Ok, this is the bike that will make you buy a bigger helmet…because the grin inside is going to be too big for whatever you’re wearing now.
There are motorcycles that do everything good but nothing great. And there are motorcycles that do a few things great and fail everywhere else. We have all had one of each. The motorcycle I found on ebay this morning is a bike that does everything great all the time. The Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special.
In the early 1970’s my stepdad bought a Yamaha RD250 ostensibly for my mom to learn how to ride. Never happened. However, I had a blast on it for a year or so. Next on the RD list was helping my then Father in Law build his RD350. I think it was a ’74 it was beautiful. My daily rider was a Kawasaki H2 750, but…I honestly had more fun on the RD.
Over the next few years I had the opportunity to spend a good number of miles on the RD350. I have never been on a motorcycle that has given me the ‘High Giggle Factor’ more than that the RD did. It’s not all that fast, but fast enough, handling, by the standards of the day, was outstanding. It was a motorcycle that won races all over the world, it was the little motorcycle that personified David and Goliath.
The Daytona Special. The last Hurrah of the street going two strokes here in the US. The RD350 was great, what Yamaha did with the RD400 was make it more rider friendly. We’ll start with rubber mounting the engine (a bit less vibration…wasn’t that bad to start with really), move the engine just a bit to make it a bit less wheelie prone (Hey Yamaha, you’re taking part of the fun out of the bike!), and the tuned the motor for a wider power band, that was a good thing, added 1″ to the forks to stabilize the front end. The deal here is that Yamaha simply made a really terrific motorcycle more easy for everybody to ride. And have a lot of fun. It was only made for one year. The EPA killed two strokes.
The one I found on ebay is as good an example you could possibly find.Low mileage, great condition and although a little pricey, good fun ain’t cheap. This is a sweet little bike… definitely a giant killer in the canyons
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. Most importantly, if you buy the bike…ride it everyday.
I found a very interesting collection of bikes on ebay this morning…Ok, it’s just a guy clearing out his garage. We’ve all had to do that over the years either because we ran out of room for the new motorcycles we wanted or more than likely because our wives were tired of having to look at what she considered junk and couldn’t get to what she was trying to get to.
So, this guy has two interesting motorcycles and one that goes on the front bumper of a motorhome bound for Florida. First is a 1969 Triumph Tiger Cub, a simple little 250cc motorcycle. The Cub was unreliable, period. It had lubrication issues, bearing problems, a weak triple tree and of course Lucas electrics. But still an interesting little motorcycle.
Next up, a Honda VT500 Ascot. In my view this is the gem of the bunch. Truthfuly the VT500 wasn’t the most powerful bike of it’s era or genre, yet…it worked. Now I have to say, it has one of the most ugly headlight setups I have ever seen. I would instantly change it! Except the wiring harness would probably be an absolute nightmare…a good Saturday project.
The VT500 didn’t have all that much horsepower (54…That seems plenty for having a lot of fun?!) but what it did have was a nice tight chassis that gave the bike really fun handling. It was styled after the FT500 Ascot single (which I raced for years) but came with a 6 speed tranny, shaft drive and a little more comfortable ergo’s. My old friend Mike Eaton (one of the greatest surfboard builders ever!!!) had one. I got a chance to ride it on the twisty roads of Point Loma in San Diego and had way too much fun. This is a great bike.
Next is a 1972 Suzuki Rover. Put it on the front of your motorhome and hang out at the KOA’s across the country on your way to visit the Grandkids in Florida. Actually, this could be a really fun little trail bike, however, it went over like a fart in church. Didn’t sell. But hey, everybody can use something to take up space in their garage. You could probably hide this little bike behind all the other junk your wife doesn’t know about (yeah right).
It’s a pretty interesting package deal. Click on the pics for more info and pictures. And by the way, this seller is by far the worst picture taker I have ever seen! Do not let him or her come to your wedding!!!
A German company started by a Danish engineer. Dampf-Kraft-Wagen. Started in 1916 building steam powered cars. The cars didn’t do so well but while building cars they were also toying around with a small size two stroke engine and in 1919 took that little engine stuck it in a motorcycle frame and called it ‘Des Klein Wunder’…The Little Marvel.
In the 1920’s and 30’s DKW was the worlds largest motorcycle manufacturer. They were dominant in racing both on and off road. In 1931 they started using the split single motor, also known as the ‘Twingle’. A really cool design, essentially it’s one cylinder but with two pistons inside, one for intake and one for exhaust. It’s an incredibly efficient design.
More history here for you…in 1932 DKW merged with Audi, Horsh and Wanderer and created Auto Union, today simply known as Audi. Then came World War 2. After the war was the ‘reparation act’, too much history to go into here about that but here’s what happened…the designs for DKW’s 125 two stroke were given to BSA for their Bantam model and to Harley Davidson for their Hummer. Both were mildly successful (I’m being generous here). After the war DKW moved the factory to West Germany and the original factory was taken up by MZ. DKW kept building both cars and motorbikes, the cars under the Daimler-Benz ownership, which was then bought out by VW. The last DKW 2 stroke automobile was built in 1966. Now you know you everything there is to know about DKW?
This morning I found a beautiful DKW SB200 on ebay, that sadly has become a museum piece. The seller says they have not started it but it does kick through easily. The bike is beautiful. I would hope that with just some minor tinkering it will be a runner. Yes, it would look great in your living room just as it is, but really, get it running , ride it and then park it in your living room after your ride, then roll it out the front door next Sunday and ride it again.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info. This is a very cool little motorcycle with a great history.
Have the Dog Days of Summer gotten to you? Are you bored out of your mind? Do you need a Fall/Winter project that is probably not too hard? Does your wife want to banish you to the garage? I found the perfect bike for you on ebay this morning. A Honda CB350 Four. This is true jewel of a motorcycle.
I have a small fleet of Honda 350’s CB,CL,SL but I have never had a CB350/4…damn.I have ridden them, modified them for friends…yes, I did turn it into a Cafe Racer, what did you expect?! And I honestly believe that this is one of Honda’s best motorcycles ever.
The CB350f should be named “Honda CBHF”…CB Have Fun!! This motorcycle will do everything including outlast us and our children…just change the oil and the fork oil. This is a bike that you can travel cross country on, really, use it as a daily commuter, a Sunday canyon carver (needs a bit of suspension work for that), or make a really cool Cafe Racer. I don’t care, it’s a great bike.
Earlier on I called the CB350F a jewel of a motorcycle and when you ride one you know exactly what I mean. Honda built a motorcycle that some would call soulless, and they would be wrong. Yes, the CB350/4 was smoother than a Singer sewing machine, if it wasn’t for the fact that you were moving you wouldn’t really feel anything…as Ed McMahon would say “Wrong Moose Breath!” (look up Johnny Carson trivia if you didn’t get it). The CB350/4 was such a refined motorcycle you could get it to do whatever you wanted on a whim. A lively responsive motor, capable handling (ok, I’m being a bit generous there) but if you tuned into the motorcycle it was a dream to ride. It is not a ‘point and shoot’ type handling motorcycle nor was it faster than a Yamaha RD350 but, it did everything you wanted it to do with no muss and no fuss.
It did have a soul, granted a gentle one but…wind that little 350 up and big fun came along with it. Once you came up into the powerband which was quite broad compared to it’s two stroke competitors, the 350/4 was a high giggle factor motorcycle. To make it even more fun, add a Kerker exhaust, change out the rear shocks for something not quite so squishy, upgrade the forks, put on a set of European touring handlebars and you now have a motorbike that will be sooooo much fun to ride.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info
I have owned a couple of European bikes, well…a little more than a couple and have loved them all. Maybe not all. But one that I have not had parked in my barn is a Moto Guzzi. I have ridden Moto Guzzi’s and throughly loved the feeling of that motor rocking size to side at a stop, the locomotive like pull from a stop(actually throughout the whole power band) and actually how easy they ride.
Years back I rode a Guzzi 850 LeMans and loved it. It did everything I thought an older Italian motorcycle would do. Compared to my CB750F this thing was almost slow, but after a full day of riding I realized that speed isn’t everything. Wait a minute was I nuts?!? I loved going fast, I also owned a Kawasaki H2 750…damn fast. But, the ability to go through corners at speed with complete confidence, mid way through the turn you just eased the throttle open and that locomotive of an engine just pulled you out and you were ready for the next turn.
However I bought a Ducati Darmah. I don’t regret the decision at all. But I still want a Guzzi LeMans.
The LeMans started in 1976 as an 850 which is a good motor, a little bikini fairing, low bars kind of a Sportbike but with only 53 HP there was no way it was going to compete with the Japanese. Actually Guzzi was competing with Ducati and Laverda. And it held it’s own…sort of. The original LeMans sold rather well, then Moto Guzzi decided to change it.
The LeMans was bumped up to 1000cc but for some reason or another it got…slower. Ah, we here in the States can thank our ever thoughtful EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for that. The V7 Sport had more HP and was quicker, but the LeMans was still popular.
After a couple of years the LeMans actually morphed into more of Sports Tourer than a Sportbike. Guzzi changed the fairing and other bits and pieces and it seemed to wear it’s Sport Tourer suit quite well. The suspension is firm, it has kind of ‘medium’ steering (not too heavy not too light…just stable as can be), the clutch however is a bit heavy, Oh well…put on your big boy pants and get used to it. But, the big Guzzi has as much torque as a Santa Fe locomotive and boy does that make riding one fun!
Early model Moto Guzzi LeMans’ had a bit of a bad reputation for a rather poor fit and finish. They would rust easily, frame paint would peel, let’s just say they didn’t age all that well (there are few Hollywood actresses that fit in that category as well). Oh well.
I found a real sweetheart of of one this morning on ebay. It has been restored and looks beautiful. The seller says the bike is Concours ready…OK. If you’re going to show it ride it to the show…no trailers, this bike deserves better. It is a real beauty and would be a great traveler. Click on the pics below for more info and pictures. Oh and here is another cool thing about this bike, there were less than 400 produced, I wonder how many are still being ridden?
So there I was in 1968 at a traffic light on Roscoe Blvd in Panorama City, California somewhere around 10pm…my curfew wasn’t until midnight. It was a really nice summer evening (not to be confused with “It was a dark and stormy night”). My friend Eddie had just gotten off work and we were going to go for a ride. I was on my Bultaco Matador and he on his Yamaha DT1, both 250’s. Up next to us pulled up a Suzuki X6. I had heard about it and read about them but honestly, when it pulled up along side of us, all I could think of was what a dull looking bike. Ok, it was Japanese styling of the time.
Styling be damned, that bike took off like a rocket, I was left in a cloud of blue smoke. Now granted most kids on a skateboard could get off the line faster than my Matador but I would eventually catch up…the Suzuki, no chance. Now lets be fair, the Suzuki had 2 cylinders, my Bultaco had one; The Suzuki around 30HP, my matador had maybe 20hp? Eddie’s DT1 was faster as well but still no match for the Suzuki.
Ironically we did catch up with the Suzuki at a gas station a little ways up the road. None of us could buy beer at the time so soda pop it was. We talked about bikes and stuff and figured we were all just out riding for the evening. And just for grins decided to swap bikes around. After 5 minutes of riding the X6 I was thinking I can get away with this bike and they’ll never catch me. It will be mine! I didn’t do it but it sure was tempting.
The T20 was a very advanced motorcycle for it’s time. 1; Tubular steel frame, a first for Suzuki; Posi-Force oil injection, a far more efficient system than anybody else was using at the time; the 8″ double leading shoe front brake derived from the race bikes and…the very first 6 speed transmission in a production motorcycle. The 6 speed tranny made it very easy to stay in the 250’s very tight powerband.
The X6 is a perfect platform for a very cool Vintage Cafe Racer.Leave the motor alone, upgrade the suspension (but leave the exposed front fork springs),a set of Clubman handlebars and maybe some modern tires. From there you will have a bike that will get a lot of attention….especially from the CBR/GSX-R/R6/ZX6 that you just passed on a tight twisty road! Espcially when you wave at them as you pass them in a corner!!! God I love small bikes!!! Too much fun.
I found a very nice one ebay this morning, it’s not perfect but it is a runner. Needs a little love…not the fly out, buy it and ride it home bike but the price ain’t all that bad…well, it was only $650 new in ’67. The bike is aging nicely. This is not a full winter project…this is a ‘be riding by the end of the month bike!
Click on the pics below for a few more pictures and some more info. What a fun little bike!!! OK, I couldn’t help myself…a pretty girl in a bikini on a Suzuki…works for me.
In my almost 50 years of riding motorcycles I can honestly and truthfully say that there are only two motorcycles that I miss more than any of them all. The sad part is that they both left at the same time…stolen out of my garage while I was making a balony sandwich. No kidding, in the time it took me make a sandwich somebody came into my garage and stole 2 motorcycles. My Kawasaki H2750 and Triumph Daytona 500.
I originally bought the Daytona when living in New Mexico for my then wife to ride. She rode it a bit and decided that she really didn’t like it all that much. Lucky me! it’s now mine!!
The T100R, although smaller and less well known than the Bonneville is the better of the two. Why?
The Big (at the time) British Twins were and, still are, wonderful. Plenty of power (for the time), decent brakes (?) and precise handling (!). But the 500 had an agility and happiness feeling that the bigger bikes didn’t. The Daytona was more intuitive, it knew where you wanted to go before you did.
How did it get the name ‘Daytona’? From winning the 1966 Daytona 200. It actually started as the T100T, just a a regular old 500 but…a whole lot of work later it’s winning races. A whole new top end, tuning the bike for speed. It worked. Thanks in total to Doug Hele.
As we came into the ’70’s so did the Japanese. The Suzuki GT500, the Honda CB450, the Yamaha TX500 and the Kawasaki triples…the Brits were left in the dust…or two stroke oil smoke.
Up until 1969 not much had changed with the T100R but then it got higher performance goodies and things that would help …better bearings in the bottom end, connecting rods etc. That was the year I had. Yes it still leaked oil, it used oil like guys in the 1950’s used Brylcream (a little dab ill do you) but it was a motorbike that once you understood it it was magic. I miss that bike…a lot.
I found a beautiful one on ebay today. It’s been restored but not ‘over restored’. The Daytona comes with a very cool ‘Cafe’ style seat, different handlebars and it all works well. The even better part here is that the original stuff all comes with it, sweet. But, ride it as it is.
Honestly there is only one motorcycle that I have owned (and still do) that has given me the fun factor that my old Daytona gave me. It’s my 1989 Honda GT650 Hawk. I lock my garage nowadays.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures
A number of years ago I came home late at night to a motorcycle sitting in my driveway. I was wondering who came to visit. Nobody sitting on the front porch waiting for me, nobody sitting on the back patio and I didn’t recognize the motorcycle. Upon closer examination of the motorcycle I realized it didn’t get here under it’s own power. Somebody dropped this somewhat rusted, parts missing piece of junk in my driveway. What do I look like, the motorcycle version of Sanford and Son? Well, if you look inside my barn, that’s not too far off.
The bike was a 1974 Benelli 250 2C. No key, seat cover rotted out, tires rotted, side covers bungee corded to the rotted seat, no air filters…the list goes on and on. Oh, and the front tire was pretty much flat. Pushing that bike 100 feet UP my driveway to my barn was not fun…even if it is only a 250.
Two days later I get a phone call from my oldest friend in the world (time wise not age wise) ” Hey, do you like the bike?” The bike was left with him 10-15 years ago, it sat outside next to his house (much to the dismay of his wife) all that time. He knows I collect old motorcycles so…you’re beginning to see the picture.
I was in the middle of two other projects and decided I didn’t want to take this one on. So off to ebay it went. Now, I regret that decision.
Here’s the thing about the Benelli 250 2C, it didn’t have the exileration of the Benelli SEI, the feel of the Tornado, heck it was not much faster than the Yamaha RD125! But…the 2C had all the right stuff and I mean all! I’m saying this next part second hand..when the guy that bought my Benelli picked it up (for a mere pittance). loaded it into his van said to me ” yeah, it’s not as fast as any Jap two stroke that’s for sure, but no Jap two stroke can match this bikes handling”. From there he schooled me on all the various parts the 2C had right from the factory…amazing. I wanted take the bike back, but… Off he went into the sunset basically telling me I was an idiot to sell this bike. I shlepped back into my shop and went back to work on a Honda CB350.
I found a nice 250 2C on ebay this morning. It is in much (I mean MUCH) better condition than the one I sold. It is a runner, good runner as a matter fact, just needs a little cosmetic help…nothing major. This is one of those bikes than can easily embarrass a bigger bike on a tight twisty road.
Click on the pics below for pictures and info. This motorbike has FUN written all over it!!!
Over the years Harley Davidson, “The Motor Company”, has done everything they can to increase their market share around the world. They have had Aermacchi (HD bought 50% of the company in 1960) of Italy build bikes for them (the Baja 100 comes to mind as well as the Sprint 350 (also known as the “Spaghetti Hoglet”…of which I still lust after). The V-Rod, a collaboration of Harley Davidson and Porsche, but none of them have created the sales of the basic Harley Davidson motorcycle.
But, the odd-ball Harley’s were really cool. Light, unique, fun…I mean really, in the ’60’s and early 70’s what more could you ask for? Harley had fun advertising, the bikes were great, but…?
Harley was really reaching out to young adults, women, African Americans, Latino’s…it was all part of an “Outreach” Program. Sales just weren’t there.
This morning I found a couple of SX two stroke models on ebay that if you have the time, some money and more importantly the patience….these could be fun bikes to have. Yes they have what is politely known as ‘patina’…rust, they need all kinds of love but I’ll tell you what, I have seen and bought bikes for more $$$ than these two.
These two bikes could maybe be made into one really cool little cafe racer? or just fixed up for a daily ‘around town’ bike, a Sunday go to meetin’ bike? All I know is that I found them kinda cool.
For those of you (us) that are a little on the motorcycle nerdy side, you have a lot of spare time, have a weird sense of humor and want to leave them in your best friends driveway (behind his wifes Mercedes) or think that AMF (American Machine and Foundry…aka Adios Mother Fu*&^R) was the best thing that ever happened to The Motor Company, which goes back to leaving them in your friends driveway, these are the bikes for you. You know, the more I think about it, all of us that have collected (bought after having one too many Mai Tai) have spent more and gotten less. These could be fun.
Click on pics below for a few more and very little bit of info.
There are a couple of motorcycles I regret selling or trading in for something else. One was because of youthful exuberance, the other, well I still am not quite sure why. The youthful exuberance was trading in my BSA Lightning 650 for a Kawasaki H2 750. The fastest thing on two wheels. When you’re twenty years old, you chuck the old mans bike and go for pure speed. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved my H2 for a lot of years, but today I wish I still had them both.
The Lightning was temperamental, leaked oil and the electrics were, well…there is a reason why Lucas Electrics were called the ‘Prince of Darkness’ and the joke “why to the English drink warm beer? Because Lucas makes the refrigerators…”
Ok, there were lots of things you could do to deal with the electric issues, the marking it’s territory…oil leaks…not so much. None of that really mattered. The British Twins… BSA, Triumph Norton and others have a certain ‘Soul’. I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s because my formative years were spent on Brit Bikes and I know deep down what they feel like….for better and worse. The Germans, a little (?) sterile, the Italians, maybe a touch too macho and the Americans…just plain old King Kong pound your chest brash. I love them all, but my heart and soul still say “God save the Queen” And then I ride off on my Triumph.
BSA basically designed the Thunderbolt as a ‘Touring’ model. Compared to the Lightning the Thunderbolt was rather tame but in truth that was really a good thing. A little more relaxed steering, a more comfortable seating position, and a longer kick start lever (which made starting the bike easier) made the bike really quite comfortable. But, the real differences were in the engine itself.
Take some of the performance aspects of the Lightning (the cams) and then simplify it with a single carburetor. smoother acceleration, lower maintenance (dialing in one carb is a lot easier than balancing and tuning 2!). But really, the single carb made the Thunderbolt a really easy motorcycle to ride. Plenty of power for it’s time, great handling what more could you ask for?? Well, that’s where it all falls apart.
Enter the Honda CB750. Twenty more horsepower, better braking (thanks to a disc on the front vs. the single sided drum off the older BSA Gold Star 500), electric starter…the list goes on. The Japanese manufacturers were here and way ahead of everyone else.
But still…the CB750 with all it’s attributes can’t match the soul stirring feeling of a British Twin. Bikes that move with just a thought, motorbikes that feel the road underneath you, a motor that gives you just enough vibration to let you know that it is alive. A BSA 650 is a bike that demands attention. Over the years there has been a running joke that if you ride a British twin for one hour, you have to work on it for two. It’s not true…but not too far off. But the time is well worth it
For most all of us that want a classic British motorbike, a Thunderbolt is a great choice. I really like the single carb..smoother power delivery than the twin carbs, a little less vibration but still that great feeling that a classic bike gives you.
I found a really nice one on ebay today. A 1971 that is not all original but is a runner according to the seller, looks good and the price is not too out of line in the real world. The Thunderbolt is a great bike…much easier to own than the Lightning of my youth.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pics
1971 BSA Thunderbolt