Blood & Grease: Geoff Hawksley’s 1971 BSA Lightning 882…
Each every so often, a motorcycle and rider roll into our inbox with a swagger and angle that demand consideration. Such was the case with our new pal Geoff Hawksley, a carpenter / high-end cabinetmaker who’s been addicted to 2 wheels for the reason that age of 5, when he wrecked his golden-brown Columbia banana bike making an attempt to indicate off for his long-haired, bell-bottomed crush, who was a decade his elder.
“I don’t know why that each one made me love driving, one thing about blood and grease feels higher than aftershave and cologne.”
When Geoff got here throughout this ’71 BSA Lightning within the elements part of the Staten Island Craigslist, he simply knew there was one thing particular to it.
“It was a mongrel with a Harley tank and different oddities. One thing mentioned it was particular like my grandfather’s pocket watch or the field finish wrench I’ve had since I used to be 8, polished from use and carrying it in my pocket. It’s acquired that magic.”
As it could end up, this Beezer was owned by none aside from Bobby Genise of John’s Cycle in Woodside, Queens — a legendary mechanic and racer identified for his work on British iron. Magic certainly!
After all, Geoff tore the bike down and made it his personal — a machine constructed to place up with the heavy mileage of a person who, on his finest day, has ridden 1863 miles in below 24 hours.
“It’s not a restaurant racer…. It’s not made to be fairly. It’s made to experience which sorta makes it lovely. Least to me.”
Highlights embody a selfmade tank, hugger, seat pan, and magnesium rear seats, together with an engine outfitted with a gas-flowed head, 882cc pistons, Carrillo rods, Megacycle cam, and a billet crank. The bike breathes by way of Mikuni flat-slides and 1-3/4″ TT pipes, whereas a GSX-R entrance brake hauls down this hunk of scorching British steel. Geoff says he managed to chop 70 lbs from the unique weight, coming in at a svelte 350 lbs.
Although they’ve had their quarrels, Geoff says he and “Elegua” (God of the Open Highway) are finest pals now, and he speaks lovingly of the Beezer’s mechanical symphonics:
“The little roar it lets out if you snap the throttle to settle the idle. Air sucking previous the slides like a Rochester Quadrajet on a GTO if you speed up. That scrumptious popping sound on the down shifts. Soundtrack to a racetrack with the amount in your proper hand, replay in your left.”
Geoff estimates the bike makes 80+ hp at 350 lbs — lots quick for an outdated British bike:
“I may get a little bit extra out of it, however why? I can go over 200 on my Suzuki. They’re constructed for that kinda enjoyable — this ain’t and by no means will probably be. It’s only a bike like what I fell in love with as a child. No plastic, no paint. Only a lotta offended steel.”
Amen, Geoff! Beneath, we discuss to the person himself for the total particulars on his ’71 BSA. That is yet one more in regards to the story than the pictures, as Geoff is simply too busy driving and wrenching to take many images. Take pleasure in!
BSA Lightning: Proprietor Interview
• Please inform us a bit about your self, your historical past with bikes, and your workshop.
I’m a dad and husband. For work I’m a cupboard maker / end carpenter / foreman / challenge supervisor/ estimator / finisher…no matter position I must take relying on the challenge. I construct the interiors of high-end properties and companies. It’s an important commerce. Roll round in sawdust, converse your thoughts, and swear if you need to. Try ladies strolling by, possibly name out an odd fraction like 21/16ths so the opposite guys know to look and catch a glimpse. Cut up a shingle into chopsticks, sit cross legged below a tree, and eat leftovers you heated in your engine. It’s a very good trustworthy life and dealing together with your arms within the climate does wonders for the soul.
How I acquired into bikes…
Again in ’72 after I was 5 there was a lady who’d get off the bus on the nook, she was possibly 16-18 years outdated. Lengthy darkish hair, swinging hips, bell bottoms, and a paisley vest. I’d be down at her knees driving my huge wheel. She’d scruff my hair and inform me I used to be cute like John Denver, which I suppose to her was a praise, however I used to be extra into Sly Stone and T-Rex — the comparability made me unhappy as a result of I wished to be a nasty boy. I had a horrible crush on her.
That 12 months, my dad purchased me a golden brown Columbia with a cream banana seat. I wished to be Evel Knievel. What child didn’t? On my new bike I assumed I had an opportunity. So I did a stunt as she walked up the road to interrupt my good boy picture, but it surely didn’t go so effectively. I attempted driving up a tree and doing a again flip. I couldn’t get the bike again spherical and caught the entrance sprocket in my chin.
I acquired up and checked out her. She screamed in horror and ran. I didn’t know why. Broke my coronary heart. I began to cry, I appeared down and noticed my shirt drenched in blood, questioned the place all of it got here from. I picked up my bike, wiped my snot nostril and acquired Mr. Sullivan to assist me put the chain again on. I don’t know why that each one made me love driving, one thing about blood and grease feels higher than aftershave and cologne.
I ended up placing the crank from an English three-speed on it so it’d go sooner. Constructed plywood ramps and began leaping. Bent a lotta wheels acquired a number of stitches.
I feel my first road bike was an 1100 Yamaha Particular, however I bear in mind my Suzuki 850 extra. I put sheet steel screws within the tires and rode it by way of the winter, chopped it, bobbed it, painted and modified the hell out of it.
I’ve been driving a TL1000R for the final 20 years and 5 engines. There have been a number of bikes in between.
My spouse thinks I’m the best rider that ever lived, as a result of years in the past we had been out driving within the nation on an Honda VT1100 when a chipmunk ran out. I flicked the bike, slid it, caught some rubber and jumped over the little man on a flat street. She tells that story rather a lot. Thank God she loves me. She’s the love of my life. Lengthy darkish hair, swinging hips, bell bottoms, and by no means thinks I’m like John Denver!
My store is simply an outdated carriage home with two storage bays and a hay loft. Most of it’s filled with constructing supplies and carpentry instruments. The bay the place I work is crammed with bikes I gotta roll out to get something accomplished. Normally I work out below the maple tree taming the squirrels who stay there.
Proper now my storage has an XS650 I’m constructing for Bonneville, a ’68 BSA Thunderbolt for nation rides with my spouse, 2000 TL1000R, and the ’71 BSA lightning. I acquired a number of pals’ bikes stuffed in there too that I must work on. Upstairs within the hay loft I’ve acquired a plunger body, Matchless G12, and older BSA frames. A lotta elements and a pool desk.
• Please inform us in regards to the bike.
It’s not a restaurant racer. These guys do shit to make their gradual bike fairly and sniff every others asses like canine on the tofu or froyo joint after occurring a 25 mile experience. This ain’t that!
I get gasoline station espresso, gas up, and lightweight a cigarette as I hit the street, alone! I don’t carry baggage. Simply throw instruments in my pockets and go. I’ve accomplished over 70 thousand miles in a 12 months and 1863 miles in below 24 hours on my finest day. Normally experience over a thousand in a day.
Anywho, the bike is constructed to place up with me.
I discovered it within the elements part on Craigslist Staten Island whereas on the lookout for stuff for my ’68. It was a mongrel with a Harley tank and different oddities. One thing mentioned it was particular like my grandfather’s pocket watch or the field finish wrench I’ve had since I used to be 8, polished from use and carrying it in my pocket. It’s acquired that magic.
Once I referred to as, the then proprietor “Rick” mentioned it was beforehand Bobby Genise’s experience; he acquired it from Bobby, however then acquired COVID and couldn’t stability effectively sufficient to experience. I’m sorry Rick. I purchased it on the spot.
If y’all don’t know who Bobby is, you must look him up. He owned John’s Cycle in Queens together with his brother John and was the mechanic for 60+ years. He lived the life…wrenched on bikes and hit the monitor. When he couldn’t throw a leg over a motorcycle, he retired. Can solely hope to do the identical.
Once I acquired the bike I took it aside as a result of I wish to know each nut and bolt earlier than I experience it. If an element doesn’t work effectively, it will get tossed. If I don’t prefer it, it will get tossed. In the event that they don’t make an element, I make it.
But when it’s a very good half, it will get the love. Shot peened, micropolished, velocity bored, honed then boiled in diesel and rinsed with tequila. After some time the bike fits me. It’s not made to be fairly. It’s made to experience which sorta makes it lovely. Least to me.
It weighed 420lbs after I acquired it, I’m all the way down to 350 now. Thanks, Jenny Craig. There’s nonetheless a lotta Bobby within the bike however he could not acknowledge it anymore. Thanks, Bobby. I like this bike.
Proper now it’s hanging from a winch like a pinata whereas I rebuild the pinnacle and fabricate a Helmholtz air field, as a result of it sucked the display screen out of the speed stack and shat it out the exhaust. I attempted the speed stacks as a result of it collapsed each different pod filter I attempted…however hey, at over 9000 RPMs it will get hungry and’s gotta eat one thing.
• Are you able to inform us what it’s wish to experience?
I like kick-starting this bike and letting it rumble until the temperature comes up. Cigarette smoke burning my eyes as I zip up my leather-based jacket. The little roar it lets out if you snap the throttle to settle the idle. Air sucking previous the slides like a Rochester Quadrajet on a GTO if you speed up. That scrumptious popping sound on the down shifts. Soundtrack to a racetrack with the amount in your proper hand, replay in your left.
It’s loud! I carved stainless tricks to wrap across the rear tire so the rubber would kill some DB’s, however that simply made its voice deeper. It’s a bike. An actual one. The sort that makes you need one other tattoo or get in a battle so y’all can share some beer listening to Johnny Money whereas your lip swells. All my finest pals had been made that approach. This bike broke 4 ribs on a dust street quickly after I acquired it. I rode it house with the throttle on my lap. Now we’re finest pals.
I recognize the oil in body. I don’t know why they get such a nasty rep. A number of welds and gussets is all it takes. Its stiffness makes it deal with rattling good for a ’70s experience. Manner higher than my ’68. It’s steady and responsive. It goes the place you suppose greater than what you inform it. I can sit up no-handed and alter lanes by tightening an ass cheek or spin spherical backwards to see fairly blue lights that appear to comply with me.
It’ll go low and gradual decently, carbons up a bit and run scorching after some time of that shit, if you’re caught behind a line of vehicles. The excuse for a seat does nothing to cease the vibration. You’ll lose feeling in your ass proper fast. Gotta give it what it likes, and that’s something over 5000 RPMs. Will pull like a thoroughbred off the gate, will get in a clean gallop round 7000. I don’t push it an excessive amount of over 9000, however at that RPM the vibration is gone and it’s joyful.
Is it quick? I suppose so for an outdated Brit bike. I feel I’m pushing 80+hp at 350lbs. I may get a little bit extra out of it, however why? I can go over 200 on my Suzuki. They’re constructed for that kinda enjoyable — this ain’t and by no means will probably be. It’s only a bike like what I fell in love with as a child. No plastic, no paint. Only a lotta offended steel.