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By: Jason Giacchino

September 2010 - Off The Pegs

My Recent Adventures with a Relic ’er I mean a Classic

Honda ATC 160X
Honda ATC 160X

Generally speaking I have a pretty solid view of antiques: I appreciate them for their technological contributions, respect them for their innovations, and have no trouble admiring them in say a museum or on the pages of a magazine. I don’t, however, tend to desire any sort of regression in daily life. Rotary phones, black and white television, Atari--these are all things I have no desire to re-experience. Once was certainly enough!

In keeping with this tradition, I suppose it applies to ATVs as well. After all, what was considered outdated technology in 1986 is certainly nothing I would want to take over a triple in 2010. So why then, I found myself asking earlier this evening, do I find myself hiking back to civilization while the 1984 Honda ATC 200X I had been mounted on moments prior sat motionless on the trail? The answer involves my cousin and the inevitable effects of time on a drive-chain that was fresh 26-years earlier. But let’s start with my cousin, shall we?

A bit of a three-wheeler aficionado with a passion for restoring models he owned previously, my cousin Mike became the owner of a pretty well used Honda 200X a few years ago. Of course, his immediate ambition was to perform a full restoration of the three-wheeler the likes of which a ’67 Chevy owner might smile upon at cruise night. The reality, of course, is that the machine sat motionless in the back corner of his garage while more pressing projects (a Suzuki LTR-450, Yamaha Blaster, and Kawasaki Tecate 3 for example) occupied his time and budget.

This season he finally decided to make the move of putting a performance cam in his Quadracer--one of few remaining mods he had yet to perform on the machine, and the $400 price tag on the part alone had him questioning his devotion to the lowly old Honda sitting in the corner. I got the call, which meant first dibs on the restoration project he never got around to.

A fan of limited garage space of my own coupled to an apparent desire to always be broke, I said I would gladly buy the ATC from him and quickly threw some planks on the back of the truck. What I should have done was explain to him my view on antiques, but alas that kind of wisdom is neither here nor there.

The ATC was certainly not museum-worthy when I unloaded it: Plastic cracked, rear brake seized, tires pretty bald, blown rear shock, and valves making more noise than the exhaust, which of course was pretty blown out. However, despite its shortcomings, the engine had major compression and an affinity for starting up on the first kick. Clutch was good and solid, all of the bearings seemed fresh, even the original Honda Wing tank decals were still in place. In other words nothing a little elbow grease and a few bucks couldn’t fix.

And elbow grease it was the next few weeks as I adjusted the valves, flushed the fuel tank, lubed the cables and chain, and mended the cracked fenders. The shock was still rather pogo-stick like, and the rear brakes were non-functional; but the time had arrived for me to enjoy the fruits of my incomplete labor.

Honda ATC 200X
Honda ATC 200X

I quickly became reacquainted with the limitations of the 3-wheeler chassis as corners I love to rail on my Outlaw 450 witnessed a bouncy 200X blast off into the weeds in a cloud of dust and cuss words. However, after about twenty minutes of unintentional comic relief, I settled into the strange flow that is riding a vehicle with three wheels.

Lessons from my youth such as leaning to the inside of every turn to keep the rear wheels on the ground came back in a swirl of disappointment and nostalgia. Before long I had found the top of fifth gear (sadly on a trail that I can’t normally find the top of third on with the Outlaw) and began to wonder if my discrimination for things nearly as old as me was misplaced all these years. Then it happened.

I bounced up a small trail bump and seemed to have hit neutral in the process. I yanked in the clutch and stabbed the shifter up a notch; still nothing but revs. Initial thought: Transmission locked up! That was one area I hadn’t gone over in my haste. But then I noticed the chain all garbled up within the countershaft sprocket. Quick assessment revealed the casing was in tact (phew) and the master link of the twenty-six year old chain had apparently decided it had worked hard all its life and retirement was its only option. I guess when you’re a chain, spending your golden years rusting away in the middle of some trail is as good a place to retire as any.

Naturally, this happened when I was at the farthest point from civilization and on the evening that I didn’t bring my cell phone along. It was a 3.5-mile hike back to the neighborhood, and I made it just as the sun finished setting. Black flies and mosquitoes had a blood banquet at my expense, but fortunately a phone call later and my dad’s King Quad was up to the task of dragging the wounded 200X back to home base where all that stands in its way is a fresh chain.

Of course, technically the argument could be made that a new rear shock and brake caliper also stand in its way, but I have a feeling I’ll be back out there leaning to the inside of the corners like an idiot long before those items get replaced. I mean after all, what good is an antique if it’s just going to sit in a museum?

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