Round and Round – Sideways in Style

I’m going to start this story from the very start, about a month ago I was talking with Dean, a great friend, photographer and now a pivotal part of Engineered To Slide, during the stages of his bikes construction we started taking notice of a sport called Flat Track, we liked the idea of riding good looking motorcycles sideways, it was as simple as that. One thing led to another and we started searching for a place to ride, I found some local events a few hours north west but it all seemed too competitive and professional, we just wanted to spend a day at the track and have some fun on our motorcycles.

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Dean rang me the very same day as I was searching google maps for local speedways that we could use, Dean excitedly told me about his friend who is affectionately known as Streetfighter, Streetfighter’s cousin operated RidePark, RidePark is one of Australias premium motorcross tracks and it just so happens to be located next to an unused speedway.

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The only bike I had ready to go was the trusty TS185 that I built for Chopped last year, so we loaded it up, picked up Streetfighter, Dean, Celia and headed off on the half hour trip to the track. When we arrived we met Rob, Rob is a great guy and loved our plan to have some Flat Track fun days on the infield of the speedway, he insisted we try the layout on the TS so we did.

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The track was perfect, there was one puddle that Dean insisted I try out, but we were sold and I went away with a lot of ideas, one of those ideas was to build a bike for this. So I ordered some tyres from the USA and dropped off a 19 inch rim to get laced up to a front hub.

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The very next week Streetfighter found this 1973 CanAm Flat Track converted race bike in Melbourne, he picked it up for a steal and I was so jelouse, it was beautiful, we took it for a spin in the bush and quickly worked out its quirks, it was lazy down low but had a savage powerband, its geometry was perfect, the early Akront high shouldered front rim laced to the spool hub and wrapped in vintage perished Flat Track tyres looked absolutely amazing, its big long expansion chamber and wide bars just topped off the entire package.

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So it was time to organize another meeting at the track, this time we invited Ted.

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Ted is a good dude, laid back and down to earth, he’s a Harley Davidson mechanic and a great rider, he brought along his old Shovelhead for a skid.

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I cant even understand how this is possible with that amount of weight.

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Streetfighters CanAm struggled with a few issues, we narrowed it down to a bit rich on the mixture and after we fouled all the plugs the true potential of the bike was still unknown.

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The trusty TS185 just did what it always does and ran like a champion, Dean gets some angle on the thing! You couldnt even imagine the amount of work this bike has done in the last year let alone the 32 that came before it, still on its standard piston it makes good power and handles like you wouldnt believe.

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Sure its ridiculous but thats what suprises us, lap after lap it just gets better and better.

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It requires a lot of throttle work to get it to slide and the lack of power just makes it all the more important to carry mid corner speed, I strung together so many laps I nearly got dizzy, you would think that constantly turning left would be boring but its quiet the opposite, every corner is a challenge to do the next one better than the last, you get in a rythem and the straight away is your only chance to think about where you can improve.

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Its just plain fun!

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Until……. Ted was pushing further and further until the footpeg dug in and spat him off, he rode it down like a champ and got plenty of cheers from us, including Mike from Saint, Mike runs a stout shovelhead and also has the best protective gear in the business available.

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So we all piled back into my van and had heads full of ideas on what to do. We planned another one for the following monday and in my head I had a personal goal that I wanted to achieve. To get my KTM going!

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This bikes seen some changes since I bought it new in 2008, its the only bike I have ever bought from the showroom floor and we have been through a lot of good times together, I still have all the parts that made it into the cafe racer it once was, but now is a different era. It hasnt been ridden this year after I stole the front end off it for Deans 640 I built. Time to get to work.

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First things first, I bought a crusty old BMW conventional 43mm front end off eBay for $100 delivered, I cleaned it up, shaved the legs, cut heaps of bits off it, blasted everything, then lengthened the neck to suit the KTM frame. It was soft as anything though, so I pulled the inners apart and shortened the inner mounting point to compress the springs and make the front 80mm lower than stock.

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With the forks on, the front rim laced up, the tires from the USA mounted up, some “touring” $34 handlebars fitted it was starting to look the business.

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I needed to adress something though, it physically looks long in the rear end.

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I looked into the ideal short track length that they run in the USA, I found that 54-55 inches is where the pros run at, this bike was around 57 inches in the wheelbase so I thought about the possibilities of a new swingarm, it made sense because I could shorten the wheelbase and also change the shock, I need it stiff and low and I wont achieve that with this shock.

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So I looked on eBay again and without investing too much I chose a small 300mm eye to eye 1000kg spring and shock combo with the 12mm uni ball to fit in the factory frame position. So first things first was to make the swingarm, I just mounted the old one on the bench and made a simple jig, using brass bushes instead of the complicated roller bearings I made a simple swingarm out of chromoly tube.

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While I waited for the shock I designed a radiator using a thermo fan and mounted behind the gearbox, it was out of the way and filled the negative space where the old swingarm sat. Its a dual flow in one side and out the other, I used the stock core and made the tanks and incorporated the fan mounts into the side plates. I still hate alloy TIG but im learning.

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With all that done I needed somewhere to sit, I wanted a nice kick on the rear end to give it those classic lines, so I made a loop from 1″ tube and incorperated a LED stop, tail, turn signal strip into the loop.

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When the shock arrived I could make up the rest of the swingarm out of 1″ chromoly, using one 10mm bolt that mounts the shock and ties everything together, with it all tacked up I could get an idea of where the exhaust needed to run.

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I have a lot of experience with stainless exhausts now, if you look around my garage everything has one, I have learnt so many little tips and tricks that its almost too easy now. I used a 1 3/4 header pipe that runs all the way under the motor and then into a stainless muffler.

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The muffler is another thing that I have had plenty of practice with and to be honest are some of the easiest things to make, I always head to my local REECE H-VAC store to pick up the stainless reducers, 4 go into each muffler, with a baffle tube, packing and then all sealed up with the external welds.

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Exhausts expand and contract A LOT, its one thing I have learnt so theres no better way to fix them than with slip joints and springs, I found some stainless rings that I cut up and bent into the spring hooks.

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If your tungsten dosn’t look like this then you wont get the results you need.

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With just 17 amps I fused these hooks onto the pipe, its amazing how little heat you need for stainless.

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Now to mount it all, I made a long hook to hang the pipe, usually you wouldnt have a solid hanger but its so long there’s enough room for flex.

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Now I am able to roll the bike out and see how it all works together, perfect! I have one day left till I have to have it ready for the next Flat Track day.

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So that night I tore the bike back down to where I started to finish the final welding, with all the parts complete I look back on the week thats been and I am glad I put in the extra effort to take this above the level I first intended, I cant wait to test it.

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The reassembly went smoothly and the bike all fits together perfectly. New oil, coolant, filters and its time to load it into the Econoline and head for the race track!

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This time we invite some more friends for a fun day out, is there anything better than an infield gathering of good people, Streetfighter was back, the old VW packed with fresh plugs, 40:1 Castor pre mix and a BBQ! Perfect.

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Ted was back with his Shovelhead, running as strong as ever, this is what we wanted to achieve, a day out for anyone riding anything, diversity and character add a much needed boost to the fun you can have motorcycling, its not for the purists, but there’s already categories and race meetings for those that want to follow the crowds.

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Our friend Jules picked up this RT1 360cc Enduro during the week and I whipped up a new rear end and exhaust for it.

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Everyone rode it and had the time of their lives.

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My old Econoline wasn’t alone, it had a German mate!

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Streetfighters CanAm or Can of Spam as we like to call it was running super well, he was getting hugely sideways all day.

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The thing was hammering!

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The poor TS185 copped another flogging by everyone, here Lee Turner demonstrates his not only a decent film guy he can also ride, this time the TS said enough was enough and broke the ring landings on the piston, its time for a rebuild.

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Lee got busy on the camera while we got busy on the bikes.

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My wife Celia swung some laps on her Bultaco, such a beautiful bike that runs so nicely, she stuck to the inside line to avoid any roost.

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From the likes of Caleb.

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Another heavy hitter and all round good dude Tyson came out for a run on his Yamaha, we all stopped riding and watched how its done in the major league!

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So how did my bike go?

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I managed to get a few photos while it wasn’t dirty.

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Well it started off good.

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The new wheelbase instantly felt great.

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The tyres were amazing, the front end was stuck like glue.

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I would exit the corner full throttle in third and bring it up to its rev limit sitting over the rear wheel.

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Then move my body forward and release the throttle slightly braking and gliding sideways into the next corner. Over and over and I started working out the fast lines, the whole track became a corner as I would get faster and faster. It was a rush I cant describe, every single lap more rewarding than the last, it amazed me that this is essentially the same bike as I have had forever, however it felt like a different beast, a week of my time in the garage had turned this into a pretty capable machine.

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Until it stuttered mid corner, thinking it was out of fuel I returned to the pits, it was low on fuel so I topped it up and went to head back out, I couldn’t move the kick starter and it wouldnt roll in gear, it was locked tight, I was hoping something had happened to the piston in the bore, a top end rebuild would be easy.

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Whatever the outcome my day was done.

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It was getting late, its almost winter here in Australia and these days are getting shorter.

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But the fun wasn’t over, I had a good time watching everyone have fun.

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We all got really dusty, shared some beers, some laughs, changed spark plugs, cleaned filters, mixed fuel and push started many bikes multiple times.

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The sun dropped over the abandoned speedway VIP suite and we packed up ready for home.

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So much fun, so many good people, too many stories to tell and lots of work to do, but we all look forward to the next event, who’s keen? huge thanks to Dean Walters for the photos! Stay tuned for more!