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

Reader Contribution by Shane Powers
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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.

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