Monday, October 27, 2008

“Leather” Dick Bregstein Rides Again

West Grove, Pa (Oct. 26) -- An air of expectancy settled over this bustling little Pennsylvanian community, as a white garage door went up to reveal a gleaming 2000 BMW R1100R. The limited chrome on the 80-hp motorcycle caught the autumn sun’s rays like a handful of diamonds and the machine was wheeled out into the driveway with quiet ceremony. Five months after being carried away from a devastating accident, Richard Bregstein was again ready to mount another machine that would shortly bear the license plate from his fallen mount.

Dick Bregstein's New 2000 BMW R1100R -- Naked, Classic, Perfect...
Sunday's Inaugural Ride was Bregstein's first day in the saddle, after his 
horrific accident five months ago.
(Photo courtesy of Patty Jacobs -- Click to Enlarge)

The BMW R1100 is a radical departure in style for Bregstein, who has shown a preference for sportier “F” bikes, with final drives drive by chains or belts. Yet it would be hard to define this R1100 as “unsporty.” Virtually naked except for a narrow clear windscreen, this bike is a tasteful confluence of classic Beemer lines and new technology -- especially for a bike that is 8 years old! The style of the seat, the placement of the pegs and a pillion that abruptly ends in a tail light lend this machine a definite stallion attitude.

The rake of the seat, the jaunty oil coolers, and the lines of the tank 
all say "Stallion" on this bike.
(Photo courtesy of Patty Jacobs -- Click to enlarge)

The dated brushed alloy dash, crowned with an analogue clock, chrome riimmed speedo and tach, plus enough lights to decorate the triple tree for Christmas is all classic motorcycle. Yet the eye of the beholder is inevitably drawn below this arrangement to the telelever front end, which looks like art on this bike. The panniers on the back hinted at lengthy trips ahead.

The classic Beemer "R" dash on this bike is all motorcycle. I have admired this 
dash arrangement on other bikes of this type many times before. 
Note the extremely low mileage on this rig, something Bregstein intends to remedy soon.
(Photo by Patty Jacobs -- Click to enlarge)

The paint scheme is tasteful white and pearlescent gray, with yellow trim. The bike looks great and has a sense of mass heightened by the two huge jugs of the classic boxer engine. The generally impression was that this machine is ready to travel.

But was Dick?

Not only was the R1100R Bregstein’s newest acquisition, but it’s inaugural ride home would be Dick’s first real experience on a motorcycle since his incredible accident. Let me remind the gentle reader that Bregstein swerved to avoid an old woman carrying a baby last spring, careened into a huge boulder, and was ejected into the side of a house. His final words on being carried into the ambulance were, “Somebody get some milk for that child.” For his selfless sacrifice, Dick has been the subject of ceaseless emails and conversation, as his peers struggle to understand what happened.

Rumor had it that Dick was going to buy a Suzuki V-Strom, though close friends refused to comment on a possible marque defection to another theater of the Axis. And others saw him looking at an F650GS at Hermy’s, but his color of choice, plaid, was unavailable. It was Clyde Jacob who brokered the sale of the R1100R to Bregstein for a third party, after first showing him the bike and plying him with cheap Scotch. Bregstein regained consciousness in a Chinatown back alley, thousands of dollars poorer, and said, “I’m an Oilhead now.” (For those who do not know BMW's and who are sick of reading about them in this blog, the "R" bikes are oil and air-cooled; hence the name "Oihead." When Dick had his old F650 with the chaindrive, he was a member of the "Chain Gang.")

Last minute adjustments were executed with quiet precision, and Clyde went through each of the bike’s features as the final epic moment drew near. At the stroke of 1:45pm, Dick Bregstein emerged from the garage encased in black leather from head to toe. He has held a number of endearing nicknames over the past couple of years, ranging from “Bundt Cake” Bregstein to “Bermuda Triangle” Bregstein. At present, he is known as “Stone Mason” Bregstein, and I couldn't help but think the time had come to lay that moniker to rest.

"Leather" Dick Bregstein about to take his inaugural ride on the R1100R
The bike is a classic and so is Dick in many regards.
I was honored to be asked to participate in this event. I have covered more 
miles with Dick Bregstein in the past three years than with anyone else.
(Great photo courtesy of Patty Jacobs, at the direction of his wife Patty -- Click to enlarge)

He was now “Leather” Dick Bregstein. A name that will endure for the ages, or until I find a better one.

Dick threw his leg over the seat, made himself comfortable, and pressed the starter. The bike caught in a second or two with that reassuring sound so distinctive to boxer engines whether they are brand new or 50 years old. It is an understatement of class and reliability.

"Leather" Dick is all smiles as he is about to recapture the last two months of
the 2008 Riding Season.
(Photo courtesy of Patty Jacobs -- Click to enlarge)

We were on US-1 five minutes later. Bregstein put the bike through its paces conservatively at first, playing with the throttle and checking out the handling at 55mph. I watched him try a little dancing to see how well the machine could swerve, then laughed as he changed lanes a few times, opening the throttle to pass slower moving cages. I knew he was about to scratch the "itch." We followed Route 10 up to Gap (or thereabouts), where Bregstein shouted, “This is great,” when stopped at a light.

Traffic was light on the Rt. 30 by-pass and Dick picked up the pace, eventually passing through 80mph. The R100R growled in compliance, and sounded like a classic flying machine -- a zeppelin, perhaps -- in a power climb.

More than 70 tons of wet leaves covered Dick’s street like the aftermath of a natural ticker-tape parade. Bregstein deftly maneuvered his new bike through the tree scum and detritus, shot up the driveway, and blew into his garage. He jumped off the bike and gave me a high-five that I will long remember.

I was honored that Dick asked me to accompany him on this historic personal milestone of a ride, and look forward to many more in the future. As many of you are aware, a staggering percentage of my adventures have been with Dick over the past three years. I have discovered that Dick adds a special dimension to any ride. Dick's response to just about any suggestion is, "Okay. That sounds good."

"Leather" Dick Bregstein rides again!

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Helping My Pal Richard Machida...

Nothing makes me happier than to receive comments regarding a story I’ve written for a motorcycle magazine, for postings on this blog, and for bits and pieces I’ve sent to other bike lists. One of the things that amazes me is the number of serious technical questions I receive. No one would let me get within 50 feet of a motorcycle if I had a screwdriver in my hand... For good reason. On the night before what would have been my first overnight ride to a motorcycle rally in a neighboring state, I decided to check the transmission fluid on a 1986 BMW K75.

Checking oil in anything is something any male baboon should be able to do by reflex.

According to the manual, I was to remove a filler plug and fully insert the flat handle of the wrench used to adjust the mono-shock into the opening. The incredible German minds that designed this bike eliminated the need for a dipstick and came up with this arrangement instead. There was a photograph in the manual that showed a graduation engraved on the wrench handle (to indicate the perfect level for the oil) and presumably the manner in which it was to be inserted. It should be noted that the caption under the picture was in German, a language I do not speak.

I followed the instructions and was aghast to discover the transmission was dry. I had just had this sucker up to three digits on a straight-away the week before and shuddered to think of what could have happened had the tranny seized. I started adding transmission fluid and periodically tried to check its depth. The damn thing swallowed a quart of fluid without registering a drop on the wrench handle.

“Holy shit,” I thought. It was at this point that I suspected I had missed some critical yet important point. I started calling people and thereby established my reputation for being an idiot when it comes to things mechanical.

As it turned out, I was inserting the wrench the wrong way. When I stuck it in correctly, it measured one quart over full. One individual summed up the situation by saying, “Jack, a moron can do this. Shake your family tree and ask the first person who falls out to do it for you! And whatever you do, don’t start that damn bike!” A friend of mine drained the transmission and refilled it correctly the next day.

So I am always surprised when anyone fires off a serious question my way. On October 24, 2008, Richard Machida asked the following question:

“The charging system on my R100RT seems to be happy with barely a bit over 12 volts at the battery. The gauge happily reports 12 even. The bike never seems to crank very fast, in my humble opinion, so I'm wondering how the bike would do on a long trip i.e. no battery tender in sight. I'd be interested in your evaluation.”

Well Richard, my evaluation is that your bike would be more enthusiastic about starting if you had a happier outlook on life. (In other words, don't be such a prick.) But that doesn’t help you any. So I asked the guys in the know and this is what I got back:

• Steve M. (the smartest person in Canada) said, “The quick and dirty answer is to take your bike off the battery tender, use it normally, and see if it gives you any trouble. Of course, you should keep in the back of your mind that it may not start reliably, so don't let it be your only mode of transportation to work while you are performing this experiment.

“If the bike fails to start, the cause could be a number of things, ranging from a worn battery that can no longer supply the cranking amps required to turn over the engine, to an incorrectly set up throttle assembly (been there). And this is where the real troubleshooting begins.”

• Wayne W. (In the witness protection program) said, “Twelve volts sounds low, but I'm not sure I'd trust the gauge on the bike. Use a real voltmeter. If it's 12 volts on a real voltmeter, I'd assume there's a problem. The diode boards on Airheads were notorious for failure, but that's a shotgun diagnosis. The charging system has several components and you need to systematically diagnose each component, in the correct order.

“I'd reply: It's intuitively obvious to the casual observer, that you need a new Flux Capacitor."

• Dan W. (who regards electricity as the work of the devil) said, “What is the voltage at 2000 RPM? It should be at least 13.5 volts. The charging system is suspect if voltage is lower.

But the fact of the matter is that there is no room for speculation here. If you are out in the boondocks where it’s been six hours since you last saw a light on the horizon, the last thing you want is a light on the dash telling you the battery and the alternator have gone belly up. If you are like me, you need the services of an expert.

I am not a motorcycle mechanic, but I know the best one in the whole universe, and count him among my very best friends. You can contact him at His name is Tom Cutter and he is best BMW Airhead expert on Earth, and knows everything about everything. He also charges very fair prices and is pleasant to chat with on the phone. (Tom was good enough to supply me the text for this paragraph.)

Tom Cutter has an international reputation for bike restoration, transmission rebuilds, and perfection in service excellence. BMWs with rebuilt transmissions, motors or annual maintenance from the Rubber Chicken Garage are known as “Cutter Bikes,” and have fetched higher resale prices.

In conclusion, Wayne W. also said something else. It was:

“Jack, you stated this disclaimer -- "My knowledge of things mechanical is well known and my attempts to arouse interest in this mystery have been met with ill-disguised derision,” -- and this guy still asked you a technical question?

What can I tell you? These guys play hardball.

Advisory -- Twisted Roads accepts no compensation from the Rubber Chicken Racing Garage, but unconditionally recommends their work. It is not our policy to refuse compensation, but no one ever offers any. In fact, Mr. Cutter has been openly critical of this blog -- and I still have no problem extending this endorsement.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is Bigger Really Better When It Comes To Getting Her All Charged Up?

There is a Timex watch in the top drawer of my desk. It has been running for about 18 years on a battery that is the size of an aspirin. This is in contrast to my other timepiece, the dash clock on my 1995 BMW K75, parked in the garage. This is a German clock. You can tell because it is on metric time, where 1pm is displayed as 13:00 hrs. Metric time is different from regular time in that it takes a lot more electricity to work out the conversion process.

I know this because over a five-week period that German metric clock will suck enough electricity out of a 10-pound battery to leave it gasping when I press the starter button. Typically, the K75 will explode to life when you just think about touching the starter button. But if you let it sit for 5 weeks without being on a battery tender, as I did, you will only get the famous K75 “Start Fart” the next time you hit the button.

Contrary to the comforting combination of a whine and snort that comprises the standard K75 start-up, the “start fart” sounds exactly as advertised. It is the sound one hears before the starter relay sacrifices itself to prevent further embarrassment to the battery.

I have a GMC Suburban sitting in the driveway. This truck is 111 years old with 17 million miles on it. It too has a dash clock, but one that does not do the metric conversion. I mention this because this vehicle has been squatting in the driveway without being driven for two months. It started at the first turn of the key yesterday, and gave me the right time to boot.

Now it could be argued that there is a substantial difference in the size of the timepiece in relation to the size of the battery. The battery in the Timex watch is about 1/5 the size of the overall unit. In theory then, the correct size of the battery in my BMW should weigh about 90 pounds, and have the mass of a small bookcase. But if that formula were applied to the battery in the Suburban, it would be the size of a piano, providing enough power to roast a turkey.

The battery in this K75 has been the subject of suspicion (as far as I’m concerned) since I got the bike 18 months ago. Not because it has been troublesome and failed to start the bike. That has only happened once. But because it is smaller than the tray it is mounted on. Based on on the fact that the Germans give nothing away, I can only conclude this machine was designed to accommodate a much larger battery. (Have any of you seen the movie classic “Forbidden Planet?” It is one of the few times Leslie Nielsen has played a straight role. There is a scene in which Walter Pidgeon says, “No one has ever seen the Krell, but this is one of their doorways.” We are made to assume that the shape of the Krell is defined by their doorways. That’s how I feel about this battery tray.) My knowledge of things mechanical is well known and my attempts to arouse interest in this mystery have been met with ill-disguised derision.

Anne Francis was a silver screen sizzler in "Forbidden Planet."
The space car is electric powered and will be available in the US 
next year from a Japanese company who thinks like the Krell.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

There should be an accurate gauge for everything. I once designed a gauge that would indicate when my girl friend wanted sex. It was a baseball cap modified to hold a little German chalet, that looked somewhat like a cuckoo clock. You know the “little house” that used to predict rain. When the witch popped out of the little house, it was my cue to take a cold shower. But when the naked “Black Forest Barbie” popped out, it was time for “Thor’s Hammer” to strike.

Traditional German "Weather Haus..." I modified one to serve as a gauge 
of passion potential and built it into a hat to take the guess work out of foreplay.
Black Forest has great cuckoo clocks too.

I want a gauge that clearly depicts the mood of the battery and the vitality of the charging system. It pisses me that I cannot tell at a glance the status of my bike’s battery or charging system. My bike sports a 50-amp alternator which should be ample to power the limited farkle (MotoLights and flashing LED stoplights) on this machine. But I have yet to see the low battery or charging system failure light come on, other than the automatic system test when the bike is first started. And still I ended up with a weak battery. So I decided to make a modest investment in two separate voltage monitors.

The first is the “Heads-Up L.E.D. Voltage Monitor” from SDC (Signal Dynamics Corporation). I got it on sale for $20. It is alleged to check the charging system 50,000 times a second, and to transmit the results via a single colored L.E.D. This is a rather cool device, made in the U.S. of A. The gauge part consists of a glass bead (L.E.D.) the size of small jelly bean, that sits in a bezel than can be mounted just about anyplace (though the dash on the K75 is ideal). The wiring runs to a modest sized microprocessor, about 1”x2”x.5,” which is hung someplace out of sight, then connected to the battery, via a line that becomes hot when the bike is switched on.

The "Heads-Up" L.E.D. Voltage Monitor by SDC
A single light emitting diode tells you everything you want to 
know about your battery and charging system -- 50,000 times a second!
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

When initially powered (ignition switched on and engine off), the system first performs a self-test by flashing all three colors in sequence: green, amber and red, before giving you the status of the battery. As you would suspect, green is okay, amber is cause for some concern, and red is bad news. With the engine running, green indicates a steady 12-15 volts. Amber means 11-12 volts. And red is below 11 volts. A red signal on the road indicates the bike may not restart if switched off. The unit flashes green if the battery is overcharging and red if it is severely undercharging.

The system dims after 7 seconds so not to blind the rider if it is dark. I thought this was pretty cool.

The second one is not as sophisticated. Made by Daring Kuryakyn Products in the proletariat paradise of Red China (where environmental concerns rank right up there with the purity of dairy products for kids), it is a simple black gauge with a range of voltage values -- from 8 to 16 -- crudely printed on top. The gauge is about a quarter of an inch thick, measuring little more than an inch and a half long by half an inch wide. (It comes in chrome plastic or black plastic. I chose black.)

I relate to gauges with numbers, and the less sophisticated unit from 
Daring Kuryakyn Products has flashing lights on a dial -- like something the
Krell would have built in "Forbidden Planet." I can just see the scientists and 
engineers in my riding group scratching their respective heads and saying, 
"Riepe really is an idiot." 
(Photo taken by the author -- from space, with a camera on a satellite that he built 
all by himself in the basement, while ragingly shitfaced. So there.)

A curved row of colored L.E.D.s match the printed voltage values. Eight to ten volts are red; 11 to 12 are yellow; 12 to 14 are green; and 14 to 16 are red. A serious discharge will give you a blinking red. A light sensitive cell dims the L.E.D.s at night. When first energized, it runs through a testing sequence. It too tests the battery first, and then the charging system.

A close-up of the face on the Daring  Kuryakyn Products L.E.D. Battery Gauge
The flash on the camera brought out some green on the instrument's face.
This is not really evident in the working model. Oddly enough, this one appealed to me.
(Photo by the author -- click to enlarge)

I hooked both of these up to a simple 9 volt alkaline battery to see what they looked like. The amber setting for the SDC unit was more like a pale green, but there was no mistaking their bright red or equally bright green. The less sophisticated Kuryakyn model actually held greater appeal for me. I just thought it was a little cooler. It is the one I will probably install. And it was cheap enough that if it breaks or aggravates me, I’ll just switch it out.

The simplicity of the Kuryakyn gauge intrigued me. I wondered if it could measure other things. In a instant, I wired it to the dog’s bark collar. This device responds to the dog’s desire to bark at anything that moves with a little buzzing sound and a variable electric shock. A passing squirrel caused the gauge to light up like a little pinball game.

Using heart monitor tabs, I then hooked the gauge up to “Big Jim and The Twins” and watched Sharon Stone in selected scenes from “Basic Instinct.” It registered “16” every time, and then flashed for an “overcharge.” With Halloween only eight days away away, I have a great idea for a couple of costumes. Leslie is going to be Miss Bavaria, with the little German cottage on her head. And I am going to be the “Human Dynamo,” with my gauge indicating a massive charge.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Indispensable Kit

I’m working on a project called “the indispensable kit.” This is a collection of the most useful things to be carried on a long distance ride spanning a week or more, in which the rider will pass through urban and extremely rural areas in the United States. The rider may opt to camp and/or stay in hotels. Excluded from the indispensable kit are rain gear and GPS units. It is assumed that everyone has rain gear and the GPS is a matter of person choice and finances.

I want to know what you consider to be “indispensable” for a trip of some length. Please respond in the comments box below of to At present, the indispensable kit contains, a MiniMag Flashlight, an Airman Sparrow Pump, a set of motorcycle jumper cables, and a first aid kit.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKa The Chamberlain -- Perdition’s Socks (With A Shrug)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Crossroads...

It was the kind of night made for sitting around an outdoor fire with your arm around someone who’d bring that heat to the sheets when the flames were reduced to embers. Yet here I was standing in the driveway alone... With a cigar the size of a bus muffler in my mouth and a glass of Irish whiskey in my hand. On the first night of the Columbus Day weekend I was still home, leaning on a cane. This was the best I had felt all week, with the razor-edged pain of arthritis dulled to butter knife status.

I had planned to ride my motorcycle in the morning with Clyde Jacobs. It would be the first time in 5 weeks that I had attempted to throw my leg over “Fire Balls.” Earlier in the week, an orthopedic specialist had drained 200ccs of fluid from my right knee, and given it a shot of cortisone . My left one had just received my fourth shot of Supartz. I was standing more or less upright and moving around without the cane from time to time. All I wanted to do now was ride.

My 1995 K75 was a mess in the garage behind me. The tail piece had been taken apart to receive a new running light -- a month earlier. The seat was on a shelf. Tools still littered the floor where I had last dropped them and the topcase squatted on the seat of a chair. I’d had a few of the guys over to show me how to do a simple bulb change on this rig, and I’d walked away from the work as soon as they left.

“Did you have an trouble getting that bulb in,” asked Mac-Pac member Dave Case recently?

“No,” I lied. “It only took a few seconds.”

“Did you really pop it in,” asked Case in amazement?

“Absolutely,” I lied again, more easily. “It only took a second.”

“Well I’d have lost that bet,”laughed Dave. “A bunch of us were thinking that bike would still be apart two months from now.”

Mac-Pac member Dave Case was one of many who graciously offered to change a running
light on my bike. The joke would have been, "How many riders does it take to change a light
bulb on Riepe's bike?" The answer: 50! One to change the bulb and 49 to pick his ass out of the seat.
(Photo supplied by Dave Case -- Click to Enlarge)

I flashed my best boyish smile and thought,
Fuck you and all those other smug, thin, uber-mechanic BMW-riding S.O.B.s.” (Any one of them would have been happy to do this for me, and about 2 dozen offered. Do you think I could find the damn replacement bulbs when these guys were there? I have lost two packages of #89 running lights on my desk in the past two weeks.)

My desk looks like a 450-pound hamster works here.
Coffee cups, news clippings, crumbs, and ideas pile up and fall to the floor.
Somewhere, are two packages of #89 running lights.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Arthritis is like being married to both of my former wives at the same time. The sensation starts in your joints and goes right to your balls with every movement. My zest for life has become tampered with a desire for numbness. When I find a position that doesn’t hurt, I tend to freeze in it. This is generally at my desk. Since I work at home, there is something of a payoff here. Yet there is a negative side too: I get sick of typing and talking on the phone. And by the end of the day it is guaranteed that I will have neglected to respond to some friendly e-mail or have failed to return a call. This is not out of contempt. It’s because I want to do justice to the situation and the effort is beyond me.

There are two people I have been trying to find the time to write a detailed e-mail to. They are Dave Campbell and Steve Asson. I just checked my last correspondence from these folks. I have been meaning to write Dave since March. I have been meaning to call Steve since June. (This is how people lose friends.) I’ve been looking for something I promised Harold Gantz for four months. I found it. It was under the thing I promised Rick Torpey at the same time.

Now here it was -- 10pm -- the night before a good friend of mine offered to ride with me, and nothing would be ready for the morning. Clyde Jacobs would be in the driveway in 12 hours. I sipped the Irish confidence, looked up into a sky as clear as miso soup filled with stars, and thought, “If I go to bed now, I can get up at 6am and still have everything put together in time.” And as I thought this, I realized it had the consistency of pure bullshit --even to me.

Leslie poked her head into the garage to make sure I hadn’t destroyed the maple tree in the driveway by hanging myself from it and said, “Is Clyde coming to fix your motorcycle tomorrow?”

With a reflex action that could trace its roots back to primal man, I started to say, “Eat shit and die;” but what came out was, “Yes, Dear. I think he is.”

There was no doubt as to who was going to put this fucking motorcycle back together.

Bathed in fluorescent light, the K75 looked like a battered lover in a third world emergency room. Replacing the rear running light on a K75 is the only thoroughly simple task on the whole bike. You don’t even need tools. I had the bulb secured in under two seconds, and the lens installed in under a minute. (It attaches through knurled thumbscrews.) 

I now systematically went through the machine’s documentation and discovered I had the wrong stamp on the plate. The correct stamp was in the manual. I inventoried the tool kit, and the ancillary tools I carry in a cloth bag, noting the two sizes of extra crush washers and the spare fuses. I tried out the LED MiniMag Light. It worked perfectly.

Next came the plugging kit for possible flats. I went through this to make sure the plugs hadn’t dried out and that the CO2 cartridges were intact. I couldn’t help but notice that there were fine holes worn through the tool kit bag and the cloth bag with my other tools from vibration... Vibration I cannot feel at the seat nor handlebars. The Airman Sparrow pump also had vibration bruises. Over the winter, I will line the tail piece with thin neoprene.

I opened the first aid kit for the first time ever, and took stock of the contents. It is perfect for dealing with the bare essentials, like a bee sting, a minor cut, or an even more minor hangover. All of this stuff went back into the tail piece, with room to spare. I keep it from moving around (to a degree) with shop rags. The seat slipped on like a prom dress and “Fire Balls” regained her dignity.

No one will ever call the BMW K75 "Sexy." But "Fire Balls" (left) had a look and spirit all her
own, parked among the heavy weights, dreadnaughts, and "Judge Dread" bikes up at
Hermy's open house this weekend. Lots of folks looked her over with lust in their hearts.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

I switched on the bike and the rear running light glowed brightly, but the right MotoLight was out. This fix would be easy. If the running light was a cinch, replacing a MotoLight bulb (with the knurled lens rings) would take less time than lighting a cigar. This is the kind of hubris that takes down windbags like me every time.

Naturally, I couldn’t find the replacement 52-watt bulbs for the MotoLights. But I did locate a 32-watt bulb. This popped in like shit going through a goose. Power on, and nothing. The left one lit, but nothing from the right. I pulled out the spare and compared it with the original. Both were clear. I tried the “burned out bulb” in the left socket, and it worked just fine. Clearly this became a job for someone with a voltmeter and desire to trace wires under the gas tank. I reassembled the lights and resolved not to turn them on -- exposing my shortcomings -- during the ride the next day.

I mounted the top case and took stock of it’s contents, which included jumping cables, a camera (fully charged), a cell phone (fully charged) light riding glovers (perforated), and a folding cane. I then proceeded to go through my riding junk in the garage. When I was finished, it was 2am. But I felt like I had earned the right to ride this bike in the morning.

The last thing I did was to plug the machine into an Accumate battery tender. The battery tender generally indicates the battery needs a jolt even when I have come in from a long ride. I don’t know why. This is just part of the BMW mystery. This time, just the green “on” light indicated everything was “okay” with the tender. By this time, I was limping badly again. I winked at the whiskey bottle as I passed it and said to Leslie, “Screw Clyde and his mechanical abilities.”

I went through my riding gear in the morning. I chose the vented Joe Rocket Meteor 5 jacket over the mesh, as it was in the low 60’s. I cleaned the dead bugs from my Nolan helmet and wiped off the Parabellum Scout windshield on the bike. After a cup of coffee with Clyde, I mounted “Fire Balls” like a retired acrobat falling down a flight of stairs.

Clyde Jacobs is one of life’s true gentlemen and a great friend. He casually stepped up to the bike (to catch it if it started to fall) but looked away, laughing, so I wouldn’t feel like a cripple. I backed it out of the garage and hit the starter.

The bike demurely farted.

For those who have never ridden a BMW K75, it starts the second you breathe on the button. Rarely, do you have to do this twice. This is because you cannot do it a third time without frying the starter relay. That’s right. A low battery will cook the starter relay.

Clyde and I exchanged that apprehensive, “Well this sucks,” look common to WWII bomber pilots who smell smoke in the cockpit.

“Want to try jumping it,” asked Clyde?

I certainly knew where the cables were.

“How about rolling it down the driveway,” I suggested?

Did you ever find yourself in one of those situations where you knew exactly what the other person was thinking? The driveway has a slope to it and I knew Clyde was thinking, “How will me and 'the gimp' push this bike back up the hill if it doesn’t start?” And Clyde knew that I was thinking, “He and Leslie will have a bitch of a time pushing this thing back up the driveway.”

Clyde Jacobs (with his 2003 BMW GT -- "Red Molly") is a great friend and a 
pisser of a riding partner. He and Matt Piechota extended a good deal of 
patience on my behalf this weekend -- right up until the time they ditched me.

The bike had barely rolled three feet when it started as I popped the clutch in third gear. I let it idle at 2k for 5 minutes before we pushed off.

There are few things to compare with riding a motorcycle on a perfect fall afternoon. The sky was utterly cloudless and the kind of penetrating blue that mocks the most precious stained glass. There wasn’t a trace of humidity in the air, which was warm enough to ride with your face shield up three quarters of an inch.

Our destination was Hermy’s, the BMW dealer in Point Clinton, about 60 miles away. The route spanned some highway, a bit of which could qualify as slab. But most of it is two-lane country back roads through rural Pennsylvania. The terrain was heavily wooded in some places, where the cool scent of fall gathered under the shadow of leaves that would be green for one last week this year. I think each season has its own scent. Fall is the aroma of the spiced warm drinks, game dishes, and the bite of cooler weather.

Hermy's Tire and Cycle is the epitome of a what a dealership should be. 
Friendly people who give a damn,support local BMW chapters, and do whatever 
they can to make leave the customer smiling. If this place had a bar and 
slightly better entertainment, it could be mistaken for heaven.
(Photograph lifted from the internet so the author could plug the hell out of the place)

In several places, wood smoke curled from chimneys with a heady aroma far out of proportion to its thin blue tint. This is the season that best compliments the old stone houses that dot the Pennsylvania countryside. The harvest is pending. And the true strength of the nation is evident in the fields, the standing rows of feed corn, and the people who lure it from the soil.

There are at least two Harley dealerships between here and Hermy’s. Consequently, the road was thick with chrome cruisers and their volcanic growls. Yet the closer we got, German unicorn sightings became slightly more common. A GS here... A GT there... An “R” bike coming around a corner... And then there was Hermy’s. The entire block was a mad carnival of Euro-bikes. Perhaps 400 machines clogged the pavement.

By far the most popular sported roundels, but the Triumph crowd ran a close second. Speed Triples, Bonnevilles, and Thruxtons were everywhere. Quite of few had classic paint jobs. A Thruxton started and blew over an elderly woman who’d arrived on a Ducati. She picked herself up from the pavement, lifted up her shirt, and yelled “Yahooooo. I want one of those.”

The crowd was lined up to see the new models. Dick Bregstein, who had been previously committed to replacing his F800 with a Honda “Hobbit,” delighted in the geometry of the new F650 GS, and was told to stop drooling on the tank. There’s been nothing definite said, but it seems like Dick will be passing on the sushi in 2009.

The Honda Hobbit -- 30 years ahead of its time.
(Photo from internet archives)

Mac-Pac riders were in evidence everywhere! Cory Lyba, Ken Bruce, Scott Royer, Marge and Jack Busch, Dick Bregstein, and Matt Piechota were just a few that I saw. I rode my bike right up to the buffet table and helped myself to the pierogies. A dozen people said “hello” to me by name, and I couldn’t remember who they were. I apologize. Several commented on my work. One called me an “asshole,” but I think he meant Clyde.

I’m at a crossroads with this arthritis. I could barely get off the bike when I got home. Then again, who would willingly opt to get off a bike on a day like last Saturday?

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Seductive Nature Of The Older Ones

Even the elite have their own elite. This becomes obvious when the owners of vintage BMW motorcycles and other exotic machines meet to display their equipment. Such was the case on Sunday, October 5, when Todd Trumbore convened the second annual Mac-Pac Vintage Bike Ride, in Skippack, Pa.

Eighteen museum quality bikes -- ranging in age from 53 to 33-years-old --participated in the event. Each machine roared in from various distances. Some were from Delaware. Others came in from Philly. They all had two things in common: One) Each bike came in under its own power with a rider grinning from ear-to-ear; and Two) Every machine looked like it had just rolled out of the showroom. In some cases, the bike had been purchased new years ago by the rider on it.

The riders for the 2008 Mac-Pac Vintage Bike Ride and their Machines
Click on the image to get a a more detailed view of both bikes and riders.
(Photo courtesy of Todd Trice -- ©Copyright Todd Trice 2008)

Gordon Alderfer...............'55 BMW R50 w/ Velorex sidecar
Dave Crank......................'61 Vellocette Clubman Venom
Joel Diefenderfer...............'74  BMW R90S
Dave Dilworth...................'76 Moto Guzzi T3
Eric Ducdude....................'72 BMW R75/5  Toaster
Karl Duffner......................'62 Harley Davidson Sportster CH
Bill Foster.........................'73 BMW R75/5 Toaster
Bruce Kramer....................'75 BMW R90S
Rick Kramer......................'73 BMW R75/5 Toaster
Tom Kramer......................'79 SR500
Joel Jackson......................'68 Triumph Daytona
Dennis O'Dell....................'68 Triumph TR6C
Stoney Read......................'69 BMW R69US
Ron Rohner.......................'64 BMW R60/2 Wiesbaden Polizie Grun one of 25 original
Charles Scott.....................'77 BMW R100S
Todd Trice........................'73 BMW R75/5 Toaster
Gerald Zell.........................'77 BMW R75/7
Bill Zane............................'76 BMW R60/6
Todd,Laura & Larry..........'67 BMW R60/2 w/ Steib TR500

This was the second year that Todd Trumbore graciously invited Dick Bregstein and I to participate in the proceedings. Initially, we were to serve as judges. It became apparent early on in the game our primary role had been downgraded to social parasites. (Last year, Dick was riding his new F800S, and I was on Fireballs, my 1995 K75. Dick wrecked this year and I was down with arthritis in both knees. We made this ride in an SUV.) I was delighted to recognize two familiar faces from the “Great Centralia Ride of 2007. They were Dennis Dooce and Tom Kramer.

I am always impressed at the spirit of camaraderie shared by these guys. As the second hand moved closer to the order for “kick stands up,” concern was expressed for the fate of one rider not yet present. “Stoney” Read, on a 1969 BMW R69US, pulled in at the last minute with a substantial gas leak at the left cylinder head.

Resident Mac-Pac vintage bike experts DucDude, Todd Trumbore, and Bill Zane
reach a consensus that the gas leak on "Stoney" Read's 1969 BMW R69US will require 
more time than availble to fix.
(Photo by the author -- ©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008)

It was the considered opinion of the assembled experts that the repair was going to take longer than the starting time allowed. Stoney pulled out of the ride and headed to the luncheon staging area to complete the repair. At the same instant, Ducdude’s immaculate 1972 BMW R75/5 Toaster started oozing gas as well. This was a simple matter of an overfilled tank, and was resolved with a rag.

DucDude casually checks gasoline leaking from the tank of his impeccable BMW Toaster.
Fortunately, it was just an overfilled tank. Click on the image to fully appreciate the 
detail of this extraordinary motorcycle.
(Photo by the author -- ©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008) 

The BMW "Toaster" is one of the most beautiful motorcycles to have rolled off the line, and Ducdude's is flawless. Note how his features are reflected in the glass-like finish on the gas tank in the photo above. The bike runs like it looks, too.

Todd Trumbore gave the signal, and the line of museum pieces fired up and moved out. It is a testimony to the rider/mechanics that all of these bikes came to life on one or two kicks. The ride covered 108 miles of rural Pennsylvania countryside in a 30-mile radius west of Skippack.

Todd Trumbore gives last minute instructions before the group pulls out. He will
tell those around him not to look all at once, but a brunette with a pronounced "camel toe" is
struggling to get out of a small foreign car. Without exception, the group will all turn and look at once.
(Photo by the author -- ©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008)

We passed through the towns of Boyers Junction, Huff’s Church, New Jersusalem, Landis Store, and Lobachsville. Rolling hills offered occasional changes in elevation with moderate twisties popping up here and there. Feed corn, known as “dent corn” stood drying in the fields. Distant hillsides were dotted with orange, as pumpkins awaited harvest. Roadside stands that offered tomatoes and corn just a few weeks ago now held squash and root vegetables. Cows stood amiably in pastures, contented by the cooler temperatures and demise of the flies. A number of old mill ponds, stone barns, and houses that were 25 years old when the first shots of the revolution were fired provided an incredibly picturesque run.

Rural Pennsylvania countryside was the backdrop for this beautiful early fall ride.
(Photo taken by the author -- ©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008)

We stopped at Boyers Market, in Boyers Junction, Pa. This is quant little gas station and tiny market on the edge of a neighborhood facing extinction. I ordered coffee for Dick and I, plus whatever cookies they had. I expected the standard bag of Pepperidge Farm gas station cookies. What they had was four or six home-baked large cookies in plastic wrapped trays. I said to the nice lady behind the counter, “Bring me some.” She didn’t know what kind I wanted, so she bought four different varieties in various trays. I bought them all and distributed among the riders.

There is nothing more beautiful than a row of vintage bikes parked at a rural gas station.
Please click on the image to enjoy the detail of these remarkable bikes.
(Photo courtesy of Todd Trice -- ©Copyright Todd Trice 2008)

One guy on a toaster said to me, “There are great sugar cookies.” I remember thinking I wanted a ham and cheese on rye with a beer. Then I felt guilty as it might have been too early for a sandwich.

During the break, Todd Trumbore discovered a small stain of oil on the ground beneath the engine of his '67 BMW R60/2 w/ Steib TR500. Todd had just altered the gearing of the bike (which he described as “tall”). He wanted a bit more torque to muscle the hack rig, and in making the change, had reused a crush washer.

Larry Bowa and Laura Hirth inspect two drops of oil under this immaculate 
1967 BMW R60/2W/Steib TR500, which stemmed from Todd Trombore's 
decision to reuse a 34¢ crush washer following a gear box rebuild. The unusual 
fork on the front end is called an "Earls Fork." Laura is an accomplished mechanic 
in her own right. Click on the image to enlarge the detail.
(Photo taken by the author -- ©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008

Now there is one person famous in the Mac-Pac for reusing crush washers -- to save money. (It is not Trumbore.) After 25 years, he has saved enough to buy a "happy meal" at MacDonalds. The group was going to pass a hat around to collect enough change to buy Todd a new crush washer, but Laura assured everyone that she intended to get one for him as a Christmas present. 

While he examined the leak, his Australian Shepherd, “Larry Bowa,” would occasionally hand him a wrench. The dog rode in the sidecar with Laura.

"Tool Dog"Larry Bowa... Click to enlarge... Note wrench in Larry's mouth.
Some speculate that this dog is capable of doing tune-ups, oil changes, and 
other tasks as long as someone else holds the flashlight.
(Photo by the author -- ©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008

On the road again, I said to Dick, “This was about where we lost the group last year.” Ahead of us was Tom Kramer on a 1979 Yamaha, and Dave Crank on the 1961 Vellocette Clubman Venom. They were having a bit of a discussion, which when resolved, found us detached and lost from the group.

“Right on time,” said Dick.

The handling characteristics of the Vellocette Clubman Venom were becoming challenging for Dave Crank, who is a pretty big guy. This particular bike, while beautiful, was highly compact with thin tires.

The 1961 Vellocette Clubman "Venom," owned and ridden by Dave Crank.
This was a sexy bike and the first of it's kind that I had ever seen. 
(Photo taken by the author -- ©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008) 

Crank had fashioned a special heel/toe shifter for the machine, which needed modification after a few hours on the road. We pulled over at Huff’s Church, took a brief rest, then waited while the Vellocette made up its mind to restart. This was a relatively brief period in my opinion, requiring less than 10 minutes to sort things out. Crank is British, and speaks with a reserved sense of understatement. 

"I didn't realize we'd be out on a ride this long," said Crank, who also felt various road surface factors, such as grass clippings, gravel, smeared animal entrails, and flattened vegetation worked against this unique bike's personality. I didn't get the opportunity to discuss the issue with him, but I suspect he favors the alternative antique ride, where the mileage to the event is the thrill and the enthusiastic discussion that follows in the bar is the chief reward.  

Magnificent BMW Toasters parked in a row for the Mac-Pac Vintage Bike Ride.
(Photo Courtesy of Todd Trice -- ©Copyright Todd TRice 2008)

Rejoining the group at Upper Salford Park, we were in time for a cookout and group reception. It was here that Todd was surprised with a cake to commemorate his 56th birthday. This elaborate confection was decorated with a picture of his bike, BMW Roundels, and wrenches. Had the cake actually come from BMW, it would have cost $1,800.

Todd Trumbore displays his 56th birthday cake -- which follows a BMW theme.
The cake would have cost $1,800 if it had actually come from BMW.
(Photo courtesy of Todd Trice -- ©Copyright Todd Trice 2008)

Laura Hirth (Todd's significant other) was trusting enough to introduce me to her mom. Women like to confide in me. Her mom told me about the time she spent a major holiday in the back of a police car, kicking the door, trying to get out. Then she told me about another occasion, when the local minister came calling and little Laura told him mom was inside, “hooking.” She was actually working on a rug. (That means she was making the rug.) Why is it I never have defacto inlaws like this. My first mother-in-law was the reason I got to see the back of a police car. (She had just gotten a pace-maker and caught me removing the seal from the door of her microwave oven.)

This year’s event was more extensive than last year’s ride and has potential to become a multi-BMW chartered club activity. But Todd understands that the ride is the glue that binds, and getting any larger on that end would increase the chance of delays, breakdowns, and mishaps.  I was flattered to be invited back again this year, as I do not own a vintage bike. But seeing these beautiful classics ridden by these guys made want to get one.

“Doesn't a day like this make you wish you had a bike like these, “ I said to Dick.

Bregstein smiled and replied, “You’d have to be able to fix it and you’d still be shit out of luck.”

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The LindBergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Friday, October 3, 2008

September Winners: "Meals For Squeals"

Mac-Pac's Joe Dille and Motorcycle View's Brenda Wheatly are the
winners of the September Twisted Road's Meal For Squeals Contest. They
will receive a $50 gift card for an exciting chain restaurant in their
respective states -- if they check in within the next 24 hours. If
they fail to check in, the prize goes to the alternates.

Twisted roads is the premier motorcycle blog for discerning riders who
like their biking news, editorials, ride reports and product reviews laced
with common sense, sarcasm, humor, and a healthy dose of

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe
Twisted Roads