A bit of history and some stories about vintage bikes for sale

cafe racers

1975 Honda Gold Wing with Watsonian Sidecar

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 6.11.31 PMI really dig Gold Wings with Sidecars. My favorite by far is a ’75 GL1000 with a Vetter Terraplane that I saw at the Griffith Park rally a few years back. Picture a Cafe Racer sidecar rig…it was perfect!

So today I found a more sedate (classic) rig on ebay. A nice ’75 Wing with a Watsonian Sidecar. Now, it is really pretty cool. It’s got a couple of different covers, to handle different weather conditions ands a very comfy seat. The bike has been given some good love but needs a bit more, not much but a little.Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 6.13.47 PM

If you have never driven a sidecar rig (and the proper term is driving, not riding), what a blast! Your whole view of the motorcycling world changes instantly. Flying the car first time, makes you pull over and check your underwear. The first time you fly the car with some one in the car…well, you’re both checking your undies and your passenger is calling a cab. By the way, ‘flying the car’ means the sidecar is off the ground as you go around a right hand turn. Great fun seeing the look on your passengers face when all of a sudden they feel like they are on a carnival ride!
It’s funny, but when you are driving a Sidecar rig, everybody looks at you differently. You’re not a biker anymore and your cool factor just went up 100%Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 10.34.17 AM

This is a nice rig, a little pricey but cool factor doesn’t always come cheap. Click on the pics below for more pictures and info

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Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 7.49.45 AM1975 Honda Gold Wing with Side Car


Vintage Harley Davidson Mother Lode

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 8.35.49 AMI don’t quite know where to start here…what an amazing collection of bikes and parts. I mean, really, if you are into old Harley Davidson’s either for your own use (now that requires a full psychiatric evaluation) or you own a motorcycle salvage business (which may also require professional counseling…my daughter is a licensed therapist her number is **&^%$U&% she can help she has been around this sickness long enough) or lastly you build custom Harley’s. I mean you get all these parts and complete bikes and the 20′ container they are stored in. It doesn’t get any easier.Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 8.37.25 AM

Honestly, it’s a lot of money to buy this container but from what I have seen on the market lately, so far, it’s a hell of a deal.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info. This really is somebody’s idea of heaven!

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Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 8.22.45 AMVintage Harley Davidson Mother Lode


1960 Marusho Lilac

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 9.09.29 AMHave you ridden a Marusho? Have you ever seen a Marusho at your local Sunday ride breakfast stop? Have you even heard of Marusho? Well, I have heard of Marusho, I have never seen one and I haven’t ridden one. But damn, they look really cool or is unique the right word?

Very typical of Japanese motorcycles of the time (the 1950’s and 60’s) they were copies of either European or British bikes. Small to mid-size bikes and truthfully, marginal quality control. Make it, make it cheap and sell ’em. I imagine that many of you remember the term ‘Jap Crap’. Made in Japan was almost the kiss of death…especially if you ever had to extract a really cheesy screw out of a Honda CB350 clutch cover!! But I digress into personal history with early Japanese bikes….Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 9.02.34 AM

Marusho has a pretty interesting history…interesting enough to make me want to find one. Maybe.

Masashi Ito worked for for Soichiro Honda (Honda motorcycles) from 1930 to 1935 in his auto repair shop. After World War Two, Ito san started his own auto repair shop but was really more interested in motorcycles. In 1950 he built his first motorcycle. A 150cc single patterend after the German Zundapp of the time…it had a shaft drive which was a bit different, I would guess from his automotive experience.

Marusho built motorcycles from 1950 to 1967. During that period they built 31 different models and all but two were shaft drive. Every model I have seen is a derivation of a Euro model, which is typical of the era and the evolution of the Japanese motorcycle industry.During that time period Marusho built somewhere around 50,000 motorcycles.

They wanted to compete with Honda, but it was not in the cards. Honda went on to not only build motorcycles but cars , that actually were powered by motorcycle engines. We got the first one here in the states as a 600cc (the N600) in 1970 but they were also available in Japan as 350cc cars?! Crazy.Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 7.35.09 AM

And here is a good ‘Bike Night’ bar trivia question for you to get somebody to buy you another beer…first one, did they ever hear of a Marusho? If they did, why were they (the motorcycles) actually named ‘Lilac’? It was Ito san’s wifes favorite flower.

The really nice Marusho Lilac 250 V-Twin I found on ebay this morning is really nice. This is a bike that was inspired by the German Victoria Bergmeister. It is a horizontal V-Twin (kind of Guzzi-ish) and in beautiful condition. As much as I like to envision bikes as really fun cafe racers…this isn’t one of them. I would want to ride this one just as it is.

Hold the phone!!! Get back Jack! Look at this bike…do you see a future Honda? I do. Does the CX500 come to mind? HMMM…somebody is bound to email me with the fact that it came from Moto Guzzi or Victoria Bergmeister, yeah, yeah I know that but…Remember Ito worked for Soichiro Honda and built the V-Twin long before Honda came out with the CX model.

Nonetheless…this is a very cool bike that seems to be selling for a very reasonable price and would be a “buy it and ride it”. When you stop at your favorite motorcycle hangout on a Sunday morning other riders are either going to walk by because they have no clue as to what they are seeing or you are going to have guys taking pictures and wondering who owns it because that want to know about it.

Click on the pictures below for more info and more pictures. This is a very interesting motorcycle.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 8.23.51 AMOk, I lied, I or my friend Erik, would turn this into an awesome Cafe Racer. Keep the tank, the logo and let people wonder.

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Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 8.12.00 AM1960 Marusho Lilac


1977 Ducati 860 GT Cafe

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 7.43.58 AMMy first introduction to Ducati motorcycles was in 1981 while living in New Mexico. A small dealership on Rio Grande Boulevard (yep, just across the street from the river) Rissman Motors, was just a little hole in the wall but I had to stop in just to see. In the showroom sat two of the most beautiful motorcycles I had ever seen. A Ducati 900SD Darmah and the MHR (Mike Hailwood Replica). The replica was much more expensive but I thought the Darmah was far more beautiful. Over in the corner of the shop sat a very lonely and a bit dusty copper colored 860GT.

The reason it was in the corner…it was the ugly duckling of the Ducati family. The Copper headed stepchild.The Darmah and the MHR were basically the same bike but designer Giugiaro somehow DFU’d on that particular bike. Too angular and the shape just didn’t work.Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 7.40.45 AM

The 860 motor, a square case Bevel drive 90 degree L-Twin is a wonderful machine. I finally bought the Darmah I lusted after somewhere in the mid 90’s and became intimate with that motor thanks to help from racing friends Steve Allen (www.bevelheaven.com) and Trevor Dunne of Ducati Santa Barbara (www.ducatiofsb.com). The Square Case motor may not be the fastest in Ducati’s history but it has the torque of an Italian locomotive. Are there Italian locomotives?

Sadly, the 860GT,the GTS and the GTE were no match for the for the Big Four from Japan. The CB750, the Z1, XS650 and GT750 all were faster than the 860 and considering that America was into speed and horsepower numbers at that time…well no wonder that one old dusty 860 was sitting in the corner. The 860’s top speed was just a touch over 100mph while the others were all pushing 125mph and more. What the 860 had that it’s Japanese counterparts didn’t was handling.

The 860GT was a perfect platform for customizing. I found a beauty on ebay this morning. Tasteful in all respects. Everything about this bike is right. I love the original Euro shift pattern (means its on the right…which does take a bit of getting used to…I have had on occasion downshifted instead braked! The bike has a very Vincent look to it and the motor is unadulterated. This is a beautiful bike and should be just wonderful to ride. It actually is making me now wish I hadn’t sold my Darmah.

The owner / seller of this bike somehow took an Italian ugly duckling and transformed it into a beautiful British swan.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. And the picture at the top of this page, really makes the 860 GT look a lot better!

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Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 7.32.20 AM1977 Ducati 860GT Cafe


1957 Squariel…Ariel Square Four

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 6.17.08 PMA long time ago my step dads friend Stanley acquired an Ariel Square Four And for some strange reason he let me ride it. Now Stanley lived in a very remote area of Southern California where the roads were empty and all you had to contend with were deer and cows crossing the road at the most inopportune time…especially on a bike that had Fred Flintstone brakes!!!
My experience on bikes at that point had been desert racing on a Bultaco and going to and from school on a BSA 650…by the way, that BSA made me one of the cool guys pulling into the parking lot. After that the cool factor went away in about 26 seconds.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 6.16.19 PMMy memory of Stanleys ‘Squariel’ was that other than being a four cylinder bike that was almost as old as me, compared to my Beezer, was pretty boring. It was smooth, had a boatload of mid-range torque (which the BSA had plenty but nothing like the Ariel) and it looked pretty cool.

Here’s some basic facts…it had a whopping 40HP, some estimates put it a bit higher but my experience with bikes of that vintage…40 was probably about right. When I rode the Ariel it topped out at just over 100mph. Plenty fast enough for a bike built in 1957. The bike was really comfortable, easy to ride and the more miles I put on it that day the more I just simply enjoyed it.

The Square Four didn’t require any extraordinary riding skills (if you were used to riding older British bikes), yeah the shifting was clunky, the brakes were…well, 1950’s British drum brakes…you really had to plan ahead for a stop and the handling was nice and easy.
Ariel was in some ways going after the Vincent. A bike with speed that literally left everyone in its wake. The Vincent had speed. The Ariel had easy ride-ability. The Vincent won that war. The Ariel however had so much torque that you could start from a stop sign in top gear and never change gears all day long. I even tried that. And while not entirely true…pretty damn close.

In 1958 Ariel was part of the BSA group and the Square Four was dropped in favor of a lighter weight 2 Stroke. That didn’t last long. In 1971 the Healy brothers took over Ariel and built 28 of the Fours between then and 1977. 28, that’s all. It put out 52 HP, top speed was a bit over 125mph and was actually lighter than a Honda 250. It may have had all that going for it but it couldn’t compete with the Honda CB750, the Kawasaki Z1 or the Suzuki GT750. All the history, the mystique, the heritage…it didn’t matter.

Interestingly though, square four motors did do quite well in GP Racing? The Yamaha OW60, AKA the RZ500. Unusual, yes. Successful? Yes But it was a stop gap measure to the V-4 motors. The problem Yamaha had with the RZ was not a problem Ariel had. The Ariel was easy to ride everywhere, the RZ was only good on the race track, hence the RZ never made it to the streets of the States…other than in the grey market.Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 7.26.33 AM

So, back to the Ariel I found on ebay this morning. Really, really nice. Very original and ready to ride. This is a bike that if I just wanted to have nice 100 mile ride on a Sunday or a casual getaway with the wife over a weekend…this motorbike would be on the short list. Actually on the long list…it ain’t cheap but for a bike with kind of heritage and cool factor…well worth it.

Click on the pics below for more pictures and info.

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Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 7.40.52 AM1957 Squariel..the Square Four


1975 Suzuki GT500 Cafe’

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 8.07.24 AMHere’s the deal with the GT500 from Suzuki. It was really designed as a ‘Sport Tourer’. Throw a set of soft saddlebags off the back, convince your girlfriend that a trip to Utah was a good idea and away you go. Well, somewhere along the way you came to the realization that this bike would make a a perfect cafe racer! The girlfriend wasn’t really all that thrilled with riding a bike just to see the Mormon Taberernacle Choir anyway.
So after jettisoning the saddlebags and the girlfriend jettisoned you, time to convert the Suzi. This is your bike.

The GT500 or Cobra as it was called in Japan or the the Titan here in the States, is a really great motorcycle. For a big two-stoke it was quite smooth, had easy to use power (compared to my Kawasaki H2) and could be coaxed into a great canyon carver. And yet, it was and is still, a great ‘Sport Tourer’. Make a couple of suspension upgrades and leave the rest of the bike alone. It is a great motorcycle. This bike along with the Yamaha RD series bikes have us wishing that the EPA never stuck their noses into motorcycling!

The GT500 was also a really great platform for a road racer. Again, suspension upgrades a little tuning work and you had a great bike to go club racing.Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 8.08.16 AM

I am a big fan of the GT500. Simple, good looking, plenty fast enough for fun and by the way, probably one of the best front drum brakes in motorcycling. It is simply a great motorcycle. Suzuki did a great job with this bike.

I found a nice Cafe job on ebay this morning that I like a lot. Not over done just nice. I really like the tail section. It’s selling for a reasonable price, has been gone through very well and really is a ready to ride bike.

This is a high fun factor motorcycle that honestly, you could spend three times as much at the dealership for a new bike and have half the fun. Check this bike out. Click on the pics below for more info and pictures.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 7.56.59 AM1975 Suzuki GT500


1982 Yamaha XV920RJ

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 8.22.06 AMOK, I’ve said this before…I need a bigger barn. And a bigger bank account. But I have to say this is one bike I would really like to have. I almost bought one back in 1981 but for some reason I bought a Honda CB750F. I don’t regret that at all, but somewhere in my heart that XV920 still lingers. My good friends Eric and Ken also have this affliction for the XV and between the two of them I think they have five or six! Some run, some are donor bikes and a couple are, well, the best way to describe them is ‘Frankenbike’.

When I first saw the XV920 at Van Nuys Yamaha I was taken by the shape of the tank and seat, the big 8″ headlight and the enclosed chain drive (which I was used to on my Bultaco Matador). The only thing about the bike that I didn’t like was the funky looking tail section. I was given the opportunity to test ride it and I liked it a lot. The suspension was a bit weak, the tires were skinny even by the standards of the day, but those were things that could have been fixed. Still to this day, I wonder why I bought the CB750 instead? Price? maybe. But in reality, the Honda handled better and was faster, but there was still something about that Yamaha, that to this day holds my interest.

The XV wasn’t really designed to go after the big four cylinder bikes from Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki of the time but more the Europeans, Ducati and BMW. Hence the styling and general power. The XV didn’t have a lot of horsepower but it did have torque by the boat load. The mid range of the bike was amazing. Back to my choosing the CB750 versus the XV, it was that blast of power once you hit the higher rev range, which is exactly where the Yamaha ran out of steam. But still, in the real world, mid range is where you need the power.

The XV920 was not a good seller for Yamaha and it only lasted two years in the US market. The cruiser styled Virago continued for many years. The American style. The XV920 is a really a bike that you ride cross country easily and comfortably. A few tweaks to the suspension and you have a great Sunday morning Cafe racer. The bike is wonderfully reliable (typical Yamaha), great looking (in my view) and you probably won’t see one at your local Sunday morning hangout. It is unique and I still want one.
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The XV lends itself to all kinds of customizing and parts still available at your local friendly Yamaha dealer.
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I found a really nice one on ebay today that is selling for a really good price. Yeah, it needs the basic level of love (maybe a little more…) like a battery, carbs cleaned and electrics checked over but it is stock and looks good. It’s not the send a check , fly out and ride it home bike (besides it’s sitting the snow) but for a few extra bucks you can have it freighted home , spend a few days working on it and you’ll be ready for Spring riding.

Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 7.40.18 AM1982 Yamaha XV920 RJ


1970 BSA A50

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 8.15.36 AMFor some weird reason I apparently am on a BSA kick. I started my road riding life on a BSA, I restored a BSA C15 (which got stolen out of my garage while I was making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) and my friend sold his BSA to another friend who then sold it to another poor unsuspecting soul. Such is the life of vintage (old) British motorbikes. BSA’s being hugely popular for some reason never reached the same level of sainthood that Triumph did???? I don’t know why.
I rode a 1969 Triumph Daytona 500, much like the BSA A50 but with better handling. Here is what I figured out about BSA motorcycles. They may have not had the quick, light, agile, quick handling of the Triumph (same company by the way) but the BSA was the sturdier of the two.
Think about this for a moment…when Triumph came out with the X75 Hurricane (which I lust for each and every day) it was the BSA motor. Craig Vetter made the perfect pairing.

So, back to the A50. This is a great motorcycle. This is a bike that I would have no problem throwing on a set of soft saddlebags, a tank bag and going for a nice long (2 weeks or more) ride. well, the saddlebags would however have to have a quart or two of Castrol in them….

500cc is plenty enough to get you anywhere you want to go. Most of the world rides around on 125cc! Your Pizza and mail in Mexico gets delivered on a 125cc motorbike! Robert Persig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance…which I still think is a crappy book and I don’t understand why people hold it in such high esteem?) took a cross-country trip on a 450 cc motorcycle two up. 500cc is really plenty.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 7.59.02 AMChampionships were won on BSA’s…Dick Mann, Jim Rice, Keith Mashburn all winners on BSA’s yet BSA seemed to be the ugly stepchild compared to Triumph. BSA took chances that Triumph didn’t. Remember the ‘Ray Gun’ mufflers on the Rocket Three? The kinda flat gas tank and the grey frame on the Lightning? Still, BSA lead the troops but some did not follow. Too bad.Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 9.01.39 AM

I found a really nice BSA A50 on ebay this morning. Low miles, great condition (for its age) and a bike that would be so much FUN to ride.The seat is ugly but it can be changed easily enough, other than that…buy it and ride it.
Click on the pics below for more picture and more info. This is a very cool motorcycle

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Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 7.20.57 AM1970 BSA A50


1970 BSA Lightning 650

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.14.17 AMI started my street bike life on a Lightning 650. It vibrated, it leaked oil everywhere (we called it marking it’s territory…or also remembering where you parked it), and it was a bit unreliable. Some days it would run great, others…well, not so much. But…I loved the bike. Up until the day I traded it in on a Kawasaki H2. My step dad was not all that pleased (I think he was a high priest in the British motorcycle community back then) but he did give me some sort of a blessing?

The 650 Lightning was and is a great example of British Motorcycles. It may not have the name recognition of the Triumph Bonneville but if you put them head to head or wheel to wheel the BSA is right there. Just ask Dick Mann.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 7.59.02 AM

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.12.31 AMBSA actually started out as a Gun Manufacturer..Birmingham Small Arms.In the later part of the 1800’s BSA started building bicycles it was just a natural expansion of their industrialization, from there it was motorcycles.By the mid 20th century BSA was the worlds largest producer of motorcycles! Also at that time BSA owned Triumph, Ariel, Sunbeam…they were huge. Busses, farm equipment weapons…an industrial giant. Then it all fell apart. But, BSA hung on until it no longer could. Most people I know in the Vintage Bike world would probably choose a Triumph over a BSA very time. The Triumph is quicker handling thats true but, the BSA is truly a roadworthy machine. A bit smoother, more comfortable and a chassis that is designed for riding distances.

I found a very nice A65 Lightning on ebay this morning that has a very good selling price and is in quite good condition. It has been gone through pretty thorouhly so should be an instant rider. Although, I would instantly get rid of those horrible ‘Buckhorn’ handlebars and put something far more appropriate, like a set of Euro Touring bars.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info about this very clean BSA Lightning

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Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 7.45.41 AM1970 BSA Lightning 650


1981 Yamaha XJ550R

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 11.53.56 AMThis motorbike is an absolute blast to ride. It does everything almost perfect! Fast enough to keep you out of trouble, and fast enough to get you into trouble! What more could you ask for?

In 1981 a couple of friends and I were going to Laguna Seca for the USGP as we had been for a couple of years. This trip one of the guys showed up on a brand new Yamaha XJ550, I mean ‘Brand New’! He brought it home from the dealer the day before. Beautiful bike. But, Since the rest of us were riding well broken in 750’s and 900’s we were wondering how well Roger would keep up. Turns out we were the ones keeping up!

After Roger picked up his bike he rode it to Monterey and back the same day, did the oil change that night, threw some clothes in a backpack (we weren’t into fancy motorcycle luggage back then) and met us for breakfast. Roger had already run the route so we knew where the parts of Highway 1 were good and bad. That little 550 proved to be a flyer. Roger didn’t baby it by any stretch of the imagination. Footpegs dragging and cornering like it was on rails. It needs to be added here that Roger was, and probably still is, an incredibly smooth and skilled rider and made the most of that Yamaha. After I( had my turn riding it I was tempted to trade in my CB750F. Tempted, but kept the CB.
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I have seen some customized versions and some that are still stock. The XJ550 is reliable and fun. What more could you ask for?!

I found a very nice one this morning on ebay. Low miles, all stock, in nice condition for it’s age and with some standard TLC should be a great ride. The seller says it’s rare…it’s not but that doesn’t take anything away from it. I believe the XJ550 is one of Yamaha’s great bikes because it did everything so well. There were a couple of guys I raced with at Willow Springs on the 550 and were quite successful. One guy actually rode his 100 miles to the track, took off the street stuff (light and blinkers), raced all weekend, put everything back on and rode home!!! A great bike.

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Click on the pics below for more pictures and info

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Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.09.16 AM1981 Yamaha XJ550R


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