Friday, February 17, 2012

Fan correspondence and thoughts of the future

  What a wonderful thing technology can be...It truly is amazing how we can communicate around the world with such ease and speed. I've said it before, and I'll say it again- in all reality, I'm just a normal person from a small town in East Texas. Soon after signing on for Cannonball II, I started this blog. Until now, I'd never really been able to sit down at a computer and type out my thoughts into some sort of form. After the first few posts, I've found it easier and easier to put my thoughts onto "e-paper," and now have actually come to really enjoy the blogging part of this lifetime journey.

  A few posts back, I had mentioned the analytics features of this blogging software that I'm using, and how impressive it was that my humble words were reaching an audience of global proportions. From this online journal, I've also been getting a lot of feedback recently. As an amateur, getting the perspective of my audience is really helpful. Recently my blogger email account has been filling up with messages offering pointers, critiques, and plenty of support. I'm hoping that by hearing from the audience, I can become a better blogger and keep you all informed without boring you.

  One email that stuck out in my mind came just a few days ago, from a place far, far away from the pine forests of East Texas. James McGovern from Melbourne, Australia says this:

     "Hi Buck, just wanted to drop you a note and let you know how wonderful it is that you're keeping vintage  motorcycles alive by participating in the race across America. You really should think about writing a book chronicling your adventures. You've got a bunch of fans supporting you here down under. If you're ever in this part of the world, let me know- my friends and I would like to buy you a drink. -James"

  Now, a message like that means a lot to me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would find friends on the other side of the world rooting for me like this. And to recommend writing a book? Sheer madness-no one would want to publish a few hundred pages of my babbling. However the more I thought about it, the more the idea has grown in my mind. Since I'm already writing this to document my preparations, and have been planning on keeping a journal during the event......why not write a book? The motivation would, of course, be to have something to hold onto forever and not be profit-driven. After talking to Mrs. Cris Simmons, who rode her pre-1916 Harley Davidson in Cannonball I and has just written her own book on the event, I'm kind of thinking it would be worth my while to do. Would love to hear what you readers think....would you be interested in a book about my motorcycling adventures?

Mrs. Simmons, riding her pre-1916 Harley in Cannonball I---That's one tough lady!

Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer # 3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cannonball BSA Build Pictures

Cannonball BSA on work stand, prior to disassembly
    Hi all, and Happy Thursday. The week is almost over, and I'm sure most of us are quite thankful for that. Just a quick update- yesterday, Ken Ashton started uploading pictures of the BSA build in progress. I will be adding some of the photos to past and upcoming blog posts, but for those who are interested in looking at the whole collection- check out for the archive of photos. Ken is adding more photos, so keep checking back.

Post-Engine Rebuild

Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer # 3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lighting up the Journey of a Lifetime: BSA electrical system- BSA Build Progress Pt 4

  It's been a while since my last update, and I must apologize to my virtual audience for my tardiness in posting. The past few weeks have been rather hectic, so I am just sitting down now to finish out Part 4 of the Cannonball build progress. As a bit of a review, here are some of the things that have been repaired, restored, or updated on the bike.

  •   Upper and lower end of the motor disassembled, cleaned, and examined. New inlet and exhaust valves, top end de-coked, and reassembled with new components. Lower end blueprinted and reassembled with new main bearings.
  •   Carburetor found to be in good working order, spare Amal to be brought as well. 
  •   Gearbox completely disassembled and examined. New bearings fitted. Clutch and plates found to be in good condition, as well as all other internals. Oil drained and filtered, leading to replacement of kickstart gear.
  •   Frame and front end examined for stress cracks; none found. New bearings, bushings, cups and cones throughout. All components cleaned, greased, and reassembled.
  •   New tyres and tubes; rims and spokes in presentable condition. Front wheel received new axle and bearings.
  •   Brakes examined on front and rear- front brake relined, bearings cleaned on front and rear.
  •   Petrol tank removed and examined- mounting points in bad condition, leading to a new fuel tank being built.
  With all of these updates and repairs, the BSA build is going rather smoothly and is quickly approaching the point of completion. Now that the motor and gearbox are in better-than-new condition, thanks to the masters at Vintage and Veteran, one of the other major components to the bike is the electrical system. Now, in the same fashion as most 1920's machines, ignition on the 1927 BSA is provided by magneto. This eliminates the need for a battery, as most batteries of the time were unreliable in themselves. Common knowledge says that three elements are needed to power an internal combustion engine: fuel, air, and spark.

  Many of the riders on the pre-1916 Cannonball run had great difficulties with reliable spark. It seemed that just about everyone had at least one magneto failure on the trip. With this knowledge in mind, here's where my race bike sits. Early in the build it was determined that the BSA's magneto was providing sufficient spark, though was prone to open circuiting. To correct this issue, the mag was sent off for a rewind on the armature. A new condenser unit was added, and the pick up was converted to a modern style. Hopefully this should provide a consistent, reliable ignition system. However, after conversing with Ken Ashton (#26) and Mike Wild (#25), we all decided that it would be prudent to carry along at least one spare magneto per bike. During Cannonball 1, there was a team following along and rebuilding mags all the way across the US. Let us hope that Ken, Mike, and I are not in need of this service!

  I have also posed the idea of creating a shield for our magnetos. One of the big problems in Cannonball I was that most riders had mags that were exposed to the elements. After the first big rainstorm, guess what happened? You've got it---failure. Those lucky enough to power through were quickly searching for the nearest empty beer or soda can to create a small shield around the device. I'm wondering if it would be prudent to build several prior to the race, using light gauge aluminum or some similar material. Waiting to hear back from Ken and Mike. My feeling on the subject is to be as proactive as possible in determining possible scenarios of roadside failure.

  With the magneto out of the way, the other point to be discussed in this post is the lighting system. Now from the early 1900's to the early 1930's, most automobiles and motorcycles did not have electric lighting. Instead, these machines relied on carbide (otherwise known as acetylene) lighting systems. My readers may now be asking themselves: "Just how does that work?" So before I explain the plans for the BSA, I digress into a bit of history on these lighting systems and their mechanics.

Example of a lit carbide lamp

  Carbide lamps work on the simple process of burning acetylene gas. In order to create the gas, the lamp has an attached cannister (generator) with an upper and lower chamber. This lower chamber is filled with calcium carbide, while the upper chamber is filled with water. Water in the upper portion then drips down onto the calcium carbide, where it reacts chemically to form acetylene gas. The generator has a threaded valve on it to control the water flow rate, which then determines how large or small the amount of gas is that reaches the lamp and is lit. The lamp has an opening for the gas to enter, as well as usually a small wick that is lit by hand. Additionally, most carbide lights have a reflector in the back to project the beam of light onto the road surface. Light created by carbide systems is surprisingly bright--so bright in fact that many are still in use today by miners. The only downside to using carbide is that, once reacted, the material becomes unusable. Once this happens, the generator must be emptied and re-filled.

  Now while the carbide system does provide reliable light, I'm not very keen about having an open flame anywhere near the petrol tank. Were this event taking place in the UK or Europe, not having a light wouldn't be a problem. However American laws dictate that road vehicles must have a visible and functional lighting system. To ensure our bikes are legal and to avoid the potential danger of acetylene, Ken, Mike, and I will be using an LED set up. Our machines will retain the appearance of the original carbide headlight and tail light, but will instead be retrofitted with removable, battery powered LED lighting discs that will be rechargeable.

Jim Crain and his Cannonball BSA, Number 42
  Recently I spoke with Jim Crain (#42). Like myself, Jim is riding a 1927 BSA as well. His machine also has the carbide set up. Like Ken, Mike, and I, Jim is planning on retrofitting LEDs and installing a small gell cell (AGM) battery in the small pannier toolbox on the rear of his bike and running wiring through the acetylene tubing. Ken expressed his concern for failure on the AGM, so our three bikes will instead use the lead-acid type of battery. For my BSA, this battery will be located in the seat post-mounted toolbox, and should provide 20 hours of light. At the end of each day Ken, Mike, and I will recharge our batteries to be ready for the next day.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all for now. Hope to update more over the next few days.

Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer #3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Webisodes

Hi all, and Happy Friday! This afternoon Shawn and I finished up the editing for installments 2 and 3 of our new YouTube "Webisode" series.

Webisode # 2 was actually meant to be uploaded last week, but a hectic schedule and terrible weather conditions hindered the shooting and editing. This episode focuses on our 1942 Harley Davidson WLA, an incredible piece of history with 340 originial miles, and the original steel helmet with the gentleman's name and rank inside.

Webisode # 3 takes a look at another incredible vintage machine, a 1964 Harley Davidson FLHP Duo Glide. This panhead-powered machine is an ex-police vehicle that has been restored into a period custom fashion. It sports "old-school" pinstriping on many components.

As always, a huge thank you to all of our supporters for watching and sharing our videos, as well as taking the time to read my ramblings posted here. We may not be perfect filmographers or editors, but Shawn and I really enjoy making these "webisodes" and sharing our passion with fellow enthusiasts!

Till next time,

Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer # 3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Becoming a Legal Road Warrior

  With the mechanical side of things going smoothly, I suppose a venture into other areas of preparations would be appropriate. As if there wasn't already a huge list of things to be done before the Cannonball, I realized that I have yet to inform my fans about a very important aspect to be completed. In the promotional video I had mentioned that the ride distance would be new to me, as the longest distance that I've completed up to now has been about 630 miles. Plenty of seat time would be required in preparations for the Cannonball's 3,800+ mile journey.

  That being said, I should also mention that I'll need to be a licensed motorcyclist before September....   Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have yet to obtain the motorcycle endorsement to become a "legal" road warrior. Shhhh.. Don't tell the "man." Gotta fight the system!  Okay folks, just kidding. I'm not out there raising hell like Peter Fonda or Dennis Hopper, or causing trouble with the local branch of the Hell's Angels. I'm actually a safe rider, and I really don't venture onto the roads (not until I get my endorsement, that is). I will be the first to say that it's not a good thing to not have the license, and I do not encourage ANYONE to do the same. I've been "behind the eight ball" here, and procrastination has gotten the best of me. Well, maybe not procrastination...I've actually been so busy with my university and the things that tag along that I've never given myself enough notice to schedule a class.

  Now that February has arrived, it's time to get down to business and become a "law abiding citizen." The process to obtain a motorcycle license has changed in the state of Texas. As of a few years back, riders wishing to get a license are required to complete a motorcycle safety course before taking a written exam. Overall, it's really not a bad thing. The course is a two day, weekend affair with 10 hours of classroom instruction and 5 hours of riding training. Training is usually held in a giant parking lot (car park, for my UK fans) and teaches riders about braking, avoiding obstacles, running over small boards, and the like. Fairly basic stuff here.

  Good news, race fans...if everything goes according to plan, I should be signing up for a safety course on February 18th and taking the written exam shortly thereafter. My days of being an outlaw are numbered...what shall I do once I'm legal?! I'm making light of the situation, but I say once again that I don't endorse, encourage, or support other rider's following my lead and not getting their license or endorsement right away. Anyway, that being said, stay tuned for Part 4 of the BSA build, "Lighting up the Journey of a Lifetime: BSA electrical system."

As always, kind regards

Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer # 3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team