The seemingly endless saga of restoring my old GSXR brought my father and I to Drum Hill Cycles in Nashua, New Hampshire- a massive warehouse full old motorcycle parts, basically a Cave of Wonders to a couple retro-moto enthusiasts.
Aside from a small banner on the road-facing wall, there’s not much to tip you off about this treasure-trove unless you already know the address. But if you’re in the neighborhood, the railroad crossing right next to it is a good landmark to defer to.
Say what you will about ours being a “disposable” culture, but from what we saw Drum Hill had plenty of business keeping old bikes alive.
In the thirty or so minutes we were there, at least five other people showed up looking for various miscellanea for their motorcycle projects. It was encouraging to see that the restoration business is still running, and that I’m not the only one with a soft spot for “modern classics.”
Bikes and cars from the 80′s and 90′s used to get written-off by the collector and restoration community for being “too modern” or “bland”. But now that people like myself, who grew up dreaming about the vehicles from that era, are starting their own projects we’re seeing a renaissance of these machines we now call- modern classics.
The nostalgia of riding something I fantasized about while I was supposed to be learning my times-tables is without a doubt part of the appeal of the 80′s/90′s iron, but I also love the blend of modern-ish design with the primitive brutality and rudimentary interface of say, my ’91 GSXR.
While we didn’t end up buying anything this trip, it was a lot of fun to walk through the canyons of fairings, fuel tanks and every other motorcycle accessory you can imagine for bikes from bygone decades.
The proprietor was most agreeable, talking over the issues my bike was having with me and dumping out a few boxes of parts to sift through pounds of plastic to try and find what I was looking for. Unfortunate it appeared that the ignition control box I was seeking had been “sold yesterday”, and so continued my less-than-ideal luck with my project.
Drum Hill isn’t a completely unreasonable drive from Boston, but if you don’t feel like picking parts yourself they’re website has just about everything they stock in their expansive collection.
Be sure to check them out if you’re spinning spanners on a bike from the forgotten era of modern classics, and help them keep the old school spirit alive.
And just in case you forgot how muy bonita an oil-cooled gixxer is, here’s one of the last photos I took of mine in the 2010 riding season.
I think about it every day, sitting in dad’s garage collecting dust, longing to scare the hell out of me with a 3-second blast to the speed limit.
Someday I’ll return for it…
bring it back to life…
Then, probably die when I forget to ride on the right side of the road.
But until then, rest will mi amor.
Got home from a ride to discover this lovely addition to my rear tire:
Typical- the tires were one of the few things I was NOT planning on replacing this season.
I thought about going on a tirade about how people should keep their godamn cars together so they don’t drop parts all over the street- but I’m guessing somebody in Vermont started a hardware store selling only pieces my Land Rover dropped in the four years I owned it. So I’ll accept this as the road’s revenge.
When the tire hadn’t lost any pressure in about four hours, I got the balls to “unscrew” the piece. Sure enough, it hadn’t even punched all the way through the Dunlop’s thick rubber.
I’ll be keeping an eye on it… but I think a couple burnouts and a 100 MPH run should heat up the tire and seal it up for good.
Another shakedown ride.
I’m getting ready to make tracks over the highway when the engine quits before I hit the on ramp.
It fires right back up, so I attribute it to driver error.
I hang on for dear life as I get up to… the speed limit… and cruise for about a mile when the bike starts bucking like a mechanical bull.
In a panic I squeeze the brakes and start dropping gears.
On the side of the highway the bike won’t start. But what the hell had happened? No leaks… no weird smells… plenty of power from the battery.
After about twenty minutes of scratching my ass the damn thing starts up and runs again like nothing happened.
Suspicious but desperate to get off the highway I motor toward the next exit. Halfway down the ramp; dead again.
Now I was in a really bad place to be stopped.
Despite the bike’s 550lb girth, I was able to push it very slowly to the road, and later a parking lot. Have you ever heard of a mother summoning inhuman strength to save her child?
I think my brain functions along similar lines, if the “person” in danger is my motorcycle. Pretty pathetic.
Anyway at this point I thought I could use a second opinion. Jeff was kind enough to drive over and help me diagnose, but he couldn’t shed much light on the problem.
And yet again, after about 30 minutes of sitting the bike sprang to life and was able to make it all the way home to the house.
Desperate to asses the problem and capitalize on the quickly waning motorcycle season, I took the gas tank off, inspected all the wires, hoses, fuel petcock, spark plugs, and filters.
I drained the carbs a bit to see if they were getting gas, and indeed they were- it didn’t even look chunk and shitty as I had feared. It’s likely that the bucking was just caused by some bad gas, or water getting inside the fuel as a result of not being used for a long time. Now it was just a matter of cleaning everything up and putting it back together to re-evaluate the situation.
After a nightmare run-around day between the dealer, DMV and insurance company, the bike is finally ready for the road. Jeff drives me to pick it up, and of course the cockbags at Cycles128 take 45 minutes getting my bike out of the warehouse.
At least one staff member was kind enough to show me how to check the oil and give me a few pointers on care and feeding of the bike. He stressed the importance of keeping the carbs clean.
And just like that… the moment arrived: I was perched on my GSXR with permission to legally enter the open road. I’m timid on the throttle getting out of the parking lot. Hit the friction zone, and the machine moves with a lot more force than you would expect from such a small engine.
But once I get a feel for the clutch and venture onto Brimbal Ave I waste no time giving the throttle a quick twist to see what kind of beast I had just bought myself.
My neck is literally snapped back and I find myself fighting off a wheelie. This thing is fucking fast.
With each meter I progress I get more comfortable with the bike, the seating position, and the throttle. I feel a kind of elation I literally have never thought possible. I bet this is how Anna felt about skydiving.
Jeff was kind enough to babysit my first ride from many car lengths back in his Porsche. He had already been very helpful in the purchase process… offering a great deal of insight and diagnostic before I made a bid.
I want to keep him in my mirror, in case some kind of disaster befalls me, mechanical or otherwise. But every thirty seconds or so I can’t resist a down shift and subsequent blast from 25-50 MPH. The bike and I were quickly becoming familiar.
But alas, I had a meeting to go to and the bike would have to be put away for a bit. So I was subject to the unreasonable torture of discussing something other than my motorcycle at great length, while I watched it sit listlessly in the parking lot.
A couple hours later I was balls deep in Excel trying to interpret a formula that calculated the amount of carbon was put into the air for every square foot of lawn you mowed using gasoline. But all I wanted to calculate was whether or not my twenty-year-old race horse was still up to the 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds it was capable of when new.
At about 5:00, I answered the call. I cruised around Wenham a bit, then found myself at a 128 onramp. And not just any onramp- the one at exit 16 with a runway-length merge lane. Sounds like the perfect place to test my stats.
I entered the onramp in third. Then figured fuck it, I’d be a pussy if I didn’t start in second. But wow… it’s still not even halfway up the tach at 30 MPH in second. Do I dare, shift to first at this speed?
7k something and I’m doing about thirty. Clear stretch of road in front of me, the usual assorted Volvos and minivans making their way northbound.
I get on the throttle- smooth and steady. I’ve already gotten to know this bike well enough not to fuck around.
But a little goes a long way with 116 HP pushing 700 lbs.
¾ throttle and power barfed from the pistons like Niagara Falls with a hangover.
The exhaust let out the sound a tyrannosaurus would make if he saw you banging his girlfriend.
And I became actively concerned that I might piss my pants.
60,70,80,90aaand time to relax.
I had no clue what gear I was in but from my perspective it looked like the moms in Mercedes SUVs sharing the highway with me were going about zero.
I reeled it in to 50 MPH and ducked into the loser lane to collect myself.
Once the brain-sucking insanity passes I have some time to assess the reality of my current situation. Predictably, the sport bike has its own set of pro’s and con’s. Let’s face it- it’s not that comfortable. My hands hurt from leaning so hard on them… or perhaps from the white-knuckle deathgrip I have going. The blaring exhaust noise is a bit inconvenient at the times when it’s not psyching me up- but since so far that’s “never”, I think I can manage. The fairings really do more for stability than I would have imagined. Even at highway speeds, this thing is planted. Nothing like dad’s GS which gets awful windy above 50 MPH.
It will take living with the thing to really get a feel for how it will last as a long-term bike.
It has been a pretty crazy few days.
Last I caught wind that the local motorcycle shop was auctioning off some inventory on September 12. Intrigued by the idea of two-wheeled performance at undercut prices, I cased out the warehouse with my fellow petrolhead Jeff the day before.
There was quite a collection of machinery to behold.
The warehouse was full of motorcycles, weird electric trucks, quads, dirt bikes… even some random junk like water pumps and a broken tire balancer. Outside there was a 40′ Formula boat that had seen better days… a few old stand-up Jet Skis and some snowmobiles. So it was pretty much a Maine Wal-Mart parking lot.
Despite all the junk packing the floor, there was one diamond in the rough nestled between a Goldwing and a badly-abused Ducati 999.
A 1991 Suzuki GSXR750; one of my favorite motorcycles of all time. I love the dual front headlights and taillights plus the graphics are nice and geometric- no tribal graphics or claw marks to be found. I felt a semi coming on and decided to take a closer look.
Vehicle is very clean all around. Very minor wear on plastics especially for its age. As this is a reconstruction title, it is likely that the plastics are newer than the bike itself. Everything works, except low-beam headlights and “Cyclops” running light. Likely blown fuse, possible blown filament and bulb respectively.
Engine fires up quickly and smells decent. Revs smoothly. Somewhat “gassy” smell, possibly due to running rich or from the gas tank vent which is missing its hose… this hose would usually direct the gas fumes to the ground, rather than toward the rider’s face as is the current situation.
Will not idle near stock 1,200 RPM level, it dies if brought down this low. Idle will survive at around 2,500 RPM lowest.
Clutch friction zone is significantly “further out” than most other vehicles I have driven- yet no sign of slippage even under hard acceleration, so I think this is just a characteristic of the motorcycle that I’m not yet used to.
Tires are matching and in good condition- so probably no burnouts (or not too many). Aftermarket exhaust has surface rust, likely installed a long time ago. Adjustable brake lever appears to be aftermarket. Brakes are excellent. Bar-end caps may be aftermarket. Windscreen may be aftermarket. No aftermarket sprocket- so this wasn’t a stunt bike. No skull decals or “No Fear” stickers, which were dealbreakers on some of the other bikes up for auction.
I decided I would make a pass at it.
On our way home from the warehouse I hit the bank to free up some cash… the auction fee was 3% lower for cash-paying customers. And this way I was limited to the amount I had on me, I couldn’t pressure myself into whipping out the Visa.
When we got to the auction the next day, the warehouse was abuzz with fat guys in hunting camo hats that might have well said “Git R Dun.”
The selling process was exactly how I imagined an auction would go, but it’s a lot more intense in person than it is on TV. Especially when your own, real, money is on the line.
The bike I wanted was #27B, which took a surprisingly long time to get to.
We sat through everything from quads to water pumps and the shittiest garden trailer I had ever seen. Right before our bike was the Ducati.
Finally Lot 27B rolled up. I was getting seriously pumped, and I had to piss like a racehorse. The auctioneer called out a price that I could not decipher, but I threw my card up anyway in the excitement. Thank god, that number turned out to be low. One more bid from somewhere in the crowd. I raise my card again to up my bid. The auctioneer won’t stop yelling, trying to psych up the crowd to spend some money. “Shut the f*k up and sell me that motorcycle.” it feels like an eternity and the bike is still on the block, but I’ve got the high bid.
When the hammer hits the table and Jeff slaps me five, I can hardly believe what just happened. The Suzuki was mine, and for half of the money I had allowed myself to spend.
I’d liken the feeling to somewhere between the first time I had sex and when I beat Halo 3 on legendary with my college roommate. So, pretty awesome.
Now began the worst part of ownership- the dealer had my money but all I had was this lousy slip of paper, and the task of going to the insurance company, DMV, back again, ect ect, before I could get this animal on the road.
Before we left, I was allowed to move the bike from the parking lot the auctioneers moved it to after I won it back into the warehouse for safe keeping until I could pick it up. Such a tease… I didn’t even get the clutch all the way out.