Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Project: Warthog - Texas Sidecar Company builds a sub-frame

Wow, has been two months with no update on Project Warthog. Time to remedy that!

The crew over at Texas Sidecar Company could not start work on the Rocket until they cleared out a few other projects ahead of mine. Once they started work though, things moved along quite nicely.

Last time we visited the Triumph Rocket, it was waiting to go to the TSC shop in Houston.

From the sidecar frame, the camper body was removed. The frame was then detached from the Vstrom1000. The well-built Vstrom motorcycle was sold to a gentleman from Kentucky.

The frame now sits, waiting to go to TSC to be matched up to the Rocket.

Initially, all projects starts slow as they work through the design and planning stages. 
Then momentum starts building as the ideas and reality come together.

With both halves in their shop, John at Texas Sidecar studies where the mounting points line up, where new brackets are needed. 
He spoke with other sidecar builders about their experiences with building a sidecar for the Rocket.

This is the first Rocket build for TSC. 
Because they are local and I trust Kent and his crew, decided to have the build done in Texas.

The two halves are lined up beside each other, waiting... while the TSC crew studies and designs.

Starting low, trying a few ideas for the lower sub-frame that goes under the Rocket, 
where the sidecar frame will be attached. All medium to large sidecars normally have four attachment points, two lower and two upper. This rig will have five due to the width, weight and anticipated rough roads it will traverse.

Next trial fittings for the upper strut mounts. Pieces are only tack welded at this point. Once the final design is worked out, then full blown welding will take place. 

Many might think that sidecars are mass produced in modern factories. Bodies stamped out with cookie cutters, welded by robots programmed to assemble hundred of sidecars a day. In reality, every US built sidecar is a custom job. Unique to the motorcycle and to the sidecar being mounting. Then the design has to factor in the intended use of the rig. Finally it has to be modified for the weight and size of the rider.  

Since I take my rigs to the more remote regions of North America, the over-riding criteria for this build is, it must be stout. Weight be damned, build strong.

Oops, looks like there is interference with the radiator overflow tank. No problem. Can fix that with a heat gun and apply slight pressure to bend the plastic back for better clearance. 
Wish all mods could be as easy. 

The upper strut mount design is agreed upon. Still not ready for final welding though.

An engine guard and highway peg mounting brace were added to the left side.

There will be two lower mounting points and three upper mounts.

Now let's look again at the lower mounts....???  More pieces of the puzzle to work out and fabricate.

A special challenge was building a mount on the rear swing arm for the anti-sway bar.
The anti-sway bar helps keep the rig level on curves and twisting country roads. We won't be going fast but we still want all three tires touching pavement at all times. 

The final bracket is beefy, well built, plus looks good. 
Like the rest of the new pieces, this too will be powder coated to resist rust.

In the next photo you can see the front upper clevis connection on the new bracket and the rear clevis bolted to the rear fender sub-frame. The Rocket has a very beefy rear subframe to carry the weight of a passenger and the steel fender. That made for a strong mounting point for the rear upper strut. The third upper strut will be come off of the new forward brace.

Last Saturday, after the lower mount design was finalized and welded. Other welds were added before the first trial fitting took place. All the pieces were bolted together to see if any clearance issues arose.

With every bolt temporarily in place, Kent, the owner of Texas Sidecar Company, felt brave enough to take the rig out for a cautious spin. Said it felt solid and handled well. 

The first time the WARTHOG has seen the light on day. Still a long way to go before it's done, but a major step in the process is taking place here at Texas Sidecar Company.

Now they will clean up the pieces in prep for the powder coating. Then re-assemble, test once more and deliver to the owner... that'll be me.

 Once back in my garage, I'll start on the next phase of the project: wiring, plumbing, lighting, add accessories, install weather protection and the auxiliary fuel tank. That work will carry on through Spring into Summer.

Am anticipating a nice long camping trip this summer on the WARTHOG. Getting excited...


Staying with the sidecar theme today, a final B&W photo.

My friend Dom in Colorado has a Russian Ural sidecar that he uses to 
explore trails and backroads in the Western States. 

I borrowed one of his blog photos, then converted the look. If not for the jet vapor trails in the sky, this could pass for a military sidecar on the eastern front during World War II.

( p.s. For those too young to know, jet aircraft had not yet been invented in the early 1940's).

Happy trails ya'll

Stay tuned for more on Project:Warthog. Plus photos from an upcoming expedition to Iceland.


Sunday, January 19, 2020

48th Annual Houston Marathon

Joined a small group of photographers to take in the running of the Houston Marathon today. The weather was cool, windy but bright and sunny.

Being my first venture into photographing marathoners, was a great learning experience. 
Following are a few of the shots I like. Let me know which ones you like.

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The handicap cyclists start out first. Each cyclist has a safety officer immediately behind them as there are numerous trucks and vans equipped with video equipment on the route filming the marathon leaders. 

Photographers were lined up along the route to catch the action. 
All looking for that perfect shot.

On an up hill portion racers slow down so taking their picture is easy with little blur.

There is no pedaling on those rigs. All 100% arm muscle to move you along.
Would not wish to arm wrestle one of these folks. 

Liked the play of light in this simple shot.

Then came the runners, one by one...
There was a large gap between the top marathoners and the also rans

then small groups appeared ...

Many runners would let someone else set the pace while they do their best to keep up...

Stationed myself on an uphill portion of the marathon, mile marker 22. 
Runners are getting winded, having exhausted their energy reserve by now. 
It shows in their faces.

Many have "hit the wall", dropping out before reaching this point.

Keeping a fast pace...

Determination and will power is what keeps them going at this point.

You have to wonder... did she complete the final two miles? 
I hope so.

Running with a support group of friends helps one to tough it out.

And my favorite shot of the day...

Running on Air

At mile 22, she did not look tired. Her step was high and light as she floated along.
She ranked among the top finishers.

Hope you enjoyed the marathon as much as I did.  
Of the hundreds of photos taken, these are the ones that made the cut.

See you on down the road.


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Top Photos of 2019

The year 2019 started with a hit... with accompanying pain and disappointment. 
The year 2019 ended with another hit... with a sense of accomplishment.

January 4th, was walking on a sidewalk in Miami, on my way to South America to continue an interrupted motorcycle tour from ten years earlier, when a distracted SUV driver knocked me down. Instantly my long planning to resume my South America ride was terminated.
Months of recovery and therapy followed. 

By April I was once again thinking about which long distance motorcycle rides I could do in the States and on what sidecar rig. The Kawasaki I had built for South America was too slow and inadequate for the long distances of US touring. 

Sold the Kawasaki and bought this BMW - EZS touring rig.

Here it is in Globe, Arizona on the ride back to Texas from California, where I picked it up.

Comping from California, swung south thru Big Bend National Park. 
I like how this photo illustrates the heat and emptiness of Big Bend. 
The flagman stops everyone for unseen construction far ahead.

After riding the new rig to Coeur d'Alene Idaho for the national sidecar rally, I spent a month in northern New Mexico photographing Spanish adobe missions. 

The new Our Lady of Guadalupe Parrish in downtown Taos

The old St Francis de Assis Mission in Rancho de Taos

San José de Garcia Mission in Trampas, Nm

A pre-dawn moon set, Trampas, NM

Learned and practiced a little more with portrait photography this year. There are portraits and there are pictures of people. My thinking is, a portrait should capture an essence or feeling or personality of the person in the image. Not a standard snapshot of their face.

Here is Billy...  "The Real McCoy"
What you see is what he is. 

Playful, full of zest, mother of three

First Nations Warrior
Pride in his heritage, calm, focused, concentrating yet a feeling of tension and energy.

Kootenai Maiden
Reserved, modest, beauty, mother of two

At year's end, I entered the following photograph in the Photography Club's Print of the Year competition with hundreds of other culled photographs.

2019 wrapped up with a final hit...

"Three Amigos" was awarded "Best of The Best" ribbon in the show 
by the three professional judges.

Looking forward to 2020 being about pushing my photography envelope, 
visit new places and revisit old favorites on the BMW motorcycle, 
looking toward the horizon, wondering what adventure awaits.
Hope your 2020 will bring you new adventures.

Let's go ride...the future is now.