Injury and History
Avid followers will recall in my most recent motorcycle blog I took up flat track racing on a vintage Yamaha and had a blast building it, and taking it to the races. Being in my sixties when I began to actualize this dream from my youth, I carried no expectations of excellence, but wanted to get out there and give it a try. It was more exhilarating than I even hoped for, but it was also coupled with concern that I would get badly hurt.
I believe I raced 6 or 7 events, in classifications matching my age and bike, and therefore was never in way over my head, mixing it up the the world-class professionals or anything like that (well, except during open practice I once did find myself briefly being a blurry sandwich between Sammy Halbert and Brad Baker – whosh!) and while I never ever banged bars with any other riders in cut throat efforts to break to the front, I did manage to fall down a fair number of times. Never badly hurt or hospitalized, but I did once wrench my knee during a low-side slide at a practice which may have contributed to a career-ending accident in the back yard.
Reaching for the cable box on the pole behind my house I had a big slip on the wet grass and really did a number on my left knee. I’ll take the fifth on exactly what I was planning on doing back there with the cable box, but I believe in a loving and just God, and just before I could say “whoa”, my left heel shot forward and once it reached full extension, momentum carried my knee to the ground inward and it snapped 90 degrees in a direction not pleasant and the MRI brought the following results. Torn ACL, Torn MCL, damage to the meniscus and fracture to the tibia.
In flat track racing the left leg is extended twice each lap as an outrigger to aid balance and to correct a too robust twist of the throttle as one enters the turn. End of the line for me, as far racing, but not the end of my motorcycle hobby.
Five years ago there was a miracle in my life where my wife who is very, very busy finishing up a PhD dissertation, gave me permission to have thunderous motorcycles in my workshop. The details of how this came to be is written about elsewhere, but even though I am done racing, I am not done.
The 67 Triumph that I pushed home from the Oregon Vintage Motorcycle show some five years ago was at one point going to be put together as a cafe racer, at least it was until I saw the beautiful street trackers in the shop at the mechanic up the road. I had to have one. In fact I ended up with two of them, had fun building them and then sold them to finance other projects. The second one paid for the above mentioned race bike project. And now the race bike has been used to allow me to continue having more fun with wrenches, crud and gasoline.
Ok. What is a cafe racer? Here’s the first page of Google images for that query:
As you can see, these are normal motorcycles, usually modified with a bump at the end of the seat, lowered handlebars and the foot pegs moved rearward. This modification may have begun in England during the 50s and takes its name for a famous motorcyclist’s hangout called the Ace Cafe in Stonebridge, Northwest London
The history of ton-up boys (ton=100 or taking your motorcycle beyond 100 miles per hour) or the English Rocker Subculture is fascinating. These post WWII youth took stock utilitarian bikes and configured them to emulate their racing heroes and created inexpensive replicas of racing motorcycles for use on the street. Precursors to today’s Ninjas, et al. The revival of this style of motorcycle modification became a world-wide phenomenon when as Wikipedia puts it “The baby boomers were responsible for a surge in motorcycle sales in the late 1960s and 1970s, and many of this generation now find themselves with the time and discretionary income to recreate the bikes they had—or wished to have—in their younger years”. That sentence describes me quite accurately, except in one aspect which is why we’ll be building this bike “on the cheap”