Darryl.Richman's picture

Finally, some good news

Today's run from Burns, OR to Klammath Falls, OR was a tough run, but in the end, Team Boxer Rebellion had success. With the fresh bore of the cylinders and the unfortunately badly shaped pistons, I ran the whole morning at a very slow pace, hoping to break in the motor. I was soon the last rider and followed up closely by the sag wagon (aka, The Reaper), all the way down US-395 to Lake View.

Some might find comfort in such support so close at hand, but frankly, I've spent quite enough time in the sweep trucks and my Sprinter. And the bike was not cooperating: I ran it in the mid to high 20s, and every time I tried to push it past that, it would threaten to seize. A few long (but gentle) grades did make it seize, and I'd pull over, let the engine cool just a bit, and wait until I could kick it over smoothly again. The sweep truck would pull up in front of me so they could easily load the bike into the back, but then I'd take off again. I hope they weren't too frustrated.

By the time we reached Lake View, I was able to get the bike to a scorching 30mph. I got adept at recognizing the signs of impending seizure, and I would clutch and kill the engine, coast down to the low 20s and bump start the bike again.

In Lake View, I intended to buy gas, after a 120 mile run, at a station marked in the directions at the intersection where we turned from US-395 to OR-140. As I pulled up to the stop sign, the bike died. It didn't seem like a seizure, and when a few kicks had no effect, I opened the gas cap to find just a trace of gas in the bottom of the tank, so I paddle-walked the bike across the street to fill up.

I also began adding a couple ounces of 2 stroke oil to the gas, hoping that this "top end lubricant" would reduce the seizing, although it didn't seem to work for me. And perhaps that was also because I realized it was 2pm and I needed to cover the next 100+ miles in 3 hours. So from then on, I opened the throttle more and became even more focused on catching the seizures before they locked up. (You can feel the bike slow down before it happens.)

Finally, with about 40 miles left to go, the seizures quit. This is the oddest engine break in I've ever gone through. But I hope that they're gone for good. We'll see tomorrow.

Oh, and no problems today with the head gaskets. But I'm still carrying several sets with me!


Thumbs up!

Guy's picture

That's great news to read this morning, Darryl. And I hope indeed things will continue to improve further for the remaining 3 stages.
Who knows, maybe the bike smells the West Coast and knows home is getting a little closer. Smile
Question: where is your team during the actual stage? They follow behind you or they drive straight to the end of the stage? From pictures of stranded competitors, I'd say it's the latter but wasn't sure.

Here I switched from fingers crossed to thumbs up!

By the way, how is this trip physically?



Great news, Daryl! Good

Bengt Phorqs's picture

Great news, Daryl! Good thinking about the two stroke oil. Hmmm, wonder what Marvel Mystery Oil would do? Anyhow, just a few days left and it looks like you'll bring it home. -Mike

The support crews take a

Darryl.Richman's picture

The support crews take a different route and are, in general, not allowed to be on the course that the riders take. We have an exemption for a video bike, but the rider of that bike may not help me. In fact, several times Steve has taken photos of me working on the bike by the side of the road.

Physically, the trip is very demanding. Just riding for 8-10 hours each day is pretty gruelling in itself, because I am constantly doing some math in my head to keep track of the inevitable offset between what my odometer shows and what the roadbook says for mileages. I know you weren't at EP4, where Matz put together an incredible roadbook for our ride across southern Sweden, but this is much tougher. Then there is routine maintenance to do, and of course, non-routine work. I am tired both physically and mentally, and so are Steve and Don. Trying to think through problems and come up with useful solutions is draining.

The 2 stroke oil was a suggestion from another rider, and at the time it made sense to me. I have enough for another 3-4 tanks (at a 60:1 ratio) and I'll probably continue adding it until I use it up.

--Darryl Richman
"Bling is not made in Germany" --OTL, 12/05

Cannonball two cycle oil

guest's picture

Darryl, great coverage of the your Cannonball. The two cycle oil always seems to be the first remedy when dealing with seizures, but the thing to remember is that the oil causes the gas mixture to be less volitile and to burn hotter. Heat is your enemy. Good luck.


Martin Lodahl's picture

My first full breath in days. I hope this is a harbinger of things to come, and you'll breeze along smoothly from here on! -Martin

Good News

Jim Hansen's picture

This reminds me of a Yamaha 250 I had in 1966. Every time I cruised over 55 mph it would seize. I got pretty good at recognizing the hissing noise it made as it started to seize. I'd pull in the clutch, coast to the roadside, let it cool a minute, and then be on my way. When I disassembled the engine the pistons never showed any signs of damage.

Your slow speed doesn't matter, you're still moving, still struggling on. An incredible story!

cool running

Tom Dabel's picture

Darryl, oil in the gas lowers octane rating, what your motor really needs is 100 octane lowlead. You need to send someone to a local airport with a 5 gallon can. You don't need to run 100%, even my lawnmower works harder with it. Tom

Glad to See You're Back on the Road

Marc St-Pierre's picture

Susan and I are somewhat relieved that you're back in the running though at a somewhat slower pace. I have to say you and your crew are pretty clever and resourceful.

Speaking of chase crews and videographers, did Jeff Wu eventually join up with you? Last we heard in Wellsboro, he was supposed to meet you guys in Sturgis.

Thanks! We 'uns needed some good news

Monte Miller's picture

I looked up "No Slack" in Wikipedia. There was Darryl's picture.

Wow! What a Saga!

Barbara R.'s picture

We've been following your amazing escapades with baited breath and are so thrilled that you finally have good news! Pretty cool the way you figured out to coast pre-seizure! As another comment said, you've got heaps of gumption. If I was there, I'd make an airport run for 5 gal. of 100 octane. Keep enjoying the journey & we know you'll be cruising across the Golden Gate on 2 wheels on Sunday!

A great ride and story!

Lennart & Elisabeth's picture

We keep our tumbs here in Sweden that you make it to the end!

Heal Quickly Darryl

Muriel Farrington's picture

So sorry to hear of your crash, but I'm glad both you and your bike are in relatively good shape. That was a pretty scary incident!


How is the bike

guest's picture

Hope all turns out well with your foot. I have been in several accidents in the 40 plus years of riding and my firsts concern every time was my bike. How is the bike and is it fixable I sure hope the damage was not real bad.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA stops spam by preventing automated "bots" from accessing this site.
Enter the code without spaces and pay attention to upper/lower case.
Darryl.Richman's picture

We'll be back on the road tomorrow

Today Team Boxer Rebellion took the ailing R52 to Big Twin BMW in Boise. Fred Wiley helped us a great deal when he put us in contact with Lamb Cylinder (208-322-0348).

Brent Lamb immediately took an interest in our problem. As mentioned in the last entry, we felt the way forward was to modify the tops of the valve stems in our new cylinders to accept the collets from the old valves. But Brent argued for a different approach. Instead, he bored our original cylinders to accept the pistons from our new cylinders. This way, all the valve gear continued to function.

He put about 5 thousands of an inch clearance between the new pistons and the original cylinders, because our new pistons are actually very old school. Pistons are not, these days, round. They are slightly oval. The piston pin defines the narrow axis. The reason for this is that the piston skirts are relatively thin and don't expand much with temperature, but the heavy piston pin supports expand much more. So the narrow axis grows more with heat, and the difference in axis is intended to allow the piston to heat up to become nearly round. (Pistons are also slightly tapered, narrow at the top and wider at the bottom, because there is more metal at the top and so they expand more there under heat.)

But before WWII, most pistons were made round (and straight). To accommodate the growth the of the piston diameter in one direction, piston skirts were sliced, and the growth was absorbed by this slice. Our new pistons are made this way, and adding a bit more room in the bore is a safety measure.

We reassembled the bike and fired it up. It sounded quiet, even and did not ring or knock. Unfortunately, as it was just warming up a bit, it seized. As soon as it cooled a bit, the engine freed up again. So it all had to come apart.

At first Brent opined that perhaps the slice, which we had consistently oriented down, should have been up, because the heat from the exhaust gas would be concentrated up, near the exhaust valve. But after putting micrometer to the top, bottom, pin axis and across the pin axis, he said that the pistons were junk and were built wrong. He found that the pin axis, which should be the same as across the pin, if not smaller, was in fact larger, and that the piston was also larger in diameter at the top than at the bottom.

But we were really in a hole at this point. These are our only new pistons and none of the used pistons would do. (Besides, our cylinders were now all too large to work with anything else.) After some discussion, Brent bored an additional 3 thousands from the cylinders. We were very concerned that this would make the pistons slap and essentially put the cylinders into an already worn out dimension.

It was already after 5pm when we finally got the bike reassembled a second time. (I have to tell you that there's a lot of work to getting the cylinders off on this bike. The heads must be removed, the carburetor and its induction tube, the clutch cable, the entire exhaust and the floorboards, the shifter gate, and more. And on reassembly, all this must go back, as well as getting the right torque on the head nuts, cylinder base nuts, putting gasket "goop" on the base, compressing the rings on the pistons so they can be slid into the cylinders, and a valve adjustment.)

We fired it up -- first kick, just like the last time -- and let it idle to warm up. It was still quiet and even, and it didn't seize. When it was warmed for a few minutes, I took it on a brief ride. It had good power and acted well. Our fingers have cramps from being crossed so long.

The bike went into the van and we dashed for Burns, OR. Tomorrow, I will try to get another short ride in, long enough to fully warm the motor and the oil, but very gentle. Then we will change the oil and retorque the head nuts, before the day's run to Klammath Falls, OR. I will take it very easy on the bike and try to stop at frequent intervals to allow the cylinder bores and pistons to mate and break in.


Good luck!

liebenstein7594's picture

Daryl - best of luck! you are fighting hard - great spirit. Glad you met people who are willing to help and have expertise. Hope it works and see you coming into San Francisco.
I try to make my way up on the weekend.


Voni's picture

Go, Team. Never say never. Wish we could be there.
You guys are fighting one Hell of a fight!

I am slack-jawed at your

David Brick's picture

I am slack-jawed at your (plural - you've got help!) persistence and resourcefulness and creativity in meeting these challenges. Onward!


Jim Hansen's picture

I recall reading a statement, I think it was by Duane Ausherman, that some of the older BMWs (R60/2) would seize due to the top of the pistons (above the top ring land) being too large. If your pistons continue to seize, maybe this part of the piston could be filed down a little, if the alternative is to junk the piston. Another wild idea of desperation, try adding some two-stroke oil to the gasoline.

Rooting for you to the finish line

Brandall Wong's picture

What will and determination you possess. You're a winner in my book wherever you place.
See you at the finish line.

It's a setback...

Mr. Jim's picture

...Not the finish.

Now heal and be well...

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA stops spam by preventing automated "bots" from accessing this site.
Enter the code without spaces and pay attention to upper/lower case.
Darryl.Richman's picture

Why we are missing riding days right now

I only rode 13 miles on 9/17, our day riding around Yellowstone and then headed for Jackson Hole, WY, and then didn't ride yesterday going to Mountain Home, ID. I won't be riding today, going to Burns, OR, either. Here's where we are.

Leaving the Lake Lodge in Yellowstone, it was about 30 degrees F outside. The controls were stiff and the fog would ice up on the outside of my helmet visor. Pretty quickly, the bike seemed to have no power, and even while wearing earplugs, I could hear that it was making some pretty loud noises out of the right side.

At a roadside pullout, I verified the static timing and then made sure that the valves were adjusted correctly (the engine cooled down quickly!) There was little else to do but remove the head, and when I did, I found what you see in the photo above: the piston was cracked across the face. Also, when I kicked the engine over, the piston face didn't move. It turned out to be broken around the oil control ring landing.

Fortunately, the piston pin was still in the intact piston skirt and the connecting rod hadn't flailed around inside the cylinder, but there was still a relatively deep mark about 1" long around the circumference of the bore, maybe 1.5" down from the top.

Bits of rings on the end of a magnet, and the broken piston on the ground, next to the floorboard

In Jackson Hole, we tried to minimize the scratch with some emery cloth and about 30 strokes of a honing brush. After that, you can feel but not catch your fingernail on the scratch. I had some old, used pistons and we picked the best one to install. But the engine made a loud noise from the right side and vibrated through the footboard on even light loads.

So we decided not to run to Mountain Home, and instead drive there in hopes of installing my freshly bored set of cylinders with their pistons/rings/valves. We got in a bit before 1pm and quickly disassembled the cylinders and started moving over the valve springs, keepers and collets. This is where we hit the wall: the new valves have larger diameter stems than the old, and no groove in them for the lip on the inside of the collets. I have no spare collets. We talked to a couple machine shops in Mountain Home, but they couldn't do the work needed to modify the valve stems. We hope to find a shop in Boise today that can modify them to accept the collets, so we can continue tomorrow in Burns, OR.

Also, while the machine was standing forelorn next to the van with its top end removed, a passerby mentioned that the right connecting rod looked bent to him. He had good eyes. I brought a set of V blocks and it appeared that the rod was about 5 degrees off. Did this cause the piston failure, or did the piston failure cause this? We don't know. But with a stout punch through the piston pin, Steve was able to straighten the rod so that the pin pulled up flat on the V blocks. There was little else to do but pray that straightening the rod would eliminate the noise in the right cylinder, so we reassembled the bike and fired it up, but there still was a loud piston slap from the right cylinder (although the vibration seemed to be gone).

So, we hope to put on the new cylinders today and ride the bike around some to break in the bore and rings.


A better man than most

Monte Miller's picture

As my old shade-tree wrench granddaddy would say, "That boy's got more gumption than most."

Whatever the outcome of the 2012 Cannonball holds for you, your bike plus your magnificent Team 52 members, to all of us riding with you in spirit, you're already a winner.

I am saddened by your foul luck but heartened by your "gumption".


Broken Pistons

Jim Hansen's picture

It seems odd that the piston would break up in that fashion, but I guess piston technology has come a long way since 1928. Maybe (hopefully) it was a defective piston. Or maybe the failure was caused by the bent rod.

Something else: confirm that the crankshaft is shimmed so that the rod is exactly centered in the cylinder (I know, I know...this probably isn't what you wanted to hear).

Good Luck!

Keep up the positive attitude

Melena's picture

What Monte said! I couldn't have said it better.

Keeping a positive attitude is the best thing when you're having these kinds of troubles. At least you're not out there on the side of the road by yourself with no cars going by. Sounds like you're having a real adventure and seeing a beautiful part of our country. And getting in a bit of good riding too.

We've got the thread continuing on the R65 forum and we're rooting for you!


Engine Woes

Ron Westervelt's picture

Amen to "Monte's comment--it says it all----and thank God for observant passersby---participants all, along with all who wish you success on this repair so that you might continue.

Ron Westervelt----------(was at Newburgh and followed out as far as Milwaukee--helped out woth a few H-D spares)

Stick with it! We on Long

Pip's picture

Stick with it! We on Long Island are pulling for you. Stay warm

You Rock!

lubbeth's picture

I agree, that boy has more gumption than most! It is truly an inspiration to see you just not quit. I suspect you'll be alright for the wide clearances, if all right means continuing to run. I think the old radials of WWII had about 0.010 or more clearance when cold (maybe even 0.015). I can't offer any real advice- you are so much on top of things- but just say congratulations on it all and keep up the spirits.


Connecting Rod Question

hbheywood's picture

Reading Darryl's post I'm curious about his mention of 'V blocks' and the process of checking the straightness of a connecting rod. I have a 1966 R60 /2 with some unusual cylinder wear and a large amount of oil entering the right cylinder. My mechanic wants to remove the engine in order to determine that the connecting rod is straight. The BMW shop manual also shows the engine out of the bike in order to check and straighten a connecting rod. Does anyone know a way to check and straighten a rod without removing the engine from the bike ? Also, what is a v block ?

Connecting Rod Question

hbheywood's picture

Reading Darryl's post I'm curious about his mention of 'V blocks' and the process of checking the straightness of a connecting rod. I have a 1966 R60 /2 with some unusual cylinder wear and a large amount of oil entering the right cylinder. My mechanic wants to remove the engine in order to determine that the connecting rod is straight. The BMW shop manual also shows the engine out of the bike in order to check and straighten a connecting rod. Does anyone know a way to check and straighten a rod without removing the engine from the bike ? Also, what is a v block ?

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA stops spam by preventing automated "bots" from accessing this site.
Enter the code without spaces and pay attention to upper/lower case.
Darryl.Richman's picture

Let us reflect on pleasanter times



Pat Tobin's picture

Hey Superman,

If I had an engine which may have run OK in slow cruising around home, but starts breaking pistons when called upon to do hours-on-end at near full-throttle speeds, one of the first things I would check would be max ignition advance. If I'm not mistaken, typical push-water in the '20s and '30s was so mild that huge ultimate advance could be tolerated.

I would guess you might find ultimate advance well North of 30 degrees. For today's gas, I would suggest not exceeding 20 degrees max. Just an educated guess; those with more experience running ancient engines this hard would certainly have more experienced opinions on the matter.

Suffice it to say that pre-ignition or detonation or both will drastically increase flame temperature. Most of the problems you have suffered could be explained by excess combustion temps.

You have my full admiration, Bro,

Pat Tobin

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA stops spam by preventing automated "bots" from accessing this site.
Enter the code without spaces and pay attention to upper/lower case.
Darryl.Richman's picture

More troubles

Sorry about the lack of updates, but when I had a little time in Sturgis, my computer wouldn't get on the net, I had no time in Sheridan and there was no cell reception, let alone WiFi access, in Yellowstone. I am in Jackson Hole tonight after a very disappointing day.

To catch up, we had a "day off" in Sturgis. I continue to replace head gaskets at a regular pace. Don found a sheet of high temp gasket material at a Napa store and has made 6 or 8 of the things. He also found another stash of them in my spare parts. Today, having arrived early in Jackson Hole, he contacted Brent Hansen and Brent is making up some for us, which we should have in Burns, OR. He also found a local shop here who are delivering some solid copper gaskets tomorrow morning. Don has been working hard.

The ride from Sturgis to Sheridan, via Cody, was uneventful. I replaced a head gasket on the right cylinder during the lengthy lunch break in Cody, and that carried me in to Sheridan. Yesterday was the ride from Sheridan, over Granite Pass (9100 feet) into Yellowstone Park. There was an opt-out that allowed us to carry the bike over the pass to Greybull and riding to the park from there. That meant that we lost some miles, but in my mind that was the right decision because the bike really didn't like the high altitude. Other than passing very near by a bison that was walking along the road shoulder, it was a really uneventful day.

Today dawned below freezing. After only a few miles, the bike was way down on power and making loud ringing sounds out of the right cylinder. I pulled over and started investigating. The timing seemed spot on. The right valves were close to 0.004" (don't get excited, this is the factory spec; remember, this is a sidevalve with no pushrods, not an Airhead). As much as I hated to do it, I unbolted the head. The piston was cracked across the top and it was no longer attached to the connecting rod, as evinced by the piston top not moving when I kicked the bike over. So, it was another long ride on the sweep truck.

I figured that there were two possibilities for getting past this. If the cylinder was ok, we could put another piston in it and then hopefully I could make tomorrow's ride over the Tetons and on to Mountain Home, ID. If not, then my newly bored cylinders and fresh pistons/rings/valves would have to be installed. But they require a gentle break in--immediately riding up a long ascent is not the way to do that.

This evening we pulled the cylinder. At first I was ecstatic that the cylinder bore was unharmed. But in fact the was a fairly deep scratch about 1" long around the circumference of the bore, about 1.5" down from the top. So, we used some emery cloth, some 400 sandpaper and rather a lot of strokes with the brush hone to reduce the middle half inch to something you can feel but doesn't catch your finger nail. We reassembled it and fired it up. At first it was pretty good, but then it began to make some ringing noise, which only got worse when I gave it a short ride. I could feel it in the right floorboard when under even a slight load.

So the bike is packed up tonight and tomorrow Steve and I will ride the Sprinter to Mountain Home. We will disassemble, clean and reassemble with the new cylinders, and then I will go riding on my own in the relatively flat country around southeastern Idaho. Hopefully we will be ready to resume the chase from there.

BTW, not to focus too much on the negative, the riding has been great. And the people here are great, too. We've had assistance from several other teams and have been able to share a little bit in return.


Hang in there!

Guy's picture

I cannot even imagine the disappointment you must be going through... But, it looks like you have a reasonable plan of action despite the magnitude of the challenges. And some great support from what I could read. Just for you to know plenty of prezzies have their fingers crossed for you here too, so hang in there!


Way to go!

Matz Rosenquist's picture

Hi Darryl!

Keep up the good spirit and you'll do fine!! Easy to say under those circumstances but hard to do!

Must be frustrating with your gasket problems and now a broken piston and dito cylinder. Hopefully the change to new ones plus the copper gaskets will keep you going to the end!!

As long there are solutions, there's always progress! Old proverb from the djungle!

You'll make it!!!


Go Darryl!

A. Zorat's picture

Despite the problems with the gaskets, I see that you are having a good time riding the bike. Good.

And - as Matz said - as long as there are solutions, there is progress - to which I add: and when there is (forward) progress, the final goal must be getting closer.

Bravo Darryl!

Keep it up!

Claes Lestén's picture

Hi Darryl!

As long as You get home in one piece it's been a good adventure!

Sorry we missed the old copper mine in Falun last year...

Best Regards

Sounds like you're keeping in

Barbara R.'s picture

Sounds like you're keeping in the spirit of the "be here now" philosophy & enjoying the incredible journey! We're following your nail-biting saga day by day & rooting for you. What an incredible experience, blown gaskets, scarred cylinders, cracked pistons and all! We're rooting for you. Happy Trails, Your Bay Area Fans.

Hang in there!

Jim Hansen's picture


I hope you realize as you struggle through so many problems, what an inspiration you are to others. In this case, I think that the process (the journey) is more important than the final goal or destination.

As Guy said, "Hang in there!"

Following your trip

Uffe's picture

Hi Darryl,
I'm following your tribulations by the run, truly impressed on the ongoing roadside maintenance.
All luck for the following stretches!

Go Darryl go!



beemererik's picture

Hi Darryl,

This is quite an adventure! Who would have thought you would have such an experience with head gaskets. I have used the European vendors head gaskets in my early bikes and always wondered how they would hold up over time. They struck me as a bit under engineered. You are definitely putting these through the paces. It makes me wonder if I should go ahead and have solid copper head gaskets made for my vintage bikes. The R2 I am working on had a solid copper head gasket when I disassembled it. I pondered reusing it, but went ahead and installed the European part, now I am questioning that move.

Good luck with the rest of your trip!


Looking for a "stecktank" BMW to restore!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA stops spam by preventing automated "bots" from accessing this site.
Enter the code without spaces and pay attention to upper/lower case.