Tuesday, June 28, 2011

James Oram's Honda

On Saturday night we went to Zina Swanson and James Oram's mid-winter Xmas party. James had already mentioned he'd picked up a couple of bikes that he'd been working on and so I was pretty keen to see them. He picked up this little Honda for about $500  and has made some great mods to it. James is an artist with a training in sculpture, so I guess he should be good at making shit, but even so for his first ever bike this is pretty fuckin cool. I really like what he's done to it. He made the seat and handlebars himself, and repositioned the battery. He painted the tank, cleaned up and painted the engine, put a foam air-filter on, and also wrapped the header pipes. It's amazing how cool you can make these little bikes look with not too much work. And it's a sweet runner too.

James got her started and I ended up going for a spin at about 2am and after quite a few drinks! (Got in big trouble with the missus and have had to promise not to do that again.) I didn't realise the tail light didn't go either, so I would have been an easy target for any prowling coppers. Anyway, got back safe and sound, and James put the lil' Honda back to bed (I love it when people keep their bikes inside the house).

James is actually selling this bike (already has a buyer I think), and has started on his next project (below). I can't remember what the hell kinda bike this is/was??? I know it's a big single, and was ugly as sin in it's original state. But he has big plans for this sucker, and has stripped it almost completely. he's getting the forks cut down soon... can't wait to see what he does with this.

Real keen to James to write something for the upcoming Head Full of Snakes publication...

Monday, June 27, 2011

New leather!

I've had a leather jacket search saved on Trademe for ages now, and finally it paid off. Scored this c.1970s NZ made 'Jet Leathers' jacket for $60. Fits pretty good, and looks a lot like the Lewis Leathers 'Monza' jacket, which I've always had my eye on (but which you can only really get in the UK and which costs well over a grand in our kiwi dollar!).

Sunday, June 26, 2011

John's metallic purple 750 Commando

On Saturday I went around to John Taylor-Leigh's house to check out his new paint-job. His son-in-law did it. I was worried when he said he was going to paint the 750 he's rebuilding from the ground up PURPLE!? But when I saw this I can see it working actually. The photos don't show the colour quite right, but it's a great metallic, and I sorta get it now I think cause I've been looking at so many 70s choppers in Dice mag lately. I found out what he's actually trying to do is recreate a bike he used to have years ago...

 ...that's when he whipped out the photo album. Was great to get to see some of his old bikes, and pictures of him and his mates back in the 70s. Shit there was a lotta cool bikes around then. Now it's all just off-the-shelf Harleys. It's so boring. I guess it's why I have some admiration for John, keeping his  850 Commando on the road since the day he bought it in 1974.

And then there was this (below) – John had this made by the guy who ran Longhorn Leather. It's a picture of his 850, hand-painted and embossed into leather! I really like this – old school biker art at it's best, right up there with those paintings dudes in jail do on glass. Although no dragons or naked chicks, the material and process make this a real classic piece of work...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Some of my students could do with some Bill Hicks...

New lid!

Just ordered myself this Biltwell helmet from Byron at El Boneshaker, an online store based in Auckland. Apparently it's one size fits all, so I hope it fits! I can send it back if it doesn't, but from all the reports I've read online they really do seem to fit most heads... something about the foam they use and the elasticity of the shell. They have heaps of colours, and even some real chunky metallic flake ones – they were a bit flashy for me! There's also some that have been custom pin-stripped. Check em out here. They also stock Dice magazine and Greasy Kulture.
   Can't wait for my mew lid to show up. Hope the fucker fits good!?

Screenprinting with Phats

Despite being retardly busy I took time off (well I tried to!) on Tuesday to do some screenprinting with Phats. I haven't done any for years and I wanted to relearn the process. It was a bit fucked cause the screenprinting facilities at the school of fine arts have really gone to the dogs. There are screens that haven't been used/cleaned for years! We tried cleaning some real old ones off, but they are pretty fucked and the emulsion has really set in. It was good to go through this though cause I've worked out a bunch of shit I'm going to buy and keep in my office for future print runs.
   Phats wasn't ultra happy with the poster. He wasn't stoked with his design, he'd rushed it. But also the screen wasn't great. We made two, but both had their issues...
   Anyway, it was good to get my hands dirty again, and to remember that I love doing this kind of manual labour. This, ladies and gentlemen, IS graphic design!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Slippery when wet baggage carousel

This is something I photographed years ago coming home from Melbourne. It was in the international part of the Christchurch airport. I just rediscovered it now, and wanted to put it on here so I'd remember it. I mostly think about motorcycles all the time these days, but this comes from a time when I was still pretty interested in graphic design. Someone has put the 'Slippery when wet' sign onto the conveyor belt you get your luggage off. Why? It doesn't make any sense does it? Was it to warn people that the roads outside the airport were slippery? I doubt it. Was it just a joke by one of the baggage guys, someone having a laugh? Whatever it was it was really nice watching it go around and around. It would  become all broken and dislocated on the corners, then get itself together on the straight bits again, and then come to pieces again at the next corner. As if it was enacting its own warning.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How to have a good time

Saw this on Pipeburn this morning. Man this kinda shit makes me jealous. Why am I not having this much fun, fucking about with a bunch of cunts on bikes in the desert? Something is seriously wrong with my life. Interestingly enough, quite a few of the bikes here are Hinckley Triumphs too. Thruxtons I think. They've been treated to some good makeovers. The one with gold tank (off a 70s Honda?) is the one I'd found on the Dice blog and put on here a week or so ago. It's great to see it ridden. I had been thinking about getting an old Bonneville breadbox tank and trying to fit that to the Thruxton, this has increased my motivation quite a lot...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vincent Black Lightning 1952

Max sent me this link yesterday – a Vincent cafe racer from the Cafe Racer Culture blog. It was spookily good timing as I've been thinking about Vincents a lot lately. I've not been sure how much to say here about our upcoming content for the first issue of Head Full of Snakes, but this one's been interesting and tricky and can, I think, be discussed here...

Paul Elliman made a proposal to me, when he heard that we might be doing a flexidisc. The idea was to record the sound of a Vincent Black Lightning 1952 running. Paul's idea came from the Richard Thompson song 'Vincent Black Lightning 1952'.

I liked the sound of this... a record of a bike running, maybe starting up, being ridden past etc. Sounds like my kinda record! So, we started looking for a Black Lightning from 1952.

Not so easy. Turns out there were only 32 made between 1949 and 1952. Stuart found a 1951 in Melbourne. But we are still looking for a 52 model. I was thinking it would be very unlikely for one of these to ever have made it to ol' NZ... but of course we have been a nation obsessed with motorcycles and speed for a long time now, and I found this:

Christchurch-based Russell Wright making a landspeed record on a Vincent Black Lightning in 1955. Interestingly enough for me too, he did this on the very road that me and my teenage buddies used to go out to and race our little Hondas on. Anyway there's no mention in this as to the year of the bike. I searched for more info on that, and got this:

If this guy's right, this is that bike. Well the engine at least? And he says it is a 52. I was trying to find out exactly where this was though when I came across this on the Jockey Journal blog...

"The star of the collection was the Burns & Wright Vincent Black Lightning that Russell Wright rode to a world land speed record in New Zealand in 1955 at 185.15mph. They then took the bike to Bonneville in 1956 and it was left pretty much untouched after it was pulled off the salt - it even still has the same tyres."

This is it (above). In a private collection somewhere... I guess in the United States? So is this it? Is the other one it? Are they one in the same? Did Wright have two Black Lightnings (unlikely)? There's also this on the Jockey Journal:

"He was over here a few years ago and was reunited with his bike.That is the Sterling Silver Trophy that NZ gave them for setting the record. They raced at the Salt Flats and then they were broke and sold the bike to the then US Distributor, Harry Bellville.The fairing was loaned out and lost."

So that's Russell Wright (above), reunited with his Black Lightning. I guess the next thing to do is try and find out where the private collection is? And maybe find out where Russell Wright is???

Monday, June 13, 2011

Earthquake! #3

We had another massive earthquake yesterday. Actually we had two. A smaller one then a bigger one. I came home and was cleaning up after the first one when the second one hit. Was the strongest I've felt so far. The first one where I literally was thrown to the ground (actually the couch), while trying to get the fuck out! Anyway I was stoked when I looked in the garage because even though the Norton had fallen over it had landed on the mattress I had sitting there for just such an event!

I have since realised, however, that there is a bit of damage...

The 'Z' plate, which attaches the muffler and the footpeg to the frame is bent inwards. I hadn't had the footpeg on, so unfortunately the weight of the bike was on the muffler and this bit is all bent in and hitting the swing arm. Fucker! I'm getting really over these constant fucking earthquakes.

The Triumph was tied down – Dad's Harley (yes I still live with my dad!?) and my Triumph we keep tied down since getting a bit fucked up in the last earthquake 4 months ago. But my front wheel moved to the side a bit and it broke the mirror off against the bench. My whole bike has moved about half a meter to the left!

Ah fuck it I was thinking about ditching this mirror anyway! The other one broke in the last earthquake. At least we did have them tied down this time, and it has saved a lot of damage. Last time it snapped off a footpeg and fucked the right-hand side clip-on.

The rest of our house took a good beating again, and looks like it is slowly starting to fall apart. More new cracks, and old cracks are getting bigger/wider/deeper. It's starting to feel a little bit like it's just a matter of time until our two story house becomes a one story house!

This is a sad photo. Nadine was cooking some soup when it hit. This soup had smokey bacon in it man! Is there no justice?

This doesn't look so bad in the photo, but we lost a lot of food because it all got smashed up inside the cupboards. And then leaked out onto the floor. It's taken quite a while to clean up this mess of olive oil, tomato sauce, lentils, and vinegar... oh and that bacon soup.

Dad's computer got nailed by the printer that used to sit on a shelf above it.

A couple of my guitars that don't have cases got pretty dinged up in the corner there...

Dad's new TV, which he got a couple of weeks ago to replace the TV that got killed in the last quake, fell over and has cracked the screen. Interestingly it still goes? His speakers fell over and got some damage, but you'll see here that, miraculously, my turntable was left sitting precariously on top of dad's stereo! Sweet! That turntable has survived three quakes now (touch wood).

Let's finish with one of the garage, my favourite room in the house... and our neatly stacked shelves! Luckily I never reshelved all my records after the last quake so they're all still in crates in the garage. Most of our shit, furniture etc is still in storage on a farm near Akaroa. Will go check on that this weekend I guess.

Anyone want to offer me a job in another city? I'll take what I can get at this point obviously...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Subjectivity in mechanical work

I often romanticize other professions. In particular that of the long-haul truck driver, and then, of course, the motorcycle mechanic. Many times in my life now, since the age of about 18 I have thought about how great it would be to be a motorcycle mechanic. Or a truck driver. This desire is based on a belief I have always had that these sorts of work are very much 'black and white' – either the goods are delivered or they aren't. Either the bike runs or it doesn't.

The background to this is my actual work as a graphic designer. My romantic notions about truck drivers and motorcycle mechanics are, I'm sure, common and probably quite pervasive within a professional practice that is so permeated by the whim of subjectivity. I could argue that objective standards are apparent in many aspects of my work. Most convincingly this would be in relation to typesetting I guess. I could argue for my work formally and propose objective standards for that. In some senses I might also put forward an argument for a certain level of 'thinking', of conceptual rigor, or of intertextuality. And to some extent I can say I am 'qualified' to make such judgements. I have an understanding of the history and of the trajectory of the discipline.

It's interesting then, that with all my experience and my qualifications, I still cannot convince a client that the way I want to do it is better than they way they want me to do it. (I admit this may largely be a 'personality' thing. I'm not charismatic, or pushy enough.) It's difficult because largely it doesn't matter. I could do you some elegant typography that may aid in a slightly more direct and legible communication of your text, but the kid next door who's good on the computer could do the same thing to some extent. I'm being facetious, but you get the point. I've been a graphic designer for 16 years now and I don't think I've ever got to do a commercial job %100 the way I have wanted to do it. The reason I think this is the case is because largely the 'success' of design, graphic design in particular, is subjective.

Hence my frustration with graphic design and my long-time romantic notions of work where outcomes might be assessed in more objective ways. The bike runs or it doesn't.

At least that's what I thought... until today. Today I have realised things aren't so simple. Actually it all sounds perfectly obvious and self-evident now I'm sitting here trying to write it down, but anyway... Today I pulled the entire gearbox out of the Norton. Previously I've just pulled out the guts of it, the shafts and the gears etc. But today I went deep. John came round and helped (thank God!) as we had to disconnect the engine from the frame to get the gearbox out. It was quite simple theoretically and yet very difficult to actually do. John was great though and I would still be sitting in the garage scratching my head if it wasn't for him.

We were pulling out the gearbox so I could take it to Alastair. Alastair is an engineer, who also happens to have a lot of experience with Norton rebuilds. He wants the entire gearbox so he can assemble it on his bench and go through it's actions and movements thoroughly. What's interested me today, and what's motivated me to try and write this down, is how differently both John and Alastair go about things. They also both tell me different things, and I can sense that each is a little skeptical of the others ideas or approach. The exact quality of the difference between them is not important (well not here at least), the important thing is my realisation that things most certainly are not black and white.

I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps graphic design is not so different from working on motorcycles? But the problem with my gearbox is obviously very real. There is some 'thing' wrong, and when it is fixed it will work properly again. There's nothing at all subjective about that. It's difficult to think of a similarly objective problem in any graphic design job. Some people will tell you there are problems to be solved in graphic design – communication problems etc, but trust me, I've been doing it for ages, and there are no big problems. Mostly the problem is a printer who wants to go home early and not do the job right. I've also suggested elsewhere that the biggest problem I have as a graphic designer is 'the client'. But anyway, my gearbox problem is different – it is more of an objective problem.

Maybe the subjectivity I've been dealing with today, that I wanted to try and figure out here, is located in the approach to the problem rather than in the evaluation of the solution? John and Alastair have different approaches to the same problem. But actually I'm not even sure they would be in complete argeement when it came to the quality of the solution (if we ever actually solve this problem!?). Their own bikes are interesting here. John has one. It is a 74 Commando like mine, but John's had it since it was new, and it's still his daily ride. It looks rough, but it runs well enough, and John takes it on long rides, often two up (his wife on the back). Alastair has about seven bikes in his garage. Not all are complete, but most are. And they are all immaculate looking. Alastair is a perfectionist. John is a pragmatist. Alastair brings a lot of theory to the conversation, whereas John brings his practical experience. For instance, Alastair said I'd have to remove the engine to get the gearbox out, but John knew we could get it out without completely moving the engine. Maybe if we did it Alastair's way it would have been somehow 'better'? It's hard for me to know at this point? And anyway I didn't want to compare them to each other in any sort of competitive sense here, more just as an illustration of the potential for subjectivity in mechanical work, and to demystify my own beliefs.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Primary removal

I photographed this as I was going but stopped when John arrived to help. I got the primary off myself, but wouldn't have been able to get the gearbox out without his help... and his tools! I photographed the inner primary cover because there's some quite obvious wear there that I want to check out. Obviously the drive chain has been eating into it. Also this (above) is my rotor... which doesn't have a timing mark. Well it sorta does – one, actually a couple, that someone's punched into it. I'm not sure these are correct? How can I find out? I'm thinking this could be the cause of the kick back I get when starting it... even though it appears to be timed correctly, if these marks aren't right it ain't gonna be right!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thruxton seat

Starting to look more at other people's attempts to custom/mod the Triumph Thruxton. The seat is the next thing I wanna do, I quite like this seat. I have to be able to put my girflfriend on the back now and then though. Gotta work that out. The paint job on this is kinda interesting – the cream parts mainly. I like that it ends up looking like a 'bitsa', a bit of a mongrel. Hate that little mudgaurd, but love the exhaust. Not sure about the whole Fender thing? That seems a bit camp to me. And fuck I have a 67 Jag and a 76 Twin Reverb, so it's not like I'm anti-Fender or anything. I just don't see the point in this sort of pretend collaboration. It's a bit Orange County Choppers or something... whinge, moan, etc.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

1974 Norton Commando 850

I was clearing unanswered emails this morning – I had about 300!? – and I came across this from Max (sent in January 2010! Sorry man I been a bit swamped and shit eh...), but anyway it seems to have even more resonance for me now. I think in January last year Max was probably trying to encourage me to keep the bike, cause I was planning to sell it then. Anyway this is from the BikeEFIX blog here, and here's what they had to say about my bike...

"There’s something impossibly British about the color scheme of this lovely 1974 Norton Commando 850. I’m guessing it’s a Mark 2A model with the 828 cc engine—still an air-cooled twin like the iconic 750 models, but a little more relaxed in its power delivery. Today, the Mark 2A is one of the most desirable Nortons for collectors, and this one was spotted by Vermont-based photographer Matt Kiedaisch. The bike was on show at the Shelburne Museum, as part of the “Full Throttle” motorcycle exhibition. It was supplied by local specialist Jack Manning of The Classic Bike Experience, “a bunch of guys who like to work on old British bikes (and yes, occasionally some other stuff)”. Their website is pleasantly ramshackle but curiously engaging, with some lovely old British iron up for sale. [Thanks to Matt Kiedaisch.]
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II | 1/125s | f/2.8 | ISO 1600 | Focal length 70mm"

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bad-ass Thruxton

This is from the Dice blog here. It's hard to see exactly what he's done to this Thruxton, but it looks the fuckin business. Looks like it'll be featured in an upcoming issue of Dice? I've been really keen to get a seat made for my Thruxton, since having done up the back end of it last year. I want something skinny. Was hoping to get it done before my ride with Malcolm, but that's coming up real soon now (end of next week!).

I finished pulling the guts out of the Norton's gearbox this weekend and took the shafts to Alastair Mears, an engineer who's also part of the NOC. He wants the whole gearbox though, so he can put it together and play with it on his bench. Sounds fine, except to get the inside of the gearbox case off I basically have to remove the fucking engine!? Fuck. Oh well, I'm pretty committed to sorting this thing out now (will it ever be sorted out?)... talking to Alastair I definitely felt like he'd be the man to find whatever weird fuckin little gremlin is hiding in the thing. I just know it's gonna be something simple and small when we find it...