MC Dispatch
Reader-submitted rides, reviews and stories

The Sea Beast Saga, Part 5: Oh What a Body!

As I write, Fast & Safe Roadracing School is 16 days away and approaching like a rock flung towards my face shield from the wheels of an 18-wheeler on I-70. There’s no way I’ll dodge it, so I’m glad I’ve prepared. While it hasn’t always gone smoothly, things have progressed to a point where I have a bike I’ve actually ridden, and I have at least a modicum of confidence that it will carry me around the track a couple times.

Last Sunday I thought I was a goner. After about 10 hours in the garage on Saturday, I believed I had a rideable motorcycle. I had started the engine a month or so prior, so I knew it ran. It had brakes. Fuel delivery was in place. I cleared a path from the back of my garage to the front, and I pushed the bike out into the parking lot. I ran down the checklist: fuel, ignition, neutral, engine, choke, clutch. I pushed the starter button and the Sea Beast roared to life beneath me. I clicked it into first gear, eased out the clutch, and took off! Fifty feet later, it died. Not a fantastic maiden voyage. I pushed the bike back to the garage, checked the petcock, plug wires, switches, etc., and found nothing amiss. I pushed the starter button again and BANG! It backfired louder than I’ve ever heard a machine backfire. Certain that the police were en route in response to a gunfire call, I closed the garage door and went to bed.

First thing Sunday morning I got back to work. I texted Motorcycle Classics Tech Editor Keith Fellenstein and described the situation. He patiently ran down a list of possibilities, which one by one I eliminated. When Keith showed up to offer in-person assistance, he found a very dejected Shane Powers cleaning the garage and organizing tools. “If you ever come in here and it’s really clean,” I told him, “things aren’t going very well mechanically.” As Keith worked through things, I faced the currently very real prospect that I would have to publish a blog for everyone I know, and thousands of people I don’t know, to read. The contents of that blog would boil down to two words: “I failed.” The issue was discovered in the spark advance mechanism. I had failed to properly tighten the bolt, which allowed the pin that keys the cam to the spark advance plate to fall into the plate. After that was righted, the bike ran well once again, and I was yanked from the depths of despair.

This entire project has been a learning experience for me, and the past month was no different. If you’ve been following this series, you’ll recall that in the second installment, The Sea Beast Saga, Part 2: I Need Help, I learned that wheel building is a difficult task for a first-timer. This month’s “that could have come out better” moments were experienced while I tried my hand at body work. Put on your chemical and dust particle respirator and I’ll show you what I’ve done.

Shane Powers with a chemical respirator
Safety third.

First up, and prettiest, is the fuel tank. My tank came from the K3 model that I picked up in Wisconsin. It was ugly; sun washed and dented. I started by removing all the old paint with a can of Aircraft Remover and wood shim as a scraper. Once I had a clean metal surface, I bought a can of body filler. I filled the dents and I filled the holes where the badges had been affixed. I did my best to smooth the filler and match the contours of the tank, then I sanded. And sanded. Then I sanded some more. After a couple rounds of filling, smoothing and sanding, I was satisfied. I won’t be winning any concours awards, but from 10 feet or at 80 miles per hour, the tank looks good. I sprayed some primer, then a few coats of white paint. Growing older and wiser, I opted for a cheap can of paint and spent my money on a 2-stage aerosol clear coat. So far that seems to have been the right choice, the end result looks decent and didn’t strip immediately off when I spilled gas all over it.

Fuel tank
The tank, in progress.

Riding high on the “success” of having a passable fuel tank, I started work on my belly pan. Like body filler, fiberglass is a product I’ve never worked with before. I can see myself fabricating other things from fiberglass in the future, but I’m a far cry from “a natural,” and beginner’s luck was nowhere to be seen. You’ll notice in the photos of the “finished” bike that it isn’t wearing its belly pan. There’s a reason for that. That reason is that while the belly pan I built does hold water, and therefore will serve its intended function, it looks like my son made it in the paper mache unit of his third grade art class. Blindfolded. I’m going to need to do a little more work on it before I can attach my name to it and allow anyone else to see it. Even then, I hope my sponsors sent big enough stickers to completely cover it.

Belly pan
This isn’t going to end well.

After the gas tank and belly pan, the only body left to worry about is my own! I guess a true DIY-or-die racer would get out his sewing machine and get to work. However, like wheel building, I thought race leathers would be best done by an expert. Who more expert than Vanson Leathers to fill my racing needs? Not unlike my wheel building experience, these experts delivered, literally! I recently received a box containing 11 pounds of American-made leather race suit that is so perfectly stitched and so well fitted that my coworkers might need to get used to seeing me wearing it at the coffee pot!

Shane Powers with his racing leathers
My amazing new leathers.

A month of learning, a month of soaring highs and crushing lows, a month of new things and problem solving. While sometimes stressful, this bike building thing is definitely something I can get behind. The writing has been fun too. Unfortunately, this is blog number five in a six-part series. I have some loose ends to tie up before tech inspection, but I leave you with this photo of a “finished” bike. I hope you’ll come join us for a weekend of great AHRMA racing, June 29-30, but if you can’t make it, check back next month for the full race report!

The Sea Beast
The finished Sea Beast.

"Sea Beast" Parts Suppliers

Buchanan's Spoke & Rim Charlie's Place Dime City Cycles
EPM Performance Imports Moto Services Race Tech
R/D Valve Springs Rick's Motorsport Electrics Shinko Motorcycle Tires
Spectro Performance Oils Vanson Leathers Z1 Enterprises


The Sea Beast Saga, Part 4: Better, Faster, Stronger

Timing the Charlie's Place electronic ignition.

Since I started the project of reviving an extremely tired Honda CB350, many literary and pop culture references have been used to describe the process. Is this a Cronenberg creation? Negative. I’ve always preferred the Vincent Price film from the 1950s over Cronenberg’s Fly. Is it a Frankenstein? It could be. Much of the original material did resemble something long deceased that had recently been dug up from a hole in the ground. In spite of my best intentions, the results could also prove deadly, but my aspirations have always been more elegant than the stitched-together, inarticulate monster created by Dr. Frankenstein. I’ve always thought of the Sea Beast more akin to Steve Austin, the astronaut turned bionic secret agent from the 1970s. In fact, if you’re an Instagram user, you’ll find a lot of photos posted under the hashtag #sixmilliondollarmotorcycle. Feel free to follow me, @shanepwrs, as well.

A proper "before" photo of the forks wasn't taken.

Be it Cronenberg, be it Frankenstein, or be it ultra-powerful bionic conglomeration, the Sea Beast has undoubtedly become better, faster and stronger over the course of the last three months. The work has been far from all on my own. While I’ve spent many long hours and late nights moving this project to where it is today, I have to give credit to my friends and sponsors, some of whom may not have known exactly what they were signing up for. I’ve not yet ridden the bike, but I have started it, and it really hums! The Charlie’s Place ignition was a breeze to install and time, and in conjunction with the Rick’s Motorsport Electrics Hot Shot Starter Motor, there wasn’t even a “cranking” process. As soon as power was supplied to the engine, it fired right up and idled beautifully.

Race Tech did a bang-up job breathing new life into the forks.

The shiny parts from Dime City Cycles, like the Old School Speed rearsets, MAC 2-into-2 exhaust and clubman bars deserve a nod for aesthetically transforming the bike from boat anchor to race contender. There aren’t enough words to describe how impressed I’ve been with this transformation, but the “What Did I Get Into” award has to be given in duplicate to Race Tech and Moto Services. Race Tech encouraged me to source a pair of the superior internal-spring forks from the later versions of the CB, but for a few different reasons, I wanted to work with the forks that came off the original bike. I had already procured new fork tubes, plus, they were the forks that came off the original bike! At a cost of $179.99, Race Tech made custom springs for my early CB forks and I couldn’t be more pleased with the end result. Moto Services encouraged me to throw my carburetors back in the lake, or sell them for scrap and use the proceeds as a down payment on something that might be capable of delivering fuel to my engine. After much pleading on my part, Matt did a bang-up job of rebuilding the carburetors. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’m going to keep this installment of the Sea Beast Saga short and sweet, bolstered by the before and after photos of the forks, restored by Race Tech, and the carburetors, painstakingly cleaned, rebuilt and re-jetted by Moto Services.

Refreshed forks, ready for installation.

I know this might read like my acceptance speech for a “Next to Impossible Project” completion award, but a lot of work remains! With a little over six weeks to see this thing through to completion, I’m keeping my nose to the grindstone and my eyes on the prize. I hope to see you at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas, for the AHRMA race, June 29-30!

The carburetor cores were about as bad as they could get.

Moto Services performed miracles on these carburetors.

Carbs after assembly.

"Sea Beast" Parts Suppliers

Buchanan's Spoke & Rim Charlie's Place Dime City Cycles
EPM Performance Imports Moto Services Race Tech
R/D Valve Springs Rick's Motorsport Electrics Shinko Motorcycle Tires
Spectro Performance Oils Vanson Leathers Z1 Enterprises


The Aermacchi Project, Part 6: In Which the Motorcycle Angels Come Through

Margie Siegal's mystery tool
Hallelujah! The mystery tool works!

This is the sixth installment of a series detailing Margie Siegal's restoration of a 1973 Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint. Start at the beginning with Part 1.

“There's a special cherub for motor-cyclists.”

— Dorothy Sayers, The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag*

The top end back together, it's time to start in on the clutch. As delivered, the clutch took two hands to operate. Some of the problem had to do with the clutch cable, which was stuck in the housing, so I ordered a new clutch cable. Yes, Virginia, you can just call or email and mail order businesses will send you Aermacchi parts. Parts are available because all these folks are out racing Aermacchis. This is why you should support vintage racing.

Figuring the clutch cable was only part of the problem, I got out the service manual. The service manual says to take off the cover (not a problem, no rusty bolts) and then use your Special Tool No. 94670-66P to unscrew the five spring holders. After a little calling around I find out that there are five Special Tool No. 94670-66P in existence, each one owned by a crack shot with a bad temper. It's obvious that my chances of getting one of these things is about as good as finding a live passenger pigeon.

Margie Siegal's mystery tool
The mystery tool — found in a can of other mystery tools.

I ask Leslie of Pro Italia for suggestions. He says to get out my Dremel tool and cut a slot in the center bolt so I can use a big screwdriver to loosen the spring holders. I was not looking forward to this, but located a promising screwdriver and figured I would practice on some extra bolts that were laying around. I started looking for bolts ... and saw a can on a shelf with some odd tools sticking out.

One of those tools looked to be the right size and shape to unscrew those spring caps. Will it work?

Excited, I pulled out the tool. It needed a handle, easily supplied by clamping down on one end with a Vise-Grip. I uttered a short prayer to my Special Cherub (riding through the clouds) and put the tool on one spring holder. IT WORKED. I thanked my Special Cherub (who waved and hit the throttle) and loosened up all five spring holders. The square center part was just the right size for a 10mm wrench. Hallelujah.

Margie Siegal's mystery tool
Will the mystery tool work?

I have no idea what the tool is or how it got in the can. Asking around, it is apparently used to work sheet metal. If you have a later model Sprint (the earlier ones had a different clutch) you might check a sheet metal supply house for your very own Mystery Clutch Tool.

I carefully ease the springs out, put them in a Ziploc bag, and pull off the face plate. The inside of the clutch is sticky with oil. Isn't the Sprint clutch supposed to be dry? I leave a message for Pro Italia. Leslie calls me back. Yes, the clutch is supposed to be dry, and the seal between the clutch and the primary case has apparently let go. He has seals and O-rings (again, thanks to the Aermacchi Classic Racing Team) but first I have to get the clutch basket out, which may require more Special Tools. Yet another hurdle, but I will get through it. Where is that cherub when I need her?

*Excellent mystery story from the 1930s, which starts with a road race between a Norton and a Scott Flying Squirrel.

The Aermacchi Project, Part 5: Fear of Plating

Left side of the engine
The cylinder head is on!

This is the fifth installment of a series detailing Margie Siegal's restoration of a 1973 Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint. Start at the beginning with Part 1.

When motorcycles were invented in the 1890s, the manufacturers nickel plated some parts. Chrome plating came in the early 1930s. At some point during this journey, motorcyclists started taking parts of their bikes to plating shops to fix or upgrade the shiny stuff. Shortly afterwards, motorcyclists started trading plating shop horror stories.

Most people who repair or own old bikes have heard these stories. The plating shop that lost original, irreplaceable 75-year-old parts worth a few zillion dollars and tried to pretend they had never taken them in in the first place. The plating shop that buffed out the logo stamped on the parts — important to verify authenticity. The plating shop that estimated turnaround time as three weeks that somehow stretched into three months and then wanted triple the estimate.

Right side of the engine
Right side, showing the teeny tiny cutouts around the cylinder head bolts.

The exhaust system that came with the Sprint I am restoring was pretty crusty and the shorty mufflers were not only not stock and loud, but also ugly. I was lucky enough to locate a decent stock 1-into-2 exhaust and two stock mufflers (Thanks, Brad, and best of luck racing this year!) but they weren't perfect and needed a rechrome.

Scared by all the stories, I started asking around. Most people who restore bikes have a favorite chrome shop that they may or may not share the name of, like society ladies who go to a special hairdresser. Luckily, one of the guys in the Norton Club has a good connection with a chrome shop and was going to send some of his own parts out, so we combined the order. When my exhaust system comes back, I will let you know how it went. I am not disclosing the name of the shop until then. Don't tell anyone, this is just between us.

Famous last words: “Just bolt it together.” I successfully cleaned up the rusty bolt that had held the head onto the engine, got the head back from the machine shop, put the rocker boxes together and was finally ready to put the head assembly back on the motor. Friends said, “Great — just bolt it together.” First, there was this little problem of positioning the pushrods. I read the instructions. The service manual helpfully explained that the pushrods go up the tunnel on the right side of the head, the inside one is the intake rod, and I should leave enough space between the head and the barrel for a pair of needle nose pliers so I could position the pushrods in the little cups at the bottom end of the valve adjusters before pushing the head all the way back on the head bolts.

Rusty bolt
After photo, head bolt cleaned up nice!

I tried. I really did. Getting the pushrods positioned with pliers was just not going to work. I gave up after an hour, fantasized serious injury to the jerk who wrote the service manual, and started emailing for help. Several people suggested I make a little thingamajig with wire. I couldn’t immediately find the right kind of wire, but I did find some stiff cord. I cut two pieces a foot and a half long, looped them around the pushrods and started carefully moving the rods with the cord. A long, thin screwdriver helped with pushrod herding. Those rods did NOT want to go where they were supposed to go, but I finally convinced both of them to get in there.

Corralling the pushrods and making them get into the adjusters took work. They did not want to get in there!

Pushrods in place, I got out my torque wrench and started in on the head bolts. I found that if I took the rocker box end caps off, I could get a 17mm socket on the left side bolts. The right side bolts are in these little caves and barely accessible with my ground down special wrench. I torqued the left side, guesstimated the right side and decided to quit while I was ahead.

Requiem for a Rust Pile: The Sea Beast Prequel

Honda frame
Deconstruction of the Sea Beast complete.

Since the proclamation of my intentions to become an AHRMA racer, time seems to have slipped into overdrive. My to-do list gets longer, but more specific, all the time, and I frequently find myself taking meals (read: snacks) in the garage. Nitrile gloves serve to protect my food from my greasy hands.

In the inaugural post of this series, I Am a Racer, This is My Machine, I outlined the series of events that lead to my being in possession of three CB350s, and my subsequent decision to race the amalgamation of those motorcycles. However, as noted in that post, two years had passed between the acquisition of the first bike and my invitation to the world to come into my garage (via the internet, of course) and see how a vintage race bike is built. While that process is most assuredly moving towards a raucous conclusion, I thought it would be prudent, if not interesting, to take a step back in time and examine the two years following the initial purchase, during which I polished my skills with a drill and easy-out set, and made up myriad new swears. At this point you might be protesting “But, Mr. Peabody …” but I can’t hear you, so into The Wayback Machine we go.

Rusted motorcycle parts
Just a little bit of rust.

Despite being uninitiated and possessed of only intermediate mechanical aptitude, I understood that complete disassembly of one or more of my project motorcycles was in order. The thought process was that I would remove every removable part of the original bike, and then replace what was lost, ruined or never present with bits from the two donor bikes. So far this model has served me relatively well despite the lack of appreciation I once had for cataloging. At this point I would like to interject a piece of advice for anyone considering undertaking a project like this for the first time: catalog everything. Take photos, take notes, take your time. If a screw or bolt is broken or has to be drilled, photograph it, measure it, note its home. I did not perform this step efficiently and it has bitten me 95 percent of the times it has resurfaced. Hear me now, or hear me again later as the echoing voice of I Told You So in your head.

Removing paint from Honda frame
The frame, partway through removing the paint.

The destruction of a motorcycle can loosely be broken into two categories; engine and chassis. I started by separating the engine from the chassis and assessing its worth. Finding essentially none, I began heavy-handedly disassembling the seized hunk of metal from the top down. Inside the cam box was a serviceable camshaft, four rocker arms and four rocker arm pins. I cut the old cam chain to get it out of the way and allow proper removal of the camshaft. Under the cam box lies the cylinder head. All three bikes ended up having some kind of issue that would make their heads difficult or expensive to use. I sourced what my machinist would later describe as a good core online for $25 + shipping. I was able to collectively harvest four serviceable valves from my donor engines, the R/D Valve Springs beehive spring set rounding out a complete head. The cylinders proved formidable opponents. As I’ve said, the pistons were seized in the bore in an unknown fashion for an indeterminate period of time. I tried prying, I tried hammering, I tried soaking, I tried pleading, I tried a bigger hammer, I tried drilling holes in the top of the pistons and I tried fire. Finding none of these effective, I acted out of desperation … and it worked! I procured a hole saw of the highest quality readily available in a size slightly smaller than the bore, and I procured a jug of cutting oil. Using extreme caution as to not wreck the cylinder walls, I began boring into the rusted pistons. Eventually they were released from their bonds and I was yielded a pair of cylinders for my efforts that my machinist was able to clean up and bore over. Finally, I split the crankcase halves and inspected and cleaned its contents. This was a really fun process for me; I now have a deeper understanding of how the engine and transmission function.

Honda frame being inspected
The CB frame, brought to the office for inspection.

Before beginning reassembly, I hauled all the engine components to the Motorcycle Classics garage and put them through our Skat Cat 40 blast cabinet. I blasted the exterior surfaces of everything with the Skat Magic Abrasive crushed glass media; it gave all the aluminum a matte finish that I find very attractive. Different media will produce different finish results. A would-be blaster of engine components should also choose their media wisely as crushed glass remnants are just about the absolute last thing you want your engine to be full of! They can block oil passages, score machined steel surfaces and wreak indescribable havoc if not completely removed during the post-blast cleaning process. Once I was certain that any vestiges of crushed glass had been removed, I began reassembling the engine with fresh gaskets, seals and copious quantities of assembly lube.

Engine part on fire
Fire, because why not try it?

The chassis didn’t leave much to be salvaged; you have presumably seen the wheels, and soon you will see the forks that have been rejuvenated by Race Tech. Since AHRMA regulations for the Production Lightweight class I will be racing mandate the use of a stock seat pan, I will try to breathe new life into one of my seats. With a little elbow grease, I believe I can also salvage one of my fuel tanks. All lights and non-essential chassis pieces were eliminated, and the difference is being replaced with new parts. The frame was stripped of all its paint so the bare metal could be evaluated and certified free of cracks. The down tubes of these bikes tend to hold water in the bend at the front of the engine cradle, and as such, my frame had rusted through. A local welder was able to inexpensively repair the hole and paint prep began. Since at this point in time this was still a hobby project, I decided to have fun with the design aspect. I visited a local automotive paint supply store, where I pored over swatches until I determined the color of my frame was to be “Milk Tea Pearl.” I simultaneously grossly underestimated how much paint would be required, while also grossly underestimating the cost of packaging high-end automotive grade paint into rattle cans. Two to three visits to that paint store, and roughly $150 later, I have a paint job I’m pretty proud of. If I had this to do again, I would either rattle can it black with $10 of Rust-Oleum or pay for professional powder coating. I’m here making these mistakes so you don’t have to.

Damaged piston
The cut piston.

There it is, two years of my efforts reduced to a few minutes of reading. I’m very excited about the state of the bike and I can’t wait to share it with you in a few weeks! Keep your eyes peeled for the next blog, and maybe a bonus video of the first start of the engine. If you haven’t already, mark your calendar for the Topeka, Kansas, AHRMA race, June 28-30, at Heartland Motorsports Park. See you there!

Engine case
The engine case, empty and clean.

Honda transmission
The transmission, going back together.

"Sea Beast" Parts Suppliers

Buchanan's Spoke & Rim Charlie's Place Dime City Cycles
EPM Performance Imports Moto Services Race Tech
R/D Valve Springs Rick's Motorsport Electrics Shinko Motorcycle Tires
Spectro Performance Oils Vanson Leathers Z1 Enterprises


The Sea Beast Saga, Part 2: I Need Help

Shane Powers and his Honda CB350
The CB350 at Barber, being pushed out of the swap meet, aka back when I still had the arrogance of the uninitiated. All photos courtesy Shane Powers.

In the first installment of the tale of Sea Beast, a name that actually refers to three motorcycles melding into one, I listed my assets. Among those assets were “intermediate mechanical aptitude” and “the arrogance of the uninitiated,” both of which have come into play in the time elapsed since that post was written. My intermediate mechanical aptitude enabled me to install the new steering bearings that were but a tiny part of a very large box I received from Dime City Cycles. My intermediate mechanical aptitude enabled me to lube and install the newly painted rear swingarm, after inspecting the bushings, of course. My intermediate mechanical aptitude proved itself to be a true asset.

The value of the arrogance of the uninitiated has recently been called into question. This arrogance was originally listed as an asset because I think a certain degree of hubris is required to tackle a project as ambitious as reviving a pile of rusty bits and bolts into a race-worthy machine in under six months. It didn’t take long, however, for that arrogance to land me in my first truly sticky situation of the build.

Honda CB350 swingarm
Actual progress: The swingarm installed, with freshly lubed bushings.

YouTube is an incredible resource to an uninitiated race mechanic of intermediate aptitude. Especially for a bike as common as the CB350, there is a wealth of instruction for performing mechanical tasks from simple routine maintenance procedures all the way down to crankcase reassembly. There are even a few videos about wheel building. These got me into trouble.

The process of tearing down the wheels was relatively straightforward; remove the tire, rim strip, and spoke nipples, then slide all the spokes out of their homes in the hub. After a trip across the wire wheel, the spokes and nipples were ready to be laced back into the freshly polished hub and hoop. Lacing a wheel is a task very akin to a puzzle, and as far as I’m aware, there’s only one “right” way to do it. I won’t claim to have laced the first wheel properly on my first attempt, but with thought, patience and attention, I eventually found myself standing over a pair of rims that looked suspiciously like a fancier version of the rims I had deconstructed.

Honda CB350 steering stem
Steering stem reinstalled, complete with new bearings from Dime City Cycles.

The final step in building a wheel is truing. A well-trued wheel is within a couple hundredths of an inch (.02 inch) of being perfectly round, with the same amount of side-to-side variance. The hub will be perfectly centered and the spokes will be properly tensioned. The wheel builders on YouTube assured me that by applying the same patience that yielded me a laced rim, I could achieve this perfect balance as well. I visited my local Harbor Freight, where I purchased a wheel balancing stand. I borrowed a set of spoke wrenches, one of which was expressly designed to torque the spokes to the recommended 4 foot-pounds. After roughly 10 hours of tightening spokes, loosening spokes and spinning the wheel on the stand while staring at a tiny gap between wheel and stand pointer which I hoped would even out and disappear … I found myself frustrated and ultimately not much closer to having a true wheel than I was when I began.

I needed help. I needed a professional wheel builder. I needed Buchanan’s. I phoned the famed wheel experts and explained what I had gotten myself into. “YouTube told me if I was patient that I could pull it off!” This elicited a little chuckle from Robert Buchanan, who has most likely built more wheels than I’ve lived days. “Not your first one!” he told me, “You’ve got to do 30 or 40 before it clicks. I remember the first time I got it …” Maybe Robert was just trying to make me feel better about having to swallow my pride and ask for help, but it worked. I boxed up my bungled wheels and shipped them to Azusa, California, where they could be attended to by someone with stronger credentials than “I watched a couple YouTube videos.” Once the team at Buchanan’s has set my wheels straight, so to speak, they will ship them on to Race Tech for brake arcing. After that, they will return home to be outfitted with a pair of Shinko 712 Series tires and installed onto the motorcycle.

Honda CB350 wheel
Though it looks like a finished wheel, that would be untrue.

While I was boxing parts, swallowing pride and enlisting professional help, I went ahead and packaged the four carburetors I had harvested from the three bikes (one bike came sans carbs) and shipped them to Matt at Moto Services, asking him to please do what he could with them to yield me a pair of functional carbs. Finally, I boxed my forks and shipped them out to Race Tech in Corona, California, where they will be outfitted with new springs and seals.

As parts continue to trickle in, and as June draws nearer every day, I’m feeling confident, though slightly more initiated and slightly less arrogant, that when race day arrives the machine will be ready to do what race bikes do. Keep an eye on this project, and don’t forget to mark your calendar to join us June 28-30, at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas, for some great AHRMA vintage racing!

"Sea Beast" Parts Suppliers

Buchanan's Spoke & Rim Charlie's Place Dime City Cycles
EPM Performance Imports Moto Services Race Tech
R/D Valve Springs Rick's Motorsport Electrics Shinko Motorcycle Tires
Spectro Performance Oils Vanson Leathers Z1 Enterprises


I Am a Racer, This is My Machine

Shane Powers and the Sea Beast
Shane and the Sea Beast, Barber 2016. Photos by Shane Powers.

Two years ago, I did something objectively ignorant. At the 2016 Barber Vintage Festival, I purchased a 1970 CB350 for $93. The wretched condition of this bike cannot be overstated; every single piece was rusted, the engine seized. It was truly pitiful. I pushed it through the swap meet to unshrouded laughter and cries of “There’s one born every minute!” A kind swap meet vendor apparently took pity on me and flagged me over to his booth where he injected fresh air into the flat, dry-rotted tires. To the amazement of both him and myself, the tires held air. Things were looking up. I schlepped the bike about a quarter of a mile under the scorching Alabama sun back to the Motorcycle Classics booth where I endured two more days of ridicule from my colleagues. I took the bike, now affectionately dubbed both “Sea Beast” and “The Six Million Dollar Motorcycle,” to its new home in Kansas.

Four months later, I made yet another objectively ignorant decision, bringing home two more early-Seventies CB350s. While I was showing off my $93 Honda at Barber, Brady Ingelse of Retrospeed said, “Oh, cool bike. I’ve got a couple of those in a trailer behind the shop. Next time you’re in Wisconsin, I’ll give you one.” Lo and behold, February of 2017 found me visiting Milwaukee for work, so I drove the Motorcycle Classics Dodge turbo diesel with the intention of dragging home another bike. At Retrospeed, Brady said all things CB350 had been loaded into a van in the parking lot and he would send one of his guys out to help me transfer them into my truck. Wait, them? “Yeah,” Brady said, “there are two of them out there and you have to take both of them or you can’t have any of it.”

Two bikes it is. Despite one of the bikes having actually been registered in the State of Wisconsin in the last three years, neither was in much better condition than the first. Both engines were seized, and the front end of one had been robbed of its forks, wheel and handlebars to further someone else’s project. With both “bikes” loaded into the truck, I made the roughly 650-mile journey back to Kansas. Over the course of the next 24 months, I worked at a hobbyist's pace, deconstructing all the bikes and taking stock of useable parts with the loose objective of combining them into a running motorcycle.

Last month, I made yet another objectively ignorant decision. On Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, AHRMA announced the 2019 race schedule. A road race at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka — no more than 5 miles from our office — was added to the year’s events. Despite having no race bike, no race experience, intermediate mechanical aptitude and irrefutably questionable judgement, I proclaimed, “I’m gonna race!” And with that proclamation, the challenge was born.

With just under six months until race day, I began taking stock; I have a frame, painted, and an engine, 90 percent rebuilt. I have two roadworthy rims, deconstructed. I have the arrogance of the uninitiated, and I have the will to see this pile of rusty parts become a race bike, if for no other reason than to stick it to that guy in the swap meet who shouted “There’s one born every minute!”

The Honda CB350 frame
The newly painted frame. The color is called Milk Tea Pearl. More on that in a future blog.

I started my parts list, then started making a mental inventory of which Motorcycle Classics advertisers could fulfill that list. To avoid the dreaded valve float, a set of beehive springs from R/D Valve Springs will be installed. A Charlie’s Place electronic ignition and the recommended Dynatek ignition coils will replace the stock points and coils. Rick’s Motorsport Electrics will be rewinding the 40-year-old stator, as well as supplying a Hot Shot rotor and regulator/rectifier to make sure the charging system is up to the task at hand. Since kickstart levers are banned by AHRMA rules, the machine will also be outfitted with a Rick’s Motorsport Electrics Hot Shot Starter Motor. The crusty old carburetors will be rejuvenated and jetted for racing by Moto Services. The forks will be rebuilt by vintage racing experts at Race Tech, and I will also take advantage of their newly offered brake arcing services. The oil experts at Spectro will ensure proper lubrication with motor oil, fork oil and an as yet unspecified quantity of their 101 Multi-Purpose Lubricant and Rust Penetrant (I’m expecting it to be a lot). Last, but not least, Z1 Enterprises and Dime City Cycles will be supplying the myriad cables, bushings, bearings and bolts, as well as some key components like rearset controls, clubman bars and an exhaust system. In addition to all the bike bits that must be gathered and installed, a first-time racer has an elevated need for safety; Vanson Leathers has ensured me that I will look best and stay safest in a set of their race leathers so I’m going to entrust my skin to them.

Wheels for the Honda CB350
Wheels, now deconstructed.

Of course, never having raced I’ll have to get my race license. Fortunately, vintage race organizer AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association) will hold a Fast & Safe Roadracing School on Friday prior to the Saturday and Sunday race days, so I’ll be signing up for the school and crossing my fingers that A) the Honda will be done and B) I’ll pass the class. Work is underway, so keep an eye out for future installments, and if you want to see the final product in action, we will be at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas, on June 28-30, 2019. See you there!

The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5.00 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $29.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $34.95 for a one year subscription!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds

click me