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Classic Velocity Blog

Filtering by Category: motorcycle

Motorcyclepedia

Classic Velocity

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It has often been our experience, that you visit someplace that you think will be of some interest, and discover that it has hidden gems. And so it was on our visit to the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh, NY. When the website highlights Indians, Harleys and Choppers, we were thinking that this would be an interesting but short visit given our declared focus on machines from Germany. First of all, Motorcyclepedia is an impressive facility from the outside. It is large, and has generous grounds and parking. This is no small hole-in-the-wall  establishment. Upon entry, it continues to impress. It is a large space organized around themes. The current centerpiece is a Chopper exhibit, so Easy Rider bikes and machines by Indian Larry and Arlen Ness and Ed Roth abound. Off to the side is another large hall with what is billed as the most complete collection of Indian motorcycles year by year from the beginning to the end of the Springfield MA production. The one more relevant motorcycle on this floor was a 1975 Hercules with its’ signature Wankel engine (see A Herculean Effort).

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With low expectations for our particular focus, we headed down to the lower level. It was there that we encountered a completely different world of motorcycles. A large area was dedicated to British and other European machines of the mid 20th century. Sunbeams and Triumphs mixed with a Vincent Rapide, and a Black Shadow. A distinctive yellow Nimbus with sidecar sat near a beautiful silver DKW RT250 Twingle. A Puch 250 occupied a place of prominence above a corral containing a BMW R69S in Dover white. Another large area was dedicated to carnival attractions and full-size Wall-of-Death arenas. Among a collection of miniature single seaters used for wall-of-death attractions was one by BMW. A smaller area had a large number of Excelsior machines including board trackers.

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The highlight of the lower level though, is a collection of the earliest motorcycles, including a reproduction 1885 Daimler. This section had some European and American turn of the century marques previously unknown to us, such as Orient, Steffey, Styria, Marsh-Metz, Brutus, Terot, and Manson. The list goes on. There were also more familiar marques such as De Dion Bouton, Thor, FN, Hildebrande and Wolfmuller, and there was a lovely Bohmerland with sidecar. We are leaving out a lot, as for fans of the very earliest machines, this museum is a must-visit.

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Returning upstairs is like returning from a trip on a time machine.  The machines, activity level, and lighting are all very different. Leaving the facility is also a transition back to a large relatively non-descript  building that could be anywhere. You are eased back into the current world after immersion in the complete history of motorcycling. Motorcyclepedia is aptly named indeed.

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Proof of Passion

Classic Velocity

It is a rare fan of vintage iron, that does not also possess a few other items which indicate that they are a fan. Who do you know that is a fan of a marque and yet does not have a t-shirt or a key fob, or a baseball cap? It is almost required. And for the serious fan, books and wall art and more logo wear and a scale replica, are likely to be owned. However, at the level we are calling passion, the items and accessories lean to the more obscure. At this level, money is not the key criteria. With enough money, you could purchase a Mercedes dealership, but it would not necessarily prove passion for the marque. Rarity is more of a key criteria. There are other key criteria as well. The extent to which your passion has invaded other areas of your life, for instance. In true Classic Velocity fashion then, here are three levels of passion.

LEVEL 1 - Unique items in a space you control.

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Exhibit A is this paper towel dispenser. Somebody went to a great deal of trouble to transform this utilitarian item, into something worthy of a Porsche garage. There are extra bonus points here, because as you can see if you look carefully at the lower right of the picture, there is a routine paper towel dispenser close by. So the Porsche dispenser is essentially now just a ceremonial piece of artwork. After all, it just would not do to have greasy finger prints on such a piece. It certainly satisfies this level to have an item that you cannot necessarily purchase, and one that took time and effort to create.


LEVEL 2 - Spillage into other areas of life.

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Exhibit B1 is the VW Bus Birdhouse. It is nicely adorned with a flower motif suitable for your garden. It is a fine example of your passion extending to unrelated areas of your life. The birdhouse has a thoughtful drainage hole, and a keyring on the roof so that it can be hung. Lastly, it is a Bay window camper model, so it is entirely appropriate for a residence. Nicely done.

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Exhibit B2 is this Audi Birthday Cake. Besides the obvious artistry, and good taste (you see what we did there) of the item, it says that friends and family obviously recognize your passion and decide that there is nothing better for your annual celebration of time on the planet, than to incorporate your favorite marque.


LEVEL 3 - Personal commitment.

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Exhibit C are these tattoos. You just can’t get much more passionate than a permanent modification to your person. Assuming this did not happen after a wild night in Vegas of which you have no recollection, this is the ultimate way to say I identify with this marque. The BMW ripped skin tattoo earns extra bonus points, as it implies that your passion goes much more than skin deep. When people are arguing about how much they love their marque, you display either of these and end the argument.

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2 Wheels and 200 MPH

Classic Velocity

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Today, you can walk into most major motorcycle dealerships, and purchase a motorcycle that will do 200 MPH. You even have your choice of options from among multiple brands. These are not super exotic homologation specials, they are standard production machines, available to anyone. Back in the 1950s, it was difficult and expensive to find a production machine that would do half that speed. The world was recovering from WWII, and Germany in particular was just getting back into producing cars and motorcycles of higher speeds and displacements. BMW, Zundapp, and NSU were competing in the showrooms and on the racetrack for dominance. At that time, success on the track was the primary advertising material to get buyers into the showroom. And it worked. One area left dormant since before the war was the motorcycle land speed record. It was still held by a BMW from 1937. NSU siezed an opportunity and established a new record of 180.10 MPH (289.85 KPH) in 1951 with Wilhelm Herz aboard blasting down the autobahn.  With 200 MPH in sight, there were several attempts by a variety of manufacturers over the next 5 years, but they all fell short.

Until 1956.  The 1951 record had stood for 4 years before being eclipsed by a Vincent, and then by a Triumph in 1955. NSU decided to go all out in reclaiming it in 1956, and sent a well-equipped team of machines, spares, and mechanics to the Bonneville Salt flats that July. They brought 6 machines with engines all based on their very successful GP racing RennMax and RennFox machines. The 500cc (actually 499cc) machine was dubbed the Dolphin III as the most recent version of the original Delphin that broke the land speed record back in 1951. The 350cc and 500cc models were supercharged parallel twins, but with an interesting historical twist. The superchargers used a troichordal rotor on a fixed shaft in a figure 8 style chamber. If this sounds familiar, it is because it was  the precursor of the wankel engine. The engine was an overhead cam with bevel-drive, fed by a single Amal carburetor. Soichoro Honda himself had been by the factory the prior year to take a look At what NSU was doing with production machines given their performance in the lightweight classes in GP racing.

Back to Bonneville. The Delphin (Dolphin) moniker was due to the streamlined shape of the fairing which produced a miserly 0.19 coefficient of drag. In fact, the major challenge was keeping the machine on the ground at speed, and weights were added strategically for this purpose. The seating position placed the pilot low, and was dubbed the “hammock” position. On the salt flats, it was a difficult couple of weeks. Conditions were windy, and NSU had a crash during the 250cc attempt with H.P. Mueller aboard. In fact Mueller was the pilot for all of the record-breaking runs except for the 500cc class. Several crashes or aborted runs took place in other classes as well. However, early in the morning on August 4th, 1956 with Wilhelm Herz once again in the pilot seat, and the winds finally calm, NSU was able to achieve a stunning 211.4 MPH, shattering the previous record by 26 MPH !! NSU had convincingly reclaimed dominance in the land speed arena, and returned home poised for continued success on the track and in the showroom.

Zundapp Citation

Classic Velocity

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IThe Zundapp Citation was clearly a derivative of the Horex Imperator, and was reportedly only branded a Zundapp in order to work around the legal restrictions of the US importer Berliner Motors. The Imperator was a 400cc twin produced in the waning days of Horex before it was purchased by Mercedes (see Horex Motorcycles). The Zundapp version created an oversquare bore and stroke, and overhead cam to reach 452cc and to produce 40 hp. This was enough to market the it as a 500, and claim 100+ mph speeds. Not bad in 1958.  It was named the Citation after the triple-crown winning horse.

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Despite good quality, performance, and design, timing could not have been worse. The bike was introduced into the teeth of a worldwide recession. On top of that, a series of marketing and legal issues impacted sales in the important US market. The Citation was limited to a 2 year life span from 1958 to 1960.

Two Teutonic Transformations

Classic Velocity

Recently we offered a post that was titled Old is the New New. Well nothing says old like a BMW boxer. A basic design from 1923, that even eschewed water cooling until 2014. However, the new machines are packed with modern technology, and compete with the best the world can produce. Indeed, with the RNineT, BMW itself is mining its past and producing retro machines. They are inspired by artists and artisans that, much like Harley Davidson’s knucklehead community, see the boxer as a timeless platform that can be forever re-imagined. We recently had the opportunity to spend some time around two excellent samples. The heart of the machines is pure BMW, but the creations come from Japan, and America. 

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Nostalgia” states its’ case with the name, and was created by NMOTO Studio. It pays direct homage to the BMW R7 of 1934, which was shown as a prototype, but never actually produced. It is considered by many to represent the pinnacle of Art Deco motorcycle design. Nostalgia is based on the new RNineT platform, but it is all about the beautiful bodywork. NMOTO has done a great job of incorporating most of the design elements from the R7. In particular, the fenders and the tank side panels and the exhaust, combine to fool the casual observer into thinking a priceless prewar motorcycle was on display. The headlight nacelle and the paint are similarly convincing. The big disc brakes and valve covers are the main visual cues that this is a modern creation. Other than that, it successfully evokes the pressed steel frame and Art Deco aesthetic that the R7 represented. The best part is that you can have your own Nostalgia. It is in limited production and is sure to stop traffic and dominate your local bike show. 

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Departed” takes a different approach. It is a custom built one-off commissioned by BMW Motorrad, and created by Uichi Yoshizawa and Yoshikazu Ueda of Custom Works ZON. It is all about the engine, which is reportedly a BMW Motorrad prototype. If the engine is a mere accessory to the body on Nostalgia, then the rest of the bike is an accessory to the engine on Departed. It dominates the motorcycle, and the duo uses the valve covers and alternator cover and the rear wheel center, to evoke its own Art Deco theme. This is complemented by tank and side covers and a breast plate all in metal finish, and reminiscent of a WWII fighter plane. Even the stubbed exhaust and trellis frame add to that image. This is a good thing, as it is designed to be a land speed racer, complete with rear sets, minimalist seat, and no lighting. And in case you think the large wheels create a more modern feel, the fabulous swingarm, the beautiful girder fork and exposed drive shaft will pull you right back to the prewar era. Ironically, Departed has a diminutive front disc brake that would fit inside that of Nostalgia. 

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A fellow rider joined me in admiring the machines, and at the end asked which one I would have if forced to make a choice. I said Departed because I could see it getting ridden and dirty and still looking every bit as cool. He chose Nostalgia because he said he would not survive the riding position of Departed for very long, and his wife would allow Nostalgia in the living room when not being ridden. We agreed to swap periodically....

The RT Legacy

Classic Velocity

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There are some lessons that I cannot seem to learn. There are many instances on these pages of the CV garage returning over and over again to the same vehicle. My beloved 2002 is a repeat offender, the early 911 is a repeat offender, the BMW GS is a repeat offender, Norton Commandos are repeat offenders, and the BMW RT may be the most offensive of the offenders. 2 R100RTs, an R80RT (still here), 2 R1150RTs, and now a 2nd R1200RT. The only reason that the R1100RT has not made an appearance, is that it is the one RT that I do not care for aesthetically. I like the RT a lot. At least the R bike versions ;-)

Part of the appeal is the mile-munching capability. They are reknown for racking up mileages in the hundreds of thousands. Few cars can say that, and even fewer bikes. Second, they are reliable. which permits the first point. Occasional valve adjustments and quality oil are the primary requirements. Not that they have not had recalls and other issues in the modern era, but few compared to other marques. Third, they are comfortable, which also permits the first. Fourth, they are sporty enough. There are others in the segment that are sportier, but better riders than me have yet to know the limits of a modern RT on a twisty road. They handle well. Fifth, is storage capacity. You have to move to a true luxo-barge like the Goldwing or the K1600 to get any more storage. Sixth is weather protection. A generous fairing protects lower body. The hands are protected by the mirrors which have excellent visibility. They always had a large windshield, but the adjustable ones in the modern area can shield your upper body to the point of staying mostly dry in light rain. Seventh are the electronics. They are more and more sophisticated, but even on my R80RT, the alternator and the accessory plugs were intended to allow the rider to use heated gear and to power radios and auxiliary lights.  In position 8 is the headlight. In my opinion, he RT has always had a good enough headlight to leave the machine stock. My R80RT has a pretty good headlight for a 35 year old machine. The R1200RT has a really good headlight, stock. Ninth are passenger accommodations. Once again, true to its roots, the RT shines with a wide comfy passenger seat and rubberized pegs. The top box doubles as backrest. Last at number 10, is suspension. Between reasonable weight that disappears once underway, paralever, and good suspension when loaded with passenger and luggage, the RT never feels unbalanced. In fact, my R1150RT seemed to feel better two-up!

So there you have it. Ten reasons the RT is a fantastic motorcycle from any generation, and the reason that it remains in, and returns to, the Classic Velocity garage.

Zweirad Union Type 115/155

Classic Velocity

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Regular readers will know that Zweirad Union was the parent company for several brands, most notably Victoria, Express and DKW, and has been featured several times in these pages. The late 1950s saw the death of many German motorcycle producers, and Zweirad had acquired an ailing Victoria in 1957, a dying Express in 1958, and a castoff DKW in 1959. The idea of the new Director Dr Odilo Burkart, was to leverage models and tooling in Nuremburg to produce models for all three brands.

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One result of this approach was the avant-garde Zweirad Union Type 115/155, produced from 1960 to 1963. The 115 was a Victoria model, and the 155 was the almost identical DKW. They were aimed at younger buyers in an attempt to keep them on a sportier looking two-wheeler rather than going to one of the many affordable small cars that were on the market. The first thing that jumps out at you is the futuristic styling, evoking images of jets and space-age conveyances. The body lines suggest forward motion even standing still, and the chrome finned engine cover contribute a sense of speed. All of this is ironic, given that this is a 50cc 4.2 hp machine. Styling was polarizing at the time, but sales were fairly solid with 13,551 Victorias to 13,345 DKWs over the production span.

The machines became affectionately known as “Blechbanane” or Tin Banana.

Zundapp Sport Combinette

Classic Velocity

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The Zundapp Sport Combinette was produced from 1962 to 1966, and fit into a special new class of Vehicle at the time in Germany. It was based on the prior Combinette which was a single seat step-through model. Starting in 1960, a Moped without pedals but with kickstart was introduced as a new category. It blurred the lines between motorcycle and moped, although displacement limitations kept it closer to the latter. Zundapp took advantage of this by introducing the Sport Combinette. It had two seats, a tubular frame, telescopic fork, 21” front wheel, atraditional tank layout, and even a clutch (of sorts), all consistent with motorcycles. However, the single cylinder 2 stroke engine was only 50cc and top speed matched the new category limit of 40kph. 

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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!

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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....