Restoring the Past

Story by Emily Roberts// Photos by Dean Foster
August 17 2021

About a year ago, I purchased a 1985 Suzuki FA50, an adorable and quirky-looking little red scooter often referred to as the Shuttle. It has 14-inch wheels, a rack on the back and produces around two hp! I had purchased it from my boyfriend’s family, meaning that I got to hear all of the stories of drunken debauchery that led to the scooter’s demise and current condition.

I had purchased it in the hopes of getting it running for my mom, whose motorcycle I “borrowed” ten years ago and have neglected to return. Her passion for motorcycles has shifted from riding them to being involved in the industry — and being a passenger — and although I am aware that the trade of a 650 cc streetbike for a beat-up, unrideable 50 cc “no-ped” wasn’t quite a fair trade, I figured it would be a good way to start paying my mom back for everything she’s done for me. I’ve been so grateful over the years for the “loaner” bike, and since her interest in riding motorcycles isn’t what it used to be, I thought that the little scooter might just be the ticket for helping her regain her love of two wheels.

When I brought the bike to my parent’s place I received the typical eye-roll from my dad, as he wondered how long another non-working bike would be sitting in his shop. I didn’t have the time nor parts to work on it then, but promised we would get it running instead of adding it to the parts collection. It was a promise added to a long list of things we always hope to do while the family is together; more often than not, we part ways with goals and activities not accomplished.

Earlier this summer, I was finally able to spend some much-needed time at my parent’s place, and dad had preemptively ordered the parts we needed for the FA50. When I bought the bike it did run fine, but it was clear the rear wheel — with missing and broken spokes — needed to be rebuilt. It also needed new tires. With just two days to spare before my return home, we finally received the last part we needed, and got to work.

I’ve always wanted to lace and true a wheel, but never had the ambition to tear apart a completely functional wheel only for the purpose of learning (and likely completing a mediocre job at putting it back together). This was the perfect excuse. Half the spokes were already broken, and with an optimistic top speed of 60 km/h, even with a newbie truing their first wheel, a wobble wouldn’t be so noticeable.

Dad had never laced a wheel either, so not only did we get to have the shop time we wanted together, we also got to learn a new skill together. And after putting the spokes in backwards the first time — then putting them in the right way — we trued the wheel. We did an admirable job (if I do say so myself). With a laced and relatively straight-looking wheel, we threw on a new tube and tire.

We then moved on to the seat cover; it was in rough shape and, fortunately, we had found a new one that was relatively inexpensive. My mom and I worked on the seat; by this point, getting the bike together had become a family affair.

When we were done, the bike was ready to be ridden for the first time in several years. It was rewarding to be able to bond with both of my parents over this machine, not to mention the feeling of fulfillment I felt at being able to bring an older machine back to life. The FA50 is an incredibly simple scooter, but that didn’t take away from the joy I felt from making it road-worthy again.

We all gathered in the yard and took turns riding the Shuttle. Seeing my mom ride the scooter with a smile on her face reminded me of the joy a two-wheeled machine can bring to anyone, at any time.

A few hours after we got the bike up and running, it was my time to head back west. We were able to make good on our promise of spending some shop time together, and on top of that, we were able to get a “new-to-us” machine running for my mom. The best moment of all was watching her throw her leg over the seat and twist the throttle again. I’m so proud of everything she’s done in her life, and she’s inspired me throughout my life to ride bikes and do what I love. We now have another bike in our stable at the Roberts household.

It’s got 14-inch wheels, a little rack on the back, a full two hp — and it’s my mom’s!

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