Opinion: Back in the saddle

As you may recall, I’ve been working on getting my 1984 Yamaha Maxim 750 back on the road for as long as I’ve been writing for Canada Moto Guide. Well, it finally happened. Sort of.

Shortly after getting my motorcycle license, a friend of mine told me his dad had an old motorcycle he probably wouldn’t mind getting rid of for cheap. He hadn’t ridden it in years, and he could use the extra garage space. I went to see it and we struck a deal.

I returned that weekend to pick it up. That first ride was nothing short of exhilarating. You wouldn’t have been able to pry the big, stupid grin off my face with a crowbar. Giggling to myself under my helmet the entire way home, I spent the night sitting in the garage just staring at it. The old bike might not have been much to look at for most 25 year-old guys, but it was mine.

I experienced a number of firsts on that motorcycle. First time riding on the road, first time carrying a passenger, and the first time running out of gas. I learned a valuable lesson about reserve switches just a few weeks after buying the old bike. Not having a fuel gauge, the first time it started to sputter from lack of fuel, I reached down and adjusted the switch and continued riding. Unfortunately, I made the newbie mistake of not raising it back up the next time I topped up the tank. The next time it started to sputter, I reached down to engage the reserve and my heart sank – that was the reserve.

I rode that bike all over southern Ontario that summer, but the next season I was commuting into Toronto every day, so I wanted something newer and more reliable. A good friend had just gotten into the hobby and was looking for his first bike, so I agreed to sell it to him. He enjoyed it for a couple years before dismantling it in hopes of completing a full restoration. Unfortunately, that never happened. Work, marriage, a house and kids took priority, and the parts were moved to a ramshackle barn where they sat for nearly a decade.

Meeting up with him at a holiday party a few years ago, I asked whatever happened to the bike and he shared the condition of the ill-fated motorcycle. He agreed to sell it back to me for a fraction of the original sale price out of guilt. He had ridden it off under its own power and returned it in pieces, most of which were either broken, corroded, or missing. Dropping the price was the least he could do. It was a sad sight indeed, but I saw the potential.

Thankfully most of the chrome came back to life with the help of some elbow grease but it took me ages to track down original or aftermarket period correct parts such as handlebars, turn signals, grips, carburetor, and tires. It hadn’t moved a foot under its own power in years and so the rubber was flat and cracked. I sent the tank off to get painted and got to work putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Finally getting it all assembled – complete with a fresh battery and plugs, I had lights, ignition and spark, but the carburetor was not cooperating. I decided to enlist professional help. I called Nick at Augment Motorworks and he assured me he could help. In short order, he backed up his claim. When I arrived to pick up the bike a couple days later, he’d installed a new set of tires and fixed the fuel delivery issues. When I turned the key, it fired up instantly. It was the first time I’d heard the sweet sound of that inline four-cylinder engine running in over 16 years. I got goosebumps.

After taking years to reassemble, the Yamaha Maxim 750 runs and is able to move under its own power.

Still being winter, I trailered it home but was anxious to get it out on the road the first chance I got. Sure enough a few weeks later the temperature rose into the double digits. I excitedly got all my gear on then removed the cover and wheel locks. Starting up immediately once again, it settled into a confident idle. Releasing the choke, I opened the throttle and rode out of my parking garage into the sunshine.

Ready to make my way out onto the street, I noticed the front end felt spongy and out of sorts. It had been the better part of two decades since I rode the bike, but I knew this wasn’t right. I lowered the kick stand and got off the bike to inspect the brand-new front tire, which just happened to be as flat as a pancake. So much for the inaugural ride. I turned around and put the bike back where it had been before covering and locking it up.

Since I live in a condo and don’t have access to the necessary tools or an air compressor, I’ll now have rent a trailer and tow it back to the shop to have the tire fixed once again. It’s never easy, is it?

That brief ride up the parking garage ramp may have been short but it still brought back a stream of forgotten memories – those feelings of a twenty-something riding his very own motorcycle for the first time. Pure, unadulterated freedom.

As much work as I’ve put into it, the bike still isn’t much to look at and it likely isn’t worth much to anybody but me. Being responsible for my introduction to motorcycling, its sentimental value is priceless.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Parting ways with your first bike always feels like a right of passage when you upgrade to another bike, but you always regret it like the one that got away. My first bike ended in a similar fate to yours. I wish I could have gotten mine back and pieced it back together. Well done!

Join the conversation!