Saturday, June 23, 2012



Warning Long Story!

Anybody who builds a cycle from a box of bits needs parts.  Raw materials, repair parts or replacing missing parts; you have to have parts.  There are parts of this country, primarily on the left and rights coasts, which have semi-regular vintage shows and flea-markets.  Other parts of the world have very regular auto-jumbles.  But in Helena, Montana none of those sorts of things ever occur.

So to find parts I have to rely on detective work and friends from the web.  Recently I undertook the job to source a Norton Atlas clutch basket for the Overland gearbox which very conveniently is also Norton Atlas.  So I visited a friend in Portland who restores Brit bikes.  While he didn’t have the part he referred me to a Norton shop in Portland.  The guys name was Dick.  He had a small shop back in an industrial district which was about as big as a storage locker.  Rolled up to his place and found him working with a Command rider with a shift linkage problem.

Trying to stay out of the way I introduced myself and mentioned I was Montana and looking for parts to buy.  To be polite I ask how he was and I got a crumpy reply to the effect that he was crummy.  The repair he was working on seemed like it may take a bit.  Actually it looked like it would take some fabrication to make it right.  I waited and waited.  Had a smoke, snagged a card from his shelf for motorcycle frames and tube bending and waited. 

He never said another word nor seemed to think it worth while to even ask what parts I wanted.  I got the impression that like lots of small shop guys he would know if he had it or not without looking.  After 30 minutes of being ignored I left.
Later in the week I called the frame fabrication shop and tube bender.  Got a great reception and John said please come on over and lets talk and you can see what they have going on.  So I did and found a funky old steel building full of race frames and vintage race bikes.  Also found out that this shop has the frame jigs from the old Champion Race shop.  Plus they will build and bend just about anything you need.  Score!  Great conversation and I was drooling over all the stuff in the shop.  Well I mentioned my parts search.  John asks, “Have you tried Dick?”  Well of course I got scared and replied, “You mean Dick with the shop?”  “No not that asshole!”  All I could say was, “Wow so I’m not alone in thinking that.”

So John gave me a phone number for Dick the racer. So I call Dick and leave a message and get a call back.  Dick the racer says, “Sure come on over I think I have what you need.”  That totally blew my hair back.  So I drive over and find that Dick the racer lives just a few blocks from Dave the restoration guy and they do know each other.  Dave is out in his back yard tuning up his Norton racer and just pretty much enjoying the great afternoon weather.  Actually rare for Portland this time of year.

Dave is an old racer and is funny and full of great stories.  We chat and he takes e into his stall garage which is cluttered with three other race bikes and parts bits and pieces all over the place.  He reaches up on a shelf and takes down a Norton Atlas clutch basket.  It’s not complete but the splines are perfect and the chain wheel has good teeth.  He wants 100 bucks for it and I agree.  However because we forgot to bring the check book and I hate getting cash from the machines that charge an arm and a leg for that service, I say I will have to have him ship it and I will pay for that and his time.

Nope that’s not going to work and Dick says just take it and mail a check when you get home.  Wow hair blown back again.  Cool!  Well I did happen to mention I had tried to get parts from another shop and he said about the same regarding the other Dick.  Now twice in as many days I have my negative experience confirmed by others in the local area.  Not only that but I ran across a cycle shop and coffee bar and mentioned looking for parts and they said almost the same thing regarding the other Dick.  Then this shop refers me down the street to a guy who is preparing to open a vintage shop in the same location where Cliff Majors had his infamous Cycle Hub shop for ages.

Yes he is getting prepared to open and he shows me some cool vintage bikes.  And yes he has had the same experience with the other Dick.  So I guess this story only sort of highlights some of the sleuthing and digging that I normally do to find parts.  But as life and adventures go this was really great.  I met and made some friends and contacts with like minded people and found one road not to take.

No comments:

Post a Comment