Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Methven Street Races: the buckets...

I've been thinking a lot about this since Saturday. These are what they call 'bucket racers'. Apparently the term comes from the idea that the bikes are put together from a 'bucket of old bolts'. These bikes are limited to 150cc for four strokes and 100cc for two strokes. The reason I can't stop thinking about them is because I think I wanna get one and try some racing!? I've been looking on Trademe already. I'm pretty into it. Seems like a cheap easy way to have a shit load of fun. And I'm assuming cause they ain't so fast I'm less likely to kill myself? Aaron Beehre already has one of these, but I don't think I'll manage to talk him into racing it. Anyone else keen?

Methven Street Races: the racing...

Methven Street Races: the pits...

Went to the street racing in Methven on Saturday. Was pretty cool, as there were a lot more classics there than I'd thought there would be. Also it was supposed to rain and it didn't! Weather was perfect and I was kicking myself for not riding out there. Got a ride with Moody in his 68 Valiant though, so that was pretty cool. Anyway photographed a bunch of bikes etc...

This (above) is old man Ormsby and his Triumph Bonnie. Man this guy rode hard! And gotta love those old school leathers. Also there seems to be something about racing old motorcycles and having a decent sorta beard going...

This (below) was the only Commando there. Came third I think, but sounded amazing!

Someone left this Triumph Trident leaning against a wall with the keys in it! Bait?

And there were a bunch of restored bikes on show...

Cruising the pits is always one of my favorite things about motorcycle racing. Have been to Ruapuna a couple of times since back in Christchurch and they don't let you do this there, so this was really cool to get up-close-and-personal with the bikes and riders. Was amazing to see how old some of these buggers are too! You would never guess their age when you see them racing, they all ride like irresponsible teenage boys with no fear whatsoever of DEATH. Fucking brilliant. There might be a chance for me yet!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Norton: recent developments...

I've been round at John's a couple more times since my last post about this. Initially (about 3 weeks ago) we put the gearbox back together. We replaced a couple of slightly corroded gears, but apart from that we didn't change much, so I'm really hoping we might have corrected whatever was causing the kickstart to pull down. There was the o ring I mentioned in the earlier post here, that was on the primary side. That could be it? Anyway John seems happy with how the gearbox went back together. Here it is with all the gears back in...

We had some trouble with the gear order, and with the set up and placement of the selector forks, but it was quite good for me to see how John dealt with problems, and to realise that even someone with a lot of experience runs into problems! The other plus here, was that because we took it all in and out a few times, I really got my head around how the gearbox works, and how it is set up, etc. The way gears are selected was really interesting in terms of the engineering. The cam plate in particular really amazed me. Genius!

Anyway, because that took a while I took off later that day and we left the primary side til next weekend.

The primary contains the clutch basket, which I've pulled apart and fucked with a few times. One thing I've always wanted to do with the clutch since I put the flat handlebars on the bike was to shorten the clutch cable. I'd put it off for ages, and the clutch has been so heavy I get a really sore hand on even the shortest ride. So... john showed me how to shorten a clutch cable. Important knowledge for anyone wanting to make cafe racers!

Need a good solid soldering iron first! Then cut the cable and melt out the previous solder from the ball end on the cable.

We next cut the cable to the right length, put it into the vice, and put the end back onto the cable... with the end of the cable sitting only slightly out from the end, like this:

John then used a punch to splay out the wire in the cable...

Then solder is dropped back into the hole on the end. Quite a bit is used as you should see it coming out the bottom of the hole on the cable end. There's then a bit work filing off the extra solder and getting the thing nice and round again, but yeah that's basically that.

Things didn't go so smooth form there unfortunately...

We had real trouble with the alternator not fitting back on properly. We couldn't get the correct clearance around the rotor, and then realised that the stator (aftermarket) was not actually sitting properly on the mount on the inner primary case. We fucked around with this for AGES! And eventually left it for the day. I've heard from John since that he's filed down the mount on the inner chain case, and has mounted the alternator successfully. He's had the bike running again, but thinks the timing is still a little out, and also wants to tune the carb properly. We'll be into it again this coming Saturday...

And hopefully I'll be riding away on the bloody thing?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I have wanted to make a flexidisc for ages. Flexidiscs were popular when I was young. I used to get this guitar player magazine and in each issue you'd get one of these — it's just like a record only flexi! The video above is here because I was looking to see if I could find a video that actually showed how they were made... and then I found this guy, Heavy Metal Cripple, and I just thought he was too good. If you watch it until about a minute and a half you'll see him wave some flexidiscs around. He fits in here too because he talks about playing his grandfather Napalm Death, and Paul Elliman, whom I've been talking to about doing something on this potential flexidisc, was transcribing some 'lyrics' to a Napalm Death song when I saw him recently.

The idea to do a flexidisc has come up mainly because I asked Dylan Herkes to do a motorcycle rock and roll column for Head Full of Snakes, and I started to think maybe we could put some songs that he talks about on such a disc. Anyway then Paul Elliman came to stay and I got talking to him about this idea to make the publication and to maybe have a flexidisc, and he was really keen to do something for that. Sooooo...

I have discovered that The Vinyl Factory in Sydney can make flexidiscs. Only issue is you have to make a minimum of 1000 copies, and the cost is between $1100 and $1400 depending on whether you do just one side or two. I'm pretty keen now, although this does go somewhat against the idea to produce this thing as cheaply as possible (if not completely free).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Talkin' shop... 10 points

1. I've been a little lost thinking about what to do with this blog now. The decision to turn Head Full of Snakes into a bike mag makes me think, obviously enough I guess, that this blog should also be just about bikes etc from now on. I suppose that's what it's become mostly recently anyway. My initial idea with this blog was to write about three things — design (graphic design mainly), music, and motorcycles.

2. I may start another blog on which to continue to try and write about design on.

3. Or I might just keep doing what I'm doing?

4. I am interested in the overlaps here too though. This is best evidenced in my recent post about Design Thinking. If I was to flesh an article like that out would it go in Head Full of Snakes or The National Grid?

5. I spent last Saturday with John Taylor-Leigh again. We put the gearbox back together on my Norton, and got most of the way through putting the primary back together but couldn't finish it off properly as he thought we should replace the woodruff key that holds the stator on. I'm looking very forward to getting the thing started again sometime soon.

6. Following the recent 'Design Doing vs Design Thinking' post, I purchased the book above, 'Shop Class as Soulcraft' by Matthew Crawford. I saw a very brief review of it in One Percent Magazine, an NZ car/bike zine that is in it's early days. It'll be interesting to see how it evolves. Actually I thought when I first saw it I wouldn't need to make a bike mag, but I still do. Not that One Percent is bad. It's cool. I just want to see/read something different... and that'll be the point I think — to make HFoS to figure out what that different is.

7. Back to 'Shop Class as Soulcraft'. I'm really enjoying this book. I've only just started reading it, but I'm engrossed (I wish I had time to just sit and read it in one go). It's basically about the devaluing of manual labor in America, and about that thing I've been interested in — the separation of thinking and doing.

8. It has occurred to me that Graphic Design, as a thing — as a job, is actually a product of that separation. The 'Graphic Designer', quietly emerging in the 1950s, was essentially an early version of the 'knowledge worker'. Evolving into the Art Director, and then into Buchanan's Design Thinker. I think. This needs some research to back it up obviously.

9. I'm way too busy to be even considering getting involved in another publishing project. But it just seems to need to be done. Which is very much how I felt when setting up TNG. It just seemed to be needed to be done. And in hindsight I can see that it, The National Grid, has actually served quite some purpose... both personally and also more widely in a professional and academic sense. It was certainly worth doing. And I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't actually done it. So... HFoS.

10. I think I can say this officially now (like somehow me writing this here equates to officiality). Stuart Geddes is coming on board with this project, and we will be working on it together. I'm hoping to visit Stuart in Melbourne soon, to catch up and to figure out the how, when, why of making HFoS into a publication. At the moment the plan is that we might print half each (he has a risograph, or access to one, as well). And obviously we'll be co-editors. Welcome Stuart.