He mentioned that he was working on a Vincent, and it was just inside. Since I was a little guy, ive had a mythical association with these bikes. my dad talked about them regularly, how fast and ruthless they were. Richard Thompson wrote a heartbreaking song about a 52 black lightning, "so i gave her the Vincent, to ride"
I walked into the very unassuming front door of the 200 year old farm house where richard barsasotti runs his high end motorcycle restoration and repair shop, Wasted Spark Motorcycles. - situated on a brook in the small vermont town of Topsham, and up on a motorcycle stand is the first Vincent I've ever seen. A 52 black shadow, mostly apart, with its gear box exposed just below one of the most iconic and beautifully designed engines of the 20th century. And it is clean. Cleaner than any 60 year old piece of machinery ive ever seen. In the same room are two 1960's BMWs, one complete and ready to be picked up by the owner, and the other a rolling frame of his personal '61 r60/2.
This house which functions as his shop is still a house. The next room over there is a 65 Harley xlhc up on a lift, nearly completed and just about perfect. Bolts and screws lined up. This room is the kitchen, with the stove in the corner, and the cabinets packed with tools, neatly ordered, labeled and organized, like everything else in the shop, everything is exactly where it should be.
Richard Barasotti began making his living in this trade after growing entirely fed up with the public school system in which he thought high level physics for 25 years. Rather than the standard pinup girl calendars of other mechanic shops, the walls of Wasted Spark are lined with posters from his classes, explaining forces, leverage, basic and complex equations, and notes relating his old profession and his new one. There are vintage posters of the famous Ducati desmodronic valve system blown up for reference and reverence. Hints on solutions to an engine running lean, written on brown paper held up with matching red tacks.
He took me into the basement, with its narrow, steep staircase and drystone foundation walls, to revel his small machine shop. As you may expect, his tools are old and perfect. Living under a small square of white canvas, is a lathe from the 1950s, clean, sharp and level, the gears stacked chronologically and neatly on the table. The drive belt on this particular tool is leather. There is a system of organization at work in all aspects of this shop, that i have never seen before. He prepares his his lunch of salad and a roll on the counter in the tool room/kitchen. Literally clean enough to eat off.
A short movie about Richard Barsotti and his classic motorcycle restoration shop in Topsham, VT.
All film shot with a GoPro 3 and all stills taken with a Nikon d40
Thanks to Greg Brown for his version of Richard Thompson's song, "1952 Vincent Black Lightning (Live)"