The 1969 Honda CB750 Four is generally considered to be the first Japanese ‘Superbike’. I beg to differ. Yes the CB750 broke ground with electric start, disc brakes and a wonderful engine. But… in my humble opinion, Kawasaki really led the way into ‘Superbike’ with the 1969 H1 Mach 3. The Mach 3 also known as ‘The Blue Streak’ (due to the blue stripe on the gas tank) was less than a Superbike in all but one category…horsepower. Power to weight ratio. It handled lousy, braked marginally, would scare the crap out of mere mortals (and some immortals)…it truly was a motorized ‘Flexible Flyer’. But we all loved it!
In 1972 Kawasaki came out with the 750cc H2, the Mach 4. This motorcycle was capable of mach speeds and then some. It handled better than the Mach 3 and with some modifications it actually handled pretty well. In a straight line nothing on two wheels (and most four wheel vehicles) could beat it. I paid my rent for a year or so racing cars with my H2. I thought I was King of the world until my friend Mike Kaller bought King Kong…The Z1.
The Mighty Z1 really did bring the term “Superbike” to life. Big motor, Big power, and beautiful styling.
My friend Reg Pridmore won the AMA Superbike Championship in 1977 aboard a Kawasaki, the first for a Japanese manufacturer…along with the help of Craig Vetter and Keith Code.
I found a really nice ’75 Z1 on ebay this morning. It has been set up nicely with 1974 body work and livery (paint scheme) and repro exhaust. Here’s the the thing about the ’75 versus previous years. It’s better.
For 1975 Kawasaki gave the Z1 a better frame, better suspension, brakes that could actually stop King Kong, tuned the motor to be a bit more friendly and got rid of the chain oiler (the chain oiler was maybe a good idea but sure made a mess of the rear wheel…). The down side of the Z1 was that it chewed up chains, sprockets and rear tires. Well, manufacturers of those parts weren’t prepared for a bike like ‘The Mighty Z1′.
The seller of this particular Kawasaki Z1 has done a nice job of making the bike look right. It does need some basic service work..as in go through the carbs, check the electrical’s but from there, you’re going to have a fabulous motorcycle.
My suggestions though….upgrade the rear shocks, new springs in the front (along with Race Tech emulators), a set of GP touring bars, better brake pads, some sticky tires and hang on.
Another thought here, The Z1 also makes an incredible ‘Sport Tourer’. The motor is strong enough to pull you and a passenger, along with your luggage, the seat is surprisingly comfortable for long stints in the saddle, and honestly, The KZ900 is a great all around motorcycle.
Click on the pictures below for more info and more pictures. This is a really great motorcycle to have.
<a target=”_self” href=”http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1975+Kawasaki+Z1+900&icep_item=111362860979&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg”>
1975 Kawasaki Z1 900</a><img style=”text-decoration:none;border:0;padding:0;margin:0;” src=”http://rover.ebay.com/roverimp/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1975+Kawasaki+Z1+900&item=111362860979&mpt=%5BCACHEBUSTER%5D“>
Are you NUTS??!! Does the term “Evil, Wicked, Mean and Nasty’ turn you on? Do you have dreams of taming a bucking Bronco in the old west? Do you have more huevos than brains? Have you ever had evil thoughts of giving a friend (?) a motorcycle so that you could just sit back and laugh your rear end off? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this is the bike for you!
The Suzuki TM400 Cyclone. This bike was built to be the dominant force in Moto-Cross…in the hands of Roger Decoster and Joel Robert, it was. However, the TM400 they rode was a very different motorcycle from what you and I could buy.
What you and I got was a bike that had a light switch powerband, a chassis that had no problem bucking you off or swapping ends without telling you first, it would change directions on you with no effort at all even when you didn’t want it to. This was motorcycle like no other. It’s no wonder it was given the nickname ‘The Widow Maker’. Most riders of the TM400 are actually ‘survivors’ of the TM400.
So what is it that makes the Cyclone such an interesting motorcycle? Beats the hell out of me…both literally and figureativley. I spent all of about 20 minutes on one at an MX track in Southern New Mexico. I was the friend(?) that everybody else there that day laughed their butts off at. It was pretty fun to be terrified by a motorcycle. Now, mind you at the time, I was riding the street bike equivalent of ‘Evil, Wicked, Mean and Nasty’…the Kawasaki H2750 two stroke triple…I eventually learned how to tame that beast (or was it the other way around?) and many learned how to tame the TM400.
The Suzuki Cyclone became a somewhat rideable motorcycle by adding extra flywheel weight, thicker head gaskets to lower the compression ratio, ignition timing changes, smaller carburetors, modifying the chassis…anything to tame this Cyclone.
When the TM400 showed up it made around 40HP from the factory and think about this, many 125’s today make that kind of power!! And they are actually fun to ride!
I found a very clean TM400 on ebay today and if you are looking for a very unique motorcycle that will scare the daylights out of you…but for some will give you big smiles, check this one out. It is a good runner, has a non stock exhaust, has been painted, but the seller says it looks really great. All in all an interesting bike.
So, if you’re looking for a true “Holy Sh*t what did I buy?” motorcycle, click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. Also, review your insurance policies.
In 1982 I was the Sales Manager at a Kawasaki dealership here in Southern California, I loved my job. The family I worked for was great, they helped me in my roadracing effort, and thanks to them I was doing pretty well. Here is the better part…I was racing a Kawasaki but my daily ride was a Honda. It didn’t look good for the Sales Manager to be riding a bike we didn’t sell, so…I was given a ‘demo bike’ to ride. Life doesn’t get any better, especially when your first ‘demo bike’ is a Kawasaki GPZ750.
I spent ten really good years on a Kawasaki H2 750 Mach 4, Kawasaki’s flagship three cylinder two stroke rocket. At times it scared the crap out of me…the H2 was called “evil, wicked, mean and nasty” by every motorcycle magazine and most people who owned them, but after some really good (serious) modifications the monster was tamed and we had great times together. Sadly,the H2 was stolen from me (if I ever find that guy…”hell hath no fury than an H2 rider without his triple!) and that is how I ended up on a Honda CB750F.
Back to the GPZ. When I was told I was getting the GPZ I wanted to cry, cry tears of joy. I had already sold a few of them and everyone loved it so I couldn’t wait to ride it.
Closing time on Saturday afternoon I was given the key, and a stern lecture from my boss as to how I was to ride the bike responsibly (the look on his face didn’t match his words…if you get my drift here…). I spent the next two days flogging that GPZ up and down every canyon road I knew here in Southern Cal. The smile never once left my face.
Here’s the deal with the GPZ…Kawasaki was already successful with the KZ series and had brought out the GPZ models in 550 and 1100cc in 1981 but they had to compete with the Honda CB750F model and Suzuki’s very capable GS750. Kawasaki was known for building motorcycles with ‘King Kong’ horsepower but didn’t have the chassis to control it. The GPZ750 changed that.
The GPZ was not just a ‘tarted up’ KZ750, there were chassis mods (courtesy of the Z1 and models soon to come…like a shorter wheelbase for quicker turning, beefier headstock and more), engine changes like new cylinder heads,new cam profiles, different carburation and a different riding position. What Kawasaki was going for here was a pure unadulterated sportbike and that is what they got. What they didn’t expect that it would also be a really good sport tourer. The GPZ1100 was Kawasaki’s ‘heavyweight’ sport tourer, but now they had a 750 that was at home on a canyon road as it was on the interstate. The first GPZ 750 is one of Kawasaki’s finest bikes of the era. The GPZ underwent some changes over the next couple of years (some good and some… ‘not so much’) but it was and still is a fabulous motorcycle.
I found a beauty today on ebay. This GPZ is a stocker, which in my book is pretty much the best way to find a used bike…that way you get to do whatever you want to do to the bike instead of undoing what someone else did…unless you would have the same things done to the bike. A bit of a convoluted thought but hopefully you get my meaning. This GPZ has been garaged for twenty years with 24K on the clock, not bad but it is going to some love. Standard stuff will be required here…carb service (full clean and rebuild), change all fluids, new tires (they’re old. I don’t care how ‘new’ they look or how much tread they have left, they are not worth keeping on the bike), brake pads, etc, etc. There is the standard corrosion on the bike that can with a little time and effort can be dealt with. This bike is a rider not a collector piece. Do the basics and ride it.
The GPZ 750 is a really wonderful motorcycle that will do anything you ask of it…blast through your local Sunday morning canyon ride, commute to work everyday, or throw on a set of soft saddlebags, a tank bag and head off to Telluride. Click on the pics below for more (not really) info and more pictures. Having ridden one for a while I can say this a perfect example of the ‘UJM’ being taken a level higher.
I love Nortons. I have ridden quite a few over the years, have been part of an LSR team,(‘Left Coast Racing’) at Bonneville with two Norton’s (one has a Bonneville Speed record!) and have grown to love them.
When my step dad wandered, rather precariously, off the Triumph path, he brought home a Norton 750 Commando that needed some love, which he gave without a flinch. It only took moments after he fired it up and I heard the beautiful song from that big long stroke motor coming out of those exquisite Dunstall mufflers that I knew all the work I had put into it (mostly all the washing, degreasing, sanding, painting little parts, taking nuts and bolts to the plater, hand polishing everything else…I still have carpal tunnel issues because of that bike…) was well worth it.
Today, I would love to have a Norton to ride, the reality is I can’t afford a Manx Norton (the one I really would want), probably not even a good Commando. But…I’ll bet I can find an Atlas, the pre-runner to the Commando, that would fit into the budget. Here’s the low down on the Atlas.
The Atlas was Norton’s big move into the U.S market. They gave it very ‘American’ styling…higher handlebars, big valanced fenders, a smaller gas tank and a bigger motor. Hmmm…let’s see, who were they aiming for?
Norton started with the Featherbed frame, designed by the McCandless brothers back in 1949. The chassis was brilliant, its name came from a moto-journalist that described it as “riding on a featherbed compared to the older ‘Garden Gate’ version”. There is a lot written about the Featherbed and it has been copied many times over by other manufacturers, my ’72 Kawasaki H2 was built with a variation of the ‘Featherbed’… the design, perfect…execution however…not so perfect, the bike still handled like crap until I modified the daylights out of it!
The original 650cc Dominator motor was pumped to 750cc then set up with lower compression to make it easier to ride on the road. The Dominator was basically a race bike with lights…a bit peaky and twitchy handling…not well suited to the American taste and our roads. The Atlas also got the ‘Roadholder’ forks, a vast improvement over the older design. In 1963, Cycle World magazine described it as “the most pleasant to ride for long distances…despite it’s size, can be zipped through ‘S Bends’ like a lightweight”. All in all, the Atlas is a great bike except for one thing…it will vibrate the fillings right out of your teeth. That really is the one and only main complaint about the Atlas. Yes, it handles great, the motor has wonderful power where you need it, but my God…you would need to see a chiropractor after every ride!?
With all that said, I found a really beautiful Atlas on ebay this morning that is going to be a great buy for someone ( I just wish it was me, but I already have too many motorcycles to care for…according to my wife…). It has been gone through from top to bottom and nose to tail. There are a few flaws and the owner has told the story (a bit humorous…except to him…) The main upgrade has been from 6 volt to 12 volt electrics and a lot of the nuts and bolts have been upgraded to stainless steel as have been the spokes. This is a really beautiful motorcycle and if you would like to get into the Norton world, this is the best jumping off point.
Click on the pics below for more good pictures and more info.
Ok, here we go again. Little hot rod bikes. To me, a 350cc motorcycle is the absolute perfect size. Plenty fast enough to keep up with freeway traffic, light enough to be a good handler, sips gas…and with gas prices heading into the $4-5.00 range, what wouldn’t you like about a 350cc motorbike?
The Mach 2 triple replaced Kawasaki’s A7 Avenger twin as the ever increasing war among performance bikes kept building. Here’s the deal, this bike had to go up against Yamaha’s RD350…did it succeed in that quest? No. Is it a great bike? Yes. Sadly the S2 350 was probably the most ignored of the Kawasaki Triples of the time. The 500cc H1 would give you the biggest giggle factor per CC of any bike around (provided you were going in a straight line…corners were not the 500’s forte’. The H2 750 would leave any other motorcycle (and most cars) in a cloud of blue smoke, and the little 250 Triple was a just a blast to ride. So why didn’t the 350 work in the sales department? Because it wasn’t the RD350. Simple.
After a couple of years Kawasaki replaced the S2 350 with the nice but boring KH400. The 400 was smoother riding but, like all the Kawasaki Triples, was being tuned down to just OK. Not the exciting ‘scare the SH*t out of you’ of the first generation triples. The original 350’s were and are, fun to ride, you could wheelie these bikes at will in the first three gears.
So, I found this really good condition Kawasaki 350 on ebay this morning that would be a lot of fun to own and ride. It’s got 23,000 miles on the clock, no biggie…I had over 75,000 on my H2 (yes, I did do the top end a couple of times, but with a 2 stroke motor, pretty easy stuff). The owner threw on some new tires, a new battery, steering head bearings, fork seals, shocks, and other bits and pieces that make this a buy and ride motorcycle. It has been repainted but the color and stripes are right. It does have the signs of a bike that is forty years old, but all in all, really good condition.
There is one thing I would do…replace that not so good front drum brake with the disc brake set up off the ’73 model. Probably easy to find at your local salvage yard or on ebay. Actually, there are a least a dozen forums dedicated to the Kawasaki triples where you could find the conversion parts. Oh, one more thing, Kawasaki triples have a tendancey to surge at freeway cruising speeds (steady throttle), all you have to do to cure this issue is drag out your Dremel tool and raise the exhaust port about 1/2 millimeter, it’s amazing what that little change does. And…if you want a little more ooomph out of the 350cc motor, pull the baffles out of the mufflers, cut about 3″ off the internals, re-wrap them (you do still want to keep the bike quiet) and you’d be amazed at how the bike feels.
This is a good bike that can be good commuter, but…me…I’d give it a mild cafe treatment and ride it everyday. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. It’s good bike and well worth adding to your collection.
The late 1960’s through, well, the 1980’s, brought the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers from building cheap ‘jap junk’ to total dominance of the motorcycle market. We can start with bikes like the Honda Dream, the Hawk, Suzuki’s X6, Yamaha’s R5, then Kawasaki hit the world with the H1. Power beyond anything on the market at the time. It didn’t handle worth a crap, brakes were Fred Flintstone quality at best…but damn fun to ride. The ’69 Honda CB750 did completely change the motorcycling world. It was everything that nobody else was making, style, power and reliability for a long ride.
Before the CB750 hit the market, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki were building high performance, light weight 2 strokes that were beating the American and British builders on the road and on the track. There is a lot of racing history we can delve into, but thats for one of the other blogs.
Those of us that were just hitting driving / riding age in the mid to late 60’s wanted the quickest, lightest and most fun motorcycle we could get. We had 250’s and 350’s that could keep up,if not outrun, the Bonnevilles and Sportsters of the day that we could choose from. Honda’s CB350 was good but was nothing more than a slice of white Wonder Bread, it did it’s job but it was the bike you had no problem leaving outside in the rain. The two strokes were where the real fun was.
The Kawasaki A7 Avenger took all the good parts of the 250 Samurai; quick, light and fun…pumped it up and smoothed it out a bit. Power came on earlier and a little less ‘light switch abrupt’, more torque and only ten pounds heavier. Even the brakes worked pretty well by standards of the day.
At this time Kawasaki was working on two thoughts. Do we pump up the 350 to a 500 twin (to compete with the Suzuki Titan) or do we really go for it? Two years later welcome in the H1 500cc Triple. That motorcycle, as exciting as it was didn’t stop the A7. Dollar for dollar, the A7 gave the rider more performance in almost every respect.
So, while cruising ebay this morning, I found a very nice A7 that can be had for a good price. It is a runner. I can see this as a perfect little cafe racer. Upgrade the tires, suspension, a set of clubmans maybe…I guess that’s about all I would do really. Well, there is one more thing. A friend of mine back in the 70’s had one of these. Jim Gaver. He was a really good rider, made custom fly fishing rods for a living. Last time I saw him we were riding up Angeles Crest Highway. I was riding a Honda CB750F, he had just bought a CB900F. We had breakfast at Newcombs Ranch. I continued up the mountain, he went back down. I hope that maybe I’ll see him again up the road sometime.
Anyway…Jim had an A7 and he showed me a neat little trick on his exhaust that I used on my Kawasaki H2. Pull the baffles out of the exhaust pipe cut about 4-5 inches off the internal baffle, re-wrap it, slip it back in and you have more low end power,and a smoother overall powerband with no extra noise. Cool huh. This ebay special could be a lot of fun for someone looking for a cool, you won’t see these everywhere motorcycle at a good price. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures
At this time I was working at a Kawasaki dealership in the LA area, along with a couple of other jobs, and was lucky enough to have a 900 Ninja as a demo bike for about 3 months. The dealership gave me the bike because they knew that my beloved ’72 Kawasaki H2 had recently been stolen and they didn’t like me riding my Honda CB750F to work each day. As a matter of fact, they made me park down the block a ways so our customers wouldn’t see a Kawasaki guy riding a Honda. Some owners are so picky…
The 900 Ninja was as eye opening as my H2 was twelve years earlier. It didn’t have the explosiveness of my H2 but it was light years ahead of the CB750. Smaller and much more compact than even Kawasaki’s own GPZ750 of the time. The 900 Ninja was the first of the liquid cooled 16 valve motors, 115 horsepower and topped out at around 155mph (I can attest to that speed). The engine was really narrow by standards of the time and that allowed Kawasaki to set the motor lower in the frame to help the bike handle better. It also was the first of it’s generation to use the engine as a stressed member. The testament to its speed and handling was a 1,2 finish at 1984 Isle of Man TT. The 900 Ninja was truly a motorcycle designed around that remarkable engine. If the 900 Ninja had an Achilles heel it was the 16″ front wheel. All in all one of the most impressive motorcycles of its time. Actually of any time. Hey, you wouldn’t let Tom Cruise ride just any old motorcycle in Top Gun now would you?!
The Ninja was loved by the moto-journalists at the time and still is. The 900 was soon upstaged by the GPZ1100 in the power arena but the big Ninja was no match for the nimble 900 on tight twisty (our favorite) roads. The original Ninja had what some perceived as an overheating problem, Kawasaki came back with a redo of the temp gauge. Seemed to work as I remember.
I found this very nice, though not completely stock, ’84 900 Ninja on ebay. But…I have a of question. The owner says it’s a Japan import. OK..but why does it have an MPH speedo instead of KPH model? Maybe he is thinking that just because it came from Japan it’s a Japan model? Maybe? The bike does have an aftermarket exhaust but that’s OK, it has been jetted and air filtered to suit the pipe. This is a really nice first generation Ninja. Well worth adding to your collection. Upgrade the tires and ride the daylights out of this classic bike. Click on the pics below for more info.
So, this guy buys a Yamaha XS650 Heritage Special, an at the time a ‘cruiser’ style motorcycle and then says “not quite my style”…and thus the ride begins.
I have always been a huge fan of the Yamaha XS650. I test rode one back in the early Seventies and loved it, almost bought it. but…something faster caught my ego and a three cylinder started living in my garage.
A decade or so later I had the chance again to buy one. A used, beautiful condition XS650B showed up in the classifieds not too far from home. I drove over, checked the bike over throughly and made the deal. I went to the bank, pulled out my life savings (I wasn’t what you call rich at the time, raising two kids on my own and working at a motorcycle shop…), drove back to the guys house and saw my ’72 XS650 riding away with somebody else on it??!! What happened??? Apparently that guys bank was closer than mine. So, I don’t have the XS650 I still lust after.
The XS650 has been the platform for so many custom treatments over the years. Probably the most popular was as a chopper. Because of Yamaha’s success in flat track a Street Tracker version became an option and then of course there is my favorite…a cafe’ racer.
I found this very cool ’83 XS650 on ebay this morning. Like I said at the beginning here, this cafe racer started life as a cruiser style ride, you the laid back, ride slow, more style than performance type of motorcycle. Blasphemy in my book, and apparently this guys too.
He bought this XS that had been sitting for years, tore it down and changed it’s life. Starting with the motor, the top end was refreshed with new pistons and a some head work, everything else looked pretty good…it should be with only 8300 miles on it. To make it ride better the forks were rebuilt, replaced the rear shocks,and this where I have a couple of questions. The owner replaced the stockers (which was very necessary in this transformation) with old shocks from a 70’s era Kawasaki KZ500?? Shocks off an older smaller motorcycle?? I don’t get it. When you look at the pictures you can see it’s too short in the back end. He must have gotten them for free. Then switched out the stock nylon swingarm bushings for some good brass bushings (a much better choice than needle bearings that were popular at the time). Changed out the wheels for vintage cafe correct 19″ front and 18″ rear wire wheels. Then the rest of Cafe treatment started.
A very cool Kerker 2 into 1 followed up by a Dunstall muffler helped the bike perform and sound Cafe’ cool, a nice set of Omars rear sets (look a little too high for me, but that’s just me…). The XS was topped off by an Yamaha RD400 gas tank (that had to be a bit of an engineering bad dream, but the results are well worth it), a very cool looking Cafe seat set up and then all of it finished off with a very nice paint job.
Cruiser to cafe racer…very nice. Click on the pics below for more info and pictures. This is a very nicely done XS650. Makes wish I gotten back from the bank just a few minutes faster all those years ago.
This is what I traded in for a Kawasaki 750 H2 back in 1972. The bike, not the girl. Do I regret the trade? Not in the least. Do I wish I had that old BSA back again? Absolutely. The girl? Probably not. As I have grown older (no wiser, just older), I look back at bikes I have had and wish I had most of them back. I could do without the Bultaco El Bandito I had and certainly the Maico 501 that just about killed me, but most of all the rest, I would still love to be riding.
The Lightning 650 was/is a great motorcycle. At the time, the Triumph Bonneville completely over shadowed the BSA Lightning. The Bonnie was sportier in all respects…lighter, faster, quicker handling and…Steve McQueen rode one. However, in the real world; daily commuting, Sunday rides and cruising the boulevard the BSA was a better ride. The Lightning had been tuned down a bit from the the supersport Thunderbolt. A quieter ride, more mid range power and, believe it or not, less oil leakage…well, for an English motorcycle. Even though the motor had been retuned it would still get you up over 100mph pretty quickly. It did have a tendency to be a little ‘weavey’ at anything above about 85mph but you got used to it. Truthfully, I think it was the stock Dunlop tyres that caused the weave not the bike.
Now, the coolest factor of the Lightning 650…in 1965 it was featured in the James Bond film ‘Thunderball’ ridden by a beautiful woman, not 007.
I found this really nice ’67 Lightning on ebay this morning and it is a good value…so far. It has been repainted, nicely, new tyres, speedo, cables, fuel lines, petcock and a lot more. This would be a great motorbike for somebody wanting to tip their toes into the Brit Bike waters or, if you have a thing for English bikes and want a good rider consider this BSA seriously. Change the bars to a set of GP touring bars and you will love how this bike feels. Trust me on this one, it’s a good bike for the $$$ Click on the pics below for more info.
My first introduction to Dunstall products was a set of mufflers my step dads best friend put on his Norton Commando, They were beautiful. These mufflers sounded even better than they looked. The honeycomb looking baffles, the shape of the mufflers themselves…works of art. I was so taken by these mufflers that I started looking for a set to fit my BSA, sadly, the Dunstall pipes were not in a teenagers budget…well, neither was a nice date with a pretty girl very often…but like they say, that is another story for another time.
I found this really nice Honda 750 on ebay today with the full Dunstall package so I had to do some research, how could I not?!
Paul Dunstall has a very interesting history. I’ll make my part short here, but at the bottom is a link to a very detailed history of Paul Dunstall and Dunstall Racing. Paul started off working in his family’s scooter dealer in England, scooters were OK, but Paul wanted more (is there anyone who rides a scooter that doesn’t??), so he picked himself up a Norton Dominator motorcycle and started modifying it for racing.
In 1957 Paul Dunstall began his racing career aboard that twin cylinder Norton. At the time, the Norton Manx, a 500cc single cylinder motorcycle, was the racer of choice…lighter, faster and more nimble handling than the Dominator, however, he was quite successful with his Dominator and for the next season, other riders wanted his exhaust system…Dunstall Racing was born.
In 1959 Paul ended his racing career and started building for others, the first commercial product was his exhaust system. By 1961 Paul had a full catalog of products for the racer and ‘cafe’ racer market. Domiracer was the catalog company.
In 1966 Paul Dunstall’s company was building complete motorcycles to race and here is where controversy entered Dunstall racing. Are you a manufacturer or a ‘pure sport’ builder? This is big stuff in the world of racing and marketing. The courts decided Dunstall was a manufacturer and Dunstall machines could continue as ‘stock’ machines.
Though Dunstall was closely linked to the Norton Commando, they started branching out to other manufacturers…Honda and Kawasaki in particular. Kawasaki’s H1 500 got the Dunstall treatment but the real thrust came to the CB750. Dunstall designed motors, chassis refinements, and of course the bodywork. Like I said before, there is a lot more Dunstall history available here http://www.woodgate.org/dunstall/history.html
So, back to what I found on ebay. A 1974 Honda CB750 with classic Dunstall upgrades and a couple of other good features. Let’s start with a Yoshimura big bore kit, Lester Mag wheels (which I put on my Kawasaki 750, along with some other Dunstall parts), a custom upper triple clamp and clip-ons (very nice) and all the proper Dunstall bodywork. This is a really sweet ride and worth the money. This Dunstall Honda is a rider not a hider. My friend Peter Jones, author and journalist extraordinaire, built a beauty of a Dunstall Honda years ago using a ’75 SOHC 750 as a base. These are fantastic motorcycles from the ’70’s that frankly, would put many modern motorcycles to shame. Click on the pis below for more info and more pictures of a great motorcycle. The sound of a SOHC Honda 750 singing through Dunstall pipes…pure music.
In the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s high performance bikes were, well…all over the map, literally and figuaritively. We had motorcycles winning Grand Prix’s with small 2 cylinder engines and small 6 cylinder motors as well. Streetbikes were bigger every year, faster too. 1969 alone brought us the maniacally fast (but handled like a piece of eel sushi) Kawasaki H1 500cc triple and; the first of the modern Superbikes, the Honda CB750. Well, I say the first of the ‘modern’ superbikes only because over time, that is what it has been catagorized as. In my humble opinion, the Triumph Trident and the BSA Rocket 3 (kind of the same bike) which came out in 1968, were the originals, but…Honda really did outdo the Brits with the CB750. The Trident/Rocket 3 handled better, sounded better and looked better, however, Honda beat them handily with better technology. The little Kawasaki was still faster.
As this era of ‘Superbikes’ was beginning, nothing was left on the table, every design idea was tried. Yes, I know, multi cylinder bike were nothing new…Honda had beat the world with a six cylinder 250, MotoGuzzi had a V8 in the works (there are a couple of those floating around…) and MV Agusta had a few World Championships to it’s name thanks to the four cylinder 350. But…big multi’s were new in the consumer world.
Suzuki was the first to introduce a liquid cooled motorcycle to the buying public of that generation, the GT750. The three cylinder two stroke was affectionately known as the ‘Water Buffalo’ here in the states, (maybe because of it’s heft?…it wasn’t what you would call svelte), and the ‘Kettle’ in England. It was a good motorcycle that only got better as it developed. The GT 750 had good power (Kawasaki’s H2 750 was faster though), handled reasonably well for the times, was quite comfortable and had very good brakes. The four leading shoe drum brake on the first generation GT750 is still a highly sought after part for vintage motorcycle roadracing. Reliability was a good feature of the GT, especially compared to the Kawasaki.
The ‘Water Buffalo’ I found on ebayis a really nicely done cafe racer. The switch to the mags versus the stock wires is a nice touch, the bikini fairing looks good, the seat / tail combo is nice, the rear sets look just about right for comfort and correct riding position, the classic Suzuki paint job is period correct, but…what really got me is the 3 into 1 exhaust / expansion chamber set up. I had one of those (different brand) on my Kawasaki, and once I finally (!!??) got it dialed in was really outstanding. looking a bit more closely, the one on this Suzuki looks to have a bigger expansion chamber as well as a larger diameter ‘stinger’ (muffler), which I believe boosts the bottom end power. I tried one like that and that is what I felt but then went to one that had a bit more top end power. The 3 into 1 was a fairly rare pipe at the time, few people understood how it worked. Anyway….this is a really nice bike that anybody interested in a cafe racer that is unique, strong running and good looking, look at this classic Suzuki ‘Kettle’.
Please don’t make me do this. Please…somebody buy this motorcycle before I’m forced to sell a couple of project bikes I’ve got buried in the barn, three classic surf movie posters and a Rolling Stones video that was never released (and for very good reason). I really want this bike and it is too close (geographically) to say that, “well, if I lived in East Butt Crack Wisconsin, I’d go buy it…and ride it home. It’s only seventy miles away. I really need one of you to buy it and get it out of my dreams.
My first encounter with a 1973 RD350 was 1974 in Grants, New Mexico. A wide spot in the road along I40 about sixty miles west of Albuquerque. My new father in law had one and was very proud of the work he had done to improve it; different reed valve cages, some modifications to the stock exhaust, better shocks, front fork work, etc. The bike was so clean that you could have eaten off the bottom side of the motor!? Does this man ever ride it or just clean it?? My bike, a 1972 Kawasaki H2 750, was sitting there in the driveway covered with five days of dirt and chain lube from riding all over Arizona, Utah and Colorado. Jay kept looking out at my bike shaking his head and asking if I wanted to wash it…”nah, I’ll wash it when I get back home to California…I don’t want to spoil its travel look.”
After telling me all the horror stories he had heard about the Kawasaki ( “yeah I know…evil, wicked, mean and nasty…that’s what I like about it!” ), we went for a ride up the road to the top of Mount Taylor just outside of Grants. It was a beautiful summer day, no traffic, no police to spoil the fun, my bike was running great and I was too.
I don’t remember how many miles long the road was, but it was really fun. I got to the top, took some pictures and even got a great shot of my father in law coming around the last curve. We spent a few minutes taking in the view and then it was back to home for a cold beer and a late lunch. I was having such a great time on the road down that I didn’t bother looking in my mirrors to see if that little Yamaha was still behind me. I got back to the house, got a couple of beers out of the garage fridge and sat down just as Mr. Father in Law pulled up…for some reason I suddenly had a very bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. No, he didn’t crash or break down but I got lectured on going too fast in “his backyard”. ” “It’s people like you that will make it difficult for those of us that live here to enjoy the road without the police.” Uh, ok…sorry sir. I swear that from that day forward, he never liked me.
A year later I had the opportunity to ride his RD. For some strange reason, he wanted to ride my Kawasaki (I had finished my modifications to get it handling good (?)). Well, after a tank full of gas riding in the White Mountains of Arizona, I didn’t want to give the bike (the RD) back…I was having way too much fun. However…I again found myself waiting for dear old ‘dad in law’ and again, he wasn’t smiling when he arrived at the meeting point. That was the last time I got to ride his RD350. Lucky for me, over the years I have had friends that owned RD 350’s that did let me ride their little Yamaha.
Now, back to this RD350 I found on ebay…stock, running, looks great and a real bargain. Only 6,000 miles on it, you can’t go wrong. It can be a great commuter, canyon devil, tourer (yes, tourer…), platform for a fantastic cafe racer…the possibilities are endless.
Somebody please buy it before I have to beg and plead with my banker to let me have another toy I can’t live without. Click on the pictures below for more pictures and a contact. It’s only $2400…somebody please buy it…
This is how it is done…well, maybe except for the paint job. As I have written before, I owned an H2 for years before someone stole it. I miss the bike and wish I could afford another so I could re-create what I had. I did a full Cafe version but, bit by bit, reverted it back to a ‘somewhat’ Cafe’ style yet still a comfortable ride…I traveled a lot on that bike..LA to Albuquerque in twelve hours once a month for a year, LA to Vancouver a couple of times and God knows how many trips around the Sierra’s. It was a good motorcycle, after a certain amount of refinements.
H2’s were great motorcycles with a bad (undeserved) reputation, a feeling I’m sure that some girls and guys had in high school.
The original Kawasaki Triples, the H1 500, were really awful handling motorcycles; hinge in the middle “oh sh*t” cornering capabilities, vague steering…’vague’ being a very generous word here, and brakes that were, well…good enough? The 750 H2 addressed some of these deficiencies by adding a disc brake to the front and sticking the motor into a better frame…a good copy of the legendary Norton ‘Featherbed’. There was still much to be done.
In 1974 Kawasaki strecthed out the wheelbase to gain a bit of stability but still kept the tight steering angle. Kawasaki also played with the motor to make it a little easier to ride, early models had a terrible surging problem at 55mph (which was the national speed limit at the time), ” but officer…my bike runs much better at 70…” not a good excuse at the time. There were things you could do to tame the H2 but why would you? Yeah I know, it had a vicious powerband, got lousy gas mileage (my Ford pickup gets more miles per gallon than my old H2?!) and, I always felt sorry for the poor sucker that thought his Corvette was faster in a street race ( my H2 paid my rent each month for quite a while thank you ). The motorcycle was flawed for sure but perfect in it’s own way.
I found a ’74 H2 on ebay today that has been cafe’d out quite nicely…almost a bit over the top, but not quite. The H2 started with 74hp, this bike has been upped to 100hp? Really? Maybe. The triple disc set up is great, braided lines…you’re going to need all that added braking to slow this monster down. Check out the classic Read-Titan rear sets, very cool and just right for this bike. The clip-ons fit perfectly allowing you to tuck behind the bubble nicely. Take a close look at the motor, see the rubber blocks between the fins? Designed to quiet the noise from the motor and subdue some (?) of the vibration, nice touch. As for the H2 lack of handling prowess…mag wheels work great, the fork brace is a must have, but look out back…Koni shocks ( must have for these bikes and it looks to me that the upper shock mounts have been modified for a different angle and maybe made out of stiffer steel?
This H2 is a nice cafe racer that will draw attention no matter where you go, and sometimes that attention (from black and white cars) is not wanted…have fun but… One thing I would do though, dump the flame paint job, find a good painter that can recreate the original colors and to most all, you’ll have a stock looking H2 that only a little has been done…to the rest of us we’ll look closer and we’ll know what you have. And we won’t want to race you.
Click on the pics below for more info and a lot more pictures. So far this a great value if it runs like it should. I’d ask about how they accomplished the 100HP claim.
The first time I saw and rode a Gold Wing I was living in Las Cruces New Mexico working for the local newspaper. The dealer, Las Cruces was a small down and had only one Honda dealer, was having a big coming out party for the new Honda and I was there to write a story about it. Honda was touting the bike as a tourer but at the same time…maybe sporty? They, Honda, weren’t really sure where the ‘Wing’ would really land.
It was kind of lined up against the BMW R90/6 and, at the same time, Kawasaki’s King Kong…The Mighty Z1. The Gold Wing was BIG…somewhere around 100 pounds bigger than the Z1 but, still had pretty respectable performance numbers in comparison tests. Comparing it to the BMW was a lot easier. Give it a big smooth comfortable ride that could easily eat up hundreds of miles a day and have you wanting to keep going and be late for dinner. Honda was also looking at the Harley Davidson Electra Glide, the touring bike of choice at the time here in the states.
When I was at the Gold Wing debut, the Honda rep started the bike then balanced a quarter on its edge, on the engine, to prove how smooth the engine was. We were all pretty impressed. Maybe not as much as watching David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear, but nonetheless, impressed. The bike was quiet, thanks to a boatload of engineering…and liquid cooling, but still had a distinctive sound and feel. I didn’t care about the quarter balancing act, I just wanted to ride the bike…I was there to do a job. Well that, and I just love riding new motorcycles.
The Honda rep was a little reluctant to turn me loose on his new bike, especially after he saw my cafe’d out Kawasaki 750 sitting the parking lot, but, after a bit of convincing him (lying to him…) that I would treat his new toy carefully (he actually fell for it…), we arranged a ride the next morning. The clincher was when I promised to buy him breakfast.
My first ride on the GL1000 was quite an eye opener. The bike had gobs of power all over the place but was eerily quiet and way too smooth for a guy used to British twins and a raucous two stroke triple. But I really liked it. The roads around Las Cruces aren’t what you would call over challenging or even entertaining but, we made the best of them long enough that I had to call the newspaper and make up some story that would keep them from sending out the search party or worse…firing me. For a 600 plus pound motorcycle, the new Gold Wing was surprisingly agile and fun to ride. The sales rep was a riding the dealers own CB750 that had been tweaked a bit and still had a hard time keeping up with me, not because I was a better rider ( I was…but thats beside the point…kind of) but the Gold Wing really worked well and was easy to push around the roads of Southern New Mexico. We did get home in time for dinner.
First generation Gold Wings are great motorcycles in so many ways. The obvious is as a tourer, hauling around a sidecar is easy for a GL1000 and a few brave souls have turned their big Honda into Cafe’ Wings…my favorite. I found this really nice GL1000 on ebay and looks to be a great deal for someone looking for a classic bike that can almost anything. This Gold Wing has only 20,000 miles, barely broken in for this bike, the owner put in a new clutch, timing belts, water pump, hoses, rebuilt the carbs…I would imagine just because it has sat for a long time. This is a great classic that can be the platform for so much…a great naked tourer or find a Vetter Windjammer on ebay and travel across the country, get a cool sidecar from my friends at Sidestrider and take the dog for a ride. This is a good bike for a good price. There is only one thing I’m not sure I like about this particular bike, the owner replaced the cool aluminum spoked wheels with later model Comstar mags, which isn’t a bad thing, I just like the original wheels better. Click on the pics below for more info about this nice Gold Wing.
In reality, a proper Cafe Racer is British. They created the genre’ and still do it better than most of us. Classic singles like the 441 Victor, the Norton International, Matchless G50’s. And of course the Bonneville, Commando and Lightning. I have even seen Cafe Racer Scooters!!
I found a very nice ’66 BSA A65 Lightning on ebay this morning sporting a somewhat conservative Cafe’ style but nonetheless, holding true to the spirit. I spent a couple of years on an A65 and I loved it, but as those of you who do read this regularly know that I traded it for ultimate speed (at the time…a Kawasaki H2. I don’t regret the trade, I just wish I still had both of those motorcycles.
I had modified my BSA in the Cafe style; clubman bars, bobbed rear fender, beefed up engine and some suspension work. It was a great bike. Since that time I have built Cafe Racers out of Honda 350’s, Ducati 900’s and that Kawasaki H2 many years ago. Like my friend Erik says…”I love Cafe Racers”
This one here is a nice bike, it has been rebuilt with some smart upgrades like a Boyer electronic ignition and better carburetors…and if you have ever spent time with British motorcycles of this era, you know that better electrics and fuel delivery make all the difference in the world. This A65 is one of those bikes that fall into the category of ‘ride it, don’t hide it’. I have sat on display for years but really…ride it, you’ll have a great time. However, this isn’t going to go cheap and, at the same time, I think it will probably sell for a fair price considering what it is and the work done. I like it. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. And…check out the sweet exhaust on this sled..very cool, I’ll bet it sounds wonderful.
The best of the vintage sport tourers. Stone reliable, comfortable, plenty fast enough, sort of sporty handling…actually excellent for its time, and quite good looking, in a Teutonic sort of way. The R90 was the natural outgrowth of the legendary R75 and was a needed upgrade for BMW. The Honda CB750 was faster and stopped better, thanks to the front disc brake, than the R75 and…Kawasaki had just upped the ante big time with the King Kong of them all…the mighty Z1.
The reviews of the R90 were glowing. Cycle World put it this way, “the BMW R90/6 is so exciting, it’s difficult to find a point at which to begin describing it.” Cycle Guide magazine said this, ” a powerful motorcycle designed to compete in the performance conscience market of 1974.” Lets think about performance for just a moment. The Z1 put out a very strong 82 HP, Kawasaki’s H2 750 was rated at 74HP and Honda’s CB750 67 ponies. BMW showed up at the party with…maybe 59? Not what you would call threatening. But, horsepower isn’t everything, there’s this little thing called torque and that is where the boys in Munich beat everybody. The R90 had pulling power all over the place. Yeah the Japanese had the top end and the rush of speed but it was the BMW that would get you from corner to corner quickly with no drama.
I found a nice 1976 R90/6 on ebay today, not too many miles and looks to be in good condition overall. What I really like about this motorcycle is the Hannigan Sport Touring fairing. These fairings have a very distinctive look and feel to them. My friend Bill Stermer, author and journalist ( he wrote the definitive book on these bikes and is a contributing editor to Rider magazine ) has one on his R90 and just loves it. I have ridden the bike and understand why. This bike has the stock BMW saddle bags which are very nice, but I do recommend that you also add a safety strap to the bags as they are known to, at the worst time, pop open and leave your stuff spread across the landscape. I do have one big question about the bike though, it has a new front wheel, why? Was the bike crashed? did it hit a big pothole on the road? if there was some damage, how are the forks? But, maybe it got a new front wheel just because the old one was corroded and looking a bit ugly? Anyway, that is the only question I would ask, otherwise this looks to be a great bike at a good price that will last anyone years and years. Plus, that Hannigan fairing is so cool. The more I look at this bike, I wonder if it might a better bike for me than my R90 with RS fairing? Hmmm. Click on the pics below for more info. And, if you call now, you get a free tank bag!! Don’t wait.
’76 BMW R90/6
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.
Evil, wicked, mean and nasty…that is how I described my own ’72 H2. No matter how mean that bike could be, I loved every mile on it. If you read this blog regularly you know that I traded in a very nice BSA Lightning 650 to get that Kawasaki. I sort of wish I still had that BSA but I really wish I had the Kawasaki back. I spent over 10 years and around 75,000 miles with my H2. I rode it to work everyday, I traveled all over the Western US on it, I raced it against cars occasionally to help pay the rent (some fools wanted a rolling start thinking they could beat me and my H2 that way…wrong!!!), I took my son to the Speedway races in Costa mesa, I even took him to school on it a few times…that gave him the ‘cool award’ each time.
I doted on that motorcycle. Before every Sunday ride was the Saturday afternoon bath, unless I was working then it was the 6AM Sunday morning bath. Paint was always waxed, chrome was always polished (including the spokes), tires silicone treated (sidewalls only…), nothing but the best for my baby. Over the years I modified the bike; a couple of different paint jobs, lower handlebars, a cafe fairing, a set of Denco expansion chambers (they were the hot ticket for Kawasaki’s back in those days), different carbs, some minor porting and head work, Lester mags, and probably a couple of things I don’t remember. In later years I put the stock carbs (jetted correctly for the engine changes) and pipes back on because the bike ran better overall. I did modify the stock pipes a bit though, I pulled the baffles out, cut about 6 inches off and put them back in. The bike wasn’t much louder than stock but the mod did give it a bit more power, which is always fun to have.
The Kawasaki 750 was really fast…in a straight line, but it wouldn’t go around a corner unless you nearly came to a stop first. By the way, in my opening description here, the ‘evil’ part referred to the handling of this particular motorcycle. Wobbly, unstable, twitchy, fear inducing, high ‘pucker’ factor, these all describe the H2’s handling. With the help of a local engineer/welder/bike builder/genius, we were able to get my H2 to handle so well I could take a ride on a twisty road at speed and not have to change my underwear half way through! I loved that motorcycle.
On ebay I found a really nice ’72 H2 in great condition and fairly low mileage. Original paint in good shape is hard to find and adds value to the bike. The owner has a set of pipes on it of unknown origin, (I wonder if he still has the stockers?), and Lectron carburetors. Lectron’s are a very unique fuel system and very popular with 2 stroke guys, particularly drag racers. Not too many Kawasaki owner’s used them compared to the Yamaha crowd. Lectron’s were a bit difficult to tune at first but once you got used to them it was pretty easy and effective. The owner states that the carbs are rare and hard to find…nope, Lectron is still in business and the carbs are available and for less than I thought they would be these days.
This is a really nice Kawasaki 750 and so far the price is surprisingly low, that will probably change in the last few hours of the auction however. If you have the desire for one of the most loved and feared motorcycles ever built, check out this Kawasaki H2. Click on the pictures for more. Oh, and if you want to know what I did to make this beast handle really well, send me an e-mail email@example.com and for a small fee I’ll pass on my secrets. Oh, alright, I’ll tell you for free.
In 1981 I was living in Albuquerque, working in a radio station, raising a couple of kids and riding my motorcycles as much as I could, all in all not a bad life. New Mexico is a great for motorcycles, if you ride off road you could spend the rest of your life exploring and you probably won’t see it all and if you ride on the road you will never be bored…as long as you stay off the interstates. Southern New Mexico is year round riding, and northern is , well, let’s just say a shorter riding season. The riding community there is big. I made many friends on two wheels there, some I still met on rides years later.
While living in Albuquerque I bought a 1969 Triumph T100R from this little shop that repaired English motorcycles. Mechanically it was good, cosmetically it was pretty good…someone had rattle can painted it this really ugly brown. Regardless of how it looked, it was a blast to ride. I became good friends with the shop owner and even after I moved back to California we remained in contact for years until his passing. A few days before I moved, Jack showed up at my house with a 90% complete BSA B25 in the back of his truck. He rolled it out of the bed, pushed up the driveway and said “you owe me a beer now and a ride on it when I come visit”. I was dumbfounded. Later, friends told me I was just dumb for dragging that little bike back to California. I couldn’t resist.
After a year of work, I was riding that little BSA around having a blast. unfortunately, one day while working on it, you know the saying about British bikes, ‘ride it for one hour, work on it for two’ (it’s soooo true), I made the mistake of leaving my garage door open. While I was inside making a sandwich someone decided they liked my little BSA more than I did. I was heartbroken, they also stole my Kawasaki 750 which was my sole form of transportation.
So what has this all got to do with this Triumph I’m posting? The BSA and the Triumph are the same bike, just different badges.
Here are the things you need to know about the little BSA / Triumph singles; they’re slow, parts a little difficult to find (unless you know where to look), they are fairly reliable unless you push them (70MPH on the freeway is considered pushing it), they are easily customized into almost anything from off road to cafe racer and most importantly…they’re fun to ride!
This little Triumph I found on ebay this morning has potential. The owner is a little light on description…”999 miles, pretty much stock, great British bike, new battery, runs good”. From the pictures it looks to be in really pretty good condition. In it’s BSA guise this would be known as the ‘Street Scrambler’ model. Look at the pictures and you’ll see a small skid plate under the engine. It probably needs a good going through and over (these are so easy to work on), a little TLC and you’ll have a fun little around town scoot or, strip it down and go play in the dirt…the 250 will do either willingly. The ‘buy it now’ price is a bit steep but not too far out of line compared to some bikes I find. Click on the pics for, well, maybe one more pic…and the chance to put it in your garage. Just remember to close the door.
It was the summer of 1972, I was on vacation from school and had the itch to ride my motorcycle somewhere far away. However, as an unemployed college student you really can’t go too far away, but I was working on it. As I was planning this great adventure, a friend called wondering if I had any plans for the afternoon and would going for a ride sound good. How tough a question is that? It took me all of about a nano second to say “let’s go”.
An hour later I’m still looking over maps when I hear a motorcycle horn squeak outside. Now, normally you would say a horn ‘honks’ but motorcycles of the time had horns that were about as powerful as bell on a bicycle. I looked out the window and there was my friend standing next to this BRIGHT purple motorcycle. A Suzuki GT750 ‘Water Buffalo’. Parked next to my Kawasaki H2 the GT looked really big…four exhaust pipes for three cylinders, a big radiator in front and, well, it just looked…big. But, so was the smile on his face.
We took off with no destination in mind just the desire to have fun. After about an hour or so we stopped for gas and traded bikes. I have to admit here that I spent that hour figuring out how I could talk Stan into letting me ride his new Suzuki. It did take a bit (a lot) of coaxing to convince him that I wouldn’t hurt his new baby, but he did finally turn over the key to me. Ok, I did have buy the gas for both bikes…but it was well worth it.
The Kawasaki and the Suzuki were both three cylinder 750cc two strokes…that’s where the similarity ends. I was used to plain old raw two stroke horsepower in a wobbly chassis…the Suzuki was different. The Kawasaki rattled and shook, the Suzuki was smooth and quiet. The Kawi would scare the bejeebers out of you at 3500rpm while the Suzi would just motor along singing a happy tune. The GT750 is a great bike.
I found this pretty nice Suzuki Water Buffalo, also known as the ‘Kettle’, in other parts of the world on ebay today. It looks to be a very good value. Yeah it needs a good amount of TLC, (and a whole bunch of ‘Nevr Dull’), but the return will be well worth it. It’s not the right color but all the emblems are there. There are plenty of good resources out there for information and parts if you get this bike, one being the www.thekettleclub.com where you can find all the info you need. This is a good bike at what will probably be sold at a very good price. Oh and one last thing…the double leading shoe front brake is a bit weak for this motorcycle but for let’s say a Honda CB350 or 450 vintage roadracer…perfect!!
Over the years there have been a few motorcycles that I have truly lusted after and some, have actually found a home with me. A Ducati Darmah, a couple of Triumph Bonneville’s, a BSA Lightning 650 or two, a Kawasaki H2 and currently residing in the barn is a beautiful BMW R90S.
One motorcycle that has always eluded me was the John Player Norton. A little history here, there were only three John Player Norton’s built in the early 70’s. These were the monocoque chassis racers for the Formula 750 class. The racers were quite successful against the more powerful two stroke motorcycles of the time. The JPN was a truly innovative motorcycle for the time and actually, when you look at it’s design and the reasons behind it, the JPN was way ahead of it’s time. It took a lot of cues from Formula 1 cars using aerodynamics to compensate for lower power.
After Norton dropped out of racing, (why is it that corporate budget’s always get in the way of a good time?!) they concentrated on the 850cc Commando model which was doing quite well in the market despite the fact that this was the twilight of the British motorcycle industry. Norton needed something special so a race replica was designed.
The JPN was produced for only one year and only around 200 of them at that. Most of them, approximately 120, were sent to the US. In reality the production John Player Norton is a standard Norton 850 Commando with a fibreglass shell replicating the look of the racer. Underneath the fibreglass ‘gas tank’ is actually the standard steel tank. The motor puts out a whopping 50HP, but that 50HP will easily push you past 115MPH and in the Norton chassis, handle superbly. A Norton Commando is truly one of the most confidence inspiring vintage motorcycles you could ever ride.
On the market today is a beautiful JPN. This is a stone stock version with only 2900 miles on the clock. There are a couple of flaws that you can see in the pictures but nothing that takes away from the motorcycle. This is a very unique and rare English motorbike. And one final question you’re asking…who is John Player? It’s an English cigarette company.
Big and fast. That’s pretty much it when it comes to the big GPz.
Back in ’83 I worked for a Kawasaki dealership and was given a GPz1100 demo bike to ride for a month, they didn’t like the fact that I rode a Honda to work everyday. Now, I had ridden fast motorcycles, my old H2 was fast, I spent time on a friends Z1 that was really fast and I put many miles on the 1000cc BMW R100RS. None of those bikes prepared me for the GPz1100.
I got the motorcycle brand new and under dire threats from the service manager as well as the dealership owner, I did follow proper break in procedure…uh, yeah…kinda. I got the GPz on Saturday and when I returned to work on Tuesday the bike was a little past the first service mileage, like about 300 miles past. I was not the most popular employee that day. I couldn’t help it, I loved riding that motorcycle. I did treat it somewhat kindly that weekend but when you have that much horsepower at the command of your right wrist, well…things happen, and they happen FAST.
The GPz1100 was amazingly smooth, handled surprisingly well for a bike of it’s heft and was really quite comfortable. I ended up keeping the bike for about three months and during that time we added a few accessories here and there to help our accessory business. I didn’t care so much about the business aspect, I just wanted more out of the bike. All in all, I loved the GPz1100.
I found this one on ebay today and it looks like it could use a little love. But a little love on this bike will give you big returns in big ways. One warning here though, new superbikes may be fast but nothing today comes on the power like the superbikes of the eighties. Hang on baby.
I have this thing for 3 cylinder motorcycles, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the sound, the feel, the look…whatever it is I love ‘em. I started my love for triples on a Kawasaki H2 750, spent a good amount of time on a friends Triumph Trident and currently own (have for 13 years and about 80,000 miles) Triumph Daytona Super3. Triples are unique mostly because well…they’re triples. They don’t vibrate as much as twins nor are they as smooth as a four, just somewhere in between. A triple has a different soul than the others, it’s hard to explain but once you spend time on one you’Il know what I mean.
One triple I always liked liked but never got around to having was the Yamaha XS750. Good looking, interesting features but…when it first came out in ’76 it had ‘issues’ so, not on my shopping list. Fast forward a couple of years and Yamaha had sorted the problems out and the XS750 was a fine motorcycle, however I wasn’t in the market at the time so again, no XS in my garage.
For the ’78 E model, the tuning fork company made some really great changes. It starts with an electronic ignition system, new carbs, new cams and the redline jumped up from 7500rpm to 9000rpm…the bike came alive. For a sport touring (even though the term ‘sport touring’ hadn’t been coined yet) shaft drive motorcycle this bike was, uh,how do you say ‘spirited ride’ without sounding corny??
I think it was around 1985 I got my first chance to ride an XS750 and I fell in love with the bike. The friend that owned it had replaced the shocks and the fork springs but everything else was stock. We were going on a weekend road trip and agreed to swap motorcycles for the whole week with none of this “gimme my bike back” stuff, it was the whole week or nothing. He finished the week on my CB750F and I on his XS750. In the end we both really loved each others bike but kept our own. Truth be told…it’s because our wives wouldn’t let either one of us buy another motorcycle, otherwise he would have a CB750F in his garage and I’d have an XS750 in mine! And we’d be divorced. Come to think of it…nevermind.
Today I found an absolutely beautiful XS750 on ebay and at a great price. This is almost like buying a new 32 year old motorcycle, no kidding. It’s about as perfect as you can find. it only has 12,500 miles, paint and chrome are excellent, has a windshield (which is nice but you can also take off easily enough) and the seat is perfect, it runs great great according to the seller…what more could you ask for.??! All the manuals and road tests and other goodies…it’s all there. Click on the pic’s and you’ll see what I mean. A fun note here, Cycle World magazine described the XS750 as a ‘poor mans BMW’. Not a bad comparison.