Friday, May 31, 2013

A new engine

Last year Peter bought himself a motorbike.  It took months of looking in every motor-repair shop in Central Portugal to find it.   

Motor-repair shops either stock brand new scooters, usually called ‘Sprints’ or ‘Cities’ in an ill-placed homage to the 1980s it appears.  These great plastic things cost £2000 are about a 50cc and go about 20 miles an hour.  With two of us on the back we’d never make it up the hill to Coentral, let alone anywhere else!

The other thing filling these motor-repair shops are ancient motorbikes, mostly in bits, in need of much love.  These bikes seem to be permanent exhibits at every repair shop, relics of bikes, bits missing, crash victims the whole lot.   When we asked in these shops if they had anything for sale, it turns out that these bikes are semi-permanent displays, we were told on many occasions ‘no, it’s in for repair’ but these repair seems to take years!

I think Peter had images of biking to the market, with a box-full of chickens on the back, his Portugal scarf flapping in the wind, much like the other old men in neighbouring villages.  He’s also keen to take part in the annual ‘Pera Bike Run’, which takes in the local villages (mostly bars and people’s basement bars) which happens in June.   I am sure images of his Dad on his motorbike and memories of Peter’s experiences in Jersey (driving a motorbike with a surf board on one side to view the surf at St Ouen’s) all played their part.

Finally, in November last year he found the bike, in a repair shop in Louriçal.   A 125 Yamaha, just a year younger than me - a 1975 classic (the bike not me).  He looked at it once, twice, three times then made the deal.  Told it was ‘roadworthy’ he sorted out his insurance and went to collect it. 

OK, the tyres needed replacing, the petrol cap wouldn’t close, it took 10 kicks to start it up and the speedometer didn’t work but, hey, nothing insurmountable!  500 euros lighter we headed home, me in the car following closely behind…..about 10ks in the bike broke down.  We called the guy, he came to collect us, said ‘call me next week’. 

Round two:  We collected the bike (I think the chap had glued a couple of bits of wire together to make it go again).   It still took a lot of kicks to get it started and I noticed quite a strong smell of fuel coming up through the floorboards from the basement below the house where the bike was parked.   But, it seems to be working.  Peter was out and about on the bike.  

Wanting to get it serviced, knowing that some things needed ‘tightening up’ Peter found Doug Selway in Tomar.  Mecânico de Motas e Engenheiro de Motores’, Doug is a motor-bike expert with a long history in racing and repairing bikes.   We needed someone who spoke English, someone we could trust and having seen all the bikes in the repair shops gathering dust, someone with a sense of urgency.   Doug was perfect.

It was only when Doug started to take the bike apart that the full extent of the bikes history came to light.   ‘It’s been in a bad crash’ were some of the first comments, ‘how on earth did it make it the 100ks here’ followed, then ‘it’s a miracle you actually made it’ to end!   The bike was a whole heap of bad news.

Those cowboys in Louriçal would have known the bike was in bad shape – ‘roadworthy’ my arse!  And they didn’t give him a receipt!

Finding parts for a 1975 bike cannot be easy, Doug trawled the internet, ebay and other sites looking for items.   Things started to look bleak as Doug sent Peter some pictures of the bike in bits. 

First job was the front forks which were split and needed replacing, after that the bike needed:

·         New front wheel

·         New disc brakes

·         New chain

·         New exhaust

We were due to pick it up when Doug called.  It was only when the first immediate problems were sorted out that the full extent of the job appeared.  It would need a new engine….

So, it got a new engine.

It was then completely rewired, all the ‘home fixes’ the previous owner did had to be repaired along with some very questionable work from the cowboys.  Peter decided that it was well worth a re-spray, which held up the repair works as we waited on another company to get the job done.   Finally, Doug built a new luggage rack, fixed new stands.

This week Peter collected the bike.  It looks almost brand new with a great 70s feel.  There is still a bit to do, but all of that can wait, none of it urgent.

We were lucky on a number of occasions with this bike….firstly, thank god the bike made it the 100ks to Tomar…bad brakes, leaking fluid, crap engine….It was truly a good job we didn’t realise how bad it was.  Second, we were lucky to find Doug, he went above and beyond because of his love of bikes, because taking something from nothing to a fully working bit of bike history is what he loves. 
You can find more about Doug here, along with some more pictures. Click Here.


  1. Ride carefully, guys! Looks like a lot of fun.

  2. Yeh those Portuguese drivers are not so great at careful driving. PWD has been warned to take great care!