February 17, 2011

Moto Show Madness

Last weekend, me and the crew (minus Rob) hit the International Motorcycle Show that was temporarily taking up residence in the Rosemont Convention Center.

Fig 29: The Crew (minus Rob)

Fig 30: The Donald E. Stephens (nee Rosemont) Convention Center

While my dream show would have been the custom show at the McCormick on the previous weekend, life did not allow me to go.  However, for a manufactuerer show, the IMS had a good showing of custom bikes, though to be honest, some were just bolt-on wonders with trick paint jobs.  There were several bikes that caught my eye.  One was a standard looking overchop (the gross fat wheel, suicide rake folks, etc.) but the builder had used a snowmobile engine with a CV transmission (i.e. no shifting).  It was essentially a giant scooter.  In addition, the builder had the brake off of the primary gear coming out of the engine, putting spool wheels on both the front and rear.  Not sure how I feel about the thing safety-wise, but if you want to die in style, but can't seem to get that while manual transmission thing down, count this bike as your ride (sorry, no pictures dudes, I'm just getting used to the blog culture thing where you have to document every aspect of your life...).

The second was a positively AMAZNG Honda CB-550 done by Cook Customs and titled simply "Rambler".

I'll let the photos speak.

 Fig 31: Interesting...four banger inline.  Custom springer front end.  Bar end cantrols, stacked leather grips, perimiter discs on front and rear wheels.  I could go on and on about the details in this ride...

 Fig 32: Hold the phone, that's not exactly...is that a....wait a second.  I know those valve caps!  That's a Honda CB-550 engine, flipped sideways!

 Fig 33: Holy crap, they cut the transmission off!  Custom oil pump out front.  Sooooo much beautiful brass.  Check out that rear brake control.  It's trick, for no good reason other than being trick!  Loving that single carb and manifold.  And a chromed frame! My mind cannot take it in...

Fig 34: What's this now? An inline transmission, converted to an open dogbone DRIVE SHAFT! 
I collapsed into a convulsive fit at this time...

The amount of work and thought that went into this bike is incredible, and that's an understatement.  For a while after looking at it, I kept on thinking how crappy a bike builder I was because I could never manage a custom of this magnitude.  But then it hit me.  These guys got a shop, probobly with full machining capabilities, plus CNC, and oh yes, money.  Lots and lots of money.
I may never have a chance to flip my engine upside down and make it run on magical fairy dust with rainbow emitting exhaust pipes, but I can make a darn cool bike in my one car garage for a tenth of what it cost them to make the Rambler.  Not to down play an amazing motorbike, I just want to encourage ya'll who might feel overwhelmed by the masters, no matter what your passion is.

My final and possibly most rewarding interaction was with a gentleman from Godfreys Garage.  His name tag said Godfrey, but I suspect he might have been Stephen, based on some internet research.  Just goes to show my manners, yammering on about his motorcycle while failing to ask him his name.  Regardless, he built a bike for a client using a CB-550 as a base and a huge budget for the rest.  The result is displayed below (this photo is from The Kneeslider website, as I was pretty done with taking photos at that point in the show).

It's a pretty standard Cafe Racer at first glance.  Almost dissmissable to the untrained eye.  There's nothing inherently ridiculous about it to draw the eye.  But then you get closer...

Honestly, I might have passed this one by with only a glance if my wife hadn't called me over (thanks babe).  Notice at closer inspection the rear suspension.  A bit different form the standard CB-550, eh?  The absolute beauty of this mod was how simply and effectively it had been executed.  Some bent tubing, a turnbuckle, a few brackets and a pair of shocks.  With a bit of time and $500, I could do it myself I think.  I talked at length with the builder (Godfrey...I think...) and he was more than friendly, and very informative.  He encouraged me when I showed him pictures of my tank (I must have seemed pathetic).  I hope to meet him again someday, perhaps with a bike of my own to show off.

Godfrey (Stephen), if you ever read this, thanks for the info on cutting down the rear brake plate, installing an oil pressure gauge, and frame stiffening.  It was good to get information from someone in the trenches rather than these internet-stalking opinion-launchers....speaking of which, thanks for reading my Blog.

Peace ya'll.  Catch a show this spring if you can, and please let me know about your wonderous experiences.

Words are copyright Demoto, photos courtosy of no one.

Return of the Beast

Last night I went over to the home of my gracious in laws and picked up the rolling chassis of the Steel Steed.  They were kind enough to store it for me over the winter while the Lead Sled wasted space in my garage.

Fig 27: The Lead Sled, back when Demoto still loved her.

The Sled still will not run, though it proved itself to be an exemplar example of bikes that can light themselves and anyone around them on fire (a short, but exciting story).  Anyone want to buy it?

But I digress.  The weather seems to have turned a corner here in ChiTown, and I'm going to move the Sled outside and put a cover on her (the better to forget her).  Meanwhile, I'll be working on the Steed again with fervor.  I can't wait to mount all the crap I bought for her over the winter.  The headlight, the tail light, the tank...oh yeah, the engine too.  I'll be sure to take pictures along the way and post them for ya'll (I think that's about six of you at this point.  Tell your friends!).  It should be an awesome summer of wrenching.

For now, slake your thirst for metal and gears with this picture of the Steel Steed wedged into the back of the Tiny Tank.

Fig 28: Caged fury

A super gangsta shout out to my in laws for stabling the Steed during the cold months, and to Trej for helping me move this thing back.  I could not have done it without your tool expertise.

Until next time folks; Keep the Rubber Side Down , and be sure to drink your Ovaltine!

February 7, 2011

The Main Chassis

Engines are neat.  Without them, motorcycles would simply be called "cycles" and their audience would be limited to trendy city kids with one pant leg rolled up.  However, one cannot overlook the significance of the frame and suspension when building a motorscooter.
I am told that frames are dynamic parts of the machine.  Flexing and moving with the myriad forces of accelleration, braking, and manouvering.  I've never witnessed any of this, because I'm having too much fun driving (or crashing, in nominally less- fun moments).  However, I was forced to get up to my elbows in geometry when evaluating how I was going to 'do' the frame for my CB550.

Fig. 89: To the right, a complete CB550 frame, brackets and all.  To the left, a frame with the centerstand brackets ground down...and pretty much stock besides that.

If you've ever taken apart a UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle, and my chosen medium) you'll see that their frames have a lot of brackets.  We're talking dozens.  And with good reason.  Every component needs to mount to the frame in some manner.  The idea behind a 'racer' is to strip off as many of those components as possible, hence, many of those brackets go bye bye.  I'm impatient, and I have a welder, so I wasn't about to catalogue each bracket and calculate how many needed to stay.  No sir, I went typical Demoto and hacked 'em all off with an angle grinder!  Of course, I left a few (I think they're called 'engine mounts') but most came off.  I smoothed out the scar tissue with abrasive disks, and the result was a very clean looking frame.

Fig. 90: In the foreground, a clean frame, all unwanted brackets removed.  In the background, that same stock frame, sucking up space in my garage.  Future hardtail?

The grinding being done, and the messieness gone, it must be stated that many of those brackets also doubled as gussets.  Gussets are basically any piece of metal that is welded in the corner of a junction in the frame.  They provide added strength against the frame flexing at the angular moment of the blah bla whosm whutsleflartz. 
They're important. 
I  found a googleplex of great information on frame stiffening from a fellow named Tony Foale:


He sells a program where you can do all these calculations and run simulations and whatnot.  Some folks are into that, and I have mad respect for them, it's just not my style.  I have two standards for weight and strength: "Can I lift it?" and the ever important "Can I jump on it?"  You don't need a computer program for these tests.  You don't even need a brain, strictly speaking.

So some frame stiffening will be required now that the brackets are off, I just haven't gotten around to it yet (see Fig. 90).  I'll probobly put a a pair of gussets beneith the frame on either side of the oil pan, and some cross bracing on the downtubes (the pair of pipes heading down from the head tube and looping around the front of the engine).  Tony Foale also talks about the many faults of the oil dampened fork suspension system used on...pretty much everything that's not a springer or Bimota Tesi 3D.

If you can afford this motorcycle, you are not reading this blog.

A fork brace can mitigate some of the unwanted flex found in fork type suspensions, but they're expensive.  Basically, it's a big piece of metal (usually aluminum) that clamps the two forks together closer to the wheel than the triple tree.  However, I have seen (rarely, so it might be a horrible idea) folks who have used an extra triple tree clamp low on the forks to act as a fork brace.  I've got an extra tree clamp so it's worth a shot.  What's the worst that could happen?

Ahh yes...This....

Hope you folks enjoyed this article.  The is the special commemoritive edition celebrating my first Follower and First Comment.  Special thanks to Demoto's Sister, Hister, owner, rider, and builder of a sleek KZ400 we bought off the side of the road for $29 cash.  Thanks sis, you rock my world!

Fig. 91: Hister, keeping it real.