Cafe Racer Society has been huge fun theses past few years - with over 240 hopefully informative (or at least interesting) posts. But with the impending sale of my vintage Cafe Racer after four years of fun I feel its time for something new...
The New Cafe Racer Society will focus more on the motorcycle in art, design, culture, film and the future,...and less an attempt to be all things cafe racer and the nuts and bolts of bikes.
I have transferd some of my favorite postings onto the new site and will for a while and at the end of November when I will keep this blog as an archive after that.
Friday, November 2, 2007
I pulled this amazing advert for Fast Art from an art magazine way back in 1987. It shows a 87 Honda CBR 100F painted by then innovative graffiti artist Keith Haring (who went on to shake the modern art world..and then sadly die of A.I.D.S all to soon afterwards) Fast Art gallery commissioned several other Graffiti artists Crash, Stash, Futura 2000, L.A. II and Zephyr to all create stunning examples of fast art. The full gallery of the art bikes can be viewed at the Art Crimes/ Fast Art Website
"The Guzzi V7 is back. Moto-Guzzi follows the revival style and will show at the next EICMA of Milan a whole new V7... on the V7 Classic, Moto Guzzi is again offering a motorcycle with classic, timeless lines in homage to true Moto Guzzi V7 elegance and style.
Equipped with a classic 750 cc engine and with looks characterised by the flat contour of the tank and seat, the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic is an impressively enjoyable and versatile machine.
Simple and with timeless design, all features will be unveil November 6th."
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
"Ghost Rider" is the alias used by a Swedish motorcycle stunt rider in a series of independently produced DVD movies where the recurring theme involves Ghost Rider himself performing illegal maneuvers on his motorcycle on public roads across Sweden and other countries in Europe. The movies show Ghost Rider, mostly in the perspective of cameras mounted on his motorbike, racing at extreme speeds on busy roadways, provoking law enforcement officers into high-speed chases, and performing various dangerous stunts in mostly uncontrolled environments.
Ghost Rider's primary motorbike of choice for the movies is the Suzuki GSX-R1000. He has used a variety of different year models with differing modifications to each, including a fully carbon fiber GSX-R1000 K4 in Ghost Rider Goes Crazy in Europe and a 280+ bhp turbocharged GSX-R1000 K5 in Ghost Rider Goes Undercover. Although Ghost Rider's primary vehicle is a motorcycle, he uses a wide variety of other vehicles in the movies including different types of cars, bicycles, minibikes, and even a snowmobile on public streets. Each movie has a scene where Ghost Rider rides a highly tuned, turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa. The Hayabusa in Ghost Rider: The Final Ride was tuned to 417 bhp, and the one used for the later movies was at 499 bhp.
Swedish rock band Europe used various clips from the Ghost Rider movies in their music video for the song Got to Have Faith from their 2004 album Start from the Dark.
In Ghost Rider: The Final Ride, Ghost Rider does a timed run in Sweden from Stockholm to Uppsala (dubbed Uppsala Run, a distance of 68 km or 42.6 miles) in 14m 55s with an average speed of 273.1 km/h (170.1 mph) in heavy traffic. He breaks his own record in Uppsala Run 2 (Ghost Rider Goes Crazy in Europe) with a faster bike by a mere two seconds (14m 53s) with even heavier traffic present.
In Ghost Rider Goes Crazy in Europe, Ghost Rider does a timed run in Paris, France on the Paris Peripherique (French term for ring road/beltway) and completes the circuit with an elapsed time of 9m 57s. This was done as a tribute to a French street racer going by the alias "Le Prince Noir" (Black Prince) who completed the circuit on his motorcycle in 11m 04s in the year 1989. The times are incomparable however due to Black Prince's being obtained in heavy traffic with daylight and Ghost Rider's being obtained with very little traffic at night.
Also in Ghost Rider Goes Crazy in Europe, Ghost Rider does a timed run in the Netherlands from Rotterdam to Amsterdam (a distance of approximately 70 kilometers) in 20m 32s.
..and here's my favorite bit from the wiki:
"Ghost Rider has built up a myth that seems destined to endure: There are many in the motorcycle community that believe the real Ghost Rider died in an accident in 2005, whilst some of Stockholm's youth claim with conviction that he really is a ghost and can ride through walls to evade police."
Review From Eat my brains.com
"At first glance it seems like the most unlikeliest of combinations: the guy who does the voice of Bob the Builder and the guy who plays C-3PO appearing in the same movie? A horror movie? A British horror movie about a vampire motorcycle set in Birmingham? Well, truth is often stranger than fiction and this movie is living proof of that, or rather proof of what happens when a production company behind a hit show lie to the TV studio backers about doing re-shoots, borrow the show’s sets, props and even actors, and make a low-budget horror comedy of their very own. About a vampire motorcycle. In Birmingham.
The film itself opens with a good old fashioned bit of biker turf war action. A devil worshipping biker gang has moved in to the territory of a rival gang called the ‘Road Toads’ to do a spot of demon summoning, so the Road Toads break out the weapons and carnage ensues. The Road Toads win, slaughtering all the devil worshipping bikers easy, but little do they know they were too late to stop the summoning and the demon is now here finding refuge in a damaged Norton Commando motorcycle.
So when Nick Oddy (or ‘Noddy’ to his friends, Neil Morrissey to you and I) heads off to buy a second hand, slightly damaged Norton motorcycle, you know exactly what to expect. At the beginning things are quiet, with only the brutal decapitation of Noddy’s mate Buzzer giving any hint that something is amiss (that’ll teach him for stealing the bike’s petrol cap). Then there’s the bike’s handling going bananas when Noddy happens to ride past the Road Toads, but he puts that down to dodgy steering, which is sensible really as that’s a little more probable than your bike being a vampire. The straw that finally breaks the camel’s back, though – when the bike reveals it’s true nature – is when Noddy and his girlfriend order a Chinese takeaway from the guy who plays Kato in the Pink Panther movies. That’ll teach them to order garlic prawns.
So with the bike now unveiled it appears that no one in Birmingham is safe. In a few sequences clearly inspired by a handful of contemporary American horrors (An American Werewolf in London immediately springs to mind) the bike goes on the rampage, killing other bikers, traffic wardens, coppers and old people indiscriminately. Noddy soon puts two and two together and he decides to head to the only place he can think of for help: the local church!
Watching I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle again after all these years feels almost like you’re unearthing a lost classic. The crack I made earlier about this movie’s Boon connection (a popular late 80s TV show starring Michael Elphick) sounds like a joke but as you watch the disc’s excellent retrospective documentary you soon realise that it’s absolutely all true. It’s a classic tale of low-budget filmmaking and one that warms any respectable film fans heart. Practically all the principal cast had appeared in Boon at some time or other (except Anthony Daniels), Noddy’s house is Boon’s house and the crew are all the same too. Sure, this gives I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle that cheapo TV movie feel, but this flick’s never going to be winning any awards for direction or cinematography, so who cares? When you’re out to make a tongue-in-cheek horror comedy with sod all budget, you take all the help you can get.
And anyone involved in this project should be proud. The script is knowing and self deprecating, plus it doesn’t mind making Morrissey, the movie’s hero, out to be a lazy male-chauvinist pig. The British predilection with toilet humour is here in full force (the ‘talking turd’ sequence being a particularly disgusting highlight, especially when in jumps into Noddy’s mouth) as is our obsession with having nice cups of tea to solve everything. The music is also suitably ridiculous, ranging an incidental score that sounds like it was lifted from a Carry On movie (yes, they borrowed the composer from Boon, would you believe) to pumping rock tracks, one of which is called “She Runs On Blood... She Don't Run On Gasoline” (which is included in it’s separate entirety as a special feature on the DVD). But the biggest gem in this pot of treasure is seeing Anthony Daniels – Mr C-3PO himself – as a camp gung-ho biker exorcist, complete with razor-sharp throwing-crosses. “Let’s go kick some bottom!”
So, don’t take it seriously and don’t expect anything ground-breaking or Oscar worthy and you won’t be disappointed. Do expect to see biker rock carnage, garlic bandoliers, multiple decapitations, fingers severed, vampire bike POV shots (through the cracked headlight, obviously) and Neil Morrissey with a fake turd hanging out of his mouth. This is one of those good bad classics that I’m sure a lot of people have forgotten about, so thank goodness M.I.A. have finally given this baby the golden DVD treatment it deserves as this is clearly the best Birmingham-based vampire motorcycle movie ever made."
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
From Raptors and Rockets:
Words: Tor Sagen/Photo: Gary Freeman/Redeye & Tor Sagen
Words: Tor Sagen/Photo: Gary Freeman/Redeye & Tor Sagen
"Since rising from the collapse in 2004 CCM have recently launched an all new retro collection of offroad and road motorcycles. The British maker of offroad and competition motorcycles has only recently turned to the retro market. And it’s a wise choice since CCM’s heydays was in the 70’s and 80’s. We rode the new Street Scrambler and Flat Tracker on English roads and on the Speedway track.
On my way to pick up the SR40 Street Scrambler it was my first time visiting the Bolton based CCM factory. CCM is hidden away inside an industrial area typical for the North-West of England, the industrial revolutions cradle. I am greeted by Gary Harthern (49), the Managing Director and saviour of the modern CCM. Further inside the new CCM premises off Vale Street in Bolton I find Austin Clews (42) on his knees working on next years FT35 Flat Tracker race bike. Austin is officially the Sales Manager, but everyone is very hands on in this family run business. Russel Clews (30) is the youngest of the two Clews brothers and the Purchasing Manager. These three make out the CCM management.
Austin runs through the controls and idiosyncrasies of the SR40. Idiosyncrasies because the SR40 Street Scrambler is the only existing prototype! So the seat is not final, the exhaust is too close to the rear tyre etc. I am being told that I am now an official test mule and if any problems just call. Worrying, but after writing down all the mobile phone numbers I feel safe that I would at least be picked up by a CCM van if something should go wrong.
The SR40 is a tiny and very short motorcycle. With a punchy little 398cc single cylinder engine taken from the Suzuki DRZ400 SR40 becomes somewhat wheelie prone. But with 42bhp and wide retro offroad handlebars it’s all very controllable. The SR40 is a Scrambler modelled on popular Triumph’s and BSA’s from the 60’s and 70’s. The handcrafted untreated alloy fuel tank makes a clear statement of minimalism and true retro looks. The aluminium mudguards and headlight with stainless steel guards are also retro and for someone that is used to riding a lot of modern bikes this is a real treat to the eyes. Despite the retro looks and image this Scrambler can and will handle most terrain.
The dry weight merely tips the scales at just over 120kg and riding it away from the Bolton factory I feel like a giant on the small bike. The ergonomics on this one and only existing prototype is nothing short of torture. I was shown the new seat at the factory that will replace this thin piece of leather that is fitted to this bike. When seated I could feel the sub frame trying to crush my bum-cheeks, but as mentioned this will be changed before production starts. The SR40 like any other new CCM will only be produced as Limited Editions-All handmade and assembled in Bolton.
The Paioli front fork has got modern internals, but is modelled on exactly how a classic offroad bike would have looked like. The suspension at the back is just as retro with double shocks from Brit firm Hagon. The suspension feels quite soft, but never bottomed out. The wheels are 18inch at the back and 21 inch at the front with offroad spec tyres fitted. These give the bike a tall and swampy feel on the road. They are slippery on the edges in the bends, but will easily do a wheelie on the wet when the bike and road is straight. Top speed on the motorway is around 90mph which is plenty enough on this short and small Scrambler.
On difficult offroad terrain is where this little gem could give a few grown up offroaders a surprise. It could be described as a mixture between a trails and offroad bike. Because it is so small and light it is nimble as very few bikes. At the same time it has got that low Scrambler seat height that will allow even docile offroad riders to perform daredevil manoeuvres on the dirt! The SR40 is a very forgiving offroad bike and I can’t see anyone ever getting into trouble on one! It’s like a small and stubborn mountain goat that will climb and climb when others have given up. So yes, a mixture between a trials bike, offroad and Scrambler is what the SR40 is. CCM have fitted Brembo brakes both at the front and back and not much is needed to stop this lightweight.
At the end of the test we headed out to Scunthorpe speedway circuit in the North-East of England. It was a bloody cold, wet and misty day-but I haven’t had this much fun in ages. On any Sunday is a brilliant film, and racing on the Flat Track ovals is all it’s about. This was my chance to play Mert Lewwill anno 1970 and I grabbed it with both hands! After doing loads of static shots around the track and action shots on the road I could wait no longer. I had Scunthorpe to myself and three bikes to choose from. The SR 40 Street Scrambler, the FT35RS and the FT35 race bike that won the British championship in 2006.
Since I had spent more time on the SR40 than the other two bikes at this point I headed out on the wet dirt track with the Scrambler first. First I just felt my way round to find out where the major puddles of standing water was and then I tried to start sliding like a pro. And I tell you it’s not easy and particularly not when it’s wet! The slide quickly becomes uncontrollable and who am I to demolish CCM’s one and only SR40 prototype? So I decided to go fast instead to let the sliding happen naturally. I forgot to ask the CCM guys which direction you are supposed to ride around Scunthorpe and went anti-clockwise. Not that it mattered as I was the only guy circulating. Pete Boast was present at our event to get some real sliding done for the camera and it didn’t take long before I had to call him in to get the job done.
But first I swapped the SR40 with the FT35 Flat Tracker race bike. A tuned single cylinder beast with a growl that shouts Torque! With 46.2Nm of torque on the rear wheel (!) available at just over 6.000rpm it tells a story. The race bike is a 500cc conversion though with Remus race exhaust and the max horsepower figure is 46bhp @ 7.500rpm measured on the rear wheel. Before I had had the chance to do one lap I was covered in mud! As you might know a Flat Track race bike comes without a front mudguard, but one usually put a mudguard on when it’s wet! We had still planned to shoot the FT35 roadbike and the CR40 Café Racer on the road so I thought it would be best to wait until last with the race bike when it was ok to get all muddy. But too late for my white Scott jacket. There’s no front brake which takes time to remember and you do need to brake even on an oval sometimes. The Brembo rear brake will have to do the job.
Later Flat Track racer Pete Boast went out on the FT35 race bike to show us how it was done. Even he found it difficult with the sliding on the wet Scunthorpe surface, but we got a couple of shots before he got a puncture on the rear tyre. We rode with Speedway tyres by the way to get some grip on the wet. Just a couple of weeks later Boastie won a race on Scunthorpe so the man knows his way around a dirt track. But with a punctured rear tyre and the light going fast we had to call it a day. No more Flat track racing for me that day.
CCM have been best known for making Supermoto bikes in the last few years. You might be mistaken to think that the FT35 road bike is a supermoto. It isn’t really, but you can treat it like one when riding. The main difference from a supermoto is that the FT35 is derived from Flat Track racing which means it has a much lower seat height for better control with those slides when leant all the way over. This FT35 has got road tyres and superb suspension from WP.
The first thing you notice about the FT35 is the tiny instruments from Accumen. It lights up like a Christmas tree. Then when pushing the electric starter button the bike is unbelievably loud! There is a reason for that and that is the cone shaped stubby exhaust from Remus. This is not standard off course as it’s highly not road legal. A single cylinder engine releases a lot of noise given the chance to breathe freely, even a small 398cc engine like in the FT35. As soon as the engine has warmed up and you can push the manual choke back in place it’s a little more civilised-But only until you touch the throttle.
This was fun for a while, but the loud noise is such a hard noise rather than a smoother sounding V-twin bike with open pipes. You really should ask your neighbours about permission before installing that Remus exhaust…
Out on the motorway this 400cc bike accelerates all the way to an indicated 120mph! That’s pretty unbelievable for any single cylinder bike to be honest. But then again the Accumen speedo might not be completely honest. This very bike that I was riding belonged to a certain Mrs Foggarty and might have more goodies mounted than I was aware of. The windblast is relentless and the sooner I could turn off the motorway the better it was.
In town I absolutely loved this bike. It doesn’t wheelie unless you want it to, but I certainly wanted it to and it did. In town I think it’s ok to be loud, agreed some poor little old lady might get her hearing aids blown up, but at least pedestrians and everything else can hear you coming. We were so close to getting into so much trouble several times during the weekend on the CCM FT35 that it was a slight relief to return it. I was chased away by this lady that claimed her horses that were in a stable several miles away, found the charming little bike disturbing.
So I returned the anti-social little beast back to CCM quite content. A weekend was enough, but there could still have been more fun to be had. Fun is all this bike is about and it is a great little short distance commuter.
I was now due to ride the CR40 Café Racer. But there was a problem when I arrived, there was no sidestand on the bike and the new one was not ready yet. We could have disengaged the sidestand switch and gone for a spin, but then CCM remembered that they had removed a footpeg as well to use on another bike that had gone out to the press in a hurry. So I had to settle with sitting on the CR40 S with the 80’s TT inspired fairing. The bike is very different from the SR40 Street Scrambler that it shares both chassis and other parts with. The clip-on handlebars are retro racing and the tyres are road orientated Dunlop’s rather than the knobby ones on the Scrambler. Great if you fancy the look, but me I’m a Scrambler man.
Of all the CCM’s that I rode the SR40 Street Scrambler is my favourite both when it comes to looks and offroad ability. There’s just nothing like it out there. The FT35 roadbike with loud pipes made the most spectacular impression and it handles better than all the other CCM’s-Perfect if you ride a lot in town or if you are not tall enough for a supermoto. But that Remus stubby silencer is bloody loud! Riding the bikes on the Flat Track was the highlight of the test and this experience is highly recommended. CCM organises Flat Track experience days and you should try it if you have got the chance. The combination of reliable Suzuki engines, quality suspension and brakes and hand built CCM chassis and fuel tanks should be irresistible if you like how the bikes look like. If not you could always buy a puke yellow DRZ400…
CCM brief history
CCM was founded in 1971 by Alan Clews-Then called Clews Stroka that soon became Clews Competition Machines, now known as CCM. During the 70’s CCM had great success in Motocross with John Banks and Bob Wright. In 1976 Eddie Kidd jumped 13 double decker buses on a 2 valve 500cc CCM. More than 54 machines were then sold to the Sultan of Oman for his display team. In the early 80’s CCM Armstrong won the British trials championship two years running with Steve Saunders. In 1981 CCM Armstrong won the 250 TT with Steve Tonkin. Niall McKenzie dominated the British 250cc Road racing championship with the world’s firs all carbon fibre frames. CCM produced over 4000 motorcycles for the North-American market under the Can Am brand. During the same period CCM produced more than 3000 MT500 army motorcycles to the British, Canadian and Jordanian armies. Harley-Davidson bought the rights to produce the MT500 in the US. In the late 90’s and until the bankruptcy CCM were active in four stroke racing with rally success in Dakar, but mainly on the supermoto track. In 2004 CCM was at the brink of extinction. Gary Harthern, a local business owner from Preston came up with the cash needed to restart production. Together with the two Clews brothers Austin and Russel he now runs the small British company from the North-West of England. Since then we have seen the launch of new bikes each year at the International motorcycle & Scooter show in Birmingham. This will continue and CCM are now developing a brand new 450cc motocross bike. Motocross is where it all started in the 70’s and be sure that CCM will soon be back on the MX scene."
From The Kneeslider:
"..Hogbitz, in Chigwell Essex, England are now building Sportster based café racers.
The man behind the builds, Brian Udall, takes low mileage Sportsters and rebuilds them to resemble classic Tritons. The stock frame and forks are retained, to keep the cost down, the main changes are to the bodywork. The tank is swapped for a distinctive, hand beaten alloy unit and a new rear fender is fitted. The stock front fender is kept but cut down. The standard fork legs are also retained but polished, as are the calipers. The legs are then raised in the trees to steepen the head angle and quicken the steering.
Engine modifications are dependent on the customer with this example running an 883R motor that has been converted to 12000R and fitted with ported and polished Buell Lightning heads, a forced induction air cleaner and 2-into-1 SuperTrapp pipes.
The bike is finished off with Hogbitz clip-ons and a set of LSL rearsets to push the rider into a racing tuck aboard the custom seat. Hogbitz has plans to introduce its own line of rearsets in the future. There is also the option of an alloy seat unit which replaces the rear fender. The stock hubs are rebuilt into 18 inch alloy rims for the period correct look.
On the road the bike feels quite small and narrow and puts the rider into a stretched out, forward leaning riding position that is hard on the wrists until up to speed when the wind blast relieves some of the pressure.
The motor revs surprisingly freely and accelerated well from standstill and plenty of torque means the bike easily powers through bends in higher gears. It idles smoothly at low speeds in town without needing much in the way of clutch feathering.
Braking is fine with a two-fingered squeeze though lacking bite, which is typical of stock Harley brakes.
The relatively stock suspension soaked up bumps easily but was still firm enough to feels stable and planted through sweeping bends taken between 50 and 70 mph, a benefit of the forks being rebuilt with progressive springs and other internal changes. The change to the head angle made it surprisingly quick turning and flicking the bike from left to right was easy with a quick push on the clip-ons.
With a starting price of £7,500 the Hogbitz café racer is an affordable option for those who want the look of a classic bike but not the hassle of keeping an old Brit bike on the road."
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
"It will be officially presented at the Tokyo motorcycle show (from Oct. 27 to Nov. 11). In the "revival" style, Yamaha shows us a cafe racer pôwered by a good looking V-Twin engine, this is a prototype (not a concept) so it can be released soon...
In the image of Yamaha’s first 4-stroke model, the XS-1 (650cc), released in 1970. Its design is full of XS-1 DNA, in its simplicity and functional beauty and finds new refinement in a retro-modern aesthetic. It is a model that proposes a very Yamaha and very Japanese vision of premium motorcycling life, bringing together the unique characteristics of a 1,000cc air-cooled, V-twin model with its strong pulse feeling and easy-going running performance in a finely crafted body that is lightweight and slim and defined by a low seat height."
Monday, October 15, 2007
From Atomic avenue:
"Even readers not familiar with manga or anime will immediately notice the retro artwork in Mikiya Mochizuki’s Wild 7—and for good reason. This multi-volume series of collected reprints has material dating back to 1969 (although there’s no word of it on the front or back covers). Instead, it is presented as a modern graphic novel; only a peek at the copyright date reveals its origins, at least in the first book. Released during the biker craze of the late 60s—most likely after the chopper classic “Easy Rider” had hit theaters—Wild 7 is a fast-paced adventure which has the Japanese government hiring a gang of hoodlums, led by Hiba, to defend themselves from any threats to their power. The dated storytelling will remind many anime fans of Speed Racer and other vintage Japanese cartoons."
Bikes are the co-stars in Wild 7
..and from Beyond Japanhero:
"Ever since making its debut in monthly manga magazine “Shonen King” in 1969, Mochizuki Mikiya’s “Wild 7” has wowed its readers with its “Super Action Violence” and gritty cop drama. This violent action manga in which 7 ex-cons were selected to form an elite motorcycle police force. The series was unique (besides for the violence) in which each of the 7 members had a different motorcycle, each specially fitted. Team leader Hiba rides a Honda CB 750, "Hippy" Tom rides a multi-wheeled Harley FL, Oyabun rides a Suzuki Hustler 250, Chasu rides a Suzuki GT 380, Sekai Rides a Harley, Otto rides a Norton Cafe Racer and Ryogoku rides a Kawasaki 500 SS Mach3 equipped with a rocket launcher sidecar.
For 30 years readers have read the exploits of these unconventional motorcycle vigilantes. The stories of the “Wild 7” have been collected into 48 “tankobon” special volumes and has spawned three sequels. It has also been adapted into both a short lived live-action series and two animated series.
Many have likened the story to Robert Aldrich’s “The Dirty Dozen” (MGM, 1967) and its themes have also been incorporated into many other subsequent shows such as “Sukeban Deka” (Toei, 1985).
Predating the American show “A-Team” (NBC/ Stephen J. Cannell Productions, 1983) by almost a decade, the TV Show was considered one of the most gritty and violent shows on Japanese TV at the time and many Japanese PTA organizations rallied against the show.
“Wild 7” is still a fan favorite even today and collections of the original work have also made its way to UK and US audiences in the form of translated manga collections. The original OVA Anime was also released to VHS in both dubbed and subbed forms.
While the basic premise was the same for both the TV show and the Manga, certain elements were changed for dramatic effect. The show involved more espionage and anti-terrorism storylines than vigilante, gritty cop drama. One of the main opponents of the “Wild 7” was the International Criminal Organization known as “Spider” which seemed to resemble SPECTRA from the James Bond movies. Due to the Japanese PTA groups complaints regarding the amount of violence in its stories. “Wild 7” was eventually cancelled in light of all the negative backlash."
Sunday, October 14, 2007
From edmunds.com by Ken Gross.
"Years ago, I lived in sunny Sydney, Australia, where nearly every sparkling morning signaled a motorcycle day. I was content with my trusty old Vincent Rapide and my new 750 SS Ducati, but I still read the weekend cycle classifieds. One Saturday, there was a brief but tempting three-line ad for a BSA Gold Star.
Britain's famous 500cc "Goldie" was one of the most coveted '50s-era racing motorcycles. BSA stood for "Birmingham Small Arms," one of England's top armaments suppliers. When it wasn't waging war, it built sporting motorcycles.
Temperamental, hard to start, difficult to ride well, and wickedly quick, the beautiful "Beeza" was a bike men lusted after, but only a lucky few could have one.
Surely, there couldn't be any harm in looking.
The man who answered the phone said I was his first caller. He directed me to an address in Sefton, a working-class neighborhood in Sydney's Western Suburbs, located a few miles past an urban sprawl of factories and light industry.
The street's brick, semidetached row houses all looked alike. Many numbers were faded or missing, so it took awhile to find number 63. Walking up a neatly tended path, I was excited to see the bike. At the door, John Hearne, a trim-looking man in his 20s, introduced me to his strikingly attractive young wife, Fiona. She smiled shyly, looking strangely pleased to see me. He was cool, almost as if he weren't interested in selling his motorcycle.
Even though there was a garage tucked behind the house, we headed straight inside and into a small back bedroom. I couldn't figure it out. Once inside, I saw why: There, between the double bed and the wall, stood the prettiest Gold Star I'd ever seen. The chrome sparkled, the black enamel shone and the glittering wheels set my heart pounding. I waited, wondering what would happen next.
"We're living here with me mum and dad," John admitted. The grim look on Fiona's face told me all I needed to know about that arrangement. "We're planning to use the money from the sale of the BSA as a down payment for a place of our own," his wife volunteered. Glancing sideways sharply, John frowned at his wife, as though she'd betrayed a confidence.
To break the awkwardness of the moment, I asked if he'd start the bike. He was proud to comply. After maneuvering the immaculate machine through the kitchen to the back porch, he skillfully found the compression point. Tickling the big Amal Grand Prix carburetor until pungent fuel dripped past the float, John retarded the ignition, raised the valve lifter and kicked down smartly on the starting lever. The bike settled into a fast but very even idle with that characteristic spitting sound common to well-tuned BSA singles. He looked up and grinned. I smiled back.
"Nice," I said. "Too right," he replied, using the Aussie vernacular for "You bet."
Fiona left us for a moment. "Look, I never intended to sell this bike," he sighed. "Still don't really want to. I bought it in a basket five years ago. It's taken me all this time to rebuild it. I'll show you the bills, the used bits and all the receipts. Spared no expense, I did."
His words came faster and faster. "Me brother's a Speedway Champion and he helped. You'll see from the logbook," he said, handing over a battered green packet, "I'm the sixth owner. The machine spent most of its life on the Isle of Man. You know, where they run the TT."
I gave the bike a quick going over. It was perfect. The classic 4-gallon BSA Clubman tank had been replaced with a 5-gallon Lyta aluminum racing tank, and an Eddie Dow finned side plate had been added.
There wasn't one burred bolt. The machine looked better than the day it had rolled out of Birmingham in the summer of 1961. Bargaining on the basis of flaws would be a waste of time, an insult to the painstaking work John had done. We both knew it. This motorcycle was very special.
"Are you sure you want to sell it?" I asked, suddenly torn between wanting the motorcycle and hating to see him give up all the work he'd done. "I have to," he replied sadly. "And I've got to get every penny of the asking price." Fiona came back and stood looking anxiously over his shoulder. We were soon joined by her beamy, fierce-looking mother-in-law. She, too, wanted to see how we were getting on.
There was no need to ride the bike. I knew it was right. "I'll give you what you want," I said, "and I'll give you something else. I'll promise if I ever sell this motorcycle, you can have the first chance to buy it back." He was silent for a moment, obviously disappointed that I'd decided so quickly. He sighed, nodding. Fiona squealed and hugged him. The deal was done.
As I wrote the deposit check, my hand trembled. Driving home, I felt strange. The happiness I'd expected to feel in discovering the perfect Gold Star was tempered by what the sale meant to John Hearne. He'd traded one kind of freedom for another. It seemed a curious bargain.
A few days later, John and Fiona appeared at my lock-up garage, the BSA carefully tied down in the bed of his Holden Utility pickup. We unloaded the machine with the reverence military pallbearers show a soldier's coffin. He took a few minutes to show me the starting drill and to say good-bye.
Sitting on the bike for the last time, he caressed the clip-on bars and the fuel tank as a lover would. "It's easy to start," he said, as he demonstrated the complicated drill. When the Goldie fired, he shouted over the loud idle: "Keep the revs between 1,500 and 2,000. There's no way you can get a proper tickover [idle] with a GP carbie. It's geared high, so slip the clutch a little in 1st. With this sprocket, mate, you can top 115."
John smiled bravely as he packed up his truck, but I'm sure I saw the hint of a tear. Fiona stood still, sensitive to the solemnity of the moment. She silently took his hand. When they left, I turned to the bike and tried unsuccessfully for an hour to start it.
I owned the Goldie for three years. That BSA had its own special aura — aloof, elite, forbidding. I never registered it, preferring to start it up only very occasionally and riding it at vintage bike meets. It's odd, I suppose, but I never really felt as if it were truly mine.
After returning to the States, I succumbed to an overwhelming temptation to buy an old Ferrari. To afford it, I had to sell my motorcycles, including a Velocette Venom bought sight unseen from England, along with the Ducati and the Vincent.
Before advertising the "Beeza," I kept my promise to John Hearne, and I sent him a letter.
"If you'd like your Goldie back," I wrote, "you can have it for the price you sold it to me. I'll split the cost of crating and shipping it to Australia. I've hardly used it. I'd like you to have it again."
Two months passed. He didn't reply. I tried phoning unsuccessfully. Finally, I sold the Gold Star to Chris Wimpey, a California photographer.
In the years since, I wondered if John Hearne's new house brought him the satisfaction his classic motorcycle so obviously provided. I wondered why he hadn't responded to my letter. Long after the bike was sold, I still somehow expected to hear from him. But there was no completing the circle.
The bike's new owner created a poster of the BSA. Preserved on a dramatic black background, the Gold Star's cool perfection recaptures the moment I first saw it in John and Fiona Hearne's bedroom.
And that's the way I like to remember it."
Okay, need your bike picture fix? here is a vintage photo of a woodgas powerd bike built in France during wartime fuel shortages..
"Burning Man artist Chicken John announces he's running for Mayor of San Francisco. I would not be the one to draw a connection between the two -- that, dear reader, is all in your mind. Chicken created the Cafe Racer, as seen in this splendid above photo, which is a 1975 GMC woodgas powerd truck that runs entirely on coffee grounds. (It's basically old-school gasification, that carbon-free, trash-destroying technology.
Okay, need your bike picture fix? here is a vintage photo of a woodgas powerd bike built in France during wartime fuel shortages..
Friday, October 12, 2007
"1/6 scale electric motorcycle from Harald Back's collection. The Eleck Rider was manufactured by Kyosho and marketed in Germany in the late 70's by Graupner, a company that supplied nearly every rc motorcycle sold in the German market. The Eleck Rider was powered by a Mabuchi 380 type motor, and the steering operated in a similar fashion to the later Kyosho 1/8 scale motorcycle. The Eleck Rider runs at about 15+ kph with the stock Mabuchi motor. When it was on the market an optional tuning kit was alsp available that included stickier tires and a longer wheelbase. The longer wheelbase permitted the use of a 6 cell battery pack which increased the top speed with a slightly tuned motor to about 30 kph."
Edited for size from Motorcycle usa.com
"It might be a bit hard to find a class to race Honda's Dream 50. Or is it an old 50? No matter, as Honda expects most Dream 50 owners will use the $5499 bikes for nostalgic or display purchases, not for race duty.
Too bad, as the Dream is is fun to ride even if its limits are a bit lower. Imagine taking a mountain bike with a narrow handlebar and shrinking it down one-third in size and you're pretty close to what a Dream ride feels like. Add in a double-overhead-cam, HRC-built 50cc screamer that revs to 14,500 rpm and you've got one fun mountain bike!
The Dream was built to commemorate Honda's early racing history that began in the 50cc class. The factory RC110 debuted in 1962, and it spawned the commercially available Cub Racing CR110. The single-cylinder CR featured gear-driven double-overhead cams, a dry clutch and an 8-speed gearbox. The new Dream uses lower-tech chains to drive its cams, yet it is able to rev 1000 rpm higher than the 13,500-rpm CR110 and directs power through a 6-speed gearbox.
The Dream has been offered for sale in Japan for several years, and an entire cottage industry has been built around it. HRC has built a huge list of go-fast parts for the Dream since Asian enthusiasts seem willing to throw everything they can get at their racebikes.
But even in stock condition, the Dream impresses with its pure racebike design and trick bits. A lovely oil catch tank created out of aluminum contains crankcase blow-by, and aluminum fenders are used front and rear. Despite the use of a period-spec steel frame, Honda claims the lithe Dream weighs just 157 pounds dry. The Dream is a product of HRC, and they've been kind enough to pre-drill the oil drain bolt to satisfy racing regulations for lockwiring critical fasteners.
You won't find a convenient kickstart lever on the Dream, let alone a wussy electric starter. Cranking it over is via the Hailwood method of bump-starting, usually quite easy on the Dream despite the big 11.7:1 compression ratio. Acceleration is as limp as a scuba diver's Kleenex until the revs climb into the five-digit range. It starts pulling at 12,500 rpm before falling off 2000 revs later. Honda claims 7 horsepower at 13,500 from the 49cc engine, but it sounds like much more when the giant open velocity stack ravenously sucks in air for the open 20mm carb as the 40mm piston goes up and down 240 times each second.
The beauty of racing a tiddler like the Dream is that the rate things happen for the rider is much easier to digest than on a more powerful bike. As a result, extracting the maximum from the bike, and especially the engine, is more gratifying in a way than something like turning the throttle to the stop of a CBR1000RR for a few seconds before having to frantically grab the brakes to scrub off the 100 mph you just piled on.
The Dream handles like nothing else I've ridden. Honda didn't provide rake and trail numbers, but it will suffice to say you've never ridden a motorcycle that turns with less effort. Genuine Showa suspension does a reasonably good job at damping wheel movement, and 2.50-18-inch Bridgestone Battlax BT39SS tires are used at both ends. With the seat's classic bum-stop coming up a few inches shorter than the Dream's 70.5-inch overall length, there's actually enough room for a full-scale adult to fit.
A combination of a strong front disc brake and a super-skinny tire is my excuse for testing the Dream's crash worthiness. Entering one of the corners at Apex and grabbing the brake lever with the finesse of a steroid-injected bodybuilder put me on the ground faster than you could say Ruben Xaus.
Thankfully, damage to our frail little bodies was limited to a bent triple clamp and bruised shoulder, and both of us were back in action in no time. A similar spill in, let's say, Turn 1 at Willow Springs, would've been much more painful to both steel and tissue, underlining the relative safety of mini racing.
The danger levels of mini racing may be reduced from full-sized racing, but not the fun factor. As is the case with racing 50cc dirt bikes, all you need for laugh-out-loud giggles is another rider on a similar bike."
From Scooter Rider Styling
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
From jammag.com by Anubhav Arya.
"When you talk about a Norton or a Harley, your grandpa probably has ridden, heard of, or seen it. Café racers are those classic bike legends which were born out of a small bet. The legend has it that in the early 50's and 60's in Europe, local café's were a host to a group of bikers. These bikers laid out a bet in which they had to choose a song on the jukebox and take a ride around the city really fast. They had to get back before that song got over! This began to get very popular and hence gave birth to Café Racers, which significantly implies both man and machine! These bikers made their own custom designed bikes, these bikes had two piece handle bars, really fast engines mostly Triumph's. And chassis from a Norton, the bike was named "TriTon"
To be very honest, these types of bikes are not liked by all. Only a handful of people really appreciate a Café Racer, one of them being me. The CR (Café Racer) is not what people buy, but what they actually make of it later. A true CR is the mixture of many things. Reliability, power, and fun! Almost any bike can be made a CR if given proper thought. But don't get carried away to old school Europe because we have our very own CR's right here in India! Apart from the thousands of imported bikes that people brought in during the 60's and 80's, the only real café racer is the Yamaha RD-350. By all means this bike is still considered to be the fastest bike that has ever come to India. The true face of Yamaha. Unlike gladiators and the upcoming Yamaha Alba, sheesh!
It's been a long time since Yamaha stopped production of the RD. But it still remains to be seen if this bike is really dead. While companies like Yamaha have ceased production of these bikes, some companies around the world are bringing back these legendary bikes to life! Companies like Norton have completely modernized their bike and have already launched their Café Racer Commando all over the world. Some of the companies which are making modern CR's are Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Voxan, and Vincent. These are by far the only companies left which still have the guts to come out and make what actually people like us want. "
"Often, post-war British motorcycle factories were unedifying experiences. Squalid working conditions, management of appalling mediocrity, obsessively militant trade unions and chronic under-funding led to a reliance on existing designs and tooling which was suicidal. Yet, out of this mire, true motorcycling gems sometimes appeared.
Norton’s Bracebridge Street works in Birmingham was a near perfect example of how not to build motorcycles - but still the factory managed to produce one of the best big bikes of its era.
Luck had a huge part to play in the launch of the Dominator. First, the factory owned the coveted “Featherbed” duplex frame. This design had been gifted to the factory by the McCandless brothers and had kept Norton’s Grand Prix aspirations alive ten years after Norton’s race bikes should have been obsolete.
Not only did the “Featherbed” set the standard of handling for the whole of the motorcycling world but its great benefit to Norton, and many other manufacturers, was that the duplex design allowed almost any engine to be housed within the widely splayed frame tubes.
The Dominator also had a very reasonable engine. Designer Bert Hopwood was an obsessive self-publicist but had worked alongside both Val Page and Edward Turner at Ariel in the 1930s when all three became interested in the concept of neat, cheap to produce, parallel twins. Page penned the elegant Ariel KH, Turner the legendary Speed Twin and Hopwood the Dominator. Naturally, he claimed the Dominator to be far superior to the other two!
The resultant bike was a nice motorcycle by any standards. It handled extremely well, had a sweet, reliable engine which provided a genuine 90mph performance and possessed the best brakes of any contemporary British bike. Only in terms of a leak prone primary chain-case was the Dommi inferior to Triumph’s world-beating range.
Finished in Norton’s classic polychromatic grey colour scheme, the Dominator also looked every part as elegant as its Triumph contemporary and was far more elegant than either Ariels or BMWs of the day.
But it wasn’t oil leaks which constantly forced the Dommi into second place in the sales race. The Triumph factory was modern, well equipped and profitable. By contrast, the Norton works was a model of inefficiency and squalor and suffered from chronic under-funding. At best, the Bracebridge Street works could produce only 200 bikes a week - and that was a rare occurrence.
That Hopwood’s first design proved to be right is shown in the way that the basic motor was bored and stroked first to 600cc and then to 750cc with the Atlas and eventually, although much modified, all the way to the 828cc Commando.
Today, the Dominator still does not fetch such a premium price as its Triumph rivals which makes it one of best buys in the classic bike market."
"Offering the satisfying feel of a do-it-yourself kit, these kid-oriented machines serve up heaps of good times by offering a variety of fun styles. Powered by modularly designed small-displacement engines, the Dream Kids' specially designed parts can be combined to create either the Dream Kids "Dokitto" bike or the "Wakuccho" kart and expand a child's imagination.
Engine type / Air-cooled four-stroke single-cylinder OHV
Displacement / 31.0cm3"
Friday, October 5, 2007
From motorbikestoday.com by: Adrian Percival
"Tucked away in my collection of old photographs is a picture of my Mum & Dad leaving to go on holiday on their 650 ‘Bonnie’. Now this was taken about 40 yrs ago and I could swear that it’s the same bike that I currently have on test! We all remember countless hours spent in dimly lit garages crawling around on dirty floors or looking under workbenches. We just had to find that c-clip that just flew off the piston pin, it was all that we needed (we thought) to get some old "fixer-upper" back together again. Well anyway I do, and I also remember my Dad doing it almost every weekend in order to keep that ‘Bonnie’ in working order.Now 40 years ago women could easily fall for a man on this bike. It looks just like the Triumph’s, Norton’s and BSA‘s of that period which demanded such attention after the likes of Marlon Brando and the infamous movie. But times have changed, nowadays it's a little harder to convince the girls that you're cool when you ride past on the W650. Still, it's not impossible to turn their heads as I found out to my surprise!
Times have definitely changed and in some ways it’s for the better. If it weren’t for bikes like this then we probably wouldn’t have the fabulous machinery we have today. So where does that leave this one? It's not race-rep or a sports tourer, it isn’t a big-bore cruiser or a commuter, and it certainly isn’t a beginner's bike, even though it could be with its low seat height and classically simple design. It's a retro classic that gets its looks and design from the famous bikes of the past and then adds a lot of modern flair and technology in all the right places. If my Dad had had this bike all those years ago he would have been over the Moon, it really is everything you ever wanted your old Triumph, Norton or BSA to be. Reliable, no oil leaks, powerful (ish!), smooth and good brakes! It’s a bike to be proud of and to keep for another 40 yrs, and I’m sure it will last that long as the build quality and finish is probably the best I’ve ever seen on any Japanese bike.
Cruising around in town or out on meandering country roads is what this bike is all about. Dressed in my black leather jacket, jeans, boots and open face helmet together with the obligatory shades, I did my best to pay homage to days gone by and ended up on the receiving end of many a thumbs-up. Not bad, I thought. Ok so you may well feel a little out of place when you're sitting at the lights and the latest and greatest 600/1000 race-rep pulls up alongside. But, with those twin burbling exhausts and the sheer presence of that totally open, and beautiful motor just ticking over beneath you soon forget about any other bikes and carry on with your mission. To prove your point at green the motor revs up in a flash, you drop the clutch and this bike just storms away from the race rep (well at least for the first few yards until he realises just what has happened!). You can’t hear anyone else because the now burbling exhaust has turned into that unmistakable throb of a British twin on song. It’s just magic!
Kawasaki designed the W650 to capture a sizable portion of the Japanese niche retro market. They are currently falling over themselves trying to acquire the originals, like the old Kawasaki W1 from the early 60’s. The W650 was never intended to be sold in Europe but demand forced Kawasaki to import the bike to our shores. Good for us, and right on Kawasaki for being a bit different! The W650 thrives in speeds from five mph up to 80 mph, after that be prepared for the most wind blast you can experience on any bike! There is a bit of vibration at higher speeds but only in the bars, and it’s acceptable. In between those speeds the 650 delivers you with sufficient oomph to propel you out of corners with flair and you will definitely run out of ground clearance before you run out of tyre. The W650 has what look to be vintage style tyres fitted, even the sizes are vintage in comparison to today’s bikes, but there's no reason to worry about vintage-style traction levels. Fitted with a ribbed front section 100/90-19 and a rear 130/80-18 it certainly looks the part but these Bridgestone’s certainly do a good job of keeping this bike on the road.
One of the main focal points on the W650 is the engine with its long chrome tube housing the bevel drive on the right hand side of the 676cc parallel twin. This shaft drives a single overhead camshaft and 8 valves through hypoid bevel gears thus eliminating the need for a cam chain, cam chain tensioner and its guides. The crank has been designed to allow the pistons to rise and fall in unison, one is on the intake/compression cycle and the other is on the power/exhaust cycle, this gives the original exhaust sound. The engine is definitely pleasing to the eye, with little touches all over it reminiscent of the Triumphs, Nortons & BSA’s of the day. Four valves feed each cylinder the fuel/air mixture via a pair of 34mm carbs. This function has been somewhat updated and is monitored via Kawasaki’s Throttle Responsive Ignition Control system (K-TRIC) and is then used by the said digital ignition to instantly work out the engine load and adjust the ignition for maximum power (trick eh on a 60’s bike!)
Everything on this bike is mounted in an old-style tube-steel cradle frame that's painted black (black is bad!). To compliment all of this it has spoked aluminium rims, black rubber gaitered 39mm conventional forks, and five-way preload adjust dual shocks on the rear. Yes it has that authentic nostalgic harshness but it’s well damped although a bit soft when you first get on it. Surprisingly when you are on the go, the suspension isn't that bad, which is good. It's nimble enough to chuck around with ease but yet seems to have a long forgotten British bike trait commonly referred to as "hinge-in-the-middle" when ridden hard! The W650 has been produced as close as possible to the original so it even has ‘that’ special feeling built in. Still, its predictable, grips well and is far superior to anything from the 60’s.
More nostalgia gets added to the braking department here. The W650 gets a 160mm drum rear brake and, even though the front brake is only a single 300mm disk and a four-piston caliper they work well in bringing this bike down from speed. Performance is pretty good for a bike designed as a true retro but it’s not even close to that of a current naked 600 Honda Hornet or similar. With around 50bhp and 43ft-lb of torque to propel it’s 195kg it’s no street racer. Interestingly enough this the W650 is about 15kg heavier and about 15% larger overall than it’s 60’s counterparts, still it has enough power to send the ‘oldest’ model Kawasaki up to around 115mph, not that you’d want to do it for long though!!
I’m quite certain that just the sound of this echoing twin mentally adds a good ten horsepower to it, that sound as you cruise along just goes straight through you. Add to that the way people stare at you on this bike and the plain fact of its uniqueness and here’s a package not to be missed. How good do you feel when people (bikes or non-bikers) wave or signal their approval at you, it's all emotion, let this bike take you back to your forgotten youth or an era when motorcycling was still an adventure - at any price. Life’s too short so why not relax a bit and get away from the ultra fast and ultra powerful license losers on today’s market. This bike oozes cool, its certainly a bike I would have in my garage for riding out on those sunny days down leafy lanes to a country pub where it would more than likely be the centre of attention (again!). And on your departure you just get on it, swing out that kick-starter and fire it up first time in true old-school style – now how cool is that!
"The stripped down 2001 Sachs Beast concept motorbike from 2001 is a radical, unusual and extreme concept, which goes back to the basics of motorcycle design for influence, evidently displayed by the fact the minimalist Beast keeps luxurys and fairings to the bare minimum.
The exposed 998 cc Swedish Folen engine was selected for the bike because of its comlicated although pleasant design. However, if the Beast goes into production the limited edition run of 1000 would probably be powered by a more reliable Japanese engine."
By Mike Werner in Normandy France from Bikes in the fast lane:
"I'd say that most of us would like to jump on your motorcycle to go for a ride, go and pick up a loaf of bread or quickly go and visit someone. If you're safety minded, you know that it's usually in these small trips that most accidents happen. So you drag your leathers out of the cupboard, wiggle into them, and 1 hour later you're on the road. Well, OK that's exaggerating a bit, but you get the picture.
Riding in jeans, though cool and easy can be very dangerous. They're not meant to withstand ANY crash, and when you go off your motorcycle at any speed, you will get burns on your legs. One of the only jeans you can really use on a motorcycle are Draggin Jeans . They can withstand sliding across the pavement. But... they have a few issues. First, they are lined with Kevlar. Kevlar is a great product, very impact resistant, and pretty good at stopping burns, however... Kevlar is resistant as a material, so they make movements more difficult. Also, since Kevlar produces an irritation of the skin, you need to make sure that it doesn't touch the skin. This makes the jeans a bit more thicker, not something you'd want to wear around the house, or in the disco.
French company Esquad have the solution! Using fabrics designed in-house, and with help of the aerospace unit of EADS (the folks who make Airbus airplanes amongst others), they've come up with a fabric called Armalith. Armalith consists of fabrics used in the military and space industry, combined with cotton.
The result is an ultra-resistant fabric, that breaths and is light. Using the Armalith, they produce jeans and jackets that can be used as normal jeans. Re-enforced at the knees and hips, you now also have a jean that will withstand a crash, and more importantly, will prevent you from having to undergo skin transplants when sliding over the road after falling off your motorcycle. To test their fabric, the suspended a Hummer from a crane, attached to an Esqaud jean. The Hummer did not fall....and the jeans did not stretch.
They also used stuntmen to fall off their motorcycle at 60 mph. The jeans were scratched, but intact. No skin was burned.
their jeans and jackets can be bought directly in several European countries (more being added), or directly off the internet. You can also find their fabric in Ducati jeans and jackets, since they signed an agreement with the Italian motorcycle manufacturer. Ducati jeans will be sold for 395 Euros.
Esquad have several collections of jeans & jackets, both male and female versions. Depending on your sense of style, and use of the clothes, there's a choice for you.
All-in-all, these look like great motorcycle clothes. You can use them normally around the house, and you can use them to jump on your motorcycle, and still feel safe when riding those twisties. But remember... they are jeans, so not rain proof (though they can get wet in contrast with Kevlar). "
Monday, October 1, 2007
By Rick K From webbikeworld:
The Barbour Cowan Commando from lindaclifford.com
"It doesn't get more classic than this, folks.
You're looking at the Barbour International jacket, which has been in production just as you see it here since -- get this -- 1936!
And since what's old is new again in our Retro is Golden age, the International is now red hot.
The International is now being distributed by British Motorcycle Gear in the U.S.A. (the same folks who bring us the Belstaff goodies) so get 'em while you can, because you never know what tomorrow will bring...
Look through a book with photographs of the motorcyclists of yore and it's obvious that the International jacket was de rigueur riding apparel for the serious motorcycle rider.
Barbour's own website has some of the statistics: 97% of the competitors in the 1957 Scottish Trials wore Barbour and they were the official motorcycle police jacket in 14 different countries. And other than WWII, when there were no international motorcycle events, Barbour was worn "by virtually every British international motorcycle team from 1936 until 1977". How's that for a pedigree?
Most Americans probably got their first introduction to Barbour clothing via the characters in "All Creatures Great and Small" or one of the other interesting British shows on public television. Like many other things, we've pigeonholed our British cousins with stereotypes involving tweed, Wellies, snorkers and Barbour jackets. But hey, it could be worse, right?
I lusted after a Barbour jacket and finally saved up enough scratch to buy one -- almost exactly 20 years ago. My Bedale still looks like new and it's even hipper now than it was back then. And the nice thing about it is that it works -- whenever it rains, summer or winter, the Bedale's waxed cotton keeps me warm and dry.
Some of you may recall that we reviewed the Belstaff Trailmaster not too long ago, which uses a construction that is very similar to the Barbour International and is a classic in its own right. But the Barbour is one of a kind, with its classic slanted left-hand chest pocket instantly recognizable in the vintage photos of classic riders and their mounts.
The four big cargo pockets with their real brass snaps can hold lots of junk. Bulging bottom pockets seem to indicate a serious off-road rider, because back in the International's heyday you'd have to carry spare plugs, points and who knows what else to keep running.
The huge brass zipper with its big pull ring on the left-hand side (of course!) give the owner a trip back in time with every zip. When's the last time you saw a brass jacket zipper??
And although the waist belt really does help to keep the jacket watertight in a blow, most owners will probably slip it out of the loops and toss it. But the neck belt should be left hanging from that soft moss-colored corduroy collar to ensure that "The Look" is kept intact.
Speaking of The Look, the Barbour is also instantly recognizable by its classic signature tartan interior cotton lining, which is also very comfortable. And best of all is the "Made in England" label, along with its gaggle of Royal seals, attesting to Barbour's official appointments to various Kings and Queens.
The International certainly doesn't replace any of the modern motorcycle jackets with their high-tech fabrics, CE-approved armor, Gore-Tex liners and Nylon zippers. The decision to buy a Barbour International comes from the same set of illogical emotions that "force" one to come to the decision that only a Moto Guzzi Le Mans, Ducati Paul Smart 1000 or Triumph Thruxton will do as the next bike.
Owners of those classics or any other vintage British or European make will surely want to complete The Look by going all the way with an International. And while you're at it, how about a pudding bowl helmet and some stringback gloves?
But it's more than nostalgia -- the great thing about the International is that it looks (and works) just as great off the bike as on, so you'll be the envy of the pub when you're wearing it.
As an old-time Bedale owner, I can tell you that the waxed cotton (the only way they could keep anything waterproof back in the days before Gore-Tex) is sticky at first and attracts lots of lint, cat hair and other assorted fur-balls and tumbleweeds, especially in the International's near-black color.
But after a few outings, the wax stiffens up and the jacket will get that wonderful broken-in patina that Barbour owners know and love. The jacket can be re-waxed if necessary, either by the owner or by sending it back to Barbour for a refurbishing.
Which is another nice feature about buying a classic that's been in production for 70-odd years. Barbour is always there to fix it should something go wrong. Try doing that with your globally-sourced mesh jacket and see how far you get!"
Edited for size From Road Runner touring and travel:
"Any color as long as it's black." Not surprisingly, it was in the psychedelic seventies when motorcycle manufacturers first broke with the tradition of black-painted frames. First came BSA's "dove grey," intended, it's said, to reprise the company's titanium-tubed, motocross bike frames. Then came Ducati's teal-framed silver 750SS. But perhaps the most successful color combo was Laverda's pairing of the company's racing orange with the sleek silver tubes of its mighty muscle bike, the Jota.
The Bikes from Breganze
Pietro Laverda founded the eponymous Breganze, Italy company in 1873 to manufacture farm machinery. In 1948 his grandson Francesco built the first Laverda motorcycle, a 75cc four-stroke intended for his own use. Devastated by war but fired with renewed vitality, Italy was undergoing its reconstruzione, and demanded cheap, economical transportation. Soon, Francesco's neighbors wanted his sturdy little bikes. Incorporating motorcycles in the company's output was not a great stretch, and an initial batch of 500 bikes was produced in 1951.
Now committed to motorcycle production, Laverda needed sales, and selling motorcycles in Italy means going racing; so Laverda entered a 75cc machine in the 1951 Milano-Taranto race, and though carburetion problems forced its retirement, the bike proved competitive. In the same race two years later, Laverdas filled the first 14 places in their class! More success followed for Laverda in the 100cc class until 1956, when overhead camshaft Ceccatos and Ducati Mariannas (both Fabio Taglioni designs) began to dominate the class...."
Sunday, September 30, 2007
From the 35th Tokyo Motorshow
"Lightweight Handling and Thumping Big-single Torque.
The CB400SS is a sporting single in the finest tradition. Wearing new colors, it now projects a new image. A new electric starter added to the traditional kick-starter make this middleweight thumper easy to start, and the buffed pedals and kick-starter are quality details that every enthusiast can appreciate. Now equipped with HISS*(Lightweight Handling and Thumping Big-single Torque.
This customized model dresses out the CB400SS in the image of a more stylish classic café racer using off-the-shelf parts combined with a distinctive rocket cowling, aluminum tank, solo seat, and reverse cone muffler- a new direction in the café racer genre, and a sure hit on the street bike scene."
"Café Racer Filmworks is a dynamic new production company led by two seasoned veterans with experience in numerous genres of visual media, from reality TV to feature films, documentaries to dramas. That collaboration has already created an imaginative roster of projects that is innovative, budget-friendly and audience winning.
Our specialty: fresh approaches to story-telling and direct communication. Café Racer's goal is straight forward: to deliver inspired and highly inventive fare, without the bureaucratic morass that's all too familiar -- and inefficient. While the bottom line can't be ignored, our primary emphasis is always on creating the finest finished product for the most lucrative demographics. Our edge over the competition is that we follow through every step of the way, from the concept to the completed project. Not just on the executive producing level but in the trenches as well. Every phase is controlled and overseen directly by the principals. We don't farm out our work to others who don't share either our vision or our work ethic. With those we do hire, all share the enthusiasm and expertise that guarantees a better product. The adage "I don't care what they are like as long as they get the job done" is not acceptable. We invite you to work with people with passion."
"In the early 1970's a unique motorsports convergence occurred in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the college town of Clemson and the mountain gateway town of Walhalla. A group of motorcycle enthusiasts gathered who favored the performance machines of the day which were at the time motorcycles manufactured by Norton, Triumph, Ducati, Moto Guzzi and BMW. No doubt the proximity of some of the best motorcycling roads in the southeast was a contributing factor. A long summer afternoon could accommodate a 100 mile ride up through Walhalla to Highlands or Clayton or Cashiers with a little bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway thrown in for good measure. A good Saturday or Sunday ride might see a dozen or so riders in black leather and scarves carving up the curves. Some of these roads are now listed in the must rides for sport riders in a number of publications, but we'll never give away our favorites. A number of the motorcycles were the most sophisticated that money could buy at the time. A not insignificant portion of our number pursued racing in the newly formed WERA. We had rallys and poker runs and "meetings" always with a little chaos thrown in. But at the finish line, everybody involved enjoyed a spirit and a camaraderie and an insanity that made Clemson Cafe a once in a lifetime experience that a few lucky individuals had the opportunity to experience."
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I recently saw this great write up of the Yamaha SR500/400 on the terrific Cafe Racer Blog: The Return of the Cafe Racers. So I will let our friend from down under describe this great little bike in his own choice words:
"Originally modeled off Yamaha's first true "big thumper", the XT500 which gained popularity through it's success in the Paris Dakar, the SR400 set up has been around since 1978. The earlier SR 500 became a legend as one of most reliable and easy-to-maintain motorcycles ever built. I was sold till 1999 and Yamaha enjoyed huge demands in Germany and Japan, until new noise and emission regulations signalled the end of the big air-cooled single. The SR400's being produced and sold in Japan today differ slightly from the earlier SR500 versions of the bike with a shorter stroke and heavier muffler to comply with tight emission laws. Powered by a 400CC four stroke single producing 27Hp (19.73kW) @ 7000RPM the bike is not what you would call an amazing performer but all up it's a solid set up and a good performer.
Aesthetically the bike hasn't changed much since it's conception and as such oozes retro classic appeal in todays market. The original SR500 look was designed to have a "strong family image and a strong link to our (Yamaha's) first four stroke, the XS 650 twin, which was also inspired by British design at first." Like the W650 the SR400's classic Brit bike looks have gained it a huge popularity in Japan and as such you can find parts for almost any type of custom conversion you may desire. Searching online will return examples of SR400 based Cafe Racers, Boppers and Street Trackers that will make any motorcycle lover drool. Here a few examples of beautifully customised SR400's I found online...
Here's a few links for those wanting more...
Yamaha Papercraft Oragami SR400
Super cool Official Yamaha SR400 website - The aptly named SR Cafe (Japanese only)
Yamaha Japana's line up of custom parts - Y's Gear
Deus Ex Machina SR400 Grievous Angle Cafe Racer
Deus Ex Machina SR400 Manx
Deus Ex Machina Sr400 TT
If you're looking to get your hands on a Yamaha SR400 in Australia, once again the guys at Deus are importing them so get your orders in now!"Official of Japan brilliant SR500 cafe
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Honda is ready for the 40th Tokyo Motor Show, which will be held from the 27th of October till the 11th of November 2007. And right now, they're giving you a sneak preview of what you can perhaps expect from Honda in 2008! The prototypes you see above CB1100F and the CB1100R - stand a good chance of going into production next year.
The two bikes are powered by 1100cc inline-fours and while the CB1100F (above) seems to be a modern interpretation of a traditional 1980s UJM("universal japanese motorcycle"), the CB1100R (below) which looks totally brilliant- It has that 1980s, Freddie Spencer era Japanese cafe racer cool and we so love this bike. Awesome!
More details will follow as they become available. In the meanwhile, you can visit the Honda website here.
From Faster and Faster:
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
From the Laverda factory web site: March 1999.
"As any true Cafè Racer, the Laverda Black Strike 668 has a 650/668 has a non-conventional look. It is all black and the only other colours are the white background of the instruments and the silver grey. An elegant and sporty combination that highlights the uniqueness of the Laverda Black Strike 668 Cafè Racer. They were manufactured in an exclusive series of 50 numbered-distinguished by a special plate and certificate of originality, and was very well received and sold extremely quickly.
"The air and oil cooled Laverda 668 engine delivers 70 HP and has been submitted to a large variety of upgrading and improvements. It has a new engine head, the cylinder liners have a new grinding, the pistons and the piston rings are new as well, the oil circulation circuit has been redesigned to improve cooling and lubrication at the same time, the oil pump has a larger flow and the crankcases are the same of the 750 c.c. versions."
Friday, September 14, 2007
John Williams of the Tank Shop makes these superb
polished aluminium petrol tanks to spec order only
All tanks come with a baffle to stop the fuel moving
and filler cap i.e. Aero, Monza, Italian or alloy screw cap.
polished aluminium petrol tanks to spec order only
All tanks come with a baffle to stop the fuel moving
and filler cap i.e. Aero, Monza, Italian or alloy screw cap.
From Cycle World october 2006 by David Edwards
"What makes a custom a custom and a special a special? Hard to say for sure, but generally the latter involves an engine swap. We all know about “Tritons,” with their built Triumph Twins in the famously good-handling Norton Featherbed frame. And, of course, that rarer, costlier derivative, the “Norvin,” featuring a hulking Vincent V-Twin somehow shoehorned into the same cage (perhaps, as our own Allan Girdler has suggested, with a whip and a chair?). And who can forget the “Nortley-Fartster,” a Harley Sportster motor housed, again, in a Norton Featherbed?
To this convention of crossbreeds let's now add the “Vincati,” a 998cc Vincent Vee slotted into an early 1970s Ducati 750 GT frame. As you can read in the current October issue, we sent Peter Egan to ride a freshly cobbled Vincati, the creation of Vincent specialist (some would say legend) “Big Sid” Biberman and his college professor son Matthew.
The duo wants to build a limited run of Vincatis at (wait for it…) $100,000 a copy. For those kind of clams, you can buy a pristine stock Vincent and the best Ducati GT in the world, but, hey, nobody said building specials was an exercise in rationality."