This reminds me of Rich, Eric and MX Tuner


Moderator / Wheelie King
Jun 30, 1999
Mostly Rich and Eric though... also makes me glad to have a great garage :)

Scenes From Behind The Bamboo Screen: Home Is Where The Motorcycle Is
by nick voge
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Love is the feeling you have when you care about something as much as you do your motorcycle.

--Sonny Barger, Hell's Angel

Not far from where I grew up was a place we used to call "Gasoline Alley." It was a dead-end alley lined with garages rented by tradesmen, hobbyists, and the odd social outcast. At the entrance of the alley was sign that read: "If we can't fix it, it ain't broke." And that was true, what the denizens of Gasoline Alley couldn't fix, they could make from scratch.

Before I started hanging with the Alley Crew, I considered myself a reasonably skilled mechanic in that, in addition to basic wrench-spinning, I could weld (sort of) and operate machine tools. They soon set me straight on that matter!

A BSA 650 I was restoring at the time had one of the sump-plate mounting studs snapped off flush with the case, and the Easy-Out I tried to remove it with had broken off inside the stud (doesn't it always?). So, off I went to gasoline alley.

Of the many eccentrics who worked there, none was odder than a guy I'll call Ed. Gunsmith, master machinist, and ace welder, he was the man we all turned to when our meager talents could take us no further. In his youth, Ed had built prototype artillery pieces for the army, raced bikes, and worked for the CIA in Vietnam, not necessarily in that order. Ed was the sort of guy who, if he thought you were on the "right" side, would take you over to his El Camino, lift up the bed cover and pull out his various sniper rifles, submachine guns, and other armaments. "That's an iridium scope. You can pick a man off at 300 yards with that baby." Er, yeah.

Every man needs a rider's mansion.
image by nick voge
I won't call him paranoid, but he had a motorcycle rear-view mirror mounted on his lathe that allowed him to keep an eye on the garage door when he had his back to it. And, right there on the shelf, among the drill bits, 4-jawed chucks, and valve collets was a loaded .45 automatic. We all figured it was only a matter of time until he went as ballistic as some of those big guns he used to work on, and none of us wanted to be around when his tightly wound spring finally snapped.

Anyway, I took my cases to Ed, imagining that, with his vast knowledge of machining, he would be able to somehow mount the cases in his milling machine, then carefully bore out the offending stud and heli-coil a new set of threads in its place. He took one look at my sorry attempts at stud removal and just grunted, "We'll just burn that little prick out."

Before I could protest, he had his cutting torch fired up and motioned with it for me to get out of the way. Well, that's the end of those cases, was all I could think, chastising myself for entrusting my precious bits with a nut case. Just as I was calculating what a new set of cases would cost, there was a rapid series of pops. Ed then shut off the torch and said, "Better let it cool off for a few minutes."

Expecting a puddle of melted aluminum, I was astonished to see that not only was the case undamaged, the stud was gone and the original threads were still intact. He had burned the stud out of the cases without damaging the aluminum!

Smiling at my wide-eyed astonishment, Ed explained, "You just get a bit of that stud burning then hit it with the oxygen. Because the aluminum case dissipates the heat quicker than the steel stud, the steel gets blown right out of there without hurting the case. Just run a tap through there and she'll be as good as new."

Still, as much as we all admired and respected Ed, it was only with reluctance that we availed ourselves of his expertise. He was a big guy, with a crew cut going grey and eyes that seemed to look right through you. There was about him a faint aura of menace, as though he had seen and done things the rest of us never would—things we didn't want to know about.

No, when we needed a place to hang, we went to Mason's, two doors up—not that Mason didn't have a few quirks of his own. But then, what sixty-year-old man who lived in a garage with a hot-rod 850 Norton Commando wouldn't have a few quirks? It's just that Mason's quirks weren't the kind that scared you.

Mason's garage was fairly typical. He'd built a sleeping loft in the upper section, to which he ascended nightly with a collapsible ladder. This left the floor clear for motorcycles, a large overstuffed couch, a big refrigerator (filled with beer and frozen pizza), a TV set with a broken antenna (salvaged from the trash), and walls littered with racing memorabilia and decorated with the obligatory Playboy centerfolds. The perfect clubhouse.

Mason had been one of the top tuners back in the days when BSA Gold Stars ruled the Ascot half-mile. By the time I met him, he'd already forgotten more about building engines than I'll ever know. Mason was the sort of guy who balanced his own cranks, who spent hours lapping in oil pumps to reduce operating friction. And Mason was the guy we turned to when we needed a cylinder bored.

When I took my Bultaco cylinder to him for boring, he mounted it in his jig, ran a mic through it, and snorted, "Who butchered this hole?" When I confessed that the local auto shop had done the last rebore, he laughed and said: "What did you take it to those idiots for?"

Since some of those "idiots" were also my friends, I asked him what was wrong with that.

"Look," he said, as if talking to a not-too-bright child, "Automotive machine shops center the cylinder off the existing bore. If the bore is crooked, all they do is bore another crooked hole. The only way to make sure the bore is straight is to mount the cylinder to its mounting flange for boring. And if you really want to do the job properly, you clamp it top and bottom, and bore it as it would be when it's all bolted up and torqued down."

This pretty much blew me away, as it had never occurred to me that a cylinder bore might not be perfectly perpendicular to the flange. I had no sooner digested this bit of wisdom when Mason casually added, "But, of course, if the cylinder's mounting surface on the case isn't parallel with the crank, you're still screwed."

Needless to stay, many were the evenings when I rode away from Mason's garage with my head swimming. It was Mason and the boys who taught me that, far from being a "skilled mechanic," I was nothing more than a glorified parts changer.

The fact that Mason was single - as men who live in garages with their motorcycles tend to be - was one more thing that made it easy for us to swing by in the evening for a beer and BS session. Most men are reluctant to drop in on their married friends. A veil falls over this part of a man's life, and his home suddenly has an invisible off-limits sign on it. And, this is why men need their clubhouses - places free from the emasculating effects of women and marriage - places where men can be themselves.

Apparently, there had been a wife and kids somewhere in Mason's distant past. On one of the cluttered shelves, there was a small, framed photo of an attractive middle-aged lady with a pretty teenage daughter by her side. And, while every other item on the shelf was covered in shop grime, the photo was kept spotlessly clean. The age difference between us was one factor that kept me from asking about the photo. The other was that I was afraid of the answer. I was having enough trouble of my own dealing with the reality of life, and the last thing I wanted to hear was that I hadn't seen anything yet.

As to why Mason chose to live in a garage with his motorcycle rather than in a nice house somewhere, I just assumed that there must have been a divorce along the way, that he was broke, and that this was the best he could do.

However, one evening as I was loafing on Mason's couch while he honed a Triumph cylinder for a waiting customer, my eye fell upon a pile of mail on the cushion next to me. The envelopes had been casually torn open and there, scattered among the bills, credit card offers, and assorted scams were statements from Merrill Lynch, Fidelity, and other big brokerage houses. I was shocked to see that he had at least a half mill stashed away - a tidy sum back in 1978.

Finally, my curiosity got the better of me. A week or so later, after a few beers had been put away, I said, "So, uh, why do you live in this garage?"

"Ah," he snorted contemptuously, "I got plenty of loot to buy a house. I even had one a long time ago. Houses aren't worth the trouble. All that gardening, painting, and the endless chores. Hell, the house ends up owning you! Who needs it? I'd rather have my freedom. All those poor devils you see out there," and, here, he made a grand sweeping motion with his beer, "are just slaves to their possessions. Houses are for women and kids. Real men live in their garage!" This last sentence was punctuated by an emphatic belch.

Although many years have passed since that singular evening—and although Gasoline Alley has long since been wiped off the map to make way for condos—it was Mason who sprang to mind when I learned of the Rider's Mansion.

Located in Tokyo's Nerima-ku, the Rider's Mansion is an apartment building built for motorcyclists by motorcyclists. The fortunate few who live there must think that they have died and been sent, mistakenly, to that great Gasoline Alley in the sky.

Imagine an apartment building with extra-large elevators that carry your motorcycle up to a wide hallway with plenty of space in which to maneuver. Imagine that part of each apartment unit has a separate roll-up access door for your bike that opens into a small mini-garage inside the apartment. A garage area with space for your bike and tools, racks for riding gear, and elbow room enough to perform general maintenance.

Imagine, further, that this bike space is partitioned from the apartment's living area by a shatterproof, see-through glass wall. No longer does your baby have to suffer under a flimsy cover in the cold and rain. No more worries about miscreants abusing your better half. Reassurance is only a glance away. And, whenever you tire of the drivel on TV or on the 'net, you can simply shift your gaze and behold the embodiment of your dreams - your motorcycle. Who needs a Chagall print on the wall when you can drool over a Ducati 1098 instead? And, as we all know, a motorcycle's place is in the home.

It gets better: The first floor of the building is occupied by the motorcycle shop and owner of the building, Red Baron, one of Japan's largest motorcycle chain stores. So, when your bike needs some major work, or when you need a quart of oil or a set of plugs, you can just pop downstairs and get what you need.

The seven-story building has 40 units ranging in price from $800 to $1,200 per month. Since everyone in the building is a full-on bike nut, it's an easy place to make new friends: "Uh, excuse me, I live right down the hall, could you spare a quart of semi-synthetic 20/50?" The Rider's Mansion is the kind of place where, when people ask, "Your place or mine? It means, "Where should we go to watch the races?"

If only the Rider's Mansion had been around in Mason's day, he wouldn't have had to choose between bike and girl, or house and garage.

An autumn eve -
What does the man read
Who has no wife.
-- Basho


Apr 28, 2007
truespode said:
Mostly Rich and Eric though... also makes me glad to have a great garage :)

I've not been around long enough to have confidence in my street intuition... so I'll just ask....

Which one is the one with the el camino full of rifles? ;)


Always Broken
Dec 26, 1999
olderndirtmom said:
truespode said:
Mostly Rich and Eric though... also makes me glad to have a great garage :)

I've not been around long enough to have confidence in my street intuition... so I'll just ask....

Which one is the one with the el camino full of rifles? ;)
That would have to be Tuner since Rich would just bear hug you til your eyes popped out. Eric is just to mellow to have the weapons but he fits in and would probably be voted Mansion president with in a couple days of moving in


Mar 25, 2007
I, like few other lucky people, get to live in my garage! when my parents built it they made a loft for me to live in. only downside is i dont have a fridge.
Top Bottom