I Am a Racer, This is My Machine

Reader Contribution by Shane Powers
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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.

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