Common Tread

Video: Man steals his father's motorcycle... to restore it

Apr 16, 2019

Stealing Dad’s motorcycle is usually not a good plan. For Jimmy Santiago Dunbar (no relation to Spurgie), stealing his father’s bike was the best plan.

Back in the day, Dunbar’s dad rode his 1983 Yamaha Maxim around San Francisco. And not just any Maxim, but the one-year Midnight Maxim variant. I’ve only ever seen one or two of these bikes in person. Yamaha blacked out their popular cruiser and added a few gold accents for a touch of class. The black chrome applied to the pipes is my favorite part. Cruiser looks combined with an inline-four engine made for a comfortable, revvy package, and Maxim owners today still prize the bike’s abilities. If they’re running, that is. Neglect a bike like the Midnight Maxim for long enough, and it'll need some attention.

That’s basically what happened to the bike in this story. Fatherhood can demand a break from motorcycling, and sometimes that break becomes semi-permanent. The Maxim ended up in a corner of the garage. “It was just one of those "Dad Projects" that he'd always say he'd get around to,” writes Dunbar. Decades went by.

The interest in motorcycling passed from one generation to the next, and Dunbar picked up his own interest in riding. He chronicles his rides on his YouTube channel, “2 Wheels 1 Compass.” Restoring his dad’s Maxim got its own episode, “Operation: Maxim.” A clandestine raid strong-armed the groggy Maxim into a trailer, and some boxes took the bike’s place under a sheet. Successfully stolen, Dunbar and a local shop got to work.

Midnight Maxim
The Midnight Maxim in all its glory. Yamaha photo.

The Maxim took a pile of parts before it was roadworthy again, all consumables. Tires, battery, plugs, fluids, a carb rebuild, all the usual suspects for an old bike that’s been sitting. No chain, as the Maxim features a shaft drive. After servicing, a thorough cleaning had the bike looking like it was 1983 again.

Actual tears are shed at the bike’s unveiling. Is somebody spraying carb cleaner in here?

Midnight Maxim
Midnight in San Francisco. 2 Wheels 1 Compass photo.

Bringing an old bike back can be a deeply rewarding experience, especially if you’re reviving someone’s dream. Lance recently fixed up his mom’s old Suzuki GN125, and it’s been “a ridiculous amount of fun” to have back on the road. Just know your target. Not everyone likes having their bike stolen. If I abducted the CB750 my dad’s restoring and finished it for him, I don’t know if he’d ever forgive me!