My Other Ride

A COVID Lockdown Project
During Victorian’s second lockdown we’ve got to know every crack in the footpath, every blade of grass in the 5kms surrounding our home. I was starting to go a bit potty. I needed a project. A CoVid Lockdown project. I found one and here is the story.


I’ve moved house four times during the past five decades or so. I have trouble throwing things away and so my Vespa “Priscilla” always came with me even though it hadn’t been registered in 19 years. Glad I kept it as its been a source of immense pleasure in my retirement since restoring the scooter in 2010. My motorcycle also came with me. It had to be literally dragged from house to house because somewhere along the way I lost the keys to both the steering lock and ignition. It was last registered in 1991.

After a 2012 post on the club website asking about our other playthings besides Vespas I started to think about my bike again. It turned out that a number of members had motorcycles too, and some fancy cars. And so I pulled the cover off the bike to take some pictures to post on the club website. My re-acquaintance with the thing inspired me to begin exploring the availability of parts to get it going again. As my motorcycle could only go round in circles since its steering was locked, I started my search looking for a specific key with the right number that might open the lock. No luck. It seemed too difficult so I let the idea of restoring it pass. Besides I was having far too much fun riding Priscilla all over the place.

A Happy Find
Fast forward to Victoria’s first lockdown. I was cleaning the house. We have a bit of a clutter here - lots of nic naks and bits and pieces. To do a thorough COVID clean I picked up every object and dusted it off or wiped it clean. One of these objects, a small decorative woven rattan basket from Indonesia, ratted when I picked it up. I looked inside. Well blow me down. There were the keys to my motorcycle. Not just one set but the spare as well. I must have put them in there for safe keeping. See, I never throw anything away. A shame about the memory but. So, after 29 years, I could finally unlock the thing.

Fast forward to Victoria’s second lockdown. A bit over a month ago on a bright sunny day, I unlocked the steering of my motorcycle for the first time in 29 years and dragged it out into the back yard. I still had to “drag” it as the front tyre was flat and had almost perished away. I was rather dismayed to see how badly it had weathered under its cover half under the carport, half in the rain. Never mind, here was a project. A perfect foil for lockdown boredom.

But What Is It David?
I hear you ask. Well its a 1972 Yamaha RT2 360 Enduro. Enduro was the term used in those days for an on-road / off-road machine now called a “dual sport”. It is a big bore 350cc two-stroke with 5 transfer ports, autolube oil mixing, reed valve torque induction, 10" ground clearance and heaps of power on a light frame. It was amongst one of the biggest dirt bikes in its day. Here are some specs comparing it to a modern auto Vespa:

RT2 360 (351cc) Weight: 119 Kg. Power: 32 Hp @ 6,000 rmp. Torque: 37 N-m @ 5,500 rpm
Vespa 300 (278cc) Weight: 158 Kg. Power: 21 Hp @ 7,750 rmp. Torque: 26 N-m @ 5,250 rpm

Yamaha’s DT-1 and RT range dirt bikes were developed from 1968 and had a huge impact, especially in the USA where desert racing was popular. European trials motorcycles like Bultaco, Husqvarna, Greeves, CZ, Montesa, Zundapp and Maico were designed for the rough stuff and had well mannered handling. They were hand built machines, expensive and sometimes unreliable. The Yamaha dirt bikes were street legal with a speedo, working lights and turn indicators so you could ride them on the road to where the fun starts. They had bullet proof motors but they were less refined in terms of their handling.

A New Passion Begins
When I first took to the mountain trails I found the bike a real handful. Although I had been riding Vespas for about ten years, I was a motorcycle virgin. I soon joined AMTRA, the Australian Motorcycle Trail Riders Association to learn how to ride the thing off-road. The club is still in existence. In fact I have a receipt for my $5 membership for 1973. Never throw anything away. I’m not a showy rider, don’t have the confidence, but I have to admit that the awesome arm-socket wrench of a big two-stroke when it gets onto it power band puts a smile on your face. It was like a thwack as the rear wheel scrambles to get ahead of the front. The thing could pull wheelies relatively easily, which proved handy for jumping over things.

The Yammy 360s had a reputation for vicious kickback. There are many stories of broken ankles. Massive compression meant that you had to approach the kick start lever with all the bravado you could muster. Any sign of fear or hesitation would be rewarded with a leg breaking kickback. In fact if you didn’t follow your kick all the way through and bounced it off its compression stroke, the thing could start backwards. It pulled like a tractor from low and the power kept coming. It could climb some amazingly steep hills. While the European dirt bikes were trailered to the start of AMTRA club rides, I usually rode my bike there. I carried a big shifter to change the countershaft sprocket to gear down for the dirt and gear up for the road. It was also an easy matter to remove the turn indicators so they didn’t get smashed off in a fall.

The RT2 came with tyre clamps which secured the tyre to the rim so that it wouldn’t slip. This allowed you to deflate the tyres to around 8 psi for incredible grip in sand or mud. Over time I managed to conquer most of my fear and could scramble up rock strew hills, jump logs, ford rivers with water up to the fuel tank, slither down a steep muddy track with the back wheel locked controlling the bike with knees jammed into the tank in a standing position. Once we rode through deep powder snow. What a hoot!

On road trips, the bike took me to the Flinders Ranges SA and to Bundaberg, QLD. I got up to 80 miles/hour once, that’s about 130 kms/hour, but when the front wheel started to shimmy I thought it wiser to back off - the wrong geometry and tyres for a road bike. Like my Vespa, this machine became collectable over time. I paid $720 for it new and a good second hand one now sells for around $US3-4,000. My motorcycle was last registered in 1991. It has done about 47,200 kms much on dirt roads and 4WD tracks.

The Project Begins
I’ve started at the wrong end. Instead of seeing if the engine still works, I’ve been taking the whole thing apart down to the frame, de-rusting and cleaning each part and every nut and bolt individually. Each day I tackle what I feel like doing and stop if I get bored. I bounce around from a bit of cleaning, a bit of painting, a bit of polishing and a bit of dreaming. I think this project will be long in the fruition. Unlike a classic Vespa, parts are very rare. Good quality engine seals, for example are particularly hard to find. So I need to do a leak down test to see the crank seals might be okay after 29 years. I like the fact that my bike is so basic. No computer, no sensors, no CNC machined parts. Just bits and pieces bolted together, stamped parts, cast parts, bent bits welded bits. Engineering that’s been around ever since the industrial revolution. Wish me luck. Here are a few pics of progress so far.

 

How my bike looked when new. It's a very lean and handsome machine with lots of ground clearance and a strong 1970s vibe. By the time I've finished, it won't look brand new like this restored example but it will be fun to ride.

How my bike looked when I started this project. As I got more into trail riding, I modified the bike. Changes to the front suspension, performance shocks at the back, a long range plastic fuel tank, a high front fender that wouldn't clog up with mud. I also took off bits to lighten it like the tachometer and steering dampener.
I pull it out into the sun to begin work on pulling it apart. I threw my original fuel tank away which is a very unusual thing for me to do. I had to buy a replacement from the USA. I little worst for wear but its clean on the inside.
29,470 miles or 47,164 kms. I took the tachometer off and unfortunately, threw it away. The dints, dents and scrapes are a reminder of how much fun I had on this bike.
Lots of rusty steel and aluminium corrosion to deal with. This replacement oil tank for the above arrived in 2016 from the USA.
Cobwebs! Carburettor unbolted.
Other bits start coming off. Engine is out.
Forks and swing arm liberated. Frame stripped bare ready for some deep cleaning and painting.

Cleaning up the engine. I was delighted to find that kicking over the engine produced a nice fat healthy spark after 29 years laid up.

Pleasing to see that the piston was clean as a whistle with no scoring or blow- by past the piston rings. Compression felt good too.
Glad I didn't try and start the bike as I found the foam air filter had crumbled away and bits would have been sucked into the engine. Come to think of it, they probably did when I turned the motor over a few times. Cleaning and de-rusting every single nut, bolt and spring. This is insane.
Various parts from the frame are cleaned and de-rusted ready for painting. Parts repainted black and shiny like new.
Battery box, rear brake lever and airbox top get loving care and attention. First attempt at trying to match the original colour using the inside of the headlight shell as a practice target. Hmm, a bit too silvery and not enough grey. But does it really matter I ask?
This Asian dragon is the entire wiring loom including regulator and ignition coil that will one day spit fire again. Some cracks in the seat pan will need welding.
The steering yoke. Rust all over the place. Back to bare metal
All painted like new. Steering bearings in good condition although I think I lost one ball bearing. My brother Peter rebuilt the top bearing housing after I slammed into a car that suddenly turned right in front of me. Front forks were serevely bent. I was flung over the car bonnet and the bike came down on top of me. Only a small scratch on my lip.
Losts of deep corrosion on the aluminium forks. Hmm, this will be hard to remove. This is a test clean on the forks caps before and after polishing.
The swing arm cleaned and de-rusted ready for the paint shop. I couldn't be bothered stripping all the paint off. Only the rusty sections.

Backstory
When I inherited my first Vespa in the 1960s my best friend, Richard, bought a new fangled Japanese motorcycle. His 2-stroke Suzuki K10 was only 80cc but revved freely, had four gears and was an easy match for my plodding 1958 150cc three speed VB1. Together we rode all over Victoria. To Maldon, Port Fairy, Beechworth, Whitfield and to Walhalla, the adventurous way via Woods Point. Many roads were still dirt in those days. One day my friend put knobby tyres on his bike. I’m not sure why as it was hardly an off-road machine but I followed him into the bush. Now an old Vespa is a ridiculous thing to ride on rough bush tracks. Although its sturdy little motor coped well enough, its small 8” wheels and complete lack of ground clearance left my engine cases and floor pan rather battle scarred and damaged by all the intimate encounters we had with rocks, sticks and ruts. Probably the most adventurous ride was when I took my brother two-up, his diving wet-suit and all our camping gear on a trip into the Victorian Alps to camp at Lake Tali Karng North East of Licola. Its rare natural lake nestled in the folds of mountains and apparently is quite deep hence the diving gear. We approached our destination from the North. Here is a photo of my scooter taken over 40 years ago on the 4WD section of track across Wellington Plains just before heading down to the lake itself. I had to walk the scooter down over one very rocky section. This track is now a walking track and is closed to vehicles. Hence my curiosity about dirt bikes began and I started reading reviews in various motorcycle magazines in the early 1970s. Many years later I visited Tali Karng again but this time on my RT2 from the south end crossing several deep rocky bottomed rivers. I loved riding both my motorcycle and my Vespa enjoying the unique characteristics of both machines. I would happily ride one or the other to work everyday. The call of the RT2 has always been there and so this project starts.

 
 

 

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What an absolutely amazing story about your "other" 2 wheeled bike David.  A positive out of Covid for sure. So glad you found those keys and have been able to restore this classic.

Cheers Julie

Great story, David.

I had an RT360 many moons ago during my mis-spent youth, thrashing motorcycles of all sorts, through the forests around Ballarat.

It was a beast of a thing! It never looked as good as yours though. 

Hi Darren. Thanks for your message. Yes, I agree, it was a beast of a thing. I'm not sure if I ever tamed it or if it tamed me. So many falls in the initial stages but then it took me through some magnificent and otherwise difficult to access mountainous country. In motorcycle forums when people talk about the bikes they never should have gotten rid of, this is often one of them, and I've always felt the same. Hope we can catch up for another ride your way when things open up in November. Best wishes, David.

Now that was worth reading David thanks for sharing. I rode a CB175 everywhere when I was 15.... pudding basin helmet flat chat down the Nepean Hwy tucked behind the speedo - eventually I took the motor out as I was worried about the constabulary.... when I see one for sale I am always tempted.

please keep us up to date with progress David, looking forward to seeing you and the bike soon.

Paul Stampton 

Hi Paul. Thank you. Your story of riding the CB at fifteen sounds a bit like mine. As I recall, the pudding basin helmets we wore had a full 1/8" of cork lining to protect our 'thick' skulls. Happy to report a bit more progress. I managed to get the corrosion off the fork legs and polish them up all bright and shiny. I wasn't looking forward to painting the frame with all its odd angles, nooks and crannies. Three coats within the hour, the instructions said and I'm no gun spray painter. I ended up with a few dribbles here and there but I'll live with that and I'm relieved its done. I can start hanging things off it next week. :-} 

Fabulous story David.

Happy the lockdown has brought about so many positives.

Rediscovering your motorcycle 

Its restoration, and sharing your story with us .

Cant wait to see it.

whats it’s name ? xx 

Hi Lisa. Nice to hear from you. A name? Now there's a challenge. Yellowtail Brut? Mule? The Kickback Kid. Hmm, think I'll need some help with that. Hope to see you on a ride soon xx

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