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Norton Manx Featherbed Frames by Legendary Motorcycles


Manx frames

The café crazy folks at Florida-based Legendary Motorcycles are now making replica Norton Manx Wideline Featherbed frames. Built as designed for the legendary Norton Manx racer, these replica frames are made from lightweight 1040 alloy aircraft tubing and benefit from modern gas tungsten arc welding for frames that are lighter and stronger than the originals. Swingarms and engine mounts for various conversions also available. $1,950. Mild steel available for $1,600. MC

BMW Airhead Ignition Upgrade by Euro MotoElectrics


BMW airhead ignition upgrade

The stock ignition on BMW’s venerable /5 and up airheads is generally very reliable. But with time — and mileage — hard parts like the mechanical advance unit wear out. Colorado-based Euro MotoElectrics has replacement digital ignition systems that dispense with the stock points and mechanical advance. Using an optical trigger, their electronic ignition provides full spark even with battery voltage as low as 7.5 volts for rock solid timing. $379. MC

Vapor Blasting by Clean Machine Blasting


Vapor blasting

As restoration standards move up, the emphasis on originality extends to the engine and transmission cases. Standard media blasting works wonders, but glass beads can alter the surface of aluminum castings at the expense of the original look. Vapor wet blasting will remove dirt and corrosion, leaving behind an “as from the factory” finish. Clean Machine Blasting now offers professional vapor wet blasting, with all work done by vintage motorcycle enthusiasts. Prices on request. MC

Drum Brake Tuning by Race Tech


Drum brake tuning

Did you know that suspension specialist Race Tech offers brake drum and shoe tuning? This used to be a somewhat routine service “back in the day,” but as disc brakes became the norm it fell out of focus. Race Tech takes your complete wheel, cuts the drum so that it’s round, then cuts the brake shoes so they’re a perfect fit to your now round drum. A must for vintage racers or anyone looking for superior braking. $200 per wheel. MC

Racing Transponder Battery Service by Mueller & Sons Toy Company


Racing transponder service

Vintage racers will want to know about the racing transponder battery service from Texas-based Mueller & Sons Toy Company. AHRMA racers can opt to rent or own required MyLaps transponders, but prior to the new service from Mueller & Sons, the only battery replacement outfit we knew of was in Australia, so getting batteries replaced drove many to rent. Mueller & Sons says replacement starts at $55 depending on battery type, with a two-week turnaround. MC

Diablo Pro Tank Bag by Giant Loop


Adventure tank bags

Oregon-based Giant Loop has made a well-earned name for itself designing and manufacturing adventure-proof saddlebags and gear for the hard-core offroad and ADV camping crowd. Designed with ADV use in mind, the 4-liter Diablo Pro Tank Bag is a high-quality tank bag large enough to carry essential gear. Featuring an integrated harness for easy on-off, the Diablo has integrated electronics pass-through slots. Quality made in the U.S. and featuring a lifetime warranty. $210 and up. MC

Fast Lane Boots by Bates Custom Leathers

Fast Lane boots by Bates Custom Leathers Photo courtesy Batse Custom Leathers

I’d always wanted a pair of custom boots, specifically sized and cut to fit my feet, and my feet alone. Last year, with plans for my first visit to the Isle of Man Classic TT and Manx GP set in motion, I decided it was finally time so I contacted Dawn and Dana Grindle at Bates Custom Leathers in Lakewood, California, suppliers over the years to some of the greatest names in racing including David Aldana, Kenny Roberts and Giacomo Agostini, to name but a few.

After describing my riding style to Dana, we both agreed the Bates Fast Lane Sport Racer was the best fit for my preferred riding, which is sport touring. A classically cut full-leather boot, the Sport Racer features an 11.5-inch cuff and is tailored to go over or under riding pants. I think they fit better under, which fortunately suits my tastes.

My boots were comfortable right out of the box, their soft, supple leather a visual and tactile treat. Frankly, they were so comfortable, I was a little worried how they’d wear. Aren’t hard core boots supposed to be, well, hard core and hard to break in? Outside of plastic inserts on either side of the heel, the Sport Racer boots are devoid of armor. There’s extra padding at the ankles, the toe is reinforced, and there’s added leather on the bridge for shifting — on both sides, making these truly ambidextrous left or right shift boots — and at the outside leading edge of each boot in case of road contact when cornering.

The fit is excellent; tight without compressing my feet, yet with enough room for an extra pair of socks, and the full-height rear zipper makes them easy to put on and take off. I took delivery of my boots in early spring, and by the time I packed them up for my trip to the Isle I’d worn them for several thousand miles. A common problem I find with motorcycle boots is that many of them are uncomfortable off the bike. I understand why people gravitate toward heavily armored riding gear, but in the real world I need gear that can adapt to changing situations, gear that I can wear off the bike as well as on such as at a show or just going into a restaurant to grab a bite to eat. I’m willing to make compromises, but I typically look for utility and performance, and the Fast Lane Sport Racer boots deliver both.

So far they’ve worn like iron, and I like that the fact that if I ever have to, I can get the soles replaced. Comfortable and made to last in the U.S. by people who care about motorcycling, these are quality boots at a price that won’t break the bank. $250 off the shelf; add $70 for custom fitting. — Richard Backus