Motorcycle Classics

The Sea Beast Saga, Part 2: I Need Help

Reader Contribution by Shane Powers

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.

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.

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.

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!

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  • Published on Mar 7, 2019
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