BLAME IT ON JAY LENO. YOU KNOW, the motorcycle collector who moon-lights as a comedian and part-time talk-show host. For Cycle World's story on Leno a few months ago, we constructed a makeshift photo studio in his garage. Feature Editor Jon Thompson was there to help set things up, having bopped in on his 1967 BSA Lightning.
I SPOTTED THE BLACK HONDA CBX A block away. It was parked on the side-walk among the politically correct organic boutiques of Church Street in San Francisco’s Noe Valley, and its sheer mechanical audacity, its outrageous six-cylinder haughtiness, so unlike the slicked-down, tucked-away superbikes of today, was enough to make me smile.
SHOULD I TELL THE MOTORCYCLE INdustry what kind of bike they need to build? Do they really need any advice from the likes of me? Probably not. But then again, I hear rumors that sales are down and traffic is light in some showrooms, so maybe it couldn’t hurt to sketch a general outline of the motorcycle that just might bring me, and a handful of similar fringe-element types, back to those dealerships whose doors we have not recently darkened.
I was impressed with your article, “Want-ad Wonders,” in the August issue. Your staff got some pretty good deals, but I think I beat you guys on this one. Recently, I purchased a 1983 Honda Nighthawk 650 for $1000. The bike was in excellent conditon and came with a shop manual, a battery charger, and cover.
THERE MUST BE SOMETHING IN the wine; or maybe it’s the pasta. How else to explain the fact that Italy, as usual, provides most of the hot gossip—some of it good, some less so—circulating in European motorcycle circles these days. Here’s the latest: Ferrari Motorcycle: This one is confirmed!
LET’S FACE IT, LAST YEAR YAmaha kicked butt. With the all-new FZR1000 and FZR600, along with the outstanding FZR400 and the return of the FJ1200, Yamaha had a sportbike lineup hard to beat. Add to those the Virago cruisers, the luxury-touring Venture Royale, the standard-style Radian and the V-Max muscle bike, and Yamaha had the most-rounded line in the business.
SOME THINGS ARE HARD TO make better. Sure, Tolstoy could have written shorter novels, or Shakespeare just one more play, but when you’ve already done your best, it’s tough to make improvements. That’s what Yamaha has discovered with its FZR600, undeniably the finest 600cc sportbike in the world.
FOR HOW LONG HAVE THE wishful thinkers at Cycle World been trying to go faster? For at least 25 years. The cover story of the November, 1964, issue was CW's “assault” on the Bonneville Salt Flats with a pair of Triumph 650s, Class A and Class C in specification.
THE FLAT, FERTILE FARMLAND around Argos, Indiana, may seem more like tractor territory than motorcycle mother-land, but Argos, a one-stoplight hamlet of 1500 souls roughly an hour’s ride south of South Bend, contains one of the most-interesting collections of important motorcycles anywhere.
HERE’S SOME GOOD ADVICE: IF you run across a sleeping bear, don’t wake him. Large, furry mammals with sharp teeth can be pretty grumpy in the morning, and that means anything can happen. Honda hasn’t exactly been hibernating for the last year, but the company certainly hasn’t been growling in its usual form.
WHETHER YOU IDOLIZE THEM AS CLASSICS OR DEride them as “crocks,” the interest in old motorcycles has become one of motorcycling’s strangest phenomenons. John Goodpaster, whose Hobart, Indiana, Expert Motorcycle Works has sold and worked on Triumphs for 39 years, says of the trend, “The past two years (of business) have been the best in the last 10 or 12.
Motorcycles You Should Have Bought: Motorcycles You (And We) Should Be Buying:
Investing in precious metal
BROUGH SUPERIOR SS100:Known in its day as “The Rolls-Royce among motorcycles,” examples of this 998cc, V-Twin beauty have been known to sell for more than $50,000. George Brough, who built motorcycles from 1921 to 1940, spared no expense in their construction and that attitude toward the value of these motorcycles has lived on.
VINCENT BLACK SHADOW:Really, any Vincent (1928-1956) V-Twin is highly collectible, but the legendary Black Shadow may be the most collectible of all, with examples currently selling for $25,000. Lamented one old-bike expert, “Just a few years ago you could buy all you wanted for a couple of grand each.” They’re still available, but these days you may have to mortgage your house to get one.
NORTON MANX:This all-out racebike, named for the Isle of Man TT where it achieved much glory, was built from 1946 through 1961 in both 350 and 500cc forms, and today a pristine version with a verifiable set of engine and frame numbers and a traceable race history sells for about $25,000. Not for beginners, not if you actually expect to start the thing and run it.
AJS 7R/MATCHLESS G50:Sort of two bikes in one, the AJS 7R, built from 1948 through 1963 and known as the “Boy Racer,” was a 350cc version of the overhead-cam, 500cc Matchless G50 Single, built from 1953 to 1963 and the machine which still rules vintage roadracing here and in England. Like its archrival the Manx Norton, these bikes also sell for approximately $25,000, providing their frame and engine numbers can be verified as authentic.
BSA GOLD STAR:Built from 1938 through 1963, these much-cursed-at, but much-beloved production bikes, with their single-cylinder, 350 or 500cc pushrod engines, must be the most-raced motorcycles of all time, in roadrace, scrambles and flat-track forms. Available dirt-cheap just a few years ago, most “Goldies” have been snapped up and now sell for up to $10,000.
TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE, 1970 AND EARLIER:A classic and you can still get one for a couple thousand bucks. But to make the most of your investment, and to get the best bike, it’s important to look for the early versions that carry their oil in a remote tank under the seat, not in their frame tubing. One thing especially nice about these is that parts are widely available and they’re stone-simple to work on.
LEMANS MK. I
MOTO GUZZI LEMANS MK. I:Never mind their rough edges; the raucous, visceral feel of these bikes, plus the fact that they can be had for less than $2000, make them a good bet, our experts told us. We're instructed to expect these Series I bikes, built from 1974 through 1978, to appreciate just as Ferraris have appreciated. We’re skeptical about that, but we’re not stupid. We’re looking for a few good Moto Guzzi LeMans Mk. Is.
BSA/TRIUMPH TRIPLES:Built during the last gasp of the British motorcycle industry as it felt the hot breath of the Japanese bike makers on its proper old neck, these 750cc Triples are thirsty and maintenance-intensive. But they’re equipped with one of this world’s most-wonderful exhaust notes. These bikes shared designers and thus were different only in detail. They were built from 1968 through 1976 and rough versions now change hands for as little as $800.
NORTON COMMANDO:This vertical-Twin hot rod built from 1967 through 1980 is probably as charismatic a motorcycle as ever has been built. Available now for less than $3000 with engines of 750 or 850cc, these came in several flavors, including the Fastback and the Interstate. If it was our money, we’d spring for an 850 Interstate, make sure the rubber engine-mounting bushings were properly adjusted, then spend our time alternately riding it and waxing it.
BMW R60 AND R60/2:This one is a contender, experts tell us, partly because of BMW’s legendary quality, but mostly because it eschewed telescopic forks and used instead the quirky, leading-link Earles forks. Pristine, restored examples of this Boxer-engined bike, built from 1956 through 1969, can sell for $5000 and up, but less-perfect ones can be had for considerably less.
IF THERE’S ONE TOPIC WHICH INflames desire more effectively than classic motorcycles, it is searching out, buying, riding and making money on classic motorcycles come resale time. This is something a growing number of people now are doing, using the motorcycles you’ll find listed below.
IT DIDN’T TAKE KEEN INSIGHT TO SEE THAT KENNY ROBerts did not want to be here. Just off a jetliner from Sweden, where his roadracing team’s lead rider, Wayne Rainey, had crashed and lost the lead in the grand prix series point chase, the three-time world champion slouched in the car with his arms crossed and muttered, “God, I dread riding this bike.”
There’s nothing like riding with an old friend. Just ask Bob Hannah.
THE YEAR WAS 1965 AND THE LOCATION WAS THE harsh desert surrounding Lancaster, California. The scene wasn’t very unusual: A father and his 8-year-old son were together with a few friends in the rocky wilderness, all winding down after a good ride.
THERE ARE TWO PHILOSOPHIES WHEN IT COMES TO building vintage racebikes. Some people build them to be looked at. Others to be ridden. Matt Hilgenberg definitely subscribes to the second philosophy. His business, Speed & Sport (213/490-0012), is dedicated to preparing motorcycles for vintage racing.
THE NEWS WAS ROTTEN. MY classic BSA Gold Star, purchased 12 years ago as a non-runner for $100, then wheeled into a garage and disassembled to await resurrection, wasn't a Gold Star at all. Made up of bits and pieces from various BSA models, it was what classic-bike people refer to as a “Bitsa," or more derisively, a “Lead Star."
POWERING DOWN THE RAMP, I saw a big Twin in the fast lane, so I eased over and came up on the right rear. First thing in view was a sprung hub, then a distributor in the vee of the cylinders, then a quarter elliptic spring. “Shades of Springfield,” I exclaimed, “it’s an Indian Chief!” The rider was a big guy, all hair and denim, riding in the classic million-mile slouch.
Remember the CBX? Jim Hall is making sure nobody will forget.
EVERY MAN SHOULD HAVE CERtain rights. The rights to life and liberty, of course. The right to happiness. And, along those lines, the right to ride a 325-horsepower motorcycle on the street. The right to get to work, a quarter of a mile away, in just over eight seconds.
THERE’S A RIGHT WAY AND THERE’S A wrong way to do most things in life. The problem is that if you try to do everything the right way, almost nothing gets done. If you want an example, just look at your last tax return. Cleaning a motorcycle’s air filter is one of those tasks that can be done right or wrong, and almost everyone who doesn’t have a solvent tank does it the wrong way, usually relying on a liberal application of gasoline to clean away the grime and crud.
NEXT TO A WORKING COWBOY, NO ONE depends more on boots than a hard-riding motorcyclist. Sport riders and roadracers count on their boots to give a good feel for a bike’s foot controls, to act as feelers during full-tilt cornering and to provide protection in the event of a get-off.
YOU CAN TASTE THE TENSION: The rider, his front wheel aimed dead-on at a near-vertical hillside, hunches his shoulders, twists the throttle to middle revs—and then freezes, for just a few seconds, as he digs deep for that last bit of courage, that last shred of concentration.
Months after his horrendous USGP crash, Bubba Shobert struggles to regain his winning form
Camron E. Bussard
BY NOW, BUBBA SHOBERT’S post-race crash on the cool-down lap of the U.S. Grand Prix may seem like distant news. But for 13 hours in mid-April, the entire motorcycle community agonized while Shobert lay near death in the intensive-care unit of the San Jose Medical Center.
Freddie Spencer, either the most-talented or the most-overrated racer of our time—depending on who you talk to—has retired from the road-racing scene once again. Or, as one GP insider put it, “He’s being paid not to race.” According to England’s Motor Cycle News, Marlboro team manager Giacomo Agostini, apparently not happy with Spencer’s performance, said that the three-time world champion has been retired on “very close” to full pay, and that his equipment will now be ridden by Italy’s Luca Cadalora.
I’ve been riding motorcycles for many years and have never really been interested in the mechanics of them. Now, I own a 1989 GSX-R750 and would like to have the satisfaction of tuning the bike myself. Are there any books you can recommend or someone that I can learn from?
We need your photos for Slipstream. We’re looking for photos that make us smile because they say something about motorcycling. Submissions should be made to Slipstream, Cycle World 853 W. 17th Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92627. To be returned, the photographs must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope.