After riding my middleweight sport standard bike(Kawasaki Ninja 650R) for a year and several thousand miles, I decided it was time to start looking for my target bike. When I decided to get my motorcycle license, I went to the NY International Motorcycle Show to get a feel for what's out there.
With the abundance of Japanese bikes on the road, I wanted something different. I shied away from Ducati as they are considered the exotics and generally expensive to buy and own. As a result, I was drawn to the 2011-2012 Triumph Daytona 675. More specifically the R model with pearl white/black paint, with red subframe and full Ohlins suspension. The British bike had a different feel and sound compared to the sea of Japanese supersports normally found on the road. The 675cc inline three cylinder engine has a very unique and addictive sound. Its a symphony incorporating the smoothness of a Japanese inline 4 and the deep tone of a twin cylinder with an intake whistling that sounds like a jet turbine engine. I was hooked.
When it came time to find a used Daytona, I had trouble locating a reasonable priced example. Andres happened to stumble on a Craigslist ad for a 9k mile 2008 Ducati 1098 Superbike well within my price range and only 50 miles away. Although I was in the market for a middleweight 600cc supersport, I was cautiously excited to check out the big 1098cc superbike.
I admit I was sold as soon as I saw it. If you haven't been around a Ducati Superbike before, I promise the oozing presence of the bike will stay with you forever. The beautiful curves, Ducati red, ginormous twin undertail exhaust that twists around under the seat, and single sided swingarm add up to arguably one of the most visually appealing bikes ever made. Add in the rattle of the exposed dry clutch and the unique roaring exhaust note that reverberates through your body and its an unforgettable experience. This was purely a purchase of passion and I just got lucky it turned out well.
On to the questionably low price. The bike wasn't perfect but I saw the potential. Mechanically the bike was fine. The bike sat for a year which was fine because I planned to do a oil, coolant, and timing belt change immediately. Unfortunately, the bike had a salvage title. Apparently some kids went on a rampage in the seller's town and vandalized vehicles and property. Sadly, they keyed the nose, left side fairing, tail on both sides and top & sides of the fuel tank. Due to the cost to repair the damage and a nick(not through he primer) on the left side of the frame, the bike was deemed totaled. I confirmed with my insurance that the would insure it and it was valued at more than the selling price even with a rebuilt title. We had a deal and she was coming home.
Things are progressing quickly with the 750 build. After a bit of cleaning, we got the motor into the frame. We're not particularly strong people so we flipped the motor onto its side(I knew the moving pallet would come in handy) and lowered the frame onto the motor. Once it was bolted into the frame, the entire assembly was easier to lift up.
I picked up a rear wheel for a 2002 GSXR-600 for $40 from a salvage company in Hampton, NJ. I went out on a Friday night to meet the guy and pick up the wheel in person. He accidentally gave me the wrong address (142 instead of 172). It was pitch black outside and the address took me to a very dark church parking lot. Yes, it was mad creepy and felt like the beginning to a very bad horror movie. The thought did cross my mind that the guy may have lured me out there to kill/rob me. Thankfully, he realized he gave me the wrong address.
I received a very nice blue wheel with a dent in it from a pothole. I'm not worried about the dent because I just needed the hub design so I can have a custom laced hub machined. I didn't realize he was including the tire, sprocket assembly, spacers, and brake rotor. Those were the last pieces I can cross off my list for the rear of the bike.
I mocked up the rear swingarm and wheel assembly to make sure it will sit centered in the frame and the front and rear sprockets will line up without hitting the frame. Once everything looked ok, I sent the rear wheel out to be reverse engineered. Hopefully it only takes a few weeks to complete. Until then, I will continue mocking up ideas and finish painting/rebuilding the carburetors.
Plans for Mk1 was always a mix of old and new. I wanted the old school frame and simple kickstart/air-cooled engine combined with modern electronics, suspension, and brakes. In other words, I wanted a bike with an attitude from the past in a package that will brake and handle without killing me.
On the way to my parent's house in PA for Thanskgiving, I stopped to meet a guy who runs a motorcycle salvage yard. I picked up a cheap set of front forks, triple tree, and brakes from a 2006 Yamaha R1 and a boxed aluminum swingarm from a 2002 Suzuki GSXR-600. I did some measuring and knew some custom fabrication would be needed but I should be able to handle it. More on this later. For now, the bike will be a mix of Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha. I may need to find some Kawasaki parts that would work to complete the incorporation of major Japanese motorcycle brands.
On another note, I purchased a used 1974 SOHC engine from Ohio which arrived on December 3rd! No starter, or side covers were included but I will be running kickstart only and can salvage the side covers from the trashed engine. This one was definitely cleaner and I confirmed good compression from 3 of the cylinders. #2 was a little low but I think the valves are pretty dirty and may have been hindering compression. I'll know more once I get some oil in it.
Day 2 of the build and I ran into my first major hurdle. I had inventoried the parts bins and separate the usable parts. There were a lot of unrecognizable and rusted out parts. Rust was expected on parts and fittings from 1974. However, I also found a significant quantity of sand in some of the bags.
To continue my investigation of the source of sand, I began to tear down the engine. As soon as I had the valve cover off, my suspicions were confirmed. Hurricane Sandy. Remember, I purchased this pile of bike on the south shore of Long Island. As I pulled the cylinder head off, sand and water began to pour out. Cylinder 1 was packed with sand and the pistons were seized. I removed the side covers and oil pump cover, releasing even more water and sand. Its no wonder the engine was suspiciously heavy when we picked it up. I may be able to salvage the lower cases, transmission, and crank for a later engine build but the rest is toast!
Luckily I found a used motor with good compression in Ohio...
After modding my Cobra, Ninja 650r and Ducati 1098, I decided it was time to do a complete build. I've always wanted a 4 cylinder bike and build/own a cafe racer, so why not start now.
On November 21st, I picked up a 1974 Honda CB750k from a bike builder in Massapequa, NY for $250. Why so cheap? Well, it didn't resemble a bike at all. The bike was a bare frame, 2 crates of parts, a front wheel, rack of carbs, and a very heavy motor sitting on the ground. Even without all the extras and motor in unknown condition, $250 for a clean titled frame is a pretty good deal. It is officially the oldest thing I've ever bought.
The seller was a great guy with a big personality and way too many stories to tell. After BSing for a bit, Allan and Andres helped me load everything into the back of Andres' SUV. We had a quick celebratory lunch in Freeport before heading back to NJ in excitement.
Andres acquired a fiberboard pallet from a friend to ship a Ducati 998 motor he sold. We decided to test its strength with the CB750 motor. As we unloaded the motor, the pallet snapped in half. The motor somehow ended up on the moving dolly we prepped, Andres was screaming from a squashed finger and I somehow got knocked flat on my back. We're not the most graceful people. =D
We moved the pile of bike into the garage and began to dream of the possibilities. It's going to be a fun winter. =)
Planting the Seeds of Speed
I guess it all started with my obsession to become a fighter pilot growing up. My father worked at Northrop Grumman(just Grumman at the time) so I had a healthy exposure to military aircraft. Being a naturally curious person, I would study photos, cross sections, and specs of various aircraft to figure out how each component worked together to make an effective and efficient machine. Mind you, I started this obsession in elementary school where most kids my age were playing video games. I learned the basics of flight controls in fixed wing and rotary aircraft and even aerodymic heories such as bernoullis principle which makes flight possible. The dream of flying, breaking the sound barrier and pulling high g turns was burned into my brain.
Then came the crushing news in 2nd grade that I needed to wear glasses. Laser eye surgery did not exist at the time and I knew my eye sight would never be good enough for the military, where most pilots have better than 20/20 vision. The dream was crushed but remnants always remained. This only further fueled my obsession of figuring out the way things work. I went on to study more aircraft, spacecraft, cars, boats, motorcycles, guns, and even construction vehicles.
Beauty in the Details
There is a beauty in every machine. This beauty may not be visible from the outside but in the way parts/components are designed and created to interact with each other in a complex but perfectly timed series of events. A good example of this a car's internal combustion engine where the basic operations of suck, squeeze, bang, & blow turn air and fuel into motion. Of course that is a simplified and not very glorious description. The beauty is in the details of how precisely machined valves open and close, spark plugs fire, and injectors/carburetors distribute the right amount of fuel all at precise moments to turn chemistry into motion.
Many of you know me for my obsession with tinkering. I've have been a tinkerer as far back as I can remember. I think started when I was about 2 years old when my parents caught me on camera taking apart a remote controlled car and attempting to put it back together. Additionally, at a young age my father would have me help him with house maintenance/upgrades(construction, plumbing, electrical) and car maintenance. I would reluctantly sit there watching and handing him tools while jealous that my older brother was playing. Little did I know, I was learning valuable and rare life skills/knowledge for the future.