Tag Archives: vintage motorcycles

Cretins Motorcycle Club

Picture 6When most people hear the term “Motorcycle Club” they instantly change the word club to “gang.” They picture bikers riding into town terrorizing the local folk, taking what they want and leaving the town in shambles. Ok, so I may have watched “The Wild Ones” a few too many times and I do record the “Sons of Anarchy” each season, but not all “clubs” fall into that stereotype, thank goodness.

A long time friend of mine belongs to a motorcycle club that is simply a group of guys and gals that love motorcycles and the motorcycle culture, more precisely the “Cafe Racer” culture. Welcome to the Cretins Motorcycle Club.

First, what is a Cretin? By Websters Dictionary definition you would think a Cretin is a stupid, childlike person full of pointless information that appeals only to other Cretins. If you dig a bit deeper into Cretinism, you find that it is medical term from 18th Century France that describes a condition of severely stunted physical and mental growth due to untreated congenital deficiency of thyroid hormones. This condition was often attributed to stagnant air in mountain valleys and bad water. Uh, does Pabst Blue Ribbon count as ‘bad water’? Probably.Picture 12

Second, The Cretins I know are not stupid nor childlike…well maybe a bit childlike (that’s when the fun begins isn’t it?) and yes, in this case we are full of useless information that only we care about…engines, chassis, cool bodywork, fun roads to ride…you get the picture.

The Cafe Racer culture was born in England post World War 2. Blokes would gather at a pub, have a pint and then race each other to another pub and have another pint. There are all sorts of stories about how cafe racers came about, but I’ll stick with this one for now. These were like minded riders just having fun on their motorbikes. And maybe they did terrorize a few motorists here and there. All in good fun…?

Now, the truth about the Cretins Motorcycle Club: These are people that simply love the Cafe Racer motorcycle culture. I had the opportunity to spend an evening with the Los Angeles chapter of the Cretins. This was not my first time with the Cretins. I met them back in 2010 when they hosted the LA Moto Film Fest, but this was the first time I rode with them on their weekly Thursday night ride / meeting. See the photo gallery here
Picture 11“It was a dark and stormy night” (really it was!)…Scott Fabbro, club president, and I had finished our interview for The Motoworld Podcast about his racing experience at the Isle of Man and headed to the first gathering spot, The Thirsty Crow pub on Sunset Blvd near downtown LA.Picture 35 When we arrived we just pulled up onto the sidewalk parked our bikes and waited for everyone else to arrive. In just a short period of time the sidewalk was lined with bikes. Scott’s classic GS750, a cool Honda CB400-4, First Lady Susan’s BMW Boxer Cup (signed by Randy Mamola!!), my old Honda Hawk and a variety of other bikes. The Cretins are an equal opportunity motorcycle club.Picture 31

After a pint (Pabst Blue Ribbon of course), it was back into the damp evening and off to the next stop. Now, it was a wet and rainy night but these guys and ladies didn’t let that slow them down. Picture this – a swarm of cafe racers riding in the wet like it was a warm sunny day at the beach. I felt like we were really keeping true to the “Rocker” culture in England.

Picture 33How about some pinball? That was our next stop…a very cool pinball arcade, ‘Pins and Needles’ in a recording studio somewhere near Downtown. At this point I was totally lost but I didn’t care. I was with the Cretins and having a great time. Some of us played some pinball, some just hung around outside and talked, and after about thirty minutes or so it was off to the club house.Picture 15

The Cretins Club House. When the Cretins show up it’s not quiet. You can’t have a meeting space in a nice residential neighborhood where Ozzie and Harriet are getting ready for bed now, can you? So, you pick a very cool building in an industrial area and make as much noise as you want. Picture 16

Inside the clubhouse is the requisite bar stocked with the required PBR (and some other better beverages…all drank responsibly, really). Inside there is all sorts of memorabilia from racing, rides, charitable events (the Cretins are very socially conscious), and good music.

When we got to the club house, members and friends of the Cretins who couldn’t make the earlier ride were showing up and the place came to life. Talk about bikes, rides, races, politics, family and friends was everywhere. The club really is a family of its own. Also along for the ride were two guys from Cycle World Magazine, photographer Jeff Allen and writer John L. Stein. It was very interesting that the Cretins were invaded by two journalist teams (The MotoWorld and Cycle World) at the same time and none of us even knew it was going to happen. But the Cretins welcomed us all with open arms…or was it handlebars? I didn’t get a chance to talk with John but I did get a chance to spend some time with Jeff (who will be a featured interview on The MotoWorld podcast in the near future) while watching him ply his trade as a pro moto/photo journalist.Picture 32

At around midnight it was finally time to head home. I had had a wonderful night with the motorcycle club. If all goes well this will not be my last ride with the Cretins.

Ride with your mates, share a pint or two, swap stories and carry on the tradition. For this group, this is motorcycling at its best. To know more about the Cretins click http://cretins-la.com/
Thank you Scott, thank you Cretins

Moto-Camping in High Style

Picture 34I’m a pretty minimalist kind of guy when it comes to motorcycle travel. I believe if you’re going ‘credit card camping’ Motel 6 is plenty fine…as long as there is a good restaurant and local dive bar within walking distance. A couple of clean T-shirts, skivvies, socks and rain gear…you’re good to go. I have been known to pass up the budget motel once or twice after a long day in the saddle for the sign that says ‘jacuzzi’ or ‘spa’ makes me turn in.

If you’re going real camping it does take a little more preparation and packing but still, pretty easy. A small tent, sleeping bag and pad, one little stove, a small cook kit, coffee pot and the world is yours. Buy your groceries on the road each day or stop at a local diner, there is nothing better than moto-camping.

Over the years and miles I have traveled with all kinds of moto-travelers; credit card campers, tent campers, sleep under the stars campers and a couple of times I have sat around the campfire with those towing a camping trailer behind their bike. I love everybody that travels on a motorcycle, there is really no better way to see this country. But…a trailer? I’m not quite sure I get it –

Now, towing a trailer behind a motorcycle is nothing new, look at this Rudge Motorcycle ad from over 100 years ago.
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While the men are out catching dinner, the women are setting up camp. Back then there was a saying…”Mens work is hunting, fishing and making love. Womens work, everything else…!???
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Over the years moto-camping has evolved almost to the point of why not just buy a Winnebago? I may get some flack for that thought but…Picture 24

I have to admit that over the past few years my traveling style has evolved as well. I started on a Honda 350 with an Army / Navy surplus sleeping bag strapped to the back of the bike and a Boy Scout Yucca pack on my back. Rain Gear? What rain gear? Then came a tank bag. Next was a set of soft saddlebags…I could tell I was on a slippery slope.

The day came that I bought a bike that came with hard saddlebags, I was almost embarrassed to seen with them. Was I really getting that old and soft? And then I found the true benefit of hard saddlebags…I love modern technology.Picture 35

Happy camping everyone, no matter what your style. Oh and by the way, the guy at the top is not me, that is my long time traveling partner Jeff…he is much better looking than me and has a much better sense of style.

First dates

I like motorcycles, she likes boats. The first time I asked my now wife on a date it was to go look at all the Christmas decorations around town. The fun part of all of this was that I was going to take her in a motorcycle side car. Now think about it, how many first dates are in a side car…I was hoping this might score me a few extra points for being creative. Well, I was flatly turned down. Apparently creativity goes just so far.

A month later,and several other attempts (also rejected), I came up with the perfect solution and it worked!!! However, her best friend did come along as a chaperone.Picture 26

Girls are just as fast…

At about 15 or 16 years old my daughter decided she wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. I was roadracing at the time and she had come out the track a few times but somehow the ‘bug’ never got her. Until, she met a boy who rode motorcycles. Great? Well, at least it was better than falling for a surfer or football player…maybe?

“Dad, teach me to ride!!!” I was one happy guy. My daughter had gotten ‘the bug’. The good thing was we had a little Honda ‘Step Thru’ (a 1959 Honda Super Cub) in the garage that was a perfect basic trainer. Ok, that training session lasted about 15 minutes…”Dad, can I ride ‘The Mighty 350?”Picture 30

Now this is one of my prized motorcycles…it’s not a museum piece, it’s just a bike I have had forever and have ridden everywhere. In a weak moment I agreed to teach her to ride on ‘The Mighty 350’. By the way, ‘The Mighty 350’ is a 1972 Honda CB350 with a sh#t load of miles on it. Again after about 15 minutes, my daughter was off into the sunset. She returned an hour or so later with a great big grin on her face.

Leah moved her way up onto her brothers Honda HawkGT but as she has told me many times, it was that little Honda Super Cub that really gave her the biggest fun.

The boy she had met was also a roadracer. While out at the race track on weekend, she and her friends decided to take on the boys to see who was fastest. The boys were quite surprised.Picture 31

It’s all about preparation

We all do our very best to prepare for an event, whether it’s a race or a long trip, we get things ready. Holidays are no different.

Usually on Christmas we have a house full of family and friends, most of them motorcycle people. The stories are flying and the more beer we have the stories fly even higher but that is part of what makes the day special. We watch classic races (World Superbike Imola 2000, Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards…the best race to watch over and over), ‘On Any Sunday’ and whatever movie somebody brings…last year we watched Big Faus and Little Halsey (or is it Big Halsey and Little Faus??? Does it matter?).

This year everyone was here and it was time to put the turkey in the BBQ (in Southern California that is the preferred method…) Instead of putting stuffing in the turkey we put some garlic into a can of good beer, put the turkey over the can and cook. It always comes out great…except this time. The turkey decided that this year the beer was going to be administered a bit differently.
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We ended up ordering pizza. Happy Holidays to all and a very Happy New Year. Now sit down and start planning your first big trip of the year. I am.
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Can’t leave your best friend behind, can you?

Picture 23Moto-Camping has been a way of life for me since I was a teenager…it was always a good way to escape suburban family life. Moto-Camping tested your planning skills (having been a Boy Scout preparation was pretty easy), adaptability skills (you never what the weather will throw at you), packing skills (motorcycle luggage at the time consisted of a small duffel bag strapped to the seat and an old Boy Scout Yucca pack) and map reading abilities (where does this road go???). At times, it also tested your mechanical skills, especially when riding a mid 1960’s Triumph. It was also important to know how to Bullsh*t your boss when you wanted an extra day or two on the road.

The thing about Moto-Camping is that it boils everything down to what is absolutely the bare essentials you need to have a good trip. You spend years and lots of money acquiring just the right gear and as soon as you think have your ‘kit’ just right, you meet another Moto-Camper on the road that has something newer, better and tricker than you. More money going out when you get home.

Over the years I have camped solo, with just a friend or two and done some good sized rallys, I like ’em all. I’ve ridden bikes as small as a Honda CB350 all the way up to my newest ride, a Buell Ulysses, and everything in between. The main thing that has changed for me is that now I travel two up ninety percent of the time. It’s true, I finally found a woman who likes Moto-Camping as much as I do!Picture 22

Moto-Camping two-up requires a whole new strategy when it comes to prep and packing. Suspension has to be set much different, general ergonomics have to be adjusted and sometimes even a new motorcycle. It’s all worth it. Another thing you have to think about when Moto-Camping, or any kind of vacation for that matter, is what to do with your pet. You can take them to a kennel (too much $$$), you could beg and plead with a family member to take Fido or Fluffy for a few days…the odds of them agreeing to that are a bit slim, or you can simply ask a neighbor to come over and feed Muffy or Spot, (again, a tough favor to ask…).

Picture 26 We love our dog, he’s a good traveler in the car and we would like to take him out into the world more. We have never really all that fond of car camping, it’s too easy. Two Martini’s later however we started talking about getting a small travel trailer (talk about being too easy!) take the dog, the grandkids and see the USA in style and luxury.

The next morning we were back to our senses. We decided that Moto-Camping is still the way to go for us but…we know that our dog would love it too. So, with a little research I found a way to take Boscoe along. It’s perfect.
mc dog carrier

Old vs. New Technology…

…and does it make riding more fun?

I recently bought a motorcycle that was actually made in ‘this’ century. Now, I have been riding ‘Vintage’ motorcycles even before they were ‘Vintage’ so getting a bike without carburetors was really weird…”You mean I have to hook up a laptop computer to my bikes computer brain to make it run right?”…Geez, I still have a dial phone in my house!!

Picture 19So, despite all my fears and worries about having a modern motorcycle (and knowing that I am going to be excommunicated from my friends at ‘The Church of Vintage Motorcycles’) I buy the bike, a Buell Ulysses. It’s got fuel injection, all kinds of luggage, adjustable windscreen, an extra front wheel, another seat and then on top of all that…GPS. I don’t know how to work a GPS thing, hell, I can’t even spell GPS.

Picture 18I have always used good old AAA maps, my own internal compass, the help of locals and other riders to find my way. The learning curve with a GPS system can be a bit steep for guys like me so I decided that small steps would be better. I’ll still use maps but I also found another tool that make the transition to the new millenium a lot easier.
etch a sketch GPS

The two for one deal

…gone South.

Those of us that are afflicted with ‘VBD‘ (get your mind out of the gutter, it is not a sexually transmitted disease…it’s Vintage Bike Disease) seem to have a hard time resisting finding a way to sneak some weird, obscure, oddball motorcycle into our garage without our spouses noticing. I have tried it a couple of times and trust me, it never works. I don’t care how many sheets or blankets you try to hide it with, she knows.

Oh sure, she may pretend that it’s not there, but when the time comes that she wants something, like a new sofa or airplane tickets for her mother to come visit for a month, she’s going to pull the cover off that 1960 something Triumph basket case, smile at you, then go book the flight and order the new sofa. You my friend have been outwitted yet again. When are we ever going to learn?

Everyday, I spend my early mornings scouring ebay, craigslist and countless other sites looking for parts for my projects, parts for friends projects, bikes for friends, and bikes I would like to have. It’s much more entertaining than watching the local news. Every now and then I come across a motorcycle that I really would like to add to my small collection. I show it to my very understanding and tolerant wife, she smiles and says “sure, go ahead and get it, but you have to sell two of the bikes you already have first” and then walks out of the room. Practicality has never been the strong suit of anybody afflicted with ‘VBD‘.

Picture 17A few days ago I found a bike that a good friend of mine (who happens to be the type that will buy a bike on a whim and then six months and two thousand dollars later, on top of the price of the bike, will ask “why did I do that?”) that he has lusted after for the past forty years. I sent him the link and the next thing I know he is bidding on ebay for the bike. I quickly sent him an email asking what he was selling in order to buy this bike? “Nothing” he says, “I’ll just buy it with money I have tucked away, stick in the corner of my shop and then pull it out in about six months”. I told him that his plan never works but he was sure it would…this time.

The very next thing I get in my inbox is this picture along with this message, “if my husband buys this bike you will be responsible for this happening to him”.new bike price

I’m guessing that he forgot the two for one rule, that and his mother in law is coming for a visit.

It’s been a long time coming

David Crosby was right, Its been a long time coming. I have been away from this much too long. Every now and then you have to join the working class. There are plenty of reasons…financial, geographic relocation (you got married and your wife has a better job than you), whatever the reason, it happens. And, as it happens, I have spent the past year or so amongst the working class and less with the journalistic class. A much higher class I might add. So, this morning while awake way too early (it’s 4:30 am) here at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah for the World Superbike races , I started thinking about the interviews I want to conduct, the writing I want to do and the people to see that I only get to see once a year. Then I started thinking about the things you miss when your heart and brain is a journalist, but you step away from it, even for just a little while.
I miss the general involvement in motorcycling. I have been working so much that finding time to take good long rides has been next to impossible. This point was just recently brought up to me by two friends, one who asked me about planning a trip in the next month or so, and a friend that stopped by to visit here at the track. The second friend, Greg, is on a two week trip on his Kawasaki Concours stopping at the races, and then heading off to Montana for some fly fishing, but mostly just riding.
I have spent a long time talking with people in all aspects of motorcycling. Interviews with racers, travelers, journalists, TV personalities and one guy living the crazy life of a motorcycle courier. I’ve talked with tech people, custom bike designers and stunt riders. Everybody has a good motorcycling story to tell and I like telling their stories. So, I realized on this trip up here to Utah that the thing I miss most about taking this time away from writing and storytelling is the motorcycling community. I miss the e-mails telling me about a great trip, the best restaurant in Sonora, or a really fun day ride. The woes and joys of restoring an old piece of junk motorcycle and that the only reason they are doing it is because their dad had one just like it. The racer who is having a great season and the one who is struggling to just to make it to the next race. It’s all wonderful.
I will continue to be a working stiff (gotta maintain my retirement planning…) but, I’m going to get back in the saddle again, make the time for trips and passing along stories. This is what I love to do.

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…