I recently mentioned a friend of mine, Gary, had opened a two-wheeled Pandora’s Box when he showed me not one, but two junky vintage Honda motorbikes nestled in his large garden shed.
Who knew that sometimes, what you are looking for is already right there under your nose? Or in a shed.
So yes, I took in my pop bottles, sold some furniture and the cat (kidding) and scraped up enough to purchase not one, but two junky 1970s Honda Trail bikes.
As one or two readers may recall, I had already recently acquired a similar bike – a decrepit 1966 Honda Trail model – so what’s a guy to do with three junky old motorbikes, that won’t start and don’t run?
Well, the obvious answer to that question is, you make one good one out of the three not-so-good ones.
And for that, you obviously need a fairly deep knowledge of all things motorbike. Or failing that, you should possess a deep ability and talent for all things mechanical. Also, a lot of tools.
And a garage or similar structure within which to take motorcycles apart and put them back together. I, of course, have precisely none of those things.
But luckily for me, my old friend and fellow bandmate, Dave, has all of those things, and something much more rare and important – the abiding good nature and generous inclination to help a friend with a bunch of old motorbikes and very few attributes such as ability, knowledge or tools.
So forward into the fray we went — over a month or two, an hour here, a half-hour there, five hours on a Saturday, “wrenching” away.
I was having an excellent time getting my hands dirty, diving right in there by fetching tools for Dave, holding the other end of mechanical things like “carburetors,” “exhaust manifolds” and “handle bars” for Dave, intensely observing, and making sure he had enough water during the strenuous wrenching parts of the work.
It’s important to stay hydrated when you’re working on a motorcycle.
The surprising thing was, the yellow bike — the 1978 one — turned out to be in excellent shape. This is not consistent with my historical pattern of luck in matters of this sort, in that these cockamamie ventures I often get myself into pretty much always end up in disappointment, disaster, or worse.
So we put gas in it and voila! — it leaked all over the ground. So we (Dave) took the carburetor off and fixed the stuck float thingie (twice) and kicked it over, and voila! — nothing.
We (me) kicked that kick starter approximately 150 times and the little yellow bike really wanted to start, but just didn’t quite have it in her.
So … (don’t tell our better halfs or the safety people) we hooked up a long rope to Dave’s golf cart that he keeps at his acreage so his grandkids can have fun running into bushes.
We towed the Honda around and around the yard, putting the bike in gear and trying a “running start.”
I was driving the golf cart. Dave, being head mechanic, was riding the bike. The rope was hooked onto the handle bars.
And voila! — a real voila this time — the bike fired right up and Dave somehow unhooked the rope without stalling, and within moments, we were taking turns rattling up and down the back roads of his semi-urban subdivision.
After all these years, I finally had myself another Honda! But, of course, the trauma-drama was only just beginning.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.