My introduction to the madness came when I was 12
or 13. Every summer I would take a month to visit my relatives in
Washington. Most of the time was spent pestering my uncle as he
fixed up the neighborhood cars, motorcycles, etc. That summer brought
a friend of his by with a bike he had bought at a garage sale for
$20. It was a 1978 Honda Express, and it needed someone like my
uncle to fix it.
I was surprised when I first saw it. It was this silly
looking green blob, not anything like the motorcycle I was expecting.
But over the next few days it started to grow on me. My uncle went
through all the usual things, carb, battery, ignition, etc while
I watched over his shoulder and asked dumb questions. By the time
it was running I had gone from laughing at it to wanting a ride.
At that time, my grandmother and uncle lived on a
5 acre piece of land. When the owner of the Express didn't come
by to pick it up. I took to riding it around the property.
The owner of the bike came back for it a few years
later, but when he realized it couldn't move his massive frame around
at a reasonable speed, he sold it to me for $50.
By this time I was getting pretty good at keeping
the carb cleaned out and the bike running. That's the Express for
you - turning men into mechanics since 1977...
This meant when a neighbor said he had a wrecked '81 Express to
get rid of, I started having ideas. I dragged it home for $20 and
set about stripping off the turn signals. As you can see in the
picture above, I had no trouble grafting them onto my '78. I also
transfered the less worn piston, cylinder and head for a small power
I can tell the bike was still leaking a bit of gas
in this shot, as I'm wearing a bunch of too-small clothes I wouldn't
mind throwing out.
As fun as all this was, there were a few problems.
One of the reasons the bike was sold for $20 was the lack of a title.
That meant I couldn't register it, insure it or import it into Canada.
So for several years I only got to ride it when I visited my relatives
in the summer.
But that soon changed. After a few years I no longer had the chance
to visit my relatives. So then I didn't get to ride at all.
In ~2005 I decided I'd had enough and bought another
Express. This time it had the title, it was already in Canada and
it was delivered to my house.
Only one problem. It didn't work. And the more I tore
into it, the more it became obvious it would never work again. The
engine was a rusted out mess inside.
But that just meant I had to get creative!
For those that don't recognize it, that is a taken
apart Honda Urban Express engine. As detailed elsewhere on this
site, the Urban Express is far superior to the ordinary Express.
And though it's far from a straight across swap, I'm the kind of
person crazy enough to attempt it.