Joe Anania: I grew up racing motocross and harescrambles in Western Pennsylvania. Rocky Ridge, Murraysville, Aliquippa–there were tracks all over back then. I started out in the 100cc class with a Kawasaki G31M. It was originally a flat tracker, but the guy I bought it off of converted it into a dirtbike and lengthened the swingarm. After that, I raced a lot of 125cc bikes before all of the goodies. There was no power valve or water cooling, but you learned how to really ride a bike. You had to keep it on the pipe at all times.
JA: I initially learned how to work on motorcycles when my first machine, a Kawasaki G4TR, kept breaking down, and I couldn’t afford to keep bringing it to the dealer. After some time, I started repairing bikes for guys who rode in the woods behind my parents house in Brookline. Later, I answered an ad in the paper for a motorcycle mechanic at Kawasaki of Pittsburgh on Route 51. I was there for several years working for Tom and Carol DeRosa, who were fantastic people to whom I will always be grateful. They gave me the opportunity for my life long career as a technician.
After that, I attended PIA (Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics) and moved to Florida after graduating to work at the Pratt and Whitney Research and Development Center on jet and rocket engines. I then moved to Minnesota a few years later for a job with Republic Airlines. This is where I became interested in British motorcycles and started restoring and repairing them.
JA: My shop was a one-man show, but it did great. I built a machine shop and specialized in vintage motorcycles. It was ninety-percent Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Suzuki, simply because of numbers. The British bikes were mainly Triumph with some BSA and Ariel models.
Eventually, I started doing magnetos. Doug Wood in Pennsylvania and another guy in Texas would mentor me over the phone. I built a magneto test stand, and the work filled the winter months when I wasn’t as busy with mechanic duties. It was fun, and I figured it was a nice job for when I retire.
I moved back to the Pittsburgh area in 2019.
JA: It just sort of happened–from one motorcycle to suddenly tripping over bikes in the shop. I started buying and flipping them before building a couple of cafe racers each year. I got into restorations during the winter months, but in comparison, I made ten times more by just fixing bikes. I don’t really like doing restoration work because you follow a book. The custom work was more enjoyable and gave me the time to make gas tanks, chain guards, and lots of different parts. Being creative and using different machines was what I preferred.
JA: I’m a glutton for punishment because BSAs are probably the least reliable and poorly engineered bikes out there, but in my eyes, they’re the best-looking bikes going. I knew a guy on britbike.com who met up with a group of us at the Mid-Ohio vintage motorcycle event. He was selling this bike, but it was different than it looks now. It was a race bike, and I knew he put a lot of money into it with the Ceriani front forks and five-speed gearbox. I had sold my house at the time and wanted to buy a bike that I really wanted. It needed a lot of work, and I changed it around as far as the seat, some metal fabrication work, and other details. It needed some care to make it work right, but the basic bike was pretty good to start with.
JA: They had a huge following and were one of the fastest bikes back then. I like them because of the way they look and run. This one in particular is nice because of the five-speed gearbox. The four-speed can have trouble with highways.
JA: Hopefully, it continues for a long time. The talk about eliminating bikes in Europe is worrisome, and I think all of us are concerned about the electric scene. I don’t mind it but don’t know if the battery is the answer.
JA: Just do it. You don’t have to spend much money. If you have a passion for it, you’ll be good at it. I learned so much on my own just because I wanted to do it. Nowadays there’s so much information on the internet. It’s something I use as a tool in my shop. If you want to learn or need an answer, chances are it’s somewhere on the internet.
JA: I’m going to keep tinkering with them. I’m doing some restorations right now, but when I get to the point of having enough equipment again, I’ll get back into more of the custom stuff.