In the Garage: Bikes run in the family
LETHBRIDGE, AB. — Aaron Pierson’s earliest memories are of motorcycle dealership in this southern Alberta city.
His grandfather, Arthur, and father, Brian, sold and serviced Kawasaki motorcycles at Lethbridge Kawasaki.. Arthur, known to most as ‘Smokey’, kick-started the business in 1969.
“I just remember being three or four years old and running around the shop,” Pierson says. “I didn’t really start working there until I was about 12, sweeping the floors and stocking shelves. I progressed to oil and tire changes, and by the mid-1990s, when I was 13 or 14, I was working on suspensions – I must have changed thousands of fork seals. And, all of the new machines that showed up in crates, I uncrated and bolted them together and sent them to the floor.”
It was in this environment that Pierson watched as his grandfather worked on motorcycles and was ‘always building something of his own.’
Pierson chuckles, “My grandfather taught me indirectly you could make whatever you needed, and he never really explained anything to me because he assumed I already knew about it.”
Pierson worked in the shop on weekends and after school, but when his father was diagnosed with ALS in 1998 the family had to sell Lethbridge Kawasaki, finally handing over ownership in 2000. Too young to take over the reins, Pierson moved on to work at other local motorcycle shops before getting a job with Pratt & Whitney dyno-testing aircraft engines.
He now has a personal workspace where motorcycle projects of his own and others keep him busy.
“The house where we are now had a great kitchen for my wife, Leanne, who is a chef by trade,” Pierson explains. “It had a single front drive garage, and I packed a lot of bikes in there and rebuilt lots of motors in there.
“It took some planning and saving to build a 23-foot by 26-foot garage. I’ve got a radiant heater, and the walls are corrugated sheet metal. I wanted to build it fast and wanted to do it tough.
“I’d go crazy without a workspace. I don’t hang out on the couch. I don’t watch movies or sports. I have to have a creative outlet otherwise I feel time is wasting.”
In that garage, Pierson does tasks as simple as changing tires for friends to completing full-on restorations – including paint jobs.
Pierson’s personal motorcycle collection includes approximately 18 bikes, including some of his dad’s hill climb machines. He’s got bikes in the house, with a 1970 Kawasaki H1R in the upstairs livingroom and a 1974 Husqvarna WR250 in the basement living room. There’s a 1976 Kawasaki KT 250 trials bike near the kitchen and a restored 1976 Bultaco Sherpa T in his youngest son Von’s bedroom. In his oldest son Greyden’s room is a Yamaha PW50 that was Pierson’s first bike. It was also his sister’s first and he says every young member of the family has ridden it.
“Everybody in my family is into this,” Pierson says. “My grandmother rode, and my aunt was very competitive. My mom raced, my wife raced – everybody’s involved, and she’s cool with bikes in the house.
“I’m out in the shop virtually every night, because there’s always a project on the go.”
Here’s what we learned about Pierson’s workspace and the tools he uses.
Q: What tools are in your collection and where did they come from?
A: I inherited most of my tools from my father when he passed away. It’s an eclectic mix of brands, there’s some Snap-on, some Gray and some Craftsman. My father would have started collecting his tools in the 1960s, and I bet some of them are hand-me-downs from my grandfather. I’ve got some special Kawasaki service tools and some of the shop stuff like the wheel truing stand and tire changing machine. I bought my TIG welder to build exhaust pipes and I bought a Myford metal lathe last year – it’s just big enough to do most jobs.
Q: Which tool or tools do you use most often?
A: The tool I use the most is a 1/4-inch drive ratcheting T-handle. It’s a Motion Pro tool that I got from (legendary off-road motorcyclist) Malcolm Smith. We were on a ride together in the Crowsnest Pass and the T-handle was a giveaway. That night, I sat with Malcolm and talked with him all night. I use it all the time and it’s significant because I have a story about it. I do also frequently use my ratcheting hand wrenches and the lathe.
Q: How did you learn to use the tools? Did you go to school, did someone teach you, or do you watch YouTube videos?
A: I learned a lot at the shop, but I’m also mostly self-taught.
Q: What’s the most important project in the garage right now?
A: Right now I have a motor from a 1973 Kawasaki H2 750. It’s for a friend, and it belonged to a relative. He wants to restore the bike as a nod to his cousin — any bike that has a sentimental value is a little more special and it’s got to be done right. A couple of weeks ago, a friend offered me a Honda CB350F, for free. He dropped it off, and I’ll be building it as a flat track bike. Can’t think of a worse bike to do that with, but it’ll be fun because I’m not worried about authenticity.
Q: Is there anyone else in the house or in your life interested in working in the garage?
A: My boys are always in there with me. They’re five and seven. Greyden, the oldest, has been in there with me from the start. For the last two weeks, he’s been working on his Yamaha TT-R50 with a Pitster Pro motor. He bolted on the pipe and the carb and he did that mostly by himself. Last winter, he took apart a Kawasaki 90. Right now, my youngest likes to rev things up. They’ve both been riding since they were two, and I like to keep them involved with their bikes and with me.
If you have a workspace filled with tools, projects or memories and are willing to share, let me know; I’d be pleased to write it up. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org