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MY HANDLEBAR HELL – PART TWO

Let's go deeper, shall we?

I felt this would calm us both, and offer us a much-needed success at this juncture. Except that grip also wouldn’t budge.

 

“I think it’s glued on as well,” Terry observed.

 

I pulled out my knife. The time had come to stop fucking around.

 

“Whoa!” Terry yelped, raising his hands and backing off. “I didn’t glue the cunt on there!”

 

“I’m not going to stab you,” I said. “I’m gonna cut them off. Then I’ll go to the bike shop tomorrow and buy two new grips. Problem solved.”

 

After hacking the grips off the bars and the plastic sleeve, two things revealed themselves. The sleeve was indeed cracked, but I felt it would still serve if I wrapped some electrical tape around it. Getting a new sleeve in those days would involve a very lengthy wait and lots of swearing at the spare parts bastard in the Suzuki dealership. So we often made-do.

 

The other thing I saw was that both the ’bar and the sleeve were splotched with dried yellow glue, which is what made them impossible to get off. That was factory Suzuki glue, and not some cheap-shit Perkins paste, I might add.

 

“You got any thinners, Dean?” I asked.

 

“What do you need thinners for?”

 

“To pour on your head so you’ll burn brighter,” is not what I said. Honest.

 

“I need to clean up some glue.”

 

“What kind of glue?”

 

“I’m not a glue expert.”

 

“Would metho do?”

 

“I remain not a glue expert.”

 

Dean went and fetched some methylated spirits and a rag.

 

I poured the metho on the glue splotches and rubbed it with the rag. Then I picked at it with my fingernails. Then I used my knife to scrape it off. That worked fine on the handlebar, but it whittled a few curls of plastic off the sleeve. I pretended that never happened.

 

The girls brought us some coffee, and Terry tried sweet-talking Tatijana’s friend, Angela, who’d arrived in full make-up, painted-on jeans, and heels, just like any self-respecting Greek girl would.

 

“You smell nice,” he said to her.

 

She giggled.

 

“Just like a biscuit.”

 

She stopped giggling, exchanged looks with Tatijana and they both sashayed inside while Terry and I watched their bums chewing their way up the stairs.

 

“The fuck was that ‘you smell like a fucken biscuit’ shit?” I asked him.

 

“She smelled nice,” Terry shrugged. “But I didn’t know what she smelled as nice as, so I said biscuit. Biscuits smell nice.”

 

I was sure Angela was right that minute scrubbing her biscuit odour off and re-spraying herself with Tatijana’s Chanel No. 5 – the most non-biscuit perfume ever made.

 

“Let’s get the handlebars off,” I said, putting my coffee down.

 

Terry held the handlebars while I loosened the four bolts that held the top of the handlebar clamp, and then removed the clamp. I sat the old handlebars on the ground, and unwrapped the Laverda unit. It was greasy with packing grease, so I gave that a wipe with the metho, and we were good to go.

 

I found an Imperial Allen key which almost fit the Allen bolts – no, Dean did not have metric Allen keys – and just nipped the bolts up so the ’bars would not flail about during this next episode. Then I sat them in the bottom bit of the clamp. I noticed they weren’t knurled like the stock ’bars, but I figured if I applied extra oomph when I was doing up the bolts, that would not be an issue. I was an expert at applying extra oomph.

 

It was now close to 11pm. I put the top handlebar clamp on, and Terry and I stood back to admire our work. Dean had gone to bed, well-medicated by crème de menthe and that piss-stinking pipe-tobacco he puffed, and the girls were inside dancing to a Saturday Night Fever cassette.

 

“Looks great,” Terry said, obviously ignoring the hanging switchblocks, dangling levers, clutch cable, and master cylinder that I felt only slightly detracted from the sexy-as-fuck new profile my GSX now had.

 

“I love it,” I said, hopped on the seat, grabbed the handlebars and turned them, which immediately smashed my thumb into the tank.

 

“Fuck!”

 

“What?” Terry asked.

 

“They bang into the tank!”

 

Of course they banged into the tank, you say. An idiot would have known that would happen. The Laverda ’bars dropped below the actual triple-clamp, so it stood to reason they would bang into the tank. Yeah, well this idiot had not considered that at all.

 

But he did now.

 

“We need to adjust them,” I declared.

 

“Good thing they’re adjustable, aye?” Terry smirked.

 

“Fuck off and give me the fucken Allen key.”

 

“Dean put that all away before he went to bed.”

 

“Where did he put it?”

 

“I think he took it inside with him.”

 

Yeah, that was Dean all over.

 

I marched inside to see the girls drinking wine and shaking their excellent shit to Stayin’ Alive.

 

“You finished?” Tatijana asked.

 

“Almost,” I said. “Dean took some tools we need. Could you go and ask him for them back? Allen keys. Just say we need the Allen keys.”

 

Tatijana went off, and a few seconds later I heard her knocking and knocking. Then I heard a lengthy muffled exchange between her and Dean. Angela sat on the couch and sipped her wine. The Gibb boys moved onto More Than A Woman.

 

Tatijana came back looking a little sheepish. “He wants to know which Allen key you want.”

 

“For fuck’s sake…” I muttered and stormed past her and into Dean’s bedroom. The cunt was actually wearing matching pyjamas and had applied some kind of night-cream to his face.

 

“Give me the fucken Allen keys.”

 

“What size do you want?”

 

“All the sizes! Give me all the fucken Allen keys you fucken got! Stop being a fucken cunt!”

 

“OK, OK…” he said putting his hands up, and reaching under his bed to grab the small pouch all of his BSW Allen keys were in. “I was just trying to help by giving you the right one.”

 

“None of them are the right one!” I spat, grabbing the bag out of his hands. “These are imperial. I need metric. But you don’t have metric, because your fucken car is a cunt. Like you. So I’m going to improvise with these cunts!”

 

I stomped back outside, emptied the bag, found the Allen key that almost fit, and told Terry to adjust the ’bars while I sat on the bike. Which is how Tatijana found me when she and Angela came outside with their arms crossed across their tits like girls do when they’re about to say shit you might not like.

 

“Why did you swear at Dean?”

 

“No, no, that’s too loose…tighten it up a touch…what? What’s wrong with Dean?”

 

“He says you swore at him and threatened him.”

 

“I didn’t threaten him.”

 

“But you swore at him?”

 

“Fuck yes! Does he need me to go and swear at him some more?”

 

“No, he’s very upset.”

 

“I don’t give a fuck. I’m upset too. NO! Fuck me, what are you doing? You’ve gouged the tank!”

 

Terry had indeed dug a nice furrow along the side of my petrol tank with the Allen key that didn’t quite fit.

 

“Oh…fuck…sorry, mate. It slipped…”

 

“Why don’t you put a towel on the tank?” Tatijana asked.

 

Terry and I did not even look at each other. I stared at the lightbulb hoping it would burn out my retinas, and he kept licking his finger and rubbing at the furrow in my tank like his saliva was some kind of touch-up paint.

 

“Could you get me a towel, please?” I asked her quietly.

 

The girls went off to get a towel, and Terry and I had a discussion about pulling the pin for the night and starting again tomorrow. As luck would have it, Tatijana’s parents were away, so we could both stay the night. Neither of us would enjoy him pillioning me home, and I think Terry was hoping to smell some more of Angela’s biscuitry. She was still wearing heels so it’s possible she would permit that. I would share Tatijana’s single bed – an arrangement neither of us enjoyed very much.

 

After a restless night, Terry and I were back in the garage the following morning. It was 6.30am and everything look both better and worse in the bright morning light. The handlebars, the segments meant to hold the levers and switchblocks, were now canted a touch forward to avoid smashing into the tank, and we both agreed that looked very shit, and would make the bike hard to ride.

 

“What if we turn the bars upside-down, so the middle bits face up instead of down?” Terry said. “You’ll get heaps more clearance that way.”

 

That made lots of sense. If we flipped the bars upside-down, the wonky angled bits between the straight bit that bolted to the handlebar clamp and the bit that held the grips, blocks, etc, would be facing up, thus maybe allowing enough clearance at full lock.

 

So we did that. And it worked. It did not look as cool and clip-oney, as when everything was low and sexy, but my thumbs would not now be mashed into the tank, and I could lock the bike without driving the end of the handlebar into the metal.

 

High-fives weren’t a thing then, so we bumped chests and did a little dance. The girls came out onto the verandah to sip their coffees and watch us.

 

“What are you doing?” Angela asked.

 

“Celebrating a great victory!” I grinned.

 

The girls exchanged those looks girls exchange when stupid man-stuff they don’t understand takes place.

 

“Let’s get the levers and shit on, and go for a ride!” I declared.

 

That’s when the elevator we were on descended to the next level of Hell.

 

You see, once we had bolted all the stuff on, we discovered that all the stuff now snagged the tank. We discovered this because the switchblocks gouged entirely new troughs in my paint. I started throwing Dean’s tools all over the yard and over the fence, and kicking his mum’s flowerpots like a crazed fuckwit.

 

Which is what I had become. I even had a brief second of pyromaniacal need to torch Dean’s fake vintage car, then throw him into the flames when he emerged to see what the fuss was all about.

 

Terry just stood there looking at the handlebars and the scratches in my tank. The girls had gone inside when the spanners started flying, and it took a few minutes for me to calm down enough to decide what to do next.

 

“How about you and Angela ride to the bike shop and get me some new grips, while I work this shit out?”

 

Terry was off like a shot with Angela on the back wearing Tatijana’s helmet and jacket. I stood staring at my unrideable bike, and Tatijana stood on the balcony staring at me. Dean emerged in a fluffy bathrobe, gave me a filthy look, then whispered something to his sister. She shrugged and shook her head as if to say “No, don’t”.

 

“Are you finished with the Allen keys?” Dean asked.

 

“Go back inside, Dean,” his sister said, grabbing by the arm and leading him away before I could respond. Smart girl, that one.

 

I was at a loss. I was also stupendously pig-headed. I was going to have Laverda handlebars on my GSX if I had to set fire to the world, rather than just Dean’s turd-built car.

 

And they were on…almost. I was close. If I could somehow stop the switchblocks from slamming into my tank, my happiness and sexiness would surely not be far away.

 

I went to find the Allen keys I had thrown around in my fit of pique. I wiped them down and started doing micro-adjustments on the handlebars to see if there was some sweet-spot or angle I could put them in which would minimise the damage to my tank, while still allowing me to control the bike…and look sexy doing it.

 

Just as Terry and Angela returned, I found that spot. It was a compromise. And it would require me to always remember to ease the bike into full lock rather than just slam it there in a cavalier fashion. There were already corresponding divots in the tank from my many “measurements”, but they didn’t appear to be getting any deeper, and I told myself I would sort this out at a later stage. No. I had no idea how. But maybe it would come to me.

 

“I got the grips,” Terry said, tossing a pair of cheap rubber tubes at me. There wasn’t a lot of choice back in the 80s, and these would do as well as any others.

 

“How’d you go?” he asked.

 

“I think I have it sorted.”

 

He peered at the “sorted” handlebar set up.

 

“Are your hands turned inwards? It looks like the ’bars are pointing forwards…and this one looks like it’s pointing more forwards than the other one.”

 

“It’s an optical illusion,” I said. “That’s how they’re meant to look.”

 

“No, they’re not,” Terry said.

 

“They are fucking now,” I said through clenched teeth. “Let’s get the grips on.”

 

The left one slid on very easily. Which was a problem, because it also rotated each time I put my hand on it. There was obviously a reason Suzuki used glue. But that was OK. I could get glue. Or make it out of Dean once I had killed him and rendered him like an old horse.

 

But the right-hand one was an issue. It was shorter than the original grip, and the plastic sleeve which held and operated the throttle cable protruded a centimetre out from the black rubber. I told myself and Terry that made it all look very “racing” and “trick”, and received no sass-mouthed backchat, so that was that. That’s how it was going on.

 

Now obviously, that sleeve has to turn with the grip when you twist the throttle and thereby pull the cable. But it wasn’t doing that. The actuating mechanism would not actuate and pull the throttle cable. Did the electrical tape I’d used to “repair” it have something to do with it?

 

As I undid the screws to take off the switchblock, Terry suddenly discovered the throttle could be twisted again.

 

“Look!” he chimed. “It works!”

 

I tightened the switchblock screws again. It stopped working.

 

Problem solved. I loosened the screws and throttle operation returned. Sure, the switchblock moved in time with it, but I told myself I could live with it.

 

I left the shit-looking stock mirrors off, telling myself I would get some bar-ends when I’d saved enough money – and the fitting and subsequent smashing of those fucken things is another tale. In my defence, you’ll appreciate universal-fit bar-end mirrors of that vintage where not universal-fit at all, and usually fell out of the end of the handlebars when you rode off.

 

Terry and I stood back to admire our handiwork. It was fairly awful, but Terry was not going to say anything, and I was never the type to plead guilty no matter what the evidence was.

 

And the evidence was damning. The Laverda handlebars were not angled backwards like normal handlebars. They were canted forward a touch, and one was canted forward more than the other. We had tried to make both sides identical, but failed. It may have been a fault in the casting, or something that had happened to me while I was in my mother’s uterus. But the ’bars were not sitting symmetrically.

 

I told myself I could live with that. I was, however struggling to live with the fact we couldn’t really tighten the Allen bolts up. You’ll recall Dean did not have metric Allen keys. So I’d had to use an imperial one which didn’t quite fit, and was now a little bit stripped.

 

That was Dean’s fault for buying cheap tools. My strength and determination were not at fault. But handlebars that behaved like segmented worms were a problem, as I discovered when I took the bike around the block. The joints had come loose and I dinged my already dinged tank even more. I also almost crashed. But no-one saw that so it didn’t really happen.

 

“Does your brother have a welder?” I asked Tatijana when I returned.

 

She shrugged. “He’s gone jogging. I’ll ask him when he gets back.”

 

Terry and I searched the garage, but no welder could be found. We did find some nails though. And a hammer.

 

I managed to tap some of those nails into the small gap beside the Allen bolts after first doing them up as tight as I could with the stripped Allen key. I figured that would do until I could find a welder.

 

Now I’d like to tell you everything went beautifully from that point on. But of course it didn’t. I never did get the loose handlebars welded solid because I threw them away in a fit of hate and rage a few days later.

 

They kept coming loose (I honestly did not expect the nails to fall out), they kept dinging my tank, the rotating right-hand switchblock was driving me insane, as was the moving left-hand grip, and I quickly discovered it was very hard to ride when the handlebars are both asymmetrical and angled forward. And loose.

 

I also got booked for not having any mirrors. I tried to explain to the cop that I did have mirrors and if he’d follow me back up the road, I would show them to him lying in the gutter where I had kicked them after they had fallen out, but the prick was just being unreasonable.

 

Tatijana and I parted company not long after that, which was probably the best thing that could have happened in Dean’s life.

 

I didn’t much care, because I had just negotiated the purchase of a Ducati Darmah – complete with a Campagnolo wheels,  Imola pipes, and a fucken tigers’ heads painted on the sidecovers.

 

And now I had two bikes to modify…

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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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