Bear Mountain scoot


missfires bear mountain

This last Sunday, the weather was absolutely perfect. At Miss-Fire owned cafe Beaner Bar in Brooklyn, a motley crew of Miss-Fires and friends gathered to caffeinated before setting off for a last minute ride from to Harriman State Park/Bear Mountain.

It’s an easy 50+ mile ride over the George Washington Bridge, through NJ and back into NY up the Palisades, stop for breakfast, then through scenic Harriman State Park. Once you reach Bear Mountain, its a maze of twisties leading up to a breathtaking view. I can’t think of a better way to end a ride than sitting on top of a mountain with friends, tired and happy, gazing off into the still wintery landscape of upstate NY.

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Friend and talented photographer Geoff Barrenger joined the ride and it’s always a thrill to see the images he shoots while riding along side you down the freeway. Below are several images he captured of Miss-Fire members Valerie, Leslie and Myself. To see more of his work, check out Whiteline Motorcycle Photography and follow Whiteline on Instagram.

april27.leslie2.whitelinephotographyLeslie, 2013 Harley Sportster. DOOMED Darlings

Photo by Geoff Barrenger

april27.leslie1.whitelinephotographyLeslie, 2013 Harley Sportster. DOOMED Darlings

Photo by Geoff Barrenger

april27.corinna2.whitelinephotographyCorinna, 1968 BSA Lightning/Thunderbolt 650. Via Meccanica

Photo by Geoff Barrenger

april27.corinna.whitelinephotographyCorinna, 1968 BSA Lightning/Thunderbolt 650. Via Meccanica

Photo by Geoff Barrenger

april27.val.whitelinephotographyValerie, 2003 Honda Shadow Spirit VT750DC. MotorGrrl

Photo by Geoff Barrenger

april27.val1.whitelinephotographyValerie, 2003 Honda Shadow Spirit VT750DC. MotorGrrl.

Photo by Geoff Barrenger

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It was a great day riding with Miss-Fires and friends and can’t wait until next weekend!

Corinna Mantlo

1971 Yamaha At1 125, 1968 BSA Lightning 650, 1962 Ford Ranchero

 

April 10, 2014. Maehongson to Chiang Mai

I woke before dawn and noticed that Aileen was already awake.  “I’ve been thinking about our ride” she said.  My immediate thought was that she’d say she was too scared to continue or that I’d have to promise to ride more slowly.  “OK” I said, “What’s on your mind?”  She surprised me. “I want to earn my ton-up patch on this trip”.  “Honey, we are riding the Mae Hong Son loop, the legendary road of 1864 turns and that doesn’t leave much space for straight stretches where we can wind it out to 100 mph, but if an opportunity presents itself then just hold on tight”.

The first 10 or so miles the road is gently undulating. The road then crosses a ridge that involves a steep climb with many hairpin bends.  Riding up is the easier part.  You need first gear to exit many of these turns and you need to downshift before you enter them.  This involves a bit of revving on the downshifts to keep things smooth. There’s no need for brakes. You need to take these bends wide as the road is particularly steep on the inside and there’s a risk of lifting the front wheel or even flipping the bike, particularly when riding 2 up with luggage.  You definitely don’t want to stop dead in these turns as there is a big gap between how far you can extend your feet and where the road surface is on the inside of the turn.  Downhill is exhilarating but hard work as your weight is borne by your arms, especially when braking hard. I use some of that force to apply counter-steer.

We settle into a flow with the continuously winding road.  Go out wide prior to a right-hander, cross the yellow line if there’s no oncoming traffic, exit near the left side of the road, then a quick flip to head over the the center and a flip to the left for the left hander, repeat… It is somewhat like gliding over a dance floor.  The art is getting good lines, well executed turns and doing it with speed and fluidity. Like a dance it exists only in the moment and leaves only memories behind it. Aileen I can tell is starting to really enjoy it. She is leaning into a turn every bit as much as I am and I sometimes have to counteract it.

There is a long steep climb to the view point at Soppong.  It is still only around 7am when we get there and the roadside stalls are still closed. Aileen sits in a sala near the mountain edge to meditate and I head back to the bike. I sit and watch and listen.  About every 5 minutes I hear a motorcycle coming up the mountain and sometimes a truck.  Women arrive and start to open their stalls. Most sell hand crafts things that you see in most markets and tourist areas.

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Aileen’s mountain-top morning meditation
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Our Kawasaki er6-n – a parallel twin 650 naked sportsbike.

When I rode down from Soppong towards Pai 4 months earlier I had just joined in with a group of riders I had met on the mountain top. They said they were fast riders and most were riding Ducatis. As they set off I didn’t realize that they ride in 2 groups – fast and ridiculously fast.  Unwittingly I left with the ridiculously fast group. For a while I was riding at the edge of my comfort zone as there was no way I was going to let them get way from me. After a while my comfort zone expanded and some of those riders were having a hard time keeping up with me. I was braking hard at the last possible moment, using my momentum to apply counter steer and getting my knee down on the many downhill hairpin bends.  At the end of that ride some of the riders asked if I was an ex-racer. “No” I replied, “but some of my riding buddies are.  I’m just a crazy farang grandmother”.   This time though I’m taking time to take in the view and share the moment with Aileen.    About 5 km outside of Pai the road flattens out and I see a straight ahead of me that is enticing me to go faster. I drop down to 4th and gun it, winding it out to about 10,000 rpm.  Did I mention that there are effectively no speed limits in Thailand?  We reach Pai and head for a restaurant.  “How did you enjoy that part of the ride?” I ask.  “Great!” she says, “It was exciting”.  She delivers a huge beaming smile when I tell her “You just earned your ton-up patch”.

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Aileen on hearing that we just hit 100 mph on the road into Pai.

From Pai we rode into Chiang Mai where things were gearing up for Songkran.

 

Project Dirtbike

 

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Project Dirtbike, the engine rebuild of my 1971 Yamaha At1 125, was on hold for a bit while I waited on parts to be sent. specifically the piston circlips, which so far is the only part i managed to misplace in the entire project. pretty damn impressed with that. After a long 2 week wait for the $2 part to be sent from Canada, they finally arrived and we were able to schedule a garage night over at Motor Grrl to got the top end together, and the engine back in the frame. yahoo!

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Everything’s looking pretty good so far, and though we broke at midnight to catch some zzz’s, we hope to fire up The Runt this weekend after just a few minor tweaks.

Corinna Mantlo

1971 Yamaha At1 125, 1968 BSA Lightning 650, 1962 Ford Ranchero

 

Early Morning in Mae Hong Son

Friday April 4

Monday April 7.

We picked up the rented motorcycle (Kawasaki 650 ER-n) in Chiang Mai on Monday morning. I had rented one of these on my trip here four months earlier.  We left our luggage at the rental place and took a ride up Doi Suthep to Wat Phra That. Aileen was nervous on the hairpin bends but bravely leaned in the right direction when needed.  After her meditation we headed back down the mountain. I took it slowly as she needed time to gain confidence in me, the bike and herself. We then loaded up the bike and headed towards Mae Sariang on rt 108 which was a 4 lane highway for the first hour or so (boring). We got to the town of Hot and stopped for a while to hydrate and rest. We were jet lagged and neither of us had got much sleep the night before. We were fending off fatigue and we had just 90 minutes of daylight left. The road from Hot to Mae Sariang is magnificent and has to be one of the world’s best motorcycling roads.  We rode through a river valley and then ascended into the mountains. The air got quite a bit cooler but since it had been 100+ Fahrenheit at the lower elevations the cooling was quite welcome.  I rode with exuberance and Aileen was remarkably calm. Just 2 weeks before we had ridden up the Palisades Parkway to West Point and she had closed her eyes for the whole way up there and needed to stop at the State Line rest area to deal with her anxiety.

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Aileen’s panic break at the State Line when heading up the Palisades.

She had come a long way in those 2 weeks. Riding at dusk was (I know, I use this a lot when talking about Thailand) enchanting. We rode between silhouetted mountains into Mae Sariang. We arrived there just before nightfall and got a room with a balcony that almost overhung the Salaway River. The next day after a breakfast of sticky rice with coconut we headed to the morning market.

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Breakfast of sticky rice on the guest house balcony.
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IMG_5351 Mae Sariang morning market.

We then loaded up and headed north on 108 toward Mae Hong Son. With the exception of one straight of about a mile the road to Mae Hong Son is a continuous string of curves and undulations.  Unpleasant if you are driving but shear joy for motorcyclists. After checking into our bungalow we headed up Doi Kong Mu to view the sunset.

 

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Sunset from Doi Kong Mu, Maehongson

 

Wednesday April 9th. Mae Hong Son

We’re still jet lagged and I woke at 5 am. Aileen heard me moving about the bungalow and got up. We stepped out to view the dawn and watch and listen as the town slowly woke up. It was quiet except for roosters (quite a few of them) and the occasional whir of a small motorcycle. After a short walk around the lake we saw the mountains emerge from the lightening sky. There were delicate colors. The lake was still.

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Dawn breaks over Jong Kham Lake in Maehongson
Monks heading out to seek daily alms.
Monks heading out to seek daily alms.

Each day soon after dawn the monks head out to seek alms. I saw some young boys and their robes were quite new. The Poi Sang Long festival completed just 2 days ago during which a lot of Shan boys became monks for the first time. Mae Hong Son is the epicenter of Shan culture in Thailand. We spent the entire day in Mae Hong Son getting over jetlag. We walked about the town late in the afternoon and made arrangements with the resort management for us to check out at first light the next day. Next stop will be Pai and a magnificent stretch of highway 1095.

 

 

Get In The Van

1622837_10152059945019608_1522239630_nat Mid Carolina Speedway for practice laps

A bunch of my vintage motorcycle friends race vintage Flat Track in the AMA circuit, and I’ve wanted to try it for years. They’re a great group of guys, and every time I asked about how a beginner might get into it, the answer was always the same, ‘just get in the van.”

1901555_10152065324234608_1295608601_nThe ‘Factory Wars’ class 

This answer was always genuine and heartfelt, and I love all the guys and the sport in general for the inclusive, supportive vibe, but…as a girl it just wasn’t that easy. I don’t wear a size 11 boot or big boy leathers. I didn’t have a bike to race and I was too nervous to borrow one of the beautiful vintage bikes that the fellas race because if I broke it, I’d have felt awful…and they’d be out a race bike.

524758_10150765774306797_452777550_nMiss-Fires me (left), Erika (top) & Valerie (bottom center) and friends Beth & Renee 

Racing can be expensive if you have to buy a pair of boots, a steel shoe, leathers and get your hands on a bike…all before you know whether you are even going to like it or not, so when I heard about American Supercamp two years ago, I signed up, got in the van and headed to Delaware.

535667_10150765774556797_1920378463_nLearning the basics

Danny Walker, the man behind Supercamp provided us with full gear, a fleet of bikes that they dared us to break and best of all, hands on instruction by race legends Chris Carr, E. Bostrom, Edwards, and more. The weekend was a blast and I knew I was hooked, but it wasn’t until I met my now friend and fellow Miss-Fires member Kara, who races AMA Vintage in the Brakeless 250 class. that it started to become a real possibility.

1451585_10152059846834608_1818992037_nMiss-Fires member Kara, of Five & Dime Racing (now on MotoLady.com)

Kara and I wear the same size leathers and the same size shoe so when she told me about the first races of the season down south earlier this month, and said the same old line to me of ‘just get in the van” I think i literally jumped for joy.

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With full gear sorted,  the last piece was what bike I would ride. The deal was sealed when I met her team mechanic, and fearless leader Jeff Davis. in trade for a custom seat (which i make for a living as Via Meccanica) for the team’s 1965 BSA 250 brakeless bike, Jeff set me up with a Honda 175, lovingly referred to as The Dung Beetle.

1798871_10152059927659608_484285421_nI have a special place in my heart for ‘The Dung Beetle”

So, after 4 years, I was finally off to the races. We got in the van and drove 3 people, 3 bikes and a ton of gear down to Neeces, South Carolina. There, at the Mid Carolina Speedway, we were able to do practice laps all day on a 1/4 mile track. This was my first time ever on a track, and Kara led me around, showing me ‘the line’. I was slow and stiff but with each lap I got better, faster and more confident. I got the feel for sliding into the turns (where that size 8 steel shoe comes in handy) and started rolling on the throttle more and more. I didn’t touch the brakes once and though i’m sure my laps were slow as molasses to watch, I felt like Speed Racer.

1925155_10152064859199608_1061590697_nEarly morning at Ogelthorpe Speedway. Excited and terrified.

Next stop was Savannah, Georgia for the AMA Nationals, where Kara was scheduled to race the 250 BSA in Brakeless and I would race my first race in the 250 Hot Shoe class.

1620663_10152064835274608_1244314870_nGearing up. Not as easy as it looks.

Due to heavy rain, the races the night before were cancelled and the pits were packed with 70 classes of racers all scheduled to race in one day (about twice as many as generally scheduled). At the racers meeting, they explained that because of this, practice laps, heats and races would be shorter and that things would be rushing along all day to fit everyone in. Just my luck right? But, instead of it being chaotic and stressful, the day was simply filled with the same overwhelming camaraderie that I have always found in the Vintage motorcycle scene. I ran into long time friends from Sixth Street Racing, and made a whole batch of new friends. They were nothing but supportive not just of me, but of each other. parts were loaned, bikes were fixed, and ribbing jokes kept us all in good spirits even when ambulances had to take riders off the track throughout the day.

10013613_10152065135314608_471945085_nAt the starting line of my first race ever (2nd from the left)

Too quick to rethink this whole brilliant idea of flat track, my class was called and Kara and Jeff scurried me off to the starting line. They explained the rules, flag signals (none of which i think i heard from inside my helmet) and with big grins and a pat on the shoulder, i was off! My first real practice race…and I was SLOOOOWWW. I got lapped by everyone but didn’t care. I was confident on this much bigger 1/2 mile track and kept my line that Kara and Jeff had taught me at Mid Carolina. When I hit my last lap and slowed down to exit the track, i was greeted with nothing but cheers and hugs. no one cared i was slow, or stiff, or maybe in the way of the seasoned riders. They’d all bee there.

1982023_10152065384159608_504112490_nKara lining up on the BSA 250 Brakeless

In between my practice laps, heat and race, i got to hang out and watch Kara and the other ‘big kids’ do their thing. It is absolutely amazing to watch racers who know what the hell they’re doing slide around those corners at top speed.

1899890_10152065558009608_755597846_nWatching the Womens Class race

It was also great to see so many women race. Mostly teenagers, and all racing modern bikes. They were every level of experienced and I was excited to meet one at registration who was also about to do her first race that day. For the first time, there was even a ‘Women’s Class”. These girls rode hard with the fellas all day long and held their own to say the least, but watching all of them together on the track was definitely inspiring. In that race there was a very bad crash, and one of the girls was taken away on a stretcher (sadly we found later that she passed away). The race was paused for a few minutes while they cleared the track, and all I could think of was what must have been going through the head of the first time racer who had to go back out again after that just minutes later. But she did, and she didn’t give it any less than she had before. As Hugh Mackie of Sixth Street Racing said to me at the time, ‘its part of it. it happens to all of us sooner or later”. Its true and it’s serious but so is the feeling you get when you follow through with something you set your heart and mind to do. I may have been slow, but i did it. I pushed myself and got better each time I ran the track. I didn’t puss out and stay home. I got in the van and i loved every minute of it.

1972454_10152065595094608_850637459_nKara and Jeff of Five & Dime Racing

Kara went on to take 2nd place in her class that night (and then first several days later in Florida). Exhausted and Ecstatic, we climbed into the bleachers and drank beer in the freezing cold to watch the pros race late into the night. Chris Carr who was one of my instructors at American Supercamp was in those races, and watching him race, I realized how much had just come full circle for me on this trip. I am forever thankful for all of the people over the years who encouraged me to, and finally made me get in the van. Biggest thanks of all, of course to the amazing Speed Racer and my dear friend and fellow Miss-Fire, Kara.

Corinna Mantlo

1971 Yamaha At1 125, 1968 BSA Lightning 650, 1962 Ford Ranchero

Project: BSA

photo 5We recently did a quick one nighter session over at member Valerie’s garage MotorGrrl, on my 1968 BSA Lightning. The fork seals were leaking badly and it should have been a quick swap, but as with many old bikes and mine in particular, nothing is ever what it seems.

1555526_682822451739323_1171141786_nI already knew that my ’68 Lightning has a ’70 Thunderbolt 650 engine in it, but i thought that was the only modification. Of course when we went to install stock, mail ordered ’68 A65 Lightning fork seals, we discovered that the Beezer has  earlier A10 forks fitted to an A65 wheel. So…another week’s wait to get the right seals and I was back up and running. I love my franken-bike. Viva la vintage iron!

Corinna

1971 Yamaha At1 125, 1968 BSA Lightning 650, 1962 Ford Ranchero

Intruder Alert: Tune-Up Part 1

Last night, under Val’s tutelage, we pulled my ’87 Suzuki Intruder out of winter storage for a much needed spring cleaning tune-up. By the time I got to MotorGrrl at 7PM, Little Miss Suzi Ramjam (the Intruder’s new name for reasons I’ll explain later) was already up on the lift and ready for love with a bright red shop rag draped over the seat, handle bar straps holding her tight and tall, and Val next to the lift with a shiny ratchet wrench in-hand.

She had already lowered the battery from the box and informed me that it wasn’t holding a charge which kept the bike from starting.  Damn.  I wasn’t surprised though, I’ve had battery issues since I bought the bike almost two years ago so I can look forward to diagnosing the issue later.  Now, in order to take the battery completely out of its little house you have to raise the frame a bit for the door to swing far enough down so the battery can drop out which leads me to the whole Ramjam thing.  The Intruder is a lot of bike jammed into a relatively tiny frame.  Precision Japanese engineering does not a happy American wrencher make.  It takes a few simple tasks turning into many annoying projects to make this glaringly clear.  From the angle of screw casings to the varied position of the carbs it’s almost impossible to just do a little tinkering.  Time for us to tweak our approach and sprinkle on some patience and time with this baby.

{Cue Music}

First things first we determined the level of tuning that was needed.  For her 16,500 miles, the manual’s recommended list was pretay long so we just started right at the top: Drain the oil and yes, I got it all over.  Felt good.

Then we set in to inspect the spark plugs.

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Look at that smile.  I was all, “Can’t wait to see these freakin’ spark plugs!” Let’s just reach in there and get ’em!”  But first we had to remove the cylinder covers to get close enough to unscrew ’em.  What we found were some FILTHY plugs and a beautifully preserved dead bumble bee!  RIP.

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With fresh new plugs installed and a prayer offered for the dead it was back to the manual and the next step: air filters – one front, one rear.  The rear filter was relatively easy to find once we removed the seat – match this diagram to this thing here.  But since the front filter housing sat under the gas tank, it became time for that to come off.  Yes, I got gas everywhere.  And with that we learned that the tank end of my fuel line was pretty dry rotted and needed to be replaced.  But one thing at a time.

Both air filters were pretty dirty but not in desperate need of replacement so we just blew them. With compressed air. Then spent a decent amount of time trying to get the dang hose reattached.  Ramjam problem: due to its positioning, we couldn’t see or feel if the hose was attached in any way to the housing. We had to remove the ignition coils which flanked each side to get a better look. 45 minutes and just as many WTF’s later, we were finally able to move on to the fuel line.

With a flashlight we followed the current line starting from where we had detached it from the petcock down to where it connected to the fuel pump.  To be expected, it was quite a tight squeeze but since we were in there and Val had a replacement hose we decided just to replace it.  Right? JUST?  Just replace it? Tonight?

I guess what we lack in smarts we make up for in conviction because we got the new fuel line in, but not before midnight. And though we knew there was more work to do we figured, let’s just get the tank back on, hook up the line, and go on home.

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At that time Corinna, the forgotten 8th Dwarf (let’s call her “Greasy”), was packing up after killin’ it all night at the work table putting the transmission back together on her Yamaha.  She provided some much needed muscle in our last stretch connecting the tight new line to the petcock.

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I’m a lucky lady for having the following: a warm garage, tools, WOMAN-POWER (and Slade), great company from those who come to hang out, and a challenging bike that rewards me for the attention I pay to it (which it rightfully deserves).

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Well this was fun!  Thanks for reading!  More to come!

Project CB350G

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What an exciting week over at Project CB350G. The engine is completely buttoned up, points set, and into the frame she went!

As a few folks have mentioned, these engines are a tricky fit, but Stephanie and the team got it wrangled in perfectly, while preserving the freshly painted frame.

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Such a sense of accomplishment to see the bike start to come together and to know the hardest part is done. Spring is near!

 

Project Dirtbike

photo(1)Moto Monday winter project nights are going strong over at the MotorGrrl garage. Here’s an update on the 1971 Yamaha At1 125 engine rebuild project.

photo 2-1This week we put the transmission together, installed the crank, tested the gears and shift pattern, applied Yama-bond to the case edges and pressed them closed. Be sure to thoroughly check your gears and shifting BEFORE you closed up the cases as it’s a pain in the butt to open them up again. Guess why I mention this…Go on, Guess? 🙂

photo 4-1A tip from a friend is to install the transmission, close up the cases (without the crank installed), put on the shifter and go through the gears until you are sure they’re right. Once checked, open cases (easy now, since the crank is not pressure fit in place), install crank and pressure fit cases closed.

photo 5-2We used a torch to heat the bearings (staying away from the bearing balls themselves), then tapped them closed carefully with a rubber mallet.

photo 2All photos by Miss-Fires member, Kristin.

Corinna

1971 Yamaha At1 125, 1968 BSA Lightning 650, 1962 Ford Ranchero