A Bike Is Born
When you think about it, vehicles of any sort are simply a way for human beings to attach themselves to engines (with their belongings) so they can get from A to B faster than their legs can carry them, without them or their chattels falling off. And, that’s why I love motorbikes so much. It’s the above principle in its simplest and rawest form.
This series followed my workshop exploits restoring two classic bikes. And, it introduced, for the first time, Les Dale – aka The Bloke from Stoke – as my engineering accomplice. We got to know each other on another series I co-produced and fronted, called Dream Machine. Les is mad about motorbikes and has loads of them tucked away in his shed. As soon as I knew bikes were my next project, I gave Les a call and he was in. Over the years since, we have spent a lot of time together in the workshop and have become great friends. I have learned loads from him. And he has learned the square root of naff all from me. We make the perfect team.
The first bike on the menu was a 1943 Harley Davidson WLC45. It was liveried up as a US Police bike, but I only discovered why half way through stripping it down. When I took off the primary chain case cover, there was a message written on the back plate- “To find out more about this bike call…” – and there, in front of me, was a mobile number. I am good at following instructions, so called it and quickly learned that the bike had starred in the film Evita. It was one of the bikes in the funeral cortege. I hadn’t seen the film so had no idea what the bloke was talking about. But it explained the livery. He also said it broke down on location and had to be rewired. That explained the very new loom.
The Triumph Bonneville arrived at the workshop in a selection of cardboard boxes. I try to avoid restoring things that have already been stripped because working out how to put them back together again is so much harder and it can take forever if you have never worked on that kind of machine before. But, with a bike, there are aren’t as many bits as there are with a car. The engine came as one lump. When we started rebuilding it, something didn’t seem quite right. It didn’t look like the exploded diagrams in the manuals we had unearthed. And there was a good reason. It turned out, by complete accident, that we had bought a very special version of the Bonneville, one of a series used to homologate a race bike for a flat track racer in the USA. It wasn’t until after it was sold that we discovered, in an article in Classic Motorcycle magazine, just how rare they are. That article explained why we had so many people hassling us to buy it. We thought it was because of the quality of our restoration!
Discovery wanted a third project in this series, so we decide to build a kit Trike. It was based around a VW Beetle. I hade serious reservations about building it because I have always seen trikes as the worst of a car and the worst of bike combined. How wrong I was. The trike turned out to be a complete gas. Such a laugh to ride. Or should that be drive ? I’m not sure. Anyway, I took it on location filming other shows – it made an appearance in an episode of my garden makeover show on BBC1 (Garden Invaders) – and a friend and I took it on the charity Beaujolais Run through France. It was the first time a trike had ever done it. It was in November. And, without heated suits we would have frozen to death. Seriously. One of the disadvantages of this kind of trike is that the heater, the engine, is behind you. On a bike it would be between your legs keeping everything nice and toasty.