Backroad Ramblings June 2009

June 30, 2009
Jason Giacchino
Jason Giacchino
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

A freelancer and published novelist Jason is currently the editor in chief of Mountain Bike Tales digital magazine and holds a State University of New York degree in applied science with a minor in journalism. When not hunched over a computer monitor, he can be found playing outside in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York.

The Subtle Differences Between Riding and Restoring

Yamaha Blaster
Converting a Yamaha Blaster in to a full on race-quad isn’t a bad idea… hope parts are still available.

This past weekend was one of the first truly perfect succession of days for getting in a solid ride. My phone began ringing as early as Wednesday evening in effort to buckle down plans and to give ample time to come up with slightly believable excuses to get out of family obligations that may otherwise interfere. As the weatherman had promised, temps held steady in the upper 70s with clear skies and plenty of sunshine. In other words, the type of weather appearing in 99% of my winter fantasizing.

As much as I would like to dazzle you with tales of endless miles of canyon carving or twisty back road leanings, the truth of the matter is that both weekend rides were cut fairly short on account of the fact that my small clan of riding friends are all currently elbow-deep in restoration projects that they were collectively eager to get back to. While I fancy myself a bit of a backyard mechanic, much of the idea of getting off a running motorcycle to crouch alongside a non-running one is lost upon me.

Even still, I spent a fair share of the afternoons in typical restoration assistant mode, which basically means I strolled around dusty workshops while fetching an occasional tool or washer as my cohorts spun wrenches and muttered quietly to themselves. The projects in question ranged from a 1967 Triumph being made road-ready once more after years of deterioration to a 1991 Yamaha Blaster being turned into a full on race-quad. If there were a common theme to the vehicles being restored it would be only perhaps that each witnessed yours truly waiting impatiently in the background.

Over typical post-ride coffee and egg salad sandwiches (complete with stale potato chips and pickle slice) at the local dive, the question was inevitably pointed in my direction by greasy and bloodied fingers: Why wasn’t I currently involved in a restoration project of my own?

Yamaha Tri-moto
The humble beginnings of our Rambling Man’s off-road adventures, the Yamaha YT125 Tri-Moto.

I shrugged it off at the time but after several days of internal deliberation, feel that the truth of my reluctance to restore, rebuild, or revamp actually stems from deeper emotions than even I thought possible. Sure there are the usual excuses; things like lack of time, money, or garage space but don’t let me kid you. These same excuses could very easily be used against me with all the running machines I purchase. In other words if I wanted to restore a bike badly enough I could certainly make it happen against any and all voices of reason, regardless of the validity of said voices.

I suppose my own case deals more with the fact that I’ve been restoring vehicles steadily since having first taken up riding in the 1980s in the form of my Yamaha YT125 Tri-moto. Yes, that’s one of those pull-start three-wheelers with no suspension and big balloony tires. The difference is that my projects, like so many broke prepubescent wannabes, weren’t inspired by dreams of taking an antique and restoring it to its former charm but rather the simple act of keeping the darn thing running!

This trend continued well after I parted with the 3-wheeler and followed me right on up until recently with ATVs, street bikes, cars and so on. Part of the unwritten assumption of purchasing bikes that are used, tired, nearly spent, and all but worthless (a typical requirement of my budget) is that years of neglect and abuse will inevitably come a calling. I shudder to recall the hours spent in the dimly lit shed behind my grandfather’s house, digging through greasy bins of bolts and nuts or the dollars spent on degreasers, paint strippers, sand paper, body filler and shop rags. I’m equally appalled by the days spent studying exploded views of engine internals on microfiche at the dealer in attempt to isolate that single and extremely-overpriced clip. I’m still trying to erase the weeks spent in attempt to determine the extent of the modifications performed to a 1985 Kawasaki Tecate by its former owner (as if finding stock parts for the thing wasn’t hard enough). Hey, on the bright side I probably still wouldn’t own a cutting torch or micrometer if not for that project.

Kawasaki Tecate
Locating parts for a Kawasaki Tecate can be a terrible nightmare but big projects can be an excuse to pick up those cool tools you’ve been eyeing.

I suppose the truth about restorations is that individuals looking to enjoy the process as much as the finished product best perform them. I hear touching tales of fathers restoring a hot rod with their son and the closeness that the project instills upon them. Likewise my friends are quick to spin yarns of the subtle joys of tracking down a genuine OEM clutch spring that sat in a musty long-abandoned shop in England for the past 41 years or the challenges of developing a racing green paint color from nothing but a faded photograph. It’s impressive for sure, but not my cup of tea and maybe that’s because the memories of days spent scurrying around to get my own machines just to operate shoddily are yet too fresh.

Vindication here may be a combination of fact and fiction but the next time anyone asks, it’ll probably just be easier to say I don’t have the time, money, or garage space.

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