PROJECT DRAG BIKE
Something of a milestone moment in any build. Now all that remains are the hundreds of tiny jobs ready to cause undue aggravation as the build nears completion
Our low-riding Suzuki gets a bit of a move on (on the bench)
Every project hits problems which seem to have a disproportionate effect on the build’s progress. In the case of Project Drag Bike, our stumbling block has been a snappedoff exhaust stud on our Bandit 1200 engine which was followed by a messy attempt to remove the remains. Should have deployed the titanium drills straight off to take the stud out. Instead the drill went off into the ally of the head and by the time the stud was out, we’d removed a large chunk of the casting too.
There was no way we could fit the engine into the frame in that state – repairs are far easier done with unfettered access – and we struggled to find someone locally with the time to weld up the exhaust boss and cut a new thread. Being a budget build we really didn’t want to take the head off because that would have meant buying a new head gasket (£60), not to mention the time and hassle a top-end strip would entail.
Eventually Gary’s mate Jim King in Nottingham agreed to take on the repair with the engine still in one piece, so the big man chucked the motor in the back of his Citroën hatch and headed up the A1. Jim did his thing, welding up the horrors and cutting a new thread for the stud. A quick blow over with rattle-can black and at last the engine was ready to go into our GSX1100 frame, resplendent in its lightly metal-flaked black powdercoat courtesy of our friends at Triple S. Gary had hung onto an old mounting kit of unknown provenance that memory told him was for the conversion we’re attempting. However Alan wears a mask when he it was soon obvious that either G’s memory works because although or th hee’ sm caol lu endt‘ihn ga pk pitywa el arne’ ,im perfect. While the low her’ ssaidcteu ma lolyunotts and rear upper s were spot-on longitudinally, the rear lowers weren’t, and in any case we were lacking front mounts.
We were prepared for some messing about and fabrication as first we wanted to sort the allimportant chain run. G wielded a fluorescent tube acting as a straight edge, much like Darth Vader with his lightsabre. Once satisfied the engine was where it should be in the frame, we measured
the gaps between the plates we did have and the engine to establish the widths of the spacers required. Then we trotted over the road to visit Gary’s neighbour Chris Whitworth, otherwise known as “the engineering department”.
Retired engineer Chris doubtless has better things to do, such as his own projects like this month’s Special Brew (see p67), but he indulges us anyhow. Gary has a selection of old spacer tubes salvaged from various bikes he has broken over the years and Chris turns these down on his lathe. These allow us to get the engine mounted up securely enough to establish the dimensions of the triangular steel front plates and rear aluminium tabs we (or more accurately, Chris) will have to make to complete the mounting.
Getting an engine in a frame really can be the turning point for a project. We’re feeling pretty inspired now and about time too. The big event we’re aiming for this year is the Brighton Speed Trials in September, not least so that G can enjoy fish and chips beside the seaside for every meal. Assuming we get an entry.
The other big decision we made for Project Drag Bike this month was a swingarm swap. We’d previously mocked the bike up with a massively over-long swingarm G had found at the back of the workshop but after some consideration we concluded it was just a little too long. Given that the 8-inch over JMC unit we’ve robbed from Gary’s Kat to replace it with looks almost stock length by comparison, it certainly was a lengthy old unit.
The shorter, but still long swingarm will allow the bike to sit a lot lower which is key to our dragracing ambitions. Now we have to find a source of short enough shocks and we’re pretty much there chassis-wise.
As well as the swingarm, Gary’s Katana will be donating its air-shifter. At this point we still have no idea whether or not the engine is any good. We’re relying on the fact that it’s pretty difficult to ruin a big Bandit motor. Although with luck like ours... No matter, if there’s someone who should know how to fix a Suzuki oil-boiler and source the parts required, it’s Gary Hurd.
We still need to sort out the matter of foot controls. They need to go a lot further back for drag racing so we’ll probably be annoying Chris Whitworth once more, pestering him to make up some plates we can graft some rearsets on to. The danger now is that we fool ourselves into thinking we just have a handful of details to sort out. None of the tasks left to complete are massive but the list remains very long.
“GETTING AN ENGINE IN A FRAME CAN BE A TURNING POINT FOR A PROJECT. WE’RE FEELING INSPIRED NOW. ABOUT TIME”
Engine in, chain run done, time for three packets of Garibaldi
Gary had no grey hair before he began the budget dragbike project in earnest
Engine plates from Gary’s neighbour Chris, aka The Engineering Department
It’s not done till it’s done. But at least it’s looking adjacent to close now
Chris courteously machines up spacers when he could have been watching TV
Darth Vadar naked without his trusty lightsabre
Shorter long swingarm, not the long, long swingarm
Fits like Cinderella’s glass slipper first time round ...
... coz everyone paid attention at measuring time