I have been riding, repairing and rebuilding motorcycles off and on for very nearly 40 years. When we were overseas, I was forced to take an extended break, so now that we are back in Canada it has been nice to get the shop set up and be able to once again start ‘bending some wrenches’.
For a few years, I did a lot of work with Honda’s – one of my early experiments (a ported, hot cam’d, over bored and overly temperamental CB350) was well known to my friends. It was dubbed by Colin Train (a high school classmate of mine), as the ‘ external combustion machine’ as it caught fire several times – once while I was riding it ! Since the late 80’s, I have tended to focus on Suzuki GT750 motorbikes – these are the big three cylinder, water cooled 2-stroke touring bikes built between 1972 and 1977, and which were affectionately tagged by their owners and the press in Canada and the USA as the ‘Water Buffalo’ (or ‘Wasserbüffel’ in Germany, ‘The Kettle’ or Water Bottle’ in the UK, and ‘waterbucket’ in Australia ). All the large bore 2-stroke bikes built by Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki were phased out due to environmental concerns and legislation, mainly driven by the USA, in the late 70’s. They generally do tend to smoke a bit, although the amount of visible smoke is often controllable with the use of modern 2-stroke injection oils, careful tuning and the use of electronic ignition systems. I suspect that today with the availability of fuel injection, advanced computer controls, and clever engineering, a modern big bore 2-stroke could be made environmentally friendly, although the required investment to make it happen would be considerable. At any rate, there is a large global community of enthusiasts who keep these old bikes on the road, with really big Water Buffalo clubs in Europe and the UK, as well as in North America.
I currently have two licensed 1976 GT750’s which I ride occasionally, (plus of course the 1966 Yamaha YA6 I bought recently) and I have a third 1975 GT750 shown to the left which is in pieces, and which I have been saving for a suitable ‘quiet’ moment. Now that I’ve retired, that moment has arrived. While it may not look like much at the moment, it is all there, plus I have quite a few new parts and pieces for it that I have been collecting over the years.
While I was in Europe, I took the opportunity to track down a few Water Buffalo parts suppliers who have started to supply after-market, new manufactured parts and pieces. One of these is a small one man operation in the north of The Netherlands operated by Erik Potze, and I managed to buy a nice set of new Gibson exhaust pipes from him, as well as some other trim, water pump and carburettor repair kits . After market exhaust systems are pretty much the only option available to owners of most old Japanese motorbikes as new old stock (NOS) ones practically non-existent, and good used ones are as rare as hen’s teeth. The GT750 specifically was not known for having great ground clearance in the corners, so most pipes that you see show some scuffing or scrapes from contact with the pavement. The Gibson pipes are made in the UK and should look really nice once I get them installed.
The ‘home’ site for the project is here. We’ll see how it progresses !