my brain remembered what I was there for.  I put a couple of laps together at the end of the day that at least felt like something could come of the rest of the weekend.  Jamie got the G50 going but still had a little fettling to do to the Spaceframe.  A successful day at the track ended with a nice meal at the Old Oar House pub.

Waking up in the morning to an unmuffled CB160 racer is an experience that everyone should have the pleasure of living without.  Knowing the Rotacular was practice session 4 I tried to soldier through the CB's warmup cycle but it was fruitless.  Up and at 'em!, even though I was in the unusual situation of having nothing to do but roll through tech, which was a breeze.

The single morning practice session felt familiar and then after a few hours of slowly building tension I was lining up for Race 6.  Helmet Buckled?  Check.  Visor Down?  Check.  Race Face On?  YOU BET YOUR ASS!!!!!!!  Red Mist Active?  I hope not.

The green flag waved, I pulled a small wheelie and away we all were.  It felt nice to be in a pack and jostling for position again.  After a bit of a slow start I started getting into a groove and passing some people.  AHRMA runs multiple classes per race wave so sometimes its hard to know who is in your actual race but it makes it more fun with more passing opportunities.  As the laps went by I felt better and better on the bike.  I always found it easier to go fast with a target to pull me forward and with the multi-multi wave start there were plenty.  As usual the 8 laps went by much too quickly and the checkered flag came out, later finding out giving me 3rd place!  A very satisfying result and the bike ran flawlessly with no oil or water discharge.  Later they insisted on giving me an award!

Jamie also did well with a 3rd place but had trouble getting the Spaceframe to run well.  Checking the timing was one of the first steps but with all our preparation and luggage neither one of us had a degree wheel.  Hmmmmm, where can we get something round with 360 even divisions around the edge?  Almost like a plate or plaque with a fancy scroll around the edge.  Now where on earth would we find one (or two) of those?

Still thinking?  After a bit of close observation I realized that our trophies fit the bill exactly!  A quick hole in the middle and a sharpie mark and presto, the trophy to degree wheel conversion is complete.
Fitted into the end of the crank we were able to verify that the timing was.......correct.  Damn, next item.
It ended up that one of the carbs was gunked up a bit, he cleaned it out and the bike worked fine.

That was tiring, so we needed another steak at the Old Oar House.

In Sunday practice I felt the best yet.  The hours between practice and the race were not filled with tension but with anticipation.  Just before the race a light rain sprinkle started.  Perfect!  No really, I like racing in the rain and especially in very light rain where slicks are still the best option.  I was extremely excited going out for the warmup lap.  So excited that somehow I stalled the bike and was unable to restart it.  I suspect that in my excitement my foot was street pattern shifting and it bogged the engine down and with a big high compression single when it goes down low it stalls.  Even though I was going about 50mph at the time I couldn't bump start it as the bike has a (apparently very effective) custom slipper clutch that whenever I tried to bump the bike it just.........slipped.  Until it slowly came to a stop in the middle of turn 8.  Damn.

I had to wheel the bike over to the barriers and watch the race from the sidelines and was not a happy camper.  To add insult to injury when they picked me up they would not take the bike at the same time, I had to pick it up from tech later and do the walk of shame down the paddock.

The next hour was pretty crappy being pissed at myself but in the end I had a mostly good weekend, didn't crash and the bike behaved well all weekend and still ran.  Jamie had an uneventful race, we packed up and headed home.

It took me a day or two after being home to talk myself down from getting a new set of tires and hitting the next NJMP track day.  Or CCS race.  Or whoever is there.  Can you open the gates for me?  Please?  PLEASE!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, it was great to be in the AHRMA paddock again.  It is filled with great people and interesting machines.  There is racing for everyone, from those loud CB160s to a new Ducati Panigale.  It was good to reconnect with some friends that I have not seen in some years.  Well, for 5 years as the bloc postings go.

I'm looking forward to running again at Barber Motorsports Park in October.  I'll at least not be that rusty and can't wait to ride that country club of a race track.

Until then.....

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Has it been 5 years?

Funny how time sometimes flies!  Time for a new post!

After a great winter skiing I was really bummed out when the snow melted in Vermont in May.  I was so down the only way to cheer myself up was to decide to get some track time in.  The decision had nothing to do with drunk shit-talking with Jamie and Annick.  Absolutely nothing.

I also really wanted to race at Barber again.  That place has good memories and a track that every version of the Rotacular loved.  Unfortunately (or not) due to entry limitations AHRMA does not just let everyone run at the crown jewel.  You have to run another full weekend at another track to earn the right.  Which brings us to this coming weekend at NJMP.

I've entered SOS 1 for both both Saturday and Sunday. And the Friday practice.  Yes, optimistic.  Yes, the potential for disaster is high. So is the potential for fun.

With some new fuel and battery the bike started right up as if it was waiting for me.  The control module on Peter's dyno is out for repair but the drum still let me do a few pulls under load and all seems OK.  Or at least the engine didn't puke any solids or liquids out!

So spirits are high and expectations are low.  Completing both races and leaving with a running bike would be about as good as it can get!  Here's to hoping for the best!

We are in a garage #112, stop by and say hello.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

NJMP Race Report

Wow, I have not written a race report in a long time and longer still since it was me riding!  Nice to break that streak.  Its also a long time since Mom was able to visit.  I think she brought some of the good luck we had.

One of the things I forgot in that time period is all the effort a roadrace weekend takes.  While I had leathers and boots, the rest of my safety equipment was shredded or missing.  I called a few friends and ended up with a set of Jerez gloves and a summer undersuit from Will and Gus at Rev-It USA.  The gloves were great and the summer undersuit make moving around while in my leathers much easier.  It is not mentioned much but you need to be pretty flexible when racing smaller bikes.  You really crawl all over the bike through the various phases of acceleration, cornering and braking, and the smoother it can be done the better.  Having leathers grab at your sweaty skin while transitioning from side to side does not help that  much.  It also makes getting out of leathers much less like a spastic dance.  I also got a new Bell RS-1 helmet from Chris at Union Garage.  Race organizations want the latest agency approvals and my helmet was too old to pass.  I've been an Arai guy for most of my roadracing time but before that I wore a Bell when MXing as a kid.  Seeing them getting back into pavement stuff and some childhood reminiscing (and a great fit) was enough to make a change back.  Chris was a big help and got me the helmet in time for the weekend.

Overall, I have not had many better weekends at the track.  The first amazing part is I never took the engine out of the frame but that is jumping ahead of the game.

I shared in a van rental with friends of a friend, Lex and Alex, who were also heading down.  They showed up with one nice Ducati and....... not much else!  Really, not much else at all.  I wondered what they thought about me with my one small bike.  And toolbox.  And spares box.  And spare tires and rims.  And tire warmers.  And remote starter.  And cans of race gas.  I guess that's the difference between store bought and home rolled!  Anyway, it all fit and off we were.

Getting to the track Thursday night after a 2hr drive was also a welcome change.  I'm used to LRRS, Summit Point, and VIR, which are 6, 5, and 9 hr drives respectively.  2 hrs is just getting warmed up!  I also shared an above-garage apartment with Jamie Waters, part of the original Spannerland crew and Norton collector extraordinaire.  Jamie brought 3 bikes.  When some people crash or break a bike they fix it.  Jamie switches bikes!  Just kidding, they all ran well as did the rider.

I had to take the Friday school to renew my license since it has been 3 years since racing.  Damn, its been too long!  This was a smart move anyway since I was extremely rusty.   I guess my brain likes to keep it out of consideration but I have not ridden a motorcycle since my Duke was stolen nearly 1 year ago.  It has been too long.  Anyway, going from not riding to a racetrack is a bit much so the slow pace of the school was a nice welcome back.  The AHRMA school was nice, even though they made me wear the bright orange vest!

The bike ran great all day, helped by my slow pace not taxing anything but my out of practice brain and body.  I had my pre-season testing paint scheme in place.
Friday went smoothly so I was expecting some tantrum on Saturday.  I was only mildly disappointed in this.  I had some family and friends there for both days so was hoping for at least a decent showing.  Saturday practice was only one session which went well.  After that I had a new set of tires put on for the race.  A new set of slicks.  I did have a set of rains (I thought) but not installed, but no worries, its sunny!

Famous last words.  As race 7 got close the sky darkened and some drops started to fall.
In a span of 20 minutes we went from sunny to rainy.  I suited up and asked Scott to go have Miles at Street and Comp do a quick tire swap.  When he came back without tires it was not good: turns out I brought 2 front rains and no rear so rains were a no for this race.  As I was hoping the rain would stop, it started coming down harder.  With a bunch of people having come down to watch me I had to go out with my new unscrubbed slicks when 3rd call was made.
Worst case I would crash.  2nd worst case, I pull in and feel stupid.  I never expected to have a best case to consider!

Due to my late entry I was gridded pretty far back.
When the flag dropped I proceeded to spin the rear tire and almost drive off into the grass.  Not the best move but I didn't dump it yet!  I recovered, wiped off my faceshield and started to tiptoe around the track.  The rain only got worse but I started to get into a groove.  Not a smooth groove, but a slipping, sliding, moving all around groove.  It was enough to bring a little of my confidence back.  Little by little I started going faster.  Every now and then I passed someone.
Then I passed a few someones.  Then I had some clear track and made some good progress in working the rust out of my riding.
I was having a bit of fun.  Due to the rain and the slick tires I could spin the rear at will.  OK, I was having a lot of fun!  What I didn't know was that all my friends were on top of the scoring tower and could see me around the entire track and I was putting on a pretty good show!  About 2/3 of the way throgh the race the bike start coughing and spitting a lot.  They could hear it on the tower.  Thinking some water got in the electronics I was hoping to just nurse it home.  The only problem was that it ran best when wide open so that's what I had to do.  That's when the weirdest thing happened.  2 bikes came past me and it turns out they were the leaders of the twins class (which started in the first wave, I started in the 2nd wave) and they were lapping me.  They lapped me so I only had to do a 7 lap race, not 8!  The bike couldn't die on the last lap because this was my last lap!  I don' think anyone has ever been happy being lapped until today.  Talk about making lemonade when the world gives you lemons!

Anyway, coming thought turn 1 dead last I had no idea of my finishing place in the race.  After a few minutes they posted the results and we found out I won my class!  I think it was also 3rd overall which means I did a lot of passing!  I really felt on top of the world, even if it was only a small club-racing world.  I've had a lot of lows while racing and sometimes forget how high the highs can bring you emotionally.  It is nice.

Anyway, no rest for the weary: I was also race 9 which means we had 10 min to swap out the tires for new rains that Scott had put on my spare rims.  It was a scrambling scene from the old days but with some new characters!  I had my brother, Uncle John, and cousin Johnny swapping rims and brake rotors while my mom and sister tore the tailsection off to dry and cover the electronics.  I'm really disappointed we didn't get a picture of this.  I guess they were all busy!  They were a great pit crew and as everything was tightened up we heard 3rd call. They finished just in time!  No worries, now just start the bike and I'm off.

Except I couldn't get the bike started.  It turns out that the battery on the external starter I use was a bit low and couldn't then the engine over.  It is one of those heat of the moment things that I could not think clearly and resolve the issue so missed the race.  I was not too bummed as this race was against all twins so was not something I would be competitive in anyway.

In the aftermath of thinking the engine was broke I found what caused the rough running in the main race.  Turns out the throttle body had popped off the rubber intake manifold and was bouncing around under the tank.  There is not much room for it to go anywhere but at part throttle the lower fuel injector was likely squirting into the airbox, not the intake port.  When I opened the throttle all the way the fueling switched to the shower injector which did point into the intake port.  Mystery solved and NO BROKEN ENGINE PARTS!!!!  Simply amazing.

After fixing that and zipping the rest of the bike back together we were ready for Sunday.  A dry Sunday, which is nice for the spectators, as I had another group come in, some friends with their kids, all of which had a great time.  They particularly like the stunt show.

Sunday's race was nice and sunny and almost hot.  A nice change from Saturday.
I had a similarly bad start and did start to pick a lot of riders off but couldn't pull off Saturday's result again.  I ended up 3rd place, not too bad, with the lead group in sight ahead of me.  All my race laps were faster than the previous so that is another positive to take away.

At the end of the day I was not sure how to feel.  I finished the races that counted, didn't crash and the bike still ran!  Was I still me?  A nice dinner with the Sunday pit crew was the perfect ending to the day:

Well, that was a great weekend.  Hopefully I'll be able to do another sometime soon.  Barber in Oct maybe?  Who knows....

Monday, August 5, 2013

The best flag ever

Is always the chekered one!  Had a ball this weekend at NJMP and will do a proper race report this week but now I need to pay some serious attention to some clients that have been neglected.


Monday, July 29, 2013

A needed distraction

I did mention this a few months ago but have not posted again being in fear of the universe getting too much of an advance notice of my plans and throwing a wrench in the works.

I'm making a long needed return to the racetrack this weekend at the AHRMA event at New Jersey Motorsports Park.  I'll be riding the Rotacular, something I have not done for almost 5 years.  I don't think I ever raced the bike (Todd Puckett was my rider) with the Ducati head and fuel injection so hopefully it will be a great weekend rolling on the throttle.  Of course there is a strong possibility that it will be a long weekend rebuilding the engine but what the hell.

If anyone is in the area it will be a great time with lots of really cool vintage machinery and a bunch of modern stuff thrown in for good measure.  And the Rotacular.

I've spent a few days looking the bike over from a chassis perspective and everything looks nice and solid.  After getting a couple of new batteries (one for the bike one for the starter) I attempted to start the engine.

SWEET!!!!  It started on the first try and sounds as mean as ever.  That's 560cc of cylinder firing every other revolution and putting out mid-70s Hp at the rear wheel.  Tomorrow or Wednesday I'll get the bike on Peter's dyno and do a few runs under load to make sure its ready for the track.

Racing happens on Saturday and Sunday from 12-5.  I will be racing in Sound of Singles 1 (my main class) and Sound of Thunder (the twins bump class) both days or until the fuse on my engine runs out.

I'm excited.  Very excited.  And a bit nervous.  And that's good.  Can't wait until the end of the week. Its been a long time since I've been woken up to the sounds of racebikes starting.

Wish me luck!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Revelling in cast steel parts.


There's something about getting a box of parts made using a technique that you cannot do in-house that is somewhat special.  I blast out billet parts all the time and sometimes barely pay attention to them where non-machinists are blown away.  Yet opening the box and getting these cast parts, which are much less accurate and have less bling factor than a nice billet part, was really exciting!  Maybe because it means that a rolling chassis is not too far away, maybe because it's just another cool motorcycle part, or maybe I just got up on the right side of bed today, but I'm happy.

We can see that there are an odd number of parts.  Apparently they had one investing failure during the process and that part didn't make it.  He's gone.  And there was nothing we could do.  This is normal for a first time running parts and since I was hoping to get 50% success actually getting over 80% is great.  My plan is to machine 2 sets and leave the rest as is in case there are modifications that are needed.

The shot below really shows the progression of the part from concept to production.
The leftmost shot is the swingarm area of previous designs.  There's a lot of thinking involved between steps 1 and 2!
The gold part this is where this piece goes in the overall scheme of things.

The parts have great surface finish and in the next few days I'll do some 3D scanning and 2D inspection to see where, if at all, the parts deviate from nominal.

That's all for today.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013


The Box came in.  The box cutter came out.  The phone rang.  That was the end of my bike time for the day.  Damn.  Will resume tomorrow with a detailed examination.