Jason has had more bikes in Sideburn than any other person. I'm not sure how many times I've written than sentence, but it's been true since issue 2, because he had a bike in both of the first two issues of the magazine. Then he kept building. Plus there have been at least three feature worthy bikes that he's built that we haven't featured. He isn't a pro builder, and doesn't build bikes for anyone else. He's just convinced the next bike is the best bike.
We asked him to write a piece about each of them for a blog post, and he obliged.
Bonneville Performance Street Tracker
I say street tracker in the loosest sense. Full tilt GNC flat track racer with a UK registration plate would be a better description. Absolutely barking mad bike, honed and tweaked over many years.
Quite an undertaking when I look back now, to strip a brand new motorcycle down to that extent with so little knowledge and experience. Lots of learning, including TIG welding, wiring and how not to lift an 80kg engine out of a van. Sold to help fund an old Porsche.
[It had the polished tank when it was in the magazine, then was orange, with Ti pipes, when Jason sold it]
Harley-Davidson XR1000 Street Tracker
Having ridden modern bikes for a few years [Ducatis and MVs], the novelty was starting to wear off. Saturday morning rides which used to be exciting, started to feel a bit pointless. Having a cool old Harley, now that would spice things up. Not a typical Harley though. Having seen a picture of Scott Parkers XR750 I thought, that’s the bike for me. How naive. Blind optimism and a general cluelessness of what lies ahead is great for getting the impossible going. I bought an XR1000, knowing full well it didn’t cut it as is, but it did have potential. So I happily chopped, swapped and buggered around until it looked as much like Scotts as I could muster. Learnt many small skills along the way, but the big lesson was painting, I can’t paint. Leave it to the professionals. All was perfect, until I rode it. Having only ever ridden modern bikes, it was a shock. Probably wouldn’t be now, however at the time I decided that it wasn’t for me. Which is why I then moved onto the Triumph previously mentioned. Despite the bike not riding as expected, I was still proud of what I’d done and contacted Gary at Performance Bike magazine. A simple email that changed my life.
C&J Rotax Framer
By Issue 5 I felt like a fraud. A flake tracker? I went to the races and was impressed and horrified in equal measures at the speeds. On dirt, a dozen tightly packed sideways sliders. Impressive but definitely not for me. So I tried it anyway and was indeed terrible at it. If it wasn’t for the warmest of welcomes by Skooter Farm Racing, I would not have become a racer. New friends cheering my slowly efforts along like I was a flat track hero. A very special time, with very special people.
The bike by the way, was a C&J Rotax. Constantly altered, painted, prodded and poked for no apparent reason. Sold because when Skooter Farm faded, racing just was not the same, so I planned to stop racing altogether.
[The framer appeared in Sideburn with the mango and gold leaf paintjob, then went black and was sold. A few different people have owned this bike, or bits of it, including Sideburn's editor. The core of it is now owned by SB35 covergirl, Steph] Sideburn 10
1940 Indian Scout racer
Stupid, stupid, stupid. I know people love them and I do too, to look at. Sold because it tried to eat my trousers. Even at tick over, that big cog spins at a vicious speed. Uncovered and ready to strip me from the waist down at the traffic lights.
[Sideburn 10 is available as a Back Issue Bargain Bundle]
Borile Street Scrambler
Borile, do I really have to talk about that effing bike? Gary told me not to buy it, but I just jumped in anyway and regretted it within ten minutes of the bike being delivered. I would have handed it back but the seller was long gone by then. Lots learned with the big lesson being, to try and stop being a twat when it comes to motorcycle purchasing. Why did I sell it, because as mentioned, I was trying not to be a twat. Having said that I am proud of what I turned it into.
By this time I had really upped the ante* in the garage department and purchased a lathe and pillar drill to make many tiny detailed parts which would have cost a fortune to have made, such as the head stock badge.
*don’t tell my uncle
Husqvarna 400 Cross
Having sold my Borile I needed a bike for Snow Quake and fancied a Husky. I’d had one before and loved it. Husky Restorations had a McQueen bike for sale. It’d been for sale for almost a year after failing to meet the reserve at auction. I made an offer and a few weeks later I was slip sliding round Snow Quake on it. Brilliant.
I had an inkling that it could be one of the On Any Sunday bikes Steve rode, however the seller had done a huge amount of research over the last ten years and couldn’t make the connection. In conversations with the seller, I deduced that his research had a bit of a hole in it. There were three Huskys used by Steve, not two, as the seller thought. And the last scene of the film, on the beach was actually one of the first scenes to be filmed. That little nugget of information was enough to convince me that his research was flawed and the possibility was still open. A little more research by myself and Don Ince revealed that it was indeed the beach bike and now worth precisely, shit loads. I went to the Bonhams auction to see it being sold. Funny to see six security staff surround the bike on a plinth and a packed Barber Motorsports museum all cooing over a bike that had just a few weeks before been slung in a food trailer with six other bikes and towed to Italy to be raced round an ice track. Excellent. A few months later I unearthed another McQueen Husky, bought for $4000 and sold a week later for $30,000. I felt so guilty and gave most of the funds away to the guys that helped and the Boys Republic, Steve’s charity.
Very much like the Indian in that it’s all about the looks. Lesson learnt, was that I hadn’t really learnt the lesson from the Borile and Indian. I’m not a quick learner, so another kick in the spuds really got the lesson sunk in good and proper. But of course, I am not a guy that could knowingly sell a terrible bike without either, saying that it is terrible and pricing it accordingly or getting it sorted regardless of expense. In the case of the XLR, unfortunately it was both.
[Sideburn 40 is available as a Back Issue Bargain Bundle] Sideburn 45
This should have been easy. New bike, slightly customised by a professional, further modified by a professional. Unfortunately the cylinder head had not been assembled correctly meaning that the piston punched the valve right in the face. And my wallet. Oof. I like the bike and for the amount of mileage it does, it’s fine, mainly because that mileage has been a paltry 55 in the last three years. What did I say about Saturday morning rides?
Using the same technique as the Borile head stock badge, drill, files and Dremmel, I made a titanium ignition key. Lovely. Such a shock and elation when it worked.
Sideburn 46 BSA A65 Trackmaster
Phew, that was a long old journey to get to this point. I love this bike, it is marvellous. Can I say I learnt plasma cutting? Probably not, but at least I gave it a go. Order Sideburn 46
These bikes probably represent around one third of the bikes I have had, most have come and gone without being used and soon forgotten. The above bikes will not be forgotten and will always be in Sideburn, which means so much to me. When I’m old and smelly in the nursing home I can remind the nurses of the guy I used to be with my dribble-stained old Sideburn copies. I’d imagined making that first Harley would transform my motorcycling. And it did, but not because of the bike per se, but the friends and life that it started. Friends that I have travelled with or met someone on the other side of the world because of Sideburn, all of it can be traced right back to one simple email to a bike journalist called Gary who had an idea for a magazine. Thank you.