Not too many people are familiar with OSSA motorcycles much less Yankee. A quick history here…isn’t that part of the charm of this blog???
OSSA actually started out making movie projectors in the 1920’s, motorcycles didn’t come along until after World War Two. At that time a lot of motorcycle companies got into the business of making (or importing) smaller two stroke motorbikes…BSA, Yamaha and even Harley Davidson. It was also a time that Moto-Sport was growing. Europe was the international base for all things motorcycling…Moto-Cross, Enduro’s, Trials and Road Racing. The only Moto-Sport America can lay claim to is Desert Racing.
Up until the mid to late 1960’s American Desert Racing was dominated by Triumph, BSA, and Harley Davidson…big, heavy, single and twin cylinder bikes from Britain and here at home, then came the Europeans with their light weight two strokes and literally and figuratively left everybody in a cloud of two stroke smoke and dust.Husqvarna,Bultaco,Montessa,OSSA,DKW,Penton,KTM…the list goes on. The Japanese got into the game as well.
OSSA was primarily known for its Trials and Enduro bikes but also had some relative success in both Moto-Cross and Road Racing. In the late 1960’s Eduardo Giro (grandson of the OSSA founder) developed a Monocoque framed road racer that in the hands of Santiago Herrero won four 250GP’s. Sadly Sr. Herrero was killed at the Isle of Man in 1970. After the death of their racer, OSSA withdrew from roadracing and focussed on Trials.
Here in the United States, OSSA was popular in Flat Track racing, National Champion and racing legend Dick Mann won the 1969 Santa Fe National ShortTrack aboard an OSSA he helped develop…cool huh?
Now you know enough about OSSA to get you laughed out of any motorcycle trivia game. But this post is about the Yankee Z500, which is basically two OSSA 250’s mated together. The motor was originally developed for European road courses but they were also looking for versatility both on and off road. The Yankee Motorcycle Company was the importer of OSSA Moto Cross and Enduro machines and John Taylor, the head of Yankee in New York wanted to design and build a bike that would compete with the Euro’s but be better by being more powerful,better built, more reliable and faster. OSSA was well known for being reliable, some thing I can’t say about my beloved(?) Bultaco’s. Mr. Taylor enlisted the help of Dick Mann to design the chassis which had some unique features such as a rear disc brake, the first of its kind on a dirt bike. Also, low gear in the standard 6 speed transmission, which wasn’t allowed in AMA racing, could be disabled to comply with the rules. And one more cool thing about the Yankee…the top fork crowns were manufactured by Smith and Wesson. I guess you could shoot somebody if they got ahead of you on the trail? Just kidding, this is non-violent blog.
There were 762 Yankee Z500’s built. A couple of things happened here, first production delays. The first 500’s didn’t come the assembly line until 1971 and by that time the Japanese manufacturers had really stepped up their development and Yankee was now behind the curve. Secondly, no matter how good they rode, they were a bit on the heavy side for serious Enduro riders. So production of the Z model was discontinued after a short run. But I have a question, there was a regular street going 500, has anyone seen one here in the U.S? This motorbike looked to have huge potential? Why wasn’t it brought to market? Granted the road going two strokes were starting to fade by that time. Could it have competed with the Suzuki T500? Oh yeah!!. The Kawasaki triples?,Handling yes, performance no. The Yamaha twins? Probably so.
Today I found a really nice, I mean really nice 1972 Yankee Z500 on ebay. This bike has only 1880 miles on the odo, it is all original with the exception of the front fender which is a Preston Petty unit which is period correct. It is not a runner but the seller says it has good compression, kicks through and shifts through all the gears. My guess is that getting it running should be pretty easy, it has just been sitting decades. The bike is cosmetically in great condition it appears. So, I think someone should get this bike and make a very unique and cool cafe racer out of it…what else would I think?
Click on the pics below for more pictures and some info.
Starting a racing career in the California deserts in the 1960’s was great! These were the days that on the starting line were legendary names…Bultaco, CZ, Maico, Husqvarna, Ossa, Penton, Sachs, DKW, Zundapp and probably a half dozen others that I can’t remember right now. But, also were the heavy weights…Triumph, BSA, Norton, even Harley Davidson (yes, the big motors, not the little Italian jobs, even though there were plenty of them as well) and believe it or not once in a while a BMW?! The Japanese were making serious inroads into off-road competition as well, I rode a Honda SL350 for two years in Enduro’s and desert races. And then to add even more fun to these event were the ‘sidehack’ racers. Talk about nutballs!?
This was a period in time where innovation and experimentation ruled in motorcycling. Off-road racing had the Rickman brothers and Eric Cheney building better chassis’ than the OEM, Flat Track had Champion and Track Master, Road racing had their fair share of custom builders as well. This was a time to take a good motor and make it handle better. This may not be considered the ‘Golden Age’ of motorcycling to some, but to my generation, yeah, it was.
I found a cool Cheney Racing framed Triumph on ebay today and it got me to thinking and remembering…and doing a bit of research. My step-dad’s best friend Stan Hughes had a really cool Cheney/BSA single that I thought was the hardest motorcycle in the world to start, I think I’m still right on that one (but I did learn the secret to easier starting…a few years later). I never got to ride the bike very far but I do remember how good it felt. Everything seemed to just fall into place (ergonomics) and the bike steered with almost no effort. And, on top of all that it was beautiful.
There is a good amount of Eric Cheney’s history on the web, he built the frame for British MX Champ John Banks’ BSA, he developed ISDT (International Six Day Trials) for Triumph from 1968-71 and many other racers. Most of his frames were built around the BSA Singles of the time but also built kits for the Triumph twins. A Cheney framed bike was a prized possession.
Eric passed away a few years ago and his son took over the business. You can still get a Cheney frame built to your specs! How cool is that!
The bike I found on ebay is in very good condition, I don’t think it runs but the seller believes it’s an easy fix to get it going (weak spark…Lucas electrics?). If you want an interesting vintage off roader this is a good choice. And the Triumph 500 motor is a blast to ride!
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
Stop me if you have heard this one…I love Honda 350’s… I have four of them. A 1971 CL350,a 1970 CB350 (the one I bought for my dad to get him back into motorcycle riding after about 30 years), and two 1971 SL350’s (one of which is in the process of becoming a cafe racer project).
The Honda 350 is arguably the best selling motorcycle in the world and for good reason…it does everything really well. Reliable, easy to maintain, you can’t kill ‘em and they are fun to ride. Also, they make a great platform for all kinds customization.
I started my racing career aboard (and a few times under) a Bultaco Matador, when the Bultaco became terminally ill I transformed my daily commuter SL350 into my new racebike. Strip everything off the bike, add a skid plate, knobbys, shorter lighter mufflers and go racing. It wasn’t as light as my ‘beloved'(?) Bultaco and it wasn’t as heavy as the Triumph ‘desert sled’ I had also raced so I guess it was the perfect ‘Goldilocks’ racebike.
The Sl Motosport models developed quite a following right from the start, I mean even ‘The Duke’ rode one!
I found a really well done customized (not brutalized like I did to mine) SL350 on ebay recently. The owner/seller has gone through the bike nut by nut and bolt by bolt but what I really like is the ‘scrambler’ style exhaust, really nice. The bike is pricey, thats probably why it has been listed a number of times. Is it worth what the seller is asking? In his mind, yes. To a buyer, maybe.
What I’m really hoping for is that this SL will come out as nice as the one on ebay now.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures.
Nobody doesn’t love Hodaka. With names like Ace, Dirt Squirt, Wombat, Rat and Super Rat, Road Toad and Thunderhog, what’s not to love? In the late 60’s through the mid 1970’s every young ‘wanna be racer’. wanted a Hodaka. Why? Well, they were cheap, they were easy to ride, and almost maintenance free. Operative word here was ‘almost’…remember these were little two-strokes.
Hodaka has been given credit for kick-starting the ‘trail-bike’ craze here in the US of A, and it’s easy to understand why. Like I said in the first paragraph… Hodaka’s were easy to buy, easy to ride, easy to maintain and they had fun names.
Many beginning racers that became stars got their start on Hodaka’s, mom’s got to go riding with the family on a Hodaka, and they had the cool factor of the crazy names. A good number of aftermarket companies jumped on the Hodaka bandwagon with all kinds of hop-up parts that made your little Ace 100 out run bikes twice it’s size!! No Kidding. Hodaka’s were light and quick and just a pure joy to ride. Hodaka’s were known as ‘The Little Bike That Could‘. And at only $495 ‘new’…you could could buy a fun trailbike and a winning racer.
I found a really nice little Hodaka on ebay the other day and is actually selling for a reasonable price. It was restored four years then stored. It is in really nice shape with the original chrome tank and stainless steel front fender (most Hodaka’s you find have a plastic tank and fender because the originals were just too heavy or they have been beaten into submission). The original carb was rebuilt as well. This little bike is ready to ride…not store somewhere.
Here is another very cool thing about having a Hodaka motorcycle…Paul and his wife Patti at www.strictlyhodaka.com. When you have a Hodaka and you need a part, there is no other place on this planet that can help you more. Paul and Patti live breath and live for Hodaka and it shows. When you first contact them you become part of the family.
And one last thing about the Super Rat, how it got its name. When the 100cc MX racer showed up at Pabatco in Oregon (the importer), it said ‘SR’ on the side of the engine, one of the Pabatco honcho’s looked at it and said what that stand for, ‘Super Rat’? Well, it may have been a bit of a sarcastic remark but the name stuck.
Ok, and one more last thing…remember I said “everyone loves Hodaka”… if ‘The Duke’ will trade his horse for a Hodaka, well, it has to be a great motorcycle!
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. This will be a very fun bike to own.
Thumpers, singles, one lungers…I love ‘em. A big four stroke single is a great motorcycle, and a small single is just as much fun really. There is something about the power pulses, the sound and the power delivery that make singles so wonderful to ride. I don’t know what it is, but when you start riding single cylinder motorcycles, your view of riding changes a bit. THe high speed may not be there but cornering speed that can leave a bigger bike in the rear view mirror…at least for a few seconds, will always put a big smile on your face.
I have been racing singles since the early ’90’s and yes, the racing may a bit slower than let’s say a modern 600 four cylinder but the fun factor and the commarardarie of the single cylinder lovers is something a bit special.
I have written before about the Yamaha TT500 my former father in-law owned and that I had the privilege to ride a few times. At that time I was riding a Husqvarna WR250 so jumping on a big, kinda heavy 4 stroke was interesting. I had ridden Triumph and BSA ‘desert sleds’ and raced a BSA 441 Victor, but to get on a modern big single was, well, life changing.
Jay’s Yamaha was no ordinary TT500. He bought the bike new, and rode in the New Mexico wilderness for about a year before he decided it could be better…next thing I knew, I was invited to ride a Dick Mann framed TT500. The stock TT was good but this motorcycle was truly amazing. The handling improvement brought out all the good the motor had to offer. Since that time I have been a fan of the big Yamaha singles. I have owned a TT500 (I bought a basket case, put it back together, rode it for a couple of months and realized it needed more work than I thought…it was sold shortly there after). Next on the list was an SR500, what a motorcycle, it did everything I wanted it to do. The SR was light, quick, great handling and most importantly…it was fun to ride!!! The SR too, was short lived in my garage, the desire for a Honda Hawk was too alluring and so the SR was sold. I still have the Hawk. My love of Yamaha singles came back to life a while back with the purchase of an SRX600, but it all started with that TT500 in New Mexico.
While looking for parts for my SRX on ebay today, I found a really great TT500 for sale at a somewhat reasonable price. This 1980 TT is stone stock…a good thing! I love bikes that are unmolested because you can either leave it that way or customize it to your own tastes without undoing someone else’s work. A little tidbit about the TT500 for you…when it came out it actually took the top two spots in the first Paris-Dakar Rally! The TT500 weighed only 282 lbs and put out a modest 27HP but it was the torque of the motor that made it so much fun to ride. Now, having owned a TT500 I can tell you this, even though it has a compression release lever and a little sighting window to tell when the piston is at top dead center, turn the handlebars to the left before you try to start it…that way your knee won’t hit the bars when the bike kicks you back…which it invariably will at some time.
This TT on ebay is a great bike to buy, it is already a great trail bike, can be lightened up to be a good vintage desert / enduro bike or just left as it is for a perfect do anything, go anywhere motorcycle. Turn it into a cafe racer? Nah, if you want that I’ll sell you my SRX…just kidding.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info about this really great motorcycle.
Getting thrown over the handlebars while trying to kick start your motorcycle is never fun. Kicking and kicking and kicking until all you can do is either fall down in exhaustion and frustration or hoping a willing (but no so smart) friend will take over the kicking. Welcome the world of big BSA single cylinder motorbikes. OK, I’m exaggerating a little, but not by much. The big BSA’s are tough to start, until you learn the trick and then one, maybe two kicks and you are off riding one the most fun big bore bikes ever made.
I have owned a couple of the BSA singles, a C15 and a 441 Victor. The C15 was a project bike that got stolen out of my garage and the 441 was sold after a short time because I was told I had too many motorcycles (wife at the time was unhappy that she couldn’t park her car in the garage?). I got the Victor in good shape and it took very little to get it into great riding shape…however, I couldn’t ride it until I learned to start it! After suffering a nearly broken ankle, a really sore foot, a throbbing knee and a lifetimes worth of frustration, I got my next door neighbor to help me bump start it.
Running start,2nd gear, dump the clutch…nothing except a short skid mark on the street. Try again, this time in 3rd gear…same skid mark. Ok, one last time…running start, 4th gear, pop the clutch…BOOM!!! I was so shocked it started I almost stalled it! I rode up the street and back laughing all the time, I LOVED IT!! Out of common courtesy, and a sense of obligation, I let my neighbor, who pushed me up and down the street many times, take the bike for a ride…he stalled it a block and a half away. He leaned up against a tree and walked back. We were back to pushing the bike, this time a block and a half. It was time to learn how to start this beast.
My next day off, I made a trip over to my friendly Brit Bike mechanic with the bike in the back of the truck hoping to get a lesson on how to start the B50. When I arrived and told Jack my story he chuckled for a moment, climbed up into the truck bed, onto the bike and two kicks later had the B50 barking happily. “How in the hell did he do that?” A five minute lesson later and I could start the big single with no problem. But could I do it at home when the bike is cold? A couple of hours later I tried ‘the technique’ and the BSA fired up on the second kick!
The next Sunday I had off I headed to Texas Canyon with my friend Tim, he on his CZ and me on the BSA. We rode through two tanks of gas each and I had so much fun on that Beezer. It has the torque of a locomotive, it actually handled well, and the sounds that big single made, well, set me off on a lifetime of loving big single cylinder motorcycles.
There is a lot of great history with the BSA B50 MX, it was the last of the big bore singles from England, it actually grew out of the C15 250, as a matter of fact, the chassis was the 250 chassis and they just stuffed the 500 in there…that’s why it is as light and nimble as it is for a big bike. Then there are the Cheney designs.
Eric Cheney, a successful racer in his own right, designed a chassis to work better than the BSA stocker for the British ISDT team, and the race winning B50 for John Banks and the BSA B50 that held the record for its class at the Isle of Mann TT. Interesting little tid bit here regarding Eric Cheney, he had no formal engineering education, he used to design frames in chalk on his workshop wall, ingenuity at it’s best. In 1973 production of the B50 ended, there were a few left overs that were rebadged as Triumphs and sold as 1974 models.
Today I found a really nice B50MX that if you are interested in vintage motocross on a classic four stroke this a perfect motorcycle for you. This particular bike was stored for a long time, it looks great, was serviced just this last October. It is a good runner and if you want to learn the secret to starting this beast without getting tossed over the handlebars, there is a great video on YouTube…the bike is well worth learning how to start…it is a blast to ride. Whack open the throttle in any gear and the front end comes up and the rooster tail you’re throwing…I pity the guy behind you!
Click on the pics below for more info about this bike and more pictures.
I really do enjoy early to mid sixties motorcycles no matter what country they came from. To me though, what is great about that time period is the Japanese and the Italians had the most unique styling…odd in some people’s view, and they were the most mechanically inventive.
I’m sure that many will disagree with me about that, but think about it…in America you had / have Harley Davidson…nothing has changed much in nearly 100 years and when they did want to have a different image, where did they go? Italy. In Britain, motorcycles from that side of the pond also hadn’t changed hardly, hence the demise of the British motorbike industry until John Bloor came on the scene. And Germany was, well…Germany. Those didn’t change after the war disappeared and BMW didn’t change much for another four decades.
So,back to my original statement about the Italians and the Japanese. The Italians were about styling and did design some truly beautiful motorcycles (remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder), but mechanically they were still using older designs (the Ducati Desmo notwithstanding). The Japanese however, were using a combination of older Euro styling along with some more modern styles of their own. Technologically, they were playing catch up to the Europeans but also being more adventurous, especially with the two stokes and multi cylinder designs.
Leading the way in the two-stroke world was Yamaha. Honda went on to multi cylinder four strokes. Yamaha’s history is a great one and there is all of it on the net…how it went from being (and still is…) a music company and the founder needing something to fill up the time and space they had for manufacturing, into a motorcycle business. From small single cylinder bikes to world beating twins, Yamaha led the way.
Through the development of the race bikes, Yamaha’s street bikes and you and I, were the lucky recipients of the technological advancements. These advancements came fast and furious, most importantly for the time was the ‘auto-lube’ system. Prior to Yamaha’s development of the system, oil had to be pre-mixed with the gasoline to lubricate the engine internals. With Yamaha’s invention, now the rider just put gas in a separate tank and let the motor do the work itself. Pretty soon every had a variation of Yamaha’s auto-lube system.
As Yamaha was growing, the theory of ‘if 125cc is good, 250cc must be better. And if 250cc is better, then 305cc must be much better’. Very American don’t you think? We have always believed ‘bigger is better’. Hence, the street going YM1 305. The 305 came in two versions, the standard street model and the more popular ‘Big Bear Scrambler’. The Scrambler was a one year model however. Within three years the YM1 305’s were replaced by much more advanced 350’s but the 305 really did move Yamaha ahead in the American street bike market.
I found a really nice YM1 on ebay today that really would be wonderful to have and ride. It is in great condition it appears and is ready (?) to ride. I imagine that because it has been sitting for 10 years that it will need the standard stuff…carb clean, new tires, battery, etc but hey, you can pick up a very clean little classic for not too much money. Now, this is one of those bikes that I would tell you to buy a plane ticket, go get it and ride it home but, if you’re not too far away, hop in your truck and go get it. If you live more a couple of hundred miles away, call Forward Air and have ‘em pick it up. This is a very fun little bike that you can ride almost right now.
Click on the pic’s below for a little more info and more pictures. Oh, and one more thing…the seller lists it as 1969, the 305 stopped being made in 1966 though some were still being sold new and titled as late as 1968.
When I first started my life on motorcycles I was one lucky kid, my step dad was into any form of riding and racing. We rode ‘hare and hounds’, ‘scrambles’, moto-cross (of which I was not good at…), enduro’s, we even tried trials riding once. Michael was actually pretty good at it, me on the other hand…not so much. I don’t remember exactly where we tried our hands at Trials, I think it was at Saddleback Cycle Park in Orange County California. It was right after we saw ‘On Any Sunday’, and something about watching the trials rider segment had both of us saying out loud “We gotta try that!”.
We were fortunate enough to have our friends at Steve’s Bultaco in Van Nuys California loan us a couple of Bultaco Sherpa T’s to go have some fun. I think they figured I couldn’t do as much damage to those as I did to the Pursang’s I got each year…they were wrong. Not really…I didn’t hurt the Sherpa.
Trials riding is a talent, that even back then was beyond most motorcyclists skill level. Trials requires forethought more than reaction because you’re riding a motorcycle slower than most people normally walk…including your grandmother and her walker. A trials bike will do things no other motorcycle will do and most riders aren’t capable of. If you think stunt riders are good, watch a modern Trials exhibition and you will see the true masters. I sort of wished I had pursued trials riding more…nah…I’ll watch those guys go slow up rock walls and down impossible stream beds over logs bigger around than a VW Bug…much more entertaining. Besides, I figured out in one day I wasn’t that good at it.
Always on the search for unique vintage motorcycles, I came upon a Montesa Cota Trials bike on ebay, it got me to do some research both on Montesa and Trials in general. The Montesa story is really good. Started in 1944 by Pedro Permanyer and Francis Bulto. The first bikes were based on the Motobecane machines from France. They were small bikes at the time, 50-65 cc, and later moved up to 125cc which they entered in the 1951 International Six Days Trials. At the direction of Sr. Bulto, Montesa also built a roadracer that won its class multiple times at the Isle of Man TT.
In 1958 Paco Bulto left Montesa and started Bultaco motorcycles. It was in 1967 that Montesa first started building Trials bikes and hired Malcolm Rathmell, later to become world champion aboard a Montesa to ride and develop the machines. There is more great Montesa history to be found at www.southwestmontesa.com.
The Montesa I found today is a 1980 Cota 349. It is a beautiful bike that would just perfect to ride in Vintage Trials meets, which are becoming quite popular thanks to organizations like AHRMA and Twin Shock Trials Association. This particular bike I found on ebay is ready to ride today and quite reasonably priced…so far. Having ridden a couple of Montesa’s in the past I can say this would be a wonderful bike to have for just plonking around the local hills and canyons or to do some serious old school trials riding. Another thing cool about Montesa’s is that quite a few very famous people rode them.
Click on the pic’s below for more pictures and info.
Being a vintage motorcycle enthusiast has its pitfalls. First, some vintage bikes are really expensive to buy and to maintain (I’m not big into ‘restoring’, just make them rideable), second, there are way too many of them that are so appealing that the bank (wife) keeps putting limits on what you can buy…”don’t you have enough project bikes already??” and of course, can you even fit one more bike into your shop/garage? In my case…no, on all accounts. Every now and then however, you find a neat little bike that would fit nicely into your (my) collection that isn’t too expensive and really requires very little work. These are the bikes I love to find.
I do want a new Enduro bike but can I afford $7-10K for one? No. Can I ride it to its full potential? Again, No. Would I really rather have a cool vintage enduro? YES. I have had Spanish and Swedish enduro bikes in the past and loved (?) them, but never a German off-roader. Maybe it’s time.
On ebay today I found a really nice Zundapp, and in typical fashion I started doing my research, so here you go…Zundapp history 101 (the Readers Digest version). Founded in 1917, Zundapp was making gun parts, after WW1 they changed over to making motorcycles and in 1931 along with Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, developed the ‘Auto Fur Jedermann’…the car for everyone, Volkswagen. Dr. Porsche preferred the flat opposed 4 cylinder, Zundapp worked with a radial 5 cylinder, that flat four won out. In 1932 there were three prototypes running around and all were lost in the war.
In 1940 Zundapp developed the KS750 model which was used by the German military because of it’s driven 3rd wheel sidecar design. Now here is something very cool about Zundapp, the K800 model was selected as one of the 100 motorcycles of the 20th Century. Why, its mechanical layout showed up decades later from Honda, the Gold Wing. Zundapp designed the horizontally opposed four with a shaft drive in 1933. It’s a beautiful motorcycle.
After World War 2. Zundapp decided they needed to make something more weatherproof than a motorcycle and went back to designing a car. this time they went for pure simplicity. A single cylinder 250cc motor mid engine ( they really did put the motor between the front and back seats but what was really interesting was that the car had a front and back door..literally the front and the back. It was called the Janus after the two-faced Roman god. The car was only made from 1957-58 and less than 2000 of them at that.
There is a lot of great history with Zundapp and it was good way for me to waste another early morning. Zundapp finally went belly up in 1984 but has kept going building Honda motor based small bikes in China and India.
I found a really nice GS125 on ebay this morning, it reminds me a lot of my old Bultaco Matador. This little bike is in great shape for its age. The owner has a slew of extra parts for the bike and there are a lot of internet resources for parts and information. This really would be a great addition to somebody’s (my) vintage collection, it can also be street registered. The little Zundapp has a pretty high price tag but you know what, I’ll bet we have all spent more and gotten less.
Click on the pics below for a little more info and a bunch more pictures.
The SL350 from Honda was/is a great bike. First off, it’s a Honda 350…you can’t kill ‘em. Second, Honda made some really good improvements for the K1 model, get rid of the electric starter (saves weight and the 350 kicks starts so easy anyway), change the carbs and the cam for better torque,and modify the frame and suspension for better off road capability. all that combined lightened the bike by about 60 lbs from the K0 model, but Honda still kept the really nice styling of the original design.
The K1 version was a vast improvement over the K0 model. From Cycle magazine, “much better than last years SL model”
I had a K1 SL350 that I absolutely loved. I’ve told the story before about my friend Eddie Campione and I doing our best to one up each other by buying bigger and bigger bikes over the years, my SL was part of that competition. I took that SL everywhere. It was the perfect bike for me at the time, ride to school, ride to work, ride the hills around my home, even took my girlfriend to the drive-in on it…she carried the lawn chairs and the beer. When my ‘not so trusty’ Bultaco enduro bike decided to go to dirt bike heaven (or hell as the case may be) I converted my SL to a full time off-roader. Here’s what I learned the first race, it wasn’t as agile as my Bultaco and it wasn’t as heavy or powerful as my BSA desert sled…at the end of the day, I thought it was pretty perfect.I rode that SL for a year or so until a crash took me out of desert racing. I sold it to a friend who rode it for a while and then sold it again. I don’t think he thought it was as good as I did?
Fast forward a few decades, I’m out roadracing and decide that I want to start vintage bike racing. My first choice was to race a Honda 350. I started researching what it would take to build a competitive 350. Whew…these guys are serious! There is a lot that can be done to make the basic 22hp CB350 into a great racer but the one thing that caught my eye was that the SL frame was the choice of the fastest. Different than the CB by a long shot, double down tube frame instead single, different geometry, etc. In the end I went with the FT500 Ascot as a racer (it cost a lot less to be competitive…if you consider $2000 to just build the motor cost effective?) but I still kept the SL350 in mind.
Fast forward again, a good friend of mine from the surfing world needed a new surfboard but wasn’t too ‘cash flush’ as they say but, as a vintage motorcycle dealer he was ‘bike flush’. During a casual lunch we started talking motorcycles and the SL350 came up. “I have one, want to trade a new board for it?” Being the owner of a surf shop, this was the best deal I ever made in 2.3 seconds.
Eventually that SL found its way to be a vintage flat track racer, and then into a cafe racer project (where it still is…hey, projects like this take time…uh, and money…).
Today while cruising ebay for cool stuff to spend money on, I found this SL350 K1 in great shape. When I say great shape I don’t mean ‘restored’, I mean great shape for being an old bike. The seat is in great shape, I think it even has the original tires (if they aren’t original they are the right tires for the bike). It does have the bangs, scrapes and dents of an old bike but and that’s fine, but…the good thing about this SL350 is that it has the original mufflers!!!! These things are almost priceless in the SL world. The owner is selling it with no reserve and so far the price is very reasonable. If you’re looking for a very cool bike that can be a great little commuter, a vintage enduro bike, a vintage roadracer or a very cool cafe racer…give this SL a good look. Click on the pic’s below for more info and pictures.
I love single cylinder motorcycles. I have raced one for years and ridden one all around the Southern California mountains and deserts just for fun. Singles are simple to ride and simple to maintain. However, some can be a bit difficult to start…until you learn the secret. The secret (or secret’s, depending on how many people you speak to) to kick starting a big single is a mystical combination of getting the piston (sometimes as big a coffee can) in just the right position, tickling the carb just the right amount (tickling the carb is a British bike thing, I’ll tell you later?), or setting the choke just right and then, while holding the throttle open just enough, a big (and I mean BIG) stab on the kick start lever. If you’re lucky, the big thumper fires right up. If you’re like most of us, it takes two or three times swinging on that kick starter to get the beast to fire. On the other hand, if you haven’t mastered the secret starting ritual, you get tossed over the handlebars, the bike telling you it didn’t like your technique. Much like a woman or two in your romantic history. Ah, don’t worry about it, you’ll get the hang of it at some point…starting the bike I mean. The woman, you’re on your own.
When I first wanted to start racing a single cylinder, I started cruising the pits at Willow Springs to see what was the most successful, or at least the most popular. The class was dominated by the Honda FT500 Ascot, but the fastest was the SR500 Yamaha. So my search for an SR500 started. The search was tougher than I thought it would be. The Yamaha single wasn’t a big seller for the tuning fork company so there weren’t all that many on the used market and what very few there were out there were commanding ‘out of my budget’ dollars. I settled on a $500 Ascot…and then promptly put $3000 into it?!
The SR500 actually started life as the dual sport XT500. A terrific big single and quite capable for it’s size and time in off-road riding. Yamaha was having good sales success with the XT and decided to dip their toes into the purely street going waters. Part of that decision was based on the growing Cafe Racer movement here in the states but mostly over in Europe.
The tuning forks gave the new SR500 an electronic ignition, added a built in compression release mechanism, both designed to make the bike easier to start. We street guys are such wimps. The styling was right on to fit the market. But, sales of the SR here in America just didn’t meet projections so the SR only stayed a couple of years on dealers floors. In Europe the SR kept going on into the 1990’s.
While cruising ebay, like I do every morning, I found the SR500 I wanted twenty years ago. This particular bike has 22,000 miles on the clock, not really too many for it’s age, and has been well maintained according to the owner. He did however switch out the body work for the 1979 color, he liked silver better i guess, or did something happen to the original bodywork? A paint job would have been cheaper I imagine? It does have newer Progressive rear shocks, does Flo come with the bike? and all in all looks pretty good. The SR 500 is a terrific bike for someone who wants a stylish yet classic big single. So click on the pics below for more pictures and a bit more info.
With all that said, I’m going out to the barn and continue working on my big single,the SRX…the SR500’s big brother
The reason I write this blog is because I love old motorcycles. I can admire a true antique motorcycle, but I really love Vintage (post-war) era bikes. The histories that come with them, especially European motorcycles, is fascinating. The innovations in technology, the design styles and the personalities that built and rode them. In Europe, compared to America, motorbikes were and still are a main form of daily transportation. Motorcycle competitions of all types have their beginnings back on the continent. Road racing, Moto-cross, Trials, Enduro’s and the craziest of them, Speedway, all came from the other side of the pond. Yeah, we can lay claim to Flat Track and Nascar, but the only one that really counts there is Flat Track…don’t get me started on Nascrap.
The original Moto Giro d’ Italia started in 1914. It was a grueling race, riding nine days and hundreds of kilometers on small motorcycles. It was a true test of endurance for the man and the machine. The Moto Giro’s most famous days were in the 1950’s. Italy was rebuilding after the Second World War and working hard at industrial and economic recovery. At this time, if you wanted to see racing you had to go to the circuit. The organizers of the time knew that bringing racing to the people was more valuable to the economy of the motorcycle industry. It was also great marketing for the motorcycle industry outside the major cities.
The Moto Giro is still running today and has grown in popularity over the past few years so that more classes have been added to include motorcycles that don’t fit into the traditional class. The concept has grown as well and now there are three similar events run here in the USA. These events, Moto Giro-USA on the East Coast , Moto Giro California on the West Coast (duh) and the Moto Melee also in California. We’re lucky out here in the west. These events are holding true to the original concept, pre 1958 motorcycles of 175cc’s or smaller. They are multi day events that take you through some of the most beautiful scenery on each coast riding with likeminded nuts. I mean enthusiasts, yeah, that’s the ticket.
So, that brings me to my latest eBay finding, this very nice little Moto Morini Briscola 175. This little bike is in good running and physical shape with only 46,000 miles on its clock. It is typical of Italian styling of the times, smooth, flowing and a bit bulbous where it needs to be. The Briscola model started life in 1953 as a 175cc pushrod OHV single. Built to be reliable most of all and speedy next. In 1956 Moto Morini moved to a new, larger manufacturing facility and that is where this little jewel came from. The little Briscola is ready to ride now. He has started and run it since pulling it out of storage but I think it could still use a bit of going through before taking out on a test ride before the Moto Giro. Also, check out the shape of the tail pipe in the pictures below…pure Italiano. I love it.
Click on the pics below for more info and a number of more pictures. I’ve also added links to the ‘Giro events. I hope to attend one maybe this year if they’ll let me ride my Benelli?
a quick note here, the bike has been pulled from ebay today but I wrote this story and I like the bike. I’m hoping it will come back on. but I hope you will enjoy the pictures, maybe you are the person that owns it or you know who does and maybe it will come up again.
A what??? What, you don’t know Danuvia?? How about Pannonia? maybe Tunde? What about White? Where have you been? Obviously not in Hungary. This is the beauty of the internet, you can find every unusual piece of equipment ever made. I love finding unique motorcycles and this one certainly qualifies.
These motorcycles were produced in Hungary from 1951 through 1975. They were made by the state owned Csepel manufacturing, sold under a variety of names, Csepel, Danuvia, Pannonia, Tunde, and White here in the United States. These were mostly little two stroke singles and twins. Danuvia actually started as a small arms company, like many other motorcycle builders, BSA being the first that comes to mind. At the time most Eastern Bloc companies were state run and as long as they were making money they kept getting funding from the government. Well, in 1975 Danuvia wasn’t making enough money to satisfy the government so funding was cut off and Danuvia, Pannonia, Tunde and White went the way of the Doh-Doh.
The motorcycles were popular when they first showed up; well built, (by standards of the time and place), affordable, and relatively stylish???
Csepel motorcycles were raced rather successfully in European trials and enduro’s and here in the US, under the White brand, a few did pretty well in Eastern MX races during the early 1960’s. I don’t ever remember seeing one here in the West. Here in the desert the main Euro’s were CZ and Maico but no White’s.
I found this nice little Danuvia 250 located outside of Las Vegas on ebay today and it’s a neat little bike. It has been completely restored to new condition. The owner considers it a piece of art. Ok…? So, if you’re looking for something quite unique to add to your motorcycle collection or put it in your foyer as a welcoming piece of art, this may be a nice little motorbike to have. Click on the pic below to get the contact info for more pictures. The seller doesn’t provide any information so you’ll need to ask some questions on your own. There is a pretty strong network of owners here in the US so you should be able to find out a lot about this bike.
From American Motorcycling Magazine August 1963; “Designed and engineered specifically for the sportsman who wants to do a lot of ‘off the road riding’. “The Mountaineer, with it’s rugged construction and knobby 16″ rear wheel will appeal to the hunter”
I love finding odd motorcycles, for this website and for riding myself. The quirkier…the better, that’s my motto. Unlike other stories I have written about bikes that I have personal connections to, this little Ducati is a complete stranger to me, but I really like it.
Come to think of it though, I actually do have a connection to it, rather convoluted however. For a short period of time I had a little Suzuki 90cc trail bike that looks strangely familiar to this Ducati. Besides both having a 90cc 2 stroke motor, look at the styling…imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery.
We only had the Suzuki for about six months but it was a blast to ride around the neighborhood and the really big vacant lot behind our house. I was tempted to ride it in a ‘Family’ Enduro once but that thought quickly passed as I opened the second beer and my step dad was rolling on the floor laughing. If I had had the Ducati Mountaineer, well, maybe he wouldn’t have been laughing so hard?
So this little Ducati is really unique. For one thing most people don’t equate Ducati with small two strokes nor trail bikes, but at that period in time, Ducati made a lot of small displacement motorcycles.
The Mountaineer and it’s street going compatriot the Cadet, were available in two different versions. You had your choice of the basic 5HP model or, the mind bending, arms stretching, neck straining 7HP model. Think of all you can do with 2 extra horsepower. The Mountaineer had a steel Duplex Cradle frame (compared to the Suzuki’s stamped, might as well be tin foil frame), re-inforced handlebars and a dual rear sprocket set up, very reminescent of Honda’s dual ratio set up on the Trail 90. The little Ducati trail bike had a three speed tansmission and weighed in at only 115lbs. With 5 or 7 horsepower, you only need 3 gears!
Here’s the really cool thing about this little motorcycle. It had a turbine like fan to cool the motor so that no matter what RPM you were running in any gear, the engine had air running over the cylinder to keep the temperature down. Italian engineering at it’s most creative.
My daily perusing of ebay landed me on this little Ducati and the fun began. The seller has a story to go with this bike, selling it for an estate, the owner had passed away, it’s been sitting for a generation. The seller says it has only 83.7 miles on the odometer. The story attached to that is that the original owner bought it new, rode it around a bit, crashed it into the brush (or something like that), and from there on was afraid to ride it and parked the bike. Ok….look at the pictures. It looks to me that there is more wear than from just one little crash and then sitting through the ‘Summer of Love’, the Vietnam War and dozen Presidential elections. The ad also states the speedo cable is disconnected, Hmmmm. And, was the crash bad enough rip off the front tire? Nonetheless, for somebody looking for a really unique Italian motorbike, this might just fit the bill. You know, this could be a neat little bike for the Moto Giro California next year.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and the full story. A great resource for information about this Ducati would be the Ducati Bevelheads list, I know this isn’t a bevelhead but these guys are knowledgeable about most any vintage Ducati. You can contact them through my friend Steve Allen at www.bevelheaven.com
I love Rickman motorcycles. Don and Derrick took good motorcycles; Triumphs, Honda’s, Kawasaki’s, Montessa’s and made them better. Right now the current owners of the Metisse name are marketing a Steve McQueen Triumph Desert Replica…for some serious cash!!! I mean take out a second mortgage kind of cash….
But…years back you could get a Rickman framed Hodaka 100cc, a Zundapp 125 and a 250cc Montessa. The Rickman versions were light, handled far better than the factory originals and, would certainly give you the edge in any race. If…you had the talent and skill.
This is whole ‘nother story, but look at the Moto 2 class (formerly the 250cc Gran Prix) in roadracing and next year the Moto3 (formerly 125’s) they are all running spec engines, (Honda, quite a marketing ploy if you don’t mind my saying…)
I have done a lot of research on Rickman framed motorcycles over the years but never much about Zundapp…so while researching this particular motorcycle I learned a lot about the German company. While working at a motorcycle dealership, I asked most of the people there if they knew of Zundapp. You can imagine the blank stares I got. I have to admit here that I knew the name but nothing of the company. It’s pretty interesting.
Did you know that before motorcycles, Zundapp made bombs for the German military. They built their first motorcycle after WW1 in 1921, then later on, worked with Dr. Ferdinand Porsche to develop the Volkswagen. Zundapp built bikes ranging from 50-800cc’s and then after World War Two, like many European motorcycle builders, switched to small displacement bikes only. Easy transportation and economy were the key factors in transportation Europe at that time.
Think about this for a moment, after World War 2 we, the United States, were building and importing the biggest motorcycles we possibly could…Harley Davidson’s, Triumph’s BSA’s…and Europe was scaling everything down to be economical because of the cost of fuel. Not much has changed has it?
Ok, back to Zundapp. After WW2 Zundapp brought out the Bella Scooter, a very cool little classic European scooter. Zundapp was still building big bikes, but that market was dying rapidly. The last of the big (598 cc…the model601) was discontinued in 1951. After that time the company only built little scooters and mopeds and Zundapp finally closed up shop in 1984. They were bought up by a Chinese company, Xunda, and eventually, and still. making small bikes using Honda engines. And one more little thing about Zundapp…they are heavily involved with Enfield India. They are building small bikes for the world market.
This Rickman Zundapp I found on ebay is a pretty cool bike but there are a few questions. What color should it really be??? Some say red is the right color but some histories say light blue…quite a debate I find. Here’s the deal, it’s a really cool little bike that if you want to ride lightweight vintage enduros you can’t go wrong. You only need to acquire a few parts…headlight, tail light lens, speedo, and, if where you ride they require them.. blinkers. There might be a few other things you may want to get but all in all this a very unique motorcycle that has a great history.
To find out more, click on the pic’s below. I wish I still rode Enduro’s, this would be fun.
I remember Rokon motorcycles but I’m sure, like most of us, I remember them for the two wheel drive ‘Trail Breaker’. A quite unique in so many ways, automatic transmission, would climb up and over everything in it’s way, and had big hollow wheels that in a pinch would help the motorcycle float!? What a vehicle. Odd at it’s best.
While Rokon was having some moderate success with the Trail Breaker they decided to go after the more conventional (as in one wheel drive) motorcycle market. The marketing wizards (?) at Rokon looked closely at the strong Enduro market that the Japanese companies were’t paying attention to. In 1970 the company brought out the RT340.
The RT340 was powered by a Sachs snowmobile engine (complete with rope pull starter), torque converter non-transmission (it’s an automatic) and other innovative for the time ideas. The RT340 was the first off road bike equipped with mag wheels instead of spokes and front and rear disc brakes. Yeah, it was heavy and slightly underpowered but, it did well for it’s intended purpose.
The RT340 came out in 1970, in 1971 it won it’s first AMA National Enduro. The next step for the RT340 was the 48th ISDT (International Six Days Trials). At the end of the Six Days, Team Rokon had four bronze medals, very good for a rookie motorcycle company.
There was a problem in Rokon world though, the Trail Breaker was making money for the company while the RT340 was draining the company. Rokon made at least three maybe four versions of the RT including a stillborn street version. By some accounts, it was the 340 that brought Rokon to it’s knees. Investors bailed out and partners left. The company was taken over and limited production of the Trail Breaker continued, using either Honda or Kohler engines.
Today I found this Rokon RT340 on ebay and it piqued my interest. The owner provided a lot of pictures but not much info. He does say that it ran ‘ a few years ago’ and thats about it. He isn’t quite sure what year it is, I’m sure you could track it down by the VIN. It does look complete to me. I wonder though about parts availability, could be a bit iffy. If you are in the market for something unique, maybe not as unique as the ‘Trail Breaker’, this RT340 might be up your alley. And by the way, I learned that is pronounced ‘Rock-on’ not ‘Row-con. Just thought you’d like to sound intelligent when talk about your new Rock-on RT340. Click on the pics below for more.
I’ve said over and over, I dig Hodaka’s. From the story of the company, the bikes, the names and how many of them were sold and enjoyed bt everyone from kids, to pro’s, to little old ladies on a trail ride. You could ride it to school or work and then on the weekend go to the desert or woods on the same bike with ease. Hodaka’s were pretty cheap, in a lot of ways, but anything that wasn’t quite up to the quality standards set by the big 4 Japanese companies or the Europeans was completely over-shadowed by the ‘high giggle factor’ that came stock with every Hodaka motorcycle.
Hodaka has legions of followers around the world, in the US there is a huge event each year called Hodaka days. There are swap meets, bike shows, street rides, trail rides, moto cross races…great fun for lovers of the little bike with the funny names…Ace 90, Ace 100, Rat, Super Rat, Wombat, Combat Wombat, Super Combat Wombat, Dirt Squirt, Road Toad (it was bright!!! green) and the Thunderhog. How can you resist a bike called the ‘Dirt Squirt’??
There are also lots of resources for Hodaka fans out there. The best starting place I have found is the folks at ‘Strictly Hodaka’ www.strictlyhodaka.com from there you’ll photo galleries, events, links, all kinds of parts and a lot more. It’s the perfect place to make your leap into Hodaka World.
A terrific vintage motocrosser, Hodaka upgraded the Super Combat in 1974 with reed valve induction, a bigger carb, a new cylinder arrangement and the newest ‘no flywheel’ CDI ignition. The Super Combat was fast, as a matter of fact, it was faster out of the hole (starting line ) the Honda Elsinore, really it was. A good rider could get the jump on everybody and be to the first turn leading the pack. However, if the track was a long fast one, like some 5th and 6th gear straights, the Hodaka started falling behind. And, if the course was a rough one, well…besides being beat to death by the mediocre suspension, you’d find your self pretty far back in the back wishing the race was really only the first 50 yards. Yes, Hodaka did pinch a few pennies on the suspension but there were a few good aftermarket suppliers that smooth things out for you.
I came across a pretty clean Super Combat on ebay today. The owner doesn’t provide much more information other than it runs good, but the pictures show that it is in good shape and probably well taken care of Looks to me with some of those better shocks I mentioned. It also looks to be a good value so far, not one of those motorcycles that comes with a price tag that makes you laugh. Click on the pics below for more pictures and contact info.
I spent many years riding in the Mojave desert and I would say that 99% of the memories are great…the remaining 1% would be the memory of breaking my back trying to jump a small ravine and then having the doctor tell me to stay off motorcycles. As you can tell, I took that advice to heart.
Last weekend I took on the support role for a team of riders from the dealership I work for. I had a great time fixing carbueration issues, filling gas tanks, fixing flats and being the team chauffeur, but I wanted to be riding. While waiting for riders and wandering through the checkpoint area’s, I was wondering what I would want to ride in this event next year. I have posted before that I have a Honda SL350 like the one I used to ride in the desert that I could set up again and ride the vintage class, but as I think about it there are some better choices out there that would cost less to get ready and probably be more fun / capable to ride. Like maybe a Yamaha IT?
I remember when these bikes came out. Honda had the Xl’s, Kawasaki had the KDX models and Yamaha, the IT…all of them good all around enduro machines. Street legal off roaders that would take you anywhere you wanted to go. The favorite among the smaller sizes was the KDX 200 from Kawasaki, light, easy handling and fun to ride. What more could you want?? Horsepower and torque.
Ladies and gentlemen I give you the Yamaha IT425. Based on the YZ400 motocrosser (a true brute), the IT425 had mountains of torque, for a two stroke, plenty of horsepower to send you flying down any fire road and a suspension system that was, well…good enough for the times. The IT was a great bike in its time and a terrific bike in any vintage class event today. The 425 was made for only one year, 1980. Why? Because enduro bikes were losing favor among the buying public…big street bikes were ruling the showroom floors.
So, while pondering getting back into off-road riding I found this really nice Yamaha IT425 on ebay. It’s been well cared for and ridden very little, I can’t believe it only has 500 miles on it?! It seems to me that a very easy going over and through, would have this bike ready for day to day use or any off-road adventure. Yeah, I know, it’s not a new KTM or BMW adventure bike with all the latest good stuff, but for most of us…a great ride. Click on the pic below for more pictures and contact info. This is going to be a really good bike for someone..I only wish it was closer to me. Oh, and the reason why I put 79 / 80 for the year of this bike…Yamaha only sold them as 1980 models (it was a one year bike) even if they were made in 1979.
I just came back from the annual L.A Barstow to Vegas Dual Sport ride and the memories of my desert racing and enduro riding days came flooding back. My job this weekend was being the support crew for the weekend for the guys from Thousand Oaks Powersports in Thousand Oaks California (www.thousandoakspowersports.com) and Tri County Powersports (aka Simi Valley Harley Davidson) in Simi Valley California (www.tri-countypowersports.com). I was completely happy to chase them all over the Mojave Desert gassing up bikes, lubing chains, cleaning air filters and cleaning out clogged up pilot jets…but, I wanted to be riding.
In 1969 I rode my first B to V, by the time I got to Vegas I thought I was going to die…my Bultaco wished I would I think. I rode the race for a couple of years but I was also heavily into Enduro’s. My Bultaco Matador was starting to get a bit tired and I was also in the middle of a one-upmanship contest with my friend Eddie so I ended up with a Honda SL350 in my garage. I rode it to and from school, all around the hills of where I lived and, all in all, I loved the bike. I did ride a BSA 650 as well, but for day-to-day ease, the SL was perfect.
When my Matador finally gave up the ghost, the SL was put into Enduro duty. Some slight modifications were in order…a skid plate, better dirt tires, junk the blinkers,headlight,tail light (unless the Enduro rules call for street legal), switch out the mufflers for a pair of shorty’s (much lighter), and hope for the best. You know what, that Sl350 proved to be a great enduro bike. The motor was strong enough to get me up any hill, through any sand wash and never complained. For a couple of years I put that poor motorcycle through more torture than I think it was designed for.
So, after being at the Dual Sport Tour this weekend I decided I’m going to ride it next year for sure, but instead of riding something new and really easy to ride, I’m going to ride the Vintage class. I have an SL350 in running condition…well, if I put it all back together (it’s in the beginning stages of a Cafe Racer conversion) and after seeing older Triumphs and a BSA or two riding the trails I figured the old 350 would be a perfect ride.
. There are a couple of things that make the SL so much better than a CB or CL. The frame is a double down tube cradle frame instead of the single downtube of the CB’s and CL’s which is stiffer and gives better handling without a bunch of modifications, the motor is tuned and carburetted a bit differently for more low and midrange power (it wheelies really easy!) and it is kick start only (except for the K0 model) which makes it lighter. The SL’s are great bikes.
I found a pretty nice SL350 on ebay this morning that would be a great bike for so many types of riding. Overall it’s in ‘good’ condition, doesn’t have all that many miles, the owner says it runs good and does all it’s supposed to do. The electrics are all functional, everything is straight, tires are good…I’d get rid of the tires and put on the proper Trials tires. It doesn’t have the SL350 mufflers, which…if you can find a pair will cost as much as the bike itself…there are a few good aftermarket mufflers that compliment the bike nicely and there is a guy in Australia that makes beautiful replica’s.
Because the Honda 350 has been the best selling motorcycle in history, parts are available and won’t break the bank when time does come for repairs.
So far the bidding price is very reasonable and for anybody looking for a unique bike that can be transformed into whatever you want, this is a great choice. Click on the pics for more pictures and information.
Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint gum…or a pair of Triumph T25’s. Yep, two for just about the price of one. The Triumph T25 is really only a BSA B25 rebadged, but that’s ok. These little 250’s are really fun to ride. They’re relatively light, easy to start, handle good and for the most part, very reliable. And you can get two of ‘em!
What’s the difference between the SS and T models? The SS is the ‘street scrambler'; road tyres, a hugger style front fender. The T model is the trail model (they call it the Trail Blazer); semi knobby tyres, high front fender and I think, final gearing is different as well. Both of the T20 models are open for lot’s of modifications. You can take one of these and make a very competent dirt bike out of it…it only weighs 320 lbs and that exhaust has got to weigh most of that?! Really, it wouldn’t take all that much to make this a very fun off roader. The SS model is so ripe for the cafe’ treatment…dump the exhaust, upgrade the suspension and do the regular cafe tweaks and you have one rockin’ little canyon carver.
In the first paragraph I said the T25’s are “for the most part, very reliable”, well…maybe I exaggerated a bit. The little 250’s are very happy revving motors and seem to work best at high (that’s a relative term here…) rpm’s, but along with those high revs come problems. The T25 and the BSA B25 have a tendency to have valve train issues along with lower end frailties. There are two things you can do to lessen these issues. #1, don’t rev it up real high…(duh) and, #2, fix the problems before they happen. There are a number of good websites that have good fixes and sources for parts…there are plenty of parts out there and not all that expensive.
I found this pair of T25’s on ebay this morning for a very reasonable price. You get both a Street Scrambler and a Trail Blazer..how much fun. Hey, I know…the his and hers models!? That way you can convince the wife to let you bring them home??? I’ve tried that one more than once and I can’t think of one time it actually worked, but…your mileage may vary. The Trail model is ready to ride today and the SS was ridden a year ago and needs just a bit to put it back on the road. While looking closely at the pictures, the SS has the better twin leading shoe front brake while the T model has the older single leading shoe front…the single is fine for casual off road use but the newer brake is MUCH better. Doesn’t diminish the value of this pair in the least. All in all if you like smaller bikes and want something a bit different, a T25 is a great choice. Click on the pics below for more info. These really are fun motorcycles…surprisingly so.
!! NEWS FLASH!!…(insert news room sound effect here)…Ikea has entered the Vintage Motorcycle business. Yes, it’s true, the Swedish home furnishing giant has found a new niche market that no one has yet to tap…Vintage Motorcycles that come with this label, ‘some assembly required’. Oh sure, it’s not like putting together a cheap dining room table or a kitchen island, but, if you buy their new motorcycle products, you’re going to need that table and island…trust me.
Those of us that have grown up, and I use that term very loosely in my case, with old motorcycles, are very familiar with the term ‘basket case’. A ‘basket case’ is a collection of motorcycle parts in boxes that, if you’re lucky and have the patience of Job, might just become a motorcycle one day. Note here…friends, parents, significant others (wives especially) and the rest of us based somewhere in the real world, know that, making that pile of parts a motorcycle that someone would actually recognize…will never happen. Every now and then one of us actually does turn that pile of parts into a rideable motorcycle and then promptly sells it on ebay. Or to an unsuspecting friend of a friend of a friend.
I found today what I would call a ‘box’ case. You really can construct a rideable bike out of these parts…it might take a bit more than an Ikea tool box, you know…a pair of pliers, a screwdriver, a drawing of what it is supposed to look like and a lot swearing. This particular ‘box bike’ looks like all it will take is a few Whitworth tools for the motor, your standard Craftsman tool cabinet full of motorcycle appropriate spanners, a couple of friends (not one you sold a rather questionable basket case to…), some Guiness and a spare weekend. When the Guinness is all gone and the box of parts is a motorcycle, decisions have to be made. “Now what am I going to do with it?” You certainly could go vintage motocrossing with it or maybe with a little bit more work, you could take it roadracing? Ok, a lot more work, but it might be worth it? Not really, but I like the look….
So, here is what I found for sale on ebay today, a 1971 Rickman BSA B50 SS. This particular Rickman is an off road model powered by the ‘Street Scambler’ motor..hence the SS designation. This Rickman ‘box’ bike is great. Everything is there, it’s got new parts, good work done to the motor to get it ready for building and the body work is very nice. I’m not 100% sure if it’s genuine Rickman based on the seller saying it’s NOS…so is it replica or is it new genuine Rickman? Either way, it looks good. You could turn this into a great vintage desert or scrambles racer, with the addition of a speedo and lights it would make a fine enduro bike, you can take it out to vintage motocross events or just trail ride the thing. No matter what you do with it, it will be a great bike to have.
There are lots of resources for BSA B50’s and Rickman so finding parts, upgrades and great ideas are no farther away than your keyboard. There is one upgrade that I found quite unusual and I wouldn’t attempt at home if I were you. Yes, that is a B100…two B50 motors put together by Dr. Frankenbike. Halloween is coming.
Click on the pictures below for more info about the Ikea model Rickman BSA and get yourself ready for a good weekend project.
What do you do when you wish your motorcycle handled better? Most of us throw on some new shocks, rework the front forks, different tires, maybe try some different handlebars. Some riders go a bit further and modify the frame, make it lighter or change the geometry. All these ideas work well, but if you’re a couple of brothers in England, not well enough.
I can see it now, the Rickman brothers sitting in the pub after a day of motocross racing complaining about how their BSA’s handled. Over a couple of pints they work out some new modifications, then over a couple more pints, new ideas come out. While delivering the fourth or fifth round of pints, the barmaid politely tells the brothers that she is sick and tired of every weekend listening to them bitch about their motorcycles, ” Why don’t you just shut up and build your own?” Everybody in the pub gave the young lady a round of applause, including the Rickmans.
In 1960 the first of the Rickman frames hit the market with immediate success, both on the track and in sales. Everyone saw how beautiful they were, the design features and…they worked!!! Here’s a few interesting things about the Rickman frames. The brothers knew it had to stand out so nickel plating the frames made sure everyone knew you had a Rickman. Next, function…Rickman frames put the engine oil in the frame. Why? For a couple of reasons; lighter overall weight and oil cooling. Your motorcycle handles better and runs longer…both good things in a scrambles race. The main benefit to having a Rickman framed bike was handling, the improvement over a stock framed motorcycle was amazing. I was lucky enough to, one time and one time only, hop off a stock framed Triumph desert sled in the middle of a race, and onto a Rickman framed Triumph ‘not a sled‘. Within one mile I started having delusions of granduer, I was transformed into Steve McQueen gliding across the Mojave as if I were in a movie.
There is a lot more to the Rickman story than I can put here. Companies that wouldn’t sell them motors so they could sell complete motorcycles, the addition of road bikes and the transition to roadracing, innovations like being the first builders to put disc brakes on a street bike (a Rickman framed Triumph Bonneville) in a joint project with Lockheed, their stunningly beautiful fibreglass work…what they did is truly timeless.
There is so much to write about the Rickman’s but, this is all about a 1972 Rickman Montessa I found on ebay today that needs your love. It’s a nice bike that has one big flaw…the Montessa 250 engine doesn’t turn over. Damn. Actually, that’s not a big deal, two stokes are easy to rebuild and don’t cost all that much to get you back on the track. This particular bike looks to me like a good vintage racer and not a museum piece. I’m not a fan of garage queens or museum pieces anyway. Buy this great bike, get the motor going, ride it in vintage events and you will have spent your money well. Click on the pics for more about this very cool vintage racer. I don’t know what the reserve price is on this bike, but if it’s anywhere in the real world, this is a good buy.
And, the last thing here..extra bonus points if you know what the word ‘metisse’ means…it’s Gallic for ‘mongrel’…I think that describes the brothers and their motorcycles quite well.
After a few years of racing and getting banged up pretty seriously a couple of times, I decided to hang up my knobbies and stick to the road. I’m waiting for the comments about how dangerous street riding is compared to off road, etc, etc, etc…save your typing fingers. I loved my dirt bikes but I wasn’t racing much and they were collecting more garage dust than desert dirt, so an ad in Cycle News West sent a couple of nice bikes off to a new home and my Kawasaki H2 got new tires, new handlebars and a trip to Colorado and New Mexico. A fair trade in my book…at the time.
My riding buddy Bud, rode every weekend, dirt or street, rain or shine..except in the winter when he was skiing every weekend. Bud didn’t have kids. One Saturday morning Bud called and asked if I could come help him with some house project and maybe go for an afternoon ride. Sure. When I got there, sitting in his driveway was a brand new Husky WR390. Bud was really taking this ‘oneupmanship’ game with his dirt bike friends a bit far! As I took my helmet off, the first words out of his mouth were “wanna buy my old 250?”.
We finished his house project, had a great ride up Angeles Crest and then it was home to my own house projects. Bud’s parting words to me were “I’ll give you a really good deal!” The 30 minute ride home was spent thinking about getting dirty again. When I got home my wife told me Bud called and wanted me to call him back as soon as I got home. “You still got your dirt gear? Good. Come riding up in Texas Canyon with me tomorrow, I want to ride my new bike…you can ride the 250″. This was playing dirty, no pun intended. I agreed to go knowing what would happen.
Lucky for me, my wife wasn’t home when I got back from riding so getting my ‘new to me’ Husky into the garage was easy. I didn’t have to work too hard to hide it because she never, I mean never, went into the garage or what she called ‘the black hole of motorcycling’…it wasn’t that bad? However, it would have helped if I had closed the garage door so that when she drove up, a bright red gas tank with chrome sides wasn’t staring right at her. Oops. You can imagine our dinner table conversation.
Over the next couple of years I did a lot of trail riding and camping with that Husqvarna, even rode a couple of low key enduro’s. My son’s first riding experience was on that bike, funny thing though…started him early I thought, but he didn’t get into motorcycles until he was 18?
Cruising ebay each day I see all types of dirt bikes that look fun to ride and some even get me thinking about off roading it again, but then the picture of all the bikes I already have that need love comes into my head and, well… Today though, I found a bike just like the one I had and it brought back all the memories of years ago. It’s a 1976 Husqvarna WR250. These are great motorcycles no matter how old. They are reliable, easy to ride, they won’t beat you up, parts (if you do need them) are available and there are all kinds of resources on the net for anything you might want to know. Considering how old it is , this WR250 will be a great trail bike, good for Vintage Enduro events (you’d have to put all the enduro equipment on but that’s easy) and great in vintage desert races. This one for sale is described as “seems to run and shift good”…that’s all the description you get so, that should help keep the price down. These WR’s were darn near bulletproof so if it is running decently now, a little going over should be all it needs? Click on the pics for more pictures of a really fun dirtbike.
“Hey man, where’d ya get your Bike?” “Monkey Wards.” Yes, boys and girls, back in the good old days you could walk in to a Montgomery Wards store and walk out with a refrigerator, a new couch, a new toilet and…a new motorcycle. In the ’60’s Wards partnered up with Benelli to sell small displacement motorcycles here in the US and for a while it was a fairly lucrative project for both. The most popular were the small 2 strokes but the larger 250 and 350 models started doing well in the later part of the decade. By around 1970 the partnership ended, bikes that were left in the stores and warehouses were sold at prices that made buying a bicycle look expensive. Today these Wards Riverside models have developed quite a cult following. Internet forums, rallies, parts businesses specializing in these bikes…it’s amazing.
I found a really neat Wards Benelli cafe racer on ebay today and while doing a little research I found out that the model this guy is selling actually started life as an Enduro…yeah, an off road bike? The Mojave 360 was an early attempt by Benelli to get into the US off road market. Only a handful, it seems, have remained in the original form, most have been converted into something else, like this very nice cafe racer.
This Benelli Mojave is done very minimally, yet quite nicely and that is what makes a good cafe racer. The motor has been gone over and a few bits and pieces thrown in to add a little more power, the electrics have been freshened up and it has one of the coolest tail lights I’ve seen. The bike has very low miles and looks to be a fun bike to ride. If it’s not an instant attention getter when you ride it to your favorite Sunday morning breakfast stop, as soon as someone notices the tank badge, there will be a small crowd your little ‘Monkey Wards’ racer. Click on the pics for a couple more and what info the owner has given.