Talking Shop…..a column abut Honda Heaven (Cycle Canada)

Talking Shop

By Sam Longo


Building, restoring and repairing old motorcycles is a great hobby.  However, attempting to pursue this passion under less than ideal working conditions can rapidly siphon off much of the joy.  On this topic I speak from experience.  I have, over the years, worked on motorcycles in underground garages, basement furnace rooms, garden sheds, alleyways, aircraft hangars and even a fifth floor apartment in Don Mills.  Fortunately, memories of my past nomadic maintenance adventures only serve to enhance the appreciation I now have for my current workshop.  For the reasons stated below, “Honda Heaven” has evolved into my ultimate motorcycle utopia.  


Size matters:  At 300 square feet, the shop is not overly large.  It holds 5 to 6 bikes nicely with sufficient room to work.  Depending on your point of view, this fact can be a blessing or a curse.


Comfort:  Because it is small and well insulated, a compact oil filled heater keeps it warm all winter.  A ceiling fan and built in air conditioner are recent “decadent” additions to keep things cool in the increasingly hot summer months.


Good light/great music:  Lots of good light and good tunes from multiple speakers keep frustrations at bay when master cylinder springs inadvertently launch themselves across the shop.


Beer Fridge:  When lost springs cannot be found and work stops, cold beer and louder music may be your only recourse.  Fear not a new spring is just around the corner.


Hydraulic bike lift:  Vintage bikes, vintage backs, and vintage knees, all praise Princess Auto for this miraculous, deep discounted, godsend to the world of motorcycle maintenance.  I need not say more!


Overhead electric crane:  Every time I use this thing I smile.  Sixty-nine dollars, a steel beam and two soft straps lift and hold the front or back of any bike with the touch of a button. This, my friends, is wheel change nirvana, with or without a center stand. 


Sturdy workbench:  Complete with vice and a magnifying inspection light.  This one was built from a discarded turbine engine crate and topped with sheet aluminum.


Small portable compressor:  Whether you are simply inflating a tire or freeing up seized brake caliper pistons, this is another absolute necessity for any real workshop. 


Entrance door:  The entrance door to my shop is a thirty-six inch wide steel door.  This works nicely as large bike filter.  Cruisers and touring rigs remain outside.  They are just too large to pass through my self-imposed motorcycle type micron rating.


No distractions:  Contrary to popular demand, I refuse to install a telephone or television.  These are mere distractions that interrupt valuable work time and take up equally valuable workspace.  These devices are best left in the house, cell phones included.


One comfy chair:  From time to time you need to rest (it’s a middle age thing).  An old mini van seat serves as the perfect perch to sit with a cold beverage and survey the fleet, contemplating future projects. 


So as you can see, I am really quite spoiled.  Add to this, a job that pays me for summers off (from which I am soon to retire) and it becomes apparent that I really am living the good life in Honda Heaven.  Because I do spend so much time in the shop, my wife Irene often refers to it as my summer home.  I recently over heard her commenting to one of our neighbors; “If he ever gets indoor plumbing out there, I may never see him again.”  Great idea honey, that might just be the final crowning touch.  Like the T-shirt says:  “Now that I’m retired, I can do what ever I want…just as long as there is a bathroom nearby!”

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