A dumb decision you won't regret.
WORDS Chris Nelson IMAGES Chris Nelson & Embry Rucker
The simplest things bring the most joy. A cold shower on hot day, finding exact change in your pocket, a cat playing in an empty box. It’s an easily forgotten truth. If you need a reminder, ride a mini-bike.
I needed a Coleman CT200U after racing one at the 100-mile Gambler Mini Moto Enduro; I had so much fun that I immediately started researching parts for my yet-to-exist mini-bike. A few weeks later the folks at Coleman read my story about the event, enjoyed it well enough, and decided to give me a $600 Coleman CT200U-EX, available at your local Tractor Supply Co. My short-but-sweet parts list included a torque converter kit, an intake, and an exhaust, which I planned to buy for about $500 from GoPowersports.com, but mini-bike people are the nicest people in the world, and the crew at GoPowersports.com sent me everything at no cost.
To repay such kindnesses I wanted to build an enviable mini-bike, but I felt conflicted about that. Mini-bikes are fun, simple, silly machines, and putting too much time or money into one is dumb. Fortunately, labor isn’t intensive and monetary investment is minimal, so it’s up to you to decide how much time you’re willing to commit to the project. For me, the whole build would have to be completed in less than 72 hours. The clock started after I picked up my Coleman CT200U-EX. The Coleman I raced in the Mini Moto Enduro, the CT200U, had a completely rigid frame, but my mini-bike, the EX model, has a standard front fork, which will surely be appreciated by my genitals.
The Coleman comes half assembled in a big-ass box that requires a truck or van or a back seat as spacious as a Maybach’s. With everything unboxed in my garage, I set aside the front end, removed the camouflaged bodywork, and called it a night. A box from GoPowersports.com showed up the next morning, and I got to work with coffee in hand. First, I removed the speed governor, which requires cracking open the engine case. With the chain-driven, centrifugal clutch transmission removed, I opened the engine and located the black plastic gear that restricts top speed. I’d watched YouTube tutorials before bed and came to the conclusion that there’s no clean way to remove the governor, so I hacked it apart and diligently collected plastic shrapnel. Eventually the gear cracked and came out without fuss. I cleaned the internals and closed up the 196cc, 6.5-hp, pull-start engine, which I then unbolted from the beige frame.
GoPowersports.com’s torque converter swap requires the installation of one-inch engine risers due to clearance issues—it also requires cutting and removing a cross-member from behind the engine—but reviews said “smoother acceleration” and “increased top speed,” so I didn’t think twice. The risers are chunks of square tubing that bolt in easily, although realigning the engine takes finesse; if it’s not lined up properly when the transmission goes on, the chain rubs. With the engine sitting an inch higher, I installed the belt-driven torque converter, which is much more robust than stock clutch setup. I followed a detailed how-to video on YouTube and ran into no issues whatsoever. Then I stopped for lunch: a turkey wrap with all the fixings, potato salad on the side.
The CT200’s exhaust is a black box held on with two bolts. GoPowersports.com’s pipe—literally just a flanged pipe, with an optional muffler—comes with a thick, rubbery, black heat wrap that I didn’t like, so I covered my pipe in the über-hip heat wrap everyone loves to hate. (I also tinted the headlight yellow, because who the fuck cares?) The intake kit comes with a beautifully machined adapter that shamefully can’t be seen as well as a larger jet for the carburetor, which should’ve been easy to install. Unfortunately, I had to drill out the stock main jet, scared shitless I would damage the pilot jet in the process. I didn’t, and I finished all of the engine work before sunset. I bolted on the front end and headlight, took a quick ride down my street, then went inside to keep working.
Some nights, I get stoned and do collage or decoupage, because it requires very little artistic ability and gives me time with my thoughts. I’ve done decoupage on two helmets and figured, “Fuck it, decoupage the entire Coleman. It’s like less tacky camouflage.” I smoked some marijuana, pulled pages from vintage Mechanix Illustrated and recent issues of The New Yorker, then cut and pasted. The next night I drew on the paper with paint pens and markers, and the following morning I covered everything with a can of SprayMax 2K clear coat, the best DIY clear coat I’ve used. With two bolts for each fender and three for the teardrop storage box, my mini-bike build wrapped, right on schedule.
A satisfyingly straightforward build that won’t look as good as it does for long. Almost every weekend mini-bikes are racing flat track somewhere in southern California, and the Gambler crew is organizing more mini-bikes enduros across the country; word is there will be one next month at Sturgis. If you have a little time and money to spare, build a mini-bike to race against me. It’s the dumbest decision you won’t regret.
Going to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally? If so, find the Coleman Powersports folks, who will have our mini-bike on display. Ask to take it for a spin. Chris doesn’t give a shit.
Photos Embry Rucker