Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Last BSA & Bowen

You ever talk to someone and they say “Hey, I’ve got an old motorcycle in the garage.  It just sits there and I never ride.  Gee….I really should sell that thing”?  I hear that about once a month anymore.  If only I had the ambition to make more cash to purchase all of those garage bikes.  Well a few years ago a gentleman I’ve known for several years told me at a social event that he has a “little” bike that’s been in his garage since the mid 70’s.  We talked briefly about me coming down to look at it to see if I was interested.  A year goes by and he contacts me.  When I ask him what kind of bike it was he says “Oh….it’s a BSA….a B50 know a 500cc single four stroke”.  WHAT?  There’s been a B50 this close to me for how many years and I didn’t know about it. 

So I told him that my interest level was VERY high and asked when I could view this machine.  The following night worked for both of us……I could hardly sleep. 

Rode over after my daytime job and looked in the garage.  There it was a very nice example of a 1972 B50T.  Couldn’t believe my eyes.  We talked for a while and come to find out he’s the second owner and has had it in his garage since 1975.  He pointed out the 7,200 miles on the odometer was correct as the tires, chain and almost everything else was original to the bike.  When he purchased the bike from the original owner it had 6,200 miles on it.  Unbelievable in every imaginable way, this bike was pristine.  There was no rust or corrosion that I could see.  That aluminum BSA B50 tank with its polished sides just gleamed like a mirror pleading to figure out a way to afford to bring it home.  The owner explained that it would be tough to let it go, but he said that he would love to see me get the bike.  I had to ask “why me?”  He explained that he had seen so many old motorcycles get bought up, then cut up and then forgotten about because they became “projects” that were never finished.  He has seen a few of my old bikes and knows without me jumping on a soapbox that I don’t cut up old bikes.  If they are together and original, I leave them together and original because…..they are only original one time.  Anyone can pay someone to “restore” a bike, but not everyone can have or enjoy a bike as it was from the factory. 

He did explain that he never much cared for the rectangular Lucas tail light.  The rear fender was changed out to a Japanese rear fender to accommodate a round tail light, something he felt matched up better with the round headlight up front.  That was done in 1976.  He also took off the long seat and put on the B50MX (motocross) version, which I very much like as well. 

So we talked a little more that night standing in his garage and I told him that I felt the bike was almost too nice for me, it really looked like it belonged in a museum.  He made me promise to ride it a few times a year and with that promise the deal was done.  He made it affordable for me and I promised to never disclose the price I paid for it.  There’s a high level of respect I have for people who treasure old motorcycles enough to see past the money they are worth.  Those kinds of people see that to keep these old motorcycles around and riding down the road the worst thing they can do is put them in a high profile auction.  Make them affordable for the next generation so those bikes can be taken care of and loved for generations to come.  I’ve never really felt like I’m the owner of any of my bikes because I’m really just a caretaker.  Just a guy who collects stores and treasures them so people 50 years from now can see them on the road still.  It’s a history and respect thing I guess.

Back to the B50T.  It’s a 1972 B50T, made for only two years with production numbers not exceeding 2,700.  1972 was the last year for the B50T and the last year for BSA.  When I went to pick the bike up I asked if it would “let” me ride it home, he said that it shouldn’t be a problem.  When I arrived he had it sitting out in the center of the garage all ready to go.  We went over the starting procedure and other details.  All of which are something you’d never get from buying a bike at an auction.  Those details only come from someone who has owned the bike most of its life.

This B50T is a one kick bike most of the time.  It’s really a joy to ride and it brings a smile to my face every time I ride it.  Like several of my bikes I feel really fortunate that it’s in my possession.  Just thinking that this bike was “THE” short track and motocross bike of it’s era and guys like Dick Mann swore by it is just cool no matter how I look at it. 

So here’s the picture.  The gentleman standing with the bike is my favorite teacher from school, Mr. John Bowen.  He always said I was a quite kid that never stood out.  He never knew all those years how much those motorcycle, hot rod and gun magazines he had in his classroom influenced me.  He was the first teacher that I remember that had a sarcastic sense of humor, good taste in music and cool motorcycles.  I’m proud to say that we’ve been friends for many years and I thought of him when I saw the B50 for the first time.  

Monday, December 20, 2010

Saturday's Ice

Went out to check out the ice on's there, but the track isn't laid out the best......maybe next weekend.... Ho Ho Ho.

Here's a picture of Wiley warming up for that first ride:

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Can't Wait To Ride In The Spring When There's No Snow"......BS

It’s truly wintertime here in Wisconsin again.  With eight or so inches of snow on the ground and temperatures maintaining highs in the low teens and dipping down to minus ten at night, what is a guy to do?  More importantly what is a motorcycle guy to do when riding is not tolerable?  If you are lucky, your garage is heated and tinkering on those old bikes is pleasurable.  In my case the garage can be heated very easily, but I’ve got another option.  Three years ago I purchased a large, thick, dense rubber mat from the local farm supply store for my dining room.  On top of that mat sits a bottle jack type bike lift.  You guessed it, on that of that bike lift sits a motorcycle.  The bikes that I put on this lift are usually long term projects and very clean.  Sometimes they just start as a nicely done frame that will have all the components bolted onto it……yes in the dining room.  Never had much of a use for a dining room or even a kitchen table for that matter.  All a table would serve as is another surface for crap to accumulate on.  Even if I had a dining room table, it would probably be used as a final assembly area for carburetors and possibly engines/transmissions.  There are too many solvents and “harmful” chemicals involved with those operations, best just not to have a table in the dining room. 

There was a time when putting a motorcycle in the house was a novelty.  When negotiating the deal on my first Guzzi I was told that the bike was always kept inside the house during winter.  For a brief second I tried to convince myself that putting a motorcycle in a house was an alright thing to do.  Some people collect unicorns or Precious Moment figurines, I just happen to collect old motorcycles.  What’s the difference between a few old bikes in a house and wall full of Chinese made porcelain?  Not much besides the fact the bikes won’t be sold for twenty-five cents a piece in a garage sale in three years.  Here’s another point for all you who rent when the landlord comes knocking and tells you “no motorcycles in the house”.  Explain to him that there are no batteries in them and that all gasoline, including in the tank and carburetors is completely gone.  Then remind him that the refrigerator, dishwasher, washer and dryer all have a quantity of oil in them that could potentially leak at any given time.  Parking the bikes on some sort of mat that won’t allow the tires or kickstand/center stand to come in direct contact with the carpet is a good idea.  Also, take a cake pan and slide it under the engine/transmission just in case.  How many times have you seen a “no motorcycles in the rented unit” clause on a lease? 

Now that we have established that there are motorcycle activities that can be completed during the long, cold winters up here.  There’s another activity that some of us partake in……taking a perfectly good tire, screwing several hundred specially made studs into it and riding our bikes on the frozen lakes.  It was in Sweden in the 1920’s where some of the first records indicate motorcycles racing on the ice.  Then in 1970 the movie “On Any Sunday” had a clip or two of this sport as well. 

There are studded and non-studded classes, but really what’s the point of not running studs for better grip?  There are sanctioned races via clubs in different parts of the country, but most of us go out and ride without just riding around a few laps then calling it quits for the day.  The great thing about this type of riding, is that any bike literally can be used and can cost very little to start out.  There are even kids that ride with their little fifties on the ice and don’t think they won’t pass you if you don’t know what you’re doing, because they will.  Generally there are two different tracks made.  The first being a traditional flat track style oval that is any where’s from a 1/8 of a mile to ½ mile in diameter.  Then there are road racing style courses that can stretch several miles, they are a lot of fun on smaller 125cc-250cc machines.  Personal preference is the oval tracks; they are pretty wide and allow high speeds down the straightaways. 

My bike is nothing more than a near stock 77 Yamaha TT500 dirt bike with the stock sized rims front and rear.  There are folding pegs and a folding shift lever installed because you will go down.  No need to break up nice original vintage foot pegs and shifters.  There are no words that can explain the pure adrenalin rush of screaming down a straightaway in high gear, sitting up on the tank, downshifting, tossing out your left foot down on the ice and throttling that bike through the corner, then moving to the back of the seat to gain traction heading onto the next straightaway.  Nothing.  Just like in flat track racing, you use the throttle to help get your around that corner.  When you feel the back end start to slide out from underneath you, peg the throttle because only two things can happen.  The first being the tire grabs and pushes you around the corner and the second being the tire doesn’t grab.  If the later of the two happens, just let go and more than likely you’ll go sliding on your backside across the ice coming to a nice stop twenty five or so feet away from your bike. 

In ice racing it’s all about tires.  What tires you use, where you place each stud, how you “clock” those studs and how much tire pressure you run in them.  There’s no correct formula or combination.  Most recreational riders will give you tips on what works best for them.  Just remember, it’s all about the tires…”Tires is what wins the race”.  One thing I don’t suggest anyone trying is screwing sheet metal screws into the knobs of their tires to ride on.  They will grip so well that they will tear out of the knob and possibly hurt someone.  Look into purchasing or making a set of ice tires.  Oh, wear a snowmobile or street helmet and motocross boots or boots that cover the shins.  One more pointer when starting out is install some brush guards on your handlebars……broken levers aren’t much fun to deal with when it’s -10 outside.  Another word of warning is that ATV’s like to stud up their tires as well and ride on the ice.  Those things destroy ice FAST and make the ice pretty loose.  If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m not a huge advocate of ATV’s for anything more than checking on the cows. 

So, there’s the run down on what a lot of us do and how we do it in the bitter cold winters in these parts.   

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's a Cinderella Story

It hasn’t even been a full week since we’ve seen each other last.  Last Friday night was magical in a way that I can’t explain.  If there was an ounce of doubt last Friday that we wouldn’t be able to spend time together today, I would have kidnapped you and headed south.  Saying it’s been a tough week is an understatement. 

Driving home from work isn’t even the same and music from the radio doesn’t help any.  Once home, I find myself in a trance looking for something…..lost if you will.  It just seems that we should be together at night.  The past eight months that were together is what classic romance novels are based on. 

The fact that you’re considered an odd goose to some doesn’t bother me at all.  Your kind, yet stubborn personality is just as attractive as your looks.  Purpose built for loving, that’s the best way I can describe you.  Facts are you are only a few months older than I in physical age……how can one make an issue of that? 

Sure, there have been others and you can say the same.  Occasionally I need to remind myself why we both chose each other, and believe me it doesn’t take long.  Your simple, yet elegant features compare to no other I’ve been with.  When I decide to overlook you for a moment, you never complain.  You’ve never said “no” to me at any time.  When something goes amuck, we always get through it together.  Never have you just left me alone without a glimmer of hope that all will be fine.  Your charity work helping me bring good will to others is a plus; it shows you care about me and my family and friends.  Speaking of my family, my father smiles every time he sees you and my nephews all tell their friends how great you are.

Just hope that you can find it in your heart to stay with me forever.  Sure, we’ll have some tough times but we can get through anything together…..right?  There’s a good chance that you’ll out live me and really, why wouldn’t you?  Well, when I rub your side or hold you close just remember how much you mean to me.

Is what we have for each other love?  In it’s purist form.

So in closing, sit tight this winter and know that I will be thinking of you every day until we meet again.  I’ve provided a warm place for you with several friends that you can relate to all around you. 

You’re my Dirty Bird and I’d have it no other way.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Pressure, it’s everywhere in life. Pressure to “do the right thing”, pressure to stay within posted speed limits, pressure to pay your bills on time, pressure not to make a scene in public and tell someone to go fuck themselves, pressure in your bikes tires, the pressure your ass puts on the thirty-five year old foam in your bikes seat...causing a sore ass. It’s everywhere and to a certain point uncontrollable. So what relevance does this have to WT’s blog or motorcycles? Lots.

Being a single guy living in a two bedroom apartment with a one car garage will bring pressure. This year with people thinking the economy is running straight into Shit Hill; there have been so many people in over what they can afford. The apartment complex I live in has always had three or four empty unit’s year around, but since July they have all been full.

To worsen matters there wasn’t one single woman from the age 21-40 that moved in…….why do the forces of nature work against me? Not that I don’t like my neighbors, because I do. There’s not a whole lot of drama associated with them. No ex-boyfriends screaming and burning perfectly good tires into black rubber bits in front the house and I don’t have to listen to any loud, late night drunken booty calls. Plus when I come rolling in at 4 a.m. on a bike, they never complain.

So back to pressure.

When is enough, really enough? When does someone stop adding to their collection? I’ve yet to find this out because I’m still adding all the time. With the half a truck load of Guzzi stuff two months ago and the two truck loads of BSA twin stuff, the garage/laundry room/bathroom closet is full… capacity some might say. Yet, I still am finding bikes that I could afford that I would like to add to my collection. I’ve been trying to make, what seems to me as some very tough decisions lately. Do I sell some stuff to raise some cash for more, or do I selectively sell to focus more on one type of bike?

When I say “selectively sell”, that means do I sell the one Honda I have so focus can be applied to the ever growing BSA collection. Even more drastic, do I sell all the Japanese made bikes and focus on Guzzi’s and BSA’s? I don’t see the later scenerio happening anytime soon. Where is a role model or mentor when you need one?

So the pressure is what to do. If I keep adding, I will have to get rid of my couches and sit on a bike to watch “Swamp People” Sunday nights. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. So the only logical action in this scenario and what most everyone around me tells me to do and that is “BUY A HOUSE”! That’s great for all you people who collect wizard and unicorn statues, but I’ve got motorcycles……like eleven or twelve of them. No single family house will be any different than what I have now. If I’m going to go through all the work of purchasing a house, it will be suited for what I need it for.

The ideal situation for me would be a large 40 X 60 pole barn or building with living quarters. By living quarters I mean a silver bullet trailer located on one side of the pole barn with a bed and television inside of it. Then a kitchen and bathroom framed in near the trailer…..all of which in the building. No windows because it will save on heating and air conditioning costs, not to mention it will keep anyone from peering inside. I’d thought about doing the “green” thing and have in the floor heating as well via the whole geothermal system. Hell, if I’m doing the garage floor might as well do the first thirty or so feet of the driveway in front of it so I won’t have to shovel or use salt in the winter!!

A house is for a family of people, which I am not interested in. There’s a difference between a house and a home, I can make a home living in a silver bullet trailer inside a pole barn.

During my very short life and limited experiences, I have learned that the more stuff you have…..the more responsibilities you also have. So in collecting all this old motorcycle parts and bikes, I knew one day that there would be no more space to store it all. So this only adds to more pressure.

There was a time earlier this year, in the spring to be exact, that I found the perfect house……located directly behind me. Some poor souls got foreclosed on and it was going for cheap. As soon as I found out about it, I contacted a realtor who contacted a bank all within a day…..we will call this “Day 1”. The banker told me what financial documents I needed and they were delivered to the banker the next day….”Day 2”. On day three I called the banker and he wasn’t available, so I kept calling. Finally I was told he wouldn’t be able to help me for two more weeks because of his work load. Bullshit. At the price this place was going for it was probably already gone. So I wrote a nasty email to the realtor and the banker expressing my sincere desire to own this property and the unsatisfactory job they were doing thus far. The realtor at least emailed me back. The email was some “Billy bad ass” letter telling me how he’s going to get the job done at no expense. I was already tossing out the bullshit flag. On day four, the house had a contract on it and was gone.

I slipped into weird coma/funk for a few months and still have a very bad attitude about buying property to this day. Did I mention this place was a duplex (so one side could be rented out, pretty much paying the whole mortgage), had a two car garage under the house and had a massively sized shop already wired for welders, lathes and a mill. Not to mention it had a black top driveway and wasn’t a POS. Total bummer.

The way I look at it is, if I want a $50K car the banker can tell me within a few minutes “yes” or “no”. What’s so different about a house or property? It’s the same thing as buying a car, but without depreciation (for the most part)…..pretty safe bet right? A new motor home costs more than what I was asking to borrow. So I must have sounded pretty dumb and naive…..well in many ways I am. It’s my fault for not wanting to devote my time or energy in dealing with people who get paid to shuffle paper for a living. There’s not too much respect held by me for a banker or realtor……they are one step away from a lawyer. At least a lawyer keeps you out of the clink while padding their pockets.

So there’s a little bit of an extended rant about my “pressures” in life. Not much to most, but significant to me none the less.

Will try to update more often.

- WT

Friday, June 18, 2010

Frustration 101

It’s been over three years since I moved into my current residence.  A two bedroom apartment with a one car or seven motorcycle garage attached.  The garage has been my workshop for the past three years.  I’ve accumulated bikes and a ton of parts over this time period.  It’s a complete mess now.  There’s a truck load (actually the back of Bronson’s Trailblazer from the front seats to the back…..floor to roof) of Yamaha 500 thumper parts, the three frames hanging on the wall, cabinets that laying on the floor that need to be hung and a rolling cart stacked with everything.  There’s a great bench with a stainless steel top in the garage and of course it’s stacked with crap.  I’ve always had this dream of being able to set a rack of carbs on it and totally rebuild them in a clean, safe environment.  It hasn’t happened….at all and it’s really starting to piss me off. 

So what’s needed to organize the garage?  A sheet of plywood and some 2 X 4’s……that’s all.  What has stopped me from buying said wood?  It’s the fact that I can’t hop on a bike and go get it.  Jumping in the Blue Bomber on a warm, sunny day seems like a huge sin.  It’s not right no matter how you look at it.  My poor car just sits outside 365 days a year and only gets a few thousand miles on it…..most of those in the winter.  It should go to a good home, but my paranoia of someone buying it and “donking” it out freaks the fuck out of me.  Figured we were meant to be since I saved it from being crushed seven or eight years ago.   

So I’m going to collect all my super human focus tomorrow morning.  Drive down to the lumber supply shack and pick up a couple of 2 X 4’s and a sheet of plywood.  Get some shelves made and hang those cabinets.  Once that’s done, all those Yamaha thumper parts can be stored and the garage will start to take shape again. 

Hell, there’s not even a radio in my garage.  What a huge disappointment I must be to the founding fathers of motorcycle tinkerers.