Fresh back from a trip to the northern highlands of Vietnam, I purchased a Minsk.
This masterpiece of Belarusian engineering appears to have been sketched on the back of the same fag packet as the Series 1 Land rover and Willy’s Jeep and has more in common with a McCullough chainsaw than a GS1150. Still, it went to places that Ewan and Charlie could never quite make.
It was cheap at 3,000,000 VND and, although it needed work, at that price I could afford to splash out a bit. Everything would need upgrading anyway for what I was planning. I took it to Dr. Cuong, the acknowledged Minsk expert in Vietnam who crossed his chest in the shape of a crucifix. ‘C’est mort!’ he cried.
Nah, we have the technology. We can rebuild her, I replied….
It felt instantly familiar. As a spotty youth, I had tinkered with, crashed and tuned two strokes to death and knew my way around the insides of a piston ported stroker. It reminded me of a Jawa my old man used to ride in the late ‘70s and had the same unmistakeable soundtrack: ‘Da Da Ding….Ding….Ding….Ding…ding..ding..din.’
It was noisy, smelly, truly ‘un-environmentally friendly’ and would be despised by the Vietnamese adolescents. Coung told me not to bother locking it, for no-one would steal it. I knew that was true, 90% of the Vietnamese can’t use a clutch.
It had a left handed kick-start, rather like a 490 Maico I used to own, but was much easier to start. Conventional 1 down, 4 up pattern, no battery to worry about, was tough as old boots and probably made from girders. It resembled a Meccano set, the same tool removed the sparkplug as the rear wheel nut and it could be repaired with a Swiss army knife and a spoon. The levers weren’t handed and could be exchanged, the cables were interchangeable too and, worse case scenario, a 13mm spanner could be taped/welded to the clutch release arm helix and operated by foot. Field friendly.
Sure, the piston slapped about like a dying fish but at $18 a throw, I’d chuck a new one in.
I had some pannier racks made. They were bent, hammered and formed. The stick welder was fired up; they were stitched together and bolted to the frame. $15. It already had a rack which would be useful, although I doubted I’d be transporting a model Spanish galleon. I’d simplify the ignition circuit, remove the switch and just use the kill button. I welded small bars to the axle ends to assist withdrawal, replaced all the engine screws with cap bolts for ease of removal and improved the horn. Well, it is Vietnam after all. The petroil mix was about 20:1 so I found a 200ml bottle to top up each gallon.
I collected all the relevant tools I would (certainly!) need and sourced all the important spares. TBC.