Thursday, 17 December 2020

Limited Workspaces: Making the Most of a Small Situation

The garage is a less than single car (it's so small a micro-sized Mazda2 hatchback won't fit in it).  It does the trick with motorbikes, but you get more than two in there and it's so full it's difficult to get around a bike to work on it.  It's also dark and bloody cold in the winter.  I'm trying to think of a way out of it short of moving.

Since I can't go out I could go up.  The attic above the peaked roof on the garage is a workable space currently being used for storage but the only access is a ladder on the house wall which not only messes up a wall that could be doing something else but also makes access to the attic a real pain in the ass.  Looking into solutions it appears that drop down stairs are possibility and they aren't even particularly expensive.  Even a good one is under six hundred bucks.

If I can get the drop down stairs sorted it won't cost much and opens up the top floor to easier access while also making valuable wall space available down below since the stairs fold up into the ceiling when not needed.

The next step would be to address the poor lighting.  A neighbor has a glass garage door that looks fantastic, lets in lots of light and would also let in some solar heat in the winter while also being well insulated.  This is where the prices start to climb.  Doors like this start at a couple of grand and go up from there.  I might be able to find a used alternative for less, but a glass door would solve a lot of the lighting issues, at least during the day.

If I really wanted to blow the budget I'd also get windows installed on the back wall.  I don't know what window installs on external walls cost, but I don't imagine they're cheap.

The last piece of the puzzle is working out heating in a space that was never designed for it.  I've put thick rubber mats down that are much better than the concrete floor, but it's still damned cold to work on in a Canadian winter. 
Tempzone under floor heated mats would do the trick.  Because they're focused where I need them they'd probably be more efficient to run than the air heater I currently have in there.  The garage is about 200 square feet, but I don't need the whole floor heated, just the square around the work benches.  A cunning selection of those mats would create an area of heating around the lift and mean I'm not working on aching feet when it's minus forty outside.

With the upper floor more accessible I'd move the permanent shelving I've got on the bottom floor upstairs, making more room to move around, which was the point of the exercise in the first place.

If I did the full pimping out including the windows I'd put a sit down workbench in the attic for finer work and finish the space more than it currently is.  All in I'd guess that the windows, garage door, drop down stairs and heated flooring would be in the vicinity of:
  • Drop down stairs (350lb capacity):  $600
  • Glass garage door :  $3000 (est. though some cunning shopping might reduce that to $1700)
  • Heated flooring in work area:  $1400
  • Window cutouts and installs (one up, one down):  $1500 x 2
  • Hardware to finish attic (lumber, wiring for electrical):  $1000
TOTAL:  $9000

With all that in place I should be able to park a bike (or two) off to the side and still have plenty of space to work.  It's not really lost money if it raises the value of the house, right?

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Tech to Amplify Rather than Atrophy

I just finished Matt Crawford's latest book, Why We Drive.  This challenging read unpacks how we've backed ourselves into an intellectual dead end under tech driven surveillance capitalism.  Crawford comes at it from the big-tech push to colonize one of the last moments in our lives where human skill is tested and judged by reality rather than marketing expectations, vehicular operations.  Advertising companies like Google aren't trotting out self-driving cars for safety or efficiency (though that's the marketing), they're trotting them out so they can take all that consumer attention wasted on driving and advertise to it.  Even with this problematic impetus and misleadingly media spin self-driving vehicles are imminent and this leads Crawford to (quite rightly) question the intent of the companies pushing them.  The assumption that self-driving cars will somehow be  better for us is undressed in many ways in the book.

Seeing where Matt's head is at in 2020 encouraged me to reread his first book, the bestselling Shop Class as Soulcraft, which came out in 2009 in response to the market crash that everyone seems to have forgotten now as we're increasingly told we need austerity to pay back the predatory organizations who caused the debt in the first place. Running the economy is a good gig if you're one of the 'financial class' who maintain the fiction.  You can crash the market and make billions of people poorer and then profit from it indefinitely as you charge interest on the loans you handed out to 'solve' the crisis you caused.  It takes a special kind of stupid to buy into this.

Looking at Shop Class now years later it has historical context to it I didn't see in earlier readings where the response to the market collapse wasn't as obvious.  Back then it was just timely.  One of the themes that follows Matt's thinking through all three of his books is his dislike of automation.  In Shop Class he talks about situated knowledge and the importance of having an intimate relationship with reality.  Fundamentally, Crawford believes this vital to human beings fully developing their abilities.  When we're devalued by monied interests into simplistic consumers we are unable to fully develop our human potential.  Surveillance Capitalists intent on monetizing every moment of everyone's existence for their own financial advantage have coupled with safety and efficiency movements in government and society to create a brave new world of atrophied people.

I've come at this digital prejudice from an educational technology point of view on Dusty World, but it bears examining from a motorcycling perspective too.  Crawford is a physicist and mechanical and electrical technician, but he seems to have drawn a hard line between digital technology and everything else.  It's probably an age related thing.  Matt's about five years older than I am.  As I was getting into early home computers and figuring them out he was already through high school and working in his trade.  I ended up heading towards IT because when I was working as a millwright I was the only one willing to take computer controlled systems on in a department full of older people who couldn't be bothered.

The idea that digital technology is opaque and unknowable is a continual professional frustration for me as a computer technology teacher.  Other educators, students and parents all buy in to this opacity even while they embrace information and communication technology in more aspects of their lives.  I understand the reluctance to make ourselves literate in this emerging technology, but if we're all going to use it I'd suggest we're all responsible for having at least a basic understanding of how it works or else we're going to all end up illiterate in a digitally powered world.

A bunch of smooth talking sociopaths have taken over the face of digital technologies, but I can assure you that Google, Facebook and the rest are not the limit of what digital technology can do for us.  Thinking that is dangerously reductive.  There was a time when the internet was newly birthed from academia and the people on it were exploring a new frontier rather than leveraging it in an Orwellian attempt to monetize our attention.  I'm a digitally literate person and I have no love for them, but I get the sense that Matt truly despises computing to the point of lumping any digital tech in with the sociopaths.  It's a hard distinction to make, though John Naughton does a good job of coaxing it out of author Shoshan Zuboff:

"While it is impossible to imagine surveillance capitalism without the digital, it is easy to imagine the digital without surveillance capitalism. The point cannot be emphasised enough: surveillance capitalism is not technology. Digital technologies can take many forms and have many effects, depending upon the social and economic logics that bring them to life. Surveillance capitalism relies on algorithms and sensors, machine intelligence and platforms, but it is not the same as any of those."

Another motorcycling angle to come at this from might be Neil Spalding's MotoGP Technology. This technical manual charts the evolution of the top prototyping class of MotoGP motorcycle racing over the past twenty years. These have been years of digital integration and management in terms of rule making and deciding how much of an influence computer assistance will have in the sport. Unlike Formula One, which many have suggested has gone too far down the technology path, MotoGP has evolved to focus on enhancing rider abilities rather than replacing them. Spalding mentions the estimate that F1 is an 80% car engineering 20% driver skill equation, where as MotoGP is the opposite. Marc Marquez winning championships on the third best bike would certainly suggest the humans operating MotoGP bikes matter more than the tech, and yet these are digital machines.

There is a point in the book where Spalding has to re-orientate the reader on how electronics work in MotoGP. Unlike what a consumer is used to, racing electronics have nothing to do with safety.  Their only intent is more speed even if it means more effort and skill is expected from the rider.  While everyone watching a race has only ever experienced electronic interventions (anti-lock brakes, traction control etc) as a safety blanket thrown over their incompetence, a racer only experiences them through the lens of performance.  Electronic intervention on a race bike make it more extreme and harder to ride.  
That alone should make the true breadth of electronics and digital technology in riding a bit more clear.  They are only self-driving us because someone wants them to for their own reasons, not because the tech is inherently focused in that direction.

Crawford often speaks of the mechanical work he's doing on various machines, but mechanical work doesn't end where a computer is involved.  There are some parts of vehicular evolution where automation is a much needed advance.  Crawford does make a point of mentioning this, but grudgingly.  Reading Classic Bike Magazine a few weeks ago I came across a great article about Dr Desmo, Fabio Taglioni, the Ducati engineer who spent his career continually looking for advancements for the brand.  His quote about computer controlled fuel injection is much like a MotoGP team's fixation on performance rather than protecting a rider from their own incompetence and is yet another reminder that electronic and digital technology does not have to replace human agency but can in fact enhance it.

Sorting out the Triumph's fuel injection system
by finding a modified fuel map and installing
it on the bike's FI computer was one of this 
year's most satisfying repairs.
I like getting a bank of carbs sorted out as much as the next person, and sometimes I make a point of working on bikes without electronics to distance myself from what I do at work all week (mechanical repairs offer a more immediate kind of satisfaction), but I've also had great technical satisfaction from the hybrid mechanical and electronics repairs I've had to make on the Tiger.  I realize that electronics and computer based repairs are often out of the comfort zone of the home mechanic, but that's based on the kind of anti-digital prejudice Crawford carries through his philosophy.  If we could all get passed that prejudice perhaps we could reclaim the digital tools we've surrendered to the attention merchants.

It's critically important we don't romanticize old technology for the same reason we shouldn't romanticize previous time periods.  If you think the 1960s were some kind of magical time in human history odds are you're a heteronormative, neurotypical white male.  From the point of view of the vast majority of the people on the planet the nineteen sixties were fucked, and so was much of the technology we were using back then.  That time of excess and privilege has led us to the brink of disaster fifty years later.  Longing to go back to it or recreate it is a kind of insanity.

This is distinct from respecting culture and engineering from a certain time period when it showed us a better way forward.   I greatly enjoy working on older machines in order to keep that history alive, but if you're putting on rose coloured glasses that make you blind to the possibilities of today's technology then you're just as manipulative as the sociopaths who are destroying society for their own gain.

Crawford talks about technology that is locked and closed, like Mercedes without dipsticks to check your own oil, or electronics that are sealed to prevent 'tampering'.  Corporations are able to do this because people have been convinced that digital technologies are something they can't comprehend, but this is bullshit.  The companies offering to do everything for you aren't technology companies, they are advertising companies.  Ignore them and ignore authors who dismiss digital technology as inherently nannying.  Modern technology can just as easily be used to enhance human ability and force us to be smarter, stronger and faster as it can be used to make us stupid, docile and compliant.  The issue is the intent of the people peddling it, not the tech itself.

If I can't convince you maybe Kenneth Clark's angle in 1969's award winning documentary 'Civilisation' will highlight things:

Clark's concern is that automation plays to the hands of authoritarian regimes.  He couldn't see the emergence of multi-national corporations that we're now under the yoke of back in 1969, but he isn't wrong about automation playing to fascists.  Crawford shares the same concerns, and they're well founded, but one of the best ways to take back control for more people is to make them literate in the technology being used to enthrall them.

All that to say don't be afraid of the digital aspects of motorcycle maintenance.  This tech was made by people so you can figure it out, and in doing so you will also teach yourself to author the technology the attention tyrants are using to snow you under.  From that point of view of self sufficiency and understanding of technology Matt Crawford should be on board.

Last Light Of The Sun: 2020 Edition

Without putting too fine a point on it, 2020 has been a steaming heap of shit.  I can't put it behind me fast enough.  One of the only breaks in a year that seemed more interested in trying to break me than providing opportunities was a series of warm days into November.  Last year the snows descended on Hallowe'en and we were under it for five months, only to emerge into a world wide pandemic.  This year I've been able to steal rides here and there right up until the end of November.  I'll take what I can get at this point.

We looked like we were corked November 1st when we got our first big round of snow, but only three days later the snow was on the side of the road and I was able to take the Tiger out for a late season ride.

Nov 4th:  By Black Power Bison Company

Long shadows in the West Montrose Cemetery

That weekend we were up in the high single digits so I jumped on the Tiger and went for the last long ride of the year, up to the edge of Georgian Bay to have a look a blue horizon before heading back to my landlocked existence. This is close to where the year started off with a banzai ride up to Coffin Ridge Winery out of the endless winter to pick up some pandemic supplies early on in the lockdown, so it was nice to close the loop.  It ended up being about 300kms of the twistiest roads I can find in the tedious riding desert that I live in:

The Beaver River in the Beaver Valley before the snows fall.

Highland cattle grazing in Glen Huron.

With less than six weeks to mid-winter solstice the sun is never that high in the sky in mid-November in Ontario.

I thought that was the end of things.  The Honda had flooded itself and I ended up having to pull the
carbs which led to an inside out cleaning and installation of new airbox boots that I'd been waiting for winter to do.  I spent a warm Sunday afternoon on the driveway doing all that and when it was back together I took this athletic work of art for a shakedown ride and discovered that it was even sharper than it had been.  Honda Fireblades are something special, and this particular generation was ahead of its time

With everything sorted I shut off the petcock and ran the bike dry before wrapping it up for the winter knowing that it was ready to roll again in the spring, many months hence.  Surely I wouldn't get another chance to ride again this year.

I got home from work the next day and it was still well above zero and sunny, so I primed the carbs and off I went again.

The Fireblade, already an impressive piece of engineering, felt like a sharpened pencil with the carbs cleaned and the airbox rubbers replaced.  It was a nice final ride.  I once again shut off the petcock and ran the carbs dry before covering it up for the winter.

Of course, things weren't done yet.  We got a couple of weirdly warm days around November 21st so once again I primed the Honda and took it for a blast.  By this point the Tiger was up on stands and getting ready for a deep winter maintenance, but with the Fireblade so frisky I wasn't feeling bike poor.  Running a 17 year old European bike as my regular ride and a 23 year old Honda superbike as my spare, I'm often frustrated if both are sidelined, but not this long autumn.

When I got home I (can you guess?) shut off the petcock and ran the carbs dry before wrapping it up in blankets again for the long, cold winter.

Now I was really done. The Tiger was wheels off and up on blocks and the Honda was in hibernation under a sheet.  No more riding this year. Time to get my hands dirty. The Tiger needs some deep maintenance this year if I'm going to get it to one hundred thousand kilometres by the time it turns 20 years old in 2023. This past summer we did alright miles and it's up over eighty-thousand now, so I have three more riding seasons to put in 20k kilometres to hit my target.  With any luck things will be opening up over the next year and I can get back on track to putting on some miles on longer trips.

Meanwhile, the weather looked like it was getting wintery.  Snow was closing in on the forecast but never seemed to land on us with any real weight.  I ended up priming the Fireblade one more time for a very cold, end of November ride.

One of the benefits of having the sports bike is that it makes even a short ride a thrill, and this one was that.  The 'Blade's telekinetic handling and explosive engine in a very lightweight package shot me down the road.  It was nice to find that feeling of being on two wheels one last time before finally putting things away for the winter.

I couldn't feel my hands when I got home after 40 minutes out, but it was totally worth it. By late November we're typically looking at minus double digits and knee deep in snow.  Since then we've had multiple blasts of snow, a snow day at school and the roads are thick with salt and sand.  The Fireblade is sleeping under its blanket and the Tiger is in the spa.  Today I used my new tire spoons to remove the 10k squared off Michelins on the Tiger.

Changing my own tires may fall into the more-trouble-than-it's-worth category, but it's still a good thing to do at least once just to look things over.  I think I'm going to take the tires in to the autoshop at work to mount them next week rather than try and do it by hand with tire spoons.

Here's a winter moto-themed video to get you in the dark season's maintenance mood:

WAITING OUT WINTER from Andrew David Watson on Vimeo.

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Norfolk Wisdom on BBC's Speed Dreams

I just finished watching BBC 2's Speed Dreams: The Fastest Place On Earth, a documentary about a group of British motorcyclists who travel to Bonneville to see how fast their folk-engineered motorcycles can go.  It's a great watch and one of the best motorcycle focused things I've seen about Bonneville, and there have been many.

One of my favourite bits about this one is that it isn't one of those (insert celebrity name here) explorations of extreme motorbiking.  Those can get thin pretty quickly when they lean mainly on the twist of watching a footballer or actor doing something that hundreds of others have done with less while the poor celebrity laments their fame and finds ways to make the trip as expensive as they possibly can.  It might be time to shelve that formula.  Motorcycling is inherently egalitarian.  Millionaire problems while doing it just aren't that interesting. Meanwhile, Speed Dreams covers the gamut from build-it-in-your-shed eccentrics to bank funded high end amateur riders, but I find the ones who do it with less far more interesting.  Money makes people tedious and shallow.  It's not their fault, they can't help it, it's just what money does  They end up with an audience because people like to watch wealth.  The characters underneath it are nearly always atrophied by it.

Speaking of interesting, my favourite bit of Speed Dreams is when the Scottish lead engineer of the high end team comes out and waxes poetic about the shear size of the place...

Then the old fella from Norfolk who picks up the litter on the beach after he had a nervous breakdown and built an old Indian bike in his shed with recycled parts walks out and does us all Norfolk proud:

'ha''s Norfook for yow.  It made me miss home.

You can catch this one on Motortrend TV with a free trail, or on BBC if you're somewhere they'll let you stream it.  Amazon also looks like they add it in occasionally.  Back in the day Top Gear (with the old guys) liked it too.

Other Bonneville Motorcycle Media:

Guy Martin and the world's fastest motorbike.  I usually like Guy's stuff, but this isn't one of my favourites, probably because it comes off as a Triumph ad, he never gets his hands dirty.  Even the Triumph bit is outsourced to another engineering group making it look even more like a marketing exercise.  They don't manage to break any records either.  You can stream this one on Channel 4 UK, though there are other Guy motorbike themed things I prefer (his run at Pike's Peak on a custom hand made machine is fantastic).

Henry Cole's Worlds' Greatest Motorcycle Rides is a good series to get you through long Canadian winters and his run at Bonneville is a genuine tear jerker.  That he's trying to do it on a Brough Superior is English eccentricity at its best.  First time he met Sam Lovegrove too, so there is a good bit of engineering/technical to it as well.

Odin, Thor's dad (Anthony Hopkins), plays Burt Munro in The World's Fastest Indian, a well put together film telling the story of one of Bonneville's heroes from down under.

Out of Nothing is another shed-built Bonneville attempt from an American North West perspective.  It sometimes wanders dangerously near to hipster philosophical - Americans tend to take themselves very seriously when doing manly things.  I prefer the UK self deprecating humour rather than the chest thumping, but it's still a good film.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Triumph Tiger 955i Winter Maintenance List

2003 Triumph Tiger 955i winter maintenance list

Chassis Maintenance

Swingarm remove and check/lubricate, replace bearings if necessary.

That's a tricky job because removing the bearing destroys them, so if things get that far along I need to make sure I can get new needle bearings... and a press?

Parts List (that I hope I don't need)

  • Triumph BEARING NEEDLE 2526 Part # T3800014
  • Triumph SEAL, SD 25 32 04 Part # T3600170
  • Triumph SPINDLE, SWINGARM Part # T2056007
  • Parts List

Front fork oil change and refresh.
Steering hub check, clean, replace if necessary

  • Forks & hub parts list
  • Triumph FORK SEAL Part # T2040283
  • Triumph 'O' RING Part # 2040081-T0301
  • Triumph GAITOR,FORK Part # T2040288

Part # T1240891
Fuel System Maintenance

  • clean fuel injectors?
  • how to do that except the first comment is not to backflush a fuel injector as they almost never go bad and this can wreck them
  • Royal Purple FI PEA Cleaner
  • I think I'm going to go with the SeaFoam I've been using if they aren't showing any signs of leaking
  • Motion Pro makes a clamp that lets you force cleaner through injectors, but it's expensive (for a clamp) and I'm not sure it's necessary
  • Another FI cleaning how to
  • And another is removing and cleaning injectors necessary?  Evidently
  • I think I'm going to draw some PEA cleaner through with a vacuum pump and let it soak rather than trying to pressure force cleaner through the system
  • I balanced the injectors in the spring with an FI vacuum/mercury system, but I'm going to try it again using the TUNEboy diagnostic system I've got.

LED Indicator Light Upgrade

  • replace existing LEDs with heavy metal update
  • got the parts in
  • kept the original flasher relay so if these aren't LED they'll still work
  • put LEDs on it aside

Tire Change

Brake Fluid Flush And Fill

  • Read the BIKE article on braided brake lines
  • done this before on the Concours
  • Tiger needs new fluid anyway (3 yrs since last flush)
  • Get DOT4 fluid
  • replace lines with DISCO HEL lines


Touch up work on body panels (I have Lucifer Orange touch up paint)

Monday, 16 November 2020

Motorbike Research from the 1920s, 30s and 40s for Under Dark Skies

I'm eighty-thousand words into writing a novel loosely based on my granddad's experience in World War Two.  He was in France in 1939 and 1940 during the Blitzkrieg and the Battle of France.  Weeks after Dunkirk he was still trying to make his way back to Britain from occupied France as continental Europe fell to the Nazis.

I've always found that period of the war interesting.  Germany had the initiative and everyone else was struggling to understand what armed conflict had evolved into after two decades of incredible industrial progress following the trenches of WW1.  The allies weren't proud of their losses early on and it has since become an embarrassing and forgotten period in history.  If you don't believe me, just look up how many movies and books came out of the final year of the war when the allies were winning.

The novel, tentatively called Under Dark Skies (though I'm not married to that title), tells the tale of my granddad's service in a Royal Air Force Hurricane squadron sent with the British Expeditionary Force to France to stop the inevitable German invasion.

I've tried to keep it as accurate as possible, but in the absence of any specific details (my grandfather was never vocal about his war experience), I'm taking some other influences and mixing them in, Quentin Tarantino style.  Inglorious Basterds is one of my favourite World War Two films and I love the liberties he took with history, so much so that it's tempting me to do the same.

Bill was a member of the RAF White Helmets and a handy gymnast back in the day.  I've taken his
hidden-to-me, life-long affection for motorcycling, mixed in a bit of Guy Martin and Steve McQueen, though I don't know that Bill's history needed it, but it's just how I like to write.  Back in university I got into a difficult to get into creative writing course.  Leon Rooke came in a few times to help us with our writing process and commented on my ability to convey action effectively.  I like flowing, scripted action and that is the backbone of this book.

The fictional Bill's war experience was also influenced by this news article I found in a 1941 newspaper about motorcycle based 'suicide squads' who wreaked havoc inside Nazi occupied Europe.

That's out of the Spokane Daily Chronical on Saturday, January 4th, 1941!

I've had a tough year at work and needed to find a way to work off frustration, so when I can't sleep at 5am in the morning I get up and escape into 1940 France, it's been a life saver.

One of the enjoyable side effects of writing an historical novel is that you end up doing a lot of research in order to look like you know what you're talking about.  I have an equivalent of a minor degree in history, but the digging you do when writing in a time period is much more nuanced, and this case, very motorbike focused.  Here are some of my favourite motorcycle specific research bits from writing this thing:

Motorcycle Focused Research from Under Dark Skies

1938 Triumph Speed Twin:  I was looking for a state-of the-art fast bike to use in France that would outrun a supercharged German Mercedes staff car (that was a good scene to write).  Triumph's Twin was a massive step toward modern motorcycles and an early candidate for the job, though not what I eventually settled on.

1930s supercharger speed record bike from Italy (I was looking up ideas for a customized 'uncatchable' suicide squad bike...

History of military motorcycles. 

Triumph 3HW, Triumph's WW2 bike has a history closely tied to company and Coventry's brutal experience in the war:  
Triumph History overall:

Inge Stoll: Bavarian motorcycle racer and sportswoman - I'm looking to diversify the cast a bit towards the end. It's hard to do in the British military of 1940:

Peugeot used to make motorcycles!  They were quite common in France in 1940 where I'm spending my time.  I needed a bike that a local would have, so I had a look at the Peugeot listings:
NSU was a German moto manufacturer.  German bikes have a very distinct style back then that was quite divergent from the lighter more handling focused British machines, though the NSU 351 OSL is a pretty little thing:

The operating manual for a T-100 Triumph Tiger!  I'm partial to Tigers and a chance to bring the T-100 that started the breed into the novel was too good to miss:  The original instruction manual is really handy when I'm writing about details on the bike, like where the controls are.  I could just make it up, but then I might as well have just written a book about moon nazis in rocket-ships.

RAF bikes of WW2 (some good photos in there):

BMW bikes in WW2:
... and sometimes you want to know how they sound:
... which is just like Jeff's tractor!  I'm sure there's a BMW that doesn't sound like a tractor, but I've yet to find it.

1930s vintage motorbikes riding across France:
This one was handy from a bike and a geography angle.  A nicely nostalgic thing too.

Motorcycling in 1936:

Scottish Six Days Trial ended up playing a part in Bill's backstory (so there is a bit of Ross Noble inspiration in there too).  I liked the idea of Bill's amateur riding background somehow elevating him from lorry driving but didn't want the flash of road racing.  I get the sense that Bill's motorcycling was frowned upon by family and was never recognized as something that might improve his lot.  SSDT seemed like a good amateur-accessible option that demonstrated not just exceptional bike craft but also a toughness of spirit:

German women in the 1930s seem quite sports driven.  Ilse Thouret was another Bavarian motorbike racer who looked like a real tough nut:
Bill was a freemason so I'm thinking about bringing on of these women in as a daughter of one (freemasons were killed in death camps as jewish sympathizers).  If the Craft gives you the willies maybe you can take some consolation in knowing that Nazis hated it.

I was looking for a retired French moto-racer who could help Bill sort out a modified 'uncatchable' bike.  Louis Jeannin was one of few French winners, having won the 350cc championship in 1932, but I was reduced to wikipedia for the only mention of him:    
I ended up giving him a shop at 16/18 Rue de la République, 57240 Knutange, France where Bill goes to pick up a modified T-100.  Jeanin raced Jonghis, which I'd never heard of, though they have an interesting history:

1939 Tiger T100 for sale at Bonhams!  If the book does well and Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Ewan McGregor and Orlando Bloom all pick up the movie rights (they're all big bike nerds) then I'll get myself that T-100:

Looking for a cheap bike a lower class Cockney kid would ride and came across the BSA Blue Star thumper:
Banger’s bike at home: (est.) top speed 75mph.  Good nick name for a kid who rides a single cylinder banger.

1946 Triumph repair manual!  At the end of the war production lines were restarted with little updated because things were so exhausted.  This was a brilliant find as it details all sorts of bits and pieces that help me detail mechanical happenings accurately:

A Belgian sniper makes his way into the story and has become central to it.  I wanted him on something that spoke to Belgian industrial arts and came across the Gillet Herstal 720 AF - a state of the art machine that never saw wide production due to Belgium's invasion:
Gillet Herstal 720 AF motorcycle and sidecar (Belgian) a great Russian resource on motos of war!

A fantastically named French combination option: The Moto Gnome Rhone with Dragon Porte sidecar!

I was looking for an alternate German Sidecar combo since everything has been very BMW focused on
the German side, then I came across the Zündapp KS 750, a combination so good that the German government asked BMW to build it instead of its iconic boxer (BMW refused):
A fine example of German modernist design.  They're big and heavy though (over 30% heavier than the svelt Belgian Gillet Herstal combination).


Those are just the bike related links.  I have more than a dozen pages of links and notes on all sorts of mad details.  At one point I got lost in WW2 vintage brass blowtorches (they're paraffin fueled!):

When I wasn't looking up details on British warplanes that simply didn't work well, like the Fairey Battle that I'd never heard of before, I was digging deep into fasteners used during WW2 (Germany was metric which is a problem if you're working on a German vehicle in a British hangar).

Writing UDS has been a great trip at a time when I'm frustrated by people's response to a crisis and can't go on any other trips anyway.  Thematically this erupts out of the text with regularity.  This weekend we're off to try and take out Luftwaffe high command at the HQ of Fliegerkorps VIII in Roumont Château, near Libramont in southern Belgium (check out May 26th).  At this point the story is writing itself and I'm often surprised at the direction it takes.  In my best moments I'm reading it as I write it, lost in time.