3/3/15

Garagism *


There is something universal that we feel in old garages.

When I speak about garages, I speak about the real ones, not the corporate bike Dealers, those where you can breath the mechanics first, and smell this mixture of oil, gas, metal that takes you up to the nose after crossing the door.

Today the soul that belongs to these garages has gone in profit of globalization. All the Bike dealers are alike and display the same products. Whether i' am in the US, in Europe or Japan, the feeling is the same, my eyes are lost in the void, because I find nothing to hang onto. The way the world is sterilized is sad but seems to comfort many out there.

Luckily, there remain some garages where we still restore and customize machines that are out of time, even if profitability is not in the heart of the action. The passion wins in this case. We’d better live our dreams!

I had the opportunity to visit many garages during the last 37 years, in each of them, there is always a very unique atmosphere coming out of it. First, you feel the importance of the tools, but then you look at the interior design and furnitures that usually reflects the personality of the owner. Some will rememberold dealers like  Hamrax in London where parts hung from the ceiling or Corbeau Motos in Paris - two institutions that have now disappeared.

Recently, we have visited some workshops in Japan, and despite the clear futurism of this country, there is a soul. It is like a stop in time.  We were impressed by the spirit of the craftsman who works with his hands and the authenticity coming out of it.
Here in Germany in the suburbs of Munich, Ola Stenegard brought us to a specialist of English and Italian motorbikes.

A sort of rebel (Asterix in BMW’s land), Reinhard Neumaier has always loved and practiced racetrack and on Speedway. He prepares his own machines, but also the one of his customers. Manx, Gold Star Jawa, Jap Wanderer are some specimens, Reinhard is not limited to any brand.

His only limit is time as days only counts 24 hours… The actual society doesn’t allow to hire anymore, so when you are a customer, you need to learn to be patient for this type of work...

How longer will we be able to keep doing what we like ?















2/16/15

The Flathead, an undeserved underdog



Text by Uwe Ehinger
Studio photo : Benoit Guerry
Motor Photo by Hermann Köpf
others courtesy of Ehinger Kraftrad

As a builder and collector of custom bikes, I love engines so much that I really have a hard time resisting the urge to philosophize about design details like oil pumps and compression ratios for hours on end. Although it’s actually quite easy to explain my fascination with one of the probably most formative machines of the 1930’s and 40’s.

One reason is Harley Davidson. Because although this brand produced a larger number of Flatheads, their Knuckleheads were significantly more popular. This is partly attributable to their sportier performance, but it was also due to the emerging rocker scene in the 1960’s and their portrayal in movies like “Easy Rider”. This created a hype about Knuckleheads and Panheads that persists to this day. And just like everything that’s “cult”, it has little to do with quality or rational thinking. Although the Flatheads manufactured from 1937 to 1948 by brands like Indian, BMW and Brough Superior were technically simpler, they were a lot more robust than over head valves (OHV) engines.

These engines not only made do with less wearing parts, they usually had a larger engine capacity, too. This caught the attention of public authorities such as the police and the army, which both had a preference for Flatheads in the 30’s and 40’s. When Harley offered the New York Police Department around 250 bikes for free, the police only went for the deal once they had been assured that the bikes would be delivered with an Indian red paint finish, the Indian right-hand shift and a Bosch magneto ignition. They were thus given the model name: “UMG” for magneto generated.

Another advantage of these engines, especially for collectors, is their versatility. There are an abundance of different models – such as U, UL, UH, ULH, UMG, UA and UN – and much fewer of them were manufactured than some of the Knucklehead models. There are so many versions of Flatheads; even a Navy edition consisting of just 10 bikes, which were only used in parades. If anyone happens to have one of these at home, I recommend that you relocate your domicile to a bank vault.

But the most impressive thing about the Flathead is its sound. It’s indescribable! Let me try: a hungry T-Rex with a filthy temper. Trapped in the Royal Concert Hall. Deep, rumbling and forceful. Because unlike the Knucklehead, the Flathead doesn’t require a rattling rocker arm in the cylinder head.

The Flathead comes with so many inspiring characteristics for motorcycle enthusiasts that it is easily the most underestimated engine type in the world. This turns it into a furious underdog, an outlaw in the shadow of the famous Knucklehead. But didn’t it all begin with outsiders?




This 41 UL was restored by Francis Villedon @ Milwaukee Belle for Fabrice Roux, The motor was rebuilt byAlain Servie






More U models by Ehinger Kraftrad