I am a fan of small motorcycles, give me a 125, 250 or 350 and I am happy as can be. When I find an old one I even get happier. Bikes like this BSA have a soul that modern bikes just can’t match.
I had a BSA 350 single and I absolutely loved it. It started easy (especially compared to my step dads Gold Star) handled so easily (it’s like the bike knew where you wanted to go before you did). These classic British singles are true gems in the motorcycling world.
I found a really nice Starfire 250 on ebay today that if you have room in your garage and want a very cool and classic British single, here’s your chance.
Click on the pictures below for more info and more pictures
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1970 BSA Starfire 250</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=1970+BSA+Starfire+250&item=381753776360&mpt=%5BCACHEBUSTER%5D”>
The Thunderbird is one of the motorcycles my step dad put me on at the beginning of motorcycling life. Well, actually after a Yamaha 80 and a Bultaco 250…he wasn’t so dumb as to put a teenager in the late 60’s on one of his treasured motorcycles. But when he did, well, life changed forever. My life was ruined…I fell in love with British motorcycles.
The Thunderbird was a variant of the 500cc Speed Twin. As Triumph was growing in the American market they realized riders wanted more power…we Americans love more power. Hell, we have lawnmowers that have more power than some motorcycles!! The Speed Twin was punched out to 650cc. The Thunderbird was the model that got all the other British builders to jump up to 650cc.
The 1950’s were the heyday of the Thunderbird but then came the Bonneville. The T-Bird was relegated to entry level status or as it was called then..the working mans bike. A commuter. The Bonnie had everything the Thunderbird didn’t. Well, the T-Bird still had Marlon Brando.The Thunderbird was of the ‘Pre-Unit’ era of bikes (1949-1962) …the engine and transmission were separate pieces, but in 1963Triumph adopted unit construction. This really was a good thing. It made it easier at the factory level, easier for you and I to maintain and the bike lost thirty pounds. All good.
In ’63 not only did the T-Bird get the new motor it also got needed chassis improvements, but as things go so did the Thunderbird by 1966. The Thunderbird was a great bike, it did everything you would want a motorcycle to do but the Bonneville was much more alluring. I also think that the Bathtub body work didn’t help the ‘Bird’. 1965 was the last year of the body work. Now I look at it and think this is very cool…for it’s time. Does it make the bike more valuable? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I found one ebay this morning that is need of some TLC. The potential is there it’s just going to need some love. The seller says it runs good. These are great bikes just don’t abuse them, take care of them and this is a bike that will give you years of fun…and oil leaks, but what the hell, the body work is worth it! You won’t see one of these everywhere you go. Oh, and check out the headlight nacelle…too cool.
Click on the link below for more pictures and a little (and I mean little) bit of info.
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1965 Triumph Thunderbird</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=1965+Triumph+Thunderbird&item=252345894051&mpt=%5BCACHEBUSTER%5D”>
More ‘Juevos’ than Brains…that described most of us in the late 60’s and through the 70’s.Give me horsepower, give me “jerk the handlebars right out of my hand” kind of power, “I don’t care about anything else”.
Lets go back a little ways. Kawasaki, aka ‘Kawasaki Heavy Industrties’ was in the business of building big steamships to ship Japanese goods all over the world. Kawasaki also built locomotives to transport people and goods all over Japan and Asia. Kawasaki also built the first Bullet Train. Kawasaki is also in partnership with Boeing for the 777,787 and more airliners. This is a company that is into machines that GO!!! It is a very interesting history.
Over the years there have been motorcycles that have defined a generation, for me it was 1969. Honda brought the CB750. Sophisticated, powerful, disc brakes… a gentleman’s motorcycle. Kawasaki took another approach, brute power. “Lets build something that will blow everything else into the weeds, scare the crap out of the rider but put a huge grin on his face”! Here comes the H1.
Kawasaki was the first to develop the 3 cylinder 2 stroke motorcycle (Suzuki came in right behind). It was all about power in your right hand. These motorcycles were built for one thing and one thing only…straight line speed. Sixty horsepower out of just 500cc in a motorcycle that weighed less than 400 pounds…big fun. However…going around a corner was another thing.
The H1 was designed for the rider with good ‘straight line’ skills. Terms like ‘wobbly, vague, scary and “OH Shit!!” perfectly described the Mach 3 when riding a twisty road. A chassis that was more flexible than a rubber band, brakes that wouldn’t stop a mule cart, and a suspension that…well, didn’t. And there you have the Kawasaki Mach 3. But still it is a very fun motorcycle, within it’s limits.
I found a beauty on ebay this morning. Whats cool about this one is that is not a restored version. There have been a couple of fixes, just cosmetic but it’s basically a very original 1969 Kawasaki H1. The down side is the same thing I find all the time, it’s over priced. This is a motorcycle that sold for less than $1000 new, now the seller is saying that others have sold for over $20,000. It is an iconic motorcycle no doubt, but…the bidding is already at nearly $10K. You can buy it, put it in your collection, look at it once and a while or you can find one that has risen hard and put away wet, do the upgrades and go have a lot of fun for a lot less $$$
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info. Yes, I think it’s overpriced but it is a really cool motorcycle from one of the best era’s in motorcycling.
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.
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
For those of you that have read my posts over the years know that I love (and have a fleet of) Honda 350’s. I am a big fan of small to mid-size motorcycles and the Honda 350 is my favorite. Well, I love Yamaha RD350’s, Suzuki X6 Hustler, Kawasaki KH400’s…but, the Honda 350 has my heart. And my wallet.
In 1968 I started my desert racing life on a Bultaco Matador, then a Pursang, next was an El Bandito. The Pursang and the Bandito went away but the Matador stayed because I became addicted to Enduro’s. For Enduro’s the bike had to be street legal so the Matador fit the bill. I rode that Matador to school most days (when I wasn’t riding a Triumph or BSA…the family norm) and then the day came that the Matador was too tired to keep going. Time for a new bike. Enter the SL350.
I did keep the Matador running for off-road events but needed a good reliable bike for everyday use. I bought a new SL350 because it suited my needs, I liked the way it looked and it was only $850. Life is good.
Fast forward just a few months and the Bultaco died of a massive stroke…or lack of stroke? In the course of one day, the SL350 became my new off-road weapon. Jettison the blinkers, the stock mufflers, manufacture a decent skid plate (thank you Mike Bast of Bast Brothers Welding), change the handlebars, Curnutt shocks, proper knobbys installed and it was ready in time for an SRA Enduro. And I was back to riding a BSA on a daily basis.
Now, let’s fast forward again. I have been riding Honda 350’s consistently since those days. Both my kids learned to ride on a CB350, my dad got back into riding (after 35 years or so) on a CB350 and I have built a couple of Cafe Racers based on the 350…one on the CB platform and the best one on an SL. Why the SL is the best?
We’ll start with the chassis. The double down tube frame is stiffer and offers greater handling accuracy. The motor is slightly different from the CB/CL (different carbs being a big difference) but also, the electric starter was removed…lighter weight! The SL series from Honda from 75cc to 350cc, there isn’t a motorcycle more fun. Heck, even the ‘Duke’ rode one.
This particular SL350 I found on ebay today is so perfect (but not too perfect…) and the price is reasonable, that really somebody needs to snap this one up now !!! Heck, the mufflers themselves are worth the price of admission. The SL350 is a bike that can do everything every time. Low maintenance, easy parts availability and it is a perfect platform for anything you would want to do with a mid-size motorcycle!
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info
Every motorcycle and every motorcyclist has a story to tell. Some stories are far more interesting than others but I find most all very interesting if you dig just a bit.
What makes a motorcycle great? What makes it legendary? How does a rider become great and what makes him or her a legend? Simple questions with sometimes just as simple answers. For a rider it can be as simple as being born with good genes, being in the right place at the right time and having the right person to give the guidance and help to move you to greatness. In truth it is all the above and a smidgen of good luck. For a motorcycle to become legend it takes a bit more.
Some motorcycles are considered great just because they win races, lots of races, but in that scenario credit also goes to the rider. Motorcycles that change motorcycling become legends. The list is long of legendary motorcycles and the debates that go along with those choices is even longer.
Take the 1969 Honda CB750 SOHC, this was a motorcycle that set the world on its ear. Was it the fastest?…no. Was it the best handling?…no. But as an all around package was it the best?…ABSOLUTELY. The CB750 was declared the first ‘Superbike’. Triumph could have claimed that title if they had brought out the Trident sooner and with a disc brake in front instead of the drum (which actually worked really well), better electronics and more modern styling. Hindsight is always 20/20.
The Honda 750 became the perfect platform for modification to truly become a Superbike. Honda themselves put a lot of time, money and effort into the racing development of the 750. In 1970 Honda built Dick Mann the most exotic, expensive race bike ever built to race…and win…the Daytona 200. They actually built four of them but Mr. Mann was piloting the only one to finish, and win. That win was hugely important to Honda because were the days that the saying “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” was so so true. That motorcycle and that win propelled Honda to world leadership.
What I find fascinating though is what engineers, fabricators and designers do with motorcycles, legendary or not, to make them more. When the CB750 came out everyone from backyard builders to college degreed engineers started building a better CB750. The engine was, and still is, fantastic but the chassis was typically Japanese of the era which was described in the media as a ‘Flexy Flyer’. Rickman, Seeley, Harris and others built frames that transformed the mighty CB into the Superbike Honda envisioned. The most innovative of those was Tony Foale.
Tony Foale is an engineer’s engineer. Tony not only created the most unique chassis for the CB750 but also the suspension system that gave the Honda such superb handling characteristics. Tony wrote the book on chassis design both literally and figuratively. When I first decided to make a bike handle better I did all the basics a backyard guy could do in the garage my next project however I was given Tonys Foales’ book and my eyes became wide open to the possibilities. Most of what Tony did was way beyond my skill set…and budget, but the lessons learned were easily put to more simple applications as well.
I found on ebay this morning THE Honda CB750 to buy. Like I said at the beginning of this post, every motorcycle has a story and boy does this one have a story. Instead of me rewriting it just click on the pictures below for the story, many more pictures and few minutes of great motorcycle history and a couple of interesting characters. If you are looking for a bike to fit into a collection or better yet, to go vintage racing with this Honda is a dream come true. A creative sort could probably make it street legal and WOW would that be a sight to behold at your local Sunday morning hangout!
Oh, while looking at the pictures and reading the story, try not to drool on your keyboard.
When you name a motorcycle after an Intercontinental Ballistic Missle it better be one hell of a bike. Norton did just that, sort of. Norton had some sort of Post War / Cold War theme going for a while. They had the Dominator, then the Atlas, next came the Commando… Norton was at war with the rest of the motorcycle industry. Not really, they just had some cool names…and bikes.
The Atlas really was named after the ICBM and was aimed at the U.S market. Norton took a lot of the good parts of the successful Dominator model and then put on some higher handlebars, a smaller gas tank, chrome mudguards (fenders) and a chrome chain guard…Voila, a bike to compete with Triumph and Harley Davidson here stateside.
The Atlas was a great handling bike. The 750cc engine was mounted in the popular ‘Featherbed’ frame, the front end was the wonderful ‘Roadholder’ forks and the rear was suspended by Girlings best shocks. The bike handled wonderfully by comparison to the Triumph or Harley it was aiming for, however, it had one problem….It was a bone shaker!
The 750cc motor from the Dominator had a higher compression ratio than the Atlas and Norton lowered the compression for the Atlas the engine vibration became almost unbearable. In 1964 Norton modified the engine, going to a 12volt system and twin carbs and that did help some but still, at higher RPM’s it would shake the fillings right out of your teeth. Now, most riders didn’t ride the Atlas at higher RPM’s they would use all that low end torque that the long stroke Norton would give and that is what Norton figured the American rider wanted and, it’s not as if Harley’s were all that smooth?.
For a few years the Atlas model, in the UK, was the basis for some great racers. Dunstall built a successful Atlas based roadracer and so did the Rickman Brothers with their Metisse chassis. Norton put a 150mph speedo on the Atlas ( a bit optimistic I believe), Cycle world Magazine coaxed the Atlas up to 119mph but most riders never got above 110mph, still not bad for a 58HP, 60’s era motorbike.
The Atlas was mildly successful here in the U.S until the Commando arrived on our shores and that was the end of the Atlas, well almost, it hung around until 1968. I found a really nice 1965 model on ebay today with only 6,000 miles on the clock and in stock condition. This is a great bike to leave just as it is or…a perfect cafe racer! Sorry folks, I couldn’t resist.
The Norton I found on ebay today is really clean, it has been sitting inside for 30 years, it starts and runs great, is completely original and not over priced. What else could you ask for? Here’s the cool thing about the Atlas, it is the truly underloved Norton here in the U.S but, more and more collectors and riders are getting on the Atlas bandwagon because you get a great classic Norton without paying Commando prices! Click on the pic’s below for more info and pictures.
You want to travel around the country on a motorcycle, me too. I love nothing more than hours upon hours riding secondary roads all around the Western USA. I love tiny towns with one gas station where you actually have to knock on the owners door to get him to turn on the electricity, unlock the pump and sell you 5 gallons of premium (yes, my old bike still has to have premium to be happy…). Where the one restaurant in town is also the social hub (other than the Baptist Church on Sunday). The crazy weather from day to day and stopping 123 times during the day to take pictures. What a great ride. And when you finally get home the first thing you do after kissing the wife, patting the kids on the head and giving your dog a belly rub is pull out the maps and start planning your next ride. Been there, done that and brought home the coffee mug from East Asscrack Wyoming.
But wait there’s one small issue…your sportbike, cafe racer that you ride on Sunday’s just isn’t going to cut it and…you’re not the Gold Wing kind of guy. On top of that you have a budget. What’s a soon to be moto traveler to do? Find a good used, low mileage, high quality, kind of sporty bike that the bank (your wife), will agree with. It’s got to be comfy, it’s got to be reliable (the wife, kids and dog may or, may not, want you to come home…) and it’s still got to be fast enough to have fun. I have an almost perfect bike for you.
Honda really did set the original benchmark for Japanese big bikes with the CB750 but it was Kawasaki that created the King Kong of big bikes with the 900cc Z1. Better handling, great styling and more importantly at the time…faster! The other thing that happened along the way was the reputation Kawasaki had built for reliability. Remember, Kawasaki Heavy Industries (the parent company) was also building steamships and locomotives at the time. The big Kawasaki fours were bullet proof. As evidence of that, police departments around the country were trading their Harley ‘Copsicles’ in for the Kawasaki. The KZ1000 was undisputedly the bike of choice when looking for speed, handling and reliability in the mid ’70s through today.
So, back to you and finding a bike to take on every backroad from here to East Asscrack Wyoming. The Kawasaki KZ1000 ST is a perfect choice. It’s got the motor that will take you across deserts, over mountains, through the farm lands carrying you and all your gear (including the wife, if she is of the traveling type), good ergonomics, a smooth shaft drive, and reliable as the day is long. The KZ1000 is a perfect platform for full touring modification (fairing, hard bags, etc…) or even a big Cafe Racer.
The KZ1000 is a big bike, weighing in at around 600+ pounds full of fuel and oil. But, my remembrance of the ride was that as you got going, it felt a lot lighter. The handling was not on par with some of the true sport bikes but this is not a pure sport bike, this is one of the first sport tourers, it’s also Kawasaki’s first 1000cc shaftie. The motor put out about somewhere in the vicinity of 90HP (good for its day and design) and a top speed of just over 130mph. Last time I rode one, 1983, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the bike was, considering I was riding a 900 Ninja at the time.
My daily cruise through ebay this morning landed me on this great deal of a traveling sportbike, A 1979 Kawasaki KZ100 ST. This bike has only 6557 miles on the clock (barely broken in), has been recently serviced including a new front tire (I would probably replace the rear as well), and according the owner, runs great. The bike is stock, which is always a good thing, and looks to be in really great condition. A KZ1000 ST with this many miles in this condition is a great find and I believe will be a great buy for someone.
This truly is a motorcycle that will take you anywhere you want to go anytime and give you nothing to think about while you’re riding except where are you going to spend the night…even if it’s at home after just riding to and from work. But…take it somewhere far away, you’ll be a better person when you come home.
For more info and pictures, click on the pics below and get yourself a great classic sport tourer.