You wanted a motorcycle long before you were old enough to ride one. We all did. It’s impossible for a kid to look at a motorcycle and not want to be on it. Children are creative. We find ways to make it happen. Your first ride was probably a tricycle or a Big Wheel, and whether you were born in the 50s or the 80s, in your imagination it was a motorcycle.
Turning Your Bike Into A Motorcycle
There were all sorts of gadgets on the market back then. Headlights, horns, speedometers and gear sticks. The easiest way to mod your bike was to stick baseball cards in the spokes. The person who showed you how to do this might’ve been your dad, or your sister, or the older kid who lived across the street. Whoever it was, they instantly became the smartest person you knew.
I spent hours riding my BMX around our Toronto neighbourhood, cranking the handlebar grips like a throttle, snickering while my spokes destroyed New York Yankee cards. Toronto Blue Jays never went in the spokes. Honeycomb cereal had a cool license plate promotion but American plates didn’t help a kid riding imaginary motorcycles in Ontario.
BMX stands for Bicycle Motocross. It was all the rage in the 80s. The bikes were built to perform on dirt racing tracks so children could emulate their motorcycle racing heroes. As a kid, I didn’t realize this type of bike that felt so perfect came from a long line of wannabe motorcycles.
If you were riding bikes in the 60s, the Huffy Highrise was your motorcycle. In the 70s it was a Schwinn Stingray. These were the brands everybody wanted anyway. You could turn any bike into a motorbike with a banana seat, a sissy bar and some ape hanger handlebars.
Riders in the 80s were after BMX brand names like Hutch, Redline, and Mongoose. If you grew up in Canada, you had an infatuation with Norco bikes. The bikes weren’t as high-end but they were Canadian so every kid in Toronto had a soft spot for them. Their entry into the market was the Spitfire. It was a nod to the legendary British fighter aircraft of WWII. Just in case you got bored with being a motorcycle and needed to be an airplane for a while.
The Death of BMX
BMX’s unbelievable popularity came to an abrupt end in 1987. The streets of Toronto were quieter. The parks, baseball diamonds and soccer fields were empty. What happened? That was the year Nintendo was released. ExciteBike was an instant classic.
Bringing A BMX “Motorcycle” Back From The Brink
Our plating company is located in an industrial neighbourhood in Toronto. It’s called The Golden Mile, or Warden and Eglinton if you don’t want to get romantic about it. With all the scrap yards around here, you become desensitized to the trucks whizzing by with interesting metal objects poking out. It’s how people who live in the country must feel when they see livestock sent off to slaughter: sad at first but you get used to it.
Walking the shop-dog up Warden Avenue one morning, something in the back of a rusty junk truck caught my eye. A 90s bike might have gotten my attention, but I wouldn’t have run after the truck like I did for this 1985 Mongoose Californian.
You know an old-school Mongoose when you see one. The forks, the handlebars, the loop-tail. It screams “HEY YOU! I’M FROM 1985! SAVE ME!!”
BMX isn’t as popular as it was but I still love it, and restoring old bikes from the 80s is my hobby. They are fun and beautiful, even on their worst days. I gave the scrapper 10 bucks for her. I would’ve given him $60. She didn’t look like much at the time but I had faith and loved her from the start.
Choosing A Metal Coating For Your Restoration Project
When it comes to surface finishes, polished chrome and candy paint jobs are obvious choices for your bike. However, 80s BMX enthusiasts still fawn over Woody Itson’s 24K gold plated Hutch Trickstar. It is the stuff of legend. Everybody wants a gold bike.
Our plating shop doesn’t process chrome or gold, but we do process “gold” zinc.
Zinc Plating Automotive and Motorcycle Applications
Zinc plating is not thought of as a cosmetic finish. It’s seen as functional corrosion protection for metal hardware. It’s also commonly used as a pre-treatment on steel for increased adhesion prior to painting. When it comes to motorcycles and automobiles, you’ll find zinc plating under the hood and chassis. This tough coating protects the components that do the hard work: the nuts, bolts, mounts, brackets, gears, control arms, pegs, lines, rotors and calipers.
Zinc can be a unique and eye-catching finish for your metal project, if you’re after a rugged industrial look and storing it in a dry place. This doesn’t mean zinc can’t stand up to rain, snow and salt, but as zinc reacts to a damp environment, the finish begins to lose some of its shine. The beautiful rainbow iridescence created by the “gold” dichromate dulls, leaving a matte finish.
Zinc Plating the Frame, Fork and Handlebars
I electroplated the frame, fork and handlebars on our rack line. It was a piece of cake and it came out great.
It took nearly six months to source the rest of the parts to restore this bike. It was a pain in the butt, I spent too much money, and it was worth it. These hobbies are labours of love. She might not be a 24K Hutch Trickstar but she is my golden goose and I don’t ride her in the rain.
BMX “Motorcycle” Parts List
- Redline 180 flight cranks & bottom bracket
- Tuf neck stem
- Hatta headset
- Tange lock nut
- Suntour seatpost clamp
- Suntour axle nuts
- Victor pedals
- Mongoose Motomag chain ring
- Dia Compe Tech 2 break lever
- Dia Compe MX 1000 rear brake (re-pop)
- Skyway 20″ Graphite Tuff wheels
- Izumi chain
- SE racing Seat
- Kenda tires
- Chain tensioners by Porkchop
- Uni Hand Grenade grips
- Mongoose decals from www.bmxproducts.com
- Custom California Lite handlebar pad
If you’re interested in old-school, mid-school or new-school BMX you should go hang out at www.bmxmuseum.com
If you have any bikes or motorcycles that you want to share, I would love to see them. Use the comment section below or shoot me an email.
Follow This Blog For More Metal Plating Projects
Next up, we turn a piece of scrap metal into a squirrel deflector. Yep, a squirrel deflector. It will encourage squirrels to eschew bird food thievery. Intriguing right? Follow.
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