The ups and downs of owning a classic motorcycle
Disclaimer (verbatim from my wife): That’s foolish! You are going to kill yourself! You are behaving like a little boy!
Back in the summer of 2010, I decided to see if I could make my 1927 Scott Flying Squirrel more of a regular rider instead of just a special occasion bike. These 500cc 2-stroke, water-cooled engines run smoothly and make wonderful noise, but made less than 20 horsepower in original condition. Getting additional power requires the use of very high quality internal engine components built to exacting tolerances.
Enter Scott engine guru Roger Moss of Moss Engineering in the U.K. After much detailed discussion with Roger, he agreed to build me a strong, high performance engine that would be capable of cruising at the highway speeds we see here in Texas, where I live.
Roger is a perfectionist, and builds some of the fastest and most reliable Scott engines. He is confident enough to provide a 12-month warranty, which is certainly longer than the original manufacturer in 1927. Per the detailed documentation that came with the engine:
Reliability. With Moss cranks, caged big end bearings, lightweight pistons, and rod little ends controlled in the pistons, this engine is a vast improvement on any engine ever produced by the original Scott factory.
Running in at about 75 percent throttle for 100 miles should be enough, and after that you may use whatever the engine can deliver.
How about that for confidence! Since the bike was put back in action in 2011, it has been to all the local shows and many rides, including the Antique Motorcycle Club of America national meet in Kerrville, Texas, last year. It has always been a big hit wherever it goes.
Which brings me to my speed attempt: The engine has always been strong, so, like all good boys, I wondered: “Hmm … How fast will it really go with my 6-foot 4-inch, 15 stone body?” The toll roads around central Texas where I live have some of the highest speed limits in the U.S. I figured I would take it out and run a few exits and open it up a bit. To get a proper speed reading, I mounted a GPS, as well as a small tachometer to get an idea on the gearing. I only managed to get in one clean run (excuse #1), with a peak speed of 87.8mph, at just under 4,500rpm. Okay, so I didn’t make the ton — yet. But it was a good shakedown, and post inspection showed everything to be in fine order. The engine has some more in it, so next time, with better preparation, I think I can get it at least well up into the 90s.
Like all good fish stories, you have to have excuses for the one that got away. So here is what I’ll improve for the next run: Firstly, in my fear of overworking the engine, I had the oil drippers turned too high. Secondly, the clutch was having an issue holding solidly at that speed. I’m working on that. Thirdly, it’s still summer in Texas, so even though it was before noon, temperatures were up into the mid 90s. Not only was it hot, but it was a 10-plus-mile ride to get to the toll road, with seven traffic lights and mid-morning traffic. Next time, I’ll go very early on a cool Sunday morning. Heavy truck traffic thwarted a second attempt, and by then, I thought that discretion was the better part of valor, given the heat.
My wife asked me, “What if you had gotten a speeding ticket at over 90mph?” To which I said, “My love, I would have FRAMED it!” — Mark Scott