YOUNG MAN’S GAME
I’m your typical, 44-year-old male, mid-life crisis Harley owner. I have loved motorcycles all my life and my first ride was on a temperamental Kawasaki KR250. This was sold in order for me to get married at the tender age of 21. My next ride was my first Harley, a 2003 Fat Boy, when I turned the magical 40. This 100th anniversary Hog took my wife and I all over the southern part of Australia. We traded up in 2011 to a Road King but this story is not about a balding, slightly overweight 40-something banging on about ‘living the dream’.
This restoration story is the inspiration of my step-son, Thomas Colgan – a 14-year-old, athletic footballer who has a passion for anything in the aviation or motorcycle fields. It was over a lovely home-cooked chicken parma one night that he uttered the immortal words, “Oh yeah, I bought a dirt bike on eBay while I was at dad’s place.”
I calmly asked, “So, what did you buy?”
“A 1977 Honda CT125 farm bike.” I guess it could have been worse – he could have purchased an old Piper Cherokee aircraft with no props or wings…
We waited with anticipation on the day it arrived – Tom’s mum (Shauna) standing at the ready with the camera, dad (Danny Colgan) and step-dad (me) waiting impatiently. Off the ute it came. It was a true 1977 farm bike with authentic rust and decades of built-on grime and mud.
We positioned the bike in the driveway and I tentatively asked, “Well, does it run?”
“Oh yeah,” came the chorus of replies. Well, after at least half an hour of four men trying to kick it over, we finally gave up. The old Honda just said ‘no’.
We wheeled it into the ‘No car zone garage’ which houses a large TV, chesterfield couch and tub chair, my beloved 2011 Harley Road King and a collection of tools and other fine equipment that my wife doesn’t understand.
The next few months were a mad search on eBay trying to source parts for the old girl: a new carb, coil and battery were all on the list.
In another part of the puzzle, Thomas was trying to figure out how he wanted the bike to look once it was finally completed. He toyed with the idea of turning it into a café racer. For this transformation we needed new handlebars and a new seat. His second option was to restore it back to original. He finally settled on a scrambler look. This suited me as it meant less molestation of its original form. Although the bike had seen many a mile (and the inside of various sheds and barns), I still was hesitant about taking to it with the old 4in angle grinder.
Thomas proceeded to do away with the front guard and he painted the rear guard. He spent endless hours using fine-grade steel wool shining the chrome rims and the spokes. He took to the cylinder with the metal polish I use on the Harley, which really brought out the best in the alloy. We then set to it with the paint. We did some minor disassembly but it is amazing what can be achieved with patience and small artist brushes.
FIRE IN THE HOLE
Starting it was another issue. It had a new plug, clean tank, new carb, new coil and lead, and new oil – but still no go. We had a friend who spent Christmas Eve (thanks Al) working on it as Thomas’s Christmas gift. He got it going but it was still very intermittent.
We had done everything Thomas, the service manual and I could think of but to no avail. Danny then arranged to have the bike taken to a local dirt-bike mechanic.
During the bike’s time with him it was discovered that the el-cheapo, eBay carb was not worth the postage we paid to get it here from China. The mechanic created a carb from four different ones he had lying around.
On the first Saturday in February it came back. It was wheeled off the ute and, with the first kick, it gave that lovely ‘pop pop’ sound you get from a single-cylinder, four-stroke engine.
Thomas was rapt that all his hard work and patience had paid off. His project was complete and he had a bike that had been restored into a fine-looking, farm runabout. He now enjoys riding it regularly at a friend’s property.
If you ever have an opportunity to do a resto with a son (or step-son, in my case), don’t pass it up. We had arguments, disagreements and did many hours of research. We spent countless hours cleaning, polishing and painting it and it was worth every second – even the times when my foot slipped off the kick starter and it sprung back into my shin.
Now we’ve come to the hard bit: what do we get next?