Things a man, a Smallman, gets up to in lockdown.
Agreat workshop, time on my hands because I’m not commuting and a couple of lovely projects have made lockdown far more enjoyable than I expected. A late-in-the-day epiphany helps. Owning a Honda SP2 – the marvellous vee, not the spicy 2017 Fireblade – demands weight loss (me and the bike) and over the years Arrow pipes, Harris clip-ons, lithium battery, LED tail lamp and an undertray would make a Weight Watcher proud.
It was, however, always going to be about the wheels. They’re pretty light as standard but I was struck by comments from British SP2 expert Jay Mounteney, whom I’d met at a Jerez track event. He swore a pair of skinny aluminium Dymag UP7XS was the single best investment he’d made on his bikes (and, boy, had he spent a king’s ransom improving his machines). Yes, carbon wheels would be lighter still but God help the rims when faced with hamfisted tyre fitters.
So on they’ve gone – 15% discount at £1800 a pair from PDQ Developments – and Jay is so right. At the time of writing I’ve had my first outing on the bike and it’s never ridden better. Bump absorption, speed of turn-in and pickup from the throttle have markedly improved. Meanwhile Project Make-the-old-dog-work – the 42-year-old Yamaha XT500 I rode to Australia and have now reacquired – moves forward.
I’m not restoring this crusty and ancient beast to concours nick, but I am focusing on rebuilding a reliable working bike I can bounce around London on. The motor – replete with broken fin and flaky paint – is back together with a Rex’s Speedshop 12-volt conversion fitted. So that’s on the plus side. However…
Everything on an old bike is a hurdle – wiring that’s black, not copper, fuel tanks brimming with rust – and pulling apart the crap front forks was a recipe for gnawed knuckles and scratched heads (my mate Wyatt did point out that they can’t be that crap because I got to Australia on them. Fair point). But here’s where my revelation comes in – the invigorating power of sleeping on it.
Time and again I’ve faced a deeply frustrating problem – how do I get the rusted-in circlips out, how do you lock the damper rod to remove it? Only to give up and come back the next day and approach it differently. ‘What you need is time, tea and a prayer mat,’ quipped Wyatt. It’s worked every time during lockdown. Wish I’d figured that out 30 years ago. 2OGHU ELNHV WHQG WR SXOO WKUHDGV OLNH D SDQLFNHG EDQNHU DW D KHGJHKRJ GLVFR 2UGHU XS D GHFHQW IXOO WKUHDG UHSODFHPHQW NLW S , XVH 9RONHO S DQG OHDUQ WR GULOO VWUDLJKW WKHUHOV =HQ DJDLQ )RU ~ DQG D UDQJH RI PHWULF VL]HV IURP WLQ\ WR HQRUPRXV LWOV ZRUWK HYHU\ SHQQ\ 7KH ;7 OV ORRP ZDV D +\GUDOV KHDG RI WURXEOH DQG RQFH SURSHU FRQQHFWRUV DUH UHILWWHG WKLV UXEEHU\ WDSH QHDWO\ WLGLHV XS WKH EXQGOHV 0XFK EHWWHU WKDQ QRUPDO HOHFWULFDO WDSH DQG \HV PRUH IXQ