Tag Archives: endurance racing

As if I don’t have enough…

…projects. I look around my barn nowadays and all I see are projects. Not just the simple “I’d better get this place organized someday” project, but real projects. The ones like, finish rebuilding the front forks and rear brake on my Triumph, the head gasket on The Mighty 350, put the parts back on my sons CB350 that I pirated to make my 350 run, paint the fairing on the BMW, start my SL Cafe bike build and put a new mandrel on my lawn tractor. Not to mention the brakes on my 1963 Fairlane sitting out front up on jack stands…my wife loves that??!

Oh sure, there are little projects too…like; organize the recycling, clean all the garden tools, put all my extra tools in the other tool box, put my wife’s tools back in her tool box and get rid of yard and shop chemicals that went bad 20 years ago. Small things, all of them really, but when I see the big projects…my ‘A.D.D’ kicks in. I start putting old tools away and then I get to wondering what bike this one tool will fit that maybe I don’t have in my regular tool box? So, I go around to all the motorcycles looking for what this particular odd looking spanner fits. The next thing you know, I’ve put down that tool, picked up the one lying next to the spare 350 engine on the work bench…two hours have gone by and I’m being called in for supper?!. A few weeks later I will remember that the tool I started carrying around fits the chrome muffler bearings in the Fairlane.

So, while I’m standing in the open barn door looking in, I wonder which of my friends I could call to come over and help me with getting this place workable. The type of friends I have are cheap labor. …some free beer, maybe a bucket of fried chicken…I took lessons from Tom Sawyer. Then I got to thinking, always a bad thing in my case…Jeff’s shop is worse than mine, Eric’s is full of too many misguided car projects and a couple of old race bikes stashed away somewhere, Jay’s shop…well, he’s a professional, so occasionally you can see the floor between all the Alfa parts and Suzuki RGV bits, and then there’s Ken’s…well, if you could slide a Honda Trail 50 in there, I would be surprised. Not a group of good organizers in that lot. I need someone to help that knows about a neat and tidy work shop, the type of shop that you could eat off the floor…Craig! Craig is even cheaper to hire than the other guys! A simple sandwich and a sixer of Coors Light, we’re working…but, he’s got too many projects of his own. Craig’s out, looks like I’m on my own.

So, back to the original problem, I have too many projects and, another one just landed in my driveway. A 1970’s something Benelli 250 2C. Great. This is a gift (?) from my friend David. He has had this bike hanging around his house for probably 20 years, outside.It was years ago he told me he had this old bike (didn’t know what it was… he never could remember the name Benelli) in great condition just hanging about and wondered if I wanted it. Sure, I said.

Twenty some years later it finally shows up. So what do I do with it? it’s a very cool little old bike, it doesn’t qualify for the MotoGiro but will still be a great ride around the local canyons. Do I do the full restoration? Make it new again? Knowing myself and my banker…probably not. How about just get it running, put on some new tires, make sure the brakes work, duct tape the seat together and, maybe clean the rust out of the gas tank. I think I’m going to need a repair manual. My new ‘gift’ has only 620 miles on the clock, the tires look new (old, but original), there are a few parts missing (nothing important…one side cover badge and the compression release cable…who needs a compression release on a 2 cylinder 250cc 2 stroke??…maybe I need to hold off on that judgement until I try to start it…!!), all in all not a bad ‘gift’.

Now, as some of you may know, I love Cafe Racers…and this little Benelli is a perfect candidate or maybe a vintage road racer. The more I look at this motorcycle, the more I’m intrigued by what it is and what it can be. It does have a reputation as a good handling motorcycle, it is fast for it’s size, and it is unique..it’s not something you will see every Sunday on your local twisty road.
I can see it now, a hot rod little two stroke hustling up Decker Canyon leaving Ducati 1098’s in a cloud of two-stroke smoke…until the road straightens out, and then well, arevaerdecci…
Pull into the Rock Store, find a place to park, casually pull off my helmet and walk away from my little Benelli. Before I can get a cup of tea, there are at least four guys standing around my little 250…”you ever seen one of these?”, “nope”, “I heard these were a piece of junk”… etc,etc,etc,…I’m very sure that there won’t be another Benelli in that parking lot on that Sunday and to have my ‘piece of junk’ gather a small crowd…well worth the price of admission.

Here’s what I have to start with…should I go for the full resto? should I just get it running? I’ll go with your vote…


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The Ride In Movies

The last Motoworld blog post was all about getting friends together to watch the season opener MotoGP, do some bench racing, eat, drink and plan our spring road trip. While everyone was arriving with pots and plates of food, boxes of beers and good munchies we had a great motorcycle movie on in the background. The movie going was ‘Riding Solo To The Top Of The World’ by my friend Gaurav Jani from India. Riding Solo is a wonderful travelogue that I believe every traveling motorcyclist should watch, it really put’s ‘Long Way Around’ to shame.While waiting for racing to start, enjoying all the good food and visiting with friends, more and more friends became captivated by the movie to the point of ” hey, record the race, let’s watch the movie, then the race”. After watching the races, we finished the movie. After the movie was over and everybody headed home a new idea was hatched…a way to get motorcycling friends together, and another good reason to consume mass quantities of food and beer, wait, who ‘needs‘ a reason for the last two?

Most readers of this blog are probably old enough to remember Drive-In’s and most of us who did go to Drive-In’s can’t remember the movie we ‘watched’…because the windows were too steamed up. The Drive-In in my town was $5.00 a carload… including Steve and Artie in the trunk along with a couple of six packs. So I got to thinking, with Drive-Ins extinct how can we motorcyclists recreate that wonderful piece of Americana, but on motorcycles? Welcome to the Ride-In Theater.

Here are the rules, you have to ride your motorcycle, no cars. Admission is cold refreshing beverages and your company. The Fillmore Ride-In Theater has popcorn, hot dogs and lawn chairs. But now, what to show? I went through my collection of motorcycle movies and came up with a selection that I’m sure will please everyone. We can’t show all of these on one evening so it gives us a nice summertime of motorcycling entertainment.

We start the Ride-In season with the best of all time motorcycle movie, ‘On Any Sunday’. If this movie doesn’t stir your soul, you should trade in your motorcycle for a minivan and call it quits. Next would be Peter Starr’s ‘Take it to the Limit’, truly the greatest motorcycle racing movie made. From Trials riding to Roadracing to Drag Racing, Desert racing and MotoCross, this movie is nothing but pure excitement and a great Saturday night Ride-In movie date.

About mid July, we bring out ‘The Worlds Fastest Indian’. A great feel good movie about a real legend in Land Speed Record Racing. Having been to Bonneville with a race team, ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ brings back a lot of good memories and feelings. You have to watch this movie every once and awhile…just because.

August brings to the big screen…actually my barn door…Robert Redford and Michael J.Pollard, also known as ‘Little Fauss and Big Halsy’. There’s just something about this movie that just plain works. You’ve got Robert Redford at his hunkiest, Michael J. Pollard at his quirkiest, throw in some good racing…you can’t go wrong on a warm summer evening at the Ride-in. Oh, and Lauren Hutton doesn’t hurt the movie either.

Labor Day weekend we wind up The Ride-In Theater season with ‘Faster’. A good look at the inside of MotoGP racing. Excellent racing footage along with some great behind the scenes filming, interviews and commentary. Just in time for the end of the MotoGP season.

So, come on all you motorcycle movie fans out there, drive-in ‘s may be extinct, but Ride-In’s are alive and well. Oh and by the way, that little screen in the picture above isn’t what we’ll be using, I just couldn’t find a big ‘ol white sheet to cover the whole door for the photo, but I promise I’ll find one before Ride-In Theater season starts, but you get the idea anyway.

Steaming up the windscreen on my BMW could be a bit challenging but a lot of fun. I think I smell popcorn…see you at the movies.

Going fast at night

Opening Day. In Baseball it’s in April, my brother and I alternate between Angel Stadium and Dodger Stadium each year. We don’t care where we sit, we don’t care who wins…well, we care a little bit…we simply enjoy being there for opening day, it’s an event that is bigger than the game. In motorcycle racing it’s Daytona. Opening Day for those of the two wheel persuasion. Last year was my first trip to Daytona. Two weeks of working with racers and race teams. It truly is a scene much bigger than the event itself. Vintage races, endurance races, high dollar factory teams and lowly privateers just happy to be there.

“Headlights??…we don’t need no stinking headlights!!”

The big event is the Daytona 200. 200 miles on the legendary banking of Daytona Motor Speedway.. The only AMA ‘ endurance race’ on the calendar. This year, the new owners of the racing series have thrown a new twist to the classic race..let’s run it at…Night??!! Light up the track and send the racers out, hey it worked for MotoGP last year in Quatar, why not in Florida??!! Good thinking boys. Move Supercross to the daytime, they get more spectators than the roadrace does, and put the 200 on in the evening. It’s better TV because it’s different. I like it. The MotoGP pilots and the AMA riders are racing on well lit tracks..they won’t be running headlights. At the Dunlop tire testing sessions last month the racers all went out at night and liked it. They liked the difference. I talked with a couple of different racers and after getting past the initial weirdness, the common comment was ‘fun’. But, let’s say you are racing the Bridgestone / WERA Endurance series and a couple of the races take you into the night. Not all tracks are  lit up…most aren’t. Now what to do. You my friend need lights, and good ones at that. Turn 8 at Willow Springs comes up really fast… really, really fast, and I’m sure you have a turn at your track that does too. You have logged many miles on that track and you know exactly where your braking markers are, your turn in points and when to get back on the gas…but,it changes at night. Racing at night requires adjusting your motorcycle and yourself.

Preparing for the WERA 24 hour race at Willow Springs a few years ago, my team and I started working on ourselves before working on the bike. We are blessed with a having one of the best canyon roads in California in our backyard, we ride it regularly and know it as well as we know Willow Springs.

“ I wear my sunglasses at night”

…a cheesy crappy song at best , but…great training for racing at night. My friend Pete Christiansen, one of WSMC’s finest, and I started riding HWY33 at night with sunglasses on, no kidding. Scary at first but when you start letting everything flow...”Luke..use The Force..” it all works. We got to the point that we could ride the canyon at about 90% of our normal pace. But, let’s add in the mechanicals to keep things in balance. Better bulbs , brighter bulbs..” hey there’s my turn in point”…make all the difference in the world. But setting up your race bike for them can be a bit of a challenge. Your race bodywork isn’t designed for headlights..do you go back to the stock front fairing and all it’s additional weight? Cut holes in your high zoot Airtech fairing? mount lights off to the sides? Decision, decisions… Our team opted for remounting the stock front fairing and the bracketing to have lights in in  the easiest manner. We didn’t worry so much about the weight..this was a 24 hour race..longevity was more important than sprint speed. After the first test at night, we figured we wanted more light. We had already put big watt bulbs in the stock lights, PIAA driving lights were next on the shopping list. Easy mounting and wiring and WOW…I can see all the way to Arizona!!! But… …Not for very long. Here’s the one thing we forgot about and you shouldn’t…the bikes charging system. How much juice does your bike put out?? Will it power the bike and a lot of lights?? In our case..not quite enough. Here is where a really good story comes into this bunch of drivel…

My good friend, Evans Brasfield (www.evansbrasfield.com), magazine writer, photographer and roadracer along with his team were riding a Kawasaki EX500 in the WERA 24 hour race at Willow Springs …brave men. Yeah, they blew up a couple of motors over the course of a day, but they had the coolest lighting system of anybody. We all know what a Kawasaki EX500 is, 500CC twin cylinder little hot rod (now the Ninja 500) , basic bike with minimal bodywork. You got your headlight in the fairing but it’s kinda weak at best. So, what do you you do to race this little speedster at night?…BIG ASS driving lights mounted like Mickey Mouse ears on the front fairing. Uh, Ok…but if a 600CC four cylinder machine has trouble powering a couple small additional driving lights, how’s this little twin going to run two really big driving lights. Sheer genius, or brain damage…a flourescent light fixture ballast mounted in the fairing. How it actually works I have no idea and I don’t care but it was really neat. But wait…there’s more and you have to use your imagination for this part. These big ‘ol, they belong on a Baja truck, lights are not aimed straight ahead, oh no…they are pointed outward at about forty five degrees…looked really weird going down the straightaway but when you tip the bike into a turn, wow!! the driving lights REALLY lit up the turn. Cool. You could see a long way through the turn. Thank you Evans. Our Yamaha was quite a bit faster but every now and then in the middle of the night I would catch up with Evans and crew then follow them through a couple of turns just to give my eyes a rest. These guys really did have a cool set up. Crappy motors, but cool lights. So, this years Daytona will be run ‘under the lights’ not ‘with lights’. But if you are going to race at night, make sure your electrical system is up to the task. Oh, and more thing. Once you get used to racing at night, you will be amazed at how fast you can go. Average lap times at night were less than two seconds off daytime lap times, in a couple of cases night speeds were even faster. I think those guys were vampires…yeah Pete, I’m talkin’ about you…

What generation gap?

I’ll start this post with an apology. There will, in about eight months, be another Nielsen to terrorize the motorcycling world. I’m sorry.  The other day my son Kelly informed me that I was going to be a Grandfather. This can’t be true I said to myself, I’m not that old!!?? A quick look in the mirror and guess what…I am that old. Damn.

I started riding at the ripe old age of fourteen, I rode my fathers Honda CB160 right into the back of his ’66 Impala. Being the good dad, he first asked if I was OK, I said yeah…but as he was asking the question he was checking out the motorcycle. I don’t believe that he even heard my answer. That’s OK too. From that time on I loved motorcycles. It was my stepfather that truly injected the sickness to me. I can’t thank both of them enough.

My son Kelly was about two years old when I first put him on a motorcycle. Trail riding in the Kennedy Meadows area of the southern Sierra’s. Outfitted him with helmet, goggles…(do you know how hard it is to find goggles, much less a helmet to fit a two year old??!!), gloves and whatever I could find for protection. Here we are on my trusty Husqvarna 250 getting ready for a fun ride through the mountains. Over the years I would take Kelly to school on a motorcycle, go to the Speedway races in Costa Mesa on a bike, all over the place and all on a motorcycle. But for some reason the sickness never infected him. Where did I go wrong??

Fast forward a few years. Kelly graduates from high school and we send him off to Europe for three months or so. It’s amazing what you’ll do to get your kid out of the house! Downside…he came back. Upside…he came back and wanted to ride?! Cool. He had rented a small motorbike in Greece and got hooked. He told me that he never understood my obsession until then. We spent Christmas day riding around the hills of our town just having a blast. He on our little trusty CB350 and me on..I don’t remember.  Put the boy in the local MSF course, got his license, made him spend six months riding the little 350 and then got him his own bike,  a Honda Hawk GT. He still has it.

Another short ‘fast forward’ here, my father who got me started, wanted to ride again..great. But..he hadn’t ridden a motorcycle since the days of the Honda 160.  Search the classifieds and back yards and found my dad a ’71 CB350, the perfect starter bike…it seems I have a thing for the Honda 350’s…it’s a weird sickness don’t ask, I don’t know why. Anyway, same thing for dad, MSF course and time on a little bike.  Next up, a Honda GL500 Silver Wing..neat little bike and a good traveler. Dad and I ride the SCMA 3 Flags Classic, Mexico to Canada in 3 1/2 days, together a couple of times and some other good trips. Dad was in his 60’s at the time and just as enthused as a kid, it was great.

At the same time as all this was going on, I was roadracing out at Willow Springs here in Southern California, AFM in Northern California and doing the western AHRMA races. dadwsmc1 My dad became the crew chief of our team and was having the time of his life. But…something was missing, Kelly. For some reason racing didn’t appeal to him..wuss.

paul-and-kellyI don’t know what happened but one day my son decided that racing might be fun…duh… So we bought another Honda Ascot to go singles racing and get him started. After a few races on that evil thing (“that bike is trying to kill me”) we actually got a proper race bike,  a Yamaha YZF600. Set it up and off he went. The highlight of this time was the WERA 24Hour Endurance race at Willow Springs. The whole family, my daughter as a scorer, my son and myself as racers and of course my dad as crew chief. So, like I have said before, when the family rides together, there is no generation gap.

My son and daughter still ride and my dad rode his Gold Wing (he finally stepped up to the BIG leagues) until he passed away. Oh, and one other little note here, in the 24 hour race, my son Kelly was the youngest racer and I was the oldest. We finished 3rd in middleweight supersport. Not bad for a kid and a geezer