PLANET ME­CHANIC ‘I gave up be­ing a chef to re­store old two-strokes’

Philippe Vandewalle, 54, runs Old Knob­blies, an off-road restora­tion busi­ness in Es­sex

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Garage -

“I rode mo­tocross and en­duro as a kid in the 1970s, so I learnt to be a me­chanic in my dad’s Re­nault garage near Bordeaux. But my ‘proper’ job was as a chef and I left bikes be­hind. But then my teenage son got into mo­tocross and I started to get nos­tal­gic for the ‘good old days’ so I bought a 1984 Yamaha YZ80, spent six months on it and be­came a re­storer by ac­ci­dent.

“Once I’d got the bug I went back to my first love; of­froad­ers like Maicos, Bul­ta­cos and es­pe­cially SWMS. I have 21 SWMS in pieces and 12 re­stored! But to get parts as an in­di­vid­ual was hard, so I set up a busi­ness for that rea­son and I find there are many other peo­ple with the same ideas as me, who want a con­nec­tion with their youth, and they ask me to find them bikes and parts.

“I love the way air-cooled two-strokes ‘ talk’ to you and how ac­ces­si­ble they are to work on. Worn pis­ton rings will ‘ tin­kle’ and if you lis­ten care­fully on the over-run as you re­lease the throt­tle there will be a lit­tle knock­ing if a crank­shaft bear­ing is worn.

“Th­ese are old bikes and the tanks can be dirty, so my tip for keep­ing them run­ning well is to get some clear fuel pipe and a mini fil­ter to spot any de­bris be­fore it blocks a jet. If you get a sup­ple fuel line you can squeeze it be­tween the fin­gers two or three times to help the float move.”

‘I love the way that air-cooled two-strokes “talk” to you’

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