I really love different (some may call ‘weird’) motorcycles. If there is something unique about it, I find it really interesting. Granted, riding friends I have had over the years have always questioned my taste in motorcycles but occasionally I have converted a few from ‘mainstream’ to a little left of center. Lucky for them?
A bike that has always interested me is the Harley Sprint. I love small displacement motorcycles, I believe they offer the highest giggle factor your money can buy. I have traveled a good portion of the Western United States on a Honda 350 and still have four of them. I’ve had singles, twins; four strokes and two strokes…I love ‘em all. But why I want a Sprint is beyond me…maybe it’s because it’s just weird enough.
I have written plenty of times about the ‘Italian’ Harley’s so I won’t do it again and besides there is so much info on the net that you can learn more than you ever wanted to, and waste a whole day that you are supposed to be working, just going from website to website and still not really care all that much. Unless, you dig those ‘un-Harleys’…like me.
The Sprint is definitely one of those cult bikes, you either love it or hate it. Compared to its competition at the time; the Honda CB350, Yamaha R5, Suzuki X6 and Kawasaki Samurai, it was slow, heavy, only had a 4 speed transmission, the kickstart lever on the wrong side, and until 1973 was kickstart only, and on top of all that it would vibrate the fillings right out of your teeth. But at that time, what Harley wouldn’t?
But, here’s the thing, these bikes have become really popular in Vintage Flat Track and Roadracing. Why, because there are still plenty of parts available (because they are popular), and in their classes, quite competitive. Most everybody that raced the Sprint 250 and 350 back in the day, got their racing parts from Europe, not here. The Motor Company was working on building their mid-size bike business, not racing mid-size bikes. Sadly, in the late sixties and early seventies it was all about horsepower baby! Mid-size bike sales were declining and Harley just didn’t fit into that market no matter how hard they tried.
However, I still think the weird looking, good handling, slow, horizontal cylinder Italian Harley is a very cool bike.
I found a really nice Sprint 350SS on ebay today that would take (it appears) so little to be rideable. Bought at an Estate sale, a complete bike…looks to me that all you have to do is the basics…Clean it up,(and by that I mean you need to pull the bike apart…not ‘restoration’ apart, just clean all the electrical connections and oil lines…) change all the fluids, a pair of new tires, a new battery and really, you’re good to go. Well, there are some mods you can make that will really make this ‘Un-Harley’ really fly and embarrass many bigger more modern bikes. The Sprint’s are a lot of fun to ride and wherever you go, people will gather around.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. This is a pretty neat bike at a pretty good price.
I have been riding, fixing, and building Vintage Motorcycles since before they were ‘Vintage’. I love the soul sounds old bikes make… I love the shakes that come up through the seat, foot pegs and handlebars that let you know the motorcycle is alive. And so are you. An old motorcycle may/will, require more attention on your part, but if your willing to put in that time, the payback is well worth it.
Recently I sold off my last ‘really classic’ motorcycle, a 1976 BMW R90S. I still have a small fleet of ‘classic’ Honda 350’s, a Honda Hawk and parts that fit something or another, but unique classics…well, the barn is looking a bit empty.
One of the bikes I sold a while back was my Ducati SD900 Darmah. This was a bike I had lusted after for more than 30 years. A Readers Digest version of the story is I saw one , a new one, in 1981 on a dealership floor in New Mexico. It was the most beautiful motorcycle I had ever seen.
Fast forward to 1995…while picking up a suspension part at a racing friends shop I spotted a Darmah, a black and gold Darmah, (the one I have dreamed about for all those years) sitting off in a corner covered in dust and shop grime. Two days later I was riding it home. The sound and the feel of that Italian twin was better than any drug you can imagine. I rode that beautiful Darmah almost every day. It was featured in a Ducati Museum show at Laguna Seca during the MotoGP race. The Darmah is a really great sport touring type motorcycle of the era.
I sold the Darmah because garage space was getting smaller (too many bikes…wait, you can’t have too many bikes…can you??) and I found another classic I really wanted. Anyway, I really do miss my Ducati.
I found a beauty on ebay today. This 1978 Duck has only 15,000 miles and has been well taken care of. The seller put on a 2 into 1 Conti exhaust and pod filters…the bike has to be breathing a lot better now. This is a sweet bike. The beauty of the SD900 is that it is comfortable, reliable, stable at speed and handles like it is on rails. The Darmah is a wonderful, confidence inspiring motorcycle. For someone looking for a bike that you won’t see coming around every corner, this Darmah would be a great choice. Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info.
Oh and one more thing, if you buy this bike or any other classic Ducati Bevel Head, you’re going to need, want parts…contact my friend Steve Allen @ http://www.bevelheaven.com Steve is the best guy you will find for classic Ducati parts..and his knowledge in invaluable.
1978 Ducati Darmah
Recently my friend, racing and traveling partner Erik bought his wife a little 50cc Yamaha to ride around town and develop her riding skills. Well, as it turns out he is spending more time on that little Yamaha than she is. Why? because it’s so damn much fun!!
He put a tank bag on it so he can make ‘small’ grocery runs and even light weight Home Depot runs. He can ‘kickstart’ it with one hand, fills the tank about once a month, and has a giant grin on his face every time he rides it. What could be better? Well, something with more style.
Having owned a Benelli for a short period of time I have developed a slight affinity for the marque and am always intrigued when I find one on ebay, or anywhere else for that matter. And…I am a long time lover of small motorcycles, motorcycles that have a ‘high giggle factor’. I found a sweet little Benelli Fireball on ebay today that I think would be a blast to own.
A little history is required here though. This little motorbike was born in the Benelli factory but was sold through Montgomery Wards as a ‘Riverside’ brand motorbike. Back in the ‘Leave it to Beaver’, ‘Father Knows Best’, and Ozzie and Harriet’ days, both Sears and Wards sold everything including motorcycles. Most all were sourced out of Europe and sold rather inexpensively here in the States. This was at a time when small bikes were selling well as basic transportation and fun to ride. Motorcycling was growing fast and everyone (businesses) wanted to cash in. That happy time didn’t last all that long. Sears stopped the Allstate brand, Wards dropped Riverside even Western Auto stopped selling mini-bikes. Fortunately, a good number of these bikes have survived.
I found a really great example today on ebay of that time period. A Wards ‘Riverside’ 50cc motorbike. It’s a Benelli 50cc Fireball. A simple little two-stroke racebike with a head and tail light. This little bike is so cool. The owner went over the bike and removed all the ‘Wards Riverside’ logo’s and rebadged it as Benelli and it looks great. The seller says it runs good. There isn’t a lot of information about these bikes out there but there are a few websites that have info that you might want at a some time.
If you live in a city where getting around on a scooter works well, you’ll have a lot more fun on this little Benelli. And you’ll look a lot cooler too.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
My good friend Tad of Purgatory Pizza in Los Angeles is a big fan of the Honda CB500/550 Fours, so am I. I have told the story before of the ‘one-upmanship’ game my friend Eddie and I played for years with motorcycles. I was riding a BSA 650, Eddie was still on his ‘little’ Yamaha DT1 250. One Saturday morning Eddie called wanting to go for a ride, I had the day off, the weather was fall perfect so how could say anything but “yes”.
An hour later, I arrived at our usual meeting spot to see Eddie sitting not next to his DT1 but a brand new Honda CB500. Resplendent in its gold paint and four chrome mufflers and Eddie with a big sh*t eating grin on his face. I knew I was now losing the game.
The CB500/4 was and is an amazing motorcycle. Jewel like in its precision and smoothness. It’s no wonder that it was copied.
European motorbikes had long been the standard of performance motorcycles, but the Japanese were coming fast. The Brit’s were slow to respond, the Germans just kept their steady course but the Italians, Benelli, decided to respond. Good for them. That response to the Japanese onslaught was the spectacular 750 Sei.
Benelli was the first manufacturer to build a ‘production’ six cylinder motorbike, Honda had been racing them for a number of years. What Benelli did was, essentially to take the very successful Honda CB500/4 add a couple of cylinders and a few more slight modifications. Take the alternator and put it behind the cylinder block instead of on the end of the crankshaft, to keep the engine narrow, use a three carburetor set up to increase torque and give it true Italian Styling.
Remember at this time Alejandro de Tomaso, the creator of the Pantera automobile was the head of Benelli. He hired the Italian design studio Ghia to design the new Sei. The shape is pure Italian of the times, angular yet smooth.
Here’s the thing about the Sei…the sound. The song of those six cylinders makes you dream of speed, sweeping corners and a bike that responds to each and every thought. Japanese motor precision, Italian handling precision…there is no better combination. This is one of the most beautiful sights in motorcycling.
The Sei wasn’t the horsepower king of the world at the time but it’s 71HP was respectable for a 750, it had a decent top speed around 127mph. But again, more importantly was the look, the sound and the feel of this beautiful motorbike
I found a really nice 750 Sei on ebay today that I think is actually a good deal, as compared to many bikes I see that are waaaayyy over valued. This particular 750 Sei has just a bit over 11K miles, which isn’t too bad considering how it is built, it does have an aftermarket exhaust but thankfully it is still a six into six and looks right. If you’d like an exotic sport tourer that will give you years of pleasure and also knowing that you will probably have the only one at your favorite Sunday morning breakfast stop, this is a good deal. Click on the pics below for more pictures and info.
Today I was doing my daily research on cool old motorcycles and started finding an interesting pattern, small displacement motorcycles seem to live on decade after decade with minor changes, but larger bikes come and go and change every couple of years. My closest reference is the Honda 350. Honda built that model for years with little changes and was the largest selling motorcycle in the world. Sure, the CB750 was a world changer and spawned the ‘Superbike’ (actually, Triumph trumped them on that one with the Trident, but Honda got the title…), but while everybody was one-upping each other in the performance range, smaller bikes just kept selling.
A great example of small displacement bikes that just kept selling and going strong was the Moto Guzzi Airone 250. This was a bike that was born in the 1930’s and finally retired in 1957. The Falcone (500cc) was the better known of the two Guzzi singles but the Airone was the better seller. In Italy,the Airone was up against scooters and ultra lightweight two strokes for market share and was considered a ‘big’ motorbike. If you had a an Airone you were definitely in the big leagues, the Falcone in its home market was considered too big?!
Early on the Airone was a very simple motorcycle, a pressed steel frame, girder front suspension and an eye-popping 10 horsepower that would propel the little single to a top speed of 60 mph! Pretty impressive for its time, but still the Airone was considered a very sedate motorcycle.
1948 brought out the ‘Sport’ version of the 250 single. The motor was pumped up to 13.5 horsepower and the top speed went up to 75 mph…now were getting serious here! The styling became a bit more ‘dashing’ with the new paint job and ‘Fishtail’ muffler,the new muffler did more than just look good, it did add a bit of power to the little single and it sounded much more robust (as robust as a 250 single can sound). You could get a speedo and a tach for the bike as options but as was the common thought of the day “If you have to check your speed, you’re not going fast enough”. The Airone was Moto Guzzi’s best selling single through the 1950’s outselling the Falcone four to one. It was also Italy’s most popular lightweight motorcycle at the time.
Today I found a very nice Moto Guzzi Airone 250 Sport on ebay that is selling for what I believe is a somewhat reasonable price considering some I have seen on the market and the fact that there are very few around here in the US. This particular Airone is a 1950 Sport model in really good condition that would only need a basic going through to make a fun rider right now. It’s not a show bike it is a rider…you show up at your local Sunday ride hang out on this bike with the ‘baloney cutter’ flywheel spinning away, you will have a crowd instantly…don’t expect to be eating breakfast all too soon.
For more info and pics, click on the pics below. Nice bike, it ain’t cheap but rare and unique bikes from this era never are. They are worth it however.
Starting back in the Victorian era when motorcycles were just emerging, you’d have a guy building bicycles in one village, and another guy building motors the next village over. The guy building motors was thinking about putting them in an automobile or a farm tractor, the bicycle guy was just making bicycles. Well, one day at a wedding for some local farmers daughter (there has to be a traveling salesman and shotgun joke involved here somewhere?), the bicycle builder and the motor builder met. Over a pint of the local brew, they hatched the idea of sticking a motor in a bicycle frame!!! Our life (as motorcyclists) was born. They designed motorbikes over a pint of beer and we still talk about them over a pint of beer. Or two or five. Ain’t life grand.
Over the past century or so a lot of motorcycles have been joint ventures. Matchless frames with JAP motors, Enfield motors in Indian frames, German motors in English frames…the list goes on and on. It is a very interesting part of motorcycling history that there are many books written about. Another twist on this same theme is a manufacturer from one country (in today’s story, Ducati) contracts or licenses a factory in another country to build motorbikes under their name for them. It’s been quite common since World War Two and is still done today.
Starting in 1957, Ducati of Italy licensed their motor design to Mototrans of Spain, who put it into their own design frames. But, they were also building Ducati motorcycles with…some slight differences. Most of those slight differences were in suspension components, carburetion and general build quality. The early Mototrans Ducati’s were not known for their quality, but later versions of the Spanish Ducati’s were as good as the homegrown models. They still had different suspension components and Amal carbs but the bikes worked just fine. There was only one niggling glitch and that was the oil pump gear…but the Italian model had the same issue.
The Mototrans Ducati’s got a bit of a bad rap from the beginning so the value of one of these motorcycles is not as high as the same bike from Italy but little by little that is changing, I think in part due the fact that Genuine Italian Ducati’s are getting way too expensive for the average Joe to start his collection with.
Mototrans kept building Ducati’s through 1983 when they were bought out by Yamaha. The Spanish company was quite successful with the Single cylinder bikes, the most popular being the Vento, a very sporty bike still featuring the Bevel drive motor.
I found a nice Mototrans Ducati 350 on ebay that is a rider and really only needs a good going through to be a great Sunday rider, vintage roadracer or….a really great little Cafe Racer! These bikes put out around 28HP, (which is quite respectable for its age, size and weight…there has to be a joke about my age, size and weight in there somewhere!?), have good handling characteristics and parts are still available…Maybe. This particular 350 seems to be very stock except for air filter and muffler, but these are two things that don’t take anything away from the bike if you are going to ride it. If you want to show it, well, you’ve got some work to do.
Now speaking of parts for older Ducati’s, and this Mototrans 350 is a prime candidate, Steve Allen’s Bevel Heaven (www.bevelheaven.com) is the best source in the United States. Information, parts, forums…it’s all there.
For more pictures and info about this neat little Ducati, click on the pics below. Oh, and if you do buy this little gem, check the oil pump gear…if it’s plastic, replace it with the steel version, your bike will love you. And so will your friend that might have to come rescue you on a Sunday morning.
Little hot rod two strokes are way too much fun to ride. Like a lot of us of a certain age, we grew up riding little ring dings, dirt bikes or street bikes, the late 60’s and early 70’s were ruled by two strokes. Three out of the four Japanese manufacturers based their whole product line on the smokers and so did many of the European builders.
Two stroke motorcycles are great fun for a number of reasons…they are lighter, easier to work on, they love to rev and I like nothing more than leaving bigger, heavier, high horsepower bikes in a cloud of blue smoke on a tight twisty road. Small displacement two strokes have a high giggle factor.
While Japan was making their inroads into the American market the Euro’s didn’t just retreat into the background, which is really what they did do looking back, some of them tried to make bikes that would appeal to the American buyer by bringing European performance and handling. Sadly, most of them just got beaten by the Japanese. Japan was able to build light, fast and reliable bikes at a much lower cost than the Europeans. Here in the USA at that time, cheaper was better and low cost bikes sold like hot cakes. Its sad too because the bikes from the grand houses of Europe were generally better. Yeah, the fit and finish wasn’t all that great (neither were the Japanese), the electrics were always a bit dodgy (so were the Japanese), but…the Eurpoean bikes’ handing was always far superior, the downside was that at that time, handling was not as important as horsepower and straight line speed.
I found on ebay this morning an early 70’s Benelli 250c two stroke that has winter project written all over it. The Benelli 250 2C was one of those bikes that the Italians trotted out as a direct competitor to the Japanese models. It had a more bland style than some of the bikes that had been brought before but still had a Euro flare to it. The 2C had a good chassis, quality suspension, a high revving motor and was comfortable to ride. All in all a very good bike, except for one little thing…you still had to mix the gas and oil yourself. While the competitors were using self mixing units (separate tanks for gas and oil and a pump did the mixing for you), you would have to measure out the right amount of oil at each gas stop and mix the two together. A minor nuisance but still a bother compared to one of the Japanese bikes. Honestly, I’ll deal with the minor hassle of mixing gas and oil to have the handling of the Benelli.
The bike I found this morning is going to need a lot of love, it sat outside for over 20 years and it looks it. The chrome is rusted, paint faded, the seat cover is gone (it does still have the Benelli logo on the back though), the gas cap won’t close (that’s why the tank is a bit cruddy I imagine), BUT…it’s all there! It’s a complete bike and it has only 681 miles on the clock. All too often I find bikes like this that are missing all kinds of parts and have absolutely no hope of ever being a motorcycle again, this one just needs some love…OK, a lot of love. But give it that love and you will have a very unique and fun little quarter litre bike to blast around the canyons with a big grin on your face. If it were me though, I’d leave it all rusty, just get it running, spoon on some new tires and just have fun.
One more little tidbit here, the Benelli 250 2C was also marketed as the Moto Guzzi 250TS, same exact bike, made in the same factory, different badge.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
Being the owner of a Benelli and doing all I can to learn about these bikes, I spend a good deal of time on the internet looking for parts and tech help. While doing all this so-called ‘work’, I find some pretty interesting information, ‘fun facts’ as you will. Did you know that Benelli is the second oldest Italian motorcycle builder? Only Gilera is older and not by much. Benelli motorcycles was started by Teresa Benelli, a widow, in order to secure a future for her sons…what a good mom. In 1921 Benelli produced its first motorbike, a 98cc little two stroke single in a bicycle style frame. From that point the business took off.
There is a great deal of Benelli history out there to be found and one of the things I found interesting is that the youngest son Tonino, aka ‘Tonino the Terrible’, who was not an engineering type, took the Benelli racing and was quite successful until he passed away in a street accident. The next thing I found interesting was older brother Guiseppi left the family business in 1949 to start Motobi motorcycles, which later on was bought back by Benelli. It is a good history to read. Today the Benelli name lives on but is now owned by a Chinese firm that seems to want to continue a great history but is actually more interested in building small displacement motorbikes for the Asian market. Will we see new Benelli’s here in the U.S? Probably not, but there are a good number of classic Benelli’s out there and I found a really nice one on ebay this morning.
The horizontal cylinder SuperSport 250 is a wonderful little machine, reliable, good handling and quite speedy. This one is all there and the seller says it was a runner before it was parked and looking at the pictures, all it will need is a good going through to be ready to ride, and a lot of elbow grease (but it will be worth it!). I wish my Benelli would be so easy to get on the road!
Click on the pics below for a little more info and more pictures.
We are told it is better to give than receive right? In some cases I agree. But, we also have to give to ourselves, nourish the soul…or just plain ol’ be a bit selfish. I believe in winter motorcycle projects, especially for those of you that have a shortened riding season. I believe in them for those of us that live in year round geographies as well. There is nothing more soul satisfying than come spring time after endless ebay searches, forum chats, begging and pleading for a treasured part, than to roll your project out into the sunlight for the first time.
As some of you know, I am working on a project bike to ride the MotoGiro California this next year and I have also helped a couple of friends find motorbikes that are appropriate. Today I found a great candidate on ebay…a Ducati Bronco.
The Bronco is a very simple little 125 cc pushrod motored motorbike with typical Ducati styling. It’s lightweight,only 227lbs, put out an arm stretching 6.5 HP and has a top speed of somewhere around 55mph (downhill with a tailwind…). The little Ducati was actually designed for some off-road duty so was equipped with 16″ semi knobby tires and a duplex cradle frame. It’s perfect for the Giro d’ California. Actually, if you’re really ambitious, do the MotoGiro d’ Italia!
The Bronco I found on ebay this morning could either be a pretty easy project or could turn into more. Overall the bike is in pretty good shape. It doesn’t run at this time and looking at the pictures it looks like it may need some electrical parts. The seller says it does turn over with good compression (?), he says it needs a kickstand but it looks to me that it needs a kick start lever? All in all it looks to be a neat little bike that should clean up nicely and hopefully with not too much work be a fun little rider. Click on the pics below for a contact.
To get parts for this Bronco or any other vintage Ducati check with my friend Steve Allen at www.bevelheaven.com
Little Throckmorton asked Santa for a motorcycle this Christmas. At first he wanted a dirt bike so he could go out on weekends with his dad then, he saw a roadracing picture. “That’s for me” he said…”dirt is for planting potatoes, pavement is for racing”. Now what are you going to do? You, dad, either switch to roadracing so you can spend weekends with your son or you do your very best to convince him he still wants a dirtbike…good luck with that one. I have an idea for you, get him a good used little mini roadracer and you keep your dirt bike. You may only have to give up one weekend a month but it will be worth it.
Mini roadracing is incredibly popular all over the country. Most mini or pocket bike races are held on go-kart tracks and are great family events. It is so much fun watching little kids and occasionally big kids (or adults that just act like kids) flying around the track on these little roadracers. Today while searching ebay for cool bike oriented Christmas stuff I came across this MV Agusta replica mini racer that would be so much fun for little Throckmorton.
The story behind the repli-racer is MV Agusta built a one off mini bike for Phil Read’s son. Phil Read was the factory MV rider that went on to win the 500 cc World Championship that year. Well, when the public saw the little bike, everyone wanted one. The bike was made in two versions, the 8″ wheel size for little tikes and the 10″ wheel size for bigger kids. Both versions were powered by a Franco Morini 50cc 2 stroke motor with a ‘Variator’ transmission (basically a single speed), I believe that there was also a 12″ wheel version also made that had a proper clutch and transmission. Nobody seems to know how many of these bikes were made back in the seventies but most are guessing around 2000?
The little MV I found today is a little rough and needs some love. It needs a windscreen, which might be a bit tough to find and if you really want to put the $$$ into it, repaint it. But…little Throckmorton is going to be racing this around so get a windscreen but leave the rest alone so that when it ends up on its side (which it will) you won’t feel too bad. It is a very cool little roadracer and certainly not your average pocketbike. Click on the pics below for more pictures and a little more info.
Those of us that love vintage motorcycles always have some sort of project going on. It may be as easy as just a major winter service on your daily rider, which in reality, always turns into something much bigger (read, expensive)…or, it may be fixing up the old bike that you set aside when you got your new / old bike, which again can get expensive…or, remember that basket case you bought from a friend of a friend of a friend ten years ago thinking you would bring it back to life and sell it for big bucks…you know, the one still sitting there in the far corner of your garage that your wife looks at it once or twice a year and asks (with a certain amount of cynicism / sarcasm in her voice) if you are ever going to do something with it.
By the way, for those of you not familiar with the term ‘basket case’, it is a conglomerate of parts that at one time or another was a motorcycle and could be again, if all the parts are there (mainly it just takes up space). And then there are project bikes that really need little more than some basic tune up parts, a good carb clean and some elbow grease. This is my kind of winter project…plus it gets me out of having to watch Dancing with the Stars with the wife.
Choosing a project bike comes down to only two things, how good are your mechanical skills and how much money do you want to invest. In my case both are minimal. My criterion is find a bike that is a runner (or was when it was put away), parts are available on ebay, craigs list, or your local salvage yard and you can get a service manual. Another good thing to have handy is a friend who is a better mechanic than you.
Currently I have enough projects to keep me busy for the next couple of years but I am always on the look out for something that is unique, fun to ride around, and small enough to bury in the back of the barn so the wife wouldn’t find it. Today I found just such a bike on ebay. It’s a Harley Davidson.
Most everyone thinks big, heavy, and lots of chrome when you say Harley Davidson but there was a time when ‘The Motor Company’ actually did build and sell little two stroke fun bikes…no kidding. Harley did build some of them here in the USA but then they switched to the Italian firm Aermacchi. It’s a long story and you can read some of our other posts to get that whole history. Anyway, Harley was trying capitalize on the growing youth market and those that were just looking for cheap transportation, the timing of all this is just about the time of the Japanese invasion of the motorcycling world here in America. If you are old enough to remember Honda’s “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” ad campaign, you’ll see the similarities in Harley’s advertising.
Today I found a nice, not too difficult winter project for someone looking for a neat little around town or high giggle factor canyon bike…the Harley Davidson 125cc Rapido. A simple little two stroke from Aermacchi in Italy. I will say this about these bikes, if you are looking for quality fit and finish, reliable electrics and low maintanence..look elsewhere. But…if you would like a neat little bike that will put a grin on your face, the Rapido will do the trick, just don’t ask too much of it.
The bike I found today does need a few parts and a little love (Okay..a bunch of love) but it is a runner and for someone who needs a reason to be in the garage and away from singing and dancing shows, this little motorbike is an easy project. Click on the pic’s below for more info and pictures. The stamp artwork at the top of the page is courtesy of Alyssa Townsend, a very talented young artist from Oakland, Ca. You can find more of her work at http://www.etsy.com/shop/townzombie
I think it was somewhere around 1980 that a good friend showed up at the surf shop where I worked on a beautiful Ducati 900SS. The green frame, the exquisite body work and the sound of the Ducati twin through the Conti mufflers, I was awestruck, and the grin on Phil’s face was so huge it didn’t fit in his helmet. That day was one of the best I have had because he let me take it for a ride, not just around the block, but a real ride. I came back about two hours later with the same grin.
Phil and I did a few rides together over the next couple of months and after each one he complained more about his Ducati and liked my Honda more. But…the Honda didn’t have the personality of the Italian twin. The poor guy was struggling with what to do, get rid of the Ducati and buy a vanilla Honda or learn to live with his Italian stallion. The answer came in a bright orange package from Breganze, Italy, Phil’s new Laverda Jota 1000. The best of both worlds.
Again, I got to ride Phil’s bike and was again in love with an Italian motorcycle. The Laverda didn’t have the svelte lines of the Ducati, nor did it have the soul stirring sound and feel that the Ducati produced but, soul it had…wrapped in bright orange. The big triple was loaded with brute power, stable handling and a song I still have in my head. The Jota was bigger and heavier than both his old Ducati and my Honda but once you got it up to speed, all that heft simply melted away. My Honda could get into the corners a little quicker (I had done some modifications..) but the Jota would be right on my rear wheel and not even breathing hard. After a few rides on the Laverda I really believed that I could set the bike into a corner, let go of the handlebars and it would guide itself through the apex. It was wonderful.
Now, after waxing poetic about the Laverda, here’s the real deal. It is one big, heavy and a bit cumbersome motorcycle. It’s made for riders around 5’10” and up…6′ is about right to be comfortable (the bike is tall), you need ‘Popeye’ forearms to use the clutch and the gear box requires a pretty heavy foot, Brembo brakes are good not great and the suspension is a bit harsh, vibrated a lot and you have to change the oil every 1500 miles. With all that said, I’ll go back to paragraph three and tell you again, I loved that motorcycle.
Today I found on e-bay a very nice, I mean VERY nice, Laverda RGA1000. The RGA is an outgrowth of the RGS which in turn was born from the Jota. The difference between the RGA and the RGS is very minor. The RGA has a handlebar mounted fairing vs. the RGS frame mounted version and the RGA gas tank is sculpted a bit differently. The RGA was designed to be Laverda’s ‘Sport Tourer’ of the time. The Jota I rode had the crank timing at 180*, and it vibrated a lot (for me that was part of the attraction actually?!), in later models like the one I found today on ebay has the newer 120* timing and is noticeably smoother. These motorcycles are incredibly durable and parts are still available without breaking the bank.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. This is a really nice bike to ride, not hide.
Cops loved them, touring riders loved them, collectors are starting to love them and I know of one that actually got stuffed into a Bonneville Streamliner!? I’m talking about the wonderful Moto Guzzi Ambassador. Yes, it’s big, heavy, somewhat cumbersome, and not all that fast but, despite those things, it all works so well. And in 1969 only cost $1554.00. Quite a bargain I think.
What made the big Guzzi so good was it is incredibly comfortable to ride at any speed. The motor has stump pulling torque in all four gears right off the bottom, you can lug an Ambassador around in fourth gear all day and it won’t complain, neither will you. The BIG drum brakes work surprisingly well hauling that big bike down from speed, (top speed is just a little north of 100 mph), without the wooden feeling that some of the period Italian bikes had. But, back to what made it popular with Police departments and travelers…comfort.
The Ambassador has probably one of the greatest ergonomic packages of all time. While talking with a couple of Ambassador owners I learned that they really liked the ‘Polizia’ model (that’s Italian for ‘Cop Bike’) the best because of the floorboards, remounted foot controls and the handlebars. Having ridden one a while back I can attest to the comfort and the ease at which you can get the bike to go where you want it to go, now. You can spend incredibly long days in the saddle (that boys and girls is why the police liked them so well) and when you finally decide to pull into the Motel 6 parking lot in East Asscrack, Iowa you’ll be wishing there was more daylight to just keep riding. The other part of that picture is you’ve enjoyed riding your ‘Goose’ so much you’re wondering how in hell did you end up in East Asscrack, Iowa in the first place.
So today, still searching ebay for parts for my Italian bike project I came across an Ambassador that needs a good home and some love. It’s a 1969 model with barely enough miles to be broken in (6706) but it sat for a long time and apparently only got ridden on shorter rides. Sad. The bike is in basically what my friend Craig would call “decidedly OK” condition. This Guzzi is a runner but will need a good going through. It needs a few parts…air box and filter or you can put pods on, new battery, tires, all the fluids changed…you get the picture. It also could use a new paint job if you are of the ‘restoration’ type, and I would send that wonderfully shaped seat to a good upholsterer for a new cover and maybe foam.
So far it looks to be a good buy and considering it’s in the Northwest and the weather isn’t too bad yet, line up the parts you will need, go get the bike, put on the newly acquired parts and ride it home. It’s got saddlebags, a rear rack, add a windshield and you are good to go wherever you want…in Italian comfort.
Click on the pics below for info and more pictures.
So here we have another somewhat unloved motorcycle that seems to be becoming a bit of a collector item. Why? Well, there are probably a number of good reasons and few that make you still want to ask…why?
Welcome class to Paso 101. Ducati, for multiple reasons, has always had financial difficulties (name an Italian company that hasn’t ???) and in the 1980’s needed some $$$ help. Enter the Castiglioni brothers…Cagiva. Back in 1978 they bought Aermachhi from Harley Davidson, this was their big start. As they developed their motorcycles (another very interesting story),they found they needed motors for their bigger motorcycles, the Elefant Adventure model in particular, and Ducati was the best choice. Shortly thereafter, they bought up all of Ducati.
The team that created the Paso was Taglioni (Desmo God), Tamburini ( Ducati 916 and MV F4 designer God), and The Brothers ($$$ Gods). With that team how could the Paso not be perfect?? Well, this was a time that all motorcycle manufacturers were looking for a niche, yet again. Ducati had gone from ‘bevel drive’ to belt drive with the Pantah (the same design is still used today) but the problem was not enough horsepower. The Japanese builders were able to get more ponies and more top speed out of their four cylinder bikes than the Italians or the Brit’s. Whats a company to do?? “Let’s streamline it!” The Paso was the first of the fully enclosed sportbikes of the era.
LIke it or not, the Paso…oh, do you know where the name came from? Renzo Pasolini. Renzo was a great roadracer that sadly died in an accident at Monza in 1073. Back to the design…this was Ducati’s first try at ‘full-closure’ body work. The idea was to create a body that would control the airflow away from the rider. Tamburini designed the bike with the rear cylinder head reversed (which had already been done on the Elefant), and adding two oil coolers mounted to the side of the motor. Then came the problem, one single Weber automotive carburetor and less than reliable electrics. What are you gonna do?! Now add 16″ wheels front and rear for quick handling and bodywork that nobody really liked and what do you have??? A bike that only lasted a few years on the market…even when it was bumped up to 907cc’s and was still slow. The Paso be came one of the unloved Ducati’s much like the poor red-headed stepchild, the 860GT.
Here’s the thing though, the Paso was and is a good motorcycle. Maybe 72 HP and only a top speed of 130 MPH wasn’t up to the standards of the times, but it was a Ducati. It was unique in styling, it handled quite well and with a whole of work, it actually ran well…maybe. What most owners did was change out the carb set up, found 17″ wheels off a later model 900SS (required a boatload of modifications) and found themselves with a motorbike worthy of the Ducati lineage.
So, today while looking for parts for my Benelli, I came across a very nice Paso. Only 13.6 k miles, recently went through (it’s a running rider), and overall a nice bike. Yes, it does show its age here and there but don’t we all…that’s what makes us special. This bike too. The price is well within reason and even if it is not one of the favorites among the Ducatisti, it is a motorcycle well worth adding to any collection. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. Ask if the owner has made the change to 17″ wheels because modern performance tires in the original 16″ size are about as hard to find as hens teeth.
There are few motorcycles in the world that actually stir more than passion in you, they stir your soul.
There is something about a bevel drive Ducati Single that once you see one, hear one, and ride one, it never leaves you. The motor is beautiful in its somewhat over engineered look, the sound (the bark actually) is intoxicating, and the feel of the motor as you run it up to its peak just makes you want more. There is the light quick handling that puts the biggest smile on your face when riding a tight twisty road, the confidence in the machine that lets you run deeper into corners, lean over farther and accelerate effortlessly to the next apex. A Ducati single is magic on two wheels.
The 450 Desmo can trace it’s lineage back to the 125cc Grand Prix racer. A high revving, light, quick handling pure bred racer. Fablio Taglioni joined Ducati in 1954 and in 1956 debuted the Desodromic valve actuation head, a design that is still used by Ducati today. The valves were actuated using a bevel drive from the crankshaft to the overhead cams. As important as the motor was, handling was the key to the Ducati racers success.
Through racing history single cylinder motorcycles were the dominant force. Norton Manx, Matchless G50, BSA Victor, Velocette Venom and the Ducati all powered riders to championships until…Edward Norton and his Triumph Speed Twin. And again, another story for another time.
The Ducati 450 Desmo arrived on the market in 1969. A wonderful handling machine even if the styling was rather stodgy and the fit and finish was, well to be honest, crappy. How cared about fit and finish when you’re having so much fun riding??!!
So, today I found a 1970 450 Desmo Ducati on ebay that is a runner but needs a good amount of love. We all know I am a firm believer in good winter projects (not the one’s the wife or significant other gives you…), and this is one that would be entertaining and not too $$$ intensive… well, maybe, depends on how far you want to restore it or modify it.
I’d like a bike like this to work on this winter but I have three of my own projects going not including the one’s the wife has planned for me.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and a bit more info. You guys have no idea how hard this was for me to write and not tell you what a great cafe racer this would make. Ducati actually did that at the factory for the 1971 model.
After World War 2 most all of the German and Italian manufacturers that had anything to do with the war effort were banned from making planes, airplane motors, military hardware…you name it, they couldn’t make it. A number of the companies went on to make cars, refrigerators, toasters, motorcycles and radios (that was Ducati…).
One of the biggest was Aeromere which then became Aero-Caproni. Most of these companies (BMW, Ducati,MV Agusta, and Aermacchi) actually went into motorbikes and scooters because affordable transportation was important at that time…kind of like now…
Small size motorbikes were big business until…the Fiat 500 arrived on the scene. Now you had a small car that would protect you from the weather, get good gas mileage, easy to park and you could take your girlfriend on date and not mess up her hair. The Fiat wasn’t much bigger than your average motorbike. Italians went for the 500 big time and a number of the motorcycle manufacturers started struggling.
Today, small bore Italian bikes have a great value in the marketplace, sometimes they are found just laying out in a field, others are sitting under a blanket in your great uncle’s garage in New Mexico. There are events centered around these bikes, the Moto Giro d’Italia is the premier showcase for these bikes, there is also a version here in California September 30 – October 2, I’m getting my little Benelli ready for that one!! Heres the link if you want to go http://www.girodcalifornia.com
Today I found a perfect candidate for the ride or for your collection on ebay. This is a really neat little 1951 Capriolo that was restored at a well respected shop in Italy and then shipped over here. It is really beautifully done and I believe ready to ride. The price seems pretty reasonable compared to others I have seen of late so click on the pics below for a bit more info and pictures…and then I’ll see you on the Giro D’ California this fall. My Benelli will be faster than your Capriolo…
This is such a cool little motorcycle. 106cc’s of all out Italian Stallion power. Ok, it tops out at about 60 mph (downhill with a tail wind) but those 60 mph’s are going to be a lot of fun.
Back in the 1950’s and 60’s you could could buy everything through the Sears catalog, even a car believe it or not…the Allstate version of the Kaiser ‘Henry J’. The car business was not the success Sears had hoped for, lasted only two years and they sold less than 2400 cars. Sears actually tried selling cars back as far as 1912, the Sears ‘Motor Buggy’.
But, we’re talking about motorcycles here. Sears sold a lot of motorcycles and scooters during that time period mostly from Puch and Gilera. You could get everything from a little 500cc moped to a 250cc Puch ‘Twingle’. One of the most popular was the Gilera 106cc SuperSport. It was light, easy to ride and cheap, new it only cost $389.00.
The 106 SS is a perfect little cafe racer platform, a great Moto Giro bike and really just a neat little motorcycle. As I was doing my research this morning, I found that there are a great number of user groups and forums about the Sears Allstate Gileras and parts are still pretty easy to find, so if you do find yourself the owner of one of these Italian Stallions, you’ll have a lot of help and support.
I found a good little 106ss this morning on ebay, it’s already in full cafe racer mode but needs a few things to make it street legal. It has been serviced and runs good. Honestly, these are unique and interesting motorcycles that are pretty crude in some ways even by 60’s standards, and at the same time incredibly capable and fun motorbikes. I love the simplicity of the Italian motorcycles of that era, they work so well. Maybe they are a bit crude but there is an elegance that goes along with it that make them so special. For those of us that like small motorbikes, these are almost too hard to resist.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and a contact phone number. This little Gilera could be a whole lot of fun for someone who wants something unique but doesn’t want to have to devote the next twelve months getting it rideable.
It’s coming sooner than you think. The Giro D’ California, and this is a perfect bike to ride. The Moto Giro d’ Italia has been a classic motorbike event for decades. the concept was / is Italian motorbikes born before 1957 and smaller than 175cc’s. For 5 days riders would traverse the Italian country side and mountains, through villages and vineyards. It was a competition to be sure but it is all in good spirit. It’s quite an event and draws riders from all around the globe. Bikes are shipped into Italy or can be rented…for a pretty penny…they go through a technical inspection (does it run? does it stop? OK, you can go) and then the riders gather for dinner and wine. A lot of wine. There are a number of good websites and magazine articles about the Moto Giro D’Italia. After reading them, you certainly will want to go. However…
Not all of us have the funds to get the proper motorbike, make sure it is reliable, ship it to Italy, pay the entry fee and all the associated costs and then ship it back home. Maybe, I’ll win the lottery? Until that time I’ll ride the Giro D’California. A great event right here in our own backyard, or backroad, as the case may be. The rules are the same, old small bore Italian motorcycles and the desire to have a great time with like minded crazies. The California event is being held this year Sept 30-Oct 2. For more info go here…http://www.girodcalifornia.com/
Being a big fan of small motorbikes (is that an oxymoron?) I always get interested when I find one on ebay or sitting in someone’s garage that they have given up on…I’m still working on my Benelli 250. I found this really neat Capriolo 100 that looks to be a great little motorbike for the price.
But first, a little history of the Capriolo. Aero Caproni was in the business of making airplanes for the Italian military, similar to BMW, and at the end of the war, the treaty said you can’t make anything to do with war anymore. So, like BMW, Aero Caproni went into the motorcycle business. Italians needed affordable transportation and a good number of companies were struggling to find outlets for their manufacturing facilities, motorbikes were the logical choice. In 1947 Capriolo (formerly Aero Caproni) motorcycles was born starting off with a little 48cc 2-stroke. A good little bike by standards of the time. In 1951 they built a beautiful little 75cc four speed, four stroke motorbike and started entering competitions like the ISDT ( International Six Days Trials)
In 1955 Capriolo also came out with a 149cc opposed twin (again similar to BMW) and also made motorbikes powered by NSU engines. What I have learned over the years of working with vintage motorcycles is that during certain times in history, some motorcycles were really just cobbled together bits from different companies because it was the most cost efficient way to produce the bike. Most all of them eventually died off or were absorbed by a bigger (better financed) company. In Capriolo’s case they were bought up by the Laverda Group, who has also gone through a number of owners…what Italian motorcycle company hasn’t? Ducati went from Italian ownership to a bunch of rich Texans (TPG) and is now owned by Volkswagon??? Anyway, in 1958 The company changed the name to Aero Mere and got back into the airplane business building advanced and experimental aircraft ands stopped making motorbikes in the early 1960’s.
Today, cruising thru ebay, my almost favorite thing to do early in the morning, I found this ready to ride 1951 Capriolo 100. The owner bought it in Italy, had it restored in Italy and then brought it home. It is really nicely done and a true rider. And compared to other motorcycles I find, it actually has a reasonable price tag on it for what you are getting. If you have a desire to have fun on a small size classic Italian motorbike, give this Capriolo a good look. Click on the pics below for a lot more info and more pictures.
Ah, the world of Harley Davidson. Literally, the ‘world’ of Harley Davidson. After years of building big, heavy traveling and military bikes, Harley’s market was being bombarded by the lighter faster British speedsters during the 50’s and 60’s. To fight back, Harley brought us the Sportster. A great bike but still a slow heavy Harley by comparison. I love Sporty’s though…they just work, always have…and don’t start down the path of the ’girls’ Harley. The Brits just had the Motor Company beat in that category. At the same time, Harley Davidson was trying to win over the lightweight market with small bore two strokes like the Hummer and its kin. Those didn’t fare well in the market.
Next was the Japanese invasion, geez, Harley just couldn’t get a break now, could they. So the powers that be in Milwaukee decided to try again in the lightweight market, but this time they brought in the pros, the Europeans. The European manufacturers had been building and perfecting the small motorcycle for decades. In Harley Davidson’s mind…”Why reinvent the wheel?” So it was off to the continent the boys from Milwaukee went.
In 1960 Harley Davidson bought up a 50% interest in Aermacchi Motorcycles, in 1974 Harley had full control at the Italian factory in Varese then in 1978 sold it all to Cagiva and retreated back to Wisconsin to build what they knew best…big bikes for the American open road.
Harley Davidson starting bringing over the small bikes to a somewhat disinterested market but they kept working on it, especially when AMF took over. There were the Sprints (the horizontal 4 stroke singles) and the small 2 stokes from the Baja 100 to the 500cc MX. None of these, save maybe the little Baja, were what was needed to combat the lighter, faster and cheaper models from Honda and Yamaha. AMF Harley Davidson put together a very strong marketing campaign, hired some fast riders, but still the lightweight line never really got off the ground. The Sprint series was quite successful in the hands of riders like Mert Lawill in AMA Flat Track racing, but the two strokes never really caught on.
Today while doing my daily cruise through ebay looking for something I want but I know I don’t need, I came across the orphaned child from AMF Harley Davidson, a 2 stroke SX250. The SX is the enduro model; there was also an SS model which was street only. Here are some specs on the SX; first, in 1978 there were only 469 made (maybe because earlier models didn’t sell??), it weighed a svelte (?) 275lbs, put out an eye popping 20HP and would get you a traffic ticket on the freeway for going as fast as it could at 71.5mph (to make it look better, use the European standard…115 KPH!). In 1978 a new SX250 would set you back just $1130.00, about $200-300 more than its Japanese counterpart, but hey, it actually was a European motorcycle and they always cost more. But…this particular model from Harley / Aermacchi did have one thing that none of the Japanese ‘enduro’ models had and that was the special rear wheel. I’m not kidding, that rear wheel was worth the extra money alone, especially if you really did strip it down and ride off-road with it. The rear wheel was the same ‘quick change’ type that was used on European off road racers. It also came with a snail cam chain adjuster that gave you much more accurate wheel alignment than anything the foreign competitors had at the time. If you went out and bought all that, it would cost nearly twice as much as the base bike price difference. However, it was still slow. It may seem that I am being a little hard on Harley for these models and truthfully I am, but Harley should have learned the first time around that lightweight bikes is not what riders wanted From Harley.
Now, with all that said, I did find a neat little SX250 for sale on ebay that would be really fun to have. It’s the last year, 1978 when they slowed production down to only 469 units. Now, some may think it’s more valuable because they didn’t make many but the truth is they didn’t make many because nobody bought ‘em. Don’t confuse that fact with’limited edition’ etc, etc…
This little SX is complete, I think, he didn’t take a picture of the muffler side of the bike so who knows what condition it is in. If the muffler is in good condition, everything else looks pretty good, it looks like both side covers are missing and the mirrors are’t original but that’s no big deal. The seller says it ran when it was parked and I would imagine that if it ran good back than it wouldn’t take much to have running nicely now. The graphics are missing on the tank but those are findable on the motorcycle restorers best friend, the internet. There a few good resources for parts and info for this model, not a lot but it is there. If you feel like showing up at a Harley ride on this little red headed stepchild of a Harley, I’ll bet you get as many people asking you about it as the guy who spent $20,000 just on chrome for his Fat Boy. Click on the pics below for more pictures and a little info. Could be a fun little bike.
The reason I write this blog is because I love old motorcycles. I can admire a true antique motorcycle, but I really love Vintage (post-war) era bikes. The histories that come with them, especially European motorcycles, is fascinating. The innovations in technology, the design styles and the personalities that built and rode them. In Europe, compared to America, motorbikes were and still are a main form of daily transportation. Motorcycle competitions of all types have their beginnings back on the continent. Road racing, Moto-cross, Trials, Enduro’s and the craziest of them, Speedway, all came from the other side of the pond. Yeah, we can lay claim to Flat Track and Nascar, but the only one that really counts there is Flat Track…don’t get me started on Nascrap.
The original Moto Giro d’ Italia started in 1914. It was a grueling race, riding nine days and hundreds of kilometers on small motorcycles. It was a true test of endurance for the man and the machine. The Moto Giro’s most famous days were in the 1950’s. Italy was rebuilding after the Second World War and working hard at industrial and economic recovery. At this time, if you wanted to see racing you had to go to the circuit. The organizers of the time knew that bringing racing to the people was more valuable to the economy of the motorcycle industry. It was also great marketing for the motorcycle industry outside the major cities.
The Moto Giro is still running today and has grown in popularity over the past few years so that more classes have been added to include motorcycles that don’t fit into the traditional class. The concept has grown as well and now there are three similar events run here in the USA. These events, Moto Giro-USA on the East Coast , Moto Giro California on the West Coast (duh) and the Moto Melee also in California. We’re lucky out here in the west. These events are holding true to the original concept, pre 1958 motorcycles of 175cc’s or smaller. They are multi day events that take you through some of the most beautiful scenery on each coast riding with likeminded nuts. I mean enthusiasts, yeah, that’s the ticket.
So, that brings me to my latest eBay finding, this very nice little Moto Morini Briscola 175. This little bike is in good running and physical shape with only 46,000 miles on its clock. It is typical of Italian styling of the times, smooth, flowing and a bit bulbous where it needs to be. The Briscola model started life in 1953 as a 175cc pushrod OHV single. Built to be reliable most of all and speedy next. In 1956 Moto Morini moved to a new, larger manufacturing facility and that is where this little jewel came from. The little Briscola is ready to ride now. He has started and run it since pulling it out of storage but I think it could still use a bit of going through before taking out on a test ride before the Moto Giro. Also, check out the shape of the tail pipe in the pictures below…pure Italiano. I love it.
Click on the pics below for more info and a number of more pictures. I’ve also added links to the ‘Giro events. I hope to attend one maybe this year if they’ll let me ride my Benelli?
a quick note here, the bike has been pulled from ebay today but I wrote this story and I like the bike. I’m hoping it will come back on. but I hope you will enjoy the pictures, maybe you are the person that owns it or you know who does and maybe it will come up again.
From American Motorcycling Magazine August 1963; “Designed and engineered specifically for the sportsman who wants to do a lot of ‘off the road riding’. “The Mountaineer, with it’s rugged construction and knobby 16″ rear wheel will appeal to the hunter”
I love finding odd motorcycles, for this website and for riding myself. The quirkier…the better, that’s my motto. Unlike other stories I have written about bikes that I have personal connections to, this little Ducati is a complete stranger to me, but I really like it.
Come to think of it though, I actually do have a connection to it, rather convoluted however. For a short period of time I had a little Suzuki 90cc trail bike that looks strangely familiar to this Ducati. Besides both having a 90cc 2 stroke motor, look at the styling…imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery.
We only had the Suzuki for about six months but it was a blast to ride around the neighborhood and the really big vacant lot behind our house. I was tempted to ride it in a ‘Family’ Enduro once but that thought quickly passed as I opened the second beer and my step dad was rolling on the floor laughing. If I had had the Ducati Mountaineer, well, maybe he wouldn’t have been laughing so hard?
So this little Ducati is really unique. For one thing most people don’t equate Ducati with small two strokes nor trail bikes, but at that period in time, Ducati made a lot of small displacement motorcycles.
The Mountaineer and it’s street going compatriot the Cadet, were available in two different versions. You had your choice of the basic 5HP model or, the mind bending, arms stretching, neck straining 7HP model. Think of all you can do with 2 extra horsepower. The Mountaineer had a steel Duplex Cradle frame (compared to the Suzuki’s stamped, might as well be tin foil frame), re-inforced handlebars and a dual rear sprocket set up, very reminescent of Honda’s dual ratio set up on the Trail 90. The little Ducati trail bike had a three speed tansmission and weighed in at only 115lbs. With 5 or 7 horsepower, you only need 3 gears!
Here’s the really cool thing about this little motorcycle. It had a turbine like fan to cool the motor so that no matter what RPM you were running in any gear, the engine had air running over the cylinder to keep the temperature down. Italian engineering at it’s most creative.
My daily perusing of ebay landed me on this little Ducati and the fun began. The seller has a story to go with this bike, selling it for an estate, the owner had passed away, it’s been sitting for a generation. The seller says it has only 83.7 miles on the odometer. The story attached to that is that the original owner bought it new, rode it around a bit, crashed it into the brush (or something like that), and from there on was afraid to ride it and parked the bike. Ok….look at the pictures. It looks to me that there is more wear than from just one little crash and then sitting through the ‘Summer of Love’, the Vietnam War and dozen Presidential elections. The ad also states the speedo cable is disconnected, Hmmmm. And, was the crash bad enough rip off the front tire? Nonetheless, for somebody looking for a really unique Italian motorbike, this might just fit the bill. You know, this could be a neat little bike for the Moto Giro California next year.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and the full story. A great resource for information about this Ducati would be the Ducati Bevelheads list, I know this isn’t a bevelhead but these guys are knowledgeable about most any vintage Ducati. You can contact them through my friend Steve Allen at www.bevelheaven.com
My good friend Eric (aka The Alien) has a Guzzi T3. He bought it from a fellow back in Maryland, flew out there (met an interesting woman who became his ex-wife, but that’s another story for another time…) and rode back to California. Eric has spent a good deal of his motorcycling life riding schnitzel bikes (read, German) and this was his first foray into pasta styled 2 wheelers. Along the way there were a few hiccups but nothing he couldn’t handle. When he got home to the ranch the Guzzi got parked and he was back on his vintage Beemer.
Fast forward a couple of years and the trusty R100 needs a break. Battery charger goes on the Goose and surprisingly, the next morning it starts right up. ” you know what, I had forgotten why I bought this bike, I really like it”. Eric is still riding his T3 almost daily.
A little info about the T3 here. The T3 designation stands for how many disc brakes are on the bike and, it was Moto Guzzi’s first motorcycle with integrated brake system. Tap the rear brake pedal and you also get one of the front discs slowing you down. It actually works quite well. The T3 was an outgrowth from the 850 California model. It was still designed for traveling and was also used by many Police departments. The T3 is a fine handling motorcycle (by big heavy slow steering rock steady Italian standards), it has been the platform for so many beautiful Cafe’ Racers and Sport Tourers. Guzzi’s of this vintage are found for sale with as litle 15,00 miles to over 150,000 miles on the internet on a regular, well…semi regular, basis. As I researched the Guzzi T3, every owner had almost nothing but good thing to say about, including my friend ‘The Alien’ (I can’t always take his motorcycle reviews all that seriously…he loves Studebakers, showed at my house one evening test driving his new VW van powered by an Oldsmobile V6 and is currently driving an old Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser…the list goes on but I’ll stop here and get back the subject at hand).
I found a really nice ’75 Moto Guzzi that has been seriously tricked out on ebay today. This Moto Guzzi has been completely gone over, through and tweaked. Apparently the owner wanted a LeMans but couldn’t find one he liked so he built his own. After stripping down the T3 he started lining up the garage floor with a LeMans tank,rear fender and seat, a special cafe fairing, forks originally designed for a Ducati, some upgraded Delorto pumper carbs, a factory close ratio transmission and even more including being pumped up to 1000cc’s. A beautiful paint job and a lot of nice details. The owner say’s “it’s not perfectly restored, it’s a hot rod”.
There are some negatives with bike. It does have some small crash damage, gas somehow got underneath the tank bag and damaged the paint on the tank. It’s really not all that bad. It will need some TLC because it has been sitting. Standard stuff…new battery, go through the carbs, etc.
This really is a nice bike but with all the mods it is going to need to be paid attention to on a regular basis. Click on the pics below for a lot more info and more pictures. So far it looks to be at a reasonable price for all you get. This guy has done all the work, you just need to ride it to your favorite Italian restaurant. My suggestion is Guisseppi’s in Pismo Beach California…I can also tell you the best roads to get there.
The Moto-Giro California is a few months away, but this is the perfect time to start planning and I have a great place to start. A 1966 Gilera 106. It fits right in the rules and will be perfect.
Back in the 1960’s Sears Roebuck and Company sold just about everything…refridgerators, mattresses, tools, everybody’s ‘back to school’ clothes and yes, motorcycles. The Sears catalog was the retail bible. What kid didn’t spend the entire month of November looking over the toy section, dad looking at tools and mom checking out all the Kenmore appliances? And there were those (the weirdo’s among us) looking at lawn tractors and motorcycles.
From 1951 through somewhere around 1969, Sears sold motorbikes from Puch, Vespa, and Gilera. Inexpensive imports that suited the American buying public. Now, I know I have written before that Americans always believed that bigger was better and small displacement bikes were basically the red-headed step child in the motorcycle sales world. But, think about this…the Honda CB350 is still the best selling motorcycle of all time.
Interesting thing here; though Sears sold bikes from various European manufacturers under the Allstate brand, the Gilera’s were sold under the ‘Sears’ badge. The Gilera 106 sold well but it was the 124cc model that actually sold better, but for some reason is more rare on the used market?
Basically the 106 was looked at as simply a little commuter bike. An arm stretching 9hp and, a top speed of somewhere a little short of 60 mph, it’s not something I would try riding on a Southern California Freeway, it’s not even legal on most use Interstates. But, country backroads or around town, way too much fun.
At a retail price back then of a wallet flattening $385, this little 106 Sears Gilera was a great value.
So, I found this really nice little Sears / Gilera 106 on ebay and it looks like a really good deal if you’re looking for a small bike that needs little work. The ebay ad says it only has 604 miles but if you look at the odo it really has 6043 miles, so…you may need to do a little service on the bike. Parts aren’t all that difficult to find, there is a great resource at Yahoo groups ‘Sears Motorcycleclub’. Find the tank badges, do a basic ‘go through’ of the bike and you’re ready to go. But…
…Like I said at the beginning of this little story, this Gilera is perfect for the California Moto Giro. Rides through the Northern and Central California countryside with like minded moto enthusiasts, read crazies, is way too much fun. This is a motorcycle that will put you in a very special club of riders. A club of riders that love motorcycles that have a bit of a story.
So, here is the story of this one. A young lady bought this little Gilera, she is a novice rider and simply decided it wasn’t for her. Her loss is your gain. All in all, if you are into small bikes that are runners right now, and reasonably priced…call this woman. And than get your self ready the MotoGiro…Italy or California. I’ll see you at the California Giro next year on my Benelli..
Click on the pics below for more info and a contact number. It is a really neat little bike at what I feel is a great price.
From Cycle World in 1980…
“Despite its exceptional handling and good looks, rest assured the V50
will never be a popular motorcycle. That’s part of its charm. It is,
above all else, an exotic motorcycle, available in much smaller
quantities than any previous Guzzi. Evaluated as an exotic motorcycle,the V50 is nearly ideal, its temperate nature being easy to live with and its individualistic features and style clearly telling any other motorcycle it is not just like anything else.”
Being a lover of small and mid size motorcycles, I’m always intrigued by the little exotics that show up on ebay or at swap meets. Also, I have this building need to have a Moto Guzzi in my barn. I have to finish two Honda 350’s, a Benelli 250 and Yamaha SRX however before any other two wheeled orphans show up.
The Guzzi V50 was brought out during the days of the gas price crisis here in the US. Guzzi head honcho Alejandro de Tomaso was sure that the growth of motorcycling would continue to spiral upward and mid size bikes would be leading the way. He didn’t understand the American motorcycle buyer mentality very well apparently. Few V50’s came to these shores when it first came alive in 1977 and sales never really met expectations. In the early 80’s the Lake Como factory brought the Monza out to capitalize on the more ‘sportbike’ oriented market.
There was really only one issue with the V50 that every magazine editor / tester brought up…lack of horsepower. The bike was lightweight, therefore easy handling, it has a great sound, comfortable in sporty way but…just down on power. Some reviews have put it into the class of not really freeway / highway capable. Again, I go back to the American mentality of bigger is better. I really don’t get it. At just over 400 lbs and pushing out somewhere in the vicinity of 40+ HP and…the ability to reach 100 mph, it is perfectly capable of highway travel. Well, it may take a while to get up to speed and that can make getting on some freeways (especially here in Southern California) a bit iffy.
So, here is why you buy the V50…its handling. If you live in an area where you have tight twisty roads, you are going to have a field day playing with bigger, modern sportbikes. Light, agile and exotic…what more could you possibly ask for? Cycle Magazine described it as “simply not a mass market machine for the casual or average buyer.” Well said.
The early V50’s were built at the main factory in Mandelo near Lake Como (one of the most beautiful places on earth), starting in ’79, the V50 was made in the Lambretta Scooter factory. The V50 adopted electronic ignition, linked brakes and cast wheels. There are quite a lot of good resources for vintage Guzzi information and parts. Start with Mick Walkers books, then find your way to www.mgcycle.com or www.motointernational.com Guzziology and spend way too much time cruising the forums. If you do buy a vintage Moto Guzzi there is so much help out there and parts are much easier to find than you might think.
I found a very clean ’78 V50 on ebay this morning that is a great bike for someone to get into vintage Italian motorcycles or Moto Guzzi in particular. With only 4483 miles on the clock, it’s barely broken in. Even though the owner says it starts and runs just great, I would still pull the carbs and give them a good going through, junk the ‘original’ tires and spoon on a set of modern rubber….AND most importantly, get rid of that UGLY seat. Other than those little details, the bike looks great. Paint is good for it’s age, chrome is great. Nice bike. Click on the pics below for more details.