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BONNIE IN DUCATI ROAD BLACK FEVER NEW T120 HITS THE STREET

SERIOUSLY SERIOUS STREET BEAST

FIREBIRD BSA’S SCRAMBLIN’ EGG

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MANS A HISTORY OF SUCCESS

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TRIUMPH QUADRENT

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GOLD STAR REBUILT

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NORTON MODEL 50

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DR AGONFLY

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RIDINGLIFE NEWS || EVENTS || LETTERS || INTERVIEWS

Custom classics PHOTOS BY ROWENA HOSEASON

CONFRONTED BY A HALL crammed full of automotive ingenuity, you might wonder what could possibly unite the 100-plus bikes that formed the central display at Kickback Chelsea in December. Some were undeniably wonderful; some inescapably weird. Old skool chops stood alongside current factory cruisers, shipped straight from the showroom. Home-built café racers, built on a tight budget and unashamedly displaying their rough edges and spraycan cosmetics, nudged up to professionally-crafted

creations where not a cable-tie could be seen. Old Japs, old Brits and old Beemers stood alongside modern interpretations of traditional themes and tributes, some of which gloriously combine the past and the present and couldn’t care less about muddled metaphors or the coherence of their vernacular. So what unites all of these machines and their idiosyncratic builders? Dedication, inspiration, perspiration: engineering excellence, and the desire to do something that little bit… special.

TRIBSA STREET-TRACKER ‘IF YOU WANT to build something,’ said the sign next to this handsome beast, ‘just do it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help as you’ll make lots of new friends.’ This particular project shows how a home mechanic can brilliantly blend the best of old and new, using some offthe-shelf components together with shed-crafted parts. The thumping heart of the bike is a combination of a 1968 TR6 and 1970 Bonnie, with a machined crank and polished conrods, running 12:1 Wiseco pistons and using E3134 cams and TT followers in the gas-flowed and ported head. The motor sits in a BSA oil-bearing frame given a dazzling chromefinish powder-coat, and then the old has been expertly blended with the new – a CBR400 swinging arm, RGV rear wheel and Sachs monoshock at the back, Ducati 916 forks and Brembo brakes up front. The seat and tank unit came from Redmax; powdercoating is by Aerocoat, and it’s been skilfully united through hours of welding, machining and tuning; bracket-making, spindle turning and polishing.

6 JANUARY 2016 || CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE

EVENT SHOW

REPORT


SOUTHERN SHOW

BEVEL HEAVEN

KAFE K

Muddy stuff and

Ducati’s super

BM’s beautiful

street scramblers

Silverstone

brick

P12

P28

P36

PURDY BULLITT DON’T LET THE moniker mislead you: this ‘Bullitt’ isn’t anything to do with Royal Enfield, Indian or otherwise. In fact it’s a hand-built in Britain bike, a Triumph-inspired limited edition, with an allaluminium 500cc engine that’s based around the mid-1950s T100 lump – it even drives through a separate four-speed gearbox. Yet despite using a parallel twin engine based on those of the postwar period, the Bullitt is more of a vintafake than a classic pastiche. Hence the rigid rear end, girderstyle forks, Brown and Barlow throttle and twistgrip, swept-back bars and 1930s styling. The Purdy’s creators, James Bristow and Philip Burgess, reckon that some 1200 hours go into building each bike, and the majority of the components (apart from the leather seat and toolbox) have been developed and manufactured in-house. Only five of each model will be built – they weren’t kidding about these being strictly limited editions…

CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE || JANUARY 2016 7


RIDINGLIFE || ENFIELD CONS

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6. Very clever – and largely unappreciated – design. The primary chaincase outer is held on by just one bolt, and doesn’t leak; the fairing is ducted to supply air to cool and feed the engine, which is in itself a thing of many wonders 7. Like a piece of Fifties’ sculpture, almost. RE’s attempt at a serious touring machine succeeded

Enfield had much the same idea back in the 1950s, when it introduced its Airflow fairings to most of the firm’s models. The performance of the 250 Clipper must’ve been somewhat blunted, but the full fairing makes an awful lot of sense on the 700. From some angles, the design is 50 years ahead of its time. Check out the amalgamated side-panelling and tailpiece and extended front mudguard; the sweeping, sculpted lines of the fairing itself and the integrated instrument panel. It’s all extremely practical, with smart gold coach-lining replacing the blizzard of chrome bling, and a fully enclosed drive chain.

BUILT: 1958 to 1963 ENGINE: Air-cooled ohv parallel twin BORE / STROKE: 70mm x 90mm CAPACITY: 692cc COMPRESSION: 8.5:1 POWER: 51bhp @ 6250rpm CARBURETTOR: Amal TT9 IGNITION: Lucas K2F magneto CLUTCH: Dry multiplate GEARBOX: Four-speed Albion foot-change PRIMARY DRIVE: Duplex chain FRAME: Tubular steel cradle FRONT SUSPENSION: Hydraulic damped tele forks REAR SUSPENSION: Swinging arm, hydraulic damped twin shocks FRONT BRAKE: 2x 6 inch sls drums REAR BRAKE: 7 inch sls drum FRONT TYRE: 3.25 x 19 REAR TYRE: 3.50 x 19 SEAT HEIGHT: 31 inches WHEELBASE: 54 inches GROUND CLEARANCE: 5.5 inches WEIGHT: 425lb (part-fuelled, no fairing) FUEL CONSUMPTION: 50mpg average TOP SPEED: 115mph

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ON

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Enfield also calculated that the Airflow aided top speed and fuel economy. “This superbly styled fairing and front wheel guard, which are made from fibreglass reinforced polyester resin, give as near 100% weather protection as is possible on a two wheeled machine. The ‘normally seated’ maximum speed of the machine is increased by 5-8% when Airflow is fitted, with an improvement of 20% in petrol consumption. For the touring rider or the “road burner” the Airflow takes the sting out of bad weather riding and permits higher average speeds in perfect comfort and with complete weather protection.” So if shopping for a Connie, what should you look for? Ideally you want an example which has already adopted the 1960-onwards mods. It should wear a pair of Monoblocs and not a TT9 carb. You want the lighter, lower compression pistons and revised crankcases breathing arrangements. Swap the scissor-action clutch for a conventional item, and go for silentbloc swinging arm bushes. Enthusiast owners might have added extra gussets to the swinging arm mountings, used the later cylinder head steady, and fitted sturdier engine plates. 12V electrics are ideal, and the front forks can be improved by borrowing bits from Honda’s 750-four. You’d still be a brave man to set off in determined pursuit of 110-plus mph, but comfortable all-day cruising at 70mph and 50mpg should be pleasantly possible, with the torquey big twin turning over at a relaxed 3800rpm. Enfield’s gearbox takes some getting used to: there is a definite technique which involves a distinct ‘pause’ while you let the revs fall and locating neutral is an acquired art. The dual front brakes aren’t straightforward to set up so it’s worth paying a professional to do the job right. Use oversize shoes and skim them back to increase the active surface area, and make sure they operate in tandem otherwise they’ll be less effective than a standard single stopper – not ideal with a full-faired motorcycle getting on for 450lb when fully fuelled. Sort yourself out a soft-tune Constellation equipped with Royal Enfield’s Airflow fairing and… the sky’s the limit, surely?


CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE || JANUARY 2015 25


RIDINGLIFE || BMW SPECIAL

Smooth operator

An aerospace engineer took BMW’s brick and transformed it into an utterly upscale West Coast custom WORDS AND PHOTOS BY NOLAN WOODBURY

Above: Man, machine, harmony. Perfect 1. MV-tribute exhausts are things of serious wonder, allow the engine to breathe well and also sound good. A total result 2. The level of detailing is astounding. Inverted levers, headlight adjuster, bespoke clocks, and very, very much more 3. This is the cover over the crankshaft. No crank cover should look this good 4. “It’s a brick, Jim, but not as we know it…’

FEW EVER ENVISAGED BMW’s brick-shaped four becoming the trendy target for café builders. Then again, the K-series was never easy to figure. Upon its release in 1983 the liquid-cooled, fuel-injected inline carried the very survival of BMW’s motorcycle division. Or so it was thought. A unique approach offering both modernisation and Teutonic tradition, the DOHC, 987cc multi was turned then dropped until the cylinder head was riding portside and the crankshaft was spinning longitudinally; just like a boxer twin. The K100’s stressed-member frame and single-sided swinging arm swept past industry standards. Thirty years later, Larry Romestant’s K1200 hybrid embraces the greatness of Spandau and a few other locations besides. K-based café specials are becoming less unusual, but Romestant’s careful refinement and groomed uniformity sets this apart. Individual styling and engineering applications become clear on the first encounter. The hand-formed alloy, brown suede and sweeping Magni-type exhausts are clearly patterned after MV’s road fours, but the drums, fork angle and lamp inspire visions of endurance-spec Laverdas. The green connects Ducati as does the radiused

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tail, but the mudguards are a tribute to widespread European style all through the 1960s and ’70s. “I’m a BMW guy,” says Romestant. “But I’m a fan of them all, and especially the Italian brands. The thought going in was to incorporate certain classic, yet functional elements into the design… stuff I admired.” Trained as an aerospace engineer, it was probably child’s play for Romestant to knock out a pair of Phil Irving’s adjustable Velocette rear shock mounts, and their operation is impressive. More cleverness abounds but the heart remains BMW; most specifically that stumpy, 1171cc unit from a 2004 K12. “It’s a great engine,” says Romestant, who prefers this tuning over the earlier 1000 and 1100cc variants. Revisions to the RS model for 1997 included a completely new Bimota-designed spar frame and a six-speed gearbox, meaning plenty of time was spent slotting the newer driveline into the tube spine from a K1100LT. Needing twin shocks for the required look, Romestant replaced the LT’s alloy mono-arm with the swinging arm and rear drive from a 1980 R80RT, widened it 57mm for clearance to fit a 130 tyre, then grafted on a custom hub. This mating of new machined and modified BMW parts is repeated


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£1000 to £8000 for a café racer K-series machine: prices very dependent on spec and build quality

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throughout the build. The transmission mount is supported unilaterally and strengthened further with a close tolerance ID/OD bushing along the length of the mounting tube. Final shaft bits include K12 and R80 items to drive the rearmost 18-inch Excel spoke wheel. A slightly modified OEM Fichtel and Sachs fork from a K75S comes next, the stanchions trimmed 50mm. The rear shocks were made to order from Works Performance. A common sight from back in the days of hardridden airheads, welded-on lateral frame bracing helped stiffen the old R’s buttery frame tubes… yet what appears here as one thing is actually another. Well, mostly. “Those side rods are tensioned and cantilevered to the frame with spherical rod bearings,” explains Romestant. “The main purpose is harmonic distribution of engine vibration generated by inherent imbalance. The engine is isolation mounted at the front and rear through the transmission, but the lateral arms ‘close the loop’ by absorbing residual buzz above 4000rpm.” Some torsional stiffness is added, says the builder, but the real benefit of these tunable rods is an “acoustically quiet ride, with little to no vibration felt in the frame or handlebar”. If you’re thinking that Romestant’s approach is to highlight his engineering prowess and fabrication skills, you’d be correct. But the bike’s utter lack of vibration supports these claims. At more than 600lb the K12RS was never among the superbike elite, but the willing, 16-valve doublecam four did its part to make the rotund tourer a truly fast motorcycle. As engineered for the original K100, the engine’s transmission drive system and under-square dimensions (70.5 by 75mm for the K12) make it a long-legged stroker that’s

ALSO CONSIDER K1200R, c2005; brutal roadster straight out of the box (get the Resident Evil special edition, why don’t you?). Three-cylinder K75: came in semi- and unfaired formats; more characterful motor than the fours but fewer to choose between. Yamaha XJR1200/1300 lend themselves to fairly straightforward café conversions

FAULTS & FOIBLES Shocks need replacing c25k miles. Clutch pushrod updated 2003; if not upgraded then rattles when stationary. ABS modules, ECU and fuel pump can fail. Clutch slave cylinder, clutch crankshaft and water pump seals can all develop leaks. Heated seats and grips also prone to packing up

SPECIALIST INFO bmbikes.co.uk Larry Romestant: specialks.net

OWNERS’ CLUB K-bikes.com BMridersclub.com theBMWclub.org.uk

No need to go all the way to the USA to find something similar; this recently built K100based café custom is up for grabs at £8500 at Made In Metal Motorcycles in Staffordshire

compacted to reduce length. Losing at least 100lb and running with high-compression 11.5:1 pistons, Bosch Motronic injection and Larry Swann’s ceramic coated four-into-four exhaust gives Romestant’s K more than enough thrust for any street situation – even with the R80’s tallish stock gearing. Those twin drums are a timely touch, the front a 200mm 4ls unit that first saw duty on a Suzuki GT750 and the rear a finned and cast-iron pinned 2ls stopper turned from scratch. For now, some planning ahead is needed when braking because Romestant’s vintage stoppers are still bedding in, but on a motorcycle ablaze with custom wizardry that gleaming rear hub just might be the prettiest part. A marvel of durability and longevity (many firstissue K100s are buzzing about untouched with 300,000 miles or more) the essential bits of the

CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE || JANUARY 2016 37


TRIUMPH STREET TWIN

BONNEVILLE

REPRISE Triumph have reintroduced their take on a very 21st century classic, and they called it the Bonneville… PHOTOS BY: ALESSIO BARBANTI AND MATTEO CAVADINI

wrooms around the world by what’s the single most important new model trod n t at John Bloor’s company has ever e ince he breathed new life into the extinct ri ish motorcycle industry, with the relaunch years ago in 1990 of the born-again T brand. e that ‘models’ – because at Milan’s EICMA vember Triumph presented no less arallel-twin mo orcycles powered - ooled en ines – one 900c bi i s – repr g le il

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ng the entry l el m tially replaces the l that’s been bui for several years. The Bonneville name now the entire family of such models, with each variant having its own moniker – as in, thus T120, Thruxton and Street Twin. M the outgoing air-cooled T100-engi now ended pt r h Scramble dee d d a one finaal yee anufa ch ere ill n 00 u hat’s Tw , u an


CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE || JANUARY 2016 73


RIDINGLIFE || AUCTION ACTION

VINCENT BLACK SHADOW: sold for $92,000 THOSE SHOPPING FOR a Vincent found much to like at Las Vegas. The programme listed 12, plus a spare engine modified for lifeboat (!) duty. The lots varied, loomed and dominated the room. One group gathered to dissect the only (red) White Shadow in existence, other gaggles were confident the Ed LaBelle Lightning Works bike would steal the show. Other examples in the fray were a Black Prince, a ‘Big Sid’ Black Shadow tribute built by his son, and a barn-find, dirt-blasted Shadow minus the black. For most of us there’s no getting over the classic enamelled B or C series. As organic as any machine can be, the Vincent’s 998cc cylinders, towering pushrod tubes, lines and cables all magically work together to produce a healthy heartbeat. You’ve seen it all before, the stressed frame, Girdraulic front and cantilever rear, yet

you’ll stop yet again for another look. We’re told there’s famous people behind it, legendary names. And more experts than ever. Listed in the catalogue as a “lightly modified motorcycle built for riding”, these images fail to relay how well this Shadow presents in person. The paint and polishing are immaculate, but the modern Amals, K&Ns, Metzeler tyres and bar-end mirrors simply made number 80 the most likely Vin twin to enjoy on real roads. Looking over the build confirms that the bike has been made ready, with traces of fresh gasket and smoothly operating controls. The heavy number of Stevenage twins steered this year’s show by the horns. Remembered always as history’s more romantic motorcycle, you can add ‘Vegas high roller’ to the Vincent’s lengthy list of accomplishments.

HENDERSON DELUXE: sold for $44,850 ‘BARN FIND’ IS another trendy catchphrase making the rounds, causing some sellers to pose their old motorcycle in someone’s old barn then snap a photo for the provenance. The heavy patina covering this 1924 Henderson suggests it might be the real deal, yet it was described as being fully serviced and operational. As a 1924 variant, the 1300cc sidevalve inline was produced under the Schwinn banner and manufactured after founder William Henderson and chief proponent Arthur Lemon had left the company. In an odd twist, Lemon replaced Henderson at Ace following Henderson’s death testing a prototype. Previously, Henderson had left his namesake company

over a disagreement with Lemon’s decision to make the machines larger, heavier and more powerful. This might be explained better recalling the overall lack of quality roads in the 1920s, but Lemon’s Deluxe was a hit with upscale riders and highway patrol units. Lore was created when Henderson’s new Deluxe was challenged to a public speed competition by HarleyDavidson. The results weren’t close, and being capable of exceeding 100mph made the Henderson tops in its day. Mostly complete but missing its battery, this one showed hints of the original blue with cream paint. Looking past the dusty rust reveals a clean engine that smelled as if it had recently run. The rebuilt magneto

10 FEBRUARY 2016 || CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE

stands out from its aged backdrop, but provides some assurance that the workmen hired to disassemble, clean and re-seal the engine didn’t play silly tricks. Introduced in 1922, the Deluxe was a standout for the firm, modernised greatly from the original version with tougher internal engine components, roller bearing hubs and a reinforced frame. It’s not clear how riders of the time managed the tankmount clutch and shifter arrangement (but it is obvious why those features changed…). The tyres were old but not rotted and the throttle moved easily. Promoted as a ride-or-restore investment, the Henderson drew solid money as a motorcycle that could suddenly be worth much more.


NORTON COMMANDO

“The engine was cocooned in mould and bird crap and most of the paintwork was faded, peeling and tarnished. It was a disheartening task removing th rust-welded cycle parts – never mind the tedium o stripping, cleaning and preparing the seat hump, s panels and petrol tank. “I also discovered that the Fastback’s iconic gla fibre petrol tank was beyond salvage. Ethanol had turned the insides into ‘goo’, which looked and felt more like chewing gum. Clusters of suppurating blisters had also formed along the bottom edge of the tank and around the filler cap neck. I remember feeling demoralised when I realised that a new petrol tank would be the only solution. I decided to purchase a new Indian alloy tank from eBay, and when it arrived it looked absolutely superb. But in time new problems would surface, turning it into yet another depressing problem – more of which later...” hinted a sombrelooking Callum. “On the upside, the Fastback came with a documented history,” he continued. “Details included

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a previous rebuild during 1992. A welcome surprise was finding receipts that confirmed a complete engine earbox rebuild. Also the wiring harness and of the electrical components had been replaced, with a Boyer ignition system. Unfortunately iring harness turned out to have Japanese i p-type connectors, many of which had corroded during storage. I decided to replace them with Lucas soldered brass bullets and rubber connectors in the interest of reliability. “The alternator’s wires also proved to have hardened and cracked, exposing the inner copper wires at the point where they exited the primary casing. Rather than attempt a repair, I simply replaced it with a new alternator. Further additions were Mk3 Vernier isolastics, a braced swinging arm and a strengthened Mk3 gearbox cradle with spindle cotter pin clamps – all sensible upgrades. “Externally the engine was cleaned and polished. Internally it was quite sound, except for the camshaft, which was obviously worn. Consequently a new


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camshaft joined a growing list, along with engine gaskets, oil seals, new stainless exhausts, peashooter silencers and handlebars, all sourced from Andover Norton. I sent my cycle parts away to be chromed and then turned my attention to mundane tasks such as grinding in the valves and rebuilding the gearbox. The barrel and pistons were in serviceable condition, but as a precaution I fitted new piston rings. “While cleaning the cylinder head I discovered that the RHS exhaust port had been modified and the left port had several damaged threads,” and here he rolls his eyes in mock-frustration. “This is a common problem on Commando cylinder heads as unfortunately the screw-in exhaust nuts can vibrate loose and damage the port threads. As both ports looked suspect I decided to send the cylinder head away for diagnosis and repair by Pete Lovell (as recommended by Andover Norton). I also asked Pete to replace and helicoil the three central tie-down studs, as these can periodically work themselves loose and cause a leaking or blown cylinder head.”

1. Silver Commando, with red and black piping – the old Norton racing colours. Certainly looks striking on a Fastback! 2. The red cycle parts set off the powertrain’s alloy shine remarkably well, and all the trad Commando features are here to admire 3. The secret to maintaining the Commando’s appeal as a riding machine is to maintain the isolastic mounts properly. It’s easy enough, but is so often ignored 4. Detail is everything to some. Stainless airbox is neat, while the fuel lines appear indestructible

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Callum’s previous Roadster was black and silver, but he fancied a change to red and silver, influenced by his admiration of Honda’s CB50 Dream Racer. “I love Norton’s traditional racing colours but I was determined to make a personal statement to Honda’s dinky little Dream Racers – machines which I’ve always admired. However I was quite concerned that the colour combination might not sit happily on a Fastback Commando. “Fife Coatings of Glenrothes were recommended for powdercoating the frame and cycle parts. When I contacted them, they laughed away my colour concerns with a confident boast: ‘We ken exactly the RED you want’ – and do you know, they actually did! Just one week later I was admiring the quality lacquered finish of my flamboyant red-coated parts,” beamed Callum.

“A welcome surprise was finding receipts that confirmed a complete engine and gearbox rebuild…”

CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE || FEBRUARY 2016 53


RIDINGLIFE || BSA ROCKET GOLD STAR

Real or replica?

The final version of BSA’s pre-unit 650 twin was so good that people have been recreating the things ever since Small Heath stopped building them WORDS BY FRANK MELLING PHOTOS BY CAROL MELLING Above: BSA’s racer for the road, the Rocket Gold Star. They truly do perform as well as they look 1: Unlike their super-sporting singles, there was never a BSA alloy barrel for the twins, no matter how sporting they were 2: Quick release fuel cap. Vital equipment for coffee shop cowboys. (Note: coffee goes into the rider, not the tank) 3: Arguments still rage about whether BSA’s iconic racing brake was really suited to road riding 4:You can expect the oil tank to warm up more than a touch if using an RGS to its full potential

IF THERE WAS an award for the most widely faked classic motorcycle in the world, then BSA’s Rocket Gold Star would be a strong contender. BSA only made this beautiful sporting twin in 1962 and 1963, and produced a mere 1584 examples. Yet look around and you will see a lot of Rocket Gold Stars, some honestly labelled as ‘replicas’ and more than a few not! The idea for the Rocket Gold Star came from BSA dealer Eddie Dow, an icon of the British motorcycle trade. Eddie was a BSA Gold Star specialist with a highly successful record of racing the legendary singles, and he also produced his own range of goodies for them. However, for the man in the street, the smoothness, easy starting and flexibility of a twin appeared attractive compared to the demands of a highly tuned big single. In its favour, the Gold Star handled sublimely well. Manx Nortons were

18 MARCH 2016 || CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE

considered to be the benchmark for fine handling but in many ways the BSA was the sweeter chassis. It’s certainly more forgiving, even on modern tyres. The Gold Star used a wide motor for a single. The bottom downtubes of the frame were generously splayed, so much so that the bottom, right-hand engine rail had a kink in it to accommodate the oil pump. This frame was amply wide enough to accommodate a twin cylinder engine, with nothing more than a change of engine plates. With the Gold Star’s 190mm race brake and quickly detachable rear wheel, the A10-engined bike was also instantly ready for serious sporting use. There was a whole range of gear ratios available: the RRT2 close ratio box; SCT for motocross and STD for road use. Gold Star fuel tanks, with their trick filler caps, and rearset footrests came straight off the shelf.


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£20,000-plus (genuine RGS) £7000 to £10,000 (replica)

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BSA had a very fine engine in the tuned A10 twin. It was stone-axe reliable and, when equipped with the Super Rocket alloy head, could churn out a reliable 50bhp – as good as anything in the world. So when one of Eddie Dow’s customers wanted a Goldie with an A10 engine, he was all too willing to oblige. Unofficially, the Rocket Gold Star was born. The package was impressive. The 650 twin engine gave more power than even a really good 500 single, but it was vastly more user-friendly. Instead of the quasi-religious rites necessary to coax a high compression big single into life, the A10 engine burst into action like a biddable spaniel off to retrieve. Where the Goldie needed lots of clutch and 40mph before things became harmonious, the affable 650 pulled like a tractor from the stops. It was smooth, too. Both ‘Goldies’ would top the ton, but the single required commitment and skill while the twin simply got on with the job. The Goldie’s laudable handling qualities were retained in the new hybrid. Eddie had made a bike which handled like a Gold Star, stopped like a Gold Star, had a Goldie’s top speed but with better acceleration and which was vastly easier to ride. BSA’s management took note. The firm’s new unit-construction range of twins wasn’t due to reach customers until 1962 and a stopgap sports model was badly needed. Enter the Rocket-engined Gold Star. This was easy and cheap to make, and required

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BSA A10: a fraction of the price, far easier to live with and not too tricky to prettify if it’s the looks that turn your head. AJS Model 31 CSR: another tuned 650 street-burner with flash chrome credentials, and a genuine CSR costs the same as a fake RGS. Also check out almost any Triton…

SPECIALISTS Len Haggis George Prew Phil Pearson

OWNERS’ CLUBS

BSAOC: bsaownersclub.co.uk Gold Star OC: bsagoldstarownersclub.com

The replica RGS is up for grabs at Classic British Motorcycles in Walsall for £5950. It’s a 1956 A10, upgraded with high-comp piston, Spitfire cam, chrome tank and alloy rims. 0121 270 7107.

almost no new parts. BSA upped the Rocket’s compression ratio to 9:1 (10.5:1 pistons and tweaked valve springs were soon supplied by Eddie Dow) and added the high-lift Spitfire cam to achieve 46bhp at 6250rpm. The factory also used a two-into-one exhaust. This broadened the power band and reduced the noise levels, allowing a free-flowing Burgess absorption silencer to be used. With a racing exhaust, the RGS hit the magic 50bhp marker.

CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE || MARCH 2016 19


RIDINGLIFE || GUZI CAFÉ CUSTOM

Above: Urban bruiser takes a break. Attitude is everything, so they say

Below: One joy of more modern motorcycles is that it clearly is no sin to cut ’n’ paste to achieve the style you like

MANUFACTURED: 2008-date ENGINE: Air-cooled 90-degree ohc V-twin BORE / STROKE: 80 x 74mm CAPACITY: 744cc COMPRESSION: 9.6:1 TORQUE: 54.70 Nm @ 3600rpm FUELLING: Weber-Marelli injection CLUTCH: Dry single disc TRANSMISSION: 5-speed gearbox, shaft final drive FRAME: Steel tubular duplex cradle FRONT SUSPENSION: Marzocchi hydraulic teles REAR SUSPENSION: Light alloy swinging arm, preload adjustable twin shocks FRONT TYRE: 110/70-17 REAR TYRE: 130/80-17 FRONT BRAKE: Single 320mm Brembo disc REAR BRAKE: Single 260mm Brembo disc DRY WEIGHT: 182kg SEAT HEIGHT: 31.7 inches (All data for standard 2011 V7 Classic)

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Next, the Guzzi needed to lose some of its cumbersome ancillaries. “The very large original airbox between the V-twin cylinders was replaced by pod filters. A new battery box was fabricated for the small Shorai lithium battery, and that was tucked away under the rear of the seat. A stainless collector for the various engine breather pipes was fabricated and placed behind the cylinders. To give the slimmed-down look, we modified and fitted flat, carbon fibre side panels from a Laverda Jota. These were drilled to expose the centre of the bike, and now also carry the Guzzi winged eagle logo.” Getting the all-important alloy effect on the bodywork wasn’t entirely a piece of cake. “The V7 Classic has a plastic tank,” explains Mike, “so the alloy finish required some subterfuge. A 97% nickel paint was applied by Silvester Coachworks to the tank, seat, fender and some engine covers. The paint dries to solid metal so it really looks the part.” It certainly does. The end result is exactly what the customer wanted… although of course he didn’t know that when he first walked through the door. He could easily have paid much more for an original Le Mans – and if that’s what you really want, and you’re up to the challenge of riding and maintaining a classic, then seize the day while they’re still affordable. But consider carefully (and take a couple of test rides) before you buy. There is an alternative way to own a charismatic Guzzi V-twin café racer, equipped with all mod cons, and entirely suited to the daily grind.


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OPINION ||

Vincent and so on and the numbers would THE LONDON MOTORCYCLE Museum soon add up. recently made headlines because it is facing That café up the road routinely announces a major funding crisis. The local council has specialist ride-ins (or drive-ins – it is also removed its rates subsidy and it appears inexplicably popular with four-wheeled fans) there’s a strong possibility it may have to and is usually swamped, yet really offers relocate outside London, presumably with a nothing beyond a car park and restaurant name change, or even close altogether. That facilities, plus the oh-so ephemeral ghosts would be a real shame and a great loss to from the past. Speaking personally, I’d much London’s motorcycling culture. rather see, touch and hear something from True, a lot of British motorcycle two-wheeled history, as opposed to imagining manufacturing history is inextricably linked something from 50 years ago while looking to the Midlands, but in so many ways the at modern traffic thundering along the North things that are often associated with our Circular Road. passion are based in the London area. The Encourage schools and Rotary Clubs to rockers and ton-up boys, whose particular visit and promote use of the atmospheric style is still being exploited today by both venue as a backdrop for photographic and clothing and motorcycle makers, originated video shoots; every photographer that ever from the area. Café racing against the lived thinks bikes are cool to capture on film. spinning 7in disc would have proved quite Perhaps have a bike jumble there a couple a challenge in quiet mid-Wales or Scotland, of times a year. All of this exposure, while and the Mods and Rockers travelled down not necessarily generating a huge amount of to Brighton from London to settle their turnstile cash, will both massively increase differences. And they made them, too. The both the awareness of the facility and revenue fine products of AMC, Panther and Norton all in the restaurant and shops. The modern emerged from factories nearer the Thames visitor will invariably grumble about paying than the Trent. admission to anything, yet will spend £20 on No, motorcycling needs London and London needs a motorcycle museum. The The London Motorcycle Museum. food without a second thought. Why not offer an alternative to the usual ride to Box Hill? LMM is well situated, has excellent premises Sounds good, right? Perhaps You’ll notice I’ve stopped calling it a and over 200 bikes on display, including there should be one. What! museum and refer to it as a facility, because some very significant and interesting exhibits. There already is? Where? that’s what it has to become in order to So why haven’t you been yet? survive. If my local branch of the Nimbus It’s probably because you don’t know Owners Club (I know, I know) announced that the next meet would about it; hardly anybody seems to. Yet an old transport café, just up the road on the North Circular, is usually swamped with visitors. be at the LMM instead of the usual King’s Head, that there would So here’s the paradox – on one hand we have a very busy café with, be a talk on Nimbii and demonstration of how to set the timing, plus barbecue and local London craft ale, I’d be there like a shot; well, as perhaps, four bikes on permanent display, on the other a display of fast as the Nimbus would get me there. I’d bring friends, too. over 200 important motorcycles and memorabilia, plus a café. Makes It would take a leap of faith from the trustees, as well as the no sense, does it? commitment to spend money they barely have in order to bring the The trustees of the LMM have resorted to raising admission fees facility up to scratch for regular visitors of the type I’m suggesting. and setting up a donations page, but to my mind that’s no more than But, once riders realise what’s available, it could quickly become a a short-term response to the problem. destination and regular meeting point, rather than the secret it seems Perhaps what the museum needs to do is take a look at the success of other enterprises around them and to stop thinking like a museum. to be at present. Who knows, if enough people can be shown to visit per year, they might even get a modern motorcycle manufacturer to If, for example, the London/Surrey/Edinburgh branch of the Triumph sponsor the meeting area and restaurant, with some of their new Owners Club were to hold its regular meetings there, or even a once a year ride-in, the trustees could, perhaps, provide the facility FOC, bikes on display. I don’t profess to know all the answers, but I understand that bring out a bike or two relevant to the attending club and talk about it, motorcyclists need a destination to ride to and will spend money on or better still, run it up for them. arrival. Make it welcoming, interesting and fun; in other words, don’t In return the club would eat and drink in the museum’s restaurant and pay for the privilege. Repeat that with Norton, BSA, Panther, make it a museum. If you build it, they will come…

PAUL MILES

HISTORICAL OVERSIGHT

‘I’d much rather see, touch and hear something from two-wheeled history as opposed to imagining something from 50 years ago while looking at modern traffic thundering along the North Circular Road…’ WHO IS PAUL MILES?

Paul Miles is a lifelong Londoner who rides every day and regards a prewar classic as perfectly suited to urban commuting. A contact lens specialist by profession, he nowadays appears to be a full-time rider, breaker and fixer of old bikes. Entirely fails to understand the concept of patina or winter lay-ups.

50 MARCH 2016 || CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE


CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE || MARCH 2016 51


CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE || CONTENTS

084

006

NEWS This ’n’ that; that ’n’ this. New bikes looking like old bikes, new parts for old bikes… all very good

008

SHOW! REPORT! Our man was at Bristol; ark needed this year. Great bikes abound

014

SHOW! PREVIEWS!

018

SUBSCRIBE!

Where to go, when to go

026 032 038

MATCHLESS G9 A genuine gent, a gentle charmer, an affordable classic for all seasons

050

LETTERS

054

PAUL D’ORLÉANS

there, and what to do

Some great stuff here. We always need more letters

‘An entire generation of motorcycles could be condemned as pretty damn ugly, and the industry had no idea, they only knew their

Save money, get the magazine early. Thrills undiluted. More exclamation marks

020

044

056

MARK WILLIAMS ‘I’ve been mindful that my intended mods mustn’t prevent me from reinstating all the

One of the most heroic of Britbike

original bits, which means no

failures. We love them, of course

cutting, welding, drilling, etc.’

TRIUMPH QUADRENT a four. Not many people can do this

058

with added flairs

NORTON MODEL 50 Fastest frame on the road at

useful, especially one ridden in London, are removed. Nobody uses

BMW R90 The gentleman’s express,

PAUL MILES ‘Things that make a motorcycle

TRIUMPH T120 BONNEVILLES Two of them, one ancient, one

An old love rekindled. Why were Triumphs more popular

084

DUCATI ROAD FEVER

098

BSA GOLD STAR REBUILT

It started out as a Paso, and is now like nothing else. Nothing else at all

Provenance and patience, essential attributes, along with walletary fortitude

108

MOTO GUZZI LE MANS

118

READER ADS

136

LOUISE LIMB’S INK WHEELS

indicators in town, anyway…’

062

BSA FIREBIRD SCRAMBLER

than BSA’s twins?

sales were dropping, fast…’

DOUGLAS DRAGONFLY

Take a tidy triple and transform it into

074

One long Latin history lesson, the Le Mans laid bare and explained in depth

Send us bargains. We need many more bargains. We do, we really do…

Who sang Leader Of The Pack? The answer’s here somewhere

138

FRANK WESTWORTH Always at the back. Life can be amusing, if you let it

modern, parked up for all to see

the time, powered by a slow 350 single. Can’t fail

CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE || APRIL 2016 3


RIDINGLIFE NEWS || EVENTS || LETTERS || INTERVIEWS

Made in Milan THE ORIGINAL SWM, aka Speedy Working Motors, built rugged off-roaders back in the 1970s and 80s in Milan, using Sachs and Rotax engines. SWM’s light and lively machines thrived in Italian trials and motocross and took stacks of national titles, the Six Days Silver Vase, the European endurance and at least one world championship. When SWM went into liquidation in the mid-1980s, their Rotax-engined enduro model formed the basis of the CCM/Armstrong MT series, which eventually morphed into the H-D MT350 military machine. To this day, you’ll find twin-shock and trials enthusiasts chucking SWM 125s and 250s through the rough stuff in classic events. The firm was resurrected in 2014, still based in Italy, financed by China’s Shineray concern. When BMW closed its Husqvarna factory in northern Italy, that gave a new player an opportunity to inherit a cutting-edge manufacturing facility, and to hire the skilled staff and technicians who were suddenly under-employed. It’s estimated that Shineray acquired assets – tooling, technology and intellectual properties – worth over €50million… for under €25million. Last autumn, SWM began production of a range of 350, 500 and 650 enduro and supermoto style machines developed from recent Husky designs. This month, two new models in SWM’s range have reached the UK and they’re squarely aimed at the roadster market. Both are sohc 445cc four-stroke, four-valve, six-speed singles with electric start and Mikuni electronic fuel injection. The Silver Vase hits an unashamed retro/enduro vibe with chrome clocks and mudguards, twin stacked exhaust pipes,

6 APRIL 2016 || CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE

Marzocchi forks, knobbly tyres and fork gaiters – and some specs quote a drum rear brake, even. The black and bronze Gran Milano goes for more café culture street appeal with fully adjustable upside-down forks, disc brakes all round and Kayaba rear shocks. Dry weight is around 320lb, which gives top speeds over the ton and fuel economy of 75mpg or more if you’re steady with the throttle. Presumably, SWM opted to use the 440 motor to best suit European rider licensing requirements. It’s a slight shame it didn’t use the dohc liquid-cooled 650 engine that powers the firm’s RS650R enduro model – maybe a 650 roadster is something to look forward to? Prices start at £4700 for the SV and both bikes come with a two-year parts and labour warranty.


SOUTH & WEST

FOUR-POT NEVERWOZZER

OUTRIGHT ENDURANCE

The best bikes from Bristol

Only ever a prototype

Long-haul BMW boxer

pXX

pXX

pXX

LAST CHANCE

“MODERN MACHINERY LACKS soul,” says Alistair Devall in a short documentary by director Mike Fordham. The six-minute film visits Alistair and his father, Anthony, at Pembrokeshire Classics, where they chat about their passion for classic

bikes and the skills required to keep old motorcycles in fine fettle. The film gives us tantalising glimpses of the stock they have for sale before the father and son fire up a couple of old Britbikes and take to the highway. “A horse analogy

is about right,” says Anthony. “Sometimes when I’m on the TT, at a quarter throttle, doing 40mph, I think – right, this is a canter. Time to get on to a gallop!” You can see the film on YouTube at www.youtube.com/ watch?v=AxyzPZqJkKs

THERE’S JUST TIME to buy tickets for a chance to win a 1959 Triumph 650 Bonneville in the National Motorcycle Museum’s spring draw. The Tangerine Dream T120 has been restored in the museum’s workshops, and is being offered alongside a 1966 Tiger Cub as second prize with a luxury weekend away as third prize. The raffle will be drawn on Sunday, April 24 at the International Classic MotorCycle Show at Stafford. Shortly thereafter, the first prize-winner will be set and ready to ride one of motorcycling’s most iconic machines. Not bad for £2 per ticket! 01675 444123 / thenmm.co.uk

BRIGHT BATTERY THE CHARGING SYSTEM on some old bikes can be… well, less than entirely reliable, let’s say. And if you depend on an electric starter, or need a full 12V to spark up an electronic ignition on a kick-start machine, a fully charged battery can be the difference between a clean getaway or an unexpected roadside sojourn. So what kind of fit-and-finish should we expect – European standards, or Chinese? The UK importer, HQB Sport and Leisure Ltd, told us “these are not rebadged machines manufactured in the Far East with a quick sticker job on the end of the production line. Everything is hand-built in Italy, and every machine is designed, assembled and tested in Milan by the team at SWM.” HQB is establishing a network of 40 UK dealers to sell and service SWM machines, and demo bikes should be available soon. You won’t need to wait for parts to be shipped halfway around the world, either; all OEM spares will be held in the UK, and will be available to dealers on a 24-hour basis. See swmmotorcycles.co.uk

Paul Goff has just introduced a new version of his popular battery status indicator with a chrome-plated clip, which allows the LED to be mounted anywhere on the handlebars, so you don’t need to drill a hole in the headlamp. The LED glows different colours to show low, charged or charging battery levels.

It’s available with full instructions for £29.95 plus delivery, in 6V and 12V, with just two wires that are straightforward to connect. 01494 868218 / norbsa02. freeuk.com

ZED PARTS APLENTY IT’S NOT EASY to find affordable replacement components of a decent quality for iconic Kawasakis, and if you’re renovating or servicing a four-cylinder model then costs can

quickly get out of control. Internet parts specialist Wemoto has recently extended its range of parts for the Z1, Z1A, Z1B and Z900A4 models to include spares, which are normally extremely hard to come by. All are manufactured by specialist companies to ensure a satisfactory balance

of styling, fit, and performance, and include swinging arms, brake discs, fuel tanks, complete painted bodywork kits, spoke sets, wheel rims, clock brackets, air boxes, electrical and ignition parts. 01273 597072 / wemoto.com

CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE || APRIL 2016 7

PHOTO BY OWEN HOWELLS PHOTOGRAPHY

TALKING OLD BIKES


RIDINGLIFE || SHOW GOING

KICKBACK FLAT-TRACKERS, CAFÉ RACERS and vintage drag bikes will be revving and roaring around Hall 2 at Stoneleigh Park, entertaining the crowds in between the scheduled stunt shows. Meanwhile, in the relative peace and quiet of the main show hall, more than 100 custom-built bikes will display the technical expertise and inventive flair which has gone in to their creation. This two-day event showcases the very best British engineering and design, and features some of the most talented motorcycle and custom engineers, designers and fabricators in the country. Expect to see plenty of chops, bobs and streetfighters among the retro and traditional café racers and street scramblers. Prepare to be impressed, amazed and occasionally outraged by the bikes on display: Kickback is where sheer imagination meets pure engineering excellence. Lifestyle accessories, artwork and apparel will also be on offer. There’s hotel and camping facilities on site with an all-new café-bar complex, and live music on Saturday night. Parking is free; visitors’ bikes get to park right next to the main show hall. Kickback is on April 16/17 at Stoneleigh Park Exhibition Centre, CV8 2LZ. Opens 1pm on Saturday, 10am on Sunday. Discount advance tickets, valid both days, are £8.95 (kids for a quid) from TheCustomShow.com

CHIPPING STEAM FAIR THE VILLAGE OF Chipping near Clitheroe owes its village hall to the success of this annual family fun day, which raised £10k towards the build of a memorial hall nearly two decades ago. The Steam Fair has grown every year since then, relocated to a larger site, and raises money for local charities and good causes across the region. Steam engines, classic cars, bikes and plant, vintage tractors and pedal cycles, commercial and military vehicles form the central attractions, with additional entertainment provided by the beer tent, refreshment stalls, donkey rides, live music, Punch and Judy, fairground rides, arena entertainment, food hall, craft tent, autojumble and assorted trade stalls. More entrants are welcome to join the displays if you fancy bringing a classic bike along. Chipping Steam Fair opens 10am on May 28-30 at the Green Lane Show Ground, Preston, PR3 2TQ. Adult admission £8. chippingsteamfair.co.uk

16 APRIL 2016 || CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE


See us at Stafford

April 23 rd - 24 th 2016


RIDINGLIFE || MATCHLESS G9

4

5 4: Neat and tidy AMC headlight layout included ‘torpedo’ sidelights for the bold…

6: Tremendously comfortable and competent roadsters, these 500s

5: This 1957 version saw the introduction of AMC’s own gearbox to replace the previous Burman B52, although the much-maligned pressed steel primary chaincase lasted for another leaky year

6

MANUFACTURED: 1948 to 1961 ENGINE: Air-cooled OHV parallel twin BORE / STROKE: 66mm x 72.8mm CAPACITY: 498cc POWER: 28bhp PRIMARY DRIVE: Simplex chain ELECTRICS: Magneto ignition, 6V dynamo lighting FRAME: Brazed, lugged swinging arm full cradle type FRONT SUSPENSION: Oil-damped Teledraulic forks REAR SUSPENSION: Oildamped telescopics BRAKES: 7-inch sls drum FRONT TYRE: 3.25 x 19 REAR TYRE: 3.50 x 19 WHEELBASE: 55 inches WEIGHT: 394lb TOP SPEED: 84mph

46 APRIL 2016 || CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE

All in all, the 500cc Matchless G9 was a pleasant machine with a decent level of comfort which carried out its duties in an unobtrusive manner and returned excellent service if looked after. For my money, the 1957 model pictured here is an attractive motorcycle incapable of scaring owners, is easily looked after and perhaps ought to be more highly thought of than it is. It is traditionally made with a separate engine, gearbox and primary drive. It has enough glitter, chrome and polished alloy for most and enjoyed a production run from 1948 until 1961, when the 500 (G9 nd 600 (G11) twins were discontinued. Just in case we’ve given the impression that the G9 is a staid, unexciting low performance motorcycle, it mi ht be worth mentioning the Matchless G45, whic the G9 inspired. A race machine intended to compete at GP level, the G45 was very quick, and some of the works racers would use the roadsterinspired pushrod twin in preference to the ohc G50 racing single. Housing the race version of the twin engine – more alloy, more compression, more valve – in the chassis used for the G50c racer showed that the idea of a production-based racer could work. It wasn’t just the road circuits where the twin showed a surprising ability to succeed, either. ISDT and American desert racing success hinted at hidden potential for the humble G9.


EDITOR@CLASSICBIKEGUIDE.COM COMMENT AT FACEBOOK.COM/CLASSICBIKEGUIDE

Special single

Which 750? (Again) THE DECEMBER ISSUE has just hit the shelves here in the Antipodes. I did enjoy the article comparing these two great motorcycles, the Triumph Trident and the Norton Commando. As to the question posed at the end – which is the better bike? – for me the Triumph Trident was the better machine. I may be my biased, as you can see from the photo! New Zealand is a long way from the

UK, but I am sure one of your writers would find plenty of available classic bike material to write about down here. Plus our climate and scenic roads are ideally suited to older machines. Keep up the great work. Mark Coster Thanks! The only concern we have about bikes in NZ is that no one wants to pay our fares… CBG

Butchered BMWs OVER THE PAST few weeks I have been exchanging emails with my friend in Northern Ireland, Bob, re BMWs being ‘butchered’ and featured in classic bike magazines. Obviously other makes have been subjected to the same makeovers and in my opinion, and others, they are not suitable for a classic bike magazine. Just because the bikes

were classics is not a criterion for inclusion in magazines that feature classic motorcycles. Leave it to the other publications that thrive on this type of Chelsea/ Knightsbridge product; to be honest it should be made an offence in line with criminal damage! Karl Chadwick For many years now, the ‘old guard’ have worried

and complained about the decline of classic motorcycling, as so few young people seemed interested in old bikes. Wouldn’t it be a shame if those younger people were alienated by an unfriendly reception from the previous generation of classic enthusiasts? Another topic of conversation for your friends, maybe? CBG

YOUR ARTICLE ON AJS singles brought back happy memories. In the 1950s, after tearing around the countryside on a 98cc FrancisBarnett, I bought a 1948 350 AJS for £30 to pass my test. I had been told that it was used for sand racing in the Channel Islands and, indeed, when I stripped it for a big end and rebore there was much sand inside! Repaired and back on the road, it took me several trips from London to the Isle of Man TT races. On one trip it dropped an inlet valve on the M1 while trying to keep up with my mates who were on Tiger 100s. We managed to get the head off by the side of the motorway and I took a trip into Northampton on a mate’s pillion to visit a dealer who I found in a phone book. He repaired

the top end with new valves and guides, and re-cut the seats for £7.10s. He also provided the advice that I should not tinker with the inlet oil metering screw again. Once reassembled, the AJS carried on to the Island. The bike went on for many years and I converted it to swinging arm suspension. I bought the back half of a G9 (I think) for a fiver. The rebuild was in the then trendy café racer style – we were regulars at the Ace back then. The AJS was eventually sold to a close friend for £35 to fund the deposit for a Velocette racer. That same friend years later sold me my Ariel 500 Special for £35 in return! Tonupdave The whole idea of a 350 Ajay café racer is a little challenging… CBG

buses and planes. The other problem is that some people seem to think that British biking history only involves British bikes. The Japanese have been providing us with bikes for longer than most of the British

manufacturers ever did, but there’s nowhere that acknowledges this. I had hoped David Silver would have his Honda collection open to the public by now. It’s just as well that we have plenty of shows. Mike Johnson

Museum pieces REGARDING PAUL MILES’ column about the plight of the London Motorcycle Museum: this is one of the few motor museums/ collections which I haven’t visited, and the main reason is the location. I admit that I associate anything to do

with London with being expensive, overcrowded and unfriendly, but I don’t think I’m alone. Relocating the LMM, along with wider opening hours and a lower entrance fee, would seem to be obvious if you want more visitors.

Compare it to the National Motorcycle Museum (£8.95), Sammy Miller’s (£7.50) or the Craven Collection (£4), and LMM’s entrance charge is typical London. Brooklands charge much the same as LMM but they offer bikes, cars,

CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE || APRIL 2016 51


||

OPINION ||

THE FUNNY THING about the future is, we really have no idea. This week I corresponded with a fellow with whom I’d never have expected to find accord, a media star during the heinous late1990s to mid-2000s craze for ‘fat tyre’ choppers. Even though I wrote a book on the history of choppers (The Chopper: the Real Story), I skipped lightly over 1985-2005, as aesthetically I find fat-tyre choppers the two-wheeled equivalent of sword-and-dragon paintings, with muscly Conans and inflated damsels ‘clad’ in strategic rags. They’re just not my thing, but we have to admit that style of custom bike was very popular for years, including on multiple TV shows, all of which disappeared as the Great Recession made glitzy, barely rideable $80k choppers a thing of the past. Of course, some of those machines were built by highly skilled craftspeople – fabricators, engine builders, panel beaters, painters. While their TV shows disappeared, those artisans didn’t, and nowadays you might be surprised to find them in familiar territory. Familiar to ‘us’ anyway – fans of classic and The Future vintage motorcycles – because time has revealed many of the well known turn of the century chopper builders as big fans of old bikes. Before your blood pressure spikes, let me reassure you they’re not chopping them up, they’re riding and restoring them. I’ve watched with fascination the social media accounts of several former chopper dudes, which occasionally refer to their latest chopper build, but mostly they’re crowing about a 1917 Excelsior or pre-unit Triumph they’ve discovered, and are bringing back to life. As click-bait goes, it doesn’t take a research scientist to see it’s the vintage bikes the public prefers to see on these accounts – just count the ‘likes’. And do you know why? Because old motorcycles are cool again. Were old bikes ever not cool? That depends on who you’re asking; to the floating, ever-evolving face of the 25-year-old, no, old bikes have not always been cool. Motorcycles were cool by default in the 1940s-70s, but something terrible happened in the 1980s, when bikes lost their mojo. The British industry died, the Japanese covered everything in plastic, environmental regulations strangled the performance of Italian bikes, and Germany gifted us with the ‘flying brick’. None of which were particularly rebellious, raw, sexy, or cool. Yes, they went faster, and stopped better, but they also got taller and heavier and uglier, on the whole. An entire generation of motorcycles could be condemned as pretty damn ugly, and the industry had no idea,

they only knew their sales were dropping, fast. It took the Alt.Custom movement, starting around 2005, to revive flagging sales, save the factories’ butts, and bring the kids back to the industry. If you don’t believe me, just ask the designers for BMW, Ducati, Yamaha, and Harley what made motorcycles attractive to youngsters – it certainly wasn’t their designs. But that’s the new-bike scene, and I’m talking about old bikes now. The knock-on effect of the Alt.Custom movement has been a revived interest in old motorcycles. This began with tastemakers and trendsetters post-2008, which includes the likes of big fashion houses, who’ve leaned heavily on the romance and danger associated with twowheels, in their advertising. Never mind whether Karl Lagerfeld has ever straddled a bike from his rumoured personal collection; I have no idea. But he loves using them in Chanel ads, an example most big French fashion houses have followed, along with one American brand in particular – Ralph Lauren. While Ralph’s imagery is more Is Unknown subdued than the French (he’s selling a fantasy image of upper-class luxury, and not sex/danger like the Europeans), most RL shops have an old bike parked inside, and his DoubleRL brand especially is very bike-centric. Images of Triumph, Nortons, Velocettes and bevel-drive Ducatis are the prop du jour, and have been for years. Tastemakers also include entertainment stars with old motorcycle collections, frequently photographed riding/wobbling/crashing their machines in the media. Dead stars like Steve McQueen are more popular in motorcycling circles than ever. And the great mashup of heritage clothing/selvedge denim/ Alt.Custom scenes at the Handbuilt Show, the Bike Sheds, Wheels+Waves, InspirationLA, etc, were almost all started by vintage bike enthusiasts. To re-emphasise: the people who organise cool events, start Alt.Custom shops, publish magazines like Men’s File or Clutch or At Large, or photograph the happenings of a new generation of hipsters, are nearly all die-hard old bike nuts. I know them personally, and knew many of them before they started those events/magazines/shops/brands, because of our mutual interest. And now, the previous generation of custom builders has come out of the closet as old bike guys, too. They’ve buoyed the price of early American bikes especially; most pre-1916 American cars are cheap, but the bikes are expensive; nobody’s clamouring for a 1915 Dodge, because trendsetters aren’t buying them. Yet.

PAUL D’ORLÉANS

THE UNWRITTEN COURSE OF EVENTS

‘An entire generation of motorcycles could be condemned as pretty damn ugly, and the industry had no idea, they only knew their sales were dropping, fast…’ WHO IS PAUL D’ORLÉANS?

Paul d’Orleans is a writer, artist, sartorialist and photographer. He’s best known as The Vintagent for his long-running blog and judges concours such as the Quail and Villa d’Este, consults for Bonhams auctions, shoots digital and tintype photographs, and is curating an exhibit on café racers at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.

54 APRIL 2016 || CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE


2016 BONNEVILLE T120

Triumph’s new Bonnie looks best in black, so we’re told. We’re also told that the new T120 is close in spirit to the original T120. Hmmm… WORDS & PHOTOS BY FRANK MELLING, TRIUMPH MOTORCYCLES


DUCATI ROAD FEVER

1 speed of 100mph it wasn’t a great success. That Weber caused a big flat spot in the mid-range, and low-speed running was a pain in the arse. And not everyone liked Tamburini’s styling. Mick’s Paso spent 10 years in the back of a shipping container before he dragged it out. “I like the Pantah engine,” he says as he pours another coffee. “I was really impressed by the 350cc version I used in a bike I built a few years ago. It only had 32bhp so I thrashed it everywhere and it never let me down. But I wanted a bit more power, and a bigger petrol tank – the one on my 350 only held 1.25 gallons, and that was a pain on motorways.” Mick’s idea was to put what was basically a 750 F1 engine into his own steel tube frame... and that’s where Don Cronin comes in. “We set the engine up in Don’s home-made frame jig and put the headstock and the

While the F1 featured a gorgeous round-tube trellis frame based on the Verlicchi TT2 racer and a Marzocchi cantilever monoshock, the Paso used a double-cradle frame constructed from box-section steel and an Öhlins Soft Damp shock with risingrate technology. The box-section alloy swinging arm featured eccentric adjusters at the rear. It might have been ugly, but it didn’t matter because the frame was hidden behind slab-sided bodywork that looked as if it had been borrowed from a Bimota DB1 (Ducati Bimota One). No surprises there – Tamburini was the ‘ta’ in Bimota. The Paso ran on 16-inch wheels front and rear, which were supposed to make the bike more nimble in tight twisties. But although the sports-tourer Paso was good for 130mph and could cover the quarter-mile in less than 13 seconds with a terminal

2

86 APRIL 2016 || CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE

1: The Pantah range sold well, despite never looking exactly like this one… 2: Chain adjustment viewed as an art form 3: ‘It’s a Ducati, Jim, but not as we know…’ Should we stare more at the cambelt covers or at the exhausts? 4: This side of the engine appears less unconventional than the other. Until you take a second (and a third) look and work out what you’re seeing


3

4

5

6

axles for the 18 x 3.00in front wheel and 17 x 5.00in rear into position, using the wheelbase and overall frame geometry of a 600 Pantah,” explains Mick. Don is a sculptor and used his artist’s sense of form and his rider’s sense of function to build the frame. Like all good designs, it is strong and simple – the engine hangs from only two mounting points. There is a single 48mm diameter high-carbon steel top tube, with one pair of 26mm tubes coming down to pick up the mounting point between the cylinders, with a second pair of hand-bent tubes extending to the rear engine mount. Another pair of tubes runs back from mid-way down each rear frame tube to support the seat and the top mounts of the Taiwanese YSS twin shocks. Because Mick’s inside leg measurement is only slightly more than a leprechaun’s, the seat height is lower than on a Pantah. The braced swinging arm is another work of art. Each side is constructed from two tubes – one 34mm and the other 26mm – with beautifully CNC machined housings for the eccentric wheel adjusters which were salvaged from the Paso. Rotating the eccentrics moves the wheel backwards or forwards about 15mm to tension the drive chain while keeping the wheels in line – modern O-ring chains don’t need much adjustment. “Don didn’t like the look of the eccentrics at first,” says Mick, “but they are my homage to the 1980s, and they’ve grown on him.”

5: Clever thinking abounds. The rear-set rest and brake pedal tuck well out of the way, and we can all play Spot The Reservoir, too 6: Bounce and braking come courtesy of another Ducati, in this case a 2008 Monster 696, although the hub was made by the customisers, not by Ducati 7: Proof of a pudding, then…

7

CLASSIC BIKE GUIDE || APRIL 2016 87


30 0

IS SU E

BONNIE IN DUCATI ROAD BLACK FEVER NEW T120 HITS THE STREET

SERIOUSLY SERIOUS STREET BEAST

FIREBIRD BSA’S SCRAMBLIN’ EGG

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MANS A HISTORY OF SUCCESS

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TRIUMPH QUADRENT

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GOLD STAR REBUILT

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NORTON MODEL 50

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DR AGONFLY

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