Motorcycle Classics

Back in the Shop

Reader Contribution by Richard Backus

Riding-wise, 2017 was something of a disappointment for me. A combination of too many non-motorcycle responsibilities combined with bikes that seemed to be in a constant state of disassembly kept me off the road more than I would have liked. This year, I’m dead set on getting in some serious miles.

That’s easier said than done, unfortunately, because I still have too many bikes in pieces. The 1983 Laverda RGS is slowly coming together, with the unfortunate emphasis on slowly. The engine’s in one piece again after a comprehensive top-end overhaul, but while the engine was out I decided to refinish the frame. After almost 35 years on the road, the original black paint was in bad shape, and if I was going to do anything about the paint it meant welding in extra frame gussets around the head stock. Why? Well, about the same time the original Laverda company in Breganze, Italy, went out of business, it issued a service bulletin warning RGS and SFC1000 owners of potential frame cracking around the head stock, supplying a set of drawings showing where to weld in suggested strengthening gussets.

A thorough examination showed no signs of cracking on my frame (anecdotal evidence suggests the problem was a bigger issue in Europe, where riders tended to hammer their bikes at high speeds on the Autostrada), but that didn’t mean it couldn’t happen. So, the gussets are in, the frame’s been sandblasted and resprayed, and now it’s waiting for me to slot the engine back in so I can start the process of reassembly, which, I’m hoping, should go fairly quickly. The hydraulics have already been rebuilt, the front suspension got a thorough rebuild and Race Tech upgrade a few years back, the rear shocks are new from Race Tech, and the bodywork is still in excellent shape.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on getting the 1974 Laverda 750 SF twin I pushed into the garage last spring up to snuff. Somewhat predictably, it’s been a slower process than hoped. A solid-running machine, it’s not getting a full restoration, more like a sympathetic recommissioning. But given my lack of experience with the model — as in none — it’s taking me a little extra time to work through seemingly straightforward operations like replacing the throttle and choke cables, which need to be routed pretty precisely to work without binding. I’ve gone through the carburetors, adjusted the valves, replaced the steering and wheel bearings, and disassembled and checked the front forks and rear swingarm. It’s all going back together nicely, but I won’t fire it up again until the electronic ignition I ordered arrives. The stock Bosch ignition points are long out of production, and with replacements now going for around $50 a pop — $100 a pair before adding in another $50 in condensers — going electronic seems like a no-brainer.

That leaves my 1973 BMW R75/5, which is waiting for me to finish recovering the seat. The pan’s been stripped and painted, the new seat cover is draped over the original foam (thankfully still in good shape) waiting to be stretched in place, and the new trim that goes around the lower edge of the seat is on the shelf. “All” I need now is a little more time, which, as usual, is the biggest stumbling block. But, I’m nothing if not optimistic, and I’m fairly confident (note the hedge; “fairly” confident) I’ll get to ride the RGS to Wisconsin this June for the annual Rockerbox show at Road America. Which, of course, is the whole point of all this labor: riding. If things go as planned I’ll also ride to Mid-Ohio for Vintage Motorcycle Days and, with luck, to Pennsylvania for our third annual Motorcycle Classics Getaway at Seven Springs Resort.

See you on the road — I hope!

Richard Backus

  • Published on Apr 10, 2018
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