vintage Yamaha TY80

My son Wynn on vintage Yamaha TY80

The basics of Internal combustion are simple, if an engine has fuel and a spark, it should run, so when Wynn’s 1975 TY 80 refused to start, The first thing I did was check for gas in the tank. There was plenty of fuel so I ruled that out, leaving the electrical system the likely culprit. I removed the plug from the cylinder, stuck it back into the cap and grounded it on the cylinder head. When I jab at the kickstarter, a bright, blue-white spark should snap between the electrodes of the plug. I kicked it over but no spark. Was the problem as simple as a bad plug which could be easily and cheaply, be replaced or was it something more complex?

I remembered a trick my father had taught me. While repairing a lawnmower he called me over and asked me to hold the sparkplug wire. Not knowing about such things at the time, I obliged. Dad yanked on the starter cord and I recoiled as an electrical jolt ran from the wire, into my fingers and up my arm. Dad thought it was pretty funny and after a while, so did I. Some time later, while working on a rototiller my father called me over, again, to hold the sparkplug wire. I’m not sure if he had forgotten about pulling that trick on me before or if he didn’t remember which of his three sons had fallen for it before, but I walked over and took hold of the wire. We were both smiling as he pulled the starter cord.

Back to the present and troubleshooting Wynn’s bike. I removed the plug and remembering Dad, stuck my little finger in the cap and jabbed at the kick lever again. This time there was no jolt, not even a tickle.This confirmed there was indeed a problem in the electrical system. It could be the coil, the points, the condenser, a short or a broken wire.

As a teenager, I had learned to do many motorcycle repairs out of necessity. The bike shop was far away and I could barely afford the parts let alone the labor. If I wanted to ride, I had to fix it myself. I’d order parts from the shop by telephone (rotary) and had them delivered C.O.D. via U.P.S. I could install chains, sprockets, tires, cables, pistons and rings. If it was just a matter of removing the worn or broken part and bolting on a new part, I could handle it. My Achilles heel was, and continues to be the electrical system. If a new sparkplug doesn’t fix it, I’m stuck. Time to find a bike shop.

King of the Hill, Philadelphia International Bike Race

King of the Hill, Philadelphia International Bike Race in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia.

Let me start off with errors and omissions concerning my last post. Seems like there was a major bank sponsor for The Philadelphia International Bike Race. Since I do not bank there and they did not hire me to shoot it , let’s just say it was a big bank. Secondly, the photo in my previous post was from the woman’s Liberty Classic, run concurrently with the men’s race but a few laps shorter. Now, with a clear conscience, I will continue.

At 9:00 am, my wife, son and I, walked the five block to “The Wall” and staked out our usual shady spot, on a bend, that allowed us a good view of the riders as they began their ascent.

We caught the men riders on their first lap and about 10 minutes later the women, as their race started after the men. My wife and son stayed for two laps then headed down to Main Street to do some shopping between laps. I stayed where I was, knowing that if I moved chances were someone would take my spot. I shot several laps until the sun moved and all my shade was gone. The temperature was over 90 degrees with humidity to match. I was getting uncomfortable, I can’t even imagine how the riders felt.

I walked two blocks to my friend Neil’s house to join the party and meet up with my wife and son. I took photos of his friends and their kids for Neil’s photo album that chronicles 15 years of his bike race party. My way of thanking Neil for inviting us yet again.

After 156 miles in 6 hours, 14 minutes, Matti Breschel of Denmark, won the sprint across the finish line in the closest race ever for this event.