Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Shop

The shop is an actual shop. Up until now its been a section of a building in an industrial park less than a mile from my house. No, the shop doesn't belong to me but its a kind of hangout for a few guys. Better than any bar and chock full of tools. The Shop has been owned by my friend Loren for the last year or so. The rent was cheap and he set the place up very nicely.

Loren started the shop as sort of a giant hobby room in which to work on his ever changing assortment of snowmobiles and motorcycles. He's got antique sleds and bikes dating from the seventies. Two stroke engines are what he loves.

I've done some very minor work on my own things there but mostly it was a place to hang out and talk about anything that came to mind. Motorcycle design, parts he's made to fit a certain need. Snowmobiles especially. Scorpions are his favorite. He's got a couple of those too.

There's a Yamaha Riva 180 waiting for a variator and rollers there. A CT70(?) and some other ancient red 65cc or 90cc Honda. Cool bikes. He gets them in trade for work he's done for people fixing their everyday rides. People want new everything so they give Loren what they think is pretty much useless and within a short time he's got some early seventies small displacement machine running smoothly again. Its fun to ride them and see what it was like when these were the only machines people had to choose from. Back then it seemed bikes were designed around real world needs intead of looking or riding like they were track bound. To me they were more honest in that fashion. You can see it today in the insanely fast sport bikes and dirt machines. Ya gotta look like a pro. Credibility on the street is all about appearance.

Maybe its why the market for cruisers is so huge. You get to sit on your bike in a very normal almost ergonomic position. People do what they have to in order to ride and they'll take the best they can find. I wonder if another standard four hundred cc Japanese motorcycle would stand a a chance in today's market. Would people accept it?

When I look around Loren's shop its a very different history lesson. We always hear about the venerable Honda CB750. A motorcycle which ushered in a new era in motorcycling. But while the magazines and that guy down the street were singing its praises, many models were still in use and variants appeared right along side the CB. There were large displacement two strokes like the H1 and 2 by Kawasaki. These machines tipped the displacement scales at around 750cc's. Huge in those days. But people were still riding and loving the little screamers. They were just fun.

Loren constantly has offers to take some small displacement UJM from someone's barn or shed and he gladly does every time. By today's standards the way they ride is definitely timeworn but at least he's getting them rideworthy again. Back on the road to someone whose been hoping to reconnect with something they remember.

The shop is going away at the end of this month. To be seperated into storage units and Loren's garage. It's taken a tremendous amount of time away from his riding both his sleds and his bikes. Not to mention some of his family time. You just don't get those things back.

The Roadbum


Bryce said...

Sounds like a great shop. While the UJM has often been decried, there were still a number of standard bikes, and not of ridiculously big displacements or heft.

Would a 400cc standard bike sell like gang busters? Probably not, but I could see some standards in a 500-650 displacement work. The Yamaha MT-03 might sell well here. Its big brother MT-01 would probably do better, but the MT-03 is quite cool. Here's the problem: the Suzuki SV650 weighs 20lb less and makes about 22 more hp from 15cc less. On paper, it's going to be a better performer. The SV is the closest thing to a standard bike presently available.

On paper performance is one of the biggest industry issues these days. If you're not Harley Davidson, your on paper performance is everything. It's one of the reasons sport bikes are so beloved. They offer sky high levels of performance, far in excess of what the average rider can handle. Despite that, the manufacturers are constantly competing to create faster, lighter and better performing bikes.

Having the bike that's winning races on the track is a distinction that goes back decades. Back in the day though, the racing version and street version were not identical. The racing version was so heavily modified compared to the street version. Homologation has changed the nature street motorcycles quite a bit.

Sarch said...

How cool. I can just picture this place.

I have absolutely NO mechanical ability or knowhow but I sure do respect you folks who do. I'm hoping that one of these days I'll get the opportunity to learn more about the workings of these beasts I so love to ride!

American Scooterist Blog said...

Bryce, you make some great points. Especially about the sportbike market. I'd really like to see the Honda four hundred retro come to our shores. If it were marketed well I think it has the potential of introducing a new generation to street riding. The Yamaha MT-03 is a hot little machine. If Yamaha brought it here I think it could start a trend. At least its what I would like to see.
Sarch, it starts with the most basic maintenance and patience with oneself. The standard kit that comes with most bikes is valuable. It gets the owner started. Once confidence is built its a matter of understanding who things come apart and come back together. I have no doubt you could get involved in the basics and see if you're interested in going from there. The idea is to look at is as a learning experience and not to get down on yourself if things don't go exactly as planned. Creativity in thinking things through helps the emotional condition ie frustration with things that don't seem as straight forward as you thought. WHen you're ready, give it a shot. Maybe with someone to help along. You'll be fine.

The Roadbum