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.

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 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, 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!

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