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Classic Velocity Blog

Filtering by Category: motorcycle

Puch 250 SGS

Classic Velocity

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If a particular model lives for 16 years, it is pretty remarkable. It is particularly remarkable if it was launched in 1953, at a time when “new and exciting” caused manufacturers to replace or upgrade models every few years. But from the launch of the 250 SGS (Schwing Gabel Sport), Puch found a formula that worked, and stuck with it. Puch was formed in 1890 by Johann Puch in Graz, Austria, and began like so many others producing bicycles before moving on to motorcycles in 1903. Fast forward to 1923 when they first introduced the innovative split single. Essentially, it was two pistons in a shared combustion chamber. The idea would later be reborn or licensed in other marques, as Puch supplied engines as well. The twingle did not take long to achieve success success, as a supercharged version won the German Grand Prix in 1931 with Alvetio Toricelli aboard. By this time they had become part of the larger Steyr-Daimler-Puch corporation.

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Fast forward again to 1947 when Puch resumed production of the 250. Then in 1953, they launched new 125cc, 175cc, and 250cc motorcycles including the 250 SGS. Exports soon followed, and in the USA, Puch was rebranded as an Allstate motorcycle sold by Sears with the moniker of “Twingle” to describe the piston/cylinder arrangement. It was famously sold through the Sears Roebuck catalogs. Pricing and catalog sales resulted in this being the first motorcycle for a lot of riders in America. The engine of the 250 SGS was a 248cc 2 stroke unit mated to a four speed gearbox. It produced 16.5hp and 12.5 ft/lbs of torque combined with a weight of 309lbs, for a top speed of 68mph. Brakes were drum front and rear. Suspension was twin shock swingarm in the rear, and telescopic forks up front. A respectable set of features in the beginning, but Puch made few changes and by the 1960s it had fallen behind competitive 4 stroke offerings.

The SGS retained its appeal to new and younger riders, and soldiered on until production ceased in 1969. During its lengthy tenure, 38,584 units were sold worldwide, making it a success for a firm like Puch.

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Check out this period article on a strip down of the 250 engine….

https://berniesbikeshed.wordpress.com/puch-250-sgs-engine-strip-down/

Tornax Motorrader

Classic Velocity

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Tornax was a motorcycle manufacturer from Wuppertal, Germany that was founded in 1922 by Ernst Wewer, but began motorcycle production in 1926. Wewer was a racer, and recruited other racers to help quickly build a name for Tornax (a play on the word for Tornado). Like many manufacturers at the time, they did not produce their own engines, instead using British JAP (J. A. Prestwich) engines of various capacities. Their first machine was a 600cc single called the I-26. In the beginning, Tornax used the year of production in their model names rather than displacement or catchy names. Also unlike other manufacturers, Tornax started with large machines and later went to smaller displacement models. peaking with the 1,000 cc four stroke III-31 SS, which produced a claimed 76hp, and was claimed to be the fastest machine in the world. It was a large impressive machine, but an expensive one with bad timing in the market given the depression. Tornax survived the 1930s by first producing smaller machines, and then reducing its output to a single 600cc model using an engine from German supplier, Columbus. It also moved away from alphanumeric model names and adopted catchy names like Tornado, and Rex (which interestingly utilized a DKW engine), and Schwarze Josephine. 

The factory was destroyed in WWII, but Tornax resumed production in 1948. Ironically, they resumed with a 125cc two-stroke single cylinder model. This was followed by a  175cc, a 250cc and then a twin cylinder 250cc Earles Fork model producing 15hp. A far cry from their 1,000cc 76hp peak! Then in 1954, Tornax purchased the rights to german engine-builder Opti’s four stroke machines to eliminate contracts with ILO, Columbus, and others. Effectively moving engine building in-house. This transition was problematic, and proved to be financially debilitating. At the same time, small enclosed vehicles like the Isetta, Messerschmidt, Heinkel, and Lloyd were emerging to challenge the motorcycle market in general. These factors proved to be overwhelming, and within a year, Tornax ceased production in 1955. A thriving club of enthusiasts remains today in Germany. 

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Barber Vintage Festival 2018

Classic Velocity

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If you are a fan of old motorcycles, there is no better place to be in October than the Barber Vintage Festival. It grows each year and has seen more than 70,000 attendees. The reasons are simple. A best-in-the-world vintage motorcycle museum. A well-designed race track. Vintage racing. Beautiful grounds. Great camping. Thousands of vintage gearheads, ensuring tremendous variety and great discussions. It is all here in one place.

The museum has been covered here before (see Bowing to Barber), so suffice it to say that it is worth a road trip or even a plane trip by itself, and you should find your way there. The fact that it is just part of the reason to go to the festival makes this an even greater event. Like the Goodwood Festival (see The Revival), it is a multi-day event which surrounds the perimeter of the race track. The racing, which is part of the AHRMA series, involves several vintage classes including sidecars, novice classes, lightweight, heavyweight, and more. A stroll through the pits is an experiential history of motorcycle racing. And craftsmanship. Solutions often need to be invented and/or fabricated.

Vintage clubs of all stripes also make this event a formal gathering. You can hangout on Norton Hill, or join the VJMC contingent or the AMCA encampment, or the Airheads, to name a few. The Ace Corner catered to a lively gang of grey-haired rockers! If you can’t find members of your tribe at this event, they may be on the verge of extinction ;-) The larger gatherings had judged shows and their own mini festival. Manufacturers and vendors are also there in abundance. You could test ride a new Harley, KTM or BMW, you could enjoy an Enfield, or use a Ural. But you could also pickup some cafe racer parts or a vintage style helmet. 

If, however, you were after original bikes and parts, the swap area was the place to do it. It is now expanded due to growth, so there are two separate areas. This is nowhere near as large as Mid Ohio, but there is a significant array of machines and parts in every condition from NOS to COBAR (corroded beyond all recognition). Every other stall seemed to have a Honda Trail or a Cub for sale. And speaking of original, just like Goodwood, the parking lot can be as interesting as the show field. I have not seen so many Laverdas in one place in a long time, and not one, but three BMW R1200STs! The interesting choices for touring machines, and the innovative storage solutions in the camping area could be its own article. 

This is a must-do event for anyone in North America who is into vintage motorcycles. Whether you like racing, or concours, or touring, or swap meets, or just walking around for days looking at old bikes, this is a worthwhile event. Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it, there is the world’s best motorcycle museum with close to a thousand on display. 

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Rows and rows of interesting motorcycles from near and far

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Zundapp parts

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Signed by Kenny Roberts

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A Meticulous Munch

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Gorgeous Guzzi

 A Norton awaiting its racing class

A Norton awaiting its racing class

 A Birmingham Small Arms in Birmingham

A Birmingham Small Arms in Birmingham

 Globe circling BMWs in the museum

Globe circling BMWs in the museum

 What is your tribe?

What is your tribe?

 I’m betting that you have not seen a Tornax in the flesh recently !

I’m betting that you have not seen a Tornax in the flesh recently !

 An Adventure Scooter ?

An Adventure Scooter ?

 A beautiful Indian

A beautiful Indian

 DKW with a pillion seat way off the rear….

DKW with a pillion seat way off the rear….

 Artwork was interspersed among the vintage iron..

Artwork was interspersed among the vintage iron..

 Honda Cubs and Trails were everywhere….

Honda Cubs and Trails were everywhere….

This Classic Velocity post is brought to you by Motocron : For Enthusiasts By Enthusiasts

New is Old....Again

Classic Velocity

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It's official, we have run out of ideas. Electric cars, not new. Medicinal herbs, not new. Organic food, not new. Driverless cars, not new. Faded jeans, not new. And there is such an absence of new ideas in entertainment, that sequels, remakes, and recycling are the norm. For our more relevant space of vintage iron, there is also a movement these days to make new stuff old, and to keep old stuff…..well….old. This too is not new, as the rat rods of the mid 20th century had the same ethos. Take something old, and make it serviceable (or high performance), but leave the aesthetic looking like it was when found (or abandoned). There have even been schools within the movement that have taken something in good cosmetic shape, and distressed them, aged them, or otherwise altered them in order to look like a barn find. The spectrum is broad, so we thought that in true Classic Velocity style, we would categorize them. We did a related post on how close you are to being a purist a few years ago (see Tiers of Authenticity), so you can check that out as well.

  1. Preservation. This school is pretty straightforward. You alter nothing (or the minimum possible) to make the vehicle operate as it did when it last operated.

    1. There is even a market for non-operating preservation, where even the cobwebs remain undisturbed.

  2. Practication. You take an original vehicle as found, and make it practical to operate on a limited basis. This might involve more modern non-period-correct tires, corrosion inhibitor applied to the undercarriage, an LED bulb or two to replace the stock 1157, etc. The vehicle is not modified in any way, and the cosmetic patina is natural and continuing to evolve.

  3. Performication. Not to be confused with per-fornication. Different blog for that. This school might do any needed metalwork and then preserve the resulting aesthetic with a clear coat of the patina, so that it will not evolve further. There may be more extensive less visible structural work, suspension upgrades, engine upgrades, brake upgrades, etc to make the vehicle competent with, or superior to, today's vehicles.

    1. The closer you get it to looking like category one or two, the more impressive it is.

    2. The better the performance, the more impressive it is.

  4. Oldification. This school takes something new and typically high performance, and makes it look old aesthetically. We are not talking here about the many retro and homage vehicles produced by manufacturers.

    1. We are talking about putting a modified early 911 body on a modern 911 chassis and drive train, or putting a new BMW 1200 (now 1250) motor in a modified R60/2 chassis, or somehow using a current Mustang platform for a Model A hotrod, or a Hayabusa engine in your Isetta. 

    2. There are some pretty expensive paint jobs and interiors out there that look like they are old, distressed, corroded, sun bleached. Aircooled Vdubs (which are already old) have members of this school. A variation are motorcycle tanks with faux bullet holes painted oxidation red, and aged brown leather seats.

    3. Technically you could consider Chip Foose, Kindig-It, and their ilk to be a variation on this theme. We could also argue though, that they represent the opposite, Newification.

So where do you fall on the spectrum? Did we miss a category? Best comment wins a Motocron subscription.

On Getting Soaked

Classic Velocity

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It has been a long time since I have gotten really and truly soaked while riding a motorcycle. Years in fact. It happened now and then back when I had no rain gear and had to press on in the rain. The topic is also no stranger to these pages (see Rain , Squandering the Attention Budget , and The Rain Machine). But this was different. I have plenty of rain gear. Good stuff, too. I have jacket liners and a full set of Frog Togs and rain covers for the tank bag, and even a set of rain gloves. But on this day, I had none of them.

It was a beautiful sunny morning with a few puffy clouds here and there. It was the best part of what was to be a hot and humid summer day. I enjoyed the cooler morning air and the curvy undulating unoccupied country roads. After a while, I stopped to grab coffee. While inside, a trio of joggers came in dripping wet. I went outside to see a glistening parking lot, puddles of water, and a soaking wet bike. This had been no light sprinkle. The rain squall had already moved on, and the sun had never stopped shining. I looked up to see a single light grey cloud amid the azure and cotton ball sky. I checked my weather radar app. Nothing. There were no visible signs of rain in any compass direction. Strange, I thought.  I wiped off the seat, shook the remaining water off the soaked tank bag (and put on its’ now unnecessary rain cover), put on my mesh jacket, helmet, gloves, and headed toward home in the opposite direction to the light grey cloud.

I was on the lookout for a fast moving grey cloud, but there were none visible. I rounded one of my favorite long sweepers, and a few splats hit the windshield. Big wet splats as if they came from raindrops in some land of the giants out of all proportion to planet earth. Before I could even fully assess my options, there was a torrent of splats. A full downpour while in full sun and with good visibility. The visor fogged, and I was soaked within half a minute. There were no options for shelter anyway, so the choices were to stop and stand in the open to get further soaked, or ride on to get further soaked. I took my mostly wet leather gloves off, and rode on, still looking for the cloud that could produce such a deluge. A minute later, it ended. There was a pretty well-defined line in the road where you emerged from the sunny waterfall and into sunny dry road. No change in sky, no discernible change in temperature, just a Hollywood-like transition. I looked back in disbelief, but there was not much to see. It should have looked like a waterfall, but it didn’t. The whole episode was less than two minutes.

Even in warm temperatures, soaking wet clothes are cold. Denim in particular has qualities which allow it to absorb 19.7 times its weight in water, and to simultaneously cool and stiffen. A mesh jacket allows the rain and cold to pass through to the layer against your skin. Brilliant. You try to minimize movement in order to prevent new cold wet areas from touching warm skin. It is futile, particularly on a motorcycle where everything seems to function as a funnel toward the area you would least like to be wet and cold. The fact that it is warm and the air begins to partially dry areas that you are least concerned about being wet and cold, makes it worse. Give me a good solid long-lasting downpour where everything remains soaked. 7.3 miles is a long way in these conditions, but eventually the destination is reached. You slowly climb from the machine as if you are in a full body cast, and quickly liberate yourself from the clothing.

10 minutes later, warm and dry, I looked up at the sky. The same brilliant azure now with fewer white puffy clouds. I consider myself a lifelong learner, and I like to find the lesson in every experience. The toughest part about this soaking is that, try as I might, I could not at first find any lessons to be learned. I was not about to carry full luggage and rain gear for every 1 hour joy ride with no weather indicated. I did not gain some insight about reading a summer sky. I would not change anything on the motorcycle. I finally concluded then, that the lesson was about predictability. Even as a motorcyclist where you accept some elevated level of unpredictability, we like predictability. Despite being somewhat non-conformist, we like rules. Even in a pastime driven by passion, we like logic.

The lesson is that certainty only applies a certain percentage of the time.

MOA Rally 2018

Classic Velocity

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With all due respect, the state fair grounds in Des Moines, Iowa would not be on the top 10 list of places to go see in the USA in July. However, it is the 2018 location of the annual pilgrimage for the 2 wheeled BMW faithful. The BMW MOA Rally. An excuse to travel somewhere relatively far away, and to weave in interesting roads along the way. An excuse to take a machine not purpose built for the constant drone of the interstate highway system or the speed of the autobahn, but which never the less is intended to circumnavigate the world. A 1992 BMW R100GS Paris Dakar. Long before BMW had an “Adventure” version of the GS, they had the PD version of the GS. A more Gelande version of the Gelande Strasse. Bigger fuel tank, a bit more suspension travel, high fender (which went on to become the segment-defining “beak”). It was the dawn of the big bike dual sport movement. The R80G/S before it was the original adventure bike, but it did not have the girth and the sheer presence of its’ 1000cc offspring. Sort of like an NFL tackle next to his normal sized mom and dad. The machine has no electronics, and no fuel injection, although it does have upgraded lighting, and luggage. 

Time did not allow me to completely avoid the interstate, so there was several hundred miles of it on the round trip. I used the throttle lock cruise control, which worked adequately for resting your wrist. The PD handles it well even if the tachometer is between 5k and 6k in doing so. It never feels strained, but it seems to be asking you why you are continuing to do this. Good question. Once off onto the divided highways and B roads, the machine is happier. It accelerates well, passes well using roll on throttle, and stops well.  It is obviously not a modern motorcycle, so it draws attention and invites questions. What year is that? How far are you going? You can often see the next unasked question on their faces. Why? Others have looks of obvious envy. Others clutch their smiling curious children to them as if you might infect them with some strange global traveling disease.

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I never cease to marvel at the variation and beauty of the landscapes in all parts of the USA, and the Midwest is no exception. What others describe as monotonous is just a different kind of beauty. How is it that you can travel down a tunnel of corn that is almost unbroken in 20 miles? When did the last person leave that little abandoned town, and who has captured that history? Why are these 90 degree turns placed seemingly arbitrarily in this billiard flat landscape? Why is there a speed limit on this road? Why did the city form at this particular point on the river? Why don’t we make more things out of corn? Why isn’t this the best place on the continent to view a sunrise or a sunset? How many places actually claim to have the best barbecue? You have time to ponder these and other questions when you travel more slowly, and you have a large fuel tank.

The MOA rally is a gathering of 7000 plus people and their machines with a common love of the blue and white propeller on a two-wheeled conveyance. With that said, any gathering of humans this large will immediately subdivide into tribes. Geographic tribes, and time period tribes (I see you Airheads), and specific model tribes (I see you chromeheads), and genre tribes (I see you GS Giants). All different,  all able to poke fun at each other, all able to share the same beer tent. Many different origins, many different walks of life, many different faiths, many different world views, united around one company’s approach to combining metal and steel and plastic and rubber. Surely we can find a way to emulate this on a more important level. But I digress.

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Seminars educated and informed, test rides informed and even surprised, vendors offered solutions, attendees showered wisdom on each other. Friends reunited. I attended a particularly informative session on lighting and conspicuity. Motorcycles were admired. Oh yes, the motorcycles. Whatever model you rode, many examples of your bike were there. Like the parking lot at Goodwod, you could be well entertained for hours by walking around the grounds looking at machines. Unlike a concours, you are not looking for the most pristine example. The sheer variety of interpretation and personalization is fascinating on this scale, and every machine is a participant. I stopped to admire an R1200ST. Styling only a mother could love, and a rare sighting even at this event, but this machine was well loved and well travelled. The vintage display had a nice assortment as usual of machines from an R32 to an R90S. Green and Red and Grey and Dover White machines broke up the stellar traditional black examples. There was much to discuss at the beer garden that evening. 

The journey back took a different path, and more interstate, with a good bit of rain here and there. The rain washed the bike, and cooled the cylinders and the rider. It somehow feels good to put on rain gear and keep going rather than retreat to wait it out. Riding in the rain can even be fun as I found out some time ago in Nova Scotia. Drying out was quick, and was accompanied by a welcome end to interstate travel. Rolling hills and lush green woods lined the road rather than corn. Place names became more familiar, and the journey came to a close. A lot had happened in a week, and a changed rider stood in an unchanged driveway next to a brilliantly unchanged machine. 

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Motocron - The Classic Velocity Vehicle Log

Classic Velocity

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Like many of you who have more than one vehicle to keep track of, the Classic Velocity garage used a combination of paper folders, a whiteboard, some yellow pad pages, and even a spreadsheet at one point. However, as the vehicle count grows, or as time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult and inconvenient to find information by rifling through thick folders. And sometimes, the answer is in a folder that you have since archived or given to the new owner. Even if you only own 1 or 2 vehicles, and do none of your own work, you would probably like to keep track of  what was done when, how many miles/hours you traveled, what events you participated in, and be able to recall details and photos anyplace, anytime.

The Classic Velocity Vehicle Log (CVVL)  is an app that keeps track of all of the activities and costs (at whatever level of detail you choose to track them) over time associated with all of your vehicles. It will even let you go back in time and paint a complete picture of vehicles you already own. It lets you track todo items and deadlines. It lets you It adds even greater value by providing a series of reports on activity, costs, mileage/hours, and locations, to help you easily search and find answers. Reports can be filtered by vehicle, timeframe, type of activity, etc, and viewed in a variety of formats.  Lastly it lets you do this wherever and whenever you want on whatever device you want. $10 per year gets you unlimited entries for up to 10 vehicles.

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Use code CVVLAUNCH at checkout for a discount and help the Log to fund the Blog!

SIGN UP

Rabeneick Rules Rebranding

Classic Velocity

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August Rabeneick started a manufacturing company near Bielefeld (which was the origin for multiple bicycle and motorcycling manufacturers) in 1930. Initially he produced grinding machines, and then went on to producing bicycles. It did not take very long for him to transition to motorcycles in 1933. Like many others, he transitioned the ability to make steel frames into a motorcycle business using engines from other companies such as Fictel&Sachs and Ilo. 

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The first machines were small displacement at 75cc and 98cc. Post war, that transitioned to 125, 175, and eventually to 250cc two stroke machines. Rabeneick further developed the relationship with Ilo to one that allowed him to brand their engines as his own. As the 1950s began, Rabeneick also went to smaller 50cc mopeds to make sure that the segment of the market needing very basic and efficient machines wa covered. They also produced a line of scooters which they rebranded as Binetta in the UK (sounds very Italian, si?).

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Keeping with the theme of rebranding, Rabeneick struck a deal to produce the shaft driven 500cc boxer twin from a company called....wait for it.....Universal, out of Switzerland, as his own. This gave him a complete range of machines from sub 50cc moped to the largest popular displacement at the time. Diversification was an attempt to stave off a declining market. The strategy was good enough to attract the attention of Fichtel&Sachs who then purchased Rabeneick in the late 1950s. However, the factory eventually closed, and was sold to Hercules, although the brand lived on into the 1960s on a few mopeds. 

Cross Continental MZ

Classic Velocity

For those of us that believe we need to have a well-equipped electronically-assisted modern touring machine in order to contemplate a cross country trip, Kim Scholer begs to differ. He is taking a 1970 East German 250cc MZ pulling a Czech trailer ! And this is an upgrade compared to his last such trip !!

 Kim's Blog  MC Classics Article  Classic Velocity MZ Blog Posts

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Martin Classics 2018

Classic Velocity

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This year, for the first time in many, we missed the Martin Moto Classics show. It always coaxes local, and now with growth, regional owners to bring their classic treasures out to share with the public. There is always an assortment of German machines on hand with BMW featuring prominently, but accompanied by things less common. 

This year, there were nice examples of machines featured in these pages or formerly inhabiting the garage, including MZ, Kreidler, DKW, Condor, and Victoria. I have picked a few machines consistent  with the theme of this blog, but thanks to Todd Trumbore and Images from Walter Barlow, you can still enjoy a larger variety of impressive machines via the album link below.  

Martin Moto Modern Classics 2018

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Framo 2-3-4 Wheels

Classic Velocity

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Innovation in frames and platforms was the norm in the early days of the internal combustion engine, and many companies were simply trying to find the most efficient means to accomplish a task. One such company was Framo, founded in 1923, the same year as BMW. Although founded in Saxony, Germany, it was started by Dane Jorgen Rasmussen, who also founded DKW. The main idea was to use Framo to produce components for DKW motorcycles. After 3 years, that lead to the production of a commercial motorcycle-based vehicle, Basically, it was a trike with a cargo platform. This TV300 model emerged as a Framo vehicle in 1927. Variations for Framo included a single wheel at the front driven by an engine directly above it, a single wheel at the rear, enclosed cockpits, and open trikes with a covered rear. In other words, many permutations and configurations were tried.  Three-wheeled experiments in turn lead to the 4-wheeled Piccolo and Stromer models in the 1930s. All models were powered by 200cc-600cc 2 stroke motorcycle engines. Sales were simply ok in many instances, and weak in others, with no real sales successes.

Postwar, the factory was dismantled and shipped to Russia. Production resumed however in 1949 with what was essentially a pre-war model. Although there were further attempts at passenger vehicles, commercial applications were the only consistent sales. Even this was not to last very long, as the company became VEB Barkas and then concentrated on compact passenger vans. But that is a story for another time....

Collecting Nuances

Classic Velocity

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In visiting museums and collections, I would always be intrigued and amazed by those who were very focused in their acquisitions. Just one marque, or just one model of one marque, or all of the models of one marque for a single year, or all of the yellow Ferraris. These curators have a specific theme or quest, and set out to achieve a focused goal. I always thought of these as rather eccentric collectors. I imagined that they were bored with gathering the usual suspects like Gullwings and Vincents. Perhaps they just wanted to outdo a fellow collector by saying "I have every shade of green BMW 2002 ever offered" or "I have every model of the Norton Commando ever offered for sale". This is the "Inch wide and mile deep" approach to contrast the mile wide and inch deep collectors. 

In a recent conversation, I realized that I am not immune to this tendency. I was speaking with an inch-wide enthusiast friend about the new Goldwing. This is relevant because he has 12 Goldwings (13 if you count the Silverwing). This is impressive just based on the space required, but also based on the dollars. He can spout chapter and verse about the nuances between model years. Three of them are yellow. He even has a model that is widely regarded as bad. It is the mark of a true inch-wide enthusiast, that they even have the bad version of the vehicle. He also has models that the ordinary motorcycle enthusiast would consider to be the same. He has special editions, and first-version-to-have-X models. He knows his Goldwings. And then, he pointed to a couple of my airheads and we had the following conversation.

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"Those look identical to me. Those are your Goldwings." He was pointing to an R75/6 and an R75/7.

"They are not, see the tank on this one and the instrument cluster....." I fell right into the trap and was explaining nuances between the models that only airheads would appreciate, and probably just a subset of them at that.  

"They are both the same blue." Hhhmmmm, he did have a point there as they were the identical blue. Although, one was far more faded than the other. 

"Yes, but see the spoke wheels versus the cast wheels, and the switchgear is totally different......." He was smiling now, and I was digging a deep hole. 

"Was there a big performance jump between these, or some big functional improvement?" He was honestly asking this question, fully expecting to find the rationale for having both.

"Well......not really." I did not want to tell him about the few horsepower difference, or the infamous $2000 o-ring. That could easily be considered the bad version. I quickly ran through the years of knowledge and the memorized contents of the Ian Falloon book on Airheads. There was nothing of substance to offer a motorcycle enthusiast not pierced by one of cupid's horizontally opposed arrows. Nothing.

"Is one more of a touring model that goes with that fairing?" He was pointing to the color-matched blue Vetter fairing that I had removed, and had no intention of reinstalling on the /6.

"Well......not really." He was now fawning bewilderment.

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"Is either one super rare or collectible then?" His knowledge of BMW Airheads was like my knowledge of Goldwings; an inch wide and a half inch deep. I could easily have lied.

"Well this one has fairly low miles, but.........no" He was now implying that I was even worse than him, since I had no redeeming special editions or rarity cachet.  

"This one says R75 as well. Why would you have multiple versions of the same bike?" It was the /5 toaster tank. Beautiful and so different, but he had scored a knock down blow. Yes, I had gathered all three versions of the R75 over time, quite intentionally. This was a great motor for BMW, and I appreciated the subtle nuances between iterations of this platform from early 1970s to late. It goes even further if you include the R80RT. Yes, I was an inch-wide enthusiast. But when you have no substantive retort in a debate, when you have no defense, you must turn to offense. You must attack a flank where you at least have some advantage.

"Oh yeah, well I can park all three of these in the space taken up by one of your behemoth Goldwings!".  

NYC IMS 2017

Classic Velocity

As seen through the eyes of a vintage enthusiast, this annual pilgrimage is a chance to see what is new and trendy, and to lay eyes on what has heretofore been the stuff of articles. This year, there was an impressive number of “standard” motorcycles. This means relatively upright seating position, handlebars rather than clipons, very little bodywork, no winshield. Among them were the Yamaha MT09 and 07, the MV Agusta Rivale, Kawasaki Z900, BMW RNineT, etc. Nice looking machines that can be versatile as well. Everybody now has an “Adventure” bike, including Royal Enfield with their new Himalayan. Honda and BMW now offer “Baggers”! There is plenty of coverage of the event on major magazine sites, so here is a select sampling of images through the Classic Velocity lens.

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NSU Supermax

Classic Velocity

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Neckarsulm Strickmaschinen Union (NSU) emerged from producing knitting machines and bicycles to motorcycles and cars. By the  mid 1950s, NSU had grown to become one of the largest motorcycle producers in the world. It directly translated great success on the racetrack with the Rennfox and Sportmax machines into showroom sales, as they amassed victories in sidecar, 125cc and 250cc world championships (see Of silver dolphins and blue whales). One of the best translations was the NSU Supermax.

The Supermax was introduced in 1953, and was designed by Albert Roder who had worked on the supercharged racing motors. It was a 250cc 4 stroke single, producing about 18hp at 6500rpm, and weighing just 384lbs. The innovative features introduced included a new "calm" air filtration system, and a chain driven overhead camshaft. At the time, these were somewhat ground-breaking on a production motorcycle. It also featured a four speed gearbox which propelled the machine to 78mph. Very respectable for a 250cc thumper. Brakes were drum front and rear, on 19 inch wheels. Other innovations included the monocoque pressed steel frame, and a short rocker front suspension.

The Supermax enjoyed very good sales, helping to propel NSU to become the world's largest motorcycle producer in 1955. They also held world speed records in 1951, 1953, 1954, and 1955, including breaking the 200mph mark for motorcycles at Bonneville. The Supermax model continued until it was replaced in 1961. 

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Anthropologic Vehicular Archeology

Classic Velocity

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I was searching for items for a swap meet which was only a day away. As usual, this had turned into a last minute need to rummage through plastic crates in storage. As mentioned in Hoarding for Gearheads, this should be pretty straightforward, but over time the organization system gets corrupted.  So there I was, searching for a particular item that I knew I had new in a box, but which so far had eluded my grasp.  However, the search had given rise to a number of sudden utterances ( to no one in particular since I was alone) like "Oh, so that's where this was", or "Why would this be in this crate", or "I forgot I had one of these". And then I was easily diverted and took long trips down memory lane as I came across parts for vehicles I had not owned in years, vehicles I had no intention of ever owning again, and in some cases, vehicles I am pretty sure I never owned at all.  I was struck by how many times I must have purchased items just because I could not find them, or because I forgot I had one. But that was not the most interesting discovery on this journey. and in some cases, vehicles I had no intention of ever owning again.

If you really want insight into the diseased mind of a vintage gear head, then you need to examine the used parts. There should be a full advanced academic degree devoted to the understanding of this sub culture by way of the stuff in their garages and basements and storage units. I call it Anthropologic Vehicular Archeology. If we can discern the workings of ancient civilizations by way of a few fragments of a clay pot and some cave paintings, imagine what we can reconstruct from the 40 year old vintage parts stored by a modern human. There are already esteemed faculty who can determine your right foot reflexes just from reading a fouled spark plug! Imagine what could be done with a used oil filter, a crank journal bearing, and exhaust pipe discoloration. It is a rich field of exploration. Oh, the secrets that would be revealed, the new buildings on academic campuses, and the passionate doctoral candidates, not to mention the insights gained for all of humanity. But I digress. 

The parts and supplies of interest fell into several categories. The rationalization is followed in parentheses by (the more realistic translation) :

  1. I may return the vehicle to 100% stock one day, so I need to keep this.  (this will never get back on the vehicle during my ownership, but will be good for the online posting and for the new owner)
  2. I have an extra one of these because they will be hard to find soon and I may need it one day.  (they will not be that hard to find in my lifetime, so it will probably be in this crate when they sell it all at the estate sale)
  3. I got this in a box of parts at a swap meet.  (I will forget how I got this and be periodically perplexed as to what this fits)
  4. I replaced this with a new one, but I keep this as a spare.  (I will never use this and will always buy another new one because I will forget why I relegated this to a spare)
  5. I don't need this, but I hear they go for good money online. (If I ever got around to finding this again, cleaning it up, and putting it online, I would make $7)
  6. I have a good one of these, so I can modify this one. (The modification went horribly wrong, and now it is worth nothing so I keep it) 

Ignition coils are one of my favorites. There were several among the crates with masking tape and words like "reportedly tested good", or "suspect", or "R50/2??". I have no idea under what circumstances I would ever put one of these into a vehicle, and it would be unethical to even offer them to someone needing a coil, so why keep them? Answer; There is something about the weight and substance of a coil, along with the fact that they can look brand new even when bad, that makes me reluctant to throw them out. I left them right where I found them. But the jewel in the crown, the icing on the cake, the capstone of this outing, was a pair of brake pads, lightly used, on which was written in big permanent marker, the words "WRONG PADS". They were in a crate of mixed items, so there was no telling what vehicle, what year, front or rear, etc. I actually sat down and laughed out loud, which startled a blackbird on a nearby fence. There was no clue as to whether I inherited these in a box of parts, purchased them myself some time ago, or removed them from a vehicle. Were they wrong for a particular vehicle, the wrong type of pads for the correct vehicle? I had no idea other than I had obviously decided to keep them. In the end, I put them right back where I found them, still chuckling to myself. I know I should just throw them out along with the coils and other suspect items, but perhaps I will wait for a better time to go through all of this...yeah, that's it....another time soon. And if not, it will at least confound the vehicular archeologists.

 

 

Classic RS Rally

Classic Velocity

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It is hard to imagine, but the original BMW R100RS was launched in the fall of 1976 as a 1977 model, and is now 40 years old.  There have been many variations and iterrations since then, but the original production vehicle still defines the model. At the time of its launch, the RS was a radical departure from other machines of the time. It was a fully faired machine compared to naked machines, it offered bold futuristic styling,  and relatively luxurious accommodations to envelope the pilot as he consumed miles by the hundreds each day.  A top speed of 108 mph, and 70 hp in a 535 pound machine was a very good performance package at the time. It was a true "Gentleman's Express".

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The RS started with a recognition by BMW Motorrad that their bikes were sort of....well...dated, and were in danger of appealing only to an older demographic. Their solution was to employ stylist Hans Muth to spruce up the line, and get younger customers excited. He used the wind tunnel to design and then test a multi piece fairing that would look modern if not futuristic. The result was a 5.4% reduction in drag, and a 17.4% reduction in front wheel lift. To put this in perspective, lots of riders of all marques were buying and attaching Windjammer fairings to their machines for touring at the time. However, the R100RS was considered the first production model to come fully faired off the showroom floor.  At the time, Motorcyclist's Bob Greene said "In one bold move the Germans have advanced motorcycle styling several years". More than that, the bike offered great protection from the elements. Many consider this motorcycle to be the birth of the Sport Tourer. A special Motorsport edition was later launched with a signature red nose on the fairing, and many RS machines including K bikes and R bikes to the present time, occupy BMW showrooms and enthusiast garages.

Which brings us to Todd Trumbore, and the 40 year celebration of the RS. Todd has been a guest author for Classic Velocity, a great motorcycle enthusiast in general, and is well known for his annual rides. He is also known for his R90S 40 year celebration a few years ago. Once again, he has gone above and beyond in bringing Hans Muth to anchor a celebration of his design. The lineup of silver blue 1977 RS machines was spectacular, including serial number 001. The collection of attendee machines was impressive as well, including a million mile R100S. Camping and tech workshops and lectures, and the Airhead Store, and food and drink, made this a true Rally worthy of the BMWMOA organization. But it was essentially the work of one man. Great guy, great machine, great event.

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Limerock 2017 The Motorcycles

Classic Velocity

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The Limerock Vintage Weekend has long been a great destination for a motorcycle ride. It is set in bucolic north western Connecticut, and is surrounded by upstate NY and western MA. When  the Berkshires and the Catskills are neighbors, you are in great riding country. At the track, a motorcycle parking area on a hill above the swap/paddock area has emerged over time that is always interesting, and the infield camping area often has a smattering of motorcycles. It always delivers a surprise, such as the year when a Vincent was casually parked among the commuter and touring machines on the mound. There was also a Crocker one year inside a vendor tent!

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This year, all of that was enhanced by a display of BMW machines from Philip Richter and his Turtle Garage. In addition to a few of Bruce Meyer's hot rods on display, there was an elegant line of BMWs from pre-war to the 1990s. A most welcome surprise to us, and a delight for the crowd of attendees who appreciated vintage machinery in general.  It was particularly amusing to listen in on some of the conversations of others admiring the collection. There were comments such as "They all look the same", or "Black must be his favorite color, since he has so many of them".

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However, a few folks who knew their BMWs would also stop to spend time looking at the subtleties between models. They would comment on handlebar controls or frame gusseting.  They were always pleasantly surprised to find someone who wanted to share in the conversation.  There is a particularly strong bond that is formed between geeks who discover each other at an event not intended for them as a primary audience. You now instantly have 2 things in common. But I digress...

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The machines included a Dover white R60/2, an R69S with a Hoske tank, a superb ISDT bike, and a pristine K1. All in superb restored condition. However, the favorite bike of the collection's owner is a 1938 R51 which is cosmetically unrestored. It has been mechanically restored, but the paint and bodywork has not been touched. It is in remarkably good condition, and has a patina that you simply cannot purchase. Sharing the same year, 1938, was an R71. Judging by the interest in German cars and motorcycles, it is easy to see why Limerock voted Philip collector of the year. The Turtle Garage is on our list st of places to visit soon....

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The Neander Meander

Classic Velocity

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Ernst Neumann Neander of Duren, Germany was a man of many talents. He was known as an artist, with works in sculpture, painting, and poetry. However, he reportedly built one of the earliest motorcycles in 1886. He later returned to motorcycles in 1926 when he designed the machine seen here. It had many signature features, the most prominent of which was the box section frame made or Duralumin. But for the headlight, you would be excused for thinking this was a machine from 30 years later. The frame looks like a modern twin spar, the tank could be postwar, etc.  The frame went on to be licensed by Opel, which used it with some success in racing. It also featured a unique articulating fork. Neander used several different engines in his machines including JAP, Villiers, and MAG.    Although some small displacement machines were created, the majority were either 500cc or 1000cc machines. Overall, the look was very modern for the time, and it was thought to be both artistic and innovative.  However, they were not to everyone's taste. Only about 2,000 Neanders were produced over almost a ten year period, and they went out of production in the 1930s. They also produced tricycles and quadricycles, which never appealed to the public and were short-lived.  Neander also produced several very interesting cars during this time, but that is a story for another post. The name has been resurrected in recent times to be used on a turbo diesel motorcycle. 

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Victoria Bergmeister

Classic Velocity

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Victoria as a marque has been covered before (see The Victoria Ventures). The word Bergmeister dates back some time, and refers to the Foreman of a mine in Germany and Austria. However, in the context of Victoria, it is intended to translate to Mountain Master.  The model was introduced in 1951, and was quite remarkable at the time. It featured a 4 stroke ransversely mounted 80 degree V-twin reminiscent of a Moto Guzzi. It was air-cooled, and had pushrods activated overhead valves. A single Bing carburetor served the 350cc motor, which produced 21hp, The engine is also noted for its streamlined Art Deco appearance. The cases are smooth, and enclose the aforementioned carburetor, giving an appearance common to today's no-visible-cables custom bikes. Elegant body panels and frame paint added to the blend of old and new.

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The transmission used chains rather than gears which reportedly produced a quieter ride. The 4 speed  fed a shaft drive system. Total weight of the bike was 398 lbs, and it was often used in combination with a sidecar. Suspension was telescopic forks up front, and a plunger rear end. It took until 1954 for the Bergmeister to make it into production. It was very expensive to produce into a market with good competition from NSU and BMW. However, it did well in hill-climbs and other trials at the time to become well regarded. Reportedly, only about 5,000 Bergmeisters were produced until Victoria merged with DKW in 1958 to form Zwierad Union. 

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