Local Treasures

People often think that things need to be far away from themselves to be interesting or cool. That’s just not the case. I have been looking for things around my (current) town of Cedar Falls, Iowa that can be counted as interesting or cool, in the gearhead sense. Here’s a short list of what I have found thus far.

MotoGents – A group of friends who like motorcycles, building them, and living the lifestyle. They had their first motorcycle show the other weekend in town and it was a lot of fun. I met a lot of new people who have a similar passion for bikes as myself. My bobber was welcomed and I saw a lot of other cool local bikes as well.

1st MotoGents bike show

1st MotoGents bike show

Team SpeedASalt – A local shop teacher who got the need for speed after visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats recently. He has since banded together a group of people who enjoy performance vehicles and he is building a land speed racer, locally!

Waterloo Technical Society – This is a group of people who are passionate about technology. They meet once a month to talk about their latest projects, meet like minded people and learn about something cool being done locally. I just found out about this after 2 years living here.

Cedar Falls Raceway – This is a local drag strip. It’s so great to be able to drive 5 miles to a drag strip, make 20 passes (for $25) and be home in 5 more minutes. You also meet lots of people who would love to give you advice. They’ve been there, done that and they want to help you avoid the same mistakes they made.

drag racing 2013

Iowa SCCA – If you’ve never been to a SCCA race but you love cars, you need to go. SCCA = Sports Car Club of America. They host race events in parking lots and race tracks. It’s another great place to meet people passionate about cars, like yourself. They have them all over the country. Find your nearest and run what you brung.


Iowa Enduro Riders Association – This is the local dirt bike racing community. They are sanctioned by the AMA (American Motorcycle Association). I have driven a hare scramble and they are one of the most fun ways to be a gearhead. You get so much seat time, 2 hours, vs. 1 minute for the SCCA or 10 seconds for drag racing. They have events all over the state so you can do them every weekend, or just when they are close, like I do.

Monster Jam! – There will be a Monster Jam event in my backyard soon. I’ve never been to one, but I have been wanting to for a few years only. Huge trucks, huge engines. These things are technical masterpieces. What isn’t to like for a gearhead?

Independence Motor Speedway – Dirt Track Circle Track racing has been in my family for many years. I have had a love/hate relationship with it in that time. It can get stressful in the pits! But I usually enjoy watching something live instead of watching it on tv. Check it out!

Iowa Speedway – This is a (relatively) local NASCAR track. It’s about 1.5 hours from my home, which is not that far to see something that is broadcast nationally. I had never been to a NASCAR race before this year and it was a great time.

Twisted Kreationz– A local painter. His work looks good. I haven’t talked with him personally, yet.

This Monte Carlo – This car built by Daniel Howe, Iowa local. It’s been featured in many magazines. I ran into Dan recently at a SCCA event (see above) and he was a great guy to talk to. He was so passionate about his car. It was double interesting to me as I also have a Monte Carlo and had recognized his car at a show a year earlier.


Car shows – There are plenty of local car shows. You just need to look for them!

One of my favorites is Vintage Torque Fest in Dubuque, IA. Check out some local cars here.

This Model T Ford is a mixture of Gasser and Rat Rod. It's mostly for fun, and not so much for actual performance. This engine has a straight pipe for each cylinder. They are actually about the best you can get for flow, unless you start dabbling in tuned length runners, etc. It's really an independent header for each cylinder.  I think it's awesome!

Car from Vintage Torque Fest

Antique Archeology – More commonly known as The American Pickers Guys. I haven’t been there yet, and they don’t only do cars, but they do find some occasionally.

JP Cycles National Motorcycle Museum  – This is a motorcycle museum that is full of motorcycles of all brands. You can get so close to the bikes and the variety is incredible.

This is just a short list of a few of the local things I have thought of. There are so many other people I have met and things I have watched and participated in. I hope this inspires you to look locally for cool things happening in your community.

Do you usually feel you need to travel far to see “cool” or “interesting” events and people or do you embrace the resources in your local community?
What is your favorite local gearhead happening?
What is your favorite local car builder?

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Honda CM400C Bobber

Feature write up about my 1981 Honda CM400C bobber.
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most recent picture of bobber July 2014

most recent picture of bobber July 2014

Open road:
A bobber is a style of building a motorcycle. Other styles are chopper, cafe racer, sport bike, naked bike, etc. In theory, any motorcycle can be built into a bobber. The term bobber refers to the rear fender being “bobbed” which basically means shortened. That is the ethos of the whole bobber is to make a simple bike. Take all the superfluous parts off and have a good time with the bike. Bobbers have a non-modified frame/front forks, vs. choppers which often modify the frame and install longer forks for the raked look. This is very expensive, vs. building a bobber. Bobbers can be thought of as similar to rat rods, or more akin to early hot rods in that the guys would remove everything to be light and functional vs flashy but slow, like customs or lowriders (generally). This is the story of my bobber.

Stock 1981 Honda CM400C

Stock 1981 Honda CM400C

I have been a car guy since I was about 14 but I actually had a dirt bike before that, about 12 years old. When I got out of college and was able to work on stuff, I migrated to motorcycles, since you can fit 5 or 6 motorcycles in a one stall garage and work on them vs. one car with very little room, and bikes are cheaper, and still tons of fun!
rear, 1981 Honda Jan 2013, as recieved
My bobber was built from a 1981 Honda CM400C. The last C is for Custom which means it has a different gas tank and options than other CM400’s such as the CM400T. This was very beneficial to me in that I believe the Custom gas tank is a good looking tank from the factory.
as recieved Jan 2013
My father’s cousin is the oldest owner of this bike that I am aware of. He had not ridden this bike for as long as I can remember. Sometime around 2007 he gave the bike to my younger brother. My brother did a little work to it here and there but mostly it sat in our machine shed and collected dust. Around 2012 after I graduated from college I was reading a lot of magazines and finally had a little money. I started talking my brother into starting to build his first bobber. He did get a good set of handlebars made (he’s a welder by trade). He had also already removed the stock airbox and installed the individual pod filters for each carburetor (there are 2).

I got the bike in Jan 2013 and took it back to Iowa with me. A myriad of things were done to build the bobber. The huge seat had already been removed and I finished that job by removing the rear half fender and tail light assembly. I also cut the frame to make it shorter. Then a LaRosa solo seat was installed. I also removed the stock battery mount and built a small box and used a bike rack mount strap to hold the battery in and I painted the battery black to make it blend in more.
As recieved Jan 2013
Since I had removed the rear taillight and license plate mount I fabricated new mounts for those and installed the Iron cross tail light. Turn signals are via hand signals.

My brother had also installed the exhaust extensions with the fishtails. I removed those and ran without that part of the exhaust for a while. After a small run in with Johnny Law, and a warning for a loud exhaust, I cut the fish tail part off and put some baffles in the straight part and reinstalled the straight pipes. Of course, being an old bike the muffler under the bike had rusted some and one of the pipes fell off, so until I get back to fixing that the bike is back to no exhaust after that under-bike “muffler”.
working on it, battery box not done yet. rear frame rails not removed yet.
I painted the tank silver and ran the bike for a while with no front fender. Being that I got the bike in the winter/early spring I was often driving in the wet parking lot and quickly decided I needed a front fender. Luckily the Honda has a nice rounded front fender (vs a square type fender like a Yamaha Virago of the same vintage. I reinstalled the front fender but painted it black to blend in. That looked good, in my opinion.
I also left the chain guard installed,and have not repainted it yet. This is another utility thing. As I actually drive the bike, I’d rather not be covered in chain lube. I have seen tons of bikes in magazines that have neither of these things and I wonder how they ride without a front fender and chain guard.

most recent picture of bobber July 2014, rear shot. see Iron cross tail light

most recent picture of bobber July 2014, rear shot. see Iron cross tail light

I also did a lot of little tuning that comes with a 30 year old motorcycle. I cleaned the carbs, changed spark plugs, tuned the clutch release, etc.

This bike is an incredibly fun little bike for running around town. It’s not extremely powerful (about 30 hp) but it’s very light and it revs to around 10,000 rpm! It’s actually quite comfortable with the handlebars and seat the way they are. I have put about 1500 miles on it in the last few years and continue to drive it mostly around town, although the longest ride I taken it on was about 90 miles. I have also had a friend, who’s new to motorcycles, ride this bike around as a starter bike. It’s great because it’s not a bike you get to worried about if it gets a scratch or is driven in the rain.

1980’s bikes are pretty cheap to buy as far as buying a motorcycle, or any project goes. But make sure you check ahead of time, because parts can be expensive! A new/used coil for my bike is something like $400! while that’s all a whole bike costs also! Of course there are workarounds for everything, it just depends on how resourceful you are. Forums are a great place to get knowledge on older bikes. One I like is http://www.DotheTon.com My name on that forum is ajh1989, add me if you decide to get on that forum. There are also tons of bike specific forums with tons of gearheads who have probably already fixed the problem you are encountering, especially if it’s a 20 or 30 year old bike. You won’t be the first person to have had that problem.

Overall, bobbers are a great start to working on your own stuff. They are cheap to buy. Cheap to modify and cheap to insure! So what are you waiting for? Go out and buy a bike and chop it up!

Have you already bought/build a bobber/chopper/cafe racer/naked bike etc. Share it in the comments below!

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3. My Wheel Life – The Illusion of Speed

Quartermile: The short story
Cars, dirtbikes, motorcycles, trucks, they are made for having fun!
If you aren’t having fun you’re probably doing something wrong.
Off roading/mudding a truck, jeep, ATV can be fun too! (I have friends who do this, I haven’t, yet)
Sometimes the quartermile section can have something that is not mentioned in the full article. Sometimes the message strays from the title?
Who’s steering this ship? (Car?)

How car guys park....
Why do I spend time working on cars? The reason is two fold. First I enjoy the satisfaction of taking something apart that is not working and restoring it to working order. Second, and really the part I enjoy more, is the fun of showing and driving my car. I prefer to have my car together and utilizing it than having it sit in the garage. Cars are art but part of their art is their performance. What good is a 800hp (insert super car model here) if it sits in your garage? I’d rather have a 1999 Honda Civic with a loud cannon, a huge wing and a short shifter and a cold air intake that I drive everyday.

The above brings me to the thesis of this post,The Illusion of Speed. Have you ever driven a geo metro, with a fallen off exhaust down a dirt road in 2nd gear at 30 mph? You feel like you are going 100 mph! Have you ever drag raced a 2007 Mustang GT a quarter mile in 14.22 seconds at 100 mph? That felt more like going 55mph down the road. Launching is probably the most fun part of drag racing. A 1987 Monte Carlo SS going 15.12 at 89 mph felt even slower…. My point here, besides I need a faster car, is that speed is relative. You don’t have to go 150 miles an hour to have a good time.

Motorcycles are a great toy to have for fun. They generally have great power to weight ratios which makes them speedy. The lightness makes them nimble, which is also fun. Although I can tell you from experience that swerving around inside your own lane is apparenlty “suspicious” enough for Johnny Law to pull you over and give you a ticket for a “hard to see” license plate. Motorcycles are also cheap. A 1970’s or 80’s Japanese motorcycle can be bought for anywhere between $500 and $1000. I personally have a 1981 Honda CM400C that I have turned into a bobber (with a little help from my brother). Stripped down, solo seat, no rear fender (yet, it’s in process). This is my around town bike. It is loud, I beat on the thing and I’m not worried if it blows up because I have so little money in it. If the engine blows up a replacement is CHEAP! And if you don’t want to replace an engine you could always Frankenstein a 600cc new rocket engine into it. I think that’d be an awesome project also. Did I mention how cheap old motorcycles are?
1981 Honda CM400C Spring 2013
Another way to have fun is on a dirtbike. I have been dirtbiking since I my father bought my brother and I a Honda XR80 for Christmas around 2003. I upgraded to a (1993) CR125 around 2006, you don’t need the newest toys to have fun! That’s a 2 stroke for those unfamiliar with dirtbikes. This is the bike I still have today. The most fun I have had on a dirtbike (and perhaps one of the most fun things I’ve ever done) was the hare scramble I participated in last year.
Follow the link below and change to New Hartford, IA – September 15, 2013 race.
Apparently I finished 77/115. There are a ton of classes represented in there. I was sure I finished higher…


The appeal of the hare scramble is you get to ride for 1:30-2 hours. The time is great, compared to drag racing/autocross where you get to drive a total of between 11 seconds and 10 minutes in a whole day. You are riding changing terrain with a bunch of other riders. Also there is minimal damage done to your bike or your body (if you aren’t some of my friends, you know who you are 🙂 Overall if you want to have fun, I recommend a dirtbike.
hare scramble Sept. 15 2013 new hartford
Onto street cars. How do you have fun there? Like I mentioned earlier, I can find pleasure in simple things. A 1995 Honda Civic stock with 100 Hp, give it a tune, an exhaust, and air intake and cool rims and sticker it up and drive it like you stole it. The great thing is it’s probably pushing 140 hp as this point so you will likely not be able to speed even. But really, Honda Civics can be fun. Remember, no haters welcome here.
On the topic of air intakes. You might find it interesting how Ford worked to develop a “performance feel” for the Focus ST ““active sound symposer” in order to provide the car with a fitting aural soundtrack. The symposer is similar to a sound tube that’s been used in the past on cars like the Mustang in the sense that it pumps sound from engine into the interior, but the Focus ST system is more advanced. It’s attached directly to the intake manifold and pipes in a specific frequency range – 200 to 450 Hz – into the cabin” – Taken directly from Motor Trend, Read more: http://wot.motortrend.com/sounds-good-2013-ford-focus-st-to-feature-active-sound-tube-204803.html#ixzz32I3podvJ
How fun is that?!?!?!

Of course my personal vehicles are American muscle cars, a 2007 Mustang GT and a 1987 Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe. Lots of torque and hp. Unlike the Honda you can get in lots of trouble speed wise with these cars. The most fun I’ve had with a street car,on the street, has been Hot Rod Power Tour. It’s a humongous, week long, moving car show. Read more about Power Tour here: http://www.familyevents.com/event/229
I will be attending this year, trip goes from Charlotte, North Carolina to Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. I will definitely chronicle that in a later post.
Other great ways to have fun on a smaller scale are local car shows. Check out the events section of my site to find events local to the Cedar Valley.

"Replica" Monte I made for a contest

“Replica” Monte I made for a contest

One final way to have fun with your street car is to race it! On the track!
Drag racing and Autocross are 2 great ways that let you put the pedal to the floor without losing your license. You just might find that you aren’t as “bad” of a dude as you thought. There will be many great drivers and fast cars at both of these events. The great part of these events is learning from others who have been in your place. Everyone had a first trip to the race track. If you go alone you will be sure to find someone who will talk to you. Don’t worry if your car is slow or not a race car even! I have seen 1998 Buick Centuries at the drag strip and 1984 Mercedes station wagons at autocross events! It’s all for fun!
(Again, find links on the events page.)

What’s your favorite way to have fun with an engine and some wheels?

So I hope you are now overly anxious to get out and start participating!
Keep the wheel side down and enjoy the ride.