Friday, July 3, 2015


   A bunch of folks saw the Facebook post, so here's how a rag-tag team of determined goofballs like me recovered (most of) a stolen moped:

   Way back in March, a friend with some Moto experience decided to jump across to the dark murky pit of mopeds. She bought a pretty nice Puch, rode a few weeks and it was promptly stolen off the street outside a bar in a popular nightlife area of town . :( She was pretty pissed and talked to folks all around the area, trying to get info, even putting up flyers looking for the bike. A few interesting conversations occurred but no results. Weeks pass. Like a boss, she promptly buys another (nice, but not as nice as the original) Puch. End of Story? NOPE.

   A weeks ago, an ad pops up on Craigslist advertising Puch Moped Parts. No frame, but an exceptionally coincidental gathering of parts. Sure white bikes exist, with wire wheels and E50's are the norm. But with black covers on both sides of the motor? And the same circuit pipe? And a Polini kit? And the same low bars with the little circle bar-end mirror? No way dude, that's totally her bike.

   The 'tex' number in the ad was bogus, but the email worked. I made contact and got a phone number (burner phone) and talked with a gal about checking it out. She acted like she was talking with someone else in the room. They kept changing times and locations, and given the police's lag time and that the police said the owner herself had to ID the bike (or so we were told), the plan kept falling through. We'd set up a meet and inevitably something would screw it up... Eventually, Louis' roommate also made contact and offered the guy/gal partial trade in weed. This calmed the guy/girl down and we got an address, but the police lag time still messed it up. We tried this at least four separate occasions. The owner also was now directly texting with the thieves trying to set up a meet with them, her and a plainclothes Vancouver PD lieutenant she's buds with. But that fell through and they stopped texting back to her. On Monday, the tweakers re-listed the craigslist ad.

   Throughout this process, factions emerge. Vulcans: We need the owner present to legally ID the bike, then await for Police before any confrontation. (Logic / Rules)  Klingons: Let’s all go over there with baseball bats & fuck ‘em up. *high five* (Brute Force) Yeah, So Louis acts decisively on the Craigslist ad and sets up a meet with the guy. His plan is to get the bike out of the vehicle then confront him to walk away because it’s stolen. No Cops. End of plan. Arthur & I are able to convince him that the guy or guys could be armed, so maybe wait for the cops. This was also a reason previous attempts failed, because they wanted to meet at a residence, potentially full of potentially armed bad dudes. Like a champ, Louis is able to get the guy to meet up at a public space in broad daylight. The new plan: Arthur is a moped Noob looking to buy, Louis is a moped Pro, advising. They will meet with the tweaker/s and stall him/them as long as it takes for Police to show up, with or without the actual owner then we all of us confront tweaker/s.

   What actually happened: Arthur & Louis are waiting near the Mall entrance for guy/s to show up. Jesze is waiting also near the entrance but separately like he doesn’t know them. I’m in the parking lot, very near the parking lot entrance so that I can talk to the cop ASAP when he shows. Tweaker arrives and approaches Jesze, who ignores him, then Louis & Arthur, who then all walk out to the parking lot. The second that happens I call Portland PD, case file number, The owner’s info etc… They don’t want to help, as we’re not the victim, but when I tell the dispatcher it’s happening now, they connect to a cruiser to head our way, looking for ‘Josh with a 65 Barracuda’. The police take FORever. Louis and Arthur are scrutinizing every millimeter of the bike, including the unmolested matching engine VIN. (which is a frame match because it's only had three owners ever!) They do their best, but it’s like 30 minutes they're stalling the guy. I can’t see Arthur & Louis & tweaker from my spot, so Jesze is filing me in over the phone from his better viewpoint.

Arthur was able to snap this candid SpyPhoto of the guy, claiming to be texting his GF.

   Over the phone Jesze says, “ DUDE, we have to go in and snatch the bike NOW!” Arthur I guess was making like he was going to hit the ATM for money and tweaker followed him, leaving Louis with the bike all open out in the parking lot. So I whip the Barracuda around, and Louis, Jesze and I are franticly all tossing bike parts into the backseat. The tweaker comes running up " Hw- what the FUCK?!" . The bike is loaded, so I back up the 'cuda, running into the guy who’s pressed up against it. He turns to Louis, who says “ THIS BIKE IS STOLEN AND WERE TAKING IT WITH US.”…. There’s a small confrontation, but I’m driving away to put distance between the bike (my car) and the tweaker. As I turn the corner to leave the Parking lot, as if on cue the Police car rolls in.

    I wave him down. Me: “Hi, are you here for Josh?” Police: “Are you driving a 65 Barracuda?” (smartass) I quickly explain the situation and he has me roll over to the service ramp by the mall. He calls in a description of the tweaker, who has fled his car and ran into the mall. After exchanging some info, we all head back over to the guys car. More police roll in, they’ve got cops checking the MAX & Bus stops, in the Mall. The first officer takes Jesze, who had his cell camera out during the confrontation like TMZ go identify a guy who matches the description, but it wasn’t him. The car was stolen, and full of stolen stuff, laptops, telescopic photo lenses, clothes, PSU student books etc.. Then a detective guy rolls up and starts CSI-ing the stolen car, after the officer talks with the owner on the phone and more paperwork & BS’ing we all split. Mission Accomplished. Turns out waiting for the owner to ID the bike was optional, kind of a ask for forgiveness, not permission situation …and a little teamwork and persistence gets shit done. The Officer we dealt with told us to 'Keep doing that Street Justice.'

   Looking back at Monday now, it's easy to see some missed opportunities, but it also occurs to me how lucky the group of us got. (Guy was solo, public place, unarmed, no unwanted interference, etc..) It also occurs how capable TEAM JUSTICE was, our ability to form and stick to a plan & then adapt when it was needed. I feel like maybe it couldn't have gone better. I definitely know who I can count on in a squirrely situation. There are various ideas about what happened to the frame. Initially in phone calls it seemed like the frame was available but not included in the photos, as that might be too obvious for anyone who knows the bike. It also may have been sold for scrap. We don't really know. ALSO - everything above is totally from my perspective, it's quite possible I'm remembering wrong, or that useful details are distorted / missing, I certainly wish I was around for the confrontation when the tweaker and the rest of the guys were having at it.

'Piglet' -as rescued from it's thieves.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


If you've read my blog for a bit, or read the Moped Army forums, you may recall that I was producing a clear flywheel cover for the Puch moped. Having gone to school for Industrial Design, I took a section in Vacu-Forming and was able to produce my first flywheel cover specific vacu-former in about a day.

                 It was made out of bondo and masonite primarily. The biggest struggle was removing the formed acrylic off the 'buck'. I tried a number of lubricants and coatings but always ended up prying on the thing and wrecking a few formed pieces in the process. After one frustrating day where I damaged the original,  I began on a totally new vacu-forming rig. The custom buck was cast in a massive block of JB Weld with a wooden core and perforated in key locations to allow for good air flow & forming. The box was made of 3/4in. plywood and the buck sat on a threaded assembly that pulled the buck into the body of the vacu-forming to pop the formed polycarbonate loose. The new rig was an enormous improvement over the first one.

Underside View:

Buck dropping into the Vacu-Former:

The frame that I used to hold the acrylic and then polycarbonate in the oven has been the same since the beginning. It's a modified metal picture frame, even using the original clips to hold the plastic in position. After much experimenting, I devised a metal shield that guided the plastic as it began to soften and expand in the oven's heat.

With formed polycarbonate still attached:

A few weeks ago I was waiting in line at my local TAP Plastic store and thumbing through a book on Vacu-forming and it said something like "Polycarbonate is the most expensive and difficult plastic to Vacuform with the narrowest workable temperature range and prone to failure." and I thought to myself, NO SHIT. Even with a stop watch and digital thermometer Vacu-forming clear plastic is a big ole pain in the dick.

If you have questions about this process, feel free to ask. I probably know more about this junk than any regular person ought to.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Burnout Day

So the Team Nerdspeed support vehicle needed new tires. The day before the new meats were to be attached happened to be MLK jr. Day, so it became Martin Luther Burnout Day. A time of reflection and celebration.

I think Cricket looks very pretty with her new boots.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Moped Flamethrower

Still working on jetting the Puch / Swamp Thing. I took a break from that to play with the flamethrower last night. Not fully operational, but a promising start!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Big Rotary & Other Stuff

So much has happened since my last blog post I'm not even sure where to begin. Obviously, the important stuff:

In a beer, blood, blades and gold paint orgy - on a rather chilly night- I was cut into the Puddle Cutters Moped Gang. I'd like to say it was a long, hard road, but it was actually a super fun time and I love the poodle cuties! As it happens, this is a Rally year here in Portland and the Puddle Cutters are hosting (August 9-11th). It's not going to be epic because that's kind of a tired term at this point. It's going to be a singularity of good times. <--- & that is now the dorkiest thing I've said in a month. And Star Trek just came out, so....

In actual moped news, I've been working on another very modified vespa engine, mostly as an experiment. As we all know, reed valve induction is effectively the best kind, for lots of reasons. They are cheap to build, easy to repair, performance is excellent and they don't interfere with other aspects of operation. But as an academic point, Rotary valve is the most powerful induction method. Albeit by ever thinner margins - and if you doubt - may I point to all of the fastest MotoGP bikes before FIM killed two-strokes in MotoGP. - many of which use round-slide carbs..Whaaaa...? So basically I got to thinking that unless you can somehow obtain a $$$$procatti complete engine, fast rotary valve mopeds just don't exist and I want to try(?!)

What limits the stock Vespa moped engine to sucking at life is the quite small carb flange (11.5mm ID) coupled with a tiny rotary pad. A crankshaft with a larger cut-out increases the intake timing duration, but fitting a larger carburetor is pointless without a racing engine case. Furthermore, the precise timing of the intake duration's opening and closing points increases horsepower and fattens the powerband. (I need a bigger hole, and I need it in exactly the right spot) So I took a stock vespa engine case and very carefully plotted the stock crank cut-out and position of the rotary pad and opening. I decided that a few things were too difficult to modify so my solution would have to fall in between the existing case bolt holes (51mm) and use the stock thickness of the crank web as parameters. As it turns out the piaggio engineers placed the stock crank cut out and rotary pad in a very good spot for modification. My goals were two:

1. Optimize the intake timing to account for both duration and exact positioning

2. Create a suitable mount to operate a larger carburetor

I settled on 205 degrees total duration for the rpm's I'm shooting for with 68 degrees BTDC & 137 degrees ATDC (or vice-versa, i don't have my notes with me). Once I had my plan, I welded some fat blobs of aluminum up against the existing rotary pad. I'm still thankful for the well positioned stock inlet. Welding on old old-soaked cast aluminum SUCKS. But I got it done.

After adding meat to the rotary pad, I built a alignment/centering jig and set up a bore-bar to cut down the excess aluminum back to stock tolerances. With that large of a diameter it was a kind-of terrifying tool to use.

I chose to build up the thickness of the case on the opposite of the rotary pad, so that I could weld a substantial enough block to support two 6mm threadings and the manifold that will eventually attach there. This extra thickness also enables a more aerodynamic transition from the round carburetor bore to the rectangular opening on the rotary pad. So I welded some (alot) more on this G'Danged cast aluminum. It still sucked. Then I milled down that mess into a usable flat surface I could weld the intake/mounting block onto.

That weird hole is the stock intake as revealed by the milling I've done. If you're curious, the reason for the bolts still being in the case, is that they act like heat-sinks when welding Aluminum, which helps -also if I got it waaay too hot, it could potentially prevent major distortion.

I then fabb'ed the intake block, making it capable of flowing a 21mm carb. I believe that to be the biggest possible with this set-up, due to the limitations imposed by the case bolt-holes and crank web-thickness (as mentioned previously). The rectangular hole is precisely 7mm wide and 38.5mm long on the rotary pad. Next up is some final filing and porting of the block and then to weld that sucker to the case. The porting revealed a very thin spot in the casting, which will have to be filled in from the stator plate side. (not pictured) The weld along the case-halves will need to be cleaned up as well. Afterwards, I will need to create a manifold that can attach a carb and shoehorn into the small void behind the motor in a conventional Vespa subframe. I've mocked this up, and anticipate only mild difficulty.

I also welded up that Plug Nut to the Puch Maxi / SwampThing exhaust and built up the flamethrower periphery. I need to work out the stoichiometry, as presently I am getting no flames, just copious amounts of smoke. Any advice?? But as they say, where there's smoke, there's an idiot with a moped flamethrower exhaust. I need to mill the cylinder head surface on my swamp thing cylinder, as a minor flaw is causing an airleak and preventing me from actually riding that beast around. FINALLY.

Presently these projects are on standby, due to a safety violation (working alone) at my workspace getting my shop privledges suspended :( Hopefully that will get rectified soon, and I will have more to report on my stupid projects! Thanks for reading!!