16 May 2015

less stock, more rock

Due to financial constraints I'm pretty much ruling out getting the crankshaft rebuilt for my R60 this year. That's pretty much the last piece needed before I can start assembling the engine, so getting the engine running is going to be put on the back burner. Instead I'll focus on getting a rolling chassis together and knocking out some fabrication.

I've already pretty much decided that this isn't going to be a concours bike, after all, I'm putting a /5 telescopic fork on the front end instead of using an Earles fork and I had no intention of going with a stock paint scheme. To keep things affordable I'm going to try to make use of stuff I have laying around when I can. I know I'm going to have to make my own solo seat and frame from scratch and in order to do that I'll have to get an idea of how things are laid out on the bike.

I had a beat up fender from my R90/6 laying around, so for shits and giggles I wanted to see if it'd mount on the R60 frame. FYI, if you want a new rear fender fresh from BMW in primer, it'll set you back $1300. As it turns out, the mounting points line up pretty well. I planned on bobbing the fender and cutting off the crap areas, so what I did is actually reverse the fender from where it's mounted above and cut off the license plate mounting area and have that side facing forward. The humps for the bolts on the fender line up with the current mounting point, and the other bolts will line up pretty well for mounting a pillion seat. I'm a little concerned that it's fiberglass and may not hold up to the weight of a person, but with enough framing with tube steel it may be good.

Doesn't look bad for the first cut. Obviously some trimming will be necessary, but this may work out to be a cheap option

The tank for the bike I bought was (and is) in rough shape when I bought it. I had to spend a little to get a new toolbox cover and lock, but that's about all I have for a tank currently. To get it to mount to the frame in the rear you need M8x1.0x30 bolts and the only thing I had laying around in that size were old pressure plate bolts from the R90 that were way too small, and the two studs I salvaged from the final drive that start at M8x1.0 and then go to M8x1.25. Since M8x1.25 is an easier thread to find (and I have tons of nuts for that size), I figured I'd just put the studs on the tank and secure it with nuts I had laying around. Besides that, my Behelfskatalog doesn't give the rubber spacer dimensions, but I had some left over from a VW Thing that I used to have (I don't even remember what they were for) and they seemed to be just right.

I guess this is the reward for holding onto crap, hopefully I can recycle more stuff I have laying around the shop. Now that I have some visual cues, I can work out how tall to make the tabs for the solo seat from that I have to weld on, and then figure out how big to make the seat itself. Next is welding on a new centerstand lug, powdercoating and lacing the wheels, and then I'll be on my way to having a rolling chassis.

23 April 2015

Brandon gets his bike back + and tips on installing Denso brushes

I think the gods were against this Ducati ever getting back to the owner. After fixing the original issues (electrical problems, new ignition and tank lock, and fork brace) that the bike arrived with, then replacing completely worn out rear brake pads, I called Brandon and let him know his bike was finished and that he should come over and warm it up so I could change the oil + filter, then send him on his way. He didn't think something felt quite right during the test run so I figured I'd take a ride to see what was up (it wound up just being an under-inflated rear tire). About two blocks away the clutch lever broke off in my hands...

There were signs that this bike had been crashed by the PO, and likely why the bike was turned into a naked rat, and the clutch lever must have been damaged and just needed enough pulls to snap. No big deal, $34 got a nice condition complete lever and clutch master cylinder. Put that on, bled the system, reset the choke, and called Brandon back to tell him his bike was done, again. He comes over and I go to start the bike, crank, crank, dead. The starter motor just stopped. Diagnosing the issue ruled out the solenoid and indicated starter problems. Bad, bad bad... Removal of the starter motor requires draining the oil, removing the shifter, the complete left side case, the alternator, and then accessing the hidden mounting bolts. That being said, access to the brushes can be done by removing the oil cooler hoses on the right side of the bike, then the two long bolts on the right side of the starter. Figuring I'd check the easy stuff before completely removing the starter, that's what I did first. I was expecting somewhat worn brushes, but not this...

What you're looking at is a positive brush that broke apart, followed by the two armature shims that somehow welded to each other, broke off, and then re-welded themselves to the brush spring. I'm speechless. $10 later, a shop put on brand new brushes and returned the brush plate, now time to mount it.

From this angle the install looks really easy and straightforward. What can't really be discerned in the photo is that the oil cooler inlets protrude from the case enough to make it impossible to put the cap back on by going straight in, you have to cock it and fit it. I first attempted to put the cap and brush plate on as a unit (with the slots already aligned), this made the most sense to me at the time, but was a total failure. Way too difficult to get the brushes on the armature along with the cap mounted correctly to the starter. Next I removed the brush plate from the cap (which meant removing the bolts from the cap that connects to the brush and the positive electrical lead). That made it easy to get the plate on, and the cap on, but next to impossible to get the bolt back into the cap and get the cap back on. Finally, an hour and a half later, I came to the conclusion that I'd leave the bolt in the cap, but leave the nut on at the very last thread of the bolt. This would leave me enough slack to get the brush plate on the armature, and wiggle the cap on, and then pull the bolt fully through the cap and tighten up the retaining nut. Voila...

Buttoned everything up, started it up, starter whirred like a jet engine, and everything is good again. I couldn't be happier to return the bike to the owner.

And here's the happy couple. 

It's rewarding to bring life back to a motor that hasn't run in years, restore the driveability and integrity of the bike, and see the owner beaming to go on his first ride in about 3 years.

12 April 2015

Brandon's Ducati 900SS rat

Just finished up work on Brandon's rat 900SS.

Once the electric was sorted out, it was just a matter of replacing the steering stem/lower fork brace and the locking gas cap to match the new ignition.

JB Weld is no one's friend - this is the brace I have to replace.. Kids, do not repair structural stuff like this.

naked, like Italians on a beach

This is the method I use for greasing in pressed in bearings - way easier than trying to use traditional packing methods. Grease injecting directly into the races, can't beat it

It's so ugly, it's beautiful. Look mom, no JB Weld.

Brandon also wants an oil change and the rear brake pads changed, but all in all, the work is done. I'll be happy to see Brandon ride off on his beast again, it hasn't run since Hurricane Sandy...

10 April 2015

Ducati 900SS back to life

Brandon's Duc has been OOS since around the winter of 2012. It ran fine, then he put it away, then no good (no lights, not spark, no starter) + the fork brace is cracked clean. Since he dropped it off a couple of weeks ago, I've only been able to spend about 5 hours or so on it, and those hours have been dedicated just to fixing the electrical issues. It had me stumped for awhile. The electronic tach is wired directly to the battery, not the ignition switch, so it's on as long as there is battery power - I installed a disconnect to remedy that while I mull over rewiring. Additionally, there are a ton of homemade connections and rewiring on this bike, which was a pain, but after changing the battery, tracing everything out, installing the new ignition (he lost the original keys), and cleaning and rewiring some connections, a turn of the ignition would trigger a quick flash on the indicators and the click of the main relay. Finally I figured it'd have to be the relay, despite it clicking like normal.

not looking good

 After opening up the relay it didn't take long to see what the problem was. The coil was in great shape which is why it was clicking over, but the contact was well burnt up.

contact detail

I found out that Ducati isn't like BMW at all when it comes to old parts, they're more like H-D. Only worry about the new stuff, and anything older than 5 years or so will be relegated to the salvage market. I wound up finding a used relay for $11.95 on eBay (with a video showing that the bike was working before disassembly), and then an automotive generic relay on Amazon for $4.20. Since the Amazon relay is lost in the mail currently, and the old Ducati one happened to arrive today, I decided to try that option.

After a brief recharging of the battery, this 94 is back to life. Now to tackle the front suspension, rear brake pad change, and oil change, and this bike will be back on the road again. Just listen to that Ducati clutch clang around...

26 March 2015

removing Ducati 900SS security bolts

Besides swapping out the stem and triple clamp, and fixing the electrical issues on the 900SS, I need to replace the old ignition switch. Apparently Ducati bolted the ignition switch on the upper triple clamp with conical bolts to prevent theft, I don't know why, but they did.

I was just going to put a slot in the tip of the bolt to unscrew it, or at worst use a vice grip, but then realized the bolts are internally threaded. I'm sure Ducati has a special tool to get these off using those threads, but the rest of us can use an M6x1.0 bolt and nut in order to extract them. Simply thread in the M6 bolt with another nut on it, tighten down the nut against the head of the security bolt, and then turn the bolt inserted into the internal threads. Easy peasy.

Now I have to figure out why the aftermarket tachometer has power on the bike, but when I turn the ignition on, the tail light and signals flash and then go out...

25 March 2015

Ducati 900SS in for work

Brandon's ratty 900SS finally dropped off for electrical work (won't run) and triple clamp/steering stem replacement (cracked). I already regret taking this on, the wiring gives me nightmares

1 step forward, 2 steps back

Owner's manual. This bike is  made for high speeds, but they'll void your warranty. Also be mindful of the image of motorcyclists.

24 February 2015

Swap meets, Stands, and BMW systems

Swap meets for BMW owners are usually pretty disappointing events. You search and search through the mess of Harley stuff for the occasional gem that makes going to 3-4 meets a year actually worth it. This year I actually started selling stuff, which I've found is the best thing to do if you want to buy stuff. You have access to all the tables before the general public and it seems that when you sell the other vendors have a different respect for you and are much more social and helpful. Still though, they are very strange for a non-H-D rider as there is often nothing that I need, but it's still a good day out with friends and cycle stuff so it's worth it.

I just unpacked from the Eckenhoff Motorcycle Swapmeet in Cherry Hill where I sold absolutely nothing, while weeks ago at the Neshaminy Valley Antique Motorcycle Club's swap meet I killed. Funny thing is the stuff I sold was all the crap I thought I'd be stuck with forever, I wound up taking home the good stuff, like excellent final drives, hubs, shocks, etc... That stuff is all going on eBay now, we'll see how it does. Last eBay batch of R69S stuff went out to Thailand, as did a prior sale of stuff, weird....

Chris and our table at the Nesahminy Valley Swap Meet. I killed

Yamaha my friends Liz and Rog picked up for $200

Killer Triumph frame Kendall picked up a week after the meet

it's all in the details... Stuff like this just can't be reproduced

Eckenhoff Meet, I finished in the red

but I was able to trade a Magura /5 throttle grip for this 1980's gem. It's useless as a helmet, but priceless as a decorative piece in my garage. I kinda want to paint my Bell Bullitt like this now

oh yeah, and I finally got a stand. A cheap Harbor Freight one, but it beats working on my knees and back. Pretty soon I'll be ready to take on customer bikes. Still waiting on a coworkers Ducati 900SS to arrive, I'm beginning to think he really don't want to ever get it back on the road...

Finally... That BMW wrench I mentioned a few posts ago broke. I guess unlike the /6 tool, this one wasn't made in Germany. One turn on the swingarm pins and a pin sheared right off the wrench. Add this to the list of BMW stuff they're now outsourcing and are complete shit.

10 January 2015


I finally found an early R60 final drive, but it was missing one f/d to swingarm stud, and another was bent. These studs are 46mm long, with one end threaded M8x1.25 (going into the f/d case) and the other end M8x1.0 (for the nuts to secure on the swingarm). They aren't available from BMW anymore and Bench Mark Works wants $16 per stud! I guess if you are competing in concours events that kind of originality is critical, but I'm not. Instead, I paid $12 (total) for 4 replacement studs made of hardened steel (12.9) alloy and completely threaded to M8x1.25 threads.

 They're made by a brand called Obsidian and I found them on eBay. I bought the 4 studs (the black ones seen below), which also came with locking nuts and anti-seize since they're intended for exhaust manifolds. I am using blue loctite on the threads going into the case for good measure.

Stock M8x1.25x/M8x1.0 x 46 stud above, compared to replacement M8x1.25x45 stud. You'll notice on the top studs there is a dimple on one side. That's actually a 4mm hex so you can install the studs with a hex key instead of double nutting the studs and using a wrench. Nice touch.

As seen. Don't know why the case and splines look so rusty. In real life aluminum can't rust and the case is a nice grey, and the splines and nut/washer have a nice oil coat on them and are clean.

After getting everything together I test fit it on the swingarm and all looks well. Going to have to use stock nuts and wave washers though as the locking nuts that came in the kit are far too large for the application - there's enough clearance, but not enough threads to give me a warm and fuzzy secure feeling about them. Definitely happy I went this route instead of spending $32 on two stock replacements.

02 December 2014

"A tale of two wrenches," or better yet, "Lost in Translation"

When it comes to buying BMW parts from BMW, I've never before had an issue with poor translation, the kind of thing where you provide a part number and the guy behind the counter tells you something completely unexpected. That was until I wanted to order a special open ended wrench for the R60 that also had a pin wrench on one end for the swingarm pins. I hear that the new swingarm pivot pins for /2s have a hex key, like on the airheads, that also lets you grease the swingarm bearings through them, but alas my R60 ones require the early pin wrench, which I needed to purchase.

I never go to BMW without a part number, the local dealer system is terrible to navigate (though when I order from MaxBMW it's incredibly efficient), so when I gave the guy p/n 71 11 9 090 139, I wasn't expecting him to say, "so you need a key for the bike?" I was even more surprised when I asked for p/n 71 11 9 090 140 to be presented with the question, "and you also want a gasket?" I stopped for a minute, stunned, and then went into my phone to check Max BMW's microfiche believing that I wrote the wrong part numbers down from my Behelfskatalog (since they don't supply a parts explosion for the tools). Nope, I got the numbers right. I'll take the "key," even though it's not a key, and it turns out the "gasket" is NLA, I'll have to order it from MaxBMW later.

Here's the parts book entry:

Schlüßel is German for key, but it also means spanner, so p/n 139 is "Ring Nut Spanner" correctly translated in the parts book. and Schlüßel zum Vergaser is correctly translated as "Wrench for the Carburetor." At some point, BMW, in their computer system, changed the former to simply "key," and the latter to "gasket." At least the former kinda makes sense, and I that's why I was so confident in ordering the part despite the guy behind the counter promising me that I'd be getting a key when the part comes in instead of a wrench.

Here's what I got:(bottom wrench)

Voila, I was right. The wrench on the top is for my /6, BMW calls it a "hook wrench," which is an apt description (I didn't check it against my parts catalog), the bottom is the "key" or "ring nut spanner." I got the part I needed, just for those silly two pins on the left side. You'll notice a slight discoloration between the two tools, and the bottom one doesn't say W. Germany on it. I don't know if this is because BMW isn't having the parts made in Germany anymore (NOTE: I bought the top one only 5 or 6 years ago), they're not using original dies anymore, or the original never said where it was made, I really don't know. I'm hoping it's not made in China, but as long as it works (and lasts) I'll be happy. It's still made out of Chrome/Vanadium like the originals, or at least it says it is.

Concerning the rest of the tools for the 1957 R60, I was kinda taken aback by the prices on eBay, which pretty much match BMW's complete, new tool kit at around $220, even when they're incomplete sets. Therefore, I'm going to buy the special tools, like the one pictured above, and substitute the rest.

This is what $10 looks like. Flea markets really pay off sometimes...

All German made, most are Chrome/Vanadium alloys like the original BMW ones, and they'll all work fine. The bottom one is actually from a Mercedes toolkit and has a nice three-pointed start on the back. So far I've got 3/4 of a complete tool kit, including stuff I already have that's not pictured all for about $25 if you include the tool bag (note: I used points from my credit card to buy the pin wrench, so I'm counting that as free). BMW oldtimers may turn up their noses at such a thing, but since I'm putting telescopic forks on a 1957 R60, I've most likely already completely turned them off. Oh well, I guess I'll have the bigger smile when I'm out on the road not worrying about putting a paint chip in my $15000 restoration.

26 November 2014

Peking to Paris - 1907

A few months ago I picked up the book German Racing Silver, and then it's sister book Italian Racing Red. Both pretty excellent, encyclopedic books concerning the automobile history of their respective countries, the former an excellent complement to a book I read about Hitler's racing program (essentially the Mercedes and Auto Union silver arrows) and the latter to complement a disappointing biography of Enzo Ferrari that I recently finished reading. When I got the the Itala section of the Italian book, the author quoted one Luigi Barzini who documented a race from Peking, China to Paris, France in 1907 aboard an Itala. He claimed the story was so good that one could write a book about it, and Barzini did just that. Immediately after reading that statement I went to the book sources, found the book and was able to locate a used copy online (it seems the book is no longer in print, at least in English).

What a fantastic story it wound up being. I've often remarked to my wife that I wish the world was large again, where cultures remained in somewhat isolation of one another. Where you could travel to the other side of the world and find traditional dress and customs in tact, with no signs of Western dress, music, food, etc. It bothered me a little when I went to Amsterdam on my first trip to Europe and found the Dutch to speak English so well, almost American sounding, see the same crap music on TV, see McDonalds and all the other stores I'm accustomed to seeing on the East Coast of the US. I felt that if it weren't for the canals and architecture, I could have been in any US city. Having gone to Germany and couple times after this I can say that I definitely felt like I was in Germany at all times and loved that , but that's another story. Reading Peking to Paris, you're presented with a world that may as well have existed 500 years ago. People were afraid of cars, some thinking them to be some kind of animal being piloted by demons (at least during the parts occurring in China, Mongolia, and Siberia). Cultures remained so different from one another, and there was no google, GPS, or auto translators to help along the way. News came by telegram, when it existed, not instantaneously via email. To really appreciate this, pick up the book and give it a read, I can't do it enough justice in my brief blog entry.

Now, about the race:

The concept of the race came about in a Paris Newspaper (Le Matin) as a a means of proving the durability of the newfound automobile:

"What needs to be proved today is that as long as a man has a car, he can do anything and go anywhere. Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?"

Of 40 entrants, only 5 teams actually committed to the race by providing a deposit and shipping their vehicles to Peking. Due to the vast disparity between original entrants and actual participants, the race was going to be called off, though Prince Borghese (heading the Itala team with his mechanic/chauffeur Ettore Guizzardi) refused to accept the cancellation and sent a telegram to Paris stating his intentions to go to Peking to participate no matter what. His team was joined by a journalist, Luigi Barzini, who was sent by an Italian newspaper to document the race. The other teams consisted of a Dutch team using a Spyker (finishing 2nd), 2 French teams driving DeDions, and another French team using a Contal three-wheeler cycle-car (the only participant not to complete the race).

The Itala 7.0 liter 4-cylinder. Unlike the DeDions this car used a driveshaft instead of chains to power the wheels.

The Itala not only won the race, it did so by a margin greater than a week. During the race it was pulled by coolies through the hills of China, sunk in mud due to the complete absence of roads, and even flipped over and fell due to a bridge collapsing under it . Yet in all instances human power was able to free the machine and put it back on course. At one point a carriage maker built the team a new front wheel, and another made them new leaf springs. With all of our modern conveniences, I don't think my car would fare nearly as well.

The introduction to the book claims that Barzini's story was a standard gift to Italian children graduating school. I guess to supply them with an adventurous spirit, or maybe to keep alive a 20th century Italian triumph. I really think that this sort of tradition should continue, especially over in the US. Here it seems like we're too caught up in playing victims about things, harping on social struggles (real or imagined), obsessed with a world focus, but with no idea of what our own culture really is. Our culture is obsessed with our shortcomings and failures and none of our triumphs. 

Our kids need to read about something nice like this, about going on adventures into the unknown, about ingenuity and hardiness conquering every setback. Like I said earlier, I really wish the world was big again, we're so connected to everything nowadays that we have no concept of who we even are anymore.

16 November 2014

Speaking of hipsters

My buddy Shane von Cycles (see blog) just made this little ditty to remind everyone to drop the aesthetics and posing and take a real ride

Destroy All Hipsters from Asphalt Redemption on Vimeo.

14 November 2014


Even my 4-year old can spot one and color appropriately (note the yellow seat and blue suede boots)

04 November 2014

major parts deliveries

I'm still waiting on a major order to come in from Max BMW, namely bottom end spacers, bearings, etc., and I still need to get the crankshaft rebuilt, but I'm beginning to see signs of a complete engine after the parts delivery today.

+2 Timing gears, 30 degree - new style

Remember that $50 box of parts I got way back when? Well, a couple things I was able to salvage for this build was a new type oil pump gear wheel and crankshaft lower timing gear. The lower gear was kinda strange because it's a 0 and the correlating timing gear in the box was a -3 (these early BMW engines don't use timing chains, they use precision gears sized to the crankcase and ranging from -10 to +10). My case is a +2 so that was a no go, but I kept the lower gear as cases shrink over time and figured I may need it when I buy +2 gears and find that they fit too tightly. Now I have +2 gears, so we'll see what happens.

These gears are the new style, meaning 30-degree (so they work with the new-style oil pump wheel I kept), and they'll accept the new style breather plate (much improved from the pin-style) which also came with the box that keeps on giving. I got these from S.Meyer in Hillesheim, Germany and they were about 30% cheaper than what BMW was asking. I was a little concerned about the price being so cheap, but they look and feel OEM and seem to be very high quality. Now I can completely cross the cam-shaft parts off my list, and with everything else for the crank on order, that'll be complete as well. Once I get the parts in and the crankshaft rebuilt I'll finally have a complete bottom end.

Concerning the top-end, I'll admit that I was kinda stressing over things. I was able to get the cylinders no problem, even got em for a great price, but good heads are somewhat difficult to find. One of the big reasons is the most commonly found heads are ones from the early to mid-1960's. The issue is heads in the 60's were prone to bad metallurgy (due to environmental concerns, the alloy used in the casting was changed) causing, exhaust threads to melt away like butter and rocker posts to literally sink into the head. Duane Ausherman actually coined the term "butterheads" to describe them.

BMW Bulletin #244 dated 7 Apr 67 claims:
The material of the heads was previously changed to avoid the use of chloric gas required to clean the equipment that handled the former "hydronalium" alloy. 
Going on to say: "it has been found that the new alloy does fully equal the hitherto used alloy concerning its resistance to heat"

They also developed cracks in the combustion chamber and tended to launch their spark plug inserts. BMW's solution was Lange Kerz (long spark plug) or "LK" heads that used an entirely new alloy. My choice was essentially either find really early heads with the quality, pre-pollution laws, that don't crack or melt, or find LK heads. I wound up getting a great deal doing the former.

1952 R51/3 Heads + Rockers

I'm pretty stoked about these heads. You may be wondering why I'd get R51/3 heads for an early R60, but the R51/3, R67, R50, R60, R50/2, and R60/2 all shared the same heads and valve sizes (with varying metallurgy as mentioned previously). Note the 2 different valve springs (per valve) and the thick cooling fins that identify this as an early head. I know a rebuild of these will occur somewhere down the line, maybe even convert to rotating valves, but once my bottom end is together I'm going to bolt these right up and test the compression. If found to be within spec, they are staying on, at least until the next winter...

30 October 2014

restless with the R60

It'll be about a month before my timing gears arrive from Germany, along with the new bearings and spacers to complete the R60 bottom end. I'm getting so anxious to build this engine that I put together the camshaft with the bearings I was able to source locally.

How impressive...

Expect a lot more updates in a month or two

29 October 2014

Lucky Cat Garage Sprintbeemer

I know this is pretty old news (I think I read about it in BMW Motorcycle Magazine at the beginning of the year), but still pretty damn cool.

Lucky Cat Garage from France built this excellent BMW conversion drag racer, when I first saw it in the magazine it looked like this:

Now, it looks like this:

There's so much coolness about this, the dustbin fairing, the Dellorto 40mm "pumper" carbs, the moped tank, the machined out hubs, electronic ignition, extended sump, the custom rear struts, the list goes on and on and it's probably just best to read the linked blog above. So many little hidden details and character. I like the old school trick of using the lower fork clamp as the upper brace, the conversion swingarm and corresponding spacer to connect the d/s to the trans. This would be a terrible bike to ride on the street, but that's not the point is it? If I had money and time to just own a drag racer, I'd build a conversion like this.

I took a lot of work to make this work, although that might not be apparent to people unfamiliar with BMWs. So kudos Lucky Cat Garage, seeing this makes me want to turn my R60 frame into a conversion bike, if only I weren't so deep into it already...