Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cumin Soda

That's right, Cumin Soda.  It's good for the digestion.  It is refreshing and cool in the heat. Side effect may be the temptation to cut out your tongue.  Think I'm going to try to make my own Ginger Ale.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I'm sure I'm not the only one who connects with this video.

The Age old Story of a Girl and her scooter

So I have a tendency to obsess.  I, like Mr. Toad of Wind in the Willows fame, become bent on certain manias.  He and I would probably get on quite well. I have been quite caught up with my search for a motorcycle here and although I am very exited about my new bike, I am a little sad that it will, hopefully, run reliably and not need much work.

I was happy with this compromise, as happy as anyone is with a compromise, when I sent my darling wife to the store with my adorable daughter to pick up some ice cream for a few guests who were coming over for the evening.  When they came home I was regaled with the story of how a neighbor was also frequenting the selfsame establishment and offered my dear girls a lift on her self propelled motor scooter.  Now my wife has always been a Mod and not a Rocker so it was no surprise to me that she enjoyed the experience.  What surprised me was how much she enjoyed it.  Particularly the smoothness of the CV transmission.  So, canny fellow that I am, see a splendid opportunity here.  I can have a motorcycle like I always dreamed of, and I can also have a wrenching project that with the proper application of spanners and know how will produce for my wife a scooter for her grocery trips and short jogs in the neighborhood.  Not only will I get to dirty my hands and possibly do some Rusty Sprocket customization but my wife and I will both have wheels, as long as it is not the monsoon season.  Hopefully you will see in coming posts the journey that an unknowingly fortunate scooter will take from scrap to Mod splendor.  

A Tale of 3 motorcycles

If you are one of my avid readers you probably already know that the first bike I fell in love with was a Yamaha FZ6.  It spoke to me with its classic Yamaha fairing and the exhaust under the seat.  So I have always leaned heavily Yamaha.  I am sure, mechanically, the other major brands all have something to offer but from the symbol to the style of the bike and the legacy of the company I am repeatedly drawn to Yamaha's products.  I love the XS bikes.  I owned an XS850 and so I am partial to the triples but the XS650 whether a cafe, a bobber, or a revitalized original, is a beautiful bike and one of my favorite motors out there.  You should do some checking.  Search Bikeexif.com or Bubblevisor and you are sure to find some beautiful examples.  Almost all of my favorite bikes at Mods vs Rockers Cleveland were 650's (although there were some airheads which took my breath away).   I also, in an effort at granularity, must state that I do, someday, dream of having an old BMW airhead.  They are unique and beautiful in a classical sense.  They don't have Italian style or British Sensibility but they have such an air of Mechanical excellence that I truly desire to work on one someday.

So when I came to India I leaned towards Yamaha.  Bajaj is an Indian company that is very common and produces good bikes for the money.  Hero and Honda both also are here but something about Yamaha keeps bringing me back.  Everywhere I look, if I see a bike I like it ends up being one of the FZ models by Yamaha India.  Yamaha makes the FZ-16, the FZ-S (two color variety) and the Fazer (Sports tourer with fairing).  They all have the same 153cc motor (which is pretty good sized for most Indian bikes).

Yamaha RX135
Now I am a vintage guy at heart.  I love old bikes.  Fixing them, knowing them.  There is a relationship that develops when working on an old bike that I don't think you can have with a newer model that requires factory service.  I understood my XS850 because I made her run.  I also led to her not running but that is another story.  So when I came to India I dreamed of getting an old bike, making her a cafe and running the streets.  Unfortunately the culture and the support for such an endeavor does not, as a whole, exist in Hyderabad.  At least I haven't found it.  I was really looking into the RX135, an old 2 stroke design, and found one for about $500 US that looked in great condition and had a larger rear wheel installed which was great.  There were some legal complications towards acquiring this particular model and although parts would be easy to find, people stared at me with some confusion in me wanting an old bike and fixing it up.  The DIY spirit that exists behind the cafe and bobber scene does not exists among those I have met here.  So, it seemed, the vintage 2 stroke was not the best option.

Yamaha SZ-R
This lead me to doubling my budget to get a new bike.  This is still only about $1K to $1,200 US, which would be the price of an old bike after I got in safely running anyway.  So looking around I settled on the SZ-R.  It is a little cooler than most of the commuter bikes here in the city but is still practical.  It has disk brakes, which I like, it has the same motor as the FZ models, but simply spec'd down to better gas mileage and less top end.  So I have, for the last week or so, been doing some research and getting exited about my upcoming purchase.

Yamaha FZ-16
Tonight, however, came a new revelation.  I have a Brazilian friend here who is going back to Brazil in 3 weeks.  I knew he had a bike by the helmet I sometimes saw him with (which has a Yamaha symbol conspicuously on the front).  So I ask him what bike he rides.  An F-Zed is his response (you'll have to forgive him, he's Brazilian).  He says to tell anyone who is interested that it will be for sale before he goes to Brazil.  I say I am interested.  So it looks like for less than I was going to spend on the SZ-R I may be the owner, soon, of a low-mileage FZ-16 (which is the bike I really want anyway).  Here's to hoping.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Inspirations in simplicity

So my two daily bike blogs are Bubble Visor and BikeExif.  Today they both had beautiful bikes that are the dividing line between what I would want to do if I find a donor bike here.  Of course I won't be working with a Triumph but probably a cheap 100cc commuter the style is what is the focus here.  The big question is scrambler or flat seat cafe.  You Decide!

Tridays Triumph Scramber
Deus Triumph Cafe

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Brass and Steam

Maybe you are in the same boat as me.  Maybe whenever a Lions-gate movie starts and you see all of those gears moving, your pulse quickens.  Maybe you enjoy old steam trains.  The chuff and squeal of mechanical energy and invention.  Maybe you have wondered what it would be like to wear a monocle or include a double breasted "waisket" into your wardrobe.  Then again, maybe not.  Up until a few years ago I did not know what "steam punk" even was.  In spite of that though I have always had a fascination with engineering, especially that of days gone past, when the movement of machines was a sensory experience.  You could see it, you could hear it.  Before the modern Apple mentality kicked in.  It seems that if we make our technology sterile and surgical looking than it is safer.  More accessible.  I have always been powerfully intrigued by the days when Machines were powerful and dangerous.  And they looked like it.

You can buy me almost any patch from this Etsy Store
and I'd be pretty stoked.
I had a "How things work" book as a kid and would stare at the pictures for hours.  I would imagine the pistons and push-rods, gears and sprockets, turning and working.  I have always loved the look of dark wood and brass.  I have always called myself an Anglophile.  But I think my love of things British really stem from a love of Victoriana.  There has always been something magical for me when it comes to Dickens England.  When the world was not completely conquered and there were still mysteries and dangers.  When there were still heroes and where the virtues of the society were not solely those that led to self-edification.  When technology was still being invented and could be thought up and carried out by the everyday man.  Where the physical expansion of an empire was simply a manifestation of the expansion that was felt in every other facet of society.  Socially, technologically, and philosophically.  I don't mean to over romanticize the era.  The expansion and technological explosion of the age led to the ability to oppress humanity in new and exiting ways.  Many of the scars that were left by the Vicki's Empire are still being felt across Africa, India, and Asia.  I see those scars around me on a daily basis.

That day in age does engender itself to imagination and fantasy, however, and I have always held a weak spot for books or films that reflected certain aspects of this internal leaning that I had.  I have yet to delve into the true works of original steam punk such as Joules Vern, but I love reading modern books that reflect similar sentiments.  The Edge Chronicles, Larklight, The Dangerous Book for Boys, The Series of Unfortunate Events,  Thunderer, and other books that I can't find online.  I never realized that there were other people who enjoyed such things as well.

And then, one destined winters day, I picked up The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  I thought the cover looked cool and needed something to read while at the Old Folks home my In Laws work at.  I finally saw the movie on the flight to New Delhi and realized that I should write this blog.  And so, in my traditionally rambling style, I have.  The book, as the movie, is filled with gears, grease, and steam.  I couldn't put the book down and I, for the first time, discovered automatons.  An Automaton is, for me, the bringing together of all these loose strings in my mind.  From the discovery of doing things with one's own hands that was awoken in me when I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to my childhood love of brass and steam.  So after I read this book I did what I do best: Waste many hours researching something online.  Researching automatons from the Victorian era and having an healthy, rational fear of porcelain dolls does not mix well, I can tell you that.  In the midst of the spinning horrors I saw before me I found the safe comfort of Keith Newstead's site.  I loved watching these simple machines accomplish so much.  My favorite is probably Mary Queen of Scott's getting trimmed by the royal razor.

Make a Telegraph that clicks out RSS feeds at
In my research I also stumbled across Steam punk.  Now granted, although I am a huge nerd, play miniatures, and read the encyclopedia for fun I do not LARP or dress up in costume even on halloween.  Not to say I haven't wanted to be a Chap just that I haven't ever actually done it.  So, in saying that there are elements of the steam punk crowd a little too out there for me.  I don't think spray painting a Nerf gun brass does it for me.  There are some elements however, such as the Steam Punk Workshop, that do.  Learning to make and fix things yourself, make things that actually serve a purpose, that is cool.  If there is a valve looking thing it should do something.  I love copper piping as much as the next guy but I think it should do something instead of just oxidize.  The aesthetic, however, made me feel like I had finally come home.  Sure, a steampunk cafe racer would be hard to pull off, although Dime City Cycles did give it a pretty good nod. I am stuck between wanting to be a rocker and an airship captain.  Not exactly two sub-cultures that tend to go hand in hand but...there you go.

Unfortunately, as I sit here with my laptop, in a Goodwill striped button-up, wafting the sour sent of tropical body odor, I realize that I am neither.  I am a guy who loves mechanical things.  I am a guy who loves the gleam of brass and the warm glow of polished aluminum.  I also have painted little men and pretended that they were fighting epic battles.  I smoke a pipe, read old books, and also play flash games for hours on end.  Like most everyone who is not attempting to emulate the hottest celebrity of the hour, I have a unique idio-culture mix.  Luckily for me, after being in Hyderabad for about 3 weeks I think I am the only one in this city to claim any of them.