Backroad Bob's Motorcycle Adventures
2014 Radnor Hunt Club Concours d’ Elegance

2014 Radnor Hunt Concours d’ Elegance -

Blue Bloods, Red Coats, and Silver Spoons

by Robert H. Miller

© 2014 RHM Co. Intl.

September 14, 2014

Malvern, PA

This year was the 18th rendition of the event that benefits Thorncroft - the non-profit therapeutic riding organization that benefits those with disabilities. That pretty much explains the $50 entrance fee. It’s not much different than motorcycle rides where they charge you a $35 “donation” for some worthy cause. The featured motorcycles marques were HRD Vincent, and Brough Superior.

All the motorcycles on display were stellar examples, but some of the more stellar were Maurice Candy’s 1938 Vincent Series A Comet that took Best of Show. David Dunfey’s 1950 Series C Grey Flash that was awarded Best Competition 500. Gene Brown’s 1932 HRD Python Sport 500 with its “hugger” rear fender and “bobbed” look won Best Street 500. Several older motorcyclists said they had never heard of this model let alone seen one. The 1950 Vincent Series C Competition was a rarity. The “Italian” red 1963 Parkin-Vincent 600, and the 1988 Egli-Vincent 998 in “just arrest me now” bright orange paint were popular too.

Some of the more “pedestrian” models included the one-year only (faulty magneto design) 1929 Harley-Davidson Model D 45 cubic inch (750cc) in a very tasteful black and yellow color combination. Harley-Davidson wasn’t the only American motorcycle manufacturer plagued with design problems. Ken Minnich’s 1936 Indian “Upside Down” 4 Model 436 (1000cc) with its unusual intake and exhaust manifolds locations had its problems too, but with its factory paint in the outrageously Art Deco pastel (Seafoam) green it won the People’s Choice award.

The prettiest motorcycle was the 1957 Mondial FB250. It sparkled and shined like expensive Tiffany jewelry with its gold and burgundy tank, gold frame, and polished engine parts. The 1935 Sunbeam Model 8 was nicely done too.

If there was a trophy for Coolest Motorcycle it would have gone to John Illeyne’s 1928 Triumph Model N Sport with Hindenberg sidecar, but he received the Preservation award instead. John, in his period-correct high-top laced boots, pilot goggles, and English driver’s cap, and his companion with her Victorian dress and parasol, were the hit of the awards ceremony. John found the sidecar before he found the Triumph and he proudly proclaims he thinks he’s only the third owner. “After spending it’s first years in Bulgaria, it was forgotten in a Netherlands barn for the ’40s and ’50s and after that I got it” he says. John must have good karma because both the Triumph and the sidecar were made in Hindenburg, Germany (yes, Triumph had an assembly plant there).

The Radnor Hunt show is really more about cars (there were 100 of them) than motorcycles (there were 44 of them), but the motorcycles there are rarely available for public viewing. It could be the only time you ever see any of them in person. Don’t be jealous of the silver-spooned people who own these cars and motorcycles, be envious. You can say a lot of things about the 1%ers (the rich ones, not the motorcycle gang ones), but what you can’t say is they don’t know how to live well, they don’t know how to look good, and they don’t seem to have a good time while doing it.

The website for the Radnor Hunt Concours d’ Elegance is www.radnorconcours.org. Don’t look for them on Yahoo Mobile. Their website isn’t displayed. Maybe it has something to do with the fox hunting thing, but they’re on Facebook at Radnor Hunt Concours. Look for the nineteenth edition this time next year.

2014 Radnor Hunt Club Concours d’ Elegance

2014 Radnor Hunt Club Concours d’ Elegance

Blue Ridge Parkway - A Heavenly Highway

The Blue Ridge Parkway - A Heavenly Highway

by Robert H. Miller

© 2014 RHM Co. Intl.

September is my favorite month to travel. It seems, no matter where in the world you find yourself, September has perfect weather. Either the summer is cooling or the winter is warming, the air is cool in the morning and clear in the afternoon and warm with sunshine all day long. - and beginning in September the majority of SUVs, RVs, and sightseers are gone from the Parkway.

For 355 miles the Blue Ridge Parkway tickles the backbone of the Appalachian Mountains then turns west for another 114 miles, skirting the southern edge of the Black Mountains, before ending at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Mountains, mountains, mountains - get the idea? You won’t see a truck or a billboard along its entire 469 toll-free miles. Carving the thousands of perfectly-cambered, constant-radius, turns of “America’s most scenic drive” is a joyous experience. I smile for every mile of it and cry when I have to leave it.

Starting in Waynesboro, Virginia, this civil engineering wonder connects the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469-miles of seamless black ribbon filled with deery-looking places where the forest closes in from both shoulders, damp corners hidden by overhanging oaks, and car drivers trying to keep you at a distance as you approach from behind, not realizing their panicked pace is merely idling along for a motorcycle. Riding the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway is a surreal, magical, and mystical experience best done in at least two days. More if you want to extend your joy. It’s as if your mind can’t comprehend so much unspoiled, uncluttered, and uncrowded roadway with non-stop curves and relentless breathtaking views.

From the northern entrance at Rockfish Gap, MM 0, to Peaks of Otter Visitor Center, MM 60, it repeatedly climbs and falls, 1000 feet at a time, in tight turns. Using the yellow center line as a guide, you try to keep your tires on your half of the road. Accomplishing this feat is the highlight of the Virginia section.

For the next 130 miles the Parkway maintains a 2000-3000 foot elevation, except for the decent to Roanoke River, as it reveals vistas reminiscent of Scottish Highlands. At the Virginia-North Carolina border, MM 218, the roadway breaks 3000 feet for good and becomes alpine-like as it travels through 23 tunnels cut straight through mountain peaks. You’ll pass the Folk Art Center, MM 295, where grizzled mountain craftsmen preserve Appalachian heritage and 6684-foot Mount Mitchell, MM 355, the highest point in the United States east of the Mississippi River. What you won’t pass are service areas. Along the entire 469-mile length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, fuel stops are now history. You must leave the Parkway to refuel, so plan accordingly and chose a station close to the Parkway. Helpful websites are http://blue-ridge-parkway-info.org and http://smokymountainrider.com. My favorite place to dine is the Mt. Pisgah Inn (MM 408.5). They have a great gift shop too.

The highlight of the North Carolina section is Linn Cove Viaduct, MM 304. This quarter-mile long piece of pavement is seemingly suspended in thin air as it clings to the side of Grandfather Mountain. After the first 462 miles of Parkway were constructed between 1935 and 1967, design began on the viaduct. With revolutionary “top down” construction methods used in the Alps, engineers used cranes to piece together pre-cast roadway sections and create the most complicated concrete bridge in the world. To minimize the impact on nature, the only groundwork was to excavate seven roadway supports. Even the concrete is tinted with iron-oxide to blend with the natural environment. The eight-mile “missing link” containing Linn Cove Viaduct took 20 years to complete and was dedicated in 1987.  

If you want to say you’ve ridden the finest motorcycling road in the world, get your butt to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nowhere else can you scrape pegs and grind boots on 469 uninterrupted twisty miles of undamaged asphalt snaking up, down, across, and through ancient mountains. If you slow to the posted 45 m.p.h. limit at overlooks and service areas, the rangers will pretty much ignore what you do on the deserted sections. If you refuse to ride sensibly, the federales will run you down with a helicopter and treat you like a drug smuggler in a foreign country.

For its last 40-mile gasp the Parkway drops 4000 feet through towering cliffs and rock formations which glow like lighted monolithic walls as they reflect the setting sun. Here you’ll find the Black Mountains spreading out from each pavement edge like a green, swelling, sea. By this time, a wide grin will permanently crease your face and you’ll truly believe you’ve died and gone to motorcycling heaven. At Newfound Gap Road, MM 469, the Parkway ends and intersects US 411. You have just entered Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Dual Sport Motorcycling, by Carl Adams

I’m a huge proponent of dual sporting. It really is the most fun you can have on two wheels and there’s no better way to hone your street skills than riding off-pavement. It’s July and the height of the dual sport season in the U.S. At this time of year you can still find cool days and you will find cool nights in my favorite place to ride - the Pennsylvania mountains. Here’s a review of the book where I found some good tips and explanations of several topics I’d never seen covered before and I’ve been dual sporting for twenty years. Enjoy!

Thanks to Ridin’ Ralph for the pics.

Book Review -

The Essential Guide To Dual Sport Motorcycling, by Carl Adams

Published by Whitehorse Press 2008

192 Pages - 8-1/4”x10-1/2” - $24.95 (List Price)

Available at Amazon Books - $18.35

by Robert H. Miller

© 2014 RHM Co. Intl

The author describes his book as “Everything you need to buy, ride, and enjoy the world’s most versatile motorcycles” and he does a good job of covering that vast territory. Where the author ventures into new material is with his chapters specifically on dual sport riding, describing the types of dual sport motorcycles, how to buy a dual sport motorcycle, tire selection, suspension tuning, mental preparation, long-distance dual sport touring, route mapping, and navigation.

The author evidently has a huge amount of dual sport time, but he doesn’t ever mention the complete dual sport experience of riding to a weekend event, participating in the event and riding home from the event all on your dual sport motorcycle. Perhaps it’s something he’s never done. He briefly covers dual sport touring in the opening chapter and then deservedly covers it much more comprehensively at the end of the book where he lists how to plan, what to take, and how to maintain your dual sport for extended rides. This is all very useful information seemingly never before published in book form. The book is sprinkled with these words of wisdom as well as loaded with full-color photos that are especially helpful in the tire selection, suspension, and navigation chapters.

In the third chapter, “Matching A Dual Sport To Your Needs” the author is right on target with the chapter’s title. Once a rider decides what he wants a dual sport motorcycle to do, and how much he wants to pay, it’s easy to choose which is the right one. The chapters on tires, suspension tuning, mental preparation, training, techniques, mapping, navigation, and touring trips are excellent. The author goes to great lengths to explain how a motorcycle suspension works off-pavement, how to troubleshoot off-road suspensions, the physics of off-road motorcycling, and techniques that are important to practice.

The author’s extensive dual sport experience is evident when he addresses the overlooked topics of “Riding With Others”, “Heat, Cold, and Dehydration”, and “Strong Body, Sound Mind”. The “Suggested Riding Apparel” paragraphs in the “Personal Riding Gear” chapter are especially helpful with their lists of gear for varying terrain, temperatures, and circumstances. The author’s effort is a very good first dual sport book. The only thing missing is coverage of East Coast dual sporting. There’s no mention of it. A beginning reader may think dual sporting can only be done in the desert West. A Foreword by an eastern rider may have helped here.

In the book’s introduction, the author makes a prophetic statement when he says, experienced off-road riders, especially those that have raced, “expect dual sports to be racing bikes with license plates and (they) miss the rich possibilities of dual sport”. This could only be said by someone who’s been there and done it. With credibility running this deep, you can’t go wrong with this read.

Dual Sport Motorcycling, by Carl Adams