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.