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

cafe racers

1979 Harley Davidson Cafe Racer

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 7.01.15 PMA while back I applied for a job at a Harley dealer. The general manager, the owners wife and I were having a good interview until I said the only Harley I really wanted to own was an XLCR. If you put your money on me not getting the job, you win.Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 6.58.39 PM

I remember when the XLCR showed up in 1977. It was Wille G Davidson’s first design job and I, being a Brit bike guy, was stoked! We all know that the AMF years were not Harley’s finest (mechanically) but we did get the XLCR and the original ‘Superglide’. Not too bad. But really, the bikes were junk. “Hardley Abelson”, “Hardley Driveable” and other names were applied that I can’t print here, but it was a good design time. Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 6.59.02 PM

The XLCR was a modified Sportster…same lump of a motor, some slight chassis changes and some cool styling. But…according to the purists it wasn’t a Harley. It was the Redheaded stepchild. Thats why it only lasted a couple of years. But, I still want one. I got the next best thing…a Buell.

I found a really cool 1979 XLH Sportster on ebay this morning that a guy, who just like me wanted an XLR, built a better one. This is one sweet Harley Davidson. Good upgrades, a beautiful tank and tail section…all of it. Yeah, you’re going to have pay attention to it…there is an old adage about vintage British bike, “Ride it for one hour…Work on it for two”, well this bike is probably right in there as well. But I think it will be worth it.

Click on the pics below for more info and pictures

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Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 6.39.22 PM1979 Harley Davidson Cafe Racer


1978 Honda Gold Wing Cafe Racer

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.09.28 AMSometimes I just can’t help myself. I love Cafe Racers. Simple. A purpose built/modified machine that can get from here to there quite fast in high style. A cafe racer is a function before fashion machine but…the fashion is definitely there too.

A good friend of mine has recently discovered Cafe Racers. He started his life on a Harley Davidson Sportster, all blacked out, then moved on to a Street Bob (a big twin Harley), again all blacked out and loves it. He is a part time member of the “Harley Culture” but he is expanding his views. My subtle hints and sending pictures of cool bikes seem to be working!Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 8.53.58 AM

I was living in Las Cruces New Mexico when the original Gold Wing was introduced. The GL1000 was at first thought of as a big bore Sportbike, but as we all know, it became the Supreme Leader in touring bikes. Why the change in thought? The original was a touring bike to go up against the Harley Davidson Electra Glide, but the molds for all the touring accessories were accidentally destroyed so the bike was brought out naked and American Honda tried to market it as a Sportbike. Well, the aftermarket (in particular Craig Vetter) had a field day with accessories. In no time at all you could make a Gold Wing as comfortable as a Winnebago. It is the motorcycle that changed touring motorcycles forever.Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 8.56.31 AM

I rode it back in 1975 and thought it was rather Ho-Hum (I was riding a Kawasaki H2 750 at the time). Fast forward a few decades when I bought my father his Gold Wing, I came to realize just how good this motorcycle is. I started looking at Gold Wings as more than just an ‘old man motorcycle’ but as a platform for some serious fun. Granted, you can’t convert a modern Gold Wing to anything other than what it is but get an old GL1000 or 1100 and the fun begins.Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.03.34 AM

I found a very nicely done Cafe Racer ‘Wing’ on ebay this morning and it looks very appealing. A little too blingy for my taste but very well done. Pretty low miles for a bike it’s age…my wife says the same thing about me. NOT. Some really nice upgrades and like I said, a little on the ‘Blingy” side for me but nicely done.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. This is a very cool bike.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 7.58.11 AM1978 Honda Gold Wing Cafe Racer


1981 Honda GL500 Silver Wing

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 8.47.11 AMMy motorcycling life started with riding my dad’s Honda CB160 into the back end of his new Chevy Impala…I hate when that happens.

After that he decided it was probably safer to head back to Vietnam than teach me how to ride a motorcycle. He was a helicopter jockey in the Marine Corps.

Fast forward a couple of decades and Dad decides he wants to ride a motorcycle again. No matter how hard I tried to talk him out of it he wanted to ride. So, I found a Honda CB350 in somebody’s back yard for a hundred bucks that needed some love and gave it to Dad for his birthday. And from there everything went downhill….he loved riding.Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 7.45.15 AM

After about a year and 5000 miles later he wanted something bigger so he could travel with me. I found a really nice Honda GL500 Silver Wing and again another birthday present. He and I did the Three Flags Classic (Mexico to Canada in 3 1/2 days) three or four times and he put about 50,000 miles on that Silver Wing. I rode it as well ( a tour of the Four Corner States) and absolutely loved it. Had to replace the rear air shock in Gallup New Mexico, deal with electrical issues in Glennwood Springs Colorado…but other than that, change the oil, put gas in it and go. Anywhere.

The GL500/CX500 is a really great motorcycle. I have written before that it takes the MotoGuzzi V-twin twists it around a bit to make it work Honda style, and then Honda put a Turbo charger on it, pumped it up to 650cc and then twisted it a bit and again made it bigger for flat track racing. It really is an incredible motorcycle. And in my opinion, an excellent platform for a Cafe Racer! Does that surprise anyone who knows me? No.

The Silver Wing Interstate is a wonderful middleweight tourer. The luggage is easy to use and big enough for one person to travel across the country with no problem.

The one I found on ebay today is in good shape, is aging nicely and has pretty low miles. The asking price is a little up there but not unreasonable. This is fly there fill the luggage and ride home.

Click on the pic below for more info

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Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 7.39.12 AM1981 Honda GL500 Silver Wing


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


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