Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category
Picture this, you’re buzzing along a tight twisty mountain road on a classic roadracer that just happens to have lights and a horn. The bike is light, quick and amazingly agile. The bike almost knows what you’re going to do before you do. A very light push on the bars sends you through the corner apex at speeds that put larger bikes to shame. The skinny little tyres turn in with no effort yet keep you right on line. You my friend are riding a Bultaco Metralla and your destination is wonderful little Spanish restaurant and plate of the best Paella in Northern Spain.
Ok, the reality is you’re not in Spain and you’re not going to have Paella, you’re going to have a chili and cheese omelet at the Rock Store on Mulholland Highway in the Santa Monica Mountains and you’re going to have to answer a hundred questions from guys that have never even heard of Bultaco about your little Metralla. These are the guys you blew by in the corners. This is the definition of a really fun Sunday morning.
I love Bultaco’s, always have. I started racing a Bultaco Matador back in 1968, moved up to Pursangs, rode an Astro in a couple of TT races but never owned a Metralla. While I was helped in my desert racing and enduro career by the local Bultaco dealer, they never let me take out the street bikes, probably a smart move on their part at the time. Would I want another Bultaco dirt bike now? probably not. Would I want a Metralla today? Oh Yeah! This is the perfect example of Spanish art on two wheels.
A few years back while on my way from a vintage roadrace at Willow Springs to another one at Sears Point in Northern California I stopped in Minden Nevada to get some Bultaco spiritual guidance (and a couple of parts for a Sherpa T I had inherited), from the Bultaco Guru of the West, Lynn Mobley. Guru Lynn had just finished a full restoration of a ‘67 Metralla and let me ride it around his property for a bit, I had to have the Metralla. I offered up both my roadracers and ‘The Mighty 350’ in trade for the little Bultaco, and while Lynn did everything he could to keep from laughing, I could see that the Metralla was not going home with me.
So, today I found a really beautiful Metralla on ebay that is ready to ride right now. It’s a 1967 Mk2 that has been restored to pretty much stock condition, there are a few little tweaks here and there but the original parts that were changed out will come with the bike. It really is a beautiful motorbike and if you would like something will always put a huge smile on your face consider this Metralla. This is a no-brainer. Click on the pics below for more information and more pictures.
And one last little thing…the Metralla was the first 250cc bike that straight from the factory would top 100mph! How cool is that?!
In 1969 BSA commanded 80% of all the Brit bikes sold here in the USA. Eighty Percent! Who woulda thunk? I, and I think most of us, would have pegged Triumph as the leader but not so say the statistics. What was it about BSA that made it that strong a seller in a time when the Japanese manufacturers were dominating the market? Was it styling? No. Was it performance? No. Was it reliability? Certainly not. So what was it?
Let’s find a bit of perspective here. BSA may have had 80% of the British bike sales here in the states but ‘Made in England’ motorcycles constituted a very small percentage of the total bikes sold here. So small that within a decade, they were all gone from the US market.
From the late 1950’s through the mid 60’s, the British were competing with the very popular Harley Davidson Sportster in the performance category. The Sportster was Harley’s ‘sportbike’, it had a slight horsepower advantage, it had a new look (the peanut tank was quite stylish then), it had the Harley sound and, of course, it had the advantage of being made in the USA. BSA, Triumph and Norton all were better handling motorcycles but back then, straight line speed was king, not the ability to go around corners fast.
Each of the big three from the UK tried styling mods to attract the American market, Triumph with the X75 Hurricane, Norton tried (and miserably failed) with their Hi-Rider chopper model and BSA tried with…well, nothing. Sure, BSA tried a few styling changes like a smaller slimmer tank, the oil in the frame design (which nobody was really happy about), and of course the ray-gun mufflers of the Rocket 3. Personally, I love the ray-gun mufflers but at the time they went over like a fart in church. Anyway, the Brits just faded away into the sunset. Today, Triumph is back in a big way and Norton is getting set to comeback this year with a new Commando and it is beautiful. I hope it succeeds.
I started my street bike life aboard a BSA so the brand has a certain spot in my heart that will never go away. Yes, it stranded me more than once with faulty electric’s, and yes, it leaked more oil in a month than any Japanese bike I’ve ever owned did in a lifetime. It could be a bit (?) temperamental when it came to starting in the morning (or when it was hot and the bike didn’t feel like going anywhere), and it could vibrate the fillings out of my teeth if the carbs weren’t balanced properly, but…when everything was working as it was supposed to, what a joy it was to ride that Beezer. I was raised to ride the canyon roads, to believe in handling over horsepower, and the sound coming from a parallel twin was the sweetest sound in motorcycling.
At one point in time (actually a couple of times) the Japanese manufactures realized that there was something about the British bikes that still captivated the American buyer. Yamaha did great with the XS650, designed to compete with the Triumph, Kawasaki brought out the W650 to head to head with the BSA and Honda tried with the GB500 single. The only one that succeeded over the long run was the Yamaha. Today, the Triumph Bonneville is a huge success because it looks like a proper English motorbike without the oil puddle underneath it.
Lately I have been thinning the herd of bikes in my barn and am starting to look for a new adventure…once I have finished the other four projects I have going, and am being drawn towards a BSA 650. I’m actually looking for one of the last designs more than the old chrome tank styles, mainly because I think they are probably going to be cheaper on the market(?). Today on ebay I found one that might just fit the bill.
On ebay today, there is a 1969 BSA A65 that has been set up for vintage roadracing. Remember, the A65 was BSA’s ‘roadracer for the street’. The A65 put out a very respectable 54HP and would top out at around 105MPH. This particular bike has been upgraded with Marzocchi forks, more modern rear shocks, and a Suzuki twin leading shoe front brake, which was a very good upgrade from the standard brake the BSA had at the time. The motor has been given some extra muscle by way of a 750cc kit But, here is the cool thing about this bike, it can easily be retrofitted with the electric’s to power a headlight, taillight and blinkers so you have a perfect cafe racer with almost no effort! The seller says that it does need some carb work but that’s no big deal. This could be a very sweet Sunday rider.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info.
For some reason I seem to be on a Norton kick at this time. I want one. That big long stroke motor, watching the front wheel shake at stop lights…wait a minute, we’re heading into a way different topic of discussion here…uh, back to motorcycles.
I think the main reason I’m on this Norton kick is because my friends at ‘Left Coast Racing’ and I are getting ready for another Bonneville LSR run in couple of months with a pair of Norton’s. We currently hold a Land Speed Record with a rather built up 1959 Norton.
The very first Norton I ever took for a ride was a ‘rode hard and put away wet’ 750 Commando back in the early 70′s that my step dad rescued from some guys back yard. It was a lot different from the BSA’s and Triumph’s I had been riding, and honestly…at that time, I liked my Lightning 650 a lot better. But, being the good motorcycle souls that we were, we went about resurrecting it…a project that took over a year and a lot more money than my mom knows about.
During that same time, we were also upgrading a Triumph Bonneville from a standard 650cc to a Weslake 750 model (again, another story for anther time…and a really good one??). The Commando rebuild was a lot easier thanks to people like Brian Slark, Domiracer and Berliner. At the end of the year both motorcycles were finished, broken in appropriately and then taken out for a proper thrashing…Sunday morning on Angeles Crest Highway.
I fell in love with the Norton. Up to that time my motorcycling life had been with high revving two strokes, and somewhat high revving (by then current standards) English and Japanese twins, the Norton was a different feeling altogether. Where my BSA would feel light at the bars, the Norton was dead steady, the BSA needed some revs to get off a corner quickly, the Norton just needed a nudge on the throttle…the BSA needed you to pay attention, the Norton just went along with however you were riding that day (even with a minor (major) hangover).
The Norton was sold to a friend of a friend of a friend or their third cousin by marriage twice removed (no Alabama jokes here…) and was never seen again. I had grown to love that motorcycle and was sad to see it leave the garage…the guy didn’t even ride it home, he put it in a pick up truck!??? After all the work we did?… and he didn’t even live 20 miles away!! This was way before the days of ebay and buying a motorcycle on the other side of the world was easy.
So today, while working on our other websites, http://www.ilovecaferacers.com and http://www.themotoworld.com and cruising ebay looking for yet another project bike for a friend, I came upon a very nice Norton that is ready to ride and has some very nice bits and pieces.
This is a 1974 850 Commando that is a runner but…it has been sitting for years according to the owner so if you buy this bike you really need to go through the carbs, change the fluids, probably the tyres…all the standard stuff but I think this bike will be well worth the effort.
The bike has been outfitted with the Dunstall bits that really make it great, starting with the Dunstall 2 into 1 into 2 exhaust system. This exhaust is worth the price of admission alone, it is a work of art in every respect…performance and looks. The beautiful tank and that very slim front fender (I put one of those on the front of my H2, it was pretty worthless as far as fenders go, but I loved how it looked), the 850 also has what looks to me like Lester mag wheels. This Norton only has only 8800 miles on the clock and like I said before, with just some standard service, should be a wonderful ride.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and a little more info. This is a great bike for the money.
I found this blog that has lots of cool bike pics. I included one from a recent post below, but I will leave it up to you to explore and find…
Burst Sausages Blog
(Editor – While not cafe racer content, I’m sure we can all relate to the loss of a favorite motorcycle whether it is from a crash, being stolen, or even self-destruction as in the case of this bike. Back to cafe racers in a bit…)
It is with a fond farewell that I have to say goodbye to my trusty steed of the last 7 years. My KTM Adventure R has died. Not a small death. Not a dead battery. Not a fouled spark plug. Not even a piece of electronics gone south.
This was the sound of metal breaking from within the core of the motor. The heart of the bike, if you will. It had, you could say, a massive myocardial infarction. After the sound of metal breaking, there were more metallic sounds, then some grinding-type noises, then some coasting, then nothingness. Just a period of time when I was free to experience the silence of a mid-morning spent waiting for a ride in the heart of the Central Valley of California.
As I sat waiting for my friend to come pick me up, I thought about my time with this Austrian motorcycle. Some long rides to destinations many states (or even a country) away. Some short rides to work around the the backside of Hoover Reservoir just outside Columbus, Ohio. Manic rides in endurance rallies where 24 hours was measured in 4 digit mileage totals. But all great rides with the massive, thumping music of the 625cc single driving me forward.
There was the first time I saw the KTM LC4 Adventure R, sitting at my desk at Honda R&D as I built a model book back in 1998, cutting and pasting images of bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles, and PWCs into a document that all of the higher ups could go through if they wondered how many cc’s the latest Arctic Cat has. As I built the KTM section, there it was. The 1998 KTM Adventure R with low pipes, massive 7.4 gallon tank, and suspension that would take you from Paris to Dakar and back. I printed out a nice 8.5″ x 11″ color picture of the big single and posted it on my cubicle wall.
There was the first ride home from The Cycle Shed in southern Indiana. Almost immediately, the right-hand mirror fell apart five miles after driving off the showroom floor. Then the front brake master cylinder started leaking just north of Cincinnati. When I stopped to fix that from the little tool kit that came with the bike (take off the MC cap, and use a paper towel to soak up the excess brake fluid), I noticed a puddle of overflowed, excess oil underneath the bike. After a 2.5 hour ride I was home and in love.
There was my first endurance rally two weeks after bringing the bike home. I rode back to Cincinnati for my second Buckeye 1000 (previously done on a VFR750), and took a nearly new single-cylinder dirt bike 1,479 miles through six state capitols (Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and then Indiana). I entered the rally finishing spot (a hotel parking lot) doing my best supermotard impersonation much to the amusement of the rally staff, and finished 1 minute before the disqualification point in this 24 hour rally.
There was my first off road excursion on the bike. I hit mud on a wooden, creek-crossing bridge and slid off the bridge. Well, almost off the bridge. I ended up on top of the bike after the rear axle nut kept it from sliding completely off, and the front end was stuck down below in the mud of the creek bank.
There was the time I disassembled the entire bike down to a large pile of parts, loaded it into the trunk and back seat of my car and drove across the country to my new job. After I reassembled it, I ended up crashing a few days later at about 15 mph in the early morning fog/drizzle where it had dampened a corner covered with redwood tree leaves. Then, we nearly got hit as a Subaru WRX came barreling around the corner at about 40 mph and nearly slid into us on the same slippery leaves.
There was the o’dark-thirty ride into the Gettysberg National Military Park during a BATLDR rally, trying to find an observation tower to write down some obscure fact while the ghosts of the 51,000 who died during this battle had to listen to the thumpa-thumpa of this big single motoring through the early morning darkness. After I climbed to the top of the tower and wrote down the needed factoid (I think it was that the house to the southeast of the tower had been lived in by Eisenhower after his presidency), the sun started to rise. As the darkness made way to light, the battlefield became visible all around me, and in my sleep-deprived state I felt like I was there on the morning of the battle waiting for the fighting to start. After I made my way back down to my bike and started riding away, I realized now that it was a bit lighter than when I had arrived that I had been motoring through campgrounds filled with hundreds of Civil War reenactors. Sorry, guys! My bad!
There was the last ride on the KTM before it died. I took my daughter and her friend to the local OHV area to ride. It was more of a dawdling meander than anything else, as this particular pair of 8-year-old kids doesn’t really scream across the trails. I got a few speedy bursts in, jumping on some of the trail obstacles left after the last hare scrambles held there. But the most fun was getting ice cream when we were riding back to the car and sitting with the kids talking about how much fun the riding had been.
And now the bike is sitting in my garage, waiting for me to dissect the motor and make a decision about whether to fix it or part out the bike. Sad to say, but I suspect that it will cost more to have the motor rebuilt than I could get if I tried to sell the bike after the motor is fixed and reinstalled. I love this bike, but it may be time to move on. Perhaps I can find a gray market Rallye 660. Or maybe it’s time to step up to an LC8 Adventure. I’ve got some thinking to do…
As you may or may not know, I occasionally post street fighters on the blog. I like them. They are the modern incarnation of the cafe racer. It’s about taking a bike, making it even lighter, and then going out and having fun on it.
So I find this bike on eBay. It’s a street fighter/cafe racer hybrid of the modern sort. Low bars, but modern sportbike. It even has a low starting price.
I will admit, I have always liked the RC51. It’s a sportbike I would love to have in my garage. It was raced in AMA superbike, and you could buy it at your local dealer. And, as the seller is so kind to point out in this case, the mileage is actual.
I’ve got to say that I don’t think the mileage is relevant on a bike like this. I’m sure that it’s fast like the seller says. But my god, what hath Honda wrought upon the world with those side mount radiators?!? They should never be displayed on a naked bike. And that hand-formed aluminum seat isn’t quite cafe and isn’t quite fighter in style. I’m sure the bike will wheelie from here to wherever you happen to live. But it shouldn’t. I think I do not wish to see another RC51 street fighter/cafe racer. And I am shedding a small tear that an RC51 has come to this sad end. Sigh…
What’s going on with all of the relists of bikes (specifically cafe racers) on eBay right now? Are buyers falling through? Are they all not meeting reserve? Maybe the economy is keeping these bikes from selling. Enquiring minds want to know.
As always, watch out for second chance offers on any eBay item as they are often fraudulent.
I’m off for the weekend to pick up a new project bike. It’s a 1970 Honda SL350 basket case. Actually, it’s a pile of parts that once made up an SL350 basket case. But it’s free, and it is mostly there. Hopefully, a nice Honda twin cafe racer will roll out of my garage in a few months!
I’ll post this weekend as I am able between the driving, loading, climbing, and Easter-ing. But if not, I’ll catch you on the flip side…
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a poll in a think entitled “What Makes A Cafe Racer A Cafe Racer?” Aside from the tongue-twister nature of the title, I was hoping to find out what everyone who reads the blog thinks is the key element of the cafe racer style. So, without further a do, here are the results…
Of the Grand Total of 17 votes, Seat and Clubman Bars tied with 6 votes each! That’s 35% each if you’re interested. Next we had Clip-Ons at 4 votes (24%), with fairing getting a single vote at 6%. I know, I know, the sample size is small, but if you combine Clubman Bars with Clip-Ons, you get 10 out of 17 votes for some form of handlebar. It appears that we have a winner of sorts. Now if only I can figure out how to get more people voting in the polls…
Seat 35% (6 votes)
Clip-Ons 24% (4 votes)
Clubman Bars 35% (6 votes)
Spoked Wheels 0% (0 votes)
Rear-Sets 0% (0 votes)
Fairing 6% (1 votes)
Exhaust 0% (0 votes)
Vintage-Look Tires 0% (0 votes)
Leather Rocker Jacket 0% (0 votes)
Specific Engine Configuration 0% (0 votes)
Other: 0% (0 votes)
A friend of mine went to what was supposed to be a meet up of cafe racer riders in Southern California, and he was going to take photos and write something for the blog. Turns out there were no cafe racers in attendance. Apparently my Sportster would have out cafe’d the entire turnout. Woohoo! /:-\
Anyways, if you want to inform the world of any cafe racer events via this blog, please let me know and I’ll post something in a timely manner as the event approaches. Hopefully, it will have cafe racers in attendance…