Saturday, February 18, 2012

TRON - Lessons in Motorcycle Mechanics

It was January 2011.
Our talks about the trip were becoming more frequent, more detailed and suddenly more real.
Are we really doing this?
So many of the best laid plans peter out to nothing in life, like surfers drinking beers around a fire on the beach promising they too will be there at Bells for the 100 year storm.
Are we the Grommits, or the Bohdi's and Johnny Utah's of this world?
Totally excellent film references aside, we promised ourselves to make this thing happen.

We had to start somewhere and for me that meant learning to ride.
Not learning to ride better, learning to ride at all.
Despite having grown up in Shepparton, I had somehow managed to completely avoid ever even sitting on a moto.
So I signed up for a Learners course and started looking for an old bike.
I wanted something old (read cheap) and preferably in need of a little love; if we were going to be riding these bikes for a year, we needed to know how to fix them.

After only a few days of looking, I found a shiny little 1985 Suzuki GSX250S down in Echuca.
As soon as I saw it I fell in love and the bloke reckoned he could even deliver it to me.
He was 80's as fuck and so I called him TRON.

I found some old ugly Panniers in the Trading Post for $100 (what's he asking?) so to learn how the the bike might handle fully loaded and got to working out how to fit them to the bike.
The Atley Angle Finder

 I bent up some 5mm zinc coated steel for brackets. Templating the angle required in paper then heating them up over the gas stove, before finally bending them in the vice.


TRON at the 12 Apostles
After about 3 months of riding TRON started blowing a bit of blue smoke but more pressing was the lower engine block gasket that was haemorrhaging motor oil. Perfect time to learn a bit about motorcycle engines.
Using a Gregory's workshop manual I proceeded to tear the bits off him.
New Piston rings
New Valve Stem seals
New gakets all round.

Naked TRON

Tank, Saddle, rocker cover and some body parts

This bolt took me nearly an hour to remove.

Camshaft bolts. There are 4 per camshaft, 2 were snapped off and sitting loose in the engine.


Camshafts, Cylinder head, Carbie et al.
After about 6 weeks of waiting for parts, TRON was back together. It took about 10 minutes of turning over to get going.

To get a bit of road experience I threw a tent on the back and hit the road, riding up into the hills of Jindabyne, NSW for a 1600km round trip over 3 days.

Loaded for the road

Testing out the waterproof GPS

TRON has been and continues to be a great lesson in motorcycle mechanics.
Buying an old bike you don't really need to worry about is by far the greatest way of teaching yourself. Let's hope that none of these skills will be needed.


  1. Looks like fun. That small tron bike is cool. Kind of funny because I used to call my KLR Karlatron , but it was more of a transformers reference.

  2. G'day Rob,
    I hope you realise that I'm riding Karlatron right now!
    I've left the black vinyl sticker on the front forks!
    She's a great ride.