Tomorrow: The big tamale sample sale

Tomorrow we’re hosting a special sales event on merch from Bell, Teknic and Scorpion. What exactly is for sale? You’re going to have to come find out. It’ll be a mix of samples and new stuff, all at great prices. It’s more than just a sale though. We’ll have live music from The Violent Shifters and the first 30 customers who spend more than $100 will receive a free tamale and grape soda from El Taco Riendo Taqueria. Sale runs from 10:00am to 3:00pm Saturday only. Get there early for the deals, stay for the band.

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The old and the beautiful

I’m going to make a confession here. I don’t really like the Honda CB750. I know it’s an icon. I know it changed motorcycling forever. I know it’s the birth of the superbike. And I know it’s a favorite platform for Japanese Cafe Racers. Still, I’m not a big fan. There’s nothing wrong with the CB750. Hell, I own one. I don’t like it though. It’s the engine mostly. I’m just not an inline four guy. Smooth as butter, even pleasantly loud and howly like an old italian race car, but I’m just not into it. I hate the lack of low end-torque and how fussy it is when I’m trying to get such a big, top heavy bike going off the line.

Thing is, when I look at a bike like this one, I can’t help but be charmed. It’s just gorgeous. Any criticism I might give because of its breeding just doesn’t matter anymore. When you’re this good looking, your flaws just add character — personality matters just a little bit less for as long as the magic lasts. This one has everything going for it that a stock CB750 can have. It’s in great shape. It’s clean. The paint is pristine. I didn’t spend enough time with this old girl to see if she’s a restoration or not, but who cares? It’s the right era too — mid ’70s — back when men were men and bikes were UJM’s. No dual overhead cam nonsense. No wet sump. You had an oil tank and you liked it. It’s a lovely old horse with clean lines and no nonsense. It’s charming, even if imperfect.

I don’t know if I’ve met the owner, but it seems obvious he or she loves this old bike. Somebody did, anyway. It shows in the condition. From what we can see, this bike’s only neglect is in miles. It’s in for a carb clean. No small job on these inline fours, but worth the effort. We’ll undo with careful disassembly and cleaning what gunky old fuel does all too easily. On your own machines, a regular flow of gasoline through the carbs and into an angry engine can head this kind of thing off at the pass. No matter though. We’ll soon have this lovely old thing sorted out. We’re in no hurry. Not just ’cause it’s winter, but because this lovely old machine is good scenery.

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Bikes We Love: Triumph Bonneville

Brando, Eastwood, and the godfather of cool himself, Steve McQueen. What’d these icons have in common? They all rode a Triumph Bonneville on screen. Hell, McQueen rode a Bonneville off-screen too. If you know bikes, especially British bikes, then you know the Bonneville. Her friends call her Bonnie and her fans stretch back more than 50 years. But beyond silver screen street cred, the Bonneville is a fantastic motorcycle and one of our absolute favorites.

Starting in 1959, Bonnie got her name from one of our favorite places: the Bonneville Salt Flats. Triumph had just snapped up a land speed record, so to celebrate, they released a motorcycle with performance that, in its day, more than lived up to its namesake. Starting with a 650cc parallel twin and a four speed gearbox, the early T120 Bonneville set a surprising performance standard unheard of on such an accessible motorcycle. Coming standard with the otherwise optional hot carbs off the Tiger and an aggressive cam, the Bonneville was capable of 115 mph out of the crate. Over the years, that throaty motor grew to 750cc and various upgrades to the brakes, gearbox and suspension made the Bonneville better and better.

In all her variations, the Bonneville is a great package. The torque and zip of the parallel twin, mated to a lightweight, well-mannered chassis gives the Bonnie character in spades. It’s not as bumbly as a v-twin or as clinical as the inline fours. The Bonneville is a bike with an extra helping of soul. The engine growl says everything. “Ride me.” Sure, it’s buzzy. It’s English, so it’ll always be dripping from somewhere. That’s all just character though. Fundamentally, the Bonneville is a motorcycle of distinction — classic fun for the discerning rider.

In 1969, Honda changed motorcycles forever with the introduction of the CB750. It was the birth of the superbike and the inline four cylinder remains the paragon of high performance street bikes to this day. Though the Bonneville continued to evolve, and continued to sell very well on the Queen’s island, it’s place in motorcycling as a whole shifted. No longer the performance standard, I like to think that the Bonneville became a bike of a more discerning character. It didn’t evolve, it endured — if only to remind a new generation what a standard motorcycle should be. And while the worldwide sales numbers didn’t reward the Triumph herself, Japan sold a lot of Hondas and Yamahas with parallel twins aboard — British style with Japanese engineering. Perhaps that’s the best of both worlds. Where would today’s Cafe Racer scene be without the XS650 or the CB450? What is that they say about the sincerest form of flattery? I think there will always be a place for the Bonneville and bikes like her.

When the original Meriden Triumph closed for good in 1983. It should have been the end of the Bonneville. While some purists probably insist that’s the case, the Bonnie lives on today. Starting in 2001 by what’s usually called “Hinckley” Triumph, the reborn marque brought the bike back from the past. While the look and design of the modern Bonneville ties closely to the original, it’s all new engineering. An all-new, 790cc counter-balanced parallel twin gave the new Bonnie plenty of grunt and is, in my opinion, one of the best looking motors available on a bike today. Now expanded to 865cc, the new Bonneville switched from carbs to EFI in 2008, but still houses the throttle bodies inside empty carburetors to preserve its classic looks. Opinions in the shop are split. Some say it’s cheating. Others think it’s ingenious. I fall into the latter camp.

The new Bonneville is an utter joy to ride. It’s everything a modern classic ought to be. The throaty motor moves the bike and rider along confidently. Even with standard gearing, there’s so much torque there, the new Bonneville might as well be a three speed. You just about don’t need second or fourth. The brakes are fantastic. It’s comfortable, but not over-built. It’s also still small. Sat next to other 900cc cruisers, the Bonneville remains compact, which is a big part of why it’s so fun to ride. She’s not a cruiser, actually, even though that’s what many will use her for these days. Rather, she’s a standard. She’s the sport bike of yesteryear. Swap for side pipes and she’s a Scrambler. Drop the bars and bump the seat, and she’s a Thruxton — Triumph’s factory cafe racer and in my opinion, one of the best looking bikes you can buy right now. The modern bike is worthy of her namesake and her heritage, and we love seeing them come by the shop.

History aside, we have quite the connection to the Bonneville both old and new here at BlueCat Motors. Gorgeous examples come through the shop fairly often. Ryan has owned his oil-in-frame monster for more than 20 years now. Both Rob and I count the modern Bonneville as one of the only contemporary motorcycles we’d spend our own money on. I’ll take a Thruxton, thank you very much. In a world dominated by American v-twins and screaming sport bikes, it’s comforting that this bike, this ONE bike remains — reminding us of what English motorcycles used to be. They’re showing up more and more in the custom scene, and that’s all fine by us. Old or new, you can’t go far wrong with a Bonneville. She’ll always be sexy, and just like Steve, she’ll always be impossibly cool.

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Thanksgiving hours

Hey fellow holiday gluttons, here’s the deal on shop hours for the Thanksgiving holiday:

We are closing today, Wednesday, November 23, at 5:00 pm and reopening Tuesday, November 29 at 10:00 am. Have a great holiday while we count our own blessings, thankful for the motorcycle community around us.

Cheers!

-The BlueCat Motors crew

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Hello, snow

Last Saturday morning the Twin Cities got its first real snow of late autumn. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to seal the season as far as I’m concerned. While we might yet see the brown ground once or twice more before winter proper, it’s probably safe to say that I’ve had my last motorcycle ride for 2011 in the Twin Cities. It’s time to drain my carbs, stabilize my gas and pull the battery out of my bikes for tending. It’s bittersweet, because while I know I’ll miss riding my bikes, winter is something we all share together.

Last week we talked about some of the projects we have in the works, but there are winter traditions to be observed as well. First, there’s the programming. It’s cold and stupid out, so let’s watch a movie. My wife and I always watch Grumpy Old Men on the first snow, which we did this weekend. That movie continues to age very, very well. As winter drags on and my motorcycle itch gets worse, I’ll probably watch On Any Sunday at least half a dozen times. I’ll watch Long Way Round at least twice, but probably only watch Long Way Down once because they whine all the way to Africa. I’m sure I’ll revisit One Week, and while I’m in that mood, a second viewing of Heartlands would be time well spent. There are the classics, of course. Easy Rider and The Wild One. Hell, I’ll even re-watch Quadrophenia if winter drags on long enough. Although now I think I relate to the Rockers better than the Mods after selling my Vespa.

Then there’s the events. We’re planning on the third annual BlueCat Motors Illegal Pinecar Derby. Here’s hoping it doesn’t blizzard that night like last year. Stay tuned for the schedule. We’ll also likely attend the International Motorcycle Show, if only to remind ourselves how boring and expensive most of today’s motorcycles are. Looks like Triumph is back at the IMS though, so that’s something. Here’s hoping it’s not at the expense of their great nationwide ride events. We keep thinking about things like ice drag racing or australian-style unicycle races. Not sure if any of that crazy shit will happen this winter, but it’s fun to think about.

How about you? What are your winter traditions? How do you scratch that two-wheel itch until things warm up again? Have you ever been caught down in your garage, sitting on your bike, making “vroom! vroom!” noises? Do you park your baby in the living room and sit on it while you watch old reruns of Chips in your underwear? No judgement. It’s cool. Just stay warm and stay tuned as we just might make up some new winter traditions of our own this year.

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Good news all around

There are several great things coming together this week. First, we’re completely packed with winter storage bikes. We’re full, and after only a couple weeks. All we can say is THANK YOU!!! Storing your bike with us not only gets you and your machine taken care of, but it really helps us make it through the slower winter season. Some of you have taken us up on Winter Service as well, which we’re rather excited about. Come spring, the streets will be that much noisier, and that does our black biker hearts well.

Speaking of winter projects, we’re considering a pretty big one, and we think you’re going to dig it. A local gear head and friend of the shop has entrusted us with a big pile of speed. It’s the parts for a full race setup for a Honda CB500. We’ll tell that story in its entirety as that project unfolds, but for now, let’s just say that we’re excited. It’s just a pile of parts, bodywork and a few donor bikes at this point, but when we’re through with it, there’s going to be one mean little Honda, ready to race. What we’re still trying to figure out is just what kind of racer would we want to build? Do we build it out as a vintage road racer? Do we set our sights on the salt of Bonneville? Either way, we’re thrilled for the build. Stay tuned as we pull this bike together.

What projects do you have going this winter in your garage? I’ve got a Honda CB450 that needs some serious engine work and I’ll be customizing the back end of my (ahem) Honda GL1100. Ryan wants to completely overhaul his Triumph of 20 years. Jeff has a fresh set of rear sets for his Yamaha XS650 Cafe Racer that need to go on. Rob has a CB550 to put back together. It’s projects big and small, and with the temperatures dropping lower and lower, it’s only a matter of time before we’re all in full project mode. It’s no riding season, but we look forward to it in its own way. We can take our time with things. We can consider the options. We can better stand the wait for parts to come in. Have you got everything you need for your winter project?

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The “Fast Freddie” Honda CB750. Part One.

Believe it or not, we don’t get to do frame-up motorcycle projects as often as we’d like. Our bread and butter is your standard tune up and maintenance fare. Batteries, carburetor rebuilds, chains/sprockets, tires, fork seals, brakes or all of the above — that’s our day in and our day out. Even when we pull a motor for a rebuild, the rest of the bike remains. So it’s a special treat to take a bike all the way down to the frame and bring it back up as something shiny and infamous.

That’s precisely what we’re doing with this CB750. The bike belongs to our man Jason, the Rust Brother most directly responsible for making our front lobby what it is today. We’re taking it from standard street snarl to full-on racer tribute bike. And just who are we paying tribute to? None other than AMA Hall of Fame inductee, “Fast Freddie” Spencer. We’re not the first to do so. In 2007, Honda did their own limited edition Spencer CB750. That was pretty cool, but we’re going to do one better. We’re going to stay even truer to the original race bike, and once we’re done with it, Jason’s bike will be much, much faster than Honda’s factory effort.

But a project of a thousand steps begins with a single bolt. We started pulling the motor apart a while ago, but this week we tore into the bike proper. We broke it down all the way to the frame, in fact. All that remains is the bare roller — just the wheels and suspension on the empty frame. When I came by to photograph the frame, I was amazed how light the bare bike was. I’ve got a CB750 of my own, and it’s a pig to move around. They’re top heavy. They’re wide. They’re tall. The bare frame and wheels felt like a bicycle when I spun it around to get a good photo. A set of pedals and I swear, I could have ridden it around the shop under foot power.

It’s a start. We’ve got to get the frame cleaned up and the engine rebuilt. There’s paintwork to sort out and all the right details to get bolted back on. Even once it’s complete, there’s still all the go-fast tuning to be done. Stay tuned, this is just the beginning.

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Time flies when you’re having fun

It’s not winter yet, but it’s definitely getting colder. There are still bikes out on the road, some of us included. But the sun is going down earlier and earlier. The temperatures are dropping. The season is tapering off, and it’s been a blast. But today, November 1st, is the start of winter hours at BlueCat Motors.

Winter hours:
Tuesday – Friday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Saturday: 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Thing is, it’s not like we’ll be any less busy. We’ve got work to do. We’ve got bikes to fix, even more to store and projects to complete while the cold sun shines. It’s going to be fun. Is your bike in for storage yet? Have you lined up any Winter Service work? It’s definitely not too late. Our schedule may be changing, but we’ll still be here to fix whatever you bring us. We’ll still be here, bringing motorcycles back from the dead.

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The season in photos 2011

With the riding season winding down, I’m feeling reflective. So much has happened and so much has changed down at BlueCat Motors this year. There were so many stories we could have told, even if I was only able to get to some of them here on the website. Big projects, small chores, restorations, rebuilds, tune ups, tire changes, carb cleans and everything in between. For every story I’m able to tell, there are dozens that fall between the cracks. Some of those stories — those small moments in the shop and the random motorcycle that happens to stop by — get caught on camera, even if they don’t make it into a post on the blog. That’s what these photos are. I wanted to share some of the images that didn’t make it into any stories this season, so here they are. Hope you enjoy them.

-NS

Photo credits to myself, Will Keeler and Casey Burres.

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Winter Storage 2011

With highs struggling to edge into the 50s, it’s hard not to feel fatalistic about the Minnesota winter. It’s coming. There’s no stopping it. We’re headed away from the sun at some tangential portion of 66,000 mph. So while riding season isn’t over yet, it’s drying up quick. That has us thinking about the exciting prospect of winter projects, and the boring necessity of winter storage. As of this week, we’re taking in motorcycles, scooters and mopeds for winter storage here at BlueCat Motors, all for only $300.

Here’s what you get for $300:

  • Climate-controlled, secure storage for your machine
  • Full winterization — keep those carbs clean, gas stable and the battery tended
  • Free oil change, including filter and oil (additional charge for synthetic oil)
  • Free spring inspection and check ride to make sure your bike is safe and ready to go

Pick up or drop off services are also available for $89/trip.

So why winter storage?
It’s not just about space. Sure, having more room in your garage for your winter projects is a great thing, but it’s more than that. Without proper winterization, any carbureted two-wheeler can go from perfect running order to running like crap just from sitting over the winter. Bad gas falls apart into gunk, the inside of the tank can rust, and all of it conspires to take the growl out of your bike. Spring will show up and your motorcycle will end up on a trailer headed for the shop rather than under your butt where it belongs. Save the space. Save the hassle. Store your bike here and let us winterize it for you properly and wake it up properly come spring.

Why BlueCat?
We have the space, but more importantly we have the know how. We’re mechanics, not salesmen. We understand your bike. We’re here to take care of the machine, whether broken, sickly or simply hibernating. Storing your bike with us this winter also opens up the opportunity to get some work done while the snow falls. Take advantage of our Winter Service program and hell, you might not have to pay for Winter Storage at all. Then when spring comes, not only is your bike clean and ready to ride, but that big fix you’ve been putting off finally got done and there’s nothing left but loud pipes, blacktop and the only truly modern sensation: speed. While that’s no guarantee that the weather will be any good come March or April, it’s our promise that you’re motorcycle, scooter or moped will be good to go when the earth does finally head back towards the sun.

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Contact Us

BlueCat Motors
460 N. Prior
St. Paul, MN 55104
(651) 645-1172‎
info@BlueCatMotors.com

Restoration Services

BlueCat Motors Restoration Services

We believe there's nothing sweeter than an old machine running as good as, if not better, than when it rolled off the factory line. A close second is when that machine looks as good as it runs. That's why we offer comprehensive vintage motorcycle restoration services. Whether it's a concourse bike, a resto-mod custom, or even your own take on the perennial Cafe Racer, give us a call at (651) 645-1172 and we'll get the wheels rolling.

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