I Love Motorcycles, She loves Dogs!

 (Hondigity Dog) Globe & Mail

Oct.2009

Being an avid motorcyclist, it is not uncommon in social circles for the topic to gravitate towards bikes.  Consequently, group conversations often touch on the subject of motorcycle ownership.  I am always amazed when some guy spills the beans and says: “I’d love to have a motorcycle but my wife won’t let me.”  I usually bite my tongue, but my thought response is always the same, “Man, you obviously married the wrong woman.”  That may sound harsh, but there is definitely some truth in it. 

Many years ago, when my wife Irene and I were dating, I had three motorcycles in my fifth floor apartment.  A beautifully restored 1965 Honda CB160 was parked strategically in my dining room.  My tidy enclosed solarium balcony housed two additional vintage bikes. We are not talking greasy Harley engines in the bathtub here.  The point is, she really knew what she was getting into, and it was highly unlikely, at age 34, that I would change much.

Time has marched on and we have now been happily married for nearly 19 years.  I still own five motorcycles. One of the reasons we are happily married is that we respect and support each other’s interests. One Christmas, she even bought me a rare, Honda CB450 “Black Bomber” motorcycle to restore. I found it in very rough shape and negotiated a purchase price of $250 and she insisted on buying it for me as my gift. That’s when I realized, wow, I married the right girl.  Which brings to mind an old miner’s saying; “Once you strike gold, you stop digging.”

It wasn’t just the bike purchase; she also got her motorcycle license when I was a motorcycle safety instructor.  This was not an easy task for her.  She did not pass right away, nor did she give up.  She persevered and practiced until she was successful.  It was   obvious to me at that moment just how committed she was to our success as a couple.

Obviously there are two sides to this relationship business, and so I also have to be respectful and supportive of her interests.  As a licensed aircraft mechanic my passions all have engines attached to them, motorcycles, cars and aircraft.  Hers are a little more eclectic, gardening, live theatre and animals.  For the record, when I say animals here, I am referring primarily to cats and dogs. 

Here is a good example of how it works.  A few years ago, we traveled on vacation to England.  I took her to tour a few aviation museums, and she took me on a couple of garden tours.  The beauty of this exchange is that she now recognizes the difference between a Rolls Royce Merlin and an Anzani Radial aircraft engine, and I appreciate the difference between a rose and a rhododendron.  She took me to see Shakespeare at Stratford and I took her to Paris (Ontario…for the vintage bike rally!)  We both support each other’s interest and in the process expand our own horizons.

Of course we are married, so this scenario can at times push us each to the very boundary of our limits.  Irene grew up on a farm with lots of cats and dogs running around. Consequently, her need for a dog was intense, but not just any dog.  It had to be a Dachshund; you know the long legless type, the dog world’s version of a “low rider”. This particular breed captured her heart, due to Fritz, a beloved Dachshund from her past. I had always promised her that when I retired she would have another, and sure enough she called my bluff. Little Lola recently entered our lives, much to the surprise of Blue, our slightly used, low mileage cat.  Irene is over the moon with her new baby Dachshund. 

We still attend Woofstock and various Dachshund Rescue picnics in an attempt to keep her “additional” cravings at bay.  Still I know it is only a matter of time before we collect both Honda’s and Dachshunds.  Perhaps, when we are both retired we can set up a joint business venture…Sam’s Vintage Honda’s and Reenie’s Weenies.  Sales slogan:  Get ‘em while they’re hot! 

In any case, I often wonder about those guys with wives that won’t allow them to have a motorcycle.  Do the guys then get to deny their wives some unique passion like tennis or shopping, or is it just a one-way street?  “Ok, honey I won’t get a motorcycle, but no more designer stilettos for you…ok?”  I mean, let’s face it, they can both be extremely dangerous, in the wrong hands! Husbands take note; this kind of brash statement can result in lengthy amounts of couch time and/or serious injury.  So remember always wear a helmet!

I guess the bottom line is, when it comes to relationships, it really boils down to give and take to keep everyone happy.  Currently our little urban jungle consists of one cat and one dog. They seem to get along just fine and so do we. At least for now, all is well, with no additional Dachshunds in our immediate future. Thank goodness, despite my ongoing commitment to relationship compromise, I have never been a big fan of motorcycle sidecars. Especially when one sidecar could potentially carry dozens of Dachshunds!

The Enzo Escapade

The Enzo Escapade

By Sam Longo

1967 Honda CB77 Super Hawk

It all started out so innocently. I was simply looking for a few missing bits required to complete my own 305 Super Hawk restoration. That is when my good friend Enzo invited me to rummage through his enormous stash of parts. Knee deep in his basement was a treasure trove of vintage 60’s Honda parts. He allowed me to fish out a few much needed gems and then refused to take any compensation for the items. Just another swell vintage motorcycle guy looking to help out a fellow enthusiast, I thought. Seems you really do meet the nicest people “on” a Honda or apparently, even while foraging through their rusty recycled remains.

Then came Enzo’s question; “How would you feel about building a motor for me?” Well you can immediately see my dilemma, how could I refuse after he had been so generous?  And so the winter long journey of the Enzo Escapade began.

Building a motor in itself was not a big problem. I had done quite a few by that point for myself and others. My small 800 square foot shop, housing my own fleet of Hondas, would not be too taxed for space in pursuit of my engine building task. However not long after this gentleman’s agreement was cast a new situation transpired that would change the whole dynamic of the situation.

Around this same period Enzo was experiencing a subtle change in his living arrangements. He had to move and consequently his large stash of Honda parts and motorcycles suddenly morphed, switching instantly from an asset to a liability. As his personal status evolved so too did our discussions and the plot of the whole escapade began to thicken. I made a rather foolish suggestion and he jumped at the chance. Perhaps I could take all the Super Hawk parts off his hands, build him a complete restored bike from the best bits and as payment keep all the left overs for myself. At the time it seemed like the perfect solution. It was a win-win situation, right up until the trucks showed up. Then the gravity of the situation hit me hard, where on earth was I going to stash all this stuff?

My small workshop began filling up fast. Frames, wheels, motors and boxes of parts rapidly overwhelmed me. My tiny organized space was now hopelessly infected with floor to ceiling “Superhawkitis”. Now the real fun began. Every box and part had to be inspected and categorized for the future build. Over the next few weeks I painstakingly sorted the “A” pile and the “B” pile. Most of the “B” pile could then be stored elsewhere to give me a little more working space. In my estimation, close to 4 complete bikes were scattered in various states of condition and assembly.

The next stage was to get all the best “A” parts off to be sandblasted and painted. John Connery was chosen for the task and he did a beautiful job laying on the classic red paint with silver fenders and side covers. Enzo had also collected a fantastic array of “New Old Stock” parts in anticipation of the build including original exhaust pipes, mufflers, seat, proper grey cables and many internal engine parts. While waiting for the paint to be completed I began the engine building process. Although technically “over restored” getting the engine cases polished instead of painting really makes the power plant pop. All the polishing and additional chassis chroming was carried out by Mayfair Plating and as always Chuck Kotowick did a stellar job.

The other nice thing about having so much to choose from is I could build the project as a true “Numbers Matching” bike. With sixties Honda’s the frame and engine numbers should be within about 300 numbers of each other to be considered matching. Despite the fact that the engines changed little during the 8 years of CB77 production, having correct numbers always adds value to a finished restoration.

By the time the painted parts returned, the freshly assembled motor was gleaming on my workbench, a jewel of 60’s Honda technology. The newly assembled wheels and tires were also ready to go so it was not long before I had a rolling chassis ready to accept the motor. Enzo’s little Honda was progressing rapidly now and I was determined to deliver it by early spring.

My own Super Hawk, Café Racer was starting to look a little shabby sitting beside this pristine example rising from extinction, but fortunately the “B” pile of parts produced some really nice upgrades for my regular rider. Even this lowly little “Giro” bike seemed to shine a little brighter in the company of Enzo’s pampered prize.

The winter days passed quickly as I persevered through the wiring and final assembly stages. Finally it was time for some fuel, a battery and a push into the sunshine. Careful attention to engine set up and timing allowed the bike to fire right up. A few more carburetor tweaks and it was idling nicely with a reassuringly tight sounding top end. There was still snow on the ground, surrounding the patio outside the shop, but the roads were dry so I took it for a few shakedown runs. Thanks to all those NOS parts it was a joy to ride, with very few issues arising from a new build.

I called Enzo to come and get his new bike. He arrived with his trailer and a few knowledgeable cronies who really knew about Super Hawks. Each buddy took it for a spin in turn and each returned with a smile on their face. Satisfied that the transaction was done, they happily tied it down and off it went.

Unfortunately for me the Enzo Escapade was far from over. In the following months, yet another CB77 arose from the archaic abyss. A nice presentable “B” bike was completed and sold along with a few parts lots to help clear the shop. I had finally cured my workspace of “Superhawkitis” just in time for the next infection, a sordid, seized-solid, CB450 Bomber project. Mercifully, I was done with the Super Hawks. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest!