The Truth About Cars » motorcycle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 30 Jul 2015 22:00:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » motorcycle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Can-Am Spyder F3-S Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/review-2015-can-spyder-f3-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/review-2015-can-spyder-f3-s/#comments Mon, 15 Jun 2015 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1090953 Let the record show that, on the morning that I rode one hundred and seven miles each way to ride the new Cam-Am Spyder F3-S, I nearly dropped my motorcycle. I’m still not quite sure how it happened. Something like this: I was turning my VFR800 Anniversary Edition around on the slope of my driveway. […]

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Let the record show that, on the morning that I rode one hundred and seven miles each way to ride the new Cam-Am Spyder F3-S, I nearly dropped my motorcycle.

I’m still not quite sure how it happened. Something like this: I was turning my VFR800 Anniversary Edition around on the slope of my driveway. My left foot slipped on a bit of oil or maybe just water and the whole 539-pound machine fell as my foot continued to slide. About a tenth of a second before it would have been too late, I caught some traction with the outside of my heel and then all I had to do was arrest the slide with my left arm. It felt like deadlifting twice my weight and, for a moment, I thought my thrice-broken left wrist was going to snap again and add a medical bill to the cost of a replacement fairing.

When everything came to a halt and I’d yanked the VFR to vertical, I paused for a moment to consider the following: I’m forty-three years old, I’ve broken eighty-plus bones, and the day that I drop a motorcycle is coming fast. So with that in mind, I clutched in, grabbed first gear, and headed north to meet what I was now quite happy to think of as an un-droppable motorcycle.


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This is my cellphone shot of the F3-S, but because the trike has so many edges and curves, and because there were so many other trikes around, it’s not easy to see what it actually looks like. Let’s use a PR photo, shall we?

spyder

It’s really quite handsome in an odd way and very different from the Spyder RS that I absolutely hated when I rode it a bit over four years ago.

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Fox shocks…

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Brembo brakes. What else can you get for $20,999 that has this kind of equipment? Oh, and it had cruise control, apparently. The contrast-color trellis frame has the same appeal here that it has on a Ducati or KTM sportbike. You can see plenty of the engine, which is not the case with the other members of the Spyder family.

To push the Spyder’s 850-pound dry weight, Can-Am offers a Rotax-badged 1330 cc triple capable of putting out 115 horsepower and 96 pound-feet of torque. That’s as much motor as you can get in a Spyder, and it’s the same one that pushes the full-dresser RT tourer now, but we live in an era where most sport-touring motorcycles have over 150 horsepower. Even my conservative old-man VFR has 110 horsepower. So if you’re expecting to keep up with your neighbor’s Beemer K1600GT or Kawaski Concours-14 as they rip to 10.3-second quarter miles, you should walk right past the Spyder and ask for the Yamaha V-Max.

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Before I was allowed to ride the Spyder F3-S on public roads, I had to complete a small autocross course with it. Really just an oval with a small chicane down the back straight, intended to be taken at about 15 mph. I negotiated it easily, remembering that the Spyder doesn’t steer like a motorcycle. The fellow who was coaching the novices gave me a solid piece of Can-Am advice I wish I’d gotten back in 2011: “Push the outside end of the handlebars away from you to turn instead of pulling on the inside handlebar.” This also gives you some leverage to get your body moved over to the inside of the turn, which is absolutely necessary if you don’t want to just roll over into a ditch.

Having completed Spyder School without incident, I was then allowed to choose my Spyder. I picked a grey one with the six-speed manual transmission. The majority of Spyders, I am told, are sold with the electronically activated semi-auto. I had no fear of stalling it as I headed down the road for my lead-follow thirty-minute test ride. Only a moron could stall this thing. It’s all torque and no action. I was the second rider of a four-trike group in which both the lead and last rider were Can-Am employees, but the fellow in front wasn’t inclined to take it easy on me and I soon found myself using full throttle to keep up.

The back roads around Lodi, Ohio are rather beautiful. There’s a lake and there’s some elevation change and there are a bunch of great curves and, in short, it’s a completely fucking terrifying place in which to ride a Can-Am Spyder. To begin with, the roads have heavy crown and they’re narrow. On a motorcycle you’d deal with this by riding the centerline unless there was traffic; in a car you’d just deal with it period. But the Spyder wanted to fall into the ditch all the time and my instinctive countersteering motions just helped it in this goal.

With that said, the new seating position in the F3 really helps matters compared to the Spyder RS I rode in Atlanta. You’re sitting in the trike, not on it. The footrests are ahead, not under. It’s much like a Harley V-Rod in that way and the footpegs are adjustable to make sure you can stretch out as you like. The lower seat really helps you lean in the turns and, as a result, the F3 never feels quite as ornery as the older Spyders. The swept-back bars are similar to the ones found in the newer touring bikes, and they’re chock-full of controls, including a button that you must press in order to be allowed to start the bike. “Pressing the button signifies that you’ve read the owner’s manual,” I was told.

“I can in no way see that holding up in court, especially since the button is labeled ‘ECO’,” I replied. Nevertheless, you have to do it.

There’s an electric parking brake. But there’s no hand brake lever. Only a big rubber pedal for your right foot. This alone was almost enough to cause me to crash the Spyder no fewer than four times. I don’t use the rear brake foot lever on my motorcycles. Maybe once a ride to clean off the machinery, but that’s it. My VFR has linked brakes, so squeezing the front brake applies the back brake a bit, and my CB550 has a near-totally useless drum back there that I only activate when it’s raining. Time and again I found myself squeezing air when it was time to stop. If you want proof that the Spyder is meant for “cagers”, there you go. No hand brake. How hard would it be to add one as an option? Well, the Can-Am has ABS to go with its ESP, so maybe pretty hard.

My next beef with the trike was this: In a car, you only need to find two smooth lines in a bumpy rural road. On a bike, you only need one. But a trike needs three. If there’s a pothole or a pavement wave out there, a Spyder can find it, and the steering geometry seems ideally suited to following grooves in the road. So I was constantly struggling to keep it going straight on the frost-heaved Ohio two-lane. Now were you to find yourself on a freeway, you’d appreciate the stability of three wheels against wind and fatigue – but ripping down a twisty backroad, it’s miserable.

I also noticed that applying full throttle on said backroads with pavement waves and ripples was quite exciting, causing me to hang off the thing left and right like I was in the original version of Mad Max. Luckily, the F3-S isn’t a Hayabusa and the same amount of twist that gets the VFR to 110 or more only shoves the Spyder to maybe 65-70. If a modern V-6 Camry wants to run you for pink slips, be aware that you’re in what the old hands at the dragstrip call a “driver’s race.”

On the positive side of things, the transmission could not be easier to use. I found myself bumping past neutral into first a lot, but that just speaks to

a) me being a cack-footed moron who rides a 1975 CB550 in traffic
b) the excellence of Can-Am’s synchros.

Less fun is the difficulty I had operating the throttle smoothly while still using the handlebars for leverage. This is where you’re spoiled on a motorcycle because unless you’re in the middle of the Isle of Man TT you really aren’t leaning on the bars very much. I can operate the VFR with fingertips only on the bars at well over 100 mph but you’d be a fool to do something like that on the Spyder. So in left turns I kept over-throttling. This is called “whiskey throttle” by experienced trike riders, apparently. And when you do it, the front end gets light because hey, you’re accelerating HARD. Which reduces the front end’s ability to turn. Scary as hell.

Several times I thought I was going to get the Patrick George Award For Crashing A Vehicle During A Lead-Follow Event, but each time I managed to huck my big ass off the seat in the right direction and calm things down. I got not a single bit better at this during the course of the half hour.

The end of the test ride came not a moment too soon for my personal satisfaction. I respect this machine, but I don’t enjoy riding it and I think it would take me a long time to learn how to operate it safely. “You sure liked that center line,” smirked the Can-Am fellow who was leading the ride.

“Well, being away from it, toward the white line on the side, scared the shit out of me.” He smirked again. I felt like telling him that I’d driven the Zanardi line at Laguna Seca to take first in a race, then realized I didn’t care what he thought of me and neither did he. At that point, I was 100% done with the whole idea of the Spyder.

But as I walked around the Can-Am tent and saw the people who were showing up for the next lead-follow ride, I noticed that most of them were not what I think of as “bikers”. They were older, they were female. More than a few of them didn’t have their “M” endorsement. There were two different African-American couples that were interested in the Spyder RT full-dresser, and they shared with me that they liked the idea of it being stable on the freeway.

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As I got back on my Interceptor 800, which to my immense relief steers in the direction I’m leaning and responds to my wishes without any particular force on my part, I thought about how much longer I could ride something like this. My wrists hurt a bit from the hundred-plus mile ride up and my hands had been a bit numb when I arrived at the demo-ride area. With one more serious joint injury I’ll be done with motorcycling as I know it – or maybe another decade’s worth of arthritis and joint degradation, to say nothing of my right ACL’s refusal to magically reappear, will call time on my riding aspirations. At the age of 23, I could ride my Ninja from dawn till dusk. At 28, I could ride my YZF600R five hundred miles then go for a mountain-bike sprint. Today, at 43 years of age, I can still ride three or four hundred miles in a day if I’m careful. Where will I be when I’m sixty? Confined to my 911 or Boxster or maybe a Corvette droptop? How will I feel about the Can-Am Spyder’s freeway stability and relaxed riding position and relatively modest pace then?

On Route 71, heading down a tree-lined section that I’ve long used as a free-fire zone of personal irresponsibility, I leaned over the tank and twisted the Honda’s throttle from my 85 mph cruising pace. One hundred. One ten. One twenty. One thirty. I felt good. As the end of the wooden section approached, complete with a crossover where the Ohio Highway Patrol loves to sit, I crossed into the middle lane and sat up, using my Fieldsheer-clad bulk to airbrake down below go-to-jail speed. Not a problem. I’m not too old to ride this thing, not too frail. Not yet.

But a few miles later, as I alternated the pressure of my weight between my hands to keep the tingles out, I saw a fellow on an old GoldWing conversion trike heading the other way, across the median. He saw me. And he didn’t just do the little nod that bikers do, or the dropped-two-finger cooler-than-thou salute. He actually waved. With his whole arm. It was hopeful, it was friendly, it suggested that we were brothers of a sort, pursuing the idea of being out in the elements and doing our own thing, albeit in different fashion.

I looked up, saw the sun illuminating the white clouds, then I, too, raised my whole hand. And waved. As I will to Spyder drivers, the next time I see one.

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Honda Heritage Center Captures Triumphs, Challenges http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/honda-heritage-center-captures-triumphs-challenges/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/honda-heritage-center-captures-triumphs-challenges/#comments Sat, 10 Jan 2015 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=974505 Honda’s brand-new, $35 million dollar Heritage Center opened across the street from its Marysville auto factory on January 5th. A recent return to Ohio let me reunite with my mentor, a man recently known for his acquisition of an Accord Coupe, to test Honda’s curatorial abilities. How many company rarities and wall placards filled with […]

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Honda’s brand-new, $35 million dollar Heritage Center opened across the street from its Marysville auto factory on January 5th. A recent return to Ohio let me reunite with my mentor, a man recently known for his acquisition of an Accord Coupe, to test Honda’s curatorial abilities. How many company rarities and wall placards filled with corporate agitprop can one get for eight figures these days? Hit the jump to find out.

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            We had an appropriate steed for this jaunt, still rock solid after 18,000 miles in ten months. That layer of salt didn’t do it any favors, but it still looked appropriately aero-modern next to the Heritage Center’s steel and glass façade. The building itself isn’t terribly adventurous in its design, but it is eminently practical. The gallery area is flooded with natural light, thus avoiding one of my biggest pet peeves as a historian: dimly lit museums. I’d venture so far as to say that it captures a little bit of the design ethos of the company that funded it.

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            The Center is free to attend, but currently requires that you phone ahead and make a reservation. Exactly why is unclear. On the phone, the company rep indicated that we could take a guided tour at nine or noon, so I signed us up for a noon timeslot. Upon arrival, however, we were told to show ourselves around. I asked the polite front-desk worker if there were brochures available, and was informed that there weren’t any yet. No matter, as everything in the museum is presented alongside an abundance of information.

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            Before entering the gallery proper, you can peruse a couple landmark bikes and cars. There’s an example of the scooters that first brought the Honda corporate name to the States, as well as one of the dirt bikes that became the first Honda product manufactured in America. The two cars in the forecourt echo the same idea: the diminutive N600, followed by the historic 1983 Accord. The first provided the consumer beachhead, and the other put Marysville on the map as the new headquarters of American automotive manufacturing excellence.

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            That Accord is worth ruminating over a little more; that unassuming, three box sedan that changed everything. This was the make-it-or-break-it product for Honda’s American manufacturing operation. If the U.S.-built Accord had tanked, Marysville would have gone the way of Volkswagen Westmoreland. To that end, it’s easy to understand why Honda played it safe with the exterior. Accord customers in 1983 got a few straight-line body creases, and that’s it. The lack of embellishment one-ups even the unrelenting blandness of the Fox platform Ford sedans of the era. But the blandness was part of the sublime genius of it. It was an economy car in a positive sense: it was economical in size and weight, economical in consumption, economical in price (minus the dealer mark-ups) and economical in style. The second-generation Accord wouldn’t make sense in today’s market, but it was the right product at the right time in a way that few other models have matched.

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            The main gallery area is a big, airy room centered on an engine display. In the middle, there’s an exploded V6 of the type found in Jack’s Accord. Other powertrains can be found in a ring around the edge of the exhibit, including many built in Anna. The rest of the exhibits are organized in a loose chronological format. There’s a copious display dedicated to bikes, as well as a memorial to the end of motorcycle production in 2009. Sadly, there was no Rune on display- my favorite 2-wheeled Marysville product. Even so, there was plenty for Honda motorcycle enthusiasts to appreciate, with a lot of handy background information included.

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            The car selection is eclectic, with a number of Marysville-built products on display. There’s an ’88 Accord Coupe, the milestone car that became the first Honda product exported from the United States to Japan. There’s a gift to wagon fans, in the form of a fifth-generation Accord AeroDeck in right-hand-drive with a manual transmission. Other highlights include a CRX Si, a Civic CVCC, a first-generation Legend, a first-generation CL, the One Lap of America Odyssey, and NSX Rolex Cup car, and the new NSX prototype. Those hoping for oodles of rare Hondas are going to be disappointed; there’s the single first-generation NSX and no Type R’s or other factory specials. The large display on Hondajet is a reminder that ambition is not always an asset. There’s an exhibit with an Asimo robot prototype that is supposed to be able to mimic human movements, but he was broken when we visited. In general, the historical parts of the exhibit are far more interesting than the contemporary ones; those feel more like platitudinous corporate sloganeering than the promise of a great tomorrow.

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            It’s not a large space, and one gets the feel that it’s meant to be more of an educational experience than a warehouse of exotic treasures. In the end, that’s what this museum does best: provide a nice narrative of the Honda story in America, with some neat cars and interactive exhibits thrown in for good measure. It’s certainly worth a visit, if not  necessarily a pilgrimage. As it stands, the Heritage Center is just fine for its intended purpose; much like that ’83 Accord in the forecourt.

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Piston Slap: Have a SEAT in Spain? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-seat-spain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-seat-spain/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 12:20:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912322   Phil writes: I am going to Spain for 2-3 years for work but I have decided to sell my truck and only ship my motorcycle. Once I am there I will be looking to buy a cheap used small car, preferably a hatchback with a manual transmission. I am aware of some European brands […]

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greeting Medas Islands

(photo courtesy: www.whattoseeinibiza.com)

Phil writes:

I am going to Spain for 2-3 years for work but I have decided to sell my truck and only ship my motorcycle. Once I am there I will be looking to buy a cheap used small car, preferably a hatchback with a manual transmission. I am aware of some European brands like Seat, Alfa, Peugeot, Renault, etc. but do not know much about their modern line up. Gas or diesel is fine, can you help me with some recommendations?

Sajeev answers:

Since I don’t live in Europe and don’t know your budget–what’s up with you people not telling EVERYONE ON THE INTERNET how much money you have to spend on a car?–I say what I usually say: test drive a lot of cars in your price range.

And do a lot of virtual touring via Google Image search to see if you like a particular design.

Me? After seeing the SEAT Ibizia in person, I’d kinda go for that.  Or a Rio Brown MKI Ford Sierra Ghia…no wait, that’s already been done. Plus, SEAT is the Spanish offshoot of VW, with nice regional flare inside and out.  Lastly, depending on your budget, repairing a warranty-less VAG product in Europe is far easier/cheaper than in the Toyota-centric U.S. of A.

Luckily you have a motorcycle, there’s no reason to rush into anything.  Enjoy the buying process, and enjoy the local flavor by brand. Me thinks you’ll have a preferred brand in no time. Of course you can’t go wrong with a MKI Ford Sierra Ghia…even when you do.

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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There’s Fast, And Then There’s Wagon Fast http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/theres-fast-and-then-theres-wagon-fast/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/theres-fast-and-then-theres-wagon-fast/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 03:22:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=669146 On the days when my Honda CB550 can be bothered to wake up and run properly for my daily commute, I’m frequently passed by everything from HEMI-powered Grand Cherokees to Vulcan-powered Mercury Sables. That’s because the Honda CB550 is only slightly more powerful than a KitchenAid mixer. This fellow, on the other hand, has a […]

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On the days when my Honda CB550 can be bothered to wake up and run properly for my daily commute, I’m frequently passed by everything from HEMI-powered Grand Cherokees to Vulcan-powered Mercury Sables. That’s because the Honda CB550 is only slightly more powerful than a KitchenAid mixer.

This fellow, on the other hand, has a motorcycle capable of reaching 300 km/h on the rev limiter. That’s 186mph in American money. But as you’ll see, it isn’t quite enough.


To me, the most interesting thing about this video is the cognitive dissonance that I, as an American citizen, experience watching it. What these two are doing is perfectly legal. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s perfectly fine. Nevertheless, no laws were broken. I’ve done a few runs to the neighborhood of 160mph on a motorcycle, but there is simply no margin for error at that speed. As bad as a tire failure or road debris can be in a car at 180-plus miles per hour, when you’re on a bike it’s worse. Still, it’s a fun video to watch. There’s always a bigger fish, you know — and, of course, something like a Corvette ZR1 would have walked ’em both.

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Generation Why: Honda Goes After Millennials On Two Wheels Rather Than Four http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/generation-why-honda-goes-after-millennials-on-two-wheels-rather-than-four/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/generation-why-honda-goes-after-millennials-on-two-wheels-rather-than-four/#comments Wed, 26 Jun 2013 15:32:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493388   This is the Honda Grom. In the rest of the world, it’s called the MSX125. Squint really hard, and it almost looks like a Ducati Monster. I say almost because this thing is tiny – those are 12 inch wheels, you know. It packs a whopping 125 cc, much like a scooter, but it […]

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This is the Honda Grom. In the rest of the world, it’s called the MSX125. Squint really hard, and it almost looks like a Ducati Monster. I say almost because this thing is tiny – those are 12 inch wheels, you know. It packs a whopping 125 cc, much like a scooter, but it has a real 4-speed gearbox. It also gets 130 mpg.

In the post-recession period, motorcycling was a tough go for many young people. The OEMs focused largely on big cruisers and powerful sport bikes, leaving few options for those looking to start responsibly on small or middleweight machines. Ridership was down, especially among younger folks, as insurance costs on big-boy superbikes priced a number of would be riders out of the market.

Enter Honda, which took the bold step of going after the silent demographic that wanted fun middleweight bikes. In the span of two years, we’ve seen the CBR250R, the CBR500 range and now the Grom. The Grom is expected to cost $2999 and is basically a step up from a Ruckus scooter, the spiritual successor to Honda’s old monkey bikes. Glamorous and sexy? Not at all. It does have a certain cool factor, but most importantly, it is cheap and cheap to run. The tiny footprint means it can be parked anywhere.

I think it will do well with the “young urban dweller” demographic that auto makers are trying so hard to capture. All the concerns that they have about cars; parking, insurance, fuel costs, maintenance, they all go out the window with something like the Grom. It will be seen as a much safer alternative to a “big” motorcycle, but it’s also quicker than riding a bicycle. In fact, I can think of a lot of situations where something like a Grom makes a lot of sense, especially for those in between locations where it’s too far to walk but driving can be an equal waste of time since it will take longer to look for parking than it will to make the actual journey.

I’m really intrigued by the concept of the Grom, but outside of urban environments where speeds are low and space is tight, it’s hard to imagine many people getting real value out of a tiny 125cc motorcycle. Nevertheless, if more and more people start moving to these sorts of locales, then transportation options beyond the car will become increasingly viable. The Grom doesn’t seem to be a bad place to start.

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Hooptie Harley Adventures: Hell Project Shovelhead Hauls LeMons Judge To Road America In Style http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/hooptie-harley-adventures-hell-project-shovelhead-hauls-lemons-judge-to-road-america-in-style/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/hooptie-harley-adventures-hell-project-shovelhead-hauls-lemons-judge-to-road-america-in-style/#comments Tue, 28 Aug 2012 14:30:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=458060 When we speak of hoopties, we generally mean the four-wheeled variety. However, persuading a nowhere-near-complete Malaise Era Project Hell Bike to transport you to a race track 350 miles distant should, in my opinion, stretch the definition to include two-wheelers as well. My cousin Sam, aka Judge Sam of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme […]

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When we speak of hoopties, we generally mean the four-wheeled variety. However, persuading a nowhere-near-complete Malaise Era Project Hell Bike to transport you to a race track 350 miles distant should, in my opinion, stretch the definition to include two-wheelers as well. My cousin Sam, aka Judge Sam of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, decided that he needed to hit the fast-forward button on his ’74 Shovelhead project in order to get from his home in Minnesota to the Chubba Cheddar Enduro in proper fashion. The bike wasn’t quite ready and the journey was an extremely arduous one, but it was worth it.
A little background is in order here. Sam was born about the time my parents decided to ditch Minnesota for California, and so I missed out on the biker culture of my relatives who stayed behind. Sam’s father/my uncle was the legendary Dirty Duck, shown here in his early 20s with the ’57 Plymouth Savoy that he used for the very lucrative Mexico-to-Los-Angeles reefer-smuggling trade in the early 1960s. The Duck taught me much of what I know about wrenching on cars, but I never did pick up any interest in motorcycles.

Dirty Duck died in 1989, but I was able to capture one his his thousands of biker tales on tape. Here’s The Legend of Hoot’s Panhead, circa 1967.
Sam, meanwhile, stayed true to old-time biker traditions, but a lengthy stint working as a roughneck in the Wyoming gas fields led to him forsaking two-cylinder Milwaukee machines for various cars and trucks. Finally, back in Minnesota, he picked up this very rough Shovelhead, built during the AMF era.
These days, many of the grizzled outlaw bikers who came up in the 1960s and 1970s have switched to German and British machines, because Harleys have become toys ridden by office-cubicle types who feel like they’re experiencing “freedom” when they trade the Dockers for leathers and go for weekend rides with “Born To Be Wild” on an endless loop in their heads. The younger guys with self-applied tatts who rebuild motorcycle engines on the kitchen counter and think nothing of riding a 50-buck bike across the country tend to pick beater Japanese bikes, because they’re cheap and reliable. There’s not much place for a beater Harley that’s used for everyday transportation these days, but that’s what Sam had in mind for his Shovelhead project.
So, he’d been pecking away at the project for a few years, but decided a couple of months back that he would ride the thing from Savage to Elkhart Lake when it came time for him to judge the Chubba Cheddar Enduro, whatever it took. It has a lot of nice custom touches, influenced by his irony-laden Generation X background. For example, this railroad-style lantern has a light-up skull inside and serves as a taillight. No prairie-dogging cubicle slave ever took a break from his PowerPoint slideshow and imagined putting this sort of thing on his $30,000 bike.
The diamond-plate seat looks uncomfortable, but works fine for the first hundred miles or so. Then it’s very uncomfortable.
With time running out, a lot of the linkages ended up being rigged up with hose clamps, zip-ties, and worse. Sam had to be at the track by Sunday night, and left Savage Saturday afternoon. Things started going wrong right away; the bike developed an intermittent power-loss problem that no amount of carburetor and timing tinkering could fix. Every few miles, something would rattle loose.
Sam feels that motorcycle saddlebags are a sign of irreversible moral decay, which means all his tools had to share space with his other supplies in this bungee’d-down milk crate. It took him about six hours to traverse the first 50 miles. When darkness fell, he would park beneath a lone streetlight in tiny Wisconsin towns in order to spin some wrenches, which meant that he kept getting sweated by citizens unhappy with the appearance of what appeared to be the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse.
This nightmare journey continued through the night, with the Shovelhead continuing to sputter, crap out, and shed parts at regular intervals. Naturally, Sam had no GPS, no smartphone, and no light with which to read his paper map, so he ended up lost in a maze of tiny rural roads in western Wisconsin.
Some of the problems seemed to be electrical in nature, but Sam finally figured out that the carb’s super-rich condition was being caused by his knee blocking the air-cleaner-less carburetor’s intake. Once he adjusted his riding position to put some space between his leg and the carb, the bike ran somewhat better.
Even with all the problems, he kept inching southeast. After spending hours trying to find a cup of coffee in Eau Claire, he rolled into Elkhart Lake at 4:00 AM Monday… about five hours prior to the green flag at the race.
When he wasn’t disciplining miscreant drivers over the course of the weekend, Sam worked at fixing the fritzy wiring harness. Here we see him finding the source of his ignition-system problems.
Eventually, he tore out most of the wiring and started over. LeMons racers were very helpful, loaning tools and expertise, and the racers who knew Harleys— that is, the ones who rode relatively modern bikes— just shook their heads in awe at Sam’s accomplishment on a funky AMF-era Shovelhead.
Back in Savage, the surviving greybeards of Dirty Duck’s generation approve of Sam’s customizing touches, as do the 20-year-old rat-rod types with their primer-black Kawasakis.
When the race was almost finished and I got into the usual huddle with Chief Perp Jay Lamm to decide which team got what trophy, we had a helluva time figuring out who most deserved the Most Heroic Fix award. There were the usual engine swaps and suspension repairs, but nothing that really knocked us out. Then we took a look at Sam’s Shovelhead and decided to give him the Most Heroic Fix.

After the awards ceremony, of course, Sam had to get ready to ride back to Minnesota. The primary drive belt had a pretty bad nick and was making an ominous noise, but nothing could be done about that. He buttoned up the rejuvenated wiring harness and did what adjustments he could.
His new trophy got bungee’d onto the handlebars.
Wednesday morning and time to head west. The trip home was far easier, with most of the bugs having been worked out on the ride out and during further tinkering at the track. Sam made it home in about seven hours, and now he feels confident that the Shovelhead can take him anywhere. Say, for example, to a California LeMons race!

20 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Morgan 3 Wheeler Being Offered To Eccentric American Anglophiles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/morgan-3-wheeler-being-offered-to-eccentric-american-anglophiles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/morgan-3-wheeler-being-offered-to-eccentric-american-anglophiles/#comments Mon, 30 Apr 2012 14:38:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=442146 51 years ago, my beloved Grandfather emigrated from England. Despite being a man of modest means, he immediately went out and bought himself the biggest, V8 powered American sedan he could buy (the exact make remains obscure – it tends to change every time my grandmother tells the story), swearing off British cars and his […]

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51 years ago, my beloved Grandfather emigrated from England. Despite being a man of modest means, he immediately went out and bought himself the biggest, V8 powered American sedan he could buy (the exact make remains obscure – it tends to change every time my grandmother tells the story), swearing off British cars and his cursed MG Magnette for life. He would be just as bewildered as I am that there is any demand for the Morgan 3 Wheeler in the United States that would result in U.S. sales.

Based on an American design dubbed the Liberty Ace, the Morgan weighs 1,155 lbs, with motivation coming from an 80 horsepower 2.0L V-Twin engine mated to a Mazda Miata 5-speed gearbox. In the UK, the car costs about $40,o00, but pricing hasn’t been announced Stateside. Liberty, along with two other outlets (likely in California and on the East Coast) will be the sole dealers for the car. Morgan will be promoting the car in the Gumball 3000 rally.

Expect to see Jay Leno and a few others take delivery of what is essentially a glorified Can-Am Spyder. I’ll take an AeroMax, thank you very much.

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Piston Slap: What is The Poor Man’s TARDIS? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/piston-slap-what-is-the-poor-mans-tardis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/piston-slap-what-is-the-poor-mans-tardis/#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2011 18:45:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=416230   TTAC commentator horseflesh writes: Sajeev, Last year I wrote to you seeking the B&B’s help in selling a car. Well, Grandma’s Park Avenue is gone now, in short, I found that the best way to sell a Buick is to befriend a used car dealer and supply him with BBQ meats until he calls […]

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TTAC commentator horseflesh writes:

Sajeev,

Last year I wrote to you seeking the B&B’s help in selling a car. Well, Grandma’s Park Avenue is gone now, in short, I found that the best way to sell a Buick is to befriend a used car dealer and supply him with BBQ meats until he calls some other guys he knows who move a lot of Grandma cars. Done correctly, this takes your friend 5 minutes on the phone, and costs you only 15 minutes at a dealer. It’s a beautiful thing!

But now that the Buick is gone I find myself needing another vehicle… also large, and perhaps also white. I’m looking for something cheap and boxy to haul my toys around in. Mountain bikes, scuba gear, model airplanes… These things can be moved around with a sedan, but it’s a chore and there is never enough room for everything. Oh, there is a Triumph Bonneville 750 in the garage too, so naturally it needs to be taken to the mechanic from time to time. And did I mention the pinball machines that I need to move sometimes? Currently I need to ask friends with trucks for help with those things, and I’d like to become self-sufficient.

So, the ideal vehicle will have a fully enclosed cargo area of TARDIS-like capacity, be indifferent to muddy toys, and be able to haul 500 lbs of broken British motorcycle plus two people. It will be a changing room and occasionally a workshop when a toy breaks. It won’t have to go off-road, but it will have to handle a dirt road. Some kind of sink and potable water tank would be a big plus too–that isn’t mandatory, but being cheap and reliable is.

The ubiquitous Ford E-150 van looks like the right sort of thing, but I don’t know anything about its reliability when well-used, or what other good options might be.

Sajeev Answers:

Yup, you need a full size van. Maybe a Chevy Astro-like Minivan, as they are also cheap and reliable. But the Astro isn’t exactly made for drivers with left feet, so maybe the bigger vans are a smarter idea. Plus, you can get that sink you so greatly desire.

The E-150 is indeed the obvious choice, as it is the 800lb Gorilla in this market. Sprinter Vans are pricey and quite the PITA to service unless you are a certified Sprinter Technician. The older Dodge vans might be okay, but all the ones I’ve experienced suffered from off putting transmission woes. The newer Chevy Express isn’t much to write home about, but the older ones were pretty frickin’ tough and easy on the eyes. You know, for a van.

Oh, and thanks for not giving us a budget to work with. That said, I am assuming you are looking for a beater in the $10,000 or less range…or not much higher.

In that realm? Most definitely the van with the most service records. I’d stick with Fords and Chevys in your price range, with the standard V8, and a smooth (yet not sloppy) shifting transmission. You might find a custom van is your best value, even if you’ll need to hack it up a bit to be more cargo friendly.

Enjoy your rolling TARDIS.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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