Here’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.
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.
OK, 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.
The XV lends itself to all kinds of customizing and parts still available at your local friendly Yamaha dealer.
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.
For 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.
Championships 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.
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
I 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.
BSA 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
This 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.
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.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info
In 1983 I was working in a Suzuki / Kawasaki dealership in Southern California and business was great. This was due largely in part to two particular bikes, the Kawasaki Ninja 900 and the Suzuki GS750. We had at least three models of the GS750, the T (a standard model), the ‘E’ with a Bikini fairing and and the ‘ES’ with with a frame mounted half fairing. The ‘E’ model was the best seller of the three. Why? Because it was the best of both worlds. Sporty styling and very comfortable.
The 1983 GS750 was a one year only model and had some very significant changes from the previous years. For one, the bike was around 28 pounds lighter!! The front wheel went from 19″to 16″ which was the current trend to quicken steering response (shortly thereafter everybody went up to 17″ which is still the standard today). The front fork got a size increase and anti-dive. Anti-dive was popular for a very short period of time and we actually did a lot of disconnecting it, but the increase in fork size was very good indeed…though it seems tiny by what is being built today. Granted, that was when a 750 had a whopping 75 HP and a Flexi-Flyer chassis.
I was lucky enough to have a GS750E to ride for three months and I have to tell you that it was one of the most fun motorcycles I have ever ridden. The motor was not as peaky as the Ninja, didn’t vibrate much as the GS1100 (which I also really loved) and the chassis was far more stabile and responsive than my CB750F. The GS would handle daily commuting duties, spirited canyon riding and was quite comfortable on a five day tour criss-crossing the Sierra passes. The GS750E was, in my book, a just about perfect motorcycle. It was a super easy to ride motorcycle and it was great looking too!
The GS750 was the base platform for an incredible racer. More than one National and World Champion got there with a GS750. When Superbikes were 750’s it was between Honda’s Interceptor and The GS750 and when Superbikes went to 1000cc it was all Suzuki.
I found a really nice one on ebay this morning that has less than 10K miles, is all stock and super clean. This is truly a, pack your riding gear, a set of saddlebags, a stack of maps…fly to wherever the bike is and ride it home. Well, unless the bike is snowbound like in Minnesota?!
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info. This is a really cool bike.
Way too much fun. Here’s the deal with the ‘Monkey Bike’. It’s just a blast to ride. You can load it into the back of a station wagon and take it on a family camping trip, you can hang it off the bumper of your camper or motorhome and head to wherever, you can teach your kid or your wife to ride on this bike and it won’t scare the crap out of them. When you’re at the RV park you can ride to the little store they have there and get some ice or firewood, and you’ll go through a tank of gas about once a year (remember to put Stabil in the tank). There are all kinds of hop up parts for this little bike…you can make it loud, you can actually make go around a go-kart track pretty fast, you can make a little pack mule out of it, but mostly, you’re going just have fun on it. This is truly a ‘high giggle factor’ little motorbike.
I found this one on ebay this morning and it is exactly what it should be…ridden, shows it’s age and has been taken care of. Like I said at the beginning, way too much fun. This is two wheel fun at it’s peak.
Click on the pictures below for more info.
The 1969 Honda CB750 Four is generally considered to be the first Japanese ‘Superbike’. I beg to differ. Yes the CB750 broke ground with electric start, disc brakes and a wonderful engine. But… in my humble opinion, Kawasaki really led the way into ‘Superbike’ with the 1969 H1 Mach 3. The Mach 3 also known as ‘The Blue Streak’ (due to the blue stripe on the gas tank) was less than a Superbike in all but one category…horsepower. Power to weight ratio. It handled lousy, braked marginally, would scare the crap out of mere mortals (and some immortals)…it truly was a motorized ‘Flexible Flyer’. But we all loved it!
In 1972 Kawasaki came out with the 750cc H2, the Mach 4. This motorcycle was capable of mach speeds and then some. It handled better than the Mach 3 and with some modifications it actually handled pretty well. In a straight line nothing on two wheels (and most four wheel vehicles) could beat it. I paid my rent for a year or so racing cars with my H2. I thought I was King of the world until my friend Mike Kaller bought King Kong…The Z1.
The Mighty Z1 really did bring the term “Superbike” to life. Big motor, Big power, and beautiful styling.
My friend Reg Pridmore won the AMA Superbike Championship in 1977 aboard a Kawasaki, the first for a Japanese manufacturer…along with the help of Craig Vetter and Keith Code.
I found a really nice ’75 Z1 on ebay this morning. It has been set up nicely with 1974 body work and livery (paint scheme) and repro exhaust. Here’s the the thing about the ’75 versus previous years. It’s better.
For 1975 Kawasaki gave the Z1 a better frame, better suspension, brakes that could actually stop King Kong, tuned the motor to be a bit more friendly and got rid of the chain oiler (the chain oiler was maybe a good idea but sure made a mess of the rear wheel…). The down side of the Z1 was that it chewed up chains, sprockets and rear tires. Well, manufacturers of those parts weren’t prepared for a bike like ‘The Mighty Z1′.
The seller of this particular Kawasaki Z1 has done a nice job of making the bike look right. It does need some basic service work..as in go through the carbs, check the electrical’s but from there, you’re going to have a fabulous motorcycle.
My suggestions though….upgrade the rear shocks, new springs in the front (along with Race Tech emulators), a set of GP touring bars, better brake pads, some sticky tires and hang on.
Another thought here, The Z1 also makes an incredible ‘Sport Tourer’. The motor is strong enough to pull you and a passenger, along with your luggage, the seat is surprisingly comfortable for long stints in the saddle, and honestly, The KZ900 is a great all around motorcycle.
Click on the pictures below for more info and more pictures. This is a really great motorcycle to have.
<a target=”_self” href=”http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1975+Kawasaki+Z1+900&icep_item=111362860979&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg”>
1975 Kawasaki Z1 900</a><img style=”text-decoration:none;border:0;padding:0;margin:0;” src=”http://rover.ebay.com/roverimp/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1975+Kawasaki+Z1+900&item=111362860979&mpt=%5BCACHEBUSTER%5D”>
I can’t help myself. There must be some sort of genetic defect in my DNA that makes me love Honda 350’s. But, I can take solace in knowing that I am not the only one. The Honda 350 is the best selling motorcycle of all time. I think? I hope? I really don’t want to be the only one with this incurable disease.
I have 4 1/2 Honda 350’s in my barn. Two run, one doesn’t (its the parts mule), and the other one and a half is in a bunch of boxes and parts hanging from the ceiling to be put back together sometime soon?
On ebay this morning I found a small group of 350’s that all need some love but could turn into a couple, a couple, of very cool bikes.
First, the bike above is not in the collection, it’s just what you could maybe build out of what’s there…
There is a CL77 (305 Scrambler) in the batch which is really quite nice. Most of these bikes are destined to become parts bikes however, but that’s OK, those of us into this sort of thing need a good stock of parts bikes…and an understanding wife or a very separate (as in another town) industrial / storage space.
The Honda 350 is one of those things in life that does ‘everything good and nothing great’. It gets you around town, it can handle freeway speeds (kind of…??) its headlight is as good as a Boy Scout flashlight in a dust storm, The alternator is as weak as can be so you need to always ride the bike at at least 3,000 RPM just to keep the battery up to snuff (if you’re really serious about these bikes you upgrade the alternator). When it’s hard to start chances are it is the battery, buy a ‘Battery Tender’ and keep it hooked up.
Despite its little flaws, the Honda 350 is still the perfect motorcycle. It is the Labrador Retriever of the motorcycle world, always there when you need it, willing to do whatever you ask of it.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures. There are a couple of real gems in this bunch.
Ok, lets face it, this was not BSA’s finest hour in some people’s opinion. The Rocket 3 was a rather late answer to Honda’s market changing CB750-4, but still the Rocket 3 is an incredible motorcycle.
By 1971 BSA was trying everything they possibly could to sell bikes, sadly this version of a great bike went over like a fart in church. They painted the frame a dull grey, they made the gas tank smaller (you could only go about 75 miles before you started pushing) and it was kick start only…where’s the magic button? and of course, you always knew where you left your bike parked because it marked its spot with a bit of Castrol. Oh and did I mention the brakes? Think of Fred Flintstone? Ok,enough of the downsides, there is a lot of ups to the Rocket 3.
Yes, the Honda CB750 had a disc brake up front, yes it had an electric starter, it could go more than 75 miles on a tank of gas, and yeah, it was comfortable. But…the Rocket 3 was faster, handled better and had a soul that the Japanese four couldn’t match. That soul, sadly, didn’t transfer into sales however.
Over the course of its production run, the BSA went through the ugliest gas tank every put on a motorbike to the one of the coolest set of mufflers ever put on a motorbike (the”Ray Gun Muffler”) and yet still retained the power and handling that made it great.
Interestingly enough, more people are more familiar with the Triumph Trident than the Rocket 3. Same motorcycle, different badges (Triumph was part of the BSA group at the time). If you believe that, you would be wrong. Here’s what made the BSA better. The frame was fully welded versus the Triumph’s ‘lugged and brazed’ frame (Schwinn bicycles use lug and brazed construction), one reason why the BSA handled better. Number 2; The motor was tilted forward in the frame 15 degrees where the Triumph was straight up, this gave the Beezer better weight balance and more responsive handling.
In 1971 Dick Mann won the Daytona 200 roadrace on a Rocket 3. Interestingly enough, he previously won on a Honda CB750. This was the Rocket 3’s swan song.
Given the choice, I would pick a BSA Rocket 3 over a Trident every time (don’t tell my friend Ted…who loves his Trident more than well, more than just about anything?) And, think about this…a motorcycle that I would give up my entire collection for (I’d still have to finance the balance for one…) the Triumph X75 Hurricane, uses the BSA motor.
So, I found a really nice ’71 Rocket 3 on ebay today and it is one of those that has the grey frame and the small gas tank, but hey, I like it. The bike is a semi-restored model, which means it still needs a few bits and pieces, but is a good runner. 11,100 miles on the clock and has the usual oil drips but this is a really cool bike that will be great fun to ride for a long time. You would be amazed at how smooth a well sorted triple really is. I would have no problem throwing a tank bag and a set of soft saddle bags on and heading around the country on this bike.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.