Tales From the Toolbox | Wrenched

By Ed Milich, Photography by Ed Milich

I love broken motorcycle parts: holed pistons, shattered gears, twisted connecting rods. You can’t buy these in stores; you have to earn them one at a time, often as they come flying out of that fresh hole in your engine case. Some of these treasures are the result of motor development gone horribly wrong. Some arrive in the brief moments after an oncoming Prius turns kamikaze and drifts into your lane. Some parts take many miles to clap themselves to oblivion. My own personal accumulation of butchered bike bits includes the following:

Moto Guzzi Cam Timing Gear
This relic came from my old 1968 V700. One day while cruising High Street in Columbus, Ohio, the bike lost power and died. No amount of cranking would re-start it. Using a long rope, my buddy Steve towed it home with his Yamaha XS1100. There I discovered the distributor wasn’t turning with the crankshaft anymore. Upon disassembly, I found this broken gear. The casting had a small cavitation, and the helical gear’s side-load fractured it. From start to finish, the failure took 30 years. Thus I put another cam gear in it and hoped for another three decades of service…

Ducati Piston
This aluminum lump came from a 900SS pile I purchased on Craigslist. A cambelt had broken, and a piston hit a valve. As expected, the valve head popped off, ruining the horizontal cylinder head, piston and bore. This is the worst-case scenario for Ducati owners, as it requires copious sums of cash to correct. Check your cambelts every three years at least, Ducatisti!

Moto Guzzi Steering Stem
I earned this bauble the first time I destroyed my 1986 Le Mans 1000, the result of a 40-mph collision with a left-turning Buick. The twisted 40mm fork was a meaningful memento of my travails, but after carting the darn thing around for years, I finally surrendered it to the dumpster. I kept the steering stem to remind me of the accident that cost me five stitches, black-and-blue testicles and a girlfriend.

Moto Guzzi Piston
Before I owned it, my Quota 1100 dropped a valve and destroyed its engine, possibly as the result of an improper valve adjustment. I inherited the box of broken parts when I bought the bike. I sold the Quota but kept this battle-scarred slug as a reminder to always maintain sufficient valve clearances.

Cagiva Alazzurra Piston
As I traversed Turn 5 at Willow Springs Raceway, an aftermarket piston grenaded, the result of the aluminum forging cracking around the wrist-pin boss. The bottom end of my Ducati 650-powered racebike had 25,000 miles on it and three full race seasons. A post-frag autopsy revealed a still-solid bottom end. That piston now sits proudly on my desk.

Moto Guzzi Alternator Cover
I was riding through Long Beach the second time I destroyed my Le Mans 1000 with the help of a left-turning auto. The fork bent back during impact, crushing the pretty, polished-aluminum alternator cover that was prominently perched at the front of the engine. I forgot my cracked pelvis soon after it healed, but I kept the smashed alternator cover as a reminder of the wreck.

BMW Piston
My 1976 R90/6 was a slow-but-stately bike before it dropped a valve one day while riding down 15th Ave. in Columbus. After another tow home from my buddy Steve, I pulled off a cylinder head and discovered a war-scarred combustion chamber, a decapitated exhaust valve and a freshly ventilated piston.

The more time you spend with motorcycles, the more ash-trays, pencil holders and paperweights you will accumulate. They are treasured reminders of favorite bikes, and not-so-favorite moments. What are your favorite broken bike bits? Share them with us at www.motorcyclistonline.com.

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Flash412
I've got the head from a (bevel) 900SS with the flat portion of a valve buried in it so deep that it cannot be extracted, souvenir of an endurance race at Talladega Gran Prix Raceway circa 1987.

900Sshead2438
Motorcyclist
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