Wednesday, August 26, 2015


The 1927 H-D FHA racer, with its racing sidecar, little more than a padded platform.  A remarkable original-condition racer from the end of the first Golden Age of American racing
It happens every year; an ultra-rare motorcycle is loosed from the cold, dead hands of a collector, and the 'Net is abuzz with the certainty that THIS, finally, is the Million Dollar Baby.  Some odd mix of voyeurism and knowier-than-thou-ness compels us to excitedly proclaim the staggering rise in blue chip bike prices, while making a show of decrying the very same thing.  The truth is, very few people are savvy enough to know what a blue chip bike is, and fewer still combine that knowledge with a willingness to take a risk and open their wallet.  Prices have risen since the 1950s or the '80s or the 2000s, but the story remains the same - the folks who know and care and want important machines find where they're hiding and buy them.  The folks actually shelling out the big bucks today aren't complaining, because they've known for decades that ultra rare motorcycles are undervalued.  [For a little comparison shopping, check out my list of the World's Most Expensive Motorcycles]
A handsome and purposeful outfit.
The latest gem making the rounds of Instagram (and TheVintagent!) is this just unearthed, single-family for 50 years Harley-Davidson FHA 8-valve racer, which is documented and in as-last-raced condition.  Huzzah; a no-bull 1920s Class A racer which doesn't appear to have been messed with or faked up, like nearly all the others of its ilk.  Hilariously, some of the folks who've sold less than perfect American racers in the past few years have shown their hands with this machine, praising its originality and the importance thereof, while no such praise was possible for their own bikes!  But that's the reality of most old racers - they're usually compromised in the very areas collectors prize most; matching #s, original sheet metal, clear provenance.  When presented with a machine with all boxes ticked, the temperature rises.
The raised ring cast into the timing cover is the giveaway for a 4-cam timing chest.  The oil pump is the horizontal cylinder behind that ring.  Note the exhaust valve lifter emerging from the front of the case, operated by a small lever below the fuel tank.   Although there are no bicycle cranks, a bicycle foot pedal is still used - a rider's affectation or original to the machine?
This FHA is among the last of the factory 8-valves produced by Harley-Davidson, as they were already experimenting with more reliable ways of producing power, and more, the American Class A race series was about to vanish due to the Depression, in favor of Class C, which was production-based and therefore much cheaper for everyone, favoring 'mundane' sidevalve engines instead of 'exotic' OHVs.  Of course, factories across the pond had been producing fast and reliable OHV bikes in increasing numbers since the 'Teens for everyday use, but American buyers trusted valves on the side, but that's another story.
A nice engine shot showing the primary chain oiler, the ignition wires which thread between the barrels, and two further oil lines, one presumably to the rear of the front cylinder barrel, the other to the oil pump on the timing chest.  Note also the small strap keeping the manual advance cable away from the exhaust.  The carb is a racing Schebler - can one of my American racer experts fill in the type?
The FHA used a twin-camshaft timing chest, externally distinguished by the raised ring on the timing cover, which of course meant better valve control and thus higher revs and more power.  The revs were also made possible by the good airflow of the 4-valve cylinder heads, which took advantage of the gas-flow research of Sir Harry Ricardo, which proved many small valves pass more air than two big ones.  But without positive lubrication and the oil cooling it provides, a grease-lubed 4-valve cylinder head is a fragile thing, even with the rocker gear exposed to the airflow... plus dirt, cinders, and dust when raced on the Australian tracks this beast has seen.
This machine is coming up for auction at Shannon's auction house on Sept. 21st, and I'll keep an eye on the sale.
A good shot of the struts attached to the early H-D forks, which help prevent flexing under the huge side loads from a sliding sidecar. Note also the small steering damper and slotted plate just below the top fork clamps.  The handlebar bend is standar for board trackers.
Fantastic patina.
The FHA was delivered new to the Milledge Bros Harley-Davidson in Melbourne, Australia.
A period shot of the outfit, showing the braced forks, and the canted wheel angle for sliding on dirt tracks. 
The simple direct-drive system is clear, with a countershaft running in a robust casting at the bottom of the frame, which holds the clutch and final drive sprocket. One speed!
For moto-geeks; note the attachment of the sidecar to a U shaped late and the reinforced engine plates up front.  Plus the extensively ribbed drive-side crankcase.  There's a direct oil line to the (missing) primary chain.
The oval port of the late 8-valve motor is clear, as is the single-rocker system used on a simple, pent-roof combustion chamer.  All exposed, of course, to whatever dirt is thrown up by the track.  Also clear is the camshaft layout, with side-by-side pushrods emerging from the timing chest - a cam for each cylinder, plus the crankshaft oiling line emerging from the front of the motor.
1927 FHA #81...not that they built so many! 

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Sunday, August 23, 2015


Alain deCadenet aboard the ex-John Edgar, Rollie Free 'bathing suit' Vincent, one of the world's most famous motorcycles 

The outlook wasn't brilliant for a Pebble judge that day,
As bikes stood proudly two by two, all winners - so they say.
And then a gent claimed Gunga Din was faked up, though a looker,
And partly by a judge there, a good man who is no hooker.
But Gunga, true to Kipling's muse, did sally forth, a win,
While lovers of old Rollie Free's machine called it a sin.
That year another prize was took, a streamlined Indian,
T'was claimed to be from Burt Munro, but some said ‘guess again’.
What part was Burt's and what part new, nobody there would tell,
But surely he who built the thing is answerable to Hell.
The recreation of the famous Vincent racer 'Gunga Din'
A silence like a cloak covers the patrons of this game,
The millions stashed from ticket sales protecting them from shame.
A straggling few raised protest for the fakery, and more -
The bolstering of class divides was something to abhor.
Some clung yet to hope which springs eternal in our breast;
They thought, “Surely Pebble Beach will always do its best.
While motorcars are one thing, motorbikes are something new,
Perhaps a whole new game's afoot, Class X is now on view!”
The Guggenheim had sung their praise, the Art of Motorcycles;
The Legends Show had proved that bikes on grass could be delightful.
An Excelsior Super X racer, built of a mix of old and new parts, and patinated to look well-used
Cycling through each country who'd built bikes in times before,
Was the theme at Pebble Beach on hallowed golf link shores.
But country categories surely limited the choices,
Unlike grouping cars by factory - Ferraris and Rolls Royces.
The country theme as annual display proved ill-considered,
Though those first few nations featured proved their bike were worthy winners.
Collectors spent a bundle prepping rare machines to show,
Like the Hildebrand and Wolfmuller that simply wouldn’t go.
The year of Italy’s display was best, with bikes after the ‘Thirties,
My MV pic was in the New York Times, ‘cause of John Surtees.
The French lineup, included several lightweights of mixed quality.
A few years in, the choice grew thin, as was indeed the entry,
One year they featured Vietnam, with one sad rolling sentry.
The French theme fell as flat as a meringue from a hack chef,
We shan't speak of Eastern Europe's year; good possibles were left
In museums and collections far across the ocean's span,
It seems foreigner collectors did not support the plan.
“Fly in your bike, at your own cost, of course,” they all were told,
Which - from the richest of all shows - seemed brazen, crass, and bold.
American collectors had been told but did ignore it,
That racers run on pavement since the ‘Teens were most historic.
Their dirt-track kings and board track bikes were hounded to obsession,
Which meant when Pebble called ‘GP!’ there’s none in their collections.
My photograph of John Surtees aboard his World Championship MV Agusta was used in a New York Times article decrying his lack of knighthood for his double World Championship status, on cars and bikes - still the only man to have done this.
There was a time not long ago when motorbikes were fashion,
And car collectors far and wide declared a new-found passion,
For motorbikes collectible, much cheaper than four wheels,
And set about to write big checks for seven-figure deals.
With polished skin and suits that cost as much as a new ride,
They suddenly appeared at auctions, advisors by their side,
Who earned commissions from the Millions in old-bike finance,
By overlooking inconvenient truths ‘bout provenance.
But 6 years on, the thrill is gone, and car folks have decided,
That tin and doors and solid floors is what gets them excited.
Organizer Sandra and her minions sniffed the trends,
So earlier this year decreed that Pebble bikes would end.
A nautical theme!  Rumi made submarines and torpedos in WW2... hence the anchor logo
Oh, somewhere on a twisty road the sun is shining bright,
A motorbike is purring and the rider's found delight,
With the joy of simply riding an old bike - though valued highly -
The ownership of which marks vintagents as money-wily.
True joy from motorbikes is motion, not the money game,
Though bikes in galleries these days would not suggest the same.
Two wheels make lousy sculptures; better riding them around,
The greedy types are merely vultures, much like car guys, I have found.
The Concours thing is tempting with big money all about,
But there is no joy from Pebble — motorbikes are pencilled out.
Christine Reed graces John Stein's amazing Ducati Imola racer
[And in case you don't read the excellent publication 'The Automobile' from England - the best old-car magazine in the world - I wrote the following account of the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours on their request.  I didn't expect them to publish it, at least not without serious editing, but editor Jonathan Rishton chose to print it 100% as written, saying, "Thanks for the report. It is superb - one of the best, most insightful and honest things we'll have ever published. Thanks so much." Nothing has changed at Pebble since then, except the raising of ticket prices to $350, and the elimination of motorcycles. Enjoy the read - it's a scandal!]

Exotic car design emphasized swelling curves from the '30s onwards

c.Paul d'Orléans 2013

Welcome to Pebble Beach, a grand celebration of the important things in life; status, wealth, tiered access, covetousness, and the need for a good hat. The Devil is at play on that green seaside lawn, tempting car enthusiasts worldwide towards the very worst reasons to enjoy old automobiles, and having quite a successful run at it. Just as Capital currently reigns unchallenged over our globe, so Pebble is the acknowledged King of Concours d’Elegance. Pebble Beach Sunday has become, in a world of exciting youth culture battling threats of economic, environmental, and military calamity, a strange 1% Otherworld, a money-cushioned respite from reality, for a mere $225 admission ($275 at the gate).
The Paul Poiret-designed interior fabric for Voisin cars - not to be viewed on psychedelic drugs! 
D’Elegance it is not, unless your definition includes constant elbow-bashing and the impossibility of getting a clear photograph of a car you like…at least Pebble’s photo-bombers are well dressed, and if you’re crafty, will include a revealingly dressed trophy wife. Huzzah. I find it hard to find joy in this event; the cars are magnificent, the best examples of over-the-top design in the world without question, but surely I am not a voice in the wilderness in finding it crass, materialistic, horribly boring and an overcrowded clusterfuck.
Pebble is an opportunity for period-correct dress, for some
Let me rephrase that: Pebble Beach is no joy to attend, although one is pampered as an entrant. The price of admission to that club varies by your ambition and your pocketbook; a savvy choice of an obscure but important vehicle might not be expensive at all – you may already own one – but positioning yourself for an ‘invitation’ is another matter, and will require connections to the right people. Or at least, in the four-wheel categories… a back door has opened in the last 5 years for collectors of important motorcycles, which are only as expensive as good cars were 25 years ago; ie, generally under $100k.
'In the Spring a young man's fancy turns lightly to thoughts of abolishing the tax on Capital Gains'
That will change of course, but for now, if you’re really hankering to stand beside a vehicle all day, waiting for judges to pore over your machine, then waiting some more to find if you’ve placed, then a motorcycle is the way to go. This year would have been the perfect opportunity, actually, as the motorcycle theme was ‘French’.  If you’re not from that country, I challenge you to name more than four French motorcycle manufacturers. Don’t feel bad, neither could the Pebble organizers, who failed to round up prime examples of French engineering prowess - the exotic overhead-cams, the racers, the multi-valves, the incredible range of ‘firsts’ from the early years, when France dominated vehicular achievement on land and in the air. No significant history was in evidence.
Too much love; over-rubbed in sensitive places?
The earliest two-wheeler on the lawn was the only good reason to visit Class X; the 1929 Majestic was a unique example, having an American four-cylinder Cleveland engine completely enclosed in Deco-sausage bodywork, with car-like hub center steering; a two-wheeled Facel Vega.  The Majestic was produced 63 years into the lineage of French motorcycling (a genre they invented, after all, in 1867), which leaves a whole lot of unexplained history in a tiny field of only 9 motorcycles. It was simply embarrassing.  I say let’s just forget this pathetic attempt at ‘inclusion’; motorcycles ARE the new black, but nobody’s wearing black at Pebble. Or perhaps, let’s ask Karl Lagerfeld to curate the next motorcycle exhibit, and cut the pretense to relevance, or History, or whatever.
Birds shedding feathers.
The automotive display included a stretch of competition-minded Porsche 911s to celebrate that squidgy little darling’s 50th birthday, and I must say we’ve grown old well together. It’s lovely seeing full-scale the Corgi Porsches I vroomed as a lad, although if one took a 20 minute drive from the golf club lawn, one could see, hear, and smell some of the very same cars being hammered around Laguna Seca raceway in the Monterey Historics, where megamillion Ferraris are spun into barriers and semi-genteel Aston Martins bash each other’s noses.  The damage inflicted on these glorious beasts is costly, like every one of the 40,000 spectators lighting a joint with a $10 bill. Still, I’d rather watch the beasts howling and writhing and stressing themselves, than parked on a lawn.
Our man deCadenet 'splaining an Alfa 8C, an example of which he's owned for donkey's ears
An excellent Pebble development is the ever-expanding ‘preservation’ classes (L-1 and L-2, pre- and postwar), which means somebody at Pebble has heard the clarion call of the Oily Rag. Hallelujah. My favorite rust-bucket was an original-paint Voisin, complete with dents, which was dutifully polished all day long, one assumes to help remove more areas of paint for the ‘perfect patina’. The interior, I was assured, was in the original leather, and not the eye-watering Paul Poiret Art Deco mescaline nightmare found in every single restored Voisin; they’ve really come out of the woodwork since winning ‘everything’ in the past 2 years.
Further over-loved; a Voisin in original paint, but perhaps not original interior?  Although it was old...
I was slightly vexed by an Aston Martin DB5 in supposedly original paint, its anthracite grey exterior looking fairly immaculate barring rubbed-thru patches where clearly ‘over-loved’ by the polishing rag…or was this new paint, artfully distressed? The thought disturbed me, the more so when I overheard a Preservation class entrant describing the purchase of a junked car’s faded leather interior, which he placed in his own car, as it looked better. Creatively ‘original’, but certainly not ‘preserved’, unless we count an aggregation of vintage parts as ‘original’ in toto…at which point, there’ll be no need to lock up the guns, my mind will have already been blown.
'If you come any closer, I'll whack you with my vintage stacked-agate walking stick.'
It’s a not-joke that only black cars win Best in Show at Pebble Beach [2015 too! - pd'o], and this year was no exception; the 1934 Packard 1108 Twelve Dietrich Convertible Victoria was the first American car to win the grand prize since 2007.  It was big and grand and utterly unique, partly because America was starving at the time, out of work with a 40% unemployment rate.  Brother, can you spare a coachbuilt Packard?
Top of the Money Tree, even in an odd shade of green; a Ferrari 250GTO in a Billion dollar lineup
Today, if the owner falls on hard times, he can always follow the path of last year’s winner, who sold his 2012 Best in Show ’28 Mercedes-Benz 680S Torpedo Roadster for a cool $8.25M on the weekend. That was nothing, of course, compared to the 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4S NART Spider, which sold for a chart-busting $27.5M…shades of pre-Crash giddiness. “It’s almost 2014: do you know where your investments are?”
The ex-John Surtees Ferrari normally found in the Barber Museum
 The Centenary of Aston Martin did not pass unnoticed, and a lovely stretch of racers and roadsters were nearly camouflaged by the British racing green lawn, although the insect-yellow flash of a ’57 DBR2 kept bumblers alert.  Its livery was matched by a new Aston CC100 Speedster prototype, shown in the ‘Concept Car Corral’ on the Lodge lawn, and looking a lot like BMW’s ‘328 nouveaux’ concept débuted in 2011, but sexier.  Bugatti brought a special-edition Veyron for display at an invite-only party, and a pair of gilded guests had a bidding brawl on the spot, resulting in the $2.7M car which wasn’t for sale leaving the premises for nearly $3.5M. Wallets thrown at 10 paces; may the best oligarch win. The piss-taking side events like the Monterey Concours d’LeMons are looking like a better bet every year…

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Alp Sungurtekin has built the world’s fastest unfaired Triumph 650.
Alp Sungurketin's new Land Speed Record pre-unit Triumph 650, timed at 172mph, using nitromethane breathing through new Burlen Amal GP carbs.
Over the past few years, Bonneville seems determined to reclaim its lakehood, to the great disappointment of speed fans who’ve traveled the globe to test their metal against the clock.   The Speed Trials have been cancelled several times, so last weekend the SCTA - hallowed sanctioning body of speed - held its first ‘Mojave Mile’ event at the Mojave Air and Space Port airstrip, to allow all those revved-up teams a chance to redeem their substantial investments. The Mile is different from Dry Lake top speed runs, organized more like a solo drag race over the 12,500’ runway used by the Space Shuttle.  There’s another ‘Mojave Mile’ event which is open to all comers, but this SCTA event was only for Land Speed Record machines which fit the appropriate specs/regulations, and fills the gap left by a wet early-August Bonneville.  With no spare real estate for a typical speed run, riders are WFO from the start line, with their speed measured at the end of the run. 
At El Mirage dry lake
Among the Mojave competitors was Bonneville regular Alp Sungurtekin, an Industrial Designer who has developed a pair of pre-unit Triumph twins into the most potent examples ever built for speed.  I met Alp at end of the 2013 Bonneville Speed Trials, where he agreed to sit for a few ‘wet plate’ portraits. His first machine, based on a 1950 iron-head Triumph 6T Thunderbird, is legendary for recording 132mph at Bonneville, with a two way average of 127.092mph, making it the world’s fastest unfaired 650cc stock-framed Triumph in the Vintage gas class. 
At speed, but not the optimal riding position due to handling issues
With the experience gained from his success, Alp built a totally new bike in 2014. I’ve been designing this Special Construction-class bike for 2 years, thinking it over and drawing it out on the computer, and started building it in November 2013.  The frame and all components were finished in March 2014 - it took 4 months to build, and was ready for the May races. My first test that May was bolting the 1950 engine into my new frame, and the bike went 139.226mph, the A-VG record, and that June it recorded 140.2mph.” 
Alp developed this frame with an adjustable rear axle height and stressed-member engine/gearbox assembly
As seen in these photos, Alp’s new racing frame is built to keep the rider as low and close to the engine as possible.  As a result, it’s a tiny machine, with the engine sat well back, and a very short final chain run. The engine plates were built of ½” thick 6061 aluminum alloy, which were hand cut, as Alp has no milling machine. The engine and gearbox form a structural part of the frame with their substantial engine plates.  

Alp with his crew chief/girlfriend Jalika, and the 1950 Triumph he's ridden to 132mph (photo by Adam Bendig photography)
“I have a nice 1958 Buffalo Forge Drill Press that I used like a mill to smooth out the edges. Took forever, little by little. I always fabricate my prototypes by hand and test them on the race course, but all the parts that I build for my clients are CNC or waterjet cut. The frame is very accommodating; its designed to ‘complete’ the rider’s body. It’s not just about the right weight or geometry, it gives a really good weight ratio distribution for maximum traction.  Another feature of the frame is adjustable axle plates that make it possible to change the ground clearance and wheelbase.  It’s different ergonomically, the difference between a land speed racer and a drag bike.  The sitting position won’t let you take off instantly.”
The alloy engine during assembly into the chassis
Alp’s Vintage-class iron-head 1950 Triumph Thunderbird uses the original Triumph engine cases, barrels, and that single-carb iron cylinder head, and runs on gasoline.  After recording 132mph with that motor, he began work on a new engine with an all-alloy top end and twin carbs, to compete in the Special Construction “A” class.  The twin-carb alloy head is post-1956 (it's a '64 head), so is ineligible for the Vintage class, but runs in the 650 A-PG/F class.  Aftermarket cases are allowed in this class, and Alp is sponsored by Thunder Engineering, who supplied beefed-up cases and rods. The engine was designed to run on Nitromethane, which gives tremendous power - a supercharger in liquid form - but is known to reveal any lubrication or heat dissipation issues in a spectacular fashion.  “The Nitro gave me clutch problems initially, but the good thing is I didn’t blow up the engine. My Vintage Triumph, running on gasoline, puts out 58-60hp and will hit 140+mph.  But many tell me with the Nitro, my later engine probably produces more than 140hp at 160+mph.”
Crew chief Jalika with the 172mph LSR Triumph
“I first tried the new all-alloy engine in the 1950 frame; running on Nitromethane we hit 149.279mph.  That’s with a stock Triumph frame!  But I didn’t realize that I’d bent the frame, and the rear fender mount shredded the rear tire and slowed me down – I was on my way to 160mph.  The existing record was set in 1995 by the Tatro Machine Special Harley-Davidson – Many fellow SCTA racers told me he blew up many engines to get that speed.  He heard that I’d broken his record, and is coming back in October!”
Alp's frame was designed to accomodate the rider's body
“With the alloy engine in the new frame, I was recorded at Mojave doing 169.1mph -within a standing-start mile, with an exit speed of 172mph. As you know, we’re running a pre-unit 650cc open-class motorcycle with no fairing!  This is a speed no other naked vintage or pushrod 650cc motorcycle has ever achieved in the history of Land Speed Racing.  Our speed is faster than the 650cc/750cc partial streamline APS-PG/F bikes and 750cc / 1000cc open pushrod ‘fuel’ bikes as recorded by any sanctioning body – SCTA/AMA/ECTA.”
At the start line with the 1950 Triumph
“The success of a racing bike is the whole package, not the parts.  I designed my frame for this engine, and I balanced the engine and crankshaft for this frame.  Howard Allen, who used to race at Bonneville and El Mirage in the 60’s/ 70’s with Triumphs and Harleys is one of my greatest inspirations, he was always there when I needed help.  For speed, my cylinder head is the key.  Doug Robinson, builder of the BMRRoadster (the world’s fastest naturally aspirated roadster at 290mph) told me the only secret to speed is how you get the air in and out of the cylinder head – it’s a pump. I’ve probably redesigned and built between 15-20 heads in the past few years; how I modify them is probably my only tuning secret.  I’m using NOS cast pistons (which I wouldn’t recommend), buying them oversized and shaping them by hand – they look really funky and organic.”
The first iteration of the 1950 Triumph, with girder forks, from 2011
“We had some interesting problems – the special construction frame has a rake of about 39deg with about 4-5” trail; it’s meant to go straight at high speed.  The problem showed up while under load, wide open; the runway at Mojave isn’t flat, like Bonneville, it has a crown and the bike pulled to the right, so I had to slow down several times, just trying to stay on the course.  This is a rigid frame, and on this course it bounced like crazy!  El Mirage and Bonneville are much nicer without the paving.  Bonneville is truly flat; I believe going straight is still better with a hardtail frame, even in the semi-saturated spots - it still wants to go straight.  On the runway, without suspension, every time there’s a bump it pushes you to the side, and the very center has a seam in the paving, which is pretty dangerous at 150mph. The course was tough, but even so, the bike was still pulling at 172mph; don’t be surprised if I do 175mph, unless I destroy the bottom end!”
My wet plate portrait of Alp at Bonneville in 2013, on his 1950 Triumph
Alp would like to thank his sponsors: Lowbrow Customs (Amal GPs), Klotz Synthetic Lubricants, Morris Magnetos, Thunder Engineering (cases and rods).
Touché - Alp shoots the photographer!
Alp's two racing engines; the new cases with 1964 cylinder head at left, and the 1950 6T engine at right
Jalika tending the early version of the 1950 bike

How low, how small can you get?  Not much of either, in this case.  Alp spends much time and research on cheating the wind, one of the secrets of his success.  He doesn't need a wind tunnel, but has developed a system for very accurate feedback, measuring the effect of minor position changes on speed.  My lips are sealed!

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Monday, July 27, 2015


The competitors parade...
Here's an important way Wheels+Waves is different from most other motorcycle shows; it includes two days of riding through the exceptional Basque countryside, and an impromptu street race - the 'Punks Peak' hillclimb.  While this race started out quasi-legally on a lonely hillside farm track back in 2013, it developed into a sanctioned event the next year, complete with police assistance and an ambulance in case of trouble.  For better or worse, the competition, while still very much in the spirit of fun (there's nothing to win but glory), has heated up over the years, and the 'run whatya brung' entrants are being overshadowed by purpose-built drag bikes, and very hot street racers come to show what they've got cooking.
Mark Upham - owner of Brough Superior - rode Sam Lovegrove's Royal Enfield special over the weekend, which he says changed his life. 'I've spent the last 11 years building up motorcycle businesses, and never riding for pleasure.  This was so much fun, I've decided to cede some control of the business, so I can ride and enjoy life more.'  Amen to that, my friend.
The ride from Biarritz to Jaizkibel mountain takes about 45 minutes, with roads winding mostly along the Cote Basque, Corniche, and through several villages on the way to Hondarribia in Spain, the last town before climbing into the mountains.  This year many thousands of bikers made their way up the mountain, and surprisingly the ride didn't feel like a clump, possibly because so many people get temporarily lost en route!  The view at the top of the ridge is commanding, taking in the whole of France's coastline as it merges into Spain, and the lovely city of San Sebastian just beyond. There are wild horses and fenced-in sheep wandering the expansive meadows, which shortly resonate to the sounds of throttles held wide.  Competitors are flagged off two by two in rounds of elimination, paired roughly by capacity.
El Solitario's David Borras catches a quick nap on his beloved Panhead, after his usual late night revels...
It was widely expected that the day's highlight matchup would be the Lucky Cat Garage dustbin-faired 'Sprintbeemer', which won last year, vs the Swiss Young Guns Garage sprint Moto Guzzi, which had just been completed and certainly looked formidable.  As the races proceeded, a wild card was thrown in the mix, as the Revival Cycles 'Hardley', with its 100+hp tuned engine, was as fast as anything else on the road, and better suited to the twisty hillclimb than the drag-slick clad sprinters.  When finally paired against the Young Guns Guzzi, determined Texan Alan Stulberg pipped the Swiss machine at the line, and the final was to be Seb Lorentz vs. Stulberg.  The Revival founder surprised - shocked? - the assembled thousands with his hairy starting/riding style, his first off accompanied by the day's most vertical wheelie.    Still, Seb's much-developed BMW racer took the flag at the end, although as usual the Revival gang caught everyone's attention - as a 'factory' effort, they must have felt vindicated in flying a couple of bikes to France!
Vincent Prat's H-D VL bob-job
Rare Benelli Tornado 650cc vertical twin, in cafe racer guise
David Borras is pensive on Shinya Kimura's Yamaha 'Faster Son' build
Southsider boss Vincent Prat opens the racing while flat-out on the Brough Superior 'Pendine' racer
Shinya Kimura's 'Faster Son' Yamaha, a factory commission, is revealed in Hondarribia, during a post-race party in town - the same spot the Southsiders and myself had lunch in 2009, and discussed the future...

Dimitri Coste and his BSA B50 flat-tracker 
A detail shot of the BSA's essential equipment...
A lovely Ducati 250cc cafe racer
Watching the action on Jaizkibel mountain

Sam Lovegrove's beautiful Norton M30 International - the rigid version, my fave

The Japanese BMW 'Soulfuel' custom contingent rode, and raced, their gorgeous machines - this is the 46Works 'Clubman Racer'
The BMW Soulfuel by Hide, the 'Boxer'
Lunch was grilled on site, with my favorite dry Basque cidre sold by the jug.
Maxwell Paternoster, the artist known for his Corpses from Hell blog.  Note his patch - from 'The Ride' special edition
Not junk.  Dig the custom louvre paint job - never seen that on an MV!
Men's File magazine publisher and now filmmaker Nick Clements 
The Norton Commando graciously loaned by the Southsiders for my use on the weekend.  Great and trouble-free bike!
Another shot of the Commando, with its scallped paint job
Alan Stulberg and Andy from Revival Cycles, hoisted by Fred Jourden of Blitz Motorcycles, at the prize-giving ceremony in Hondarribia
Riding down the mountain with Max on his modded Honda 110 and Valeria on her El Solitario H-D
Sam Lovegrove prepping the Brough Superior SS100 'Pendine' racer 

Sebastien Lorentz of Lucky Cat Garage takes kudos for his Punks Peak win on the Sprintbeemer, with the Southsiders, Revival, Blitz, and Young Guns on stage too.  Yours truly gave a speed about the history of Wheels+Waves, which began in 2009 when the Southsiders graciously invited me for a ride in the Basque mountains (there were 13 of us), and grew annually into the monster it is now.
Shinya and Ayu with the 'Faster Son' Yamaha
The crowd sings 'Happy Birthday' to Shinya Kimura!
Sweet BSA B44 cafe racer
"Club Prive: le Rats"...and the El Solitario Malo Bueno
Southsider Jérome Allé, the man who makes it all function smoothly, and it did.  Terrific job! 
The Cherry's Co BMW 'Highway Fighter', one of my favorite customs ever, and the first decent attempt to bring the spirit of Ernst Henne's streamliner to the present.