There is nothing like the appearance of a large assembly of parts to give a project a real spur. I’m sure every project bike builder who’s spent months or even years waiting for the commencement of a new undertaking has felt oddly in limbo until that first day when bits of metal are actually there for you to pick up, touch, feel and smell. In a way it’s the same as with a design project where for so long things exist only on paper or in the rarified atmosphere of the computer screen as a photorealistic rendering. There is a palpable sense of things actually happening when that first model is made or the first prototype arrives for testing. So with the bike acquired and the workshop ready it was time to take those first tentative steps.
In the best traditions of passionate and lustful young relationships, there was an almost unbearable urge to get the old girls clothes off and see what lay beneath. To find what mysteries, if any, she concealed under those heavy swathes of chromed steel and whether her heart really was as true as she’d intimated on that first journey home. Like an expectant youth on that first night when his parents are finally out for the evening, I plumped the cushions on my metaphorical sofa by constructing a low workbench out of scrap wood and board. I made sure everything I needed was to hand by laying all my tools out nearby and, even in readiness for any severe grappling made sure I had the appropriate protection to hand in the form of a fresh box of vinyl rubber gloves.
The correctness of my choice of machine was apparent immediately in the ease with which I was able to remove parts. It wasn’t long before I’d started to build a substantial pile of bits of motorcycle on one side of the work space. It was also a sign of how well looked after the bike had been that all fasteners were easy to undo, no rusted up nuts and corroded bolts. If I’d been blessed with a set of air tools it would have taken even less time to take it apart. Within an hour I’d got it back to a state where I could see clearly what I needed to do. Over a cup of coffee I made a note to weigh all the parts that had been removed never to be put back on. It amazes me how much metal even these small bikes have to cart around, without the added mass of a human being on board. No wonder they are generally so slow. The seat alone weighed a ton and, so did the rear rack, and that was what someone had added. No matter it was off now.
As I stripped bits off I got busy with a pile of rags and some WD40 and cleaned everything of all the accumulated road dirt and general crud which manages to occupy every crevice of a bike no matter how fastidious you are at keeping them clean in use. Thus duly cleansed I could prod about to my hearts content without getting covered in muck. I revisited my pile of bits and separated those I knew I wanted to keep from those I knew would be sold or chucked. When it came to the time to disconnect all electrical components I took out my handy little bag of tie-on labels and attached one to each wire or connector block. I’ve never had much of a clue about bike electrics so labeling everything was the only way I was going to remember what connected to what when it was time to put it all back together.
Briefly going back to my point about weight. It’s only when you take a part off a bike do you realise the amount of material contained in it. And all that metal must have a detrimental effect on performance. The headlamp brackets weighed about three pounds and the front mudguard about a further ten. I knew I couldn’t do much about the engine at this time but, I resolved to keep the weight down as much as possible in a bid to minimise the mass that the little engine would have to push along.
In the days before I got to the workshop I’d made a list of all the parts that I knew I wanted to buy and had ordered those which were easy to source such as handlebars, rear shocks, headlight brackets and a bit pot of mixed stainless steel fasteners. I’d rather optimistically thought that I might be able to modify the seat unit by basically chopping it in half but now that it was off I could see it was a flawed concept and, would have been pig ugly to boot. I knew I didn’t have time to make one from scratch. Time for a bit of a re-think.