Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Motorcycle build & maintenance projects of 2014 & 2015.

Apologies in advance to those who aren't interested in mechanical 2-wheeled things  - If not, please ignore, move away & read some of the other more interesting posts!

For those of you who do appreciate mechanical art, I hope this may be of interest and hopefully some inspiration for what can be achieved with tools, care & a bit of mechanical & electrical knowledge with occasional spare time and a passion for good quality work.

Being a hobby of mine to build, improve & maintain mechanical machinery, keeping a record of these things to some day share with our son, is something I feel I need to do at the very least; He's already a budding car & bike nut, so it's just one of those things I guess he'll be thankful to read about someday when he can. These pictures were taken over the last couple of years.

Looking back it doesn't feel as if I spent a lot of time on these, but idle evenings with the family asleep, I confess I have spent a fair bit of time researching, buying and ordering several parts for these machines.

I also helped Carlos, a close friend to rebuild his bike (VTR SP2), which started off as a wreck, bought cheaply from Yahoo auctions. It started out as a heavily crashed machine, which had been high-sided with bent forks and seat frame & a lot of missing parts.

These first pictures were taken after a couple of weekend's work during the first months of 2014 where we we replaced most of the front end, fitted a used snorkel and my original exhaust. We also replaced the rear sub-frame, undertail & re-fitted all the electrics. My bike was used as a fully assembled example from which we compared to see what parts would be needed, how to route wiring, etc. We also had a lot of help from the RC51 community throughout the world, who kindly shared spare parts, or sold them to us cheaply. It took months to find & collect all the bits we needed, which I didn't already have stored as spares taken from mine, when upgrading components.

Carlos had wanted a VTR SP2 (RC51) ever since riding mine for 10 minutes or so, 2 years prior.
Being the father of a young girl, his financial priorities were in the right place, so hobbies like having a nice bike took 2nd place of course.

We had fun & some late nights building his dream machine,

And slowly, it took shape, whilst my son took a keen interest,,.,

Like me, Carlos is a perfectionist and so some top quality parts and further workmanship went into this bike.

The result was a truly stunning machine.

In Spring of 2015 we enjoyed a ride through my favourite roads around Fuji.
Carlos' bike performed faultlessly and that first day riding together was in his words, the best ride he'd ever experienced!

After a glorious day's riding, we spent the night at a Ryokan at Yamanaka lake so we could ride again the next day, but were greeted by a very cold morning!

The weather did improve throughout the day, but then it begun snowing again in the late afternoon so we headed home to lower plains, but first stopped at my favourite race track.

Carlos & his family returned to the UK in summer of 2014 and of course the SP2 was also shipped there. After all the fun of rebuilding it together, it had become a fantastic machine again and these being bikes that are appreciating makes it a good investment to be enjoyed when time allows.
It's now safely in his garage in the Cotswolds. He intends to continue improving it slowly as and when funds & time allows. These things tend to take a long time to develop... but the time taken allows for modifications to be added with plenty of thought and leisure.

Naturally, my own projects also took up some of weekends between 2014 & 2015 as part of the culmination of years of ownership.

This is my VFR750, owned since 1993, when I was still a university student. I had stored it in my garage in the UK from when I moved to Japan in 1998 and brought it back to Japan at the beginning of 2013. This is what it looked like after a weekend's work bringing it back to life.

After registering it in Japan, I lent it to my young friend Olfa for a weekend and unfortunately she had a small spill on it.

Fortunately she was absolutely fine and the bike could be fairly easily repaired. I was a little sad at first, but being a great lass Olfa made herself responsible for the costs of repair & I soon managed to find the plastic panels & parts needed, from Honda Japan. I'd meanwhile also discovered that the front end of a VTR SP1/2 could be adapted to fit. An obvious progression after having fitted an uprated front end to mine, a whole spare front end had made itself available!

I also collected & stashed away a few uprated & spare parts, including uprated brake discs which had come off the SP2, plus a new titanium exhaust silencer and other goodies. Unfortunately being engineering minded, this is my vice in life... See, I just can't resist wanting beautiful mechanical things when I finally come across them, especially when they function well too.

So, off with the old.

And on with the new!

This is how it looked in the end... It rides better (Safer with new suspension, brakes, louder exhaust, etc). I don't get to ride it much, but it's useful for riding into Tokyo sometimes, when need arises and weather permits. It'll also make a good bike to take my wife touring on someday, when she finds the courage. I know she'll love it when she does try and I have hatched plans on how I'll slowly introduce her to the joys of travelling on two wheels.... in time.

Aside from this, there are a few other projects in the slow-moving pipeline.

A TDR250, the very first production motard bike, which has been uprated and modernised with CRF250 forks, Maxton suspension and much more. These pictgures show only a mock-up, so I could check & see how the parts intended will fit, I will need to find time to strip it all down, get some welding done for a spare frame, have it powder coated and then begin the build from the ground-up, leaving paintwork till the very last so I don't scratch it whilst tinkering!

There's also an NSR250 which is in small pieces right now, with a lot of uprated parts waiting to be fitted to a replacement frame. It's awaiting special bodywork that's coming from a well-known  specialist manufacturer in Thailand. I've told him there's no rush at all, so it's taken about a year so far... I';m sure they'll get it done sometime in 2016!

I have a lot to get on with before that, basically assembling a complete bike onto which the bodywork will be attached in the end.

The intention is for it to look a lot like this very famous NSR500 (Mick Doohan's 1993 GP bike).
I'm excited about this project, as there's a lot of boxes hiding under the table in the dining room, waiting to be unpacked and assembled, right down to a set of brand new carbon fibre wheels!
We'll see.... there's always other projects that seem to get in the way and with more priority, there's work too (Which is often similar to these projects, only instead on customer's cars).

I think the way to inspire a child's love for mechanical things is to share from a young age with something he can enjoy playing with and be inspired by.
So first of all - our son needed to learn how to ride a bicycle. This he did at just 3 years and 3 months of age. I took these pictures after asking him to try to ride with his feet up for about 50 metres, which he promptly did - effortlessly!

And within a few weeks he could ride a bicycle - without anybody having ever taught him, except for seeing his sister riding her bicycle (she learnt the conventional way, with training wheels). See - we learn from example!

And so the next progression was a motocross bike of his own...
He's still too small to put his feet on the ground, so we ride it together - every time he remembers, he asks me to go for a ride, which I do my best to accommodate even when I'm working. I make sure his feet are on top of mine and his hands underneath my own, so he will understand how to control the bike. Just 5 minutes riding together puts a smile on his face. I just love seeing the excitement on his face as  he waits for me to start the bike and it first bursts into life.

It made an excellent little bike at Motegi 2015's Moto GP which Carlos & I attended. This is how we got from the car park where we camped, to the ticket barriers, much to the amusement of pedestrians walking up to the circuit. It was painful for Carlos and I had to ride with my legs spread wide in order to be able to steer, but it worked great... Next time we'll take a larger bike, maybe...

Earlier in 2015 I also bought a cheap old enduro bike, so I can take the kids to the beach (20 mins from our home) and teach them to ride in safety on the wet sands beside the sea. I can also use it in the forest, when we build the intended small motocross track for our kids to play on.

Our daughter already knows how to ride and a few weeks ago we took them to an empty winter beach. Whilst I rode the CRM250 with her brother sitting in front, she rode the CRF50. Together the three of us chased baby seagulls as they flew close to the shore line for about 3 km each way. She only fell off once at slow speed (when she tried to chase me across dry sand after I'd specifically told her to stay on the wet & firm stuff only!) but soon re-mounted and was riding again.

The night I bought the CRM250 on a yahoo auction, I had also put in a cheeky bid for a 2006 Husqvarna SM450R. I had known they were great bikes for a long time and had hankered after one for years A(fter seeing my friend Richard Haus' Hussaberg 620 in his garage!), but could never justify owning yet another type of bike. These are often misunderstood by those who don't appreciate mechanical finesse or know how to properly maintain these machines. I think the reason I managed to buy this cheaply was because Japanese riders need a full licence to ride anything over 400cc and this is a 450 with larger 510 models also available.

This one had been well looked after, I could tell - and the price was cheap. Thinking I'd try a silly bid I was surprised to find the next morning I'd bought not one, but two bikes whilst sleeping!
I confessed to my wife cheekily & casually a few days later that I'd bought these, explaining that one was to ride with the kids and make sure they'd be safe (Which is of course sensible & true - really!! - But having had a CRM250 in 1998 as my first and only transport in Japan I bought it partly from nostalgia too) and the other.... well, I had no justification except that my motard project could take a lot longer to complete yet, as it needs a fair bit of work to complete yet and there are always other projects in the pipeline!

She just laughed at how I tried to justify these expenditures as she already knows about my vice for beautiful mechanical things.... The way she understands and accepts me is one of the reasons I love her so much. I hear other wives would go ballistic, but she's just so relaxed about these things (In turn I never get in the way of her hobby of belly dancing either!)

The Husky has proven to be a fantastic machine to ride on the road. Super handling, brakes, suspension and of course engine too. Of course I couldn't resist adding a few touches to perfect it, so it's had a new titanium silencer and race (carb) jet kit, plus new pedals, brake & gear levers and other small cosmetic parts.

The side panels were a bit scratched from track-work the bike's evidently done in it's past ownership, so I replaced them with new an also added 2008 decals, as to me their design looks better.

Being a race tuned bike and very light, it loves to wheelie under power and is very easy to chuck around curves, which makes for a perfect machine to get into town on errands with, and will also be huge fun to ride on mountain roads!

Being so inspiring to ride, it could easily get me into trouble with the fuzz. Besides which, the exhaust's power pulses made the number plate begin to fracture, so I placed the number plate somewhere a little more discreet.

I'll be putting up another post about camping and restoration & improvement of our camper van, but a few weeks ago I added a tow bar & Mototote bike carrier to it, which will be used to carry the lighter bikes when completed, when I want to use them somewhere further away, or take a bike + the small one to go camping together with the family.

It's always a little sad driving the van on Japan's amazing countryside roads and being unable to enjoy them on a capable machine, with the bikes always left behind with the intention to enjoy them another time... This modification to the van certainly put a smile on my face.

And last but not least, comes the last bike to be mentioned on this post. My VTR SP2. This bike I've had since 2005 and is my favourite of all. It's slowly been transformed from a near standard bike to something very special during the time I've owned it.

With the abovepictures it won the 2013 bike of the year competition on the international RC51 forum, but it's still continued to develop considerably since.

Once again, many of the parts have come around through friends & acquaintances made in the international RC51 community, who have either sold parts used, or introduced places where such parts are available, right down to where I've had lots of tasty one-off titanium parts made by the ever dedicated & tallented Pete Lidster.

The above picture was taken shortly after I had fitted Ohlins forks and Brembo SBK narrow track brake rotors along with Dymag carbon rims which resemble the standard design (The greatest performance parts that can be fitted to a bike are super light wheels!)

This is the most recent picture of the SP2 I have. It now wears Brembo GP calipers too, same as used on some of the original WSB & Endurance factory bikes. It's a fantastic machine to ride. I'm sure I'll keep doing things to improve it as time goes on, but there's not an awful lot left to change on it, I think...

Someday all of these projects will become my son's - he's already staked a claim to the RX-7 as his own (Which I've owned & been tuning since 2001! seen in some of the background on above pictures). But of course he will need to learn to be a proficient & safe rider & driver first and I've every intention of sharing all I know with him as he grows up & continues to learn at his own pace through playing with and having fun tinkering with mechanical things.