Bike of the Month May 2019

Choosing BOTM is hard; there’s loads of bikes to choose from as it is, but we also need a proper buildtopic with a nice backstory, a bike that represents OSS as it is and we want diversity. We could happily just choose Katanas and/or EFEs and we’d be able to carry on for about a year or 2 without coming up short, but that’d be too easy.

Another thing is the “deadline”; I don’t think a single BOTM has been published on the 1st of the month and I don’t think that will change in a hurry, mostly because a laidback approach that we (or, I) quite like. Anyway, with all these bikes at our disposal, it’s quite easy to forget what the people closer to home are doing. I felt that way when I chose Dave’s EFE, because he is a good friend, and I feel the same about this bike as well.

It’s as close to home as it can get, in OSS terms, but for now, it just felt right. I don’t really think I need to explain my personal reasoning for choosing this bike, because there are many. No, this bike is BOTM because of what it is and how it came to be.

For as long as OldskoolSuzuki.info has been around, it’s been a source of inspiration for many people, be it members, guests (lurkers) or even those steering the ship. A few years ago we found ourselves in the Cadwell paddock, a whole bunch of OSSers signed up for the trackday taking place. Our friend KATANAMANGLER was there with his 1135-powered Katana streetbike, on touring-tyres, no real idea of how the handling would be and even less of a clue how to attack the circular stretch of tarmac draped over the Yorkshire landscape.

Trackweekend over, KATANAMANGLER made a descision; a trackbike was needed. Parts were sourced from far and wide and in about a year, the Slabby you see before you was built with its first outing during the Donington Classic weekend in 2017. Sharing the shed with an angry Katana has done the Slabby only favours as its gone from a trackbike, swiftly into a proper racebike (and then it promptly blew up, but that’s another story..); it really is hard as nails

From what you’ve read on these pages, KATANAMANGLER is a man with a very open mind and quite a broad view of the world, so it really was only a matter of time to go racing when you have a track only up the road with guys running WELL at the front, using the very machinery we prefer, and then get in touch with one of the better tuners around; it’s hard not to do it, to be fair..

In the Netherlands we have a saying; “Goed voorbeeld doet goed volgen”. It’s kinda the same as “Practice what you preach” KATANAMANGLER is one of the people that invented the Winged Hammer moniker and the OSS Racingteam it embodies, so it’s really only right for him to be part of it as well.

Yes, this man is a very good friend and I am quite proud of that fact. It’s got Fuck All to do with why I choose this bike as BOTM, because it’s great as it is and us knowing eachother, and him being one of the website-owners shouldn’t mean it can’t be chosen as such 😊


Congratulations KATANAMANGLER, your Slabby is this months Bike of the Month

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Oldskoolsuzuki meets Don Hill at Rooster Racing

Rooster Racing Don Hill

At the end of January I got a chance to go and visit a man who has probably forgotten more about building and tuning 90s GSXRs than most of us will ever know. His name is Don Hill and he owns Rooster Racing.

What made this opportunity to visit Don’s workshops special was that it’s not something he offers very often. He is almost adverse to attention and publicity, preferring to hand pick the people he builds bikes for. The reason for Don’s approach became clearer as the day wore on.

Don Hill rooster racing Donington endurance legends oldskoolsuzuki
Don Hill and the Rooster Racing team at Donington endurance legends 2018

Don Hill

I first became aware of Don’s work when my friend Adrian McCarthy (AKA Mole) told me he was going to be one of 3 riders racing Don’s Rooster Racing GSXR powered Harris at the 2018 endurance legends event at Donington. When I was there, I got a quick look round the bike in the pit garage. The build quality and the finish were something very special.

That same year I started my own race career ( if you can call it that). Racing at Eastfortune on my home built GSXR1100 Slabside. I quickly learned that 3 of the fastest GSXRs in my post classic senior class were all built by Don at Rooster Racing. I would like to say that’s why they were so much faster than me but the truth was that was entirely down to me. With Don’s Slabside based 1216 engines routinely and reliably knocking out over 160 bhp, I can’t see my home built Slabby getting close even if my riding skills improve.

Adrian McCarthy's GSXR1100 Don Hill Rooster racing
Adrian’s Championship winning GSXR1100 slabside built by Rooster Racing

I got chatting to Don in the pits at Eastfortune last year between my races. I had been suffering from some fuelling problems and Mole and I and the rest of the team had been struggling to solve the problem. Don turned up and took around 2 minutes to sort it. We chatted again after my last race and he agreed that I could come down and learn more about what he was doing and write something for OSS.

Rooster Racing

There were two main reasons I was intrigued to know more about Don’s work. Firstly, I was impressed by the performance and the reliability of the engines he was building. Secondly, Don’s talents don’t stop at engine building and tuning. He fabricates the frame and swingarm modifications, builds his own exhausts systems and as if that wasn’t enough, he produces the most amazing paint work too. There aren’t may people who can single-handedly build a race bike to such a high standard. I just needed to know more.

Mole was going down to Don’s to pick up freshly painted body work and wheels for his 2019 wet bike. So I hitched a lift down to meet Don on his his home turf and learn more about the work that he does.

When we arrived Don took us into his main hanger size workshop, he put the heating on and then presented us with us with tea and bacon butties. I liked him already.

While Mole and Don talked I had a wander round looking at some of the motorcycle exotica that peppered the workshop.

Don Hill
Don and Mole talk shop

GSXR Engine tuning

Don was in the midst of building a new Machine shop for his gas flow bench. The flow bench was situated in another location until Don has completed the extension. Don promised me a return visit when all of the work was complete so that we could do a more detailed feature on it.

,We talked about his fastidious approach to head work. He will routinely spend 200 man hours on a head between porting it and gas flowing it. When we talked about costs, I quickly worked out that he probably ends up earning about £3 an hour on a head. It was at this point that I started to realise Don was an out and out perfectionist. He was not motivated by cost or profit. His motivation was quality. This was not Don’s day job either.

Don explained his method of gas flowing a cylinder head. Don would always gas flow with the carbs on. Not any old carbs but the actual carbs that were going to be used on the bike. He acknowledged that everyone had their own approach but this was his. Engines were built to each racers specific requirements. Those requirements often came down to where the bike would be raced and how and where the rider wanted the power to develop. No one engine would be the same.

Rooster racing
Don explains the varying engine characteristics that he has tailored for different racers

GSXR frame fabricaion

Don had a GSXR slabside that he was mid way through building for a racer from the ground up. This included all of the frame and swingarm mods and a very trick aluminium breather tank.

Rooster Racing GSXR
Ground up Rooster Racing GSXR Slabside race bike

GSXR exhaust fabrication

Don then talked us through the exhaust systems that he builds to go with his engines. He talked about about the importance of narrowing the headers at the manifold and ensuring that the pulses from the matched cylinders worked in unison at the collector box. I was out of my depth but I nodded like I understood.

Rooster racing hand made GSXR exhaust
Rooster Racing’s hand made exhaust systems
Don Hill Rooster Racing exhaust
Don explains the virtues of collector box configuration

Rooster Racing paint

Mole’s freshly painted body work and wheels were laid out for collection and they were perfect. Don was clearly a man of artistic talents too as he explained his love for ornamental wood carving and shared some pictures of his work. Looking closely at the paint work than Don had completed for Mole, it bore all of the hallmarks of a perfectionist, just like everything else that Don put his hands to.

Don Hill Rooster Racing
Mole inspects his new paint job by Don Hill

Quality and integrity are inseparable

As the morning wore on and Don and I talked some more I realised what a rare individual he was. When I say this, I mean Don seemed to be able to bring the the same methodical, well rehearsed quality, to everything he did. There was also something unique about the way Don viewed the bikes and the riders that he worked with.

When he built a bike for someone he maintained an genuine ownership like concern for the bike and the rider’s fortunes. This was the reason Don chose those who he built for so carefully. He had to be sure that they the rider would be prepared to do things Don’s way. He doesn’t build parts of bikes, he builds a complete performance package. The performance came from each part of the bike working in unison.

Mole was a trained motor mechanic and was no stranger to building his own machines. He had won a number of championships on his own builds but since meeting Don he now deferred to Don on all major decisions on race bike performance. As Mole put it “when Don tells you to do something you don’t argue you just do it”

Rooster Racing Don Hill
Rooster Racing’s Harris Endurance bike

I left Don’s workshop with a deep respect for his skills and his ethos. Don understood the high stakes for a racer, having raced for many years himself when he was younger. Racers had partners and families to provide for. The performance, reliability and ultimately the safety of the machines Don built meant more than just winning. Lives were at stake and that responsibility was something that weighed heavily on Don’s conscience.

I concluded that Don was a man of great skill, who would always put quality first. He would never be afraid to walk away if he felt that his approach was unwelcome, unappreciated or compromised. His commitment to that approach and his integrity left me feeling that I could implicitly and completely trust Don. I can’t think of a more important time to trust someone than when they’re building you a race bike.

Oldskoolsuzuki will return to Rooster Racing later in the year. In the meantime, don’t call Don, he’ll call you.

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Bike of the Month October 2018

I’m a firm believer of the proverb; “Better late than never”; It’s never too late to change your life for the better, it’s never too late to resurrect that website that used to be so great once (because it is once again), and it’s never too late to start Dragracing..

Anna first pointed her front wheel quarter-milewards after having owned the bike she was on for the grand total of 35 years. The seed was planted and a racingcareer was born. In the quest for more speed a Slingshot was put into service and over time up to now, all the right mods have been made to get the bike as quick as possible, yet also as rideable as possible for Anna; it’s all well and good having a 500Bhp bike but if you can’t use it, there’s not really a point (apart from being the baddest dude in the pub)

We have been enjoying Anna and Kyle’s adventures in great detail as them being one of the first (maybe even The First?) Winged Hammers, the racethread has been religiously updated after nearly every racemeet and tests that were undertaken.


We’ve all read about crashing, burnouts, racing in sub-zero temperatures, tyrepunctures and all else that comes with the age-old sport that is dragracing. I for one hope the regular updates continue to be posted up, because it’s one of the threads that makes you come back, have a bit of a read, get motivated and start working away on your own projects again.


Better late than never Anna (and Kyle), your Slingshot is this months Bike of the Month.

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R.I.P the original winged hammer

 

It is with a very heavy heart that the OSS community mourns the loss of our friend Pete Boyles AKA Pete750ET.

Those of us who have been involved with the site from the early days will will remember both Pete’s Earlystock racing career and that of Runt racing with great affection and the OSS team chant;  Go Pete Go! and Go runt go!

At the time, we all followed the antics of Pete and Runt racing with great pride and great enthusiasm. With the help of the OSS collective brain, Pete was able to take his humble 750ET to another level.

Anyone who knew Pete will know what a genuinely lovely guy he was. Pete visited us on the stand at Donington in 2017 and he was as enthusiastic about OSS bikes then as he ever has been.

Pete was my inspiration for starting the winged hammers team and I will always regard him as the original winged hammer.

Rest in peace friend.

OSS salutes you.

Members pay your respects here

There’s racing and then there’s road racing.

It’s fair to say that all competitive motorcycle racing relies on both a riders skill and their bravery. The ability to suspend one’s natural aversion to real and present danger and to focus only on the task in hand, are essential.

Pushing your machine and your body to the very limit of their capability and beyond is the difference between competing and just turning up.

Despite a life long love of all things two wheeled it took me a long time to get round to witnessing my first proper road race close up.  It was the 2016 Isle of Man TT , arguably the Daddy of all road races. It’s an experience that changed my perspective on motorcycle racing for ever.

There I was sat on a grass verge, aside a quiet country road lined with trees and a stone wall on the other side. The tarmac was close enough to touch. The sun was shining and the birds were singing in the trees and hedgerows around me. An otherwise perfectly normal and perfectly sublime summer’s day in the country.  Then, all of a sudden; Boom! With a sudden explosion of noise, adrenalin and jaw dropping speed, Michael Dunlop had just passed mere feet from my face on his way to a 133mph average speed lap record.

I sat for a moment suspended in absolute disbelief at what I had just witnessed, with only a slight whiff of burnt fully synth in the air to bear witness to the fact that something had happened . Had that really just happened? My hand was trembling slightly as my mind replayed the scene over again and over again: A guy on a bike? At that speed? On this road? I kept picturing the suspension bottoming and the whole bike squirming in protest. He was on the very limit!

I had seen many track races over the years with bikes and riders on the very limit but that’s not what was blowing my mind here. The thing that I couldn’t reconcile was the context in which I had witnessed this riding style. Balls out riding on a normal country road. A country road I had ridden myself the previous day.

I spent the next week on the Island trying to get my head around how a road racer is possibly able to suspend their state of fear. On a race track you have gravel traps and large run off areas, but here there was nowhere to go. My own fear for their safety mixed with my fascination for what they where doing and how on earth they were able to do it. I couldn’t understand it yet but I knew I was already hooked.

I’ve since come to better understand, after speaking to a lot of people including some road racers, that what sets road racers apart is that they don’t see things like we do. The phrase ” being in the zone” is used to describe focus around a lot of menial activities these days but for the road racer, I think,  it describes perfectly the mind set that is required. The ability to achieve a state of sublime concentration that enables remarkable performance, while suspending all other distractions or concerns. I get it now but my utter respect and admiration for road racers remains undiminished. They know the risks and yet every year, talented road racers put their skills to the ultimate test and sadly some pay the very highest price in the pursuit of their craft.

In late 2016 oldskoolsuzuki launched the Winged Hammers race team. Not really a team more of a really cool badge and a dedicated board on our forum. The idea was that if any of our members were competitively racing, in any discipline, on an oldskoolsuzuki machine, we wanted to create a OSS race team livery for their bikes. The Winged Hammers were born.

We quickly had track racers, drag racers, straight liners, world wheelie championship competitors and land speed record holders displaying the OSS race team livery on their bikes, but for me, the proudest moment of all was when the Winged Hammer emblem appeared on race bikes at the 2017 Classic TT on the Isle of Man.

Not long after the 2017 Classic TT I asked our two TT Winged Hammer teams to give me an account of their 2017 TT campaign and here they are, in their own words. Our very first Classic TT Winged Hammer was Geoff Martin.

Geoff Martin

First of all there have been some low points to 2017 We lost Gavin Lupton after a crash at the Dundrod 150 just before the classic TT. Gavin had tried Dean’s water-cooled GSXR 750 at Oulton a few weeks before the Dundrod 150 and was very enthusiastic about riding it at the TT. Unfortunately it was not to be. Gavin later succumbed to his injuries while we were at the classic TT.

We decided to take the bike anyway and it was agreed that Gavin’s team mate Dan Hegarty should ride it as a tribute to Gavin and he did him proud finishing 12th with a fastest lap of just over 120mph.

Bellow are two pictures at Oulton of the bike and Gavin riding the bike.

This picture is at the IOM with Dan Hegarty on the bike at Greeba Castle.

My bike, the blue/white one,  was ridden again by my Good friend from Ireland Dennis Booth. Dennis had a good fortnight finishing 20th winning another silver rep on my bike and not quite beating his best lap of last year of over 115mph but still not bad for a 53 year old . Both bikes ran well without any real problems. Dennis is looking forward to next year already.

Sadly as we now all know Dan Hegarty himself  tragically lost his life in November racing in Macau Grand Prix. Dan was well known to many at OSS as he had hosted our 2016 dyno day. R.I.P Dan and Gavin.

Our second Classic TT winged Hammer in 2017 went to Billy Bennet. Here’s billy’s TT story.

Billy Bennet

My friend Forest Dunn who does the Irish road racing circuit as well as the TT messaged me about 6 weeks before the classic saying he had an entry and was looking for a bike.  I had done some spannering for him before and I had my 750 slabbie track bike that had lain idle since Donington in May.

The bike had been originally hastily put together for Donington so we sent it to Stuart Young in Scotland. Stuart Young got to work refreshing the engine and getting the paint sorted and I had to sort out getting the front end to resemble something eligible!

We managed to get everything done just in time for practice week. The bike went on the dyno in the morning and was on the IOM ready for practise that evening!

 

When I turned up half way through practise week with my luggage full of spares, Forest had already had teething problems with a slipping clutch, the bike dropping to three cylinders, and the carbs needing further tweaks.  My first day there we spent all day on the bike before practise we realised the HT leads were old and perished so put a set of Dyna coils on and  that sorted the spark, we scrounged new frictions and steels from a friend in the paddock and serviced the master and slave cylinder for the clutch(prior to my arrival forest had ditched the cable conversion and borrowed a master from the generous Mark Stokes at Funky Monk Racing.  Forest had also put fully synth oil in it! I think that’s what caused Initial clutch slip)

We took the bike for a sneaky road test and everything seemed to be OK. However on Thursday night’s practice the clutch started slipping and on the second lap the bike cut out at the bungalow. Forest did however do a 108 average on the first lap from a standing start! We were buzzing about that and forest came in saying the bike was handling like a dream.  It seems the bike cut out because he caught the choke lever with his knee slider Velcro.

Well come race day we’d put two washers behind each clutch spring-no more slip.  We’d had a crack in the exhaust welded up, changed settings on the carbs, welded up the airbox space in the tank to help fuel starvation issues and had generally been working flat out to make the bike race ready.  On Tuesday we came 30th overall and 12th in our class, with a best lap of 110.8. I think this was a massive massive achievement all things considered. The rider was happy and I was happy.

As the bike owner and mechanic it was overwhelmingly stressful sometimes. You worry about the rider who is your best mate, you worry about your bike coming back in one piece, you worry that your bike prep is absolutely spot on and you want to do a good job. Then there are late nights, the expense, the worry of sleeping in a van with the fuel cans and spare tyres. These are all  forgotten every time you see that average speed go up and your rider come back in with a smile on his face.

The enjoyment of seeing those things and watching the live timing make it all worth it. Nothing beats seeing an old oil boiler built on a budget being mercilessly thrashed round the mountain circuit like it was meant to do, almost brings a tear to my eye!!! Haha

At OSS we are immensely proud of all of our Winged Hammers. They fly the oldskoolsuzuki flag on behalf of us all. They do the things that many of us can only dream of doing.  That said, there are few that would deny that the road racer is a very special bread of racer and  seeing our Winged Hammer emblem at the Classic TT is my personal highlight of 2017.

May 2018 bring all of our Winged Hammers the success that they deserve. Go Winged Hammers!

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If you are interested in becoming  a member of the team contact Katanamangler, after registering on our forum.