Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Is it dumb to use a smart phone on a vintage motorcycle?

If it hadn't been for Google Maps I never would have discovered Royal Palm Way in Boca Raton, Fla.
The Malle Mile vintage motorcycle rally/party in the UK this coming weekend has issued a warning:

"Bring battery boosters as charging on site will be limited."

I'm sure they're not referring to battery boosters for your cafe racer or creaking old sidecar outfit.

They mean extra juice for your smart phone — of course.

The Malle Mile promises "350 vintage and custom motorcycles racing over the weekend in the four events, at the ever beautiful Kefington Hall."

It also promises "a lot of gorgeous, passionate people riding motorcycles."

As the Malle Mile organizers surely know, most of those gorgeous young people will have their noses stuck in their smart phones a good bit of the time.

My admiration is reserved for the rider or two who sees the value in recreating not only the appearance of the past, but the circumstances of a world before smart phones.

It's harder and harder to do, because the things are just so darn useful.

"I Ride Alone" could be my motto. No smart phone (I do have a dumb cell phone — my wife insists I carry it).

If I get lost I will just have to:

A. Look at a map; which means stopping, getting off, ripping off the helmet and finding and unfolding the right map. Or...

B. Ask directions, which so many people now find painful. Or...

C. Just guess which way to turn, with the consequences good or bad to be determined by fate.

In practice, of course, I cheat by planning my route on Google Maps and memorizing it. I have to give Google credit: it often suggests routes that would not have occurred to me to try, sometimes making for pleasant discoveries.

Using Google Maps I "pre-rode" Royal Palm Way.
This was the case recently when I rode to meet friends for lunch in a nearby town. Normally I'd have just motored up U.S. 1, but Google suggested I take Royal Palm Way. This turned out to be a shaded little road with a 30 mph speed limit and few stop lights or stop signs. Instead of dead-ending at the first expressway, the little road crossed it on a small bridge.

Advantage: Google.

When I reached the Big Intersection my memory failed me. I turned left, away from the restaurant. When the place didn't appear I guessed my error and turned around. I wasn't late, but there you have it. A glance at a smart phone would have saved me a couple miles.

Advantage: Google.

At lunch, my friends told me how, on vacation, they'd encountered a traffic jam on an expressway and had stopped at a roadside store where a clerk suggested an alternate route. It turned out to be a great side-trip.

Advantage: Human contact.

Their experience was something that could have happened in the 1950s or, indeed, at any time since the invention of the motor vehicle.

I think that's the experience that vintage motorcyclists should prefer. But I understand that the temptation to cheat is enormous.

Tree-shaded Royal Palm Way, with a median and Royal Enfield style speed limit.
Thank you, Google Maps.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Royal Enfield's old Albion gearbox tells a story

Royal Enfield four-speed gearboxes, separated by 40-plus years.
My 1999 made-in-India left-shift gearbox is at right.
I've only just praised the obsolete Royal Enfield four-speed gearbox on my 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet, and along comes an eBay advertisement for a similar but obviously far older example of the same thing.

And, my, doesn't it look familiar?

There are differences. The older one is right-hand shift, of course, as most were. Only where legally required were they made to shift left, as is mine.

Note oil filler plug at top right of gearbox. Mine has one there, but...
But, wow, get a load of the bolt that covers the top oil filler hole. Stamped on it — in oh, so tiny type — are the oil specifications for the gearbox.

Castrol, Mobiloil, Shell, Essolube, Energol. Great old names that mark this gearbox as a product of Redditch, England.

...the older gearbox filler plug is labelled.
The poor filler plug is a bit bunged up but I would love to have it. The filler plug on my made-in-India gearbox is plain.

I'm a little surprised that the filler plug specifies oil.

My understanding was that gearboxes back then were filled with grease from the factory, as there was no proper seal on the sprocket side to retain oil.

My 1999 gearbox came from India filled with what some used to refer to as "elephant snot." That stuff stayed put.

When I tried using oil the gearbox it soon bathed everything behind it in oil. At a sprocket change my mechanic fit a seal, and oil has worked fine for me ever since.

Canadian Royal Enfield enthusiast Chris Overton kindly identified the old gearbox, based in its serial number, as being from a 1965 Series 1 Interceptor.

I wonder what stories this eBay gearbox could tell of its travels.

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