How did you get started with motorcycles – how/when did you learn to ride, and what was your first bike?: I was motorcycle crazy at age 13. The older kid next door had a Honda 150. Freedom. Green with envy. At that time in Colorado you could get a cycle license at 14. I was stoked. Jabbered motorcycle all the time until Dad brought home a used 1966 Honda CT90 trail bike to shut me up. Auto clutch with an eighty tooth overlay rear sprocket. That Honda would climb trees. But it wasn't a "real" motorcycle because of that auto clutch. I didn't shut up. I began pestering for a second bike so he and I could ride trails together. After some time a used 1967 Sears Gilera 106SS showed up. A real motorcycle! No auto clutch. I beat the piss out of that Gilera throughout Junior and Senior High School. Sold it to my girl friend's Dad and he commuted to work on it (Broomfield to Boulder Colorado) for I don't know how long.
What bikes do you currently own? Are they riders or projects?: Forty-eight years after selling the Gilera I get nostalgic for another one. I check Craigslist and eBay occasionally. I only see junk hundreds of miles away for buku dollars. Bummer. Then one day a Gilera 106ss shows up on Craigslist in Greeley, Colorado 20 miles away--are you kiddin' me? In the pictures it looks fantastic. But you know how that can go. (I have a 1972 Jeep Commando in my shop that looked good on Craigslist that is pretty much a rolling wreck). So having learned from that experience I call the Gilera guy and ask lots of questions. He sounds legit and his answers corroborate the Craigslist pictures. So I grab some cash, hop in the pickup, and head over.
The Gilera is damn near new. Twenty-eight miles on the clock but the odometer doesn't work. However, the overall condition screams extremely low miles. The bike starts first kick and ticks over evenly with no weird noises. I remember: right-side shift; one down three up. I ride around the block two times. I'm sold. The guy wants $1250, I offer $1200. I'm not going to insult his intelligence. He's shown me his bike collection and he is obviously no idiot. We load the Gilera in my truck and as I'm about to leave he says: Hey, I got a 1968 Sears catalog. You'll want that too. There on page 844 is a 106ss for $389. Cool. So I have one little Italian stallion in my shop now with 5 Kawasakis, 5 Hondas, and one Yamaha.
What is your favorite part of a motorcycle to work on, and what tips or tricks do you have that would help the rest of us with that part?: Here are some handy tools that maybe not everyone has:
12-inch Aircraft Drill set. Mine is by SnapOn, bought in the late 1970s, part #DBK7. Very long bits, great for drilling out broken bolts/studs in hard to reach spaces.
Left hand drill bits. Again by SnapOn, again from 1970s, but the part # is worn off so I can’t help you there. After drilling a suitable pilot hole, use the left-hander to grab broken bolt and spin it out.
Vessel Tools JIS screw driver set. Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) screws are slightly different than our American Phillips head screws. While American Phillips drivers often work okay on JIS screws, if the screw is tight or seized, the Phillips driver may just strip out the JIS head. An impact driver may save the day or completely ruin the JIS screw head. Having a JIS driver is just common sense. A JIS kit is available from Vessel. I have their Motorcycle Repair Kit. It’s expensive, but works great.
Recent discovery: I recently had two buggered heads on JIS screws securing the clutch cover on an old Honda CT90. Could not get either screw to budge using my JIS driver or JIS impact. I assumed the screw threads were seized in the engine case. So I used progressively larger drill bits to drill out the screw head until there was only a few millimeters of material left. Then I used a punch and hammer to give the screw a whack in its middle. I saw the screw move. That made me rethink things. Now I did not think the screw body was seized in its bore, I thought the drilling and the whack had release the clamping force between the screw head and the clutch cover. Screw came right out using a left hand drill bit. Used the same method on the second screw with the same result. Problem solved. This method, I think, works much better than trying to use the normal crappy screw extractors.
What are your favorite motorcycle websites?:
(Here is a link to Saint Brucie’s Wordpress blog where you can find other projects he’s worked on. Mostly Japanese bikes.)