Iowa Motorcycle Shop Repairs Motorcycles From Various States

By Joe Sutter | The Messenger

Don Nevins works on a 1969 NVT at Cycle Service. Nevins specializes in restoring classic British motorcycles like this one, for customers from all over the country. (Joe Sutter/The Messenger via AP)

FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — One of Don Nevins’ own personal projects is a bit of an eye catcher.

For one thing, it’s a Triumph Bonneville — a British-made motorcycle in an era where such things are not often seen on the road.

For another thing, it’s an unusual model year.

“It’s the first year of the Bonneville,” Nevins said. “It’s the only year they put this nacelle on it. The next year they went more with the traditional headlight on it.”

It took a good eye to spot its pedigree. The bike had been advertised under the wrong model name.

Every nut and bolt on this 1969 Norton Villiers Triumph has been taken apart and put back together as Don Nevins performs a full restoration on the classic British bike. He also rebuilt the engine, although he had someone else do the paint work.

“I found that in a chicken coop,” Nevins said.

He’s got plenty of experience with the rare motorcycles, though. For more than 20 years, Nevins worked with his brother-in-law at Baxter Cycle, which he said is one of the biggest English bike dealers in the United States.

Today, Nevins owns his own restoration business, Cycle Service.

In addition to his own bikes, the workshop under the Veterans Bridge has a collection of a dozen or so bikes of various makes — Nortons, BSAs, Triumph, Matchless, as well some more familiar Hondas and Yamahas he’s worked on, The Messenger reported.

“I do a few Japanese. But primarily it’s the British stuff,” Nevins said. “There isn’t too many repair shops left for the older British motorcycles. Not too many people restore them anymore.”

Don Nevins’ own Triumph Boneville is from the first model year produced. The classic bike was found in an old chicken coop. Nevins restored it himself and has had it over 20 years.

That scarcity means his customers are from all over, Nevins said. He works on restoration and repair projects from Nebraska, North Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, and Minnesota, to name a few.

That’s one reason Baxter Cycle, in Marne, grew to be so large back when he worked there, Nevins said.

“It’s just grown from something out of a garage into this big company now. It’s worldwide,” he said. “We used to send container loads of bikes back to England, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Japan. Just all over the place.”

Nevins started Cycle Service in 2006.

“My wife got an offer for a job up here. I figured I could work on motorcycles here,” he said.

Don Nevins walks past a row of the classic bikes he’s worked on or is waiting to work on, including classic Triumphs and Nortons as well as more familiar Yamahas and Hondas.

And he’s been interested in British bikes for a very long time.

His first was a Triumph that he bought from his brother-in-law in the 1970s, which he did the work on himself. Ever since then, he’s been a big fan.

“Back in the ‘60s they were crazy,” Nevins said. “Eighty-five percent of their market was here in the United States, and they were really popular. They won a lot of races, set some land speed records. But when the Japanese started coming in, they just didn’t keep up with them.

“Japanese (bikes) came in with electric start, they didn’t leak oil, they were really reliable, and they were cheaper. That was their downfall, not keeping up with the Japanese stuff.”

BSA was sold to India’s Mahindra Group in 2016.   and Triumph Engineering went into receivership in 1983, A new company. Triumph Motorcycles, Ltd. was formed and began manufacturing motorcycles under the Triumph brand.

Triumph now produces machines reminiscent of its glory days but with a modern twist.

“They’re doing a retro kind of bike, and it’s been really popular. It looks like the old one, and it’s got quite the following.”

The old bikes are a good investment, and keep their value or even increase in value, he said. But he’s not sure how much longer they will be around.

“The people who own these bikes or want them restored are getting up there in age, and I don’t think the younger people are going to follow. I think it’s going to become like the Model As,” he said.

The old British bikes were simple machines. The 1969 BSA currently on Nevins’ workbench has a kick-starter and point ignition — no complex electronics. The carburetor that usually sits behind the engine hasn’t been reattached yet.

“I rebuilt the whole motor. Every nut and bolt’s been taken apart, plated, whatever,” he said. “I’m waiting for the front wheel to come back from the truer.”

Nevins’ 1959 Bonneville that he rescued from the chicken coop wasn’t owned by an enthusiast.

“He was a heating/air conditioning guy, and he got this for partial payment for a job he did. He just wanted it gone,” Nevins said. “He didn’t know what it was, really.”

The bike was a popular one for Triumph, named after the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah where motorcycle speed record attempts were held.

“They’re not the fastest thing out there anymore, but in their day they were,” Nevins said. “It’s about as old as I am.”

Posted by on May 1st, 2017 and filed under American Street Guide. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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