Friday, March 2, 2012

Vintage BikeGeek

I am positive that our RV90 is going to look nowhere as nice as this one
After many attempts and persuasion my good buddy has finally picked himself up an old motorcycle.  I know a 1972 RV90 almost doesn't classify as a motorcycle but the more I have looked into it the more stoked I am to be the technical adviser on this project.  I love to see an old motorcycle that has been rotting a rust heap in the back of someone's garage or barn be resurrected or even reincarnated into a functional machine that someone will enjoy.  I have several friends who are at various stages of the process.  Most of my friends on such an adventure have simply moved the rusting hulk from one garage to another.  This includes my '81 XS850 that was sold last winter (Chew's Cafe) and a friend's Virago 920 that I envisioned as a sweet bobber but has so far had one exhaust pipe removed.  Another friend of mine went so far as to strip down his RD250 and hopefully will start putting it back together in the near future.  Atticus here is my shining prodigy.  He not only bought the bike but he has taken steps to take a stripped down GS550 that was thrashed for a crappy race bike and has made it into a smooth running machine.  Unfortunately he is heading off to Iberia and may be selling it.

Atticus began the journey in a very similar place to myself.  Both of us started more likely able to assemble a light saber with the proper components than to rebuild a carburetor.  When I moved to the state of Ohio in 2007 I did not know how to change my own oil.  I did not even know what the purpose of a carburetor was.  I dreamed of buying a bike my whole life and after working with a 'Winger for 2 years I finally felt like I could make the jump.  When I bought my bike it was an ugly bagger.  Large fairing, hardbags, huge windshield, it was the bike I never wanted but it ran and so I bought it.  After it stopped working a short time later I tore out the carbs, the starter, and basically made the whole situation a whole lot worse.  After I finally located the real problem was in the  bus fuse housing I had a much bigger repair and rebuild than I had started over with.  Luckily the motor was in good order but the carburetors were filled with rust and the bike was still ugly.  Luckily my buddy Tony made the concession to allow a piece of 'Jap Junk' into his garage and under the ominous sign reading 'Harley parking only, Rice Burners will be crushed' we began to put Mio back together.  We stripped her down to look like a real motorcycle and got the carbs tuned in and running great.  My dream was to cafe the bike but I never had the time or money in the timespan available.  Last summer she didn't run for a large chunk of riding season due to a failed brake system landing my in a ditch along the state route.  But a few master cylinder rebuilds and SS brake lines later she ran (and stopped) like a champ.

Atticus pursued the motorcycle experiment after hearing tales of the mechanical chutzpah I had accrued during this time.  After reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance he started to dig in.  There is a perfect correlation between those nerds who read ZATAOMM and actually worked on their bike, and those who didn't.  Interesting.  After working on some ignition issues, putting mufflers on the straight pipes, and velo stacks on the intakes, he had a bike that ran and the courage to actually apply a tool to something mechanical.

All this brings me to a little 90cc beach bike that my buddy's father-in-law found in his barn.  It has no spark,  the tires are probably dry rotted, and who knows what condition the frame is in.  The important thing is, though, that when we have applied our limited wisdom and intelligence to the project we will most likely have a running machine that was good for nothing more than scrap previously.  This new buddy has very little mechanical experience and even less gusto but by the end he will be a code flinging grease knuckle like myself.
The FZ6

Part of what I love about motorcycles is they are very simple machines.  The systems are easily visable, are easy to access, and easy to understand.  Plus motorcycles are pure cool.  I fell in love with the Kawasaki Ninja when I was 6 years old.  I saw toy ninja at a flea market and it looked fast, and it was a Ninja.  Ninjas are cool.  Ever since then I liked motorcycles but new nothing about them.  Then in college I stumbled on the Yamaha FZ-6.  I have never totally been sold on crotch rockets.  I have never liked cruisers.  I can dig an occasional bobber, something nice a ratty but I had never heard of cafe racers at the time and this bike, a sporty but utilitarian bike, sang to me.  As I started to dig deeper into bikes I found that there was a whole spectrum between a Harley Electroglide and a Hyabusa.  And I was hooked.  I started reading Cycleworld and similar rags and then, after college, I found an article about WrenchMonkees.  I saw this bike:

I never realized what was possible with 2 simple wheels.  The simple beauty, the feel of speed while standing still, plus I had a weakness for the copper piping.  After I saw this bike, I had a new obsession.  An obsession that I have done my best to pass on to anyone who will let me.  

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