Fun On Two Wheels

Some days ago I phoned a friend to greet him and to wish him well for his birthday. He saied that he was still lying on the sofa with a cold and longing for going out and drive his motorcycle, yes it’s this time of the year again. Then I saw Mr. Nicos’ entry about the first trip with his new bike, a Kawasaki Vulcan, what reminded me of this, and so I finally had think about, well, motorcycles.
I have an old driver’s licence that allows me to drive legally any motorcycle that is street-legal. Afterwards this was changed, people had to use a 27 PS bike first for two years (?), and were only then allowed to use more powerful machines. When I took the test this was no question or concern, I could have jumped on the next best 1000er and burn the rubber. Actually I learned, and took the test, on a Yamaha XS 400 (Ger., Eng.) with 27 PS. As much as I like the more voluminous machines – and feel a deep respect for the power they deliver – I always preferred smaller and lighter engines. For practical reasons : When I had to take out the Yamaha once from the garage I slipped when I wanted to put her on the Hauptständer – believe me it’s exhausting to collect a (nearly) two hundred kilogram bike from the ground in a wet and snowy backyard.
I liked to drive this machine ; when on a roll, as (nearly) any motorbike, she was easyly maneuverable, good brakes, and forgiving when making a mistake, like braking too hard in a corner or such. No Gummikuh (like the proverbial R 45, description), still a goer, perfect for a learner, I think.
One of the most impressive bikes I rode – there are really few, these are not a seasoned biker’s memoires here – was a RT 250. If I had money time & space, such a machine would be in the collection. A small (250 ccm) two-stroke single unit producing 11 PS, old school as it can get (1953), lightweight, terribly uncomfortable, but here you go when you drive a piece of history. Comparable with her 17 PS is the 350 Royal Enfield (Classic) four-stroke single that was still produced some years ago in India, un-altered from the 1930s blueprint, I do not know whether this is still the case. And when we are looking at such “oldies”, years ago the Chinese still produced an old boxer-engine that was a direct off-spring of a 1920s BMW, still with the old rigid frame with tiny shock absorbers back and a museal “Schwingengabel”, the correct technical name escapes me, even in German. It could be ordered and arrived in a wooden crate. I doubt it’s still around, but who knows.
Large boxer-engines (two-cylinder four-strokes, where the cylinders are directly opposite to each other) are still built by Ural (here the beautiful Vorona – I want one !). They modernised their machines and now use fuel injection – as does Triumph with the indestructible Bonnie, God what a beautiful bike ! -, Telegabeln, modern brake systems etc. The Gespann, the version with side-car, still has a reverse gear, very useful.
In this virtual collection a six-cylinder Kawa (Ger., Eng.) would take the main spot – what a bomber, still today a very impressive sight. When first introduced into the German market they wisely kept the power limited to 100 PS. I think it was a kind of self-restriction by the industry, only later they increased the output to 120 PS (? I may be wrong about this). The Kawa was domesticated with their bank of six four-stroke cylinders and linear power output, absolutely vile was the (aptly named Wasserbüffel) Suzuki GT 750 three-cylinder two-stroke (Ger., Eng.) – I saw at least two people falling off that bike when accelerating hard, what a gun it was. At one occasion the bike simply fell down on the parking lot’s tarmac as did the rider, but in the second situation it self-stabilised and ran into a slope & turned over in a cloud of hot white steam, very impressive.
I never really liked Moto-Cross as a sport – it is admirable what people can do, especially when show-jumping, but I never liked the jumps meself. Don’t get me wrong please, the early Enduros are great machines (like the Scrambler), but as a sport I always preferred Trial (Ger., Eng., the master speaks), when you tackle obstacles slowly and try not to fall down, or tap the ground with a foot. In stone-age this was done with four-stroke-singles, like Norton engines, later the two-strokes took over – they simply were much much lighter. The Spaniards and the Italians built great machines – Ossa (Ger., Eng.) & Bultaco (Ger., Eng.) are long forgotten brand names. I doubt that a major producer still offers a trial bike. Nevertheless I think the good old XT 500 by Yamaha – an Enduro machine –  was one of the great modern engines built ; a smaller street version is available, still single four-stroke, capacity reduced to 400 ccm, this would be my day-to-day ride.
What else would go into this virtual collection ? Of course a BMW, preferably a 800 or 850 /6 or /7 (no drum brakes please, here a R 80 RT for illustration) ; a Maico, and – with a nod to H.S.Th. –  a Vincent Black Shadow (sadly unaffordable). Not necessarily a Harley-David(son of a b***h), I’d prefer an Indian. And of course one of the famous Honda four-cylinders (CB 750), one of the great Yamaha Triples (XS 750), the noble 650 twin … oh dear …
Right now these bikes of the late sixties, seventies and early eighties are dirt-cheap, some in excellent condition, simply because the people who bought them back then are now in an age where they have to accept that there’s no more riding in reach, because of aching bones. It would be a good time for collecting now, old dreams in metal …

12 thoughts on “Fun On Two Wheels

  1. So, you’re going to be extending Mago Towers with the addition of the Herr Mago Museum like LX mentions, then?

    I’m not a big motorbike fan, but that’s probably because I have Broom to sit astride instead. However, when I was but a young witch-to-be, The Father had a collection of ‘bikes including a Norton Commando, Velocette Venom, a BSA something-or-other, and a Honda Goldwing (my gods that was a big, heavy bike) amongst others. He sold them years ago precisely because of the reasons in your last paragraph. Now he drives a motorhome!

  2. The Chinese BMW looked something like this in the back and surely had a “Schwinge” in front, I think it is “leading link” in English. There were a lot of variants until the “Telegabel” won. Interestingly when a side car is mounted to the frame usually an old fashioned swingarm fork is also installed front
    In the Haferflockenfabrik would be enough space, LX, just need to win the lottery …

    Exactly, Nikos. But no driver allowed the side wheel to come up – that needs correction ! even with an old BMW one can lift the side car …

    Maybe one floor, ground floor perhaps, so people will not stream into the private splendid appartements of the house, dear IDV … The Commando is also one of the large twins, the mentioned Yamaha was modelled after her imho. The Velocette was unknown to me, she seems to be a unusual and “eigenwillige” construction, while the BSA is good standard. And the Goldwing, one either loves her or not so much. I think it’s a bit hypertrophic. 1800 ccm, more than 400 kg when ready to drive, a rolling sofa …

  3. Great post, Mago! And beautiful machines! I really enjoyed reading it!
    Here in Sandwich people are very fond of bikes. Our warm and dry climate allows riders to drive them all year long. I suppose that explains a bit our long track record of motorcycle racing champions on 125 and 250cc bikes.
    My dad had one of these lovely Bultaco and then a Montessa (two legendary brand names in South Sandwich).

    Big boys’ toys! ;)

  4. Very impressive collection. I’ve been riding on two wheels all my life… that is wheels with pedals! :)

    I know nothing about mortorcycal (even less about cars) but if I were to have one, I’d pick this one… because I like the look! HA!

  5. Vespinos have always been very popular here, especially like LX says for quickie trips to the supermarket!
    They were manufactured here by Motovespa since 1968. In 1996 the company was bought by Piaggio. Sadly, the last Vespinos were made in 2000, though you can still see a few ones in the streets. It’s kind of a nice vintage image.

  6. Your dad had an eye for quality, dear Leni ! :)

    Holy MOses SL350 LX ! At least he built in decent brakes. I’d fear the careburettors would suck me in – or my shirt or whatever hangs around loose. It’s a quick trip to the supermarket, that’s for sure – and one will never freeze on this vehicle … I saw some “tuned” Mofas back in the day (especially the Kreidler “Florett” was always a popular object of any “Hobbyschrauber” who did not care too much for the word “street-legal”), but nailing a 600-4cylinder-Yamaha-engine on a Vespa 50 is really over the top. Nevertheless the man enjoyes to drive her, I think I would too. Afterwards anything lacks a bit of thrust I guess …

    A Hayabusa ! For Heavens sakes Jon ! She has 1300 ccm – like the old Z 1300 I mentioned – and anything else is different : This bullet goes over three hundred km / h , it’s a street-legal racing machine.
    As a sculpture very impressing, but I would not sit on her, forget start the engine, or more. I doubt that I could drive her out of the village without accident. I had a better chance on the LX’s Vespa !

    By what were they replaced Leni ? I remember the ubiquitous Vespa from Italy in the eighties – in small medieval cities nowadays electric mobility could be nice : It would be definitely not as loud as it used to be, and it would not smell of two-stroke-oil on the pi(a)zza.
    I learned here how they looked, more like what here is called Motorisiertes Fahrrad, they had not the Vespa-form. Interestingly Mofas were extinct since the 90s, now I sometimes see some of them again. Most people from some point on used a Vespa-like Roller, either Kymco or another Asian brand, or Peugeot or such. Now the Vespino-like form is possibly coming back.

  7. I’ve never really felt the love for motorcycles, but I understand others’ passion for them.

    I hope this summer you will be indulging in your passion. It’s good for the soul.

  8. Heya Magole,
    How was your first week back again after a vacation? Mine was pretty hectic. Anyway, I too use the occasional antihistamine. It seems to keep sinus infections away… mostly. Spring is beautiful. Here’s to a mostly allergy free one.

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