Heck, I see it’s March since my last entry so once again my blogging is overdue. To recap, I’m supposed to be getting my Suzuki GS1000 back on the road after seven years in hibernation. On the face of it all I need do is refresh the paint on the tank, as that-there damn rust is starting to peep through.


After rubbing down the initial coats of rust killing paint and patches of filler I applied some high-build-primer to deal with any minor flaws and help blend the edges of the filler patches into the rest of the tank surface.

After cleaning off the old paint (and new rust) I applied a couple of coats of anti-rust primer and filled the obvious dents. Fuel tanks are made of very thin steel and are in a rather exposed position so you’d be very lucky to find a tank of this age without at least a few minor dings. A relatively new product (Only around for years-and-years rather than decades–and-decades) useful in treating subtle bodywork wear and tear is high-build-primer so I put a coat of this over the anti-rust paint, rubbing it down smooth with wet-and-dry paper ready for the next coat and to make it easier to see any high and low points. I skimmed some low areas with conventional filler before applying another coat of primer, rubbing down, checking the surface by eye and hand and applying more filler as required.

The more surface preparation you do the more you find flaws that need a bit more filling and rubbing down. It’s tempting to skip on to the top coats, but these show up any overlooked flaws even more (when it’s too late to do much about them). Here the nice even high-build-primer coat showed up some low points so I applied some more conventional filler and rubbed the whole tank down again.

You have to repeat this process as many times as required to get a perfect surface (Or at least a surface you’ll be able to live with) even though you don’t seem to be making much progress. If you don’t then there won’t be much you can do once you start applying the colour coats of paint.


Once I’d an acceptably flaw-free surface I sprayed a coat of conventional grey primer over the yellow high-build-primer to get an appropriate base colour for the metallic blue I was going to use.

I followed the final coat of high-build-primer with a coat of conventional grey – The recommended base colour for the metallic ‘Nissan Midnight Blue’ I was going to re-spray the tank with. As I’m preparing this bike for sale, really, I had in mind to paint it black and then get an appropriate decal kit to make the bike look more ‘original’ but decided to stick with the dark metallic blue as the bike looks so ‘right’ in this colour, an opinion confirmed by Rowena at Real Classic magazine when I happened to send her a picture. Sticking with the same colour also had the advantage of not necessitating re-painting the tail cowling and the side panels. Except that one or two spots of paint on the tail look a bit ‘loose’ so I’ll probably have to re-do that anyway. Drat. Should have uses etch primer on the plastic tail the first time round – still, you live and learn.


It’s easier to spray on more coats than rub-down paint runs so – discretion being the better part of valour – I sprayed on several thin coats to build up an even colour rather than trying to do it all in one go.

After each coat of colour…


…I flatted it off with wet & dry (I think you can see I’m using 1000 grade there. If you do need to take out some paint runs you might want to use a coarser grade for those areas first)…

As with the undercoats, the application of the colour coats is a repetitive process if you want to get a smooth even finish: Spray on a coat of paint (I err on the side of too thin rather than too thick), rub it down to a flat / matt finish, check if the paint has reached a thickness so that it appears an even colour across the tank, repeat preceding steps if you can see any variation in the colour saturation across the surface. I ended up putting on three coats and, frankly, I’d have put on at least three coats even if the first coat had miraculously appeared perfect – Metallic paint’s a bit translucent (Or you wouldn’t be able to see the metal flakes) so you have to put on a few coats to get an even, saturated, colour.


…to get a matt finish…

…then sprayed on another coat of colour…

If I’d used black paint, as originally planned, or any ‘solid’ colour I could have finished flatting off the paint with a fine grade of wet & dry and then polished it up with a rubbing compound, or ‘T-cut’ as I like to use, and have been done. But I’d gone and used a metallic colour so I now needed to apply some coats of lacquer (Posh name for a clear varnish) to provide a surface that could be polished up to a proper shine. As this is a fuel tank we’re talking about and will regularly get petrol dripped on it I took the opportunity to choose a petrol resistant lacquer so that all the hours of preparation, spraying, flattening and polishing wouldn’t be spoiled. I suppose, due to this reason, it’s worth spraying a coat of petrol resistant lacquer on to all fuel tanks, even if you haven’t used metallic paint.


…and flatted that down to a matt finish, repeating until I was sure the coating was evenly saturated. I then finished off with 1200 grade wet & dry ready for the top coats of lacquer.

After flatting down with 1200 grade wet & dry I spayed on the lacquer just like another coat of paint. Usually I’d have let this dry for at least a couple of hours before rubbing it down flat and applying another coat (Trying to flat-down tacky paint doesn’t really work) but the can said “after one hour this lacquer cannot be over-coated” so there was no time to let the paint dry and flatten it down before applying another coat. Having to apply a second coat without intermediate preparation would allow any flaws to build up, but it had to go on to be sure the tank was covered thickly enough to allow a final flatting off / polishing-up without too much fear of going through to the colour coat. As expected, the finish left after spraying on the second coat was only half decent to my eye and really did need a good flat and polish, but the can also said “…allow…at least two weeks before using rubbing compound” so the job was stopped for a bit (I didn’t want to put the tank on the bike only to have to take it off again).


Metallic paint needs coating with lacquer to bring out the shine and I used a petrol-resistant kind to protect the paint from the inevitable drips when filling up. According to the can this had to be left for a couple of weeks before flatting down and polishing up so this picture is ‘as sprayed’.

I decided to put the tank to one side and instead rig-up a temporary one so I could see if the bike would fire-up after its long slumber. All I could find was a kitchen funnel so I ran a hose between that and the carburettors. I also needed a battery (The Suzuki’s was not only dead but gone. No doubt I’d put it somewhere safe) so borrowed the Optima battery from my R100 as I reckoned it should be big enough to spin the GS1000, what with its pistons being a mere 250cc each. A problem was that it was physically too big to fit the Suzuki’s battery box. Lateral thinking was required. Balancing the battery as close to the Suzuki as I could I managed to connect the earth lead, but I had to get some additional wiring from my ‘bag of old wire’ to bridge the gap between the positive terminal and the positive lead on the bike. When the starter motor’s heaving the engine round it draws A LOT of power through the battery leads (That’s why they have to be so thick) so I doubled-up my additional wiring to allow enough power through them to turn the engine (and not melt).


I decided to try starting the bike up whilst the lacquer was curing. It was a bit of a lash-up to do this on a bike without its own tank or battery but I managed to get fuel and electricity into the bike – all to no avail. The thing wouldn’t even ‘cough’ and fuel gushed from the carb overflow pipes.

My lash-up worked and pushing the dusty starter button spun the engine round plenty fast enough. Yey! Unfortunately it showed absolutely no sign of firing and a large pool of petrol gathered under the bike. Boo! The petrol was running from the carburettor’s over-flow pipes. It seemed I had to face the fact that fresh paint wasn’t enough and at the very least I was going to have to rebuild the carbs before I could get the bike running and MOT’d. Humm. My good friend Andy has just bought an ultrasonic cleaner. Hey Andy!


Last weekend I was helping a friend, Andy, re-commission a Honda CB-1 (A 400 cc grey import) that his brother gave him (Just gave him!) a couple of weeks before as a non-runner, having stood in the garden for about five years. Andy’s writing a blog about getting the bike up and running and his efforts to turn it into a café racer. I’m itching to give Andy lots of helpful advice on his blog, advice I feel sure would be really welcome, but haven’t quite got the front to do this until I add something to my own neglected blog. So here we go.

As I’ve not been touring over the winter maybe I’ll write about my own efforts to awaken one of my dormant machines. I’ve got a ’79 Suzuki GS1000 that hasn’t been out of the shed for about seven years so and I could really do with getting it back on the road and selling it. I’ve been through this process with the thou’ before but once I had it cleaned up and running well I though ‘Humm, that’s a nice looking bike, I don’t want to sell it after all’ and it went back in the shed for another seven years. This time I must be strong and actually sell the thing, even though it’s the second bike I ever owned.

The GS1000 pushed out into the sunlight for the first time in about seven years. To tell the truth I took this picture last autumn and was thinking of starting to clean it up then, but doing the NEC show pushed it onto the back burner again. Doesn’t look too bad from a distance does it?


I pushed the thou’ out of the shed and stood it blinking in the sunlight. From a distance it didn’t look too bad at all, but wiping the worst of the dust off revealed that the paint on the tank hadn’t lasted all that well, having cracked and split. I did the paintwork myself with rattle cans from Halfords a few years before the bike went into the shed so I was more exasperated than horrified. If I’d painted it before I could do it again, but when I fix things I expect them to stay fixed, so wasn’t best pleased the paint hadn’t lasted better.


A closer look at the tank showed that it’d need more than a wipe over with a damp cloth before I could put the bike up for sale. I put this paint on, with spray cans, about ten years ago and went back to bare metal but there must still have been microscopic traces of rust left. These had grown over time and started to shrug off the paint.

There was rust under the paint, causing it to crack and flake off. This shows just how hard it is to get every last trace of corrosion off steel once it’s started to rust, because I really did try very hard and it had looked perfectly clean before I started to paint all those years ago (I sprayed it in my bedroom at my parents house. Looking back I’m slightly surprised I didn’t die. Well ventilated area? Pah!).

This time (like last time) I started by cleaning off the old paint and filler (Also known as ‘bog’ to those of you who like to be ‘down’ with the paint-shop kids) with a combination of chemical stripper, various steel brushes fitted to an angle grinder and abrasive paper. I got the steel to look sparking and clean but I’m no longer young and innocent in the insidious ways of rust – I knew microscopic particles would still be hiding on the surface, waiting to grow and spread. Clearly I needed to do something extra this time, and that was to be the application of a coat of rust killing paint before I applied any other layers. Seems obvious now, but first time round I was young and innocent remember.


This time round I’ve started with a layer of rust killing paint that will, hopefully, stabilise the steel surface and keep the tank free from rust for much longer. The paint was chocolate brown. Mmm, chocolate…

There seen to be several colours of rust killing undercoat. The one I used on the frame of my BMW was pink and this one turned out to be chocolate brown. Once sprayed the tank looked like an ideal Easter gift for any motorcyclist. Humm, chocolate… But it wasn’t actually chocolate so I moved on to filling the dent’s that a third of a century had left in the tank. Strictly I think filler should go straight onto metal, but then the minute rust traces under the filler wouldn’t be neutralised and could cause problems in the future. Anyway, I made my choice and I (or whoever buys the bike) will have to live with the consequences.

Next I shall be rubbing down the paint and patches of filler and putting on the next coat of paint – high-build primer I think.

I’d hoped this entry could be about one of my recent tours or, for those who read my series in RealClassic Magazine, an article about work done to my faithful old R100 to cure the mid-speed wobble, but for the last few weeks all my time has been taken up in preparation for and exhibiting at the ‘Motorcycle Live’ show at the NEC so I thought I’d write a few words about that.

I’ve just recovered after spending nine days exhibiting at the NEC bike show, preparation for which involved assembling hundreds of information packs, amongst other things.

Flat-packed folders for my marketing literature landed on my desk the week before the set-up days so I spent many an hour folding the folders together in readiness, not riding through the Autumn sunshine or even extracting the head bearings from an old BMW (Tricky on these bikes if you don’t have the BMW extraction tool, but possible if you can weld. I’ll write the procedure up one day.)

I arrived early on the first stand set-up day and finished before my neighbours or indeed carpet turned up.

To give you an insight into exhibiting at the NEC, you have the Thursday and Friday to access the halls and set up your stand before the show opens on Saturday. This is much more time than I needed for the simple, easy to put-up display equipment I use but I decided to get down there early on Thursday morning so if any ‘issues’ occurred I’d have time to deal with them. As it turned out I had the place to myself for the first hour and setting up the stand went without a hitch so I was soon done.

After finishing my rather modest stand I wandered through the halls and watched the stands of the major manufacturers being assembled.

I wandered the halls watching the major manufacturers laying the foundations for there rather larger stands before exiting the NEC complex and heading back to base for lunch and then out again to pick up some last minute literature from the printers.

Though set-up went fine starting early turned out to be wise as my car’s exhaust gave up the ghost just after I arrived back home.

The two hour drive to base went fine but after setting out to the printers I noticed the exhaust note change and suspected I’d be needing a new exhaust section some time in the near future. After the bike show though, too many things to do. I had to revise my schedule for car maintenance when the pipe sheared through just as I arrived at the printers, only the panhard rod stopping it from dragging on the ground. Luckily one of the ‘unique selling points’ of Bikeheart is ‘Mechanically experienced guides’ so despite seized nuts on too long bolts I hastily bolted on a new exhaust section over Friday lunchtime and then headed back South to stay with friends near Birmingham.

Twirling some spanners got a new silencer on the car and me back to Birmingham in plenty of time to find customers and carpets had arrived at the show.

Arriving at the show early on Saturday morning I found the halls had been transformed with monumental stands and glittering bikes (and carpet). Queues were already building up outside the doors well over an hour before the show was due to open and once the public were let in it was very hectic until near closing time at six. This set the pattern for the nine days of the show as though I’d expected the week days to be quieter they turned out to be little different to the first weekend – The final weekend being even more packed, with the doors having to be opened early on Sunday due to the crowd building up outside. All due respect to the organisers for getting the main manufacturers to attend and draw the crowds, and for distributing them evenly through the halls. Though I only glimpsed one or two, there was also a wide range of personalities about the place, even Austin Vince was there in his overalls. For my part there seems to have been particularly high interest in the Pyrenees Tour, closely followed by The Volcanic Uplands of Southern France, though there was lots of interest in all the tours and I’d nearly run out of literature by the end of the show.

Thanks to everyone who asked me about the tours, took a brochure or booked a place, I hope to see you in the New Year.

With the last episode of my series for RealClassic Magazine completed my marketing manager has been using cutting sarcasm to prompt me into writing a blog. So, here we go.

In this first year of Bikeheart Touring I’ve been testing out routes, the most enjoyable and enlightening trial runs being those where I’ve taken a group of brave clients along to thoroughly try things out. One such tour was the loop round and over the Pyrenees Mountains – from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and back again – when I guided past travelling companions Jim and Hugh along both the Spanish and French sides of the mountain range, one of the greatest motorcycle journeys of the world.

Hugh is delighted with the winding roads, but Jim looks pensive – his back tyre is nearly worn out and it’s only getting worse.

This tour included the ferry to Santander so we were straight into riding thorough warm Spanish sunshine and soon reached serpentine secondary roads coiling through the Pyrenees foothills beyond San Sebastian. So far so good, but I started to worry that the group had devise a set of challenges to test my competence when Jim let me know that he’d decided to try out a new type of tyre, and the rear was wearing out much faster than he’d expected.

The tyre was badly squared off and got so bad so quickly that the steel banding started to show through.

By the time we got to our hotel the steel banding was showing through the rubber and the bike was slipping and sliding on the bone-dry roads. Though the hotel was in the middle of the countryside I knew we were near the large town of Pamplona (Where they do the bull running) so the first thing we did next day was to mosey into town to get a new tyre fitted.

The Spanish Yamaha staff stay patient as Jim tries to explain ‘dual compound tyre’ in English.

Watching Jim trying to explain ‘dual compound’ to the mechanic who didn’t speak English helped pass the time and by lunch a new tyre was in place so we headed out of town and started along the southern side of the Pyrenees.

The next challenge for me was a dead GPS, but that’s another story.

Welcome to the Bikeheart Blog.


Col d'Aspin

Duncan has recently returned from a successful tour of the Pyrenees, where he was checking out new routes and hotels along the way.