Thursday, December 11, 2008

Starting work on the donor bike

This pic was taken a few years back on my wedding day. This is back when the bike was running (most of the time). But really, we need to start at the beginning.

This was my first motorcycle, a 1974 Honda CB550. It served the purpose of learning how to ride. It's a solid little bike with some great engineering considering it was built in 1974 (well, I guess it was probably actually built in 1973, but you get the idea.

I rode around on this little bike for a while after getting my motorcycle endorsement, but it wasn't long before I craved something bigger. So, I bought a Honda Shadow 750 Aero - a great little bike. That one was at least big enough for my wife and I to get on.

But back to the 74. My brother in law saw my buddy and I riding our bikes, and he just couldn't help but want to ride. I sold him the old orange beast for half of what I bought it for (and I had dropped a few hundred into it to get it going). After dropping it a few times, he went and became a baby daddy and lost interest in the bike. So, the bike came back to me. What to do? I already had a bike that I liked.

Well, fate intervened and I broke my ankle (long story - it involves a lawn mower). As part of my getting back on my feet, I had rebuilt the lawn mower that had caused me so much pain (a compound fracture and two severed ligaments, not to mention the two surgeries).

Rebuilding the mower was some fun... I got to play around with a welder and other bits. After doing this I really couldn't ride the mower yet as I couldn't walk yet. Also, I wasn't quite ready to jump up on that particular horse again right away (I do use the mower all the time now, though. In fact, I used it to haul the bike parts out of the basement this very evening).

The ol' bike wasn't running too well at that point, so I thought that I could take it apart and rebuild better, stronger. Well, I was half right. I took it apart over the course of a few days. My buddy helped me take out the engine (remember, broken ankle).

After I had taken the engine apart, it soon became apparent that I was in a little bit over my head. I've done all sorts of work on cars over the years (brakes, shocks, other odds and ends) but engine overhaul was a little out of my league. So, there the bike sat for some time, mocking me.

Most of the parts eventually ended up in the basement. The pipes and seats (yes, seats - I had shopped around for another seat) were in the attic. There it sat for a while just rotting away. I even had a brand new back tire for the thing.

Well, the gas crunch hit. Holy crap. At that point, I started thinking about building an EV. I'm working from home now, so I have more time to do the things that I'm interested in (yay!). Well, building an EV is a pretty big project and I have my heart on doing a Jeep Wrangler / CJ. I don't really have the budget for that right now, so I was bummed very a bit.

After installing a new bathroom faucet which required many trips into the basement past my old CB550 bike frame, I realized that I had a great donor bike just sitting there. Over the next few days, I got more and more excited about the project. It was at that time that I also got sick. Doh! Not fair. I haven't been sick for a really long time so this was particularly annoying.

Well, I'm over the sickness (for the most part) so I've been at work. This evening, I cleaned out a bunch of crap that was in my way in the garage and brought the bike pieces out of mothballs (we actually have mothballs in the basement - it totally smells). This evening I didn't get too far, but I finally moved the old motor off the workbench and started cleaning up the frame. It took gobs of degreaser to clean up the rear of the frame and the swingarm, both those are coming along nicely. There are some little bits of rust on the frame, so I started brushing those out. I'm going to pick up some frame paint tomorrow. I'll probably need some more ship towels while I'm there as I went through a boatload this evening.

The frame is in pretty good shape so it was tempting to just starting bolting things back together to get back to a rolling chassis, but I want to do it right and fix everything up as I go. I figure a couple of nights spent doing it right will pay off in the end.

After I get the frame back together, I will need to rebuild my forks. They're in terrible shape. I'll have to get some new seals / fork oil for those guys. I haven't rebuilt forks before, so I hope it's not too much of a pain. I do have the shop manual for the bike, so at least I've got some direction / pictures to go by.

As part of the funding process, I'll be selling off the bits I don't need anymore (carb rebuild kits, the carbs themselves, the top-end gasket set etc). I'm going to hold onto the motor for a bit because it might have some handy pieces. I've already taken off the sprocket, but maybe I can use some other things. We'll see.

I'll snap some pics before I start work on it next time.

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