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8th December 2003


Opinion: Restoration Gap

In order to successfully restore an old Britbike there are several essential items. You need a classic motorcycle. You need tools. You need spare parts. You need dedication, inspiration and anti-deodorant. And, says Jim Algar, you need Something Else...

This last weekend was good. The sun was shining (hey, it's Southern California - it's a law!) and I had some time free to work on the bike. So there I stood, happily disassembling my Dominator's clutch (one friction plate for you, one steel plate for me... she loves me, she loves me not), when my mind began to wander (ooh, surprise!) to the whole subject of maintaining / riding a Norton when it, and I, live some 5000 miles from Bracebridge Street.

Following the experiences shared by many on this site (mostly UK folk, though not exclusively), I believed that I had everything in place to adopt one of Birmingham's children. I've got the tools -- thank you, Mr. Whitworth -- and the parts (international mail order is a wonderful thing), and of course I have mastered the important differences in vocabulary, so that I say silencer and spanner and mudguard instead of muffler and wrench and fender. So I figure I'm all set. But wait!

Re-reading the many accounts posted here of 'how to restore a British bike', I realize that I may be in serious trouble. I'm missing something; a requirement so basic, so fundamental, that its lack is a total threat to my ability to carry on with this enterprise. I HAVEN'T GOT A SHED!

Look at the shine on that floor. It could only be California.

Yes, we are severely shed-challenged here in California. If I lived in the eastern US, then the situation would be different. In the land of the original 13 colonies (settled by the English, after all), sheds abound. Tool sheds, wood sheds, garden sheds, potting sheds... you can't walk 50 yards without tripping over an outbuilding of one sort or another. But here in the land of sunshine and orange groves (and if you believe that, can I be mentioned in your will?), we are basically shedless. Here it's all instant suburbs, and any structure that has been re-painted once is considered old and verging on useless.

No, here we are blessed with the attached garage (which my godawful California accent stresses on the second syllable, as guh-RAHJ. I must practice GAIR-age.) Great, right? Well... by the time you cram in two cars, a water heater, a washer and dryer, the kids' bicycles, the lawn mower, garden tools, the earthquake survival kit, and several other old (nonworking) appliances, then... guess who gets shortchanged on motorcycle restoration square footage?

Does what it says on the tin.And notice how many of the aforementioned items properly belong in... yes... a shed, which (as we're discussing) I have not got. So, to return to the question: am I able, or even allowed, to work on my bike if I don't have a shed? The jury is still out... but wait! I am having a brainstorm. Since the name of anything is simply the word you choose to denote it, perhaps I can gain a shed with a simple shift in nomenclature. I shall try it out on the wife tonight. 'Dear, I'll be in the shed for a bit working on the bike.'

Blank stare of incomprehension.

'Uh, you know, the... uh... shed?'

Look of total puzzlement.

'You know, where we keep the... where I... the place where... oh, never mind, if you need me I'll be in the guh-RAGE.'

After which I'll run down to the pub for a pint. But there's a problem, you see. I haven't got... oh, never mind.

One of Britain's historic stately sheds

Guh-RAHJ? GAIR-age? Garr-ridge?


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