I recently took a trip from LA north up the coast, mostly on US1 aka the PCH. I rode to San Francisco, then to Sacramento, then over to the coast and back down again. The trusty “Interceptor” was a champ, not one problem…
Sorry for the lack of posts once again, there has been lots to do out here in the last few months! The shop space I rented turned out to be a bit of a disaster. The real estate folk I dealt with told me there would be some light construction happening across the street from the space, where the city was building a new park. What they didn’t mention was that the park was only a small portion of a greater urban landscape change that effects several blocks around my new area. Raising the road grade several feet, demolishing and rebuilding a giant bridge over the nearby LA river, and digging lots of new trenches for assorted conduits, pipes, etc. The construction even goes through my yard, starting in a few months! The fence which isolates my little haven from the walking dead outside is my only defense (and was a major reason I chose this place), and soon that will be down. Here you can see the construction site that used to be a regular street in the background…
Since about a week after I arrived, this whole area from the hill in the background to about 10 feet behind the dodge has been a 24/7 beep, beep, beep, beep from the construction equipment, as well as a constant haze of concrete dust. Jackhammers, dump trucks, backhoes, welders, and the biggest steamshovel I have ever seen have all descended on my new “home”. Add to the fact that I cannot use my central air system because it is filled with the remnants of a rat colony that occupied the space at some point. I didn’t realize this until I repaired the AC unit and clicked it on, then the smell hit me like a ton of bricks.
So needless to say I got fucked in the beard, big time.
So as fun as it was to move thousands of pounds of motorcycles and equipment, it looks like I will be doing it again soon. With the help of my friend John, I am on the hunt once again for a new shop space in the Los Angeles area. Anything from around 2500-4000 square feet, with all the typical bike shop requirements like a garage door, big flat floor, and lack of uptight neighbors. And of course I would prefer it not to be in the bowels of East LA. I am not putting a cap on the price this time around; I want to really see what is out there. Just a warning to any future realtors/landlords, I am at my whits end here and if I get fucked again, I have a plasma cutter and I’m not afraid to use it. And by the way, when this space comes up for rent again in a few months, I don’t recommend renting it unless you plan on opening a toxic waste dump, or a pet store that specializes in rodents. 2000 North Figueroa st, los angles ca 90065. If there are any lawyers who want an easy target, feel free to contact me!
On a better note, all the riding I have been doing has had my brain working overtime. I have never ridden this much, this consistently. It has given me the opportunity to really understand the shortcomings of whatever bike I am on, in this case, my dyna based custom “Interceptor”. I am splitting hairs here really, because the Interceptor is the most reliable motorcycle I have even owned, and has faithfully carried me all over this huge country without so much as a hiccup. Of course, my engineering mind is always at work and there are several things I think I can improve upon when the time comes.
For those not familiar with the Harley “dyna” series of motorcycles, I’ll give a basic synopsis (if anyone has any insight on them, or disagrees with me, please comment). A while back Harley (with Eric Buells help) realized that the vibrations their engines produce is a major limiting factor to both the comfort and performance potential of the bikes, and the “rubbermount” Harleys were born, starting with the shovelhead powered FXR in the 80’s. Since then there wave been quite a few variations on the rubber mounted design, such as the FXR’s, the rubbermount sportsters, the baggers, the Buells, and the dynas. They all isolate the rider from the vibrations to some extent, but are all quite different in how they use the actual rubber mounts.
I could ramble on about these bikes forever, but here is an observation and a question: On every design, the rear wheel swingarm is either rubbermounted by itself or solid mounted to the rubber mounted transmission. They are never attached to the main frame in a rigid fashion. Obviously it is the motor that is producing the vibration, and so it needs to be isolated. Why “rubberize” the rear wheel as well? The negative effects of this are what companies like “tru-track” are trying to control with various heim joints and linkages. Dynas are some of the worst offenders in my opinion when it comes to the “rubber swingarm” rear-steer problem, because their drivetrains are mounted on two rubber blocks in line with each other, rather than the more triangular mounting layout of the fxr’s and baggers. When I go around a corner, the rear-steer is horrible. To make matters worse, it is not simple wagging left to right, but also twisting and moving up and down. This creates very vague and unpredictable handling.
Here is the big question: why does the swingarm need to be rubber mounted? The answers I have gotten so far are 1; they need it because the rear end would vibrate otherwise (huh?) and 2; the rear wheel and sprocket shaft can’t have rubber between them (this is referring to the dyna design, but of course all the other rubber mount designs have that, so- myth busted)
Any educated input is welcome! comment please
The ability to be outdoors every single day year round is quite a wonderful adjustment for me. I arrived in LA about 4 months ago and since then have almost forgotten how to drive a car. To be honest I don’t understand why anyone in this state owns a car at all! Traffic is horrific, but with the bike it is almost irrelevant. It is a simple game of “don’t get hit”, that you play every time you ride. Now, don’t get me wrong, I feel like anywhere you go drivers are unlikely to see you in most circumstances, but this place takes the cake for oblivious drivers. It doesn’t really make sense, I feel most cities breed better drivers (due to the more challenging conditions they operate in), but here it is the opposite. So much texting. So little shit given.
Several good things have came out of this for me. One is that I am becoming quite slick on my bikes. Not that I wasn’t before, but nothing beats practice, practice, practice. My head is on a constant swivel, poised to swerve or scoot away from any possible threat. The art of assessing the oncoming threats and prioritizing them, and possible responses, happen a thousand times a ride. Learning to expect the dumbest possible thing to happen, and your escape route if it does. This is the ultimate riders safety course.
The second great thing is that my bikes are being ridden harder then ever. For a guy who prides himself on making a good product, this is fantastic R and D. Anything that isn’t designed correctly will come to light if you ride long enough. I wonder how many “custom bikes” can be treated no differently than a daily driven car, and still continue to function? Baking heat, potholed streets, buzzing vibration, hole shots, skid outs, and non stop shifting and braking really separate the men from the boys when it comes to solid design and reliable component choices. Based on what I have seen on my own bikes since moving here, I feel most of my recent build decisions have been sound ones.
Thats is not to say that I am, by any means, stuck in a city. Escaping is easy, in about 20 minutes I can be deep in the Angeles Forest. There are a few roads through it that are almost deserted on weekdays, and serve as a nice break from the relentless traffic. Here is a video of the last ride, taken by my friend John Sender. Thanks to Dale, John and Kully for a great day!
The shop space is still not finished due to a rat and insect infestation we recently discovered. The good news? who cares, its 85 and sunny every dam day!
I have been on the lookout for a new lathe and mill since I could not bring mine from CT to CA. After quite a bit of research I decided on a re-manned and heavily upgraded Bridgeport mill. Since it has been years since Ive researched new machined tools, I had no idea what I wanted. I did decide that manual machines are still the way to go for my needs. Despite all the cool cmc equipment everyone is pushing on me, the need for a basic tool that serves basic needs without elaborate setup or programming outweighs any cool tricks a robot can do, at least for me. I obviously still need CNC capabilities for certain jobs, but I can continue to sub those jobs out to more computer savvy machine shops.
The main problem with my old “J-head” bridgeport mill was all the slop. I bought it used (extremely used), and everything was sloppy. In fact without the bed clamps cranked down the thing would jump and break mills right and left. It was also a “step pulley” type of variable speed, sim liar to a drill press. It worked fine, but was a nuisance to constantly put my hands in it. The new Bridgeport is essentially the same machine, but a bit newer, with power feeds, a dial operated variable speed, and no slop in anything.
Before buying this one, I scoured the internet looking for alternative brands of mill. I assumed that there was a manual machine that is superior to Bridgeport. What I found was that almost every manual mill available is based off off Bridgeport designs. About 80 percent of the mills I found were made in china, a few from other southeast asian countries, and Lagun from Spain. The Lagun was the runner up, but I couldn’t find one that was as tricked out as the Bridgeport.
The lathe is another story. My old lathe was a Chinese piece of junk, but I managed to make a lot of cool stuff on it over the years. Almost any lathe I buy will be an upgrade from that, but I have narrowed it down to Moriseki or Okuma, both from Japan. The american machines seem to be overly expensive, even if they are completely destroyed. They seem to be desirable no matter what the condition, and the prices are insane. There are dozens of Chinese machines, some better than others, but the Japanese machines seem like the best based on a variety of criteria. I found a great Moriseki at a local machine tool shop, but the air headed shop owner doesn’t seem to want to sell it to me. Maybe its the east coast accent, but nobody in this state seems to be in any hurry to sell anything! Its like you have to force them to take your check. Cali culture shock….
Other than machine tool shopping, I have been riding the shit out of the “Iron Triangle” and “Interceptor”. I finally had to suck it up and get a new rear tire and sprocket for the Interceptor. I had an aluminum sprocket on there, bought as part of a chain conversion kit from Zippers. I was hesitant to use aluminum over steel, and it turns out I had reason to be worried. It only lasted around 5000 miles before it was worn down to little nubs. The steel chain just ate the aluminum sprocket alive. I would not recomend these for street use (maybe that was obvious?). A little burnout simultaneously ended what was left of the sprocket and tire…
The Iron Triangle has also been put through a rigorous testing phase out here. The most obvious problem was that is simply wasn’t making enough power at low rpms, which makes sense given my cam choice. I selected a new cam that will raise my cylinder pressure a bit, and hopefully not hurt me too much on the top end. Since I was going in anyway, I decided to pop the heads off and have a look inside. I am using a copper 0 ring head gasket, which is an unusual arrangement for a street bike (usually more of a dragster setup), and there were signs of slight weepage. Not so much as to really effect performance, but just enough to allow a little bit of oil to escape after a long ride. I am going to tweak the head a bit to get a better seal, and perhaps try a slightly larger o ring. I also wanted to do a bit more headwork to improve flow, so Steg (psycho cycles) and I put our heads together and came up with a plan. Nothing revolutionary, just some common sense flow related upgrades. Getting rid of the stock valves in favor of some with slightly better shape, and also sinking them into the seats a bit further. In addition, I am going from the conventional double valve springs to Fueling “beehive” springs to lighten up the valve train upstairs. I am also shrinking the combustion chamber volume a bit, from 79cc to around 77cc, to get my compression where the new cam wants it.
Keep in mind my twin cam has a 3.5″ by 4.25″ bore and stroke, so nothing is a no-brainer bolt on as it would be with an 88 or 95 twin cam. One thing I can say with confidence though, is this bore and stroke combo sounds WAY better then the 3.75″ by 4″ of a twin cam 88. I see more small bore/long stroke motors in my future!
Thats all for now…
Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I am now set up at the new shop in Cypress Park, CA. It is about 10 mins from Hollywood, at the interchange of the 110 and the 5 highways. The trip out went well, with a 3 vehicle convoy from CT. A 26′ haul hauling all the machinery, parts and materials, and a 18′ haul loaded with 5 bikes and towing the ’72 dodge charger. Third vehicle was a fiat driven by my roommate Alfredo. The trucks were somewhat speed limited, so the trip took about 4 days, and consumed several thousand dollars worth of fuel.
In this new shop, I will only be doing complete motorcycle fabrication, and some engine building. I may or may not resume leather and knife making here. I already have several frame jobs for a local shop in the works as well. Please do not contact me for general motorcycle mechanics, such as wiring, troubleshooting, or small welding jobs. I decided that after almost a decade of doing those types of jobs at the CT shop, that it is simply not worth the effort, financially or psychologically. I am still selling my “leaf spring kickstands”, so please contact me if interested. They are in their 5th generation, and are better than ever. Price is still $375 plus $15 shipping.
I have several bikes out here that are currently for sale, “Daddy go Hard”, “Knucklegame”, and “Interceptor”. The bike “Flash in the Pan” is also for sale by its last owner, located in CT. It has very few miles on it and looks/runs like new. The Interceptor is heavily discounted since it has been my daily rider for a while now. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries. Visit easternfabrications.com for pictures.
The CT shop is currently occupied by a new tenant, so do not go there looking for me! I will be back in CT at some point this summer, but not sure on dates yet. If anyone knows of any good shows in the LA area, I’d love to hear. Id like to get the bikes out to as many local events as possible.
Cool vid of an A-10 “warthog” cannon firing. Go back in my posts to read more about the plane if your curious…
I am back in frozen CT after another CA adventure. This latest trip lasted a little over a month, and culminated with finding a great shop space. The move west will happen as soon as I settle some business here, and pack up the critical tools and furniture from the current shop.
Once again, this latest scouting mission would not have been possible without the help of a few good people, namely John, Brooke, Agatha, Steg, and of course Candice and my dad. Without their generosity and input, this move would not have been possible. From storing the bikes, giving Fre and I places to stay, educating us on the ins and outs of LA, and holding down the CT shop while I was gone, I owe them a huge thanks.
Here are a few random shots from the trip:
The trusty “Interceptor” was my chosen transportation out there. I rode it relentlessly, and it performed perfectly.
Getting used to the riding in LA is somewhat terrifying. I don’t think I have ever ridden in a place with such bad drivers. Maybe bad isn’t the right word, more like intentionally careless. I witnessed at least 5 accidents, all of which occurred right around me! Not bad ones, but slow, casual smash ups. People out there drive as if cars are disposable, and as if occasionally wrecking your car is just a way of life. The average speed is not really any faster than other cities, but the awareness just isn’t there. I phones are looked at more than windshields, literally. Riding a high powered bike through the mess is an exercise in restraint for me. Its hard to exploit the occasional stretch of open road, because at every intersection there is some brain-dead housewife or teenager just waiting to ambush you. Making direct eye contact as you approach does seemingly nothing. On a bike, you just don’t exist in Los Angeles.
The good news (at least from an east coast perspective) is that you have quite a few privileges that cars don’t, namely being able to park almost anywhere, ride between cars, and cut to the front of traffic lines. Come to think of it, I was amazed by how few people were riding bikes, despite the weather being above 60 every single day.
Luckily motorcycles were not the only vehicle I got to play with during my visit. My friend Jackson invited Fre and I go flying with him in a helicopter, specifically an “R44 Raven 2”. It is a cool little amalgamation of aluminum, plastic, and a fuel injected flat 4. We flew out of an airstrip in Camarillo, and just flew around the surrounding area for about an hour. Jackson practiced landings, which was probably the most entertaining part for me. here is captain-jackson giving her once-over.
Fre looked a bit skeptical….
I also spent an entire day exploring the “Angeles National Forest”, a great spot not far from the new shop location. The main road that winds through it is amazing; an endless series of smooth turns and switchbacks. Unfortunately the “Interceptor” lacked the range necessary to get from one end to the other, so I made a decision a ways in to turn back. I little extra fuel in a jug should get me through it next time.
Thats all for now. Next up: the drive out