Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Fun with Frames

Here is another take on the back bone/spar frame.  These two builds from Jared Johnson of Holiday Custom Moto in Portland, Oregon have influences from Japan and Chicago.  The combination of the Yamaha factory spine frame and Schwinn cantilever frame make for an interesting hardtail.  There also maybe a bit of a nod to the oil in frame Triumph and BSA frames.  Almost could be considered a mashup of all those design influences.




Go to the following for some interesting footage of the two bikes.

After this bit of surfing I’m looking forward to this next Saturday.  I will have a chance to visit a new friend’s garage and talk over what he’s doing and what I’m doing, should be instructive and enlightening. 

I know he's willing to help provide instruction on use of my lathe.  He turns out to be a trained machinist hailing originally from the UK and Australia.  You never know what casual conversation will turn up.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Coincidence Brings Good Fortune

So as a result of off hand remarks by a friend I have meet another off the grid cycle builder similar in vision to myself.  I refer to the builder that had some tube bent up for a Sonic Weld like frame project.  My new found friend hadn’t used the tube and was more than willing to help.  Mostly because he actually had two identical tubes bent and willingly passed on the spare.

Material collected so far for the Overlander frame.

Notional look at what a backbone/spar might look like with the JAP and Norton gear box.  I’m not yet convinced this is the direction to go.  However it seems to have a simplicity that is attractive.

I have read several brief histories of the SonicWeld –TrackMaster frame shop saga.  Here are a few bikes built using one or the other.  I’m sure there are others making new versions of these famous frame designs.

                                         Shinya Kimura at

                                         Shinya Kimura at



SonicWeld from Framecrafters at

TrackMaster from Framecrafters at

When the Overlander project was first conceived I broadly thought that building an interpretation of the vintage TT racers would be what I was after.  However it seems that at times the parts and materials available have changed that original concept.

The sense I have is the build is evolving still and what does remain is the spirit of the privateer racer from years ago.  The spirit of one guy in his garage or shed building a motorcycle which not only suits him but also utilizes the parts and materials available as the build progresses.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Luck of the Pluck!

One objective of this Overland project has been to try and avoid it becoming a checkbook build.  The desire is to use, if you will, found bits and pieces rather than be too concerned about what is proper motorcycle bits, methodology and combinations.  As a result most of the parts and raw materials I have gathered up so far have some sort of story attached to them. 

With the arrival of the girder fork I now have the last big bit needed to start thinking of a frame to hang all these found bits from.  Of course this requires time, thought and a certain bit of luck, coincidence and some karma.  I haven’t run across the perfect old frame, nor did I ever plan to exclusively look for a frame I could modify.  I have considered several.  I also thought that building a frame from scratch would probably work better considering some of my ides for geometry and wheelbase.

No matter which way it would go some proper tubes would be required no matter what.  That is also why I have been working off and on to get some skill with various welding processes.  To help with the learning process I need some material to work with.  So why not go see and old friend that uses tube for restoring vintage aircraft.  Everybody has off-cuts and tubes that went wrong on bending, cutting or what have you.  So cheap or free tubing to learn with was the objective of a visit to his hanger.  The other objective was to also catch up because he also mucks about with motorcycles.

My friend has decided to retire from restoring vintage aircraft for other people and is now working hard on his own restoration projects.  The most recent completed and FAA certified and in the air is a 1943 Interstate.  And if his record photo looks great you should see it in person.  Most Excellent!!!

As a result of the retirement my friend is trying to clear out all the remains of tube stock he has accumulated over the years.  Good fortune for me.  In the process of rummaging looking for tube to work with I was also thinking of the tubes for the Overland frame.  My friend mentioned that he had, some years ago, bent up a tube of large diameter heavy walled tube for a friend’s semi-SonicWeld frame project.

Using a SonicWeld like back/spar configuration had occurred to me; however the thought of trying to bend up or source the fabrication of the tube pretty much turned me off of that idea. 

But a pre-bent tube was of interest.  So I got a name and phone number for the guy and a casual conversation turned into a lead for a main spar frame tube of unknown specifications but of 4130 chromalloy.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Out In The Cold

I got tired of looking at unobtainable cycles and decided I should brave the cold.  So I put the girder fork on the bench and started to get to know it and determine what I needed to do to refurbish things.  So instead of looking like this;

The fork looks like this.  No surprises so far but work to do.  Haven’t planned anything yet just wanted to disassemble things and measure up things for the record and keep on trucking.  At about this point my toes made it clear I had over stayed my welcome out in the cold. 

For me what was revealed was what I wanted; a very simple girder fork with no fancy stuff and in sound condition.  Pretty much got what I wanted.  While it really doesn’t make a difference, in the long run, I still can’t tell the original manufacture or age of this fork.

Garage Has Power Again

On Friday my friend and co-worker the Master Electrician finished the work in Kiotee Garage to get a new and safe 50 AMP circuit wired up.  Since that was at the end of the day I decided that today would be good for getting back to working with the TIG welder.  However Montana weather being what it is and this being December it started snowing and now it is about 20F (6.6C) outside and of course the garage, still heat less, is not very conducive to any work.

So then a hot cup of coffee in hand and nothing to occupy my hands and mind I started looking over the current flyer for the MidAmerican Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction. This all happens on January 10, 11 and 12.

Just in case anybody has some spare cash and they feel very philanthropic and supportive towards Kiotee Garage here are my support requirements;

This is the Vincent Black Lightning as built by Jeff Decker.  His bike gets ridden fairly regularly and for being a Vincent is just Most Excellent; not only for the look but also in performance and execution of the build.  For this bike I would over look the fact it’s a twin.

Next up on the list for support requirements is a 34 Crocker.  Not one of those over weight and over cylindered v-twins but a sexy, sleek single.  The only problem is that it has not been run in 50 years.  But being the wanker I am I would pull the engine, store the remains and build a complete new Overlander around it.  And then run the crap out of it.


After my first two choices the last on my support list may be looked at as odd.  A, purported, 1948 Norton Manx TT racer.  Yes it’s scruffy as hell but is claimed to run fine.  I would do enough cleaning to make her reliable and safe and then ride, ride, ride.  Well I would have to put the bare minimum of lights on to get her licensed and tagged but I’m sure I could do that without distracting from her natural beauty.

But all in all if you philanthropist really don’t feel like sending me all three then, believe it or not, just send me the Norton.
Yes I agree I’m odd but you know I have fun.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Best Laid Plans or How Planning Doesn’t Mean Squat!

My employer is very generous with providing the best tools for the job.  However they are a bit forgetful that some of those tools require an appropriate work area to use them in.  Specifically a tool that involves new skills and keeping those skills up to speed for the job.  The tool in question is a new Miller water cooled 250DX TIG machine.

                                                      The Miller is as big as a frig.

So my boss and co-worker agreed that Kiotee Garage would be a fine place to temporarily house the machine so that he and I both had a shop area for increasing and practices our welding skills.

However once the machine was in place and ready for use I found that despite appearances the electrical service to the garage was only 40 AMPS and not the required 50 AMPS.

My co-worker is also a Master Electrician and when he looked over the power feed to the garage he found a ticking time bomb in my main breaker for the house and garage.  Seems the original builder/owner decided it would be a great idea to feed the 240 to the garage from the transformer side of the feed and not from the main breaker panel. 

Now all of this was identified at the beginning of a week of holiday time I was going to use to practice some welding technique.  No I spent my time off digging up the yard to replace the direct buried cable to the garage.  Then placed conduit and ran a new 50 AMP service.  Then of course a bit of rewiring on the house side to eliminate the time bomb circuit.


                                         The trench required to pull out the direct buried
                                         line and replace with conduit and higher rated

Monday, November 12, 2012

All the Major Bits and Pieces.

I don’t have tons of spares stacked in the garage so for the Overland I have been collecting the bits as I can.  And believe me it’s tough finding the right parts when you do what I’m doing up here the Big Sky Country.   Not complaining just mentioning why this build seems to drag on forever.

And of course the demands of job and other peoples project and needs divert my time and attention.  Not to mention the weather and having an unheated garage.  Not complaining or whining just stating some facts of my life.

So here is the inventory of big bits.  Of course I have the engine, Norton transmission and clutch, the front and rear hubs and wheels plus now I have the girder fork I wanted.

So in reality life is good in The Kiotee Garage.  This, of course, means the next step will be to set everything up and build a frame to house all of these bits and pieces.  I’m hoping for late spring to have something that looks like a rolling chassis.

                                          The results of the first snow storm.

                                          The girder fork and front wheel on the bench.

A friend in the UK, a builder of huge talent, traded me the girders for a springer fork I had that became spare when I got fixated on having a girder for the Overland.  The fork is straight and one of the simpler designs of girder.  No idea of the original manufacture but it could be an early Webb.  Of course that is really not too important.  It will need some refurbishment but that is the same with all the bits and pieces I’m using for this build. 

Off the Game!

In years past the transition between seasons was looked forward too.  The cooling temperatures, the leaves turning colors, birds flying south and expectations of the first snow provided wonderful sign posts for closing out the year.

However this year the national election sucked all the joy out of this years’ close out.  The election did so by being brutal, stupid, and ugly.  In my opinion it all missed the entire point of what is going on in this country and around the world.

And of course it was hard over the last few months to ignore the election.  It was like a dripping faucet.  Try as you might it couldn’t be fixed, turned off or ignored.  So you just hope to out live it without suffering any major psychic damage.

So the way I tried to do that was to help my son with his Rover projects.  First thing was we stripped a 72 two door Ranger Rover to the bare frame and drive line.  Then we started doing the same to a 4 door Range Rover County LWB.  Mined a bunch of Birmabright for the Overland and recycled a good bit of steel. 

I think the plan is to build a sort of a trialer sort of thing out of the LWB County frame and drive line.  As for the 72 it may very well become a Series flatbed shop truck; would be nice to have a flatbed to transport the JAPs on.

                         The rolling chassis and drive line of the 72 under tarp and snow.

                            The Range Rover LWB County in the process of being stripped.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I have one vision of garage life.  That vision consists of working on my projects and getting things done and bit by bit moving towards the imagined end point of a running TT Privateer.

But real life does not always make that possible.  There are always those other things and other people that also have visions and projects that need to be attended to.

Sometime ago we rebuilt our back deck.  The CEO got together with my son and decided that what was needed on the deck to make it complete was a steel railing.  My ever creative son came up with a grand design.  Of course Kiotee Garage got pressed into service as the final production, assembly, paint and installation facility.

It looks great and will be solid and wonderful.  More importantly the CEO loves it.  This project is one small part of my recent slow progress on the real business of the garage.

With the railing in place the artist contemplates the installation requirements.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


                                                         Cool Cat on a JAP!
Paul Neuman is cool.  James Dean was labeled as cool.  The King of Cool has always been Steve McQueen.  But this unknow guy is COOL!!!  Not only for the unaffected mechanics look but also the cycle he’s sitting on.  But above all the JAP engined dirt tracker is the ultimate most excellent part of the photograph.

Rear Wheel Done

Well not completely but good enough to use for having a place keeper for the frame build.  And it looks like I will be getting after that this winter.  In Montana sometimes spring, summer, fall and winter transition from one to the other pretty fast.  So Kiotee Garage is prepping for winter and hoping to get to the frame building and welding so all the heat and such might keep me from freezing solid.  And freezing solid would hinder progress.  Well slow things down more than the slow geologic speed I’m moving at lately.

Down the road, after I have a rolling cycle that goes under it’s own power and seems to be basically safe I will hopefully acquired some DID alloy rims to replace the steel rims from the factory.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Back to Work

After being energized by seeing the Cannonball folks in Yellowstone I’m back to work on cleaning the rear hub.  It is most interesting the things you discover working with parts you have never seen before.

The Honda rear hub is interesting in how the engineers decided to put things together.  The cush bolts for the rear sprocket are not one piece as I expected.  Honda uses a sleeved rubber bushing pressed into the hub and the actual sprocket bolts are a slip fit into the sleeve.  Not even a pris fit.  To my surprise the sprocket and bolts are held to the hub by a large split ring on the outside of the sprocket.

So after having touched each and every nipple and spoke I’m close to having everything clean and spruced up for the wheel lacing.  Before I lace the hub to rim I have to go over the spokes and nipples one more time with some steel wool and Marvel Miracle oil.

                                          In the middle of cleaning.

                                        The sprocket bolts and the wrecked nuts with the 
                                        replacements.  I had to do a great deal of file work 
                                        to save the threads on the bolts.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Rare Treat!!!!

The motorcycle culture in Montana is odd to say the least.  You either ride an American product, a go fast foreign product or you have your vintage motorcycle of any blood hidden deep in a garage.  Since I became addicted to JAP engines I have tried to find some local support group of other vintage cyclist.

What I have found is generally insular, clubby and pretty standoffish. So when the Cannonball crew decided to ride near Montana on their 2012 sea to shinning sea trophy dash I had to go and soak up as much moving vintage porn as I could.  Despite my training and practice as a military photographer I was so thrilled by the machines and the kind and generous riders and mechanics and support crews I took fewer photos than I had planned.

Here are the photos I liked best for the reason that the people and the machines are some of my favorites for lots of reasons.

Paul d’Orleans and his 28/33 Velocette KSS/MkIV KTT hybrid. Yellowstone Lake, WY

Velocette race bike.

Shinya Kimura, Ayu and Niimie of Chabott Engineering, with their 1915 Indian.


The Cannonball winner for two in a row 1913 Excelsior of Brad Wilmarth.

Paul, Shinya Kimura, Ayu and Niimie and Brad all were kind and gracious and had great patience for an intruding old wanker like me.  I was very much like a kid in a candy store not only meeting these very cool riders and crew but all the other riders that treated me with courtesy and evidently appreciated my overboard enthusiasm.  Plus a thank you to Jeff Decker for his willingness to give a minute to an art and motorcycle fan.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Front Wheel of Destiny

Well at the very least it's the leading wheel in the pursuit of the Overlander.  One last thing needed doing before the hub and rim got laced into a wheel and that was to clean up the brake drum surface.  It did't look scored or scared from abuse but it was a bit rusty and just pretty ugly.  So I put it on the lathe and using a dowel and 220 grit aluminum oxide paper slowly but surely cleaned it up.  Of course since it was turning I had to take a few minutes to admire the holes spinning round.  I will admit my wheel truing stand is a bit crude.  However as long as you take time to square, level and proceed methodically even my crude set up can produce a good wheel.

The ugly and rusty brake drum surface.

Spinning and cool.


The laced and trued front wheel. 

Monday, September 3, 2012


I am well and truly lost in the land of speed drilling.  The ounces removed could have just as easily been removed from my old fat ass.  However the reduction in weight from my ass would not look as cool as the holes in the hub.

In the beginning there was measurement and great trepidation.

Then there was a void of a fine roundness in form.

 First hole set up and then drilled while holding my breath.  I still have a phobia about cutting and drilling perfectly good parts.  So I tend to be a bit cautious and yes a bit afraid of making a really big, stupid mistake.

Now the clean up and dressing edges and then a general polish up and the front well is ready to lace to the rim.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Foiled by my own lack of knowledge regarding rims and spoke angle drillings I had to rethink the rim plan.  I decided to go forward rather than frustrate myself with trying to find some useable and affordable Borrani rims.  I cleaned up the original factory steel chrome rim to get the wheel laced and trued.  Biggest reason is that if some cool rims turn up the wheels can always be taken down and re-laced to alloy rims.  In the meantime the wheels will be available to use for building the frame.

So once that decision was made; the choice was made to go ahead and be a bit holy with the drum brake and drill some air holes.  My cheap drill press was a bit unreliable as to true, tends to wobble of center when starting a hole.  Can’t replace the drill press or fix the wobble so the lathe will be pressed into service as a mill so I could accurately line up the holes between the cast strength ribs and also get the spacing measured out.

I have seen this done on the garage floor, by hand and it looked like it turned out ok.  But I don’t have an endless supply of these Honda hubs so for me I need a bit of insurance for accuracy.  Using a tool chuck mounted on the cross slide I found a square tube ¾ by ¾ that fit perfectly and then attached a flat plate to bolt the hub to.  With a chuck in the lathe, for the hole saw, I will be able to line up each hole exactly between the rim and the hub bearing flange and centered between the cast ribs.  Using the adjustment of the cross slide I should also be able to turn the hub a few degrees so that the hole saw will meet the surface of the hub metal squarely.  We shall see.


Saw this imagine while shooting some other photos in the garage and snagged it.  The light from the window behind the lathe was back lighting the light bulb and making it appear to be on.  Interesting start of a hodgepodge collection of stuff on the wall behind the work desk. 


In preparation for a road trip to Portland for the All British Field Meet I did some pre-trip inspections on fluids and brakes and such.  Plus I wanted to try and id and stop the gear box leak.  While doing all of this I found that the left front tie rod end was shot.  Then I found that the gaskets on the Selectro freewheel hubs had failed and let water get in the hubs.  Needless to say I didn't get to go to Portland this Labor Day.

So I took it all down and started hunting parts.  Folks in other lands may not have this trouble with parts for a Land Rover but I do.  Three weeks on now and I’m still waiting for tie rod ends out of Canada.  The rear hub seals came out of the south east someplace and now I realize, just as things are clean and going back together, that the swivel ball and related bush’s and such need some attention.

Well that will have to wait for more money and time, which means next spring.  But considering what KIOTEE has been through in her life the factory bits held up pretty good.  Oh yes the swivel balls have not been cracked since she left the factory in 1962.  Not bad performance I would say.

Trying to get her, at least capable of road work, because I want to drive down to Yellowstone and catch the Cannonball Vintage Motorcycle Rally. They are riding through the park this year.  Probably the only chance I will ever have to be this close to the rally route.

Everything clean and ready to go back together

So with all of the garage truck maintenance and problems with sorting and dealing with all kinds of life type issues I have finally got something to show that may look like progress.