Once upon a time a neighbour thinking he was doing me a favour lent me a pile of VMX mags. I devoured these with enthusiasm and then reluctantly had to return them. The next time I was at the newsagent I just had to buy a copy of this expensive but very well produced magazine. Too late, there was no going back, I had caught the VMX bug. I spent months scouring the papers looking for an old dirt bike to restore. To my surprise I couldn't find a thing. I remember when rat 70's trail bikes were a dime a dozen. Wake up Steve! Its 2004 now, that was 30 years ago.
Then one day young Simon from down the road said, "I am moving out of home and dad wants me to get rid of a couple of old dirt bikes. Do you want them". Is the pope a Catholic? Do fish swim? You bet! I had no idea what they were, neither did he. All he could tell me was that he swapped a carton for these two old bikes a couple of years ago and they have been sitting in the back yard ever since. The stuff dreams are made of. So off I went to see what I had scored. They turned out to be a late 70's Yamaha DT125 and an old 1972 Yamaha RT2 360. I was not particularly interested in the 125 but the RT2 would make a perfect VMX project. Simon did not want any money, but I insisted and gave him enough to buy two cartons. Capitalism is great isn't it.
It took months of toiling in the lab late at night and visiting motorcycle graveyards by day searching for the right body parts. She who must be obeyed was threatening divorce. Karolyn hated that bike! Don't worry I mumbled to myself. It will all be worth it, I'll show them. Then finally it was ready. One mighty heave on the kick start and Frank kicked straight back. Hmm, better check the timing and don't be a pussy, stand on that kick starter! This time I was rewarded with an agonised crackling shriek accompanied by a huge amount of vibration. The bike settled down to a slow and reliable idle. Dang-ta-tang-ta-tang. ITS ALIVE!!!
OK, on a more serious note here are the details. Frankenstein is based on a 1972 Yamaha RT2 360. I think that this is the first production bike ever to be equipped with reed valves. The bike was in appalling condition when I got it. The tank was caved in, the seat was nothing but a piece of powdery yellow foam with rust stuck to the bottom. Everything was bent, rusty or missing. Not to worry, all I was interested in was the frame and motor.
I lucked out with the motor. It turned out that it had just been rebuilt before it was abandoned to rot in the back yard for twenty odd years. All I had to do was give it a hone and rings and replace all the seals. I stripped the bike down to the bare frame and ground off every unused bracket and tidied up the welds. Frank was going on a serious diet. I wanted an early 70's MX look with a thin waspish tank and underslung exhaust. The styling and colour scheme was strongly influenced by the Bultaco Pursang and Honda Elsinores. Frank really is a parts bin special. He has been assembled from the following bits and pieces:
I think that just about covers it. The result, a very light and grunty bike with somewhat suspect handling. I still need to do some work on the rear suspension as it is way too hard. The spring rates are correct for a standard bike, just goes to show how much weight has been lost. The old forks, wheels, pipe and guards were unbelievably heavy.
It is important to remember that although Frank is beautiful he is definitely a monster and needs to be treated with respect. Taking this bike for a ride never fails to put a smile on my dial. I just have to be careful that he does not turn on his master and dig my grave with that bloody big knobby.
© Steve Harrison 03/03/2004