Thursday, 6 September 2007

Jenny's 500

This is Jenny's Honda 500. It was her first big bike. These days a 500 is small-fry, but then they were still considered pretty meaty. She bought it in 1975 when it was 6 months old and had done 1100 miles. It had 2 previous owners already!

When we met in 1976 she'd already done quite a few miles on it, and we did lots more over the years. Gradually it deteriorated and was eventually superceded by other bikes, but Jenny didn't want to get rid of it; the significance of her first big bike was too great.

About 10 years ago a friend persuaded me to start dismantling it with a view to rebuilding it, but sadly I didn't really have the motivation myself, and he quickly got distracted by other things, so we were left with a complete basket case. ie it was stripped down into some quite small bits and then left.

We heard of a professional restorer, and hired him to rebuild it for us. Although a British bike specialist, he'd done a couple of Honda 750s, so we thought he'd be OK with this. He came highly recommended.

He had the bike for ages, then started asking for interim payments. Eventually he delivered the bike, but it's never been right. And he charged us at least half as much again as he'd quoted. And *that* was half as much again as the bike would ever be worth. We ground our teeth and paid.

I rode it for about 500 miles while I was unemployed, but didn't much enjoy it. The carbs were out of balance so it didn't go well, and the front brake was frighteningly inefficient. Eventually I had the carbs set up by a local bike shop, and it certainly was better, but still not much good. So after another 250 miles or so, I put it in the garage, to languish, accumulating white spots of spider shit and that nasty powdery white corrosion you get on unlacquered aluminium alloy. It would look at me despondently every time I went in there, but it was just too much like hard work to do anything about it.

We discussed selling it, but to be worthwhile, we needed to get it properly set up first, and if we did that, then we might as well keep it. Edit: there was also the issue that it had cost us so much to restore, it was just too painful to write off such a huge amount of money. Of course, the money has gone, whatever we do, but bringing yourself to finally cut the ties is really hard. So of course, we did nothing.

Then a few weeks ago I came across an ex-Honda engineer who knows and loves old Hondas. He's set up the carbs for us and done numerous other small repairs and tweaks, and has had it MoT'd for us. He says it's running really sweetly now. And tomorrow we collect it. I'm really quite excited!


DJ Kirkby said...

Ooooh I am glad there was a happy ending to this post, that is a sweet looking bike...

Rob Clack said...

It's really good that we finally found someone who knows what he's doing. We picked it up on Friday and Jenny rode it home, and it sounds great. She's still a bit ambivalent about it, as the contrast with her current bike (Yamaha 900 Diversion) is quite marked.

She finds it underpowered, rather tall and skinny, with a hard seat and suspension. Inevitable, I suppose.

I haven't ridden it yet, as we were away for the weekend, snorkelling on the Dorset coast, about which I'll be posting later.

Anyhow, it's taxed and insured, so she'll use it to go to work some of the time and we can make a decision about whether or not to keep it when it's fully run in.