Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Eve and in the shed nothing was stirring not even a mouse...

So it's Christmas Eve and the traditional grey British Christmas weather is setting in as the recent snow starts to melt away. Still the forecast for Christmas Day is clear sky so maybe there will be a nip of frost or even more snow - if so the bookies will be giving out some chrimbo prezzies. I've just fed Betty and Wilma as Mrs Cutter has to work today, then it's over to the Cutter-in-Laws to peel veg for tomorrow's meal (and drink beer) and then tonight we all go to Mr and Mrs Cutter Seniors for a continental Christmas Eve.

All the present shopping is done and I think the Cutter juniors' prezzies are going to please them. I have got a bench vice for the shed coming, and the t-handle torque drivers and may get some present money towards powdercoating or a bench grinding wheel (for polishing parts).

"Bah humbug!" you say. What about the Monster - what news? Very little directly, as the exceptionally cold weather has kept me out of the shed as I still haven't decided about putting vents in the eaves to prevent condensation when using a heater.

However, there have been bike related developments... I have just sold my daily ride, the bike that takes me to work and back (thereby preserving my sanity and extending my free time) and also takes me away on runs with the fearsome outlaw band known as The Flying Leaks (well once in a blue moon).

The latest in the line was a black  '03 CB1300 with renthals and a Blue Flame race can. However it's all round competence, huge torque and brutish good looks, were finally outweighed by it's blandness. Rather than a streetfighter it was an upmarket bouncer who never took his jacket off. Riding the 900 Monster, Mrs Cutter's amazing 695 ( I can't get over what an underrated great little bike that is, spesh with termis and a sports ECU), and lusting over various cafe racers for inspiration for this project took it's toll. Even my daily ride needs some character. I agonised about selling the bike for months ands months, because it was such a capable swift comfy all-rounder.Also I had put some money into it ironing out some problems, but I finally made up my mind.

So how does this effect the project? Well it may not, if I decide to blow everything I got for the CB on the most bike I can get (think early Aprilia Tuono or Ducati S4 for instance). However if I was to go for bargain-basement capable twins like SV's or Firestorms, I might liberate enough cash to pay for one of the project's bigger costs, the Keihin carbs, or paint, or suspension upgrades etc.

Something to ponder, trying to find a bike that puts a smile on my face, suits my bad back, is reliable and cheap, and might even put a booster under the project.  Lots of options, lots of potential, some gambling to be done but...CHANGE IS GOOD. And anticipation is the greater part of pleasure, so it looks like my Christmas present has already come. It's called "opportunity"

And speaking of opportunity,I must mention here that there are people out there who would be happy to have a place like the 'shack to live in in this weather. Some of them are young and just looking for a break before their life gets screwed completely. If you live in London, and you are looking to extend your giving and invest in our mutual future you could point your browser at : 

Happy Christmas!!!

Sunday, 13 December 2009


You have got to have milestones. Especially if, like me, you are so lazy that even the stuff you love has to struggle to happen. And, in my defence, if you have a fairly busy life, you know, kids need new phones which then don't work, Christmas is coming and there are a lot of work drinks, family birthdays inconveniently fall at Christmas, the band is supposed to be doing writing sessions, all the guitars need new strings cos they are so knackered they won't intonate, the cats need feeding, the dishwasher blew up, the security light doesn't work, the boiler needs servicing blah blah blah.

So while people on forums cheerfully post how they took their bike to bits last night, I have been carefully removing a component every 300 years or so. And then in the name of research - and basically love - you  read all these really cool blogs about people with the time, talent, material resources, and taste, to build the ultimate cafe racer, old school chopper, race bike, the best Monster special, the best airhead BMW cafe racer ( I am loving these - more of this later ), whatever it's going to be right? Inspirational.....

...and quite psychologically damaging to your cause. You don't have the time, you don't have the money, you don't have the engineering skills, whatever. Sometimes, as happened to me recently, such an icon suddenly becomes available at knockdown cost. It's covered in all that stuff you need for your bike that is way to expensive to buy individually, because it's made out of CAD/CAM turned unobtainium and can only be sourced from Doctor Grand Prix's Emporium in Osaka, or the California Speed Temple's House of Bodacious Billet. And there it all is in the classifieds on a finished special that you admire...

So what are you going to do Chief? Buy it? Go on, it's cheap, these things depreciate like used shaving foam. So you buy it and then what? You cannibalise a fantastic special to bolt the bits on to yours. Or you ride it around and think why am I building another one? Or you sell some parts for a profit and keep, no, no, HOLD THE BUS! What did you start this for man? To do your own thing, and if you are going to come up a little bit aesthetically short on some components, a little sub-optimal performance wise, well sh*t, is that more important than the journey and the pride? Steer clear my friend.

So milestones help you negotiate all this dangerous ground. See, almost anything can be broken down into simpler components, the bike itself is a metaphor for this. Break the task, and our goal, into components, bite-sized chunks. "The 1000 mile journey begins with a single step", oh yeah, I been doing that stuff - that's why I haven't got anywhere yet!

So while you are working the Zen big time with the baby steps, a milestone tells you that you are getting somewhere, even if you don't know where yet. I picked mine - get the frame powder coated. Get the frame powder coated means take everything off, take everything off means drop the engine, so drop the engine becomes a milestone too. So "TA DAA" finally the engine is dropped!

In my earlier post I mentioned a few hiccups with various nuts and bolts and there were some more to come. But finally the other night I had the rear end off completely. All connectors pipes and tubes between engine and frame were unconnected. It was time to undo the two long bolts that run through the frame and the engine joining them at four points. I won't go into the gory details of how we freed a nut in a recess too small for a socket, other than to say that a tool was misused shamefully in order to wedge the nut as the hex was turned at the other end. And then the bit that broke off this tool lodged in the right place to facilitate release with no damage to any part of the bike. Sometimes the Gods are with you, and they do like a bit of drama when they help out a fool.

I had looked at the same paragrah of the Haynes manual for the 20th time, the one that advised getting the help of an assistant. I got my son down from the Eagles Nest (the attic room that used to be my studio until he got tired of me pushing mototrbikes through his bedroom), and we attempted to separate engine and frame.

A few things were then discovered that still needed taking off, a lot of dancing and wrestling took place, someone (my son) had to hold the plot together while I went to the little boys room etc etc - generally Laurel and Hardy. We finally get the engine out but my back was not too happy, even with two of us trying to get the lump on the bench. It is now midnight, and in through the out door walks a vision of loveliness. Mrs. Cutter has returned from a colleague's leaving party. She is wearing a cream coloured sweater, a velver skirt, tights and patent high heels. Get hold of this bit of the motor love...three of us can lift it easy.

A big hearted woman is a non-trivial asset my friends. She was the biggest milestone I ever achieved, and the biggest I ever will. (Yeah and for the sentimental smart-arses at the back saying "what about your kids?", well... where do you think they came from, Halfords?)

Engine's on the bench saying, clean me, paint me, feed me a light-weight flywheel.

Frame still has front-end attached. Is that easy to take off or would it have been easier before the bike looked like a grenade went off in the middle of it? We will soon find out, Christmas allowing......